The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Reactions to the weekend

Apparently, life went on in the US while I was abroad last week. First, to James Damore:

Of course, that wasn't the big story of the weekend. About the terrorist attack and armed ultra-right rally in Virginia, there have been many, many reactions:

Can we have a discussion about domestic right-wing domestic terrorism now? Before we have another Oklahoma City?

Et tu, Anchor?

The cashing-out consolidation of craft breweries continues with today's surprise announcement that Japan's Sapporo Holdings will acquire San Francisco's Anchor Brewing:

According to Keith Greggor, Anchor’s president and CEO, the move was a year in the making and the result of speaking with “many, many” larger breweries all over the world to find the right fit.

Anchor Brewing Co. is considered the leading pioneer of the craft beer movement, and is credited with reviving and modernizing some of today's most popular American beer styles. The price of the deal was not disclosed. Anchor Distilling, which produces spirits such as Junipero Gin and Old Potrero whiskey, is not involved in the deal and will become a separate company.

Anchor Brewing management said it did not specifically plan for a complete acquisition. However, to support the brewery’s long-term future and further international expansion (it currently distributes to 20 countries), it needed to relinquish full ownership to Sapporo.

When asked whether this deal jeopardizes Anchor’s “craft” designation, a commonly accepted definition dictated by the Brewers Association, the brewery’s executives did not seem concerned about that imminent debate, due to the brewery’s long history.

Well, yes, it jeopardizes the "craft" designation for the simple reason that Anchor won't be a craft brewer anymore, by definition. So, another one bites the dust. That leaves only about 5,300 other craft brewers in the U.S. Time to get drinking.

How to destroy democracy through bad software

Via Bruce Schneier, last week the hacker convention DefCon hosted an event at which every single electronic voting machine tested got pwned within minutes:

Also, organizers revealed that many of these machines arrived with their voter records intact, sold on by county voting authorities who hadn't wiped them first.

While many people at the Voter Hacking Village zeroed in on the weak mechanical lock covering access to the machine's USB port, Synack worked on two open USB ports right on the back. No lock picking was necessary.

The team plugged in a mouse and a keyboard -- which didn't require authentication -- and got out of the voting software to standard Windows XP just by pressing "control-alt-delete." The same thing you do to force close a program can be used to hack an election.

Remember, Russian interference in the 2016 election wasn't designed to throw the election to Trump (though that was a "nice to have" for them), it was designed to reduce the public's faith in the entire Democratic system. I'm glad American voting machine manufacturers are helping them.

Where did the day go?

Usually when I work from home, I get a lot done. Today...not as much. I've run errands, had two meetings outside the house, and (to Parker's horror) vacuumed.

Now I'm off to another meeting, with half the house un-vacuumed and many emails unread.

Articles also unread:

Now, time for a board meeting.

Not sure that's a bad thing...

I just saw a comment on a review site listing the following as a "con" for a particular Web-based product:

I really feel like this company doesn't fix problems that only affect a couple of customers. Instead they prioritize fixes that affect the whole system and only fix specific problems when they have time.

Yes. Also, you might be interested to learn that businesses try to make profits by selling things for more than it cost to obtain them.

On behalf of the company in question—a small business in Chicago whose principal constituents are non-profit organizations with budgets under $1m—you're either new to this whole "commerce" thing or you have a magnificently droll sense of humor. Either way, good day to you, sir. I said good day!

Maybe someday the U.S. will catch up to Europe and Canada

Specifically today, I'm talking about chipped credit cards, which the rest of the world has had for years longer than we have, and they're a lot less annoying. Bloomberg's Ben Steverman explains why:

It's an awkward and irritating experience, and payment companies are aware of the problems. "Some places, it's seamless and beautiful," said Robert Martin, North American vice president of security solutions at Ingenico Group, the second-largest maker of payment terminals in the U.S. "Other places, not so much. But we're learning." 

Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes. To connect to card networks, retailers use a countless array of software providers and payment processors. Payments can also be linked to more than a dozen other applications controlling store operations, from coupons to inventory. If not configured perfectly, this tangle of systems and vendors can slow chip transactions to a crawl. 

Customers' experience with chip cards should improve gradually, one upgrade at a time, as the systems become more standardized, industry experts say. Slow transactions and confusing interfaces will disappear, or retailers risk losing customers to rivals with more pleasant checkout experiences.

Once again, the U.S. is way behind the rest of the world. In the U.K. and Canada, about 40 percent of Visa's transactions are contact-less, the payment network says. In Australia, the number is 85 percent.

And let's not forget: in the rest of the world they use chip and PIN systems, which are far more secure than chip and signature. Maybe someday...

Friday afternoon link round-up

While I'm trying to figure out how to transfer one database to another, I'm putting these aside for later reading:

Back to database analysis and design...

Dev Bootcamp shutting down

The Tribune reported yesterday that Dev Bootcamp, an immersive software-development school, is shutting down after their next class graduates in December:

Dev Bootcamp’s final cohort will start classes this month and graduate in December. Campuses officially close on Dec. 8, according to the email, signed by Dev Bootcamp President Tarlin Ray. Graduating students will also get “at least six months of career support,” the letter said.

“(D)espite tremendous efforts from a lot of talented people, we’ve determined that we simply can’t achieve a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that is accessible to a diverse population of students,” the letter said.

Dev Bootcamp was never profitable, Nishimura said. The Kaplan acquisition [in 2014] gave Dev Bootcamp flexibility, but ultimately, faced with the prospect of cutting back full-time instructors and raising tuition, the company decided to shut down.

I have four co-workers who have ties to Dev Bootcamp, including one who wrote parts of the curriculum. They report that Kaplan's aggressive expansion into markets outside Chicago and San Francisco drew resources away from existing programs, driving students and faculty away. For example, one intriguing offering, "Engineering Empathy," which sought to teach budding coders how to work on teams and with clients, got cut during the rapid-expansion phase.

The three alumni in my office are some of the best coders I've ever met. So I'm sorry to see Dev Bootcamp go. I hope that in future someone creates a program as effective as theirs.

Happy 1.5 Gigaseconds!

Tonight at 02:40 UTC, all Unix-based computers (including Apples running OS-X) will pass a milestone: 1.5 Gs since the beginning of time (at least as far as Unix is concerned).

Unix keeps track of time by counting the number of seconds since 1 January 1970 at midnight UTC, which (at this writing) was 1,499,962,035 seconds ago. Tonight at 21:40:00 Chicago time will be 1.5 billion seconds since that point.

If you miss this anniversary, don't worry; it'll be 2.0 Gs into the Unix time epoch on 18 May 2033 at 03:33:20 UTC. Mark your calendars now!

Lovely weather we're having

The good news is that right now it's 21°C out. The bad news is...well:

The Tribune reports:

Northern Cook, Lake and McHenry counties were getting hit hardest, according to the National Weather Service.

By 8 a.m., the weather service received numerous reports of standing water — some as deep as 25 cm in Mundelein, where homes were flooded and residents had to be rescued by rafts.

A flash flood emergency was issued for Lake and northeastern McHenry counties and will remain in effect until 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Already, 5 to 8 inches of rain had fallen in those areas with an additional 25 to 75 mm likely.

Metra's Milwaukee North Line service has been suspended between Fox Lake and Libertyville because of flooding. Further south on the line, Metra is providing minimal shuttle service between Lake Forest to Chicago.

Fortunately, I got to the office well before the first line of storms hit. Unfortunately, shortly after snapping the photo above, the second line hit. Fortunately I was only a block from the office.