Tag Archives: Google

The Party’s Over: It’s A New Generation Now

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And so the fallout from Edward Snowden continues. As the saga draws on (is he about to become a Russian citizen or not?) we overlook the bigger story: the Internet, as we know it, is dead.

As reported in The Guardian, the Internet is facing several inexorable trends: balkanization along nationalistic lines, the outreach of governments and outright commercial control.

When first instituted, the Internet was regarded as an open, totally free place of informational exchange: an ‘Interzone’ of sorts (to coin William Gibson) but now as time marches on, this is no longer accurate. Now, China and other nations routinely censor and control input and output of Internet access: Twitter is throttled, Google is curbed along with a host of other outlets. In some nations, the notion of a free and open Internet is practically banned outright, while in the so-called bastions of freedom (United States, Great Britain and Western Europe as a whole) internet surveillance is now the norm.

In the meantime, we’re starting to see pricing schemes reflective of the (overlooked) class system: if you want more Internet access (or more speed / faster access) you can expect to pay more for it. Libraries both domestically and internationally are facing cutbacks and thus limiting even more access for those who do not possess a computer, while premiums are being put in place on those who wish to participate on the so-called medium of ‘free exchange’.

In John Naughton’s excellent article, “Edward Snowden’s Not the Story. The Fate of the Internet Is” (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet) these issues were illustrated with a striking clarity.

And if you think you’re safe reading this article, better start changing the way you think. Of course, there’s the old chestnut: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Wrong.

People make mistakes, especially in government, law enforcement and the military. It’s not too uncommon for wrongful arrests to take place; false accusations to spread or outright misunderstandings to take place leaving in the wake of ruined lives, reputations and personal financial disasters.

And now, as recently reported by Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA (National Security Agency) employees can readily access emails, phone records and other information. (Really? No kidding!) So if you’re a file clerk who happens to be working for the NSA, you can review your family, friends or neighbors phone records, internet trolling history or other information (such as keeping tabs on that girl who dumped you last month).

If you just happen to be involved in a domestic dispute or a lawsuit with a government or corporate entity, expect to see your records accessed and reviewed as a matter of course.

It’s obvious ‘file access’ of these and other types routinely take place in various levels of government within the United States beyond just the federal levels. Sometimes, data accessed is utilized for political purposes: somebody running for office seeking out information about their worthy adversary. Other times, it’s for personal reason: divorce, outright personal hostility and an agenda of revenge. Don’t think it can’t happen: it does – and it happens more often than folks care to admit, taking place beyond just the federal level as well. Local governments and their officials have increasingly been caught reviewing private citizen records, through such supposedly secure information bases as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), credit history lookups, billing histories along with a host of other sources.

But what is remarkable is the lack of public response. You’d think with Glenn Greenwald’s recent expose, they’d be a bigger outcry. In fact, just the opposite: we’re witnessing a generational change. What was once a sacred domain – privacy – is now becoming a thing of the past. Younger generations are surrendering their privacy in a multitude of ways – putting up pictures of their ‘lost’ weekend  on Facebook; running commentary and personal attacks on social boards; personal commentary depicting their sexual activity or other ‘personal ‘ issues on their Twitter accounts – the list goes on.

Although privacy is still a sore point with a number of folks, the younger generation coming up are akin to those old timers who lived during the atomic age: expecting a blow up to happen, the atomic age generation held a diffident viewpoint of life with an expectation of being blown up at some point. Now, in the age of Big Brother, the younger generation is becoming inured to the notion of being watched 24 x 7, going about their business and even posting some of their more intimate scenes in public settings because, well, that’s what a lot of people do.

This one of the fallout of living in the Age of Surveillance: one becomes used to being watched and, in fact, embraces it to the point where they simply let it all hang out. Expecting our records to be reviewed and exposed is something many now expect. Sure, folks aren’t thrilled by it, but what are you gonna do about it? – so goes the argument.

All of this is bad enough, but add into the mix the notion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and bizarre (disturbing) alliances – such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Amazon coming together (see my prior post on this development), along with Google’s all-out effort’s to develop AI (likewise posting earlier), things are taking on a darker trend: it will soon be more than just being able to read your information, but actually read who you are – and what you’re really about, even if you don’t know yourself.

Prediction: expect to see Internet profiling to become the new norm. Just as we’ve witnessed the distasteful practice of racial profiling undertaking by State law enforcement officials on the national highways, we can expect to see something similar taking place in the coming years via our records, our book and music purchases along with any other activity we undertake.

So next time, if you can, remember to bend over and give the camera a moon; we all could use a laugh.

Let’s all give the AI’s something to mull over.

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Monitoring Your Movements

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From the “I-Told-You-So!” Files

Back in the heady days of the 1990’s (ah, when life was so much different than it is now, what with the economy strong, the job opportunities available,…), a former colleague of mine (Dr. Barbara Flood) and I did a series of colloquia trying to raise awareness about the growing assault on privacy, resulting in the ASIS (American Society of Information Scientists) 1997 Washington D.C. meeting. As part of that meeting, we submitted a paper (“Creeping Peoplebases”) and I, in turn, submitted this paper.

Written in 1997, much of the technological specifics are a little out of date, but this article did (in large part) lend to the creation of Lutz’s Law of Privacy: “There is an inverse relationship between privacy and convenience: the more you have of one, the less of the other.”

But the approach hasn’t changed – and, in fact, it’s only gotten worse. With the recent news of Verizon releasing user’s call logs to the U.S. Government, along with the growing list of other privacy ‘breeches’, it leaves one to wonder where all of this going?

Breaking open a time capsule, read this blast from the past of over sixteen – 16! years ago; see for yourself where we stand,…

1997 ASIS Mid-Year Meeting Preview

“Monitoring Your Movements”
by W.E. Lutz© 1997 ASIS

“Suppose I had a good friend here in the Bureau,” Mallory said.”Someone who admired me for my generous ways.” Tobias looked reluctant and a bit coy. “It ain’t a simple matter, sir. Every spinning-run is registered, and each request must have a sponsor. What we did today is done in Mr. Wakefield’s name, so there’ll be no trouble in that. But your friend would have to forge some sponsor’s name, and run the risk of that imposture. It is fraud, sir. An Engine-fraud, like credit-theft or stock-fraud, and punished just the same, when it’s found out.” “Very enlightening,” Mallory said. “I’ve found that one always profits by talking to a technical man who truly knows his business. Let me give you my card.”

(From the book, “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling)

We understand the many means by which our daily activities are accessed and used for specific purposes via transactional databases. We are also aware how databases from credit cards track our activities and movements and how magazine subscription listings betray our wants and desires. What we overlook, however, is how our image — our physical appearance — is accessed and employed without our consent or knowledge. Image processing, combined with routine databasing and commercially advanced tracking devices, add a new dimension to the erosion of our privacy. The routine access of personal information combined with the physical monitoring of movements creates a growing,dangerous threat to personal privacy.

The Power of Imaging Systems

Imaging systems are high-speed multi-processing portrait storage and retrieval systems. Portraits or images of individuals are taken via electronically scanning cameras, with any accompanying data files automatically linked to any computer-generated portrait. This combination of data file acquisition (fingerprint, background information, prior history) with electronic mug-shot imaging offers a powerful tool for law enforcement agencies. The power of imaging systems cannot be underestimated. It is an uncomfortable fact that many police background checks for newly arrested suspects often take 24 hours. Suspects arrested for minor offenses often are released without the arresting law enforcement agency’s knowledge of the suspects prior criminal record, owing to delays associated with standard file checks (i.e., non-imaged police data systems). An average arrest takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to process — fingerprinting, mug shot, file processing and statement preparation. Cross referencing with state and federal databanks often requires a delay up to 24 hours. But, according to the Camden Police Department, the use of imaging systems can cut back the average arrest time to approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Imaging systems offer unprecedented portrait manipulation and rapid data retrieval of all associated file information for law enforcement. For a growing number of agencies, gone are the days of ink fingerprints and the piles of tiresome mug shots. Imaging systems allow agencies to simply type in a rough description of a perpetrator based upon eyewitness account. In some imaging systems, simultaneous access to SCIC (State Crime Information Computers) and the FBI’s NCIC (National Crime Information Computer) is enabled, allowing direct link-up with any known federal or state suspect list within a matter of minutes.Imaging systems are becoming more prevalent outside of law enforcement. ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) and surveillance cameras in convenience stores are another form of imaging documentation. Although a far cry from the imaging technology used in law enforcement, the potential is still present.

For example, in the Pepsi/hypodermic needle scare of 1993, the culprit was captured on a video camera in a Colorado convenience store. The public hears this and breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that yet another evil perpetrator has been captured. Note, however, that the capture was made after an intensive search through millions of video images taken from thousands of convenience stores nationwide. Out of all those thousands of convenience stores and from those million or so video shots, the single incriminating video still-shot of the crime was found! Based upon the single freeze-frame image, the perpetrator was caught and prosecuted.

The wonder of modern technology is renewed when one appreciates the amount of time and human resources such actions would have taken but five years ago. As video cameras are often used to monitor employees (casinos, high-security locales such as computer chip factories or other such industries), surveillance cameras are increasingly employed as a panacea for dealing with crime. Recent federal grant awards illustrate a growing trend of public housing authorities using video cameras to monitor and prevent illegal activities. DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), FBI or the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) account for a number of video cameras within high-crime locales, with criminal activity dramatically evaporating for fear of being captured on record. Local police agencies are not loath to spread rumors and gossip regarding potential locales as a means to further deter illegal activity — often when no such cameras or agencies are actually intended or involved.

Beyond Surveillance Cameras: Automobile Tracking Systems

Video cameras are not alone in tracking one’s physical movements. In New Jersey, a proposal for automatic toll collection by several previously non-linked authorities would allow motorists to open and maintain a common account with agencies participating in the automatic toll collection service (author’s note: this has long since been approved and is now active). Using strategically placed magnetic stickers, motorists could drive past automatic scanners without stopping to pay a toll collector or a cash receiving machine. The flip side to this convenience is that the participating motorist could be readily tracked while driving through toll booths across the state. Other new vehicle tracking technology has also recently appeared. LoJacks, installed in standard passenger vehicles, are gaining in popular usage, particularly in New York, Boston, Newark and Los Angeles. LoJacked vehicles possess a specific signature signal identifying the vehicle identification number (VIN). Each vehicle is thus uniquely identified so as to prevent confusion with other LoJack beacons. Upon the report of a stolen vehicle, police cars equipped with LoJack scanners cruise their assigned areas, literally homing in on the specific signal emitter (which flashes a signal every fifteen seconds) of the stolen car. In some areas, the installation of LoJacks is credited with a drop of up to 50% in vehicle thefts. The combination of imaging/picture tracking systems and powerful database sort/retrieval presents a new breach in the wall of privacy. It is no longer just a question of personal information being accessed by the varieties of databases, but rather how the average citizen is increasingly tracked in relation to this personal information. We know who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Soon, we will know specifically where you are at any given time.

Addressing Our Perceived Need for Security

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.” Breaches of privacy are actively encouraged. Federal monies are offered to housing authorities for surveillance systems. We think nothing of cameras which record our every move in stores, shopping malls or at ATMs. Insurance companies offer discounts of up to 25% of annual rates for those who install LoJacks, while commuters welcome the convenience of rushing past time-consuming toll plazas. Privacy protection efforts are few and presently hold little promise. Many county sheriffs encourage families to image their children – that is, to store the personal characteristics, background information and images of children within law enforcement databanks to allow for ready and rapid retrieval if the children are kidnapped. Although one cannot argue against the safety of children, one should question the underlying premise of fear. Committing oneself and one’s children to any information system is an act fraught with long-term consequences and should be considered carefully.

Cable Television: Who Is Watching Whom?

Another vivid example of overlooking how convenience creates privacy invasion involves recent advances in cable television technology. Many cable companies employ a standard cable TV box manufactured by General Instrument (Jerrold boxes). The latest General Instrument development is the CFT2200, which, unlike most cable TV boxes, can both send and receive signals, thus facilitating pay-per-view without having to employ the telephone line or answering TV polls. Upon review, it would appear that the CFT2200 can employ home telephone lines for operation and would eventually allow for full usage of ISDN lines. Potentially, these boxes could allow for direct informational access

(i.e., Internet service providing Web TV) and may very well serve for the next wave of data access. What is disturbing about this development is the ability of cable companies to conduct real-time monitoring of viewer’s preference in TV entertainment and information access, offering simultaneous send/receive signals while the viewer is watching their shows. A detailed record of what, when and how long a viewer watched any particular show at any given moment is enhanced through new cable television technology. If the average consumer were aware of this fact prior to purchase, would so many readily accept? The difficulty lies in the average lay person understanding the power and extent of the technologies arrayed against the common person; it is this knowledge gap which makes resolving the issues surrounding the protection of privacy a formidable challenge. Many cannot readily appreciate the subtleties surrounding esoteric cable television services or imaging/monitoring technologies. As information professionals, we can share the vitality of an Internet search engine or personal communication system for common household usage while seeking out protection against privacy abuse. The question remains: where do we draw the line between the sublime and the extreme?

Options and Considerations

We are witness to the demise of our notions of privacy; this trend is congruent with rapid technological development. Luddites could argue that as technology grows, privacy dissipates; thus, technology must be curbed (so the argument goes). The genie is, however, well out of the bottle. Modern conveniences and economic advantages far outweigh any notions of denying the benefits and comforts which we amply enjoy. The approach we must now initiate rests upon legislation and education.

Education and awareness on the part of those who know and understand the reality of their surroundings remains the key to ensuring privacy. Proprietary information will remain such, but the key to economic success will be that of creative dissemination of the uses of proprietary data and/or developments. If the general public is aggressively enlightened in the ways and means of information technology, then it follows that perhaps we can expect the general population to be more discriminating when it comes to privacy protection. Just as we speak of a green consumer culture, so too we might encourage the beginning of a privacy culture. True privacy could be an emerging marketing approach given the right impetus. Effective legislation must come into play if we are to prevent further erosion of privacy. Perhaps we should consider employing European laws as models for the control of personal information and the protection of privacy. Database access or use of one’s name or other personal information could be subject to the individuals’ prior approval and/or payment — similar to royalties — with violations subject to substantial monetary penalties. The logic is inescapable: if private/public entities gain a profit from the sale and/or use of our personal information, then we should receive royalties, if we choose to participate. Those who seek not to participate in the sale and dissemination of their information should be permitted, under strict legislation, to opt out with strengthened privacy guarantees.

The time has come to reach out and enlighten legislators about the issues surrounding privacy. Some cultures hold that taking pictures of individuals and/or places robs the soul or essence of the place or person; arguably, this is now taking place. The act of taking pictures — regardless of public safety or security — constitutes an act of capturing our image without our permission. Similarly, when information is accessed — habits, purchases, profiles — could it not be argued that this is the theft of our truest proprietary data — our identities?

In the coming century, our identities will be how we appear on innumerable databases; our visage reflected in the hidden cameras and how we stand within society’s walls defined in the roll calls of databases. The time is right, therefore, to educate both the public and legislators about the relationship between ourselves and the tools which gather information about us and our fellows. Given the prevalence of modern technology, it is time to recognize that our tools are but an extension of ourselves, the surveillance cameras reflecting back our images. How we view ourselves ultimately determines how we view and shape our future. How better than to smile into the camera with a confident cheer?

The original copy can be also found here: http://www.scribd.com/welutz

William E. Lutz is a professional consultant involved with matters pertaining to security, privacy as well a records management. More about his work can be found via his LinkedIn profile of http:// http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamelutz as well as via his website of http:// http://www.welassociates.co.

Faster Than Light Travel is About to Become a Real Thing

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With a modicum of fanfare, NASA (the folks who got us to the moon) announced that they’ve been quietly working on a faster than light (FTL) propulsion system – and in fact, may be getting close to a breakthrough.

Say what?

Yep; working on a really cool notion, NASA is working on developing the first version of a spacecraft utilizing Alcubierre Drive.

No way.  Hold on, you say: Saint Albert (Einstein) wouldn’t stand for this! Didn’t Big Al say it wasn’t possible to go faster than light – and in fact, when you get closer to the speed of light, you don’t age much, but everyone back on Earth either ages and dies very quickly or becomes yet another movie version of “Planet of the Apes’?

Yes – and no.

Yes, there will always be version of ‘Planet of the Apes’ (it’s one of those scientific laws that cannot be denied – ‘damn you all to hell!’ *ahem*) but like any law, you have to read the fine print. In this case, what Big Al (Einstein) was referring to is that you cannot go faster than light in your local area of space – which, given that it’s everywhere, you ain’t gonna get around that law – except when one Dr. Miguel Alcubierre came along and asked ‘what if, rather you try to make the ship go fast, you make the space that the ship is go faster?‘ Put it this way:

Alcubierre Drive is actually based on Einsteins’ field equations. It suggests that a spacecraft could achieve faster-than-light travel. Rather than exceed the speed of light alone in a craft. A spacecraft would leap long distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, which would result in faster than light travel.. Physicist Miguel Alcubierre was the first that we know to identify this possibility. He described it as remaining still on a flat piece of space-time inside a warp bubble that was made to move at “superluminal” (faster than light) velocity. We must not forget that space-time can be warped and distorted, it can be moved. But what about moving sections of space-time that’s created by expanding space-time behind the ship, and by contracting space-time in front of the ship,…?

So the ship stays in its spot in space; instead, we’re just picking up the space that the ship is in (including the ship, naturally) and moving everything along – very fast. Kind of like putting your entire bathroom on a flat-bed truck – and while you’re bathing, move you down the highway at high rates of speed while you shampoo, wash, brush your teeth and get dressed. You never leave the bathtub, but when you arrive at your destination you’re nice and clean while enjoying minty freshness! Doesn’t science rule,…!?

Impossible to achieve? Not according to NASA (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20110015936_2011016932.pdf). In fact, James Hill, who co-authored the new paper with his University of Adelaide, Australia, colleague Barry Cox discusses such plans (the paper was published Oct. 3 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences).

In fact, we could be looking at a working model within the next 10 to 20 years, if not sooner (assuming, of course, that such hasn’t already been built already and, in fact, is orbiting Earth, fighting off intergalactic beings flying in pyramid-shaped spaceships – AAAGGGHHH! – whoops; been watching too much Stargate again,…).

But seriously, this is no longer just some Star Trek notion: the notion of FTL / Warp drive is now being taken up by some serious ‘big heads’. And of course this also underscores yet another important law of the known universe: The Law of Development As It Relates to Star Trek: everything we see on Star Trek is and will become real within sixty (70) years – or a regular human lifetime – from the final show of the original version of Star Trek. Think about it: talking computers (nothing new here), personal communication devices (yep; got that), replicators (3D printed food – coming very soon), wild sex with bizarre alien creatures (Internet Dating Sites – got that already),…

Get the picture?

And by the way, all of this talk of hyperdrive was previously discussed on one of my earlier postings: “Faster Than Light Travel is Actually Quite Possible In Our Lifetime” (October 2012).

For more on this subject, check out the following links:

https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/faster-than-light-travel-is-actually-quite-possible-in-our-lifetime/

http://www.space.com/17951-einstein-relativity-faster-than-light-travel.html

http://www.minds.com/blog/view/91850/nasa-admits-they-are-working-to-travel-faster-than-the-speed-of-light

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive

Ghosthunting Ain’t What It Used To Be

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been busy in more ways than one for the past few months. And one of the things that I’ve been checking out is the hottest new trend: ghost hunting, or ‘ghosting’.

About a year ago, I was approached by an old friend of mine who organized a ghost hunting team that go around and check out to see if a place is ‘inhabited’. For some time, he kept pestering me about joining. ‘Here’s a chance to get out and meet new people’, etc. It seemed kind of silly (although I must admit I occasionally found watching ‘Ghosthunters’ interesting) but finally, after some time, I relented and tagged along.

As a ‘newby’ I was gradually introduced to the equipment utilized – and it is in this vein that I found the experience interesting.

‘Ghosting’ has changed an awful lot in the past 15 years or so. Years ago, everyone had the crazy relative who could ‘read’ and ‘see things’ that they’d quietly go and see, while some folks would get together with somebody who could ‘read’ a place, or they’d sit around a table in the dark and listen to what a ‘medium’ would say.

Nowadays, ghosting is a real home-brew science trip: entire conventions and industries are set up and growing around this phenomenon.  And so, after spending some time I’m here to share some of what I observed – strictly from a tech viewpoint.

It’s a remarkable confluence of technology and, er, ‘spirit’ coming together in a manner that it’s, well, read for yourself,… (Note: this is an excerpt from a coming work).

Tools of the Trade

It’s remarkable, but it’s only been in recent years folk come out in support of this trend of understanding the “psychic”. To be certain, back in the turn of the latter century (around really 1900’s or so) there was a brief spell of popularity regarding this sort of thing, encouraged by such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holme stories, among other notables – but it’s only during the early 1990’s to the present time, we’ve finally start seeing actual incidents aired on television and spoken of more openly. Some may recall the old “Unsolved Mysteries” or another television show “Sightings”, but it wasn’t until more recent television shows that we begin to see greater focus on paranormal events (another show was “Fear”, as shown – briefly – on MTV during the late 1990’s / early 2000), culminating in a growing wave of viewers interested in learning more about what is arguable becoming one of the more popular cottage industry / hobbies: ghost hunting.

It’s remarkable to watch the phenomenon of ghost hunting grow; in my time as a boy, we collected trains or shot off Estes rockets. Nowadays, it seems as though people are collecting pictures and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). Ghost hunting (or ‘ghosting’, to some) is now so hot it’s almost ridiculous. Try doing this some 15 years ago and you’d probably be harassed by the local police for being weird or worse, being accused of simply casing out homes to burglarize.

There are different levels of involvement. Folks I’ve worked with are rather sophisticated and established, having a wide variety of tools and equipment, while (more importantly) having the right attitude about going into any place.

It’s all about capture: voices, images or recoding physical interactions. Just like fishing, it’s about the proof – and never about ‘the one that got away.’

But like fishing, it’s not as easy as it seems. More often than not, ‘ghosting’ is hours and hours spent waiting, waiting – and more waiting. You move about, take your recorders, listen in for anything and wait. Sometimes you think you’ll have something: a noise, a sound, or see a shadow. Do a playback, watch the video or listen in – and it’s nothing. Sometimes it can be about as exciting as watching glue dry, knowing that you have to sit through and wait (not to mention doing the playback on some several hours of video can be real drag, but you dare not miss a single frame because that’s all it’ll take: a missed moment of something inexplicable,…).

And to those wanting to check it out for themselves, be warned: it’s hours and days of nothing, and then maybe getting something, only to disprove it. It’s when you come across those very select items, however, that will leave you wondering as I have been as of late,…

Some Suggested Equipment

Here are some suggested items to consider if you’re going to get into this.

Digital voice recorders – For some reason, there are voices captured (EVP’s – Electronic Voice Phenomenon) that the human ear doesn’t hear (at least the normal human ear) but are captured on digital recorders (although you have to be careful as the human ear can trick one into thinking that what is captured sounds like a voice). Sometimes, it’s best to take these recordings and without tampering with the original, run them through some software (say, like Audacity; there are many programs out there) and ‘clean up’ the recording: remove any hiss or background noise while taking care not to lose or distort the recording.

Laptop / computer – this is vital if you intend to save any video or voice recordings. Also, if you intend to share what you’ve captured, this is also a vital piece of equipment as you may want to consider setting up a website, run a podcast or manage your email contacts.

Ovilus – The jury is out on this item, but some believe it can be used as a means to see if anything is worth checking out. The Ovilus is an electronic speech synthesis device uttering words depending on environmental readings, including EMF (electro magnetic fields). The Ovilus was created by Bill Chappell, a retired electronics engineer interested in the paranormal who creates such devices. An Ovilus has an embedded database of words, along with an EMF detector, among several other environmental sensors. These readings are combined to create a number, and this number is used to reference the database of words. The Ovilus then “speaks” that word. An Ovilus can also operate in a phonetic mode that reacts to EMF variations to create words that are not in the database. There are other types of the Ovilus device, including the Paranormal Puck, Video Ovilus, Ovilus I, Ovilus II, Ovilus FX, Ovilus X, Talker, and The PX.

This is all well and good, but who’s to say that the words that are being generated by the Ovilus are not due to, say, some type of electrical field being made by Aunt Mae’s air conditioner running in the adjacent room or the wires embedded in the walls of a typical house? Supporters argue that the words which could be uttered are consistently with what has been researched to a specific place – for example, if the words ‘hang’, ‘suicide’, ‘sad’, etc. – and thus could be used as proof of a location being ‘inhabited’. Either way, the ovilus is merely another tool and should be used with applied skepticism, and not as a final proof establishing the presence of any ‘activity’.

EMF Detector – used by electricians, an EMF detector can suggest the presence of ‘entities’ as ‘entities’ will ‘emit’ some sort of activity. Caution needs to be applied here as an EMF detector can also pick up on unshielded / old wiring or appliances that are on – such as refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. (prior to undertaking any hunt, it’s often wise to turn everything off). There have ben some instances where the EMF was so grossly wild that clearly, something was not readily explained was going down while in other cases, the readings were so low as to indicate little – if anything – was going on.

Fleer Scope – Very cool piece of equipment, but not exactly cheap, Fleer’s pick up on thermal changes. Entities can either come across as very cold (dark colors) or very hot (brighter colors) when clearly there’s no logical reason why something should be present. In some cases, Fleer’s have been known to pick up human figures / shapes when the visible eye could see nothing while in other cases, Fleers will pick up was appears to be a presence, but in fact is a draft from an open window or a poorly sealed floor board.

Digital cameras (either handheld or active video). Going about and taking pictures in the dark can capture some things: shadows, figures or strange shapes. But like anything else, one is wise to be careful what they capture as more often than not, there can be logical reasons or explanations of shadows – displaced light sources, reflections, etc.  Digital cameras can also be utilized to take different light spectrums – night vision, infrared, etc. – which can also offer different levels of vision that you normally wouldn’t capture with the naked eye. Just do yourself and everybody around you a big favor: if you’re taking still shots, let folks know when the flash is about to go off as frankly, it’s hard to go about walking in a dark place after being blinded by a series of light flashes.

Temperature gauges – usually a handheld laser, temperatures gauges can pick up on the ambient temperature of a given locale, with the presence of possible hits recorded usually in low temperature range (i.e., cold spots). Again, depending on the airflow of a given locale, such readings can lead to ‘false positives’ and thus should be handled with a degree of focus and applied skepticism.

There are other equipment other organizations use, but the equipment listed herein are considered de rigueur.

Understand, having all this equipment and their respective ‘evidence’ does not alone mean that ‘ghosts’ are definitive (although at times it’s gotten pretty weird that maybe there’s something to this stuff).

For the record, I do not believe in ghosts for they are not a matter of belief.

(Thanks to the South Jersey Soul Searchers for letting me hang out; so far it’s been a pretty cool experience – that and the beer and pizza parties afterwards have been fun!).

More Shameless Self-Promotion: Know Thy Rules

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Once again I’ve been busy (sorry for the delays in posting) and I’ve published yet another work. This one is entitled “Another Book of Thirty-Three (33) Rules Regarding Life”. It’s based on my own experiences and insights from others distilled into a brief book ready for reading for when you’re bored, dozing off in the office cubicle or going to the bathroom.

Self-help / instructional books are big nowadays; it’ a good business to tell everybody else how they have to stop feeling and when there’s so much of people feeling bad about themselves (and no wonder!). But it also begs the question: of there’s so much good advice gong about, how come things are just, well, the same old shit? I’ve actually taken the time to read some of these books – and even glanced at a few more. It’s all the same: more often than not a group of Pollyanna’s who have returned from whatever mountain they’ve climbed to bring us the news and the way to a better life, better work or career, better relationship – whatever. And all for $10.99.

Right.

To be sure, good (and grounded) advice will always be in demand, but sorting through the pile of dung to get to the diamond can be rather tiresome – and so with this in mind, I undertook a series of notes for the past several months of people and what I observed. I then pulled together prior words of wisdom from those before me and collated all into one, er, tome. I deliberately avoided the mumbo-jumbo psychological jargon, the ‘feel-good’ spiel and laid it all out as it truly is: it’s a rough and mean world, but somebody’s got to make fun of it all.

Check out “Another Book of Thirty-three (33) Rules Regarding Life” at Smashwords: it come in all flavors ‘ formats (kindle, Mobi, Apple, Palm, etc.) and it readily available for download.

And besides, where else can you go to get infinite wisdom for a mere $2.99?

Get the book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/317669

Bank Robbery as a Relative Notion

bremertonA long, long time ago in a place far, far away (called the 1980’s) a (infamous) series of collective /  anarchistic technofetishists known as “hackers” developed.

At the time, the home-based consumer computer (not to mention the telephone system with its BBS’s – Bulletin Boards!) was new and exciting: the (now old and removed POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) was THE game in town, with the intent of gathering information and the joy of learning new routines the primary goal. Various stratagems and means were utilized, inclusive of dumpster-diving (going through the telephone companies trash), ‘social engineering’ (a fancy word for sweet talking somebody into giving you restricted access) along with regular stops to nearest ‘Rat’ (Radio) Shack and ‘trade gatherings’ where others of ‘their’ kind would come together.

This is all mentioned in light of the recent news development regarding a group of hackers involved in a massive worldwide effort regarding banks to the (publicly reported and admitted) amount of $45 million.

As the so-called experts point out:

Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe — an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as it carried the account data and correct access codes.

A network of operatives than fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders. Lynch didn’t say where they were located.

Some things still haven’t changed; nothing new here.

The idea of using a plastic code with a pre-coded magnetic tape is as old as dirt itself: as to how this is done, much of this can be found through various sources.

As to accessing banking records to undertake such things (after all, the only way in which this job could be pulled is by matching the actual account information to the physical magnetic cards used for downloading cash), during the 1990’s Citibank’s interoffice telephone exchange was openly used by “hackers” for free conferencing calls, openly planning their next round of activities, exchanging chit-chat or teaching each other on the latest trends and routines – no different from any other major corporate personnel utilizing a corporate telephone network (its worth noting that, at the time, users had to be mindful of the (slight) distance delays differential owing to the then weird practice of Citibank having all its calls routed through it’s Paris, France office network).

Any system or service is only as secure as it’s people make it to be.

As for accessing bank records, why stop at digging in, when you can have the information come to you? Some years ago, there were a group of hackers who went one step further: actually setting up fake ATM’s in shopping malls and other public areas. The average user would go to withdraw money, only to be told that the machine was out of service; the information the user had entered was then stored and taken to be placed on a magnetic printer strip for later withdrawal (these were among a sub-grouping who, as part of their routine, would withdraw cash from ATM machines while wearing masks of  such individuals as Ronald Reagan,  zombies, Richard Nixon, or a host of others for the amusing benefit of bank security cameras).

During the 1990’s, banks had a situation wherein “hackers” (ah, that word again) would be accused of replacing security cameras with one of their own, ‘shoulder surfing’ over user’s to capture this account information (an insidious procedure which may sound perfectly suitable for nefarious purposes, but in fact can be a real pain to undertake). The smarter ones, however, would set up capture items in and around the keyboard such that users were not aware that their information was being captured,…

And then there were the legendary moves on the part of certain “hackers’ of the Russian Federation who captured inter-bank transfers, placing ‘blocks’ or ‘capture point / redirects’ on the ports where the data were being swapped (in simplistic terms, placing listening devices to the internet / telephone networks, decrypted the data being sent and then using that data to actually access the raw accounts being managed). The results of this effort? Estimates range widely, with bank losses estimated to reach at high as $50 million in just one such incident alone! Interestingly, the impacted banking houses sought to drop the charges (naturally they settled for financial restitution – but remarkably, settled for an amount far less than what many suspected was actually taken, suggesting that the action was deeply than anyone wished to admit and that the skill set involved insured that the money was untraceable – or, more likely the appropriate officials were sufficiently given ‘inducements’ top avoid any further prosecutorial action) in exchange for the “hackers” to be their security consultants so as to avoid any further public publicity over the matter, for if the public were to truly know the extent of the lack of security, banking confidence would plummet.

And can you blame them? I’d hate to be the one to tell my clients ‘gee, several millions of (insert your currency of choice here) was taken from your account, but you still want to do business with us – right?’

Which brings us to the other side of the coin, so to speak,…

As reported two months ago, HSBC was directly involved in what governmental officials stated was ‘money laundering’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21840052) for major narco-criminal enterprises worldwide (which is interesting how this particularly publicized group of “hackers” targeted money reserves set aside for pre-paid cards, wisely avoiding other accounts,…).

The reality is that the only innocents involved in the entire arena are the average bank account holders (the ‘little people’), for many banks themselves are involved in criminal activities of their own, ranging from money laundering, to passing along sub-prime housing funds, or just simply overcharging people with various account charges just because, well, the banks can do this sort of thing (I deliberately fail to mention the investors as insurance will cover the costs of such losses; as to those who may object I merely point out that it’s all just business and to please check your company pride at the door,…).

Much of what is taking place in recent years regarding banking is increasingly a matter of degree and viewpoint. As banks become larger, they will utilize whatever resources they can to ensure their protection, which may include the hiring of those who penetrated their security, indulging in questionable investment practices and serving ‘interesting’ clientele.

It’s all part of doing “normal” business in the 21st century.

Similarly, as banks handle larger and larger amounts of “money” (and we won’t get into the discussion of ‘Bitcoin’ and the significance of that development as it relates to international banking and financial systems as after all, when you think about, what truly defines the financial value of any given currency?) banks are involved in realms and investment practices which they did not dream of doing but twenty (20) years ago  – witness the role of banks in the recent housing bubble and the sub-prime mess along with their various other financial / investment practices (we’re still awaiting the final report on the offshore accounts held in the Bahama involving high-ranking international governmental officials and other ‘outstanding’ members of society – $32 TRILLION and rising,…!).

Realize this: we’ve reached a point in our culture(s) and society(ies) where –  like the intrinsic value of money and the actual stability of our financial systems – the very notion of a bank robbery is now relative.

Here’s one brief overview of this incident: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/05/10/sophisticated-network-of-global-thieves-drain-cash-machines-in-27-countries-of-45m/

The Office is Dead: Long Live The Virtual Office

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Marissa Meyer may differ, but we here at Shockwaveriderblog Control Center see the future (as we usually do) – and it’s going to be about low overhead, effective exploitation of technology and greater competitive response.

Whoa, that’s a mouthful; let’s take it through one step at a time.

Welcome to the Realm of the Virtual Office: lean, mean and fast.

This isn’t just about telecommuting (which is old hat anyhow) it’s about saving money, greater response to client needs and all within the context of a secure and ubiquitous records / file service.

The office, as we know it is dead. To be certain, there will always been some operations which will require the obligatory cubicle farms but increasingly, the more successful business folk are those who are able to be more responsive, keep their costs low while yet be able to work their clients, balancing the necessities of picking up their kids from school while maintaining a family household.

Let’s take one sector where the Virtual Office is starting to make serious inroads and have significant impact: law.

Whenever one thinks of law, one thinks of either a) dry, musty offices with tons of obscure legal books, clustered desks, overflowing fax machines and the vague tinge of week old coffee hanging in the air – or b) law office’s ala LA Law – modern flowing offices with smart / spiffy people talking with serious overtones hanging out in court, and then going back to their cluttered desks with bookshelves overflowing with obscure legal books and computers overwhelmed with unanswered emails (well, back in the days of LA Law, they didn’t have email, but you get the idea) and stale coffee.

Who says that it has to be this way any more?

This was a point brought up by Ms. Chelsey Lambert, founder of Virtual Law (http://www.totalattorneys.com) – and well worth considering: “let’s face it; many of the functions that attorneys do nowadays can be readily done remotely and within the context of a secure and responsive environment.”

It’s probably no coincidence that Virtual law or the online delivery of legal services has taken off just at a time when “The Cloud” is now a concept readily embraced by more and more users, both corporate and governmental (witness the Central Intelligence Agency’s move to adopt Amazon’s new cloud storage system as a means to store their own records – for more on this, see my prior blog on this development).

Hey, if it’s good enough for what is arguably the world’s biggest and among the most powerful intelligence services, then why not for your local neighborhood attorney?

Well, except for some states, as Ms. Lambert points out: ‘some places are slow to adopt this new approach – such as New Jersey – but overall, the response among states has been overwhelming and proves that this concept has legs.’ Indeed – and if legs were any indication, this concept of a Virtual Law Office would be akin to an Olympic sprinter after drinking a barrel of expresso. In the past several years, more and more offices are adopting this approach as it returns back to the notion of what an attorney / professional is: it is the person, not the office, which defines the skill set.

Sure, it’s helpful to have an office and a place to dump your junk (so to speak) every once in a while, but when you consider the advantages that a person well-armed with a good, solid laptop, ready Internet access along with good cup of coffee (or tea) that’s really all we’re talking about (that and a competent attorney!).

In the past five years, we’ve witnessed the explosion of iPhone / smartphones; laptops reaching over 1 Gg in storage capacity and tremendous processing speed along with the growing prevalence of wireless access (much of it increasingly free). We’re not just talking about low overhead and a greater response on behalf of the client, we’re talking about a quiet revolution taking place that’s going to impact mainstream businesses everywhere – and in the process may very well go far in stimulating the economy.

And best of all, with this approach, you can have your business and your family, as adopters of this approach are able to work within the context of their lives – which brings up another significant point: the majority of folks making this possible are women. As Ms. Lambert puts it so aptly:

I’d also like to point out that a very rare occurrence happened above. FEMALE attorneys are advancing the legal profession by leaps and bounds. A glimmer of hope within a notoriously male dominated industry is igniting the passion of female lawyers across the country. For the first time, they have the ability to go out on their own, with minimal overhead, work a schedule that accommodates their family, and earn a living from wherever they choose to work.

To give you a better idea what this means, in one example, an attorney residing in North Carolina are practicing law in Texas.

Think about the implication of what this could mean for other industries and for the labor force and the open market as a whole and you’ll start to see the implications.

Growing up in a single parent household, I recall the trials that my mother went through, working in the day and going to night school to learn and attain a skill set which enable her to both improve herself and our living standard: somehow, I’m not surprised that this development is taking place by women – or, as I would suggest, ‘necessity is often made by a mother of invention.’

To learn more about this remarkable and overlooked trend, check out these links below:

Rachel Rodgers, Esq.
Rachel Rodgers Law (Virtual Business Law Practice) http://www.rachelrodgerslaw.com/
Her Virtual Law Office (VLO Consulting Practice) http://hervirtuallawoffice.com/
Fast Company’s latest article –https://ad122.infusionsoft.com/app/linkClick/4003/10c1a41ed98c5ac5/13905/e44c955f2fc8cdc8

Rania Combs, Esq.
Texas Wills & Trusts Online – http://www.texaswillsandtrustslaw.com/
Forbes – http://www.forbes.com/sites/hanisarji/2011/05/05/an-estate-planners-virtual-law-office/

Stephanie Kimbro, Esq.
Original co-founder of VLO Tech, purchased by Total Attorneys in 2009.
virtuallawpractice.org

‘The Big Four’
These are the four leading Legal Cloud Computing / Virtual Law Practice Providers. Each provide a complete client portal, time tracking, billing and various other tools specifically designed to support a virtual client relationship & secure online delivery of legal services.

Clio

MyCase

Rocket Matter

Total Attorneys

Special thanks to Chelsey Lambert for helping out in this article! For more, check out Ms. Lambert’s profile which includes contact information: www.linkedin.com/in/chelseylambert/