Archive for October 18th, 2009
I’ve long been an advocate of the FireFox browser. I’ve used it since it was first announced, and rarely use IE for anything but testing web designs and browsing Microsoft’s own non-W3C compliant web pages.
One of my reasons is that Internet Explorer has major vulnerabilities via its ability to directly run ActiveX code on the machine of users without asking permission. That is, it is a hacker’s pipeline into your operating system.
Well, a few weeks ago, a Microsoft Update quietly installed the .Net Framework assistant into any FireFox browser it found. Shoved that narrow shiv of vulnerability right into the heart of the generally more secure FireFox core. When it was noticed, the savvy segment of FireFox users were outraged. Not just because it was done, but because it was done in such a way that it couldn’t be easily removed! Sure, it would let FireFox users see those rare sites dependent on ActiveX, but it would also let hackers run ActiveX on your machine!
When I found out, I first Googled to find a way to remove it using regedit and about:config (two dangerous powerful tools). But a week later, updates by Microsoft and FireFox made it easier to remove. If you have it, remove it.
Here’s one of the articles about it from ZDNet, a generally Microsoft friendly environment. This article also contains removal instructions that assume you have recent updates.
btw: If you didn’t know. FireFox spell checks all blog entry fields as you type. And you can add nifty customizable Make Link tools for easy creation of links in comments to blogs and such. Just highlight text on a page, rt-click and Make Link to copy complete link code, ready to paste.
Elizabeth Warren has lots of bad news, the “stabilized” economy and the huge Wall Street bonuses notwithstanding. Warren is the Chair of the Congressional TARP Oversight Panel.
Good for her, hammering on Henry Paulson’s enormous bait and switch. Most of that TARP money was supposed to be used for loans for small businesses, not more gambling and bonuses, which is where it appears to have gone. Yet, according to Warren, there will “never” be a meaningful accounting of that money.
Many of us have been caught by those increasingly ubiquitous red-light cameras. Police departments and local governments argue that these sorts of cameras improve safety and increase revenue. Studies are increasingly putting the lie to the safety claim, but nobody’s disputing that these traffic enforcement mechanisms bring in revenue.
… a study in last month’s Journal of Law and Economics concluded that, as many motorists have long suspected, “governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue.” The authors, Thomas Garrett of the St. Louis Fed and Gary Wagner of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, studied 14 years of traffic-ticket data from 96 counties in North Carolina. They found that when local-government revenue declines, police issue more tickets in the following year. Officials at the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police didn’t respond to requests for comment.
California state law prohibits compensation to operators of these red-light cameras based on the number of tickets issued. Localities have been side-stepping this law through “cost-neutrality” provisions, which allow the cities to pay the operators up to a certain monthly amount. After that cap is reached, the city keeps all the revenue beyond that point. The intent of the law is to remove an incentive to ticket as a means of increasing revenue to the private operators. There is now a second appellate court ruling that has struck down the red-light programs as illegal under the state law.
Dan Choi is a well-decorated combat veteran who was dismissed from the military because was gay. His message at the National Equality March rally was simple and compelling. Choi made it clear that he is done asking and he is now telling. Don’t ask, don’t tell must be repealed immediately.
While visiting the St. Louis Zoo today I photographed a young orangutan trying on a t-shirt. It was a delightful display, though not unexpected, given the long-documented tool-use of orangs:
Many wild orangutans have developed an amazing ability to use tools to help them exploit what food they can find. They’ve been observed using probes like twigs to extract insects and honey from tree trunks (held in their hands or their teeth), as well as blunt tools to scrape seeds from spiny fruit cases.
In addition to food-gathering tools, wild orangutans have been observed making tools to scratch themselves, fashioning leafy branches into “umbrellas” to shelter themselves from sun and rain, and using branches as swatters to repel bees or wasps that are attacking. Many have also been seen using “leaf gloves” to handle prickly fruits or branches, or creating “seat cushions” to sit comfortably in thorny trees.
Tool use hasn’t been observed in all orangutan populations, and it shows great variations even when it exists. This suggests to scientists that tool use is the result of innovation and learning that’s passed on from one generation to the next – one of the hallmarks of culture.
[More photos . . . ]
What is truth?
Big question, right?
It’s something philosophers have been pondering for as long as there have been philosophers pondering. I’m not going to pretend to be able to answer it here but I would like to list a few things that truth is not.
Belief is not truth.
Faith is not truth.
Desire is not truth.
Hope is not truth.
Vague prophecy is not truth.
The other day a believer in a religion forum conversation I was a part of told me that he hopes that some day I learn the “truth” and get saved. I am always wary when a word is willfully and consistently misused. There is an Orwellian doublespeak creepiness about the mis-use of the word “truth” by believers that is disturbing to me whenever I hear it.
People often speak of a personal truth and I suppose that concept has some validity, but all too often that personal revelation, which ends up being called truth, is applied to humanity as a whole. In other words, “My truth must be your truth”. That is a very myopic viewpoint and one thing about belief in God that has always rubbed me the wrong way.
That same believer more recently posted that because he knows the truth no one will ever be able to change his mind or shake his faith. He is mistaken if that’s what he thinks the non-believers are trying to do by arguing against certainty. Why would I want to take away from him his life’s philosophy that he has worked so hard to discover? Conversely, why would he want to deny me mine?
As an atheist all I have ever wanted from believers is respect. Respect for my doubts. Respect for my journey. Respect for MY personal “truth”.
Does belief rule out respect and understanding for other paths of life? I don’t think so but if that is the case, that is just one more reason that I would prefer to hold on to my doubts.