Periscope in Self Defence

Going by the streams on offer Periscope is an amusing toy for most. People are broadcasting anything from their lunch break to their holiday destinations to simply talking to the camera. For all its novel unedited spontaneity, the app is wandering into a minefield of new and exciting issues that we haven’t had to deal with at this scale before. One of those is live broadcast of crime. Sooner or later some users will turn to Periscope when they’re being raped.

Our modern Two Minutes Hate

It’s one of the more surreal moments in 1984. It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the Records Department, where Winston worked, they were dragging the chairs out of the cubicles and grouping them in the centre of the hall opposite the big telescreen, in preparation for the Two Minutes Hate. It seems utterly preposterous. A calm methodical preparation followed immediately by a visceral outpouring of rage. The idea of setting aside a moment every day to get extremely angry, to consciously stoke the fire so that it will smoulder until the next day.

What Coles means by "Purchases monitored to ensure better service"

On Easter Monday I was doing some shopping when I noticed a message for the first time on the Coles self-serve checkout: Since “ensuring better service” is so often a euphemism for “we’re doing something shitty for commercial benefit” this immediately set my spidey senses tingling. What manner of monitoring are we talking about here? Human supervision? Hidden cameras? Storing our purchases for perpetuity and indexing them by credit card number?

Book review: The Internet Is Not The Answer by Andrew Keen

It’s a provocative title. I was dubious at first but I have decided that Andrew Keen’s writing lives up to it. What I feared to be some sort of rant turned out to be a nuanced critique that seriously challenges some of my attitudes toward Internet-based technology. Some years ago I appeared briefly on national television to ask a panel whether the Internet could have its own sovereignty—whether it could be impervious to the regulations of traditional governments.

Opting out of phone tracking

I’m at home in the evening. As the clock ticks over to 9pm my iPhone begins to beep. I reach over and silence it. I look at the time, swipe up the screen and switch off aeroplane mode. As it connects to the cell network reports of surveillance capabilities flit through my mind; reports that the NSA can remotely activate the microphone and camera. I place the phone flat on the desk so that neither camera can see my computer screen.

Anonymity to learn

Today social media was expressing its usual preoccupations with Australia Day. I witnessed a depressing sight that became more so as I read. A young white Australian woman had commented on a heavily-trafficked Facebook post, essentially criticising the zeitgeist of white guilt on the grounds that nobody living in Australia today perpetrated genocide on the native Aborigines. It was a fairly eloquent post but ignorant of the challenges facing Aboriginal people today—and the criticism came thick and fast.

Sending authenticated SMTP alerts from Zabbix

I like to use SMTP wherever possible for automatic emails because it’s usually simpler and has fewer security gotchas than running a local MTA. Zabbix does have SMTP support but it’s currently limited to unauthenticated connections—not much help to a home user like me. I don’t have a mail server on the local trusted network. Fortunately it’s a pretty easy to hook up a script so that Zabbix sends email via Mutt, which does support authenticated and encrypted SMTP.

Monitoring a Ubiquiti NanoBridge with Zabbix

I have a couple of point-to-point WiFi links. One of these uses a 5 GHz NanoBridge, the other a 900 MHz Loco M900. The web interface on these has all kinds of interesting statistics that I would like to get into my Zabbix server for logging and graphing. The good news is that these devices support SNMP and also at least part of Mikrotik’s “experimental” SNMP module. This means if you do a walk over enterprises.14988 you get 7 OIDs containing interesting information about each connected client.