What Happens When History Fights Back — A Review of “11/22/63: A Novel” by Stephen King

11/22/63 11/22/63Stephen King; Scribner 2011WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 
Pluck a string and it vibrates. As it vibrates there are points along the string where it is absolutely still. Pluck a companion string and sometimes those points line up. If you pull that string tighter there are more points of stillness and a greater chance that points will line up. If you pull it too tight, it snaps.

Campaign Contributions and Judiciary Committee Votes on SOPA (and a Plug for Rootstrikers)

I’ve been keeping an eye on the House Judiciary Committee markup session for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that have happened over the past two days along with the tweets that have been going out in reaction to the proceedings. One of the running threads in the commentary has been the theory of a correlation between campaign contributions from media creators and a desire by representatives to push SOPA through the committee. (Disclosure: I’ve come out publicly against SOPA.) By tabulating the roll call votes and using data from OpenSecrets.org, there does appear to be a correlation, and one that gets tighter the higher the percentage of contributions from media creators. I’ll show my work below.

In Opposition to the PROTECT IP Act (Also)

Earlier this month there was an amazing groundswell of opposition to SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I participated in a 1-day anticensorship campaign designed to bring awareness to the proposed law, as did thousands of others around the country. It has been reported that this groundswell of opposition caught many in Congress by surprise.

In an interesting turn of events, SOPA’s parent — the PROTECT-IP Act in the U.S. Senate — may come up for vote on the Senate floor this week. (PROTECT-IP, in case you are wondering, is an acronym for “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011”.) This bill still contains many of the same troublesome definitions and technical issues of SOPA, and it deserves to be blocked as well. Senator Wyden of Oregon submitted a statement to the U.S. House hearing on SOPA warns of severe repercussions to a free and open internet if SOPA and PROTECT-IP were passed, and he has said he will filibuster an attempt to pass this in the Senate.

In Opposition to the Stop Online Privacy Act

This blog will be participating in the American Censorship Day awareness campaign on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 to show opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261). There is an effort in the U.S. Congress to give power to the Department of Justice to disrupt the domain name service (DNS – the bit of internet infrastructure that makes human-readable things like “dltj.org” meaningful to machines) and order websites and search engines to remove links to targeted services (among other things). This legislation is supported in large part by the content creation industries to “address today’s gravest threat to the American film industry workforce: the illegal distribution of content online.”1


  1. From the Motion Picture Association of America. Citation: IFTA: Jennifer Garnick, NATO: Patrick Corcoran, MPAA: Howard Gantman, Deluxe: Cathy Main, (2011, October 26). Creative Community Hails New Bipartisan House Legislation to Shut Down Rogue Websites that Steal American-Made Content. Retrieved October 31, 2011, from MPAA. []

E-mail Phishing Attempts Get Trickier: Fake bounced mail and Fake mail-from-scanner

Two phishing1 attempts made it through the work spam filter earlier this month, and they show the creativity of bad guys as they try to get access to your machine. The attempts at social engineering were interesting enough I thought I’d describe them here. We’re getting pretty close the line where we can’t tell a legitimate e-mail from ones with nasty side effects.

The Fake Bounced Message

This message has the appearance of being a bounced e-mail from a server called ‘cyber.net.pk’.
Screenshot of a fake bounced e-mail message.

Screenshot of a fake bounced e-mail message.

Free Stanford AI Class is a “Beta” for a Commercial Launch?

When Stanford University’s School of Engineering announced its free Artificial Intelligence class last month, the news took the geek world by storm and even worthy of note in the New York Times. The initial news articles made it sound like another example of open educational resources — a movement popularized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put course materials and recordings of lectures online for anyone to use. But with registration for the class open and more details posted on the class homepage, I’m not so sure.

My O’Reilly Wish List

O’Reilly Media — my favorite technology publisher — is offering a contest in which they are giving away $500 worth of books from their catalog. To enter, one must post a public wish list to books, e-books, and videos from the O’Reilly catalog and send the URL to O’Reilly using a web form. As long as the total of all the items on your wish list is less that $500, you’re entered. The deadline is 11:59pm PST on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, and the sweepstakes is limited to U.S. residents only.

First Bill for DLTJ Hosting on Amazon Web Services

I just got the bill for the first month of hosting this blog on Amazon Web Services. The total for the month was $23.60, and includes:

  • data transfer charges for all in-bound and out-bound content;
  • a full-time use of a LINUX micro-sized Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance (with backup to the Elastic Block Store (EBS));
  • a Simple Storage Service (S3) bucket for static files (Cascading Style Sheet and JavaScript files, images, and other media); and
  • use of the Amazon CloudFront content distribution network.

All told, I’m pretty pleased with the costs — particularly as I was considering the amortized cost of buying a new server to replace the one I had been using for the past five years. The itemized bill is included below.

DLTJ In a State of Flux

DLTJ is in a bit of flux now. After updating some underlying packages on my 9-year-old Gentoo-based personal server, I’m finding that I can’t start the web server process without the 1-minute load average climbing to roughly 60 in the span of about 5 minutes. (Translation: the machine is working very hard but getting nowhere fast.) Increasingly, the server has also been hard to update — lots of strange errors, etc. — so after 9 years, it is clearly time to rebuild it. In the interim, I’m in the process of moving the blog over to an Amazon EC2 cloud computing instance. If you see this post, you are reading it on that virtual server. The DNS entries should catch up with the migration in a couple of hours.

Attempting to Run Comments without reCAPTCHA

I’m trying an experiment over the next couple days/weeks. I’m turning off the reCAPTCHA requirement for blog commenters (the figure-out-these-words-and-type-them-in anti-spam scheme I turned on three and a half years ago). The only automated scheme in place now is Akismet. This change was made Friday night, and over the weekend a few spam comments got through to “approved” status while 550 were in the “spam” queue. With reCAPTCHA in place, I would typically only get 10 or so comments that would make it through reCAPTCHA only to get caught by Akismet (and none through to approved comments). I could easily go through 10 or so comments a day looking for ones that would accidentally get trapped (maybe one a month), but I’m not going through 200 or more a day. So, if you comment on DLTJ and don’t see it immediately posted, please do let me know and I’ll fetch it out of the spam queue.