Not as dumb as I look. Writer of http://Macdrifter.com and talker of the Generational podcast. http://www.70decibels.com/generational/
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Every Step You Take, They’ll Be Watching You

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Boston.com, via the Associated Press:

Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

The local news here in California has been covering these license-plate scanning systems for a while now, but it seems the phenomenon is becoming more widespread.

I really don’t understand why the public at large seems more or less at ease with the idea that police are recording everything we do while arming themselves to the teeth. How is that not something we should care about? Are we all really that lobotomized?


Originally posted on jarrodwhaley.com. Follow me on Twitter or ADN.

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macdrifter
2690 days ago
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Cambridge
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Bob and I Have a Podcast

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My friend Bob Cantoni and I first met at Çingleton Deux about nine months ago, and came up with the idea of starting a podcast together. So, we’ve done that, and we’re calling it North by Midwest (I’m from Portland and Bob i s from Cleveland).

In our first episode we talk about Skype ringtones, expensive dates, my crazy ergonomic keyboard and self checkout lines at the grocery store. Go check it out and subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app.

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macdrifter
2712 days ago
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Cambridge
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Scholarship. Real lesson: there is nothing new under the sun.

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Scholarship.

Real lesson: there is nothing new under the sun.

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macdrifter
2736 days ago
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Cambridge
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Alien Astronomers

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Alien Astronomers

Let's assume there's life on the the nearest habitable exoplanet and that they have technology comparable to ours. If they looked at our star right now, what would they see?

—Chuck H.

Answer:

Let’s try a more complete answer. We’ll start with ...

Radio transmissions

Contactpopularized the idea of aliens listening in on our transmissions. Sadly, the odds are against it.

Here’s the problem: Space is big. Really big.[1]

You can work through the physics of interstellar radio attenuation, but the problem is captured pretty well by considering the economics of the situation: If your TV signals are getting to another star, you’re losing money. Powering a transmitter is expensive, and creatures on other stars aren’t buying the products in the TV commercials that pay your electricity bill.

The full picture is more complicated, but the bottom line is that as our technology has advanced, less of our radio traffic has been leaking out into space. We’re closing down the giant transmitting antennas and switching to cable and fiber and tightly-focused cell-tower networks.[2]

While our TV signals may have been detectable—with great effort—for a while,[3]that window is closing. In the late 20th century, when we were using TV and radio to scream into the void at the top of our lungs, the signal probably faded to undetectability after a few light-years.[4]The potentially habitable exoplanets we’ve spotted so far are dozens of light-years away, so the odds are they aren’t currently repeating our catchphrases.

But TV and radio transmissions still weren’t Earth’s most powerful radio signal. They were outshone by the beams from early-warning radar.[4]

Early-warning radar, a product of the Cold War, consisted of a bunch of ground and airborne stations scattered around the Arctic. These stations swept the atmosphere with powerful radar beams 24/7, often bouncing them off the ionosphere, and people obsessively monitored the echos for any hints of enemy movement. (I wasn’t alive during most of this period, but from what I hear, the mood was a little tense.)

These radar transmissions leaked into space, and could probably be picked up by nearby exoplanets[5]if they happened to be listening when the beam swept over their part of the sky. But the same march of technological progress that made the TV broadcast towers obsolete has had the same effect on early-warning radar. Today’s systems—where they exist at all—are much quieter, and may eventually be replaced completely by new technology.

Earth’s most powerfulradio signal is the beam from the Arecibo telescope. This massive dish in Puerto Rico can function as a radar transmitter, bouncing a signal off nearby targets like Mercury and the asteroid belt. It’s essentially a flashlight which we shine on planets to see them better. (This is just as crazy as it sounds.)

But it transmits only occasionally, and in a narrow beam. If an exoplanet happened to be caught in the beam, and they were lucky enough to be pointing a receiving antenna at our corner of the sky at the time, all they would pick up would be a brief pulse of radio energy, then silence.

So hypothetical aliens looking at Earth probably wouldn’t pick us up with radio antennas.

But there’s also ...

Visible light

This is more promising. The Sun is really bright[citation needed]and its light illuminates the Earth.[citation needed]Some of that light is reflected back into space as “Earthshine”. Some of it skims close to our planet and passes through our atmosphere before continuing on to the stars. Both of these effects could potentially be detected from an exoplanet.[4][6]

They wouldn’t tell you anything about humans directly, but if you watched the Earth for long enough, you could figure out a lot about our atmosphere from the reflectivity. You could probably figure out what our water cycle looked like, and our oxygen-rich atmosphere would give you a hint that something weird was going on.

So in the end, the clearest signal from Earth might not be from us at all. It might be from the algae that have been terraforming the planet—and altering the signals we send into space—for billions of years.

Of course, if we wanted to send a clearer signal, we could. A radio transmission has the problem that they have to be paying attention when it arrives.

Instead, we could makethem pay attention. With ion drives, nuclear pulse propulsion, or just clever use of gravitational slingshots, we could probably send a probe out of the Solar System fast enough to reach a given nearby star in a few dozen millennia. If we can figure out how to make a guidance system that survives the trip (which would be tough) we could use it to steer toward any inhabited planet.

To land safely, we’d have to slow down. But slowing down takes even more fuel. And, hey, the whole point of this was for them to notice us, right?

So maybe if those aliens looked toward our Solar System, this is what they’d see:

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macdrifter
2739 days ago
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Cambridge
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7 public comments
Eloquence
2739 days ago
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We are alone because that's how God wants us to be. The unfallen races have been told not to come here by the Lord. It is what it is.
Baltimore, Maryland
ocrammarco
2734 days ago
What?
llucax
2739 days ago
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Sorry!
Berlin
jlvanderzwan
2740 days ago
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"These radar transmissions leaked into space, and could probably be picked up by nearby exoplanets[5] if they happened to be listening when the beam swept over their part of the sky."

Eh... angular velocity anyone? Wouldn't the time window of any sweep that hits other planets be in the order of we-don't-even-have-a-name-for-it-it's-that-small seconds?
derintendant
2740 days ago
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Contact was wrong.
Karlsruhe
mikevine
2740 days ago
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The algae line was particularly good.
Arcadia
rclatterbuck
2741 days ago
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I know what note to write on the next brick I toss through a window.
digdoug
2741 days ago
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*sigh* so alone.
Louisville, KY

✦ 1Password Tips

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In celebration of 1Password's 50% off sale for WWDC, here are a couple tips that might sway you into taking advantage of this offer if you're not a proud owner already.

Security Questions

After reading a bunch of tales about how easy it was for people to look up answers for security questions (elementary school name, mother's maiden name, etc.), I now have 1Password create an insanely difficult passwords for the answer of these questions. In order to remember them, I add a custom field after the 1Password bookmark has been saved with the subject line pertaining to the security question along with the 1Password generated password.

Example:

  • Q: What is your mother's maiden name?
  • A: [NAVMxCqBB47LixV

In 1Password, I'll add a custom field once the login info is saved in the bookmark and input the following field/value:

  • Field Name: Mother's Maiden Name
  • Field Value: [NAVMxCqBB47LixV

Then when it comes down to answering these security questions, you copy them from the 1Password browser extension.

It honestly takes quite a bit more manual work to do that and kind of defeats the simplicity of 1Password, but I'm willing to go the extra mile for these "security questions".

Also, you can keep them in a secured note for a slightly easier workflow. Which leads to...

Secured Notes

I have a file for various aspects of my life — for example, family members. Within these notes I place various tidbits of vital info.

In other words, I typically store notes that are "for my eyes only" in 1Password instead of Evernote or Dropbox. With the security question example above, you can add them in a "Security Questions" secured note, and just have them listed out. With regards to having data in a secured note versus having them as a login bookmark, they both offer the same level of security, so choose whatever works for you.

File Attachments

Every so often I'll be presented with key files, such as from my Synology DiskStation. While I have the passphrase already in 1Password, I also added the key file to a secured note just in case. You can drag and drop various files to a secured note — however, you cannot access them in 1Password for iOS.

1Password Anywhere

While this isn't unique to me, I really think it's underrated. While coaching several people through 1Password adoption, there were a couple things I noticed that they all had in common:

  1. They believe they won't remember their Facebook password. That's kind of the point — but maybe it's best if they forgot that particular password.
  2. They feel they will get locked out of their 1Password database. Totally possible.
  3. They have lives that don't always revolve around iOS or OS X

While the 2nd one is unavoidable if you simply forget your "one password", the 1st and 3rd can be solved through 1Password Anywhere and Dropbox.

At work, I unfortunately do not have 1Password installed on my various Windows PCs (which might change after this sale). Sure I have my iPhone, but I'm sure veteran 1Password users will agree that typing out a 1Password-generated password isn't the most pleasant experience. So having access to my Dropbox account (via the web), I can navigate to my 1Password .agilekeychain directory (on the Mac, it appears as a file — in reality it is a bundled directory) and within there sits a 1Password.html file1.

Opening up this html file in the browser will give you access to your 1Password database where you can copy and paste passwords and passphrases wherever they're required. This is all protected by a visually similar 1Password lock screen.

To make access easier, I added that bookmark to Pinboard as a private (obviously) bookmark. If my Pinboard were to get compromised in any way, I have Dropbox's 2-Factor authentication enabled in order to help safeguard my 1Password data.

So take advantage of 1Password's sale. If not, then at least look at the cowbell gif they added to their post.

You can download it for iOS, OS X, and/or Windows.


  1. While I am pretty security conscious, I'm generally alright with keeping my password data in the cloud. I know that others may not be. 

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macdrifter
2739 days ago
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Cambridge
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Sanity Saver - Ticks and Crosses

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Sanity Savers are quick tips that help you stay sane when using your computer.

I often create point form lists of things, whether planning a post or a coding sprint or a client activity. And to keep track of which points in the list are done and which will not be done, or what is right and what is wrong, I like to use and symbols.

I use them so frequently and am so lazy that even typing ,,tick and ,,cross TextExpander expansions are too much effort.

So I made them hot keys using Keyboard Maestro. ⌃⌘= gives me a and ⌃⌘- gives a . Anywhere. Anytime.

✗ Cool
✓ Nerdy
✗ Fashionable
✓ Fun

Batsu (罰) is Japanese for the ✗ symbol, meaning “wrong”, as in wrong answer (Wikipedia).

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter and @hiltmon on App.Net. Mute #xpost on one.

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macdrifter
2740 days ago
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Sanity
Cambridge
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