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Monday Morning: Tarantela [UPDATE]

I could listen to this piece on a loop. It’s Santiago de Murcia’s “Tarantela,” performed by noted lutist Rolf Lislevand. The instrument he is playing is as important as the music and his artistry; it’s an extremely rare Stradivarius guitar called the Sabionari. While tarantellas more commonly feature additional instruments and percussion like tambourines, this instrument is stunning by itself.

You can learn more about the Sabionari at Open Culture, a site I highly recommend for all manner of educational and exploratory content.

And now to dance the tarantella we call Monday.

Wheels

  • What’s the German word for ‘omertà’? Because Volkswagen has it (Forbes) — Besides the use of obfuscation by translation, VW’s culture obstructs the investigation into Dieselgate by way of a “code of silence.” And money. Hush money helps.
  • Growing percentage of VW investors want an independent investigation (WSJ) — An association 25,000 investors now demands an investigation; the problem continues to be Lower Saxony, the Qatar sovereign-wealth fund and the Porsche family, which combined own 92% of voting stock.
  • VW production workers get a 5% pay raise (IBT) — Is this “hush money,” too, for the employees who can’t afford to be retired like VW’s executives? The rationale for the increase seems sketchy since inflation is negligible and VW group subsidiary workers at Audi and Porsche won’t receive a similar raise.
  • Insanity? VW Group a buy opportunity next month (The Street) — Caveat: I am not a stockbroker. This information is not provided for investment purposes. Your mileage may vary. But I think this is absolute insanity, suggesting VW group stock may offer a buy opportunity next month when VW publishes a strategy for the next decade. If this strategy includes the same utterly opaque organization committing fraud to sell vehicles, is it smart to buy even at today’s depressed prices? The parallel made with Apple stock is bizarre, literally comparing oranges to Apples. Just, no.

Bad News (Media)

Cybersec

  • Organized criminals steal $13M in minutes from Japanese ATMs (The Guardian) — And then they fled the country. What?! The mass thefts were facilitated by bank account information acquired from an unnamed South African bank. Both Japan and SA use chip-and-pin cards — so much for additional security. Good thing this organized criminal entity seeks money versus terror. Interesting that the South African bank has yet to be named.(*)
  • Slovenian student receives 15-month suspended sentence for disclosing state-created security problems (Softpedia) — The student at Slovenia’s Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security in Maribor, Slovenia had been investigating Slovenia’s TETRA encrypted communications protocol over the last four years as part of a school project. He used responsible disclosure practices, but authorities did not respond; he then revealed the encrypted comms’ failure publicly to force action. And law enforcement went after him for exposing their lazy culpability hacking them.
  • Related? Slovenian bank intended target for Vietnamese bank’s SWIFT attempted hack funds (Reuters) — Huh. Imagine that. Same country with highly flawed state-owned encrypted communications protocol was the target for monies hackers attempted to steal via SWIFT from Vietnamese TPBank. Surely just a coincidence, right?

Just for the heck of it, consider a lunch read/watch on a recent theory: World War 0. Sounds plausible to me, but this theory seems pretty fluid.

Catch you here tomorrow morning!

* UPDATE — 1:20 P.M. EDT —
Standard Bank reported it had lost 300 million rand, or USD $19.1 million to the attack on Japanese ATMs. First reports in South African media and Reuters were roughly 11 hours ago or 9:00 a.m. Johannesburg local time. It’s odd the name of the affected bank did not get wider coverage in western media, but then South Africa has a problem with disclosing bank breaches. There were five breaches alleged last year, but little public information about them; they do not appear on Hackmageddon’s list of breaches. This offers a false sense of security to South African banking customers and to banks’ investors alike.

Japan Times report attribute the thefts to a Malaysian crime gang. Neither Japan Times nor Manichi mention Standard Bank’s name as the affected South African bank. Both report the thefts actually took place more than a week ago on May 15th — another odd feature about reporting on this rash of well-organized thefts.

Friday Morning: Mi Ritmo

Oye como va
Mi ritmo
Bueno pa gozar
Mulata

— excerpt, Oye Como Va by Tito Puente

This Latin jazz song was on the very first album I owned — Santana’s Abraxas. I have no idea what possessed my father to select this way back in 1971 because he’s not musically inclined. I prefer to think he was persuaded by the music store staff to buy it for me rather than think the cover art did it for him. To this day I don’t dare ask; I’d rather live with my illusion.

Perhaps he simply liked Oye Como Va by Tito Puente and decided I needed it. Maybe that’s what he wanted to listen to when I played the album over and over again, ad nauseam. The song is still easy to listen to even when played by a septuagenarian, isn’t it? Though Puente probably still felt the same way about this song in his last live performance as he did when he first recorded it in 1963.

The personal irony I’m certain my father never considered: the last line is a reference to a mixed race “mulatto” woman. That’s me.

Vamos, amigos!

Wheels

  • South Korea frustrated by Volkswagen’s response to Dieselgate (Yonhap) — Hard to tell how many VW passenger diesel cars with the emissions controls defeat tech have been sold in South Korea to date. Last year’s sales of 35,700 suggest VW needs to exert itself a little more than offer to recall a total 125,000 cars.

Technology Trends

  • Breakthrough in memory technology could change computing dramatically (IBM via YouTube) — I’m still trying to wrap my head around this; could be the simplicity of the underlying science seems so obvious I can’t understand why it wasn’t discovered sooner. Using polycrystalline rather than amorphous material, more data can be stored and in a manner which is stable and not prone to loss when electricity is cut. This technology could replace DRAM at flash memory prices. Imagine how quickly systems could begin processing if they could avoid seeking programs and data.
  • Google’s annual I/O event chary on enterprise computing (ComputerWorld) — Wonder if Google executives’ expressed intent to focus on the enterprise is a veiled threat directed at Oracle? The I/O annual conference didn’t have enough enterprise applications to satisfy the curious; is Google holding back? Or are there pending acquisitions to fill this stated intent, ones not yet ready for publication? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google launch something on par with Salesforce or Zoho very soon. Google Drive components already compete with or are integrated with some of those Zoho offers in its small business offering.
  • Android’s coming to Chromebooks — finally! (Google Blog) — I’ve put off buying another laptop until this happened, guess I’ll look at the first three models on which developers will focus their development. The applications available for Android phones have been mind-boggling in number; it’d be nice to have the same diversity of selection for laptops. And then maybe desktops in the not-too-distant future? That would really make a dent in enterprise computing.

Cybersec

  • Security camera not password protected? Police may be able to tap it (Engadget) — Love the subhead: “Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be for a good cause.” Just add the invisible snark tag. Purdue University researchers found surveillance cameras could be tapped to allow law enforcement to monitor a crime scene. I don’t know about you but this sounds like a backdoor, not a convenient vulnerability. If the police can use it soon, who might already be using it?
  • Qualcomm mobile chip flaw leaves 60% of Android devices exposed (Threatpost) — Not good, especially since this boo-boo may affect both oldest and newest Android versions. But a malicious app is required to take advantage of this flaw, unlike the Stagefright exploit. Android has already issued a patch; the problem is getting it to all affected devices.
  • LinkedIn’s 2012 breach yielded info on more than 100 million accounts (Motherboard) — Only 6.5 million accounts were initially breached — but that’s only the first batch published online. The actual haul from 2012 was at least 117 million accounts, now for sale for a mere five bitcoins or $2200. Are you a LinkedIn user? Time to check Have I Been Pwned? to see if your account is among those in the breach.

Climate Crises

  • Record high temp of 51C (124F) recorded in India (The Register) — Drought continues as well; article notes, “Back in India, relief from the heat is expected when the annual monsoon hits. The cooling rains generally arrive in mid-June.” Except that with a monster El Nino underway, the amount of rain and cooling will depart from average.
  • Polymath Eleanor Saitta considers climate change and comes to some grim, mortal conclusions (Storify by @AnthonyBriggs) — If you’re a policymaker, you’d better worry about dealing effectively with climate refugees and deaths in the millions. Maybe billions. Refugees from Syria will look like a minuscule blip. If you’re not terrified, you should be.

Looks like it’s going to be a lovely late spring weekend here — hope you’re going to have a nice one, too. See you Monday!

Wednesday Morning: Meet Me on the Floor

I admit it, I’ve betrayed my kind. I’ve been remiss in my responsibilities, haven’t been equitable.

To fix that, you need a dose of estrogen, stat. This morning’s medication is Veruca Salt’s Volcano Girls.

Feel better soon, eh?

Wheels
Mitsubishi’s Tetsuro Aikawa to leave, asks Nissan to name replacement (Bloomberg) — Announcement comes six days after Nissan announced it would buy a controlling interest in Mitsubishi. Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn indicated he does not intend to subsume and phase out the Mitsubishi brand; this may have encouraged Aikawa he was leaving the company in good hands. I wouldn’t bet on some overlap between Nissan/Mitsubishi being eliminated.

Suzuki apologized for using the wrong fuel economy tests (Reuters) — Suzuki says it didn’t need to change its declared mileage data based on correct testing. I sure hope independent testing confirms this, though I suspect the same study which revealed Volkswagen’s cheat would have indicated additional validation needed.

Volkswagen says it will focus on profitability, pronto (Bloomberg) — Investors are restless and complaining about VW’s recalcitrance toward cost cutting in light of 16 billion euros it set aside for fixes and claims due to Dieselgate. Executives’ pay is on the butcher’s block. More than a little overdue as VW execs knew about the emissions controls defeat’s detection two years ago.

Forensic scientist reports to NHTSA Chevrolet’s dangerous cruise control problem (Zdziarski’s blog) — PAY ATTENTION TO THIS IF YOU’RE A LATE MODEL CHEVROLET OWNER. Read the linked post; Chevrolet’s response is deplorable, asking drivers to modify behavior rather than supply/fix product to work as documented and sold.

The (Fossil Fuel) Business
Goldman Sachs downgrades stocks to neutral while going bullish on oil (Bloomberg) — I like the subhead on this article: “Too many things to worry about.” ~LOL~ Excess valuation, lower growth, “a wall of stock market worries” encouraged the bear move. Things not explicitly mentioned: the U.S. and Australian elections and Brexit referendum outcome.

But…bullishness on oil out of whack (MarketWatch) — Another LOL-ish subhead today: “The fine print shows Goldman analysts believe oil will struggle to easily top $50.” So GS is telling its clients to reduce excess oil holdings while conditioning overall market to firm up what’s in their clients’ portfolios? ~smh~ Just as above, not mentioned in this take are any elections/referendums.

Note, too, that neither of these reports mentions Iran.

Anadarko Petroleum downgraded to neutral by Credit Suisse (Trade Calls) — You want another confusing take on fossil fuels? Read this article. Supports MarketWatch’s calling out GS on oil, though Anadarko also includes natural gas.

Total SA’s CEO Pouyanne pooh-poohs France’s ban on shale gas (Bloomberg) — Man, this dude is as arrogant as his predecessor. France could simply outlaw any imports without a certificate of origin, and force the industry to figure it out. Yet another article that doesn’t mention Iran, which sits on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. Pouyanne’s predecessor was cozy with Iran, too. So why all the attitude about North American shale gas imports?

Artificial Intelligence
Hedge fund used AI to pick through Fed Reserve’s minutes (Business Insider) — Using AI gleaned from a competition it hosted, Two Sigma fund analyzed the Fed Reserve. The app used Natural Language Processing and found some interesting trends. Wonder if the results would be different using Google’s SyntaxText open sourced this past week?

NSFWhut?
Cynically opportunistic marketing push promotes so-called ‘anti-Zika’ condoms (IBTImes-AU) — Pharmaco Starpharma Holdings and condom-maker Ansell will give Australia’s Olympians “Dual Protect” condoms lubricated with VivaGel for “almost 100-percent anti-viral protection” against Zika. Never let a perfectly good health crisis go to waste, right?

CDC says any condom will work against Zika (MarketWatch) — Yeah. That. I said this already: condoms are recommended for other viral STIs like herpes and HIV, will work fine for Zika, no special anti-Zika condom required. But you have to use the consistently and for at least six months after exposure to Zika since the virus can remain in men’s reproductive system for at least that long after infection.

ONE company will release condoms in 56 different sizes (Glamour) — Holy schnikes. This is a broader range of sizes than men’s off-the-rack suits. No excuses about not wearing condoms, there will be one bound to fit gents. Would be nice if ONE could hit the market with these in Brazil before the Olympics. (And don’t turn your nose up at Glamour. It’s one of the better articles I read today, includes some good links.)

There’s enough material to get you over the hump. Catch you in the morning tomorrow!

Wednesday Morning: Wandering

This music video is the result of an insomniac walkabout. I went looking for something mellow I hadn’t heard before and tripped on this lovely little indie folk artistry. Not certain why I haven’t heard Radical Face before given how popular this piece is. I like it enough to look for more by the same artist.

Let’s go wandering…

Volkswagen: 3.0L fix in the offing, but too late for EU and the world?

  • New catalytic converter may be part of so-called fix for VW and Audi 3.0L vehicles (Bloomberg) — The financial hit affected dividend as reserve for fix/recall/litigation was raised from 6.7B to 16.2B euros. VW group will not have a full explanation about Dieselgate’s origins and costs to shareholders until the end of 2016.
  • But Netherland’s NO2 level exceeds the 40 microgram threshold in 11 locations, violating EU air pollution standards (DutchNews) — Locations are those with high automobile traffic.
  • UK government shoveled 105,000 pounds down legal fee rat hole fighting air pollution charges (Guardian-UK) — Look, we all know the air’s dirty. Stop fighting the charges and fix the mess.
  • UK’s MPs already said air pollution was a ‘public health emergency’ (Guardian-UK) — It’s killing 40-50,000 UK residents a year. One of the approaches discussed but not yet in motion is a scrapping plan for dirty diesel vehicles.
  • Unfortunately global CO2 level at 400 ppm tipping point, no thanks to VW’s diesel vehicles (Sydney Melbourne Herald) — Granted, VW’s passenger vehicles aren’t the only source, but cheating for nearly a decade across millions of cars played a substantive role.

Mixed government messages about hacking, encryption, and cybersecurity enforcement
Compare: FBI hires a “grey hat” to crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone account, versus FCC and FTC desire for escalated security patching on wireless systems. So which is it? Hacking is good when it helps government, or no? Encryption is not good for government except when it is? How do these stories make any sense?

  • State of Florida prosecuting security researcher after he revealed FL state’s election website was vulnerable (Tampa Bay Times) — Unencrypted site wide-open to SQL “injection attack” allowed research to hack into the site. Florida arrests him instead of saying thanks and fixing their mess.
  • UK court rules hacker does not have to give up password (Guardian-UK) — Computer scientist and hacker activist Lauri Love fights extradition to U.S. after allegedly stealing ‘massive quantities’ of data from Fed Reserve and NASA computers; court ruled he does not have to give up password for his encrypted computers taken into custody last autumn.
  • SWIFT denies technicians left Bangladeshi bank vulnerable to hacking (Reuters) — Tit-for-tat back and forth between Bangladesh Bank and SWIFT as to which entity at fault for exposures to hacking. Funny how U.S. government is saying very little about this when the vulnerability could have been used by terrorists for financing.

Well, it’s not quite noon Pacific time, still morning somewhere. Schedule was off due to insomnia last night; hoping for a better night’s sleep tonight, and a better morning tomorrow. Catch you then!

Wednesday Morning: Woe, Nelly, Woe

I meant woe, not whoa. I do know the difference.

It’s woe I was thinking of when I wrote this next bit.

What would you do if you were told you wouldn’t be paid for last 2 months of a 9-month job?
Let’s say you have kids to feed, a mortgage/car payment/college loan payments to make, childcare to pay, out-of-pocket healthcare costs — you know, all the expenses the average working person has.

In spite of one or more obligatory college degrees, continuing education requirements and mandatory background checks, your job requires you to work in facilities where ‘mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, dead rodents, no heat‘ are common. It’s a workplace functioning like Flint’s water crisis, and it’s been this way for more than a decade. Fellow employees have had to bring in paper towels and light bulbs from home or solicit them as donations to the workplace.

Because of your employer’s money woes, you may even have made a concession agreeing to collect your pay over 3-4 months instead of the next six to eight weeks you are actually scheduled to work.

And then your employer’s employer says they aren’t going to pay, and you might have to work without pay for the next six weeks. Unpaid, as in violation of labor laws unpaid.

And your employer’s employer has a history of acting both in bad faith and with prejudice. Your workplace hasn’t improved for years; children were permanently poisoned and adults died as a result of their awful handiwork on this and other projects.

What would you do? Quietly stay at your desk working and hope for the best, or walk out in protest to demand action?

The employer’s employer accuses you of all manner of bad things, and is actively undermining your rights to organize, by the way.

Welcome to Detroit Public School system, and welcome to more of Michigan’s obnoxious and toxic GOP-led legislating. Pretty sure the jerks who are causing this latest crisis by grandstanding on teachers’ backs don’t care if the president arrives here in Michigan today.

Dude caught on video sprinkling substance on food arrested by FBI
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in Michigan, some whackjob has been sprinkling a mixture of hand sanitizer and rodent poison on food in stores, including salad buffets. He was caught on security camera in Ann Arbor, but he is alleged to have sprinkled this mix in multiple stores in Ypsilanti, Saline, Birch Run, and Midland. The mixture is not supposed to be toxic, but who wants to eat remnants of isopropyl alcohol and an anticoagulant? What the hell was this all about anyhow?

Canadian city of 80,000 forced to evacuate overnight due to massive wildfire
Mind-boggling to think of an urban center this size forced to flee on such short notice, but Fort McMurray did just that beginning late afternoon yesterday. Even the local hospital was emptied as fire leaped from undeveloped to developed areas, consuming neighborhoods. 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are ash. Conditions have been unusually warm and dry in the region; the local temperature was 83F degrees before the evacuation notice was issued. Weather conditions today are expected to be hotter (32C/90F) and WSW winds stronger ahead of a cold front, likely spreading the fire even farther to the northeast.

The area around Fort McMurray has only been in moderate drought conditions, yet the fire was explosive, doubling in size in a matter of hours. Can’t begin to imagine what might happen in areas where conditions are drier while this climate-enhanced super El Nino continues.

Volkswagen’s former head of engine and transmission development exits company
Wolfgang Hatz, suspended by VW for his role in Dieselgate, chose voluntarily to leave the company. This bit in NYT’s article is choice:

In 2007, shortly after being named head of engine and transmission development at Volkswagen, Mr. Hatz complained at an event in San Francisco that new rules on tailpipe emissions in California were unrealistic.

“I see it as nearly impossible for us,” Mr. Hatz said of a proposed regulation during the event, which was filmed by an auto website.

In other words, Hatz didn’t see the purpose of the regulation, didn’t perceive a challenge to design truly clean diesel — he saw an obstruction he needed to bypass. Auf wiedersehn, Herr Hatz.

Odds and sods

  • Middle Eastern drought worst in 900 years (NASA) — Drought map of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey looks awful, but Egypt — wow.
  • Wars might be caused by lack of water (Scientific American) — I sense a theme developing…hey, guess when the Crusades were? 900 years ago.
  • Study shows stocks overvalued often, too long (Phys.org) — Huh. Interleaves with economic social theory of reflexivity, that.
  • Third leading cause of death in U.S.: medical errors (Science Daily) — Grok this: 250,000 deaths a year. You’d think insurance companies and policy makers would look into this, considering annual death toll is like ten times that on 9/11. Imagine if we spend tax dollars on fixing this and improving health care instead of militarizing against the rare-to-non-existent domestic terror attack.
  • Tesla’s residential battery, Powerwall, now for sale (Bloomberg) — Residential solar may now explode with growth. We can only hope.

It’s supposedly downhill from the top of this hump. Race you to the bottom!

Wednesday Morning: Lüg mich an, Lügner

I admit freely my facility with the German language is poor. I hope this post’s headline reads, “Lie to me, Liar.” Which is about as close as I could get to “Lying Liars” because I can’t conjugate the verb ‘to lie.’

~shrug~

It’s not like anybody’s paying me for this, unlike the lying liars at Volkswagen who’ve been paid to deceive the public for a decade. This video presentation featuring Daniel Lange and Felix Domke — a security consultant and an IT consultant, respectively, who reverse engineered VW’s emissions control cheat — is a bit long, but it’s chock full of unpleasant truths revealing the motivations behind VW’s Dieselgate deceptions. The video underpins the cheat outlined in a 2006 VW presentation explaining how to defeat emissions tests.

The one problem I have with this video is the assumption that the fix on each of the affected vehicles will be $600. Nope. That figure is based on how much has been set aside for the entire Dieselgate fix, NOT the actual cost to repair the vehicles.

Because if VW really fixed the vehicles to match the claims they made when they marketed and sold these “clean diesel” passenger cars, it’d cost even more per vehicle. I suspect one of the motivations behind inadequate reserves for a true repair is a reluctance to disclose to competitors how much emissions standards-meeting “clean diesel” really costs.

And of course, avoiding more stringent calculations also prevents an even bigger hit to the company’s stock price, which might affect the pockets of some board members and executives rather disproportionately to the rest of the stock market.

Just how closely that figure per car hews to the agreement with the court this past week will be worth noting, since the video was published in December last year.

But now for the much bigger, even more inconvenient Lügner Lügen: This entire scandal exposes the fraud that is the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris agreement.

We know a small nonprofit funded research by a tiny group of academics exposing VW’s emissions controls defeat. We know this set off a cascade of similar analysis, exposing even more cheating by more automobile manufacturers.

But why are we only now finding out from nonprofits and academics about this fraud? Didn’t our elected representatives create laws and the means for monitoring compliance as well as enforcement? Why aren’t governments in the U.S. and the EU catching these frauds within a year of their being foisted on the public?

These questions directly impact the Paris agreement. We’re not starting where emissions standards have been set and where the public believes conditions to be, but at real emissions levels. In other words, we are digging out of  a massive pollution hole.

Our elected officials across the world will avoid funding the dig-out; they’ll continue another layer of lies to prevent removal from office. And we can reasonably expect from them only what they’ve done so far, which Dieselgate has proven to be little.

For that matter, Flint’s water crisis has much in common with Dieselgate, relying on academic research and nonprofit entities to reveal mortal threats to the community. Flint’s crisis showed us government at all levels can be even worse at writing laws, monitoring compliance, and subsequent enforcement.

If the public cannot expect government to do the job it believes it elected them to do over the last several decades, how ever can they expect their government to enact the terms of the Paris agreement? How can we expect third world countries to reduce carbon emissions to save the world from the devastation of climate change while we and our governments continue to ignore corporations’ ongoing deceptions?

No roundup today, gang. I strongly recommend watching the video above. Thanks to BoingBoing for linking to it.

Wednesday Morning: Breaking Spring


In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

— excerpt, Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Welcome to spring break. And by break, I mean schedules are broken around here. Nothing like waiting up until the wee hours for a young man whose fancy not-so-lightly turned to love, because spring.

~yawn~

While the teenager lies abed yet, mom here will caffeinate and scratch out a post. It may be early afternoon by the time I get over this spring-induced sleep deprivation and hit the publish button.

Apple blossoms — iPhones and iPads, that is
Not much blooming on the #AppleVsFBI front, where Apple now seeks information about the FBI’s method for breaking into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5C. The chances are slim to none that the FBI will tell Apple anything. Hackday offers a snappy postmortem about this case with an appropriate amount of skepticism.

I wonder what Apple’s disclosure will look like about this entire situation in its next mandatory filing with the SEC? Will iPhone 5C users upgrade to ditch the undisclosed vulnerability?

What if any effect will the iPhone 5C case have on other criminal cases where iPhones are involved — like the drug case Brooklyn? Apple asked for a delay in that case, to assess its position after the iPhone 5C case. We’ll have to wait until April 11 for the next move in this unfolding crypto-chess match.

In the meantime, spring also means baseball, where new business blossoms for Apple. Major League Baseball has now signed with Apple for iPads in the dugout. Did the snafu with Microsoft’s Surface tablets during the NFL’s AFC championship game persuade the MLB to go with Apple?

Volkswagen coasting
It’s downhill all the way for VW, which missed last week its court-imposed 30-day deadline to offer a technical solution on its emissions standards cheating “clean diesel” passenger vehicles. If there was such a thing as “clean diesel,” VW would have met the deadline; as I said before, there’s no such thing as “clean diesel” technology. The judge allowed a 30-day extension to April 24, but my money is on another missed deadline. Too bad there’s not a diesel engine equivalent of Cellebrite, willing to offer a quick fix to VW or the court, huh?

Of note: former FBI director Robert Mueller has been named “special master” on this case by Judge Charles Breyer; Mueller has been meeting with all the parties involved. What the heck is a “special master”? We may not have a ready answer, but at least there’s a special website set up for this case, In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” MDL.

The cherry on top of this merde sundae is the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit filed yesterday against VW for false advertising promoting its “clean diesel” passenger cars.

With no bottom yet in sight, some are wondering if VW will simply exit the U.S. market.

Automotive odd lot

  • Jury says GM’s ignition switch was bad, but not at fault in a 2014 accident in New Orleans (Reuters) — Keep an eye on media representation of this case. Headline on this one focused on the switch, not the jury’s decision.
  • Car-to-car communications will be road tested soon (MIT Technology Review) — This technology might have prevented Google’s self-driving car from getting crunched by a bus recently.
  • Dude demonstrates his hack of Alexa + Raspberry Pi + OBDLink to remote start his car (Gizmodo) — What. even.
  • Did Tennyson write anything about spring spawning naps? Because I feel like I need one. Hope we’re back in the groove soon. See you in the morning.

Friday Morning: F for Free and Favorite

Congratulations! You made it to another Friday! The end of the week means jazz here, until I run out of genres. This Friday I’m not covering a genre, though. I’m pointing you to one of the most surprising and utterly awesome gifts jazz lovers and historians could get.

1,000 hours of free jazz, ready to download.

Holy mackerel! I almost fainted when @OpenCulture tweeted last week about David W. Niven’s collection shared with the public at Archive.org. Just as amazing is Niven’s commentary, providing context we would never otherwise have about each piece.

I’ll embed some Louis Armstrong at the bottom of this post to get your weekend started. Mark this collection as one of my favorite things ever.

Malware discovered, targeting non-jailbroken Apple iOS devices in China
This is the second China-specific malware that researchers at Palo Alto Networks have found this year. Gee, why China?

UK’s Labour Party wankers want ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ because Snowden
Just the wankers, mind you, though it’s hard to tell which MPs were the wankers as Labour and SNP sat on their hands during the vote for the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), not wanting to appear obstructive. Fondly called the ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ the bill replaces Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and passed in the House of Commons on its second reading. The bill allows the UK government to amass all Internet Connection Records (ICRs) for a year’s time, including telecommunications connections. Restrictions on which government entities have access to these records and for what purpose is muddy at best, and the cost of collecting and storing these records will be borne by the network service providers who in turn will need to raise their rates. Sane people understand the IPB as passed is atrocious. The bill would not have passed the second reading at all had all of Labour and the SNP voted against it, but a number of wankers argue Edward Snowden is reason enough to dragnet the entire UK’s internet activity — which makes no sense whatsoever, based on the bill’s current formulation. The ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ now enters the Committee Stage, where it’s hoped somebody catches a cluestick and puts the brakes on this current iteration of government panopticon.

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FBI warn about automobile hacking
Hmm. A little late to the party after at least four different vulnerabilities were revealed over the last year, but better late than never. Rather annoying the public needs to be on guard against automakers’ naiveté/stupidity/hubris.

Google’s parent Alphabet selling its robot division Boston Dynamics
Remember the creepy four-legged robot ‘Big Dog’? It and its developer are up for grabs. Google (before it became Alphabet) bought Boston Dynamics in 2013, but now finds the firm doesn’t fit its strategy. Worth noting differences in reaction to the news:

The tone of the MIT Review piece — technology’s coolness is sufficient rationale for its creation and existence — offers interesting insight, explaining how awful technology ends up commercialized in spite of its lack of fitness.

Let’s call it a week and get on with our weekend. Have a good one!

Monday Morning: Feeling Rather Mussorgsky

It’s not even 7:00 a.m. here as I start to write this post, and the day is already frantic — like Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. I don’t expect a placid ending to the first day of this week, either.

Strap in, lock and load.

Volkswagen on a roll — downhill, fast

  • A former employee who worked at the Michigan-based Volkswagen Group of America’s data processing center filed suit for wrongful termination. The employee lost their job after warning against data deletion after the U.S. Department of Justice ordered VW to halt normal data deletion processes to preserve potential evidence. Michigan is an at-will state, meaning employees can be fired for any reason at any time if they do not have a contract. However, employers may not fire workers in retaliation for refusing to do illegal acts or for reporting violations of health and safety code. Not a sketchy situation at all…this case might be an opportunity for discovery.
  • VW cutting jobs back home in Germany, with administrative roles taking the biggest hit. At the same time, VW says it intends to hire more software and technology personnel as it shifts away from traditional automotive technology. Huh — not a move I would expect when VW clearly hasn’t a handle on electronic vehicle technology.
  • Car sales are up 6.3 percent in the EU, but VW-brand car sales are off 4 percent. Ford and GM’s Opel picked up what VW lost in terms of sales.

Asking oranges from Apple

  • USDOJ hint-hints with little subtlety it will demand Apple’s source code. By subtlety, I mean a footnote shaped like a cudgel in its response to #AppleVsFBI:

    The FBI cannot itself modify the software on Farook’s iPhone without access to the source code and Apple’s private electronic signature.

    The government did not seek to compel Apple to turn those over because it believed such a request would be less palatable to Apple. If Apple would prefer that course, however, that may provide an alternative that requires less labour by Apple programmers.

    You can read Marcy’s take on the USDOJ’s Lavabit gambit for more.

  • The mega-sized tech companies who support Apple are now doubling down on encryption. Couldn’t see that coming, huh?
  • Some speculate WhatsApp as a communications technology may be the next focus of law enforcement in wake of #AppleVsFBI.
  • John Oliver does a Deep Dive into #AppleVsFBI — amusing take, but Oliver and his writing team have far too simplistic a take on this case. It’s not just that FBI wants a ‘master key,’ or that the FBI relies on All Writs to make its demand on Apple. It’s about forcing a company to create something entirely new, and something that’s not intrinsically part of its product.

Another energy industry executive dead
Josh Comstock, CEO of C&J Energy Services in Houston, Texas, died unexpectedly on Friday. He passed away in his sleep at age 46. Comstock was a supporter of NHRA drag racing. His company, which provided hydraulic fracturing (fracking) services, lost considerable value over the last year with the sharp drop in oil prices and field development.

Oil dudes are under a lot of stress these days.

And it being a Monday, so are we. Relax when you can, gang. I’m clocking out.

Friday Morning: Lovely

We made it to Friday! Yay! And that means another jazz genre. This week it’s shibuya-kei, a sub-genre/fusion born of Japanese jazz. Our sample today is by Kenji Ozawa. Note how damned perky it is, blending jazz elements with pop and synthpop. Its cuteness might also be described as kawaii, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

Some other shibuya-kei artists you might want to try are Paris Match (Metro), Aira Mitsuki (Butterly), Maki Nomiya (Shibuya-kei Standards), Takako Minekawa (Plash), and Kensuke Shiina (Luv Bungalow).

Get your mellow on and jazz your Friday up.

Urgent: Update Adobe Flash immediately if you apply patches manually
Go to this Security Bulletin link at Adobe for details. The update fixes 23 vulnerabilities, one or more of which are being used in exploits now though information about attacks are not being disclosed yet. And yes, this past Tuesday was Patch Tuesday, but either this zero-day problem in Flash was not known then, or a solution had not yet been completed, or…whatever. Just make sure you check all your updates, with this Adobe Flash patch at the top of the list.

USDOJ doing its PR thing on #AppleVsFBI
After reports this week that FBI director James Comey was a political liability in the case against Apple, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appeared on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show to make the case for Apple writing code as requested by USDOJ. She said,

“First of all, we’re not asking for a backdoor, nor are we asking anyone to turn anything on to spy on anyone. We’re asking them to do what their customer wants. The real owner of the phone is the county, the employer, of one of the terrorists who is dead,”

Right. And my iPhone-owning kid wants a ham sandwich — will Apple write an app on demand for that, just because my kid’s the owner of the iPhone?

Look, nearly all software is licensed — the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone may be property of the county that employed him, but the iOS software is property of Apple. Maybe Lynch needs a ham sandwich, too, a little boost in blood sugar to grok this point.

Volkswagen’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Week continues

  • Looks like VW’s U.S. CEO Michael Horn bailed out because he butted heads with the Holzkopfs in German leadership (Jalopnik)
  • By butting heads, that is to say, Horn dislikes the idea of jail time (Forbes) — though naming executives is pro forma on such lawsuits, if Horn was only in his role for roughly 18 months and this fraud goes back 8-9 years, AND Germany’s executive team disagreed with Horn’s proposal for U.S. dealers and vehicle owners, he’s reasonably twitchy about sticking around.
  • VW updated its emissions standards defeat code after its existence was revealed (Forbes) — wanna’ bet it was a software patch?

Stray cats and dogs

  • White House wants +20M more Americans on broadband (DailyDot) — Under ConnectALL initiative, a new subsidy program will help low income citizens get online with broadband access.
  • Pew Research study shows 15% of Americans still not online (Pew Research Center) — Rural, low income, minority, elderly are most likely not to have internet access; they’re the same target group as proposed federal ConnectALL program.
  • But good luck with broadband speed or cable TV content if HBO-TWC-Charter continue to scuffle over the TWC-Charter merger (AdAge) — Yet another example of the fundamental conflict between content makers and internet providers; internet providers should focus on the quality of their internet service, not on the content in the ‘series of tubes’ they supply.`

And just for giggles, note the Irish economy has expanded at fastest rate since 2000. Gee, I wonder what would happen to the Irish economy if major tech companies like Apple moved to Ireland?

I’m out of here — have a great weekend!

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