Archive for Technology

If You Like Your Privacy…

You’d best stay off

[I]t’s not just myself that is just saying this website is insecure, it is also seven other independent security researchers that also looked at all of the research that I’ve done and came to the exact same conclusion. And these are folks that work really well in the industry. And they’re highly respected, have an extensive experience of working for the government. And, you know, if you read the testimony and you read what she had actually said, she said that it’s done end to end security testing. They don’t say what type of testing that is. It could have been an audit that just looks at paperwork. It could have been, you know, really rudimentary testing that looks for just basic things. But what is pretty evident right now is that the site itself is not secure.

[T]hey (inaudible) that there has been no successful hacks that they’ve been able to detect. If you look at — there’s November testimony by Congress that basically said that a third party company was contracted to build out what we call the security operations center, which is what would actually detect these types of attacks. As of November, it hadn’t even been started yet. So, if you look at how long these security operations centers take to put into play, it takes several months, if not years to actually implement and fully build the attacks out there. So, as of November we have no modern detection. And that, from my understanding, it’s still not happening to this date. So they’re accurate in their statement. They haven’t detected any attacks on the website, because they don’t have the capability to detect them.

There is a technique called — what we call passer reconnaissance, which allows us to query — look at how the website operates and performs.

It’s a rudimentary type attack that doesn’t actually attack the website itself, it extracts information from it without actually having to go into the system. Think of it this way. Think of something where you have a car and the car doors are open and the windows are open, you can see inside of it. That’s basically what they allow you to do. And there is no real sophistication level here. It is just really wide open. So, there is no hacking actually involved. And 70,000 was just one of the numbers that I was able to go up to. And I stopped after that. You know, and I’m sure it’s hundreds of thousands, if not more and it was done within about a four-minute time frame. So, it’s just wide open. You can literally just open up your browser, go to this and extract all this information. Not actually having to hack the website itself.

A teenager in Russia developed the malware to hack into Target and Nieman Marcus—some virgin commie accessed as many as 70 million records. And you feel confident that Moe, Larry, and Curly in HHS have this thing locked up tight? Go ahead, it’s your bankruptcy.


Eye Candy From Israel

Readers Jeanette and Yerushalimey sent us some pretty cool news from Israel.

Jeanette’s story:

Women have proudly served in the IDF since the very beginning. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, wrote an impassioned letter to religious communities outlining the necessity of women serving and protecting Israel. Since then, women have taken increasingly high-level positions in the IDF. These female Israeli soldiers challenge stereotypes through the work they do every day.

Just two examples:


First Sgt. Monaliza Abdo is an Arab-Israeli woman who proudly served her country as a combat soldier. She wasn’t required to enlist, but her determination to protect Israel motivated her to volunteer. As a fighter on Israel’s southern border, she rose through the ranks to become a commander, teaching soldiers how to combat terrorism and other threats. Just a few weeks ago, she honorably completed three years of service – one more than the required number for Israeli women.

Lt. Amit Danon was the Israeli national champion in rhythmic gymnastics when she enlisted in the IDF. After embarking on her path as a soldier, she decided to leave her previous life behind and became a combat officer in the mixed-gender Caracal Battalion. Lt. Danon now leads other soldiers as platoon commander.

Six other pretty neat stories at the link. Before I move on to Yerushalimey’s story, can I just mention to any fashion designers in our readership that the military look is molten hot on women? Take it to the bank.

Yerushalimey’s story:

University’s Professor Zeev Zalevsky created a contact lens that, when attached to electrodes, creates sensations in the retina of the eye that can be translated into images. The contact lens receives signals from a regular “off the shelf” camera or smartphone, which the wearer either holds or wears. When a blind person wearing the fitted contact lens looks at an object or points the camera towards it, the camera converts the image into electronic Braille by sending tactile sensations to the retina. The communication system between the camera and the lens operates by Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID.

Although still in the prototype stage, the system has been successfully tried out on animals. One of the results of those studies shows that the animals could actually see their way through an obstacle course in the dark. Nighttime vision is one of the challenges that Zalevsky hopes to overcome next. He speculates that by connecting an infrared camera to a transponder delivering sensations to the contact lens, wearers would be able to see in the dark.

Okay, maybe other bloggers would have led off with the miracle of sight over pictures of hot chicks firing automatic weapons. You’re welcome to read those blogs. We go to the important stuff eventually.

Maybe I’m the weird one (ahem), but I kind of like being an ally of a country like Israel. Those were the days.

News like this daily at Good News From Israel.

Comments (1)

The HealthCare Games

There are many challenges, and only the strong—and politically connected—survive:

Just because you’ve picked an Obamacare insurance policy doesn’t mean you’ve got coverage.

If you want to be insured come Jan. 1, you have to pay your first month’s premium by your insurer’s due date, often Dec. 31.

Sounds simple enough, but federal officials and insurers are concerned that many consumers don’t realize they have to take this last step and will remain uninsured. What’s more, those who don’t pay by then may have their Obamacare applications terminated, forcing them to re-enroll via for coverage that will begin later in 2014.

The tight deadline and continuing errors with consumers’ applications being sent to insurers also risk leaving some folks* uncovered. Obama administration officials are advising consumers to check with their insurer of choice to make sure it received their application and payment and that coverage will begin Jan. 1.

[* "Folks" copyright Barack Hussein Obama. Used with permission.]

This is not exactly news to anyone who’s been reading. Which is to say it’s news to almost everybody. In the real world, good intentions and meaning to get around to it do not a binding contract make. A cancelled check does.

And therein lies the problem:

While the Obama administration has reported that more than 100,000 Americans picked plans in October, the first month of open enrollment, it’s not known how many of them have paid.

One insurer, Physicians Health Plan of Northern Indiana, has received payments from only about 20% of applicants, nearly all using the firm’s online portal, said Jim Brunnemer, the chief financial officer. It is sending invoices and email reminders to those who haven’t yet sealed the deal. If payment isn’t made by New Year’s Eve, PHP has been told by federal officials that it must void the application.

Another complication is that insurers also don’t have a lot of time to process applications and send out ID cards. The timeline, particularly over the holiday week, will prove “challenging” for some companies, one industry executive said.

This is what happens when government butts into private affairs and private enterprise. The namesake of ObamaCare is, in essence, doing to the insurance industry—and to “folks”—what Martin Bashir wanted to do to Sarah Palin.

The process is being further complicated by the fact that insurers are receiving applications from that contain errors, such as missing data. Some applications aren’t getting through, so insurers don’t know to follow up with these folks*. Both of these problems are slowing down the enrollment process.

Unbelievable. Say “Ahh”, folks*.

[* "Folks" copyright Barack Hussein Obama. Used with permission.]


The Pacman of Websites

To be fair, maybe the “Sonic the Hedgehog” of websites:

According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration said processed 18,000 insurance enrollments during the most recent 24-hour period, “nearly double the previous record.” Great. But consider that on Cyber Monday last year, Amazon filled 306 orders per second. That’s 26.5 million orders in the most recent 24-hour period. This year, it’s hard to imagine that number won’t be higher.

Sure, Amazon has been at this for 18 years, and the White House only launched its site in October. But the point is that the technology exists to handle e-commerce traffic on an epic scale, and the White House hasn’t figured out how to use it. It so happens that Amazon is now offering the world a set of online infrastructure services, the AWS cloud, specifically designed to handle the massive amounts of traffic the White House hoped to juggle from the get-go (Netflix and Dropbox are both clients). But it took a different route, and in the simple terms of e-commerce, it’s still stuck in 1996.

In a story published yesterday, CNBC quotes an anonymous insurance industry source as saying that little more than 125,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance through through the end of November. By comparison, when Amazon filed for its IPO in 1997, it said that through the end of the previous year it had topped 180,000 customer accounts. In other words, Obama is still trying to reach a plateau that Amazon reached 17 years ago.

Oh yeah, it’s all sh*ts and giggles until “folks” lose their health insurance:

[S]ome Americans could inevitably experience a coverage gap by Jan. 1 – since roughly 5 million policies already were canceled because they didn’t meet the requirements of ObamaCare, and the website to sign up for new coverage isn’t working smoothly for everybody.

All canceled policies expire on Jan. 1, so those families are now scrambling to find a new one by the deadline of Dec. 23. So are those who were uninsured to begin with, which leaves a huge backlog.

“To get 5 million people — who have received individual cancellations in the last couple months — signed up by Dec. 23, you have to run through the system well over 200,000 people per day for those 23 days in December,” said James Capretta, with the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “So is the website really capable of handling 200,000 sign ups just to handle the individual cancellations?”

But the pre-Christmas crush isn’t the only problem. The federal government hasn’t built the software to accurately tell insurance companies who has actually enrolled. One report says up to one third of the enrollments since Oct. 1 have errors, so people may think they have coverage when they do not.

In fact, officials say the software to make that work correctly hasn’t even been built yet.

No wonder Obama is selling this piece of [bleep] like Billy Mays on a cocaine-fueled high.

Oops. Sorry, Billy.

PS: Could any pitchman get away with this?

Nineteen people stood behind President Obama on stage in the Executive Office Building Tuesday as the president kicked off a new campaign to promote Obamacare. One of those people, a young Florida woman named Monica Weeks, introduced Obama after telling the story of being struck with Crohn’s Disease at age 19 and receiving expensive treatments for several years that were covered by her parents’ health care plan — because Obamacare allowed her to remain on that plan until age 26. Now, Weeks said, she has coverage through a job. “The Affordable Care Act gives young adults who are just starting their careers more time to find a good job that offers reliable health insurance,” Weeks said.

There were 18 other people standing with Weeks and the president on stage. Obama began his remarks by saying, “Thanks to Monica, thanks to everybody standing behind me.” A little later, criticizing Republicans who have pronounced Obamacare a failure, the president said, “I would advise them to check with the people who are here today and the people that they represent all across the country whose lives have been changed for the better by the Affordable Care Act.”

But Obama never said who those people were, and, unlike other events, the White House did not release their names or biographies. A spokesman later said the White House would not provide the information. A pool report called the group “19 individuals whom the White House said benefited from health care reform.” Beyond that, their connection to Obamacare remains unknown.

The last time Obama gathered everyday Americans to stand behind him as he delivered remarks on Obamacare turned into something of an embarrassment for the White House. It was Oct. 21, during the worst of the Obamacare website’s dysfunction, and the White House wanted to showcase people who had successfully navigated the system. The problem was, the brief biographies of those on stage — biographies released by the White House — showed that they had had the briefest and barest of interactions with the health care plan. One was said to have “used to process his application and is waiting for the options for potential plans.” Another was said to be “planning to enroll after he explores his coverage options on the D.C. exchange.” And yet another was said to be planning “to comparison-shop for the best plan that meets her budget and needs.” They weren’t exactly success stories.

Pretty much no one they’ve trotted out has been as advertised. It’s fraud. A prison cell could hold Obama’s body (such a perfect specimen as it is), but I don’t think the entire island of Alcatraz could hold his chutzpah and ego. (Though Australia was a penal colony once, wasn’t it?)


Who Says Big Government Doesn’t Work?

The Panama Canal… the highway system… the moon launches…

There is a “night and day” difference between on October 1 and the same site on December 1, Jeff Zients, the top administration official responsible for improving the problem-plagued Obamacare enrollment site, said Sunday on a conference call with reporters., said the website now works “smoothly for the vast majority of users.” The administration said the site can now handle 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 consumer visits a day — two capacity goals for the portal that date back to its launch two months ago. And Bataille said the site was now allowing “in the zone of 80%” of users to successfully complete a health care enrollment.

In short, after a concerted effort to improve, the administration said Sunday that the online Obamacare enrollment portal now essentially meets all of the previously stated goals for the website.

Huzzah! As President Kennedy might have said, “I believe this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely 80% of the way to the earth.”

A more sober view:

This weekend miracle defies other evidence, such as the recent admission by an HHS official that 30% to 40% of the exchanges are still unfinished. Much of this involves the “back end” of the exchange operation that provides information to insurers but that consumers don’t see. In a pre-Thanksgiving news dump, HHS even gave up on the federal exchanges for small business and delayed those for a year.

The truth is that the White House is defining as a “success” however well or poorly the website actually works so it can declare political victory.

[T]he progress report reveals that the website is functioning more than 90% of the time—excluding periods when it is shut down for maintenance. HHS won’t say how often that is or for how long. Why not simply proclaim that it works 100% of the time, as long as you don’t count the times when it doesn’t?

HHS touts other measures of progress—four times as much of this, doubled capacity of that—without revealing the original base. They’ve fixed those 400 bugs but won’t say what they are or how many there are in total. Such statistical ploys are like a business claiming its revenues are twice as high as the last quarter’s, in order to avoid saying if it’s profitable.

Our favorite line in the report is the HHS boast that “the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness.” That sure is a remarkable two-month turnaround for the same team that took three and half years to botch the initial launch at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Government.

Imagine if this crew was running D-Day? Would they get a do-over? Would 80% success be enough? Could they just delay Utah Beach for a year while the sacrificial lambs stormed Pointe du Hoc? Would the namesake of ObamaCare say he was “burned” by a Turing machine?

I suppose we should thank the namesake of ObamaCare. Proving that the delusional dreams of big government liberals are nightmares in waiting is an ever-worthy mission.




The Obama administration is giving yet another extension.

On Friday night, the eve of the self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to get the federal Obamacare portal working smoothly, the agency in charge of the effort announced that the application and enrollment systems would be taken offline for 11 hours for extended maintenance. And instead of a reporters’ briefing on Saturday – as was pledged earlier this week, ostensibly to announce whether the performance target was met – the update would come on Sunday.

The pivot, though slight in terms of time, is noteworthy because of the administration’s many pronouncements leading up to Saturday.

True. What’s another day in eternity?

On Friday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urged people to shop during off-peak times, mornings, nights and on the weekends.

“The product is popular, so avoid the lines and shop during off-peak hours,” she wrote in a blog post.

I’m reminded of Yogi Berra’s observation: no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.


The Night Before Healthcare

Twas the night before Healthcare, and all through the land
Waited “folks” expectantly, who had been told to pound sand.
Navigators! Deductibles! Exchanges! Fines!
Critics would be silenced; enough of their whines.

Techies worked through the night, on Doritos and Dew,
To make ObamaCare something shiny and new.
And what should await us as we flung ope the door?
But that accursed message: Error 404!


A moment of truth has arrived for President Barack Obama’s signature health care reforms with Saturday’s self-imposed deadline to get the problem-plagued website to work properly for most users.

Obama and officials in charge of the website say the “vast majority” of people who visit it starting Saturday will have a much improved experience than the crashes, error messages and delays that users faced when it launched October 1.

According to Jeff Zients, a former administration official brought in to lead efforts to fix the website, success would mean that 800,000 people can successfully visit each day, with up to 50,000 of them online at the same time.

He told reporters at a White House briefing on Tuesday that teams working 24/7 still were making improvements intended to boost capacity to handle an expected surge in visitors beginning on Saturday.

For his part, Obama sounded confident of the eventual success of both the website and the reforms he championed and pushed through Congress with no Republican votes, telling ABC in an interview broadcast Friday that providing the security of health care to millions of Americans “is going to be a legacy I am extraordinarily proud of.”

Problems continue to plague the system, and technology experts have questioned if the fixes being deployed by hundreds of government workers, outside contractors and specialists can get it functioning smoothly this weekend.

Luke Chung, president of Virginia-based software developer FMS Inc., called the administration’s prediction that would work at 80% capacity on or around November 30 an impractical threshold in the software world.

“I don’t know how to build something that’s only 80% complete,” Chung told CNN. “I don’t even understand how that works.”

It’s a government thing, Luke. You wouldn’t understand.

Do I expect the obscenity known as ObamaCare to work? No, but I almost wish it did. For the true horror lies not in the crap website, but in its application: perhaps as many as 100 million people thrown off their chosen plans; rocketing premiums; death panels.

Nancy Pelosi was right: we had to pass this giant turd to know what was in it (my translation). The namesake of ObamaCare was right too: this is his legacy. May his name be cursed at every mention.

Comments (1)

No [Bleep]!

With so much dreariness and misery in the news, let’s take a break to appreciate one of the finer things in life—sewage!

Israeli firm Applied CleanTech has developed a sewage mining system that picks out and recycles useful fibers from raw urban and industrial wastewater, increasing the efficiency of treatment plants and reducing the amount of unwanted sludge.

The company’s first commercial system, housed in a 17-ton-shipping container, sits beneath the hillside town of Safed in northern Israel and sifts through sewage before it enters the municipal treatment center.

At the end of its conveyor belt, the device spits out pellets made from cellulose fibers, which are found in many discarded items, like baby wipes or fruits and vegetables, said chief executive Refael Aharon.

It has a number of purposes. Aharon’s business cards are made from recycled paper that in part came from the fibers. The pellets from Safed are mostly sold as an alternative combustion source.

The sewage then flows into the main wastewater plant for a more complete treatment. One of the plant’s final by-products is called sludge, a semi-liquid waste that is often used as fertilizer, but can also be hazardous and is costly to dispose.

A handful of cities, in Israel and abroad, have already ordered Applied CleanTech’s technology, Aharon said, and he expects about 10 more orders for 2014.

You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken [bleep], the saying goes—but you can make business cards!

If the Arab occupiers of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza actually had any businesses, they’d be all set for stationery.

Last one in’s a rotten egg!

Comments (1)

Websites for Dummies

Let’s say you want to design a website to handle the most intimate, personal information of all Americans.

Now, I know that’s an idiotic proposal—who would even think of doing such a thing? The question would not be: “what could go wrong” but “what could go right?” But play along.

Just say you were going to launch such a website, to great fanfare, before which Americans would be required to submit their… well, just submit.

Whose advice would you seek? Amazon, which already knows everything about you, and can satisfy your every desire in 48 hours? Or perhaps Microsoft, which knows a thing or two about computers?

Or would you choose a Canadian website designer that has failed repeatedly?

Think carefully, now, because your hypothetical administration depends on it:

The Obama administration appears to have passed up offers from Amazon and Microsoft to help fix the federal government’s troubled healthcare enrollment website, according to documents released on Tuesday by a Republican-led congressional investigating committee.
An Oct. 7 inquiry from Amazon’s subsidiary Amazon Web Services Inc. was turned down by two senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing implementation of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, according to copies of emails provided by the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Microsoft also contacted HHS and the White House with offers of “technical expertise and assistance,” but the company has not provided any such services, a Microsoft representative said in an Oct. 25 letter to the committee. The letter did not say whether the administration had responded to Microsoft’s offers.

Oh, I should have told you first: the Canadian firm, the serial failure that wasted millions of dollars (Canadian, so…), producing websites and online registries that never worked? Michelle’s college roomie works there.

Does that help you make your decision?

PS: The text of the emails is too delicious to pass up:

Amazon sent the panel copies of emails, showing an employee of Amazon Web Services Inc (AWS) emailed two HHS officials on Oct. 7 saying, “I hear there are some challenges with Is there anything we can do to help?”

HHS’ Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak replied to Amazon by email on Oct. 8: “I wish there was. I actually wish there was something I could do to help.”

PPS: I haven’t had this many consecutive days of fun since summer camp!


Microsoft Collaborated With NSA

Helped them to read your emails

Microsoft Corp worked closely with US intelligence services to help them intercept users’ communications, including letting the National Security Agency circumvent email encryption, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Citing top-secret documents provided by former US spy contractor Edward Snowden, the UK newspaper said Microsoft worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the NSA to ease access via Prism – an intelligence-gathering program uncovered by the Guardian last month – to cloud storage service SkyDrive.

Microsoft also helped the Prism program collect video and audio of conversations conducted via Skype, Microsoft’s online chat service, the newspaper added.

Microsoft had previously said it did not provide the NSA direct access to users’ information. On Thursday, it repeated that it provides customer data only in response to lawful government requests.

“To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive,, Skype or any Microsoft product,” the company said in a statement on its website.

What say you, techies? Where is the outrage?

- Aggie


Lighten Up, Francis Fukuyama

Oh, come on, Asians. Why you no think this funny? You rack sense of humol?

The maker of a Google app thinks it’s fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat.

Another app – “Make Me Indian” – makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.

“This is just a fun app (that) lets you indulge you and your friends,” says the description of the “Make Me Asian” app created by user KimberyDeiss and available on Google Play.

“You can for a few seconds to make (yourself) a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians,” the description says.

Not amusing or cute, say Asian-American organizations that launched a petition to get Google to remove both apps.

“These racist and offensive portrayals of Asians and Native Americans perpetuate damaging racial stereotypes and should not be distributed on the Google play store,” said the campaign, which has an online petition to remove the apps.

Again I say, what’s the big deal? I’m sure if they made a “Make Me Black” app (complete with drumstick and 40 ounces of malt liquor), or a “Make Me Hispanic” app (a fake driver’s license and a .23 reading on a breathalyzer), no one would have a problem.

Just to prove there’s nothing wrong with this app, I submit my own visage for reinterpretation.

That’s not funny!

I demand Google withdraw this racist and offensive portrayal!

PS: You know me. I can’t resist this one:

Peace of [bleep] doesn’t even work. That ain’t no Indian.


Box Tops

Hey Aggie! Remember the cardboard bicycle developed in Israel?

What’s the next logical step? (Hat tip: Yerushalimey)

Israeli entrepreneur Nimrod Elmish is positive that the idea for a wheelchair made out of cardboard has crossed many people’s minds. But it took an Israeli team to make it a reality.

“Welcome to the startup nation,” says Elmish, an expert in leading early-stage startups to maturity. “We have seen you can build agriculture in the middle of the desert. We recognize a major problem in the world and we find the best solutions. We can always find a solution – you just need persistence and patience.”

With great feedback and global interest in their first venture – recyclable cardboard bicycles – Elmish and automation expert Izhar Gafni of I.G. Cardboard Technologies have quietly added the cardboard wheelchair project to their operation. It’s made of less than $10 worth of durable recycled cardboard, plastic bottles and recycled tires.

“Anything that you make out of wood, plastic or metal can be made out of our material,” Elmish tells ISRAEL21c. “Cardboard bikes, wagons, wheelchairs, chairs for airplanes or trains, toys, even cars. We’re not building cars yet. But I say, ‘yet.’ We believe that nothing is impossible and anything is possible.”

A pipe dream? An irrelevant fantasy?

Welcome to true Apartheid State brilliance:

An international non-profit organization dedicated to providing free wheelchairs for the disabled in developing nations heard about the cardboard bicycles and got in touch with ERB, the parent company of I.G. Cardboard Technologies.

Since 2001, the organization – which requested anonymity – has bought 120,000 metal wheelchairs from Chinese manufacturers every year to ship to Africa, at an annual cost of more than $6 million.

“It will cost him a one-time fee of $6 million to build a factory for the production of cardboard wheelchairs in Africa and then almost nothing to produce them,” says Elmish, CEO of I.G. Cardboard Technologies.

“He can produce as many wheelchairs as he wants once the factory is running. All we need is access to old car tires, plastic bottle recycling and cardboard recycling.”

Pretty soon, all those bedraggled refugees from Sudan and Eritrea can wheel themselves to Israel! (Please don’t!)

It’s a quirk of my mind that leads me to observe that those mean old Jews in Israel are doing a lot more for the world and its needy than that narrow-minded biddy in Concord, Massachusetts who led the crusade to ban bottled water in her Puritanical town.

Give me your Evian, your Poland Spring, your Aquafina yearning to be wheelchairs!

Comments (4)

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »