SysAdmin. Mostly abnormal.
294 stories
·
11 followers

Inside the Federal Bureau of Way Too Many Guns

1 Comment

Jeanne Marie Laskas, writing for GQ in 2016:

“It’s a shoestring budget,” says Charlie, who runs the center. “It’s not 10,000 agents and a big sophisticated place. It’s a bunch of friggin’ boxes. All half-ass records. We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia — and they got a job. There’s a huge amount of labor being put into looking through microfilm.”

I want to ask about the microfilm — microfilm? — but it’s hard to get a word in. He’s already gone three rounds on the whiteboard, scribbling, erasing, illustrating some of the finer points of gun tracing, of which there are many, in large part due to the limitations imposed upon this place. For example, no computer. The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.

“That’s the big no-no,” says Charlie.

That’s been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America’s gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested. It’s kind of like a library in the old days — but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name.

The legislation that keeps the ATF from computerizing these records is lunacy, based entirely on the fever dream that such a database would lead to mass confiscation.

See also: Guns Found Here, a bracing, compelling 10-minute short from MEL Films that really hammers home how insane the constraints on the ATF National Trace Center are. All they’re trying to do is help law enforcement solve gun crimes and they’re forced to do it in the most inefficient way possible.

Link: gq.com/story/inside-federal-bureau-of-way-too-many-guns

Read the whole story
deezil
1 day ago
reply
Important.
Louisville, Kentucky
Share this story
Delete

Dallas Sportscaster On School Shooting: “Since It’s Almost Always A White Kid, There’s Just Nothing We Can Do”

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Dale Hansen is a WFAA sportscaster whose “Extra Point” segments sometimes go viral; we’ve featured his work here multiple times. Yesterday, he turned his attention to the school shooting in Florida, one of eight already this year. An excerpt:

Read more...

Read the whole story
deezil
6 days ago
reply
I love this man.
Louisville, Kentucky
angelchrys
6 days ago
reply
Overland Park, KS
Share this story
Delete

HomePod Can Damage Wood Furniture

1 Comment

Jon Chase, in Wirecutter’s review of HomePod:

An unhappy discovery after we placed a HomePod on an oiled butcher-block countertop and later on a wooden side table was that it left a defined white ring in the surface. Other reviewers and owners (such as Pocket-lint, and folks on Twitter) have reported the same issue, which an Apple representative has confirmed. Apple says “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface,” and if they don’t fade on their own, you can basically just go refinish the furniture — the exact advice Apple gave in an email to Wirecutter was to “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.” This really undermines the design aspect of the HomePod — especially if you were thinking of displaying it on some prized piece of furniture — and it will surely be a sore point for many potential buyers. In other testing, we have seen no visible damage when using it on glass, granite countertop, nice MDF, polyurethane-sealed wood, and cheap IKEA bookcases. We also tested the HomePod in the same place a Sonos One regularly lives — and the Sonos hasn’t caused damage in months of use.

I haven’t seen anything like this, but I haven’t placed a HomePod on stained wood, either. Anyone who runs into this should be outraged. I honestly don’t see how this could happen. Apple has been making products that go on shelves and tables for years — AirPort base stations, Apple TV, various docks — and I’ve never seen a report of damage to a surface. I guess the difference with HomePod is that the base factors into the acoustics, but still, this seems like an issue that should have been caught during the period where HomePod was being widely tested at home by many Apple employees.

Link: thewirecutter.com/reviews/apple-homepod/#homepods-flaws-but

Read the whole story
deezil
8 days ago
reply
Gruber, I imagine every Apple employee that would have had a test model would shudder at the thought of having wood tones in their house. It's it's not black, grey, or white, then what good is it?

(this is obvious sarcasm)
Louisville, Kentucky
Share this story
Delete

Would You Have Spotted This Skimmer?

1 Comment

When you realize how easy it is for thieves to compromise an ATM or credit card terminal with skimming devices, it’s difficult not to inspect or even pull on these machines when you’re forced to use them personally — half expecting something will come detached. For those unfamiliar with the stealth of these skimming devices and the thieves who install them, read on.

Police in Lower Pottsgrove, PA are searching for a pair of men who’ve spent the last few months installing card and PIN skimmers at checkout lanes inside of Aldi supermarkets in the region. These are “overlay” skimmers, in that they’re designed to be installed in the blink of an eye just by placing them over top of the customer-facing card terminal.

The top of the overlay skimmer models removed from several Aldi grocery story locations in Pennsylvania over the past few months.

The underside of the skimmer hides the brains of this little beauty, which is configured to capture the personal identification number (PIN) of shoppers who pay for their purchases with a debit card. This likely describes a great number of loyal customers at Aldi; the discount grocery chain only in 2016 started accepting credit cards, and previously only took cash, debit cards, SNAP, and EBT cards.

The underside of this skimmer found at Aldi is designed to record PINs.

The Lower Pottsgrove police have been asking local citizens for help in identifying the men spotted on surveillance cameras installing the skimming devices, noting that multiple victims have seen their checking accounts cleaned out after paying at compromised checkout lanes.

Local police released the following video footage showing one of the suspects installing an overlay skimmer exactly like the one pictured above. The man is clearly nervous and fidgety with his feet, but the cashier can’t see his little dance and certainly doesn’t notice the half second or so that it takes him to slip the skimming device over top of the payment terminal.

I realize a great many people use debit cards for everyday purchases, but I’ve never been interested in assuming the added risk and so pay for everything with cash or a credit card. Armed with your PIN and debit card data, thieves can clone the card and pull money out of your account at an ATM. Having your checking account emptied of cash while your bank sorts out the situation can be a huge hassle and create secondary problems (bounced checks, for instance).

The Lower Pottsgrove Police have been admonishing people for blaming Aldi for the incidents, saying the thieves are extremely stealthy and that this type of crime could hit virtually any grocery chain.

While Aldi payment terminals in the United States are capable of accepting more secure chip-based card transactions, the company has yet to enable chip payments (although it does accept mobile contactless payment methods such as Apple Pay and Google Pay). This is important because these overlay skimmers are designed to steal card data stored on the magnetic stripe when customers swipe their cards.

However, many stores that have chip-enabled terminals are still forcing customers to swipe the stripe instead of dip the chip.

Want to learn more about self-checkout skimmers? Check out these other posts:

How to Spot Ingenico Self-Checkout Skimmers

Self-Checkout Skimmers Go Bluetooth

More on Bluetooth Ingenico Overlay Skimmers

Safeway Self-Checkout Skimmers Up Close

Skimmers Found at Wal-Mart: A Closer Look

Read the whole story
deezil
16 days ago
reply
And this is why, unless I'm really being looked at, I put some pressure on the card reader to see if there's a skimmer. I definitely do it at gas pumps, but now I am going to try and do it everywhere.
Louisville, Kentucky
Share this story
Delete

How to sleep easier with Google Home’s white noise feature

1 Comment and 2 Shares

I’m one of those people who falls asleep a little easier if there’s quiet, steady noise around me. Cracking a window open isn’t really an option in February here in New York, so typically I just turn on a small fan in my room to get that fix of white noise. But a couple weeks ago, I learned that Google Home speakers can play white noise audio on demand. And I was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounds — even on my tiny Google Home Mini, which has slightly improved bass compared the Amazon Echo Dot in my living room. I’m sure the effect is better on a regular Home or the Home Max. This also works through Google Assistant on your phone in a pinch, and the sounds can be played on any Assistant-enabled speaker.

You can trigger ambient...

Continue reading…

Read the whole story
deezil
17 days ago
reply
I have been using this lately, and it's great.
Louisville, Kentucky
Share this story
Delete

Wired: ‘Podcast Listeners Really Are the Holy Grail Advertisers Hoped They’d Be’

1 Comment

Miranda Katz, reporting for Wired:

Apple’s Podcast Analytics feature finally became available last month, and Euceph — along with podcasters everywhere — breathed a sigh of relief. Though it’s still early days, the numbers podcasters are seeing are highly encouraging. Forget those worries that the podcast bubble would burst the minute anyone actually got a closer look: It seems like podcast listeners really are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped. […]

Across the podcast ecosystem, the results are similarly uplifting. At Panoply, home to podcasts like Slate’s Political Gabfest and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, CTO Jason Cox says that listeners are typically getting through 80-90 percent of content; the same is true at Headgum, the podcast network started by Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld. Those numbers tend to be steady regardless of the length of the show — and according to Panoply, the few listeners who do skip ads continue to remain engaged with the episode, rather than dropping off at the first sign of an interruption. “I think people are overall very relieved to see that people are actually listening the way that we hoped,” says Headgum CTO Andrew Pile. “There are really audiences out there who listen to every word that comes out of [a host’s] mouth.”

Marco Arment:

The podcast business didn’t really need precise listener behavioral data. Who knew?

I don’t obsess over these iTunes Podcast analytics, but I’ve taken a look now that Apple is offering them, and the results for my show jibe with what’s being reported in this story: most people stick around to the end, and most people don’t skip the ads.

Link: wired.com/story/apple-podcast-analytics-first-month/

Read the whole story
deezil
21 days ago
reply
i don't skip the ads, but I also don't buy anything from them.
Louisville, Kentucky
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories