Cherishing the Customer, Redmond Style

My 12-year-old at home doesn’t want to hear that he can’t put all the music that he wants in all of the places that he would like …

says Steve Ballmer. It’s good to see Microsoft, like the health care industry, catering to people other than end-users. If they were as smart collectively as they are individually, they’d build ways to let their kids put all the music they want where they want it. Doing so sells more music.

Cool Mac Utility

That said: my home directory is now encrypted which should make any further hardware maintenance a doddle (no more erase/flood before mailing) and I’ve blown-away the old UFS partition which although useful was tying up a few too many Gb. Alas the rebuild doesn’t seem to have fixed the lack-of-sleep-on-lid-closure problem. One more for Applecare.

(From Crypticide)

Reminds me that I’ve been meaning to mention Sleepwatcher, a tiny GPL daemon that allows you to script actions on sleep and wakeup.

For example, I have this in a ~/.sleep file: #!/bin/sh
/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/

That invokes the fast user switching login screen, so when my mac goes to sleep (I close the case), I need to login, but when I walk away, I don’t have to. Fits my security model pretty well.

PS: Doddle?
PS2: Note the passwords stored in swap issue Matt Johnston discovered in June, and I complained about in August, and as far as I know, remains unfixed. (And sorry to Matt for misspelling his name in my complaint.)

Why Is Private Health Insurance Such A Disaster?

Why cannot markets allocate this function to the least cost decider? Why does the usual solution — intermediation — appear to be working so badly?

Asks Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution. I believe that a large part of the problem comes from a side effect of the employer subsidy. Because health insurers are selling to the employers, because their customers are the large employers, they are not motivated to keep happy the folks getting medical treatment. (Who may not even be employees, but their employees’ family.)

To use an analogy, what if your employer selected your phone plans? (Oh, wait, they often do, and cell phone customer service reflects that.) What if your employer chose what kind of car you drove?

More on Amit Yoran

The House will propose moving cybersecurity offices from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House as part of the intelligence reorganization, according to draft legislation obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The bill, expected to be introduced Thursday, would place cybersecurity into the White House budget office.

The new proposal would create a new Office of Critical Infrastructure Information Protection at the Office of Management and Budget. Its new administrator would be responsible for analyzing electronic threats from hackers and terrorists against vital networks, issuing warnings about attacks, reducing weaknesses and coordinating with private companies and organizations.

“We weren’t consulted,” said Harris Miller, head of the Information Technology Association of America, the industry’s leading trade group in Washington. “It’s not saying it’s a bad idea, but it’s out of the blue.” (All emphasis are mine.)

My read of this is that as a non-career bureaucrat, it was easy to backstab Mr. Yoran as part of other power struggles. There’s also a game theory tie here, which is that the “shadow of the future” ensures cooperation. Without that shadow to protect him, and without being high in the food chain, he ran into trouble.

(Quotes from a Ted Bridis AP story, relayed by John Cole, posting to Dave Farber‘s Interesting-People list.)

A Million Deaths Is A Statistic

Matt Cordes modified the Zombie simulators to give humans a chance to fight back. Its fascinating, because with some small mods to the source, you get a much more interesting simulation. (Unfortunately, I don’t see Matt’s source anywhere, so I can’t say how long it might have taken.)

The simulation makes viscerally clear how chains of random events interacting are dependent on initial conditions. So some advice to those about to be plagued by zombies:

  1. Don’t Panic — This remains excellent advice. If you panic, you can’t fight, and become zombie food.
  2. Fight back early. When there are only a few zombies, you actually have a good chance of stopping them.
  3. Keep your zombies contained. If this means sealing off areas, do it. The cornered folks will fight better, and the rest of you can play whack-a-zombie as they move through narrow spaces.
  4. Consider getting a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide

Shaun of the Dead

I saw the excellent Shaun of The Dead last night. (Or see Quicktime trailers or the official site. Or heck, just buy it from where it’s already available on DVD, but only if you have a free-world DVD player.

Ok, really this post is an excuse to link to the Zombie Infection Simulation in Java and Proce55ing. Processing is an interesting app which is being pretty widely used to make interesting information exploration tools. Zombie infections of a city are just the tip of the iceberg!

That settles it

One of the best signs that things are going down the tubes is that officialdom tries to control information flow.

I now know that things in Iraq are officially going to hell, because the security situation is bad enough that they’re trying to prevent people from learning about it.

Kroll, a large physical and investigative security company, has been producing situation reports for USAID. They’re now to be restricted in their distribution to the thousands of Americans who work in Iraq.

Amit Yoran resigns

Amit Yoran, a former software executive from Symantec Corp., informed the White House about his plans to quit as director of the National Cyber Security Division and made his resignation effective at the end of Thursday, effectively giving a single’s day notice of his intentions to leave.

Yoran said Friday he ”felt the timing was right to pursue other opportunities.” It was unclear immediately who might succeed him even temporarily. Yoran’s deputy is Donald ”Andy” Purdy, a former senior adviser to the White House on cybersecurity issues.

(From The Boston Globe.)