Photostat

At the end of last month, an interesting announcement crossed my RSS feeds: Xerox Cedes Control to Fujifilm, Ending Its Independence. This is a sad passing indeed, and reflects a transition of one of the seminal companies in the office automation field. Sure, the name might live on, but it won’t be the same. It will be a Kodak or a Polaroid — an echo of a company that once was great.

I have many varied memories of Xerox, from their facilities on Aviation Blvd where the ACM ’81 Conference Committee once met, to the Sex manuals around the UCLA Computer Club (which, before you put your mind in the gutter, were the manuals for the SDS Sigma 7, and SDS was later XDS, Xerox Data Systems), to (of course) all the stories about Xerox PARC.  But for most of us, the word Xerox is synonymous with one thing: copying and reproduction.

My first memory of a copier was at my parent’s office. I don’t remember the brand, but it was expensive, slow, and used rolls of special paper (plain paper copiers were a few years in the future). Nowadays, we have multifunction Xerox copiers at work that can not only copy, but scan and print. So in tribute to Xerox, here are two interesting articles:

  • How Photocopiers Work. This is an in-depth exploration of the photocopying process.
  • Why Paper Jams Persist. As long as there have been copiers, there have been paper jams. There will likely always be paper jams, because the problem of solving them is extremely hard. This article explains why.

 

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CyberSecurity News of Note

Here’s the last of the news chum collections for this morning. This one has to do with safety and security.

  • Tiny Dots and Phish. Hopefully, you’ve been getting trained on how to recognize phishing threats, and how to distrust links in email or on websites. But it’s getting even trickier, as this article notes. Miscreants are using characters in other character sets that ļȯоķ like other characters. Hint: Always look at how addresses look when you hover over them, and even then be suspicious.
  • Complex Passwords Don’t Solve All Problems. So you’ve gotten smart: you are using complex passwords everywhere. But every solution contains a problem: reusing complex passwords can give your identity away. Research showed, the rarer your password is, the more it “uniquely identifies the person who uses it. If a person uses the same unique password with multiple accounts, then that password can be used as a digital fingerprint to link those accounts.” Although this is not something previously unknown, there seems to be a lack of awareness about the practice. Remember: complex passwords, never reused, and use a password manager.
  • Two Factor Authentication. Using 2FA can also help. Here’s a handy guide on how to set it up on most major websites. Here’s a list of all major websites, and whether they support 2FA.
  • Protecting Your Social Security. This article from Brian Krebs explores abuse of the social security system, and contains some advice I hadn’t known: go create your account at SSA.gov now to protect yourself.  That’s something I need to do; I tried to do it this morning but it wouldn’t accept the proof for the upgraded account, and I have to (a) find a previous year’s W2 and (b) wait 24 hours to try again.
  • Predicting Problems. A few articles on predictive algorithms. One explores whether predictive algorithms should be part of public policy.  Essentially, should they have a hand in shaping jail sentences and predicting public policies? Government agencies are now using algorithms and data mining to predict outcomes and behaviors in individuals, and to aid decision-making. In a cyber-vein, there are calls to add prediction to the NIST cyber-security framework. The argument: With AI and machine learning, companies should now be considering how to predict threats before they even appear. Speaking of the NIST Framework, Ron Ross tweets that it is being incorporated into FIPS 200 and the RMF.
  • Building It In. The NIST effort — especially with SP 800-160 — is to emphasize the importance of engineering in and designing in security from the very beginning, not bolting it on at the end. Good news: The government is finally coming around to that realization as well. The link is a summary of the recent updates to the NIST pub. It’s an area I’ve been exploring as well, and I’ve been working on some modifications to the process to make it even more accepted. The first report on the effort is under review right now; I hope to publish something soon.

 

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Health and Medical News of Note

As I continue to clear out the links, here is a collection of articles with some interesting health and medicine news:

  • Colds and Flus. A few articles related to the cold and flu season. First, here’s a useful chart of how to pick the right medicines for that cold or flu that you have. The key tip: Know your ingredients, what they do, and go for single-ingredient generics. Next: If you haven’t gotten that flu shot yet, GO GET IT. Anything you read about the dangers is only fear-mongering. Perhaps you think you shouldn’t get it because it isn’t fully effective. Even less effective, it is important to get it.  Think about it this way: seatbelts and air bags aren’t fully effective — people still get into accidents and die. But if you get into an accident, seatbelts and airbags reduce the amount of damage you will incur. Flu shots are like that:  you might still get sick, but it will likely be less severe. Better to be in bed for a few days than in the hospital or dead.
  • Tide Pods. They won’t go away, will they? Here’s an interesting infographic on the chemistry behind laundry pods, demonstrating succinctly why should should never never never put one in your mouth. You shouldn’t even eat real foods made to look like Tide Pods, so you don’t confuse the gullible and stupid out there.
  • Better Medical Testing. You might have heard about the recent Ikea advertising for women: they would pee on the ad, and it would reveal a discount on baby furniture if they were pregnant.  But it turns out that’s just the beginning, and the Ikea technology could save your life if you where having a heart attack. How? The cited article explores the technology behind the ad, and notes that the developer of the ad is now working on developing a type of synthetic paper that could combine all of those characteristics, and be used to develop diagnostic tools to detect certain types of heart diseases. Heart attacks, for instance, are very hard to diagnose from symptoms alone, like chest pain. But if, say, paramedics in an ambulance had a tool that can pick up certain biomarkers from plasma, just like the ad picks up the pregnancy hormone from the urine, they could quickly determine whether someone is having a heart attack. That would allow patients to receive immediate treatment, which is key to survive a heart attack. Oh, and someone else is working on a quick and easy blood test to detect cancerThe test, detailed in the journal Science, could be a major advance for “liquid biopsy” technology, which aims to detect cancer in the blood before a person feels sick or notices a lump. That’s useful because early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread can often be cured.
  • The Alien. I have an odd problem. When I essentially do a sit up (i.e., lie on my back and curl up), I get a belly bulge. My internist thinks it is a form of hernia (muscles separating), and although it can be fixed surgically, such fixes aren’t all that effective. Reading an article the other day, I found an interesting explanation of what I’ve got — which is oddly a post-pregnancy belly problem called diastasis recti.  Doctors diagnose diastasis recti when the distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle gets to be two centimeters or more. DR can affect anyone — women, men, and children. “Coughing, laughing, pooping, breathing, birthing, and moving (i.e., your posture and exercise habits) are all things that can change the amount of pressure in your abdomen” and can, over time, cause DR. As the article notes: “DR can give the belly a soft, protruding appearance. It can push the bellybutton out, or look like a visible gulch at the midsection when a [person] bends or does an abdominal curl.” For me, it seems to only be there when I move like a sit-up; for others, it is much more common post pregnancy due to the pressure of the baby. Alas, the cited article notes there are no good solutions to the problem yet, and exercise done wrong can make it worse.
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Interesting Histories

It’s been an interesting week. Although I was collecting a bunch of news chum, they never coalesced in my head into a coherent post. Now it’s the weekend, so let’s start clearing them off. This first collection provides a bunch of histories that I found of interest:

  • Street Light Banners. 1984. For some, a chilling book. For others, a foretelling of our current political climate. For me, it is the memory of when Los Angeles hosted the Olympics, with pastel banners and wayfaring signs all over the city. It turns out that the 1984 Olympics was the first major use of the light pole banner. As the article notes: “With only $10 million to outfit the entire city (five percent of the budget of the 1976 Games in Montreal) the designers of LA’s Olympic look, overseen by legendary designer Deborah Sussman, had to be scrappy. Instead of stadiums, they built towering scaffolds. Instead of brand-new Olympic villages, they outfitted parks and freeway entrances with colorful pylons, sonotubes, and giant inflatable stars. Little of it would have stood a chance if it had rained (luckily it didn’t) but the designs looked great on television. It was a classic LA story. The street banners were intended only to line the Olympic marathon route, which ran down Exposition Boulevard from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum downtown. At the last minute, however, the organizing committee dramatically expanded the program, promising banners to dozens of additional neighborhoods and even cities in neighboring counties.”
  • 31 Flavors. Here’s another Los Angeles creation. No, not ice cream, but Baskin-Robbins.  Starting with two shops, one in Glendale, the other in Pasadena, BR franchised and grew, until by the time of the 31st anniversary, Baskin-Robbins had already accumulated more than 500 flavors. The previous year, they had come out with several flavors made for the U.S. bicentennial celebration, including Yankee Doodle Strudel, Valley Forge Fudge, Concorde Grape and Minuteman Mint. Over the years, their commemorative flavors have ranged from Beatle Nut in 1964 to Lunar Cheesecake in 1969 to Saxy Candidate in 1996. Today, Baskin-Robbins has 1300 flavors.
  • Use of the American Indian Image on Advertising. It’s a staple of advertising, from Land O’Lakes butter to Native American Cigarettes. They were at cigar stores and on motorcycles. How did the image of the American Indian — either the full headdress or the beautiful princess — come to be everywhere. Here’s an article that explores a new exhibition of how the image of a people that we systematically oppressed and pushed out because an advertising image that is everywhere. As the article notes: “American culture has used imagery of American Indians to symbolize authenticity in branding, or combativeness in sports and the military, even as it has subjugated real-life Indians throughout history. At its core, the artifacts in the exhibition reveal how Indians have become an integral part of the American brand itself–something that companies have been capitalizing on for decades.”
  • Food Colors. Brightly colored food. Red maraschino cherries. Blue jelly beans. Yellow banana pudding. Do we ever stop to think where those colors came from? When food dyes came in, they were made from products such as coal tar, a by-product of coal manufacturing.  Yet we believed them safe. As the article notes: “Food companies soon used the coal tar colors as well, especially in butter, candy, and alcohol. Though gross-sounding, they might have been healthier than the alternative. In both Britain and the United States, the 19th century was plagued with food adulteration, often in the form of food coloring. In order to make pickles, jellies, and candy more vivid, manufacturers added dangerous metal salts such as copper sulfate and lead chromate. In contrast, coal tar dyes were so vivid that only a little was needed. Plus, the tiny amount meant that the flavor wasn’t affected.” But were they safe? And what are we using today?
  • Elevators. We probably don’t think twice about using an elevator. They are everywhere. They are what made the high-rise revolution possible. But there is risk, such as the time the President got caught trapped in an elevator.  This was at the Pentagon, a concrete building/bunker with only one elevator. What did the President’s party think? Levinson’s first thought was that he was experiencing, first-hand, an attempted coup by the U.S. military on McNamara’s last day in office. “Was someone about the inject some type of gas into the lift or drop some form of explosive? We had the head of state and the Secretary of Defense in one small place that was undefended and vulnerable. A natural site for an extraordinary disaster.”
  • Interstate 95. For a highway system that started in 1955, one would think the Interstate Highway System, after 60 years, would be complete. But it isn’t, and one glaring whole was New Jersey… was in New Jersey on I-95. Finally, through a kludge, I-95 has (almost) been completed. Construction to fix the I-95 gap began more than eight years ago in Pennsylvania, but it has now reached its final stage. This week, the New Jersey Department of Transportation began switching out road signs in preparation for the change. But until it opens, if you are driving northbound on I-95, just outside of Princeton, a road sign will warn you that I-95 North—the road you are on—is ending. But the physical road itself doesn’t end—instead, the highway veers south, now under the name Interstate 295. If you don’t get off at an exit, you will find yourself suddenly driving south, and have to do a complicated series of maneuvers to get back on a northbound road. On the other side of this gap, Interstate 95 continues northward, starting from eight miles away.
  • Mapping Applications. Some of us love road maps. Some of us love our navigation applications. But did you ever think about where the maps come from, and how they were created in the era before satellite mapping. It was a hard process, and this article explores how cartographers made maps before modern technology. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.
  • Printers. Although this article isn’t as long as I would like, and omits a number of classic printer types (such as the IBM 1403 Line Printer, or the workhorse ASR33s and the DEC LA36  Dot Matrix Printer), here’s a short exploration of the start of computer printing technology. The articles notes that in 1953, the first high-speed printer was developed by Remington-Rand for use on the Univac computer, and the original laser printer called EARS was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 and completed in November  1971.
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Phoning It In

As we continue to clean out the news chum, here are some cell-phone related articles of interest:

  • TAP your Phone. Two distinct articles discuss something interesting coming to the LA Metro: Cubic Systems has been awarded a contract to develop an integrated fare-payment mobile app. Cubic (NYSE: CUB) designed and delivered the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s TAP card, which serves 24 transit agencies. More than 2 million people hold TAP smart cards, which pay bus and light rail system fares when users hold them next to card readers. The card transmits data using near-field radio communication technology.  With the upgrades, riders will be able to use their TAP accounts to pay for third-party services such as ridesharing, bike sharing and parking. TAP will also support fare subsidy programs. In addition, Angelenos will be able to use their mobile devices in place of TAP cards when getting aboard buses and subways. That’s confirmed by an article in Curbed LA: Instead of swiping a TAP card, as most passengers do now, users of the new app will be able to simply scan their phones to pay a fare. The system is expected to be ready for testing this summer, with a full rollout planned for the fall, says Metro spokesperson Rick Jager. The system may also be able to give incentives for frequent riders or on smoggy days. I’m looking forward to this, as your phone account, unlike a tap card, won’t expire and is harder to lose.
  • Full Size Keyboards. One of the most interesting things about the Moto Z series are Moto-Mods: the ability to add modular additions to phones. It appears that a new mod coming this year will be a full-size keyboard. According to The Verge:Back in April, we were forced to acknowledge that the Indiegogo crowdfunded Keyboard Moto Mod was actually a real physical device. This year at CES 2018, Motorola has announced that you’ll actually be able to buy one soon for $99. The Slider Keyboard Moto Mod, developed by a third-party company called Livermorium, was the winner of Motorola and Indiegogo’s Transform the Smartphone Challenge, after which it was put through Motorola’s Accelerator Program where the cellphone company worked on the device alongside Livermorium. And now, a finished version of the mod is set to be released sometime in the next month or two.
  • New Phones Leaked. Going along with the above, a report just came out leaking the details of the upcoming Moto phones: the X5, Z3, and G6. According to the article, a sampling of the new features reveals: ♦ The Moto X5 will have a “notch” like Apple’s iPhone X;  ♦ The Moto X5 will include either 3D face unlocking or an in-display fingerprint sensor;  ♦ The Moto Z3 has a Galaxy S8-style infinity display;  ♦ The backs of the phones will be made of glass instead of metal;  ♦ The Moto G6 Play will have a whopping 4,000mAh hour battery;  ♦ There will be a 5G Moto Mod.
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Oddities of the Food World

Clearing out some more news chum — this time with something you can really chew on:

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Fly, Fly, Away

Time to start clearing out some accumulated chum — and non-political chum at that! Here are three airline things that are going away, plus one non-airline thing that may also be disappearing:

And also disappearing:

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Girth Certificate? Really?

userpic=trumpEver since the report came out on the President’s health, the liberal groups I read have been in an uproar? “How could it be true”, they ask. “They’ve got to be lying about his weight — I demand to see a girth certificate“, they jest, while posting pictures comparing the President to athletes.

C’mon folks. As they say, “get a life”. This is a distraction, a diversion. There are more important things to focus on. Consider:

  • Does it really make a difference if the President is obese, other than to make fun of him? They say, when he sits around the White House, he sits around the White House.
  • As for mental health: Be careful what you ask for. Although a President with mental impairment does make a case for invoking clause 4 of the 25th Amendment, that likely wouldn’t happen anyway, and I hope you’re not wishing that the leader of the free world is crazy. Perhaps you’re scared that maybe he isn’t crazy and knows exactly what he is doing. I find that a lot scarier, given what he is doing. Further, passing a mental acuity test doesn’t mean he has the right skillset to be President, or that he has sound judgement, which is different than smarts. Mental tests don’t judge personality issues or things like self-aggrandizement or narcissism.

As I noted, the health issue is a diversion, a focus of our attention away from issues like DACA, the President’s racism, and the potential illegal, impeachable acts that are being investigated by Mueller. Don’t let yourself be distracted.

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