February 2016

Albany Park.

Earl and I have been spending the weekend in Chicago with Jamie for Earl’s birthday. Earl wanted a relaxed pace this weekend and with Mother Nature’s cooperation we were able to enjoy some time in the parks downtown and walking around the Albany Park neighborhood where Jamie lives.

Last night we went to see Broadway in Chicago’s “Cabaret”, which was quite enjoyable. The emcee was played by Randy Harrison, who played Justin in “Queer As Folk” back in the day. The show as well done; it had been a while since I had even thought about the show so I went in without expectation. 

This morning I took an extended walk around the area to get more familiar with the vibe; I had a brief conversation with a neighbor. They were a little skiddish but when I talked in my ridiculous cat voice they calmed down just long enough for me to take their picture.

I could definitely live in this area. We probably will someday.


The FBI has asked Apple for the ability to bypass security features on an iPhone that was used as part of the San Bernadino shooting last year. This is not the first time a government agency has asked for what is essentially a “back door” into Apple’s operating systems. This functionality is not available yet, a judge has ordered Apple to create this back door feature. Apple is refusing to comply, as described in a customer letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

February 16, 2016 

A Message to Our Customers

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The San Bernardino Case

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The Threat to Data Security

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Tim Cook

Reading through the letter, you’ll notice that the government is using a law written in 1789, the All Writs Act, to justify why Apple should be forced to write the software giving anyone the ability to have a back door into an iPhone. Once back door access is written, even if it’s intended for just this single use, the software would be duplicated and eventually anyone, anywhere could theoretically have access to your now encrypted data. In today’s world of growing number of cyberattacks, this would be a very bad thing.

People have wondered why I stay with Apple products, especially because I complain about them from time to time. This is why. I believe that this demonstrates that Apple is truly committed to doing the right thing. And I applaud their efforts.

DL 2003.


I’m pretty sure I’ve used this blog title of “DL 2003” before, as I’m pretty sure I’ve flown this flight number before. I mentioned to Earl this morning that I know I’m becoming a seasoned airline traveler when I can pack for a trip in less than five minutes, I roll my eyes at the “gate lice” (zones 2 and 3 crowding the gate before boarding has even started) and I’m starting to repeat flight numbers.

I find it all rather exciting.

I am off to Greenville, South Carolina for the week for work. I’m looking forward to the team meetings that are scheduled for the week; I find them to be energizing and exciting. The hours are going to be rather intense, but I enjoy the challenges, my position and my career in general. I haven’t been able to say that throughout my entire life.

I’m happy that I’m arriving in Greenville the day after the latest Republican Debate. The debate was held at the Peace Center, which is across the street from the hotel I usually stay at whilst in Greenville. Rates there were higher than normal when I was booking this trip so I opted to save the company a little money and decided to stay at another hotel, though I will still be in the downtown area. Winter weather conditions are forecasted for tonight into tomorrow; I’ll get to see firsthand how the folks in the South handle the snow and ice. It should be a hoot.

I’ve been debating folks on my friends list on Facebook since the announcement of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Several folks have been saying things like they’re breaking out the champagne or posting lyrics to celebratory songs such as “Celebration” or “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”. While my ideology is nearly the polar opposite of Justice Scalia, I can’t bring myself to be in a celebratory mood over a man’s death. I’m reminded of the story of when Vivian Vance found out about the death of her television husband William Frawley. The two didn’t like each other in real life and when she found out of Mr. Frawley’s passing she barked out “Champagne for everyone!” with a gleeful tone. Having the same approach to Justice Scalia’s death seems tacky to me. While I think the United States will be better off with him off the Supreme Court, celebrating the fact that death removed him from the bench seems overly ghoulish. While the man said some hateful things and pushed for divisive legislation, I’m sure that his family is still mourning the death of their loved one. Imagine sitting at a Thanksgiving dinner, arguing with your grandfather, who believes in the polar opposite of everything you believe in and then he drops dead in the mashed potatoes. I’m sure you wouldn’t jump up and starting singing and drinking champagne and I’m pretty sure you’d be offended if some stranger walked up to your grandmother and screamed “Good riddance!” at the calling hours. While these scenarios may work in comedic scenes of a sitcom, in reality they’re callous, mean spirited and completely unnecessary. I firmly believe that we should conduct ourselves on the Internet in the same exact manner that we conduct ourselves in real life. And if you would drink champagne in the presence of Justice Scalia’s family and cheer about his death, well, I’m not sure that I want to be associated with you.

Our life on this planet is a fleeting moment of indeterminate length. To live our life to the fullest is to embrace our wisdom, grow with the Universe, share our experiences and conduct ourselves with compassion. To live to the contrary is detrimental to what I believe is the “master plan” of life.

Spelling Hints.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoid some of the popular spelling mistakes seen in today’s modern world:
 They’re going over there to see their new sofa.
 He will lose weight so his pants will be loose. This doesn’t make him a loser but his pants could be looser.
 They were at the salon lightening her hair with highlights during the thunder and lightning storm.
 He deserted his friends to eat an ice cream cone for dessert while sitting in the Arizona Desert.
 The animated French Fry’s plan was to group together with the other French Fries.
 If you’re one ass out of a thousand, there are many asses. Assess how many asses there are.
 You’re going to your graduation.
 Apostrophes do not appreciate when you use the apostrophe’s claim to fame inappropriately.

Video: Singing The National Anthem.

Every year around the Super Bowl I often turn into super critic after hearing someone sing the National Anthem before the big game. My biggest gripe is that the singer routinely turns the opportunity to bring the crowd together in national unity into something much more self-serving, bringing the spotlight on their performance instead. Performers often slow the song down to a ballad, which is contrary to the original intent of the song. It’s meant to be an uplifting tribute, not a schmaltzy ballad.

In all fairness, some have retorted in the past, “yes, but could you do better?” Fair enough. So here is a video of me singing “The Star Spangled Banner” into the webcam on my MacBook. I did this in one take, as if it was live. There’s no edits, no technological tricks, no auto-tune, no backing track. Just me singing the National Anthem a cappella. I cringe at the facial expressions I make and you probably will too. But this is how I sing the National Anthem, with just a touch of my personal inflection, in an effort to encourage others around me to join in if they so choose, at a nice jaunty pace.


I Can’t Sleep.

I’m up for the second time tonight. It’s actually 4:51 in the morning, but it’s still “night” as far as my sleep patterns are concerned. Actually, my sleep patterns are concerning because they’re in a bit of disarray because I can’t sleep.

This is the second night in a row that I’ve been unable to sleep. As a change of pace from other episodes of insomnia, it’s not negative thoughts that are keeping me awake, but rather just a barrage of thoughts in my head that refuse to shut up. In the past six hours of sporadic slumber I have dreamed about going to Sears (courtesy of writing the previous blog entry before bed), my happiness for a family I shall call “The Danburys”, giving presentations on software that I haven’t written yet and eating at Chick-Fil-A (please spare me your stories of horror about Chick-Fil-A).

I think the truth of all of this is that I have this growly feeling in my throat and I’m concerned it’s going to turn into something else. I’m downing orange juice like the best of them. I enjoy a vitamin C drop from time to time. I’m consuming Airborne when I’d rather be airborne.

I feel tired. I look tired.

That’s is. I’m going to finish this blog entry, close my MacBook and go to bed. End of story.

Sweet dreams.


I have mentioned before that my interest in computers and operating system and my general, overall geek-ness started with a fascination with cash registers, specifically the electronic point of sale systems from the 1970s. While the mechanical Sweda cash registers at the local Ames were “electronic” in the sense that they punched a tape that could be read by an IBM mainframe, the Sears in both Watertown and North Syracuse, like all the other Sears stores across the country, had one of the first electronic point of sale systems ever installed for a retailer.

I could vividly remember some details of the point of sale system used by Sears. The cash registers were made by Singer. The lettering on the cash register was in all lowercase letters, as was the tech-chic style back in the 1970s. The LED number display was large and just one line of numbers across the top of the cash register. Instead of instructional messages being spelled out or illuminated on the display, the appropriate buttons on the keyboard were lighted up with the various options at any point in a transaction. The drawer popped open when the cashier pressed total. Amount tendered entry and the associated change did not appear on the receipt, it was computed after the sale was completed. That’s one of the reasons that the cashier asked about cash/check/charge prior to ringing up the sale. This is back in the day when cashiers cared about these things. An optical “wand” was added in later years, giving the cashier the capability of reading a price tag with OCR lettering. The price was usually entered in separately.

There’s not a lot of detail about this Singer point of sale system online; over the weekend I filled in the gaps of my memory by reading old issues of “Computerworld” via Google Books. It was there that I discovered that the point of sale system was actually called the Singer Modular Data Transaction System, or Singer MDTS. Both the Singer and Friden Corporations had either merged or were working together on the project; some registers are marked Singer, some Friden and some Singer-Friden. The typical cash register in a Sears store had 2K of memory. That’s two kilobytes. To put that in perspective, it would take over 33 MILLION cash registers to provide the same amount of memory found in my iPhone 6s Plus.

My, we’ve come a long way.

As I was doing research on the Singer MDTS system, I came across an eBay auction for a press photo of one of the data terminal cash registers. Since I have a very small display of these old machines in the way of framed photos in the downstairs bathroom, I bought the photo and put it up today.


I can’t help but think that technology from this era is when technology was truly exciting. Developers had to cram a lot of software into a very small space. User expectations weren’t set yet. Technology people were blazing into unknown territory. Today’s technology, while exciting in what it can do, is predictable and quite frankly, rather boring. There’s nothing new that has really shaken up the world since the introduction of the smartphone in the mid ’00s. That’s one of the reasons for my never-ending interest in Linux (even though I primarily use Apple products) because Linux keeps me in an explorer mindset and helps my geek-ness grow.

I’d love to get my hands on one of these cash registers to see what makes it tick, but I have a hunch they’re all sitting in landfills scattered around the country. I passing through a smaller Sears store in the mid 1990s and they had one of these registers still running in the kiosk under the stairs where they copied keys. I guess it was doing what it had to do so they stuck with it.


I am loving this weather for the first week of February. It’s hard to believe we are just approaching the halfway point of the official season of winter.
 I am without complaint.