Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jan 25

Mindshare LA: “The Illusion of Free Will”

Posted: under Conspiracy Theories, Online Video, Pop Culture Quirkiness, Viral Fame, visual storytelling.
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No. this isn’t about how advertising brainwashes us all into buying the latest overpriced electronic P.O.S. (although The Onion News Network has one of the most hilarious stream-of-consciousness obscene NSFW videos about this very subject).

This is an intro to a mind-blowing speech by Caltech neurologist Moran Cerf at last week’s Mindshare LA, wherein we all learned that we’re not alone in our heads … (cue Psycho music). In fact, we’re not really the ones behind the steering wheel up there; our decisions are made by what seems to be something of a quorum. And what we think we know … we don’t actually know. We just react to the most recent events, no matter how traumatic the actual event was … which goes a long way towards explaining why the U.S. voted the Republicans back into power. We really have no long-term recollection of how f’d up things were — just as long as they are slightly less painful NOW. There is a part of us that actually is rational, that knows and remembers … we just choose to shove that part/persona/personality to the background in our heads so we can go about our days cheerfully smiling into the face of our delusions.

In the rest of Moran’s speech, he dealt with such things as what are the five things that actually make us happy (and no, money & sex were NOT on the list), and how we can “listen in” to the neurons firing in a human brain to detect if a person is thinking about Marilyn Monroe, or Josh Brolin. Wearing a red bandana around his head.

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Jan 07

WikiLeaks Fallout: Draconian EULAs from Adobe, Apple, etc.

Posted: under Blogging, Conspiracy Theories, Politix, Web Tech.
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This is only an educated guess, but something has changed in the past month in those voluminous End User Licensing Agreements (aka EULAs aka “That dense small-font document that nobody bothers to read”), and it seems to be coming from Homeland Security.

It looked so friendly and inviting on my taskbar...

It started innocently enough when I updated my Mac software and discovered a new icon down in the taskbar. Well hello there, App Store! Wow, it appears as though you launched with more than 1,000 applications already waiting for me to play with. Everyone’s been chattering excitedly about what this will mean for apps that do more than produce gastrointestinal sounds.

Cool! Can’t wait to start partaking of the free & open marketplace for creativity, ingenuity and that childlike sense of wonder – wha? A new Terms & Services Agreement? Again?

Every few weeks, with your iTunes, you’re making me agree to some massive list of incomprehensible junk, and now you want me to agree to something ELSE? Dammit.

OK, I’ve got a few spare minutes and have been eating a high-fiber diet recently. Maybe it’s safe to scroll through and see if there’s anything particularly noxious about the rules governing how this App Store for my desktop Mac…

Good Christ, what’s this?

So the apps you’re serving up for me to use on my main computer, the one where I have the really important data stored, may just come with viruses, spyware and trojans. And in the next breath, I have to basically hold Apple harmless if they happen to sell me something that destroys my business? Hey, can car manufacturers and prescription drug companies get in on this kinda scam?

Can you imagine that? “Oh yeah, here’s your new heart medication. It may actually contain arsenic, other heavy metals or rat poison. We don’t know. We just shovel this stuff out the door. It’s on you. And if you happen to drop dead because of it, we ain’t responsible and you can’t sue us.” That’d go over well with all the people screeching about Death Panels, wouldn’t it?

But where does HomeSec come in? Read this and see if you don’t feel ghostly fingers clenching around your throat:

You agree that Apple has the right, without liability to you, to
disclose any Registration Data and/or Account information to law
enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as
Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or
verify compliance with any part of this Agreement (including but not
limited to Apple’s right to cooperate with any legal process relating to
your use of the Service and/or Products, and/or a third-party claim
that your use of the Service and/or Products is unlawful and/or
infringes such third party’s rights).

OK, maybe that’s just Hollywood, the MPAA and the RIAA again … what’s this?

You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes
prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the
development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or
chemical or biological weapons.

Seriously?

Jesus Christ.

I’m not even going to get into all the creepy spyware language in Apple’s EULA, that basically says that they are going to record everything you do while online, match it up with your GPS data and whatever kinds of interactions you make on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, e-mail, chat, etc., and then bundle all that information together and sell it to the highest bidder. Plow through it yourselves, lazybones.

Next up was having to install/upgrade Adobe Reader so I can look at pdfs of reconciled accounts from Quickbooks (part of the joys of running your own shop – gahhhh!). By this time, I’m kind of in a state. I mean, like everyone else who’s gone from the CompuServe/Prodigy days of online to today’s web, I expect a certain level of monitoring of what I do online, and know that this is the price I have to pay for free (well, other than the damn escalating high-speed Time-Warner cable bill) access to all kinds of amazing content created & curated by geniuses all over the world. Maybe I’ll look at Adobe’s EULA. I don’t really expect much other than the usual boilerplate legalese.

Well, how bad can it be, really? I mean – pdfs, right? It’s just a basic document structure for people to …

The Software may cause your Computer, without additional notice, automatically to connect to the Internet and to communicate with an Adobe website or Adobe domain for purposes that may include providing you with additional information, features, and functionality. Unless otherwise specified in Sections 14.2 through 14.6, the following provisions apply to all automatic Internet connections by the Software:
14.1.1 When the Software automatically connects to the Internet, an Internet protocol address (“IP Address”) that is associated with your current Internet connection is sent to an Adobe website;

(snip)

Adobe may deliver in-product marketing to provide information about the Software and other Adobe products and Services, including but not limited to Adobe Online Services, based on certain Software and Adobe Online Services specific features including but not limited to, the version of the Software, including without limitation, platform version, version of the Software, and language. For further information about in-product marketing, please see the “help” menu in the Software;

Dude, WTF!

Your software is going to wake up in the middle of the night, dial the mothership, rat me out and then start serving ads into the middle of whatever I’m doing?

Not. Cool.

OK, is there anything about…?

…any end user who you know or have reason to know will utilize them in the design, development or production of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or rocket systems, space launch vehicles, and sounding rockets, or unmanned air vehicle systems (each, a “Prohibited Use”), or (c) any end user who has been prohibited from participating in the U.S. export transactions by any federal agency of the U.S. government (each, a “Sanctioned Party”).

Guys. If I could use Flash Catalyst to make a space launch vehicle, I’d be kicking it James T. Kirk-style on my own moonbase right now, doncha think?

Great. Anything else?

Additional Terms of Use, the Adobe.com Terms of Use (http://www.adobe.com/go/terms) shall apply. Please note that the Adobe Privacy Policy allows tracking of website visits and it addresses in detail the topic of tracking and use of cookies, web beacons, and similar devices.

This just keeps getting better and better. So once again, you’re going to monitor what I do, turn it over to whomever you want, and somehow feel it necessary to put in a big scary paragraph about espionage and misuse of data?

Who owns your data? And I don't mean this guy...

I don’t remember all this garbage showing up in the earlier EULAs software/hardware companies crammed down our throats. Maybe I just wasn’t as observant. But it appears that someone has been having some very intense, shall be say, meetings with internet/software companies in the past month or so, with an aim towards making sure that if We The Users step out of line, there exists all manner of heavy-duty legal agreements by which to come down on our heads.  All that alarmist verbiage about nukes & nerve gas can only come from a gummint agency that’s paid to be paranoid & fearful.

And what’s been on their minds lately? Oh yeah – Mr. Assange and his cohorts peeking under their skirts. How best to head this off next time around, before any of the 500,000 or so minions with Top Secret access get frisky? Hmmm … how ’bout we make sure that the revisions to the basic document viewing and sharing software that pretty much everybody uses has “features” in it that check to see if you’re working with anything that’s been flagged as Top Secret, and then finks on you to The Man.

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