Viral: Momentum Can Be Scary 

Before, my main fear centered around a stick in the eye – what happens when branches swing back and call your retina home.  Now, I think that fear has been supplanted by going viral, which is what is currently happening with my previous article “Is Reddit Dead? Welcome to the Propaganda Machine.”  For a smalltime blog barely a month old, I’d say it’s an understatement to say I wasn’t prepared for the response.  It sure has been interesting, though.  From the U.S., Canada, all across Europe, India, and Australia, people have found the article, and the topics have resonated.  I think it may have also been swept up and used as a reference for media bias with the horrific events that soon followed in Orlando and how those events unfolded on r/news.  But when things go viral, there’s a certain point you realize your creation is now out of your control.

A reminder about the article: Don’t just get swept up in the momentum.  Be a conscious part standing against the tsunami, and that includes my article as well.

About it all, on Hacker News, rm_-rf_slash said:

The solution (which the author leaves the reader to determine) is obvious: spend less time on the Internet, don’t get caught up in pointless debates (and don’t let them dwell on you when you’re offline), and read more books, preferably by people who are long dead.

Rm_-rf_slash said I’m also in dire need of an editor.  I agree.

I’ve been linked to a ton of resources regarding these topics, and much are far more credible than some small time blog hosted on a free WordPress domain.  If you’re interested in the material I discussed, it’s worth a read:

r/shills – astroturfing information megathread

r/theoryofpropaganda – a collection of texts, mostly found for free online


I’ll probably go back to studying for my tech certifications now, and so this isn’t going to be a regular endeavor or anything.  Just remember that these topics aren’t isolated to a Reddit front page issue.  This is a net-wide issue, and a television issue, and your local newspaper issue – and then of course for others it’s not an issue at all, but an opportunity.  Reddit is just the microcosm.

One more thing, and this kind of deals with the nature of my site, the disclaimer about checking your sources, some of the comments scattered out there, and learning in general: Don’t try to wait until you become an expert on a topic before you start trying to use and digest that information, or you likely will never become that expert or anything close to it.  The path of all the writers you admire has gone through some embarrassing elements.  The coders were once script kiddies.  Your professors had naïve views.  If the cadavers weren’t already dead, your surgeons would have probably killed them.

If there’s one thing I leave you with, it’s to take an active role in your view of the world and how you learn.  For some reason I keep thinking about hanging out at the library more.

Thanks for reading,
The Technologic Brain

Is Reddit Dead? Welcome to the Propaganda Machine.

Laying the Groundwork for Consent (While You’re Standing on It)

The significance of the question “Is Reddit Dead?” lies in the user who was once on Reddit to cultivate knowledge, engage and seek out insightful conversation, and to expand horizons with the promise of an open internet coming together to organically share experiences and the world.  But in a way, we might as well be summoning Nietzsche’s sentiments of God being dead, although the irony, or maybe the parallel, can’t go unnoticed when one considers the atheism subreddit was a long early mainstay.  Reddit is dead, in a manner of speaking, but it’s more like if your best friend got a brain transplant.  The looks are the same, for the most part, but the underlying mechanisms at play are off and the trust is being eroded down to nothing.  The uncanniness may be curious and frustrating for the longtime user.  Simply put, Reddit is no longer what it used to be, but the implications are huge when the size of the audience is considered:

“As of 2015, Reddit had 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users), ranking 14th most visited web-site in US and 36th in the world. Across 2015, Reddit saw 82.54 billion page views, 73.15 million submissions, 725.85 million comments, and 6.89 billion upvotes from its users.” – Wikipedia

What follows is not so simple.

Back to Nietzsche.  He of course didn’t mean a physical, bearded God, and when I’m talking about the early days of Reddit or the internet, I’m not talking about a singular physical manifestation, either.  And just to be clear, I’m not equating Reddit to any divinity, but I am talking about the symbol and what people can create when they come together in earnest.  The majority of Reddit had a voice and that voice comprised of a collection of people who each decided on a username, and then they upvoted or downvoted content based on their subjective notions of merit, and that was it.  Now, though, if you weren’t paying attention, that premise has been hijacked.  It’s no longer the people creating the system, but what has become the system looking to create the people.

In internet terms, some of this is due to what has been coined “Eternal September,” named after a period in which the booming America Online first started offering Usenet access to casual subscribers, and thus interrupting the established culture previously restricted mainly to colleges and universities.  But this doesn’t account for all of Reddit’s transformation.  There has been a careful, calculated overhaul underneath in an attempt to not just become a platform able to keep its servers running, but to work towards the eventual ambition of any large social platform – to become wildly profitable.  Reddit users were weary after what happened to the once-comparable platform Digg: Digg lost sight of the very thing that made them valuable, the users, and so almost overnight those same users migrated to Reddit when their “community” was overhauled.  The irony is, the valuation of any social platform relies on a user base, and this is obvious, but then those same people who recognize the value try to make it into another creature at odds with why the people came there in the first place.  I suspect they hope it becomes a too-big-to-fail presence of the internet world, but if there’s one thing that’s a staple of the internet, it’s that giants do fall.  Maybe the real goal is to build it up and cash out before it collapses.

Reddit is different than the usual social media platform, though, in that it doesn’t emphasize the celebrity of the self, although it doesn’t neglect it for the insistent, either.  I’d argue that it’s much more powerful because of this and what it appears to be – it appears to be that image of an organic and now overflowing community held together by interests and ideologies, which it is no longer.  Now it’s an advertising platform utilized by everything from restaurants wanting brand awareness (look at his bag that just so happens to be in this parking lot), to Hollywood hoping to sell tickets (Leaked: like oh my god the security around our movie production must be horrible!), to the U.S. military and political propaganda machine (more on this in a bit).  It’s an effective, concentrated model of what Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky discussed in Manufacturing Consent, and the consequent stages of what Edward Bernays pioneered in the early 1900’s and what was so aptly portrayed in Adam Curtis’s BBC documentary The Century of the Self: The formulation of the public consciousness is not so much of a direct endeavor but the tunneling of the citizen’s possible thoughts toward a desirable outcome.  When the public gets there, the average citizen will think it’s by their own independent and critical-thinking means.

As outlined by Wikipedia, Manufacturing Consent lists five filters for editorial bias in the propaganda model which can be lined up easily with the current structure of Reddit:

  1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large companies operated for profit, and therefore they must cater to the financial interests of the owners, who are usually corporations and controlling investors.
  2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de facto licensing authority”. Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers.
  3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
  4. Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
  5. Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror”, as the major social control mechanism.

In a March 2015 r/Conspiracy post, a now-deleted user went into detail about “How Reddit was Destroyed.”  Initially, the user became “shadowbanned,” meaning the account operated as usual on his end, but no one else could see the account’s activity.  One can find out their own shadowban status by checking with a non-associated device or reading the site while logged out.  That deleted user was eventually reinstated, if only because it’s a better PR move to let a post associate itself with conspiracies corner than to give it credence by deleting it.  But it was u/BlueOak777 who pointed out in the comments:

“In truth, Reddit’s death spiral began when the blackhat marketers discovered that they could make money off of posts/comments (so, years ago). A simple Google search is pretty damning…”

And maybe that’s part of a legitimate business decisions by Reddit to take more control of the content, because if anyone should be profiting from their site, why not them?  As part of that decision, on June 6th 2016, it was announced that non-affiliate links to about 5000 online vendors would be redirected through a third party to give Reddit the affiliate credit. This was received with an apparent major landslide of positivity from commenters, and the implications of making the site rely even more on product consumption were invisible.  Much like point #3 in Manufacturing Consent, “Non-routine sources [non-intended public opinion] must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”  To take it a step further, the “hive mind,” malleable like clay but also able to be scripted, can provide much of this gatekeeping when it comes to gathering desired public approval for any specific cause.

Those opposing voices who do get through can easily be attached with a stigma in the public eye to devalue what they say or what they do, e.g. conspiracy nut, communist, terrorist, idiot, gay, transgender, leftwing, rightwing, liberal, socialist, mentally ill, etc.  In 2016, people are apparently calling each other “cucks” now?  Governments are particularly good at this stigma attachment, but it’s also used effectively in marketing.  Ultimately, it’s a facet of control and power to encourage simplicity in a difficult and complicated world and to discourage thinking outside the box.  If you do think outside the box, it creates an environment where you feel alone and isolated in doing so.  Most of the time, though, any “outside thinking” is illusory because you’re being shuffled down that tunnel of thought and to your deathbed where you wish you wouldn’t have spent so much time concerned about things in which you find out don’t matter as much as they appeared.

Back to Eternal September.  With it comes the push to get users to not look outside or be concerned with outside the box at all – a self-contained and monetized ecosystem.  If you feed the users the news, you can shape the world.  If you feed them what’s interesting, you can control their interests.  If you feed them love, you can direct them toward whom to hate.  In effect, this encourages the antithesis of knowledge, i.e. getting people not to look outward but to turn inward amongst themselves and regurgitate what they’re fed.  They can be trained to become suspicious of true intellectualism because of its foreignness to the system.  Anything that goes against the grain can be dismissed quickly, anyway.  Anything that feeds into their preexisting ideas of the world is supported by a confirmation bias.  And as this or any system tries to appeal to a larger base, the common denominator is lowered, or lowers itself, to be more accommodating. The shift from a thinking center to a passive consumption machine happens, and that’s the sweet spot for what makes native advertisements so effective.

When the profit isn’t enough, they will try to further control you.  The profit is never enough.

Presidents in Ugly Shoes

“We know all of your interests.  Not just your, you know, the interests you’re willing to disclose publicly on Facebook – we know your dark secrets.  We know everything.”

“Oh my god [nervous laughter].  I have to delete my account.”

“Yeah, try it.  You’ll be back.”

That’s an exchange between the Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman, and an interviewer at the TNW Conference in Amsterdam on May 26th 2016.  The topic of the interview was about Reddit’s plan to make [see: more] money.  To reiterate, the pseudo-anonymous factor once seen as a safe-haven can quickly be turned against the user for corporate endeavors.  To clarify, Facebook knows all about you, too – they are insistent about following users and nonusers alike all around the web, but only on Reddit do users line up all of their interests and disclose the finer details about each, often under little more than a “username” to hide whatever name they were born with.  What does that mean to you?

“But they don’t know my real name!  They don’t know who I really am!” 

Welcome to the internet.  Anonymity isn’t likely what you think it is: It has been rebranded.  Your identity has been shifted.  The name on your driver’s license only matters when it comes to your ISP knowing who to send the bill to [See control: the constant fight against net neutrality].  On the internet, your real identity is your IP address, your browser fingerprint, and the accumulation of your data from what sites you visit clear down to the camera-specific and geolocation metadata embedded into those photos you took on vacation a few years ago and posted online.  I hate to tell you, but they have the same metadata as those topless photos you posted last year, and image crawlers can bundle them together for the right people if you are ever important enough, or simply if someone had enough money or willpower.  Also of note: The implications of any activity done online may not be realized until new technology develops or a company changes their user agreement on whim (or at least fills it with more ambiguous language).  Even without these, data breaches happen all the time [see: oops, we’re super sorry].  The data grabs now are going to have huge implications for the future.  Think about how Facebook developed a facial recognition system to let you easily tag yourself and friends in photos, and then think about that employed all across the net, integrated with video, and then think about what happens as that technology becomes commonplace for the casual user.

But before that, before any of that, what do the data grabs and the data pushes mean for a platform like Reddit?  Well, let’s start with shoes. Ugly, minimalist shoes to be exact.

About eight years ago, I remember finding it strange how every time a conversation about shoes would pop up in a Reddit thread, a user would mention a specific brand of minimalist shoes and then link to the same two peer-reviewed articles about how those shoes were the best shoes for athletes to wear because they enabled the mechanics of movement we were born with.  Was the science legitimate?  I don’t know, but that’s beside the point.  But it was just uncanny how often the topic of those shoes would come up in otherwise irrelevant threads.  The more I thought about it, I began to wonder why the topic of shoes was so commonplace at all.  It was almost like the mini-podium was being constructed for that singular purpose – and thus I was introduced to the concept of native advertising.

Did the shoe campaign work for whoever was behind it?  I didn’t get a pair, but I’m talking about it now even though I’m trying my best to avoid specifics.  Funny enough, though, I had a couple friends, also Reddit users, who got pairs, and I kept also seeing people at the gym who wore them.  “The shoes enable proper running mechanics,” they commonly said…

I had a difficult time putting that example into the timeline until I thought about what happened soon after with President Obama’s first campaign for office.  He was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008, beating out the likes of Apple and Zappos.  His campaign presence on Reddit was absolutely huge and consistent, but it was also unlike anything a presidential campaign had done before.  In previous election cycles, the internet was still considered a small fish.  For this reason, I think many were blindsided by what appeared to be organic enthusiasm, but instead was a post-organic movement meant to get a product to self-perpetuate amongst a user base.  By the time Obama did an “Ask Me Anything,” all that was needed was a picture of him holding up a sign to then provide a gateway to bounce between safe and orchestrated responses as a record number of hopeful readers and potential voters lined up to take part in what they thought was a truly special moment for Reddit and the country.

Fast forward to the summer months of 2016 and the astroturfing by both political parties is blatant and has lost that “hopefulness” which belonged to Obama’s early campaign.  Instead, most of the politics are tuned to the pettiness of the lowest common denominator and standards regarding truth of any claims are nonexistent, and often of little to no concern.  The only objective is attention, and to that there’s plenty.  Most of the response is ugly, meddling, self-aggrandizing, and there’s never enough substantiated content for users to say “Oh, wow, I never thought about it like that.  I may have to reconsider my position.”  But still, the precedent on Reddit is that it’s a sincere user-based and trustworthy movement for either side and that, say, how any of the campaigns pretty much sprung up overnight, as though a PR firm set to work, is a point pushed to the wayside.

Between these mega-campaigns for the fanciest, most lobby-cushioned seat in the U.S., the mega-corporations have taken control.  Similar to how the presidential campaigns hardly disguised their “grassroots” image when the popping up almost overnight, one fast food restaurant has taken this a step further and has given itself away by being mentioned disproportionately above all others combined. To call out any of these actions is to subject yourself to point #5 of Manufacturing Consent – you become the communist to their freedom, and behind the veil of pseudo-anonymity their workers can attack you freely and without repercussion to the brand, or their prized self-identified loyalists can do the dirty work for them.  Meanwhile, like the quote at the beginning of this section, the Reddit CEO can promote and encourage the effectiveness of working with advertisers, but to mention it within the ecosystem itself is discouraged and made a mockery of.

A couple examples of corporate campaigns: Think about the average demographic of the Reddit user, and then how odd it is when an article shows up claiming the merits of a national fast food chain being a place of community-building for the low-income elderly population.  As responses, some comments in each thread follow the similar lines of “That’s lovely” or “Touching.”  If it seems out of place, it is.  But that’s fine – one can unsubscribe from subs in which advertisement pieces like that routinely show up.  If it gets to be too much, one also has the option not to read content from “news sites” which support that kind of activity, although I’m not sure if there would be any news sites left to choose from.

But what’s more insidious and impossible to avoid is when that effort for brand awareness hits the personal, text-based format in the comment section.  Yes, advertisers are now trending toward spreading brand awareness through what at first appears to be personal stories but which end up being ads in high readership zones [see: South Park’s concept of “You Are an Ad” (which can be viewed as an ad for South Park, yes.)  This is also an example of how easy it is to just bounce around in the system in varying fashions.)]  Here’s a simplified example:

“Redditors, what is your favorite memory?”

_user_ recounts how she was  in the car with her boyfriend and her dog, it was a nice day and she was thinking about how it was nice to be off work for a change, when she looked over and her boyfriend was holding an engagement ring as they passed the _fast food place_ where they first met.

You’d think that once they have you in their grasp, that would be enough, but even in brand-specific subreddits, the companies will use deceptive post-organic tactics to push their latest products.  It’s seldom about getting you to enjoy what you already have, but getting you to desire what you don’t have: To fill your games library, or your bookshelf, or your closet.  What you don’t have is always better, faster, healthier, cleaner, purer, sleeker, sexier, smarter…. You can solve all of your problems, if only you’d open your wallet.  You don’t have any problems?  The internet is very good at creating them.  The internet of things very much wants you to become an identity of things, and they want your religion to be their specific brand.  The better you is always up ahead.  Push the button.

Pushing the Button to Cross the Street

Back in part one I mentioned how Reddit started out in simplicity.  It was comprised of a collection of people who each decided on a username, and then they upvoted or downvoted organic content based on their subjective notions of merit, and that was it.  But now the voting system is so skewed, the value of the individual user voter is so lost, the voting system might as well be called fake.  The organic, democratic, precedent set by the early days of Reddit turned out to be a training session for a corporate plaza atmosphere, and now people are left pushing placebo buttons similarly to how pedestrians push placebo crosswalk buttons in busy cities.  The assimilation of product and politics is no error, either – to sell a beer or a president or war takes the same strategy.  To intersperse some sexual content is all the better: It get attention (or inattention) and doesn’t require critical thought.  So where is the integrity in the process or content when it’s the inattention that matters and not the merit?  In the Century of the Self, we are taught that the main goal is to get consumers to make irrational and emotion-based decisions, even if those decisions are at odds with what they value.

To further skew the system, user seniority, or old accounts, is associated fallaciously with legitimacy.  Not only is there a marketplace for old accounts, but the possibly exists that accounts can be automated, or worse yet, created on the spot with a scripted timeline and history that dates back years.   There is nothing stopping this from happening, and seniority is all that’s required for credibility, while new voices are often limited right out of the gate.

The alternative?  That’s the thing.  There are none, not that I know of, and there may never be one again. Cue the Reddit CEO snickering and saying “You’ll be back.”  Users can go into smaller subreddits where the votes might actually still apply, but the Eternal September will follow.  There are some Reddit-like sites, Voat for example, which saw some curious users during PR Reddit drama (but which also reportedly saw underhanded tactics to overwhelm the Voat servers when the capacity was needed most).  However, alternative sites, too, are subject to the same outcome.  You can be certain that any growth wouldn’t take nearly as long to be compromised.  The internet was once a place different than the place it is today, but now the books have been written on how to manipulate the masses, and what is apparent is that the internet isn’t only the greatest communication tool the world has ever known, but the most effective propaganda tool the world has ever known – and that’s not a hyperbolic statement.

It’s much more than a “If you don’t like it then leave argument.”  Not everyone has the time or the capacity to understand what is going on in this new age of propaganda on the internet, but these are also the people who will be swept along and will ultimately have an impact on the more knowledgeable person, whether with that knowledge he or she quits any individual service or not.

Maybe the future is to embrace it all.  I find that sad, because so much is pushed to get us to not think or converse in-depth, but to get us to associate idea and solutions as overly simplified and/or product-based.  In the end, it’s a hollow sense of fulfillment.

That said, every generation that comes and goes has those who look upon the new faces and the new practices with a sense of dread and disappointment.  When they think they see the end, what they often fail to see is the evolution, and I think it’s safe to say that the world is still very much at the precipice of evolving into something unknown and drastically different to our current lives.  The internet of things, automation, artificial intelligence, these are all exciting and world-changing, maybe for better or for worse, but I think what’s different, and in a way very much the same, about this particular stage of evolution are the power grabs at the base of all the expanding technology.  Where there is information, there will always be people who seek to control that information.  It’s kind of humorous to think of places where it all might have failed, the message boards full of bots and shills not there out of any sincere endeavor, but there to push their particular brand.  Maybe they are sincere about their brand, but see what I said above about finding that a sad and limiting view of the human experience.

These days, my list of subreddits continues to grow smaller as Reddit loses focus on what made it a great platform to begin with.  I’m studying for some technology certifications, and the concentration of people with similar interests is still unmatched when it comes to some subreddits, but even if the advertisers haven’t concentrated their might on the smaller subreddits yet, the skepticism is already there.  If one of these days a new alternative shows up, a decentralization of power and influence perhaps, then in the words of Kurt Vonnegut – “So it goes.”

-The Technologic Brain

CompTIA A+ Acronyms – Part Four

DB-25 – serial communications D-shell connector, 25 pins – “The D-subminiature or D-sub is a common type of electrical connector… A D-sub contains two or more parallel rows of pins or sockets usually surrounded by a D-shaped metal shield that provides mechanical support, ensures correct orientation, and may screen against electromagnetic interference. The part containing pin contacts is called the male connector or plug, while that containing socket contacts is called the female connector or socket… DB-25 denotes a D-sub with a 25-position shell size and a 25-position contact configuration.”

DB-9 – 9 pin D shell connector – “DB-9 nearly always refers to a 9-pin connector with an E size shell… Because personal computers first used DB-25 connectors for their serial and parallel ports, when the PC serial port began to use 9-pin connectors, they were often labeled as DB-9 instead of DE-9 connectors, due to an ignorance of the fact that B represented a shell size. It is now common to see DE-9 connectors sold as DB-9 connectors.”

DC – direct current – “The unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by sources such as batteries, power supplies, thermocouples, solar cells, or dynamos. The electric current flows in a constant direction, distinguishing it from alternating current (AC).”

DOS and DDOS – denial of service and distributed denial of service – “A denial-of-service (DoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, such as to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) is where the attack source is more than one, often thousands of, unique IP addresses. It is analogous to a group of people crowding the entry door or gate to a shop or business, and not letting legitimate parties enter into the shop or business, disrupting normal operations… Criminal perpetrators of DoS attacks often target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers such as banks, credit card payment gateways; but motives of revenge, blackmail or activism can be behind other attacks.”

DDR – double data-rate – “A computer bus operating with double data rate (DDR) transfers data on both the rising and falling edges of the clock signal.”

DDR RAM – double data-rate random access memory – Random access memory utilizing the double data rate (DDR) transfers on both the rising and the falling edges of the clock signal.

DDR SDRAM – double data-rate synchronous dynamic random access memory – “A class of memory integrated circuits that makes higher transfer rates possible by more strict control of the timing of the electrical data and clock signals.. DDR SDRAM, also called DDR1 SDRAM, has been superseded by DDR2 SDRAM, DDR3 SDRAM and DDR4 SDRAM. None of its successors are forward or backward compatible with DDR1 SDRAM, meaning DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 memory modules will not work in DDR1-equipped motherboards, and vice versa.”

DFS – distributed file system – Distributed file systems do not share block level access to the same storage but use a network protocol. These are commonly known as network file systems, even though they are not the only file systems that use the network to send data. Distributed file systems can restrict access to the file system depending on access lists or capabilities on both the servers and the clients, depending on how the protocol is designed. The difference between a distributed file system and a distributed data store is that a distributed file system allows files to be accessed using the same interfaces and semantics as local files – for example, mounting/unmounting, listing directories, read/write at byte boundaries, system’s native permission model.”

DHCP – dynamic host configuration protocol – a standardized network protocol used on Internet Protocol (IP) networks for dynamically distributing network configuration parameters, such as IP addresses for interfaces and services. With DHCP, computers request IP addresses and networking parameters automatically from a DHCP server, reducing the need for a network administrator or a user to configure these settings manually.”

DIMM – dual inline memory module – “Comprised of a series of dynamic random-access memory integrated circuits. DIMMs have separate electrical contacts on each side of the module and a 64-bit data path.”

DIN – Deutsche Industrie Norm – “The German national standards organization. There are DIN standards for a large number of different connectors, therefore the term ‘DIN connector’ alone does not unambiguously identify any particular type of connector unless the document number of the relevant DIN standard is added (e.g., “DIN 41524 connector”)… In the context of consumer electronics, the term ‘DIN connector’ commonly refers to a member of a family of circular connectors that were initially standardized by DIN for analog audio signals. Some of these connectors have also been used in analog video applications, for power connections and for digital interfaces such as MIDI or the IBM AT computer keyboard (later PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse are Mini-DIN connectors).”

DLT – digital linear tape – “A magnetic tape data storage technology featuring including Write Once Read Many (WORM) capability… In February 2007, Quantum stopped developing the next generations of DLT drives (S5 and V5) after insufficient market acceptance of the S4 and V4 drives, shifting its drive strategy to LTO (Linear Tape-Open).”

DLP – digital light processing – “A display device based on optical micro-electro-mechanical technology that uses a digital micromirror device. DLP technology is used in DLP front projectors (standalone projection units for classrooms and business primarily), DLP rear projection television sets, and digital signs. It is also used in about 85% of digital cinema projection.”

DMA – direct memory access – “A feature of computer systems that allows certain hardware subsystems to access main system memory (RAM) independently of the central processing unit (CPU).
Without DMA, when the CPU is using programmed input/output, it is typically fully occupied for the entire duration of the read or write operation, and is thus unavailable to perform other work. With DMA, the CPU first initiates the transfer, then it does other operations while the transfer is in progress, and it finally receives an interrupt from the DMA controller when the operation is done.”

DMZ – demilitarized zone – “(Sometimes referred to as a perimeter network) is a physical or logical subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization’s external-facing services to a usually larger and untrusted network, usually the Internet. The purpose of a DMZ is to add an additional layer of security to an organization’s local area network (LAN); an external network node only has direct access to equipment in the DMZ, rather than any other part of the network.”

DNS – domain name service, or, domain name server – “A hierarchical decentralized naming system for computers, services, or any resource connected to the Internet or a private network. It associates various information with domain names assigned to each of the participating entities. Most prominently, it translates more readily memorized domain names to the numerical IP addresses needed for the purpose of locating and identifying computer services and devices with the underlying network protocols.”

VPNs and Suspicions

SEE ARTICLE: Ars Technica – “The impossible task of creating a ‘Best VPNs’ list today

If you think there isn’t more than meets the eye to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), you’re living in a fantasy land. This article centers on the complicated issues: How do we know which VPNs are good for our intended use, and how do we know which ones we can trust? The answer seems to be – we don’t know. The VPN industry, and yes, obscuring – allegedly – your traffic is a huge industry now. “Best VPNs” lists are riddled with affiliate salesmen disguised as the average recommending user, and those affiliates can go as far as “requesting” payment for reviews from VPN services, and those who pay can make it onto the recommended list, and those who don’t, well, good luck. This is the internet under the covers, and applies to a lot more than VPNs. But VPNs can also be honeypots, and some even speculate, normal internet bandwidth being disguised as VPN services, providing little to no VPN functionality at all.

I’m reminded of what Eli the Computer Guy said in one of his daily talks: If I were the government, and I had unlimited resources, I would set up the best VPN service out there, and I would make sure everyone knew about it. For the skeptical, I would set up a series of lesser VPN services. Through this, I could keep track of the very people who didn’t want to be kept track of, and I would do so with little more than a pinky-swear about how I wouldn’t retain any of their data.

To take this a step further, I got to wondering if a VPN honeypot would be exactly the kind of thing the RIAA would set up to keep track of and monetize torrent users utilizing a VPN. Through this, they could get pirates on a subscription service to content the pirates host themselves – that’s a sweet deal for the RIAA. You might think I’m paranoid, but if you look into this possibility, you’ll find a suspicious lack of information about it, and some relevant Reddit threads are downvoted into oblivion.

At the very least, a VPN is a must-have if you’re on public wi-fi. Anything else, be suspicious. And as far as anonymity goes, as some hope to get out of it, expecting anonymity out of a VPN is foolish, the ARS article points out. VPNs simply weren’t designed for anonymity. If you want anonymity, you should be heading toward the TOR Browser, but even then, there are still several ways to find out who you are and what you’re doing, if someone truly desired. Case in point, the kid who used the TOR Browser on his campus to make a bomb threat. How did he get caught? Well, he was the only person who downloaded the TOR browser on campus.

Turning Storage Inside Out: External Drive Enclosures

Many people know they shouldn’t just fork over their hard drive to the thrift store or sell it to a stranger. The common computer user is even getting better about knowing that deleting the files from the Recycle Bin still doesn’t completely get rid of them (it just gives the drive permission to rewrite over the file when the space is needed). So there are a ton of creative and amusing solutions out there to destroy that drive completely, but what often gets overlooked is that you don’t have to worry about others getting personal info if you don’t get rid of the drive at all.

You can make an external hard drive out of an internal hard drive. Quite simply, too.

All you need is what’s called an external drive enclosure, and they’re about $10 online. When choosing, making sure you get one that’s USB 3.0 capable for today’s modern USB ports. If you don’t have a USB 3.0 on your computer, no worries, it’s backwards compatible so get one anyway so you’re ready for when you do. Here’s a picture of the hard drive I took out of my laptop, and a new external drive enclosure with the included world’s smallest screwdriver, two screws, USB 3.0 cable, and a storage sleeve.

Drive Enclosure

Hard drive and enclosure.

Assembly is about as easy as making a sandwich. Line up and attach the end piece to the drive, slide your drive into the case, secure with the two screws, and then plug in the USB cable. You now have an external drive. I bet it just makes you tingly inside to know that you now have an option to backup your sensitive information, just like how you know you should.

Interesting Stuff I Learned Lately – June 2nd 2016

• The heat output of any electronic device is equal to the heat output of an electric space heater with the same wattage. Due to the first law of thermodynamics*, that 500-watt gaming rig, while it’s chugging along at max-capacity, is like a 500-watt space heater. The same goes for a TV, a lightbulb, a set of speakers, or anything electronic. The main difference, though, is that actual space heaters have better heat dispersion methods.
• I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more open-build PCs – computers that defy the limits of a standard case and sprawl like an open city. Answer: A computer case properly set up actually promotes airflow. It seems counterintuitive at first because everything is closed in, but think about how wind rushes through an alleyway. Similar to the wind tunnel alleyways news reporters can stand in to make a hurricane seem more drastic than it is, a computer case and its fans can create that directed airflow to take the heat from all the components and direct it to one place – out.
• Looking to buy Ethernet cables? Don’t get ripped off (and don’t rip anyone else off!). There’s a cost-cutting factor in cabling called CCA, this stands for copper clad aluminum. Instead of the wiring being solid copper, CCA cabling is only part copper. These cables are more fragile, and therefore don’t last as long, and they can run into signal degradation issues. Just another reminder to not buy the most popular and well-reviewed product on your favorite website.
• You know that new solid state drive you just installed? Make sure disk defragmentation is off. In fact, anything that had traditionally been used to speed up a standard HDD can now be turned off because speed is no longer a concern, but the longevity of the drive is.
• The way most people have been told to formulate passwords in the last couple decades has been… wait for it… WRONG. A combination of letters and numbers and symbols and cases creates a difficult situation for memory, but a relatively easy situation for a program to brute force. Instead, for example, a string of multiple words adding more bits to the overall password length can change brute force time from hours into centuries (given current computing capabilities.) But whatever you do, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t use 12345.

*”The first law of thermodynamics is a version of the law of conservation of energy, adapted for thermodynamic systems. The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed. The first law is often formulated by stating that the change in the internal energy of a closed system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work done by the system on its surroundings.” – Wikipedia

Unable to extend or delete an active volume on a flash drive.

SYMPTOM: Unable to extend or delete an active volume on a flash drive.

The character in question is a PNY 128 GB flash drive. I used it to create bootable media for my Windows 10 upgrade, but then I found that there was only one volume on it and that volume wouldn’t budge. In the disk management utility, “Extend Volume,” “Shrink Volume,” and “Delete Volume” were all unable to be selected.

So how does one reclaim the unallocated space?

Google searching this issue will get you a different third-party program for each forum you visit. That’s shady and risky. Luckily, though, all the power you need is in Window’s Command Line tools.

1. Open the Command Prompt by typing CMD in search.
2. Type DISKPART to open the disk partition tool.
3. Type LIST VOLUME to see a list of all the disk volumes on or connected to your system. You should see your USB volume there. Mine was volume 3. You can tell because my USB drive is named USBitchin’. I don’t know why I named it that, OK.
4. Type SELECT VOLUME 3 (or whatever your desired volume number is).
5. It’ll notify you immediately after that your volume has been selected.
6. Type EXTEND. This’ll do what Disk Manager couldn’t and extend the volume into the unallocated space.

Problem Solved

Problem Solved

FINAL THOUGHTS: A) There appear to be a ton of third-party programs out there that perform functions Windows is capable of doing on its own. Be wary of these programs. The best case scenario is that you are simply provided a graphical interface for something like DISKPART. Worst case, these programs have a nefarious intent. B) I still don’t know why Disk Manager wouldn’t let me do what DISKPART would.