Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Free Community For Youth lunch that will feed your soul

Community For Youth changes lives.  I know -- it's changed mine!  

Personal Integrity.  The CFY curriculum and core values have challenged the students in the community as well as mentors like me to be our best selves.  When I started, I didn't challenge myself with clear life goals and share them with others.  I was too afraid of opening myself up to the shame of failure.  However, through CFY, I've come to learn that sharing goals with a powerful community that can support you is exactly what can actually increase your chances of success.  You learn to be more accountable to yourself by being accountable to a supportive community.  And this has bled over into my daily life so much that even for small commitments, I maintain personal integrity.  "Darn, I did say that I was going to bike to work tomorrow.  Guess I have to suck it up and do it."

Authenticity.  I didn't realize how much compartmentalization went on in my head regarding how I presented myself to others.  We learn together how much more pleasant it is to be your own true self and how richer your connections are when you are not holding back or censoring yourself unnecessarily or trying to be someone you are not.  "You let your students see your Facebook posts?"  Sure.  What I post and what I believe are important to me and I only share what interests me.  Who I am or believe should not be something that I have to parcel out in small doses to particular people.  It's much freer to just be myself.  How do people know they have something in common if they don't share of themselves anyway?

Vulnerability.  I felt somewhat comfortable in front of crowds, strangers talking about something abstract or technical.  But CFY challenged everyone, including mentors, to share openly as your true authentic self.  "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable", we say.  That was initially a very difficult thing for me to get used to, "You want me to talk about personal things...in front of everyone?"  But you quickly find that, as social animals, human relationships are strengthened by vulnerability because it cuts through the pretense and superficiality that we often use when interacting with others -- that's not authentic and it shields you from truly connecting with others on a deeper level.  Oh, and one of the biggest ways this has always manifested itself in my live is my reluctance to ask for help and instead go-it-alone.  I've definitely gotten better at realizing when I need help -- not perfect -- but better.

There are many, many other ways that I've changed.  And I have seen my students and other students change as well because of CFY.  It truly does change your life and although you don't always get direct evidence of it, the student's lives are changed as well.

The most moving experience of a transformation I can recall from my 8 years with CFY was when a student who had been paralyzed by fear when speaking in front of crowds was encouraged to perform her spoken word poetry in front of the whole community at one of our weekend retreats.  It took her a while to warm up to the idea and when she started speaking, my jaw dropped.  She gradually transformed into a confident young woman creatively and boldly expressing herself through her words -- compelling us to feel them as she felt them.  She said later that she was incredibly nervous but honestly I had no idea.  You could hear a pin drop in that room.  Everyone was blown away in rapt attention.  That was a turning point for her.  From that point, she was able to challenge herself more and grow into a real leader with things to say and express with less and less fear.  Truly inspiring.

That kind of growth and moving experiences is one of the most rewarding aspects.  But even the challenges are rewarding.  You are faced with situations and kids in situations that you never had to face in your life.  Sometimes you're thinking, "What the f* do I do with that?"  But, you have a supportive community to help find ways of dealing with those solutions.  Then that experience of tackling and possibly overcoming that challenge just makes you more ready for the next challenge in your own life.

Share in the Community Experience

This upcoming year will mark 9 years as a mentor with Community For Youth (CFY).  It is impossible to sum up the impact that CFY has had on the community, the students it serves, and the mentors (especially myself) in a simple blog post.  But there is an opportunity coming up that is far better that I hope you take me up on:  come have a free lunch downtown Seattle on September 30th and learn about CFY, hear from the 2013-2014 mentors of the year, and on top of that, you get to hear from Seahawks wide receiver, Doug Baldwin.

The lunch is an opportunity for those who might know that I'm involved with Community For Youth but may not quite know what it's all about.  I absolutely love CFY and would appreciate any opportunity to share my experiences for others to see how impactful the program is.  You can sign up at www.communitylunch.com and join me at my table.


Get inspired

In a student's own words, on the importance of CFY to their life.
"I appreciate the work that everyone has contributed in one way or another, to keep this program alive. Because there are teenagers like me, who need people, even if it’s just one person, to believe in them." - See more at: http://communityforyouth.org/2013/04/my-introduction-to-cfy/#sthash.Xk9ZikAj.dpuf
Even if you can't join, you should take some time to watch this 12-minute video to learn about who we serve from the students and mentors that are part of this powerful community.  And if you're feeling moved or generous or both, you can head on over and donate to Community For Youth too!
and
Community For Youth from Greg Hay on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

iOS clients not vulnerable to Heartbleed. What does the source say?



Apple's language in their assertion that they are not vulnerable to heartbleed on iOS are troubling as they specifically say (via ReCode), "IOS and OS X never incorporated the vulnerable software..."  However, not incorporating the vulnerable OpenSSL software is merely one way that their customers could have been made vulnerable.  What about the Apple SSL/TLS implementation?  Has anyone checked it?  Did they incorporate RFC 6520 for heartbeat support?  I couldn't find anything Google so figured I would share what I found.

Since the Apple SSL library code is open sourced, we can actually look at the code.  And based on my read of the code, Apple doesn’t even implement the heartbeat extension. http://opensource.apple.com/source/Security/Security-55471/libsecurity_ssl/lib/sslHandshake.h doesn’t even define the heartbeat helloextension code 15 in the data structure:

/* Hello Extensions per RFC 3546 */
typedef enum
{
 SSL_HE_ServerName = 0,
 SSL_HE_MaxFragmentLength = 1,
 SSL_HE_ClientCertificateURL = 2,
 SSL_HE_TrustedCAKeys = 3,
 SSL_HE_TruncatedHMAC = 4,
 SSL_HE_StatusReguest = 5,

 /* ECDSA, RFC 4492 */
 SSL_HE_EllipticCurves  = 10,
 SSL_HE_EC_PointFormats = 11,

    /* TLS 1.2 */
    SSL_HE_SignatureAlgorithms = 13,

    /* RFC 5746 */
    SSL_HE_SecureRenegotation = 0xff01,

 /*
  * This one is suggested but not formally defined in
  * I.D.salowey-tls-ticket-07
  */
 SSL_HE_SessionTicket = 35
} SSLHelloExtensionType;

Then in the implementation http://opensource.apple.com/source/Security/Security-55471/libsecurity_ssl/lib/sslHandshakeHello.c, they actually only support one extension, SSL_HE_SecureRenegotation. All others return an error code.

     switch (extType) {
            case SSL_HE_SecureRenegotation:
                if(got_secure_renegotiation)
                    return errSSLProtocol;            /* Fail if we already processed one */
                got_secure_renegotiation = true;
                SSLProcessServerHelloExtension_SecureRenegotiation(ctx, extLen, p);
                break;
            default:
                /*
                 Do nothing for other extensions. Per RFC 5246, we should (MUST) error
                 if we received extensions we didnt specify in the Client Hello.
                 Client should also abort handshake if multiple extensions of the same
                 type are found
                 */
                break;
        }
So, it appears from the library code that they would not be vulnerable to this bug at all.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Using VNC to securely connect to OSX without exposing an unlocked console

I couldn't believe how supremely difficult it is to securely use VNC to access an OSX mac remotely.  Turns out that by default, using a standard VNC client (as opposed to an Apple Remote Desktop client) does not afford you an option to have the physical console lock when someone connects to the VNC server.  Some third-party clients make this an option, but all that I could find were paid VNC clients that support it.  It is somewhat ridiculous that this setting is left to the client rather than enforced on the server, but I digress...

I tried a few things suggested, such as enabling the screen saver or screen blanker, but those did not solve the problem as they did not differentiate between the VNC session and the physical desktop session so applied equally (the only states that were valid were either both unlocked or both locked).  Other options people suggested were to just turn the screen brightness all the way down.  This is security through obscurity though (the display is still unlocked and anyone who can get to your mouse/keyboard could mess with your computer, they just would be blind to what's on the screen).  It also seems problematic for usability (imagine you turn the brightness down and then come into the office the next day; how are you supposed to see the screen when you login if the brightness is still forced to the minimum?)

The solution I found that had the right security and usability properties was to use fast user switching + the Vine VNC Server.  This enables you to have a different set of content on the physical display from what you see remotely on VNC.  Unfortunately, fast user switching with the Apple VNC "Screen sharing" server doesn't work.  It mirrors your display exactly to the VNC display so does not allow you to have separate physical and remote displays.  I presume that's why it has a name like "Screen sharing".  It's also not surprising that this doesn't quite work as well outside of the Apple monoculture.
  1. Download and install Vine VNC Server
  2. Enable Fast User Switching on the mac
  3. Enable fast user switching on OSX Mavericks
  4. Connect to Vine VNC Server on OSX with any VNC client (e.g. on port 5901).  I configure Vine to require SSH so it doesn't listen to any remote port and requires SSH port tunneling to use it.  Less attack surface.
  5. Go to the fast user switching menu and select "Login Window..."  When you do this, the physical display will change to the login screen but the VNC window will remain unlocked and functional, as desired.
Switch to login screen


I get an IRS scam voice-mail

Had to share this hilarious voice-mail I received from an IRS scammer (happened to come in with Unknown caller ID -- I read online that others had been spoofing US phone numbers for caller ID in the past). The transcript does not do it justice.  I laughed out loud when I heard the phrase, "and you get arrested" as that is precisely what one would expect to hear from the IRS.


They actually tried calling me back and I got to talk to one of the people that afternoon, but my crummy cell service in my office resulted in the call dropping before I could chat with them too much. I told them that I didn't believe them that they were from the IRS. Maybe they'll call back again this week?

I plan on reporting it, as suggested.  Head over to the IRS Tax Fraud Alerts page.  Perhaps the best channel will be via their Phishing page.  The IRS warning regarding this scam provides some information but there is of course no direct links to report the issue.  I wonder if the 20,000 that reported it are a small fraction of those victimized since it's so difficult to find a way to report it?  They also suggest lodging a complaint with the FTC as well, but that is also somewhat difficult to determine how to categorize it for reporting.

See also: "IRS monitor: $1 million phone scam 'largest ever' - Mar. 20, 2014 ." Last modified 04/14/2014 05:10:31. http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/20/pf/taxes/irs-phone-scam/ (accessed 4/13/2014).


Transcript

Good morning. This is Willy ["Villy"] Mandersen, calling you from Internal Revenue Service...Crime Investigation Department.  The nature and the purpose of this call is just to let you know that....we have received...a legal petition notice...against your name...under your social security number. So, before this matter goes to the Federal claim court house...and you get arrested, kindly call us back at (866) 978-8320. I repeat (866) 978-8320.  Remember, don't disregard the message...as it is very important for you.  And if you don't return the call, then the situation will be worse. So take care about it, and call us back as soon as possible. Goodbye.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What's wrong with the Amazon mp3 store on Android?

First, I'm a big fan of amazon mp3.  They offer high-quality DRM-free music that plays on anything and often at very competitive prices.  And they make it very easy to spend a good amount of money and get some quality music.  Their suggestions and free content have also been where I've discovered lots of new artists, such as ZZ Ward.

But I absolutely abhor shopping for mp3s on my mobile phone on Amazon's mp3 app.  Their interface on mobile only gives you these features:
  • Search
  • Recommendations
  • Bestsellers
  • New Releases
  • Genres
  • And some individual highlights, such as a $0.69 song, Latin song, Hot Single, one Free Song, a $5 album, a Song of the week, and an Album of the week
Amazon mp3 store in Chrome on Android
Amazon mp3 Android UI
Amazon mp3 desktop website
All of the categories let you view by Album or Songs.  And one of the first annoying things is that there is an arbitrary limit of 100 items in each of the categories.  What song/album is the 101st New Release?  What if I want to keep shopping down the list?  What if I own or don't care about the top 100?

Grievance list:
  • 100 item arbitrary limit, regardless of the category, with no way to keep scrolling for more.  Although I do see that even the desktop site caps the list at this arbitrary number.  Lame x 2.
  • No way to view song/album reviews, other than a static star-list.  This is one of the highlights of the Amazon mp3 experience on the desktop that I find most useful (and often entertaining).
  • No way to rate songs/albums on mobile.  Oops, a prerequisite for contributing (or benefiting) from the crowdsourced content is that you must first go to Amazon and buy a PC.
  • No access to the sub-lists within the category.  One of my favorites has been the Top 100 Free lists.  Another fun one is their monthly $5 albums list.  I've found some great artists just perusing those lists.  But sadly, on mobile you have no inkling they even exist.  At least their HTML website on mobile has those (but even then the UI takes many cues from the mobile application).
  • No child lock.  At least Amazon VOD on my Roku has a PIN code that I need to enter before purchasing videos to keep my kids from draining my bank account.  Be careful who you give your phone to!
  • What you miss out on from the desktop site:
    • Hot New Releases
    • Movers & Shakers
    • Top Rated (another failure to enable social media to help drive sales)
    • Featured Albums, Editor's picks, Artists on the rise, etc. (no ability to take advantage of Amazon's music buyer curation, which is quite good.  I've found lots of good music that way)
    • Customers who viewed/purchased X also viewed/purchased Y
    • All of the "deals" lists.  You get only a light mist of them.  
  • No wish list integration.  Where's a list of the music on my wish list?  Can I add an item to my wish list rather than just buy it now?
  • Lack of a Play All button to play all samples.  The desktop site has it.  You somehow have to know that it will automatically play all (but this doesn't give you a choice to listen to one without listening to all)
  • Lack of larger cover art.
I gave their HTML website a whirl in Chrome on Android and, although better in a few areas, it still has some of the annoying limitations that drive me back to a PC (the most annoying is when the _functionality_ of the site is artificially pruned, so you don't even know it exists).  I would love to get rid of my PCs and have nothing but tablets, but all too often the mobile experience on apps is completely butchered and hobbled to the point where you often have no choice but to fake a desktop browser or just open up the laptop.  But I digress.

What they did right:
  • Long-press context menu on an item lets you "Shop album" or "Shop artist".  Nice way to explore "more"
  • Music previews good quality and have continuous play for sampling
  • Convenient to quickly purchase songs/albums you just heard.
I could rant about the cloud player annoyances, but they are far fewer.

Where Google Play Music Store on Android shines:
  • Clean, intuitive UI with swipe interaction model
  • Infinite scrolling lists of Top Albums, Top Songs, even Recommendations, etc.
  • Wish list integration
  • Free-music lists
  • Personalized recommendations right on the home screen based on genres and artists in your existing collection
  • Video integration
  • Clear Play All button to play all samples.
  • Larger thumbnails and ability to click and see a larger version you can actually see
  • You can read the reviews!!!  And contribute your own.  And moderate the reviews.
  • Integration with Google+ for sharing/liking content.  Would be nice if there were other options than Google+ though.
  • Integration with Android Share to send via twitter, email, etc.
  • Parity with the desktop site (it's the same thing, only with more real-estate)
Google Play Music Desktop site
Google Play Music App on Android
Google Play Music is rather annoying for purchases, especially forcing you to go through the same workflow for free songs as if you were "buying" them (really works to discourage "buying" multiple Free tracks, which may have been a business requirement -- I don't know).  Too many clicks (even on the desktop).

At this point, what I would wish for these things to be fixed:
  • Update the UI to take advantage of mobile capabilities and gestures.  Swipe from tab to tab to fluidly navigate
  • Remove the 100 item cap and make everything infinite scroll lists.
  • Abandon the "mobile crippleware" design strategy that so many have fallen in love with and maintain parity with the desktop site for accessing all of the same content.  If you are concerned about UI bloat, there are ways of handling that (just look at Google's approach for one).  I prefer to have the options available _somewhere_ even if hidden in another menu somewhere.
  • If you can't get the functionality into the mobile app, at least enable links into the mobile web version of the site from the Android app to allow for accessing the functionality
  • Remove the "mobile crippleware" design strategy on the mobile website to also maintain parity with the desktop site.
  • Take advantage of the curated content to drive sales!
  • Take advantage of user feedback and your preferences engine that works rather well on the desktop site to enable social exploration of other users who may have similar tastes to discover new music.  
  • Enable social integration.  I've often wanted to share a song I just heard or a playlist publicly but cannot
  • Push notifications could be employed in a limited way (ideally, fully user customizable) to notify when the new $5 list of albums are out, new free songs, highlighted curated content, etc.  I'd sign up for them.
  • Here's an idea, since you have access to the Android media list, you could maybe actually recognize in the UI when I've already purchased a given album/song (either from Amazon or elsewhere).  You don't even do that for stuff in my Cloud Player for some strange reason.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Seattle-area segregation

The Best Map Ever Made of America's Racial Segregation | Wired Design | Wired.com

White people seem to love them some waterfront property in Seattle.  This is fascinating.  Go check out your neighborhood on the map.  There are clearly pockets of similar ethnicity divided by street boundaries.


Humorous "Page Not Found" error page

This is great!