The ongoing prattlings of a lifelong geek and his random luck with love, work, children and rediscovering himself.


Online Profiles - A Danger To Kids Everywhere (or, Why We Need Licensed Internet Use)

I'm feeling my Editorial side coming out tonight, so here it goes...

I consider myself to be an anomaly in many ways, mainly due to my computer-geek status. I started with computers at the age of 9 (now 38) and even now, I find that all of these "computer literate children" we're raising really aren't as literate as I imagined they would be 20-30 years later.   They are able to use a computer much more than my own counterparts back in junior high and high school did, but there are still not that many who above a "computer user" level as far as I can see.   The ratio of geeks-to-normals did not seem to change in the last 30 years by very much.

Now, I have watched my kids progress "online" and create their internet "identities" (as much as they change on a weekly basis, that is) and I'm really concerned, for the first time ever, about how much information people put online about themselves.   In fact, I'm convinced that there are quite a few predators who are scouring the Profiles of teen and pre-teen users of such services as ICQ, AIM/AOL, MySpace, MSN, Xanga, and many others... keeping a database of information they put together about these kids, so they can use it for their own personal (probably perverted) reasons.

As an example, I will use a very close relative of mine.

Based on the "Online Surveys" that this relative takes and posts into her profile on MySpace, you would literally be able to take her identity, get any and all records about her from any institution (posing as one of her parents if needed), and even stalk her despite the fact that you may come from somewhere two thousands miles away.   Compiling information about various users of these social-networking engines is quite easy, and some of the info even comes from their friends profiles!   Once again, since I am an anomaly, I happen to know these things, am able to watch these things, and even do some things to help (though not much, short of getting this relative offline) because of the type of person I am ... someone who looks at computers from the view of a programmer, technician, network administrator, power-user and, of course, parent.

There are times I envy the "normal person", who can use their computer and be amazed at the wonderful things it does (instead of constantly dissecting the mechanisms that make them work), but when it comes down to it, I'm very thankful that I have a step up on the vast majority of the population.   But.. I fear for those of you who are the "normal people".   You have no clue, or think "I make them do this or that to be safe".   You aren't safe.   Neither are your kids (or mine, for that matter).

When a teenager answers and posts an online survey that tells personal information, then another, and another... before you know it, you have five to twenty surveys, over a course of hours, days or possibly weeks, which literally define your child.   Pictures, personal information, geographic references, mannerisms, where they go during the week, what they like to do, what attracts them... it's all there.   And most of these kids are like you or your kids.   They're "normal people".

And out there, they run into the deviants who may have the skills to track, find, rape, kill or otherwise destroy the lives of these "normal kids".

For this reason, I still think a "license" (just like your driver's license) should be required to use the Internet.   Freedom of access is one thing;   taking responsibility for your actions online is another.   IP spoofing and blocking should not be allowed.   You should pass a basic skills test before using the internet.   There should be a centralized database (just like DNS) where your license information is kept and a federal-level government entity would maintain the entries in your country of citizenship. That entity would be part of the worldwide Internet Policing entity, and would be allowed access to your records.

This is a very unpopular stance to take (especially in my circle of peers) but I don't know of a better way.   If the internet is to remain 100% free and clear, then I should be given the same open and free capability to seek revenge on any person who causes harm to any member of my family if they used any information from the internet to do so.   That seems only fair...   (sounds a lot like the 'old west', eh?)   It seems logical that this will never happen, so I think Internet Licensing should begin as quickly as possible.   And, if a country does not setup their local agency to pe part of the Worldwide Internet Police (WIP), then they should be removed from the network as a whole.   If that means there is an open, unrestricted Internet where you take responsibility for yourself (and your kids), and a secure, policed Internet where companies, parents and individuals are held responsible for their actions, great!


Routers, Cables and Webcams

So last weekend, the D-Link Router I use to direct traffic to my server and six other home computers and laptop decided it was going to freeze up repeatedly.   It may have been under "attack" to some degree from some malicious user or robot zombie computers knocked up with the latest bad-warez, I really don't know at this point.   After some tweaking, I decided to try wiping the system and updating to the newest firmware (the router's "operating system") and set it all back up again (typically when updating the firmware, it cannot KEEP the old settings, which is just plain idiotic, but that's neither here nor there at this point).

After spending over two hours trying to figure out why the router was apparently not taking the new firmware properly, and/or not doing what I was telling it to do (route webcam traffic to THIS machine, route web and ftp traffic to THAT server, block websites with THESE keywords in their domain name, etc), I finally got things where they appeared to be working "enough" to make those websites I host "happy".

Unfortunately, my webcam, of all things, would not work "outside of my own computer" (no one could view it remotely).   I checked (many MANY times) the settings on the router, and they were (and are) correct.   It would not work (still won't to this very moment) but it's very low priority.

Then during the testing of the webcam, I found that my kids four computers were not able to access ANYTHING via the network (not even the server).   On a normal day, knowing that they are all on one hub (I'm cheap in that regards, but they'll never know that the hub is the slowest part of our house's network.. oh wait, they read this..) that the problem would likely be wiring related.   But given that the ROUTER had just been reconfigured and fixed, my mindset was "okay, there is something software-based that is wrong..." and so, for three days, I thought about it, tried a few things, never ever looking at the top right corner LED which was dark.. the one that links that hub to the main switch.   Apparently the cable I buried underground to the garage, shielded in a plastic tube, is bad (I verified the cables on both sides of that equation are fine).   Really dumb, since the symptoms were pretty clear -- all computers off of THAT HUB were not seeing anything!

(sigh)   Anyway, it was nice to get that done.   But, how often do you have:
  • a router
  • a physical cable
  • and a webcam
all suddenly stop working, for apparently unrelated reasons?

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the following:

The cable went bad.   That cable leads to the router/switch, so...

The router got scrambled brains from the bad cable (crossed wires, etc), but...

The webcam is still a mystery.   I can access it locally from the host computer (http://localhost:8080) but if I try to visit it from any other computer (using the proper domain reference or even the local IP from another local computer) it times out.   I'd swear there is a firewall blocking the port to my webcam (but there is not; not Windows Firewall, not Norton..).   It's frustrating, but nice to have all working (EXCEPT the webcam).


MOVIE: V For Vendetta

I have never read the comic series that this is based on, but the commercials for this movie intrigued me, so my father and I went to see this movie, and I'm glad I did.

It was not heavy with the comic-book-ish traits you might be used to in most comic-adaptations.   It offered a lot of background story (which made the movie feel much longer than 130 minutes) but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it.   I will probably take my kids to go see it.   Natalie Portman played her part well in this alternate-reality, England-meets-1984 fantasy.   I recommend it.


Today's Forecast: Barbecue, Friends, Flood...

So today's barbecue seems to have been a success.   Friends of the family, young and otherwise, came by and ate, drank, played DDR and Halo (on the new TV, oh yeah, thank you IRS for returning the majority of my money to me).

Then there was the flood.   That's a story for another time.   In sadder news... our cat Boomer seems to have disappeared in the final 2 hours of the barbecue.


SCHS Band Rocks Again

FBA judgement of the Spruce Creek High School Orchestra, Symphonic and Concert Bands during the past few days went as follows.   Wow!

Judge 1 = SUPERIOR
Judge 2 = SUPERIOR
Judge 3 = SUPERIOR
Sight-Reading Judge = SUPERIOR

Judge 1 = SUPERIOR
Judge 2 = SUPERIOR
Judge 3 = SUPERIOR
Sight-reading Judge = SUPERIOR

Judge 1 = SUPERIOR
Sight-reading Judge = SUPERIOR

I can personally attest to the fact that the Symphonic Band's sight reading skills made me green with envy.   I was never that good at sight reading (I don't think?!).   Incredible.