HACKING THE PACEMAKER

EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)

Short Synopsis:
Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade information he has — which he claims involves national security and Agah Bayar, the arms dealer.

Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2013), that they decided to see if it really could be done. Could you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to affect it. But you could affect it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

RBB-pacemaker

It is  kind of creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It’s in the hollow by my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. It’s impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

A PLAGUE ON BOTH PARTIES

t_donkey1I am a Democrat. A liberal, but Democrat is close enough.

I currently get about 20 emails a day asking me to contribute to someone’s campaign or just to the party coffers for some good cause or other. I support many of these causes, but I’ll never give a penny to any political party.

Why? Am I a fervent advocate of campaign corruption reform? Do I harbor a passionate and idealistic need to change the system and reform how politics is funded?

True, but that’s not why I refuse to contribute to any kind of political anything ever again.

72-Lost-Dutchman-newer-GAR-Superstition-011316_186

In 2008, I donated a few dollars to Obama. I was pleased when he got elected. I donated a few more bucks in 2012.

As a thank you, I got spammed. Every Democrat running for office, every liberal group with a cause, sent me a thousand emails a week. Maybe more.

It kept getting worse. A new cause, a few hundred more emails. It reached an insane crescendo and I found myself just deleting everything without even trying to see what it was. One day, I spent an entire day, morning to evening, unsubscribing to what seemed to be every politician and cause looking for money. The incoming mail dropped to a bearable level.

Every time I had signed a petition or gone online to read a political post, I was automatically — without notification or permission — subscribed to the site and multiple mailing lists. I was just a piece of data being mined.

I don’t care how good the cause may be, that’s wrong. And it’s spam.

These days, I’m ultra careful what I read. More importantly, where I read it. I do not answer surveys. Ever. Nor do I fill out petitions, no matter how much I sympathize with the cause it represents.

Uncle sam political cartoon 1899

The Democratic Party — all political parties, their candidates and causes (I actually found myself on the Conservative Republican mailing list because I read an article somewhere and they also signed me up) — are on my “not one red cent” list. Because a $3 dollar donation got me spammed. I was buried under electronic propaganda.

Know that if you are sufficiently naive to provide your phone number on a petition or survey, expect never-ending intrusive phone calls on your home or cell phone asking for donations or that you answer surveys.

If they want my opinion, they can pay for it.

The political funding system needs reformation. Equally in need of reform is the way all political groups feel free to use your personal information for their own purposes. They will subscribe you to their mailing  and calling lists because you tried to read their literature. Which, in theory, is what they want you to do. Participating in politics — trying to be a good citizen — will get you bombarded with propaganda until you declare a plague on all their houses.

By: politicalavenue-com

By: politicalavenue-com

It’s not okay. Really, it’s not. It’s intrusive and sneaky. It is a massive abuse of my right to privacy. I did not agree to let everyone in the world use my personal data for their own personal goals.

Visiting a web site does not imply permission to invade my privacy. I do not know how other people handle this sort of thing, but it means that I will never donate a penny to anyone running for office — or in support of any of their causes. Ever.

Vermin Supreme poster

They — both parties, all parties, all the pols — have done it to themselves.  Before pointing fingers at “the system,” they need to admit that they are the system. They are the abusers.

FEAR THE MAGIC WIDGET

Our cable company changes their software frequently. They call these upgrades, though nothing improves. The equipment doesn’t work better. It isn’t easier to use. If there are new and useful features, no one tells you what they are or how to use them. You might discover them accidentally while trying to figure out how to do what you did before they removed the menu you previously used.

The newest feature is adjustable recording times. You can set them to before or after the times posted in the guide. It’s trendy for shows to begin and end at odd times, a few minutes earlier or later than on the hour or half hour. If you set up recordings using the default settings from the guide, the end or beginning of each show will be snipped. Annoying. Very.

TinkerizedRemotes

Why can’t developers make the software use actual start and end times? It couldn’t be that hard.

With shows starting and ending at random times, despite how they’re listed in the “guide,” being able to adjust them ought to help. It would if you could just set start and end time using regular time. Start recording at 8:01 PM. End at 9:03 PM. Simple, right?

Nope. Too easy. So you have to use “start earlier” — or — “start later” or “end early” — or — “run over.” We have no problem with clock time, but the “earlier” and “over” thing is fuzzy. We need numbers OR better yet, make the DVR’s internal computer deal with this so we don’t have to.

So. To record shows in a sequence when one airs right after another, is Kafkaesque. You must start with the final show in the sequence, then work forward, adjusting each show in turn so it does not overlap the next or previous or whatever.

Garry has been engaged in combat with the DVR for months. Yesterday, he got so frustrated he was ready to throw the remote against a wall. I wouldn’t let him quit. If you let a computerized device defeat you, news travels and all your widgets will take up arms against you. They will overthrow civilization as we know it.

Today, the DVR. Tomorrow, the world.

Nothing is safe. Snick, whir, beep. Chirp, buzz, click. Ding!  Can the Zombie Apocalypse be far behind?

Show no fear!

TECHNOLOGY AS TRASH

computer gargoyle

In 2013, the computer industry declared me obsolete. Irrelevant. Anyone who can’t or won’t afford software subscriptions to “keep up to date,” is in trouble. Adobe stopped selling DVDs of their product and other companies are following suit though not as quickly expected. There’s been quite a bit of push back from folks like me.

alienware side view computer

Personally, I don’t mind running a version or two behind the latest thing. Especially since many new versions don’t work better — or even as well — as those I own. I can easily go years without “updating” my software. I guess software companies don’t make enough money selling new releases to folks like me.

Aside from the problem I have with adding an ongoing expense to my already tight budget, I prefer owning my software. I don’t like being entirely dependent on my WiFi connection.

72-Big-Kindle_08

I remember getting a “You’ve Been Hacked!” letter from Adobe. The hack affected (depending on who you believed) between 38 and 150 million people. All of us have had our personal information stolen somewhere or other. Not only by Adobe. My bank got hacked. So did Walmart, Land’s End, and our local grocery store.

72-Mobile and Regular Phones_07

At least our grocery doesn’t collect personal information from customers. It’s one of the few companies that doesn’t. In case you don’t already know this, the discount cards in your wallet are how the places at which you shop collect information about your personal shopping habits. So they can sell your data to marketing companies — the people who harass you with emails, phone calls, and junk mail. And scams.

Where’s our outrage, our demands for better service and security?

When my equipment stops working — which is once in a blue moon — I call the “Guy Who Fixes PCs.” He comes to the house.  Replaces the broken bits. Cleans out any viruses that have snuck past the anti-virus software. I give him money. He gives me a card with his cell number so if the problems comes back, he’ll come back and fix’em.

72-alien-102914_14 computer keyboard

Am I the only one who is in no position to dump equipment and replace it? I’m still in debt for the stuff I have. Moreover, I hate the throwaway society we are building and the mindset that comes with it.

Disposable is not a better way. It’s destroying the environment. Polluting landfills. Making an already profligate society ever more wasteful. We talk about green, but we don’t live green.

Once upon a time, Garry and I were working a ridiculous number of hours and started using paper plates. To avoid washing dishes. After doing this for a while, I found myself washing paper plates. I couldn’t bear throwing them out. It seemed wrong. I rediscovered the concept of re-usability. I had dishes in the cupboard. I could use them, wash them — and use them again! It was an epiphany!

Photoshop

We are turning into a world of paper plate users. Everything, from cars to computers to kitchen appliances are junk. When whatever it is stops running, toss it. Don’t even think about fixing it. Change your cell phone every six months. Toss the old one.

Somewhere on this planet, there is a giant, bottomless hole into which the garbage goes and it will never fill up, right?

Not.

ONE SIZE NEVER FITS ALL

Just when I think this subject has been dealt with, finished, over and done … it pops back up again. For reasons that remain a bit murky to me, a few large software and other organizations still believe the tablets and mobile phones are going to replace computers. Laptops and desktops … gone. Everything now gets done on tiny little thingamabobs.

side view alienware closeup computer

NOT!

About four years ago, tablets were the thing. Articles everywhere explained why tablets — and other small devices — would replace computers. The laptop and desktop are dead! The techno-pundits agreed: no one would need a computer because everything would be done on a small, portable device.

The short-sightedness of that statement still echoes in the air. Of course it didn’t happen. Sure, everyone bought a tablet. Or two or more. But no one threw out their computer, either. Turns out that each device has a purpose and an appropriate use. It isn’t and never will be “either-or.”

Venu 8 size compared to phone

I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have a smart phone. Sometimes, I even use it. I have a couple of tablets and have had as many as four, including an iPad. I didn’t like the iPad (gasp!) and gave it to my granddaughter who had a valid need for it in school. The others, I passed on to people who didn’t already have a tablet or three. The price of tablets has dropped so much — frequently offered free when you buy a cell phone or laptop — it’s getting hard to give them away.

I have a terrific gaming 14-inch laptop on which I’m working right now. I also have a desktop with a big HD monitor. I rarely use the desktop, but I keep it because you never know. Garry has one too. Ditto.

The big desktop monitor is a touch screen. It used to go nuts if a fly or a mosquito walked across it. I eventually gave up and turned the touch functionality off. It was a viciously difficult angle at which to use ones fingers, especially if you have a semblance of fingernails. It killed my wrists and shoulders.

WHAT ARE TOUCHSCREENS GOOD FOR?

Not much, actually. The little ones are good for checking email and making brief responses … and sending texts. Taking a quick glance at a website. Reading a book. Looking at (but not editing) pictures. Listening to music.

SO WHAT’S MISSING?

The ability to create anything or do any actual work. Too small for a spreadsheet. Without a keyboard, no writer would try to do anything longer than a paragraph or a quick typo fix.

And then there’s the inaccuracy. You cannot edit a photograph — or anything really using a touchscreen.

my office and desktop computer

YOU CAN’T DO “BIG” USING “TINY”

Those who extol mini devices as a total computer solution have never designed a book, made a movie, edited a photograph, used Photoshop (or any Adobe product), converted a book to a PDF or edited a manuscript. I know this because it’s impossible. All other problems aside, little devices are too small.

This is not my opinion. It’s fact. Mac, PC, Android, Linux — size matters. You can argue this until you’re blue in the face. It won’t change anything. Oh, and some of us really can’t read tiny type. Like more than half the population, for example. Far-sighted people and anyone over 40. Just saying.

VIRTUAL KEYBOARDS ARE FOR VIRTUAL TYPISTS

I read an article that explained how you can type just fine on a virtual keyboard. No, you can’t.

tablets kindle iPad

IT’S A BIG WORLD

I like choice. I like having different devices for specific tasks. You can’t replace everything with one thing  and there’s no reason you should.

Diversity makes life interesting. We don’t have to go to the same church, read the same books, believe the same stuff … or use the same computer

One size never fits all.

How To Force A Redirect To The Classic WordPress.com Stats Screen

Yesterday, WordPress decided even though I had previously and continuously elected the “old” stats page, now, I am going to use the new, confusing stats page.

I created a bookmark to get me back to the original stats page, but this is better!

Today, Dennis published the directions for using a script — a workaround to bring you back to the original page — where you can get the information you want in a way that makes sense.

The script was written by tPenguinLTG. The instructions are from Dennis and this is a reblog. I did not write this post, but I will guarantee that it works perfectly with Chrome. As do the earlier scripts which take you back to the old editor. Thank Dennis, not me. And tPenguinLTG who keeps coming up with fixes for the “updates” from WordPress!

Diary of Dennis

WordPress Stats

The Solution To Use The Classic Stats Page

If you are blogger at WordPress.com, you might have noticed it, there are not much ways anymore to access the beautiful classic stats screen, instead we are now forced to use the new one, but there is help! Do you remember when they forced us to use the  incredible hard to use new post editor? I wrote a post where you can learn how to get back to the classic editor, and there is a very similar solution to get back to the classis stats screen. We will talk about this now, in this post you will learn how to get back to the classic stats page.

How To Force A Redirect To The Classic WordPress.com Stats Screen

Before we start, I want to mention that the solution comes from tPenguinLTG, be thankful there and not here, I do just…

View original post 432 more words

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR – OR LESS

I bought my first media streaming device — the Roku HD Streaming Player, aka Roku 1 in January 2013. It was easy to set up and worked perfectly. Never hiccupped. Always connected to the WiFi and never faltered. I liked it so much, I bought another one for the bedroom a couple of months later. I wrote about it in “Roku – The Little Streaming WiFi Unit That Can” on December 18, 2013. By which time I’d had it for almost a year.

The only problem was the remote. It is line-of-sight. This technology works best in an uncluttered home with fewer dogs. So the remote worked, but it was like target shooting from a long distance with an inaccurate weapon.

FTVstickThis doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s the sort of thing that gets on your nerves over time. I replaced the living room remote with an upgraded version. A nominal improvement.

When Amazon came out with their bargain basement Amazon Fire Stick, I said “Oh, what the hell. Maybe the remote will work better,” and it did. Unfortunately, the stick didn’t. In fact, the stick hardly worked at all. As one reviewer succinctly put it, “You deserve better. Don’t do it.” He was right.

I had read the reviews, but I didn’t read all of them. I missed the ones that said the stick would lose the WiFi and sometimes, would never get it back.

From the beginning, it either couldn’t find our WiFi, or couldn’t hang on to the signal.  Even when it was connected, it was like watching a series of stills with sound. Like one of the strip films we watched in elementary school … a slide show with sound. I am told it’s an antenna problem, but whatever the reason, it stunk.

Roku 1

Last week, I gave up and bought the Roku 3 with the “point anywhere” remote. Which also, I’m told, responds to voice commands. We installed it today and it works. No stuttering, no faltering, no loading problems. Smooth as silk and you can point the remote at your own forehead and it will still work.

So, here’s the cost breakdown.

Roku 3 cost $49.00. Plus $4.20 for an HDMI cable. We got two years of service out of it, so it doesn’t owe us anything. And it still works, just not on this television.

The Amazon Fire Stick was a bust. It cost $39.00, was unsatisfactory for all 90 days of its service. The new, improved, wonderful Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model) cost $96.04 (and if I’d waited a few days, would have cost $20 less), but really when you include the cost of the Fire Stick, it’s more like $140.

It reminds me of how I always used to buy the cheaper, less comfortable shoes. Eventually, when I couldn’t walk in the shoes I had bought, I ended up buying the more expensive ones, too.

roku 3

In total, I spent more than $200 on a streaming devices. If I had bought the Roku 3 in the first place, I would have spent half that.

The motto of the story is worth remembering. You aren’t saving money by buying shoes that you can’t wear. If your feet hurt, the movie won’t load, the remote control drives you bonkers? You haven’t saved money if you will have to buy it again.

It’s not cheap if it doesn’t do the job.