Scripting News for 12/23/2007

Holiday greetings! 

Tomorrow and the next day are big Jewish holidays, it’s the time when we all go out for Chinese or Indian food, and talk about anything but Baby Jesus. On Christmas Day I’m going to Santa Cruz to hang with Naked Jen, who has a tradition of seeing three of the movies that come out for the holiday, and then we’re going out for a Jewish celebration probably with Chinese or Indian food. šŸ™‚

To celebrate the holiday I’ve brought back the photographic Scripting News banner. It chooses a random graphic every time I update the home page. I may have some fun with a CGI script that chooses a random graphic every time you refresh the page. Let’s see. (Update: done!)

In 2004 I recorded a podcast for the holiday that was the telling of O Henry’s sweet story of love and generosity, The Gift of the Magi. I was reminded of it seeing several interviews with Carolyn Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy and Jackie O, who wrote a book about Christmas that included this story. It seems appropriate tonight to link back to the telling of the story. I was in Seattle when I recorded it, about to leave for Florida. It was the year of podcasting.

Speaking of podcasts, I just listened to a podcast of today’s Meet the Press interview with Presidential candidate Ron Paul. What a refreshing person to be running for political office. He’s very intelligent and talks back when Russert tried to corner him. I probably won’t ever get a chance to vote for him, and I don’t endorse him as a candidate, but I do endorse listening to the podcast. It’s excellent politics. Refreshing.

What I learned about security, privacy and Apple 

First, thanks for the great comments on yesterday’s post about Apple and the hard disk of my MacBook. People were universally positive and helpful, and I can say I really learned some really important things as a result of the discussion.

First, the cost of the data on the hard disk swamps the value of the value of the disk and even the value of the computer. There was source code on the computer, and other information, which if it fell into the wrong hands, could cause some serious problems for me.

I have no agreement with Apple that covers the security or privacy of the data. As far as I know they think they own the contents of the disk as well as the disk itself. The experience I had with them actually makes me think they probably do feel its theirs. This from a company that takes the security of its own private information very seriously, they seem to have almost no regard for the security of its customers’ information.

You have no control over when a hard disk will crash, or any foreknowledge of when it’s even likely to crash. So there’s no way to protect against this kind of security issue. And that’s what it is. What kind of sense does it make to invest in firewalls, and of what value is Apple’s claim that Macs are inherently more secure, when all the data on one of my computers is now completely out of my control forever?

I’m not so concerned about the privacy issues, but I could imagine that other people might be. And if identity thieves are not aware of this backdoor way to get access to private information, how long before they are? Security experts always warn us that obscurity is not a good strategy for security.

So what to do?

Basically I’ve given up on trying to get Apple to do the right thing and give me my disk back. Some people at the Emeryville store are well-itentioned, and are just naive about the problems that can come when you trust people with all your data. Others just don’t care. Either way it seems unlikely that I’m going to get it back, and even if I do, it’s been out of my control for too long.

I’m going to go through the tedious job of changing the passwords on all my sensitive online accounts. That was overdue anyway. And next time a laptop blows its hard disk, I’m either going to replace it myself and shred the old disk, the same way I’d shred any sensitive documents before throwing them out, or just throw away the whole computer. I know this isn’t green, but there seems to be no other course that’s anything close to secure.

And always be aware that you could lose a laptop, or it could be stolen. So far it seems that this is not yet an identity theft concern, but you can’t be sure, and it won’t be long before it is.

Thanks again for all the good info, advice and vibe. šŸ™‚

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