Check out Undercover, software to install on a Mac to facilitate recovery in case it’s stolen. Obviously, the primary market is laptops, but it works for any OS X machine. There’s even an example of recovery on the site, including pictures of the thief (possible because all new Macbooks and Macbook Pros have built-in cameras). In that case, the laptop was recovered by police within 3 days thanks to the information reported by Undercover to the monitoring service (which led them to a physical address, supplied by the thief’s ISP).

This Administration Is Still Shitting On Privacy and the Rule of Law

Via Wired News:

The first public meeting of a Bush administration “civil liberties protection panel” had a surreal quality to it, as the five-member board refused to answer any questions from the press, and stonewalled privacy advocates and academics on key questions about domestic spying.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which met Tuesday, was created by Congress in 2004 on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, but is part of the White House, which handpicked all the members. Though mandated by law in late 2004, the board was not sworn in until March 2006, due to inaction on the part of the White House and Congress.

The three-hour meeting, held at Georgetown University, quickly established that the panel would be something less than a fierce watchdog of civil liberties. Instead, members all but said they view their job as helping Americans learn to relax and love warrantless surveillance.

More at Wired’s 27B Stroke 6 blog.

What the Drug War does

There’s a guy in Florida serving 25 years in prison for having pain meds with a prescription. There is no evidence he ever sold a single pill, but the charge is for trafficking on the grounds that the State seems to think they know better than his doctor about how much medicine he should get.

This is of course bullshit, but not even the appeals court has the balls to do anything about it.

Do this.

Here at Heathen, we like art. Some dude at the Guardian does, too; in fact, he’s put together a list of 50 pieces you should see before you die, which seems pretty reasonable.

Of course, we’ve seen only seven of them:

  • Pollack’s One: Number 31, 1950 (MoMA, New York)
  • The Rothko Chapel (Houston)
  • Van Gogh’s Starry Night (MoMA, New York)
  • Jasper Johns’ Flag (MoMA, New York)
  • Matisse, The Dance (Hermitage, St. Petersburg)
  • Manet, The Dead Torero (National Gallery, Washington)
  • King Tut’s funerary mask (currently in Cairo, but we saw it in New Orleans)

Holy Crap

There’s liquid water on Mars.

Not to overstate, but this is fucking huge.

However, certain Heathen have nothing but snark; quotes included “And big four-armed green monsters? Because if there are no big four-armed green mosters, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” and “Interesting. Are there REAL LIVE YETIS?”

Sadly, NASA remains silent on the subjects of four-armed monsters or yetis of any color.

Well, as long as you follow their advice, you should be safe.

A security flaw has surfaced in Microsoft Word that is so severe that Microsoft is recommending you not open or save Word documents until a patch is available.

…the flaw can be exploited if a user simply opens a rigged Word document.

Affected software versions include Microsoft Word 2000, Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Office Word 2003, Microsoft Word Viewer 2003, Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac and Microsoft Word 2004 v. X for Mac. The Microsoft Works 2004, 2005 and 2006 suites are also affected because they include Microsoft Word.

There are no pre-patch workarounds available. Microsoft suggests that users “not open or save Word files,” even from trusted sources.

We suggest you do as they say. Forever.

How to Keep Up

It has come to our attention that many of you aren’t keeping up with Heathen, or perhaps other sites you wish you had time to read. We admit, it’s a daunting task. However, the Web has answered at least part of this problem with the idea of feeds.

Most blogs today have a feed you can access with a special program called a feed reader (or news reader). You give these programs your list of feed addresses, and they obligingly go out, check for new material, download it, and present it for your review in a neat interface. Obviously, this is way more efficient than manually visiting each site, or even than having a folder of links to be opened as tabs simultaneously. You just leave it running in the background, and it shows YOU when, for example, BoingBoing has new material. Most of them also cache the info, so it can be read when you’re offline.

We here at Heathen use a program called NetNewsWire, which is really the go-to feed application for the Mac. It’s not free, but it is very strong and quite worth the modest cost. There are, of course, alternatives, including both Thunderbird (Firefox’s mail-reading sibling) and Apple’s Safari, but neither have the capabilities or flexibility of NNW.

On a PC, you of course continue to have the option of Thunderbird, but you can’t have NNW. However, the firm that owns NewNewsWire also makes a Windows app called FeedDemon that we suspect is also cool (though we’ve never used it). It’s also not free, but it is cheap. We’re sure there are free and open-source options as well, but have no idea what they may be.


Nice Job, Haley

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is basically responsible for the evisceration of the state’s highly successful anti-smoking campaign — which was funded not by taxpayer dollars, but by the tobacco settlement.

Mississippi’s program was funded by a settlement with tobacco companies, and was noted as one of the best in steering kids clear of a lifetime of tobacco use. So how did Barbour manage to destroy an effective program that wasn’t costing taxpayers a dime?

Barbour complained that the program received its funding directly from the courts and that it needed legislative approval, according to Myers. When the legislature passed a bill to continue the funding, Barbour vetoed it and went back to the courts to withdraw all remaining monies from the program.

That’s slight of hand you won’t see on a stage in Las Vegas.

Way to go.

Dept. of Good Meme Propagation

Laura Lemay’s husband was in a bad biking accident on Saturday, which is scary and awful. He’s ok, but he was riding without ID, which isn’t. Ms Lemay’s now a believer in always having something with ID on it now (as is her husband), but the more interesting idea came late in the post.

Put ICE in your damn phone. ICE is short for “In Case of Emergency.” This meme was spread around the net last year as the number you program into your cell phone for emergency personnel to call if they find you unconscious n the road. Eric thought this was an urban legend. Soon after Eric called me on Saturday I got a call from the group ride leader who had picked up Eric’s cell phone and started noting down numbers to try to find someone to notify. The random number method eventually works, sure, but ICE is much more direct. I’ve got ICE in my phone, and as of this morning Eric has it in his. My phone also lets me add longer notes to the address book entries so my ICE also has my name and blood type. Put it in. OK, one more lecture: hug your family today.

This meme is new to us, but you can bet your ass we’ve put ICE in the Treo just now. We suggest you do the same. You never know when it might help, and the cost of doing it is pretty damn low.

Sometimes, we really love Reason

Like now, when they point out the absurdity of restricting OTC cold medicine to combat meth production: Where Have All Our Cold Pills Gone?

The ONDCP [Office of National Drug Control Policy] cites declines in meth lab seizures as evidence that the peudoephedrine restrictions are working. But as state officials have acknowledged (and as anyone who was paying attention could have predicted), the decline in local production has not reduced the overall supply of meth, because the vast majority of it comes from Mexican traffickers who are not affected by the Dayquil crackdown and who were happy to pick up any slack. There is no evidence that forcing cold and allergy sufferers to register as suspected meth manufacturers has had any impact on meth consumption.

We could’ve told you that, nobody asked.

Dear Windows

Game Over.

The new version of Parallels Desktop allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows apps side by side with Mac apps without the clumsy “Windows in a window” separation we’re used to from products like Virtual PC. Also, Mac-style keyboard shortcuts Just Work, as does copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop file manipulation.

At last, some good news on e-Voting

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is recommending that touchscreen voting machines be decertified for 2007:

One conclusion drawn by NIST is that the lack of an independent audit capability in DRE voting systems is one of the main reasons behind continued questions about voting system security and diminished public confidence in elections. NIST does not know how to write testable requirements to make DREs secure, and NIST’s recommendation to the STS is that the DRE in practical terms cannot be made secure.

The same article notes that Cuyahoga County, Ohio, is considering scrapping their machines outright. Excellent news for Ohio voters.

We agree, natch.

The Washington Post makes the case that Bush is the Worst. President. EVAR.

A bit:

Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.

Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court’s unprecedented rebukes of Bush’s policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law.

Enjoy that place in history, bub.

Dept. of Fictional Neologisms, RFID Division

A recent episode of Law & Order: SVU included an RFID subplot; basically, a geeky character established as a bit of a tinkerer with the technology (he’d set up keyless entry on his house) turned out to have surreptitiously implanted a chip in his wife’s shoulder to ascertain whether or not she was having an affair (she was).

When the arrangement came to light, Detective Stabler referred to it as a “HoJack.”

We like this more than we can say.

No Sex, Please, We’re Republicans

Mark Morford over at weighs in on the “no sex ’til you’re 30” propaganda paid for by your tax dollars:

I think I get it now.

The latest pitiable GOP plan, from what I can tell, goes something like this: To make it all so absurd, to make the remaining Bush administration proposals and doctrines and cultural stratagems so outlandish and silly and degrading and insulting to your mind and your heart and your very own beleaguered genitalia that you cannot help but take note of their existence and laugh and cringe and sit back and go, Oh my God these people have got to be kidding.

At which point (they hope) you will turn to your spouse or your significant other or your dog and say, Hey honey, check this out, did you see the latest moronic and horrible dictum from the Bush administration? We should totally try it, just for kicks!

Then the GOP will gloat and say: See? The world still loves the GOP! Yay us! And then they shall proceed to smack themselves in the face with a brick.

It is the only viable explanation. It is the only way to account for something like, say, the latest twist in the Abstinence Education Program from Bush’s increasingly laughable Department of Health and Human Services, a $50 million slice of embarrassing government detritus that is now actually encouraging all states to tell their single, youngish residents that they should — how to put this so you don’t shoot coffee through your nose? — that everyone should avoid sex entirely, until they turn 30.

Read the whole thing.

Go See This!

Our pals at IBP have a real winner on their hands again with Hide Town, which was written for them by award-winning playwright Lisa D’Amour. The Houston Press loved it, as usual.

Apocalyptic, strange and wonderfully entertaining, Lisa D’Amour’s Hide Town, created with company members from Infernal Bridegroom Productions, is everything experimental theater should be.

The tickets are cheap, the seats are close, and the beer is cold. Come check it out!

Wise words

Bill Curry, who knows at least a little about coaching at Alabama, has a few words on the musical coaches phenomenon that seems the rule today.

(Curry at Alabama: 1987-1989 seasons; 26-10, 1 SEC championship and 3 bowl appearances, including the 1990 Sugar Bowl; he was the 1990 SEC Coach of the Year. Despite all this, the alumni ran him off for going 0-3 against Auburn.)

Santa’s Stork Visited Dallas Today

Nearly eight pounds of Dashiell Reed McGhee just joined the world, the second child and first son of Patrick and Diane, and first sibling of Hadley. God bless ’em, every one. We have it on good authority that all 4 are doing fine.

In which we contribute to the rumor mill

An alumni list we read suggests that Alabama has the following offer on the table for the former most-hated-man-in-the-SEC:

  • $30,000,000 over 7 years
  • His son gets to be Offensive Coordinator
  • He picks his own Defensive Coordinator
  • He gets the AD job when it opens up, if he wants it
  • He reports directly to the president, bypassing the existing AD, Mal Moore

It’s probably bullshit, but it’s a fun thought experiment.

Geek Horror

We here at Heathen enjoy The Daily WTF as much as any geek. It’s a little bit of “we’re glad we’re smarter than that!” and a little bit schadenfreud, sure, but it’s fun.

Today’s entry, however, is the first to actually trigger that “oh my sweet lord NO” quesy feeling in the pit of our stomach. Maybe it’s because we’re at a client site even as we speak, and maybe it’s because we can see how this might happen, but it’s still pretty horrifying.

Coach Wanted. Must Win Immediately and Forever.

Alabama has dismissed Mike Shula after only 4 years. Shula took over after a particularly fine sequence of events:

Shula took over the proud but troubled program less than four months before the 2003 season after Mike Price was fired following spring practice for his off-the-field behavior — specifically a night of drinking at a Pensacola, Fla., strip club. Price got the job after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M.

Before that, Mike DuBose was fired/resigned after some sort of affair, as I recall. Yay! Musical coaches!

Shula’s firing would mean Alabama is looking for a head coach for the fourth time since 2000. The Tide has had seven coaches in the 24 years since Paul “Bear” Bryant’s last season in 1982. Bryant had directed the Alabama program for 25 years.

The seven: Ray Perkins (1983-1986), Bill Curry (1987-1989), Gene Stallings (1990-1996; national championship in 1992), Mike DuBose (1997-2000), Dennis Franchione (2001-2002), Mike Price (2002-2003; did not coach any games), and Shula (2003-2006). If memory serves, only Curry and Stallings left of their own accord (though it’s fair to say that Curry was pushed).

Shula hasn’t been consistent (’03: 4-9; ’04: 6-6; ’05: 10-2; ’06: 6-6), but he’s young and this is his first head coach job. Alabama is still feeling the effects of its sanctions, and lost its star quarterback after last year (not to mention an unknown number of other starters like receiver Tyrone Prothro, who’s still out from a broken leg suffered in 2005). Offensive production has been weak, even in the 10-2 season, but is that enough to send a young guy like this packing? Maybe this is the right plan, and maybe it isn’t, but at some point shouldn’t they get a coach and keep him more than a few years to see what he can really do? Review the dates above and you’ll see that no coach has stayed at UA more than 4 years since Stallings. This endless game of musical coaches can’t be good for the program.

Can we please shut up about Notre Dame now?

The Irish got precisely what anyone with a brain expected last night in their drubbing at the hands of the USC Trojans. Why anyone thought this game was a gateway to a title bid for ND is beyond us; they’ve played only two serious teams all season (USC and Michigan), and got their ass handed to them both times. (No, JoePa’s Lions don’t count — they’ve lost every serious game they played, and some besides.) The Irish have been overrated all year long, and fell a long way early after the Michigan game — yet somehow still started bubbling back towards the top on the strength of midseason wins over such powerhouses as Army, Navy, Air Force, and Stanford. Having 2 losses with ND’s schedule is no mean trick; you can even go undefeated if you play only creampuffs. That doesn’t mean you should be a top ten team. That the Irish are still rated 12 is insane; does anyone really believe that, say, Texas or Tennessee (tied for 17 in the AP) wouldn’t beat the snot out of them? For that matter, does anyone really believe that Wake (16) or Rutgers (13) could beat either UT?

At least the top 5 makes some sense. At the other end of the schedule difficulty scale from the likes of Boise and Notre Dame is the SEC’s LSU, who (as ESPN points out) have played 4 top 10 teams as away games and still escaped with only 2 losses (then-#3 Auburn, and then-#5 Florida). Can anyone else say that?

(Of course, this is just another post saying how fscked up the BCS thing is, and how much we really need a proper playoff system that would, if done properly, make clear what paper tigers ND and Boise are, and how good programs in tough conferences are by comparison.)

More Zune Suckery

This reviewer at the Chicago Sun-Times lays it out: the Zune bites, and the reason it does is that a significant chunk of the differences between it and the iPod are changes calculated to please the recording industry, not the consumer. The author helpfully points out some non-iPod players that deliver features people might actually want, as opposed to crippled bullshit like the Zune’s wifi.

Happy Thanksgiving, Plus a Mac Tip

So, Turkey Day and all that. Enjoy.

However, there’s another possible Safari exploit floating around out there that once again points out a key bit of configuration advice every Mac user should follow immediately.

  1. Open Safari

  2. Choose the Safari menu (upper left, next to the blue apple) and pick Preferences

  3. Click “General” on the left hand side

  4. Find the option that says “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading”


That is all. It’s a stupid security hole Apple uncharacteristically created by allowing Safari to open (read: execute) certain “safe” files as soon as you download them. With it off, you’ll have to do it yourself. The difference is key; some nefarious sites may send unexpected files with nasty payloads, which Safari would then open automatically. Whups!

With the option off, this can’t happen — unless, of course, you decide on your own to open the weird, unexpected file on your own. And you know not to do that, right?

Happy Turkey Day.