Category Archives: Computers

My MacBook Pro power adapter failed

This is just a little consumer hint.

MacBook Pro power adapterYesterday morning, I finally noticed that the wire leading to the MagSafe end of the power adapter for my MacBook Pro 13″ laptop was in the process of breaking. It certainly didn’t look safe to run power through. Oops. If you take a closer look at the photo, please disregard the layer of Duke’s fur spread out across the table top. I had hoped it wouldn’t show up in the picture, but unfortunately….

Anyway, a quick online search found many people complaining that these newer adapters aren’t as resilient as the earlier models, and frequently fail at the same point that mine did.

I’ve got several older power adapters from previous Mac laptops, but they don’t fit the current model. Different plug where it hooks up to the computer. It looked like my only choice was to buy a new one from the Apple Store, which carries a hefty price tag of $79.

But then I made a discovery. Browsing around on the Apple website looking for info on a new power adapter, I saw mention of a $9.99 adapter that lets you use an older power adapter on the newer models, and I ordered one, sight unseen. Picked it up later in the day. It’s just a tiny bit of metal. You plug your older adapter into one side, and plug the other side into your newer computer that requires the MagSafe 2 plug.

It provides more power than necessary for the smaller 13″ laptop, but I think these Mac laptops can handle it fine. At least I haven’t read about any flaming failures when using the larger adapter on this model.

Now I’m digging through old boxes looking for the power adapters from other earlier computers as additional backup.

UH Manoa among campuses hit by anti-Semitic flyers

The University of Hawaii at Manoa was among the college campuses across the country where anti-Semitic flyers were printing out in department offices.

A copy of the flyer was found after printing out from a networked office printer in the UH-Manoa Women’s Studies Department Thursday morning, It was reported to campus officials, and campus IT staff were trying to trace its origin through the IP address recorded by the printer.

According to published accounts, the flyers campus networks had apparently been hacked, allowing the unsolicited printing.

According to the website, MassLive.com:

The flyers turned out in printers at Smith College in Northampton, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, as well as Northeastern University in Boston, DePaul University in Chicago, Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and the University of Southern California, said Robert Trestan, executive director of the New England Anti-Defamation League.

The flyers urged people to “join us in the struggle for global white supremacy.”

They include a link to a neo-Nazi website featuring a headline, “Total Fascism”.

Trump’s torturous rhetoric

Donald Trump’s stunning advocacy of torture is the latest sign that the candidate has gone off the dangerous edge of his own flat-earth platform. He, and much of the rest of the GOP field of presidential candidates, appear hell bent on confirming the world’s worst possible views of what Americans are like.

Of course, torture is illegal. It’s considered illegal under U.S. law, and under our international obligations. And the fact that Trump doesn’t mind trumpeting his own more sadistic tendencies is a dismal indication of how low American political debate has fallen.

Here’s just a bit of the reporting on and reaction to his pro-war crimes campaign.

Trump and Cruz idiotically refuse to face the facts about torture,” from The Guardian via Raw Story.

There was once a consensus that torture was immoral; even today, any sensible person knows torture is of little use if you want accurate information. Yet the current crop of Republican presidential candidates have been trying to outbid one another with promises of barbarism: Senator Ted Cruz confirmed that he favours simulated drowning, which he classifies as an “enhanced interrogation technique” (EIT) that falls short of torture. (The Spanish Inquisition was rather more honest, and called it tortura del agua.) “The Donald” immediately trumped his rival : he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”.

Trump’s call to bring back torture alarms professional interrogators,” McClatchyDC.

Hard-nosed interrogators who say they’ve thwarted terror attacks in the United States by extracting key information from suspects have a message for Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, who’s vowing to bring back waterboarding and even harsher questioning techniques if elected president:

Don’t do it.

Trump’s Impeachable Offense,” truth dig.

First, the federal Torture Act stipulates that if an American soldier, CIA officer, or anybody else acting on behalf of the government waterboards a prisoner, he risks up to 20 years imprisonment. The McCain-Feinstein Amendment Congress passed last year reiterated the ban on torture, including waterboarding.

Second, our country is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Waterboarding a prisoner is against international law and could subject the torturer — or the person ordering or approving the torture — to international sanctions, including prosecution in international courts.

CIA would refuse to comply with Trump’s torture order, former officials say,” Newsweek via RawStory.

Former CIA and FBI interrogators have said publicly that such measures not only violate Geneva Convention prohibitions on torture, but are not as effective in the long run as breaking down prisoners with other techniques. Frazier Thompson, who heads the federal unit that interrogates key terrorism suspects, added his voice to that message this week, telling NPR that “rapport-based techniques elicit the most credible information.”

Normalizing torture one interview at a time,” Digby’s Hullabaloo.

I’m sickened, literally, whenever I hear Trump say this stuff and get huge cheers. but why wouldn’t he? The media doesn’t see it as a problem. At this point I don’t know what depravity Trump could recommend to deal with terrorism that would make the press confront him to his face. It’s true they did get worked up about his making fun of a disabled reporter, which was revolting, so that’s promising. But they have a ways to go.

Draft-Dodger Trump Said Sleeping Around Was My ‘Personal Vietnam’“, The Daily Beast

In a 1997 interview with shock jock Howard Stern, Trump talked about how he had been “lucky” not to have contracted diseases when he was sleeping around.

“I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era,” Trump said in a video that resurfaced Tuesday on Buzzfeed, “It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

What do you think about concerns over Twitter’s slowing growth?

Do you use Twitter?

A lot of reporters have found it to be a very useful tool.

But is it about to be overtaken by other platforms? The financial press is pointing to some red flags.

The high-profile social media company’s latest financial report showed no growth in new users during the most recent quarter, and well behind earlier projections for the full year.

This has financial analysts fretting over the company’s future.

According to one recent article:

User growth remains stagnant, interaction is flat and, while revenues are up quarter over quarter, the company continues to lose money.

A Wall Street Journal column points to fine print in the “forward looking” portion of its financials, which has been quietly adding new future risks onto the public record (“For Twitter’s Troubles, Read the Fine Print“).

It notes:

Twitter adjusted its language around future risk. It now says that there’s the possible risk that its user base and engagement “do not grow or decline.” That phrase was swapped in for “do not continue to grow.” It also added a new possible risk that “Twitter’s strategies, priorities or plans take longer to execute than anticipated.”

As the column notes, “subtle additions to forward-looking statements can provide clues about what might eventually balloon into a bigger problem.”

But as Twitter users, what do you think? Does Twitter play as great a role for you as it did a year or two ago? Where does it sit in your list of useful applications and sites?

Assessing the city’s “open government” initiative

“Open data” is a great idea for state and local governments, providing a way for the public to easily access the mountains of data produced by governments at all levels. If it works, it provides ways to check what the city and state are actually doing and to hold elected officials accountable.

Elected officials have given lots of lip service to the idea over several years.

I wondered about the status of Hawaii’s open data initiatives, and decided to take a quick look at the city’s efforts. I’ll check on the state’s progress at another time.

In November 2013, the City Council passed Bill 53 (2013) regarding open data. It summarized the background of the open data movement.

The Council further finds that on June 26, 2012, the Governor issued an Executive Directive to all state department heads announcing the Open Data Initiative. On August 10, 2012, then-candidate and current Mayor Kirk Caldwell, signed an Open Data Pledge. On October 4, 2012, State Chief data officer Sanjeev Bhagowalia unveiled the State’s Twelve Year IT Transformation Plan, which included as one of its top priorities the establishment of a State open data portal at https://data.hawaii.gov. The City followed suit and created https://data.honolulu.qov. These actions enabled public facing websites to facilitate the sharing of master data sets. On July 3, 2013, the Governor signed into law Act 263, which relates to open data. This new law requires state executive branch departments to make electronic data sets available to the public, absolves the State from liability for certain deficiencies or incomplete data, and requires the Chief data officer to develop policies and procedures to implement the open data initiative.

Finally, the Council finds that an open data policy has been shown to drive increased government efficiency and civic engagement, leading to social and economic benefits as a result of innovative citizen interaction with government. Social and economic benefits include, but are not limited to, empowering citizens through the democratization of information and fostering citizen participation in city government projects, supporting early stage entrepreneurship, encouraging positive environments that contribute to workforce development and job creation, and fostering a positive business environment and public-private partnerships.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The bill provides:

Each agency shall use reasonable efforts to make appropriate and existing electronic data sets maintained by the agency electronically available at no cost to the public through the city’s open data portal at data.honolulu.gov or its successor website designated by the city’s director of information technology….

As with lots of great sounding measures, there were several caveats. This seems to be the main one.

Nothing in this chapter shall require agencies to create new electronic data sets or to make data sets available upon demand…

I’ve just started to spot check what’s actually available at data.honolulu.gov. You can click on the link for a full catalog of available data. Since the list of available data sets is so large, dig in and share your observations with the rest of us.

Here’s my initial take.

Some of these data sources actually deliver on the promise. For example, the database of traffic incidents spans a period from 2012 through the present. That makes it possible to go back and spot problem areas, spots where more incidents are reported, etc.

Data on abandoned vehicles also covers a broad time period from 2007 to just the last couple of days.

But the database of “Crime Incidents” is described as “an active feed from the Honolulu Police Department.” But the last entries appear to be from August 22, 2015, where the data abruptly stops. So it’s almost complete, but somewhere along the line the ball was dropped.

Other data are much more limited. The Honolulu 311 reports are online. These are complaints or requests for service submitted using the Honolulu311 mobile app. When it was launched, this service got positive press.

But for some unknown reason, the online data only contain items submitted in the past month. That leaves no way to track the city’s performance over time, to identify problem areas, or the most frequent types of problems.

Some data looked interesting, but the links didn’t work, at least when I was checking. One promises to identify all state owned land. It provided an external link, which returned only an error message. A list of city owned properties couldn’t be opened without a county id and password.

Some databases are simple snapshots in time. For example, “Hanauma Bay Revenues FY14 2013-12-31.” Separate databases report revenues and expenditures at Hanauma over several fiscal years. That would at least make it possible to compile a time series to track changes or trends. Same with city budgets, reported in discrete files by year.

There’s a useful link for shoreline access points, which opens a map of Oahu with public access points shown as red dots. Click on one of them and you get a description of it.

Here’s one that might yield something interesting. It is apparently a list of the top ten internet sites accessed from each city department, but only covered the single month of Dec 2012. An updated list over time would certainly be of public interest!

In any case, there are hundreds of listed sources of data, but the list appears to contain lots of duplicates. Much of the data should be useful, others not so much.

But there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what’s in this collection of data, nor any sense that city departments are making progress in opening large datasets to the public.

I’ve seen some mainland jurisdictions provide access to the city’s checkbook, allowing micro-level analysis of departmental spending.

I searched for the term “contracts.” The only items found were city budgets. A search for “procurement” produced nothing. Of course, there are separate city systems for procurement matters, and I know lists of personal service contracts are provided regularly to the city council. But accessing these in the form of a database would make analysis of the lists easier and more likely for someone to undertake.

The other thing I notice is that few people make any use of these data. Only a handful of the thousand or so slices of city data have been accessed ore than a few hundred times since 2012. These seem to have been the most heavily used.

But even here there are problems.

Anyway, here are the most used databases, using the city’s numbers.

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