Not-so-smart Smart Phones

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A security firm has released their “Dirty Dozen” smart phones that pose the greatest security risks to their owners: http://bit.ly/vaid1L. Why should you care?

Given what people use our smart phones for these days, a security hole in your smart phone is as risky as a security hole in your computer. We bank, we shop, we email, we even store lists of our passwords, all on the little phone in our pocket or purse. If someone breaks into your phone, they may be able to access any or all of these things – and you could lose money or privacy, even jeopardize your company, your credit, your identity, etc.

Wait, you say, how does that work with just a phone?

When your phone software is out of date it means that there are known security holes sitting wide open on your phone. These vulnerabilities are documented and published on the Internet and accessible to everyone who’s looking, which includes malicious hackers.

The longer that vulnerability is known, the more likely it is that someone will write some bit of wicked code to exploit it. The more phones of a particular type out there that are likely to have that vulnerability go unpatched, the more reason the bad guys have to write something nasty for that type of phone, because there’s a larger audience that may be susceptible to it.

Since, as a general rule, Android phones go a long time without being updated, they make a good target for malicious hackers. These models in particular tend to have outdated software right off the shelf, and the manufacturers are slow to release updates to the latest (and most secure) software.

This is one of the things Apple does a little better – they make it easy for even their least security-savvy users to keep their iPhones up-to-date by default. Now if only they released security updates more often …

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Snowstorm Casualties

Ouch!

This poor little Smart Car! A tree in Manhattan fell down during the early snowfall this weekend and crushed it like a little bug. And what a lovely tree – it’s a shame when the city streets lose a big old tree like this one.

Ouch!

Here it is closer up with the tree still crushing it, and sprawling away to block the whole street. You can see all the leaves still on the tree – they say that the leaves, combined with just how wet the snow was, is what made so many trees fall. The snow was just way too early this year.

Once the tree was removed, the car wasn’t really any better off than it was when the tree was still on it.

Help me!  I've been squashed!

Poor little thing never stood a chance against that tree. Do you notice the sympathetic black Smart Car next to it, commiserating?

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Kitchen Renovation

This winter Gordon and I renovated our country kitchen. When we bought the house the kitchen looked like this:The Catskills Kitchen, pre-mini-remodel

All we did was paint, hardware, tile and countertops, but the improvement is astronomical.

Well, we did a little more than just that. We knocked down that silly little gingerbreading above the sink. We took down the gauzy curtain. We painted the cabinets inside and out, a nice sunny goldenrod. We tiled the backsplash with travertine. We replaced the formica with butcher block countertops, and swapped out all the hardware. Gordon made us a small island that he topped with extra butcher block. And once we put down the reclaimed wood floor throughout the house we’ll get rid of that old linoleum. Here’s what it looks like now, and we didn’t even touch the appliances! It’s amazing how big a difference you can make just changing out the key surfaces …

The Catskills Kitchen, post-mini-remodelGordon also changed the faucet for one of those cool ones that has a spout that pulls out and becomes a sprayer, and the sink now has a little soap pump. He is interested in tying it all together with stainless steel appliances, but that strikes me as a bit too modern and cold for this warm, country kitchen. I was thinking more a cream enamel. Anyone have any thoughts on appliances?

Next time I’ll show you what we’ve been doing to the outside of the house. There’s been a lot of work outside, let me tell you, to the house and to the yard. And then, too, there’s the upcoming master bathroom remodel – Gordon’s finished the demolition phase (he has all the fun). It’s been fully gutted down to sheetrock and plywood, and we’re waiting for the final pieces to come in before we kick off the rebuilding.

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Axe Man 2 – the video

So here’s the video of Ritchie and Randy pulling the tree out of the stream. Ritchie’s up on the back of the truck, working the mechanical arm, and Randy’s on the chainsaw. At this point, Ritchie’s already picked up the tree and rotated it to allow Randy to cut off a branch, 15′ long by about 1.5′ diameter.

In this second video, Ritchie is loading the three logs onto the truck. The biggest log fits with about half a foot to spare – and Randy measured it to fit by pacing it off while it was still suspended in the stream bed. These guys have been doing this for a long, long time. When the video sort of sags and the truck is off center – that’s when I was staring openmouthed at what they were doing, so dumbfounded I forgot I was filming. I do that twice in this two minute clip.

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Axe Man

We lost a gorgeous, healthy 80′ oak tree to the winter storms this year. It fell from the cliff overlooking our stream, toppling over the stream and bringing down about ten smaller, younger trees as it fell. Gordon and I cleared the top 40′ or so that extended past the tree line into our yard, and that took us two weeks and 4 runs to the chipping yard (no fireplace yet). But we’ve been at a loss to figure out what to do with the main trunk. It’s another 40′ long and 2’+ in diameter, suspended about 10′ above the stream bed.

innocuous enough, right?

Well, this weekend we met Ritchie, a neighbor with a big ol’ logging truck with some kind of hydraulic pincer arm and vanity plates that say “LOG IT”.

Richie's on the back of the truck

Ritchie came over today and took the thing away just, you know, to be a good neighbor. He brought his employee, Randy, and they cleared the tree away in under 10 minutes! Randy’s the one in this shot, with the chainsaw.

Randy's on the chainsaw

I took a couple of minutes of video of them pulling this tree out, cutting it down to fit on the truck, and stacking it on board – it’s amazing how fast and efficient the process was. I can’t post video directly from my phone but I’ll put it online this week after I’ve downloaded it to the laptop.

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