Anthem, HIPAA, and encryption

Late last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Anthem wasn’t encrypting the database containing tens of millions of health records that were stolen by sophisticated hackers.

There are numerous problems with that story, the first being that we don’t know yet whether the data was encrypted. There are other unconfirmed reports that say the attackers used a stolen username and password to get at the data, which, if that’s true, likely would have allowed them to decrypt the data anyway.

Still, I’m seeing calls now for the government to revise HIPAA to require encryption, rather than merely encourage it. And of course there are good and bad things about that as well.

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Setting up Retropie on the Raspberry Pi

I bought a Raspberry Pi over the weekend intending to turn it into a retro gaming system. I’d rather not have a mess of systems and cartridges out for my kids to tear up and to constantly have to switch around at their whims; a deck-of-cards-sized console with everything loaded on a single SD card seems much more appealing.

I followed Lifehacker’s writeup, which mostly worked. My biggest problem was my controllers. NES and SNES games would freeze seemingly at random, which I later isolated to trying to move to the left. It turned out my Playstation-USB adapter didn’t get along with the Pi at all, and was registering the select and start buttons when I tried to move certain directions, pausing the game.

When I switched to a Retrolink SNES-style pad, the random pausing went away. The precision reminded me of the really cheap aftermarket controllers of yore for the NES and SNES. I concluded my controller, which I bought used, was worn out. Ultimately I ended up switching to a Logitech controller, which worked well. Read more

Macs aren’t the only computers that last forever

In the midst of Microsoft reminding everyone that Windows XP’s doomsday is less than a month away, Apple quietly announced that Mac OS 10.6’s doomsday was sometime last year, and no more security updates would be forthcoming for Snow Leopard.

That led to this piece about why anyone would still want to run Snow Leopard. Well, there are reasons for it–and for that matter, there are reasons why they would want/need to step back to 10.5 (Leopard). I don’t disagree with that part at all, but I do disagree with the point at the end, where he says that if you want a computer that lasts a long time, you have to buy a Mac.

Let me remind you that Microsoft is sending out reminders to people that it’s time to migrate off an operating system that hasn’t been generally available on new consumer PCs since 2007. Read more

How the previous week’s headlines flow together

Here are some headlines I read this past week: Dell is trying to take itself private. Microsoft is investing in Dell. Intel is pulling out of the motherboard market. AMD is considering ARM CPUs. And the PC is dead.

It’s all related.
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A cheap upgrade for obsolete computer cases

The ATX standard has changed very little in the last 15 years, which means some rather old computer cases can still accept new motherboards, as long as you also replace the power supply.

The bad news, as I stare at the case that once housed a Micron Client Pro 766 Xi (a 266 MHz Pentium II that was state of the art in 1997) is that front-mount USB ports were unheard of in those days, as were digital camera memory cards. Instead, machines of that era used obsolete floppy and Zip disks for removable storage. They also typically had more 5.25″ bays than we need today. When CD burners cost $400, most of us kept a reader in as well, to avoid wearing out expensive burners prematurely.

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Upgrade update

My new fire-breathing dragon of a server is sitting idle at the moment. I would have liked to have had it up and running today, but now I’m starting to realize why it took me so long to migrate off my Pentium II-450. Setting up Linux web servers is a lot more complicated than it was in 2001.

They can do a lot more than they could in 2001 too, but when I first built that server, the process literally went in about three steps: Install Debian, apt-get install apache mysql php, then download blogging software, create a MySQL database and account for it, edit a config file, then start blogging. You could get it done in an hour, and a lot of that time was waiting for stuff to load off a CD-ROM or download over a 256K DSL connection.

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15 years ago, at the home of the blue shirts

Consumerist had some fun today at the expense of a Best Buy ad from September 15, 1996.

Here’s the kind of price deflation we’ve seen in 15 years.
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Maybe this is the sales tactic computer stores use these days

So, Dr. A’s computer is going to get the full Farquhar treatment. I told him I’m pretty confident I can get it running better than it ever has.

He said one of the salesmen told him it’s overdue for a crash, because it’s a Dell.

I really don’t like that kind of a generalization. I told him yes, all other things being equal, I think HP has better engineers than Dell. But would I discard an old machine just because it’s a Dell? Well, I ran this web site on an old Dell computer from about 2003 until October 2010. Actions speak louder than words. But there are a lot more problems with that argument. So I think it’s a sales tactic. I think if he’d come in and said he had an HP and he thinks it’s due, the salesman would have said, “Oh, it’s overdue for a crash because it’s an HP. Here, let me show you this Dell….”

Here’s why.

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Android modding gets just a little more mainstream

Infoworld published a piece on using Cyanogenmod to upgrade an orphan Android phone, the Motorola Cliq XT, beyond the officially supported Android 1.4.

It’s not a detailed how-to and has a lot of generalities, and someone wanting to do the same thing will still have to do a lot of Google searching, but we’re talking a short-ish (I’m guessing 1,500 words or less) Infoworld piece here. It’s a magazine that’s always been more about trends than details.
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Run DD-WRT on an old PC

DD-WRT is an extremely popular firmware upgrade for wireless routers, and for good reason. It’s extremely powerful, and allows you to use a cheap wireless router to perform the function of costlier hardware.

A commercial wireless router takes up a lot less space and consumes a lot less power than a PC, but sometimes you might find yourself needing a router for a short period of time. You could go spend $50 on a router, but if you have an obsolete PC and a pile of NICs laying around, why not just press that pile of junk into duty to get the job done and save 50 bucks?

That’s what DD-WRT x86 lets you do.
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