The Nth Degree

Stupidity knows no bounds, but in my experience is especially prevalent in people who always feel the need to prove their intelligence. If the first thing someone does to defend their position  is to point at their license or degree, chances are  very good they’re completely inept.  Recently I had a discussion with someone who reminded me just how offensive it is to even try to communicate with these idiots.

Techno GripeMy very first experience with someone who had a master’s degree in computer science was my first duty station supervisor in the military. This LT (JG)  was in charge of the base computer systems, and I was his first and only enlisted staff member. I had never touched a conventional computer before, knew absolutely nothing about them, and was, of course, immediately tasked with building hundreds of computers from parts and then shortly thereafter tasked with being the security point of contact for all the military users of  tens of thousands of computers across every military base on the entire West coast of the US.

The  problem is that the LT  was a degreed idiot. He may have passed a few tests and had a pretty piece of paper with his  name on it,  but he had no clue how technology actually worked, he didn’t understand the very basic concept of Boolean values and could not even comprehend what a batch file was.

Seeing that I’d get no help or answers from him, I took the  manuals home and  read them cover to  cover, read the entire IETF RFC library and many technical books on the subject  over the course of my first few weeks at that assignment. Then  I spent eight months trying to gracefully educate him on these basics…and in his gratitude he took every opportunity to treat me like crap for having a better understanding of technology than he did after years and years of his “education.”

Fast forward a few years. When my son was a toddler we spent a lot of time with his friends’ parents. One lady in particular (Maria, a college professor) drove me quite batty. Most of her family were MD’s and many in my family were DC’s, so,  knowing only this,  she treated me like a pariah. Maria would take her son to urgent care if he slept in late, had a headache or dared to talk back to her. In her mind, these were all major defects and something just had to be wrong with him.  As you can expect, this poor child was one of those kids who was branded ADHD before he could talk.

Maria stepped on my every nerve, but one specific incident stands out. She was in the middle of telling me how chiropractors frequently paralyze their patients (a flat-out lie), and I pointed out that MD’s are far more lethal than guns. In point of fact, your MD is  about 300x more likely to kill you than a gun. Not wanting to make it personal by suggesting that Maria’s family were incompetent or homicidal psychopaths, I followed that up with this simple  statement: “but you have to remember that 50% of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class.”

She stood there glaring at me, aghast, her jaw dropped to the floor, for what felt like a full minute. The other parents and even the children in the room were completely silent while  we  waited, watching intently  for  her response.  The only sound was the air conditioner chugging away.

Finally, she screamed, “no they don’t!” The other parents and some of the children couldn’t even contain their laughter. This woman was so high-and-mighty, perpetually attacking everything and everyone she disagreed with,  but couldn’t do fifth-grade math?  Apparently, the reason 7,500 people die each year from pharmaceutical errors is that simple mathematics are beyond the scope of medical school.

But this all pales in comparison to what happened with my latest experience with another degreed idiot. A client’s site had both an email account and an ftp account hijacked within 24 hours. The passwords  had both been randomly generated, were not brute-forced,  and only this one person, Jane,  had access to both of them.  I asked the client to talk to her and have her scan her computer for malware so we could ensure the machine wouldn’t be compromised again after a password reset. The client forwarded me a message from Jane where Jane clearly stated that she had not been infected and that it couldn’t have been related to her.

I took the time to be sure and again reviewed the logs. The only tie for these two accounts was definitely Jane, but, she was quite adamant that she had not been infected. I wrote a very civil and respectful message to her asking her to scan again, along with my regular advice for security, and the common compromise mechanisms for the specific hijack I suspected. I even offered to login and verify that the machine was actually clean and safe.

Jane wrote back absolutely livid that I would dare suggest security changes or that she might have ever been infected. After all, and I quote, “My husband and I both have Master’s degrees in computer science…” The most compelling proof of this was that she didn’t use a single carriage return in her 350+ word message. Apparently she obtained her degree before keyboards included a return or enter key.

She also went into greater detail about how she had actually been infected, and it was none of my business, but even though neither of the antivirus programs on her computer could remove it, she was just sure it was gone now. Not interested in keeping it civil, she took several swipes at my character, my skill level and my education – including a statement about how my message to her was a perfect example of why IT workers  were justifiably hated.

I wrote her again, maintaining my civil and respectful tone (my professional policy is to “kill ’em with kindness”). I reassured her that it was not a personal  attack, and that she was the only one with access to both accounts.

As expected, her response was absurd, and only proved her level of incompetence. Remember: master’s degree in computer science, okay? She explained how there was never an “infection,” though there actually were files detected by both her antivirus programs whenever she opened her browser that  both antivirus programs  were each  incapable of removing…but just because there were infected files detected by both her antivirus programs doesn’t mean she was ever actually “infected.” And because I clearly needed the reminder, “you don’t know who you’re dealing with or what you’re talking about.” Topping it off, her firewall is “locked down tight.” As if firewalls had anything to do with normal browsing behavior. I’ll bet she regularly deletes her browser cookies for her “security,” too. Sigh.

Out of curiosity, and because I “didn’t know who I was dealing with”, I googled her name and location to see just how bad the state of the world was. Not surprisingly, this woman teaches computer science at a university. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t even feign surprise. Abrasive, defensive, ignorant and technologically incompetent. Yep, that sounds about right. She simply must be teaching computer science at a university somewhere. What’s more: her husband manages the campus IT network. It finally makes sense that about 30% of all hacking attempts against our servers are from college and university IP addresses.

The most appalling thing to me is that these people each felt so justified in their behavior that they were prepared to scream it from the rooftops. Not knowing that 50% and half mean the same thing, or that an infection is an infection (but especially when your antivirus is incapable of removing it), is a sign of extremely defective reasoning. These are the “experts” for military, medicine  and education, at least in their own heads.  They are so set in their opinions that facts, reason and logic are simply vulgar words to them. These people shape the minds of technology today.

And people still wonder why Windows 8 didn’t have a start button.

What I’ve really learned from these experiences is that my policy of being nice “no matter what” is the real source of this problem. Would the LT have still treated me so poorly had I not tried to help him understand the problems with his decisions? Would Maria have still had her abrasive behavior had I not taken the effort to allow her an out? Would Jane have attacked my character had I not offered to help her? We’ll never know.

Big Brother is Watching YOU!

Privacy has become a luxury that few people have the resources to afford. It seems our privacy is to be invaded at every turn. We know from past experience that anything useful and advantageous also has the potential for abuse and harm.

Look out everyone…big brother has arrived in style.

Security Tracking Systems For Today That Keep Up With The World Of Tomorrow

Metuchen, NJ, November 18, 2011

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Cell Phone Detectors

Security in this country is a huge issue; on a national level, and for corporations, prisons and individuals alike. This is where Berkeley Varitronics Systems comes in – a leading provider of advanced wireless solutions and security products to the domestic and international wireless telecommunications industry. CEO Scott Schober is a sought-after security expert who made a presentation at the inaugural Concordia Summit in New York City recently to top level political decision-makers from around the world that included Mikheil Saakashvili – President of Georgia, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President George W. Bush, and Thomas Kean, former Governor of New Jersey.

Schober’s security team was part of the 9/11 first-responders who attempted to locate people buried under the rubble by locating their cell phones. BVS products can be used to detect anything – from people illegally crossing our borders, bomb threats, detecting smuggled cell phones in prisons, to protecting board room secrets of corporate America.

Berkeley Varitronics Wolfhound-Pro cell phone detector has been featured on Fox News. It is a precision, handheld, wireless sniffer specifically tuned to the RF signature of common cell phones for both U.S. and European bands and its high speed scanning receiver allows security personnel to locate nearby cell phones in either standby mode or during active voice, text or data transmissions. Instead of illegal and unsafe cellular jamming signals, this detector prevents wireless usage by detecting and even locating the perpetrator.

This product is vital in prisons where keeping cell phones out is becoming a major problem across the country, but especially in California where state prisoners are being bumped into local jails. Prisoners having access to cell phones is always a serious safety concern, but more so with gang members who use them to contact outside members, intimidate witnesses, or conduct criminal activity from inside prison walls. Cell phones can also be used to relay information on transportation of inmates, by giving date, time and route.

Berkeley Varitronics Systems are featured at all major security events. They were recently a featured company at the 4G World Conference in Chicago, where attendees were offered an opportunity to meet their guest spokesperson, Los Angeles Lakers star Andrew Goudelock. (Please see: Keeping America Safe) They also recently made a presentation at the Chiefs of Police Conference in Kansas where they demonstrated the latest in cell phone detection devices.

Located in Metuchen, NJ, Berkeley Varitronics Systems has been providing advanced wireless solutions and products to the domestic and international wireless telecommunications industry for over 38 years. For more information on this respected company, please visit: Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc.

Security Items of Interest

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Please Unsubscribe Me

My pet peeve for the day are  people who manage to sign up on a list but can’t figure out   how to get off.

I could see having trouble managing subscriptions if it weren’t for the fact that Yahoo Groups provides instructions at the bottom of every single email on how to unsubscribe. Yet, almost daily someone on one  of my lists will write, “I would like to cancel my subscription, thanks!”

Why is it that people can manage to sign themselves up on a list but can’t manage to figure out how to get themselves off? It simply boggles my mind. Are people just lazy or incredibly stupid — maybe it’s both.

I’ll be the first to admit that technology isn’t always so simple to use and too often it is faster, easier and cheaper to do  things the  old fashioned way — with pen and paper. If you ask me — any person who can’t figure out how to get off a list that  they signed up for, then perhaps it’s best to leave the computing to others.

I guess the reason it bothers me so much is that training is cheap and easy. There are free tutorials online for just about every topic under the sun — probably even open heart surgery — though I probably wouldn’t recommend it. Anyone, can use a search engine like Google.com to find the answers to the meaning of life. You would be surprised what interesting things you can learn — for free — by searching on Youtube.com for topics like,  “how to build a bird house.”

My son was having trouble in math. I searched on Youtube.com for “math multiplication tips” and similar searches – it brought up some very nice tutorials.

If you learn better one on one many libraries offer free computer lessons, check with your librarian for local computer clubs, members are generally very helpful. Most computer technicians offer training at reasonable prices. I know we have quite a few elderly clients, we encourage them to write their questions down and any issues they are having, so that their problems can be solved, whether it be with training or some other “fix”.

My point – help is available — use it. You are never too old to learn new tricks – so go unsubscribe yourself.   🙂