Herd Immunity Against Online Spying

The Weekly Sift

Can people like us make the NSA’s job harder?

Unlike Senator Lindsey Graham, I’m not “glad” the NSA is hoovering my data into a big database that they pledge (cross their hearts and hope to die) not to access without court authorization and Congressional oversight.

Last time I checked I wasn’t conspiring with terrorists, and off the top of my head I can’t think of any big secrets I’m hiding, but the whole thing just makes me uneasy, given what has happened in the past. The meaning of “terrorist” sometimes gets stretched from jihadist mass murderers to, say, environmentalists who sabotage bulldozers or maybe even Martin Luther King. And while I don’t know how seriously to take Steven Rambam’s claim that it’s “routine” for authorities to log all the cell phones at demonstrations like Occupy Wall Street, I can’t call it unbelievable either.

So, as I said last…

View original post 1,078 more words

If you have a laptop with Intel graphics and broken backlight control…

e.g. a Sony Vaio Y-series, where upon seeing the debugging data kernel developer Matthew Garrett (mjg) pronounced it “what an awful implementation — utterly broken”, there is hope yet.

Matthew has been working on native backlight control for a while, and for Intel hardware, there’s currently only one patch left to merge onto Linus’ kernel tree; it applies cleanly onto the most recent kernel release candidate (3.0-rc7).

Unfortunately, by default the ACPI subsystem will still be used if available, which is the sensible default. You do want to use the predefined backlight values whenever possible, not the raw values the graphics card let you set.

Ubuntu users have been resorting to Kamal Mostafa’s linux-kamal-mjgbacklight repository, which enables native backlight control, disable the ACPI video driver, and provide a patched GNOME Power Manager that can interface with the native backlight control.

The workaround I came up with is more lightweight — it just uses inotify-tools to monitor the brightness file, and apply an appropriate equivalent value to the native backlight control. Feel free to use this if you’re affected by a similar problem.

Discovering Emacs: Org-Mode

Needing to find a tried-and-tested GTD application, I finally discovered Emacs’ Org-Mode. It’s a planner, a note-taking application — and more. I’ve taken to using it to generate most documents — whether they’ll end up as text (for email) or LaTeX (for reports). Amazingly flexible and well-documented.

You’d want to install the latest version, rather than relying on the version bundled with Emacs (since version 22) — otherwise some features described in the documentation simply won’t work (e.g. quick-selecting the initial state of a TODO item).