Tag: privacy

Privacy On Deathwatch – Episode 63

On this the 63rd episode of Citizens of Tech, the citizens have spoken. They have upvoted by the light of the tent, Enhance! Enhance! Enhance!, Tesla’s new power distribution buddy, mesh backhaul, and then we’ve thrown in some content we like, today we learned, plus a brand new deathwatch!

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Giving Away Our Privacy One Click At A Time – Episode 55

In today’s show, the Citizens of Tech take on the news from the industries of energy, electric vehicles, off-the-grid living, consumer espionage, wireless networking, and medicine. Eric Sutphen and Ethan Banks go back and forth discussing these nerdy stories, starting out with our very first debunking. Yeah. We think the wireless power network for drones story is a steaming load of…uh…laundry. Uh-huh.

Wireless power for drones (?)

Drone flies for 40 minutes using wireless power. from Futurology

We’re pretty sure this is a complete fabrication. Watch the video. You’ll never see a power source feeding the wire supported on the tripod. Now go to the vendor’s site, getcorp.com. It’s a disaster zone of bad grammar, typos and pseudo-science. If there’s anything of substance to this story, we’re not finding it. Maybe we’re wrong. That would be cool, actually. We like what they’re selling. We’re just not buying it.

Nikola’s hydrogen fuel cell truck design with 1200 mile range.


It’s a design, not even a prototype. But we’re hopeful.

Live off the grid in an egg.



This tiny, egg-shaped home collects rain water, sunlight, and wind in a compact form factor for €79,000, plus another €2,000 – 3000 for shipping. Inside and out, it looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. #egglife

The marketing mafia are mining your streaming habits.


The question isn’t whether it’s as bad as you think it is. The question is whether or not it’s WORSE. Mostly, it’s worse. In this story, we discover Facebook has an agreement with A&E to cross-reference your public IP address. If you show up on Facebook with the same IP address you streamed from, Facebook will use what you streamed to inform what to advertise to you.

What’s next? Smart sheets that judge your sexual performance and upload that data to Zuck for a marketing analysis?

They know which printer printed that, and they are here to help.


Did you know color laser printers use steganographic techniques to watermark print jobs? Yep. And it’s because the government wants it that way as an anti-counterfeiting tool.

Why spin the record when you can spin the needle?

Meet RokBlok. The answer to a question no one was asking, and yet we must have one. As they say in the video, “Ridiculously fun.”

The swaddling comfort of a hot Google mesh.



Ars goes deep in a review of Google’s second attempt at a consumer wifi system, and they think it’s hot. Eric is pretty sure it’s evil.

Coagulate. I command it!


Medicine gets a step in healing wounds with a device that tells the body via the nervous system to start cranking out platelet blood cells. Results show significantly faster wound close rates. They are calling it a “neural tourniquet.” We’re calling it interesting, because it demonstrates using the human nervous system as a network to relay commands to the body. Not the first time such a thing has been done, but still. More of this sort of bodyhacking, please.

In closing…

We riff on the nerdy TV and movies we’re watching and anticipating, and Eric shares a “Today I Learned.”

Until next week…

Snooping Biometric VCRs – Show 038

Show #038 – Snooping Biometric VCRs

Welcome to Citizens of Tech, your weekly or so dose of gaming, science, energy, automobiles, apps, and anything else we find interesting. We’re nerds, so if we like it, we figure you will, too. And we try to get into our topics. How do these things work? Why do we care? We really don’t know….but we’ll pretend we do. With authority!

You can find everything we’re nerding out about at citizensoftech.com. Go there to listen to all of our shows and become a Patreon patron. You know, give us money. We’re starving artists. Not really. But still, show the show some love.

And also, we have voicemail! Send us messages in your best creeper van voice. That number is 805-380-TECH. We want to hear what you learned today, and the content YOU like.

So today on Citizens of Tech, what have we got, Eric?

We have Microsoft in UR Skypez, biometric death, black carbon engines, hydrogen fuel, and ode to the VCR, along with a new, stinking corpse of an addition to Deathwatch, Content We Like, and Today We Learned.

Jumping right in, let’s talk about privacy…

No one knows who you are on the Internet…do they?


  • Online privacy. While I expect a reasonable amount of privacy in my messages, etc. I also ASSUME that everything I say can be read by someone else. Even if it’s the sort of thing that I anticipate is private, like my e-mail, I assume that someone else could read it.
  • In my mind, I assume that any cloud service has the ABILITY to violate my privacy. If I don’t own it and am not paying for it, I cede control of the information.
  • That may or may not be a reasonable assumption, but it’s how I think.
  • I give up a certain amount of privacy, i.e. the ability to keep information about myself secret — unknowable by someone else unless I share the information — in exchange for a convenient, capable service.
  • So…Skype.
  • You know that Skype used to be a peer-to-peer service. Conversation pathways unpredictable.
  • “The Skype network was also designed for a world of permanently connected desktop PCs, with both bandwidth and processor power to spare. The growth of mobile computing and smartphones upset that assumption, adding a large number of Skype clients that were only intermittently connected and lacked the excessive bandwidth, processor power, and battery life to support acting as supernodes.”
  • And then Microsoft back in 2012 update the infrastructure so that there would always be a “supernode” available, even if there were significant network service interruptions.
  • And now, the peer-to-peer functionality is going away entirely. You’ll connect to Skype in the cloud, and that’s it. And if you have an old client that can’t, you won’t connect anymore.
  • “This transition means that old peer-to-peer Skype clients will cease to work. Clients for the new network will be available for Windows XP and up, OS X Yosemite and up, iOS 8 and up, and Android 4.03 and up. However, certain embedded clients—in particular, those integrated into smart TVs and available for the PlayStation 3—are being deprecated, with no replacement. Microsoft says that since those clients are little used and since almost every user of those platforms has other Skype-capable devices available, it is no longer worth continuing to support them.”
  • Um…the whole peer-to-peer thing gave us some notion of privacy in our Skype comms. But now? Without question — and there was some doubt before — anyone’s Skype traffic COULD be intercepted at a Microsoft data center terminating Skype traffic. I mean…as far as we know.
  • Do we care? It’s not going to stop me from using Skype, although I have been looking for an alternative.
  • Maybe I’m too apathetic.

Do you use biometrics to secure your phone?


  • People use biometrics (facial recognition, fingerprint, etc.) to secure their devices all the time
  • I do, do you?
  • We generally consider this to be a foolproof method of securing access to our phones, computers, and other gadgets.
  • Traditionally this has held true… until now
  • Police officers approached a professor at Michigan State University earlier this year
  • Why?
  • Oh, nothing much, they just needed access to a murder victim’s phone.
  • So now you’re thinking something along the lines of “Oh, they contacted the CompSci professor to assist with decrypting the phone or breaking the algorithm used to secure it.
  • Your line of reasoning would be valid.
  • And you’d also be wrong.
  • The police in Michigan contacted the professor in order to get and have 3D-replicated a recorded fingerprint of the victim.
  • There was very little detail about whether it was actually successful, but it raises several questions
    • Why do they need information on the victim’s phone?
    • Was there a warrant?
    • Did the next of kin consent?
    • Where is the line?
    • How do we circumvent this (for those of us who would wish to)
    • What’s your take?
    • There was very little detail about whether it was actually successful, but it raises several questions
      • Why do they need information on the victim’s phone?
      • Was there a warrant?
      • Did the next of kin consent?
      • Where is the line?
      • How do we circumvent this (for those of us who would wish to)
      • What’s your take?

Better MPG, Worse Emissions?



  • Direct injection engines are an increasingly common engine architecture that helps with MPG. How?
  • First, “direct injection” implies exactly what you think it does. Fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber under high pressure, instead of into the intake port of the cylinder under lower pressure. That gives computers a chance to very carefully monitor engine load and decide how much fuel is required to get the required combustion.
  • From our good friends at Wikipedia. “The engine management system continually chooses among three combustion modes: ultra lean burn, stoichiometric, and full power output. Each mode is characterized by the air-fuel ratio. The stoichiometric air-fuel ratio for gasoline is 14.7:1 by weight (mass), but ultra lean mode can involve ratios as high as 65:1 (or even higher in some engines, for very limited periods). These mixtures are much leaner than in a conventional engine and reduce fuel consumption considerably.”
  • Okay — this is all wonderful. Leaner running, more fuel-efficient engine that reduces CO2 emissions.
  • BUT, as this VOA article points out, “a new Canadian study suggests that although fuel-efficient technologies may provide more miles per gallon, some of these new gas saving internal combustion engines could actually contribute to climate change…….The study found that that while GDI engines emit less carbon dioxide, they also produce higher levels of the climate-warming pollutant black carbon than traditional engines.”
  • Solution? Maybe better filters in the engines, although that might impact fuel efficiency. SIGH.

Hydrogen Fuel, efficient, clean, and inexpensive:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/22/cheap-and-clean-australian-company-creates-hydrogen-with-near-zero-emissions + http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/articles/2015/researchers-crack-methane-cracking/

  • When it comes to cleaner car tech, Hydrogen is right up there.
  • The only byproduct is H2O – Oxygen Dihydride a dangerous industrial solvent that is deadly when breathed in sufficient quantities.
    • Okay, okay, it’s water.
    • Just water.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells have been sort of “hot tech” for years now
  • They haven’t really taken root, however? Why?
  • Much like other clean renewables, hydrogen is hard to produce without releasing carbon in the generation or facing a massive up-front energy sink.
  • One Australian company has a plan to fix that:
  • “Methane Cracking” – Wanna buy some crack, Ethan? I meant Cracked Methane!!!!
    • Natural Gas is passed through a cheap iron ore catalyst
    • Methane in the gas breaks down into its core elements, Hydrogen and Carbon
    • Here’s where it gets cool
    • Instead of outputting Carbon Dioxide, which you would expect to happen in this particular chemical reaction, the carbon bonds into graphite powder
    • This apparently builds on similar tech developed in Germany in recent years using molten tin as the catalyst.
    • That reached 78% Hydrogen conversion
    • That still required heating the catalyst to 1,200 degrees celsius
    • Using iron drops the production cost even further
  • Graphite is used in the production of Lithium Ion batteries and is a $13 Billion market @ ~ $1,000 per ton.
  • This could partially offset the cost of producing the Hydrogen in the first place
  • The goal, apart from zero-carbon production, is reducing the cost per kilogram from $1 to $1.50 down to $0.50 to $0.75.
  • Currently only approximately 5% of hydrogen produced is used for energy
    • Most is used for petroleum production, ammonia production, and other industrial uses
    • It’s often produced on-site using incredibly inefficient, carbon-heavy processes
  • Iron mining has it’s own environmental impact, of course – as does natural gas
  • This process uses very little iron ore
  • How much is “very little”?
  • For every ton of (unrefined) iron ore this process produces 10 tons of hydrogen.
  • 10 Tons of material that is lighter than air…
  • According to the Citizens of Tech Infallible Weight to Volume CalculatorTM , that’s a mind-blowing 33,856 gallons (128,158 litres)
  • By the end of 2017 they expect to have production capacity of hundreds of kilograms of Hydrogen a day, ~30 tons a year
  • To reach industrially relevant scale, they need to reach 10,000 tons per year

Farewell, VCR. We hardly knew ye.


  • Funai, known to many of you as Sanyo will no longer be manufacturing VCRs.
  • Hard to get parts. Not much demand.
  • The VCR had a great run of 40 years. We all had one. Or two. Maybe three.
  • Wondering how many people only ever used their VCRs for playback because of that old joke about being incapable of setting the time on your VCR. Pretty hard to record on a schedule if the time is 12:00a, ALL THE TIME.
  • I remember my Dad with a meticulous collection of movies he’d recorded from local channels. We had the rotor that would turn the antenna, and he’d record mostly old movies — westerns, black and whites from the 50’s with Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Stewart — that sort of material. If they came up on a PBS station, they’d probably come in OTA pretty crisp and be commercial free.
  • But then every once in a while, something more current would come on, like Star Wars. Or Disney would run a flick you couldn’t see anywhere else unless you had it on tape. Those were jewels we’d go out of our way to tape, the downside being they’d usually have commercials. And commercial skip was not automatic.
  • I also remember the VCR-to-DVD machines of not that long ago. 10 or 15 years. With those, you could get your tapes over to shiny discs. Seems like I had one, or at least shopped hard for one. I don’t actually remember using it.
  • Odd…I still have some content on VCR tape from a long time ago. Home movie sort of stuff from living in California that never did get digitized. Anyway…
  • Nowadays, it seems there’s a hipster movement to have old movies on tape, particularly the 70’s-or-so era horror flicks that weren’t meant to hold up to being remastered in HD, where every crappy makeup job and low-budget prop would be exposed to the harsh glare of excellent pixel resolution.


Internal Combustion Engine Cars

Feel free to engage rage mode, car nerds!

Admittedly this is a long game deathwatch, but I’m going here, I’m adding it.

Content I Like

Heavy Blog Is Heavy


  • If you are into heavy music, but like to also be intellectual in your analysis of said music, this is your blog.
  • Lots of detailed explanations of genres as well as melodic structures that explain the mechanics of the music.
  • Engage your brain while you bang your head.

Today I Learned

Apple is building a car, and it’s under the name Project Titan. No, for realz this time — an Apple car. I’d read the rumors and denials, sort of assumed that they were building a car. And then thinking it’s a stupid business for Apple to get into. But no, they really are going to build a car. It’s coming in 2021. Or so. I can’t wait for that WWDC.



Well, the Apple Car may not be coming any time soon, but this episode of Citizens of Tech is coming to a close in mere seconds.

Don’t forget that you can get in touch on Reddit and listen to our entire back catalogue on citizensoftech.com, Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn Radio, YouTube, and anywhere else that we’ve conned into carrying our content.

Let us know what you’ve found interesting this week at the subreddit, via email, Twitter, Facebook, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, semaphore, message in a bottle, or whatever other medium you can get it over to us in. We want to talk about stuff you find interesting, too, so get in touch!

And remember, the next time you see Crash & Burn on the buildings, kiss the pretty girl and be satisfied with a job well done!