WordPress 2.5.1 Security/Bugfix Update Released

Filed in Web DevelopmentTags: Geekery, Web Site, WordPress

WordPress 2.5.1 has been released. This version is a security and bug-fix release.

Version 2.5.1 of WordPress is now available. It includes a number of bug fixes, performance enhancements, and one very important security fix. We recommend everyone update immediately, particularly if your blog has open registration. The vulnerability is not public but it will be shortly.

Some of the listed improvements include:

  • Performance improvements for the Dashboard, Write Post, and Edit Comments pages.
  • Better performance for those who have many categories
  • Media Uploader fixes
  • An upgrade to TinyMCE 3.0.7
  • Widget Administration fixes
  • Various usability improvements
  • Layout fixes for IE

Upgrade, if you haven't already.

Draft Eve Colts News

Filed in SportsTags: Colts, Draft, Indiana, Indianapolis, NFL

In what will be a relief to Colts fans, the Indy Star is reporting that Dwight Freeney is now beginning running drills, and expects to be ready to play by opening day. Hearing of his progress is great news, because while Bob Sanders may be the soul of the Colts defense, Dwight Freeney is the heart:

There's no debating Freeney's value to the Colts, who signed him to a six-year, $72 million contract last July. They were able to get by without him during the seven regular-season games he missed at the end of last season, but a Freeney-less pass rush was a major factor in the Colts' postseason loss to San Diego.

"I'm not sure there is another defensive player that has had as big an impact on a team as Dwight Freeney the last few years,'' said former Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly. "He makes the whole defense better in Indianapolis.''

In what will be perplexing to Colts fans, the Patriots have signed 36-year-old, former Colts TE Marcus Pollard. Living in Rams land, I saw way too many Seahawks games last year. I have to say, I'm not all that impressed with Pollard's skills these days. He's not the same player he was for the Colts. I really have no idea what the Patriots are thinking with this move.

(H/T: 18to88)

Ninth Circuit: All Your Laptop Are Belong To Us

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Constitutional Rights, Judiciary

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reversed a lower court's decision that laptop searches by border agents are a violation of the Fourth Amendment. From the WSJ law blog:

The backstory: In July of 2005, Michael Arnold, who was 43 at the time, was pulled aside for secondary questioning upon arriving at LAX from the Philippines. Customs agents checked out his laptop and, according to the ruling, found “numerous images depicting what they believed to be child pornography.”

Arnold was later charged with possessing and transporting child porn and with traveling to a foreign country with the intention of having sex with children. But lower court Judge Dean Pregerson of Los Angeles suppressed the evidence after finding that customs agents didn’t have reasonable suspicion to search the contents of Arnold’s laptop.

The Ninth Circuit, in an opinion penned by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, reversed on Monday, holding that “reasonable suspicion is not needed for customs officials to search a laptop or other personal electronic storage devices at the border.”

In reading the decision, my initial reaction is that while the conclusion is ultimately wrong (opening files on a laptop without reasonable suspicion is clearly a violation of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of what precedent rulings exist), the defendant chose an absolutely absurd defense. It is that absurd defense that is the basis of the court's decision.

Arnold based his defense on two arguments: one, that the laptop is an extension of the human body (since it contains data in the same way that the human mind contains ideas) and thus is protected from unreasonable searches, and two, that the laptop is analogous to a person's "home" (due to the capacity of the data storage and thus is protected from undue damage or destruction during a search.

Given the two prongs of this defense, I can understand how the Ninth Circuit would reverse.

I'm no lawyer, but in my opinion, a much more sound defense would have been that viewing personal data without cause or suspicion is an unreasonable search, even at the border. The Ninth Circuit's decision references United States v. Tsai (border searches of briefcases) and United States v. Ickes (border searches of vehicles, and electronic devices contained therein) as precedent that the defendant was not subject to unreasonable search.

Recall the words of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Apparently, the courts have ruled that "searches made at the border...are reasonable simply by virtue of the fact that they occur at the border", under the justification that "...the United Stats, as Sovereign, has the inherent authority to protect, and a paramount interest in protecting, its territorial integrity" (United States v. Flores-Montano). Similarly, the Supreme Court (United States v. Ramsey) has held that:

The authority of the United States to search the baggage of arriving international travelers is based on its inherent sovereign authority to protect its territorial integrity. By reason of that authority, it is entitled to require that whoever seeks entry must establish the right to enter and to bring into the country whatever he may carry.

The issue, however, is that these searches are not appropriately bounded. While it is reasonable for a border agent to require a passenger to turn on a laptop to ensure that all its components are legitimately part of a laptop (e.g. the battery is not actually some sort of bomb), it is in no way reasonable for that border agent to rummage through the files contained on that laptop without reasonable cause.

Essentially, the justification by the courts here is that, since some things are illegal in the US but are legal elsewhere, any traveler could have legally obtained something that is illegal in the US, thus everything is subject to search at the border, and that the search takes place at the border establishes that such searches are reasonable.

Basically, this justification completely guts the Fourth Amendment. It is as if the courts are saying, "check your Constitution at the border."

Arnold should have challenged the unconstitutionally broad application of conferring reasonableness on searches simply by virtue of their occurrence at a border entry.

Another reasonable argument would have been the court's equation of a laptop to a traveler's luggage. The contents of luggage is in no way inherently analogous to the contents of a laptop (or of an MP3 player, a digital camera, or camcorder).

Oh, and as others have said: TrueCrypt. Either encrypt your entire drive, or put all private data inside an encrypted partition. If the courts won't uphold the Fourth Amendment, then perhaps the Fifth Amendment will still apply, and you'll still be protected from being forced to divulge your password for your encrypted data.

Volokh Conspiracy has a lot of interesting commentary. Dailybreeze also covers the story.

(H/T: PCWorld)

Kenton Keith Arrested

Filed in SportsTags: Colts, Indiana, Indianapolis, NFL

Indianapolis Colts' second-string RB Kenton Keith was arrested outside of an Indianapolis bar early yesterday morning [emphasis added]:

Police officers and security guards were attempting to clear the parking lot after the club closed when they noticed that Keith, 27, 6700 block of Echo Lane, and other men with him were not leaving. According to the police report, the men ignored several requests to leave and began to dance, yell and lean into cars in the parking lot.

After telling the men several times to leave, police told them to put their hands on a vehicle. Keith initially refused and tried to pull out a cell phone to record the incident, according to the report. He eventually was handcuffed while officers sorted things out.

According to the police report, Keith "kept hollering that he was a Colts player, he wasn't doing anything wrong, and he would leave when he was ready."

Keith was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement, public intoxication and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, as another man with him was 19.

The Colts organization doesn't take too kindly to this sort of behavior. Did you catch that part in the middle?

Keith "kept hollering that he was a Colts player, he wasn't doing anything wrong, and he would leave when he was ready."

Perhaps not for long, KK. The Colts don't like players who catch rap sheets better than passes from Manning.

(H/T: 18to88)

Earthquake

Filed in PersonalTags: Missouri, Saint Louis

So I'm not crazy. I woke up a little after 4:30 this morning, with the sensation that the house was rocking. I jumped out of bed to investigate, but found all well and normal.

Turns out it was a 5.2-magnitude earthquake.

USGS Shake Map of 5.2 Magnitiude Earthquake 04/18/2008

Post-Dispatch and Tribune-Star stories here.

The U.S. Geologic Survey Web site says the quake was centered near West Salem, Ill., or about 40 miles northwest of Evansville, Ind.

...

The quake occurred in the Illinois basin-Ozark dome region that covers parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas and stretches from Indianapolis and St. Louis to Memphis, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Also, apparently, the quake was felt in Grand Rapids, MI,, Cincinnati, OH - and even 450 miles away in Des Moines, IA.)

Of course, I couldn't get back to sleep - so I'm going to be a bit tired today!

Scalia KOs Stevens

Filed in Politics, Social IssuesTags: Judiciary

The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision in Baze v. Rees, confirmed that lethal injection does not violate the 8th Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

As relieved as I am to note that SCOTUS has not lost all common sense (it does not take a Constitutional Law degree to come to the conclusion that a) the Constitution explicitly permits the death penalty, and b) lethal injection is neither cruel nor unusual, therefore c) lethal injection does not violate the 8th Amendment), I was particularly impressed by Justice Scalia's takedown of Justice Stevens' concurring opinion, in which he argues that in his experience the death penalty has not benefited society and that the death penalty is unconstitutional. Here's an excerpt of Scalia pointing out Stevens' judicial activism and illogic:

But actually none of this really matters. As JUSTICE STEVENS explains, “ ‘objective evidence, though of great importance, [does] not wholly determine the controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment.’ . . . I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty” is unconstitutional."

Purer expression cannot be found of the principle of rule by judicial fiat. In the face of JUSTICE STEVENS’ experience, the experience of all others is, it appears, of little consequence. The experience of the state legislatures and the Congress—who retain the death penalty as a form of punishment—is dismissed as “the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process.” The experience of social scientists whose studies indicate that the death penalty deters crime is relegated to a footnote. The experience of fellow citizens who support the death penalty is described, with only the most thinly veiled condemnation, as stemming from a “thirst for vengeance.” It is JUSTICE STEVENS’ experience that reigns over all.

I take no position on the desirability of the death penalty, except to say that its value is eminently debatable and the subject of deeply, indeed passionately, held views—which means, to me, that it is preeminently not a matter to be resolved here. And especially not when it is explicitly permitted by the Constitution

God bless Justice Scalia!

(H/T: RedState, which you should read for the full, color commentary.)

Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories

Filed in ReviewsTags: Books, Health/Nutrition, Low Carb, Weight Loss

I finally had a chance to finish Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories, and all I can really say is, "Wow!"

Taubes' 600-page book is the culmination of five years of work researching a century worth of epidemiological and clinical research into the carbohydrate and fat hypotheses regarding physiology, metabolism, obesity, and the "diseases of civilization" - coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, etc. The volume, which includes some 70 pages of bibliographical references, is divided into three sections: a history of the fat-heart disease hypothesis, a history of the carbohydrate-heart disease hypothesis, and a history of the fat-obseity and carbohydrate-obesity hypotheses.

Taubes reviews this century-worth of data, and comes to the following conclusions:

  1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.
  2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
  3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.
  4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.
  5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.
  6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.
  7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
  8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.
  9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.
  10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
  11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.

I found the book to be an enjoyable, if dense, read. While Taubes of necessity sometimes gets into the scientific and physiological details, in general he keeps the prose at an understandable level. With the exception of the forward, which I found to be a bit tedious in my first attempt to read, the book is a page-turner, and reads much like investigative journalism.

The preponderance of the evidence - and if you wish to refute it, start with that 70-page bibliography of references - clearly sides with Taubes' conclusions. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this book is not Taubes' conclusions, but rather the implied indictment of the medical research community with respect to hypothesis regarding the connections between fat, carbhoydrates, heart disease, metabolism, and obesity. That indictment is perhaps best summarized in this line from the Epilogue:

The urge to simplify a complex scientific situation so that physicians can apply it and their patients and the public embrace it has taken precedence over the scientific obligation of presenting the evidence with relentless honesty. The result is an enormous enterprise dedicated in theory to determining the relationship between diet, obesity and disease, while dedicated in practice to convincing everyone involved, and the lay public, most of all, that the answers are already known and always have been - an enterprise, in other words, that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion.

This book puts the imprimatur on what I have been saying for almost a decade: There is absolutely no rigorous, scientific evidence that dietary fat causes heart disease or obesity. To the contrary: plenty of bona fide evidence places the blame squarely upon the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates.

Simply put: if you care about your health and nutrition, read this book. Come to your own conclusions. But if you want to argue the dietary fat-heart disease or dietary fat-obesity hypotheses, then you'd better read this book first, or else you will only make a fool of yourself.

Others' reviews of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Weight of the Evidence, Beantown Bloggery, Jollyblogger. And of course, plenty of coverage at Livin' La Vida Low Carb.

Linux: Rumors of Its Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

Filed in LinuxTags: Windows

Scott Spoonauer of LaptopMag seems to be spending quite a bit of time trying to insinuate that Linux has missed its opportunity for widespread adoption. For example:

  • Spoonauer claims that the window of opportunity for Linux (as a desktop client) has closed, maybe for good. He gives some examples of the closing window of opportunity, such as BestBuy opting for the WinXP version of the EeePC instead of the Linux version, Wal-Mart "pulling" Linux PCs from store shelves and opting for internet-only sales, and Dell thus far being the only "major" PC vendor to offer pre-installed Linux.
  • After getting slammed in the comments to his previous blog post, Spoonauer then goes about trying to defend his premise regarding the window of opportunity closing, but conceding that he may have been premature in proclaiming a "death knell" for desktop Linux.
  • Spoonauer then attempts to portray some objectivity by interviewing some analysts who essentially say, "not so fast." Their conclusions are that the BestBuy decision has no real bearing on the future opportunity of Linux, and that Microsoft is making concessions with respect to licensing in order to fend off a legitimate threat from Linux.
  • But the Spoonauer goes right back to his premise, interviewing yet another expert in attempt to discount EeePC Linux sales. Here, the premise is basically that while the Linux EeePC has sold over one million units worldwide, it has only sold about 100,000 in the US, which the expert claims have all gone to existing Linux geeks.

Others are picking up on the meme, and refuting it. See Linux Watch and Linux Solutions. Let's do the same, shall we?

As I have already pointed out, Microsoft's dual actions in extending the end-of-life for Windows XP and in offering pennies-on-the-dollar licensing for ULCPCs is a de facto concession of the threat of Linux. These actions are a stop-gap gambit to avoid loss of market share, and are neither sustainable nor viable, long-term.

OEM licensing (presumably, Windows and Office) accounts for 95% of Microsoft's revenues. Thus, Microsoft finds itself in a no-win situation in the ULCPC market: either concede the market to Linux, and thus generate no revenue due to no OEM licensing, or else give away OEM licenses (essentially for free) and thus generate no revenue from the OEM licenses they do procure.

The Linux business model is entirely different. With a few rare exceptions (SLED, Xandros, etc.), Linux distributions do not make money by selling OEM or end-user licenses for use of their OS; rather, the Linux business model is to give away the software and then make money by selling support contracts.

So, extrapolating the current environment several years: Microsoft continues to generate no revenues by giving away OEM licenses and offering support for an otherwise end-of-life operating system, while the Linux revenue stream is entirely unaffected. Linux is positioned to win any protracted desktop market share battle of attrition.

The second fatal flaw in Spoonauer's argument is the inherent assumption that US market share will continue to dictate the adoption rate for desktop Linux. While this assumption may hold true today, it is quickly being invalidated.

While Microsoft has entrenched itself in the various sales channels in the US (retail outlets, vendor online sales, etc.), it is quickly losing its grip outside of the US, due to increasing open source (and, in some cases, anti-Microsoft) trends, especially in Europe and Asia - not to mention the growing computer-user market in third-world countries.

Government agencies, educational institutions, and others are moving desktop installations wholesale from Windows to Linux, by the thousands and tens of thousands. Each one of these desktop Linux installations directly impacts Microsoft's bottom line.

In short, the jury may still be out regarding the ability of Linux eventually to realize its full potential - and market share - but if Windows remains the only viable threat to Linux desktop market share, Then the Linux window of opportunity will remain open in perpetuity. Microsoft's business model will ensure it.

Obama Insults Flyover Country

Filed in Politics, ReligionTags: Democrats, Economy, Elections

Obama's recent insults of America's heartland were so egregious, even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made mention of his remarks [emphasis added]:

The Huffington Post Web site reported Friday that Obama, speaking of some Pennsylvanians' economic anxieties, told supporters at the San Francisco fundraiser: "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Needless to say, the Conservative side of the 'sphere has taken these statements and run with them:

Of course Hilary Clinton, ever the opportunist, jumped at the chance to take a shot at her opponent:

"It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who face hard times are bitter," Clinton said during a campaign event in Philadelphia. "Well that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania. I meet people who are resilient, optimist positive who are rolling up their sleeves."

"Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights hard for your future, your jobs, your families."

The McCain campaign has also responded:

Asked to respond, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt called it a "remarkable statement and extremely revealing."

"It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," Schmidt said. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

And now, caught red-handed in his arrogance and elitism, Obama is trying to make quick work of spinning his remarks. Unfortunately for him, he's not doing a very good job of it.

First, the Obama campaign spokesperson tries a diversionary tactic [emphasis added]:

"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities. And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent,

Then in Terre Haute yesterday, Obama tried the "Nuh-unh" approach in response to the McCain campaign's assertions that Obama's statement indicated that he was "out of touch with average Americans" [emphasis added]:

In Terre Haute, Obama chided McCain for not responding promptly to the home mortgage crisis and criticized Clinton for voting for a bankruptcy bill supported by credit card companies.

"No, I'm IN touch," he said. "I know exactly what's going on. People are fed up, they are angry, they're frustrated and they're bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington."

And finally, in the same speech, he tried to re-phrase his message [emphasis added]:

"People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them," Obama told a crowd at a Terre Haute, Ind., high school Friday evening. "So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington."

Man, the cheap-seat view of the Democratic primary is so fun to watch!

Newborn Boys Switched at IL Hospital

Filed in MiscellaneousTags: Missouri, Saint Louis

We will definitely not be using this hospital:

State public health officials say two babies were accidentally switched at a southern Illinois hospital, with one of the infants sent home with the wrong family.

Officials say the mistake happened in March at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion and involved two newborn boys.

Hospital workers soon learned of the error and immediately contacted the family.

Apparently, this hospital gives free car seats to all babies born there. Just make sure you're putting the right baby in that car seat!