The joys of backup.

Son two took one look at my home laptop and said replace. I said… no. The work laptop is an old macbook and it still works. I will keep it until the employer replaces it. The home laptop is a little newer but it has been hammered harder. At the end of the year there will be the 2020 planned generation of laptops (read Ryzen or running something akin to what is in the pinebook pro) and I aim to be at the point where everything is done for cash.

On a local note, the covid tracer app is not on my personal phone — the one I carry everywhere. If needed, i fill in the form. Randomly. If in doubt, be analogue. Avoid the digital panopticon.

During a conversation at the Aspen Security Forum that July, six weeks after Snowden’s first disclosure and three months after the Boston Marathon bombing, Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of national intelligence, assured me that the records were “stored,” untouched, until the next Boston bomber came along.

Even by that account, the scale of collection brought to mind an evocative phrase from legal scholar Paul Ohm. Any information in sufficient volume, he wrote, amounted to a “database of ruin.” It held personal secrets that “if revealed, would cause more than embarrassment or shame; it would lead to serious, concrete, devastating harm.” Nearly anyone in the developed world, he wrote, “can be linked to at least one fact in a computer database that an adversary could use for blackmail, discrimination, harassment, or financial or identity theft.” Revelations of “past conduct, health, or family shame,” for example, could cost a person their marriage, career, legal residence, or physical safety.

Mere creation of such a database, especially in secret, profoundly changed the balance of power between government and governed. This was the Dark Mirror embodied, one side of the glass transparent and the other blacked out. If the power implications do not seem convincing, try inverting the relationship in your mind: What if a small group of citizens had secret access to the telephone logs and social networks of government officials? How might that privileged knowledge affect their power to shape events? How might their interactions change if they possessed the means to humiliate and destroy the careers of the persons in power? Capability matters, always, regardless of whether it is used. An unfired gun is no less lethal before it is drawn. And in fact, in history, capabilities do not go unused in the long term. Chekhov’s famous admonition to playwrights is apt not only in drama, but in the lived experience of humankind. The gun on display in the first act—nuclear warheads, weaponized disease, Orwellian cameras tracking faces on every street—must be fired in the last. The latent power of new inventions, no matter how repellent at first, does not lie forever dormant in government armories.

This is what was used against Flynn, Stone and other Trump allies. The old idea that if you will find a crime (as Beria boasted to Stalin — not merely the crime but the confession) has been automated. A few sabots in the gears is important. Wiser governments know this, and they do try to keep the tracing as human as possible.

He noted that both countries used Bluetooth-enabled proximity data, which had led to feedback about the use of Bluetooth and the contact tracing app depleting the battery life of the smartphone.

“So, the other thing we are working on now to supplement this is to develop wearable devices — a little device on the end of a lanyard — which would be working on [its own] battery and will not drain your [smartphone’s] battery life, and you would just carry with you as you go around your daily activities. We believe that a combination of phones plus these wearable devices will increase the participation rate considerably,” said the Singapore minister.

Asked if he expected a higher adoption rate for the wearable devices or if adoption was hindered by privacy concerns, he pointed to user issues as well as having a device that people could more easily leave in their bags or wear. This, he added, would help drive the participation rate. “But again, I want to come back to my first point that it is not just about technology. You need to make sure that the human remains at the centre of it all. Maintaining trust, respecting privacy, and getting voluntary participation is absolutely essential,” said Balakrishnan.


I don’t need a new laptop now. I’ve needed internet and cloud storage: for this place and for work, and that may become more problematic. See above.

I did install Jetpack, but I don’t use it for backup. Instead I use updraft plus and back the site up to two different cloud servers, automatically with incremental backups. This is a paid service, but this is something you should pay for. You can then clone your site if someone ruins the previous version: something I have had to do on a couple of occasions in previous iterations of this place.

There are people who will complain, thinking that their rapidly evolving versions of weaponized kindness and inclusivity are mandatory. They have ruined wikipedia: they managed to get me to take down seven years worth of blogging (the alternative was my job) and tried to get me sacked. Backups are needed. They will go after your webhost. Be prepared to move — it’s basic insurance.

In the meantime, I note that discussions are starting here, but the number of brute force attacks remains high.