Friday, 7 December 2018

2018 Assistance and Access Bill

This is a cross post from my less technical blog at https://abeath.blog

Passed the Senate last night, rushed through in a day by a bunch of politicians that probably haven't read any of the submissions or listened to anyone in IT about the impact on privacy these encryption changes will make. Man it makes my blood boil. There was an article on Business Insider about it quoting a software consultant in Melbourne Tom Sulston and he summed it up really well:
1. The bill is bad for security because encryption keeps us safe from criminals. This bill will make it easier for them to hack us.
2: The bill is bad for jobs because software companies will choose not to work in Australia, as this bill is fundamentally incompatible with GDPR.
3: The bill is bad for workers, as it opens up all sorts of penalties if we conscientiously object to being drafted into the security services.
4: The bill is bad for democracy as it will make it easier for a sitting government to access the private communications of journalists, opposition politicians, unions, businesses, et al.
5: The bill is bad for the economy because global consumers will choose digital services that come from countries that are not threatened by Australian legislation.
There are clearly plenty more reasons why the bill is terrible, but these are some big, big problems.
https://twitter.com/tomsulston - see his feed for more stuff
I read this and can't help but agree. If I'm a criminal I would be super happy about this decision. You can be damn sure those guys will find open source software that isn't screwed the Australian Government and lock their shit up tight while the rest of us have defective software and devices allowing all and sundry to mess with our stuff.
This is a sad day indeed for Australia and we are rightfully the laughing stock of the technical world. What is worse is that this Bill was passed in order to stop another Bill being defeated (and this Bill is to get kids of Nauru for medical treatment. I'm not going to comment on that - I'm cranky enough with this other thing). So stupid politics screws the pooch royally here and there's only the House left to amend it.
Saints preserve us (I sound like little old Southerner). I am so disappointed in this decision and despite having written to my local member (I missed out on a submission to the stupid Bill thing) on several occasions I am very unhappy with this result. I'm also pissed at the behaviour of our elected officials trivialising something like this into name calling and bullshit behaviour when it is so important. Telling the opposition leader he is a "a clear and present threat to the safety of Australians" while they are looking at the Bill in order to guilt it through is really not good enough. If the Bill and the reasons behind it are solid, then an ad hominem attack like this is unnecessary and paints those elected in a worse light.
And while I'm on the soap box law enforcement needs to take a good look at themselves too. They're proposing to weaken encryption for everyone in order to catch a few people. Guess what idiots? More people will be negatively affected by this than the positive outcomes. You're weakening my encryption, my wife's and my kids to catch criminals. How about investing in some good old fashioned police work and updating the way you pursue criminals rather than screwing up things for everyone? I wonder if they have even looked carefully out the outcomes of this legislation past the echo chamber they live in. It's very disappointing and once again I'm considering moving to the moon.
Update:
I have to add to this after reading some more stuff about the Bill online. There were 173 amendments put forward to this Bill hours before it passed. The Senate were asked to consider 173 different amendments. I can't highlight this enough. 173 is a shite load. Surely this is an example of how flawed the bill was? Here is one of the Senator's takes on it:
It's fine, they're only asking for 173 amendments to be moved together. 173. Amendments most of us only saw an hour or two ago. 173.
It's a complete shitshow #AAbill #encryption #Auspol
— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@Jordonsteele) December 6, 2018
Twitter....
Come on! Seriously! Further to this, I've looked at the Bill and I'm gravely concerned that the current accreditation we have to have to work with the Government departments might be incompatible with this Bill and I could go to gaol for denying the Government fucking up our security in order to have the accreditation to work with the same Government. Is that not completely stupid? Welcome to Australia....
Rant over.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A month with the 2017 MacBook Pro

I reviewed the new MacBooks awhile ago and I wasn't all that impressed by them, in particular I was critical of the keyboard and the trackpad. Over the last month, however, I've been using one full time and I've come to accept the keyboard and even enjoy using the big, super sensitive and useful trackpad. So here's what we're talking about:

Latest version of macOS, and a pretty solid machine spec to boot. I have to say the Retina display is really nice. I can happily look at it all day without any eye strain issues or headaches as a result. The machine itself is a silver 13" MacBook, no touch bar or any of that silliness and was around $2000, plus accessories. I managed to get a USB-C adaptor with HDMI, USB3 and USB-C charging and access ports for this laptop. It's pretty cool actually but I do have to plug it into the computer and then reboot it to get the HDMI to work. This gives me essentially a dock to use, with my Time Machine backup drive, USB to ethernet adaptor (our Wi-Fi can be sketchy) and a USB-3 hub to give me some extra ports. Having 2 USB-C and the headphone port only has been a challenge to work with. I have so many adaptors that aren't compatible anymore! AAARGH!

All the specs can be found here: https://www.apple.com/au/macbook-pro/specs/ as well as details of the machine itself.



Currently I'm using several laptops for various purposes - my beloved Lenovo T430, a Lenovo E560 (for development purposes) and a HP "Sleekbook". They are running Windows 7, Windows 10 and Linux Mint respectively and give me a pretty good comparison across all devices. The MacBook Pro is better than all of them.

Firstly, macOS is great. I love it - all the power of the *nix operating systems, with a polished desktop well supported by quality apps. Mint is great, and the polish gets better and better, but macOS still has a solid lead on it. Especially with Time Machine - I love this for backups. It's really tremendous in that respect. Windows 7 and 10 are just... well Windows operating systems. I've come to appreciate Windows 10 for some of its features, but it's still able to piss me off with it's restarts at inopportune times and various other behaviours that shits me. Additionally, I hate not having a native terminal to manage my Linux servers with. You may not experience this, but I surely do.

The keyboard, while not the best in class, does have backlit illumination that just works. Neither of the Lenovo's does this (the T430 has the top mounted light which has been handy) and the Sleekbook works most of the time... but the Mac works every time. As soon as I touch the keyboard, on come the lights. I love it. Just perfect. Not as good to type on as the Lenovo's though. When it comes time to write a million word thesis, I'll be reaching for those machines that's for sure, but for day to day work (including writing the occasional several thousand word report) the MacBook will do the job.

Monitor is clearly the best on the MacBook. Second is the Sleekbook, then the E560 and finally the T430. The Retina display is lovely to behold and has such rich colours... ah it's very nice indeed.

Specs are good, but really - an i7 or an i5 is going to give me the same results for the stuff I'm doing. No hardcore processing work, no games (I have an Xbox for that) and relatively few heavy work loads on any machine. 8GB of RAM is a minimum spec for me now - that's a requirement for operation I think. The E560 has 16GB and I managed to get an extra 500GB SSD into it too, but it's a much bigger beastie than these other little machines.

I've adapted to using Outlook 2019 for Mac and flit between that, Apple Mail and Calendar. I like having the separate app for Calendar open on another screen to keep abreast of what's coming up.

Overall it's been a positive experience - especially with the integration between my MacBook, iPad and iPhone. Everything ties together so neatly and I'm now trapped.... doomed to be stuck in the Apple ecosphere. I don't really hate it though - there is a lot to like and I can always use another laptop if I feel the need to bust out of my comfort zone. Traveling with the MacBook has been good to - it's light and easy to maneuver with tonnes of battery life and good sound (for movies in the hotel room). Well worth a purchase if you like Mac and can drive macOS with some degree of confidence. Make sure you buy the adaptor (I think mentioned in a previous post) to really get the most of this great little machine.