Flight.

As I gaze down from this commercial flight, looking at Indianapolis from 35,000 feet, I realize that I am not as entrenched in aviation as I want to be. I’m still flying, though airplane rentals are proving to be a little bit more of a challenge than I anticipated them to be in Chicago. I’m firmly committed to an airplane purchase in early 2019 and I’m looking forward to working with Earl on the budget to make that happen.

The sky is brilliantly clear as we fly through the early darkness of a Tuesday evening. From up here it’s easy for me to spot the wide selection of Airport Beacons dotting the landscape below. I love flying at night, both as a passenger and a pilot. My last two flights in the rented Cessna 172 have been night flights; my work schedule pretty much makes this a necessity if I fly during the week. Finding the runway of our new home airport in the midst of a sea of suburban lights was a little more of a challenge than I originally anticipated it to be, especially on the night the panel mounted GPS failed. However, I am armed with enough technological gadgets to circumvent this issue in the future.

I’m anxious to move to the next chapter of my aviation career, even though my “career” is as a private pilot. My work toward an instrument rating has been stalled a little bit; living in the big city offers a lot of enticements for other activities, but I’m finding my new balance and am getting back to my studies. I don’t want to stop at my instrument rating; I’m ready to continue on from there. But there’s more I want to do the aviation world. I want to bring more awareness to how awesome flight can be. So many people today see flight as a mode of transportation. It’s still nothing short of sheer awesomeness for me.

Any seat on an airplane is an awesome. I just need to spend more time in a seat, preferably in the left seat of the flight deck.

Greenville, S.C.

Greenville, S.C.

I’ve spent the last 48 hours in the southern, upstate city of Greenville, S.C. I made the trip for work; I’ve brought a new team member onboard and Monday was his first day with the company. I am excited about the skills he brings to the team and I think he’s going to be a great asset. I’m hoping he’ll become acclimated fairly quickly.

On Monday I also added three folks to my team, as their previous team and our team merged as a result of a recent company acquisition. One of the team members drove from Birmingham, Ala. to Greenville for the trip. I had talked to him on the phone; meeting him in person was a great way to start the ball rolling for the larger team. I’ve excited about the opportunity.

While I’ve always enjoyed my time in Greenville, S.C., and I’ve spent quite a bit of time down there for work trips (and a few trips to fly with a flight instructor down there), I’m finding I’m not as keen on travel away from home for work since moving to Chicago. I never expected to fall in love with The Windy City when Earl and I first talked about relocating earlier this year. Now I find difficulty sleeping without the rumble of the Brown Line ‘L’, muffled by the white noise of a fan, passing by the building every so often. I’ve also been spoiled by the Purple mattress we purchased when we moved to Chicago. Traditional mattresses and box springs seem so lumpy and unforgiving.

First world problems, right?

One of the beautiful things about traveling from work with Chicago as your home city is that it’s pretty easy to get from point A to point Z in one hop. Layovers are becoming a thing of the past for me, and that is a delight. Flying to Syracuse (on an airline) always felt undignified. The flights were usually relegated to one of the dingiest, smallest gates in the connecting airport and people just seemed to struggle with the whole boarding process when headed to SYR. Folks bound for O’Hare seem a little more airline savvy. Maybe it’s the wonder of flying out of a smaller location to the third largest U.S. city or perhaps folks are more apt to be going “somewhere” instead of headed home if they’re connecting in Chicago. My brief analysis of flights to Chicago as home has seen less hassle at the gate of departure and more on-time flights.

Maybe my tendency to now fly United instead of Delta has helped with this situation.

I had a small personal victory this evening when I boarded UA 4612 and saw the same flight crew as I had on the flight to Greenville on Sunday. The names of the pilots in the flight deck were the same and the Flight Attendant, the friendly Emily, had taken care of our safety and ancillary needs on the flight down. She offered beverage refills on both flights.

Being a remote employee, it’s always good to see my colleagues and some of the folks on my team. It reinforces our professional connection, boosts my moral and makes me feel less disconnected. I work with good people. I’m very lucky in that regard. I’m sensitive to office chatter when I’m working at the office and have a hard time tuning it out. This morning I listened to two ladies talk about their favorite cities across the country. Baltimore, Denver, and Boston were all mentioned with high regard.

Both agreed that Chicago was their favorite.

‘Tis The Season.

Last night after work Earl and I took the train downtown to visit Macy’s on State Street, which in the local vernacular is called Marshall Field’s, after the original department store, Marshall Field and Company. A huge building that takes up a whole city block, we had heard that there are some amazing Christmas decorations at Marshall Field’s, though they’re not as good as they used to be since Macy’s bought the chain and changed the name in 2006.

Honestly, the decorations are beautiful. The window displays are gorgeous, the decorations through the huge building are quite nice and honestly the spirit was fairly festive for a Thursday night.

I’ve read quite a bit about Marshall Field’s over the past few months of living in Chicago and there are many people that are still quite attached to the name and a little bitter about Macy’s taking over the space. Marshall Field’s was Chicago, Macy’s, is well, Macy’s. There’s nothing really special about Macy’s, especially in today’s retail climate. That being said, the State Street location is well stocked, has a vast selection, seemed rather clean and there were plenty of salespeople to be found. On the other hand, the gorgeous building, complete with an old-school impulse clock system wired throughout, is starting to show signs of a lack of upkeep. Marshall Field’s was immaculate, Macy’s is, well Macy’s without the mall.

Maybe I’m just a nostalgic guy.

Overall, the visit to Marshall Field’s was quite enjoyable and it helped me find my holiday spirit. I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to the holidays at our new home in Chicago. And since it’s already December 1, I should really go out of my way to find my holiday groove.

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Security.

So this morning Apple released a security update for their latest version of macOS, called High Sierra. Earlier this year, macOS High Sierra was touted as being a new version of the operating system on Macs that would bring stability and a whole bunch of enhancements under the hood. The focus of High Sierra was to make its predecessor, macOS Sierra, better.

The purpose of today’s Security Update was to correct an issue that was announced throughout Social Media yesterday: that a user with physical access to a Mac was able to get to root user privileges, otherwise known as “Administrator” without using a password. Entering root as a username and then skipping the password prompt with a carriage return granted full access to the Mac. No password necessary. From there, anyone could do ANYTHING they wanted on the Mac: change usernames, delete everything, send out email, anything and everything is possible with root access to a Unix based machine.

To say that this was a security concern is a vast understatement. You wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of reality if you were to say that this was probably one of the biggest security blunders of the computer age.

The fact that this was pushed to production as part of the official version of macOS is mind boggling to me. Absolutely mind boggling.

Look, mistakes are made. I get that. As a software developer by trade I make mistakes all the time. My code is far from picture perfect and I’ve caused more than one user to scratch their head as software I’ve written has gone way off into the weeds due to simple bugs that I later squashed. The thing is, a lot of my bugs are found and corrected long before the software is released. That’s why we have things like UAT, or User Acceptance Testing. That’s why I spend hours testing and retesting my software before it even gets to UAT. To think that this sort of thing was missed by the macOS team at Apple, which one would presume is a large team at one of the largest corporations in the world, is mind boggling to me.

I’m impressed with how fast Apple pushed a patch to users. But honestly, I want more. I want to know how it happened, how secure the patch is and what the macOS team is going to do to avoid making a blunder of this magnitude again. This isn’t a matter of holding the Mac wrong or dropping a Mac from a ridiculous height and then claiming it can’t withstand the pressure, this is Security 101 on what is touted to be one of the strongest operating systems in the industry.

Apple dinged my faith and my trust in their software with this latest gaff. How do I know that my text messages aren’t going to start broadcasting to the wrong person? Where’s my guarantee that my data will always be encrypted and secure when bugs of this magnitude are starting to appear in their oldest operating system?

When a user pays a premium price for Apple’s products and services, they should never be expected to Expect Less. Mediocrity is not an option. Apple used to do better.

They need to prove that they can do better once again.

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What Is Net Neutrality?

Since I’m the “go to” IT guy in the family, here’s how I explain Net Neutrality, and why it’s important for us to keep it around.

Think of Net Neutrality like this. Right now you can use your Internet connection for anything it’s capable of. Now let’s liken this to electricity. If Net Neutrality was repealed on your power connection, your power or hydro company could charge more for what you use your power for. Basic package? Lights only. Want to add heat or an electric stove? Well that’s a different tier. Want to use your electric dryer? If you buy it from us you can go to a new tier. If you buy it from someone else, you only get 110V instead of 220V. The power company objects to personal massagers and whirlpool tubs, so they don’t get any power at all.

See the problem here?

Net Neutrality protects your use of the internet to use it how you want to use it with equal access to everything available. The big telecoms say they won’t change a thing, but why would we want to repeal that guarantee? Do you trust your cell phone company? Do you believe your cable company has your best interest at heart?

Do you want to make a difference? I lifted this from a friend’s post about Net Neutrality. Make the call today.

Only five people at the FCC get to vote on Net Neutrality: Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr, and Jessica Rosenworcel. Clyburn and Rosenworcel plan to vote to keep it. Call the other three!

  • Ajit Pai: 202-518-7399
  • Michael O’Rielly: 301-657-9092
  • Brendan Carr: 202-719-7305

Brawling.

Nothing embraces both the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday and the celebration of the birth of Jesus like beating the crap out of fellow consumers during a festive holiday shopping experience. Onward Christian Soldiers. There are deals to be had.

From the Washington Examiner.

Black Friday fight in Alabama causes mall to close early
by Steven Nelson | Nov 24, 2017, 10:26 AM

A group of fist-flinging young women forced an Alabama mall to close earlier than expected Thursday night.

The Riverchase Galleria near Birmingham planned to remain open until midnight ahead of the popular Black Friday shopping day.

But a fight involving at least two women forced the mall to close early at 11:20 p.m., Al.com reports.

Footage shared on social media shows pairs of jeans on the ground and a table flipping over as police move to detain the women. A widely shared video doesn’t show what started the fight, but shows its resolution.

The video shows one police officer grab an uncooperative woman in an attempt to detain her while two other women remain seated, watched over by police and a security guard.

“Go to jail!” a male voice says in the video, as many shoppers watch the altercation’s aftermath.

WBRC-TV reporter Clare Huddleston reported on Twitter that the incident occurred at the entrance of the Buckle clothing retailer.

Huddleston reported hours after the encounter that local police told her nobody was arrested for the fight.

Police “say this fight was personal between two females. Had nothing to do with Black Friday sales,” Huddleston reported. “Thankfully no injuries. No arrests made.”

Uber’s Data Breach.

This is another reason I stick with Lyft. Uber is convenient, but it’s a wicked creepy company.

From the New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber disclosed Tuesday that hackers had stolen 57 million driver and rider accounts and that the company had kept the data breach secret for more than a year after paying a $100,000 ransom.

The deal was arranged by the company’s chief security officer and under the watch of the former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, according to several current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were private.

The security officer, Joe Sullivan, has been fired. Mr. Kalanick was forced out in June, although he remains on Uber’s board.

The two hackers stole data about the company’s riders and drivers — including phone numbers, email addresses and names — from a third-party server and then approached Uber and demanded $100,000 to delete their copy of the data, the employees said.

Uber acquiesced to the demands, and then went further. The company tracked down the hackers and pushed them to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to the people familiar with the matter. To further conceal the damage, Uber executives also made it appear as if the payout had been part of a “bug bounty” — a common practice among technology companies in which they pay hackers to attack their software to test for soft spots.

The details of the attack remained hidden until Tuesday. The ride-hailing company said it had discovered the breach as part of a board investigation into Uber’s business practices.

The breach at Uber is far from the most serious exposure of sensitive customer information. The two breaches that Yahoo announced in 2016 eclipse Uber’s in size, and an attack disclosed in September by Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency, exposed a far deeper trove of personal information for a far larger group of people.

But the handling of the breach underscores the extent to which Uber executives were willing to go to protect the $70 billion ride-hailing giant’s reputation and business, even at the potential cost of breaking users’ trust and, perhaps more important, state and federal laws. The New York attorney general’s office said on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into the matter.

Dara Khosrowshahi, who was chosen to be chief executive of Uber in late August, said he had only recently learned of the breach.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in a company blog post. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes. We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kalanick declined to comment.

The revelation of the breach and the way it was kept quiet renewed questions about the tenure of Mr. Kalanick, who has faced criticism over his management style and practices after Uber came under scrutiny for its workplace culture this year. The New York Times also reported on a secret program called Greyball that had been undertaken on Mr. Kalanick’s watch, in which Uber staff members surveilled law enforcement officials in order to evade them. Since his exit as chief executive, he has been sued by one of Uber’s earlier investors for fraud.

The breach is also a black mark for Mr. Sullivan, who was a prominent figure in the information security industry. Mr. Sullivan joined Uber as the company’s first chief security officer in 2015, after serving as the head of security at Facebook for seven years.

Unlike many cybersecurity executives, Mr. Sullivan was previously a lawyer and had studied cyberlaw at the University of Miami. He began his career in the technology industry as a federal prosecutor during the tech boom of the late 1990s, working at companies including eBay in 2002, where he was head of trust and safety.

Mr. Sullivan’s decision to join Uber was seen as a win for the company. As Uber’s ranks of drivers and riders had grown, people in and outside the company became worried about privacy and security. Uber had faced complaints about driver and rider assaults, as well as allegations that it was not doing enough to protect rider data. Mr. Sullivan was tasked with keeping drivers and riders safe.

The other Uber employee who was fired alongside Mr. Sullivan was Craig Clark, the company’s legal director of security and law enforcement. Neither Mr. Sullivan nor Mr. Clark responded to requests for comment.

The company’s decision to conceal the breach and pay the ransom quickly raised questions among security experts. Many have repeatedly warned companies against paying hackers a ransom to cover up breaches or return stolen data, advice that was included in a 2016 statement from the F.B.I. And several states including California have laws mandating that companies disclose when they are breached by hackers.

“Companies are funding organized crime, an industry of criminals is being created,” said Kevin Beaumont, a cybersecurity expert based in Britain. “The good guys are creating a market for the bad guys. We’re enabling them to monetize what years ago would have been teenagers in bedrooms breaching companies for fun.”

Uber has experienced breaches before. The company was hit with a data breach in May 2014, an event Uber discovered later that year and disclosed in February 2015. In that attack, the names and driver’s licenses of more than 50,000 of the company’s drivers were compromised.

This latest breach puts Uber in another difficult situation just as the company is working to repair its battered image and preparing to seek an initial public offering in 2019. Mr. Khosrowshahi has characterized his tenure at the company as “Uber 2.0.” As part of that, he has tossed out the aggressive corporate values that were prized by Mr. Kalanick and given the ride-hailing service a new list of values that includes “doing the right thing. Period.”

Uber has hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel at the National Security Agency, as an adviser, and has retained Mandiant, a security firm, to conduct an independent investigation of the security breach. Uber said Mr. Olsen planned to reorganize the company’s security team.

But the damage has already been done, and Uber officials are aware of the long road back to good standing with the public.

While it is not illegal to pay money to hackers, Uber may have violated several laws in its interaction with them.

By demanding that the hackers destroy the stolen data, Uber may have violated a Federal Trade Commission rule on breach disclosure that prohibits companies from destroying any forensic evidence in the course of their investigation.

The company may have also violated state breach disclosure laws by not disclosing the theft of Uber drivers’ stolen data. If the data stolen was not encrypted, Uber would have been required by California state law to disclose that driver’s license data from its drivers had been stolen in the course of the hacking.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment.