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The Actuator - May 3rd

Level 17

Had a great time at the Salt Lake City SWUG last week and wanted to say THANK YOU to all who attended. I'm already looking forward to my next SWUG. But before that, I need to get my stuff together for Techorama in Antwerp in three weeks.

I've got a few long links to share today, so set aside some time for each. The last two are fun ones though, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Northrop Grumman can make a stealth bomber – but can't protect its workers' W-2 tax forms

At first glance, you might think this is an example of a company not protecting their data, but that's not the case. Northrop outsourced their tax portal to Equifax, meaning there is a lot more to this story than just blaming Northrop.

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All

I'm a fan of data mining, and I've been shopping online for decades. I never once thought to myself that the online markets could be manipulating the pricing. Makes total sense now. But I still got a great price on those ten pounds of nutmeg.

The Myth of a Superhuman AI

For anyone worried about the machines rising up to kill us all, this article gives hope.

Who is Publishing NSA and CIA Secrets, and Why?

With all the recent hacks and leaks, I've been wondering what the bigger picture would look like. I never thought it would be the result of bragging.

Here’s Why Juicero’s Press is So Expensive

At first, I thought this story was funny, now it's just sad to think about how much money has been wasted on something that nobody ever asked for, or wants. I can't imagine spending $400 for a juice machine, and a $35/week subscription on top of that. That's  over $2k in juice money in the first year. If you know of someone spending that much money on juice you should smack them in the mouth and then teach them how to make their own juice for a fraction of the cost.

Unicorn Startup Simulator

Okay, I was a bit harsh on the juice folks in the last link. So, here's a link to help remind us all how difficult it is for a company in the Valley to succeed.

Hilarious Sayings That Don’t Make Sense Translated

Because I enjoy languages, and infographics, and apparently the name Juicero is Russian for "to hang noodles on the ears."

At the SWUG last week in Salt Lake City the museum had this relic outside of our room:


Level 13

I now need to give the new nickname "noodle-ears" to someone...
Level 16
Level 16

sqlrockstar - sir you definitely rock - another good article

Level 21

B1 Bombers Safer Than Employee Portals:

     Maybe one day we'll admit that ultimate easy access to all things online isn't worth the risk.  Perhaps the solution in this case is to simply avoid the hacking exposure entirely, and require employees only access their company tax records from an internal computer, instead of via the Internet.

Online Shopping Price Fixing:

     This has been well-documented for years, and I discovered in the early 2000's that airline fare vendors were increasing fare prices automatically based on cookies in a browser.  My personal experience in this has extended outside of airline fares, but one incident I experienced was watching the fare change after finding a good price for my family to fly from Minneapolis to Florida.  I didn't buy the tickets immediately, but jotted down the price & details and then called my wife to confirm the date/time/price.  When we were in agreement I went back to the web site just ten minutes later and discovered ticket prices had increased $60 each.  An additional $240 for a ten-minute delay in buying?  I was irate.  But I did some Googling of the topic and discovered I wasn't the first to experience this.  And on advice, I cleared my cookies and browser cache and then went to the same web site--and found the original prices!  Which I purchased.  The vendor had taken my browsing history and automatically jacked up the prices on my second visit, based on my initial interest.  I almost had cancelled the trip due to the higher prices.

This happens on other sites, too, not just air fare tools.  Worse, after shopping online for a product, new targeted advertisements pop up on each computer to which I've log in.  These new unwanted advertisements show up on social media sites then, too.

It's like they say about a "free" thing like Facebook, If you're not paying for the service, YOU'RE the thing being sold.

Can There Never Be A Super-Human AI?

     I have some problems with the analysis and conclusions of this article.  While I agree that some of us may be paranoid about AI's, particularly in light of doomsday or dystopian-future movies like the Terminator series, just because we're paranoid does NOT mean something bad cannot happen as the result of AI development.

Further, "smarter than humans" may not have a meaning to the author, but it certainly has an equivalent impression to humans.  As long as the effect of an AI is that it can anticipate human action correctly, or perform a potentially negative action that can impact people more quickly than humans can act or anticipate, then the sentence structure or syntax are irrelevant.  If the concept is that a machine could negatively impact one or many people as a result of its speed and relative intelligence, then people will interpret the machine and its technology as a threat.

Whether that makes it superhuman or not is not important.  How it can impact people in a negative manner is all that matters, no matter "how" you define the terms of an AI's power.

Publishing Security Agency Secrets:

     The thing about reporting security / conspiracy theories is the sky is the limit, and there's no way to immediately identify and solve the issue and close the case.  Many people would discount such closure, and the thing would live on and on, no matter whether it's hacking of security agencies or space program conspiracy theories or Area 57.  It's a waste of time theorizing.  Provide a world where greed & power & corruption are eliminated by great education and good food and safety/security for all, along with eliminating training the next generations to hate/hack/distrust anyone by stopping the hand-down of hurtful history (this government/religious group/ethnic group is bad because of what they did back when, therefore you must go on the offensive against them), and then you'll have something to work with that's like a clean slate.

Get everyone to play nice, then clean up the viruses & Trojans, etc.  And worry about the next conspiracy theory.  Maybe space aliens are controlling it all?  Or intelligent viruses?  Or anything colored purple?  Hey, it's as wacky a theory as some you'll find out in the literature or on the Internet.

Juicero:  Hype Drives Price Over Practicality & Common Sense:

     Seriously?  That much analysis & press was devoted to showing how fancy the juice press is?  When none was devoted (initially) to telling folks to just use common sense and squeeze the juice out of the bags, or buy orange juice in bottles?  Silly people!  You might as well spend your money on concert tickets to a remote island and be stranded by scamming promoters who tell the performers not to come.  Oh wait, that's already been done.  Will people never learn?  Or was P.T. Barnum correct about what is born every minute?  Fool me once . . .

Silicon Valley Startup Challenges:

     Anyone starting a business has my respect and sympathy and skepticism for success.  Worse, when they try to do it in one of the world's most expensive regions, and in a field so competitive and prone to reverse engineering and copyright/patent infringement by other countries.  It hardly makes sense.

If it weren't for folks trying their altruistic best to build a better world, maybe trying to improve their own financial status through hard work and good ideas and innovation, we'd have nothing better to look forward to.

Translation Silliness:

     The literal and figurative interpretations can be interesting.  It's fun to imagine the situations in which some of these phrases were coined.

Level 16

For Northrop Gruman, it's not a situation of "can't", it's a decision to not prioritize. Their employee's privacy pays the price.

Ten lbs. of nutmetg? Exactly how much egg nog do you need to buy to use that much nutmeg? Mmmm....

Fascinating article on the cyber-spying of each other. This is where Cold War II is being fought now.

I grew up on Atari. I've said it a thousand times. The Atari 2600 is the most aesthetically pleasing console of all time. I've been such a fan of Atari all my life my wife got me this book for Christmas: Art of Atari

  A great book on the artwork for the Atari games, packaging, consoles, arcade boxes, promotional material, and more.

Level 13

I do think that progress and investments in AI are required, I also can't help but be a tad bit worried we'll take it too far...think "Terminator", "AI", "i Robot", "2001", etc...

Level 13

OMG I am old.....  I had an Atari and spent many an hour play Pac-Man, Pong, and Missile Command. 

Level 17

Oh, yes, the airline prices. I've known about that for a while now, and on all the websites that offer such services such as rental cars, hotels, etc. And don't get me started on how airlines even calculate pricing, that's a different rant for a different day.

Still, I hadn't thought about this pricing fix in other areas of the web. It makes total sense though, and I may have noticed it, but the article was a bit of a re-awakening.

Level 13

Enjoyed the article to the hilarious sayings.  Got a good laugh for the day.

Level 21
Level 14

Great post sqlrockstar​ !!!

Love the Atari picture!

AI - I still think of Space Above and Beyond - "Take a chance!"

Northrop Grumman - Another reminder that outsourced arrangements are living an breathing things.

Cyber spying - I see a new Netflix series....

Online price fixing - I am shocked.... (ummm.not really... when is a sale not a sale?)

Unicorn startup game - I folded in September.... oh well....

Hilarious sayings - The true meaning of "Lost in translation!!"

Juciero - Just because you can, does not mean you should.... Classic definition of a non-sustainable business model....

Level 13

I never put ice on my cows...


Level 14

The pricing thing doesn't surprise me. Even the route you take will affect prices.

Last year I bought a one year subscription on Ancestry - except I noticed that I could go to and get the full subscription for 60% of the cost on

Guess which one I chose

That article reminded me of the which is larger question 1/3LB or 1/4LB ?

Level 16

The cartridge on the lower right is from the doomed 4-part "SwordQuest" series, "EarthWorld". Each game had an egg that revealed a code which told you where to find the secret word in the accompanying comic book. You were to mail in your form for a chance to be flown to Cali to participate in a tourney to win a prize. Winners of the 4 tourneys would compete for the Grand Prize, a $30k jewel-encrusted sword! (Hence SwordQuest!) Only 2 tourneys took place before the VGS market bottomed out. Where the sword is today is a subject of folklore...

Swordquest - Wikipedia

Level 19

I wish they'd find and prosecute the leakers at NSA and CIA!

Level 12

But isn't that how ice cream is made?

Level 14

I'm glad I no longer work for Northrop Grumman anymore.

Level 13

Hadn't come across the Juicero until today, very interesting article. Enjoyed the simulator too.

About the Author
Thomas LaRock is a Head Geek at SolarWinds and a Microsoft® Certified Master, SQL Server® MVP, VMware® vExpert, and a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He has over 20 years experience in the IT industry in roles including programmer, developer, analyst, and database administrator.