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Oprah time: Democracy in Decline by Philip Kotler

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It was a curious experience for me to be reading Democracy in Decline. When I was in college Philip Kotler was a constant part of my life. His Principles of Marketing was a core text for my degree. It is a bit weird reading another book by Professor Kotler; especially one on such a dramatically different topic.
Democracy in Decline
In Democracy in Decline Kotler addresses what are commonly cited as weaknesses in the political system of the United States. He provides an easy to understand guide to the US political system.  Kotler then gets into what he identifies as the key points of failure in the American political system.

  1. Low voter literacy, turnout and engagement
  2. Shortage of highly qualified and visionary candidates
  3. Blind belief in American exceptionalism
  4. Growing public antipathy towards government
  5. Two-party gridlock preventing needed legislation
  6. Growing role of money in politics
  7. Gerrymandering empowering incumbents to get re-elected forever
  8. Caucuses and primaries leading candidates to adopt more extreme positions
  9. Continuous conflict between the President and Congress
  10. Continuous conflict between the federal and state governments
  11. The supreme court’s readiness to revise legislative actions
  12. The difficulty of passing new amendments
  13. The difficulty of developing a sound foreign policy
  14. Making government agencies more accountable

Kotler’s viewpoint is unashamedly liberal and supportive of collegiate rivalry underpinned by compromise in politics. The White House he envisions is more like the Barlett administration in The West Wing or Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets rather than Hilary Clinton. The flaws he has identified are so big in scale that they would likely require a major re-engineering of American society. From the electoral system, the relationship between federal and state government, public policy and public service.

That kind of re-engineering would require widespread societal approval. That wouldn’t happen in the riven, polarised society of America today. The books measures would be completely against the interests of the conservative movement.

For the European reader, Kotler offers an interesting engaged analysis of the American condition, however there is little to no reflection on the commonalities of national populism in European politics. This book will only provide an understanding of the United States; and that’s ok.

Kotler has a sub-header in the tile of the book ‘Rebuilding the future. In reality Kotler provides an effective diagnosis, but an not anything that points to an effective solution beyond hoping for the best.

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Links of the day | 在网上找到

Reading Time: 2 minutes

AT&T Spying on Americans for Profit, New Documents Reveal | Daily Beast – The telecom giant is doing NSA-style work for law enforcement—without a warrant—and earning millions of dollars a year from taxpayers

As Chinese Incomes Rise, So Does Pollution | The New Republic – it was a similar state in the UK and US during the industrial revolution. Super Fund sites would have looked familiar to the Chinese. That’s what industrially driven progress looks, smells and tastes like

The Decline in Chinese Cyberattacks: The Story Behind the Numbers | Technology Review – or just taking liberties that could be then easily bargained away to create the illusion of a win

Xiaomi is selling the concept phone of your wildest dreams – The Verge – impressive design, it will be interesting to see if it can take the crown back in China from Huawei and Oppo

The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter for more than $30 million – Recode – The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction – so in reality less than 30 million but still a great result for Brian Lam and the team

What is Dolby Vision? | Electronics EETimes – high dynamic range video

Galaxy Note 7 Recall Dismays South Korea, the ‘Republic of Samsung’ – NYTimes.com – interesting how attached people are to the brand

Huawei Mate 9 to sport 4X optical zoom, cost up to $1300 | Phonearena – trying to use ridiculous pricing to develop a perception of quality

Homeless on Stockholm’s silicon slopes – POLITICO – with the implication that they prefer refugees over technical talent

Every LTE call, text, can be intercepted, blacked out, hacker finds • The Register – Ruxcon Hacker Wanqiao Zhang of Chinese hacking house Qihoo 360 has blown holes in 4G LTE networks by detailing how to intercept and make calls, send text messages and even force phones offline

GitHub – DaylightingSociety/WhereAreTheEyes: Surveillance Detection and Mapping App – interesting move that would be of value to the surveilled and the watchers

How I started my company in Japan | Danny Choo – really interesting read

Hong Kong lifestyle retailer accuses competition of copying design of his shop | SCMP – interesting area for IP, what about retailers that transplant formats (Yo! Sushi etc)

Move over K-Pop: desperately seeking an international cultural icon made in Hong Kong | This Week In Asia | South China Morning Post – how does Hong Kong claim is place on the international cultural stage?

Batteries May Trip ‘Death Spiral’ in $3.4 Trillion Credit Market – Bloomberg – of course this doesn’t seem to take into account the finite supply of lithium and rising cost of the metal…

My first virtual reality groping | Mic – why should we be surprised that VR mirrors the best and worst of real life?

History tells us where the wealth gap leads | Aeon Essays – really interesting read

Google Has Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking | Propublica – Google’s ownership of Android and Chrome make this particularly interesting

Kenny: Suggestion of EC probe into Ireland ‘wrong’ | RTE – Irish Times report stirred the hornets nest

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The internet of hacking or WTF is happening with my smart home?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

IoT should be considered the Internet of Hacking (IoH).

Mirai – is a bot network that is powered by a range of devices including infected home routers and remote camera systems. It took over these systems by using their default passwords. The network of compromised machines is then targeted to overload a target network or service. Last week the Dyn DNS service was targeted which restricted access to lots of other services for users on the east coast of the US.

DNS is like a telephone directory of internet destinations, if no one knows where to go it becomes a lot harder to get in touch.

DDoSing
Mirai didn’t spring miraculously out of thin air. It finds its history in passionate gamers who used distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to slow down or even kick opponents off online gaming platforms. Eventually the gaming companies got hip to it and went after the cheaters, not to be outdone the cheaters went after the gaming companies.

Taking a service offline using DDoS became a source of extortion against online banking and e-commerce services. Attacks can be used as a form of ‘digital hit’ to take out opponents or critics like online security commentator Brian Krebs.

Computing
Moore’s Law meant that computing power has become so small and plentiful that it is surprising what we often have in the palms of our hands. The first Cisco router was built on the circuit board of a Sun Microsystems workstation. Home routers now are basically small computers running Linux. A CCTV camera box or a DVR are both basic PCs complete with hard drives.

Back in 2007, BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis described the iPhone as

“They’ve put a Mac in this thing…”

The implication being that the power of a sophisticated PC was essentially in the palm of one’s hand. The downside of this is that your thermostat is dependent on a good broadband connection and Google based cloud services and your television can get malware in a similar manner to your PC.

Security
For a range of Chinese products that have been acknowledged as part of the botnet; the manufacturer acknowledged that they were secured with a default admin password. They fixed the problem in a later version of the firmware on the device. Resetting the default password is now part of the original device set-up the first time you use it.

The current best advice for internet of things security is protecting the network with a firewall at the edge. The reality is that most home networks have a firewall on the connected PCs if you were lucky. The average consumer doesn’t have a dedicated security appliance on the edge of the home network.

Modern enterprises no longer rely on only security at the edge, they have a ‘depth in defence’ approach that takes a layered approach to security.

That would be a range of technology including:

  • At least one firewall at the edge
  • Intrusion detection software as part of a network management suite
  • A firewall on each device
  • Profile based permissions across the system (if you work in HR, you have access to the HR systems, but not customer records
  • Decoy honey post systems
  • All file systems encrypted by default so if data is stolen it still can’t be read

Processes:

  • Updating software as soon as it becomes available
  • Hard passwords
  • Two-factor authentication

Depth in defence is complex in nature, which makes it hard to pull off for the average family. IoT products are usually made to a price point. These are products as appliances, so it is hard for manufacturers to have a security eco-system. The likelihood of anti-virus and firewall software for light bulbs or thermostats is probably small to non-existent.

The Shenzhen eco-system
Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong has been the centre of assembly for consumer electronics over the past 20 years. Although this is changing, for instance Apple devices are now assembled across China. Shenzhen has expanded into design, development and engineering. A key part of this process has been a unique open source development process. Specifications and designs are shared informally under legally ambiguous conditions – this shares development costs across manufacturers and allows for iterative improvements.

There is a thriving maker community that allows for blurring between hobbyists and engineers. A hobbyists passion can quickly become a prototype and then into production . Shenzhen manufacturers can go to market so fast that they harvest ideas from Kickstarter and can have them in market before the idea has been funded on the crowdsourcing platform.

All of these factors would seem to favour the ability to get good security technologies engineered directly into the products by sharing the load.

China
The European Union were reported to be looking at regulating security into the IoT eco-system, but in the past regulation hasn’t improved the security of related products such as DSL routers. Regulation is only likely to be effective if it is driven out of China. China does have a strong incentive to do this.

The government has a strong design to increase the value of Chinese manufacturing beyond low value assembly and have local products seen as being high quality. President Xi has expressed frustration that the way Chinese manufacturing appears to be sophisticated, yet cannot make a good ballpoint pen.

Insecurity in IoT products is rather like that pain point of poor quality pens. It is a win-win for both customers, the Chinese manufacturing sector and by extension the Party.

More Information
WSJ City – Massive Internet Attack Stemmed From Game Tactics
Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it | Quartz
Asus lawsuit puts entire industry on notice over shoddy router security | Ars Technica
Europe to Push New Security Rules Amid IoT Mess — Krebs on Security
Why can’t China make a good ballpoint pen? | Marketplace.org