Enjoying the Apple Blossoms

Depending on when the trees bloom, the results can be modest, abysmal, frosted, or luxurious. This year, the apple trees have really outdone themselves. The blooms are absolutely amazing because the weather was perfect for the trees this year. Just looking at the trees from a distance, you can see that they’re decked out in spring color that’s certain to please.

The apple trees are truly luxuriant with blossoms this year.
Apple Trees Decked Out with Flowers

It’s a warm spring day with just a slight breeze, so getting into the orchard is quite an experience. The flowers are quite pungent and walking around is delightful. Unlike many other years, there hasn’t been any hint of frost or strong winds to damage the flowers, so the clusters are nearly perfect.

The white blossoms are incredible and the odor is quite strong.
The Blossom Clusters are Beautiful

The bees and other pollinators were quite busy on this particular day. A count showed that there were at least fifteen different kinds of insects busy at their job of pollinating the flowers. They didn’t pay any attention to me, of course, and I paid little attention to them. I was simply taken by the absolute beauty of the flowers and wanted to share them with you. Let me know about your favorite sights, sounds, and smells of spring at [email protected].


Old Laws, User Privacy, and Vendors Caught in the Middle

I’ve talked a number of times about researchers creating security busting software just because they can. The software often gets out into the wild where people who wouldn’t normally have a clue as to how to overcome security features can now use it to break the latest security in some product or application. Now the government is trying to force Apple (and probably other vendors) to write such software in pursuit of information hidden by encryption based on the mandates of a 227 year old law written at a time when no one had any idea that modern digital devices would even exist. The decree issued by the judge in charge of the case seems quite reasonable until you consider the fact that once Apple writes the software, it could end up in the wild, where hackers will almost certainly find ways to use it to overcome the security of legitimate users—making it impossible to ensure private information, such as credit card data, really does remain private.

The iPhone comes with some interesting security features that make it a relatively secure device. For example, tampering with certain device hardware will brick the device, which is the sort of security feature more devices should have. Modifying the security hardware should cause the device to lock down in order to protect the data it contains. The encryption that Apple offers with the iPhone is also first rate. No one but the user has the key used to unlock the encryption, which means that only the user can create a security problem by handing the key out to others.

The government is trying to change this scenario to make it easier to learn about anything it can about the data on Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone (one of the two San Bernardino shooters). On the surface, it seems like a good idea, if for no other reason than to potentially prevent other shootings. However, the manner in which the government has pursued the information opens the door to all sorts of abuse and then there is the matter of that software getting out into the wild. The issue here is that the law hasn’t kept up with technology, which is a recurrent problem. The government doesn’t have a law to cover the need to break encryption in a reasonable way, so it resorts to a 227 year old law that was never intended to address this need. The fact that the government is using the same law to try to force Apple to breach iPhone security in at least twelve other cases means that the argument that this is a one-off requirement doesn’t hold any water. Once Apple cooperates even once, it sets a precedent that will allow the government to force additional cooperation, even when such cooperation decidedly damages the privacy of innocent parties.

Tim Cook has rightly refused to cooperate with the government. There really is too much at stake in this case and even the government should be able to figure it out. What needs to happen is that our government needs to catch up with technology and write laws that everyone can live with to deal with the need to preserve the privacy engendered by encryption, yet make it possible for the government to obtain information needed to solve a case.

The question here is more complicated than simply managing information properly. It’s also one of keeping good technology (such as that found in Security for Web Developers) working properly and ensuring that government entities don’t abuse their positions. What is your take on the San Bernardino shooting and the information needed to pursue it? How do you feel about keeping your private data truly private? Let me know at [email protected].


3D Printing Done Faster and Better

A technology becomes viable at the point you start hearing about it on a regular basis. When the buzz around a new technology becomes loud enough and you begin to see real products from it, you know that it at least has a chance of becoming something worthwhile and interesting. Unfortunately, many technologies achieve critical mass, but then die on the vine as a fad because they lack something else. People are willing to give a technology time to grow, but only for so long. At some point, they get bored and move on to the next promising technology unless the current technology manages to grab attention. The technology must do something that keeps the user coming back for more—it must make things faster, easier, less expensive, or have some other benefit that makes it a must have technology. 3D printing is beginning to achieve both critical mass and the must have functionality that will make it the technology to have in the near future.

It wasn’t long ago that a Chinese company actually printed the parts for a building and put it up. In fact, you can find a number of such buildings now, but the buildings are more for publicity than practicality for the moment. You won’t see buildings produced by 3D printing at any scale for some time—the technique will remain a specialty. A little more practical is the printing of larger consumer goods. For example, another story tells you about efforts to print items such as snowboards and motorcycles. However, read the details about these new printing feats and you find they don’t really make the technology a must have development. The motorcycle, for example, is underpowered, overpriced, and requires way too long to build. These examples all demonstrate that 3D printing is doable and they create the excitement needed to move forward, but if the technology were to stay at this level, 3D printing would eventually become just a fad.

Another story talks about how 3D printing could eventually print organs in place. A previous post, Using 3D Printing for Urgent Medical Needs, discusses some of the medical uses for 3D technology, but this use would kick things up several notches. The new technology takes advantage of the body’s natural abilities to help promote cell growth and it would be less invasive than today’s methods of organ replacement. Medical uses currently provide much of the “must have” emphasis for 3D printing, but again, if it remains in this realm, the technology will be too expensive to reach a critical mass of products that ensures it becomes something everyone must have.

Organizations are starting to take notice of 3D printing, which is a good sign. Apple may eventually create a 3D printer for general use. The patent trolls are also showing up, which believe it or not, is a positive sign. All these signs means that there is interest by organizations in 3D printing because there is a sense that they can make money by various means. Even so, the technology still isn’t of the “must have” caliber needed to continued existence.

It was with great interest today that I read about how 3D printing is changing. Not only is it becoming faster, but it’s also becoming more practical. Ford has become involved in using 3D printing to make car parts. The process is faster and it can actually shave time off the production process (a lot of it). It’s this story that is starting to convince me that 3D printing will stay around for the long haul and that we may finally see a radical new way of producing the items we need. The technology has a long way to go yet, but it’s starting to build that “must have” aura around it that will ensure it remains a viable technology. Let me know your thoughts about 3D printing at [email protected].