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The U.S. tech sector versus Trump’s Muslim travel ban


U.S. President Donald Trumps signing Executive Order 13769 on January 26.—Euronews/Youtube

At least 147 U.S. tech companies now publicly oppose President Trump’s so-called Muslim travel ban, including some of the most capitalized and influential corporations in the world, such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Intel.

The backlash from the tech sector began within days of January 26, when President Trump signed his executive order banning certain immigrants from entering the United States, including all Syrian refugees and anyone from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Most recently, Yahoo and Tumblr filed an amicus brief on Friday, February 17, in support of Darweesh v. Trump—one of nearly 50 court challenges to the travel ban.

Seemingly, all the other 145-plus tech companies publicly opposed to the travel ban have associated themselves with the well-publicized lawsuit State of Washington and State of Minnesota v. Trump.

It is this latter legal action, commonly called Washington v. Trump, which has been blocking implementation of the travel ban since February 3 and which a U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to quash in a unanimous ruling on February 9.

In their amicus brief, Yahoo and Tumblr neatly sum up the pro-immigration attitude of all the tech companies opposed to the Trump travel ban:

“Immigrants to the U.S. bring with them immense talent and entrepreneurship that help drive the innovation economy. Yahoo was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo—two Stanford grad students, one from Taiwan and one from Louisiana—so we know firsthand that great things can happen when America welcomes the world’s best and brightest.”

However, the tech companies’ arguments against the travel ban are rooted less in warm humanist virtue than in hard economic necessity.

The U.S. education system, the companies say, does not produce anywhere near enough Americans with the requisite computer science skills to fill more than a fraction of U.S. tech jobs; therefore it is absolutely necessary to attract a constant influx of the world’s “best and brightest” in order for the tech sector in the United States just to survive, let alone thrive.

keep in mind that opposing a newly-elected president who is carrying out a campaign promise is not—strictly speaking—a good business move; rather it is a sure way to piss off millions of voters/consumers.

I take the fact that so many tech companies (almost all of them dependent on consumer sales) have been willing to come out against Trump’s travel ban as proof of two things:

That the companies see the travel ban and similar anti-immigration policies as truly threatening their survival and that they can count well enough to know that more U.S. consumers voted for Hillary Clinton (65,844,954, or 48.2%) than for Donald Trump (62,979,879, or 46.1%).

Read more…

Spring really is here—just not all day yet


A bit of fluffy snow is no match for this blazing spring bloom.

Don’t be fooled by a second consecutive morning with snowfall; spring has definitely come early to Vancouver.

It’s true. Hear me out.

Once again today (February 28) you will notice that the snow ended by 10 a.m. sharp and I have no doubt whatsoever that the rest of the day and evening will be as spring-like as it was yesterday and the day before. Read more…

I’d prefer spring crocuses but here’s My first bloomin’ raccoon of 2017

What are you looking at?

Raccoons have a natural advantage as dumpster divers—they don’t need flashlights.

Every year the confusion of a Vancouver spring seems to surprise me anew.

Two years ago I was dazzled to see alpine primulas, crocuses and cherry blossoms in full bloom by February 20th.

This year, I haven’t been up in Mount Pleasant to see how many crocuses are out and about but I have seen some wan little yellow and blue primulas in a few commercial planters along the West Broadway Avenue corridor.

Besides flowers, another potential sign of spring—for me at least—are the pairs of Canada geese that I’ve been hearing honking high over the Fairview neighbourhood for two weeks now. Of course this assumes that Canada geese still migrate south to the U.S. for the winter and some people are telling me that ours no longer feel the need to leave Metro Vancouver—darn climate change! Read more…

Internet security company springs big data leak…millions at risk. Not your problem


Online security company Cloudflare has been accidentally leaking customer data for months.

People aren’t actually saying that every cloud has an unencrypted lining but they are saying that every website protected by the online security service Cloudflare has been leaking encrypted session and user data—including credit card numbers and passwords—for months now and that millions of affected website users should promptly change their passwords!

Cloudflare, which provides million of online servers/websites with firewall-like traffic-filtering to protect against malicious hacking exploits, such as distributed denial of service attacks, announced on February 23 that it had a long-standing internal memory leak flaw. Cloudflare called it a “parser bug”, while the Internet security community-at-large dubbed it “cloudbleed” for its similarity to the Heartbleed memory overflow bug of three years ago. Read more…

Vancouver adds street-crossing instructions, saying 40 percent of us don’t know how


Vancouverites may have noticed the large white stickers that have begun appearing on green-painted steel poles at major intersections, such as West Broadway Avenue and South Granville street. These stickers are nothing less than detailed instructions for how to properly cross the street.

The wordy instructions explain what pedestrians can (and cannot) do, depending on which symbol is displayed by the crosswalk signal:

White pedestrian icon: “Start crossing” “Watch for vehicles”;
Flashing red hand icon: “Don’t start” “Finish crossing if started”;
Countdown timer: “Time remaining” “To finish crossing”;
Steady red hand icon: “Don’t cross”.

According to Jag Sandhu, a city spokesperson with Vancouver’s Corporate Communications department, the instruction stickers are meant to clear up a very common misunderstanding among pedestrians about the meaning and purpose of the countdown timers displayed by the crosswalk signals at major intersections.

Sandhu explained that a City of Vancouver survey about crosswalk countdown timers found that 40 percent of pedestrians think that it is legal to start crossing the street during the countdown with the red hand flashing and that 20 percent apparently didn’t know one way or the other.

The instruction stickers are meant to make it clear that “pedestrians should only start crossing when the white pedestrian signal is on and should only finish crossing if already started during the countdown”, says Sandhu. Read more…

Free your TV—make a digital antenna for under $10


On Friday (February 10), a septuagenarian do-it-yourselfer and I were talking about the over-the-air digital TV signals available in the Vancouver area; something relatively few Vancouverites seem to be aware of. At one point I was given an offhandedly description of the dandy DIY antenna that this fellow uses to pull in something like six TV stations for free.

My elder friend is the sort who built himself crystal radio sets as a child and he grew up to be a very capable tinkerer. For many years he refurbished discarded computers just to give them to the less fortunate (that is, people lacking his repair skills).

I very much respect his do-it-yourself mindset and I pumped him for enough information so that I could provide both the clear diagram which heads this post together with the additional details needed to build his homemade HD TV antenna—all of which follows below. Read more…