The $30 billion Social Security hack

Sometime last year computers at the U.S. Social Security Administration were hacked and the identities of millions of Americans were compromised. What, you didn’t hear about that?  Nobody did.

The extent of damage is only just now coming to light in the form of millions of false 2011 income tax returns filed in the names of people currently receiving Social Security benefits. That includes a very large number of elderly and disabled people who are ill-equipped to recognize or fight the problem. It’s an impact pervasive enough that the IRS now has a form just to deal with it: Form 14039: Identity Theft Affidavit, December 2011.

The Wall $treet Journal has a story about this problem […]

By |March 30th, 2012|2012|95 Comments

Linux 3.3: Finally a little good news for bufferbloat

While I was out chasing computer history last week, the Linux 3.3 kernel was released. And a very interesting release it is, though not for its vaunted re-inclusion of certain Android kernel hacks. I think that modest move is being overblown in the press.  No, Linux 3.3 appears to be the first OS to really take a shot at reducing the problem of bufferbloat. It’s not the answer to this scourge, but it will help some, especially since Linux is so popular for high volume servers.

Bufferbloat, as you’ll recall from my 2011 predictions column, is the result of our misguided attempt to protect streaming applications (now 80 percent of Internet packets) by putting […]

By |March 25th, 2012|2012|39 Comments

Computer History Day — Part 2

I forget sometimes that my kids are as young as they are. And I’m also in the habit of packing as many interviews into a day as I can. Both of which explain why Computer History Day was both a success and a failure.

We made it on time to breakfast with Steve Wozniak, who very wisely arrived with magic tricks to entertain the kids. All of the carefully rehearsed questions for Woz were instantly forgotten, but we did come away having mastered a couple really good card tricks.

I did learn one new thing (at least new to me) from Woz. Steve Jobs told me in Steve Jobs — The Lost Interview that Woz had been thrown out […]

By |March 24th, 2012|2012|23 Comments

Computer History Day — Part 1

This week my kids are off school for Spring Break. Daytona and Cabo are out of the question for three caballeros ages 10, 7, and 5, but day trips around the Bay Area to learn about this or that are easy. Tuesday it’s San Francisco to learn all about the cable car system for Channing’s report on that topic. And Wednesday will be Computer History Day for the Cringelys.

It’s a no brainer for us to visit the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. That fabulous facility happens to be run by John Hollar, the guy who hired me in 1997 to write for pbs.org. My kids have never been there. But to make […]

By |March 18th, 2012|2012|113 Comments

How to protect your home from Leprechauns

My son Fallon, who is five, has been worrying about Leprechauns. They’ve been talking in school about St. Patrick’s Day and a lot of that talk involves Leprechaun mischief. They come in your house, make a mess, causing problems of all sorts Fallon says. So yesterday he came up with a Leprechaun defense strategy that I think is worth reading about.

“First we’ll take my money,” said Fallon, “and we’ll turn it into dollars.”

Fallon is a scrounger for change. When he finds money he puts it in a jar. Sometimes he asks me if I have any spare coins and I’ll give him what’s in my pockets. Like the Amish, with Fallon it’s all in and no out so the coin stash has grown substantially […]

By |March 17th, 2012|2012|58 Comments