Flash – Must – Die

Adobe Flash—that insecure, ubiquitous resource hog everyone hates to need—is under siege, again, and hopefully for the last time. The latest calls for its retirement come from some of the Internet’s most powerful players, but if the combined clattering of Facebook, Firefox, and a legion of unsatisfied users isn’t enough finally to put it in the ground, scroll down to see how to axe it from your devices yourself.

Why would you want to?

Because Flash is a closed, proprietary system on a web that deserves open standards. It’s a popular punching bag for hackers, which puts users at risk over and over again. And it’s a resource-heavy battery suck that at this point mostly finds its purchase in pop-up ads you didn’t want to see anyway.

Open or closed means little to me – other than so-called open is even easier to hack than a crappy, poorly-designed closed system like Flash. Nothing is hacked more often than Linux.

This week, in the wake of newly discovered vulnerabilities in Flash, Facebook security boss Alex Stamos called for a termination date for Flash, and late Monday night Mozilla disabled all current versions of the plug-in by default in its Firefox browser. Even Google is limiting Flash’s impact; last month, it announced that future versions of Chrome will “intelligently pause” Flash-based content that isn’t part of a website’s core experience (e.g. video ads).

That doesn’t mean this is the end … yet. Facebook still uses Flash to play video on some browsers, and Firefox reintroduced Flash support on Tuesday when a secure update arrived. The point is clear, though: Flash is officially more trouble than it’s worth. <a href="http://www.wired.com/2015/07/adobe-flash-player-die/'>Flash. Must. Die. | WIRED.”>And it has been for some time.

…Killing of Flash has been on-trend since being software non-grata on the original iPhone. Steve Jobs penned a famous open letter in April, 2010, explaining why he wouldn’t let Flash anywhere near Apple’s mobile products, highlighting concerns over openness, security, and its impact on battery life.

More than five years later, the case against Flash remains largely unchanged—and the security problem is the most immediate and important. After all, the newly discovered critical vulnerability that led Mozilla to quarantine Firefox from Flash was the third problem of its kind discovered this week thanks to a data breach of controversial digital surveillance firm Hacking Team…

However actively Adobe has been working on Flash Player security, it doesn’t seem to be enough. This week’s mistrials are but the latest in a string of security lapses that have plagued Flash for years. Exploit kits—packets of code that take advantage of these sorts of vulnerabilities in your browser to push malware or ransomware—have used Flash to futz with countless sites. So-called zero-day vulnerabilities (a security hole that hackers find before the software company does) are found on Flash with such regularity they almost feel like a feature.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait for Adobe to pull the plug. You can do it yourself.

RTFA for instructions re most browsers.

I stopped concerning myself when iOS stopped running it in any of Apple’s mobile devices. The pressures exerted by Steve Jobs at the time pushed Google into speeding up their pace of adopting html5 everywhere – especially at YouTube. If you show up at YouTube without Flash installed, the site automatically switches into an html5 version of whichever video you’re looking for.

If I run into a site that refuses to run anything other than Flash – most often, the BBC, nowadays – I don’t run their videos. No need to tempt some script kiddie.

Honda’s $25 million settlement illustrates gutless government in action


Someone explain to Honda those aren’t American flags

American Honda Finance Corp. agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle discriminatory lending allegations as the U.S. has stepped up its scrutiny of car loans, the third-largest source of household debt.

The Honda unit that finances auto loans in the U.S. will offer $24 million in relief to borrowers who were allegedly overcharged by dealers since 2011, according to a settlement Tuesday with the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. An additional $1 million will be spent on consumer education programs.

The federal government in recent years has secured large discriminatory lending payments from mortgage companies, including a $335 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corp., and has now turned its attention to auto loans. As part of the settlement, Honda said it would limit the amount a dealer could markup the interest rate of the loan.

As our government has demonstrated time and again, you can lie, cheat and steal – and if you’re a big bank, you get a sizable fine. I guess that’s repayment to the state, somehow. No one does any time. None of the creeps who signed-off on screwing American citizens pay any penalty. Shareholders get the fine subtracted from any dividends they may have expected.

Toyota Motor Credit Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have each disclosed government investigations of discriminatory pricing related to loans.

Vanita Gupta said the Justice Department’s investigation of the auto-lending industry is continuing. Auto loans are the third-largest source of household debt after mortgages and student loans…

U.S. authorities allege that Honda violated fair-lending laws by allowing dealers to charge higher interest rates on loans sought by African-American, Hispanic and Asian borrowers.

The average African-American borrower paid about $250 more for the loan than a white borrower, the Justice Department ad the CFPB said in its complaint. Hispanics paid $200 more while Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers paid $150 more during the term of the loan, the U.S. said.

And that’s the flip side of bigoted business practices in 21st Century America. Corporate barons only have to look to the Republican Party and the gerrymandering done since the 2010 census to think to themselves – hey, these creeps are publicly redefining voting districts to discriminate against Black folks, poor white folks, students and seniors – why can’t I do the same thing?

Our creepiest politicians combine the theft of voting rights with lies about non-existent voter fraud to assemble a life’s worth of deceit and discrimination equal to anything since the days of Jim Crow – and our courts will fart around for decades without doing a thing. Plus, they have the example of the Supreme Court before them saying – it’s all right, racism doesn’t exist in our plastic TV-land anymore.

Why shouldn’t Honda try to get away with stealing? Our politicians, our government says it’s OK.

Babble is on about “mini ice age” coming — and of course it’s not true


Ignore this crud – talk about sunspots!

“Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet,” blared one headline from this weekend.

“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years,” warned another.

By Sunday evening, news that the Earth could be headed for period of bitter cold was trending on Facebook and whizzing across Twitter. The story — which has been reported everywhere from conservative blogs to the British press to the Weather Channel to the Huffington Post — was based on a recent presentation at the Royal Astronomical Society’s national meeting. Researchers studying sunspots found that solar activity is due to decline dramatically in the next few decades, reaching levels not seen since the 17th century, during a period known as the Maunder minimum. Back then, the decline coincided with what’s called the “Little Ice Age,” when Europe’s winters turned brutally cold, crops failed and rivers froze over. Could another one be on its way?

Not really.

Though University of Northumbria mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova, who led the sunspot research, did find that the magnetic waves that produce sunspots…are expected to counteract one another in an unusual way in the coming years, the press release about her research mentions nothing about how that will affect the Earth’s climate. Zharkova never even used the phrase “mini ice age.” Meanwhile, several other recent studies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Besides, that “Little Ice Age” that occurred during the Maunder minimum, it wasn’t so much a global ice age as a cold spell in Europe, and it may have been caused more by clouds of ash from volcanic eruptions than by fluctuations in solar activity.

BTW…Zharkova’s findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so her conclusions haven’t been vetted and refined.

But those nuances were totally lost as stories about Zharkova’s research made the rounds on social media and in the press. Instead, we got 300-year-old engravings of Londoners cavorting on the frozen River Thames accompanied by predictions of food shortages and brutal cold — plus snarky tweets about not worrying about global warming anymore…

Nope. Climate change-deniers have resorted to clutching at journalistic straws. Paying off professional skeptics doesn’t have the return it used to. Thugs like the Koch Bros. and their peers in the oil side of fossil fuel profiteering have to content themselves with the tiny, exclusive anti-science brigade contained within conservative political parties and fundamentalist religions locked into creationism.

Sad, but, true. Capable only of mustering the gullible, obedient and hopelessly ignorant.