Category Archives: Technology

Time to end “Above Top Secret” ?

Radio intercept marked Top Secret UltraAt the start of World War II, Britain set up a large and highly secret codebreaking operation. Every document related to the project was “above top secret:” they were all marked “Top Secret Ultra” and handled by separate security teams from merely “Top Secret” military information. This strategy seems to have kept the activity secret, at least from the general public. Military adversaries seem to penetrate such measures more quickly.

The intelligence community’s arrogance about secrecy grew from the Cold War. Very few intelligence agency secrets leaked to the general public back then, regardless of whether they had leaked to adversaries or not. This has had a profound political impact.

No one discusses or questions the intelligence community’s value proposition.

Given the recent dumps of classified information into Wikileaks, newspapers, and everywhere else, I think it’s time to kill the “above top secret” idea. History shows it hasn’t really worked that well anyway. There are much easier and cheaper ways to restrict access and control sharing. We also need to share more information with the public so we can judge the true value of our intelligence community.

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Tech-choking Image of History

Excerpt of Adams SynchronologyThere’s something charming about Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History, even if I am a secular scientific type. It shows the history of the world following (more or less) Ussher’s chronology which famously begins everything at 4004 BC. Adam’s chart begins in biblical times, and tracks the “flow of history” mostly in terms of prominent European rulers. The first edition ended in 1871. There are claimed to be editions updated through the 21st century.

I haven’t seen a version displaying dinosaurs.

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Ecobee Air Conditioning Update

Ecobee 3 thermostatIn honor of the bouncing seasons, I turned on my air conditioner a couple of weeks ago. In Minnesota that means you remove the wintertime weather covers from outdoor compressors and then turn on the dusty circuit breakers.

Fortunately I had performed a best-effort wiring of the AC into my new thermostats. All I needed to do was tell the Ecobees to look for AC, and to turn it on. It worked.

AC and heat in our home are completely different systems: while all air conditioners use blowers, not all heating systems do. Our heat uses hot water radiators. I set up a separate “comfort setting” in the Ecobee so that heat sensors wouldn’t confuse the AC system.

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The Final Ecobee

Ecobee 3 thermostatLast night I installed my third and final Ecobee 3 thermostat in our home. My children will no longer need to freeze/boil in their bedrooms just because the thermostat doesn’t know any better. Like the first two thermostats, this one required an isolation relay. This post explains the wiring. I also added a “C” wire to power the thermostats.

The people at Ecobee recommend that you hire an HVAC contractor to do this wiring. Follow these instructions at your own risk. Continue reading The Final Ecobee

Mushrooms and Thermostats

Ecobee 3I’m installing Ecobee 3 thermostats. I really like the one at our lake house (1990s heating plant) so I started installing them in our regular home (1900s heating plant).

Things did not go smoothly. I’m mixing late 20th century and early 20th century electrical technology. The simple job became complicated. This is called the mushroom factor  in some old-house maintenance communities: surprises in the infrastructure can make a normally easy task mushroom into a major project.

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Kohl’s doesn’t really do Apple Pay after all, I suppose

Kohl's doesn't read customer service queries[Update: Kohl’s has distributed new credit cards that actually work with Apple Pay]. Kohl’s and Apple have been merrily posting all sorts of stuff about how Apple Pay now works with Kohl’s charge card.

In my own experience, this celebration is premature.

I attach my interchange with Kohl’s “secure communications” to their credit card group. This is also consistent with a telephone conversation I had with one of their customer support people: nobody at Kohl’s knows anything about Apple Pay support.  

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Barclaycard vs Apple Pay: customer loses

BarclaycardBiscuit got one of those spiffy new Apple phones a few weeks back. This morning she tripped over the Apple Pay mechanism and asked me about it. We registered her American Express card – no problem. Then we tried to register her Barclaycard. After unexpected delays, she left to take a shower. I remained on the line twenty eight and a half minutes to complete the process. The precise time came from the iPhone’s display. We’re still not sure if this worked – Amex sent me an email confirmation, but I haven’t seen any response from Barclays.

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