Book Review: The Tunnels – Escapes under Berlin Wall.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the exciting tales of tunnels and escapes from prisons such as Colditz and as a young kid, that was basically all they were – thrilling tales of adventures and escapes. So naturally, a book about the Berlin Wall and the escapes (mainly) underneath it was going to be intriguing reading. I can clearly remember the night that it was announced that the wall was coming down and free movement was now available so although the ending of the book was not a surprise, it was still going to be an interesting read.

The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell front cover Greg Mitchell writes a very detailed and exciting book that gives details on several escape methods used to leave East Germany, not just tunnels although they are the primary focus. The depths that the diggers went to,their heroism and the risks that the escapees took deserves a wider audience and this book provides a very detailed account of what happened.

Apparently both NBC and CBS were trying to capture exclusive footage of tunnel escapes for their network and some of the book details the political twists and turns as the producers and networks attempt to get the films released despite the protestation of various governments who feared the political fallout and risks during this cold-war era. It was pretty scary to see just how close the US was to war with Russia in the cold-war era and how big of an impact the Berlin escapes were having.

The pictures included in the middle of the book give an additional indication of what happened under the streets of Berlin. I had not heard details of the escapes or seen pictures of the Berlin Wall so this book also provided a detailed history lesson from this era.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and got a new appreciation for what happened back during those years and an appreciation for the freedom of movement that we currently enjoy. Highly recommended.

As a follow up to the book, I will be watching the NBC video, East Germans escape through tunnel that will provide an extra insight into the situation. I would recommend that you read the book before watching the film though.

A special thanks to Blogging for Books for the review copy of this book.

Remotsy – voice control for the tv

No more remotes
Image thanks to redjar at flickr

I just signed up for my first Kickstarter project for the remotsy package. A device that integrates with smartthings and alexa to control your remotes by voice. No more moving the cat and dog to see if they are sitting on the remote or hunting for them if they are not underneath them – instead I can just say “Alexa – continue watching Gilmore Girls” and the bluray will turn on, along with the tv and the lights can dim. This will be useful to reduce the number of remotes for our home entertainment system(currently at 4 total).
Watching the demo videa was amusing as they demonstrated Alexa commands – naturally my Alexa heard the ad and chimed in and although it got the time right, everything else was a “Sorry I don’t understand”
At $57 including shipping for a beta and a retail device it’s also pretty reasonably priced. There are quite a few packages left at the moment, but the project has just been released so I expect it to sell out pretty quickly

Review: TravelSafer digital pressure gauge

Both Brandi and I have had alerts in our cars come up to say that our tire pressures need to be checked. Unfortunately neither of the cars actually tell you *which* tire has the problem so it requires checking all 4 tires (which probably should be done anyway). Naturally the stations never have working air or pressure gauges and as I have an air compressor at home – I need a quick way of checking the pressures. I think this is actually caused by the temperature dropping and getting cold overnight as it only seemed to happen on the couple of cold nights we have had recently.

I already have one of those stick gauges – you put it on the valve stem and it shoots out a piece of plastic with marks to tell you the pressure and each tire came up with the right pressure give or take one psi so I wasn’t sure which tire had the problem.

I was given the chance to review the TravelSafer digital pressure gauge and due to the above issues I jumped at the chance to get a second opinion on the tire pressures.20161106_091352

The gauge arrived in see through plastic on a cardboard backing (left)  and was very easy to open which is a plus – no need to go and get scissors to open this.  It requires a 3v (supplied) lithium battery,  so the device was ready to use straight away. It does look like the screws that hold this device together are really recessed, so switching out the battery may require some long jewelers screwdrivers in order to take the two halves apart. Hopefully the battery lasts a long time!

 

 

When I went to check the pressure on the car, I discovered a major  shortcoming in that the device is pretty bulky and it was difficult to get the device on the valve without the hubcap getting in the way. The device is about 3cm wide so make sure you have plenty of room by the valve stem. You can see the difference in size with the image below – it was a bit too bulky (but not impossible)  to fit on the stem with the hubcap on and nobody is going to remove the hubcap to check their tire pressure!

gaugecomparison-smallThe device however does  seem to be accurate and was within 1 psi of my original manual device when I checked several tires so it’s reading is pretty consistent.  The pressure is displayed for about 30 seconds so you get plenty of time to remove from the tire and then check the readings. The image below shows the reading of 25.5 on the device and about 26-26.5  on the manual device
20161106_091746

 

The device The light of this device helps to see where the valve stem is has a blue light that is always displayed whenever you take a reading. During the day you are not going to notice it. It is pretty handy to see at night when you are trying to check the pressure. The light is not strong enough to ruin your night vision or read the paper with, but is enough for you to be able to see where the dark valve stem is in the dark. The reading display is back lit to make the numbers more visible.

The device also shows you the pressure in psi, bar, kpa or kg/cm – the vast majority of you are going to use this on your car tires but the other pressure readings will be useful for air compressors too (I guess?). Switching between the scales is a simple push of the power button to cycle through the 4 stages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This device works well if your hub caps allow plenty of access to your valve stems and it makes it a lot easier to read the pressure of your tires. The light also makes it easier to use at night, but it’s not bright enough to use as a flashlight to navigate around the car in the dark.

Note that I did receive this item with a promo code and this doesn’t affect my review of this product – it  is a useful addition to the glovebox in the car, is easier to use than the manual device, but lacks some features that would make it the ideal tire pressure gauge for me. #TravelsaferDigitalTirePressureGauge

Absoblogginlutely (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Absoblogginlutely (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Absoblogginlutely (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Last.fm password breach – you’re doing it wrong.

Last.FM logon page

I received an email from HaveIBeenPowned this morning – the incredibly useful service that lets you know if your username and password was released in a data breach. This time around it was last.fm – a streaming radio station that was pretty popular a long, long time ago.   I went to log into the system and checked my gmail account for email from last.fm to see if I had my membership confirmation email – nothing. I had 1 email from last.fm back in 2008 when I had received a friend request (I am so popular!) – that was actually a spam request.

Obviously I had not used the service for a very, very long time. The data breach occurred in 2012, was known about in 2012 and yet they had done nothing about it then. They had also not done anything about it recently after the data breach was leaked as I had not received an email lfrom them etting me know my account had been breached.

To add insult to injury, the old password was still active and I was able to log in with it. I can understand a small pokey geocaching website not understanding security correctly and leaving passwords the same after a data breach with only a small notification on the website, but even they reacted after I sent them an email to say they need to do something better and at least inform their visitors and ideally change their password.  Last.fm really have no excuse as they are big enough that they should know better and all of the accounts should have had their passwords changed once the breach was public or better yet, when they knew about the breach.

Instead, the list of usernames and passwords are still out there for people to search and log in with.

I guess the argument for not changing the account password is to let the subscriber log in with their original password that they know about. If the email address was now invalid and the password was changed by last.fm then the user would not be able to get into their account anymore….on the other hand if last.fm does not change the password, anyone could log into the account,reset the password, have access to all the data (including the persons email address) and the account holder would not be able to gain access. The hacker will not be able to change the email address though as they have put protection in place to prevent the email address being changed without a verification email link being clicked on so I guess that is something…..

This is also yet another reminder to use a password manager to “remember” all of your passwords for each site – don’t use the same one at each location. I highly recommend LastPass (unless you are a user with multiple accounts at Office365). At $12 a year  for syncing between all of your devices it is well worth the cost and if you sign up with the link above we both get an extra month for free. I used to use the free KeePass software which is standalone and doesn’t hook into your browser like LastPass but it can also sync between devices (with a bit of finagling.

What do you think – should last.fm have changed users passwords when the data breach went public?  Have you signed up for HaveIGotPowned?  If not – what are you waiting for – it’s free and a great first response tool to keep your accounts more secure.

Arj compression – anyone remember this?

We had an interesting ticket come in today where an antispam system had let through a file compressed with the arj format. This immediately brought back memories of compressing files back at university – in the very early 90’s and a format that used to be very popular but nowadays most people, including the rest of our techs had never even heard of.
I am guessing the spammers were hoping that their recipients have winzip, winrar or 7zip installed so they will be able to open the infected file and that as the file format is so old, av scanners will not check them.

Anyone else out there remember Arj files and anyone (dare to admit that they) still use it?