Brenden Schaaf / March 24, 2013

Even encryption may not be enough

Data security is probably one of the biggest issues facing everyone in the near future.  We’ve grown accustomed to hearing news reports about laptops stolen from the back seat of rental cars and hard drives lost in-transit containing sensitive data such as social security numbers.  In these cases, the advice has been that encryption would protect data in such circumstances and the issue is just that too few people use it.

With our increased reliance on mobile technology, Android and iPhone have offered users the option of encryption for some time giving users some peace of mind that their data on mobile phones could be secure as well.

Well it isn’t quite that simple as some German researchers have discovered. It turns out that placing the phone in the freezer can allow some of the supposedly “safe” data to become compromised.  There are very specific circumstances that have to be met in order to pull this off, but just the fact that it is possible should give people some reservations about placing especially sensitive data on their mobile devices.

Compared to people naively using unsecured wireless access points while accessing sensitive data, I think that this issue is comparatively minor but it is worth noting.  Perhaps the biggest benefit will be to hardware/software manufacturers so that they can build countermeasures into their products.

More information:

Brenden Schaaf / June 16, 2009

Breaking the Bank

I don’t watch as much PBS as I do other channels, but a Frontline episode tonight caught my eye. The recent financial crisis has done much to alter (perhaps permanently) the relationship between the financial sector and the federal government. This program explores the actions that took place as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, etc. were facing unprecedented obstacles last fall. If you check your TV listings you can probably catch this yet on PBS…or you can watch it online.

Brenden Schaaf / May 12, 2009

Chicken riots?

The Oprah/KFC free grilled chicken giveaway and subsequent denials of riots have overshadowed a local chicken story that I find even funnier.  The Popeye’s franchise on Lake Street did not participate in a national campaign on Earth Day to sell an 8-piece fried chicken bucket for $4.99, which had people “crying fowl” according to KMSP’s Tom Lyden.  He covered the sotry and mangaed to stir things up.  In the process he got some priceless quotes including one that seems to indicate that the folks that expected this location to honor a national ad campaign should have known better (they apparently didn’t honor the last one month earlier, one woman reports).  But my favorite is the guy who claims to have taken a cab from Burnsville (wouldn’t that cost $80-$100 round trip?) to save $5 on chicken.  Of course maybe he was going to buy 240 pieces of chicken to come out ahead…

Burnsville to Popeye’s – view Google Map

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this story is that someone else hasn’t been able to capitalize on the willingness of people to do irrational things in the face of great marketing efforts. Although it did sound like a lot of the folks at Popeye’s were buying the chicken anyway so maybe the owners of that restaurant know what they are doing.

Brenden Schaaf / May 9, 2009

The Supreme Court politicized…now more than ever

The Supreme Court and the nomination process has been becoming more politicized than ever, the point where any cases that are the least bit controversial tend to come down to the one or two justices that don’t vote as a bloc based on conservative vs. liberal ideologies.  I’m fairly certain the framer’s of our great country did not intend for this to happen, but they probably didn’t forsee such a strong two-party stranglehold on the government or the strong federal and weak states system we have either.

Thomas Sowell tackles the latest opportunity for a president to influence this great institution in Barack Obama’s methods and statements regarding his choice to replace the retiring Justice Souter later this year.  Agree or disagree, it is hard to argue that Sowell makes for good reading.  This series of posts is no exception.

“Empathy” Versus Law by Thomas Sowell:

Brenden Schaaf / May 2, 2009

Easing the sting of buying a new car

truecar_logoA new website,, has launched with a goal of providing consumers with information about quoted prices at local auto dealers that will allow them to know if they are or are not getting a good deal.  They supposedly collect actual pricing information from public records, lenders, etc. and eventually will offer vehicle sales through their website.

I’m the kind of person that hates buying a car because no matter what I feel like I’m going to feel like I got ripped off.  At least with a site like maybe I’ll be that much more educated and at least feel like I came away with a deal.  A lot is going to depend on how reliable/accurate their data tends to be.  Sites like Zillow have tried to do the same thing with houses to mixed reviews.  I would think that crunching data with cars will be easier since there are more transaction and a 2009 Toyota Sienna XLE is the same whether you are buying it in Minneapolis or Bismarck.

Read more about at this link:

Brenden Schaaf / April 30, 2009

What to do about the swine flu?

Reports of an “imminent pandemic” due to a new strain of the H1N1 influenza virus seem to leave me with more questions than answers.  One of the few things I’ve read that doesn’t seem to be hype-filled is a piece from The Economist:

and here is something from WCCO that I also found to be hype-free:

I guess maybe I’m cynical of most media because of how much hype there is related to whatever it is that is the story of the day.  Have you noticed how much of the news is now “Breaking News!” in large, bold font at the bottom of your television screen?  The economy is latest big topic, but from the Octomom to hurricanes to a 3″ snowfall in January in Minnesota to Ashton Kutcher’s count of Twitter followers, every story is hyped to the max…so now the Swine Flu pandemic story comes out and I really don’t know what to believe. 

It seems to me that the usual flu fighting activties (get enough sleep, eat well, wash your hands, etc.) are what will give you the best chance of avoiding illness with the possible addition of vitamin D3 supplementation as a precautionary measure.  And if you get sick, head to your doctor and get an anti-viral medication as soon as possible.  What won’t help you is getting panicked by the media hype-machine that uses fear to drive ratings (and it must work or they wouldn’t do it).

Edited to add one more link:

Brenden Schaaf / April 27, 2009

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell’s columns are quickly becoming one of my favorite weekly reads.  I was turned on to his writings when I attended a class about a year ago that dealt with “Everyday Economics” — a topic that is even more important these days in light of the financial meltdown.  It is a class I have recommended to others and a topic that I think needs to be taught more widely.

After that class, I read Sowell’s book “Basic Economics” and found it to be a rather easy read given the subject matter and its length.  Economics is one of the subjects I wish I could go back and study (well I suppose I can) again because when I took classes in pursuit of my undergraduate degree I pretty much just cared about earning a passing grade so that I could get on to the next class.  Sometimes learning is wasted on the young I guess!!

At any rate, Thomas Sowell tackles the housing boom/bust in his latest column: