Tag Archives: Grand ideas

Mozy: Privacy an illusion?

One of my friends, Søren, posted a post yesterday about the backup-system Mozy, that he had been using for his mac. Apparently, the software is just great, but this isn’t what concerns him.

Looking at the Mozy privacy statement, they have the regular reassuring bit:

We will not sell or market the email addresses or other collected personal information of registered Users to third parties.

We will not view the files that you backup using the Service.

We may view your file system information (file extensions, sizes etc. but not your file contents) to provide technical support.

That’s all fine. The part that worries Søren is this:

Mozy, Inc. may disclose Personal Data, including the data you back up with the Service, with or without notice (a) if required by a subpoena or other judicial or administrative order, (b) where required by law, or (c) at our sole discretion, where we deem it necessary to protect the safety of any individual or the general public or to prevent violation of our User Agreement or the rights of Mozy, Inc. or any third party.

Points (a) and (b) are obvious. Mozy’s privacy statement would of course have no effect over the requirements of the law – while it may still worry people outside the US, it’s not really something that can be a surprise to anyone. The strange bit comes at (c). Mozy may disregard the privacy closes at their sole discretion. Basically, they’ve written up these nice privacy statements, but may choose to ignore them if they so wish.

Come on now – you can’t be serious? Apparently, according to someone who seems to be an employee, they are. The post doesn’t mention the last of the three clauses, though, but merely the cases of administrative order – which neither Søren nor I are trying to contest. Since when have Mozy become the protectors of the public, though?

Søren wrote a reply post, which I think you should read. I will be keeping an eye on this case, as I think it’s quite interesting to see if Mozy can come up with any explanation for wanting to give themselves the power to start protecting the public from their users.

Update: Søren also posted a comparison of various privacy policies. Good read as well.

What superpower would you have?

I’ve been watching QI, and just noticed one of their discussions again – What superpower the contestants would like. Stephen wants invisibility, while Alan would like to have no bodily smell.

I think I’d like extreme speed, being able to go where I want when I want it, without having to spend time on moving around.

What would be your choice?

Car care, part two

So, I tried using the car care stuff I bought myself, in an attempt to make it look at bit better. Didn’t do it all, just a few tries in some select areas (and the entire bonnet).

It seems the polish is very, very good at getting dull, matte paint looking bright and shiny, and for filling in some of those tiny scratches it’s gotten over time. Hooray for that, the entire car will get to look bright and shiny. But, it doesn’t seem to really work at getting rid of the white(pink) spots on the front of the car, from the engine heating up and evaporating water, leaving behind residue (or acid?). Hopefully, a longer course of treatment of soap, polish, lots of wax and hard work will make it look nice and shiny again.

Car care

I just spent a small fortune (kr. 492.75, or around £40) on car care materials. I got myself a regular washing brush, a brush for wheels, wheel-cleaning soap, special wax-free soap, polish and wax. The last two items made up the bulk of the purchase (kr. 298.00), but they do seem to be quality products, and they’re seperate polish and wax and not just a mix (meaning you can reapply a coat of wax without having to polish the car down further – good thing.)

I’ll have to find someplace with some shade to wash the car, polish it down and wax it. And it’ll have to be a place where I can stay for quite a while, without fear of rain or sun, for the wax job to be optimal. Perhaps my parents carport will do the job… Otherwise, at least for the delicate cleaning, polish and wax, I can use the basement at work. Washing the car in a basement is probably not so optimal, but I guess I could do that outside and then drive it downstairs…

Thoughts?

Standby power

Recently DONG Energy have started a campaign to reduce the part of power consumption spent on standby LEDs[In Danish]. As they explain it, “Standby is the small red or green lights or numbers on a display showing that the device is ready for use.”

First of all, I’m quite sure that isn’t actually the meaning of standby. I think the LEDs are only a byproduct of the actual meaning idea of standby – quicker startup times and, for modern devices, the ability to turn them on using a remote control.

Now, I do agree that standby power consumption should be as low as possible – DONG Energy has numbers showing that as much as 10% of the power consumption in Danish homes is spent running standby devices, and this is obviously doesn’t match the very minor convenience of not having to touch a switch to power on a device. In particular, they bring up mobile phone chargers, where studies have shown that the small devils use as much power when not charging a phone as they do when actually charging up a battery. This does sound very wasteful indeed!

However, why is the solution turning off devices, retaining their terrible standby power consumption if, for instance, you need your DVD-recorder on to record something? Why not instead work on a better solution for standby power that doesn’t kill the fruitbat, or whatever the problem is they’re trying to solve. Of course, realizing this I promptly thought up a better system, that’s probably doomed to fail due to being too complicated. I’ll try to present it none the less, hoping it’ll spawn a vigirous, if somewhat isolated, discussion.

Centralized power

First of all, let’s get rid of the silly idea that 110v or 230v is really the power we are interested in for these modern devices. Sure, it’s nice for lots of things – running washing machines and hairdryers, and to some extent lamps and stereos. But for most of our consumer electronics, we would be much better off with 12v DC in our wall sockets. I know it’s probably not feasable using this for all our devices, all the time, as some devices require a high load capacity (lamps, amplifiers, computers) and some devices want really nice and smooth power delivery (computers in particular). But why not use it for all our standby power needs?

Most of our devices would want either 12v or 5v, or something close to that, for running on standby. They would run a bit of electronics for the remote control, a LED (more about this later), and some electronics for controlling the power supply. Not a whole lot of power, I would imagine, if supplied directly. But using a power supply that’s meant to supply the entire device, the standby unit is far outside the optimal running conditions, wasting lots and lots of power in transforming from wall socket voltage to internal unit voltage.

Alternative? Provide 12v DC externally, putting in a voltage regulator if you need less, like 5v, and draw only the current really needed for the standby unit. If the same kind of power supply is used, nothing is really changed – you get the same waste, possibly more. But what if we add that all devices have both 12v in AND 12v out, and a suitable standard for cabling between devices. Let’s chain the devices, supplying them all from the same source. Or, add multiple out-sockets to a single master device, such as an amplifier or a TV, making it only a single touch of a button (or switch) to turn off all the standby devices.

Now, this requires that devices either all come with a seperate standby power supply – what a waste – or that behaviour is defined for what devices should do when they don’t get any external power. A requirement for this could be that the devices all sense whether there is a cable in their “in” socket: If there is a cable, the device will never use the internal power supply for standby power. If there isn’t, the device will use the internal power supply, and provide this power through the “out” socket. This way the need for external standby power supplies is eliminated, and device designers have a much easier time designing built-in standby power supplies for devices such as TVs and amplifiers, as they can expect the current draw to be somewhat higher, making it easier to achieve a reasonable efficiency.

I won’t claim to be an expert on the electronics involved in this, not in how the cabling should be done, but it does seem to be a lot neater than going around, turning all the devices off, and a lot easier to get people to use. And if some devices could even be constructed to use little enough power to only require this 12v supply – DVB-T receivers come to mind – it would even reduce the cabling mess. Otherwise, perhaps standby power could be included in future digital video and audio cabling, working towards only using one kind of cable between all your devices.

Standby LEDs

Just because I hate them, I have to say a little about standby LEDs. Why is it that suppliers of consumer electronics insist that there must be an LED to show you that your device is in standby – I know it is, I put it there. If the power is out, I’m not going to figure out from the fact that my DVD player doesn’t have it’s LED on. Please, give me an option to get rid of the sea of green, amber and blue light from the forest of LEDs surrounding my TV – it’s a complete waste of power, and if this other idea of mine catches on, isn’t even necesarry to remind you to turn off the device.