Weekly output: IoT security, Facebook privacy pop-up, L0pht hacker testimony, Tech Night Owl

This edition of my weekly recap features a new client: The Parallax, the security-news site founded in 2015 by former C|Net writer Seth Rosenblatt. At least two friends had suggested earlier that I look into writing there, but that didn’t happen until I spotted Seth at the Google I/O press lounge earlier this month and introduced myself. If you were going to ask about the absence of another client in this post: Yahoo Finance hasn’t forgotten about me, I haven’t forgotten about them, and I’ve got three posts in the works there this coming week. Hint: One involves a hydrogen-fueled car.

5/22/2018: IoT regulation is coming, regardless of what Washington does, The Parallax

I wrote up the panel I moderated at RightsCon two weeks ago–which required me to record the whole thing on my phone and then spend an hour and change transcribing everything. On the upside, having to set aside my phone to capture the audio meant I couldn’t be distracted by the Twitter backchannel during the panel.

5/24/2018: Don’t ignore this alert from Facebook. It’s your chance to quickly curb what it knows, USA Today

I filed a cheat sheet on the privacy-settings pop-up you may have already seen. I got my version of this interruption Friday; mine did not advise me to check the info in my profile, maybe because I don’t have anything there advertising my political or religious leanings.

5/24/2018: 20 years on, L0pht hackers return to D.C. with dire warnings, The Parallax

The lede for this popped into my head not long after arriving at the Rayburn House Office Building for this panel Tuesday afternoon and noticing that the name tags in front of the room featured the hacker handles of the four speakers instead of their given names: Kingpin (Joe Grand), Mudge (Peiter Zatko), Weld Pond (Chris Wysopal), and Space Rogue (Cris Thomas). At one point, Zatko complained about companies that try to win over customers by stapling on “flashy security products” like anti-malware utilities; as the Parallax is sponsored by the anti-malware vendor Avast, I made sure to include that line, and it went into the post intact.

5/26/2018: May 26, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Ben Williams, Tech Night Owl

I showed up on Gene Steinberg’s podcast to talk about my at-the-time incomplete iMac drive transplant (by the time he rang me on Skype, I hadn’t finished disassembling the old drive, which is an anxious point at which to have to set aside the work), the weird case of an Amazon Echo capturing and sending a recording of people’s in-home banter, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

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Advanced Mac tinkering: performing a drive transplant on a 9-year-old machine

Friday’s work toolkit got a little weird. It included two suction cups, multiple sizes of Torx screwdriver bits, a pair of tweezers, a can of spray air, a microfiber cloth and a lot of patience.

Were Apple a company that updated its computers on a regular and predictable pattern, I would have replaced this desktop long ago. But first it spent years neglecting its desktops, then my laptop needed replacing first, and now the “new” iMac has gone almost a year without an update.

iMac SSD in placeInstead, two other things got to upgrade my desktop the cheap but hard way. First my backup hard drive died without warning, then I noticed that an SSD upgrade kit was down to $200 and change at the longtime aftermarket-Mac-hardware vendor Other World Computing. That would be a cheap price for a vastly faster storage system, and anyway I couldn’t resist the challenge here. So I placed my order… and then waited two weeks as the Postal Service somehow lost and then recovered the package that it only had to run from the nearest UPS to our front porch.

In the meantime, I did a complete Time Machine on my new backup drive, then used Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper to put a bootable copy of the iMac’s entire drive on a second partition of that external volume. With those redundant backups done and my schedule somewhat clear Friday, it was time to risk breaking my desktop computer with the sort of involved tinkering I last seriously attempted around the turn of the century, when I owned a Mac clone in which almost everything inside was user-accessible.

Step one–as explained in a how-to video that would have been more effective as written instructions illustrated with animated GIFs–was to get the iMac’s LCD out of the way. I used the suction cups to lift the outer glass off the magnets holding it in place (you can imagine my relief at not having to battle with any glue), then removed eight Torx screws holding the LCD assembly, using the tweezers to ensure they wouldn’t get lost inside the iMac. I carefully tilted that out and held it away from the rest of the computer, then detached four ribbon cables from their sockets inside the computer–each time feeling a little like I was about to fail to defuse a bomb.

The next step was to extract the old hard drive. After removing another two screws and plucking out a further three cables, I just had to undo four other screws to get the hard drive out of its mounting bracket… which is when I realized that the second screwdriver included in OWC’s kit wasn’t the right size.

iMac LCD attachmentFortunately, the second neighbor I checked with had an extensive set of Torx screwdriver bits. After finding one properly sized to liberate the drive bracket, I used the spray air to knock nine years’ worth of dust out of the innards of the computer, then completed the drive transfer by securing the SSD to the bracket, connecting it to the original cables and fastening the new drive to the computer. I did the same routine with the LCD assembly, wiped it and the glass panel with the microfiber cloth, then finally clicked that outer glass back onto its magnets.

With the computer once again whole, I plugged it in, attached the backup drive, pressed the power button–and was delighted to see it boot properly off that external drive.

Installing macOS High Sierra from the backup drive to the SSD went remarkably fast; running a complete Time Machine restore of all my data and apps did not. But by the end of Friday, I had an old computer that no longer felt so old. And the pleasant sense that I haven’t completely lost my DIY-tech skills.