Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Plane attack prevented by disarming Swiss Cheese Bomber"

It's a ridiculous story that happend to me yesterday. I intended to visit my mother who lives near Hamburg for the 1st advent, I bought a gift for her, as I live now in Switzerland, what is more obvious than bringing some Swiss presents so I bought a complete Swiss Fondue Set, including forks, heater, a big cheese-pot and some dishes and - of course - 1.5kg of Swiss Fondue Cheese (and also some flour for making fresh bread). All our suitcases where full (mine and that of my girlfriend) so we decided to carry the present in our hand luggage. Of course we had to pass security and we where already quite late at the airport. But at the security x-ray scanner we had two findings. One was the flour in my bag pack (scary, huh?) and the other was - you might already guess - the 1.5kg Swiss fondue cheese. Ok, you might think, it was found, considered harmless and that's all about it. But no way! The security officer told me, that this chunk of cheese is considered as liquid (!) and we where not allowed to take it on board. I thought they were kidding, but they weren't, they argued, that it contains wine - which is alcohol - and inflammable. Yes, of course, how could I forget, most of all fire accidents happen due to exploding wine bottles. They said, if I would have some time I could check it in as normal luggae (how normal is it to check in a separate chunk of cheese?). But anyway, we could not take it with us and had to leave it. My girlfriend wished them a nice fondue party and they told us they had to destroy it anyway. The fresh, new, sealed and unused chunk of cheese.
I mean, how stupid is this liquid policy? What's more obvious than carry some cheese when carrying a complete fondue set? Everyone saw it - even the security officers saw it, they looked pretty helpless explaining to us, why a chunk of cheese is a threat. Around 8mio swiss people knew that such a chunk of cheese causes if ever then most likely a bilious attack - but not a plane attack. This has nothing to do with common sense. This has even nothing to do with security or terror prevention. How could liquids in general and a chunk of cheese in special help hijacking a plane? I mean, if it's really a bomb, then the plane just explodes and that's it, you could not fly an exploding plane into a skyscraper, and it's way more easier to get a bomb into a train and blow an entire main station out of this world then getting a chunk of cheese on board of a plane. This is pure stupid, made by people that are not affected. This reminds me of former times, when the soviet central government dictated, what famers had to plant - regardless if farmers complained that the plants are not growing in that region (as I've read in the Occupation museum in Riga).
Stop stupidity and start thinking again!

Well, in the end, we arrived safe and sound in Hamburg thanks to the security authorities who disarmed the dangerous swiss-cheese bomber (me). Happy X-mas!

(and the weird end of the story is the fact, that I could easily take 80g of burning paste which was included in the heater-set onboard without noticing and which is much more inflammable than a chunk of cheese...)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Where is the cloud on a sunny day? or Who controls the weathermaker?

Google announced they Releasing the Chromium OS open source project. They focussed on speed, security and easy handling. The entire concept is, that application do not run on the local machine at all but on the cloud, all the data are on the cloud. So much for the theory. Actually I like the idea of access to all my data everywhere and independent from the device with which I access them, but when it comes to the reality I think we are yet pretty far away from "Everything-in-the-cloud". In my oppinion there are two major obstacles to overcome:
  1. Seamless and Pervasive access to the Internet. Considering the technical and financial side, this is not yet reality for most of the people. The prices are yet still to high for mobile services - especially when it comes to travelling abroad - unlike the US, Europe consists of lots of more or less small countries where you pay roaming fees - which are quite high when it comes to 24h-web-access. As example (from ordinary mobile telephony): I paid 8€ for a-15mins phone call abroad, and I was called! Looking at the technical side, UMTS has become widely available, though there are situation where you simply have no signal - in mountain regions or in the deep cellars of a customer's computing center. There you still rely on plain old network cables. When it comes to seamless, it's still a pain to switch different network providers or media. Switching from UMTS to WLAN to Cable is still a pain, having to reconnect to different services because of a new IP, lost sessions (MS RDP is my favorite...). And how do you access your data or applications when there are blue skies? When you rely on the accessibility of the Internet you could end up lost in the wilderness - and this is not an artifical problem, when I was in the Sequoia National Park this summer, we had no phone or internet access there but had to find a gas station. We were lucky in the end but consider you navigation system runs on Google! But I think, the technology will evolve and this obstacle evaporate over time. But the other obstacle require more than this.
  2. Privacy data protection and data security. When I would put all my data and applications that have been running on my local machine into the cloud I would expand my trust domain from my client device to the cloud (or the internet or provider). And this requires a lot of trust! I have control over my local machine, I can pull the plug and preventing access to it. Of course it is in my responsibility to protect and secure my system, but thats ok. But when it comes to the cloud, I have to trust the cloud provider. And when I look at the recent sensitive data infringements that happen in Spain where probably over 100k credit card data sets have been lost I don't want to think about what would happen if the rest of my data would be stolen from the cloud provider! At the moment we trust on the pure goodwill of a company like Google. Sure, their services are yet for free but what's the worth of my private data I put into their hands? I don't even have a formal contract between them! And even if there would be contract and I would pay for using the cloud - how could I be sure to trust the provider? Providers fail, like power, water or internet providers may fail from time to time, those things happen - but it's not just the lost of internet access, light or fresh water for a moment - it may be the loss of your privacy for a longer period than just a moment! A solution for this would be kind of a certification the cloud providers could get from a governmental agency like those for data privacy protection, something similar to those of a Certification Authority. There have to be regulations for systems that deal with private data such as for banks. Before there isn't such thing I can rely on I won't put my private stuff into the cloud (although I have to admit, that I already use gmail - but to be honest that's already more than I feel comfortable with).