pine needles, 2014
Monday, October 13 2014
Bulk carbon (mostly in the form of cellulose and lignin) are important for three main purposes in our household. The most important of these is for heating by incineration in the woodstove (where I burn wood as well as cardboard, leaves, and paper). The second use is to provide carbon to the soil in the garden patches. The third main use is as mulch, a use that also eventually adds carbon to the gardens. There are also lesser uses: I partially insulated the brownhouse with pine needles, and I use pine needles occasionally as incense. Pine needles are so useful as bulk carbon that every autumn I try to gather them before they are too contaminated by deciduous leaves (which tend to fall later). This year, though, the weather has been strange and deciduous leaves began falling prematurely. So when I finally gathered pine needles this morning, about ten percent of what I gathered was maple and oak leaves (as well as a fair number of acorns). As usual, I gathered the needles from the ditches on the side of Dug Hill Road both above and below our driveway. The haul today was two large wheelbarrow loads, which I managed to stuff into the dog house with little room to spare. But my gathering wasn't done; I then used a couple five gallon buckets to gather needles and leaves for more specific purposes. I had a 30 gallon trash can about half-full of "material" from the brownhouse, and it needed substantial dry bulk material added to fluff out its disgusting soupy nature. The trash can had been a new one and I had never installed a drain, so its contents were far too soupy for ærobic processes. I ladled some of that nasty stuff into the nearby drum composter on top of five gallons of needles, and then mixed about 12 gallons of needles in with the rest, hoping it will make conduits for the passage of air. While I was working with my body's useful outputs, I also buried my laboratory urinal system's bucket of pine needles and urine in the garden. There's also a bucket that gathers separated urine from the brownhouse, and I buried that as well.
I didn't go out to the Wall Street house today but instead worked at my computer in the laboratory, where it was cold enough for me to wear my USB-powered heated typing gloves.
I've occasionally been using a grey-market service called listentoyoutube.com to rip free MP3s from YouTube videos. If there's some particular song I want to have, this is a faster and easier way to get it than buying it or trying to find and download the album containing it using Bittorrent. All had been going well, until I noticed that some of the files produced by listentoyoutube.com were not mp3 files. Instead they had the extension mp3.exe (for example, THE TWILIGHT SAD ~ Kill It In The Morning.mp3.exe), which is almost always an indication of a malevolent file trying to cloak itself as a harmless media file (and difficult to notice on your Windows system if you haven't changed the insane default that hides file extensions of "known file types"). More troubling than that was that absentmindedly clicking on one of these .mp3.exe files in the Google Chrome "download bar" (a bar that appears at the bottom of the window to show recent downloads) immediately launches the file with no confirmation dialog whatsover. In what computational paradigm is that safe? I immediately assumed I'd been infected by a virus or that my search engine and homepage had been changed to suckymarketingsearchengine.com, but after a careful analysis of my computer I could find no evidence of malevolent changes. The only shady thing this .exe had done was to open a new spammy browser window when it was terminated. When allowed to run, the mp3.exe file purported to be a file "downloader," which is obviously unnecessary for downloading a file; indeed, most of the files downloaded from listentoyoutube.com are normal mp3 files.
Mind you, most of the time when you download an .exe file of any sort on Google Chrome, there is some sort of confirmation dialog when you later go to launch it. Even if you go to Google.com and download ChromeSetup.exe to reinstall chrome, the dialog is "Do you want to run this file?" And when, as a test, I uploaded the known malware-free notepad.exe to Asecular.com and tried to download it, the doalog was "The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?"
Clearly, these mp3.exe files had somehow been vouched for by some sort of code signing process, but am I really supposed to trust any such process? What if listentoyoutube.com falls on hard times and makes a lucrative deal with a Byelorussian zombie syndicate to install rootkits on computers throughout the world? How long would it take the vouching service to revoke its seal of approval? Listentoyoutube.com has a shady-enough business model as things stand; I don't want to be opening .exe files it sneakily substitutes for mp3 files. Strangely, though, I could find no setting anywhere in Google Chrome that would force it to always confirm the execution of a downloaded executable. I'm usually not security-obsessed and find most default security settings excessively restrictive, but in this one case I've decided that Google Chrome's default security is too lax and I'm particularly distressed to find that there is no remedy.
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