Best Deepfake Yet?

Watching a new deepfake video I’ve embedded below was *very* sobering to watch this morning. It points out how incredibly far we’ve gone with deepfakes and, most importantly, how I found this one almost impossible to detect as a fake video.

The obvious tipoff this is fake is that both Cruise and Hilton look much younger than reality (because the fake actor & actress are actually much younger than the ‘real’ celebrities) but from a technology perspective I couldn’t detect this as a fake. Even the voices were spot-on.


The video is short and, because it was on TikTok and I was led to it by a Reddit post, decided to screen record on my iPad in order to capture it to embed here in this post (and I also wanted to keep this one as a major milestone deepfake).

I can’t even describe how deeply troubling this is as this deepfake capability will be weaponized politically and I shudder to think what will happen as the 2024 presidential election process begins. So instead of a critical-thinking baseball sized cap to wear, we’re all gonna need a ten-gallon cowboy hat going forward!

Containers on L.A. Trains Being Robbed

Is this nuts or what? No, I don’t mean Inside Edition doing some actual serious reporting, but rather that not much is being done by L.A. police to stop it.

The laws that trivialize theft of this nature don’t factor in all of time, effort, energy and expense that a shipper goes through.

That said, imagine all of the people waiting for these packages? If there are a thousand package boxes lying on these tracks, think of the 1,000 people expecting them and adjusting their schedules to be at home?

How Much Memory Does My MacBook Pro 14″ Need?

Ten days ago I decided to replace my aging 27″ iMac Pro with the 14″ model of the new MacBook Pros for 2021. Knowing that my needs have changed, and my preference was to have a laptop that I could take anywhere with me as I traveled around, I opted for one of the new machines and the 14″ model was the perfect size.

But how much memory would I really need? I’ve always purchased as much RAM as I could afford, but these new M1-based CPUs are so efficient, I knew I could probably get by with less. Plus, the two Apple Geniuses I spoke with when in the store — who quizzed me about my needs at length — said I could easily get by with 16GBs of RAM and the Mac Pro version of the M1 CPU.

But I was not convinced…that is until I watched this video which, while not GeekBench like analysis, pushed me over the edge and convinced me to go with the 14″ model and only 16GBs of RAM…so I bought it that day:

I also picked up the LG 34WK95U ultrawide display along with a new OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock and a fast Sandisk 4TB Extreme Pro SSD disk. I’ve got the perfect set up for what I need today, as well as for the next several years.

One more thing…

On Apple’s website they call these machines and their new M1 Pro CPU “scary fast” and the M1 Pro Maxscary faster.” I can attest to the fact that, now running this MacBook Pro 14″ in my own office with my apps and files on it, HOLY CRAP IS THIS THING FAST!

Photoshop used to open in about a minute. Now Photoshop opens in 6.5 seconds. It’s that way with all of my apps. Damn…is this thing ever fun to use.

So if you’re in the market for a new machine, I highly recommend it.

Signal and Cellebrite … the Controversy Continues

If you care about privacy and the security of your communications, Signal app is likely already on your phone, tablet or computer. If not, it should be and you should be using it.

Some time ago I became troubled that Cellebrite, an Israeli “digital forensics” tool, was law enforcement and government’s method of choice to extract data from iOS and other devices. Whether used for warranted legal investigations by law enforcement, or by oppressive governments looking to stifle dissent in their countries, the company once boasted that they could even hack Signal.

That was too much for Moxie Marlinspike and Brian Acton, the founders of Signal Foundation, who refuted Cellebrite’s claims in this blog post a few weeks ago.

Rather than go in to a lot of detail, let me instead point you to In epic hack, Signal developer turns the tables on forensics firm Cellebrite by Riana Pfefferkorn from the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. It recaps the entire controversy well.

Suffice to say that I do have concerns that Signal has poked the bear … and in this case the bear is Congress, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, and any intelligence or law enforcement. I am certain that all of the above would rather have it continue to be trivial and simple to mass surveil the U.S. population and track us through our digital devices.

Perhaps this poking will accelerate U.S. laws being enacted to continue to erode end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) communications. This will make us all more susceptible to surveillance, but most importantly to hacking. Once a backdoor is put in, or some company finds a way in to gain access to our device’s data, hackers will quickly gain access too.

Yes, I do have concerns that E2EE makes law enforcement and intelligence gathering more difficult. But the tradeoff is literally making billions of people vulnerable to catch a fraction of them breaking the law. These agencies have significant tools in their arsenals and don’t need to make us all weaker to do their jobs.

While I’m the most benign person on the planet when it comes to secrets or having something to hide, there is NO WAY that I want my phone, tablet or computer to be MORE vulnerable rather than less. Same thing with my communications: What I say in a text message, voice or video call is no one else’s business over and above myself and the person(s) I’m communicating with at the time.

Sniff…looks like my iMac is going to be “retired”

Today Apple added the first Retina 5k iMacs to its “vintage” product list. That means that parts availability will be OK until they run out, and then no longer supported for repair or Genius Bar support. See Apple Adds First iMac Models With Retina 5K Display to Vintage Products List for more.

In a way I’m sad to see my my iMac 27-inch from late 2014 being put out to pasture, though it’s served me well and I look forward to the new iMacs coming with rumored new designs and a desktop version running Apple’s screamingly fast Apple Silicon.

When I purchased this machine in December of 2014, I did so with end-of-year money in my company. It has 32GBs of memory, a 1TB SSD, and a core i7, and I paid around $4,800 for it.

Though expensive at the time, it’s been an outstanding machine. The average cost was $800 per year for the six years I’ve owned it and I can unequivocally state that the return on my investment was definitely worth it!

Thanks Apple.

Voting in California

Wow…today is the day my wife and I decided to complete our vote and now we’ll drive it to the Orange County Registrar of Voters to deliver it personally (vs. using the on-purpose-slowed-down U.S. Postal service).

We love our country and democracy and take our voting right as sacred, regardless of the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) cast on this election by that temporary occupant in the White House.

What a difference voting out here in California has been though. There were 12 Propositions on the ballot, each of which required a lot of study and consideration. The tough part is most, if not all of them, have some sort of unintended consequences which are very difficult to see in advance.

Hope everyone who votes here in CA considers these as carefully as we have, all while deeply appreciating the profound responsibility we all share in making the best decisions we can when voting.

Wherever you live in the United States, please vote…no matter what it takes to do so. If your state supports it, vote as early as you can. It’s a privilege, a right, and a duty.

Web Stories: The Time Has Come

I’d be remiss if I did not bring to your attention to an accelerating trend sweeping over the web right now, and one I view as timely since our attention is being pulled in dozens of directions at once and there is simply too much content to consume!

The trend is called “Web Stories” and the buzzword used to describe them is that they are “tappable” stories that are bite-sized and easy to swallow. Tappable is an obvious reference to smartphones and tablets being the primary device target for these “story containers”, but I’ve also seen some good full-browser ones being delivered too (that look good on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices). I’ve yet to see a TV-delivered container, but it makes perfect sense and am sure we’ll see some soon.

As I’ve gone through numerous Web Stories, I’ve thought that they’d be great for “How To” tutorials, general learning content, fun stories of any type, or even a replacement for the meme-driven videos we see all the time (I should note that I’m growing weary of text over video that, once you tap to listen to the video’s audio, the text remains).

The trend is called “Web Stories” and these stories are small, self-contained, encapsulated stories about a single topic. Creating them is leveraging AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and is a big push for Google. Why? Because the cost to them of dealing with big, bandwidth-intensive web pages is extremely high. So for some time we’ve been seeing Google trying to figure out ways to make the delivery of web content smaller and faster and so AMP was developed.

The problem historically with AMP is that it didn’t offer a whole lot to the world so people didn’t do much with it. It was also a pain in the ass to use in a website and also to build web stories. But in 2020 the world has rapidly moved toward smaller, discrete “containers” of content that would be great on mobile and the tools have evolved too.

The other driver for AMP/WebStories are data caps by mobile providers that can increase cost of bloated websites. Even with a so-called “unlimited” mobile account, almost always there is a gigabyte (GB) “ceiling” for how much bandwidth a mobile network user can consume in a single month. Usually 22 or 23GBs in a monthly billing cycle, once a user goes past that amount their mobile data connection is “throttled” and slowed down significantly. Outside 1st tier economies in the world, data speeds are typically slower and mobile connections not as ubiquitous, which makes rapid delivery of encapsulated content like Web Stories even more compelling.

Others have recognized that smaller, discrete pieces of functionality are important as well. For example, WordPress fundamentally changed how the software’s back-end content creation was done with their Gutenberg approach to creating and editing content. Even Apple has delivered this same sort of concept with App Clips in iOS 14 so we don’t have to launch an app, wade through menus, only to perform one, discrete and simple task.

There is some concern though…

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Should Free Speech Be For All Of Us, Or Only For Those Who Hold ‘Correct’ Opinions?

We are living in a time where the lines between free speech, and hate/fake news type speech, are blurring. Increasingly it seems that the arbiters of free speech are for-profit social media and search companies. As such, I now find myself deeply troubled by where we’re headed with what is, and is not, considered a free speech, press and peaceable assembly, as protected by the United States Constitution’s First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout the Trump presidency, I have railed against The Donald’s bloviating, lying and complete misstatement of facts as well as his constant attempts toward stirring up hate and the speech surrounding it. I am so weary of him that I want to puke whenever I listen to his lies, outright anti-pandemic rhetoric, his inflating accomplishments, and specifically his child-like rantings.

My biggest issue, besides his failed leadership (especially on the pandemic), is that he also constantly provides de facto permission for his base to openly display racist, prejudiced, anti-immigrant, misogynist and “America First!” rhetoric — alongside outcries that social media and search companies are intentionally stifling ‘conservative’ speech when those posts are flagged or removed.

Though I hate to admit it, maybe Trump and conservatives have a point about that implied and expressed stifling of conservative tweets, posts and search results (NOTE: I’m intentionally not using the word “censorship” as I don’t think the flagging or removals are to that extent yet, or whether there is any truth to their belief that search results for their published missives are not displaying).

Whether they’re right, or that we detest conservative’s extreme positions so much that most of us think it doesn’t matter if that objectionable speech is stifled, we at least all need to think about whether or not there is any truth to Trump and his minion’s belief. Why? That belief could affect us all where free speech is concerned if we don’t address this now — and consider those outcries seriously and figure out how to manage our online ‘assembly’ as quickly as possible.

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