Links and Notes for the day - June 25th 2018

On parenting, and (separately), the dangers of connected devices.

The Last of the Tiger Parents

I’ve spent decades struggling with the paradox of my upbringing. Were the same childhood experiences that long evoked my resentment also responsible for my academic and professional achievements? And if so, was the trade-off between happiness and success worth it?

The struggle here is real. I'm now a father and I think about it a lot. My parents were strict. My mother especially. Discipline meant getting smacked around pretty hard. Being scolded. Don't get me wrong. I love my parents very much. I disliked the aspect of discipline a fair amount and I don't think my parents would be surprised to hear that. I rebelled a fair amount and could easily be described as the trouble maker.

Despite all my dislikes of the methods of discipline, I'm arguable better off for it. Responsible contributing citizen yada yada. I also don't conform to a lot of Sri Lankan expectations such as owning status symbols other material things. So I guess I didn't turn into a conformist either despite the warnings that such disciplinary methods create conformists.

At the same time, I don't want to take that stance with my child. My memories of childhood have lots of unhappy pieces. Again, don't get me wrong. I had whatever I could have wanted. Not to the point of being materially spoilt (something I'll be eternally grateful for). Between holidays at hotels, a nice house, support for sporting activities, a computer, I never wanted for extra comforts in life. Still, I have to concentrate to remember the fun things done. The memories that come to the forefront are being yelled at for day dreaming and doodling on the back of my notebooks. And that's hard.

I don't want that for my son, so I practice parenting where I explain things to him, let him make choices. At 2.5 years, a lot of this is more preparation for me than it is for him. I don't want to grow into becoming a hardcore disciplinarian and realise that I became what I disliked when he's 16 years and it's too late to change the dynamic.

But then comes the internal struggles. I'm doing well. Am I just being ungrateful to my parents? Am I trying to bring up my son this way only because of some kind of deep rooted rebellion to do things differently from my parents? What if I do this wrong? Will I bring up a son who turns out to be entitled and fails to recognise real lines between being a useful change vs an unhelpful trouble maker? I reflect on this a lot and try to meditate on the answers, but I doubt I'll ever have a clear answer for myself.

Lateral thinking with withered technology

"Lateral thinking" refers to finding radical new ways of using such technology. Yokoi held that toys and games do not necessarily require cutting edge technology; novel and fun gameplay are more important. In the interview he suggested that expensive cutting edge technology can get in the way of developing a new product.

An offshot discovery I made from a comment thread on Hacker News. The comment was in response to this article that appeared on Bloomberg about the legend of Nintendo.

Websites can attack your local devices using DNS rebinding and Javascript

This is terrifying. Not just the fact that it's via some kind of crazy DNS attack. I just never thought of the potential attacks of allowing someone into a WiFi network.

Eg - My brother has a smart home setup. What if I crafted an app, where I just need to be logged into his WiFi (bro's going to share his WiFi with me of course), and then just pressed a button in my app to snoop the entire network. Most networks are going to represent an address of 192.168.C.0 to 192.168.C.255 where C is a constant (most of the time it'll be 1). This means my phone needs to snoop the IP's and the common port selection and who knows what it will find? Fine tune it, and anyone entering a home WiFi is a potential threat.

But here's where things get dicy and into the point that I've never thought of. Today I ran an experiment on a shared WiFi which was being used primarily by web developers. I scanned the IP's and the ports of each IP and hit 3 other development instances including mine. The ports I scanned were the usual suspects: 80, 8080, 8000, 3000, 5000, and a few others. This was not even intelligent guessing. I assume there's more that can be done here. And I assume there's nothing new about this. It's just an attack vector I never thought about.

Smart Home Devices and Domestic Abuse

Those aren't two topic that should be even remotely related. But they sadly are. The NY Times has an interesting story about how devices are being used as tools of power in abusive relationships.

SAN FRANCISCO — The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology.

Related to my previous link, it's scary how a little knowledge could be used to eke out abusive power in any relationship. Not just spouse related. When I read the above paragraph, I'm reminded of the movie Gaslight and the term Gaslighting:

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gas Light, known as Angel Street in the United States, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the flat above while searching for the jewels belonging to a woman whom he had murdered. The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses it with her husband, but he insists that she merely imagined a change in the level of illumination.

Posted on June 25 2018 by Adnan Issadeen