Planet Linux Australia
Celebrating Australians & Kiwis in the Linux and Free/Open-Source community...

November 26, 2015

LUV Main December 2015 Meeting: Maxima / holiday gifts

Dec 1 2015 18:30
Dec 1 2015 20:30
Dec 1 2015 18:30
Dec 1 2015 20:30

6th Floor, 200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053


• Chelton Evans, Maxima

• Andrew Pam, Holiday gift suggestions for Linux lovers

200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053 (formerly the EPA building)

Late arrivals, please call (0490) 049 589 for access to the venue.

Before and/or after each meeting those who are interested are welcome to join other members for dinner. We are open to suggestions for a good place to eat near our venue. Maria's on Peel Street in North Melbourne is currently the most popular place to eat after meetings.

LUV would like to acknowledge Red Hat for their help in obtaining the venue and VPAC for hosting.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc. is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

December 1, 2015 - 18:30

read more

November 24, 2015

LCA2016 Optiver Diversity Programme Announced 2016, in partnership with Optiver, are very proud to announce our diversity programme for 2016! LCA2016 and Optiver are proud to be able to support diversity in our community. The Optiver Diversity Programme is intended to ensure that continues to be a safe, open, and welcoming conference for everyone. Together with Optiver the programme has been developed to assist delegates from under-represented cohorts who contribute to the Open Source community but, without financial assistance, would not be able to attend LCA2016. For more information please see our Optiver Diversity Programme page

November 23, 2015

SM2000 VHF Open Digital Voice Radio Part 1

For the last month I’ve been working hard on prototyping the SM2000 – an open source VHF radio. It’s purpose is to test some advanced VHF/UHF ideas I have for FreeDV.

The SM2000 will be a small box (like the SM1000), that contains a fully functional VHF SDR Digital Voice radio. It will run advanced open source Digital Voice modes, have a 1W power output and adequate tx/rx filtering for real-world operation on the 2M band. No Host PC required. Open Hardware and Software, price TBD but a few hundreds of $. It will also run analog FM but no modes with a proprietary codec.

Just yesterday I demonstrated demodulation of 1200 bits/s 2FSK at -135dBm, right in line with predicted performance.

This is an important milestone. Analog FM and first generation digital voice (D-star/DMR/C4FM and friends) fall over at about -120dBm. One of my aims is equivalent performance to these systems at 10dB lower. With completely open hardware and software.


I need custom RF hardware to develop and demonstrate VHF DV ideas I have formed over the past year. However I am not a RF expert, am just one guy, and have limited resources. So I will focus on those areas that I can uniquely contribute to. Choose my battles. In other areas (e.g. certain aspects of RF performance), I will just shoot for acceptable.

I have a similar approach to architecture. There are many ways to build a radio, and I have chosen one that suits me at this time. Feel free to warm up your soldering iron and substitute your own favourite.

What I care about:

  • I don’t trust any part of the modem being in hardware. This means software defined waveforms, and SSB style up and down conversion. Direct FM is out. And don’t get me started on data running through analog FM modems.
  • TDMA needs a “bare metal” uC for hard real time, so no OS. Host PC/USB peripheral type designs won’t work.
  • Functional demos of advanced features such as sub -130dBm Digital Voice, $100 TDMA repeater, diversity to handle multipath, low cost, open hardware and software.
  • No chip sets or SoCs. This is open source. I need control.
  • Don’t have to a tick all boxes first time around.

Less important:

  • Minimal cost
  • Sparkling RF performance in areas such as phase noise, IP3, blocking, ACR, high tx power, multi-band operation, low spurious, power consumption. The RF Gurus can do that better than me so I’ll leave it to them.
  • Gold plating – is the feature going to add to our schedule? Can anyone else implement it? Will it introduce risk? Who will step up to make it happen?

Your Suggestions Welcome

But I’ll probably ignore them. What I really want is your contribution. If you want your-favourite-must-have-feature to happen, step up and make it happen. Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I get overwhelmed by well-meaning people with inspired ideas, and underwhelmed when I ask them to help implement those ideas.

Can you make my TODO list shorter, not longer? Now you have my attention.

Receiver Design

The receiver is a dual conversion superhet, with IFs at 10.7MHz and 24kHz. It is designed primarily for constant amplitude waveforms such as FSK, so does not have an AGC.

I used this Gain and Noise Spreadsheet as a tool to design the radio. It calculates cascaded NF, the NF of the ADC, and the gain required to get the MDS we need. I also have some sub-sections that I plug numbers into as I test, e.g. for NF calculations, and tuned circuit calculations. Very useful.

I haven’t designed the first BPF yet, but anticipate it will have a low loss (to maintain system NF), and a fairly broad response.

The PGA103 is a 0.5dB NF, 20dBm input IP3, 20dB gain block which sets up the overall receiver noise figure of 1.5dB. It’s major disadvantage is high power consumption (90mA at 5V), so I am considering a discrete transistor amplifier here.

The BPF near the mixer provides attenuation of out of band signals. Through a process of slightly mystified experimentation I have settled on a double tuned circuit:

Which has a response like this:

For reasons I do not understand (parasitic capacitive coupling?) changing the position of the coils relative to each other sets the position of the notches. I’ve set up the 60dB notch on the 126MHz image frequency. I’ve built it a couple of times with the same dimensions and the response is quite predictable. Each coil is 6 turns wound on a 1/4 inch drill bit, with a tap at half a turn for the 50 ohms input and output. The other end of each coil has a 12pF trimmer cap.

A Si5351 is employed for the local oscillators. For the purists I will include a Si570 option for the first LO. The RF switch for the two Si5351 outputs is to support diversity (two channel) reception. The radio can quickly shift to a channel a few hundred kHz away to receive a packet, effectively receiving on two frequencies at the same time.

I’m using a SBL-1 mixer but will move to an ADE-1. The RF Gurus tell me that termination of the IF port of the mixer is important. So I’m using a 15dB gain Termination Insensitive Amplifier (TIA) that presents a 50 ohm load to the mixer over a wide range of frequencies. I swept the TIA input using a return loss bridge and confirmed around 20dB return loss out to 300MHz (the sum of the LO and RF signals). The TIA has bandwidth of 50MHz which should effectively filter out the LO+RF IF signal.

A 10.7MHz 15kHz wide crystal filter attenuates off channel signals (47dB down at +/- 25kHz) and performs bandpass anti-aliasing filtering for the ADC. To get a nice flat response there is some impedance matching either side of the crystal filter.

I messed around with a few 2nd mixers (sub harmonic, discrete transistor, diode). I had some problems with noise when using a transistor mixer (LO injected into emitter, RF into base) which held me up for a few days. Then I tried a NE602 and it worked really well, and provides some gain. With a good Z-match on the input the 2nd mixer noise problem was gone. So that will do for now.

The baseband amp takes the 24 kHz IF and boosts it 50dB before feeding it to the uC ADC. It’s just two transistors with emitter degeneration to set the gain. The ADC is configured to sample at 96kHz, and upload samples to a Host PC via USB. I can then use a GNU Octave script (e.g. fsk_horus.m) to demodulate the FSK signal.


I am designing for test, e.g. using 50 ohm building blocks. This allows me to break out each section and test separately, for example sweeping the crystal filter, or driving the TIA with a 10.7MHz FSK signal, or measuring NF of a section.

I have been testing the Bit Error Rate (BER) performance from the very early building block stage. This measure neatly defines the performance of a digital radio. Much better to test BER early than wait for final integration and have dozens of problems to solve. We want to know as soon as possible if there is a problem.

This block diagram shows an example of testing from the IF down:

I modified the fsk_horus modem to support 1200 bit/s and a sample rate of Fs=96kHz. This is a well tested modem that has performance bang on ideal.

Component Selection

The radio is implemented with garden variety transistors, the most exotic parts being the ECS M15B crystal filter, SBL-1 mixer, PGA-103 LNA, and NE602. There are no transformers. I have used some toroids to wind my own inductors however these are not critical in terms of Q or tolerance and can be replaced with off the shelf parts.

There are three trimmer capacitors that need aligning with the use of a spectrum analyser. Although it may be possible to have an alignment mode, e.g. use the Si5351 to sweep a test signal, sample the signal and display a spectrum on a Host PC.

I used Manhattan style construction:

The two PCBs in the background are a STM32F4 Discovery board and an OpenRadio which I’m just using for it’s Si5351 outputs.

I didn’t even need a printed circuit board to prototype and reach the -135dBm performance milestone. This has allowed me to remove a large chunk of risk from the project very early on – a huge benefit.

I think it’s remarkable that with rough construction, no shielding, a poor layout to the STM32F4 ADC, I can demodulate such weak signals. I guess the engineering is subtle and not related to the physical appearance. It does go crazy when I key my HT next to it though!

When we do move to a PCB the same parts in surface mount packages will result in a nice compact design.

Next Steps

  • Build a 1W transmitter prototype. In particular deal with RF amplifiers and diode switching to make a TDMA transciever.
  • Testing of the receiver, e.g. other specs apart from MDS
  • Work with Rick, KA8BMA, to develop a Rev A prototype PCB version of the entire radio.
  • Lots of software work
  • The 1200 bit/s 2FSK modem has been used so far as it’s what I had lying around. For the final system I’m favouring 4FSK at 2400 bit/s which I estimate will work at -132dBm. So need to get 4FSK running soon.
  • Work towards functional demonstration of the project goals.

I haven’t planned any further forward. I’m not sure when a SM2000 product will emerge. Some time in 2016 I guess. Sooner if you help!

Command Lines

I’m documenting this here so I don’t forget.

Use fsk_horus to generate modem signal at Fs=96kHz. Use hackrf_uc.m to up-convert to IQ samples at Fs=10MHz for replay by the HackRF. hackrf_uc.m also adds a 700kHz offset (IQ designs have a black hole at DC).

For testing the IF we can then play a 10.7MHz signal from HackRF using:

/codec2-dev/octave$ hackrf_transfer -t -f 10000000 -a 1 -x 20

For testing at 146MHz input of the radio use:

~/codec2-dev/octave$ hackrf_transfer -t -f 145300000 -a 0 -x 15

Note the 700kHz offset.

In both cases adjust the -a and -x options and use an attenuator to get the level you want for testing. The level can be checked on a spec-an, although this gets tricky beneath -120dBm.

Simultaneously sample by flashing the STM32F4 Discovery with adc_rec_usb.elf, and then upload Fs=96kHz samples using:

~/codec2-dev/octave$ sudo dd if=/dev/ttyACM0 of=test.raw count=10000

Then demod using fsk_horus:

octave:109> fsk_horus

Fs: 96000 Rs: 1200 Ts: 80 nsym: 1200

demod of raw bits....

centre: 23976 shift: 1272 twist: -1.4 dB

coarse offset: 1192 nerrs_min: 25 next_state: 1


frames: 13 Tbits: 14400 Terrs: 2 BER 0.000 EbNo: 12.23

Here is a plot of the STM3F4 ADC with -135dBm at the rx input:

You can see the passband of the crystal filter – the internal noise from the radio front end passed through the filter creates the trapezoidal spectral shape at the input to the ADC. The two lines in the centre are the low and high FSK tones centered on the 24kHz IF, the hump of “noise” between them are part of the FSK signal. Not sure what that line around 17kHz is all about.

The lines on the far left are harmonics of the 1.2kHz interrupt service routine on the STM32F4. I cleaned most of this noise up with some power supply filtering, it was initially 20dB higher and all over the spectrum:

A little noise goes a long way with 100dB of gain.

Measuring Noise Figure with the Rigol DSA-815

After lots of reading on NF and a few false starts, I can now reliably measure noise figures, e.g. in my LNA, mixer, BPF, and IF amplifiers. For example the TIA amplifier is spec-ed at 5 dB and I measured 5.2dB. I have also measured the single (BPF in front) and double sided NF of the SBL-1 mixer and they were 3dB apart.

You need to have noise above the noise floor of the 815. With the 815 terminated in 50 ohms I measured -162dBm/Hz, which suggests a NF of 12dB. With gains of greater than 20dB on the device or system you are measuring, the numbers from the 815 start to make sense. So plan your tests such that the measured No is higher than -140dBm/Hz.

Here are the Rigol settings I use:

  1. Amplitude: attenuation 0dB. Pre-amp On
  2. BW/Det: sample
  3. Trace/P/F: Power average
  4. Marker Function: No function (to measure gain) Noise Marker (to measure No)

The procedure is: measure the gain G using a test signal, then switch the test signal off, terminate with 50 ohms, and measure No (noise power/Hz). NF = No – G + 174.

Here is my working for an earlier LNA-Mixer-IF amp combination:

Input power  -80.00

Output power -10.00

Gain          70.00

Noise pwr   -102.20  

NF             1.80

My design had a calculated NF of 1.3dB, so 1.8dB is reasonable given the 1.5dB accuracy of the 815. I have a spreadsheet setup so I can just plug the numbers in.


Mel K0PFX, and Jim, N0OBG for buying me the spec-an, which has been invaluable. Neil, VK5KA, for RF advice; John VK3IC and Craig VK3CDN for cables, test equipment, and RF advice; Matt, VK5ZM and Brady for bouncing ideas off; Glen English for RF guidance and in particular explaining ADC NF.

Brady pointed me at the DSP10 2M radio from 1999 which turns out is very similar to what I have come up with! Some very similar design decisions, and a useful example for me.


I like the Chrome browser, but the memory usage is fscking ridiculous.

I have a slightly older computer at work, if I open 4 or more tabs in Chrome the computer will grind to a halt, and I gotta wait perhaps a few minutes for it to swap everything out then I can close the tabs. 150MB for a tab, that’s just way way way too much.

Personally I strongly dislike “virtual memory” in the sense of swapping to disk. I’d much rather get a (non-fatal) “out of memory” error than have the computer grind to a halt, which is what happens when a virtual memory computer goes a bit over its RAM. I don’t want to click a different window that I haven’t used for a while and have to wait for 3 minutes while the computer loads it from disk again and tries to figure out what to swap out. If we didn’t use swap, programmers (looking at you, Google) would be more careful not to waste memory.

Computers are not all that much more functional than they were in to 1990s, or even the 1980s, for regular office tasks such as wordprocessing and spreadsheets – and those computers although technically slower were actually more responsive in many cases because they did NOT grind to a halt due to swapping.


The Robots Are Coming!

The first Mirobot v2 kits have arrived in Australia! Ben Pirt at Pirt Design & Technology in the UK has once again delivered a very neat product. OpenSTEM is the main distributor for Australia, because we regularly get in quite a few for schools and individual students anyhow.

Mirobot v2 box

Most of our Mirobots are extra special, because we get them un-soldered. That is, there are a few SMD (surface mounted) components, but other than that students (of all ages!) can do a bit of soldering! This is part of our Robotics Program, where Soldering and otherwise assembling a moving product from all the loose parts is a real enabler – so with the v2 coming out in pre-soldered form by default, we had a word with Ben to ensure that we can keep doing the great stuff with the classes!

This does mean that for every shipment we get, we need to prep a few extra bits before sending on the kits or using them in the classroom. So we’re working on that now for this first shipment. There’ll be more – if you want a kit (un-soldered or pre-soldered), do get your order in soon!

November 22, 2015

Crowd favourite Bacon to headline

Newly-appointed Director of Community at GitHub, Jono Bacon, will be one of four outstanding keynotes for in February 2016. Bacon, formerly Community Manager at Canonical - the company behind Linux distribution Ubuntu, and author of the best-selling ‘The Art of Community’, will deliver insights into building strong, effective, diverse and successful technical communities.

Bacon shared his enthusiasm for keynoting “I am absolutely delighted to be joining you all in Geelong in 2016. LCA is a cornerstone in the global Linux and Open Source movement and I am not only excited about speaking but also getting to know all the attendees at the event”, Bacon says.

Conference Director, David Bell, was thrilled to announce Mr Bacon as Keynote Speaker.

“Our theme for 2016 is ‘Life is better with Linux’ - and the strength of our Linux and open source communities contribute significantly to that aspiration. Robust, diverse, and inclusive communities happen by design, not accident, and Jono has done an enormous amount to shape that. It’s truly an honour to be able to host him in Geelong in February.”

One of the most respected technical conferences in Australia, Linux Conference Australia ( will make Geelong home between 1st-5th February 2016. The conference is expected to attract over 500 national and international professional and hobbyist developers, technicians and innovative hardware specialists, and will feature nearly 100 Speakers and presentations over five days. Deakin University’s stunning Waterfront Campus will host the conference, leveraging state of the art networking and audio visual facilities.

The conference delivers Delegates a range of presentations and tutorials on topics such as open source hardware, open source operating systems and open source software, storage, containers and related issues such as patents, copyright and technical community development.

Linux is a computer operating system, in the same way that MacOS, Windows, Android and iOS are operating systems. It can be used on desktop computers, servers, and increasingly on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Linux embodies the ‘open source’ paradigm of software development, which holds that source code – the code that is used to give computers and mobile devices functionality – should be ‘open’. That is, the source code should be viewable, modifiable and shareable by the entire community. There are a number of benefits to the open source paradigm, including facilitating innovation, sharing and re-use. The ‘open’ paradigm is increasingly extending to other areas such as open government, open culture, open health and open education.

Potential Delegates and Speakers are encouraged to remain up to date with conference news through one of the following channels;

  • Website:
  • Twitter: @linuxconfau, hashtag #lca2016
  • Facebook:
  • Google+:
  • Lanyrd:
  • IRC: on
  • Email:
  • Announce mailing list:

We warmly encourage you to forward this announcement to technical communities you may be involved in.

Jono Bacon Jono Bacon will be one of four keynotes for 2016 in Geelong

How Wasteful is the US DoD?, How Groundbreaking is the JSF?, and More

It's clear that I've been doing some digging of late with regards to US DoD and Intelligence spending. What's obvious is that large chunks of it are extremely wasteful but other parts are very underfunded which gives a very bad overall look to it. Some ex-defense/intelligence officials have stated that if they could run things more efficiently they could probably halve their spending and still get the same level of efficacy from their services. The main problems appear to be purchasing equipment that they don't need, repetition of programs/work, inadequate ovesight and corruption, lack of project management (whether in the defense or intelligence sector things seem to be caught very late in the game), high costs of ownership and/or research and development, overly ambitious programs, etc...

The following is a random sample of some of the US DoD's modern programs with some very rudimentary research regarding their status. Next to them is an indicator of whether they are likely on or off budget as well as status (in brackets)

- Bell V-22 Osprey Program (OVER BUT IN)

- Boeing Comanche (OVER AND CANCELLED)


- Ford Class Aircraft Carriers (OVER BUT IN)

- Apache Helicopter (OVER BUT IN)

- Seawolf class submarine (NOT ENOUGH INFO, LIKELY OVER)

- Virginia class submarine (UNDER COST AND IN)







- Zumwalt Class Destroyer (OVER)


- B-1/XB-70 (OVER)



- Arleigh Burke Class (NOT ENOUGH INFO, LIKELY ON)




The other thing we should factor in is that even though the US may enjoy a qualitative (and quantitative) edge it's clear that they have security issues possibly owing to the size of some of their programs and some very odd issues which have cropped up in the security of some of their equipment. For instance, it's speculated that some of their drones may have been jammed/hacked...

What's muddying things further is that like other bureaucracies worldwide they also seem to be getting creative with regards to accounting. It's very difficult to get a good idea of what things are like when they're trying to cover things up the way things are rather than how they're likely to be. If you're shifting money to make things look like things are working out okay you know that a program is in trouble. We could put some of this this down to 'Black Ops' but if what you see on the open is true it's likely that what you see behind the veil is also true... which means that the guesstimate by some ex-defense/intelligence staff that you see in the media makes sense (of halving the budget but maintaining the same capability)

As I've said previously a lot of what seems to be said in the marketing and advertising about the F-35 just seems rediculous. Moreover, if you know a bit or do a bit of research a lot of the new capabilities that the JSF is going to have (or is likely going to have) have already been trailed by the US and other defense forces around the globe. Seeing as though the program has been stripped back to meet a deadline I'm of the opinion that I'll believe it when I see it (there's just way too much spin doctoring at the moment for me to honestly believe that things are 'on track' in spite of what they say).  As for a break down of what I'm talking about let's take a look at some of the JSF's much vaunted capabilities...

- as I've said previously does anyone notice something vaguely familiar between the Yak-141 and the F-35? Apparently, after economic issues in the USSR they decided to cut their losses with regards to this program. Lockheed Martin engaged in joint research and also experimented with technology that was possibly later used in the F-35 and F-22 (thrust vectoring, lift off system (the Yak-141 has a different style of of system to achieve SVTOL but similar. They gave up on a dual engine configuration because of instability during takee off and landing. They also had experimented with different engine layouts and materials such as composites, flat nozzles, etc...). What is it that they say? Good artists create, great artists steal? (not having a go at the US just the marketing/hype is just so frustrating. Russia/China also just as guilty with regards to 'industrial espionage') Japan's F-2 (ground breaking AESA RADAR and work with composites) along with the Russia's Yak-141 probably gave the US the core of the F-22 and F-35 progams

- extended supercruise cababilities have been around for more than half a century

- LPI capabilities been around for quite a while. While they may have been crude they've existed

- it has been said that that helmet mounted targeting and cueing and HOBS is revolutionary but has been present for decades (though likely in a less advanced form)

- sensor fusion available in 4.5 gen fighters for a while now though in less advanced form. Likely to be upgraded in future

Sensor Fusion

- ceramic heat signature reduction experimentation on nozzles (look carefully at some of the pictures online. It's clear that the Russians have at least played around with this stuff before decades ago and other countries are likely the same...)

- sometimes I just wonder what the point of the JSF is? If the B/2LRS-B can penetrate unseen into enemy defenses and the JSF's EW capabilities are too weak that they require an escort (in the form of Growlers) the value for money aspect of the JSF goes out the window. What really peturbs me is this. One moment (sometimes the same person in the same conversation) they say the JSF is self-escorting. The next minute they say they have to travel with EW aircraft. If that's the case why don't you just run the LRS-B with Growlers... or just upgrade/increase the number of F-22's in the fleet (unless they also have serious running problems?)

Buying Growlers instead of Lightnings

- stealth has definitely been around for a long time with experiments being developed by many nations prior to the US. The one thing I will give the F-22/F-35 programs are that they represent a jump in capabilities. How much of a jump is yet to be determined. I'd like to say I could make a recommendation of countries who are able to make a genuine attempt at this at an economical cost but it doesn't seem possible. Every single country that has attempted to gain 5th Gen capabilities has basically ended up in cost overruns. They're so expensive that you're struggling to cover all of your own airspace. The best choice for construction would likely be a joint venture in a high/low configuration. Namely, one group does the research/design (or has a advantage here) while others supply cheap labour and materials... Ironically, many of the decent/obvious options here have already been taken, India/Russia, US/Allies, etc... (China is one of the obvious one's out but they've probably gained a huge leg up with regards to industrial espionage of US technology)

Stealth Fighter - Hitler's Secret Weapons Recreated | Greatest Mysteries of World War II | 720p

Inside the Stealth B2 Bomber - Military Documentary

Symposium: Integrating Innovative Airpower 

- at the moment it's clear that other defense manufacturers can smell, "blood in the water". Moreover, there are too many SLEP, review programs at the moment to honestly say that out and out that the JSF is out of the woods with regards to research and development. Auditing and other reporting is being covered up through media hype (truth is in audit reports while 'spin' is healthy in media). Creative accouting possibly being used. Like I said, I'll believe it when I see it... As far as I'm concerned concurrency is basically disguising development and the true cost of the program (a lot of the cost savings that they're finding with regards to lubricants, different coatings, etc... they should have found earlier). If they had of been kept separate somewhat we would have a better understanding of what the true cost of development and production will ultimately be...

Why is the UK treating the F-35 like a 2nd tier Fighter?

- RAM upgrade on a Macbook Unibody

- diagnostic boot command options on statup for Mac OS X

Startup key combinations for Mac

- accessing HFS filesystems from Linux and Windows

- creating DMG files and bootable USB flash drives

- hard drive upgrades on a from Macbook Unibody

- Verbatim seem to use standard SATA based drives (not soldered USB PCB options) in their enclosures. A good option if you can find a good deal. Reputation of some of their internal drives seems a little dodgy though...

- The V-22's development process has been long and controversial, partly due to its large cost increases,[51] some of which are caused by the requirement to fold wing and rotors to fit aboard ships.[52] The development budget was first planned for $2.5 billion in 1986, which increased to a projected $30 billion in 1988.[33] By 2008, $27 billion had been spent on the program and another $27.2 billion was required to complete planned production numbers.[26] Between 2008 and 2011, the estimated lifetime cost for maintaining the V-22 grew by 61 percent, mostly allocated to maintenance and support.[53]

    Its [The V-22's] production costs are considerably greater than for helicopters with equivalent capability—specifically, about twice as great as for the CH-53E, which has a greater payload and an ability to carry heavy equipment the V-22 cannot... an Osprey unit would cost around $60 million to produce, and $35 million for the helicopter equivalent.

    — Michael E. O'Hanlon, 2002.[54]

- The V-22 Osprey program has become the largest scandal in US military history.  Stubborn Marine Corps Generals refuse to admit that dedication and political influence cannot overcome the laws of physics which have proven the complex tilt-rotor design flawed and ultra-expensive.  Details can be found in the seven previous G2mil articles about the V-22, which reveal blatant lies about the V-22's performance.  This article will cover the V-22's soaring cost, $96.2 million for each MV-22 this year, while the FY2005 defense budget request boosts the price 19% to $114.8 million per aircraft. The US Air Force requests three similar CV-22s in FY2005 for $443.0 million; or a unit cost of $147.7 million each.  If the $395.4 million requested in FY2005 for V-22 research, development, evaluation and testing is included in this buy of 11 V-22s, the total cost of each V-22 is $159.7 million.

     The US Army has lost 41 helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan this past year, with another 24 so badly damaged they are likely to be scrapped.  This is proof that employing ultra-expensive V-22s over combat zones is unwise, especially since they are larger than any helicopter in the US inventory. The V-22 weighs twice as much and costs four times more than helicopters with comparable abilities.  For example, the Navy's FY2005 budget requests 15 MH-60S helicopters for $400.8 million; or a unit cost of $26.7 million each. This helo weighs one-third as much as the V-22, but can pick up nearly the same payload. It has room for 13 combat equipped Marines, compared to 18 for the V-22.  If Congress canceled the V-22 and diverted its $1756.5 million FY2005 request to buy MH-60Ss, this could provide 67 modern helicopters for the Corps, which can also carry machine guns, rockets, and Hellfire missiles, unlike the V-22.

- A day before the offer's expiration, both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA received Navy contracts for an additional ten ships of their designs; two ships of each design being built each year between 2011 and 2015. Lockheed Martin's LCS-5 had a contractual price of $437 million, Austal USA's contractual price for LCS-6 was $432 million. On 29 December 2010, Department of Navy Undersecretary Sean Stackley noted that the program was well within the Congressional cost cap of $480 million per ship. The average per-ship target price for Lockheed ships is $362 million, Stackley said, with a goal of $352 million for each Austal USA ships. Government-furnished equipment (GFE), such as weapons, add about $25 million per ship; another $20 million for change orders, and "management reserve" is also included. Stackley declared the average cost to buy an LCS should be between $430 million and $440 million.[103] In the fiscal year 2011, the unit cost was $1.8 billion and the program cost $3.7 billion.[104]

- Requiring 1,000 fewer crew members and 30 per cent less maintenance over its 50-year lifespan, the Ford is said to let the US Navy save $4 billion.

While the Navy praises this as another significant advantage, critics say, the cost of building the ship has already skyrocketed.  With the carrier now 70 per cent complete, construction costs are about 22 per cent over the over the scheduled budget. 

The high price still will not guarantee that after it is commissioned in 2016 the carrier will not face “significant reliability shortfalls”, as the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said in September.

This may limit the ship's mission effectiveness and increase the government’s costs even more.

- “No one on this planet knows what inflation will be in, say, just six months time, but the Department of Defense seems to think they do,” said renowned military expert Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project, started in 2005. “The Pentagon plays this game all the time. It’s a typical example of how they manipulate long-term projections to make programs go down smoother.”

- Members of Congress have repeatedly criticized the inflated costs, and in 2012 lawmakers essentially reset the program’s budget and made Lockheed responsible for future cost increases. But that still leaves a hefty cost for the Pentagon, which will continue paying for its share of expenses well into the second half of this century. Yet in its 2013 F-35 report, the Pentagon claims the project has come in within budget and that costs have been reduced -- by $15.1 billion in today’s economy, or $89.5 billion, according to its 2065 projections.

However, the 97-page report doesn’t mention that the annual savings for the years 2012 to 2013 are both based on projections through 2065, the end of the program’s life. Analysts often project future costs over the short term, and often they’re wrong  -- Wall Street analysts, for example, regularly miss month-to-month projections for jobs reports. Projections for the next fifty years would have to involve an unusual degree of speculation and a wide margin for error.

-In a 2014 article in Foreign Policy, Lewis recalled the history of dirty bombs. How Russia tinkered with the radiological weapons during the 1950s. And how, during the darkest days of the Korean War, with Chinese and North Korean troops threatening to overrun American forces, U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur proposed “sowing a band of radioactive cesium across Manchuria as a kind of ‘cordon sanitaire’ against the Chinese advance.”

- First off, this has nothing to do with the F-22, F-35, B-2 or anything else the US is currently flying. It will not make them obsolete, because this isn't a detection tech. The UHF frequencies aren't a particularly effective counter either, because the installations have to be really large just to be able to resolve something the size of an aircraft. You can't just run the noise through a statistical model to pop out a Raptor. Even if you could get some kind of signal, you wouldn't be able to tell if there was one or twenty. UHF has poor angular resolution due to the wavelength.

Second, even if you could detect a stealth aircraft from the ground, you still need a way to guide aircraft or missiles to it. Combat tests have shown that pilots that can *see* an F-22 can't lock their fighter on to it. Since UHF sets have to be large to have sufficient resolution, you can't fit one into a fighter, never mind a missile. Indeed, UHF antennas aren't even road-mobile. They're fixed installations right now.

Third, coatings are actually the LEAST important part of a stealth aircraft. First is shaping, second is how it flies. Third is substructure. Fourth is coatings. And the coatings in use are already broadband-absorbing, including being fairly effective against UHF. Yet that's insufficient for complete invisibility because the shaping is optimized for high band.

Now, having said all that, is this a big advance? Maybe. It depends not just on the tunability (which appears to be fantastic) but how much of the spectrum it can absorb at a given time. Passive coatings will absorb all high band frequencies at the same time. You need to do that because a modern AESA emitter is broadcasting (randomly) over a very wide range of frequencies. You have to block all of those simultaneously, otherwise you're going to get pinged the next time the emitter cycles to a frequency you aren't currently blocking. Which is going to happen multiple times a second.

- A speaker at the recent ASPI submarine conference made the observation that ‘no system was too beautiful’ for the Seawolfs. In other words, pursuit of the highest level of performance was given priority above any thought of economical production. The result was inevitable; the Seawolf entered into an F-22-like ‘death spiral’ of higher projected unit costs and lower projected build numbers. In the end only three were built, versus 29 planned, as the 1991 cost estimate was close to US$5 billion per boat in today’s dollars.

- In 2005, it was estimated to cost at least $8 billion excluding the $5 billion spent on research and development (though that was not expected to be representative of the cost of future members of the class).[13] A 2009 report said that Ford would cost $14 billion including research and development, and the actual cost of the carrier itself would be $9 billion.[52] The life-cycle cost per operating day of a carrier strike group (including aircraft) was estimated at $6.5 million in 2013 published by the Center for New American Security.[53]

- Lawmakers and others have questioned whether the Zumwalt-class costs too much and whether it provides the capabilities the U.S. military needs. In 2005 the Congressional Budget Office estimated the acquisition cost of a DD(X) at $3.8–4.0bn in 2007 dollars, $1.1bn more than the navy's estimate.[76]

The National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2007 (Report of the Committee On Armed Services House of Representatives On H.R. 5122 Together With Additional And Dissenting Views) stated the following: "The committee understands there is no prospect of being able to design and build the two lead ships for the $6.6 billion budgeted. The committee is concerned that the navy is attempting to insert too much capability into a single platform. As a result, the DD(X) is now expected to displace over 14,000 tons and by the navy's estimate, cost almost $3.3 billion each. Originally, the navy proposed building 32 next generation destroyers, reduced that to 24, then finally to 7 in order to make the program affordable. In such small numbers, the committee struggles to see how the original requirements for the next generation destroyer, for example providing naval surface fire support, can be met."[citation needed]

- In February 2011, the USAF reduced its planned purchase of RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft from 22 to 11 in order to cut costs.[19] In June 2011, the U.S. Defense Department's Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) found the RQ-4B "not operationally effective" due to reliability issues.[20] In June 2011, the Global Hawk was certified by the Secretary of Defense as critical to national security following a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy Amendment; the Secretary stated: "The Global Hawk is essential to national security; there are no alternatives to Global Hawk which provide acceptable capability at less cost; Global Hawk costs $220M less per year than the U-2 to operate on a comparable mission; the U-2 cannot simultaneously carry the same sensors as the Global Hawk; and if funding must be reduced, Global Hawk has a higher priority over other programs."[21]

On 26 January 2012, the Pentagon announced plans to end Global Hawk Block 30 procurement as the type was found to be more expensive to operate and with less capable sensors than the existing U-2.[22][23] Plans to increase procurement of the Block 40 variant were also announced.[24][25] The Air Force's fiscal year 2013 budget request said it had resolved to divest itself of the Block 30 variant, however, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 mandated operations of the Block 30 fleet through the end of 2014.[26] The USAF plans to procure 45 RQ-4B Global Hawks as of 2013.[1] Just before his release from ACC, Hostage said of the U-2's replacement by the drone that "The combatant commanders are going to suffer for eight years and the best they’re going to get is 90 percent".[27]

From 2010-2013, costs of flying the RQ-4 fell by more than 50%. In 2010, the cost per flight hour was $40,600, with contractor logistic support making up $25,000 per flight hour of this figure. By mid-2013, cost per flight hour dropped to $18,900, contractor logistic support having dropped to $11,000 per flight hour. This was in part due to higher usage, spreading logistics and support costs over a higher number of flight hours.[28]

- Iran’s story about the electronic ambush of America’s sophisticated drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, is that their experts used their technology savvy to trick the drone into landing where the drone thought was its actual base in Afghanistan but instead they made it land in Iran. They used reverse engineering techniques that they had developed after exploring less sophisticated American drones captured or shot down in recent years. They were able to figure how to exploit a navigational weakness in the drone’s system. "The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the Iranian engineer told the newspaper.

Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off the communications link by jamming on the communications. The engineer said that they forced the drone into autopilot. That state is where “the bird loses its brain." The Iranians reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates and they used precise latitudinal and longitudinal data to force the drone to land on its own. In doing so the Iranian team did not have to bother about cracking remote control signals and communications from a control center in the U.S., and the RQ170 suffered only minimal damage, according to the report.

Adding strength and credibility to that story were military experts saying that even a combat-grade GPS system is vulnerable to manipulation. According to a GPS expert at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Richard Langley, it’s theoretically possible to take control of a drone by jamming.

- Top US officials said in 2009 that they were working to encrypt all drone data streams in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – after finding militant laptops loaded with days' worth of data in Iraq – and acknowledged that they were "subject to listening and exploitation."

Perhaps as easily exploited are the GPS navigational systems upon which so much of the modern military depends.

- With privacy and state snooping politically sensitive issues in Germany, the BND was already the focus of a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin into the extent of its surveillance and its targeting guidelines. It was reported in May that, despite Mrs. Merkel’s anger, the agency was aware of and cooperated with the National Security Administration’s surveillance program based out of Germany.

If true, the scope of Germany’s spying program seems to be more closely aligned with U.S. intelligence programs than previously stated.

Separately, citing Germany’s far-reaching data protection laws, U.S. software giant Microsoft announced plans Wednesday to build data centers in the country in an attempt to shield customers from U.S. surveillance.

The tech giant said it will provide cloud services, including Azure and Office 365, from facilities in Magdeburg and Frankfurt.

- “He has to travel around the entire country for field guidance, so there always needs to be a personal restroom exclusively for the Suryeong [Supreme Leader] Kim Jong-un,” the source said. “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country.”

- "China makes it a practice to not get extended into military conflicts in the Middle East," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said at the White House press briefing on Thursday. "Their policy over years, if not decades, is to not be overextended in military exercises."

This echoes what foreign-policy experts have said about the likelihood of Chinese involvement in Syria.

"This is very far from China's fight," Bremmer told Business Insider earlier this week. "They don't want responsibility for it, there's no potential diplomatic or security win for Beijing."

- But Kuwait is fighting back. Volunteer organisation Kuwait Oasis is working to plant 315,000 trees along the country's borders by 2019 to hold back the moving sands.

A similar initiative in Mongolia's Kubuqi Desert reduced sandstorms from 80 a year to fewer than five. Both use Waterboxx plant incubators from Dutch startup Groasis Technologies. These collect water from the air at night via condensation and prevent its evaporation during the day, so each tree consumes 35 times less water than with standard irrigation.

- “If you listen to what the IRGC says they’re doing, they say they’re assisting the Syrian military and the [National Defense Forces militias] at various different levels in how to run hardware, to use artillery, to do tactics and logistics—everything from the tactical to the strategic,” says Afshon Ostovar, an Iran expert at the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center.

“It doesn’t make sense for [Quds Force] to be able to advise on everything,” says Ostovar. “You’re going to need various skills brought to bear and it doesn’t make sense to just bring your special forces Quds Force guys, who are trained in language, tradecraft and bomb-making, to teach a guy how to use a howitzer or how to integrate armor with infantry tactics.”

- Should it be selected, the F-35 will replace Denmark's aging F-16 aircraft with an affordable, sustainable, and highly capable fifth-generation aircraft. The F-35 program includes partners from nine countries – Australia, Italy, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States – as well as three foreign military sales customers – Israel, Japan, and South Korea

Multicut A/S has a modern factory delivering complex machined parts and subassemblies. It uses state-of-the-art production equipment in its lean manufacturing facility – including 9-axis mill-turn machine tools, as well as 5-axis vertical and 4-axis horizontal computer numerical controlled machines networked with robotic material handling systems.

Source: Pratt & Whitney

- True, Syria is not Vietnam. In fact, it could end up being much worse, not least because instead of two broadly definable camps with (relatively) defined strategic and tactical objectives, Syria's war involves dozens of local and regional actors with shifting allegiances and often unidentifiable strategies. As a result, Syria makes the three-dimensional chess played by superpowers back then look quaint.

- Congressmen in Brazil, one of the most violent countries in the world, are proposing to dramatically loosen restrictions on personal gun ownership, bringing the country much closer to the American right to bear arms.

The politicians say the measures are necessary to allow embattled citizens the right to defend themselves from criminals armed with illegal weapons. But opponents say the move will only increase the country’s toll of nearly 60,000 murders in 2014.

- Truth be told, no one knows how to deal with ISIS. Not Washington, not Paris and not Moscow. There isn’t a rulebook — but there is certainly a list of tried and tested failures that can inform our decision making. What is also clear is that this threat does demand solidarity among nations who should be able to put their minor differences aside to face a common threat.

- Syria, though, remains the potent drawcard for those trying to radicalise citizens from France or elsewhere. Combined with social media, the propaganda has been much more effective than during other conflicts.

For instance, during 2001-2012, only about 60-70 French citizens were known to have journeyed to fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the official said.

And unlike the 1990s, identifying potential radicals within mosques had become "a nightmare for intelligent services".

The would-be fighters were often "isolated individuals" who might be radicalised within just one month. About 20 to 30 per cent of the French citizens seeking to fight for IS were converts to Islam, he said.

- In a recent report on American public opinion and U.S. foreign policy, “Defending our allies’ security” ranked near the bottom of a list of foreign policy priorities. Judging from their rhetoric and military spending plans, protecting our allies is the top concern for many of the men and women aspiring for higher office.

- According to North Korean state media both countries declared 2015 a “year of friendship”  in order to commemorate “Korea’s liberation and the victory in the great Patriotic War in Russia.”  A North Korean delegation, led by Lieutenant General Choe Jang Sik, deputy head of the Korean People’s Army General Staff Operations Bureau, visited Moscow in August to discuss the possible participation of a North Korean team in the “2016 International Army Games,” annually hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defense (See: “Russia Beats China in This Year’s International Army Games”).

- “Lichtenstein ranks number 1 considering the rights its citizens enjoy outside its jurisdiction. This is far beyond popular immigration countries such as the US, which is ranked 34. The UAE scores relatively well in 26th position.”

In another ranking, Kochenov compared countries considering these rights internally as well as externally. Here, Germany topped the list of strongest passports, while the UAE ranked 63th out of the 199 countries compared.

- "IS has shown that when they suffer battlefield reverses, they try to do something that ensures they counter any perception they are losing strength."

Ingram believes the shift in strategy was most likely long planned. He says it dovetails with another core IS objective, to weaken "infidel" western states and prove that Muslims and those of other faiths can't coexist.

He notes a lengthy article from an edition of the IS propaganda magazine vowing the destruction of the "grayzone", its term for secular societies.

"IS is saying to Muslims you no longer have a choice. There is no grey zone. You now have a caliphate, you have your own world to return to.

"You can't live in the land of the kuffar, no matter how devout, and be a good Muslim. Even if you pray five times a day and fast.

To this end, Islamic State hopes there will be rise in Islamophobia in the West. It will reinforce its hateful ideology."

- “From 1990 to 2010, the Army began and then cancelled 22 major programs,” the article noted, “at an approximate cost of $1 billion per year starting in 1996 and rising as high as $3.8 billion per year after 2004.”

While the White House tried to distance itself from the idea of containment, a senior administration official said, “What we had in essence was a containment policy” based on the belief that efforts to counter the Islamic State’s ideology had to be led by Sunni Muslim states, with backup from the United States.

Yet Mr. Obama’s strategy was also based on intelligence assessments that the Islamic State was overextended and vulnerable to a cutoff in its oil and black-market revenues — and that, in the long war against extremism, there was still time to bolster the most capable local forces and bring Arab states to the fight.

“If Paris changes anything,” an American official said, “it’s the recognition that we can’t wait for those two events to happen, if they ever happen.”

- In Brussels, NATO dropped the flags of its 28 member nations to half staff to honor the French dead. NATO officials said that France so far has declined to invoke the alliance's Article 5, which would oblige all members to join its fight against the militants..

The only time Article 5 has ever been invoked was, at U.S. request, after the September 2001 al-Qaeda attacks.

- With the trade of stolen data booming on the multi billion-dollar dark web, Mr Pogue said "data is the new oil" yet Australia, like most countries, still has a "head-in-the-sand approach".

"It will get worse before it gets better," he told Fairfax Media. "The sooner decision makers understand that there are only three types of organisations – those that have been breached, those that are currently breached (and likely don't know it) and those that are about to the breached – the better."

- Mr Pogue, senior vice-president of cyber threat analysis with Australian data investigation company Nuix, said hackers were becoming more creative and more aggressive.

Most advertise their skills in hidden Russian-language forums. The stolen data is sold on encrypted "dark net" sites, with stolen credit card details fetching an average of $100.

The money is then funding other crimes, such as terrorism and people smuggling.

One dark-net site identified by Australian police recently was selling credit cards for 8¢, CCVs for $8 and other card details, such as billing addresses, for $80. At one point, 14,000 users were accessing the site.

- The renminbi is already, according to SWIFT, the fifth most-used payment currency in the world, helped by the rapid expansion of the country's middle class and its growing use of the internet for shopping.

- Experts noted that several factors may have been behind the failures in January: Security services are drowning in data, overwhelmed by the quantity of people and emails they are expected to track, and hampered by the inability to make pre-emptive arrests in democratic countries

- Bernard Bajolet, the head of the French spy service, spoke during a public appearance at George Washington University in Washington two weeks ago about the twin threats France was facing, both from its own extremists and "terrorist actions which are planned (and) ordered from outside or only through fighters coming back to our countries."

General warnings about potential attacks from Iraqi intelligence or other Middle Eastern intelligence services are not uncommon, the official said. The French were already on high alert.

"During the last month we have disrupted a certain number of attacks in our territory," Bajolet said. "But this doesn't mean that we will be able all the time to disrupt such attacks."

Obtaining intelligence about the Islamic State group has been no easy feat given difficulties accessing territory held by the radical Sunni group. Iraqi agencies generally rely on informants inside the group in both Iraq and Syria for information, but that is not always infallible. Last year, reports from Iraqi intelligence officials and the Iraqi government that al-Baghdadi was injured were later denied or contradicted.

- The Prime Minister told Radio 4's Today programme: "The disagreement has been that we think that Assad should go at once and obviously Russia has taken a different view.

"We have to find a settlement where Assad leaves and there is a government that can bring Syria together and we mustn't let the gap between us be the alter on which the country of Syria is slaughtered.

"That is the challenge. Now that is going to take compromises."

Mr Cameron's talks with Mr Putin will be followed by a meeting of the Quint - an informal group of Western powers within the G20, made up of the UK, US, France, Germany and Italy - to assess progress and discuss how further efforts on Syria can be co-ordinated.

- What happened in Paris represented one shot in what could prove to be a long, painful battle that we cannot win with the sword. It was tragic for sure, but also predictable. The French have discovered what some of us have predicted since the outset of the US-led campaign: rather than stemming terrorism, the air strikes in Iraq and Syria are creating new Sunni  jihadists in the region and abroad.

Make no mistake: Paris was a direct response to this war. According to Professor Robert Pape, a terrorism expert at the University of Chicago, the clear majority of culprits in the more than 2100 documented cases of suicide bombings from 1980 to 2009 were motivated by foreign intervention in the Middle East, not ideological or religious conviction. For example, the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings were in response to the 2003 Iraq invasion. And the recent downing of the Russian airline over the Sinai was in response to President Vladimir Putin's air strikes in Syria.

- Officials believe the ISIS geek squad is teaching terrorists how to use encryption and communication platforms like Silent Circle, Telegram and WhatsApp.

Aaron F. Brantly said he and his colleagues at the U.S. Army-affiliated Combating Terrorism Center have found that Islamic State members use as many as 120 separate platforms, many of them encrypted, to communicate and share information. One of its most favored methods, he said, is a highly encrypted form of communication called Telegram.

"It essentially allows them to hide what they are discussing from people who aren't explicitly looking for it," especially law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Brantly said. "Obviously this is a major concern. … They are creating a space for themselves to operate independent of direct surveillance."

- The senior European counterterrorism official said that European authorities are gravely concerned and will meet this week to discuss the issue - though they are already becoming contentious with each other about their lack of options. Some are restricted by civil liberties concerns in their home countries, while others note that creating a "back door" in an electronic communication platform - meaning a way for governments to spy on messages in real time - also creates an opportunity for non-governmental groups to take a peek. When Greece put a "back door" in electronic communications passing through its territories, it was quickly exploited by hackers.

"I am waiting for somebody to show me a way we can do this that is guaranteed to be only used by the good guys," said Paul Rosenzweig, a cyber consultant and former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "But it is not person-specific. Anything that we can create can, and will, be cracked."

- The fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is not a common mode of thinking for most Muslims, especially in recent times. But it is clearly driving the political agenda in Muslim countries. Not all Muslim modernisers are willing to confront the anti-Western and anti-Semitic beliefs that feed the Islamist narrative. The Islamists are dominating the discourse within the Muslim world by murdering secularists and forcing many of them to leave their countries.

With more than 1.4 billion Muslims around the globe, the swelling of the fundamentalist ranks poses serious problems. If only 1 per cent of the world's Muslims accepts this uncompromising theology, and 10 per cent of that 1 per cent decide to commit themselves to a radical agenda, we are looking at a 1 million strong recruitment pool for groups such as al-Qaeda, IS and whatever comes next.

Only a concerted ideological campaign against medieval Islamist ideology, like the one that discredited and contained communism, could turn the tide.

- "It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake," he said.

"Not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we've seen before which is if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance, and who are pushing back against ideological extremes that they resurface."

Instead he defended his administration's current strategy and vowed to intensify it – supporting opposition forces on the ground with training, weapons and intelligence while conducting an airstrikes from above.

He said only by finding a political solution to the war in Syria could the chaos be ended and IS stifled, and that there was finally agreement on this course.

"We have the right strategy and we are going to see it through."

- Like Akshaya Mishra of Firstpost states, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the likes of Osama bin Laden would not have existed if the US didn’t actively promote ideology-driven thugs to fight its Cold War against Russia. "Iraq would not be such a dangerous place if the US had not brought down Saddam Hussein for no reason at all."

The West is in the danger of making the same mistakes in this new Cold War that it did in the original one and such discord will further the causes of such entities as the Islamic State. The focus should remain on rooting out terrorist groups, that no longer require a US or a Russia, or even financiers within the G-20 countries; they are pretty much self sufficient.

- Imagine if every time you typed “Netflix and chill” (that’s code for casual sex, for the uninitiated) into Tinder, the app slapped you on the wrist with a warning message.

That’s what happens for users of Tantan, a dating app that’s popular among randy Chinese. A pound-for-pound copy of Tinder, Tantan lets users make friends or meet potential partners by swiping left or right at a set of photos, and enabling two-way chat for every mutual match. While it might help facilitate one-night stands, Tantan is not immune to China’s internet censorship.

- We applaud people in the Arab Spring standing up and saying this is not right. But when it happens in Yarraville people say that we are yuppies.

- Others have pointed out that the F-35 is hardly the first maligned plane in U.S. history. The F-4 Phantom suffered the same slings and arrows, and went on to survive battle with the more nimble MiGs during Vietnam (though as with all military history this is hotly contested: A better plane would have performed better). Still, as FighterSweep put it: “It’s fun to trash the new kid, especially the new kid that’s overweight, wears too much bling, and talks about how awesome it is all the time.”

- In considering future adversaries, Chinese information warfare doctrine makes clear the requirement to attack US C4ISR systems, including satellites, from the outset or even prior to, any military conflict. This information warfare campaign will be fought in space, cyberspace and across the electromagnetic spectrum. The PLA sees the information battle-space as an integrated environment comprising both cyberspace and electronic warfare, and base their approach to these domains around the concept of Integrated Networked Electronic Warfare (INEW).

General Dai Qingmin, PLA, states that a key goal of the PLA’s approach to INEW is to disrupt the normal operation of enemy battlefield information systems, while protecting one’s own, with the objective of seizing information superiority. Therefore, winning in the air against the PLAAF may be determined as much by which side wins these information warfare campaigns, as through success in tactical beyond-visual range air to air engagements. Imagine no data links between the F-35s and the AWACS; AESA radars on an E-7A Wedgetail spoofed; ASAT attacks that bring down strategic communications or computer-network attacks that strike logistics or which jam GPS signals, and the first shots fired are not missiles but satellites silenced by computer hackers or ground-based jamming. Furthermore there will be an incentive to strike quickly and decisively, with an information ‘battle of the first salvo’ effect emerging. Without the flexibility bestowed by these systems, the F-35 pilot must rely on on-board sensor systems such as its AESA Radar and Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) to detect, track and engage targets which increase the detectability of the aircraft and potentially bring the F-35 into the envelope of an opponent’s within visual range systems.

- The terrorist attacks in Paris, beyond their obvious horror, recalled to me the words of the late Bernard Fall, a French-American historian and war correspondent in Vietnam. In 1965, Fall wrote: “When a country is being subverted it is not being outfought; it is being out-administered. Subversion is literally administration with a minus sign in front.” ISIS has subverted western Iraq and eastern Syria because it is out-administering the Baghdad and Damascus regimes there. That is, ISIS has erected a competent bureaucratic authority covering everything from schools to waste removal which, combined as it is with repression, is secure and stable. And with that territorial security, ISIS has apparently created a central dispatch point for planning terrorist attacks abroad. Eventually, the end of ISIS can only come about when some other force out-administers it.
- The AH-64 played roles in the Balkans during separate conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.[92][93] During Task Force Hawk, 24 Apaches were deployed to a land base in Albania in 1999 for combat in Kosovo. These required 26,000 tons of equipment to be transported over 550 C-17 flights, at a cost of US$480 million.[94] During these deployments, the AH-64 encountered problems such as deficiencies in training, night vision equipment, fuel tanks, and survivability.[95][96] On 27 April 1999, an Apache crashed during training in Albania due to a failure with the tail rotor,[97] causing the fleet in the Balkans to be grounded in December 2000.[98]

In 2000, Major General Dick Cody, 101st Airborne's commanding officer, wrote a strongly worded memo to the Chief of Staff about training and equipment failures.[99] No pilots were qualified to fly with night vision goggles, preventing nighttime operations.[100] The Washington Post printed a front-page article on the failures, commenting: "The vaunted helicopters came to symbolise everything wrong with the Army as it enters the 21st century: Its inability to move quickly, its resistance to change, its obsession with casualties, its post-Cold War identity crisis".[101] No Apache combat missions took place in Kosovo due to fears of casualties.[100]

- In January 1968, the United Kingdom terminated its F-111K order,[109] citing higher cost; increased costs along with devaluation of the pound had raised the cost to around £3 million each.[110] The first two F-111Ks (one strike/recon F-111K and one trainer/strike TF-111K) were in the final stages of assembly when the order was canceled.[109] The two aircraft were later completed and accepted by the USAF as test aircraft with the YF-111A designation.[108]

- The program costs, during 1963–1967, grew at an alarming rate; estimates by the USAF at the start of the program was placed at US$124.5 million, but by April 1967 had risen to $237.75 million.[36] While the initial price of US$5.21 million per aircraft was capped at US$5.95 million, R&D, labor, and other costs were not.[37] The rising price, three unexplained losses of USAF F-111As in Vietnam during their first month of deployment, and the British and U.S. Navy's orders' cancellations caused further controversy in Australia during 1968.[38] By 1973, however, when the F-111A had accumulated 250,000 flight hours, it had the best safety record among contemporary aircraft, which presaged the F-111C's own excellent record.[39]

- WASHINGTON -- Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

- Obama says he won't put boots on the ground. Does that mean the special forces will be going in with bare feet?

Twitter posts: 2015-11-16 to 2015-11-22

[mtb] Brinzio loop and Summit Fiore ride

Looking over from the observatory to the Fiore summit (fullsize)

Though I had headed out solo to ride Basso Binda on the first Sunday I was there this ride I got to do with some company until the last climb and get shown one of the classic loops in the region.

My first views of Lago Maggiore and then back through Brinzio, then when we got back to Varese I decided to solo climb up to the summit past the Campo di Fiore and into the snow that was still around from the falls on the weekend. A rather pretty area for sure.

Images in my gallery from the ride ETC, Varese, Brinzio, Lago Maggiore, Brinzio, Summit Fiore ride.

November 20, 2015

[mtb] Alpe di Neggia ride in Italy/Switzerland

Looking toward Switzerland from the top of the climb (fullsize)

I had a work trip to the European Training centre in Gavirate Italy in April 2012, while there I managed to get out for three rides and one solid run. On the rides I took my camera and was able to get some great shots. Definitely an awesome area to train in for many sports.

Recommended to me by Luke Durbridge who was at the ETC while I was there, this ride was from Gavirate over to Lago di Maggiore and then along the shores until I hit the climb and down the other side in to Switzerland than back through the valley past Lago di Lugano toward the border at Ponte Tresa above Varese. A great ride for sure and a nice climb, though I probably left it an hour too late as coming back it was dark by the time I got to Varese and I had not taken lights.

Images in my gallery from the ride Alpe di Neggia ride in Italy/Switzerland.

RCA Old Technology Video (1983)

It’s cool to look at past visions of the future, particularly those from companies in a sales/marketing context because they contain all the fabulous buzzwords from the time.

Entitled RCA Video Monitors: The Future Is Now (1983), the below is a segment from an extremely rare CED videodisc sent to dealers telling them about the then new concept in TV design: the inclusion of multiple A/V inputs and outputs for connecting multiple devices!

(image by grm_wnr, Wikimedia)

The intermittent skipping you see on the video was “normal” for that videodisc technology. Mind that videodisc wasn’t DVD, videodisks were quite big.

Note that, oddly, DVDs also exhibit a brief skip when (they switch from one layer to another on dual-layer disks). Technically it’d be so easy to avoid this visual annoyance!.

Compact Cassette(image by GrahamUK, Wikipedia)

The Compact Disk (CD) was invented by Philips and launched around 1984. DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) is from 1995. Philips actually has a history of these broad innovations, in 1953 they launched the Compact Cassette.

Philips somehow misfired with video recorders (VCRs), adopting the technically superior Video 2000 format (1979), and as we now know VHS became the global standard. The VCR format saga is an interesting historical example of where factors other than purely technical superiority played a role in defining the winner. Among other factors, they came in late – but there was more to it. Anyhow, we know that even Betamax was regarded as superior in quality to VHS, Betamax remained in use for professional recording equipment for a very long time.

November 19, 2015

LUV Beginners November Meeting: Security scanning with Nmap

Nov 21 2015 12:30
Nov 21 2015 16:30
Nov 21 2015 12:30
Nov 21 2015 16:30

RMIT Building 91, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton South

Scott Junner will offer a basic run through of the main functions of Nmap with some explanations of the background of what Nmap is doing and why it gets some of the results it gets. He will talk about why you would want to use Nmap and give an example of a few scans he did on his own network to show the kind of information that others could collect. Or you could collect on others - depending on which way you lean.

LUV would like to acknowledge Red Hat for their help in obtaining the Trinity College venue and VPAC for hosting.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc., is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

November 21, 2015 - 12:30

read more

[mtb/events] Triple Triathlon 2015 - Wheres Our Swimmer - Mixed Pairs

Tagging Milly for the Mt Taylor run (fullsize)

As I mention in the words I ended up in pairs this year again, racing with Milly after our swimmer for the event injured himself. Our goal was to have a fun day out in Canberra looking forward to the finish line and beers there. I think we managed that and enjoyed hanging out with all the others transcending the hills and lakes of Canberra.

Great to see Rowan have so much fun on course again, also Cam had an amazing day out with 12h15m solo and finishing third. Ben Crabb got to race again with his normal team before disappearing to the UK for three years. So many others were having fun and so were Milly and I (though the early shot of her before the swim start she does not appear so sure), looking through the event gallery on the Sri Chinmoy events site there are some good photos of everyone around too.

My words and photos are online in my Triple Triathlon 2015 - Wheres Our Swimmer - Mixed Pairs gallery. Good day out bring on 2016.

November 18, 2015

[mtb/events] Geoquest 2012 - Out Of Range

Heading into the water with our tubes (fullsize)

When I looked at this album I realised I still have not published or added comments to my 2011 geoquest album. I guess that will be next. For now this was 2012 with Seb, Lee and Eliza up at Forster again. Before Eliza was quite so hooked on MTB near the end of her doing Triathlon we were trying to convince her long sill AR stuff is the best thing ever, I hope we did not scar her too much with the longest event she had ever done.

KV, Ben and Matt were our rather awesome support crew engaging in a bit of speed camping around the region and seeing us come past once in a while, thanks to them for the effort. It was a remarkably hard (well long at least) course this year and though there was no ocean paddling there was a bit of time in the kayaks. The event was a lot of fun as always, though I still need to sort out some of my insulin type and timing issues (as I was reminded this year when I had some lows).

My 2012 Geoquest - Out of Range gallery is online for anyone to have a look, I almost was worried I managed to get a photo of Eliza not smiling, however it appears not to have happened so all is right with the world.

Changing Jenkins concurrent job token from @ to something else

Some jobs may fail in Jenkins when running concurrently because they don’t like the @ symbol in the path.

For example, you may get a jobs at something like:

  • /var/lib/jenkins/jobs/cool-project
  • /var/lib/jenkins/jobs/cool-project@2

This can be easily changed to something else, as per the Jenkins system properties page by modifying the -D arguments sent to Java. I’ve changed it to _job_ at the moment.

echo 'JAVA_ARGS="$JAVA_ARGS -Dhudson.slaves.WorkspaceList=_job_"'\

 >> /etc/default/jenkins

systemctl restart jenkins

Now concurrent jobs will be something like:

  • /var/lib/jenkins/jobs/cool-project
  • /var/lib/jenkins/jobs/cool-project_job_2

Which seems much nicer to me.

November 17, 2015

[mtb] Hume and Hovell Ride Albury to Canberra 2012

A creek crossing on day 1 (fullsize)

This was a really fun ride, 3 days riding from Albury to Canberra on the Hume and Hovell track, a bunch of ARNuts and others, stopping overnight in Tumbarumba and then Tumut.

It was also not long after the Greenedge Call Me Maybe video came out so many of us spent a fiar proportion of the ride posing for photos and some videos miming the actions. I have never tried to edit the videos into anything together however you can see the poses in many of the photos.

The ride itself has a good variety of terrain, great views in places, confusing areas where it is difficult to follow the track and we all had fun. Photos and some words are online on my Hume and Hovell track ride 2012 page.

Middle Eastern/African/Asian Background, NSA Whistleblowers, and More

- whenever you take a on a new job you feel naive (the following are all publicly available videos/documentaries often from well known media outlets). Despite what is being said by a lot of people in the public spotlight I don't believe that there is a way to acheive victory in a timely fashion. Kids of primary school age are being trained to hate the West, to learn how to use weapons, to become suicide bombers, etc... We can destroy large parts of the organisation but then it will be a case of managing the situation downwards if there is to be some form of major 'direct foreign intervention'. This will be a multi-generational fight which people in these areas seem to understand. Teachers know that there's a strong chance that they will be killed if they attempt to re-educate children against such groups...

Peshmerga vs. the Islamic State - The Road to Mosul (Full Length)

The Enemy Within (Pakistan Taliban)

Yemen - A Failed State

The Alleged Iranian Plot To Kidnap And Kill British Nationals (2010)

The Battle for Iraq - Shia Militias vs. the Islamic State

The War Against Boko Haram (Full Length)

Syria's Unending Rebel Conflict - Wolves of the Valley

Naxal - Terrorism from Inside

ISIS  - Vice Iran vs ISIS Documentary 2015 (isis vice)

- assume that any media that you see regarding conflict will be controlled. A common tactic among biased regimes/media is to interview people who are less than competent. You may be shocked by some customs among some militaries... and some of the decisions that are made. The way that the a lot of these rebels fight is foolhardy at times. They often have no body armour, have little/no aerial/naval/artillery support, limited ammunition, wepaons, and communications capability, and yet they walk around problem areas as though things were peaceful. Only when they get fired upon do they up the tempo...

The War Against Boko Haram (Full Length)

Full Documentary US Marines Attack On Taliban War Of Afghanistan HD 2015 !! 720p

People and Power - Chad - At War With Boko Haram

- just like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 it feels like a lot of public officials are unsure exactly what to do. The public services (including defense and intelligence) are supposed to fill the breach. However, it's clear that publicly elected officals sometimes don't listen, the services are getting swamped, etc... Ultimately, it means that public officials are effecitvely just getting a filtered version of what may be happening. They may not making the best decision after all. For any official to have a genuine chance they need more background prior to them entering their job at the highest levels of government

- at times, some of these groups almost seem sane. At others you just wonder how on Earth they can believe what they believe. One thing which is interesting (if you know about prophets and prophetic visions) is that they seem to be trying to attempt to acheive prophecies rather than letting them happen. I'm certain that if there is a God, things will be done according to his timing not ours

The Islamic State (Full Length)

Featured Documentary - ISIL and the Taliban

- the more you look the more it feels as though the average person in these areas doesn't care about who governs them as long as they are safe and well looked after. Most of these strange groups aren't that much different though and foreign intervention can often be interpreted as 'plots' when countries/companies later try to exploit the resources of their country. If there is to be foreign intervention, the interests of the people in these countries must come first not the interests of those who are intervening to stop the spread of such propaganda. Stay out of internal politics and religious issues if at all possible

- the average citizen doesn't really care about major conflicts in distant lands as long as it's not in their own homeland. A lot of the time it feels as though the US is unsure (and the rest of us are well) of it's place in the world

- a lot of decisions that need to be made by governments are effectively the lesser of two evil type decisions... Whether it's supporting one side, engaging in a proxy war, etc... The irony is that a lot of what we end up is often a consequence of an earlier decision. We think we know a group or individual and think that we're on the same side. Not always

- regime change isn't as simple as changing leader like changing your vote in a democracy. The USSR/US have had a long history of involvement in proxy wars and yet they still haven't figured things out. Often it's a combination of luck as well as skill to determine whether your strategy will hold

Afghanistan War - Military Documentary HD

- I have a feeling no matter how much intelligence we have we'll never understand what is actually happening. There is no perfect solution. The other issue is that we're basically getting all the information that we need as is (even without extra powers). It feels as though it's just a decision every once in a while which is allowing an attack to slip through the net. Something which a lot of whistleblowers also seem to be saying (see the next section on NSA whistleblowers in this post). Making better decisions would probably save us more money (and would probably be more effective) than simply spending more money on our intelligence/defense budgets

Featured Documentary - ISIL and the Taliban

- a lot of multi-generation Westerners are too blinkered. A lot of immigrant parents would prefer to be in their homeland and they transfer this tought into their children as well. To those people who say, 'go back their homeland' a lot of the time these people simply don't have a choice... If they think that 'Western interference/intervention' is for the greater good wait until they come up against people who have been cut loose from covert operations or feel that their homelands have been destroyed as a result of it. At the other end of the spectrum, if the situation were explained more completely in the media a lot of the time strategic decisions will make much more sense and people will likely give some strategies greater acceptance

- at times it feels as though some public officials are just inviting/inciting further trouble. Some areas they shouldn't touch at all... It makes it a thousand times easier to turn into anti-Western propaganda. Free speech is great but at times like this it can sometimes feel more trouble than it's worth

The Stream - Alarm over Australia's counterterrorism plans

- whether it's the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, or terrorist groups part of the problem is that Western strategies are often too predictable (admittedly, there are only so many tricks in the bag). Due to this opponents often take pre-emptive measures to hedge against any actions that the West is likely to take

- some of what the NSA does makes no sense (I've worked on this type of stuff and there are solutions which help to maintain 'national security' while maintaining privacy. Some of which they also worked on...). If the problem comes down to deicision making and not collections/technology capability why don't they spend more time in training in these areas rather than new programs which have little chance of succeeding? Sometimes it feels as though the US is simply feeding into the 'military complex' for no reason other than to create employment. If that's the case, aren't there industries with better money to employment ratios? The other thing that's obvious is this. In the past, the US defense industry clearly had spin off technologies which could be used in the civilian sector. Obviously, this helped to pay the bills over the long term. I wonder whether this is what they're thinking. The obvious problem is that it's in the technology sector. A sector which generally employs fewer people for the amount of money involved...

NSA Whistleblower - Everyone in US under virtual surveillance, all info stored, no matter the post

- problem of mass storage of data (in context of Operation Trailblazer) is that the job of analysts is much more difficult. Throws you much more work for something not neccessarily worthwhile. Operation Trailblazer makes sense if required data wasn't coming into the system but they did? The impression that I get over and over again is that they're getting enough information in order to prevent something from happening. The reason why things are getting through are bad decisions every once in a while (9/11, Boston, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc...). The main reasons why I think they're holding data is to use as leverage in investigations where something has managed to get through (Boston), some for encrypted/encoded content, some for 'Automated Analysis/Intelligence' type techniques, etc... The obvious problem is like that of Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc... With lack of oversight individuals could get into trouble for doing something that the government does not like, not what is actually unlawful. I've heard of bizarre cases where people have been visted by Federal Agents for talking about stuff that was already in the public sphere...

'NSA owns entire network anywhere in the world' - whistleblower William Binney

Exclusive Interview with Former NSA Technical Director - William Binney

US' Betrayal of Truth _ Interview with Whistleblower Thomas Drake
- I find it strange that they haven't been able to make better progress on 'Operation Trailblazer'. Technically, it's not much different to what scientific and financial programmers face. Think about HFT/Algorithmic trading and the issues faced are almost identical (high speed analysis of massive amounts of data). They shouldn't have issues with wages either since intelligence/defense contract wages are pretty high as indicated by Snowden

- even though the US government has said otherwise it doesn't seem plausible that these people would be whistleblowing without probable cause. The whistleblowers all have high level access which means that technically they would have access to operations intelligence which would also give them a high level overview similar to the highest levels of government. They would know if something seemed wrong with the current setup

William Binney on The Alex Jones Show - March 18,2015

- a lot of whistleblowers just sound slightly naive

Assange on 'US Empire', Assad govt overthrow plans & new book 'The WikiLeaks Files' (EXCLUSIVE)

Live Q&A - Edward Snowden

- if the internal electronic, monitoring systems of the US intelligence is that inefficient Russian and Chinese practice of relying more heavily on HUMINT makes much more sense. They can gain everything for the cost of a single agent... (doesn't matter if it takes one thousand agents are caught) Obviously, it's possible that some of these whistleblowers could be 'false flag' operations but what's the point?

William Binney on The Alex Jones Show - March 18,2015

- if the reason for high US spending on defense/intelligence is for subsidising jobs wouldn't they be better off subsidising jobs in other areas? Think about it, bang for buck? Skills in intelligence/defense are somewhat limited to that particular field. A lot of private defense jobs are mostly about high wage jobs for a small number of people. The US could create chain stores/resturants and employ heaps more people? Else, help people start up firms. It would surely be a more more efficient way of creating jobs? Unless this is about veneer of success? Like when you bring people over but only show them the 'finest cutlery'?

- Soviet/Russian whistleblower/defectors tend to have very short lifespans after they defect or speak out. If you want more details look over some of my previous posts. The West tends to punish those that speak out via professional discrimination thereafter as indicated by the accounts of some of the people mentioned in these videos

- after getting a lot of background it seems clear that the US is unsure of how to attack the terrorist issue. Hence, they've resorted to mass surveillance and the solutions are neither elegant, efficient, cost-effective, etc... They sound rediculous, incompetent, and wasteful at times. This theme seems to be consistent across the intelligence as well as the defense sector. Indications (by people employed by US defense and intelligence agencies) are that they can slash about half their spending and still achieve the same capability which means the current targeted reduction in spending make much more sense...

NSA Whistleblower William Binney the 3 words that will put you on the NSA List

Edward Snowden, v 1.0 - NSA Whistleblower William Binney Tells All

Thomas Drake 60 Minutes Documentary
China employs two million microblog monitors state media say

- reset of firmware password on a Macbook can be fairly painless on older systems but extremely difficult on newer ones

- certain Macbook performacne issues can come down to SMC issues (which will require a reset)

Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac

- just like other operating systems Apple hardware/software also has these options

- I wonder how many refugees are hailing Facebook's efforts? Who cares about food and water as long as have have connectivity, huh?

- it had to happen sometime, huh?

- always been curious about this as another form of 'passive income'...

- what should you charge as an IT specialist as determined by Google

- proxying web requess via the CLI

Some recent quotes in the media...

- “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”

- I think this only amplifies that, for the most part, we are doing hiring wrong. What shows up in an interview is often the person you like the most, or the person that fits your interviewing style, rather than the best person for the job. This is why contract-to-hire has been in use much more recently. The problem is that contract-to-hire usually isn't appealing to a candidate if they already have a job.

- China never promised to be the global factory forever. Its export-driven model was fine for a while because it allowed for fast growth, but it also ruined the country's environment and made the economy dependent on foreign demand, which, as recent economic crises have proved, can be unreliable. This model is being gradually dismantled and those countries that built their own economic plans upon it need to rethink and prepare for slower growth.

- David - otherwise known as the hero our city deserves - called out: “Did you see Tony Abbott eat the onion?”

“T - Tony Abbott? Tony Abbott what?”

“The onion! Eat the onion! Tony Abbott ate the onion!”

The sheer disbelief in Oliver’s voice said it all, as he attempted to make sense of the question. Just remember that this was a man hearing that the current Prime Minister of Australia bit into a raw, unpeeled onion.

“Did he do it competently?”

Laughter followed, but it soon became clear that words were not enough. Oliver would need evidence of this. He just wasn’t getting it.

“He ate an onion? He ATE an ONION? He ate an onion like a two-year-old eats an onion, thinking: ‘It’s round and I’ve seen round apples! Is this an apple?’ No. He did not do that.”

And then, when an audience member enlightened him further: “He ate TWO?! Get the f**k out!”

- I am struck not only with the rubbish in this article, but the success of P. Leahy in espousing conflicting and incoherent views without in any way realising their combination of sectarianism, futility, militarism and inconsistency.However his recognition that “A strategy should be about what we want to happen” is sensible – even if he endows us with the right to decide how Middle Easterners should live and who should run it.“Our” decision regarding Saddam Hussein was impressively wrong, with continuing consequences.

Most of the mass murderers and war criminals who took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have now received the Freedom Medal.  Those behind America's Iraq adventure - people like Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John McCain and Condoleeza Rice - are as visible as ever, pushing their hawkish views in the papers and the talk shows.  As Conor Friedersdorf comments, it's amazing 'how much influence Iraq War supporters still have in US foreign affairs'.

Yet Iraqis are still dying in large numbers from the war that they started. They also made ISIL what it is today.So our real scale of values is our ruling clique demonstrating their impunity to plunder us while using us and our resources to attack their self-defined “enemies”.Our so-called enemies will have noticed – after all, our ruling clique ruthlessly drives a global order that has long done the same to them. That is why the peasants are revolting.

As Thatcher said, “We are all responsible for our own actions. We cannot blame society if we disobey the law.  We simply cannot delegate the exercise of mercy and generosity to others.”

Note the media silence on the enormous costs of these utterly futile wars to the American people.

- There is no requirement for the Australian electorate to vote for these idiots. Yet we do it regularly and constantly. I put it to you, we are the bigger morons.

- Greetings to you all at the NSA and everybody else who is reading this on ECHELON.

- Sir Winston Churchill quote: "The vice of capitalism is that it stands for the unequal sharing of blessings; whereas the virtue of socialism is that is stands for the equal sharing of misery."

- The developed world is rich but ageing, and unevenly recovering from the profound shock of the GFC. And China is no longer our free ride. In business, as Mr Turnbull says, the only way forward is by disrupting others and avoiding it yourself. New interconnecting digital technologies mean old natural barriers to competition and old business models built around them are crashing, with people's jobs changing in ways we are only just grasping. That is the world Mr Turnbull says we can master. It will mean changes at basic levels, from schools and universities, through to creating the entrepreneurial culture that our top econocrat, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens, says we have too little of. It means accepting failure as a step on the path to success and of praising tall poppies who earn their place.

- He noted that he was asked at a hearing last year whether the U.S. would come to the defense of those it trained when they were attacked by forces loyal to Bashar Assad. Hagel said yes.
“The White House didn’t like that answer, but I said, ‘Guys, let me give you the facts of life. You can’t play think-tank nonsense and bullshit when you’re getting a question like that because the whole world is listening and watching what your answer to that is,’ ” Hagel said.

- Having worked with pilots, I have seen their enthusiasm to play with something shiny and new. But in their enthusiasm, they tend to gloss over a lot of problems in its implementation.

I will take a problem that we had when Canada initially received the F-18. On take off there was a fault where instruments would throw a breaker on take off. The pilot solution, and the solution that was accepted,was to get the pilot to unclip the panel and use a rod to flip the circuits back on. All this while flying the aircraft fter takeoff. This was the accepted solution for quite a while as the maintenance people tracked down and repair the problem. The rational solution would have been to ground the fleet and make this repair a top priority.

This is the problem with pilots and remember that it is pilots who are in charge of the air force. They would risk their lives in a slingshot and a large bucket than give up an opportunity to fly. Time and time again, u have seen a pilot (an officer) try to coerce a technician (not an officer) to sign off that a plane was safe to fly when it wasn't. Just to get a little more flight time. Now if that plane suffered from an incident, you would see that same pilot screaming for the tech'support head for signs in off on the a/c.

- Elliot: My father picked me up from school one day and we played hooky and went to the beach. It was too cold to go in the water, so we sat on a blanket and ate pizza. When I got home my sneakers were full of sand, and I dumped it on my bedroom floor. I didn't know the difference; I was six. My mother screamed at me for the mess, but he wasn't mad. He said that billions of years ago, the world shifting and moving brought that sand to that spot on the beach and then I took it away. "Every day," he said, "we change the world," which is a nice thought until I think about how many days and lifetimes I would need to bring a shoeful of sand home until there is no beach... until I've made a difference to anyone. Every day we change the world, but to change the world in a way that means anything, that takes more time than most people have. It never happens all at once. It's slow. It's methodical. It's exhausting. We don't all have the stomach for it.

- A wise man once pointed out that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Relative to the 1970s and 1980s, the United States is almost incomparably powerful and secure, enjoying presumptive military advantage over any opponent or plausible coalition of opponents. We sometimes forget, for example, that there is some history to the idea of Russian troops freely operating in Ukraine.

And the point is not that the United States deserves some kind of comeuppance for its arrogance. Geopolitics isn’t a Shakespearean drama, or a morality play. Noting that Russia, China, and others have the growing capability to act independently in their regions does not imply that they will act justly, or that they have any special right to torture their neighbors.

- “On June 22, 1941, Churchill had enough common sense to make an alliance with the USSR, because the alternative alliance with the Third Reich was even less appealing than the one with Moscow,” observes Maxim Sokolov, a popular Russian political commentator. “But John Kerry is obviously no Churchill. He has a different style of thinking.”

- Like that quote that's usually attributed to Einstein says, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

- iSight makes 90 per cent of its revenue from subscriptions to its six intelligence streams, each focused on a particular threat, including cyberespionage and cybercrime.

The company's most recent competition comes from its oldest clients, particularly banks, which have been hiring former intelligence analysts to start internal operations. One former client, which declined to be named because of concerns that doing so could violate a nondisclosure agreement, said it had been able to build its own intelligence program at half the cost of its cancelled iSight subscriptions.

But most businesses do not have the same resources as, say, a company like Bank of America, whose chief executive recently said there was no cap on the bank's cyber security budget.

Many of those businesses remain paralysed by the drumbeat of alarms that expensive security technologies are sounding on their networks.

At iSight's threat centre, the company's approach is perhaps best summed up by a logo emblazoned on a T-shirt worn by one of its top analysts: "Someone should do something."

- "We don't have a good sense, sometimes, of what's going on," she said. "And worse, as a policymaker, it's not like they can fly in and take a look at what happened."

- On Syria, the president said we could work with Iran and Russia to combat terrorism, but: “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.” Bashar Assad must go.

Putin’s riposte “We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” Bashar will stay and his Russian and Iranian friends have the military power to make it so — regardless of how many Syrian Christian and Sunni “terrorists” they have to butcher.

He also announced a new Russian-led front against “terrorism,” defined as anyone who opposes Assad. Their destruction, he promised Europe, will stem the flow of refugees as Assad’s authority is restored — under Russian guidance. Front members include Syria, Iraq and Iran; bombing has already begun.

So, on one hand, a man with a relatively weak state but who is a realist with specific goals; long-range plans; a thirst to right what he describes as a “historic tragedy”; and an iron will to act.

On the other, a man leading the world’s most powerful nation who pronounces his visions and cannot grasp why they do not come true, as they often do at home. Who is confused when his opponents are not cowed by his words. Whose irresolution fills his allies with apprehension. There is weakness in the water, thicker than blood; below, sharks circle.

This will not end well. Not for anyone.

- So Russia's state-dominated space industry is set to continue struggling to outperform its Western counterparts. Meanwhile, existing companies are plagued by lack of quality control and expert oversight. In 2013, a Proton rocket was lost because a worker installed a sensor upside down — and hammered it in to fit.

- If you want to understand Afghanistan’s opium problem, put yourself in the shoes of an Afghan farmer. Your country’s in turmoil, you’re largely disconnected from the rest of the population, and you have few options to earn a living. There’s no irrigation infrastructure, and poppies are the only plants tough enough to withstand the environmental conditions. You could plant wheat, but why bother? Poppies will earn you eight times as much money.

So the extent to which Afghanistan has become ground zero for opium, as the latest United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 2007 World Drug Report makes plain, should be no surprise. Around 92 percent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghan poppies, and—thanks to the 49 percent increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2006—global opium production reached a record high of 6,610 metric tons last year. Opium production and trade accounts for at least a third of all economic activity in Afghanistan.

- In a typical year, Afghan farmers sell about 7,000 tons of opium at $130 a kilogram to traffickers who convert that into 1,000 tons of heroin, worth perhaps $2,500 a kilogram in Afghanistan and $4,000 at wholesale in neighboring countries. That works out to roughly $900 million in annual revenues for the farmers, $1.6 billion for traffickers from operations within Afghanistan, and another $1.5 billion for those who smuggle heroin out of the country. (2010 was atypical; a poppy blight drove opium production down and prices up.)

- Often, but not always. In the early years of the Afghanistan war, coalition policy included widespread forced eradication. In June 2009, however, Barack Obama’s administration announced that U.S. and other international forces would no longer conduct eradication operations, on which the late Richard Holbrooke said the United States had "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars."

The sensible motivation for this reversal was recognition that eradication produced unintended consequences. Pulling up a farmer’s opium crop could generate ill will, perhaps enough to produce a new recruit for the insurgency. It was also geographically inconvenient. Afghanistan is a horrendously complicated place, but to oversimplify, two-thirds of the country (roughly 27 of 34 provinces) has been nearly poppy-free and relatively stable for a few years. The remaining third — in particular Helmand and Kandahar provinces — is rife with both poppies and insurgents. Eradication in those areas has a minimal and temporary effect on the drug trade, at most pushing production to the next valley or district. And angering farmers where Taliban recruiters prowl seemed like a gift to the enemy. So the Obama administration swore off direct support of eradication, though the governors of some Afghan provinces continue to pursue their own eradication programs.

- It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we've just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. ... At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell."

Replacing Rdio

I guess we’ve all heard of the impending demise of Rdio.

As one of the 500k subscribers with good taste in their streaming apps, it’s now time to consider a replacement. Here are my criteria – some of them may vary for you, but it’ll hopefully give you an idea for how you can choose, too.

Must Have

  • Offline sync to mobile (I listen to music when I’m flying a lot)
  • Ability to play from my Mac (I listen when I’m working)
  • Ability to play on Sonos (the rest of my house)
  • Family accounts

Should Have

  • Desktop App (I kill my browser pretty regularly, I don’t want that to interfere with my music)

Nice To Have

  • Android Auto support (I don’t have an Android Auto device, but I’m likely to buy one in the near future)
  • Account sharing instead of family accounts (it’s cheaper, and my wife and I mostly don’t use the account in different locations at the same time)

Given that the death of Rdio was most likely due to its lack of market share, I decided to only go with major players – this quickly narrowed it down to Google Play Music, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Google Play Music

Out of the box, Google Play Music does okay – it has an excellent selection of music, the mobile app isn’t terrible, and it works on Sonos. YouTube Red is supposed to be pretty nice, too, but it’s currently not available in Australia.

It falls down heavily when using it on my desktop, though. There’s a Chrome extension to hook into my keyboard media buttons, or there are third party apps available, none of which are very good.

Finally, it becomes completely unusable to share with my wife – I obviously can’t sign into my Google account on her phone, and Google still don’t have family accounts (though they have been announce as “coming soon”).

Apple Music

I’ve never had a good relationship with iTunes – it’s always been a clunky beast, and my recent experiments seem to indicate that not much has changed, except for a re-skin of some of the UI. It feels really hacked together. It is a native app, though, so it wins points by not being associated with my browser.

The family account was super janky to setup, I found the UI kept dying on me. Eventually I got through, however, and I hopefully will never need to touch that again (famous last words…).

On the bright side, the Apple Music app for Android is really nice, despite being a recent beta release. There’s no word on if it supports Android Auto, but that’s not an immediate requirement for me, so I’m happy to let it go.


Spotify’s biggest benefit is that it’s not attached to a personal account. Unlike with Google or Apple, my wife and I could share the same account, without needing to share our personal logins. It’s cheating the system slightly, but it’d save us $6/month, so I’m not too concerned about it.

Spotify’s apps have been severely ugly in the past, but the good news is that the Android app is much more useable now. Unfortunately, I was unable to try out the OSX app, because the downloader was broken. The web app requires Adobe Flash, which is a total non-starter.


In the end, I chose Apple Music, for two reasons. One, it was the only one with a desktop app that actually worked. And two, it’s the only service that I can play Taylor Swift’s 1989 on. If the other services can’t get their act together enough to negotiate for a popular album to be on their service, then I’m concerned about their future ability to do so.

I may end up needing to re-evaluate this decision, particularly if the Sonos support doesn’t happen before Rdio finally closes it’s doors (I’m maintaining my Rdio account just for that). But for now, this will do.

November 16, 2015

Twitter posts: 2015-11-09 to 2015-11-15

[mtb/events] Australian Single Speed Nationals 2012 - Beechworth, Bushranger themed (sort of)

Posing with Jeebus (fullsize)

Wow right now I am finding it surprising I have not been to the single speed nationals since 2012, (un) organised every year by a group of locals somewhere, sort of overseen by Australian Recreational Singlespeed Enthusiasts (ARSE). The 2010 Canberra SSNATS event in Majura Pines was heaps of fun, organised by Canberra One Gear Society (COGS).

In 2013 the event was in Cairns and though it sounded fun I decided it was just a bit too far to head up there for the event, in 2014 I tried and tried to talk friends into heading up for the weekend in Dungog NSW, however few of my Canberra friends were keen and I did something else that weekend (softie that I am).

I am still hoping the road trip to Wombat State Forest in Victoria will go ahead for the 2015 event. There was a ANZAC event in Rotortua over easter however I skipped that. This however is all getting off the topic of 2012.

I made it down to 2012, camping with McCook and having a fantastic weekend of mtb riding with the crew in Beechworth. The rather important aspect of beer was sorted that weekend and Bridge Road Brewerers in that town and they are possibly my favourite brewer in Australia.

The Beechworth mtb park is a great mix of interesting technical stuff and fun all in native bush, there were other ride options as can be seen in my gallery also. Photos and words from the 2012 Australian Single Speed Nationals are online in the link.

Forgive me Curry and Howard for I have Sinned.

Forgive me Curry and Howard for I have sinned.

For the last several weeks, I have been writing C++ code. I've been doing some experimentation in the area of real-time audio Digital Signal Processing experiments, C++ actually is better than Haskell.

Haskell is simply not a good fit here because I need:

  • To be able to guarantee (by inspection) that there is zero memory allocation/de-allocation in the real-time inner processing loop.
  • Things like IIR filters are inherently stateful, with their internal state being updated on every input sample.

There is however one good thing about coding C++; I am constantly reminded of all the sage advice about C++ I got from my friend Peter Miller who passed away a bit over a year ago.

Here is an example of the code I'm writing:

  class iir2_base
      public :
          // An abstract base class for 2nd order IIR filters.
          iir2_base () ;

          // Virtual destructor does nothing.
          virtual ~iir2_base () { }

          inline double process (double in)
              unsigned minus2 = (minus1 + 1) & 1 ;
              double out = b0 * in + b1 * x [minus1] + b2 * x [minus2]
                              - a1 * y [minus1] - a2 * y [minus2] ;
              minus1 = minus2 ;
              x [minus1] = in ;
              y [minus1] = out ;
              return out ;

      protected :
          // iir2_base internal state (all statically allocated).
          double b0, b1, b2 ;
          double a1, a2 ;
          double x [2], y [2] ;
          unsigned minus1 ;

      private :
          // Disable copy constructor etc.
          iir2_base (const iir2_base &) ;
          iir2_base & operator = (const iir2_base &) ;
  } ;


TLDR: Division by zero is not as scary as it’s made out to be:

a/0 = b ⟺ a = 0

Division is multiplication, backwards. These two equations are exactly equivalent, by definition:

a/c = b

a = b×c

It’s easy to understand division by zero if we look at the equivalent multiplication.

a/0 = b

a = b×0

For any real number b:

a = b×0 = 0

a = 0

There are two cases with division by zero:

If a = 0, then a/0 = b is unconstrained, any real number b satisfies the equation. You can discard such an equation which does not constraint the result.

If a ≠ 0 then a/0 = b is contradictory. There is no real number b which satisfies that equation. This is still useful to know; “there is no answer” can be a sort of meta-answer. For example if trying to solve a system of equations of static forces, “there is no answer” might mean you need to consider a different design for your bridge!

There is no need to consider advanced concepts such as limits in order to fully understand division.

In short, a/0 = b is true if and only if a = 0.

If you see such an equation a/0 = b, you may simplify it to a = 0.

a/0 = b ⟺ a = b×0 ⟺ a = 0

a/0 = b ⟺ a = 0

I posted this here about a year ago:

November 15, 2015

Give Us Our Daily Bread

Last week I visited a modern Australian farm on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, about 500km from where I live in Adelaide.

This farm has been in one family for several generations, and has steadily grown to 8000 acres (3200 hectares). This same area was previously farmed by 7 families, and now provides a livelihood for just one. This tells me that modern agriculture is super efficient, and explains why food (and calories) are super cheap for us here in the affluent Western world.

This is both good and bad. Given the right political conditions, science and technology enables us to feed the world. We don’t need to be hungry and can use those excess calories for other purposes. The jobs lost in one industry migrate to others. This farming family, for example, has spawned a variety of professionals that have left the family farm and done good things for the world.

It also brings diseases of affluence. Our poor bodies are not evolved to deal with an excess of food. We are evolved to be hunter-gatherers, constantly on the look out for the next calorie. Historically we haven’t had enough. So we are hard wired to eat too much. Hence the rise of heart disease and diabetes.

Breathtaking Array of Skills

I was impressed by the diverse array of skills required to run the farm. Business, animal husbandry, mechanical, agricultural science. The increased mechanisation means computers everywhere and I imagine robotics is on the horizon. During our visit they were measuring the moisture content of the crop to determine the best time to harvest. They even have an animal “retirement village” – they care for several old working dogs who had kept foxes away from the sheep for years.

Unlike many jobs, they don’t know what their yields and hence income will be from year to year. That’s a lot of risk in your annual income.

Overall, It takes about 12 years to learn the skills needed to run a modern farm.

This farm produces 3,500 tonnes of wheat per year. Based on 13680 kJ/kg of wheat, and a person needing 8700 kJ/day, that’s enough to feed 15,000 people every year. From the work of one family farm. Wow.

Organic Farming

I asked them about organic farming. The bottom line is the yields would be halved. So double the prices for everything we eat. That may be fine if you are a rich Westerner but that is the line between life and death for someone in the developing world. Alternatively, it means using twice the land under cultivation for the same amount of food. Organic means starving poor people and goodbye rain forests.

Their use of pesticides is strictly monitored and all residues must be removed. They have modern, scientific methods of erosion control to manage the soil, and techniques to naturally fix nitrogen. Sustainability is being addressed right now by modern, scientific, farming.

In my opinion the organic food movement is a more about scientific illiteracy and marketing than health.

Wind Farming

On a nearby hill was a 75MW wind farm, part of many that have sprung up in South Australia over the past decade. I am quite proud that South Australia now averages 30% wind power. We are about to close down our last remaining coal power station.

In this case, the lucky farmer that owns the land leased for the wind turbines receives $100k per year in passive income. K-ching K-ching as the turbines rotate.

It’s incredible to think that for years there have been “rivers of energy” flowing over those hills. It took technology and the right economic conditions to reach up and pluck that energy out of the sky.

Mount Stranger one last time

This is the last walk in this series, which was just a pass through now that the rain has stopped to make sure that we hadn't left any markers or trash lying around after the Scout orienteering a week ago. This area has really grown on me -- I think most people stick to the path down by the river, whereas this whole area has nice terrain, plenty of gates through fences and is just fun to explore. I'm so lucky to have this so close to home.

Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog canberra bushwalk


Btrfs RAID 6 on dm-crypt on Fedora 23

I’m building a NAS and given the spare drives I have at the moment, thought I’d have a play with Btrfs. Apparently RAID 6 is relatively safe now, so why not put it through its paces? As Btrfs doesn’t support encryption, I will need to build it on top of dm-crypt.

Boot drive:

  • /dev/sda

Data drives:

  • /dev/sdb
  • /dev/sdc
  • /dev/sdd
  • /dev/sde
  • /dev/sdf

I installed Fedora 23 Server onto /dev/sda and just went from there, opening a shell.

# Setup dm-crypt on each data drive

# and populate the crypttab file.

for x in b c d e f ; do

  cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sd${x}

  UUID="$(cryptsetup luksUUID /dev/sd${x})"

  echo "luks-${UUID} UUID=${UUID} none" >> /etc/crypttab



# Rebuild the initial ramdisk with crypt support

echo "dracutmodules+=crypt" >> /etc/dracut.conf.d/crypt.conf

dracut -fv


# Verify that it now has my crypttab

lsinitrd /boot/initramfs-$(uname -r).img |grep crypttab


# Reboot and verify initramfs prompts to unlock the devices



# After boot, verify devices exist

ls -l /dev/mapper/luks*

OK, so now I have a bunch of encrypted disks, it’s time to put btrfs into action (note the label, btrfs_data):

# Get LUKS UUIDs and create btrfs raid filesystem

for x in b c d e f ; do

  DEVICES="${DEVICES} $(cryptsetup luksUUID /dev/sd${x}\

    |sed 's|^|/dev/mapper/luks-|g')"


mkfs.btrfs -L btrfs_data -m raid6 -d raid6 ${DEVICES}'

See all our current btrfs volumes:

btrfs fi show

Get the UUID of the filesystem so that we can create an entry in fstab, using the label we created before:

UUID=$(btrfs fi show btrfs_data |awk '{print $4}')

echo "UUID=${UUID} /mnt/btrfs_data btrfs noatime,subvolid=0 0 0"\

  >> /etc/fstab

Now, let’s create the mountpoint and mount the device:

mkdir /mnt/btrfs_data

mount -a

Check data usage:

btrfs filesystem df /mnt/btrfs_data/

This has mounted the root of the filesystem to /mnt/btrfs_data, however we can also create subvolumes. Let’s create one called “share” for shared network data:

btrfs subvolume create /mnt/btrfs_data/share

You can mount this specific volume directly, let’s add it to fstab:

echo "UUID=${UUID} /mnt/btrfs_share btrfs noatime,subvol=share 0 0"\

  >> /etc/fstab

mkdir /mnt/btrfs_share

mount -a

You can list and delete subvolumes:

btrfs subvolume list -p /mnt/btrfs_data/

btrfs subvolume delete /mnt/btrfs_data/share

Now I plugged in a few backup drives and started rsyncing a few TB across to the device. It seemed to work well!

There are lots of other things you can play with, like snapshots, compression, defragment, scrub (use checksums to repair corrupt data), rebalance (re-allocates blocks across devices) etc. You can even convert existing file systems with btrfs-convert command, and use rebalance to change the RAID level. Neat!

Then I thought I’d try the rebalance command just to see how that works with a RAID device. Given it’s a large device, I kicked it off and went to do something else. I returned to an unwakeable machine… hard-resetting, journalctl -b -1 told me this sad story:

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: ------------[ cut here ]------------

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: kernel BUG at fs/btrfs/extent-tree.c:1833!

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: invalid opcode: 0000 [#1] SMP

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: Modules linked in: fuse joydev synaptics_usb uas usb_storage rfcomm cmac nf_conntrack_netbios_ns nf_conntrack_broadcast ip6t_rpfilter ip6t_REJECT nf_reject_ipv6 xt_conntrack ebtable_nat ebtab

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: snd_soc_core snd_hda_codec rfkill snd_compress snd_hda_core snd_pcm_dmaengine ac97_bus snd_hwdep snd_seq snd_seq_device snd_pcm mei_me dw_dmac i2c_designware_platform snd_timer snd_soc_sst_a

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: CPU: 0 PID: 6274 Comm: btrfs Not tainted 4.2.5-300.fc23.x86_64 #1

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: Hardware name: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. Z97N-WIFI/Z97N-WIFI, BIOS F5 12/08/2014

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: task: ffff88006fd69d80 ti: ffff88000e344000 task.ti: ffff88000e344000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RIP: 0010:[] [] insert_inline_extent_backref+0xe7/0xf0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RSP: 0018:ffff88000e3476a8 EFLAGS: 00010293

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RAX: 0000000000000000 RBX: 0000000000000001 RCX: 0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RDX: ffff880000000000 RSI: 0000000000000001 RDI: 0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RBP: ffff88000e347728 R08: 0000000000004000 R09: ffff88000e3475a0

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: R10: 0000000000000000 R11: 0000000000000002 R12: ffff88021522f000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: R13: ffff88013f868480 R14: 0000000000000000 R15: 0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: FS: 00007f66268a08c0(0000) GS:ffff88021fa00000(0000) knlGS:0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: CS: 0010 DS: 0000 ES: 0000 CR0: 0000000080050033

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: CR2: 000055a79c7e6fd0 CR3: 00000000576ce000 CR4: 00000000001406f0

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: Stack:

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: 0000000000000000 0000000000000005 0000000000000001 0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: 0000000000000001 ffffffff81200176 0000000000270026 ffffffffa0925d4a

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: 0000000000002158 00000000a7c0ba4c ffff88021522d800 0000000000000000

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: Call Trace:

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? kmem_cache_alloc+0x1d6/0x210

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? btrfs_alloc_path+0x1a/0x20 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] __btrfs_inc_extent_ref.isra.52+0xa9/0x270 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] __btrfs_run_delayed_refs+0xc84/0x1080 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_run_delayed_refs.part.73+0x74/0x270 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? btrfs_release_path+0x2b/0xa0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_run_delayed_refs+0x15/0x20 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_commit_transaction+0x56/0xad0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] prepare_to_merge+0x1fe/0x210 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] relocate_block_group+0x25e/0x6b0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_relocate_block_group+0x1ca/0x2c0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_relocate_chunk.isra.39+0x3e/0xb0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_balance+0x9c4/0xf80 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_ioctl_balance+0x3c4/0x3d0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] btrfs_ioctl+0x541/0x2750 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? lru_cache_add+0x1c/0x50

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? lru_cache_add_active_or_unevictable+0x32/0xd0

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? handle_mm_fault+0xc8a/0x17d0

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? cp_new_stat+0xb3/0x190

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] do_vfs_ioctl+0x295/0x470

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? selinux_file_ioctl+0x4d/0xc0

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] SyS_ioctl+0x79/0x90

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] ? do_page_fault+0x2f/0x80

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: [] entry_SYSCALL_64_fastpath+0x12/0x71

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: Code: 10 49 89 d9 48 8b 55 c0 4c 89 7c 24 10 4c 89 f1 4c 89 ee 4c 89 e7 89 44 24 08 48 8b 45 20 48 89 04 24 e8 5d d5 ff ff 31 c0 eb ac <0f> 0b e8 92 b7 76 e0 66 90 0f 1f 44 00 00 55 48 89 e5

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RIP [] insert_inline_extent_backref+0xe7/0xf0 [btrfs]

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: RSP

Nov 14 06:03:42 localhost.localdomain kernel: ---[ end trace 63b75c57d2feac56 ]---


Looks like rebalance has a major bug at the moment. I did a search and others have the same problem, looks like I’m hitting this bug. I’ve reported it on Fedora Bugzilla.

Anyway, so I won’t do a rebalance at the moment, but other than that, btrfs seems pretty neat. I will make sure I keep my backups up-to-date though, just in case…

[mtb] Around the K 2013 - Cold morning and night lap of Kosci

The awesome open views heading toward Kiandra (fullsize)

Like the other Round the K galleries, another great day out on road bikes, this was the first time I had made it all the way around the loop too. The photo I am using to the left here is a great example of the open alpine regions neat Kiandra, those who have only done the Jindabyne - Cabramurra section have missed out on this bit of riding.

Gallery from the day is online Around The K 2012 gallery and as I said in the last few links to Round the K, bring on the next one in a few weeks. I am as this appears out competing in Triple Tri in pairs though so wrote the post ahead of time and am letting it appear during the day, unlikely that it matters as I doubt I have many readers.

And I have just noticed as I went to do an entry for Monday 2015-11-16 that I had in fact already posted the link and a photo for the post today. Oh well laziness is an artform so it is staying here.

November 14, 2015

[mtb] Blue Mountains Six foot/TNF100 scouting trip Feb 2014

Jane loving the trail run down to Coxs river (fullsize)

Oops I realised I forgot to link to this one in my reverse posting of all these adventures, this was a weekend Jane and I headed up to the Blue Mountains for some running and to scout out the Six Foot course (made Jane more comfortable on the course (and as she finished 2nd in the race it probably helped)) and for me we were able to do the climb up Furber Steps (and a nice run along Federal pass including the giant stair case descent).

Though I did get to climb the steps in the Mt Solitary Ultra I had not at that time planned to do that race so I was happy to see them for TNF100 prep. We had a good weekend up there and it was nice to have a relaxed run to the river and back, we managed to see a number of people out for a Fat Arse run on the course too. My gallery from my Blue Mountains weekend in Feb 2014 is online here, thanks for the company Jane, hope to see you back on the trails soon.

November 13, 2015

How Tracking Protection works in Firefox

Firefox 42, which was released last week, introduced a new feature in its Private Browsing mode: tracking protection.

If you are interested in how this list is put together and then used in Firefox, this post is for you.

Safe Browsing lists

There are many possible ways to download URL lists to the browser and check against that list before loading anything. One of those is already implemented as part of our malware and phishing protection. It uses the Safe Browsing v2.2 protocol.

In a nutshell, the way that this works is that each URL on the block list is hashed (using SHA-256) and then that list of hashes is downloaded by Firefox and stored into a data structure on disk:

  • ~/.cache/mozilla/firefox/XXXX/safebrowsing/mozstd-track* on Linux
  • ~/Library/Caches/Firefox/Profiles/XXXX/safebrowsing/mozstd-track* on Mac
  • C:\Users\XXXX\AppData\Local\mozilla\firefox\profiles\XXXX\safebrowsing\mozstd-track* on Windows

This sbdbdump script can be used to extract the hashes contained in these files and will output something like this:

$ ~/sbdbdump/ -v .
- Reading sbstore: mozstd-track-digest256
[mozstd-track-digest256] magic 1231AF3B Version 3 NumAddChunk: 1 NumSubChunk: 0 NumAddPrefix: 0 NumSubPrefix: 0 NumAddComplete: 1696 NumSubComplete: 0
[mozstd-track-digest256] AddChunks: 1445465225
[mozstd-track-digest256] SubChunks:
[mozstd-track-digest256] addComplete[chunk:1445465225] e48768b0ce59561e5bc141a52061dd45524e75b66cad7d59dd92e4307625bdc5
[mozstd-track-digest256] MD5: 81a8becb0903de19351427b24921a772

The name of the blocklist being dumped here (mozstd-track-digest256) is set in the urlclassifier.trackingTable preference which you can find in about:config. The most important part of the output shown above is the addComplete line which contains a hash that we will see again in a later section.

List lookups

Once it's time to load a resource, Firefox hashes the URL, as well as a few variations of it, and then looks for it in the local lists.

If there's no match, then the load proceeds. If there's a match, then we do an additional check against a pairwise allowlist.

The pairwise allowlist (hardcoded in the urlclassifier.trackingWhitelistTable pref) is designed to encode what we call "entity relationships". The list groups related domains together for the purpose of checking whether a load is first or third party (e.g. and both belong to the same entity).

Entries on this list (named mozstd-trackwhite-digest256) look like this:

which translates to "if you're on the site, then don't block resources from

If there's a match on the second list, we don't block the load. It's only when we get a match on the first list and not the second one that we go ahead and cancel the network load.

If you visit our test page, you will see tracking protection in action with a shield icon in the URL bar. Opening the developer tool console will expose the URL of the resource that was blocked:

The resource at "" was blocked because tracking protection is enabled.

Creating the lists

The blocklist is created by Disconnect according to their definition of tracking.

The Disconnect list is on their Github page, but the copy we use in Firefox is the copy we have in our own repository. Similarly the Disconnect entity list is from here but our copy is in our repository. Should you wish to be notified of any changes to the lists, you can simply subscribe to this Atom feed.

To convert this JSON-formatted list into the binary format needed by the Safe Browsing code, we run a custom list generation script whenever the list changes on GitHub.

If you run that script locally using the same configuration as our server stack, you can see the conversion from the original list to the binary hashes.

Here's a sample entry from the mozstd-track-digest256.log file:

[m] >>
[hash] e48768b0ce59561e5bc141a52061dd45524e75b66cad7d59dd92e4307625bdc5

and one from mozstd-trackwhite-digest256.log:

[entity] Twitter >> (canonicalized), hash a8e9e3456f46dbe49551c7da3860f64393d8f9d96f42b5ae86927722467577df

This in combination with the sbdbdump script mentioned earlier, will allow you to audit the contents of the local lists.

Serving the lists

The way that the binary lists are served to Firefox is through a custom server component written by Mozilla: shavar.

Every hour, Firefox requests updates from If new data is available, then the whole list is downloaded again. Otherwise, all it receives in return is an empty 204 response.

Should you want to play with it and run your own server, follow the installation instructions and then go into about:config to change these preferences to point to your own instance:


Note that on Firefox 43 and later, these prefs have been renamed to:


Learn more

If you want to learn more about how tracking protection works in Firefox, you can find all of the technical details on the Mozilla wiki or you can ask questions on our mailing list.

Thanks to Tanvi Vyas for reviewing a draft of this post.

China Background, Economic Warfare, and More

- the world feels very different when you get perspectives from all over the world... if you were to simply watch the local news you'd think that the Chinese and Russians were right on our border and were ready to invade us. The other problem is that due to the language problem we only get a snippet of what they intend to say. Younger people in China aren't much different from us and censorship is bad but isn't as horrible as we're meant to believe?

Freedom, Politics and Change in China - Does The West Fear China Documentary

BBC Documentary Our World Flashpoint South China Sea english subtitles

United States, China and Public Opinion

Are We Looking For A Fight In The South China Sea

Are China's ambitions in the South China Sea a threat

The Debate - South China Sea Tensions (May 30th)

Counting the Cost - The scramble for the South China Sea

Taiwan in the South China Sea

Chinese Assertiveness in the South China Sea - Harbinger of Things to Come

Five Former U.S. Ambassadors to China Discuss U.S.-China Relations 

- if you listen to a lot of the what is being said it's a combination of fear, disbelief, concern, anger, etc... in varying quantities. A lot of countries are wanting to maintain current order or at least have an understanding of where they will fit into the world that is currently being shaped before our very eyes. Others wanting to change and looking for an idea of how far they can push things. There are a lot of commentators out there who have a limited understanding of the history behind what is happening, a lot of differing perspectives, highly concentrated media, on all sides, which makes it difficult to get a balanced idea of what is actually happening

The Heat - Henry Kissinger on China-U.S. relations

China and the U.S. Are Long-term Enemies-kd

India’s World – US-China face-off in South China sea

- the thing I find most bemusing is that people most often remember the most extreme examples of each and every society out there. If you were to listen to some media outlets it seems as though the Chinese government were against 'Falun Gung', 'Dalai Lama', etc.. for no reason. Dig further and most groups that the government is opposed to are wanting substantial social change (not judging here. There have been some pretty ugly accusations though...). The worse part of this is that while there is somewhat of a tacit agreement among intelligence agencies internationally on what type of covers/operations that they should and should not use. This may have changed of late somewhat with some targets/penetrations being considered of higher priority. Muddies the water a lot...

Kevin Rudd - Are China and the US doomed to conflict

The Debate - South China Sea Tensions (October 28th)

- they don't trust us and we don't trust them. Look at their history and you sort of understand why exactly they don't trust us. A lot of promises were broken. Since they have a long memory they're thinking why should they trust us if we can't be trusted to follow through on what we say. Makes the circumstances worse...

- if they want a 'peaceful rise' they'll need to export their culture either way. Make them seem less threatening and help us understand them within context. Whether it's the Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Arabs, etc... everytime they speak about US/Allied conspiracies they sound crazy. Music such as C-Pop, sporting/music stars, etc... help but they aren't accessible enough. Clearly, Putin believes in the old Soviet model of strengh entailing respect on the global stage whether in sport, technology, science, etc... Too simplistic. Fear and respect won't hold without a continual presence (similar to geo-political engineering). Admiration and respect is something different though. That holds and won't require a massive security apparatus to keep everything in order. Easier said than done with a lof of the problems the world faces now though. Something which China seems to be better at especially in the context of their neighbours...

- if you follow the financial markets you'll realise that a lot of things aren't adding up at the moment. A lot of numbers don't quite make sense. Others have noticed as well... not just the conspiracy theorists, speculators, etc... If we were to go on fundamentals many countries that technically shouldn't be in trouble are in trouble and vice-versa

$100 Trillion American Economic Collapse with Jim Rickards

Exclusive Interview - Jim Rickards & Peter Schiff Discuss Global Gold Markets [Full Discussion]

The Coming Financial Collapse Of Great Britain UK Explained _ Revolutionary Documentaries

China Warns US, It Has Begun Dumping Treasuries - Episode 751a

- one of the things that is obvious is that during moments of financial difficulty the US goes understands together and in solidarity for one another. Their debt purchases are split internally and externally. Think about the recent European Debt issues where interest rates when through the roof. By having someone step in and control the flow into the general community they've been able to manage interest rates, inflation, growth, etc... The US has made things slightly easier by having private entities step in to keep things in check. By using a proxy/third party it makes it more difficult for speculators if this is is what happening which would make it more difficult for the US. Who knows how much of their own debt they're actually buying?

- if the West goes to war it will be a multi-layered/complex war. Most countries that it is likely to go to conflict with have taken substantial measures to shield themselves from any impact that they likely to face. It will be economic, cyber, hybrid, conventional, and non-conventional warfare. With the way the US is being dealt with at the moment it feels as though it's enemies have found a moment of weakness (or else the US is in actual decline). They're basically seeing how far they can push the US and it's allies at the moment. The obvious question is how much will it weaken and whether or not it will be (relatively) terminal?

Cold War 2 Or World War 3 Economic Warfare Between The United States And Russia Has Begun

Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare - An Evolving Challenge

- the West is getting outplayed. If you want to take a bet, there are plenty of under valued assets out there if you look hard/deep enough. Moreover, it's clear that prior to any major military move that is likely to trigger actions by others (such as sanctions) a lot of countries are betting on this and taking a bet on it to reduce their economic impact. In reality the US has been caught off guard a number of times... but it doesn't really matter if you have a massive military. Does it matter if you can't really afford (or have no appetite) to deploy it?

The Push For War With China Is Now Escalating -- Episode 234

Economic WAR Between U.S. & Russia _ Gregory Mannarino

Panel 2 - Russia, China, and the Future of  Economic Warfare

- if various parties have engaged in economic/algorithmic based warfare then it would explain a few odd market movements and why some people have been arrested for reasonably 'normal behaviour' (according to the press). Part of me feels as though the world is currently being re-shaped in front of us behind our backs (if that makes sense)

- the problem with a lot of activists and conspiracy theorists is that they sound crazy or that they mix up good with bad material. It makes it very difficult to judge their credibility. This is especially the case with financial makret speculators who have a bet on the other side

US Pushes War Against Russia, North Korea And China To Cover-Up The Collapse - Episode 747b

U.S. Government Financial Numbers Are Manipulated To Keep The Illusion Of A Recovery - Episode 786a
- countries are worried about surprise opportunistic moves. Think about Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, etc... in the Middle East region at the moment. With the advent of the Syrian/Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts all have made moves to re-shape the region as they see fit. US/Australia has troops stationed in the north in case an 'opportunity' rises (there are other reasons as well obviously)...

- difficult to read encoded URL's. Thankfully, don't need to memorise them (though you do tend to memorise things over time)...

- making extensions easier then you actually think

- Carla is a sound plugin host for Linux. May require code modification/re-compilation to get things running on your localhost
- lots of plugins to help secure your local setup...

- Ninite is not the only option for automated installation under Windows. If desperate plenty of options

- decoding video/sound streams used to be easy but is not becoming more difficult with the increase in encoding, obfucation, encryption, etc... Need more time but think I can come up with an elegant solution... (some of the existing code that I'm looking at is highly specific and needs extensive modification for each site. I want a generalised solution that is elegant if possible...)

Some recent interesting quotes in the media...

- Multiple Air Force and industry sources confirm that the Raptor has a lower radar cross section over a wider range of frequencies than the F-35 (as the Air Force maintained for nearly decade till 2014), but the newer aircraft is far better at managing its signature thanks to an incredibly advanced electronic warfare suite. That is likely why retired Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Hostage told Breaking Defense: “The F-35 doesn’t have the altitude, doesn’t have the speed [of the F-22], but it can beat the F-22 in stealth.” The operative word there is can. As current ACC commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle told National Defense Magazine: The F-35 has much better “passive capability to determine who’s out there [and] its ability to manage its own signature.”

Ultimately, it’s the pilot vehicle interface the United States has developed over the decades at great expense that affords it the edge over Russia and China’s upstart programs—as Carlisle himself told me a few years ago at the Pentagon. Nonetheless, the United States will have to keep developing new technology to stay ahead.

- "If the only problem the F-35 had was that the aircraft was $1 million more expensive, they wouldn't have a problem," he said. "The problem is the aircraft is tens of millions of dollars more than they originally told people it would be, and that's just the acquisition price. It's the sustainment cost that will destroy air forces."


Still, even with Canada pulling out of the program, costs of the F-35 will likely fall in the long term as production of the aircraft becomes more efficient, according to The Fiscal Times. Each plane now costs an estimated $108 million, according to Lockheed, and prices are expected to fall to $85 million per plane by 2019 if Canada stays in the program.

- The F-35 program includes variants for the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, and also has international developmental partners and customers. The fighter program has been plagued by numerous problems from helmet glitches that made pilots air sick to software issues. Most recently, the services discovered that pilots weighing less than 136 pounds could be killed by whiplash if they needed to eject

- Because of the importance and complexity of the project, Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev assigned a large portion of his OKB to the development of the new VTOL fighter, with no fewer than ten chief engineers working simultaneously on what was called "Product 48" (the military had designated it Yak-41). Over fifty designs were studied. One key problem was designing an aircraft with both vectoring thrust and an afterburner, which was essential for sustained supersonic speeds. A twin-engine design was considered, but abandoned as the loss of an engine on landing would result in an immediate roll to the side. Eventually it was decided that the best arrangement was a single vectoring nozzle located just behind the center of gravity, as well as dedicated vertical thrust jets positioned just behind the cockpit. A considerable amount of time was spent in the development of a flat, rectangular nozzle similar to that later employed on the American F-22 Raptor. Such a nozzle proved well-suited for the changes in configuration needed for both thrust vectoring and supersonic flight, and allowed for a thin, shallow tail. Ultimately, a circular nozzle was used, located between twin booms supporting the twin-finned tail.[1][page needed]

Parts subject to excessive heat from the engines during landing were manufactured of titanium, and no less than 26% of the overall aircraft was to be manufactured of graphite or composite material. Because of heat build-up, hovering was restricted to no more than 2½ minutes.[1][page needed]

All three engines were controlled through an interlinked digital system, which was capable of controlling both engine start-up as well as modulating the thrust of all three engines during landing and hovering flight. Twin tandem reaction control jets were positioned at the wingtips, while a swiveling yaw jet was positioned under the nose.[1][page needed]

The cockpit was pressurized and air-conditioned. The small canopy was bulletproof in front. It hinged to the right, but because of a long dorsal spine it had no rear vision. The ejection seat was automatically armed as soon as the engine duct was rotated past 30 degrees with an airspeed of less than 300 km/h (186 mph). The instrumentation in the prototypes was simple and similar to that planned for the earlier Yak-36M. The production version was to have been fitted with an extensive avionics and weapons suite including doppler radar, laser-TV ranging and aiming, as well as a heads-up multifunction display (HUD) which worked in connection with a helmet-mounted missile aiming system as found on the Mikoyan MiG-29. This system allows the pilot to lock onto an enemy aircraft by turning his head as far as 80 degrees from front.[1][page needed]


Following the announcement by the CIS on September 1991 that it could no longer fund development of the Yak-41M, Yakovlev entered into discussions with several foreign partners who could help fund the program. Lockheed Corporation, which was in the process of developing the X-35 for the US Joint Strike Fighter program, stepped forward, and with their assistance 48-2 was displayed at the Farnborough Airshow in September 1992. Yakovlev announced that they had reached an agreement with Lockheed for funds of $385 to $400 million for three new prototypes and an additional static test aircraft to test improvements in design and avionics. Planned modifications for the proposed Yak-41M included an increase in STOL weight to 21,500 kg (47,400 lb). One of the prototypes would have been a dual-control trainer. Though no longer flyable, both 48-2 and 48-3 were exhibited at the 1993 Moscow airshow. The partnership began in late 1991, though it was not publicly revealed by Yakovlev until 6 September 1992, and was not revealed by Lockheed until June 1994.[1]

- Iran is not an innocent country burdened by our sanctions, as some like to portray it. It is a country that deprives its citizens of basic needs in order to bankroll terrorism and violence throughout the world. Iran’s interests are far different than our own and to believe that handing over billions of dollars to this regime will go without bolstering our enemies is ludicrous. To ignore Iran’s intentions in the world is foolish. And to believe that this is a good deal is simply naïve.

- In Israel, much of the criticism has revolved around the cost of the US-made jet and the erosion of indigenous know-how. Former defense minister Moshe Arens, an aeronautical engineer by training and one of the program’s most vocal castigators, told The Times of Israel in October that while the F-35 might be “nice to have,” he didn’t see any need for it considering the country’s budgetary constraints. He noted that the military was still operating Vietnam War-era armored personnel carriers — to fatal effect this past summer in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood this past summer — and said Israel would do better upgrading its existing F-15 and F-16 planes and investing the surplus funds in the ground forces.


In 1968, Israel bought the US-made Phantom, which was faster than the Mirage and could carry nearly six times its payload. “Our concept is that we will never win with quantity,” Lt. Col. B said. “We’ll win by being first.” The Phantom, he said, was “the first bomber that could escort itself deep into enemy territory.”

- This is not to say that today’s IAF planes lack the ability to unlock the S-300. Quite likely, the IAF has trained against the system in Greece and has created a combat doctrine capable of defeating it. The F-35 though, he said, “is similar to the iPhone,” in that the planners were able to take the capacity once housed on separate aircraft – stealth, intelligence gathering, advanced radars, planning, control, and electronic warfare – and “pack it all into a single fighter plane.”

Shapir conceded that the aircraft has “fantastic” capabilities and even said it might yet prove a useful tool against the S-300, but asserted that the only reason it is a truly necessary tool for Israel – which fights most of its battles near home but needs to maintain the capability of projecting its air power to places as distant as Tehran — is because Israel’s planes are aging and the United States “made the F-35 the only game in town.”

“There’s no other way,” he said, “because there’s nothing else out there.”

- Which raises the question of whether the RCAF will get new fighters at all. The lifetime of existing CF-18s has already been extended to 2025. The Liberals appear determined to end the RCAF’s participation in the aerial campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Bearing that in mind, they may decide it makes more sense to invest in state-of-the-art drones, which can stay aloft virtually around the clock and patrol vast swathes of Arctic territory at high altitudes, than replace aging but still-serviceable manned fighters they would prefer not to use. In that event, there would savings in the billions, which could be redirected towards a navy in dire need of rapid, major investment.

- Because of their relatively long wavelength, VHF radars generally lack sufficient accuracy to guide a missile to a target on their own and are therefore used to cue higher frequency, shorter wavelength engagement radars to the approximate location of the target. Narrowband stealth aircraft such as the F-117, F-22 and F-35 were designed to be very low observable (VLO) in these higher frequencies in order to significantly limit the range at which they can be successfully detected by engagement radars. Consequently, despite inputs from the VHF acquisition radar, the X-band* engagement radar of Dani’s SA-3 battery was able to track the F-117 only at a distance of 8 miles (13 km), obtaining a lock and launching two missiles towards it only on the third attempt (the colonel would order his men to switch the engagement radar on for no more than 20 seconds for each attempt in order to avoid being targeted by NATO electronic warfare aircraft).

- Meanwhile, Germany spends a mere 1.2 percent. Italy, Canada, and Spain spend 1 percent or less. It’s understandable that people in those countries prefer to spend their money on universal health care and paid parental leave. But one of the reasons they’re able to do that and skimp on defense is the security subsidy they get from US taxpayers. The United States foots the bill for 73 percent of NATO’s defense spending, including the cost of keeping more than 40,000 troops in Germany. The fact that so many Europeans have come to take US protection for granted could be seen as a sign of the trust they place in the US-led NATO alliance. But a truly strong alliance requires equal participation from all members. Europeans can’t expect Americans to make sacrifices to defend them if they aren’t willing to make the same sacrifices to defend themselves.

- The humiliating failure of the two peace agreements signed in Minsk, Belarus, intended to halt the fighting in eastern Ukraine, proved what leaders of the free world simply refuse to admit: that there is no dealing with Putin the way they deal with one another. The model is repeating itself in Syria, as diplomats head to Vienna for peace talks. But confronting Putin doesn’t mean defeating the entire Russian army or starting World War III. Putin’s entire leadership cult in Russia is built on his image as an invincible strongman. He cannot afford to look like a loser, which is why he has maintained the feeble myth that Russian forces aren’t fighting in Ukraine, and why he picks targets NATO won’t defend. Any opposing force that threatened to inflict enough damage to pierce Putin’s illusion of invincibility would be enough to cause a real change in his behavior.

But the politicians of the free world know that it is easier and more popular to do nothing and claim to be peacemakers than to endure the criticism that inevitably comes with any action, which is why it will be so hard to break the cycle in Ukraine, Syria, and wherever Putin prods next—whether it’s Libya, the Baltics, or Venezuela. The United States and Europe have overwhelming military and economic advantages over Russia, but their leaders seem to lack the realization that diplomacy has its limits when facing dictators, and that diplomacy is only possible from a position of strength. As long as Putin sends jets and tanks while the West sends blankets and diplomats, the dictator will be calling the shots.

In 1986, Ames told the KGB that he feared he would be a suspect after the loss of several CIA assets. The KGB threw US investigators off his trail by constructing an elaborate diversion whereby a Soviet case officer told a CIA contact that the mole was stationed at Warrenton Training Center (WTC), a secret CIA communications facility in Virginia. US mole hunters investigated 90 employees at WTC for almost a year and came up with ten suspects, although the lead investigator noted that "there are so many problem personalities that no one stands out".[22][23]

- China's efforts amount to a worldwide "market intelligence program," says former FBI analyst Paul D. Moore. "The reality is that China does not practice intelligence the way God intended," he jokes. America's intelligence structure arose during the Cold War to contain the Soviet Union. "In our model, professional intelligence officers go out and do the job," Moore says. "In China's model, anyone and everyone is a potential intelligence asset."

- “Of course, we too practice cyberespionage,” Clapper said. “In a public forum, I won’t say how successful we are at it, but we’re not bad at it. When we talk about what are we going to do to counter espionage, to punish somebody, or retaliate, I at least think it’s a good idea to think about the old saw that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.”

That comment didn’t sit well with the committee’s chairman, Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.

“So it’s OK for them to steal our secrets that are most important, including our fighters, because we live in a glass house?” McCain asked. “That is astounding.”

Clapper replied, “I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m just saying that both nations engage in this.”

- “We should not have one-sided evaluations. People fell in love in the camps, people got pregnant; it wasn’t all bad,” he says, attributing negative information about the camps to a western campaign against Russia. “It was fashionable to say bad things about the USSR. Now it is again fashionable to insult Russia. We have sanctions against us. The west looks for negative things.”

Panikarov’s views on the Gulag are part of a larger trend. With the Soviet victory in the second world war elevated to a national rallying point under Vladimir Putin’s presidency, the forced labour camps, through which millions of Soviet citizens passed, are seen by many as an unfortunate but necessary by-product. In many museums and in much public discourse, the Gulag is not ignored completely, but is “contextualised” in a way that plays down the horror and pairs it with the war, suggesting the two come as a package.

- "If you want to hit an aircraft carrier, you just drop a bomb on the flight deck, and that puts the carrier out of action," he said, saying flight deck incidents have caused many deadly carrier fires over the years.

"You get a weapon — the bigger the better — and put it on the flight deck, preferably when they're launching, recovering or arming aircraft," Polmar said. Or, he added, "You knock out the propellers" with a torpedo designed to home in on their movement.

- As for new technology, Rear Admiral Ma said China has tested a new launch system “many times” and that all tests so far have gone quite smoothly. Ma spoke of “breakthroughs” in an electromagnetic catapult launch system for the new carrier. The new technology will set it apart from the Liaoning, which uses a more-outdated “ski jump” launch system. Breakthroughs in developing a catapult system would result in an “enormous increase” in the flight radius and payload of carrier-based aircraft, Ma said. With this technology, Ma claimed, China will be on par with or even more advanced than the United States.

Ma would not confirm, however, that the new technology was being used on the carrier currently under construction. Admiral Liu said the new carrier would “definitely” have areas of improvement over the Liaoning but declined to provide any specifics, saying the construction process is “extremely complicated.”

- China and Germany agreed to work on stopping economic cyber spying between the two nations amid mounting concern that the thousands of small- and medium-sized companies that form the backbone of German industry are ill-equipped to repel hacking attacks.

Similar no-spy agreements exist between China and the U.S. as well as the U.K., Merkel said Thursday in Beijing. Germany, the Asian nation’s biggest European trade partner, seeks such a deal “very quickly,” and China agreed, she told reporters after talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

- Britain spends £37.4 billion on its military budget, the fifth largest in the world.

Of this, £19.5bn is with British industry but less than half of new contracts are put out to competitive tender.

BAE Systems, Britain’s largest manufacturer, is the main supplier. In 2014 only 8 per cent of its contracts with the MoD were competitive.

Over 60 per cent of British arms sales are to the war-torn Middle East. Since 1945, British forces have carried out armed intrusions in foreign countries on 25 occasions — more than any other nation, including the US and Russia. Syria awaits.

Over the past 25 years Britain has spent £34bn on such interventions, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the army suffered significant military defeats.

This sum increases to £42bn if compensation for injury and death is included, plus a further £30bn on long-term care for veterans.

The consequences for the people of those countries are now only too visible, with thousands of refugees leaving their homes to seek respite in Europe from bombing, shelling and starvation.
- "By keeping silent," said Mr Shlosberg, "Russia's rulers have shown how far away they are from the Russian people -- on such unreachable heights that they hear nothing, feel nothing and understand nothing. The landing of their aircraft will not be a soft one."

- Back in 2004, when Australia was in the process of negotiating a trade deal with the United States — one that John Howard initiated — we were told that there would be no changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, the great scheme that ensures that all Australians, no matter their economic status, will have access to medicines at a reasonable price.

The US pharmaceutical industry hates the PBS with a passion because it would love to get Australians to pay much higher prices than what we do. Howard knew that it would be political poison, especially with an election due in 2004, to say anything indicating that the Americans would be able to manipulate the PBS. But that is precisely what happened.
- Young children brought up not believing in God are more likely to be generous and tolerant than those who grow up in a religious household, a study has suggested.

Agnostic and atheist kids were significantly more likely to share than children whose parents were religious, researchers claimed.

But children who believe in God were more likely to be vengeful and back harsher punishments for those who hurt others, they said.

It is suggested this is because religious children feel as they are going to heaven they are less concerned about the consequences of being mean.

- “Yeah, the good old prosperous days when US had a country that cared about Israel and our own morality. We stopped communism dead in South America. Consider how things would be now if Obama had been running things then. Instead of an Islamic Spring, we’d have had a Commie Spring. Mexico under communist rule, our borders being overrun worse than they are now, was a viable possibility back then. Cuba would’ve been thrilled. Even Jimmy Carter would have been happy.”

What a load of crap. America back in the 80s faced very different threats than today, and even Reagan didn’t let Israel control our foreign policy in the Middle East. Imagine where we would be now if Alfred E. Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, or enacted his economic policies that cratered our economy. Whichever President that took over after GW would have had to make similar choices to what current administration has done. We are simply tapped out economically and militarily to repeat what was done during the Cold War, let alone shoving our weight around the world. Grow up.

- A central thrust of Soviet propaganda throughout the Cold War was to portray all Soviet misconduct, however outrageous, as no different from what the West was doing — including the propaganda itself. Accordingly, if the West accused the Kremlin of some gross wrongdoing, it was promptly depicted as another hypocritical attempt to belittle the Soviet Union. To a degree it worked: Many Russians, lacking any direct experience of the West, accepted a moral equivalence between their system and Western democracy — along with an instinctive fear of a world forever scheming against them. Alas, this approach has become an integral part of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

[mtb] Happy Jacks and Jagungal wilderness ride on NYE 2012

David, Julie and Alex with Jagungal in the background (fullsize)

Alex and I had been thinking we should head up to near Jagungal and check out some of the trails through the wilderness there to ensure bikes could get through. This to ensure our planned route through for the next Canberra to Kosci Ride would work better than the previous one.

We decided to do a new years eve mtb ride on our single speeds in the wilderness around Mt Jagungal (the northern most mountain in Australia over 2000 metres). David and Julie came along for the fun, though I did not have my camera I was able to get my phone out easily through the day and get some good photos. They are all online in my Happy Jacks Jagungal Ride Album. Nice day out and and awesome way to finish off the year even though we arrived back in canberra tired and ready for sleep around midnight.

November 12, 2015

[mtb] ARNuts Victorian Cycling Holiday 2013

The boys on the trip overlooking Halls Gap (fullsize)

As I say i the write up, late in 2012 Alex, Lib and I started plotting a week of cycling in Victoria. Inspired to some extent by a cycling tips article, we added in mtb riding to the plan and decided to ask Bleeksie, Brooke and Aaron along for the fun.

We klicked it off with the Otway Odyssey mtb race and then did a bunch of awwesome mtb and road rides aorund the state. I was rather impressed with the grampians having never been there. Such a great week on bikes.

Photos and a few words from the trip are online in the gallery Victorian Epic Cycling Holiday February 2013. Now we just need to work out the next such trip. I suspect a south east Queensland cycling trip could be the go for some time in the future. I know there is a bunch of great riding up there.

November 11, 2015

[mtb] Whungee Wheengee Canyoning

A more open section later in the canyoning day (fullsize)

The previous ARNuts canyoning trip had been based on Mark's birthday, this time we all got up there to celebrate Alex's birthday. Another fun day out in the Blue Mountains with the ARNuts.

My photos from the day are on my Whungee Wheengee Canyoning page. I should not find it so amusing but I do that when the guides end up with a group of people who have fun in long AR events or 100KM runs and similar it seems to be a bit of a shock to them as they are used to clients that struggle with the hikes and harder bits rather than clients who are fitter than most people and simply get on with the harder bits having more fun the harder it gets.

November 10, 2015

Ubuntu Online Summit: MySQL & Variants in 16.04

I personally have always enjoyed the Ubuntu Developer Summits (UDS), but nowadays they have been converted to the Ubuntu Online Summits (UOS). Attending them is not always convenient (timezone issues, might be travelling, etc.) so I watched the recorded video of a session I was interested in: MySQL & Variants in 16.04.

My key takeaways

  1. Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus is an LTS release.
  2. The term “cross-grade” is used a lot (it is not about downgrading/upgrading, but being able to use MySQL or MariaDB or Percona Server interchangeably)
  3. It would be nice to see MySQL 5.7 in this release (for Xenial as well as Debian Stretch). From Oracle there is a new packager taking over the task (Lars)
  4. MySQL 5.5 is still the default in Debian, and there needs to be upgrades tested between 5.5 to 5.7 (it looks like the ideal jump is that Ubuntu will not be seeing MySQL 5.6)
  5. Percona Server 5.7 is 60-90 days out; xtrabackup has had some new modifications and deserves an upgrade
  6. Boost is a new requirement for MySQL 5.7 & Percona Server 5.7; some old TokuDB problems in the builds are likely already fixed in MariaDB Server so this can be inherited
  7. MariaDB is waiting to iron out the bugs in 10.0, and may stick to that

My “raw” transcribed notes

  • Attendees:

    • Jon Grimm (Engineering Director for Ubuntu)
    • Robie Basak (Ubuntu)
    • Otto Kekäläinen (MariaDB Foundation)
    • Lars Tangvald, Norvald H. Ryeng (Oracle)
    • George Ormond Lorch III (Percona)
  • Robie: Waiting in Debian for a transition slot from MySQL 5.5 to MySQL 5.6. There’s some discussion with bugs, re: Akonadi, need to also resolve ABI issues with MySQL 5.6. Not really discussed MySQL 5.7 yet.

  • Norvald: 5.7, changes to installation. Client library ABI cleaned up. There may be some clients breaking because of that. No more exported symbols. See: The Client Library, Part 1: The API, the Whole API and Nothing but the API & The Client Library, Part 2: The Version Number
  • mysql_install_db is now replaced by --initialize in the server, so have to rewrite the post-install scripts. Might also have some AppArmour changes. Spoke to people @ DebConf (so best place is to put AppArmour profiles upstream (i.e. in mysql) and Debian and other distros will get it from there). AppArmour profile is in the MySQL source package now. Probably can get away with doing everything as cmake variables.
  • MySQL 5.7 has disabled the old password hashing algorithm, so if people haven’t upgraded they might have problems; so a manual intervention to fix their accounts.
  • Going from MySQL 5.7 to MySQL 5.6? It is done by dump and restore. There is no testing automated downgrades. Are there disk format changes? Norvald is not aware of any. If you use virtual columns in 5.7, you can’t downgrade easily to 5.6.
  • Robie would prefer to not release 5.6 and 5.7 concurrently. During Trusty, there was some level of user confusion. Debian – release team would prefer to see one transfer than two, so is it better to just do a single transition to 5.7?
  • Norvald says there hasn’t been testing from 5.5 -> 5.7. They only support upgrades from 5.5 -> 5.6 -> 5.7. For Ubuntu the choice can be to have 5.6 and then later do 5.7, but Jessie only just released with 5.5, so Stretch with 5.6 might not be a great idea (so users migrating from Jessie to Stretch will go from 5.5 to 5.7). Could also have 5.7 depend on a stripped 5.6 binary (like the embedded server; this is for localhost and the security team shouldn’t be too annoyed) for people to do an upgrade. Norvald says this has not been tried and there needs to be a migration path tested from 5.5 -> 5.7.
  • Conclusion: 5.7 in Stretch. Xenial is an LTS release, and 5.7 should be targeted for that.
  • If the maintainer script fails (postinstall script fails – don’t leave apt in a weird state). If it fails then upgrades, leave a debconf critical notice to say that the service is disabled and then fix it manually. Otto says that leaving /etc in a broken state is terrible, so we should avoid it.
  • Do we (Oracle) have the resources for 5.7 packaging and how soon can it be done in time for Xenial? There were patches from Lars in the git tree, but there haven’t been more recently. Lars will take over the 5.7 transition so if there is a list of work items, this will be settled (Lars will take over from Norvald).
  • There will be a separate session with Norvald/Lars/Robie outside of UOS about 5.7. Defer the Boost conversation after the session as well.
  • George: Percona is mainly looking out towards the 5.7 work and what kind of resources that will be put to that. There are new folk @ Percona to help with this. Percona inherits so much from the upstream codebase, it just works for Percona Server. There is Percona XtraDB Cluster and Percona xtrabackup, and xtrabackup has moved on quite a bit since the last upload (since last November 2014). So might be good idea to look at a refresh. There has also been a lot of work done on Percona XtraDB Cluster and there are some developments with Codership, so they are unsure if they will have their own Percona XtraDB Cluster 5.7 by the time Ubuntu is supposed to ship. When Percona is ready for something, just give Robie a shout to ensure that things happen. 60-90 days before a Percona Server 5.7 release. Just be aware of feature freeze for Xenial.
  • Norvald mentions that Percona Server 5.7 will also depend on Boost and there needs to be a decision on this. George mentions that TokuDB is now part of Percona Server, and it has some of its own requirements as well. Do we include TokuDB? It has requirements like it will only run on 64-bit platforms. Things to figure out going forward? MariaDB has been carrying TokuDB last November, but Robie remembers disabling it in Ubuntu. George says there were some licensing issues back then but they seem to be taken care of.
  • Otto says the builds for TokuDB was failing. It has a dependency on jemalloc, and that might have been the reason there were failures (says George). There may be something else where it doesn’t build on Ubuntu builders. But Otto says that there was a commit where this got fixed about last month. George will follow on, just to absorb it, since the legwork is already complete.
  • Otto: Trusty has 5.5, and Jessie and all other Ubuntu releases have 10.0, and 10.1 was released last month and I’m not quite pushing it to Debian quite yet. Fix 10.0 build fixes, upstream them, then only focus on 10.1. Blocking? (last summer) 5.6 is not in testing, so could not depend on it/changes done in 5.6 mysql-common. Here’s hoping that mysql-common going forward will be generated separately.
  • Robie will take an action to resolve the delta (probably just drop it). To sync MariaDB 10.0 to Xenial.
  • Discussion on /var/lib/mysql/*.flag thing on the list — conclusion at: mailing list — goal: within a single Ubuntu release, people can “cross-grade” between MySQL variants. The goal is to support all 3, and users want to try them, and thats when the bug reports come. Robie’s goal: move to a per-variant data directory. Otto says that once directory names change, 3rd party tools might have breakage. So a working prototype. Migration path is difficult. Maybe the best is to turn /var/lib/mysql into a symlink and store the data elsewhere. PostgreSQL does per version directories today; so studying that is going to happen.

[mtb/events] Sri Chinmoy Trail Ultra 2013 - 100 KM (first year)

At the start line (fullsize)

This was the first year Sri Chinmoy had run this Ultra, an event now in the third year (and I again ran it this year in a team and once more doing 2 legs). In 2013 they had not yet decided on the increase by 1km every year plan, however the course already showed off Canberra really well.

Alex and I decided to Alternate legs, in retrospect probably harder than doing 2 in a row each, however we had a good day out, and this year I got to do 2 in a row to compare. Of course I had my camera out there and took a bunch of photos which are online in my Sri Chinmoy 100 2013 gallery.

[mtb] Yell for Cadel, Australia's best ever XC mountain biker won the tour!

I know it has been a few weeks, however I have not exactly been on a blogging rampage, what with having my first ever month of no entries here. However I should start writing again and this is something of note for sure. How exciting it is that Cadel Evans won the tour!

I have been a fan of Cadel for a while, I guess since reading mtb magazines through out the 90s and marshaling at the mtb National Championship races in Majura Pines in Canberra when he won the title here. That he won the MTB World Cup series for two years in a row, has also won the Road World Cup series two years running, won the Road World Champs and now the Tour de France it is fairly obvious to all he is the most complete successful cyclist Australia has ever produced.

I still remember watching him lead through some of the single track at Majura in 1997 from where I was marshaling, seeming to be riding on smooth pavement through sections I rattle and bounce over, sure it was a shame when he left mountain biking, I am after all a mountain biker at heart, but there were as we all know bigger achievements in his future, there is nothing in the mtb world that could possibly excite a nation the way he has the last few years.

For the entire tour this year Cadel and his team seemed to be well organised, know what they were doing and went about everything the right way. Leopard also dealt with the race well, thus as Andy Schleck has said it definitely seems the best rider did indeed win this year. The final time trial was an incredible hour of viewing, seeing Cadel so focused and confidant at the start and then he almost won the stage and blasted away everyone else. Of course seeing him get air on a time trial bike was pretty cool too.

I really hope this helps move Australian's recognition of bikes and cycling forward, the reception for Cadel in Melbourne on Friday was awesome, with St Kilda rd lined 5 deep on each side all the way along and then Federation square packed so full along with all of us watching who did not make it down. The media coverage across the board has been positive and pretty good. Now we can all hope for a repeat performance next year. Rock on Cadel.

[mtb/gear] More Mont awesomeness

New and Old Zing Vests (fullsize)
By far one of my favourite pieces of clothing is my Mont Zing Vest, I bought my first back in March 2006, then it was shredded in a crash in April 2008, I had however bought a second vest at that point, in yellow. Most cycling vests have mesh backs, I dislike these as I wear my vest to paddle and a waterproof back is great paddling. Also for warmth year round in all manner of activities (running, rogaines, etc) the lack of mesh is a bonus I think.

Due to the fact I use the vest so often through the colder months it is often damp or wet when I want to use it (soaking from paddling to ride home in winter, or from wearing for a run to get home), thus I was keen to get a few more. Mont are a great company and Dave has been very nice to me in the past. They had run out of Zing vests in my size and I had been asking Dave when I would be able to buy two more for a while. He had some ready for the yearly sale that is on next week and told me to come visit. However he had only had yellow vests made, which I was keen to buy another one of, I was however hoping for some colour variety. Dave then offered to make a few out of whatever colour Hydronaute ultra they had in the factory. Sure it is not pink but I am definitely partial to purple too so I was excited to be able to get two brand new vests in purple.

Did the Ainslie run up at lunch today, was letting my HR creep above 180 and then remembered I should not be going too hard so backed it off to 176 or so for the rest of the run up. Still did 15:16 which I thought was alright.

[comp] Obscurity, P=NP etc, Hash Visualisation

Three things I saw online today I feel like mentioning, first linked from Schneier's blog was an article about how lock making companies are still very much in the security through obscurity world and how lock geeks getting together online and at (computer) security conferences are breaking their obscure secrets open. An interesting read.

It is interesting to see some companies such as Kryptonite eventually reacted, others seem intent on denying public information, or trying to shut down people who know about it. In computing it is a well known fact (although still ignored by too many people/companies) that security through obscurity will not work, public design and analysis by experts in the field however does work and should be used for things that need to be secure. Although one aspect that comes to mind here is that in the case of locks you may not want to make them impossible as other attack vectors are then used. As the article mentions crooks seem to prefer using a hammer (or maybe explosives) over opening the locks through lock exploits. There were some discussions about this in the car that were I think linked to by Schneier a few years back.

Next was an interesting wikipedia page linked to by kottke, a list of unsolved problems from a number of different field, those listed in Computing are familiar, however looking through the collected information on those in other fields is pretty fascinating. Mmmmmm wikipedia goodness.

Catching up on some LWN reading and I see the mention of a new OpenSSH version approaching, in the list of new features is "Experimental SSH fingerprint visualisation" with a paper (pdf) linked. So I download and had a read of the paper, largely to see what sort of images they generate. It is good to see some work on what is one of the biggest security weaknesses out there, the humans using secure systems.

[mtb] Caffeine and glycogen storage, maybe the roadies have it right

There is an article in the Canberra Times today referring to a Melbourne study on some endurance cyclists measuring glycogen storage in muscles when caffeine is consumed immediately after a ride until exhaustion session.

The professor in charge of the study at RMIT is John Hawley, a google search turned up the article in question. It is quite a common practice among cyclists to head to a coffee shop after a ride, though most of us do not consume 6 cups of coffee and a loaf of bread, we do consume some food and coffee at these gatherings fairly often.

Good to see we can even claim the post ride coffee is part of our important training schedule and recovery plan.

[mtb/events] Out of Range at the 2007 Geoquest Adventure Race

As mentioned a few times the report from Geoquest 2007 has been a while in coming, pretty much all involved in the team have now seen it and have no problems with it. In it are 99 photos, 5 videos and a fair chunk of text. We had fun and I am hoping to be back next year for more of it. Thanks to Bruce, Danealle, Craig and Brendan for racing and big thanks to Jane, Zoe and Jaymz for supporting. Also Gran and Jude were fun to have around the race.

Anyway for anyone who wants to have a look here is our report from the team Out of Range at the 2007 Geoquest Adventure Race. Enjoy.

[various] Through the pearly gates in a 200 mph fireball

Anyone who recognises the quote probably has already guessed I watched Top Gear last night (the expression about going through the pearly gates in a fireball seems to be a favourite of the presenters). I agree with so many other viewers that this is a funny show. Heck I tend to have an almost negative interest in cars and yet this show has me laughing along throughout most episodes.

I remember watching the old series with Clarkson in it when I was living in the UK in 1993, though at the time I paid some small interest in cars (such as watching Ayrton Senna in F1 races) I do not recall Top Gear being so amusing. I suspect they really ramped up the humour of it when they changed the format and started the new series in 2002. My amusement at the pearly gates expression has me trying to think of a few expressions for how various people may want to go, somewhat macabre maybe but I am trying to think of it in a similar manner to my Fairy Tales in the key of Klingon post. Alas nothing comes to mind yet.

[comp/software] My software works too well, change it back

I have upgraded a few of the systems at work recently to a far more recent image, this one based on feisty (users get to choose what environment they log in to though (kde, gnome, something else, etc)). A short while after putting the image on James' desktop he wandered over and asked if I had doubled the size of the swap partition. When I said that had not changed he was almost amazed as he said around half the memory used before the upgrade was now in use.

It appears the profiling and lower memory foot print work various gurus in the kde and gnome and similar camps has paid dividends as there appears to be a pretty big drop in usage and memory leaks here and everything feels a bit faster all of which is good news. Not that I have done any real testing but perceived feel is relevant to some extent in a computing environment.

The most amusing thing here I thought was my interpretation of how he asked the question, it sounded almost as if something was wrong. As if James was saying "my computer is not using enough memory, and is running to fast, fix it, make it as slow and hoggy as it used to be". I guess at least he was not about to request a change to a computing system that seems to constantly get slower and more user unfriendly with every major release.

[mtb] False advertising on ride speed

So last week Allan circulated an email suggesting a few of us join in for a leisurely paced (28KMh to 30 KMh) road ride around the mostly flat/easy loop of Barton Hwy, Nanima Rd, Murrumbatemen Rd, Gundaroo, turn around and then out Shingle Hill Way to the Old Federal Hwy and back into town. This is around 100 KM for people starting and finishing northside.

Though there was a CORC race on that arguably I should have done as I need the fitness and speed from the race I decided to take the soft option and head out for this road ride.

However upon finding the bunch I see Allan's email had convinced around 30 of the Vets club members into joining in the fun, this included the likes of Nick, Chris, Pete H who like to go fast and a few others who, due to there being no race this weekend decided it would be fun to go a bit faster.

Thus we ended up doing the 100 KM ride with an average speed of 34 KMh, which fortunately was easy if you stayed sitting in the bunch the whole time, however it was entertaining to tease Allan on his ride with far more people and a much higher average speed than sort of advertised.

[mtb/events] Polaris for Dummies 2006

Marea and I once again teamed up for Polaris over the weekend just past. We had a good time, and proving that practice helps after three Polaris' as a team we won the mixed division this year and came 8th over all out of the 200 or so teams.

Anyway I put photos and a report of the 2006 Polaris event online.

[comp/hardware] Finally faster

Well it happened, this is now hosted on something a bit faster. Since sometime in 1999 Martijn and I have had the same colo machine (wherever it was located). An AMD K6-2 400 Mhz, with 128 MB of RAM and 2 9 GB IDE drives (not raided or anything). For a while now we had been discussing the need to upgrade the hardware to something a bit more recent, or at least to put more memory in.

Back in November I mentioned this to Steve Walsh of Nerdvana, he told me they do colo, and would throw in new hardware (leasing arrangement) all for less per month than we are currently paying and colocated in a rather nice facility in Sydney. Martijn and I thought this sounded tops so signed up.

Finally we shifted all the domains and config and data and everything across for the final time last night and we now are actively using the new server for all domains we host and everything else. The new machine is definitely a nice step up, now a Dual 3 GHz Xeon with Hyperthreading, 1 GB of RAM and 2 250 GB SATA drives configured in RAID 1 for full redundancy. Damn this new machine is fast, operations that used to take a few minutes now happen in 2 or 3 seconds.

Finally I can do a few things I have been holding off from doing on the old machine for a while, either for lack of disk space, lack of memory or incredibly high load caused by trying to do the things I had in mind. Heck I may even add some sort of comments thing to this diary (Jane reckons I need comments here)

One of the other problems with the old machine was I had never gotten it to cleanly boot up into a kernel newer than 2.2.20pre2, which meant ancient firewalling, probably a few vulnerabilities, inability to try some new things that may have been interesting and a few other issues. The machine was also running Woody, so it is nice to have Sarge with a few even newer bits on the new machine.

RIP, long live (we did not change the name, which was confusing once or twice while moving config over).

[15:46:41] 9 calyx sjh ~>
  sh -c 'cat /proc/cpuinfo ; free ; df ; uname -a' | egrep 'MHz|Mem|cg0-data|Linux'
cpu MHz         : 3000.269
cpu MHz         : 3000.269
cpu MHz         : 3000.269
cpu MHz         : 3000.269
Mem:       1036352    1001088      35264          0      68208     713860
/dev/mapper/vg0-data 235694888   8981204 214741076   5% /data
Linux calyx #1 SMP Fri Nov 25 23:43:09 EST 2005 i686 GNU/Linux
[15:47:27] 10 calyx sjh ~>

[leisure] Woohoo for Radio National

So I recalled Mikal mentioning Radio National Podcasts a while back, this interests me, in the past I have lamented the lack of AM support in radio tuner cards for the exact reason that it would rock to be able to record Radio National shows and play them on a mobile device when ever you wanted to listen to them.

I googled the other day and found the Radio National podcast page, they do indeed have a pretty good selection of shows available for download. I rang Crash to ask if he had been doing any of this podcasting radio national thing, he rides to work every day, a rather nice ~ 23 KM commute, listening to an mp3 player or a radio. Crash had indeed been engaging in this podcasting thing, downloading any new casts night at 3am. I asked what application he used to do this, a Gooey application would be kind of silly to use for this so I hoped there was a basic CLI application for the task.

Crash was able to point out this rather cool shell script, Bashpodder, to download all new/updated feeds from a list of feed URL's. Mikal, sfr and Rusty will I am sure be glad to see a very useful application, written in shell still rather than some other language, that it works reliably and the newer release even shrank from 76 lines of shell to 44 lines (now including more comments too).

I added all the RN feeds I wanted into the file one per line, ran the script and a few minutes later I had 800 MB of cool Radio National content in mp3 format ready for listening anywhere and anywhen. Now if only we could convince the government to fund the ABC and Radio National better so they can keep up the fantastic work well on into the future.

[leisure/music] Artists and analysing their music

Mikal wondered if others had noticed how depressing the song Brick by Ben Folds Five is. Although I like Ben Folds Five, I can not say I had noticed this due to listening to the lyrics as a) I didn't really listen to the words so much, and b) I heard about the basis of this song to some extent before I gave the lyrics any thought. So I can say I know the lyrics are depressing, not that I had noticed.

I have not researched this to check my memory is correct, however Ben Folds has talked about this in interviews in the past. If my memory of these interviews is correct, the song was to some extent based on a harrowing experience he had when he was around 18-20. He and his partner at the time went through the process of having an abortion and all the emotions and the shit that happened around the event weighed heavily on him, this song is an outcome of the experiences surrounding that event.

However Ben Folds is to a large extent not alone among musical artists saying, on the whole, over analysing lyrics in his work is not what he intends or expects, many artists seem astounded by the amount of analysis that goes into lyrics they write, often according to them written simply for the rhyme, or to work with the song and containing no deeper meaning. The fans doing the analysis may of course argue the subconcious has other ideas, who knows.

[work] Trying to be fair to students with a few doing damage.

So we have been watching the traffic a bit on our student networks and have noticed that some students are using ssh tunnels to download huge amounts of data over the fat pipe the uni has. Considering we have ssh open and most other ports closed one would hope the students did not abuse this. Too much to hope for I guess.

We could block ssh entirely to the student networks however that is not a good thing as students should be able to log on and do work from remote locations.

The solution we are looking at is accounting for all student traffic on both incoming and outgoing such that ssh is blocked to all but one machine. Then on this one machine we have the netfilter patch that lets us account for traffic on the INPUT chain on a per user basis. This will mean we can set student quotas for all data, or maybe even simply subtract the ssh incoming traffic from their web quotas also.

I guess students will simply have to get used to using one machine to access the rest of the student systems, should not be hard for them and will stop the people abusing the system.

[mtb] I am obviously slack

So I did not get out for the cotter/uriarra loop on the road bike this morning, and this is strange as I really want to go for a ride. Part of it is, I admit, the really heavy rain last night probably had me convinced it would be a bit damp. Mikey did the loop and has since called all of us who didnt soft. If I can get some lca stuff (ghosts minutes, and agenda for the next meeting) plus a resonable amount of work at work I would like to go for a ride during the day. However I also have to visit the bike shop, as more bits broke, need replacing, etc. Bike equipment really doesnt last, though I suppose that may have something to do with the regularity with which I ride a bike.

[mtb] What is happening to these magazines

Okay so after sitting in meetings all weekend in preperation for lca I have not been out on the mtb or road bike all weekend and have to admit I could use a ride. It looks like the rain may be setled in for all of tomorrow now also which may stop me.

Anyway I purchased a copy of the magazine Ausralian Mountain Bike, it appears my subscriptiuon ran out as it did not arrive at work the past few weeks, anyway I was told by a few friends in the past two weeks that this issue was kind of abysmal, I was hoping they would be wrong and all that, however I think this time I have to agree, the only articles I found interesting this issue were the columns by Jim Trail and TTfH (Tony Fathers), and to some extent this may simpy be because they are friends.

I think the thing that turned me off in this issues was simply nothing grabbed my attention, most issues a least one or two stories/articles manage to look good and turn out to be good reading, I suppose I should try to quantify why this time nothing grabbedmy attention and usually something can, I think I will instead simply leave my brain on downtime tonight however.

[lca] Pubbage and no business talk

So a few weeks ago Pia asked if we had planned any social gathering on the friday night before ghosts for the people who had arrived in Canberra already. By social gathering she of course meant rock up to a pub and chat.

Anyway, though I live about 50 metres from All Bar Nun I only really go there about once every three months if that, and dont really go to pubs much. Too busy mtb riding or something I guess.

I said sure lca crew and other ghosts attendees in Canberra by friday night could rock up to All Bar and sit around chatting about all things unrelated to lca and LA.

So now the reason for this whole spiel, the amusing part is, Pia and Jeff decided they had to attend the SLUG meeting and are now not arriving in Canberra until around 11pm.

[lca] Ghosts starting to gather

This weekend the Ghosts of lca meeting is happening, for those of you outside the lca world (ie most of you) each year we gather some of the organisers of previous conference organisers and some LA people at the venue for the coming conference to talk to the new organising team and work out stuff for the conference.

Anyway this morning Mark Tearle (LA Treasurer) arrived in Canberra at 6am on the red eye from Perth. AJ (Anthony Towns) will be arriving later today, as will most of the other people attending from outside Canberra (Michael Davies, Anand Kumria, Ryan Verner, Pia Smith, Jeff Waugh, etc, etc). This is going to be a pretty busy weekend.

[mtb] Hurty Andrew

So this morning we had our ritual friday morning Bilbys mtb ride. This time we rode a Majura Pines, which being one of the Canberran mtb mecca destinations is a lot of fun. My bike computer said 26KM and 1hour 24min by the end of the ride. I wonder if I should maybe feel bad for Andrew Rowe, I did a rather enjoyable gap jump over a gully at Majura and he decided upon seeing me do this that it was not so hard so attempted it. Andrew was riding his single speed rather than his Orange Duallie and unfortunately came to grief, landing about 10 cm short his back wheel bucked up and threw him over the handlebars. Breakfast and coffee and all that at the pickle after the ride calmed him down I hope, he has since said he squealed pretty loudly in the shower.

A walk in the Orroral Valley

Last weekend was a walk in the Orroral Valley with a group of scout leaders. Embarrassingly, I'd never been in this area before, and its lovely -- especially at the moment after all the rain we've had. Easy terrain, and a well marked path for this walk. The only catch is that there's either a car shuffle involved, or you need to do a 12km return walk.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151107 photo canberra bushwalk


November 09, 2015

Rackspace Cloud High Availability Databases for MariaDB, MySQL, Percona Server

Continuing on with the cloud theme, I think its worth noting that since mid-2014, Rackspace has offered MariaDB (as well as MySQL and Percona Server) in the cloud, as part of their Cloud Databases offering. It’s powered by OpenStack.

Now there is an additional “High Availability instance” being offered — this gives you up to two replicas per database instance, you have the ability to load balance reads across all replicas (pretty standard), but the cool thing to try out: failover is automatic. It’s not just that if the master fails, you get a new slave being the master; you get a replacement node being added, so as to ensure that your load keeps up with the traffic. These instances don’t cost much more (the higher the memory size, the cheaper it gets — 1.5% extra for something production ready, down to 7.7% more expensive for something to kick around the tires with)

There is also scheduled backups (daily incremental, weekly full) and you can specify the backup window.

Previously on Rackspace, you not only had to spin up a cloud database, but also a compute instance to access your databases. Now, they’re allowing you to get a public IP address, via an ACL.

In another post, I’ll go thru these services with the intention to update my deck and also share the results here. Have you tried or do you use Rackspace Cloud Databases?

Some Geo-Politics/Intelligence, Some JSF Thoughts, and More

- for anyone who is considering working in the defense/intelligence space you should think about it carefully. If you do enough background it becomes fairly obvious that what you see on TV is not what it's like in the real world. A lot of defections actually occur because they don't know what they're getting into and/or can often regret doing the work that they do, etc... The other thing is one should note is that defectors often get caught, living on the other side can be worse, the risk may not be worth the reward, etc... For those who are curious, I haven't been looking specifically for intelligence material or material relating to defectors/whistleblowers. They've just come up in my research... Another thing that is apparent, our political leaders aren't supermen/women. They're just people doing the best that they can under the circumstances that they face...

Outspoken Former CIA Operative Lindsay Moran - Interview

VICE News Exclusive - The Architect of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Program

An Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out - The Italian Job

CIA - World's biggest terrorist organization

How the CIA Waged War in Afghanistan

The Secret Government Program _ NSA Spying - NatGeoTV

The Classified Missions of the CIA - Full Documentary - Central Intelligence Agency

CIA Analyst: We Are All Gonna Die

Ray McGovern: the 9/11 Cover Up, 28 Pages

- the good thing is that no matter whatever superpower is involved most countries are holding their ground now when it comes to being exploited. The irony is that since most sides are almost as bad as one another which makes turning one side to another not too difficult

US Imperialism and Oil Politics- Africa, Middle East, Asia

Middle East Documentary 2015 _ Mind Blow Manipulative & Betrayals History 720 HD

- one of the most hilarious stories I heard about the Soviets/Russians was that for every defector they also sent a counter-defector. He was essentially a spy who had not been turned but had feigned the act of turning to confuse CIA/Allied intelligence (don't worry. I'll be covering more about the Chinese in a later post)

My Life as a KGB Spy in America - The Truth Behind Soviet Spies in Washington, DC (1995)

Yuri Bezmenov - 'Unlike Myself, You'll Have Nowhere to Defect To!' (rec. 1984)

Philby the Masterspy - Soviet triple agent's top secret story (RT Documentary)

Anatoliy Golitsyn - Most Important KGB Defector; Exposed the Soviet Union Collapse Lie

Philby the Masterspy - Soviet triple agent's top secret story (RT Documentary)
Double Agent Inside Al Qaeda for the CIA

- wanted to see what the break down of guided versus unguided weapons were given the hooplah over Russia's use of a lot of 'dumb weapons'. Problem with the Russians is that you can never be sure of the numbers thrown at you and estimates vary according to analyst quality. The irony is that both the US/Allied forces and Russia may be operating in similar percentage ranges (single digit) though I haven't looked too extensively...

- after all the controversy with regards the difference between the projected and final cost of the F-22/F-35 fighter jets I wanted to look at some other US aircraft, their development, and the difference between projected and final cost of the project in question. There have been some 'howlers'... I think it's even money whether they'll be able to meet that final projected cost on the F-35 in the time frame that they've outlined...

- I think most people know that basically all 5th-gen options are too expensive (given our current economic environment). I'm thinking that China/Russia may just be waiting to see final numbers to determine future capabilities and numbers for their own 5th-gen fleets. Seems like the cheapest option for development especially as there seems to be a history of continuous, regular, penetration of defense intelligence on both sides (though it breaches seem to occur more on the US/Allied side or may simply be better publicised)

- one flaw with 5th-gen fighters. Since they're so complex it's like the cybersecurity problem. The larger and more complex your attack surface is, the more likely I'll eventually be able to find a flaw that I'll be able to exploit. Here's the other great irony. People have said you can't add a lot of 5th-gen technology in later. Sure, but if you have the right fundamental core components then this is a different issue...

- if you examine performance of jet aircraft towards the end of the Cold War it becomes clear that the Russian aircraft are stronger kinematically than US/Allied aircraft (this seems to be confirmed by pilots who conduct tests themselves). This came at a cost of pilot overload though. If you look at the PAK-FA and it's planned upgrades it's clear that continued developed will make it more than a match for any Western option (though service life may be shorter but I think in general the Chinese/Russians have a different focus and don't generally tend to project force outwards as much as the US and it's allies)

- if you've looked at aircraft in general you'll have noticed a lot of strange similarities between the JSF and a prototype USSR aircraft. I'll be looking further at this aircraft and how amazing (or not) some of the other capabilities in the JSF actually are in another post

- been looking back through some of my old work recently. I submitted my 'Cloud and Internet Security' report to the Australian Federal Government and Department of Defense a long time ago (for clearance of content and to help them with some cyber security issues that they were facing)(worked on this stuff on and off for years before publication of material) and have since placed them in the Google Play store and on Amazon. The current metadata scheme may have stemmed from something on page 240... Ironically, the implementation was meant to occur in such a way that would require the use warrantless, automated inspection in order to achieve a better balance between privacy and security for the general public (you're still supposed to get a warrant in the end though to dig further). It would use algorithms that would be inspected by members of judiciary, IT specialists, intelligence, defense, and other specialists not the dumbed down version which seems to be going into place... As to why they're collecting so much data, why they won't release more details, etc... think about 'Anti-Forensics' and how difficult investigations are to conduct at the best of times. Check the 'INVESTIGATIONS' chapter starting on page 382 of my book as well as other relevant chapters such as 'CLEANINING UP', 'DATA WIPING', etc...

- NSA's operation Sharkseer program seems something similar to stuff that I was working on, on page 399-404 of my 'Cloud and Internet Security' report

- is it possible to create a wrapper between 32 and 64 bit DLLs. Sure, but there aren't any guarantees

- accessing non-native filesystems under Mac OS X as well as Linux can be painful at times

- frustrating when you know how big the Internet is (and how much duplicated data is out there) and you can't find exactly what you need/want. Have to report to using hacks, alternative search engines, etc...

- cross compiling can be frustrating at times especially when you have a development system that isn't the same as what others are using. Luckily, over time re-packaging something in less about 30 seconds becomes natural... Another trick is converting an RPM into a suitable DEB by using 'alien'. Quick and sometimes easier than using 'alien', automated package management is not available, etc...

- useful for saving required Debian packages

- other choices for mathematical processing languages include DC and BC. Similar to my encounter to MySQL and it's mathematical/statistical capabilities a long time ago. Limited and had to come up with hacks to make things work really. Better off just using the best available tool for the job at hand whether that be SAS, SPSS, Matlab, R, etc...

- if you've ever wanted to backup a DVD of yours to your HDD (to watch later on your laptop without an optical drive) you first need to overcome the encryption (something like AnyDVD) so that you can take the image

Some interesting quotes in my recent meanderings...

- Nuclear warheads are complex, highly-engineered devices with limited shelf lives. The National Nuclear Security Administration and America’s national laboratories rely on computer simulations and tests of non-nuclear components to assure the safety and reliability of the U.S. stockpile.

But simulations can’t tell you everything … like if a warhead doesn’t work when it freezes.

The Los Alamos National Lab began developing the W-80 thermonuclear warhead in 1976 for America’s new generation of cruise missiles.

About the size and shape of a fire hydrant minus its hose connections, the W-80 is a “dial-a-yield” device. Detonating its plutonium core alone yields five kilotons, while engaging its deuterium-tritium gas injector and the dry lithium fuel will ignite a fusion reaction and boost its yield to 150 kilotons.

- The original mistake with Syria, as with Vietnam, was for leaders in Washington to believe that civil wars and insurgencies taking place halfway around the world represent a critical national security interest. Back then, the illusory “domino theory” – the idea that if one nation went communist it would start a chain reaction leading all the other nations in the region to do the same – justified the decision to engage in a tiny nation that itself represented zero threat to the United States. A version of that logic is at work again.

- US military power cannot compel democracy in foreign lands; neither can it force change amongst foreign populations. Only those governments and their people can effect political change if they themselves want it. That is just one of the many lessons that Vietnam can teach the current administration – if, that is, they are willing to learn.

- “It is going to be like [playing] Pac-Man,” said Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, during a recent visit to Brazil. “You run like crazy simply to stay where you are.”

- Don't mess with cows!

An ACC spokeswoman said it was important to note that the number of cattle, sheep and horse related injuries was proportional to the animal population in New Zealand, not because the animals presented a greater danger.

Animal accidents - 2015 financial year:

•Cattle: 4,279 accidents: cost $10,488,616

•Deer: 164 accidents: cost $366,957

•Dog: 19,145 accidents: cost $12,046,400

•Horse: 8.965 accidents: cost $22,277,077

•Sheep: 3,306 accidents: cost $5,908,672

•Other: 46,773 accidents: cost $9,007,119

- Tack and other experts offered a range of theories for why the Russians aren’t using precision-guided missiles in Syria, from their much higher cost (precision-guided weapons cost from $26,000 to $1.1 million each; an unguided bomb as little as $600) and the Kremlin’s relative inexperience in employing them, to looser rules of engagement that allow Russian pilots to identify their targets with relative impunity from discipline over civilian deaths.

- Hatch says Australia has been “greedy” in resisting the longer monopoly period and that the US should never have agreed to it. He says he will carefully study the text of the deal, released on Thursday night, but suggested negotiators might have to go back to the table.

“I understand that renegotiation may be difficult, particularly with so many parties involved,” he said in a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce, which has yet to give a verdict on the pact.

“But at the end of the day, the alternative to renegotiation may very well be no TPP at all.”

Some of President Barack Obama’s Democrats have also suggested renegotiating the deal.

Robb says Australia’s resistance was “strongly supported” by the majority of the 12 nations involved in the negotiations and was ultimately accepted by all parties. But health experts have argued the wording of the deal is “worryingly ambiguous and unclear” and appears to give the US scope to pressure Australia into keeping cheaper biosimilar medicines off the market for eight years.

- A breach-of-contract squabble has spiraled into broader allegations of misconduct against a drone manufacturer with millions of dollars worth of U.S. military contracts. A drone retailer claims that Prioria Robotics bilked the Army by selling a substandard drone that could be outflown by many hobby drones, which are far cheaper, according to a court motion.

- So the newest of the Air Force’s 1,000 F-16s must stick around longer than anyone had expected. As built, Block 40 and 50 F-16s have an 8,000 flight-hour fatigue life. At normal usage of around 300 hours per year, that amounts to 24 years, which would compel the F-16s to retire … well, now.


To be clear, there’s basically no chance an F-16 will need to remain in service nearly 100 years. Although, to be fair, the Air Force’s 1960s-vintage KC-135 tankers and B-52 bombers could be 80 years old by the time they retire.

- A third of the bombs dropped on Iraq were old-style "dumb weapons" - despite suggestions from the Pentagon that 90 per cent of munitions used would be precision-guided.

The first detailed analysis of the coalition air campaign by the commander of US air forces, Michael Moseley, also reveals a heavy emphasis on psychological operations; 32 million pro-coalition leaflets rained down on Iraqis during the campaign and 610 hours of anti-Saddam Hussein propaganda were broadcast.

There were 10 authorised strikes against "media facilities", including the Baghdad office of the Arabic TV news channel al-Jazeera, in which a reporter died.

More than 240,000 cluster bombs were dropped on Iraq, the report shows. Australia refuses to use these weapons, which were said by doctors to have caused injuries to children during allied bombing raids.

Humanitarian organisations want cluster bombs banned because their hundreds of grenade-like explosives scatter as far as half a kilometre, sometimes over urban areas where they can lie undisturbed for years and then explode. During the war, Central Command in Qatar began investigating reports that cluster bombs had killed 11 civilians in Hillah, in southern Iraq, and admitted in April that, while aiming for Iraqi missile systems and artillery, it hit Baghdad suburbs with cluster bombs.

Commander Moseley's assessment of the campaign is based on military records from March 19 to April 18. Called Operation Iraqi Freedom - By The Numbers, it has not been publicly released but is available to military experts. An unclassified version has been obtained by The Age.

Retired Air Vice-Marshal Peter Nicholson said it showed a much higher proportion of precision-guided munitions were fired at the beginning of the campaign but, as the war progressed, fewer advanced weapons were used.

He criticised the number of Tomahawk missiles, each costing more than $1.5 million, used by the US. "They fired far too many Tomahawks just because it kept the US Navy in play," he said. "They could have done the same thing with bombs from aircraft at a twentieth of the cost."

- The most complete survey of all the different bombs, missiles, shells, and weapons so far appears in Appendix A of On Impact: Modern Warfare and the Environment, a report prepared by William Arkin, Damian Durrant, and Marianne Cherni for Greenpeace. This report was prepared for the "Fifth Geneva Convention on the Protection of the Environment in the Time of Armed Conflict" (London, June 3, 1991). The authors infer the total weapons used from the 1991 fiscal year supplemental budget request to Congress which lists weapons required to replenish U.S. stockpiles. The numbers are revealing and staggering. In part, they include:

- 2,095 HARM missiles

- 217 Walleye missiles

- 5,276 guided anti-tank missiles

- 44,922 cluster bombs and rockets

- 136,755 conventional bombs

- 4,077 guided bombs[1]

- JDAMs debuted in the Kosovo conflict, tranforming the accuracy of tactical and strategic warplanes. Unlike the old gravity bombs, or “dumb bombs,” which simply drop to the ground when released, JDAMs are steered to their target. Before the JDAM is fired, it is programmed with its target’s coordinates and when the aircraft carrying the bomb reaches the specified release point the JDAM is fired.

Once let go, the bomb’s Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (GPS) takes over and guides the bomb to its target. An aerodynamic design also helps the bomb maneuver through the air.However, the JDAM does have an Achilles heel.

“While the JDAMs are useful weapons, their dependency on Global Positioning System may prove to be risky,” said David Silbey, a military historian at Alvernia College, in Reading, Pa. “If that gets jammed, we have a problem.”

Also, fatal errors can result if the wrong GPS coordinates are entered as was the case in Afghanistan when a bomb accidentally crashed on American special forces unit.

- Kashin said that this is still an "early stage of a huge Chinese UCAV export expansion." Given the large-scale instability caused by insurgencies throughout the Middle East, UCAVs are a proven key technology for counterinsurgency warfare.

- While the nation's five biggest money managers — Banco do Brasil, Itau Unibanco Holding, Banco Bradesco, Caixa Economica Federal and Banco Santander Brasil — control more than 60 percent of all assets under management, just one of the group's Brazilian equity funds ranks among the 25 top-performing portfolios, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Instead, independent managers not associated with big retail banks are posting the best results.

The reason the smaller shops say they outperform their bigger peers is simple: They have to.

In Brazil, retail investors are still scarce and they almost always choose the managers affiliated with the bank where they keep their checking accounts, said Richard Ziliotto, a managing partner at Taler, a family office, and a director of capital-markets association Anbima.

"It's a matter of survival," he said from Sao Paulo. "Because of the convenience of being able to invest through their regular bank, the client that doesn't notice that the difference in returns can be gigantic over time because of compound interest just checks the products on the shelves and follows their branch manager's opinion. It's an almost automatic process."

- Seeking to assure other Asian nations about China’s broad interests, Mr. Xi said “the idea of peaceful development is the inner gene of Chinese culture.”

“Some people have been hyping China’s threat,” Mr. Xi added. “This is either due to the ignorance of Chinese history, culture and current policy, or out of some misunderstanding and prejudice, and probably for some ulterior reasons.”

- Based overseas, Falun Gong-linked media such as the Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty TV regularly publish anti-communist reports. Falun Gong in Hong Kong have built strong links with pro-democracy groups, and hold regular demonstrations outside the Chinese liaison office (the CCP’s base in the semi-autonomous city) as well as taking part in the Tiananmen Square massacre memorials and the city’s regular July 1 pro-democracy march.

The group also has a significant presence in Taiwan, where it campaigns against integration with the mainland. Freegate, Falun Gong software partly funded by the US government, is one of the most popular tools for circumventing internet censorship in China. In late 2009, courts in Spain and Argentina indicted Jiang Zemin and other former Chinese officials on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity based on lawsuits and decades of campaigning by Falun Gong practitioners.

“Because of the campaign of suppression [Falun Gong] wound up becoming explicitly political,” said Ownby. “Continued [People’s Republic of China] efforts to suppress serve only to spur Falun Gong to continue their own efforts. To my mind, a wiser strategy for the PRC would be to ignore Falun Gong, but the regime has never been able to adopt a tolerant attitude toward dissent of any kind.”

- “I will tell you what an Arab told me,” he says. “A pretty well-known Arab. He said that if you wear America as your blanket, you are walking around naked.”

- “The No. 1 reason the train and equip thing failed is because when we got those quote-unquote rebels going to train, after we got them and armed them and told them not to fight Assad, because the administration did not want to upset Iran, that is what they wanted to do. They weren’t all that interested in ISIS. Their main thing was to overthrow the government. So they took our weapons and left.”

- In 1965, a cost rise from an estimated 4.5 to 6.3 million dollars per aircraft caused the Defense Department to cut the F-111 program sharply. A contract for 431 production aircraft was placed on April 12, 1965. This was more than 50 percent less than than the amount originally planned. Eleven production F-111As were added to the extensive test and engineering program.

- The total "military construction" cost related to the program was projected to be US$553.6 million in 1997 dollars. The cost to procure each B-2 was US$737 million in 1997 dollars, based only on a fleet cost of US$15.48 billion.[3] The procurement cost per aircraft as detailed in GAO reports, which include spare parts and software support, was $929 million per aircraft in 1997 dollars.[3]

The total program cost projected through 2004 was US$44.75 billion in 1997 dollars. This includes development, procurement, facilities, construction, and spare parts. The total program cost averaged US$2.13 billion per aircraft.[3] The B-2 may cost up to $135,000 per flight hour to operate in 2010, which is about twice that of the B-52 and B-1.[37][38]

- The USAF originally envisioned ordering 750 ATFs at a cost of $26.2 billion, with production beginning in 1994. The 1990 Major Aircraft Review led by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reduced this to 648 aircraft beginning in 1996. By 1997, funding instability had further cut the total to 339, which was again reduced to 277 F-22s by 2003.[32] In 2004, the Department of Defense (DoD) further reduced this to 183 operational aircraft, despite the USAF's preference for 381.[33][34] In 2006, a multi-year procurement plan was implemented to save $15 billion but raise each aircraft's cost. That year the program's total cost was projected to be $62 billion for 183 F-22s distributed to seven combat squadrons.[35] In 2007, Lockheed Martin received a $7.3 billion contract to increase the order to 183 production F-22s and extend manufacturing through 2011.[36]

In April 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the F-22's cost to be $361 million per aircraft, with $28 billion invested in development and testing; the Unit Procurement Cost was estimated at $178 million in 2006, based on a production run of 181 aircraft.[37] It was estimated by the end of production, $34 billion will have been spent on procurement, resulting in a total program cost of $62 billion, around $339 million per aircraft. The incremental cost for an additional F-22 was estimated at about $138 million in 2009.[35][38] In March 2012, the GAO increased the estimated cost to $412 million per aircraft.[39]

Scout activity: orienteering at Mount Stranger

I've run scout activities before, but its always been relatively trivial things like arranging attendance at a Branch level event such as an astronomy night or an environment camp. They've involved consent forms and budgeting and so forth, but never the end to end creation of a thing from scratch. So, I was quite excited to be presented with an opportunity to take the scouts orienteering in an unfamiliar environment.

I chose the area of nature reserve between Mount Stranger and the Murrumbidgee River because its nice terrain (no tea tree!), but big enough for us to be able to do some long distance bearing navigation, which is a badge requirement some of the scouts are working on at the moment.

The first step was to scout out (pun intended) the area, and see what sort of options there are for controls and so forth. I'd walked through this area a bit before, as its close to my house, but I'd never bush bashed from the river to the trig before. The first attempt was a simple marking off of the gates along the bicentennial horse trail -- I knew we'd want to cross this somewhere for the long distance leg. That route looked like this:

Interactive map for this route.

The next recce was a wander along a candidate route with some geocaching thrown in for good luck. The geocaching turned out to be quite useful, because on the actual night with the scouts it meant I had a better handle of what was in the area, so when a couple of girls started losing interest I could say stuff like "Did I forget to mention there's an awesome tree house just over there?".

Interactive map for this route.

With that in mind, I then just started slogging out a route -- the long distance leg turned out to be the hardest part here. I wanted to avoid fence crossings as much as possible, and this whole area is littered with barbed wire fences. I think I redid that leg four times before I found a route that I was happy with, which was ironically the first one I'd tried.

Interactive map for this route.

Job done! Now I only needed to walk this route three more times! The first walk was to lay out the orienteering markers before the scouts attacked the course:

Interactive map for this route.

...and then actually doing the course with some scouts...

Interactive map for this route.

Comparing the two maps, I don't think they did too bad to be honest. There's definitely potential here for more navigation practise, but I think the key there is that practise makes perfect. There shall be more hiking and orienteering in our future! The final walk was just collecting the markers after the event, which I will skip here.

I put a fair bit of effort into this course, so I'd like to see it used more than once. To that end, I am going to put the documentation online for others to see and use. If you'd like help running this course, drop me a line at and I'd be happy to help.

Tags for this post: scouts orienteering navex


[mtb] Around the K 2013 - Cold morning and night lap of Kosci

Shadow selfie on the climb to Dead Horse Gap (fullsize)

As I so often say, this is one of the best days of road riding you can have, an awesome ride through varied terrain with lots of climbing and mountains. It had been snowing at Dead Horse a few days earlier and was cold in the morning and again in the evening. I left some of my warm clothing at the cars at Cabramurra and ended up regretting it as I had cooled down at Dead Horse Gap too much to keep going by the time Cam got to the top of the climb.

So I hopped in the car for the descent to Jindabyne while Cam finished off the ride. The others had all kept going earlier to finish off the ride. Still As I mention looking forward (though somewhat scared) to this year's day out. The photos and a few words from 2013 are on my Around The K 2013 gallery.

November 08, 2015

[mtb/events] Six Foot Track Marathon 2014

At the start line (fullsize)

I lined up for my first run at the Six Foot track Marathon in 2014. Many ACTRun friends have been doing it for years, this year I managed to get in and was lining up with them and other friends new to the race to have a run along the track to Jenolan Caves.

Jane and I had spent a weekend in the Blue Mountains ini the lead up to the race to get an idea about the run down to Coxs river and also for me to scope out the finishing stairs in the new TNF100 course. It was useful to scope out the first 15km of Six Foot, however come race day things were different (a lot more runners out for one).

As is so often the case I went out too fast and paid the price on the climb from the river and along the range. However it was still a great day out and I will be back for more (I did it in 2015, knocking half an hour off my time and plan to line up again in 2016). My gallery and a few words from the day are here in my Six Foot Track Marathon 2014 gallery.

November 07, 2015

[mtb] Mt Yarahapinni Run - Solo November 2014

Massive tree remains from logging operations (fullsize)

I was up near Macksville for a family trip and had some time spare one morning. I decided it would be good to head out for a run in the Yarriabini national park area. In 2006 Geoquest we had done a hike a bike up the side of Mt Yarahapinni and then a ride and split rogaine through the park. I wanted to head in and check out some of the region again.

The most obvious run to do was an out and back along Way Way Creek to the summit and back. With more time it would be fun to explore more. However it was a nice morning out and as I mention would be a pretty awesome half marathon course if it could be organised. Photos from my Mt Yarahapinni Run are online here.

November 06, 2015

Flashing developer image on Nexus 6P (and maybe 5X)

Normally I just download the developer image tarball, verify the checksum and extract it, boot my phone to the bootloader (volume down and power buttons), install android-tools on Fedora and run “fastboot oem unlock“, then run the “” script from the image tarball, followed by “fastboot oem lock” once I get back to the bootloader.

With a Nexus 6P this has changed a little. First, the command is now fastboot flashing unlock so you need the latest version of fastboot utility (which Fedora does not have). I did this by downloading the basic Android SDK tools only (android-sdk_r24.4.1-linux.tgz), extracting it and running the SDK Manager (./tools/android binary), and installing latest SDK Platform Tools.

Then I could run fastboot to put boot it to bootloader:

sudo ./platform-tools/fastboot reboot bootloader

I also needed to use the new fastboot to flash the default, and the script from the developer image uses fastboot from the user’s PATH.

In Fedora fastboot is installed to /usr/bin/fastboot but also /bin/fastboot – a user gets the former, root gets the latter, so I moved both of these out of the way and copied in the fastboot binary from

sudo mv /bin/fastboot{,-fedora}

sudo mv /usr/bin/fastboot{,-fedora}

sudo cp ./platform-tools/fastboot /bin/

sudo cp ./platform-tools/fastboot /usr/bin/

Secondly, once you have that the script still fails with a cryptic message about being unable to remotely unlock.

You need to also boot the phone to Android, activate developer settings (by browsing to Settings -> About Phone and tapping on build 7 times) and then under Settings -> Developer options turn on the option to allow OEM unlocking.

Now I was finally able to flash the phone.

sudo ./

Boot back to bootloader and re-lock.

sudo adb reboot bootloader

sudo fastboot flashing lock

Hope this helps someone else out there!

[mtb/events] Kepler Challenge 2014 - Running in Fiordland NZ

A ridgeline during the race, amazing views (fullsize)

As I mention in the write up a few friends and I had decided to head to Kepler Challenge in 2014. Marty heading back to defend his title, David, Julie, Bec and I heading over for our first attempts, Chris rocking up for the Luxmore Grunt.

Fiordland is an amazing part of New Zealand, this in a country chock full of amazing outdoor places really was something special. I understand why this event is so popular also why the walk itself it so popular. We all had a great time there and though the trip was short it is definitely one to go back for some time.

Of course I had my camera with me and took photos so have some words with them in my 2014 Kepler Challenge write up. Thanks to Dave, Julie, Marty, Bec, Pete and Chris for the company. I hope to head back and do it faster in the future, fun indeed.

Reviving a 'stuck' Google Nexus 7 (2012) from Lollipop Issues

There has been a lot of social media and even mainstream media attention to the various problems people are encountering with the Nexus 7 (2012. 2013) tablets especially after upgrading to "lolipop" (5.1).

read more

Parallel Programming Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria

Parallel programming is the implementation of simultaneous computation typically applied through either tasks or data. In this introduction the need, core concepts, potential problems, and implementations will be described and illustrated with multiple examples in R, Python, C, and Fortran.

Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria, November 2015

Open Source Vocational Engineering with High Performance Computing

High performance computing is a necessity for scientific research and increasingly so; however initial steps are also being made in vocational engineering at RMIT. Applying the andragogical principles in the education sector with free and open source content encourages educational connectivism which improves learning and relevance.

Presentation to the Open Source Developers Conference, Hobart, October 2015

Evolving into a systems programmer

In a previous life I tutored first year computing. The university I attended had a policy of using C to introduce first years to programming. One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is opening doors of possibility to people by sharing my knowledge.

Over the years I had a mixture of computer science or computer engineering students as well as other disciplines of engineering who were required to learn the basics (notably electrical and mechanical). Each class was different and the initial knowledge always varied greatly. The beauty of teaching C meant that there was never someone who truly knew it all, heck, I didn’t and still don’t. The other advantage of teaching C is that I could very quickly spot the hackers, the shy person at the back of the room who’s eyes light up when you know you’ve correctly explained pointers (to them anyway) or when asked “What happens if you use a negative index into an array” and the smile they would make upon hearing “What do you think happens”.

Right there I would see the makings of a hacker, and this post is dedicated to you or to anyone who wants to be a hacker. I’ve been asked “What did you do to get where you are?”, “How do I get into Linux?” (vague much) at careers fairs. I never quite know what to say, here goes a braindump.

Start with the basics, one of the easiest way we tested the first years was to tell them they can’t use parts of libc. That was a great exam, taking aside those who didn’t read the question and used strlen() when they were explicitly told they couldn’t #include <string.h> a true hacker doesn’t need libc, understand it won’t always be there. I thought of this example because only two weeks ago I was writing code in an environment where I didn’t have libc. Ok sure, if you’ve got it, use it, just don’t crumble when you don’t. Oh how I wish I could have told those students who argued that it was a pointless question that they were objectively wrong.

Be a fan of assembly, don’t be afraid of it, it doesn’t bite and it can be a lot of fun. I wouldn’t encourage you to dive right into the PowerISA, it’s intense but perhaps understand the beauty of GCC, know what it’s doing for you. There is a variety of little 8 bit processors you can play with these days.

At all levels of my teaching I saw almost everyone get something which ‘worked’, and that’s fine, it probably does but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work until you know why it works. I’m all for the ‘try it and see’ approach but once you’ve tried it you have to explain why the behaviour changed otherwise you didn’t fix it. As an extension to that, know how your tools work, I don’t think anyone would expect you to be able to write tools to the level of complexity of GCC or GDB or Valgrind but have a rough idea as to how they achieve their goals.

A hacker is paranoid, yes, malloc() fails. Linux might just decide now isn’t a good time for you to open() and your fopen() calling function had better be cool with that. A hacker also doesn’t rely on the kindness of the operating system theres an munmap() for a reason. Nor should you even completely trust it, what are you leaving around in memory?

Above all do a it for the fun of it, so many of my students asked how I knew everything I knew (I was only a year ahead of them in my first year of teaching) and put simply, write code on a Saturday night.

None of these things do or don’t make you a hacker, being a hacker is a frame of mind and a way of thinking but all of the above helps.

Unfortunately there isn’t a single path, I might even say it is a path that chooses you. Odds are you’re here because you approached me at some point and asked me one of those questions I never quite know how to answer. Perhaps this is the path, at the very least you’re asking questions and approaching people. I’m hope I did on the day, but once again, all the very best with your endeavours into the future

November 05, 2015

Open Source Developers Conference 2015

In the last week of October I attended the Open Source Developer's Conference in lovely Hobart. It was about 90 people this year - for some reason people don't come to it if they have to travel a bit further. It's their loss - this year was excellent.

We started with Dr Maia Sauren's keynote on all the many many ways that government departments and not-for-profit organisations are working to open up our access to transparent democracy. I've never seen a talk given by going through browser tabs before but it was a good indication of just how much work is going on in this field. Then we had Ben Dechrai demonstrating how easy it is to install malware on systems running PHP, Julien Goodwin talking about the mistakes people make when securing data (like thinking NATting is the answer), and Katie McLaughlin with a good round-up of why Javascript is actually a good language (and why the "WAT" talks are amusing but irrelevant to the discussion).

Tuesday afternoon was GIS afternoon. Patrick Sunter gave a really amazing talk about urban planning, demonstrating mapping transit time across a city like Melbourne interactively - drop a pin on the map and in three seconds or so the new isocron map would be generated. This allowed them to model the effects of proposed public transport changes - like a train line along the Eastern Freeway (get this done already!) - very quickly. Then Blair Wyatt demonstrated SubPos, a system of providing location data via WiFi SSID beacons - doesn't work on Apple phones though because Apple are into control. Matthew Cengia gave a comprehensive introduction into OpenStreetMap, then afternoon tea. I skipped the lightning talks since I normally find those a bit scattered - any talk where you spend more time hassling over how much time you have remaining and whether or not your technology is working is a talk wasted in my opinion. I needed a rest, though, since I was struggling with a nose and throat infection.

Then we headed off to dinner at the Apple Shed in the picturesque Huon Valley. Local ciders, local produce, good food, good company, good conversation. All the boxes satisfyingly checked :-). I bought a bottle of the Apple Schnapps to sample later.

Wednesday morning's keynote was by Mark Elwell and showed his experience as an educator looking at Second Life and OpenSim. This was a different take on openness - demonstrating how our desire to create and share is stronger than our greed. The things that SL and OpenSim have done to lock up 'intellectual property' and monetise people's interactions have generally hindered their success, and people still put hundreds or thousands of hours into modelling things just for the satisfaction of seeing it in a virtual world. It was a good reflection on one of the many reasons we create free open source software.

Casey West, Thor's younger brother, gave an excellent review of the 'time estimation' methods we've traditionally used in software engineering - the waterfall model, agile development, and scrum - and why they all usually end up with us lying making up how much time things take. One thing he said which struck home to me was "your company invests in you" - it was the answer to the problem of support (and security) being seen as a cost rather than a benefit. Kathy Reid gave an excellent talk about how to guide your career with some excellent speaking tips thrown in (an acknowledgement of country and assistance for hearing impaired people, amongst others). I skipped Paul Fenwick's CKAN talk as I wanted to prepare my lightning talk for later (hypocritical? Yes, I suppose so :-) ).

In the afternoon Chris Neugebauer gave a good demonstration on why HTTP/2 is going to rock, Scott Bragg talked about one of the more esoteric uses of BitCoin block chains, and Arjen Lentz showed the benefits (and absence of fail) in teaching primary school children to make their own robots (including soldering). Michael Cordover gave a highly anticipated talk on his progress trying to get the Australian Electoral Commission to reveal the source code for its "EasyCount" software that's used (amongst other things) to count Federal Senate elections. It's disappointing that the closed mindset exists so strongly in some areas of government - the reasons and the delays and the obstructions were more than just simple accident.

We then had a set of "Other Skills" lightning talks - people talking about other things they do outside of programming things. Unfortunately I can't remember many of these because I was preparing for mine, which was on constructing my electric motorbike. This was well received - quite a few people came up to me afterward to talk about motorbikes, and the practicalities of building an electric one. It's always satisfying to talk with people that don't need the basics (like "can't you put wind generators on it to generate power as you move?") explained.

The Thursday morning keynote was by Richard Tubb, talking about how we can create opportunities and use the situations we find ourselves in to open up and improve our lives, and showed some of the things achieved in the GovHack Tasmania he ran. Sven Dowideit, the author of Boot2docker, gave a good demonstration of the things you can do with containers - particularly good for build systems as they can be stripped down to avoid unexpected dependencies. Then I gave my talk on my experiences with logs and how we can improve the logs our programs generate; the feedback I got was good, but I'd like to add more examples and an actual library or two to implement the principles I talk about. Then John Dalton gave a talk about how to use ssh's tunnel flags; it was a good overview of how the various options work.

I don't remember what I was doing after lunch but I don't remember the first talk - I think I was resting again. I did see Jacinta Richardson's talk on RPerl, which is basically a library that compiles your Perl code into C++. It's useful for computationally intensive things but the author of RPerl seems to have bizarre notions of how to interact with a community - like refusing to look at Github issues and requesting they be put on his Facebook page instead. We had a couple of 'thunder' talks - the main one I can remember was Morgan's talk on her PhD on Second Life and OpenSim (her mentor was Mark Elwell), which touched on the same points of social and open interaction.

After afternoon tea we had Pia Waugh speaking via Hangout from her home in Canberra - she wasn't able to attend in person because of imminent child process creation (!). She talked about GovHack, leading some of the projects to open up government processes and her work in dealing with the closed mindset of some people in government departments. Pia is always so positive and engaged, and her energy and enthusiasm is a great inspiration to a lot of people who struggle with similar interactions with less-than-cooperative bureaucrats. Sadly though, it was another demonstration of how we really need a high speed broadband network - the video stalled occasionally and Pia's voice was garbled at some times because of bandwidth problems.

We had another set of lightning talks which I stayed around for - and good thing too, because Fraser Tweedale demonstrated an amazing new system called Deo. It's essentially "encryption keys as a network service": a client can store a key in a network server and then request it later automatically. The two situations Fraser demonstrated for this were unlocking your Apache SSL certificate when Apache starts up (using a pass phrase helper) and unlocking LUKS disk encryption automatically when a machine boots (using a helper in LUKS). Since I'd recently had a customer ask for this very thing - machines with encrypted disks for data security outside the corporate network but that boot without user intervention when in the presence of the key server - this was hugely useful. I'm watching the Deo project eagerly, and have changed my attitude to lightning talks. If only more of them could be like this!

As is common with open source events, OSDC 2015 was collecting money for charity - in this case, the Tasmanian Refugee Defence Fund. After Lev Lafayette donated $1000 to the cause, I decided to match it. The few glimpses we get into the abysmal conditions in our costly, closed offshore detention camps are harrowing - yet we don't see (many) people in them saying "you know, take me back to Syria, I'll take my chances there". We're only hurting the poorest of the poor and the most desperate of the desperate, and only because of the xenophobia created by the Coalition and the conservative media. We're damaging people for life, and burdening our own society in coping with the problems we've created. In my opinion we're going to find out in the upcoming decades just how bad that problem really is. Anything we can do to alleviate it now is a good thing.

Overall, OSDC 2015 was a great learning experience. The "hallway track" was just as beneficial as the talks, the food was good, the venue was good, and I was glad I came.

The Dream of the 90's UI is Alive at Mozilla

This could alternatively be titled "WTF Firefox?" or "I Fought Mozilla and We All Lost" but I just couldn't do that to The Clash.

I occasionally work with an entity that requires what they call "Digital Badges" but everyone else calls personal SSL certificates. These are PKCS 12 files that have gone through a signing process, which you then import into your browser of choice. In my case, this is Firefox.

I was using some previous version of Firefox (who tracks these things when there's no problems?) and the PKCS 12 certificates were imported without any dramas. Everything worked As Expected(TM) and everything was fine.

Fast forward a mere month and after a spasm of executive resume building, new certificates were required.

In the same mere month, Debian had upgraded to Firefox 38.4.0. The main difference I can see in the application was the moving of "Preferences" from a pop-up dialogue to an in-browser interface.

Now when you hit up about:preferences - Advanced - Certificates - View Certificates - Your Certificates, you will find that after pressing Import and selecting the new certificates that it quietly fails to import them.

Absolutely zero feedback. No amount of restart, clearing cache etc will make them appear. They are not imported. You can repeat this process as much as you like, they still won't be imported.

I suspect that the certificates having pass phrases may be the root cause (quietly failing to bring up an authentication dialogue) but that's just a rough guess.

The only way that I was able to import these certificates into Firefox was via the pk12util from libnss3-tools.

$ pk12util -d ~/.mozilla/firefox/fduesnd3.default/ -i ~/some/path/old.p12
Enter password for PKCS12 file:
$ pk12util -d ~/.mozilla/firefox/fduesnd3.default/ -i ~/some/path/new.p12
Enter password for PKCS12 file:

After restarting Firefox, the certificates were now listed in "Your Certificates".

Hopefully that saves you the few hours it cost me :-)

[mtb] Around the K 2014 - Another long ride in the NSW Alpine Region

Brooke and Cam at the Scammels lookout (fullsize)

This has become an annual ride to get out on. With two options, the full loop which is 320km including 6500 metres of climbing or some variation we sort out so people can do a shorter ride and be part of the day out. (This year was 180 km either Cabramurra to Jindabyne or Jindabyne to Cabramurra)

We had a pretty solid group doing the whole loop Jindabyne to Jindabyne anti clockwise. The others we split into two groups of around 6 or so each and managed a car swap as we crossed paths (at lunch at Khancoban).

Due to doing too much running and not enough cycling, and my trip to NZ for Kepler the previous week, I decided to do the shorter ride this year. Photos and words from Around the K 2014 are online. Fun was had, now it is just over a month until the 2015 one so I need to get on my bike and get ready for it.

November 04, 2015

Some Geo-Politics, Apple Install Media, R, Ableton Push 2, and More

- when you look at the world from different perspectives it can seem as though a very different world exists out there at times. Things just sound crazy...

Yuri Bezmenov: Psychological Warfare Subversion & Control of Western Society (Complete)

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov's warning to America

- the worse part of this is that since certain behaviour can sometimes only be defeated by equally abhorent behaviour it's a race down to the bottom. If you want to understand how these people think, don't think like a normal person. Think like the most crazed, power hungry person in the world and perhaps you'll understand how far people have to go behind the scenes

- recently, I thought it would be somewhat interesting to look at things in so called 'evil states' (Russia, China, Iran, etc...) and wanted to compare how they stacked up against so called 'good states' (US, UK, Australia, etc...). In quite a few areas things are actually quite competitive

- similar unemployment rates. Better in China and Russia than in the West

- prior to sanctions extremely strong growth in Russia and we know that growth in recent history in China has been extremely strong when compared to the West

- taxation as percentage of GDP lower but that is likely lower level of socialised services such as healthcare, welfare, etc...

- usual suspects are up there but the West is generally well up there (particularly those countries that are having economic difficulties in the Eurozone) as well. Results can vary drastically but I'm guessing that's because different people are using different measures for what amounts to crime and corruption. Asian countries generaly doing well. One thing I've found is that in general if life is too difficult for the populace in general people will evade resort to crime, loan sharks, etc... without it they can't survive. The irony is that the rest of society has to pay by paying higher taxes leading to very odd national GDP figures. For instance, I remember it once being said that the South of Italy was essentially a different state that was based on crime and corruption. Fix it and Italy's GDP rockets upwards. There is so much terrorist/criminal money in the US that if you were to remove it all the economy would collapse. The reason why sanctioned countries like Iran and North Korea are able to continue to survive is also for this particular reason...

- a lot of countries having a difficult time getting the best out of their people. Western countries generally middling to upper end of things... Russia and China doing okay but probably down the rankings due to their lopsided economies (which they are still trying to fix)

- this was one of the surprising things for me. There are heaps of alternative media choices in Russia, China, etc.. and the West but it's likely that they may be 'consolidated' into centralised points of power and distribution (for any number of reasons whether for financial or reasons of social control, etc...). Leeway in freedom of speech can vary drastically though and there is actually some attempt to control things (mildly) in the West. There are generally crackdowns in China and Russia against those that may cause 'social unrest'. One thing I've found funny though is that there are a lot of people who are generally seeking alternative news channels now,47573.html

- this is one are where you will definitely find some surprises. Western countries are generally middling. Some very odd ones up there though in terms of hours worked per week and GDP per unit hour (this comes back to the value versus price problem that I've looked at from time to time on this blog). Who would have thought that Mexicans, Chileans, Russians, and Greeks were so hard working (missing data here)? Western countries generally middling... I think the main reason why the West has managed to steal such a massive leap is that they've managed to harness the low costs of the other countries and have made use of the disparity between 'perceieved value' versus 'actual value' (what's the difference between some low end and other high end electronics. Often very little but the price differential is huge)

- social stability enabled/achieved via more subtle measures in the West when compared to the China/Russia. Certain things often control behaviour

and wealth distribution (conciously or not). For instance, people don't die at work (they die of over-eating of cheap fast food, smoking addictive cigarettes, etc...), population growth is controlled via culture (the West is highly individualistic which means that people care more about themselves then having the chance of having a family), monopolies and wealth distribution is controlled more subtly (in China/Russia things are controlled largely by the state but in the West most of the time the only way things can be controlled is via legislation), entertainment culture helps to control wage costs (if everyone worked hard where would the wage differential be to exploit to create outsized profits?), etc...

- as discussed previously wealth distribution is fairly similar (if not better) in China/Russia as opposed to the US and GDP is solid...

- at the end of the day I think things wouldn't be much different for the 'average joe' in China/Russia versus the West. If you stick out a bit you're in a lot of trouble though...

- the US business philosophy of 'going big or going home' makes much more sense to me now. It's critical for them to have external mechanisms to control costs to create prosperity. Ideally, these costs are external to their country (currency fluctuations, low wages, illegal immigration, trade agreements, etc...) That way, they can keep people happy within their own country. If not, the disparities in their system grows wider and you end up with unequal wealth distribution. With them you can keep people internally happy but but not as much for those external (look at working conditions in countries where outsourcing is done. Almost slave like at times...)

- the US also controls certain monopolistic areas. For instace, defense (look at the JSF project where most Allied countries only have that single option). That means they're not subject to 'free market' conditions and don't necessarily have to compete on price/profit margin

- at the end of the day many social systems (democracies, socialists, communists, etc...) suffer from the issue of 'hierarchy'. Have someone foolish at the top and you're in a lot of trouble.

- the flaw with most social systems out there is that it makes the assumption that a central 'ruler' knows best. The irony is that it may be the case that only those who understand the current circumstances knows the best possible course of action, the best possible means of assuring that they can be happy

- the greatest difficulty of the current US administration is that it feels as though they don't know how to deal with China and Russia. The irony is that I'd be in the same place in dealing with the current US adminstration as well. The problem is that you don't know how far you can push without behind pushed back. Moreover, the response comes back is too weak or can be used as anti-West propaganda. Under the current administration people have admitted that they have attempted to go after 'easy wins' while neglecting or only half-heartedly dealing with the bigger issues that face them. They need to re-think the way they deal with things and re-mold the approach so that it is both effective as well as targeted. They're just setting things up for another new type of 'Cold War' or else a very clumsy minor conflict (not necessarily military)

- need to be smarter than this. Don't make it a game of religion. If you make it about religion they can turn around and spout things about 'propaganda'. Need to start the process of friendship as early as possible to reduce the chances of 'converting someone' more difficult. They need to look at radicalisation, terrorism, crime as simply a strange way of life. If sometime tries to turn them they will be more resistent. As for the rest, find the most efficient, least complex way out. Deal with the issue but don't make it easier to turn others against you

- the beauty of nature versus human financial abstraction is that everyone/thing has a value. Everything has a place within the ecosystem. Human abstractions such as 'pricing' actually make certain things that are impossible in nature possible. For instance, 'hoarding'. An animal can only grow to a certain size generally. With these limits it ensures that everyone has to continue to play their part with the overall ecosystem

- interesting way of measuring productivity is watching what the most efficient world (or country) in their industry and what other similar, groups do (normalised after removing question of currency and other localised variables, trade tarrifs, taxes, etc...). I wonder how much the average disparity really is?

- install media has to be purchased from the App Store now. Easier just to download and stick it on a USB flash drive

- have been looking for some documentation on R which is 'readable' (read like a book as opposed to a reference title). Turns out the included documentation (in the installed documentation) may be best

- doesn't look like too much of a change between Push 1 and Push 2 to be honest. I think the main difference is in the software

- sometimes you just want the desktop version on your phone/tablet as you may be missing some functionality

Some interesting quotes from world media of late:

- As President Rousseff contemplates her next move, she might do well to remember the words of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant: “When wars do come, they fall upon the many, the producing class, who are the sufferers.” The Brazilian President is in a fight for her political survival, but that struggle may leave the country dangerously adrift, with the real pain being felt by the Brazilian people. The country needs stronger and more transparent institutions and good people to lead them. Painful though it may be, Brazil is cleaning house. Dealing with the short-term pain, however, is not easy and Rousseff’s presidency – what is left of it – will be volatile both in the political and economic sense. Seat belts are not optional.

- All pudgy dictator Kim Jong-un needs to do is play hard to get, routinely denounce America, and presto — he’s assured of victory. In exchange for vague promises, which nobody expects him to keep, he’ll get to keep his nukes and free American food to feed his starving country.

The Iran and Cuba surrenders also point to another likely outcome. Both reportedly now have military advisers and fighters in Syria, joining with Russia to defeat our allies among the Syrian rebels.

The Obama appeasement disaster would be complete if North Korean troops join the Russian axis. And why wouldn’t they? Vladimir Putin is a better friend and worse enemy.

- Washington is already at war with ISIL—not only as a matter of formal policy but also in the ongoing bombing campaign underway in Iraq and Syria today. ISIL has already demonstrated its lack of restraint in its dealings with the United States in the 2014 beheadings of American hostages within its reach. Its social-media outlets are already trying to encourage lone-wolf attacks against the United States and its civilian population today. ISIL is currently encouraged by a sense of sanctuary and a sense of military momentum. Making Western attacks against ISIL more effective seems just as likely to put the group on the defensive as to occasion new attacks. In acting more aggressively to stabilize Syria and defeat ISIL, the Obama administration would not be plunging America into a new conflict. Instead, it would be recognizing that it is already engaged in one.

- KARL MARX once described a situation where the weapon of criticism gives way to criticism by weapon. It’s a remark that captures the latest round of tensions between the West and Russia quite well. Are we witnessing a collision between two different systems of values—or one between two different interpretations of a common system of values?

- Minerals are the Taliban's second-biggest income source after narcotics, a United Nations Security Council committee wrote in a February report. The funds have helped sustain the Taliban as it battles for control of the government. In the past month, the group briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz, the first time it's taken a provincial capital since the US invasion in 2001. 
- There’s data which showcases France’s “rogue” status. In the last five years, France has consistently lost more than 100 days of work a year through strikes for every 1,000 employees. For Germany, it is a fraction of that, at just under four days for 1,000 workers. While in the UK, 19 days lost for 1,000 workers in 2009 – comes above Germany but still nowhere near France. There are few people feeling confident about France’s economic future. Compounded by their 35-hour working week, France’s left-wing policy is coming through great security as their economy continues to unperformed.

- How can hungry men care about whether a rhino or an elephant is killed? You are talking about somebody who has no job, who sleeps on an empty stomach. Do you really think he has time to think about what is happening in the jungle? Prince Harry has everything. Most people here don't.

A man who has no shelter, no food, his focus is only on what he can get to eat.

- Confucianism based government is self checking.

Power checking is more or less a Western problem because its history of theocracy. The Chinese people know that the government is responsible for the well being of the governments thousands of years ago.

In contrast, bad government in the West was, for a long time, seen as God's response to the people's iniquity. Bad governments were sent by God to punish the people.

- In 2011, after the Arab Spring revolutions, China sent emissaries to northern Africa to learn from the mistakes the region’s dictators had made. Apparently the emissaries came back relieved, convinced that China would never be vulnerable to such upheavals because, unlike the Arab dictators, its presidents are replaced every 10 years or so.

This is not to say China’s power structure is never inept or over-assertive. It certainly can miscalculate. Relations with the US follow an irregular pattern, depending on circumstances. China at one point began speaking less aggressively over its territorial claims in the South China Sea because it saw this was driving neighbouring countries closer to the US, not further away.

The key point is that Europeans must think more strategically in their dealings with China. For all the talk about “win-win” situations, when separate national agreements are made with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or on nuclear power stations, European states’ disorderly moves hand China easy opportunities to play divide and rul

- A decade ago, the focus of the Valdai Discussion Club, in the post-9/11 honeymoon that characterized U.S.-Russia relations, was to improve the quality of dialogue between Washington and Moscow. As relations between the two countries have soured, the Valdai group has widened its target audience, increasingly bringing not only more Europeans but civil society representatives of the rising powers of the south and east, especially from China, India and Brazil. So too has the audience shifted for the remarks delivered to the forum by senior Russian officials—including Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, this year’s Valdai offers a prime example of the change in tone. No longer is the emphasis on deepening and solidifying a U.S.-Russia partnership and overcoming remaining Cold War-era hangups that precluded a closer relationship. Now, the Kremlin wants to make its case to the larger world why resisting American dominance of the international system is justified. No longer is Russia seeking to win over American hearts and minds; it is a more global audience that Moscow is trying to reach and convince that Washington under the Obama administration—and most likely under any conceivable successor president—is unreliable and untrustworthy. (A related message is that Washington is also unsuccessful in its efforts; Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, in related remarks, declared that U.S. efforts to isolate Russia have been a failure.)

- "Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal."

- I studied aeronautical maintenance. Any person with basic grasp of aerodynamics would know that given that since F-22s air intakes aren't of variable design (where there is a body in front of the intake like a cone or a wedge or blade) which creates a mach shockwave when planes goes supersonic. And the faster supersonic the more pointy the mach cone is. And when supersonic and/or turbulent air enters the intake it can and does lead to compressor stall. Thus although F-22s airframe may survive Mach-2.5 for short duration, its limited to speed below Mach-2.1. Just like F-16. Want to see what high-speed aircrafts engine intakes look like? Check out SR-71 and MiG-25/31. The angle at which the intake is "cut" is sharp on MiGs while SR-71s have a big cone that is far ahead of intake itself for the very reason I described. F-22 couldn't be that sharp or have round intakes with a cone for stealths sake so as to not increase the amount of directions in which impinging radar waves bounce to.Z

Top Secret information? LOOOL!!! Good luck classifying the laws of physics, aerodynamics and mathematics. As far as the fact that its classified by Pentagon goes - I couldn't care less. I don't live in USA and actually want F-22 to have same thing happen to it as to F-117 over Serbia, including pilot surviving to tell the tale.
- NSA agents aren't concerned about being caught. That's partly because they work for such a powerful agency, but also because they don't leave behind any evidence that would hold up in court. And if there is no evidence of wrongdoing, there can be no legal penalty, no parliamentary control of intelligence agencies and no international agreement. Thus far, very little is known about the risks and side-effects inherent in these new D weapons and there is almost no government regulation.

Edward Snowden has revealed how intelligence agencies around the world, led by the NSA, are doing their best to ensure a legal vacuum in the Internet. In a recent interview with the US public broadcaster PBS, the whistleblower voiced his concerns that "defense is becoming less of a priority than offense."

Snowden finds that concerning. "What we need to do," he said, "is we need to create new international standards of behavior."

- “We—the U.S. [Department of Defense]—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA [electronic attack] for years,” a senior Air Force official with extensive experience on the F-22 told The Daily Beast. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target [an enemy aircraft such as a Russian-built Sukhoi] Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.”


I started writing a set of error handler macros for C, based on “Zed’s Awesome Debug Macros”

The implementation is quite ugly, and depends on a couple of GNU extensions.  This is not ideal, and I would like to improve it if possible.

The idea is to call functions via “wrapper macros”, which take care of checking for errors.  Here’s an example:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <string.h>
#include "kiss.h"

int main(void)
	char *space = NULL;
	FILE *fp = NULL;
	space = MALLOC(1000);
	space = REALLOC(space, 10000);
	fp = FOPEN("asdfasdf", "r");

Output when I run it:

[INFO]  test1.c:11 main: Hello
[ERROR] test1.c:14 main: fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

Output when I build it with -DNDEBUG and run it:

fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

In most cases, I can add a wrapper macro with one short line of code:

#define MALLOC(...) CHK(malloc, __VA_ARGS__)
#define REALLOC(...) CHK(realloc, __VA_ARGS__)
#define FREE(ptr) (free(ptr), ptr = NULL)

#define FOPEN(path, mode) ({ char *p = path; FILE *rv = fopen(p, mode); CHECK(rv, "fopen failed: %s", p); rv; })
#define FCLOSE(fp) (ZERO(fclose, fp), fp = NULL)

The FOPEN macro is longer. I added the file name to the error message.

FREE is not checking for errors. It sets the pointer to NULL after the free. FCLOSE checks for errors and sets the FILE * to NULL.

I also wrote wrappers for some SDL and SDL_image functions, just a few so far.

Here is a short SDL example using the macros:

and the equivalent code without the macros, which is much longer:

I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I think these wrappers can make C code shorter, safer, more readable, and more maintainable. On the other hand, it might be best to avoid macros, the implementation is ugly, and it uses two GNU extensions: ##__VA_ARGS__, and ({ statement expressions }).

Please let me know what you think. (Without being too scathing, please… I respond better to kindness!)

Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne?

I’m looking for a part-time Systems Administration role in Melbourne, either in a senior capacity or happy to assist an existing sysadmin or development team.

I’m mostly recovered from a long illness and want to get back to work, on a part-time basis (up to 3 days per week). Preferably in the City or Inner North near public transport. I can commute further if there is scope for telecommuting once I know your systems and people, and trust has been established.

If you have a suitable position available or know of someone who does, please contact me by email.

Why hire me?


  • I have over 20 years experience working with linux and unix
  • Over 30 years in IT, tech support, sysadmin type roles
  • I have excellent problem-solving skills
  • I have excellent English language communication skills
  • I can only work part time so you get a senior sysadmin at a discount part-time price, and I’m able to get things done both quickly and correctly.
  • My programming strengths are in systems administration and automation.
  • I’m a real-life cyborg (at least part-time, on dialysis)


  • My programming weaknesses are in applications development.
  • I can’t travel at all. I have to dialyse every 2nd night.
  • I can’t work late (except via telecommute)
  • I can’t drink alcohol, not even beer.
  • I am on the transplant waiting list. At some time in the next few years I might get a phone call from the hospital and have to drop everything with 1 or 2 hours notice and be out of action for a few weeks.

Full CV available on request.

I’m in the top few percent on ServerFault and Unix & Linux StackExchange sites – if you want to get a preview of my problem-solving and technical communication skills, see my profile at:

CV Summary:

Systems Administrator and Programmer with extensive exposure to a wide variety of hardware and software systems. Excellent fault-diagnosis, problem-solving and system design skills. Strong technical/user support background. Ability to communicate technical concepts clearly to non-IT people. Significant IT Management and supervisory experience.

Particular Skills

  • Unix, Linux
  • Internet-based Services and Security
  • Systems & Network Administration
  • Virtualisation – Openstack, Libvirt, KVM, Xen, Vmware
  • HPC Cluster – slurm, Torque, OpenMPI, pdsh
  • Perl, Python, shell, awk, sed, etc scripting for systems automation
  • Data extraction/conversion, processing, and reporting. (incl. CSV, XML, many others)
  • Web server administation, incl. Apache.
  • Web development HTML, CSS, Javascript, perl, PHP, CGI scripting etc.
  • Postgresql, Mysql, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle
  • DNS – bind8/bind9, nlnet’s nsd & unbound
  • SMTP – postfix, sendmail, exim, qmail.
  • High Level Technical Support
  • Database design & development
  • Mentoring and training of colleagues

Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne? is a post from: Errata

November 03, 2015

[mtb/events] Buffalo Stampede 2015 - 78km in the Victorian Alpine region

Julie running back toward me at the top of Buffalo (fullsize)

This event was not in my original plan for 2015, though nursing a bit of a problem with my right aductor and glute I was feeling alright after six foot to do some big stuff. This turned out to be a tough day out, the incredible steep gradients on the first two climbs (and also on the way back the last two climbs and thus the descents on the other side) were something to behold.

That we did over 1000m of climbing in the first 10km of running, including 4km of flat at the start and a descent to the bottom of a 500m valley in the middle says something. This event lived up to the SkyRace tag really well. Also the victorian alpine region is amazingly pretty and Bright is a great town to hang around in.

Photos and a few words from my day out are here on my Buffalo Stampede 2015 page. Thanks to Paul for his entry and to Dave, Julie and Alex for the company. It was fun to catch up with Hanny and Graham down there too.

What the HILE is this?

One of the cool features of POWER8 processors is the ability to run in either big- or little-endian mode. Several distros are already available in little-endian, but up until recently Petitboot has remained big-endian. While it has no effect on the OS, building Petitboot little-endian has its advantages, such as making support for vendor tools easier. So it should just be a matter of compiling Petitboot LE right? Well…

Switching Endianess

Endianess, and several other things besides, are controlled by the Machine State Register (MSR). Each processor in a machine has an MSR, and each bit of the MSR controls some aspect of the processor such as 64-bit mode or enabling interrupts. To switch endianess we set the LE bit (63) to 1.

When a processor first starts up it defaults to big-endian (bit 63 = 0). However the processor doesn’t actually know the endianess of the kernel code it is about to execute - either it is big-endian and everything is fine, or it isn’t and the processor will very quickly try to execute an illegal instruction.

The solution to this is an amazing little snippet of code in arch/powerpc/boot/ppc_asm.h (follow the link to see some helpful commenting):

  tdi   0, 0, 0x48;
  b     $+36;
  .long 0x05009f42;
  .long 0xa602487d;
  .long 0x1c004a39;
  .long 0xa600607d;
  .long 0x01006b69;
  .long 0xa6035a7d;
  .long 0xa6037b7d;
  .long 0x2400004c

By some amazing coincidence if you take the opcode for tdi 0, 0, 0x48 and flip the order of the bytes it forms the opcode for b . + 8. So if the kernel is big-endian, the processor will jump to the next instruction after this snippet. However if the kernel is little-endian we execute the next 8 instructions. These are written in reverse so that if the processor isn’t in the right endian it interprets them backwards, executing the instructions shown in the linked comments above, resulting in MSRLE being set to 1.

When booting a little-endian kernel all of the above works fine - but there is a problem for Petitboot that will become apparent a little further down…

Petitboot’s Secret Sauce

The main feature of Petitboot is that it is a full (but small!) Linux kernel and userspace which scans all available devices and presents possible boot options. To boot an available operating system Petitboot needs to start executing the OS’s kernel, which it accomplishes via kexec. Simply speaking kexec loads the target kernel into memory, shuts the current system down most of the way, and at the last moment sets the instruction pointer to the start of the target kernel. From there it’s like booting any other kernel, including the FIXUP_ENDIAN section above.

We’ve Booted! Wait…

So our LE Petitboot kernel boots fine thanks to FIXUP_ENDIAN, we kexec into some other kernel.. and everything falls to pieces.

The problem is we’ve unwittingly changed one of the assumptions of booting a kernel; namely that MSRLE defaults to zero. When kexec-ing from an LE kernel we start executing the next kernel in LE mode. This itself is ok, the FIXUP_ENDIAN macro will handle the switch if needed. The problem is that the FIXUP_ENDIAN macro is relatively recent, first entering the kernel in early 2014. So if we’re booting, say, an old Fedora 19 install with a v3.9 kernel - things go very bad, very quickly.

Fix #1

The solution seems pretty straightforward: find where we jump into the next kernel, and just before that make sure we reset the LE bit in the MSR. That’s exactly what this patch to kexec-lite does.

That worked up until I tested on a machine with more than one CPU. Remembering that the MSR is processor-specific, we also have to reset the endianess of each secondary CPU

Now things are looking good! All the CPUs are reset to big-endian, the target kernel boots fine, and then… ‘recursive interrupts?!’


Skipping the debugging process that led to this (hint: mambo is actually a pretty cool tool), these were the sequence of steps leading up to the problem:

  • Little-endian Petitboot kexecs into a big-endian kernel
  • All CPUs are reset to big-endian
  • The big-endian kernel begins to boot successfully
  • Somewhere in the device-tree parsing code we take an exception
  • Execution jumps to the exception handler at 0x300
  • I notice that MSRLE is set to 1
  • We fail to read the first instruction at 0x300 because it’s written in big-endian, so we jump to the exception handler at 0x300… oh no.

And then we very busily execute nothing until the machine is killed. I spend some time staring incredulously at my screen, then appeal to a higher authority who replies with “What is the HILE set to?”

..the WHAT?

Cracking open the PowerISA reveals this tidbit:

The Hypervisor Interrupt Little-Endian (HILE) bit is a bit in an implementation-dependent register or similar mechanism. The contents of the HILE bit are copied into MSRLE by interrupts that set MSRHV to 1 (see Section 6.5), to establish the Endian mode for the interrupt handler. The HILE bit is set, by an implementation-dependent method, during system initialization, and cannot be modified after system initialization.

To be fair, there are use cases for taking exceptions in a different endianess. The problem is that while HILE gets switched on when setting MSRLE to 1, it doesn’t get turned off when MSRLE is set to zero. In particular the line “…cannot be modified after system initialization.” led to a fair amount of hand wringing from myself and whoever would listen; if we can’t reset the HILE bit, we simply can’t use little-endian kernels for Petitboot.

Luckily while on some other systems the machinations of the firmware might be a complete black box, Petitboot runs on OPAL systems - which means the firmware source is right here. In particular we can see here the OPAL call to opal_reinit_cpus which among other things resets the HILE bit.

This is actually what turns on the HILE bit in the first place, and is meant to be called early on in boot since it also clobbers a large amount of state. Luckily for us we don’t need to hold onto any state since we’re about to jump into a new kernel. We just need to choose an appropriate place where we can be sure we won’t take an exception before we get into the next kernel: thus the final patch to support PowerNV machines.

[mtb/events] Geoquest 2015 - Thats Cray

Dane crossing a log in the dark for fun (fullsize)

I had a break from doing Geo for 2 years, I guess I got a bit hooked on running and was not keen to try to get a team happening for the event. It almost happened again, however some of the team members in Thats Cray were injured so Cam and I both got an invite to join in the fun.

Geo s always a good event and this year I really enjoyed just joining in for the fun and letting the others worry about Nav and a bunch of other stuff. I have to admit the lack of paddling in the last 2 years made that bit hard, however the event was a lot of fun as always and surprisingly felt pretty good all the way through. Maybe my running fitness helped me get through comfortably.

Photos and some words from the race are online on my Geoquest 2015 album. Thanks to Dane, Lee and Cam for the company, thanks to the awesome support crew and it was good to be back.

November 02, 2015

[mtb/events] The Sri Chinmoy Canberra Ultra 2015 - 102 KM with Wild Bill Bo Jangles and Crew

The Wild Bill crew at the finish, KV, Gangles and Bender (fullsize)

I really enjoy Sri Chinmoy events, their attitude and encouragement for people to be healthy and active to have a better life and world through peace and those goals. Given a choice I try to do most of the long or multi sport Sri Chinmoy events. I had run in this event in pairs with Alex in the first year, alternating legs that year.

As I was planning to do another 100 not long after I was not overly keen on a solo entry, however at Gangles's birthday KV and I managed to convince him to compete in the event with us in a team of 3. This would be his first long run (over 20 km, doing the last leg) and KV was stepping up for the first leg (I had the middle two to get done). I got some celebratory t-shirts made up as Gangles' (Adam) middle name is William KV and I decided to call the team Wild Bill Bo Jangles and crew. (I promise it made sense to us)

So we got to join in the fun and run with many of our friends and other people on the day. I took some photos and they are online in my Sri Chinmoy Trail Ultra 2015 album.

Halo: The Fall of Reach

ISBN: 0765367297


As someone who doesn't play computer games and has never played a Halo game, I find myself in the strange position of having read a Halo book. This book is the first in the chronological lineage, and explains the history of the Spartan program which produced the Master Chief. I decided to read this after accidentally watching a Halo mini-movie on Netflix with a sick baby, and deciding it wasn't totally terrible.

The book is actually ok to my surprise. Its competently written, and on par with much of the other combat fiction I've read. It certainly doesn't feel like its a tie in to a game. I would have liked this book to cover more of the moral issues around the back story to the Spartan program, but those were only briefly considered. Then again, I like a good shoot 'em up as much as the next guy and perhaps that would have been too boring. Overall I enjoyed it and think I might have to read more in this universe.

Tags for this post: book eric_nylund combat halo engineered_human cranial_computer personal_ai aliens

Related posts: The Last Colony ; The End of All Things; The Human Division; Old Man's War ; The Ghost Brigades ; Old Man's War (2)
Comment Recommend a book

OpenSTEM robots visit Hobart primary school

Lauderdale Primary School (Hobart, TAS)On our last day in Tasmania (after the OSDC conference, about which I’ll do other posts shortly), Claire and I visited the wonderful Lauderdale Primary School in Hobart, where I did a version of our free Robotics Incursion with two year 5/6 classes, having a chat about robots, robotics, and more – and having our autonomous caterpillar and hexapod robots stroll around the sports hall….

The students were really engaged, they had thoughtful questions and great ideas – and the feedback from the kids as well as the teachers was that the session was fun as well as educational. Good!

We often do this incursion as a neat way for schools, teachers and students to get to know us before undertaking a bigger program such as the Robotics & Programming one. But, when we’re travelling somewhere with the robots anyway, it’s great to visit a local school. All our facilitators hold a current “working with children” card, so getting something like this organised is really quite straightforward.

George Boole Bicentenary Celebrations

George Bool (circa 1860)Today is George Boole‘s 200th birthday. He lived from 2 November 1815 to 8 December 1864, so he was only 49 when he died!

In 2015, University College Cork (Ireland) celebrates the bicentenary of George Boole’s birth. Born in Lincoln, Boole was a mathematical genius who was largely self-taught. His appointment as the first Professor of Mathematics at the college in 1849 provided the opportunity to develop his most important work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought.

Boole is a pivotal figure who can be described as the ‘father of the information age’. His invention of Boolean algebra and symbolic logic pioneered a new mathematics. His legacy surrounds us everywhere, in the computers, information storage and retrieval, electronic circuits and controls that support life, learning and communications in the 21st century.

Check out the site for video and lots more information about George Boole and his wonderful achievements!

November 01, 2015

Twitter posts: 2015-10-26 to 2015-11-01

[mtb/events] The Heysen 105 in 2015

A cool rock feature in the Myponga Conservation Area (fullsize)

I really have been taking a huge break from putting stuff online here. I have still been taking many photos while out doing fun stuff so even if I am not writing much else (I have been sucked into social media I guess) I can still upload the links to the various adventures I have photos and reports from.

The main advantage I find is I at least can easily find the links to refer to without needing to see a directory listing on the website. In this case I headed down to Adelaide to hang out with friends there and also run in the Heysen 105 run. Feeling the need to do another 100km ultra this year and the short holiday in Adelaide helped attract me to this one. Report and photos for my Heysen 105 2015 run are online.

Nice part of the world and I had fun both in the event and hanging out with friends in Adelaide. The coopers brewery tour is also rather excellent.

October 31, 2015

October 30, 2015

Docker: Just Stop Using AUFS

Docker’s default storage driver on most Ubuntu installs is AUFS.

Don’t use it. Use Overlay instead. Here’s why.

First, some background. I’m testing the performance of the basic LAMP stack on POWER. (LAMP is Linux + Apache + MySQL/MariaDB + PHP, by the way.) To do more reliable and repeatable tests, I do my builds and tests in Docker containers. (See my previous post for more info.)

Each test downloads the source of Apache, MariaDB and PHP, and builds them. This should be quick: the POWER8 system I’m building on has 160 hardware threads and 128 GB of memory. But I was finding that it was only just keeping pace with a 2 core Intel VM on BlueMix.

Why? Well, my first point of call was to observe a compilation under top. The header is below.

top header, showing over 70 percent of CPU time spent in the kernel

Over 70% of CPU time is spent in the kernel?! That’s weird. Let’s dig deeper.

My next port of call for analysis of CPU-bound workloads is perf. perf top reports astounding quantities of time in spin-locks:

display from perf top, showing 80 percent of time in a spinlock

perf top -g gives us some more information: the time is in system calls. open() and stat() are the key culprits, and we can see a number of file system functions are in play in the call-chains of the spinlocks.

display from perf top -g, showing syscalls and file ops

Why are open and stat slow? Well, I know that the files are on an AUFS mount. (docker info will tell you what you’re using if you’re not sure.) So, being something of a kernel hacker, I set out to find out why. This did not go well. AUFS isn’t upstream, it’s a separate patch set. Distros have been trying to deprecate it for years. Indeed, RHEL doesn’t ship it. (To it’s credit, Docker seems to be trying to move away from it.)

Wanting to avoid the minor nightmare that is an out-of-tree patchset, I looked at other storage drivers for Docker. This presentation is particularly good. My choices are pretty simple: AUFS, btrfs, device-mapper or Overlay. Overlay was an obvious choice: it doesn’t need me to set up device mapper on a cloud VM, or reformat things as btrfs.

It’s also easy to set up on Ubuntu:

  • export/save any docker containers you care about.

  • add --storage-driver=overlay option to DOCKER_OPTS in /etc/default/docker, and restart docker (service docker restart)

  • import/load the containters you exported

  • verify that things work, then clear away your old storage directory (/var/lib/docker/aufs).

Having moved my base container across, I set off another build.

The first thing I noticed is that images are much slower to create with Overlay. But once that finishes, and a compile starts, things run much better:

top, showing close to zero system time, and around 90 percent user time

The compiles went from taking painfully long to astonishingly fast. Winning.

So in conclusion:

  • If you use Docker for something that involves open()ing or stat()ing files

  • If you want your machine to do real work, rather than spin in spinlocks

  • If you want to use code that’s upstream and thus much better supported

  • If you want something less disruptive than the btrfs or dm storage drivers

…then drop AUFS and switch to Overlay today.

Do you suffer from rage watching?

There is a terrible ailment sweeping the land. Sufferers find themselves compelled to watch, listen, read or generally consume media output that causes high blood pressure, anger and a desperate, overwhelming urge to tweet about how much they truly loathe the media thing they are consuming.

Rage watching.

There seems to be spikes of Rage Watching specifically around Monday nights at 9:30pm with smaller occurances occuring on Sunday mornings (replays on Sunday afternoons). More recently there has been an uptick of Rage Watching on Wednesday nights by people who feel it absolutely necessary to tell the world exactly how bad the ABC show "Kitchen Cabinet" is for either a) Having  an evil person on as a guest or b) Not spending 22 minutes using Kitchin impliments to torture said evil person into confessing they are indeed an evil person and will do better from now on.

Why? Why do you watch these programmes if you know they're going to be terrible? You already know that you're not going to like either the show, or the person being interviewed, or in the case of the Bolt Report everything about it.

Instead be calm, turn off the tv, or switch on Netflix and binge watch your way through a series. Save your rage for when it is actually useful.

Blog Catagories: 

October 29, 2015


I wrote a simple program ramp-io, based on the redshift code, to read and write the xrandr gamma ramps for Linux / X11.  This enables me to define my own gamma ramps, and switch ramps quickly from the command line.  My preferred ramp is red-inv, dim inverse video with a low colour temperature (more red, less blue), and I set the LCD hardware brightness to maximum to reduce LED PWM flicker.  I find this is relatively easy on the eyes for work, compared to the normal glaring white backgrounds.

LUV Main November 2015 Meeting: Computer Science and SELinux / Parallel Programming

Nov 4 2015 18:30
Nov 4 2015 20:30
Nov 4 2015 18:30
Nov 4 2015 20:30

6th Floor, 200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053

Please note that due to the Melbourne Cup this month's meeting is on Wednesday


• Russell Coker, Computer Science and SELinux

• Lev Lafayette, Parallel Programming

200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053 (formerly the EPA building)

Late arrivals, please call (0490) 049 589 for access to the venue.

Before and/or after each meeting those who are interested are welcome to join other members for dinner. We are open to suggestions for a good place to eat near our venue. Maria's on Peel Street in North Melbourne is currently the most popular place to eat after meetings.

LUV would like to acknowledge Red Hat for their help in obtaining the venue and VPAC for hosting.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc. is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

November 4, 2015 - 18:30

read more

October 28, 2015

Defense Podcasts, MH17 Background, JSF Break-In, JSON Parsing, and More

- if you're interested in defense, intelligence, or geo-politics in general these soundcasts may be of interest to you. Obviously, they're US/Allied focused but they cover a wide range of affairs that face these areas. I may go through other countries at another time...[]=817

- if you've been watching the media lately you'll have realised that Russian seperatists seemed to have been implicated in the MH17 downing. If you actually go through all of the evidence (especially the hard evidence that is hard to fake. If you listen to any one side you can easily get caught up in their perspective and miss a few things) though things don't seem that clear cut and there are a lot of people who seem to be withholding (often crucial such as RADAR records, ability to access the crash site, debris/fragments from the site, etc...) evidence for some strange reason (or just missing some things which should be obvious?). Moreover, all parties involved have had a history of fabricating evidence (I wouldn't put it past Ukrainian or Russian forces planting evidence on the crash site) so I wouldn't necessarily believe whatever is finally said. Some theories have included: it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Russian justification for invasion of Ukraine, it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Ukraine justification for action against Russia, Ukraine air force operation which went extremely bad but actually does a good explanation of why the debris has such variability with regards to damage, it was a plain accident (with a lot of silliness involved all round), possible targeted assisination of Putin himself as his plane was in area at the time (about 100-200 km) and since his plane has similar markings it MH17 which could have meant it was mis-identified. Either way, if you go through the history of all parties you'll realise that all have a credibility problem...

Dutch Safety Board MH17 final report (FULL VIDEO)

Dutch Safety Board simulates MH17 being hit by BUK missile

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern on Who Shot Down Flight MH17 And Iran Nuclear Deal.

'MH17 crash' test simulation video: Il-86 plane cockpit hit with BUK missile

MH-17 - The Untold Story 

Flight MH17: Russia and its changing story

- the Russians state that type of missile isn't used by Russian forces, the pattern on the fuesalage doesn't completely replciate the same one as one that was later tested in one of the videos above (though some of this can be put down to the difference between a static and moving aircraft). Moreover, there while there was a supposed siting of a BUK SAM system in the area in question I'm wondering whether there haven't been more people who have come forward of evidence of before and after videos of it launching a rocket at MH17? Surely, with such a massive contrail heaps more people would have come forward with evidence indicating what was happening. Not ruling out the possibility some elements of government may have gotten involved here though to hush people up or that others were paid to tell a 'version of the truth'...

Flight MH17: searching for the truth

- either way, I doubt that we'll ever know the 'complete truth'. There will be some form of cover up because it feels like they either know what happened (and the truth is ugly) or they don't know and those who are guilty are with holding evidence. The problem is that everyone seems to be doing this to some extent so it is possible that 'a deal' may have been reached behind the scenes. My guess is that a lot of people simply stuffed up and they're partly trying to figure out the best way of apportioning blame...

- if you follow the defense/intelligence space you'll have noticed some strange happenings with regards to the JSF project. Apparently, they said that 50TB was stolen a while back but later they've said it was just ALIS and that it was just non-classified information (if you think that US intelligence/security is generally better think again. Look through enough background and you'll find that they are subject to the same limitations, problems, etc... that are faced by every other organisation. There have been some bizarre penetrations of even 'classified networks'...). Either way, I'd be very interested to know how much technology they've stolen, purchased, bribed from certain officials (based on what I've heard 'incentives' have been between 4-7 figures for information regarding stealth technologies and they've been able to procure quite a lot including information about RAM coatings, AESA RADAR, EOTS, DAS, avionics, engine design, etc...)(even with the downing of and purchase of some aircraft I'm guessing they've gained access to at least some AESA RADAR, EOTS, RAM coating, and engine technology?) and how much they've reverse engineered or is entirely native? Look at the design of some of their new stealth aircraft and some aspects seem incredibly crude... The other thing I'm curious about is if it was 50TB of genuine design material how much would Western design efforts of the JSF going to be thrown off?  Would they have to re-design or is the core system good enough? This is much like the question of security of obscurity (closed versus open source security) if you know anything about cybersecurity. Even if the stolen material was honeypot/honeynet material it has to be convincing enough to throw Chinese research off... which means it's still decent (possibly old?)...

China’s new counter-stealth radar JY-26

How China Steals U.S. Military Secrets 

Next Big Thing: China’s Aviation to Develop Long-Range Strike Bomber

Military Marvel: China Ready to Test Asia’s Largest Warship

- if you have to program regularly, you you have to read some pretty 'human unreadable' stuff at times. Some links regarding possible JSON parsers

echo '{"test":1,"test2":2}' | python -mjson.tool

Pandas are actually quite funny and peculiar animals if you read up about them...

Cute Alert!Clingy pandas don’t want to take their medicine

Clingy panda do not let zookeeper go

So Cute! Panda asks for hug to get down from tree!

Cute alert! Four baby pandas playing with zookeeper

Pandas addicted to hugging

Cute pandas playing on the slide

Some interesting quotes in the recent media:
-“We’ve tried intervention and putting  down troops in Iraq,” he said. “We’ve tried invention without putting in troops in Libya. And we’ve tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria. It’s not clear to me that even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better.”

-“Whenever I’m asked this, I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said. “Because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. So I can apologize for that. I can also apologize, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

-"Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an address last week.

- The United States remains the most powerful nation on earth. Yet from the immediate aftermath of the heady days of 1991 to the present, nations great and small have shown themselves unimpressed by or impervious to U.S. might. To the astonishment of many Americans, the United States, for all its power and its good intentions, has frequently failed in its efforts to lead the world, enforce its preferences or impose its will.

International relations scholars have long understood the fallacy of assuming that power routinely if not automatically provides the wherewithal to get others to do as one wishes. And yet there remains, among statesmen, politicians, policy analysts and the broader public—to say nothing of presidential candidates—an easy assumption of a correlation between a country’s overall power and its ability to persuade, entice, bribe or compel other countries to do its bidding, if not all the time, then at least when the stakes for the powerful country are sufficiently high.

- Atmar warns, "The symbiotic network of terrorists that we are confronted with is going to be a threat to every country in this region and by extension the whole world."

Obama has for years boasted of rendering al-Qaida toothless, but Atmar points out the U.S. withdrawal has reinvigorated the group founded by Osama bin Laden.

He also noted IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new role in choosing Taliban leaders, with the new caliphate in Iraq and Syria "commanding and controlling," "financing" and even providing the Taliban with a new strategy. "We have no doubt about that," Atmar said.

Facing an existential threat, you turn to those on whom you can depend. Right now, sadly, Putin is a better bet for Afghans than America.

- It’s all a lot to take in, and makes one wonder what G.D.P. really stands for: Generally Disorienting Predictions? Guesses Done Poorly?

“G.D.P. is accounting science built to supply a need to understand an economy’s direction,” said Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research. “Is there more art than science? In terms of filling in all the numbers where the answers are imputed rather than measured, the answer is yes.”

And imputed values, he added, are becoming more important as the service sector grows, while in developing nations, accurate measurement is more difficult for a variety of reasons.

Pro tip: “Whenever doing cross country G.D.P. comparisons, I have always used I.M.F. data,” Mr. Blitz said. “They scrub the data and reset so concepts are the same from country to country.” Point taken.

- In 1999, Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al Shaalan allegedly smuggled two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to France. Now believed to be living under legal shelter in Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef was accused by France of using his diplomatic status to sneak the drugs onto a jet belonging to the Saudi royal family. He managed to escape his sentencing and was convicted in absentia in 2007. The United States also indicted him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. 

In 2010, a leaked WikiLeaks cable described a royal underground party scene in Jeddah that was “thriving and throbbing” because Saudi officials looked the other way. The dispatch described a Halloween party, funded in part by a prince from the Al Thunayan family, where more than 150 young men and women dressed in costumes and slogged expensive alcohol, which is sold only on the black market in Saudi Arabia. “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles,” the cable read.

The harsh punishments for violations of Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of sharia law tend not to apply to the some 15,000 princes and princesses who belong to the royal House of Saud. But that hasn’t stopped Riyadh from pursuing executions of foreigners and non-royal citizens accused of less egregious violations of the country’s drug laws.

- "What happens in Afghanistan really does have an impact on what happens over here," Sopko says. "Heroin use is on the rise in the U.S., and although the DEA says that most of the heroin here originates from South America, some still comes from Afghanistan. Our European allies have told me time and again their concerns about the amount of Afghan heroin reaching Europe. Heroin use is a problem in Canada, and 90 percent of Canada's heroin comes from Afghanistan."
- The Iraqi government has become increasingly suspicious of the US’ lack of real commitment in fighting ISIS. On the other hand, Russian strikes have thus far been so effective against ISIS that the Iraqi government has asked Russia to take on a bigger role against ISIS, than the US.

Russia has in turn signaled that it may start bombing ISIS in Iraq as well as Syria, with the permission of the Iraqi government. Unlike the US, Russia has not broken international law and has sought permission to enter Iraq and Syria from each respective state’s legitimate government.

With these actions Russia has called the US’s bluff on fighting ISIS, and is effectively forcing the US to do a better job of convincing the Iraqi government that it is truly fighting ISIS. If Russia does enter Iraqi airspace, it will more easily cross into Syrian airspace to provide supplies to the Syrian government, since the US has bullied many countries in the region to close their airspace to Russian aircrafts. Furthermore, if Iraq asks Russia to intervene it is a scenario that would reverse any of the influence the US had gained in Iraq, throughout its lengthy occupation of the country since 2003.

The US has been backed into a corner and in doing so, has exposed itself and its allies as the source of terrorism, not champions truly fighting it. Terrorism has always been a means by which the US has sought to deconstruct Russian spheres of influences. Ironically over the last decade it has also simultaneously perpetuated the myth that it is actually fighting a war against terror. However as its allied states grow increasingly tired of this game, how long can the US continue to juggle this duplicity, before the entire deck of cards crumbles?

- Financially, the war economy has largely replaced formal economic life. Incomes are increasingly conflict-dependent, whether it is through smuggling, selling weapons, kidnapping, even distributing aid. You can buy or rent a checkpoint for the day or for an hour. Hezbollah, for one, profits through control of checkpoints. Border control by armed groups is hugely lucrative. Fruitful earnings are made from forged documents such as passports and ID cards. The Syrian regime benefits from and encourages this trade, especially if it means opponents can flee abroad.

- “Iran’s nuclear problem has been solved. From Iran, there is no threat and there never had been,” Mr. Putin said. “The only reason that was used by U.S.—to start building the Missile Defense Shield—disappeared. We [Russia] might have expected that a system of MDS development to be halted.”

Mr. Putin believes the United States lied to Russia and the world on the threat of nuclear danger coming from Iran.

“Some days ago, the first tests of USA’s MDS were conducted in Europe. What does that mean? It means that when we were arguing with our American partners we were right. Russia was right from the beginning that the American Missile Defense Shield program was being developed with the goal to destroy strategic balance and to have a way to dictate her power to everyone. They were trying to deceive us, and the whole world, once again. And, to put it simply, we were lied to.”

- To the notion of America helping the “moderate opposition” in Syria, Mr. Putin responded that the division of “moderate” and “non-moderate” leads to the empowerment of Islamic terrorists.

“We shouldn’t play with words here and divide the terrorists into moderate and non-moderate,” Mr. Putin said. “The difference, according to the ‘specialists’ [a jab to the Obama advisors], seems to be that ‘moderate’ bandits behead people softly.”

- A trio of young Muslim women have been conning ISIS by setting up fake social media accounts and getting the terror group to send them money to travel to Syria to become jihadi brides, according to police.

Once the terror group wired funds to the con artists, from Chechnya, they allegedly deleted the accounts and pocketed the money.

ISIS uses social media to encourage men and women to travel to the lands controlled by ISIS to become fighters and jihadi brides. The Republic of Chechnya is a federal subject of Russia and mainly Muslim.

Now the trio have been detained by Chechen e-crime police for the scam, which has so far netted them more than £2,000, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported.

“I don’t recall any precedent like this one in Chechnya, probably because nobody digs deep enough in that direction,” officer Valery Zolotaryov told the newspaper.

October 27, 2015

Sunsetting HPCloud, whom contributed to making MySQL better

Recently at Percona Live Amsterdam I gave a talk titled Databases in the Hosted Cloud (I’m told I got a 4/5 rating for this talk). It was before AWS re:Invent, so obviously some of the details in the talk have changed. For one, now there is also Amazon RDS for MariaDB. But there has also been other changes, i.e. HP’s Public Cloud (HP Helion Public Cloud) will sunset January 31 2016.

Databases in the Hosted Cloud - Percona Live Amsterdam.001

That’s a slide from my deck. I basically have to caution users as to what’s going on in the cloud world when it comes to their databases. And this one slide shows news reports about HP possibly wanting to exit the cloud world back in April 2015. See: HP Comes to Terms With the Cloud, HP: We’re not leaving the public cloud, and of course the HP blog post from Bill Hilf: HP Helion Strategy to Deliver Hybrid IT Continues Strong.

The tune has of course changed in October 2015: A new model to deliver public cloud. I find this to be quite sad considering they were all very gung ho about pushing OpenStack forward several OSCONs ago. I know many people who made this happen (many ex-MySQL’ers went on to HP to work on OpenStack). I can only feel for them. I guess their important work continues in OpenStack as a whole and all this ends up being part of the HP Helion private cloud.

I think its also worth noting the improvements that Percona Server 5.5 received thanks to HPCloud to make it easier to manage in the cloud:

This pretty much leaves only Rackspace Cloud Databases as being a large OpenStack based offering of databases in the public cloud space, doesn’t it?

HPCloud offered 3 Availability Zones (AZs) per region, and had 2 regions — US-East (Virginia) and US-West. It’s worth remembering that US-West was the only place you could use the Relational DB MySQL service. You also got Percona Server 5.5. You enjoyed 50% off pricing while it was in public beta. 

All this is basically over. Here’s wishing the team well, a big thanks to them for helping make MySQL better and in case you’re looking for more articles to read: H-P Winds Down Cloud-Computing Project

My journey to Coviu

My new startup just released our MVP – this is the story of what got me here.

I love creating new applications that let people do their work better or in a manner that wasn’t possible before.

German building and loan socityMy first such passion was as a student intern when I built a system for a building and loan association’s monthly customer magazine. The group I worked with was managing their advertiser contacts through a set of paper cards and I wrote a dBase based system (yes, that long ago) that would manage their customer relationships. They loved it – until it got replaced by an SAP system that cost 100 times what I cost them, had really poor UX, and only gave them half the functionality. It was a corporate system with ongoing support, which made all the difference to them.

Dr Scholz und Partner GmbHThe story repeated itself with a CRM for my Uncle’s construction company, and with a resume and quotation management system for Accenture right after Uni, both of which I left behind when I decided to go into research.

Even as a PhD student, I never lost sight of challenges that people were facing and wanted to develop technology to overcome problems. The aim of my PhD thesis was to prepare for the oncoming onslaught of audio and video on the Internet (yes, this was 1994!) by developing algorithms to automatically extract and locate information in such files, which would enable users to structure, index and search such content.

Many of the use cases that we explored are now part of products or continue to be challenges: finding music that matches your preferences, identifying music or video pieces e.g. to count ads on the radio or to mark copyright infringement, or the automated creation of video summaries such as trailers.


This continued when I joined the CSIRO in Australia – I was working on segmenting speech into words or talk spurts since that would simplify captioning & subtitling, and on MPEG-7 which was a (slightly over-engineered) standard to structure metadata about audio and video.

In 2001 I had the idea of replicating the Web for videos: i.e. creating hyperlinked and searchable video-only experiences. We called it “Annodex” for annotated and indexed video and it needed full-screen hyperlinked video in browsers – man were we ahead of our time! It was my first step into standards, got several IETF RFCs to my name, and started my involvement with open codecs through Xiph.

vquence logoAround the time that YouTube was founded in 2006, I founded Vquence – originally a video search company for the Web, but pivoted to a video metadata mining company. Vquence still exists and continues to sell its data to channel partners, but it lacks the user impact that has always driven my work.

As the video element started being developed for HTML5, I had to get involved. I contributed many use cases to the W3C, became a co-editor of the HTML5 spec and focused on video captioning with WebVTT while contracting to Mozilla and later to Google. We made huge progress and today the technology exists to publish video on the Web with captions, making the Web more inclusive for everybody. I contributed code to YouTube and Google Chrome, but was keen to make a bigger impact again.

NICTA logoThe opportunity came when a couple of former CSIRO colleagues who now worked for NICTA approached me to get me interested in addressing new use cases for video conferencing in the context of WebRTC. We worked on a kiosk-style solution to service delivery for large service organisations, particularly targeting government. The emerging WebRTC standard posed many technical challenges that we addressed by building , by contributing to the standards, and registering bugs on the browsers.

Fast-forward through the development of a few further custom solutions for customers in health and education and we are starting to see patterns of need emerge. The core learning that we’ve come away with is that to get things done, you have to go beyond “talking heads” in a video call. It’s not just about seeing the other person, but much more about having a shared view of the things that need to be worked on and a shared way of interacting with them. Also, we learnt that the things that are being worked on are quite varied and may include multiple input cameras, digital documents, Web pages, applications, device data, controls, forms.

Coviu logoSo we set out to build a solution that would enable productive remote collaboration to take place. It would need to provide an excellent user experience, it would need to be simple to work with, provide for the standard use cases out of the box, yet be architected to be extensible for specialised data sharing needs that we knew some of our customers had. It would need to be usable directly on, but also able to integrate with specialised applications that some of our customers were already using, such as the applications that they spend most of their time in (CRMs, practice management systems, learning management systems, team chat systems). It would need to require our customers to sign up, yet their clients to join a call without sign-up.

Collaboration is a big problem. People are continuing to get more comfortable with technology and are less and less inclined to travel distances just to get a service done. In a country as large as Australia, where 12% of the population lives in rural and remote areas, people may not even be able to travel distances, particularly to receive or provide recurring or specialised services, or to achieve work/life balance. To make the world a global village, we need to be able to work together better remotely.

The need for collaboration is being recognised by specialised Web applications already, such as the LiveShare feature of Invision for Designers, Codassium for pair programming, or the recently announced Dropbox Paper. Few go all the way to video – WebRTC is still regarded as a complicated feature to support.

Coviu in action

With Coviu, we’d like to offer a collaboration feature to every Web app. We now have a Web app that provides a modern and beautifully designed collaboration interface. To enable other Web apps to integrate it, we are now developing an API. Integration may entail customisation of the data sharing part of Coviu – something Coviu has been designed for. How to replicate the data and keep it consistent when people collaborate remotely – that is where Coviu makes a difference.

We have started our journey and have just launched free signup to the Coviu base product, which allows individuals to own their own “room” (i.e. a fixed URL) in which to collaborate with others. A huge shout out goes to everyone in the Coviu team – a pretty amazing group of people – who have turned the app from an idea to reality. You are all awesome!

With Coviu you can share and annotate:

  • images (show your mum photos of your last holidays, or get feedback on an architecture diagram from a customer),
  • pdf files (give a presentation remotely, or walk a customer through a contract),
  • whiteboards (brainstorm with a colleague), and
  • share an application window (watch a YouTube video together, or work through your task list with your colleagues).

All of these are regarded as “shared documents” in Coviu and thus have zooming and annotations features and are listed in a document tray for ease of navigation.

This is just the beginning of how we want to make working together online more productive. Give it a go and let us know what you think.

October 26, 2015

3 Big Announcements from MariaDB (my take for Oct 2015)

Today I received about five emails with the subject: 3 Big Announcements from MariaDB. Maybe you did as well (else, read it online). October has brought on some very interest announcements, and I think my priority for the big announcements vary a little:

  1. MariaDB Server is now available on Amazon RDS – you wouldn’t believe how many people ask for this, as many now deploy using Amazon Web Services (AWS), so now that it is available, I consider this to be extremely amazing. You get 10.0.17 today, and within 3-5 months of a GA, you get the next release (the docs are a work of art — read them!).
  2. MariaDB Server 10.1 is now a stable GA — this is a milestone. Our last stable GA came out in March 2014. There are plenty of new features and we had a developer meeting to plan what comes in 10.2 as well. Remember to read: What is MariaDB 10.1?
  3. New XAMPP with MariaDB — The new XAMPP does not ship with MySQL any longer but MariaDB Server 10.0.17. This is going to help distribution tremendously as many people use XAMPP as a development environment (it is after all the most popular PHP development environment out there). Remember to get your downloads for Windows/Linux/OSX. 

I think the above are my highlights of 3 big announcements from the MariaDB world. What are you waiting for, download it now! And remember to report bugs/feature requests to our Jira instance.

ESP8266 and a few pins

The new Arduino 1.6.x IDE makes it fairly simple to use the ESP8266 modules. I have been meaning to play around with a some open window detectors for a while now. I notice two dedicated GPIO pins on the ESP8266, which is one more than I really need. So I threw in an led which turns on when the window is open. Nothing like local, direct feedback that the device has detected the state of affairs. The reed switch is attached on an interrupt so as soon as the magnet gets too far away the light shines.

I will probably fold and make the interrupt set a flag so that the main loop can perform an http GET to tell the server as soon as it knows when a state has changed.

Probably the main annoying thing I've still got is that during boot it seems the state of both the gpio pins matters. So if the reed switch is closed when you first spply power then the esp goes into some stall state.

It will be interesting to see how easy OTA firmware updates are for the device.

October 25, 2015

Twitter posts: 2015-10-19 to 2015-10-25

The woeful state of communications in Australia’s capital city

For those who may not know, I recently moved from Melbourne, Victoria to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and am now living in a house in the inner north-west. Of course, being a geek, I wanted to get the internet connected as soon as possible! After such a smooth transition I’d expected some problems and this is where they all cropped up.

In Melbourne I had an Internode ADSL connection and before I moved I called them up to relocate this service. This, of course, relied on getting an active Telstra line at the new house. I knew it would take a bit of time to relocate the service, so in the interim I bought a Telstra wi-fi internet device. This is actually a ZTE MF30 and supports up to 5 connections via wi-fi, so I can get both my iPhone and laptop on at the same time. Quite simply, this device is brilliant at what it does and I couldn’t be happier with it.

So, at the moment I’m online via the Telstra device, which is just as well really, as I soon encounter communication issue number 1: Optus.

It appears that Optus have a woeful network in Canberra. I have an iPhone 3GS, which I know can only use 850MHz and 2100MHz 3G networks. Optus uses 900MHz and 2100MHz for their 3G, so the iPhone will only work in Optus 2100MHz coverage. In Melbourne I never had a problem getting on the internet at good speeds.

When I looked at the Optus overage maps for ACT and click on “3G Single band” (the 2100MHz network coverage), it shows the inner north-west being well covered. It really isn’t. Both from home and at work in Belconnen, I can barely get two bars of GSM phone signal. The connectivity is so bad that I can barely make phone calls and send SMSs. Occasionally, I get the “Searching…” message which tells me that it has completely lost GSM connectivity. This never happened in Melbourne, where I had 4-5 bars of signal pretty much all the time.

The 3G connection drops in and out so often that I have to be standing in exactly the right location to be able to access the internet on my iPhone. Even this afternoon in Kingston in the inner south, I wasn’t able to get onto the internet and post to Twitter. I had to use the Telstra device, which hasn’t missed a beat in any location for network connectivity, to establish a connection. This really isn’t good enough for the middle of Canberra. I am seriously considering calling Optus, lodging a complaint and trying to get out of my 2 year contract (which has another 10 months to run), so I can switch over to Telstra. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually want to use a Telstra service!!!

Communications issue number 2: TransACT. From what I can find out TransACT have a cable TV network which also has telephone and internet capabilities. When this network was established about a decade ago, it was revolutionary and competitive. Today the network has been expanded to support ADSL connections, but there is no ability to get a naked service as all connections require an active phone service. Additionally, as a quick look at some of the internet connectivity plans show, after factoring in the required phone service, it is a costly service for below average download allowances.

When I moved into the house, the process of relocating the Internode ADSL service from Melbourne to Canberra triggered a visit from a Telstra technician. However, he wasn’t able to find a physical Telstra line into the house. Being an older suburb of Canberra, this house will have a Telstra cable. Or rather will have had as apparently it is not unknown for TransACT installers to cut the Telstra cables out as “You won’t need THAT anymore!”

So now I have to pay for a new cable to be installed from the house to the “Telstra network boundary” (presumably the street or nearest light pole where it can be connected to Telstra’s infrastructure). Then we have to pay again for a new Telstra connection at a cost of $299. Considering that if the Telstra cable had been left in place, the connection cost would be $55, this is turning into quite an expensive proposition just to get a naked DSL service.

All in all I am not impressed with the state of communications in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. All I can say is please, please, please bring on the National Broadband Network (NBN)!



Mark Callaghan at the Korean MySQL Power User Group

The Korean MySQL Power User Group gets a special guest speaker next weekend (Oct 31 2015 – 4pm – 4:33’s offices in Gangnam — nearest train stop is Samseong station, Line 2 — post requires Cafe Naver login) — Mark Callaghan (Small Datum, @markcallaghan, and formerly High Availability MySQL). I’ve been to many of their meetups, and I think this is a great opportunity for many DBAs to learn more about how Mark helps make MySQL and MongoDB better for users at Facebook. I’m sure he’ll also talk about RocksDB.

After that, as usual, there will be a DBA Dinner. This time the tab gets picked up by OSS Korea. See you next Saturday — Halloween in Seoul will have added spice!

October 24, 2015

MySQL NL Community Meetup with MariaDB speakers summary

Last week we had the MySQL Meetup with MariaDB Developers in Amsterdam, which went on easily for about 3.5 hours. Thanks to all for listening (these were lightning talks, not with a strict 5 minute clock with Q&A thrown in), and Daniël van Eeden for organising this at the eBay offices (whom kindly provided pizza, beer and soft drinks as well). We had many talks, and I’ve managed to put up most of the slides into a Google Drive folder, so feel free to access the bucket.

  1. How is the MariaDB sausage made? by Rasmus Johansson covers how MariaDB Server gets made from an engineering standpoint
  2. An inside look at the MariaDB restaurant by Daniel Bartholomew covers how MariaDB Server gets released
  3. ANALYZE for statements by Sergei Petrunia
  4. Data at Rest Encryption in MariaDB 10.1 by Sergei Golubchik (HTML presentation so will prompt a download for you to view in the browser)
  5. Cool MariaDB Plugins by Colin Charles
  6. Passwordless login with unix auth_socket by Otto Kekäläinen
  7. InnoDB in MariaDB 10.1 by Jan Lindström
  8. PCRE Regular Expressions in MariaDB by Alexander Barkov
  9. MaxScale by Massimiliano Pinto
  10. Overview of failover handling in the MariaDB Java Connector by Diego Dupin
  11. Profile Guided Optimization by Axel Schwenke
  12. MariaDB Server in Docker by Kolbe Kegel
  13. Systemd by Dan Black (there were no slides, and the work was being pushed into 10.1, so the crowd got to see svoj come up with his laptop, and Dan made the commit by hitting the Enter key. IIRC, the commit was 20c2ae39db3dd0ec4c337a9b0bd2bf4481b61e49)
  14. Engine Independent Table Statistics including Histograms by Sergei Petrunia

Georg Richter had prepared a presentation but decided not to give it, since we already had quite a lot of talks and discussion throughout the sessions. If you’re interested in MariaDB Connectors, the presentation is worth a read.

Thanks again to Daniël van Eeden and Jean-François Gagné whom really helped get this stuff going.

P/S: for some pictures, I live tweeted them:

October 23, 2015

Stupidity with passwords

We all know and understand how important passwords are. We all know that we should be using strong passwords.

What’s a strong password? Something that uses:

  • lower case characters
  • punctuation, such as !@#$%^&*()<>?”:{}+_
  • and should be 8 characters or longer

So, to put it mildly, it really annoys me when I come across services that don’t allow me to use strong passwords. If I possibly could, I’d boycott these services, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

For example, my internet banking is limited to a password of between 6-8 characters. WTF?! This is hardly a secure password policy!

Another financial service I use is limited to 15 characters and doesn’t allow most of the punctuation set. Why? Is it too difficult to extend your database validation rules to cover all of the character set?

Ironically, I didn’t have a problem with Posterous, Facebook or Twitter (and others) in using properly secure passwords. So, these free services give me a decent level of security, but Australian financial services companies can’t. It’s stupidity in the extreme.

Three Ubuntu 11.10 annoyances

A while back I posted up a few of the issues I was having with Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”.

I’m now using the latest version (for the next few weeks), Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneric Ocelot”. And while it works well on my new laptop, it suffers from three pretty annoying issues.

  1. IPv6 and Network Manager. I am experiencing regular wireless drop outs when I enable IPv6 on my router. When I disable IPv6 on Network Manager it is perfectly stable again.
  2. For most USB keys, write speeds are really slow. And I mean excruciatingly slow. USB HDDs seems to be OK. The issue seems to be in the way that Ubuntu deals with caching.
  3. Sandy Bridge power draining. This is a well known and documented issue, with fixes that have been issued (to be incorporated into the 3.3.x kernel). They are not being integrated into the current version of Ubuntu (which uses the 3.0.x kernel), but are being backported into the next version, 12.04 (which will use the 3.2.x kernel).

These things are quite frustrating, and while I am pretty confident that the power issues will be resolved, I really hope that the other problems are addressed for the next version which is due 26 April 2012. From those bug reports and blog posts, it looks like they will be, which is heartening.

A call to “standardised user account requirements” arms

We need to have a standard for management of user accounts.

Given the number of high profile companies that have been cracked into lately, I have been going through the process of closing accounts for services I no longer use.

Many of these accounts were established when I was more trusting and included real data. However now, unless I am legally required to, I no longer use my real name or real data.

But I have been bitterly disappointed by the inability of some companies to shut down old accounts. For example, one service told me that “At this time, we do not directly delete user accounts…”. I also couldn’t change my username. Another service emailed my credentials in plain text.

To protect the privacy and security of all users, an enforceable standard needs to be established covering management of user accounts. It needs to be applied across the board to all systems connected to the internet. I know how ridiculous this sounds, and that many sites wouldn’t use it, but high profile services should be able to support something like this.

Included in the standard should be:

  • the ability to completely delete accounts (unless there’s some kind of legislative requirement to keep, and then they should only retain the data that is absolutely necessary)
  • the ability to change all details including usernames
  • a requirement to encrypt and salt the password (that covers the credentials in plain text issue noted above)
  • determine the minimum practicable data set that you need to maintain an account and only ask for that. If there’s no need to retain particular account details, don’t collect them. For example, I’ve never been contacted by phone by any of these companies so why was I forced to enter a phone number?

This is a short list from my frustrations today. Please comment to help me flesh this out with other things that should be done on a properly supported user account management system.

And please let me know of your experiences with companies that were unable to properly protect your privacy and security.

Back to WordPress!

I’ve given up on Blogger and returned to WordPress. I’ll update the look and feel from the defaults and try to update it a bit more often!

My new laptop!

In May 2010, I posted about what I thought were some pretty underwhelming specifications for laptops.

I have bitten the bullet and upgraded to a laptop with 1366×768 display resolution anyway.

But on a 13.3 inch screen. So it actually works pretty well.

It is a system worth about $2500 that I got for around $700. And no, it didn’t fall off the back of a truck! It fell off the back of the Dell Outlet Store.


  • Dell Latitude E6320
  • Core i5-2520M
  • 4GB RAM (although as an ‘Enterprise’ system, it came with Windows 7 32-bit, so only 3.2GB is visible to Windows. Fixed that by dual-booting Ubuntu 64-bit)
  • 250GB HDD
  • Wi-fi
  • Bluetooth (which I personally think is next to useless)
  • Backlit keyboard (which I think is the BEST thing ever!)
  • 6 cell battery

It’s also mil-spec hardened (or something) which means that it’s almost child-proof!

It does 1080p video and with 4 cores (2 physical and 2 virtual ‘hyper-threading’) video editing works well. Really well.

I want to post up a full review at some stage, but it may not be soon.