Aligned Planets

Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) Announce: LUV Beginners November Meeting: Security scanning with Nmap

Planet LA - November 19, 2015 - 22:29
Start: Nov 21 2015 12:30 End: Nov 21 2015 16:30 Start: Nov 21 2015 12:30 End: Nov 21 2015 16:30 Location: 

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

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Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 19, 2015 - 22:25

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 therough 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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Geoquest 2012 - Out Of Range

Planet LA - November 19, 2015 - 10:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Chris Smart: Changing Jenkins concurrent job token from @ to something else

Planet LA - November 18, 2015 - 16:29

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Hume and Hovell Ride Albury to Canberra 2012

Planet LA - November 18, 2015 - 07:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Binh Nguyen: Middle Eastern/African/Asian Background, NSA Whistleblowers, and More

Planet LA - November 18, 2015 - 02:22
- 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 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

- repacking RPM files is pretty easy with the right software

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."
Categories: Aligned Planets

Gary Pendergast: Replacing Rdio

Planet LA - November 17, 2015 - 23:26

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 22:27
Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 22:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Erik de Castro Lopo: Forgive me Curry and Howard for I have Sinned.

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 22:22

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 &) ; } ;
Categories: Aligned Planets

Sam Watkins: sswam

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 13:29

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:

Categories: Aligned Planets

David Rowe: Give Us Our Daily Bread

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 10:29

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Michael Still: Mount Stranger one last time

Planet LA - November 16, 2015 - 07:27
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

Categories: Aligned Planets

Chris Smart: Btrfs RAID 6 on dm-crypt on Fedora 23

Planet LA - November 15, 2015 - 21:29

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…

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 15, 2015 - 11:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 14, 2015 - 22:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Francois Marier: How Tracking Protection works in Firefox

Planet LA - November 14, 2015 - 07:42

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] >> [canonicalized] [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:

browser.trackingprotection.gethashURL browser.trackingprotection.updateURL

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

browser.safebrowsing.provider.mozilla.gethashURL browser.safebrowsing.provider.mozilla.updateURL 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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Binh Nguyen: China Background, Economic Warfare, and More

Planet LA - November 14, 2015 - 00:56
- 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.
Categories: Aligned Planets

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

Planet LA - November 13, 2015 - 14:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb] ARNuts Victorian Cycling Holiday 2013

Planet LA - November 12, 2015 - 12:25

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.

Categories: Aligned Planets
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