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Updated: 1 week 12 hours ago

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Hurty Andrew

November 10, 2015 - 16:25
So this morning we had our ritual friday morning Bilbys mtb ride. This time we rode a Majura Pines, which being one of the Canberran mtb mecca destinations is a lot of fun. My bike computer said 26KM and 1hour 24min by the end of the ride. I wonder if I should maybe feel bad for Andrew Rowe, I did a rather enjoyable gap jump over a gully at Majura and he decided upon seeing me do this that it was not so hard so attempted it. Andrew was riding his single speed rather than his Orange Duallie and unfortunately came to grief, landing about 10 cm short his back wheel bucked up and threw him over the handlebars. Breakfast and coffee and all that at the pickle after the ride calmed him down I hope, he has since said he squealed pretty loudly in the shower.
Categories: Aligned Planets

Michael Still: A walk in the Orroral Valley

November 10, 2015 - 14:28
Last weekend was a walk in the Orroral Valley with a group of scout leaders. Embarrassingly, I'd never been in this area before, and its lovely -- especially at the moment after all the rain we've had. Easy terrain, and a well marked path for this walk. The only catch is that there's either a car shuffle involved, or you need to do a 12km return walk.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151107 photo canberra bushwalk

Categories: Aligned Planets

Colin Charles: Rackspace Cloud High Availability Databases for MariaDB, MySQL, Percona Server

November 10, 2015 - 10:25

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

Binh Nguyen: Some Geo-Politics/Intelligence, Some JSF Thoughts, and More

November 10, 2015 - 00:52
- for anyone who is considering working in the defense/intelligence space you should think about it carefully. If you do enough background it becomes fairly obvious that what you see on TV is not what it's like in the real world. A lot of defections actually occur because they don't know what they're getting into and/or can often regret doing the work that they do, etc... The other thing is one should note is that defectors often get caught, living on the other side can be worse, the risk may not be worth the reward, etc... For those who are curious, I haven't been looking specifically for intelligence material or material relating to defectors/whistleblowers. They've just come up in my research... Another thing that is apparent, our political leaders aren't supermen/women. They're just people doing the best that they can under the circumstances that they face...

Outspoken Former CIA Operative Lindsay Moran - Interview

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

An Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out - The Italian Job

CIA - World's biggest terrorist organization

How the CIA Waged War in Afghanistan

The Secret Government Program _ NSA Spying - NatGeoTV

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

CIA Analyst: We Are All Gonna Die

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- useful for saving required Debian packages

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

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

Some interesting quotes in my recent meanderings...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Don't mess with cows!

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

Animal accidents - 2015 financial year:

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

•Deer: 164 accidents: cost $366,957

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 2,095 HARM missiles

- 217 Walleye missiles

- 5,276 guided anti-tank missiles

- 44,922 cluster bombs and rockets

- 136,755 conventional bombs

- 4,077 guided bombs[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Still: Scout activity: orienteering at Mount Stranger

November 9, 2015 - 11:28
I've run scout activities before, but its always been relatively trivial things like arranging attendance at a Branch level event such as an astronomy night or an environment camp. They've involved consent forms and budgeting and so forth, but never the end to end creation of a thing from scratch. So, I was quite excited to be presented with an opportunity to take the scouts orienteering in an unfamiliar environment.

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

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

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

Tags for this post: scouts orienteering navex

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

November 9, 2015 - 11:25

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

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Six Foot Track Marathon 2014

November 8, 2015 - 12:25

At the start line (fullsize)

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

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Mt Yarahapinni Run - Solo November 2014

November 8, 2015 - 00:25

Massive tree remains from logging operations (fullsize)

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

November 6, 2015 - 22:29

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

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

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

sudo ./platform-tools/fastboot reboot bootloader

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

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

sudo mv /bin/fastboot{,-fedora}

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

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

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

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

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

Now I was finally able to flash the phone.

sudo ./

Boot back to bootloader and re-lock.

sudo adb reboot bootloader

sudo fastboot flashing lock

Hope this helps someone else out there!

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

November 6, 2015 - 22:25

A ridgeline during the race, amazing views (fullsize)

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

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

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

November 6, 2015 - 16:29

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

read more

Categories: Aligned Planets

Lev Lafayette: Parallel Programming Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria

November 6, 2015 - 15:29

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

Presentation to Linux Users of Victoria, November 2015

Categories: Aligned Planets

Lev Lafayette: Open Source Vocational Engineering with High Performance Computing

November 6, 2015 - 15:29

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

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

Categories: Aligned Planets

sthbrx - a POWER technical blog: Evolving into a systems programmer

November 6, 2015 - 11:42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of these things do or don’t make you a hacker, being a hacker is a frame of mind and a way of thinking but all of the above helps.

Unfortunately there isn’t a single path, I might even say it is a path that chooses you. Odds are you’re here because you approached me at some point and asked me one of those questions I never quite know how to answer. Perhaps this is the path, at the very least you’re asking questions and approaching people. I’m hope I did on the day, but once again, all the very best with your endeavours into the future

Categories: Aligned Planets

Paul Wayper: Open Source Developers Conference 2015

November 6, 2015 - 06:25
In the last week of October I attended the Open Source Developer's Conference in lovely Hobart. It was about 90 people this year - for some reason people don't come to it if they have to travel a bit further. It's their loss - this year was excellent.

We started with Dr Maia Sauren's keynote on all the many many ways that government departments and not-for-profit organisations are working to open up our access to transparent democracy. I've never seen a talk given by going through browser tabs before but it was a good indication of just how much work is going on in this field. Then we had Ben Dechrai demonstrating how easy it is to install malware on systems running PHP, Julien Goodwin talking about the mistakes people make when securing data (like thinking NATting is the answer), and Katie McLaughlin with a good round-up of why Javascript is actually a good language (and why the "WAT" talks are amusing but irrelevant to the discussion).

Tuesday afternoon was GIS afternoon. Patrick Sunter gave a really amazing talk about urban planning, demonstrating mapping transit time across a city like Melbourne interactively - drop a pin on the map and in three seconds or so the new isocron map would be generated. This allowed them to model the effects of proposed public transport changes - like a train line along the Eastern Freeway (get this done already!) - very quickly. Then Blair Wyatt demonstrated SubPos, a system of providing location data via WiFi SSID beacons - doesn't work on Apple phones though because Apple are into control. Matthew Cengia gave a comprehensive introduction into OpenStreetMap, then afternoon tea. I skipped the lightning talks since I normally find those a bit scattered - any talk where you spend more time hassling over how much time you have remaining and whether or not your technology is working is a talk wasted in my opinion. I needed a rest, though, since I was struggling with a nose and throat infection.

Then we headed off to dinner at the Apple Shed in the picturesque Huon Valley. Local ciders, local produce, good food, good company, good conversation. All the boxes satisfyingly checked :-). I bought a bottle of the Apple Schnapps to sample later.

Wednesday morning's keynote was by Mark Elwell and showed his experience as an educator looking at Second Life and OpenSim. This was a different take on openness - demonstrating how our desire to create and share is stronger than our greed. The things that SL and OpenSim have done to lock up 'intellectual property' and monetise people's interactions have generally hindered their success, and people still put hundreds or thousands of hours into modelling things just for the satisfaction of seeing it in a virtual world. It was a good reflection on one of the many reasons we create free open source software.

Casey West, Thor's younger brother, gave an excellent review of the 'time estimation' methods we've traditionally used in software engineering - the waterfall model, agile development, and scrum - and why they all usually end up with us lying making up how much time things take. One thing he said which struck home to me was "your company invests in you" - it was the answer to the problem of support (and security) being seen as a cost rather than a benefit. Kathy Reid gave an excellent talk about how to guide your career with some excellent speaking tips thrown in (an acknowledgement of country and assistance for hearing impaired people, amongst others). I skipped Paul Fenwick's CKAN talk as I wanted to prepare my lightning talk for later (hypocritical? Yes, I suppose so :-) ).

In the afternoon Chris Neugebauer gave a good demonstration on why HTTP/2 is going to rock, Scott Bragg talked about one of the more esoteric uses of BitCoin block chains, and Arjen Lentz showed the benefits (and absence of fail) in teaching primary school children to make their own robots (including soldering). Michael Cordover gave a highly anticipated talk on his progress trying to get the Australian Electoral Commission to reveal the source code for its "EasyCount" software that's used (amongst other things) to count Federal Senate elections. It's disappointing that the closed mindset exists so strongly in some areas of government - the reasons and the delays and the obstructions were more than just simple accident.

We then had a set of "Other Skills" lightning talks - people talking about other things they do outside of programming things. Unfortunately I can't remember many of these because I was preparing for mine, which was on constructing my electric motorbike. This was well received - quite a few people came up to me afterward to talk about motorbikes, and the practicalities of building an electric one. It's always satisfying to talk with people that don't need the basics (like "can't you put wind generators on it to generate power as you move?") explained.

The Thursday morning keynote was by Richard Tubb, talking about how we can create opportunities and use the situations we find ourselves in to open up and improve our lives, and showed some of the things achieved in the GovHack Tasmania he ran. Sven Dowideit, the author of Boot2docker, gave a good demonstration of the things you can do with containers - particularly good for build systems as they can be stripped down to avoid unexpected dependencies. Then I gave my talk on my experiences with logs and how we can improve the logs our programs generate; the feedback I got was good, but I'd like to add more examples and an actual library or two to implement the principles I talk about. Then John Dalton gave a talk about how to use ssh's tunnel flags; it was a good overview of how the various options work.

I don't remember what I was doing after lunch but I don't remember the first talk - I think I was resting again. I did see Jacinta Richardson's talk on RPerl, which is basically a library that compiles your Perl code into C++. It's useful for computationally intensive things but the author of RPerl seems to have bizarre notions of how to interact with a community - like refusing to look at Github issues and requesting they be put on his Facebook page instead. We had a couple of 'thunder' talks - the main one I can remember was Morgan's talk on her PhD on Second Life and OpenSim (her mentor was Mark Elwell), which touched on the same points of social and open interaction.

After afternoon tea we had Pia Waugh speaking via Hangout from her home in Canberra - she wasn't able to attend in person because of imminent child process creation (!). She talked about GovHack, leading some of the projects to open up government processes and her work in dealing with the closed mindset of some people in government departments. Pia is always so positive and engaged, and her energy and enthusiasm is a great inspiration to a lot of people who struggle with similar interactions with less-than-cooperative bureaucrats. Sadly though, it was another demonstration of how we really need a high speed broadband network - the video stalled occasionally and Pia's voice was garbled at some times because of bandwidth problems.

We had another set of lightning talks which I stayed around for - and good thing too, because Fraser Tweedale demonstrated an amazing new system called Deo. It's essentially "encryption keys as a network service": a client can store a key in a network server and then request it later automatically. The two situations Fraser demonstrated for this were unlocking your Apache SSL certificate when Apache starts up (using a pass phrase helper) and unlocking LUKS disk encryption automatically when a machine boots (using a helper in LUKS). Since I'd recently had a customer ask for this very thing - machines with encrypted disks for data security outside the corporate network but that boot without user intervention when in the presence of the key server - this was hugely useful. I'm watching the Deo project eagerly, and have changed my attitude to lightning talks. If only more of them could be like this!

As is common with open source events, OSDC 2015 was collecting money for charity - in this case, the Tasmanian Refugee Defence Fund. After Lev Lafayette donated $1000 to the cause, I decided to match it. The few glimpses we get into the abysmal conditions in our costly, closed offshore detention camps are harrowing - yet we don't see (many) people in them saying "you know, take me back to Syria, I'll take my chances there". We're only hurting the poorest of the poor and the most desperate of the desperate, and only because of the xenophobia created by the Coalition and the conservative media. We're damaging people for life, and burdening our own society in coping with the problems we've created. In my opinion we're going to find out in the upcoming decades just how bad that problem really is. Anything we can do to alleviate it now is a good thing.

Overall, OSDC 2015 was a great learning experience. The "hallway track" was just as beneficial as the talks, the food was good, the venue was good, and I was glad I came.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Craige McWhirter: The Dream of the 90's UI is Alive at Mozilla

November 5, 2015 - 19:45

This could alternatively be titled "WTF Firefox?" or "I Fought Mozilla and We All Lost" but I just couldn't do that to The Clash.

I occasionally work with an entity that requires what they call "Digital Badges" but everyone else calls personal SSL certificates. These are PKCS 12 files that have gone through a signing process, which you then import into your browser of choice. In my case, this is Firefox.

I was using some previous version of Firefox (who tracks these things when there's no problems?) and the PKCS 12 certificates were imported without any dramas. Everything worked As Expected(TM) and everything was fine.

Fast forward a mere month and after a spasm of executive resume building, new certificates were required.

In the same mere month, Debian had upgraded to Firefox 38.4.0. The main difference I can see in the application was the moving of "Preferences" from a pop-up dialogue to an in-browser interface.

Now when you hit up about:preferences - Advanced - Certificates - View Certificates - Your Certificates, you will find that after pressing Import and selecting the new certificates that it quietly fails to import them.

Absolutely zero feedback. No amount of restart, clearing cache etc will make them appear. They are not imported. You can repeat this process as much as you like, they still won't be imported.

I suspect that the certificates having pass phrases may be the root cause (quietly failing to bring up an authentication dialogue) but that's just a rough guess.

The only way that I was able to import these certificates into Firefox was via the pk12util from libnss3-tools.

$ pk12util -d ~/.mozilla/firefox/fduesnd3.default/ -i ~/some/path/old.p12 Enter password for PKCS12 file: pk12util: PKCS12 IMPORT SUCCESSFUL $ pk12util -d ~/.mozilla/firefox/fduesnd3.default/ -i ~/some/path/new.p12 Enter password for PKCS12 file: pk12util: PKCS12 IMPORT SUCCESSFUL

After restarting Firefox, the certificates were now listed in "Your Certificates".

Hopefully that saves you the few hours it cost me :-)

Categories: Aligned Planets

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Around the K 2014 - Another long ride in the NSW Alpine Region

November 5, 2015 - 12:25

Brooke and Cam at the Scammels lookout (fullsize)

This has become an annual ride to get out on. With two options, the full loop which is 320km including 6500 metres of climbing or some variation we sort out so people can do a shorter ride and be part of the day out. (This year was 180 km either Cabramurra to Jindabyne or Jindabyne to Cabramurra)

We had a pretty solid group doing the whole loop Jindabyne to Jindabyne anti clockwise. The others we split into two groups of around 6 or so each and managed a car swap as we crossed paths (at lunch at Khancoban).

Due to doing too much running and not enough cycling, and my trip to NZ for Kepler the previous week, I decided to do the shorter ride this year. Photos and words from Around the K 2014 are online. Fun was had, now it is just over a month until the 2015 one so I need to get on my bike and get ready for it.

Categories: Aligned Planets

Binh Nguyen: Some Geo-Politics, Apple Install Media, R, Ableton Push 2, and More

November 4, 2015 - 22:19
- when you look at the world from different perspectives it can seem as though a very different world exists out there at times. Things just sound crazy...

Yuri Bezmenov: Psychological Warfare Subversion & Control of Western Society (Complete)

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov's warning to America

- the worse part of this is that since certain behaviour can sometimes only be defeated by equally abhorent behaviour it's a race down to the bottom. If you want to understand how these people think, don't think like a normal person. Think like the most crazed, power hungry person in the world and perhaps you'll understand how far people have to go behind the scenes

- recently, I thought it would be somewhat interesting to look at things in so called 'evil states' (Russia, China, Iran, etc...) and wanted to compare how they stacked up against so called 'good states' (US, UK, Australia, etc...). In quite a few areas things are actually quite competitive

- similar unemployment rates. Better in China and Russia than in the West

- prior to sanctions extremely strong growth in Russia and we know that growth in recent history in China has been extremely strong when compared to the West

- taxation as percentage of GDP lower but that is likely lower level of socialised services such as healthcare, welfare, etc...

- usual suspects are up there but the West is generally well up there (particularly those countries that are having economic difficulties in the Eurozone) as well. Results can vary drastically but I'm guessing that's because different people are using different measures for what amounts to crime and corruption. Asian countries generaly doing well. One thing I've found is that in general if life is too difficult for the populace in general people will evade resort to crime, loan sharks, etc... without it they can't survive. The irony is that the rest of society has to pay by paying higher taxes leading to very odd national GDP figures. For instance, I remember it once being said that the South of Italy was essentially a different state that was based on crime and corruption. Fix it and Italy's GDP rockets upwards. There is so much terrorist/criminal money in the US that if you were to remove it all the economy would collapse. The reason why sanctioned countries like Iran and North Korea are able to continue to survive is also for this particular reason...

- a lot of countries having a difficult time getting the best out of their people. Western countries generally middling to upper end of things... Russia and China doing okay but probably down the rankings due to their lopsided economies (which they are still trying to fix)

- this was one of the surprising things for me. There are heaps of alternative media choices in Russia, China, etc.. and the West but it's likely that they may be 'consolidated' into centralised points of power and distribution (for any number of reasons whether for financial or reasons of social control, etc...). Leeway in freedom of speech can vary drastically though and there is actually some attempt to control things (mildly) in the West. There are generally crackdowns in China and Russia against those that may cause 'social unrest'. One thing I've found funny though is that there are a lot of people who are generally seeking alternative news channels now,47573.html

- this is one are where you will definitely find some surprises. Western countries are generally middling. Some very odd ones up there though in terms of hours worked per week and GDP per unit hour (this comes back to the value versus price problem that I've looked at from time to time on this blog). Who would have thought that Mexicans, Chileans, Russians, and Greeks were so hard working (missing data here)? Western countries generally middling... I think the main reason why the West has managed to steal such a massive leap is that they've managed to harness the low costs of the other countries and have made use of the disparity between 'perceieved value' versus 'actual value' (what's the difference between some low end and other high end electronics. Often very little but the price differential is huge)

- social stability enabled/achieved via more subtle measures in the West when compared to the China/Russia. Certain things often control behaviour

and wealth distribution (conciously or not). For instance, people don't die at work (they die of over-eating of cheap fast food, smoking addictive cigarettes, etc...), population growth is controlled via culture (the West is highly individualistic which means that people care more about themselves then having the chance of having a family), monopolies and wealth distribution is controlled more subtly (in China/Russia things are controlled largely by the state but in the West most of the time the only way things can be controlled is via legislation), entertainment culture helps to control wage costs (if everyone worked hard where would the wage differential be to exploit to create outsized profits?), etc...

- as discussed previously wealth distribution is fairly similar (if not better) in China/Russia as opposed to the US and GDP is solid...

- at the end of the day I think things wouldn't be much different for the 'average joe' in China/Russia versus the West. If you stick out a bit you're in a lot of trouble though...

- the US business philosophy of 'going big or going home' makes much more sense to me now. It's critical for them to have external mechanisms to control costs to create prosperity. Ideally, these costs are external to their country (currency fluctuations, low wages, illegal immigration, trade agreements, etc...) That way, they can keep people happy within their own country. If not, the disparities in their system grows wider and you end up with unequal wealth distribution. With them you can keep people internally happy but but not as much for those external (look at working conditions in countries where outsourcing is done. Almost slave like at times...)

- the US also controls certain monopolistic areas. For instace, defense (look at the JSF project where most Allied countries only have that single option). That means they're not subject to 'free market' conditions and don't necessarily have to compete on price/profit margin

- at the end of the day many social systems (democracies, socialists, communists, etc...) suffer from the issue of 'hierarchy'. Have someone foolish at the top and you're in a lot of trouble.

- the flaw with most social systems out there is that it makes the assumption that a central 'ruler' knows best. The irony is that it may be the case that only those who understand the current circumstances knows the best possible course of action, the best possible means of assuring that they can be happy

- the greatest difficulty of the current US administration is that it feels as though they don't know how to deal with China and Russia. The irony is that I'd be in the same place in dealing with the current US adminstration as well. The problem is that you don't know how far you can push without behind pushed back. Moreover, the response comes back is too weak or can be used as anti-West propaganda. Under the current administration people have admitted that they have attempted to go after 'easy wins' while neglecting or only half-heartedly dealing with the bigger issues that face them. They need to re-think the way they deal with things and re-mold the approach so that it is both effective as well as targeted. They're just setting things up for another new type of 'Cold War' or else a very clumsy minor conflict (not necessarily military)

- need to be smarter than this. Don't make it a game of religion. If you make it about religion they can turn around and spout things about 'propaganda'. Need to start the process of friendship as early as possible to reduce the chances of 'converting someone' more difficult. They need to look at radicalisation, terrorism, crime as simply a strange way of life. If sometime tries to turn them they will be more resistent. As for the rest, find the most efficient, least complex way out. Deal with the issue but don't make it easier to turn others against you

- the beauty of nature versus human financial abstraction is that everyone/thing has a value. Everything has a place within the ecosystem. Human abstractions such as 'pricing' actually make certain things that are impossible in nature possible. For instance, 'hoarding'. An animal can only grow to a certain size generally. With these limits it ensures that everyone has to continue to play their part with the overall ecosystem

- interesting way of measuring productivity is watching what the most efficient world (or country) in their industry and what other similar, groups do (normalised after removing question of currency and other localised variables, trade tarrifs, taxes, etc...). I wonder how much the average disparity really is?

- install media has to be purchased from the App Store now. Easier just to download and stick it on a USB flash drive

- have been looking for some documentation on R which is 'readable' (read like a book as opposed to a reference title). Turns out the included documentation (in the installed documentation) may be best

- doesn't look like too much of a change between Push 1 and Push 2 to be honest. I think the main difference is in the software

- sometimes you just want the desktop version on your phone/tablet as you may be missing some functionality

Some interesting quotes from world media of late:

- As President Rousseff contemplates her next move, she might do well to remember the words of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant: “When wars do come, they fall upon the many, the producing class, who are the sufferers.” The Brazilian President is in a fight for her political survival, but that struggle may leave the country dangerously adrift, with the real pain being felt by the Brazilian people. The country needs stronger and more transparent institutions and good people to lead them. Painful though it may be, Brazil is cleaning house. Dealing with the short-term pain, however, is not easy and Rousseff’s presidency – what is left of it – will be volatile both in the political and economic sense. Seat belts are not optional.

- All pudgy dictator Kim Jong-un needs to do is play hard to get, routinely denounce America, and presto — he’s assured of victory. In exchange for vague promises, which nobody expects him to keep, he’ll get to keep his nukes and free American food to feed his starving country.

The Iran and Cuba surrenders also point to another likely outcome. Both reportedly now have military advisers and fighters in Syria, joining with Russia to defeat our allies among the Syrian rebels.

The Obama appeasement disaster would be complete if North Korean troops join the Russian axis. And why wouldn’t they? Vladimir Putin is a better friend and worse enemy.

- Washington is already at war with ISIL—not only as a matter of formal policy but also in the ongoing bombing campaign underway in Iraq and Syria today. ISIL has already demonstrated its lack of restraint in its dealings with the United States in the 2014 beheadings of American hostages within its reach. Its social-media outlets are already trying to encourage lone-wolf attacks against the United States and its civilian population today. ISIL is currently encouraged by a sense of sanctuary and a sense of military momentum. Making Western attacks against ISIL more effective seems just as likely to put the group on the defensive as to occasion new attacks. In acting more aggressively to stabilize Syria and defeat ISIL, the Obama administration would not be plunging America into a new conflict. Instead, it would be recognizing that it is already engaged in one.

- KARL MARX once described a situation where the weapon of criticism gives way to criticism by weapon. It’s a remark that captures the latest round of tensions between the West and Russia quite well. Are we witnessing a collision between two different systems of values—or one between two different interpretations of a common system of values?

- Minerals are the Taliban's second-biggest income source after narcotics, a United Nations Security Council committee wrote in a February report. The funds have helped sustain the Taliban as it battles for control of the government. In the past month, the group briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz, the first time it's taken a provincial capital since the US invasion in 2001. - There’s data which showcases France’s “rogue” status. In the last five years, France has consistently lost more than 100 days of work a year through strikes for every 1,000 employees. For Germany, it is a fraction of that, at just under four days for 1,000 workers. While in the UK, 19 days lost for 1,000 workers in 2009 – comes above Germany but still nowhere near France. There are few people feeling confident about France’s economic future. Compounded by their 35-hour working week, France’s left-wing policy is coming through great security as their economy continues to unperformed.

- How can hungry men care about whether a rhino or an elephant is killed? You are talking about somebody who has no job, who sleeps on an empty stomach. Do you really think he has time to think about what is happening in the jungle? Prince Harry has everything. Most people here don't.

A man who has no shelter, no food, his focus is only on what he can get to eat.

- Confucianism based government is self checking.

Power checking is more or less a Western problem because its history of theocracy. The Chinese people know that the government is responsible for the well being of the governments thousands of years ago.

In contrast, bad government in the West was, for a long time, seen as God's response to the people's iniquity. Bad governments were sent by God to punish the people.

- In 2011, after the Arab Spring revolutions, China sent emissaries to northern Africa to learn from the mistakes the region’s dictators had made. Apparently the emissaries came back relieved, convinced that China would never be vulnerable to such upheavals because, unlike the Arab dictators, its presidents are replaced every 10 years or so.

This is not to say China’s power structure is never inept or over-assertive. It certainly can miscalculate. Relations with the US follow an irregular pattern, depending on circumstances. China at one point began speaking less aggressively over its territorial claims in the South China Sea because it saw this was driving neighbouring countries closer to the US, not further away.

The key point is that Europeans must think more strategically in their dealings with China. For all the talk about “win-win” situations, when separate national agreements are made with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or on nuclear power stations, European states’ disorderly moves hand China easy opportunities to play divide and rul

- A decade ago, the focus of the Valdai Discussion Club, in the post-9/11 honeymoon that characterized U.S.-Russia relations, was to improve the quality of dialogue between Washington and Moscow. As relations between the two countries have soured, the Valdai group has widened its target audience, increasingly bringing not only more Europeans but civil society representatives of the rising powers of the south and east, especially from China, India and Brazil. So too has the audience shifted for the remarks delivered to the forum by senior Russian officials—including Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, this year’s Valdai offers a prime example of the change in tone. No longer is the emphasis on deepening and solidifying a U.S.-Russia partnership and overcoming remaining Cold War-era hangups that precluded a closer relationship. Now, the Kremlin wants to make its case to the larger world why resisting American dominance of the international system is justified. No longer is Russia seeking to win over American hearts and minds; it is a more global audience that Moscow is trying to reach and convince that Washington under the Obama administration—and most likely under any conceivable successor president—is unreliable and untrustworthy. (A related message is that Washington is also unsuccessful in its efforts; Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, in related remarks, declared that U.S. efforts to isolate Russia have been a failure.)

- "Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal."

- I studied aeronautical maintenance. Any person with basic grasp of aerodynamics would know that given that since F-22s air intakes aren't of variable design (where there is a body in front of the intake like a cone or a wedge or blade) which creates a mach shockwave when planes goes supersonic. And the faster supersonic the more pointy the mach cone is. And when supersonic and/or turbulent air enters the intake it can and does lead to compressor stall. Thus although F-22s airframe may survive Mach-2.5 for short duration, its limited to speed below Mach-2.1. Just like F-16. Want to see what high-speed aircrafts engine intakes look like? Check out SR-71 and MiG-25/31. The angle at which the intake is "cut" is sharp on MiGs while SR-71s have a big cone that is far ahead of intake itself for the very reason I described. F-22 couldn't be that sharp or have round intakes with a cone for stealths sake so as to not increase the amount of directions in which impinging radar waves bounce to.Z

Top Secret information? LOOOL!!! Good luck classifying the laws of physics, aerodynamics and mathematics. As far as the fact that its classified by Pentagon goes - I couldn't care less. I don't live in USA and actually want F-22 to have same thing happen to it as to F-117 over Serbia, including pilot surviving to tell the tale. NSA agents aren't concerned about being caught. That's partly because they work for such a powerful agency, but also because they don't leave behind any evidence that would hold up in court. And if there is no evidence of wrongdoing, there can be no legal penalty, no parliamentary control of intelligence agencies and no international agreement. Thus far, very little is known about the risks and side-effects inherent in these new D weapons and there is almost no government regulation.

Edward Snowden has revealed how intelligence agencies around the world, led by the NSA, are doing their best to ensure a legal vacuum in the Internet. In a recent interview with the US public broadcaster PBS, the whistleblower voiced his concerns that "defense is becoming less of a priority than offense."

Snowden finds that concerning. "What we need to do," he said, "is we need to create new international standards of behavior."

- “We—the U.S. [Department of Defense]—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA [electronic attack] for years,” a senior Air Force official with extensive experience on the F-22 told The Daily Beast. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target [an enemy aircraft such as a Russian-built Sukhoi] Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.”
Categories: Aligned Planets

Sam Watkins: sswam

November 4, 2015 - 17:30

I started writing a set of error handler macros for C, based on “Zed’s Awesome Debug Macros”

The implementation is quite ugly, and depends on a couple of GNU extensions.  This is not ideal, and I would like to improve it if possible.

The idea is to call functions via “wrapper macros”, which take care of checking for errors.  Here’s an example:

#include <stdlib.h> #include <stdio.h> #include <errno.h> #include <string.h> #include "kiss.h" int main(void) { char *space = NULL; FILE *fp = NULL; INFO("Hello"); space = MALLOC(1000); space = REALLOC(space, 10000); fp = FOPEN("asdfasdf", "r"); FCLOSE(fp); FREE(space); INFO("Bye"); exit(0); error: exit(1); }

Output when I run it:

[INFO] test1.c:11 main: Hello [ERROR] test1.c:14 main: fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

Output when I build it with -DNDEBUG and run it:

Hello fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

In most cases, I can add a wrapper macro with one short line of code:

#define MALLOC(...) CHK(malloc, __VA_ARGS__) #define REALLOC(...) CHK(realloc, __VA_ARGS__) #define FREE(ptr) (free(ptr), ptr = NULL) #define FOPEN(path, mode) ({ char *p = path; FILE *rv = fopen(p, mode); CHECK(rv, "fopen failed: %s", p); rv; }) #define FCLOSE(fp) (ZERO(fclose, fp), fp = NULL)

The FOPEN macro is longer. I added the file name to the error message.

FREE is not checking for errors. It sets the pointer to NULL after the free. FCLOSE checks for errors and sets the FILE * to NULL.

I also wrote wrappers for some SDL and SDL_image functions, just a few so far.

Here is a short SDL example using the macros:

and the equivalent code without the macros, which is much longer:

I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I think these wrappers can make C code shorter, safer, more readable, and more maintainable. On the other hand, it might be best to avoid macros, the implementation is ugly, and it uses two GNU extensions: ##__VA_ARGS__, and ({ statement expressions }).

Please let me know what you think. (Without being too scathing, please… I respond better to kindness!)

Categories: Aligned Planets

Craig Sanders: Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne?

November 4, 2015 - 17:26

I’m looking for a part-time Systems Administration role in Melbourne, either in a senior capacity or happy to assist an existing sysadmin or development team.

I’m mostly recovered from a long illness and want to get back to work, on a part-time basis (up to 3 days per week). Preferably in the City or Inner North near public transport. I can commute further if there is scope for telecommuting once I know your systems and people, and trust has been established.

If you have a suitable position available or know of someone who does, please contact me by email.

Why hire me?


  • I have over 20 years experience working with linux and unix
  • Over 30 years in IT, tech support, sysadmin type roles
  • I have excellent problem-solving skills
  • I have excellent English language communication skills
  • I can only work part time so you get a senior sysadmin at a discount part-time price, and I’m able to get things done both quickly and correctly.
  • My programming strengths are in systems administration and automation.
  • I’m a real-life cyborg (at least part-time, on dialysis)


  • My programming weaknesses are in applications development.
  • I can’t travel at all. I have to dialyse every 2nd night.
  • I can’t work late (except via telecommute)
  • I can’t drink alcohol, not even beer.
  • I am on the transplant waiting list. At some time in the next few years I might get a phone call from the hospital and have to drop everything with 1 or 2 hours notice and be out of action for a few weeks.

Full CV available on request.

I’m in the top few percent on ServerFault and Unix & Linux StackExchange sites – if you want to get a preview of my problem-solving and technical communication skills, see my profile at:

CV Summary:

Systems Administrator and Programmer with extensive exposure to a wide variety of hardware and software systems. Excellent fault-diagnosis, problem-solving and system design skills. Strong technical/user support background. Ability to communicate technical concepts clearly to non-IT people. Significant IT Management and supervisory experience.

Particular Skills

  • Unix, Linux
  • Internet-based Services and Security
  • Systems & Network Administration
  • Virtualisation – Openstack, Libvirt, KVM, Xen, Vmware
  • HPC Cluster – slurm, Torque, OpenMPI, pdsh
  • Perl, Python, shell, awk, sed, etc scripting for systems automation
  • Data extraction/conversion, processing, and reporting. (incl. CSV, XML, many others)
  • Web server administation, incl. Apache.
  • Web development HTML, CSS, Javascript, perl, PHP, CGI scripting etc.
  • Postgresql, Mysql, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle
  • DNS – bind8/bind9, nlnet’s nsd & unbound
  • SMTP – postfix, sendmail, exim, qmail.
  • High Level Technical Support
  • Database design & development
  • Mentoring and training of colleagues

Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne? is a post from: Errata

Categories: Aligned Planets