Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On the subject of viruses

I had one myself recently, a rather nasty and virulent cold. My minimal blog output went to zero. I'll understand if you dock my pay.

On the technological and political front, the Stuxnet virus is creating lots of comment and speculation. (via Blackfive) It looks to me like an elegantly crafted exploit and the writers' hats more light than dark, since most reported problems are coming from Iran (bad guys) and Indonesia (elastic views of property rights). Some reports claim Stuxnet uses bugs in unpatched Windows 7 installs,such as those that have been pirated. But that's not all--the Windows computers need to be connected to Siemens control software and devices before the virus really goes to town and does anything that creates a problem. Which, of course, is the situation every script kiddy wants to exploit and brag about at Hackercon. Not. It's looking pretty clear there aren't many situations where you have pirated or un-updated-since-2009 Windows computers AND expensive industrial Siemens-only control systems, and one would be the Bushehr nuclear complex in Iran. That exists primarily to create a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel. Israel, by the way, containing an awful lot of very clever computer geeks that don't feel like becoming radioactive gas, thanks all the same.

There has been some vaporing in the press about how this presents an opportunity for terrorism, extortion, yadda yadda. My cynical nature wonders if these critics also think Israel should just lie back and take it. My practical nature notes that given the clever stuff Stuxnet uses and the wide-ranging technical expertise needed -- not to mention a significant intelligence operation to find all the necessary information like chipset security certificates and model numbers of the centrifuges--that your average jihadi is going to stick to goat manure IEDs. Really, it is looking like this is only major government-league stuff.

And it's not like this hasn't been done before. In a very clever trick, in 1982 the CIA got the Soviet Union to blow up its own gas pipeline using pre-hacked control chips the Soviets stole from us themselves. Even better, they had to check every single element for the hack (a non-obvious one) after the explosion to make sure it didn't happen again. This will happen with Stuxnet too. Sure, everyone knows about it now but the Iranians can't be sure what else got infected. They will have to check *everything*, possibly with computers already infected with a "don't notice that" virus, and it will take lots and lots of time and effort -- that won't be available for purifying uranium and making nukes. Sounds like a win to me ...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Funnies

-Schlock Mercenary Money is not an issue.
-TwoLumps Warning, contains puns.
-Girl Genius How to use a marshmallow gun as a weapon.
-Digger Sweetgrass Voice has helpers.
-No Need For Bushido Poisoned arrows, three Demons, and where's Ina?
-Gone with the Blastwave One final service to the army...

Not Updated, fie!

-Delta Bravo Sierra. Will be on hiatus for a bit due to some Sekrit Project
-Dresden Codak
-My Ninja Family
-Argghhh-onauts is counting headlights.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's enough to make you question Darwin

I got a letter today! The envelope just said "Sarah Palin --personal". I know, you didn't know your Humble Snarkatron was on such terms with the Terra from Wasilla. Neither did I. Quite probably neither does Sarah, since it was *really* from the NRC. Even Sarah's enemies agree that she has a distinctive and idiomatic speaking and writing style, none of which was in evidence in this letter. Oh yes, and the return address was Washington DC, not Alaska. My keen scientific mind gloms on to little discrepancies like that.

The envelope contained not one, but TWO pages of direct-mail drivel plus the usual "survey" designed to raise bloodpressure and donation amounts. Because yes, it was ANOTHER request for money. So I did what I usually do, scribble a note and send it back in the prepaid envelope.

"Even assuming you weasels have Sarah Palin's permission to use her name for this stunt, why did you send out two pages of pure drivel that sounds nothing like her? You really do think we are stupid, don't you. Still using the same idiotic and meaningless survey to try and increase panic-driven donations. You still support lousy candidates. I will still send MY money to individual *conservative* candidates. And SarahPAC. Now stop playing games and do something useful. You have a very poor track record of spending money wisely, and poor judgement of candidates. No more Castles, or Scozzafavas! Do you understand?"

What a bunch of idiots.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Funnies

-Schlock Mercenary Dr. Chandra, will I dream?
-TwoLumps Twitter does not involve actual birds.
-Girl Genius Zola found again.
-Digger Is taunting a demon really a good idea?
-No Need For Bushido New page Monday!
-My Ninja FamilyI didn't know ninjas hunted mimes! BONUS: Snark Patrol mentioned by name for sending viewers to My Ninja Family! Thanks, guys! I feel so special ...

Not Updated, fie!

-Delta Bravo Sierra. Will be on hiatus for a bit due to some Sekrit Project
-Dresden Codak
-Gone with the Blastwave Got sick on trip to Sweden. Sigh.
-Argghhh-onauts is busy ducking.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Service is Remembrance

This day is not now nor will it ever be a day of "service". Cleaning parks won't prevent another massacre. I will remember. I will prepare. I will be ready.

Reposted, from too long ago .... because someone did not "tolerate" John Tobin's right to live, a right even more fundamental than freedom of religion.

John J. Tobin, 47
Kenilworth, New Jersey
Senior Vice President of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., Finpro division.
Killed in the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001.

That's the newspaper stuff. Here's the rest of the story.

From da Bronx. Even though he was an executive, he wasn't the type that reveled in status symbols like expensive watches and fancy cars. John Tobin made sure he got his work done in time to coach his son's Little League team. He worked hard, but was modest about it. When he asked someone new to the firm to let him know if there was anything he could do, he meant it. Regardless of their status, regardless of how busy he was, if they came to him he would help.

John Tobin didn't even work in the World Trade Center -- he was there for a meeting. His death made his co-workers realize just how much they had relied on his cheerfulness, his unobtrusive kindness ... his messy desk.

For his wife Barbara, children Jennifer and Sean, sister Margaret, brother Michael, sister-in-law Kathleen, and two nieces, their world has become much smaller. And so has ours.

Marsh & McLennan lost 295 people on September 11.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

We're not Europe, get over it

Some people just want to see the world burn. Others, like our current President, don't understand the meaning of the term "American exceptionalism" and cheerfully look forward to us splitting up into little sub-countries like the Balkans. Because we're so smug with our Coca-cola and big cars and not having to stand in line for bread and stuff, like they had to. And look, we're arguing vehemently with each other, just like all internecine wars start.

American exceptionalism (certain presidents and Europeans, kindly make a note) means we're different, not better. European countries (and the Balkans) came about because a bunch of peasants minding their own business got incorporated by successively grandiose warlords into larger and larger tax-territories. Government by accretion. Since they weren't *asked* about joining up with those dog-eating vermin peasants in the next valley they'd been feuding with for the last few thousand years, the glue of comity created by this legal fiction was, shall we say, not very strong. Of course when the heavy hand of authority was removed, or weakened, the natural impulse to draw boundaries sprang loose, much like the recoil spring of a 1911 suddenly released from its confinement. Not that I know anything about that. Or hunting for a violently-ejected bushing cap...

The United States of America, on the other hand, was consciously created by the people. We even say so in the very first words of the highest law of the land. We don't really care much about the strangers knocking at the door wanting in--mostly we just want to be sure they agree with the law we created and the reasons behind it. How can you keep a good ethnic feud going if ANYONE can be an American? We marry around a lot, we move a lot, we make friends wherever we want, and unless they go to the same house of worship most Americans would be quite puzzled to identify their neighbor's religion. We remember that everyone here, even the Native Americans, came here from somewhere else. So, we don't have those ancient boundaries to fracture around. The Balkans had it easy, they'd got it all set up and in place for thousands of years. Plus, with the moving around thing, we have friends and relations and ties ALL OVER the country. I am not splitting to form Cascadia if that means I need a passport to visit my friends in Maine.

There are times when I, too, get tired and just want to pull the plug and go straight to Mad Max anarchy, but it won't happen. And that's a good thing. Even though this slow fingernails-on-chalkboard political process is driving me nuts.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday Funnies

-Schlock Mercenary Sewing a suit, sewing the dura mater, what's the difference?
-TwoLumps Snooch likes to sing-a, not think-a
-Girl Genius Zeetha et al. are back at Lucrezia's secret lab.
-Digger Keep moving, Ed!
-No Need For Bushido It wasn't Ina.

Not Updated, fie!

-Delta Bravo Sierra. Will be on hiatus for a bit due to some Sekrit Project
-Dresden Codak
-My Ninja Family
-Gone with the Blastwave Allegedly a trip to Sweden postponed the monthly update. Check back later!
-Argghhh-onauts thinks everyone can hover.