Friday, 27 November

01:56

Bent Over A Barrel [QC RSS]

mamas don't let your babies grow up to be war clowns

Thursday, 26 November

23:35

Geeking out with UEFI, again [OSnews]

A few weeks ago, we linked to an article that went in-depth into UEFI, and today, we have a follow-up.

But the recent activity reminded me that there was one thing I couldn’t figure out how to do at the time: Enumerate all the available UEFI variables from within Windows. If you remember, Windows has API calls to get and set UEFI variable values, but not to enumerate them. So I started doing some more research to see if there was any way to do that – it’s obviously possible as the UEFI specs describe it, a UEFI shell can easily do it, and Linux does it (via a file system).

My research took me to a place I wouldn’t have expected.

We can always go deeper.

21:14

v7/x86: the last true UNIX, ported to x86 [OSnews]

V7/x86 is a port of the Seventh Edition of the UNIX operating system to the x86 (i386) based PC. UNIX V7 was the last general distribution (around 1979) to come from the Research group at Bell Labs, the original home of UNIX. The port was done mostly around 1999 when “Ancient UNIX” source code licenses first became available, and was revised for release, with some enhancements, during 2006-7.

The distribution includes the full UNIX Version 7 operating system, with source code, pre-built binaries, man pages, and original Version 7 documentation. Also included are a custom UNIX-style x86 assembler, an ACK-based C compiler, and several key early UCB software components such as the C shell, the editors ex and vi, and the pager more.

I’m inclined to try and run this virtually, to see just how bastardised and messy UNIX has become in our current UNIX derivatives.

20:28

Link [Scripting News]

I am thankful for my car. It's really weird but since the pandemic started, I've had this huge appreciation for what a fine bit of engineering it is. For a relatively big car it handles really well, esp driving on muddy dirt roads, which I do every day. It has more headroom than any car I've owned, which is cool because my torso is huge. In most cars, designed for normal-size people, I hit my head getting in, and have to scrunch my body uncomfortably just to fit. I sail in and out of the Forester, and I can sit any way I want. You'd be amazed how important this is. It also has technological flourishes which while not as flashy as a Tesla, still blow my mind. For example, the car likes to stay in lane. You could have a collision if you really insist, but you would know you were doing it. Very rational design. But the biggest thing is this -- for a civilization that is tottering on the edge of oblivion in so many ways, if this is the pinnacle, the highest point we ever reach, I have to say, well done human species. Very nice work.

Link [Scripting News]

A bunch of big shots, including yours truly, are pretending we work for Gruber, after we all admitted that we couldn't work for anyone. Here's my vignette. "Dave has been ordered to add a feature to the app, and asked to explain why it’ll take so long to do. Finally Gruber in a fit of frustration asks for the source so he can add it himself over the holiday weekend. Dave gives him the code and starts work on a fresh project."

18:14

17:28

Link [Scripting News]

I’m thankful for WDST, a great rock music radio station, as good as KFOG, on the radio dial where I live.

Link [Scripting News]

I'm thankful for the great food in Woodstock. For such a small town, there are an incredible number of great places to eat. Much of it is very affordable. I've lived in Berkeley, New Orleans and New York -- places known for great food -- and the food here is that good. And the farms are right here, so the food is often incredibly fresh. For a good bagel however, you still have to go to NYC.

Link [Scripting News]

I'm thankful to have survived the virus at least this far. Every day is a new day in this wonderful world. Of course I'm thankful Donald Trump is now a has-been, one-term, washed-up, lame-duck, impeached, loser. I have avoided listening to him and reading his tweets, all the time knowing they were possibly going to affect our lives, always in a bad way. At least for the time-being it feels like that is over.

Link [Scripting News]

I'm sure we've lost a lot in the last four years that we don't yet know about, especially in 2020. But the United States is still the United States. Journalism tends to make it appear worse than it is. In day to day life, at least where I live, things are much the same as before. The store shelves are still full. You can still buy a wonderful meal. Want to buy a car? You can. The roads are clear. Gas stations have gas. Supply chains work. The health care system is a mess, as before, but much worse right now. The laws for the most part are enforced (except for you know who and his friends). Western civilization created and tested three highly effective vaccines in record time. We did this. To Americans who hate elites, if you understand these sentences, you might want to think again about living in a country that values education, science and math enough to get these things done, pronto, when needed, to save your life. Yours. You. Now we're going to try to get our political system to work for us again. Maybe you can possibly not get in the way of that? I know that's a lot to hope for. :-)

Urgent: FCC rules [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: call on the FCC not to bend rules for Faux News and the Murdoch family.

Women's rights defender facing charges of terrorism [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned in Salafi Arabia for women's right to drive and has been jailed almost three years, now faces some sort of charges of terrorism.

Soybeans and deforestation [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

It turns out to be difficult to avoid buying soybeans grown on deforested land. I think the demand for soybeans is so high that any beans that are grown will be bought by someone.

The demand for soybeans is high because people are eating so much meat. Indeed, a large fraction of Americans eat so much meat that it is dangerous for their health. It also fuels global heating, through cattle-generated methane as well as through deforestation. Perhaps the real solution is to tax meat so much that people won't eat so much meat.

Give-away to business [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The conman's "infrastructure program" was meant as a give-away to business, but the US really does need to build and maintain its infrastructure. It should do so in a way that protects the environment and reduces global heating.

Ethnic massacres [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Ethiopia claims that informally organized gangs of Tigrayans massacred hundreds of local residents belonging to other Ethiopian ethnic groups. It also says that other local Tigrayans protected their neighbors from the massacre.

Thugs get off easy [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*[Boston's official thugs] whom the department found had stolen, committed fraud, attacked co-workers, or drew guns on their colleagues were allowed to quietly resign or retire without facing charges. [Thugs] who attacked family members, threatened civilians, and drunkenly crashed their cars remain on the force today.* In addition, [thugs] that were prosecuted for theft, and for lying to officials, got off easy.

If you think that, because you are a cop, you should not be punished for crimes, that means you are a thug, and a would-be police department needs you gone.

Permanent big-lie campaign [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Republicans may be setting up a permanent big-lie campaign that will claim that Biden stole the election.

As far as I know, the wrecker is not obsessed with eliminating any particular demographic group. This year he adopted a plan that would bring about the death of many blacks and Hispanics, but only instrumentally. However, aside from that, he is as evil as a Nazi.

Education policies [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Defenders of US Public Schools Call on Biden to Ditch Trump's Disastrous Education Policies — and Obama's Too.*

I agree with those goals, including the goal of diversity among students in public schools. Diversity in class contributes to education in a specific way: it can help students get used to knowing and relating to people of different backgrounds.

Alas, I don't see much hope Biden will choose to do anything better than Obama did it.

Oval shaped rooms [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) *Staff Slowly Introducing Biden To Oval-Shaped Rooms For Smoother Transition To White House.*

Building standards [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

It has been proved that the London apartment building fire was caused by companies that knowingly disregarded building standards to made the building a firetrap. What follows from that?

I am sure people can think of more effective regulatory systems. The reason they are not in place in the UK is that the government has catered too much to business. Corbyn would have fixed that.

But I have two other recommendations that may shock the people who expect that business will always be above human beings.

  • Place criminal charges against the individuals who made these dangerous decisions that resulted in deaths. That will teach people not to expect to they can get away with this. How about 72 charges of homicide for each one?
  • Prohibit companies from being owned by anything like a private equity fund. Give those funds a deadline to liquidate their assets and return the funds to the investors; on that date, seize whatever property they still own. In the interim, don't allow funds to take any profit out of these companies; that profit should stay in the individual company until it is sold. The buyer will therefore pay for that profit, but this will eliminate the fund's incentive to drain the company dry before selling it.

Future authoritarians [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Bernie Sanders: *How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key.*

Sanders asks the Democrats, "Which side are you on?" We must all ask each Democrat that question.

Sanders for President in 2024!

Stay away from Qatar [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Qatar's thugs strip-searched passengers searching for the mother of an abandoned baby. It appears that the mother had flown out already, and that she was compelled to abandon the baby and flee, lest she be punished severely for sex outside of marriage.

But they seem to have found her and will now charge her with attempted murder.

You do not want to be in Qatar.

A Short Note on Thanksgiving Day [Whatever]

Notwithstanding the existential trash fire that 2020 has been on a global and national scale, I can say that on a personal level I have had a lot to be thankful for, and that today I am going to set aside a little time to reflect on that, in between, of course, stuffing myself silly with food. I hope that you also have had things to be thankful for in 2020, and that you set aside a little time to reflect on them as well. And also stuff yourself silly.

Have a good Thanksgiving, folks. See you tomorrow.

— JS

16:42

Link [Scripting News]

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Link [Scripting News]

A wild turkey came to visit the other day! 🚀

Link [Scripting News]

Poll: Which company's products do you buy more than the others?

15:49

Disk and File I/O performance with ETW traces: Why is System doing so much stuff? [The Old New Thing]

Last time, I shared some preliminary notes on analyzing Disk and File I/O performance with ETW traces. Here are some notes on the mysterious System file. (These notes also apply to Process Monitor.)

What is this System process, and why is it doing a ton of I/O?

The System process represents work done in the kernel by drivers, not associated with any particular process. There are a few common reasons for activity in System.

One is I/O issued by drivers, such as anti-malware. You can identify at least some of those anti-malware-initiated I/O by looking for I/O issued to the anti-malware’s databases or executables.

Another is delayed writes from the disk cache. When an application writes to a file, you’ll see a File I/O logged for the application’s write operation, but that one usually completes into the disk cache. Dirty data in the disk cache is lazily written back to the drive, and that work gets charged to the System.

There’s also a counterpart to lazy-writing, and that’s prefetching. If the system detects sequential I/O, it will issue a speculative read-ahead from the file into the disk cache. These speculative reads are charged to System as well.

This work done by System means that a raw tally of file I/O activity may double-count some of the I/O.

Consider an application that reads from a 64KB file as a series of sixteen 4KB reads. If you look at the File I/O operations for that file, you may see the following:

Line # Process I/O Type Offset Size
1 contoso.exe Read 0 4,096
2 contoso.exe Read 4,096 4,096
3 System Read 4,096 61,440
4 contoso.exe Read 8,192 4,096
5 contoso.exe Read 12,288 4,096
6 contoso.exe Read 16,384 4,096
17 contoso.exe Read 61,440 4,096
Total       126,976

Let’s walk through what happened.

At line 1, the application issued a 4KB read to read the start of the file. This read went through normally.

At line 2, the application issued a 4KB read to read the next part of the file. The system realized that the application appears to be doing a sequential read, so it initiated its own 60KB read from the file in anticipation of further reads coming soon. That system-initiated read was logged as line 3.

The reads from lines 2 and 3 were coalesced at the disk layer, and a single 60KB read was issued to the disk (not shown here). The data went into the disk cache, and the first 4KB of the data was also returned to the application.

For rotational media, once you pay for the cost of seeking the disk head to the right spot, the additional cost of a 60KB read over a 4KB read is negligible. You may as well get the extra 56KB while you’re already there, since getting there was the hard part.

At line 4, the application issued another 4KB read. The system’s speculation paid off, and the read was satisfied from the disk cache.

The same thing happens for lines 5 through 17. These reads were successfully speculated by the system, and they were all satisfied from the disk cache.

This is great: Read-ahead speculation and the disk cache made the application run much faster. But if all you look at is the Totals, it looks like we read 124KB of data from the disk: 64KB issued by the application, and another 60KB mysteriously issued by System. You might wonder “Why is System coming in and issuing all this I/O? Can’t the system just leave me alone?”

But now you know: System was issuing all this I/O in order to make your I/O run faster.

Bonus chatter: There’s another category of prefetch which occurs at application launch. The system traces the I/O operations performed by an application when it starts up, and it uses this historical information the next time the application starts up to decide which data to request from the hard drive before allowing the application to start. This serves two purposes: First of all, it gets the data ready before the application requests it. What’s more, since it’s a bulk request, the disk system can reorder the I/O operations to be more efficient. For example, if an application typically reads a file at offset 0, then offset 327,680, and then offset 4096, the prefetch will issue all the requests at once, and the disk I/O system will probably combine the reads at offset 0 and 4096 together.

Bonus bonus chatter: Yet another category of prefetch comes from Superfetch. One of the things that Superfetch does is predict that certain pieces of data are going to be used and use low-priority I/O to get that data into memory ahead of time.

Bonus bonus bonus chatter: If you have a very fast SSD, the system realizes this and turns off Superfetch, ReadyBoot, and the defragmenter.

The post Disk and File I/O performance with ETW traces: Why is System doing so much stuff? appeared first on The Old New Thing.

15:21

Music Production on Guix System [Planet GNU]

The recent release of Guix 1.2.0 was accompanied by a release song (lyrics). Let me tell you how this happened and how you can use Guix System for your own music productions!

Collage of cables, a rack-mounted USB audio interface, a Chapman Stick, and a screenshot of Ardour

It all started only three days before the 1.2.0 release when someone on the #guix IRC channel brought up the tradition of OpenBSD people to write, record, and publish at least one song alongside their system releases.

A wistful look at my neglected instruments later I felt compelled to take this as a challenge: with less than three days to go could we actually compose, record, and publish a song using nothing but free software despite a jam-packed weekend schedule? I wanted to find out.

Inspiration and Planning

The working title “Ode to One Two Oh” was an obvious choice, being a quasi-palindrome, and its five syllables suggested a time signature of 5/4. Where to from here?

As I stared at my Emacs session with a Guile REPL (read, eval, print, loop) buffer I tried to recall what the letters “REPL” stand for. Clearly, in my case the “P” was for “Procrastination”, but what about the others? I had stumbled upon the chorus: a description of the Guix development process. Contribute as others before us have shared their contributions (Reciprocation), review patches and discuss (Evaluation), hack on something else (Procrastination), and repeat (Loop).

The words suggested a simple descending melody, which would need to be elevated by a somewhat less simple chord progression. After trying out a few harmonies on the Grand Stick I remembered how terrible my memory was and decided that I would need to scatter the harmonies onto a canvas, listen to the whole progression, and adjust the lines as needed — all without having to build up muscle memory for harmonies and progressions I may very well end up discarding in the process.

This is where my composition workflow probably deviates from most other people. Many would use a MIDI sequencer for that kind of approach, whereas I decided to hone in on the exact harmonies with an unlikely tool: the unparalleled music engraving application Lilypond. Lilypond sports a versatile language that covers primitive note input, the means of combining them to larger phrases and musical ideas, and the means of abstraction — it allows for musical ideas to be named and recombined in different shapes. For everything the language doesn’t account for with specialized syntax I can simply switch to Guile Scheme. No other notation software is as flexible and malleable as Lilypond. I let it generate both sheet music and a MIDI file — the sheet music is displayed in a PDF viewer in Emacs and the MIDI file sent to fluidsynth (because I trust my ears over my eyes).

lilypond draft.ly && \
  fluidsynth -r 48000 -i -n -a alsa \
    ~/soundfonts/FluidR3GM.sf2 draft.midi

I always try to keep the duration of my stay in the MIDI world at a minimum, because a composition workflow that is firmly rooted in MIDI tends to result in music that sounds sterile or robotic, an undesirable quality that can be hard to eradicate later. So I put them aside and focused on another part of the song. Mirroring the quasi-palindrome of the title, the song’s structure would be A B C B A. With the smooth chords of the B section locked down I walked up to the Grand Stick (I mounted it on a modified microphone stand for more flexibility) and tapped out a contrasting two-handed funky bass line to the click of a metronome.

Time to record!

Audio Recording

How does the signal of my stringed instrument make it into a file on my computer’s disk? The Stick’s stereo signal feeds into two daisy-chained Axoloti boards with hand-crafted signal processing tuned to the peculiarities of my instrument; the stereo output of the DSP boards is connected to two inputs on my USB audio interface (the Tascam US16x08, though any class-compliant audio interface will work just fine), which presents itself to the system as a 16 channel input sound card.

Exposed Axoloti boards feeding on a Chapman Stick audio signal

The computer runs JACK 1 to shuffle the incoming signals on all channels to other JACK clients (audio applications and plugins). I use patchage to conveniently wire up inputs and outputs in an interactive graphical signal flow diagram.

audio and MIDI signal flow in patchage

The center piece of my recording session is the venerable Ardour, an incredibly flexible and polished digital audio workstation (DAW) that natively supports JACK and also serves as an LV2 audio plugin host.

Okay, the Stick is ready to be recorded, but I prefer to record a drum track first instead of playing to the click of a metronome. But wait, I really can’t record the drums now! This is an apartment and the neighbors are asleep. Oh, and I’m a lousy funk drummer. Let’s cheat!

Custom drum patterns in Hydrogen

My drum machine of choice is Hydrogen. It lets me create any number of arbitrarily long patterns, combine them, and — that’s crucially important — sync up with other JACK applications such as Ardour. I toggled a button in Ardour to let it take control of the JACK transport, meaning that when I start recording in Ardour the drum machine starts playing in sync — perfect! Let’s roll!

Rough Processing

After frustrating minutes had turned into exhausting hours of recording the bass line (eventually resorting to punching in and out instead of re-recording everything whenever I made an audible mistake) I put my arranger’s hat on and tried to get a sense for what might still be missing. The recorded track sounded rather “flat”; after all this was the “raw” signal straight from the instrument’s pre-amplifier. Time to spruce it up and approximate the final sound!

Over the years the selection of audio plugins that I’m using to process my recordings has narrowed down to few more than the Calf suite of LV2 plugins. I will admit to being an extremely superficial person, so a big factor in choosing the Calf plugins is the consistent, very pretty and intuitive user interface they present. What made me stick to the Calf plugins, though, is that they also sound really good. Furthermore, they make it easy to tweak the many parameters and come with helpful diagnostics (such as listening only to the changed frequencies, or spectral visualizations, etc).

Selection of Calf plugins

First thing I do is to use light compression to even out slight variations in dynamics. Calf Mono Compressor does the job here. The principle is simple: a compressor lowers the volume when a sound gets loud and it raises the volume of the resulting signal according to the dialed in makeup gain. It has a bunch of other knobs to control how far ahead it will look to watch out for loud sounds, another to prevent “pumping” (too rapid activation and deactivation), another to smooth out the “knee” of the threshold curve, etc — but what it really comes down to is: at what level should the signal be reduced, by how much, and what’s the gain to make up for the overall loss in volume.

One piece of advice: resist the temptation of overdoing this! Compression may make the sound punchier, but don’t throw away all dynamics here or you’ll risk draining the life from your hard-earned waveforms. So I stick with a ratio of no more than two, keep the makeup gain fairly low, and the threshold somewhat high to only trigger the compressor in the upper fifth of the dynamic range.

Next: equalization. This is to scoop out an unpleasant character by attenuating certain frequency ranges. Again, the Calf suite has got me covered. A five band EQ is sufficient as I don’t want to be tempted to make sharp cuts in the frequency spectrum of the signal. As a general rule I don’t boost any frequencies but primarily cut. Here, too, the key is to be gentle. Don’t cut more than two or three decibels or you’ll end up with a comically filtered sound. (Exceptions apply for drum recordings, but thankfully we dodged that bullet by using Hydrogen.) If you find that you need to cut or boost more than that, chances are that there are problems with your recording. Don’t try to compensate for problems with post-processing that could have been avoided by improving the recording quality. I scoop out the mids a tiny bit and cut out the very low bass frequencies that don’t contribute anything more than a rumble.

MIDI Resurgence

With the bass line and the drums in place it was time to revisit the harmonies for part B. I really did want to record them with my very red virtual analog hardware synthesizer, but when I brought it into my tiny work room I realized that I had ran out of space on my lap — I had run out of space on my desk months ago, and with all those audio cables piling up on the floor even that was no option.

Lilypond generated a MIDI file earlier, so I sighed and told Ardour to import it. I assigned the ancient electric piano plugin mdaEPiano as a synthesizer to the track, and expanded the track vertically to drag around every MIDI note event by hand, refining the notes and adding tiny timing and velocity imperfections to make it seem as if a human played them. To paper over the clearly audible undesirable imperfections of the plugin’s sound generation I added some Calf Reverb (for the graphics people: adding reverb is roughly equivalent to using the blur tool in a graphics application). I could have picked one of the many better synthesizers and emulators, but we go way back, this plugin and I.

MIDI support in Ardour is really well thought-out as you don’t need to ever leave the main window, so you are always surrounded by audio context. You just expand the track vertically and have as much access to the events as you want. This approach may be a little unusual for those who are used to MIDI sequencers, but for my purposes it is close to perfect.

Audio and MIDI tracks in Ardour

Lyrics and Vocals: Human vs Machine

At this point things were coming together nicely, but we only had lyrics (a handful of words, really) for the chorus. Not enough for a song, but just a little too much for a laundry list. So I turned to IRC again where our resident Debian ambassador and assuredly human person Vagrant Cascadian happened to volunteer a stroke of genius: what if the lyrics were composed entirely of typos in package descriptions that had been fixed since the last release? Vagrant carefully reordered the words to a poignant poem, bringing them alive as the voice of the adversarial machine, a symbol of the waning hold of the bugs and errors on our way to the next release. What would be more fitting than to let the machine croak these words in the release song?

I started up the Festival speech synthesis software and a few Scheme expressions later the inimitable monotone of none other than the entity known only as cmu_us_fem_cg droned the words into an audio file that I promptly imported into Ardour, and processed with the GxDetune plugin, Calf Vintage Delay, and some reverb.

I did my best between bites of a Monday pre-release lunch to perform the role of the human contemplating this cycle of creation through hacking by recording three vocal lines (two low, one high) for the chorus.

Final touches

With about half an hour or so left before the release announcement it became clear that there would be no “audio mastering” in the traditional sense. I put on my monitoring headphones (flat frequency response for an “objective” mixing experience) and adjusted the volume levels, plugin settings, and faded in and out the noisy edges of each take. I also added a few more effects: a phaser on the Chapman Stick track to emphasize that this is supposed to be funk; a crossover (Calf X-Over 2 Band) and three audio busses to first process the low bass frequencies separately from the high frequencies (e.g. to use different amplifier simulations) and then to rejoin them; and a limiter on the master bus to avoid any volume spikes above 0dB and to compress the mix.

Mixing tracks in Ardour

I exported the final mix as a Vorbis OGG audio file and sent it off to Ludovic to have it included in the release announcement.

Concluding Thoughts

Some of the tools used in the production

So what’s the verdict? Is the result perfect? Absolutely not! But I do want to point out that any and all mistakes and imperfections are entirely due to my own lack of skill and time — they are not the result of the limitations of free software. A more skilled audio engineer would certainly not be limited by a system like the one I used, a system composed entirely of freedom-respecting software that is made extra reliable by the user-empowering and liberating features of Guix System.

About GNU Guix

GNU Guix is a transactional package manager and an advanced distribution of the GNU system that respects user freedom. Guix can be used on top of any system running the Hurd or the Linux kernel, or it can be used as a standalone operating system distribution for i686, x86_64, ARMv7, and AArch64 machines.

In addition to standard package management features, Guix supports transactional upgrades and roll-backs, unprivileged package management, per-user profiles, and garbage collection. When used as a standalone GNU/Linux distribution, Guix offers a declarative, stateless approach to operating system configuration management. Guix is highly customizable and hackable through Guile programming interfaces and extensions to the Scheme language.

15:14

Thanksgiving security updates [LWN.net]

Security updates have been issued by openSUSE (blueman, chromium, firefox, LibVNCServer, postgresql10, postgresql12, thunderbird, and xen), Slackware (bind), SUSE (bluez, kernel, LibVNCServer, thunderbird, and ucode-intel), and Ubuntu (mutt, poppler, thunderbird, and webkit2gtk).

11:35

CodeSOD: Classic WTF: Functional Encryption [The Daily WTF]

It's Thanksgiving Day in the US. Yesterday, we looked at a classic "encryption" story, and today, we should all be thankful that we don't have to support this encryption code....

11:21

Grrl Power #896 – Vive le testicules! [Grrl Power]

Enjoy this comic while having a happy Thanksgiving if you’re in a country that does that on this day and also if you’re so inclined. If not, then simply enjoy this comic, and bank my well wishes for the regional holiday of your choosing.

So, on the one hand, this is the most action Maxima has given a guy in a long time, so I guess Brüt can brag about that. On the other hand, this would be such a bad time to get a fear boner. At least the lights are out.

I’m not sure if catastrophic damage to one piece of the ground in NYC would knock out like 6 blocks as shown, but who knows, maybe Wench ripped up some massive bank of transformers, and not just a few pipes. One might like to think that major centers of business would have some redundancies in their infrastructure, given human stupidity, laziness, lack of foresight and wildly overstretched budgets, I would easily believe a single incident with a poorly planned groundbreaking is just as likely to knock out all the traffic lights in a 60 block radius.


Hey, speaking of books that were a trilogy for a long time and a 4th book only recently came out, the Good Intentions series by Elliott Kay is one of those. I prefer books in series I like to come out in a relatively swift and predictable pace, but with the last two series I’ve mentioned, it gave me an excuse to get all the audiobooks for them before diving into the 4th, because I knew if I didn’t refresh myself first, I’d be reading the 4th book and be all “Wait, who’s that again?”

Oh, and ignore the reviews for the 4th book complaining about how there’s a bunch of SJW stuff in it. I think those people were mostly complaining about the main characters getting away with punching out a bunch of nazis demonstrating at their college. (Which in my estimation tells you more about the people leaving those reviews than anything about the book itself.) I’d call that a spoiler but it’s a tiny section of the book. Given that the main character remembers his past lives, one of which was killed by nazis, him wanting to punch them out makes sense for more than just the usual reasons. This book is just as good as any of the others in the series.


Double res version will be posted over at Patreon. Feel free to contribute as much as you like!

11:07

Jonathan Dowland: Touched by the Hand of God [Planet Debian]

picture of a vinyl record

In honour of Diego Maradona (RIP), this morning's cobweb-shifter is New Order's "Touched by the Hand of God"

09:49

The grateful pumpkin [Seth's Blog]

It might not be autumn where you live, but the iconography of the large orange pumpkin travels around the world.

People carve faces into them, stick a candle inside and use them to ward off the darkness.

Perhaps we could consider writing on one instead. Inscribing all the things we’re grateful for, all the people who show up in our lives. We could highlight our heroes, our friends, the selfless people who show up for the community instead of simply looking for a shortcut… We could even remind ourselves of the systems, situations and dynamics that we take for granted.

Seeing that pumpkin every day is a great way to remind myself of how extraordinarily lucky I am. Even when it seems as though the news is an unending litany of selfishness and tragedy, it’s possible to find someone who made a difference.

Thank you for caring, for showing up and especially, for leading.

06:28

1456 [Looking For Group]

The post 1456 appeared first on Looking For Group.

02:21

Playing With My 50mm Lens [Whatever]

I take a lot of pictures with my Nikon, and mostly I take them with my 28mm-300mm zoom lens, because it has (obviously, if you’re a photo geek) a wide range of focal length options baked in. With that said, I also have a fixed 50mm lens which I sometimes use because it has better light sensitivity (f/1.8), and because it’s a bit more of a challenge to set the composition and keep things focused. I swapped out the lenses today and proceeded to take pictures of family and pets. I thought you might like to see some of the results.

Me, looking off to the side.

Krissy, smiling into the camera.

Athena, looking off to the side.

Smudge, looking smug.

Not bad, I think.

— JS

OMG Turkeys 2020 [QC RSS]

happy thanksgiving, please stay safe

02:14

Link [Scripting News]

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Everyone be careful out there.

Link [Scripting News]

Obviously Stacey Abrams should be the next chair of the Democratic Party. Just look at the electoral map. There's the great state of Georgia, a solid blue in a sea of red. Someone figured it out. Someone was determined it would work. Someone made it work. Another good candidate would be Pete Buttigieg. Because the Dems need to talk to white people. It may not be popular, but if they could steal ten percent of the Trump base from the Repubs, things would go a lot smoother.

01:28

Link [Scripting News]

Where did people get the idea that this holiday season could be like last year's holiday season? Andrew Cuomo says it's commercials, and I think he's right. Check out this Etsy commercial. A feel-good holiday dinner. No masks. People of all generations together, indoors, no social distancing. Where did they get the idea that this kind of ad was appropriate in 2020? I'm sure the question came up.

Link [Scripting News]

Political parties must become social nets. We're going through yet another Democratic transition where the voters are being forgotten as the insiders turn to governance. Our job is simply to give them money and vote. That's why it's working so poorly, why polling isn't able to read the electorate. Why as soon as 2022, the Dems could lose the House and then Biden will surely be impeached. We need to organize, so we can help -- using the best networking tools available.

Link [Scripting News]

Occam‘s News reports the only reasons Trump pardons: 1. He’s being paid $ to do it. 2. He’s being blackmailed.

Link [Scripting News]

Want to fuck up the Repubs? Move to a red state.

00:14

Shirish Agarwal: Women state in India and proposal for corporates in Indian banking [Planet Debian]

Gradle and Kotlin in Debian

Few months back, I was looking at where Gradle and Kotlin were in Debian. They still seem to be a work in progress. I found the Android-tools salsa repo which tells me the state of things. While there has been movement on both, a bit more on Kotlin, it still seems it would take a while. For kotlin, the wiki page is most helpful as well as the android-tool salsa kotlin board page . Ironically, some of the more important info. is shared in a blog post which ideally should also have been reflected in kotlin board page . I did see some of the bugs so know it’s pretty much dependency hell. I can only congratulate and encourage Samyak Jain and Raman Sarda. I also played a bit with the google-android-emulator-installer which is basically a hook which downloads the binary from google. I do not know what the plans are, but perhaps in the future they also might be build locally, who knows. Just sharing/stating here so it’s part of my notes whenever I wanna see what’s happening 🙂

Women in India

I am sure some of you might remember my blog post from last year. It is almost close to a year 2020 now and the question to be asked is, has much changed ? After a lot or hue and cry the Government of India shared the NCRB data of crimes against women and caste crimes. The report shared that crimes against women had risen by 7.3% in a year, similarly crimes against lower castes also went by similar percentage . With the 2020 pandemic, I am sure the number has gone up more. And there is a possibility that just like last year, next year the Government would cite the pandemic and say no data. This year they have done it for migrant deaths during lockdown , for job losses due to the pandemic and so on and so forth. So, it will be no surprise if the Govt. says about NCRB data next year as well. Although media has been showing some in spite of the regular threats to the journalists as shared in the last blog post. There is also data that shows that women participation in labor force has fallen sharply especially in the last few years and the Government seems to have no neither idea nor do they seem to care for the same. There aren’t any concrete plans to bring back the balance even a little bit.

Few Court judgements

But all hope is not lost. There have been a couple of good judgements, one from the CIC (Chief Information Commissioner) wherein in specific cases a wife can know salary details of her husband, especially if there is some kind of maintenance due from the husband. There was so much of hue and cry against this order that it was taken down from the livelaw RTI corner. Luckily, I had downloaded it, hence could upload and share it.

Another one was a case/suit about a legally matured women who had decided to marry without parental consent. In this case, the Delhi High Court had taken women’s side and stated she can marry whom she wants. Interestingly, about a week back Uttar Pradesh (most notorious about crime against women) had made laws called ‘Love Jihad‘ and 2 -3 states have followed them. The idea being to create an atmosphere of hate against Muslims and women have no autonomy about what they want. This is when in a separate suit/case against Sudharshan TV (a far-right leaning channel promoting hate against Muslims) , the Government of India itself put an affidavit stating that Tablighis (a sect of Muslims who came from Malaysia to India for religious discourse and assembly) were not responsible for dissemination of the virus and some media has correctly portrayed the same. Of course, those who are on the side of the Govt. on this topic think a ‘traitor’ has written. They also thought that the Govt. had taken a wrong approach but couldn’t tell of a better approach to the matter.

There are too many matters in the Supreme Court of women asking for justice to tell all here but two instances share how the SC has been buckling under the stress of late, one is a webinar which was chaired by Justice Subramaniam where he shared how the executive is using judicial appointments to do what it wants. The gulf between the executive and the SC has been since Indira Gandhi days, especially the judicial orders which declared that the Emergency is valid by large, it has fallen much more recently and the executive has been muscling in which have resulted in more regressive decisions than progressive.

This observation is also in tune with another study which came to the same result although using data. The raw data from the study could give so much more than what has been shared. For e.g. as an idea for the study, of the ones cited, how many have been in civil law, personal law, criminal or constitutional law. This would give a better understanding of things. Also what is shocking is none of our court orders have been cited in the west in the recent past, when there used to be a time when the west used to take guidance from Indian jurisprudence sometimes and cite the orders to reach similar conclusion or if not conclusion at least be used as a precedent. I guess those days are over.

Government giving Corporate ownership to Private Sector Banks

There was an Internal Working Group report to review extant ownership guidelines and Corporate Structure for Indian Private Sector Banks. – This is the actual title of the report.

Now there were and are concerns about the move which were put forth by Dr. Raghuram Rajan and Viral Acharya. While Dr. Rajan had been the 23rd Governor of RBI from 4th September 2013 to 4th September 2016.

His most commendable work which largely is unknown to most people was the report A hundred small steps which you buy from sage publications. Viral Acharya was the deputy governor from 23rd January 2017 – 23rd July 2019. Mr. Acharya just recently published his book Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India which can be bought from the same publication house as well.

They also wrote a three page article stating that does India need corporates in banking? More interestingly, he shares two points from history both world war 1 and world war 2. In both cases, the allies had to cut down the businesses who had owned banks. In Germany, it was the same and in Japan, the zaibatsu’s dissolution, both of which were needed to make the world safe again. Now, if we don’t learn lessons from history it is our fault, not history’s.

What was also shared that this idea was taken up in 2013 but was put into cold-storage. He also commented on the pressure on RBI as all co-operative banks have come under its ambit in the last few months. RBI has had a patchy record, especially in the last couple of years, with big scams like ILFS, Yes Bank, PMC Bank, Laxmi Vilas Bank among others. The LVB Bank being the most recent one.

If new banking licenses have to be given they can be given to good NBFC’s who have been in the market for a long time and have shown maturity while dealing with public money. What is the hurry for giving it to Corporate/business houses ? There are many other good points in the report with which both Mr. Rajan and Mr. Acharya are in agreement and do hope the other points/suggestions/proposals are implemented.

Interestingly, while looking through the people who were part of the committee was a somewhat familiar name Murmu . This is perhaps the first time you see people from a sort of political background being in what should be a cut and dry review which have people normally from careers in finance or Accounts. It also turns out that only one person was in favor of banks going to corporates, all the rest were against.

It seems that the specific person hadn’t heard the terms ‘self-lending’, ‘connected-lending’ and conflict of interest. One of the more interesting comments in the report is if a corporate has a bank, then why would he go to Switzerland, he would just wash the money in his own bank. And if banks were to become to big to fail like it happened in the United States, it would be again private gains, public losses. I think we need to remind ourselves once again, how things can become –

Positive News at end

At the end I do not want to end on a sour notes, hence sharing a YouTube channel of Films Division India where you can see of the very classic works and interviews of some of the greats in Indian art cinema.

https://www.youtube.com/user/FilmsDivision/videos

Also sharing a bit of funny story I came to know about youtube-dl, apparently it was taken off from github but thanks to efforts from EFF, Hackernews and others, it is now back in action.

Wednesday, 25 November

22:42

Ask Governor Cuomo to Support a Healthy New York by Protecting New Yorkers' Privacy [EFF Action Center]

Since May, to fight the spread of COVID-19, public health officials in New York State have undertaken contact tracing efforts. Health care workers—with the assistance of COVID-positive New Yorkers—identify and notify people who may have been exposed so that they might isolate themselves and stem the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing is an important weapon in the fight against this global pandemic.

This essential work requires trust between contact tracers and people who have been exposed to the virus. For all New Yorkers, that trust requires confidence that sensitive information will not be shared outside of those agencies charged with protecting public health. That trust is especially important for Black and migrant communities that have been disproportionately affected by both the virus and systemic bias.

Understanding the critical importance of trust, New York State’s legislature unanimously passed important legislation (A10500C/S8450C) barring police and immigration authorities from accessing contact tracing information. The bill also bars use in court or legislative proceedings of contact tracing information that has been improperly obtained.

It's time for Governor Cuomo to join state lawmakers in making sure that fear doesn't exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis by chilling critical trust and cooperation. Tell Governor Cuomo to sign A10500C/S8450C into law.

The FreeBSD desktop series [OSnews]

The FreeBSD Desktop series are about creating efficient desktop environment on the FreeBSD system.

Why such series?

Because telling someone who wants FreeBSD desktop to buy Mac instead is like telling someone who wants Linux desktop to buy Windows because it has WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) inside.

This is one hell of a detailed and long series of articles – 21 of them. I’m not very well-versed in the world of BSD, and this series is making me want to give the world thing a go – just to learn and expand my horizons.

European Parliament votes for right to repair [OSnews]

In a landmark move, the European Parliament voted today to support consumers’ Right to Repair. The resolution was adopted with 395 in favour and just 94 against, with 207 abstentions.

[…]

The vote calls for the EU Commission to “develop and introduce mandatory labelling, to provide clear, immediately visible and easy-to-understand information to consumers on the estimated lifetime and reparability of a product at the time of purchase.”

Good.

21:56

False claims of electoral fraud [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Lawyers that make false claims of electoral fraud in court are violating the standards of the court and should be punished.

Australia's SAS regiment [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Australia's entire SAS regiment must be disbanded after Brereton report, expert says.*

This is the report about their murder of prisoners.

One-person assembly [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Singapore's strict repression is showing, as Jolovan Wham is facing criminal charges for a one-person "assembly".

The "assembly" lasted a few seconds during which he took a photo.

If one person can be an "assembly", then I must be assembling every minute even when I am home by myself. And you, too.

Administering the Covid-19 vaccine [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Administering the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is a difficult logistical challenge in the US, especially because of inadequate funding for public health.

Security guards in Brazil beat a black man [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Two "security" guards in Brazil beat a black man to death. One of them punched him while the other held him in place.

DeJoy laundered campaign contributions [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

DeJoy, before becoming head of the USPS, had a business, and made a practice of laundering campaign contributions through the employees.

That is illegal. Will DeJoy be prosecuted?

UK privatized old military base [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The UK invites volunteers to help take care of asylum seekers imprisoned in a privatized old military base, and threatens to imprison the volunteers if they describe the resistance of the asylum seekers.

This is said to include hunger strikes and suicide attempts.

Biden's Defense Secretary [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*The pernicious and lucrative aspects of military madness are personified in the favorite to be Biden’s Defense Secretary,* Michele Flournoy.

*The militarization of American society and the "thank-you-for-your-service" fetishization of American soldiers will continue to thrive.*

Americans who join the US military typically wish to serve their country. There are scenarios in which they might be called upon to do that. But what they are more often ordered to do is wreak suffering on some other country.

Rather than passing the buck to an imaginary deity to "protect our troops," the president ought to make sure not to endanger them for bad reasons.

21:35

Page 26 [Flipside]

Page 26 is done.

21:07

Get your tabletop game on with this collection of map-making software! [Humble Bundle Blog]

We’ve teamed up with ProFantasy Software for our newest bundle! Get software like Campaign Cartographer 3+ Lifetime License, City Designer

Continue reading

The post Get your tabletop game on with this collection of map-making software! appeared first on Humble Bundle Blog.

20:49

Link [Scripting News]

Look at all the networks carrying the president-elect.

20:07

11/25/20 [Flipside]

Savage Sparrow Studios is having a Black Friday sale! That includes the new Flipside section, and also many T-shirts!

News Post: Unready [Penny Arcade]

Tycho: We talked about it a little bit when the movie for Ready Player One came out in the post and the strip. My policy on Nostalgia is the same as the laws sweeping the nation and perhaps the world - I think it should be legal for responsible, recreational use. If used in a work, optimally it's used in a way that interprets or transforms so that we get more work to interpret or transform. I adhere to the sourdough starter principle where such things are concerned. As I said before, I do not adhere to the Catechism model where Nostalgia becomes just… recitation. Brenna really enjoyed…

19:21

It’s never been a better time to be a girl geek! [Humble Bundle Blog]

We’ve teamed up with Quirk for our newest bundle! Get ebooks like The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe, Monster She

Continue reading

The post It’s never been a better time to be a girl geek! appeared first on Humble Bundle Blog.

18:56

Pluralistic: 25 Nov 2020 [Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow]


Today's links



Tech in SF (permalink)

Today on the Attack Surface Lectures (8 panels exploring themes from the third Little Brother book, hosted by Tor Books and 8 indie bookstores): Tech in SF with Annalee Newitz and Ken Liu, recorded on Oct 16 by Interabang.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GecqbDNbTI

You can watch it without Youtube's surveillance courtesy of the Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/details/asl-tech

Or get the audio as an MP3:

https://archive.org/download/asl-tech/Tech%20in%20SF%20with%20Annalee%20Newitz%20and%20Ken%20Liu.mp3

Earlier instalments in the series:

I. Politics and Protest (Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted by The Strand):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/16/the-attack-surface-lectures-politics-and-protest-fixed/

II. Cross-Media Sci-Fi (Amber Benson and John Rogers, hosted by the Brookline Booksmith):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/17/the-attack-surface-lectures-cross-media-sci-fi/

III. Race, surveillance and tech (Meredith Whittaker and Malkia Devich-Cyril, hosted by The Booksmith):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/18/the-attack-surface-lectures-intersectionality-race-surveillance-and-tech-and-its-history/

IV. Cyberpunk & Post-Cyberpunk (Christopher Brown and Bruce Sterling, hosted by Anderson's Bookshop)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/19/the-attack-surface-lectures-cyberpunk-and-post-cyberpunk/

V. Little Revolutions (Tochi Onyebuchi and Bethany C Morrow, hosted by Skylight Books)

https://craphound.com/news/2020/11/20/the-attack-surface-lectures-little-revolutions/

VI. Opsec and Personal Cybersecurity (Window Snyder and Runa Sandvik, hosted by Third Place Books)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/23/the-attack-surface-lectures-opsec-and-personal-cyber-security/

VII. Sci-Fi Genre (Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig, hosted by Fountain Books)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/24/the-attack-surface-lectures-sci-fi-genre/

VIII. Tech in SF (Annalee Newitz and Ken Liu, hosted by Interabang)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/25/the-attack-surface-lectures-tech-in-sf/

Here's a master post with all the media:

https://craphound.com/news/2020/11/16/attack-surface-lectures-master-post/

And you can also get this as it's posted on my podcast feed – search for "Cory Doctorow podcast" in your podcatcher or use the RSS:

https://feeds.feedburner.com/doctorow_podcast



Office 365 spies on employees for bosses (permalink)

The Shitty Tech Adoption Curve describes the process by which oppressive technology is normalized and distributed through all levels of society. The more privilege someone has, the harder it is to coerce them to use dehumanizing tech, so it starts with marginalized people.

Asylum seekers, prisoners and overseas sweatshop workers get the first version. Its roughest edges are sanded off against their tenderest places, and once it's been normalized a little, we inflict it on students, mental patients, and blue collar workers.

Lather, rinse, repeat: before long, everyone's been ropted in. If your meals were observed by a remote-monitored CCTV 20 years ago, it was because you were in a supermax prison. Today, it's because you bought a home video surveillance system from Google/Apple/Amazon.

The lockdown has been a powerful accellerant for shitty technology adoption curve: the combination of an atomized polity that can't have in-person solidarity conversations and overall precarity has kicked off a powerful shock doctrine for tech surveillance.

Pre-pandemic, work-from-home call-center workers (mostly poor Black women) lived under surveillance that transformed "work from home" to "live at work." The tech preserved the fiction that these misclassified employees were "independent contractors."

https://pluralistic.net/2020/10/02/chickenized-by-arise/#arise

Within days of the lockdown, this technological oppression raced up the privilege gradient in the form of "invigilation" software like Proctorio, cruel surveillance tools inflicted on university students. The company is pursuing its critics in court.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/10/17/proctorio-v-linkletter/#proctorio

Now, every remote worker is in line to get the treatment previously reserved for misclassified employees and college kids. Microsoft has rolled out on-by-default workplace surveillance for Office 365.

https://twitter.com/WolfieChristl/status/1331221942850949121

The tool tracks every click and interaction by employees and presents managers with leaderboards showing relative "productivity" of each employee, down to how many mentions they get in workplace emails.

As Wolfie Christie points out in his thread, the arbitrary metrics that Microsoft has chosen will have a hugely distorting effect on workplace behavior. Remember Goodhart's Law: "Any measure becomes a target, and then ceases to be a useful measure."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law

This is the quantitative fallacy on steroids: software can't measure qualitative factors like whether your work accomplished "soft goals" like "a better product" or "a conceptual breakthrough."

So they blithely vaporize these qualitative elements and do math on the dubious quantitative residue left behind. It's the data scientist's version of looking for your keys under the lamp-post: "We can't do math on it, so we won't consider it."

It's a far cry from the early days of Microsoft, when Bill Gates mocked IBM for paying programmers by how many lines of code they produced, calling it "the race to build the world's heaviest airplane."

I wonder if the programmers who built this feature are subjected to it themselves? And if not, I wonder when they will be.

I mean, they won't be in the EU. This shit is radioactively illegal under the GDPR. But Americans have freedom.

Now, you may be thinking, "I bet the managers who use this tool will regret it when their bosses start using it on them."

You're thinking too small. Microsoft has ambition: they're not subjecting managers to this, they're subjecting companies to it.

Microsoft incentivizes companies to turn on an industry-wide comparison "feature" that sends all your employee data to Microsoft and then gives you a chart telling you how your employees fare against their counterparts elsewhere.

You get a chart. Microsoft gets fine-grained data on your company's operations – data it can sell, or mine, or you know, just lose control over and leak all over the internet. That's some unprecedented Shitty Tech Adoption Curve accelerationism right there.

Not since the day when Amazon convinced Borders Books (RIP) to use it for all digital ordering and fulfilment (giving Amazon 100% access to all Borders' customer data) has a tech company offered a shadier B2B deal.

Last year, Slate's Future Tense and ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to write some fiction illustrating the Shitty Technology Adoption Curve. The result it "Affordances," a story that grows dismally more relevant with each passing day.

https://slate.com/technology/2019/10/affordances-cory-doctorow-sf-story-algorithmic-bias-facial-recognition.html



A state-owned Amazon (permalink)

In most of the world, the lockdown has destroyed small businesses while increasing the profits of Big Tech intermediaries like Amazon, who control access to customers on one side, and access to merchants on the other.

The government of Argentina is trying to avert this fate. Their postal service is launching a "state-owned Amazon" called Correo Compras, which will offer low-cost ecommerce listings to businesses, and do fulfilment through postal workers.

https://www.correocompras.com.ar/

Correo Compras competes directly with Mercadolibre, a latinamerican ecommerce titan with a well-deserved reputation for squeezing suppliers and workers – its deliveries are made by precarious gig economy drivers.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/what-would-state-owned-amazon-look-ask-argentina/

Correo Compras is making a bet: that by eliminating Mercadolibre's vast margin (45%!), it can pay workers a living wage, offer fair treatment to vendors, and still sell at competitive prices.

They're also rolling out digital payments (BNA+) provided by the Banco Nacion, competing with Mercadolibre's Mercadopagos, which has seen a surge in usage and profits (thanks to high fees) since the lockdown. BNA+ also builds in instalment payments.

In many ways, Argentina is well-situated to try the experiment: it has very high internet penetration, a thriving domestic tech industry, and high levels of technological literacy.

It also struggles with structural poverty, thanks in part to US vulture capitalists who absorb vast amounts of its GDP to service odious debts.

As Cecilia Rikap points out in her Open Democracy article on the venture, Correo Compras will give Argentine state planners access to important market information – data that currently sits in private hands thanks to digital surveillance.

But while data can improve industrial policy, it can also serve state oppression. The debt that is currently crushing the country is partly the price-tag for the former military dictatorship's program of mass surveillance, torture, murder and terror.

Data collected for beneficial purposes can be weaponized. The Dutch government collected data on minorities so that they could provide settlement services to them. Nazi occupiers used this data to locate minorities and ship them to camps.

https://medium.com/@hansdezwart/during-world-war-ii-we-did-have-something-to-hide-40689565c550

This is not merely a historical fact. Australia's spy agencies were just caught tapping into data generated by covid exposure notification apps – data that Australians were promised would only be used for contact tracing.

https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/24/australia-spy-agencies-covid-19-app-data/

It's not a mere historical fact. There are people alive in Argentina today who were spied upon, kidnapped and tortured by their government. Argentina could certainly come under the sway of a brutal dictator again – if it can happen in Brazil, it can happen in Argentina.

This isn't to condemn Correo Compras. It's an exciting experiment. But it's an experiment. We should try lots of experiments. We could end the practice of worker misclassification, turning low-waged Amazon workers into employees and allowing them to unionize.

That's already starting to happen. Amazon workers in Alabama – a viciously anti-union state – is having a union vote.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/11/23/amazon-warehouse-workers-union/

States could offer postal fulfilment and startup funding for worker co-ops. They could enforce structural separation, forcing companies like Amazon to either offer a platform or sell on it, but not both.

They could structure taxes so that profits from predatory listing fees were annihilated by tax liabilities. NIST could offer bug-bounties for a free/open source federated clone of Amazon's platform that any co-op could stand up and run.

As always, the trick is to decide what's "infrastructure" – public goods that need public ownership – and what's a "service" that should be pluralized among many hands to make it harder to gain and abuse power (even state power).



Random Penguin to buy Simon & Schuster (permalink)

Publishing is dominated by just five giant players: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harpercollins and Macmillan.

Within that five-company oligarchy, one company stands out as a true monopolist: Penguin Random House, the megafirm created when Random House's owner, Bertelsmann, executed a merger-to-monopoly by buying Penguin in 2013.

Now, Penguin is about to effect another monopolistic merger, by acquiring Simon & Schuster from Viacom, which bought the company in 1994. The acquisition was always a bad fit: it was driven by a desire to create a vertical monopoly.

Viacom leadership thought they could use the relatively small publishing company to provide raw material for the larger, more profitable TV and film divisions (the same logic that drove Time-Warner's acquisition of DC Comics). It never really panned out.

Within Viacom, S&S; has always borne the brunt of corporate scheming, protected from the princelings of the sprawling corporate empire by erstwhile CEO Les Moonves's indulgence and favoritism.

So when Moonves was drummed out of his job in the midst of a truly awful, disgusting #MeToo scandal, the writing was on the wall for S&S.; Not even a string of successful anti-Trump tell-all books could save it.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/12/the-les-moonves-report-is-a-metoo-horror-show

The $2.175b acquisition is contingent on regulatory approval.

It should not receive regulatory approval.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201125005459/en/ViacomCBS-to-Sell-Simon-Schuster-to-Penguin-Random-House-for-2.175-Billion

In a year in which the FTC, the Senate, the House, Republicans and Democrats have all taken up antitrust, there is no better test of whether they're serious about monopoly that this idiotic merger.

After all, we don't have to speculate about what Random House will do after it absorbs S&S.; We have the historical record of what it did when it bought Penguin: shut down imprints, fired workers, subjected writers to worse deals, put the screws to booksellers.

This didn't happen in the shrouded mists of ancient history: it is still happening right now. It's not a case of "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

It's more: "When a firm called 'Monopolists, Inc' sends a legal team dressed as the Monopoly Guy to file regulatory documents printed on the back of Monopoly money, and challenges you to a friendly game of Monopoly before the meeting starts, assume they are monopolists."



This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago London police brutally kettle children marching for education https://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2010/11/children-police-kettle-protest

#1yrago After Katrina, neoliberals replaced New Orleans’ schools with charters, which are now failing https://www.nola.com/news/education/article_0c5918cc-058d-11ea-aa21-d78ab966b579.html

#1yrago Networked authoritarianism may contain the seeds of its own undoing https://crookedtimber.org/2019/11/25/seeing-like-a-finite-state-machine/

#1yrago Leaked documents document China’s plan for mass arrests and concentration-camp internment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang https://www.icij.org/investigations/china-cables/exposed-chinas-operating-manuals-for-mass-internment-and-arrest-by-algorithm/

#1yrago Library Socialism: a utopian vision of a sustaniable, luxuriant future of circulating abundance https://memex.craphound.com/2019/11/25/library-socialism-a-utopian-vision-of-a-sustaniable-luxuriant-future-of-circulating-abundance/



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: ACAB For Cutie (https://twitter.com/RamaTheVoice), Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 525 words (87877 total).

Currently reading: The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 24) https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/11/23/someone-comes-to-town-someone-leaves-town-part-24/

Upcoming appearances:

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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

18:00

GFL – Page 0041 [Looking For Group]

Grouping For Looks is a page-by-page retelling of the Looking For Group saga through the lens of a mirror universe where Cale is a goateed tyrant and Richard is a holy soul trying to set him on a good path. […]

The post GFL – Page 0041 appeared first on Looking For Group.

17:49

Thanksgiving Take-away – DORK TOWER 25.11.20 [Dork Tower]

Dork Tower is updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, thanks to its amazing Patreon supporters. Help bring more Dork Tower to the world – support the DORK TOWER PATREON,  (you also get swag, our eternal gratitude, and even more)! Lots of different levels to choose from, with many rewards, but every pledge helps!

17:35

Cars and votes [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Georgia's Republican officials propose to block new voters from registering before the Jan 5 runoff elections unless they have registered a car in Georgia.

New mutation available to public [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) *Coronavirus Optimistic New Mutation Will Be Widely Available To Public By Early Spring.*

Intelligence services head [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Peace Groups Blast Biden's [head of US intelligence services] Pick [Avril Haines] Over Links to Drones, Torture, and Mass Surveillance.*

Warlike "centrist" Democrats think she's great. No wonder she supported the nomination of fellow torture-advocate Haspel to head the CIA. According to Wikipedia, she decided not to punish the CIA agents who had been caught cracking Senate computers to spy on senators.

Some of them seem to think she is a good choice because of her gender or reported hispanic ethnicity. Her Wikipedia page gives no sign of hispanic roots; perhaps they are distant. Surely those Democrats don't think that she would refrain from engineering coups in Latin America on their account. Or do they think they will encourage her to do so?

Financial assistance [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Fossil fuel companies received $110 billion in direct and indirect financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic* — so far.

Genocide not over [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Myanmar's genocide against Rohingya not over, says rights group.*

Bike riders getting killed [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Food delivery bike-riders in Australia are not only stuck with precarious work and low pay. They are also getting killed in collisions with bigger vehicles.

I wonder if their low pay compels them to work when they are too tired to avoid the trucks.

Breaking coronavirus restrictions [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*New York swingers club shut down for breaking coronavirus restrictions.*

I'm in favor of sex clubs, but only so long as they take care not to spread disease. If that is not feasible, they must close for now.

Onshore renewable energy projects [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*UK government to subsidise onshore renewable energy projects.*

The UK did this 10 years ago. Then the previous Tory leaders created excuses to obstruct land-based wind power projects. It authorized the slightest bit of local opposition to block a wind farm, while making it impossible for local people to block fracking. To stop blocking land-based wind power projects is a step forward.

Transition planning [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The GSA recognized Biden as "apparent" president elect and will start transition planning.

However, the wrecker will not stop trying to corrupt Republican legislators, despite having been thwarted in Michigan.

Torture and death penalty [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Salafi Arabia tortured Mohammed Al Faraj into confessing to several political crimes, and plans to execute him for those. Two injustices right there! But the world is focusing on the detail of whether he was 9 years old or 10 years old at the time of the first supposed crime.

Job in energy and pollution [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

It is worrisome that Biden might consider appointing Ernest Moniz to any job that relates to energy or pollution. He lobbied for gas companies even as he was Obama's energy secretary.

16:42

The new rules for Perl governance [LWN.net]

The process of adopting a new governance model for the Perl project appears to be reaching an end; the new model is designed to look a lot like the one adopted by the Python project. "So, now Perl has two well-defined bodies involved in its governance: a core team of a few dozen and a steering council of three people. The core team sets the rules of Perl governance, votes on membership of the two groups, and delegates substantial decision making power to the steering council. The steering council has broad authority to make decisions about the development of the Perl language, the interpreter, and all other components, systems and processes that result in new releases of the language interpreter." The full description is available for those looking for the details.

16:14

Link [Scripting News]

There was a time, a few years ago, when the NYT went to war with Facebook, leading the rest of the journalism industry. Since then I've never seen the NYT say anything positive about Facebook, or even present an alternate point of view of something evil they reported about Facebook. Add their obvious conflict of interest, and you have exactly what Fox, Breitbart or Newsmax does, except with added arrogance and pretense. They aren't even trying to present the factual information so their readers can make up their own minds. This has a very strong effect, it keeps people who follow the NYT from using Facebook to organize. Even on simple totally non-controversial things like being a way for neighbors to communicate. News is too powerful to be this fucked up. That should be the new Washington Post slogan like the one about democracy (which btw, they haven't done a great job of preserving, just sayin). That said, guess which pub is #1 on my list of most frequently cited domains?

15:56

Security updates for Wednesday [LWN.net]

Security updates have been issued by Debian (spip and webkit2gtk), Fedora (kernel and libexif), openSUSE (chromium and rclone), Slackware (mutt), SUSE (kernel, mariadb, and slurm), and Ubuntu (igraph).

15:49

Meg Frank on the Mermaids Monthly Kickstarter [Whatever]

Meg Frank is an artist and one of the Scalzi family’s Favorite People on the Planet™, and as such we are delighted to give them a little space here today to talk about their latest project: Mermaids Monthly, a magazine that you can help Kickstart.

MEG FRANK:

Asking for help makes me breathtakingly uncomfortable. I’d rather walk on hot coals or sprint through Times Square. But here’s the thing: Julia Rios and I want to make a really cool magazine about mermaids and to do that we need your help.

So, this magazine: Mermaids Monthly. In August of this year, Julia called me to talk about a “medium sized passion project” they had been chewing on. You know those people that you get in a car with even when they don’t have a set destination because you know it’s going to be good? Julia is one of those people. I knew before the phone call I was going to get in the car – when they said “mermaids” and the names of some of my favorite creators I realized I had a full tank of gas just for this project. Magical merdudes, murderous mermxs, and mermaids of every shade, shape, and size. Short stories, flash stories, comics, poetry, art, and more.

Cover art by Nilah Magruder, Dianita Cerón, and John Picacio. Julia and our assistant editor Ashley Deng will sail the Editorial Ocean filled with content by Alberto Chimal, Ali Trotta, Amal El-Mohtar, Bogi Takács, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Brandon O’Brien, Brett Massé, C. S. E. Cooney, Caitlyn Paxson, Carlos Hernandez, Debra Goelz, Elsa Sjunneson, Fran Wilde, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Jessica P. Wick, L. D. Lewis, Layla Al-Bedawi, Libia Brenda, Lisa M. Bradley, Patty Templeton, Seanan McGuire, and Sheree Renée Thomas. And more. Twelve digital issues of mermaid magic launching in January of 2021 with a bonus issue out in December of 2020 because we like making cool things so much that we already started making one. We want to work on something fun. Something that makes our heart sing. This is it.

To do this thing right we need to raise $24,000. Last week we launched a Kickstarter campaign and 250 backers have helped us raise over $9300 in 9 days. We still need to raise $14,612 and we have 17 days to do it. Over on our campaign page, I go into specific detail about how we want to spend the money we’re raising. Please support our campaign. I know that “It’s gonna be cool” isn’t always enough of a reason but hear me out: it is gonna be cool and we know what we’re about. Julia is an award winning editor (the Aurealis twice, the Ditmar, the Hugo – also twice, and the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award) which they hate me mentioning almost as much as I hate when they mention that I’m a prolific Hugo-nominated artist who works in every medium available.

Our Assistant Editor, Ashley, is a writer who studied biochemistry so they could figure out how to translate the world of science and medicine into something a little less cryptic. Our Logistics Wizard, Lis, is the Fiction Editor at Wizards in Space Magazine and she works at the post office, which I happen to think is one of the coolest things ever. We’re gonna do a heist, except it’s a magazine. And everybody gets paid and nobody gets robbed and some very, very good art gets made. We’ve got a schedule and we’ve made a plan and if we need to deviate we will let you know.

We’ve created a range of backing rewards for a wide range of budgets: stickers, enamel pin, pet pictures, jewelry, hand bound zines, and much, much more. And you can definitely give a subscription of Mermaids Monthly as a gift – if you buy two, we’ll send you a card you can give! Back our campaign at any level and you’ll receive that bonus issue once the campaign closes on December 12th.

So that’s it – that’s the shell. Thanks for reading, please back our Kickstarter campaign, and if you’d like to keep current follow us over on Twitter at @MermaidsMonthly.

Meg Frank is a Hugo-nominated artist based in New York. In the before times they traveled a lot and spent a lot of time putting makeup on people at conventions. Currently they are keeping themselves busy with art school, two cats, and the Kickstarter campaign referenced above.

15:42

Preliminary notes on analyzing Disk and File I/O performance with ETW traces [The Old New Thing]

Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) is a powerful tool for blah blah blah. (Sometimes I get tired of writing the introduction.)

Here’s a little diagram of how I/O happens. This diagram is not 100% accurate, but it’ll do for the purpose of today’s discussion.

Application.exe
File System
Minifilters
Anti-malware
fileinfo.sys★
 
Disk cache
Volume Manager
Partition Manager★
Disk drivers
Hard drive

When the application initiates an I/O, the request goes to the file system. The request then passes through various minifilters (some of which are shown here), and then enters the I/O subsystem.

It’s possible that the request can be satisfied from the disk cache, in which case the I/O is completed immediately.

If we have a cache miss, then the I/O continues through some more drivers. Here, I’ve shown volsnap, the Volume Snapshot driver (we’ll learn more about this later), and fvevol, which is where BitLocker encryption and decryption happens. (The letters FVE stand for Full Volume Encryption.)

The request eventually reaches the Volume Manager, the Partition Manager, the disk drivers, and finally hits the physical hard drive.

When the I/O completes, the results are returned upward through the diagram back to the application.

I put stars on fileinfo.sys and the Partition Manager because those are the components which are responsible for generating the FILE_IO and DISK_IO ETW events, respectively.

Already, we’ve learned a bunch of stuff:

  • Time spent by anti-malware is not counted by either the FILE_IO or DISK_IO events, since it happens either before the logging components log the start of the I/O, or after they have logged the end of the I/O.
  • Time spent in the file system, System Restore, and BitLocker are not counted by the DISK_IO events for the same reason.
  • If an I/O is satisfied from the disk cache, then there will be no corresponding disk I/O event.
  • If multiple file I/O operations are batched together, they will show up as only one disk I/O event.
  • In general, file I/O events vastly out number disk I/O events.

In the disk I/O data, there is a column called IO Type. There are three I/O types at the disk level: Read, Write, and Flush. Read and Write are self-explanatory. Flush occurs when the operating system commits all pending data to the hard disk, including telling the hard drive to flush its own internal caches. Flushes are generally bad for performance because they cause everything to come to a halt until the flush operation is complete, but flushes are often necessary to ensure disk coherency.

Hard drive manufacturers are sneaky, and when the operating system tells them to flush, they often don’t actually flush. They just say, “Yeah, I flushed the data,” and make a note to themselves, “Y’know, I probably should flush the data at some point before anybody notices that I’ve been lying to them all this time.” This can lead to strange things like a subsequent Read operation taking a very long time. It’s not that the read itself was inherently slow. It’s just that the read happened to occur while the drive was busy “paying back its flush debt”, so it got stuck behind a physical flush operation.

One of the fun graphs to look at is the Disk Offset graph. It’s under the Disk Usage category. This graph shows a dot for each I/O issued to the hard drive, with time on the x-axis and the disk offset (distance from start of the disk) on the y-axis. The dots are connected with lines, giving you a visualization of the movement of the disk head (assuming rotational media).

Sometimes you’ll see what appears to be the disk head vibrating back and forth rapidly between two locations on the disk. That may not be what’s actually happening. Hard drives often have more than one head, so what you could be seeing is one head doing work at one part of the disk, and another head doing work at a different part of the disk. The graph doesn’t realize this, so it looks like there’s a single poor disk head running back and forth between two spots on the disk.

On the other hand, if your hard drive has only one head, then it really is bouncing back and forth like crazy.

On the Disk Offset graph, flushes are marked with vertical red lines. You can see the points at which everything on the disk came to a stop.

Bruce Dawson has a nice picture of the disk offset graph. He also describes what each of the columns in the event log means, so I’ll defer to his write-up. Points of interest include the difference between Disk Service Time and I/O Time.

Next time, I’ll look at the mysterious System process and why it gets blamed for so much I/O.

Additional resources

The post Preliminary notes on analyzing Disk and File I/O performance with ETW traces appeared first on The Old New Thing.

15:28

Link [Scripting News]

The most frequently cited domains from my linkblog. BTW, this is the query that generated that table: select domain, count(domain) from links group by domain order by count(domain) desc limit 100;

15:14

[$] Mutt releases version 2.0 [LWN.net]

The venerable email client Mutt has just reached version 2.0. Mutt is different from the type of client that has come to dominate the email landscape—for one thing, it has no graphical interface. It has a long history that is worth a bit of a look, as are its feature set and extensive customizability. Version 2.0 brings several enhancements to Mutt's interface, configurability, and convenience, as well. In this article, readers who are unfamiliar with Mutt will learn about a different way to deal with the daily chore of wrangling their inboxes, while Mutt experts may discover some new sides to an old friend.

14:42

The Attack Surface Lectures: Tech in SF [Cory Doctorow's craphound.com]


The Attack Surface Lectures were a series of eight panel discussions on the themes in my novel Attack Surface, each hosted by a different bookstore and each accompanied by a different pair of guest speakers.

This program is “Tech in SF” hosted by Interabang Books in Dallas, TX, with guest-hosts Annalee Newitz and Ken Liu. It was recorded on October 20, 2020.

Here is the original Youtube link for this program. Please consider subscribing to Interabang’s Youtube channel for access to all their outstanding author events!

MP3

12:56

Cyber Public Health [Schneier on Security]

In a lecture, Adam Shostack makes the case for a discipline of cyber public health. It would relate to cybersecurity in a similar way that public health relates to medicine.

12:00

CodeSOD: Classic WTF: Top-grade, SHA1 Encryption [The Daily WTF]

Is it that time of year already? Here in the US, we're prepping for the Thanksgiving holiday, so let's take a trip way back into the archives, and learn about the life of a...

09:35

Butterfly hunting [Seth's Blog]

Ideas are like that.

The successful editor, curator or entrepreneur doesn’t go hunting ideas to kill them, but to celebrate them, identify them and dance with them.

And a brutal, all-out frontal attack won’t work. It’s not about raising a ton of money or insisting that the world supply you with only the good ideas. Quibi failed because of the hubris of believing that the ideas could be conjured on a schedule. And countless middlemen have struggled with the dead-end of only wanting to embrace the good ideas, which are often impossible to distinguish from the others at a distance.

Sometimes, you need to look more closely, to reconsider or to circle around again.

And sometimes we go butterfly hunting and find nothing at all.

Fred Hills, who published fifty New York Times bestsellers (including my first one) died a few weeks ago. He took the quest literally, and used to go butterfly hunting with Nabakov. His belief in my book was matched by the trust he offered me and so many authors to find our voice and share it.

Chris Meyer was another butterfly hunter, patiently connecting, leading and challenging, turning on lights in a way that made everyone in the room see the possibilities that lay just ahead.

The ideas are there. It might take patience to nurture them.

[HT to Lisa DiMona.]

08:49

Be Safe [Ctrl+Alt+Del Comic]

Likely going to be taking Thursday off for Thanksgiving, which means no comic for Friday.

The post Be Safe appeared first on Ctrl+Alt+Del Comic.

08:28

Comic: Unready [Penny Arcade]

New Comic: Unready

06:21

Girl Genius for Wednesday, November 25, 2020 [Girl Genius]

The Girl Genius comic for Wednesday, November 25, 2020 has been posted.

04:49

The Toast of the Town [Diesel Sweeties webcomic by rstevens]

this is a diesel sweeties comic strip

Let's catch up with Johnny Toaster

01:49

C'mon Dora [QC RSS]

jeeez

01:42

Junichi Uekawa: Grabbing screenshot. [Planet Debian]

Grabbing screenshot. I wanted to know the size of screenshot generated by canvas.toDataURL so I wrote a web app that just measures the size at 60fps because I could. From output I can see webp: 19087 png: 115818 jpg: 115818, so I figured webp is really good at this, or maybe chrome is really good at using webp. and png and jpg look like they are the same size... hmm.. why?

00:07

Before the BSD kernel starts [OSnews]

In this article, I will walk through the early kernel initialization process, defining the meaning of this term. System initialization is a broad topic that ranges from the platform’s hardware design all the way up to typical functions of an operating system such as handling I/O operations. It is not possible to cover the entire topic adequately within the scope of an article. In this first part I will describe the well-known AMD64: 64-bit platform. I am going to highlight a very interesting part of the initialization process the early initialization of the kernel. Later, I will compare it with ARM64. In both cases I will discuss the topic in the context of NetBSD, the operating system known for its portability.

Some light reading.

Booting from a vinyl record [OSnews]

Most PCs tend to boot from a primary media storage, be it a hard disk drive, or a solid-state drive, perhaps from a network, or – if all else fails – the USB stick or the boot DVD comes to the rescue… Fun, eh? Boring! Why don’t we try to boot from a record player for a change?

I hope he’s using gold-plated triple-insulated Monster cables with diamond tips and uranium signal repeaters, because otherwise the superior quality of the vinyl will get lost. Would be a shame.

Tuesday, 24 November

23:21

22:35

22:14

If You’ve Ever Wondered About My Sense of Humor, Here’s a Good Example [Whatever]

Athena ScalziAs a teen, I really liked adult cartoons, like South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad (and I was in my early teens when Rick & Morty came out, but didn’t watch it until I was about sixteen). I’m not really a big fan of most of those titles anymore but they were hilarious to me when I was younger. However, there was one adult cartoon that I saw when I was eighteen that was gold called Final Space.

Final Space is a hilarious, action-packed space opera created by Olan Rogers. I highly recommend it (the first season at least since I have yet to see the second), but this post is not about Final Space (though if you do want to know more about the show you can read my recommendation here)! I am actually going to share one of the creator’s videos from YouTube with you. He does like, little story time videos where he talks about funny stuff that’s happened to him, and this particular story got animated by a user named Cranbersher.

This video honestly made me cry laughing the first time I saw it, and it’s made me laugh every time I’ve seen it since. The animation is so good, plus the hilarity of the story itself, it’s just two powerful forces combining into one amazingly funny video that I hope you will enjoy. I’ve shown this video to like, five other people, and none of them find it nearly as funny as I do, but I’m hoping one of you will! So without further ado, here is The Bad Apple.

 

Part of the reason I actually decided to post this is because in the beginning he mentions that his grandpa always came to visit around Thanksgiving, and guess what! It’s around Thanksgiving! So I thought it’d be a good, wholesome, holiday-ish themed family friendly thing to share with y’all.

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered what kind of stuff really gets me cacklin’, here it is. This is comedy gold. Peak hilarity. I hope you liked it! And as always, have a great day.

-AMS

21:21

Five Things, 11/24/20 [Whatever]

John ScalziAnd what five things am I thinking about today? Well!

Biden gets 80 million votes: According the Cook Political Report’s Popular Vote Tracker. That’s ten million more than Obama got in 2008 — the previous record for a winning presidential candidate — and currently about six million more votes than Trump got. Percentage-wise Biden’s above 51% while Trump’s at a hair above 47.1%. And this is apparently the best voter turnout in about a century, percentage-wise, with roughly two thirds of eligible voters having voted. As a fan of voting, this warms my heart.

Also, this is a reminder that this election, on the presidential level at least, was not actually anything approaching close: Biden won by a lot in the raw numbers of the popular vote, won by a sizable percentage of the popular vote, won most “battleground” states by wider margins than Trump won in 2016, and, of course, bested Trump in the electoral vote battle with quite a lot of room to spare. I understand it is in the nature of the Trump partisans to suggest this election was closer than it was, and I likewise understand it is in the nature of many Biden voters to want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but, once again: This was not anything approaching close. Trump lost, big time, definitively, and unambiguously.

But the Democrats lost seats in the House and might not take the Senate! Some of you are likely saying. To which my response is: And? I don’t think the modern GOP should be held up as a model of good governance in just about any respect, but I will tell you this much, if everything were reversed, the Republicans would be screaming from the top of their lungs about their “mandate.” I don’t think it would be a bad thing for the Democrats to take a moment from hand-wringing and take a goddamn victory lap or two. And also to tell GOP-leaning people warning them against hubris to take a whole seat and enjoy sitting for a bit.

The market speaks: How does corporate America feel about the transition? It seems pretty happy about it — stocks got a jolt yesterday when Janet Yellen was announced as Biden’s pick for Treasury, and the Dow Jones got up over 30K for the first time in the wake of the official start of the transition. Trump tried to take credit for it, of course, because he would, wouldn’t he. But we know that the reason it’s up is he’s on the way out. In a larger sense, given the general tone of Biden’s staff and cabinet picks — deeply not-radical, and deeply experienced  — it seems like there’s a general sense of relief that grown-ups are going to be in control again soon. Heck, even General Motors is cozying up to Biden, and you know what they say: What’s good for General Motors is good for America.

Yeah, okay, but what about those 74 million Trump voters? Well, what about them? They’re a third of the population, but hard as it may be to believe, not every one of those 74 million people who voted for Trump is a MAGA hat-wearing, Trump-flags-on-the-pickup-truck, switched-to-Newsmax-because-Fox-is-too-liberal sort. While there will always be a hard nugget of these sort of racist dickheads, not to be ignored or discounted, it’s also very likely that a substantial number of the people who voted for Trump will get back to their lives, now that Trump’s dimwitted coup attempt was shown to be farce. He’s a loser now, and there’s no path back from him being a loser. His invulnerability spell has worn off. And while that hard nugget of racist dickheads will continue to argue the election was stolen, I’m going to suggest that at this point most people know better, or will, soon enough.

Again: Not saying that suddenly a whole bunch of Trump voters are suddenly going to say they voted for Biden, or that the GOP, taken as a whole, is going to learn anything — the national GOP response to losing is never “maybe we should stop being racist authoritarians,” it’s always “maybe we weren’t racist and authoritarian enough.” But Trump’s luck has run out. He lost and in January there will be a whole bunch of lawsuits waiting for him, and eventually most of the egregious things he’s done in office will get laid out in public because the government won’t be his personal obstruction machine anymore. It’s not getting better for Trump, and I think that’s going to have an effect on a non-trivial number of his voters. Perhaps it’s already begun.

Then again… there’s that whole thing in Georgia at the moment where some always-Trumpers are threatening to boycott the Senate runoff elections, thus throwing the upper house to the Democrats, because they’re in a fit of pique about the GOP not being attentive to Trump’s tender feelings at the moment. While this is very much of a “don’t threaten me with a good time” scenario for anyone who’d love to see Mitch McConnell stuffed into a box and punted into the proverbial river, I myself am not going to get too excited about it. The runoff elections aren’t until January 5, and there’s a lot of time between now and then, and in that time, Trump’s power will be waning. Also, I think Republican voters in Georgia will be sufficiently motivated regardless of what a bunch of whiny losers are stomping their feet about.

If I had to guess, I would say ultimately this would-be boycott of the GOP isn’t going to have much of an influence. What’s more likely to have an influence is Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, and the fact that Perdue and Loeffler, the GOP senate candidates, appear to be nakedly corrupt as shit. We’ll see!

Ugh, that was a lot of politics, let’s end with a cat picture. Yes, let’s!

Spice, looking at the camera, looking a little bored.

— JS

 

20:56

Link [Scripting News]

Today's song: My Wife.

Link [Scripting News]

I wrote a script that's loading all my linkblog links going back to 2010 into a MySQL database. I'm almost getting good at this. 💥

20:28

Sauerkraut [Judith Proctor's Journal]

 Several years ago, a friend of mine on Livejournal posted about making sauerkraut.

I rather admired her earthenware pot with its clever rim to make an airlock.

 

I've now got one myself (early Xmas present) and the biggest cabbage from the allotment has just been chopped up with lots of salt and caraway seeds and left to ferment.

 

It amazing how fast the brine starts to come out.  My hands were getting wet while I was rubbing the salt into the cabbage.  You don't need to use any water, the salt draws it all out.

 

A week or so from now, I shall taste it to see how it's going, but it's supposed to be best after several weeks, so we'll see....

 



comment count unavailable comments

Sauerkraut [Tales From the Riverbank]

 Several years ago, a friend of mine on Livejournal posted about making sauerkraut.

I rather admired her earthenware pot with its clever rim to make an airlock.

 

I've now got one myself (early Xmas present) and the biggest cabbage from the allotment has just been chopped up with lots of salt and caraway seeds and left to ferment.

 

It amazing how fast the brine starts to come out.  My hands were getting wet while I was rubbing the salt into the cabbage.  You don't need to use any water, the salt draws it all out.

 

A week or so from now, I shall taste it to see how it's going, but it's supposed to be best after several weeks, so we'll see....

 

This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

20:14

Top Comments – Pages 1453 – 1454 [Looking For Group]

Tuesday, YOU are the star! We curate our favourite comments from the previous week’s comments on lfg.co and Facebook and remind you how clever you are. Here are your top comments for Looking For Group pages 1453 – 1454 Looking […]

The post Top Comments – Pages 1453 – 1454 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Ask Governor Cuomo to Support a Healthy New York by Protecting New Yorkers' Privacy [EFF Action Center]

Since May, to fight the spread of COVID-19, public health officials in New York State have undertaken contact tracing efforts. Health care workers—with the assistance of COVID-positive New Yorkers—identify and notify people who may have been exposed so that they might isolate themselves and stem the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing is an important weapon in the fight against this global pandemic.

This essential work requires trust between contact tracers and people who have been exposed to the virus. For all New Yorkers, that trust requires confidence that sensitive information will not be shared outside of those agencies charged with protecting public health. That trust is especially important for Black and migrant communities that have been disproportionately affected by both the virus and systemic bias.

Understanding the critical importance of trust, New York State’s legislature unanimously passed important legislation (A10500C/S8450C) barring police and immigration authorities from accessing contact tracing information. The bill also bars use in court or legislative proceedings of contact tracing information that has been improperly obtained.

It's time for Governor Cuomo to join state lawmakers in making sure that fear doesn't exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis by chilling critical trust and cooperation. Tell Governor Cuomo to sign A10500C/S8450C into law.

19:21

Link [Scripting News]

We're in a period where people who understand math and science have a survival advantage over people who don't. It's not even high math, btw -- just the kind of stuff you would have learned in high school, if you were paying attention. ;-)

18:35

Link [Scripting News]

I listened to yesterday's Cuomo briefing. Highly recommend it. Here's the RSS feed. A story he tells: On TV companies are advertising Thanksgiving the normal way with people getting together for parties and big dinners. Lots of hugs. No masks or social distancing. This sends a message that we're back to normal. I know it's illogical, but with no one contradicting the message in as powerful a way (one or two news interviews with Dr Fauci isn't that powerful) people are relieved. But the density of virus now is very high. You might've gotten away with traveling in the summer when the virus was scarce, but now, it's everywhere, and the result is likely to be dramatic, awful, and the growth of the virus will make even more people get infected in December and January.

Link [Scripting News]

BTW, at the supermarket this morning I saw a guy wearing one of those plastic face shields. That's not protection for the virus. When you breathe, it goes around the shield and enters the environment with no filter. It's as if you weren't wearing a mask, because you're not.

Talking interop on EFF’s podcast [Cory Doctorow's craphound.com]

How to Fix the Internet is EFF’s amazing new podcast: nuanced discussions of tech law and ethics with incredible experts, interviewed and contextualized by EFF executive director Cindy Cohn and strategy director Danny O’Brien.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/11/13/said-no-one-ever/#fix-it

I devoured the first three episodes. I mean, I started working with EFF nearly 19 years ago (!) but I was learning SO MUCH from them.

Today, the episode I recorded dropped. I’ve never been in such august company.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/11/podcast-episode-control-over-users-competitors-and-critics

Our discussion is about the role interoperability plays in helping technology users exercise self-determination, giving them alternatives to bad moderation, abusive lock-in, and poor security choices.

And about how companies love interop when they’re trying to eat another company’s lunch, but then they love to take it away once they win, because without interop, companies can control their customers, critics and competitors.

You can get How to Fix the Internet in your favorite podcatcher. Here’s the RSS:

https://efforg.libsyn.com/rss

and here’s the MP3 for my episode:

https://ia601407.us.archive.org/10/items/eff-podcast-episode-4-interroperability/EFF_Podcast_Episode4_Interroperability.mp3

18:14

Pluralistic: 24 Nov 2020 [Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow]


Today's links



Sci-Fi Genre (permalink)

Today on the Attack Surface Lectures (8 panels exploring themes from the third Little Brother book, hosted by Tor Books and 8 indie bookstores): Sci-Fi Genre with Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig, recorded on Oct 16 by Fountain Books.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GecqbDNbTI

You can watch it without Youtube's surveillance courtesy of the Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/details/asl-scifi-genre

Or get the audio as an MP3:

https://archive.org/download/asl-opsec/Opsec%20with%20Runa%20Sandvik%20and%20Window%20Snyder.mp3

Earlier instalments in the series:

I. Politics and Protest (Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted by The Strand):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/16/the-attack-surface-lectures-politics-and-protest-fixed/

II. Cross-Media Sci-Fi (Amber Benson and John Rogers, hosted by the Brookline Booksmith):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/17/the-attack-surface-lectures-cross-media-sci-fi/

III. Race, surveillance and tech (Meredith Whittaker and Malkia Devich-Cyril, hosted by The Booksmith):

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/18/the-attack-surface-lectures-intersectionality-race-surveillance-and-tech-and-its-history/

IV. Cyberpunk & Post-Cyberpunk (Christopher Brown and Bruce Sterling, hosted by Anderson's Bookshop)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/19/the-attack-surface-lectures-cyberpunk-and-post-cyberpunk/

V. Little Revolutions (Tochi Onyebuchi and Bethany C Morrow, hosted by Skylight Books)

https://craphound.com/news/2020/11/20/the-attack-surface-lectures-little-revolutions/

VI. Opsec and Personal Cybersecurity (Window Snyder and Runa Sandvik, hosted by Third Place Books)

https://craphound.com/attacksurface/2020/11/23/the-attack-surface-lectures-opsec-and-personal-cyber-security/

Here's a master post with all the media as it is goes live:

https://craphound.com/news/2020/11/16/attack-surface-lectures-master-post/

And you can also get this as it's posted on my podcast feed – search for "Cory Doctorow podcast" in your podcatcher or use the RSS:

https://feeds.feedburner.com/doctorow_podcast



Saudi Aramco is gushing debt (permalink)

Under the leadership of the murderer Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi royal family (and the Saudi state it controls) have embarked on "Vision 2030," a plan to shift the country's economy from oil to not-oil.

Extraction-based states are always dysfunctional. All you need to run an extraction economy is a hole in the ground surrounded by guns. Being a leader of such a state requires merely that you be able to judge which mercenaries and diggers to hire.

When these leaders are called upon to do anything more sophisticated – particularly anything that requires forbearance, tolerance, and a degree of personal discomfort – they fail, badly.

Sure, MBS was up to the task of going to NYC to drink Starbucks with Bloomberg.

But when he was faced with a routine leadership challenge – tolerating a critical journalist rather than dismembering him and dissolving his remains in acid – he totally failed.

Vision 2030 is proceeding as you might expect from a program named under the misconception that 20/30 vision is like 20/20 vision, only better.

(It's worse)

Take the IPO for Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company.

The IPO was "omni-toxic." Aramco doesn't own its wells; it's a royal piggybank that funds a stream of multibillion-dollar royal boondoggles, it has discovered no new oil sources in decades, oil itself is unsustainable, etc.

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Forget-The-Hype-Aramco-Shares-May-be-Valued-At-Zero-Next-Year.html

The Saudis pulled every trick to make the IPO a success: offering preferential loans to investors so they could buy the stock, threatening local power-brokers to coerce them into buying in, and guaranteeing sky-high dividends ($75b/year!).

And then covid hit, and MBS started an oil-price war. Profits fell 50% in H1-2020. The company is still making those massive dividend payments, though.

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Saudi-Aramcos-Landmark-IPO-Is-Costing-The-Kingdom-Billions.html

Those payments are coming from somewhere: capital expenditures and free cash flow. The company is suspending both projects that would help it increase its output and projects that might help it wean itself off of oil.

What's more, the cupboard is bare everywhere else. Other arms of the Saudi state have been starved by the price-war, and can't make up the difference. Instead, Aramco is digging itself into debt, with a $48B bond issuance.

Obviously, the shut-down of the oil industry is great news. But collapses are messy. As the world's hydrocarbon barons thrash around looking for their future, they're inflicting a lot of collateral damage.

Uber (and many other exploitative, money-losing gig businesses funded) is just an extrusion of Saudi oil money, via the Saudis' massive investment in Softbank, which allowed it to run predatory, money-losing, business-destroying grifts for years.

The people who grew unimaginably wealthy and powerful presiding over a hole in the ground surrounded by guns are not going to throw themselves into their holes and pull the dirt in on top of themselves. They are armed, rich, and psychotic.

At least they're not very bright.



Emailifaction is digital carcinization (permalink)

During the first dotcom bubble, Jamie "JWZ" Zawinski coined Zawinski's Law: "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can." It's all three kinds of funny: funny ha-ha, funny strange, and funny serious.

It's the software equivalent of carcinization, the tendency of every animal to eventually evolve into a crab. Crab's aren't the best animal, but they're the most versatile.

https://academic.oup.com/biolinnean/article/121/1/200/3089703

Today in XKCD, Randall Munroe updates Zawinski's Law with a strip called "Unread," in the way that mounting unread message counts eventually turn every instant messaging platform into email.

https://xkcd.com/2389/

Switching from email to instant messaging can feel hugely liberating. There's the first-order effect, that most of the people whose email is a chore – mass-forwarders, bulk-CCers, favor beggers and passive-aggressive schmendricks – don't know how to reach you.

Instead, your initial correspondents on a new service are apt to be close friends you give your new address to, along with a smattering of interesting strangers of the sort you've been unable to engage with thanks to the time-vampires who'd colonized your email inbox.

That giddy moment quickly fades though, because you have stuff to do, and to do stuff, you have to engage with people. And then they'll engage with you. And you'll want to answer them, but sometimes you'll need to get other people in on the discussion to move things forward.

You'll get messages on the go – during the honeymoon period, you can even turn on notifications again! – and then need to come back to them later (because you're on the go, and the messages are important).

Then, one of two things happens: either you fall back to email or the IM tool gets CC, BCC, mark unread, search and bulk messaging.

Except that it's shitty email. It's email that's locked inside a social media company's walled garden, with only one client, not federated.

This is why I do everything important by email. Not because I like email. I hate email. I, too, have experienced the giddy new relationship energy that comes from switching to an IM-based service!

But I've also lived through the disastrous consequences of zawinskiian carcination enough times that I have learned my lesson. Much as I hate email, I can't quit it.



Cheap Chinese routers riddled with backdoors (permalink)

Jetstream is the Walmart brand name for a line of cheap Chinese wifi base-station/routers; other popular, cheap brands like Wavlink and Winstars appear to come from the same manufacturer and they all share a grave security vulnerability: a powerful back-door.

A collaboration between Cybernews, Mantas Sasnauskas and James Clee and Roni Carta documents the back-door, attempts to connect multiple corporate identities to a common owner, and presents (very) rough estimate of the number of devices that share this defect.

https://cybernews.com/security/walmart-exclusive-routers-others-made-in-china-contain-backdoors-to-control-devices/

The researchers say that the back-door allows remote parties to "monitor and control all traffic coming through" affected devices, using an undocumented web-form that accepts commands and runs them as root.

This form has only the crudest security, checking to see if there's ANY user activity on the network before allowing access. The researchers claim this as evidence that this is a deliberate back-door and not a forgotten testing feature or error.

They also document a hidden feature that causes routers to enumerate nearby routers. While they say there's no reason for this to exist, I can think of at least two: first, for dynamic frequency selection to avoid interference, and second, to set up relaying services.

However, I agree with their contention that such a feature would be useful to the spread of malicious software that exploits the same back-door.

I'm more dubious of their implied claim that all of this represents some kind of Chinese state intervention in product design in order to facilitate surveillance and/or cyberwarfare.

It's true that China (and other world powers, notably the USA) have covertly and overtly weakened device security as part of their cyberoffense efforts. But it's also true that vendors make this kind of stupid mistake all the time, without government encouragement.

Remember when Chrysler shipped millions of internet-connected Jeeps whose main security was that the connectivity came from Sprint and since no one uses Sprint, no one would be on the same network as the Jeeps?

https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/

Chinese white-label firms are notorious for building idiotically insecure devices that are sold under multiple brand names, in ways that lead to real harms to their owners, and there's no indication that this was malice – rather, it was indifference.

http://www.kerneronsec.com/2016/02/remote-code-execution-in-cctv-dvrs-of.html

Which is not to say that Chinese cyberwarriors wouldn't exploit these defects – as would their US and other foreign counterparts. Indeed, a major impediment to the passage of good cybersecurity regulation is the extent to which spy agencies rely on insecure IoT devices.

And of course, that's just one form of blowback. Vulnerabilities are also useful to cybercriminals, and that's why both China and the US are under continuous, nation-scale, punishing ransomeware and Mirai attacks.

It seems like there's at least one Mirai version that targets the Jetstream back-door. But then again, Mirai is an aggressive little fucker that also targets high-end, Sony equipment.

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2016/12/researchers-find-fresh-fodder-for-iot-attack-cannons/

I think the geopolitics of this thing isn't "Chinese spies coerced a manufacturer into riddling its products with vulnerabilities." It's: "In the absence of regulation and liability, companies make insecure products."

And also: "Spies do what they can to prevent regulation because they like insecure products."

And finally: "Criminals love the insecurities that reckless companies create and governments fail to punish."

Oh, and "Walmart's procurements process is garbage and you should throw away your Walmart router."



Talking interop on EFF's podcast (permalink)

How to Fix the Internet is EFF's amazing new podcast: nuanced discussions of tech law and ethics with incredible experts, interviewed and contextualized by EFF executive director Cindy Cohn and strategy director Danny O'Brien.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/11/13/said-no-one-ever/#fix-it

I devoured the first three episodes. I mean, I started working with EFF nearly 19 years ago (!) but I was learning SO MUCH from them.

Today, the episode I recorded dropped. I've never been in such august company.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/11/podcast-episode-control-over-users-competitors-and-critics

Our discussion is about the role interoperability plays in helping technology users exercise self-determination, giving them alternatives to bad moderation, abusive lock-in, and poor security choices.

And about how companies love interop when they're trying to eat another company's lunch, but then they love to take it away once they win, because without interop, companies can control their customers, critics and competitors.

You can get How to Fix the Internet in your favorite podcatcher. Here's the RSS:

https://efforg.libsyn.com/rss

and here's the MP3 for my episode:

https://ia601407.us.archive.org/10/items/eff-podcast-episode-4-interroperability/EFF_Podcast_Episode4_Interroperability.mp3



This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Menstruating woman subjected to TSA grope because panty-liner obscured her vulva on pornoscanner https://blog.gladrags.com/2010/11/24/tsa-groin-searches-menstruating-woman/

#5yrsago Randall “XCKD” Munroe’s Thing Explainer: delightful exploded diagrams labelled with simple words https://memex.craphound.com/2015/11/24/randall-xckd-munroes-thing-explainer-delightful-exploded-diagrams-labelled-with-simple-words/

#5yrsago Shamrock shake: Pfizer’s Irish “unpatriotic loophole” ducks US taxes https://arstechnica.com/science/2015/11/with-160-billion-merger-pfizer-moves-to-ireland-and-dodges-taxes/

#5yrsago WTO rules against US dolphin-safe tuna labels because they’re unfair to Mexican fisheries https://theintercept.com/2015/11/24/wto-ruling-on-dolphin-safe-tuna-labeling-illustrates-supremacy-of-trade-agreements/

#5yrsago J Edgar Hoover was angry that the Boy Scouts didn’t thank him effusively enough https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2015/nov/24/j-edgar-hoover-insults/

#1yrago Peak billionaire: a billionaire tries to purchase a party nomination to outflank anti-billionaires so he can run against another billionaire https://time.com/5735384/capitalism-reckoning-elitism-in-america-2019/

#1yrago A poor, Trump-voting Florida town opened a government grocery store to end its food desert, but it’s “not socialism” https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/11/22/baldwin-florida-food-desert-city-owned-grocery-store/

#1yrago I made Wil Wheaton recite the digits of Pi for four minutes, then a fan set it to music https://soundcloud.com/nicholasland/pi-funk

#1yrago The Lincoln Library executive director got fired for renting Glenn Beck the original Gettysburg Address https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2019/11/22/lincoln-library-director-fired-after-renting-out-gettysburg-address-to-glenn-beck/



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/), Deeplinks (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 516 words (87352 total).

Currently reading: The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 24) https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/11/23/someone-comes-to-town-someone-leaves-town-part-24/

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:


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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

17:49

Meeting between Netanyahu and Pompeo [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Netanyahu the corrupt met secretly with Pompeo the fanatic and Crown Prince Bone Saw.

I would suppose they were planning to attack Iran — than is the desire they have in common.

Financial disobedience [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Extinction Rebellion [UK] launches campaign of financial disobedience.* This includes debt and tax strikes.

Continuing investment in fossil fuels [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A survey of major investment funds finds they are planning to invest heavily in renewable energy but continue investing (infesting?) too much in fossil fuels.

Breathing on protesters [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A covidiot has been charged with assault for breathing on protesters with the idea that he might infect them with Covid-19.

I believe it is well-established that intentionally transmitting a dangerous disease to others is a crime. It certainly deserves to be.

Passport and citizenship [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The UK wrongly confiscated Ken Morgan's passport in 1994 after an intended brief visit to Jamaica, which forced him to stay in Jamaica until 2018. In that year he applied for UK citizenship, but it was denied because he had been away from the UK for so many years.

The fact that officials could make this decision shows the wrong premises with which they approach such decision in general.

By the way, this is an example of a mistake that Joseph Heller has pointed out: people apply the term "Catch 22" incorrectly to other situations. What officials did to Morgan was unjust, but does not have the unique special structure of Catch 22.

Consider human beings important [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Over a period of decades, Norway has designed its economic rules to consider human beings important.

Making a dent in college loan debts [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Many Americans are unable even to make a dent in their college loan debts. Of those who borrowed in 2009, over a quarter owe more now than they did at the start.

Eventually the lender concludes the loan is uncollectible and forgives it, but this counts as taxable income, which is taxed at a substantial rate and the poor victim can't possibly pay it.

The tax debt must be smaller than the school debt. It might also be easier to eliminate via bankruptcy, though I don't know.

The lender could reduce the resulting tax debt greatly by forgiving the debt a little every year — as if it were being repaid — because that way it would not put the borrower into a high tax bracket. But I wouldn't assume they care enough to do that.

Reducing systemic racism [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

In the past decade, several government reports have described what must be done to reduce the effects of systemic racism in the UK, but the recommendations have not been implemented and the problem keeps getting worse.

Campaign to decriminalize psychedelics [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

California state senator Wiener will campaign to decriminalize psychedelics in that state.

We saw in Vietnam how much harm is caused by fighting a war on drugs. Let's not have one in the US.

Large secret church meeting [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Churches in England are holding large meetings secretly.

This is very dangerous. Large religious gatherings have has caused important Covid-19 outbreaks in South Korea and elsewhere.

People interviewed claim that worship is "essential". That is clearly not so in general; many of us do without it. But if you feel a need to worship, you don't need to do it in a large gathering. You can worship individually with no risk of spreading disease.

Indeed, many pious hermits worshiped in solitude for years at a time.

Morgues can't cope [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

In El Paso, so many people are dying from Covid-19 that the morgues are overflowing and the regular personnel can't cope.

They have to limit the CPR for each sick patient because the ICU staff can't cope either.

These are the predictable consequences of the spreader's policies and he is directly responsible for these deaths. If he had not adopted intentional spreading of the disease, most of them would never have caught Covid-19.

Covid-19 vaccines patents [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia oppose the push for the WTO to waive patent restrictions and allow all countries to make and use Covid-19 vaccines without paying for the privilege.

It is worth reminding people that the WTO is the reason why most countries allow medicines to be patented. That was a scheme to enrich big pharma companies at the expense of people who can't afford monopolistic prices for drugs. This system represents a decision to kill millions of people, and is one of the reasons why we ought to abolish the WTO.

Covid-19 vaccine developers are keeping the techniques of making them secret and have the gall to criticize people for trying to get those secrets.

This information should be made available to every would-be vaccine manufacturer.

Both of these articles used the misleading term "intellectual property." The first uses it to mean patents. The second uses it to mean trade secrets. Patents and trade secrets are totally different and have nothing whatsoever in common.

The term lumps together patents with copyrights with trade secrets with trademarks, and some other things as well. These laws are totally different, so the term is sophisticated-sounding confusion.

When someone uses the term "intellectual property", understand it to mean, "I don't know what I am talking about."

Profit from overseeing [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Sen. Perdue of Georgia Profited From Defense Contractor's Stock While Overseeing Naval Spending.*

Congress passed a law, the STOCK Act, criminalizing that kind of corruption, but then repealed it.

More important things than gender [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A feminist columnist recognizes that there are more important things about a proposed cabinet secretary than per gender. For instance, per political inclinations.

I've never been impressed by "firsts" in high-level positions. Having for the first time a woman as the secretary of this-or-that is not going to help the lives of very many women. What the official does may help them, or hurt them.

An increase in the minimum wage would help millions of American women who have hard lives today, along with millions of American men. A national medical system would also do that, especially if it covers abortions and reliable contraception.

17:28

A set of stable kernels [LWN.net]

Greg Kroah-Hartman has released stable kernels 5.9.11, 5.4.80, 4.19.160, 4.14.209, 4.9.246, and 4.4.246 have been released. They all contain important fixes and users should upgrade.

17:07

The Stare by Lucrezia Northstar [Oh Joy Sex Toy]

The Stare by Lucrezia Northstar

Today’s a fun one by the incredibly talented Lucrezia Northstar. I think anybody with a cat can relate. Make sure to go say hi… Link Tree Twitter Instagram Patreon TRIVIA (webcomic)

16:56

Michał Herda: Goodbye, Hexstream [Planet Lisp]

I am saddened that I need to write this post, but I need to make a public confession.

After Jean-Philippe Paradis, a Common Lisp programmer better known online as Hexstream, requested me to review his "extensive contributions" to the Common Lisp ecosystem, he seems to have disliked my reply so much that he has declared me the single biggest threat to the Common Lisp community right now.

(A gist copy of the review is here for people who would rather avoid browsing the full issue.)

The review has appeared after yet another discussion thread on GitHub - originally about implementations of Clojurelike arrow macros in Common Lisp - has been derailed by Hexstream in the traditional way in which he derailed many [1] other[2] GitHub[3] discussions[4]: asserting as a logical fact that his preferences take precedence over other people's preferences, aggressively calling out other people for questioning this state of matters, and finally playing the victim card of being silenced, censored, and tortured by a so-called Common Lisp Mafia.

Unlike during the past few times, this time I have decided not to give up posting. On the contrary, I have spend a considerable amount of my personal time (including one all-nighter) to actually respond to every single post of Hexstream, analyze it, take it apart into individual claims that he is making, and refute every single false point that I could find to the best of my ability using the full extent of my available tools.

After several posts of increasing angriness exchanged with Hexstream, in which discussion I have once again tried to coerce him into changing his course and stop being an aggressive offender towards members of the Common Lisp community, and after being explicitly invited to analyze Hexstream's contribution to the Common Lisp community in a tweet of his, I replied to his request with an analysis of the public data collected from GitHub, Quicklisp and Hexstream's public CV. Hexstream has announced multiple times that he is proud of this information and there is nothing to hide there; no, quite the contrary. Hence, I felt welcome to use it and see for myself what kinds of prominent contributions of his I must have missed.

It seems that my analysis of that data was not well-received; Hexstream disappeared with a mere "see you in 2021" comment, stating that he has projects with higher priorities to work on at the moment, and simply replied on GitHub that "my posts contain countless factual, logical and other errors". Afterwards, his Twitter contained this.

I did have a fair amount of respect left for phoe before today, but after he said I am not a Common Lisp expert and that I am a fraud, based on malicious deliberately superficial

Welp.

            (with-irony "

          

It seems to me that I must have thought the unthinkable. (How could I have said that he is not a Common Lisp expert and a fraud? How was it even possible!?) Moreover, I then dared to say it aloud. Worst of all, I even backed it all with solid, concrete, data-based evidence that cannot be immediately refuted as a mere opinion and requires some serious figuring out of how to turn it around so that the Common Lisp Mafia is guilty for all the facts that I've noted.

All of a sudden, after posting this single post, I have become the main threat to the whole Common Lisp community, declared impossible to directly and indirectly fund in an ethical manner, and then proclaimed to require immediate medical attention of psychiatric nature.

Oh goodness. I assume that the analysis must have been way too short for his liking. I regret that I have not found the time to go into his GitHub issues in detail...

            ")

          

So, Hexstream. If you're reading this, I hope that my review serves as a proper wake-up call for you to actually see that your behavior is off and needs adjustment in order for other people to actually consider you acceptable in the Common Lisp community. If it does not, I have done everything to actually try and help you as a fellow Common Lisp hacker. I can, and will, do no more in this matter, and will instead do everything to protect the people I respect, like, and cooperate with from your destructive influence.

You are planning to launch some kind of Common Lisp Revival 2020 Fundraiser soon. I would like to tell you that I consider you to be the wrong person to launch one: not even for any of the aforementioned reasons, but for the reason that to you, Common Lisp seems to be a completely different language than it is to me. Based on the above review that you have requested me to do, it seems that you perceive Common Lisp as a strictly single-player language where you have to struggle against countless feats and enemies on Twitter, GitHub, and wherever else, in order to produce anything of even the smallest value after grand feats and massive effort to struggle against censorship.

On the contrary, I know many people who consider Common Lisp to be a multiplayer language where people support one another, are eager to help each other, share knowledge, indulge in fascinating projects that would be tough to indulge in with other languages and, best of all, are not hostile towards one another at the smallest hint of suspicion. Some of those people form the Common Lisp Foundation that, in my opinion, should take over any kind of Common Lisp revival fundraisers.

Obviously, all other reasons from my analysis why you are not entitled to represent the Common Lisp community as head of such a fundraiser still apply. And they are much more damning than the worldview issue above.

  • Your claimed commercial expertise in Common Lisp is void.
  • Your fifteen years of overall experience in Lisp have no basis in actual code.
  • Your projects larger than micro-utilities have been so poor that, as you claim, you have disposed of them yourself.
  • Your micro-utilities do not have a single dependent in the main Quicklisp distribution and they do not show signs of actual use by programmers.
  • Your documentation projects are generally not acceptable in the Common Lisp community because they are encumbered by the implicit unbearable personality of their author.
  • You have not contributed a single line of code to any GitHub repository hosted by anyone else throughout your eight and a half years of presence on GitHub and fifteen years of overall programming experience that you claim to have.
  • You derail GitHub conversations with offensive and aggressive comments, indulge in Twitter rants containing more offensive and aggressive comments, and tie them together with your personal website containing even more offensive and aggressive comments.
  • You repeatedly defame various honored and respected members of the Common Lisp community, including Rainer Joswig, Michael Fiano, Daniel Kochmański, Stas Boukarev, and Zach Beane. And, I guess, me.
  • Oh, about Zach! have I mentioned https://xach.exposed ?

And to top it all, after the above analysis was posted, instead of fulfilling my hopes and responding to this critique of your Lisp merit by indulging in meritocratic discussion about your technical contributions to the Common Lisp ecosystem, you instead immediately announced that I require psychiatric help.

For completeness, I do have to admit: you have been popularizing crowdfunding among Lispers and achieved visible success there, with multiple authors and repositories adopting various means of crowdfunding (GitHub Sponsors, Patreon, LiberaPay) thanks to your efforts and suggestions. This is the one single thing that I can unambiguously consider a net positive coming from you. That's all.

Other than that, I do have to repeat what I have said at the end of my analysis. You try to pose as a Common Lisp expert. No, with all of the above I have no reasons to claim that you are one. Your expertise is hollow. Your experience seems false. You pretend to be someone you are not. You are a scam, Hexstream, and I am saddened and torn that I need to speak these words because I sincerely wish you were not.


The earliest Lisp commit that I was able to find in my GitHub repositories is from November 2015. That is exactly five years ago. In 2015, I was getting frustrated over Emacs keybindings. In 2015, you were "exposing" Zach Beane. Through these five years, I was learning Lisp to the best of my ability. Through these five years, you were doing I have no idea what. I can only guess based on what I see.

And I see Twitter rants. I see GitHub issue derailments. I see self-announced policies that contradict one another. I see tiny Lisp libraries with zero users. I see no other Lisp code of yours. I see no code of yours in any other GitHub repositories. I see big claims backed by nothing. I see an image of a Common Lisp expert that is so fragile that it falls into pieces after a brief glance.

Seriously, what were you doing with your life during these years? Researching ethics? Verifying the boundaries set by Twitter and GitHub moderation teams? Fighting for your life while the Common Lisp Mafia caged you and demanded a ransom of 20,000,000 US parentheses for your freedom?

I simply cannot comprehend it. And I do feel sorry for you, since most likely neither can you.


If you are still reading, please answer one question that I will ask at the end of this block of text. I will attempt to be somewhat honest regarding myself in the topic of my own impact on the Common Lisp community, as I see it. No boasting too much, not being too humble. Let's try it.

I have attempted to complete the Common Lisp UltraSpec which I talked about at an European Lisp Symposium one time and then failed miserably at this task after grossly misestimating it. I have implemented package-local nicknames in Clozure Common Lisp and then used the momentum from that work to make a portability library for package-local nicknames. I have managed to rewrite and optimize the somewhat famed split-sequence system commonly used in the Common Lisp ecosystem. I have managed to overhaul the even more famed Lisp Koans by rewriting them almost from scratch and fixing multiple compliance errors. I have successfully convinced Massachusetts Institute of Technology to release the Common Lisp WordNet interface under a permissive license (which took only half a year of pinging people via mail) and fixed it up as appropriate. I have written a utility suite for managing protocols and test cases with some documentation that I am proud of even after two whole years. I wrote an implementation of Petri nets in Common Lisp that seems either to work fine or not to be used at all, because I do not get much attention from it; still, I've tested it (hopefully) well enough to be useful in the general case. I recently wrote the fastest priority queue available in Common Lisp after someone mentioned that the ones on Quicklisp are too slow. I then ended up miserably failing at rewriting the Common Lisp arrows system, which resulted in a different system with a tutorial for arrows that I have received several thanks for. And then there's some smaller libraries that might not be all that mentionworthy.

I have been hosting the Online Lisp Meeting series which have met general acclaim and popularity and are considered a worthy continuous extension of the ideas of the European Lisp Symposium - even if, in my opinion, they contain a bit too much CL content, compared to the ELS ideals and statistics. The eleventh installment is bound to happen this week, where I will speak for the second time - again about the topic of control flow and condition systems. I already have two more talks queued up and we plan on going until the next European Lisp Symposium, which will most likely eat up all of the available talks and then some. (Maybe some of the rejected papers will sublimate as OLM videos though?... I sincerely hope so! ELS recently had to reject papers not because they were bad, but because they had an already full schedule.)

With help of countless people helping me on various stages of the book lifecycle and with support from Apress Publishing, I have managed to release the book The Common Lisp Condition System along with a pair of accompanying Common Lisp systems, the larger Portable Condition System and the smaller trivial-custom-debugger, plus a release of source code from the book and a free online appendix to the book containing content that did not make it inside in time. I have also proven that the condition system can be easily implemented in a non-Lisp, which is Java, and I will talk about this in extent to the WebAssembly committee to ensure that WASM has all the necessary functionalities to ensure that Common Lisp can be efficiently implemented on WASM.

Finally, I made some art once. I think it did not sting anybody's eyes too hard. Or that it's strictly Lisp-related too much... but hey, it's CL implementations, and the Lisp Lizard.

I think I am generally tolerated and maybe even enjoyed in my community as a Common Lisp programmer, despite my occasional outbursts of frustration and outright stupidity. I try to be available on Reddit, IRC, Discord, and in private messages for all sorts of support that I am capable of providing. I try to teach other people the way I was taught when I was starting out. Whenever I notice that I should apologize and make amends because I fucked up somewhere (e.g. in the recent Quickdocs issue), I do try my best to be sorry and amend my behavior as appropriate, and I try to welcome other people's remarks and inegrate them into my behavior as appropriate; I think it helps other people tolerate my behavior when I'm not easily tolerable.

And, well, you know, there is this single person in my environment who just keeps on smearing shit on people in my vicinity, but I don't think I care anymore; this person has willingly made so many enemies by now, that they are ignored by many, confronted by few (who actually have some time to spare), and hell, I even got some most unexpected people to cheer me on in my attempts to actually try and confront this guy and his bullshit excuses for repeatedly setting fires in the Common Lisp world.

But, yeah, anyway. You still consider that it's me who needs psychiatric help. Is that right?


So, Hexstream, this is a goodbye. Thank you for the unique chance to train my patience, persistence, and insistence. I assure you that it has not gone to waste, and I assure you that I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Since you do not seem to want to change your behavior in the slightest, then I wish you to stay on your current course and not change in the slightest so you may see for yourself where it leads you. The faster you slide into irrelevance because of your current choice, the healthier the Common Lisp community will be.

(And I mean the real Common Lisp community, containing more than just a single person who's purely accidentally named Jean-Philippe.)

Bye. I don't think I will miss you much, even though I adore the technical thought behind some of your libraries. And if I encounter you again on the Internet, be prepared to once again meet the side of me that has long run out of spare chances to give you anymore.

16:42

Security updates for Tuesday [LWN.net]

Security updates have been issued by Fedora (chromium, microcode_ctl, and seamonkey), Mageia (f2fs-tools, italc, python-cryptography, python-pillow, tcpreplay, and vino), Oracle (thunderbird), Red Hat (bind, kernel, microcode_ctl, net-snmp, and Red Hat Virtualization), Scientific Linux (net-snmp and thunderbird), SUSE (kernel and mariadb), and Ubuntu (atftp, libextractor, pdfresurrect, and pulseaudio).

15:35

Why does the disk optimizer put boot files at low-numbered sectors? [The Old New Thing]

When the disk optimizer rearranges data on the disk, one of the things it does is put boot files at low-numbered sectors. Why is that? Is it just for mathematical convenience? Why not put them at the highest-numbered sectors, so they stay out of the way of regular data?

Rotational media number their tracks and sectors from the outside in. The lowest-numbered tracks and sectors are at the outer rim, and the highest-numbered tracks and sectors are near the center. And it’s that geometry that the disk optimizer takes advantage of.

Since rotation is at a constant speed, it means that the velocity at the rim is faster than velocity near the center. This means that the within a single revolution, more storage media pass under a disk head positioned near the rim than under a disk head positioned near the center.

Back in the old days, hard drives stored data at a constant bit rate, resulting in a fixed number of sectors per track. Sectors near the rim would be larger than sectors in the hub, which was a waste of storage media.

Hard drives nowadays store data at a roughly constant bit density per unit of storage media, so that tracks near the rim contain more data than tracks near the center. Within a single revolution, so you can bulk-read more data from tracks near the rim in the same amount of time. And it is this phenomenon that the disk optimizer takes advantage of.

The post Why does the disk optimizer put boot files at low-numbered sectors? appeared first on The Old New Thing.

14:49

Four short links: 24 Nov 2020 [Radar]

  1. OpenStreetMap is Having a MomentApple was responsible for more edits in 2019 than Mapbox accounted for in its entire corporate history. See also the 2020: Curious Cases of Corporations in OpenStreetMap talk from State of the Map. (via Simon Willison)
  2. Drone Warfare — The second point, “SkyNet”, is the interesting bit. Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war and drones enabled some very asymmetric outcomes. Quoting a Washington Post story, Azerbaijan, frustrated at a peace process that it felt delivered nothing, used its Caspian Sea oil wealth to buy arms, including a fleet of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones and Israeli kamikaze drones (also called loitering munitions, designed to hover in an area before diving on a target). […] Azerbaijan used surveillance drones to spot targets and sent armed drones or kamikaze drones to destroy them, analysts said. […] Their tally, which logs confirmed losses with photographs or videos, listed Armenian losses at 185 T-72 tanks; 90 armored fighting vehicles; 182 artillery pieces; 73 multiple rocket launchers; 26 surface-to-air missile systems, including a Tor system and five S-300s; 14 radars or jammers; one SU-25 war plane; four drones and 451 military vehicles. (via John Birmingham)
  3. Peregrinean efficient, single-machine system for performing data mining tasks on large graphs. Some graph mining applications include: Finding frequent subgraphs; Generating the motif/graphlet distribution; Finding all occurrences of a subgraph. Peregrine is highly programmable, so you can easily develop your own graph mining applications using its novel, declarative, graph-pattern-centric API. To write a Peregrine program, you describe which graph patterns you are interested in mining, and what to do with each occurrence of those patterns. You provide the what and the runtime handles the how.
  4. Declining Marginal Returns of Researchers — (Tamay Besiroglu) I found that the marginal returns of researchers are rapidly declining. There is what’s called a “standing on toes” effect: researcher productivity declines as the field grows. Because ML has recently grown very quickly, this makes better ML models much harder to find. (Dissertation)

14:21

The Big Idea: Charlie N. Holmberg [Whatever]

The cover to

The genesis of Spellbreaker is a short but critical line in a beloved story. What’s the line and why does it matter? Author Charlie N. Holmberg is here to reveal all.

CHARLIE N. HOLMBERG:

I am not exaggerating when I say nearly every single novel I’ve written has been inspired, in some way, by Studio Ghibli, especially their adaptation of Dianna Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle. There’s something so whimsical, so quirky, in their films, that I can’t help but be enlightened. Usually it’s the way the studio’s founder, Hayao Miyazaki, thinks outside the box, reimagining settings, characters, and magic. But for my most recent novel, Spellbreaker, the “big idea” came straight from the dialogue.

In the film Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie, the protagonist, is cursed to be an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. Later, these two reunite and have a brief exchange, which I’ll quote from the English dub version of the film:

Sophie: If you’re so great, why don’t you break the spell you put on me?

Witch: I’m sorry, dear. My talent lies in casting spells, not breaking them.

Now, I’ve watched this film more times than I can count. Unsurprisingly, it’s my favorite movie. But during this rewatch, those lines really took hold of me. How interesting would it be to have a world where wizards exist, but they can only create or break spells, never both?

The story unfolded from there. I didn’t want an open-ended read-the-spellbook-and-cast magic system, so I looked around at what makes up our world and decided to place spells in four categories: physical, temporal, spiritual, and rational (essentially magic that affects the physical world, time, human nature, and human minds). The fifth category was already set: the ability to break the spells cast in those four. I gave this ability to Elsie, my main character. And for icing on the cake, I made it illegal.

I tend to bounce back and forth between high fantasy and historical fantasy, and it being the latter’s turn, I set this story in my favorite time period and place: Victorian England. Specifically the year 1895, since I’d been watching Lark Rise to Candleford at the time, and I quite liked the setting. From there, I added a wizard, or a “spellmaker,” in my favorite discipline—physical—dusted in some romance (as per my MO), and bam, I had the first book of a duology.

So, next time you find yourself with some free time, I might suggest an activity? Read my novel, Spellbreaker. And if that doesn’t float your boat, I highly recommend Howl’s Moving Castle, both in written and animated form.

—-

Spellbreaker: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Bookshop

Visit the author’s website. Follow her on Twitter.

14:07

Link [Scripting News]

A flaw in the Constitution we're learning about now, the period between an incumbent losing a bid for re-election, and the inauguration of his successor is unnecessarily long. This is a period when the president, as we're finding out now, can do real damage to the country. I expect we're going to learn a lot about what's happening now when Trump leaves, or maybe runs. The smart thing to do would be to remove the president as soon as the election outcome is known. And pending investigation he should be put in jail, no bail. A nice one, of course, but still we need to check out what he did.

The Attack Surface Lectures: Sci-Fi Genre [Cory Doctorow's craphound.com]

The Attack Surface Lectures were a series of eight panel discussions on the themes in my novel Attack Surface, each hosted by a different bookstore and each accompanied by a different pair of guest speakers.

This program is “Sci-Fi Genre” hosted by Fountain Books in Richmond, VA, with guest-hosts Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig. It was recorded on October 16, 2020.


Here is the original Youtube link for this program. Please consider subscribing to Fountain Books’s Youtube channel for access to all their outstanding author events!

MP3

13:21

Link [Scripting News]

Season 4 of The Crown is good. About half way through, at the beginning of the Australia trip, I gave up. I felt it was unwatchable. But I gave it another try. It's quite a story. And the characters are more interesting than I gave them credit for, and the acting is good. The last scene of the last episode is the best. Ties it up in a ribbon. No spoilers. 💥

Link [Scripting News]

An idea for a New Year's resolution. At least once a day agree with someone. Not silently. Say "I agree with you." No qualification, not "I agree with you, but.." It's jarring at first, then liberating. And the responses will surprise you.

12:35

Link [Scripting News]

This is why I don’t trust reviews from journos who Apple chooses to review their products. They overlook the flaws that make the machine unusable. And all the gushing over what? A new CPU? Please. I can't tell what CPU any machine is running, and neither can you, unless you open the system About box. My main concern about the new Macs with the new CPU is if VMWare runs on them, and if I can run Frontier in there. Otherwise forget it. I'll stick with my Intel iMac Pro I bought in 2017.

12:14

On That Dusseldorf Hospital Ransomware Attack and the Resultant Death [Schneier on Security]

Wired has a detailed story about the ransomware attack on a Dusseldorf hospital, the one that resulted in an ambulance being redirected to a more distant hospital and the patient dying. The police wanted to prosecute the ransomware attackers for negligent homicide, but the details were more complicated:

After a detailed investigation involving consultations with medical professionals, an autopsy, and a minute-by-minute breakdown of events, Hartmann believes that the severity of the victim’s medical diagnosis at the time she was picked up was such that she would have died regardless of which hospital she had been admitted to. “The delay was of no relevance to the final outcome,” Hartmann says. “The medical condition was the sole cause of the death, and this is entirely independent from the cyberattack.” He likens it to hitting a dead body while driving: while you might be breaking the speed limit, you’re not responsible for the death.

So while this might not be an example of death by cyberattack, the article correctly notes that it’s only a matter of time:

But it’s only a matter of time, Hartmann believes, before ransomware does directly cause a death. “Where the patient is suffering from a slightly less severe condition, the attack could certainly be a decisive factor,” he says. “This is because the inability to receive treatment can have severe implications for those who require emergency services.” Success at bringing a charge might set an important precedent for future cases, thereby deepening the toolkit of prosecutors beyond the typical cybercrime statutes.

“The main hurdle will be one of proof,” Urban says. “Legal causation will be there as soon as the prosecution can prove that the person died earlier, even if it’s only a few hours, because of the hack, but this is never easy to prove.” With the Düsseldorf attack, it was not possible to establish that the victim could have survived much longer, but in general it’s “absolutely possible” that hackers could be found guilty of manslaughter, Urban argues.

And where causation is established, Hartmann points out that exposure for criminal prosecution stretches beyond the hackers. Instead, anyone who can be shown to have contributed to the hack may also be prosecuted, he says. In the Düsseldorf case, for example, his team was preparing to consider the culpability of the hospital’s IT staff. Could they have better defended the hospital by monitoring the network more closely, for instance?

12:00

CodeSOD: Production Comments [The Daily WTF]

A fair bit of "bad code" requires at least a passing understanding of the language in question, or the domain involved. But bad comments transcend programming languages. Vilx sends us this...

09:35

Subconscious pre-filtering [Seth's Blog]

It’s entirely possible to believe that your ideas come from the muse, and your job is to simply amplify them. And that successful people are lucky because the muse keeps giving them useful and powerful ideas.

I’m not sure that’s what successful people do. All of us get an endless supply of ideas, notions and inklings. Successful people, often without realizing it, ignore the ones that are less likely to ‘work’, and instead focus on the projects that are more likely to advance the mission.

It’s possible to get better at this pre-filtering. By doing it out loud. By writing out the factors that you’re seeking, by explaining to someone else how your part of the world works.

Instinct is great. It’s even better when you work on it.


You can find more on this in The Practice, my new bestselling book.

I’m blogging about it weekly on Medium. And talking about it on some extraordinary podcasts around the world.

And we just started the eighth season of my podcast, Akimbo.

03:49

Today in “It’s About Damn Time” + a Cat [Whatever]

The transition can formally begin, finally, only two weeks and change after everyone knew Trump had lost.

Well, not everyone, I suppose. I’m aware some alt-right QAnon types are having a dark night of the soul at the moment. Well: good. Get used to that feeling, my dudes. You’re gonna be having it for a while now.

So that this post isn’t entirely “poke the whiny conspirabigots,” here’s a tweet from the Scamperbeasts account. Look! Smudge!

— JS

00:21

Strict code of responsibility [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Government ministers in the UK used to have a strict code of responsibility. Whoever presided over a serious wrong or mistake was obliged to resign. Nowadays, they are too powerful to be held responsible for anything.

Targeted killings in Afghanistan not using drones [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

There have been targeted killings in Afghanistan, and — for a change — they are not being done with drones. *Biden's Silence on Ending the Drone Wars.*

Car-tracking vision systems [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

New car-tracking vision systems don't just recognize license plate numbers. They also learn to recognize individual cars.

Housing associations are imposing this on the "owners" of houses. (I wouldn't buy a house in such a place myself.)

Surveillance like this should be absolutely forbidden.

I am also shocked by the idea of forbidding the "owners" to receive overnight visitors.

Biden should speak up [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Biden should speak up to counter the wrecker's disinformation campaign which aims to develop his followers into a sabotage front.

We should honor the officials that have refused to lie for the corrupter.

With his fanatics, he can make that refusal a real trial of the official's integrity.

Comedian's risk cancellation over who-knows-what [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Nowadays every moment in a comedian's career carries a risk of being cancelled over who-knows-what.

UK government totally callous [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The UK government has come to be totally callous about harm to "the little people" (those who are not wealthy enough to really matter).

Vaccines from messenger RNA [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Vaccines made from messenger RNA are not likely to alter the genome of humans who take it, unlike DNA vaccines.

Oil companies invest in additional extraction facilities [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Oil companies know that their oil reserves are likely to become worthless, but they are racing to invest in additional extraction facilities, which will contribute to global heating before eventually becoming likewise worthless.

Retail workers stripped of hazard pay [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Hailed as 'Heroes' During Pandemic, Retail Workers Stripped of Hazard Pay While Companies Rake in Massive Profits.*

*Democrats Must Commit Themselves to the Needs of Non-College Educated Workers.*

Supposing it is true that "the jobs are gone and are never coming back", who is responsible for that? Plutocratist politicians are. And who benefits from that? Mostly owners of stock. So the government has a responsibility to compensate the would-have-been workers from the wealth that the owners have gained.

Taxing them to pay for the work that the country needs would be admirable.

India on track for meeting goals at G20 [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*At G20, Only India Is On Track to Meet Goals for Keeping Global Heating to 3.6° F.*

Note, however, that India has built a lot of coal-fired power plants in recent years &dash which means it has a lot of new power plants to replace.

Guatemala's congress building [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Guatemala's congress adopted a budget which cut education and medical care, which triggered protests that set parts of the congress building on fire.

Monday, 23 November

23:28

Profiling children with data collected by their schools [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The thug department of Pasco, Florida, secretly profiles all children based on personal data collected by their schools and other government agencies. It uses the profiles to estimate whether they are likely to end up as criminals. Such predictions tend to be self-fulfilling.

Victoria (a state in Australia) does something similar.

If we had a reliable and helpful form of intervention to help children avoid that fate, these profiles could be used to good effect. But we don't know of any way, so they tend to be used to do harm.

Progressive programs such as a higher minimum wage, a better welfare system, and a national medical system, could help a lot of children avoid becoming criminals, and it wouldn't be necessary to try to predict which children were personally in the most danger.

Libya good news, bad news [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The good news is, Libya's cease-fire has lasted for a few weeks. The bad news is, more oil is being extracted there.

In the long term, fossil fuels will kill far, far more people than fighting in Libya. How many more will be killed due to extracting oil in Libya is imponderable.

Private insecurity guards [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

It's not just official thugs that kill blacks. Private insecurity guards can do it too.

US nurses are burned out [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US nurses are burned out and some are suffering from PTSD. Some are going on strike.

Hospitals are raking in money — they can afford to pay their staff better.

23:14

22:14

Page 25 [Flipside]

Page 25 is done.

21:28

News Post: Kind Words [Penny Arcade]

Tycho: Kind Words is not new by any means, I got it a super long time ago - I think even before it was on Steam, though I could be remembering that wrong? For some reason I remember - as one does - unzipping a file into a folder and clicking on something inside there. It is, functionally speaking, a kind of anonymous post office operated by a friendly deer. That's probably enough to bifurcate any audience, but let us cleave it further: this post office is designed to connect people with problems to friendly, concerned others who will respond with care and grace. I would say it exists in the…

20:56

20:07

Shirish Agarwal: White Hat Senior and Education [Planet Debian]

I had been thinking of doing a blog post on RCEP which China signed with 14 countries a week and a day back but this new story has broken and is being viraled a bit on the interwebs, especially twitter and is pretty much in our domain so thought would be better to do a blog post about it. Also there is quite a lot packed so quite a bit of unpacking to do.

Whitehat, Greyhat and Blackhat

For those of you who may not, there are actually three terms especially in computer science that one comes across. Those are white hats, grey hats and black hats. Now clinically white hats are like the fiery angels or the good guys who basically take permissions to try and find out weakness in an application, program, website, organization and so on and so forth. A somewhat dated reference to hacker could be Sandra Bullock (The Net 1995) , Sneakers (1992), Live Free or Die Hard (2007) . Of the three one could argue that Sandra was actually into viruses which are part of computer security but still she showed some bad-ass skills, but then that is what actors are paid to do 🙂 Sneakers was much more interesting for me because in that you got the best key which can unlock any lock, something like quantum computing is supposed to do. One could equate both the first movies in either white hat or grey hat . A grey hat is more flexible in his/her moral values and they are plenty of such people. For e.g. Julius Assange could be described as a grey hat, but as you can see and understand those are moral issues.

A black hat on the other hand is one who does things for profit even if it harms the others. The easiest fictitious examples are all Die Hard series, all of them except the 4th one, all had bad guys or black hats. The 4th one is the odd one out as it had Matthew Farell (Justin Long) as a grey hat hacker. In real life Kevin Mitnick, Kevin Poulsen, Robert Tappan Morris, George Hotz, Gary McKinnon are some examples of hackers, most of whom were black hats, most of them reformed into white hats and security specialists. There are many other groups and names but that perhaps is best for another day altogether.

Now why am I sharing this. Because in all of the above, the people who are using and working with the systems have better than average understanding of systems and they arguably would be better than most people at securing their networks, systems etc. but as we shall see in this case there has been lots of issues in the company.

WhiteHat Jr. and 300 Million Dollars

Before I start this, I would like to share that for me this suit in many ways seems to be similar to the suit filed against Krishnaraj Rao . Although the difference is that Krishnaraj Rao’s case/suit is that it was in real estate while this one is in ‘education’ although many things are similar to those cases but also differ in some obvious ways. For e.g. in the suit against Krishnaraj Rao, the plaintiff’s first approached the High Court and then the Supreme Court. Of course Krishanraj Rao won in the High Court and then in the SC plaintiff’s agreed to Krishnaraj Rao’s demands as they knew they could not win in SC. In that case, a compromise was reached by the plaintiff just before judgement was to be delivered.

In this case, the plaintiff have directly come to the SC, short-circuiting the high court process. This seems to be a new trend with the current Government in power where the rich get to be in SC without having to go the Honorable HC . It says much about SC as well, as they entertained the application and didn’t ask the plaintiff to go to the lower court first as should have been the case but that is and was honorable SC’s right to decide . The charges against Pradeep Poonia (the defendant in this case) are very much similar to those which were made in Krishanraj Rao’s suit hence won’t be going into those details. They have claimed defamation and filed a 20 crore suit. The idea is basically to silence any whistle-blowers.

Fictional Character Wolf Gupta

The first issue in this case or perhaps one of the most famous or infamous character is an unknown. While he has been reportedly hired by Google India, BJYU, Chandigarh. This has been reported by Yahoo News. I did a cursory search on LinkedIn to see if there indeed is a wolf gupta but wasn’t able to find any person with such a name. I am not even talking the amount of money/salary the fictitious gentleman is supposed to have got and the various variations on the salary figures at different times and the different ads.

If I wanted to, I could have asked few of the kind souls whom I know are working in Google to see if they can find such a person using their own credentials but it probably would have been a waste of time. When you show a LinkedIn profile in your social media, it should come up in the results, in this case it doesn’t. I also tried to find out if somehow BJYU was a partner to Google and came up empty there as well. There is another story done by Kan India but as I’m not a subscriber, I don’t know what they have written but the beginning of the story itself does not bode well.

While I can understand marketing, there is a line between marketing something and being misleading. At least to me, all of the references shared seems misleading at least to me.

Taking down dissent

One of the big no-nos at least from what I perceive, you cannot and should not take down dissent or critique. Indians, like most people elsewhere around the world, critique and criticize day and night. Social media like twitter, mastodon and many others would not exist in the place if criticisms are not there. In fact, one could argue that Twitter and most social media is used to drive engagements to a person, brand etc. It is even an official policy in Twitter. Now you can’t drive engagements without also being open to critique and this is true of all the web, including WordPress and me 🙂 . What has been happening is that whitehatjr with help of bjyu have been taking out content of people citing copyright violation which seems laughable.

When citizens critique anything, we are obviously going to take the name of the product otherwise people would have to start using new names similar to how Tom Riddle was known as ‘Dark Lord’ , ‘Voldemort’ and ‘He who shall not be named’ . There have been quite a few takedowns, I just provide one for reference, the rest of the takedowns would probably come in the ongoing suit/case.

Whitehat Jr. ad showing investors fighting


Now a brief synopsis of what the ad. is about. The ad is about a kid named ‘Chintu’ who makes an app. The app. is so good that investors come to his house and right in the lawn and start fighting each other. The parents are enjoying looking at the fight and to add to the whole thing there is also a nosy neighbor who has his own observations. Simply speaking, it is a juvenile ad but it works as most parents in India, as elsewhere are insecure.

Jihan critiquing the whitehatjr ad

Before starting, let me assure that I asked Jihan’s parents if it’s ok to share his ad on my blog and they agreed. What he has done is broken down the ad and showed how juvenile the ad is and using logic and humor as a template for the same. He does make sure to state that he does not know how the product is as he hasn’t used it. His critique was about the ad and not the product as he hasn’t used that.

The Website

If you look at the website, sadly, most of the site only talks about itself rather than giving examples that people can look in detail. For e.g. they say they have few apps. on Google play-store but no link to confirm the same. The same is true of quite a few other things. In another ad a Paralympic star says don’t get into sports and get into coding. Which athlete in their right mind would say that. And it isn’t that we (India) are brimming with athletes at the international level. In the last outing which was had in 2016, India sent a stunning 117 athletes but that was an exception as we had the women’s hockey squad which was of 16 women, and even then they were overshadowed in numbers by the bureaucratic and support staff. There was criticism about the staff bit but that is probably a story for another date.

Most of the site doesn’t really give much value and the point seems to be driving sales to their courses. This is pressurizing small kids as well as teenagers and better who are in the second and third year science-engineering whose parents don’t get that it is advertising and it is fake and think that their kids are incompetent. So this pressurizes both small kids as well as those who are learning, doing in whatever college or educational institution . The teenagers more often than not are unable to tell/share with them that this is advertising and fake. Also most of us have been on a a good diet of ads. Fair and lovely still sells even though we know it doesn’t work.

This does remind me of a similar fake academy which used very much similar symptoms and now nobody remembers them today. There used to be an academy called Wings Academy or some similar name. They used to advertise that you come to us and we will make you into a pilot or an airhostess and it was only much later that it was found out that most kids were doing laundry work in hotels and other such work. Many had taken loans, went bankrupt and even committed suicide because they were unable to pay off the loans due to the dreams given by the company and the harsh realities that awaited them. They were sued in court but dunno what happened but soon they were off the radar so we never came to know what happened to those million of kids whose life dreams were shattered.

Security

Now comes the security part. They have alleged that Pradeep Poonia broke into their systems. While this may be true, what I find funny is that with the name whitehat, how can they justify it. If you are saying you are white hat you are supposed to be much better than this. And while I have not tried to penetrate their systems, I did find it laughable that the site is using an expired https:// certificate. I could have tried further to figure out the systems but I chose not to . How they could not have an automated script to do the same is beyond me. But that is their concern, not mine.

Comparison

A similar offering would be unacademy but as can be seen they neither try to push you in anyway and nor do they make any ridiculous claims. In fact how genuine unacademy is can be gauged from the fact that many of its learning resources are available to people to see on YT and if they have tools they can also download it. Now, does this mean that every educational website should have their content for free, of course not. But when a channel has 80% – 90% of it YT content as ads and testimonials then they surely should give a reason to pause both for parents and students alike. But if parents had done that much research, then things would not be where they are now.

Allegations

Just to complete, there are allegations by Pradeep Poornia with some screenshots which show the company has been doing lot of bad things. For e.g. they were harassing an employee at night 2 a.m. who was frustrated and working in the company at the time. Many of the company staff routinely made sexist and offensive, sexual abusive remarks privately between themselves for prospective women who came to interview via webcam (due to the pandemic). There also seems to be a bit of porn on the web/mobile server of the company as well. There also have been allegations that while the company says refund is done next day, many parents who have demanded those refunds have not got it. Now while Pradeep has shared some of the quotations of the staff while hiding the identities of both the victims and the perpetrators, the language being used in itself tells a lot. I am in two minds whether to share those photos or not hence atm choosing not to. Poornia has also contended that all teachers do not know programming and they are given scripts to share. There have been some people who did share that experience with him –

Suruchi Sethi

From the company’s side they are alleging he has hacked the company servers and would probably be using the Fruit of the poisonous tree argument which we have seen have been used in many arguments.

Conclusion

Now that lies in the eyes of the Court whether the single bench choses the literal meaning or use the spirit of the law or the genuine concerns of the people concerned. While in today’s hearing while the company asked for a complete sweeping injunction they were unable to get it. Whatever may happen, we may hope to see some fireworks in the second hearing which is slated to be on 6.01.2021 where all of this plays out. Till later.

19:21

Vincent Fourmond: QSoas tips and tricks: using meta-data, first level [Planet Debian]

By essence, QSoas works with \(y = f(x)\) datasets. However, in practice, when working with experimental data (or data generated from simulations), one has often more than one experimental parameter (\(x\)). For instance, one could record series of spectra (\(A = f(\lambda)\)) for different pH values, so that the absorbance is in fact a function of both the pH and \(\lambda\). QSoas has different ways to deal with such situations, and we'll describe one today, using meta-data.

Setting meta-data

Meta-data are simply series of name/values attached to a dataset. It can be numbers, dates or just text. Some of these are automatically detected from certain type of data files (but that is the topic for another day). The simplest way to set meta-data is to use the set-meta command:
QSoas> set-meta pH 7.5
This command sets the meta-data pH to the value 7.5. Keep in mind that QSoas does not know anything about the meaning of the meta-data[1]. It can keep track of the meta-data you give, and manipulate them, but it will not interpret them for you. You can set several meta-data by repeating calls to set-meta, and you can display the meta-data attached to a dataset using the command show. Here is an example:
QSoas> generate-buffer 0 10
QSoas> set-meta pH 7.5
QSoas> set-meta sample "My sample"
QSoas> show 0
Dataset generated.dat: 2 cols, 1000 rows, 1 segments, #0
Flags: 
Meta-data:      pH =     7.5    sample =         My sample
Note here the use of quotes around My sample since there is a space inside the value.

Using meta-data

There are many ways to use meta-data in QSoas. In this post, we will discuss just one: using meta-data in the output file. The output file can collect data from several commands, like peak data, statistics and so on. For instance, each time the command 1 is run, a line with the information about the largest peak of the current dataset is written to the output file. It is possible to automatically add meta-data to those lines by using the /meta= option of the output command. Just listing the names of the meta-data will add them to each line of the output file. As a full example, we'll see how one can take advantage of meta-data to determine the position of the peak of the function \(x^2 \exp (-a\,x)\) depends on \(a\). For that, we first create a script that generates the function for a certain value of \(a\), sets the meta-data a to the corresponding value, and find the peak. Let's call this file do-one.cmds (all the script files can be found in the GitHub repository):
generate-buffer 0 20 x**2*exp(-x*${1})
set-meta a ${1}
1 
This script takes a single argument, the value of \(a\), generates the appropriate dataset, sets the meta-data a and writes the data about the largest (and only in this case) peak to the output file. Let's now run this script with 1 as an argument:
QSoas> @ do-one.cmds 1
This command generates a file out.dat containing the following data:
## buffer       what    x       y       index   width   left_width      right_width     area
generated.dat   max     2.002002002     0.541340590883  100     3.4034034034    1.24124124124   2.162162162161.99999908761
This gives various information about the peak found: the name of the dataset it was found in, whether it's a maximum or minimum, the x and y positions of the peak, the index in the file, the widths of the peak and its area. We are interested here mainly in the x position. Then, we just run this script for several values of \(a\) using run-for-each, and in particular the option /range-type=lin that makes it interpret values like 0.5..5:80 as 80 values evenly spread between 0.5 and 5. The script is called run-all.cmds:
output peaks.dat /overwrite=true /meta=a
run-for-each do-one.cmds /range-type=lin 0.5..5:80
V all /style=red-to-blue
The first line sets up the output to the output file peaks.dat. The option /meta=a makes sure the meta a is added to each line of the output file, and /overwrite=true make sure the file is overwritten just before the first data is written to it, in order to avoid accumulating the results of different runs of the script. The last line just displays all the curves with a color gradient. It looks like this:
Running this script (with @ run-all.cmds) creates a new file peaks.dat, whose first line looks like this:
## buffer       what    x       y       index   width   left_width      right_width     area    a
The column x (the 3rd) contains the position of the peaks, and the column a (the 10th) contains the meta a (this column wasn't present in the output we described above, because we had not used yet the output /meta=a command). Therefore, to load the peak position as a function of a, one has just to run:
QSoas> load peaks.dat /columns=10,3
This looks like this:
Et voilà ! To train further, you can:
  • improve the resolution in x;
  • improve the resolution in y;
  • plot the magnitude of the peak;
  • extend the range;
  • derive the analytical formula for the position of the peak and verify it !

[1] this is not exactly true. For instance, some commands like unwrap interpret the sr meta-data as a voltammetric scan rate if it is present. But this is the exception.

About QSoas

QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050–5052. Current version is 2.2. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

19:14

Link [Scripting News]

The Cuomo podcast is updating again.

Link [Scripting News]

Increased air travel for the holiday is a form of national suicide. But on CNN they give a lame version of the story. Trying to find normalcy flying to a big family dinner on Thursday is crazy.

Time to put down the calculator and really start making your money work for you! [Humble Bundle Blog]

We’ve teamed up with Wiley for our newest bundle! Get ebooks like The Little Book of Valuation: How to Value

Continue reading

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