August 22, 2008

Infrastructure Design Test

Can you spot the failure in this notice?

I'll wait.

Did you say 'RedHat let their servers be penetrated?' If so, good try, but no.

Did you say 'RedHat let their signing servers be penetrated?' Again, good try, but no.

Hopefully, you said 'Wait, their signing servers are accessible via network? WTF?' Because if you did, congratulations, you too saw the Epic Op Fail.

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August 20, 2008

Ah, so that's what it's called

I had vague memories from long ago of a brilliantly ethereal piece of music from the movie The Year of Living Dangerously. Some friends of the family had an early Betamax VCR at their country home, and this was one of the three or four movies they owned. I actually quite liked the movie, but what stayed with me other than an image of Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver in the front seat of an old car about to run a blockade was that music.

Then I heard it, the other day.

Turns out it's L'Enfant, by Vangelis.

And it's still awesome.

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August 18, 2008

Empirically verified!

Bacon Salt + Popcorn = WIN!

Experiments prove it. Urp.

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How on earth is this a good idea?

Non-Nuclear Warhead Urged for Trident Missile, says the Washington Post.

In other words, and let's be clear, this 'blue-ribbon defense panel' thinks that we should absolutely invest national treasure in a system designed to allow a President to authorize the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles (because no matter what's on the front, that's what a Trident is and will be) in order to attack a target with conventional weapons.

Let's look at this. The number one objection that jumps to my mind is also mentioned in the article:

One major congressional concern was that to other countries, such as Russia or China, the launch of a conventional Trident missile could not be distinguished from a nuclear one and could be mistaken for the start of a nuclear war.

The panel recognized that problem and suggested several ways to mitigate it, but in the end it concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks. The panel said that before any deployment takes place, there should be diplomatic discussions, particularly with partner countries. It said these talks should include "the doctrine for its use, immediate notifying of launches against countries, and installing devices (such as monitoring systems) to increase confidence that conventional warheads had not been replaced by nuclear ones."

The panel also said that few countries, other than Russia and perhaps China, would be able to detect a sub-launched missile "in the next five years," and that because of the few warheads that would be involved, "the risk of the observing nation's launching a nuclear retaliatory attack is very low."

In other words, "this is a risk, but gee, it's not enough of a risk to not do this. Anyway, the only people we'd scare are China and Russia, and we can use the hotline and brief them about where these things are so they don't get nervous when one pops the cork."

First point in rebuttal: Yes, you're quite correct, Russia and China are the only nations with a really good capability of detecting the launch of one of these. But since those are the only two nations with whom we're seriously worried about having an actual missile-based nuclear exchange, that would seem to me to make this argument entirely null and void. "Oh, don't worry, the only people that would see it anyway are the only other hostile ones with missiles." Uh, what?

Second point in rebuttal: Let me get this straight, you want to allow hostile nations the take from a monitoring system aboard our ballistic missile submarines? How is that a good idea? Honestly. Even if you dedicate a boat to this mission and only put monitors on that one, the only way that you're going to be able to offer any reassurance at the time of firing is by continuously telling your adversary where this submarine is. Color me stupid, but doesn't that completely miss the point of having a submarine in the first place? Also, even if you only give that information to Russia and China...wait, you're assuming Russia and China won't give the information to states we might be having issues with?

Moving on. Why, in fact, do they think we might want such a capability? They offer two main target sets. One: hostile missiles preparing for launch. Two: 'high-value' targets of opportunity, like, say, Osama bin Laden, who we need to hit before they can get away.

Sigh. Okay, let's start with number one. If you see somebody prepping a missile. There are three reasons this would concern us. One, that missile can hit U.S. sovereign territory (I WILL NOT use the fucking word 'Homeland.') Two, that missile can hit a U.S. ally. Three, that missile can hit deployed U.S. military forces. Let's take those in turn.

The only powers which at present can deploy missiles which threaten U.S. sovereign territory are...wait for it...yes, that's right: our allies, and Russia and China. No matter what they tell you about needing missile defense in central Europe, Iran cannot presently hit the United States with a missile. Even if they were to get a couple of nuclear weapons, you'd have to convince me that they'd think the best thing to do would be to stick them on a missile which (if past performance is any guide) has only a partial chance of working, and then fire it at us. Won't wash. Furthermore, the only type of missile where you're going to get this kind of warning is a liquid-fuelled missile. Who typically uses those? Well, Iran and other small missile players, and...China. Hm. If we can't deter China from using nuclear weapons on missiles, we've already lost, people. Unless you're trying for a splendid first strike against a nation that at least technically has SSBNs. Even if they only have one, don't you think they'd be smart enough to send it to sea before trying this mad stunt?

Moving on. Hitting an ally. Well, that's true - there are a lot of U.S. allies that are within missile range of our favorite threat axes. But again, is an ICBM the best way to handle this? Let me ask a more disruptive question - how do you know there's a nuclear weapon on top of that missile? If you don't know, then popping off an ICBM seems like a really bad response. It may make me a realist bastard, but I honestly can't say that firing an SLBM in anger is better than letting an HE warhead of the size you can stuff on top of an IRBM get launched, even at an ally. One thing we know about those missiles, from experience - they're incredibly inaccurate. And if they've only got HE on them, I'd prefer we not take the risk.

Three. Hitting deployed U.S. forces. If there are U.S. forces in sufficient numbers on the ground in the vicinity (I say on the ground, because you're not going to hit a moving ship with the kinds of missiles we're talking about) then there's no reason for them not to a) be prepared to take cover and b) attempt to engage the missile either with boost-phase systems or with last-ditch systems like THEL if possible. Again, though, there's no reason to be firing SLBMs.

The second target set is 'high-value targets.' Let me just ask this. Do we really want to get into the habit of using SLBMs to try to kill individuals? Even at the most optimistic, the Trident-II has a CEP in the dozens of meters, and it will take it twenty to thirty minutes to reach its target once it has been fired. And once it fires, it's going, there's nothing you can do about it. If the target is in any kind of built-up area, you've just called down an ICBM strike on that area, no matter what - and while you might not hit the target, you're going to do a shitpot of damage to something.

If we're going to be shooting at individuals, I want good enough intelligence that we can take the time to send a manned platform or at least a UAV with a man in the loop to take the shot. I cannot posit a target set of the 'ooh it might move!' type that is worth firing a nuclear strike system in anger over.

I keep harping on about this being a nuclear strike system. That's because it is. When you fire it, you will be firing a weapon system that has existed for fifty-five years with only one purpose, hammered into the minds of everybody in the world who cares about this: launching nuclear weapons. That's what an SLBM does, up to now. I don't care how well you know that this one is different - you're worried about every other force that sees it launch; and not only that, you're asking them to successfully decide, under the threat of immense pressure and short decision cycles, that this SLBM is 'different' and is 'not a threat.'

The only time I'm comfortable with the notion of firing these things at all is in designated test ranges, and with advance warning of scheduled tests.

So why this proposal?

I have to say that it's part and parcel of the struggle the Navy is having trying to figure out what its purpose and mission is in today's world. The Ohio boats, and the missiles they carry, are indeed an awesome technological achievement. They have served admirably (and will continue to do so) as a nuclear deterrent. Don't, whatever you do, do anything that might detract from that mission. These aren't attack submarines. They're boomers. We want them safe and concentrating on one job, which we hope they never have to do. I don't want Ohios as a 'first response option' in any way, shape or form.

If we're that desperate to spend the money on quick strike, put it into a hypersonic spaceplane which you can hang bombs off of. I'd support that.

Posted by jbz at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Dan Moran has put up another large chunk of The A.I. War and it's driving me nuts. NEED THE BOOK, MAN. I NEED THE BOOK. NOW. pleeeeease? Heh.

(don't, whatever you do, follow that link if you haven't read at least The Long Run and, ideally, The Last Dancer. If you wanna do the thing right, read Emerald Eyes first, but it's not really required. The other two will be.)

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Big Mac Boat. I'm having trouble imagining a ship with 16,150 Ethernet drops and 'thousands' of Macs. At least without a tear of happiness in my eye.

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Fuck Microsoft in the Goat Ass.

Why the hell is Microsoft Office the only program I use which has terrible problems with Spaces on OS X? I mean, I know Spaces isn't all that well-designed, but I start Word. Then I use Spaces to move the main Word window to another Space so that it coexists with the Powerpoint window I'm working on and I can flip between the two. Well, problems. Then every time I do anything, the damn Formatting pane and other toolpanes always manifest on some other Space, meaning that the whole screen goes zooming over to some other place entirely. I move the new pane back to the proper space, and ten seconds later, ZOOOP I'm somewhere else because some other damn pane popped up. Honestly, it feels like if you start a MS Office app in a particular space, anything you do involving new windows or showing/hiding panes will zip you back to that original Space, even if you've moved all the windows for the app over to another one.


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Why I use linux for my online presence

top - 11:11:00 up 789 days, 23:57,  1 user,  load average: 0.03, 0.03, 0.00

'nuff said.

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Paranoia and OS Security

This blog entry from ZDNet bemoans the fact that Apple employees ask you for your administrator password when you bring them your Apple computer for service or assistance. I agree that this is a bad practice in that they should never ask you for your administrator password. However, I think it's perfectly reasonable, if you're asking them to troubleshoot your computer, that you give them administrator access - because if you don't, essentially you're asking them to either spend the time and resources to break into it or to skip software troubleshooting and data preservation entirely and just reformat the hard drive.

There are options, people.

One: FileVault. I know it's been put down and bitched about, but generally, it's a good option in this case. You should configure a master password (so that someone else can't set FileVault and lock you out) as well. If you've done this, the only way that someone with administrator access should be able to gain access to your data is by changing your login password, so at least you'll have warning if they try.

Two: Encrypted Disk Images. If you're really worried about this, create (using Disk Utility) an ecrypted disk image and store your private data there. Don't put the access code in your Keychain. If you do this, even if someone has administrator access to your Macintosh, they won't be able to open your encrypted image no matter whether they copy it off the computer or try locally (unless they crack your password, of course).

Essentially, while I think it's a bad policy on Apple's part to try to get their users to hand over an administrator password to their current image, let's not get overwrought - it's not a good idea to ask someone to troubleshoot your machine without giving them access as well.

If your hard drive has gone bad, or is going bad, you should be able to format it before bringing it in - if you can't, it's unlikely anyone else is going to recover data off it either. In any case, if you're bringing in the machine for a flaky drive, then you should be wanting them to nuke/replace it.


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August 14, 2008

Awesome is made of win, which is made of...

...the components of win! I would be happy not even getting past the first one, but hey, they're all goodness.

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August 13, 2008

Chow Yun Fat + twin Deagles = WIN

 2:37pm jyeo: other news: I saw bulletproof monk because it was free on my cable box thing
 2:37pm jbz: oooh that was awful
 2:37pm jyeo: little known fact about movies:
 2:38pm jyeo: if chow yun fat is filmed from below dualing twin deagles in a wide arc over people's heads,
you say: "Shit, why is chow yun fat dualing twin deagles in a wide arc over everyone's head?" 2:38pm jbz: hahaha 2:39pm jyeo: and then you go find out why by watching the movie, no matter how bad you know it's going to be. 2:39pm jbz: This is quite true. 2:39pm jyeo: dude, tell me I'm wrong 2:39pm jyeo: just try 2:39pm jbz: Because Chow Yun Fat + deagle(s) = WIN 2:39pm jyeo: because I'm not, and that's why you watched the movie too 2:39pm jyeo: I know it is 2:39pm jbz: it totally is 2:39pm jbz: no question about it

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Oh my dear God no.

Please no.

The Day The Earth Stood Still was bad enough.

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I think the blocky objects on the turret seen here on a burned-out tank in Tskhinvali are reactive armor modules (best seen in picture #4). Given that they didn't burn or explode when the tank burned out, I could be wrong, but I'm not sure. If they are reactive armor blocks, it would make me nervous to have high-explosive modules sitting around where folks can grab them. Of course, given what just went on in Georgia, that may be the least of anybody's problems.

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August 11, 2008

Harbor Wing Tech HWT X-1

I was privileged recently to share a few hours on a train with Stuart F. Platt, retired USN Admiral and businessman. He gave me an enthusiastic overview of his company (Harbor Wing Technologies) and its flagship technology and platform. I won't bore you trying to explain it; go to their site and check it out, it's really quite excellent. While surfing today, however, I noticed that they had just shown up on Engadget, font of all things geek toy! Good on them. I want to see this on large ships, and I want to see the larger prototype make the three-month autonomous voyage that Admiral Platt told me about. I really want to be able to check in on it via the web! Maybe a web-controllable masthead camera? Guys? Guys? Heh.

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Another Imagery Exercise

The Australian DoD has a Play Imagery Analyst exercise up for your self-evaluation and delectation.

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Things I'm Watching For in Georgia

  • The use of the word 'Domino'
  • Spectacular or at least completely disruptive damage to the oil/gas pipeline infrastructure with dubious or unknown actors
  • Whether or not NATO will and can get the Georgian contingent in Iraq back in-theater, and where they will take them (and how, if Russia has command of the skies and ports, which they appear to)
Seriously, if I were the Georgian policy-making or strategic community right now and felt that I'd miscalculated the Russian response to my arty-heavy COIN push, I'd be thinking of how to further cement the mindshare advantage that Georgia seems to enjoy right now. The problem as I see it is that although Georgia might have this sort of public opinion and diplomatic advantage, modern Georgia has two real economic centers - the pipelines and the cities.

The Russians have the ability to destroy the cities. The quickest way is to simply enlist Georgian help by trying to pen Georgian forces inside them and then engaging, which according to some reports has already happened in Tskhinvali to the point of utter destruction. Other reports have Georgian units flowing into Gori(?) and other cities in what looks like an attempt to preserve units by forting up; however the Russians are experienced with urban reduction and combat (see Grozny). The Georgians may just figure that if they lose the cities there's not much left in any case so they might as well try to link force preservation to urban centers.

As for the pipeline, Western Europe's winter fuel is (in a large part) due to come through those pipes. As others have said, if Russia pushes far enough to look like they're going after the pipelines then they will signal a quite different set of objectives from either the initial 'securing the enclaves' strategy or even 'consolidating control of their borders' - it starts to look like a serious economic petropolicy grab. Don't know what the outcome of that will/would be, but it's certainly a different animal from the simple intervention in Georgiag/Ossetian/Abkhazi affairs that it has been sold as.

Given this, it would be to Georgia's advantage if pipeline disruption occurred that could be blamed squarely on Russia. It would make the strategic space much more fluid, especially as affects Western Europe/NATO and the UN, if that pipeline is seen to be affected by the Russian push past the enclaves. So I have to wonder at what point bombing it themselves starts to look good in principle (already has, I'd guess, if they could reliably pull off the blame-switch) and at what point it starts to look viable in reality.

More as it happens. I have been fearfully lax in keeping up on my terrain and ORBAT data for this dustup, so I'll have to remedy that. If you're curious, go read Information Dissemination, War Is Boring, The New York Times or others.

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August 7, 2008

Um...Nature is really, really, really impressive.

Normally I'd balk at just posting a link to Gizmodo, but they have one of the absolute all-time coolest 'Hey, look what I did with my camera!' vids, ever.


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This would be a 'wow!' moment.

A Shuttle launch, seen from an airliner.


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iPhone Game I Want To See

I realized that one of the best games I could think of to make the jump to iPhone is an old Macintosh favorite - Spaceward Ho! That would be incredible, and there's already a mobile version for Palm OS - although that version is slightly simplified, which is annoying.

I emailed the author idly and asked if it would ever be ported, noting that I'd happily pay $20 or so.

His half-encouraging answer: "Someday."

Ah well. Guess I should just look forward to The Force Unleashed then.

Posted by jbz at 2:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 4, 2008

I don't know how I feel about this.

I just ran across this story about a white intellectual woman 'losing her innocence' and her 'love affair with Harlem.' How? She was mugged in front of her favorite jazz dive by a black man that she knew - and nobody in the club or on the street would help her or give statements to the police.

I'm not sure which is stronger - my feeling of disbelief that this woman lasted this long without such an event occurring, or my feeling of annoyance at the 'oh my goodness even *I* have been affected and I'm so tolerant!' vibe it projects.

It's made worse by her litany of hints - the man who mugged her was an ex-con who learned hairdressing in prison, so she'd made an appointment with him. The second visit, she's 'sure' he stole her wallet, so she didn't go back. When she ran into him outside the club, he threw her to the ground and 'ambled' off with her handbag.

For fuck's sake.

I'm not even going to comment here, I don't think, right now. There's just so much ridiculousness in this story that I don't know where to start. Lady, this is New York, fuck that it's Harlem. Your behavior is so bizarre to me as a New Yorker (screw my race) that I just can't even figure out whether I feel sympathy for you, pity, or sheer disgust.

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The A.I. War has a date!

Dan Moran has announced a date on which we can purchase Players: The A.I. War! November 30, he tells us.

/me readies cash

Posted by jbz at 3:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 2, 2008

SpaceX reaches and maybe misses

SpaceX launched their Falcon 1 booster today from the Kwajalein Atoll. They recycled the countdown to 10 minutes after the first attempt resulted in an autoabort after engine ignition. The vehicle launched and we had camera feed out to around 40 or 50 km altitude, past Max Q. The feed cut off, and SpaceX's webcast crew said tersely that "We have heard from launch control that there has been an anomaly. More details will be posted to the website as available." Then they went offline.


Hopefully said anomaly wasn't a flight-terminating one, the history of spaceflight, 'anomaly' during launch has usually meant Bad Things.

Sorry, SpaceX. We're pulling for you.

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