You are here

Planet Linux Australia

Subscribe to Planet Linux Australia feed
Planet Linux Australia -
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

Steven Hanley: [comp] Obscurity, P=NP etc, Hash Visualisation

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Three things I saw online today I feel like mentioning, first linked from Schneier's blog was an article about how lock making companies are still very much in the security through obscurity world and how lock geeks getting together online and at (computer) security conferences are breaking their obscure secrets open. An interesting read.

It is interesting to see some companies such as Kryptonite eventually reacted, others seem intent on denying public information, or trying to shut down people who know about it. In computing it is a well known fact (although still ignored by too many people/companies) that security through obscurity will not work, public design and analysis by experts in the field however does work and should be used for things that need to be secure. Although one aspect that comes to mind here is that in the case of locks you may not want to make them impossible as other attack vectors are then used. As the article mentions crooks seem to prefer using a hammer (or maybe explosives) over opening the locks through lock exploits. There were some discussions about this in the car that were I think linked to by Schneier a few years back.

Next was an interesting wikipedia page linked to by kottke, a list of unsolved problems from a number of different field, those listed in Computing are familiar, however looking through the collected information on those in other fields is pretty fascinating. Mmmmmm wikipedia goodness.

Catching up on some LWN reading and I see the mention of a new OpenSSH version approaching, in the list of new features is "Experimental SSH fingerprint visualisation" with a paper (pdf) linked. So I download and had a read of the paper, largely to see what sort of images they generate. It is good to see some work on what is one of the biggest security weaknesses out there, the humans using secure systems.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Caffeine and glycogen storage, maybe the roadies have it right

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
There is an article in the Canberra Times today referring to a Melbourne study on some endurance cyclists measuring glycogen storage in muscles when caffeine is consumed immediately after a ride until exhaustion session.

The professor in charge of the study at RMIT is John Hawley, a google search turned up the article in question. It is quite a common practice among cyclists to head to a coffee shop after a ride, though most of us do not consume 6 cups of coffee and a loaf of bread, we do consume some food and coffee at these gatherings fairly often.

Good to see we can even claim the post ride coffee is part of our important training schedule and recovery plan.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Out of Range at the 2007 Geoquest Adventure Race

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
As mentioned a few times the report from Geoquest 2007 has been a while in coming, pretty much all involved in the team have now seen it and have no problems with it. In it are 99 photos, 5 videos and a fair chunk of text. We had fun and I am hoping to be back next year for more of it. Thanks to Bruce, Danealle, Craig and Brendan for racing and big thanks to Jane, Zoe and Jaymz for supporting. Also Gran and Jude were fun to have around the race.

Anyway for anyone who wants to have a look here is our report from the team Out of Range at the 2007 Geoquest Adventure Race. Enjoy.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [various] Through the pearly gates in a 200 mph fireball

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Anyone who recognises the quote probably has already guessed I watched Top Gear last night (the expression about going through the pearly gates in a fireball seems to be a favourite of the presenters). I agree with so many other viewers that this is a funny show. Heck I tend to have an almost negative interest in cars and yet this show has me laughing along throughout most episodes.

I remember watching the old series with Clarkson in it when I was living in the UK in 1993, though at the time I paid some small interest in cars (such as watching Ayrton Senna in F1 races) I do not recall Top Gear being so amusing. I suspect they really ramped up the humour of it when they changed the format and started the new series in 2002. My amusement at the pearly gates expression has me trying to think of a few expressions for how various people may want to go, somewhat macabre maybe but I am trying to think of it in a similar manner to my Fairy Tales in the key of Klingon post. Alas nothing comes to mind yet.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [comp/software] My software works too well, change it back

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
I have upgraded a few of the systems at work recently to a far more recent image, this one based on feisty (users get to choose what environment they log in to though (kde, gnome, something else, etc)). A short while after putting the image on James' desktop he wandered over and asked if I had doubled the size of the swap partition. When I said that had not changed he was almost amazed as he said around half the memory used before the upgrade was now in use.

It appears the profiling and lower memory foot print work various gurus in the kde and gnome and similar camps has paid dividends as there appears to be a pretty big drop in usage and memory leaks here and everything feels a bit faster all of which is good news. Not that I have done any real testing but perceived feel is relevant to some extent in a computing environment.

The most amusing thing here I thought was my interpretation of how he asked the question, it sounded almost as if something was wrong. As if James was saying "my computer is not using enough memory, and is running to fast, fix it, make it as slow and hoggy as it used to be". I guess at least he was not about to request a change to a computing system that seems to constantly get slower and more user unfriendly with every major release.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb] False advertising on ride speed

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So last week Allan circulated an email suggesting a few of us join in for a leisurely paced (28KMh to 30 KMh) road ride around the mostly flat/easy loop of Barton Hwy, Nanima Rd, Murrumbatemen Rd, Gundaroo, turn around and then out Shingle Hill Way to the Old Federal Hwy and back into town. This is around 100 KM for people starting and finishing northside.

Though there was a CORC race on that arguably I should have done as I need the fitness and speed from the race I decided to take the soft option and head out for this road ride.

However upon finding the bunch I see Allan's email had convinced around 30 of the Vets club members into joining in the fun, this included the likes of Nick, Chris, Pete H who like to go fast and a few others who, due to there being no race this weekend decided it would be fun to go a bit faster.

Thus we ended up doing the 100 KM ride with an average speed of 34 KMh, which fortunately was easy if you stayed sitting in the bunch the whole time, however it was entertaining to tease Allan on his ride with far more people and a much higher average speed than sort of advertised.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Polaris for Dummies 2006

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Marea and I once again teamed up for Polaris over the weekend just past. We had a good time, and proving that practice helps after three Polaris' as a team we won the mixed division this year and came 8th over all out of the 200 or so teams.

Anyway I put photos and a report of the 2006 Polaris event online.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [comp/hardware] Finally faster

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Well it happened, this is now hosted on something a bit faster. Since sometime in 1999 Martijn and I have had the same colo machine (wherever it was located). An AMD K6-2 400 Mhz, with 128 MB of RAM and 2 9 GB IDE drives (not raided or anything). For a while now we had been discussing the need to upgrade the hardware to something a bit more recent, or at least to put more memory in.

Back in November I mentioned this to Steve Walsh of Nerdvana, he told me they do colo, and would throw in new hardware (leasing arrangement) all for less per month than we are currently paying and colocated in a rather nice facility in Sydney. Martijn and I thought this sounded tops so signed up.

Finally we shifted all the domains and config and data and everything across for the final time last night and we now are actively using the new server for all domains we host and everything else. The new machine is definitely a nice step up, now a Dual 3 GHz Xeon with Hyperthreading, 1 GB of RAM and 2 250 GB SATA drives configured in RAID 1 for full redundancy. Damn this new machine is fast, operations that used to take a few minutes now happen in 2 or 3 seconds.

Finally I can do a few things I have been holding off from doing on the old machine for a while, either for lack of disk space, lack of memory or incredibly high load caused by trying to do the things I had in mind. Heck I may even add some sort of comments thing to this diary (Jane reckons I need comments here)

One of the other problems with the old machine was I had never gotten it to cleanly boot up into a kernel newer than 2.2.20pre2, which meant ancient firewalling, probably a few vulnerabilities, inability to try some new things that may have been interesting and a few other issues. The machine was also running Woody, so it is nice to have Sarge with a few even newer bits on the new machine.

RIP, long live (we did not change the name, which was confusing once or twice while moving config over).

[15:46:41] 9 calyx sjh ~> sh -c 'cat /proc/cpuinfo ; free ; df ; uname -a' | egrep 'MHz|Mem|cg0-data|Linux' cpu MHz : 3000.269 cpu MHz : 3000.269 cpu MHz : 3000.269 cpu MHz : 3000.269 Mem: 1036352 1001088 35264 0 68208 713860 /dev/mapper/vg0-data 235694888 8981204 214741076 5% /data Linux calyx #1 SMP Fri Nov 25 23:43:09 EST 2005 i686 GNU/Linux [15:47:27] 10 calyx sjh ~>
Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [leisure] Woohoo for Radio National

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So I recalled Mikal mentioning Radio National Podcasts a while back, this interests me, in the past I have lamented the lack of AM support in radio tuner cards for the exact reason that it would rock to be able to record Radio National shows and play them on a mobile device when ever you wanted to listen to them.

I googled the other day and found the Radio National podcast page, they do indeed have a pretty good selection of shows available for download. I rang Crash to ask if he had been doing any of this podcasting radio national thing, he rides to work every day, a rather nice ~ 23 KM commute, listening to an mp3 player or a radio. Crash had indeed been engaging in this podcasting thing, downloading any new casts night at 3am. I asked what application he used to do this, a Gooey application would be kind of silly to use for this so I hoped there was a basic CLI application for the task.

Crash was able to point out this rather cool shell script, Bashpodder, to download all new/updated feeds from a list of feed URL's. Mikal, sfr and Rusty will I am sure be glad to see a very useful application, written in shell still rather than some other language, that it works reliably and the newer release even shrank from 76 lines of shell to 44 lines (now including more comments too).

I added all the RN feeds I wanted into the file one per line, ran the script and a few minutes later I had 800 MB of cool Radio National content in mp3 format ready for listening anywhere and anywhen. Now if only we could convince the government to fund the ABC and Radio National better so they can keep up the fantastic work well on into the future.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [leisure/music] Artists and analysing their music

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Mikal wondered if others had noticed how depressing the song Brick by Ben Folds Five is. Although I like Ben Folds Five, I can not say I had noticed this due to listening to the lyrics as a) I didn't really listen to the words so much, and b) I heard about the basis of this song to some extent before I gave the lyrics any thought. So I can say I know the lyrics are depressing, not that I had noticed.

I have not researched this to check my memory is correct, however Ben Folds has talked about this in interviews in the past. If my memory of these interviews is correct, the song was to some extent based on a harrowing experience he had when he was around 18-20. He and his partner at the time went through the process of having an abortion and all the emotions and the shit that happened around the event weighed heavily on him, this song is an outcome of the experiences surrounding that event.

However Ben Folds is to a large extent not alone among musical artists saying, on the whole, over analysing lyrics in his work is not what he intends or expects, many artists seem astounded by the amount of analysis that goes into lyrics they write, often according to them written simply for the rhyme, or to work with the song and containing no deeper meaning. The fans doing the analysis may of course argue the subconcious has other ideas, who knows.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [work] Trying to be fair to students with a few doing damage.

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So we have been watching the traffic a bit on our student networks and have noticed that some students are using ssh tunnels to download huge amounts of data over the fat pipe the uni has. Considering we have ssh open and most other ports closed one would hope the students did not abuse this. Too much to hope for I guess.

We could block ssh entirely to the student networks however that is not a good thing as students should be able to log on and do work from remote locations.

The solution we are looking at is accounting for all student traffic on both incoming and outgoing such that ssh is blocked to all but one machine. Then on this one machine we have the netfilter patch that lets us account for traffic on the INPUT chain on a per user basis. This will mean we can set student quotas for all data, or maybe even simply subtract the ssh incoming traffic from their web quotas also.

I guess students will simply have to get used to using one machine to access the rest of the student systems, should not be hard for them and will stop the people abusing the system.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb] I am obviously slack

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So I did not get out for the cotter/uriarra loop on the road bike this morning, and this is strange as I really want to go for a ride. Part of it is, I admit, the really heavy rain last night probably had me convinced it would be a bit damp. Mikey did the loop and has since called all of us who didnt soft. If I can get some lca stuff (ghosts minutes, and agenda for the next meeting) plus a resonable amount of work at work I would like to go for a ride during the day. However I also have to visit the bike shop, as more bits broke, need replacing, etc. Bike equipment really doesnt last, though I suppose that may have something to do with the regularity with which I ride a bike.
Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb] What is happening to these magazines

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
Okay so after sitting in meetings all weekend in preperation for lca I have not been out on the mtb or road bike all weekend and have to admit I could use a ride. It looks like the rain may be setled in for all of tomorrow now also which may stop me.

Anyway I purchased a copy of the magazine Ausralian Mountain Bike, it appears my subscriptiuon ran out as it did not arrive at work the past few weeks, anyway I was told by a few friends in the past two weeks that this issue was kind of abysmal, I was hoping they would be wrong and all that, however I think this time I have to agree, the only articles I found interesting this issue were the columns by Jim Trail and TTfH (Tony Fathers), and to some extent this may simpy be because they are friends.

I think the thing that turned me off in this issues was simply nothing grabbed my attention, most issues a least one or two stories/articles manage to look good and turn out to be good reading, I suppose I should try to quantify why this time nothing grabbedmy attention and usually something can, I think I will instead simply leave my brain on downtime tonight however.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [lca] Pubbage and no business talk

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So a few weeks ago Pia asked if we had planned any social gathering on the friday night before ghosts for the people who had arrived in Canberra already. By social gathering she of course meant rock up to a pub and chat.

Anyway, though I live about 50 metres from All Bar Nun I only really go there about once every three months if that, and dont really go to pubs much. Too busy mtb riding or something I guess.

I said sure lca crew and other ghosts attendees in Canberra by friday night could rock up to All Bar and sit around chatting about all things unrelated to lca and LA.

So now the reason for this whole spiel, the amusing part is, Pia and Jeff decided they had to attend the SLUG meeting and are now not arriving in Canberra until around 11pm.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [lca] Ghosts starting to gather

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
This weekend the Ghosts of lca meeting is happening, for those of you outside the lca world (ie most of you) each year we gather some of the organisers of previous conference organisers and some LA people at the venue for the coming conference to talk to the new organising team and work out stuff for the conference.

Anyway this morning Mark Tearle (LA Treasurer) arrived in Canberra at 6am on the red eye from Perth. AJ (Anthony Towns) will be arriving later today, as will most of the other people attending from outside Canberra (Michael Davies, Anand Kumria, Ryan Verner, Pia Smith, Jeff Waugh, etc, etc). This is going to be a pretty busy weekend.

Categories: thinktime

Steven Hanley: [mtb] Hurty Andrew

Tue 10th Nov 2015 16:11
So this morning we had our ritual friday morning Bilbys mtb ride. This time we rode a Majura Pines, which being one of the Canberran mtb mecca destinations is a lot of fun. My bike computer said 26KM and 1hour 24min by the end of the ride. I wonder if I should maybe feel bad for Andrew Rowe, I did a rather enjoyable gap jump over a gully at Majura and he decided upon seeing me do this that it was not so hard so attempted it. Andrew was riding his single speed rather than his Orange Duallie and unfortunately came to grief, landing about 10 cm short his back wheel bucked up and threw him over the handlebars. Breakfast and coffee and all that at the pickle after the ride calmed him down I hope, he has since said he squealed pretty loudly in the shower.
Categories: thinktime

Michael Still: A walk in the Orroral Valley

Tue 10th Nov 2015 14:11
Last weekend was a walk in the Orroral Valley with a group of scout leaders. Embarrassingly, I'd never been in this area before, and its lovely -- especially at the moment after all the rain we've had. Easy terrain, and a well marked path for this walk. The only catch is that there's either a car shuffle involved, or you need to do a 12km return walk.


Interactive map for this route.

Tags for this post: blog pictures 20151107 photo canberra bushwalk

Categories: thinktime

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

Tue 10th Nov 2015 10:11

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: thinktime

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

Tue 10th Nov 2015 00:11
- for anyone who is considering working in the defense/intelligence space you should think about it carefully. If you do enough background it becomes fairly obvious that what you see on TV is not what it's like in the real world. A lot of defections actually occur because they don't know what they're getting into and/or can often regret doing the work that they do, etc... The other thing is one should note is that defectors often get caught, living on the other side can be worse, the risk may not be worth the reward, etc... For those who are curious, I haven't been looking specifically for intelligence material or material relating to defectors. They've just come up in my research... Another thing that is apparent, our political leaders aren't supermen/women. They're just people doing the best that they can under the circumstances that they face...

Outspoken Former CIA Operative Lindsay Moran - Interview

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

An Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out - The Italian Job

CIA - World's biggest terrorist organization

How the CIA Waged War in Afghanistan

The Secret Government Program _ NSA Spying - NatGeoTV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- been looking back through some of my old work recently. I submitted my 'Cloud and Internet Security' report to the 'Federal Government' a long time ago (for clearance of content and to help them with some cyber security issues that they were facing)(worked on this stuff on and off for years before publication of material) and have since placed them in the Google Play store and on Amazon. The current metadata scheme may have stemmed from something on page 240... Ironically, the implementation was meant to occur in such a way that would require the use warrantless, automated inspection in order to achieve a better balance between privacy and security for the general public. It would use algorithms that would be inspected by members of judciary, IT specialists, intelligence and defense specialists not the dumbed down version which seems to be going into place...

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

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

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

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

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

- useful for saving required Debian packages

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

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

Some interesting quotes in my recent meanderings...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Don't mess with cows!

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

Animal accidents - 2015 financial year:

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

•Deer: 164 accidents: cost $366,957

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 2,095 HARM missiles

- 217 Walleye missiles

- 5,276 guided anti-tank missiles

- 44,922 cluster bombs and rockets

- 136,755 conventional bombs

- 4,077 guided bombs[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Still: Scout activity: orienteering at Mount Stranger

Mon 09th Nov 2015 11:11
I've run scout activities before, but its always been relatively trivial things like arranging attendance at a Branch level event such as an astronomy night or an environment camp. They've involved consent forms and budgeting and so forth, but never the end to end creation of a thing from scratch. So, I was quite excited to be presented with an opportunity to take the scouts orienteering in an unfamiliar environment.

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

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

Interactive map for this route.

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

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

Tags for this post: scouts orienteering navex

Categories: thinktime