Currently Browsing: Technology

Your Rocket Blew Up My Satellite

Two of the richest guys on earth feuding over the fact that Musk’s rocket blew up Zuck’s satellite has got to be the most 21st century thing ever. This is in the category of the future I was promised.

Steve Job’s Greatest Legacy

Ding dong, Flash is dead. I’d say Ack-Mac hardest hit, because they had NRA’s web presence all flashed up long past Flash’s expiration date, but I think they probably have bigger problems right now. Of course, so does NRA!

The Great Crackdown

The most insightful observation of the past four years was that China is not importing our liberal values: instead we are importing their authoritarian values. I see this everywhere now that it’s been pointed out.

The tech monopolies aren’t even bothering to couch their censorship anymore. They’ve had their Reichstag fire, and now that they have nothing to fear.

I’ve thought the past four years Trump and the GOP weren’t doing nearly enough to curtail the tech monopolies. They’d call the oligarchs in for hearings, make them a little uncomfortable, but took no serious anti-trust action or started enforcement of the laws against anti-competitive practices, or even bothered to use campaign finance laws. The Dems have always been very effective at using government as a weapon, but the GOP frankly sucks at it, and I don’t notice that Trump was any good at it either.

My current internal debate is whether quitting social media is just giving in, and we wouldn’t do better to move communications to a lower profile and to trusted networks of people. I think I will greatly curtail my personal activities on social media. I cannot quit totally since I manage pages.

I will be focusing on traditional community building locally. I will try to get the blog back to some base level of activity, because the network of bloggers used to be a great tool for us before social media came along. We used to do just fine without the tech monopolies. It’s time to route around their censorship. We should stop trying to make another Facebook or Twitter. That is playing by their rules, and the network effects and anti-competitive practices of big tech make that an impossible prospect now. We need to focus on federated services and building networks they can’t shut down.

We need an open source movement for social media. Microsoft’s monopoly on the operating system was brought to an end by the first wave of open source technology. We need a second wave to commoditize the tech monopolists into irrelevance.

Is it Politicians, or Are We Just Bad Parents?

I did not come from a hunting, shooting, fishing or any other outdoor sport household. I fished for sunny’s in our lake, but that was about it. My parents didn’t teach me any of that because they didn’t know very much to teach me. But if they had, I think I would have learned. This is an interesting article about how we’re becoming a “we used to,” society.

I have gotten to know a couple of my son’s friends, and it shocks me that here ,in a really rural area, surrounded by lakes and streams, most of them don’t even bother to go outside very much if at all.

I’ve certainly seen this: kids that grow up playing video games and doing not much else. They’d rather bury their faces in the phone than talk to anybody.

I don’t ever recall my parents strictly regimenting my TV watching, but neither my sister nor I grew up glued to a TV. My parents both did a lot. I don’t think if I had tried, I would have been allowed to glue myself to a TV or video game controller. I don’t know why we are letting our kids do that today.

I think we’ve gotten absolutely abysmal as a society in passing down our values and interests. I don’t think politicians are to blame for that. That’s something deficient in our parenting. What is it?

Tech Open Thread

It’s Friday, and I’m writer’s blocking trying to write up something persuasive defending the concept of Immutable Infrastructure in DevOps. Really, the client in question has at best Semi-Immutable Infrastructure: updates can be applied via the deployer for the systems that are now working under that paradigm. They don’t tear down the and rebuild their VMs for patches and security updates. And they still have a lot of stuff that works under the traditional “mutable” model.

But we are pushing the idea of eventually having all IT infrastructure adopt DevOps principles. For major OS or software releases, or in the event of a security breach or other problems with the system, tearing the system down and rebuilding it should be done. I approach DevOps from a traditional IT background. Most of my colleagues approach it from developer backgrounds. I’ve found that traditional IT folks are more resistant to DevOps principles than people with developer backgrounds. So I feel like when IT people exhibit skepticism, having “come to Jesus” myself from the same heresy, I should be the one to preach to them the DevOps gospel.

I’m curious if anyone out there has worked in this area. My current focus is doing a large, legacy database system as Immutable Infrastructure. Or at least Semi-Immutable Infrastructure if you’re a real purist (which I am not).

Slate: 80% Lowers a Bigger Threat

This Slate article actually shows a reasonable degree of understanding on the home build issue. They correctly point out that home manufacturing is legal in most of the United States, provided they are intended for personal use by the person who makes it. Manufacturing for sale requires an FFL.

If lawmakers are concerned about threats having to do with 3D-printed weaponry, they might consider banning 3D-printed bump stocks, too, which are attachments that can be added to semi-automatic rifles to make them fire faster. Those might work better than a fully 3D-printed gun. But 80 percent lower kits remain a much bigger threat—and should be a higher priority for lawmakers.

If they reclassify bump stocks as machine guns, it will be illegal to 3D print one, just as it’s currently illegal to 3D print a machine gun. However this is feel good nonsense. Of course someone unconcerned with following the law can print a machine gun receiver, or machine a machine gun receiver from an 80% billet, or go to Home Depot and buy all the parts you need for a home made submachine gun. A lot of these fools just don’t get this: you can make this shit illegal, but it’s not going to stop someone who’s intent on committing murder, robbery, or some kind of terrorist act. It’s not going to stop people from manufacturing them for the black market. There couldn’t be a more plain case for, “This is only going to deter hobbyists who are no threat to anyone.”

But as I’ve said, that’s the idea. Stopping criminals is not the purpose of this. That’s just a bullshit pretext. The idea that anyone could just make a gun? Scare bleu! The peasants, in their basement? They might even have fun doing it! They might make a mockery of us, and wouldn’t that be the worst thing ever.

And what about the 80% issue?

Understand the fundamental issue: Generally, our law is structured around the idea that gun parts can break, and owners ought to be able to order replacement parts without having go through a background check and fill out paperwork just to get a replacement spring, firing pin, bolt, etc. This is not a loophole in the Gun Control Act. It was intentionally set up this way.

So we pick one part that is the critical piece, and call it “the gun.” Most of the time, that’s the receiver, which some designs divide into upper and lower receivers, either of which can be “the gun,” depending. There’s a certain stage of manufacturing where ATF considers a piece of metal machined enough to qualify as a firearm even if it’s not fully finished. ATF is generally clear on what those machining steps are.

So how do you “fix” this “loophole?” Say you make ATF remove a few machining steps to qualify as unfinished, and now “80% lowers” are illegal, and we now have the “70% lower.” Think hobbyists won’t get around that? How far do you go? Where does it end? At what point do you start demanding billets of aluminum get regulated? Don’t be ridiculous.

What drives me nuts about the political climate today is what I’ve seen dubbed “aggressive ignorance,” driven largely by social media. Put enough people in an echo chamber, where dissenting opinion is driven out, and the answers become simple. We live in an easy world to the aggressively ignorant. They have charlatans parading easy answers at them all day, and who are you to say it wouldn’t work? What do you know about the topic? You’re part of the evil gun lobby! If it weren’t for people like you, we could solve these problems.

Everyone wants easy answers, and god damn anyone who tries to say there aren’t any. It’s madness.

People Will Lose Their Gun Rights Over This

I’ve already largely stopped posting Facebook on my personal timeline. I still keep my account for my blog and club, and the occasional comment thrown around. But this makes me want to swear it off entirely.

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

I can’t really tell you how much I loathe social media. I’d love to see these companies crash and burn. They are doing nothing to make our lives better. When I was growing up, I was promised my future would be all Mars bases and Flying Cars, and Facebook is what I get? OK, sure, I got the Star Trek PADD and communicators, but what do we use them for? That’s right. Cat videos.

You see, it’s not that I am now or have ever been suicidal. I’ve said before, that I will never be suicidal is something I can pretty much guarantee. I like existence too much. But I don’t trust this not to have a lot of false positives, and there are very real consequences to alerting the authorities that someone might be a danger to themselves or others; loss of gun rights being the primary issue for this blog.

In many states, even an observational trip to the loony bin will land you a state and federal prohibition. Pennsylvania is one of them. If you ever find yourself in a situation where first-responders show up concerned that the Facebook AI has determined you’re going off the deep end, make sure you go voluntarily. Make sure you tell everyone you deal with you’re there voluntarily. Because if they take you against your will, now you have much bigger issues if you own guns. Even if they let you go, if you haven’t made arrangements, if you arrive home to a safe full of guns, congratulations, you’ve just made yourself a felon in addition to having to endure contact with the state mental health system.

Camera Bleg

It’s always interesting how many things my readers collectively know, hence why I ask. My club is looking to replace an old CCTV system with a new IP high-definition system. I’m interested in whether I have anyone among my readership that does this for a living and can offer advice.

We have a few quotes from vendors. One is for Hikvision gear, which is cheap, but Hikvision is also owned by the Chinese Communist Government and has been responsible for a number of security problems as of late. There have been accusations of outright espionage, but I’m not sure how much stock I put in those. But either way, their reputation is of being careless with security, and that rubs me the wrong way.

I have a vendor that resells Panasonic, but that stuff is expensive. Samsung and Axis seem to be cheaper options, but I have no experience with how well their NVRs work. These brands are the market leaders. Is there any up-and-comers I might want to look into? In theory I like Ubiquiti, but their solution seems to have a low end feel.

It seems to me like a lot of camera installers don’t really understand IP networking very well, and only have a few installation types they are comfortable with and don’t want to deviate from it. This is becoming a frustration for me, but maybe it’s my IT bias. They all seem to love microwave extenders, which I loathe. I like wires. That’s largely why I took up evaluating doing fiber on my own.

A lot has changed in the industry switching from analog CCTV to IP, and a lot of the IP camera vendors seem to cater to that mentality by building PoE switches into their NVRs like the old DVR systems used to be bristling with BNC connectors. To me this seems unnecessary. I expect to have only one or two LAN connectors on the back of an NVR, and put my PoE switches out where I have clusters of cameras. Is there any reason to bring 32 Cat6 cables back to one NVR rather than cluster and trunk? I can’t think of any reason not to, given that a 1080p H.264 stream is only like 8Mb/sec. A gigabit IP network seems to be a firehose compared to the needs of IP cameras.

Fiber Optics Bleg

It’s been some time since I had anything to do with fiber optic cabling, and my experience years ago was with Gigabit Ethernet over good old fashioned OM1 with no run greater than a few hundred feet. Back when I started with that, companies were just getting settled on 100Base-T for their LAN drops and there wasn’t yet any Cat6. Gigabit was something new and exciting.

So here I find myself years later looking to wire up my gun club for cameras, property-wide WiFi, and an access card system.

I know I’ll get people who will say “microwaves!” but we have large berms separating parts of the property, and I’d have to trench a good bit of new cable and clear a good bit of brush to get a clean line of sight to the places I need to go. Plus, I like wires. You can’t jam wires. I don’t have to worry about clearing and maintaining brush with wires. I can also get full GigE speed with wires.

The convention wisdom has been, and if you search the Internet still seems to be: “Multimode for short distances, and single mode for long distances.” Why? Well, cost, and MM is easier to terminate and more tolerant of poor field terminations.

As best as I can tell, the cost difference between a good quality OM3 or OM4 multimode fiber and OS2 single-mode fiber is trivial. Additionally, the SFP transceivers for 1000Base-SX and 1000Base-LX are not terribly different from the vendor I’m looking at. I’m also not planning to do any field terminations: there are plenty of vendors who sell pre-terminated fiber, and I was careful to measure the obsolete or non-functioning copper cables I pulled out of all the runs.

My question to anyone out there who’s well-versed and current with fiber: why would anyone use multi-mode fiber for campus length runs when there’s little price difference? Keep in mind I have a few runs that push the limits of multi-mode fiber at 1Gb/sec (550m) and would be right on the very edge with OM4 multi-mode fiber for 10Gb/sec (400m). So why not use single-mode? I can go 10km with single-mode, and 10Gb/sec is no problem. Am I missing something? It seems that maybe multi-mode has advantages if you’re looking to do field terminations, but the price advantage it might have once had isn’t’ really there anymore.

Addendum question: There are a handful of vendors out there selling pre-terminated cables. Price differences seem to be substantial. Are there any vendors to prefer? To avoid?

Club Management

If posting has been light, one reason is I’m spending nearly all my non-working hours trying to sort out a new membership management system for my club. I consider this part of the “local engagement” I was speaking about earlier.

We largely decided not to go with a cloud-based solution, which is fine with me. Maybe this will be my curmudgeon technology issue, because the young folks seem to love the cloud, and even I have to admit, having worked with Amazon Web Services professionally, and helped a few clients through migrations, Bezos has built one hell of a nice ecosystem. But I like the saying, “There is no cloud. There’s just someone else’s computer.” I don’t like the idea of trusting personal data to an entity I don’t really know or trust, and who only sees me as one of many income sources. Also, AWS is damned expensive. So are most other Cloud solutions.

We have an existing card access system for the gate and for the various doors around the property. The old system worked off an Access database. Recently we upgraded that software, and the new version is backed by SQL Server. The old card access system was a mess. There were people in the system who had been dead for some time and still had active cards. People were missing from the system who were members. I think some of them may be grandfathered lifers who just never bothered picking up an access card. It took another trustee helping me sort that out, and I’m still not sure all the cards are assigned correctly.

Originally I had chosen to put the member database in MySQL. Since I already have SQL Server running, why not just use that? Saves having to run a Linux machine and cuts down on the number of skill sets needed to maintain the system. As long as I’m cutting MySQL out of the picture, I might as well also cut OpenLDAP and set up Active Directory to use with Google Cloud Directory Sync (GCDS). I’m teaching myself a bit of PowerShell to make a script that will push out changes in the member database to the card access system, to QuickBooks (via qODBC), and to Active Directory.

After working with PowerShell scripting a bit, I’ve decided I hate it with a burning white hot passion. At this point I’ll probably stick to it because I’ve already invested the time, but the future of that function will probably be with Python if serious changes are ever required in the future. So in the end the system has ended up being far more Microsoft than I expected going in, because I had no idea what the new card system would look like. Our new card system will even work with an ID card printer to manage and print member badges, so we got one of those too.

I think what I’m coming up with will be a decent platform for the next decade or so. It will certainly make managing dues processing for our 1300 members easier than the old paper process.

« Previous Entries