Jan 072021
 

So the US tried to confirm the election of their next president yesterday and were somewhat delayed by a bunch of Trumpist terrorists who seized the Capitol building whilst the politicians ran for cover (perfectly reasonably).

There are several remarkable things about this incident – firstly, how on earth did they manage it? Anyone would think that the Capitol building in the middle of a contentious election process with known extremists planning a “protest”, would have more than enough law enforcement to stop the trashing of the building.

There are those claiming that there was collusion between the insurrectionists and law enforcement; perhaps and it is certainly worth investigating that possibility. But what I’m curious about is who is in charge of law enforcement at the Capitol building and whether they are guilty of collusion.

But the other category of people who should be worried are the instigators of this incident. The Republican extremists who have doubted the results of this election even after over 60 court cases have taken place and found nothing that would justify overturning any results.

Doubted to the extent of openly questioning a legitimate democratic result up to and including inciting this very incident.

They are guilty of incitement to riot at the very least, and they should face consequences too.

Lastly the radicalisation of the right-wing brought about by media pushing lies, conspiracy theories, and downright garbage in the name of “news” should also be blamed for this.

The Red Door
Jan 032021
 

Picture the scene – someone has bought a new service and they want you to “make it work”. And because they’re kind, they virtually toss you a 2,000 page PDF manual.

Somewhere within that manual there is a list of tcp port numbers that the service listens to and access to which is required for functionality. Which is just great if this was the 2000s – it would have made my life back then far easier.

But this isn’t the distant past (in technology terms). We don’t run simple stateful packet filters that can’t distinguish between some application making an API call over tcp/443 and some klutch watching cat videos over tcp/443.

We should be getting application specific rules – that can distinguish between legitimate application traffic and attack traffic. Surely it is not beyond the wit of application vendors to work with the firewall vendors to come up with such rules?

And application vendors who work with the firewall vendors to come up with proper firewall rules will gain a bit of a competitive edge. And in the wake of the SolarWinds breach, customers may be asking about security.

Seagull Over Sea
Dec 132020
 

We all love wireless networking – the untethered laptop, the smartphone, the tablets, the “smart home” stuff. It’s all so convenient.

But it also sucks, and for some things – particularly legacy applications that require a persistent connection – it sucks very hard indeed.

Why?

Fundamentally, wireless uses a shared medium – you’re sharing the airwaves with everyone else who has a wireless access point. Yes there are separate “channels” to help split up that shared medium, but you will still find yourself competing for bits of the airwaves.

Ever try listening to shortwave radio? All that noise, and interference. And every so often someone would break in and start reading out a long string of random numbers in the most boring tone of voice imaginable. That still happens, but instead of getting to peer under the skirt of national security, you get something even more boring – slowdowns and dropouts.

And this is all if you are sat in the same room as your wireless access point! Leave the room and all sorts of issues can arise. The power of wireless drops with distance and all sorts of things can block wireless.

Diagnosing wireless issues is something that takes highly paid specialists hours and frequently involves moving access points (which essentially moves the problem – hopefully to somewhere people won’t notice) or installing more access points (which can make things worse).

With all these problems, it is a wonder that wireless networking works at all. But it does! Most of the time. Perhaps Facebook acts up every once in a while (and just occasionally it is Facebook). Or any other web site. But some applications react badly to periodic drops in performance or ‘moments of silence’.

The purpose of this rant is that when you are having problems with network glitches when working from home, try a wired network connection. Yes getting that set up is tedious and you may need to spend some money, but it’s worth it to avoid all those dents in the desk.

The Red Door
Dec 092020
 

The ‘tubes are full of pundits expanding on ‘leaks’ from Apple about the possibility of more powerful ARM-based Apple Macs on the way.

No shit! What a surprise. You could knock me down with a feather.

The recently announced Macbooks with the ARM-based M1 processor from Apple are an initial release with something that is an improvement on their existing ARM-based processors used in their phones and tablets. A leak is hardly necessary to predict the release of more powerful processors to replace their whole line-up – if Apple is going to put ARM processors into their laptops, they’ll be doing the same for the rest of the line-up.

Next year, or the year after, you won’t find an Intel processor in any Apple product. Or perhaps most – it may be handy to keep one or two Intel-based products around simply to maintain a platform for software products that won’t work on ARM.

But there is no reason why Apple should stick to Intel, and every reason why they should – if they can produce a low-power laptop processor this good what can they do with a desktop processor power-budget?

Now it is entirely possible that Apple will stumble, but there really is no reason to act surprised when rumours of more ARM-based products ‘leak’.

No Fun At The Fair
Dec 052020
 

If you ever talk with US citizens on the problems with their country, there is all too often someone who comes up with this old chestnut – “At least I’m not a subject”.

Which is false and even if it were true, it wouldn’t be quite what it appears.

For a start we haven’t been “subjects” since the Nationality Act of 1948, except for a tiny number of special category subjects because for special circumstances they don’t qualify for citizenship – mostly pre-1949 immigrants from the Republic of Ireland, or India.

And if we were subjects, we would be subjects of parliament not an inherited monarchy. Yes we have a monarchy, but the power of the monarch is wielded by parliament under a doctrine known as the “Queen-in-parliament“.

Which is a weird kind of solution to the problem of letting a monarch keep their crown, but keeping real power in the hands of parliament. Once you’ve ‘demoted’ a monarch with an axe and the world hasn’t come to a standstill, you’re no longer “subjects” in the sense of being the property of an absolute monarch.

War Memorial Church

Let us emphasise that last bit – we let the monarchs keep their throne, and they serve at our pleasure. To give a real world example of how that works is the story of Edward VIII who was the present queen’s uncle. To sum up, he wanted to marry a previously married woman and “the establishment” (various prime ministers and the archbishop of Canterbury) was opposed; in the end it was Edward who abdicated and “the establishment” got their way.

Now the reasons were ridiculous (although the outcome may have been unintentionally fortuitous given Edwards VIII and Mrs Simpson’s sympathy for the Nazis), but the balance of power is clear to see.

I dare say those who loudly proclaim “At least I’m not a subject” will ignore this.

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