Feb 132021
 

No not villeins; villains. History’s “bad guys”.

The English did something bad to the Indians (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company although there were a lots of Scots in the East India Company), the Scottish did something bad to the English (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alnwick_(1093) – and yes it’s not normally that way around), the Irish did something bad to the Welsh (https://www.libraryireland.com/SocialHistoryAncientIreland/I-III-2.php). And of course the French are always villanous (I’m English after all).

But the more you learn of history, the less easy it becomes to simply classify any nationality as the villains. Sure people did bad things, but a whole nationality? That isn’t so certain.

Take the English-Scottish rivalry for example. It is easy to see it as a simple grab for land; particularly if you’ve watched that Braveheart film and thought it was anything more than simple entertainment. But it turns out to be not quite as simple as that.

Where is the border between England and Scotland anyway? Hadrian’s wall? Or the Antonine wall? Because the border hasn’t always been where it currently is; in fact people have been having rowdy discussions on which bit belongs to whom since before either country existed (and not infrequently using the excuse to make off with each other’s livestock).

In 1018, Malcolm II invaded the northern part of Northumbria, and hung onto it unlike later attempts at a land grab which failed. But was he grabbing land on behalf of Scotland, for his own personal enrichment, or to grant lands to his followers to keep them loyal?

The later was particularly likely as Scotland was not a simple unified nation at the time, and Malcolm II was a high king with several sub-kings giving allegiance.

But were those Northumbrians in the region captured by Malcolm English or Scottish? Did they suddenly become Scottish or did they stay English? Or were they Northumbrian? Or did they think of themselves as Bernicians? Or people of the Hen Ogledd? Because they had been all those within the span of a few hundred years.

But rather than concentrating on destroying the notion of nations created by states for their own convenience, let us switch to something else.

When Malcolm II invaded Northumbria, did he give all his soldiers any choice in the matter? Of course he didn’t; some of his nobles could well have had some say, but the ordinary soldier didn’t. And the same applies for pretty much everything the “English” were responsible for.

Blaming the nation for the crimes of the ruling classes is collective guilt; one step on the way to collective punishment (a war crime). Blame those responsible by all means (and there’s plenty to blame), but don’t condemn a whole country for the crimes of a few.

War Memorial Church
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
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