Nigel Calder, RIP

June 29, 2014

Nigel Calder has died. He led a full life. He touched me only with his writing in books and then his blog

No Telling What One Can Learn about Scottish Independance

June 25, 2014

I attended a sold-out debate event sponsored by the Spectator Magazine hosted by Andrew Neil with Ian Murray MP, Annabel Goldie MSP, George Galloway MP, Andrew Wilson, Jeane Freeman OBE, and Blair Jenkins. The proposition for debate was “Independence is the greatest threat to Edinburgh”. Twitter hash tag is #specscot.

George Galloway was the hit of the night who has a mission to rally people against independence. Andrew Neil very impressive with probing and insightful questions and adroit leadership of the debate. Hear George Galloway at

I learned some things.

  • From Andrew Wilson that “everyone accepts that it’s only a formality that an independent Scotland will be accepted into the EU”. [After he said that, the audience erupted in giggles.]
  • From Andrew Wilson I learned that East Germany was granted the “automatic” entry to EU–as he expects Scotland to be granted–after their “struggle for independence”. [Not my recollection of history.]
  • From Andrew Wilson, Jeane Freeman, and Blair Jenkins who made this point over and over, I learned that the primary purpose of independence is to give power to Scotland’s people to enable social equality, cure poverty, etc.
  • From Blair Jenkins, I learned that there have been 151 new countries formed since WWII, and the citizens of these new countries are all happier and richer as a result of their independence. Just like Scotland will be after independence, he said. [I’m going to do more reading about this assertion.]

Another scare? Giant Kelp Sea Forests “Gone by 2100” Declare Experts. Oh No.

June 22, 2014

In today’s Sunday Times (UK), page 3, front main section (“News”):

Britain’s giant kelp forests–the sea weed that cover vast stretches of its surrounding seabeds–are being wiped out by human activities and will disappear within a few decades, marine biologists have warned.

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They go on to explain how they create a rich environment “for thousands of other marine creatures, including many commercially valuable species”.

They say that the kelp forests are likely to disappear by 2100, “destroyed by a combination of climate change and ocean acidification, both caused by CO2 generated by humans burning fossil fuels”. The leader of the study, Juliet Brodie, professor of Botany at the Natural History Museum in London also said that more storms caused by climate change would add to the destruction. Professor Jason Hall-Spencer from Plymouth University, a co-author of the paper, was also quoted “What is staggering is how fast warming and the spread of corrosive waters are changing marine life around our coasts.”

The author of the piece was by Jonathan Leaker, Science Editor of the Times.

The report was also discussed in NERC’s publication “The Planet Earth Online” at where they conclude with a paragraph saying something different (my bold):

The results of these changes will be complex, though, and not all organisms will lose out. Seagrasses and kelp forests may thrive at high latitudes due to increases in CO2. These are productive ecosystems that raise seawater pH as they grow. If we look after these habitats properly they should continue to store carbon and provide bio-diverse habitats for commercially important fish and shellfish.

Humm. It must feel good to be so certain about all this. Any uncertainty is not mentioned.

I’m going to have to do some more reading as I don’t recall reading very many definitive papers on how the oceans are warming, how pH of oceans will actually become acidic (the sea is already corrosive and the pH is well north of acidic), or how more storms will be caused by climate change, nor how storms in deep water affect the bottom. Lots of things to learn, I guess. A lot of this doesn’t make sense to me and it’s not because I don’t already have a lot of knowledge of these issues.

How did this article make it to page 3 of the Sunday Times? This is just sensationalism. Oh … Now I understand how it got on page 3.

Misplaced IT Security Controls

June 18, 2014

I’ve noticed an odd trend in computing security relating to the transmittal of bank remittance notices–not the money being transmitted, just a note that a payment was made into our company account.

In the past these notices would arrive on paper via postal mail. Then there was a migration (excellent!) to using email with PDF attachments. Since the senders were known (and trusted), this is considered “no big deal” nor a security risk.

I’m not starting to see diverging trends.

  • One very large bank sends the transmittal notice as an attached Microsoft Excel *.xls file. Gesh. It’s hubris to think that we have and use Microsoft Excel, and worse it’s source.
  • Two law firms now are sending the remittance in a two-part email. I get an email from them asking that I click on link. After clicking on that link I’m sent two emails–one with a secret password, and a second with another link where the remittance notice is stored. I’m expected to go to the second link and use the secret password to see the document. Gesh. What problem are they trying to fix by imposing on me so much manual work?

IMHO, these are both stupid ideas.

Experiment with Drafts

June 13, 2014

This is a test of composing on Drafts, a new editor I purchased for my iPad.

Works. Interesting. More on this later …

Backblaze vs. CrashPlan

June 13, 2014

I have been using CrashPlan on numerous machines running various operating systems. I heard about Backblaze from a podcast I listen too. Apparently it takes fewer resources than CrashPlan. I tried it. Worked well. But the Mac version is crippled, the total cost on all systems was no savings than with CrashPlan, and I would need CrashPlan for running on Linux.

So no compelling reason to change.

Steve Gibson on GameOver Zeus botnet

June 4, 2014

“Strange story … getting headlines … nobody really saying anything … if we knew more, it would be interesting”.

— Steve Gibson, Security Now Podcast, 3 June 2014

Steve explains how this became news because a court in Pittsburgh allowed the FBI to interfere with this existing and criminal botnet. The FBI could not interfere (shutdown) this legally without this court order. The court issued a permission to allow the FBI to interfere with the botnet for a limited duration — 2 weeks.

Presumably this is the basis of the “2-weeks” alarm message that is being spread widely in the UK media (BBC, national press, malware software vendors, etc.). I’ve not seen an explanation of why “2-weeks” reported in the media. Presumably, after the 2-week window ends, the FBI will have no longer taken control of the botnet.

The message is getting through. Relatives are asking me about it. I hear comments at work. People are scared.

Zeus is malware which watches what the computer is doing and is banking-account aware. In the USA, there is no protection for business accounts against this crime. A valid request to transfer (mainly wire transfers) is a valid request, in their eyes. The bank does not care if it was from the legitimate user, or the criminal.

Meantime, yesterday we took one of those phone calls from India where the caller said “I’m from Microsoft Technical Support, and we are calling to inform you that we have detected a virus on your computer.”