Mark Turner : Skier’s disappearance, return may stay a mystery – Times Union

June 01, 2018 10:45 AM

More than 100 days after Constantinos “Danny” Filippidis went missing from Whiteface Mountain, State Police and Filippidis’ family are no closer to understanding what led the skier to end up in a rental car section of the Sacramento Airport.

State Police said Thursday they considered the case still open but had no new information on Filippidis’ disappearance.

Filippidis was on a ski trip with some fellow Toronto firefighters. At around 2 p.m. Feb. 7, he decided to go on one last ski run while his friends returned to the lodge. When he still hadn’t returned by 4 p.m., they began to look for him.

Searchers eventually found his identification in his car but no sign of him. The disappearance sparked a massive search effort, involving more than 130 members.

Six days later, Filippidis’ wife received a call from a number she didn’t know. On the other line was Filippidis. He called her by a nickname he used for her but sounded lost and confused. After calling him back, she was able to convince him to call 911.

Source: Skier’s disappearance, return may stay a mystery – Times Union

Mark Turner : Pompeo says China incident is ‘entirely consistent’ with Cuba ‘sonic attacks’ – CNN

May 23, 2018 08:20 PM

Sonic attacks on American diplomats continue, this time in China.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that an incident involving a US government employee stationed in China who reported “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure” suggesting a mild brain injury has medical indications that are “very similar” and “entirely consistent” to those experienced by American diplomats posted in Havana.

US officials have issued a health alert in China following the incident. Additionally, the US State Department is looking into whether the incident is similar to what happened in Cuba in 2016 and 2017, a US diplomatic official told CNN, which the US government characterized as a “sonic attack.” That incident led to a reduction in staffing at the US Embassy in Havana.

Source: Pompeo says China incident is ‘entirely consistent’ with Cuba ‘sonic attacks’ – CNN

Mark Turner : The Oak City Dairy Farm

May 23, 2018 12:39 AM

Oak City Dairy Farm auction notice in the Raleigh’s Evening Visitor newspaper

Today I learned my home sits on what was once the Oak City Dairy Farm, owned by Thomas B. Bridgers. The dairy cows and equipment were sold at auction in July 1883 following Mr. Bridgers death. The farm sold in 1899 to Lewis T. Christmas, a pastor from Charleston, West Virginia.

The ad in the old Raleigh newspaper, the Evening Visitor, has the auction information as follows:

Sale of Personal Property.

I will, on Tuesday, the 26th of July, 1883, at the Oak City Dairy Farm just north of the city of Raleigh and St. Augustine Normal School, offer for sale to the highest bidder, the personal property belonging to the late Thomas B. Bridgers, deceased, consisting of two brood mares, one colt, six mules, two bales cotton, nineteen cords of pine wood, three cords of oak wood, twelve seasoned cedar posts, farm tools and implements, buggy, wagons, etc., including the entire outfit of Oak City Dairy, consisting of sixteen head of Jersey and Ayeshire in bred milch [sic] cow, in excellent order, with capacity of from three to five gallons per say, and all necessary cars, jars, pans, buckets, horses, wagon, etc., for a first class dairy business. Also one Ayeshire bull, two Jersey bulls and eleven head fine heifers and calves. An itemized inventory of this property or any information can be seen and had by applying to the office of George H. Snow, Esq., attorney.

Sale will commence at 11 o’clock a.m., promptly. Terms of sale cash.

MARY M. CHRISTMAS
Executrix of T.B. Bridgers, dec’d.
june28-tds

Mark Turner : It’s Time For A New Maritime Strategy – U.S. Naval Institute Blog

May 22, 2018 03:08 PM

In the current environment, the U.S. military is stretched too thin and lacks the strategic purpose and resources to effectively employ this strategy. There is no guiding principle for the employment of naval force and yet the Navy continues to be used as an active tool of diplomacy in an era without strategic priorities. As globalization continues to take hold but the U.S. begins to focus inward, the role of the Navy must be better defined. In April of 1991, as the U.S. faced a period of unchallenged superiority with the demise of the Soviet Union, then CNO Admiral Frank Kelso made the following statement in Proceedings:

We must shift the objective of our “National Security Strategy” from containing the Soviet Union to maintaining global stability. Our evolving strategy must focus on regional contingencies in trouble spots wherever our national interests are involved.

Source: U.S. Naval Institute Blog

Mark Turner : The Last Deployment Hat Toss

May 22, 2018 12:30 AM

The Coronado Bay Bridge, 30 March 2018.

When the family and I toured San Diego this spring we took a harbor cruise around Coronado Bay. Here the Coronado Bay Bridge acts as a prominent landmark for the surface fleet of Naval Base San Diego, tucked just inside the bridge. On your first trip out as a fresh-out-of-bootcamp sailor you’ll inevitably be told to crank down the ship’s mast to avoid hitting the bridge.

On your last pass under the bridge, however, there is a different ceremony. It is a local San Diego navy tradition that on your last trip under the Coronado Bay Bridge you toss your cover (or “Dixie Cup,” as the white enlisted canvas hats are known) into the water. So many times I passed under the bridge that I really, really looked forward adding my cover to the submerged pile beneath the bridge. That day came for me on Monday, 20 January 1992 when I rode the USS Elliot (DD-967) back from my last WestPac deployment. It was the day before my 23rd birthday.

Here are some photos of the occasion:

This spring’s harbor cruise was the first time that I had passed under the bridge since I sent my cover flying over the side so long ago. It was wonderful to relive the moment.

Mark Turner : Jolly Roger Telephone Company, saving the world from bad telemarketing | How Does it Work?

May 21, 2018 03:04 PM

This is brilliant. It’s a service that screens your phone calls and answers with an annoying, delaying robot if the caller is a telemarketer or scammer.

How does it work?
1) You buy a subscription, telling us your phone numbers and your email address.

2) Pick a robot you like from our “Pick a Robot” page. Mark down the robot’s phone number and keep it handy.

3) When you receive a telemarketing call, you transfer it to the robot (see “Use a Robot” page for instructions).

4) After our robot is done talking to the telemarketer, it will send a copy to your email so you can have a laugh.

Source: Jolly Roger Telephone Company, saving the world from bad telemarketing | How Does it Work?

Mark Turner : Is Silicon Valley done?

May 18, 2018 03:27 PM

The headline is bombastic, of course, but there is a grain of truth to the idea that Silicon Valley is imploding. By this I don’t mean that business there is dying out; on the contrary business there is booming. The issue is these companies are victims of their own success, boosting Valley wealth so high that they’re pricing themselves out of their own backyards.

Apple is rumored to be inking a real-estate deal in Cary. San Francisco-based Slack is opening a Denver office. Word from folks I know who are working in Bay-area companies tell me there is a push for these companies to expand in other cities because the talent competition on their home turf is intense. I keep reading stories about people escaping from Silicon Valley and these stories seem to keep coming.

Amazon may be Seattle-based but it’s in the same boat with its search for a secondary headquarters. The ever-rising prices in Seattle have made it more attractive for Amazon to invest away from its birthplace.

Of course, it could all be a blip, or nothing at all, but lately there seem to be lots of reasons why not being in the Valley is a competitive advantage.

Mark Turner : Exclusive: CIA ‘Leaker’ Josh Schulte Posted Agency Code Online—And CIA Never Noticed

May 18, 2018 02:21 PM

This is supposed to be the latest on Joshua Adam Schulte, the former CIA worker suspected of passing hacking secrets to WikiLeaks. This case raises so many questions:

  • If Schulte is suspected, why hasn’t he been charged?
  • Did what Schulte post online to GitHub qualify as classified information?
  • There’s nothing worse than child pornography. Doesn’t it seem convenient that Schulte was found with a bunch of it on his computer? His job was to break into computers. He almost certainly worked with expert colleagues whose job was also to break into computers. How could we possibly know that he wasn’t framed?
  • If Schulte is allegedly into child porn, how did he ever get a security clearance?
  • Did the government really think that quoting IRC logs of one of Schulte’s friends mentioning child porn was proof of anything other than a joke?

All of these parts mentioned in this case seem like they’ve been carefully chosen to paint a picture. Bottom line: If Schulte did leak the classified material, he should go to jail. If he willingly collected child pornography, he should go to jail. The onus is on the government to prove these charges (or possible charges) and so far I have not seen much to convince me.

Joshua Adam Schulte, the former CIA worker suspected of passing the agency’s hacking secrets to WikiLeaks, previously posted the source code for an internal CIA tool to his account on the public code-sharing site GitHub, The Daily Beast has learned.That potential red flag was apparently missed by the spy agency just months after Edward Snowden walked out of the National Security Agency with a thumb drive of secrets in 2013. A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment.Schulte, 29, worked at the CIA from 2010 to 2016. He was raided by the FBI on March 23, 2017, roughly two weeks after Julian Assange began releasing 8,000 CIA files under the rubric “Vault 7.” The files had been copied from an internal agency wiki sometime in 2016, and contained documentation and some source code for the hacking tools used by the CIA’s intrusion teams when conducting foreign surveillance.

Source: Exclusive: CIA ‘Leaker’ Josh Schulte Posted Agency Code Online—And CIA Never Noticed

Mark Turner : Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

May 18, 2018 12:53 PM

According to these numbers, a single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as thirty-one U.S. households use in one day. Insanity.

Bitcoin electricty consumption

The continuous block mining cycle incentivizes people all over the world to mine Bitcoin. As mining can provide a solid stream of revenue, people are very willing to run power-hungry machines to get a piece of it. Over the years this has caused the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin network to grow to epic proportions, as the price of the currency reached new highs. The entire Bitcoin network now consumes more energy than a number of countries, based on a report published by the International Energy Agency. If Bitcoin was a country, it would rank as shown below.

Source: Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

Mark Turner : A Haka is an excellent funeral send-off

May 18, 2018 12:49 PM

I’d seen this when it first got shared but I watched it again after a recent video was shared of the New Zealand women’s rugby team doing a haka. The 2/1 RNZIR Battalion of the New Zealand Defense Forces staged a haka for their fallen Afghanistan comrades which is incredibly moving.

I am not Maori nor am I a New Zealander but I have to admit it would be pretty cool to have a haka performed at my funeral!

Much respect to my New Zealand brothers in arms.

Mark Turner : For the Comedy Iconoclasts of ‘SCTV,’ a Joyful Reunion Tinged With Loss – The New York Times

May 18, 2018 11:42 AM

I loved watching SCTV. It was a brilliant, funny show.

On a warm Mother’s Day afternoon here, sunlight streamed into the gold-filigreed lobby of the Elgin Theater, where traveling vaudeville acts passed through a century ago. A troupe from the more recent past, though also tinged with nostalgia, would soon take the stage: the cast of the cult TV show “SCTV.”

The afternoon of clips and conversation, hosted by the “SCTV” fan Jimmy Kimmel, will be part of a Netflix comedy special directed by Martin Scorsese, set for release in 2019. As a sellout crowd of 1,300 pushed by, the 40-year-old friends Jeff Maus and Eric Makila stood finishing their beers, having a fanboy moment about the show, which debuted more than 40 years ago.

“This is hometown love,” Mr. Makila said.

“I gave a speech to my class on ‘SCTV’ in Grade 3,” said Mr. Maus, who grew up in nearby Paris, Ontario. “It was the only hip Canadian show we could lay our hands on back then.”

Source: For the Comedy Iconoclasts of ‘SCTV,’ a Joyful Reunion Tinged With Loss – The New York Times

Mark Turner : Four Bad Habits to Avoid at City Council Meetings – CitiesSpeak

May 16, 2018 07:12 PM

This is a great lesson on how some common parliamentary procedures are frequently misused.

There are a number of “urban myths” about Robert’s Rules of Order that can get in the way of democratic process for your council. If your municipality, county council, or special district avoids these bad habits, congratulations! If these errors happen at your meetings, however, you might want to bring them to the attention of your colleagues to straighten them out – in a pleasant way, of course.

Source: Four Bad Habits to Avoid at City Council Meetings – CitiesSpeak

Mark Turner : Apple’s new campus: North Carolina Research Triangle on shortlist, report says

May 16, 2018 05:20 PM

I don’t know why I feel better about the possibility of Raleigh landing Apple than I do about Amazon. Both are huge, game-changing projects. It might be because I think Apple treats its employees better.

North Carolina lawmakers are preparing a bid for a new Apple campus, according to a report in the Triangle Business Journal.Separately, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has also floated areas near Washington D.C., like Crystal City and Tysons, as locales for Apple.

Citing unnamed sources in real estate, law and the North Carolina government, the Triangle Business Journal said the Research Triangle Park “tops Apple’s short list,” although the process is far from finalized — Apple is still looking at sites across the country.

Source: Apple’s new campus: North Carolina Research Triangle on shortlist, report says

Mark Turner : The Electrical Outlet and How It Got That Way | Hackaday

May 16, 2018 04:59 PM

This is pretty interesting.

Right now, if you happen to be in North America, chances are pretty good that there’s at least one little face staring at you. Look around and you’ll spy it, probably about 15 inches up from the floor on a nearby wall. It’s the ubiquitous wall outlet, with three holes arranged in a way that can’t help but stimulate the facial recognition firmware of our mammalian brain.

No matter where you go you’ll find those outlets and similar ones, all engineered for specific tasks. But why do they look the way they do? And what’s going on electrically and mechanically behind that familiar plastic face? It’s a topic we’ve touched on before with Jenny List’s take on international mains standards. Now it’s time to take a look inside the common North American wall socket, and how it got that way.

Source: The Electrical Outlet and How It Got That Way | Hackaday

Mark Turner : Taking Children from Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror | The New Yorker

May 16, 2018 02:59 PM

A few hours after Putin took his fourth oath of office, in Moscow, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a law-enforcement conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. He pledged to separate families that are detained crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you,” Sessions said. The Attorney General did not appear to be unveiling a new policy so much as amplifying a practice that has been adopted by the Trump Administration, which has been separating parents who are in immigration detention from their children. The Times reported in December that the federal government was considering a policy of separating families in order to discourage asylum seekers from entering. By that time, nonprofit groups were already raising the alarm about the practice, which they said had affected a number of families. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of families that had been separated when they entered the country with the intention of seeking asylum.

The practice, and Sessions’s speech, are explicitly intended as messages to parents who may consider seeking asylum in the United States. The American government has unleashed terror on immigrants, and in doing so has naturally reached for the most effective tools.

Source: Taking Children from Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror | The New Yorker

Mark Turner : The Spy Who Came Home | The New Yorker

May 15, 2018 06:46 PM

This is a great story on a Savannah police officer who left the C.I.A. to help make his own neighborhood a better place, forgoing a large salary to do so. He’s a thinking cop who, rather than always reach for his gun, applies thinking to each situation to reach the best outcome.

Georgia’s law-enforcement-training program does not teach recruits to memorize license plates backward in mirrors. Like many of Skinner’s abilities, that skill was honed in the C.I.A. He joined the agency during the early days of America’s war on terror, one of the darkest periods in its history, and spent almost a decade running assets in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Iraq. He shook hands with lawmakers, C.I.A. directors, the King of Jordan, the Emir of Qatar, the Prime Minister of Singapore, and Presidents of Afghanistan and the United States. “I became the Forrest Gump of counterterrorism and law enforcement,” he said, stumbling in and out of the margins of history. But over the years he came to believe that counterterrorism was creating more problems than it solved, fuelling illiberalism and hysteria, destroying communities overseas, and diverting attention and resources from essential problems in the United States.

Meanwhile, American police forces were adopting some of the militarized tactics that Skinner had seen give rise to insurgencies abroad. “We have to stop treating people like we’re in Fallujah,” he told me. “It doesn’t work. Just look what happened in Fallujah.” In time, he came to believe that the most meaningful application of his training and expertise—the only way to exemplify his beliefs about American security, at home and abroad—was to become a community police officer in Savannah, where he grew up.

Source: The Spy Who Came Home | The New Yorker

Mark Turner : Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right

May 13, 2018 02:20 AM

Some of the child-free women I know have shared this article. Personally, I don’t get it. The way I see it, jobs are a dime a dozen. Building a company, building a career might seem important, but building a human being? Building a human being? There is nothing more important, challenging, fulfilling, frustrating, or valuable than that.

When I was 7 months pregnant, my mother told me her biggest regret in life: that she had been a working mom. “If I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed home with you and your sister from the get-go,” she said.

I was surprised by this admission, to say the least. Sure, when I was a kid, my mom would sometimes complain about missing a field trip or a PTA meeting, but to be honest, she complained about most things, so it didn’t seem like her job ranked super high on the list. Growing up in New York City in the ‘90s, I’d watched the rest of my friends’ moms slowly drop out of the full-time work force, taking lower-paid part-time administrative positions or scheduling their days around manicures and aerobics classes and harshly worded sit-downs with the nanny. But my mom had kept on working, rising through the ranks to become a corporate executive before retiring a few years ago. I had always been proud of my mother for having (it seemed) seamlessly integrated her career with motherhood. It never occurred to me that she didn’t feel the same way.

Source: Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right

Mark Turner : Political frustrations

May 10, 2018 02:20 PM

I have been wondering more and more about my obsession with politics. Like many obsessions, it borders on unhealthy. Often its frustrating, particularly to watch progress get thwarted come the next election.

I was feeling this way about the recent Democratic primary for the Wake County Commissioners. I’ve felt the incumbents on the ballot, Sig Hutchinson, John Burns, Erv Portman, and Matt Calabria, have done a fine job guiding the county but several fellow Democrats had a differing opinion. Portman and Burns were sent home Tuesday in favor of former school board member Susan Evans and newcomer Vickie Adamson. Hutchinson and Calabria retained their seats.

I’ve known John Burns for several years now, first connecting with him through each of our social media presences. He is as honest and trustworthy a public servant as any I’ve ever met. He has a very strong conscience and is not afraid to speak up for those with no voice of their own. He somehow managed to juggle his day job, his Commission duties, and still make time for his wonderful family. I was happy to hold him up as a role model for how to do public service the right way.

I was at his after-election get-together when he saw that he was going to lose. It was hugely disappointing to me.

At the same time, Vickie Adamson is a friend, too. As the outgoing president of Ligon PTA, she showed me the ropes and selflessly stepped in for those events where I needed a hand. She is extremely smart, gregarious, giving, and hard-working. I think she will do well on the Commission.

That said, I was not happy with the tone of the campaign and lay most of this blame on Dean Debnam, one of the main supporters of Vickie’s campaign. Debnam’s tactics are so divisive that it will take some time to heal, all the while the Republicans have kept their powder dry with the November general election in mind.

To me, this is why Democrats can’t have nice things: we demand perfection and cut loose the instant it isn’t achieved. Republicans have learned to play the long game, like the way they bided their time until redistricting would give them a long-term lock on state politics. Differences Democrats would have more productively dealt with behind closed doors play out in our primaries, wasting everyone’s time, money, and energy – all of which would be better spent keeping Republicans at bay.

For decades I’ve dreamed of putting my name on the ballot, if I could ever get Kelly onboard. Now I feel drawn in a different direction, not as inclined to put my energy into petty battles as I once was. There are other ways of organizing people towards common good and I think that’s where I’ll be spending my time.

Mark Turner : Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real-World Tasks Over the Phone

May 10, 2018 12:32 PM

Google’s AI has gotten so good, it’s scary.

A long-standing goal of human-computer interaction has been to enable people to have a natural conversation with computers, as they would with each other. In recent years, we have witnessed a revolution in the ability of computers to understand and to generate natural speech, especially with the application of deep neural networks (e.g., Google voice search, WaveNet). Still, even with today’s state of the art systems, it is often frustrating having to talk to stilted computerized voices that don’t understand natural language. In particular, automated phone systems are still struggling to recognize simple words and commands. They don’t engage in a conversation flow and force the caller to adjust to the system instead of the system adjusting to the caller. Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

Source: Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real-World Tasks Over the Phone

Mark Turner : The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver – Atlas Obscura

May 10, 2018 12:29 PM

This is a fascinating look into the world of a saturation diver.

For 52 straight days this winter, Shannon Hovey woke up in the company of five other men in a metal tube, 20 feet long and seven feet in diameter, tucked deep inside a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. He retrieved his breakfast from a hatch (usually eggs), read a briefing for the day, and listened for a disembodied voice to tell him when it was time to put on a rubber suit and get to work. Life in the tube was built around going through these same steps day after day after day … while trying not to think about the fact that any unintended breach in his temporary metal home would mean a fast, agonizing death.

Hovey works in one of the least known, most dangerous, and, frankly, most bizarre professions on Earth. He is a saturation diver—one of the men (right now they are all men) who do construction and demolition work at depths up to 1,000 feet or more below the surface of the ocean.

Source: The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver – Atlas Obscura

Mark Turner : How a Tenacious Group of Puerto Ricans Brought Light Back to Their Community – Mother Jones

May 10, 2018 01:11 AM

I love that Oscar Carrion feels driven to help restore power to his neighbors but the man is going to make orphans of his four kids if he keeps messing with power lines with no training nor safety equipment.

Oscar Carrion didn’t make the headlines—but thousands of people are grateful for the work he’s been doing.When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and cut power on the island, Carrion and his four kids went night after night in darkness. He had to do something. “We were tired of hearing, ‘It can’t be done, it can’t be done,’” he told PBS’s Frontline. “We made the decision to try to continue forward.”So he and his friends came together and raised $2,500 to buy a used bucket truck. They taught themselves about electrical wiring. And then Carrion led a DIY effort to restore power to several of Puerto Rico’s neighborhoods—repairing, replacing, and reconnecting electric lines in those areas. This video of his efforts, a part of Frontline’s look at Puerto Rico’s slow restoration after the hurricane last September, is worth your time.

Source: How a Tenacious Group of Puerto Ricans Brought Light Back to Their Community – Mother Jones

Watch the PBS Frontline YouTube video here:

Mark Turner : Raleigh woman hunts down thief after $4K stolen from her bank account :: WRAL.com

May 08, 2018 04:43 PM

This is why you don’t ever use debit cards for anything. It is also a story for why crooks continue to get away with these crimes of fraud: we are essentially powerless to prevent it.

How far would you go to track down someone who used your debit card number? When a Raleigh woman became a victim, she took matters into her own hands.After she was robbed of $4,500, Amy Milslagle launched her own investigation to catch the thief.

“I used to use my debit card daily, multiple times a day — pretty much for everything,” said Milslagle.Then, last February, her debit card stopped working.

Source: Raleigh woman hunts down thief after $4K stolen from her bank account :: WRAL.com

Mark Turner : With Oliver North, NRA’s descent into crackpottery continues | The Kansas City Star

May 08, 2018 04:40 PM

I met Oliver North several times when he shopped in the Northern Virginia hardware store where I worked in high school. He was a neighbor and, though I didn’t know her, his daughter was in my high school class. When the Iran-Contra hearings took place my instinct was to cheer on my neighbor until I came to realize that lying to Congress – the People’s branch of government – really wasn’t anything to be celebrated.

Once North was convicted of felonies and his reputation was in tatters he crawled his way back into being a conservative pundit. I’d say both he and the NRA are getting what they deserve.

The National Rifle Association, which proclaims its devotion to the Second Amendment and the rest of the Constitution, announced that Retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North will be its next president. How perfect.

The New York Daily News reports: “North’s nomination will likely draw rebuke, considering his involvement in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, in which senior Reagan administration officials covertly sold weapons to the arms-embargoed Iranian regime, and used the proceeds to fund the right-wing Contras guerillas in Nicaragua. The scandal left a dark stain on Ronald Reagan’s administration, although congressional committees found no evidence to suggest that the President himself was aware of the shadowy deals.”

North was convicted on three felony counts for his part in the scandal that rocked the Reagan administration (including misleading Congress and ordering that documents be destroyed), though he successfully had his conviction overturned on the grounds that his congressional testimony, obtained under a grant of immunity, may have tainted the jury. So, naturally, he now will lead a group that touts its devotion to law and order and the Constitution.

Source: With Oliver North, NRA’s descent into crackpottery continues | The Kansas City Star

Mark Turner : The Price of This Drug Went Up 100,000 Percent Since 2001 for No Good Reason

May 07, 2018 04:39 PM

Pharmaceutical companies are evil, part 45,326.

Did you catch 60 Minutes last night? If you did, you may have learned about a drug called Acthar that went from $40 in 2001 to over $40,000 today. It’s a perfect illustration of just how poorly regulated the US pharmaceutical industry continues to be and how there’s absolutely no good reason for the extreme prices Americans pay for medicine.

Acthar has been on the market since 1952 and is primarily used to treat infantile spasms, a rare condition. Why does Acthar cost $40,000 today, an increase of 100,000 percent from the cost in 2001? Pure greed.

Source: The Price of This Drug Went Up 100,000 Percent Since 2001 for No Good Reason

Mark Turner : How a USB drive sparked the push for Korean peace – Axios

May 07, 2018 04:35 PM

The Korean dynamics are changing at light speed because Kim Jong-un cares far more about economics than his father ever did, per people close to advisers of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Under the hood: A source who has spoken recently with top South Korean government advisers — and who spoke anonymously to preserve their confidences — told me Moon “freaked out” last year when Trump was threatening “fire and fury” against Kim.

Moon saw last summer that the White House and Pentagon were working on military options in the event that Kim threatened the U.S.

So he went into diplomatic overdrive, using the military crisis to present Kim with economic development plans he’d long wanted to deliver.

One story that was widely reported in the South Korean press but didn’t get much attention in the U.S. is that, at their April summit, Moon gave a USB drive to Kim.

“The USB makes the case to Kim — there really is another path for you,” John Delury, an expert in North Korean affairs at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told me. He said the USB, which contained a plan for tens of billions worth of economic development in North Korea including railways and energy, sent the message to Kim: “We’re serious about working with you for what we think is your real ambition — to be a wealthy East Asian country.”

Source: How a USB drive sparked the push for Korean peace – Axios

Mark Turner : I-Team: UFO – LASVEGASNOW

May 07, 2018 12:42 AM

LAS VEGAS – UFO investigators are hoping to obtain a treasure trove of Pentagon documents that were generated by a once-secret military study of flying saucers and other weird aircraft.The government confirms there was a UFO program. It supposedly ended in 2012, but the Pentagon has not yet released any reports or files.

The I-Team gives the first look at documents which prove the UFO study was real and was based in southern Nevada.

Source: I-Team: UFO – LASVEGASNOW

Mark Turner : The Shady Cases of Michael Cohen’s Personal Injury Practice – Rolling Stone

May 06, 2018 07:19 PM

Lock this guy up and throw away the key.

A few years before he started working for Donald Trump, and long before he gave legal advice to people like Fox News personality Sean Hannity, Michael D. Cohen had a different kind of clientele. Cohen roamed the courthouses of New York City, filing lawsuits on behalf of people with little means who were seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered in car collisions. Many personal-injury lawyers make their living this way, but there was something striking about Cohen’s cases: Some of the crashes at issue didn’t appear to be accidents at all.

A Rolling Stone investigation found that Cohen represented numerous clients who were involved in deliberate, planned car crashes as part of an attempt to cheat insurance companies. Furthermore, investigations by insurers showed that several of Cohen’s clients were affiliated with insurance fraud rings that repeatedly staged “accidents.” And at least one person Cohen represented was indicted on criminal charges of insurance fraud while the lawsuit he had filed on her behalf was pending. Cohen also did legal work for a medical clinic whose principal was a doctor later convicted of insurance fraud for filing phony medical claims on purported “accident” victims. Taken together, a picture emerges that the personal attorney to the president of the United States was connected to a shadowy underworld of New York insurance fraud, a pervasive problem dominated by Russian organized crime that was costing the state’s drivers an estimated $1 billion a year.

Source: The Shady Cases of Michael Cohen’s Personal Injury Practice – Rolling Stone

Mark Turner : How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire – The New York Times

May 06, 2018 07:16 PM

He was a personal-injury lawyer who often worked out of taxi offices scattered around New York City.

There was the one above the run-down auto repair garage on West 16th Street in Manhattan, on the edge of the Meatpacking District before it turned trendy. There was the single-story building with the garish yellow awning in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge. There was the tan brick place on a scruffy Manhattan side street often choked with double-parked taxis.

And then there was his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower overlooking Fifth Avenue, right next to the one belonging to Donald J. Trump.

Before he joined the Trump Organization and became Mr. Trump’s lawyer and do-it-all fixer, Michael D. Cohen was a hard-edge personal-injury attorney and businessman. Now a significant portion of his quarter-century business record is under the microscope of federal prosecutors — posing a potential threat not just to Mr. Cohen but also to the president.

Source: How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire – The New York Times

Mark Turner : Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

May 06, 2018 07:05 PM

I visited Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last week for some intuitive training. While I was there I got a chance to visit the Cape Henlopen State Park, former home of a U.S. Navy base known as NAVFAC Lewes. This facility was one of many that was tuned to track deep-diving Soviet submarines, some thousands of miles away. The program was called SOSUS for Sound Ocean Surveillance System and was highly successful at tracking subs until that traitor Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker Jr. sold it out to his Soviet handlers.

To defend against the threat of Soviet submarine operations inthe eastern Atlantic or off the coast of the U.S., in the mid-to-late 1950s, the Navy established an underwater Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Naval facilities (NavFacs) of the system were located along the coast of the U.S. and Carribean Islands. From those facilities cables ran to the edge of the continental shelf with hydrophones that could detect the sound of submarines.

The mission of these NavFacs was “To provide world-widemaritime surveillance and cueing from undersea sensors to warfare commanders and intelligence partners in support of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).” But, since that mission statement was (then) classified, a cover story was provided explaining the role, purpose and operations of the stations as an extension of and adjunct to the acoustic and oceanographic surveys conducted by the Navy’s fleet of research ships.

Soon the Navy realized that NavFac Cape May was threatened by beach erosion, which would eventually undermine the station buildings. Thus, in September 1960, Delaware Senator Allen J. Frear announced that $1,500,000 had been allotted for the construction of a Navy oceanographic research facility at Fort Miles, which had been a WWII Army Coastal Defense Artillery fort and was still being utilized as an Army training facility and as a Department of Defense military receation center. In October 1960, the Navy had obtained 626 acres at the southern end of Fort Miles.

Source: Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

Mark Turner : Operation Paul Bunyan: The most heavily-armed tree-trimming operation in history

April 28, 2018 01:50 PM

The tree involved with the Korean Axe Murder Incident

Talk is in the air that North and South Korea may finally sign a peace agreement that will officially end the Korean War. The guns mostly went silent with the 1953 signing of the Korean Armistice, but there were still outbursts of violence, such as the Korean Axe Murder Incident of 1976.

The Korean Axe Murder Incident began on August 18, 1976 when United Nations Command (UNC) forces (consisting of U.S. Army and Republic of Korea [ROK] troops) identified a poplar tree in the Korean Joint Security Area (JSA) of the DMZ that blocked the view in the summertime of a UNC checkpoint (CP No. 3) from a UNC observation post (OP No. 5). A work party of UNC soldiers, led by U.S. Army CPT Arthur Bonifas and USA 1LT Mark Barrett, was organized to trim the tree using axes and other tools.

This prompted a response from North Korean soldiers. A group of 15 North Korean soldiers led by a notoriously confrontational officer, Senior Lt. Pak Chul, tried to intervene, with Chul claiming the tree was planted by North Korean founder Kim Il Sung himself. The UNC troops promptly ignored Chul and his troops and returned to trimming when Chul ordered his men to kill them. In a skirmish lasting less than 30 seconds, Chul’s men killed Bonifas with one of the working party’s axes and then fled. Barrett managed to escape the initial attack and hid in a nearby depression but UNC forces did not notice he was missing until after North Korean troops had found him and also killed him with an axe.

These brutal murders demanded a response from U.S. and ROK forces, who put on an overwhelming show of force in response dubbed “Operation Paul Bunyan.” Heavily-armed ROK and USA soldiers returned August 21st to finish the job, backed up by special forces troops, tanks, dozens of helicopters, gunships, fighter planes, and bombers including a B-52 Stratofortress and several F-111s. Bases all over Asia were mobilized and the USS Midway aircraft carrier was stationed nearby. The defense condition was raised to DEFCON 3, demolition systems were armed for the DMZ’s Freedom Bridge and buildings on bases near the DMZ, and 12,000 additional troops were ordered to Korea.

Operation Paul Bunyon engineers of the U.S. Army arrived and promptly began work on the tree, taking it down to a stump in 42 minutes. Two hundred North Korean troops responded and were able to set up two machine gun posts but in the face of overwhelming force they could only watch silently as the tree was felled. Later that day, North Korean leader Kim II Sung expressed regret for the incident and urged that measures be taken to prevent incidents in the future. It is said to be one of the first times North Korea accepted responsibility for violence.

The tree stump remained as a memorial until 1987, when it was replaced with a brass plaque. The U.S. Army’s advance camp in the JSA was renamed Camp Bonifas in honor of Captain Bonifas. Also, the commander of the Eighth United States Army, General William H. Livesay, carried a swagger stick made from the wood of the poplar tree, passing it to the next commander as a reminder of the danger they face guarding the North Korean border.

Read more about the Korean Axe Murder Incident on Wikipedia.

Mark Turner : GEDmatch, a tiny DNA analysis firm, was key for Golden State Killer case | Ars Technica

April 27, 2018 05:41 PM

To get a leg up in the investigation in the cold case of the “Golden State Killer” (aka the “East Area Rapist”), authorities recently turned to modern DNA and genealogy analysis tools.

But they didn’t use any of the big-name DNA analysis firms like 23andMe; instead they relied on GEDmatch, a free, open source site run by a small two-man Florida company that just a few years ago was soliciting donations via PayPal.

According to the East Bay Times, which first reported the connection to GEDmatch late Thursday evening, California investigators caught a huge break in the case when they matched DNA from some of the original crime scenes with genetic data that had already been uploaded to GEDmatch. This familial link eventually led authorities to Joseph James DeAngelo, the man who authorities have named the chief suspect in the case. To confirm the genetic match, Citrus Heights police physically surveilled him and captured DNA off of something that he had discarded.

Source: GEDmatch, a tiny DNA analysis firm, was key for Golden State Killer case | Ars Technica

Greg DeKoenigsberg : Wow. It’s been a long time.

April 26, 2018 10:26 PM

Does anyone still do blogs?

Does anyone read this one?

Say hi in the comments if you do. 🙂

Mark Turner : Rewriting computer history

April 23, 2018 04:55 PM

I was reading this New York Magazine article about how the pioneers of the Internet were apologizing for what it has become, nevermind that many of the “pioneers” they mentioned were Johnny-come-latelys in comparison to the actual beginning of the Internet.

NYMag’s story did feature two actual pioneers, though computer pioneers more than Internet ones: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. They included this photo and captioned it “Steve Jobs (left) in his parents’ garage in 1976, working on the first Apple computer with Steve Wozniak.”

There are a few problems with this photo and caption. First off, the photo is backwards. If you switch the photo to the proper orientation, you’ll be able to read that the text on the computer under Wozniak’s hand reads “Apple II.”

This brings us to the second issue with this photo and caption: it is not the first Apple computer (the “II” thing kinda gives this away). Apple’s first computer, the Apple I, did not come with a keyboard nor case. It was essentially a circuit board.

Was this photo really taken in the garage of Jobs’s parents? Wozniak has said that the whole garage thing is a myth and that no testing or production ever took place there. The photo shows a very neat-looking workspace with a workbench. According to what’s said to be the first news story on Apple Computer, the Steves were still working out of the Jobs garage when the article was written.

Many sources claim the photo dates from 1976. The fact that the Apple II is shown probably puts it in late 1976 at best if this is actually the year it was taken, but I’m guessing it was actually later because the II wasn’t released until June 1977.

Jobs and Wozniak are obviously just posing here because there’s no monitor connected to the computer Woz is typing on and Jobs is shown looking at an oscilloscope, which he most likely didn’t know how to use.

It’s possible Apple itself is responsible for the wrong date. This Business Insider story on the aforementioned first press article is illustrated with a photo said to be a press handout photo from Apple Computer:

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs pose with the Apple II

Whether or not it was Apple that annotated this photo is unclear but you’d think the company would realize the Apple II was not in existence in 1975. Apple Computer itself wasn’t in existence in 1975, for that matter.

The problem with these errors is that media like Business Insider, Slate, and others will take these bogus dates and descriptions and run them, never bothering to check to see if they’re legit.

Mark Turner : Ride along as an F/A-18 gets launched from a carrier

April 23, 2018 02:09 PM

If there were GoPros when I was the Navy you’d get to see videos of me chipping paint, buffing passageway floors, putting down floor tile, and other exciting work! LT Evan Levesque, a Navy fighter pilot, used his to show us what it’s like to launch off an aircraft carrier’s catapult in an F/A-18 Super Hornet.

All good things must come to an end. Leaving the boat flying business for a little while. Going to miss it. #FlyNavy #Hornet #Rhino #GoPro #GoProAviation #AvGeek

A post shared by Evan Levesque (@rhinodrvr) on

\

Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

TheDrive has the background on the pilot and his videos.

Mark Turner : ‘My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro – POLITICO Magazine

April 20, 2018 07:52 PM

Love, sex, and political intrigue. A great read.

Lisa Howard had been waiting for more than two hours in a suite of the Hotel Riviera, enough time to bathe, dress and apply makeup, then take it all off to get ready for bed when she thought he wasn’t coming. But at 11:30 p.m. on that night in Havana—February 2, 1964—Howard, an American correspondent with ABC News, finally heard a knock at the door. She opened it and saw the man she had been waiting for: Fidel Castro, the 37-year-old leader of the Cuban revolution and one of America’s leading Cold War antagonists.

“You may be the prime minister, but I’m a very important journalist. How dare you keep me waiting,” Howard declared with mock anger. She then invited Castro, accompanied by his top aide, René Vallejo, into her room.Over the next few hours, they talked about everything from Marxist theory to the treatment of Cuba’s political prisoners. They reminisced about President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated just a few months earlier. Castro told Howard about his trip to Russia the previous spring, and the “personal attention” he had received from the “brilliant” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Howard admonished Castro for the repressive regime he was creating in Cuba. “To make an honorable revolution … you must give up the notion of wanting to be prime minister for as long as you live.” “Lisa,” Castro asked, “you really think I run a police state?” “Yes,” she answered. “I do.”

Source: ‘My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro – POLITICO Magazine

Mark Turner : How To Successfully Get Launched Off A Carrier At Night In A F-14 Tomcat

April 20, 2018 07:47 PM

I’ve only seen carrier flight operations from the perspective of my destroyer sailing behind it, acting as plane guard. This is a good overview of what is actually happening there.

LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka, the last F-14 Radar Intercept Officer to fly the Tomcat Tactical demonstration, is back to walk us through exactly what it took to strap on a 70k pound F-14 Tomcat in the dark of night and successfully get flung off the front of a US Navy super carrier via one of the ship’s mighty steam-piston catapults.

I walk closely behind Corky through the passageway, making sure I have all of my gear strapped down while there is still a fraction of light. Once you step outside the hatch to the flight deck, it’s likely the only real light will be a partial moon hidden behind some clouds. Corky told me to grab the back of his survival vest once we stepped out onto the flight deck and not to let go. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is simply too dangerous for a new guy to wander around on, especially at night and alone.

Immediately after you step outside, your senses strain to help your brain figure out what is going on. Your eyes see nothing. It’s too dark. You better have your flashlight out and pointed at the ground or you will step on something dangerous. Your ears hear the high whine of other airplanes turning just above you. The first thing you smell is jet fuel. Lots of it. The fumes are everywhere, but it’s not suffocating, just omni-present. Mostly, you just feel the rush of wind interspersed with an intermittent burst of jet exhaust. The wind might be hot or it might be cold, depending on the time of year and the location of the ship, but the exhaust is always hot. In any case, the air is definitely moving and it creates a noise inside your helmet that can be partially deafening.

Source: How To Successfully Get Launched Off A Carrier At Night In A F-14 Tomcat

Bill Farrow : Macbook OS X disk recovery

April 19, 2018 07:54 PM

This is another story of why we should all do automated backups...

Problem:
Kelly's Macbook stopped booting.  It would show the Apple Logo and a progress bar, and then just switch itself off.

Diagnosis:
To show boot sequence details; hold down the "Command" and "V" keys when powering on.  This is called the Verbose Boot Mode, and it might show you what is going wrong.  In my case the boot sequence was failing at the filesystem check:

** The volume Macintosh HD could not be repaired.

Raw Disk Backup:
Before risking further damage and loss of data, I make a backup of the entire drive.  Many failures like this are caused by a failing hard disk with bad sectors. Normal copying programs fail when they hit a back sector, so I use the GNU ddrescue tool.  This makes a low level raw copy of the disk, and attempts to recover as much data as possible from dying disks.

The ddrescue tool is available for on most Linux distributions. I used an Ubuntu computer with the Macbook hard drive attached via a SATA cable for maximum speed.  You will need to work out which disk is the macbook drive, and then run:

mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt
ddrescue /dev/sda /mnt/macbook-ddrescue.img /mnt/macbook-ddrescue.log

If ddrescue fails to fully recover all of the data from the disk due to back sectors, you can run it again to make further attempts.  Don't worry, it uses the log file to only repeat reading the parts that it couldn't copy the first time.

File Backup:
Now that I have a full raw disk image, I am less concerned about doing something wrong and loosing data.  Putting the hard drive back into the macbook and booting into Single User mode, I was able to mount the broken filesystem in read-only mode and copy the files to another backup drive over USB.  This backup drive was previously formatted with HFS+, and could be mounted in Single User Mode.

Insert the Snow Leopard Install DVD and boot it by holding "C" down while powering on.

Eventually the Snow Leopard install screen will be displayed.  Don't follow the usual install process, but select Terminal from the Utilities menu.  From the terminal we can hopefully mount the broken drive and backup the files.

mkdir  /Volumes/internal
mount -o rdonly /dev/disk0s2 /Volumes/internal

mkdir /Volumes/backup
mount /dev/disk9s2 /Volumes/backup

ditto -v -V /Volumes/internal /Volumes/backup/.

First Attempted fix:
Boot into Single User mode by holding down the "Command" and "S" keys while  powering on, and run the filesystem check by hand.

fsck -fy /dev/disk0s2 

If this doesn't work, try running this command to rebuild the B-Tree catalog:

fsck_hfs -r  /dev/disk0s2

Some people reported that they had to run this up to three times to finally fix their filesystem. In my case this didn't help.

Manufacturers Disk Diagnostic Tools
Most hard drive manufactures provide free tools to check and diagnose their disks for low level hardware errors.  They do this to help minimize people RMA'ing perfectly good disks due to software problems.

The Seagate tools are available as a DOS bootable CDROM image.  Run the short test first, and then the extended tests.  These tests can take several hours, so be patient.

Re-Installing Snow Leopard
Now that I have the two separate backups, I felt more confidant about erasing the Macbook drive and re-installing Snow Leopard from scratch.

Insert the OS X installation DVD and hold down the "C" key to boot from the DVD drive.

The installation process will present you with an option to restore from a backup or migrate data from another machine. I was able to plug in the USB backup drive and restore all of the user data and applications. This was the easy part - thankyou Apple.

After all that, the Macbook is up and running with everything exactly as it was. Nice.

Bill Farrow : OpenWRT on Linksys WRT350N

April 19, 2018 07:54 PM

My Linksys WRT350N wireless router started locking up more frequently recently, requiring a power cycle to reset it. When this started happening every day, I decided to re-flash it with OpenWRT and replace the buggy Linksys v1.03.7 firmware last updated in 2007.

I made the mistake of installing a pre-built Kamikaze 8.09 RC1 image (openwrt-wrt350n_v1-squashfs.bin) using the upgrade webpage on the router. When the router rebooted itself the Power LED flashed continuosly for a couple of minutes and then stayed on, but the ethernet switch was not functioning.

TFTP
The router responded to pings on 192.168.1.1 for the first few of seconds after the router was powered up. This indicates that that the bootloader was functional and sending a new firmware image using TFTP should work. See Installing OpenWRT via TFTP

echo -e "binary\nrexmt 1\ntimeout 60\ntrace\nput openwrt-wrt350n_v1-squashfs.bin\n" | tftp 192.168.1.1
Unfortunatly this didn't work for me, the transfer would complete successfully but the router didn't appear to recover or reflash itself with the new image.

Serial Port
The only option left was to add a serial port and gain access to the bootload console. This wepage has instructions on Modding the Linksys WRT350N v1 and WRT350N External Serial shows a way to access the serial port via the WAN port. Several Linksys models have this special serial port connector on the WAN port, but there don't seem to be any connectors sold for it. So I ended up opening the case and soldering on a header and custom cable - yuk. Armed with an RS232 level converter and USB serial adaptor I got a serial console running and access to the bootloader.

Bootloader
When the router boots it outputs the bootloader and kernel console info on the serial port (115200 baud, 8bits, no parity). With access to the bootloader I was able to tftp and flash a new image. Simple really.

echo -e "binary\nrexmt 1\ntimeout 60\ntrace\nput openwrt-wrt350n_v1-squashfs.bin\n" | tftp 192.168.1.1
CFE> flash -ctheader : flash1.trx
CMD: [flash -ctheader : flash1.trx]
Reading :: upgrade_ver[v1.4.1] upgrade_ver[10401] 4712_ver[0]
Done. 3215392 bytes read
fname=flash1.trx
CODE Pattern is correct! (EWCG)
Programming...done. 3215360 bytes written
*** command status = 0
Configuration
OpenWRT has lots of configuration options, more than most routers. My favorite features include being able to assign a dhcp assigned IP address to a particular MAC address and then give this IP address a host name. Now I can browse to my PAP2 VOIP box using "http://voip/" from any computer on my network. No more typing in IP addresses.

Software Packages
Now that it was booting and I could log in via telnet and the web interface, I was able to cross-compile more packages from OpenWRT and install them. First off the line was dropbear ssh server, install my ssh key, and disable telnet and ssh password logins. Extra packages include statistic charting using collectd.


Conclusion
My router has been running OpenWRT software for over a month now and has been doing a fantastic job. There is still room for improvement and polish, but everything just feels solid.

Update 2012-12-22
The latest OpenWRT version called "attitude adjustment" does not work - the kernel panics during boot.  I was trying to use 12.09-rc1 openwrt-wrt350n_v1-squashfs.bin from the OpenWRT website.

Bill Farrow : Touch Lighting Controller

April 19, 2018 07:54 PM

This was created for my nephew, Mark W, as a component of his year 12 high school design project. He wanted mood lighting for a Four Poster Bed.


Touch Sensors
The Capacitive Touch Sensor is similar to this circuit. To simplify the electronics I used the AVR to generate the 20kHz signal and a simplified transistor circuit.

PIR Sensors
The PIR Motion Sensors was bought from JayCar and stripped down and hacked.

RF Remote Control
The reading lights on the bed are 240v halogen lamps and I didn't want to be responsible for electrocuting someone so these are controlled using RF Power Switch devices. The remote control unit was re-wired and is now controlled by the AVR micro.


White LEDs
The bed has 12 White LEDs around the base. These provide mood lighting and turn on and off via touch sensors and PIR motion sensors. They are controlled by the AVR micro and are pulse width modulated to provide dimming.

AVR Micro
The central controller was built using an old AVR 2313 micro (superseded by the AtTiny2313).


Bill Farrow : My Old Webcams

April 19, 2018 07:53 PM

"Reference Design"
This is the cheapest webcamera that I could find, and at AU$11 you get what you pay for. Bought from http://msy.com.au

  • Name: PC Camera
  • Vendor/Product: 0x0C45:0x613A
  • Bridge Chip: SN9C120
  • Image Sensor: OV7648
  • {{bill:lsusb_microdia.txt|lsusb -v -d 0c45:613a}}
I have tried the following Linux drivers:
  • OVCam Drivers: http://alpha.dyndns.org/ov511/
  • Generic SN9Cxxx http://www.linux-projects.org (closed source)
  • GSPCA / SPCA5xx http://mxhaard.free.fr/
  • Usb Video Class UVC http://linux-uvc.berlios.de/
I'm really not confident in getting this webcam working on Linux. It seems to be very hard to get the chip specifications, which leaves us with reverse engineering and usb packet sniffing. It's probably not worth my time given the crappy image quality.

I have been communicating with Sonix, the maker of the SN9C120 chip, and so far they have stated that they don't release the Register Descriptions or source code. They then said that the SN9C120 was supported by gspca and UVC :-)


Windows Driver Info
The Install disk for Windows says that it is installing "USB PC CAM-168" drivers and applications. This installs an application "C:\Windows\AMCap.exe" and some driver files:
  • Windows INF file {{linux:oem36.inf.txt|oem36.inf}}

Datasheets

GSPCA

I'm running Kubuntu on my laptop, so initially I installed the gspca-source package and used module-assistant to do the compilation. When it didn't recognise the webcam, I modified the gspca_core.c code to include the 0x613a product id by copying the 0x613b code. The commands to try this out are:

sudo -i
./gspca_build
rmmod gspca.ko
insmod gspca.ko debug=5
dmesg | tail

It still doesn't actually work, but it is closer. The camera image is just a gray square with some periodic dots. The problem is probably that the I configured the sensor chip as the OV7660 because there was no entry for the OV7648 yet. Next step is to add the usb and i2c init sequence for this sensor.

Here is a good email about adding sensor support: http://lists-archives.org/spca50x-devs/01093-modifying-settings-for-0c45-613b.html

To capture images from the webcam I am trying out fswebcam from http://www.firestorm.cx/fswebcam/

UVC
[215180.048000] usbcore: registered new interface driver uvcvideo [215180.048000] USB Video Class driver (v0.1.0) [215194.344000] usb 1-1: USB disconnect, address 6 [215201.336000] usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 7 [215201.496000] usb 1-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: driver gspca probing [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: driver gspca allocating memory [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: driver gspca detecting camera [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: USB SPCA5XX camera found. SONIX JPEG (sn9c1xx) [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: [spca5xx_probe:3997] Camera type JPEG [215201.500000] /usr/src/modules/gspca/gspca_core.c: [spca5xx_getcapability:1192] maxw 640 maxh 480 minw 160 minh 120
luvcview version 0.2.1
Video driver: x11
A window manager is available
video /dev/video0
Error opening device /dev/video0: unable to query device.
Init v4L2 failed !! exit fatal


Reverse Engineering
I'm now using the latest source code: gspcav1-20070508.tar.gz

After adding the i2c init sequence for the OV7648 that I reverse engineered from the Windows driver USB packet sniff, I still get the same "test pattern" image as above.

Turn the camera LEDs on by writing 0x44 to the SN9C120 register 0x02 to set the required GPIO lines. This code example uses the usb functions provided in the gspca module code.

__u8 regF1 = 0x44;
sonixRegWrite(spca50x->dev, 0x08, 0x02, 0x0000, &regF1, 1);

QuickCam Express
This camera is operational - more details to come when I get time.

  • Ubuntu (Dapper) kernel quickcam driver
  • Standard v4l applications like xawtv and streamer
$ lsusb
Bus 003 Device 003: ID 046d:0870 Logitech, Inc. QuickCam Express

$dmesg
[254694.256000] usb 2-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 5
[254694.420000] usb 2-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
[254695.320000] Linux video capture interface: v2.00
[254695.416000] quickcam: QuickCam USB camera found (driver version QuickCam USB 0.6.6 $Date: 2006/11/04 08:38:14 $)
[254695.416000] quickcam: Kernel:2.6.22-14-generic bus:2 class:FF subclass:FF vendor:046D product:0870
[254695.424000] quickcam: Sensor HDCS-1020 detected
[254695.428000] quickcam: Registered device: /dev/video0
[254695.428000] usbcore: registered new interface driver quickcam


Aiptek Pencam

This camera is operational - more details to come when I get time.

GPhoto2 is able to capture and download "preview" photos

$ lsusb
Bus 002 Device 012: ID 2770:9120 NHJ, Ltd Che-ez! Snap / iClick Tiny VGA Digital Camera

$ gphoto2 --auto-detect
Model Port
----------------------------------------------------------
Argus DC-1510 usb:
Argus DC-1510 usb:002,012

$ ghoto2 --capture-preview
Saving file as sq_cap.ppm

Mark Turner : Intel SPI Flash Flaw Lets Attackers Alter or Delete BIOS/UEFI Firmware

April 17, 2018 06:32 PM

Yet another security flaw with Intel chips.

Intel has addressed a vulnerability in the configuration of several CPU series that allow an attacker to alter the behavior of the chip’s SPI Flash memory —a mandatory component used during the boot-up process.

According to Lenovo, who recently deployed the Intel fixes, “the configuration of the system firmware device (SPI flash) could allow an attacker to block BIOS/UEFI updates, or to selectively erase or corrupt portions of the firmware.”

Source: Intel SPI Flash Flaw Lets Attackers Alter or Delete BIOS/UEFI Firmware

Mark Turner : Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show – Motherboard

April 17, 2018 06:29 PM

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are “increasingly unable to access” evidence stored on encrypted devices.

Wray is not telling the whole truth.

Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials. Many of the documents were obtained by Motherboard using public records requests.

Source: Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show – Motherboard

Mark Turner : These Ex-Spies Are Harvesting Facebook Photos For A Massive Facial Recognition Database

April 17, 2018 06:28 PM

When Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, he tried to describe the difference between “surveillance and what we do.” “The difference is extremely clear,” a nervous-looking Zuckerberg said. “On Facebook, you have control over your information… the information we collect you can choose to have us not collect.”

But not a single member of the committee pushed the billionaire CEO about surveillance companies who exploit the data on Facebook for profit. Forbes has uncovered one case that might shock them: over the last five years a secretive surveillance company founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer has been quietly building a massive facial recognition database consisting of faces acquired from the giant social network, YouTube and countless other websites. Privacy activists are suitably alarmed.

Source: These Ex-Spies Are Harvesting Facebook Photos For A Massive Facial Recognition Database

Mark Turner : The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription | TechCrunch

April 16, 2018 08:36 PM

Would being asked to pay Facebook to remove ads make you appreciate their value or resent them even more? As Facebook considers offering an ad-free subscription option, there are deeper questions than how much money it could earn. Facebook has the opportunity to let us decide how we compensate it for social networking. But choice doesn’t always make people happy.

In February I explored the idea of how Facebook could disarm data privacy backlash and boost well-being by letting us pay a monthly subscription fee instead of selling our attention to advertisers. The big takeaways were: Mark Zuckerberg insists that Facebook will remain free to everyone, including those who can’t afford a monthly fee, so subscriptions would be an opt-in alternative to ads rather than a replacement that forces everyone to pay Partially decoupling the business model from maximizing your total time spent on Facebook could let it actually prioritize time well spent because it wouldn’t have to sacrifice ad revenue The monthly subscription price would need to offset Facebook’s ad earnings. In the US & Canada Facebook earned $19.9 billion in 2017 from 239 million users. That means the average user there would have to pay $7 per month.

However, my analysis neglected some of the psychological fallout of telling people they only get to ditch ads if they can afford it, the loss of ubiquitous reach for advertisers, and the reality of which users would cough up the cash. Though on the other hand, I also neglected the epiphany a price tag could produce for users angry about targeted advertising.

Source: The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription | TechCrunch

Mark Turner : Goldman asks: ‘Is curing patients a sustainable business model?’

April 16, 2018 02:51 PM

When I first confronted my GERD stomach issues a few decades ago I had a choice: I could simply take an antacid pill each day for life or I could get surgery to fix it. The pill would’ve been easy, painless, and relatively inexpensive but I chose the surgery simply because I didn’t want to be dependent on Big Pharma.

This Golden Sachs analyst’s remarkable candor shows, in a nutshell, what’s wrong with a capitalistic health care system. What’s good for the patient is not always good for the investor. In fact, pretty frequently it’s not.

If you had any illusions about the true motivation of the medical industry you should now know the truth.

Wall Street greed is often why we can’t have nice things.

Goldman Sachs analysts attempted to address a touchy subject for biotech companies, especially those involved in the pioneering “gene therapy” treatment: cures could be bad for business in the long run.

“Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” analysts ask in an April 10 report entitled “The Genome Revolution.”

“The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,” analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. “While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.”

Source: Goldman asks: ‘Is curing patients a sustainable business model?’

Mark Turner : Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72 – Las Vegas Review-Journal

April 16, 2018 01:41 AM

North Carolina native, talk show pioneer, and fellow explorer Art Bell has passed away, or as we in the amateur radio field say, W6OBB is now a “silent key.”

I started listening to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast show back around 1995. Much of what I heard was off-the-wall nonsense but some of it was truly amazing. Life-changing amazing, in fact.

He was always a gentleman on the airwaves, no matter whom was his guest. In the depths of those dark nights you always felt like you had a friend out there, somewhere in the desert of Nevada.

Thanks for all the stimulating conversation and for shining a light on some of the most interesting topics imaginable.

He was awake when most of the country was asleep, cultivating a loyal following while sharing his fascination with the unexplained on his nighttime paranormal-themed show.

For the better part of two decades, longtime late-night radio personality Art Bell was his own producer, engineer and host of his show, “Coast to Coast AM.” He later launched his own satellite radio program from his Pahrump home after retiring from full-time hosting duties in 2003.

On the airwaves, Bell captivated listeners with his fascination for the unexplained, such as UFOs, alien abductions and crop circles. He died Friday at his home at the age of 72.

“As he begins his journey on the ‘other side,’ we take solace in the hope that he is now finding out all of the answers to the mysteries he pursued for so many nights with all of us,” Coast to Coast said in a statement Saturday.

Source: Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72 – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Mark Turner : NFS Exports And XFS’s inode64 Mount Option – mmacleod.ca

April 11, 2018 07:51 PM

I recently formatted my home NAS with the XFS filesystem, then was mystified when some NFS exports worked fine while others didn’t. It turns out it’s an XFS quirk and needs a tweak to the /etc/exports file, as detailed in this blog post below.

I fixed it by adding fsid=1, fsid=2, … to the export options of each share in /etc/exports so that NFS could individually identify them. Kind of a bother but it works!

I recently turned up a new RAID array and plopped an XFS filesystem down on it. I didn’t bother setting any specific tunings when I created the filesystem. However I couldn’t for the life of me export any subdirectories from the volume over NFS. Local access was fine and I could export via netatalk and samba.On the server I saw messages like this in the logs:

Feb 14 13:08:43 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.50:1003 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:08:57 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.50:1002 for /opt/music (/opt/music)Feb 14 13:15:19 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:717 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:20 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:1001 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:22 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:1002 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:26 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:801 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:34 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:967 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:44 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:794 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:15:54 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:855 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:16:04 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:863 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:16:14 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:932 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)Feb 14 13:16:24 monolith rpc.mountd[3092]: authenticated mount request from 192.168.1.20:830 for /mnt/music (/mnt/music)

On the client I would get two different behaviours, depending on whether it was NFSv4 or NFSv3 that was being used. With NFSv4 it would mount the directory, but any attempt to read from it would give a ‘Stale NFS handle’ error:

root:~# mount -t nfs -v 192.168.1.10:/mnt/music /mnt/mount.nfs: timeout set for Fri Feb 14 16:49:39 2014mount.nfs: trying text-based options 'vers=4,addr=192.168.1.10,clientaddr=192.168.1.20'root:~# ls /mnt/ls: cannot open directory /mnt/: Stale NFS file handle

Source: NFS Exports And XFS’s inode64 Mount Option – mmacleod.ca

Mark Turner : Ten Years at Tonsler

March 28, 2018 12:00 PM

Today is the tenth anniversary of our moving to East Raleigh. A lot has happened between then and now but we’re happy to be where we are. It’s a great neighborhood and getting better every day.

Mark Turner : Howard Jones responds to email

March 26, 2018 06:43 PM

Howard Jones.

Over the years I’ve had a few email conversations with famous people. I once traded emails with legendary White House Reporter Helen Thomas. I got a reply from an email I sent entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in 2005. An email from futurist and biographer Walter Isaacson helped me bust the Einstein Bees story. Oh, and though it’s not email comedian Norm MacDonald briefly followed me on Twitter.

Recently I got on a kick for Howard Jones’s music. Jones was an 80s synthpop god and his music still holds up very well. As does he, since he’s still touring and appears to be happy and healthy. I found Jones’s website and saw that his email address was listed there, with a promise that all emails would be acknowledged:

Hello, Howard.

I know you’re busy but wanted to reach out and thank you for all the
music. Your “Things Can Only Get Better” has been on my mind recently.
We so need its optimism right now.

Sorry I missed your latest US tour but I want to catch you the next time
you come near North Carolina.

Best to you and yours.

Your fan,

Mark Turner
Raleigh, NC, USA

I got back this reply two days later:

Thankyou Mark!!
Very best wishes
Howard

While it was a short response, it’s pretty cool that he took a minute to respond to me.

Interestingly, as I wrote this blog post I noticed I had also emailed Jones back in 2012. That time I got a canned response, so things really ARE only getting better!

PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL

Hello
Thanks for emailing.

Your email is now on its way to Howard.
Please be aware that due to Howard’s hectic schedule and amount of mail that Howard receives, it is not always possible for him to reply directly to you.But please be assured that he does get to see them.

Unfortunately, we cannot honour requests for signed photos or concert dedications.

Thanks again for your support.

howardjones.com

Photo by Mark Kent.

Mark Turner : Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university | News | The Guardian

March 21, 2018 03:23 PM

Surprise! Russian-born Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan has ties to St. Petersburg and did work for the Russian oil firm Lukoil (if not others). He claims he’s just a scapegoat but he certainly is looking more and more like a key player in Russian election meddling.

I wonder how North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis feels about getting elected with potentially Russian help?

Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin.Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections.The revelations come at a time of intense US scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, with 13 Russians criminally charged last month with interfering to help Donald Trump.

In Britain, concerns about Russian propaganda have been mounting, with the prime minister, Theresa May, recently attacking Russia for spreading fake news, accusing Moscow of attempts to “weaponise information” and influence polls.

Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil company, discussed with Cambridge Analytica the data company’s powerful social media marketing system, which was already being deployed for Republican Ted Cruz in the US presidential primaries and was later used to back Brexit and Trump.

Source: Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university | News | The Guardian