This wouldn't have happened with Gainsborough or one of those proper painters.

Saturday, January 26


Bad Software Design


Let's say you have an ADSL router - we'll call it a Getnear DG834 - and you're happy with it, but you just installed a second ADSL connection and you want to extend your wireless network, so you bought a Getnear DG834G (G for 802.11g wireless), and you plug it in to your notebook and run the installation software, you'd better be damn sure that you turn off your wireless access before you do that because otherwise the software will SEEK OUT AND BRAIN-WIPE YOUR EXISTING ADSL ROUTER.

A factory reset will fix that, but you'd better remember exactly what your username and password are...

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Friday, January 18



Or, Return of the Revenge of the Hard Drive Destruction Bunny, Episode 5: Slow Lingering Squeaky Death on USB Street

I had one thing left to do before my new Windows box was fully operational and I could turn the old one off for good: Migrate iTunes.  This is an absolute cow of a job, and it's not being made any easier by the fact that the disk holding my podcast collection has suddenly decided to drive off a cliff.

Actually, it hasn't died all at once, but it has developed, apparently, a couple of hundred thousand bad sectors.  I've set an rsync script up to try to scrape the data off, but the drive sometimes resets itself after spending too long re-re-re-reading one sector and then rsync skips the rest of that directory.

Updately-doo: I've retrieved 172GB out of 174GB from my podcast directory.  There's a bunch of duplicates in there too, so some of the lost episodes are probably retrievable.

I'm also thinking that if this disk has been playing up for a while, that might explain some of the odd behaviour of iTunes, such as it suddenly freaking out and re-downloading an entire podcast (hence the duplicate files) and eating 10GB of my precious bandwidth unexpectedly.

Or that might just be iTunes.  Who knows?

Unfortunately, Windows doesn't report drive errors until it actually fails outright.  It will sit there for a minute, or two, or five, trying to read a particular sector, and not bother to tell you that anthing is wrong.

I have smartd running on my Linux box, but it mostly reports that my drives are hot enough to boil water (when in fact they are only slightly above room temperature).  I want a cute anime girl popping up on my desktop to tell me that the engines are about to explode drive C has had so many unrecoverable read errors in the last hour, or whatever.  Don't make me go and crawl through the log files, because I'm probably only going to do that after something has failed.

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Wednesday, January 09


Put Them All In A Blender And Set It To Puree

Warning: The following post contains more than the usual Ambient Irony level of vulgarities.  But it fucking well needs to.

More insightful coverage of the proposed Great Firewall of Australia:
BROADBAND Minister Stephen Conroy faces an uphill struggle in his plans to increase internet censorship by boosting the official blacklist from a puny 1000 web pages to many millions of banned websites.
Quick aside: The 1000 web pages mentioned here is a list of sites that the Australian censors make available to web-filtering companies.  It is not a list of sites currently blocked or banned by the government.
Industry commentators say the task may be beyond the capabilities of filtering mechanisms and procedures, and it would be impossible to block all such material.

Senator Conroy will seek to halt access to child pornography, X-rated and violent material for all home users through mandatory filtering by internet service providers.

Actually, child pornography has only appeared as a (deeply dishonest) rhetorical point; the filters are intended to block access to violent or pornographic material in general.  Child pornography is, of course, already illegal to create, distribute, or possess.
The scope of the problem is, however, immense. Policing child pornography alone could be beyond present capabilities.
True, the police have been unable to stamp it out, but that's not what this article is saying:
According to Bernadette McMenamin, the chief executive of anti-child-abuse group Child Wise, more than 100,000 commercial websites offer child pornography and more than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted on the internet every week.
I can certainly believe the 20,000 images a week, considering the sheer volume of stuff that hits Usenet alone.  The 100,000 sites seems rather high, and Ms. McMenamin offers no evidence to support her numbers.

But that's not the point here.  The point is this:

Various international groups have estimated the number of child pornography websites alone to be in the millions, while one local internet service provider told The Australian it could be as high as 30 million sites globally.
The point is, the people writing about this are completely clueless.  There are 30 million child porn sites globally?  Thirty million?  Are you out of your fucking minds?

Are there 30 million sites on the web with violent or sexually explicit content?  Yeah, maybe, and if these morons go ahead with their plans this will become number 30,000,001.  But to equate pictures of women who have temporarily mislaid their clothing with something that is outlawed in every civilised country in the world is either incredibly stupid or outrageously dishonest.

Senator Conroy's office is, however, not deterred.

"Admittedly, it will be difficult, but that's the intention," Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said yesterday. "Obviously there are many sites out there and they change their names. It's going to require a fairly vigilant monitoring system and it's not going to be 100 per cent foolproof."

So, they're going to pay people to track down these 30,000,000 sites, check them carefully for restricted content, and add them to the list?

(Snipped - a few paragraphs regarding the technical limitations of internet filtering and the fact that Senator Conroy's plan is doomed from the get-go and will cause nothing but damage to Australian business and Australia's reputation.)

The internet regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, has struggled to stem the flow of prohibited web content, as most of the material is hosted offshore. Moreover, it can only act on complaints.
Struggled to stem the flow of prohibited web content, eh?  And how much has it struggled?
In 2006-07, there were only 602 complaints, resulting in five take-down orders over locally hosted content; 494 overseas-hosted items were referred to internet filter makers for inclusion in their products.
Good grief.  And these are the people you expect to police the entire internet?  I had more queries regarding in that period (albeit not about offensive content) (mostly) and I operate that in my spare time with a budget of zero.

Oh, and five take-down orders?  And now you're planning to escalate that to 30 million blocked sites?  Good luck, guys.
The US is by far the largest source of illegal and offensive material. In 2006-07, it accounted for 53 per cent of the total, according to ACMA, followed by Russia at 11 per cent.
America, fuck yeah!
ACMA's Donald Robertson confirmed there were "currently 1000 pages on the blacklist".

"We're also part of an international network that generates 300,000 investigations per year into offensive and illegal internet pages," he said. "The majority of these investigations relate to child pornography."

300,000 investigations per year?  That's quite a lot.  I'd like to know what these investigations involve; I suspect that most of them involve "Go away you idiot; there's nothing illegal about that site."

Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said the blacklist would be expanded through liaison with the Australian Federal Police, and international agencies such as Interpol and the FBI.

Oh good, the police will be involved in a national internet censorship scheme.
She said technical difficulties would be resolved in filtering trials being conducted by the ACMA in Tasmania. "We have a lot of experts coming to us saying, this can be done," she said.

"We'll be testing the best overseas models, the best advice and the best new technologies." Three previous trials by ACMA - in 2001, 2003 and 2005 - all found problems, including filters allowing banned material through and wrongly blocking legitimate content. A test of six filters recorded a relative loss of network performance ranging from 18 at best and 78 per cent at worst.

Only 18 to 78% performance reduction on a small-scale test?  Let's make it mandatory for the entire country!
Senator Conroy has been prodded into action by Family First senator Steve Fielding, and the Australian Family Association, which scorned the former government's $85 million free filters for families package as wholly inadequate.

It called for automated content filtering technology to scan for objectionable content, and a new "grey list" of sites, such as those promoting anorexia.

And the agenda becomes blindingly clear: Following the ideology of a single senator who isn't even part of the governing party, the Australian government is supposed to examine every web page in the world and decide who can and can't read what.

Who voted for these cretins?  Because, if it's you, this is your fault.

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Tuesday, January 01


New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss

The Rudd government has started its term off with a thud, vowing to build a Great Firewall of Australia to block out naughty pictures.

Actually, it's worse: They're forcing other people to pay to build and operate that firewall:
AUSTRALIANS will be forced to contact their internet service provider to avoid having their access to the web restricted.

The restrictions are planned by the Federal Government to give greater protection to children from online pornography and violent websites.

Under the plan, all internet service providers will be required to provide a "clean" feed to households and schools, free of pornography and other inappropriate material.

Any internet users who want to "opt out" of the clean feed will have to contact their ISP.

The Howard government looked at a similar apporach nearly a decade ago, but backed away in favour of end-user filtering applications.  The Rudd government, it appears, is made up of the same sort of "think of the children!" nanny-state authoritarians, only with added stupid.  After all, in 1998 it wasn't painfully obvious to the uneducated that this can't possibly work.  In 2008, there's no excuse for this:
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said everything possible had to be done to shield children from violent and pornographic online material.

"We have always argued more needs to be done to protect children," he said.

Senator Conroy said the clean feed, also known as mandatory ISP filtering, would prevent users accessing prohibited content.

"We will work with the industry to get the best policy. (But) Labor is committed to introducing mandatory ISP filtering."

Everything possible has to be done, eh, Senator Conroy?  How about we just ban the internet entirely?  That'll protect the children real well.

Quick note on the logistics of the thing: There is no centralised control of the internet in Australia.  There are hundreds of ISPs here.  As far as I am aware, zero of them are set up to enforce this sort of idiocy.

Give me ten seconds and I can dig an SSH, SSL or PPTP tunnel out of Australia and bypass any security they care to implement short of a central firewall, and a central firewall would disrupt business and communications all over the country.

On top of that, we have a clear the Web is the Internet mentality here, not something you want to see in a federal communications minister.  Or, Senator Conroy, were you planning to filter Usenet and email and BitTorrent and FTP and IRC and Gnutella and eDonkey and Kademlia and DC++ and fifty other P2P protocols?

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