Tuesday, 9 January 2007


Friday, May 21, 2004

Robots won't rule
Well, here's a turnup for the books... hehehehe...
After DARPA's spectacular lack of success with robotic ground vehicles, NASA wants to have robotic vehicles in the air
Considering how the contestants in DARPA's Great Desert Race mostly ended up on their roof or in ditches, are we ready to let robots loose where they can fall on us?
Categories - ::/:: posted at 9:41 PM Ted
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Van Helsing
In Memory Of My Dad...
How scary is all that...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 12:03 AM Ted
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Monday, May 17, 2004

Remember How Sad I Was?
... at not being able to get ADSL here when places like Yackandandah could?
I tried to set up a wireless link between home and work, since the main purpose of ADSL was to be able to manage machines at work from home in the evenings and weekends. No joy. Some Cosmic force decided not just to put a palm tree right in my line of sight from home to work, but also put a large building in the LOS between work and home, so that if by some miracle the tree died I'd still be screwed...
Meanwhile I'd just spent some $500 on wireless equipment, most of which luckily ended up being useful to work, as otherwise I'd have been stuck with that cost.
Well, with the April 1st increase in the range of ADSL, we were told we could have a broadband connection now. So we did all the right things. Tricia checked with Telstra whether they were really sure of themselves about this, and was so solidly abused by the "helpdesk" person she got, that she phoned me in tears immediately afterwards. That would have been around April 13th - 14th, when Telstra could finally be assed to send us an email informing us that they'd upgraded ADSL two weeks ago...
Trish rang Telstra back with the employee's name and number, and her supervisor said she'd be gicing Trish a personal apology anytime now. We're still waiting on that one...
As the main upshot of the "helpdesk" person's message seemed to be "if we say we can provide ADSL then we can provide ADSL you stupid cow" we thought we were on safe ground on that one, at least. We asked Swiftel (my ISP at work, and hence I am using them for home as well) to make things happen, and around the 23rd, when I got home just before a long weekend, it had happened.
See, our dialup connection to my old ISP had always been dodgy and despite numerous requests to Telstra, we used to get between five and fifteen disconnections a day due to line noise and poor quality. I estimate that redials have cost us some $500 - $800 in the past year because Telstra wouldn't fix their bloody line...
And when I got home that Friday, what with the ADSL HF noise, there was no way known to geekdom that the old modem would connect with that much working against it. The line filter didn't help, I doubt if twenty of the flaming things would have helped...
We were facing a long long weekend of no Internet...
One call to Swiftel later I had my details to the ADSL connection and was plugging that into the ADSL modem, and the sync light came on. Yayyyyy!!!
Until, a minute later, it went out again, and stayed out for another minute....
That's how it went, all that weekend. I sent an email to Swiftel who told me that it was my business to chase Telstra for the ADSL connection. When I called Telstra they almost laughed at me. Swiftel is the ADSL customer, not me...
Swiftel made an enquiry with Telstra broadband and they said that it was the line itself that was bad. No surprise there. But - apparently - I had to raise the issue of line quality with Telstra residential because - guess what? - Swiftel aren't the customer for the line, just the ADSL service. Are you getting the image of a runaround here? I know I was...
So I raised a fault with residential, who weren't really too keen to do anything because the line was "good enough fopr speech"...
The next day I had a completed ticket stating that the line was now fine because a technician had "fixed the line" and a set of pings from work to home that clearly told me that it was not "fixed" at all because I was only getting through about 50% of the time...
I raised another ticket with Telstra and the helpdesk person actually did an online test and discovered a loop across our line. When I got home after the tecnician had supposedly "fixed" the line we had absolutely no connection. Zip, zero, de nada, zilch. I picked up the phone and there was white noise all over the place.
Then at around 7 or 8 that evening, everything suddenly started to work. No hiss on the line, ADSL was staying connectedfor up to 20 minutes at a time - it was almost miraculous, especially considering that no Telstra employee woul dhave been working at that time.
I stupidly cancelled the following morning's scheduled call by the tech because everything was working so well, and by the next evening the ADSL was back to connecting for five minutes or less at a time...
I now had a ticket from Telstra which said the line was clean, and in fact it sounds fine now. But the ADSL connection doesn't stay up for shit, and my last two calls to Swiftel have taken over a week to get responses.
So here's the state of play so far:
My line has been noisy for a year and Telstra say it's fine.
Telstra say they can now provide ADSL over a line which has so far even been to poor for permanent dialup.
The ADSL prevents my dialup from working.
The ADSL doesn't work.
Telstra suddenly "find" and "fix" a fault on the same line which has been "okay" for a year.
It does't fix the ADSL and I still can't even revert to dialup.
In the ensuing melee, Telstra has taken my modem redial costs for a year, at an average of five calls per day that's around $500 in call costs. Telstra has since also taken a provisioning fee from Swiftel for supposedly providing ADSL. Swiftel have charged me the provisioning fee and one month's usage, and I've had one day when the connection approached the level of service of a bad ADSL connection anywhere else.
I've meanwhile had a month where I can't revert to dialup, and where my supposed broadband connection has been worse performing on average than a 2400baud modem, because each time the connection loses sync, you lose your TCP connection and have to reload/refresh/whatever and hope that this time the page loads before ADSL cans out again. Feel like I'm getting screwed here? You betcha. Am I going to the Ombudsman and the relevant Government bodies about it? You betcha.
And you know what's the worst thing? Telstra owns all the copper so no matter who I get to put on ADSL, I still end up on their crap line. Fark...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 8:30 PM Ted
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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Oddness. I just note it, I don't explain it.
petrol / fuel cell things.
Cryptic Code Stumps Experts Et In Arcadia Ego D.O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V.M.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 10:59 PM Ted
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Silly links
What's an octodog? Find out...
Or how about being really safe?
Follow those links to be very, very sorry...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 7:35 PM Ted
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My bank...
... is not friendly. I logged onto online banking and because there was a glitch in the connection, it hung. I closed the session and did it all again. Was told I had double-logged and that I would have to wait 15 minutes (!!!) to log in again.
There are a couple of risks to this. One is, that my session could have been man-in-the-middled or otherwise hijacked since the session stayed open,obviously. Secondly, there's the risk that seemingly ANY little glitch could open such a window of opportunity for a hacker, at any time.
Then there's the bank's ridiculous attempt to pass that long lockout delay as "security" - come on, do they really think a 15 minute lockout will prevent brute force any more than a five minute lockout will? Do they believe that anyone would even try a brute force attack against a web application? It's hard enough to engineer a bruteforce against a target on a LAN, never mind through an Internet connection and a web server, so pretty much any delay longer than a few seconds would be enough to stop this kind of attack.
If they were really serious they'd lock the account out until a phone call and some security information had been exchanged but that's also wide open to hacking, in fact a conversation is easier to sniff (think parabolic microphones, induction taps, or even the good old glass against the wall) than the Internet logon.
So - aside from mightily pissing their customers off, what does Bankwest (oh bugger - I've gone and said their name, never mind, it's all truth and free speech anyway) achieve through this laughable charade? Well, not much actually... The difference between making 100 or 300 password cracking attempts in a day is almost negligible, as it mostly takes millions of attempts to bruteforce a password.
And what does this "Internet-savvy bank" say when you use their website to point this out to them?
Please note: Any Advice, opinion or recommendation which may be provided to you in response to your enquiry, will not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and you should consider whether the advise is appropriate for you.
Damn right they do not take into account anyone's personal objectives or requirements. I'm seriously thinking of taking my pay in cash from now on...
They also mention that I need to phone their consultants (as if they would even know what's involved in application security) because my email came via an "unsecured message service"... Hmmm... They really don't seem to have much of a clue do they?
I'd be looking at better encryption and authentication, even to the point of electively preregistering authorised IP addresses or MAC addresses, enforcing multiple password systems, and enforcing password cycling and histories... Locking a customer out of their account for 15 minutes per disconnection in a country where much of the telecom infrastructure is often noisy and unreliable, is pretty unacceptable.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 6:42 PM Ted
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my.yahoo.com is unavailable
Wonder why?
Categories - ::/:: posted at 6:13 PM Ted
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Monday, May 10, 2004

57,000,000th Rock From Somewhere
We here in Australia must feel pretty god-like right now.
One sizable chunk of space debris, to whit one meteorite, slightly damaged. Not to go off the Antipodean shores, owner must be prepared to cherish his memento here in Terra Australis.
Reserve price applies.
Now is it just me, or is this phenomenal arrogance? Here is this rock that, we have it on very good authority, came from an asteroid belt in the vicinity of Jupiter several tens of thousands of years ago.
It's travelled millions of kilometres, and nothing except a planet-sized obstacle stood in its wild free way.
And now we reckon we've got the authority to tell it to stick to an islanent a few thousands of kilometres across...
Most touching in this story is the childlike innocence of presuming to proscribe the motion of a heavenly body, no matter how fallen.
And close in pathos is the assumption that it will make one blind bit of difference to this stone with a mission. When the Earth shatters in a few billion more years, our friend the rock will no doubt continue on its merry way and forget us in a cosmic blink of an eye.
I wonder if anyone will remember a race of people hanging from the underside of some third planet from some golden star, who had the audacity to try and impose their will on... - a rock...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 11:13 PM Ted
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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Restaurant Rules, My.
After tonight's episode of My Restaurant Rules (yet another Australian reality show, yada yada yada) and somewhat gratified that Perth seesm to have survived another nomination.
My company used to be located two doors away from where the restaurant is located. Back then it was a Thai restaurant, but not one any of us frequented. For a start, back then it was always a bit seedy, had broken windows from some kind of ethnic wars, and pavement pizzas adorning the green astro-turf outside...
I understand that the new restaurant is much much nicer and since they've been nominated twice now, I rather hope I get at least one chance to dine there before they are shut down. Then again, I rather hope that they win, they've been through a lot already and probably deserve the win more than any of the others.
According to the show, they were taking around $12,000 and $17,000 a day. That's a spin-out because - where in Perth does all that money come from? Woohoo... I refuse to believe that we in Sleepy Hollow (my nickname for this little paradise city) earn that much between all of us in one day, let alone give it to one restaurant!
Categories - ::/:: posted at 10:03 PM Ted
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Saturday, May 08, 2004

HaloScan Test
I've just added HaloScan comments and trackback, provided this doesn't slow the blog down too much I hope this will be a good addition to the site.
Please feel free to post any comments about the comment system (!) and let me know what you think of it. If people think it necessary I'll add a different comment/trackback system.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 11:27 AM Ted Comment made, yay!
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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Invention, competition.
The slant on so-called "directed sound" is twofold. On the one side, I'd like to say that we discussed ultrasonic carrier modulation when I was a young technician in the mid Seventies, and aside from the expense of ultrasonic transducers we considered it doable even back then. It is no biggie...
Further to that, several American agencies whose names consist of acronyms of three letters had such devices in development for a variety of purposes. I had a design which incorporated ultrasonic modulation, infrasonic, magnetic, and strobe light into a defense system that could be pointed at an intruder preferably by a remotely operated vehicle, around the Eighties.
None of the ideas from back then ever saw us looking for investors because quite frankly, we thought they were insanely expensive to develop for a limited market appeal. And it's taken until now to get to this point so I guess we were right...
I can mention a couple of other outlandish ideas here and now, they are probably no longer likely to set off alarms all over those agencies any more.
Again in the Seventies, I was in Papua New Guinea doing my traineeship as an avionics tech and came across a Scientific American article. If you read past the abstruse physics you saw that it would be possible to "bottle" antimatter and lob it toward an incoming nuke, and produce a suitably impressive explosion but not much hard radiation, and probably a very small amount of a neutral powder like maybe, lead or something. A year or so later I found an article in the Western Australina Newspaper that ran something like "Scientists Puzzle Over Double Flash." Observatories all over the world had spotted the double flash of ambient light that normally accompanied nuclear above-ground tests but there was no corresponding increase in background radiation... And you know what, apparently no-one in the whole world was testing anything nuclear at that time... Also, around that time was when the nuclear arms race went really, really quiet and everyone started saying about how nukes weren't a big deal anymore and USA and USSR began to disarm, bit by bit... SWEET!
Another, in the Eighties: Reading an electronics magazine and read an article on "magnetic saws" - a way of focusing magnetism into a thin intense beam much like laser focuses light, and using the induced eddy current to rip atoms out in a thin line. I was working with a country two-way radio technician then, and he was an ex Air Force technician. "Oh," he says, "Sounds like Project Green Ray." Apparently in various Australian Air Force bases we were busy developing these technologies, some ten to twenty years earlier. In fact, it was that particular boss, God rest his soul, who kindled my interest in Tesla when he described Green Ray to me.
And the Tesla/Edison/Westinghouse tussles themselves are so well known nowadays that I need hardly point out that Tesla probably had the prototype Green Ray in one of his laboratories.
So the second point, the point I'm discovering more and more is that history IS full of inventors vying to get a patent registered, a product to market, and there are always ideas around for years beforehand which, if you dig deep enough, were precursors to the patents or indeed could probably invalidate them by reason of prior art, in the case of some inventions.
It points out to me that if someone can think of doing something, someone somewhere is probably already doing it, and then the public is exposed to it a few years later. The time intervals are getting shorter and shorter, too. Soon, it will be a case of "if I can imagine it, I should Google it because someone will be publishing it around about now."
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 11:23 PMposted at 9:25 PM Ted
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