Apr 272016
 

It seems good old “common courtesy” is absent without leave, as is “common sense”. Some would say it’s been absent for most of my lifetime, but to me it seems particularly so of late.

In particular, where it comes to the safety of one’s self, and to others, people don’t seem to actually think or care about what they are doing, and how that might affect others. To say it annoys me is putting it mildly.

In February, I lost a close work colleague in a bicycle accident. I won’t mention his name, as I do not have his family’s permission to do so.

I remember arriving at my workplace early on Friday the 12th before 6AM, having my shower, and about 6:15 wandering upstairs to begin my work day. Reaching my desk, I recall looking down at an open TS-7670 industrial computer and saying out aloud, “It’s just you and me, no distractions, we’re going to get U-Boot working”, before sitting down and beginning my battle with the machine.

So much for the “no distractions” however. At 6:34AM, the office phone rings. I’m the only one there and so I answer. It was a social worker looking for “next of kin” details for a colleague of mine. Seems they found our office details via a Cab Charge card they happened to find in his wallet.

Well, first thing I do is start scrabbling for the office directory to get his home number so I can pass the bad news onto his wife only to find: he’s only listed his mobile number. Great. After getting in contact with our HR person, we later discover there isn’t any contact details in the employee records either. He was around before such paperwork existed in our company.

Common sense would have dictated that one carry an “in case of emergency” number on a card in one’s wallet! At the very least let your boss know!

We find out later that morning that the crash happened on a particularly sharp bend of the Go Between Bridge, where the offramp sweeps left to join the Bicentennial bikeway. It’s a rather sharp bend that narrows suddenly, with handlebar-height handrails running along its length and “Bicycle Only” signs clearly signposted at each end.

Common sense and common courtesy would suggest you slow down on that bridge as a cyclist. Common sense and common courtesy would suggest you use the other side as a pedestrian. Common sense would question the utility of hand rails on a cycle path.

In the meantime our colleague is still fighting for his life, and we’re all holding out hope for him as he’s one of our key members. As for me, I had a network to migrate that weekend. Two of us worked the Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday evening, emotions hit me like a freight train as I realised I was in denial, and realised the true horror of the situation.

We later find out on the Tuesday, our colleague is in a very bad way with worst-case scenario brain damage as a result of the crash. From shining light to vegetable, he’d never work for us again.

Wednesday I took a walk down to the crash site to try and understand what happened. I took a number of photographs, and managed to speak to a gentleman who saw our colleague being scraped off the pavement. Even today, some months later, the marks on the railings (possibly from handlebar grips) and a large blood smear on the path itself, can still be seen.

It was apparent that our colleague had hit this railing at some significant speed. He wasn’t obese, but he certainly wasn’t small, and a fully grown adult does not ricochet off a metal railing and slide face-first for over a metre without some serious kinetic energy involved.

Common sense seems to suggest the average cyclist goes much faster than the 20km/hr collision the typical bicycle helmet is designed for under AS/NZS 2063:2008.

I took the Thursday and Friday off as time-in-lieu for the previous weekend, as I was an emotional wreck. The following Tuesday I resumed cycling to work, and that morning I tried an experiment to reproduce the crash conditions. The bicycle I ride wasn’t that much different to his, both bikes having 29″ wheels.

From what I could gather that morning, it seemed he veered right just prior to the bend then lost control, listing to the right at what I estimated to be about a 30° angle. What caused that? We don’t know. It’s consistent with him dodging someone or something on the path — but this is pure speculation on my part.

Mechanical failure? The police apparently have ruled that out. There’s not much in the way of CCTV cameras in the area, plenty on the pedestrian side, not so much on the cycle side of the bridge.

Common sense would suggest relying on a cyclist to remember what happened to them in a crash is not a good plan.

In any case, common sense did not win out that day. Our colleague passed away from his injuries a little over a fortnight after his crash, aged 46. He is sadly missed.

I’ve since made a point of taking my breakfast down to that point where the bridge joins the cycleway. It’s the point where my colleague had his last conscious thoughts.

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve noticed a number of things.

Most cyclists sensibly slow down on that bend, but a few race past at ludicrous speed. One morning, I nearly thought they’d be an encore performance as two construction workers on City Cycle bikes, sans helmets, came careening around the corner, one almost losing it.

Then I see the pedestrians. There’s a well lit, covered walkway, on the opposite side of the bridge for pedestrian use. It has bench seats, drinking fountains, good lighting, everything you’d want as a pedestrian. Yet, some feel it is not worth the personal exertion to take the 100m extra distance to make use of it.

Instead, they show a lack of courtesy by using the bicycle path. Walking on a bicycle path isn’t just dangerous to the pedestrian like stepping out onto a road, it’s dangerous for the cyclist too!

If a car hits a pedestrian or cyclist, the damage to the occupants of the car is going to be minimal to nonexistent, compared to what happens to the cyclist or pedestrian. If a cyclist or motorcyclist hits a pedestrian however, they surround the frame, thus hit the ground first. Possibly at significant speed.

Yet, pedestrians think it is acceptable to play Russian roulette with their own lives and the lives of every cycle user by continuing to walk where it is not safe for them to go. They’d never do it on a motorway, but somehow a bicycle path is considered fair game.

Most pedestrians are understanding, I’ve politely asked a number to not walk on the bikeway, and most oblige after I point out how they get to the pedestrian walkway.

Common sense would suggest some signage on where the pedestrian can walk would be prudent.

However, I have had at least two that ignored me, one this morning telling me to “mind my own shit”. Yes mate, I am minding “my own shit” as you put it: I’m trying to stop the hypothetical me from possibly crashing into the hypothetical you!

It’s this sort of reaction that seems symbolic of the whole “lack of common courtesy” that abounds these days.

It’s the same attitude that seems to hint to people that it’s okay to park a car so that it blocks the footpath: newsflash, it’s not! I know of one friend of mine who frequently runs into this problem. He’s in a wheelchair — a vehicle not known for its off-road capabilities or ability to squeeze past the narrow gap left by a car.

It seems the drivers think it’s acceptable to force footpath users of all types, including the elderly, the young and the disabled, to “step out” onto the road to avoid the car that they so arrogantly parked there. It makes me wonder how many people subsequently become disabled as a result of a collision caused by them having to step around such obstacles. Would the owner of the parked car be liable?

I don’t know, I’m no lawyer, but I should think they should carry some responsibility!

In Queensland, pedestrians have right-of-way on the footpath. That includes cyclists: cyclists of all ages are allowed there subject to council laws and signage — but once again, they need to give way. In other words, don’t charge down the path like a lunatic, and don’t block it!

No doubt, the people who I’m trying to convince are too arrogant to care about the above, and what their actions might have on others. Still, I needed to get the above off my chest!

Nothing will bring my colleague back, a fact that truly pains me, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons about the sort of encouragement I give people. I regret not telling him to slow down, 5 minutes longer wouldn’t have killed him, and I certainly did not want a race! Was he trying to race me so he could keep an eye on me? I’ll never know.

He was a bright person though, it is proof though that even the intelligent among us are prone to possibly doing stupid things. With thrills come spills, and one might question whether one’s commute to work is the appropriate venue for such thrills, or whether those can wait for another time.

I for one have learned that it does not pay to be the hare, thus I intend to just enjoy the ride for what it is. No need to rush, common sense tells me it just isn’t worth it!

Nov 242015
 

Some time back, Lenovo made the news with the Superfish fiasco.  Superfish was a piece of software that intercepted HTTPS connections by way of a trusted root certificate installed on the machine.  When the software detected a browser attempting to make a HTTPS connection, it would intercept it and connect on that software’s behalf.

When Superfish negotiated the connection, it would then generate on-the-fly a certificate for that website which it would then present to the browser.  This allowed it to spy on the web page content for the purpose of advertising.

Now Dell have been caught shipping an eDellRoot certificate on some of its systems.  Both laptops and desktops are affected.  This morning I checked the two newest computers in our office, both Dell XPS 8700 desktops running Windows 7.  Both had been built on the 13th of October, and shipped to us.  They both arrived on the 23rd of October, and they were both taken out of their boxes, plugged in, and duly configured.

I pretty much had two monitors and two keyboards in front of me, performing the same actions on both simultaneously.

Following configuration, one was deployed to a user, the other was put back in its box as a spare.  This morning I checked both for this certificate.  The one in the box was clean, the deployed machine had the certificate present.

Dell's dodgy certificate in action

Dell’s dodgy certificate in action

How do you check on a Dell machine?

A quick way, is to hit Logo+R (Logo = “Windows Key”, “Command Key” on Mac, or whatever it is on your keyboard, some have a penguin) then type certmgr.msc and press ENTER. Under “Trusted Root Certificate Store”, look for “eDellRoot”.

Another way is, using IE or Chrome, try one of the following websites:

(Don’t use Firefox: it has its own certificate store, thus isn’t affected.)

Removal

Apparently just deleting the certificate causes it to be re-installed after reboot.  qasimchadhar posted some instructions for removal, I’ll be trying these shortly:

You get rid of the certificate by performing following actions:

  1. Stop and Disable Dell Foundations Service
  2. Delete eDellRoot CA registry key here
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SystemCertificates\ROOT\Certificates\98A04E4163357790C4A79E6D713FF0AF51FE6927
  3. Then reboot and test.

Future recomendations

It is clear that the manufacturers do not have their user’s interests at heart when they ship Windows with new computers.  Microsoft has recognised this and now promote signature edition computers, which is a move I happen to support.  HOWEVER this should be standard not an option.

There are two reasons why third-party software should not be bundled with computers:

  1. The user may not have a need or use for, the said software, either not requiring its functionality or preferring an alternative.
  2. All non-trivial software is a potential security attack vector and must be kept up to date.  The version released on the OEM image is guaranteed to be at least months old by the time your machine arrives at your door, and will almost certainly be out-of-date when you come to re-install.

So we wind up either spending hours uninstalling unwanted or out-of-date crap, or we spend hours obtaining a fresh clean non-OEM installation disc, installing the bare OS, then chasing up drivers, etc.

This assumes the OEM image is otherwise clean.  It is apparent though that more than just demo software is being loaded on these machines, malware is being shipped.

With Dell and Lenovo now both in on this act, it’s now a question of if we can trust OEM installs.  Evidence seems to suggest that no, we can no longer trust such images, and have to consider all OS installations not done by the end user as suspect.

The manufacturers have abused our trust.  As far as convenience goes, we have been had.  It is clear that an OEM-supplied operating system does not offer any greater convenience to the end user, and instead, puts them at greater risk of malware attack.  I think it is time for this practice to end.

If manufacturers are unwilling to provide machines with images that would comply with Microsoft’s signature edition requirements, then they should ship the computer with a completely blank hard drive (or SSD) and unmodified installation media for a technically competent person (of the user’s choosing) to install.

Mar 192015
 
Tropical Cyclone Nathan, Forecast map as of 2:50PM

Tropical Cyclone Nathan, Forecast map as of 2:50PM

This cyclone has harassed the far north once already, wobbled out in the Pacific like a drunken cyclist as a tropical low, has gained strength again and is now making a bee-line for Cape Flattery.

As seen, it also looks like doing the same stunt headed for Gove once it’s finished touching up far north Queensland.  Whoever up there is doing this rain dancing, you can stop now, it’s seriously pissing off the weather gods.

National and IARU REGION III Emergency Frequencies (Please keep clear and listen for emergency traffic)

  • 80m
    • 3.600MHz LSB (IARU III+WICEN)
  • 40m
    • 7.075MHz LSB (WICEN)
    • 7.110MHz LSB (IARU III)
  • 20m
    • 14.125MHz USB (WICEN)
    • 14.300MHz USB (IARU III)
    • 14.183MHz USB: NOT an emergency frequency, but Queensland State WICEN hold a net on this frequency every Sunday morning at around 08:00+10:00 (22:00Z Saturday).
  • 15m
    • 21.190MHz USB (WICEN)
    • 21.360MHz USB (IARU III)
  • 10m
    • 28.450MHz USB (WICEN)

I’ll be keeping an ear out on 14.125MHz in the mornings.

Update 20 March 4:31am: It has made landfall between Cape Melville and Cape Flattery as a category 4 cyclone.

Oct 042014
 

This was sent to me by email.  While I don’t normally air political issues here, I think the original author of this, whoever that was, makes some very valid points.


The politicians themselves, in Canberra, brought it up, that the Age of Entitlements is over:

The author is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. At least 20 if you can. In three days, most people in Australia will have this message.

This is one idea that really should be passed around because the rot has to stop somewhere.

Proposals to make politicians shoulder their share of the weight now that the Age of Entitlement is over

1. Scrap political pensions.

Politicians can purchase their own retirement plan, just as most other working Australians are expected to do.

2. Retired politicians (past, present & future) participate in Centrelink.

A Politician collects a substantial salary while in office but should receive no salary when they’re out of office.

Terminated politicians under 70 can go get a job or apply for Centrelink unemployment benefits like ordinary Australians.

Terminated politicians under 70 can negotiate with Centrelink like the rest of the Australian people.

3. Funds already allocated to the Politicians’ retirement fund be returned immediately to Consolidated Revenue.

This money is to be used to pay down debt they created which they expect us and our grandchildren to repay for them.

4. Politicians will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Politicians pay will rise by the lower of, either the CPI or 3%.

5. Politicians lose their privileged health care system and participate in the same health care system as ordinary Australian people.

i.e. Politicians either pay for private cover from their own funds or accept ordinary Medicare.

6. Politicians must equally abide by all laws they impose on the Australian people.

7. All contracts with past and present Politicians men/women are void effective 31/12/14.

The Australian people did not agree to provide perks to Politicians, that burden was thrust upon them.

Politicians devised all these contracts to benefit themselves.

Serving in Parliament is an honour not a career.

The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so our politicians should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people, then it will only take three or so days for most Australians to receive the message. Don’t you think it’s time?

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX Parliament and help bring fairness back into this country!

If you agree with the above, pass it on.

Jan 112014
 

I noticed when I went looking for soundmodem that its homepage had disappeared off the face of the ‘net, and with it, its source code.

Thankfully, there were some traces of it still around. The Wayback Machine had all bar the source code, and Debian had the rest of what I was looking for.

So you can find a mirror of the old soundmodem site, along with the software at the following address.

http://soundmodem.vk4msl.yi.org/

Jun 272012
 

I think our telecommunications supplier has some explaining to do in regards to this issue.

Now, I’m not overly concerned that my usage is being tracked internally by Telstra. A lot of this recording is for tracking abuse of their network, and for billing purposes. This is fine, I have no quarms with that.

However, the above linked article, which I initially heard about on the radio this morning, discusses a more sinester form of tracking.

Here, I have keyed in a special URL… observe the access logs:

www.longlandclan.yi.org 149.135.145.110 - - [27/Jun/2012:09:57:28 +1000] "GET /~stuartl/test.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 102
www.longlandclan.yi.org 50.56.58.47 - - [27/Jun/2012:09:57:28 +1000] "GET /~stuartl/test.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 102

Now, you’ll note there wasn’t one, but two hits. Why? One is clearly from the phone I’m using, as it so happens my phone is hiding behind 149.135.145.110, one of Telstra’s many Carrier NAT gateways (and shame on you Telstra for using carrier NAT).

Who’s this other one? Someone on Rackspace, a US hosting company. What business is my Internet traffic to this other party?

The saving grace for me, most of my traffic is to the APRS-IS network, with some HTTP traffic checking that my tracker has my location up-to-date and the odd query here and there. Maybe a gratuituous download of an ISO or system updates towards the end of the billing period. They’ll get pretty bored with my NextG usage, there’d be hardly anything of commercial value there.

Others however, may have more reason to feel violated. Telstra have some explaining to do.

Jun 172011
 

If you live in Australia, do not purchase or operate this headset.

This is what the offending article looks like:This headset radiates a carrier on the 2m amateur band.  Specifically around 147.000MHz.  In some parts of the world, the 2m amateur band extends from 144.000MHz to 146.000MHz.  Here in Australia however, it goes all the way up to 148MHz, meaning these headsets are effectively pirate stations smack bang in the middle of the FM portion of the 2m band.  They are probably quite legal in the country where they were originally sold, but they are not legal here.

There are a lot of repeaters that operate around 147MHz, particularly in Brisbane.  VK4RBN at Mt. Glorious is one of the most heavily used repeaters in Brisbane, and so you can guarantee there are people listening on that frequency that will hear your transmissions, and will likely complain.  We’re also getting good at direction finding.

So far the importers have gotten little more than a slap over the wrist for the illegal C-tick approval of these devices.  I think the ACMA need to grow some teeth here if we expect to get on top of this problem.  The last offenders were lucky, they got the choice of stopping the use of the headset, or copping a $400 fine … the article was not confiscated.  The importers got a $1500 fine… nowhere near enough, and the devices continue to be sold by distributors.

The end user may not have been technical enough to understand what was going on, but the importers almost certainly should have if they were slapping C-ticks on equipment.

More information: