Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger

I’m currently reading Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders.

Jack Ryan has risen through the ranks to become President of the US. Of course he survived the plane crashing into the Congress Building and killing most of Congress, the President, and a good portion of his senior Cabinent members at Jack’s inauguration as Vice President.

I’ve read reports saying that Al Qaeda had been planning the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon for quite some time, 5 years. Reading the front – this one was published in 1996. I know others have probally remarked upon this, but did they get the idea from Tom Clancy? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows.

Tom Clancy use to be a pretty imaginative writer. I use to enjoy his books. I don’t remember which one was the last one I read, but I loved Red Storm Rising and Hunt for Red October. Patriot Games wasn’t bad, but was a better movie. But after that his writing just went downhill I feel.

Oh – Red Storm Rising was a cool Submarine Combat game I played on my Commodore 64. Lots of hours spent playing that. Interesting enough, there is little Submarine Combat in the novel, but they couldn’t really base a game off of Red October very well. I got pretty good at the game, to the point that I could take the worst American Submarine (I don’t remember the class – other then it wasn’t nuclear powered, I was to say Seawolf, but I think that was the best,) and could get about 50/50 kills on Russian Alfas.

I loved getting in to the middle of a Russian Carrier group, launching all tubes at various targets then running full speed away from the convoy at they dodged torpedoes. I’d then circle back and do it again. Theoretically I shouldn’t have gotten as high as a kill ratio (30% or so) as I did with that paticular submarine. I then remember taking the best choice, and using the same tactics and getting something like 80% kill ratio on the carrier groups. The only escapes were ships that I got confusing sonar echoes off of because they were sitting side by side or were running silent/passive.

Anyways – reading Executive Orders, it amazes me that terrorists haven’t hit the US again already. There is no way the Al Qaeda used up all it’s man power on September 11th. Heck, what about the hundreds of so called “Baby Al Qaeda” groups the US now knows about? Including the new one’s NPR claims are springing up daily. For a group that supposedly has a budget and assets of a small country, they sure are quiet.

Ebola virus in subways? Mortar fired from the back of a moving flat bed truck? These random small attacks would be more devastating to America in the long run then single large attacks. All 9/11 did was unite the country behind one goal. Granted that support has fallen off quite a bit since then, but it didn’t fracture our country like they thought it would. I’m personally sure that the 4th plane was probally headed for the White House or Congress, if it had hit one of those we might have had bigger problems.

But Tom Clancy’s idea of the mortars from the back of a flat bed truck? Talk about devastating! One man to drive the truck, one to load and fire the mortar, one to hand over ammo for it and two to fire Sub-machine or automatic weapons, perhaps hand grenades or Molotov Cocktails. Tie a low wall of sandbags backed by steel plating to block bullets and shrapnel. The psychological damage would be incalcuable. Run through a busy downtown buisness district, or perhaps an affluential suburb.

According to FAS Military Analysis Network,” there is no such thing as Napalm Mortar rounds, (I’m assuming they’re probally against the Geneva Convention or some such thing,) but running through a neighborhood randomly dropping one a napalm or High Explosive round every other block to start fires (which would probally spread to neighboring houses,) could easily burn down a neighborhood pretty quickly, failing that it would cause enough damage that the local fire department would be overwhelmed quickly.

I’ve seen locally, 4 fire houses empty of fire engines just to take care of one building, usually a warehouse or other large structure. Imagine having multiple 4 or 5 alarm fires in the same city.

In addition I’m sure that a small group of terrorists like this would bea able to do this long enough to do quite a bit of damage. The police wouldn’t be able to respond for a couple of minutes. The first to arrive would be single units, armed with shotguns and pistols. Maybe a M-16 or similiar weapon if they’re lucky. Against grenades or moltov cocktails, and automatic weapons – they’d be outclassed. Say 5 minutes for the SWAT team to be called in, they might be able to take them out – although I’d probally resort to using a sniper or two out of a helicopter to keep up with the truck. Then another ten to fifteen minutes for a real military response. Either way, a semi armoured truck, running full speed down a road, ramming cars out of the way, and firing a new shell every 30-45 seconds randomly… that would be scarey. Even if they found a stable posistion to concentrate on one big target such as a building, a bridge, or a rush hour freeway, they’d still be able to do pleanty of damage.

Automatic weapons are easy – there are pleanty of readily available weapons on the mass-market that can easily be converted to full automatic. Failing that, there are enough sub-machine gun knock offs just as easily available, although I’d personally stick with a modified gun for the extra penetration.

Now granted Motar’s are military grade hardware, but I hardly think they’d be hard to get a hold of and smuggle in to the US, or even buy locally here. Failing that – they’re simply compressed gas systems, something similiar could easily be rigged up. Perhaps a modified potato gun? Either way, the key isn’t physical damage, it’s the moral and psychological damage that would affect people the worse.

To me these kinds of attacks are scarier then putting Antrax or Ebola into the water supply, or airborne dispersment – those kinds of attacks can be contained, are unseen (except for the illness itself,) and ultimatly would be contained one way or another.

Link of Note: Deparment of Justice Web Site: Al Qaeda Training Manual Thanks DOJ for posting this! I wish it was more public, to paraphase Sun Tzu, Knowing the tactics of the Enemy makes one stronger.

What a world we live in eh?

Good Deeds, and bad deeds

Good Deeds, and bad deeds

What exactly constitutes a good deed? What makes a bad deed?

When I was in Boy Scouts we use to talk about helping old ladies across the street. The Boy’s Life Magazine always has an article about some kid saving someone’s life and getting an award for it. It’s a feature that has been in the magazine for as long as I can remeber, at least 20 years or so.

My apartment complex has a humungous trash compactor, it’s about 10 times the size of a regular trash can you’d think of normally. But despite that there is almost always a pile of trash sitting in front of it. Sometimes people put something big in it, such as cardboard that dosen’t quite get crunched enough. Or apparently, kids without house keys putting trash in front of it. (The compactor door is locked and is accessed with the apartment key.)

So today I threw all the trash bags there into the compactor. Not a big deal really, I feel bad when the machine runs and I only put one small bag in there. I also pulled out several pop cans to recycle. As I got done I said out loud “There’s your good deed for the day.”

But was it really? Did I help anybody? Or was I self serving? I made a quarter on cans and bottles that I pulled out. I helped the apartment management sure… but they have someone come by everyday to clean it up anyways. So I essentially did that guy’s job for him today.

Now what’s a bad deed? I cant think of anything I’d do that would hurt someone. I’d say not giving pan handlers money is a bad deed – but I’ve heard/read of too many cases where they actually make a crap load of money off of the niceness of random people. The most increadible being one of a guy who works New York during the Summer, then retires to his house on the coast during the rest of the year.

Or is it a bad deed that I don’t talk to my parents any more? I mean, my father asks me when I’m going to cut my hair and get a real job. Keep in mind I make as much or more money then he does working two jobs. My mother… is a meddler, who still dosen’t seem to realize that I’m almost 30 years old, and has my own life. (She’s indirectly a major cause of my breaking up with my ex-fiance.) My brother – the only thing we have in common is genetics. And my sister… I still think of her as a little girl who needs her hand held across the street – granted a lot of that is because I stopped talking to my family when she was just becoming a teenager, so I missed her growing up.

Is it a bad deed that I’ve missed (on purpose) every single funeral in my family over the last 15 years? Funerals for the living to say goodbye, not for the dead who really don’t care much. But my family guilt trips me about it saying “so and so would be sad if you weren’t there.” Right… my great grand father who lived to the ripe old age of 103, was dressed in diapers, hand fed mushed bananas and didn’t have enough memory left to reconize a single one of us is going to be sad.

At that point – I’d be friggin’ happy to be dead personally.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do try to do good deeds when it occurs to me. It’s not that I’m an unthoughtful person. I just have a one-track mind, I do a lot of things on automatic while I’m sorting out a problem in the rest of my brain. Some people just can’t understand how I can get focused on something to the point that everything around me ceases to exist. Let me tell you – it comes from being extremely smart, and being teased at school for every single little thing.

But I do do good deeds, at work I constantly hold doors open for people. Although it’s practically bred into the Nike Culture for some weird reason. Everyone holds doors open for everyone else. People will wait a good thirty seconds for someone to walk close enough to the door. About half the time I’m pushing a cart through, I hit the handicap button which opens one side and leaves enough room for the cart to get through it, yet they’ll still hold open the other side too.

Anyways, to digress – what is exactly a good deed? Is it something that makes someone’s life easier? Is it some little thing that they’ll forget about in thirty seconds? What?

56k – 128k – 1Mbps

56k – 128k – 1Mbps

The only thing worse then watching paint dry is watching Mp3’s download.

Or for that matter – any download you can think of. I use to work at an ISP, after 5pm and on the weekends I was the only one sitting at the end of a nice fast T-1… BIG pipe of hunkin’ data transferin’ love. It was great to download an .ISO in roughly 20 minutes.

My first modem was a 300 baud one, you pulled the phone off the hook and put it on there, so it talked to the phone. I was quite impressed getting upgraded to a 2400 buad modem in my first IBM machine. Imagine – not being able to type faster then it could could transmit! I was in heaven.

That modem lasted me a good 4 years probally. In ’93 I got my first 28.8k modem. Imagine, downloading a 2MB file in 9 minutes! Imagine the group of computer geeks gathered around watching, oohing and ahhing over the data transfer rate.

I think I probally upgraded to 56k in 1995 or so. I connected to the ISP I was working for at quite a decent rate, and thought I was the coolest around. I was even cooler when I hooked it into my ISDN modem – people were amazed that I was connecting at 52k. I was amazed I was connecting at 52k.

In 1996 I moved and invested in DSL. 512k downloads, 128k uploads. Man I was in heaven on Earth. Porn, MP3, warez, and the occasional piece of data from work. Not to mention that new-fangled interweb thingie.

Now… even that is slow. At work I’m on only a 10MBit network connection, shared among three computers on my desk. And that’s still a million times (literally,) faster then any modem.

Mickey and the Haunted Mansion, or why Disney Sucks

Mickey and the Haunted Mansion

Mickey and the Haunted Mansion is an older cartoon made when good ol’ Walt was still alive. It stars him, Goofy and Donald who are all private detectives called out to investigate this spooky old mansion. The kicker – they were called by the ghost who lives in the mansion, and who then proceeds to scare the heck out of them.

My favorite part is where he puts two frogs into a pair of shoes tied together. As the frogs jump, the shoes move. Eventually they run into a coat rack with hat on it. Then through a torn curtain, and right by Mickey and Gang.

Either way, I think it’s probally one of my favorite Diseny cartoons. I use to have it on video. Well, not really video, fake video. Fisher Price had a cheesy plastic video “camcorder.” You could buy different “video” to play in it. They’d plug in to one side and you’d turn the crank to make the movie move. They were usually pretty well chopped up. This paticular one was only 45 seconds or so. I remeber also having Dumbo – that was probally a minute and a half at most.

So my real question is thus; All the rides in Diseny Land have themese to them. Was the Cartoon made to promote the Haunted House? And what on Earth made them think that putting Eddie Murphy in the house would be a good idea? Granted I’ve not seen the movie – but based off what I’ve heard, and what little I’ve see – I’m better off that way.

Eddie Murphy is a rant for another day, but I do want to pass on this link Why Diseny Should Turn to Anime

640K is enough for anyone

640K is enough for anyone

My first “real” computer was a good ol’ Commodore 64. 64k of memory, external tape drive that ran off of “standard” cassette tapes, or the external floppy drive which was capable of 320k total storage! (Using both sides of the disk BTW.)

My second computer was bought from a furniture store in the early 90’s. Around here computer stores were still few and far between. It was a 386SX-25 with a whopping 4 megs of Ram, and a 80MB hard drive. Cost something like $2500. But man did I enjoy that machine. I had no idea what I was ever going to do with 100MB of space. DOS, Windows 3.1, and about a dozen games I had barely used half of the hard drive.

My next computer I bought the summer between my Junior and Senior year in high school. This was back in the day when I made $300+ a month and had no bills what so ever. Had about $1500 saved up in my bank account. I found a guy who was hard up for cash to pay for school, and bought a 486SX-33 with 6 Megs of Ram, and a 110MB hard drive off of him. The interesting thing about this machine was that it had four 512k memory chips in it. Those were incredibly rare, but existed.

This machine served me through college quite well. It got upgraded with a sound card and CDrom Drive. Then later on got upgraded with a 28.8k modem. THAT was awesome. I had the first one at the school – possibly the first one available to the public in the state. I was smokin’ with that computer. At this point in time I was filling the hard drive – tons of games mostly. But some graphics, midi files, misc text files and such.

A year later I got a job in the computer store. My knowledge was apparently far “beyond,” many others. So I jumped in, saved up $$$ and went to town upgrading my machine. New hard drive. Then a new mother board – finally upgrading to a Pentium 75. 16 Megs of Memory, 512MB hard drive, more, more, and more!

My computer was in the shop nearly every month getting a new upgrade. We would take the old parts and recycle them at slightly reduced prices into the used pile and people would instantly buy them. Was good in those days.

Nowdays I’ve got 18GB in each of my two “big” servers, and I don’t really consider that being very much. I have three 60 GB hard drives sitting around waiting for me to install into one or both of those servers, I have 40GB on my Powerbook. Then there is all the other machines I have, multiple gigs per a machine, multiple machines.

The funny thing is – that in this day and age, the bulk of the hard drives space I use it dedicated to software. I have fairly low-key needs personally, an OS, some word processing, my financial software, a web browser, maybe a game or two. I’ve got about 11GB of MP3’s, which represents about 1/3 of my CD’s after I ripped them and cleaned out the duplicates/bad stuff. Some pictures, mostly backgrounds and such (OSX’s automatic background switcher is pretty cool.) And then I’ve got about 4 gigs of various Ebooks – I’m such a pac-rat when it comes to knowledge.

What brought this whole thought up was a piece on NPR this morning talking about how search engines work. They talked about Yahoo going through and having humans validate web pages, then storing them into a database to be looked at. I started thinking about the numbers of bookmarks I have on my computers – a couple of thousand probally. So for them to have the books marks, AND be able to cross reference data in those pages, AND be able to access it millions of times per a second is simply astounding in terms of data storage.

At work our data needs range into something like a mere 8 terabytes. Most of it graphics and designs. Yet every bit of it is backed up nightly and sent to off-site storage. Quite another feat in itself. (I don’t work in that group – but I assume it’s incremental backups of changes only to keep the actual amount needed down much further.)

This all becomes quite astounding when you consider that we’re probally pretty typical of a large company. So thousands of companies around the world are archiving data. Governments are archiving data, and each person who owns a computer is archiving data seperately. The amount of data on this planet must truely be astounding. I imagine that The Ancient Library of Alexandria wouldn’t even make a dent on it.

So the real question is – does that much data REALLY need to be archived? If we remove duplicated data, how much of it is actually, truelly needed? I’ve been thinking of coming up with a data model that allows anyone in the world to have access to paticular data that is needed, shared out essentially much like a Peer to Peer network. Add in permissions and ownership rules for sensitive data and it could remove a companies large cost of data backup, while allowing knowledge to be shared easily.

As a home user I could have a group of bookmarks based on data type to certain files that contain the information I need/want. But it would be physically located in a central repository, much like a modern Library of Alexandria. If it’s a copy righted work, you could pay a small one time royalty fee to the orginial owners in such cases as novels or music. You get your limited rights to the IP which pretty much means you can read/play/use it as you see fit minus the normal rules for playing in public, etc. You could even transfer or sell those rights to somebody else if you wanted, and if the orginial copy right allowed it.

So it would break down like this:

Owner of data defines who can look at it. Sells licences if needed, and can decide if the licence can be transfered by the 2nd party.

Buisness could look at data and share among them selves, or other partner companies. They could sell licences to that data to interested 3rd parties who might add to the data.

Seperate flags could be used to say X data links to y and z data and that linked has been explored x+1 number of times much like Google does now. This way you get the useful data you want, plus other links to it that maybe related.

This would cost a of money to setup, but wouldn’t it be the way to go in the long run?