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Binh Nguyen: Some Geo-Politics, Apple Install Media, R, Ableton Push 2, and More

Wed, 2015-11-04 22:19
- when you look at the world from different perspectives it can seem as though a very different world exists out there at times. Things just sound crazy...

Yuri Bezmenov: Psychological Warfare Subversion & Control of Western Society (Complete)

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov's warning to America

- the worse part of this is that since certain behaviour can sometimes only be defeated by equally abhorent behaviour it's a race down to the bottom. If you want to understand how these people think, don't think like a normal person. Think like the most crazed, power hungry person in the world and perhaps you'll understand how far people have to go behind the scenes

- recently, I thought it would be somewhat interesting to look at things in so called 'evil states' (Russia, China, Iran, etc...) and wanted to compare how they stacked up against so called 'good states' (US, UK, Australia, etc...). In quite a few areas things are actually quite competitive

- similar unemployment rates. Better in China and Russia than in the West

- prior to sanctions extremely strong growth in Russia and we know that growth in recent history in China has been extremely strong when compared to the West

- taxation as percentage of GDP lower but that is likely lower level of socialised services such as healthcare, welfare, etc...

- usual suspects are up there but the West is generally well up there (particularly those countries that are having economic difficulties in the Eurozone) as well. Results can vary drastically but I'm guessing that's because different people are using different measures for what amounts to crime and corruption. Asian countries generaly doing well. One thing I've found is that in general if life is too difficult for the populace in general people will evade resort to crime, loan sharks, etc... without it they can't survive. The irony is that the rest of society has to pay by paying higher taxes leading to very odd national GDP figures. For instance, I remember it once being said that the South of Italy was essentially a different state that was based on crime and corruption. Fix it and Italy's GDP rockets upwards. There is so much terrorist/criminal money in the US that if you were to remove it all the economy would collapse. The reason why sanctioned countries like Iran and North Korea are able to continue to survive is also for this particular reason...

- a lot of countries having a difficult time getting the best out of their people. Western countries generally middling to upper end of things... Russia and China doing okay but probably down the rankings due to their lopsided economies (which they are still trying to fix)

- this was one of the surprising things for me. There are heaps of alternative media choices in Russia, China, etc.. and the West but it's likely that they may be 'consolidated' into centralised points of power and distribution (for any number of reasons whether for financial or reasons of social control, etc...). Leeway in freedom of speech can vary drastically though and there is actually some attempt to control things (mildly) in the West. There are generally crackdowns in China and Russia against those that may cause 'social unrest'. One thing I've found funny though is that there are a lot of people who are generally seeking alternative news channels now,47573.html

- this is one are where you will definitely find some surprises. Western countries are generally middling. Some very odd ones up there though in terms of hours worked per week and GDP per unit hour (this comes back to the value versus price problem that I've looked at from time to time on this blog). Who would have thought that Mexicans, Chileans, Russians, and Greeks were so hard working (missing data here)? Western countries generally middling... I think the main reason why the West has managed to steal such a massive leap is that they've managed to harness the low costs of the other countries and have made use of the disparity between 'perceieved value' versus 'actual value' (what's the difference between some low end and other high end electronics. Often very little but the price differential is huge)

- social stability enabled/achieved via more subtle measures in the West when compared to the China/Russia. Certain things often control behaviour

and wealth distribution (conciously or not). For instance, people don't die at work (they die of over-eating of cheap fast food, smoking addictive cigarettes, etc...), population growth is controlled via culture (the West is highly individualistic which means that people care more about themselves then having the chance of having a family), monopolies and wealth distribution is controlled more subtly (in China/Russia things are controlled largely by the state but in the West most of the time the only way things can be controlled is via legislation), entertainment culture helps to control wage costs (if everyone worked hard where would the wage differential be to exploit to create outsized profits?), etc...

- as discussed previously wealth distribution is fairly similar (if not better) in China/Russia as opposed to the US and GDP is solid...

- at the end of the day I think things wouldn't be much different for the 'average joe' in China/Russia versus the West. If you stick out a bit you're in a lot of trouble though...

- the US business philosophy of 'going big or going home' makes much more sense to me now. It's critical for them to have external mechanisms to control costs to create prosperity. Ideally, these costs are external to their country (currency fluctuations, low wages, illegal immigration, trade agreements, etc...) That way, they can keep people happy within their own country. If not, the disparities in their system grows wider and you end up with unequal wealth distribution. With them you can keep people internally happy but but not as much for those external (look at working conditions in countries where outsourcing is done. Almost slave like at times...)

- the US also controls certain monopolistic areas. For instace, defense (look at the JSF project where most Allied countries only have that single option). That means they're not subject to 'free market' conditions and don't necessarily have to compete on price/profit margin

- at the end of the day many social systems (democracies, socialists, communists, etc...) suffer from the issue of 'hierarchy'. Have someone foolish at the top and you're in a lot of trouble.

- the flaw with most social systems out there is that it makes the assumption that a central 'ruler' knows best. The irony is that it may be the case that only those who understand the current circumstances knows the best possible course of action, the best possible means of assuring that they can be happy

- the greatest difficulty of the current US administration is that it feels as though they don't know how to deal with China and Russia. The irony is that I'd be in the same place in dealing with the current US adminstration as well. The problem is that you don't know how far you can push without behind pushed back. Moreover, the response comes back is too weak or can be used as anti-West propaganda. Under the current administration people have admitted that they have attempted to go after 'easy wins' while neglecting or only half-heartedly dealing with the bigger issues that face them. They need to re-think the way they deal with things and re-mold the approach so that it is both effective as well as targeted. They're just setting things up for another new type of 'Cold War' or else a very clumsy minor conflict (not necessarily military)

- need to be smarter than this. Don't make it a game of religion. If you make it about religion they can turn around and spout things about 'propaganda'. Need to start the process of friendship as early as possible to reduce the chances of 'converting someone' more difficult. They need to look at radicalisation, terrorism, crime as simply a strange way of life. If sometime tries to turn them they will be more resistent. As for the rest, find the most efficient, least complex way out. Deal with the issue but don't make it easier to turn others against you

- the beauty of nature versus human financial abstraction is that everyone/thing has a value. Everything has a place within the ecosystem. Human abstractions such as 'pricing' actually make certain things that are impossible in nature possible. For instance, 'hoarding'. An animal can only grow to a certain size generally. With these limits it ensures that everyone has to continue to play their part with the overall ecosystem

- interesting way of measuring productivity is watching what the most efficient world (or country) in their industry and what other similar, groups do (normalised after removing question of currency and other localised variables, trade tarrifs, taxes, etc...). I wonder how much the average disparity really is?

- install media has to be purchased from the App Store now. Easier just to download and stick it on a USB flash drive

- have been looking for some documentation on R which is 'readable' (read like a book as opposed to a reference title). Turns out the included documentation (in the installed documentation) may be best

- doesn't look like too much of a change between Push 1 and Push 2 to be honest. I think the main difference is in the software

- sometimes you just want the desktop version on your phone/tablet as you may be missing some functionality

Some interesting quotes from world media of late:

- As President Rousseff contemplates her next move, she might do well to remember the words of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant: “When wars do come, they fall upon the many, the producing class, who are the sufferers.” The Brazilian President is in a fight for her political survival, but that struggle may leave the country dangerously adrift, with the real pain being felt by the Brazilian people. The country needs stronger and more transparent institutions and good people to lead them. Painful though it may be, Brazil is cleaning house. Dealing with the short-term pain, however, is not easy and Rousseff’s presidency – what is left of it – will be volatile both in the political and economic sense. Seat belts are not optional.

- All pudgy dictator Kim Jong-un needs to do is play hard to get, routinely denounce America, and presto — he’s assured of victory. In exchange for vague promises, which nobody expects him to keep, he’ll get to keep his nukes and free American food to feed his starving country.

The Iran and Cuba surrenders also point to another likely outcome. Both reportedly now have military advisers and fighters in Syria, joining with Russia to defeat our allies among the Syrian rebels.

The Obama appeasement disaster would be complete if North Korean troops join the Russian axis. And why wouldn’t they? Vladimir Putin is a better friend and worse enemy.

- Washington is already at war with ISIL—not only as a matter of formal policy but also in the ongoing bombing campaign underway in Iraq and Syria today. ISIL has already demonstrated its lack of restraint in its dealings with the United States in the 2014 beheadings of American hostages within its reach. Its social-media outlets are already trying to encourage lone-wolf attacks against the United States and its civilian population today. ISIL is currently encouraged by a sense of sanctuary and a sense of military momentum. Making Western attacks against ISIL more effective seems just as likely to put the group on the defensive as to occasion new attacks. In acting more aggressively to stabilize Syria and defeat ISIL, the Obama administration would not be plunging America into a new conflict. Instead, it would be recognizing that it is already engaged in one.

- KARL MARX once described a situation where the weapon of criticism gives way to criticism by weapon. It’s a remark that captures the latest round of tensions between the West and Russia quite well. Are we witnessing a collision between two different systems of values—or one between two different interpretations of a common system of values?

- Minerals are the Taliban's second-biggest income source after narcotics, a United Nations Security Council committee wrote in a February report. The funds have helped sustain the Taliban as it battles for control of the government. In the past month, the group briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz, the first time it's taken a provincial capital since the US invasion in 2001. - There’s data which showcases France’s “rogue” status. In the last five years, France has consistently lost more than 100 days of work a year through strikes for every 1,000 employees. For Germany, it is a fraction of that, at just under four days for 1,000 workers. While in the UK, 19 days lost for 1,000 workers in 2009 – comes above Germany but still nowhere near France. There are few people feeling confident about France’s economic future. Compounded by their 35-hour working week, France’s left-wing policy is coming through great security as their economy continues to unperformed.

- How can hungry men care about whether a rhino or an elephant is killed? You are talking about somebody who has no job, who sleeps on an empty stomach. Do you really think he has time to think about what is happening in the jungle? Prince Harry has everything. Most people here don't.

A man who has no shelter, no food, his focus is only on what he can get to eat.

- Confucianism based government is self checking.

Power checking is more or less a Western problem because its history of theocracy. The Chinese people know that the government is responsible for the well being of the governments thousands of years ago.

In contrast, bad government in the West was, for a long time, seen as God's response to the people's iniquity. Bad governments were sent by God to punish the people.

- In 2011, after the Arab Spring revolutions, China sent emissaries to northern Africa to learn from the mistakes the region’s dictators had made. Apparently the emissaries came back relieved, convinced that China would never be vulnerable to such upheavals because, unlike the Arab dictators, its presidents are replaced every 10 years or so.

This is not to say China’s power structure is never inept or over-assertive. It certainly can miscalculate. Relations with the US follow an irregular pattern, depending on circumstances. China at one point began speaking less aggressively over its territorial claims in the South China Sea because it saw this was driving neighbouring countries closer to the US, not further away.

The key point is that Europeans must think more strategically in their dealings with China. For all the talk about “win-win” situations, when separate national agreements are made with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or on nuclear power stations, European states’ disorderly moves hand China easy opportunities to play divide and rul

- A decade ago, the focus of the Valdai Discussion Club, in the post-9/11 honeymoon that characterized U.S.-Russia relations, was to improve the quality of dialogue between Washington and Moscow. As relations between the two countries have soured, the Valdai group has widened its target audience, increasingly bringing not only more Europeans but civil society representatives of the rising powers of the south and east, especially from China, India and Brazil. So too has the audience shifted for the remarks delivered to the forum by senior Russian officials—including Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, this year’s Valdai offers a prime example of the change in tone. No longer is the emphasis on deepening and solidifying a U.S.-Russia partnership and overcoming remaining Cold War-era hangups that precluded a closer relationship. Now, the Kremlin wants to make its case to the larger world why resisting American dominance of the international system is justified. No longer is Russia seeking to win over American hearts and minds; it is a more global audience that Moscow is trying to reach and convince that Washington under the Obama administration—and most likely under any conceivable successor president—is unreliable and untrustworthy. (A related message is that Washington is also unsuccessful in its efforts; Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, in related remarks, declared that U.S. efforts to isolate Russia have been a failure.)

- "Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal."

- I studied aeronautical maintenance. Any person with basic grasp of aerodynamics would know that given that since F-22s air intakes aren't of variable design (where there is a body in front of the intake like a cone or a wedge or blade) which creates a mach shockwave when planes goes supersonic. And the faster supersonic the more pointy the mach cone is. And when supersonic and/or turbulent air enters the intake it can and does lead to compressor stall. Thus although F-22s airframe may survive Mach-2.5 for short duration, its limited to speed below Mach-2.1. Just like F-16. Want to see what high-speed aircrafts engine intakes look like? Check out SR-71 and MiG-25/31. The angle at which the intake is "cut" is sharp on MiGs while SR-71s have a big cone that is far ahead of intake itself for the very reason I described. F-22 couldn't be that sharp or have round intakes with a cone for stealths sake so as to not increase the amount of directions in which impinging radar waves bounce to.Z

Top Secret information? LOOOL!!! Good luck classifying the laws of physics, aerodynamics and mathematics. As far as the fact that its classified by Pentagon goes - I couldn't care less. I don't live in USA and actually want F-22 to have same thing happen to it as to F-117 over Serbia, including pilot surviving to tell the tale. NSA agents aren't concerned about being caught. That's partly because they work for such a powerful agency, but also because they don't leave behind any evidence that would hold up in court. And if there is no evidence of wrongdoing, there can be no legal penalty, no parliamentary control of intelligence agencies and no international agreement. Thus far, very little is known about the risks and side-effects inherent in these new D weapons and there is almost no government regulation.

Edward Snowden has revealed how intelligence agencies around the world, led by the NSA, are doing their best to ensure a legal vacuum in the Internet. In a recent interview with the US public broadcaster PBS, the whistleblower voiced his concerns that "defense is becoming less of a priority than offense."

Snowden finds that concerning. "What we need to do," he said, "is we need to create new international standards of behavior."

- “We—the U.S. [Department of Defense]—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA [electronic attack] for years,” a senior Air Force official with extensive experience on the F-22 told The Daily Beast. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target [an enemy aircraft such as a Russian-built Sukhoi] Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.”

Sam Watkins: sswam

Wed, 2015-11-04 17:30

I started writing a set of error handler macros for C, based on “Zed’s Awesome Debug Macros”

The implementation is quite ugly, and depends on a couple of GNU extensions.  This is not ideal, and I would like to improve it if possible.

The idea is to call functions via “wrapper macros”, which take care of checking for errors.  Here’s an example:

#include <stdlib.h> #include <stdio.h> #include <errno.h> #include <string.h> #include "kiss.h" int main(void) { char *space = NULL; FILE *fp = NULL; INFO("Hello"); space = MALLOC(1000); space = REALLOC(space, 10000); fp = FOPEN("asdfasdf", "r"); FCLOSE(fp); FREE(space); INFO("Bye"); exit(0); error: exit(1); }

Output when I run it:

[INFO] test1.c:11 main: Hello [ERROR] test1.c:14 main: fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

Output when I build it with -DNDEBUG and run it:

Hello fopen failed: asdfasdf: No such file or directory

In most cases, I can add a wrapper macro with one short line of code:

#define MALLOC(...) CHK(malloc, __VA_ARGS__) #define REALLOC(...) CHK(realloc, __VA_ARGS__) #define FREE(ptr) (free(ptr), ptr = NULL) #define FOPEN(path, mode) ({ char *p = path; FILE *rv = fopen(p, mode); CHECK(rv, "fopen failed: %s", p); rv; }) #define FCLOSE(fp) (ZERO(fclose, fp), fp = NULL)

The FOPEN macro is longer. I added the file name to the error message.

FREE is not checking for errors. It sets the pointer to NULL after the free. FCLOSE checks for errors and sets the FILE * to NULL.

I also wrote wrappers for some SDL and SDL_image functions, just a few so far.

Here is a short SDL example using the macros:

and the equivalent code without the macros, which is much longer:

I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I think these wrappers can make C code shorter, safer, more readable, and more maintainable. On the other hand, it might be best to avoid macros, the implementation is ugly, and it uses two GNU extensions: ##__VA_ARGS__, and ({ statement expressions }).

Please let me know what you think. (Without being too scathing, please… I respond better to kindness!)

Craig Sanders: Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne?

Wed, 2015-11-04 17:26

I’m looking for a part-time Systems Administration role in Melbourne, either in a senior capacity or happy to assist an existing sysadmin or development team.

I’m mostly recovered from a long illness and want to get back to work, on a part-time basis (up to 3 days per week). Preferably in the City or Inner North near public transport. I can commute further if there is scope for telecommuting once I know your systems and people, and trust has been established.

If you have a suitable position available or know of someone who does, please contact me by email.

Why hire me?


  • I have over 20 years experience working with linux and unix
  • Over 30 years in IT, tech support, sysadmin type roles
  • I have excellent problem-solving skills
  • I have excellent English language communication skills
  • I can only work part time so you get a senior sysadmin at a discount part-time price, and I’m able to get things done both quickly and correctly.
  • My programming strengths are in systems administration and automation.
  • I’m a real-life cyborg (at least part-time, on dialysis)


  • My programming weaknesses are in applications development.
  • I can’t travel at all. I have to dialyse every 2nd night.
  • I can’t work late (except via telecommute)
  • I can’t drink alcohol, not even beer.
  • I am on the transplant waiting list. At some time in the next few years I might get a phone call from the hospital and have to drop everything with 1 or 2 hours notice and be out of action for a few weeks.

Full CV available on request.

I’m in the top few percent on ServerFault and Unix & Linux StackExchange sites – if you want to get a preview of my problem-solving and technical communication skills, see my profile at:

CV Summary:

Systems Administrator and Programmer with extensive exposure to a wide variety of hardware and software systems. Excellent fault-diagnosis, problem-solving and system design skills. Strong technical/user support background. Ability to communicate technical concepts clearly to non-IT people. Significant IT Management and supervisory experience.

Particular Skills

  • Unix, Linux
  • Internet-based Services and Security
  • Systems & Network Administration
  • Virtualisation – Openstack, Libvirt, KVM, Xen, Vmware
  • HPC Cluster – slurm, Torque, OpenMPI, pdsh
  • Perl, Python, shell, awk, sed, etc scripting for systems automation
  • Data extraction/conversion, processing, and reporting. (incl. CSV, XML, many others)
  • Web server administation, incl. Apache.
  • Web development HTML, CSS, Javascript, perl, PHP, CGI scripting etc.
  • Postgresql, Mysql, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle
  • DNS – bind8/bind9, nlnet’s nsd & unbound
  • SMTP – postfix, sendmail, exim, qmail.
  • High Level Technical Support
  • Database design & development
  • Mentoring and training of colleagues

Part-time sysadmin work in Melbourne? is a post from: Errata

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Buffalo Stampede 2015 - 78km in the Victorian Alpine region

Wed, 2015-11-04 10:25

Julie running back toward me at the top of Buffalo (fullsize)

This event was not in my original plan for 2015, though nursing a bit of a problem with my right aductor and glute I was feeling alright after six foot to do some big stuff. This turned out to be a tough day out, the incredible steep gradients on the first two climbs (and also on the way back the last two climbs and thus the descents on the other side) were something to behold.

That we did over 1000m of climbing in the first 10km of running, including 4km of flat at the start and a descent to the bottom of a 500m valley in the middle says something. This event lived up to the SkyRace tag really well. Also the victorian alpine region is amazingly pretty and Bright is a great town to hang around in.

Photos and a few words from my day out are here on my Buffalo Stampede 2015 page. Thanks to Paul for his entry and to Dave, Julie and Alex for the company. It was fun to catch up with Hanny and Graham down there too.

sthbrx - a POWER technical blog: What the HILE is this?

Tue, 2015-11-03 15:44

One of the cool features of POWER8 processors is the ability to run in either big- or little-endian mode. Several distros are already available in little-endian, but up until recently Petitboot has remained big-endian. While it has no effect on the OS, building Petitboot little-endian has its advantages, such as making support for vendor tools easier. So it should just be a matter of compiling Petitboot LE right? Well…

Switching Endianess

Endianess, and several other things besides, are controlled by the Machine State Register (MSR). Each processor in a machine has an MSR, and each bit of the MSR controls some aspect of the processor such as 64-bit mode or enabling interrupts. To switch endianess we set the LE bit (63) to 1.

When a processor first starts up it defaults to big-endian (bit 63 = 0). However the processor doesn’t actually know the endianess of the kernel code it is about to execute - either it is big-endian and everything is fine, or it isn’t and the processor will very quickly try to execute an illegal instruction.

The solution to this is an amazing little snippet of code in arch/powerpc/boot/ppc_asm.h (follow the link to see some helpful commenting):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 #define FIXUP_ENDIAN tdi 0, 0, 0x48; b $+36; .long 0x05009f42; .long 0xa602487d; .long 0x1c004a39; .long 0xa600607d; .long 0x01006b69; .long 0xa6035a7d; .long 0xa6037b7d; .long 0x2400004c

By some amazing coincidence if you take the opcode for tdi 0, 0, 0x48 and flip the order of the bytes it forms the opcode for b . + 8. So if the kernel is big-endian, the processor will jump to the next instruction after this snippet. However if the kernel is little-endian we execute the next 8 instructions. These are written in reverse so that if the processor isn’t in the right endian it interprets them backwards, executing the instructions shown in the linked comments above, resulting in MSRLE being set to 1.

When booting a little-endian kernel all of the above works fine - but there is a problem for Petitboot that will become apparent a little further down…

Petitboot’s Secret Sauce

The main feature of Petitboot is that it is a full (but small!) Linux kernel and userspace which scans all available devices and presents possible boot options. To boot an available operating system Petitboot needs to start executing the OS’s kernel, which it accomplishes via kexec. Simply speaking kexec loads the target kernel into memory, shuts the current system down most of the way, and at the last moment sets the instruction pointer to the start of the target kernel. From there it’s like booting any other kernel, including the FIXUP_ENDIAN section above.

We’ve Booted! Wait…

So our LE Petitboot kernel boots fine thanks to FIXUP_ENDIAN, we kexec into some other kernel.. and everything falls to pieces.

The problem is we’ve unwittingly changed one of the assumptions of booting a kernel; namely that MSRLE defaults to zero. When kexec-ing from an LE kernel we start executing the next kernel in LE mode. This itself is ok, the FIXUP_ENDIAN macro will handle the switch if needed. The problem is that the FIXUP_ENDIAN macro is relatively recent, first entering the kernel in early 2014. So if we’re booting, say, an old Fedora 19 install with a v3.9 kernel - things go very bad, very quickly.

Fix #1

The solution seems pretty straightforward: find where we jump into the next kernel, and just before that make sure we reset the LE bit in the MSR. That’s exactly what this patch to kexec-lite does.

That worked up until I tested on a machine with more than one CPU. Remembering that the MSR is processor-specific, we also have to reset the endianess of each secondary CPU

Now things are looking good! All the CPUs are reset to big-endian, the target kernel boots fine, and then… ‘recursive interrupts?!’


Skipping the debugging process that led to this (hint: mambo is actually a pretty cool tool), these were the sequence of steps leading up to the problem:

  • Little-endian Petitboot kexecs into a big-endian kernel
  • All CPUs are reset to big-endian
  • The big-endian kernel begins to boot successfully
  • Somewhere in the device-tree parsing code we take an exception
  • Execution jumps to the exception handler at 0x300
  • I notice that MSRLE is set to 1
  • We fail to read the first instruction at 0x300 because it’s written in big-endian, so we jump to the exception handler at 0x300… oh no.

And then we very busily execute nothing until the machine is killed. I spend some time staring incredulously at my screen, then appeal to a higher authority who replies with “What is the HILE set to?”

..the WHAT?

Cracking open the PowerISA reveals this tidbit:

The Hypervisor Interrupt Little-Endian (HILE) bit is a bit in an implementation-dependent register or similar mechanism. The contents of the HILE bit are copied into MSRLE by interrupts that set MSRHV to 1 (see Section 6.5), to establish the Endian mode for the interrupt handler. The HILE bit is set, by an implementation-dependent method, during system initialization, and cannot be modified after system initialization.

To be fair, there are use cases for taking exceptions in a different endianess. The problem is that while HILE gets switched on when setting MSRLE to 1, it doesn’t get turned off when MSRLE is set to zero. In particular the line “…cannot be modified after system initialization.” led to a fair amount of hand wringing from myself and whoever would listen; if we can’t reset the HILE bit, we simply can’t use little-endian kernels for Petitboot.

Luckily while on some other systems the machinations of the firmware might be a complete black box, Petitboot runs on OPAL systems - which means the firmware source is right here. In particular we can see here the OPAL call to opal_reinit_cpus which among other things resets the HILE bit.

This is actually what turns on the HILE bit in the first place, and is meant to be called early on in boot since it also clobbers a large amount of state. Luckily for us we don’t need to hold onto any state since we’re about to jump into a new kernel. We just need to choose an appropriate place where we can be sure we won’t take an exception before we get into the next kernel: thus the final patch to support PowerNV machines.

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] Geoquest 2015 - Thats Cray

Tue, 2015-11-03 15:25

Dane crossing a log in the dark for fun (fullsize)

I had a break from doing Geo for 2 years, I guess I got a bit hooked on running and was not keen to try to get a team happening for the event. It almost happened again, however some of the team members in Thats Cray were injured so Cam and I both got an invite to join in the fun.

Geo s always a good event and this year I really enjoyed just joining in for the fun and letting the others worry about Nav and a bunch of other stuff. I have to admit the lack of paddling in the last 2 years made that bit hard, however the event was a lot of fun as always and surprisingly felt pretty good all the way through. Maybe my running fitness helped me get through comfortably.

Photos and some words from the race are online on my Geoquest 2015 album. Thanks to Dane, Lee and Cam for the company, thanks to the awesome support crew and it was good to be back.

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] The Sri Chinmoy Canberra Ultra 2015 - 102 KM with Wild Bill Bo Jangles and Crew

Tue, 2015-11-03 10:25

The Wild Bill crew at the finish, KV, Gangles and Bender (fullsize)

I really enjoy Sri Chinmoy events, their attitude and encouragement for people to be healthy and active to have a better life and world through peace and those goals. Given a choice I try to do most of the long or multi sport Sri Chinmoy events. I had run in this event in pairs with Alex in the first year, alternating legs that year.

As I was planning to do another 100 not long after I was not overly keen on a solo entry, however at Gangles's birthday KV and I managed to convince him to compete in the event with us in a team of 3. This would be his first long run (over 20 km, doing the last leg) and KV was stepping up for the first leg (I had the middle two to get done). I got some celebratory t-shirts made up as Gangles' (Adam) middle name is William KV and I decided to call the team Wild Bill Bo Jangles and crew. (I promise it made sense to us)

So we got to join in the fun and run with many of our friends and other people on the day. I took some photos and they are online in my Sri Chinmoy Trail Ultra 2015 album.

Michael Still: Halo: The Fall of Reach

Mon, 2015-11-02 22:28

ISBN: 0765367297


As someone who doesn't play computer games and has never played a Halo game, I find myself in the strange position of having read a Halo book. This book is the first in the chronological lineage, and explains the history of the Spartan program which produced the Master Chief. I decided to read this after accidentally watching a Halo mini-movie on Netflix with a sick baby, and deciding it wasn't totally terrible.

The book is actually ok to my surprise. Its competently written, and on par with much of the other combat fiction I've read. It certainly doesn't feel like its a tie in to a game. I would have liked this book to cover more of the moral issues around the back story to the Spartan program, but those were only briefly considered. Then again, I like a good shoot 'em up as much as the next guy and perhaps that would have been too boring. Overall I enjoyed it and think I might have to read more in this universe.

Tags for this post: book eric_nylund combat halo engineered_human cranial_computer personal_ai aliens

Related posts: The Last Colony ; The End of All Things; The Human Division; Old Man's War ; The Ghost Brigades ; Old Man's War (2) Comment Recommend a book

OpenSTEM: OpenSTEM robots visit Hobart primary school

Mon, 2015-11-02 14:29

On our last day in Tasmania (after the OSDC conference, about which I’ll do other posts shortly), Claire and I visited the wonderful Lauderdale Primary School in Hobart, where I did a version of our free Robotics Incursion with two year 5/6 classes, having a chat about robots, robotics, and more – and having our autonomous caterpillar and hexapod robots stroll around the sports hall….

The students were really engaged, they had thoughtful questions and great ideas – and the feedback from the kids as well as the teachers was that the session was fun as well as educational. Good!

We often do this incursion as a neat way for schools, teachers and students to get to know us before undertaking a bigger program such as the Robotics & Programming one. But, when we’re travelling somewhere with the robots anyway, it’s great to visit a local school. All our facilitators hold a current “working with children” card, so getting something like this organised is really quite straightforward.

OpenSTEM: George Boole Bicentenary Celebrations

Mon, 2015-11-02 13:30

Today is George Boole‘s 200th birthday. He lived from 2 November 1815 to 8 December 1864, so he was only 49 when he died!

In 2015, University College Cork (Ireland) celebrates the bicentenary of George Boole’s birth. Born in Lincoln, Boole was a mathematical genius who was largely self-taught. His appointment as the first Professor of Mathematics at the college in 1849 provided the opportunity to develop his most important work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought.

Boole is a pivotal figure who can be described as the ‘father of the information age’. His invention of Boolean algebra and symbolic logic pioneered a new mathematics. His legacy surrounds us everywhere, in the computers, information storage and retrieval, electronic circuits and controls that support life, learning and communications in the 21st century.

Check out the site for video and lots more information about George Boole and his wonderful achievements!

Sridhar Dhanapalan: Twitter posts: 2015-10-26 to 2015-11-01

Mon, 2015-11-02 01:27

Steven Hanley: [mtb/events] The Heysen 105 in 2015

Sun, 2015-11-01 11:25

A cool rock feature in the Myponga Conservation Area (fullsize)

I really have been taking a huge break from putting stuff online here. I have still been taking many photos while out doing fun stuff so even if I am not writing much else (I have been sucked into social media I guess) I can still upload the links to the various adventures I have photos and reports from.

The main advantage I find is I at least can easily find the links to refer to without needing to see a directory listing on the website. In this case I headed down to Adelaide to hang out with friends there and also run in the Heysen 105 run. Feeling the need to do another 100km ultra this year and the short holiday in Adelaide helped attract me to this one. Report and photos for my Heysen 105 2015 run are online.

Nice part of the world and I had fun both in the event and hanging out with friends in Adelaide. The coopers brewery tour is also rather excellent.

Linux Australia News

Sun, 2015-11-01 02:26

sthbrx - a POWER technical blog: Docker: Just Stop Using AUFS

Fri, 2015-10-30 15:06

Docker’s default storage driver on most Ubuntu installs is AUFS.

Don’t use it. Use Overlay instead. Here’s why.

First, some background. I’m testing the performance of the basic LAMP stack on POWER. (LAMP is Linux + Apache + MySQL/MariaDB + PHP, by the way.) To do more reliable and repeatable tests, I do my builds and tests in Docker containers. (See my previous post for more info.)

Each test downloads the source of Apache, MariaDB and PHP, and builds them. This should be quick: the POWER8 system I’m building on has 160 hardware threads and 128 GB of memory. But I was finding that it was only just keeping pace with a 2 core Intel VM on BlueMix.

Why? Well, my first point of call was to observe a compilation under top. The header is below.

Over 70% of CPU time is spent in the kernel?! That’s weird. Let’s dig deeper.

My next port of call for analysis of CPU-bound workloads is perf. perf top reports astounding quantities of time in spin-locks:

perf top -g gives us some more information: the time is in system calls. open() and stat() are the key culprits, and we can see a number of file system functions are in play in the call-chains of the spinlocks.

Why are open and stat slow? Well, I know that the files are on an AUFS mount. (docker info will tell you what you’re using if you’re not sure.) So, being something of a kernel hacker, I set out to find out why. This did not go well. AUFS isn’t upstream, it’s a separate patch set. Distros have been trying to deprecate it for years. Indeed, RHEL doesn’t ship it. (To it’s credit, Docker seems to be trying to move away from it.)

Wanting to avoid the minor nightmare that is an out-of-tree patchset, I looked at other storage drivers for Docker. This presentation is particularly good. My choices are pretty simple: AUFS, btrfs, device-mapper or Overlay. Overlay was an obvious choice: it doesn’t need me to set up device mapper on a cloud VM, or reformat things as btrfs.

It’s also easy to set up on Ubuntu:

  • export/save any docker containers you care about.

  • add --storage-driver=overlay option to DOCKER_OPTS in /etc/default/docker, and restart docker (service docker restart)

  • import/load the containters you exported

  • verify that things work, then clear away your old storage directory (/var/lib/docker/aufs).

Having moved my base container across, I set off another build.

The first thing I noticed is that images are much slower to create with Overlay. But once that finishes, and a compile starts, things run much better:

The compiles went from taking painfully long to astonishingly fast. Winning.

So in conclusion:

  • If you use Docker for something that involves open()ing or stat()ing files

  • If you want your machine to do real work, rather than spin in spinlocks

  • If you want to use code that’s upstream and thus much better supported

  • If you want something less disruptive than the btrfs or dm storage drivers

…then drop AUFS and switch to Overlay today.

James Purser: Do you suffer from rage watching?

Fri, 2015-10-30 13:30

There is a terrible ailment sweeping the land. Sufferers find themselves compelled to watch, listen, read or generally consume media output that causes high blood pressure, anger and a desperate, overwhelming urge to tweet about how much they truly loathe the media thing they are consuming.

Rage watching.

There seems to be spikes of Rage Watching specifically around Monday nights at 9:30pm with smaller occurances occuring on Sunday mornings (replays on Sunday afternoons). More recently there has been an uptick of Rage Watching on Wednesday nights by people who feel it absolutely necessary to tell the world exactly how bad the ABC show "Kitchen Cabinet" is for either a) Having  an evil person on as a guest or b) Not spending 22 minutes using Kitchin impliments to torture said evil person into confessing they are indeed an evil person and will do better from now on.

Why? Why do you watch these programmes if you know they're going to be terrible? You already know that you're not going to like either the show, or the person being interviewed, or in the case of the Bolt Report everything about it.

Instead be calm, turn off the tv, or switch on Netflix and binge watch your way through a series. Save your rage for when it is actually useful.

Blog Catagories: media

Sam Watkins: sswam

Thu, 2015-10-29 20:30

I wrote a simple program ramp-io, based on the redshift code, to read and write the xrandr gamma ramps for Linux / X11.  This enables me to define my own gamma ramps, and switch ramps quickly from the command line.  My preferred ramp is red-inv, dim inverse video with a low colour temperature (more red, less blue), and I set the LCD hardware brightness to maximum to reduce LED PWM flicker.  I find this is relatively easy on the eyes for work, compared to the normal glaring white backgrounds.

Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) Announce: LUV Main November 2015 Meeting: Computer Science and SELinux / Parallel Programming

Thu, 2015-10-29 12:29
Start: Nov 4 2015 18:30 End: Nov 4 2015 20:30 Start: Nov 4 2015 18:30 End: Nov 4 2015 20:30 Location: 

6th Floor, 200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053


Please note that due to the Melbourne Cup this month's meeting is on Wednesday


• Russell Coker, Computer Science and SELinux

• Lev Lafayette, Parallel Programming

200 Victoria St. Carlton VIC 3053 (formerly the EPA building)

Late arrivals, please call (0490) 049 589 for access to the venue.

Before and/or after each meeting those who are interested are welcome to join other members for dinner. We are open to suggestions for a good place to eat near our venue. Maria's on Peel Street in North Melbourne is currently the most popular place to eat after meetings.

LUV would like to acknowledge Red Hat for their help in obtaining the venue and VPAC for hosting.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc. is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

November 4, 2015 - 18:30

read more

Binh Nguyen: Defense Podcasts, MH17 Background, JSF Break-In, JSON Parsing, and More

Wed, 2015-10-28 20:00
- if you're interested in defense, intelligence, or geo-politics in general these soundcasts may be of interest to you. Obviously, they're US/Allied focused but they cover a wide range of affairs that face these areas. I may go through other countries at another time...[]=817

- if you've been watching the media lately you'll have realised that Russian seperatists seemed to have been implicated in the MH17 downing. If you actually go through all of the evidence (especially the hard evidence that is hard to fake. If you listen to any one side you can easily get caught up in their perspective and miss a few things) though things don't seem that clear cut and there are a lot of people who seem to be withholding (often crucial such as RADAR records, ability to access the crash site, debris/fragments from the site, etc...) evidence for some strange reason (or just missing some things which should be obvious?). Moreover, all parties involved have had a history of fabricating evidence (I wouldn't put it past Ukrainian or Russian forces planting evidence on the crash site) so I wouldn't necessarily believe whatever is finally said. Some theories have included: it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Russian justification for invasion of Ukraine, it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Ukraine justification for action against Russia, Ukraine air force operation which went extremely bad but actually does a good explanation of why the debris has such variability with regards to damage, it was a plain accident (with a lot of silliness involved all round), possible targeted assisination of Putin himself as his plane was in area at the time (about 100-200 km) and since his plane has similar markings it MH17 which could have meant it was mis-identified. Either way, if you go through the history of all parties you'll realise that all have a credibility problem...

Dutch Safety Board MH17 final report (FULL VIDEO)

Dutch Safety Board simulates MH17 being hit by BUK missile

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern on Who Shot Down Flight MH17 And Iran Nuclear Deal.

'MH17 crash' test simulation video: Il-86 plane cockpit hit with BUK missile

MH-17 - The Untold Story 

Flight MH17: Russia and its changing story

- the Russians state that type of missile isn't used by Russian forces, the pattern on the fuesalage doesn't completely replciate the same one as one that was later tested in one of the videos above (though some of this can be put down to the difference between a static and moving aircraft). Moreover, there while there was a supposed siting of a BUK SAM system in the area in question I'm wondering whether there haven't been more people who have come forward of evidence of before and after videos of it launching a rocket at MH17? Surely, with such a massive contrail heaps more people would have come forward with evidence indicating what was happening. Not ruling out the possibility some elements of government may have gotten involved here though to hush people up or that others were paid to tell a 'version of the truth'...

Flight MH17: searching for the truth

- either way, I doubt that we'll ever know the 'complete truth'. There will be some form of cover up because it feels like they either know what happened (and the truth is ugly) or they don't know and those who are guilty are with holding evidence. The problem is that everyone seems to be doing this to some extent so it is possible that 'a deal' may have been reached behind the scenes. My guess is that a lot of people simply stuffed up and they're partly trying to figure out the best way of apportioning blame...

- if you follow the defense/intelligence space you'll have noticed some strange happenings with regards to the JSF project. Apparently, they said that 50TB was stolen a while back but later they've said it was just ALIS and that it was just non-classified information (if you think that US intelligence/security is generally better think again. Look through enough background and you'll find that they are subject to the same limitations, problems, etc... that are faced by every other organisation. There have been some bizarre penetrations of even 'classified networks'...). Either way, I'd be very interested to know how much technology they've stolen, purchased, bribed from certain officials (based on what I've heard 'incentives' have been between 4-7 figures for information regarding stealth technologies and they've been able to procure quite a lot including information about RAM coatings, AESA RADAR, EOTS, DAS, avionics, engine design, etc...)(even with the downing of and purchase of some aircraft I'm guessing they've gained access to at least some AESA RADAR, EOTS, RAM coating, and engine technology?) and how much they've reverse engineered or is entirely native? Look at the design of some of their new stealth aircraft and some aspects seem incredibly crude... The other thing I'm curious about is if it was 50TB of genuine design material how much would Western design efforts of the JSF going to be thrown off?  Would they have to re-design or is the core system good enough? This is much like the question of security of obscurity (closed versus open source security) if you know anything about cybersecurity. Even if the stolen material was honeypot/honeynet material it has to be convincing enough to throw Chinese research off... which means it's still decent (possibly old?)...

China’s new counter-stealth radar JY-26

How China Steals U.S. Military Secrets 

Next Big Thing: China’s Aviation to Develop Long-Range Strike Bomber

Military Marvel: China Ready to Test Asia’s Largest Warship

- if you have to program regularly, you you have to read some pretty 'human unreadable' stuff at times. Some links regarding possible JSON parsers

echo '{"test":1,"test2":2}' | python -mjson.tool

Pandas are actually quite funny and peculiar animals if you read up about them...

Cute Alert!Clingy pandas don’t want to take their medicine

Clingy panda do not let zookeeper go

So Cute! Panda asks for hug to get down from tree!

Cute alert! Four baby pandas playing with zookeeper

Pandas addicted to hugging

Cute pandas playing on the slide

Some interesting quotes in the recent media:-“We’ve tried intervention and putting  down troops in Iraq,” he said. “We’ve tried invention without putting in troops in Libya. And we’ve tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria. It’s not clear to me that even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better.”

-“Whenever I’m asked this, I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said. “Because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. So I can apologize for that. I can also apologize, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

-"Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an address last week.

- The United States remains the most powerful nation on earth. Yet from the immediate aftermath of the heady days of 1991 to the present, nations great and small have shown themselves unimpressed by or impervious to U.S. might. To the astonishment of many Americans, the United States, for all its power and its good intentions, has frequently failed in its efforts to lead the world, enforce its preferences or impose its will.

International relations scholars have long understood the fallacy of assuming that power routinely if not automatically provides the wherewithal to get others to do as one wishes. And yet there remains, among statesmen, politicians, policy analysts and the broader public—to say nothing of presidential candidates—an easy assumption of a correlation between a country’s overall power and its ability to persuade, entice, bribe or compel other countries to do its bidding, if not all the time, then at least when the stakes for the powerful country are sufficiently high.

- Atmar warns, "The symbiotic network of terrorists that we are confronted with is going to be a threat to every country in this region and by extension the whole world."

Obama has for years boasted of rendering al-Qaida toothless, but Atmar points out the U.S. withdrawal has reinvigorated the group founded by Osama bin Laden.

He also noted IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new role in choosing Taliban leaders, with the new caliphate in Iraq and Syria "commanding and controlling," "financing" and even providing the Taliban with a new strategy. "We have no doubt about that," Atmar said.

Facing an existential threat, you turn to those on whom you can depend. Right now, sadly, Putin is a better bet for Afghans than America.

- It’s all a lot to take in, and makes one wonder what G.D.P. really stands for: Generally Disorienting Predictions? Guesses Done Poorly?

“G.D.P. is accounting science built to supply a need to understand an economy’s direction,” said Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research. “Is there more art than science? In terms of filling in all the numbers where the answers are imputed rather than measured, the answer is yes.”

And imputed values, he added, are becoming more important as the service sector grows, while in developing nations, accurate measurement is more difficult for a variety of reasons.

Pro tip: “Whenever doing cross country G.D.P. comparisons, I have always used I.M.F. data,” Mr. Blitz said. “They scrub the data and reset so concepts are the same from country to country.” Point taken.

- In 1999, Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al Shaalan allegedly smuggled two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to France. Now believed to be living under legal shelter in Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef was accused by France of using his diplomatic status to sneak the drugs onto a jet belonging to the Saudi royal family. He managed to escape his sentencing and was convicted in absentia in 2007. The United States also indicted him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. 

In 2010, a leaked WikiLeaks cable described a royal underground party scene in Jeddah that was “thriving and throbbing” because Saudi officials looked the other way. The dispatch described a Halloween party, funded in part by a prince from the Al Thunayan family, where more than 150 young men and women dressed in costumes and slogged expensive alcohol, which is sold only on the black market in Saudi Arabia. “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles,” the cable read.

The harsh punishments for violations of Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of sharia law tend not to apply to the some 15,000 princes and princesses who belong to the royal House of Saud. But that hasn’t stopped Riyadh from pursuing executions of foreigners and non-royal citizens accused of less egregious violations of the country’s drug laws.

- "What happens in Afghanistan really does have an impact on what happens over here," Sopko says. "Heroin use is on the rise in the U.S., and although the DEA says that most of the heroin here originates from South America, some still comes from Afghanistan. Our European allies have told me time and again their concerns about the amount of Afghan heroin reaching Europe. Heroin use is a problem in Canada, and 90 percent of Canada's heroin comes from Afghanistan." The Iraqi government has become increasingly suspicious of the US’ lack of real commitment in fighting ISIS. On the other hand, Russian strikes have thus far been so effective against ISIS that the Iraqi government has asked Russia to take on a bigger role against ISIS, than the US.

Russia has in turn signaled that it may start bombing ISIS in Iraq as well as Syria, with the permission of the Iraqi government. Unlike the US, Russia has not broken international law and has sought permission to enter Iraq and Syria from each respective state’s legitimate government.

With these actions Russia has called the US’s bluff on fighting ISIS, and is effectively forcing the US to do a better job of convincing the Iraqi government that it is truly fighting ISIS. If Russia does enter Iraqi airspace, it will more easily cross into Syrian airspace to provide supplies to the Syrian government, since the US has bullied many countries in the region to close their airspace to Russian aircrafts. Furthermore, if Iraq asks Russia to intervene it is a scenario that would reverse any of the influence the US had gained in Iraq, throughout its lengthy occupation of the country since 2003.

The US has been backed into a corner and in doing so, has exposed itself and its allies as the source of terrorism, not champions truly fighting it. Terrorism has always been a means by which the US has sought to deconstruct Russian spheres of influences. Ironically over the last decade it has also simultaneously perpetuated the myth that it is actually fighting a war against terror. However as its allied states grow increasingly tired of this game, how long can the US continue to juggle this duplicity, before the entire deck of cards crumbles?

- Financially, the war economy has largely replaced formal economic life. Incomes are increasingly conflict-dependent, whether it is through smuggling, selling weapons, kidnapping, even distributing aid. You can buy or rent a checkpoint for the day or for an hour. Hezbollah, for one, profits through control of checkpoints. Border control by armed groups is hugely lucrative. Fruitful earnings are made from forged documents such as passports and ID cards. The Syrian regime benefits from and encourages this trade, especially if it means opponents can flee abroad.

- “Iran’s nuclear problem has been solved. From Iran, there is no threat and there never had been,” Mr. Putin said. “The only reason that was used by U.S.—to start building the Missile Defense Shield—disappeared. We [Russia] might have expected that a system of MDS development to be halted.”

Mr. Putin believes the United States lied to Russia and the world on the threat of nuclear danger coming from Iran.

“Some days ago, the first tests of USA’s MDS were conducted in Europe. What does that mean? It means that when we were arguing with our American partners we were right. Russia was right from the beginning that the American Missile Defense Shield program was being developed with the goal to destroy strategic balance and to have a way to dictate her power to everyone. They were trying to deceive us, and the whole world, once again. And, to put it simply, we were lied to.”

- To the notion of America helping the “moderate opposition” in Syria, Mr. Putin responded that the division of “moderate” and “non-moderate” leads to the empowerment of Islamic terrorists.

“We shouldn’t play with words here and divide the terrorists into moderate and non-moderate,” Mr. Putin said. “The difference, according to the ‘specialists’ [a jab to the Obama advisors], seems to be that ‘moderate’ bandits behead people softly.”

- A trio of young Muslim women have been conning ISIS by setting up fake social media accounts and getting the terror group to send them money to travel to Syria to become jihadi brides, according to police.

Once the terror group wired funds to the con artists, from Chechnya, they allegedly deleted the accounts and pocketed the money.

ISIS uses social media to encourage men and women to travel to the lands controlled by ISIS to become fighters and jihadi brides. The Republic of Chechnya is a federal subject of Russia and mainly Muslim.

Now the trio have been detained by Chechen e-crime police for the scam, which has so far netted them more than £2,000, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported.

“I don’t recall any precedent like this one in Chechnya, probably because nobody digs deep enough in that direction,” officer Valery Zolotaryov told the newspaper.

Colin Charles: Sunsetting HPCloud, whom contributed to making MySQL better

Wed, 2015-10-28 10:25

Recently at Percona Live Amsterdam I gave a talk titled Databases in the Hosted Cloud (I’m told I got a 4/5 rating for this talk). It was before AWS re:Invent, so obviously some of the details in the talk have changed. For one, now there is also Amazon RDS for MariaDB. But there has also been other changes, i.e. HP’s Public Cloud (HP Helion Public Cloud) will sunset January 31 2016.

That’s a slide from my deck. I basically have to caution users as to what’s going on in the cloud world when it comes to their databases. And this one slide shows news reports about HP possibly wanting to exit the cloud world back in April 2015. See: HP Comes to Terms With the Cloud, HP: We’re not leaving the public cloud, and of course the HP blog post from Bill Hilf: HP Helion Strategy to Deliver Hybrid IT Continues Strong.

The tune has of course changed in October 2015: A new model to deliver public cloud. I find this to be quite sad considering they were all very gung ho about pushing OpenStack forward several OSCONs ago. I know many people who made this happen (many ex-MySQL’ers went on to HP to work on OpenStack). I can only feel for them. I guess their important work continues in OpenStack as a whole and all this ends up being part of the HP Helion private cloud.

I think its also worth noting the improvements that Percona Server 5.5 received thanks to HPCloud to make it easier to manage in the cloud:

This pretty much leaves only Rackspace Cloud Databases as being a large OpenStack based offering of databases in the public cloud space, doesn’t it?

HPCloud offered 3 Availability Zones (AZs) per region, and had 2 regions — US-East (Virginia) and US-West. It’s worth remembering that US-West was the only place you could use the Relational DB MySQL service. You also got Percona Server 5.5. You enjoyed 50% off pricing while it was in public beta. 

All this is basically over. Here’s wishing the team well, a big thanks to them for helping make MySQL better and in case you’re looking for more articles to read: H-P Winds Down Cloud-Computing Project

Silvia Pfeiffer: My journey to Coviu

Tue, 2015-10-27 21:07

My new startup just released our MVP – this is the story of what got me here.

I love creating new applications that let people do their work better or in a manner that wasn’t possible before.

My first such passion was as a student intern when I built a system for a building and loan association’s monthly customer magazine. The group I worked with was managing their advertiser contacts through a set of paper cards and I wrote a dBase based system (yes, that long ago) that would manage their customer relationships. They loved it – until it got replaced by an SAP system that cost 100 times what I cost them, had really poor UX, and only gave them half the functionality. It was a corporate system with ongoing support, which made all the difference to them.

The story repeated itself with a CRM for my Uncle’s construction company, and with a resume and quotation management system for Accenture right after Uni, both of which I left behind when I decided to go into research.

Even as a PhD student, I never lost sight of challenges that people were facing and wanted to develop technology to overcome problems. The aim of my PhD thesis was to prepare for the oncoming onslaught of audio and video on the Internet (yes, this was 1994!) by developing algorithms to automatically extract and locate information in such files, which would enable users to structure, index and search such content.

Many of the use cases that we explored are now part of products or continue to be challenges: finding music that matches your preferences, identifying music or video pieces e.g. to count ads on the radio or to mark copyright infringement, or the automated creation of video summaries such as trailers.

This continued when I joined the CSIRO in Australia – I was working on segmenting speech into words or talk spurts since that would simplify captioning & subtitling, and on MPEG-7 which was a (slightly over-engineered) standard to structure metadata about audio and video.

In 2001 I had the idea of replicating the Web for videos: i.e. creating hyperlinked and searchable video-only experiences. We called it “Annodex” for annotated and indexed video and it needed full-screen hyperlinked video in browsers – man were we ahead of our time! It was my first step into standards, got several IETF RFCs to my name, and started my involvement with open codecs through Xiph.

Around the time that YouTube was founded in 2006, I founded Vquence – originally a video search company for the Web, but pivoted to a video metadata mining company. Vquence still exists and continues to sell its data to channel partners, but it lacks the user impact that has always driven my work.

As the video element started being developed for HTML5, I had to get involved. I contributed many use cases to the W3C, became a co-editor of the HTML5 spec and focused on video captioning with WebVTT while contracting to Mozilla and later to Google. We made huge progress and today the technology exists to publish video on the Web with captions, making the Web more inclusive for everybody. I contributed code to YouTube and Google Chrome, but was keen to make a bigger impact again.

The opportunity came when a couple of former CSIRO colleagues who now worked for NICTA approached me to get me interested in addressing new use cases for video conferencing in the context of WebRTC. We worked on a kiosk-style solution to service delivery for large service organisations, particularly targeting government. The emerging WebRTC standard posed many technical challenges that we addressed by building , by contributing to the standards, and registering bugs on the browsers.

Fast-forward through the development of a few further custom solutions for customers in health and education and we are starting to see patterns of need emerge. The core learning that we’ve come away with is that to get things done, you have to go beyond “talking heads” in a video call. It’s not just about seeing the other person, but much more about having a shared view of the things that need to be worked on and a shared way of interacting with them. Also, we learnt that the things that are being worked on are quite varied and may include multiple input cameras, digital documents, Web pages, applications, device data, controls, forms.

So we set out to build a solution that would enable productive remote collaboration to take place. It would need to provide an excellent user experience, it would need to be simple to work with, provide for the standard use cases out of the box, yet be architected to be extensible for specialised data sharing needs that we knew some of our customers had. It would need to be usable directly on, but also able to integrate with specialised applications that some of our customers were already using, such as the applications that they spend most of their time in (CRMs, practice management systems, learning management systems, team chat systems). It would need to require our customers to sign up, yet their clients to join a call without sign-up.

Collaboration is a big problem. People are continuing to get more comfortable with technology and are less and less inclined to travel distances just to get a service done. In a country as large as Australia, where 12% of the population lives in rural and remote areas, people may not even be able to travel distances, particularly to receive or provide recurring or specialised services, or to achieve work/life balance. To make the world a global village, we need to be able to work together better remotely.

The need for collaboration is being recognised by specialised Web applications already, such as the LiveShare feature of Invision for Designers, Codassium for pair programming, or the recently announced Dropbox Paper. Few go all the way to video – WebRTC is still regarded as a complicated feature to support.

With Coviu, we’d like to offer a collaboration feature to every Web app. We now have a Web app that provides a modern and beautifully designed collaboration interface. To enable other Web apps to integrate it, we are now developing an API. Integration may entail customisation of the data sharing part of Coviu – something Coviu has been designed for. How to replicate the data and keep it consistent when people collaborate remotely – that is where Coviu makes a difference.

We have started our journey and have just launched free signup to the Coviu base product, which allows individuals to own their own “room” (i.e. a fixed URL) in which to collaborate with others. A huge shout out goes to everyone in the Coviu team – a pretty amazing group of people – who have turned the app from an idea to reality. You are all awesome!

With Coviu you can share and annotate:

  • images (show your mum photos of your last holidays, or get feedback on an architecture diagram from a customer),
  • pdf files (give a presentation remotely, or walk a customer through a contract),
  • whiteboards (brainstorm with a colleague), and
  • share an application window (watch a YouTube video together, or work through your task list with your colleagues).

All of these are regarded as “shared documents” in Coviu and thus have zooming and annotations features and are listed in a document tray for ease of navigation.

This is just the beginning of how we want to make working together online more productive. Give it a go and let us know what you think.