Monday, March 31, 2008

More Dell Hell

I got my bankcard statement last Friday. It seems that Dell hadn't ever credited my credit card for the returned laptop and battery I returned to them and they received last February 22, 2008. The Returns CSR I spoke with confirmed what I already knew. He has started the process rolling, but he stated that it could be as long as 16 business days before my account is credited. That's essentially three weeks. There was no point screaming at him. He's a front line troop. I probably should have escalated the case at this point, but I've already wasted enough energy on Dell. Hopefully they'll credit the account before the bill is due. It's easy to sell something, but it's harder to take care of a customer when something goes wrong.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Too Expensive to Fail, While Another Canary Dies

I've been unusually tired the last few days. Not sure what that's about. But here's a few items of interest:

The V-22 Osprey's engines are wearing out too soon. The likely culprit is that the air filters aren't removing enough sand and dirt to prevent the compressor blades from wearing out.

Bats in the Northeastern United States are dying and no one knows why. They are flying out of their caves in the dead of winter. They are dying. Maybe they are doing it to save their cave mates. Maybe they don't know why they fly to their deaths. First, the frogs started dying, then the honeybees. Are bats the next canary, the next indicator, of some unseen danger or environmental change? We need bees to pollinate crops. We need bats to eat the insects that eat our crops.

The price of wheat has gone up tenfold due to a global crop failure. Corn is up because ADM is turning it into wasteful biofuel. The price of beef will increase because the price of feed has gone up.

For the first time in U.S. history, the government is bailing out an investment bank and the "shadow banking" industry. An industry set up to evade regulation. If they receive government aid, should they also accept government regulation? What will the taxpayers receive from their charity? Likely nothing. If it's wrong to bail out the borrowers, then why are we bailing out the lenders?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Tragedy of the Commons

The monarch butterfly may go the way of the tiger. Of course, butterflies breed more prolifically than tigers, but where will they go for the winter? What will be their epitaph? Here lie the butterfly and tiger, both killed by illegal loggers. We will be poorer when they are gone. It takes billions of years to make a tiger and a butterfly and a few human lifetimes to kill them all.

The Tragedy of the Commons


When the Fake Becomes Real

When does virtual reality become "real"? Sooner or later, the combination of computational power, sensors, and feedback systems will cause a phase transition allowing people to get lost in another world. For now though, while the eye may be fooled, the hand isn't.


The Seductive Delusion of Armed Force as an Extension of Foreign Policy

In peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their sons.

Andrew Bracevich, an International Relations professor at BU, argues that American politicians, and perhaps most Americans themselves, have become seduced by American militarism as an extension of American foreign policy. He believes this to be a reaction to the turmoil of the Sixties and Vietnam, as well as a doctrine established by President Jimmy Carter to protect American oil interests in the Middle East. Carter reluctantly set the ball rolling, and he wanted Americans to become energy independent and free from the Middle East quagmire. Americans didn't want a debate and we liked cheap oil, so we elected Reagan rather than Carter, and we've been protecting our interests in the Middle East ever since and subsidizing oil prices through military intervention. If people will recall, even Clinton intervened in other countries militarily. This also explains why the Democrats have not challenged American foreign policy and started pulling troops out of Iraq. Here's another reason, jobs/pork. Unfortunately, for Bracevich, American foreign policy has become much more personal. He buried his 27 year old son last year who was killed serving in Iraq. Bracevich serves us by reminding us of the Prussian military genius and visionary Carl von Clauswitz's dictum that war is an extension of politics.

Bracevich may be a visionary in his own right. I wonder if he is the Samuel Huntington or Clauswitz of his generation. His warnings of the danger of going down this path may prove prophetic. William Fallon, the current Centcom Chief, has resigned. He opposed getting into a war with Iran. It appears that the neocons never liked his appointment in the first place. The cynic in me says that oil will likely hit $150-200 per barrel before Bush is out of office. He's got to protect his Sunni friends from the big bad Persians, and Cheney has to protect Halliburton. It doesn't matter that the divisions and problems within Iraq are internal rather than external. The four groups vying for power in Iraq don't wish to share power. They don't want to be or emulate Americans. They are different from Persians who do wish to emulate Americans, but now they can't, because of a restrictive religious oligarchy.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

F-117 to be Retired

The US Air Force is retiring the F-117 Stealth fighter after 27 years. Chances are that they are getting too expensive to maintain. Yet, their replacement, the F-22, is expensive just to buy, let alone maintain. They will be mothballed in Nevada instead of Davis-Monthan AFB. The Air Force didn't get near the work out of them they got out of the SR-71s. I wonder what the ROI is for this black program.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

MBR Rootkit and Other Interesting Toys

F-Secure describes a new rootkit that replaces the MBR on Windows systems. This allows the malware to load before the operating system does on your computer. Game over! The malware seems to be targeting banking software because that's where the money is. The rootkit was also professionally written.

Cult of the Dead Cow released their Goolag scanner last week. I haven't played with it personally. It sounds and looks neat, but I can't afford to download CDC software and hope that they didn't install a backdoor or some such. Perhaps later when I have a virtual XP machine reconfigured.

Core Security found a way for a VMware guest operating system to break out using the shared folder between the host OS and the guest OS. Oops! It appears VMware has known about it for a while now. Never a dull day in IT Security.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Dumb Headlines

This CNN article is absurd. For one thing, it's in China's interest to steal technology and military secrets, and if you can obtain them from over the Internet, which is the cheapest way to do it, than why not? For another thing, they aren't buying more nukes, they are making more nukes and it costs money to do that. Why? Who knows. Perhaps they are insecure and feel that they need better weapons to defend themselves and their interests. What this amounts to is fear mongering by the Pentagon to keep or increase its budget. Well, if all the taxpayers are having to tighten their belts because they are tapped out, then maybe it's time for the Pentagon to act more like the Marines. The Marines usually have to make do with what they have. They usually don't get to build fancy new weapons systems from scratch (except for the Osprey and their new amphibious vehicle). We are going broke just like Russia did several years ago because our wealthy class don't wish to pay their taxes while the middle and lower classes practically can't pay any more taxes and survive. Unfortunately, the lower and middle classes will be paying yet more taxes. It's inevitable. The Bush Administration has borrowed and borrowed and borrowed for its spending spree. More than all the homeowners combined. There is no more credit for the average person or the government. The government can make more credit by selling bonds, if any one will buy them that is. Everyone will have to live within their means.


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