The Old Coot Network

The Old Coot Network is different from the Old Boy Network in several ways – and is probably similar to the relationship between the Old Dear Network and the Old Girl Network. I’m not sure if the differences are based upon nationality  but I’ll bet they have something to do with class.

Old Boys and Old Girls are traditionally former classmates at a private school. The Old Coots and Old Dears are from further down the market. But it does not stop them from being equally useful.

Take this week – I was concerned about the health and safety of this computer and called at the local Apple store to discuss it. I was handed from the greeter to a very attractive young woman with startling eyelashes and given time to ask my questions…but was immediately assured that they were groundless fears and that I really should toddle off. To help me toddle I was given the telephone number of the Apple Care help desk.

My net investigations then suggested that the Apple Care desk probably wouldn’t – at least not until I paid them some undetermined fee.

So it was on to the Old Coot Network – the people in my former trade that actually deal in and with Apple products for photographers’ use. They were more than happy to discuss my worries and to provide guidance toward a couple of anti-virus and anti-malware programs – the same ones they use for their photographic business. I came home, did as I was bid, and finally got the reassurance that all was well.

I am now curious to see whether it was beyond the policy of the Apple store to make the same recommendation or to tell me of their own, similar, product. I shall call at another store in their chain before I make any further judgement.

 

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Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

” Fix Not That Which Doth Not Need It “

” For verily, I say unto thee, that thou wilt be sorry. That which hath not been put asunder up until now need not be fiddled with.  For lo – things will shoot out of the inside of the mechanism and roll under the fridge and thou shalt curse the heavens.”

Oh if only I had heeded the holy text. I would not have attempted to cure the floor lamp of its permanent lean and I would not have destroyed it in the process. We would still have light, if at an angle. Now we have an even and oppressive darkness in the corner…and the prospect of an equally oppressive journey to the furniture shop to get another lamp.

It was not an expensive thing…and the internal construction of it was in keeping with this. The lean was caused by the base crumbling, and really there was no cure possible…but it could have kept on leaning for months had I not commenced treatment. It was well enough and needed a dose of leaving alone.

I shall take the hint. There are a number of little things that have been niggling at me around the house and shop. I will look very closely at them now and see if they really do need human intervention, or whether they are just a natural feature of the landscape…

Postscript: The lamp was replaced by a similar item from IKEA – to my immense satisfaction. But I am still not going to attempt to retile the sofa myself…

 

The Little World – Change Your Focus

If you are a Little World builder you probably have a favourite scale you work in – and if you’re lucky you have a clear vision of a project for it. You might even be one of those super individuals who has a whole chain of work in their mind and who will progress to a logical and successful finish.

Or you might approach your work haphazardly – the most organisation that you can manage is finding the paint brushes before the cat does.

Whichever you are, consider doing your imagination and skills a favour by letting your focus soften for a bit – specifically, change your scale or type of building every once in a while. You’ll benefit from it:

a. You will see the normal work you do in the wider picture of things. If you make cars and decide to make a building, you have a building that relates to cars. If you make ships and build a plane, you now have a whole new palette of colour to work with.

b. Your eyes will change. They’ll change physically with time – rarely getting better – and they’ll change focus as you get interested in new projects. See big, then see small, and you’ll see better when you go back to big.

c. New scales or genres bring you into contact with new manufacturers, new tools, new materials. Everything you learn in one scale you can turn to profit in another.

d. A change in your focus will bring you into contact with new people, too. And that means new ideas. Some will not be good ideas, but that is what you get in any case with normal life. But listen to everybody and look at everything – there is bound to be something useful  about everyone else’s Little World.

e. New scale or new category means new publications, new web sites, new illustrations on Google.

f. If, in spite of it being the most wonderful type of modelling in the world, you find yourself bored with what you are doing…do something different. Go out and deliberately find a new thing to tackle – even if it is not absolutely riveting, it will relieve your ennui long enough to restart your original engine.

g. You might be good at the new thing. Maybe even really good. I’m looking at three trophies on the shelf right now that I never thought I could win.  For a guy who never got one as a kid and never succeeded with radio control boats, it is heartening.

 

Wreckticulation

A visit with a friend and a discussion of the affairs of his strata-title house left me convinced of something: we have all been sold a pup.

He was saying that the corporate body that controls his premises is at their wit’s end over the control mechanisms for the water reticulation system that feeds their gardens. Apparently when it was put in, the diagram of where several key components were placed went missing, and now a couple of these have either failed or gone intermittent. They don’t know where to find them.

There is a search afoot with a firm that might have drawn up the original plans…but my friend is still waiting for an answer to his enquiries.

It’s the same with the retic system here at my house. It was put in by one of the largest firms in the business here in Perth, and works to a certain extent, but regularly fails nearly every year just when needed. Either it’s a solenoid that needs replacement or a water control valve, stem, sprayer, wire, etc. It seems to be a Burns and Dutton job.

Yet another friend in a northern suburb spent a poisonous week trying to find the components of a retic system at his new house so that he could remove it. Even that was nigh on impossible  – eventually done but at the expense of a complaint to the council by his neighbours over the sort of language that was coming out of the hole in the front lawn.

Are we at the mercy of sadists or madmen? Is the equipment so under-engineered as to fail despite the fact that we cannot normally touch it? Is it all a plot to make a fortune on service calls?

I long for the good old days of a Wavemaster sprinkler out the front lawn. You had to place it and move it a couple of times each watering day…but as we’ve been restricted in the last few years to only two days a week, this can’t be too much of a task. And there are no service calls. The only thing that ever failed was the hose, and that lasted six years.

The Drones – Part Four – The Right To Self Defence

Pshaw!

What right? You hardly have it if you are attacked by robbers or murderers – if the cops can punish you for protecting yourself in your own home, how do you hope to establish a right to do it when pestered by someone flying a drone?

Still, if there are no legal means to protect yourself from surveillance, intrusion, and harm that at least clarifies the situation somewhat, what? What?

a. The drone has to start from somewhere, and the programs that control a lot of their flight have provisions to return the thing to the point where it took off from. Whether this is done by memory or GPS I don’t know, but I have seen it in operation and I know it is not dependant upon a lot of light. The drone can pitch off and return in semi-darkness.

There are lights on the drones that are put there to aid the flyer orientate themselves – if they are turned on they can also help the drone-hunter to follow the aircraft back to base. In most cases this will be very close to the pilot flying it.

b. Attacking people is illegal. To do it legally you need to be a member of the Police Service or the armed forces in receipt of a legitimate order through the proper chain of command. Most people will not be in this situation.

Attacking drones is also illegal, but on a lower scale of offence. If you are going to baseball bat something, bat the drone. It’s still wrong, but it’ll play better in front of the magistrate.

c. Attacking the drone while it is in the air over your property is also probably illegal – ( Hell, everything is illegal in Australia ) – but particularly illegal if you discharge a firearm at it. Resist the temptation to loose off with the 12 gauge.

You may reflect, however, that ancient and medieval people shot fowls out of the air by various means long before gunpowder was invented. There are illustrations in textbooks of the methods which they adopted – and in many cases they were quite quiet affairs. I should avoid crossbows for legal reasons.

Side note: the Swiss or French police seem to be training birds of prey to attack drones to protect sensitive installations. They are, of course, free within their own countries to do as they see fit.

d. The drone flies on a radio signal from the controller. Interfere with this signal and the drone reverts to that return-to-base mode.

e. Drone flyers who use them to spy do so for a number of reasons, but the chief one is that they are smartarses. This character trait invariably means that they are also going to give themselves away by bragging locally or by posting their feats on the internet… Capitalise upon this flaw – make careful enquiries and keep diligent watch. You will eventually find them.

Smartarses also offend repeatedly – because it boosts their ego to bully and menace. If you’ve been pestered once, prepare for the next incursion in whatever way you feel best, knowing that your vigilance will be rewarded.

f. Drones do not fly forever. Their propellers break and their batteries lose capacity and their radio systems go out of tune. This will remove some of them from the scene quickly, and the cost of replacement will mean that they do not return. The expensive ones will require repair too, and here is where you enter the system. Make contact with the repair facility and pay for the names and addresses of their clients. Pay well – information is valuable.

 

The Drones – Part One – Hovering For All

I noted a passing reference on Facebook to laws restricting drone operation here in Australia for private operators. I’m not going to say the Facebook posting was sensational and inaccurate – because that sort of thing would be hard to believe of Facebook… but it certainly did stir up a conversation about drone flying. The conversation went on to include other uses of surveillance cameras in our lives.

I have only encountered drones on two or three occasions – in all cases being used for recreational purposes and seemingly being operated in a safe and responsible manner. They seemed harmless enough, and the users kept them away from people as they hovered in the air. One was just a chap playing with it to see if he could fly it, and the other two were utilising onboard cameras to film a crowd at a hot rod show and the Perth skyline at dusk.

The only intrusive part of them was a constant buzz or whir, and even that was much less than a motorbike or lawn mower. I was impressed with the ability of the drone to return unaided to the point from which it was launched. I felt no sense of menace from any of the machines.

But then, I was not sunbaking nude on the Perth foreshore, growing drugs in my back garden, or erecting an illegal shed in defiance of the local council, so I had no undercurrent of guilt to worry me. I also had no sense of political grievance or jealousy in operation. There was more a sense of wonder at the sophistication of the R/C flying – in particular as much of it seemed to be automatic.

But there is a darker side – which I’ll canvass tomorrow. Charge your LiPo cells and stay tuned.