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Droning on again! December 26, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Everything Else, Global Industry, New Rules and Compliance, Political Issues, Rants, Technologies, The Fun Stuff.
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ARDrone

I guess I could be classed as a drone early adopter of sorts with a trusty 4 year old Parrot AR Drone. I am somewhat dismayed that the FAA demands I now need to register it! It doesn’t weigh very much, nor fly very high nor even get out much but it does exceed the paltry 250 gram weight.
Being a responsible and law-abiding adult I decided I had better respond to the FAA drone-user nagging by visiting the FAA drone registration site and send them my $5 :
So what’s the big deal?    You first have to set up an ID which should be simple but of course there are unnaturally complex password requirements. You are informed that you cannot proceed with drone registration until your identity has been verified by a web link that has just been sent to you by email. Of course hour after hour go by with no incoming email from the system. You cannot log on again as your verification remains in a pending state, I send a help request to the supplied usahelp@faa.gov contact. Many more hours pass with no response or verification email!
Eventually (later the next day) I see the FAA mail has finally arrived. I click on the supplied link and I get a 404 “not found” error! I try again an hour later with the same result, I send another Email to usahelp but once again receive no response. Many hours later the site finally appears operational and I can register my drone. I was hoping to pay via something other than a credit card (Amazon, Paypal, BitCoin etc). Certainly of concern would be the need for trusting a historically porous government entity such as the FAA with my credit card information!! But given no alternative, I am forced to supply my credit card details (perhaps I should place a bet on how long before the FAA manages to leak their customer details?)!

DroneLALAFinally I receive a printable certificate to stick on my box and I can write my FAA registration on my Parrot drone! In fact if I buy another drone perhaps I don’t need to register that, simply use the same registration number hmmm? Well the chances of me flying more than one drone at a time is unlikely to say the least.

DroneLALA2
But why do I need to register this at all? Just how dangerous is my drone – or is it more about who is actually using the drone, the where and how?  Or is it just another media fueled paranoia piece of legislation latched onto by a government department keen to elevate its own sense of importance by adding yet more “care-bear” bureaucracy that comes with a whole department of taxpayer supported employees?

bigkite
If we are registering drones why don’t we register big kites? I see 7-10 ft wide kites being sold that come with 1000 to 3000 or more feet of line! They seem to be potentially more dangerous and can also be fitted with cameras. We don’t even register guns for heaven’s sake and don’t get me started on the dangers there.
On the positive side, it is only costing $5 for every 3 years and the $5 is being rebated (though I will believe it when I see the rebate appear in my statement).  I do get a “Certificate” which makes my little drone seem just that bit more “official” than it did.
On the concern side, yet another massive, notoriously porous, allegedly incompetent and insecure government department is being needlessly inflated. The FAA itself has become a juicier target with the millions of new drone-owner identities and credit card details for harvesting and exploitation by nefarious individuals 
Sorry for droning on!!!

Net Neutrality – A presidential U-Turn? November 11, 2014

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry, Political Issues, Rants, Social State.
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NNewt*sigh* Too little too late perhaps? I hear all of the Comcast, Verizon and AT&T execs crying foul over this supposed U-Turn. It seems that now we have a president unfettered by the mountain of promises needed to get elected and able to say what he really thinks! Of course, it will make way for 2016 presidential candidates to “disagree” with a now unpopular leader and enable new cable company supporting politicians to line their campaign pockets with the vast trove of funding to decry the misguided neutrality musings of the former president!

I like the chart with the Netflix shakedown, Comcast (and to some extent Verizon/AT&T for that matter) is all about squeezing maximum profit so they can spend  what appears to be 90% of it on marketing, lobbying, lawsuits, civic “incentives” to help block private and community cable or communications initiatives and of course a large pot of money to buy up any of the smaller competition and supplemental organizations. Comcast doesn’t actually need to block access only neglect to add upgraded connections where customer streaming services like Netflix add burden. It can then shake-down those service providers to pay to accelerate the process. “XFINITY” marketing suggests is all about giving the customer fast access to the services they desire – yet their actions are completely counter to that!!!

Now we have a huge presidential support for Net Neutrality! Throwing all of his old-buddy election campaign backers under the bus now he no longer has a future presidential bid to worry about funding! Plus the chances of any future Democratic candidates seeking Obama endorsement are unlikely – OTOH I’m sure the cable guys will be only too happy to help them if they can oppose this Net Neutrality stance.

We have the appointment of the former pro-cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler as the chairman of the FCC. presidential golfing buddies – Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts, campaign bundle specialist David Cohen Exec VP at Comcast who was a staunch supporter and massive fund-raiser for the Obama campaign with some really compelling Comcast promises including grand statements around “internet for the poor”. (How extensive was this and where did that actually end up)? No wonder all these folks are now crying foul – but I guess this is politics 101 when you no longer need the money from those former “buddies” toss them under a bus!

http://deadline.com/2014/11/comcast-responds-obama-net-neutrality-1201280353/

http://www.phillymag.com/articles/david-l-cohen-profile-david-l-explained/

Once again the end-consumer is going to be the one ultimately paying for this with increasing charges, no improvement and possible degradation in services!

Sans-Helmet? The healthier bicycle option! November 9, 2012

Posted by wastedspacer in Everything Else, Global Industry, The Fun Stuff.
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Look ma -no helmets!

I’m certainly an advocate for bicycle safety and I almost never ride without a helmet but I can see how tourists and business travelers who might consider renting one simply don’t want to pack a bulky “skid lid”.

Here’s an interesting article in the NY Times claiming significant overall public health advantages associated with public bicycle schemes supporting “helmetlessness“!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/sunday-review/to-encourage-biking-cities-forget-about-helmets.html

There are a number of public bike schemes (Australia, New Zealand, Mexico) that have had notably poor bike-rental ridership or even completely failed mostly due to each country’s bicycle helmet mandates. This trend is however seeing some reversals such as where Mexico City repealed it’s helmet law following sizable public opposition.

http://www.cycle-helmets.com/bike-hire-schemes.html

If you are in London and it’s not raining, try the “Boris Bikes” they cost two pounds a day or 10 pounds a week.

…. next time I get to Paris – will be sure to give Vélib’ a go it’s quite a bit cheaper – 7 days of occasional bike use for 8 Euros 🙂

https://aboen-paris.cyclocity.fr/subscribe/details

Serious Security Threat or Marketing Ploy? – WSJ “Night Dragon” February 10, 2011

Posted by wastedspacer in 1, Global Industry, IT Security, Notable Incidents, Political Issues, Rants, Spam, SPIM and other annoyances, Technologies.
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According to a report from the Wall Street Journal – on “Night Dragon” attacks:
Oil Firms Hit by Hackers From China, Report Says

How convenient for something like this to turn up the week before RSA! Seemed like an important headline and I suspect some additional news coverage could have been imminent given there was even a scrolling ticker about this on a couple of the local TV News channels this morning. Unfortunately for whoever thought this was a perfect time to disclose they got usurped by the Egypt breaking news alerts!

The McAfee PDF report is an interesting enough study however, there appears to be a number of shortcomings in the analysis, far too much circumstantial intelligence and many disclaimers of actual allegations. Furthermore “Night Dragon” is merely McAfee’s selected report moniker for their particular identification of a threat-bundle. Symantec, Microsoft, Trend, Sophos may select the same individual threats but call them different names and may not pull them together into a creative study such as McAfee sponsored. A couple of virus definitions are highlighted identifying known threats several months ago from May and August 2010.

I’m always skeptical when a security products company does a periodic security driven “the sky is falling” in-depth analysis. There may indeed be some bread crumbs of significance, my main concern is that it could just be another thinly disguised “wag the dog” company visibility increase exercise.

My more cynical side suggests that perhaps this is an effective security company marketing strategy that undertakes a “scientific” study around high-visibility targets, periodically wave a headline comprised of: (insert enemy state here) hackers attack (insert newsworthy Western iconic industry here) Gigabytes of data and trade secrets stolen. Then add some vague traffic analysis to show the volume, where it’s going and who’s allegedly controlling it, who knows, maybe some US bank or oil company outpost had been leveraged and was being unwittingly used as a Chinese/Ukrainian managed BitTorrent host for illegal videos? Or is it really corporate sensitive bidding information and active well log data? Without concrete proof in-stream or at the endpoint, any possible botnet C&C and network findings results would show pretty much the same data stream which could allow any security company to allege such a finding without actual proof.

We (or at least corporate executives as the target of this info when escalated to the lofty heights of a WSJ article) certainly appear to fall for it every time and then demand answers around what their internal security experts intend to do about it? Of course in the shadow of “cry wolf” warnings , once in a while there really are dire and present issues that require immediate remedial action so those security experts always have to remain vigilant but circumspect.

Perhaps if we (and apparently the WSJ) are really concerned about threats from “Chinese Hackers”, we should also address the oil industry “best-practice” of off-shoring to low-cost-geographies and perhaps consider that hiring an increasing number of our Western petroleum engineers and geologists from Chinese universities may pose a more insidious threat in the potential espionage space over the long term? We certainly should take security integrity and sustainability in mind when chasing the almighty short-term efficiency and cost savings fuelled drive to top ratings supporting the investors on Wall Street itself.

On a positive side, the WSJ article cited the attack vectors were typically via Microsoft vulnerabilities so companies that take an aggressive stance towards rapidly applying patches to help obviate threats. McAfee and Sophos share threat signatures so in this particular case where the detection was spearheaded by McAfee, at least, customers of these companies may enjoy a slightly better level of immediate protection and thus should benefit from any behind-the-scenes patching that McAfee had put in place to mitigate these threats. I just cant help wonder when Symantec, then Trend, then Kaspersky will see this approach as a “winning” strategy and start spinning their own versions perhaps “Soup Dragon” or “Nuts Dragon” analysis variations?

This seems like an ideal opportunity for security personnel to put in place better detection systems beyond IDS/IPS. Perhaps including honey-pots to at least be in a position to identify the liklihood of actual inside-the-perimeter threat activity. Furthermore, they will be able to consistently state whether they are being actively targeted over time and how frequently. Those metrics could be easily accumulated and used to not only track down current threats but also provide a current state report to executives when these kinds of issues are raised by the media.

In the meantime it’s ok to cry “wolf” (or depending on your security company’s naming convention: “loup”, “mac tíre”, “भेड़िया”, “الذئب”, “lupo”, “úlfur”), CVE goes a little way towards individual definitions but would help if anti-malware security companies got together and agreed upon a common name or at least resolution for a collection of threats from a suspected single source.

Ecuador – Another Chevron Lawsuit proponent disqualified February 9, 2010

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry, Political Issues, Rants.
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It seems there’s no end to the corruption elements involved in trying to pick the deep pockets of Chevron. Now we have one of the engineers supported by the Amazon Defence Coalition who despite previous denials has recently been found to be a significant owner of an eco-remediation company who would benefit significantly should the lawsuit succeed!

http://www.chevron.com/news/press/release/?id=2010-02-09

After a Judge is forced to recuse himelf and other prosecution supporting individuals are under clouds of suspicion – who will be next to get tossed off of the suit.

Ecuador – The plight of Amazon Basin Tribes – as exploited by the media, the government and a bunch of lawyers May 19, 2009

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry.
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In response to the Spambot managed by the heavily financed Amazon Defense Coalition (Anna Kay)

Who truly represents the plight of the indigenous tribes?

This entire issue is about as dirty (physically and emotionally) as it gets! EVERY principal in this toxic discourse seems to have an agenda. Chevron who constantly declare that Texaco had no involvement after 1992 is certainly the prime target but I sense it’s more about the $$s than the true Amazon basin victims or even global warming. Where there is incredible culpability but no $$s (i.e. the Ecuadorian state owned PetroEcuador, to this day continuing to pump crap all over the place with abandon) there is no outcry for action in this case? Where is the concern where the innocent indigenous population is used as agenda-fodder by the media, anti-“big oil” spin doctors, highly compensated lawyers and the Ecuadorian government?

From what I can ascertain, the Ecuadorian government has profited and continues to profit significantly from exploiting those areas where then Texaco and other oil companies (interesting not listed in the lawsuit) no longer operate.

Obviously if $27Bn is awarded in Ecuador who will be the beneficiaries I wonder? I would suspect that it would go something like this: 1) the Ecuadorian Government directly and by way of taxes and other levies, 2) The Amazon Defense Coalition (i.e. a bunch of lawyers expecting to receive a significant percentage of the claim) 3) Media spin-doctoring companies such as Hinton Communications for their tireless effort in maligning Chevron 4) Some of the officials providing supporting evidence as an “appreciation” of their civic duty 5) Finally, if the Ecuadorian government resisted managing ALL of the remaining disbursements and they are lucky, the indigenous tribes will get some leftovers.

I found this Global Voices report much more disturbing, especially the collusion between the above named participants in the lawsuit!

http://www.groundreport.com/Arts_and_Culture/Ecuador-Lawsuit-Against-Oil-Company-for-Environmen

My suspicion is that even if the lawsuit was awarded to the plaintiffs, PetroEcuador will maintain the operations and continue to pollute. The Ecuadorian government may consider using their portion to further invest in other government sponsored ecologically heinous activities such as the Rio Tinto venture in Junin:

http://ecuador-rising.blogspot.com/2009/05/locals-fight-mining-in-ecuadors.html

It’s easy to take the hypocritical high-road. I’m finding it quite a stretch to compare this situation to the Exxon Valdez which at the time was an actively owned and operated vessel of Exxon’s. This would be more like Exxon selling the Valdez to the Ecuadorian Government, and having a lawsuit against Exxon if it sinks 15 years later!

About the only thing I can control is my own consumption, at least I’m doing my part as a bicycle commuter! – Peace Out.

The legal, media and Entertainment professions are the true Evil Empires! May 14, 2009

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Another surprising anti-Chevron shot today, this time from Forbes Magazine: “Amazon Defense Coalition: Chevron Trying to “Greenwash” Polluter Image In Washington Conference…”

http://tinyurl.com/qu72fw

Digging a little deeper – the “article” is in fact written by someone called – Karen Hinton, 703-798-3109 karen@hintoncommunications.com

Hinton Communications identifies its expertise thus:

“Hinton Communication’s innovative, results-oriented message strategies and extensive media contacts regularly generate positive news coverage for clients in the nation’s premier media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, all nightly news networks, CNN, as well as regional and trade media.”

i.e. a media spin doctoring company or in this case a hired Chevron-brand assassin!

I suspect if we were to follow the money, the funding and lobbying for such misinformation originates from the legal team supporting the Amazon Defense Coalition i.e. Kohn Swift and Graf which is providing money to attorney Steven Donziger, who in turn supports the publicity efforts of Amazon Watch/Defense Coalition against Chevron.

The damning words of Donzinger himself fully aware that Chevron is not the real culprit as reported in the SF Sentinel ring true:

“Attorney Steven Donziger said he was looking for a ’sweet spot” in terms of compensation from Chevron, even though PetroEcuador is the real polluter of the Amazon River.
The Wall Street Journal noted that “An alternative explanation (for why Donziger is going after the oil company), as bank robber Willie Sutton might have said, is because Chevron is where the money is.””

The ultimate victim in all of this receiving whatever financial scraps are left over at the far end of a long line of highly compensated legal entities, media relation firms, publicists and the entertainment industry are the very indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin that this coalition claims to support! I would suggest that is not Chevron that should be under the microscope here. In my opinion, this is a truly heinous situation where the American media, the legal profession and publishing companies should collectively hang their heads in shame!

CBS 60 Minutes – anti-“big oil” misinformation :( May 14, 2009

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry.
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In the pursuit of selling a compelling story, I believe that CBS overstepped the mark by a long margin. I realize that “big oil” is an easy target supposedly run by “evil tyrants” and worthy fodder for works of fiction. The errors and omissions in this so-called “news” program are truly heinous in a time where we all should be supporting the honest parts of American industry! There is no question that for the first 6 decades of the 20th century, the environmental responisibility from US oil companies left a little to be desired. At the same time, there was little to no awareness of global envionmental effects in general. Education, scientific breakthroughs, understanding, cooperation, improved regulations, monitoring and a genuine grass-roots employee willingness to focus on the environment have fundamentally changed the face of the US oil industry forever. I would propose that for at least the past 25 years, US Oil companies have in fact, led the way in responsible natural resource management. I would also suggest that Chevron has been at the forefront of that change. I therefore find it totally unacceptable that CBS is so completely bending the rules of what should be balanced reporting and seeming pandering to the misdeeds of what appears to be an unscrupulous group of pocket-lining lawyers seeking massive damages ostensibly for a downtrodden indigenous tribe from Ecuador that the lawyers supposedly represent.

——–Reprint from Chevron News – May 2009 ——————————————-
Editor’s note: reprinted below is the Chevron Company News email that details key omissions from the “60 Minutes” story on the Ecuador lawsuit that aired Sunday, May 3. While the email has generated a number of responses from colleagues around the world, we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section here. You can also share this information with family and friends to help Chevron bring to light the full story – the history and key issues – of this lawsuit.

As expected, the CBS News television program “60 Minutes” aired its story on the Ecuador lawsuit yesterday evening. We were disappointed by the story but not surprised by the direction CBS chose to pursue given the extensive amount of time the “60 Minutes” crew spent with representatives of the plaintiffs.

We have worked long and hard with the staff at “60 Minutes” to convey the facts of the case, as well as some of the most flagrant problems with how the case in Ecuador has been prosecuted. Nonetheless, “60 Minutes” knowingly omitted many important facts. If you are asked by family and friends about the story, here are some key omissions that call into question the integrity of the program’s reporting:

Images are of Petroecuador sites and are not Texaco-remediated sites: The images of oil pits, and oil operations in general, that “60 Minutes” used are of locations that are the sole responsibility of Petroecuador, Texaco Petroleum’s partner from the days of the consortium. “60 Minutes” knew this fact, but chose to ignore it in its reporting.

No responsibility was placed on Petroecuador: Petroecuador has been the sole operator of oil fields in Ecuador since 1992 and has compiled a well-documented record of environmental mismanagement. In addition, Petroecuador has repeatedly stated that it is responsible for the remaining cleanup work that is required in the Ecuadorian Amazon and it readily admits that it has not cleaned up the sites allocated to them under the remediation action plan 15 years ago. Again, “60 Minutes” ignored these facts in its reporting.

$27 billion damage figure is baseless and unsupported by law, facts or science: Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed engineer who made the $27 billion damage recommendation, conducted his analysis with direct support from the plaintiffs’ representatives. Cabrera arrived at the $27 billion figure at the urging of plaintiffs. Chevron provided “60 Minutes” with photos documenting this wholly improper relationship. In addition, we provided “60 Minutes” with signed checks that went directly from the plaintiffs to Cabrera. Unfortunately, “60 Minutes” did not interview Cabrera and failed to scrutinize Cabrera’s “independence.”

Evidence does not support claims: The American trial lawyers behind this case have yet to produce evidence that corroborates their claims. For instance, the water well that was featured in the story was sampled during an inspection several years ago. Neither Chevron’s nor the plaintiffs’ data show any petroleum contamination of the drinking water. Notably, the water sampling did show high levels of bacterial contamination of the water supply. The well site was also outside the area Texaco Petroleum was asked by the Government of Ecuador to remediate – a fact known, but not reported by “60 Minutes.” Also, we escorted “60 Minutes” to sites where municipal sewage was being discharged directly into the local water supply, but “60 Minutes” never used the footage.

Sadly, the “60 Minutes” story is indicative of many of the misperceptions that exist around this issue. Chevron will continue to aggressively tell our side of the story so objective observers have the means to evaluate the claims, as well as the facts, and form their own opinions