Archive for the ‘news’ Category

nsl_drones_wifi

In the last week there was a bit of buzz about a project by Yan Wan from the University of Texas who, at the Smart America Expo, showed a WiFi enabled drone that *ding* could provide WiFi with a range of up to 5 miles! This was presented as a great step forward in disaster communications. The various articles made it seem like one of these devices would cover a 5 mile area with WiFi.

See for yourself by the viewing the video here.

Having worked in the fields of wifi and disaster response I decided to have a bit of a closer look. Was this really such a step forward and whatsmore, how was this achieved…

Firstly let’s have a look at the hardware, what components were used to build this. The aerial platform is a DJI F650 platform. It’s a nice of the shelf platform. The payload is a Ubiquiti Nanostation. Then there is some sort of servo which rotates the Nanostation. Wether or not the rotation is automatic and slaved to the location of the station the devices connects to or not isn’t clear.

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The Nanostation is a widely used WiFi AP/CPE operating in the 5GHz band. I’ve used them on different occasions and we recently deployed some when working in the Philippines with Disaster Tech Lab. They’re a functional, cheap and cheerful type of device which theoretically can provide up to 150 Mbps on a point-to-point link of up to 15 km.

So in short this project has taken two of the shelf products and bolted them together.

Now for the technical bit; The Nanostation is designed to be one end of a point-to-point link and as with all point-to-point links range/distance is achieved by narrowing the antenna beam. While an omni-directional antenna will cover a 360 degree radius it’s range is limited. A directional antenna, like the one inside the Nanostation, takes the same transmission power (TX) but squeezes it into a narrow bundle. That way the range is much further but the signal radius is much smaller. Any device outside the range of the bundle will not be able to connect. Compare it to standing in a huge dark room and switching on a lightbulb versus a flashlight and you’ll get the picture. In addition the touted range of 5 miles is really not such a big deal. Most of the off the shelf WiFi point-to-point devices have a much longer range. I can recall building a link over 40 kilometers back in 2004 (I think) using homemade gear.

So going back to the implication of this aerial platform; we have a radio device with a narrow beam mounted onto what by definition is an unstable platform. Just ask anyone who has ever build a point-to-point link using masts with a lot of wind-sway how this can kill your connectivity.

Then there is the issue of backhaul; connecting two WiFi devices is great and all but it means very little without a source of internet backhaul. As this is an airborne device using a cable is a big no-no. So a form of wireless backhaul is called for. 3G/4G/LTE? All possible but it will add to the size and weight of the payload as well as require more battery power. In addition, if 3G/4G/LTE is available would that not negate the need for an airborne wifi device?  So satellite maybe? That would mean an ever bigger payload and battery drain. The last option is to consider using lots of these devices and building a WiFi mesh with one or more fixed end-points with internet connectivity. Now this would theoretically be a possibility but there are several factors to consider. using directional antennas on airborne/unstable platforms might cause dropped links. Then there is ones of the bigger drawbacks inherent to WiFi mesh networks; a drop in throughput with every hop (unless you use dual radio devices but that won’t really work here). Lastly there is the logistics and costs of building, deploying and operating a large number of these type of devices.

So considering all the above I can only conclude that it’s a case of much ado about nothing. It might look cool and get much ooh’s and aah’s from the hackathon crowd but there’s really no benefit in this product at all. The cost of the combined package comes to around $1300 (off-hand) with $1000 of that being the aerial platform. Compare that to about $150 for a length of scaffolding pipe, a roof mount kit and some clamps. The latter would also create a link with much more stability.

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If you are looking at a workable application for aerial platform mounted WiFi then look at a combination of a 3G/4G/LTE backhaul device and a WiFi router with an omni directional antenna. That way you can create small bubbles of WiFi that can be flown into hard to reach areas and which are not dependent on a directional link for connectivity.

Even better rather than a means of connectivity provisioning use aerial platforms as sensor networks able to detect wifi or cellular signals transmitted by client devices (smartphones etc) pinpointing people in need.

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I’ve committed to give a talk later this year on “The perfect Bugout bag”. It’s topic that I’ve discussed with regularity over the years and one that also caused a lot of controversy and heated debate on the numerous prepper, survivalist and related fora. During my deployments abroad with Disaster Tech Lab I always carry a small bag/pack with my basic essentials. A bag that would enable to me to “survive” for a few days if all my other bags were stolen or lost. So I do have a some practical experience in this area.

Traditionally discussions of what a bugout bag should contain include most, if not all, of the following:

  • Food
  • Water, water bottle & water purification
  • Knife
  • Multitool
  • Basic First Aid kit
  • Map & compass
  • Emergency Shelter
  • Matches, flint & tinder
  • Weapon (handgun or rifle)
  • Flashlight
  • Survival blanket, small sleeping bag
  • Paracord
  • Collapsible stove
  • Clothing
  • Wet-wipes
  • Insect repellent
  • Wind-up radio
  • GPS
  • Fishing kit & snares
  • Cash or gold coins

In my opinion the above list is based on an outdated principle. It assumes that any bugout situation will see one ending up in a remote wilderness situation. This is no longer true and a lot of bugout type scenarios will now take place in an urban environment. With increased instability in certain parts of the world you could find yourself having to bail out of a hotel, taxi, public transport or other urban location and having to depend on whatever is in your bugout bag for the next few days. In such an environment you will not be placing snares or fish for food, you won’t have to build a basha for shelter, or need to carry spare clothes.

You will require a whole lot of different items. Ones that provide you with access to digital communications (phone or internet), digital copies of important documents, a method to power your electronic devices. Even a way to smarten up your appearance quickly.

What you don’t want to carry is a big knife or even machete. Even a stove and cooking equipment is excess weight. Water is also less of an issue.

Basically you will need a Bigout Bag 2.0

I will be working on compiling a summary of my personal recommendations of tried and tested items that I carry in my bugout bag but as I am also very interested in finding out what other people carry. And please note, “bugout bag” is only a generic term. You might call it your grab-bag or your EDC but it basically boils down to the same.

So please, after reading it take the time to leave a comment with your opinion or experience in the area of bugout bags.

Following storm Darwin earlier this year and the widespread disruption caused by storm damage and flooding I carried out an on-line survey on how information on storm and flood-damage was being disseminated to the Irish public. Having worked with Disaster Tech Lab in disaster zones all over the globe for the last 4+ years I’ve learned that the gathering but even more the curation and dissemination of relevant data is crucial during extreme weather events. It serves dual purposes; first it allows for a better tailored response effort but secondly it also increases awareness amongst the general public allowing them to avoid dangerous areas and/or to evacuate if necessary. The survey was basic and had the single purpose to ascertian if people had received information about damage caused by storm Darwin and through what medium they had received this information.

Following is a summary of the results:

  • Respondents were 61.11% male & 38.89% female
  • The majority were in the 35-44 age bracket
  • Most respondents lived in Dublin, Cork & Galway (in that order) with the rest spread over the country.
  • 77.78% had flood damage in their immediate area.
  • 11.11% experienced flood damage in their immediate area.
  • 88.89% travelled inside of Ireland shortly after storm Darwin.
  • 77.78% encountered flood and/or storm damage during their travels
  • But only 55.56 % was aware of this damage
  • The most interesting part was that 83.33% received this information through Social Media while only 5.56% received the information through the local authorities.

darwin info

The Irish local & national authorities are dropping the ball in a major way here and appear to be woefully unprepared. The only publicly available resource is the floodmaps.ie website run by the Office of Public Works. The most recent data there dates to 2011 and was gathered through a retrospective study. There is no obvious way to report damage in real-time.  With the current drive for Open Data and Big Data you would expect that this would be available. There are a number of easily implementable, Open Source platforms to create an online map with a real-time reporting mechanism without having to re-invent the wheel.

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Building such a service would allow people to report any flooding or storm damage that they encounter via a variety of means. Email, sms or via the website itself. You could even build an app. Reports can include a location (automatically mapped), description and images or video. Once curated (again in realtime) this information will than be displayed on an online map. The data can serve dual purposes. It will alert response services to issues which require intervention or remidiaton but it will also inform the general public as to where a rood is flooded, a tree is blocking the road etc. This allows them to plan travel accordingly and avoid problem areas. The end result is more fluent traffic flows and the avoidance of traffic jams at problem spots.

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While members of government discuss the issue of climate change and coastal flooding they fail to implement adequate response mechanisms. Ones which have become standard in countries like the USA which has been dealing with extreme weather events a lot longer. During a FEMA conference in Washington DC last year I commented that Ireland (and Europe) will soon see a drastic increase in extreme weather such as floods and storms. The recent flooding in Ireland and the current unprecedented flooding in the Balkans which has claimed over 40 lives are only the start of this. We need to prepare ourselves and an increased public awareness is the first step. Increased awareness will lead to increased preparedness and resilience. Recent studies in the field of disaster response has shown that the top-down approach taken in the past only solves short term problems and doesn’t improve matters in the long run. A shift from disaster response to disaster preparedness is needed and this can only be achieved by an increased public awareness and involvement. Empowering people by giving them a means to report problems and needs in real time and acting on this information is a first step in this.

 

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At the end of this coming week Irish voters will have the opportunity to cast their vote in two ballots; one for local elections and another one for European Parliament elections. In the lead-up to these elections almost every lamppost in Ireland has sprouted one or more election posters. The majority of these posters are wonders of misinformation showing only an image of the politician and the word “VOTE”. No mention of why someone would actually vote for one politician over the other. Should one vote on the number of a candidates posters or the proximity to ones house?

As I value the right to vote and want to ensure that my vote is an informed one I decided to email all candidates in both elections a short list of questions. Most of the questions were based on principle issues as this weighs much heavier for me than questions on specific issues. I could have asked the candidates for the local elections on how they would fix potholes or something parochial like that but in my these issued should be dealt with no matter where the candidates political alliance lies.

So on Monday May 12th I sent the candidates for the local elections in my constituency 5 questions. Well actually I sent it to all but one. For one candidate it proved impossible to find an email address, no matter how much searching I did.  That in itself would make me not vote for them. Anyway, here’s the list of questions I sent them. Some have limited answers, and yes the questions are opinionated but these are issues which matter to me.

  • What is your position on the subject of abortion, are you pro-life or pro-abortion?
  • Do you support the proposed constitutional amendment which would legislate for same-sex marriage?
  • Do you support or oppose the changes to the Junior Certificate curriculum?
  • What is your position on income redistribution and matters such as a “wealth tax”?
  • Should the Irish government play a leading or a supporting role in job creation?

As of today, nearly a week later and with the elections 5 days away I have not received a reply from a single candidate. Not even an acknowledgment that they have received my email and deal with it when they have the time.

I had one single canvassing team call to my door however. I pounced on them like a starving vulture would pounce on a dying wildebeest on the African savannah. “What is your candidates election manifesto?” I asked. The reply? ” Well eh, erm….erm….He’s local!”. Also “He has a lot of projects but just needs some more time to finish them”. That was the extent of their campaigning. What was even more disconcerting was their total surprise at being asked questions about their candidates political agenda. Did nobody else ask these questions?!

On to the candidates for the European Elections. Surely they would be more informed and of a higher calibre. Right?

I emailed these candidates a slightly adapted list of questions:

  • What is your position on the subject of abortion, are you pro-life or pro-abortion?
  • What is your position on the subject of same-sex marriage? Are you for, against or is this an area which should not be legislated by a government?
  • What is your position on income redistribution and matters such as a “wealth tax”?
  • Should the Irish & EU government play a leading or a supporting role in job creation?
  • In your opinion, did Ireland receive a bailout from the “Troika” or did Ireland provide a bailout for banks and bondholders?

The response was overwhelming.

Last Friday I received a reply from Jim Higgins a candidate for Fine Gael. Jim replied to 3 questions, asked for more clarification on one and failed to reply on another one. All in all I have to commend Jim as he so far has more respect for his constituents than any of the other candidates. Unfortunately his party (FG) is the one which is trying to push through liberal abortion legislation and in doing so is breaking one of their election promises.

None of the other EU election candidates has so far.

So basically things haven’t changed, in spite of the economic crisis, the multiple revelations of public sector incompetence and the growing awareness by people of public and private affairs, politicians still think they can win elections by handshaking and kissing babies.

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Time for a long overdue blogpost.

On January 3rd an email from Tom Hollingsworth landed in my inbox. Now I had never spoken or even emailed with Tom but he’s one of the people behind the “Wireless Field Day” (and a whole lot of other Field Day’s). Tom wanted to know if I was interested in talking about my work with Disaster Tech Lab at the upcoming Wireless Field Day 6 at the end of the month?

DID I HELL!

I had been following the Wireless Field Day events for some time as it was a sort of holy grail for wireless geeks like myself. To get the chance to speak at the event would be magnificent.

Roll forward 3 weeks and I’m actually in San Jose. I arrived late so missed the first evening socializing with my fellow geeks ( This might have been a good thing…). Day one started with everyone jumping into a stretch limo which brought us to Airtight Networks offices. Airtight had a number of interesting presentations lined up for us with introductions into their cloud based services, social wifi and analytics. It followed on with a WIPS demo by Rick Farina. Rick is my kinda guy with lots of experience in security, hacking and related fields. It was entertaining to watch him to bring up the WiFi Pineaple device. Anyway, it was enjoyable and gave some good insights into where Airtight Networks is going.

wifi pineapple

Next we hopped in the limo which brought us to the Aruba Networks offices. This was a bit of a big deal for me as Aruba has been a great supporter of Disaster Tech Lab from right back when we started in 2010. Yet this was my first visit to their offices. I wasn’t disappointed as the offices are pretty cool especially the showroom with all numerous devices on display. Being real geeks we even spotted some sort of prototype USB dongles connected to some of the AP’s. I suspect that these were for use with the Meridian software of which we got a nice real life demo using the Aruba Campus App. After a quick welcome by Ozer and Sean it was time for Manju Mahishi to show us about Aruba’s plans with the Meridian software. In short it offers a platform for user and asset tracking allowing such things as public venues to get greater insight into user movement patterns and such. The presentation led to a lively discussion on topics such as privacy as well as technical.

Next was my own presentation on Disaster Tech Lab’s work. Rather that tell you about it I suggest that you watch the video.

Day 2 started bright and early with a presentation by Germán Capdehourat from Plan Ceibal. Plan Ceibal is a state sponsored project in Uruguay which has as goal to bring internet access to all schools. They obviously use a lot of wifi technology but also branch out into user devices and educational content. Projects like these have great value and contribute immensely to children’s education. Germán was followed by Kevin Koster from Cloudpath. Cloudpath does some really advanced stuff with large scale device onboarding and authentication. It’s not really my area of interest but for anyone managing large networks with hundreds or thousands of users their products are well worth looking at. You can watch the full video here.

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Cloudpath was followed by Xirrus. This was going to be an interesting presentation as Xirrus’s presentation at the previous WFD had been very marketing & PR heavy and had been torn to shreds by the attendees. Dirk Gates, founder of Xirrus started of with a good presentation into the company, their history and the future. Next was the absolute highlight of #WFD6 in my opinion. Xirrus had brought in their head of antenna design Avi Hartenstein. Avi, besides really knowing his shit, looks and sounds like a cool extra from a Bond movie. His presentation with into the antenna design into minute details and for someone like me who loves RF it was simply a pleasure to watch.

To end the day we travelled to Extreme Networks office which were by far the flashiest ones with loads of artwork, purple colors and even rotating server racks with flashing lights. Their presentations there gave a lot of insight into Extreme’s large stadium deployments. It’s interesting to see how a lot of the problems encountered in such environments can be resolved through smart RF use. Real life examples illustrated how antenna placement, antenna radiation power, spatial isolation and low TX power are the main contributors to solving a lot of problems.

smartest guy

I do realise that this is a way too short blogpost to encompass all the awesomeness that was Wireless Field Day 6. I got to spend a couple of days in the company of people whose knowledge and expertise for exceeds mine but who were also hugely entertaining to hang out with. On top of that we were given an royal welcome by the various companies supporting this event and they each went all out to share their technology and visions of the wireless future with us. Lastly I want to give serious kudos to Steven, Tom and everyone else at GestaltIT for organising not only this fantastic event but all the other Field Days they organise. Seriously guys (and galls) it’s impressive.

I also suggest that you go and watch *all* the videos here.

 

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As a dedicated supporter of Android based portable devices this is a difficult post for me to type.

I made my first, reluctant foray into the world of the tablet user at the end of 2011 when HP decided to mark down their Touchpad device to a spectacularly low $99. While it ran the slightly left-of-field WebOS the device could be flashed to run a customised Android ROM. As the devices sold out quickly across the world I had to resort to locating one in the US and having it shipped over.

Anyway, I liked the tablet format very much but wanted something slightly smaller than the A4 sized Touchpad but larger than the Android phone I was using at the time, a HTC Hero. Enter the Google Nexus 7.  I bought one of these 7 inch tablets in September 2012 and loved it straight away. It ran Android 4.1, completely integrated with all the Google services I used and most importantly it fitted into the inside pocket of my jacket! No more clunky devices the size and weight of a cut down laptop to lug around. I literally brought it everywhere and used it for everything from work to reading books (yes, it completely converted me to the use of e-books). When my tablet was stolen in New York during my work as part of the hurricane Sandy response I went out straight away and bought a new one. Actually as the Staples outlet I went to had a special offer I bought two! One for me and one as a Christmas present for my wife.

The device was used daily and about 6 months after purchase it started to develop a niggling issue with charging. The micro-USB cable had to be fiddled around a good bit for the device to actually charge and the slightest movement of the cable would stop the charging process. I put it down to a faulty/worn cable-plug and bought a replacement cable. Actually I went to half a dozen cables in about as many weeks. Still the problem persisted. Not only that but my wife’s tablet was starting to have the same issues. Logic made me conclude that the connector/socket on the tablet might have become worn or damaged. We limped on applying tricks such as using a heavy book to keep the connector plugged into the tablet, using something to push the connector upwards etc. These were only temporary solutions as the problem steadily worsened. In early November last year my tablet would just not charge anymore, at all. It was by all means dead. My wife’s tablet was slowly limping in the same direction.

By this point I finally resorted to Google-ing the issue and lo and behold I was not alone! There were hundreds if not thousands of messages on forums and newsgroups of people having the same problem (Google-ing “nexus 7 charging problem” results in 1,600,000 results!) All with Nexus devices that eventually would no longer charge using a cable. Two solutions were mentioned, using wireless charging our using the Asus Nexus Dock (Asus is the manufacturer of the Nexus 7).

nexus charging problem

Armed with this knowledge I contacted Google to see what they were doing to deal with this problem. It was clearly a manufacturing or design issue to logic dictated that they should rectify it. The disappointing reply I received was that I should contact the vendor where I purchased the devices. As this was a Staples outlet in New York City and I live at the other side of the Atlantic I contacted Staples via their Twitter account. All they could tell me was to contact the store itself which could only be done via phone (why email wasn’t possible is beyond me). The store told me that I should return the tablet to them so they could establish what the issue was. However I was notified at that stage that the 1 year warranty had expired and that any repairs would be chargeable. To me. So I would have to ship the device to New York, pay for having a design fault repaired and then pay to have them shipped back to me? No thanks.

So, I went ahead and ordered the Asus dock. From the US as it wasn’t for sale in Europe yet. The dock arrived several weeks later and I could finally charge my tablet and, you know, actually use it.

However shortly afterwards I noticed that the tablet would charge really slowly (when in the dock). I would have it docked overnight and the charging level would only increase by 10% or so. But then sometimes it would charge fully. On top of that it would discharge really rapidly especially when the charge went below 35%. It would sometime go from 35% to empty in minutes.

I resorted to Google-ing the problem again (how ironic) only to discover that this again was a common problem. Apparently devices that were upgraded to the latest version of Android (KitKat 4.4). This happened early in 2014 which coincided with the time our tablets were starting to have these problems.  So not only was the charging port faulty due to a design process now the OS was causing charging problems!

By this point we had 4 Nexus 7 devices in the family as my 2 youngest kids had used their Christmas money to each buy a Nexus 7. I had let them as I had assumed that any problems would have been resolved by now and newer devices would not have ny more charging problems. That was before the upgrade to KitKat 4.4!

I again reached out to Google at this point. Again with a disappointing response. This time they didn’t refer me to the place where the devices were purchased but told me to contact Asus (the device manufacturer) instead. This in spite of the fact that these are Google branded devices. Asus of course flat-out refused to do anything as the devices were out of warranty and the issue was OS related which was not their responsibility.

At this point I have had it and in spite of championing Google Nexus devices in the past I am now at a stage where I probably will never ever purchase any of their devices again. Not because the purchased devices were faulty but because of the unacceptable way they shirk of any responsibility and just pass the buck to a third-party. In fact I am eying up the Apple iPad mini Retina at the moment. Those who know my aversion to iOS will realise what a big shift this is.

A5

Ireland has been hit by an escalating series of flood in the last few months. Initially the flooding was preserved to coastal areas and caused by a combination of storm and high tides. Especially the West Coast was very badly hit with extensive damage to flood defences, piers, coastal roads and buildings in coastal areas. Especially Galway city and surrounding areas were very badly hit.

However in the last weeks the flooding has spread to built up floodplains. We have in recent days seen severe flooding in Galway, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Waterford and other cities and towns built around river floodplains and estuaries. What is shocking is the utter lack of preparedness or coordinated response. Ireland is known for its rain and this is not the first time we’ve seen flooding. After every previous flood a debate ensued about the need for flood defences but these were eventually never built or the ones built were based on the level of the last flooding rather than on the ones that would come next.

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Lacking preparedness one would at least expect some sort of adequate and coordinated response. After all there was no need to invent methods of dealing with floods. Our neighbours to the east, the UK, have been hit by far worse floods in recent years and have at least developed a semblance of a coordinated response. Or even look west to Boulder Colorado which was hit by severe floods last September with 8 people killed and 11,000 evacuated. A simple email or call to the organisations who responded to those floods would provide a wealth of information about how to initiate a coordinated response. The writing is on the wall really as the only data on flooding in Ireland is held on the OPW (Office of Public Works) website and the most recent data there is years old. It would have been so easy for one of the government agencies to crowdsource flooding data in realtime, something that agencies in other countries have embraced wholeheartedly.

A good example of such an effort is the Irish Flood Alert Crowdmap put up by Disaster Tech Lab (disclosure: I’m the founder of DTL). Such a map allows people to report the location of floods & flood damage and even to upload images. All this data will then be made publicly available in realtime.

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Instead Ireland is seeing a stream of nodding heads meeting in board rooms or visiting flooded areas without much idea on how to respond. The response is generally limited to throwing insufficient amounts to money at the problem while no effort is made to develop a resilient flood defence program…..

UPDATE: Disaster Tech Lab has put up a survey to measure the impact and awareness of the flooding and damage caused by storm Darwin. Please assist in improving future response by completing the survey.

dna

I received an interesting email this afternoon. It was from Mark Tighe a journalist with the Sunday Times. It read: “

Did you see the ads in the papers today from the HSE? They are finally going to destroy the heelprick samples older than 10 years.”

This brought me back to a blogpost I typed up just over 10 years ago. At the time it had been discovered that Temple Street hospital had been retaining the bloodsamples it had gathered through the “heelprick” tests. This had resulted ina n *illegal* database of genetic material of  everyone born in Ireland since 1984. It goes without saying that this is not only highly un-ethical but also illegal. You can read my blogpost on the topic here.

While I am pleased with today’s announcement it still raises a few questions. Apparently the screening programme was revised in 2011 and for anyone born after that date the parents have to give explicit permission for the sample to be retained. Additionally all samples will be destroyed after 10 years. The announcement also says that all samples taken between 1984 and 20o2 will be destroyed this year as they are over 10 years old. That still raises the question of the samples which were taken between 2002 and 2011 (when the programme was revised). These samples will apparently be illegally retained for another 1 to 8 years….

Another issue is that when I researched the matter three years ago evidence emerged that the retention of blood (and DNA) samples past the necessary period is allegedly commonplace in other hospitals and labs across the country. I have yet to see a follow up investigation to locate other hospitals where this practice is or has taken place.

Either way, it’s good to see that after three years some steps in the right direction are taken….

A lot has been written about the outcome of the US elections in the last 24 hours. Some good, some bad and some utter rubbish (by both sides). The most insightful one is a Facebook post by Bart Hall.

I’m connected to Bart via Facebook and have always enjoyed reading his postings. However this one was of such quality that I had to ask him if I could use it on my blog as a sort of guest-blog by proxy. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

So … the election was close, but the Electoral College worked exactly as intended by the Founders and produced a clear winner. Herewith, a series of observations, of various sorts, some slightly partisa:

a) Obama received fewer votes than McCain did in ’08. I expected this. What I did *NOT* expect was that Republican turn-out would be even lower this time around than last. The low Republican and Independent turn-out rendered useless the party-affiliation polling and certainly messed up my projection (-:

b) Elections don’t produce change, they measure it. In this case it’s become quite clear that an emerging majority of Americans prefer free stuff to freedom. Or framed somewhat differently (since I have a toddler at home) is that they prefer the freedom of a dependent child (“no worries”) to that of a mature and generally self-reliant adult (freedom of agency). Apart from the fact that it is fiscally unsustainable it is discouraging socially: deTocqueville in the late 1830s expressed his concern that the fatal flaw of American democracy was the risk that someday people would vote themselves lots of free stuff. That someday has evidently arrived in the last generation or so.

c) America is now on a trajectory to fiscal ruin. There is not enough wealth around to fix the blatant spending problem. I believe Romney and Ryan would at least have begun to address it. How bad is it? If Obama’s deficits continue at the levels *he* has projected we will have arrived at a point where each of the two previous Presidents *DOUBLED* existing debt in 8 years. The word for that, folks, is exponential explosion of debt, and it **always** ends in abundant grief and tears.

d) The good news is that Obama inherits the mess Obama left. He now owns it, absolutely. Burgeoning energy development on PRIVATE lands (which he can’t stop) will help the economy, some. EPA, OSHA, and ObamaCare … will not. But he owns it. We’re already seeing America’s energy boom bring back manufacturers to this nation. That will continue.

e) The people of Michigan, even as they voted Obama, voted for sanity and resoundingly defeated two ballot propositions that would have entrenched union power through mandated dues for all workers, and would have required 25% of all electricity to come from “renewables”. These the special interests attempted to enshrine in the state constitution.

f) Republicans picked up three more governorships (now 32), gained the state senate in Wisconsin, and took both houses of the Arkansas legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

g) Republicans not only held the US House of Representatives, they didn’t lose more than a seat or two, and might actually have picked up one. Recounts make it impossible to be precise, but the big picture is clear. The Tea Party gains of 2010 held. Some results are remarkable. Our KS-3 seat was won by a Democrat in 2008 by 18 points (his fifth term). A Tea Party Republican took the same seat in 2010 by 23 points, and in 2012 the Democrats never even put up a candidate. In eight or nine House elections nationwide the Libertarian came second to a Republican.

h) The Republicans have now thrown away *five* Senate seats in the last two elections by nominating idiot candidates, often with Democrat help. Three-way primaries will give the most extreme candidate a plurality, whilst the vote is split between two others with a better chance to win or hold the seat. Republicans would have the Senate today and the budgetary gridlock which has characterized the Senate for almost four years would no longer be a factor.

i) A big part of the reason idiot candidates on the Republican side are such a problem is that when they inevitably make their stupid statements it will be picked up and promulgated (repeatedly and loudly) nationwide by the old-line media, which are now clearly nothing more than Democrat political operatives with bylines. When the Donks nominate an idiot candidate … crickets. Pushing those old-line media even farther along their path of failure and irrelevancy should be a primary task of conservatives and libertarians.

Finally, we are in a period of great political instability. There is only one long-term sustainable political position in America, and it used to be shared by both parties –

1) Solid on defence and security issues.

2) Fiscally conservative and generally in favour of limited government.

3) Broadly libertarian on social issues.

Unfortunately it is for the most part currently shared by neither party and I suspect we shall all have to endure a great deal of trouble and grief before we get back to that point. As this election has made obvious, we won’t do it voluntarily. Consequently we’ll need to be forced by circumstances, and as Churchill said “Americans always seem to do the right thing, but only at the last possible moment.” I hope so.

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I was at a gig this evening when an interesting tweet showed up in my timeline. It said “Major internet outages across America” and linked to a website displaying stats on global internet traffic. The stats for North America showed something odd. Several nodes were not responding, response times were up significantly, packet loss was up and consequently traffic was dipping big time. I thought at first that it might be due to hurricane Sandy but when I looked at the locations they were all over the USA. Weird…

 

I tweeted a few people in the US to see if they had any idea but nothing concrete came back. Some suggestions were made that the traffic drop might be due to lunchtime but that didn’t make sense to me. Especially as lunchtimes across the US are obviously spread out and also because lunchtimes would not cause excessive packet loss. So I decided to have a look at the stats for Europe. To my surprise the same thing was going on there:

 

Next were the global stats which showed the same story:

 

So there has been a substantial increase in response time and packet loss resulting in a big dip in internet traffic, across the globe AT THE SAME TIME…

That was a serious Whiskey Tango Foxtrot situation. So I had a look at the global stats for the last 30 days. These stats indeed confirmed what I described above but it also showed a few other interesting facts;

  • An even bigger blip had occurred around October 8-9.
  • There has been a steady increase in response times & packet loss since October 8th.

 

Now there might be perfectly harmless explanation for this but we are looking at a homogenous network across the global with components managed and owned by a mix of private and public sector organisations. To see a global trend in performance across the whole network for a prolonged time is something that raises questions. So I decided to run a quick search for other reports on this and stumbled across an article by ABC news. The article basically reported in a bit more detail what I outlined above. It reported that Youtube, Amazon, Google’s App Engine, Tumblr and other sites had been affected. However most interesting was that there was no explanation offered for what might have caused this degradation.

I will keep digging..

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