Hosting Issues…

For those unaware there is a massive attack on all WordPress sites currently.  My hosting provider has taken some actions to “help stop the attack”.

Well their actions have caused me to have to disable CloudFlare and have effectively issued a denial of service attack against me and those I take care of site maintenance for.

I was able to get my blog unlocked, but I have not been able to gain access to the necessary files for the other blogs.  I am now ripping support a new one and calling this a total customer service failure.  Pissed barely begins to describe my attitude on this because their poor customer service has made my customer service look poor.  AKA shit rolls down hill and it’s making me look bad.

It looks like for this reason this weekend I will finally fire up a VPS.  Currently I’m getting a little cash to help subsidize the cost but I’m going to have to find a bit more.  It’s an expensive route but it’s just about the only way I can make sure that “my hosting provider” doesn’t go !@#$ing around under the hood of my websites and screw crap up.  I was going to do this when a friend was looking at me to host a site for him and was going to cover a decent amount of the cost.  Looks like I’m just going to have to bite the bullet.

*Nitty details*  The web-hosting provider has blocked all access to the WordPress Login page resulting in no access.  The fix to this is to edit the .htaccess file and they restructured their “App Services” for security reasons and I can no longer find the other websites I’ve installed.  This has left me unable to alter or change the access for the other sites effectively locking me, and the users out unless they were already logged in.

Redoing stuff

I’m playing around under the hood.  I’ve got things hooked up so there a new Facebook page.  The blog will be pushing updates there.

For some reason though some odd stuff started happening within the past couple of days and scheduled posts aren’t posting.  I’ve tried the few things I can find recommended online but I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.  I found a plugin that causes the post to go up correctly, but the last post didn’t get pushed to “The Facebooks”.

So I’m going to be beating on things with a  wrench for a bit trying to figure out what’s going on.  If something seems odd for the next bit, it’s just me trying to figure out how to fix whatever’s broke.  So here’s a random picture!


Smart Guns–An Engineers Perspective

So yesterday the “smart gun” meme was fluttering everywhere.  A long debate ensued on twitter.



So I made a couple of comments and it seems that people have no clue how innovation works or how engineering works.  This isn’t surprising because these are the same people who think Steve Jobs just magically gave birth to the iPad and iPhone.  Remember these are the same people who came up with ideas like this.

Laugh if you want, but someone needs to figure out how to harness the energy in earthquakes

Seriously. I’m no engineer so I can’t even begin to think about this in real terms, but just imagine if that energy were somehow able to be captured and stored for use.

Go read the post it’s worth it.  So now on to our current problem, “smart guns”.

There is one serious problem with the concept and idea of smart guns, they are doomed to fail from the start.  Period, end of discussion and I will explain.  The whole premise of a firearm is rooted in one simple undeniable fact:

When you pull the trigger it must go bang.  No exceptions.

Now we all realize that no system is 100% reliable though most guns are exceptional in their reliability and quality.  Here is the Glock 17 Gen4 stress test by Pistol

We will use the round count of 53,526 rounds and 9 stoppages for our calculations.  That gives the Glock 17 Gen 4 a reliability of 99.9831857%

That is a failure rate of 0.0168%.  That’s right folks a MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of approximately 5947 rounds.  Of note this is a sigma of 1 since we only have the numbers for a single unit of test.  Also of note though is for the most part regarding firearms, this is a must have level of reliability.  For many it is considered a “standard” to meet or exceed.

So now we have a starting point for reliability.  Here’s where we run into a problem.  No matter what you do you cannot improve the reliability, you can only degrade it.

Lets say we could make a device that operated with the same reliability as the firearm but attached to the weapon, what would happen?

We’ve cut our reliability almost exactly in half!  Let me explain.

Rgun = (1-0.016…%)  Rsafety=(1-0.016….%)  Rtotal=Rgun * Rsafety  Rtotal = 99.9663743%

Or a failure rate of 0.03362568%

So how many failures is that in the same 53,526 rounds?   17.9984

But again, we are talking about a device who’s sole purpose is to go bang when you pull the trigger.  A device that must be reliable because the failure of the weapon can result in the loss of life for the operator.

While none of these numbers seem terribly large, this is why you have not seen any company pursue this path.  In order to maintain existing reliability you would have to double the reliability of the weapons well as have an additional safety with equivalent reliability.  This however is impossible because there are many other factors that come into play regarding an additional safety and reliability.

The biggest is ease of use.  You know why police and the general public like Glocks?   Because they are unbelievably simple to operate and maintain.  Any additional safety will increase the complexity of operation, period.  There will be required to be some sort of user interaction with the device.  Say it’s a palm print scanner?  What happens if during a hasty draw you don’t get a solid grip on your weapon?  Normally this wouldn’t matter, it would just be more uncomfortable during recoil.  This safety will fail, it cannot properly identify the user and as it’s design is to prevent the weapon from going bang, it will do it’s job.  Biometrics are unreliable as it is and have been extensively in the realm of high end research for a while.  How does this magically change overnight?

Next up, battery life.  The system will have to be running 24/7 365, actively scanning and giving a pass/fail return to the firing mechanism.  Some could say, “well just use a pressure switch.” Except the level of processing required and initialization lets say you get that down to a half second.  That’s an extra half second before your first shot, it didn’t go bang when you wanted it to.

Don’t forget tin whiskers, humidity, temperature, SEU, electromechanical components failing due to the shock, and I could continue down the list.  The idea you could match the same reliability as a mechanical device is laughable but I used it here because it’s the best possible outcome.

This is why we don’t see the military or law enforcement pursing these types of technologies.  Think about it, Law Enforcement should be all over funding and pushing manufacturers to develop this as a reliable technology.  It is the perfect solution to weapons retention and preventing a criminal from taking an officers duty weapon during a scuffle.

Yet no one does it?  The answer is said plainly above, reliability.  The firearm has one critical function, that is to go bang when told to by the operator.  Anything that is designed to interfere with that function is a massive risk and will increase the probability of failure.  In the event of failure the death of the operator is quite possibly going to occur.  Especially since you pointed a firearm at someone, you have indicated willingness to use lethal force.

So tell me again how science fiction will solve the issues of the real world?  Further comparing safety features on cars to guns is a non-starter.  The reason is simple, no safety features are allowed to conflict with the primary inputs from the driver.  Any feature that might possibly interfere is placed in parallel and designed to fail open.  For example, ABS cannot operate on it’s own, it must occur with a brake signal.  In the event of an ABS system failure, the brakes will still work, but can lock up.

Now it is true that there are features now such as emergency brakes that will improve reaction time.  It is also of note in those vehicles you can override the system again cutting it from the loop.  There are extensive diagnostics testing that system specifically to remove it from the loop in the event of failure.  Why? Because slamming your brakes on the freeway at 60 MPH in the middle of traffic is bad and a liability for the manufacturer and engineer.

Tell me, given the above information, how can you create a gun that will still fire when the safety fails if the safety’s sole job is to keep the gun from firing.  If that’s the case, anyone could just disable the safety so what’s the point?

As an engineer my job is to make things, safer and reliable.  I would refuse to work on a project relating to a “smart gun” because honestly it can not accomplish either of those two things.  Safer in this case applies to the operator, not the target.  When the operator pulls the trigger it must go bang it’s what’s safest for the operator.

In closing if this is such a reliable and fantastic idea, why has it never been implemented anywhere else with extensive reliability?  We do not even see biometric identification in cars?  It would be of no where the inconvenience to have to swipe your thumb again to get your car to start as your firearm not going bang when you need it to.  You would have much more space for the processing equipment, less requirements for shock, overall it’s a better more likely environment, yet we don’t see it implemented.

Again it comes down to reliability, when I turn the key on my truck, I expect my ignition to turn over.  I do not expect it to fail because my truck doesn’t realize I grew a beard and look different.  I do not expect it to fail because I sliced my finger and have to wear a band-aid.  Just the same, I want my gun to go bang even if I’m wearing gloves.

The idea of smart guns is purely science fiction and that is not going to change any time soon.

Well, its not broken…

My thumb that is.

See, No Breaks!

See, No Breaks!

I can’t say  the same about my laptop though.

Last Friday ( 12.28.2012) my laptop decided to go tango-uniform.  The stupid CPU decided to overheat and die.  The crappy part is I hadn’t backed it up in a while.  Hopefully when the new stuff comes in to build a new computer my darling husband will be able to retrieve the lost information.  I don’t recommend AMD CPUs.  My husband says this is yet another data point for him in the negative.

Then, to top it all off, my left hand got smashed in the sliding door of a mini van while at work the following day.  Hence the reason I have the X-ray above.

F*ckin' Really?!

F*ckin’ Really?!

What makes this really bad is the fact that my left hand is my good, working hand.   My right hand is not fully functional due to radial nerve palsy from the car accident.   Having both hands down really sucks, between them I have 1 full hand.   Sadly I still need to wear a splint with a thumb spica for the next couple weeks.

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours and now I can’t play my flute or continue my new adventure into learning to play a violin… which I should probably blog.

And thank you to my husband for acting as my dictatorial machine and as my editor correcting grammar and the like.  Not to mention the pictures too, he made me look pretty.

How to destroy your Op-Sec…

It appears a member of the Taliban has provided a perfect illustration on how to destroy your operational security.

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference. He publicly CC’d the names of everyone on his mailing list.

Oops, there’s no way to unsend it either.  Might I suggest a listserv to save you from future embarrassment.  Then again, it’s not that I mind you just unzipped your fly to the whole world.

Technology can be a wonderful and dangerous thing depending which side of the line you’re on.

You want to see why the power is still out in parts of NY?

Just look at this picture.

Image via WFTV

What did that man do to get assaulted?

Applewhite said he had just finished working a 13-hour day and was going to get dinner with the rest of his crew when he stepped out of his utility truck and was attacked by a resident.

Honestly if I was with any utility crew that was in the area to help restore power I’d pack up and leave.  They were up all the way from Florida to help.  Even if I lived in the area and worked locally, I’d pack up and move.  When you attack the people trying to help you, you don’t deserve help.  You deserve to suffer and be stuck solving the problem on your own.

He left his family to go help and work long hours in the process.  His reward for that was a broken jaw and multiple fractures.

Can someone please explain to me how this was some how supposed to aid in the restoration of power?  Does a black eye and broken jaw help a lineman do his job safely?  Does it some how give him magical powers to see what needs to be done to the line to bring it back into service?

What I do absolutely love though is that idiot Mayor absolutely doesn’t care because it didn’t involve the use of a firearm.  Heaven forbid he actually bring in the National Guard to help maintain order and provide a safe working environment for utility crews.  Nope, only his anointed class can carry firearms in the city.  In the mean time utility workers are being assaulted for trying to get the lights back on.

Personally, I say leave them in the dark and let them rot if that’s how they’re going to behave.  Things aren’t magically fixed overnight no matter how bad you want them to be.  Evidently massive damage can be magically undone with a snap of the fingers.  Up to and including transformer replacement, line replacement, pole replacement, substation replacement, protective relay replacement, and line communication replacement.  Will the individual who discovered this ability to fix things at the snap of their fingers please start a company to provide services, they could certainly be used in a time like this.

As for dealing with this problem, at minimum leave the lights off till that man’s buddies turn him in.  You know he went and bragged to someone about beating up a utility crew to “show them they mean business.”  Well just leave the lights off until the car and owner is found.

Seriously, incidents like this piss me right the hell off and I am being quite honest about letting them fix this crap themselves if that’s how they’re going to behave.  You think a couple of weeks are bad, try a couple of years when no one helps next time.

Yeah, That’s Always the Solution

Yes, read that title with a serious sense of sarcasm because unsurprisingly we have the following.

Some officials are calling for the U.S. military to take over the managerial structure of the Long Island Power Authority until power is restored on Long Island, where more than a quarter million homes and businesses are still in the dark after Sandy and a snowstorm.

Because fighting a war is so close to restoring and rebuilding the electric power system?  Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the military, but there is nothing to indicate they have the skills or abilities necessary to fix this problem.

Now it must be noted that the Navy does have a few men who actually do know something about the power system and distribution, but they also focus on it being aboard ship, with a smaller system with redundancy designed to survive casualties.  Others would look at the military and say, “Well the military has to supply power to their bases.”  Well even the military is lacking the people and skills to do that now days.

By September 30, 2003, most of the over two thousand utility systems owned and operated by the Military Departments are to be privatized. See DoD Reform Initiative Directive #49. Utility systems include systems: (1) for the generation and supply of electric power; (2) for the supply of natural gas; (3) for the transmission of telecommunications; (4) for the treatment or supply of water; (5) for the collection or treatment of wastewater; and (6) for the generation or supply of steam, hot water, and chilled water.

So what exactly would involving the government in the power restoration process do other than create an additional layer of bureaucratic red tape to go through?

There was a considerable amount of damage and it is very serious and not simple.  Many lines that have been repaired remain out of service because there isn’t enough power feeding in to support the line currently.  Not to mention the fact that there has also been damage to the natural gas system and other areas will not have power restored until the gas problems are fixed.

As I said previously:

So what we have is a bunch of distribution points that were/are full of water, need to be drained, the equipment cleaned, checked, maintained, and replaced possibly in some instances.  All of this must be done before re-energizing that circuit.

That takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight, and given the fact that salt water, metal, and electricity is involved  you better do it right.  If you don’t it will be more likely to fail in the future.

Does it suck being out of power?  Yes it does and anyone who thinks a utility doesn’t care about it’s customers being out of power, specifically a significant amount, doesn’t have a brain between their ears.  Each day service is down is a day of lost revenue.  Figure how many people there are, not to mention commercial customers, and then think about how much they’re loosing overall.

Yet again a group of people are screaming the government will magically solve the problem.  Most of those same people actually don’t have a clue about what’s actually going on.

No, I Think You Missed The Point…

“If you think a control-system attack that takes down a utility even for a few hours is not serious, just look at what is happening now that Mother Nature has taken out those utilities,” Napolitano said at a Washington Post cybersecurity event, noting the effects in some cases can be “life threatening.”

While yes, cybersecurity should be taken seriously, Sandy is not an example of how dangerous a cyber attack could be.

What do I mean I hear you cry?  Sandy is a prime example of what someone could do to physically interrupt the power system.  While you could find a way to get a breaker to open or close unintentionally, the easier method of disrupting utilities is to find critical points and physically knock them out.

First, let me do a quick explanation of what’s going on in the NYC area.  Most power distribution in the NYC area is below ground.  This makes it below sea level.  This is one of the reasons they shut down many areas early, in an effort to protect equipment so that it can return to service more quickly.  Still, that equipment has to be cleaned, transformers for example have to be washed, insulation checked, and refilled with cooling oil.  This takes time, though much less time than having to fly in a replacement transformer, removing the old one, and installing and commissioning the new one.

So what we have is a bunch of distribution points that were/are full of water, need to be drained, the equipment cleaned, checked, maintained, and replaced possibly in some instances.  All of this must be done before re-energizing that circuit.

So why did I take the time to explain all that?  Well because it illustrates that if done properly, a physical attack, can easily do more damage than any cyber attack, and even more than that you have decreased the potential recovery time.  But that’s not all.  Say you execute an attack on physical infrastructure and take out 2 transmission level transformers on a main artery.

You have now done triple digit damage in the millions if not more.  Plus it will take 2-3 years, at a minimum, to replace the transformers.  Any stock they have for those transformers is in very limited supply.  This means if you hit a couple of places at once, you could very well permanently cripple the ability for a region to get the power necessary to operate.

Seriously, think about this, cyber-security to protect assets worth millions of dollars and provide hundreds of millions in revenue are going to be left unguarded by their owners and operators?  Get real.  The bigger and harder problem is physical security.  How do you stop someone from running a truck into a transmission tower?

Why do I bring all this up?  Because our overlords often start screaming about “necessity” in an effort to create new regulations and requirements which honestly are unnecessary.  They’re unnecessary because do you think a utility company doesn’t want to protect its equipment?  For every minute a transmission line is down they’re loosing millions of dollars in lost revenue.

We’ve seen these cries before and yet again it is to drum up “FUD” among people who don’t really understand how the system works.  FUD is how you make a bunch of people clamor to do something when nothing really needs to be done.  That’s what Janet’s doing with her latest ramblings.