Become what you are

  

We are but mushrooms of the earth,
Fruit ephemeral to sporulate and spawn,
Finally we liquefy rejoined,
The source of life perpetually reborn

To grow, to grow, to become,
To take everything inside and put it out,
Deepest dreams from gentle hands encouraged,
Grow to grow and flower to flower forth

Nature wants you in action,
But don't feel forced; you want this too,
You *are* nature,
And nature loves your deepest dreams as much as you

Stand firm, believe,
Follow yourself without fear,
The path of life is only light,
Shine, become what you hold dear

We are but mushrooms of the earth,
Fruit ephemeral to sporulate and spawn,
Finally we liquefy rejoined,
The source of life perpetually reborn

--

P.S. The title for this poem, is also the title of a book by Alan Watts that has a mirror on the front of it. The idea for this poem, and perhaps even the title, didn't come from this book, but I can't deny it's possible influence. I feel like I owe it to Alan to mention the book here since I used the same title. I don't want to take from people searching for that book.

Sudo vs su

I think this is a rather bizarre comparison to begin with as the two commands were really designed for two separate tasks: su allows one user to become another whereas sudo allows one user to run commands as another. Given that the two commands are designed for different purposes, one might imagine that they are better suited to different purposes.

Ubuntu and many other GUI-centric distributions of Linux are famed for their (ab)use of the sudo command for generalised privileged command execution. The Ubuntu user is told to type:

sudo privileged-command

whenever they need to execute, a usually sysadmin oriented, privileged command. Sudo will, by default, prompt for the executing user's password to grant permission for the intended action.

This is the main flaw in using sudo. The whole point of privilege separation in security is to prevent unauthorised behaviour and/or mistakes. Now here we have the user, via sudo, being given unrestricted access to privileged commands with their unprivileged credentials: i.e their ordinary username and password.

I believe sudo was never invented for this general-purpose behaviour, but was rather invented to grant granular access to privileged commands to specific users for specific purposes.

su on the other hand, is perfect for executing commands generally with the privileges assigned to another user, because after authentication you are for all intents and purposes that user. The difference in the authentication step is that su (by default) requires you to know the password of the user you wish to impersonate So to execute commands as root, you need to know the root password.

By this point even the most unsophisticated computer user should be able to observe that the latter model is more secure from a technical standpoint, since anyone capable of basic arithmetic should be able to figure out that two strong passwords are harder to guess than one strong password (let's assume the attacker has no direct physical access to the machine for that argument).

Unfortunately the security of sudo get's even worse: on distributions such as Ubuntu it defaults to granting a free-for-all time-limited open access period after every use. Whereby subsequent invocations of sudo do NOT require the user's password. Now this is just plain stupidity, and is begging for abuse. A number of times I have been accessing other people's computer to type a command, and I need to do something that requires superuser privileges. They use sudo to issue the few commands, and then leave me to continue working "unprivileged". But of course, I can still do what I like on that machine...

The argument that su is somehow more dangerous to use than sudo is nonsense. Any rm -r /home/lol/nonsense/ * slip can happen equally under sudo as it can under su so I don't buy it. I also on principal resent the notion that me people are by default too stupid to look after themselves.

In addition to the technical inferiority of using sudo in this manner, I believe that it carries psychological damage too. With su, there is a constant reminder that you are not root and that root is a separate user with separate permissions. For the beginner, this is a much better introduction to Unix, because the user will soon learn that system tasks are carried out by a variety of robotic users that are not them, and start with a better picture of how the system is organised.

Ubuntu starts off by hiding concepts from the user, disempowering them, and encouraging ignorance.

Kind Forest

the forest whispers kind to all visitors
tread softly over fallen leaves and yielding ground
the squelch and pad beneath your feet create it,
and let it live beyond your gentle sound

you are a child forever in its eyes
so widen yours and look around it's lands
it'll nurture you for free and won't berate ye
for you're a part of it like mated hands

in crook and nook small treasures lie,
small critters, razor strop, and fungal bane
they serve to serve enquiring souls who asketh
they nourish and align to wake you sane

breathe deep and take the air from nature's gift
and mind your mind whose branches echo this
relax and see the life beyond the land
as time itself takes rest beneath those bows

Communications Capabilities Development Program - My Concern

Dear Richard Benyon,

Thank you for your letter (ref: SP16208),

Please enact any further written correspondence with me via email, so as to make dialogue easier and so as not to waste paper.

I have copied your letter into electronic format, so I may respond to it. Excepting this illustrative statement, your letter is shown in blue italic font, and my responses are in black regular font, so as to make it clear which words belong to your letter and which belong to my response.

Firstly, I understand that you feel strongly about this but I should say that I have received a number of similar emails to this and recognise that they may have come from a 38 Degrees campaign. You may not be aware that 38 Degrees has close connections to the Labour Party and it is not known for the accuracy of the information it sends out concerning Government policies. I am firmly of the belief that this organisation's motives are political rather than being motivated by the particular causes they pursue.

My original correspondence to you did indeed originate from a 38 Degrees campaign. I am concerned by your belief that 38 Degrees has close connections to the Labour party, as I do not support the Labour party. Since as you say, you are "firmly of the belief" in this association, and you being a man, I am led to understand, of firm resolve and honest capacity, I am confident you must have some equally firm evidence to support your belief. Please inform me of the strong evidence you must have in this regard, so I may make an informed decision.

The government and I are committed to maintaining national security and protecting the public in the face of changing circumstances, whilst continuing to protect civil liberties.

Communications data - information such as who called whom and at what time - is already vital to law enforcement, especially when dealing with organised crime gangs, paedophile rings and terrorist groups. It has played a role in every major Security Service counter-terrorism operation and in 95 per cent of all serious organised crime investigations. But communications technology is changing fast, and criminals and terrorists are increasingly moving away from landline and mobile telephones to communications on the internet, including voice over internet services, like Skype, and instant messaging services. The Government estimates that it is now only able to access some 75 per cent of the total communications data generated in this country, compared with 90 per cent in 2006.

What percentage of the population belong to organised crime gangs, paedophile rings, and terrorist groups?

Given the pace of technological change, our future capability is very uncertain. That is why, in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, it said it would "introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework". It also made it clear that in seeking to ensure our law enforcement agencies continue to retain capabilities to protect us from harm, civil liberties would be respected and protected.

In the government's "Coalition Agreement" (12th May 2010) (http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/409088/pfg_coalition.pdf), it also said "We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". Clearly, by attempting to proliferate the storage of internet and email records, without any reason (when there is no evidence I am involved in illegal activity, yet you store my activity regardless), the government's actions are contradictory to the government's claims (the SDSR is dated October 2010).

The government therefore proposes to require internet companies to collect and store additional information, like who an individual has contacted and when, which they may not collect at present. The information will show the context, but not the content, of communications. So we will simply have for internet-based communications what we already have for mobile and landline telephone calls. The data will be available only to designated senior officers, on a case-by-case basis, authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and the process will be overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. It will be available only if it is necessary and proportionate to a criminal investigation. It should be noted that the police and other agencies will have no new powers or capabilities to intercept and read emails or listen to telephone calls and existing arrangements for interception will not be changed. No increase in the amount of interception is envisaged as a result of this.

I do not think that RIPA is a good model for ensuring proper and sound use of interception, given previous abuses on this front.

Unlike the previous Government's proposals there will be no government database and the data recorded will be strictly limited and regulated and will be destroyed after a year. The police and Security Service will not be able to intercept the content of calls and emails, except as now when it is necessary and proportionate as part of an investigation relating to serious crime or national security, and only when they have obtained a warrant signed by a Secretary of State.

How do you assure yourself that the increased surveillance powers will not be used to further political agendas, as occurred in France with Nicholas Sarkozy's ousting of David Senat after a "Secretary of State" equivalent sign-off for surveillance data was obtained by the former concerning the latter's leaking of corruption data to Le Monde, leading to Senat's subsequent imprisonment?

Furthermore, whilst you have made a case for the Communications Capabilities Development Program, I do not find it compelling or insightful. I hitherto wish to enumerate the main reason why I believe you should take personal action against such a bill becoming law:

By requiring ISPs to implement the technology required for deep packet inspection, the foundation shall be laid not only for the interception you speak of, but for the arbitrary filtering of packets. The latter cannot occur without a technological effort in magnitude to the former and I believe in that sense it acts as a stepping stone. This is a very dangerous route to travel, as we should never give any power structure greater control than it absolutely requires. The reasoning for this is quite simple: whilst you may assure us of your benevolence and perhaps your assurances might even be true and believed by the people, this does not preclude the possibility of a future regime which does not share your benevolence. By putting technology in place that can be used not only to intercept and interfere with communications, but interfere with the freedom to associate, you threaten our very ability to fight against potentially oppressive future regimes. Unless you are absolutely certain of the trust you ascribe to all future governments, and I mean you personally Richard, then I would ask you just to consider very carefully what you are doing and the consequences it may have for yourself and your progeny.

I do hope to receive a cogent response from you

Best regards

Dr Ashley Mills

Amiga Nostalgia

I am relaxing over the Easter weekend at my girlfriend's parents. Before you ask, yes I have been outside, but I also took the time to mess around with UAE Amiga emulator on my Debian laptop. I fired up a few old classics: Cannon Fodder, Stunt Racer, Moonstone, Magic Pockets, GODS, Pinball Dreams, Silkworm, and Life & Death. The latter I played for about an hour, taking advantage of the state saving capability of the emulator to actually complete that blasted Appendectomy operation:

Just like the real thing:

I don't have much to say, other than to remark how rampant "piracy" was in the Amiga days. I must admit, myself and everyone I knew, that owned an Amiga engaged in it profusely, using the old xcopy pro, a pirated version naturally. I do not believe we purchased a single game, I am ashamed to admit. Actually we did buy "Head Over Heels" for £4.99 from some local shop once. Did we all contribute to the downfall of Amiga in this way? I hope not.

I think things have changed now, with Steam people seem to buy a lot more games for some reason, and with advert driven games on phones, it doesn't matter. Another factor is the risk involved in installing a potentially rootkit ridden game on a PC, whereas on the Amiga there wasn't much capital gain to be had and the Internet barely existed. I think I believe in the donation based model similar to that which people like The Humble Bundle are pursuing (except I'm not sure you can pay nothing here), this seems a much better way to patronize artists than to have to pay up front for something that might be crap.

The Way of the Samurai is not The Way I'm walking

I've been really frustrated at work lately. It seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I go through cycles of frustration and depression with the way things are. I can't work out if this is because I create that frustration myself, or if it is really a consequence of what goes on around me.

I mean, sure, injustice does exist. Bad things do happen (I didn't mean to paraphrase Super 8 there, but there you go). Let me start again: injustice does exist, bad things do happen, some people are fucking stupid, annoying, cuntish, etc etc. But how much of that is exacerbated by interpretation? Do I really have to dwell on it so much? Do I really have to feed it so much? Can I make my life easier and my perspective of it much brighter simply by looking at the world differently?

Someone once told me "It's OK to have bad thoughts, just don't let them make a nest". I don't know where he got this saying from, perhaps it was some old Polish saying (he was Polish). Sayings can be pretty dumb, as dumb as that last sentence is self-evident (that reflection is so you don't think I'm dumb), but there is something in that saying that is probably true. While we are here, is there a grain of truth in everything? No, there simply cannot be, you'd end up with a contradictory state of affairs almost instantly.

Sorry to derail this, but something just occurred to me. I read earlier on some website that intellectuals hate capitalism because it doesn't value intellectualism above everything else. I wonder whether I believe the same, and this is the root of my trouble. I wouldn't go around describing myself as intellectual, because I don't really know what it means to people. But I suppose I identify with people that think about things a lot. Do I think I should be rewarded for this? More than others?

The point is, I can't help but think about things a lot. And I worry that this is a curse as much as it is a benefit. It's probably more of a curse than a benefit come to THINK of it. OR IS IT? I don't know. Laying the blame with thinking, using thinking as the means to lay that blame, seems an odd way to come about to a conclusion that isn't already a tautology. So perhaps this road leads nowhere whatsoever.

I guess that leads me onto Zen. All I really want is clarity of mind and clarity of purpose. I'm lead to believe that meditation can achieve this, but I rarely take the time to meditate. "What if I'm just wasting my time?" I end up saying, "Wouldn't I be better off using this time to do something else?"

Certainty would be nice. If I was certain that meditation would lead me to peace of mind, then surely I'd pursue it? I'm lost in a bizarre world with no idea which direction to walk in, so instead I walk the same way I've walked before. The road seems familiar I suppose. But it always goes up and down hills this road, so why I keep taking it I don't know.

This doesn't end, it just continues. This doesn't stop here with these words, I'll still be here tomorrow, and so will you, most likely. What can I do to change things indefinitely for the better?

Is it really a blog and do I have to call it that?

I only write in this blog occasionally. I don't really know why.

A lot of the time I don't have good clarity of thought, and I don't think I am a particularly good writer unless I am embroiled with passion on a particular topic or am describing something technical.

The funny thing about this Drupal CMS software I am using, is that when one creates a post or a page, an option at the bottom of the post asks "Promote to front page?". So the Drupal software treats the "blog" and other content separately from the website proper and leaves the promotion decision up to me.

But in the end I just promote all the blog stuff to the front page, because otherwise people would have to go specifically to the blog subsection. I used to think that I might separate out those pages "worthy" of promotion to the front from those only deemed suitable for the peasant class in the "blog" section. Oh you foolish pages, live in the blog section there at the back, it's what you deserve!, only the creme may percolate to the top, to the king of the website, the pinnacle, the apex, the apogee, yes the front page. The blog post won't feel bad about being relegated to the back, but it forces me to think "hangon a sec, do I REALLY want this on the front page, do I really want to share my feelings with the rest of the world in this fashion?"

The thing is, its kind of a stupid deliberation to ponder over, but I worry. I worry that a prospective employer or someone I might otherwise want to impress, might have impressed upon them a rather different view of me, should they stumble upon my inconsequential ramblings.

But thinking about this, they are not really any less or any more inconsequential than anything else. I only say that my ramblings are inconsequential because part of me believes it is expected to say this. That I must self-deprecate my own feelings and words so that I'm not perceived as one who thinks too much of them.

But then why am I writing this? And for whom?

Some of the stuff I write for myself, like reminders, or just to vent. Other stuff, like technical tutorials or help, I do as part-reminder, part charity. I guess to some extent I feel I belong to the geek community more than I do to other communities, and I feel like I'm doing my bit in contributing to it. I see other people write technical stuff and it makes me want to write it too on some level.

It is so easy to over-analyze what is written, when I read it back to myself. It is too easy to imprison oneself with self-censorship under the guise of wanting to please others.

Of course the extreme reaction to this is then to then say "up yours" and say "I'm writing this for myself, not you". As a response, but then who is that directed at? I'm afraid it is me again. Trying to convince myself to write freely, when nobody in fact is restricting me in any manner. This is very bizarre. Not unexpected I suppose, given that the rest of the world does actually exist and I can't help but reflect upon its existence and those that will find this page and read it.

A lot of the time I don't bother to write anything, and leave this blog/website untouched for months. And a lot of the time the reason for this is that I don't want to write some useless bullshit. But then taking that approach, I've lost the whole point of it. The fact is, I WANT to write useless bullshit, because that is the point. I want to freely talk about whatever, not for the sake of others, but for the sake of myself. So again I seem to have castrated myself simply by the force of my own mind and how I perceive the world around me to be.

Odd indeed.

I'm wary of posting things without checking them throughly and trying to craft them into something I'm happy with. Now my mind is saying "yes like others, like others do too, you'd better mention that others also are wary of this". Why is it telling me this? Presumably because it thinks you'll otherwise think that I'm singling myself out as being the only one that is wary in this regard, and well, it wouldn't want you to believe that would it? My skittish mind in shackles again.

Now I have to tell you that I'm going to post this without editing it, I have to tell you this because my mind is looking at this in the manner it believes you will see it. And it is scared, scared that you'll read it and think it doesn't flow or isn't coherent. Heaven forbid it just let things be. My mind wants to control everything I guess, it wants to control not only what I write here, but also how you perceive it. So I'd better tell you that I haven't "tried my best", so you'll forgive me.

I know everyone does that, of course they do, when they write something, they write it with some intended effect in mind. But to be too concious of this, to be hyper-aware of this is a small torture, not a pleasure.

I want you, Ashley, to listen to me when I write this. I want you to free yourself from control. Can you do this?

Assassination: migitating its impact under the assumption that it will occur

I posted this on the wikileaks forum, but didn't receive any response. I'm replicating it here just for the sake of it. Note that when I speak of assassination I mean figuratively as well as literally.

--

I visited The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis recently. It is built on the hotel where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. He was in Memphis assisting a campaign to help impoverished and downtrodden garbage workers obtain better working conditions when he was shot.

The museum had a significant impact on me in several ways, but the manner in which it is pertinent here concerns: his assassination, its impact on the morale of that movement, and the lessons that can be learnt from this.

--

Julian Assange has been chosen by the majority of media outlets as a figurehead of Wikileaks. No matter what you think of this, and notwithstanding the grossly unsubtle point that Julian Assange is not the only member of Wikileaks, the impact of his probable assassination should not be under-estimated.

Clearly the organization is attempting to mitigate this event by instantiating various insurance policies and employing appropriate security measures.

But this is not enough.

In addition to mitigation, the movement should work towards ameliorating the deleterious effects of its inevitable happening.

Ideally, it could be argued, that the assassination of one member of a movement should have *no* affect on the morale of that movement. But this is however untenable; the members of every movement are human (despite the proclamations of their oppressors), and so when a figurehead is destroyed, so are some of the heartstrings upon which the figurehead had chanced to tug.

What can be done about this? Can a movement, can this movement, take steps to counter such an attack?

I believe it can, and I believe the first step is to accept that Julian Assange is probably going to be assassinated, so that when it happens, it will come as less of a shock. Have in mind what your reactions shall be upon that day, and follow them through.

When it happens, let preparation grant only a glancing blow.

--

It is easy to write this, and it is even easier to preach that people should attach themselves more to the message than to the messenger. It can even be said, that as a mantra with which to inculcate oneself, such a message is a useful ally.

But this is not enough.

Great movements have always had great speakers and this movement is no exception. Is it not only the message which is of so great importance. The message finds its equal in the manner in which it is delivered.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr was one of the greatest orators of contemporary history. When he was killed the movement lost along with the man, his capacity to capture and excite, in those who heard him, those tenuous fibres which lead us to inspiration.

Do not let this happen here.

The means by which I propose this to address this problem may at first sound ridiculous, but ridiculous or not, it may also be possible.

My answer lies in replication.

So that the loss of one figurehead cannot derail the movement, can there not be many figureheads?

Now I do not mean, simply multiple individuals that all claim to be the figurehead, no, they must be oratory equals. And they must, and this is essential, not differ significantly in the content and delivery of their messages.

At first this may seem impossible. But I would ask you: is it not possible to be moved by actor who plays a character whose origins are borne in reality? Is it not possible for the impressionist to capture certain ephemeral qualities of the impressioned? Such that in the mind of the observer the spark of recognition is ignited? I think it is.

Imagine the simultaneous delivery of speeches worldwide, all possessed of the same oratory force and conveying the same message, all representing the same organization. Imagine if this were possible. What would be required to make this possible?

My proposal is as follows: The movement selects by evaluation and democratic process from amongst its own ranks those who possess the greatest capacity for public speaking. These people (under the prior assumption that they and the figurehead are willing) are trained to emulate any figurehead the media choose to latch onto (starting with Julian Assange). The aim is to replace any single individual that the media and authorities begin to focus on, with a collective of ideally indistinguishable individuals that are essentially interchangeable when it comes to public speaking. When the members of the collective are sufficiently trained, the media would receive a rotation of its members so that no single individual could become the focus of attention and thus be at risk from a devastating assassination.

Loss of life should never be trivialized and is always a tradgedy. But this Hydra, if constructed correctly should be immune to any individual assassination. Such that the movement it figureheads would benefit from a greater degree of robustness. Having the attention focused on multiple individuals should also help to guard against the dangers posed by individual egos, megalomaniacal tendencies, etc.

The figurehead would be subject to two requirements:

1. The movement must be able to decide its members and be able to change them.
2. The movement must be able to decide its message and be able to change it.

Members of the movement who are not part of the limited figurehead collective would retain their own individuality, and convey their own messages with their own voices as usual and as they do today. Should any of them however rise as oratory stars and attract significant attention from the media or authorities, then the strategy would be applied again to turn them into a Hydra (should they agree).

What do you think?

Ashley

Understanding Static Inter-Cell Interference Coordination Mechanisms in LTE

Actually, this is an old paper, written before my Intrasite Scheduling paper. But it is a Journal paper so took much longer to publish:

Ashley Mills, David Lister, Marina De Vos: Understanding Static Inter-Cell Interference Coordination Mechanisms in LTE Journal of Communications, Volume 6, Number 4, July 2011 (c) Academy Publisher

How to sneak a knife through airport security

Here is how you sneak a knife through airport security:

Walk through without one and get one from a restaurant on the other side.

I know a guy whose child's cutlery was confiscated by security. It's bullshit isn't it? I guess this is what they call "security theatre".

Inconvenience people: of course. Inconvenience corporations: no way.

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