Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Climate Change is so 15 minutes ago

How do we know? The UK.Gov is cutting funding for climate research by 25%:
The Met Office, home of UK weather soothsaying, is getting its climate research budget chopped by a quarter after the Ministry of Defence ended financial support to focus on "current operations."
Funny, even the Brits think that winning in Afghanistan is more important that the climate change bandwagon. I blame George W. Bush. And Tony Blair. The science is settled! Settled, I say!

Hey all you deniers! Get the heck off of my lawn!

U.S. Patent #2,292,387

At State U, I studied Electrical Engineering (among other things). One thing that we studied was frequency hopping radio, which is a cool way to make your conversation hard for someone to eavesdrop on. It works kind of like this:

You and I both tune our radios to a particular frequency, say WRDK-Redneck FM. I speak the first word of the sentence, "Lever".

You and I both tune our radios to a different drequency, say WLTE-Lite FM. I say the next word, "guns".

We tune to a third frequency, for a third word "are", then a fourth "sweet."

If the adversary doesn't know the order of frequencies and the timing of the changes, he'll never know our secret: Lever guns are sweet (unless he reads this blog, of course).

What I didn't learn at State U was who invented this technique, and got a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office: Hedy Lamarr:
The idea was ahead of its time, and not feasible owing to the state of mechanical technology in 1942. It was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Neither Lamarr nor Antheil, who died in 1959, made any money from the patent. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little-known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution.
From the EFF's award:
Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil are being honored by the EFF this year with a special award for their trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems. In 1942 Lamarr, once named the "most beautiful woman in the world" and Antheil, dubbed "the bad boy of music" patented the concept of "frequency-hopping" that is now the basis for the spread spectrum radio systems used in the products of over 40 companies manufacturing items ranging from cell phones to wireless networking systems.

Pretty darn impressive, especially given how open the 1940s scientific community was to contributions from women.

And so, I hereby pledge my allegiance to Hedy Lamarr:

Sorry, I meant "Hedley" ...

The iPhone App of the Bredalucion?

Now that Breda has herself a wicked nice iPhone, it's time for her to get some apps:

Shotgun, baby. Shooty bling for the iPhone, yo!

Hat tip: #2 Son (!).

Monday, June 29, 2009

You had me at "Rogue"

I'm at a pretty major Internet Security conference right now. As you can imagine, it's a Connected World, and everyone is wireless.

Including the WiFi access point that calls itself "Rogue_AP"*. Heh.

Well played, sir. Well played.

* To non-security geeks, a "Rogue Access Point" is a non-authorized WiFi device that is installed on the network by people acting against corporate security policy. For example, the Marketing team wants to be able to have their weekly staff meeting across the street in the park, but wants to bring their laptops with them. Of course, security isn't an after thought, it's not thought of at all.

Massachusetts health care, explained

The Cliff's Notes version: it stinks, it's insanely expensive, it's unpopular, and it's coming to the rest of the country.

Hat tip: Cato-at-liberty.

From Department of Irony Homeland Security

It seems that the TSA detained a comic book author because his story was about a post-9/11 police state.
"The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble. The first page of the Unthinkable script mentioned 9/11, terror plots, and the fact that the (fictional) world had become a police state. The TSA agents then proceeded to interrogate me, having a hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes ..."
I've flown around a million and a half miles on commercial carriers, and now I'll bend over backwards to avoid flying.

Hat tip: Coyote Blog.

Borepatch: The Internet Leader in "So What?"

#1 out of a quarter Billion sites. That's a powerful lot of so what, right there.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dang Borepatch. Always making changes...

It's likely a sign of the coming Zombiepocalypse, but I've added a button to each of the blog posts.

It's from Add This, and lets you post a link to Gigg, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Translation: Borepatch is making it easy for you to link whore him.

We'll see how it goes. Been like this for all of a day now and those Facebook kids aren't out on my lawn yet.

44 American girls you don't want to mess with

Europeans often ask what is it with you Americans and your guns? Why do you feel the need for them?

As a full-service blog, I'd like to clear things up for our friends across the pond. Because it's awesome:

South Carolina first Lady Jenny Sanford could not be reached for comment. She may have been reloading.

Hat tip, Hammer, who finds the coolest stuff like the video here (warning: NSFW).

Can I just say that I have a little crush on Jenny Sanford?

No, not like that. Like this:
When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.
And this:
I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.
And this:
Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men. I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.
Translation: shape up and walk the line, mister.

Quite some time ago, I mused on the differences between Princesses and Cowgirls:
However, speaking as someone who several decades ago had to choose between princesses and cowgirls, I'd tell the boys to go with the cowgirls every day. As Postrel says:
I expected the museum to be stupid. It wasn't. In stark contrast to the ridiculous Women's Museum in Dallas, which (the one time I visited it) featured a strange combination of populist kitsch and social-constructionist feminist dogma, the Cowgirl Museum showcased women of no-nonsense character, pioneer (and pioneering) achievement, physical daring, and unapologetic femininity.
No-nonsense character. Pioneering achievement. Daring. Feminine. Yeah, baby.
That's what built this country, and it's alive and well in the South Carolina Governor's Mansion. Without the Governor.

What does a Steak sound like to a GI?

Like this:

Frank Capra's Army-Navy Screen Magazine was filmed twice a month for the troops during World War II. The steak had to share the stage with Bob Hope, Lana Turner, and Judy Garland.

From the always interesting Internet Moving Image Archive.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Get the popcorn

Seems like someone's stealing Albert Rasch's blogposts. When it happened to me, God killed a kitten. This time, not so sure.

From the department of Duh

It seems that the amount of energy that the earth receives from the sun varies over the years.

Very interesting discussion at Wattsupwiththat on data quality (a perennial problem with science in general, and Climate Science in particular, at least lately). There's a real problem with urbanization causing measured temperatures to increase over time, simply because a previously rural sensor is now in the middle of an "Urban Heat Island".

But of course, the climate models couldn't possibly be wrong. No sir. That's settled. Yessir.

Hey you deniers! Get the heck off my lawn!

Juden und schwarze musik

Why we won World War II

Hat tip: Billy Ockham, who also has everything you need to understand economics.

Dr. Evolutionary Biology sez ...

“Women are looking for resources and excitement. A 38 year old single father with three kids offers neither.”
There's more - so much more, including words of wisdom from the Irish Advice Columnist. Top shelf snark, right there.

World War I Army Signal Corps films

In 1918, the Army Signal Corps had some of the few-fangled "moving picture" cameras embedded at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood. Now via the incredible Internet Moving Image Archive. Tanks, Artillery, Doughboys, german prisoners. Oh yeah, General Pershing, too.

It needs some sort of piano accompanyment to give it that old theater feel, but if this is your bag, baby, then you should take a look.

Internet Security is hard, part CXXIV

No wonder things are a mess, the security industry is part of the problem. I just spent 20 minutes trying to figure out if the laptop I use at Security Startup company is vulnerable to a new Adobe security bug. I think that the answer is "no", but this isn't the sort of thing that you should have to figure out.

And I've been doing this for nigh on twenty years, for Pete's sake.

It started innocently enough, with a vulnerability announcement for Shockwave Player - one of the many that come around each week. This one caught my eye, though:
Shockwave Player is installed on 450 million desktops, according to Adobe.
Well, now. This is worth a look.

Things started going sideways right away. "Shockwave" is a name also used in combination with "Flash", which is what drives all the Youtube videos. A security bug in that would be really, really bad, since the Bad Guys could embed malware in a funny video and infect a million people in a day.

So, is Shockwave Player related to Shockwave Flash? After 20 minutes, I think that the answer is no. The reason is that Control Panel ("Add/Remove Programs" in XP, called "Programs and Features" in Vista) gives me a list of installed software. I do have Flash Player; I don't have Shockwave Player.

Criminey, the security industry should not be issuing vulnerability announcements that contain brand confusion. They should state clearly what needs to get fixed, and if the vendor has bade things difficult because of similarly-named products, the vendor should be made to explain the situation.

For for my readers, here's what (I think) the situation is:

1. Your Adobe PDF Reader is fine.

2. Your Adobe Shockwave Flash Player is fine. You may have two: a browser plugin, and an ActiveX Control; both are fine.

3. Your Adobe Shockwave Player is a security mess, and you'll want to get a new one from Adobe. You, like me, may not have it. If you want to make sure, you'll have to check in Control Panel.

So we'll deduct 20 points from Adobe for brand confusion and 40 points from the security researchers for not eliminating the confusion (Bad researcher! No biscuit!).

Look, security is hard enough without adding unnecessary confusion.

Chris Young - Drinkin' Me Lonely

A while back, I used to like watching (the now canceled) Nashville Star, a country music version of American Idol. During the competition, there was always one evening where the contestants had to sing a song that they had written.

I remember watching Chris Young perform Drinkin' Me Lonely and saying I'd pay money for that song.

I did.

Country music has a long tradition of "done me wrong" songs, and an entire sub-genre devoted to alcohol. This is a fine addition to that camp, as is the song Flowers from his self-titled CD about a man that sobered up after his drunken crash killed his wife.

Drinkin' Me Lonely (Songwriters: Chris Young, Larry Wayne Clark)
I'm pushing you away each time I pull up that ol' barstool,
And drownin’ you in every drop I drink.
I'm telling you to go to hell but I’m talking to myself
‘Cuz you’re not around to hear what I think.
I’m trying to teach my heart to hate you,
But it ain’t workin’ right
Now the truth is I’m only drinkin’ me lonely tonight.

Lord, it’s more than just thirsty that I’m feeling inside
‘cause these tears I’ve been crying have left me bone dry,
I wish the bartender had a cure I could buy,
But the truth is I'm only, drinkin' me lonely tonight.

He said I’d have to choose between your love and this old bar room,
And I just laughed, but I guess you knew best,
Who cares whose right or wrong tonight, my better half is gone
And this whiskey's laying claim to all that’s left.
So I'll just order up another and pretend I'm all right,
When the truth is I’m only drinkin’ me lonely tonight.

And Lord, it’s more than just thirsty that I’m feeling inside
‘cause these tears I’ve been crying have left me bone dry,
And I wish the bartender had a cure I could buy,
But the truth is I'm only drinkin' me lonely tonight.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why I don't buy from the iTunes store

I went to install an app on my iPhone (Target Practice, which looks fun, and is free). I was told by iTunes that the terms and conditions had changed, and I had to click to agree.

No problem, right? Do a quick read through, may get something interesting.

Twenty-eight pages. Boy, howdy.

Actually, there is something interesting. The agreement let's them charge sales tax. I'd post an excerpt via the new iPhone 3.0 cut-and-paste feature, except Apple doesn't seem to let you cut that.

Interesting, in a bad way. I'm afraid that It's stuff like this that makes me distrust Apple. Is this abuse of the closed architecture? Who knows. So I'll buy CDs and rip them, or DRM-free MP3s from Amazon. And I'll be able to listen to them on Ubuntu, too.

Note to Apple Marketing: it's almost impossible to regain trust after you lose it.

You lost, get over it

Don Surbur comments on a BBC report from Iraq:
Iraqi: “Safety is not 100 per cent… why are the Americans leaving?”

I hate to tell him this, but we had an election in 2006. His side lost. Those who care about Iraq were able to muster enough support to give it one last shot — The Surge — before leaving, but then in 2008, we elected as president a guy who pronounced The Surge DOA before it began.

About sums it up right there. Surbur continues:

The pro-Surge side might have been helped if somewhere along the way, Iraqis had held a day of appreciation for the liberation from one of the most ruthless dictators on the face of the Earth.

A parade or two of some magnitude might have persuaded the American people that Iraqis gave a damn — that the sacrifices we endured were not in vain.

About sums it up right there, too. I supported the war, and the surge, because I didn't see an alternative, and I'm sick of the whining.

He leaves out the part about letting Europe and Korea fend for themselves, but other than that, it's spot on.

Blogroll Update

This time, I didn't have to find out by accident. Paladin emailed to say that he'd blogrolled me over at his place, The Reluctant Paladin. As he says, Guns, motorcycles, and photography, and adventures off the beaten path. Plus a pink tractor that is constructed entirely out of WIN.

Check him out - he totally beat me with a post about the 13 year old student stripped searched at her school. Guess I need to get a different topic, because he pretty much said what I would have. RTWT.

If anyone else has put me up on their blogroll and I haven't reciprocated, please send an email or leave a comment.

The Moon and St. Christopher

The longest journey a man can take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart.

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, but I don't think he watches over that particular journey.

There are lots of reasons that people travel: making a living and trying to better their life, experiencing the pleasure of different climes and cultures, uncomfortable in their own skin and trying to put a little distance between themselves and themselves.

Gov. Mark Sanford is making that eighteen inch journey right now.

One of my favorite songs is Mary Chapin Carpenter's The Moon and St. Christopher. Someday we all come to the edge of the abyss, and stare into the void. What happens when darkness overtakes you reveals who you are, and where you go.

The Moon and St. Christopher (Songwriter: Mary Chapin Carpenter)
When I was young I spoke like a child, and I saw with a child's eyes
And an open door was to a girl like the stars are to the sky
It's funny how the world lives up to all your expectations
With adventures for the stout of heart, and the lure of the open spaces

There's 2 lanes running down this road, whichever side you're on
Accounts for where you want to go, or what you're running from
Back when darkness overtook me on a blind man's curve

I relied upon the moon, I relied upon the moon
I relied upon the moon and Saint Christopher

Now I've paid my dues 'cause I have owed them, but I've paid a price sometimes
For being such a stubborn woman in such stubborn times
Now I have run from the arms of lovers, I've run from the eyes of friends
I have run from the hands of kindness, I've run just because I can

But now I'm grown and I speak like a woman and I see with a woman's eyes
And an open door is to me now like the saddest of goodbyes
It's too late for turning back, I pray for the heart and the nerve

And I rely upon the moon, I rely upon the moon
I rely upon the moon and Saint Christopher
To be my guide
I have more sympathy for Gov. Sanford than I would have, not so very many years ago. He's run from the arms of lovers, from the eyes of friends, from the hands of kindness, because he can. I think I know the feeling that he had, looking into that abyss, of carrying the weight of the world. For him, it may be too late for turning back now - he's shown both his family and his constituents that they can't count on him.

There but for the grace of God go I. St. Christopher was my guide. St. Christopher, my family, my friends. And me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is everyone in the future retarded?

Well, yes.

Hat tip, TJIC.

All you need to know about Gov. Sanford

ASM826 has it. It's gonna leave a mark, too, but not in the way you might be expecting:
Tell us what she was like and how much fun it was. This whiny apology crap makes you look weak and nobody, not me, not the press, not your political cronies, and certainly not your wife, believes a word of it.
He has more, including pictures worth more than a thousand words. More than one (keep scrolling on this one).

Top shelf snark, yessir.

The purpose of Government ...

... is to serve the governing class. I'd be a lot more inclined to consider the left's Change The World proposals if they'd take a serious run at cleaning up government and "making it work."

If other news from Fantasy Island, my unicorn that pees high test into my car's tank is the shizzle Flippity Floppity Floop.

What I learned in my first year of blogging

A year ago, I put up my first post, about Internet Security. Not my best effort, looking back on it.

Anniversaries are a time to reflect on where you've been, and how you've gotten here, and this one is no different. So here's what I've learned about how to be a better blogger.

1. Explain yourself. Don't assume that people know what you're talking about. Of course you know, and of course you care about the subject - that's why you're posting about it. Other people won't, but if you're clear (and interesting) you can make other people care, too. This was the mistake I made in that first post - it's terse to the point of irrelevance. A much better post about browser security came soon later - better because I explained things so that Mom would understand (and care).

2. Post a lot. As both of my long-time readers know, the problem isn't getting me to talk; it's getting me to shut up. Almost 1400 posts in 365 days counts as "a lot", but it does a couple of things:
a. Google notices, and starts to put you in their page rankings. Sometimes it puts you strangely high in their rankings, like I am for german country music. If you like traffic (and who doesn't?) this will ramp your traffic perhaps faster than anything.

b. People will start to find things they like, and link to you. Links are very nice indeed: not only do they drive traffic, but it's a great ego boost.

c. As people start to read you regularly, they will come back more often the more frequently you post. This is one of those duh statements when you think about it for a second: if someone likes what you post, then posting more will get them back for more of what they like.
3. A regular topic will help you hone your writing style. JayG offers up a weekly Friday Fun thread on cars. It's always interesting, and always fun. Me, I have Saturday Redneck, where I take a country music song and offer some background musing, a music video, and the lyrics. Now country music may not be your bag, baby, but regular writing in the same format is called "practice". I've clearly gotten better with time: compare and contrast an early post with the Johnny and June Carter post, which has attracted more traffic than anything I've written. It's clear that this practice pays off.

Climate change and the junk science you find there is another regular topic here, as is Internet Security. Who says you have to have just one?

4. Comments are the shizzle Flippity Floppity Floop. JayG does comments at his place better than any just about anyone I've seen - he answers commenters in the comments, and sometimes gets quite a discussion going. I try to do the same, and while he gets a lot more comments than I do, there have been some great discussions that never would have happened otherwise.

5. Write what you like. This worked for me, but maybe it's stupid for you. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law. The smartest words ever said about blogging are I do this for me, not for you. If it's not fun, why would you bother doing it?

Reading back through the archives has been kind of fun, and it's interesting how rapidly I seem to have developed my style here. By the end of the first three months, the style of my posts was established, and it reads much like it does today. It will be interesting to see how things change over the next year.

On this day in history ...

In 1876, George Armstrong Custer spoiled the Centennial by way missing the over/under and getting hisself and his entire command killed by the Sioux at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

In 1948, the Berlin Airlift started. Surprisingly blowing the over/under, Uncle Joe Stalin flinches from sending in the fighter planes, and the city is saved for freedom.

In 2008, some joker started blogging under the moniker "Borepatch". Not sure what the over/under was, but it's sure a fun ride. 40,000 visits and 55,000 page views later, there are some folks that I'd like to thank:

My Blogfather JayG, who not only was the prime mover getting me to start this little corner of Al Gore's Intarwebz, but who has been insanely generous with his time, advice, and range time. Jay, you already know how much I appreciate all you've done, but I wanted to say it anyway.

It was an unbelieveably huge shot in the arm when Tam left a comment (on my second day of blogging - ZOMG!!!1!). She's been one of my favorite reads for a long time, and the fact that she'd stop by and say "hi" meant a lot when I was just starting out. Thanks, Tam.

I think that the best writer that I've met (in a virtual sense) is Brigid. Her style has had the biggest influence on mine, and I'm a much better writer for it. I simply could not have written this without reading her writing. Thanks for sharing your writing with us, Brigid.

To both my regular readers - especially the ones who comment - you are a continual delight. Thanks, y'all!

Here are some posts from the not-your-average-bear category:
  • The post that generated the most traffic: Johnny and June Carter Cash. Thousands of hits, via Google.
  • Nazi Zombies. I get a lot of hits a day on this from Google. Goofy.
  • While "Grace" is my best post, this is a close second. Unlike "Grace", it didn't require any skill or craftwork. Don't get many of those.
  • There sure seem to be a lot of folks who want to hack their neighbor's Wifi - at least, Google sends a bunch my way. So many, in fact, that I put a warning on the top of the post. Let's keep safe out there ...
  • Sometimes I write about politics. Sometimes, instead of being ranty and pedantic, things just work. This post got more links than anything I've done.
  • One of my posts seems to be good enough for someone to steal.
  • And of course, what would this list be without Teletubbies. This is my personal favorite.
So to everyone who's come by in the last year, thanks!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blogroll updates

Two additions this week, both of whom have been kind enough to blogroll me.

First to Albert Rasch, who I'd really like to go hunting with some time. Sadly, this probably won't happen unless he likes hunting with total n00bs.

Second is Gordon Durand at Zeta Woof who describes himself as "bitter, rebellious, and stubbornly uncooperative." I'm pretty sure that this means that if you like what you read here, you'll like what you read there. Plus, he also like the NASA Astronomy Picture Of The Day.

If anyone else out there has a blog, and if you've blogrolled me, I'd be happy to reciprocate. Drop me an email (or leave a comment).

Free antivirus from Microsoft

Microsoft Security Essentials is out for beta. If you ask me, it can't hurt.

Here Chez Borepatch, I plan on loading it on the kid's computers.

I see that they don't yet have a version for Ubuntu Linux, so I'll have to hold off for myself ...

UPDATE 24 June 2009 14:53: That was quick. The beta program is closed now. If you didn't get it, you'll have to wait for the official release in September.


Kids vs. Adults


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Which Laptop? Which Linux for it?

Albert Rasch asked in an email: which laptop would I recommend that is rugged and reliable, and with a decent screen? He also asks which Linux I'd recommend for it, assuming that the primary use is basic Internet and multimedia.

I've been pondering this for a couple weeks now, and have finally figured out why: I'm not at all sure about the hardware. Twenty years ago I was immersed in computer hardware specs; now I'm pretty far removed from from the latest and greatest. However, I do have some recommendations I can make, about both.

First, let me recommend The Register, the online journal about what's happening in the world of IT. I've followed them for ten years, and sharp-eyed readers will remember that I post a lot of links to them. They have a section devoted to hardware, which is worth your time if you're doing research. I've found them to be reliable, and highly recommend them.

Second, I can describe what I would do - I'd look for a 2 year old IBM/Lenovo laptop. I have a store near me that sells computers that have just come off of corporate lease. You'd be buying down the performance curve, but what you'd get is additional ruggedness and reliability. Back at Big Tech Company, I used IBM laptops for 5 years. Kind of built like a tank, and they offer big screens and especially good keyboards (I view keyboards like I view triggers; mushy action is muy bad). In general used computers are a bad deal. What you will get with this option is a more rugged, lower powered laptop for your money.

Third, you might consider one of the new-fangled Netbooks, like the Asus EeePC 1000 HA (or even better, the soon to be released 1005, which has a replaceable battery). I haven't tried this configuration, but expect that if you plugged mouse, keyboard, and monitor into the little thing that it would work great, plus would give you outstanding portability if you needed it (although then you'd be using the small 10" screen). I'm actually quite tempted to do this myself.


The Register has a set of Netbook reviews:
Samsung N120
Acer Aspire One D250
Asus Eee PC 1008HA Seashell
HP Mini 2140
Dell Inspiron Mini 12
That's the hardware. The Linux side is actually easy: Ubuntu.

Now I've been using Linux since kernel 0.99, so I'm no n00b when it comes to building a kernel, installing and configuring X, and all the techie tasks that used to make Linux so (ahem) interesting. Alas, I'm an old grumpy fart now, and can't be bothered. With Ubuntu, I don't have to bother. Everything just works.

To repeat: everything just works, out of the box.

This is the Linux for my Mom and Dad. If you want a user interface very much like Windows, you might like kubuntu, which uses the KDE desktop environment. I quite like KDE, and have run it for years, and while I run the base Ubuntu Gnome desktop, I'd recommend KDE as well.
If you want a second opinion for Netbook Linux distrubutions, El Reg has an exhaustive comparison of the choices.

You'll want 1 GB of RAM, but here's what you get over Windows:
  • Fast boot time - at least twice as fast as XP, probably 3 times Vista.
  • Free office applications - full power word processor, spreadsheet, etc.
  • Multimedia, networking, Firefox, yadda yadda.
  • You'll never get a virus or spyware (I know, never say never, but if you keep yourself in Condition Yellow as you surf, you won't get malware).
Here's what you won't get:
  • You won't get iTunes. This is a deal breaker for the kids. I expect that a year from now this won't be true any longer - development is moving pretty quickly on Banshee and other iTunes equivalents. They won't download from the iTunes store, but why would you want that when Amazon sells MP3s with no stupid dRM?
  • Oh, and the iPhone needs iTunes to configure it, so if you use a Jesus Phone, you're locked into Windows or Mac. I use my work laptop, because it syncs my calendar, so this isn't a problem.
  • Games. There are some good Linux ones that come with Ubuntu (for example, FreeCiv), but you won't find first person shooters.
You will need to install MP3 support (well, I did), but it was dead easy - Mom could do it. There's a decent, quick overview of the pros and cons of Linux here.

So Albert, sorry this took so long, and I hope it helped. Me, I'd go with the eeePC with Ubuntu, and an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.

Important information for Kindle owners

Confusion reigns on what happens to your books when you upgrade your Kindle, or transfer them to your iPhone. DRM confusion.

In DRM-free news, Project Gutenberg has 30,000 free books. Free as in beer, even.

Because they're idiots, that's why

Why would a bank put WiFi in their ATM machines?

BT Openzone is set to expand further with a deal to put hotspots in cashpoints, forgetting for a moment that it's not a mobile phone network, and making maximum use of the unlicensed spectrum available to Wi-Fi.

The latest deal is with cashpoint specialist Cashbox - suppliers of those stand-alone machines found lurking in the back of late-night shops and increasingly in the corners of pubs. These cashpoints, which are connected via the Link network, already have a broadband connection; so slipping a Wi-Fi access point into the box is not a great technical challenge.

You might think they did it because it was easy, but you'd be forgetting the title of this post.

Sure, technology exists to separate the banking network from the guest WiFi traffic. The problem is that this is software configurable. So how do ATMs get reconfigured to mix this traffic? The same way they get malware:
Both Svajcer and Zacheroff stressed the trojan could only be installed by someone who had physical access to an ATM, since the devices, obviously, don't have floppy drives and typically run only on private isolated networks. That means the malware could most likely be installed only with help of an insider or in the event passwords weren't managed properly.
OK, so maybe Cashbox makes so much money with these things that they can afford the inevitable breach. What does it mean to you?

1. If the ATM gets compromised, you can't tell if its safe to use your card there. If you can't tell if it's been compromised, you shouldn't use your card there. Hint: you can't tell.

2. If the ATM gets compromised, you can't trust the WiFi. Something could easily read all the traffic you send, or receive. It could redirect you to sites of its choice. Unless you are using a VPN to encrypt everything, it's not safe.

Other than that, it's perfectly safe.

Filed under "pwned" because while it hasn't happened yet, it's a lock. About the only lock on this sad, sad story.

Iranian regime and US DoD have something in common

They can't control the network. The DoD wants to keep bad stuff out of their networks; the Mullahs want to keep their people from finding stuff on the Internet. Both are failing, for the same reason.

Let's look at the DoD. A while back, I described their problem in How To Hack A Classified Network:
The problem is that what you want (security) and what your users want (information on Al Gore's Intarwebz) inherently is in conflict. You can't win unless they lose, and vice versa.

And remember, you're not really the architect. These networks weren't so much designed, as grew. Even the Internet itself grew by connecting networks together - a network of networks. The name IP comes from this: Internet Protocol.
The chief driver of the security FAIL that they find themselves in?
It's the Dancing Baby from the mid-1990s. This was the first example of a mass Internet video meme - it was wildly popular, and spread virally, via email from user to user as people passed the link on to each other. Remember, as the architect, you need to keep the [Classified] network from getting to the dancing baby.

You lose.
So what does this have to do with Iran? Well, they're trying to do the same thing that DoD is trying - stop the flow of information on the Internet. They also lose:
So when a government censors the Internet, it had better think twice: “Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites,” Mr. Zuckerman wrote for a recent talk. People who could not “care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos” and thereby “block a few political ones.”

You lose. Mirrors, anonymizers, tunnels, VPNs, Steganography, fast flux DNS - the only way that the Mullahs can stop the leaks is to sever all connections to the world. Because to cut off the traffic they're worried about, they have to cut off the funny kitteh traffic their people want. Even if your security team is smart, they're not as smart as a whole country of people. Even if they're motivated, they're not as motivated as an entire country looking for LOLs.

UPDATE 23 June 2009 07:53: Interesting, and a view into what's happening in real time:
Within an hour after I received a plea for help from Iran, a regular commenter on this blog recruited me into a hacker network that has been forming to support the democratic Iranian revolutionaries by providing them with proxy servers, Tor anonymizers, and any other technologies needed for them to communicate over channels the Iranian regime cannot censor or control.
I'd with the Iranian regime good luck, because they'll need it to close down these channels. But they don't deserve it, and I dare say that they won't get it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Top Gear is teh awesome

Is it OK if nobody in the UK ever uses the term "redneck" to us again? kthanxbai.

Borepatch: The Internet Leader in German Country Music

#6 out of 102 million. Weird.

On advise of Counsel, I respectfully decline to answer ...

Seems that the Census folks will be asking a lot of questions this time around. Some folks are planning on telling them how many people live in the house, and then telling them to clear off:

Outspoken Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann says she's so worried that information from next year's national census will be abused that she will refuse to fill out anything more than the number of people in her household.

In an interview Wednesday morning with The Washington Times "America's Morning News," Mrs. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said the questions have become "very intricate, very personal" and she also fears ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, will be part of the Census Bureau's door-to-door information collection efforts.

"I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," she said. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

Seems that the good folks at Census don't much like this:
Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said Mrs. Bachmann is "misreading" the law.

She sent a portion of the U.S. legal code that says anyone over 18 years of age who refuses to answer "any of the questions" on the census can be fined up to $5,000.
Well now. I wonder if you have to sign the Census form, under penalty of perjury?

One of the unanticipated consequences of the left's statist agenda is that people end up trusting the government less over time. The government needs that trust, or a lot of things simply break down.

Me? I wonder if the expression Come back with a warrant would make them unhappy?

Hat tip: Zeta Woof.

Another Airsoft related death burnout

I use Green Gas in my 1911 gas blowback airsoft pistol. Gas blowback needs gas, right?

Green Gas is propane mixed with a small amount of silicone (as a lubricant for the gun mechanism), and comes in a big can. When the can is empty, you want to dispose of it responsibly. It's propane, remember? Do not incinerate it. Do not hit it with a big old stick:

That right there is a wake up call from the Lord. It's saying "don't do that sort of thing." It also (probably) says "change your pants."

OK, it was WD-40, but I'll bet that Green Gas would have made Einstein here a shoo-in for the Darwin Awards.

British Army smallest since 1850

NuLabor is fixin' to trim Her Britannic Majesty's Army to the smallest it's been since the Crimean War. The cuts threaten the Afghanistan mission:
The official “trained manning requirement” of the army is 101,790, so the loss of three battalions, of roughly 1,800 men in total, would take the strength of the army to below 100,000.
Charles Heyman, a former infantry officer who edits The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, a military guide, said the proposed cuts were “stark raving mad”.
He added: “If we were to withdraw from Afghanistan it would be fine but with the government saying operations there will go on for 10 years it is sheer lunacy. It will do severe damage to morale within the infantry and within the wider army.”
Europeans wonder why we don't think of them as trustworthy allies. It's because when the chips are down, we aren't sure if we can count on them.  Europe wants to go back to sleep, with end-of-history dreams. Peace Dividend! More money for NuLabor to spend on favored programs.

After all, there are always those damned uppity Yanks to sort things out, if things get out of hand.


1 Adam 12, 1 Adam 12. Late model Volkswagen Beetle spotted on I-95 Northbound. Vehicle is displaying the following bumper stickers:

Approach with caution. This much smugness compressed into this small a space is potentially explosive.

I think that this can only happen in Northern climes like Boston or Chicago, as the heat of the day in the South or Southwest could result in spontaneous combustion. Well, it's what I heard.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cycles of Time

The mystery of life - birth, growth, death, is almost certainly behind the ancient efforts to precisely know the seasons. They knew when to plant, and when to harvest - they didn't need any help there, and only a professor who never spent a day on a farm could think that.

And so the "ancient observatories" like Stonehenge aren't observatories at all. They're Cathedrals.

Happy Solstice. Grill something with your dad to celebrate. Photo from the always amazing NASA Astronomy Picture Of The Day.

Heckler and Koch "Hello Kitty" model

Over at the Gormogons. Go look; you know you want to.

Darius Rucker - It Won't Be Like This For Long

A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.

- Marlene Dietrich
Or daughters.

I understand my father much more, now that I have children of my own. In some important ways, I don't think that I could have understood him until I had children. He's a good man, a good example, loved by his family and respected by his peers. A great father.

But I had to walk down that same road to know these parts of him. Now I get to walk that road with him, in a way I never could before.

Darius Rucker is new to the country music scene, but he has a song that captures that road. Happy Father's Day to all fathers, or to anyone who had a father.

It won't Be Like This For Long (Songwriter: Ashley Gorley, Charles Dubois, Darius Rucker)
He didn't have to wake up
He'd been up all night
Layin’ there in bed listenin’
To his new born baby cry
He makes a pot of coffee
He splashes water on his face
His wife gives him a kiss and says
It gonna be OK

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon we'll look back laughin’
At the week we brought her home
This phase is gonna fly by
So baby just hold on
‘Cause it won't be like this for long

Four years later ‘bout 4:30
She's crawling in their bed
And when he drops her off at preschool
She's clinging to his leg
The teacher peels her off of him
He says what can I do
She says now don't you worry
This’ll only last a week or two

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon you'll drop her off
And she won’t even know you're gone
This phase is gonna fly by
If you can just hold on
It won’t be like this for long

Some day soon she'll be a teenager
And at times he'll think she hates him
Then he'll walk her down the aisle
And he'll raise her veil
But right now she's up and cryin’
And the truth is that he don't mind
As he kisses her good night
And she says her prayers

He lays down there beside her
‘Til her eyes are finally closed
And just watchin’ her it breaks his heart
Cause he already knows

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
Yeah, this phase is gonna fly by
So, he's tryin’ to hold on

‘Cause it won’t be like this for long

It won’t be like this for long

Shifty Powers, R.I.P.

Sgt. Darrell "Shifty" Powers, member of the 101st Airborne Division, and immortalized in Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers", has died at age 86.

There is a very interesting story at the Civilian Marksmanship Program site, about trying to find his old M1 Garand among all the Mil-Surp rifles.

Requieset in pace.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Don't call them "The Troops"

Call them "Our Troops."

Wild Ed has a video you need to watch. Staff Sgt John Beale paid the ultimate price for his country, and when he came home for the last time the entire county turned out to pay their respects.

If you've ever wondered where we find men (and women) of this caliber, we find them here.

Hokey Smokes! Liberty's back!

Blogging at his old place - nicely renovated, I might add. For three months!

How'd I miss that? And helpful as always:
Shooting tennis balls makes for an uproariously good time, even if you’re by yourself. Why? Because a well-placed shot with a .40S&W will launch the sucker 50 feet into the air, and easily 50 yards downrange. Why hadn’t I thought of this before!?
Happy to move him off the "Sadly Missed" link!

The New Nashville

Viewed through the lens of snark. Flatts and Scruggs:

And another:


I tend to avoid the "pop country vs. classic country" wars, there's no doubt that today's Nashville is more packaged than before (cough! Rascal Flatts cough!). Farce the Music provides reliable snark, to skewer those who need skewering. Quality snark, like John Rich's Songwriting Tip #9:
Soccer mom Madison wants to hear how wrong she was done by her ex husband (in a humorous manner of course). She wants to hear about love and thinking back to teenage days and drinking wine from a Dixie cup. Not about how your last threesome went awry when one of the parties turned out to be a Bobbi with a "y." Safe: God, pie, beer, mama. Not safe: herpes, rope burns, naked slap fights.
Now I like Big & Rich just fine, but that right there's a funny joke.

Glad that's taken care of

The "Stimulus" bill is fixin' to create a hundred bazillion quadrillion jobs - the good ones, mind, not the ones that Americans won't do. It's in the bag.

Unfortunately, Jim at the Travis McGee Reader seems immune to Jedi mind tricks:
I leave it to smarter men to reconcile President Obama's pledge to reduce unemployment in the auto industry while simultaneously cutting 21,000 jobs at GM, of which he is now 60 per cent owner and bankruptcy receiver-in-chief.
Plus the greatest Detroit song ever, by the late, great Johnny Cash. There's a country music song for everything.

Via Tam, who knows good snark when she sees it.

When is an emergency not an emergency?

When the liberal press (redundancy alert) writes a story about something that they don't like.

Consider today's Washington Post. The lede:
The D.C. government released emergency regulations yesterday that greatly expand the models of handguns that District residents can own, a shift designed to stave off another lawsuit over its compliance with the Second Amendment.
Emergency, get it? Pretty serious, I'd think, especially when you read into the story to find this:
Several council members who voted to implement the District's gun policies declined to comment yesterday, saying they had not reviewed the changes.
Wow. It was so much of an emergency, that the city council voted for it without even reading it.

So what was the emergency? Well, the story talks about (and even quotes - points for fairness there) Tracey Hanson, the DC resident who lawyered up with Alan Gura. But again, why the emergency nature? The usual suspects at the Brady Crowd are out talking about "Common Sense" gun controls, so where's the coverage of the non common sense controls that DC just ditched? All we get is a hint:
It's the second time in less than a year that city leaders have had to back away from some of the restrictions they put into place immediately after the Heller decision. Initially, the council permitted residents to register only revolvers, not semiautomatic pistols. But the ban on semiautomatics was lifted in September because of pressure from Congress and gun rights groups.
The only explanation that makes sense is that the reporter (Tim Craig) is so clueless about guns that he is simply incapable of writing a coherent story. Emergency legislation passed without the council even reading it - why did they think they were going to lose in court? What, in other words, constitutes non-common sense gun controls, per the Washington DC city council?

If you want to know, don't bother reading the Washington Post. They can't figure it out. I'm sure glad they have all those layers of editors and fact checkers, though.

DC gun control - falling to pieces. Fortunately, there's a country song for that.

Patsy Cline - I Fall To Pieces

First is a good word to describe Patsy Cline. The first woman inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. First on CMT's The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. First in the Guinness Book of World Records for most weeks on the charts for a female star, in any music genre (722 total, 251 at #1).

She only made it to #11 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. I think it's because she died so young, and so long ago. VH1's judges were still in diapers, if they were born at all.

First female country star to have major crossover success. Crazy reached #2 on the Hot Country Chart and #9 on the US Hot 100 and #2 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. All at the same time.

And she also helped launch the careers of Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Barbara Mandrell , and Brenda Lee

Not bad for the daughter of a seamstress, whose blacksmith father ran out on her mother. Her untimely death in a plane crash - leaving a husband and two small children - gives pause, to wonder what her career might have been had she lived out her full allotment of years.

Her style was completely new. Rather than the traditional female country style of gingham dresses and warbling vocals (and backing up the country men-folk), Cline brought sophistication, with her sultry contralto and cocktail dresses. Another first, she was the first female country star to sing at Carnegie Hall. Dorothy Kilgallen wrote in her column The Voice of Broadway of the "hicks from the sticks."

Most people have heard of Patsy Cline. Most people have never heard of Dorothy Kilgallen.

I Fall To Pieces is perhaps her signature song. Initially ignored by country radio, it broke out of the doldrums on the pop charts, and moved back to country. It made her reputation, and for good reason. It reached #12 on the pop charts, and #6 on the adult contemporary charts. It peaked at #1 on the country charts, her first number one hit.

I Fall To Pieces (Songwriters: Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard)
I fall to pieces,
Each time I see you again.
I fall to pieces.
How can I be just your friend?

You want me to act like we've never kissed.
You want me to forget, pretend we've never met.
And I've tried and I've tried, but I haven't yet.
You walk by and I fall to pieces.

I fall to pieces,
Each time someone speaks your name.
I fall to pieces.
Time only adds to the flame.

You tell me to find someone else to love,
Someone who'll love me too, the way you used to do.
But each time I go out with some one new,
You walk by and I fall to pieces.

You walk by and I fall to pieces.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

But a sad one:
The newspapers are perhaps a bit kind when they describe these deaths; he was playing with the gun and it went off. This should perhaps be changed to he was playing with the gun and fired it, forgetting it was not a toy, forgetting it was loaded, and forgetting that he had pointed it at his best friend.

Happy Blogiversary

To Edge, of Edge's Conservative Movies, who's turned two today*.

It's a regular read for me; if you haven't stopped by, check it out.

* His blog, not him. Although these days, 2 in blog years is like 35 or so ...

Massachusetts Supremes: Does 2nd Amendment apply to state?

It seems that State Police Lt. Richard Bolduc was not locking up his handguns at home, in violation of the Commonwealth's laws:
On June 25, 2007, Cape Cod detectives went to Bolduc's home to investigate a report that his son had pointed an unloaded gun at a 5-year-old girl and pulled the trigger. When the 12-year-old son directed investigators to an unlocked bureau in his father's bedroom, they discovered a department-issued, high-capacity handgun that was not secured with a trigger lock.
Lt. Richard Bolduc needs to give his son a refresher on the 4 Rules of Gun Safety. More seriously, he was arrested and charged with violating said statutes.

Shockingly, in March, a court dismissed the case, citing the 2008 Heller v. District of Columbia ruling that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess firearms in your home. Other Massachusetts courts have ruled the opposite way, and now the case is on its way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:

The Supreme Judicial Court decided to look at the law after a District Court judge cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision in dismissing firearms charges against a Billerica man who had been accused of keeping unlocked weapons.

That decision said the District of Columbia could not require gun owners to keep their weapons disassembled and the Second Amendment gives people the right to keep and bear arms.

This is a State, not a Federal case, but it is fascinating to to see even State District courts - in a liberal state like Massachusetts, no less - rule that the Second Amendment means what it says, and applies to Cambridge as much as it does to Fort Worth.

It's not by any stretch a done deal, but the ripples of the Heller case continue to spread.

Blogroll update

I linked to a very interesting (and funny) site, The Gormogons. They've kindly added me to their Blog roll, in a way that warms my heart:
You be happy to know that the Gormogons are reasonably well armed. Though we could always use more. Send guns and money. (Lawyers enough we got.)

Enjoy your coveted spot on our Blog Pimp Roll (with apologies to Tom Wolfe).
Molon Labe, and added to the Borepatch bloglist (and daily read).

Action, Reaction (part 2)

No trend continues for ever. The Obama Administration's honeymoon period won't, either. How political trends end, and why, is something that very few people predict well.

However, the Administration's new sweeping healthcare plan is barely launched, and is already in big trouble. Megan McArdle on why:
What's happening now is precisely the kind of political gridlock I--and a lot of libertarians and conservatives--predict when it comes time to actually cut costs in healthcare. Why can't we tax employer health benefits? Liberal answer: because Ben Nelson is a big fat jerk. My answer: because then the awesome health care package that Democrats want to run on in 2010 would come packaged with a non-awesome hefty decline in everyone's weekly paycheck. The number of people who would get a benefit out of the program would be much smaller than the number of people who would pay a noticeable cost.
Must read stuff, especially for liberals who think that this is 1932 all over again, and that Obama is FDR.


Actually, this explains a lot.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do Social Networks put you at risk?

I blog pseudonymously, although it's probably not too hard to figure out my secret identity. Mostly it's because a lot of folks here in the People's Republic of Massachusetts think Guns - Ick! I don't want to find that my kid's friends are no longer allowed to play at our house, for fear of catching Second Amendment cooties.

Some people don't think much of pseudonymous bloggers. They don't understand security:
Like a lot of people who use social media, Israel Hyman and his wife Noell went on Twitter to share real-time details of a recent trip. Their posts said they were "preparing to head out of town," that they had "another 10 hours of driving ahead," and that they "made it to Kansas City."

While they were on the road, their home in Mesa, Ariz., was burglarized. Hyman has an online video business called IzzyVideo.com, with 2,000 followers on Twitter. He thinks his Twitter updates tipped the burglars off.


Most people wouldn't leave a recording on a home answering machine telling callers they're on vacation for a week, and most people wouldn't let mail or newspapers pile up while they were away. But users of social media think nothing of posting real-time vacation photos on Facebook showing themselves on beaches hundreds of miles from home, or sending out automatic e-mail messages that say, "I'm out of the country for a week."

Me, I'm updating my Facebook account:
Ted is home cleaning his guns, and waiting for burglars.
(Borepatch likes this.)

Ghost Towns

The difference between America and Europe is that Americans think that 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think that 100 miles is a long way.

In the unlikely event that a European stumbles across this blog and joins my two regular readers, my advice to him is to visit the "flyover" country if he really wants to understand America. The spaces are huge, and (mostly) empty.

But the emptiness contains the ghosts of lost dreams.

There is a restlessness to the American soul that is best captured by standing in the main street of a Ghost Town. Where once people built lives, nature is triumphant. It's pretty astonishing just how fast a house will fall apart and disappear into the landscape without someone to keep it up.

I remember in 1972, visiting my great-grandfather's farm in Kansas. The old farmhouse where my father lived during the summers when he was a boy was nothing but boards. In thirty years, reduced to a pile. Thirty-five years later, even that will be gone.

Here used to be life, and love, and dreams. All gone.

There's nothing to compare with this in Europe, except for civilizations long dead and peoples vanished. But ours is not dead, and out people are not vanished, just moved on to greener climes and newer dreams.

The American (and Canadian) west is filled with Ghost Towns. The GhostTownGallery has a list of them, if you want to pick one to visit.

Not on the list: Flint, Michigan:

The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

Not dead, but dieing. The silver's run out, the mine is boarded up, and the prospectors have moved on.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.

The exodus – particularly of young people – coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

All that's left are those too old to pick up and move again, or those too sentimental.

Europeans build with stone, or brick. Americans build with wood. Expectations inform actions. Blut und Boden vs. Home is where the heart is. Here, the landscapes of the mind are what's durable.

Internet Security and Grateful Dead concerts

From security guru Rich Mogul comes a great story with applicability to managing security:
I used to sort of like the Dead until I started working Dead shows. While it might have seemed all "free love and mellowness" from the outside, if you've ever gone to a Dead show sober you've never met a more selfish group of people. By "free" they meant "I shouldn't have to pay no matter what because everything in the world should be free, especially if I want it", and by mellow they meant, "I'm mellow as long as I get to do whatever I want and you are a fascist pig if you tell me what to do, especially if you're telling me to be considerate of other people".
Concerts, Internet Security, and how to eat the elephant. If this is your bag, baby (as it is mine), you need to RTWT.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Failure of Imagination

Ever wonder why it's called "Greenland"? One explanation is that it was marketing: If we call it "Greenland", we can fool people into coming here.

This is pretty unsatisfying. Never mind the fact that you'd likely end up with a lot of people unhappy with you this way, why would you want to start a colony on a glacier?

The Viking expansion to Greenland (and soon after, to Labrador) happened in the tenth and early eleventh centuries. There were plenty of other opportunities for overseas expansion than sitting on a glacier - King Knut conquered England and ruled there from 1017 until his death in 1035. Normandy in France gets its name from the North Men, who conquered it in the ninth and tenth centuries.

Another explanation for Greenland's name? Maybe it was green.

Both my long term readers know that I'm a bit skeptical of the theory of Anthropological Global Warming (AGW), and I've explained Why I'm a Global Warming Skeptic. The biggest reason is that it's been much warmer in the relatively recent past: the Medieval Warm Period, between around 800 AD and 1300 AD.

Source: Newton et al., Geophysical Research Letters.

Note that the time scale on the graph reads backwards - the most recent date is on the left, and the oldest is on the right. The data is not from the north Atlantic, but rather from the Indian Ocean, but demonstrates that global temperatures were not just warmer then, they were significantly warmer.

In other words, Greenland probably was green.

The current AGW models do not explain why this happened - they don't predict the historical record, and so I'm pretty unconvinced that they're predicting what's happening today. And just so you don't think I'm playing games with the time scales to make a point, here's NOAA (the US weather agency) showing climate back to 150,000 years ago:

Much, much warmer around 130,000 years ago. Can't blame SUVs for that. The current models don't explain this, either.

But this isn't my point, which is about why you don't find Vikings in Greenland any more, and haven't for over 500 years. The Medieval Warm Period ended abruptly - in the space of one or two generations, around the late thirteenth century AD. This wasn't a happy time for just about anyone, as cooler and shorter summers led to a series of crop failures. Famine led to pestilence, and the other horsemen all came to party. Think Black Death. The historical record is filled with this - Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror is the must-read source for the story of how a third of the population between the Indus river and Iceland simply died out.

Throughout history, most people have lived one or two bad harvests from disaster. The Seven Lean Years follow the fat ones, and lean doesn't mean "we'll all lose those few unsightly inches around the waist", it means that your kids would die, your parents would die, and maybe you would die.

The Medieval Warm Period was followed by what was known as the "Little Ice Age" - 4 centuries of global cooling that were simply catastrophic. Glaciers devoured villages in the Alps, it got so cold that the American Continental Army moved cannon south from Fort Ticonderoga over the frozen Hudson river, and the Vikings in Greenland starved to death. Jarred Diamond describes the scene in Collapse:
The animal bones in those topmost layers tell a grim story. They include: foot bones of small wild birds and rabbits, which would normally have been considered too small to be worth hunting and usable only as last-ditch famine food; bones of a newborn calf and lamb, which would have been born in the late spring; the toe bones of a number of cows approximately equal to the number of spaces in that farm's cow barn, suggesting that all cows had been slaughtered and were eaten down to the hoofs; and partial skeletons of big hunting dogs with knife marks on the bones. Dog bones are otherwise virtually absent in Norse houses, because the Norse were no more willing to eat their dogs then we are today. By killing the dogs on which they depended to hunt caribou in the autumn, and by killing the newborn livestock needed to rebuild their herds, the last inhabitants were in effect saying that they were too desperately hungry to care about the future.
Gone, victims of climate change. The current climate models don't explain this, either.

This all has a point, which is that there is a massive failure of imagination happening today. The orthodoxy is that the climate is getting much warmer, much faster, and that it's man's fault. The orthodox don't talk about how lately it's been getting colder, and may be getting much colder:

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.


None of this has given much cheer to farmers. In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya – used in animal feed and in many processed foods – are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

The models predict higher temperatures.

Who knows? Maybe ten years from now, temperatures will go higher. Maybe we will see the seas rise an inch over the next 100 years. But a lot of people in the third world will die if things stay cool. Even today, most of the world lives only a few bad harvests from hunger. A horribly misguided ethanol-fuel program is making things worse.

So why the focus on warming? Failure of imagination. Unless its an Intellectual Class that can imagine itself in charge of the whole economy, by ginning up a "crisis" while people starve.

Hat tip and thanks to Don, who pointed out the Telegraph article via email.