Friday, 30. June 2017
Monsoon adventures in central Berlin

I've said before that for now I want to write less here about global stuff, where extremism seems to be having a field day - cf. developments in Britain in recent weeks, e.g. - so what else is there currently to write about?

Well, we had a bit of a calamity here in Kreuzberg and surrounding quarters of Berlin today and especially yesterday.

It's the all-new Monsoon time of year in Berlin, apparently!

Here's a - trending! - video clip shot by a colleague yesterday afternoon, when he was returning from lunch:

In the evening of that day that U-Bahn metro station was out of commission, as well as 2-3 near it. So I had to get home another way...

On an overfull bus nearby, by now pretty wet, a big lady, even wetter because she did not have an umbrella, blocked the stairs to the top storey, so a whole lot of people, also mesome, could not get on, after all. She, looking drenched and decidedly inclement, wouldn't budge.

I had to walk/wait in the rain for another half-hour before getting on another less popular bus to a remote U-Bahn station, from which I then could ride another 6 stations, including one line change, to my home one. All-in-all it took 3 times as long to get home from work compared to other days. I arrived wet & tired.

No great adventure feeling there. Rather thoughts of southern Asia where monsoon seasons last weeks! Much respect was gained...

Then, yesterday, after constant lesser rain for over 30 hours, after I'd left home for a meeting with friends, this time armed with a light, but long-armed jacket, somewhat waterproof, but no umbrella (!), after 5 minutes on foot on the road, the monsoon-grade deluge began again. I managed to duck into another U-Bahn station, and got to the café more or less dry. Lucky escape!

This, however, left me thinking about the unwitting rain god in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide epos (beginning of the third book?) - and whether I perhaps share one or other eccentric chromosome with him?!

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Sunday, 14. May 2017
Slow down greed - don't wanna cry no more

So what's the current status on the WannaCry ransomware infection? Several hundred thousands of non-Windows-10 - also non-Linux & non-MacOS - PCs/laptops/servers may have been infected, making many of them useless due to important files having been scrambled. For many of these, apparently no functioning backups exist! Microsoft had recently finally/correspondingly released a free complete security update (no. KB4012598) for free download. All sorts of calls for more oversight and general control of the Internet - whatever that means, and does that include Internet-espionage government agencies?! - are now being made public...

In a current op ed in the New York Times some interesting ideas have been put forward, on how Microsoft and government could do much more to raise industry security standards.

One point not mentioned there, is that the fast release cycle for new operating systems, initiated at its current high-profit 3-4 year level by Microsoft* itself decades (!) ago, copied by all major op. system distributors since then, may also have contributed greatly to the current problem. All system administrators know why their bosses live by the motto NEVER CHANGE A RUNNING SYSTEM - because new software invariably contains new bugs, including doorways for exploits by viruses such as the current "big in the news" one. So, if an operating system, like Windows XP, has proved stable, it tends to be kept in use as long as possible.

Buggy software means unexpectedly high & sudden expenses.

The motto (in capitals, above) is also automatically enforced by another problem: The connecting interface** to applications - esp. big ones like database and document retrieval management systems - tends to also change whenever a major release to an operating system is installed. So, most application levels "sitting" on the op. system may have to be updated, then, too!

An upgrade always takes a lot more effort (= money) to apply than a smaller update of the current version.

So, maybe the rapidity of the whole innovation cycle is the problem. Or rather, it is part of a self-regulating overall system that will cause massive failure of partly important systems, if a more appropriate balance between release cycles and need for innovation is not found...

I am not against innovation, but it could use more stabilisation and good testing. Any software engineer can tell a story supporting that.

We are part of the world, and thus so are the things we make within the world. And the world has regulated itself for a long, long time.

Let's - especially us i.t. guys - get with the rhythm!

(* in collusion with Intel, I feel /
** API or "system calls")

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Tuesday, 18. April 2017
What all the hate eventually leads to - murderous greed

Molly Kyle of Osage County, Oklahoma A pretty mesmerising interview by the amazing Terry Gross today on Fresh Air i.a. told the story of beleaguered and betrayed Molly Kyle (pictured) of the Osage nation almost a century ago, in Oklahoma. Because the local tribe had been given a bit of land by edict of the then current U.S. president, only to find rich oil resources on Molly's part of the land - and surroundings - greedy & soulless white men moved in, married the women to get a legal title by marriage, and then proceeded to murder them - either quickly, e.g. by a gunshot to the back of the head, or slowly, by poisoning...

It's hard to grasp how bigotted these men - and U.S. society in general - were at that time, to have something like this happen over a relatively long time. How Osage natives were treated judicially as only partial citizens, as incapable of managing their own wealth, and finally as a bloody means to oil barony. At round about the time one of my favourite novels was being written: The Great Gatsby.

But then, only a decade later, my own nation was gearing up to give even greater & far more vicious murderers absolute power over millions of people, and killing many of them after stripping them and their kin of all means of earning income, then of all they owned, then of their lives!

So, as a German, a child of children who lived at that time, all I can really do - with singular vigour - is point out just how deadly hate & bigotry can become. We are living at a time, when we've been living a good life in the 1st World for several decades, on average... so now we look idly on, as every 5th or 4th person surrounding us - together with attention-greedy "big" politicians - is kick-starting the great & bloody hate machine again: In the United Kingdom break'xiting away; in the U.S.A. to help an old redneck surf a wave of whining hate into the vicinity of the nuclear football; in France in just a few days to decide on the fate of the EU.

We can. Or we can gear up - with thousandfold vigour - for another, more global "no hate" campaign!

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