Spoken stats from my weather station

Last Christmas (2016), I got an AcuRite weather station from Costco as a gift to replace my falling-apart Oregon Scientific station. It’s a decent little setup, with wireless transmission from a multi-sensor box outside to the panel inside. For the longest time my biggest complaint was its need to use Windows software to archive its data.

Acurite weather station

Then early last year I hooked up the open source weather software weewx to my station. Weewx creates a nice (if simple) graph of weather data (as seen at https://www.markturner.net/wx) and also kicks the data over to my MySQL database so I can save and query those stats. Last month I was able to create a fancy Grafana dashboard that dynamically displays that data in a beautiful format. Now I had taken a $75 weather station and made it much more useful!
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The leadership itch returns

Last Thursday, I attended an RPD Community Meeting at Lions Park Community Center. It was a meeting to answer neighborhood concerns about the recent incident of delayed police response as well as answer any questions about crime in the area. A handful of neighbors attended, the usuals I’ve become used to seeing at CAC meetings, and a bevy of police officers, detectives, and representatives from the Communications Center.

I have two pages of notes on that meeting that I would like to type up into a report, but the point of this post is how at home I found myself feeling in that room. After three years of conducting CAC meetings, I was all too happy to volunteer questions when the presenters asked for them. I didn’t organize the meeting nor was I in charge of it but I certainly felt right at home quizzing these people for things I wanted to know.

In short, I may indeed miss being a CAC chair. More than that, I miss that I wasn’t able to run for City Council. I have not forgotten how absolutely jazzed I used to feel after my CAC meetings. The small taste I got of it Thursday reminded me that this is where I’m in my element. I hope some day I can get there.

The Space Review: A NEMESIS in the sky: PAN, MENTOR 4, and close encounters of the SIGINT kind

PAN/NEMESIS satellite

Here’s an interesting story from 2016 about spy satellites. Amateur satellite spotters determined that the “PAN” satellite of the U.S. Government were tiptoeing up next to geostationary commercial communications satellites so they could vacuum up the signals being relayed through them. Speculation is that PAN was able to triangulate the position of satellite phones used by terrorists, enabling drone strikes.

This would make a fun new hobby.

After launch, the enigma became even bigger. PAN was placed in a geostationary orbit and observations by amateur satellite trackers (including this author) from Europe and South Africa revealed very unusual behavior. Every few months—usually once every six months—PAN moved to a new position. In a mere four years time, it moved at least nine times to various longitudes scattering between 33 and 52.5 degrees east (see my blog post “Imaging Geostationary satellites, and PAN’s past relocations”). This costs fuel, and it is something you normally do not do with a geostationary satellite, as liberally spending fuel drastically shortens the satellite’s operational lifetime. In late 2013, the relocations suddenly stopped and PAN has remained at longitude 47.7 degrees east. This active stationkeeping at this longitude means it must still be operational, although the satellite obviously has ended its previous roving state. All very mysterious! What was this spacecraft doing?

Source: The Space Review: A NEMESIS in the sky: PAN, MENTOR 4, and close encounters of the SIGINT kind

Tom Dundon, king of subprime auto loans

Tom Dundon

The local paper is singing the praises of the new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Tom Dundon. WRAL Sports Fan The News and Observer’s Luke DeCock and Chip Alexander lauded the “self-made billionaire” in an adoring story today:

Dundon, 46, has no background in professional sports but knows how to operate a successful business and already has analyzed much of the Hurricanes’ organization and operation. He also likes to win.

Let’s talk about this “self-made billionaire” who “knows how to operate a successful business.” Dundon’s successful business was Santander Consumer Holdings USA, the subprime auto lending arm of the Spanish bank, Santander. Dundon founded the business and ran it until July 2015, when he stepped down just as the regulatory heat was being turned up on Santander. Santander Consumer is in the subprime auto loan business, making what some say is 1 out of every 5 loans. For those of you who didn’t see the film The Big Short or slept through the 2008 recession, America’s economy was nearly ruined by the kind of loans lenders like Santander made.
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Got Robocalled? Don’t Get Mad; Get Busy. — Krebs on Security

Several times a week my cell phone receives the telephonic equivalent of spam: A robocall. On each occasion the call seems to come from a local number, but when I answer there is that telltale pause followed by an automated voice pitching some product or service. So when I heard from a reader who chose to hang on the line and see where one of these robocalls led him, I decided to dig deeper. This is the story of that investigation. Hopefully, it will inspire readers to do their own digging and help bury this annoying and intrusive practice.

Source: Got Robocalled? Don’t Get Mad; Get Busy. — Krebs on Security

The time Santa rescued me

A visit from Santa at sea

Over the holidays, I found myself thinking back to another Christmas of over 25 years ago.

I was serving in the Navy on the USS Elliot (DD-967) and it was yet another Christmas away from home. I was in a funk at the time though now I’m not sure which one of the many possible causes was responsible. I’m pretty sure I was nearing the end of my enlistment. I definitely remember that the deployment was ending and we were bound for San Diego. Maybe it was because I had been butting heads with some of the other guys in my division (we didn’t always get along and when I finally earned some rank I became more comfortable with confronting the slackers and assholes). Maybe it was simply because I didn’t know what I should be doing with my life. Still don’t, actually.

But there I was at sea. It was about 8 AM. I had been working midwatches and had just come off of twelve hours of nighttime duty. I was in my rack, exhausted and feeling depressed. I just wanted to sleep and make the time pass as quickly as I could.
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‘Kernel memory leaking’ Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign • The Register

A massive security issue has been found in Intel’s processors that will very shortly have a huge performance impact on almost all computers. Details are sketchy at the moment but it’s not looking good.

Remember the Year 2000 (Y2K) bug? This is likely to eclipse Y2K. Why? Because patching broken software is trivial but patching broken hardware is all but impossible. We will feel the effects of this design flaw for years. Soon nearly all computers you interact with (including online services like Facebook, SalesForce, Netflix, etc) could be from five to thirty percent slower.

When I purchased a new Intel processor last year, I did so thinking it would give me a decade or more of service. Now it’s already obsolete. If any class-action lawsuits spring up over this I would be willing to join in. This is ridiculous.

A fundamental design flaw in Intel’s processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug.

Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.

Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we’re looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30 per cent slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features – specifically, PCID – to reduce the performance hit.

Similar operating systems, such as Apple’s 64-bit macOS, will also need to be updated – the flaw is in the Intel x86 hardware, and it appears a microcode update can’t address it. It has to be fixed in software at the OS level, or buy a new processor without the design blunder.

Source: ‘Kernel memory leaking’ Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign • The Register

Bonus link: Some technical speculation on the bug from “pythonsweetness.”