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WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
09 October 2015 @ 09:17 pm
I think it's a good time to express some views on the Freddie Grey case.

Namely, it's high time a federal audit ocurred on the entire Baltimore City goverment.  It's that screwed up.
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
Okay, unlike some things, I'm not going to bore you with details.  This one's a doozy and if I was a security expert, I would of downloaded in my pants now.  It's that bad if you got way-old Intel hardware... or AMD hardware.

If you got Intel hardware, you need to see what chip archetecture it is:

  • On Windows, download the CPUID CPU-Z program. Install it and run it. If it says you're on AMD hardware, you're vunerable.  Otherwise, you're looking for the CPU's Code Name.  If it doesn't start with the following, you're likely vunerable:  Haswell, Skylake, Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Merrifield, Moorefield, Bay Trail, Avoton, Rangeley

  • On Linux, run "cat /proc/cpuinfo | less" on the command line.  If the "Model name" says AMD, you're vunerable.  Otherwise look for the CPU family  and model number.  If the CPU family is not 6, or the model number is below 42, you're vunerable.

  • On MacOS X, go Apple Menu >> About This Mac.  If your Mac is late 2011 to now, you're safe.

I repeat, if you're on AMD hardware, you're vunerable.

And if you're vunerable, right now the only cure is to migrate to the lastest (post 2013) Intel hardware.

The short end of it is, it's a flaw in how the CPU's were designed that allows a hacker to get into your PC without ANYTHING to stop it.  Intel fixed it in late 2011 in the Sandy Bridge archetecture, and is working on fixes at the microcode level to the older PCs... but AMD hasn't responded to any responsible disclosure.

The techies and programmers can get more details here: https://github.com/xoreaxeaxeax/sinkhole
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
I've held back from all the controversy and the noise, mainly to get things shaken out, get all the details refined.  Now I feel this is the right time to make my statement.  I've come to the conclusion that one question must be asked:


Seriously.  The last time I saw 2 in concert was in 2010, and 2 was struggling. It was like he didn't have enough material and wasn't researched nor rehearsed properly. It was off the cuff... and it was starting to fall flat.  That method of delivery made me rethink going to 2's rants.

Fast forward to today, and I'm seeing allusions of 2 being Donald Trump... but not in a good way.  It was like 2 was being caught in a lie. He is stammering, flailing, trying to come up with not the best responce but one that will placate the masses.  And he is failing.  He may of tried to lay a trap for his critics, but they saw it a mile ahead, and instead used it on him.  Anything he's saying now only makes 2's problems worse.

This isn't the 2 of the aughts. Something changed, and not for the better.  I think 2 touched a third rail topic without taking precautions, and we're now seeing the aftermath.

Before I go on, let me define "third rail topic."  If you know about most subway lines, the subway train cars get their power from a high-voltage, high amperage third rail.  Touch it without depowering it, and you more than likely die.  Take a topic that is so highly charged, and just talk about it without doing your research, and kiss your talking/political carrer good-bye.  That is a third rail topic.

Rape is a third rail topic, for obvious reasons.  Mental issues, like depression and suicide, can safely be called a third rail topic now.  Other stand-up commedians have a difficult time handling those topics, so much that only a few have put in the research to do it properly (ie, getting the proper equipment to depower the third rail).

2 didn't do that, and is getting promptly fried.  From much of the aftermath, it sounds like 2's still holding on to the third rail. If he doesn't let go, he's going to turn into ash.

Thus, What the fuck is wrong with you, 2? Why are you still touching the third rail?
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
08 March 2015 @ 05:47 pm
Saturday (March 7th) an Amtrak heading northbound to NYC broke down hard... and it's impacts are going to be felt until Wednesday.  And I'm going to feel it as well.

Call this an angry post, but also call this a precursor to the I Ride the Penn Line blog I'm slowly working on.  A deep dive.

So take MTA's message to everyone (hit the spoiler):
[MARC Explination]

Late Friday evening, an Amtrak train traveling on the northbound track (Track #1) adjacent to the platform at Odenton experienced a mechanical failure of the rear wheels on the last car. This failure caused significant damage to a mile and a half of track, including two track swtiches. This has rendered Track #1 out of service between a point just south of Bowie State and a point just north of Odenton.

The southbound track (Track #3) has been out of service for several weeks for scheduled trackwork. As previously announced, this track is returning to service Monday morning. However, now MARC Penn Line service is faced with continued two-track operation for an eight mile stretch between Bowie and Odenton due to the damage to Track #1.

In addition to the damage to Track #1 itself, the low-level platform used to access the middle track (Track #2) was damaged as well, so the northbound platform is completely inaccessible to MARC trains. Therefore, all MARC trains will have to use the southbound platform, significantly reducing capacity.

So how much detail can we gleam out of it?  Quite a bit!  But we need some more facts first.

Here's a Wikimapia link to the two switches that were hit, both in Amtrak's GROVE Interlocking.  The interlocking (or group of switches between tracks) allows trains to switch between tracks 1 (which is northbound on the right hand side of the tracks), 2 (middle track), and 3 (left hand side, southbound) in both directions.  The arrangement is such that you can literally switch from track 1 to track 2 and back to track 1.  So there's two track switches connected to the northbound track at GROVE.

I use Odenton in a reverse-rush capability, so I'm usually on the northbound side to grab train 406 at 7:38am up to Baltimore.  I know (and you can verify by following the track down to Odenton itself) that there are only two low level platforms: one all the way north on the southbound side, and one all the way south on the northbound side.

The distance from the northern-most point of GROVE to the southernmost point of the low-level platform?  About 1.5 miles, give a few feet.

Amtrak, when the press got to them, essentially said that the train derailed from Odenton to GROVE, damaging the track between those two points, and tearing up the wooden low-level platform that bridged track 1 so folks could get on track 2.  There were no injuries, and a seperate train was dispatched to rescue the passengers and get them going back up.

So we can surmize that the Amtrak train's last car derailed just as it was approaching Odenton, damaged track 1 enough that Odenton's Northbound platform can't be used at all, and damaged the two northbound-connected switches at GROVE.  And since there's no platform anymore northbound, all the trains must use the southbound platform, which will be fully open for rush service since they finished work on track 3 this weekend.

What is Amtrak and MARC going to do, now that it's back to two-track service between Odenton and Bowie for three more days? (MTA says this is the stretch that w/o saying the names of the interlocks, is between GROVE and BOWIE, the latter being just south of the station).

Well, since they can't use the Northbound side of Odenton anymore:

  • Two track service between FULTON (north of West Baltimore station, by Fulton Street) and BOWIE until they get GROVE's switches and track repaired.  This is probably what's happening on the weekend, because there's no weekend service at Odenton or Bowie.

  • Once GROVE is repaired, cancel service to Bowie (looks like there's no low-levels there) and make Odenton rush-direction only on the Southbound platform.  This means reverse rush will always use track 2.

But wait!  There's more!  MARC will bypass Odenton on some rush trains, offer a shuttle bus to Savage from Odenton that takes 35 minutes each way, and encourage use of the crowded Camden Line.

Um... what about a shuttle bus from Odenton to BWI airport that takes 15 minutes and meets the train at BWI, leaving early at Odenton?

So the way things are going, I'm probably going to be grabbing the train at BWI, which means I won't get coffee until most likely I get in the office.  I'm going to miss the ladies at White Rabbit...
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
22 February 2015 @ 09:30 pm

  1. Do not do a remake of an existing film. You're going to fail at making it "better than the origional" and the film is going to suck.  It's going to be compared to the original, and if that one is "one of the greats," then the remakes are automatically going to be crap. (see: Total Recall, most any superhero movies)

  2. Similarly, don't reboot the entire series repeatedly. They are hit-and-miss these days (see: Hulk, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, most any superhero series).

  3. If you're doing an adaptation, stick close to the original. If it's a book, don't change the script without good reason.  If it's a cartoon, FFS don't make it live action! If it's a comic book series, STOP REBOOTING IT LIKE THEY DO IN PRINT!

  4. CG effects should never scream "I'M COMPUTER GENERATED!" Instead it should be quietly whispering "uncanny valley."

  5. Infact, never CG a scene when conventional techniques are cheaper and get the better shot. This includes using live trained bats and well-fed wildlife. The green screen isn't your friend.

  6. However, don't go supercheap. You'll end up with The Blair Witch Project or even worse, Manos: Hands of Fate.  Yeah, iPhones and GoPros can do a decent job, but that's not Oscar level material!

  7. Never force a movie into one style when it can be done better in another. Scooby Doo sucked as a live-action/CGI film.  Mighty Morphing Power Rangers would of been better tolerated if it didn't pull a Godzilla every 20 minutes and instead have been animated.

  8. If you're doing a sequel to a movie that's fairly stand-alone, it's going to suck. Such sequels never work out well.

  9. If a movie has a tie-in to a sequel to be released later, it better be in a three-movie series. After three, you're done, wait five years and do a second three-movie series.  Otherwise you get audience burn-out and your movie will suck.

  10. "If it's horrible, it's bound to be a hit" only applies to cult classics.  Snakes on a Plane became an instant cult classic, but cult classics don't get any Oscar nominations. Manos: Hands of Fate is most likely banned from the Oscars for just being cookie-tossing bad.

WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
07 February 2015 @ 09:49 am
With the news of Radio Shack filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Dad and I got a bit nolstalgic over the various stores that have gone from my days.  So I thought I'd compile it up.  Note that these are centered roughly around the Baltimore/DC area.

The big one that hit us was SuperFresh, also known as A&P. They're still around, but shrank drasticly away from Maryland (leaving only two stores on the Eastern Shore) and selling stores away.  One with a prime position in Baltimore City was sold to Fresh & Green, which after a year shut it down anyway (even though it looked like it was profitable).

Another constriction was Hects, when it was bought by Macy's.  Within a few years stores were closed and merchandise moved across malls where the two were in the same mall.  This started some malls on the road to failure.

A missed but not gone was Price Club, which was bought by Costco and eventually turned their stores into one brand.

Some stores that failed that I had visited in my youth were Ames(Park 97), Caldor(Ft. Meade), Zayre(Laurel -- I remember every time going in there and going straight to the back snack bar to get some soft pretzles), Montgomery Ward's(Laurel Mall, also failed), F.W.Woolworth(Woolies, Colombia Mall), Best(Pikesville and Marley Station), and Crown Books (Colombia).

One complicated failure is Waldenbooks, who actually got bought by Borders, the brand eventually discontinued... before going completely Chapter 7 bankrupt and liquidated.

And one on the long-term death watch is Sears/K-Mart, owned by the same company.  They're kinda acting a bit like Radio Shack in this regard.

What does make me wonder is what was at 6405 Dobbin Road, Columbia, Maryland.  Right now it's a Walmart.  Before that it was a K-Mart.  But before even that is what I wonder, in my early youth.  It was definitely a department store, but it also had a sizable grocery store in the back of the store (almost like it's own cubby-trench) and a small snack counter up front.  It was like a Walmart Superstore at it's time.  My question is, was this a Murphy's Mart or a McCroy's?  I'm leaning towards Murphy's Mart myself.
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
28 December 2014 @ 05:11 pm
A few things stick out as we close out 2014, and I need to write about them.  This is one of them, and it seem to be a big one:

Any organization, private or government, that cannot or will not take criticism, is doomed to fail.

Take North Korea.  It doesn't like Sony's The Interview movie.  I won't go into details, but I wouldn't be suprised if North Korea hired a group to strip Sony bare... which pissed off numerous other groups as well. It doesn't take much to piss off a band of bored hacking mercenaries, which is why North Korea's Internet connection is very intermittent.

The thing is, while the movie is a flop here, it's going gangbusters over in China... and North Korea. So much so that North Korea's government is going ape-BALSA-WOOD trying to block it from coming in.  North Korea's government is effectively making the movie, which is classed as a comedy, look more like a dramatized documentary.  That's not how you handle a movie like that.

I'm not sure how North Korea is going to survive in my time now.  The Korean War (currently at a stalemate) may be decided by the Internet for South Korea, without any country lifting a finger.
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
27 December 2014 @ 03:51 pm
I mentoned this on Twitter and FA, but not here, so I'll summarize.

On Oct 24th, eight years since joining MTA, I was forced to leave MTA (Maryland Transit Administration) due to policy at Maryland Dept Of Transportation (who "owns" MTA, basically).  In essence, I was eight years into a two year max temporary work contract and I should have ether been hired full-time or let go six years ago.  They were unable to do so back then, and unable to do so now (even though everyone was clammoring for me to stay).

That said, on Dec 15th, I started a new job one block away at a cloud services provider.  I'm still programming, yes.  I'm basically doing the same thing I was doing at MTA, which is fix/support old software... just not as old as MTA, but just as quirky.

So I'm doing fine.  First paycheck will be Jan 2nd, at a rate that will nearly double my existing pay.  I should get benefits applying soon, although I may be paying for one last month under the old insurance.  Credit cards will finally get paid off properly (although with how my plans are, I think I best get the Amex down first).
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
30 November 2014 @ 10:24 am
So I hit upon a podcast done as a spin-off of This American Life, an NPR show, called Serial. It's at http://serialpodcast.org.  The podcast is about one reporter (the host) investigating a real-life case of a boy caught in a murder case and sentenced to life imprisonment... and how the case came to be.  The podcast is definitely a good long-term journalistic effort.  It's gotten a heavy following and even a Reddit discussion group at http://reddit.com/r/serialpodcast

The case that it highlights is interesting to me, though, because there are (IMHO) glaring faults:

  • The prosecution was faulty:

    • The case hinged on one person... who was inconsistent, and can be easily disproved with some legwork.

    • The forensics were never completed.

    • The investigation was short circuited, having been lead to the boy.

  • The first lawyer was ineffective:

    • Leads were never followed up on.

    • Discrediting the witnesses was a bad gamble.

    • Lawyer later was disbarred over several botched cases due to medical reasons, one year after sentencing; died in 2004.

  • The second lawyer was also ineffective due to being from the Public Defenders Office, thus unfamiliar with the case and having insufficient resources.

  • The appeal judge was not familiar with the area and was not told of the area, and thus has a fatal flaw in judgement (the library is right next to the high school).

This would be a nice comedy of errors where it not for the fact that this kid, who is now an adult, is in jail for the rest of his life.  The good thing, though, is the Univ of Virginia's Innocence Project is taking up the case.
WolfSkunk 'STriker' RedWolf
These are the facts as released by the prosecutor to the news media.  NPR and the New York Times are going through the information, and NPR has publicly posted all the evidence on their site.

  • After stealing several cigars from a local tobacco and alcohol shop, Brown was confronted by Officer Wilson.

  • Brown decided to charge at the officer through an open window, assulting the officer, punching him at times. The officer responded by pulling his gun (even though he had mace and a tazer)

  • Brown tried to push the gun away from him.  The officer pulled the trigger twice, nothing happened.

  • The officer pulled the trigger a third time, and it fired off a round, striking Brown.

  • A few more rounds fired, and Brown was dead.

  • Backup arrived 90 seconds after call.

These facts are supported by relable, consistent African American eyewitnesses, matching the numerous autopsies done by the local police, the FBI, and Brown's family lawyer.

In other words, if you were out rioting in Ferguson, then you are an idiot.  Rioting never solves anything.  Rioting makes things worse and causes more problems. New York, DC, Chicago, Oakland/San Francisco, even Seattle had peaceful protests with ZERO rioting. None!  Zip! Zero! Zilch!

Any more rioting there will only make me say "Nuke Ferguson and pave it flat.  It's a lost cause."