Thursday, January 05, 2006

This could be interesting to watch on CSPAN

(Via Drudge)

Our President says it's a breach of security, but now we have someone who wants to blow the whistle on the NSA (and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) as well) over what he claims is illegal domestic spying.

Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.

So Mr. Tice was dimissed from the NSA, hm-m-m? Dismissed because he threatened to bring his knowledge of potentially illegal activities into the open, because he was a thorn in his employer's side with complaints of illegal activities, because he really was a bad employee or what? Do we have a "disgruntled employee" who has it in for a former employer he feels wronged him, or is he a stand-up guy who is getting even after getting screwed.

Enquiring minds want to know.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Who said the Germans are unthinking robots?

The Germanic peoples have had, for many decades (if not centuries), the undeserved reputation of being somehow predisposed to authoritarianism. History says that isn't true (well, it says it if you bother to read, anyway). Here's the latest entry, courtesy of Wired. It would seem that our freedom-minded European brethren have decided to strike back against the surveillance state--and do it on the cheap, with off-the-shelf hardware, as well.

Der gut.

Preparedness finds

Hitting the local Wall-to-Wal-mart, I found two interesting finds in the flashlight section.

The first is the Nite Ize LED Upgrade for the AA Mini Maglite. It has 3 white LEDs and retails for $4.92 locally. It installs pretty much per the package instructions. You'll have to screw the focusing unit of the Maglite out a long way to get the new reflector to seat properly, but once you do that it goes together well.

The package notes that you may have to remove and rotate the LED unit if it doesn't come on the first time. Remember this tip.

You can buy decent 2 AA LED flashlights for less than this unit plus the AA Maglite, but if you already have a bunch of Maglites around, it's an easy and cheap way to have some of both. I suggest saving the original bulb and reflector, so you can convert back if necessary.

As with nearly all LED lights, you're exchanging range and brightness for battery life and long "bulb" life. Now if you need range and brightness, you might want to investigate my second find, the Brinkman Maxfire LX flashlight.

Powered by two 123A lithium batteries, the package notes it has a xenon bulb ("12 times brighter than a 2AA flashlight"), is made from a "nylon polymer" and is "shock & water resistant".

Not a SureFire or a Streamlight, but not bad for $19.97. It's cheap enough to buy several to stash in appropriate places, and with lithium batteries, you don't have to worry about finding a dead flashlight for some number of years.

I just wish I had seen these before Christmas. They'd have made great presents. Of course, there's always birthdays, graduation, anniversaries and next Christmas.

Is your home your castle?

The lucky amongst the survivalist community are able to live where they plan on retreating to in the event of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). They live more than a tank of gas from the nearest metropolitan area, have alternative power, water, sewage, stocks of food, fuel and et cetera, and so on.

Most of us don't have that particular luxury. We live in or near cities in what most people would call "normal" homes. We don't have solar panels on the roofs, we don't have the storage space for lots of food and fuel, yada yada.

These homes are also poorly suited as defensive positions. Unless you're home is brick veneered, it has no ballistic protection, it's pretty easy to set afire and you can't see the bad guys coming from more that 100'. (Before anyone hammers me, I know that a brick veneered home has poor ballistic protection at best. But it's better than vinyl siding.)

Whether you're living in the remote location or the burbs, there are steps you can take to "harden" your home. One resource is the book The Secure Home by Joel Skousen. This book isn't the only resource you'll need to learn how to harden your home, but it's probably your best first source of information on the subject.

You can order it here. Search for "The Secure Home".

Holidays? What holidays?

I wish I could say the lack of posting the past two weeks has been due to family obligations over the holidays. Instead, it's mostly been due to "going live" with a large IT (Information Technology) project at work.

The original plan didn't include this particular foolish timeline. I learned a long time ago to never turn on a new system on a Friday, near holidays and so on. However, outside influences dictated this timeline, with pretty much predictable results. While it has been a pretty smooth process, there have been some problems (minor, thankfully), and the solutions to the problems have been delayed because most people, technical support people included, are smart enough to take off some time around the holidays (all of them) in the end-of-the-year period.

You can tell that the long hours my team and our business end users have been working, when added to the normal stress that comes at this time of year, have dulled the senses, frayed tempers, caused a loss of perspective and proportion, led to family friction and just generally gotten everyone ready to rip out the throat of the next person who utters an unkind word.

The stupid part of the whole thing is that those "outside influences" have also been the major reasons that the project not only won't be done on the foolish timeline we have adopted, but probably won't get done on my original schedule.

As always, there are lessons to be learned. The two biggest ones I'm taking from this project are as follows. :

First, when forces outside your control (read bureaucrats at your parent organization) start dictating what, where, how and when you can implement a project, yet they have not been a part of the project planning, have never visited the site and don't have any expertise in the systems you're working with, expect to have problems out your ying-yang. They won't be easily addressable, either. These problems will lead to everyone involved being at each others throats. The project may survive and even be successful, but it will never be as good as it should have been.

Second, when the first problem happens, tune up your resume and get the job search mechanism in gear, because unless something miraculous happens, the place where you're working isn't long for this world.

Pity too, because I kind of like where I'm at.