THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 270 August 11 - 17, 2003
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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August 11, 2003
Time to renew your subscription. Well, for some of you, anyway....
Had to drive to the pharmacy last night and heard Drudge, who pretended to be amused that Arnold had given a $41,000 Bentley and a $83,000 Humvee to Inner City Games. Drudge waxed sarcastic about Inner City Games having a Bentley so they could drive kids around to the games. He apparently was sincere in this, meaning that either he's forgotten that such items are often donated to charities to be raffled or sold -- his own radio station carried an advertisement for United Jewish Appeal asking for your auto or boat -- or he's a good actor, aware of this but pretending not to be. Either way he made me less interesting in listening to him.
Arnold certainly has neither the experience nor the conservative philosophical principles of Reagan (and, not to put too fine a point on it, the intelligence either, but then Reagan was an extraordinarily gifted man); but then few California politicians have any principles at all, and the state government has long been for sale: the Prison Guards Union gives Davis a hundred grand or so and Lo! there's a 37% increase in their pay at a time when the state is already in trouble over the energy mess. And Southern California Edison was converted from one of the best managed companies at producing energy to an indifferent distribution company without generating facilities; those went to firms outside the state. This at the hands of the politicians who couldn't have devised a worse "deregulation" package if they had worked at creating a bad parody of what was needed.
I'd vote for Gary Coleman over Davis, and I don't even believe in recall. But this state has been sold and it's time to take back at least a part of it. Arnold is pro-business, and while he's a lot more liberal than I am, so is the state. I've rather have had Reardon but he isn't running. And Ueberoth hasn't been active in a long time.
So here we are.
Please note that all network and systems administrators should block access to/from the IPs on that Web page immediately, as well as TCP/135 and UDP/135.
More data from Roland Dobbins on the DCOM WORM:
Updated list of URLs:
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Got a good bit done on our novel yesterday.
The following was going to be a response to a letter but it just grew. It rambles and I am sure has some holes in the presentation, but it's what I have for the morning.
In the 1940's Schumpeter (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy) concluded that capitalism was doomed, not because it wouldn't work, not because it wasn't the best purely economic system for allocation of resources, but because it was incompatible with democracy. Democracies wouldn't vote for the measures needed to retain capitalism. They'd go for socialism.
The problem with socialism is that a little goes a long way, and the tendency is to vote in more and more government control in the name of serving the people; but (like most large bureaucratic enterprises including most of the US and State governments), the real purpose is to serve the government employees who are never laid off and never have their salaries reduced no matter what economic problems their regulations cause. Since that centralization and regulation inevitably causes more and worse economic disasters, eventually the democratic elements are forgotten. The people may want to change this system, but there are too many entrenched interests who want to keep it. There follows naked rule by the Party and its leaders, which may result in dictatorship, or in rule by a nomenklatura. All this was forseen and forseeable, and it all happened, not in the USSR (where the dictatorship came in with the Bolsheviks) but in much of Europe. We haven't quite got there in the US, although California comes close.
David McCord Wright thought that anti-trust coupled with some restraint of government growth might save capitalism. Anti-trust would ensure at least some competition, and the federal structure might ensure some competition among governments and prevent their inevitable growth to the point of choking up everything.
Schumpeter was the creator of the concept of "creative destruction" which is always used now as an argument in favor of enduring the miseries caused by capitalism's fluctuations (but which is never to be applied to government bureaus which are never destroyed or diminished).
I don't know if there is any remedy. If you want a picture of the future, look at California: broke, bankrupt, trying to bail itself out with taxes on cigarettes and "the wealthy" as businesses and wealth flee the state, and the economic base falls. All this supposedly in the name of the "will of the people". Of course the people have many times willed that illegal immigration be curbed and state benefits not be extended to illegals, only to be told by their masters that they have no right to do any such thing. The people willed that the state be color-blind, but that didn't happen. The people willed there be a cap on property taxes, but that too is being undermined.
One problem is that there is no "tax payers union" with any clout. The Prison Guards can donate a few tens of thousands to the right politicians and get a 35% increase in pay even though the state is going broke. The Teacher Unions can get and more more money for education without any kind of demand for performance or demonstration of results. (Indeed, the worse the schools, the more this is used as "evidence" of the need for more money for Teacher Union employees.) Public Service Employees, Trial Lawyers, all these groups get their tenure and raises and their legislation, but there is never the opportunity to say that it's time for some creative destruction in government. It is never time to say that providing government services to illegal immigrants makes no sense when you are flat broke. It is never time to legislate that there be some sanity in the lawsuit business (there was a bit of sanity in that direction but it was done by defeating a lawyer proposition on referendum: a holding action).
There is no organization that speaks for "the people" because while the Parties are supposed to be that instrument, they have been bought and paid for by various groups which raise and contribute money selectively.
In theory an astute enough political organization devoted to creative destruction of state mechanisms could be devised. It would raise money and make donations, substantial donations, to politicians who do NOT give raises to public employees and create more bureaus and so forth. It would be expensive, but really, given the payoff to taxpayers, it would be pretty cheap. A few hundred dollars a year from every fed up taxpayer, applied not through the general party mechanism -- those are already wholly owned subsidiaries of well established spender groups -- but directly in the form of selective campaign contributions might actually turn California, and the nation, around.
But it would have to be organized. Who would do that, and what would prevent it from capture?
Alas, most such groups soon become converted to the liberal philosophy of wanting more government. There's a problem, pass a law, and create another bureaucracy to enforce it. Make the law complicated so there is work for lawyers. Campaign finance reform, anyone?
It has long been known that any organization not explicitly conservative will always be captured by liberals and operated to their benefit: and what I have in mind wouldn't be a "conservative action group" but rather one dedicated to making government work better. Is there a single bureau, whether or not it does useful work, that could not be improved by an intelligent cut of 10% in its staff? But that isn't a conservative proposition. Conservatives want to strengthen some parts of government and eliminate others, and prefer self-government to "professionals".
The Tax Payer Union I have in mind wouldn't go anywhere near that far. It would just try to stop the growth of government and counter the various trends pushing for more government employment at higher pay; would encourage a bit of creative destruction in the public employment industry.
Ah well. We can dream.
Please send me: when and how subscribed; old mail address; new mail address. BE SURE TO INDICATE which is the currently correct address, particularly if you send it from yet a third address, or from the old one! Be explicit and talk baby talk. It makes my life simpler. I am trying to make my list work properly preparatory to going over to Outlook 2003.
A thought I had:
Rome held consular elections all through the Empire right up to Romulus Augustulus. New Consuls took office each year. The Emperor was only Commander in Chief, a sort of cabinet officer. He stayed on. And the Roman Constitution continued. Of course you didn't run for Consul without the invitation of the Emperor. Is there any implication for the United States?
I know no more about this than what you find here:
We got a lot of work done today and went to the Hollywood Bowl concert. It's late and bed time.
We are very nearly finished with the book! We did about 3500 words today, and they include the climax scenes.
Meanwhile, the Frankenworm: I have been collecting stories of infections, and they all seem to have happened upon opening attachments to mail: sometimes attachments to mail from people you know. But not expected attachments so far as I can tell.
DO NOT OPEN MAIL ATTACHMENTS unless you are certain they are from who they say they are from, and are expected.
However, some of the new Worms do not require you to open mail. See the linked messages, and see mail.
August 14, 2003
First a letter. I put it here because it needs attention:
In View, you state: Meanwhile, the Frankenworm: I have been collecting stories of infections, and they all seem to have happened upon opening attachments to mail: sometimes attachments to mail from people you know.
Yet in Mail, you write: Note that the worm doesn't arrive in an email message, so anti-virus protection, or not opening attachments, doesn't protect your computer. which agrees with all the technical material I've seen on this worm.
So how can you have infection stories implicating email as the replication method when currently identified strains exclusively use the dcom vulnerability for propagation?
-- James Dumser firstname.lastname@example.org
I must have been unclear.
I do not have personal accounts of infections through any means other than opening mail attachments. I read many news accounts to the contrary.
And I certainly did not write the quoted passage from Mail. Mail is mail, which is to say, messages received from other people. It is not what I said, it is what a reader, whose name appears at the bottom of the mail, said. I have no reason to doubt the observation, but it is not my observation, nor was it an account of anything that happened to Mr. Hellewell (whose name appears at the bottom of the letter.) Not to break a butterfly on the wheel, but if I have managed to confuse one then there will be many in confusion about the difference between mail and view, and between personal accounts and general reports from the news.
Sometimes I include mail in View, as now, but when I do I try to make that clear also.
I still don't know how this thing infects machines, and I am waiting for a good account on how it works without opening mail attachments. I am sure it does that, but I don't know how it does it. That is, I have read accounts of the dcom vulnerability, but I haven't seen any description from direct observation.
I get the distinct feeling I am still unclear, but it's time for my walk.
One of my problems was that I didn't understand why I didn't get hit by this worm. I have figured that out now.
Some good news on Q&A over in mail.
HOW THE WORM WORKS: See mail.
And see also
And while we have some polishing to do, Niven and I finished Burning Tower today. Now I get to work on some other books.
One is HIGH TECH WARS, which is way overdue. I invite correspondence from people who know things that ought to be in that book...
August 15, 2003
Apparently my timely mailing to subscribers on what to do about the worm (which information I got in a timely fashion from Roland) allowed a number of you to escape. Alas, a fair number got bitten as well. Note that I don't guarantee to find these things and send mail to subscribers, I just do the best I can. But often that's enough.
The thing didn't manage to get here. I did have a frantic hour of making sure all the machines -- some 32 of them -- had the latest patches and updates, but in fact that port is blocked by our router, so far as I can tell. And now all the machines here have their patches.
The original warning is above, and if you haven't done anything about it yet, go do so. I'll wait. It doesn't take long. Interestingly, some of the machines needed to be reset and some did not. There is no patch needed for Windows 9x including ME. Windows 2000 takes a different one from Windows XP. XP Home can be infected and at least 4 readers were bitten on home machines with XP.
Enabling the XP built in firewall seems to stop this thing, but that is turned off by default. And see mail.
I am now cleaning up stuff around here after the blitz to finish BURNING TOWER. There's still some polish to go, but the book is done; it would be publishable now.
I used to have a neat fireworks display gif, not large, that I could use for such announcements, but it seems to have vanished. Ah well.
But now, thanks to Edward Becerra, I have some:
Back in the 1970's I wrote a series called America's Looming Energy Crisis. Note that if you take a power grid and squish everything together and use up your generating capacity with not much reserve, you are efficient.
Efficiency is the enemy of reliability.
Some things are sufficiently critical that you want redundancy and reliability, and to heck with efficiency. It's not always easy to make economic calculations on that basis because there's not enough data, and the numbers overwhelm the analysis anyway. One nuclear war can ruin your whole day: that is, the negative consequences of letting an atom bomb detonate in Manhattan are so grim that it's worth spending a really hellacious amount of money to prevent it, on a purely economic basis.
But we don't have any good numbers on the probabilities, and on how much money it takes to reduce the probability of success by how much, and so forth.
Same for the power grid. We have a little better data, but not that much: we don't really know how much of the grid collapses when something like this happens, or what is the true cost -- true costs include things like riots which happen or don't happen.
Same for job exports, by the way.
Economic analysis assumes people are economic units, and they behave efficiently, and take into account information, and move to where the jobs are, and doesn't count the social costs of yanking families up and moving them to a place with a lower paying job as a cost of survival.
There are other problems with pure economic analysis. Mauritius as an example: for a while they were the textile center of the world, making stuff for everyone, and exporting everywhere. So much so that they imported non-Mauritius workers so they could increase their output. Now the markets collapse, and they have to pay welfare to the imported laborers, or worse, the imported people have the jobs and the people of Mauritius have been laid off and go on welfare while they see the foreigners making money they once made.
Now that really makes for stability.
It is of course good economics, because good economic models don't distinguish between citizens of Mauritius and imported workers from other places; only on output vs. cost. But the true costs may include the political consequences; and economic models don't account for such things.
But back to the power grid: reliability requires excess capacity and some independence within the power grids so that when one section collapses the rest don't fall with them.
We're at the edge on peak capacity now. If I were a terrorist I would be looking at all this with some interest.
I keep reading about DOS attacks.
New subject unrelated to above.
I am weary of these people who keep bombarding us with spam about Viagra from Bethany and Maryanne and Heidi with subjects having nothing to do with sales? They have to sell things to pay for this hobby of wasting our time. I am not ingenious enough to know how to make their sites useless but someone must be able to do that.
August 16, 2003
It's hot, we just finished a book, and I took the day off.
August 17, 2003
Finishing up loose ends. There's mail. I'll try to write a short essay on the Power Crisis, but I have said all that before. I have also devised a sort of thought experiment on employment and Free Trade illustrating some of what happens if you have no choice but to support everyone whether they work or not; what that does to taxes for the productive among other things.
I have not seen any economic models that take this into account. I'm still working on it. I assume that if a job is exported then the net production goes up due to both the new efficiency, and the residual work that the worker whose job was exported now can do; but while the total product rises, the distribution is changed. If the worker no longer makes a decent living, so that some subsidy has to be paid, the subsidy must come from somewhere, namely from the new profits, or from everyone still employed. Do those who make the new profits pay the increased costs? And are there costs associated with collecting and distributing the subsidies? If a civil service job is created, it becomes part of the "GDP" but in fact it is producing nothing...
Does anyone still play Earth and Beyond? I discovered I still had an active account and fired up the game today. There seem to be enormous new developments, and most of them leave me and my poor little characters far behind with no way to make any money or catch up; and the game mostly seems to consist of watching the ship go on autopilot from one place to another...
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