Heat Wave; A backup tale. Insure against ransomware. Standing armies.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It has been oppressively hot in Los Angeles today. I have a large window air conditioner in the dining room, and another upstairs in the Monk’s Cell, and a big air conditioning system in the big upstairs complex Great Hall, Office, Bathroom, Cable Room, and Bookshelf room).  That office complex does not connect with the Monk’s Cell, which is actually one of the two bedrooms of the original house built in 1932; it was used as the room of the oldest boy while the boys were still living here, but after the last one moved out I took it over as the writing room; I kept a simple computer, and a good but simple big screen monitor  and a wireless Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard.  There was a wireless mouse also.  The only Those were on Bluetooth wireless.  The only Internet connection was a very slow wireless connection, just good enough for sending copies of anything I wrote to the main machine in the Office complex.  No games, no phones, no books, do distractions.  I got a lot of writing done up there.

That was before the stroke. I have not been to the Monk’s Cell since the stroke: I could go up the stairs, but I am not sure I could get back down without strong help.

I can’t go up to the Office complex either.  Actually, I can, and I can get back down, safely; but if I fell while up there Roberta would have a real problem and it is taking a chance that she doesn’t want me to take, so I never go there if Alex or Eric or someone else in good health with all his strength isn’t here to be there with me.

All of which means I can’t use either of my offices, and have to make do with the old office I bought the house to get fifty years ago, only it’s smaller now because it has the staircase to the complex in it.  There go two air conditioners.  And I am damned if I will take over the dining room with more computer equipment, although if this heat wave goes on I may have to take Precious, the Surface Pro 3, in there with the fifty year old window air conditioner we bought in San Bernardino when I was working for Aerospace at Norton Air Force Base. Incidentally, Norton was then the Hq. of Ballistic Systems Division (Air Systems Division was in Texas).  BSD was in San Bernardino because Bernie Schriever, the 4 star commander of Systems Command, wanted it as far from the Pentagon as possible, and Los Angeles wasn’t far enough; to get to Norton you either had to have your own airplane or fly into Los Angeles, then drive 90 miles east to get to San Bernardino.  It was hot as hell. But people who came out for meetings really wanted those meetings, and video phones did not exist.  We got a lot of work done.  And Schriever and his successors had their own airplanes.  All 3 stars  and above in USAF had their own 707’s.  But that was then.

Our Los Angeles house cools nicely at night and is well insulated if we button up in the mornings, so while I had air conditioning put in the upstairs offices, we almost never need it downstairs in the old house.  Alas this heat wave has hot nights too, and it doesn’t cool off until not long before dawn.  No fun.


I am writing this on Swan, a Windows 10 system in the back bedroom.  If you see it before Sunday it means we have solved a bunch of problems, all simple once solved, but perplexing because Microsoft doesn’t leave some of the old ways in their new updates; the vocabulary is different.  You “initialize” a new hard drive, not “format” it, and if you don’t know that it may take you a while to find it out.

I just hit “Publish” and it did so without problems, so that’s another problem solved; we had a time getting Live Writer installed on this Windows 10 machine; there will be a report on that in Chaos Manor Reviews when our long suffering managing editor gets it written and posted.

Swan (this Windows 10 system) is in a Thermaltake case with a hard drive toaster built into the top. That is, you take a 4 terabyte (or smaller, of course) hard drive and push it in the slot, and Voila!, there it is in your system just like a thumb drive.  Well, not quite so simply; it isn’t formatted, and my first attempt produced 2 two terabyte partitions which was not what I wanted.  Eric is writing up what we had to do to make one big drive out of it.

We are building a big RAID 5 NetGear box; you’ll get the details later.  Amazon had a sale on 4 terabyte drive, so I bought 5 of them.  I figured on using it in Swan’s “toaster” drive slot and using it for backups from the other machines; a place to store critical files like unfinished novels.  But today Eric sent this:

Bare hard drive storage


    You may want to have one of these if you plan to use a bare drive for backups. One of the biggest malware threats these days is encrypting ransomware. These encrypt all of the files they find in the standard directories and of certain major types like DOC, XLS, etc. They’ll go after ever volume in a system that has a drive letter, including mapped network drive. You then get a message telling you where to send money to get the key to get back your files. In one example I witnessed, a law office paralegal’s PC was struck along with her directory on the server. Fortunately, that directory was the only part of the server her account could access.

    So far, they don’t go after cloud drives (OneDrive doesn’t get a drive letter in Explorer) or search for accessible network volumes on their own but I expect it will just be a matter of time before they gain that level of sophistication. Meanwhile, I STRONGLY recommend keeping local backup drives offline when they are not in active use. Also, don’t map network drives used for backups. Most backup software is smart enough to use a UNC location and don’t need a drive mapping.

    This is also why I recommend to businesses that they have at least one BD-R burner. This is a form of the Blu-ray spec that delivers 25 GB (pre-formatted) per disc in its most common form. A completed BD-R cannot be altered by ransomware, so provides an additional layer of safety. It’s also a cheap way to keep offsite copies of critical data. The blanks are more expensive than DVDs, largely due to lower market volume but the 5X difference in capacity more than makes up for it, and the convenience of using far fewer discs for large amounts of data is another factor.

Well, I already had an extra 4 TB drive.  Here was a nice case to keep it in.  Time to get all the really critical files onto it, and that drive in a drawer where ransomware hacker can’t get at it.  I ordered the box and we spent some time setting it up.  It appears on Swan as a drive with a letter, and thus can be found by ransomware, but not if it’s only in the toaster slot long enough to receive the critical files; meanwhile we will get the NetGear RAID 5 going; it won’t have a drive letter at all, and will be automatic in receiving backup copies of everything incrementally from all my machines.  I also ordered a Blu-Ray drive and a stack of Blu-ray disks; periodically I’ll burn copies of critical files onto that, take the disk out, and let Larry take it home.  Even if the ransomware hackers figure out how to get to disks that have no drive letters, they aren’t going to be able to do anything to a Blu-Ray DVD. I generally only work with collaborators so the chances of any significant amount of new text being lost is not all that high, but I do a lot of silly things so you don’t have to.

So we wrote all the important stuff on Swan to the big toaster drive. No problem. A lot of gigabytes, but it didn’t take all that long. Went in the other room to write Swan’s critical files – and couldn’t.  I didn’t have permission.  I could see the drive, but I could not write to it. Gnashing of teeth.  Back to Swan.  Fiddle with permissions so that I have permission to write to that drive from everywhere else on the net.  Back to Alien Artifact, and still no joy.  More gnashing of teeth.

Back to Swan:  shut down.  Didn’t want to shut down.  Task manager doesn’t work the same in Windows 10 as it does in 7 and before.  They improved it.  Maybe. I’ll reserve opinion on that.  But I finally got it shut down.  Restarted – and it said it was updating. Don’t turn off the computer.  Now that machine is set to do automatic updates; why now? Then it did it again. Reset itself again.  And finally came up – and yes, I could copy files from Alien Artifact. And from elsewhere. Did so, and that 4 terabyte disk is now in a desk drawer safe from any ransomware hacker.  The RAID 5 has built itself, but remains blank until we start backing up to it.  It has ten terabytes of storage room, in a RAID 5 configuration so one disk can fail and we can still recover.  I thought of ordering one more drive just in case and realized that is silly; big drives only get cheaper and it doesn’t take but a day or so to get them from Amazon. Let Amazon store spares for me.

Added Sunday: removing the toaster drive causes the machine to forget any permissions you set for that disk; when you put the hard drive back in the slot, go to This Computer, right click on the drive letter the system assigns it, properties, sharing, advanced sharing, permissions, and set them to allow writing to the drive from another machine – either everyone, or just yourself, as you choose.  You have to do that each time you remove and later reinsert that drive.  Makes sense, of course: you have no way of reserving that drive letter to that particular removable disk drive.


US Unable to Meet Russia in Sustained War?

This is hardly a surprise:


Behind closed doors some Pentagon officials have acknowledge that the US military has been battered by years of war in the Middle East and is not prepared for a prolonged military engagement with a major global power like say Russia regardless of how likely this scenario might be.

They cite a series of classified war games different US agencies conducted lately and military drills in Europe to support this assessment.

Surprising as it may seem, this revelation comes at a time when an increasing number of high-ranking military officials have called Moscow a key existential threat to the US. The rhetoric reflects a months-long trend. Since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis Washington has been increasingly belligerent towards Russia.

Yet the Pentagon seems to be worried it could well be unable to put its money where its mouth is.

Two major areas of concern are logistics and Washington’s current ability (or inability) to sustain a large troop presence in the Baltics or Eastern Europe, two officials from the US Department of Defense told the Daily Beast. NATO countries have long frivolously insisted that Russia threatens this region, which is neither in Moscow’s interests nor its plans.

“Could we probably beat the Russians today [in a sustained battle]?

Sure, but it would take everything we had. What we are saying is that we are not as ready as we want to be,” one of the Pentagon officials clarified.



“everything we had” reminds me of world war and total war… This doesn’t fun… I think most of us prefer military operations to occur without an effect on daily life at home…

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Historically the US has not kept a large standing army; the Navy was our important agent of influence in peace time. We built armies at need.  We built them fast.  The professional German view was that we learned faster than any of their other opponents; our troops fought to win and get it over with so they could go home.  They were not professional soldiers, and couldn’t wait to get out of the military; although we did have some long serving professional soldiers.

Todays forces require a crack deterrent force; we had that in SAC although I am told that is no longer true. We have not had an objective study of long and short term military requirements in some time – at least not anything official.  The Navy has traditionally had the mission of protecting the homeland until we could mobilize. The President owned the Navy; Congress owned the Army.

Secretary of State Albright famously asked what is the good of having a powerful military if you can’t use it. and entangled us in the Balkan dispute on the anti-Slavic side, thus making historically Pan-Slavic Russia hostile; we have not seen the last of the grave consequences coming from this.  Bombing the Chinese diplomatic buildings in the Balkans  — said to be by accident – didn’t help our relations with China either. Having a standing army tends to generate reasons for using it to interfere in territorial disputes overseas.

I think most strategic analysts agree that we need a vigorous strategy of technology; a credible deterrent; and a strong Navy.  We do not have the Navy, our deterrent credibility is fading, and I do not think we are going in the right direction in our strategy of technology; not as we did during the Cold War. Were it my decision, I would allocate resources to those three missions before expanding the Army.

Detroit went from producing 5 obsolete tanks and no artillery to rolling out thousands of each per month, and did so in less than a year.  We also turned out a ship a day.  But that was long ago; many wonder if we could do it now.

The best way to survive a nuclear war is not to have one.  That takes something like SAC.

I could eliminate ISIS in a year with two Divisions, the Warthogs, and air supremacy forces. I do not think we could conquer Iran and her allies without a lot more mobilization.

Walter Lippman once said that diplomacy was like writing checks; but the account they were written against was military power.  He later added that he included industrial power in that.


Clinton, Deutch, and classified material

Dear Jerry –

All of the current affaire Clinton reminds me strongly of the John Deutch case, which you may remember. From May 1995 to December 1996, Deutch was DCI of the CIA. After his term was over, he took a number of government-issue computers with him under a rather dodgy set of consultant contracts, and it was later determined that some of these, despite being labeled “Unclassified”, did indeed have classified data on them, with the possibility that many more had been destroyed before the CIA (which acted very slowly to scoop up the suspect machines and media) had the chance to collect them. In addition, several of the machines had been connected to the internet and so were vulnerable.  A rather curious condition of bureaucratic lethargy followed, including the destruction of the collected machines before really detailed forensics could be performed (Deutch was adamant that his privacy might be compromised). The bureaucratic foot-dragging by several of Deutch’s supporters was considerable.

Eventually – after more than 2 years – the case was referred to DOJ, who declined to prosecute.

Deutch was preemptively pardoned by Bill Clinton on his last day in office.

See http://fas.org/irp/cia/product/ig_deutch.html for the Agency’s report.


Jim Martin


“I just wanted to open a bank. I didn’t think that much about it.”



Roland Dobbins



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