Archive for April, 2009

Now here’s something. Remember British Gulf International? The first, founding mob in the Viktor Bout story. Still, as late as last year, by far the biggest source of dubious aircraft movements through the UAE, almost all going to markets in the War on Trrr. The data speaks for itself; between the Viktorfeed going live and Friday, November 7, 2008, they sent off 1,093 flights from Dubai and Sharjah and none of them were going anywhere even vaguely normal. When I reanalysed the flights with no destination, it was even worse.

A problem with the Viktorfeed is that it’s hard to keep it in mind; it dumps a hundred or so movements into my RSS reader daily, even with improvements to the filtering process. So I’m late to spot that BGIA is gone. Something like this was overdue, after the official Antonov-12 ban; we monitored 150 outbounds and practically no inbound in a very short space of time, but the system kept turning. And BGIA kept going.

We were speculating about where the scene might move to. Where is the Hoxton to the UAE’s Camden? Rather, the UAE was already that. Before that there was Ostend and South Africa. Ajay reckoned Conakry or Asmara were top options. However, the Vitebsk Popular News had already given us a clue.

The crew S9-SAO was pilot of Vitebsk from the same regiment, which Bout.

That might be the 339th. Now, the last ever BGIA flight from the UAE seems to have occurred on the 27th of February, at 2339Z, heading for Kandahar with the callsign BGI1522. Since then, nothing. Nada. But where did they go? The answer seems to be “home”; in particular, Mogilev in Belarus. Here’s a photo; apparently, the sleepy airfield among the birches is suddenly full of An-12s since the UAE ban was announced.

More, when I get a moment to mung some SQL; I have a vague impression that most of the BGIA movements are now under Phoenix/AVE’s new 2E callsign, but I need to run the numbers.


My heart sank when I saw these words: Firefox user interface guru. And yes, he’s had an idea. A suggestion: rather than a fancy new UI, how about having a crack at stability? FF 3, and the later FF 2s, were and are crashy, hangy, and inconsistent. It regularly (daily) gets its knickers in a twist and either fails to blit the screen, hangs, reads from the keyboard buffer extremely slowly, or just crashes without error messages, warnings, logs or anything else. And the “Save and Quit” function doesn’t work, which is probably connected with the fact that most crashes at least let you restore the tabs, but some lose even that.

If they want a new idea, what about having a crack at whatever is to Firefox as Firefox was to Mozilla, a lightweight, fast, rugged cut-down version of the bloated original? They could keep only the rendering engine and things like SSL, and make everything else an extension. Personally, I’d use Konqueror if it had equivalents for the various extensions I use. Anyway, Mozilla thinks Firefox is an operating system. And the thing about operating systems is that stability, security, and affordances for applications are the first and indeed only things that matter. Fancy user interfaces can be applied later.


RepRap made circuits.

F-Secure Labs’ blog points to Cyberwar is Bullshit. I say yes! And I point you to Evgeny Morozov‘s cracking 10-step guide to cyberwar fearmongering. Follow his simple plan and you’ll be able to spread arrant drivel to the underbriefed with the best of them. I especially like:

2. Begin the story in Estonia, with a reference to its 2007 attacks; make sure to play up the “E-stonia” tune and how the entire country was under online siege for a month (never mention that rioting in the Estonian streets was much more devastating and that the actual online siege lasted for twenty minutes at best). Setting the story in Estonia would also help to play up the Soviet threat that never really left the country. Blame NATO’s impotence, praise Skype’s genius, quote non-existent local Web entrepreneurs who lost all their savings in the 2007cyber-attacks.

See here.

5. Find and quote industry experts with the biggest possible conflicts of interest – preferably those who make their living thanks to the public paranoia about cybersecurity. Make sure you give them enough space to quote their latest anti-virus solutions and consulting services. Since nobody important would talk to you on the record anyway, nobody expects your quotes to add any value to the article. Remember: it’s all about the metaphors. Ideally, find “unbiased” experts who have never been to Estonia or Georgia, don’t know the language, have gathered no data of their own, but who think that cyberwar is going to destroy us all (unless their firm is selected to help us save us from the evil hackers).

Again with the vendors.

Never mention any connectivity statistics for the countries you are writing about: you don’t want readers to start doubting that someone might be interested in launching a cyberwar on countries that couldn’t care less about the Internet.

Beijing: the world’s most hacked city.

The big prize is alluding to a secretive summer camp on cyberwarfare, where hackers from Russia, China, Iran, and Israel get together to share tricks.

The Dr. Evil theory, a significant net contributor to global stupidity.

Update: Try the simple plan on this story.

Interesting to see Ahmed Chalabi admit essentially everything I suspected of him back in 2004. This must surely count in the top ten intelligence triumphs of history, along with ULTRA, VENONA, the Rote Kapelle and the Normandy deception plan.

Jordan Barab

I’m late to the party with this; but this is fantastic. Jordan Barab of Confined Space, the workplace health & safety blog, is now going to be the US government minister in charge of just that. He was one of the very first people ever to link to this blog back in 2003; he was one of the people I wrote to on election night 2004.

I don’t know what the cancellation of FCS, the US Army’s whizzy all-things-to-all-men, fancy wheeled vehicles, robots, computers etc supergig, will mean for the UK’s FRES, which is a scaled-down version of a very similar vision – lighter, highly mobile wheeled armoured vehicles, heavily networked, using fancy sensors and precision indirect fire rather than heavy armour plate, heavier tracks, and big turret guns.

We’ve sort-of chosen the underlying vehicle, but unfortunately we down-selected (as they say) the one that fit in a C-130 as required in the RFP, so it might fit in an A400M, but it doesn’t look like those are ever likely to fly. If you recall, the MOD managed to spend £192 million without one actual vehicle resulting, whereas during Lord Drayson’s tenure as MinDP they managed to buy hundreds of actual Viking, Mastiff, and MWMIK vehicles for less money than those powerpoint presentations cost.

Part of the problem was that BAE bought up the company which was meant to be the independent advisor, and then their main competitor in the US too. This last bit worries me, as I suspect US contracts funded a lot of work on FRES. You ask the French.

Whoops, my flashmob stormed parliament. Really got to get my ORGANISE config sorted out…

The impact of terrorism; new research demonstrates that people who survive terrorist attacks think more highly of themselves. Terrorism causes arrogance.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed this Bartholomew’s Notes post, in which a self-made terrorism expert who is currently doing the Nazi-memorabilia circuit with his Barack Obama-is-a-foreigner act turns out to have been a pusher of 1990s Satanic-cult drivel to audiences of policemen. I’ve long thought that there should be a science of drivel; bullshitology, perhaps.

One of its primary research concerns would have to be the way in which the same people, ideas, and networks reappear in different contexts. The DDT-tobacco-climate change lobbyist career-path is the Rosetta stone of this study, and the neo-conservative movement is getting close. But it really is fascinating to see that the same guy pushed three successive baseless or semi-baseless panics in succession.

Speaking of industrial innovation, which we sort of were, Sadly, No finds Mark Steyn being even stupider than I thought possible. He is arguing with every appearance of seriousness that a) General Motors should invest in bigger cars and b) that otherwise family sizes in the US will shrink and TEH NIGRAS!!! Seriously; he’s got a classically 1920s-racist Kakogenik theory monocausally based on automotive styling. J.G. Ballard would be delighted, even if Harley Earl originated the three box saloon rather than the Humvee.

I, however, feel forced to point out that those awful Europeans invented the first MPV, the Renault Espace in 1984 and it’s been in mass production ever since. Unlike the US “minivan”, those aren’t frame-rail construction, V8 powered truck derived gas guzzlers either.

Not that I am surprised by Steyn’s idiocy, of course; it’s just rare that the proof of it is actually rolling off French production lines and driving around the M25.