Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Bad Skillz

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  • Paul Brislen,

    see also:

    http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/scrt/337662022F9A53F5CC25734F000A573B

    NZ organisations report attacks by foreign governments

    With tension mounting between the US and China over hacking allegations, two New Zealand organisations report they may have been subject to online attacks by a foreign government, while one says it has been the victim of a likely “cyber-terrorist” incident.

    According to the 2007 Global State of Information Security Survey, released today and published in depth in CIO New Zealand magazine, 163 IT security incidents globally (3% of the total reported) were considered likely to be of terrorist origin, while 150 were attributed to attacks by foreign governments.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I remember Klaw, when he was resurrected by Dr Doom in the first Secret Wars. 1984 I think. Dr Doom dissected him and used him as a weapon against the Beyonder and stole his beyond-infinite power, which he promptly used to kill all the Marvel Superheroes in one blast.

    But the Beyonder possessed Klaw and undermined Doom's already fragile sanity, so that he unconsciously resurrected all the heroes for a titanic final clash, in which the lamest superhero ever, Captain America, who harnessed the superpower of American Cheese, managed to fight his way through to Doom so that he could do a Captain Kirk where-do-you-get-the-right speech on him. But the Beyonder nicked back his powers before Cap could deliver the cheesiest lines of the whole series, and I think Doom self destructed, or went to hell, something like that.

    A cool series, I expect they'll make the movie eventually, after they have introduced all the characters with the franchise movies. The part I loved most was when my hero Spiderman managed to singlehandedly bash the entire X-Men. The X-Men fanboys were soooo bitter.

    That's where Spidey got his amazing alien suit which featured in the last movie. Cause he was running out of web-shooting juice stuck on a planet at the other end of the universe, so they needed a plot twist to give him his webs back.

    I wish I still had my collection but in a weak moment of student debt induced poverty, I sold the lot for $50. So gutted, it would be worth about $2000 now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The Dominion Post's story about the hacking of New Zealand government computer systems -- resulting, it appears, in actual theft of sensitive information -- is a good scoop.

    Also rather interesting to see the context - an interview with Security Intelligence Service director Warren Tucker ! Let's just hope that when he gets his book deal, he's a marginally better writer than Stella Rimmington. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Yes, that's right, it was the walk, you fat lazy bastard option.

    I don't know if it's officially meant to be used for generating walking routes, but I find that function of the Maxx route planner to be quite useful.

    Especially in Auckland where there's usually a volcano or a gully in the way to prevent a straight walk, the handy map finds the quickest way to walk somewhere.

    I've used it to fine-tune my walk to work and it's exposed a few shortcuts that cut time off the Mt Eden to St Lukes path.

    It helps me feel nice and self-righteous about not driving.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Heh, love NRT's description of bloggers "sad bastard at computer keyboard picks nose, has opinion". Can't say that MSM opinion seems much more deep than that, but their actual news does have a bit of 'research' behind it. Which pretty much appears to me to be 'they used Google News and rewrote what someone else who had actually done some research said'. Somewhere way down that chain of 'research' some actual research must have been done though, some reporter turned up somewhere and asked a few questions. For that, MSM deserves some credit. Their opinions may be bland, their facts may be carefully filtered through corporate and/or government censorship, and their story choices may be predictable and dull, but at least somewhere in there someone actually went somewhere and asked some questions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Kirsten Brethouwer,

    Last year we tried to get Maxx to show us how to get to Auckland Airport by public transport from downtown. It suggested you walk from Onehunga (with the precise distance in metres!)..
    that was the ONLY option.

    they seem to have remedied that now.. phew!

    Waiheke Island • Since Nov 2006 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Thanks for the heads up on Riverbend.

    And also on the netdisaster site (the chainsaw option is way cool ...).

    I am not sure why the Maxx map makes you giggle, unless its because they have a 20 minute walk timed to take 43 minutes. But the route is the easiest route from Three lamps to the Westmere shops.

    It's interesting that the times that Maxx give do not include waiting time. So the 14 minute bus journey should really be 14 to 44 minutes.

    There is a third route option, for $1.60 and 20 minutes, you could take the bus to the bottom of West End road, and walk the last stretch.

    Cheers,
    Brent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 619 posts Report Reply

  • Leigh Kennaway,

    That's a nice walk, and one I've enjoyed a number of times. Even nicer if you detour off that route and walk through Bayfield Reserve, Jaggers Bush and Seddon Fields.

    The blue dots stop at the Garnet Rd shops - did Paul run out of steam at the Meola Kitchen, and sit there waiting to be picked up?

    Perhaps the Maxx site could be amended to include parks and reserves and good refuelling stops!

    Western Bays • Since Feb 2007 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    There's another option again, which is actually a slightly shorter distance. At the end of Jervois Road there are stairs down to Cox's Creek. Less car fumes to inhale that way, and a better view. I'm curious why their route takes a sharp left off Westend Road up quite a steep suburban street. I guess their algorithm found the shortest path to the centre of the Westmere Shops, but if you were actually going to most of the shops you'd be bitter to have followed that route.

    Still, it's neat technology. I'll certainly use it to get my father-in-law around next time he's over.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There's a good test of any London Underground automated map - ask it how to get from Chancery Lane to Farringdon. They're about 5 minutes walk apart but can only be reached by tube through three changes of train.

    On the alleged Chinese hacking, Helen Clark was rightly nonchalant on Havok this morning. Any system with secret data or with safety implications (power, water, air traffic) should be and is airgapped from the internet. Shutting down email, defacing websites, etc. might be annoying but doesn't amount to any form of terrorism.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Actually, I was let down once by Maxx when I tried to figure out how to get to Sylvia Park.

    The bus route there seemed fairly straightforward, but at the end bus stop it marked out a walking route that seemed to direct me around a block, almost to where the bus had stopped in the first place.

    I ended up just getting on the bus and pushing the button when I saw the mall loom into sight.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rose,

    Thanks Ben. When I walk I do go through the park. As a dedicated user of public transport I do find the MAXX site really clunky. I needed to get a train to Henderson yesterday, so I entered "Britomart" as my starting point and "Henderson" as my destination. I was then asked to define "Britomart" - there were 5 different choices and guess what? They were all the same place i.e. Britomart Place, Auckland Central / Britomart Train Station (Landmark) / Britomart Train Station (Landmark) - just in case you missed it the first time / Britomart Transport Centre (Landmark) and, finally Train Station - Britomart (Stop). WTF - They're all the same place......

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I used to write software to plan routes for milk collection. It's a damned hard job, so I'm always interested when I see other commercial examples. Working out best paths from point to point is part of it, a much easier and better solved problem, but still not without difficulties - what is the best path is not a static thing, nor is it the same for all people on all tasks. Shortest distance is not always shortest time, nor is it always safest or most convenient. There's endless complexity in modeling it.

    Robyn, I'll bet your walking route was by roads, and there wasn't one going the way that really made sense, it was a footpath? So it got you there by the shortest path on the roads. You can't expect them to map every conceivable walkable route in there! For instance I used to find the best walking route to University from Queen St used a mall's escalators and lifts, but they can't put that into a public package.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Paul, you may find they are not the same place as far as the software is concerned. Britomart Place is a street with 2 ends, for starters. It's a small difference but does the computer know that?

    If you think that's bad, I can tell you I made a much worse error in my software. I had accidentally mislabelled 2 intersections that were hundreds of kilometers apart as the same. So the software used this convenient wormhole to send trucks on the most bizzare routes they had ever seen, whilst claiming to have saved them thousands of kilometers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Robyn, I'll bet your walking route was by roads, and there wasn't one going the way that really made sense, it was a footpath?

    The Maxx site does actually seem to pick its walking routes to include places pedestrians can go but cars can't.

    For example, when I figured out the way to walk to work, it directed me up Mercury Lane, which is one-way for cars in the down direction.

    (I'm finding this conversation rather interesting, in a nerdy way.)

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Leigh Kennaway,

    Ben - did you use your own software to plot an escape route from the hordes of angry truck drivers? Was it refined enough to select a route that a Kenworth could not access??

    Western Bays • Since Feb 2007 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    I've been working on some routing software, and while the core algorithms (Dijkstra, A* etc) are well-known and easy to implement, it's data capture that makes it a really curly task if you want to make it as accurate as possible.

    For driving, you'd have to use speed limit and traffic light data and some estimates of congestion. Pedestrian routing, which on the face of it is much simpler (no need to worry about one-way streets), gets very tricky when you start to think about crossing times at intersections, slope, shelter, and all those quasi-public shortcuts that you mention. I'm working on updating our own maps, and since the "official" data from places like Terralink & LINZ omits a whole lot of pedestrian connections, I've been manually adding as many as I can.

    With any luck, that might eventually filter into a proper pedestrian routing API. Actually, most people who live in a particular city will already know their way around, but it's vital for "find nearest" applications: the "nearest" ATM or whatever may be only 100m as the crow flies, but if that involves a suicide dash across a motorway or swimming across the harbour, it's not much use.

    As an example of how bad things can get based on the assumption (made by most map providers) that everyone is driving, here's a 1 minute walk that's a three minute drive. Actually, that's a pretty good example of why it's better to leave the car at home :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Heh, love NRT's description of bloggers "sad bastard at computer keyboard picks nose, has opinion".

    dunno how in the hell he got a webcam in my office....

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Tom, keep at it. It'll be useful, even if it's never perfect. Human directions and guesses are certainly no less prone to error.

    I feel your pain on the data capture. I spent 4 weeks on my hands and knees labelling and measuring the first customer's stuff (hence the data entry error described above). With mapping software it got easier (and eventually it became part of the product), but this was over 10 years ago when the satellite maps were much more expensive and less extensive. Then there was the live running of the system, when headaches like road closures, bridge washouts, roads too narrow for big trucks but not small ones, questions of turning around, roads which it was safe to carry an empty load over but not a full one, etc which basically were handed over to the guys the software was meant (by management, not by me) to replace. But at the end of the day they had to admit it has saved them a lot of money, and the mapping software itself was a huge hit, especially when I added printouts of the actual route onto the schedule. The drivers went from hating me and calling me a f*cking kiwi c*nt (this was in Ozzie) to loving me overnight. Furthermore that drove out a lot of the craziness in the schedules as they saw that the system was using roads that didn't exist or were not roads, etc, and sent in those corrections every day.

    A very interesting software project, that. It broke me, to be honest. I bedded down the three main regions in Victoria, then quit for an easy job in a stockbroker with a big pay rise and half the workload.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Robyn, I'm only guessing, of course.

    Leigh, the angry truck drivers all wanted a piece of me until they saw me. Then they wanted someone bigger to have a piece of me for them. But when I put maps in their hands every day they calmed down a lot, except for the ones who couldn't read.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Felix,

    I don't recommend walking down the middle of the road as maxx suggests.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    There's a good test of any London Underground automated map - ask it how to get from Chancery Lane to Farringdon. They're about 5 minutes walk apart but can only be reached by tube through three changes of train.

    I can verify that, I just this and the first three options suggested routes of between 21 to 44 minutes, although option four did suggest walking, if one could be bothered scrolling down that far. Generally a good website though, especially with the google maps feature.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • 100 Word,

    Heh, love NRT's description of bloggers "sad bastard at computer keyboard picks nose, has opinion".

    dunno how in the hell he got a webcam in my office....

    He's looking through your window (hope for his sake you were wearing pants)!

    Since Sep 2007 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Heh, love NRT's description of bloggers "sad bastard at computer keyboard picks nose, has opinion". Can't say that MSM opinion seems much more deep than that, ...

    Mind you, is it sadder to sit at the keyboard picking your nose and not having an opinion? I don't think there's much in that one either. At least if you have an idiotic opinion, people will tell you on the blogosphere. If you keep it to yourself you can spend your whole life as an idiot and never know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    Regarding the deaths coming out of Iraq, with different numbers from the Pentagon and other sources.
    Apparently the US counts a bullet through the front of the head as "criminal" and not counted as a "sectarian" killing. That requires a bullet through the back of the head.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/05/AR2007090502466.html?hpid=topnews
    tip :Dailykos

    In light of the Sopranos final coming up this week on TV1, it poses an interesting dilemma

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

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