Weekly Wrap 176: Largely largesse, then looming bushfires

Bushfires near me, 1350 AEDT: click to embiggenI’m finding it difficult to switch into that mode where I can concentrate on my writing today. The map above explains why.

I’m at the red marker near Wentworth Falls, and the only two escape routes are the road or railway east towards Sydney or west then north-west towards Lithgow.

The smaller Mt Victoria fire on the left has, remarkably, been contained to much the same boundaries as yesterday, thanks to the hard work and backburning activities of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). So far.

The enormous State Mine Fire to the north, however, is growing. The winds, while currently forecast to be relatively mild, are nevertheless pushing the fire in this direction. And while it might look a long way away, given adverse weather conditions a bushfire can travel that distance in mere hours.

Both fires have the potential to reach Wentworth Falls, and earlier this afternoon the RFS chief said that the entire Blue Mountains could end up at risk in the coming days.

While I’m not particularly worried, I do need to stay alert in case the RFS escalates their warnings. I’m already as step ahead: I’ve packed my bug-out bag and have an evacuation plan. But that still makes it difficult to switch off that little stay-alert part of my brain and get down to writing.

So for now, here’s the quick summary of my week Monday 14 to Sunday 20 October 2013, plus the week ahead.

Continue reading “Weekly Wrap 176: Largely largesse, then looming bushfires”

Talking ASIO hack on BBC World Service

BBC World Service logoMonday night’s Four Corners episode claimed, amongst other thing, that Chinese hackers had stolen the plans to the new headquarters of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). It made global news, and as a result, I ended up being interviewed on the BBC World Service program World Have Your Say.

The 15-minute live panel discussion also included Four Corners journalist Andrew Fowler, one of the BBC’s journalists based in China, and a journalist from The New York Times.

I quite enjoyed the chat, but it also showed how new all this stuff is to a mainstream audience.

Here’s the audio of the full 30-minute program. It starts off with a discussion of the current situation in Syria, and then we start at about the 14-minute mark.

Play

The audio is of course ©2013 British Broadcasting Corporation. The audio player is linked directly to the BBC’s copy of the MP3 file. If that ever breaks, let me know and I’ll post my copy.

Fine posts for 2012

AWStats screenshot: click to embiggenAs in previous years, the list of most popular posts for 2012 was rather disappointing, so I’ve hand-curated this list of eight stories for you to consider.

As usual, this does not include the material I wrote elsewhere, for ZDNet Australia, Technology Spectator, CSO Online, Crikey, ABC The Drum and the rest. That’s all listed on my Media Output page.

  1. Two casually racist encounters concerning Auburn, being the most recent of my essay-style posts.
  2. Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?
  3. ASIO’s got it easy, says terrorism expert
  4. Consilium: Social media is destroying society? Good! This is the recording and transcript of my opening and closing remarks at Consilium, and I think I said some good things.
  5. iSpy: Talking total surveillance at Sydney Writers’ Festival, being the recorded audio of the panel discussion I did.
  6. Why tweeting my movements isn’t a safety risk, which is what it says.
  7. Stilgherrian’s advice to a PR student, uhoh, which is some useful if unconventional material.
  8. Twitter Discourse 1: Fuck off, swearing is my birthright. Because it is.

If you’d like to compare this with previous years, try these:

[Photo: Screenshot of AWStats from this website. It’d make more sense for this image to be on the most-popular story list, but I have my reasons.]

Most popular posts of 2012

Is it that time of year already? Yes, it is. This is the first in a series of posts looking back at what I’ve done and how people reacted, being a list of the most-read posts on this website from 2012.

Like last year, there’s not a lot to choose from because most of my writing is done elsewhere these days. Indeed, there are very few posts apart from the Weekly Wrap posts and the Conversations podcast that contains the radio and TV spots I do. That means some rather mundane pieces of writing, such as the Weekly Wrap, end up on the list. I intend to change this in 2013.

  1. Twitter screwed up TweetDeck, so here’s the old version, being a place to download the old Adobe AIR version of the popular Twitter client, the last one before Twitter screwed it up.
  2. Weekly Wrap 101: Codeine and counter-surveillance. I’ve no idea why this routine post proved more popular than usual.
  3. Two casually racist encounters concerning Auburn, the first item on the list that’s something like the essay-style blog posts I used to do.
  4. Flame gets me talking cyberwar worms on The Project, containing video of my first appearance on the Channel TEN program, The Project.
  5. cPanel’s new EULA: more software industry arrogance?, in which I complain that it’s a bit rich to present a new end-user license agreement at the moment new software is being installed on a production server.
  6. Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?, an essay that continued my thoughts from that week’s Patch Monday podcast.
  7. Separated at birth: Bob Katter and Ben Grubb?, which is reasonably self-explanatory.
  8. Talking new internet domains on ABC RN Sunday Extra, which is also self-explanatory.
  9. Weekly Wrap 118: Planes, pains and delays
  10. Twitter Discourse 1: Fuck off, swearing is my birthright. I never did get around to writing Twitter Discourse 2.

Continue reading “Most popular posts of 2012”

Weekly Wrap 125: Intelligence and infection

It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago I was dealing with snow because this week, Monday 22 to Sunday 28 October 2012, included a day of working at Manly beach.

As you’ll read in a moment, it also included a series of digs at Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence communities. And it wrapped up on Saturday with the discovery that I’ve been suffering from a rather nasty throat infection. Which explains why I was so tired and irritable.

Penicillin to the rescue!

Podcasts

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

None.

The Week Ahead

The week begins tonight with a midnight recording for this week’s Patch Monday podcast. Then I have to complete a story for Technology Spectator by 1000 AEDT before wrapping up Patch Monday. And then I catch the train to Sydney.

I’m then staying in Sydney overnight so I can be at Microsoft’s Tuesday morning breakfast briefing on Windows Phone 8, and after that the rest of the week is as yet unplanned. Chaos is my friend. Stand by.

[Photo: Freelancing, a picture of my working environment on Thursday. That’s the Steyne Hotel overlooking the beach at Manly in Sydney.]

ASIO’s got it easy, says terrorism expert

“ASIO don’t seem to realise how privileged they are compared to intel orgs in other Western democracies,” tweeted terrorism researcher Andrew Zammit (pictured) yesterday.

Zammit is a researcher at the Global Terrorism Research Centre (Monash University) and Australian Policy Online (Swinburne University), and he was responding to my blog post from yesterday, “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?” and the attached podcast.

Here are his subsequent tweets, turned into continuous prose:

CIA for example has ongoing congressional oversight (of actual operations) as opposed to our occasional parl[iamentary] inquiries, people can FOI CIA docs only a few years old (ASIO has 20-30 year exemption) and some of the CIA’s analytical roles are transparent, as in analysts will have CIA business cards whereas even an ASIO kitchen hand’s identity will be kept secret. And CIA isn’t even a domestically-focused agency. So yes, ASIO needs to be less precious about being asked questions.

I agree. From the perspective of the United States I’m a foreign national, yet I’ve spoken with officers from the FBI, NSA and the Secret Service — all of whom had business cards with their full names. The closest I’ve gotten in Australia is chatting briefly with a DSD chap, one of two attending Linux.conf.au in January this year — given names only, and I suspect that those given names were really in scare quotes.

The excuse always given is “operational security”, but I do think the world has changed. The tools and methods are surely not so different from SEKRIT agencies to private-sector security companies and even analysis in non-security realms, given that so much technology is now available off the shelf to all comers.

Surely these days OPSEC is more about protecting sources and the specific operations that are or are not being conducted?

Of course I really don’t know this stuff. I’ve never worked in this field. I’ve never even held a security clearance. I’m just an interested bystander mouthing off. But I am intrigued.