Hardware Vulnerabilities…

Right now a lot of the Gen 2 and earlier Intel “Core iX” chips are on the secondary market, along with their Xeon server brethren. These represent an amazing amount of “bang for buck” but also come with some hardware vulnerabilities.

With the “Vault 7” release by Wikileaks people are talking again about computer and network vulnerabilities. The truth is that ALL systems are vulnerable, just that these older processors have much more available documentation on their vulnerabilities. This also means that the BIOS updates needed to minimize these vulnerabilities are also out there. I’m typing this out on a second gen core i5 laptop, and have no problems accepting my risk level using this hardware. Yes I could get a newer laptop without the vulnerabilities the current laptop has, but I’m at the point where if someone wants to compromise my laptop, they are REALLY putting in some work to do so.

What I really want people to take away from this post, is that “digital security” is a moving goalpost. Older hardware is still good and useful for most people (the exception here is when you are a business and hardware vulnerability exploitation by an attacker would cost you way more than simply buying hardware without that vulnerability). With good software security and patch management you can minimize your risks as an individual.

Now…all this advice about being ok with older hardware comes with a cost, YOU need to know what you are doing. If you are going to rock out a five year old laptop as an investigative journalist and you want to protect your sources, you really need to use an operating system other than Windows that is designed for security. It won’t stop a nation state level attack, but it will make them work for it.

Oh..and as far as exactly how much of a bargain are those older chips? Plenty of quad core xeons in the 2 to 3 gigahertz range for less than the cost of a decent meal out, and even a few dual processor motherboards for less than a hotel stay for a night. Simply put you can now slap together a 16 process thread capable computer for under 100 bucks (before shipping at least). That’s an amazing value, and computer enthusiasts can really do some cool stuff with that much processing power.

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The future of Cyberspace is…meatspace?

The power of the internet has always been to enable human interaction. From letting people fight nuclear wars by routing round outages, to allowing a journalist to write a best selling book, “The World Is Flat” about how connected we all are…

With that in mind, Mark Zukerberg thinks that creating connections of the correct groups in physical geography (aka “meatspace” because that is where the meat lives) may have a profound set of consequences for the politics of our planet.  https://arstechnica.com/staff/2017/02/op-ed-mark-zuckerbergs-manifesto-is-a-political-trainwreck/

Now…I’m less optimistic about the future of Facebook to create meaningful “hybrid” groups of online/offline people. I have no doubt that Facebook algorithms/AI will be able to identify trend leaders in online groups, because they do that already. What they won’t be able to do is reconcile the those who are good leaders online, who are abject failures as leaders offline.

Want an example? In the conservative gunblogosphere Kim Du Toit is legendary (whether positive or negative) but no one has ever met Kim and then went back to their own blog and decided to unashamedly lobby that Kim be the leader of the free world. If you want a “progressive” example look to the “Radical Feminist” who goes by the title “witchwind” (who unfortunately hasn’t updated her blog of craziness in the last two years) to see why online adulation doesn’t always translate into offline effectiveness. Hell, take me for example, I’ve led men into combat, and am an effective leader offline in any organization in which I choose to participate, but that doesn’t mean I’m charismatic (I’m not) and that means that I’ve always had the easiest leadership jobs in the world, leading people who were good followers. Political leaders need to lead people who are fickle, undisciplined, irrational, and they do so mainly by charisma (there is no other attribute that Obama had that explains his election and re-election, or GW Bush’s election or re-election for that matter). Succinctly, people can have an online “charisma” that is lacking in real life.

Secondly, this is still a dangerous idea. As we move forward into the future, the “perfect forward secrecy” of online communications channels combined with the civil liberties protections of nation states (of which the US truly is a world leader) means that we could see a return to the 1970s in terms of “radical violence” coordinated through subcultures connected through online and offline networks. I’ve linked to this before, so if you haven’t read it, now is a good time to realize how violent well connected, funded, and protected leftist organizations can be: https://status451.com/2017/01/20/days-of-rage/

With that in mind, the ability for conservative groups to also organize in an online/offline hybrid group is also present. Of course no one fears the John Birch society and the big “militia movement” that was going to resist the UN brought into the US by Clinton and Obama turned out to be a whole lot of talk, and a whole lot of informants informing on each other. http://wonkette.com/607696/ridiculous-number-of-dildo-militiamen-at-malheur-refuge-were-government-informants-lol

And that brings up the last point…if Facebook begins some sort of “political matchmaking service” it is only too easy to figure out what profile activity is needed to get those groups to show up in your feed as a “suggested group.” Heck, it wouldn’t be that hard to repurpose some rather dated software to create fake personas that get the suggestions from the Facebook AI filters so that a real infiltrator can assume the identity of the persona for an infiltration mission:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks

So the future may be safer for citizens, and more dangerous for revolutionaries. Or it could be the other way around. My crystal ball is cloudy, and smudged from the careless play of children.

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AR-15 talk

There are things you can do to make your AR-15 perform better without spending a huge amount of money. The trick is to put your money into things that actually matter. Some folks look down on people who don’t buy a quality milspec AR, and some folks look down on people who waste their money on buying crappy entry level milspec ARs. But the truth is that right now there are more options for a good entry level AR than there have ever been before. If you bought a brand where the upper receiver was put together correctly, and the buffer weight is correct, then no one will be able to tell whether or not the milspec magic fairy dust was blessed upon your rifle.

So say you buy an entry level AR carbine, no sights, no optic, and your magazines are some second hand green follower GI aluminum bodied mags. Where do you go from there? Specifically where do you go from there to “good enough” without hitting “retarded tacticool” pricing?

Here are where I would put my money.

Magazines. In any sort of reliability test the magazine has always been the weak link in causing “stoppages.” There are many people out there who advocate for one brand of magazine or another, and if you have the money to drop on new mags that’s awesome. If you don’t, and you are still using GI aluminum style mags with a black or green follower, I recommend getting the Magpul anti-tilt follower. If you are using tan follower GI mags, you are good to go and don’t need to upgrade. You can generally buy the Magpul followers for less than two bucks before shipping from midway. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/2319633504/magpul-enhanced-self-leveling-magazine-follower-ar-15-polymer-package-of-3

Before anyone says that GI magazines are like ten bucks a piece and Magpul magazines are only like 15 bucks a piece, yes I know. But if you are like me with a stash of old green follower aluminum GI mags, a two buck upgrade beats the heck out of a 15 buck new purchase. If you are buying new magazines, go with whatever you like and feel is a good deal for you.

Next up is the trigger. How much you spend on the trigger depends a lot on what you consider acceptable performance. I shoot service rifle, so I need a 4.5 lb trigger pull, which limits my selection and price range. For a standard “combat carbine” a grit free trigger like an ALG ACT is probably 70 bucks well spent, although the Palmetto State Armory “Enhanced Polished Trigger” is probably the lowest cost upgrade to a standard milspec trigger that is worth purchasing.

ALG ACT: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/469179/alg-defense-act-advanced-combat-trigger-group-ar-15-lr-308-small-pin-154-single-stage-matte

PSA EPT http://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-ar15-pa10-enhanced-polished-trigger.html

Sights…

If you really did buy a carbine without sights, you can’t really get buy with a sub hundred dollar purchase here. But you don’t have to spend Aimpoint and Nightforce levels of cash either. But there is a definite “bottom” in terms of price to “worthwhile quality” and that level now starts with Vortex.

For a no magnification solution, Vortex Strikefire II comes in at 240 MSRP, but is right at 180 with free shipping off of Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Vortex-Optics-StrikeFire-Cantilever-Baseball/dp/B01H7QWB56

For a magnified option, the Vortex Crossfire II comes in at 177 off of Amazon, not including a mount. https://www.amazon.com/Vortex-Crossfire-1-4x24mm-Rifle-Scope/dp/B00HYRGO48/ref=sr_1_2?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1487799229&sr=1-2&keywords=vortex+1-4

Lastly, and this is getting pretty subjective, you need some sort of automotive grease for your lubrication. There are companies on the market that will sell you very small bottles of very expensive grease that they claim can can prevent stoppages through the thousands of rounds. That’s great and all, but I don’t like spending 15 bucks for a single ounce bottle of any sort of fluid. So go to your automotive store, purchase some grease (I like Mobil1 synthetic because it is red) and purchase some automatic transmission fluid. Use the ATF like you would CLP for cleaning your rifle, and lube your bolt at the gas rings and wear ring with the grease, then lube the bolt carrier “rails” (the four flat surfaces) very lightly with the grease. If you do that, you’ll get all the reliability you’ve ever wanted out of an AR if everything else is working (gas system, buffer weight, etc). You can literally buy any brand of grease and ATF you like, and you can even substitute plain old engine oil for CLP in a pinch although you’ll lose some of the copper removing qualities it will get the carbon out just fine.

So there you have it, don’t pay more than ten bucks a magazine, 70 bucks for a trigger, or 180 bucks for an optic, slap in a two buck Magpul follower for your old 30 round GI mags, and you can show up at any action shooting competition with a cleaned and lubed rifled and your setup that won’t give you any excuses about your performance.

Things that I haven’t talked about…slings, mag pouches, rifle case, etc. All of those are important to actually securing and using your AR, but there are so many options and preferences that I think individualized advice is better than a blanket statement.

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Sadness and Grief

Many years ago, when I was going through Officer Candidate School, we had the opportunity to interact with some of the combat veteran Captains going through the Captain’s career course. During the question and answer portion, one of the candidates asked, “What does it feel like to lose a Soldier?”

The Captains looked at each other, and sidelined the question, as how do you answer such a deeply personal question? There really is nothing you can do to prepare for loss, and the only thing you can do is cope and move forward. But unless you are a sociopath, you will have to deal with those feelings as best you can.

I’ve never lost a Soldier under my direct command in combat, but I have lost a Soldier due to suicide and I’ve lost former Soldiers when they were following other Officers. It doesn’t help either way, you feel the same loss at each death.

Yesterday, my Grandfather was laid to rest in a national cemetery. His service with the US Navy during the Korean war era was voluntary. He met my Grandmother at a dance, and that led to 63 years of marriage before he went to sleep on his easy chair, and drifted off into eternity. Grandfather now rests one section over from one of my Soldiers who passed on, due to a command wire IED in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

I wish that my words here could help someone through their own grieving process, or that maybe they would bring some comfort to someone else. Either way, a man who is younger than my youngest sibling, and my Grandfather, now share the ground with men and women, and family members of the military, from WWI until the War on Terror. The cemetary is a peaceful place, and I hope that all the other families of departed veterans can find some semblance of peace when those who spent a portion of their life in service are laid to rest surrounded by others who made the same choice.

Those of us still living, those of us still serving, will eventually have to pass the torch of freedom on to a younger generation. And like the torch was passed to us, we must trust that it will not be extinguished on our replacements watch. Those of us who managed to come home, carry forward the memories and hopes of the fallen, until the day that we can no longer go forward. On that day, someone else must carry our hope forward into the future. May God comfort those who have gone on to rest, and those of us who grieve them.

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Echoes in Eternity

I think the first memory I have of a Christmas tree was at my grandparent’s home. I can’t really recall what my first memory of my grandfather on my mother’s side was, but I do remember he had a happy laugh. But it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was always a happy person.

My parents and grandparents had a “contentious” relationship every so often, and as a kid when things were good then things were really good. And when things were bad we didn’t see much of them until things got good again.

I associate the smell of coffee and pine burning in a fireplace with my grandfather. Both my Dad and Grandpa (mom’s father) had scratchy chins, at least when I was a kid. I only ever saw Grandpa really drunk once that I remember, and that was because he thought we’d bailed on visiting because we were a couple hours late. He cried a little, and said that he was afraid we weren’t coming.

It wasn’t a secret that grandpa was an alcoholic, a lot of men his age and generation were. And the empty Wild Turkey bottles were a reminder that when we weren’t there, Grandpa still drank.

But, for his grandkids he stayed sober, as best he could. And a lot of the dysfunctional habits he got when he was a kid managed to work themselves out, although not totally. As far as I know I’m the only one in my family still on talking terms with everyone else in my family, but I can’t be sure about that cause someone might not be on talking terms with me and never bothered to tell me.

But, this trip down memory lane and subsequent reflection on my family, is due to the passing of my grandfather. He was a stubborn man, in all the good and bad ways that you can be stubborn. His mind started going a few years ago, and he and I would have the same conversation every time I visited. But he got to meet his great grandchildren.

The mighty oak that dares to stretch towards the heavens will eventually fall. Sometimes due to a stroke of lighting. Sometimes due to a rot weakening the trunk so that it cannot hold its own weight. Sometimes to the ax or saw. But no oak stands forever. Although if Grandpa were a tree he’d probably be Douglas Fir or Western Red Cedar, the kind that doesn’t change its branches just because some minor inconvenience called “winter” came along.

I was raised religious, and although I’ve lost the deep certainty of a true zealot in knowing exactly what others need to get right with God, I believe that Einstein really did stumble upon something “divine” with E=mC^2. That famous equation says that energy and mass are inextricably linked, and therefore that all things are linked and essentially indestructible. So as my grandfather passes on from this life, his “energy” is still here in this universe, echoing through eternity. As the laws of thermodynamics tell us that every reaction increases the entropy of the universe as things move to a lower energy state, and so I hope that grandpa is resting now, moving into a deeper slumber as the pain of life, and ravages of time, cease.

When I enlisted grandpa told me to stay out of the booze halls, and I could make something of myself in the service. It was good advice, and while I have done some hard drinking, it never became my life. And I’ll honestly miss having that one conversation with grandpa, how he spent time in the Navy up in Alaska, working on the flight line. Missing someone, is one of their echoes through eternity, the proof their life had some meaning to someone.

We all grieve in our own way, and sometimes an emotion is just to big to feel all of it at once. So you feel a little of it at at time, and eventually, somehow you get to a point where it is dealt with, and you find peace on the other side.

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The increasing normalization of violence by the Left

The world is always shocked by “right wing” violence, but it is NEVER shocked by left wing violence.

One of the reasons why every successful terror attack is almost always immediately blamed on the “right wing extremists” is that if it was effective, no one expects Leftists. However, that’s also because the media is leftist driven, and can’t imagine “our side” doing those horrible things.

Recently there was this post by John Mosby: https://mountainguerrilla.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/skull-stomping-sacred-cows-reality-isnt-nice-its-a-2×4-to-the-teeth/ which outlines why leftist violence works, and how leftist “revolutions” work.

That inspired this bit of response from Aesop: http://raconteurreport.blogspot.de/2017/02/natzsofast.html which I think is a bit foolish, there won’t be much Leftist violence in California because they already own that state. As long as the Left holds power, they won’t resort to violence to gain power.

And that’s the rub of violence, it is only used for two purposes. To gain power, or to maintain power. The Left in California WILL use violence to maintain power, but it will look a lot like “police conduct a crackdown of…” news stories rather than “angry mobs burned a family alive for voting for an evil Republican…”

Of course if you are voting for them “evil Republicans” in California, you already know that your odds of a police no knock raid on your home. Many celebrities are “SWATted” and just imagine what would happen if Saul Alinksy were put in charge of California Law Enforcement. Remember that Alinsky had no problem inciting violence, and would hope really hard that some “right wing extremist” resisted a “no knock raid” so he could dance in the blood of a fallen officer to gain even more public support for his side, and erode public support for the “evil conservatives.”

But…All that theory is fine, but the indicators out there on the normalization of leftist violence are getting to become a downright constant barrage:

http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=8741 Leftist students normalizing physical violence, and hiring/coordinating with an experienced boxer to do so. The beginning of Communist Revolutions almost always starts with upper middle class college students starting to hang out with hardened criminals so they can learn how to hurt and kill people.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/30/blm-anti-trump-protest-in-seattle-we-need-to-start-killing-people/ Another naked call to kill people who aren’t supporting “black lives matter” hard enough.

The “Limousine Liberal” set giving public permission for violence: http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2017/01/normalizing-violence.html

This idiot thinking that there is a war coming and that the “Left WILL win!” http://farsh-nuke.blogspot.com/  Which is only the rantings of someone utterly devoid of any historical facts about leftists violence. Leftist violence doesn’t always win, but Leftist violence is always based on useful idiots like Alex there believing that “the revolution is inevitable and we just need one successful spark and the people will rise up with us!!!”

Solid blue cities like Portland, OR, are one of the places where leftists don’t need to riot or commit violence, because they are already in power https://www.tmn.today/2017/01/the-crowd-cheered-as-police-did-this-to-anti-trump-protesters/ and are more concerned about not having that monopoly on violence to maintain power: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/02/guilty_man_who_pulled_gun_out.html

The good news for people who live in rural red areas, violence is not coming to your neighborhood any time soon. The leftists will always try to consolidate power in areas they are strong first. For the folks who live in suburbs…your risk level is higher because you have so many different areas to travel through for work and normal life.

But…with violence normalizing at this level in the dead of winter, I really have some questions about what the hell will happen this summer.

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Compare and Contrast F35 with U2

The US Air Force claims that the F-35 is “now ready to answer a combatant commander’s call for it’s unique capabilities to fight ISIS.”  http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1692143-air-force-f-35-is-ready-to-attack-isis

Which is really ironic, because what the Combatant Commander is actually calling for is an aircraft that entered service at least eight years before the longest current serving service member in the entire military, a U2 spy plane: https://www.defensetech.org/2017/02/03/aging-u-2-hits-milestone-gathering-intel-isis/

I would say that the “unique” characteristics of the F-35 really aren’t in that much of a demand, especially when the logistical footprint to keep the “Albino Elephant” in the sky are so extensive and the Combatant Commander knows that the budget for operations isn’t unlimited. Remember, when you request a capability the upkeep for that capability comes out of your operational funds. Makes the old U2 with all it’s known maintenance costs a much more attractive option for the Commander to request.

Then again, it’s not like we need a stealth pocket bomber to go after ISIS, as drones have pretty much uninterrupted access over the sky, and regular fighters have done just fine, only requiring an F22 escort when the Russians came to play. Notice no one is asking for F35 escorts…

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