The Northern Spy: Spam, power, and the pot
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The Northern Spy: Spam, power, and the pot

By Rick Sutcliffe

Under his hat as a sometimes web hosting and domain name provider (Webnamehost.com and WebNameSource.com) the Spy must monitor the spam arriving at his server. Numerous filters and subscriptions to spam services cut the volume of mail by forty percent in a slack month and as much as ninety-five precent during time when the BlackHats think they're on to something new.

Usually, this is a good thing. But recently, spam sent out from another server at the data centre where his box is located caught the attention of Spamhaus and the service decided to blacklist the entire range of IP addresses at NewTek (formerly Atjeu), even though a single offender was operating from very small subset of those addresses. Nothing the DC has done so far has been able to convince the Spamhaus people to lift or modify the blacklist. Spamhaus doesn't deign to reply to complaints from a renter of addresses like the Spy.

Since thousands of addresses are affected, the number of people who now cannot send mail to anyone on a box subscribing to Spamhaus could be in the tens to hundreds of thousands--this for the offences of a very few. Yes, lessons need to be taught, but it would appear the Spamhaus people would prefer to do so by punishing several orders of magnitude more innocent bystanders than actual offenders.

The Spy gives Spamhaus the "spam shame of the year" award, ahead of even spammers themselves. Ludicrous overreaction. Fix it folks.

Snail mail is not without its own egregious offenders. The latest phoney billing scam comes from something now calling itself iDNS Canada, but from style of envelope and contents, appears to be the same old fly-by-night deceiver that has previously operated under (and been fined for deception) many other names in both Canada and the United States.

They fish for domain names about to expire and offer to renew them for, in this case $40 for one year for a .org domain--more than double what the Spy's own small-time service sells them for at retail. And, if the scammers even do renew the domain, once they gain administrative power over it, who knows if the owner can ever regain control. Now, to be sure, the latest letter at least no longer masquerades as an invoice from one's own domain service (Court orders), but the tone at least implies that renewal needs to be with them.

Always shred such letters lest they fall into the hands of the unwary. The "company" (likely an apartment in a cheap walk-up somewhere) is at best a rip off scheme and at worst phishing for control of your sites.

Underpowered buses

In the humble opinion of The Spy, all USB3 devices should offer supplementary power. He's made the mistake of buying a few that did not--very cheap, but you get what you pay for. Fact of the matter is that some PCI express slots, including those in the MacPro towers, are incapable of supplying sufficient power to USB3 cards, so a supplementary power supply is a necessity.

Cards tested include the Sonnet USB3-4PM-E and the High Point Rocket U 1144D, both of which offer four USB3 ports, but neither of which can harvest from the bus and pass sufficient power to keep most enclosures from periodically dropping the connection. If this happens during a backup, the disk attached will be corrupted. The Spy is currently investigating the purchase of some enclosures with supplementary power, and will let readers know when he can recommend something.

USB3 may be faster, but the most reliable external drive interface is still Firewire 800. It just works. The ideal past-, present-, and future-proof portable drive enclosure would have Firewire 800, USB3, and USB3.1/Thunderbolt interfaces, plus input for power, preferably 5V as that is the most common.

The Global Village and The Melting Pot are two societal paradigms with which the Spy has for decades taken issue. Futurists who predicted on a collectively presupposed socio-political foundation that the Internet would render the world one big happy village, were wrong to assume either, wrong to make such silly forecasts and have been proven as wrong by subsequent events as were the worshippers at the shrine of scientific and technological Progress in the nineteenth century for their own unbridled and unrealistic optimism. Two world and many other wars, the depression, and assorted murderous or genocidal dictatorships should have disabused such fantasies. Not.

The problem with the notion of a global village where everyone knows everyone else is that every village has both cliques and bullies. The Internet has more than its share. Scammers, spammers, phishers, identity thieves, DDOS attackers, site-hijackers, server hackers, purveyors of porn, conspiracy theorists, and posters of false "information" (oxymoron) abound.

In other and older venues, many of these activities would result in heavy fines for slander and time-outs in prison, but there is safety of sorts in numbers, for policing something so vast as the Internet has proven all but impossible. Meanwhile, the plethora of posts claiming to be information reinforces cliques rather than homogenizing them. If there is a global village it is deeply flawed.

Likewise, the Spy has always rejected the melting pot version of society--all ideas and all differences would blend into a featureless mush of commonality. Sorry, but the Spy once ran a real melting pot--the one where the Linotype slugs were re-melted into lead bars after the proofs were run, pasted up, and printed on the rotary press. A real melting pot purifies the one ingredient you want, allowing the sludge to rise to the top, whence it is skimmed and thrown on the slag heap. If there is a social melting pot, skimming isn't happening.

More to the point, saying all value statements are of equal import is indistinguishable from saying that none have an importance worth heeding. Likewise for disparate groups each to give credibility to their own theories based on a selection of Internet sources is at least self-serving, if not self-deceiving. Merely finding one or two people hold to some theory of "what's wrong out there" isn't enough to lend it credibility. Neither should the heavily politicized media editorials that are all that pass for news these days be either accepted as true or dismissed as "fake". Do some serious research, people.

The Spy warned decades ago that the pundits' version of an incipient worldwide liberal democracy with a bland and uniformly secular culture, universally adhering to "corrected" beliefs devoid of cultural "racial", political, and religious difference-generating ideas, was not only impossible, but that in a society lacking transcendent moral anchors there could be no foundation for respecting law, civility, or one another. Having the Internet bring us face-to-face with divergent ideas, far from homogenizing us, would sharpen our differences. Lacking a common foundation society would either yield to anarchy or to demagogues who convinced a sufficiently wide audiences to seize power.

Now? Never since WWII has Western society been more uncivil, more ungenerous, more fault-finding, less open to others' ideas, and more divided into hostile camps, each determined it has the right of everything, and everyone else lives in Wrongsville. The so-called "left" and the so-called "right" (meaningless terms for groups who merely have their own sets of political friends and enemies) cannot even understand each others' language sufficiently to discourse on issues of importance (C.P. Snow's Two Cultures on fentanyl). This has now become so extreme in the United States that this not-very-far-removed observer has begun to doubt that nation's union can survive.

Judge for yourselves where we now are. No, liberal democrats, you could not have been more filled with hubris than to say your philosophy had won and we were at the end of history. Rather we were at the brink of a new and even more dangerous time. It may be the best of times technologically, but it is one of the worst of times socially. We have collectively met the enemy online and determined he is everyone but us.

Can technology offer solutions to the divisiveness it has exacerbated? Perhaps. Minimally. More might vote in elections if they could do so online. Some decisions could be taken by referendum rather than by representatives. Would-be politicians could be required to take and pass courses in civics, the operation of government, and their fiduciary duty before being allowed to run for office.

This too could be subverted of course, but purely representative government is no longer either necessary or functional, and decision making needs more input from more people, lest we abdicate governing to whatever is a sufficiently successful demagogue to make himself or herself dictator for life or emperor.

Yet another prediction from those early Northern Spy and other columns on the Information Age was of the demise of privacy. True, Big Brother has more ability to know about citizens. But Little Sister has the ability to find out what Big Brother and its political, sports, and entertainment idols are up to. Past prevarication, unwise proclamations, financial and sexual improprieties all come out eventually, for nothing can be hidden or hushed up any more. This alone may well be worth the erosion of privacy for the ordinary Josephine--at least we now can learn what the movers and shakers have been up to, and occasionally retain or muster sufficient collective moral integrity of our own (from where?) to bring them to heel--though the degree of opprobrium from some quarters often seems more proportionate to the political distance from the perp than to the offence itself.

Still, the Spy thinks that the benefit of knowing all about would-be people of power and influence trumps any disadvantage of them knowing all about him.

Food for thought, eh?

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a. k. a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics, Associate Dean of Science and Chair of the University Senate at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level.

He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns or Rick's SF? Check out the Arjay blog at http://www.arjay.bc.ca/blog/

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http: //www. TheNorthernSpy. com
opundo : http: //opundo. com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http: //sheaves. org
WebNameHost : http: //www. WebNameHost. net
WebNameSource : http: //www. WebNameSource. net
nameman : http: //nameman. net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:

Author Site: http: //www. arjay. ca
Publisher's Site: http: //www. writers-exchange. com/Richard-Sutcliffe. html
The Fourth Civilization--Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed. ): http: //www. arjay. bc. ca/EthTech/Text/index. html

URLs for resources mentioned in this column

High Point RocketU 144D http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/series-ru1144d-overview.htm
Sonnet Allegro 3.0 4-porthttp://www.sonnettech.com/product/allegrousb3pcie4port.html

 

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