Fake people

I can’t decide whether this AOC crazy person is funny or depressing, but take a look at this:

Fake person having fake emotions over a fake scene in order to create fake news in a fake world.

Because empathy is very useful as a tool for manipulating fools into tyranny. Fake pain results in fake outrage that results in actual laws being passed that will make you even more of a slave, and all “because children”.

Security of Linux

I was thinking a bit lately, running Linux as my daily driver for the last few days, at least on my desktop PC, about the rationale behind Linux as a secure OS.

Linux is secure because it’s open source so anyone can inspect it and find the back doors and insecure features. That’s the story.

However, a while ago they discovered an open-ssl vulnerability called “heartbleed”, which was there for years, in an open source library, that theoretically everybody could inspect, and yet apparently that didn’t help the slightest bit. How is that possible?

The explanation is quite easy. Yes, there is a huge number of people working on open source projects, but the trick is in how they are grouped. The largest majority is working on redundant high-level stuff, while the “invisible”, low-end, critical features are so obscure, that they are often maintained by either a single developer or a handful of them, and although people could in theory read some cryptographic c library, almost nobody does, because it’s obscure, difficult and unrewarding work. People who maintain those libraries need to have immense expertise, and yet they are usually paid nothing for their work. Nobody really competes for a job that requires a PhD in mathematics, a wizard-level knowledge of c, uses up lots of time, and pays nothing.

Which brings me to the main security issue in Linux: its critical security features are written and maintained by a few unpaid experts, are too obscure to read and understand by the vast majority of Linux developers, and the likely attacker can literally print billions of dollars that will never be tracked or accounted for, and has infinite means of intimidation.

This means Linux is in fact extremely vulnerable. It was proven to have “heart-bleeding” vulnerabilities out there in the open for years, and nobody actually bothered to read the open source code and find them. The vulnerability can be extremely obscure, and you’d need to be a professional cryptanalyst to be able to identify it, and there would be no incentive for you to go through all those mountains of code and find it, because you would assume it’s already been done, which is an easy and pleasant assumption to make, if somewhat unwarranted.

So, what am I saying here? Basically, I’m saying nothing is secure if those attacking the system have control of the hardware design, firmware design, operating system design, and can pay the best experts infinite amounts of money if they comply with their demands, or have them and their families disappear in darkness if they don’t. The idea, that you can simply install Linux instead of Windows and you’re secure, is incredibly naive.

New Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi 4B has been released recently, and it’s the first such device that might actually be usable as a general-purpose desktop PC.

I don’t know yet what the Geekbench score is, but it has 4GB RAM, can drive two 4K monitors, is 2+ times faster than the 3B+ model, has gigabit Ethernet and USB3, essentially making it an ideal cheap and secure device for running general purpose office/school applications.

I ordered one and will report how it does running Linux desktop and my typical workload. In theory, it’s the first one that actually has enough power to rival a NUC for lightweight HTPC and desktop tasks.

Update after receiving and briefly testing the 4GB unit:

Geekbench 2 (ARM build) is 4830. The score of the 3B+ is 2266.

Subjective speed is comparable to my media player, Core2Duo E6500@2900MHz, which means it’s quite usable, since that used to be my desktop machine; the speed is not up to today’s standards, but it’s not stone age. I’m using it to write this article and the speed is fine, it’s a normal desktop computer.

kde-plasma-desktop package in raspbian made a mess, and is unusable, so I’m using the default raspbian window manager. Raspbian is incredibly breakable; after attempting to install multiple window managers, everything broke in many different ways, for instance raspi-config fails to set a valid boot to GUI or boot to CLI configuration; it just does whatever, and when I startx, it complately bypasses lightdm/sddm and opens whatever (at first Raspbian default GUI, but later Mate desktop, without the ability to switch between the two. It’s simply not ready for “normies”. Window manager switching should either not work at all, or work well, without conflicting daemons/applets, and reliably selectable through either GUI or CLI. I can’t believe I have to even say this.

The video works marginally OK when I use the legacy open-gl driver in raspi-config. 720p video works ok, only 9 dropped frames of 2800. Everything above 720p is not smooth. The mouse moves better now too.

Mate desktop is much, much better than the default Raspbian GUI. Normal things such as the volume buttons actually work. This machine should have Ubuntu Mate as the desktop OS, and Raspbian should be left for tinkering with hardware and emergency use only. Mate desktop, however, is good enough for normal desktop use. For instance, I couldn’t make Raspbian GUI make my mouse work non-sluggish; in mate-desktop-environment it just works. That also goes for the volume control buttons on both keyboards I tested. I could get used to this.

It’s prone to overheating. I got a high temperature icon repeatedly while working at the Raspbian desktop while performing apt-get install of a large dependency tree. The temps were above 80°C with alu heatsink glued to the CPU but plastic top of the case closed. I opened it now and the temps while just typing this are 66°C.
I plugged the USB3 powered hub from the desktop to the Pi and it just worked, plug&play, with all the devices.

There’s some super-weird shit going on with overheating. For instance, I forgot a Kingston USB drive in the device, and when I wanted to remove it, it was hot, like, incredibly hot. I can’t remember whether that was the case with 3B+ but this isn’t normal, since the drive was idling, and not copying the universe. 
The CPU temperature is now 62-66°C, which is about ten degrees more than 3B+ in similar workloads. This CPU needs stronger cooling, and that’s normal since it has the power of an E6500 which has a regular PC heatsink with a fan, and this has a small passive heatsink. 
The video drivers are generally the weakest spot of the OS so far, from what I can tell. All kinds of artifacting is going on while video is playing; mouse pointer hiding and showing, browser randomly redrawing, that kind of crap. It’s alpha release. I don’t think the hardware acceleration is turned on at all. There needs to be a Raspbian update having the 4B in mind, because from what I recall 3B+ actually has better YouTube video.

To repeat myself, there needs to be an OS fork for Pi devices: one for tinkering with hardware, for which Raspbian is great, and one for desktop use, for classrooms or similar, and that one needs to be polished. Ubuntu-Mate seems like an awesome candidate, although I would also like to see kde-plasma-desktop working.

I am testing it on a 4K 43″ monitor, with a mechanical keyboard and Logitech G602 wireless mouse plugged into a powered USB3 hub, and it’s a very comfortable desktop experience, until I get an idea of playing video. That part just doesn’t work well and needs to be fixed in a Raspbian update. This hub also provides the power for the Pi; I also tried a 45W USB-C Asus laptop brick, and Apple iPad brick. The iPad brick was the only one not providing enough power; I had constant undervolt notifications and at one point device actually crashed during a power peak when starting Mate. Have this in mind; this requires a netbook-level power brick, not a phone or tablet-level one. This is not your old Raspberry Pi that could run from a computer’s USB socket and be fine. The power demands are still nowhere near any kind of a x86 desktop computer, but it matches the small and frugal laptops. The overheating has apparently been resolved once I removed the top cover on the case. It would actually make good use of a slow case fan blowing on it, but a high-RPM small fan would be terribly counterproductive. The solution I would prefer would be this:

Aluminium case design where the entire top part of the case is a heatsink would be quite appropriate for a machine of this power, because if you close it inside an un-ventilated plastic enclosure it will melt itself to death, and if it’s left open it can be damaged in all sorts of ways in a classroom environment. Essentially, I’d install it in a VESA mounted enclosure with a large heatsink, and either extend the GPIO with a flat cable to some accessible spot on the monitor stand, or just forget about GPIO for desktop use; have a 4B model for driving a desktop environment, for coding and web/office stuff, and one small, cheap A-type unit for driving sensors and robotics. You’ll do the development/deployment/testing over a ssh connection in any case, it’s just a matter whether you do the development on a “proper” desktop PC, or a desktop-level Pi. As far as I’m concerned, 4B needs a software update that will fix its video problems, and make a mate-desktop-environment a default option in Raspbian: well tested, polished and not conflicting with the unnecessary LXDE and whatever GUI that used to make sense on the older generations. This one needs a choice between Mate, XFCE and KDE, not between SHIT and CRAP. Yes, this is high praise coming from me, and means the device itself is quite excellent for the intended purpose. With proper cooling, properly implemented video codecs and some OS polishing, this could be the ideal classroom computer: cheap, small, integrated into the monitor for robustness, and fast enough to run everything kids would need to learn. And it’s cheap enough you can equip classrooms with it even in the financially not so well off schools that can’t afford i3 or i5 desktops. So, thumbs up, but with a caveat regarding the OS which is obviously an alpha-release considering the needs of this device. I can hardly wait for Ubuntu Mate to be compiled and tweaked for 4B.


What about Iran?

If my analysis from the previous article is correct, the question isn’t whether America will destroy Iran or not. The question is really when and how, because they can’t afford to let it be.

Imagine for a moment that America had its breakdown, and it’s reduced to the state of the Russia of the 1990s. It can’t influence the events in the world in any way. It can’t feed its own military, or its own people. It’s the world’s greatest consumer of humanitarian aid, provided by China, Russia and Europe.

It can’t provide any kind of aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israel is at that point hugely threatened and has no great probability of survival unless it literally nukes everybody around them, and still they would have no long-term chance of survival, which is why I think the creation of Israel was a very dangerous project, from the position of the Jewish people. It basically puts them all in a single place, surrounded by enemies who want to kill them, and makes them dependent on their influence in America. The Jews were in a better strategic position as a dispersed minority in other nations. As things stand now, they regressed to the point of endangerment that existed directly prior to their Babylonian captivity. They had a state, but it was indefensible. So, Israel wants to act preventively and destroy Iran before it finds itself in a situation where it can no longer count on American military to implement its political goals. Notice how I didn’t mention Saudi Arabia or other Arab states as a threat to Israel; that’s because they are not. Without America and Russia fighting for influence there, the Arabs would be a non-entity. Saudi Arabia wouldn’t survive without America for two weeks; it would be absorbed by the resurgent Turkish caliphate, which would absorb all the Sunni states. From Israeli perspective, Turkey is not dangerous because it has other business, like the Kurds, to preoccupy itself with. Iran, however, would most likely absorb large parts of Iraq, large parts of Syria, and Israel would be swatted like a fly along the way. The Middle East would be divided among the Sunni Caliphate under Turkey and the Shiite Republic under Iran. The Kurds and the Jews would most likely be exterminated.

This outcome is strongly opposed by two major forces in America. The first and obvious is the Jewish lobby. The second are the strategic planners in Pentagon, CIA and similar places. They will try to set the board in such a way that all other players are preoccupied with survival, infighting and wars that weaken them, on a low technological level that makes them a non-entity to an advanced technological civilization or a state. Essentially, reduce everybody to the level where they can’t produce advanced weaponry, where they are economically bankrupt, societally fractured and ideologically and genetically weakened, and make sure no powerful and technologically modern power can emerge and spread across the world during America’s absence. Essentially, they are intentionally harming and weakening the rest of the world and reducing it to chaos, and all in order to buy themselves the time to “reboot”. They saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resurgence of Russia under Putin and they know how long the process takes. If, for instance, Iran grabs the Middle East during those 15-20 years, that part of the world will become inaccessible to America. If China absorbs East Asia, that part will be inaccessible to America. If Russia absorbs Europe, that part will be inaccessible to America. And all those regions will accumulate so much power in the meantime, America might actually never re-emerge as a great power, just like Britain didn’t after the WW2. Those are smart people and they know their history, and they know their geopolitical strategy.

Those people are in the positions of actual power since who knows how long. Definitely through the Bush era, when they started implementing the process of reducing the Middle East to chaos. None of that happened by accident. I’ve seen Russians comment it as if this chaos was the result of American incompetence and carelessness, but I see no validity in this line of thinking; I see it all as intentional. A country that is reduced to chaos, and ruled by gangs of thugs, is no threat to a modern technological state, or at least that’s how they see it. I see it differently, because the greatest threat to civilization isn’t another civilization, it’s chaos. Chaos is to a civilization what cancer is to an organism. Chaos is the force of entropy, something that continually attacks and degrades the sophisticated mechanisms that make a civilization work, until it nothing remains but chaos. That’s why chaos is such a dangerous thing to play with, because it has a nasty habit of not remaining safely contained, especially if your own civilization has already been weakened by the mental virus of tolerance and diversity, whereby it was rendered incapable of self-defence against inferior elements. The analysts in the American think-tanks think that if they reduce the Middle East to the level of Libya and Syria, it becomes a non-entity, but that’s not how it actually works. You get chaos, terrorists, fanatics, despair and suffering that breeds more suffering. In fact, a state full of content people is more of a non-entity than a territory filled with desperate fanatics. Chaos tends to produce unpredictable side-effects and it’s impossible to plan for.

To conclude, America doesn’t want to conquer Iran. It just wants to degrade it to the point where it can no longer support a nuclear, space and information technology, and is busy rebuilding its basic utilities (water, electricity, sewage treatment, medical facilities). This is the point from which they expect Iran to require more time to rebuild than America, and that will satisfy them. I can’t see any situation other than Russia preventively nuking America, that would save Iran. If America isn’t stopped, it will keep checking its geostrategic boxes until they get everything to the state where America after 15-20 years of recovery is still in able to resume its position of a world leader. This means Europe needs to be reduced to a shithole, Iran needs to be degraded to the point of having to rebuild power plants and provide water to its population, and, unfortunately, Russia and China need to be reduced to a glass parking lot.

Why Huawei was banned

The American version of the story is that Huawei can’t be allowed to install 5G infrastructure because it’s connected to the Chinese government and will build in back doors and spyware.

However, the American version is also that Iran is aggressive against America by bringing their country too close to the American aircraft carriers which threatens freedom and democracy.

I have a version that is much more likely. So far, America had complete technological supremacy, both on the layer of infrastructure and the layer of consumer electronics. Non-American products used key parts that were either produced or designed by America, and America had the ability to completely control the entire technological layer, either for spying or for denying access.

For the first time, America lost the technological supremacy on the infrastructural layer, which would mean, if free market rules applied, that the Chinese who were the first to market with 5G, would install their own technology across the world. This would mean two things. First, the Chinese could now put their own back doors and spyware in the infrastructure, and this is at least formally the reason for all the noise. Second, and most important, the Americans couldn’t put their own back doors and spyware in the infrastructure. This, I think, is far more important. In all the places where Huawei installed their own 5G routers, America would not be able to collect, store and analyse user data without control or supervision, the way it is used to. They would be forced to actually respect other people’s privacy, if not by choice, then by limitations of technology.

Let’s put 5G concerns aside for the moment and forget that the 5G band contains frequencies that were patented by America as weapons; this is important, but it is not the reason America has their panties in a bunch. They would be perfectly fine with installing weaponized microwave technology on each building in each city, as long as they control the technology. The problem is, they don’t. Which brings us to the next point.

When someone is a technological leader or has the strongest economy, he advocates open borders and free market. When he loses that position, he introduces tariffs and sanctions in order to protect himself. Notice how the roles have reversed between USA and China?

So, it’s not about Huawei, and it’s not even about China, or about spying. It’s about America losing technological and economic supremacy. If America was a normal country with a normal economy, that wouldn’t be so bad. It could fall behind, then get stronger and leapfrog the competition, the way it happens in sport all the time. The problem is, America isn’t a normal country. It’s a country that managed to abuse its dominant position after WW2 in so many ways, from currency to economy, technology and culture, and by abusing I mean thoroughly depending on the fact that it can force other countries to finance their debt, and infiltrate their intelligence assets into vassal countries’ press, politics and education, to the point of total control. America got so dependent on printing trillions of dollars out of thin air and passing the bill to the rest of the world, and using aircraft carriers if anyone had a problem with that, it became a cornerstone of their economy. Their entire economy is based on printing money, using VC funds to pump it into startups, overhyping and overinflating their value at the IPO, and using the GDP data obtained from the stock market to print more money, because American economy is so huge. Most of that economy is nothing but air. That’s why all those comforting stories Americans keep repeating, about Russia having economy the size of Italy, are profoundly misleading, because something must be very wrong about those numbers, because they don’t explain the reality on the ground. The reality on the ground is that America is hugely in debt, and the expectation is that countries that are truly technologically and economically powerful have a huge economic sufficit. That’s how America used to be, how Japan used to be until recently, and how China is now. Economically powerful countries create new and abundant financial assets and use them to go around the world and buy. They don’t create debt, they lend money to others and put them in debt. The fact that America is tens of trillions of dollars in debt, and that’s only the actually declared part, makes it obvious that its economy is not real, because real economies create wealth. This means America can’t afford to let go of the dominant position it’s been abusing since the end of the WW2. Their entire country would collapse. It’s not just that they wouldn’t be able to finance their military. The entire structure is built upon foundations of debt and illusion. If their economy collapsed to realistic proportions, based only on what they could actually make and consume without magic tricks of printing tons of aircraft-carrier based money, it’s their economy that might prove to be quite modestly sized. And that’s the reason why they are fighting this process, tooth and nail. They literally can’t afford to lose the dominant global position, because they won’t just be leapfrogged by China or Russia, then do better and leapfrog them back, as a healthy country would be able to do. No; if they lose the no1 position, they will crumble into post-apocalyptic rubble, and take the whole civilization with them. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to explain what I see to other people: because they don’t understand those facts. That’s why my analysis can sound crazy and yet be supported by the events. The way the world actually works and the way people think it works are two vastly different things.

So, when you understand that America can’t afford to lose the dominant position, and yet it is in a position where they can’t maintain it because they already bought themselves some time by removing all rational restraints on money printing in 2008, they got their economy addicted to injections of free money just to keep it going, they impoverished the rest of the world by exporting their inflation overseas (because other countries have to buy dollars with real assets in order to buy oil), and they understood in 2008 that this game is over, and all they could do is buy themselves some time in order to have the collapse on their own terms. All those sanctions and restrictions are merely stop-gap measures. What they are actually doing is destroying the potential competition that could arise in the years of their absence from the dominant position on the world scene. They are preparing the ground in such a way that everybody else is in a worse mess than they will be, so that when they recover, they can just assume the mantle of a world leading power. They destabilized the Arab countries in order to force them to spend all the oil money they accumulated, so that they can’t use it for increasing their control of the world in America’s absence. They destabilized Europe by importing all kinds of worthless human garbage there, so that it turns into an African hellhole mired in endless civil wars and poverty, and forced it to degrade relations with Russia because Russia was a huge market for Europe, and that threatened America, because an alliance between Europe and Russia would have naturally formed in America’s absence and would have taken over the mantle of leadership of the Western civilization. And, unfortunately, the plan for dealing with China and Russia is a nuclear war. They will turn China and Russia into a nuclear wasteland, and put an end to competition that way. That, at least, is what they seem to be planning. However, it is my opinion that they miscalculated. There will be no recovery.