Archive for August, 2009

An Interesting Piracy Footnote

While browsing the internet this weekend, I stumbled across this rather interesting document (18KB PDF!) which concerns the Maersk Alabama and it’s run-in with pirates earlier this year. If I’m interpreting it correctly, it suggests that the standard operating procedure for cargo vessels hijacked off the coast of Somalia is to declare the inevitable ransom payment as a general average, thereby recouping the loss from the cargo’s owners – or, more likely, insurers.

Perhaps not the most interesting insight ever into the world of commercial shipping, but I find it a bit surprising, on the surface, that the precedent seems to be to hold the cargo’s owners partially responsible for ransom demands, rather than placing the blame on the vessel’s owners. To be honest, it seems a bit like robbery, not really any different from people boarding a crowded train, plane, or bus, and demanding everyone’s wallets and jewelery… only in this case it’s the crew doing the taking.

Still, I think it does explain why shipping companies are so slow to take (effective) precautions against piracy – aside from the risk being (purely statistically) low, it’s “somebody else’s problem”.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on August 31st, 2009 | No Comments »

Television Piracy

There are some stories in the news at the moment about the most popular ‘illegally downloaded’ television shows, and much hysteria about the impending doom this sort of thing spells for the television industry, oh no.

I wonder whether people aren’t overreacting just a wee bit, though. And I really, really, really wonder about some of those figures!
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on August 28th, 2009 | No Comments »

Bibliophilia, FOIA Style?

In the past, I’ve written here about the many and varied sorts of “records” that can be requested under the (American) Freedom Of Information Act, or FOIA: documents and reports, sure, but also photographs, books, videos… if it can be copied, it can – at least in theory – be requested from the appropriate government agency.

As near as I can tell, the same is pretty much true for the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act, as well.

Now, bear with me a moment…
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Published in: General | on August 27th, 2009 | No Comments »

Gang Versus Tagger Graffiti: A Visual Primer

It’s been a while since I wrote about graffiti to any great extent, in part because I don’t have a whole lot more to say on the subject. That said, people continue to leave comments, or email me, with questions about graffiti, and to a large extent they don’t really care what the graffiti says – they just want to know “is this gang graffiti?” (I take a much more… cryptanalytic?… approach to it, and want to know what it says, and means. To each their own.) It’s usually really easy to tell whether it’s gang-related or not if there’s a picture of the graffiti; if not, a lot of the time the best I can say is “if you know what gang graffiti looks like, or doesn’t look like, it’s pretty easy to tell.”

To that extent, because a picture is worth a thousand or more words, here are a pair of recent examples found here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that are pretty “typical” of the kinds of graffiti you see in public places:
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on August 25th, 2009 | 5 Comments »

Guten Morgen, Herr Spinn-Doktor, Sie Hast 627 Neu E-Mails… Und Alles Auf Der Interweb

Last week, Wikileaks posted several hundred emails sent to and from the Hotmail account of the (defunct?) Fargo, North Dakota chapter of the National Socialist Movement. It’s not the most interesting leak, unless you’re really big on the personal squabbles of domestic extremists, but if you read through it, you can’t help but get the impression that Jeff Schoep, erstwhile “Commander” of the NSM, is a monster raving looney.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that others in the National Socialist movement seem to be under the impression that the “North Dakota Unit” leaked the emails themselves. (Or more properly “himself”, since I don’t think the “Unit” was ever more than one guy. But I digress.) Why? The money, for whatever reason, seems to be on this having been an intentional leak by “William Herring”, the highly apologetic homeless (!) guy behind the “North Dakota Unit”, out of some sort of spite at Commandant Schoep.

I strongly suspect this is just spin-doctoring, as I really don’t see what Herring would gain by basically exposing himself to the world. I’m assuming Herring’s Hotmail account was h4x0r3d by some antifascist activist, unless some sort of proof otherwise comes to light. It is funny – to me, anyway – to see just how desperate extremists of whatever stripe are to spin things to their own personal advantage.

Ideological matters aside, I really love to see internal politics tear domestic extremist groups apart, and it’s been a great year so far for that. I mean, I thought last year was good, what with a couple high-profile left-wing groups dissolving, and Hal Turner being outed – or maybe not, who can keep up with all the allegations – as a government stooge, but then this year… The North American anarchist community imploded; the White Nationalists are busy getting bogged down in dead-end political issues, infighting, and generally falling apart; the Hells Angels can’t figure out where to buy a clue; the Teabaggers spent so much time in a la-la land of their own making that their heads collectively exploded… it’s a never-ending “conflict of personalities”.

Published in: General | on August 24th, 2009 | No Comments »