Track Recons

I often get asked, “What is it that you do?” when I tell people I’m out in the middle of nowhere doing a recon.

Track Reconditioning

The stability of the the railway is dependent on the rocks and dirt underneath the steel and sleepers. There are three layers to the rail, a stabiliser mix (basically rocks with a bit of concrete), a capping layer, then the ballast. The ballast is usually 40-70mm rocks that are shaped perfectly to fit together when weight is applied to it. The more weight, the tighter it grips to itself.

Occasionally parts of the rail line get filled with mud and water and that causes the whole section to sink and slide about which makes the track bumpy and dangerous. When that happens, it is time for a track recon.

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How to skirt the Piracy Blocks

An update to the list of blocked websites in Australia was announced today via the Federal Courts system to block proxies and torrent websites. I’m not going to get into the moral or ethical debate over pirating material in this post but what I am going to do is show just how mind-numbingly easy it is to circumvent the blocking process that Australian internet providers have implemented it to keep the courts happy.

What is the DNS system?

DNS is how your computer translates a domain name into the IP address of the server hosting the requested content. It was first developed decades ago and started off as a manually maintained text file. Back then, there weren’t that many computers on the “internet” such as it was. Whenever a new machine was added to the network a new entry was added to the text file, then that file was sent around to all the computers. Obviously not a scalable solution.

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AllLivesMatter

Technically true but everyone currently screaming that back at people who are saying BlackLivesMatter is completely missing the point.

No one is trying to diminish anyone’s rights to live a safe and secure life, what they are trying to do is ensure that everyone is living to the same standards, to lift up people of colour so that they may experience the same level that White people do.

Should you hear anyone loudly declaring that AllLivesMatter tell them you agree but right now we need to prioritise the Lives that are most in peril. Or just show them the comic below, it points out just how stupid AllLivesMatter is right now.

A comic explaining that AllLivesMatter is vaild to a point but certain Lives Matter MORE at particular times
#AllHousesMatter

White Privilege

I was scrolling through Twitter this morning and noticed a disturbing trend, pointed out by many others retweeting.

It’s the most dangerous time to be a white person

And it made me realise that they are completely wrong. What they probably meant to say is, “It’s the most dangerous time to keep using my White Privilege to keep oppressing those people I consider inferior”.

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Safer at School?

I don’t know why but both the Federal and the NSW Governments are adamant that children should be returning to school as soon as possible. Reading today I saw the following quote:

Ms Berejiklian said health advice continues to be that schools remain open, and parents, teachers and students can be confident that school is a safe place.

Education NSW website

What piques my curiosity is what are the schools doing in regards to hygiene and infectious disease control that can’t be done at other locations like cafes, pubs, and clubs?

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[email protected]

As the [email protected] project has stopped handing out work units I was on the lookout for a new project to donate some spare compute cycles to and given the current state of affairs, the best option was the [email protected] project which is researching protein folding of the corona virus.

And since you can setup teams for it, of course that is what I did.

Getting Started

head to https://foldingathome.org/ and hit the Start Folding Now button, download the app, get it running.

Joining the Lankyland team

Open up the Web Control interface once you have it installed, click Change Identity in the top left and add in these details.

  • Team number: 260468
  • Passcode: itscidersbirthday

Then sit back and smile a smug smile as your computer churns through data to help find a cure for the corona virus.

We all isolate or we don’t

I’ve been hearing on the news recently that people are disgusted that teens are still socialising and hanging out together and to be honest, it is not the teenagers fault.

Schools are still open, hundreds of children are still able to gather together in confined spaces. It’s no wonder that they are still getting together outside of school.

The mixed signals that the governments are sending are to blame. What’s the difference between going to school together and socialising outside of school together? They are all still together.

I know that data on transmission rates between children is sketchy at this stage but we have to ask ourselves, “Are our children furthering the spread of the virus from family to family?”

And even if they aren’t spreading it rapidly, shouldn’t our messaging be consistent? Either everyone is in isolation or no one is. I could stay home all day but if my kid is still going to school and playing with other kids whose parents aren’t isolating then I am still exposed even though I’ve not left my house in weeks.

Let’s get it together and keep our children apart.

NBN versus Corona

It is 2010 and then shadow communications minister Malcom Turnbull is talking about the growing NBN. It was 10 years ago and the internet wasn’t very fast, ADSL was the average, you’d get speeds anywhere from 1.5 Mbps to 15 Mbps if you were living right next to the DSLAM. Netflix was only just starting to migrate from DVDs to streaming media and Youtube was doing mostly 480p or “SD” video.

“For most, if not all applications, much lower speeds are perfectly [fine],” he said. “If you could deliver nationwide 12Mbps at relatively modest cost compared to the NBN, what is the additional utility/value of going from 12 [Mpbs] to 100 [Mbps].”
“People in the industry will tell you that they cannot get people to pay a significant premium for an increase in speed. That is partly because, that for a residential user, there isn’t much, if anything, you can do with 100 [Mbps] that you can’t do with 12 [Mbps].”

Malcolm Turnbull, 2010

Eventually he got his way and crippled the original NBN, changing it from a full fibre deployment to the horrible shambles it is now. “Mixed Technology Mode” – it was supposed to be cheaper and faster by incorporating existing infrastructure into the deployment, HFC and old copper. Turns out it took longer and cost more than the original fibre only plan.

And now in the midst of a major pandemic and with people all being told to stay and work at home we find ourselves with an unfinished NBN that struggles to reach speeds over 20 Mbps at most locations. The rare few like myself live in one of the early deployment areas and we have fibre to the premises but one suburb over there are people there that can’t get above 2 Mbps because they are on the fibre to the node setup. Turns out relying on 50 year old copper is a major flaw in the plan.

So as the government, both federal and state, all tell us to work from home, and as they bring in the telehealth services, we put additional strain on an already strained network. The backhaul links that should have been designed to handle multiple gigabit connections are only designed to handle throughput from old copper so congestion is getting worse. Netflix and Alphabet have started to alter the default bitrate levels on their streaming platforms to ease the load as more people are working from home and trying to entertain the children.

It is at times like these that we see that cutting corners on critical infrastructure just to save a couple of bucks is ALWAYS going to bite you in the ass.

Australia, our ass has been bitten hard.

The Good that can come out of Corona

It may seem hard to consider it now but having the world on lockdown will hopefully lead to a lot of good things happening.

The first thing is a complete change in how we work. With so many people being forced to work from home and doing it successfully, the old reasons that companies had against people working from home are being decimated. IT departments have had to scramble to scale up their VPN deployments and laptops are scarce, the NBN is taking quite a beating, but otherwise everything else seems to be going well.

Read moreThe Good that can come out of Corona