Scientists and philosophers have struggled for years to define our relation to reality, or even to decide what “reality” might be. The rest of us mostly muddle through the daily experience of our existence. For a writer, perceptions of reality are also important, as it’s easier to write about what we have perceived than what we have persuaded ourselves to imagine.
Man's ability to affect the land is all too evident in these times of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Happily, the landscape can change man as well.
The weather finally broke last night, dropping 30 degrees by dawn, and thanks be for that. The night before I had camped in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, heavy with heat and humidity. But the next day it was pleasantly cool (upper 60s), albeit overcast rather than sunny.
Nor was this the only change. It took over 2400 driving miles to finally leave the Eastern, and then Midwestern terrain behind, but today I reached the beginnings of what I think of as the West. More than anything else, in my mind that means “dry.” For the last 800 miles, the landscape had been primarily flat, lush - and transitionally post-glacial. That last factor means an area where the great ice sheets completed their periodic southward pulses, dumping rich, black earth born of thousands of miles of ice grinding down stone, some deposited by glacial steams, and other as windblown “loess” – very fine mineral particles.
In 2001, I took a one month solo cross country trip, driving from Massachusetts across the Northeast, the Midwest, and then the prairie states, until I reached what we generally think of as “the West” – the land of canyons and buttes, deserts and mesas. Once there, I spent the rest of the time backpacking in the canyonlands of Utah, and then meandering North on dirt roads until I reached Glacier National Park, in the Northwest corner of Montana. After that, I zigzagged back East until I reached the Mississippi. Then, it was just a straight highway shot till I arrived back home once again. It was during that trip that I began writing in earnest, although I haven’t (yet) posted anything from that journey to the Web.
It was an interesting trip, in all, providing a cascade of often starkly diverse images. How varied a range? On the natural grandeur list, I would add spectacular sunsets, wildernesses of soaring, broken redrock, and broad vistas of pristine desert.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might begin with the sights that greeted me when I crossed the Colorado early in the trip, and threaded my way through the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, a meet that draws over 40,000 leather-clad, mostly aging bikers to what Motorcycle-usa.com calls, “one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.” I can attest to the fact that it also packs in what is presumably one of the largest assemblages of multi-story, inflatable Jim Beam bottle and Budweiser can replicas to be found anywhere in one place.
The southwestern landscape hosts a variety of signature geologic forms, some of which have become iconic as the backdrops for countless western movies. If you should find yourself channel surfing late tonight, a single frame of a mesa, butte, spire or hoodoo will instantly lock you on to the genre, even before the dusty characters ride into view.
The desert rock garden is a less well known type, but it will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time knocking about the southwest, and around Arizona in particular. Unlike the angular, striated spires and hoodoos that erode out of sedimentary formations, rock gardens are more often volcanic in origin than not, usually granitic, and rounded in form, characteristically resembling enormous blowups of the sand dribbles that a child makes at the beach by allowing a slurry of water and sand to slip through her fingers.
Long-time readers will know that whenever I can, I disappear into the desert for as long as I can. Often, the opportunity arises to cadge a lift out west on the back of a business trip, and so it is that I write this in northwestern Arizona a couple days after spending a day in a conference room buried deep within the bowels of the raucus, random, blaring, unworldly nonsense that is otherwise known as the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some of the nonsense worked to my favor, or at least amusement, as my $143.95 room was somehow traded up into a penthouse suite on the 62nd floor of the hotel – a suite that was bigger than the first floor of my admittedly small house, with 18 foot ceilings, a wall of glass behind motorized drapes, bar, living room, two bathrooms (one palatial), four flat screen TV sets (more than I have owned of any type in my entire life), and no coffee maker.
My first day back in the desert, a brisk wind was blowing.In the ordinary course, I would expect that its strength would decline with the sun.And so, rather than looking for a protected cove among the rocks to camp, I shopped for thebest view instead.The view delivered nicely, and I enjoyed watching the sunset fade into darkness until the rapidly falling temperature sent me to bed.True to form, the wind abated.
But only for a time.Around midnight, a front moved in from the west, and with it came the wind.Soon it was gusting 30 and 40 miles per hour, rushing by and rattling my ground cloth between the tent stakes I had driven to hold it down.On each downbeat, the edge of the ground cloth would scoop up a scatter of grit. And on each upbeat, it would rain those particles down like sleet on my head, causing me to pull the top of my mummy bag ever more tightly down over my face.But as the wind rose, the half moon set, and with the fading of its light the constellations blazed forth.Orion shone almost directly overhead, and was soon joined by the Pleiades, the Milky Way, and numberless points of light in between.
Spring, of course, is the premier time to be in the desert.That’s when all that lives and was grey begins to blush with green, and when the cactus blooms.It’swhen the normally drab as dishwater creosote bushes that stretch on for entire states at a time become enpixalated with tiny yellow flowers nestled amid new green leaves no larger than a bee's wing.And most memorably, that’s when the seeds of annuals sprout throw rugs of purple, white, orange and yellow in washes, sandy bottom lands, and other places moist enough to germinate seeds deposited a year, a decade, even twenty-five years before.
When to arrive at a given part of the desesrt depends on many things.Altitude will play its part, as will, most crucially, how much rain has fallen over how long a period during the winter months.And also on what you wish to see, as different types of plants have their respective seasons to flower, and not all of these overlap. As a generality, for annuals, come early.For cactus, come late.
Life and the exigencies of earning a living being what they are, my arrival in the Colorado and Mohave deserts of southern California had all to do with opportunity and little to do with floral optimization.I had agreed to speak at a couple of open source conferences in San Francisco that conveniently fell about a week apart, and that provided a reasonable excuse to hold over and head out.
There is a 100 mile long, unpaved track that circles the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, called the White Rim Road. That circuit has become a favorite of mountain bikers, who noticed some years back that it was conveniently located not for from Moab, Utah, which is a popular jumping off point for such activities. But previous to their discovery, and still for all but a few months of the year, the White Rim Road is a largely deserted dirt and slickrock, four-wheel drive track with consistently world-class scenery, and plenty of privacy.
It's also long, slow, bumpy and monotonous driving, when you're not looking at that scenery, but more on that later.
I'm currently hiking and camping in Utah, which explains this off-topic post. I'll continue to cover big news when I'm able to access email, and will also upload and time-phase these entries for posting when I come into town for gas and supplies. To find more of this type of writing based on past trips, look to the folder link at left titled Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal.
As I took my morning walk today and watched the canyons fill with sunlight and shadow, it occurred to me: If I ever become deaf, I would move to the desert.
Not so surprising, when you think about it. The desert is a place of great stillness, and a place that silence suits well. And after all, sound is the most evanescent of all sensations – here and then gone in an instant, leaving no trace. To be deaf in the desert would be to become more a part of it - a place that displays time and timelessness in its every ancient feature. The events or sensations of an instant – or indeed of a lifetime - don't cut much mustard in such a place as this.
But let me not mislead you: soundless does not equate to lifeless. The desert is a vibrant place, especially at night, as the tracks in the morning sand make clear. Even during the day, any walk through a brushy area will flush cottontails and jackrabbits, the former hopping tentatively away, the latter moving on with greater determination, though both noiselessly. Lizards, large and small, are ever present, and freeze or silently scamper off, depending on what you do. And birds, while scarce, are often in view if you look for them, if not in earshot.
Nor is the desert really silent, actually, though it certainly is in contrast to the rest of the world. So it must especially seem to those that visit the desert briefly in air-conditioned cars to snap a few pictures and then move on. Which is to say almost everyone, including most that move to the rapidly growing cities of the southwest, looking for inexpensive real estate and winter sun, and not for the desert itself.
Quote of the Day
“[R]etirement of the project is a serious possibility”
-Dennis Hamilton, vice president of the Apache Foundation, referring to the OpenOffice open source project
Global cyber standards aren't enough to secure central banks Tony Campbell IT News September 23, 2016 - It took the theft of US$81 million earlier this year from Bangladesh’s central bank before others across the world felt compelled to take action to tighten security.
Months of investigations have revealed weaknesses all across the banking industry, while revelations of insiders being directly involved in the heist have now led to the banks setting up a taskforce that will creat[e] a set of standards to bolster the banking network against the threat of cyberattack.
While this sounds at face value like a good outcome, the question is whether standards are enough when other standards and legislation don't seem to be preventing successful attacks in other industries....while standards and legislation certainly help to focus a business on which controls are needed to protect their information, unless the business intrinsically follows these standards at every layer of its operations, not just in a few key high-profile areas of focus, then the extreme complexity of a modern organisation will almost certainly ensure that the security they feel is nothing more than a platonic relationship with the standard....
Businesses need to stop kidding themselves that compliance and standards are the answer to the cybersecurity problem. Start by focusing on what’s important: looking into the depths of your technical systems for the vulnerabilities that, if discovered by an attacker, will be the chink in your armour.
No standard will tell the banks how to attain this level of visibility in their security. Don't hide behind the façade of standards and legislation and tackle the problem head on. ...Full Story
NIST Seeks Comments on Cybersecurity Reports Rich Quinnell EE Times September 22, 2016 - The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently issued two draft reports on cybersecurity issues of interest to industrial IoT users, and is seeking industry comment before making their final revisions. One report describes the proposed manufacturing profile for NIST's Cybersecurity Framework. The other addresses cryptography standards and practices for resource-constrained processors....The recently-released draft Manufacturing Profile focuses on the desired cybersecurity outcomes for manufacturing systems and provides an approach for achieving those outcomes. It defines specific cybersecurity activities and outcomes for the protection of the manufacturing system, its components, facility, and environment....The second cybersecurity report, DRAFT NISTIR 8114 -- Report on Lightweight Cryptography, outlines NIST's effort to develop a strategy for the standardization of lightweight cryptographic primitives such as block ciphers, hash functions, and message authentication codes. Such primitives can help developers achieve a better balance between security, performance, and resource requirements in specific resource-constrained environments than the more general-purpose conventional cryptographic standards.... ...Full Story
CEN and CENELEC position on Standard Essential Patents and Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) commitments Press Release CEN/CENELEC September 21, 2016 - ...In this position paper, CEN and CENELEC also present their first reply to the call by the European Commission to enhance the collaboration with the European Standardization Organizations, the European Patent Office and European industry to find suitable solutions regarding the use of essential patents in standards. This request was made in the recently published communication on "ICT Standardization Priorities for the Digital Single Market"....As per the main findings of this Paper, CEN and CENELEC:
- consider as indispensable that patent holders commit to grant a licence under FRAND conditions;
- consider that it is not in their role to undertake the assessment of patent essentiality, scope, validity and strength;
- insist that standardization organizations shall never interfere with licensing negotiations;
- do not support initiatives to provide guidance on, or impose compliance with, FRAND pricing, valuation and rate-setting methodologies;
- stress that FRAND has no precise pricing content, but instead is a “comity device” designed to promote good faith negotiation between patent owners and prospective licensees;
- welcome the EU Commission Communication’s and promote an open, strong and effective disclosure policy.... ...Full Story
Open Source and Open Standards Elizabeth Rose OMA September 20, 2016 - The traditional means of innovating the mobile network has been through the thoughtful and consensus-based efforts of technologists working in a standards setting environment. However, the maturation of the Internet as an application platform and the related rise of Internet-enabled device and service providers, especially on the Web, have helped renew a focus on innovation and differentiation. The development of 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) will employ a process likely to be dominated by agile development of technology and platform prototypes often in Open Source, collaborative projects, which put a premium on “code first”. In light of this industry shift, the Open Mobile Alliance has embarked on a survey of mobile and IoT industry professionals to shed light on trends towards cooperation between the Open Standards and Open Source communities....As the results of this survey show, Open Source software is a growing trend in the next generation mobile and IoT industries and standardization will continue to be the foundation on which interoperable products and services are built. The vitality of the wireless ecosystem demands that the standards development community and the Open Source community bridge the gap in work practices and deliverables to ensure efficiency and interoperability across the mobile value chain. ...Full Story
Qualcomm Follows Ericsson’s Lead in Joint Patent Licensing Don Clark Wall Street Journal September 19, 2016 - Five big holders of cellular patents, including Qualcomm Inc., are joining an effort proposed by Ericsson AB to jointly license patents in an emerging field called the Internet of Things....
Companies that hold such “standard essential” patents, as they are called in the industry, have at times gotten into disputes over licensing policies at industry forums or lawsuits with other technology giants. Ericsson and Apple Inc., for example, engaged in almost a year of patent litigation in several countries before reaching a settlement in December. ...Full Story
New standard instructs on acceptance of classifying machine vision systems James Carroll Vision Systems Design September 16, 2016 - Liquid lenses can be used to maximize imaging system flexibility across a wide variety of applications requiring rapid focusing. By integrating a liquid lens, the imaging system can change the plane of focus in milliseconds in order to provide sharp images, regardless of the object’s distance from the camera....The standard, which uses examples from industrial inspection technology as a guideline and is intended for users and suppliers alike, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different acceptance concepts, such as acceptance involving sample catalogues and acceptance on the basis of products from current production.... ...Full Story
NFC Forum Forms Partnerships with Three Industry Consortia Press Release NFC Forum September 14, 2016 - The NFC Forum announced today the signing of liaison agreements with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance, and the Smart Ticketing Alliance. The goal of the alliances is to collaborate on joint projects to advance the adoption and usability of Near Field Communication (NFC) in key markets and technology sectors, including automotive, public transportation, and digital identity.
All of the collaborations are focused on educating the market, unleashing innovation, and removing barriers to interoperability. For consumers, they will help ensure that NFC's benefits of greater ease, simplicity and enhanced security will be available in more places and more ways -- when driving in their cars, taking public transport, or seeking to engage in secure online activity.... ...Full Story
CompactFlash Association aims for a comeback with another new card format Mike Tomkins Imaging Resource September 15, 2016 - A decade or two ago, CompactFlash cards were where it was at. The flash card format won out over rivals thanks to a tradeoff that allowed -- by the standards of the time -- generous capacity and relatively compact dimensions....Then the cost of flash memory went through the floor, capacities for the rival -- and far more compact -- SD and Micro SD card formats soared, and CompactFlash suddenly found itself to be something of a relic, consigned only to a handful of cameras that were mostly aimed at pros....Now, the CF Association is back for another try, promoting its new CFexpress format as the answer.... ...Full Story
The King is Dead/Long Live the King Long ago, back in the 1990s, a German company called StarOffice developed an office suite to compete with Microsoft Office. Later, Sun Microsystems acquired the code and released its OpenOffice open source suite, based on the StarOffice code. The biggest standards war of the last twenty years eventually ensued between ODF, instantiated in OpenOffice and elsewhere, and OOXML, instantiated in Word. Later, Oracle acquired Sun and abandoned support of OpenOffice, eventually contributing it to the Apache Foundation. Community developers subsequently forked OpenOffice, and over time the developer community migrated to the fork - LibreOffice - maintained by the newly formed OpenDocument Foundation. That brings you up to date for what follows in the two items below. For much, much more, see my hundreds of blog entries on this saga, which you can find here: http://bit.ly/2cF1cYd
Italian military move first 8000 PCs to LibreOffice Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup September 13, 2016 - The Italian military have switched the first 8000 PC workstations to Libreoffice, an open source office productivity suite, reports Sonia Montegiove, a software analyst working for the Italian province of Perugia who is helping the military with the switch to LibreOffice.
Over the next four years, the LibreDifesa project aims to migrate all of the Italian military’s well over 100,000 desktops PCs to LibreOffice. This would make it the largest free software transition involving desktop PCs by a European public administration. The LibreDifesa project should help save EUR 26 to 29 million.
For the military, the main motives for the switch include interoperability and long-term accessibility of documents and information.... ...Full Story
Apache OpenOffice VP discusses exit strategies as volunteers jump ship Chris Merriman The Register September 13, 2016 - OPENOFFICE could be about to fall under a bus of disinterest as its contributors leave in droves.
The Sun Microsystems open source productivity suite, now in the hands of the Apache Foundation, has suffered, at least in part, from the more organised LibreOffice forked from the original but being run on a more formalised release schedule.
The result is that OpenOffice has fallen behind and is in a potentially inescapable spiral. Meanwhile, LibreOffice has attracted corporate customers and the UK government....Hamilton then goes on to outline possible options for retirement, ranging from protecting the codebase to the stopping of social media interaction. It suggests that OpenOffice could release a final version that would be definitive, to all intents and purposes, and leave a final point of contact for anyone interested in the brand....the last major release for OpenOffice was in October 2015. ...Full Story