Is it Huawei or the Highway?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether allowing Huawei telecommunications equipment into major infrastructure is a good idea or not.

Given the company has strong and proven ties to the Chinese military, I don’t think it is even unreasonable to have an honest discussion about the security implications of using their equipment.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/HuaweiCanada9.jpg/1280px-HuaweiCanada9.jpg

However, if we’re going to have such a discussion about their equipment, we should have the entire discussion.

An excellent example is the common HG659 modem/router, in use all over the world, including extensively in Australian premises as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

The HG659 is an extremely popular modem with ISPs, because it is an extremely versatile modem.  It supports both ADSL and VDSL connections, and FTTP connections.  For this reason it is widely deployed in Australia as part of the “multi-technology mix” hodge-podge Malcolm Turnbull turned the NBN into for political reasons, rather than for technology reasons.

Australian ISPs using the HG659 therefore only have to stock one type of modem, and you as the end user just plug it into whatever NBN technology is serving your premises, and the modem self-configures to suit.

Done!

A great number of Australian ISPs use it – (and brand it with their own logos) – see a selection below:

ISPs in other countries also use it:

The use of the HG659 modem is widespread worldwide – including in jurisdictions where the lawmakers are seeking to ban the use of Huawei equipment in telecommunications systems, such as Australia and the United States.

I’ve even read of instances where one Australian ISP appears to have an active backdoor into their private customer’s networks, using the custom firmware in their supplied HG659 modems.

But why ban Huawei in the implementation of 5G networks, but happily welcome them into other significant network infrastructure?

One might argue that having a footprint inside millions of homes is a bigger concern than having them in mobile phone towers – (which can be and are actively monitored by the carriers operating them, and suspicious activity might be detected) – as the vast majority of home users get the modem from their ISP, plug it into the wall and never think about it again.

Monitoring?  Yeah, right.

I think the politicians are clearly – (as is often the case) – trying to make a political point without having any real understanding of what they are talking about.

Huawei may or may not present information or national security issues, but if you’re going to take a stand against them, you cannot and should not be so selective.

Ban them or don’t ban them – but just don’t half-ass your decision.

Further Reading:

Sunday Nerding: Secrets of the Underground

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Transport

Aside from being a computer nerd, I’m also something of a train nerd.  Not sure why, but I’ve always loved trains.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbuck007/7286159124

While I’ve been to London, I’ve never left the confines of Heathrow Airport, and so haven’t had the chance to do what every train nerd would love to do – ride The Underground.

The following series of videos show some of the fun and less obvious parts of The Underground, presented by possibly the biggest and best train nerd going around, Geoff Marshall.

This series is almost six years old, but is a good watch if you have about an hour to spare and a cup of coffee to consume.


Headspace: Inner Truths

Posted Posted in Headspace

I’ve been a single man again for a little over 7 years, and living with only myself and my daughter for about 4 and a half years.

I’ve briefly attempted a couple of relationships in that time, but found nothing that inspired me to want to stay in them for any extended period of time. It was clear I was not ready either.

Seven years is a lot of time to think about what you want in life, and what is important to you.

I would like to think I’ve figured many or all of those things out by now, but as time goes by I realise that that simply isn’t the case.

Yet.

In recent weeks I’ve been working through in my mind what I consider the “truths” in my life – travelling the road to my own personal truth, if you like.

  1. Family – my family – and in particular my daughter – are the one true constant in my life. Like any family, there are always bumps in the road from time to time, but I’m fortunate to have a loving and supportive family.
  2. Creativity – I’ve always tried to think about and learn about new things, to keep my mind active and healthy. I’ve gotten away from that a lot in recent years, so I’ve been engaging myself in the restoration of my first computer. This has definitely given me something to feel occupied with and inspired by.
  3. Work – I’ve had a little bit of a bumpy ride in my working life in recent years – but find myself in a job that I love and find new challenges in every day. Perfect.
  4. Love – this one is a little harder to define. I’m reasonably sure that I am not ready to be in a relationship again yet, but I know I still want that eventually, because I miss the companionship all of the time. Trust is still my main issue. There are some wonderful women in my life who I’d love to end up with, but I don’t trust myself yet. There is one amazing person who has been a part of my heart for many years who I could trust myself to be in a relationship with, but that’s a complicated situation in itself. She is cared about deeply, but I don’t really know how I feel about her. She’s absolutely a truth in my life, but I don’t know the question of where, let alone the answer of where she fits in.
  5. Learning – I always want to learn something new every day. I don’t always manage that, but I’m always looking. What point is there to live life if you can’t learn and grow?

So that’s the list I have so far.

I’m still trying to completely rationalise each of them, but if nothing else, I get to think about these things and figure out what I need to do to resolve them in my life.

I’m getting there.

Privacy: Counting – But Who’s Watching?

Posted Posted in Musings

Regular road travellers between Geelong and Melbourne will have noticed something new in the last couple of months.

The addition of a pair of overhead structures between Little River and Werribee.

One over the Melbourne-bound lanes, and the other adjacent to it over the Geelong-bound lanes.

Each carries a pair of cameras and some kind of sensor over each of their corresponding three lanes.

Officially, they are “traffic counters” – at least so say the signs on their nearby control boxes – presumably counting the number of vehicles travelling between Geelong and Melbourne on the Princes Freeway.

Since I drive this route to and from work every work day, I see them a lot. A lot of people seem to have decided they are speed cameras, slowing down to avoid detection.

They do however appear far less complicated structures than known fixed speed cameras, so I doubt they have that capability – but I have been thinking about what capability they might have.

There are far simpler ways to count traffic travelling along a road. You might see pressure sensing cables laid across a road in pairs to count traffic temporarily.

You might also see magnetic field detection wires embedded into the road surface for more permanent data collection.

If you’re just counting vehicles, that’s really all you need.

So why the need for cameras in this instance?

Well, maybe they not only want to count the number of vehicles passing along the freeway, but want to identify different types of vehicles – (eg: cars versus trucks) – and better understand types of usage, and not just raw traffic numbers.

Probably quite a useful collection of data to collate.

But seriously, cameras?

What happens to the imagery after you pass under the boom?

Is it sent somewhere? Is it kept for a period of time? Once there are more of these structures built, can it be used to track people on their travels?

Interesting questions.

I think I will contact VicRoads and/or the Roads Minister and see what they have to say – and I will report back.

C64 Resurrection: Project Update 3

Posted Posted in Technology

Carrying on from Part 2, during my time off work last week, I also did the teardown of my Commodore 64 in preparation for cleaning and restoration of the case and keyboard, which will be covered in Part 4.

Check out Part 3 here!

Also, check out this amazing two-part restoration of a Commodore 64C, left outside in a field for more than a decade!

Win On Sunday, Sell On Monday

Posted Posted in Sport

The Bathurst 500/1000 has long been an iconic sporting event in Australian culture. While it first appeared at Mount Panorama in 1963, the race actually pre-dates that year, starting at Victoria’s Phillip Island circuit in 1960.

It moved to Bathurst because the 1962 race basically destroyed the circuit, which all but eliminated it from the racing scene in Australia until the mid-1970s.

While the racing today is primarily about entertainment, back in the 1960s and 1970s it was about manufacturers proving their cars to the public, thereby “winning on Sunday, selling on Monday”.

Here’s a fascinating insight from ABC’s Four Corners program about how and why the manufacturers did it back then.

Sunday Nerding: Resurrect Your Old C64

Posted Posted in Technology

Hands up if your first computer was a Commodore 64?

Mine certainly was, but like many examples of this popular computer, it has seen better days. I’m not sure if it even works anymore. The last time I tried it – (about 10 years ago) – the sound chip had failed but otherwise seemed okay.

I would love to get the old beast up and running, but my electronics repair skills are basic at best. Parts for a Commodore 64 are also going to be hard to find.

I don’t even want to think about the state of the mechanical disk drive or tape unit.

Never fear – with the help of modern technology, you can retrofit your old C64 – and it is easier than you might think.

And you know what? I’m going to do it!