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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatantly opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, geocacher and blogger living in the foothills south of the northern German plains. Not too shy to reveal his true name or even whereabouts, he blogs his opinions, and humour and rants irregularly. Stubbornly he clings to his beliefs, e.g. that Faith does not give answers, it only prevents you doing any goddamn questioning. You are as atheist as he is. When you understand why you don't believe in all the other gods, you will know why he does not believe in yours :-) Oh, and he also has a neat English Bulldog bitch 'Frieda'.

And her big son 'Kosmo'.

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Friday, January 31, 2014


Did you see the supermoon last night? Neither did I, due to cloud cover, which is why you're getting this alternative picture of a super-moon ;-)

The proper scientific name for a supermoon is "perigee-syzygy", useful to know also for Scrabble players ;-) The moon travels in a slightly elliptical orbit around the Earth. At apogee it is 406,000 kms away but at perigee it is only 357,000 kms away. According to NASA, a full moon at perigee is up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than one at its farthest point, or apogee. So, for those of you who could actually see it last night, it looked bigger and brighter than usual.

Bigger moon, yes, but don't expect a tsunami! Tidal force follows an inverse-cube law, so that force was 18% greater than average. Amplitude of tides varies around the world, this may not turn out to be much, maybe only a few inches for this perigean spring tide. No evidence has been found of any correlation with major earthquakes either. So y'all can relax :-)

BTW, the moon is receding from the Earth at an average of 1½ inches per year (that's about fingernail growth speed), mainly due to the frictional action of the Earth's tides. That value however, is anomalously large! So you may never see the moon this close and this bright again ;-)

OTOH, you may prefer The Dark Side of the Moon to a supermoon :-)

Comments (3) :
Ivan (RU) corrects me "No, you are wrong. Syzygy has 3 Ys, but German Scrabble only has one Y and even English Scrabble only has 2 Ys , so you cannot make Syzygy at all!" Oops, you are right :-)
Cop Car (USA) replies to Ivan, " Hey! It works in a friendly game. I once used it (by substituting an "I" for one of the "y"s - I don't recall which one). Since I could define the word, no one challenged me! I chuckled as they put my score down (using triple letters helps!) and confessed, only, at the end of the (no contest) game." Welsh scrabble has SEVEN Ys, only worth 1 point each, so maybe we should use that set ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) defends me "Yes you can, Ivan, just use one of the blanks as a Y! And Stu, yes, I did see the supermoon :-)" Oh, yes! Neat! To both.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

N or S...

... but NOT both.

N ormally when you chop a magnet in half you get two smaller ones, each with an N and a S pole. That's N AND S.

There is a theoretical product, described by Paul Dirac in 1931, called a magnetic monopole, which has N OR S but not both. If such Dirac magnetic monopoles can be shown to exist, then the product of magnetic and electric charges are quantised and are an integer multiple of 2*PI. Furthermore, the position of the associated 1-dimensional Dirac string should not be determinable (as I understood it until now).

However, M.W.Ray and colleagues at Amhurst college (Massachusetts) have recently published a paper observing/inferring Dirac monopoles in a synthetic magnetic field in a spinor Bose-Einstein condensate. The monopoles are inferred at the end of the vortex lines (=the Dirac strings?).

So now for the first time, an environment has been produced in which experiments on magnetic monopoles can be made repeatedly.

String theorists like Sheldon Cooper must be wetting their pants ;-)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Books on the History of Spying

I n the comments on my January 17th blogpost Nobby (UK) asked me to "Recommend one book on history of spying/message interception." I replied "Recommend ONE? I've got over a dozen. I'll do a separate post listing them in the mid-future".

It turned out that I had no such category in my catalogue, so I've had to do a serial scan of all the titles in the house, which is why it has taken so long to reply. List of 16 unclassified English-language books. Here is that list :-)

  1. The Codebreakers, by David Kahn (NSA historian), 1179pp, 1967/1996, ISBN 0-684-83130-9. Very thorough book, so it is interesting to see what stuff the NSA censored ;-) Signed/dedicated copy :-)
  2. Action this day, ed. by Smith and Erskine, 543pp, 2001, ISBN 0-593-04910-1. A history of Bletchley Park(BP).
  3. Code breakers, ed. by Hinsley & Stripp, 321pp, 1993, ISBN 0-19-285304-X. The inside story of Bletchley Park.
  4. Enigma and its Achilles Heel, by Hugh Skillen, 226pp, 1992, ISBN 0-95-1519-0. Appendices in French and in German.
  5. Seizing the Enigma, by David Kahn (NSA historian), 335pp, 1991, ISBN 0-285-63066-0. Excellent Bibliography.
  6. Station X, by Michael Smith, 179pp, 1998, ISBN 0-7522-2189-2, yet another book about BP.
  7. The Code Book, by Simon Singh, 400pp, 1999, ISBN 0-385-49531-5, the evolution of crypto (for amateurs).
  8. Spy!, by Deacon & West, 190pp, 1980, ISBN 0-563-17729-2, 6 real spy stories.
  9. Body of Secrets, by James Bamford, 717pp, 2001, ISBN 0-385-49907-8. Anatomy of the NSA.
  10. Room 40, by Patrick Beesly, 337 pp, 1982, ISBN 0-241-10864-0. British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918.
  11. The Puzzle Palace, by James Bamford, 655pp, 1982, ISBN 0-14-00.6748-5. His 1st book about the NSA.
  12. The Enigma Bulletin No.2 -1997, 120pp, 1997, ISSN 0867-8693. Papers on WW2 SIGINT.
  13. MISSING from my shelves! "The Defence of the Realm", by Christopher Andrew, The OFFICIAL history of MI5. Seemed sanitized to me. Mine is/was the paperback edition from 2010. Who borrowed it from me? And can I have it back please, if only for my annotations.
  14. Colossus 1943-1996, by Tony Sale, 17pp, 1998, ISBN 0-947712-36-4. Short Broschure. Signed copy :-)
  15. The Zimmermann Telegramm, by Barbara Tunchman, 244pp, 1958, ISBN 0-333-32273-8. Scribbled annotations :-(
  16. My master spy, by Marthe McKenna, 287pp, 1936, so ISBN was not yet invented(!). Yellowed and crumbly :-(
Sorted in order of decreasing info-content.

The following are in stock, but still waiting to be read :-(

  1. A Brief History of the Spy: Modern Spying from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Brief Histories), by Paul Simpson, 2013
  2. Russian Espionage: History of Soviet and Russian Spying, Brinkley,2012.
  3. The History of Espionage, by Ernest Volkman von Carlton, 2008.
  4. Ethics of Spying: A Reader for the Intelligence Professional, by Jan Goldman, 2005.
  5. Windtalkers. Les messagers du vent, by Max Allen Collins. For some reason I have the french version, bought afaik at an airport in Paris ;-)
  6. Spying for the Fuehrer, von Christer Jorgensen, ordered already, to appear in April 2014.
And none by this ex-Bletchley Park employee (yes, he really was at BP) ;-)

Comments (7) :
Nobby (UK) informs me that "Ian Lobban, boss of GCHQ, has just announced that he will resign at the end of year." A new puppeteer,then? Also in the news today : two Norwegian politicians (former ministers) have just nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize! He deserves it more than Obama did, who is probably having a fit as he reads this :-)
Renke (D) wrote re Snowden " Strange New World: The Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2009 will hunt the laureate of 2014, while the laureate of 2012 will do nothing to stop the first." Sadly, politicians seem unable to protect whisteblowers adequately. And the USA is NOT a free country :-(
Robin (UK) gives a heads-up "Gareth Halfacree has a good summary online about the long-running Disharmony at Bletchley Park." Bit long for a summary, but yes, it is a good timeline of the squabbles there. I'm on Tony's side :-)
Jenny (Ibiza) reminds me "I know you also have Leo Marks' 1999 book "Between Silk and Cyanide", because I gave it to you :-)" Yes, thankyou :-) It is ISBN 0-00-710039-6. I also forgot to mention Gordon Welchman's 1997 book "The Hut 6 Story", another BP book, ISBN 0-947712-34-8.
Schorsch (D) suggest we "Take a look at this Parody of the NSA website & enjoy." Yeah, that's good :-)
Cop Car (USA) has a message for Schorsch, heh, heh "Stu, I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't let Schorsch know of my membership in the Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Group. Surely you divined the reason for my attending all of those FEMA meetings in Kansas City?" Nope, nothing divine about me ;-) BTW, a Kansas City amusement park now has the tallest water ride in the world! Looking forward to reading the ride-report by you and HH this summer :-)
Ralph (D) wrote "...mentioned a book about bletchly park . I have one called "Secrets of the British Secret Service" by E. H Cookridge from 1948 which I bought years ago , and very interesting it is . One part tells about two German officers , who when retreating from France gave a silver cig case to the farmers mother - in law , were they where billeted , but on the condition that she only opened it the next day , after they had left . She found a note inside , thanking here - from two members of the British Secret Service ? In it is lots about spies etc . With that , I will go back to watching on "you tube " about MI5 . ps , the farmers wife was American , and mother stayed with her when the war started ."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pre-seared steaks? ;-)

Hilarious but true story from Rasdorf in central Germany yesterday. A farmer there kept his 90 cows in an ill-ventilated cow stall. Whatever they had eaten (beans'n'hay?) had given them all a severe attack of flatulence with the resultant emission of much methane. Them being in an ill-ventilated cow stall meant that the methane accumulated there. When the milking machine turned itself on, a spark ignited the methane, blowing the roof off the cow shed and burning the buttocks of those cows farting at the time, the police report claims.

I wonder if a Rasdorf butcher has cornered the market in pre-seared steaks?

Old MacDonald had a farm....

Had ;-)

Comments (1) :
Martin (D) informs us "Just FYI, the average milk cow normally produces 100 to 200 liters of methane per day." Always wanted to know that (sarcasm).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Airline seat width vs. obesity :-(

Is yo' ass too fat fo' dis airplane? Yo Momma, I's talkin' to you!

Having recently had to take an airline flight, I'd opted for the bargain Sardine class on an El Cheapo airline as it was only a 1½ hour flight, but I was appalled at how cramped it was! 100% seats sold, but some of the passengers should have bought two seats! The lady next to me overflowed hers on both sides, looking not unlike the disco lady from the internet photo below. Wide-body passenger aircraft indeed!

Turns out airlines have been reducing seat width over the past few years to get in an extra seat per row, thus raising aircraft capacity at the expense of passenger comfort :-( American Airlines, United and other carriers are wedging an extra seat into each coach row, it has been reported. Ten instead of nine seats/row (now 3-4-3) are insufficient? Emirat Airlines is now seating 11 per row in Coach (3-5-3)!!! Turkish Airlines B737Es have a seat width of only 16.66 inches, but Turks are generally thin people. Average on a B737E is 17.14 inches. Or you can pay a premium, e.g. on an A320P, and get an average seat width of 20.48 inches; an Aeroflot A320P has 21 inches. The Premium price gets you more legroom too, regular Coach deafens you, was my impression, because your knees are next to your ears :-(

For comparison, the seats at Wembley football stadion are 19.5 inches across, American theatre seats are 22 inches across. The Wright-Patterson AFB 2002 study (12 years ago!) showed the 95%ile female at 228 lbs, the 95%ile male at 253 lbs. That's 103 and 115 kg respectively. Methinks we have gotten a whole lot more obese over the last decade too, thankyou Burger McFry :-( FWIW, I weigh their 2002 male median 87 kg.

Samoan Airlines now charge their passengers by weight! While I think that is a good idea, it doesn't make the seats any wider :-(

Airbus has a fuselage width of 156 inches and a cabin width of 146 inches. The Boeing 737 is a bit smaller with a 148inch fuselage and only 139inches in the cabin. This means that the Airbus A320 has 7 more inches of width than the Boeing 737. If airlines did things passenger-friendly, each seat could have 1 inch more width than the 737 for the same aisles. So if you have a choice, fly in an Airbus not a Boeing. And if the seating plan shows 9 per row instead of 10, it may be worth paying that little extra too. Certainly on a long-haul flight, where e.g. the premium-economy seats on VirginAm are 21 inches wide.

For local flights (under 400 miles, say) consider taking the high-speed (ICE) train instead. Door to door times are comparable (in Germany anyway), the seats are wider and you can walk around, avoiding thrombosis and the thrombo-neighbor-sis (=that lady clot next to you ;-)

Here are the most recent data on obesity in England.

Size matters :-(

Comments (6) :
Carol (UK) can help "I have just the link for you, it's recent too!" Thanks :-)
Pergelator (USA) wrote "I used to look at really fat people and think "how could they let themselves get like that?". Then I realized that despite my best efforts I was still 50 pounds overweight (at least). A current popular theory making the rounds is that we are addicted to sugar. Brain runs on glucose after all, and we enjoy having dreams of sugarplums buzzing about in our heads." Obesity causes you to exercise less too, so it's a vicious circle.
Cop Car (USA) sent me a J.K.Rowling quote, viz. " Is fat the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me." Not sure what her list has to do with reduced airline seat widths, which was the focus of my complaint.
Cop Car (USA) replies "Stu, you should read the first sentence of your posting if you're not sure..." OK, but I bet J.K.Rowling flies in a wide first class seat ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) opines "Even worse than fat is having to sit next to someone with body-odour for hours on end :-(" Yes, but there is little the airlines can do about that except move you if the plane is not 100% full.
Cop Car (USA) adds a useful link " There are a thousand and one online comparisons of seat widths available. I found one online site (by an independent) that said that Boeing had gone to an 18"-wide seat when it designed the 777. Of course, the airline specifies the interior - either installed by the OEM or after-market shops. I found this site to be interesting as it has different charts for different flight lengths and different classes of ticket purchase." Thanks for the heads-up (aka bottoms down ;-)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jesus Saves!

. . . . . but Moses invests ;-)

When I lived in California, quite a number of cars parked on the block bore Xian stickers "Jesus Saves!". The Jewish guy from Accounting had one made up that said "Jesus saves, but Moses invests ;-)", he could laugh at his race and their typical stereotype. Recently, I saw one of these stickers again and I asked myself just how good an investor was Moses aka the typical stereotype?

However he invested, he could not have more money than there is in the world. I don't mean M0, that's just the cash. What's the total wealth of the world? Google tells me 223 trillion US dollars (M0 is just 4.5).

So, if Moses had invested one single US dollar (or equivalent in Shekels) on the day he died, what average percentage compound interest would his investments need to have generated for his successors to now own all the wealth of the world? Rabbinical Judaism calculates a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391-1271 BCE, so his death was 3285 years ago. So we need to calculate the 3285th root of 223 (american) trillion to get that compound interest rate. Note that what the Americans call a trillion is only 10 to the 12th power, NOT 10 to the 18th which is what the Brits etc call a trillion. The 3285th root of 223 (american) trillion is only 1.0101080330513767976286495947753, so Moses was a lousy investor, getting merely just over a 1% return on his investments. And so Moses was not a very good stereotype :-(

Now let us consider "Jesus saves". We are told that Jesus was worth 30 pieces of silver. But what are those 30 pieces of silver worth? In Exodus 21:32, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave. The word used in Matthew 26:15 (arguria) simply means "silver coins," and scholars disagree on the type of coins that would have been used. They could have been tetradrachms of Tyre, usually referred to as Tyrian shekels (about 0.5 troy ounces), or Staters from Antioch. Alternatively, they could have been Ptolemaic tetradrachms. A drachma was approximately a day's pay for a skilled carpenter (sic!). So 30 pieces of silver, at four drachmas each, would roughly be comparable to four months' wages. The Tyrian shekel weighed four Athenian drachmas, about 14 grams of silver (13 grams net) which nowadays are worth about US$8.35; So 30 of them gives $250.50, OK? Jesus died about 1981 years ago, so we need to solve 250.5*X**1981=223 trillion for X. We get X = 1,0139862201494983928606537189641; implying Jesus saved at a compound interest of almost 1.4%.

So "Jesus Saves" is proven a better deal than "Moses invests" ;-)

If you are tired of me knocking your ineffective religion, be it Judaism or Christianity, FSM or whatever, you could always try praying that I'll desist ;-)

Comments (3) :
Josef (D) reports "You appear to have upset the RC Archbishop of Paderborn, Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker, who said (and I quote) "I don't think we can swim in a sea of badly-written blogs or a lake of opinions, which the internet has made possible. We should believe well researched articles in newspapers or on TV...", he warned." He thinks TV shows are well researched? Then he should watch RTL2 at 20:15 tonight; they are showing "Life of Brian" ;-) Besides, all the sources I quoted are from his always-right reference book!
Oor Wullie (Scotland) reprimands me too "Today is Burn's Nicht, I was hoping you'd blog about him!" OK, here's a photo of a statue of him & his wee dog.

Xtreme English (USA) jibed "Are you gonna hae some haggis?? (gark) we're having busghetti!!" Alas no, because I'm on a diet at the moment, see the next posting for the reason ;-)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Big cybercrime hack here :-(

Here in Germany, hackers have used a botnet to capture 16 MILLION internet passwords, that's a fifth of the country's population! Now since Cop Car's (USA) provider often classifies my comments on her blog erroneously as spam, I needed to check whether I'd been hacked. The German cyber-ministry for data-security and IT put up a test page, where you could test if YOUR email address was on the botnet's list of hacked accounts. It collapsed under the load of people checking their accounts :-( At 2.a.m. yesterday I managed to get through and check mine, I'm clean (=not on the botnet's list of hacked accounts). Phew! Now CC and I can relax(?).

By 11:30 CET on wednesday morning over 8½ million worried users had checked on the ministry's test page. ¾ million users had been hacked. This time, surprisingly, it seems that the NSA is not the guilty party!

Some innocent/dumb users use just one common password for ALL their accounts, Email, Facebook, Amazon and other internet shops, even Online Banking :-( This implies that the cyberthieves could capture the complete ID of the user, ordering goods or transferring money all billed to the original user but delivered elsewhere :-( As Renke (D) commented on the post on the 17th, you should never reuse passwords for different accounts.

The 'top' 10 WORST passwords of 2013 were 1) 123456, 2) "password" (sic!), 3) 12345678, 4) qwerty 5) abc123 6) 123456789 7) 111111 8) 1234567 9) iloveyou and 10) adobe123. Don't use these, any dictionary word or any (birth)date. Use strong passwords ( > 16 characters), letters, digits and puntuation marks intermixed, and manage them via a password manager. Even let the password manager generate them. After all, you won't have to remember them if you are using a password manager. The cyberministry recommends KeePass, an open source password safe, so unlikely to have been infiltraded(sic!) by the NSA(?).

Also you should be using a Firewall - the cyberministry claims the one in Windows 7 is good enough for end-users - and virus & phishing protection. There are free ones, but Kaspersky's gets the best reviews, I'm told. If you are using WiFi, make sure the network is not open to drive-by attacks; for best wireless router security, choose WPA2-Personal with AES or TKIP encryption.

Personally, I also use Ghostery. Ghostery is a cost-free privacy browser extension for Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome. It enables its users to block web-bugs (which are objects embedded in a web page, invisible to the user, which allow collection of data on the user's browsing habits). I block everything except my stat-counter :-)

Further recommendations by people who know more about cybersecurity than I do, e.g. Renke and Doug to name but two, are specifically welcome here :-)

Comments (9) :
Would whoever regarded this posting as a challenge please stop your Conficker attacks. You've made your point and I'm catching them anyway :-(
Renke (D) compares this to the Korean cybertheft " 16 mio user/password pairs is not that bad, but Germany is still a developing country: In South Korea a credit card processor company lost sensitive information of 80 mio accounts, with a population of mere 50 mio ;) Link. " Thanks for the heads-up. Do you have any more protective recommendations over and above mine?
Renke (D) replied " Hmm, tricky. Some imho important basics:
1. Think before you click
2. Stop. Think. Click.
3.-10. [synonyms of the above]
11. Never reuse passwords
12. Update your system (even the long forgotten media player)
13. The browser plug-in HTTPS Everywhere is helpful as it redirects many sites to SSL encrypted connections
14. Use different browser profiles for different jobs (e.g. one for aimless browsing, one for social networks, one for online banking)
A computer [smart phone/tablet/whatever] is a tool, not some magical gadget. You should at least try to understand the implications of a networked device...
Further steps are based on "security is a process, not a product" and cannot performed without investing the most valuable resource: Time."
Insightful, and thanks for the HTTPS Everywhere tip :-) BTW, this blog does NOT support HTTPS, too expensive for a hobby webpage! And why would I need it?
Cop Car (USA) sent me a Slashdot link suggesting we should NOT use the Chrome browser because of an unfixed bug that allows sites to listen to our private conversations, surreptitiously using the built in microphone even if we have turned it off! Personally, I always have a piece of plasticene over the mic (when not using it) and a piece of cardboard over the camera lens!
Doug (Canada) has provided some more tips, with detailled examples :-
" Thanks for the Ghostery heads up, looks good. DISCONNECT is another good one

I don't have much to add to all the good suggestions except you can't be too paranoid. A perfect example is all the UPS (and other parcel delivery firms) going around. If you just happen to be waiting for a parcel to be delivered from the company mentioned in the email, and you are not sufficiently aware - you could easily be fooled into opening the attached zip file (to print off the form to take to your post office to pick up the missing parcel) - and you would be infected. Saw that one today - fortunately I've trained SWMBO well and she was wary of it although expecting a long overdue parcel.
I would recommend people learn the netstat command and it's switches. From a Command Prompt (Click Start then type in cmd - click on the Command Prompt icon that appears.) type netstat /? to get the options list below
C:\Users\...>netstat /?
Displays protocol statistics and current TCP/IP network connections.
NETSTAT [-a] [-b] [-e] [-f] [-n] [-o] [-p proto] [-r] [-s] [-t] [interval]
-a Displays all connections and listening ports.
-b Displays the executable involved in creating each connection or listening port. In some cases well-known executables host multiple independent components, and in these cases the sequence of components involved in creating the connection or listening port is displayed. In this case the executable name is in [] at the bottom, on top is the component it called, and so forth until TCP/IP was reached. Note that this option can be time-consuming and will fail unless you have sufficient permissions.
-e Displays Ethernet statistics. This may be combined with the -s option.
-f Displays Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDN) for foreign addresses.
-n Displays addresses and port numbers in numerical form.
-o Displays the owning process ID associated with each connection.
-p proto Shows connections for the protocol specified by proto; proto may be any of: TCP, UDP, TCPv6, or UDPv6. If used with the -s option to display per-protocol statistics, proto may be any of: IP, IPv6, ICMP, ICMPv6, TCP, TCPv6, UDP, or UDPv6.
-r Displays the routing table.
-s Displays per-protocol statistics. By default, statistics are shown for IP, IPv6, ICMP, ICMPv6, TCP, TCPv6, UDP, and UDPv6; the -p option may be used to specify a subset of the default.
-t Displays the current connection offload state.
interval Redisplays selected statistics, pausing interval seconds between each display. Press CTRL+C to stop redisplaying statistics. If omitted, netstat will print the current configuration information once.

especially if you have any concerns about your system. This command monitors every network connection and reports the activity back to you. Good way to see if your system is infested with Trojans (damn those wooden splinters) - make sure you close all your web browsers and programs (including all the unnecessary ones sitting in your system tray) before running it so you can see what is happening in a base state.
Mac users can access it from the command shell or via the GUI - see
Linux users - if you don't already know this you should not be using Linux :)
Here's an example that I just did of netstat -f

TCP doug-home:63762 TIME_WAIT
TCP TIME_WAIT is your local machine - a.k.a. localhost
( :63761 is the port it is accessing (, ord08s07-in-f14.1e100, ord08s07-in-f14.1e100, and ig-in-f95.1e100 a quick Google search shows all are Google's IPs is where I work is my password utility LastPass has to do with my backup software

Another utility you may want to install is Whois - this one is a bit more complicated to get working but worth it for security geeks. You can download Microsoft';s from and place it in your user root directory (something like C:\Users\doug) then you will need to do the following:
1. right click on the Computer icon on your desktop and select properties
2. In the left column click on Advance System Properties
3. Click on Environment Variables and create a new one
4. Call it WHOIS and put %USERPROFILE%\whois.exe in the value line then OK your way out
To use simply go into your command prompt and type

whois "domain name or ip address you want information on"

Serious geeks can get Microsoft's Sysinternal suite from and there are a ton of tools there for you to use - just be very very careful :)"
Thanks for that detailled reply, Doug! I've appended it verbatim.
Jenny (Ibiza) has a hilarious link " There are other interesting infrastructure security threats. London Underground: Victoria Line Suspended After fast-setting Concrete Poured into Control Room. I kid you not!" Coffee spluttered into keyboard ;-) I'll be in London next month, so I hope it's fixed by then!
Renke (D) read Doug's comment and ran with the ball :- " Doug opened Pandora's box of security as a process :) If you're inclined to follow this slippery slope you could play around with the Tor Browser Bundle - a preconfigured Firefox geared toward security and privacy with built-in capability to use the Tor anonymizer network." Thanks for the link, Renke.
Schorsch has a number of tips "Here is my collection of half a dozen privacy/security tips for you : 1) VG Hannover has ruled that companies are not allowed to scan your passport/Personalausweis when you visit their site/shop/factory. 2) Hide your backup media so that if burglars steal your computer/smartphone/tablet etc at least you still have your data. You do backups regularly, right? You would be surprised at how many endusers do not :-( 3) Search engine values privacy more than google/bing do. 4) Use Tor (which slows you down) or Cyberghost VPN 5 (less so) as anonymising proxies for surfing. 5) Encrypt your data on your portable devices just in case you leave them somewhere (an MI5 man once left his classified notebook in a pub). I think Renke has mentioned this elsewhere already. 6) Need it be said? Protect your portable devices with a password to keep nosy people (thieves/spouse/gf/etc ;-) out!" Thanks for those, Schorsch, I wasn't aware of #1.
Jenny (Ibiza) says "If I understand Schorsch #5 and #6 and Renke #11 right, I should be keeping a strong-password safe on a thumb drive/USB stick in my purse, so that if a mobile device goes astray, I'd still be able to access all my accounts?" Correct, that was my deduction too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book bus resurrected :-)

This is mostly a rural area. Around the town/city of Paderborn there are a bunch of small villages, most too small to support a public library. So we have a mobile library - the book bus - which makes 73 stops in 43 villages over a 3 week tour cycle. Over 2000 users borrow more than 110,000 media per year (books, CDs, DVDs, games, audio cassettes etc). Some 7,000 media fit on the bus which has access to the Paderborn town library with its huge stock as backup.

Last year the 34 year old bus gave up the ghost :-( Fortunately, the district council managed to bid for and win an auction for a used book bus from rural Bavaria for a small sum. So we now have a 'new' book bus touring the villages as shown above :-)

It has a staff of two, the gentleman with a lorry-driving licence does the returns too and the lady with him gives the public (mostly kids and pensioners) advice and checks the new loans out.

SWMBO and I have 7 or 8,000 books ourselves and so (need to) clean out every year to make space for new ones. So I fill the car boot (aka trunk) with our surplus books and deliver them to a different library each year, 2011 to the Salzkotten library, 2012 to the book bus, 2013 to the tiny one-day-a-week library in Borchen and 2014 I'll do the book bus again as it is a local infrastructure I would be loath to see disappear. I'll bequeath them all our books when we cough it too :-)

Comments (5) :
Cop Car (USA) asks " What does your library do with the donated books - put them into circulation? Sell them? Other? As I have had a life-long habit of passing books along to friends/relatives, and as much of my reading involves library books, my accumulation is small compared to yours; but, the other day I took one box of reference books to the Derby Unified School District (they chose which books they could use - and exclaimed over the quality of the books) and another two boxes of reference books to the Derby Public Library. The library puts few of my cast-offs into circulation. Most, understandably, go onto their "sale" shelves. A few months ago, a couple of boxes of aviation-related books went to the Wichita aviation museum." I don't pass on the books we've annotated. Nor do I give them signed copies. For the others, the library is free to do what it wants with them. I'm told over 60% go into stock (for circulation). I presume the rest go in the paper garbage???
Cop Car (USA) added a remark on passing on annotated/signed books " Nor do I; however, there is usually no point in my annotating books of a non-technical nature. I've always had friends who were pursuing academic or workplace activities for which my cast-off technical books (annotated or not) would be useful to them. Signed books have been such rarities in my collection that they found good recipients, too. Truly, I hate to see anything sitting around, unused. It's an obsession with me to see that things get used. For instance, I have just arranged for the Derby Unified School District to take my kiln off of my hands - saving the high school about $3000-$4000 in the process! In turn, they are helping me off-load the potter's wheel and other clay-working equipment, for which they had no good use, to a program for children in Wichita. Yay!" That's social of you. Americans help one another like that more than Germans do, who would have resold it on eBay/Craigslist etc.
Cop Car (USA) responded to my last sentence above " Perhaps your conclusion is a bit broad. Although I do enjoy helping others, mostly, I am lazy! It is usually easier to give stuff away than to sell it. Thankfully, my 30-year career as an engineer (during which I was not usually under-paid) allows me the luxury of being lazy on this. P.S. I have been reading, lately, reports that we are born with bents toward generosity or not-so-much. It would explain a lot of the disagreements among folks, wouldn't it?" Here we are used to nanny state 'helping' people in need. In the USA imho you have less nanny state, so neighbors etc jump in to help those in need. My observation, YMMV. Yes, I know you have benefits-queens, as we do here too, who rely on the social security net to ease them through their bone-idle lives. There are shirkers everywhere :-(
Jenny (Ibiza) suggests "I leave paperbacks on park benches, airplanes, on the railway & bus etc. with a card in them saying the finder should read it then do so too :-)" Good idea, nicer than reselling on eBay.
Thanks to XE for the heads-up on this video about the advantages of BOOKs :-)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MLK Day irony? And some mind-blowing math.

Over in the USA, they just had a public remembrance day, MLK day. MLK as in Martin Luther King. So grifter-in-chief Quitter Mooselini took the opportunity to salute the great man and warn President Obama not to play the race card again.

Apparently Sheldon Cooper is not the only 'Merkin who has problems understanding irony :-(

Off Topic : Just to blow your minds in a different way :
The sum of all natural numbers is -1/12; proof :-)

Comments (3) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " Sounds like Ms Palin expects him to be born 100% white the next time? I've never understood why Pres Obama identifies himself as "black" instead of "mixed"; but, there are lots of things that I don't understand when it comes to our ethnicities/"races"." OK.
Schorsch notes "The maths there is NOT intuitive, so it actually DID blow my mind ;-)" Mine too!
Andreas (D) wrote (I translate) "Great! Thanks for the math link. One should not calculate with infinity, nothing good comes of it." Glad you liked it :-)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dirty Driving?

Manufacturers of electric cars claim that their cars produce zero emissions (CO2 etc). While that may be true of the car itself, in all honesty one should take into account the emissions made when producing the electricity such cars consume. This is called the "Well to wheel" emission measure.

For bio-fuels this includes emissions made during their agriculture, transport and conversion. For electric vehicles it depends on the mix of wind, photovoltaic, nuclear, coal and gas used to produce the electricity. The German ministry of the environment calculated the average mix as being 601 grams CO2 per kilowatt-hour in 2012.

Let us take a local car manufacturer as an example. BMW produces comparable cars which run on petrol, on diesel, and on electricity : the 114i, 114d and the i3 respectively. A recent study calculates the "Well to wheel" emission measure in g/km for each. The 114i produces 150 g/km of emissions. The 114d=127g/km and the i3=93g/km, so electric cars are still cleaner, albeit by no means having zero emissions. The all-electric Tesla S produces 109 g/km of "Well to wheel" emissions, by the way.

However, it turns out that bio-fuels in their various forms produce even LESS emissions than the electric cars. Bio-diesel made from rape-oil = 79 g/km, wheat-ethanol = 47 g/km, sugar-ethanol = 43 g/km, straw-ethanol 23 g/km, but bio-diesel made from old cooking-oil and animal-fats produces only 21 g/km!

The new German government has contracted to subsidise electric cars until 2020, aiming to put one million on the road, with OUR (taxpayers') money :-( Perhaps they should have done their CO2 emission homework first, subsidising bio-fuels instead and helping the local farmers etc., even if that IS less glamorous :-(

Comments (2) :
Cop Car (USA) asked " Thanks for publishing the numbers, Stu. Have you similar numbers for hydrogen-powered and natural gas-powered vehicles? Comparing apples to oranges is always difficult, but I'm sure that you are up to producing a meaningful comparison." Natural gas around 130 g/km, liquid hydrogen about 135 g/km and pressurised hydrogen about 95 g/km; 2002 source paper.
Pergelator (USA) asks " Regarding Bio-Fuels: did you account for the fuel used by the farm machinery used to produce those crops? Seems to me I read something once that we were burning more diesel to grow corn than we were getting oil out of the deal." Yes. The Institut für Weltwirtschaft report states all agricultural costs are covered.

Friday, January 17, 2014

No 'no-spy' agreement forthcoming :-(

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now have some idea of the tremendous amount of spying being done by the NSA even on their friends and allies. So it was no wonder that European governments - in particular ours - objected to this. The German Chancellor - Dr. Angela Merkel - objected strenuously to the NSA bugging her phone and quoted Henry L. Stimson who was US foreign minister around 1930 saying "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail.". Stinson then dissolved the US Black Chamber (which was the US decryption service, forerunner of the NSA).

And so face-saving negotiations were started for a 'no-spy' deal, but the Americans lied, as usual, and no 'no-spy' agreement will be forthcoming :-( The NSA trots out the usual argument that it is all ONLY being done to fight terrorism (as if Angie were a terrorist? WTF?) and Obama refuses to follow the recommendations made by his own NSA-review committee.

Is it any wonder that anti-americanism is on the increase here? Losers! :-(

Maybe now Merkel will consider granting Snowden political asylum? Heh,heh.

Comments (9) :
Schorsch (D) reports "Now the NSA is collecting 2 million SMSs daily under the Dishfire programme :-(" So just upset them by including misspelled keywords like bomm, terrah, nukulah etc in each SMS. Or a code they cannot break (e.g. 19835 82736 02378 42126 09894 34257 etc) ;-)
David (USA) corrects me "Obama just said he would forbid the NSA from tapping the phones of allied heads-of-state and heads-of-government." I'll believe it when I see it. They'll just claim they were listening to the phone on the other end of the call :-(
Nobby (UK) asks me to "Recommend one book on history of spying/message interception." Recommend ONE? I've got over a dozen. I'll do a separate post listing them in the mid-future.
John (UK) gives us a link "Wow, you DO sound paranoid! So get yourself a Blackphone next month!" Sounds interesting. But when I clicked on that (secure?) link, the security certificate didn't match up :-( Oopsie!
Jenny (Ibiza) remarks "And Google just bought a company that makes smoke detectors etc. The kind that WLANs data to your always-on router. How easy is it to hide a microphone or a pinhole camera in one of those?" Good question.
Schorsch (D) asks "So why do you think they cannot decode '19835 82736 02378 42126 09894 34257 etc' ?" Because it is an quotation from one of the books in The Library of Babel (Jorge Luis Borges 1941 story) ;-)
Dave (USA) wrote "Paranoid conspiracy theory here: It was the DHS that put the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol in the West Virginia water supply, as a chemical warfare exercise, ust to test how adequate the response would be." FEMA slow to respond? Bush widely blamed? ;-)
Renke (D) replied to John " @John, Stu isn't paranoid but rather relaxed about the internet surveillance. [Justified] paranoia is Bruce Schneier's approach: After he got access to some of Snowden's documents he implemented a complex and sophisticated scheme - hopefully he bought the air-gapped machine locally in cash, as the US-American agencies are known for intercepting deliveries. Long before the current revelations I use only encrypted storage devices, remote access restricted to private/public keys, SELinux, an enterprise grade firewall ( probably broken) and never reuse passwords. Am I paranoid? Likely. Am I a target? Unlikely. Is it unjustified paranoia? Nope, the NSA tries to monitor everyone everywhere everytime. The problem is political, not technical - but I lost my trust." Not only you :-(
Pergelator (USA) wrote " Thought this might interest you. German decodes of US diplomatic messages from 1944" Indeed! Thanks for the heads-up :-) BTW, when Janna Holms granny died 20 years ago, she left her granddaughter this encoded postcard, which has only now been broken. The annotation is mine;)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Manx Meccano! The incredible record lap.

James May (of 'Top Gear' fame) did a lap of the Isle of Man Mountain Course on a motorcycle made entirely out of Meccano. If I hadn't seen this 4 part video myself, I would not have believed it!

This one went in the record books!

Comments (1) :
Doug (Canada) wrote "Hahahahaha - that's fantastic. Beat your lap time right? :)". Never did it in a sidecar outfit, always solo.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Take better Selfies! #selfieolympics

Whenever I see some of those stupid selfies, taken thoughtlessly, on the social media, I could tear the sparse rest of my hair out. I mean, do people REALLY think they are showing themselves in an advantageous light? Jeeeze!

Left to right :
1) Fuzzy, out of focus, badly lit, self-obsessed (aren't they all?).
2) Duck face (how attractive is that?).
3) Head cut off, taken in the toilet, as so many are (WTF?).
4) Maybe she'll regret this shot taken in the men's toilet, later, forever?

Left to right :
1) Camera gets in the way as I take my first mirror-selfie.
2) Looking the wrong way doesn't help either ;-)
3) This woman stole an iPad, took selfies, selfies auto-uploaded to original owner's Facebook page via iCloud! Thief caught, I'd guess :-)
4) The ultimate fail : undressed, in the toilet, the WC unflushed :-(

Worst and best : Obama takes a grinning selfie at a funeral :-(
A selfie taken in space, at the ISS. Rare and thus memorable :-)

If you MUST do a selfie, at least put some thought into making it an interesting one. This one was to illustrate the idea of recursion :-)

The german newspaper Bild recently gave 10 tips for better selfies which I have translated :-

  1. Correct exposure. Face not in shadow. Look slightly upwards.
  2. Be aware of what or who is in the background. Respect their privacy.
  3. Take special care if there is a mirror in the picture. You may not want to show your fat ass backside!
  4. Not shaky. Use short exposure time. In focus. Depth of focus correct.
  5. Use the front camera, it's good enough for small selfies.
  6. Avoid mirror-selfies. Lighting is usually bad and the autofocus registers the mirror and not you. Beware getting flash in mirror.
  7. Use the HW-button not the on-screen one; saves strangely twisted hands in photo. Or use the self-release as I did above.
  8. Avoid taking inappropriate shots, e.g. at a funeral, in slums etc.
  9. Forever online. Do you really want your (future) bosses to see you looking like that? Drunken? Untidy? Undressed?
  10. Think about the consequences of posting that (intimate?) selfie. Don't!

Finally, do NOT use a selfie on a job application or in your CV. Get a photo taken professionally. It will avoid all the mistakes listed above!

Comments (1) :
Nic (RSA?) sent this selfie by a Darwin Award candidate :-

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WW 1 Replica Fighter Plane photos

See The Vintage Aviator Ltd's 2013 Remembrance Day airshow photoblog.
Thanks to Klaus (Alaska) for the heads-up :-)

Comments (1) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " A few of Mr Fahey's photos look more like paintings they are so artistically done. BTW: I didn't see Snoopy and his Camel!" Indeed! A cross between Ultralights and super-scale models.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Outside Wikileaks

Daniel Domscheit-Berg - former speaker for Wikileaks - gave a lecture at the HNF last week, so I and 800+ others rolled up to listen. As did the NSA (probably ;-). Wikileaks is basically an anonymising platform for whistleblowers to publish the information they want to see exposed to public scrutiny. The threshold for publishing is kept technically as low as possible (i.e. ease of use). Examples of uncovered immoral behaviour include some from speculative banking, scientology, self-insuring banks, and of course the US-military. Parallels to the Third Reich census misuse were drawn. Julian Assange was mentioned only in passing as they seem to have split up in disagreement.

Teasingly, I asked if he was present on the internet. IMHO, paranoia is what prevents him from having a website, but there were real threats to his life when he was the Wikileaks speaker. If you send him an email, the NSA will put your email on their watchlist and the emails of everyone in your addressbook etc to the third level, he claimed. He deliberately didn't bring his cellphone with him, lest the NSA localise it and find out what other cellphones were in the same lecture hall, he also claimed. Big Brother is definitely watching HIM!

You don't have to be paranoid for the NSA & GCHQ to track you, but you will become so, which is maybe why OpenLeaks folded :-(

Maybe he could have told us more, but then he would have had to kill us ;-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lockpicking 101 ;-)

A local educational institution offers a 1 day (sic!) course on internet security using this (screenshotted) photo to advertise it. It shows a combination padlock. How embarrassing is that? This kind of combination padlock is pickable within 5 seconds, even by me! Not exactly an advert for high security.

These kind of locks usually have loose mechanical tolerances which I just exploit as explained below. There are steel wire bicycle locks which are even sloppier too :-(

Hold the padlock loop in your left hand under tension by pushing against the padlock body with your thumb. Now, starting with the rightmost thumbwheel, turn the thumbwheel through the numbers. When it reaches the right value, the thumbwheel will 'lock' into place. You can feel the resistance change with your finger turning the wheel. Leave the wheel there. Now repeat for the other 3 wheels. Bingo! Lock open!

Instead of 10*10*10*10 = 10,000 combinations, there are at worst 10+10+10+10 = 40 and on average 5+5+5+5=20, factor 500 less than advertised!

Such combination padlocks are useless, get a key-operated one. And not one where all the keys are the same either! There is at least one manufacturer of keyed padlocks who makes this mistake. Buy one of them, you can open them all! Jesus wept!

I must admit, I'm tempted to cough up the €30 for their 1 day course on internet security just to see what they omit there. Blogreader (and sysadmin) Renke is probably laughing his ass off right now!

Comments (4) :
Doug (Canada) wrote "LOL - old trick but one that's good to know. That's a stock photo but still these guys should be really embarrassed. €30 would be a waste of money, or a very expensive laugh if this is representative." I expect it to be an end-user 'course', saying 'Use a firewall, a virus killer, long passwords, a spam filter, and back up your data regularly', and taking 6 hours to say it.
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "So what padlock would you use?" I would use one tested to EN12320 grade 6, e.g. an Abloy PL362, which I myself can't pick :-)
Dave (USA) says "Re Padlocks: Did you know that we (the USA) incarcerate more of our people than any other country? :-( " 7160 ppm; that's more than [Russia does] Putin (jail) :-(
Renke has a useful source " lock picking is fun (though I'm not patient and/or dexterous enough...) and deeply rooted in the computer security scene - a milestone was MIT's Guide to Lock Picking, the most important German organisation is called "Sportsfreunde der Sperrtechnik" :)" Thanks for the heads-up :-)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Golden Ratio isn't!

Isn't a ratio of adjacent Fibonnaci numbers, that is. Not even a ratio of whole numbers! Most of us were taught that the Golden Ratio is the limit of the ratio of two adjacent Fibonacci numbers, that is it is thus a rational number. But it isn't a rational number, and today I'm going to prove that for you.

The Fibonacci numbers are defined as members of the infinite sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377,610,987,1597,2584,4181,6765... where the N+1th number is the sum of the N-1th and the Nth numbers. The Golden Ratio (φ) is approximated by the ratio of two adjacent Fibonacci numbers. In the sketch on the left, the red block is 5 units high and the blue block is 8, totalling 13, the next Fibonacci number. The Golden Ratio is used e.g. in art, as the proportion is judged to be very pleasing, φ being blue/red in this sketch.

The ratio of blue to red is as the ratio of the whole (blue+red) to the blue. Algebraically, N/M = (N+M)/N = φ and so we get φ (φ-1) = 1, multiplying out we get φ2 - φ -1 = 0.

Now comes the proof that φ is irrational, by contradiction.

Assume φ were rational, so we write φ = A/B where A and B are co-prime whole numbers with no common factor. So we write (A/B)2 - A/B -1 = 0.
Thus (A/B)2 - A/B = 1.
Multiplying by B2, we get A2 - AB = B2.
Factoring the left hand side we get A(A-B) = B2.
But this implies that B2 is wholly divisible by A, and so that A and B have a common factor, thus contradicting our assumption. And thus φ is NOT rational, i.e. is NOT the ratio of two whole numbers. QED :-)

Comments (3) :
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "So what IS the value of φ?" φ = (1+sqrt(5))/2 = approx 1.618033988749894848204586834...
Cop Car (USA) wrote "Now, Stu, you must carefully explain to some of us why this is important to us. In practice, the only use I've ever made of the Golden Ratio is in proportioning objects so that they are pleasing to the eye. When we built this house, I carefully proportioned the mirror that covers part of the wall behind each bathroom sink. Did I worry about irrationality? Irrationally, I did not. I gave the mirror makers dimensions that were A wide x 1.5A high. Close enough for my eye! However, it was important that I knew of the existence of the Golden Ratio, about which I had first learned in the only art class that I ever took (one semester in high school). The Old Masters knew! Thanks for the tutorial." Nothing on this blog is important; 'tis just me doing a knowledge dump (in the computer sense of the word ;-)). I was at a dinner party with some artist friends when the conversation turned to the Golden Ratio. One artist maintained it is the ratio of "the last" two Fibonacci numbers, so I wrote him the disproof on a table napkin. I thought the proof might be of interest to some readers and it is trivial enough that all can understand it :-)
Cop Car (USA) replied "... "me doing a knowledge dump" ... In other words, you are showing off. Usually when you show off, it is something a bit more erudite. Thanks for taking it easy on us. : D" Not showing off, that kind of simple algebra I'd expect from a bright 14 year old, at least here in Germany :-)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten books I read in 2013

Without choosing any specific order of preference - because the books are so varied - here are the ten English language books I liked best last year.

  • John Mortimer : Regina vs. Rumpole. Bought 2nd hand from an antiquary book shop, a 1981 book, still my favourite barrister :-)
  • Stephen Fry : The Ode less travelled. An idiot’s training guide to the writing of poetry : educated and funny, as Fry always is :-)
  • Neil Gaiman : The Graveyard Book. Utterly captivating but creepy book written for children but enjoyed by adults too :-)
  • Chaucer : The Franklin's Tale. The version I bought is a 90+ years old copy from an antiquary book shop. It is written in the English vernacular of 1370, which makes it a bit more difficult to read than modern English, idiomatic spelling and words I did not know. But reading it out loud helps : "And in his ers they crepten everycho."
  • Alan Turing : Intelligence Service. From his years of service for the UK at Bletchley Park (BP) etc. I bought my copy at BP years ago, even got Tony Sale to sign it (obviously he was still alive at the time) :-)
  • Eric Idle : The Road to Mars. The second novel by Eric Idle, the guy from Monty Python's Flying Circus, gets mixed reviews. Not great as SF, nor as comedy, but a healthy mixture of the two. Think HHGTTG style.
  • Terry Pratchett : Raising Steam. The industrial revolution comes to Ankh Morpork. Think Stephenson's Rocket. Actually a bit disappointing, maybe Pratchett's Alzheimers is making him long-winded. I've read better Discworld novels, but if you are also a loyal pTerry fan, go read it too.

  • Lisa Randell : Warped passages. 20th century theoretical physics, extra dimensions, and string theory; written for the layman(?) and Sheldon.
  • Steven Pinker : The stuff of thought. Conceptual semantics for (computer-) linguists. Not a new idea, but well explained. Implementable using Roger Schank's AI Frames ideas from the early 1980s. Very doable!
  • Roger Penrose : The Road to Reality. Advanced physics textbook. Hard to read. Took me 4 months and 3 passes. Heavy on the maths ; it STARTS with hyperbolic geometry and takes it from there. Only suitable for physics (under) grads perhaps? Cop Car has got herself a copy, I'd like to know if she's struggling as I was, be interesting to hear what she thinks.
If any of you blogreaders have read any of my top ten, I'd be interested to hear your opinions. I'll put your opinions/mini-reviews in the comments here unless you request otherwise.

Yes, Virginia, I DO have an eclectic taste ;-)

Comments (5) :
Cop Car (USA) replied in detail " Struggling? Are you nuts? She is sinking! She thinks you were right in cautioning that the book is a hard slog for most people - especially if, as you and I are wont to do, one follows/works at the math. My approach, once I got through the prefatory material, was to try to devour/track one page at a time - at least that was my approach until interrupted by the necessity of preparing for out-of-town visitors. One of the visitors who stayed with us was my elder brother - the "near-genius" of our family. He picked up the book and became so enthralled that I have not seen the book, since. Presumably, he is now enjoying the journey. If the book does not come "home" soon, I shall have to order another - not a huge issue as the price was only US $16. My observations: 1) Sir Roger has an engaging way of writing. 2) To help my thought process, I edit equations into notation that is more familiar to me. (Fortunately, I got over my reticence toward marking in books that I own, long ago!) Although it took Stu three months to go through the book, I am sure that it will take closer to three years for me to complete the journey - if I finish, at all. " I did 3 passes : a first scan without doing the maths exercises, to get the gist of the book. I liked that, so on the second (long) pass I followed the maths and did the exercises, marking the bits that were too tough. On the third pass I chewed my way through the tough bits. Four months!
John (UK) chortles "I've got ALL the Rumpole books, they're magnificent!" Indeed, I can well imagine :-)
Jenny (Ibiza) laughs "You and CC really are geeks, reading textbooks for amusement!" Spot on!
Susan (UK) has "Two questions : 1) What is your first read of 2014? and 2) How do Geeks and Nerds differ?" Q1) First book of 2014 is Marc Abrahams' "This is Improbable" ISBN 978-1-85168-931-6. Q2) NERDS = Nuclear Engineering Research & Development Scientists, a GEEK has General Engineering Education Knowhow. Not many people know that, least of all Michael Caine ;-)
Cop Car (USA) grinned "Love those abbreviation explanations!" Thought so ;-)

Friday, January 3, 2014

200 and a half

Remember when (in november 2013) a huge plane landed at the wrong airport in Kansas, near Cop Car's home town? She blogged about it and I and other pilots put up approach plates to explain how that could happen. We used pilot jargon too and several non-pilots wrote to me asking for a better explanation. Your questions boiled down to "How do you find the right airport anyway, given you are in cloud and cannot see anything?". Over the holidays I've worked up this (long) explanation of radio navigation for the approach to and landing at a destination airport on instruments alone.

For the purposes of this article let me tell you about an approach to minima (200 feet cloud base and half a mile surface visibility, hence today's blog title) at my home airport Paderborn-Lippstadt (abbreviated as EDLP, E stands for Europe, D for Deutschland). I was flying an MU-2 (a small high-performance twin), returning after picking up pax (passengers) from Egelsbach, a relief airport 5 NM (nautical miles) SSE of Frankfurt/Main.

We pick up the story when I change over to using the STAR (standard arrival) approach plate shown below. The actual map is just black and white and only shows information relevant to the radio navigation, almost no ground detail. I have added the lettering in red so that you can see what I am referring to.

The size A5 approach plate has four segments A,B,C and D stacked below one another. First I look at segment A, and tune my second radio (the plane has 2 of everything) to the ATIS (air terminal information service) frequency 125.72 Mhz (Megahertz), shown at position E in segment A of the map. This confirms the runway in use is 24 (about 240°N magnetic), because the surface wind was 20 knots from 210°, 200ft cloud base and ½ mile surface visibility, i.e minima for me. Some airline pilots and planes are rated for lower minima, but I'm not. The ATIS data confirmed I can expect the 24 ILS (instrument landing system) approach.

Next I look at segment D of the approach plate because in order to be prepared should I have to miss the approach by not seeing the runway environment at the MAP (missed approach point, more about that later) I set up my NDB (non-directional beacon) as indicated near the letter F in segment D. Looking at point G in segment B, I see that the PAD(erborn) NDB has frequency 354 KHz and set my NDB receiver accordingly. Then if I miss the approach, I am to climb straight ahead for 3 NM DME (distance measuring equipment) - about 2 minutes - before returning in a right turn to the NDB at 3000 feet altitude for another try.

Having done that I set my second VHF radio to Paderborn Tower which is on 133.37 MHz as you can see in the middle of segment A of the map. ATC (Air traffic control) hands me over to Langen Radar on 125.22 MHz (as you can see in segment A of the map). I had previously set Warburg VOR (VHF omnidirectional range) on 113.70 MHz into my first navigational aid; Warburg VOR is the compass rose shown at position H in segment B of the map. Now I set the Paderborn ILS to 108.55 MHz (as shown at position K) into my second navigational aid.

Arriving at Warburg VOR at 6000 feet amsl (above mean sea level), I report passing the IAF (initial approach fix) to Langen Radar who clear me for the approach. 'Cleared' means they have assured that nobody else is in my way. No "Traffic at 12 o'clock, ¼ mile, left to right, closing fast!" surprise!

Looking at the compass rose (position H in segment B) we see that the outbound radial is at 320° not below 5000 feet where I am still in the murk naturally. Eight miles from Warburg on the DME (distance measuring equipment) is the tall radio mast at Willebadessen as shown on the map at position J. After passing that, I may descend to 3000 feet. The MU-2 is a hot ship, so besides throttling back I may need to deploy the speed brakes. Cruise is at 260 knots but I'll be flying the approach at 100 knots (130% of stall speed). At 14.2 DME from Warburg I start the turn onto the glideslope and ATC hands me over to the tower who ask that I call the FAF (final approach fix) and the OM(outer marker). The glideslope profile is shown on segment C of the approach plate. Meanwhile I've reset the DME to 108.6 MHz which is co-located with the Paderborn MM (middle marker beacon). Completing the turn onto the ILS at point L (6.7 DME from PAD) I roll out onto a track of 236°, call the FAF "At IBEGO" and start down the glideslope, lowering my landing gear as I go and adjusting my speed to 100 knots. I call the OM (position M in segment C of the map) as I pass overhead, 3 miles out and still in the clouds as predicted, I verify that my altitude is 1530 feet as required by the glidepath shown in segment C of the map.

On a slightly less cloudy day, and if I had not been paying attention and had drifted north of the ILS due to stronger southerly winds, I might have gotten a first glimpse of the runway, looking like this :-

However, this is an approach to minima and so I stay on instruments. As I reach the MM (middle marker beacon) which is the MAP (missed approach point) I break out of the raggedy bottom of the clouds and can see the runway environment, which looks like this :-

The lights you see at the top left are called the PAPI (precision approach indicator) and are showing two whites on the left and two reds on the right, demonstrating that I am correctly on the glideslope. If I had seen three reds and just one white (as seen in the photo below) I would be below the glideslope [and illegally busting the minima by being below 200 feet above ground :-( ] . Since I can see the runway environment, I throttle back, flare and land. If I had not seen the runway environment at the MAP, I would have gone around for another try, using the procedure proscribed in segment D of the approach plate, which I had set up and mentally rehearsed at the beginning of the approach. After 3 failed tries, I would have flown to the alternate airfield I'd chosen in my flight plan, where better weather prevails (required of a chosen alternate). And that's how you navigate, flying blind :-)

I would ask any other blogreading pilots (e.g. Cop Car, Peter, Sarah, Gian, Earth-Bound Misfit, Flight Level 390 (Captain Dave), etc to perhaps add to this explanation, making it clearer, and telling me if you do things in a different order etc. We all learn and live :-)

Additional non-pilot questions are - of course - welcome too :-)

Comments (10) :
Non-pilot Schorsch (D) asks innocently(?) "And you're doing all this blindfolded? ;-)" No, but thanks for pulling our legs. For practising "blind" flying in VMC (visual meteorological conditions) - i.e. without looking outside - the student uses a so-called IFR-hood, which has blinkers and a top shade so that she/he can ONLY see the instrument panel, while the instructor (me) keeps a look outside. IFR means Instrument Flight Rules.
Pilot Cop Car (USA) wrote " I laud your use of graphics in your exposition and let you know that your task ordering accords with what I would do. Who knows how the jumbos operate? The posting is well done! About the only thing that came to mind as I read it was that the system of numbering runways (in relationship to flight path heading) might be explained..." OK. Runways are numbered according to their magnetic track (NOT heading), rounded to the nearest 10° and the final digit omitted. The approach at Paderborn has you tracking inbound at 236° relative to magnetic north (what your compass shows). Rounding up gives 240° and chopping off the last digit gives the runway number 24. If there were 2 parallel runways they would be called 24L or 24R respectively. Track is the path of the airplane over ground. Heading is the way the airplane is pointing; in the example above it would be several degrees left of the track (e.g. 230°) to compensate for the wind from the left (the surface wind was 20 knots from 210°, and so has a crosswind component of 10 knots). Magnetic (compass) north can differ from true (GPS) north quite a lot. I remember in Ireland it was about -8° and at Halifax in Nova Scotia it was about -22° the year I was there. The magnetic pole drifts around and so the number changes each year, just to confuse us :-)
Colin (UK) notes "That would imply that borderline-rounded runways might need to be renamed as the poles move?" Indeed, and that does happen, e.g. at Tampa (Florida) International in 2011. See this declination map for a history.
Colin (UK) again, notes "Compass not properly explained in your comment reply. The compass shows relative to the local magnetic north, to point to the magnetic pole you need to add the magnetic deviation you mentioned above. Then you need to add the compass error as listed on the little card below the compass." Correct, I also forgot to mention that the compass will lag or lead in a turn, depending on the direction of the turn, because in a turn the inclination gets factored in too. But that's not what I was trying to explain, which was how to do radio-navigation.
Doug (Canada) wrote "OT : Plane makes emergency landing on New York highway. He got very lucky :)" Do you know if it was actual engine trouble or just carburettor icing?
Jenny (Ibiza) asked "OT : Are you blogging less now?" Maybe twice weekly instead of thrice weekly, but longer articles? We shall see how it goes.
Tanja (FIN) suggests "Why not let the autopilot do all of that?" I was asked to explain radio-navigation. I'll write about different kinds of autopilots in a forthcoming (shorter) article. OK?
Cop Car (USA) has a press report that the Jabara pilots had turned the automatic navigation system OFF !!!" Guess they'll only do that once!
Schorsch (D) asks "So what's the story on the crash near Trier today (Jan 12th)?" Trier-Foehren does not have an instrument approach, it's visual only. The spread (difference between dew point and temperature) was under ½°C so there was low fog. The Cessna Citation hit a powerline mast attempting a visual approach. The airfield is in a valley at 666 feet(sic!), the hills are 1200-1400 feet. There is an obstruction near the crash site at 1472 feet. The crash site, 4 kms from the airfield, is about 1 km left of the extended centerline. Required minimum visibility for a visual approach is 1.5 kms; but only 100 m were being reported at the time. Required vertical clearance above an obstruction is 500 feet. IMHO, he should have gone to either Frankfurt-Hahn or Luxembourg, both of which have instrument approaches, and taken a taxi to Trier (only about 35 miles). All four dead.
Ed (USA) reports "Another navigation error Southwest Airlines plane lands at wrong Missouri airport, seven miles away ". Keep us informed, Ed :-)

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