Tips – January 2018

About “Tips”:

While I’m mostly interested in things having to do with:

Computer stuff, especially small single board computers
Making money, usually via trading
Weather and climate (“Global Warming” & “Climate Change”)
Quakes, Volcanoes, and other Earth Sciences
Current economic and political events
(often as those last three have impact on money and climate things…)
And just about any ‘way cool’ interesting science or technology

If something else is interesting to you, put a “tip” here as you like.

If there is a current Hot Topic for active discussion, try one of the Weekly Occasional Open Discussion pages here:

You can also look at the list of “Categories” on the right hand side and get an idea of any other broad area of interest.

This ought not to be seen as a “limit” on what is “interesting”, more as a “focus list” with other things that are interesting being fair game as well.

The History:

Note that “pages” are the things reached from links on the top bar just under the pretty picture. “Postings” are reached from the listing along the right side of any given article (posting).

Since WordPress has decided that comments on Pages, like the Old Tips Pages, won’t show up in recent comments, it kind of breaks the value of it for me. In response, I shifted from a set of “pages” to a set of “postings”. As any given Tips Posting gets full, I’ll add a new one.

I have kept the same general format, with the T page (top bar) still pointing to both the archive of Tips Pages as well as the series of new Postings via a link to the TIPS category.

This is the next posting from prior Tips postings. Same idea, just a new set of space to put pointers to things of interest. The most immediately preceding Tips posting is:

The generic “T” parent page remains up top, where older copies of the various “Tips” pages can be found archived. The Tips category (see list at right) marks Tips postings for easy location.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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61 Responses to Tips – January 2018

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    Continuation of the Intel bug issue, yes data centers will get hurt bad by this flaw if initial information is true.

    I have seen estimates of processing slow down ranging from -5% to -30% with one page saying they did benchmarks that showed -17% and -23% if I remember correctly.

    If you getting ready to order a few million dollars of hardware this will put an instant hold on such orders, and once new chip dies are available will saturate processor production with producing “fixed chips”. Like the Pentium floating point bug will throw a lot of monkey wrenches into a lot of plans.

    If a company is running a 24×7 shop that keeps the servers busy around the clock a performance reduction of ~ -20% or so will be a huge impact on their through put.

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmmmm – very interesting:

    By they way this article implies the vulnerability applies to AMD and ARM chips, even though AMD has said specifically their chips are not subject to this exploit.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    Take a look at AMD stock quotes over the last 24-30 hours

  4. Jeff says:

    Looks like the Business Insider hasn’t been inside of many prefetch buffers lately.

    The flaw is an architectural one, probably a (wrong) decision made to avoid massive register dumps (saves) when switching context to privileged mode (hmmm – wasn’t that big of a problem on the HP3000 as that sort of switching was baked in – but that was the good old days).
    As Intel chose to be a tad less picky than AMD (I’m thinking either the DEC’ers or Jim Keller was behind the strictness), INTL is now reaping the “rewards” of that decision/mistake/whatever.
    I hope that it doesn’t cause too many problems, or much downtime.

    I’m fighting to avoid Schadenfreude, as the design of the Bulldozer family was wildly derided by the INTL Fanbots, even though it wasn’t THAT bad. The Zen/RyZen design, on the other hand, appears to be a thing of beauty, in comparison.

    Interesting times, indeed. Been a long while since there was competition in the CPU space…..

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    This page asserts there are actually two different bugs involved, and have given them the names of:
    meltdown and specter they also assert that AMD and ARM are affected by the specter flaw.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Following links in those above links to:

    Shows AMD is mostly immune:

    Variant One Bounds Check Bypass Resolved by software / OS updates to be made available by system vendors and manufacturers. Negligible performance impact expected.
    Variant Two Branch Target Injection Differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near zero risk of exploitation of this variant. Vulnerability to Variant 2 has not been demonstrated on AMD processors to date.
    Variant Three Rogue Data Cache Load Zero AMD vulnerability due to AMD architecture differences.

    So no performance impact and a software patch made available to vendors.

    Still not seeing anything saying explicitly that ARM chips have an exposure. (Other than a vague “most computers” and “Android has a patch” assertion). I.e. still waiting for a tech reference not a fluff reference.

    Were I the buyer at a major site, I’d have issued a stay on ALL hardware orders and followed up next day with replacement POs specifying AMD CPUs… but I’m that way ;-)

    Then again, I’m the kind of guy who would pay extra for a CPU with strict separation of OS and application address spaces on separate hardware memory chunks… Why OH Why ought the OS Kernel EVER be swapped out for some petty application? Especially when we are in the world of 2 GB minimum memory sizes even on some SBC machines that cost $50… IMHO, it’s time for the CPU / Memory / Board designers to rethink some of their basic hardware assumptions left over from the days of 16 MEG of memory…

    Frankly, with quad core being nearly standard and octo-core common, why not just dedicate a core or two to OS Only?

  7. Jeff says:

    From the AMD statement ( ), there are three variants, two of which appear to not affect AMD CPUs. The third, described below as “Variant One”, should result in floggings of the engineers/coders involved. Bounds checking USED TO BE hardwired into the old CPU hardware. Guess it’s not in style anymore.

    Google Project Zero (GPZ) Research Title Details

    Variant One – Bounds Check Bypass:
    Resolved by software / OS updates to be made available by system vendors and manufacturers. Negligible performance impact expected.

    Variant Two – Branch Target Injection:
    Differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near zero risk of exploitation of this variant. Vulnerability to Variant 2 has not been demonstrated on AMD processors to date.

    Variant Three – Rogue Data Cache Load: Zero AMD vulnerability due to AMD architecture differences.

  8. Larry Ledwick says:

    Statement from AMD on the speculative execution vulnerabilities, they are identifying 3 different attack methods only one of which AMD is vulnerable to.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    I see Jeff and I posted the same thing at about the same time, but he took the time to format his much better ;-)

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    Actually three of us hit the enter key at about the same time ;)

    Point being this looks like a fundamental vulnerability to speculative execution that has just now been exposed. I wonder if/how long the TLA’s have been aware of this?

  11. Jeff says:

    GMTA :) (And it pays to be ‘alf English :) ). There’s info on ARM here, via c’t and their comments:

    In the rush to get longer pipelines, lookaheads on instructions, etc., a lot of compromises were made. Also the “old-fashioned/old-skool” philosophy of separating OS space and user space
    (and hardware bounds checking) have been thrown under the bus of faster, faster, faster, profit, profit, profit.

    It might prove to be less of a problem (SPECTRE) than some of the armchair pundits are saying. In any case, the cpu manufacturers are going to need to take a long hard look at how they vet their architectural strategies…

    There are folks who have been trying to kill off the von Neumann architecture since the 1960s. Would be nice to have something new for a change, but newer isn’t always better (as Intel are trying to prove, it appears)…..

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Looking at the different ARM chips:

    I would speculate that those architectures without “out of order execution” are immune and those with it might have an exposure (TBD). An overlapped pipeline is fine, it’s the speculative part (that I think means out of order execution) that’s the issue.

    IF that’s true, the chips like the ones in the Raspberry Pi are “safe” and the ones in the Odroid XU4 (that has a faster A15 core type for 1/2 of them) are an issue. The Pi Model 3 uses a 64 bit A53 type that also has no OOE so ought to be a ‘safe’ type.

    At least, that’s my guess.

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    Moving discussion of this over to the new wood thread I did not see EM’s new thread when I started it here.

    CERT just posted an alert – details over on the new January WOOD thread

  14. philjourdan says:

    @Larry – re: Meltdown (Intel) flaw

    Except there are 2 flaws – Meltdown and Spectre – and the latter impacts all CPUs (but it harder to exploit) –

  15. Mr. Wonderful says:

    This guy at conservativetreehouse dot com seems to be right on top of the whole DOJ/FBI unfolding drama. Has interesting perspectives on the overall fabric of the thing.

    I haven’t seen this on the ‘usual’ outlets;

  16. Mr. Wonderful says:

    Ignore the strongly worded headline;
    The guy is ‘sundance’ ,

    I don’t vouch for the accuracy of his predictions, but the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together very smoothly, no need to break out the ‘puzzle hammer’ to make them fit…

  17. Mr. Wonderful says:

    sundance had the entire judge’s ruling up on scribd at least 20 minutes before first major to post (only summary) comments,; the 20 minutes did not include the time I spent speedreading the ruling.
    Still nothing on ace, daily, or gateway.

  18. jim2 says:

    Can’t this be construed as OBSTRUCTION of JUSTICE? Seems the criteria for this “crime” is pretty minimal these daze.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    So you are saying that with my red head gene and thus very white skin I’d be a hit in Thailand? No “small laser” needed here… Just the tip of the iceberg, you say? Chasing a white whale? (Groan…)

    @Mr Wonderful:
    “Sundance”has a pretty good rep, near as I can tell. Just sayin’…


    Near as I can tell, “obstruction of justice” now means you pissed off a liberal/progressive/socialist/Democrat judge or prosecutor.

  20. jim2 says:

    I wonder if they give Mr. Winky a monocle sunglass?

  21. Another Ian says:


    Check recent items at Conservative Treehouse

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    All good and interesting stuff at TCTH, unfortunately, I can only skim it at the moment. I’m way over committed on too much already… But it is a nice thing to see the fires starting to kindle on the previously well insulated bottoms in the TLAs behind the scenes… Lordy it takes a lot of time and effort to get a stubborn gator out of the swamp…

  23. Larry Ledwick says:

    Major earth quake in Honduras area.
    A preliminary magnitude-7.8 earthquake has struck north of Honduras, according to the USGS. The earthquake struck at 9:51 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening, and was located 36km ENE of Great Swan Island, Honduras.

  24. Larry Ledwick says:

    Keep your eyes open for details of a new immigration agreement:

    It will be very interesting to see how this breaks down and if it is a legitimate attempt at resolution or just opening bargaining position or political play for brownie points from the electorate.

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmmm regarding the bipartisan agreement ??

    Report: Trump argued U.S. shouldn’t take people from “shithole countries”

  26. Larry Ledwick says:

    Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸
    ‏Verified account
    13 minutes ago
    The Washington Post claims that Trump called African and Latin nations “shithole countries.”

    This is a map of the criminality index from those 2 regions of the world, which are statistically the most violent and dangerous because of how amazing and awesome they are!

  27. Another Ian says:


    Economic terms refresher

  28. Larry Ledwick says:

    Cool space tech, GPS for space craft using pulsar emissions for the reference signal.

  29. Another Ian says:


    Re moving – according to this you better consider Wyoming

    “A Paternalism Ranking of the States ”

    Link at

  30. E.M.Smith says:


    From your first link:

    Insecure defaults in Intel AMT allow an intruder to completely bypass user and BIOS passwords and TPM and Bitlocker PINs to break into almost any corporate laptop in a matter of 30 seconds or so, according to security biz F-Secure. The issue, which requires physical access to targeted computer to exploit, is unrelated to the recent Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

    Well isn’t THAT nice to know… no more being locked out of laptops because someone forgot their password (or “forgot” to share it with me ;-)

    Then, given that AMT can be taken, this from the second link becomes more interesting than they imply:

    It could be spotted by a separate standalone firewall, but it wouldn’t be picked up by a host-based firewall. Another attraction to an attacker is that the embedded processor is designed to provide remote out-of-band capabilities like power cycling and KVM, even if the main processor is powered down.

    SOL can also communicate over the LAN if a physical connection exists, regardless of whether networking is enabled on the host.

    Microsoft also offers the hypothesis that if Platinum infected a system that didn’t have AMT enabled, it could use stolen admin credentials and the technology’s host-based provisioning to fire up a subset of AMT (including SOL) using its own credentials.

    Whether using stolen credentials and full ATM access, or the limited access offered by a host-based provisioned machine, Platinum then exploited SOL to transfer malware over the LAN.

    So yet another cheer for a separate secondary router based firewall and your own IDS/IPS box… then looks like “unplug the network wire” even if you don’t have networking turned on (or even the box powered up, as I read it…)

    And folks wonder why I plug my computers into a power strip with an OFF switch… I just HATE “soft power down” and when I want power off I want it OFF!!! now!

    So my shutdown sequence is power down computer, switch off monitor, flip switch on power strip so ALL is zero power: computer, monitor, disks, hubs, etc. etc.

    Very hard to get “action” out of cold metal and plastic…

    Then in the third link:

    “Huawei uses its own Kirin ARM designs”

    Kirin is the Chinese secure version of Linux/BSD OS that they wrote to get rid of USA backdoors. So any guesses just why that would be an issue for the USA Government?…

    While I generally have zero trust for anything Chinese I have less for the USA major makers as they are TLA driven to put in known backdoors and weaknesses. In that context, I’d take Kirin over Microsoft.

    (Though I’ll take a Korean built ARM board with an open source Linux on it over both…)

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    As my spouse “Doesn’t DO below zero” (or really below freezing) and can’t stand slippery surfaces (like, oh, snow) that is not an option.

    However, as we’re thinking it’s going to be a motor coach, we will have the option of being snowbirds. Slowly migrating with the warmth / cool from Canada down to the Keys… perpetual “nice”… (Honorable Mention for visits to the Desert South West whenever “back east” is just a mess and, like now, all the warmth is out west…)

  32. Another Ian says:

    Re Wyoming

    The punch line in Baxter Black’s poem “Why do the trees all lean in Wyoming”

    “Let’s say the wind never blows in Wyoming
    Under eighty five miles an hour”

  33. David A says:


    My favorite comment on the dolphin story;
    “….She has realised that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans……”

    Clearly, the dolphin is a capitalist and the trainer is a communist.
    The dolphin realized that her reward would remain constant regardless of the effort and ingenuity she demonstrated.
    So, to “game” the system, to receive rewards commensurate with her efforts, she devised the “torn paper ” scheme.
    The commie trainer, too brain washed and immersed in communist ideology, is unable, or more likely, to fearful, to shift his behavior and adjust to the scam. After all, best not have your superiors suspect that you may be a “kulak,” (and we all know the fate of real or imagined kulaks).”

  34. p.g.sharrow says:

    Survivalist Beer;
    Vitavegamin in a bottle at 9% ;-) …pg

  35. E.M.Smith says:


    At 9% and made from fruit, sounds more like a sparkling wine than beer to me; but hey, I’m all for it either way!

    Too bad they are making so few of them… There’s millions of survivalists and they would make a great gift for them.

  36. Another Ian says:


    Got your microscope and scalpel ready?

    15 Jan: CarbonBrief: Q&A: How do climate models work?
    by Robert McSweeney & Zeke Hausfather


    Link in there

  37. Another Ian says:


    Re Hawaiian emergency and computer security. Link at

    And comments

  38. Larry Ledwick says:

    Looks like the investigation process is getting to the meat of what happened during the election and prior – if this stuff checks out and is true, going to be a rough road for a bunch of folks in Congress and our security LEO organizations when all this get exposed to the public.

    As always can’t count your chickens before they hatch but it appears this is getting too big to hide any longer, no matter what the major media does.

  39. Larry Ledwick says:

    This might be the beginning of the digital currency shake out.

    A couple hits like this and the small players will panic and run – when the buy on the dip folks no longer cover the losses the value will collapse in all likelihood once the expectation of continuous appreciation in value breaks.

  40. Larry Ledwick says:

    More on bitcoin plunge –
    (note : if something cannot continue indefinitely it will eventually end; exponential growth cannot continue indefinitely – hence bitcoin panic buying is coming to an end. Much of recent growth in bitcoin was financed by credit card depth Those folks are now thousands of dollars in the hole on high interest rate credit card debt.)

    A quick search shows there are multiple outlets for purchasing bitcoin by credit card or with second mortgages. (who thought up this idiotic idea and who wins if lots of people do that? Cui bono )

    This is the close out strategy for folks milking the foolish.
    1. Acquire a good stock of bit coins.
    2. Begin a relentless public info campaign to get folks to jump on the band wagon before it is too late ( Buy gold now strategy)
    3. Dump all your bit coins to folks stupid enough to buy digital currency on their credit cars.
    4. Laugh all the way to the bank, as their debt explodes.

  41. catweazle666 says:

    Anybody fancy some tulip bulbs?

  42. Larry Ledwick says:

    Food for thought on our exposure to IOT security issues.

  43. Larry Ledwick says:

    Chatter on twitter is getting very animated about the FBI/FISA information and expect it to blow up the Democratic / Media narrative when it finally becomes public. This plumb may finally be ripe for picking.

  44. jim2 says:

    Fake news, honey pot, ??? …

    “Al-Qaeda Bomb Instructions are a Free Download at Barnes & Noble”

  45. Larry Ledwick says:

    Per the memo from twitter:
    Katrina Pierson
    4 hours ago

    BREAKING: DOJ/FBI FISA abuse found in House Intel Committee probe described by lawmakers as “shocking,” “troubling” and “alarming,” with one congressman likening the details to KGB activity in Russia. AMERICANS DEMAND RELEASING THE MEMO! 😡 #MAGA 🇺🇸

    Sara A. Carter
    7 hours ago

    MY LATEST: A Bombshell House Intelligence report exposing extensive FISA abuse could lead to the removal of senior government officials via @@SaraCarterDC

    Josh Caplan
    30 seconds ago

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) nods his head *Yes* before conceding he can’t talk specifics when Sean Hannity asks if Comey knew about FISA abuses.

    6 hours ago
    18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy

    Chad Pergram‏

    GOP AZ Rep Biggs on FISA abuse memo: I will be joining several of my colleagues to urge House leadership to declassify this material. Nothing within this memo would impair national security. My constituents deserve full transparency on this issue.

  46. Another Ian says:

    “Gold is the money of Royalty
    Silver is the money of Gentlemen
    Paper is the money of Fools
    Credit is the money of Slaves
    Bitcoin is the money of Suckers I guess ”

    Comment at

  47. E.M.Smith says:


    Interesting quote in that FISA link:

    “Take it to the bank, the FBI/FISA docs are devastating for the Dems. The whole image of a benevolent Barack Obama they’ve disingenuously tried to portray is about to be destroyed. The real Obama, the vengeful narcissist, is going to be exposed for all to see,” tweeted Dan Bongino

    Maybe Dan ought to tell us what he really thinks?! ;-)

  48. p.g.sharrow says:

    Early Bronze Age metal workers in the Aegean:

    A pyramid of metal worker buildings/shops on a small island…pg

  49. E.M.Smith says:


    The earliest we know of the Celts, they have intricate and fine metal works in their grave goods.

    That does NOT happen overnight.

    I think we will find that Celts were working metal way earlier than generally attributed, but that it wasn’t in gold so much, so most of those metals didn’t survive thousands of years in the wet ground.

    Vikings had a very good steel sword. Turns out that the metal in them was coming from India. When that trade broke down, the Viking swords got worse. Their smiths could work iron and steel into blades, but didn’t know how the Indian smiths made steel. So one also needs to dig way back in the history of India to find the earliest smiths and metalworks. Those, IMHO, are a few hundred feet under water off the coast of the Indus region…

    Basically, IF they have found something on dry land, it isn’t the oldest… by many thousands of years. It’s the post flood apocalypse recovery era.

  50. p.g.sharrow says:

    I would suspect metal working began nearly as early as stone working. There are a number of natural occurring native metal alloys that would have been available. Gold. Copper/ Silver, Tin, Platinum, Iron, Nickel. Copper would have been available in large pieces. I saw one in Anchorage Alaska at the Matanuska Bank that weighed nearly a ton! Metals would have been used up or recycled many times. There is a Iron column in India that originally was most likely a meteor as it has not rusted like the rest of the Iron columns there. Smelting metals out of stony outcrops after the easy to gather placers and native nuggets were worked out would have begun much later, after hot working and melting to pour shapes was well known. Old stone is just pitched out but old metal is recycled. So we find very little old metal lying around.
    Nearly anyone could learn to find and use stone. Only a Smith could learn to work valuable metals and even fewer still magically wring it out of stone!…pg

  51. Another Ian says:

    Now here’s a snazzy title for a site

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