Friday, April 30, 2021

Hacker Update


Pleased to report that my little scheme for recovering the files on my hacked NAS device has been successful, I reckon I've pulled off most if not all of the photo's and sundries that had been illegally encrypted. The process took quite a while though (about 45 hours!) and now I have a drive full of files with meaningless names, the file extensions are ok though so it just means going through everything again and sorting it out into the directory structure that I had before (so I can find things), a job for a rainy day me thinks! Although, judging by the weather forecast we're about to get quite a few of those! I spent a couple of hours today tightening down my security set-up, it's amazing how many potential holes there are if you simply accept factory defaults for devices like this, I can't imagine anyone who isn't particularly computer literate trying to work out how to recover their lives from an attack like this or even protect themselves adequately from future ones. 

It's no wonder these hackers get rich quick, apparently this scam netted around half a million dollars in a few days from people paying the ransom. The problem is that this only spurs criminals on to attempt hacks like this even more often, in fact I believe there's another one affecting consumer NAS devices going on right now! I'm determined that it's going to be impossible for anyone to access this device from outside (i.e. the public internet) from now on! Anyway, I'm never going to rely on it again for anything that can't be easily restored, backups are moving to the cloud for me from now on!

Party Animals


I popped over to one of my local craft beer brewers (Elusive Brewing) to pick up a couple of interesting cans for the weekend. I happened to notice this chap slumped over an old barrel, all I can think is that it must have been one hell of a party the night before! Looks like they're about to water-board the poor fella, still, if they use their beer instead of water I'd be up for trying that, although, maybe that's how he got into this state in the first place?

Friday Smirk

I always find it amusing that telling children they're going to burn in agony for eternity for questioning what their parents believe, without any evidence whatsoever, is just fine by many people. And yet, point out the obvious contradictions and nonsense in those same people's holy books and they may just cut your throat. The ever excellent J&M strip pointing out the obvious dissonance that many of our brothers and sisters suffer with.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Pious-Pic of the Week

Here we have some poor sod getting ten shades of sh1t kicked out of him by a couple of handy looking rabbits.. Not sure what it means, but the whole Easter bunny thing is starting to make more sense..


Wednesday, April 28, 2021


It's been a hectic few days for me. I discovered on Monday that my NAS drive (where I archive old documents, photo's and music) had been hacked and that the hackers had managed to upload a modified version of a utility program (7zip) which ran through all of my files and encrypted them! Of course I don't know the key to unlock them and so they're effectively useless, it's called a ransomware attack, i.e. they're holding your data to ransom. To get the "key" I'm supposed to upload 0.01 bitcoins ($500) to a dodgy web site on the Tor network and when I do that I'll be shown the password to unlock the files. Of course there's absolutely no way I'm going to pay, that just encourages these scumbags to do this kind of thing even more and is effectively encouraging crime IMO.

For those not IT savvy a NAS drive is simply a mass storage device that allows you to store lots of stuff and have it protected from disk failure, the device supports multiple redundant disk-drives (RAID) so if one fails the remaining drives have enough information on them to rebuild the failed drive including all it's data.  Now, all I use this device for is storage but over the years the manufacturers of these kinds of devices have loaded them up with crappy software that attempts to lure people into spending more money. Things like media servers, backup software, games, cloud services, development tools, web servers and the like are pre-loaded whether you want them or not. The vulnerability that these particular hackers exploited turns out to be one of these crappy backup tools which I never actually wanted nor used, my only errors were firstly, not getting rid of all the crap software before using the device and secondly, allowing the NAS drive to be exposed to the internet, although the latter is quite useful as it allows remote administration (which is why I did it) My normal firewall rules were quite sufficient to shield the device from conventional internet attacks but once you have a backdoor into something already running behind the firewall, as this crappy backup utility apparently was, then you're screwed. Moral of the story, wipe all the crappy, unnecessary software off of devices you buy before you use them and keep archive drives hidden behind a VPN or similar barrier.

Fortunately it's not a total loss since I have other copies of most files (albeit slightly old) elsewhere and not everything was encrypted, larger files seem to have been skipped so it's mostly recent photo's and documents. I have a couple of options to try in order to get these files back; at the moment I'm using a cluster of servers and some custom software to perform a brute force attack on the password, essentially that means trying millions of variations of password at the rate of about 100,000 per second, it's been running for several days now but hasn't cracked it. I'm not confident that this approach will work, the passwords are 32 characters in length and the number of possible permutations are well in excess of the number of atoms in the universe, but I'm banking on the developers of this hack being lazy and using a GUID as a password. GUIDs are an automatically generated base16 (Hex) number key set which limits the possible password characters to A-F and 0-9, significantly reducing the possibilities. My second line of attack, which is much more feasible, is to write some software that extracts data raw off the surface of the disk drives themselves, bypassing the operating system. The way computers work is that when you delete (or replace) a file (i.e. by encrypting it) the old version is usually still lurking around on the disk somewhere, it's directory entry is simply removed rendering it invisible to most normal software tools. However, if you can read the physical drives directly (which is possible) you can scrape off the old versions of most of the files, I've got a prototype of this kind of thing working but it's too slow, so I need to scale it up, a bit of multithreading (running things in parallel) should do the trick, even then it'll take all night to run. Hopefully that'll get back most of the files but it's a bit hit and miss and they'll be in a right mess afterwards, i.e. none of the original names will be maintained and some may be corrupted.

Next steps are to trash the NAS drive (it's going on the fire!), clearly these devices are now a target for hackers and scams, and are effectively a serious weakness in any network if exposed to the outside world. It's all because of hardware vendors and their crappy spam-ware, consumers should no longer have any confidence in their products until they sort this out (main vendors are QNAP and Synology). I'm switching to cloud storage (which I already use for other things) for all my archiving needs, it's pretty cheap these days and hopefully a little more robust.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Spring is in the air!

Lovely spring day today, didn't need a coat or sweater for a change, just like two years ago, only a week or so later (interesting!) I snapped the same shot from the same place, for comparison.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Swift half

We wandered into town yesterday evening and sat outside our favourite bar in the little square there, it was very nice. Only had a swift half as we had to get home to make dinner but it was nice while it lasted! I snapped this picture of the square and people enjoying the sunshine as a reflection in the bar window, it even felt quite warm out of the wind.


Friday, April 23, 2021

The Master..

A part of me resonates with this cartoon. I remember once, a few years ago now, some colleagues and I had a meeting with a pompous patent lawyer, he was rather rotund with a garish waistcoat and a handlebar moustache (a real Billy Bunter character) Anyway it was a rather pointless meeting as he didn't really have a clue about our industry and was leaning on his academic credentials (Oxford) more than any competence for our specific needs. At the end of the meeting we all went through the usual formalities, shook hands (remember that!) and relayed some pleasantries etc. Once he'd left the room we all burst out laughing and someone said "he looks just like the master off of Doctor Who" at which point everyone did Dalek impressions and said things like "I'm the MASTER" in a really deep voice, ah the joys of infantile humour. Anyway what we didn't realise was that before leaving the building our visitor had decided to pay a visit to the men's room and being a modern building (with paper thin walls) had heard everything we said, he stuck his head around the meeting room door and let us all know before he left. 

Somewhat embarrassing to say the least! As you can probably imagine the business relationship didn't progress any further and I always feel slightly guilty about taking the mickey out of him, then again, he was the dead spitting image of THE MASTER and clearly had no sense of humour, probably just as well we didn't engage him in the end.


Friday Smirk

It's clear when you read most parts of the three Abrahamic texts that the core preoccupation of it's many authors was to gain and retain converts to their particular flavour of belief, via a parochial power-grab using threats of goat-oriented violence (in this world or the next) This is starkly opposed to, you know, actually make any fucking rational sense or (God forbid) narrating anything objectively true. All we can conclude as a species from this state of affairs is that in order to build a reality-based, fair and inclusive society, you need more than one book!


Thursday, April 22, 2021

World to Rights

Our roving reporter Barry Brexit has been out and about again this week, looking at the key questions...

  • Why is it that whenever they put a new bench in the park, an old person has to die?
  • How come sin can be inherited but redemption can't?
  • Is the baby born in Iraq with triphallia going to turn out to be a clever dick?
  • Are Tory PM's against private (sports) companies making money using different (legal) strategies?
  • Do publicans in Bath know something the rest of the world doesn't? (err, no..)
  • If a white person identifying as black is wrong, why is a man identifying as a women different?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Dawkins "cancelled"

I see that the American Humanist Association have made a complete fool of themselves by withdrawing the 1996 Humanist of the Year award from Dicky Dawkins because of a tweet he made the other week. The tweet simply posed a (controversial) question to do with identity and people identifying as something but not actually being that thing (by established biological/scientific definitions) for example a white person identifying as black or a man identifying as a woman. Dawkins has posed questions like this on Twitter before, a few times, and the backlash can be amusing to watch, some people don't seem to understand the difference between holding a position on something vs. asking a question about something for the purposes of debate. I doubt anyone really cares about this but it's interesting to see how "woke" (the bad version of this epithet) some organizations have become these days. As it has in this case, it makes them very easy for people to dismiss as irrelevant, even worse for the Humanist Association it makes them look just like a religion, replete with blasphemy rules!


Tuesday, April 20, 2021


Spot the alien, congratulations NASA, amazing job!


Monday, April 19, 2021


It's always going to be a car crash between people when one side tries to put an immutable characteristic (i.e. sexuality) up against something that's just a set of ideas among many different sets of ideas..


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Nod to the West

Had a pint of this beauty while cooking dinner for the fam last night, a rarity from DEYA (Cheltenham) who normally make hazy, soft East Coast style beers. This one was definitely a nod to the West Coast, called "Bad Luck City" it's a clear, fruity, piney beer with a good solid bitter bite on the finish, very nice indeed!


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Saturday Smile

Saw this cartoon on the inter-webs, made me smile..


Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Smirk


Loved the original 1963 film of this classic book when I saw it as a kid!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Venturing Out?

Many people in the UK have already braved the freezing conditions and sat in a pub garden nursing a pint or two with friends, we're not quite keen enough to be in that club but we were discussing the possibility of an outing at the weekend instead. I have been following the numbers over this current lockdown and they do look positive for our local area, no new cases reported for a good few weeks now and less than 20 in the whole district (which is bigger in area and population than many counties) so from the point of view of risk it's probably negligible so long as we stay local. Added to the low risk of encountering someone with Covid-19 we've both been vaccinated now as well, so that also reduces the risks even further. So, I think on balance we should chance it, the next barrier seems to be actually finding somewhere (that we want to go) that isn't already rammed full, oh well, first world problems!

I must say that I'm not exaggerating when I say it's freezing here, I went out for a walk today (Thursday) and took this picture (below), it's not pretty or particularly distinct, but it's the remains of a snowman built on Monday - pretty unusual for mid-April around these parts!


Pious-Pic of the Week

The eternal role of religion perhaps, i.e. blowing smoke up your arse?


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Midweek Mirth

A classic Eric Idle tweet from 2012..


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A lot can happen in 10 years..

Christopher Hitchens on Mortality – Brain Pickings

“To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation—is that good for the world?”

― Christopher Hitchens

Hitch would have been 72 today, his intellect, wit and commentary are sorely missed. I'm sure he would have had a lot to say about the way things have turned out since he was forced to leave the party ten years ago.

Nanny State

Well, OK, fair enough, but I'm not sure why this has to be so specific?



So, I have all my fingers crossed that little "Ingenuity" will take to the skies of Mars in the coming days. A technical glitch prevented it's maiden flight on the 11th of this month when a pre-flight check cause the computer to shut down it's rotating blades as they approached full speed (2500 rpm), apparently a software patch installed over the air (some app update!) has hopefully fixed the issue. The whole idea of this is utterly mind boggling and perhaps a little bonkers? Flying on Mars is equivalent to flying at 100,000ft on Earth, over twice as high as any helicopter has ever flown, the technical challenges would be enormous down here, let alone up there on another planet 300 million kilometers away! 

One nice little Human touch is that onboard the Ingenuity craft is a tiny stamp sized piece of fabric, taken from the original "Wright Flyer" which ushered in the age of aviation over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina back in 1903. That first flight lasted 12 seconds, the maiden flight of Ingenuity will last around 30 but never the less will have that poignant and eternal link with it's famous predecessor. I can't wait to see the pictures..

Some achievement!


Monday, April 12, 2021

Economic surge vs British weather..

 OK, so who's looking forward to getting out to a pub garden today then?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Unsunny delights

I popped over to the Siren brewery yesterday and picked up a box of beer having run out (shock-horror!) So, while making dinner for the fam last night I supped on this beauty. It's a sour beer that I first tried last weekend at Siren's 8th birthday bash and it's called "Send me Sunshine". A collaboration with Slim Pickens in Florida, the beer literally had a ton (1300kg) of ripe mango pulp put in it, and as you can see looks just like juice! This one really pushes the definition of "beer", but tastes so refreshing and vivid, it's a shame the Sun didn't make an appearance though, still, we had some snow instead, which is nice.


Friday, April 09, 2021


Been interviewing people for a couple of jobs I have going at my company this week, it's a tricky thing to do remotely, difficult to read the body language and hard to really engage with someone at arms length. Still, it's not going too badly, may have snagged someone this week, even though their internet connection was awful and I could only hear two out of every three words they said! 

There seems to be a lot of people moving around at the moment, I reckon there's some kind of phycological effect due to lockdown going on, i.e. now that freedom is tangible people are using it to try to get a "fresh start", i.e. a few more quid and a change of scene etc. It's a pain in the backside for employers as those of us that invest heavily in people see pound notes walking out of the door when people leave. Anyway, I can't complain, the average tenure of a programmer in the Thames Valley at the moment is around 18 months, which is daft! Fortunately the average tenure at my company for a programmer is four and three quarters years which is much more manageable.


Pious-Pic of the Week

Perhaps this one is Jesus dishing out miracles? (so, what do you want for your second wish?)


Friday Smirk

J&M on the subject of theology this week, the study of the unknowable..


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Farming risks..

Looks like the price of wine is about to take a hike upwards. No, not Brexit this time (although that will increase prices too) but the awful weather we're getting at the moment. Places in Burgundy and Bordeaux have registered night time temperatures of minus 7 degrees more than once this last week or so! Unfortunately we had a reasonably warm February meaning that the vines had started budding, then what happens is that the severe frost essentially wipes the buds out causing a shock to the vine and limiting the number of grapes it can and will produce. The upshot of this kind of thing is usually that the harvest is much smaller in years like this and consequently the prices rise. 

If you're wondering what's going on in the picture above, some vineyards (the richer ones) light candles in between the vines to stave of the worst of the frost, but this only works to a limited extent, another technique is to fly a helicopter over the vineyard (yes really!) this moves warmer air down and helps to prevent ground frost. Clearly only the very elite producers can afford this! Nature can be so cruel, who'd be a farmer!?


How's it going?

The classic "how it started, how it's going" shot, a hijacked, burning bus on the Shankill road in Belfast, sadly ironic.

All hail the dark lord..

Saw an amusing argument between a Satanist and a Christian on social media the other day, the thread went something like this..

Christian: Satanists are evil because they follow the most evil being in the Universe, Satan!
Satanist: Satanists don't actually believe in the LITERAL devil
Christian: So, who believes in the LITERAL devil then?

I often see Christians arguing that Atheists must also be Satanists since they don't believe in the Christian god! It's almost like they think that anyone that doesn't think the way they do must be de-facto evil, a somewhat sociopathic way of thinking if you ask me. It's amusing to watch the obvious cognitive dissonance occurring when you tell them that you don't believe in the devil (or in fact any of the 20,000 gods that men have invented) either!


Wednesday, April 07, 2021


Wonderful new beer from Siren in collaboration with Yonder brewing (Somerset) on Sunday evening. A Märzen, which is a slightly dark/malty lager style originally invented in Germany (Bavaria) in the 16th century and brewed in March and kept in the cellar until late in the Summer. This example featured additions of orange zest and Amarillo hops (which have a slightly orange character) the effect is a crisp, dry, malty lager with a lovely fruity citrus core to it. Excellent!



Out for my daily walk today and came across this little fella. It's a postbox with a kind of crocheted lid! A bit of research on the interwebs revealed that apparently this is a "thing" in some towns where a knitting  club rallies round and makes toppers for all the postboxes in the area, of course there's a charity angle too! What a nice human touch, brightens the place up wonderfully!


Midweek Mirth

Yep, lockdown sure is starting to grate, we've had builders in for the last few days, loads of dust, windows open, freezing cold and furniture from 3 rooms piled into one, it's been hell. I've just camped out in my study and shut the door to it all, at least all the computing equipment keeps me warm..


Monday, April 05, 2021


I must agree, I always found that story to be totally confusing too.


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Name in lights

Carrying on from the previous post WRT the Siren Brewery's eighth birthday bash, here's the inside of the "Grateful Eight" can label. It's a roll call of all the people (in a very small font!) that have helped the brewery and it's team get this far, also investors (so my name is in there too!) Fancy that, getting your name on a can of beer, just livin the dream over here, livin the dream...

Birthday brews

Spent a contented few hours with some friends in the garden yesterday afternoon/evening celebrating the 8th birthday of our local craft brewery Siren (hence the 8 on one of the cans) The brewery had produced a special case of beers and other goodies to go with an online festival where they had tastings, shows, talks, entertainment and tons of other stuff, it was a really fun event, especially the lip-sync competition! There were three stand out beers for me, actually the three right hand cans in this picture. Bones of a Sailor is an imperial porter and was amazing, rich, deep, chocolaty with a real fruity core to it, the orange can was called Send Me Sunshine which is a collaboration with Slim Pickens brewery in Florida and was essentially a massive mango sour, pushing the definition of beer but delicious. The last one was the Grateful Eight (the can with the 8 on it) which was a classic double IPA with just about everything and the kitchen sink thrown at it, wonderful. Well done Siren and happy birthday!


Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday Smirk

Jesus and Mo. pointing out what they call in the trade, "to want your cake and eat it".. 


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Pious-Pic of the Week

So here we have the first Humans, Adam and Eve, made by Yahweh from scratch (well from dust in Adam's case and one of Adam's ribs in Eve's case, supposedly), seems simple enough? But in this rendition, they both have belly buttons? Think about that for a second (and, no, not an April fools joke)..