On Being a Denialist Part 5

Apart from a bunch of apparently deranged sceptics (The Dragon Slayers) everyone involved in the science of The Great Climate Debate accepts the general principal that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbs photons (energy) emitted by the Earth’s surface and re-emits them, some of which inevitably return to the Earth’s surface. Despite the protestations of the Slayers, photons have no idea which direction they are to travel in (bar a God who cares about such things). This leads to the Earth’s surface being warmer than it would be if there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CAGWers have a nasty habit of claiming that all sceptics of imminent Thermageddon refuse to accept this well-tested property of carbon dioxide. For those unfamiliar with atmospheric physics, Science of Doom made an educational (and quite technical) series of posts some time ago if you feel the need to come up to speed with the underpinnings.

As The Git pointed out in an earlier post, most accept the calculation of MODTRAN5 that a doubling of CO2 level in the atmosphere leads to ~1°C of temperature increase. However, this is ceteris paribus (all other things being equal). And where the real world is concerned, things are only very rarely ceteris paribus. An increase in CO2 inevitably leads to an increase in the amount of plant food available to plants.

Continue reading

Phishing Alert: Network Solutions

In the past, The Git’s domain registrar (NetSol) has issued warnings about phishing attacks via email:

Phishing Alert : Please watch for emails like this

We have been receiving reports that some customers are receiving spam/phishing emails that are fraudulent. There are reports that customers of other registrars are also receiving similar spam/phishing emails. The email we have seen has the subject line “Attention: domain will be expired soon.” There is a link the email that says “‘Renew your domain now and while it shows  http://www.networksolutions.com it actually goes tohttp://www.networksolutions.com.com42.asia>  now look closer , the link actually goes to the domain “com42.asia “. There are other domains and subject lines that are being used.   Please delete the email if it is suspicious.   We want you to know that we are taking every possible measure to protect our Customers from this attack and mitigate its impact. We are working very closely with the Registries as well as ISPs to detect any new domains from which these attacks are coming and shut them down.

The Git’s bank, ISPs and others have all warned against clicking links in unsolicited emails; indeed, The Git has taught hundreds of email users the same. It was surprising then when The Git received the following email from NetSol:

Dear Customer, New Regulations now require that domain account holders confirm their email information otherwise their domain will be deactivated. If your domain is deactivated you will still own the domain but you will not be able to have a live website until you verify your contact information. To ensure your domain(s) remain active, please click the CONFIRM button below to confirm the email address we have for you is accurate. CONFIRMIf you have any questions, feel free to contact customer service at 1-888-642-0209.

Note that it’s “Dear Customer”, not “Jonathan Sturm” (my name isn’t really Pompous Git), nor does The Git’s account number occur anywhere in the email. Think of how the likes of Amazon and PayPal contact you. Further, the “New Regulations” aren’t linked to. What New Regulations? Despite a flurry of emails to support from The Git’s email address, NetSol have been adamant that responding to emails sent to that address is not confirmation that this email address is “accurate”. Only clicking on the link will confirm its accuracy. Nor is NetSol willing (or perhaps able) to tell me what and where these “New Regulations” are! Being mail-bombed by one’s domain registrar is, to say the least, unpleasant. So, The Git decided to transfer his domains to a new registrar (see below). Initiating the transfer (obtaining the relevant EPP Keys) generated a message that these would be made available within three working days. However, a subsequent email from NetSol stated:

If you intend to transfer this domain name please call Network Solutions at 1-888-642-9675 to request assistance from a transfer specialist.

WTF! The Git lives in Tasmania and NetSol are in the USA. The cost of such a telephone call would doubtless be astronomical given Telstra’s international call rates. Just how fucking hard is it to issue an EPP Key? Well, The Git happens to know the answer to that question. The http://www.pompousgit.com domain was registered with Uber Global (it was a birthday present some years ago) and it took seconds for them to issue an EPP Key. The Git has put NetSol on notice that he knows ICANN require the Key to be issued within six working days. Given NetSol’s recent propensity for annoying its customers, The Git is far from hopeful. Some time ago, NetSol began using subterfuge when renewing accounts. Items that one didn’t want were preslected and added into the account with no obvious way to remove them if you happened to notice before completing the transaction. For example, hiding one’s personal details from anyone performing a “whois” search. Since one’s personal details are usually a matter of public record (telephone directory, electoral roll etc) there is nothing to be achieved from this exercise beyond enriching the registrar. see http://blog.adrianroselli.com/2012/11/network-solutions-and-dark-patterns.html for some details. Some years ago, when The Git chose his first hosting service, the one he chose had just become a registrar when ICANN decided to remove Verisign/NetSol’s monopoly. He registered a domain with them and pointed it to a subdomain on his website. The hosting service subsequently sold their registrar business to GoDaddy. GoDaddy, unlike Netsol, didn’t send a renewal notice and sold that domain to a squatter who wanted far more to allow The Git its continued use than he was prepared to pay. It must be said that The Git’s continuing use of NetSol was almost entirely due to this as they sent out renewals both by email and snail mail for many years and to The Git’s mind this justified the extra cost. So, The Git asked his Internet savvy friends who he should choose as his new registrar. The answer was http://www.active-domain.com/ who extend your domain registration from its current expiry date by one year for a remarkably low fee. Additionally, extras that many registrars charge for are free. Quite why some business think that annoying the bejesus out of customers is a Good Idea escapes me.

Update

Managed to persuade NetSol to give me the auth codes for my domains and transfer is underway. However, when I last renewed I for whatever reason decided to turn on autorenew. Turning autorenew off cannot be achieved through either NetSol’s web interface or via email. It must be done through telephoning. Only problem with that is the telephone number is not accessible from Tasmania; I just get the engaged tone. Bastages! I’ll just have to cancel my credit card and go through all the shemozzle of updating all the places I make regular payments. I’m not usually given to hatred, but this has been the week from hell! The only upside in this was discovering that Telstra no longer charge like a wounded bull for international calls. They are actually quite reasonable — less than I was paying for prepaid mobile local calls three years ago.

Update 2

Fortunately, NetSol eventually responded to my complaints and has removed the autorenew from my accounts. They telephoned me and despite the difficulty understanding what was being said to me, managed to make them understand what it was that I wanted — after the second telephone call. It turns out that what they want are the answers to your personal questions that supposedly protect you from having your account spoofed. Of course if my password had been cracked by a malicious hacker, they could then have readily edited the answers to those questions.

Entering my account now generates a nag screen that tells me that I no longer have the protection of Autorenew , as well as my Domain Setup being “only 65% complete”. If The Git really wanted to be endlessly nagged he’d be married to SMBO. Oh wait… he already is ;-)

More secure is a two level security system as used by The Git’s bank and WordPress. After entering the correct username and password, access is only granted after keying in a numeric code that is sent to the user’s mobile phone. If you lose your phone, all is not lost, however. WordPress give you a list of numbers that you can use to regain access to your account. Keeping that list on a sheet of paper is as bad of course unless it’s in a safe.

More convenient is PasswordSafe, free software that allows you to create a secure database of usernames and passwords. You protect the database with a secure password. Secure passwords include upper and lower case letters, numbers and none alpha-numeric characters such as @, #, %, & and $. True security requires different passwords for different places and remembering ever so many passwords with differing none alpha-numeric characters is impossible for most of us. Memorising one is all that is required with PasswordSafe (and other similar products The Git doesn’t use).

It’s difficult to describe the feeling The Git had when he clicked on the large, red CONFIRM button in the email from NetSol. After training ever so many clients to not ever do such a thing and never having done that thing (and thus remained relatively malware and virus-free for decades), it was a truly painful experience. One that The Git hopes he will never have to endure again.

NBN Final Comment

Our NBN connection is now working after a relatively minor problem was fixed: the ethernet cable that came with the router was faulty. That said, it finally became possible to assess the government’s speed claims and compare them to reality. Is the NBN really faster broadband than ADSL, or is it just a boondoggle to transfer $AU6 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the ALP’s mates and matesses?

The plan The Git purchased claims a download speed of 12 Mb/s and uploads at 1 Mb/s. Actual measured download speeds have varied between 1.3 and almost 5 Mb/s. That is, when demand on the tower The Git is connected to is high, it is actually slower than my ADSL1 connection was most of the time. At best, it is less than 4 times faster despite supposedly being 8 times faster, and almost certainly considerably slower than could have been achieved over ADSL2. While I doubt that the ~25 Mb/s maximum achievable on ADSL2 was ever possible at The House of Steel, it would certainly have been much faster than ADSL1! Less than 5 Mb/s while claiming 12 Mb/s is definitely fraudband, rather than broadband especially in light of the very much restricted available bandwidth (~10%) at the same price point.

Averaging download speeds (actual, not theoretical) indicate that the connection works at 3.1 Mb/s which coincidentally is equal to the average speed achieved in Australian homes with the NBN rollout barely begun. If you think of Internet data as water flowing down a pipe, then it should be obvious that increasing the diameter of the pipe when it is only a quarter full will have no noticeable effect on the amount of water flowing down the pipe. Indeed, there are NBN users on Whirlpool’s forums attaining download speeds comparable to those experienced by The Git even though they have purchased a 25 Mb/s connection.

Since something of this nature was predicted in the very first post The Git made on the subject of the NBN, why would he have switched early from his adequate and inexpensive ADSL connection to the somewhat faster, but much vastly more expensive NBN? The early NBN rollout areas in Tasmania are now two months away from having their copper disconnected. Only 55% of households in those areas are now connected to the NBN. The latecomers are being told they will have to wait for an NBN connection, possibly in excess of 12 months in many cases. The main subcontractor to the NBN Co looks like declaring bankruptcy as NBN Co put them on hold for many months while their repayments on millions of dollars worth of equipment kept on rolling in. Most of their subcontractors have fled for they could not afford to wait on the rollout recommencing.

The great pity in all of this is what could have been achieved by putting more than $AU5.5 billion where it’s needed, hospitals for instance. Providing every household in the country with three redundant ethernet pots when almost nobody has any use for them has to be one of the most egregiously stupid decisions ever made. But then it was presumably with the approval of the execrable Conroy when he was Minister for Communications. He never seemed to understand what the Internet was all about, or communication for that matter.

“The regulation of telecommunications powers in Australia is exclusively federal. That means I am in charge of spectrum auctions, and if I say to everyone in this room ‘if you want to bid in our spectrum auction you’d better wear red underpants on your head’, I’ve got some news for you. You’ll be wearing them on your head. I have unfettered legal power.”

Story here.

Thought for the Day

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. — Emma Goldman

NBN Redux Part 2

When The Git chose his fixed wireless NBN plan, he (in consultation with SWMBO of course) decided to go without a landline line telephone service (actually a Voice Over IP service (VOIP)) via the ISP. A closer reading of what’s being offered is that our landline copper service is the only way to have a landline service with Fixed Wireless. Since the copper is to be disconnected in 2015 (as per the agreement between the previous ALP government and Telstra), this seems to imply that the only way to have a landline service after the disconnect date is to have an agreement with an ISP none of whom seem to provide a telephone only service. There is a connector on the router EscapeNet supply for VOIP and that also has four 1 Gb ethernet ports and 300 Mb WiFi, a slight overkill for those not needing Internet.

Why did we decide to eschew retaining a landline? Two ANZAC days ago, at approximately 5 am in the morning, an American telemarketer phoned. “Why,” The Git asked this idiot, “would I purchase anything from a criminal?”

“I’m not a criminal,” he responded.

“First, it’s before 9 am. Second it’s a weekend. Third it’s a public holiday. Fourth this number is on the do not call list. That’s four crimes so far.”

The idiot replied: “Australian law does not apply to US citizens!”

“Oh goodie,” replied The Git, “That means I can tell the next American I meet, as I murder him/her, that I have it on good authority he is not protected by Australian law!”

Going without stupid telemarketers will be no hardship. BiilG once wrote that he thought we should be able to charge unknown callers thus reducing their number. Such a facility is presumably not too difficult to implement now that telephony is firmly controlled by computers. Of course there would need to be a way to cancel the charge if one decided that the caller really did have something important to say. Sadly, very few voice calls are worth the time they consume these days.

NBN Redux

The Git has commented previously on Australia’s NBN. When he received a friendly letter from NBN Co on February 21, he was very mindful of people wishing to be connected to the NBN being told that they would have to wait even though they are in regions “serviced” by the company. Up to 12 months in some instances. Apparently, even when an area is declared as having NBN, there are insufficient connections available to provide for everyone, even though some of these hopefuls are told that they will be disconnected from the copper network in a few months.

So, The Git (never one to be hesitant) began investigating the list of potential ISPs who supposedly provide Internet access to the NBN in his locale. Interestingly, all but two of these providers told The Git that he did not have NBN access, so they were out of the running. That left IINet and EscapeNet (who?) as the only potential candidates. A long and friendly chat with a knowledgeable person at IINet had them out of the running. The offer was 25 GB/month for $AU40 at 12 Mb/s, somewhat slower than the Gitling’s ADSL2, but it’s all The Git can afford. This included unlimited Internet gaming and ABC iView, but The Git’s use of these services is fairly minimal.

EscapeNet on the other hand were offering 50GB/month, same speed, same price, a far more realistic offer. So, The Git signed up. On 25 February, the order was confirmed (that is we did have access to fixed wireless broadband as NBN Co claimed). Three days later an email from EscapeNet confirmed that installation would proceed on 6 March between 8 am and noon. Oddly, the email contained both The Git’s username and password in plain text! NBN Co telephoned the day before to confirm that The Git would be home at the agreed time.

Somewhat after 8 am the NBN sub-contractor turned up and installed the NBN-supplied equipment and it was all done and dusted by mid-day. Here’s the evidence: Continue reading

What is This Thing Called Climate?

One of the oddest things about the debate (that’s supposedly over) regarding climate is how very little of the discussion is actually about climate. Let’s start by defining what is generally meant by the term. From the OED:

3. a. Condition (of a region or country) in relation to prevailing atmospheric phenomena, as temperature, dryness or humidity, wind, clearness or dullness of sky, etc., esp. as these affect human, animal, or vegetable life.

Originally, climate meant a region, inclination or slope. “The meaning passed in Greek through the senses of ‘slope of ground, e.g. of a mountain range’, the supposed ‘slope or inclination of the earth and sky from the equator to the poles’, ‘the zone or region of the earth occupying a particular elevation on this slope, i.e. lying in the same parallel of latitude’, ‘a clime’, in which sense it was adopted in late Latin.” Aristotle identified three climates, the Northern frigid zone, a Torrid zone to the South and the region between was Temperate as that’s where all the civilised people lived. He also believed that there was a corresponding temperate and frigid zone South of the torrid zone, but that we would never be able to confirm this since, by extrapolation, life could not exist in the torrid zone. Ah, the perils of extrapolation from what is know to what is not yet known!

Moving forward in time a couple of millennia, Russian German climatologist Wladimir Köppen devised  the most widely used climate classification system. He first published his system in 1884 and it underwent several modifications, by himself and his collaborator, Rudolf Geiger. Quoting from the wiki-bloody-pedia:

The system is based on the concept that native vegetation is the best expression of climate. Thus, climate zone boundaries have been selected with vegetation distribution in mind. It combines average annual and monthly temperatures and precipitation, and the seasonality of precipitation.

Continue reading

On Being a Denialist Part 4

There is a concept in psychology called Magical Thinking which may be characterised by perception of causal relationships where science can find none. An example is the cargo cult in the Pacific nations after World War 2. The natives of the region had observed during that war that aircraft delivered many useful goods: food, tools, clothing etc. After the armed forces left the region, the aircraft stopped arriving and so did the associated goods they had previously delivered. The natives built symbolic aircraft out of local materials in order to obtain a resumption of the goods that they called cargo. Of course the cargo never arrived because it wasn’t the shape of the aircraft that was the cause of the arrival of cargo during WW2.

In current CAGW climatology there is a similar magical association between two distinctly different physical concepts: temperature and energy. The latter can be in many forms so the preferred physical concept of energy in many circumstances is enthalpy,  the “measure of the total energy of a thermodynamic system. It includes the system’s internal energy and thermodynamic potential (a state function), as well as its volume and pressure (the energy required to “make room for it” by displacing its environment, which is an extensive quantity). The unit of measurement for enthalpy in the International System of Units (SI) is the joule [J].”

To illustrate, sea level air at 25°C and 10% relative humidity (RH) has enthalpy of 30.4 kJ/kg. Sea level air at 25°C and 90% RH has enthalpy of 71.8 kJ/kg, ~2.4 times the energy despite the same dry bulb temperature. So, when climatologists (regardless of any associated beliefs) talk of a “Global Average Surface Temperature Anomaly” (GASTA) they refer to the averaging of temperatures regardless of the enthalpy (energy content) of the air that is sampled. This would be fine if it were temperatures that arrived at the Earth from the Sun, but it’s not. What arrives from the Sun is energy: electromagnetic energy that is mainly in the form of visible light, but includes ultraviolet and infra red photons too.

Let’s first look at what temperature is and what averaging temperatures might mean. Put simply, temperature is a measure of the rate of vibration of molecules in thermal equilibrium. In thermal equilibrium means that the molecules are all vibrating at the same rate. If you have a metal rod where one end is in a fire and the other in a bowl of ice water, then heat energy is flowing from the hot end to the cold end. There is no thermal equilibrium and hence no defined temperature. Similarly, the Earth is not in thermal equilibrium and hence has no defined temperature. If there were such a definition you might expect to find such at The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Toward a Global Microwave Standard

Much of what is known about decadal climate change – and much of what appears on the evening weather forecast as well – comes from satellite-based remote sensing of microwave radiation at different levels in the Earth’s atmosphere. Microwave measurements are generally reported as the apparent temperature of the object being monitored.  Yet, at present, there is no accepted brightness-temperature (radiance) standard for microwaves that can be used for authoritative calibration of microwave sensors, for resolving discrepancies between readings from different satellites, or for comparing one program’s results with another’s.

Weather and climate uses for microwave remote sensing measurements require that the observed temperature be accurate within 1 kelvin or less. But existing measurements cannot be made with that accuracy or reliability. “Right now,” says David Walker, Project Leader for Microwave Remote Sensing in PML’s Electromagnetics Division, “new data coming from nominally identical instruments can differ by as much as a couple of kelvin.”

Well there’s a good reason to accept the calculations of GISS and CRU then. They tell us that they calculate GASTA to an accuracy of a tenth of a Kelvin (Celsius degree). But try as he might, The Git cannot find on NIST’s website, in Oke’s Boundary Layer Climates or anywhere else a Standard Definition of either Earth’s temperature or GASTA. There might be a very good reason for this — several good reasons in fact.

Consider what we are doing when we calculate the average length (arithmetic mean) of a bunch of sticks. Let’s say we have three sticks of lengths 2, 4 and 5 metres. We can lay them end to end, measure that length (11 metres), divide by three (the number of sticks) and discover the average length to be 3.6 metres.

Now let’s try the same with temperatures. Let’s say we have three beakers of water, one at 0°C another at 10°C and the third at 20°C. Mix the contents of the beakers together, wait for thermal equilibrium and measure the result. Do this several times. At no time is there ever a temperature of 30°C (the sum of the three temperatures) unlike the stick example where there is a well-defined 11 metres of stick. Worse, depending on the ratio of liquid water to ice in the 0°C sample, the resulting temperature might well be an entirely different value to 10°C which is the average of the three temperatures. Indeed, repeat the experiment a sufficient number of times to sufficient accuracy and you might well deduce that there are an infinite number of possible average temperatures.

So, what exactly is happening here in the second example compared to the first? Length and ever so many other physical values are extensive. Extensive values can be legitimately averaged. Temperature and ever so many other physical values are intensive and therefore attempting to average them is said to be physically undefined.

The Global Average Surface Temperature Anomaly calculation is just such a physically undefined operation as described above. First, the individual average temperature at a recording station is calculated. At some stations this is the sum of the hourly temperatures divided by 24 (the number of hours in a day). At others the minimum temperature is subtracted from the maximum and the result divided by two. This average is called the median and in the sticks example above is 3.5 metres and clearly not the same value  as the arithmetic mean (3.6 m).

These average temperatures of the sampled air (and water in the case of HadCRUT) are then further averaged together to be compared with the average of temperatures over a particular length of time. The current average is then differenced from the period of time average to generate the Global Surface Temperature Anomaly as a proxy for enthalpy.

While this might make sense to climatologists, to The Git’s philosophical mind it more closely resembles numerology than any kind of description of a well-defined physical reality. Cargo cultism. Magical thinking.

And here endeth this lesson.