Thursday, January 17, 2008

Toolin' around

Looks like I'm late with this week's edition, but Max is still not well, and we've been running him back and forth to vet. My kitty is not happy, so I'm not happy!

Anyway, without further ado, lets have a look at what has been running around my head this past week.

As a species, we seem to have an instinctive need to place blame. This, combined with a desire to avoid conflict seems to make for a really messed up society, because if we can't blame people, what can we blame? In too many cases it seems that we just turn around and blame inanimate objects.

You've all heard the slogan "Guns don't kill people, I do", right? Well, it's the same for cars, knives, rocks, nmap and netstat (with or without the -rn switch). And yet we still want to restrict these tools instead of dealing with the people who use them to do bad things.

If guns kill people, how come Switzerland isn't awash with blood? Why doesn't Norway look like the scene of a John Woo movie on a weekly basis? Maybe the real problem is the culture that the guns are used in, and not the tools themselves? Ya think? Nah, can't be.

Now before you miss the entire point of this article (you know, the 70 odd percent below this bit and latch onto the gun comment) if anyone has a right to hate guns, after the last time I saw my mom, that would be me. But I don't - I still see them as a useful tool for the most part.

I will grant that some tools can only be used for bad; take nucular missiles for example. But try to stay focussed on the bigger picture here, m'kay?

The UK knife laws are bad enough as it is. Does anyone know what the actual conditions under which you can legally carry a blade in London are? I've got a rough idea, but I've never been able to get someone to give me a definitive yes / no answer.

Can I carry my R30,000 Leatherman? Common sense and interpretation of the law before Gordon Brown's instruction to the police to charge anyone caught with a blade would say, yes, I can. But do we really want to rely on common sense in a country where the government and the police have shown a consistent lack thereof? Is it worth the risk of getting a 5 year jail sentence because a plod decides he wants to put me away for a while? Remember, we're talking about the same country where you can get arrested under the terrorism act for walking on a cycle path! But try and get some guidance out of the Metropolitan Police on this issue - go on, I dare you!

Ok, so I shouldn't carry my Leatherman, despite how useful it's been to me in loads of situations over the years. The Kershaw, gorgeous though it is is right out. But now they want to take my software away!

Yep, you heard me right... Nanny would like me to put down my packet sniffer and step AWAY from the keyboard.

The dangerous section of the bill states the following:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers
to supply any article—

(a) knowing that it is designed or adapted for use in the course of
or in connection with an offence under section 1 or 3; or

The problem here is in the statement "... knowing that is is designed or adapted..." (emphasis mine). You see, many of the tools that I use to improve security, troubleshoot network problems or investigate connectivity issues could very well be adapted for nefarious purposes. But so can a length of rubber hose; I could use it to retrieve your encryption keys by beating you about the body with it for hours on end. And rubber hose isn't illegal! Nor are rocks, despite the hundreds of deaths that cavemen likely inflicted on each other using those WMDs. Won't somebody think of the cavemen!?

I make a good living in the IT world because I have something that many other people I've worked with over the years don't - I have an insatiable need to understand how things work. This makes me very good at my job because I understand things at a level that others often don't. I know how they fit together and what problems cause other problems. I know to check that the cable is plugged in, rather than calling the vendor, writing a suite of software diagnostic tools and sacrificing a chicken. Well, ok, maybe the chicken thing is a useful step, but I digress.

I have none of your fancy university larnin'... I've learnt everything I know by prodding, by pulling things apart, by trying to do stuff and seeing what happens. And now my government want to hamstring me, they want to reduce the technical abilities of an entire generation, and the only thing their actions will achieve is to make Britain less secure and less able to deal with attacks on our systems.

You could argue that it will probably still be OK to own a copy of nmap and that if you're a Linux distro, you can still safely ship tcpdump and *gasp* telnet. But you could also argue that it's alright to walk on the cycle path. At the end of the day, you'd probably never be punished for having these tools unless they were looking for a reason to put you away. Then, all the little things you're guilty of (and honestly, who isn't guilty of something these days?) can be used to make you go away. Remember, we now live in a world when you can get a $60,000 fine for running
$     host -l

What happened to punishing people who did bad things, you know those we refer to as 'guilty', rather than punishing the rest of us? When did it become the role of government to cripple our economy and hand the competitive edge to other countries?


  • I am latching on to the gun comment, sorry. It's very easy to kill someone with a gun. Not as easy without. That's why US homicide rates are 6 times those of England and Wales - not because we are nicer people. Take a look at the comparison for neonatal /infant homicides - the rates are almost the same for the two countries. It's easy to kill a baby; you don't need a gun for that.

    Our gun laws don't need relaxing.

    By Blogger Clare, at 9:46 pm  

  • I'm going to try not to detract from the whole post by getting into the gun discussion... but it's pretty easy to kill someone with a knife too.

    I'm still going to state that guns aren't the problem in America, and it doesn't come down to being nicer or not nicer. Bluntly put, the yanks are mad as a box of frogs, and if it wasn't guns, they'd probably drive hummers into shopping centres to squish people. Again, look at places like Norway and Switzerland where gun ownership is through the roof on a per capita basis, but gun crime is lower than the UK where, in theory, you can't get guns.

    It all comes down to culture... The yanks and the saffas are just nuts, so they kill each other. Take their guns away, and they'll just find another way to do it :D

    By Blogger Anonymouslemming, at 9:50 pm  

  • Sorry Max is unwell.
    My cat is an innate source of amusement, horror, wonder and bemusement in a generally cyclical arrangement, with any arrangement of the above occurring within seconds as she so desires.
    She's also cost a bomb to keep alive, so I guess it's a good deal on both sides.

    I've witnessed Bubble (For such is her name) explode from stationary to top speed to into a wall just because I entered the room. I've witnessed her attempt to outfox her own approaching reflection in a mirror door as it swung inexorably towards her. I've watched her skid poo down my hallway like some kind of deranged monster from a Korean disturbo-flick. The list goes on, and generally it's resulted in me laughing like a baboon whilst the good lady wife berated my lack of understanding.
    So I understand your natural concern for one of natures more bizarre creations.

    With regard to the gun thing - Maybe Chris Rock is right. Maybe there should be a bullet tax at $5,000 per round.

    I'm sure this post is blithering and useless, but hey; it's my first one ever!

    It's Monkey Boy, by the way. But this thing wouldn't accept my Google account. For a bloke that works in IT I seem to have inordinate trouble making this interweb stuff work...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:09 pm  

  • Sorry to ram this one home, but it's definitely a case of guns not killing people, people kill people. As saffa, I should know. Here we do it with cars, rocks, ropes and anything else comes to hand! The minibus taxi is fast becoming the weapon of choice. Hafta agree with the Lemming - it's a mentality thaaang! And certain nations have the mentality! Gun Control, as is proved in the UK, only removes guns from the hands of law abiding citizens - the crims don't bother with minor irritations such as registering a firearm. 99% of gun crime in the UK is committed with illegal firearms by criminals with the mentality of a saffa or yank.

    By Anonymous The Ancient Beach Bum, at 3:54 pm  

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