The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Some random person in Nebraska

Network security company CrowdStrike pushed a minor update to its Falcon Sensor product around 11pm Chicago time yesterday that managed to take down almost every virtual machine in Microsoft's Azure cloud:

Cascading technology errors stranded airline passengers around the world, halted hospital surgeries and crippled office workers’ computers on Friday in one of the most disruptive computer outages in years, highlighting how much of the world relies on potentially error-prone software from a handful of companies.

Technology experts said the meltdowns appeared to stem mostly from an error in a software update from CrowdStrike, whose technology is commonly used by businesses to defend against cyberattacks.

That defect affected computers that use Microsoft’s Windows, which powers hundreds of millions of personal computers and many back-end systems for airlines, digital payment, emergency services call centers and much more.

[B]ecause CrowdStrike’s digital protections are considered essential, its technology is given priority access on many computer systems. If something goes wrong with CrowdStrike software, that privileged access can grind computers to a halt.

CrowdStrike admitted that their software caused the problem:

  • Symptoms include hosts experiencing a bugcheck\blue screen error related to the Falcon Sensor.
  • Windows hosts which have not been impacted do not require any action as the problematic channel file has been reverted.
  • Windows hosts which are brought online after 0527 UTC will also not be impacted
  • Hosts running Windows 7/2008 R2 are not impacted
  • This issue is not impacting Mac- or Linux-based hosts
  • Channel file "C-00000291*.sys" with timestamp of 0527 UTC or later is the reverted (good) version.
  • Channel file "C-00000291*.sys" with timestamp of 0409 UTC is the problematic version.

Don't worry, you probably don't have CrowdStrike software on your PC at home; but you probably do log into your Windows PC through Microsoft Active Directory, which runs on virtual machines in the Azure cloud that depend on Falcon Sensor.

This time, the random person in Nebraska turned out to be a multimillion-dollar corporation in Austin, Texas. Though, I suspect, several random people in Texas are now looking for new jobs.

People doing it completely wrong

If he were even a tiny bit better as a human being, I might have some empathy for the old man clearly suffering from some kind of dementia who spoke in Doral, Fla., yesterday. But he's not, so I don't. I mean...just read the highlights.

In other news:

Finally, I got two emails through the contact-us page from the "Brand Ambassador & Link Approval Specialist" at a little company in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick demanding that we remove a link from a post to their site. Each email was clearly the output of an automated process that must have scraped every post on The Daily Parker—all 9,479 of them—more than once, because each email had a different fully-qualified domain name and most of the links they included were for category or history pages. Clearly the BALAS hadn't actually read the post that contained the link. 

The request read: "We kindly request the immediate removal of these links to SchengenVisaInfo.com from your page because SchengenVisaInfo maintains strict editorial control over the information it provides. As such, we do not endorse the linking of our website without our prior consent."

This is dumb for several reasons. First, the emails provide clear evidence that they ran a bot over The Daily Parker more than once, which is rude. Second, this particular link could only benefit the complaining firm as it appeared in context as a way of finding out more about exactly what the company offered. And finally, before you send an email like that, you should confirm that the site you're complaining to won't ridicule you and your firm in a subsequent post.

Of course I removed the link. There are many better sources of information on the topic out there.

(Note to self: remove the company's name before posting!)

Tuesday afternoon links

It has started raining in downtown Chicago, so it looks like Cassie and I will get wet on the walk home, as I feared. I still have a few tasks before I leave. I just hope it stays a gentle sprinkle long enough for us to get home from doggy day care.

Just bookmarking these for later, while I'm drying out:

  • Researchers concluded that the problem with online misinformation and epistemic closure comes from people, not technology. Apparently we generally look for information that confirms our existing biases. Who knew.
  • Chicago has more lead pipes than any other North American city--and more regulation, labor issues, and general corruption, too. We might replace all the pipes by 2075; not so much the corruption.
  • Shocking absolutely no one, a study has found that drinking alcohol on an airplane is worse that doing it on the ground.

Finally, former US Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) died today, just as climate change once again contributed to a massive storm flooding neighboring Texas. I mention that because Inhofe, who served in the Senate until he was 88 years old, refused to believe that the planet had gotten warmer, and did his best to keep the US from entering the 21st Century by any reasonable measure. Oh, and he was also an asshole pilot who once nearly hit a bunch of construction workers because he wanted to land on a closed runway. He may be mourned somewhere, but the Daily Parker is glad to see him underground. So, presumably, is the FAA.

Really lucky timing this morning

I woke up at my usual time this morning, noticed how dark it was, checked radar, and got Cassie out the door less than 10 minutes later. Because by the time I had her to day camp and got myself to the Metra platform, it looked like this:

Waiting for the train, I got this:

But what luck, it let up just as the train arrived. The photo doesn't do it justice: those are horizontal rain bands, and I was standing behind a window.

By the time I got down to Ogilvie, we had this:

Again, just a bit of light rain as I walked the 300 meters from OTC to my office.

I would like to point out that Governor JB Pritzker (D) made my morning commute possible today, by restoring funding to the Ravenswood Metra station construction that took 12 years to complete because of his Republican predecessor's ideological cruelty. I really hope that Bruce Rauner goes to hell, and has to stand on the temporary, unsheltered platform for every minute that every commuter had to over the years we waited for the project to resume.

Now we're just waiting for the new Alstom train sets to arrive (probably 3 years from now) and for the electrification of the remaining diesel-powered Metra lines (probably 40 years from now). Apparently, though, adding a third track to the UP-N mainline between Rogers Park and Clybourn might happen before 2035. We'll see.

Adapting to hot days

Inner Drive Technology World HQ has cooled off slightly to 32.6°C (heat index 36.8°C) after maxing out this afternoon at 33.3°C. Not that the 7/10ths of a degree makes that much difference. I have a nearly-constant headache and I don't want to go outside. Plus, I've already drunk about 3½ liters of water today.

To avoid the heat and to make sure Cassie and I both got enough exercise, we took a 6 km walk before 7am. The temperature still got up to 26.5°C before too long, prompting me to fill Cassie's bowl with ice water and get myself to the shower even before having breakfast.

Not much else to report, except that I plan to eat the last of the leftover rice I've got in the fridge tonight, well within the New York Times recommended storage interval. That's if the heat doesn't kill my appetite entirely...

Sushi, sushi, everywhere, and most goes in the dump

Heat makes me cranky. Even though I have good air conditioning, I also don't want to overdo it, so my home office is 25°C right now. Not too hot, but not what I would call super-comfortable. Still, it's cooler than the 37°C heat index that Cassie and I just spent 12 minutes walking in. Adding to the misery: both Chicago airports hit record high temperatures (36°C) yesterday.

The heat wave should break tomorrow night. Until then I'll continue slamming back water during the day and tonics with lime (minus the gin) in the evening. That's right: it's so damn hot, I don't even want a proper G&T. Maybe when it gets below 30°C.

Two things I read today dovetailed unexpectedly. The first, a speech Bruce Schneier gave to the RSA conference on 25 April 2023 and just posted this morning, suggests new ways of thinking about how democracy and AI can work together. A few minutes into the speech, Schneier sets up this critique of market economies:

[T]he cost of our market economy is enormous. For example, $780 billion is spent world-wide annually on advertising. Many more billions are wasted on ventures that fail. And that’s just a fraction of the total resources lost in a competitive market environment. And there are other collateral damages, which are spread non-uniformly across people.

We have accepted these costs of capitalism—and democracy—because the inefficiency of central planning was considered to be worse. That might not be true anymore. The costs of conflict have increased. And the costs of coordination have decreased. Corporations demonstrate that large centrally planned economic units can compete in today’s society. Think of Walmart or Amazon. If you compare GDP to market cap, Apple would be the eighth largest country on the planet. Microsoft would be the tenth.

Shortly after, I came across a BBC article rolling up just how much sushi gets wasted in Japan every day:

Every year on Setsubun, stores across the country stock a holiday sushi roll called ehomaki. At the end of the night, hundreds of thousands of these rolls wind up in the garbage. "Shops always provide what customers want, which means their shelves have to always be stocked," [Riko Morinaga, a recent high school graduate in Tokyo,] says. "This contributes to the food loss problem."

The exact size of the problem is difficult to quantify, because convenience store companies usually are not transparent about their losses. Representatives from 7-Eleven Japan and Lawson, two major chains, told BBC.com that they do not disclose the amount of food waste generated by their stores. Representatives from FamilyMart, another major chain, did not respond to interview requests, but the company indicates on its website that its stores generate 56,367 tonnes of food waste per day. In 2020, the Japan Fair Trade Commission estimated that Japan's major convenience store chains throw away on average 4.68m yen ($30,000; £24,000) of food per shop per year – equating to an approximate annual loss of more than 260bn yen (1.7bn; £1.3bn) in total.

Those numbers may seem fishy, but they represent a huge problem, not just in Japan, but everywhere that retailers feel they need to over-stock perishable food items.

I have a bunch more things queued up from earlier today that I'll link to in a bit. But first I have to stick my head in a bucked of ice water.

Frazzled morning

I started my day with overlapping meetings, a visit from the housekeeping service, more meetings, a visit from an electrician, and just now discovered that a "new" bug report actually relates a bug we introduced on June 20th last year, but only now got reported. Oh, also: it's 25°C and sunny.

At least it's Friday.

And I guess I can read some of these tomorrow morning:

Finally, the Chicago White Sox set a new team record yesterday: 14 losses in a row. They play the Red Sox tonight at home; can they make it 15 straight losses?

Finally get to breathe

But only for a moment. I've spent most of today trying to fix things, or at least trying to figure out what problems need fixing. One of the problems has generated a comment thread on a vendor website, now at 44 comments, and I think after all that work I found the problem in an interaction between my code and Microsoft Azure Functions. If I'm right, the confirmation will come around 3pm.

Naturally, I haven't had time to read any of these:

I wrote the intro to this post around 2:45 and had to pause for a while. It's now 3:25, and I appear to have solved the problem. I will now document the solution and apologize to the vendor. Fun times, fun times.

Another boring release

Every other Tuesday we release software, so that's what I just did. It was so boring we even pushed the bits yesterday evening. In theory we always have a code-freeze the night before a release, but in fact we sometimes have just one more thing to do before we commit this last bit of code...

And yet, the world outside keeps becoming less boring:

Finally, one of Chicago's oldest and most popular Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, Angelic Organics, announced this season would be their last. I used to have a subscription, which resulted in a lot more kale than I ever wanted, but also some of the freshest produce I've ever had. They'll be missed.

What a lovely day to end Spring

Despite a high, thin broken cloud layer, it's 23°C with a light breeze and comfortable humidity at Inner Drive Technology World HQ. Cassie and I had a half-hour walk at a nice pace (we covered just over 3 km), and I've just finished my turkey sandwich. And yet, there's something else that has me feeling OK, if only for a little while...

Perhaps it's this? Maybe this? How about this? Or maybe it's Alexandra Petri?

In other news:

Finally, another solar storm, another cloudy night in Chicago: the Aurora Borealis may be visible as far south as Chicago overnight, just not in Chicago. As long as I can get Cassie on her daily long walk before the rain hits...