Skynet? Is that you?

October 8th, 2011

File under 'Famous last words': Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet:

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America's Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots' every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech's computers, network security specialists say. […]

"We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back," says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. "We think it's benign. But we just don't know." […]

Retaliation for Stuxnet, or someone too high up the chain of command to be told what to do getting a bit careless with their USB drive and bringing in some malware they picked up on their home PC?

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'They keep getting blown up.'

September 12th, 2011

Lt. Col. Dan Ward, USAF urges military procurement professionals to heed the lessons of the Death Stars:

The truth is, Death Stars are about as practical as a metal bikini. Sure, they look cool, but they aren't very sensible. Specifically, Death Stars can't possibly be built on time or on budget, require pathological leadership styles and, as we've noted, keep getting blown up. Also, nobody can build enough of them to make a real difference in the field.

The bottom line: Death Stars are unaffordable. Whether we're talking about a fictional galaxy far, far away or the all too real conditions here on Planet Earth, a Death Star program will cost more than it is worth. The investment on this scale is unsustainable and is completely lost when a wamp-rat-hunting farmboy takes a lucky shot. When one station represents the entire fleet (or even 5 percent of the fleet), we've put too many eggs in that basket and are well on our way to failing someone for the last time.

The answer isn't to build more, partly because we can't and partly because the underlying concept is so critically flawed. Instead of building Death Stars, we should imitate the most successful technology in the saga: R2-D2.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Loitering outside The Mitre and Dove

February 27th, 2011

An excerpt from Street Life in London by J.Thomson and Adolphe Smith gives a fascinating glimpse of life as a Recruiting Sergeant in 1877 London. Apparently a recruiting job wasn't the sinecure it seemed:

The amount of work done by the sergeants who loiter about at this corner may best be estimated by the fact that 3605 approved recruits were enlisted from the London district in 1875, and I need scarcely remark that the greater number of these men accepted the fatal shilling at the hospitable bar of the "Mitre and Dove." Henry Cooper, one of the best known and most successful recruiting sergeants, enlisted at this corner during the course of thirteen years upwards of 3000 men; and is generally supposed to have retired with a large fortune. I hear, however, and on good testimony, that this latter detail is altogether erroneous, and that, notwithstanding his prolonged and devoted services, Sergeant Cooper was obliged to resort to the vulgar expedient of a loan on leaving his corps. This last version has at least the advantage of according with the general characteristics of the English army, and harmonizes with that spirit of ungrateful neglect which allows Waterloo heroes to die in the workhouse.

Recruiting sergeants have the credit of making large incomes, but insufficient account is taken of the expenses they are forced to incur. […]

[…] There is no suitable barrack accommodation for the London recruiting sergeants, and 3s. 6d "lodger money" is therefore allowed per week. This is supposed to compensate for the room, fuel, and light which should be given in the barracks. It is, however, difficult to get a suitable room in London under seven shillings per week, and three shillings is but a low estimate for coals and light. Besides this outlay, recruiting sergeants have to be better dressed, and wear out their clothes more rapidly than if they were in ordinary service; yet they have only one pair of boots, and of gloves, and one tunic allowed them per annum, the authorities stretching a point, and giving three pairs of trousers for every two years. As a natural result, the sergeants have to buy the greater part of their clothes, and this at no trifling expense. A good cap, for instance, costs £1 1s., and when exposed day after day without respite to the smoke, dirt, and rain of London, this important appanage to the uniform does not last longer than a year. The recruiting sergeants have, therefore, like every other branch of the service, a formidable list of grievances, and consider themselves far removed from the enjoyment of that good fortune which is generally attributed to them.

[Via And Another Thing]

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The (Non-)Fighting 620th

February 19th, 2011

Tom Ricks on a pro-Nazi US Army unit in WWII:

I know it sounds like the reverse of a Quentin Taratino movie, but it is true: During World War II, the Army intentionally formed a unit chockablock with fascisti and their suspected sympathizers. […]

Young [PFC Dale Maple] spoke many languages. But his favorite, alas, was German. At Harvard he got kicked out of ROTC for being vocally pro-German […] Stymied in his hopes to do post-graduate work in Berlin, which was busy with other things at the time, he enlisted in the Army in 1942. The Army had just the place for him: the 620th Engineer General Service Company, which despite its innocuous name was actually a holding unit for about 200 GIs of suspect loyalty, many of them German-born. The unit, which was not given weapons, was located in Camp Hale, Colorado, which is far from any port, but happened to next to an detachment of German PoWs on a work party.

And thereby hangs this tale. […]

[Via Blood & Treasure]

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Words as weapons

October 3rd, 2010

Jonathan Meades on The March of the Acronym:

It is a truism that the development of everything from medicines to meteorology has depended on the prosecution of wars. This version of events flatters our paranoia, our fearful fondness of sombre forces. And the paraphernalia of armed conflict – secrecy, adrenalin, ruthlessness, dirty tricks, machismo, gadgets – can exert an attraction on those who have never known war. Its allure overlooks the actuality of boredom and body bags.

The further we are from military life, the more seductive its supposed traits. A corporation's ends will most probably be different from the armed forces' – less killing, for instance. But the means are there to be aped, the tics to be imitated: the speed, the modernity, the purposefulness, the can-do. Above all, the language.

[Via Arts & Letters Daily]

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Mulder has been transferred to Afghanistan

December 13th, 2009

The British version of the X-Files is no more:

The government has shut a unit which has investigated UFO sightings for more than 50 years, judging its resources better spent on more earthly threats.


"The MoD has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life. However, in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.

Sceptical readers will note that they don't say that UFOs don't exist, just that there's no threat to the UK. Is this because they've found no evidence of alien visitors to UK airspace, or <paranoia level="maximum">compelling evidence that the government has already signed a non-aggression pact with an alien power?</paranoia>

[Via Blood & Treasure]

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Silent But Deadly

October 18th, 2009

The World's Largest Gun Suppressor hardly seems worth camouflaging.

[Via MetaFilter]

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So 90 years is the cement anniversary?

June 14th, 2009

From The Belarusian Army's Tough-Guy Games:

This soldier is marking the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Belarusian army by lying on a bed of nails and having a comrade break a giant cement block on his chest.

I dread to think what sort of 'celebration' the poor bugger will have to endure when their centenary comes round.

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