No, XFS won’t steal your money

So, the Inquirer runs a story by Chris Merriman today, titled “GreenDispenser malware threatens to take all your dosh from Linux ATMs” which includes this breathless little gem:

GreenDispenser targets the XFS file system, a popular standard for ATMs, originally designed for IRIX but now widely used in Linux. ATMs that use Windows XP Embedded, which is still supported, are not thought to be at risk.

Of course, I found this interesting, and a bit odd.  Could the XFS filesystem possibly be at fault here?  And is the “large and lots” filesystem really used in ATMS?  Let’s see what Proofpoint, the security firm who discovered it has to say about the subject:

Specifically, GreenDispenser like its predecessors interacts with the XFS middleware [4], which is widely adopted by various ATM vendors.

That handy link & footnote leads us to Wikipedia, which explains that “XFS middleware” refers to CEN/XFS, which is not in any way related to the XFS filesystem, or Linux, and is in fact Microsoft specific:

CEN/XFS or XFS (eXtensions for Financial Services) provides a client-server architecture for financial applications on the Microsoft Windows platform.

Nice job, Inquirer!  Nice job, Chris Merriman!

(As Jeff points out in the comments, The Inquirer has updated the article as of Sep 25, removing references to LInux and the XFS filesystem.)

Amazon cancels Minnesota affiliates

Well, it happened.  First and foremost, I’ve always tried to make my blog interesting to readers interested in technology & energy, and in the process I’ve sometimes linked out to relevant products on Amazon, to make me a little beer money.  I’ve tried not to be too annoying or gratuitous about it, but it did help a little to offset the ISP charges etc.  But today I got this email:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective June 30, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Minnesota state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Dayton on May 23, 2013, with an effective date of July 1, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after June 30 nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Minnesota residents.

As near as I can tell, Amazon has neatly evaded the law, which added:

(b) A retailer is presumed to have a solicitor in this state if it enters into an agreement with a resident under which the resident, for a commission or other substantially similar consideration, directly or indirectly refers potential customers, whether by a link on an Internet Web site, or otherwise, to the seller.

So: Chuck out all the affiliates, collect no tax, done and done.  The state is no better off, and the bloggers in the state are worse off.  This is exactly what has happened in other states, so it should come as no surprise to our esteemed legislators.  I get it that states are hurting from dropping sales tax from brick and mortar stores and are looking for solutions, but it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that this law would have very little effect when it’s this simple for places like Amazon to avoid it.

I was tempted to purge all links to Amazon from the blog – why send my good readers there for free?  ;)  But going forward, I guess I’ll try VigLink, which is sort of an affiliate of affiliates, and seems immune from this kind of thing, at least for now.  It looks trivial to switch over to w/o needing to go fix up any existing articles.  Hopefully it won’t make me look too craven; I’ll fine tune it as we go along.

Update: Viglink isn’t an option; they won’t reaffiliate if you’re in a “nexus” state.  Trying out skimlinks now…

Spinning down a WD20EARS “Green” drive

Ok, this is a pretty utilitarian post.  I did finally get my 18W Server up and running; in fact, it’s serving this post!  But I can’t really get to 18W unless the 2x 2T WD20EARS [amzn] drives I have in it for media storage spin down when not in use.

And I had a heck of a time making that work.  hdparm -y would quickly spin them down, but using hdparm -S to set an idle timeout seemed to have no effect; I had been trying to use hdparm -S 241 to set a 30 minute spindown time, and I had no luck whatsoever.  With the drives spinning, the server used more like 30W.

Mostly through trial and error, I found out that if you set a lower spindown timeout, i.e. hdparm -S 3, the drive will spin down in 10 minutes. Continue reading

Hanlon’s Razor and Online Comments

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Hanlon’s Razor


Boy, but sometimes it is hard.  There was a recent article in the local paper about a solar manufacturing plant going up on Minnesota’s Iron range.  And you can bet that any article about alternative energy will bring out the interesting comments in droves.  (Maybe this is true about any article about anything?)  Warning: If you don’t want a boring rehash of anti-solar comments and my attempts to bring a few factual nuggets to the conversation, you should stop reading this post now.  You have been warned… Continue reading

Google PowerMeter flatlines

Well, they did it.  Google killed PowerMeter.

This is lame.  I mean – really, really lame.  After signing up hardware partners and gathering a good number of users,, “the philanthropical wing of Google” has killed PowerMeter, because, well, I guess because it wasn’t satisfying their philanthropical urges anymore?

Surely this doesn’t cost them more than a tiny fraction of their total pot of more-money-than-God.  Development already stopped months (years?) ago.  Why not just let it run for those who found it useful?  I actually really appreciated being able to see details of my power use.  It helped me make better decisions.

At least they have an exit plan to let users extract their data before they throw the big red switch.  If only there were somewhere else to send it.

Powermeter wasn’t great, but it was much better than nothing.  I hope something will come up to replace it.  Anyone know of a good alternative?

New look

I didn’t intentionally change the layout… EPEL sprung a WordPress 3.1 upgrade on me, and it seems the old theme is gone (in addition  to needing a database upgrade before anything would even display, bleah!)  So you’ll have to stare at the lonely guy walking down the country road until I find something I like better.


Ok, ok, so Saint Paul doesn’t have a buzzword-compliant “smart grid” but I did at least have digital meters which the utility could read via some proprietary RF signal.

So why, now that I have solar panels, a production meter, and a bidirectional meter for my house, does Xcel dispatch a human meter-reader out in a car to walk to the back of my house and copy numbers off the meters?   Given that even average driving uses the equivalent of about 40kWh/day, this is not the effect I hoped my solar panels would have.

On the bright side, I used 270kWh last month and produced 308kWh, my first month of over-production.  (Bright, clear October days, and no need for fans, AC, or heat!).  So not only did I avoid $27.00 on the electricity bill ($0.10/kWh, $0.07/kWh + $0.03/kWh for wind costs) I’ll get a credit of about $3.50 ($0.09/kWh paid by the utility for the small net production) – at this rate I’ll have these things paid off in … oh, well, here’s hoping for rate increases ;)