Infected!

Updated.  See below.

I don’t know how, but I somehow managed to get the Malware Defense “anti-spyware” program on my system at home.  Fortunately for me, it doesn’t do anything malicious like delete files or install botnet sofware.  It just continually pops up virus warnings and giving opportunities to install.  For a price, of course.  If you pay, they go away.

The removal instructions I came across weren’t complete, as I completed those steps, rebooted the system, and the thing came right back.  I finally tracked down and eliminated the richtx64.exe trojan, which I think is what was re-running Malware Defense.

I’ve been running my computer for years without any kind of active anti-virus or such, and this is the first time I’ve ever been infected.  Now I’m not sure what to do.  I certainly won’t go back to Norton after the troubles I’ve had with them, and I don’t hear good reports about McAfee’s offering, either.  Is there a good anti-virus, anti-malware package that works, is inexpensive, and doesn’t take inordinate amounts of CPU time?

Update 12/28:

It took a while, but with some research and downloading and running a few cleanup utilities, it looks like I was successful in disinfecting the computer.  The thing kept getting re-infected whenever I’d reboot, and it would prevent me from installing or running common anti-malware utilities.  I found a program called rkill that kills common malware processes, and then I could install and run cleanup software.  This morning, a complete scan with Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware reported zero problems.  I then installed Microsoft Security Essentials from a file that I downloaded from a different (uninfected) computer.  It reports no problems.

Darrin Chandler brings up an interesting point in the comments:  it’s all a matter of weighing the risks.  I’ve gone years without any kind of malware problems.  Even when I had anti-malware applications installed, they never reported that they’d blocked anything.  And those programs are very quick to notify whenever they see anything even vaguely suspicious.  So, as Darrin points out, my risk of being infected is pretty small.  However, the cost of being infected is fairly high.  It cost me most of a day to get rid of it.  And I was fortunate that it doesn’t seem to have deleted any files.  I have no idea if it copied anything from me.  I’m not too worried since I don’t keep financial information on this machine.

I’m hoping that Microsoft Security Essentials works well and doesn’t cause problems by being too chatty or sucking down too many resources.  We’ll see how it goes.

Odds ‘n Ends

One of the dubious benefits of owning a swimming pool is that I don’t really have to rake the leaves in my back yard.  I just have to wait for a good wind storm to blow them into the pool, where I can then skim them out.  This convenience doesn’t come for free, though.  They sink if I let them stay in the pool too long, and removing them from the bottom is much more difficult.  Also, they have a tendency to clog up the filter trap, which then causes the pump to suck air.  And, of course, this tends to happen on the coldest night of the year so I can’t just turn off the pump because if I do it might freeze.

Actually, I do rake the leaves.  I cleaned the yard last weekend, but a couple of the oak trees hadn’t yet dropped all their leaves.  They dropped over the week, and Thursday’s cold and high winds put them into the pool.  I spent a cold 30 minutes on Thursday evening cleaning them out.

Debra and I went to an early showing of the movie Avatar yesterday.  I was seriously impressed.  It was somewhat predictable, but other than that I loved it.  Some people I know complained that it was a heavy-handed “tree hugger” movie, but I didn’t see it that way.  I can see where one could make that argument, but then you can make that argument about a large number of movies made over the last 50 years or more.  It’s an underdog movie.  In any event, it’s very well done.  I loved that hammerhead rhino.

While I’m on the subject of Avatar…  The MPAA rating is PG-13 “intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.”  There are indeed “intense epic battle sequences and warfare.’  There is vanishingly little sensuality and even less “language.”  Whatever.  But smoking?  What is that all about?  We have to warn parents ’cause their kids might see somebody smoking?

Christmas was relaxing.  Other than going to the movie, Debra and I stayed at home, took Charlie for a walk, and generally just enjoyed time together.  A wonderful way to spend a day off.

New carvings: Hillbilly, snake, and more dogs

Until recently, all of my carving “instruction” was through books, web sites, and YouTube videos.  I guess you could say that I was “self taught” in that I didn’t have the benefit of personal instruction, but I have to give credit for my improvement to the authors and especially those who made the carving videos.

Back in the summer I stumbled across a picture tutorial for carving a hillbilly in the flat plane style.  With step by step instructions and almost 60 pictures, it walks you through turning a 6″x1″x1″ block of wood into this:

hillbilly5_s

I did most of the carving last summer, but hadn’t finished texturing the beard.  Last week I saw it sitting unfinished on my shelf and decided to complete it.

I started taking a beginning carving class from a member of my woodcarving club (Central Texas Woodcarvers Association) about four weeks ago.  The second project we did was a snake, carved from a piece of aromatic cedar:

snake1_s

The primary purpose of the exercise was to introduce the concept of “reading” the wood and working with grain changes.  I sanded it smooth and left it unfinished because I didn’t want to mask that nice cedar smell.

And I keep carving these little dogs.  I carved a dozen or more from basswood, and at least a dozen from other woods:  oak, maple, mesquite, cherry, and walnut.  In the picture below, the small one is cherry and the larger one is walnut.  Both are finished with a mixture of oil and wax.  The only coloring is on the face:  ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.

twodogs_s

Several people have commented that it looks like the little dog is leaning away from the big dog, perhaps because the big dog has done something objectionable.  The little dog’s surprised expression and the big dog rolling its eyes as if to say, “It wasn’t me” seem to bear that out.  I wish I could say that I planned it that way.

Still more on the CRU flap

I guess it was to be expected.  It’s nearly impossible to find reasoned discussion of the “Climategate” issue.  For example, Curtis Brainard’s Hacked E-mails and “Journalistic Tribalism” in Columbia Journalism Review is a pretty even handed look at the major issues that are being discussed in the online debate.  It strikes me as particularly amusing that most of the comments to that article are about as tribal as you can imagine.  We have rabid conspiracy theorists on both sides, an ongoing “Yeah?  Sez who?” shouting match, an argument over a fairly minor matter that the two parties involved are using in order to prove their “green” creds, and a few other sideshows that have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the article.  Picking the signal from the noise in the comments is almost impossible.

In short, it’s business as usual.

I’ll admit to being a skeptic when it comes to anthropogenic global warming (AGW).    There is enough dissent among people who I regard as credible sources that I doubt that the science is as settled as some would have me believe.  There are enough questions about historical reconstructions and the use of current data to project long term trends that I remain unconvinced.  That may make me a “denier” in some people’s eyes.  So be it.  But I’m willing to look at the data and re-evaluate my position.  All too many people on either side of the controversy are unwilling to entertain any view that might conflict with their preconceived notions.

I mentioned the other day that it’d be nice to see the raw data.  Perhaps I should have kept my big mouth shut, because at least some of the raw data is available.  RealClimate.org has started a Data Sources page that has links to more data than I’ll be able to digest any time soon. I don’t know enough yet to say how complete or reliable this list of sources is, and it’s only part of the equation.  Unless there are notes about how the data are gathered and whether the “raw” data is preprocessed before being presented, it’s almost as useless as no data.  But it’s a good start.  Now what we need is for those who have used the data to be fully open and honest about the methods they used to reach any conclusions.

I regret that I failed to include RealClimate.org in my list of sources in my previous post.  The other sources I posted links to would all fall into the “skeptic” camp.  Some would call them deniers.  RealClimate was started by a group of climate researchers with the intent of spreading the word about climate change.  The postings there seem invariably to support the notion of global warming, but there is good information to be gleaned from them.

Another resource, this time decidedly not supportive of the AGW hypothesis, is Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit.

I’m thinking I need to post a Dramatis personæ so I can keep track of all the players in this bit of politico-science.  I worry, though, that it will get out of hand.  There are lots of players.

Eric Raymond, a well respected figure in the open source community, has commented on a particularly egregious bit of code revealed, in which a “fudge factor” is applied to some data used in the production of a temperature graph.  If you have trouble appreciating the seriousness of this, it’s summed up pretty well below in one of the comments:

Wait just a second. Explain this to me like I’m 12. They didn’t even bother to fudge the data? They hard-coded a hockey stick carrier right into the program?!!

ESR says: Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what they did.

I haven’t seen that particular transgression addressed in any of the apologists explanations.  To be fair, it’s talking about computer code, which has an eye-roll index of about 9.998 among the general populace.

And another quote, just because I found it very amusing whether or not it turns out to be true:

They didn’t just cook the data; they marinated it for a week, put on a rub, laid it in the smoker for a day and a half, sliced it up, wrapped it in bacon, dipped it in batter, rolled it around in flour, and deep fried it.

It turns out that the code referencing the fudged value is commented out.  That makes one wonder, though, if it was ever used.  In my experience as a programmer, code that’s commented out was used at some point and is left there either to be used again, or for documentation to show what was tried.

Of course, we could answer the question if we could get the actual raw data that the program was intended to process.  Then we could run the program with and without the artificial adjustment and see the results.  It’d also help to compare the two outputs with whatever graph or report the resulting data was used for.

There’s quite a bit of discussion in that thread about the validity of the data in question, and the appropriateness of “adjusting” tree ring data to fit the observed temperature data.  This is all in an attempt to address a well known and widely studied (by climate researchers) divergence problem.  The basic issue is that tree ring data seems to correspond pretty well with observed temperature from the late 1800s (the start of reliable temperature data), but then diverge.  Where thermometers show warming, the tree ring data do not.  As yet, there is no widely accepted explanation for the divergence problem.  What we don’t know, since we don’t have reliable temperature data before 1880 or so, is whether the tree ring data diverges from actual temperature at points in the past.  It seems to me that, until we can explain the divergence, any information based on tree ring data is less than reliable.

The more I read, the more convinced I am that each side is overstating its case.  Those who firmly believe in AGW are misrepresenting their conclusions as definitive proof when there does appear to be significant doubt, and the deniers wouldn’t be convinced by a boiling Baltic.  It’s tribalism at its best.

The truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle, and there are plenty of people calling for some sanity in the discussion.  Unfortunately, the firm believers have the upper hand at the moment, and any calls for more reasoned discussion are met with accusations of “denier!”  The truth is out there, but it’s lost in the unthinking religious zealotry.

More on Climategate

A few more comments about “Climategate”:

  • The released files in question were not “hacked” from the CRU’s computers. Somebody (still anonymous) who worked there collected that information and posted it on a public bulletin board site where it was picked up. Interestingly, it appears that he first sent it to news organizations who just sat on it. Could it be that the media have a vested interest in keeping the global warming hoax alive?
  • The global temperature data that the CRU was supposedly maintaining is a work of fiction, with perhaps some fact thrown in when it happens to fit the desired outcome. Examinations of the computer code that collates temperature data from multiple sources is rife with adjustments that the programmers describe in comments as “arbitrary,” “artificial,” and in at least one case, “fudge factor.” The data that comes out bears very little relationship to the data that goes in.
  • One of the fundamental principles of collaborative science is that when you publish a result you also publish the raw data and the methods that you used to arrive at your result. That typically includes computer code. CRU went to great lengths to avoid releasing their raw data and their programs. We now know why: their methods weren’t scientific at all, but rather constructed to arrive at a predetermined result.
  • For a very good, if somewhat heavy-handed, discussion of the information revealed by the released emails and other documents, you should definitely read Climategate: Caught Green-Handed. A link on that page will take you to the PDF.
  • The Climate Research Unit website is being served from the CUR Emergency Webserver. I don’t know why. I am unable to find anything on the site regarding the leaked emails and documents. The IPCC site doesn’t appear to have anything about it, either.
  • Phil Jones, director of the CRU, will step down until the completion of an independent review. If he had any integrity left, he’d resign completely. Of course, if there was any integrity in that system, his ass would have been fired a week ago.
  • Michael Mann, a climate scientist and professor at Pennsylvania State University who is prominently featured in the released emails, maintains that he did nothing wrong and that nothing untoward went on. Mann, if you recall, is the primary person behind the controversial hockey stick graph that, among other things, tries to remove the Medieval Warm Period from the historical record.
  • Did I mention that the global temperature data provided by the CRU, and upon which governments worldwide base important policy decisions is essentially made up? Any decision based on data provided by the CRU is now suspect.
  • The malefactors at the CRU and their accomplices in government, academia, and industry have done a grave disservice to the field of climate science in particular, and all science in general. Anybody reading about what went on here is bound to wonder if all scientific research is carried out in a similar manner. In one sense, this is probably a good thing in that it should force an independent review of all government funded scientific research.
  • If you realize now that you got sucked in by the global warming hype and you want to get a more balanced view of the real science, a good place to start is Anthony Watts’ Watts Up With That?. Also take a look at JunkScience.com, and the Science & Public Policy Institute.

Inside Global Warming

You’ve probably heard by now about what the press is calling “Climategate”:  the release of internal emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University that reveal some questionable practices on the part of climate researchers.  Those questionable practices are bad enough in any case, but particularly unforgivable when the reports and data are being used by governments throughout the world to make important decisions.

I’ve long been skeptical of the entire “global warming” debate, and especially skeptical of those so-called scientists who claim that the science behind the dire warnings is solid and irrefutable.  The information revealed recently shows that I was right to be skeptical.

When I first read reports of the released documents, I thought that the press was taking things out of context and making things look much worse than they actually are.  But then I came across the raw data.  The quotes in the media are not at all out of context.  The researchers really did say that they can’t account for the recent decrease in global temperatures, that they intentionally altered data, deleted emails, and actively suppressed information that did not fit the pre-determined outcome.  They also attempted to suppress dissenting views by manipulating the peer review process.  In short, they weren’t doing science, but rather corrupting science to further their own agendas.

It’s difficult to say what those agendas are.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that money is high on the list.  The amount of money distributed in grants for climate research is staggering, and that gravy train will continue as long as there’s a perceived threat.  The more dire the warnings, the more money pours in for research into determining the extent of the problem and finding possible solutions.  A researcher who concludes that there is no problem will find that his funding is not renewed.

This case is a very good example, too, of what happens all too often when government funds scientific research.  In this case, the government agencies funding the research existed in large part because of the perceived problem.  As long as the research they were funding continued to support the existence of the problem, the government agency would receive more funding.

The fundamental problem with the whole global warming debate is that nobody really knows whether or not the temperature is rising.  I’ve seen data that indicates a decrease in global temperatures, some that shows essentially no increase, and some that shows a marked increase.  And that’s just from readings of supposedly accurate instruments since 1885 or so.  Prior to that we only have reconstructions that use various methods like dendrochronology (tree ring dating), ice core sampling, lake sediment core sampling, and many others.  Each of those methods has a certain margin of error and some of them (dendrochronology in particular) might not even be appropriate for the purpose of estimating historical temperatures.

There are very large disagreements among the many global temperature reconstructions I’ve seen, to the point that I can’t imagine how any researcher can say that his method is correct.  Most of them don’t even come close to agreeing with the observed values for the last 130 years, meaning that either the reconstruction method is unreliable or the observed values are in error.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the Contemporary Time Series and Historical Proxies charts at JunkScience.com.  Understand, JunkScience doesn’t make those charts:  they get the charts from reports published by other researchers.

Any honest researcher looking at the data has to say, “I don’t know.”  There just isn’t any credible data to show a significant (if any) long-term warming trend.  There might be one, but the data doesn’t show it.  Certainly not to my satisfaction, and anybody trying to convince me otherwise better be prepared to support their interpretation with hard data, and explain why conflicting data is irrelevant.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not out-of-hand dismissals and ad hominem arguments.

It’ll be interesting if the recent revelations of questionable practices at the CRU result in similar revelations at other climate research facilities.  I’ll also be interested in what effect these revelations have on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next week.

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