Why the Flash and his gang are the ultimate evil

I was watching some episodes of the CW show “The Flash” this week and a thought occurred to me.  Of all people and things, Barry and his cohorts are easily far more evil than the metahumans that they encounter and battle each week.

The Flash with an alleged wrongdoer

The Flash with an alleged wrongdoer

Think on this for a moment.  Metahumans are people with super-human skills.  Super Villains, or perhaps just innocents caught up in the effects of the particle accelerator explosion.  Each week, the flash takes on a new bad guy and locks the evil-doer up in his super-secret, ultra-secure metahuman prison in the ruins of the former STAR Labs particle accelerator.  The prison is almost fully automated and if you watch the show closely enough, more horrifying than a SuperMax prison today.

Consider this.  First, the Flash locks up the criminals without any regard at all for Due Process.  No trial, no verdict, no sentencing.  Miscreants are locked into a prison, presumably for life with no right to representation, no right to a jury of their peers, no rights to appeals, visitors or anything like that.  There is no Miranda, there is no bail hearing, there is no arraignment nor Grand Jury.  Even allegedly evil metahumans who may be mentally challenged are put away with extreme prejudice with no chance of rehabilitation or getting the psychological help they may desperately need.

STAR Lab’s Prison Cell

Next, consider the cells.  A normal SuperMax cell at the Colorado ADMAX prison is 7 feet by 12 feet (84 square feet) with a 4 inch by 4 foot window.  The cells in STAR Labs’ underground dungeon appear to be about 6  by 6, or 36 square feet.  That’s less than half the size of the cells in the United States’ most restrictive and feared prison.  The ADMAX cells have a 4 inch wide by 4 feet tall window on the outside wall and a window on the inside steel security door that allow in artificial light from one side natural sunlight and moonlight from the outside.  STAR Labs’ cells have only the windowed doors on the entrance side that only open to the inside of the accelerator tunnel, and if the state of the tunnel when Wells starts his finale end game is any indication, the lighting is minimal at best most of the time in the tunnel unless turned on for need.  Thus, prisoners’ only light source is what’s inside their tiny, square coffins.

Floor Plan of a cell at ADMAX Colorado

Inside each ADMAX cell is a bed, a desk, a toilet and a shower.  There is even a Television for entertainment that is used as a reward for good behaviour.  STAR Labs’ cells have none of this.  Each prisoner is, presumably, left to sleep on the floor, in their own excrement.  They sit on the floor, they eat on the floor, they lie on the floor.  They have no hygiene facilities at all.  Just some dark colored walls and a window to a tunnel that is only illuminated part of the time.  In the ADMAX, prisoners are fed meals twice to three times per day through a slot on the cell door by part of a staff of several hundred Department of Corrections employees.  STAR Labs is manned by exactly 3 full time people (if you discount Dr. Wells) and only part time by Joe and Iris.  Those people are usually too busy worrying about their daily lives, their outside work lives, catching alleged bad-guys, who’s in love with who, what Oliver Queen had for lunch that day and generally enjoying the freedoms that they deny others.  So there’s no one left on-site to feed the inmates and remove the trash.

Actual ADMAX Cell

Inmates in a SuperMax spend 23 hours a day in their cell and 1 hour each day outside, in fresh air, under the sun.  STAR Labs’ prisoners get none of that.  First, the STAR Labs prison is woefully understaffed, though unstaffed is likely a better word, and while capable of holding the strongest metahuman, has no provisions at all for containing them in fresh air, on grass, something that each SuperMax prisoner cherishes.

So imagine yourself now, locked away in a 49 square foot, dark walled box.  You had no chance to face the charges against you.  No chance to defend your actions.  No chance or hope of rehabilitation, parole or finishing your sentence.  You have been placed in this box, in a dark, foreboding, underground concrete tunnel by the alleged Hero “The Flash”, acting as Police, Prosecutor, Judge, Jury and Warden unilaterally with the support of a public police department that actually supports him in his role of robbing metahumans of the very basics of Law that our nation was founded on.  You must sleep each day on the floor.  You must eat on the floor.  You must relieve yourself wherever you can, in the corner, left to stew in the smell.  You have nothing to occupy your time, or your mind.  You’ll never step foot into the sunlight again, never even see the sky from your subterranean dungeon.  No one will ever come to visit you.  No one will ever pardon you.  No one will ever even know you’ve been taken.

The truth is, Barry West, a.k.a the Flash, and his gang are the real evil.  In the guise of “Protecting the Civilians” they’ve stripped away the rights and dignity of every meta-human they capture.  They’ve dehumanized them and converted them into “things” that are housed in repurposed storage boxes.  STAR Labs and Barry West are the analogs to mankind’s long history of secret detentions, psychological and physical deprivation and torture and ignorance of basic human rights and rule of law.

Barry West and STAR Labs are evil of the worst sort.  Evil done with the purest intentions.

This is where you go to die, if you’re unlucky enough to encounter “The Flash”

Adventures with Ubuntu Snappy: Prologue

A short while back at IoT World, we introduced a neat little bundle of kit to demonstrate Ubuntu Snappy.  This kit consisted of a Raspberry Pi 2 (the updated Pi that Ubuntu can run on), a PiGlow and really sharp Pibow case, both provided by Pimoroni.  Needless to say, it was a real hit.

An offer came up to get my hands on one of these great, specially made Ubuntu branded versions of the kit and I had to jump on that, because it just looks so darned cool.  Happy coincidence, I was already planning on obtaining a Pi 2 to replace my older RPi that I had toyed with off and on over the last couple years.

Today, my new Ubuntu Snappy Core Raspberry Pi Fun Pack arrived and I had to just stop working and start playing a bit, because, “Hey, new toys!”

So this first post will be an introduction and first steps.Finished. What a sharp looking Raspberry Pi 2. Case and piglow by Pimoroni (http://www.pimoroni.com)OS is Ubuntu Snappy Core (http://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy

First, the hardware.  I won’t go into detail on the Raspberry Pi 2 hardware itself.  By now, it’s well known, and it’s well discussed and documented elsewhere to the point where I have nothing Earth shattering to add to that discussion.  You can see some basic information at RaspberryPi.org or search the Goog.

I will point out the two add-on’s though.  First the Pibow case is a plastic case specially made for the Pi 2 and B+ systems.  It consists of two clear panels with several layers of custom designed frames in between.  They sell different configs that range from skeleton cases to full box.  For us, they created one in Ubuntu Orange and laser engraved the Ubuntu logo and Circle of Friends on the top cover.  It looks pretty sharp.

The PiGlow is another neat addition.  It plugs into the pin array on the Pi2 and provides a programmable LED light show.  There are ample instructions for making them flash and I’ll get to a brief demo in another post, perhaps.  The PiGlow is easily programmable with python, and they provide instructions for installing the necessary libraries to interface with the PiGlow via a Python script.  This means it should be quite easy to add a colorful, animated status marker to any python script by adding a few lines of code.  There is video of the PiGlow as well on the Pimoroni site, so enjoy!

Now let’s talk about the OS.  Because of the upgraded ARM Cortex-V7 chip, the Pi 2 can finally run Ubuntu.  Previous incarnations of the RPi used an older ARM v6 chip that Ubuntu was not ported for (though you could get various Debian versions to run on that chip).  In April 2015, we launched Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) and with it came Ubuntu Snappy.  Snappy is a new transactional version of the OS formerly known as Ubuntu Core, thus, Ubuntu Snappy Core.  The key difference is that with Snappy, we no longer use apt to manage package installations.  Instead, packages come in Snaps, which are transactional packages that we first developed for the Ubuntu Phone.  If you’ve never heard of Transactional packages, that’s ok, because you’ve more than likely used them any time you install or update an application on your smartphone.

In a brief nutshell, Transactional Packages are an All-or-Nothing installation that consists of bits of unmodifiable code as well as user-modifiable code.  The unmodifiable parts are the core elements of the application, the UI, the libraries, the binary executables, and so forth.  The user-modifiable parts are things like custom user configurations, downloaded or added data like documents, photos, icons, and other similar things.  When you upgrade an app, you essentially completely replace the unmodifiable bits with the newer version of those bits, unlike traditional package updates that may only update a single library file or binary executable.  One of the two biggest benefits to this are that you never have to worry about update creep, where update after update after update could, possibly, cause things to break as they leave behind old, conflicting or unneeded files.  The other is that if an update breaks, you can very easily roll back to the last working version.  So, for example, if you have Candy Crush version 1.2.3 installed and install 1.2.5 and discover that 1.2.5 is actually broken and you can no longer play Candy Crush, you could simply roll right back to version 1.2.3 and continue on crushing those candies.  And neither the update nor the rollback has touched your user-modifiable data (your records, progress and such in this case).

So the first thing I wanted to do was get this sucker on my network.  My network, however, is very tightly controlled at home.  All IP addresses are handed out by DHCP, on an assigned basis, so if your device’s MAC address isn’t specifically listed in dhcp.conf on my server, you won’t get an address.  And for wireless devices, even connecting to the access point is MAC controlled, so if your phone, tablet or laptop is not on the ACL on the WiFi access point, you can’t even join the network to ask for an IP address.  Sure, it’s not 100% secure, but nothing ever is, and this is “Secure Enough” for my needs and location.

Now, for my first idea, I wanted to replace my home DNS/DHCP server with a small IoT type device like a Raspberry Pi.  I currently use a hacked together Shuttle PC for this purpose, with a giant external 400W power supply that was made necessary because the small Shuttle PSUs are notoriously flaky, and mine didn’t last three months before it started shutting itself off randomly trying to keep up with the power needs of the CPU on the machine.  So that’s a lot of energy being used for a system that essentially does nothing but hand out DHCP requests and answer DNS queries.  Transit also serves as a bastion point so I can access my LAN remotely so I will try to set this up to do likewise.

First, however, I need the Snappy Pi to have a static IP address.  By default, it comes configured for dynamic addressing for it’s onboard ethernet device.  So I needed to modify /etc/network/interfaces.d/eth0eth0-orig


To change the file, a couple things had to happen.  First, I needed to be the root user.  Sudo may have worked, but it’s just as easy to become root to do a lot of things.  So sudo -i to become root.

Now, we just need to edit the file.  There is a problem though.  The root filesystem is mounted read-only by default.  This is great for security, but when you need to edit core files, it makes things a bit difficult.  So, you need to remount the root filesystem read-write so you can edit the core files that are not already designed to be user-writable (learn about the Snappy Core filesystem).  This is simply accomplished like so:

root@localhost:/etc/network/interfaces.d# mount -o remount,rw /

after this, you should be able to edit the eth0 file to use a static addresseth0-fixedI edited the file to add the address, netmask, broadcast and gateway lines and saved the eth0 file.  Then, I shut the interface down and brought it back up and I was in business.  I also took a moment to verify that it all worked by rebooting the RPi.  This highlights a couple things:

  1. On reboot, the root filesystem is again mounted read-only, so if you need to modify more core files, you will need to remount the filesystem once more.
  2. allow-hotplug is an interesting thing.  It’s intention is to only bring the device up on hotplug events.  However, because the ethernet device is always plugged in, on reboot, the kernel detects a hotplug event and brings the device up at boot time, regardless.  That means, if you don’t have it plugged in to a switch and turn it on, you could wait a bit while it tries to obtain a dhcp address.  I noted that after rebooting the RPi with the ethernet cable removed, the eth0 device was still shown as up with the prescribed IP address.

One thing I forgot to mention was that because I’m not using DHCP, I also need to list some nameservers.  Eventually, this file will list itself as it will be running Bind9, but for now, I’m going to give it Google’s public DNS addresses by creating a file called “tail” in /etc/resolvconf/resolv.conf.d that looks simply like this:

ubuntu@localhost:~$ cat /etc/resolvconf/resolv.conf.d/tail 

Now that I’m rebooted and have an IP address, lets take a brief whirlwind tour of Snappy before I end this prologue to my Snappy Adventure.

As I mentioned before, Snappy doesn’t use apt to manage packages, it uses a new tool called, not surprisingly, “snappy”.  So first, lets get just a bit of information about my system

ubuntu@localhost:~$ snappy info
release: ubuntu-core/devel
frameworks: webdm



So there you have it… there is much more available at https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/tutorials/ about snappy and its use.

I build a Paludariam – Part II

Here is the second part of my work on the Paludariam.

First, a definition.
We all know that an aquarium is an environment that you store and display fish and aquatic creatures in. These range from basic gold fish and Betta bowls to elaborate, super-expensive saltwater reef aquariums housing some of the worlds most beautiful and deadly ocean creatures.

I had built one or the other over the years, but never really combined them until I found inspiration in the things i read about Vivariums which lead to Paludariams.

Essentially, the Paludariam is just like a vivarium, a terrarium with live creatures, live plants, regulated humidity and temperature to produce as much a self sustaining ecosystem as possible. The difference between the Paludariam and Vivarium is that the Paludariam also incorporates a water feature in addition to a landmass for the animals to live in. the water feature could be anything from a pond to stream to waterfall to a deep fish tank surrounded at the top by landmass for amphibious creatures.

In my case, I have a rather simple setup that involves a water feature, with a waterfall, several small fish (Tetras) and a base layer of gravel that slopes up out of the water line to provide moist, but not flooded landmass and moss for my frogs to crawl on. The upside here is that the moss maintains moisture and helps with humidity control, as does the circulation from the waterfall. So lets take a look a bit more in-depth:

The landmass, as I said, is just a lot of aquarium gravel substrate covered by moss. the upside is that I can easily plant some semi-aquatic plants, it’s cheap, and easy to maintain (just remove the moss and replace every now and then). The down side is that I’m really limited on what can be planted, normal potted plants will drown. The frogs love it, it gives them a lot of texture to climb on and jump around in, plus it really maintains moisture, which helps with keeping the humidity around 70% or so.

You can see the three plants I put in there today… they’re new, so we’ll see how well they work. I may yet have to pull some of this out and redo it in-situ, but hopefully not.

This is the water side. The filtration and aeration is done by the waterfall… it’s a pre-made unit I picked up on clearnace at PetSmart that includes dual filtering and constant water movement. Its big enough for twice the amount of water I have… my water level is limited by the lower vents in the glass, unfortunately, so I get about 4 inches deep or so. The gravel is just standard aquarium gravel and the quartz was harvested from my yard… it gives the fish something to hide behind, and the large piece makes for a nice perch for the frogs.

And here are some tiny froggies:

And some Fishies (neon and white-tip tetras):

There is also one tadpole who has strong back legs. I think he’ll be sprouting the front legs soon so I put him in the tank directly to see if he’ll metamorphose and crawl out on his own into the new world. Given that they’ve all been raised together in the same tub, I don’t think that disease is a worry. If he survives and emerges like I hope, I’ll probably simply transfer them from the tadpole tank directly to the paludarium once they become froglets. But that will really depend on what this guy does.

I built a Paludariam – Part I

I can’t believe it’s really been this long since I last posted anything there. I will attempt to do better in this new year.

Let’s start out 2014 with a project that started something like this:

So I’ve had a few different pets over the years… dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, mice, snakes, scorpions various types of freshwater fish, etc. Now I’ve found a new hobby…

It started this past spring when some amorous tree frogs decided to have the sexy time in a tub that was left on my deck which was full of rainwater. Sortly there were hundreds of tadpoles, it seemed, who happily feasted on the algae growing in the water, and eventually mosquito larve as well. As the summer wore on, the tadpoles became froglets and eventually left their sheltered little pond to go out into the big, wide world. But then fall came and with it the first freeze, leaving a crust of ice covering the tub of rainwater that had become the ersatz frog pond.

I actually felt kinda bad that these little things were soon destined to freeze to death in a block of ice once winter set in and the temps dropped below freezing for extended periods of time. So, I scooped them up and put them into a large mason jar. A week later, I realized I had no plan, and had a jar full of tadpoles. So began the odyssey. First, I bought a cheap, small fish tank so the tadpoles would have better, cleaner water, room to swim and could live out their lives and I could watch them grow and metamorph into froglets and eventually frogs.

So the first step was setting up that aquarium.

The next step, once the tadpoles have become froglets (they now have all four legs and can climb if they need to, but still have tails) they no longer need to eat. The tail is slowly re-absorbed during the metamorphosis. At this stage (once I see they have all legs), I remove them from the tadpole tank and put them in a simple plastic tub. The tub is filled with enough water from the tadpole tank to give them a habitat to live in until the lungs develop and are ready to breathe air. The tub is sat at an angle so that when the frog is ready, it can easily emerge from the water.

The tub is very important, or at the very least, the tadpole tank would need some sort of floating platform for the frogs to climb onto. Once they get their legs, the lungs start really developing and if they can’t get out of the water easily, they’ll drown. I lost one this way early on because I didn’t provide a good enough platform. Thus, I went with the tub instead as it’s much safer for the froglet.

This is the tub, sitting on a deck of playing cards to elevate it as I mentioned before. It’s empty right now as I don’t have a froglet ready to change.

Once they’ve emerged from the water, I put them in a small transitional terrarium. This is little more than moss and a tub of water. Here, they’re fed some small flightless fruit flies and I just make sure they aren’t gonna die after just a few days out of the water. I had one die on me like this already. This terrarium is one of the medium sized “critter keepers” you can find at Wal-Mart or any pet store. I did buy a mosquito net head cover from Wal-Mart and glue it to the inside of the top of the critter keeper to ensure any fruit flies didn’t get out through all the vents at the top. Word of advice, that’s very important, unless you like having little fruit flies crawling all over.

This is the temporary terrarium:

The temp terrarium is pretty easy to maintain, just make sure the water in the tub is fresh and mist the insides every day or so to keep the moss moist and the humidity acceptable. These are all tree frogs and they need good humidity and a pool of water to keep from drying out.

Finally, they are moved to the paludarium. A paludarium is just a vivarium but has water as well as landmass. The one I’m using is a converted 36″Tx24″Wx18″D snake terrarium that I’ve converted. This is my first time trying a mixed environment like this, and there are already things I want to change when start really redoing it later on. But for now, it looks pretty nice and so far is running well. The next time, I think I’ll use a real aquarium, though, as I can make the water feature a lot deeper for better fish colonies. Maybe I can talk the spousal unit into letting me convert her old 75 Gallon tank into a huge paludariam. I’ve already got a great idea for one that has a pond on one end and a waterfall, plus a recirculating pump that pushes water to the other end, letting it travel like a small stream back into the pond.

This is the paludarium. It’s about 50/50 water to landmass. I didn’t do the substrate as well as I could have, instead using only aquarium gravel and moss. If/when I redo it, I’m going to do it more properly with a bit of plexi to separate the water from the land, then do real soil so I can plant more fauna. But for now, this should work until I have time and money to really put into it.