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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Random Ableton (and Push) Hacking Notes, Random Stuff, and More

A while back I was obviously playing around with the device (only had temporary access to the equipment) but I had other things to do, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/ableton-and-ableton-push-hacking.htmlhttp://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2015/07/python-decompilation-max4live.html Here are some of my notes from old experiments (please note that these experiments and notes were very old. A lot may have changed since then...):
- there are handshake mechanisms designed to deal with unauthorised tampering apparently. Also to stop non Ableton certified devices providing the same ability? Similar somewhat to power initialisation features on some modern laptop power supplies. Can be cicrumvented via bus tap or else modification of code itself?
- changing the scale also changes the layout of the thing?
MUSICAL_MODES = ['Major', [0,2,4,5,7,9,11], 'Minor', [0,2,3,5,7,8,10], 'Dorian', [0,2,3,5,7,9,10], 'Mixolydian', [0,2,4,5,7,9,10], 'Lydian', [0,2,4,6,7,9,11], 'Phrygian', [0,1,3,5,7,8,10], 'Locrian', [0,1,3,4,7,8,10], 'Diminished', [0,1,3,4,6,7,9,10], 'Whole-half', [0,2,3,5,6,8,9,11], 'Whole Tone', [0,2,4,6,8,10], 'Minor Blues', [0,3,5,6,7,10], 'Minor Pentatonic', [0,3,5,7,10], 'Major Pentatonic', [0,2,4,7,9], 'Harmonic Minor', [0,2,3,5,7,8,11], 'Melodic Minor', [0,2,3,5,7,9,11], 'Super Locrian', [0,1,3,4,6,8,10], 'Bhairav', [0,1,4,5,7,8,11], 'Hungarian Minor', [0,2,3,6,7,8,11], 'Minor Gypsy', [0,1,4,5,7,8,10], 'Hirojoshi', [0,2,3,7,8], 'In-Sen', [0,1,5,7,10], 'Iwato', [0,1,5,6,10], 'Kumoi', [0,2,3,7,9], 'Pelog', [0,1,3,4,7,8], 'Spanish', [0,1,3,4,5,6,8,10]]
- total of twelve which makes last irrelevant. Interval of 2 corresponds with tone, interval of 1 corresponds with semitone. Major scale is defined by the interval pattern T-T-S-T-T-T-S. Minor scale is T S T T S T T. At present 25 different types of scales are actually supported. Addition of scales easy. Was actually thinking about writing a random numer generator to produce all possible permutations before uploading but then thought about it carefully. It's a huge number to be scrolling through and completely unrealistic. Instead added a few scales based on number patterns instead it obviously changes the note layout as well as you will see can change status messages here as well if you want to. Your ability to generate sounds and modes will be determined by your musical knowledge and creativity
obviously designed with chromatic scales in mind but can basically any instrument that you want
would be curious how it handled other scales if at all
Any way to make a custom push scale
custom pad layout for push
def pitch_index_to_string(index):
    if 0 <= index < 128:
        return NOTE_NAMES[index % 12] + str(index / 12 - 2)
    return consts.CHAR_ELLIPSIS
looks like it may be it but don't know for certain
- p.523 of documentation for current curves. Played around with new velocity and sensitivity curves.Ableton push and 16 levels of velocity
- additional velocity curves via the following...
def _create_pad_settings():
    return [PadParameters(gain=100000, curve1=45000, curve2=0, name='Linear'),
     PadParameters(gain=85000, curve1=120000, curve2=60000, name='Log 1 (Default)'),
     PadParameters(gain=85000, curve1=120000, curve2=50000, name='Log 2'),
     PadParameters(gain=100000, curve1=120000, curve2=50000, name='Log 3'),
     PadParameters(gain=130000, curve1=120000, curve2=50000, name='Log 4'),
     PadParameters(gain=140000, curve1=120000, curve2=0, name='Log 5')]
- possible to randomise velocity curves? Tried to call random library/module not possible. When have time will look at this further
- following seems to have random number component...
import Live HandshakeComponent.py
def make_dongle_message(dongle_prefix, random_generator = Live.Application):
HandshakeComponent.py:    dongle_one = random_generator.get_random_int(0, 2000000)
HandshakeComponent.py:    dongle_two = random_generator.get_random_int(2000001, 4000000)
- documentation seems to suggest that it relies on a small version of Python in the backend. Painful to use because recompilation of scripts occurs on execution of core Ableton library. Can be frustrating to deal with on a slow machine. Logging messages can be difficult to decipher at times...
user@system:~$ strings "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe" | less

usage: %s [option] ... [-c cmd | -m mod | file | -] [arg] ...
xpython is a python interpreter contained in a single executable file, with a number of libraries already linked in.
It contains the following libraries and/or python modules:
    wxWindows (and wxPython *)
    sqlite (with pysqlite)
user@system:~$ curl --head "http://www.xpython.org/xpython.exe"
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.0.4
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:45:13 GMT
Content-Type: application/octet-stream
Content-Length: 4993024
Last-Modified: Fri, 23 Sep 2011 19:08:27 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
Keep-Alive: timeout=20
Accept-Ranges: bytes
- we know about colour modifications. Nothing to see here. Deals with colour calibration issues and also helps to deal with general aesthetics as well. Some people just don't like the original colour scheme
User colors on your Push!!!
- after de-compilation of some MIDI scripts suggestions that they were trying to rush their code out?

class PushSelection(Selection):
    Push selection object.  So far it is read-only and just accesses
    the appropiate components.  Ideally we should refactor a bit and
    make all components set and query the selection via this object
    and not otherwise.
- adding a mode to Ableton Push is a lot more difficult then changing existing modes. Think about the way the Scales_Preset_Button works (p.511 of documentation). Better if you use a momentary button to switch mode on and off. As is, there mightn't be enough buttons on the machine
Push custom remote script? Need small help...
- non-trivial to change layout. Played around with it, it works but it feels like isomorphic layout is key aspect of device. Everything gets jumbled if you make the most basic alterations. Not enough guards in place in code? Magic numbers aren't used often enough which makes knowing how not to break things very difficult?
    def _get_pattern(self, first_note = None):
    Class that sets up the button matrix as a piano, using different
    selectable layouts for the notes.
        super(InstrumentPresetsComponent, self).__init__(*a, **k)
        self._line_names = recursive_map(DisplayDataSource, (('Scale layout:',), ('4th ^', '4th >', '3rd ^', '3rd >', 'Sequent ^', 'Sequent >', '', '')))
        self.add_mode('scale_p4_vertical', partial(self._set_scale_mode, True, 3), self._line_names[1][0])
        self.add_mode('scale_p4_horizontal', partial(self._set_scale_mode, False, 3), self._line_names[1][1])
        self.add_mode('scale_m3_vertical', partial(self._set_scale_mode, True, 2), self._line_names[1][2])
        self.add_mode('scale_m3_horizontal', partial(self._set_scale_mode, False, 2), self._line_names[1][3])
        self.add_mode('scale_m6_vertical', partial(self._set_scale_mode, True, None), self._line_names[1][4])
        self.add_mode('scale_m6_horizontal', partial(self._set_scale_mode, False, None), self._line_names[1][5])
- alter the total number that light up by changing buttons[:6-8]
    def set_top_buttons(self, buttons):
        if buttons:
        self._set_scales_preset_buttons(buttons[:6] if buttons else None)
- ran through IDAPro Free but nothing much. Adding stuff to the browser
def make_instruments_browser_model(browser):
    instrument_rack = PathBrowserQuery(path=['Instruments', 'Instrument Rack'])
    drums = SourceBrowserQuery(include=['Drums'], exclude=['Drum Hits'], subfolder='Drum Rack')
    instruments = TagBrowserQuery(include=['Instruments'], exclude=['Drum Rack', 'Instrument Rack'])
    drum_hits = TagBrowserQuery(include=[['Drums', 'Drum Hits']], subfolder='Drum Hits')
    max = TagBrowserQuery(include=[['Max for Live', 'Max Instrument']], subfolder='Max for Live')
    places = PlacesBrowserQuery(subfolder=PLACES_LABEL)
    return QueryingBrowserModel(browser=browser, queries=[instrument_rack,
Custom VST and AU presets show up in Ableton's Push's Browser window
Alternative solution to changin VST Presets with Push
native instruments presets in instruments rack
Absynth 5
Update !
Reaktor Spark
Reaktor Razor
Reaktor Prism
- disecting als file reveals that hashed version of file present may be required in order to maintain uniqueness
vst preset, fxb/fxp and live set project in Ableton Live
Absynth 5 FX.dll not showing up in REAPER VST choices! Help!
Absynth_5_FX_Surround.dll=009CD2D30E31CC01,1131179 319,Absynth 5 (Native Instruments GmbH) (2->6ch)
Absynth_5_FX.dll=004270D10E31CC01,1131179318,Absyn th 5 (Native Instruments GmbH)
Absynth_5_Stereo.dll=006FA1D20E31CC01,1131179320,A bsynth 5 (Native Instruments GmbH)!!!VSTi
Absynth_5.dll=005380F50F31CC01,1131179317,Absynth 5 (Native Instruments GmbH) (2->6ch)!!!VSTi
doesn't use racks?
- change quantisation levels in following file
- to change startup message and the rest decoding is how? Changing startup would imply altering firmware? Occurs prior to connection to system?
- ironically, that everything that the Push does can be emulated via software or much cheaper hardware... Novation Launchpad and Launchpad95 Midi Scripts
- at least 17 SQL tables in core Ableton program executable?
SQLite format 3
user@system:~$ strings "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe" | grep -i "CREATE TABLE" | wc -l
strings "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe" | grep -i inflate
? inflate 1.2.3 Copyright 1995-2005 Mark Adler 
- according to Exeinfo PE. Not packed. Ripped files didn't contain much apart from icon files
Microsoft Visual Studio C++ 9.0 - Visual Studio 2008 (E8) no sec. CAB

user@system:~$ wine "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe" 
wine: created the configuration directory '/home/user/.wine'
Could not load wine-gecko. HTML rendering will be disabled.
wine: configuration in '/home/user/.wine' has been updated.
fixme:actctx:parse_depend_manifests Could not find dependent assembly L"Microsoft.VC90.MFC" (9.0.21022.8)
err:module:import_dll Library mfc90u.dll (which is needed by L"Z:\\media\\sda1\\Ableton-Program-Directory\\Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe") not found
err:module:LdrInitializeThunk Main exe initialization for L"Z:\\media\\sda1\\Ableton-Program-Directory\\Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe" failed, status c0000135
- not enough time to get a real good look at Ableton core executable...
objdump -d "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe"  | less
objdump -D "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe"  | less
objdump -s "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe"  | less
objdump -h "Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe"  | less
Ableton Live 9 Suite.exe:     file format pei-i386

Idx Name          Size      VMA               LMA               File off  Algn
  0 .text         01940cea  00401000  00401000  00000400  2**2
  1 .rdata        009b274d  01d42000  01d42000  01941200  2**2
  2 .data         0023d200  026f5000  026f5000  022f3a00  2**2
                  CONTENTS, ALLOC, LOAD, DATA
  3 .rsrc         000ebde0  02a7e000  02a7e000  02530c00  2**2
- commercial use disclaimer in Push.py stops third parties from making money from it?
- add a whole bunch of sub velocity modes, possibly a random mode as well?
- can be used to display arbitrary content?
    def _set_display_line(self, n, display_line):
        if display_line:
- lot of the core seems to imply that the screens are broken into segments of four...
- as usual just because some artists use a particular tool doesn't mean that you using that tool will result in the same success
Rok Torkar
- like I said previously, read through the de-compiled code and sometimes it's not immediately obvious why it breaks but I have a feeling this is because it was slightly rushed out? Read through everything and it will make more sense. Anybody who has built anything over a thousand lines of code shouldn't have much of a problem?

Random Stuff:
- usual assortment of funny animals...
- selective swamp draining? For some strange reason, I think there's going to be some unexpected 'collatoral damage' before any resolution/equilibrium is reached?
- the US/Russia relationship is very strange at times. One thing that is interesting is that some Russians see the US as a continuation of Fascism/Nazism?
CrossTalk - Bullhorns Remembering
USSR’s role in WW2 - Americans give RT their best guesses
‘30 seconds to film’ - Last Soviet WW2 cameraman shares frontline experience
Listening In - NSA collected & stored 151 million call records in 2016
LIVE - V-Day fireworks light up Moscow skies
- I've been trying to figure out how US capitalism differs (and why they're so much richer then other countries). Basically, it's not what you think. They were late to and were much less directly involved in the World Wars (despite what much popular culture tells us) which meant that technically they came out way ahead. They've been hanging on ever since. They're model of swamping markets though is incredibly difficult to compete with. Think of anyone who is trying to go head to head with their companies. They have to absorb losses and yet still come out ahead in spite of the fact that the US is engages in borderline corporate-fascism? Moreover, technically, few can compete with them because the US has a larger economy already. However, it's also clear that without others taking up their debt such as the Chinese and Japanese the US Empire would already have been 'over' a long time ago
- wonder what would happen if the big 4 got taken out simultaneously? Namely, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft? Given what happened with Anonymous a while back I don't think it's unrealistic? In fact, I'd hazard a guess they may have tried?
- latest in finance and politics. Feels like they're fudging figures at times (technically, we may have low to now growth but they're trying to talk things up. Only makes sense if you add up figures across the board though...)? 
Rebel spirit - Majority of EU youth ready to join mass uprising – poll
Keiser Report - All Talk, No Action (E 1066)
- refuse to believe that the Russians and Chinese are that far backward in the defense game... Look at some of the correlations/similarities in design between the latest Chinese and Russian jets and US/Western designs and it's blatantly obvious that there was likely some form of co-operation (between the Chinese and Russians) there and they have most of the knowledge there as well. Since the Russian economy has been in trouble (relatively speaking after the break up of the USSR), they've sort of used the co-operation to keep R&D work going for Russian designers/engineers... Even if they are up to date with the US/West they still don't want to play an open hand because they prioritise internal issues over their defense (at least, for the time being)? Moreover, they may even curtail some development to keep their European counterparts happy. Notice, that the PAK-FA RCS isn't as strong as it could be in spite of the fact that minimal development could push it much further up the stealth curve? Suspect that part of the stories of significant US/Western superiority may simply be to help sell US/Western defense equipment (clear that Russian/Chinese export equipment is often substantially less capable then their own native equipment also?)?
Why the Russians don't use "flat" TVC nozzles
Tu-180 Nevidimka
Fake Tu-180 Nevidimka
Russian Stealth Aircraft? Anyone?
- latest in defense
Have Russia and China  make a secret pact to protect North Korea
North Korea Warns They Will Strike US Bases
US Sends Two More Aircraft Carriers to Korea
Trump's Next Move Either Stops or Starts World War III
Declassified Intel - Russian Navy seals prepare for May 9th Victory Day
Tactical Exercises - Russian Navy holds combat drills
Celente - Will We Occupy Peace Or Fight 9 Wars
- I've built stuff like this... So many things can go wrong? The test could have been ridiculously difficult? The test harness itself may have been relatively unfair? Without seeing the actual report and source code for the scanner and scanned software itself I'm not sure how much I'd trust the results of this. The other irony is this. Recently, I decided to do some tests. Most of the only valid/qualified job seekers for the jobs that I were looking for were from that part of the world. One thing I will agree with this is the following though. Most of the time when you work with other people's software (just look through random Github/BitBucket/CVS/SVN repos and you'll see this over time) you'll figure out that most just fork and modify which means that they probably don't undestand the code as well? Those who have a higher percentage of their own original code tend to have smaller but more numerous projects
- latest in science and techology
FREE Masterclass: Prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP(R)) Certification
Tunnel collapses at US nuke site, no radiation leak

Random Quotes:
- Russia's NATO-member Baltic neighbors have accused Moscow of regularly violating their airspace in recent months and flying with switched-off transponders, devices that allow radars to identify planes and prevent collisions.

Russian planes have also been accused of dangerous manoeuvres in the Baltic, with one particularly close call in April, when a Russian Sukhoi jet flew less than 50 feet (15 meters) from a US destroyer.

However, Moscow has also made its own accusations, notably against US spy planes invisible to Russian radars that then have to be visually identified by warplanes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that NATO planes fly without transponders "twice as often" as Russian aircraft and promised to bring up the issue at an upcoming Russia-NATO council.

The defense minister is considering making the use of transponders compulsory if NATO countries take similar measures, the statement said.

Russia's military has focused heavily on the Baltics recently, with Shoigu announcing on Wednesday that the Baltic Fleet would be boosted by a new army corps.

Baltic Fleet commander Sergei Kravchuk and several other senior officers were sacked this week for "serious shortfalls in their duty," a rare major overhaul underscoring Moscow's growing attention to the region.
- A cabinet meeting in the Turnbull government, according to one of his ministers, resembled nothing so much as a smart dinner party. Lots of fascinating conversations and interesting ideas and possibilities in play around the table. Making concrete decisions or following through on the actual exercise of government? Not so much.

Bill Shorten, by contrast, has always been the ultimate political deal maker, even if the details of the ingredients often don't look too appealing or leave a sour taste when served up. It's the practical result that matters.
“The unwavering faith that the Chinese will somehow be able to successfully avoid anything more severe than a moderate economic slowdown by continuing to rely on the perpetual expansion of credit reminds us of the belief in 2006 that U.S. home prices would never decline,” Bass wrote.

Xie, meanwhile, says he is doubtful of the Communist’s Party’s ability to manage and grow China’s economy — but believes that, if they become more hands-off, the country could become the world’s leading economic force. At the core of Xie’s concerns about China is the contention that the government is doing more harm than good.

“If government takes a step back instead of dominating the economy so much, China can be twice as big as the U.S. in 20 years,” he said.
‘The Communist Party isn't compatible with the future of China’

Today’s regime in China recalls the U.S.-backed Chinese National Party, or Kuomintang, that ruled the country until its defeat at the hands of the Communist rebels in 1949, according to Xie.

The Nationalists, he says, flooded the economy with easy money to support speculation that led to runaway inflation. That, in turn, shifted public sentiment in favor of the Communists, who drove the Nationalists out of the country.

“It was very similar to what is going on right now,” said Xie. “If you keep on printing money to use for speculation, you will have hyperinflation and a currency crash,” he said. “The Communist Party isn't compatible with the future of China.”

Xie’s criticism of the government hasn't resulted in his arrest although he was not certain whether that will not change in the future. Chinese officials have started to muzzle analysts and journalists who have published pessimistic reports on the economy, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

And his research reports are not currently distributed in China. “There are safety mechanisms to stop someone like me reaching the ordinary people,” said Xie.

Despite his frustration, however, he occasionally belies immense pride in his country and bemoans the fact that the global community may be underestimating China’s potential.

“The economists in the West who say that China isn't very important are wrong,” he said. “China isn't an emerging economy. It is the only country that caught up with the West, and it will shape the path of the global e
- In the end, alarm bells will go off for some time as they always do when there is a perceived shakeup in world events. Whether the Brexit merits such a platform has yet to be fully known. What is known however is that the U.S.–British and European alliance, though imperfect, has been and will likely remain the more “reliable” partners in seeing through what Michael Ignatieff calls America’s burden: a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy.

Putting into context such grandiose and perhaps fanciful ideas, Asian associates would no doubt welcome America’s partnership—meaning protection—along with the prosperity it provides. It’s just that in this neighborhood, its own contribution to such an agreement should assist its own residents as opposed to a zeal to seek out progress for others—and that of course would be un-American.
- The Russian military will deploy its newest long-range radars in the Baltic and Black Seas to keep a weather eye on NATO operations, according to Interfax. The radars are capable of monitoring warships and aircraft at a distance of up to 450km.

“We expect the upgraded Podsolnukh over-the-horizon radar to come online in the Baltic by 2017,” a military source told Interfax on Wednesday.

He said a similar radar station is likely to be installed in Crimea, “able to detect any [foreign] warship passing through the Bosphorus.”

Both radars would significantly reinforce Russia’s capacity to monitor NATO’s assets in these regions, where there has been a dramatic increase in the alliance’s military exercises, surveillance operations and multiple naval deployments.

The Podsolnukh (Russian for “Sunflower”) over-the-horizon radar is designed to detect, track and classify up to 300 sea and 100 aerial targets in automated mode at ranges of up to 450km (280 miles).

It can also provide target acquisition for friendly warships and air defense systems beyond the radar horizon, which is the distance limit for most conventional radars. Three Podsolnukh stations are currently operational in Russia’s Far East and the Caspian Sea.

RTI Systems, Podsolnukh’s manufacturer, said it will deliver several radar stations to the Defense Ministry in 2017.

“In 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry plans to procure several stations for the Navy that would be deployed in the Arctic as well as in Russia’s southern and western frontiers,” Sergey Baev, director general of RTI Systems, told Interfax.

Over-the-horizon (OTH) radars typically use ionospheric reflection, meaning that radio signals sent towards the ionosphere are reflected back towards the ground. A small amount of the signal will then reflect off the ground back towards the atmosphere, and a small proportion of it will reflect back towards the broadcaster.

Sea- and shore-based non-military OTH radars are also becoming increasingly popular with coastal countries, to protect their exclusive economic zones from piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing.
- To put this another way, Google has grown, and is still growing, on the backs of some of its competitors, with end users oblivious to Google's antics – as usual. It is yet another example of what I have called "Google's Dance" – the remarkable way in which Google puts a false and friendly public face on activities that serve only one purpose for the company: increasing profit. On the surface, Google's quarantine list is yet another way Google helps us, free of charge, breeze through our day safe and well-informed. Beneath the surface, that list is yet another way Google accumulates more information about us to sell to advertisers.
- Russia bitterly opposes NATO's expansion into its Soviet-era satellites which it sees as a threat to its own security requiring an appropriate response.

"We don't intend to give in to this militaristic frenzy but it seems that is what they are pushing us to, to provoke a costly and pointless arms race," Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month.

Moscow reserves it direst warnings however for a Ballistic Missile Defence system the United States is building and which the summit is due to declare has reached an initial operating level.

Washington says the shield is designed to counter missile threats from Iran or the Middle East but Russia says that once the system becomes fully operational in 2018, it will undercut its strategic nuclear deterrent.

The NATO upgrade has largely been driven by the Ukraine crisis but leaders are increasingly worried by threats to the south in the shape of massive flows of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean and terror groups such as Islamic State gaining ground in Libya.

NATO leaders are expected to endorse plans to "project stability" by providing advice and assistance in the region to head off future problems.

NATO diplomatic sources say that while the alliance has a role to play, it does not consider itself to be the "first responder" which should be the EU's role.
- An unnamed source at the Russian Far East Development Ministry told Sputnik news agency in May that more than 31 agreements had been signed with Chinese companies.

Russian and Chinese firms have a number of projects in Russia’s Far East in energy, trade and cross-border tourism. The biggest of them is the Power of Siberia pipeline which is to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to China annually. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has described the pipeline the world’s biggest infrastructure project.

Cooperation in developing the sparsely populated but resource rich territory is one of the major points of interest between the two countries.

Japan has also expressed interest in developing Russia’s Far East. Tokyo is planning to create a $110 billion fund to bankroll infrastructure projects with some of the money invested in Russia's Pacific region.
- Operating from a flimsy hilltop warehouse in the backwoods of Japan’s Izu peninsula, Tomoharu Iguchi is a highly successful technology cannibal. His existence is one of the country’s darker secrets: a necessary strut in a corporate edifice defined by decades of deflation.

For those who picture Japanese production lines at the bleeding-edge of modernity, Mr Iguchi’s business of disembowelling, scavenging and supplying parts from long obsolete computers, seems improbable. His stockroom — a precariously stacked jumble of grimy monitors, half-gutted ’90s-era PCs and spaghetti knots of yellowed keyboard and mouse cabling — should not logically be humming with activity in 2016.

But his customer base — a nationwide, 1,000-strong list of Japanese companies that includes major railway operators, auto-parts giants, drugmakers, retailers and hundreds of small manufacturers — reveals a rather more threadbare Japan. It cannot live without its creaking, underpowered, 20-year-old computers. Or Mr Iguchi.

Mr Iguchi is hardly to be blamed for the phenomenon, but the corporate mindset and decision-making that keeps him in business are one of the main reasons that Abenomics is having such a hard time gaining traction.

Larger Japanese manufacturers, as reflected in the Bank of Japan’s most recent Tankan survey of business sentiment, are narrowly planning to raise their IT spending. But the less visible industrial heartlands are dragging their heels. Those managers and business owners who opt for Mr Iguchi’s services have spent a large part of their careers in the shadow of deflation. For them, cost-cutting — to the point of not replacing computers — has become a cherished corporate skill and guarantee of promotion.
- Following Western sanctions and Russia’s food embargo two years ago, the Prime Minister said the country would pursue a policy of import substitution which could boost domestic agriculture. This would give Russian farmers a unique opportunity to replace imported goods with their own produce.

Western sanctions were a “dead-end track”, but Russia has been forced to respond to the measures taken by Western countries, Medvedev said at the time.

Russia was listed as the world’s ninth largest food manufacturer in 2013, and has reduced imports by nearly 40 percent to $26.5 billion from two years ago, according to government data.

The country is expected to become the world’s largest wheat exporter this year, outpacing Canada and the US. Russian wheat exports are set for a record 23.5 million metric tons.

According to Russian Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachev, agriculture may soon become the country's second biggest export after energy.
- While China is the major beneficiary of freedom of movement in the region, a number of other countries rely upon shipping routes through the disputed area, namely Japan, South Korea and Australia.

An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including more than half the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

Oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia via the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the volume that transits the Panama Canal.

According to Robert D. Kaplan, some two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s, and 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports flow through the South China Sea.

Analysts estimate the cost of rerouting oil tankers via the Lombok Strait and east of the Philippines at $600 million per annum for Japan, and $270 million per annum for South Korea.

The majority of Australian cargo travelling through the South China Sea is destined for China; however, were China to obstruct shipping routes in the South China Sea between Australia and its other trading partners, it could force a costly reroute of some $20 billion worth of cargo per annum.
- Three weeks ago, the UK decision to leave the European Union sent markets into a savage tailspin. Within hours, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank among others were promising even more "stimulus".

The amounts of money involved are staggering.

A few months ago, Japan earmarked $US851 billion for stimulus for this year alone. And the US Federal Reserve has bought more than $US4.2 trillion of its own securities in recent years under the guise of quantitative easing.

Even investment banks, having ridden this artificial boom for seven years, have grown wary of the overbearing influence the state on financial markets.

Take this note from Macquarie to clients last week, reprinted by blogsite Macrobusiness:

    We believe that the global economy and investors are residing in the twilight zone between an era of relatively free market capitalist economies (with its own set of signals) and a new environment which is likely to be completely dominated by the state.

Who knows where this all will end? Many are concerned that all this Central Bank intervention not only has prolonged the inevitable, but created an environment for a much greater collapse.

Others are starting to think that it all may never end; that we've discovered the elixir of permanent wealth; that given governments have bought all their own debt, they'll just forgive themselves or extend the payment date into the never never.

But even Lenin realised there were limits to revolutionary activity.
- Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited China on a state visit, holding talks with President Xi Jinping and signing a number of major deals in various economic spheres from oil to hi-tech aircraft construction and world trade. The nations also agreed to expand mutual payments in national currencies in order to decrease dependency on external factors, Putin told reporters.

This month, Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin held talks with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang who came to Russia to visit the Innoprom-2016 expo. After the talks, Rogozin told reporters that the two nations intended to further develop cooperation regardless of Western pressure on Moscow.

Rogozin also noted that relations with China would have been even more active if not for the West’s “restrictive measures” against the Russian Federation. At the same time he emphasized that the sanctions were neither a hindrance nor the reason behind this cooperation.
- The six richest countries - which make up more than half the global economy - host less than nine percent of the world's refugees, an aid group has said.

The United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers last year - just 8.88 percent of the global total, the report from the Britain-based Oxfam said.

Poorer countries, in contrast, have accommodated most of those looking for save havens, Oxfam said.

"Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa as well as the Occupied Palestinian Territory host over 50 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers but account for under two percent of the world’s economy," it said.

"While Germany has recently welcomed far more refugees than the other of the wealthiest nations, there still remains a major gap with poorer countries providing the vast majority of safe havens for refugees."
- Just this past May, Vladimir Putin traveled to Greece hoping to secure agreements on trade, investment, energy and transportation. Putin was joined by foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and a number of high-flying oil and gas executives, indicating the importance of the visit. Russia has expressed interest in purchasing Greek railway company Trainose, as well as Greece’s second-largest port in Thessaloniki. The close Greco-Russian ties also extend to defense cooperation and weapons projects. Indeed, Greece is negotiating with Moscow for the purchase and maintenance of the Russian-made S-300 air defense systems, which it has possessed since the late 1990s.

The cooperation between the two countries raises concerns about Europe’s ability to maintain sanctions on Russia. Worries over the relationship between Tsipras, his ministers and Moscow were raised as soon the party took power last year. The day after his election, Tsipras objected to calls for further sanctions against Russia and voiced his solidarity with Moscow and the Russian people. Tsipras and his ministers have both echoed Russian arguments of “neo-Nazi” elements active in Ukraine. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who has previously praised Russia’s Ukrainian intervention and referred to the government in Kiev as “fascist,” went so far as to suggest Kalashnikov rifles could be produced on Greek soil and sold to other NATO members, while Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has close ties to members of Putin’s inner circle. Ultimately, Tsipras’s government begrudgingly agreed to the sanctions.

That hard-won compliance may not last for long. As Russia strategically strengthens ties with Greece and other disgruntled EU members, it seeks to divide the bloc and encourage member states to ultimately dilute or stop sanctions, which will require a unanimous vote to extend. With the sanctions up for renewal every six months, there are ample opportunities for frustrated EU states like Greece use their veto power to block them. Even with the sanctions in place, Greece is looking for loopholes to export agricultural products to Russia. Gazprom and Russia’s development bank, for their part, have continued to pursue pipeline agreements with Greece since last year. Given the perceived importance of sanctions in deterring Russia from further military incursions, these are worrying developments for European unity on security policy.
- Among the measures the British government has proposed to counter alleged Russian ‘propaganda and disinformation’ is the provision of extra funding to BBC World Service to produce more content in Russian.

The plan, which puts the international broadcaster on par with MoD’s freshly revamped psy-warfare 77 Brigade, was given by the cabinet to MPs in response to a July House of Commons Defence Committee inquiry called “Russia: Implications for UK Defence and Security.”

One of the concerns voiced by the lawmakers was that “that the UK and NATO do not yet have a fully-developed strategy to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation effectively.”

“We understand that efforts are underway in NATO to develop this,” the report said. “In that respect, the establishment of 77 Brigade by the MoD is a welcome step in the right direction. However, the budget available to Russia means that NATO must substantially increase the level of resources which member states commit to this work.”

The government’s response was that, along with other NATO allies, it will step up strategic communications.

“The UK is also encouraging a more joined-up approach to Alliance communications, including greater alignment between policy and communications divisions. We are encouraging NATO to adopt a communication model that more closely resembles the UK’s; we hope this will lead to further development of strategies to counter Russian propaganda – with more emphasis on long-term objectives, target audiences and evaluation,” the response read.

Another venue is, as the government described it, to “promote access to reliable information, especially in the Russian language.”

“This includes additional funding for the BBC World Service to enhance its Russian language output,” it said. “In partnership with allies, we are developing projects to improve media plurality and access to balanced and objective Russian-language reporting.”
- Where the Chinese government takes a long-term, strategic approach to stealing U.S. secrets — vacuuming up millions of security clearance résumés for future espionage use, and commercial and military trade secrets to aid its own development — the Russian game is a tactical one where context and timing matter greatly, experts agreed.

After years of keeping its hacking activities secret, Russia picked this particularly unsettling moment in U.S. politics to make its exploits public. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump already has said the U.S. political system cannot be trusted and has hinted that the election results may be rigged. Now, after public revelations of Russian hacking, the Democrats as well as U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are worried about the integrity of the elections.

“This is his country’s major adversary, and he sees a chance to exploit its weakness at a crucial moment,” said a senior diplomat based in Moscow, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

It all plays into Putin’s narrative that his democratic critics are simply U.S. agents and that American democracy is as politically corrupt as any other form of government. Some in Russia see a mirror image in the American response to the hacking.

“I find the political reaction from the United States very harmful to democracy all over the world,” said Alexander Baunov, a former Russian diplomat and now a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “They do the same that Putin does, ascribing every problem possible . . . to interference from abroad. You can’t imagine how much harm it does. . . . The image we see here is the Putinization of American politics.”

The antics have also forced world attention back to Putin, giving him the aura of a superpower leader. On Wednesday, for example, three of the six front-page stories in the New York Times were about Russia — its role in Syria, its latest high-profile hack and its secret influence campaigns in Europe.

“Putin is still recovering from belittling remarks” that Obama made when he described the country as a regional power, said Angela Stent, national intelligence officer for Russia from 2004 to 2006. “It’s a way of reasserting Russia. Whatever the truth, Russia is back.”
- In December 2015, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba bought the Hong Kong media group of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading English-language newspaper in the former British colony, where freedom of the press has resisted control by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. On September 9, the SCMP’s Chinese-language website went dark with little explanation, leading to concerns that censorship might next spread to the newspaper’s English-language coverage. Can Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, who has strong ties to mainland business interests and to the ruling party, support “objective, balanced and fair” coverage of China and his own business in English only? Are Chinese readers and readers of news in Chinese to be deemed second-class citizens, even by the venerable SCMP? —The Editors
- Overall, we should remember Putin’s famous if somewhat ambiguous comments in December 2014 about Russia as a metaphoric bear. He said, “They will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and claws.” A bear in a corner is a dangerous thing. That’s why the United States needs to think carefully about not only its policies, but also about its approach to negotiations.
- The Visakhapatnam-class is the most advanced destroyer class ever to be built in India, according to Indian defense officials. Displacing 7,300 tons, the stealth guided missile destroyer has a crew of 50 officers and 250 sailors. It is powered by four Ukrainian gas turbine engines, and capable of reaching a maximum speed of about 30 knots. The ship’s operational range is around 4,000 nautical miles.

Around 65 percent of components of the Vishakhapatnam-class are domestically designed and produced, including 11 of its weapon and associated sensor systems, according to Indian naval officials. The multirole warship features a host of new weapon systems, as I noted elsewhere:

The principal armament of the Visakhapatnam-class will be eight BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which boast an operating range of 290 km and were co-developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Russian defense industry.

The BrahMos is capable of traveling at speeds of up to Mach 3.0, making it one of the world’s fastest cruise missiles, and operates on a so-called fire and forget principle. Furthermore, I explained:

In addition, the ships will be equipped with the Barak-8/NG — an Indo-Israeli surface-to-air missile (SAM) — jointly developed by Rafael-IAI and the DRDO. The weapon was successfully tested in Israel in November 2014. The Visakhapatnam can carry up to 32 of these medium-long range air defense missiles.

Furthermore, the ship boasts a license-built 76 mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun, four fully-automated Russian AK-630 close-in weapon systems (likely fitted on the vessel’s bow), and a yet-to-be-selected 127 mm gun (however, local media sources claim that  the ship will just be armed with a 127 mm main gun instead of a 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount).

The Multi-Function Surveillance Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR) is the Israeli equivalent to the  U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System and allegedly on par with the Chinese “Aegis” system installed on the Type 052D Multirole Destroyer.

For antisubmarine warfare, the new stealth guided-missile destroyer features twin-tube launchers and RBU-6000 Smerch-2 rocket launchers. It can also carry two multiple-role helicopters (e.g., Sea King or HAL Dhruv helicopters). 

The total cost of the program is estimated at around $4.9 billion.
- A top-ranking university in the United States has suspended an academic course on Palestinian history midway through the semester, following accusations that it propagated anti-Semitic viewpoints and indoctrinated students against Israel.

The University of California at Berkeley cancelled the course "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" after it received complaints from 43 pro-Israel and Jewish groups alleging that the one-credit course was politically bent and encouraged students to hate the Tel Aviv regime and “take action to eliminate it.”

The advocacy groups had expressed concern that the course aimed to teach the idea "that Israel is an illegitimate settler colonial state" and that the readings in its syllabus had "a blatantly anti-Israel bias."

Berkeley's Chancellor Nicholas Dirks confirmed the suspension, claiming that the class “did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards.”

This is while Paul Hadweh, the course facilitator, said in a statement that, “I complied with all policies and procedures required for creating the course.”

He added that, “The course was vetted and fully supported by the faculty adviser, the department chair, and the Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses of Instruction.”
- European companies are accused of taking advantage of weak fuel standards in African countries to export highly-polluted fuel to West Africa, a new report says.

The report, from the Swiss watchdog group of Public Eye, said major European oil companies and commodity traders take crude oil from African countries, blend it with highly-polluted additives, and then sell it back to them.

    “Many West African countries that export high grade crude oil to Europe receive toxic low quality fuel in return,” it wrote.

Toxic products that the companies add to make the so-called “African Quality” fuels are far higher than those allowed in Europe, according to Public Eye.

    “Their business model relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels in order to increase their profits,” the report read.
- The main producers of titanium are China, Japan, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and the US.

Titanium is the strategic metal of the century, named after the powerful Titan gods in Greek mythology. Because of its strength, light weight and corrosion resistance, the metal is highly prized in aircraft manufacturing, with further applications in military, aerospace, marine industries, dental implants and industrial processes.

Iran’s other known titanium reserves are based in Anzali Lagoon in the Caspian Sea, which have attracted the attention of Japanese developers, according to Iranian media reports.

The Fanjuj mine in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan is another base where a cluster of 30 deposits are each able to yield 1 million tonnes of titanium ore per year, according to head of the board of directors of Makran Steel Jamshid Jahanbakhsh Tehrani.

Iran needs more than $4.2 billion of investment over the next five years to bring the Fanuj prospect fully online, he said last December.
- The Russian authorities are planning to implement major reforms to law enforcement agencies, merging the federal security, federal bodyguard and foreign intelligence services into a structure similar to the Soviet-era KGB, a business daily reports.

Quoting multiple unnamed sources, the Kommersant newspaper wrote that the reforms are scheduled for the nearest future and will be completed before the presidential elections of 2018.

The planned result is the creation of the Ministry for State Security, or MGB – the agency uniting the currently independent Federal Security Committee (FSB), Federal Bodyguard Service (FSO) and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
- At this point, our readers should be intimately familiar with the timeline leading up to the "Oh Shit" moment when the Platte River Networks employee, Paul Combetta, deleted Hillary's emails despite later admitting to the FBI that he "was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton's e-mail data on the PRN server" (if not, see "The "Oh Shit" Moment: Hillary Wiped Her Server With BleachBit Despite Subpoena").  Once Combetta was summoned to testify in front of Congress, we also learned that the FBI had granted Combetta an immunity deal (see "The "Oh Shit" Guy That Wiped Hillary's Server With BleachBit Was Just Granted Immunity"). 

Well, the plot just continues to thicken around the "Oh Shit" guy as a political researcher just posted the following tweet that exposes a Reddit thread from July 2014 in which Combetta sought tech advice on how to "strip out a VIP's (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived emails." 
- Looking at the potential meetings between Kerry and Lavrov, how can Kerry walk into a meeting with Lavrov after something like this? It’s got to be impossible. The US went after Russia when Russia's bombing campaign began in 2015 for using iron bombs, unguided munitions. All American munitions are GPS-, satellite-navigated.

There are no accidental bombings by the US. The lines at Dayr al-Zawr, where the bombing occurred and where 83 Syrian army were killed, have been within 100 meters since 2015. They've been very standardized. The US and Britain bombed clearly long-established lines, using guided munitions, satellite surveillance and drone surveillance. They had a full surveillance package on this.

This was very much a planned attack. To the US, ISIS [Daesh] is a small player. The US is here to destabilize Russia. Syria is the tool the US is using. This is how I see it.
- If Malcolm Turnbull's offer to help the United States resettle Central American refugees being held in Costa Rica isn't the start of a solution for those on Nauru and Manus Island, it should be.

There is a logical quid pro quo here: that if Australia helps the US by resettling refugees being held in Latin America, they should do the same for Australia by resettling refugees detained on tiny islands.

Tragically, the only logic underpinning Australia's asylum seeker policy in recent years has been the tougher the policy, the less likely people are to seek protection without an invitation.

That logic has condemned more than 2000 people to three years of misery in limbo, purely to present a message of deterrence to would-be arrivals.

There is, of course, the possibility that the resettlement offer is just a friendly, one-off gesture to thank Barack Obama for inviting Malcolm Turnbull to his summit.

After all, the other initiatives were hardly ground-breaking: a commitment not to cut the refugee intake once it increases to the promised 18,750 in 2018 and $130 million in new funding to help refugees over the next three years – less than it will cost to stage the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

Hopefully, the offer to take refugees from the Costa Rican resettlement centre was more than just the price of admission and is one that that invites reciprocity and recognises the need to co-operative action on a global scale.
- Tiangong-1, which was launched in September 2011 and whose name means “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese, ceased broadcasting in March of this year, effectively ending its operational capacity. Wu Ping, deputy director of China's Manned Space Engineering office, told reporters that most of the station will likely disintegrate in the atmosphere and pose little threat to people on the ground.

“Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling,” she told China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Wu’s statement seemed to confirm widespread suspicions that China had lost control of Tiangong-1, since if it was still functioning properly operators would be able to bring it down at a specific time and place or burn it up in the atmosphere. As it stands, the orbital station is being closely monitored by Chinese authorities to see when and where it will fall.

Over the course of its five-year lifespan, Tiangong-1 conducted observations of various natural phenomena on Earth, including Australian bush fires and the Yuyao floods in the eastern Zhejiang province. It also pioneered the Chinese space program, performing the first successful Chinese docking in space, with Shenzhou-8 in November 2011. This was followed by Shenzhou-9 in June 2012 and Shenzho u-10 in June 2013, both of which were both manned by three “taikonauts” (Chinese astronauts). It’s replacement, Tiangong-2, was launched on Thursday, and is due to receive its first manned mission from Shenzhou-11 in mid-to-late October.

The Chinese space program runs independently of Russian and American efforts on the International Space Station (ISS), as taikonauts are prohibited from entering the ISS due to American security concerns.
- Krystian Kolondra, senior vice-president of Opera browser for computers, was quoted as saying: "If people knew how the Internet truly works, I believe they all would use a VPN.

"By making our browser VPN free and easy to use, we hope to make it an essential tool, just as the lock and key is to your house."

Opera has versions available for Windows, the Mac and Linux.

"We know that people are concerned about their privacy online and that the interest in VPNs is increasing," Kolondra said.

"However, two major obstacles are blocking people from using it: VPNs are too complicated to use, and they require a monthly subscription. Opera resolves both issues by introducing its free and easy-to-use service right into the browser."

Cheesy Tomato Based Pasta Recipe, Adding Subtitles to Video Files, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2018/08/cheapeasyhealthy-tomato-based-pa...