Cathal

Site owner.

Bikeforums.net – Idiots? Maybe. Illegal? Probably. GDPR violators? Definitely!

I joined the online forum “bikeforums.net” back in 2012, just to be able to read some of the postings on the road bike section.

I didn’t post anything there in my time as a forum member, the community just didn’t interest me much, and they really didn’t seem like the most friendly bunch, but I thought nothing of it really – no skin from my back.

However, over the past ~18 months or so, I started to get really stupid/medically dangerous spam to the address I used to sign up to those forums.

Upon checking the forums, I could see I was not the only one whose site-specific sign-up address was now being spammed. However, the admins on the forum fully stood behind their decision to give the PII for the accounts to their “parent” company for use as a mailing list for dodgy emails, claiming that everyone using the forums had signed up to “promotional” newsletters. Somehow, I don’t think that emails titled “How To Entirely Empty Your Bowels Every Morning – Top Surgeon Explains How” or “Attention! Remove This Toxic Protein From Your Diet” qualify as forum-related newsletters.

Now, with spam emails, it’s considered bad practice to click on the links contained within them or to allow any inline images to load – as this guarantees the leaking of information to the spam source and also guarantees to them that the email address is a valid destination for the spam mails. So, when the forum admins stated “Oh, just click the unsubscribe” link in the mails, that’s definitively not good practice.

The kicker in the situation is that any consent given to join the forum back in 2012 would not have had the correct wording to satisfy GDPR requirements. And, I had no interaction with the forum after the GDPR laws became active, so I could not have given specific consent to that company to share or otherwise allow unknown third parties to use my personally identifiable information.

When I raised the point that their actions were GDPR non-compliant, my concerns were handwaved away, and I continued to receive these spam mails. Recently, I posted back on the forum that I was still receiving the spam emails, and that the problem was one to be fixed by the forum owners.

Their immediate action? To ban the IP I was using (not that they have ever heard of VPNs, and my account on the forum was banned. Not the smartest of people, as that type of action is specifically an offence under the GDPR..

I’ll soon be making a formal complaint to the Irish Data Commissioner about this forum’s actions and parent company’s violations. The parent company does indeed have business interactions with EU entities, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Any more spam emails that I might receive to that sign-up address will just go into the legal folder and used as further evidence of the GDPR violations.

Not the smartest of people really, the bikeforums.net people.

A good day on the radio.

Towards the end of 2020, I set myself an interesting challenge:

  • On each band I can transmit on with the FT-891:
  • Make at least one international contact on FT8
  • Within the 12 hour period from 9am.

I used the DX Commander for QSOs on 80m, 40m, and 30m. I used the Hexbeam for QSOs on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m, and 6m. My in-progress longwave MagLoop was then used for 60m and 160m.

Interesting QSOs from the day? 6m was open to Iberia and I made a few contacts to Spain and Portugal. My only 10m contact was in the US (KC8THC) and I was glad to make that contact as the band appeared dead otherwise.. My 12m contacts were USA and South Africa. 15m was busy and far-reaching up to 12,000km (LU3VA Argentina) to West Malaysia with Mauritius and St Helena in between. 17m contacts from Liechtenstein and Bulgaria we made. 20m contacts were made local in the EU – wrong time of the day chosen for that band. 30m QSOs were from north-central Europe. 40m stations were contacted from the US and Canada via the UK to Germany. 60m signals were copied from the Netherlands to Estonia. 80m was Ireland and Germany, and 160m signals from the Isle of Man and Germany.

I’m a bit chuffed that I did in fact manage 160m through 6m contacts via FT8 digital mode, towards the bottom of the sunspot cycle, with portable antennas, and sticking to the legal limits for transmission.

So far, the only band that has not had the confirmed QSL on QRZ is the contact on 10m, I’m awaiting his upload to get actual confirmation of that QSO.

I do have hardware that can do 2m and 70cms, but I didn’t include that in the challenge for the day. Maybe another time!

Equipment used:

  • Yaesu FT-891 transceiver
  • DX Commander All Band Vertical, with 80m element.
  • Folding Antennas Hexbeam, 20-10 with additional 6m element.
  • Messi & Paolini Ultraflex-7 and Hyperflex-10 coax cables
  • SPE Linear Amplifiers 1.3K-FA.
  • My R9-3900X 48Gb monster of a desktop PC.

Licensed Drone Operator

I decided to branch out my hobbies into the flying of small unmanned aerial vehicles, and I obtained a DJI Mavic Air 2 over the weekend. I’ve already passed all necessary qualifications to hold the IAA drone operator’s license which is applicable all across Europe.

That little aircraft is amazing really. The level of control it has, and the footage capability it has, are both so far ahead of what I previously had used. I’ve flown it through my Hexbeam radio antenna, I’ve flown it around and through the swingset on the lawn, and I can fly it around a (moderately large) room without issue.

The footage from 120m will be really interesting to see, and the panorama functions is pretty cool – especially when used with the HTC Vive VR goggles I got earlier in the year.

Going on hikes will now have some more interesting footage and pictures for the memory collection!

Best thing is the license and drone-specific insurance are Europe-wide, so once I comply with the local regulations and permissions, I can fly pretty much anywhere. Really looking forwards to that!

How dumb is dumb? This dumb..

Some time in the past two years, I had my Celestron CPC800 telescope on the footpath to the rear of the house, taking a look through the developing twilight at the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

I had invited the others in the house to come out and take a look, as for some it was to be their first time actually seeing the gas giants through a telescope.

One of the girls enjoyed looking at Jupiter and could discern the equatorial bands, then could see the Cassini division in Saturn’s rings. She then looks up at me and asks in all seriousness “Can you show me Earth now?”. Dumbfounded and utterly gobsmacked, I extend my arm to the right, rotate my forearm and extended index finger to point vertically downwards. “No, I mean through the telescope!” she says then. She genuinely thought that I would be able to show her, through the eyepiece, what the Earth looks like from space, while simultaneously standing on the surface of the same Earth.

What’s the worst thing is, she never realised how stupid the first question was, and then to double down on the dumb when she was given an out to laugh with.

I am glad I no longer have to interact on a regular basis with that level of dumb.

You may now call me EI4IWB

Echo India Four India Whiskey Bravo. That’s my new identity ont he airwaves.

Saturday July 25th, I travelled to the Maldron hotel in Tallaght, Dublin, to sit the IRTS/Comreg HAREC Amateur Radio Licensing exam. Two-part paper, two hours long, 60 multiple choice sections, questions chosen from the syllabus and corrected by Comreg.

About ten days later, including a 5-day quarantine of the paperwork to comply with Covid-19 regulations, I was informed of my e-Licensing account with Comreg. Later that evening the exam results were posted up, and I had a grade of “Pass” with a score of 85%, >60% needed to pass. Straight away once the qualification was showing up, I applied for the callsign, and a few hours later I knew I had EI4IWB as my for-life HAM radio identity.

Since then, I’ve cautiously called CQ on the ham bands, I’ve started using FT8 to make digital QSOs, and I’ve been transmitting WSPR signals as well. Logging the QSOs has been interesting, making sure I have the right accounts at the right places. I also made sure to reserve my callsign @gmail and both the .com and .ie domains of my callsign.

My WSPR signals have been heard from Alaska to the Canaries to way past Moscow. That’s amazing for under a tenth of a watt. By voice I’ve been heard from Portugal to Slovakia, as well as within the country.

I do see myself getting a half-decent RF amplifier in the near future, it’ll be good to be able to get to the current legal limit of 400W on most bands, and ideally it’ll be great to get to the 1.5kW limit during contests. But quality equipment is hard enough to come by at a price that is not eye-watering. Acom 2000A amplifier is my preferred item, but at over €6000 it’s not really a runner yet..

It’s good to get on the air, good to make contact internationally without using an intermediary network, it’s good to get to a first principles kind of thing – it’s really basic physics and really effective.

More learning, and more toys to come.

Solder kits – soothing constructions and learning tools

Since the start of the year, I’ve been teaching myself how to solder properly. I’ve found that putting together a complex kit is something akin to the same sense of progress and accomplishment that I used get with e.g. Lego Technic kits as kid. It’s good to get back the access to that set of feelings!

I started with some cheap antenna kits from the QRP Guys to get better reception on my SDRs, found I quite liked putting them together and fettling them after the completion of construction.

I purchased a proper Weller soldering station from Amazon and a varied set of tips. Also included in that purchase was a roll of proper leaded solder – none of that really hard-to-work-with unleaded “solder” for me thank you very much. The Weller iron has certainly made smaller electronic kits an awful lot easier to do, with 70W and a needlenose tip.

The most complex kit I have completed to date is a QCX-40 kit by Hans Summers (http://www.qrp-labs.com/qcx.html) with a fair few toroids to wind and quite an amount of densely packed small through-hole componentry. It’s a 4W Morse radio, that other builders have reached worldwide with appropriate antennas. It’s piqued my interest in learning Morse, as that’ll be useful to me as a future Amateur Radio Operator.

I’ve also completed QRP-Labs U3S kits, one to be used with an amplifier and the other is going to be barefoot. Both have the relay kit for multiple low pass filters, so I will have choices from 160m to 6m for WSPR transmissions. There’s also a nice 50W class C amplifier built and biased, for the QCX to be guaranteed worldwide reception of my signals.

Having the decent soldering iron has also meant that I can perform repairs on my own stuff that broke. A nice example is my Yamaha AV amplifier, the decided to stop powering on. Troubleshooting with a multimeter, careful application of a soldering iron, replacement of a failed component, and it’s now as good as it was when i got my hands on it.

When I’m assembling a kit, putting the components in and soldering them to the PCB, it is really calming and quite zen. It’s definitely something that I have found that I greatly enjoy. And, when the circuits are completed, I usually have a new toy to play with..

Bethesda, you screwed up..

Bethesda Softworks, you’ve really screwed it up. You managed, in less than two days, to turn a large group of hardcore fans against your company. How? By requiring a rootkit to be installed in order to play a game from a famous franchise. See here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Doom/comments/gjzi01/why_you_should_remove_doom_eternal_denuvo/

I’ve been a fan of the Doom franchise since I first played the game way back in the mid-90s. I played on everything from my first P133 through to my current behemoth machines. I thoroughly enjoyed Doom3 in spite of its monster closets. I spent a lot of time looking forwards to the newest iterations of the franchise, and Doom2016 was not a disappointment even though my graphics card at the time very much was.. Then Doom Eternal came out as I was in Zurich for work, and I did not have a gaming PC..

I got the Deluxe edition on steam to have for when I would be reunited with that gamin PC. Then, given I was requested to stay longer on the work contract I built up a new gaming PC here, and I had Doom Eternal installed and ready to play after I was to complete The Witcher 3 first.

I saw that Doom Eternal had an update on Steam. Taking a closer look, I noted that this update required the installation of Denuvo Anti-Cheat. A little investigation of this software package shows it’s a rootkit, designed around a Ring-0 level driver (root level for those that *nix) that gave unfettered and uncontrolled access to the computer to an untrusted third party.

That’s a hard no-no from me. No software package like a game needs to have *anything* that runs in ring-0.

More investigation shows that even after the uninstallation of the Denuvo malware, it gets reinstalled if the game is attempted to be run again. That’s a definition of malware.

Given that Doom Eternal is a single player game, there’s no need for any anti-cheat to be running at all, and even if there was a large online community of people playing the multiplayer aspect, then the measures should be server-side and not client-side. That’s basic operational security – you don’t trust the client.

So, I’ve requested a full refund from Steam, as it’s not legal to change what I bought after the fact in such a manner. Installation of a ring-0 driver in order to play a game triggers my security systems, and as such I’m now unable to play the game I’ve paid for, so the game is no longer fit for purpose. It remains to be seen if Steam have the common sense to comply.

It’s really useful to note that the version of this game available on the high seas is actually more trustworthy, and is performing better, than the “official” release.

I’ll reconsider the purchase of this game once all of the Denuvo crap has been removed.

Build Complete. Beast. Behemoth..

Passmark of 8080

UserBenchmarks:

Game 116%, Desk 134%, Work 134%
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – 97.7%
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 – 124.8%
SSD: Corsair Force NVMe PCIe M.2 960GB – 257.7%
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB – 46.3%
RAM: Corsair CMW16GX4M2Z3600C18 2x8GB – 116.1%

Timespy: 10974

Firestrike: 23244

Port Royal: 6643

Unigine Heaven Basic : FPS: 363.50 Score: 9158

Build details:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
GPU: Asus RTX 2080 Dual OC
SSD: Corsair Force NVMe PCIe M.2 960GB
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB
RAM: Corsair DDR4-3600 2x8GB
MBD: Asus ROG STRIX X570-E GAMING
PSU: Corsair HX1200i
Case: Corsair Obsidian 750d
Cooler: Corsair H115i Pro

Reasonably tidy cable management!