Sunday, 31 March 2019

The Western Front - Democracy's Challenge pt 2 - Somme

I'm sure we are all familiar with the background to World War I, namely how a guy in Sarajevo stopped to buy a sandwich, saw the Archduke Ferdinand go past in his carriage, grabbed his gun, ran outside, and shot him, thus triggering a series of events that would shape the 20th Century (though that story is a somewhat a myth - apparently he planned to meet the Arch-Duke there, it still sounds good). In fact, one can go even further back to when the French ambassador ran into the Prussian king, had an informal chat which was twisted by the German Chancellor to start a war against the French, which in turn laid the groundwork for what was to become World War I.

Well, we could go even further back than that, because in my mind everything is connected, and decisions made hundreds of years ago have a flow-on effect right down to the present age. However, this isn't a piece on alternate history (though I did write an alternate history of World War I a few years back, namely what would have happened if Hitler didn't survive the trenches, but I have since lost it), but rather a continuation of my previous post where I talked about some of the things that I found out as I traveled to parts of the Western front. Previously I wrote about Ypres, but this time I'll be writing about the Somme.

A Bit of Background

Before I continue though, I'll say a few things about some of the events that led up to the war, and the battle. As I mentioned, the seeds were sown during the Franco-Prussian War. At the time Bismark was attempting to unify Germany. Up until that time, Germany had simply been a collection of principalities and city states that had a lose connection under a pretty powerless emperor. This is one of the reasons why, when you travel to Germany, you will note that the country is actually quite decentralised. Sure, we have Berlin over in the East, which happens to be the capital, but there are also a large number of cities along the Rhine. In a way, Germany is similar to Australia where the states actually have quite a lot of decision making power.

Note the location of the cities, particularly the cluster in the North West
Prussia was actually a relatively new entry to the European community, having been built up militarily during the 18th Century. Bismark, through a series of political maneuvers, have basically united most of Northern Germany, however he still needed to unite the South to create a unified German state. So, to do this he staged a war against France, which they easily won, and the spoils of war not only included the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, but also the southern Germans agreeing to become part of single German state.

My history teachers taught us that this period of nationalism was something that was coming about in the 19th Century - namely that you ceased to be a subject of the king, and started to be the citizen of a nation. A part of this came about due to the development of democracies. Okay, as I have argued previously, the seeds of nationalism were sown as far back as Jean d'Arc, with the argument that France was for the French and not the English. However, this period we see the unification of Germany and Italy - two previously splintered areas all bound together by a common language and culture (to an extent - the beers are much bigger in Southern Germany than the Northwest - in fact Bavaria is literally a world of its own).

The Rise of Germany

Another thing that was happening at the time was industrialisation and colonialism. Unfortunately while Germany had managed to industrialise pretty quickly, they came pretty late to the colonialism game, only managing to snag a couple of territories in Africa and some islands in the Pacific. However, of concern, was the fact that Germany, now unified, had become a manufacturing powerhouse, and a competitor to Britain. In a way it was not too dissimilar to what is currently happening with China. Furthermore, the economies of Germany and England were intertwined, despite the competitiveness.

Another thing had happened were a series of treaties, and these would changes quite regularly. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Britain and France were at a war, while they were allies with Prussia and Russia. Come the middle of the 19th Century, Britain and France were allies, and Russia was the enemy. As the 19th Century turned into the 20th Century, all of a sudden Britain, France, and Russia were allies, and Germany was the enemy. In a way it was all about having a balance of power, and the goal was that one state wouldn't become so powerful as to be able to dominate all of Europe (or disrupt British trade).

The thing was that despite the simmering tensions, and the growing animosity towards the Germans, nobody actually saw World War I coming. In fact it came as quite a shock. One minute people were going about their business, and suddenly everybody is mobilising for war. Austria declared war against Serbia, thus invoking their treaty with Germany, who also declared war against Serbia, which in response Russia declared war against Germany, so Germany responded in kind, which resulted in Britain and France declaring war on Germany - suddenly all bets were off.

First Few Months

The original plan that the Germans had was to invade France through Belgium (which they did) and then swing around to the west of Paris and surround it, thus pushing for a quick end to the war. This was the Schieffen plan, and was based on their earlier victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian war. However, as it happens with most plans, they decided to tweak it a little, and ended up coming down to the East (which as it turn out was counter-productive). The thing is, the Germans didn't reach Paris, though the got pretty close (and the army commandeered taxis to move their troops out to meet the Germans). They were stopped at the Marne, where a battle ensued.

This is how it was supposed to have played out

Having their advance blocked at the Marne, the Germans then attempted to outflank the French and moved north, only to meet the French (and the British, who were quickly mobilising). The two forces then continued moving north, both attempting to outflank the others, until they got to a point where they couldn't move any further north - the English Channel. This was known as 'the race to the sea' and resulted in the stalemate that pretty much lasted for the rest of the war. as both forces moved north, they pretty much dug in behind them, resulting in the two lines of trenches that the soldiers spent most of the war shivering inside.

As we are all well aware, the Western Front was a pretty static front, with movements being very small, and even when one position was captured, it was usually lost pretty shortly after. There is a saying in Australia that during World War I, the ANZACs would make most of the gains, and the British would pretty quickly give them up again. Then again, being Australian, there is always this tendency to make our troops sound much better than they really were. Remember this is the same army that lost to a bunch of birds shortly after the war ended.


The thing about the Somme is that it was the location where the French and British armies met. The British, and other Commonwealth, troops were deployed in the trenches to the North all the way to the English Channel, while the French were deployed in the trenches to the South all the way to the Swiss Border. It was also along this section that the Americans ended up when they entered the war.

Like the area around Ypres, the fields of the Somme are littered with graves and other memorials. One of the first places we visited when we went on our tour of the Somme was the Australian memorial. As I have also previously mentioned, even though this was technically an Australian memorial (and is owned by the Australian government), when you wander through the cemetery you will discover that there are troops buried here from all over the commonwealth. Back in those days there wasn't a way to safely transport bodies so they were basically buried where they fell.

Near the memorial is the village of Villers-Bretonneux, which if you travel through you will discover that there is quite a lot of Australiana scattered about. In fact all of the streets are named after places in Australia. Ironically, we Australians know absolutely nothing about Villers-Bretonneux, and would probably be quite surprised if we ended up there to discover how Australian focused it was without knowing the stories behind it. The reason for this is that near the end of the war the Germans staged a final push at the Somme, and broke through and attempted to march towards Amiens to attempt to capture the city and thus have a direct route through to Paris. Unfortunately for the Germans, when they arrived at Villers-Bretonneux, they met the Australians, and as they say, it was all over red rover.

The battle of the Somme breaks a lot of records, and for all the wrong reasons. It was a battle that involved the most number of people (over two million), resulted in the most number of casualties (over one million), was the biggest loss of life in a single day for the British, and could also be considered (up to that time at least) the loudest battle in history in that the barrage could be heard from as far away as London. Initially the battle was supposed to be a combined France-British attempt to break through the German lines and bring an end to the War. The problem was that the Germans launched an attack at Sedan forcing the French to deploy a lot of their forces away from the Somme region, pretty much leaving the battle up to the Commonwealth forces.

Oh, and not surprisingly, in the end, the Battle of the Somme really didn't achieve all that much, other than a lot of corpses.

The Albert Myth

Just before the lines was the town of Albert (where we had lunch on our tour). To get to the front the troops had to march through the town, and in the town was a catholic church. During the early stages of the war the church had been hit by German Artillery and the spire damaged. At the top of the spire was an image of the Madonna, and for most of the war it just hung there, suspended above the town square. Being a superstitious lot, when the soldiers went to the front they would pass under this hanging spire and believed that by walking under it they would receive Mary's blessing. It was also believed that once the spire collapsed then the war would come to an end. Ironically, when the spire did finally collapse, it was shortly before the end of the war.

There happens to be a museum in Albert as well, but then again there are an awful lot of museums along the Western Front, from the official government ones to the small private ones (such as in the cellar of the pub in Ypres). The Albert museum is located in one of the many tunnels that criss-cross the area, and runs from the side to the church around to the the town gardens. Like many of the museums, there are lots of relics collected from the war, and our tour guide even made mention that he could spend the entire day digging through the treasures located here.

Wellington Quarry

Just down the road from Albert is the town of Arras. The main reason that we jumped off the train at Arras was I remember back in year 12 English how Hamlet skewered Polonius, who was hiding behind an arras. Our teacher then went on to explain how an arras is a type of wall hanging that was made in the town of Arras. Ever since then the town has stuck in my head as 'that wall hanging town'. However, since it is pretty close to the front line, I wasn't surprised to discover that there was a museum here - sort of.

Arras wasn't just famous for its wall hangings, it was also famous for its quarry. However, these quarries aren't like those open cut monstrosities that you see everywhere, but rather tunneled under the ground. As such there are literally twenty kilometres of tunnels under the town. During the war they decided to utilise these tunnels and stationed a huge number of troops - mostly New Zealand, thus the name, which is a reference to the country's capital - hidden underground. The idea was to tunnel under the German lines, and when they least expected it, they would burst out of the ground, and captured the lines.

It worked. In fact it worked quite well - everything went according to plan. For two weeks the troops were stationed in the caves, and when they came bursting out of the ground they took the Germans completely by surprise. The troops quickly captured the German positions and continued to push across the lines, with the German defenses literally collapsing in front of them. In fact, this could have been the beginning of the end of the war, expect that it wasn't. As inevitably happens, somebody decided to stop pushing forward and secure the territory that they had captured, which meant that the Germans could the regroup and launch a counter-offensive. The result was all that ground gained was quickly lost.

Final Push

I probably should finish off here, and I was intending on writing about the German's final offensive before the tide was turned, the western front collapsed, and they found themselves being push back into Germany as which time they sued for peace. There are a lot of factors that went into the collapse of the Western front, and no single factor can really be the conclusive reason. Tanks back in those days were pretty much useless, and both sides had them (they kept on getting bogged). The same thing with the airforce, since both Germany and the Allies had bombers. Sure, the Americans helped, and helped a lot, but when they were finally mobilised and joined the Western Front, there was still bit of the war to finish. However, I should point out that unlike the other forces, the American troops were fresh, and this also helped, and helped a lot. Anyway, Germany also had the advantage, since Russia sued for peace, of now only fighting on one front.

The interesting thing is that we all seem to think that World War I ended on the 11th November 1918, however that is not quiet correct - that was the end of hostilities. The war didn't officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles a year later. During that period the government of Germany collapsed to be replaced with the Weimar Republic, and the British would also send their bombers over Germany to make sure that hostilities would not start up again. However, when the troops were demobilised, it wasn't the end of the war, or the deaths. Immediately after the war Europe was ravaged by the Spanish Flu, and the fighting also moved further to the East - to Russia, where the allies were now attempting to overthrow the communist regime. In the end, though, this war didn't last too long since by the time the hostilities in the West had ended, and the Spanish flu had taken its toll, the home front was pretty sick of war and the White Russians were abandoned and left to fight on their own.

Map of Germany: By C. Busch, Hamburg - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Triple Entente Map: By historicair (French original)Fluteflute & User:Bibi Saint-Pol (English translation) - Translated in English from French SVG Map_Europe_alliances_1914-fr.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5
Somme Picture: By Swhite21 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Creative Commons License

The Western Front - Democracy's Challenge pt 2 - Somme by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Sunday, 24 March 2019

RSA Encryption

Well, let us start of with a quick bit of revision using another diagram from our lecture notes. This is the basic concept of symmetric key cryptography, namely where we use the same key to encrypt, and decrypt, the message.

Now, the major problem with this form of cryptography is basically getting the key from one place to another. Like, you can't actually send the key with the message because that would sort of defeat the purpose of encrypting the message. However, you also need to send the key in a way that it gets there at the same time, or faster than, the original message. Sending an encrypted message by email, and the key by airmail, sort of defeats the entire purpose of email - you might as well send the message by pony express.

So, we have another way of doing it, and that involves generating two keys - a public and private key. The public key is basically shared to the entire world, while the private key is retained by the person who generated the key. The message is then encoded using the public key, sent to the person holding the private key who then decrypts the message. Sounds simple enough, but we are actually going to go over the maths that is used to do this to see how it works. Anyway, another image from the lecture notes to helpfully explain this:

First, the Maths

So, to be able to understand, and actually do some of these, we need to know about some mathematical functions (who would have thought that maths would actually be useful, but then again a maths degree is one of those degrees that has the capacity to open up an awful lot of doors). So, let us go through some definitions:

GCD: Greatest common divisor. This is basically the largest number that can divide both of the other numbers. For instance, the greatest common divisor of 18 and 30 is 6. The other way of writing this is GCD(18,30) = 6.

Prime Number: I hope you know what a prime number is, though if you are reading this post I assume that you do. However, just to clarify that we are talking about the same thing, a prime number is a number that is divisible only by 1 and itself.

LCM: Least common multiple. This is the lowest number that is divisible by the two numbers that we want the least common multiple. For instance, the least common multiple of 2 and 4 is 8. The other way of writing this is LCM(2,4) = 8.

Co-Prime: Two numbers, or more specifically integers, are co-prime if they do not share any common divisors. Basically, the greatest common divisor of both numbers happens to be 1 or to put it another way: GCD(a,b) = 1.

Modular Arithmetic: Now this is where it starts to mess with your head. Basically modular arithmetic involves getting the remainder if you divide two numbers. Then there is the inverse mod (or mod-1). Look, it is possible to work out the inverse mod on paper using something called the Euclidean algorithm, and the same goes for the normal mod, but since this involves some pretty large numbers (which is one of the reasons it happens to be secure), we basically use an online calculator. Actually, it turns out that Wolfram Alpha happens to be the best.

However, our lecturer did give us a way of sort of working out an inverse modulus problem - though it sort of works through intuition. So, we have d*7 = 1 mod 20. So, what we need is to know is that d*7/20 = something that happens to have a remainder of 1. Well, that is pretty easy to work out because we know that 21/20 gives us a remainder of 1 (or 41/20, or 61/20) so then d*7 = 21, which means that d happens to be 3. While that might work in principle, if we have a number like 8784625620317589042067872136735782638941256752940984658 (which is basically a bunch of random digits that I banged into my keyboard) using this intuitive method sort of hits a brick wall. Which is why we then go to Wolfram Alpha.

RSA Encryption

So, I should point out that most of these examples will be done using numbers. However, in reality the message would actually be a message as opposed to some numbers. It is just that you need to convert the message into a numerical value because that is how you employ the encryption mechanism. However, so that we don't have to do that, since each and every letter would be encrypted this way, we will just work on the principle that the number represents something. Oh, and we should also remember that when it comes down to it, computers basically work on 0s and 1s.

So, the first thing we need to do is to generate the public and private keys. This starts off with the server picking two prime numbers which are represented by p and q. Here, p = 3 and q = 11. Then we calculate n, which is p*q, and in this instance n=33. Then we calculate φ(n) which is (p-1)*(q-1). In this instance φ(n) = 20. Now we will determine e, which needs to be co-prime with φ(n), that is GCD(e,φ(n)) = 1. While we have several choices, we will pick 7, so e=7. Now we have the public and private keys. The public key is n=33 and e=7, and the private key is worked out as follows: de = 1 mod 20. We worked that out above where d=3. That is the private key and is retained by the server.

I'll do that so it is easier to read:

n=p*q = 3*11 = 33.
φ(n) = (p-1)*(q-1) = 2*10 = 20.
GCD(e,φ(n)) = 1 thus e = 7
de = 1 mod φ(n) = d*7 = 1 mod 20 = 3
M = 14 (which is the message).

Now, the cryptographic function is C = Me mod n and M = Cd mod n. So, with the above example:

C = 147 mod 33 =20 so our encrypted message is 20.

Let us decrypt it:

M = Cd mod n  = 203 mod 33 = 14.

So, we have the number which we started with, but in doing so we used two different keys to get to that place. This is the beauty of this form of encryption, namely that you don't need to pass the key on to another person.

However, there is a flaw. Say we have the public key n and e, and we also have the encrypted message C. Can we work out the private key? Well, we sort of can. First of all p and q are both prime numbers, which means that if we have n, then we can pretty quickly work out p and q through a system known as prime factorisation. The thing with that is that all numbers are made up of the product of two prime numbers, so if we have one, we also have the other. Also, once we have p and q, we can pretty quickly determine the rest of the algorithm, and then proceed decrypt the entire message.

There is a way to defeat that, which basically involves much more complicated mathematics, however we will look at that next time. Well, there is another way of making it hard, and that is by using ridiculously huge numbers, but then again that is a no brainer. As for where it happens to be used - well, it is pretty much used everywhere, or at least some version of it is used pretty much everywhere. For instance, when you go to a website, these algorithms are flying about across the internet, confirm your identity, and validating the website that you are visiting.


Actually, since the next two versions of RSA encryption are also just a bunch of mathematical formulas, I'll just go over them here as well. Basically they are El-Gamal (named after the guy who came up with it) and Pallier (also named after the guy who came up with it). However, as we previously saw, the strength of RSA is the ability to factorise the prime numbers. El-Gamal is different in that cracking it requires the use, or rather computation, of logarithmic functions.

So, what we do first is that we select a prime number p and a primitive root g. We also select a private key x. We then generate the public key y by using gx mod p. The public key is then sent to the entire world to use. The world then picks a random number r and generates k through yr mod p. The world then generates C1 and C2 through C1 = gr mod p and C2 = M*k mod p. C1 and C2 are then sent back to the holder of the private key. Now, k is calculated as follows: k = C1x mod p, or rather the modular multiplicative inverse, so it is actually k-1 = k-1 mod p. The encrypted message is then decrypted as follows M = k-1 C2 mod p.

Let us look at it in a more readable way. So, first p, g, and x are selected:

p = 139
g = 3
x = 12

Then we calculate y:

y = gx mod p = 312 mod 139 = 44.

The public key is then sent to the entire world. Then r is selected:

r = 52.

Then we generate k:

k = yr mod p = 4452 mod 139 = 112

C1 = gr mod p  = 352 mod139 = 38

Oh, and we need a message:

M = 100.

C2 = M*k mod p = 100 * 112 mod 139 = 80.

The message is then sent back to the holder of the private key:

k = C1x mod p = k = 3812 mod 139 = 112

k-1 = 112-1 mod 139 = 36

M = k-1 C2 mod p = 36*80 mod 139 = 100.

Clear as mud? The thing is that this is only one variety, you also have a couple of others, which are even more complicated. The thing with complexity is that it makes it hard to crack, however the other problem is that the encrypted message ends up being twice the size of the original message.

Let's move on to Pallier.


So, we have a plain text message M, being 42. Then we select two large prime numbers (which won't be all that large in his example) p and q, randomly and independent except that GCD (p*q, (p-1)*(q-1)) = 1. n is then calculated as p*q. g is then selected in that g is in fact a multiple of n. The public key n & g is done with what you normally do to public keys. Next we calculate 入 which is LCM(p-1, q-1).  Next we calculate k, which is L(g mod n2) where L(u) = (u-1)/n. Finally we generate μ as k-1 mod n. 入 & μ become the private keys. Now that we have the keys we can encrypt and decrypt messages. To encrypt the message we use c = gm * rn mod n2 and to decrypt it we use (c mod n2) μ mod n. Oh, and r is a random number. Let us put this in action:

p = 7,
r=23 ( a random number
gcd (p*q,(p-1)*(q-1)) = 1 thus gcd (77,60) = 1.
n = pq = 7*11 = 77.
入 = lcm (p-1,q-1) = lcm(6,10) = 30
k = L(g mod n2) = L(565230 mod 772) = 3928
k = L(3928) = 3927/77 = 51
μ = k-1 mod n = 51-1 mod 77 = 74.

Now that we have the public and private keys, it is time to do some encrypting and decrypting.


c = gm * rn mod n2 = 565242 * 2377 mod 772 = 4624

m = (c mod n2) μ mod n = (462430 mod 772) 74 mod 77 = L(4852) 74 mod 77

L(4852) = 4851/77 = 63

4662 mod 77 = 42

And that is it. Next we will look at ways these algorthims help our modern, digitised, world.

Creative Commons License

RSA Encryption by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Consuming Power - It Never Ends

First things first - working out how much power your computer drains. Well, there happens to be a device where you can measure the power drawn from the power socket and into the computer - a mains power meter. Mind you, that really only works for components that you can remove from the computer to test be able them, which pretty much excludes things such as CPUs and power supplies. The best way to do that then is to measure the power drain while the item is plugged in, and then again while it isn't. However, there are items, such as a single memory module, where that isn't really all that possible. Hard drives? Well, that is possible, particularly since you can book off of flashdrives these days (using a process called a live boot). Oh, and you'll also need to do a bit of maths.

Mains Power Meter
Checking the power of your computer while it is idle is pretty straight forward - put it into sleep mode. Well, not quite because in sleep mode it is as good as off. Rather, it is better to turn the computer on, and then wait for everything to settle down. Oh, and don't start surfing the net, or playing the latest edition of Fallout because your computer isn't going to be in idle while you are doing that.

As for going full bore, well, that little device plugged into the mains isn't going to help simply because you aren't going to get the computer to go 'full bore' simply by using it, by playing a top end game, or even by editing a video you intend of uploading to Youtube. Instead what you need to do is something called a stress test, or even a torture test, and there is software available for you to be able to do that (or else you could just write a program to calculate every prime number up to infinity because apparently that is what a stress test does). Basically, the reason you want to do that is to test your computer's reliability, and if it fails a stress test, then maybe you need to do some upgrading because that is an indicator that maybe your computer will fail under a heavy load. However, when it comes to stress testing, it is really only the graphics cards, the CPU, and the RAM that need to be tested. Oh, and it may also indicate if you need to invest in some cooling strategies.

One program you can use to stress test your computer is called Prime 95. This program basically searches for very large prime numbers (a number that is only divisible by 1 and itself). If your computer can run this program for 24 hours without crashing, well, you can assume that you have a pretty reliable computer on your hands (come to think of it, I haven't given this a go yet - I might have to do it sometime, after exams of course).


Okay, first let's look at a picture of the different types of monitors:

So, there are three types: Cathode Ray Tube, which you probably saw dumped out on the street a few years ago because, well, they're obsolete (unless you happen to be a hard core gamer), the LED, and the Liquid Crystal Display. When it comes to power consumption, the LEDs and the LCDs beat the CRTs hands down. In fact, they also beat the Plasma screens hands down as well, though interestingly the Plasma screens seem to only come in the larger sizes. Mind you, the bigger the monitors, the more power they draw, but that's pretty obvious.

As for brightness, well, if you do happen to be power conscious, then maybe not having your monitor up mega bright probably would be a bit of a help, considering that the brighter your monitor is, the more power it is going be drawing on. The following chart gives you a pretty good impression of how the power consumption increases with brightness, though it is more of a curve, and a simple diagonal line with power increasing slightly at first before jumping through the roof.

Dealing with Dust

Well, this can be a bit of a catch-22. The more dust in the computer the worse it runs, and there are also temperature considerations to take into account. Oh, and dust is flammable, so there is also that to remember. So, could you deal with the dust by putting a stocking over the computer?

Well, that might work, if it didn't also have to deal with the fact that there is little to no airflow, so once again we have temperature considerations.

Then there are all the spiders hidden away as well
However, there is this concept called air pressure - negative and positive. Now, positive air pressure is where the pressure inside the case is greater than that outside the case, while negative is the opposite. The problem with negative air pressure is that while air might be blowing out through the vents, computers are hardly vacuumed sealed, which means that you can be assured that air (and in turn dust) is getting in through the other cracks. So, it seems as if positive air pressure is the way to go, that is increasing the pressure in the case so that the air flows out through the cracks - but there is a catch: the air has to come in from somewhere, and that is usually through the vent where the main fan is located, and when air comes into the computer ...

Another interesting thing is that a lot of the air comes into the computer past the hard drives first, and one reason for this is because hard drives need to operate within a certain temperature range, so it is also necessary to keep them operating within that range. Another way of dealing with the heat is to create thermal zones by compartmentalising the computer. This way you can keep the components that tend to over heat away from components that don't like heat. If you look at modern graphics cards you will actually note that a lot of them have been encased - this is one of the reasons (the other is simply to make them look cool).

Water cooling has actually come into vogue these days and operates much like your car's radiator does. In fact a water cooled computer will actually have its own radiator. However, this works only as long as the water coolant remains intact, because if it starts leaking, well, you probably are going to need to buy yourself a new computer - so don't start kicking it around the house because it seems like a fun thing to do (I know, I used to bang the disk drive when it was going to slow, but I was 13 at the time).

With CPUs, the smaller they get, the less power hungry they become, but another modern feature is that they have become quite power conscience. Unlike your kids, they have worked out that if they aren't in a specific room, then there probably isn't any point in leaving the light on in that room, so they basically turn it off until they need it. Okay, that's sort of an analogy, but I'm sure you understand what I mean. It still reminds me of how my Mum used to scream out 'I don't own shares in the electricity company' whenever I left a light on, so when I started working the first thing I did was purchase shares in the electricity company, and then gave them to her.

Creative Commons License

Consuming Power - It Never Ends by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Sins from the Past - An Ideal Husband

The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
Oscar Wilde is surely a tragic figure, a victim of 19th and early 20th century prejudice. Then again, I guess it also had something to do with him being quite a well known personality at the time, though in 1895 he was convicted of 'Gross Indecency' (namely because he was a practicing homosexual), and sentenced to two years in gaol. While he did survive to see freedom once again, he eventually died in 1900 of meningitis, poor and basically forgotten. Well, not quite, since over time, Wilde has become known as one of the greatest writers of the late 19th Century, and his plays, particularly The Importance of Being Ernest, are still performed to this day. Not only that, but his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, is considered to be one of the must read novels of the English language. While I would say that his literary output was minimal, despite his greatness, the reality is that before he became known as a playwright, he had written quite a number of short stories and journal articles.

This is actually the second Wilde play that I have seen, namely because when I was in Adelaide once I discovered that The Importance of Being Ernest was playing. Not surprisingly, I booked tickets for the session that night and dragged my brother along to come and watch it with me. Well, I have to admit that I had never laughed so hard at a play, with the exception of the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, which had also surprisingly made its way to Adelaide. Actually, come to think of it, I don't think I have ever really laughed at a Shakespearian comedy, with the exception of that one. Anyway, considering how hilarious I found the Importance, when I discovered that the Melbourne Theatre Company was putting on another of Wilde's plays, I decided that I would have to go and see it, and it was certainly worth it. In fact, it was refreshing to actually see a play performed as it probably was performed back in the 1890's with none of that "Let's make it modern to appeal to the modern audience" rubbish.

Interestingly Wilde had been accused of plagiarism, but when that accusation came out, the response was as follows:

Of course I plagiarise. It is the privilege of the appreciative man.
I'm not sure if I can get away with that at university though. Still, since you are allowed to quote sources, and reference your work, I suspect that they have basically taken Wilde's point to heart. Another thing is that with all this talk about plagiarism, we still must remember that Wilde's plays are still performed, and very much enjoyed, over a hundred years after he wrote them. The thing is that it seems that the people he borrowed from have basically fallen into obscurity. Furthermore, if we are going to criticise Wilde because he plagiarised, then we also have to criticise Shakespeare because you can hardly consider him original. Yet what they have done is taken a lesser known work, or at least a lesser known work in our minds, and turned it into a masterpiece. In fact, when I was watching the Importance, I could not help be see some of Shakespeare's genius in Wilde's work.


The play begins at a party, but then again we probably shouldn't be all that surprised since we are looking into the world of Victorian London's high society. The main characters are Sir Robert Chiltern, a politician and a member of cabinet, his wife Lady Chiltern, Lord Cavisham, and Lord Goring, a playboy and a dandy. Well, we can't forget Miss Marchmont, who you could say is the villain of the piece. In a previous life Goring and Marchmont were dating, but that came to an end, namely because marriage didn't seem to be something that Goring wanted to experience at that time. As for Chiltren, he is painted as being a very honourable man, and is the ideal husband of the title, at least in the eyes of his wife.

However, things don't always seem to be as clear cut as they are. It turns out that Chiltern rose to his position because of the Suez Canal. Basically he was working for the government and was approached by somebody who requested that he let him know of any potential money making schemes. When he heard about the British wanting to build the Suez Canal, he let his friend know, and both of them made quite a substantial amount of money out of the venture. The thing was that this is what you could call insider trading. He wasn't supposed to tell anybody, let alone make a profit out of the knowledge. However, he kept it hidden and has become the made man that he is.

Well, such things tend not to stay hidden all that long because as it turns out, Mrs Marchmont has come across a letter implicating Chiltern in the scheme, and threatens to out him unless he persuades parliament to support her own scheme, namely a canal in the Americas. This probably doesn't mean all that much to us, considering they eventually built a canal across Central America, however back then the idea seemed to be impossible, and a complete waste of money. Yet Marchmont wanted the backing and ended up blackmailing Chiltern to get that backing.

You can probably work everything out from there, because this is a comedy and we pretty much know that when it comes to comedies everything works out in the end. Mrs Marchmont doesn't get her way, Chiltern retains his honour, and his wife, who was horrified when she discovered her husband's skeleton in his closet, forgives him and decides to move on, coming to the realisation that when one sees the perfect man, then one should actually wonder what they happen to be hiding. As one of my pastors would regularly say "you're not okay, I'm not okay, but that's okay".

The Upstanding Gentlemen

This is what I suspect that Wilde is exploring here, and that is the nature of those people who seem to do nothing wrong. They are admirable and they are admired. Yet Wilde seems to think that this is never the case. The thing with these people is that there is always something that they are hiding, something that they have done that they don't want people to know about. In a way this is true, or at least where I am concerned. I guess it has something to do with me tending to see the worst in people, or at least seeing the side of people that isn't really all that pleasant.

The thing with admirable people is that they are able to portray themselves as such. It is called charisma, but I think it is much more than that. They are able to market themselves in a way that people only see them as being good, and more so, they simply cannot imagine that they would do anything that is actually wrong. In fact it goes further than that in that even if they are caught out, they are able to spin the facts, and distance themselves, from these events to maintain this aura of respectability. I guess that is why such people tend to repulse me because I generally see through the facade to the reality that is behind them, even if I might not know of any actual things that they have done. That is the thing with the aura - it is fake, it is not genuine, and these people end up coming out as phonies.

Yet it also has something to do with appealing to people that matter. You see this all the time in the work place, particularly large offices. There are people that are absolute cretins, yet for some reason management never seems to see that side of them. They only see the side of them that reflects their magnanimity. You see, they only appeal to the people that count, not to the people that don't. The reality is that potential employers are not allowed to ask random people what they think of a particular person, they are only allowed to ask the people that that particular person directs them to. True, it does work to protect their integrity, but it is also true that it works to hide a multitude of sins.

Fearing the Past

Yes, we all have secrets, and we all have secrets that we want buried and we want to stay buried. I guess that is one of the benefits of not actually being in the lime light, or being in a position of authority - your past sins aren't going to have all that much of an effect upon you. Yet people who rise to prominence have a lot to worry about because we have all sinned and we all have skeletons in our closet, skeletons that we desire to remain hidden. In fact we go to incredible lengths to make sure these sins remain hidden, whether it be simply discrediting a person, or going as far as using your influence to silence opposition.

Yet Sir Chiltern is a rather strange character in that he does come across as a particularly good man. Okay, as the Bible says 'no one is good but God alone' but the portrayal is that he is an honest man who did a bad thing in the past and has profited from it. The thing is that he doesn't get angry or vindictive, instead he worries and frets. He confides with his friend Lord Goring, why is beyond me because Goring really doesn't seem to be all that trustworthy, being a dandy and all, and he worries about what is going to become of him. In fact he goes as far as to retire from politics, despite the fact that the secret remains hidden.

Honestly, this is far from what we get from people in power these days. Sure, things come out, and we have seen many a politician fall from grace due to some skeleton in their closet. In fact here in Australia the deputy Prime Minister one day was riding high and all of a sudden the newspapers told everybody that he had walked out on his wife to move in with one of his staffers. This was really sudden, and in reality wasn't all that hidden either, since there were hints of this going on at least three months prior. Yet all of a sudden it was splashed all over the media.

One wonders whether he had actually upset somebody that could make this an issue for him, in just the same way that Marchmont made it and issue for Chiltern. This is the catch when it comes to being in power - once somebody has hold of one of your dark secrets, they all of a sudden they have a hold over you. The problem is that it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to sweep the past under the rug - it is always haunting you, it is always there, and even if it appears that nobody knows, you can never rest on your laurels because you never know when it is going to raise its ugly head.

I guess this is why Wilde made the comment about saints looking at the past while sinners look to the future. Nobody is truly a saint - there is always something there that is going to rise up and destroy them. In a way they are always looking over their shoulders, waiting for that inevitable day when the truth is finally going to be revealed and everything that they have built up will be destroyed. Yet for sinners, this has already happened, and there is nothing left to hide. The thing is that people have short memories and will soon forget, and while you might be front and centre today, tomorrow they will have moved on elsewhere, and you can now rest in knowing that the shadow that haunted you no longer has any power over you.

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Sins from the Past - An Ideal Husband by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me