Tibetan autumn: from Lhasa to Shigatse.

So its farewell Lhasa, and time to head out west toward Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city. We were up at the crack of dawn so as to get as much sightseeing in as possible. We piled into a Ford Transit with all our bags and off we shot.

Now, on this Tibetan holiday we wanted to see a much of the country as possible – as per our usual modus operandi. However, there were three must-sees that we considered mandatory; anything else would have been a welcome bonus. The three must-sees were: (i) Lhasa (done); (ii) a view of Everest from the northern (Chinese) side; and (iii) Mount Kailash (including a trek around it). Those were the three main-course dishes we just had to eat; anything else would be bonus side dishes, which in the end turned out to be massive portions that really could have passed for a main course ). But more on those later. We’ll come to those when we come to them – in chronological order of how we encountered them.

Now a few words about the journey…

It wasn’t going to be a short one. It was around two thousand kilometers long! Still, at least the roads were of a good standard. They weren’t an autobahn by far, but still not bad. So we had several days ahead of 300-350km per day on the road, which took five to seven hours each day. Every day featured plenty of inspections of natural beauty plus the inevitable Buddhist temples and monasteries. But, oh, were the days looooong. Up every day at the crack, quick breakfast, cracking on along the roads all day, and reaching our hotel for the night late in the evening (sometimes too late for dinner). And like that every day. Oof!

Such a punishing daily schedule was real tough, but the surrounding scenery made up for it: see for yourself, in the following ‘small’ photo-video selection from the first days of our road trip:

Read on…

Lordly Lhasa.

Hi folks!

Here we are, back with more tales from the Tibetan side, particularly – walkies-time around the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Lhasa. First up – panoramic pic of the city from the top of the hill upon which sits Potala Palace:

We weren’t going to walk around the whole of the city, just its central part that surrounds the Jokhang, which I told you about in my post on Potala.

Read on…

Flickr photostream

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Tibetan autumn: oh-my-awesome!

Tashi Delek (བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལགས།།) folks!

Well, I’ve given you an overview of our Tibetan expedition route. Oops, and I appear to have given you a few Tibet on-the-road daily reports too. So now let me back up a bit, and give you a few words – and a lot of pics – from our initial train ride into Tibet: from Xining to Lhasa.

We were, as it happened, not far from Tibet, so no plane needed: we took the train instead. Well why not? After all, Chinese railroads are among the most advanced – and fast – in the world. Also, we were to take the Qinghai–Tibet railway, which is the highest in the world that carries scheduled passenger trains. But we had to take it easy – slowly – since Tibet is one really high autonomous region: its main city is 3600m above sea level, while much of the rest of the region’s populated centers are about 4000 meters. Accordingly, we took it steady so as not to suffer from altitude sickness, which I’ve talked about before. Accordingly, the first day of our Tibetan was completely rail-based: hurray! Why hurray? You’ll see…)

Read on…

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Bechevinka – another abandoned settlement, this time in Kamchatka.

And you thought it was over? My Tales from the Kurilian Side…

I mean? Well, you would, since it’s been more than a week since I wrapped up the Kurils-2019 series, and two weeks since publication of the few (non-Kurilian) bonus tracks tagged onto the end (including Tyuleny Island, Aniva and the Commander Islands).

Well, this is the ‘bonus-track post that got away’. See, I was planning on including its content into the wrapping-up post just mentioned, but… since it is somewhat negative, I didn’t want to end the Kurils series – a very positive series – on a sour note. It just didn’t sit well with the warm glow of nostalgia already kicking in after our Kurils adventure. Accordingly, I saved it for later; and that later has now arrived…

At sundown on the last day of our Kurils expedition we reached the picturesque Bechevinskaya Bay, Kamchatka, which is a few hours gentle sail from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the peninsula’s main city. I’ll get to the pretty pics in a bit, but first – some background historical information about this place.

A shore of the bay is the site of an abandoned Soviet military settlement – Bechevinka. Its story is very similar to that of the abandoned settlement of Kraterny on Brouton Bay on the Kuril Island of Simushir. Well, except that they didn’t deepen the bay here with a gigantic explosion; everything else though – pretty much the same. Garrison settlement and military base, key role military role of the Soviet Union; then came along perestroika, it was abandoned (that is, literally – everything just left as it was) > rusting old infrastructure, desolation, neglect – like this:

Read on…

Potala Palace – that palace, in Lhasa, Tibet.

As many of you will know, I have a special list of what are to me the most beautiful – must-see – places on the planet. I call it my Top-100, and it’s updated regularly – here. I haven’t been to all of the places on the list, but I do add checks against some of them often – to put them into the ‘been, seen, snapped, etc.’ sub-category of the list. Just this year I’ve been, seen and snapped: the Galapagos Islands; Lake Baikal; the most beautiful volcanoes in the world (on the Kuril Islands); perhaps the clearest, bluest sky in the world (also – Kurils); the Gobi Desert (hmmm: not on the list, but will be soon after a touch of rearranging/editing:); Baalbek; and the stone miracles of Cappadocia. And just the other week – my newest check against an entry: Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet – both day and night, no less.

And here she is (“Oh – that palace!” I can hear many of you thinking:) ->

Read on…

Cybernews: If Aramco had our Antidrone…; and honeypots to make IoT malware stop!

Hi folks!

Recently there was a Cyber News from the Dark Side item of oh-my-Gulf proportions. You’ll no doubt have heard about it as it was all over the news for days just recently. It was the drone attack on Saudi Aramco that took out millions of barrels of crude per day and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Alas, I’m afraid this is only the beginning. Remember those drones bringing Heathrow – or was it Gatwick? – to a standstill a while back? Well this is just a natural progression. There’ll be more, for sure. In Saudi, the Houthis claimed responsibility, but both Saudi and the US blame Iran; Iran denies responsibility. In short – same old saber-rattling in the Middle East. But that’s not what I want to talk about here – that’s geopolitics, which we don’t do, remember? ) No, what I want to talk about is that, as the finger-pointing continues, in the meantime we’ve come up with a solution to stop drone attacks like this one on Aramco. Soooo, ladies and gents, I hereby introduce to the world… our new Antidrone!

So how does it work?

The device works out the coordinates of a moving object, a neural network determines whether it’s a drone, and if it is, blocks the connection between it and its remote controller. As a result the drone either returns back to where it was launched, or it lands below where it is up in the sky when intercepted. The system can be stationary, or mobile – e.g., for installation on a motor vehicle.

The main focus of our antidrone is protection of critically important infrastructure, airports, industrial objects, and other property. The Saudi Aramco incident highlighted how urgently necessary such technology is in preventing similar cases, and it’s only going to become more so: in 2018 the world market for drones was estimated at $14 billion; by 2024 it’s forecast to be $43 billion!

Clearly the market for protection against maliciously-minded drones is going to grow too – fast. However, at the moment, our Antidrone is the only one on the Russian market that can detect objects by video using neural networks, and the first in the world to use laser scanning for tracking down the location of drones.

Read on…

Nearly two weeks crossing Tibet – along a route we won’t forget.

Hi folks!

As you’ll have guessed from the title of this post, I recently – a mere few months since my previous mega-expedition! – had a vacation in Tibet…

Spoiler alert! It was awesome!

…But don’t feel I’ve spoiled things for you now you know the ending: there are a lot of words and – as per tradition – a lot of pics and vids coming up in a series on this oh-my-Gimalaya trip!

Ok, first, let me give you an overview of our itinerary of the trip – the where, when, how far, and what we saw – broken down into days (with altitudes noted too!)…

Where: This will come as no surprise – Tibet.

When: 7–17 October. This is straight after the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, an ideal time to come as there are a lot less folks around (just don’t tell anyone [sic]!). Plus tag on a day or three to cover flying in and flying out, which makes about two weeks. Out of those, 11 days were full to the brim with tourism activities, and saw us cover almost the whole of southern Tibet along the base of the Himalayas from east to west – 2000km in all (route map).

We arrived in Lhasa on the train along the world’s highest railroad, and we flew out of western Tibet from one of the world’s highest airportsNgari Gunsa Airport:

Now for a bit more detail about the route, breaking it down into the separate days of the journey – in case any of you, dear readers, might one day fancy following this heroic up-tempo march across the vast mountainous terrain of Tibet. First though – a few things I should mention that need to be taken into account.

Thing No. 1: Place names. The names of historical and geographical places is, as we say in Russia – porridge. First of all it seems different names for one and the same place in different languages are used interchangeably – at a minimum in Tibetan and Chinese, but also maybe in English and others. For some place names it’s simple when they’re similar (for example, Lhasa and Lasa), but when you delve deeper into the country, that’s where you get the lumpy porridge. For example, everyone calls the village next to Mount Kailash Darchen, but on Google Maps it’s marked Bagaxiang, from the Chinese! While the same mountain – Mount Kailash (the most sacred mountain for Buddhists) – is given as Kangrinboqe Peak. Eh?!

Or, the final city on our route is sometimes referred to as Ngari Prefecture; other times, by others – Seng-ge Kambab! Meanwhile, its airport refers to itself as Ali Kunsa Airport! And it’s like this everywhere. Accordingly – be prepared!

Thing No. 2: Altitude sickness. I’ve talked about this plenty before, but in Tibet – a country that is practically all high mountains – you need to take it even more seriously. Btw: to get the full picture, I’ll be giving the heights we were at above sea level on each day.

All righty. Here’s our journey:

Day 0-1: The train from Xining to Lhasa. On the evening of Day 0 – we board the train. Come the evening of Day 2 – we exited the train in Lhasa.

Heights: 2300m (Xining); 5072m (on the train); 3600m (Lhasa).

Day 2: Lhasa (3600): Potala Palace, aka (especially on maps) Sera Monastery, and Jokhang Temple.

We wanted to get into the Drepung Monastery, but we didn’t have time to fit it into our single day here. The local tour agency messed up and didn’t tell us. Be very careful with local tour agencies – double check everything yourself. For us this was not an isolated mess-up.

Day 3: Lhasa to Shigatse. Across Yamdrok Lake, past Karola Glacier, and a quick look at Kumbum Monastery in the city of Gyantse – or Jiangzizhen!

Heights: 3600m (Lhasa); 5000m+ a few times en route (a couple half-hour walks a must); 3800m (Shigatsa; sleep).

Day 4: In Shigatse – inspection of the residency of the Panchen Lamas – Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, and from there – to the base camp of Mount Everest!

Heights: 3800m; 5200m (en route); 5000m+ (guesthouse with a view of Mount Everest).

Days 5-6: Everest (the town of Saga) to the village of Darchen (at Mount Kailas). Overnight we stayed in a small hotel.

Heights: 5000m – 4500m – 4600m.

Days 7-9: Encrustation around Mount Kailas.

Heights: 4600m; 5000m+ (overnight stop); 5700m (en route); 4800m (overnight stay); 4600 (Darchen, by Manasarovar Lake, aka Mapam Yumtso!

Day 10: Darchen to Tholing/Zanda, where there are the ruins of Guge Kingdom set in a mountain.

Height: 3700m (the first time in six days we went below 4000m!).

Day 11: to Ngari/Seng-ge Kambab, from where we flew home; rather – onward somewhere to work.

Heights: 4500 (Ngari); 4270m – airport.

 

That’s all for today folks, but you… can bet I’ll be back soon with more from Tibet!… This will be top-drawer – for sure :-)…

A conference center used just four days a year!

Ni hao, folks!

Recently, we took part in the World Internet Conference, which takes place every year in the touristy town-on-water Wuzhen in western China, here, not far from Shanghai. This was my fourth visit, having been here before in 2015, 2017 and 2018. And since things are developing very nicely for us over in China, I’m sure it won’t be the last time either; it’s a most useful and interesting event.

This year is the sixth annual WIC here. A complex was built especially for it out of two enormous buildings, and this year they’d gone and added a third! ->

Read on…

3000% growth.

We do reeeaaally interesting work.

We protect users, build a new secure future, and chase cyber-villains the world over. At the same time, the ‘landscape’ is constantly changing, meaning there’s never a single moment we might get bored.

Yes, ‘digital’ these days penetrates even the most unlikely, remote and conservative areas of activity of Homo sapiens, and, alas, the greasy fingers of the computer underground and also the cyber-war-mongers are right there with it up to no good. In the early 2000s, I’d joke up on stages around the world about ‘smart’ [sic] refrigerators one day DDoS’ing coffee machines. Fast forward 15 years, and it’s a reality. So you can see why, in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never once been bored ).

Threats are changing – and so is our business. For example, did you know that last year sales of our industrial infrastructure solutions increased by 162%? And total growth of our NON-antivirus segment amounted to 55%? Or that we’re the only major cybersecurity company to create our own specialized operating system based on secure architecture? And that we’re already implementing it with gusto in diverse fields such as the Internet of Things, telecoms and the automotive industry? Or how many interesting projects our Growth Center helped survive their crucial first months of life? For example: our Polys blockchain platform for online voting; protection against drones; and the Verisium IoT system for genuine-product authentication?

But it’s not just our technologies and products that are changing. Our traditional business models are changing too. ‘Box moving’ and retail business are being swallowed up by ‘digital’, enterprise projects are becoming all the more customized (attracting large broad-competency system integrators), and the SMB segment is practically migrating en masse up into the cloud.

And then there’s the cosmic rise of our xSP business – sales of cyber-protection for subscribers of most anything that’s online, be they services of telecoms or internet providers; online banking, insurance, and financial services… even games communities. And this is a very promising market segment, simply because, as per the ancient (!) truism, ‘who owns the traffic owns the customer’. What’s more, customers get a useful service at a special price, the operator takes its margin, and we take our profit. Everybody wins ). So, now do you ‘get’ the title to this post?…

…In six years, our xSP business has grown a full 3000%, and is now worth more than $30 million! That’s around 10% of our global B2C sales! Oh my gross-sales-figures! We work with more than 500 partners around the world on xSP, including such large global and regional operators as Telecom Italia, Orange, Sony Network Communications, Linktel, UOL, and IIJ. What we do is offer a ‘tasty’ margin, gladly make white label versions of our products, integrate them with the automation platforms (for example, CloudBlue (aka – Odin) and the NEC Cloud Brokerage Suite), conduct joint marketing activities, and set up the technical support. But it’s not just a ‘trick’ we use to get more profit: if our technologies and products at bottom weren’t the best in the world – as proven repeatedly, constantly, in independent tests – I’m not sure xSPs would be giving us so much business.

Still on xSPs, just recently we had our Kaspersky xSP Summit in Rome. This is our annual event for partners, and this year we had guests from 32 countries in attendance, including from Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.A. We summed up the year, chatted, talked about future technologies and products, discussed the prospects for joint projects, brainstormed, and exchanged practical experience. In short – business as usual, plus a recharge of the batteries for the next 12 months up until the next summit.

Read on…

Kurils-2019 adventure – over and out.

All righty. After our brief inspection of the Commander Islands, we raced back to the Athens and set sail for Kamchatka. But no matter how fast we sailed, we couldn’t keep ahead of the storm – approaching sternwards. That last detail – sternwards – was actually a blessing in disguise: if it had come in from the port or starboard side it could have spelled disaster. So, in a word: phew.

In the photos below it may not be easy to grasp just how high those waves got: much higher than the Athens! Good Lord were they powerful – rocking the boat around like… a bucking bronco. Not for the squeamish. Most of the posse stayed on their bunks for a full two days while the storm passed, with only a few occasionally adventuring out to the dining room ).

Read on…