Mayan pyramid duel – Chichen Itza vs. Coba.

Ancient Mayan sites are scattered over rather a wide territory, covering parts of what are today Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. But if you want things narrowed down to just former cities with pyramids, the internet obliges – in competing ways; for example:

10 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples
13 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples

On our three-day car-based excursion around Yucatan, besides Coba, we also made a visit to the famous Chichen Itza, including its centerpiece, El Castillo, aka the Temple of Kukulcan. Have a read of what that link takes you to – especially about the steps and the platform (=365), and about the ‘snake’ that slithers down the pyramid on an equinox.

The Maya were masters of astronomy and light-and-shade-architectural effects, but there was no equinox while we were there, so no snake. Still, this was just as well since the serpent attracts huge crowds, which I can’t be doing with.

We were there early morning; accordingly – very quiet.

Frontal view:

Read on…

Coba: My-oh-Maya!

Sometimes I regret not being a historian. I mean – to study different, unusual cultures, for example the central-American ancient Mayan one, and to do it as a job, not a hobby… – sounds ideal!

Now, the Mayans existed for 3000 years! They invented their own writing system, were advanced astronomers, mathematicians and architects, but then, for some unknown reason, they died out completely – around 400 years ago. They never got round to creating a single state, yet ruins of more than a thousand towns remain to this day, scattered across the Yucatan Peninsula and further south into Central America. The number of temples and pyramids is off the scale. And talking of temples and pyramids, that’s where we were headed early morning (since all architectural places-of-interest in the region open at 8am every day) on the second day of our three-dayer in Mexico recently (but we’d have been up at crack of dawn anyway for, as usual, we wanted to see as much as we possibly could – plus it would be uncomfortably hot if we’d have left it till later).

First up for us – the ancient city of Coba, whose ruins cover a large territory, and whose main pyramid is the tallest of all Mayan pyramids, at 42 meters. What the pyramid may have been called by the Mayans themselves nobody knows, but today it goes by the name Ixmoja.

Read on…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

Yucatan 2019.

After a spot of business in Cancun (for the last time!), we rented a car and headed off toward Yucatán cenotes and Mayan pyramids. I’d been here plenty of times before, but for some reason only got as far as this here trinity of toursims: the ancient city of Chichen Itza, the ‘classic’ cenote Ik Kil, and the Rio Secreto underground river.

Since there are a great many cenotes and pyramids here, we carefully studied the internet first – determined which we still hadn’t seen but really should, and off we popped…

Read on…

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Dear Father Christmas: I’d like a sandbox please!

Hi folks, or should that be – ho, ho, ho, folks? For some have said there is a faint resemblance… but I digress – already!

Of course, Christmas and New Year are upon us. Children have written their letters to Santa with their wish lists and assurances that they’ve been good boys and girls, and Rudolph & Co. are just about ready to do their bit for the logistical miracle that occurs one night toward the end of each year. But it’s not just the usual children’s presents Father Christmas and his reindeer will be delivering this year. They’ll also be giving out something that they’ve long been getting requests for: a new solution for fighting advanced cyberattacks – Kaspersky Sandbox! Let me tell you briefly about it…

Basically it’s all about emulation. You know about emulation, right? I’ve described it quite a few times on these here blog pages before, most recently earlier this year. But, just in case: emulation is a method that encourages threats to reveal themselves: a file is run in a virtual environment that imitates a real computer environment. The behavior of a suspicious file is studied in a ‘sandbox’ with a magnifying glass, Sherlock-style, and upon finding unusual (= dangerous) actions the object is isolated so it does no more harm and so it can be studied more closely.

Analyzing suspicious files in a virtual environment isn’t new technology. We’ve been using it for our internal research and in our large enterprise projects for years (I first wrote about it on this here blog in 2012). But it was always tricky, toilsome work, requiring constant adjustment of the templates of dangerous behaviors, optimization, etc. But we kept on with it, as it was – and still is – so crucial to our work. And this summer, finally, after all these years, we got a patent for the technology of creating the ideal environment for a virtual machine for conducting quick, deep analysis of suspicious objects. And a few months ago I told you here that we learned how to crack this thanks to new technologies.

It was these technologies that helped us launch the sandbox as a separate product, which can now be used direct in the infrastructure of even small companies; moreover, to do so, an organization doesn’t need to have an IT department. The sandbox will carefully and automatically sift the wheat from the chaff – rather, from cyberattacks of all stripes: crypto-malware, zero-day exploits, and all sorts of other maliciousness – and without needing a human analyst!

So who will really find this valuable? First: smaller companies with no IT dept.; second: large companies with many branches in different cities that don’t have their own IT department; third: large companies whose cybersecurity folks are busy with more critical tasks.

To summarize, what the Sandbox does is the following:

  • Speedy processing of suspicious objects;
  • Lowering load on servers;
  • Increasing the speed and effectiveness of reactions to cyberthreats;
  • As a consequence of (i)–(iii) – helping out the bottom line!

So what we have is a useful product safeguarding the digital peace-of-mind of our favorite clients!

PS: And the children who behave and listen to their parents will of course be writing letters to Santa toward the end of 2020, too. Sure, they’ll be getting their usual toys and consoles and gadgets. But they’ll also be getting plenty of brand-new super-duper K-tech too. You have more word for it!…

Yours sincerely,

Father Christmas

The Yucatán tales: road trippin’ and accommodation.

To conclude my Yucatán tales, I’ll tell you a bit more about my time on the road and the day-to-day experiences. The roads are actually not bad here, especially the highways heading south from Cancún along the coast and those heading west across the entire peninsula. The north Yucatán route is pretty good, with an excellent toll road (and not that expensive) with almost no exit ramps. There’s also practically no traffic and no filling stations :) The road heading south along the east coast is not bad either, but we hit a few traffic jams along the way. On the upside, it’s free, the road surface is smooth and there are lots of signs, so there’s little chance of getting lost:

Read on…

Hi Cancun – for the last time!

“Buenos tardes!” said the hospitable Yucatán native. And then, smilingly, ushered us toward a particular line for passport control – which took a full 90 minutes for us to get to the front of!

“Buenos noches!”, we answered, while muttering other phrases under our breath I shouldn’t repeat here. But it got worse: out of a full 30+ passport control windows only six (6!) were working! And it was clear the border control staff wasn’t in any way speeding up its work given this avia-logisitical collapse. But then, it turned out, upon our asking if this was indeed a one-off collapse, that this happens all the time: several flights arrive around the same time all the time. So, like, they’re fully aware of the problem, but do nothing about it! I mean, they should be happy for all the dollars all these (many!) tourists arriving in Mexico every day will be spending, but they treat them with contempt! At one point I thought there could be some kind of revolt and lynchings; indeed a fight did break out in the next line to us (I think with tourists from Canada): someone got punched in the face for jumping the line!

Actually, we love(d) Cancun: since 2011 we’ve put on a full 12 (!) business events here – including the one I’m about to tell you about! Good infrastructure, safe, ocean, beaches, sun, tequila, and venues able to handle 500+ guests for large conferences (like our Security Analyst Summit (SAS), which, incidentally, took place here a full three times, in 2012, 2015 and 2018). And what else do we ask of a destination for our bashes? For all our guests to NEVER have to wait in lines at the airport for hours after a long flight. But this clearly is unattainable. Therefore, accordingly, this is the LAST event of ours in Cancun. Buenos huegos. No, better…: Buenos &!#*%!!

The basic ingredients for the format were present, as per: first work hard – then play hard! But the world is changing, audiences are changing too, and then there are all the geopolitical cataclysms that come in waves – which we sometimes even try to surf ). Accordingly, we made a few changes to the basic format.

Read on

Two twin Tibetan lakes – one dead, one alive.

There are many sacred, holy places in Tibet. No – very many. So it won’t come as a big surprise that after completing our kora-round-Kailash, not far from it is the next holy place – Lake Manasarovar, aka Mapam Yumtso, aka Manas Sarovar, a place of deference and worship for several religions, and around which are regularly performed (can you guess? Oh go on!…) koras! Oh – and the water in the lake: not to be touched!…

And next to this holy lake – another! Lake Rakshastal, aka Ravan Tal, aka Langa Tso.

And next to it – another holy place: another monastery – up on the hill:

Read on…

A three-day kora around Kailash.

Hi folks!

After a sound, albeit short night’s sleep after two intense days on the road getting here, it was finally the morning of the day of the first leg of our kora around Mount Kailash. ~20 kilometers of trekking was on the menu for us this day, with a rise of ~350 meters in altitude (from ~4700 to 5000+). We were walking from dawn till dusk, which translates into around nine hours! Yes – more tourism until you drop: just as we like it ).

Our objective for the first day: to get a sighting of the northern slopes of Kailash from the direction of Dirapuk Monastery.

Read on…