Top-100: NZ, the rest of Oceania, and both Poles.

For most of the population of the world New Zealand (NZ) is simply to far way to be thought of as a reasonably realistic travel destination. There a zillion miles from practically anywhere! But that just makes them all the more interesting and exclusive.

Up until recently, out of all of the Oceanian countries/islands, I’d only checked out NZ (and not just checked it out: we had an almost three-week intensive tour of the two islands), and Hawaii, which both then made it onto my Top-100 List of Must-See Countries of the World. Those two are of course still on the list (how could it be any other way?) – and here you’ll be getting a mini-refresher on both – but I also got to see this year a good few other Oceanian islands. Handily, they can all be grouped under one heading (~country), but anyway – more on those in a bit…

So, now, the Oceania section of my Top-100 looks like this:

95. New Zealand.

An impossibly gorgeous pair of islands – and I don’t just mean their natural uniquenesses, but the whole of its countryside. NZ goes one-up on Western Europe, for besides being similarly neatly planned, trimmed and painted, it also seems to be Photoshopped, so bright and contrasting are all the natural colors everywhere. Even the sheep seem to have been given a trim and blow-dry before leaving the house for the day :).

NZ is two considerably sized, considerably contrasting, islands, each of which really needs treating separately in a list such as this. Still, since it’s long been the custom to refer to either island’s beauty as ‘that’s New Zealand’, I’ll follow suit and group the two together. LOTS of detail – here.

australia-6-1Source

info_ru_20 wiki_en map_ru_20 gmaps foto_ru_20 google flickr

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Stairway to heaven.

Hi folks!

If you recall, in August I returned from Kamchatka with a broken leg. The fracture was a real pain in the… leg, since I was in plaster for six weeks. But finally, they removed said plaster; hurray!

I’d been advised by the doctor so take it easy with my mended leg – to build up the muscle and strengthen the bone steadily by getting plenty of easy exercise done – especially walking. Well, if it’s walking the doctor ordered, walking it’ll be. So off I (flew and) walked…

To warm up I headed first to Germany – for some steady-paced walking around a museum. The next day I upped the tempo at Oktoberfest. After that came strolling around Rome and another exhibition, followed by more walking (and lots of standing and crouching and leaning over!) on Santorini, Greece.

Despite my efforts, the leg still wasn’t fully recovered: I found I still needed my crutches. So what was I to do? Then I remembered what the doc said: in addition to just plain walking I should add walking up and down stairs. So it was time to stop taking the elevator, and generally to seek out stairs for my rehabilitation exercises. But much better would be steps not up a hotel or office building but up, say, a mountainside surrounded by natural beauty; there’d also be the bonuses of fresh air, pleasant aromas, a contemplative atmosphere and birds merrily singing – if I chose my mountainside carefully. So it was time to choose a mountainside carefully…

Turned out it was mountainsides – plural, which were opted for. I’ll be telling you where they were and details of our walks up and down them in upcoming posts. For now though I just want to give you some pics of what turned out to be an ‘exotic stairway experience’!

Now, I love paths. But I think I prefer steps, as then there are normally mountains involved, which I love too. But here, well, it’s a veritable ‘stairway to heaven’. Just look at these pics! Oh my gradient!

So it was up and down, up and down, up and across, and more up and down for us for days – perfect rehabilitation exercise. And the views – the pics speak for themselves.

Many of the stairways were deceptive – you’d think you were reaching the top, when they turn a corner and there above you opens up another zillion steps! Most of the time the steps were of the appropriate heights and depths, but sometimes they were really low and short, with your foot not being able to fit fully thereupon. On these we sometimes had to get on all fours so as to avoid losing our footing.

In all we were here for 10 days, and some of our smartphones reckoned we’d trekked more than 100 kilometers, and ascended and descended around 5000 meters (along the vertical) while doing so (that’s 300-600 meters up and down per day!).

So we had ourselves some excellent exotic and adventurous active tourism, as you’ll guess from the pics. Oh, and my leg? It’s almost fully recuperated already – doesn’t ache, and I’m walking now practically limp-less. And the crutches? Launched! Hurray!

All righty. Pics time. The steps and stairs:

Read on…

What’s in the box? A Cycladic surprise!

Γεια folks!

Once upon a time, there was an ancient civilization that lived on and around the Mediterranean island that is today called Santorini, part of Greece. But then that civilization just disappeared, and no one really knows for sure just where to. And that was before a catastrophic volcanic eruption wiped out all that remained of the civilization. I’ve already written on these here blog pages about this fascinating place (a few times a couple years back, and a bit earlier). Ancient legends, astonishing archeological discoveries, and unbelievable hypotheses and assumptions – that’s what this place is about.

More than 3600 years ago the Minoans lived here in a city made up of houses of three or four stories, with fully working plumbing systems. But ‘Minoans’ is the name given to them thousands of years after their disappearance; who they really were, what they called themselves and their island, what language they spoke and wrote, and so on – all that is still a mystery.

All that’s left of the ‘Minoan’ civilization is the ruins of their ancient city: houses and streets, most of which are still all under a thick layers of volcanic ash.

Well I think the above-mentioned is more than enough reason to carry out archeological digs here. And not just dig, but also restore and preserve all that’s already been excavated. And after nearly a year-and-a-half (not including the winter break) of work, something reeeaaal interesting’s turned up! Namely: earthenware boxes containing… hmmm – probably something very interesting… Here are these boxes:

So, what was inside them?

‘Nothing?’ Nope.

Turns out… – another earthenware box! But inside that… – no, I’ll save that for a bit later in this post…

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The islands of non-mass-tourism.

Oh my graying-a-touch! Just the other day I turned the ripe old age of 53. And I was lucky enough to spend most of my birthday on a beach in a tropical clime, at one point – under palm trees. Just like for my 52nd birthday, I was in sunny Seychelles singing ‘She sells sea shells on the seashore in Seychelles’: granite tropical islands, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, more than a thousand kilometers from any mainland, and far from intercontinental transportation routes (only one international flight flies past the isles per day (Dubai – Mauritius – Dubai)!).

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Skaros: sad story, sensational sunset.

Flying around the world aplenty as I have a habit of doing, I find that – year after year, no matter where, and practically all the time – I come across all sorts of interesting stories about mankind. Sometimes they’re merry stories, but more often than not they’re sad. Why is that? I think it’s simply because throughout the whole history of humanity any upswing ended eventually turned in a downswing (or worse) – sometimes time and time again. But not only do upswings end in downswings; generally, sooner or later, all stories do.

So why all the negativity, you may ask. Well, I’ve just read the story of the ancient settlement-in-rock, Skaros, on the Aegean island of Santorini (where we’re helping out with the archeological digs). This rocky outcrop is part of an ancient ruined volcano – on the edge of the caldera. I’ve seen it many times, taken many a pic of it, and climbed up to its peak. But this here story I’ve only just heard.

Here’s Skaros:

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Top-100: ver. 2018 – prelude.

Hi folks!

It’s no secret I globetrot much of the time. Most of the time that trotting of the globe is for business (meetings, conferences, speeches and so on), but sometimes I get a slot just before or after whatever event I have scheduled in which I can squeeze a bit of micro-tourism – checking out the local… whatever needs checking out really – the tourist attractions, must-see’s and/or must-do’s that lie nearby. More often than not it truly is ‘micro’: seen it, snapped it, back-to-work/airport. But occasionally it’s ‘macro’, detailed, relaxed (if I’m lucky), and lengthy inspections of places of interest. Naturally, I prefer the latter.

Anyway, way back in 2011, seeing as though I was lucky enough to visit so many fantastic places in the world, I figured I should come up with a ‘Top-100 Must-See Places in the World’ – according to Yours Truly, of course. Which is what I did.

Fast forward to 2015, and it was time for an update for my Top-100. Well, there are only three whole months left until 2019 already, so I think it’s high time for another update: I’ve been to many more new places, and some have entered the list while others have been dropped…

Which brings me to this post you’re reading right now: yes, herewith – the introduction to my new, shiny, amended, updated, upgraded and improved Top-100 list – ver. 2018, coming up in different posts in the near future.

Quick disclaimer: the ordering of the new additions to the list may seem a bit higgledy-piggledy and non-sensical. Let me just tell you there is method in the seeming madness, and ask you to please bear with me. All will become clear – eventually (right at the end; must keep you guessing, you see:).

Disclaimer 2: the photos here will be dazzlingly bright. Careful with that axe Eugene, and careful with the brightness/contrast controls on your monitor too!

For now though: a warm-up/teaser for you – some photographic highlights of Top-100 candidates since the 2015 incarnation of the list.

 

Cyber-paleontology: Sounds impressive; its results – more so.

Hi folks!

Let me kick off by paraphrasing a rather famous philosophical postulate: ‘Does a profession determine man’s social being, or does his social being determine his profession?’ Apparently this question (actually, the original) has been hotly debated for more than 150 years. And since the invention and spread of the Internet, this holy war only looks set to be extended for another 150, at least. Now, I personally don’t claim to support one side or the other; however, I do want to argue (based on personal experience) in favor of the dualism of a profession and being, since they mutually affect each other – in many ways and continually.

Toward the end of the 1980s, computer virology came about as a response to the growing proliferation of malicious programs. Fast-forward 30 years, and virology has evolved (rather, merged – in ecstasy – with adjacent fields) into the cybersecurity industry, which now often dictates the development of being IT: given inevitable competition, only the technology with the best protection survives.

In the 30 years since the end of the 1980s, we (AV companies) have been called quite a few different colorful and/or unsavory names. But the most accurate in recent years, IMHO, is the meme cyber-paleontologists.

Indeed, the industry has learned how to fight mass epidemics: either proactively (like we protected users from the largest epidemics of recent years – Wannacry and ExPetr), or reactively (using cloud-based threat-data analysis and prompt updates) – it doesn’t matter. But when it comes to targeted cyberattacks, there’s still a long way to go for the industry on the whole: only a few companies have sufficient technical maturity and resources to be able to cope with them, but if you add an unwavering commitment to expose any and all cyber-baddies no matter where they may come from or what their motives might be – you’re left with just one company: KL! (Which reminds me of something Napoleon Hill once said: ‘The ladder of success is never crowded at the top’.) Well it’s no wonder we’re in a lonely position (at the top of the ladder): maintaining that unwavering commitment to expose literally anyone is waaaaay more expensive than not maintaining it. And it’s waaaay more troublesome given the ongoing geopolitical upheavals of late, but our experience shows it’s the right thing to do – and users confirm this with their wallets.

A cyber-espionage operation is a very long, expensive, complex, hi-tech project. Of course, the authors of such operations get very upset and annoyed when they get caught, and many think that they try to get rid of ‘undesirable’ developers by using different methods via manipulation of the media. There are other, similar theories too:

But I digress…

Now, these cyber-espionage operations can remain under the radar for years. The authors take good care of their investments kit: they attack just a few specially selected targets (no mass attacks, which are more easily detected), they test it on all the popular cybersecurity products out there, they quickly change tactics if the need arises, and so on. It’s no stretch of the imagination to state that the many targeted attacks that have been detected are just the tip of the iceberg. And the only really effective means of uncovering such attacks is with cyber-paleontology; that is, long-term, meticulous collection of data for building the ‘big picture’; cooperation with experts from other companies; detection and analysis of anomalies; and subsequent development of protection technologies.

In the field of cyber-paleontology there are two main sub-fields: ad hoc investigations (after detecting something by chance and pursuing it), and systemic operational investigations (the process of planned analysis of the corporate IT landscape).

The obvious advantages of operational cyber-paleontology are highly valued by large organizations (be they state or commercial ones), which are always the primary target in targeted attacks. However, not all organizations have the opportunity or ability to undertake operational cyber-paleontology themselves: true specialists (for hire) in this niche line of work are few and far between – and they’re expensive too. We should know – we’ve plenty of them all around the world (with outstanding experience and world-renowned names). Thus, recently, given our strength in this field and the great need for it on the part of our corporate customers – true to the market principles of supply and demand – we decided to come up with a new service for the market – Kaspersky Managed Protection (KMP).

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A party in a dome in Rome.

Ciao folks!

After Munich, I headed almost directly south to Rome for a few days full of intense business activity. For there was a lot going on down there for KL…

First and foremost it was our Italian office’s tenth birthday! What? Already? A decade? Where did that go? So, of course, it was celebration time: we gathered together our partners, favorite customers and old friends for a jubilee jamboree, and it was just great!

Many happy returns KL Italy. Here’s to the next 10 years! Saluti!

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Und Oktoberfest, natürlich!

Finding myself in Munich at the end of September, it would have been out of the question not checking out Oktoberfest. I mean, why would anyone want to do such a thing? A wonderful, sprawling, fun event that’s not to be missed.

Beer stalls and one-liter jugs, attractions with varying degrees of technical infrastructure (even good old rowing boats), and endless smiling crowds. Fantastisch!

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The end of the beginning in the fight against patent trolls.

For much of August and September of this year I was forced into ‘working from home’, something I don’t normally do. So with zero globetrotting/commuting/working out/interviews/speeches and other daily workday chores, I had rather a lot of time on my hands. So I read. Lots. There was plenty of the usual bad news, but, occasionally, there was some very good news in there too. In particular, there was good excellent news from the front in the fight against patent trolls: a district court of Texas rejected Uniloc’s lawsuit against us for infringement of patent US5490216. This is the infamous patent that since the early 2000s had struck terror into the hearts of IT companies, added years to the appearance of many a patent lawyer, and mercilessly lightened the wallets of more than 160 (!) companies – including Microsoft and Google, no less.

But the excellent news doesn’t stop there folks!…

The combined efforts of the IT industry have secured the invalidation of the IT patent-from-hell. But it’s not just the invalidation itself that’s worth celebrating; also worthy of champagne quaffing is the fact that the invalidation heralds serious (albeit long overdue) change in the U.S. patent system. Sure – it’s only ‘slowly but surely’ for now, but slowly is at least better than no change at all; especially when the changes have global significance: at last the IT industry can start to pluck the patent parasites off its back that do nothing but bloodsuck hinder technological development.

The ball hasn’t merely started rolling, it’s racing down the hill: developers are becoming freer in what they can do – protected against persecution from owners of (excuse my Belgian) BS patents: those describing abstract and at times blatantly obvious things, which in practice aren’t even applied or are used only for ‘milking’ developers of similar technologies.

All told, the story of patent ‘216 reads much like a thriller – so much so that I thought I’d retell it here for your thrill-seeking pleasure. So go get a coffee (better – popcorn) and settle back down for a mini-nailbiter from the patent parasite side…

Read on…