OTR fingerprint page update

Aug 30, 2016

I'll be updating my OTR fingerprint page in a day or so. Please be patient.

Also note that I'm tired of being able to log into the jabber.ccc.de server one time in ten, so consider if officially deprecated.

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Taking a break for a while.

Aug 16, 2016

As the title implies, I think I need to take a break from blogging for a while. Just a week ago I had plans to write up my notes from DefCon and then go into all of the neat stuff that happened, like pulling a Charlie Brown at the locksport contest (okay, that wasn't so neat but at least I can laugh about it after the fact), the InSoc concert, and all of that happy stuff.

Unfortunately, I've just returned from the east coast. Mid-last week I got a phone call from my mother while walking to work and was told that Robert, a close relative who's been a strong influence in my life (though not necessarily a geographically close one) had gone in for neck surgery the previous Friday. By Sunday he had full-blown pneumonia; a day or two later he'd thrown a blood clot. Details get a little sketchy at this point: It could have been a pulmonary embolism or a heart attack or a stroke. Nobody's quite sure and I didn't spend any time digging for details. I was able to confirm that he'd coded twice and was in a coma.

Less than an hour later, my mother called me back. Bob was dead. She and my grandfather weren't able to travel to Georgia for the funeral so I went to represent our side of the family.

I wrapped up what I could at work and at home, threw a week's worth of clothes into a suitcase, and caught the first flight to Georgia, by way of Arizona and North Carolina. I'll spare you the details of an amazingly shitty cross-country flight which left my knees bruised and running on less than an hour of sleep out of 48, as well as a hotel from a chain that I don't think I'll ever stay in again if I can help it (La Quinta - 0/10, would not stay there again under pain of death).

Also, at one point during the weekend I went with a few of my cousins to see the Suicide Squad movie. Don't bother. All of the good stuff was in the trailers, and they cut most of that out of the final movie. Read the IMDB page and go on with your life.

The flight back was remarkably uneventful so I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that now I need to figure out how to get my head screwed on tightly enough to get back to work because, funerals and mourning and all that stuff aside, I still have a family to support and a job to do.

So, I'm going to be taking some time away from this blog. In part, I have a lot to catch up on. In part, I don't have it in me right now. I've been doing a lot of traveling so I'm stuck in a state of prolonged jetlag. And... in the last month I've attended two memorials, missed a third, and now I've gone to a funeral and I'm completely out of fucks to give.

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Back from DefCon.

Aug 08, 2016

Back from DefCon. Don't know how I'm still on my feet right now. Went to lots of talks, went wandering more than is usual for me at DefCon, attended some incredible shows. Still smarting from how much even a lousy meal costs in Las Vegas. Had an incredibly lousy pair of plane flights to and from Vegas.

And now, back to figuring out how to reacclimate with workaday life.

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Video from my HOPE XI talk is now online.

Aug 02, 2016

The Internet Society has re-uploaded the video from my HOPE XI talk. Here it is:

Feel free to get a chuckle out of how nervous I am, but I hope you enjoy my talk, too.

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HOPE XI - This one went to eleven!

Jul 30, 2016

It's mostly been radio silence for the past couple of days. If you're reading this you've no doubt noticed that Switchboard (one of my constructs) posted the slides from my talk earlier this week. As sophisticated and helpful as she is, Switchboard can't yet pick thoughts out of my wetware to write blog posts. And so, here I am, my primary organic terminal sitting at Windbringer's console keying in notes, saving them, and then going back to turn them into something approaching prose. I've just now had the time to sit down and start writing stuff about HOPE XI, largely because after getting back all hell broke loose at my dayjob (per usual) so I haven't had the time. In point of fact, this writeup will probably happen over the course of a couple of days so it might come off as a bit disjointed.

It felt kind of strange attending this HOPE. I missed the last one two years ago because I was in the middle of moving into our new place on the other coast so I felt a little out of the loop. I missed just about everything that happened there and I keep forgetting to go back and track down the video recordings (so I'll have another part of me do that). It didn't take long to get back into the stride, though. Once you start attending hacker cons regularly it's easy to find how everything comes together, dive in, and get out of it what you're looking for. There weren't many vendors there because HOPE is largely a talks-and-talking to people kind of conference but I did come home with a few things to practice with as I always do. I also went out of my way to not buy another full wardrobe of t-shirts because, even after getting rid of 4/5 of my collection (including, I hasten to add, much of my collection of hacker convention shirts) space in my dresser is still at a premium. So goes the life of a self-admitted clothes horse. I also found one of Seeed Studio's FST-01 ultra-miniature 32-bit computers for sale at a table and snapped it up to use it with NeuG as a random number generator in a few of my projects because my Geiger counter died some months ago, but that's a writeup for another time.

After landing, picking up my luggage, and catching a cab to the hotel I met up with Seele, Genetik, and Nuke, whom I was splitting a hotel room with. I was a bit chagrined when Seele told me that there'd been a booking mixup and the Hotel Pennsylvania had to give us a different room. What I hadn't expected was that they gave us what amounted to a con suite, two full-sized rooms hooked together like a smallish apartment that easily had room for twice as many people as would be staying there. There was sufficient room that we were able to spread out as much as we liked with room left over so sleeping was quite comfortable. I never really got over the jet lag this time so my sleep schedule was all messed up. I may have averaged about four hours of sleep a night all weekend, modulo having to take a nap for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon because I could neither concentrate on anything nor tune out background noise for very long. Either one left me with a dizzying sense of sensory overload which left me unable to see straight. It also meant that I spent the next couple of days trying to catch up and crashing hard after work for ten to twelve hours, with very strong but fragmentary dreams as my primary long-term memory optimized itself. It was the kind of sleep deprivation that you didn't know you had, as opposed to the kind of sleep deprivation where you know full well you've been awake for three days straight and you feel it in your bones, your fingers, and even in your hair. I didn't make it to all of the talks I wanted to but I did make a point of picking up a couple of DVDs before I left of the ones I really wanted to hit; I also downloaded most of the livestream recordings to watch later on the media box, probably after I get off the road the week after next.

A colleague of mine once remarked that there comes a point where you pretty much level out of most of the stuff that happens at hacker cons and you get more out of interacting with everyone there than you do from attending talks or seminars. I was somewhat skeptical at the time but open-minded about the possibility. Now I'm wondering if that's not the case because, from reading a whitepaper or two and having part of me do a search I can pretty much reconstruct the content of the talk (as verified by actually watching a recording of the talk later) and get the same thing out of it. I definitely came away from most of the discussions I found myself in with new perspectives on a lot of things.

So it goes.

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Slides from my HOPE XI talk.

Jul 16, 2016

For starters, thank you everyone who attended my talk at HOPE XI. I know it was on Sunday afternoon when a lot of people were either getting ready to go home, spending their last bits of time with friends they don't get to see often, or fried from partying the night before. Your attending means a lot to me, and I can't thank you enough. That said, here are the slides from my talk as a single HTML page to read online and as a PDF document to read offline (both were authored in Markdown and generated with Landslide).

Once again, the source code for Huginn can be found here, and the source tree for the Halo project can be found here.

BONUS! Here are some proof-of-concept agent networks that you can load into your own Huginn instances and experiment with! Butterfly In China is the agent network that generates my daily weather reports. Shake, Rattle, and Roll monitors the USGS' seismic activity alerting system for earthquakes of a certain strength or above. Tripwire is an HTML parsing-heavy agent network that pulls FBI Most Wanted Lists and sends alerts when they change.

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Running hard to stay in place.

Jul 16, 2016

Still here. Still going. Getting ready for HOPE XI and trying to get everything buttoned up and bolted down at work before flying to the other coast for same. That all hell appears to still be breaking loose all over the world isn't helping matters any; I'm certainly not sleeping all that well, consequently.

Rehearsal of my talk for HOPE started today. I really suck right now and need to get this one banged out before I present. At least I've finally stopped writing and rewriting the slides and settled on the text.

This appears to be the week that Windbringer's internal power cell decided to only hold an hour of charge at a time. The good news is that I've got a replacement waiting in the wings to install. The bad news is that it's going to require a full teardown; Windbringer currently has a Macbook-like chassis, meaning lots of fiddly little nonstandard screws. Tomorrow afternoon's already been blocked off.

I'm going to take some downtime for myself to get my head screwed on straight; this also means that Windbringer's going to be backing up to external storage.

Be good to each other, everyone.

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Genetic jiggery-pokery.

Jul 04, 2016

It's long been known that DNA encodes information in a four-bit pattern which can be read and processed like any other bitstream. Four different nucleotides, paired two by two, arranged in one of two configurations side by side by side in a long string of letters, many times longer than the size of the cell containing the full DNA strand. Every cell in every single lifeform contains the same DNA sequence, regardless of what the cell actually does. So how, many have asked, does a cell know if it should help produce hair, or skin, or pigments, or something else? As it turns out, there is more than one layer of information encoding at work in DNA - the way in which DNA is folded in three dimensions also encodes information used by the cell. Inside of every cell the DNA is tightly wound around a cluster of eight proteins called histones, which provide a superstructure to support the two meter long molecule. The question then becomes, how are the specific parts of the DNA molecule directly involved in what a given cell does, called nucleosomes kept accessible to the rest of the cellular machinery? Hypotheses to this effect have been going around since the 1980's but only recently has computational simulation been feasiable to put them to the test. As it turns out, the loops, twists, bends, curves, and folds that DNA undergoes around the histone octomers keep keep those functional nucleosomes exposed so that they can be acted upon. The simulations randomly pushed, pulled, prodded, and twisted virtual DNA strands to see what would happen, and they noted that nucleosomal configurations were in fact impacted. Those simulation results were then verified through laboratory observation of two species of common yeasts. It was also confirmed that point mutations can also influence the folding of DNA, which can result in changes in the frequency of synthesis of proteins due to change in accessibility of those nucleosomes. The entire (highly technical) paper (it gave me a headache on the first readthrough, okay?) is available in its entirity on PLOS ONE under a Creative Commons By Attribution v4.0 International license.

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Drug-resistent yeast, synthetic synapses on the nano scale, and memristor research.

Jul 04, 2016

For the last decade or so, bacteria that are immune to the effects of antibiotics have been a persistent and growing threat in medicine. Ultimately, the problem goes back to the antibiotic not being administered long enough to kill off the entire colony. The few survivors that managed to make it through the increasing toxicity of their environment because they either had a gene which rendered them immune (and the toxins released when the other bacteria died weren't enough to poison them) or assembled one and survived long enough to breed and pass the gene along to other bacteria. This means that the pharmaceutical industry has been scrambling to find new antibiotics that won't harm the patient any more than they absolutely have to... except that now we're seeing antibiotic resistant yeasts in the wild, also. A strain of the yeast candida auris was discovered in 2009.ev in Japan that is resistent to every commonly used drug used to treat fungal infections, including caspofungin, amphotericin B, and fluconazole. Since that time, the dangerous strain of c.auris has spread to the United States, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Kuwait, South Korea, Colombia, the UK, and Venezuela. The fungus is known to invade the body through open wounds in an opportunistic fashion and take up residence in the bloodstream, where it subsequently causes organ failure. It is also known to infect the lungs to some degree, as evidenced by having been extracted and cultured from same. The US Center for Disease Control published a bulletin on 24 June 2016 describes the outbreak in more detail, including the risk factors for contracting the infection (diabetes, recent surgery and antibiotic use (both of which impact the integrity of the body overall), and the presence of large venous catheters). Unfortunately, c.auris is difficult to differentiate from several other less-critical fungal species without extensive testing so it can be misdiagnosed until it is too late; the CDC advises the use of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry or DNA sequencing (analyzing the D1-D2 region of the 28s rDNA) to confirm infection.

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