Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 18:10
Some days, I cringe when I page through my list of newsfeeds at the things going on in the world right now. For starters, the US Transportation Safety Agency, a government organization charged with watching over points of entry and egress to this country has been a thorn in the side of many a passenger since its inception. Have a piercing or two under your skin that sets off the magnetometers? There's an excellent chance that you'll be forced to remove it
regardless of the health risk. If you've had it for a while, I hope you packed hand tools to assist in their removal. Drop a couple of k on a brand-new Macbook Air
, a laptop computer so small and light that you can store it in a shipping envelope? The screeners might not have seen it before
, and could cause you to miss your flight as they figure out what it is. Maybe wearing a shirt that has a giant robot on it
will intimidate security enough to force you to change your shirt because "other travelers might find it offensive". Now, just maybe, if you criticize them for their actions you might wind up on the watch list and be hassled for the rest of your life every time you try to fly, just like Drew Griffin, who is a reporter at CNN
. Griffin did a story on the TSA a couple of weeks ago which cast a critical eye upon the agency and its list of suspicious people (which the ACLU says tops one million people
but the TSA itself says has less than a half-million (no direct link to the TSA website lest I wind up on the same list - search Google for it)). Now, every time he tries to clear security at an airport he has to present his ID at the counter; occasionally, whomever is working the counter has to call the TSA for authorization to give him his ticket. As if that weren't enough to make you wonder if it was safe to leave your house (for some value of 'safe'), it's come out that local police in some areas (like Nashville, Tennessee) are authorized to sedate people with the drug Midazolam
, which is an intravenous sedative that can adversely effect the short term memory and suppress the respiratory reflex
if misused. Ostensibly it's used to control people when tazer guns can't be used or are ineffective (or when the heat is on
due to an incident or two
). This makes one wonder where the oversight of this protocol is? Who makes the determination that someone must be sedated? Who decides the dosage? Who keeps tabs on the sedated people to ensure that they're not in any medical danger? What's on the form that Dameon Beasley was forced to sign when he was out of it?
What the hell's happening to the world we live in that these things can happen without anyone being called to account for, or even explain the reasons behind them?
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 17:42
Last weekend wound up a bit in the air due to an emergency at the last minute - one of Lyssa's relatives died unexpectedly and the family was hastily reconvened for her funeral, which was held on Saturday. because I'd been on the road the weekend before, I didn't have to make the trek back to Pennsylvania, much to my relief. Grant picked up Lyssa sometime on Friday while I was at work and returned to their homestead, which left me with some time on my hands. The first thing I did was move my car maintenance appointment back to Saturday, which gave me some more time to work with. On the way back from work that night, I stopped by Microcenter
to window shop and see what new toys had hit the shelves.. the prices of their small electronics tools are looking very inviting, and I'll probably be picking up a couple of things in the near future, for reasons that I'll get to a bit later. I also hit up Safeway to get food for the next couple of days, and spontaneously decided to get a pound of organic chicken and supplies to make General T'sao's chicken, one of my favorite Chinese dishes.
Do yourselves a favor, everyone: if you go to Safeway, don't get meat there. The chicken I bought wasn't bad, exactly, but it did require a substantial amount of trimming to make it edible. Two chicken thighs turned into one and about a half chicken thighs, which is wasteful when you think about it.
Note to self: don't ever buy meat there again. Even if it is the nice one in the same shopping mall as Microcenter and Michael's.
More under the cut...
Monday, 28 July 2008 at 21:00
...someone's put up a BitTorrent tracker for all of the footage that was shot of the presentations
. The torrents are looking pretty healthy right now, so if you download them, don't forget to seed.
Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 22:14
I've assembled my photo album and put the gallery up over here
Also, here's a picture of me on the air with Radio Statler
Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 19:36
As you'll recall from a couple of months ago, I presided over the wedding of Elwing and Irregular Expression
in exchange for going out to dinner at some point in the future. Because Elwing was presenting at The Last HOPE
and I was there as a guest, we arranged to go out for dinner while in New York City. Elwing had organized an outing to a restaurant called Ninja New York
(25 Hudson Street; New York, NY 10013; phone 212-274-8500; open 1745-2300 EST5EDT). With a name like that, I just had to go to see what it was all about.
The crew met up in the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania around 2000 EST5EDT on Saturday and we trooped across the street to the subway station to pick up riders' passes and hit the tube uptown. Oddly enough, a pair of tourists who were on their way out of the city handed Katie and I a pair of day passes, so we didn't actually have to pay for transportation to and from.
John C. Lilly, thou art avenged. Again.
More under the cut...
Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 19:29
Whenever I plan on using my laptop at a convention, in particular at hacker cons, it's practically assured that an unknown number of attendees will be monitoring the wireless network in some manner for nefarious purposes. Because many application protocols in use do not use cryptographic systems to protect traffic (like instant messenger and webmail), it's possible to record what people are doing as they do it, or worse record the credentials used to log in. The software to do this is trivially easy to acquire because protocol analyzers (more commonly called packet sniffers) have legitimate uses when troubleshooting networks.
To do this, you'll need a trusted machine that you can log into remotely (preferably behind a firewall), a way to log in remotely (such as OpenSSH
- anything will work so long as your link will be encrypted and you can use it to forward ports to the other machine), and proxy software of some kind, which is just as freely available as packet sniffers. Configure your firewall so that your means of remote access can hit the trusted machine. I forward a port on my firewalls to port 22/TCP on my shell machines so I can SSH in; for other methods, you'll have to do some research to see if your remote admin software of choice can forward ports (VNC doesn't, for example).
More under the cut...
Monday, 21 July 2008 at 22:45
I arrived in New York City somewhen around 1400 EST5EDT, after getting turned around in Penn Station (what kind of adventure would it be without my getting lost, after all?) and being sent in the direction of the hotel by a wary yet friendly security guard at the office building I'd blundered into. I finally got to the Hotel Penn, which they really did a nice job fixing up since the last time I'd been there (though the air conditioning was still pants, which became a common complaint that weekend). I wandered around for a while because I had no room key and ran into a couple of old friends from previous hacker cons, such as Renderman and his wife Grey Frequency (congratulations again, guys!), C4bl3fl4m3, Rob T. Firefly (at long last - we've known each other since at least 1997 from the Information Society
fandom), and I even ran into Vaxbuster from 412/724 for the first time since I left Pittsburgh. RTF and I met up while waiting in line to register - I've never actually seen him before, but he recognized my TARDIS key, and we talked a couple of times during the con.
While wandering around, I bought a convention t-shirt and some lockpicks, and I was amazed at the price. As mentioned elsewhere, TOOOL
was sponsoring the lockpicking village and they'd be selling two new sets of lockpicks
, one in a plastic tube similar in design to their first set (though with a few more picks) and one that exists as punch-out pieces in a spar of metal the size of a credit card. The idea behind the latter is that they're a last-ditch method of getting a lock open; you twist the picks out of the metal framework, use parts of the metal framework as your tension wrenches, and you can open one or two locks with them before they're too damaged to be useful. The cost of the former was $25us, the latter $50us (!!), but you could buy both as a pair for $60us.
Due to the fact that there weren't many panels that I really wanted to see, and because everyone I'd be rooming with was either tired up at panels (they were staff this year) or offsite for lunch, I wound up wandering around for a while looking at everything going on - I took quite a few photographs which I'll clean up and upload sometime later this week, free time depending. When Hasufin got back on site, we got him through the pre-registration line and then headed up to the lockpicking village to get some practice time in on the assortment of locks scattered all over the tables. Once again, the world remains safe from my utter lack of lockpicking skills. During the whole weekend, I tried to pick between fifteen and thirty different locks and only got two open the entire time. Moreover, there were no short-pinned practice locks this year (meaning that none of the locks had been modified to have less than a full complement of pins) so I didn't have much of a chance to get my technique down. Later in the weekend, Mouse (one of the people in charge of that particular gathering) gave me a run-down on making my own, so once I have some spare time I'll give making my own a try.
More under the cut...
Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 22:30
Got back from The Last HOPE
about two and a half hours ago. Dead tired. Lots went on. Even had a couple of "No shit, there I was" adventures. I'm going to go to bed shortly.
Friday, 18 July 2008 at 20:58
1007 EST5EDT: On the road, er, rail again.
Just a few scant minutes ago I boarded the Acela express train out of Union Station in Washington, DC destined for the city that never sleeps. Yes, once again New York City is my destination, and I sincerely hope that it's prepared for the advent of Hackers On Planet Earth
, the biannual convention held by 2600 Magazine
at the Hotel Pennsylvania.
Taking the train is probably one of my favorite ways to travel. It's quiet, it's fast, and the scenery is something that you don't often get to see in the DC metroplex, especially if it's due to the fact that you often don't have the time to watch the world go by if you're in the driver's seat, and when you're stuck in a traffic jam it's usually in a part of the country that doesn't have a whole lot to look at. It's my considered opinion that the highway, concrete embankments, and vanity license plates don't constitute scenery as such. In just five minutes I've seen a lake, a river, an abandoned warehouse the roof of which has crumbled so much that small oak trees consider the dust as soil and have grown to a height of about two feet since their seeds landed there, graffiti the likes of which you just don't get where I live, and lots and lots of green, healthy deciduous trees.
Incidentally, the security of Union Station is still pretty light since the last time I was there. The recent media fiasco about taking photographs in there aside (I saw a couple of people taking pictures in there; make of that what you will), you can walk in pretty much however you want (front doors, side doors, or by taking the Metro into the lower level) and walk around as you please. Security guards operate in teams of two there, and it's not unusual to see police dogs of some kind (I'd guess bomb or drug sniffing dogs, judging by what happened last time) with their handlers making rounds every few minutes. There are signs up in the more train-oriented areas that say that everyone is subject to random searches of their luggage, and failure to consent will result in your not being allowed to board the train. There are
also notices that state that you must produce ID to board the train, but so far as I know none of us were asked to do so this morning.
More under the cut...
Friday, 18 July 2008 at 20:51
For those of you who weren't able to attend The Last HOPE
this year, they've put a net.radio station called Radio Statler online for everyone to listen to. During the con, they've been net.casting live interviews with attendees and presenters, the odd spot of music, and best of all audio from the panels themselves.
You can listen to them live here
with either the high or low quality streams with any web browser and just about any audio application, like Winamp, VLC, or Windows Media Player.
Monday, 14 July 2008 at 11:52
I'm well over a week late with this post, but better late than never. The Truecrypt Foundation announced on 8 July 2008 that v6.0a of Truecrypt, the cross-platform disk encryption package was released to the Net
, along with its source code. Judging by the changelogs, it stands head and shoulders above the last releases (v5.1 and v5.1a) in several important respects. First and foremost, the new release takes full advantage of systems that have more than one CPU in them (like many laptops these days), so if you're using whole disk encryption storage I/O will be faster than before because encryption and decryption tasks can be divvied up between processor cores. Whole disk encryption now works with Microsoft Windows Vista and 2008, which makes it an attractive option for newer laptops and servers in the corporate theatre. Encrypted data volumes now incorporate a backup header near the end of the file, so if the volume itself is damaged it might still be possible to access the encrypted data or repair the volume (if its contents can't be backed up to offline storage). Encrypted volume access is now much faster on Linux systems because the crypto functionality built into the kernel is used preferentially over re-implementations of the algorithms (if you don't know what this means, don't worry, just trust that it'll be faster).
It should also be noted that Truecrypt now makes it possible to hide an entire operating system
(currently only a copy of Windows) inside of an encrypted hard drive. Under such circumstances, all non-encrypted and encrypted-but-not-hidden volumes are kept in read-only mode (though hidden volumes may be accessed freely) to minimize leakage of data from the hidden OS, which would give away its presence. The reason for this is to make it possible to set up a decoy OS on a computer that is only used for non-essential or trivial things, like reading Facebook and playing video games. All of the data found in this encrypted-but-not-secret OS are things that are irrelevant, i.e., you don't care if they're exposed to an attacker who forces you to boot your laptop and give away your passphrase. A hidden volume is created on the encrypted drive and your copy of Windows is copied block for block into it; because you can't prove that a hidden volume exists you can store and work with data you deem sensitive and there is no way to prove that you have anything of interest to an attacker because it all looks like garbage from the outside, and like unused disk space from the inside (unless you mount the hidden volume or boot into it where They can see you (if having a plausibly deniable hidden drive (for all intents and purposes) doesn't make sense to you, read the not very technical explanation here
Please keep in mind that it's important to use your decoy OS on a semi-regular basis to make it look like it's there for a reason other than to be distracting. If you have a pristine copy of XP that you haven't even started IE on inside of a Truecrypted drive, it looks suspicious to attackers. As always with cryptographic software or hardware, read the bloody manual before you use it because misuing it can send you up a certain body of flowing water without a means of propulsion.
I haven't gotten around to testing this release yet, but I have a VMware image standing by on Windbringer that I'm going to use as a test bed, and I'll post my results after I've had a chance to hammer on it for a bit.
Monday, 14 July 2008 at 11:16
Work's had me running around a bit more than usual lately, which has put a serious crimp in my time to write, let alone keep up with current events. I don't know how much time I'll have this week because I have wedding-type running around to take care of, on top of getting ready to travel to the city that never sleeps - good old New York City to attend what could be the last HOPE conference
organized and thrown by 2600 Magazine
. As one might expect, available time allocated to sleeping, resting up, or getting other stuff done has been in short supply.
Those of you who know how I act while sleep deprived may commence snickering.
Due to a major foul-up on the Orange Line of the DC Metro which no one seems to know the origins of (Metrorail seem to have gone out of their collective way to not tell anyone what the hell happened at rush hour on Friday afternoon) I didn't get home until after 1900 EST5EDT Friday evening. I was on my way home from work when the train I was on stopped at the West Falls Church station and offloaded the lot of us in one fell swoop. The scratchy PA system on the platform informed us that there had been a power failure at the Vienna Metro station and that the Orange Line was being taken out of service pending repairs. Much to my surprise, the train we'd just been thrown off of closed its doors, changed its sign to the OUT OF SERVICE text, and sped away down the track in the general direction of Vienna, Virginia.
If there was a power failure, how did the train start moving? I must confess, I don't know a whole lot about how the Metro works, but that seems counter-intuitive to me.
More under the cut...
Monday, 07 July 2008 at 18:53
I've updated my .plan file.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Some NSFW content, as always.
Monday, 07 July 2008 at 18:14
Contrary to most years, my Fourth of July weekend was far lower in impact and more relaxing this time around than it usually is. I've been running short on sleep for a while now and made up for all of that by sleeping as long as I possibly could, over thirty hours in total spread over three days (plus a two hour power doze (like a power nap, only I never actually fell asleep but instead elfnapped, the way I do when I'm on the road) on Saturday afternoon). I actually feel refreshed and clear-headed for the first time in a while. What else are vacations and long weekends for if not catching up on things that you need to get done?
I spent Thursday evening working on a couple of projects around the house, such as rebuilding a couple of test boxen in the lab with the latest versions of various operating systems (I don't yet have enough RAM in any of my lab machines, including Leandra, to run VMware
) and reading release notes. I also did some debugging of some Live CDs that I habitually carry around. One day I'll actually sit down and figure out how to make one of my own.
On Friday morning, Lyssa, Laurelinde, and I hauled ourselves out of bed, got washed up, and pulled things together long enough so that we could go get a late breakfast at Amphora in northern Virginia before heading back to her place for the yearly Independence Day cookout. The diner was nearly full and busy, but the staff was on top of their game and saw to our orders briskly, which is the best that you can hope for from a local diner. After that we stopped off at Giant to pick up a couple of things for the cookout and returned home to load up the TARDIS. Before leaving, Lyssa made a batch of her famous baked beans, which we left on the stove to cool sufficiently so that it would be safe to travel with them. The Beltway was surprisingly empty for a national holiday, probably because everyone had already gotten to where they needed to be, so we got to her place in decent time for mid-afternoon. No accidents were seen out there, and we suffered no culinary mishaps during the transportation of our contribution to the cookout, which is just as well - baked beans make one hell of a mess in the back of a car if the cooking pot comes open for some reason. There were already a couple of people in attendance when we arrived: Jason showed up a good bit earlier than we did, and Nick already had the grill heating up in the back yard.
More under the cut...
Thursday, 03 July 2008 at 17:12
Late on Friday afternoon, Lyssa and I hurriedly packed our bags, jumped into the TARDIS, and set course northward once again for southwestern Pennsylvania and the general direction of home. As I've alluded to a few times, we're getting married in October and thus there are many plans to make, things to get, and arrangements to hammer out. In the early twenty-first century we can do many of these things over the net or on the telephone, but sometimes matters require the up close and personal touch. Things like tasting samples of wedding cake and taking recon photographs of the site to give to your photographer so that she knows what she's in for and can plan accordingly (doubly necessary due to the unusual architecture of the Stone Mansion Restaurant).
Leaving wasn't difficult. Rush hour traffic on the Beltway while rain was falling wasn't difficult. Trying to find somewhere to eat dinner that doesn't suck on 270-N was difficult, moreso when all travelers concerned are tired, hungry, and snapping at each other due to low blood sugar. On route 270 there are really only two places that you can get food, and they're both off of exits 31-A and 31-B. There's a Cracker Barrel out that way (which neither of us were terribly hot for) and there's a small yet upscale mall in the middle of nowhere comperable in niceness to Tyson's Corner in northern Virginia (which is to say, you can get Japanese hibachi, TGI Friday's, Italian, and a few other things all in one place). It's an oasis of food in a desert of cracked pavement, angry drivers, raised middle fingers, and roadkill, and as oases are wont to be, everyone and their backup goes there eventually. This presents to the weary traveler a problem that is obvious in hindsight: the fact that everyone and their backup goes there.
We drove around the voluminous parking lot for better than an hour looking for somewhere to park. Many of the restaurants there had waits approaching an hour in length, and judging by the fact that the International House of Pancakes on the outskirts of the mall had few to no cars parked out front, we feared that it was because their food was horrid.
More under the cut...
Tuesday, 01 July 2008 at 20:32
A couple of weeks ago, it came down the wire that Peter Murphy
(best known for his work with the band Bauhaus) was on tour again and would be making a stop in Baltimore, Maryland to do a show. Lyssa and I, goth kids that we are, decided that we should fill a hole in our musical histories by going to see one of the de facto founders of the gothic music genre perform live. Laurelinde, on the other hand, just about hit the ceiling when she found out; she's a huge Peter Murphy fan, as it turned out, and wanted to attend come hell or high water. This should would be to her what going to see InSoc was to me earlier this year - a must-go, must-see, damn the torpedoes pilgrimage to the temple of music for what could be a once in a lifetime gig. So, after work, I changed out of work clothes into what I call my deep south cybergoth gear, which consists of a 2600 Magazine
t-shirt, BDU shorts, boots, and a pair of wraparound mirrorshades. Short, sweet, to the point, and best of all won't kill me with heatstroke. Lyssa opted for her red plain miniskirt, gauzy black top, and stripey socks. Laurelinde changed into her black business suit, and the three of us packed up and headed out before traffic got too bad in our neck of the deck.
Due to the fact that we didn't know how long a drive we had ahead of us, we decided to get dinner at the Dominion Deli just down the road while I ran to CVS to pick up a few essentials, namely Advil and disposabale earplugs for the show to come. Our stop was brief, and shortly we were on the Beltway headed for the Ram's Head, discussing the latest episode of Doctor Who
and getting into a nerd rage bitchfest over the antics of Captain Jack Harkness.
It's a fan thing. We do this.
More under the cut...