May 07 2007
I made it to the LayerOne conference safe, sound, and on a shuttle bus that runs from the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California to the Hilton in Pasadena. Travel tip: If you can avoid it, don't catch a cab, they cost an arm and a leg. If you can charter a shuttlebus you'll pay much less for the trip. A cab ride would probably have cost me about $70us, while I paid all of $23us for a leisurely ride to the hotel, in air conditioning (not that we needed it) and comfort. Of course, I hadn't been there for a half-hour before work called because something came up. I wound up spending the next six hours fixing stuff that had broken during the flight out west.
Note to other travellers: The Pasadena Hilton has wireless net.access (802.11g at 54 mbps) but it's not free, it's pay-for-play. Any laptop can associate with the access points (ESSID "hhonors", channel 6) but if you want to get out of their network you have to pony up. It's $9.99us for noon-to-noon access or $25us for three days straight of access. If you try to browse any websites before then you'll be redirected to a hotspot's gateway server (HTTPS protected) where you'll be prompted for your room number, full name, and the last four digits of the credit card number you used to make your reservation. I'm told that you can pick just about any room number at the hotel (four digits, first two encode the floor number, second two the individual room), use name 'Smith', and give the numeric string '1234' but I didn't personally try that. What I do know is that I was able to run a few TCP traceroutes to Google and Yahoo without problems, and ping a few more systems Out There Somewhere without having to pay, but when I tried to SSH back to the Network my connection attempts kept timing out at the gateway. Talking about this
with other con-goers makes me wonder if I didn't try hard enough because at least a few people had not trouble getting out on oddly-numbered ports. One individual managed to use pot 53/TCP (which is normally used for DNS). I know that it didn't have to do with the local DNS servers because I run a copy of the Network's external DNS configs on Windbringer for situations just like that, and while resolution was working properly, actually trying to connect did not.
At any rate, I didn't have to worry about killing time until things started taking shape downstairs in the convention space because I had plenty to keep me busy.
After wrapping things up, I took a shower to wash off the travel crud, changed my clothes, and went downstairs to see if I knew anyone and possibly make a few friends. I'd heard on the LayerOne mailing list that there would be a group outing to a British-style pub called Lucky's, and I was hoping to get a decent meal, a good beer or two, and have a good time that didn't involve reading Slashdot or reading a book. After about a half hour of trying to start conversations with the folks hanging out in the hotel lobby or the bar, I discovered a few things. First of all, about a third of the people who were either staff at the con or attendees all knew one another because they seemed to have worked for the same companies (not naming any names). Secondly, they have a lot more time on their hands than I do to hang out on the Defcon mailing lists or IRC and chat. Third, either they were already from the area or had migrated en masse to Washington state.
What I wound up doing was hanging out in the lobby trying not to look like a wilson as I tried to figure out a) if I already knew someone from the Net and just didn't recognise them, b) if there were any other out-of-towners wandering around, and c) sussed out convention staff. I figured that the British gentlemen were likely candidates for category b) and spotted a largish group of people all headed outside. I followed them out and discovered that they were, in fact headed for Lucky's, and had room for one more in the taxi/van that they'd chartered.
Lucky Baldwin's is a couple of blocks away from the Hilton in Pasadena, and as advertised is a British-style pub, with a selection of beers that deserves it's own card catalogue and pub food that has doubtless taken a good decade or so from my lifespan. After being seated on the patio beneath the area heaters we distributed the beer and food menus and set about figuring out what it was that sounded good for a late supper.
Seeing as how I'd last eaten at 0600 EST5EDT, my body was fairly ravenous, and I wasn't particularly at top form, shall we say. Still, a plate of chicken curry over rice and a goblet (much to my surprise) of Shark Bite Red was fast in coming and just what the Doctor ordered... which was incidentally how I broke the ice and started talking to everyone. The two guys from the UK were sitting across from me at dinner and, during the course of conversation about physical security procedures, I happened to make a remark to the effect of "Oh, a man after my own hearts," a reference to not only handle but one of the few television shows that I actually take interest in.
His name turned out to be Zac, and he replied in a basso voice, "I see that you're wearing a rather unusual medallion.. might that be a TARDIS key?"
One thing lead to another, I broke out my toy sonic screwdriver, and we spent the next hour debating the original series (seasons one through twenty-six), the Fox Movie (which few people seem to like but was better than nothing back in 1996), and the new series (seasons twenty-seven through the current David Tenant run on the BBC). Because Zac had never read any of the BBC novels (just the novelisations from the 70's and 80's), I described the story arcs briefly in between bites of curry and sips of beer.
Presently it started to get cold and people were getting up to move around and change seats, and I wound up taking with some of the staff of LayerOne about some of the research that I've been doing for my CISSP certification that has to do with RF monitoring. At some point I wound up standing in the alley that ran past the pub with Alex Muentz (a professional lawyer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who would be presenting on Saturday night), either Noid or CHS (I honestly don't remember), a gentleman who, for the sake of his privacy I'll refer to as E-, and a young woman in the US Army who's stationed in northern California called Aqeroz. The camera-shy people stayed on the patio where it was nice and warm while the rest of us screwed around with our cameras and swapped war stories from the trenches of the information security front. Muentz had us dying with laughter from some of the amazingly strange cases he's worked, such as the individual who sued the city of Philadelphia, won by default because the city didn't send anyone to any of the hearings, and demanded the seizure and auction of City Hall to cover court costs and damages.
To quote Muentz, "This is fucked up! I don't want to be the one to write the precedent for this! This guy's standing there thinking, 'I bluffed and I won, which means that I really lost! What the hell am I going to do when the sheriff goes to seize the property??'"
I also chanced to meet a security researcher, DJ, and all around nifty guy who calls himself MASMS because he recognised my Cruxshadows lanyard. He lamented missing the last show, so I filled him in on what happened at the DC show back in February of 2007. As it turns out, for a couple of years he spun a goodly amount of gothic/industrial music (new-school goth, industrial, and synthpop) at a couple of clubs in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.
It's always nice to talk shop with a fellow DJ.
The next day, con registration opened and I checked in. I recieved a couple of raffle tickets (I wound up winning a copy of Silence On the Wire from No Starch Press on Saturday), a convention t-shirt (it always seems like cons are the only time I actually get new clothes), and a neat badge - they are actually iron-on patches with grommets punched through them so that they'll hang from a lanyard. It seems that LayerOne is a fairly small con, with about 200 people total this year.