Another all-nighter at work. As it turns out, though, I didn't get much sleep, not from lack of trying. Normally I try to catch a nap before I go back on duty for the vampire shift, but tonight I just couldn't fall asleep until it may as well have been too late. After tossing and turning for a few hours I finally passed out around 2245 EDT, only to wake up at 2330 EDT to my alarm clock.

Interesting times, indeed.

Crossing the Thresholds pre-registration is open. The fall gather will be held at the Four Quarters Farm on 7-9 October 2005.

You scored as Rogue. Rogues share little in common with each other. Some are stealthy thieves. Others are silver-tongued tricksters. Still others are scouts, infiltrators, spies, diplomats, or thugs. What they share is versatility, adaptability, and resourcefulness. In general rogues are skill at getting what others don't want them to get; entrance in to a locked treasure vault, safe passage past a deadly trap, secret battle plans, a guard's trust, or some random person's pocket money.























Which D&D Class Are You?
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This image about says it all... (note: work safe, unless you work with people who say that raising the price of petrol to $3us-plus / gallon is a good thing).


This either says something about how dedicated you can be to not having anything constructive to do, or about computer security these days: The guy who wrote the Zotob worm may have written up to twenty other worms and viruses. The antivirus software company Sophos has analysed samples of worms ostensibly written by Diabl0/Farid Essebar (arrested a few days ago for Zotob) and they've discovered that the strains of viruses have architectural and syntactic correlations, strongly suggesting (they haven't released their statistical analyses so I can't double-check) that the same person wrote all of them. It is also interesting to note that the source code to the Mytob worm is floating around Out There, and that Zotob was probably created by someone replacing one explit in Mytob with another.

Lovely. Plug-and-play virus authoring. Why can't them make peripherals so easy to get running?

Last night Lyssa and I made a rude discovery while ironing some clothing: The seals on the iron are broken and water runs out of the steam chamber freely. This is bad.

While escaping, the water runs down the power lines feeding the heating element of the iron itself, presenting a serious electrocution hazard. This is worse.

Time for a new iron.

ShmooCon 2006 - 13-15 January 2006. Anybody else driving down to DC to attend?

First the ham radio community launched miniature satellites to communicate over. Now nanosats are creeping into other spheres of influence, as heralded by a presentation today at the University of Toronto. The nanosatellite they're showing off today is named CanX-2, and is about the size of your average milk carton, massing in at 3.5 kilogrammes. The satellite is remotely controllable and features a complete telemetry package, along with a propulsion system (!) for orbital adjustments. This isn't the first non-ham nanosat, though - as the name suggests, CanX-1 was launched in 2003 by Eurockot Launch Services in Russia. CanX-2 is being used as an experimental platform as well as to test new control technologies. CatX-2 is scheduled to launch some time in 2006.


Played a hell of a good game of chess with Lyssa last night. We battled over the board for hours, seesawing back and forth until I was down to two pieces and Lyssa down to three. Eventually I got cornered in the queen's rook file and had to resign. She's a hell of a player with a lot more experience than I have.

Something's been rattling around in my head for a while about the polls that newswires like MSNBC and CNN have been putting up about Cindy Sheehan, the hurricane currently hammering Louisiana, and the like.. I love how the poll results are always neck-and-neck, with only a few percentage points separating the "No, sir, I don't like it at all" half of the pie chart from the "I love it more than life itself" half of the pie chart (usually with 1-3% of the people polled having no opinion at all". All I have to say is this: How do we know that the numbers actually reflect reality?

No, I'm serious. How do we know that MSNBC didn't make up three sets of numbers for the results (for the sake of argument, 100,000 for the "I hate it" part, 101,000 for the "I love it" part, and 14,000 for the "no opinion" part (yes, I pulled those numbers out of /dev/urandom)), slap together a graph, and claim that they ran a poll, crunched the numbers, and came up with these results?

The answer is we don't.

For those of you who have been running around spouting those numbers to back up your opinions which you heard on the news last night, think about this for a while.

On this topic, I shall say no more.

NASA will send another probe to the outer reaches of the Sol system in January 2006 and you can have your name put into the probe to be immortalised near the outside edge of the reasonably well-known universe. The probe has been named New Horizons and will explore Pluto and the Kuiper belt in a 50k year orbit. It is estimated that the journey to the outermost regions of the solar system will take a total of nine years (thirteen months for New Horizons to reach Jovian space to slingshot around the planet Jupiter to build up enough momentum to reach the Pluto/Charon system (due to the size of Charon, Pluto's only moon, they are referred to as a binary planet system instead of your garden variety planet-with-a-moon) some eight years later). Another year of travel time, more or less, will be necessary for the New Horizon probe to reach the Kuiper Belt, where it will explore for another five years, give or take before reaching the apex of its orbit and heading back in the direction of Earth.

I'm still wondering where they got their 50,000 year orbit figure from. Nine years to reach the Kuiper belt, implying nine years back, they're projecting four years of exploration... somebody's on crack. Let's say twenty-five years, on the outside..

<sigh> This joke is so old, it's had grandkids, who are unfortunately carrying on the family business.

Super carbon molecules are still a hot topic of research. First came buckyballs, spheres made up of sixty carbon atoms. Then buckytubes, carbon molecules shaped like soda straws. Now we have aggregated diamond nanorods, formed by taking samples of buckminsterfullerene (buckyballs) and subjecting them to much the same process that creates diamonds. After analysis, they've been found to be even harder and more dense than diamonds. The industrial sector has already taken an interest in them, because aggregated diamond nanorods could be worked into construction materials to make them more resistant to damange and shock.

I'm thinking automobile bodies.. during the fabrication process, work a measured amount of ADRs into the material to make it more rigid and hence more resistant to shock. Maybe industrial construction materials - houses with foundations made of bricks reinforced with ADRs making them much harder, and hence more resistant to the cracking caused by settling over time.

With respect to the release of the Zotob worm, an information security analyst at the University of Pittsburgh supposedly tracked the developer of the worm back to the IRC control channel and asked him a couple of questions about his reasons for writing Zotob. I suppose that you can trust this as much as you can any conversation on IRC, but Diabl0/Farid Essebar says that he did it for money, specifically, to make machines more readily infectable by spyware.

Slammed pretty hard by Boing Boing, but here's a hardcore casemod for you: One of the power pods from The Matrix.

Your IIS vulnerability of the week. Webmasters take note or you might not even get a note if you get cracked...

Photographs from the InSoc show in New York City.


This sure isn't the first time this has happened.. US troops shot and killed a soundman working for Reuters Television yesterday. This is the sixty-sixth officially acknowledged death of a journalist killed by friendly fire in Iraq since this whole mess started. The camera operator working with him was also shot by a US sniper and was held in custody for 12 hours before his release for medical attention. Interestingly enough, two Iraqi journalists were also present at the time of the shooting, but they were not detained.

In other news, two people in Turkey and Morocco were arrested in joint local/US FBI efforts because they are suspected of being involved with the release of the infectious agents Zotob, Rbot, and Mytob. Atilla Ekici of Turkey and Farid Essebar are suspected of distributing the infectious agents on the Net. As it turns out, Essebar was paid by Ekici to write the worms.. the FBI is not seeking extradition at this time, instead assisting with local prosecution efforts.

Aah.. antioxidants, that lovely buzzword in consumer food culture. Just can't get enough of those compounds that prevent free radicals from wrecking too many of the proteins in your body. A lot of research says that they go a long way toward retarding the aging process, and you can get them in a variety of foods readily available in the supermarket. In Asia, green tea is the preferred antioxidant transport system. In Europe, red wines are the best way to get them. In the US, vegetables are supposed to be the best way of getting antioxidants into your diet but instead coffee comes out on top. What can you say about a country that's trying to train its people to work six day weeks?

Guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour of Voivod went beyond on 26 August 2005 of metastitized colon cancer. You will be missed, Piggy.

Hard to believe.. the twenty-second Chaos Computer Congress has been announced. A hacker convention's been going on for twenty-two years.. held by Germany's Chaos Computer Club, the CCCongress has been on the bleeding edge of computers, telecommunications, programming, and the information society since the get-go. This year they're covering much more than computers and telecom, they've put out a call for papers on scientific advances, studies of society, communities, and culture. If you can make it to Belin, Germany at the end of 2005 (literally - 27 through 30 December 2005), it'll be well worth the trip.

Here is an evolving situation that everyone in the US would do well to at least read a bit about: US military networks are being compromised more often and more rapidly than most folks think, and it's not easy to do anything about it. The article talks about one Shawn Carpenter of Sandia National Labs, who first came across a gang of Chinese crackers who have been infiltrating US military and government networks and downloading sensitive to secret information whenever they can as fast as they can. Federal investigators formally began Operation Titan Rain to investigate the electronic espioniage efforts, which are now known to be organised. The crackers behind this effort know their stuff: They know where to look, what to look for, where to hide stuff, and how fast they have to move before they're spotted. They're also skilled at covering their tracks. Interestingly enough, after monitoring the crackers at work it's been noticed that they never make typos; this suggests electronic assistance, perhaps scripted commands to accelerate the process. Every one of the intrusion attempts is sourcing from a network in China.

I feel that assuming that the attempts are all coming from China are a bit short-sighted, because the security measures of Chinese networks are often as poor as those in the United States, so any cracker with a mind to cover their tracks could easily infiltrate a few machines in China and use them as points of diversion. Trying to get the attention of sysadmins in China to report abuse of any kind is, for all practical purposes, impossible.

I doubt that the perpetrators behind Operation Titan Rain are directly employed by the Chinese government, too. It'd cause an international incident if it came out that the Chinese military or intelligence bureaus had crackers on staff. However, this does not preclude the possibility of the Chinese government hiring freelancers or feeling free to take the offerings of crackers looking to make some money (I refer you to The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll, who helped unravel a similiar situation in the 1980's).

More interesting tales from the military applications world.. Tesla tech is being used to build nonlethal weaponary by the company XADS (Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems). Among their toys are a class of device called a dazzler, which is a fountain pen-sized green laser used to blind attackers.. "technically nonlethal," to quote William Gibson. Peter Bitar and Edward Fry are the brains behind the operation who are turning happy accidents (such as the immense static charges generated when cutting styrofoam blocks) into usable weapons. Another apparatus that they've miniaturised and adapted for field work is a Tesla coil that fits into a briefcase, which would disrupt front line operations. They're also working on turning this device into a rifle for infantry work, which they've dubbed "StunStrike", with a range of 12 feet. Still other devices in the prototyping phase use low-power microwaves to stun attackers and possibly cause auditory hallucinations.

Interestingly enough, a little research on this method brought up this website, which will no doubt leave you with one hell of a headache. It's a conspiracy forum, make no bones about it, but the technology XADS is researching is supposed to cause exactly what these folks have been yelling about for years. It makes a strange kind of sense when you consider that one of the tactics that XADS is working on is making Arabic combatants think that Allah is telling them to stop fighting as part of a PSYOPS campaign.

When asked, none of them would admit to human testing of their devices.

If you want to find out what's going on in Louisiana ask someone who is actually down there right now.


Lyssa and I went to the movies with Rialian and Rhianna last night to see The Brothers Grimm. Initially, I expected it to be about as good as War of the Worlds was, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was far, far better. I enjoyed most every moment of the movie, plot holes and all.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the movie, it's set around the time when France invaded Germany (late 1700's CE). The brothers Grimm (yes, the ones the collection of stories were named after) travel the countryside busting ghosts, performing exorcisms, and banishing hauntings... they're also charlatans with a taste for the theatric and two washed-up thespians working their special effects. The occupying French government has been hearing reports of a haunted forest, into which young girls are disappearing, and seeing as how this is smack in the middle of the Age of Reason, they assume that it's another team of frauds.

Then the story really begins.

I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable, even after discovering that Matt Damon was in it. It's far more than a special effects extravaganza, which you'd expect from a summertime movie these days. Go see it. Make the time to go see it. Terry Gilliam did an excellent job of directing the movie, selecting the locale (the Czech Republic), and he even designed a few of the costumes himself.

Here's an interesting article on the state of the art in prosthetics.

Had one of those days, today. Lyssa and I went out for a while to get groceries, specifically, stuff so I could make dinner (in the form of homemade macaroni and cheese) this evening.

I think the moment I stepped out the door, my "This isn't the technomancer you're looking for" software went zombie in my headware (i.e., it was still in the process list and taking up RAM, but it wasn't actually doing anything). In other words, I turned into a weirdness magnet, attracting anyone and everyone.

I didn't know that there was a Gothic Bible Study in my area, but apparently there is, and Lyssa and I (both pagans, both technomancers) have been invited to attend. We were also accosted by an old-school metalhead about half my age who just wouldn't shut up.

I have to be honest, both situations (which occurred within mere minutes of one another) were partially my fault. By nature, I can't tell someone to frag off and leave me alone; it's similiarly difficult to ignore someone who've very nice and just wants to talk a bit and isn't acting like a dick. I tried to slip out of the former situation but unfortunately didn't make it very far because the young women in question both work at Trader Joe's (the grocery store Lyssa and I had gone to). I think we'll pass on the bible study, because it might not go well for all concerned.

It could have been worse. It could have been far worse. I could have been mistaken for a vampire and chased by pissed-off fratboys carrying broken chairs again.

It's a long story from my days at IUP.

This brings me right along to something that's been rolling around in the back of my wetware for a while, having to do with geeks and spirituality or religion. Contrary to the opininion of Eric S. Raymond, whom I have a great deal of respect for, a lot of geeks and techies these days don't fit the general profile he wrote about, at least not so that it's very noticable. The vast majority of the techies I run with are either staunch materialists and atheists, or are devout followers of one of the Abrahamic religions.

In my experience, it's been a bad idea to discuss spirituality with my colleagues, especially if you don't fall into either camp. I've noticed that you don't get taken as seriously as you otherwise might. As if a penchant for thinking that there's something greater than yourself out there in this crazy universe makes you less able to write code or hack on hardware.

I understand the materialistic position on this, I really do. I've studied chemistry and physics and biology and organic chemistry and the whole nine yards in college and after pounding down atomic structure and electron shells and Newton's Laws and relativity and neuronal structures and chemical concentrations and interference patterns and threshold voltages, I can see how you can stop thinking that there's anything more. When you consider everything going on inside the brains of living things, from the tiniest flatworms all the way up to the human brain and everything science has figured out.. yeah, I can see how the idea of a soul or a higher self sounds pretty far-fetched.

Science amazes me, though. It strikes something deep inside me, something that reawakens that tiny spark of awe, that feeling that little kids get when they learn something so amazing that the only thing you can do is smile so broadly that it feels like your jaw's going to fall off. When you look at how atoms bond together to make molecules, to make bigger molecules that hook up to make even bigger, more complex molecules.. that eventually make up the proteins that form cell membranes or the compounds that break down glucose molecules to release heat, or even DNA..

It's mind blowing.

When you look at the amazing complexity all around us, on a scale too tiny to apprehend without the most powerful of instruments and pages upon pages of equations, it's hard to not wonder if maybe there isn't Something out there that made all of this happen, Something that gave us the ability to think and reason and marvel and dream. Maybe it's a guy with white hair and a bushy white beard sitting on a white marble throne up in Heaven watching us, maybe it's a limitless white light that tried again and again to make a universe and eventually figured out that it it breathed through ten filters to gear itself down to a point where it could finally make a construct that was stable on its own. Perhaps it's a single Word that made everything spring into being within seven days. Maybe it's an old woman who sang a single perfect note.. hell, maybe it's the dreams of a feverish child tricking us into thinking that we exist. I don't know.

I do know, however, that we live in a pretty amazing universe, and after looking at everything around me and studying the works of people far more intelligent than I who have spent their entire lives trying to figure out how the universe works and where it came from, that there is Something underlying everything in existence. I don't know if it's God or some number of gods or what, but I get the feeling that it's a lot bigger than the universe is, and it exists on a far more subtle level than anything is capable of detecting. All cultures have within their creation myths and religions stories that sound suspiciously similiar, scattered throughout better than ten thousand years of history. Physicists build bigger and better contraptions to take single atoms, accelerate them to larger and larger fractions of the speed of light, and smash them together to generate bursts of pure energy and tinier and tinier particles to try to find a single... thing.. that is the smallest possible unit of energy. One of the pixels of reality, as it were, the most fundamental building block of the universe. Quantum mechanics talks about (right now) seventeen dimensions and strings of energy dancing and humming to themselves and telling each other to take on certain properties and act in certain ways.

I also know that most of the mass of the universe is, for all intents and purposes, invisible to any sensors that mankind has right now. It's the only way that any of the models we have to explain the way the universe does what it does work, at least right now.

The more that particle physicists smash atoms and individual particles together, the more particles and forms of enegy they discover. But so far they haven't yet found the particle, the energy. At one time, the six kinds of quarks (up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom) were thought to be the end-all-be-all of existence. Since that time, even quarks have been dissected into tinier particles, and into still tinier particles. I honestly can't keep track of them anymore. There's too much going on and too bloody many of them.

What I'm driving at is this: They've never going to finish. There isn't a single final particle. There's just what humans will call energy, by one name or another. And they'll spend lifetime after lifetime trying to figure out what it is, why it acts the way it does, and where it came from. I don't think that they'll figure that out, either.

I don't know if you could call that a deity or not, but for all intents and purposes it's the thing that created and maintains the universe. It's at once so far above living things and so far below everything that is, it's on a scale that minds can't quantify.

That thought reassures me at night, when I feel like there's nothing out there, that the only things in the sky are stars so far away that we'll never reach them, stars that are so old that they've probably gone out by the time I see their light down here on Earth.

There's something out there underlying everything, from the violence of a supernova to my pitiful existence down here on Earth.

I'm okay with that.


The weather's been steadily cooling off in the DC area over the past week or so. It's been pretty consistently between 70 and 80 degrees Farenheit, which is a major drop when you consider the fact that most of July and the beginning of August of 2005 were in the hundreds well into the evening. It's actually been pleasant outside lately, thought not always so much so at the office due to the vagaries of HVAC.

For some bizarre reason, yesterday felt like it should be in early November and not August. It needed to be cold, much colder than it really was, but as bone-cutting, grey, and wet as it would be in Pittsburgh. I found myself thinking about trees, devoid of leaves and rattling in the wind. I couldn't help but picture the wet concrete and the falling rain and the frost on the windows every morning.

Gods.. am I homesick?

In response to yesterday's SANS Diary entry regarding unusually long Windows registry entries, what creates them, and how to work on them, today's entry has a list of applications that can properly work on them, a list of applications, that can't, and a link to a scanner that specifically looks for these anomalous registry keys.

I've realised something.

I'm a news junkie; I read and listen to many different media outlets all over the country and all over the world to get a perspective on things. If you listen to just one side of anything, you won't get all of the information and so you'll get an incomplete picture of what's going on with any given situation. Over and over and over again, the news jocks on the radio yell about the agenda of this person, that person, this group, and/or that organisation.. first off, they're really not using the word properly, but that's not what's got me.

'Agenda' implies that whoever is said to have one has a plan, an overarching plan with contingencies and resources and methods and whatnot to accomplish a single goal. I strongly doubt that anyone has a plan to get anything done, just a goal here and a goal there that everyone on the outside looks at, throws collateral information at to flesh it out, finds a pattern, and then screams that there's a plan of some kind in action ("Evil! Pure and simple from the Eighth Dimension!") subverting society.


Most people don't operate that way, and most groups aren't organised to pull off something on the scale of an agenda to change something in an entire country, or even a single state. Most people and groups have an idea of what they'd like to see happen ("Make everyone go back to Spectrum ZX80 computers."). However, designing a plan to bring that about is usually a really bad idea. First off, no plan ever, ever survives its first contact with the enemy (to drop a military axiom). People almost never act exactly as you expect them to; what they do rarely has more than a passing resemblence to your projections, and they rarely react the way you'd expect when you put an engineered situation into their lives. The best you can do is nudge them a little here and a little there and hope that you can herd them in the general direction of one of your goals. If you try to head right for an overarching change in the world, it just won't work. The best you can hope for is a little here and a little there and a serendipitous occurrance someplace else that sort of adds up to your goal, but isn't precisely what you'd want.

To follow my example, the 8-bit conspiracy can stir up interest in old-school computer in some places, and thus people talk about them more. Then you release an emulator or two of the Spectrum ZX80 and get some folks interested: Software hackers say "Oh, neat!" and mess around with it, and maybe work on it a little. Hardware hackers say "Oh, neat, how'd they implement X in software?" and mess around a little with it. The small contingent of folks who remember the real Spectrum ZX80 say "Oh, cool! I remember that!" and mess around with your emulator a little. They also break out their Spectrum machines (which were small enough to tuck inside a hollowed-out hardback book, incidentally - they really were nifty little machines) and look at old code they've written or play a game or two.

Little perturbations occur in society, but you won't suddenly make everyone in the US suddenly drop their Macintosh boxen, their Wintel machines, and their Linux/BSD/BeOS machines for that machine.

Dynamic systems can be prodded here and there, but you won't change the workings of the whole system all at once without wrecking it and starting over.

What I'm driving at is this: There isn't a liberal agenda. There isn't a conservative agenda. There isn't a gay agenda. There isn't a New World Order agenda. There are small groups of folks here and there, some of whom are rich and/or powerful, surrounded by hangers-on who have an idea of what they'd like to see done differently. They're also intelligent enough to know that they will not be able to remake everything, so the best they can do is make something happen here, there, and somewhere else, and hope that enough people hear about it and join in.

Mostly, though, the groups that are said to have the power and plans to change everything... are said to have those things and those goals by the folks who don't like them. Conservative Americans who don't like gays say that there's a "big and scary gay agenda" and that queer folks are trying to make everyone gay, destroy families, promote paedophilia, and all that happy dreck, all of which is utter jetwash. Enough of them make enough noise, however, to make it look like a) all of the conservative folks think that way, and b) all of us queer folks out here are trying to engineer the downfall of American society. Liberal Americans are screaming that the conservatives are trying to take over the world, turn America into a theocracy, and make us all wear gingham and go square dancing. Enough of them make enough noise, however, to not only make it seem like all liberals think this way but they also sound just as cracked as the conservatives who see a baby killer behind every lamppost.

While they're pointing fingers and screaming, the radical fringe says that there's a conspiracy hiding behind the chicken fight that is the liberals and the conservatives fucking everything up. That's just as much jetwash.

What's really happening is that everyone is so afraid of everyone else and spending so much time warring with phantoms (and occasionally hitting their opponent or one of their allies instead of their shadows) they aren't fixing any of the problems that really do exist!

They are wasting their time and energy, and everything important is getting threadbare as a result.

It's nice and all that the open source graphics manipulation programme called The Gimp can be used to compromise ATM cards' PINs as they're sent through the mail, but Photoshop can do the same thing. Scan in the secured part of the letter/envelope and tweak until you can make out the PIN. You need the matching card, however, for it to be worth the effort.

Intel's looking at adding RAID functionality to their laptop chipsets. Yay. Data integrity through redundancy and increased access speed, but how much is it going to take from the batteries' runtime and how much heavier are laptops going to be get due to the larger number of hard drives in them?

Hollywood finally admitted that it probably isn't peer-to-peer file sharing that's causing movie attendence to fall. The going hypotheses are that marketing of movies isn't very good, that the price of gas is making people want to stay home, and a few others. Theauthor of this article, however, hit the nail squarely on the head: Most movies these days just suck.

In biotech news, researchers at the Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas have made a breakthrough in longevity research using mice. Specifically, they've genetically engineered mice that produce an overabundance of a protein called klotho, which wound up adding 20 to 30 per cent to the lifespans of the mice. The reason that mice were used is that the parts of their genome that have to do with decrepitation (aging) are almost identical to those of the human genome. Klotho appears to regulate the speed of aging - the more klotho present, the slower the aging process runs and vice-versa.

No word when human applications will appear in this research. You can bet that it'll take years to make it to research with human cells the way biotech laws in the US are set up right now, though.

Another spammer bites the dust: Christopher William Smith of Minnesota, along with Dr. Philip Mach of Franklin Park, New Jersey and bruce Lieberman of Farmingdale, New York were indicted on over a dozen federal charges related to their business, Xpress Pharmacy Direct (a net.pharmacy). They weren't arrested for spamming, unfortunately, but for writing prescriptions to anyone who would order from them for just about anything. The indictments reference counts of conspiracy to dispense controlled substances, money laundering, distributing controlled substances, and a host of others that I won't go into. They made over $20mus alone selling hydrocodone, a powerful painkiller. Federal agents seized roughly $3.1mus in cars, houses, and cash.

Busted in Oakland, California for carrying a camera?


Last night Lyssa and I walked over to Hasufin's for anime night. Every once in a while Hasufin has a showing of something for whomever's free that night, pulled from his collection; last night it was the first disk-and-a-half of Serial Experiments Lain, which neither of us had seen in ages. Kash, Mika, and Butterfly were also in attendence last night.

I have to be honest, the series makes much more sense in the original Japanese than it does dubbed into English. As expected, it hurt the brains of the folks who weren't already initiated into the mysteries of Lain.

Lyssa, Kash, and I left around 2230 EDT to crash for work today.

The Internet Storm Centre's handlers' diary for yesterday has an interesting entry in it regarding the Windows Registry, the binary database of paths, configuration settings, and switches that underlies the entire operating system. Secunia, a computer security research group, has posted a report that shows that registry keys past a certain length can be added and accessed normally, but they're so long that most registry manipulation programmes (like regedt32.exe, which comes with Windows) can't see them and so can't delete them. The problem seems to be related to GUI applications due to the limitations of code to draw nifty little windows - you can go through the registry with command-line applications and rip them out normally.

Now then.. open question for the readers, if I may: What applications do you think would want to create registry keys that are effectively hidden from the most common registry maintenance applications?

Yep. Probably spyware first, followed by worms and virii.

Greg Dean has figured it out. Somebody recruit him, quick!

I should have bought a new bike when I could afford it - the price of oil is skyrocketing, reaching $67.32us per barrel at the end of business yesterday. The price breaks a number of records. Phil Flynn, VP of Risk Management of Alaron Trading of Chicago, Illinois, was quoted as saying that "we are on a mission to hit $70 a barrel."

Hey, VP of Risk Management.. how would you manage the risk of most of your customers walking everywhere because the price of petrol is too fucking high?

I especially love the "distract the rubes from the cost" bit at the end which compares driving from New York to Massachusetts to buying Starbucks' coffee and somehow offsetting the price by not doing so. Save money from one thing to pay exorbitant prices someplace else..

America On-Line has been fined $1.25mus by the state of New York for making it too difficult to unsubscribe from the service, which is a great way of keeping customers. As it turns out, customer service reps work under an incentive system to keep as many customers as possible; the settlement terms require that this system be halted.

Now if only they'd do something about PC Computing...

The Pentagon has long had an interest in high-tech weapons, and now they're planning to implement laser weapons. The obligatory Star Wars reference notwithstanding, they're planning to install laser weapons (right now only 1 kW in strength, but they want to implement 15 kW weapons by the end of 2005) on fighter craft. A far cry from the gas lasers used in industry and medicine, these devices are hybrid optical pumps, based upon both liquid and solid laser technologies (each of which have unique strengths and weaknesses in implementation) to take out missiles, and perhaps other fighter craft in the future (come on, it's air combat...). They're pretty massive right now, and are probably being designed around the craft they'll be installed on (it beats designing a craft around a laser assembly), so it'll be interesting to see how they affect the maneuverability of the fighter craft as well as what they'll wind up looing like, but I don't expect good images of them to become available for at least another year.

"Bite my shiny metal ass, meatsack!"

Released to the open-source community: Quake 3! You can find compilation and development docs on id Software's website.

Rather than continue to use SSL to protect user information en route through the Net, many large banks have chosen to drop encryption entirely to speed up customer interaction. Among them are the Bank of America, Wachovia, and American Express. Interestingly, the login credentials are submitted over SSL, while the rest of the pages are not.


Lyssa and I went over to Ben's last night for dinner. He made rabbit with mustard stew again, and this time we were in town to partake. Before heading over Lyssa baked a rose cake for Butterfly's birthday, which was on Monday. We spent the evening hanging around and talking and generally relaxing after a long day.

About three-quarters of the way down yesterday's ISC report there's an interesting story of a network protected wtih intrusion prevention software (McAfee's virusscan 8 Buffer Overflow Protection, specifically) failing to protect from an infestation of one of the W32@Zotob variants which everyone with a network should read. In a nutshell, the Zotob worm managed to infect a host or two which weren't protected and then began feeling around for other hosts. The other hosts on the LAN (which did have the McAfee application in place) were hammered so hard that they crashed. During the reboot process, the Microsoft Windows 2000 Plug-and-Pray service came up before the IPS software, and the machines were infected. This should be a lesson to everyone: Start your security software as early in the bootup sequence as you can to prevent this from happening. Redhat users found this out years ago with the Ramen worm back in 2001.

To put it another way, put your shields up before you open your airlocks.

I've been staying away from the whole Cindy Sheehan thing in the news because of the way it's been going, and you don't need to read me ranting for hours on end about it. However, this article caught my eye this morning. George W. Bush will not pull troops out of Iraq because doing so would hurt Iraq's fledgeling democracy. I hate to break it to him but it wouldn't make a lick of difference over there. Sure, the common folk seem to be okay with US troops, but the Iraqis with power, with money, connections, and muscle are moving into place to become the new Iraqi government, and everything the US has done will be for naught. There are militias and strike groups forming in Iraq and they're definitely not happy that there are US troops over there. The longer the US keeps troops there, the more personnel they'll lose. It's not a war that we're winning, it's at best a stalemate, at worst a tragedy. The US already looks like a bully to the international scene, and the country as a whole has lost an amazing amount of credibility.

Once again, Bush is facing only military personnel, folks who are bound to not say anything against him because it would be insubordination. Trying to get the man to talk to average folks like you or I is impossible.

Make your own bullshit protectors!

This is cool: Scientist trading cards. Even Alan is in there.

I've heard of extreme system cooling but this is ridiculous.

It's one thing to grab a copy of Windows off of a warez site or BitTorrent, but at last someone's circulating a truly useful version, a DVD image with multiple copies of Windows on it, all of them hacked to be more lightweight or featureful, or have had all of the latest and greatest patches installed (slipstream installs of Windows, they're called). The one mentioned is called Super WinPE Ultimate Boot CD 2004 Pro (ugh!!), and has seven different versions of Windows XP, including two Chinese-only variants. They're also loaded with troubleshooting and repair applications, something that you'll never see on a legit copy of Windows. The installers are also heavily modified to get rid of all the eye candy (about time).

It's about time that someone stopped just shuffling warez around and put time and effort into improving it. Kudos to you, whomever's behind this effort.


The Supreme Court of California has once again upheld the rights of same-sex couples as child custody is concerned, putting them in the same position as heterosexual couples. Three times now, they've ruled that lesbian couples with children are considered legal parents, with the same rules and regulations even after legal separation and custody (which is never a fun battle to fight). It's also clearly delineated the legal aspects of such situations, which is a major vvictory. This also gives a lot of credibility to the domestic partnership laws of California. Unsurprisingly, so-called 'family values' groups are having kittens over this, shouting that it undermines the meaning and stability of the family, yadda yadda yadda.

Reminds me of a joke a friend told me once. Stop me if you've heard this one...

A gay guy and a straight guy, friends since high school, get together for coffee one day, because they haven't hung out in ages, what with jobs, families, and whatnot. Their conversation, of course, turns to families and significant others.

The straight guy bemoans the breakup of his divorce after four years. He's going to pay through the sinuses for years to come for child support, the kids themselves are in therapy because of the fights he and his wife had, and the division of property is going about as well as a Pinto in a BB gun, which is to say it's just not working.

After a sip of latte', he asks his life-long friend how his life's been going. The gay guy relates that he's been living with his lover, whom he's been with since high school. They've just bought a brownstone and they're moved in and set up. Sure, they've had some rough times, but they're working things out, and they love each other so deeply that it hurts. They wish that they could adopt children, but every time they try the lawyers come out of the woodwork and put the kibosh on the whole effort. The last thing they could ever want for is denied them.

Okay, so maybe it's not funny. In context, it usually brings the house down (unless everyone's heard it a few times that week). I never said that I could tell a joke.

I think it illustrates my point, though - it doesn't matter if you're straight or gay, bisexual or asexual, if you want to start a family and settle down, then you should have exactly the same opportunity to do so as everyone else in this country.

Stem cell technology has seen another advance - deliberate hybridisation. Scientists have developed a technique to fuse human stem cells with other sorts of human cells (in their experiments, skin cells from an adult human), creating hybrid cells that, for all intents, act the same as human embryonic stem cells. There's just one catch, though: the cells have two nucleii and double the usual number of chromosomes, so they're not technically well-formed human cells. It's not known if they'll behave the way they're supposed to, or if they'll go rogue and develop into cancers. It's also unknown if they really will develop into most any kind of cell in the human body (a property called pluripotency). These experiments are being done because there isn't enough genetic diversity in the lines of stem cells available for use in the United States, which poses a threat to stability of those germlines. They're also advancing in age, and their potency is now questionable.

Privacy breaches are becoming more of a problem for everyone, not just private companies. This time, the US Air Force has reported the theft of personal information of 33k airmen after one of their HR computers was compromised by an outside attacker who used legit user credentials to get in. Air Force personnel are being urged to take countermeasures, such as asking their credit companies to put a watch on account and application activity.

In the country of Vietnam a doctor in a rural area has contructed his own endoscope, because the cost of a manufactured one is too high for his hospital of residency (>= $30kus). The surgical device was constructed using an off-the-shelf webcam, a series of lenses, and a dedicated analysis system (which made up the bulk of the cost of constructiion).

It was only a matter of time... 1 kilowatt PC power supplies will become available come October 2005. Apparently, 600 watts just aren't enough to drive your average gaming box anymore. Moreover, this sucker draws 1400 watts from the power line when you start it up, as much as certain hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, stereo power amps, and immersion heaters.

Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark plugged in all the lights on the house, and they had to kick over the auxilliary nuclear reactor at the power station? That's what this power supply reminds me of.

It's not quite nanotech, but it's a step in the right direction. Certain species of algae, as you may or may not know, are motile. Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that motile algae can be used to tow stuff, in this case, molecules specially designed to act as tow ropes attached to tiny beads. The tow rope/molecules were engineered to be sticky at either end (the attachment points) and to dissolve when exposed to UV light (for the purpose of detachment). The algae naturally move towards visible light, so researchers used this as a way to direct the algae, and thus their cargo. The experiment involved towing those tiny little beads twenty centimetres (a little over 7.75 inches).

If they can tow little beads, what else could they move around...?

More news about the rave in Utah that was raided. 90 law enforcement officers from a number of agencies were members of the team that stormed the site on a private farm about an hour outside of Salt Lake City. The rave scene in Utah, it turns out, has been under investigation all summer, and possibly all year (it stands to reason that law enforcement would monitor for a lot longer than a summer before they moved, given the number of people who typically turn out for raves). Ostensibly, they were investigating sexual assaults and firearms violations (ummm.. then why is there hired security there to search everyone coming into the site?). The reason that they called out the shock troops was because they tried to raid a party earlier this year called Sequence Five. It's not unusual for there to be undercover cops at raves, they have been there since the beginning of the scene. As for drugs at raves, a lot of it depends on the particular scene the party's held in. 412/724 tended to be dry or quiet when it came to drugs and not complete tripfests. Your mileage may vary.

The press release published by Utah law enforcement's been refuted - the promoters were granted public gathering permit #2005-11, on file with the state of Utah.

Video shot by attendees has been corroberated by one of the party's DJs, who saw at least one person tackled by law enforcement and stomped like a DDR pad. Tear gas grenades were used to break up the remaining ravers, and it wouldn't surprise me if cops outside of the site had a field day pulling folks over, ticketing them, and possibly searching their cars, as was SOP in 412 in the late 1990's after a bust (having had to explain several copies of 2600 Magazine and what all that circuitry on my jacket was for once or twice).

Loads of amateur videos are linked off of this news article, and they're downright scary. Also check out the sources at the end of the article, which supposedly shed a little light on the reason for the raid. Somebody (with a capital S) is afraid of the scene, now. Information will definitely be posted as it comes in.

I've posted a mirror of the video footage here.

More culture shock: Lyssa and I (in TARDIS) coasted into a gas station on petrol fumes last night to tank up. Price of a fillup: $42us. This says it all.

One of my fascinations are numbers stations, which I've mentioned from time to time. I've found a podcast dealing specifically with them that you might find interesting.



Lucien's down for a bit, everyone. Sit tight.

Got off to a slow start today. Upon arriving at work, I realised that I'd forgotten my keycard, and had to drive all the way back home to get it so I could go to work.

Had something of a long weekend this time 'round. Lyssa and I stayed home for most of it because both of us were tired and burned out. We wound up sleeping until noon or therabouts and heading out to do some grocery shopping that afternoon, then curled up at home to watch a couple of movies (we found a Potomac Video store, another bit of culture shock for yours truly) and make pizza. After we got home, I spent some time in the office working on a writing project that I've been researching for a while and wishing that I'd brought an external keyboard home from work. Afterward Lyssa and I watched Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?, a movie which, I was quite surprised to find, was well-done and well-acted, George Cloony to the contrary. Afterward, Hasufin and Mika came over and we watched the second of the movies we'd rented (Kung Fu Hustle, a screamingly funny spoof of wire-fu movies and anime (It's all about Landlady, I'll just say that)) and talked until well into the night.

Sunday brought with it more time roaming around the area looking for a few things to decorate the apartment with (we settled on a bronze shield and a wicker tray for the coffee table, which we put up last evening along with some of the pictures from my old apartment and the mirrors from Lyssa's) and picking up some last minute groceries for the week to come. The laundry room was in use all day, more or less, so we'll probably finish that chore tonight.

A few months ago, a man wound up in a London hospital, soaking wet, silent, and without identification. All attempts on the part of the hospital staff to get him to speak failed, but he was seen to repeatedly draw grand pianos when presented with pencil and paper. Upon first seeing one, he sat down and played like a virtuoso for hours on end; it became routine for him to give concerts in the hospital. After months he's finally spoken and explained things to the hospital staff. He is, it appears, a German national who left Paris, France after losing his job. The rest of the story is white noise due to the English equivelent of HIPAA, so there isn't any more information on this gentleman.

I wish I could have heard him play.

They pulled it off - the cremated remains of Hunter S. Thompson were fired from the Gonzo Journalism monument on his farm Sunday evening. It's no surprise that the wake was so tightly secured - some pretty rich and/or famous folks were in attendance, such as Johnny Depp (who played Thompson in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas), John Kerry, and Sean Penn.

See you later, lad, maybe after the Zero-out.

Photographs of the memorial fireworks display here.

Users of the TOR Anonymiser should beware: There is a vulnerability in versions through that could cause loss of anonymity if the first hop in the retransmission chain is malicious; the malicious server could capture the keys used to secure the transmissions through the rest of the session and eavesdrop upon (or possibly alter) on all traffic throughout the session. Upgrade to either v0.1.0.14 or to fix these vulnerabilities.

Steganographic concealment of files using flickr.com. Interesting.

It's finally happened.. someone's using BitTorrent to swap legit files. ADV, considered the Borg of anime releases in the United States has started to use BitTorrent to distribute trailers for new releases, starting with Gilgamesh and Goddanar. They also ran an experiment back in July of 2005 with the trailer for Madlax.

Today is truly a sad day.. Robert Moog, requisat en pace. The afternoon of Sunday, 21 August 2005, Mr. Moog (of Moog synthesiser fame) passed away at his home in Asheville, North Carolona of brain cancer. He left behind his wife, ex-wife, and five children.

Culture shock the second of moving to Virginia: Once a year, you have to pay a personal property tax on every vehicle you own, based up on the Blue Book value of said vehicle(s). Doing so means that they'll send you a sticker that certifies that you paid your taxes.

Holy shit.. a legal rave in Utah was raided by a team of shock troops. A rave about an hour outside of Salt Lake City was broken up by riot cops in full regalia; first they were buzzed by a helicopter, then troops in combat camos carrying assault rifles stormed the place and broke the whole shindig up. Police dogs nailed at least one kid, who got the stuffing kicked out of him, and then the tear gas grenades started flying. Interestingly enough, the woman whom the promoters had rented the land from was thrown off of her own property before the raid went down. Videos are linked off of this article... buzzlife.com has thread on the raid, complete with pictures of the injuries incurred by a few folks. The Utah County Departmental News has a press release up, though from what I've heard from the promoters, there's a lot of jetwash in there (no mass gathering permit?). There's another video up here.

I can see cops busting up a rave that's gotten too rowdy or too noisy, in fact I've been at a few of them in my day, but sending in the fucking riot police, who then proceed to stomp on folks and put a few in the hospital? For Kibo's sake.. time to raise a ruckus about this one, boys and girls. Call the usual folks and sic the legal profession on the state of Utah for this travesty.

Shit.. what is this, an issue of The Invisibles or something?


I didn't go to that InSoc show in New York this weekend, but here's a review from someone who did. It was attended and loved by InSoc fans who flew out there.

Oh, well. I couldn't afford the plane fare, anyway.


Find out how much caffeine it would take to kill you. It will take 111.10 cups of brewed coffee to stop my hearts.

I need to start training...


This is one of the most entertaining shenanagins I've seen in a long while: Christopher Walken for President in 2008. From poking around on the website a little, there is a press release dated 9 August 2005. I haven't quite decided yet if it's a joke or not, but it's rather amusing, if nothing else. There is also, a petition up to garner votes for Mr. Walken.

Whoa.. the Washington Post picked up on it.

They should string this guy up by his earlobes.. a former America On-Line developer was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for selling a database of 92 million e-mail addresses to spammers. The judge bought Jason Smathers' sob story (I guess everything Smathers did to sweeten the case for the Federal prosecutor helped) and let him cop a plea.

It is thought that the stolen database is still circulating among spammers.

Hunter S. Thomson's funeral will be held on Sunday, 21 August 2005 at his farm in Woody Creek, and he's going out with a bang - literally. His cremated remains were shipped to the Zambelli Fireworks Company in New Castle, Pennsylvania and were loaded into 34 fireworks, which will be launched at sunset on Sunday. The morters will be mounted upon and launched from the 153-foot gonzo Journalism monument (a bright red fibreglass upraised fist with two thumbs) which stands upon his property. The aerial displays will detonate at an altitude of 300 feet. Other structures are under construction at his farm, also, including a bar that can get up to four hundred attendees in nosepaint for a night and all the gin-joint accoutrements you can think of. The funeral is, unfortunately, only for family and close friends.

It's also got private security, to keep party crashers out. I wasn't able to secure VIP passes, unfortunately, so I'll have to settle for a moment of silence on Sunday night.

Just a thought: It is a more common technique on the part of virus and spyware authors to edit the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\ETC\HOSTS.TXT files of the systems which their 'pet projects' infect so that the web and update sites of the various antivirus and antispyware companies are inaccessible, usually by making the IP addresses of said sites appear to be (the localhost interface on every TCP/IP networked system).

I wonder how long it will be before infective software agents begin to alter the packet filtering rules put in place by the Windows firewall to perform the same task. There is already one utility out there (IPF v1.0 by THC) which is capable of manipulating these rules in a far more precise manner than the GUI utilities out there. It would not take much, I think, to call a number of the APIs in Windows for manipulating those rules to, say, deny all traffic headed to the Kaspersky or Symantec websites.


Interesting night last night at Rialian's. I wound up geeking the entire night with Tori about self-destructing storage media and collecting toasters. Go figure.


There are now seven variants of the Zotob worm running around. There is an excellent analysis of them on the SANS Internet Storm Centre, covering all of the versions known about yesterday (.A through .G). Symantec's removal utility will wipe all of them out, for the record.

It never fails: Find a good exploit and use it as the attack vector for a worm, and in a day or so everyone and their backup are modifying it and re-releasing into the wild.


What a day.

A breakthrough in the fields of telepresence and microsurgery has occurred: Surgeons in Australia performed surgery on individual cells over the Internet. The researchers used a new microsurgical apparatus called RoboLase (which uses beams of collimated light to trap individual cells so they can't move around - they were operating on human sperm cells, which move pretty rapidly to begin with) to restrain the cells and burn tiny holes in a four-by-three grid pattern in the cell membranes. The experiment was reported to have been as fast as performing the procedure with equipment directly at hand, whcih says a lot about the speed of their net.connection (better than one gigabit), resulting in lag undetectable by the users (how many chickens did they have to sacrifice to pull that off?).

This is a hell of a step forward - they were able to perform surgery not only over the Net, but on individual cells. The equipment has to be amazingly accurate to get that kind of precision; the user interface has to be very intuitive, too, so that they didn't have to stop and think about how they were going to bore the holes, they just went ahead and did it. Contrast this with most CAD (computer-aided design) systems, which were described by a good friend of mine as "the complex made Hermetic." If the advances keep up, pretty soon microsurgery will be possible on people in real situations, and not just on cells in a petri dish.

Simply amazing.

In February of 2005 it was announced that Chinese cryptographers had discoverd a vulnerability in the SHA-1 algorithm, which is used for generating cryptographically strong digests of files for tamper detection and authenticity testing (in the form of digital signatures). You'd think that this would be big news, and that everyone in the field of crypto would want to know about this so that they could get to work.. the researcher who figured it out, Xiao Yun Wang, was all set to present her work at a conference in California on 16 August 2005 but she was denied a visa to enter the country to do so. In fact, of the nine researchers who were to attend, only one was allowed into the country. The US State Department says that this is SOP (standard operating procedure) these days when technical fields are involved. The organisers of the International Cryptology Conference are having kittens over this, because it is preventing peer-review of what could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in cryptography in this decade. Instead, another member of the research team who found this (possible - I've not yet read this paper) vulnerability, presented their research.

Bruce Schneier has more details: The complexity of the attack is 2^63, much less than their original results of 2^69, and far less than a straight brute force attempt to come up with a second stream of bits that produces the same output from the SHA-1 algorithm (2^80 attempts). The thing is, computations with the complexity 2^64 have already been done in a reasonable amount of time, so 2^63 is a significantly small number of attempts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (not too far away from me, actually) is planning a conference in October of 2005 to figure out what to do about this.

You can find the two papers here (local mirror) and here (local mirror).

Two cryptographers, Steve Bellovin and Eric Rescorla are presenting a new hashing algorithm to replace the SHA family of message digest algorithms.

Remember Scott Levine of Florida, who compromised Acxiom to the tune of 144 counts of too much stuff for me to list here? On 15 August 2005 he was found guilty of stealing more than 1.6 BILLION customer records from the information broker's massive databases. Levine was convicted of 123 of the 144 counts (the jury cleared him of 13 counts of unauthorised access to a protected computer, conspiracy, and money laundering). The maximum sentence for Levine would be 640 years in prison and/or fines of up to $30.75mus. Levine will be sentenced on 9 January 2006.

Work safe: Read the fifth post down, then go back and read the thread from the top. It's funny.

The West Bank Barrier has already been tagged, and some of the paintings are decidedly on the surreal side.


Finally got some exercise last night - my shoulders, back, and wrists aren't hurting anymore. I guess I need to make the time to work out more.

I've been given my own office at work for the first time ever. It's not much, just a table, a chir, two wall-sized whiteboards, and my computers, but it's the first. I'm thinking of getting a bottle of whiteboard cleaner and a mop and working over everything in there. No idea what, if anything, I'll put up to decorate. Maybe some of the posters I've been meaning to get framed...

I've finally found my contact lenses (three pairs of cosmetic, two pairs of plain-jane corrective) - they were in a belt pouch holding part of my travel sewing kit. Some of the containers were a little on the dry side, but after changing the saline and soaking them for a few days everything's back to normal. I wore them not too long ago and they're still usable, and still comfortable, or at least the regular ones are. I also found the charger and base for my pocket computer, which I've recharged and used for balancing my chequebook (or at least discovering how screwed up it's gotten during the move). I've restored the last backup made before it lost power and it's back in the game. My batman factor is now back to three.

A number of big companies, such as CNN and ABC have been crushed by the Zotob worm, which is spreading faster than their AV systems can update their signature databases and implement protection. Ouch.

The price of petrol on the international market is skyrocketing, and this is sending ripples throughout the US economy as most everyone needs gas to move stuff from place to place. Prices have jumped 0.5% in July of 2005, but this seems like an average to me. What usually isn't mentioned, however, is how much the manufacture of stuff other than fuels made from petrochemicals is being impacted, like fertilisers, plastics, and even roadway asphalt. It's getting so bad that industrial production is slowing down, which only exacerbates the problem. Even retail giant Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries are feeling the pinch.

You know, way back in the day when I use to watch Pittsburgh public television just to catch 3-2-1 Contact, they mentioned just this sort of thing happening, along with some of the consequences that we're seeing right now. Nobody fucking listens; not even the kids, anymore.

You need raw materials to make stuff, from the car you drive to the rings you wear. For a lot of stuff, this means metals, which are refined from ores dug out of the ground. For other things, this means plastics, which are synthesised from crude oil, the price of which has just broken $66us per barrel. Crude oil is rich in organic compounds, which are easier to extract from oil (called cracking) than they are to synthesise from other sources (such as plant material or certain forms of refuse). If the price of crude oil goes up, the price of cracking crude oil goes up to compensate, and from there the price of those organic industrial compounds (used to make plastics, fuels, lubricants, and many other things) goes up. If those prices go up, the manufacturers of those compounds have to jack their prices up, and so do the manufacturers who sue those compounds... and eventually you're paying a metric assload for gas, plastic goods, and even food (because growth media, fertilisers, and insecticides are synthesised out of petrochemicals most often).

I hate laying out a basic chain of causality here, but I find it both amazing and disgusting at the number of people I've spoken to who just don't get it, who don't understand that the laws of cause-and-effect are at work here, and just because "some big oil company pays a lot for oil" does not mean that consumers don't have to pay a lot of money. There are people out there who don't grasp the fact that when an oil well runs dry, that's it - there's no way of getting oil out of it again anytime soon, or even within the lifetimes of their great-grandchildren. Barring, of course, the development of some new means of drilling even deeper into the Earth's crust and sucking out the last few drops of crude oil remaining. Maybe they'll get more natural gas out of those wells, but that's about the extent of it.

Folks just don't get it.

Remember the Brasilian guy in London who was shot dead by police? Not only was he innocent but he'd already been apprehended when he was shot and the news releases were utter jetwash. He wasn't running from police; it's very likely that he didn't even know he'd been pegged by London law enforcement; hell, he was restrained when they fired seven rounds inot him at point-blank range! Jean Charles de Menezes was filmed by the tube station's internal security net not jumping a turnstile and running for his life but walking in, getting a newspaper, and boarding the train. The police officer who identified him did no such thing because he was in the bathroom at the time. de menezes wasn't wearing a bulky jacket or a belt of any kind. The whole series of reports were bollocks.

A senior officer of the London police department confirmed that the leaked documents, photographs, and security camera footage were authentic.

Scotland Yard is sticking by their shoot to kill policy.

There is a new variant of the Zotob worm, designated W32.Zotob.E, which can run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, and XP systems but not actually infect them. Instead, they serve as 'Typhoid Mary' systems which are used to scan for and infect vulnerable Windows 2000 systems. Symantec has released a Zotob.E removal tool to the public.

Roboticists in Japan are developing an artificial skin with both senses of touch and temperature. The skin is very much like a fabric woven out of networks of solid-state tempearture sensors and pressure sensors constructed out of organic molecules. The artificial skin is laminated onto whatever needs it and is hooked into the sensor net of the device. Right now, it's being developed for industrial and medical robotics, but the prosthetics field is wide open, too.

Video footage of the iRiot yesterday.

What a way to celebrate your 30th birthday. (note: work safe, unless you collect Barbie Dolls)

My pocket computer is back up and running. I feel like half my brain is back online.


Had a productive evening last night. I was poked by the muse and sat down to write around 1900 EDT last night. The whole evening was spent hammering at Luel's keyboard, writing, replacing, and editing. I've got a lot more work to do, but I'm pretty happy with what I've written so far. I'll do more work on it as time permits this week. Lyssa and I have planned on sitting on our butts this weekend to recuperate.

The Zotob worm is mutating faster than AV software can keep up with it - spammers have gotten hold of the worm and added a mass-mailer to it. The new variant still connects to an IRC server and edits the hosts.txt file to route traffic to most every AV company, Paypal, Moneybookers, eBay, and Amazon to, but its primary function appears to pump out spam like nobody's business. It's a safe bet that more variants (and at least a few knock-offs) will appear in the next couple of days to take advantage of those who don't get the MS05-039 patch installed. It has also been discovered that Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 may be vulnerable under certain circumstances, namely, when the systems have been configured with a number of server roles, such as legacy domain controllers or Microsoft Exchange servers (which enable NULL sessions). There is a way to check each server (given in the ISC diary linked above) for the presence of this configuration, which would be reason to get that patch installed as soon as possible. It is possible to turn off NULL session support by altering the Windows registry but this will break Microsoft Networking on a fundamental level (caveat administrator).

Information on the Gaza Strip from the CIA World Factbook.

The RIAA has at last admitted that people buying bootlegged CDs cost them more than peer-to-peer downloads. Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the RIAA, stated last week that music fans acquire nearly twice as many songs from illegally copied CDs as download them from the P2P nets otu there. On the other hand, legal downloads make up around 4% of the music out there, and people buying CDs make up the last 50%. The RIAA is cranking out so-called copy protected CDs left and right, but just like the copy protection schemes of the 1980's and 1990's, the only thing this has done is make life needlessly difficult for people with nothing shady in mind but pose a trivial problem for folks with a mind for mischief.

Way to fight the War on Terrorism (tm), guys.. infants with names on the no-fly list are causing incredible problems for travelling parents because they have to struggle to prove that their one and two year olds don't have a pound of Semtex hidden in their diapers (though little ones are known to drop the odd ten-megatonne blast at inconvenient times). It seems that it has become prudent to get your newborn a passport at the same time as a Social Security Number (though there's probably a problem with the passport photographs and how fast kids grow up).

Nominee to the US Supreme Court Judge John G. Roberts, Junior has some interesting political views, as elaborated in several thousand pages of memos, reports, and position pieces he's written in the past thirty years. US citizens would do well to check these out to know what's going on out there.

Holy shit. Lyssa and I were supposed to be there for this laptop sale....

For the Coast to Coast AM drinking game:

The automatic prayer project.


Devo. Rocked. The. House.

Around 1930 EDT last night, Lyssa, Pegritz, and I boarded the TARDIS and set course for the general direction of downtown DC, to Club 9:30. I say 'general' direction because there is no direct route, you have to aim for your destination and hope that you make it there by taking a minimum of detours and side roads to get around roadway construction (the DC Department of Transportation is taking lessons from PennDOT, I see) and the lack of street signs that can be seen from the direction you're coming from. It took all three of us to find the place.

Parking was remarkably easy to find - we were flagged down by a dude with a build a few ounces shy of a HIT Mark and a sungun. Ten dollars bought us parking in a tiny space with the caveat that we had to leave within twenty minutes of the concert's finale.

The concert swag there was kind of thin - a few different kinds of Devo shirts, energy domes, and most interesting, 'Devo Live 2005' boxer shorts instead of t-shirts. They were nice (and worn on stage, as I'll get to later), but if I go to a show, I'd like to show it off without having to flash someone. Prices were on the high side (shirts started at $25us, boxers and energy domes $30us), which is what I've come to expect from DC in general and the fact that the print run for these items is comparatively small, so they have to break even somehow.

The doors opened at 1930 EDT; the show didn't start until 2115 EDT. By the time the opening sequence was shown on the big screen, there were spuds packed in Club 9:30 like French Fries from the stage all the way back to the concert swag booth. The opening sequence looked like parts of the flavor video and intro from the Devo: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution music video DVD, featuring General Boy and the various sorts of spuds that can be seen at a Devo concert. When Devo took the stage, the crowd went insane.

Devo played a lot of their older songs, like Mongoloid, Jocko Homo, Gates of Steel, Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA, Through Being Cool, and of course Whip It! (accompanied by the Devo hand-jive from the audience). Interestingly enough, they didn't do any of their newer material from Total Devo (probably my favourite album) or Smooth Noodle Maps. I've heard that they completely fell off the map when Warner Brothers decided that they were going to forget that Devo ever existed, and didn't promote either of those albums. It wouldn't surprise me if they weren't allowed to do any of those songs on a contractual basis, either, Warner-B being what it is.

Mark Mothersbaugh broke out the old-school Korg analogue synthesisers for this show. The wooden panels were immediately recognisable on the keyboard racks, something that drove Pegritz and myself into fits. Bob Mothersbaugh still has it on stage, and played a selection of guitars (he even had the narrow almost-a-perfect-rectangle jammer from the early 1980's, when New Wave first began to appear in the US) that got every spud in the building bouncing.

Yellow Tyvek jumpsuits and red energy dome hats were worn for the first half of the show; they stripped down to black t-shirts, boxer-shorts, knee-high socks, and kneepads later on.

I'll regret until the day I die not having charged my phone up so that I could take pictures.

At one point, Mark Mothersbaugh came out on stage wearing a blue foam ten gallon hat, fake soup-strainer mustache, and sporting a grotesquely packed pair of boxer shorts (a fanny-pack holding dozens of rubber superballs, which he bounced into the crowd, following yet more energy domes, Devo t-shirts, parts of their trademark yellow Tyvek jumpsuits (torn from each other's bodies earlier in the show during the song Uncontrollable Urge) and towels thrown earlier).

Said I to the Black Pharoah grooving next to me, "Dude, we've seen Devo wang."

The show wrapped around 2230 EDT. Pegritz, Lyssa, and I were dripping with sweat and panting from the heat that had built up in the club, air conditioning notwithstanding. We retired to the TARDIS to spend the next ninety minutes trying to find our way out of northwestern downtown Washington, DC, a task we accomplished by inverting the directions we'd gotten from Mapquest and carefully picking our way through side streets reminiscent of scenes from Bladerunner. It never ceases to surprise us how Washington, DC can go from the white marble and carefully manicured lawns of the seat of power for this country to the ghetto in a single city block.

Finally off the beltway, we headed to a local diner for water and a late dinner, then crashed for bed.

Devo are aging well. Most everyone's going grey, and just about everyone has lost a minimum of hair. Their voices are still strong and clear, and still have their trademark Ohio twang with that.. I don't know what it is in there, it's a sort of nasal background that is instantly recognisable. Yeah, they've put on a few pounds.. big deal. They're still bouncing around the stage like ping pong balls in a blender, they're still singing, they've still got that magick, that energy... they're still Devo, no two ways about it. Mark's still got those trademark horn-rimmed glasses that make him look demonic when the light's coming upwards from the edge of the stage, casting horn-like shadows onto his forehead. They haven't compromised for anyone or anything. They put on one hell of a show, a show that everyone out there should catch when it's closest to you. If you're a fan, you'l go hoarse (like I did) singing and screaming. If you're not a fan, you probably will become a fan during the show.

Batten down the hatches, folks - we're at Infocon Yellow due to a new beastie crawling around the Net named the Zotob worm, which exploits the latest remote code execution vulnerability in Windows, this one found in the Universal Plug-and-Pray service accessible via port 445/TCP. Zotob.A drops some code designated Trojan.Spybot-123 with the filename 'pnpsrv.exe". Installing patch MS05-039 will protect your machines. The worm only seems to infect Windows 2000 machines, so you've got at least a little time yet before your newer boxen are at risk (because worms tend to get captured, hacked, and rereleased). A variant designated Zotob.B was released shortly after the first. This variant uses static ports instead of random high ports (read the descriptions for the reasons why) and attempts to connect to an IRC server; it also modifies the hosts.txt file to prevent infected machines from contacting a large number of antivirus and computer security websites to make it harder to disinfect them.

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip and evacuated, leaving the area a ghost town.

I don't like the sound of that...

A recent study shows that the more wealthy you are, relative to your peers, the happier you are. Yeah - if you don't have to worry about whether or not you can pay your bills every month, I can see that. I have to wonder what these folks are doing professionally, and how much free time they have to, say, spend with friend and family.

I've always wondered about that...

Hacked Toyota Prius gets up to 250 miles per gallon.. One Ron Gremban of Corte Madera, California spent $3kus on extra power cells for his car, and is getting a lot more distance for the buck on all the extra electricity they store up.

It's sonic.. it's got tonnes of sonic.. but it's not a screwdriver, it's a sonic blaster that projects loud enough to stun humans at even medium range. Technically they're called LRADs (Long-Range Accoustic Devices) can pump out sound heard hundreds of yards away. They were deployed at the last Republican National Convention, but no one's sure if they were used or not (I'd think that we, and most of New York City, would have heard them if they were). The Los Angeles, California Sheriff's Department is testing a new version at this time, with a range of one mile and almost no distortion at all. The sound waves projected by LRADs are projected in a very tight beam - you can tell immediately when you're out of the cone of effect. Rumours are floating around about their use in the first Gulf War, but I've not seen anything yet to substantiate this.

Read the comments, too - some of them are pretty funny (and some are pretty insightful).Response to a stalker on Craig's List (work safe).


Just got back from NOTOCON. More on that later.

Nyarlathotep is in town, and after Lyssa and I got everything wrapped up from NOTOCON we hung out for the evening and made dinner (Lyssa's famous fettuccini alfredo with spinach) and caught up on the two years-plus since either of us have seen Pegritz. We wound up gearing up to go dancing around 2100 EDT last night and heading out to chiarOscuro, one of DC's gothic/industrial nights on the weekend. We got there around 2200 EDT and headed directly for the dance floor to cut a rug to the classics, from VNV Nation (before they started selling their CDs at Hot Topic) to Strawberry Switchblade and even farther back on the patio (which was just as hot and humid but at least there was a breeze). Pegritz and I nearly killed ourselves dancing to old-school Information Society, Kraftwerk, and Thomas Dolby. I even ran into a few old friends (Tom and Arcane Matt) from my undergrad days at IUP.

We got lost on the way home, unfortunately. If Pittsburgh was the prototype for R'yl'eh, Washington, DC is the sunken city transplanted to the east coast of the USA.

Soaked with sweat and barely able to feel our feet, we limped home around 0300 EDT, showered, and crashed for the night.

Lyssa was hit pretty hard by the humid air last night and the incense in the dealer's room from her stint at NOTOCON on Satuday, so she sat today out and rested. I loaded the leather goods into the TARDIS and trucked back to the hotel to lay out a spread for the close of the con.

I got to talk to a few folks there today about chiropratic adjustment (which I need at the moment) and what past NOTOCONs have been like. I got to watch someone hammer a couple of staples into a picture frame with a drinking glass. I even ran into some local folks and spent a while talking. I didn't expect to run into anybody local other than Mark and Butterfly, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Nothing sold. Not a bloody thing. A lot of folks stopped by briefly to check stuff out, but no sales.

I'm back at the apartment getting ready for a nap before the Devo concert tonight.


Got to attend a few hours of NOTOCON this morning. Tired. Very, very fucking unhappy with the circumstances of the situation. Nyarlathotep is in town. He and Hasufin are talking shop.


The apartment's really coming together now: We're almost out of boxes to unpack, we've got a coffee table now, and you can actually see the walls. We need to put away a lot of little stuff now, like the small boxes of miscellany that accumulate behind the couch and in the corners, but that's about it. There are also some more crates of clothes to unpack, a constant reminder that we need to get another dresser and maybe that we need to organise the closet better. Last night was spent prepping for NOTOCON with Hasufin - Lyssa and I will be attending to vend the leather goods that Hasufin crafts in his spare time. Also, an old friend of ours, Nyarlathotep, will be coming to DC this weekend, so we're going to have an interesting time of things.

The ancient Inca civilisation kept its records, it is widely believed, in the form of khipu, strings covered with patterns of knots that appear to be based upon a base-10 counting system. This hypthesis has left many scholars through the years wondering exactly what it was that they were measuring? Time? Inventories? Economic records? No documentation has been found yet on this system, and if it has it hasn't been translated yet. Some researchers at Harvard University have found a pattern in the khipu which may shed some light on the inner workings of this system. They studied a selection of 21 khipu cords and discovered a three-knot sequence common to all of them. This may not, it should be noted, be a part of the system of representing numbers; it could easily be another sort of notation, such as "This khipu are part of the archive at (what we now call) Puruchuco" and not "thirty (30)".

Of all of the 650 to 700 khipu we know of, about two-thirds of them appear to be used for recording numbers. The others don't appear to encode digits.

In other news.. Pakistan successfully test-launched its first nuclear-capable cruise missile yesterday. The missile, code-named 'Babur', has a range of 500 kilometers and is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. It was designed to hug the ground, which would make it much harder for early-warning systems to detect, and is said to be one of the most maneuverable delivery systems in the world at this time. Pakistan was able to avoid announcing this project to the world because their agreements with neighboring countries cover ballistic missiles only, and not cruise missiles.

NetBSD really will run on damn near anything... even a computer-controlled toaster.

VoIP (voice-over-IP) companies are sitting up and taking notice because the FCC has ruled that they must provide for wiretapping wtihin 18 months, under the existing CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) regulations. CALEA was originally written with telephones, pagers, and cellphones in mind, and specifically did not encompass the Net. Kurt Opsahl, one of the EFF's lawyers, says that the FBI et al already have the means and legal powers to monitor the net.usage of suspects, so patching CALEA is contradictory to its stated scope as well as redundant.

Savvy computer users are no doubt familiar with spyware (the most repeatable name for software that hides within your system, pops up ads, monitors your web browsing, and transmits all of the information to companies who then use it for advertising), which is notorious for turning top of the line machines into the functional equivelent of an overheating 486. A couple of days ago, Sunbelt, one of the premiere antispyware companies, discovered signs of an identity theft ring using spyware, and called in the FBI, who promptly set to work and followed standard ongoing investigation protocols.. the spyware in question doesn't just monitor your activities, it's a keylogger that monitors everything from the user. The files Sunbelt found hidden on machines they were analysing included access credentials to a number of bank accounts...

The spyware package in question has been identified as being packaged along with CoolWebSearch; during analysis, it was detected that the machine was turned into a spam proxy, and that a connection was made to a server Somewhere Out There, and highly personal information was being transmitted to that server. It is important to remember this - CoolWebSearch isn't the keylogger, the agent in question ride into the system in the same installer. The keylogger in question is an interesting little beastie. It's very small, it deactivates the Windows firewall, it raids the IE Protected Storage datastore and the clipboard, and it pilfers the password caches of quite a few applications. Sunbelt Software has released a cleaner for this keylogger, called Srv.SSA-KeyLogger, but unfortunately if it's already compromised the data on your machine there's no way to get it out of anyone else's hands.

Yes, I'm quoting a series of entries from the same weblog. It's more understandable than just saying "Go to the Sunbelt weblog and read the whole thing." It also dos a lot to show how this saga is unfolding, and what is being done about it. If you've run a spyware scanner recently and CoolWebSearch was detected, you'd do well to download the cleaner for the keylogger and run it.

This is neat: Thinkgeek is selling slide rules now.

I'll bet you didn't expect to read this today - a praying mantis killed a hummingbird for food. Pictures are included.

It should be known that going through the deleted files on a hard drive isn't just for computer forensics, it can also be done by your employers to see why you left, as they did in the case of Kai Fu Lee, who left Microsoft for Google. As it turns out, both Google and Kai figured that Microsoft would cry foul and use the non-competition clause in his contract to prevent him from switching over, and they found such evidence in a document that had been left in the Recycle Bin of several of Kai's workstations. This explains the court's ruling that Kai can't do at Google what he did at Microsoft until September of 2005.

If your hard drive's on its way out and you're desperate to recover even a little bit of data from it... why the hell not?


0706 EDT: Still awake, still functional. Sleeping today's going to be tricky, I have a feeling. No crises.

Planning on writing about Lyssa's grandmother today. I've got a lot of thoughts knocking around inside my head about her, but for various reasons I haven't written them down yet. I made a few attempts but stalled out.

On the founders of the United States of America.

Not work safe: Glowing breast implants!

Just when yo thought it was safe to kick back in your own digs and relax, along comes the screw cam - a surveillance camera the aperature of which looks like a philips-head screw, which would blend in nicely with build-it-yourself furniture or one of the screws in a household appliance, like a television. They're available on the consumer market for about $168us each.


The Internet Storm Centre has put up a brief overview of Microsoft's latest cluster of patches releasd yesterday, a monthly event that's come to be known as 'Black Tuesday' or 'Patch Tuesday', depending on whom you speak to and how fast they have to get them installed on production machines, with all the problems therof. The two killers this time around are a couple of 'remote code execution' (run code of the attacker's choosing without having to log into the machine) and 'elevation of privilege' (run code with higher privileges in the system than the account normally has) vulnerabilities. Oh, and let's not forget everyone's favourite 'denial of service' holes, perfect for taking an expensive machine and turning it into a footstool until someone restarts the box.

Microsoft: Where do you want to go today?

The answer to that question is, "To the coffee shop to get a Death Star or two, because it's going to be a long, long night..."

Everyone on the Serial Experiments Lain mailing list has just found out what happened to Lawrence Eng, who assembled one of the most comprehensive SEL sites (whose work was used in the writing of the Ultimate Fan Guide, too) - Ph.D research.

Yep. That'd make anyone drop off the face of the Net for a few years.

The US DHS has started testing RFID chips in immigration documents, ostensibly to speed up the process of crossing the borders. Sounds like Smartag for international travel. The chips are placed in the Customers and Border Protection Form I-94A, which is used to track the passage of people who aren't citizens across the borders. The RFID chips don't have any identifying information other than a serial number; the idea is that you have to run a few queries on US Government databases to figure out the identity of the owner of that chip, but if you go through the news morgues for even a month, you'll find lots of horror stories in the news about how tight US government computer security tends to be. The tests are underway at 115 international airports and 15 seaports, as well as 50 inland points of entry.

Oh, and they're also asking that everyone have one of those new biometric passports, whether or not you're a US citizen. It speeds things up, they say.

I love the smell of pissed off hypocrites in the morning.

2257 EDT: First pot of coffee made.

No, it's not the Blogathon 2005, I'm working vampire shift to cover an emergency situation at work this week. I've put in about nine hours today, and I'm doing another eight, from 0000 EDT until 0800 EDT. I got a couple of hours of sleep after dinner, and the mists of Morpheus are slowly clearing from my mind. I've borrowed Hasufin's coffee maker, so I'm well prepared for the night ahead of me. Come the end of my shift, however, I'm going to crash hard. Thankfully I've got daylight shift Thursday off.

I found my wireless access point (which I'm now using to write this update), a handful of compact flash modules, and the charger for my pocket computer, the power cell of which is at this time recharging. I also was able to locate my keyring and the universal reads-any-card-format-under-the-sun USB reader. Still no contact lenses, however.

Lyssa's grandmother is home from the hospital. She's very weak, though, and can no longer walk, even while assisted. Her heart is also not functioning normally anymore (it wasn't in the hospital).


A downloadable poster calling for the firing of Karl Rove has been posted here.

What a day.

I got up early today to prepare to drive to the DMV to fight some more, but before I left I took Lyssa's advice and called the DMV to see what was what these days. As it turns out, the Toyota dealership that had inspected my car sent the results to the VA DMV in addition to giving me a copy, so my car's all set. In addition to that, Toyota sent a legal copy of the title to my car to them via Federal Express yesterday (in response to faxing a copy of the request to them), so my car's officially registered. All I have to do is file a renewal request for the registration and send a copy to the local administration and I'm good to go.

At bloody last.

Needless to say, I turned around and went right back to bed for another couple of hours.

Lyssa and I assembled the two bookshelves we'd picked up from Home Depot last night. Each of them weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy-five pounds each, so we had a hell of a time loading them into the TARDIS. I backed her up to the front door this morning and offloaded them myself. Mental note: Make more time to exercise. This cleared out another ten crates of books, filled to varying degrees and of varying (odd) sizes, and freed up a great deal of floor space. So much so, in fact, that we have set up the coffee table.

The place is a bit more messed up, now, but that's because there are more tiny little boxes that need to be either put away, thrown out, or gone through and unpacked. I don't think that's a big deal, because we made a hell of a lot of progress this afternoon.

There is, however, another problem: We need to get another shelf to finish putting the videotapes away. I'm going through videotapes to decide which ones to get rid of (note: if anyone wants to look through them, please e-mail me!), and if no one wants them, I'll either take them to Goodwill or the nearest local equivelent, or throw them out if they won't take a few hundred tapes. Even after cleaning out my collection, however, there are still going to be a lot of them left behind. I hope to set up a disk array on Leandra soon to facilitate the process of capturing the contents and burning them to DVD.

No idea when I'll be able to start on that; I need to get a RAID adapter and a couple of hard drives, but I won't be able to afford that until I finish setting up our office and bring the Children into the apartment, and probably upgrade other parts of Leandra on top of all of that.

Timeline: Indefinite.

I'll eventually get around to snapping a couple of photographs of the new apartment.

My contact lenses are still MIA; so is the wireless access point, my keyring, and the recharger and backups of my pocket computer. More tomorrow.

Lyssa has an interview tomorrow morning. Any and all good vibes sent her way will doubtlessly be appreciated in the highest.

I discovered something this morning: The raw patch that's been developing over the past day or so is due to one of my new fillings abrading the inside of my left cheek. Specifically, this is because more of the filling is exposed than normal, and it's not the sculpted chewing surface part.

Yep - I broke another molar some time in the past day or so. Looks like I've got another root canal coming up in the near future.



Back in DC. Sick and tired of driving on highways, too.

I felt like a stormcrow this weekend. Every time Lyssa and I went back to her folks' place, it felt like a ticking clock. Lyssa's grandmother, when last we saw her, was awake and mostly coherent, though confused after they moved her out of the CCU (cardiac care unit), and very, very afraid. I think she knows how much time she has left, and she's frightened. She looks pretty bad, too, but everyone does when they've been bleeding internally and had major surgery not forty-eight hours previous. I won't go into the details because they're really not important, and I don't want to prod anyone out there in any tender places. Suffice it to say that I feel helpless. I wish there was some way to help her.. you can tell someone not to be afraid, but the English language doesn't have the words to describe certain experiences... it may as well be meaningless.

I hope that she makes it out of the hospital. I really do. But I won't kid myself about her mortality. I only hope that she's surrounded by family when she goes, and that it's quiet and easy.

I'm sorry.

Lyssa's taking it hard right now, and I can't say I blame her. We talked a little about it on the way home last night. I wish I could help her, too, but I'm not sure that there's anything that I can do, besides be there for her. What's worse is that she has some very important things lined up this week (which I won't go into at this time; regular readers will remember what I tend to be superstitious about, so you'll understand what I don't want to jinx), and she's stressing over preparing those those, too. I'm ready for just about anything at this time.

On Saturday, we parted ways briefly in Pittsburgh; after a rather long drive back to Pittsburgh, we visited with my folks briefly, then met up with Travis and Char, friends of Lyssa's from West Virginia. Trav, Char, and Lyssa went off to go shopping for some things that'll be needed in the days to come, and I went home to dig through the stuff I left in my old lab (specifically, to search for a wireless access point and one of my six pairs of missing contact lenses), a fruitless search in the end, though I did find a few more boxes of tech manuals (which I'll need for my studies) and some framed photographs that I wanted to put up around the apartment. I also packed up the two remaining floor lamps and the hat rack, which we'll need around the apartment. After loading the TARDIS up and showing it off to Dataline (she hadn't seen my new car yet) and helping me plan some strategy for dealing with the Virginia DMV, I caught a twenty minute nap and then headed out to the mall to pick everyone up for dinner.

Buca di Peppo's, if you've never been there before, is an Italian restaurant chain based upon the schtick of Italian grandmother kitch. The entire restaurant is covered with photographs, knick-knacks, and miscellaneous.. stuff.. that you'd find in the basement of a little old Italian grandmother that came over from Italy long enough ago to master the English language, but not so long ago that her accent had disappeared. The food is excellent, but served in portions large enough to share with a group of people. The small is enough to feed two or three, the large enough to feed up to six.

We went to the one at Station Square, in downtown Pittsburgh.

Unless you're there with five or six friends, don't order more than two entrees, and for pity's sake don't order anything in the 'large' size, unless you all like the same thing.

There were eight of us there (Lyssa, John, Lara, Char, Trav, Trav's sister, Trav's sister's boyfriend, and myself), so we ordered three 'small' entrees, each of which we split eight ways, which was just enough for all of us.

The bill was remarkably low ($13us each, when you split the cheque eight ways), too. I do have to complain about the coffee (it was lukewarm and not hot), but other than that, the food was excellent and the service very friendly, even at 2330 EDT on a Saturday night. Rating: One flare gun.

Sunday afternoon we loaded up the TARDIS and then drove to the hospital to spend time with Lyssa's grandmother.

The drive home was a long and painful one. We pulled into DC around 2200 EDT yesterday and offloaded all the stuff we'd brought with us. I've got a bad back anyway (problems between the second and third lumbar vertebrae), and sitting in a car for nearly twenty hours this weekend (in total - it took us eight (!) hours to get to Pittsburgh on Friday night (left at 1800 EDT Friday, got to Lyssa's folks' place at 0230 EDT Saturday)), and by the time it was all over my legs were numb and I wound up soaking in the tub for a while. I need to adjust the driver's side seat, I think.

I have to say, I'm very surprised with my car's gas mileage. Lyssa and I made it from DC to her folks' place in southwestern PA (I can't be more specific because I don't know exactly where it is) on a little over a half tank of gas. We also made it from Pittsburgh back to DC on a half-tank of gas. I need to calculate what kind of mileage that is... it definitely came in handy, because the price of a tank of gas in DC, Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania averages out to $33us per. Ouch.

Peter Jennings, dead of lung cancer at the age of 67. Requisat en pace.

In a move that has many keeping an eye open, Evangelical Lutherans will vote soon on whether or not homosexual pastors will be ordained, and whether or not they'll allow same-sex marriages at the Churchwide Assembly, which goes on all week and ends next Sunday. They're expecting the Lutheran Church to remain unified in spite of the fact that its members' stands on homosexuality are split more or less down the middle. Three proposals are before the Assembly: Whether or not they'll allow the ordination of homosexuals (and allow for the exception of gays who meet 'certain conditions', undefined at this time); whether or not they'll continue to prohibit the blessing of same-sex couples but allow clergy to decide whether or not they'll minister to same-sex couples; and last but not least, call for unity among the lines of division.

All of you know my stand on this, so I won't go into the same rant all over again. Suffice it to say, I urge the Lutheran Church to use your hearts and not your dogma to decide this issue, and to do the right thing. Christ would.

Initial tests of a vaccine for the avian flu had promising results.

A long, nontechnical article on Google's information gathering on people that ever net.citizen should read ASAP.

americasupportsyou.mil, a web site dedicated to messages for Americans serving in Iraq, has been caught censoring messages with political content. Interestingly, they are pulling posts with messages on both sides of the accepted mainstream fence..

Legal precedent alert: The Supreme Court of the state of Montana has ruled that it's legal for police to dumpster-dive in your trash for signs that you're up to no good without a warrant, or even probable cause. Remember, paper shredders are your friends, especially the cross-cut shredders that give you a ready supply of confetti.

Last year, a subgroup was set up by George W. Bush to monitor civil liberties matters in the United States. It has never met, and is barely even funded. Surprise, surprise.

Remember the proof-of-concept Monad viruses that were written for MS Exchange 12? F-secure's gotten their hands on them and written up advisories. They've seen it, and it's not jetwash.


Busted for taking pictures at an American Indian festival. The US government couldn't care less about Native Americans, but throw a camera into the mix and DHS drops a litter then and there.

Yeah. I feel real fucking safe right now.

Zasterisk: Zork, Asterisk, and the Festival speech synthesis system. It beats hold muzak...

Fred Phelps and company are now protesting the funerals of dead US soldiers. This bastard has no shame!


Lyssa and I are in Pennsylvania right now to visit our respective families, and to pick up more stuff for the apartment, like a hatrack, more floor lamps, and miscellaneous other stuff. For setting out at 1800 EDT last night, we made pretty bad time back to PA (0215 EDT, due to stopping off for dinner at a Japanese hibachi (which was a nice treat after the week we've had) and getting lost because memories of shortcuts tend to fade over time).

Upon getting back to Pennsylvania, we arrived to find an empty house - everyone had rushed Lyssa's grandmother to the hospital for emergency surgery. Both of us collapsed into bed after being awake for far, far too long. As of 1115 EDT today, I finally got out of bed and got cleaned up. I discovered after Lyssa woke me that the endoscopic surgery was successful, but her grandmother's gone into renal failure. After almost ninety years with one kidney working at 60% of capacity, it's not looking good.

More as I have a chance to write. It's a long way back to Pittsburgh.


Gotta love diplomacy in action.. Ayman al-Zawahri went on the record in the international newswires as saying that the US and Great Britain will be hammered more and more unless they pull out of Iraq. Like that'll happen. The thing is, the troops in Iraq have been, to date, ineffective in actually fighting terrorism (viz, the bombings in London). Sure, they're undertaking urban pacification measures which are working about as well as can be expected (the folks who don't need to be pacified are fine, but the folks who are armed and picking off our soldiers one by one are still running around). The Atimes draws a correlation (though I've not done any of the numbers; I don't feel like doing statistics right now) between al-Zawahri speaking publically and various terrorist acts around the world. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain, is backpedalling rapidly and trying to find a defensible position among the people because he is one of the people being directly blamed by al-Quaida.

This whole mess is turning into a kobayashi moru scenario. No matter what, someone is at fault, someone is going to be used as a justification, and lots of folks are going to get hurt.

'mnemonic', dammit! M-N-E-M-O-N-I-C!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

About the compromise of all of those Cisco user site passwords mentioned yesterday: The crackers were using the search engine built into the cisco.com website!

A security update for Windows 2000 SP4 has been released, and is supposed to fix a number of bugs in SP4 along with some new bugs (I don't know if individual hotfixes are available for those in separate patches or not). The bugs addressed by SR1 (security rollup 1) are said to affect only a small number of users of Win2k, for some definition of 'small'. There are also a number of fixes and workarounds in these release notes in case the security rollup screws up the box you're installing it on, which is reassurring (because Murphy's Law seems to govern system maintenance windows). This update does, however, contain a large number of potential problems for many applications, such as MS Office (not being able to save programs directly to a floppy disk), the Citrix ICA client, and Sophos Antivirus v5.x (lovely...)

Much testing in the lab will be necessary before it can be deployed, if only for the extra fixes they threw into the update package. I can't say that I recommend installation at this time.

You can download the installation package for this update, but it'll check your Windows registration code before letting you have it. Needless to say, I am not able to download it on my Linux machines because you have to download and run a certain executable programme (GenuineCheck.exe) if you're not running IE.

While we're on the topic of Microsoft releases, a scripting language based upon .NET, tentatively named 'Monad', will be included in the next major release of Exchange (I'd call it v12.0, but they'll have another name for it, like 2007 or something). Someone's already figured out how to write viruses in the Monad language, and the proof-of-concept models have already been published in a major virus writers' magazine. I'm searching for it right now.

Remember SCIgen - the software that randomly creates computer science papers? The folks behind it presented three of the papers at the WMSCI 2005 conference in Orlando, Florida, thanks to donations from net.users at large. I highly recommend playing around with the web-enabled version of SCIgen - it even does graphs and outputs the papers as both PostScript and .pdf files.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued new recommendations to its 20k members around the world: Shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head so they can't detonate the bombs they might be wearing. Signs to look for include wearing heavy coats in warm weather, carrying backpacks with unusual protrusions, nervousness, or unwillingness to make eye contact.


I saw something interesting yesterday morning: A woman on my road commuting to work by riding a Segway. It was almost surreal to see her cruising up the street at a good five miles per hour while standing erect, wearing a silver bicycle helmet and sunglasses.

Last night, Lyssa and I drove out to Rialian's for open study, a biweekly event which essentially consists of folks sitting around discussing everything and anything, and occasionally reading some of the books that Ri and Helen have stacked around their home. The past couple have been geek nights primarily, with folks in the living room, kitchen, and outside to alleviate the standing room only situation. I brought a crate of stuff I'd cleaned out of the apartment for folks to go over; Tori and Rick wound up taking about half of it. A bunch of crazy stories from our younger years were shared last night, such as the night Hunter, Anarchangel, and I were stranded in cow country back in high school because Anarchangel's car's brake system failed catastrophically (a story that I haven't told for quite a few years). We wound up leaving a lot later than expected, around 2300 EDT or so, and were delayed by a near accident, what could have been a five-car pileup on the highway outside of Rialian's neighborhood. The whole situation felt strange to me, and I quickly found a way away from the site and back onto the beltway before anything else could happen.

I don't know what was up with that last night, but what I saw made me want to get the hell out of there. Too, too strange.

In the biotech world this morning, scientists in South Korea cloned a dog using the somatic nuclear cell transfer procedure pioneered in the cloning of Dolly the Sheep several years ago. The goal of the project, says Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National University, is to mass produce dogs for studying disease models, which is a topic of some importance in eastern Asia right now due to the spread of a number of diseases from animals to humans, such as the Avian Flu. The cloned dog, named Snuppy (for "Seoul National University puPPY") was replicated from skin cells from an adult Afghan hound.

Astroturfing has come to the movie industry, and Sony Pictures got stuck in their own adhesive. Some years ago, a movie reviewer named David Manning hyped a number of Sony Pictures' movies, such as Vertical Limit and The Animal. The thing is, David Manning doesn't actually exist, he was a fiction cooked up by Sony's PR department. The Los Angeles Superior Court has concluded a $1mus class action suit placed by people who felt cheated because what they thought were the words of an actual movie critic were actually more advertising. The summary of the story is here.

Cisco just isn't having a good month.. their public network was compromised, and now thousands of user accounts' passwords must be changed. They're going out of their way to notify users of the situation, and they are asking them to check in and change their passwords as soon as possible. Both customers and employees are affected. There's a lot of fallout over this whole mess.. the NANOG (North American Network Operators Group) mailing list is lighting up with problems resulting from both the presentation at Black Hat as well as the Cisco compromise. The flame wars are roasting everyone in their path, too. At least there's a way to upgrade the older 2500-series routers so that they'll accept the new IOS image, but there's no way of knowing how long they'll be available.

Someone posted Michael Lynn's presentation (or something resembling it) in a Slashdot comment. You can also plug the query lynn-cisco.pdf into Google and find copies that haven't been taken down due to Cisco's cease-and-desist orders yet.

You can find my mirrors of the relevant documents here: Transcript of slides and presentation's highlights; PDF file of presentation's slides

Interested in watching the Cisco folks rip those pages out of the Black Hat booklets? Check this out.

Heh heh heh.. this is rude. (note: work safe) I guess this is revenge by Jim Christy for the guy who photographed his FBI ID at Defcon 9.

Ever wanted to build your own drum pads?

Sofia Coppola
Your film will be 59% romantic, 40% comedy, 45% complex plot, and a $ 38 million budget.
Relatively inexperienced (The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation) as a director, but already highly respected and connected -- her dad, Francis, directed all The Godfather movies, Apocolypse Now. Also, at last word she's dating Quentin Tarantino, so I'm sure he'll have some input into the substance of your film. Sofia's good at making the romantic drama that is your life. She's already won one Academy Award for her writing, now she'll be the first woman to receive one for directing -- YOUR FILM!

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on action-romance
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on humor
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on complexity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on budget
Link: The Director Who Films Your Life Test written by bingomosquito on Ok Cupid


I haven't been writing much lately because I haven't had time. Work has kept me busy for the past few days, and I can't devote as much brain power to it as I normally do, all things being equal. I've also been busy on the weekends, and will remain so for the forseeable future, so that's also been keeping me from writing. Getting the new apartment fixed up is taking a lot of time, and cash flow has retarded the process greatly (we need to gettwo more bookcases, which will bring the total up to eleven); it's really stalled the creation of the office, because we're now using my end tables for our respective computers (well, Lyssa is - I'm comfortable on the floor for short periods of time). Still, we're fighting to get it all done before the end of the year.

Because the Virginia DMV is a real pain in the ass to deal with, I had to get my car inspected again yesterday. Thankfully, there's a dealership not too far away from where I work, so I was able to walk back from there yesterday morning and walk there after work to pick up my car. No problems found. They issued to me not only the stickers for the windscreen but the certificates that the VA DMV demands as proof (as if they were unable to key in the license plate number (Pennsylvania or Virginia) and look up the results themselves). Hopefully they will accept this set of documents.. gods only know why a Pennsylvania registration leaves them scratching their heads.

It didn't take Bush long to install John Bolton as the US Ambassador to the UN and ship him out, before anyone could protest. Bolton's first mission is to discuss reformation of the UN and poke Iran in the ribs a few times with respect to their nuclear research (weapons and otherwise) policy. Bolton has a reputation for being a bull in the china shop of international politics, so this puts the US in an even more touchy position in the world.

One Steven Vincent, a freelance journalist and blogger was found dead after serveral of his articles pissed off the wrong people in Iraq. Vincent recieved many death threats in his time in Iraq, but threats turned to action and he was found dead by the side of the road from three gunshots. His translater was shot four times, but is reportedly still alive. He wrote in the New York Times about the police in the city of Basra being on the payroll of extremist Muslim militias and serving as death squads. He also railed on the occupying British troops for doing nothing to protect the people these death squads are killing, at this time up in the hundreds.

California's hit the nail right on the head - the California Supreme Court broadened the rights of same-sex domestic couples Monday; most businesses in California won't be affected unduly by this because they were already affording benefits to same-sex partners, anyway.

The saga of Michael Lynn, who discovered a catastrophic vulnerability in Cisco's firmware, continues. Wired Magazine interviewed him after Black Hat to get his side of the story, and what it boils down to is that ISS, his former employers, asked him to reverse-engineer the Cisco IOS (the firmware which runs their routers) to see if a vulnerability that Cisco was downplaying was in fact much worse than announced. Lynn's research included reverse-engineering the IOS, and he discovered that in fact it is much worse than Cisco had announced. ISS contacted Cisco to warn them, and were told point-blank that they were full of it. Lynn was sent to Black Hat to present; Cisco then turned around and said "Wait, you guys were serious?"


Because the installation of Cisco patches is notoriously lax (if it's not a crash, most folks just don't bother), this vulnerability is very much in the wild, and very much a risk for mass exploitation. The reverse engineering and methodology parts of Lynn's presenation at Black Hat were yanked, as is known. Then, ISS turned on Lynn; reasons for this differ, but it probably has to do with a team of lawyers that smell blood in the water. As if that weren't enough, the FBI is investigating Lynn for violating Cisco's trade secrets, namely, reverse engineering at least part of the IOS (which is actually illegal under the DMCA because it wasn't for the sake of interoperability). ISS is trying to get punitive damages for this whole mess, and it looks like they are going to hang their ex-employee out to dry to do so. Lynn, however, reached a settlement with Cisco and ISS a few days ago, so this investigation might not lead to the filing of charges.

Network and system administrators out there should check this out ASAP, though - it's a mitigation plan for this vulnerability and it explains a few possible pitfalls, such as the fact that older Cisco routers are not capable of running the newest IOS because they don't have enough space in the flash ROM or enough RAM to properly execute.

Remember when the US government seized some of Indymedia's servers? The EFF got the files unsealed. As it turns out, the feds only wanted the access logs stored on the server but they were given the entire machine by Rackspace. Rackspace has been caught in a lie: They were never asked for the machine; if they were, it's not in the paperwork (which wouldn't be the first time, truth be told). Rackspace essentially sold out Indymedia by giving the government the whole machine and all of the data inside it, instead of just the webserver access logs they were asking for. The feds would have been fools to not take advantage of this situation. Moreover, the Indymedia servers don't keep access logs at all, so Rackspace really sold out Indymedia because they didn't have anything to give at all.

All of the documents in .pdf format are hyperlinked at the very end of the article.

The band Devo will be playing in Washington, DC on 13 and 14 August 2005. Anybody interested in going? Drop me a line. Tickets are $55us each.

MDMA used experimentally in treating Parkinson's Disease, with surprising results. Just don't expect it to happen in the US anytime soon.

Monsanto, everyone's favourite biotech company is getting some new patents that you might want to be aware of. If you thresh through the alarmist rhetoric in the article, there is some genuinely worrisome stuff in there, namely, they're trying to patent methods of breeding pigs (that's right - ways of getting captive pigs to get down) as well as the pigs born as a result of those breeding techniques. The patent application can be read here as document WO 2005/015989.

If they get these patents, they can prevent farmers from breeding pigs by using the proscribed techniques (whatever the hell they wind up being). They are trying to get this patent granted in over 160 countries around the world. The patents would cover techniques of selective breeding, including artificial insemination to force the hand of nature. They are also trying to patent specially bred pigs that grow faster than normal. Again, they didn't invent any of this, they're trying to patent a naturally occurring gene.


Two more shelves were purchased last night, these from Staples to hold other forms of media, namely, the two crates of videocassettes and DVDs that have yet to be unpacked in our apartment. Lyssa's going to assemble them today and we'll put stuff in them (on either side of the home entertainment centre) tonight after dinner.

I'll take pictures as soon as I can to post for everyone.

You know, I never did take photographs of my old place for you folks. Sorry about that. I do have photographs from the one party I did throw last year, so I'll dig those out and put them up when I get a chance.

Space Shuttle Discovery was indeed damaged during takeoff. Emergency repairs are planned.

Bush went around Congress and appointed John Bolton to the position of UN Amabssador, a move that has a lot of people slapping their foreheads. Bolton's something of a loose cannon in international politics: He doesn't like the UN (yet he'll be the US' ambassador to the UN; this is not going to be pretty) and he wants to make some major changes, which would piss off all of the other constituent nations. This also breaks ranks with the Republican party, the bigwigs of which have all stated their opposition to this appointment.

I worry about this.

The sixty-third and (latest) final issue of Phrack Magazine has been released to the public. The venerable magazine of the underground is going on hiatus until 2006 or 2007, unless the new staff releases earlier than that.

CAFTA forces South American countries to implement workalikes of the DMCA.

New Scientist magazine is running a contest to name the tenth planet. Anybody else think 'Discordia' is a good choice?


Weekend? That was a weekend?

The Virginia DMV is still dead-set on fucking me over. They grudgingly gave me a driver's liceense because I had all the paperwork this time (I did last time, but because I couldn't register my car in Virginia, they turned down the driver's license, to), but they outright refuse to register TARDIS. Their reasoning is because I don't have a certificate that says that my car passed Pennsylvania emissions testing.

Pennsylvania doesn't issue certificates for emissions testing, they put a sticker in the bottom-left corner of your windscreen. I wasn't able to make the guy behind the counter understand this. He was all too quick to suggest that I get another emissions test in Virginia, though.

The way everything else in this move has made me haemorhhage money, I'm almost afraid to.

They're also demanding the Pennsylvania title to my car before they're register it in Virginia. Here, PA state law is the problem: They don't release the title of a car until the dealership says that it's been paid off, because having the title in hand means that you own the car. They didn't accept the faxed copy from early last week because it's not the real title.

They gave me plates good for thirty days; after that, Johnny Law gets called in. They didn't bother telling me what would happen if they did have me arrested. They also didn't bother to consider that they're not accepting the paperwork that the Virginia DMV website says that I need to have in-hand.

After I got home I called up the Virginia DMV, got a human, and laid all my cards on the table. The response from Catherine (the human on the other end of the commline) was this: "He said what? He (the guy behind the counter) has no idea what he's talking about."

It's still up to me to get the title to my car, though.

Update: I called the Pennsylvania DMV. They were very helpful in telling me whom to contact at Toyota, which I've done.

Toyota is mailing me a copy of my title so I can register my car in Virginia. Thanks guys.

Next stop: Having the dealership put my plates on and perform an emissions test on my car, which I can do in an evening.

Saturday afternoon was spent at a local park with some of the local folks. Rhianna set up a camping trip this weekend past at Burke Larke Park in Virginia for anyone who wanted to attend. Rhianna and Rick (from Canada - the man gets around, what can I say?) set up camp; the Lost Boys joined them Friday night. Rialian, Kash, Lyssa, and I spent Saturday afternoon with them doing what we love to do.. talk about everything and anything. Everything from zero-point energy to gaming, from politics to buttheads who think it's fun to practise throwing camp hatchets around too close to other people came up.

Yep, one of those afternoons.

We headed home early Saturday evening by way of the Olive Garden, partially because it was on the way home and partially because we had to clean out the fridge and get rid of lots of stuff that had been there since Lyssa and I first moved in.. little edible food was in the fridge for us that night. After dinner we cleaned up a bit more, put a few things away, cleaned out a total of one shelf of books, moved almost all of my tech manuals into the new bookcase in the office, and picked out a crate of stuff that I'm going to haul to open study this week to be picked over by the hardware hackers.

Lyssa and I are kicking around the idea of going camping there for a weekend. It's much closer than Four Quarters Farm, much less expensive, and there are even full showers.

Sunday morning we slept for nearly thirteeh hours. Kash crashed in the living room after we stayed up watching a few episodes of Carnivale, an HBO series cancelled after three seasons and then headed off to work. Lyssa and I restocked the kitchen and then drove out to see her brother G-, who also lives in northern Virginia. We spent the afternoon debating one another, checking out his office furniture (he has desks very similiar to the ones that Lyssa and I would like to get for our office), eating pizza, and watching Pitch Black, a movie which I'd only gotten to see bits and pieces of years ago. I can see why Lowmagnet loved it so much - the directing was good, the cinematography excellent, and it even has a good plot. Rent it if you can, if only to see how many of the actors are now big stars.

Because the US government just passed an anti-dumping commerce law (which means that companies are not alowed to sell large lots of product x for a small fraction of their usual price in short periods of time), the Japanese government has decided to retaliate by placing more strict importation tariffs on US goods. This would make it too expensive for any companies to attempt to sell steel in general and ball-bearings in particular in Japan. The tariff is a mere 15% off the top, which is far too high for most companies to eat. It's not expected that there will be any protest due to the revenues from shipping lots of other stuff to Japan at the same time.

Score sheet for the disease of the summer in China: 34 dead, 181 confirmed infected. No end in sight yet.

They're kicking around names for that extrasolar object out beyond the orbit of Neptune. It's definitely larger than Pluto, the planethood of which has been in debate for many years now, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune. The name 'Xena' (after the television show) has been submitted to the International Astronomical Union, which names planets, planetoids, asteroids, and suchlike. There is a small, concerted effort ongoing to have it named 'Discordia', since the names of Greek deities are often used for the names of planets and planetoids. It's a safe bet that it won't be named Mirzaba, Mondas, or Gor.

Aahh... Lensquest.. if only I could afford their cosmetic lenses...

Late last week, Senate Majority Leader William Frist broke ranks with the Republican party and came out in favour of stem cell research, which has stirred up a regular hornet's nest among the GOP. George W. Bush isn't too happy about this, either. Still, a lack of knowledge of stem cell research is rampant in the US government, save among a few clueful folks. Only time will tell how things even out in the legislature.

Cisco's announced that vulnerability that they took great pains to censor at Black Hat last week - it has to do with IPv6 support in cisco's IOS (Internetwork Operating System). They are certain that it can be used in a denial of service attack to crash Cisco routers, and they're almost certain that it could be used to execute code remotely, for example, changing the administrative password, or maybe altering the filtering rules to permit traffic into a restricted network segment. IPv6 support must be enabled on a router for the vulnerability to be accessible to an attacker. The report is specific about release 12.3(6) being vulnerable, but everything I've found about this makes me wonder if maybe older revisions of the IOS aren't vulnerable, also. The writeup also suggests this. Even though the specifics of this weren't released (due to the lawsuit filed against Michael Lynn by Cisco, both sides of the fence are busily trying to get the remote-execution bit worked out, starting an hour after the presentation at Black Hat and going all the way through Defcon. Interestingly, one of the white-hat researchers was quoted as saying that Cisco screwed up royally with their censorship tatic, which actually drew attention to the vulnerability.

Of course, the censored information is already all over the Net, on websites and BitTorrent trackers.

A new world record has been set for unamplified wireless networking at Defcon: 125 miles, from the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada to Utah Hill, Utah. Congratulations to the team iFiber Redwire from Cincinatti, Ohio, a region which boasts a number of skilled hardware and RF hackers (having met a few at Summercon 2003).

Nixory: An opensource anti-spyware utility. It's in its infancy right now, but I have every hope that it'll improve rapidly, as many folks are so fed up with spyware. It's written in Python with the PyGTK libraries.

Update with regard to the discovery of what they're now calling the tenth planet in Sol system: It was discovered at the Mount Palomar Obseratory back in 2003 and they were sitting on the discovery, until the website they had stashed their research on had been compromised by an unknown cracker, who recently threatened to release their discovery if they did not.

They made the announcement, rather than get scooped.

Word on the InSoc show in New York isn't promising. The guys won't really be performing, they'll be singing along to taped music and not actually playing, like the lame 'Club MTV shows' they did back in the late 1980's/early 1990's (somewhen in there). I'm not sure I feel like driving up there to see 'em, in that light.

Maybe if I could get backstage...


Happy Sysadmin's Day, everyone. Take your local admin out for a beer tonight.

Another day of fairly nice weather, though a bit on the humid side. I hope it holds up.

Looks like rain later today, in fact.

A slightly scathing critique of the Apache webserver, from the European ApacheCon 2005. He makes a lot of valid points, too.

First point: Little changes, huge effects. Got burned by that one a few times.

Second point: Rather than dying if a config line is messed up, it chugs on and does a lot of bizarre stuff. Yep - Debian's default configuration for Apache had me tearing my hair out a few times.

Third point: Virtual hosts. Don't get me started.

Yes, Apache's configuration files read like Enochian sometimes. I like Apache, but then again I keep the docs printed out and bound on my bookshelf next to a few books on Apache.

I have to agree with this guy, I really do. Why jump through hoops if you really don't have to?

The Irish Republican Army has called an end to the thirty-year war against British rule. How long's this going to last, I wonder...

Huh.. field coverage of Blackhat Vegas 2005. This guy's in for a treat when Defcon gets rolling today.

Sporadic updates today - lots going on at work.

Remember when Microsoft turned on license key checking for patch installation? It's already been cracked. The instructions to do it were posted here. Essentially, before you press either the Custom or Express buttons in the Windows Update utility, add this text to the end of the URL: javascript:void(window.g_sDisableWGACheck='all')

Damn straight.

(Probably not work safe - profanity.)

If you've ever tried looking under the hood of Windows usiing one of the process explorer utilities out there (even Windows Task Manager will do), you have no doubt seen lots and lots of running processes with cryptic names that you didn't start. These are the background support processes that Windows runs at boot-time to do stuff so that the kernel doesn't have to, and thus so that Windows runs more efficiently. This is interesting and all, but if you've ever messed around with modern OSes of any kind, you've probably asked yourself at least once, "Can I turn any of this stuff off and not break my box?" You can do this to a certain extent in any OS - some stuff you really can't kill safely. The folks at Sysinternals have done the impossible: They managed to get Windows XP running with none of the extraneous stuff. Even Microsoft is skeptical. They've put complete instructions for doing this in the article. They don't appear to be permanant modifications to Windows, you're just using a process manager utility to kill off running software and not hacking the registry or anything to turn it off permanantly. It should also be noted that this doesn't disable windows, but it does in fact cripple certain functionality; for example, you won't be able to log out or shut down the machine, nor will you be able to use Microsoft Networking. There is, if you browse the comments (but ignore the Slashdot troll) someone who is running as long as possible in this state, and just about all of his apps work (though his AV software won't update) and the Clipboard is nonfunctional. I'd keep an eye on his posts to see how it turns out in the end.

Or better yet, give it a try yourself and see what happens.

Too bad this page is archived only - it's got some great Windows XP information.

I'd love to meet this guy.. a blind seventeen year old videogamer who can stomp just about anyone single-handedly.

A near-extrasolar body about 930 miles in diameter has been spotted and confirmed in an orbit even farther out than that of Pluto. It appears to be highly reflective, which makes it difficult to estimate its true size. American astronomers have designated it K40506A.

The past few days have been rough, to say the least. Stuff going on at work has been leaving me drained and worried after I get home. I'm not sure I can go into what's behind it all (NDAs being notoriously twitchy in court and all that), but suffice it to say that I am growing to loathe certain kinds of problems. Specifically, those that involve stuff breaking that I don't really have access to. I spent a total of a full day trying to figure out why stuff was broken, and it turns out that a component that I don't have access to, in fact a component that I barely understand was to blame.

Yeah, yeah.. I know.. after eliminating all other possible reasons for the failure, I should have called it quits and sent the "it's fucked" report up the food chain. But I didn't.

I hate admitting that I have to give up and let someone else handle it. This is mostly because it feels to me as if I haven't thought enough about it, and that I'm giving up too soon to easily. On the other hand, you'd think that after spending nine hours hacking on a problem and eliminating every possibility I can come up with, it woul be time to say "It's nothing I have control over."

That feels like giving up, too. I can't let myself do that.

As things turned out, it was exactly that - nothing I had control over. My boss sat me down and basically laid the whole thing out for me; not what every module was (that was easy enough to figure out from the diagrammes and such that littler the engineering section of any office) but what they did in the context of the operation. The real skinny.

In hindsight, I feel like a real idiot. I should have been able to figure that stuff out on my own. It's my stock-in-trade, after all, figuring stuff out.

As if that weren't enough, bills are coming due, and my finances haven't settled yet after the move. It's going to be at least another three paycheques before I get enough squirreled away to accomodate the weird pay schedule I'm on now (fifth/twentieth, instead of first/fifteenth, when most every bill is due). Even with a steady paycheque coming in, it's touch and go most of the time. I'm still paying off bills from the move (i.e., my forwarded mail just caught up with me, so I'm paying off late fees like my bank account is a haemorhhaging haemophiliac). I hope it won't hurt my credit rating too much, because this sort of thing seems reasonably common after people move in a hurry, but still.. it grates on my sense of responsibility like a belt sander against the back of my skull. Maybe I could have kept that from happening, maybe not. I don't know, and at this point it really doesn't matter. The best I can do is keep things from getting too far out of control. To that end, I've put the clamps on expenditures all across the board: No more eating out and a lot of thought on purchases for the next couple of weeks. Rather than get any more bookshelves I've decided to get rid of a lot of books that I've never read and don't really plan to anytime in the future (like the XWindows v6.0.0 developers' manuals and the old WordPerfect v5.1 programmer's guides; stuff that I'll honestly never use again) to make space. The desks are going to have to wait a little while longer; we can't afford to finish the office right now, though it is still planned for this year.

Next stop: The DMV again, to try to get my paperwork straightened out for DC.


The thunderstorms down here last night did some good - this is the first day in a long while that has been neither dreadfully hot nor punishingly humid at 0800 EDT. It's quite nice outside, in fact. I hope it stays that way for at least a while today, not that I'll have a chance to enjoy it until this evening, anyway.

Went to World Market with Hasufin last night. They've got a lot of neat stuff, like some unusual cookware and hard to find home furnishings, but their prices are on the expensive side for most of it, so I'd advise saving up before making a serious trip out there.

The storms knocked out power to much of my area last night, so we found ourselves driving around streets with no lights, traffic or otherwise, and lots of police officers directing traffic. Stores up and down the highways were closing in twos and threes, because there was no way to run credit cards through nor run the refrigerators. We wound up making an early night of things.

I got two more boxes unpacked last night in total. We need to get something to put more video tapes in. I think I can pack more DVDs into the entertainment centre.

The first beta release of Windows Vista (nee Longhorn) is available for download by beta testers; watch your favourite BitTorrent tracker for details. Beta-1 of Windows Vista is said to be lacking in features, such as Media Player and support for tablet PCs, at the expense of the coders working to debug as much code as they can to make it stable and secure. The new display engine, codenamed Avalon, is said to have some interesting new features, such as transparent windows and frames (search that link for the word 'transparent' and you'll see what Enlightenment's had since the 1990's). Windows Vista is also supposed to add nonprivileged user accounts, a far cry from every account having administrative rights on each machine. Uh, guys? UNIX called - it wants its most basic feature set back. IE7 integrates an RSS feed reader and tabbed browsing - Firefox and SAGE, anyone?

Sorry, folks - I can't put anything behind this. Too much of the functionality's been available on UNIX and Linux for too many years.

The toll from the streptococcus suis outbreak in China is now 27 dead 131 ill. Pigs known to be infected with or having died from s.suis are supposed to be either burned or buried deep in the ground, but farmers hard up for cash are later digging the pigs back up and selling them for pork. In one case, this was done to the same pig multiple times.

Something's amiss at Blackhat 2005. In case you're not familar with it, the Backhat conference, held in Las Vegas, Nevada every year during the week before Defcon, is the industry's professional answer to DC, for learning the down and dirty about computer security, trends, new attacks, how to pull them off, and how to defend against them. It's very expensive (as most industry functions are), mostly due to the fact that it's outright training for corporate, government, and some say military information security personnel. But to get back to what's going on there, 30 pages out of the one thousand handed to attendees (that's right - one thousand pages of presentation and reference material) were torn out of each packet by hand to prevent a discovery from being made known this week. Apparently, there is a serious security flaw in Cisco's IOS, which runs just about all of their networking equipment that permits an attacker to remotely execute code. One Michael Lynn of Internet Security Systems discovered the vulnerability and presented just as he'd promised after Cisco and ISS decided that the presentation would be cancelled. Lynn resigned from ISS rather than conceal knowledge of this, and now Cisco's suing him to keep his mouth shut.

I find it interesting that Cisco says that Lynn illegally obtained knowledge of the vulnerability when in fact it's protected not only as free speech but by US law. I guess they're pissed that he scooped all of them.

The US DHS is rigging up five border posts with RFID scanners to track non-citizens as they enter and leave the country. Moreover, the installation of RFID trackers will become mandatory as of Thursday, 4 August 2005. The chip will be embedded in a printed document, which must be kept on the dashboard of the car at all times and must be renewed every six calendar months. The RFID chips are supposed to differentiate who gets a cursory check and who gets the third degree.

Holy cats - this guy photoblogged the removal of his brain tumour. Maybe it's work safe, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Curious about those unmarked trucks in your neighborhood? Check this out.

Presenting Beatstock 2005 - a weekend-long music festival in New York.

Not something I'd ordinarily post about. Well, an old friend of mine from a certain fandom mentioned it tonight - InSoc's getting back together to do a pair of two-song sets, probably one Saturday and one Sunday. I have it on a reasonably good source that Vector's discussing it with the promoters (because he technically owns the name 'Information Society' now).

If this comes off, I'll be jumping in the TARDIS and heading for New York. The price is pretty steep for stadium seats, though. I'd settle for mezzanine just to see InSoc live.

Anybody wanna come with me? Drop me an e-mail and we'll work something out.


Behold, the BMW Z3, which comes in a convertible edition. Convertibles were made for driving with the top down and the wind going through your hair.

I can appreciate that it's humid enough in the DC metroplex that running your car's air conditioning can make mist condense on the outside of your windows, particularly over the vents.

But why would you waste the petrol to run the AC while you had your top down???

Defcon is this weekend (waah!), and the Internet Storm Centre has published a list of safety tips for your laptop while you're there. If you've heard anything about Defcon, you've heard about the shenanagins that go there, so if you're headed for Vegas this week, pack your laptop and lots of water, and make sure that you don't leave yourself wide open while you're there (if you can get on the wireless net at all).

I'll be posting a list of books that I'll be getting rid of in the very near future (think: this weekend). No cost, I just want to get rid of them. If anyone in the DC area is interested, drop me an e-mail and we'll work out a pickup.

North Korea is still making waves on the ocean of international politics, it appears. Their reps said that they'd halt their nuclear weapons programme (I doubt it) if the US pulls its nukes out of South Korea. The US wants to know what nukes they're talking about. This has all the makings of a standoff because neither is likely to believe the other anytime soon. North Korea is also demanding that the US stop trying to topple its Communist government (huh?).

If they're not careful, this is going to get ugly. Neither side really trusts the other's word on anything, and that's a big sticking point. The thing is, neither side is willing to let the other check them at their word.

A few days ago word of a new disease spreading amongst people in China got out. It's been identified as streptococcus suis, and out of 117 people infected so far, 24 are dead. There are, at present, no drugs to treat this disease in hmans, which causes among other symptoms internal haemorhhaging and high fevers. They're hoping that large doses of antibiotics will do the job.

It should be noted that this disease may have been making its rounds among humans for three weeks; only recently has word gotten out.

Richard back in Pittsburgh faxed me a copy of the title to my car for the Virginia DMV. Last Saturday morning, I was turned down for both a Virginia driver's license and license plates because I didn't have the title to the car. This is not unusual, because I technically don't own my car yet, the bank does. So, they've faxed me a copy of the Pennsylvania title, which hopefully the clerk at the DMV will recognise.

Cross your fingers.

Nerdcore rap. I guess it was only a matter of time.

I'm still all about MC Hawking.

The Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches, with downloadable .pdf flyer, suitable for printing out and handing out or sticking to vertical surfaces.

The RIAA doesn't like RPG fans making fan videos. What's next, AMVs?

I need my head examined. No, wait.. I need my next paycheque...

Homemade biodiesel fuel, anyone?

Great idea.. I wonder if whomever tried it in the US would get popped because the feds thought they were making biowarfare compounds? You need some chemistry equipment, and a bit of skull-sweat to get the reaction right.

Wal-Mart decides what news you should read.

Worried that you won't be able to get birth control pills when you need them? This list of pharmacists has refused to fill prescriptions for them. If your pharmacist has turned you down and isn't on this list, let 'em know.

Two gay teenagers were hung in Iran.

What kind of world is this?!?

This makes me feel physically ill...

Most impressive.

Courtesy of Giza.. Silverhaws outtakes! Not work safe, so wear your headphones.


Just one of those days...

Picked up another bookshelf for a song ($23us on inventory clearout) at Office Depot last night. This one's going in the office. The last one was assembled in the library and filled up with another crate of books last night.

As if this should come as any surprise, the US Transportation Security Agency broke its own privacy regulations by secretly collecting personal information on at least 250k people as part of the Secure Flight programme, which was a direct violation of the Privacy Act of 1974. Originally, the TSA was going to use information they'd gotten from the various airline companies, but they also went to information brokering companies and bought a lot more, and then ran comparisons and cross-references against both databases. All told, 100 million people were researched. Of the initial group of 43k names, they then made around 200k permutations of those names, most of which wound up being the names of real people who did not fly during the timespan of the data collection (July 2004), and then ran background checks on them.

Bruce Schneier, a noted and well-respected security expert, opened fire with both barrels on this yesterday. He does a good job of boiling down the official government report (downloadable as a .pdf file from his weblog entry), from the TSA deliberately violating Federal laws as part of this programme to outright lying to Congress when asked about it. He also makes known that the TSA is specifically stockpiling information on US citizens, in direct contravention to what they said they were going to do. He also lambasts their published methodologies, which really don't do what they set out to do (isolated and tag suspected terrorists) because they wrongly catch so many people, and yet let the very folks they were supposed to catch slip through. The security of this programme is also called into question because some of their methods and open procedures were poorly designed and implemented.

In an attempt to curb software piracy (and increase the number of possible targets on the Net for the worm du jour) Microsoft is cutting off access to Windows Update and the Download Centre to systems with pirated registration codes by implementing the Windows Genuine Advantage Programme. Systems with pirated registration codes can still get patches from Automatic Update, though.

I can't see this working terribly well. There are key generators out there that do an excellent job of coming up with forged registration codes, so only a small number of systems will ever actually get blocked. I can see, however, filching someone's registration code to pirate it and get it blocked to screw them over, though. Sounds like a good dirty trick to me.

The truth might be out there, in Virtuality if not in the real world. One Gary McKinnon is fighting extradition for cracking 53 NASA and US military networks in 2001 and 2002 in search of information pertaining to extraterrestrials and unidentified flying objects. He's even gone on the record with some of his findings, interestingly enough. Because he hasn't been proven to have actually damaged anything, just taken advantage of the notoriously poor security in the networks he was targeting, British law has charged him with a misdemeanor. The US government, on the other hand, is trying to get him extradited for trial, with a possible penalty of 70 years in federal prison.

One Vardan Kushnir, Russia's most notorious spammer, was found dead in his apartment from repeated blows to the head on Sunday, 24 July 2005.

Heh. LARTed.

Something conspicuously missing from Microsoft's newly unveiled Virtual Earth (read: Google Earth clone): 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope for this one: A Voltron movie is in the works. No word on whether or not it's going to be animated or live-action. Mark Gordon, the man behind The Day After Tomorrow, The League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen, Broken Arrow, and Speed is behind this one. A quick scan of imdb.com's entry for Mark Gordon shows a few other things he's got lined up, such as an American version of Kiki's Delivery Service make me wonder how much this is really going to suck.

The movie The Island isn't just reminscent of Logan's Run... it utterly rips off an older movie, called The Clonus Horror. Legal battle round one.. fight!

Speaking of fighting, how about a sneak peek at bleeding-edge military hardware, going into deployment by the end of this year? I'm especially taken with the liquid body armour augmentation solution.

God save the Queen.

Iris's latest album, entitled Wrath will be released in the states on 23 August 2005.


Sort of a long weekend this time around; I didn't get to do nearly as much as I'd hoped, and I didn't have a chance to get on the Net as often as I'd hoped, also.

Ten more boxes were unpacked and pitched (the boxes themselves, not their contents). We're going to need another three bookcases it appears; Hasufin brought over another four crates of books (mostly technical manuals) last night, which empties his apartment of all of our stuff, modulo the few things under the couch in his living room.

On Saturday afternoon, as I was tossing flattened shipping crates into the dumpster, I felt a tap on my left arm that I hadn't been expecting. As I looked down I was almost surprised to see a paper wasp flying away, just as a sensation not unlike dripping molten solder on one's skin hit. The little sucker stung me as I was walking back to my apartment.. the first aid kit in the kitchen (placed there due to the sharpness of the chef's knives that Lyssa and I were given as a housewarming gift) had nothing helpful; there was nothing helpful in the spice rack, either (no meat tenderiser, no baking soda, no garlic, no epsom salts...). The first aid kit in the office had a few prepackaged swabs of sting relief medication, however, so that did the trick. My body seems to have metabolised all of the venom with no trouble.

Saturday afternoon, Lyssa, Kash, and I did a little exploring of the local area. We found a Trader Joe's just down the highway which I suspect will become our grocery store of choice. Trader Joe's is similiar to Whole Paycheque, only a good deal smaller (i.e., the size of a fast-food joint and not a Giant Eagle) and a good deal cheaper (cost of a week's worth of food: About $50us). It is not, it should be noted, not as well stocked (you can't get an environmentally friendly, vegan broom, for example) but for day to day stuff it's quite handy to have nearby. Afterward we drove to the largest mall I've ever seen, and were nearly floored by the prices. Tyson's Centre is a very upscale shopping mall, with lots of the big names' stores there, and covers something akin to two city blocks across three levels. You can go there and walk around all day and if you don't window shop too long, you'll probably see everything by the time the sun sets.

The food court's fare is better than your average mall's, but most of it isn't worth the price you pay for it.

Saturday night we had a get-together for some of the locals. Tantric Chef and Butterfly were without power, and hence without air conditioning; Hasufin's about two blocks away; Kash spent the weekend helping us get stuff straightened out around the apartment. We never did get around to gaming but we did enjoy Hasufin's mixers, music (courtesy of Luel, connected to the entertainment centre), and talking until quite late in the night. Lyssa made another pizza for everyone, a masterpiece that included smoked gouda cheese, which most everyone enjoyed.

Yesterday was spent unpacking more crates, containing clothing this time, figuring out which needed to be washed and which can be safely discarded (like most of my long-sleeve shirts from the early 1990's), and neatly folding and putting everything away.

I need another dresser to hold all of my clothes. I don't just collect books and computers; I also accumulate clothing like nobody's business, even though Carson Kressley would no doubt expire of a stroke upon entering the bedroom.

Late last night I performed surgery on Kash's laptop computer, the display of which died suddenly. Some months ago, said laptop took a spill, which badly damaged the chassis but didn't otherwise harm the machine. After about an hour of dismantling the chassis (a task equalled only by building a funerary pyramid with a toothbrush only) I discovered that the power converter to the LCD panel had popped loose, resulting in a functional machine but dead display. After plugging it back in and performing a bit more preventative maintenance (such as blowing the cat hair and grit out of the cooling fan and applying heat-sink grease to the CPU and video chipset) Sindara booted up without any problems.

I'm rather proud of that.

This weekend left many in the US reeling from the security measures that have been applied since the bombings in London. A plane headed for Phoenix, Arizona was turned around in flight; a tourist bus in New York City was evaculated; Penn Station in New York City was shut down; bags are subject to search all over the place.

I suddenly feel more secure, don't you?

Remember that guy in London who was shot by police a few days ago? As it turns out, he was innocent. He was an electrician of Brasilian descent. Now, many people are probably saying that he shouldn't have been running from the police, so they had no choice but to shoot him. The police were plainclothes officers carrying guns. Now think about this a little: A guy in a cheap suit draws a gun and starts running toward you. What are you going to do? You're going to haul ass, if you have any survival instinct at all.

Great Britain has a shoot-to-kill policy for suspected terrorists? This is one hell of a surprise... 10% of London's finest carry weapons while on duty, which history buffs will find quite surprising (historically, police in Great Britain are armed only with batons). A poll taken this weekend shows that 68% of readers of the Mail are in favour of the shoot-to-kill policy, interestingly enough. This is down from 84% support, as shown in a poll taken on Friday and Saturday.

Microsoft has renamed Longhorn to Windows Vista. No word yet on whether they've officially decided to rename 'remotely exploitable security vulnerabilities' to 'undocumented remote management features'.

Word of new mystery disease in the Sichuan province of China has leaked out. The disease appears to be a bacterial infection spread through contact with dead pigs (as farmers who slaughter their own livestock would have); the World Health Organisation is saying that the disease, which is at this time not yet named, cannot be transmitted through human-to-human contact. Seventeen people have died so far.

Dataline is in all probability at this time (1003 EDT) preparing for surgery at Saint Margaret's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Any extra thoughts, prayers, or mojo anyone can spare would be gratefully accepted.

Dataline made it through surgery just fine. Thank you, everyone.

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0656 EDT: Been at work since 0600 EDT for maintenance.

What they claimed will happen in the US appears to be starting in London, at least at this early hour: A man suspected to be a suicide bomber was gunned down by London police at the Stockwell Tube Station. He is thought to have been involved in yesterday's incidents...

The man was taken out by five shots at close range from what was described as an automatic pistol. Damn - the London cops don't mess around...

Wait a minute.. yesteday's incidents?!

A terrorist group in Europe claiming links to al-Quaida took credit for the blasts yesterday and on 7 July 2005. The group has declared that it will strike in the capitals of every European country that has troops in Iraq until they are withdrawn.

As if that weren't enough, two of Algeria's diplomats were kidnapped from a mission outside of Baghdad. No one's taken credit for it yet.

As if there weren't enough to worry about, the House of Representatives voted yesterday to make most of the USA PATRIOT Act permanant, mere minutes after the second detonation in London. It should be noted that the provisions of the Act that allow the monitoring of any phone that a suspect uses (not just a single line) and the silent seizure of personal, library, and medical records still have a ten year duration.

It should be noted that a few new checks were added to the USA PATRIOT Act, among them that judges need to approve the seizure of records, and the FBI director now needs to personally approve library and bookstore records seizures. These are the same restrictions, it is said, that apply to local investigation of gang members and suspected child molestors, though I don't have enough data to confirm that.

More ripples throughout the system: The New York City public transportation system has instituted random searches of passengers since yesterday. Refusing means that you don't get to travel.

Wow - common sense! If you don't want to be bothered by a dozen notifications.. turn the damn things off! Bill Gates is wrong - workers are not suffering from too much poorly formatted information, they actually have too many things vying for their attention at any one time. Do you really need a popup in the corner of your display every time an e-mail comes in? Do you really need one window per IM conversation (something the third-party IM clients figured out ages ago)? Do you really need to hear a sound effect for every message that comes in? No!

Colorado's getting security cameras along its state highways.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre has a new resident, named Big Ben, after the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger and Benjamin Franklin. Big Ben was added as part of the TeraGrid Project underway at the PSC and other facilities across the country, an effort that links supercomputers at nine other sites into the most powerful grid computer on the planet. Big Ben is a massively parallel supercomputer rated at 10 teraflops (ten trillian floating-point operations every second), manufactured by Cray Computing of Seattle, Washington. Big Ben was purchased to take over for LeMieux, the PSC's primary supercomputer.

Roethlisberger sent a Steelers shirt with his team number (7) to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the PSC.

Some of you out there might want to check out a few of these articles pertaining to a project called the BrainPort, mentioned to me by Tori a few nights ago. I am still searching for the original research paper and articles, though. Rumour has it that they were disappeared because the US Government is looking at using this technology as an augmented reality apparatus for its military. I've found nothing that confirms or denies this rumour, though.

You can check out the website of Wicab, Incorporated, which is the company that developed the technology initially. There is a sizable list of references to papers published on this particular topic as it pertains to both vestibular replacement (sense of balance) and visual replacement; they're not linked, though. Research into applying this technology to also treat disorders like Parkinson's Disease and autism is also underway. Clinical trials are underway at this time.

Something you'll find is that a lot of people reprinted the exact same article all over the place.

It definitely does not appear that all traces of this information have disappeared. It might take a little time to find all of the papers, but they aren't gone.


Late last night I spent a while crunching numbers, figuring out a new budget that'll work around the idiosyncrasies in the payroll schedule at work. I think I have a workable model for paying bills on time now, but the first couple of paycheques are going to be touch-and-go until I build up my savings a little. I also hope to start rebuilding my life savings, a little at a time. That's not going to happen for a while yet, though it's definitely high on my list of priorities. To be safe, Lyssa and I have put off buying both bookcases and desks for the office, though Lyssa continues to prowl Craig's List for free stuff in good condition that we could use around the apartment. We'll be looking at some filing cabinets tonight, so we can unpack a few more crates of papers, and turn some unspecified subset of them into confetti.

Earlier last night Lyssa and I drove to open study at Rialian's where we spent the night poring over the stuff that Rhianna was cleaning out of her parents' basement (boxes and boxes of old games, miscellaneous knick-knacks, and disks of all kinds). I got to spend the evening geeking out with Tori, whose MO is reverse engineering and hacking hardware (her favourites include the Tandy 100 and RF). I'm into software and networking. We had much to talk about, to say the least.

Last night was geek night at Rialian's, no two ways about it.

Today, the House of Representatives will re-open the debate of the USA PATRIOT Act, this time to decide what parts, if any, they will extend with new powers, and what parts, if any, they will make permanant laws in the USA. The Senate, not to be outdone, is opening its own debate. Both are expected to vote sometime Friday. Both refuse to do away with the ability to silently seize libraries' lending records and allow certain provisions of the existing act to terminate after four years.

George W. Bush again displayed his stunning lack of knowledge by stating that the Act "hasn't diminished American liberties, it has helped to defend American liberties."

So removing liberties defends liberties. Is that anything like "Ignorance is strength"?

Call your reps, people, and tell them to not allow this to come to pass.

James Doohan, who played Montgomery Scott on Star Trek died yesterday at the age of 85 in his home in Redmond, Washington. Requisat en pace.

The air conditioning at work is broken again. I need to find more pairs of shorts. Maybe a Hawaiian shirt and jams tomorrow...

I wrote about the US military getting ready to deploy microwave-based antipersonnel weapons a few months ago. At least, others are beginning to look into safety considerations of microwving people. The Pentagon's named this project the Active Denial System (ADS), and has released some questionable specs on the system (95 GHZ?!). The ADS is said to have been designed to casue pain in humans in less than five secons, which is definitely usable in the field. Interestingly, the reports say that these weapons are designed for putting down riots, and not for traditional military actins.. Sandia National Labs has also published a press release on the ADS, which gives out a few more details. The system uses microwaves with a wavelength of one millimetre, which is definitely usable against human-sized targets. I find it interesting that they mention using it to protect Department of Energy facilities that are nuclear-related.

The frequency 95 GHZ (gigahertz) is, interestingly enough, utilised in radio astronomy in Europe, polarimetric radar used in atmospheric physics research, and materials analysis.

The HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system at work conked out again. This is simply too much...


The shower and sink really are fixed. Joy. Rapture. No longer does normal use fill the [sink,shower] all the way with the drain open. Even the faucets in the bathtub have been fixed.

Voice-over-IP works great.

Trouble in River City: Changes in the payroll scheme at work, coupled with paying off the remainder of bills from Pittsburgh (budget payments each month work both ways: You pay less when you really use something (like gas), but more when you don't (gas in the summer)) and payments for my corporate health and life insurance policies are crushing the fact that I don't get paid on a first of the month/fifteenth of the month cycle.

Oh, did I mention that I've got to pay my insurance for both July and the part of June I was working? Full price?

My bills fall in a first/fifteenth cycle. I'm going to have to re-do the budget tonight to make sure I've got enough money allocated to cover everything. I can do it, but it's tricky right now, especially with my liquid assets at such a low point after the move.

Of course, my credit card bill beat me to DC, so I've got to pay that, too. I haven't gotten my car payment bill yet.

This is really starting to scare me.

If I keep my wits about me, I can make it through everything. It's going to be rough for another month or so, though. I won't be able to start saving back up for a while, which really bothers me.

I learned a valuable lesson today: Speakeasy's IP addresses are tied to geographic locations. If you move, your network configuration information changes.

They changed the IP addresses attached to my Speakeasy account this morning. I called when my voice-over-IP TA (terminal adaptor) suddenly dropped off the Net, making it impossible to make or recieve phone calls. I called Speakeasy and they were nice enough to help me fix everything; Lyssa has a cellphone now so I was able to give her the network configuration information so that she could log into the TA and reconfigure it using Alphonse. We're back up.

Yet another event that I could have well done without today.


0758 EDT: Not really hot, but muggy enough that it feels like breathing chicken soup. Not fun, especially when you're just off a main highway.

As if there wasn't enough in the world to give one pause during the day, George W. Bush has decied to give civillian nuclear technology to India, which reverses the general trend of keeping nuclear technologies (potentially usable for the construction of arms) out of other countries that have refused to let their nuclear research programmes be monitored by international organisations. India, for its part, has been quietly building an independent nuclear research programme for better than twenty years. There is some speculation that North Korea (which isn't a member of the United States of America Fanclub) might take this as a sign to kick up their own arms programme a few notches, ostensibly to cover their own backs. Word has it that this is actually White House strategy, which would counterbalance China's considerable pull on the international scene.

The Arms Control Association claims that this inconsistency undermines what's left of the US' credibility because Bush is now not even bothering to hide the fact that he's playing favourites anymore. It sets a bad example to everyone else.

For its part, North Korea agreed to resume nuclear weapons programme negotiations after a year of stall tactics.

In national politics, Bush is suddenbly backpedalling on his promise to fire whomever in his administration leaked the identity of undercover CIA operatives because the guy who made Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover op known.. was his top political aide, Karl Rove.

Hey, Busy.. put your considerably money where your mouth is and fire that joker, like you promised. Or don't you remember?

A sneak peek at the Aeon Flux movie hit the newswires this morning, and from what can be seen, at least they've got the costume down (though suitably modified for actual laws of physics). I wonder how much of the backstory (what there was of it, anyway) they're keeping in the plot.

Where there's a will, there's a way: Windows 2000 on a 32MB laptop.

Will Verizon decide to hook our line up today? The world may never know...

Update: Just heard from Hasufin and Lyssa: Verizon actually did something right for once! Covad hooked the pair up, and DSL is up and running. Hasufin is setting up voice-over-IP as I write this.



Not only is Big Brother watching, but Mickey Mouse has now taken interest in who and where you are when you're at Disney's various theme parks. Disney has installed biometric fingerprint readers in all of its theme parks; all visitors must have their fingerprints scanned by these machines upon entry to the park. Why??? What purpose could this serve? I can see using such a system to protect their R&D buildings and fabrication labs, but having to get your fingerprints scanned into a database just to enter the park, regardless of whether or not you're a season ticket holder makes no sense.

Somehow this weekend while putting up bookshelves and moving boxes around, I screwed my back up again. For a change, it's not between the first and second lumbar vertebrae but down between the fourth and fifth (which I hadn't had a chance to wreck until Sunday). I can sit reasonably well, but walking sometimes results in a burst of pain as the disk between them squishes down instead of protecting the nerve trunks. As for other forms of motion, leaning forward just a few degrees (say, when making lunch in the morning or brushing one's teeth) hurt like hell. I soaked in the tub last night for a while reading, which helped some, but I really need to get that checked out soon.

Microsoft Longhorn will have a new DRM feature, which will restrict what your display has permission to show. The feature is called OPM (Output Protection Management), and requires the video display to report to the OS whether or not it's capable of DRM (Digital Rights Management) functionality. This means that whomever built media files (audio, video, even executables (like games)) gets to decide what you get to see. If your monitor isn't compatible with OPM, the content is horribly mangled (the example given is this: Load a .jpg file into a graphics editor, like MS Paint (standard with Windows); resize the image to shrink it down, then resize it to blow it back up; not a pretty image anymore); at the far end of the scale, you might not see anything at all because Windows will not have given your monitor permission to show anything but a blank screen. You can check out MS' docs on this page, to get it straight from the horse's mouth. They're also working on an audio version of this, their page says. Interestingly enough, there are devices out there that are designed to strip all copy protection out of such video streams, so you won't necessarily have to go out and buy a new monitor. Of course, pirates will be all over this as well, but it would actually be more cost-effective for them to crack the software (drivers) and not the hardware. You can bet this won't be on the market for very long, though.

The maintenance guy finally came to the apartment to fix everything, Lyssa says. He snaked the pipes out, I'm told, and now the apartment's being aired out because of the stench. I don't know what the hell was down in those pipes, and I'm not sure I want to. The hot water valve has also been repaired.

It's about bloody time.

Now if Verizon would just get off its collective ass and hook up our phone lines, life would be peachy.

2254 EDT in DC. Current temperature: 84 degrees Farenheit, 91 degrees if you factor in the heat index, 74% relative humidity. It sucks to go outside.


First late Saturday/early Sunday update in a long while. Lyssa's lost in the latest Harry Potter book, purchased last night at the Border's down on the highway. I've finally had a chance this weekend to jack in and take a look around.

Work this week's been running me ragged. Crisis after crisis has befallen my department, and I've been reverse engineering some software that a previous coder wrote, but obfuscated thoroughly. The end result's been something akin to attempting to translate Aramaic.

I will say, however, that I found one of the crises in particular very interesting, in an intellectual, puzzle-solving, playing chess with a master kind of way. It pays to be familiar with how packages are installed, and how the files are kept and monitored in a database of other packages' files. This leaves a wide avenue open if one wishes to manipulate that database in an unconventional manner (i.e., the package manager decides that it wishes to be uncooperative and you have to update files by hand) because something was damaged internally.

Sun Microsystems, please get your collective act together and write a package management suite that correctly handles control-c and control-z. On this matter, I will write no more.

Lyssa and I, after work on Friday, drove to the release party of the latest Harry Potter novel, by way of the Italian Oven franchise a few blocks away from Borders. Dinner there was as good as I remembered it (my favourite is still the eggplant parmesan), and along with a Tuscany Sunrise, the week slowly faded into a bearable hum in the background.

I'm not a Harry Potter fan, to be honest. I don't know what I was expecting from the release party; I've never been to one before, so this was a new experience. From what several people have told me, this was one of the least fun ones yet (the one in DC) - people were pretty apathetic and not really into the other stuff going on (like the owls being shown upstairs by the Virginia Raptor Conservancy. Mostly, folks of all ages (as many adults as kids, it seemed) were sitting around waiting for 0001 EDT Saturday, when the books officially went on sale.

I found a lot of books that I wish I could have just sat around and read in a speed-reading trance, like I used to. That didn't transpire, though.

There were a few costumers about that night, but not many in the grand scheme of things. I'd expected more.

I don't know what I expected. A lot more kids, more costumes, more in-theme activities for everyone... it was a lot more subdued than I thought would be there.

I'll get around to reading the books one of these days, I guess.

The apartment's shaping up nicely. Of the four bookshelves we'd bought last week, three of them have been assembled (the third Saturday afternoon while Lyssa was out) and books are steadily being unpacked and shelves, to be later organised. I'm thinking of digging up an old barcode reader or two and some card catalogue software to speed things up. We're still setting up the kitchen; the office comes after my next paycheque, so we can get desks and a few filing cabinets for all of the papers and manuals that we've accumulated over the years. The effort's not progressing fast enough for my taste, but then again things never do when I'm involved.. I have to be patient.

The home entertainment centre is almost hooked up. My DVD player's on the outs; Lyssa's functions just fine, but we can't find the power cable anywhere. It's probably with the rest of our stuff, still in storage at Hasufin's place.

Lyssa made dinner for Hasufin, Mika, and myself tonight - fettuccini alfredo with spinach salad and cherry pie for dessert. Hasufin summed it up: "Lyssa, you're dangerous with a fully stocked kitchen."

Now this makes me angry enough to overflow my I/O buffers. One Ronnie Paris, Jr. of Tampa, Florida beat his three year old son to death. For the record, his son was on the skinny side and still developing... like many three year olds. They're not miniature adults. The story continues, told by his wife: He was jealous of the baby (whatever that means) and was afraid that the kid would grow up to be gay because she hugged him, like any mother would.

Now, if you're like me, one thing's going through your mind at this moment: "...the FUCK?!?"

Paris' biological family blames his wife.

I find it difficult to write about this without becoming overly emotional, or saying things that are both violent (like "Do to these folks what they did to their kid!") and inflammatory ("Some people just shouldn't breed.") The idea that a child, a youngling, a three year old baby was senselessly killed by being slammed against a wall because someone saw him as a threat to his place in the family angers, nay, incenses me. Such mania, such idiocy makes me see red.

I will keep my closing remarks to myself, lest my credibility be lost.


I don't say this very often, but I feel it's an appropriate turn of phrase: This is bloody awesome. I always suspected that Soundwave could cut a rug... presenting the Breakformers.

And crank up the volume for this one, even if you're at work. It's well worth it.

Last night was not one of the more fun ones I've ever had.

In trying to get any sort of net.connection up and running (at this point in time, I've got serious doubts as to whether or not they can actually do the job), I tried to set up a Cox account to get not only cable television but broadband.

Those of you who have ever had this particular nightmare are by now ready to duct tape me to a chair and beat me with a phone book for being so stupid.

First, the phone numbers I dug up for them are disconnected. The one I got from the leasing office, the ones from their websites (you can be damn sure that the websites are still up), and the ones from the promo stuff I got from them. None of them work. My next logical stop was the cox.com website (I'm not going to link to these morons, so don't bother clicking) to set things up.

I should have known that I was in trouble when I clicked on their terms of service link and got a 404 error (page not found).

They rejected my debit card for the deposit (how is an expiration date next year earlier than yesterday's calendar date?!) and asked me for enough information to do a credit check, something which always raises my hackles, but given all the other bullshit and flensing by various corporate organisations lately, I figured was just one more flaming hoop to pass through while riding a pogo stick.

It's also a bad sign when you don't get a total cost per month for the services you've picked up. I'm used to this from Verizon[voice service] and Comcast[digital cable], though, so I figured it was the end result of people who don't seem to realise that it's a good idea to know how much you're paying for a service each month.

Lyssa hit the ceiling when she found out, and thus began the rush to find a way to cancel the order. We spent two hours trying to contact a human being at Cox, without success. All of the phone numbers we dug up (and believe me, we found quite a few) were either disconnected or busied out. I eventually got to a line that put me on hold, and after doing some social engineering of one of their partners I managed to get a phone number for a customer service line, which prompted me for my phone number and promised to call me back within thirteen minutes.

The first circle of Hell froze over last night - I did actually get a call back from Cox, an event which left me peering with trepidation through the curtains to see if it were raining crayfish or if several million locusts had decided to go on a beer run by way of my apartment complex in the general direction of the wheat fields of the central United States of America. I was told by a cheerful man that my order had been cancelled.

Huh? I hadn't even gotten through to anyone to tell them to cancel my order!

Not that I'm arguing, mind you... my goal was accomplished, but I'm at a loss to explain how it was accomplished. I'm actually a little afraid of the reason that my order was pre-emptively killed. Was it the credit check?

And what are they going to do with the information I gave them? I sure hope that they aren't going to keep it...

If I manage to find any Cox Communications phone numbers which weren't shut down, I'll post them.

Anger, like depression, is a drug, as I've come to realise. Never make any life-altering decisions while under the influence of either.

And always be sure to research whom you're going to contract service through because you might wind up with the ground beneath the bottom of the barrel.

Yesterday brought a new denial of service attack for Windows XP Home and Professional editions that can bring down an entire box when you least want it to. Best of all, the Windows Firewall doesn't stop it. Details are sketchy on exactly what's going on here, but Badpack3t, who found the bug on 4 May 2005 (!) and notified Microsoft of its presence has said that Microsoft is planning on patching it in august of 2005. Way to stick to your prompt vulnerability handling, guys.

In other news, the new DDoS buzzword of 2005 is phlooding, where attackers bombard authentication servers with requests to prevent legit attempts from making it through.

Big deal. This is nothing new. Whether or not you have a large group of systems all reloading the same web page a few hundred times a minute or sending bad login attempts to a server to keep other folks out, it's still a denial of service attack, and it's been going on for years now. Convention goers are probably aware of (and fed up with) people who flood wireless access points and convention portal webservers to piss people off, and attacks like this have forced BBSes, weblogs, and forum sites offline for a long while now.

And the 'ph-instead-of-f' substitution is so old, its dead and in cryonic suspension next to Walt Disney and Dr. Frank Morgan.

Presenting an animated graphics hack in which gnus and mozillas attack Redmond, Washington that runs in your web browser. It's based on the Google Map API, and it's work safe, also.

As of 23 December 2005, IBM will officially kill OS/2, with support ending on 31 December 2006. Requisat en pace.

I find it amusing that they've also put up a page with recommendations for migration from the doomed operating system.. to Linux.

The release date of the live-action Transformers movie has been announced: 4 July 2007. No other information was made public in this announcement, like actors or designers. IMDB's entry states that the movie is in pre-production at this time.

Here's a keyboard that I'd buy in a heartbeat if only it came in ergonomic form: A console where they keys are not labelled with ink but with programmable OLEDs. The idea is that you change the keycaps with software to suit your application, which makes me wonder how many people actually know how to touch-type these days (I'd leave mine blank all the time, save when I wanted to mess with people by programming in Furthark, Sindarin, or Japanese).

The last time I mentioned the SCO/Linux case, my head nearly exploded. This morning, after reading this stinkburger, I had to power down my frontal lobes and switch to the organosilicate backup unit I keep duct-taped under my desk for situations just like this. An e-mail from Michael Davidson to Reg Broughton and Darl McBride of SCO was unsealed by the court, and it says a number of things. First, they started the lawsuit against Redhat without any evidence at all, only the hope that they could find something shady to pin on them and get a monetary settlement of some kind out of the court case. The e-mail also admits that SCO didn't find a single thing that would aid this scam. Nevertheless, they started threatening to sue companies using Linux unless they bought SCO licenses; a few did.

Now this guy is hardcore about coding. He comes from the same era as I, the 1980's, and he makes every attempt to fit the software that he writes (Wikepage) into the same user footprint as the Commodore-64's user memory field, 38911 bytes.


Remember - Sysadmin Appreciation Day is Friday, 29 July 2005. Remember the folks who keep you up and running that day.

The United States' Intelligence Threat Handbook hit the Net not too long ago in ten chapters, in downloadable .pdf files. It is technically unclassified, but labelled 'for official use only'. The date of publication was some time in 2005, because the information is pretty up to date for an unclassified document. It's interesting reading if you have an afternoon to spare. In it are described the intelligence methods and agency structures used by a number of countries, which are just as interesting if you like knowing what is going on Out There.

Microsoft ahs finally gotten around to releasing v2.0 of the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, a utility run on Windows servers and workstations to compare their security configurations to known security policies and guidelines and deliver a report to administrators. This utility is a good way to not only see where you stand, but also determine what you need to update (it hooks Windows Update, or at least the old version did) and makes helpful suggestions. The new MBSA now rates the alerts it prints on a scale of severity, can scan systems remotely for installed security updates, references the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database, and even has decent help text this time around (assuming that you believe them). I'd suggest that everyone who runs Windows, at home or in the office, download a copy of this and run it to get a better idea of your security posture. It's very helpful.

I give the older version 4/5 stars; I'll let you know when I have a chance to experiment with this version.

The best way to find a disposable grunt for a shady operation is not to coerce someone, but to make them think that they're making a few extra bucks on the side. In the old days, carders would ship stuff to the addresses of empty houses in relatively nice neighborhoods, houses that hadn't been sold or moved in yet. The US Post Office has been wise to this since the late 90's, though. Now, it's easier to hire people to act as reshippers to hide where carded goods are going. If you've ever seen those signs on the side of the road during the summer or gotten flyers under your windshield wiper for jobs stuffing envelopes or reshipping packages fro $24us a pop, you might have seen one of these scams. The idea is that the mule gets caught mailing what amount to stolen goods, and the carders (more often overseas nowadays) can't be nailed, and if you never find out the true identity of who's asking you to launder goods and occasionally cash for you, so much the better for them. Check this article out - it's well written and downright creepy in how well these scams are working.

Bernard Ebbers, former CEO of Worldcom (nee MCI) has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for his part in fleecing WorldCom for over $11bus. His sentence starts on 12 October 2005 at the federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

On behalf of all of the employees who had stock in your company because they thought that it was a good investment, and a few of whom who might have been counting on dividends from those shares to get them through their golden years that were fucked over.. rot in prison.

Still think about living off the grid? Check out these folks, who designed and built their own 17 foot wind turbine, which drives a generator to provide power.

A new date has been selected for the termination of transmission of all analog television signals: 1 January 2009.


Language limits and directs how you think. Language can either assist you, or cripple you.

Anyone else as frightened of this as I am?

And here's a list of weasel words for you to check out.

Still moving in. Still unpacking. Hauled another load of stuff, including the legs of the dining room table, over from Hasufin's last night. The dining room table is now assembled. Covad was supposed to send a tech over between 0800 and 1200 EDT today to connect our pair in the punchdown box; no idea if they've actually gotten around to doing this.

Maintenance is still ignoring up. I'm considering taking the trap off the bathroom sink, emptying the gunk into a baggie, and dropping it off in the maintenance office after work today to see if I can get them to get off their butts and do their job. Even Lyssa walking down to the office to file complaints has been unfruitful. It's time to step things up a bit.

Song that best describes life right now (geez, it's been a while since there has been one of those in here): Shonen Knife's cover of I Wanna Be Sedated

Folks with a deeply-seated fear or hatred of the United Nations might want to sit up and take notice: The UN is considering taking control of the Net, and lots of folks aren't pleased with this. Members of the UN are saying that the United States have too much control over how the Net works and what goes on, and they want to make a few changes. There is talk that the ITU, the International Telecommunications Union (which sets standards for communications of all sorts around the world) will be given control over the development and management of the Internet. New functions of the hypothetical new owner of the Net are also being suggested, among them surveillance and perhaps taxation. The delegates are getting hot under the collar over the prevelence of spam, porn, and the lack of control over net.traffic (oh, my).

Scary thought. They'll have a hell of a logistical problem, though. First, they'll have to force the various telecom companies, from the phone companies to the folks who actually own the fibre and copper to change how they run multi-billion US dollar businesses. Second, they'll have to take back control over domain registration and management from gods-know-how-many private companies who are also loath to let anything get in the way of their cash flow. Third, they'll have to force ISPs to change how they do business.

For pity's sake, you can't even get Verizon to stop its users from spamming 24/7/365 or do anything about someone trying to throw IIS exploits at an Apache server. Do they honestly think that they can get them to listen to how they are supposed to do business?

There is talk of creating a new top-level net.domain for organisations that refuse to listen to their dictates. The article makes a half-hearted argument that it could result in two different machines finding different websites at the same address. This already happens - they're called vhosts (and they're not indiginous to Apache, incidentally). The way HTTP requests work, the hostname of the site in question is packed into the headers.

Those hostnames come from DNS, the Domain Name System, which converts numeric IP addresses into hostnames and vice-versa. Every DNS that your machine contacts as part of normal use is primed with a list of top-level DNSes, which direct requests up the hierarchy and back down to the right DNS to resolve a hostname (here's a good explanation of how DNS works, I don't feel like quoting it here) for use. This list changes from time to time, and your admins update it silently so that there are no dropouts or slowdowns in use. Even if your local admin forgets to update this list once in a while (like me), not all of them change all at once, so there will still be top-level DNSes to direct resolution requests. The proposed split Net would almost certainly still be using the DNS I just explained, so your local admin could just drop the IP addresses of a couple more top-level ('root') DNSes into the local DNS configs, and hostnames get resolved as normal.

Jetwash. Utter jetwash. There isn't a damned thing they can do unless they confiscate each and every piece of net.capable hardware and software out there and replace them with specially constructed units and programmes. We all know how long it takes to reverse engineer stuff and produce things that lack the hardwired restrictions (just ask Jon Johansen). It won't make a lick of difference.

Holy cats.. this guy built a mech, and he's put it up on eBay. You can check out the listing here.

We found out what's been up with our link to the outside world lately. Thank Verizon for screwing everything up.

It should be noted by the reader that there are at least three streets with our building number in the apartment complex. It should also be noted that the Verizon work order (Verizon owns the fibre and copper to the buildings; Covad is in charge of the copper heading to each individual apartment and from the apartment complex's wiring nexus to each building) was for our building number only, and not building number and street name.

After getting home and getting down to some old-school phreaking action with Hasufin and the Covad guy while I borrowed the fox side of the Covad guy's fox and hound line tracer in a futile attempt to figure out which pairs were supposed to go to a) our building and b) our apartment, we came to the conclusion that Verizon turned on the pair going to the wrong building. We were unable to get into the other buildings to test this hypothesis and perhaps make a wild stab at fixing things ourselves, so we were forced to give up for the night.

Oh, and to make things worse, out of six hundred pairs in the wiring closet, only six were tagged (i.e., labelled). One percent were labelled.

Sickening. I've worked in computer data centres that complex, and every last cable was labelled at both ends.

The Verizon "Fix it, you morons!" order went out around 1900 EDT tonight. Covad won't be able to come out to check their work for another week.

Dammit. No phone, no DSL, no Voice-over-IP. Time to figure out where in the hell I put my hand-held 2 meter ham radio, throw in some batteries, and see if I can find a phone patch around here.

I've been in one of those pissed off, get out of my way and let me get stuff done modes in the past few days. After Lyssa and I got home from Home Depot tonight, where I finally got copies of the keys to our apartment made, I popped open the access panel behind the shower and turned the water pressure down a few notches so that the rest of the bathroom wouldn't get soaked. This seems to have done the trick, as evidenced by the shower I took earlier tonight. The maintenance guy finally showed up and worked on the drains some, but we need a new shower head, which he didn't have on hand. It's been ordered.

I tell you.. this move has been one fuckup after another.


Three of the four remaining bookshelves are up and almost stocked with books. Hasufin brought over Proteus and Eris last night. There's food in the larder and the fridge and Lyssa and I are going to put more stuff away tonight. Maintenance hasn't come to fix the drains in the bathroom yet after repeated calling. Lyssa's probably going to walk to the rental office today to talk to someone about maybe getting that taken care of. Covad's dragging its feet on hooking up our commline, too. I connected a phone to a jack last night and got dead air; Speakeasy's gone to bat for us with Covad to hook things up before the 18th of July.

It's simply a matter of connecting a pair of wires to a pair of terminals in the punchdown box in the basement. I could do that in about thirty seconds, but that'd be illegal. Life isn't fair.

Last night Lyssa and I went out to dinner at Arby's for more tasty junk food (as tasty as the turkey wrap was, I could make it at home for significantly less than the price of a tank of gas in toto) and a shopping trip to get essentials, which we had to leave behind in College Park.

Was Microsoft considering purchasing Claria, spyware pain-in-the-ass? Maybe. The beta version of their anti-spyware software listed the recommended reaction to the presence of Claria as 'ignore' for a while. They also refused comment for a period of time, long enough for a lot of folks to get hot under the collar.

Now the default reaction is 'quarantine'.

An interesting report's come out: One of the side effects of the drug pramipexole, used to treat Parkinson's Disease, is compulsive gambling. The drug is useful for treating the degenerative brain disorder, no two ways about it, but some of the subjects using the drug were losing anywhere from $2.5kus to $200kus total during the six month trial period.

I sense a plot seed there.

The gifts of the Spice are health and long life - the spice tumeric, not melange, though. Tumeric, a component of curry, may have potent anti-cancer properties. Specifically, the pigment curcumin, has been shown to be effective treating several forms of cancer, including colon, brease, and pancreatic. The inspiration of this research appears to have been that cancer is ten times less likely to occur among the people of the Indian subcontinent.

The dates for the next Hackers On Planet Earth conference have been announced! HOPE 6 will take place on 21, 22, and 23 July, 2006 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in downtown New York City.