Making an oscilloscope kit suck less.

A couple of jobs ago I worked in an electronics lab that had all the toys - from tool cabinets as tall as I am to anti-static gear all over the place (and ruthlessly enforced rules for making use of it) to signal analyzers and oscilloscopes. Unfortunately, my job (and the project) were such that I couldn't just go messing around in there to teach myself to use the diagnostic instruments. If the 'scopes weren't in use at the time then they'd been set up specifically for the hardware we were working on. This means that messing around with the settings …

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New decade, new TARDIS.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the worst year in a long, long while was capped off by discovering that my car had been wrecked and towed without my knowing about it. I finally got the pictures I took at the junkyard up for the horror and edification of all and sundry. Long story short, my car was indeed totalled, undrivable, time for an insurance payout. As usual, Captain Corner Case strikes again and everything was way the hell more difficult than it ever really needed to be. Where should I start?

I went around to my neighbors …

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Reconditioning a touch tone dialer.

One of my holiday break hobby projects, a palate cleanser if you will, was reconditioning a classic Radio Shack touch tone dialer I'd picked up on eBay somewhen around Thanksgiving. They're retrotech to be sure, dating back to the days when the touch-tone dialing that we take for granted these days (so much so that we don't even hear them anymore because we use mobile phones) was actually pretty rare.

Note: A lot of the following history of telephony has been edited to reflect only the salient points for this article. Telephony experts out there will probably rankle a bit …

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Putting Faraday shielding fabric to the test.

Last year at Thotcon the presenters were given what were purported to be faraday shielded backpacks - backpacks manufactured with fabric woven out of very fine conductive wires that are said to reflect radio frequency signals inside and outside.  The idea is that if you have a cellphone and you put it inside the bag, you could be sure that the phone was not talking to any cell towers so it would be harder to track the person carrying the phone, as well as preventing any malware that may have been installed from phoning home.  So the reasoning goes, even if …

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Montage: Restoring a C64 and 1541 drive.

A couple of days back I posted a writeup of how I restored my old Commodore 64, from taking it apart to putting it back together and firing it up for the first time in over 30 years.  As I am wont to do, I periodically took photographs of my progress.  Well, here they are.  I didn't do a full how-to because folks more experienced than I have already done so (that's how I learned how to do this in the first place).  I'll put more stuff online as I make more progress.  Enjoy.

Adventures in retrocomputing: Restoring a vintage Commodore 64.

You've probably been wondering where I've been since my last update in the latter half of April.  I mean, where would I reasonably go right now when most of the country is locked down and only a relatively small number of people with more memes running inside their heads than conscious processes are running around with mall ninja gear and weapons (some props, most unfortunately not) doing their damndest to cut the population by infecting everyone around them with covid-19?  Well.. when I haven't been working (as one does) I've been reconditioning my old Commodore-64 computer, the first computer I …

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Still on lockdown.

All of March and most of February were spent in lockdown in the Bay Area.  I've no idea what's still open or not because the last time I was able to go anywhere outside of the house was two weeks ago.  The walk I'd planned for last weekend was cancelled on account of rain, and all things considered I'd rather not risk lowering my immune system a couple of points with cold and damp if I can help it.  Plans for the next 12 to 18 months have been unilaterally cancelled.  I've already sold my Thotcon 0x0b badge even though …

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Pictures from my trip to San Diego, summer 2019.ev

Last summer my day job sent me down to San Diego, CA to attend the Linux Security Summit and report back.  Unfortunately just about all of the content there intersected in no way, shape, or form with anything we're working on so it was largely a dog wash.  I probably won't attend again because, balancing the cost against the information gotten it just wasn't worth it.  I did, however, take a couple of engineers from Oracle for their first good sushi dinner ever, took an amphibious boat tour of San Diego Bay, and hiked along the waterfront for a couple …

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Cult of the Dead Cow book signing, 22 June 2019.

If you were part of the hacker scene in the 1980's or 90's (or you played a certain tradition in Mage: The Ascension around that time) you undoubtedly have come across the weird, wonderful, bewildering, and occasionally insightful antics of The Cult of the Dead Cow, a crew of hackers originally based out of Texas who were well known for their periodic text file releases.  What isn't well known until very recently is that many cDc alumni have gone on to do great things, from starting one of the first security companies to ascending to C-level status at some well …

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