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January 25, 2011

Free library at your fingertips

Every time I take a long trip I try to bring a book along to read on the airplane just to pass the time.  With the advent of e-readers like the Kindle, you can bring a huge library of books with you with just a few ounces added to your carry-on bag.  One resource that I have found to be amazing is the library at Project Gutenberg.  You can download books that are now in the public domain and read them in various electronic formats.  The price cannot be beaten (free) and the amount of books available increase every day.  They provide the books in file formats that work on the iPad, Kindle, Nook, OLPC and various other reader units as well as regular computers.


As a plus, these books are in the format the author originally published them, not edited or censored.




January 23, 2011

What keeps me up nights

There are a lot of great tools for scanning your enterprise network infrastructure or to perform penetration testing, but some are getting fairly scary.  The PWNIE EXPRESS, which is an applicance based on the SheevaPlug, allows you to drop a unit on someone's private network to perform any number of functions from legitimate penetration testing, to real world hacking.  Physically this unit looks like a larger USB phone charger and can be plugged directly into the target's ethernet network.  If the network is using simple MAC based network authentication, this unit can spoof the MAC.  If you use higher level port authentication, it wouldn't be very difficult to build a simple passive ethernet receive tap with some scrap CAT5 and a few keystone jacks. 

All of that could have been built into a PC based implementation, but the scary thing is that there are versions of this with a cellular data back end as well as the ability to capture traffic and save it to a SD card.  So someone could plug in a unit like this behind a network printer, capture all the web traffic to and from a specific host.  If they didn't care about coming back to retrieve it later, something like this could be easily installed above a false ceiling or below a raised floor and controlled via a cellular connection.    



What is the big picture here?  If you have important data that you do not want stolen, do be interested in who has access to your physical location and when people have access (not just people with tech jobs, but janitors, temps and other visitors).  You should also start thinking about using encryption internally as well as externally.  Do you ever do audits of your physical space and know what each piece of equipment does?  


January 19, 2011

Back to Basics

I really enjoy photography.  For me it isn't about high end DSLRs and absolute precision, it is really just a really relaxing diversion and hobby.  There is something pretty magical about capturing a moment in time.  Over the last few years I have been taking snapshots with cheap digital point and shoot cameras, but recently I have been dabbling in film again.  When I was a freshman in college, I took a basic black and white photography class where I learned how to shoot properly with a 35mm SLR and learned darkroom skills like developing film, making and mounting prints.  That opened my eyes, as before this, my photography consisted of the family 110 camera and 35mm/APS disposables.

Over the past few years, I would run a roll of film through my trusty Pentax K1000, but not on a regular basis.  With a camera like that, you have a decent amount of control of shutter speed, aperture, focus and have a built in light meter that helps you determine your exposure based on the film speed.  It is far from automatic, but you have the ability to get the image you want based on those variables.

Enter the toy camera.  I had heard of Holga and Diana cameras in the past, but didn't start playing with one until recently.  For the uninitiated, these are cameras of shoddy quality that are manufactured in China out of injection molded plastic.  On the most part, these use plastic lenses instead of glass and are very simple in construction.  It turns out that the same shoddy design can make for some incredible pictures (as well as many horrible ones).  They operate as rangefinders, so you don't see through the same lens that the picture is taken through, so it is easy to leave the lens cap on (as well as bad parallax issues at close range).  On the Holga you have a limited amount of focus settings: 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet, and infinity as well as one as one shutter speed: 1/100th of a second.  Due to the lack of control, it takes a good manipulation of environment and the proper knowledge of film speed to get the effects you want.  The plastic lens lends itself to soft images that seem somewhat otherworldly.

With that lack of control, you really have to start thinking about how you will set up a shot.  You have to mentally focus on all the variables involved in capturing that moment.  I feel more comfortable with a camera like a SLR because you can see what you are focusing on and know that your exposure is going to be correct for your condition.  But sometimes when you move outside your comfort zone, you can take some excellent photos.  Even if your photos don't come out the way that you wanted, it is relaxing to focus on something and connect with it through a crappy plastic box.  Crappy cameras are not just for hipsters trying to be ironic or retro.  The most important thing is to have fun.

Here are a few pictures I've taken with this camera:




January 18, 2011

Blog Submission

For people that write a personal blog that isn't hosted on a large platform like Blogger or Wordpress, sometimes you want to ping the search engines and blog aggregators to let the world know that you have a new post.  Google has some basic functions, and other sites such as pingoat and ping-o-matic give you increased reach.  One of the newer players in this game is a site simply called googleping


(Picture courtesy of Tio Mobius on Flickr)


January 13, 2011

How to unstream a stream

Sometimes you are places where you can't be connected to the internet, or where your bandwidth is too small to get streaming media.  In the search for easily accessible entertaining video files to play for my son on long car trips, I re-discovered SaveVid.  This site allows you to download Youtube content (or content from Dailymotion, Metacafe, Break, Veoh, MySpace, Revver, Blip.tv, WeGame, Tangle, 5min, Game Trailers, LiveVideo.com, RuTube, FaceBook, Vimeo, current, Funny Or Die, eHow, Megavideo), so you can play it offline in a media player.  The DVD player that we use in our car happens to work with MP4 format video, but this would work well with a number of other target devices such as iPods, iPhones, iPads, PSPs and Zunes.  Oh, and it is free.  So, for that price you get a great deal, as there is no drive by malware, pop-ups or annoying stuff on that site.  On a side note, you can also see what everyone else is downloading.


There are a lot of other packages that can do way more, but it is hard to beat the price of free.


January 12, 2011

Mark your calendars

The Internet Society has declared that June 8, 2011 will be "World IPv6 Day".


(Image courtesy of Brajeshwar Oinam on Flickr)

From their site:

"On 8 June, 2011, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight Networks will be amongst some of the major organisations that will offer their content over IPv6 for a 24-hour "test drive". The goal of the Test Drive Day is to motivate organizations across the industry – Internet service providers, hardware makers, operating system vendors and web companies – to prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out."

I know, this is so incredibly exciting.  I guess it takes this kind of event to get people to get IPv6 connectivity and put AAAA records on their DNS server.  I'm not sure that they will be able to outshine the press coverage of World Oceans Day, the Chemistry and Druggists Awards, or the famous Sugarcreek 5 Mile Trail Run



January 02, 2011


Over the new year I have been thinking about the increasing complexity of our life in the last year.  I think that 2011 will ratchet this to an all new level.  I am incredibly thankful for the people in my every day life that support our family in one way or another.

Miles holding a dimple ball - Cross Processed

 So, thanks are in order to all of our extended support network of family, friends, and co-workers.  I hope 2011 is a great year for everyone and I hope that we can contribute just as much back into the lives of others.