Monday, October 29, 2007

Only 2-3 Weeks from Cyberattack to Cannibalism?

So there's been an amusing thread over on the SCADA mailing list about the interdependencies of various critical infrastructure sectors
Fact is, Los Angeles, Chicago, SFO, Detroit, NYNJ, Boston, WaDC, etc. are two to three weeks away from cannibalism. Any large city will devolve into rioting and block warfare if the power stays off for longer than about 48 to 72 hours. As soon as the stored food is gone, people will die, or other people will kill and eat them.
Maybe Walt has recently read Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road or perhaps he is just tapping into that little voice inside all of us that wants to stock water, food, and ammunition in preparation for the "big one." I wonder if kids that are old enough to appreciate 9/11 have the same fears those of us who grew up during the cold war did?

How many rounds of .223 is enough for your Mini-14? How many plastic milk jugs full of rice will last you until food shows up on the shelves again? Can you ever prepare enough? As for myself, I put my faith in martial law and I have enough real problems (and real madness close at hand) rather than preparing these sorts of fantasies. But if you want to go there, definitely check out this amazingly haunting, spiritual, Pulitzer-prize winning book, which I read in nearly one sitting a few months back:
The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window. What is it? she said. He didnt answer. He went into the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the window glass. He dropped to one knee and raided the lever to stop the tub and then turned on the both taps as far as they would go. She was standing in the doorway in her nightwear, clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand. What is it? she said. What is happening?

I dont know.

Why are you talking a bath.

I'm not.
However, it is not what you think. You will not get a linear description of what happened that led the father and son to wander across a ash covered America of the future and encounter various characters out of Mad Max. But there is cannibalism. And infanticide. And it is definitely good read.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gutsy Gibbon on Thinkpad T-61: First Impressions

So I'm using the Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu 7.10) LiveCD on my Thinkpad right now and I'm quite impressed. I assume much of the stuff that didn't work was because it was a LiveCD? Not sure. In any case this is a significant jump over what I've got with Debian Etch

What worked?
  • Sound card
  • 1440x900 Resolution in X
  • Adobe Flash installation (after adjusting synaptic)
  • Intel 4965 Wireless Card with WPA Personal
  • Brightness Controls

What didn't work?
  • Sun Java5/Java6 Installation
  • Flash Installation
  • Multiple Displays weren't autodetected (not sure if Linux can even do this)
  • Fancy Desktop effects (who cares, since I'll probably install xfce anyway)
What sort of worked?
  • Suspend (on resume screen was really dim)
  • Volume controls (they showed up on the screen but it didn't impact XMMS)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I used to think the Internet was wive's tale

Yeah I think I've lost my mind from running one too many script to pull various firewall stats, generate .csv's, then create plots in Excel. (The great think about Ruby is that it makes you so productive that in the time you could use manage to get something working out of CPAN you could write right your own API in Ruby. And of course that is more fun, too.) So of course I think Gabe and Max's Internet thing is pretty hilarious. And I'm not sure why but I could watch this guy all day long.

Who cares about the iPhone/iTouch Web Apps

So this email for the iPhone Development Center just showed up in my Inbox and I'm not sure it was meant to placate folks that want an Open OSX "Mobile" platform, but I found it more infuriating:
  1. I don't want an iPhone, I want an iTouch. Expensive cell phones are for hip 20-somethings that don't have big dogs that eat cell phones (or destroy laptops) or kids that drop your cell phone in the bath tub.
  2. I want offline apps. I want console apps. I want GUI apps. I want apps that don't run in Safari.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Itouch and Google-Blogger Collusion

And I wondered why I was getting all those hits, but #2?


But I didn't Work All Weekend!

Although I did spend way too much time near Lincolnshire both days. And yeah my daughter's bangs have almost grown out after her "scissor work" during the summer.

Project Work and the Dreaded "Middle Third"

Whether it was doing security testing of [Cisco] products or commercial webapp assessments or conducting some sort of critical infrastructure security research -- the "middle third" was always the worst.

You are stuck between the initial thrilling period of a whole lot of learning and the final culmination of the project where you are wrapping up the deliverables or presenting them to a client -- or to the community. This middle phase is sheer drudgery. Nothing makes sense, everything is up in the air, and you wish you never started the project. But eventually but you will experience enough angst to be able to pull the project together and in the end it will have been all worth while.

And you will repeat the cycle all over again.

I have not yet figured out the curve yet for operational security work, responding to unplanned outages, or administering behind the scenes gear that folks only care about when it is breaking or broken. But it does not follow this pattern. Or if it does the curve is dramatically compressed (perhaps the bipolar cycling patterns of adults vs. children is analogous) so that the initial excitement of kicking off what you thought would be a minor upgrade and the terrifying spiral of unexpected events to the moment of relief when you are back on steady ground and you manage to scrape together some solution to the problem -- all in a matter of a few hours.

Unlike consulting or R&D work this "middle third" is where you find clarity, where you realize in quite concrete terms some of the information (or assumptions) you had was incorrect and you know you would do things differently next time. This is wear the real learning occurs, where mistakes become crystal clear, where things become concrete.

So, yeah its been a busy week and I had to pull another early-morning upgrade today. And I'm exhausted. And how many more weeks of Edens construction?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Best Vertical Case for 14.1" T-61?

I'm ashamed to say I'm a bit laptop bag snob, so finding a small, sturdy case for my T-61 is proving to be difficult due to its weird dimensions: 9 1/4 x 13 1/8 x 1 3/8 (my measurements, not the official one).

I have a crappy 15.4" Targus sleeve I use when putting it in the laptop compartment of my Boa XM but I want something small for only the laptop like the Booq PowerSleeve XS I have for my 12" PowerBook, when I don't need to carry a backpack.

So far the candidates are the McKlein S Series Transporter (Nylon) Trager Vertical Transporter, Higher Ground 14" Shuttle or the Tom Bihn Vertical Brain Cell (Size 4) or maybe the Booq Natrix SlimCase but that's probably bigger than I want. None of these are cheap, some I'm sure they are all good quality. I'd like to be able to fit the small power adapter somewhere. and have a decent shoulder strap.

Any experiences with these? Or anyone find the perfect case for their 14.1" T-61?

Update on iTouch Hacks

So I previously pondered the feasibility of running non-Apple/webapps on the iTouch (which I looked at again at the Northbrook Apple store last week, and I really like this little devices) and it looks iPhone hacking community is making progress:

Very late tonight (or early, depending on your timezone), we were able to decrypt the iPod Touch/iPhone 1.1.x ramdisks. We are proud to announce the md5 of the asr binary from the 1.1.1 iPhone image, as proof that we do indeed have access to it: 358bf0bd1f1024ed25fa69ced23dab90

As for the actual key, it's sure to pop up in the next few days, keep your eyes peeled.

It's been a long month with many distractions, but we are finally breathing a sigh of relief as we work towards the release our own iPod Touch jailbreak solution, as well as expediting the process of unbricking 1.1.1 phones that were renedered unable use their SIMs after running AnySIM on mobileOSX 1.0.2. Contrary to claims made by the so-called "elite" iPhone development group, we are indeed very dedicated to getting a free and workable solution out to the general public. At the very least, a baseband downgrader should be possible. We understand your frustration, and please don't think for a second that we've forgotten you.

We have been able to install many of the third-party iPhone applications working on the iPod Touch, and can confirm that Mail and Maps work great. Stay tuned for more info on how to add more Apple apps.

Here is the RSS Feed for the wiki so you can track progress..

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The point of my CIAG Research RIP Post?

I noticed from my web logs that some folks in Austin are looking for my blog entry on the demise of CIAG Research, where I used it work. Yeah, I pulled it down.

One reason was due to the Dark Reading article which I was shocked to see, since this story was hardly industry news. And nothing compared to the re-org's and layoffs at Cisco that occurred in 2001 during the "hundred year flood" (as John Chambers called it) and continued as various product lines and groups were shut down. And I heard there were quite a few other other teams that were impacted at the end of the FY, including a decent size product group in San Jose I had worked with.

Another reason I pulled down the post was is I think some readers may have missed the point. Although my comments within the content of the closing down of a group I had been part of, they were more on the sort of teams that I wanted to work in based on some hard-learned lessons. One of those is, watch out if you take cool jobs in groups that are out of whack with the overall company's mission. You shouldn't be surprised if it gets the axe. Hell, these days, even if you are are in a group that is properly aligned, you still might get re-orged or outsourced. We are in "get lean" Tom Peters world. Even your high paying security job can vanish before your eyes (of course you can get a new one, but that is not the point). Companies, teams, your own careers hav life cycles you need to be attuned to...
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
to quote The Second Coming (whether or not it applies)

Kulturkampf 2.0

Believe it or not, I'm actually glad that I had so little exposure to the Internet while I was in college. It was only my last year (in 1993, as a struggled to complete the inane requirements for teacher certification in Texas) that I ran across gopher, usenet, and lynx (that was what I would telnet up to in Kansas from my VAX account at Texas A&M, right?)

Most of my friends (including my soon to be wife) were grad students in the A&M English Department. Many were embroiled in debates about the Culture Wars of late 80s and early 90s. Critical theory, multiculturalism, Post-Modernism, Post-Colonial Literature, Foucault, Derrida, the Canon, the Body, The Border. Critical Pedagogy. The flattening of hierarchy, the collapse of high and low culture, the end of the authority, the decimation of institutions, the horrific lack of standards, decent into moral chaos, etc. ad nauseum.

This is what I was exposed to in my upper level English and History classes. This is what we debated and argued. I remember attending a speech Dinesh D'Souza who was denounced (yes, denounced in the Maoist sense) by several African-American students in the shrill terms as a racist. But as a white male, middle class, Liberal Arts major in at an majority engineering school (adding insult to injury the English department shared the same building with the business school, the horror!) who no clue what I wanted "to do" let alone "how to do it" -- I felt like a persecuted minority. Put off reality by going to grad school. In what? Apply for the that MFA program in creative writing? Could I get into the Iowa Writer's work shop. Probably not.

It all seems so trite now (ah, to return to the naivety of age 22, although I remain a reactionary still) as does an Interview with Andrew Keen (the author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture) spurred this nostalgic blog entry.

The review in Academic Commons was the most compelling and begins with:
Andrew Keen insists he is neither anti-technology nor anti-progress. Yet this veteran of the dot com era begins his recent book, The Cult of the Amateur (Doubleday/Currency, 2007), sounding much like a high-culture snob pooh-poohing the vulgar masses for having appropriated the Web as their own and, in the process, wreaking potential destruction on our economy, culture and values. Keen's polemic hints less at neo-Luddite dissent than at an underlying bitterness and resentment--at his own gullibility at having been so easily sucked into the Internet dream, and also at those who have taken the technology out of the hands of professionals like himself ("I almost became rich" [p. 11], he confesses in the beginning of the first chapter). Drawing on 19th-century evolutionary biologist T. H. Huxley's "infinite monkey theory," Keen fears what lies ahead when the masses are empowered with far-reaching technology. As the author describes it, Huxley's theorem asserts that if infinite monkeys are provided with infinite typewriters, one of these monkeys will eventually create a masterpiece. Keen updates and reverses the theorem, replacing monkeys with humans and typewriters with networked personal computers; and "instead of creating masterpieces, these millions and millions of exuberant monkeys--many with no more talent than our primate cousins--are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity" (pp. 2-3). By the end of the introduction, a reader would have just cause to feel a bit insulted

And definitely better than the one in the NY Times
Mr. Keen argues that “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising.” This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.”

Whether or not this depiction is true (and there certainly have been critiques of his facts) which is different question from whether or not this development (some of which is obviously the case) is a bad thing -- this critique seems strangely naive, ignorant of history and recent philosophy.

How many times in past cultural changes/wars have we heard these same arguments?

However it is curious, that the most interesting technological trends (and many such as Free/Open Source software, the ultimate amateur endeavor) of the day seem to be an ultimate fulfillment the prophecies of the postmodern theory I was reading 15 years ago.

If only I had known.

Can't Sleep? Read about Scaling Web Apps

If, you too, happened to have watched Knocked Up tonight and can't sleep (and no I haven't been reading the "baby books" but I probably should be), you might try reading this fairly vacuous article/discussion called Why most large-scale Web Sites are not written in Java but it lead me to High Scalability which actually pretty interesting and reminded me of the cool Joyeunt Prezo from RailsConf I ran into a while back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gated Communities Work in San Antonio (and Iraq)

If you are looking for some positive news (well, sort of) from Iraq Jamie Tarabay story was interesting this afternoon. Funny how the same Iraqi's that were complaining about the walls going up now don't want them to open the gates. Reminded me of the The Dominion where our course I couldn't afford to live on a teacher's salary. The closest I got was my students and quite a few weekends at Camp Bullis.