January 2008 Archives

All the ladies!

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Hats off to you, Nash and Ash. Wait, it was Nadia and Ashley, lol. To answer your question Nadia, it's really quite simple : make sure people are informed about what is going on. Yes, it may appear to happen only in far far away countries (though Ash lives in the USA, so that should give you some idea how irrelevant geographical locations are in cases like this) but as you point out yourself : why wouldn't or couldn't it happen here?

Yes, the data protection regulations in most European countries are tighter and more secure opposed to those in the USA - for now. However, they are sliding as well and each precedent or case that remains unexposed or unchallenged chews off a tiny piece of the privacy and safeguards we have. Take a good look at the map displayed here and draw the conclusions yourself : map of surveillance countries around the world.

When is it too late? Is it when the thought police knocks on your door because you've unconsciously dreamed something that was forbidden? What if you didn't even know it was forbidden because no one could tell you that? Because the information itself was "classified"? Each and every one of us should draw the line where they feel comfortable, however, that is not how it works. Regulations and laws are often reactionary and based upon worst case scenarios that are all to often not even real threats but fabrications of a lobby that sees excellent opportunities to advance and positions themselves.

The best defense is information. Only people that are informed about what is going on and what the repercussions of their choices can be can make correct decisions. Getting fed dumbed down information with a twist depending on who's feeding you the info doesn't count. Right now the monitoring lobby biggest claim is : "if you have nothing to hide, what's the problem?" It is a very powerful and aggressive statement, even if it appears to be mellow and harmless. However, if you try answering that question, you'll feel that you are forced to defend yourself, forced to explain why you don't want to be monitored 24/7, and while doing so you sense that you may not be so innocent or such a good patriot as those asking you that question would like.

Next time I see you, I'll bring my copy of "Chatter" along so you can borrow and read it and you'll understand a bit better how essential these questions and choices actually are. The change in climate is not the only thing endangering the quality of life of our species.

To end this - much longer than anticipated entry - I'll leave you all with a statement that may symbolize the importance of electronic snooping and signal intelligence. Ask anyone who's home has been burglarized what's worse : "the invasion of privacy and their home", or "the actual material loss" incurred. Once you have figured that out for yourself, you will see the larger picture and why informing people is so important.

I actually only wanted to post how I feel today, in the form of some lyrics, but I got carried away, lol.

Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without me
I said this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without me

(without me - eminem)

I won't give up ;-)

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I'm sure some of my readers may have seen the "I Refuse" rant I wrote a couple of days ago. Not totally unexpected no one bothered to comment on it, either because they didn't actually read it, didn't care, or didn't get why exactly this kind of stuff is important. Or maybe I was just ranting on and on boring everyone out of their skull.

Luckily, Bruce Schneier has a way with words and has a very good essay up about the topic. Give it a try people : Security vs. Privacy.

I refuse

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to be scared. I refuse to be monitored. I demand that people and governments respect my privacy. Yes, I'm going to sound the alarm about privacy once again. Why? because it is so damn important!

First I'd like to point you all to a recent court decision that basically states that a "cease and desist" letter can be copyrighted. (slashdot article here : Court Says You Can Copyright a Cease-And-Desist Letter) For those of you not in the know, a cease and desist letter basically is used to shut down internet operations that are often critical of those serving the letter. Attorneys, law firms and the works love to send out these notices on behalf of their customers. In response, the party receiving the letter often published it online to show the world what the bullies were up to. Now a judge - with his head up his ass I assume - has ruled that the letter itself can be copyrighted, and thus not published without the sender agreeing to it. Sorry, but if I ever receive a letter that has a possible impact on my presence here, I'll damn well publish it for all to see. If that means I'd be breaking the law, so be it. Another case they can take me to court over. Don't let them get away with things like this, people! Did you know that is has become dangerous to actually report about insecure systems, publish reports or be a whistle blower? If we don't protect the people that aim to disclose information for the greater good, where does that leave us?

Secondly - and this may be even more worrying though not unsurprising to some - is the fact that the German police and government has actively been developing trojans to capture and decrypt Skype voice calls and communications. The documents relating to this matter are online at wikileaks (Skype and the Bavarian trojan in the middle) for everyone to see. Those who want to argue that the intelligence community of a country needs to adapt to the developments that occur in secure communication, are of course right. However, if planting trojans on suspect computers is the level they want to - or need to - lower themselves to, I have little confidence in their overall compliance with regulation and laws when it comes to privacy. I'll suggest you all to pick up a copy of "Chatter", or ask me to borrow my copy of the book and see where all this leads.

Bruce Schneier has said it before : refuse to be terrorized. Not only do I refuse to be terrorized, I also refuse to be monitored.

Cute bunnies and skunks

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It's been a slow day so far. I've returned home about an hour ago after doing some shopping, mainly for food. The bill was close to 60 Euro, but I've got all the food I need for the next couple of days. I've got rice on the stove and once it's done cooking I'll let it cool off so I can make a couple of sushi rolls later tonight. Some of the rolls will be eaten today, the rest will go into the fridge for tomorrow. I won't be taking sushi to work this time... Instead I got myself some bread and cheese, which will be easier to eat while working.

I also got some laundry done, changed Tai's litter box, emptied the dishwasher and filled it up again. Taking into account that I only went to bed around 6h30 AM and slept till eleven, it seems I got more done than what could reasonably be expected, hehe.

For those wondering why I went to bed that late (or early, depending on how you look at it), I blame that on Second Life and one very cute bunny that was interested in some petting and having a roll in the hay with a cute skunk. If you are not into SL, that probably sounds impossible, dirty, unbelievable or immoral. I you are immersed in SL, it may sound the same, but it sure was fun ;-)

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. The same rule applies for Second Life - no pictures!

I think the time has come to wake everyone up again about the importance of securing your computer. You do lock your doors when leaving your house or parking your car, and your valuables are stored in a vault somewhere, right? The time that you used your computer just to type out a letter or play some game is long gone. Your computer will contain traces of your identity, may have bank account information stored on it, your passwords and ID for the online stock market, e-mail account information, you name it. If you never thought about it, now is the time to start doing so.

Why do bring up all this? Because I've got an excellent story to share with you all, and while the specifics are beyond me and I never actually thought about it, the story in itself hardly comes as a surprise. Thanks for the scoop, Dad. I probably would have missed it otherwise (too many news feeds to follow).

According to these articles (article 1, article 2), researchers have found a way to print directly to your network connected printer, by including some malicious code to a web page. Yes, obviously that would allow spammers to deliver spam directly to your printer (aaargh!) but also could lead to your confidential data being printed on some printer halfway across the world. And nothing you would be able to do about it.

Well, as long as XSS (aka Cross Site Scripting) exploits and vulnerabilities exist, you can bet your money that they'll be (ab)used sooner rather than later. While browser developers scramble to close the holes, there is something you can do : turn off your printer and only turn it on when you actually need it. Simple as that.

While that would partially restrict the impact of this exploit, the underlying cause remains. Another option - if you use Firefox, that is - is to install the NoScript browser addon. It was specifically coded to prevent and catch XSS exploits. It's not the prince on the white horse, nor the savior of the universe, but the less options the bad guys get to manipulate your data and your browser sessions, the harder it'll be to succeed.

Note : I specifically point to this firefox addon because I tend to use and love it. If there are similar scripts or extensions for IE, Opera, Safari or whatever browser you may be using, please feel free to let me know. I'll happily include a link in this post.

Grin

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It's just past 4AM and I'm due to wake up at 5AM. Of course, the simple fact that I'm typing out this entry means that I am already awake. I went to bed relatively early, only to come to the conclusion that I was not falling asleep as I expected - I just kept turning around, hoping that I'd find my place and snooze off. I didn't, so after 4 hours of being annoyed at not falling asleep, I got back out of bed. I don't doubt that by the time I actually have to leave for work, I'll be drifting off into a state of unconsciousness.

Down for maintenance

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This blog may become unavailable, unreachable or unreadable over the next few hours. We will be performing maintenance on the front and back end. A notice will be made in this post when we're doing banging on things.

Update : Back end maintenance 75% completed. Now cleaning up remainders. Starting front end maintenance next.

Update 2 : Maintenance completed. Additional identity verification options have been enabled. You can now also comment using your OpenID, LiveJournal or Vox identity.

Update 3 : Thunderbirds are go! If you experience any issues, please mail me about it.

Update 4 (7 hours later) : I managed to ban my own IP address for all of the domains on the server, grin. I should have noticed when I wasn't able to access some of my other domains, but as the blog here was fine, I figured it was a hiccup. When I wasn't able to access even more sites hosted on the same machine, I knew something was amiss. Luckily I had a good clue what it could be so I removed the incorrect entry and regained access.

Even though it was fixed easily, I wonder where and when I managed to ban myself. A new UI is always a bit tricky at first, but I'd guess I would have noticed such an action. Unless... one of the automated security scripts kicked in and banned me. Almost certain that's what happened. Now I only need to figure out which one, and why.

Catching up on movies

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Yesterday I got home from work and after only a couple of hours of sleep I went to relax in the sauna. Very good, as always. I love sitting in a jacuzzi while you see dark clouds drift above and feel wind blowing around your head. The weather was simply excellent for a sauna visit : windy but far from cold.

After relaxing for a couple of hours, it was off to Joco's place to have spaghetti and a good time with the kids. A. has really picked up reading now and is surprisingly good at reading short texts. I was very impressed.

As I drove home, I decided to stop at the video store and pick up some movies. Not that I don't have enough movies at home, but I figured it would be a nice opportunity to catch up some movies I missed earlier. I grabbed a copy of "Reno 911", "I, Robot" and "Phone booth". I popped in Reno 911 expecting to have a good time watching it, but I was rather disappointed. Apart from a chuckle or two, the complete movie was boring as hell. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that kind of humor, who knows. (I think it was the movie, lol).

Later today I'll watch I, Robot and get back on that later. I way head off to the movies to see I Am Legend as well, haven't decided on that yet.

As I'm typing this out, Tai is sitting at the window, looking at the wind that's playing with leaves on the balcony. He's all excited and trying to chase leaves as they bounce against the window, but when I actually open it up so he can get out there and really get playful, he jumps right back in. Too windy, too noisy, too everything. Dumb cat ;-)

Start your engines!

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When I woke up this morning - well, late afternoon, but if I'm working night shifts, my mornings are your afternoons - I was pleasantly surprised. Not because there was a sexy cute female laying next to me in bed - I really have to work on that dream to reality converter - but because my body was hardly affected by my nightly walk.

About two weeks ago I had walked about 6 km and ended up feeling not all that well the day after, but last night I walked about double the distance and my muscles were just a little tense, nothing more. I hopped out of bed, waved my arms around for a minute to relax my shoulders and was ready to go another round. It has been quite a while since I did this kind of physical work, but underneath all the extra padding, my motor still seems capable to cope with it.

Tomorrow I'll be off to the sauna in the (early) afternoon, which will definitely help me relax even more and when we're done there, we're heading over to Joco's place to have some food and see the kids and wife. I'm looking forward to it already!

Pushing the envelope?

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I just attempted to run multiple Second Life viewers on the old machine, and while it was possible, I noticed two issues at hand : the system ran out of virtual memory within the first 10 minutes of operation, and CPU temperature went through the roof. While it normally sits in the low to mid 50's, it was now pushed up to 65 degrees Celsius, which can't be healthy for the machine.

I'll do another test on the new(er) DuoCore machine and will possibly start using that one as a dedicated Second Life machine. That one also has 1GB of RAM if I'm not mistaken, which would definitely make things faster as well. Off to switch machines and see what happens.

Hm, I just remember that I don't have a spare set of speakers for that machine. May pick one up later today if the results are good.

Update : Initial tests are good. The 1GB of RAM and a less ancient processor definitely help running multiple clients - I tested for up to three - at once. I also tried out the WindLight viewer, but was not all that impressed with it's performance. Land that was otherwise very smooth now appeared jagged and edged to me. And I'm not imagining it, as I do happen to know my own sim rather well. The skies were fabulous though, that I'll give you.

I Am Legend

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Well, maybe I am, maybe I'm not. It's not for me to decide - I'll leave that up to others.

Anyway, I'll be off to the movies in about 15 minutes as I've gotta go and install and configure a complete Vista system tomorrow at A's place. Two movies have made it to my shortlist so far : "I Am Legend" and "American Gangster".

With American Gangster being released earlier then I Am Legend, I probably go see that first one, before it disappears from the big screens again. I can still catch the other one later.

Ouchie

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Today I worked my first shift again in the function I originally got when I first arrived at my current place of employment. It must have been over two years - if not longer - since I actually operated back in the field, and my body is sending signals that can't be ignored : ow, this hurts!

Lol, I was expecting that much, and in a way I'm rather pleased. Some movement and physical labor will make me lose weight rapidly and it puts me back in touch with the basics. Knowledge that has been "parked" for that long takes a while to dig back up, but I'm confident that by the end of this month I shouldn't have trouble with any assigned task anymore.

The result of all this physical activity is that I came home and crashed for just over an hour, or so I thought. It was closer to two hours, and I only dragged myself out of bed because I needed to decide what I was going to do when it came down to food for the next couple of meals. Either get clothed and run over to the store to shop for things to prepare myself, order in, or order takeaway food.

Guess what? Takeaway it is! I've put in an order large enough to feed an entire school, lol. Trying to recall what exactly I ordered - don't order food when half asleep - I may have gone a bit too far, but it'll feed me for the next 4 or 5 meals. Off to the Chinese takeaway I go, and after watching the news and some TV while eating, I'll be back off to bed so I get some rest before I wake up at 4AM again.

A Green(er) Christmas?

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I don't really consider myself a Christmas lover. The religious - if any is still attributed to the happening - connection is totally lost on me, and while a Christmas tree with all those blinking lights definitely creates a nice and cozy atmosphere, I rarely bother going through the effort to put up a tree and decorate it. That being said, I always enjoy it when I go to places where people have gone through the ritual of selecting a tree, and getting all the decorations from the storage room they reside in 355 days of the year, gathering dust.

Christmas Lights are festive, they are meant to make people feel joyous and caring. But are they green as well? I definitely think that wasting a load of energy on lighting a tree when no one is around is a waste of... energy (you didn't see that one coming, did you?)

The time that a the lighting of the tree - or for some people a complete house - ate through your wallet can be gone however. Incandescent bulbs are still around and available, but really should be replaced with more energy conservative alternatives if you ask me. If you wanted a lot of light, you could go for Halogens but they are far from environmentally friendly and they emit not only a ton of light but also heat, and having them close to your tree is a recipe for disaster.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a much better choice when it comes to preserving energy, but their style doesn't really match the occasion, though I must say that they have become much more fashionable over the past years.

Nah, the best way to decorate your tree in a fitting way would be LED Christmas Lights. Light Emitting Diodes are low on energy, they emit hardly any heat and the size and versatility in use makes them a perfect fit to swirl them all over and under the ornaments. If you want to go all the way and create the brightest house on the block, with reindeer outside, Santa riding his sled and illuminated gifts all over the snowy garden, LED rope lights won't stifle your creativity, nor cripple your wallet.

A good start

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I started off the new year in quite a good and unselfish way I guess. As I was driving home, I took the exit off the highway and turned left onto the underpass to continue my way home. A car was sitting in the left lane, four indicators blinking to warn others for the hazard it was obviously causing. As I drove by, I noticed a woman grabbing something out of the trunk and thought not much else of it. As I continued my way home, I started thinking that maybe it would be wise to make a U-turn and see if I could lend a hand.

After all, the car was sitting in a zone that was hardly visible, it being in poor lighting conditions and in a turn. While the speed limit is only 50 km/h, most people ignore that and drive quite a bit faster, especially when traffic is low - as it was around this time of evening. At the first traffic lights I made a turn and headed back to assist. After parking my car a bit further on a parking zone, I grabbed my coat and safety jacket and crossed the road towards the woman, who by now had found her safety triangle and was standing near the bridge talking on her cellphone.

As I approached I heard her say "yeah, that's OK. There's already someone here to help. See you in a few". As she was finishing up her conversation, I grabbed the safety triangle out of her hands and went to put it up a couple of meters further to secure the area the best as possible for the time being. As I returned, I check what had happened. She clipped her front wheel on the curbstones after trying to avoid another driver that swerved out of his lane.

Her brother in law was already on the way to assist, but I decided that since I was there already we could start jacking up the car and replacing the front tire. While she grabbed a safety jacket too - I told her to walk back a couple of meters as I wasn't planning on getting splattered under a car by some driver that had missed our warning signs - I grabbed the spare and started working on the issue at hand. Unfortunately, there was no way to get the clipped wheel off the car as it had some kind of security lock on it, and the correct key was nowhere to be found in the car. As her brother in law arrived, I explained the problem we were having and they tried to fix it, but failed too. While they were working on the car I went over to signal other drivers into the middle lane.

To cut a long story short : they ended up driving the car a couple of meters further, off the road and parked it there so their dealer could provide them with the correct key the day after, so they could replace the wheel.

It took 45 minutes of my time, it was damn cold outside, yet I feel that I did the right thing. It was quite obvious that no one else was even thinking about pulling over to assist, or didn't realize the hazards of the situation present. What's 45 minutes in a lifetime when you can help someone else out or prevent more serious damage or loss of lives?

Yeah, I started off 2008 quite well... (pounds on chest)

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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