Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

The definitive guide to ‘high tea’ etymology (note that in a few months, the correct link will be here).

A Preposterous Preponderance of Prominent PGP Ponderings

Let me start this out by killing any speculation this post might raise: no, this has nothing to do with work. I am not doing anything related to GMail right now, nor do I know anyone working on GMail. Anything I write here should in no way be affiliated with Google.

Having said that, here are my thoughts: after talking to sneaselcouth about it recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about PGP (a public key encryption system for email). It seems like the vast majority of email users would love to have PGP figure more prominently in their lives. If it were used moderately, we could eliminate phishing scams, and if it were used by almost everyone, we could eliminate spam.

Read on for more information, and my thoughts on how to start such a system →

Argh! All I need is a working stove…

I’ve lived in this apartment for 2.5 weeks. This entire time, my stove has not worked (I’ve been making a lot of soups and other microwavable stuff). The gas seems to be flowing to it, but the pilot lights are out. I’ve tried to relight them. The building manager also tried to relight them, and then called the apartment management company to get a repairperson out here. They said someone would fix this on Friday, August 18. That didn’t happen, but I then went up to Mountain View for a week so I couldn’t follow up more quickly. In the meantime, my building manager claims to have called the main office at least 5 times and personally visited the people in charge of repairs, trying to get my stove repaired (and apparently to get something like this fixed in another tenant’s apartment). This morning, I went to the main office to ask about this, and was told that it would be fixed by this evening. Well, it’s still not fixed. This evening, I read California Civil Code Section 1941.1 and a couple related sections, and it looks like I could take the Roberts Management Companies to small claims court if this goes on much longer. I don’t want to bother with that, but it’s something I’m beginning to look in to.

This apartment has a fantastic location, it’s huge, and except for the stove everything is very well kept up: when I moved in, it had new paint (required by law) and brand new carpet. The entire building is now in the process of being re-stuccoed and the main gate and intercom system are being upgraded. It is wonderful, except that for the life of me I can’t seem to get a working stove. How frustrating! I’d gladly trade the new stucco, intercom, and carpet for a working pilot light.

This evening I met up with sneaselcouth, and we walked around San Francisco. We saw the wharfs and Ghiradelli Square (sp?), and talked almost nonstop for 3 hours (and I’m fairly confident we could have gone for another 3 hours before running out of new topics). It was wonderful to see her again; she seems to be doing quite well. In the meantime, I need to go to bed so I can be up tomorrow morning. Ciao!

Your Feedback Wanted!

I’m thinking about splitting my blog into two distinct parts: one would have personal stuff in it (bridge results, movie reviews, the wacky hijinks of my friends and me), and one would be all the impersonal stuff (world news, civil liberties stuff, politics). What are your thoughts? Would people prefer that I split this content up? If so, would you subscribe to one, the other, or both? I’m also toying with the idea of finally getting a domain name for my webserver, and putting the newsy blog on it (and then offering things like an RSS feed). Would other people prefer that significantly more than the current setup? The split in blogs may occur soon, though the move to my server wouldn’t happen for months.


I’m now up in northern California for a week of orientation before I start my real job. The hotel I’m in is amazingly swanky—in my room I have a Rubik’s Cube, a deck of cards, a yoyo, and an etch-a-sketch, not to mention a bowl of cherries, a couch, and some other fancy stuff. The main office here really is as amazing as most of the stories make it seem. I unfortunately am not allowed say much of anything about what I’ll be doing or what it’s like to be in the company, what with their culture of secrecy and all. My first day wasn’t exactly like the way dhalps got his security clearance for his internship in Washington, but it was similar enough to conjure up a comparison. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of new and exciting stuff for me to learn, but unless something really unusual happens, I’m not going to comment about work much more here. Sorry!

Quote of the Day

Renter’s insurance saleslady: If your stuff is worth $5,000 and $1,000 of it gets stolen, that’s already a third of your property.

This line of reasoning was supposed to convince me that I need $30,000 of coverage for my $5,000 of stuff.

DEFCON summary

Coming back from DEFCON, I felt like Jack, coming down the beanstalk to announce that “there are giants in the sky! There are big, tall, terrible* giants in the sky!” I was introduced to a whole new world with new ways to look at everything. I had no idea most of that stuff was out there and accessible to me. Everyone seemed more knowledgable about every single topic, but it was exhilerating to see it all.

I met up with Matt, Dan, John, Eric, and two guys I hadn’t met (Chris and Andrew) in Vegas, and we all shared a room intended for 4 people. The first day, everything was delayed by 2 hours because the fire marshall forgot to approve our convention, or something. After that, however, there were talks running continuously from 10am until midnight (yes, you had to miss some talks if you wanted to eat meals). Although most of the stuff was about computer security (hex editors, phishing, the EFF, RFID spoofing, database rootkits, etc) there was a surprising amount of (non-computer) security stuff there too (lock picking, safe cracking, neurolinguistic programming, etc). There was also some (non-security) computer hacking stuff: hard drive repair, steganography, fuzzing, extreme programming, autonomous robotic BB-guns, the list goes on. Late at night, we went to the Hacker Jeopardy sessions. I’m now inclined to say that all game shows would be more interesting if they had strippers.

Here are some more highlights:

  • Dan Kaminsky (who is the hacker version of Judiciary Pag), gave an amazing talk about…um…everything. SSL, security problems with DNS, visual bindiffs, security problems with online banking. He’s incredibly relaxed, yet brilliant. His work is amazing, and he drinks beer throughout the talk. In fact, at the end during the question and answer part, he gave me a beer for suggesting the visual bindiff can be used to find duplications in your code! Usually I don’t like beer, but this one kind of tasted like victory. \/\/00T!
  • I got to talk to and shake hands with Cindy Cohn, director of the EFF. This was pretty special for me, because they’re one of the greatest organizations I can think of.
  • Lots of people were doing crazy hacking in the hotel: pay phones went missing. One of the elevators I rode in had the emergency phone open, and some guy karaoking Sinatra tunes out of it at us. Someone even managed to hack the Hacker Jeopardy display system during the game itself.
  • In theory, I learned how to pick locks (both normal picking and bump picking) at the Lockpicking Villiage. The weird thing was that they had a lockpicking contest, and apparently an 11 year old girl did rather well in it.
  • They have a Spot The Fed contest every year, where you try to find out which other conference-goers work for federal agencies (DoJ, FBI, USPS, Marines, Washington DC meter maids… any federal employee will do). This was pretty fun to see, but one story will always stick out: a woman brought a man up on stage and claimed he was a fed. She said she knew this because the night before, they hooked up, got drunk, had sex, and while he was asleep she went through his stuff and found his badge.
  • There were several games of a unique form of capture the flag going on: on the network was a computer with several security problems purposely put into it. The object of the game was for teams to hack into the box and then keep everyone else out. Not exciting to watch (just a bunch of people busily typing on their laptops), but a fun concept anyway.
  • I saw the wall of sheep, which is a computer with a packet sniffer and data mining system on it. It searched the network for unencrypted usernames and passwords, and then projected them up on the wall. A good reminder of how insecure most websites are.

So, DEFCON wasn’t as good as AAAI was, but I still had a great time and got my money’s worth. I’m not yet sure if I’ll be back next year, but I’m glad I went once. As the EFF panel mentioned, it’s really the only conference where the invited speakers can show up for the earliest talks at 10:00, unshaven, hung over, and still get a warm reception.

*Terrible: extreme in extent or degree; intense

Apartment update

OK. Despite the overwhelming amount of stuff I still need to find homes for, I really like my new apartment. It is by far the nicest/biggest one I looked at, and I think it would be a good deal if I were renting it for $100/mo more than I am. People should stop on by sometime and hang out.

My apartment building is the one in the center, the leftmost of the two with long skinny courtyards in the middle. I’m in the northernmost corner of the building, with a balcony that looks out onto the alley.

On a related note, IKEA is absolutely amazing. Last week, the only furniture I owned was a bookshelf, a lamp, and a chair. I now have a fully furnished apartment, and most of the furniture even matches! It’s pretty sweet.

Everyone here seems quite friendly, though I haven’t met many people yet. Oddly enough, about half the tenants in this building seem to have names that begin with J (I’ve met Joanne, Jacky, Jay, Julie, J’nai, Noor, Niko, Belaji, Gary, Beatrice, Susan, and Kathleen. I’m not sure how many other people live here).

Santa Monica is beautiful and sunny most of the time, which is pretty cool. I’m also within walking distance of a bunch of stores and restaurants and the bank. It’s a wonderful apartment in a lovely place. I really can’t ask for more.

Later today, I will hopefully have a summary of DEFCON, but I should get back to cleaning/unpacking.

I made it!

DEFCON was awesome. I am now sitting in my new apartment, with my new cell phone (check Facebook for these numbers, or email me). A longer update shall ensue tomorrow.