Thursday, August 31, 2006

mmm... sling...

I put one of these together this morning, and I must say that it's pretty damn cool...

Of course, it kind of helps that I'm a big DIY lover, but who couldn't appreciate such a complex compendium of nylon webbing and sling locks???

(note: once you put it on; spend some time playing around with it. At first it looks damn complex, but after you get the hang of it; it's still damn complex, but you know how to use it)

I think slings are important, as it's not always viable for you to carry your rifle in your hands in a SHTF type situation; especially when you'd have to put it down to do something else or use your hands (as most are wont to do...)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Add speech to your server

As all coders everywhere all the time say; "Why code it, when someone else already did?!"

Yes, normally adding speech to a server is a long, drawn out process. Not to mention the fact that they normally suck pretty hard... Enter AT&T Labs! (head over there; the demo is pretty fun to play with!)

They (or Wizzard) seem to have developed an engine that works rather well. Sadly, they think that you should have to pay money to use their impressive engine, no matter how limited the use. Normally, this would cause you to go back to something like festival for your text-to-speech needs, but not this time...

AT&T was kind enough to provide a demo of their service that allows you up to 300 characters of text, and offers to host the speech wav file for 5 minutes. This is more than enough for us...

We simply need to take web input, forward it off to AT&T's page, and when it replies with the file, download the file so it's hosted locally, and link to it on the cgi script's reply page...

The following code is supposed to be a CGI script. It will accept input from a page that sends the script one variable and one value for that variable. (Of course all of that is easily changed)

Even if you only know a bit of perl you shouldn't have a tough time understanding the code, otherwise, increase your coding skill by 2 points...

print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";

my @rray=split('=', $ENV{QUERY_STRING}); 2> /dev/null|grep wav`;
if(`curl -d "voice=crystal&txt=@rray[1]&downloadButton=DOWNLOAD" 2> /dev/null|grep wav`=~/href=".+\/speech\/(.+)"/i){
`wget -O "/var/www/html/dump/$filename" "$filename"`;

print "<bgsound src=\"../dump/$filename\">";

As with all my other scripts, modularity is the name of the game. This is why I didn't use Perl's download function, and used linux tools to process some of the input. Besides; why write the code when someone else has already written it!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Recap of today...

Today I pretty much hung out with my dad for most of the day, then went to see Idlewild. Good day. As a bonus, my girlfriend made some brownies!
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Please note the milk accompaniment. Brownies without milk, is like beef jerky without pineapple juice. (you've never tried it?!)

Here's the brownies about 20 seconds later.
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My dad was kind enough to bring along his good friend Jack...
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The picture fails to relate the sheer size of this bottle...

So I've provided something for scale:
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Please direct your attention to the dinosaur at the bottom of the picture. Yes, this enormous Cretaceous behemoth is dwarfed by the immense size of this bottle of Jack Daniels.

With an idea of the size of that bottle, please allow me to convey to you the size of Ava, our house rabbit...

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Yes, she's really that big.

It's a little-known fact that these nuclear rabbits used to rule over the dinosaurs with an iron fist. Sadly, archeological have mistaken the remains of these immense once rulers of the Earth, and so their secret fades with history...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Re-zeroing and some "active" shooting

I've been extending my AR research, and have found some useful information that I'd like very much to put into practice. Mainly tips on handling, proper zeroing for carbines, tips on troubleshooting, and more.

The only problem is, the nearest range that will allow me to shoot a rifle is just far enough away to be an inconvenience, and charges more than I'd be willing to pay to spend an hour or two fiddling with my AR. So, my baby was developing a case of closet fever...

So I decided to let her stretch her legs a bit!

I'm going to be going up to the Victorville quarry on Saturday morning (only time I can go and not have to bother with traffic) so I can do all those lovely things I wanted to do.

I found this site with tons of AR info, here. Including how to make some of your own reactive targets, the improved battlesight zero, and plenty more. Lots of how to articles, and plenty of pictures for those who need them! So, I'll be constructing some reactive targets, and zeroing my rifle at 50 yards for uber-carbine-ability.

I didn't invite anyone else along as I knew I was planning on doing some drilling with the AR and the XD, and didn't want another soul around to worry about. But it strikes me that I may want to reconsider... The desert isn't the best area to be without someone to get help, but I think I'll be OK.

If I don't come back; sack a 'yote for me...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Heroic bleeding

From War On Guns.

'Hero' turns her attention to gun control
WARNING; Do not read this article if you dislike seeing people refusing to learn from an important lesson about life.

She gets SO CLOSE to figuring it out! It's like watching a monkey trying to put the round peg in the round hole; he'll beat it against the square holes for a few minutes, and when he finally puts it in the right hole and you feel happy for his success; he removes it from the hole, and begins beating himself in the head with it. HE JUST DOESN'T FUCKING GET IT. STOP TRYING.

Klein said her American Red Cross training helped her instinctively know what to do when she was confronted and shot by the gunman.

...bleed? No, seriously; what fucking help did taking a deep breath do, besides prepare your soul's evacuation? FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! Don't lay back and accept your fate! Even if you can't fight for your own life, fight for the life of your unborn child! I'm disgusted.

How and why Haq "was able to legally acquire two semi-automatic weapons in our state is still a very disturbing mystery to me," she said.

Maybe it's a "very disturbing mystery" to me why people think that ANY LAWS will stop law-breakers... But hey, living in a fantasy world where everyone's your friend, and everyone wishes everyone else the best works out OK sometimes... I guess; unless you're bleeding to death from a slit throat in your own driveway. (which, incidentally, would be a bad time to learn that lesson...)

She urged employers around the region to take advantage of free- and low-cost workplace safety training programs.

Now, THIS I gotta see...
Touchy, feely, balding, instructor in hemp sandals: "Ok, so, if a crazed gunman enters your workplace, try to reason with him."
Employee: "Reason with him? But didn't you just said he was crazed?"
Hippy McHempSandals: "Well, just because someone appears to be crazed doesn't mean that we can't try to understand him."
Concerned employee: "But-- Umm, ok, how should we do that?"
Hippy: "Let him know that you understand his anger and that --"
Cross instructor: "That's not funny."
Me: "You're god-damned right that wasn't funny! What was funny was the part where you tried to reason with him."

He said Klein likely remembered the training program's four Cs: check the scene for safety; call 911; care for the injured; and remain calm.

Sounds like good tips if you've just arrived at the scene, and the gunman is gone. But what tips did she have for preventing the murder of her coworkers as she watched helplessly? What? Huh? Nothing? Oh...

Despite her strong composure during press appearances, Klein said she is taking life day by day.

Congratulations! You've taken the first step! You've realized that you're life IS important, and that it could be taken from you at any time! Here's your token, good work! Now, on to lesson two, taking action to protect life from those with disregard for it. What's that? Gun control?! Give me that token back...

While there, they met with former President Clinton to discuss gun control and safety, issues his foundation supports.


They proudly showed the photo to reporters Thursday at a press conference "Best to you and your child," Clinton wrote on the back of the picture frame.

Wow. Just wow. You know, that photo came very close to being signed "My condolences on your loss." A grand bit of help either one would have done to stop this tragedy.

"I know these people, which makes it so much harder," she said. "It also makes it so much more rewarding when I see us all rise to the occasion and heal with bravery and integrity."

Clearly, she believes that the best revenge is living well. Maybe she should tell that to her dead coworkers. "Hey, you crazed gunman intent on killing everyone you can; after you shoot all these innocent people, those of us who survive are going to all get together and heal with bravery and integrity! THEN what are you going to do!?" *BANG*

This kind of crap frustrates me to no end.

If she sat down and actually THOUGHT about the situation for more than 30 seconds, she'd realize that her current baby, and her unborn child rely on HER AND ONLY HER for their protection. She FAILED THEM.

She failed to adequately protect her life, and the lives of those she loves. And who was there to stop that piece of trash from almost killing her? The police? Some security guard? Happy thoughts? NOBODY.

She doesn't realize that the exact same thing could happen to her tomorrow, and the outcome would be the same (or worse) because SHE failed to take precautions!

Maybe she SHOULD get shot in the arm again. Then after it heals, she can be shot again. Then again, and again, and again; until she figures it out!
Note: existingthing in no way supports the repeated shooting of someone to help them learn an important lesson because he understands that some people are proud of their inability to change the way they think.

Frustrated with the article, I went straight to the horse's mouth, and had a fake interview with this hero; here's the fake transcript:

Me: First, of all, I want to commend you on your bravery.
Hero: Thank you, when I saw that man shooting all those people, and turn the gun towards me, I just knew that I had to do something. That's when my ninja-like Red Cross training kicked in, and I performed a triple flip towards the gunman, and took a deep breath in his face.
M: Excuse me, I get a little choked up when I hear you tell it like that. What was going through you mind?
H: Well, I was totally in charge of the situation. I got a little concerned when he shot me, and took me hostage, but I just remembered my training, and took another deep breath.
M: Incredible... And from a pregnant mother no less.
H: Yes. When I was lying on the floor bleeding, I could almost hear my unborn child calling on me to protect him by taking more deep breaths, and staying calm.
M: Unbelievable. Now, when did you get the idea to call 911?
H: Well, I remembered from my crisis training that calling 911 causes a SWAT team to be magically teleported into the room, heal all wounds, and revive the dead, so I knew I had to do it. Apparently, though some mix-up, they weren't able to do any of those things.
M: How terrible. Now, that you're out of that life threatening situation, how do you feel when returning to work?
H: Much safer. You see, they've installed a camera at the door, and a no trespassing sign.
M: Uh... I... see...
H: Yeah, I just wish that we had that before this incident happened. Then he would have thought twice about shooting people with the intention of giving himself up to make a political statement! Because then we'd have his picture seconds before he began!
M: *looks around nervously* Erm... So what are you up to now???
H: Well, I've taken measures to protect my family from this kind of violence.
M: How empowered of you; you've picked up a gun?
H: What?! NO! Guns cause violence; I read it in a book!
M: Oh! My apologies. You've hired a security firm for your family?
H: Don't be ridiculous!
M: Um, you've put 911 on "memory 1" to save the time of dialing one digit?
H: I already had done that, but my cell phone didn't get any reception there.
M: You'll have to forgive me, I'm not sure of other ways to protect your family from this kind of violence... Some kind of voodoo protection spell?
H: Now you're just being silly. It's really obvious when you think about it.
M: Forgive me.
H: It's fine; now, what did this man use to inflict so much violence?
M: Ah! A gun! You've bought a number of bullet proof (resistant!!!) vests!
H: No! How did he GET the gun?
M: Ah! He got it legally! You wish for stronger gun control laws!
H: Now, you've got it! If he couldn't legally get that gun, this never would have happened!
M: Brilliant. Now, what would you do if he had gotten the gun illegally?
H: I'd be fighting for a ban on illegal gun purchases.
M: ... To make them illegal?
H: Yes. Now, you should know that I'm not stopping there! I'm fighting for a law that says that if you plan to shoot someone, you are legally required, by law, to call the police on yourself.
M: ... But-- It's already illegal to shoot people.
H: Yes, but this would make sure the police know about it.
M: But, what he did is against the law; he violated the law.
H: Yes, but it would be illegal for him to not call the police. He'd have to do it!
M: Erm... *ahem* So!.. er... no talk about getting any kind of security at your workplace?
H: Don't be silly! Who would shoot up a Jewish Center?
M: *stunned silence*... Naveed Afzal Haq?
H: Allegedly!
M: *stunned silence* Yes... of course... So, how do you think this experience would have been different if an ex-military coworker was legally carrying a gun at the time of the shooting?
H: Well! I think the answer is obvious! We'd all be dead! Everyone knows guns can only be used to kill people, so a coworker would have no reason to bring a gun, except to go on a shooting spree!
M: What if she was carrying it to protect her office and herself from others like Haq?
H: First, I resent the idea of you implying that a crazed gun-owning coworker would be a woman. But, what are the chances something like what happened would happen???
M: So, what would your course of action be if the gunman used a knife instead?
H: Ban knives.
M: A hammer?
H: Ban Hammers.
M: A brick?
H: Ban bricks.
M: ...A... uh... kicking?
H: Ban fee-- Ah! Almost got me; ban shoes.
M: *I open my mouth but no words come out*
H: ... I couldn't help but notice... You're wearing shoes...
M: Well, that's all the time we have for today! I'll let you have the final word.
H: Remember people; just because it happened to me doesn't mean it'll happen to you.
M: *nodding slowly* ... what are you basing that on?
H: Cognitive dissonance.
M: Terrific!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

erm... hmmm.. er- yeah.

If I were a NetHack monster, I would be a floating eye. I see and sense absolutely everything that happens around me. I just don't do very much about it.
Which NetHack Monster Are You?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Birdy Nam Nam's Phone Game 4

Yikes. Just yikes...

On my way home on Friday, I made a quick stop Turners to pick up their weekend ad, and take a quick look around. I checked the ammo prices and hit the gun counter.

There was a middle-aged guy heavily sunned skin, tough hands and seriously toned (muscularly) arms in the process of buying a gun. "A working man," I thought to myself. He turned slightly to reveal a "Got work?" shirt with an X through a Canadian flag, "A working union man." I corrected myself.

When asked if he had any restraining orders against him he answered negatively, and added, "See, the thing about that question was that you don't always know if someone had a restraining order against you."

I then did something I only do in three places; attempted to strike up a conversation with a stranger. (the three places are; a gun shop, the range, and Defcon. Places where I feel I'm with like-minded people.) I turned to the gentleman and said, "What's worse is that if someone is after YOU, they can file a restraining order against you, which will require you to disarm before any judge sees it." (I head it a few places, and thought it to be true but haven't been able to confirmed it, so don't hold me to it!) (btw; bonus points to anyone who can find what I couldn't) The clerk excused himself to the back room to get some paperwork. The guy turned to me with a surprised look;

"So you're telling me that someone who wants me dead could file a restraining order against ME; and make me disarm???"
"Yes; that is my understanding."
"So you're telling ME that; hang on--"
He then picked up his wallet from the counter and started digging around in it. He produced a small wad of papers folded into a 2"x3" square, and bound by a rubber band.
"You're telling me..." He unbound the bundle, and a collection of folded magazine and newspaper clippings spilled onto the counter. "...that if..." He picked up a magazine clipping and unfolded it to reveal several highlighted lines, and pointed to a name in the highlighted portion, "...this guy, [insert Italian name here], from the [insert Italian last name here] mob could file a restraining order against ME, and make ME give up my gun?!"
"...That is my understanding." I said with what was probably the first deer-in-the-headlights look I'd worn in years.
"Hang on!" he proclaimed to everyone and no one as he returned to his clippings.

He then went through the exact same conversation, no less than three times, interchanging different highlighted Italian names from different news clippings. This is why I said [insert Italian name here], by the end of this exchange I had had more Italian names thrown at me than I'd probably heard in a year. As he went on, I stopped listening and began to notice that his hands were shaking slightly, which showed to me that he was getting severely agitated. I noticed his left eye, which, in accordance with every cliche you've ever heard, was twitching like someone just poured sand into it. I began to realize that this fellow wasn't just telling me something he knew, he was SHOWING me, with information that he saw fit to carry on his person at all times.

By this time people at the counter were taking baby steps away from our friend here; even the clerk who was about to return was standing just on the other side of the doorway to the back room, waiting. I still gave him the benefit of the doubt; sure, he was worked up about something serious; but that certainly doesn't make you a nut.

I spoke when he took a breath; "Look, if you've something to fear from these mobsters; file a restraining order against them. It will almost guarantee you a concealed carry permit. What county do you live in?"

He lifted his shirt to reveal a large vertical scar up the center of his stomach, and said that the [Italian name] family tried to poison him, so he definitely had something to fear from them. "That's why I need this gun! And if I can't get it here; I'll have to pick one up off the street." He said that he lived in Orange, but it didn't matter, because the [insert yet another Italian name here] family had [insert a number of random names here] on the take, and had their tentacles in all parts of the west coast; from the government and unions down to the DMV and the PTA. He then picked up two slides from his collection, held them to the light, and told me that they were pictures of him as a kid holding the Emmy from The Godfather. (Not sure why; to prove his mob affiliation?)

Let there be no doubt; by this time I wanted to get end this conversation, when he produced the final straw; who killed JFK. At this point I was ready to point behind him, and run away when he looked. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to because the clerk entered (tired of his nonsense, no doubt) and reclaimed his attention long enough for me to escape.

I'm going to have to remember to thank him later...

For the love of GOD!

PLEASE STOP sending me that idiotic 9/11 conspiracy thing!!!

HERE is all I have to say about it!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Untitled short story

This is something I did for some reason. My first short story, enjoy.

I turned off the sidewalk and into an alley as naturally as I could, and paid close attention to the sound of the puddle as its splash echoed lightly in the dark. Someone was following me. Or maybe no one was. When you've lived like me for long enough, and you've walked down the same alleys I have, you always think someone is following you. Just in case, I turned left into another alley, one between two apartment buildings; one I knew.

My legs itched with misgivings as I tried to maintain my casual gait and step pressure, while straining to focus on the sounds coming from the alley I left. I almost missed the soft sound of someone taking a jumping step over the puddle I crossed. I was being followed; and he was better than the others.

I began to talk larger strides with the same timing, making my way to the two doors at the far end of the alley. I got half way there before he figured it out, and started running. I started running, and knew I'd have more than enough time.

This was one of my escape alleys, I set up at least 10 whenever I get to a new city. They're pretty much alleys with multiple possible exit points, and one good hiding place. I usually have to make the hiding place myself, but as long as I find a place neglected enough, my setups remain undisturbed. This particular spot was a dead end with a pallet set up against a brick wall, and two doors. One door was a fire exit to some stores on the lower level; it lead into a hallway that branched off three or four times. The other door lead into the dark, unused laundry room in the basement of an apartment building, with steps going up to the first floor. This was where I had my hiding spot; a large intake vent facing the door that was mostly covered by one of the old dryers so it couldn't be pulled out. I had bent back the fittings on the vent so it could slide up and down freely, and glued screw heads to the corners. I had a latch inside in case someone wanted to tug on it, and an old black shirt I found that I could put over myself if someone tried to look inside.

I ran full speed to the first door, it creaked loudly as I threw it open, and continued past it. The heavy door only opened part of the way as it banged against some metal trash cans in the way, and creaked shut quickly with a slam. I dragged my jacket against the wall sporadically as I ran to sound like shoes scuffling over the wall, and opened the laundry door and threw myself in. I almost slipped on something gritty on the linoleum floor, and got into the vent with only the slightest scraping sound as I heard his steps echo into the alley. He may be good, but I'm better.

Now I wait. I never had a problem waiting before. I'd waited for hours in the past, but I didn't think I'd have to this time. I heard him slow to a stop. "Good bye, my friend." I thought to myself as I heard his steps retreating. I had decided to wait a bit longer just to be sure, when I heard his steps return.

He stepped twice and stopped for a while, then took another two steps and stopped again. I tried to imagine what he was doing stopping so frequently and so early in the alley. What was there to see? Was he trying to find the direction of my footprints? Was he tracking me like an animal?! I searched my memory from a few moments ago to remember what was on the ground of the alley; was there dirt or trash? Was it just asphalt? I chastised myself for jumping to conclusions, and forced myself to calm down as I heard his footsteps resume normally and stop. The fire exit door creaked slowly as he opened it, then clammored against the trash can and slowly creaked shut again. I was sure he was taking the bait when he opened it again, but faster this time. The door creaked open, hit the trash cans, and creaked shut with a slam. Now I was starting to worry. He was trying to copy the creak to see how fast I opened it. He was very good. Maybe the best I've had after me. I tried to remember how long the door was open when I threw it open on my way in when he opened the door again, but this time it sounded more like when I had opened it. The time between the first creak and the final slam could have been enough for me to get through, but I wasn't sure. I swallowed hard as he closed the door, and resumed his two step walk down the alley. By the diffused light through the two dirty alley windows I could see his dark figure cautiously step forward, and bend down. He was tracking me.

He stepped beyond the windows, and I returned to my imagination to determine what he was doing. A hard step; a slight creak. He was on the pallet, looking over the wall. Shit, I didn't make a creaking sound; but maybe it was quiet enough that he wouldn't have heard it. What if there were trash cans on the other side of the wall? Damnit, I'll never set up in another dead end like this. I heard more scuffling, which could either be him straining to look over the wall, or him actually going over the wall. Would I hear him land if he did? I couldn't remember if the ground was the same level it was on the other side. Did I even check?

I heard the sound of feet landing on pavement softly. Was it soft because he jumped over to the other side, or because he wanted me to think that? It was silent for some time, but I wasn't moving; I didn't want to take any chances with this one. I knew I was going to spend a few hours in here; if only for piece of mind.

I had sat silently for about 20 minutes. At first I stared intently at the doorknob, fearing that he was just moving slowly enough that I couldn't hear him, but now I was just trying to keep from cramping up. I was thinking about the black shirt, and whether or not it would withstand close scrutiny with a flashlight, when I heard the metal-on-metal grinding of the doorknob being slowly turned. My mind focused like a laser, and I carefully readied the shirt to cover me.

It was overcast outside, so the light that crept in was grey and dim. The door made a short, hesitant squeak as it opened half way. A man in a beanie with a pale face took a quick look through the opening, and pushed the door in all the way. He stood outside, holding the door open, and slowly scanned the dim room behind an odd pair of glasses.

His clothes were plain. Perfectly plain. The kind of plain you can only accomplish by spending days watching what people wear in the target area, and hours finding used clothes to match. Rookies usually wear a trench coat or a gun or an expensive watch; something slight that distinguishes them. He wore no such wear. Everything about his attire made him no one in particular. He was a professional; but a professional what?

His hard eyes and shrewd expression were the only thing that identified him as a professional, though I'm sure he rarely wore them when on the hunt. His stance appeared to be somewhat casual, but his dark eyes flickered back and forth beneath his hard features. Then I realized; my trail was cold. He tried to trick me out from hiding by being silent, but it was obvious to me now that this was one of his final efforts. I wondered what made him initially excuse this room?

I watched his gaze soften as it shifted to the stairs. I sighed with relief as he sighed angrily, and stepped into the room in the direction of the stairs, when the linoleum crunched under him. I instantly recalled almost slipping on something on the floor, and held my breath as he looked down at the floor. He produced a flashlight from his pocket and shone it on the floor. His glancing eyes squinted, and he kneeled. I gripped the shirt.

He jerked his head up in my direction, eyes hard again, and shone the flashlight on the wall. I raised the shirt, and held my breath.

He took a step and stopped. The faint light danced through the vent against the shirt, he was shining it back and forth on the wall looking for someplace I could have hidden, then it came to rest on the vent and the shirt. He was going to find me. The light turned off and I brought the shirt down slightly, he was standing right in front of the vent. Should I give up? No. I won't be found. I'll never be found. *BAM* My startled jump inside the vent was masked by the metal ringing the vent made as it was kicked. The latch held. I saw his shoes go into an wide, sideways stance. The shrill sound of the metal feet of the dryer dragging along the concrete made me grit my teeth as the groaning echoed in the vent. I heard him groan, and knew it was heavy, but then the movement stopped abruptly. They hadn't spread the linoleum under the dryer; lazy fucks. He stood facing the vent again, and I heard his flashlight click on, and saw him begin to kneel. I drew the shirt up; this was it.

I was horified as light poured through the shirt, illuminating my cramped, sad frame, and blinding me. I slammed my eyes shut, and awaited my judgement. I guess 11 years was a good run, but now I was going to have to go back, and face the past; my past. I wondered if he worked for the people who wanted to save me, or the people who wanted to screw me. But quickly cast the thought out; it didn't make a difference. I was found.

But still; there was silence. Then the light began to move across the shirt. I was lit up through the shirt, but he still couldn't see me! The light bounced around the edges of the shirt, and then clicked off as he stood up. "Sheise!" exclaimed a German accent, accompanied by a hard sigh. He began walking to the door, and said with no detectable accent, "I will find him. He IS good; but I'm better!"

Do you have a hall pass?!

I think we need to address an issue here, because some folks don't seem to understand this basic line of logic...

If I was a school principal, and I had authority over students, would I have authority over everyone else too? No. Because my rules apply only to children attending my school. If I were to tell someone on the street to go to detention, they probably wouldn't go, and I shouldn't expect them to. Because my rules do not apply to them.

So now, lets bring this into the "real" world.

If I'm a legislator, and I have authority over all the law-abiding citizens in my area, would I have authority over all the law breaking ones too? No. Because my rules only apply to people who obey my rules. If I were to tell a law breaker what the law demands of him, he probably wouldn't do it, (here's the tricky part) yet I expect him to. Even though my rules don't apply to him.

Keep making laws to stop the people breaking the law. If you throw enough legislation at a criminal, something's eventually going to stick, right? Right?! (Riiiiiiight...)

History in the making

Oh my gosh! I had the most brilliant idea!

See, legislators have been trying to stop crime by writing legislation that makes weapons harder or to legally obtain, but they're not thinking big enough;

Ban crime!

If banning guns stops gun violence, then just ban crime!

Wow! I've just solved one of America's biggest problems! Time for a Coke... I've earned it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mod your pocket!

Love the convenience of personal organizers, but hate having to carry them around? Looking for a small, portable notepad? Want to have reference material, games, or calendars at your fingertips? Want it to be customized to your specifications? What?! You want it for free too?! geez!

Then check out PocketMod.

PocketMod is a disposable, 8 page, 4" x 2.75" organizer that you customize, print, fold, and carry.

I carried one of these for some time, and due to recent need, renewed my interest in this great little notepad.

You can set the pages using templates for lines, tables, story boards, music sheets, weekly, daily, or monthly calendars, shopping lists, expenses table, conversions, tip tables, morse code reference, sudoku, emergency contact information and a bit more.

It's perfect for me, since I hate lugging around organizers, and love the idea that it's totally disposable.

It's seriously cool, check it out.

Post Defcon

The speakers were good with few exceptions, but I don't want to bore anyone with the details...

The capture the flag room projected the score board, a movie, and random videos; here are a few favorites of the random videos...

Insane rejected commercials

Crazy German on safe secks

Voltron "battles" the bad guy

And the insane scratching below...
Also included music videos from Aphix Twin, Bjork, Daft Punk, and many others. All were quality.

While at the Con you are to retain a beneficial fear of all things electronic. All forms of internet access, ATMs, kiosks, phones, nose-hair trimmers, etc. This means that if you wish to obtain cash, you are strongly encouraged to do so elsewhere. Any internet activity involving any form of password should be conducted over an encrypted tunnel to somewhere safe.
In the chill out area, they have what they call The Wall of Sheep Which is a server which passively collects wireless internet traffic, and picks out all the usernames and passwords transmitted. People's logins for their banking websites, myspace accounts, webmail, etc. are all picked up and displayed on a projector for all to see (though passwords only showed the first three characters). The people running the wall were actively monitoring some sessions, and posted the picture of the people logging into their myspace accounts.

There were also plenty of locks of different types you could try your hand at picking, and I spent about two hours (total) picking locks and BSing with other lock picking enthusiasts.

When I searched for networks on my laptop in our room at Circus Circus (what? I didn't buy the tickets!) I found an open access point which, once connected to, redirected you to a pay-us-$11-per-day-per-computer-for-24-hours-of-internet-access webpage. I clicked around and found that you could sign up for the access by credit card, through the TV, or by supplying your last name and room number (Yes, really.) Since the router was not letting me access any other parts of the network, I couldn't find an authenticated user to pretend to be, I began picking through the page to find out how to script an attack against it. I told the friend I came with what I was doing, and a visitor (non-hacker) wondered why I didn't simply pay the $11 dollars. To which I replied, "We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons" It's just $11, it's not like it's that much. Exactly, if it's not that much, and I shouldn't mind paying it; then they shouldn't mind me NOT paying it. So I got some input on common last names, and went to town... Unfortunately there was apparently an issue with my script's success testing (which I blame entirely on lack of sleep!) which caused it to continue trying even if it was successful. So, I extend my apologies to anyone who attended Circus Circus last Saturday who had the last name Smith with a room number in the low 12000's; Rodriguez in the low 10000's; Franklin in the low 14000's; or Gray in the low 17000's. I understand there may have been a possibility that you could have incurred a charge for internet access you did not specifically request. But hey; it's just $11... though, thinking about the hackers I saw staying at the same casino, and the fact that this system was so easily defeated; I imagine a whole hell of a lot of people with common names were probably charged for internet access... I'd wager there were even enough for Circus Circus to simply NOT charge anyone for the internet access they supposedly purchased... (I feel a bit better) :-]

PS: thanks to Hack a day for the free T-shirt!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


This year the Black and White Ball was spread to two nights, the Black Ball, and the White Ball. We arrived at the Black ball around 11, and enjoyed some alright house music until about 3:30 when we crashed. The next night we arrived in time to catch DJ Jackalope who blew us away... for about 10 (awesome)minutes, before she had to leave for three other gigs. Some other DJ hopped up there, and was pretty good, but was missing something. THEN another guy hopped up there (DJ Shim) and started out kicking ass, and did not stop for an hour. It was truly epic, and I was sure to let him know that when his set was done. Next up was Regenerator, a slightly formulaic (but still good) Rammstein-ish group, complete with the obligatory eye candy raver/punker/gogo/whatever chick. (too cliche to be enjoyable)

As the set started I noticed the goons beginning to spread themselves out against the walls as the house lights came up, but Regenerator continued, and the goons were kind enough to let them finish their song (it rocked) before interrupting. My friend pointed to the corner and said that Priest was here. Priest is the head of Defcon security and head goon, if he was there, there were problems.

Priest stopped the music after the song and took the stage. He began by talking about our reputation in this town; essensially, we were notorious. This was met with applause which he quelled by announcing that all precincts of SWAT were on full alert at our presence. This drew a more concerned response...

Apparently some underaged gentlemen, (very possibly of hacker descent) became inebriated and decided to test the aerodynamics of redbull cans by tossing them out their high level hotel room window. Unfortunately, a janitor on the ground level did not know that he was taking part in this experiment (near miss). This explained the police involvement.

He explained that the head of security for the Riviera had been losing sleep (since about 5 weeks prior) at the thought of having to deal with the hacker convention his hotel had agreed to host. (It should be noted that his worry was compounded by the 5 inch thick binder of Defcon attendees' past transgressions against bystanders, the hosting hotel, and entire city. Priest quoted him as saying he was "prepared for the second coming." (A little overdramatic to me, but I haven't read that file...) The head of Riviera security received phone calls approximately every hour from different hotel directors who conveyed similar queries; specifically "Is the hotel still standing???" (ahem, erm, yes...)

Additionally, people had been voluntarily evacuating four floors down (we were on the top floor penthouse) due to the loud music. Also, it seems, we scare the crap out of all the non-attendees in the building (like seriously), and this is bad for business.

All this aside, Priest said that the head of security was amazed that we'd been so well behaved for the majority of the con (one day left), and the he would support an invitation for our return next year. This was good news for us, as we started off on the wrong foot (some fire marshal inspection issues), and judging by the casino patrons' reactions to us, we were not very welcome.

But Priest was sure to warn us that we could "fuck that up in a heartbeat" and warned that Vegas simply doesn't much like us; so we needed to be on our best behavior to ensure we had a place to Con in the future.

A few people gave him crap, but he threw it back at them. He's a good guy, and we respected what he was trying to do for us, and readily (though reluctantly) left the Ball at 2.

I mean, if we manage to get kicked out of Las Vegas; who the fuck is going to take us?!


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How traceable is your internet presence?

With all the recent nonsense regarding the delivery of threats over the internet, people must be wondering if it could happen to them.

Alright, moving on...

I'm going to hit on some of the information required to locate you in the non-intarweb world, and what you can do to minimize this risk. So, read up!

Your IP address
To those who are not familiar, your IP address is similar to your regular address. It shows where you're coming from, and can provide fuzzy information about your physical location. Your IP address is tied to your point of internet presence, so if you connect from home your IP will be different from when you connect from work. Your IP address can be tracked to a general geographical location (usually, down to the city), but can not provide any more information than that.

Determining IP addresses
Obtaining your IP address would be the first step of someone looking for you. Finding your address can be difficult, as it requires direct interaction between you and the searcher, or the searcher's hardware. The searcher may use a direct-connect instant messaging program to find your IP (should your IM name be public or attainable), or try to match a connection to his server or website with a comment or message left by you. The most effective way of determining your IP address is by use of a web bug. Web bugs are not special software or hardware, but a different way of using existing software. The searcher will create a webpage or post an image that no one else will know about, they will then send you a link to this secret image or page, and when you click on the link to the page, or load the image, the server logs will show the exact IP that requested the page/image that only you should know about. Unfortunately, with so many e-mail applications processing HTML no matter what the user prefers (really, it's just outlook), you may not know that you've been bugged. The searcher may send you an e-mail that contains a 1x1 pixel image in the corner, your mail program will request this image from the searcher's server, and you'll never see it, or know it has happened. Some mail programs have the ability to disable external links to images, you should activate this setting if you don't have html turned off. Picking up your IP address will only be part of the battle, but it's one that the searcher will likely win, unless you are particularly sneaky.

This is the scary one; this is where someone actually gets your street address. Fortunately, this rarely happens (if you're even remotely careful). If the person seeking you, is doing it to puruse legal action against you, your personal information can be subpoenaed (jesus, that's spelled strangely) from your ISP. You may do some searches to see how protective your ISP is of your personal information, some will give it up at the mere threat of legal action, while others will demand proper documentation be sent through the proper channels. Legal action aside, from only the IP address, someone can easily find your general location. The your state will always be found, your general location within the state will likely be found (IE: North West New Mexico) (my example is notably unfortunate, as a quick search on google maps notes only two cities in that particular region), and your city may or may not be found. My advice? Don't move to North Western New Mexico! (it should also be noted that that particular bit of advice applies to much more than avoiding geolocation)

Protecting your IP
The easiest way to protect your IP address is not to use it! There are a number of free web proxies that can afford you a pretty good level of anonymity. You may also remotely connect to a PC at another location (work, grandma's house, etc.) and do your protected work from there. Though the easiest and probably best, is simply to use someone else's network. This could be your local coffee shop, or your neighbor's unsecured wireless connection (existingthing does not endorse the activity of illegally establishing a connection to, and using the bandwidth of any networking hardware that does not belong to the reader, and strongly encourages his readers to do as he says, and not as he does).

Protecting your name
If you mention your full name (assuming your name isn't John Smith, or something), and own a home, your address is as good as found (with a little legwork). Most people are unaware of this. Renting is a little bit tougher to find, but not impossible. Your best bet is to adopt an alias. While some folks find use of an alias childish, they probably haven't had someone coming after them (or they just don't know about it yet!). Try not to use any names you use elsewhere on the internet. I have about 10 different names, and try to keep them as separate as possible. If you go to great lengths to keep your blog personal information free, but talk about visiting a board, and use a similar name on that board; you need to sanitize the personal information from that board too. If you have a notable internet presence, it can become hard to keep track of what can lead to where. You may be leaving puzzle pieces around the internet, that someone is trying to put together. My choice of name was kind of a lark; I wished I could have changed it in the past, but have grown rather attached to it. When I got an e-mail talking about how professional looking my blog was (wha?!), but wondering why I had to hide behind an alias, my answer was simple. If I used my real name it would take someone about two seconds to find a pretty good clue to find more information about me, and another 8 seconds to find out where to find me. (even less if my work e-mail was known!) (after some work, I was able to make my picture a bit harder to find :)
When doing expensive penetration tests (or just when I get bored or hit a wall with a cheap one) I'll find employee names and do internet searches for the presence of that person elsewhere on the internet. Sometimes I find information that leads me to an address, sometimes I find information that leads me to a password.

Protecting your e-mail address
This can become similar to protecting your name when you have one main address that you use a lot. That address may be getting around. If a google search doesn't bring anything up, think of what you may be able to get with a few bucks and an e-mail to a company that gathers demographics. Post to any newsgroups? Chances are that your e-mail address is out there somewhere. I'd recommend establishing a free e-mail address for just public purposes and using it that way. Just because your e-mail address isn't public information on a board you frequent doesn't mean it's unattainable. Use the public one as often as possible. When it fills up with spam and junk, make a new one with an obscure name, and point the sites using the old one to the new one.

Protecting your dealings
This is an obscure one, but keep in mind that businesses or persons with whom you have dealings may not be as disciplined about keeping their lips zipped about your personal information. If I were to mention the shop that I purchased my upper receiver from, someone may be able to call pretending to be me to "confirm" shipping information for future order. Unfortunately, people are notably susceptible to social engineering, so refrain from mentioning specifics when talking about people or businesses with which you deal.

Don't think it can't happen to you!
If you think you're small enough that you're flying below the radar, or haven't made any enemies on-line, you're probably wrong. People are fucking nuts. You have NO idea if some innocent comment sent some wack job on the far side of the net off the deep end. When dealing with these kinds of people, you don't usually worry about the folks who say they're going to kill you; you worry about the kind who are passively seeking you, the ones you never know about. You may be laughing, and thinking that anyone who posts their address or personal information is a fool for doing so, and deserves whatever he or she gets. Well, the chances are that you've let slip some telling information about yourself somewhere on the internet, and even if it seemed harmless at the time; a dedicated stalker (for lack of a better word) will put these pieces together, and may come up with enough information to find something really dangerous. And if you are someone in the public eye, who can not avoid your information being made public? Erm... Get a gun. I'm sure that even the most tight-assed police agencies would be happy to furnish you with a CCW once you receive some e-death threats (though you may have to open a case with the FBI) (which is advisable if you're receiving threats, even if you aren't doing it just for the CCW)

There's little reason for some personal information to be made public on the internet, and more reason to do just the opposite. Think before you post.

Just because you aren't paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you... *knock knock knock*