Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology



Orwell, George: Social Classes (1984)

George Orwell's diagram of the social classes from 1984.

If you happen upon this blog and are utterly clueless about the two acronyms comprising the title of this post, I strongly urge you to click the ribbon in the upper right corner of your browser window to learn more about these potentially disastrous pieces of flotsam...er...legislation.

The United States Congress cannot legislate - or more specifically, abridge our - Freedom of Speech; it has been guaranteed through our Constitution's First Amendment (1791).

Why is it, then, that such abuses of power take place so often, and with so little intervention on the part of the People?

Because, I think, the vast majority of the People are Proles (sheep).

Please do not be a Prole.

In Germany, in the 1930's, more people were as Proles. This did not lead to good things. Let not history repeat itself (yet again).


Warpstock 2011: Prepping for the event, dinner, and more

A busy pre-event day.

The hotel Wi-Fi (DoubleTree Suites Raleigh-Duram) seems adequate. The service is apparently provided via Wayport, and we have an event promotional code which gets us free access. Authentication is via captive portal, and there appears to be enough signal to saturate most areas of the building without dropouts. We tested a Skype connection with video (yes, in order to run Skype, I had to reboot to Windows...probably the sixth time this year my T43 booted into XP), and all went fairly well.

Lunch in the restaurant was quite good, and the portions were quite generous. Pricing was fair, too.

More arrivals in the afternoon, and of course, the requisite (for me) administrative tasks to perform, as Treasurer of Warpstock Corp. Surely, less hassle than I've had in the past, and all things considered, easily accomplished. I found some time later in the day to retire to the library (yes, the hotel has a quiet reading room) to work on my presentation for Saturday, on WPA & WPA2 connections using XWLAN and the WPA Supplicant (the difference is between the two implementations, the 4-way handshake, RC4 vs CCMP/AES, and what the various debug screens look like from the supplicant). I set up a refurbed Cisco E2000 router and got several good screen shots of various types of behavior.

Dinner was excellent. We had NC BBQ for the buffet fare, and there was more than enough to go around. Some late-comers missed dinner, unfortunately. I was even able to get crowd favorite Steven Levine to say a few words about eCS 2.1, and give a preview of some of his talk slated for Sunday. This, of course, led to a Q&A session which ran longer than our allotted time for the room, yet the staff was courteous and allowed us to continue, never once suggesting that we wrap up and skidaddle.

We had our Board meeting in John Edwards' suite, which was my first opportunity to see the accommodations, which were roomy and comfortable. As I'd already registered the couple walk-ins, we were all heartened that attendance may even be better than expected. A good meeting, indeed.

On my way out, I got snagged to look at a network connection which wasn't cooperating. After advising my friend that he needed to give up on the wired connection and switch to Wi-Fi, I had to debug his somewhat mangled PROTOCOL.INI which was keeping his GenMAC driver from loading and activating his Intel card. More conversation followed, and I finally got out about 1am.

Looking forward to Saturday's sessions.


Warpstock 2011: Before the fun

Just arrived at my buddy's house in Cary, NC this evening. The official kickoff for Warpstock 2011 in Duram is tomorrow evening, but there's still much to do to get ready, so tomorrow morning, we get to check out the quality of a Skype video session on the hotel Wi-Fi.

I'll follow up with a full report on that tomorrow, as well as some thoughts of mine concerning Skype, in general, from a security perspective as well as the concept of convergence.


What’s up with BlackBerry? (Not much, and not for long, it appears)

My wife mentioned to me that she wasn't getting email on her BlackBerry Curve the other day. After some time of struggling (I don't use one of those annoying devices, myself; I currently use a Palm Pre Plus), I finally managed to get the service books re-sent to the device, and while monitoring our email server, saw an IMAP connection come up (albeit quite slowly, spending what seemed like an eternity selecting a folder). I doubt that sending service books really made much of a difference, unless something broke when RIM got things propped up again (temporarily).

The next day, I read several reports online about some massive problem at RIM, in Canada. The Register is now replete with stories of what appear to be ongoing problems up there:

BlackBerry BBM, email downed in epic FAIL - October 10
BlackBerry users back online after outage - October 11
BlackBerry BBM, email offline AGAIN
- October 11
BlackBerry services splutter back into action, again - October 11
RIM stands, staggers, falls again - October 12
BlackBerry stumbles to feet, full of apologies - October 13


Ramdom thoughts on the 2011 (and beyond?) Firefox release schedule

As I sit here at Panera Bread, catching up on some tech news, an article caught my eye concerning Mozilla's new approach to updates and, tangentially, the (revised) 2011 Firefox release schedule. This started my own wheels turning, as this has been a bit of an annoyance for me, so I thought I'd just jot down a few ideas...

Concerning Firefox's 2011 release schedule:


We (I say "we" because I do/have contribute(d) from time to time) have some bugs in Bugzilla which date back several years (some to the Netscape Communicator days, inherited by the Mozilla project - no kidding!). These have yet to be quashed, and all the while new "releases" just keep coming down the pike, bringing with them their own share of new insectoids. Wouldn't it make more sense to stay at a reasonable "release" level, and just fix it before adding new features (and after all, isn't the purpose of a new "release" to introduce new features)? We already have a mechanism in place for extending the functionality of the browser through plugins and extensions, anyway, so what's the point? (If Mozilla wants to emulate Redmond, then they should consider that under the hood, Windows 7 is NT 6.1, anyway, and Microsoft got a head start with NT growing out of OS/2 - NT started at version 3.)


Forget those long tweets! Now you can chirp!

In the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I direct your attention to Chirper , where the folks at Box.net have come up with some innovative technology which can whittle your normal verbosity down to just a few characters! Why explain what you're doing in detail, when you can convey the same thing in a string of almost-unintelligible non-words?

As a test, I used their live demo, and concatenated:

I think social networking is evil!


I tinksoia etorking ievi!..

How have we lived without this facility for so long? Now, all those people who drool and dribble over themselves, spending day after day, staring at <fill in the blank>, reciting their every bodily function for all the world to read, can now do it in a hip, happening, and abbreviated fashion. No longer will they have to expend so much energy to spout off!



The Browser Wars Continue…

An interesting (if inaccurate) read over at USA Today...

The author makes the (by now familiar) statement, "A decade ago, the Web browser market was a two-horse race between Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSFT) and Netscape Communications' Navigator. (We all know who won.)" We do? Let's see if we can put some perspective on that concept...

Setting aside the innovation by Netscape Communications (the folks who brought us SSL, for example), and taking only the browser product (Netscape Navigator) and its progeny into account, there is a long line of succession and it is clear (to me, at least) that not only are the browser wars not over (by a longshot), but that just as in covert warfare, it is often difficult to tell who is really winning the overarching conflict.

Wikipedia has a fairly complete history of Mosaic and Netscape, and the companies which produced those products. I will not spend the time reiterating all of that information here, except to say that while there are a mere handful of browsers based on IE code, I can think of no less than twenty open source and commercial browser and browser-related offerings which are based on the Gecko rendering engine (the underlying engine in all Mozilla-based browsers).

Don't be misled concerning the reports of IE usage vs other browsers, either. Considering that IE is an integral component of the Windows desktop, and that every time the Windows OS accesses the net for updates, registration, and such, it utilizes the IE engine, it is simply not possible to tell how many of those people actually use Mozilla-based browsers for their real-time browsing, considering the number of Windows-based systems in use as compared to other desktop operating systems (and this, too, is likely to change over time).

So, as with all of these statistical reports, take the author's conclusions with a grain of salt. I am posting this from:

Mozilla/5.0 (OS/2; U; Warp 4.5; en-US; rv: Gecko/20101110 Lightning/1.0b2 Mnenhy/0.8.3 SeaMonkey/2.0.10

which is built 100% on Mozilla code.

PS - One other comment form the article referenced above, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree:

Several financial institutions don't work well with Chrome or Firefox, forcing their online banking customers to use older, less secure versions of IE.



Firesheep? Not on a Hautspot network

Many of you know that I am the Chief Network Architect for Hautspot. LLC, a little Wi-Fi company which, among other things, is a CLEAR Local Master Platinum Distributor in the Washington, DC metro market. Hautspot's main focus prior to entering into the distributorship agreement with Clearwire, was (and still is) managed Wi-Fi networks built on technology from Sputnik, Inc.

I stumbled upon this article on The Register this evening, describing an engineer at his local coffee shop (the establishment shall remain unnamed on my blog, because I truly despise their idea of java - and I'm a real coffee drinker) using Firesheep - a Firefox extension which allows one to pick off other users' authentication cookies over open networks - and easily hacking other people's social networking accounts (no surprise there, huh?), among other things.

Fortunately, most of our hotspots employ SSID Client Isolation, which is a technology which prevents neighboring users from snooping on other patrons' connections. No client-side configuration is necessary. No crackable VPN passphrases (Steve Gibson, for whom I have the utmost respect, is dead wrong with his suggestion of simply enabling WPA encryption on public WLANs and using a commonly used term, such as the venue name or even "free," as these can be so easily cracked and the system made vulnerable to MITM attack). It simply makes it impossible to route traffic from, say, to on the same LAN; the router won't pass the packets. Period.

Venue owners: for a few $$ per day, you could be enjoying secure, advertising-supported (i.e., you sell ad space on your very own portal page, thus offsetting the cost of the managed service) hotspots, with your own branding for all to see. Authentication is handled on our server. All that's needed on your end is a router/AP, which we provide, and a broadband connection (and if you don't happen to have one of those, we can usually fix that for you, too). Contact us for more info and a FREE site survey.


Maybe the whole social networking fad is winding down?

And in the good news department, The Register is citing an All Things Digital article from 3 November, 2010 which mentions the overall decline of MySpace revenues and the possibility of NewsCorp shutting down the beast...er...monster...er...spy haven...er...social networking site.


Why social networking sites are evil…E-V-I-L (part 3)

No news to me that this has happened. The question is, of course, how many other times has this happened that we haven't heard, and when will people learn?

Facebook developers exiled for selling user IDs to brokers

and... how about this one?

Law & Order actress Kathryn Erbe's brother testifies at stalker trial

This whole "friending" thing is about as annoying as the "follow me" nonsense. Remember when the verb form of the noun "friend" was "befriend?" Now, we have to have a whole new word for it (for some reason), unless the ignoramuses really don't know that there already is a verb for making friends... Yikes! It's even listed with a definition on Google Dictionary.

My friends, we're losing the war...