Tag: Geek Stuff

Brain Tank Mini Con 2012 wrap up

Wow – this was quite an interesting mini-convention.


And yes, the above is my Staff badge from the event.

The Laser Maze was cool, so too the Lock Pick Village.

The presentations were fantastic!

Stand outs:

Evolutionary Bias in Social Engineering: An Anthropologist’s Perspective presented by Randy Rose. He went into some detail about genetic propagation and even touched on the fact that the game is rigged. Rigged because women are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have whereas we men keep making more sperm.

I should have voiced that while men continue generating sperm, the quality of said sperm decreases with age which to me kind of makes sense.

Appropriate Technology – Making for Emerging Markets presented by Peter Haas was interesting too. He explained how he worked for a company that essentially translates inventions for use in the non-developed world.

Electronic Cyber LLC Hi-Jacking presented by mudsplatter told the tale of how his LLC got hijacked in Florida. An LLC is a Limited Liability Corporation. He also told us how using a fake ID (Which btw, are still fairly easy to come by!) you could take out credit in the corporations name to the tune of about $50,000, do it to ten companies and you’re talking half a million dollars. I did make the comment that this is a common method that can be used in just about any state.

Drink all the booze. Hack all the things. presented by Conrad Constantine. This one was an enjoyable meander through Conrad’s philosophy on things.

Dining Cryptographers: a protocol for anonymous message broadcast presented by Christian Ternus of Akamai was cool too. It had to do with passing messages among 3 or more parties without being detected. Neat little algorithmic explanation.

Information Security Awareness (In 14 Minutes or Less) presented by Roy Wattanasin. This one touched on several tenets of good infosec. After all this was sort of an infosec mini-con.

RFID for Idiots presented by mudsplatter – this one should scare the ever loving daylights out of anyone with a card that has embedded RFID. This includes things like credit cards, passports, etc. Of course there are ways of disabling the RIFD in a card – things like a camera flash circuit hooked up to a 13.56MHz transducer with the card underneath will work. There’s a slight chance of fire though. His best solution, locate the chip and put a nail through it.

Infrasonic Wave Resonance and Human Perception presented by Frank Feeley. Now this one dealt with low frequency sound at high power. The demo after the presentation was quite unpleasant. Maybe next year I’ll build my microwave zap gun and give the amplifier a good slug should he decide to present again.

“So you want to be a wireless hacker…” presented by Casey Dunham. This was an interesting talk about WiFi security. Please keep this in mind – you are responsible for securing your own network. Dunham brought up how he helps out businesses that he frequents when they have wonky WiFi security. But I brought up a point. I said that I knew that Cox and Verizon both push routers configured with easily crackable WEP out in the field. Dunham couldn’t give an answer to that – but I could. You have to EMBARRASS both Cox and Verizon somehow to get them to change their corporate screw ups.

All in all an interesting day. I almost can’t wait for next year.

And I have committed to the regular Brain Tank meetings, we’re going to drill on the amateur radio General and Extra pools. And we should all have Volunteer Examiner credentials. I did it, why the hell can’t we all do it, it isn’t that hard. When I think about this I have a very Borg like attitude – they will be assimilated.

Geek Stuff: Why VoIP Rocks

I’m a big believer in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony services.

The home line is provided by Vonage. The business line by MagicJack, and my mischief line via Skype.

But here’s one of those things about VoIP that you cannot deny. It knocks down barriers.

When I first signed up for Vonage it was the U.S. and Canada. Then it jumped to six countries. Now it’s jumped to 60 countries spanning the entire globe and every continent. I mean, if I want I can call China, Japan, Saipan or Guam and not ring up any extra charges I can do so. Or I can call Italy, France, Germany, Spain and more without ringing a toll either.

But it goes without saying, VoIP is what you would term a disruptive technology. It piggy backed on a ubiquitous net connection and took over the last mile of telephone services. I know for example that in my area just the competition from Cox and VoIP has knocked Verizon down to a little less than a 40% market here in RI. No wonder Verizon went bonkers stringing fiber.

Verizon Fiber Cabinet
Verizon Fiber Cabinet

But when Ma Bell still had a monopoly one of her prime goals was to reduce costs in order to increase profits. As a result they developed a completely digital toll switching network that decreased the cost of maintenance, traffic management, etc. The computer could figure out alternate routing faster than a human could. That was the AT&T 4ESS (Doh, 4A was an electromechanical switch) toll switch.

4ESS Toll Switch
4ESS Toll Switch

Just for comparison, here’s the first concentrator/distribution network for the Morris, NJ Electronic Switch test.

Morris Exciters
Morris Exciters

But it wasn’t just the switching that became less expensive.

Policy had something to do with that in in the mid 1950’s Bell started rolling out Direct Distance Dialing (DDD). This allowed bell to reduce the amount of operator staff required to handle calls. They also improved the Traffic Service and Position System (TSPS) too, meaning fewer operators could handle more services.

But the real cost reducer was data circuits. Telephones use trunks and they come in various types such as analog and digital. At first a DS1 had to be provided on two pairs of wires and amplifiers were necessary every so many hundreds of feet. Most people don’t realize it but order DS1 now and it’s delivered via HDSL. Fewer amps, less specialized circuits.

And there was the fiber explosion. Back between the late 1980’s and now they pretty much laid tons of multi-strand fiber optic cables from coast to coast and under the oceans too.

For a point of comparison a 2,500 pair cable was very thick, about the diameter of a 45RMP record. Now a single fiber can carry hundreds of calls and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as it used to because the fiber uses solid state components that don’t burn out after a short lifespan.

Not to mention the proliferation of satellite systems. There are a number of carriers that have orbiting platforms though even the necessity of that has pretty much been relegated to TV remotes.

And it’s going to keep getting more interesting. For example, I found an application from my iPod Touch called Fring. Fring lets you connect to a VoIP provider like Skype for example. Apple has tacitly acknowledged this by turning on Bluetooth on the Touch. So I can get a Bluetooth headset, or earphones for that matter and use them with my iPod Touch.

And wherever there’s Wi-Fi, I can call to my hearts content. And there is a shitload of Wi-Fi in my city.

Fring on the iPod Touch
Fring on the iPod Touch