Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

David Harrison Reinvents The Internet

In a particularly well reasoned essay, David reinvents the control of the DNS infrastructure.

How did I stumble upon this? Well, David and I went to school together at Downlands County Secondary School (when did it change it's name to “Community School”?) in Hassocks (where I grew up) and Haywards Heath Sixth Form College (what's with the “Central Sussex College” thing?) in the south of England - both of us pretty much geeks! In fact we sold games that we'd written for the ZX Spectrum games and shipped them out on little plastic bags amongst other geeky activities.

We lost touch after we both went to our respective Universities, but happily he stumbled upon my blog a couple of years ago and we reconnected. Every now and again he sends me another great idea. Most of these ideas are utterly fascinating, if very off the wall. And sometimes they just make a lot of sense, even if potentially impossible to implement due to infrastructure inertia.

David's 'The Independent Network - An Alternative to the Internet' is one such missive. If you have any interest in the current domain name morass, it's a must-read.

And apparently I'm not the only one who's been getting David's semi-regular essays.

In his latest column, PBS' Bob Cringely talks about David's idea and, quite frankly, agrees with him.

Hopefully David's website won't explode under the traffic sent his way…

David hadn't seen the article before I sent some congratulations his way, to which he jokingly responded (and I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him): “If I'd known it was going to go public I'd have spent more than 30 mins writing it! :-)”

I think it took him longer than that…

Memeflow Is Still Up And Running

My server was unreachable today for about six hours due to some hassle at the colo, but I was reminded that Memflow, a service I put together in 2005 as an experiment, is still being happily used by quite a number of people.

I was reminded because I got a bunch of email from quite a number of people wondering why their favourite “start” page was down!

Sweet!

If you're looking for a fast, image-free (ok, there's an RSS icon) start page, may I suggest you give Memeflow a try?

Here are some posts about the site from a while ago.

Best Editorial Ever!

Gizmodo, along with Engadget, is one of the top tech sites on the planet. Last week one of their former editors, Joel Johnson, returned to the site with a blisteringly funny and to-the-point editorial

I gave up two years of my life writing about gadgets for this site. Waking up every morning at 5 AM, chewing up press releases to find the rare morsel of legitimate information, chasing down “hot tips” that ended up being photochops of iPods with reflections of genitals in the touchscreens. Oh, and the worst: fielding emails from PR parasites eager to suck away precious time in a half-hour phone meeting while the Senior Vice-President of Smoke Blowing tells me about how his company's software—based on an idea cribbed from Google-is going to change the way I look at something I didn't care about in the first place. (Inevitably, “forever.”)

Wonderful stuff. The comments aren't bad either:

I heard the sound of dozens of sphincter's tightening all the way in Canada.

Go and read it.

New Printer - HP Photosmart C6180

The HP Photosmart C6180 is a nice printer/scanner/fax combo. It's also small, works wirelessly and is fast.

There were no supplied drivers for Vista, but pretending that it's an HP Photosmart 7180 worked a treat1. The supplied software for the the Mac worked great too.

Now, on one of our XP boxes I installed the drivers from the supplied CD and even after telling it not to install the usual crapware that comes along with such supplied CDs, the installation took forever! I mean, it felt like it took longer than Flight Simulator to install!

Hehe :-)

Anyhow, it's nice to have a new, modern, networked printer at Casa Del Lacey - it's replacing our aging Lexmark Z52. Not having to string any wires other than a power cable was a nice treat and having it just DHCP for configuration over wireless (after having set up the WPA goop) worked flawlessly. Well, it did after I snooped it's MAC address and added it to the DHCP and BIND configurations on the Linux server - users without an over the top geek habit will have no such hassle.

It also has a bunch of media card reader slots, so as a test I popped in an SD card from a point'n'shoot that I have hanging around whereupon it displayed the images from the card on it's little LCD. I selected one, inserted a 4X6 photo paper (after hunting around for the mini-tray that was hidden under the output slot), hit print and voila! After a minute, a pretty good photo popped out.

Anyhow, it also supports bluetooth for some reason and after connecting a phone line, the fax part of the equation configured itself.

In summary, this is a nice little printer and at just over $200, it's recommended.

1 A generally workable trick - just guess at a compatible printer. 

Write Code Like It's 1986

1986 was the year I started college. My first computing experience was on a DEC Vax 780 via Freedom 100 terminals. Man were they crap.

Now you can relive that glory on the Mac by the extremely cool terminal application GLTerminal. It even mimics phosphor memory and screen curvature.

Emacs in GLTerminal

I love it!

Late To The Party - Web 2.0 Video

I know I'm extremely late to the party with this video as everyone and his uncle twice removed has already blogged about it, but some of my dear readers don't follow ye olde blogosphere as avidly as you and yours truly.

So this is for them.

This truly is a wonderful piece of video and above all a great introduction to whatever this thing called “Web 2.0” might be all about.

DadCentric Does It Again

Just go and subscribe. You know you want to.

After all - who has time to work out when you're newly married? The year after my wife and I got married, the only activities we did in the apartment were have sex and eat. We'd go on Amazon and buy KY Jelly and a deep fryer. At one point, I think we subsisted on hot dogs for an entire month. A few months after that, we lived off Popeyes fried chicken.

Comic relief for the paternally challenged.

Tags: , .

Photographs That Make Me Cry

Hiroshima, the pictures they didn't want us to see.

On August 10, 1945, the day after the bombing of Nagasaki Yosuke Yamahata, began to photograh the devastation. The city was dead. He walked through the darkened ruins and the dead corpses for hours. By late afternoon, he had taken his final photographs near a first aid station north of the city. In a single day, he had completed the only extensive photographic record of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Chilling.

Dessert Nirvana

My two favourite desserts are key lime pie and cheesecake.

What was for dessert at lunch today? Key lime and white chocolate cheesecake - key lime pie on the bottom, cheesecake on top.

Nirvana.

ATM Fraud And Me

On Saturday night I was doing the usual accounts and bill paying activity when I called up my checking account online. Sitting at the top was an ATM withdrawal for $502 from a Bank Of America ATM in Auburn.

Chills start to creep down my spine.

I continue looking.

There's another from Renton; another from Bothell; another from Seattle; etc… In total there were seven withdrawals, all from Bank Of America and all for $502.

WTF!

I called the card issuer and had the card cancelled. Then I started my research.

Since forever I've preferred using debit cards over credit cards as I don't have a bill to forget to pay and incur credit charges. I also thought that it's more secure. Anyone can capture my credit card data and fake my signature. A PIN based transaction has to be more secure, right? It's worked fine for me up until now.

The key piece I've missed is that, of course, VISA will protect you against fraudulent use (OK, so you pay the first $50). Well, in the case of fraudulent debit/ATM activity the bank is under no obligation to refund the charges. I'm assuming that most would though, as otherwise you'd have a bunch of very pissed off customers. Handily, my bank is one of the good ones.

So, how did they get my PIN?

I'm guessing that one of the few places that I actually perform PIN based transactions has screwed me.

I use it at maybe three places. I local convenience store and local supermarkets. One of them had to have a fake PIN pad that was capturing data.

Or maybe not.

Maybe some idiotic system at some company was capturing my PIN in violation of network agreements and then had a security screwup.

I may never know.

And why Bank Of America? I'm not with that bank - hence the $502. They obviously requested $500 and incurred a $2 transaction fee. Is Bank Of America an easy mark for ATM fraud?

And why didn't the super annoying AI speak up? You know, the AI that runs on all transactions to spot inconsistent activity and stops you from purchasing that last minute gift for your wife's birthday?

I have never taken anywhere close to $500 out of an ATM, let alone once a day for almost a week!

Anyhow, what I do want is for the assholes that nicked my hard earned moolah to be caught. In my shiny rose-tinted world, as soon as I reported the fraudulent activity, the ATM network would spring into action and when the aforementioned perps tried to use it again (probably yesterday as they'd be using it once a day since last week), the ATM would fire it's camera; ask them questions slowly; call plod and have the perps arrested by the time the card got spat back out.

Somehow I doubt it though.

On Sunday morning I visited the local plod to report the crime and get a case number for my bank, who I visited this morning. The nice policeman said that the ATM fraud rate has recently skyrocketed in this area.

Handily, the bank took the details and printed me a new ATM card with a new number there on the spot and said that the charges would be refunded within two or three days. When I asked them why the super annoying AI didn't catch this obviously bogus activity I was informed that it doesn't run for PIN based transactions! It only runs for signature based transactions!

Wow.

So, the key takeaway is to avoid using your PIN at all costs - go the VISA route and sign for your transaction, that way the super annoying AI will run and maybe save your ass.

Update: Props to my bank First Technology. They credited my account with the full amount of the fraud the day after I reported it.

Finding The Time To Take A Dump

Please go and subscribe to Chocolate Makes It Better - tales from an Aussie dad. At times touching, at times rip roaring funny.

When talking about how weekends are for family time:

Nope. Doesn't always happen like that at our house. It's more like sweat your arse off vacuuming, trying to fit in 5 mins to take a dump in peace and kids screaming, teething and throwing hard plastic toys at their sisters.

Subscribed.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.