Command Line

A blog and podcast exploring the rough edges where society, public policy and computers meet.

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Speakers Announced for Last HOPE

Posted by Thomas Gideon on May 30, 2008

Hackers on Planet Earth is one of the better known hacker gatherings in the states. It is sponsored by the equally well known hacker mag, 2600. This year may be the last HOPE as the venue in New York where it is being held is scheduled for demolition.

I have failed to make it to any of the past HOPE conferences and will not make it to what may be the last, either. I have a couple of online friends and listeners planning on going. I will try to coordinate a recording session with them, afterwards, to discuss their experiences.

My disappointment at not going was deepened by the announced speakers:

Steven Levy, author of Hackers: Heroes of the American Revolution and chief technology writer and a senior editor for Newsweek.

Adam Savage, co-host of the popular TV show Mythbusters and “a maker of things.”

Kevin Mitnick, “the world’s most dangerous hacker” in the eyes of the government and mass media, imprisoned for over five years, and now a successful computer security consultant.

Jello Biafra, a tradition at the HOPE conferences, former lead singer of The Dead Kennedys and one of America’s most interesting social activists.

Steven Rambam, private eye extraordinaire, who can find out anything about anybody and has always been willing to share his knowledge of privacy with the hacker community. (The FBI prevented his 2006 talk from being given by swooping in and arresting him moments earlier. The case against him was later found to have no merit.)

The programming overall looks to be very full with over one hundred presentations in four tracks.

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Links from Ravencon

Posted by Thomas Gideon on May 3, 2008

Several of the other podcasters recorded bits and pieces at Ravencon. I really wished I had recorded my final panel as Stephen Euin Cobb did such a splendid job moderating and my fellow panelists shared some truly wonderful, personal stories about their own experiences over the years producing their respective shows.

Gail Martin recorded a bunch of video for her own vlog. She captured me on the third day of recording. Here are day 1 and day 2. If you haven’t been to a convention, I think she does a superb job of capturing the feel, really getting a cross section of the different guests you can see, meet and hear.

I also did a short interview with Stephen Euin Cobb for his show, as I mentioned on my last podcast. He sent me the permalink to the episode that contains that interview. We discussed the state and progress of activism on IP reform and other topics near and dear to me. Stephen is as good an interviewer as a moderator and I very much enjoyed this interview.

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Penguicon Wrap Up

Posted by Thomas Gideon on April 22, 2008

Very quickly, just to complete my write up and impressions of this event, I had three panels on Sunday and then had to leave to catch my flight home.

I concur with my traveling companion, Chris Miller, that the first panel, the future of programming languages, was one of the best ones on which I participated. Peter Salus and Vernor Vinge were on this panel as well as Catherine Devlin and Jay Wren. The latter was moderating and a good thing as he is an averred .NET developer, an odd choice for an open source convention. I was able to keep my temper and speak with apparent humor when he let his own passion for Microsoft get the better of him.

Vernor and Peter provided a splendid historical view and the contrast to new and upcoming languages was very informative. I think Catherine and I managed to add some reasonable perspective on current efforts and from the view of practicing programmers. I was especially pleased that Vernor brought up the topic of many core and I was able to reference some of my recent reading on the state of research and practice in this area.

The next panel was actually more of a BoF session. It was the OLPC roundtable and consisted mostly of a gathering of XO1 owners and folks interested in the XO1. I mostly took notes, especially since Mako was present and others asked questions about the recent OLPC re-organization about which I myself am curious.

The last panel was another one where I felt out of my depth. I was late, which didn’t help, and sat for over half an hour without an introduction or saying anything. Eric Raymond, Randall Munrow and either Larry Kestenbaum or Garrett Kajmowicz.

The conversation during that time was mostly voting statistics and the various influences on it, including partisan politics. Towards the end, I finally got introduced and managed to mention e-voting. There was little time to discuss the topic, though, and probably the best though expressed was by Eric Raymond who expressed irritation at open source being suggested as a panacea for the security ills of e-voting systems. His point is that without a way to verify the loaded binaries, open source wasn’t any different from any other development model. Makes sense and doesn’t erode the value of open source in general, he was just suggesting that too many geeks were willing to overlook this significant problem.

Despite being ill for most of the weekend, I enjoyed the con immensely. Even on the panels where I felt overwhelmed or intimated, I was glad to be there and the other panelists were nothing but kind, smart and welcoming. I again agree with Chris Miller’s thoughts on the depth of the technical sessions, I would have liked to have seen something comparable to the typing of programming at WWDC or JavaOne, with source code and running applications on the projection screen. That isn’t enough to curb my desire to head out to this con next year, the travel cost and logistics will be the biggest consideration.

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Tesla Coil Concert

Posted by Thomas Gideon on April 20, 2008

The rooms here at the Hilton in Troy, Michigan are on the inside of a large arc. They all have small balconies that look down onto a nice bit of lawn with a gazebo at its center. During the day, yesterday, they had some industrial size grills set up and were searing mass quantities of Brazilian beef for con goers to enjoy.

As I was writing my last post, some daring geeks were setting up a pair of giant tesla coils in anticipation of sunset. You may have seen the video of this digitally driven coils performing the Mario Brothers video game theme music. Once the sun had set, we were treated to one of a handful of live performances by these very clever folks.

Let me tell you, the videos simply do not do this insanely cool hack justice. Not by a long stretch. The music was loud and clear though we were perhaps a couple of hundred feet away and up on the third floor. Seeing the arcs pulsate in a hard to describe synchronization with the tones they were generating was awe inspiring. The higher the frequency of the note, too, the longer the arcs. They had several rods on different heights stood up specifically to give the longer arcs places to ground. Hearing the two coils also play in harmony on some of the pieces was also surprisingly beautiful.

They played a repertoire of mostly video game themes and some recognizable movie and TV themes. I was especially delighted to hear the opening notes of Ghostbusters followed by a pretty faithful and recognizable rendition of a decent portion of the song. The medley of course include the Mario theme, two of them actually. I was happy, for once, to have my little camera instead of my DSLR since it has video capability.

My sons are bonkers for Mario, we’ve been playing a lot of Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy. They have several of the older games on their DS and SP. They instantly recognize the music and I cannot wait to show them this, the layering of giant arcs of electricity on top of one of their current favorite bits of media will be a hilarity inducing double treat.

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Penguicon 6.0 So Far

Posted by Thomas Gideon on April 19, 2008

Chris Miller and I got to the con yesterday afternoon. We were delighted to meet our friend and fellow podcaster, Rick Stringer, who was already at the con.

After getting registered, settled and checked in we attended the copyright panel. It was a little odd being in the audience, but with the panelists being Peter Salus, Eric Raymond, and Cathy Raymond I was content. The conversation bogged down a little bit on patent and trademark, as many folks confuse these with each other and copyright, but I was impressed with the sheer depth of knowledge, historical, technical, and legal, present on the panel.

We met up with some local podcasters, including Chris Lester and Michael Ireland among others. The food was excellent and the company engaging. I got a couple of recommendations from Michael of single malts I will have to seek out. After the recent monologue on social spaces, it was enjoyable cementing a couple of previously online only connections and getting some more substantial, and thankfully very positive, first hand impressions.

We returned in time for my two panels of the evening. Chris joined me for the podcasting panel which went very well. It is enjoyable to get a fresh audience especially given how often we’ve covered the subject. Rick joined the two of us for the next panel, computer geeks and science fiction. It was originally supposed to be me and David Louis Edelman but he had to cancel at the last minute. Eric Raymond was supposed to join us as part of the ad hoc plan b, and he did though a few minutes late. We rambled a b it before he showed up then he preceded to school us in classic science fiction.

We caught a bit of Shoggoth on the Roof, a neat mash up of H.P. Lovecraft and Fiddler on the Roof, with puppets, but left early as my head cold was getting the better of me. Unfortunately, it was much worse this morning. I’ve felt feverish all day and all of the nasal and chest congestion has moved to my ears, very painful and making speaking somewhat difficult.

Still, I managed to catch Benjamin Mako Hill give a solid presentation on the OLPC project. I also stumbled over to a reading given by John Scalzi, Lucy Snyder, and Jeff deLuzio. I was so tickled with Lucy’s story, I picked up a copy of Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. It reminded me somewhat of Charlie Stross’ Laundry Service novels.

I crashed for a bit before starting my panels for the day. The first was a doozy, with me feeling totally overwhelmed by Eric Raymond, Peter Salus, and Vernor Vinge. The topic was staying ahead of obsolesence I did get a word in edgewise. Just one thought, which seemed well received by the audience on the nature of legacy technology. I was the youngest on that panel by at least a decade, though. It was a thrill, all the same, to be on the panel with them and the other panelists.

My next panel was intimidating in a whole different way. Alternatives to silicon. The audience was large and my only other panelist was Aaron Diaz. I have not read Dresden Codak but intend to check it out, Aaron was funny and very quick, despite his modest protestations to the contrary. The audience was also full of some very bright people and the discussion was fascinating if a bit scattered. I admit it stretched my recollection of relevant news, especially without my laptop handy.

The final panel was an especial treat, it was just Vernor Vinge and me talking about secure computing hardware. I deferred to him, mostly, and he set the tone by discussing the monocultural nature of the semiconductor basis of computing. We dug a bit into some doom and gloom scenarios with this single point of failure or attack. I offered a couple of examples of incremental steps along this speculative path, hopefully bolstering some of the sociological and economic drivers he postulated for how a silicon apocalypse might come to pass. Vernor Vinge is an incredibly intelligent, articular, and gracious person and it was a real privilege to be the only other person on stage with him. I am very much a fan of his fiction and was delighted at my impressions on spending time with him.

Three more panels, tomorrow. More then. For the rest of the evening, we’re going to take in the tesla coil concert from our balcony and perhaps play some Arkham Horror over room service.

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Bob Young Talk at UNC-Chapel Hill Today

Posted by Thomas Gideon on October 30, 2007

I will be at Bob Young’s talk today at UNC-Chapel Hill at 3:30pm EDT. This is presented by iBiblio and promises to be interesting. I know a couple of Lulu folks who will be recording video, they think they can clear permission for me to snag some audio. If so, I’ll make sure I have permission to post it in the feed.

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Dragon*Con 2007 Panel Links

Posted by Thomas Gideon on September 3, 2007

For anyone looking for the promised links from my panel this morning, here they are.

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Dragon*Con 2007 Schedule

Posted by Thomas Gideon on August 28, 2007

There is a meme spreading amongst the podcasters going to this convention. It makes sense to share with listeners where we, as podcasters, will be and when.

I am not committed to any panels on Friday, so will be floating around and soaking in the con. That would be a good day to meet and greet.

  • Podcasting UN, Co-Staff
    Saturday 1pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • Podcasting for Games and Gamers, Co-Staff
    Saturday 2:30pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • Aliens You Will Meet, Live! Moderator
    Saturday 5:30pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • The Signal, Live! Moderator
    Saturday 10pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • Wingin’ It 3D, Live! Moderator
    Saturday 11:30pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • PodSci Panel, Co-Staff
    Sunday 8:30pm
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • Podcasting into the Future, Co-Staff
    Monday 10am
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter
  • Creative Commons and Legal Issues, Moderator, Panelist
    Monday 11:30am
    Hilton, Jackson/Carter

The Creative Commons panel will be the same panel, essentially, as the one I ran at both Farpoint and Balticon this year. That’s the only panel where I am directly participating. The panels where I am moderating, I’ll basically by passing the mic and making sure the panel rolls smoothly. On those where I will be co-staff I’ll be an extra pair of hands for whomever is moderating.

As you can see, especially on Saturday, I’ll be in the Jackson/Carter room in the Hilton most of the time. The EFF track is also located almost entirely within the Hilton, in the Cherokee room. That will be the second best place to try to find me.

Also, I have updated my public Google calendar with all of this information if you area already subscribed to that.

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Balticon 41

Posted by Thomas Gideon on May 28, 2007

I consider Balticon 41 a huge success.

I made new friends and renewed existing friendships. Many new in-jokes were born, none of which I’ll share here because some were, well, risque and all aren’t as funny if you have to explain them. If you come out to DragonCon or Farpoint, though, you will no doubt be exposed.

The podcasting panels, at least the ones I attended or in which I participated, were very well attended. I had a blast on the Solo Podcasting panel and was awed by the compliments, from the audience and fellow panelists, at the Copyright panel. I was glad to be able to help the track organizers, Paul and Martha from the ADDcast, with some of their recording projects. I wish I could have done more and that Paul had had an easier time with facilities so more consistent equipment provisioning could have been done for the larger panels.

I learned an important lesson on my technical audio skills in regards to trying to run a multi-track recording for a live show. I need to learn much more before trying that again. Thankfully Steve Eley, of Escape Pod, made a back up recording which I will secure and clean up for Mur. She was very understanding of the problems I encountered but I still feel bad for making the commitment and not being able to do better. I know with the explanation I just gave that is a bit irrational but that’s how I feel regardless.

At least the pie was very well received. And the Mrs. will be re-upping Mur’s purple hair right before DragonCon, an offer that was just about literally met with a “squee!” of delight.

Next up, DragonCon 2007!

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ShmooCon Day 3

Posted by Thomas Gideon on March 25, 2007

Last day was a short day, just three panels, then the closing keynote and remarks.

I attended Jon Callas’ and Bruce Potter’s discussion of the state of crypto. This was more of a question and answer session than a formal presentation. The two most intriguing topics that came up were the effect of quantum computing on crypto and elliptic curve crypto.

Callas was very skeptical of quantum computing in general, a skepticism I share. He was smart enough to admit to being skeptical about his own skepticism, that is reserving that quantum computing may bear out in the end.

I am not very familiar with ECC but the panelists described its advantages over PKI pretty well. The attraction of a system that scales better, at least that is the claim, for larger key lengths makes sense.

The next panel I caught was Adam Laurie’s discussion of RFID cloning. He covered the usual topics, from chips used in keycards and animal tags to national passports. He also did a live demo where he not only showed cloning but did so with a standard form factor RFID card, rather than the usual kits we see. He even successfully cloned an RFID implant in an audience member he never met and used the cloned card to unlock the owner’s laptop.

The last panel I attended Chuck Willis’ talk on passive assessment of the security of web applications. Given my day job, this was both of interest and a lot of material I had already encountered. I was glad of his description of Cross Site Request Forgery, a term I had encountered some weeks back first in an advisory without any adequate explanation. It also seems like Billy Hoffman’s blind request technique via AJAX could be characterized as CSRF.

The final keynote was a quick roundup on the OLPC project. I was especially fascinated by Krstic’s characterization of how the OLPC can enable more discovery based, peer oriented self education. I was also impressed by the security goals and constraints, especially that they prize owner control almost before all else. A lot of hard questions were posed by the panelists, themselves, as well as the audience. The effort is unarguably quite noble but no one claims to have all the answers on what lasting effect it will have, for good or ill. It was good to see their open mindedness in the face of bald skepticism and that they were already asking many of these questions themselves.

I would definitely say ShmooCon was well worth attending and am hugely looking forward to coming back next year!

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ShmooCon Day 2

Posted by Thomas Gideon on March 24, 2007

A got down to the conference a little late. I missed the morning sessions and headed straight over to the hacker arcade and lockpick village before the lunch crowd. I’m glad that I did.

I got about an hour of audio and permission to use it from Deviant Ollam and Mouse. Deviant did a series of quick hit presentations on a variety of different locks and on handcuffs. Mouse give some great, more one on one, suggestions for how to get started learning to lock pick in earnest. I got a little time with some of the training locks they had set out and managed to open the one, two and three pin locks.

I caught Billy Hoffman’s session of JavaScript grey goo. Not very surprising given the increasing ubiquity of JavaScript. There were a few ideas I hadn’t considered, before. I was particular fascinated by his discussion of how even though the sandbox model prevent directly getting at information that blind requests could still be made via AJAX and information deduced by a more or less opaque result. The explanation of how to port scan in JavaScript was especially intriguing. The use of public and widely available web services as proxies that allow circumvention of the sandbox simply by how they work was a little chilling.

Dan Kaminsky’s talk was intriguing if a bit more abstract. I had encountered context free grammars before in the arena of compression, so wasn’t particular surprised by his discussion of them. He ranged from discussions of the limits of human memory and recognition and how this constrains the security of passwords and correctly identifying bad hashes to new ways of visualizing files, other than the traditional hex listing, for a variety of purposes. Good stuff, plenty of Shmoo balls and beer involved.

The last session I caught before heading out was Chris Paget’s on subverting WPAD. WPAD is the protocol for HTTP proxy auto discovery and configuring. He had a demo that was pretty clear on the ease and impact of this flaw. The good news is that there is a Microsoft knowledge base article out or forthcoming on securing against this problem.

More tomorrow.

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ShmooCon Day 1

Posted by Thomas Gideon on March 23, 2007

I arrived a bit late for registration. It hadn’t opened yet, running a bit later than the published schedule, but there was a massive line. Once it opened, though, things moved quickly. I got my badge and asked about a press version, based on my correspondence with some of the Shmoos. Turns out they didn’t have separate badges and were just encouraging the press, including podcasters, to approach presenters, with courtesy, on their own and let the Shmoos know if help was needed.

Since this is my first ShmooCoon, the opening remarks were appreciated. Bruce shared some of the con’s history, this being only its third year, and ground rules.

This was followed by a series of rapid fire presentations. They were all good, my favorites were the first, on using FPGA’s to accelerate crypto cracking, and Johnny Long’s No Tech Hacking. The latter seemed like a general crowd favorite, Johnny has a wicked sense of humor.

The keynote by Avi Rubin was definitely worth the wait. He spoke about responsible security research, including responsible disclosure. He had plenty of examples from his and his students’ work. I found the Diebold examples, especially the source code examples, especially amusing and enlightening.

I wrapped up the evening at a podcaster gathering down the street from the conference. This was organized by Hak5 and SploitCast. PaulDotCom and CyberSpeak were also there. I also got a chance to meet Simple Nomad. They were all welcoming especially since I was a bit of a late comer and hadn’t met any of them before.

When I left, they were headed for a bit of a pub crawl. I was up late last night for a product release at work so I bagged it and headed home.

Tomorrow is all about the tracks. I need to figure out when I can take a break to check out the hacker arcade and the hardware village.

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ShmooCon Starts Tomorrow!

Posted by Thomas Gideon on March 22, 2007

I’ve been mentioning it for weeks, but tomorrow is day one of ShmooCon. Registration opens at 1pm and some of the highlights include the opening keynote address by Aviel Rubin at 7pm and a podcaster gathering at 9pm. Email me if you are interested in the latter. I only just learned off it and it will convene off site, just a short walk from the hotel.

Tomorrow will have only a single track, so deciding what to do should be pretty simple. Saturday and Sunday there are three concurrent tracks, which may make things a little more challenging. Whatever I miss is just incentive to go again next year.

I’ll try to find some time to post short updates as the event unfolds.

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NoVa Podcasting Meetup

Posted by Thomas Gideon on December 16, 2006

I will be at the NoVa Podcasting Meetup’s event this evening, just in case you are a podcaster and in the area.

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