Sunday, January 23, 2005

Coffee House Redux

Coffee House Redux

In my quest to entertain myself during the days, I have found another coffee house, Coffee Republic. Better coffee than It's A Grind, pay wireless ( :( ) and a strangely bookish crowd. However, they have a full menu (with BEER) and green tea. I will see how this pans out - it may be a nice change of pace.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Poor Sign Locations

If you were to say, "Damn, it looks like some truck clipped that sign!", you'd be right.

Captured on my drive through Oakland yesterday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

2005 Resolutions

Last year was full of changes for me: The first half of the 2004, I flew over 150,000 miles working with clients in India and Australia; The second half, I spent managing internal projects largely from my house in Northern California. With the change in jobs and travel patterns, I have reclaimed a large portion of my non-work life and I have been busy figured out things to do with it.

So this year, I have finally resolved to do some of the things that I have always wanted to. One of these was to learn to play the guitar. Although I have no musical experience (nor really any obvious talent), I decided to spend some time of this. Luckily, my mother has helped me out by buying me a Kramer Focus (VT-211S Fatboy) for Christmas.

Guitar, iMic, iBook and GarageBand

I've thrown myself into the learning process, buying and watching two DVDs on guitar playing ("Learn Rock Guitar" and "Fender's Getting Started On Electric Guitar") and a cool book called Learn To Play Guitar With Metallica. Needless to say, I am not studying the classics - It is purely a metal thing for me.

Of course, the real reason that I wanted to get started playing was the computer angle: Apple's Garageband has peaked my interest. The old version (version 1.1) lets you record, arrange and sequence software (midi) and real instruments (like my guitar). I just plug my Kramer into the iBook with a cheap $40 USB digitizer (line level input) and then use one of Garageband's built-in guitar amplifier (I like "Arena Rock") to simulate an actual amplifier. It about 10 minutes, I can record a few licks directly to my hard drive, add a backing drum beat or bass line, sweeten the tones and push it out to MP3. Now, of course, that depends on me actually playing something recognizable on my guitar.

I'll have more on my guitar progress when I produce something that's actually presentable. I am also slated to get the Garageband 2.0 upgrade sometime later this week, so I'll report on that too.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I awoke early this morning, after a late return from the Bay Area, to catch a concall that I was supposed to listen in on. Trying to keep awake through the impossibly boring European techno-bable, I wandered into my den to fire up my boxens and get a jump on email for the day. As I entered the room, I was welcomed by the steady glow of my Apple AirPort (wireless router that connects my house to the Internet) indicator lights. All three were steadily lit. Sitting down, I thought about this for a second: Why would all the traffic lights on my router be lit, if none of my computer are on ?

Getting a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I booted my Shuttle to take a look. Maybe someone has pierced the WPA encryption on my wireless link -- I have left the airport configured to advertise its SSID, as this really simplifies network config and troubleshooting. Logging into my Airport admin program, I found that no one was using the wireless -- i didn't have anyone registered for DHCP or any client MAC addresses. So someone might have figured out the WPA password, but I doubt they also could have faked the configs. Then I remembered, I recently restarted my old linux server in preparation of upgrading its hard drive. Uh-oh.

Logging into the server brought instant and curious results: a quick who command said that both I and Brian were logged in. This wasn't impossible (Brian has a login to the machine that I gave him a year or two ago), but what was telling was that brian appeared to be logged in from somewhere in the .ro domain -- Romania. Knowing that Brian hasn't been out of Columbus, Ohio in years (except on his visits here), I was suspicious. Not taking any chances, I employed standard operating procedure for a compromised machine -- I pulled the power cord.

After I had located my KNOPPIX CD that Brian had given me, I went to work finding out how my Romanian friend has gotten in. After mounting the home and root partitions, I checked the logs. /var/logs/messages didn't really have anything of use, but /var/logs/secure definately did -- I had a rash of unsuccessful ssh logins (for mostly daemon accounts), all starting about 5 AM this morning. Apparently, my Romanian friend was using a dictionary attack to find poorly password protected accounts. And he had found one -- I think Brian's account password was "brian" when I set it up. Now that I had found out how he had gotten in, I went about surveying damage. A quick find command (looking for files modified in the past day) turned up some new directories and files in the /tmp directory. Going into the directory, I found a standard toolkit of dictionary attack tools and irc bot binaries. This is almost identical to the write-up in this Honeypot break-in. It looks like I was dealing with a script kiddies -- he hadn't erased his tracks nor started to compromise other machines on my network. In fact, I don't think he even got root access for the server. However, it will really be impossible to know exactly since pulling the plug on the server killed some of the evidence in the log files.

Long story short, I am now in the process of completely reinstalling the machine. Unfortunately, it only has 64 MB of RAM so I think my choices are kinda limited -- maybe some cut down linux distro will work.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Happy Birthday Zeke

Zeke is 4 years old today.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

More Bad Weather

The rain and snow just keeps coming:
Elsewhere in California, up to 4 1/2 feet of snow fell overnight in the Sierra Nevada around Lake Tahoe, ski areas reported Saturday. That came on top of as much as 9 feet of snow in the Sierra and 4 feet in Reno on Dec. 30.
Interstate 80, which crosses the Sierra and links Sacramento, Calif., to the Reno-Tahoe, Nev., area, closed Saturday as did two other major Sierra highways — U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass.
Echo Summit is about 30 miles from us. It's rained almost all week here and doesn't look like it is going to let up until next weekend.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Silicon Foothills

Since I moved out of the valley last spring, I have been pretty blissful living out of the constant tech, pre-IPO, stealth mode business plan discussing zone. However, in the last few weeks I have started to feel a little isolated -- maybe it's the constant winter rain or the long break. Either way, I have found my fix in local coffeeshop. It appears that my coffeeshop in Folsom is the nexus of the Foothills technorati. Over the past three days, I have met tons of people from Intel (large design facility nearby), JiWire (local startup), WebEx and EDS (Freedom Center NOC is nearby). I might have actually found the best of both worlds.