Monday, July 11, 2005

Good Books
These past few weeks I have been very much at ease with myself. My schedule is filled for a few weeks, and I haven't needed to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for my next class as they are courses that I have all ready taught. In my idle time (which has been plenty) I have taken to reading a few books. First, I finished my last Douglas Adams book "Mostly Harmless" just after returning home from Pittsburgh. It was a bit sad, because I ran out of books, and because I know that there won't be a new book (he's dead).

My wife and I were out wandering around in the north end and I expressed a desire to stop into the half-price book store. I was unable to find anything interesting to read there. I ended up perusing the IT books for the better part of an hour only to come to the realization that "Wireless" and "Security" books all suck (in general). I don't think it's because I am 'so smart'. Rather these books all focus on the same skill level, which must border somewhere around 'lame-ass'.

I was bored. I headed into religion.

My wife and I have been exploring Buddhism as of lately. I've always been a bit curious about it myself, but have never really taken the time to read anything. I had browsed through a few of the books she had picked up a week or so ago, and I was unimpressed. I found that most of the books are what people think the message of Buddhism is, not really what is taught. One book caught my eye because it is written by the Dalai Lama himself. After reading through the intro I found that this was one book from a series of books, and I was all ready into the sequel. This didn't seem to matter much, because each book focus on a different teaching of sorts. Since picking it up over the weekend, I am maybe a third through it. It's good stuff.

I also randomly came to a book which I had once picked up years earlier. The Tao of Pooh. This book introduces the reader to Taoism by using Winnie the Pooh characters. It brought back quite a few memories. When I was about 11 years old I went on a trip to North Carolina with my Aunt. She's a nun. Oh wait, this is an interesting story. I need to set this up.

The Nun, The Hacker, Usagi Yojimbo
Nuns are highly sociable. If you think nuns sit around all day in a convent praying, you don't know nun-thing! Nuns like to visit people. People like having nuns over. It was a phenomenon that I picked up on when I traveled with my aunt. I guess preparing a meal for a nun, and pulling out the sleeper sofa for them must be pretty enlightening. We traveled through Tennessee and the Carolina's for an entire week and never had a problem staying the night somewhere for free. I guess it would be pretty cold hearted to turn away a nun.

One of these nice families that hosted my nun and I, were the Messers. The family seemed harmless enough, but it was apparent that they had issues. The father of the family had severe suicidal depression, and was constantly on and off various drugs. The son, Damian, was highly intelligent but completely withdrawn and it was worried that he might suffer from depression like his father. Between Damian and his father, they had accrued about ten computers in their basement.

Did you catch that? I said TEN COMPUTERS. Now you may say "I have twelve in my basement -what's the big deal"? Friends, this was 1987! To have ten operational computers lined up in your basement in the 1980's was amazing. There was a couple of Commodores, Apples, "Trash-80's", and of course many IBM clones.

Damian was told he had to entertain me, and so he took me into this dungeon. I was in awe. He kind of directed me to the rear of the room where the older Commodore games were and showed me how I could load a few games. I must admit, Usagi Yojimbo was a nifty game. You were this character from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A big rabbit with a samurai sword. You could give money to peasants, and then murder them in cold blood. This would cost you karma, however, and was regarded as a bad move.

After having enough with the games I was soon at Damian's side watching him work. I had a couple of BBS's that I used back home, but this guy was dialing into BBS's with features that I had never seen. He was happy to show me around his favorite hang-outs, let me read some of his documentation, and even put on some interesting college radio stuff which he rather liked.

Later that night I leaned over and picked up a tattered book and asked, "what's this?". "Oh!", he replied as he snatched it away, "just a book I am reading that your aunt ... might not agree with". He winked and stuffed it into his back pocket.

Our Story Continues
All those years ago, Damian was reading this book which I now held in the book store. Just what was this secretive, yet silly looking, book all about? I flipped the book over in the book store and read the back. Taoism. Interesting. The following day I sat down and read the whole damned thing. It's a good book. So good, that I feel obligated to stuff it into the pocket of a friend and convince them they need to read it to.

The Writer Within
So I got a message a while ago from my buddy Ryan (Wardriver). He asked, "what's going on with Gloop?". That's a good question. I have no idea. Here I built Gloop up from an inside joke into a mock company that sold imaginary products. But it was also the distribution point for my unfinished book. While I don't know that I have plans to revive Gloop as a website, I do certainly have plans to finish the book!

I was teaching a "Microsoft Security Fundamentals" course last week. Stop laughing. The second or third day into it I decided that I needed to practice a little of what I had been preaching. Here, I had been teaching a security class all week, but hadn't really shown my students what poor security looks like. So I popped open Audrey, and went to work on the hotel's wireless network. The hotel had a secure system that required you to put in a password to connect and then your connection would time out within a few hours. This was a nice feature for an attacker because it told me that any hosts I might find on this network were active users whose traffic I might want to sniff.

The bad news is that after about two hours, I had gotten nowhere. Through some old tools like nmap I had tracked down about three active Wireless users. But all my favorite tools were bombing out on me. Ethereal? Nope. Ettercap? No way. Everything was either bombing out no me, or simply not loading. It was my own doing. I had run several Apple updates the past few weeks which had surely crippled the dependencies for my X-Windows stuff. I gave up, and went to bed.

Once I got back from Pittsburgh, I continued the fight. I went out and got the source code for all my broken tools and rebuilt them to get them running again. The latest version of Ethereal has some very nice new features.

But what am I doing this for? Oh yeah, I plan on using these. Have I decided to get back to work on this book? I guess I have. It wasn't a conscious decision. There is much to be done. I need to get Audrey's battery charging and hit the streets. I need to collect some data! I need to hit up the local coffee shops and get back into practice.

Current Mood: Pleased
Musical Inspiration: Squirrel Nut Zippers (I found their 2000 album at a used music shop for $5)

Historic Comments
I'm looking forward to more wardriving adventures. On religion, there's too many -isms in the world. Think I'll stick with what I know.
Anonymous | 07.11.05 - 10:54 pm | #

Glad to see things are turning around for you ray! I am looking forward to reading your book

tdo | 07.12.05 - 1:00 am | #

Being serious for once.

I have spent the last year studying buddhism in its various forms. It has been such a fantastic journey reading about how it spread from india (from Shakyamuni himself) all the way to his votary Nichiren Daishonin in Japan.

All I will say to you is this my friend. What makes us (humans) so special is that we are human in THIS lifetime for one purpose.

To finally achieve enlightenment.

I'd like to talk to you more about this if you are interested in buddhism. Shoot me an email. You have the address.

With Gassho (palms pressed)
Phrightener | 07.12.05 - 8:16 pm | #

Hey Phrighty,

I had no idea you too were a bodhisattva. I am really enjoying that first book I got from the Dalai Lama. There are a few things in there that have left me scratching my head, but I think I may end up reading it a second time.

So I guess that makes us "sangha?", eh old friend?

Ray | Homepage | 07.20.05 - 8:47 am | #

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