New podcast

CRC Error, and I’m on it. It’s profane, irreverent, and probably would disappoint my mother.
On the other hand, it was fun to make, even if the first ep involved us BSing for 3 hours only to find that finchy’s recording crapped out and only got 20-some minutes, he couldn’t find his headphones, the power went out at CBass’s house, and I had a mic fail for the first 20 minutes or so of “recording.”
Hopefully we’ll be able to release another one soon (in the next week or so) but in the meantime if you want one or two cheap laughs – hey, my wife thought it was vaguely amusing, if pointless – why don’t you just go ahead and check it out?
If you try and like it, let me/us know. If you hated it, well, let us have it with both barrels, reload, and do it again. We don’t cry easily.

Rev Up For School on Ebay!

Not sure how eBay know I’m a student, albeit part-time, but maybe they just blasted this out to everybody. Nevertheless, shows the perception (and maybe reality) of undergrads. The email included links to things that presumably students want, and it’s an ordered list:
1. Laptops
2. Backpacks
3. Cell Phones
4. Sneakers
5. iPods
6. Jeans
7. Xbox 360
8. Shirts
9. Textbooks
10. PC Components
Hint: one of those items is actually directly related to going back to school, and another is handy for containing the first. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see how buying things for an Xbox 360 has anything at all with actual schooling.
And yes, I fully understand the need for hobbies outside of school that aren’t competitive drinking, but don’t you need those hobbies when you’re not in school too? Stupid marketing.

How do I start something?

This is part of an email I sent to a security mailing list to which I subscribe, but really, the answer applies to any walk of life. The question is, “How do I get started?”
Really though, the answer to “how do I get started in network
security” is the same as it is to virtually any hobby or career: just
dive in and start doing it. You’ll know you’re doing it right when
you’re learning stuff. You’ll know you’re doing it wrong if you’re
not having fun. If you’re unwilling or unable to just grab some
hardware and start hacking, this area is not for you – the same can be
said for any skill. If that sort of thing doesn’t appeal to you, then
this sort of thing will not appeal to you, and you’re wanting to get
into it for the wrong reasons, which never ends well.
People with skills are rarely willing to just braindump what they
know. It’s a lot of work for honestly very little return. If you
want to learn skills from others, best way to do it is to poke at
something a bit, then when you get stuck ask somebody else. Say “I’m
trying to do X and I tried Y and Z but they didn’t work, here’s what
happened… any ideas?” Hopefully they’ll know, will give you some
hints, and that will be sufficient, then off you go again til you get
stuck again. If you get really stuck, back up, go around, try
something else for a while, get some fresh perspective.
There’s no magic bullet, no set of books you can read that will make
you an expert at *anything*, and security work is no exception. The
secret is putting in the time and effort; that’s all, that’s it.
Stephen King says it best.

Office Space

Academic offices.

Ahh, I can remember the offices of a few of my own professors.  Always fascinating places to visit, once I got over the innate fear reaction.  I used to love my mother’s too.  Visiting other offices, there’s lots to see, especially books on
shelves.  Nowadays I look to see what’s on the shelves that *isn’t*
directly related to their field.  Professors being who and what they are, it’s actually disappointingly rare to see much along those lines, but I look anyway.  I also like to see how people lay
things out, to see if I can scoop any ideas for my own disaster.  Unfortunately, few people have the sort of work I do, so that’s difficult.

In my current job, I see a great many offices of faculty members, but more importantly, I have my own.  Many of my friends are in industry and have, at best, cubes of their very own.  Some people I know on campus have offices, but have to vacate them periodically.  At my last job, I started in a real office, then got moved to a desk in a corner of cubeland, then I got my own cube walls, then my cube got doubled up, then I lost a bit more space – eventually winding up in a 5’x5′ square with shelving higher than I could reach and a pair of CRTs gobbling up most of the desk space.  I won’t say that’s *the* reason I ditched, but it sure didn’t hurt either.

A good-sized office is a nice thing to have, and is one of the things I appreciate about my current job.  If I changed jobs, I suspect it would be something I’d miss a lot.

Popular views of justice

Tangentially related to a paper I wrote for my cognitive science seminar, I’ve been collecting references to stories on CBC, CTV, and other outlets that allow commenting. What I’m interested in is the popular reaction to matters related to what can loosely be described as justice. For instance, I’ve bookmarks to stories on Robert Pickton, Thomas Svekla, street racers who’ve killed people, Gregory Despres’s trial, some child pornography cases, and so on.
Besides the obvious effect of the stories themselves – litanies of the indignities which we visit upon one another with depressing regularity – I’ve found a couple of other things. First is an extension of that thought; it’s similarly depressing how people who are presumably largely Canadian citizens, my peers, presumably fairly well-educated and in the top 10th or 20th percentile worldwide, folks who are well-enough off to have both the free time and access to read and comment on these stories online, are able to so casually dismiss and pass judgement on other human beings with a minimum of information. Second is now every time I see a story that’s likely to get such comments, I mentally grin and rub my hands in anticipation. Then I feel guilty, because each one of those stories means something horrible has happened to one or more human beings, and chances are something horrible is going to happen to at least one more person.
I have a rough idea where I’d like to go with this stuff, and I even have a rough idea about the direction in which I’d like to see our society headed. But given that we live in a democracy, it’s fairly unlikely we’d even come close to what I’d like to see, at least in my lifetime.