91.x.x.x/8 is banned.

I just spent a piece of my (very beautiful in Denver, tankuveddymuch) morning cleaning up after a r0dent hammered the hell out of feedle.net’s webserver and brought a few things down. I don’t know if it was a DDoS targeted specifically at me, or at my hosting provider in general (it’s worth noting none of the other boxes at the same company seem impacted, however they are hosted in Texas where the webserver is in Northern California).

So, after getting things restarted, I went digging in my hosts.deny file. The great thing about running things like “Denyhosts” is you get a pretty clear picture of who the bad actors are. And one /8 keeps showing up in my hosts.deny file: 91./8. So, for the first time in my entire life of running feedle.net (15 years and counting) I’ve banned an entire chunk of the Internet from even accessing my site.

The last time I did anything close to this was when I added microsoft.com to my apache configs as “personæ non gratæ”, and that was for a short time until their bot started behaving and doing reasonable crawls and not taking up a significant chunk of my entire monthly transit. However, in digging around a bit, 91./8 is responsible for almost 3% of all bogosity against feedle.net servers. That’s a lot for one network, and it’s a lot for feedle.net to bear.

So, effective immediately, 91./8 is permanently banned from feedle.net servers. If you have a reason to be accessing anything on my personal network from that network please contact me via a Google service (ie. Gmail or Hangouts, or comment on the eventual propagation of this to G+) and I’ll whitelist your individual IP. Note that if you get a DHCP address that may change I will be very unlikely to whitelist multiple addresses or anything larger than a /26.

Kill amateur radio. Put it out of its misery once and for all.

As a lot of you out there know, I’m a ham radio operator. It’s a passing fancy of mine that goes very well with the general modus operandi of “tinkerer”: it’s allegedly a hobby about building and experimenting with radio technologies.

A whole lot of people (most of whom have nothing to do with the hobby of amateur radio as defined by regulatory bodies) have discovered that the Raspberry Pi can do a great job of generating a FM signal suitable for basically making a “pirate radio throwie“: a disposable device that generates a modest signal that can be heard on FM radios within a short radius.

“Huzzah!” I say to these experimenters and their toys. I salute any effort to promote the radio arts.. and I would love to take every one under my wing and show them how with a few simple extra parts (a low-pass filter and a transistor or two) they can make their signal slightly stronger.. and a whole lot cleaner for everyone on the radio dial.

So I recently get the crazy idea that, since this is in essence a 100% “software defined radio” it should be trivial to rework the “pifm” software into doing some bidding for me as an APRS device. If a wideband FM stereo signal can be generated, it’s just a matter of tweaking the bandwidth down to “narrowband” FM. I would as a matter of course add aforementioned “filtering” before I ever put this thing in amateur radio usage… but fundamentally it seems to me to be a logical conclusion, a fun weekend project, and even more importantly something to dust off the old brain cells and improve my skills as a radio geek.

God help me for the responses I’ve been getting on Reddit for *gasp* even considering it and vocalizing my intentions (and also wondering if I was reinventing the wheel).

Out came the Old Men of Henry Radio types, blasting me for even suggesting it. “Go buy a $20 transmitter that pretends it’s a real radio,” one response said.

So with that tone and attitude I simply have come to the conclusion that I can no longer support amateur radio as a hobby, and further, it needs to be killed. “Ham radio operators” are killing inventive ideas actively, and discouraging experimentation? What crazy wacko world do I live in where the very place we’re supposed to be innovative and cutting edge is the place I’m discouraged from even thinking about something that is expanding our knowledge of how to put a signal on the air.

So, since that’s the attitude of most hams nowadays, I can no longer support this hobby in any shape or form. And to that end, I’m even going to encourage its destruction. The next time there’s a Notice regarding the ham spectrum, my response to the FCC is going to be:

[ham] radio no longer serves the general good and has become nothing more than a waste of spectrum: mostly because the denizens of the spectrum today no longer encourage active experimentation and expanding of the radio art and instead discourage experiments and are hostile to young minds wanting to explore.

It’s time for these old men to turn off their old radios, hang up their antique microphones, and get out of the way of progress.

How to upgrade your phone without upgrading..

So one of the nice things about the Otterbox cases is even the “less rugged” ones like the Commuter still do a fantastic job of keeping the phone encased in a protective blanket of rubber and plastic. I picked up a new Otterbox Defender for my Galaxy Note II, put in a new battery and it’s like I have a new phone, without having to go through the process of moving apps and login credentials.

Downside: FINDING a new Otterbox was a pain. My number one complaint about Otterbox is they are quick to discontinue product, often times before the lifetime of the phone they design them for has ended. Prepaid providers are especially victims of this: Sprint (as a prime example) uses their various MVNOs to dump previous generation devices at bargain prices, and that means NO OTTERBOX FOR YOU if you have a couple of generations behind.

Thank the gods Micro Center is like Frys and they hold on to inventory probably longer than the manufacturer would intend..

Why I’m bear-ish on Bitcoin

OK, this has come around again, so I guess I need to actually fill a few of you in on something. I hate to be the one to break this to you. But, Bitcoin isn’t going to ever achieve any kind of mass success.

There’s no conspiracy theory, no “big banks are keeping it down, man!” plot. The reasons why Bitcoin will fail like EVERY OTHER ATTEMPT to create a digital currency before it simply boils down to this.

Social and political issues have never been solved technologically. They’ve always been solved.. well, socially and politically first, and the technology has only played a factor long after the shouting has stopped.

The reasons for this involve “tipping points”, and I won’t go into the whole theory on tipping points and macroeconomics here. Go read Freakonomics and The Tipping Point if you want an exhausting analysis as to the reasons Bitcoin has yet to achieve enough critical mass (and more importantly, enough critical mass in the right areas).  The TL;DR edition: until you can use Bitcoins at a mass-market retailer, fuhgeddabout.

But let’s wander back to the first point, which is, technology never solves social ills by itself.  It only solves social and political problems when it is clear to enough “somebodys” that Societal Ill A can be solved by Technology B in a direct, linear fashion.  And, to that end, Bitcoin doesn’t even serve to solve the societal ill it claims to combat.  And that goes double here in the US, I’m afraid to say, because we do live in a self-styled “democracy”.. and I’m ashamed to admit this, but most Americans are too dumb to understand any cause and effect that can’t be summed up in a 15-second infographic on CNN.

Bitcoin is trumpeted up as being a way for, say, the Occupy Movement to finally free us from the financial tyranny (*snort*) of the Big Banks.  Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but.. please explain to me how any third-party currency, be it Bitcoins, Lindens, or Disney Dollars, “frees” me from dealing with the Big Banks when it is impossible to buy any of the “necessities” of life (food, clothing, shelter, and transportation) without using US Dollars.  It’s not just difficult, it is impossible.  Even the handful of small merchants who accept Bitcoin are doing it largely via automatic exchanges that are converting the coins into US Dollars at clearance.  You can probably count on one hand the pure-play merchants who are keeping any quantity of Bitcoins on hand.

And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  How many brick and mortar merchants keep a large quantity of cash on hand?  None of them do, don’t be silly.  They may keep a few hundred dollars in change, and they may have a day’s receipts worth of cash because they haven’t made the bank run yet.  But in the back of the grocery store on the corner there isn’t some massive safe with thousands of dollars locked away in it for any longer than it has to be.

And that goes double for Bitcoins, because of the very volatile nature of the “currency.”  Minute to minute prices of Bitcoin fluctuate, so if you’re a merchant that accepts Bitcoin you are playing a game of “beat the clock” every time you accept Bitcoin.   You want to get that out of the liquid state of Bitcoins into cold, hard US Dollars as quickly as possible, lest you potentially lose the entire value of the transaction when the Bitcoin market has one of it’s frequent and violent cases of shitting itself.

Businesses are highly risk-averse, and there is no greater risk heavier than acting as a currency exchange.  In effect, every merchant that wants to accept Bitcoin has to know the value of Bitcoin to whatever they’re paying out in expenses in (and with rare exception, regardless of where in the world it is, that essentially becomes the US Dollar).  There is actually one or two of the major Bitcoin trading houses who do this automatically via a “shopping cart”: and guess what they clear the funds in.  Usually, the quicker the better.

Point is, even in some hypothetical future scenario where Seven-11 takes Bitcoin (hey, it could happen, they take PayPal, amirite?) they’re not going to be trading in Bitcoin, just accepting it and converting it to a more fungible, negotiable currency.  Right now, that currency is the Federal Reserve Note US Dollar, who.. yeah, we know.  Big banks.

At the end of the day, big banks have their hold over us precisely because they’re.. big banks.  When Kroger needs a loan to open a new store, they’re not going to launch a Kickstarter. They’re going to talk to their banker, and depending on their financial solvency they may issue more stocks, or a capital bond, or borrow the money.  In all three cases, the people who are giving them the money will be giving it in US Dollars, and expecting payment in US Dollars.

And why not?  The US Dollar is a reasonably stable currency.  You know that if you loan out $1,000,000 at 5% interest exactly how much you’re going to get paid back.  And the only calculation you have to make as the loaner of the money is the risk of the investment itself compared to other potential investments: you don’t have to necessarily worry that the currency will be worth substantially less in five years’ time.  The ups and downs of the US Dollar are “well understood”, the risks are largely able to be mitigated.

The only way Bitcoin will ever succeed as a widely accepted currency is if the US Dollar fails.  And to be honest, if that happens, no cryptocurrency will save us: there will be no capital available to keep the lights on to even think about a cybercurrency.

Thoughts on friends and DEFCON..

I’m probably going to lose a friend or two over this. Maybe. Actually, I’d like to think that I’ve whittled the kind of people who WOULD “unfriend” me over this down to irrelevance, so maybe I won’t. Anyway, here goes anyway.

A lot of people have wondered over the years why I no longer go to DEFCON, or for that matter, just about any “hacker” conference. I’ve been vague most of the times as to why, often blaming money or “time” as the reason. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The real reason? I feel like I’ve grown up.

I’d like to say that a lot has changed since the first DEFCON (which I didn’t intentionally attend, but a coincidence put me in Las Vegas that weekend.. DEFCON III was the first one I technically “attended”) and today. I’d like to give the community the benefit of the doubt. I would love to be proven wrong about my attitudes and opinions. Yet, every time I think I’m about ready to rejoin the fray, I get reminded of why I no longer attend.

Ten years ago, I made a decision to exclude from my life things that were not in line with my “personal manifesto” (some of you are privy to that Manifesto). One of the important parts of that (as it has evolved) was removing myself from situations and groups where Progress, Love, and Light were not at the core; to no longer associate with people or groups that did not hold those ideals in practice. By my standards, I’ve done a pretty good job of holding myself to those “standards.” Far from perfect, but far from where I was 20 years ago when I was younger, angrier, and less refined.

I have wonderful friends. I know some of the most beautiful people in the world. They are all generous, warm, and real. They’re not perfect. But I can honestly say, as I look at my collective friends, that I’m honored to have every one of them in my life, and my life is richer for their presence. I cherish every one of them.. and most importantly, I’d trust any one of them with my life, my soul, my essence.

My dear uncle Oscar was the kindest, most gentle man I ever had the privilege of meeting. His personal philosophy was he would rather have one really good friend than a thousand “acquaintances.” It’s a life lesson it didn’t take me long to learn as I entered adulthood the value of true friends. Friends who would keep me fed and sheltered when I’ve been poor. Friends who would make sure I’m safe when I’m having a medical crisis.  The saying is “friends help you move, true friends help you move bodies.”

Friends I don’t have to share my deepest, darkest secret.. because they don’t have to be told. “I’m a bit genderqueer,” I recently revealed to one of these friends. “I’m considered a twospirit by much of my tribe and intentional family.” The response was a shrug and an “I already knew that,” even though I never told them nor did they read that here.

I’ve met a good chunk of these fine people, directly or indirectly, through the “hacker scene”.  To a very large degree, I believe these are people I would have eventually ran across anyway, be it from the mutual communites that overlap “hackerdom” and more “normal” pursuits.  Or maybe even not more normal.

As part of my adapting to life in a new town recently, I’m starting to wonder if I want to reconnect to the hacker community.  I’m torn, because I think there’s lots of interesting things going on in the “scene” right now.  People are experimenting with fun technologies (things like the Raspberry Pi and similar cheap computers) and it has rekindled my passion for all things “hack” (in the more traditional sense of people bashing together old technology to do new things).

But the struggle is that lots of folks are playing with this tech and don’t identify as hackers.  The movement is called “DIY” today, and I think if I was a teenager again I’d be going to those meetings instead of LA2600, and be more interested in Maker Faire than DEFCON.

I haven’t even touched upon the most disturbing aspects (to me) of the whole “scene”, in regards to the hazards that someone who is genderqueer, or for that matter even a cisgendered female, faces being “out” in this community.  I’ve seen it myself over the years.. and heck, I’m not 100% innocent myself (see: I was once young, angry, and less refined).  The hacker scene is a weird, strange place.  For as much as it is filled with misfits and malcontents, they are often brutal to people who aren’t THEIR kind of misfit and malcontent.  Homosexuals I know in the scene have been called “faggots” and ostracised from some groups solely because they are gay.  We are seeing a lot of the same voices “speak out” against the “social justice movement” even though I personally believe that we have (as a community) have treated women like absolute shit for two decades and are now largely reaping what we sow in that regard.

Things needed to change.  Being a “hacker” is not the domain of the “white, cisgendered male” any more than gaming is.  From the very beginning there were people among you who were “gay”, “genderqueer”, and “black.”  For that matter, there was one particular hacker from my time who was all of the above, and she’s one of the most talented “computer security professionals” I’ve ever met (and I had a crush on her long before her transition).  If she entered the scene today I suspect she’d be treated cruelly by the “scene” even long after she proved herself “worthy.”

Maybe I’m wrong.  And it hurts me that I’m (in essence) judging the same community as harshly as I feel they are judging others, and in large lumping the /b/tards, reddit fuckups, and my formerly beloved “hackers” in the same category (and the irony of that prejudgement is not lost on me, believe me).  And I value the friends I’ve met through the “hacker scene” as strongly as I value all my friends.

I just don’t feel welcome anymore by the whole community.  I’m too different, and I feel “othered” even though I’m about as “old school” as they come.  Maybe I’m just getting old, and feedle is, in fact, feeble.

DEFCON isn’t my space anymore.  You can’t go home if home has packed up and moved on without you.

Why the entire “gun control” discussion is irrelevant.

There are times when I feel like I’m the only person in the world who fucking pays attention.

Right now, we’ve got this big debate going on here about whether or not certain guns should or should not be banned and all the wharrrggble that goes along with any time somebody tries to start a level-headed conversation about guns in this country.

Am I the only one who has been watching what people are doing with 3D printers?

Primitive “printable guns” already exist, that only require a small amount of actual metalworking to work.

I’ll repeat that with details, for those of you who seem to be missing this.

It is possible now to have only basic and rudimentary skills as a metalsmith or machinist to assemble a usable firearm using about $2,000 in computer-aided manufacturing tools one can build themselves, using plans and patterns easily obtainable on the Internet.  As we move forward, the skill level required to manufacture these parts will only decrease, especially if there’s an “incentive” created by a partial or complete ban.

Go ahead, ban the “manufacture and sale” of assault weapons. The reality? In the next 2-3 years there will be an underground network of people who posses the tools to build them anyway.

And those weapons won’t be trackable, because they can be one-offs built from a machine that costs about the same as a good assault rifle costs today.  Those weapons will be inherently “hackable”, coming right off the autolathe and printer as “full auto”.


Making a gun isn’t rocket science, it’s a late Renaissance invention that was made before we had computers, autolathes, 3D printers, composite plastics, and advanced metallurgy and chemistry.  Even before CAD/CAM techniques anybody with a basic knowledge of machining parts could make a usable gun out of scrap metal parts probably in any metalsmith’s “junk box.”  It doesn’t take a lot of technology to slam a hammer into the back of a percussive cap, detonating a small charge of powder to accelerate a metal slug to near-the-speed-of-sound, and having a long and straight enough tube to guide the bullet to it’s target.

Urban Planning and the bourgeois tourist, or “Oh hell, how did I miss that?”

So, I have this friend James. James and I would, when we both lived together in Southern California, get in his Toyota pickup and drive to all sorts of weird remote places.. ostensibly to look for telephone company related crap (a lot of which is now gone).

One of the side effects of this extensive traveling is I’ve discovered I get this weird.. well, “Spidey sense” for urban planning. I get this minor “unsettled” feeling when I’m in a neighborhood and I haven’t seen what I consider to be the “normal” parts of a neighborhood.  “Is there something I’m missing,” is the feeling.

Even the worst planned neighborhoods typically contain a school, a gas station, a grocery store, a fast-food establishment (or, the seemingly Pacific Northwest variant of same: a coffeehouse), and a family restaurant somewhere within it. In post-war Southern California, the tendency was to build major boulevards about a mile apart on a Euclidean 1 grid, put the businesses along those boulevards, and fill in the spaces between with residences. 2

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve noticed the trend is more or less the same. In Portland and Seattle, you need to think a little outside the box.  The lines tend to follow old streetcar lines instead of the modern automotive street: in Portland, this has resulted in most of the major retail corridors being on east-west streets, and the pattern seems to imply the housing was built FIRST, and the commercial corridors added later.

The point is, if any attempt at urban planning is being done there is somewhere within a neighborhood some commercial development for people to buy food and fuel.

As a side effect of this observation, whenever I’m exploring a new urban landscape I always seek out these neighborhood commercial clusters, because they give you a great window into the demographic makeup of a given area.  Five minutes in the grocery store and lunch at the neighborhood fast-food joint (or coffeehouse) will tell you more about a particular place than any map or Chamber of Commerce summary.  You see (what the neighborhood considers) “normal” people doing the normal things people do.

I recently discovered a neighborhood in Bend that had me stumped.  There was no commercial corridor here.  In fact, it was kind-of an island by itself, a little bit disconnected from the city (although still very much IN the city).. but it puzzled me.  There was no grocery store I could find, no gas station.. nothing.  It was a little unnerving: I wound up saying to myself “where the hell does Mom get the sugar she forgot to get at Fred Meyer?”

Today I discovered the shopping district I missed.  It was actually buried on the southern edge of the development.  It didn’t have the gas station I would have expected, but it had the grocery store, the coffeehouse, and the sit-down restaurant I would have expected.  When you looked at it on the map, you could almost tell that this wasn’t supposed to be where the city stopped, this was supposed to be near the center of this little development.  The economic realities of the housing market bubble of the 2000’s stopped “progress” dead in its tracks.

It’s interesting that I’ve developed this sort of “sixth sense” for knowing that there HAD to be a grocery store / strip mall there.

But more interestingly, maybe if I spent less time as a young adult trashing around looking for phone company shit and more time with biochemistry maybe I would have cured cancer by now.


Show 2 footnotes

  1. Orange County went so far with this Euclidean madness they actually named a major north-south boulevard.. “Euclid St.”
  2. It’s worth noting that even in South Orange County, which attempted to get away from the “uniform grid” style of city building, does the same thing except the roads are curvy and often don’t follow any general cardinal direction: but the tendency to build commercial strips along them and fill the spaces between with residences is still the norm.

We often become what we hate the most.

As a geek, I’ve been a victim of bullying in my life. Anybody who’s a little bit different has been subjected to this. In my case, it was my advanced development and intelligence that set me apart from my peers.

The upside to being a victim of bullying is it makes one acutely aware of situations where somebody in a position of power uses that power inappropriately.

On Tuesday, mc chris ejected a fan from his concert in Philadelphia after the fan posted a critical (but in the grand scheme of things, mild) comment about his opening act. He publicly called out the person in the middle of the concert, using his real name, and had security remove him from the venue.

When one person uses their position of power (be it physical or situational) to embarrass somebody and cause emotional harm, that’s bullying. A person expressing their opinion about an opening act? Not bullying. Calling that person out, in public, in a crowded room (where there’s a concern for that person’s physical safety) and using your thugs to eject him from the facility? That’s bullying.

“Real nerds” take criticism. “Real nerds” know how it feels to be singled out because you are different. “Real nerds” talk to each other to work out their differences and problems.

The gentleman you ejected is a real nerd. He owned up to it, and left the venue without much of a fuss.

I’ve got a better word for you, mc chris. “Child.”

“Children” throw temper tantrums when things don’t go their way. “Children” seek sympathy when punished for their crimes, rather than own up to it. “Children” cry when they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

And you, sir, are a contemptible, immature brat who needs a spanking. Geek culture gave you one. Suck it up, stop crying, and make real changes.

Prank Calls at the Motel 6

Something really odd just happened. I awoke to the phone ringing in my hotel room at about 10:15-ish. On the other end was somebody claiming to be from the hotel’s front desk and saying something about getting complaints about “loud parties in my room” or some such. I went silent on the line and just waited, and after a couple of “hellos?” they hung up.

I immediately knew it wasn’t the front desk. First off, the call audio was obviously not local.. even through this motel’s crappy PBX I could tell it was likely long distance, and even had telltale signs of Skype jitter in the audio. Secondly, I’ve stayed here long enough to have met all the front desk staff: they’re all old geezers, and this caller’s voice sounded like a juvenile punk kid. It also sounded vaguely.. familiar.

I sure wish I wasn’t asleep when the call came in. I now suspect it was the children at Madhouse Live.  It sounded like them, anyway.

OK, haha, very funny.  How droll.  And then I realized something that kinda creeps me out a little bit: they used my first name during the call.

Wait. How did they know my first name?

I walked to the front desk and had a brief conversation with the (old) man.  Turns out that our fun-loving telephone r0dent social engineered the front desk into releasing the name of the person in room 1xx using some story about somebody being ill.  Wonderful.  I informed the guy that we’d just been had, and went back to my room.

After sitting here for a few minutes, I now feel a little uneasy.  One of the downsides to having a unique first name is that it’s pretty easy to find me.  There is only one person with my first name: me.  Doing a simple Google search on only my first name gives you Everything You Ever Need To Know.  (Yeah, I’m aware that by posting this very article I’m making it worse..)

I’m fortunate: the caller could have been a phisher working a scam and not just out for a Fiber-Optic Joyride.  I also plan on making sure the hotel gets a little bit of an education on this and doesn’t fall for this flim-flammery in the future.

Oh, and a big apology to Madhouse Live (assuming that was in fact you) I didn’t provide a better show.  I was asleep.  Give me a little warning next time and you’d have had something legendary.  I could have slipped in to my “Big Dick” Stetson voice and gone all shit-howdy hick postal on you (which is probably what you expected when you called a budget motel in rural Oregon anyway, not some half-awake blogger geek).

Anyway, I’m going back to bed.  With the ringer on the phone switched to OFF.