Friday, December 31, 2010

Another perfectly poured Guinness at Fado!

VoIP Now Technically Illegal In China

ironfrost writes "A recent ruling by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has declared that VoIP services are illegal, except for the ones operated by state-owned telecom operators China Telecom and China Unicom. According to the article, "the decision is expected to make Skype, UUCall and other similar services unavailable in China", and is widely seen as a way to protect the traditional telecom operators' profits. Here's a more in-depth story in Chinese (Google Translate version)."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bird (s) on a wire...

A hacker’s marginal security helps return stolen computer

Hack a Day

Gather round and hear the story of how a hacker outsmarts a criminal. [Zoz] was robbed and they got his desktop computer. Gone, right? Nope. Because of a peculiar combination of his computer’s configuration, and the stupidity of the criminal, he got it back. He shares the tale during his Defcon 18 talk (PDF), the video is embedded after the break.

[Zoz's] first bit of luck came because he had set up the machine to use a dynamic DNS service, updated via a script. Since the criminal didn’t wipe the hard drive he was able to find the machine online. From there he discovered that he could SSH into it, and even use VNC to eavesdrop on the new owner. This, along with a keylogger he installed, got him all the information he needed; the guy’s name, birth date, login and password information for websites, and most importantly his street address. He passed along this juicy data to police and they managed to recover the system.

[Thanks Ferdinand via Gizmodo]

Filed under: cons, security hacks

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Xmas 2010.AVI by @fjlayton

Check out this video on YouTube:

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Andrew in his Halo reach UNSC shirt from @thinkgeek!

Mr Bean -Merry Christmas

Check out this video on YouTube:

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Happy Holidays!


Bowery Ballroom
New York City
August 22nd, 2009
9:17 PM EST
Song 1
Somewhat Damaged

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Electric pole knocked down in Whitehall Ohio @FOX28Columbus

Just Don’t Call It Moonshine

He has been working with it for only two years, but the products his Harvest Spirits distillery sells are accomplished. From the fruit of orchards that his grandfather bought from a descendant of Martin Van Buren, he has made one of the first serious new applejacks in decades, a beautifully soft pear brandy and what he calls a “silly labor of love,” a himbeergeist — apple vodka laced with his own wild black raspberries.

Mr. Grout left his family’s farm for Cornell and spent eight years as a graphic designer in Boston. His return runs a similar arc to that of many Northeast distillers. “This is my way to maximize my family’s agricultural heritage,” he said. “From the farmer’s perspective, the only way to increase the value of an apple is to make it into spirit and put that in oak.”

Stills once thrived in the Northeast, with rum in colonial Massachusetts, applejack that made Jersey Lightning an everyday term and Monongahela ryes from Pennsylvania and Delaware that were a staple before bourbon existed. Now distilling is proliferating again, not just with farmers like Mr. Grout adding value to their crops, but with disgruntled professionals abandoning desk duty to make gin and whiskey, craft brewers and small winemakers branching out into spirits, and young urbanites setting up stills the way their peers have set up apiaries and charcuteries.

After Prohibition, laws made production feasible for only a few huge distilleries. A craft distilling movement began on the West Coast about 20 years ago, but restrictive state regulations kept it from spreading. In the last few years, though, as states sought new forms of revenue, they cut astronomic licensing fees and gave incentives to producers who got the bulk of their raw materials in-state, as with New York State’s Farm Distillery Law in 2007.

Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group, said the number of distilleries nationwide has grown to 220, from 24 in 2001, and is expanding.

Like Mr. Grout, virtually all craft distillers use small pot stills rather than the huge column stills used by the industry giants. Though more labor-intensive, these more faithfully capture the essence of fruit and grain, and let a distiller precisely select what part of the distilling run to use to create the most nuanced styles and flavors.

“These smaller products are necessarily more expensive, and they may lack some refinement,” said Chris Gerling, an associate of enology at the Cornell Extension in Geneva, N.Y., who runs its increasingly popular introductory seminars on distilling. “But people get that they’re all handmade, local, often organic. That’s the tradeoff. They can show some rough edges and be more appealing for it.”

Being small also confers one inestimable advantage: freedom.

“We have the ability to diversify wildly,” said Chris Weld, whose Berkshire Mountain Distillers, near Great Barrington, Mass., puts out eight different spirits. “We can make a fruit brandy one day and a whiskey the next.”

“For us, all the fun is in playing with the ingredients, getting to tweak the formula for a gin,” Mr. Weld added. “Conversely, that also becomes a necessity for us to differentiate ourselves.”

Mr. Weld, 45, spent 17 hectic years as an emergency room physician’s assistant in Oakland, Calif., before returning East, where he grew up crushing apples that his father grew in Westchester County.

Given the 80-hour weeks he puts in, the hospital might look like a sinecure.

His still is unlovely, a secondhand cousin of the African Queen he bought online and drove up from Kentucky. But its output is a thing of beauty. He makes a molasses-based rum, a number of fruit brandies from his own orchards and two gins, one of which, Ethereal, changes formula every six months. For his aged corn whiskies he puts spirit he distills from local white corn into oak and cherry barrels that he has cut, milled and charred on the farm.

On the more lavish side of the craft, Brian McKenzie, 33, has built the Finger Lakes Region’s first stand-alone distillery, Finger Lakes Distilling, in Burdett, N.Y., which juts like a sleek white liner among 100-year-old vineyards on a hillside above Seneca Lake. Mr. McKenzie spent years in finance in Washington before coming home to help at his father’s small savings and loan in Elmira, N.Y. After trips to Scotland and Kentucky, he was bitten by the concept of introducing distilling to a region where hundreds of local wineries have created a solid base of alco-tourism.

His distillery is striking, housing a well-appointed tasting room and a custom-built 300-gallon German-made Holstein pot still, which vaults through the space like a burnished copper rocket. But his masterstroke was hiring Thomas Earl McKenzie, 34 (no relation), an experienced Alabaman stillman whose sly drawl is as surprising in these parts as is the accomplished breadth of his handiwork.

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Recording the Police

Bruce Schneier says "I've written a lot on the 'War on Photography,' where normal people are harassed as potential terrorists for taking pictures of things in public. This article is different; it's about recording the police: Allison's predicament is an extreme example of a growing and disturbing trend. As citizens increase their scrutiny of law enforcement officials through technologies such as cell phones..."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Database of Private SSL Keys Published

Trailrunner7 writes "A new project has produced a large and growing list of the private SSL keys that are hard-coded into many embedded devices, such as consumer home routers. The LittleBlackBox Project comprises a list of more than 2,000 private keys right now, each of which can be associated with the public key of a given router, making it a simple matter for an attacker to decrypt the traffic passing through the device. Published by a group called /dev/ttyS0, the LittleBlackBox database of private keys gives users the ability to find the key for a specific router in several different ways, including by searching for a known public key, looking up a device's model name, manufacturer or firmware version or even giving it a network capture, from which the program will extract the device's public certificate and then find the associated private SSL key."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pythagoras, a math genius? Not by Babylonian standards

Pythagoras, a math genius? Not by Babylonian standards

By Laura Allsop for CNN

  • Scribes in Old Babylonian period knew Pythagoras's theorem 1,000 years before he did
  • Cuneiform tablets in New York exhibition show sophistication of Babylonian mathematicians
  • Interest in this strand of history growing

(CNN) -- Over 1,000 years before Pythagoras was calculating the length of a hypotenuse, sophisticated scribes in Mesopotamia were working with the same theory to calculate the area of their farmland.

Working on clay tablets, students would "write" out their math problems in cuneiform script, a method that involved making wedge-shaped impressions in the clay with a blunt reed.

These tablets bear evidence of practical as well as more advanced theoretical math and show just how sophisticated the ancient Babylonians were with numbers -- more than a millennium before Pythagoras and Euclid were doing the same in ancient Greece.

"They are the most sophisticated mathematics from anywhere in the world at that time," said Alexander Jones, a Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at New York University.

He is co-curator of "Before Pythagoras: The Culture of Old Babylonian Mathematics," an exhibition at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York.

"This is nearly 4,000 years ago and there's no other ancient culture at that time that we know of that is doing anything like that level of work. It seems to be going beyond anything that daily life needs," he said.

Many scribes were trained in the ancient city of Nippur in what is now southern Iraq, where a large number of tablets were discovered between the mid-19th century and the 1920s.

Typical problems they worked on involved calculating the area of a given field, or the width of a trench.

These problems, says Jones, required the kind of math training taught to American Grade 10 students, but not in a format we would now recognize.

"It's not like algebra, it's all written out in words and numerals but no symbols and no times signs or equals or anything like that," he said.

This system, and the lack of recognizable Western mathematical symbols such as x and y, meant that it was several years before historians and archaeologists understood just what was represented on these tablets.

It took a young Austrian mathematician in the 1920s, named Otto Neugebauer, to crack the mathematical system and work out what the ancient Babylonians were calculating. But despite his advances, it is only recently that interest in Babylonian math has started to take hold.

"I think that before Neugebauer and even after Neugebauer, there wasn't a lot of attention placed on mathematical training in Babylon even though we have this rich cuneiform history with the tablets," said Jennifer Chi, Associate Director for Exhibitions and Public Programs at Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

One of the aims of the institute, she says, is to find interconnections between ancient cultures as well as look at what the institute sees as under-represented ancient cultures -- and the culture of ancient Babylonian math, she says, is ripe for popular revision.

"When we think of ancient mathematics, the first names that come to mind are Pythagoras and Euclid," she said, but that "this shouldn't be the case."

And though ancient Babylonia is often referred to in popular culture as a "lost" world, in fact much more evidence of mathematical learning from the period exists than from ancient Greece, said Chi.

Jones of New York University believes that there is much more that could be excavated but that, of course, current conditions in Iraq are not favorable. Still, there are enough tablets in collections across the world for mathematical historians to get stuck into.

For non-mathematicians, these tablets are a fascinating document of life in Mesopotamia. Most of the problems displayed are grounded in the everyday needs of ancient Babylonians.

But some tablets show the students engaging in what Jones calls "recreational math" -- math for math's sake.

"The only point of learning to do this kind of thing is really as a mental exercise, as a way of showing how smart you are," he said.

And it seems there is still more to learn from the Babylonians. Duncan Melville is a Professor of Mathematics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, whose special interest is Mesopotamian mathematics.

According to Melville, teachers can continue to learn a thing or two about the way math was taught in Mesopotamia.

"You look at the way they set up their sequences of problems and it's all very carefully graduated, from simple problems to more complicated problems," he said.

"As a teacher of mathematics, it's very interesting to see how they organized their material," he continued. "There's still interesting things to learn from cutting-edge pedagogy 4,000 years ago."

With research continuing into this strand of ancient history, it remains to be seen whether Pythagoras's theorem will come to bear the name of an old Babylonian scribe instead.

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NSA considers its networks compromised

Debora Plunkett, head of the NSA's Information Assurance Directorate, has confirmed what many security experts suspected to be true: no computer network can be considered completely and utterly impenetrable - not even that of the NSA. "There's no such thing as 'secure' any more," she said to the attendees of a cyber security forum sponsored by the Atlantic and Government Executive media organizations, and confirmed that the NSA works under the assumption that various parts of their systems have already been compromised, and is adjusting its actions accordingly. To preserve the availability and integrity of the systems it has the duty to protect, the NSA has turned to standardization, constant auditing, and the development and use of sensors that will be placed inside the network on specific points in hope of detecting threats as soon as they trigger them, reports Reuters. The problem with cyber defense - especially when it comes to attacks backed by governments and intelligence organizations - is that attackers are usually highly motivated and often very well funded. Organizations can think of a hundred things to do to secure a system, but the attackers have time, money and incentive to keep at it as long as it takes to identify that crack in the armor that will allow them to get in. So far, as I can see, the main aspect of cyber defense that every one should concentrate on is real-time detection of intrusions that would allow defenders to actively fight off the attackers - and the NSA is possibly on the right track if the sensors the plan to deploy will allow them to do that.

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