As I write this post, we are a little over 4 hours from January 1, 2010. First, I want to wish the four readers of my blog (I count myself) a happy new year. Should by a quirk of odd luck and randomness others read this, then you too, I wish a happy new year. As one year comes to a close and a new year (and decade) comes before us, it is a time for both reflection and to look ahead.

First a look back.

2009, I admit wasn’t one of the best years of my life. In early January, one of my closest friends lost his father. As a friend who lived a large distance away, I felt helpless in trying to comfort him. Having (thankfully) not experienced this myself, I did not know what to do. The following week, when I flew out to see him (a pre-planned trip) I discovered that my friend was far more resilient than I thought. Though the focus of the trip was to take his mind off of things, I discovered he didn’t need it. Later in the year I saw this friendship erode and end on September 18th for what I believed to be forever (he made it quite clear to me that this was to be the case).

Professionally, there were disappointments, to say the least. March 3 will always be a day I wish to forget but will remember for a long time. I discovered a new side of someone who works at the same company I do, a side I didn’t like. When others were told, some were extremely surprised while others reactions were, “yeah, I know.” Also another person who is very close to me continued to feel the full force and fury of our economic downturn and I could do nothing but provide moral, sympathetic support. He is still battling that storm, whose end, while not apparent, hopefully will come soon.

There were a lot of good things that happened in 2009. First, and most importantly, my mom’s cancer went into remission. She ended her treatments and even got to do something she never thought she would be able to do ever again, travel. Secondly, my dad regained the ability to drive at night. My parents got to enjoy freedoms once thought lost forever and for me, I think that’s a great thing! We also got to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary.

I got to travel to a place I’ve never been to before–Chicago the land of Obama (yeah, someone named Abe is also from that state). Yes, I’ve been to O’Hare earlier in my life, but I don’t get to count that. Despite the rain and nasty weather I had a great time walking around the city.

I also got to attend my first Defcon in Las Vegas. It was my first “Geek convention” and I found it fascinating. In November I got to do something for the third year in a row, turn a “virtual” friend into an “in real life” friend, someone I have known for six years. This was, by far, the best trip to Las Vegas I’ve ever had and certainly one of my favorite vacations of all time.

One of the nicest surprises of my life happened on December 16. That friendship, that I thought was over forever had a rebirth.  Let’s call this “friendship 2.0.” Someone once told me, “fortune favors the bold.”  I got bold and decided to reach out to the friend and he responded with kindness.  While I wouldn’t say the friendship is the same as it once was, it is still a good friendship and there is no one that knows me better than he does. I know he is a friend whom I trust and value any and all advice he can give me.

Professionally, right at the end of the year something nice happened. No, it wasn’t from the person I work with, but a peer of this person. I got an “Award For Excellence” for a project I was on. That one, single act restored my faith that there are truly appreciative people at the company I work for. Until that time, I simply relied upon myself for motivation (though my support lead also helped a lot). I am a self-motivated person, but it is always good when others help out. I can only hope my “friend 2.0” person learns and masters this skill–let’s call it “level 81” to use a World of Warcraft term.

A look ahead.

What will 2010 bring? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope “friend 2.0” continues on it’s successful journey.  I wonder what a service pack would look like?

Professionally, I am more optimistic than ever. I think this year when March comes around and a “look back” is done it will be better than 2009. I do hope that despite the merger and a thinning of the workforce, I will remain with the company. My job is evolving and I plan to evolve with it.

If all goes as planned, 2010 will be the fourth year in a row that I turn a virtual friend into a real life one. I look forward to seeing my friend of 19 years when I hopefully travel to Milan in June. I also hope another friend of mine from a kingdom across the ocean will also visit, but if not, maybe 2011 will be the fifth year in a row (neat, a half decade of turning virtual friends into real life ones).

I remain optimistic for myself, my family and my friends.

Again, happy new year!

Woohoo! November!

We’ve come to November already and things are happening.  Thanks to a combination of only using a few days and working for Merck for a decade as an employee, I have a ton of vacation days to use.  Since I couldn’t really take vacation in March-May and again in October, I have them all squished into November and early December.  I was supposed to be off this entire week (11-2-11/6 and the following Monday) but something is happening that will preclude me from getting the whole week off.  As referenced, there are some big things happening that should make this month exciting.  In addition to the former, I will be ordering a new computer for my parents.  There is Thanksgiving later this month and at the end is a trip to Las Vegas!  Stay tuned to this blog for my experience with the “Big Event.”

Here are the specifications on the Mac Pro I will be configuring for my parents:

•    One 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
•    8GB (4x2GB)
•    1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
•    ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
•    One 18x SuperDrive
•    Apple LED Cinema Display (24″ flat panel)
•    Apple Magic Mouse
•    Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) and User’s Guide
•    Final Cut Express preinstalled
•    HP Photosmart Premium Wireless Fax All-in-One Printer, Scanner, Copier
•    AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac Pro (w/or w/o Display) – Auto-enroll

Map picture
Map picture

10 Tips for iPhone Users at DEFCON 17

This week, MuscleNerd and a few other unnamed dev team members will be at DEFCON 17 in Las Vegas. We’ll of course be carrying our iPhones on us like last year. Bringing an iPhone to a conference packed with hackers has both benefits and risks. Here are 10 tips for iPhone users at a hacker conference (or any technical conference). Most of these tips apply to jailbroken devices, but some also apply to stock devices too.

  1. Disable all your login cookies in Safari. If you use the hotel or conference wifi, it is 100% guaranteed that your traffic will be sniffed. If you allow a web site (like twitter.com) to store your login info in a cookie, and if you connect to that site through a normal http connection, your login info will be exposed. At the very least, you’ll end up on the Wall of Sheep. But you’ll be giving up your password to anyone else sniffing too.
  2. Consider not using the hotel or conference wifi at all, especially if you’re getting 3G speeds anyway. Do not have your iPhone auto-connect to known networks. If you’re bringing a Mac to the conference and you use wifi, at least set up your firewall properly. Turn off everything in Settings?Sharing. Then in Settings?Security?Firewall, click “Set access for specific services”?“Advanced”?“Enable Stealth Mode”.
  3. Learn how to use tethering to avoid wifi on your laptop altogether (and any hotel wifi charges too). By the way, the conference wifi generally doesn’t reach up to the hotel rooms, and vice versa.
  4. If you’re avoiding wifi, consider buying 3G Unrestrictor in Cydia. It tricks applications that would otherwise insist that you be on wifi into using your cellular data network instead. Such apps include Skype, Slingplayer, iTunes, and many others.
  5. Change your root and mobile passwords. Everyone’s iPhone starts off with the root and mobile password of “alpine”. You really don’t want to be in a hotel full of hackers who know your root password. You probably don’t need ssh access to your iPhone at the conference anyway, so uninstall it or toggle it off using SBSettings.
  6. The above tips all apply at the McCarran airport, too. Don’t let your guard down on Sunday after the conference ends, since many of the people around you waiting for their flights out of Las Vegas will have just come from the conference too.
  7. The conference events last from morning through well into the night. If you have firmware 3.0 on your iPhone and both bluetooth and wifi are enabled, you’ll very likely deplete your battery before the day is done. There are power outlets in each of the conference rooms, but those are often the first spots taken (especially late in the day). Consider disabling bluetooth and wifi if only for battery consumption reasons (and maybe even rollback to 2.2.1 LOL).
  8. The “Hack the Badge” contest is a very fun event lasting the whole conference. If it’s anything like last year, the Hardware Hacking Village will be packed all weekend long with tinkerers trying to make their badge do cool and unexpected things. Kingpin has released very limited info about this year’s badge (to make the contest more exciting), but one thing he has revealed is that it will use a simple 3-wire serial interface. On the conference forums, he’s recommended that you bring your own level converter to make the serial voltages compatible with your laptop. But if you connect your badge to your iPhone’s serial interface, you won’t need a level converter. It’s already at the correct voltage. That’s why the early tethered jailbreak for the iPod Touch 2G was able to use the DEFCON 16 badge as a hardware dongle example to boot the device.
  9. The official twitter tag is #defcon. So fire up your preferred iPhone twitter client (for example, Tweetie) and add #defcon as a saved search. And don’t forget to use that tag yourself when you tweet about something at DEFCON.
  10. There are several talks that may interest iPhone and Apple owners in particular. Scanning the talk titles reveals things like “Hacking the Apple TV”, “Is your iPhone Pwned?”, “Jailbreaking and the Law of Reversing”, “Hacking with the iPod Touch”, “Attacking SMS. It’s No Longer your BFF”, and “Runtime Kernel Patching on Mac OS X”, For hardware tinkerers, any talk with Chris Tarnovsky or Kingpin is a guaranteed winner. The iPhone Dev Team gave a talk at 25C3 in December but isn’t presenting anything at DEFCON 17. We have a talk planned for HAR 2009 in a few weeks.

Reposted from http://wikee.iphwn.org/howto:iphones_at_defcon