Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And Now, For Something Utterly Different

The last few days I've been sick. Pretty miserable sick for a couple of days, with the full body-aches-fever-sore-throat thing, coming together to give me a general attitude of just wanting everyone to let me lay in bed and die already. Of course, I can't just lay in bed, and I've watched all of my DVD's so many times that unless I get a craving to see Save The Last Dance again (shaddap) they're really only good for putting me to sleep. So I read. A lot.

I'll just pause here a moment to sing the praises of e-readers. I think I'll always prefer dead-tree editions, but e-readers are VERY convenient. Without my nook I'd have been stuck with the same problem in books that I had with the DVD's. Ok, less so, because I can re-read books way more times than I can watch movies before they're just not any fun anymore.

Anyway, I was running short on reading material and decided to pick up a few more e-ditions for my library. Unfortunately all of my favorite standby authors failed to have anything new magically be released just in time to save me from dying of boredom as well as some weird flu that left one lymph node swollen and tender while the other returned to normal.

Fellow GBC'er (ya'll remember the Conspiracy, right?) Vine* answered my cold-med doped out plea for recommendations, instantly, with two words.

Little Brother. (By Cory Doctorow)

When I hit B&N and it was available as an e-book (I frown on their suddenly having to brand everything nook, when they were so sensible about it before, and I think the term "nookbook" should be reserved for books with recipes for getting laid.... which QP should write) I grabbed it. Knowing Vine's personality and having done a bit of taste-comparison with him from time to time, I figured it would be an interesting read at the least.

Just finished it. The verdict? If you haven't read it yet, you should. Some reviewers have called it the younger sibling of Orson Welles's (authors note: I've stared at this for ten minutes and I can't figure out why even though I know it's incorrect, Welles' sounds more "right" ) 1984. Or something like that, anyway, I'm too lazy to go find the exact quote at the moment. And I'm still a little hazy with meds**, thus all the parenthetical digressions and the link whoring.

Personally, I think it's a better illustration of the hazards of too much government, easier to relate to. I won't give out any spoilers, but it's a well written book that works simultaneously as an entertaining read and a social commentary. Not many authors can pull that off, frankly. You either wind up with a well-written social commentary with the bare bones of a plotline and characters, but lots of details about how the world could be run better (either directly or through satire) or a good story that has vague hints of social commentary in there somewhere, if you want to go back and puzzle them out.

Excellent book, two... well, I was going to say two thumbs up but that's been taken and I haven't thought of what my personal seal of approval is going to be, or even what the scale is. Considering how much stuff I wind up reviewing just because I probably should figure that out. Anyway, I liked it a lot.

But what I liked the most was after the end of the story.

At the back of the book is an afterward from a security expert, Bruce Schneier. Basically, he says that any security system is only proof against the designer, until and unless it has been tested by someone else, and the more someone elses that test it, the better. Including what I can't stop thinking of as "guerrilla testing." Ordinary people, figuring out ways around security systems not because they really want to get around them for the most part, but because they like the puzzle.

The key to being a socially responsible guerrilla tester is publicizing your results. If everyone knows how to open a Kryptonite bike lock with a bic pen, then the people selling you crap to make your other crap more secure have to figure out a way to keep any jerk with a pen from taking it anyway.

Schneier finishes his afterward by encouraging readers to go hack a security system. Now, I'm no rabble rouser, generally. But I think the whole concept is great. It makes sense that if something is secure against one person, it's only sure to be secure against that person, and anyone dumber than them. But if a million people take a crack at it, some of them are bound to be smart. Or, at least, they're bound to look at things in different ways, and notice that a Bic pen would fit in that hole and I wonder what would happen if I put it in there...

So, faithful readers (do I have any of those anymore? I've been a bad blogger...) what hacks do you know about? Have you figured out a way around some security system, physical or electronic? Have your friends?

Comment and tell me about them. If you're shy or might get in trouble, comment as Anony-mouse.

Myself, I'm no genius at this stuff, but I did once break into my apartment when I'd locked myself out. I did it by taking off the screen on an open window, but hey, it counts, right?

*Yes, Vine has a blog now. Go bug him to post more, I want to see what he's got to say, but he's being shy.

**I've been told before that I make parenthetical digressions in conversation, too. My best friend R once told me that she could practically see the parentheses. I try not to do it too often in my writing, but tonight I blame the cold meds. Just be thankful that I'm not posting at the peak of the med-high.


OrangeNeck said...

I've cracked a Kryptonite bike lock by melting the brass lock innards with a propane torch. Once the brass melted, the latch was free to retract into the melted brass and I knocked the big round bar off with the gentle tap of a hammer. I was 14 at the time.

Then there was the time my brother locked his keys in his 1986 Honda Civic. I found an 1/8" thick piece of plexiglass about an inch wide and 12" long. I stuck it in between the glass and the window gasket and started pushing the jerry-rigged jimmie along a 6" wide stretch of door gasket. Suddenly, I hit the right spot and the door unlocked. It was dumb luck and it wasn't until years later when I was working on my own Civic, that I discovered how the door latch/rod/lock mechanism worked. Here, I was 18.

Can't say that I've ever "broken into" a building, but I have entered an abandoned 5-story warehouse through a busted 4th floor window, by climbing into it from an adjacent lower roof and stepping onto a rusted metal shutter on the floor below. It was a 4-story drop if the the shutter gave out from under me. Not one of my smartest moments. I was around 15 here.

Nancy R. said...

"... what my personal seal of approval is going to be ..."

Scrappy Nibbles?

Jennifer said...

Hubby and I broke into our own car with a cleaning rod and help from a gunsmith.

Stuart the Viking said...

In my view, basic "breaking and entering" skills are a skillset that almost everyone should pick up. No, I'm not encouraging people to go out and burgle; however, in the thankfully rare event that someone is taken hostage or kidnapped, or even the more mundane accidentally locked out of their car/house, having such skills can be the differance between life and death, or just maybe just save a few dollars/time waiting for a locksmith.


Old NFO said...

Meh- When I was with the VFD, I carried 'tools' to get into locked cars and a baby Halligan tool to get into houses quickly... Later found out that if I'd been stopped, I'd have been arrested for 'burglary' tools!

Get well soon! :-)

t.kubic said...

Re: Your Nook

You might try these sites:



They have literally millions of free books available in .epub format which is readable on a Nook.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be all nit-picky, but Orson Welles is the guy who did the original "War of the Worlds" radio program, and went on to direct groundbreaking movies like Citizen Kane.

The novel 1984 was written by George Orwell.

Names are similar, and if you're medicated it would be easy to confuse them.

That said, both 1984 and Citizen Kane are well worth checking out.

Farmgirl said...

Thanks for the correction, Justin. Yeah it was the meds talking at that point, I'm usually better about shit like that.