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.