It's been a while. | Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Two and a half months, to be exact. How time flies. I've been out here in the real world, riding my motorcycle, going mountain biking, working out, eating amazing food, reading books, and hanging out with friends and family - all things that you can't really do very well from behind a computer.

I'm slowly coming back online now, if only to replace my last post about zombie gardening video games. Probably wasn't the most professional first impression to give to first-time visitors to the site.

The Motorcycle Diaries, Part I | Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I've had my motorcycle license ever since I was 16. A decade ago, it was ridiculously easy to get a license - there were no different 'classes' based on the size or speed of the bike, and I never once had to pass a road test. I had to do a circuit exam consisting of riding a cone slalom in a crazy eight figure, doing a U-Turn, and braking in a short distance. I failed the first time, because my test bike sputtered out and stalled. The second time - two weeks and fifteen bucks later, if memory serves - I passed, and that same day I was able to go out and buy any bike I wanted, such as a 600cc (engine size is measure in Cubic Centimeters. Bigger often - but not always - equals faster and heavier) sports bike, which these days are basically racing motorcycle intended for the track but made street legal by the addition of turn signals and a license plate holder. Instead, though, I waited, and waited, and waited. Years went by, and while I almost bought the then-new Ducati Monster, I foolishly chose instead to put my hard-earned money into my then-girlfriend savings. In retrospect, Ducati is greater than savings, every time.

Ducati Monster

The photos we don't take, and their tags. | Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't been shooting many photos lately. This is not due to a lack of inspiration, motivation or time. The digital age has brought photography into the mainstream, and suddenly everyone on Flickr is either a photo critic or a photographer groupie. Kids just set their aperture wide open and shoot something with shallow depth-of-field and suddenly they're creative geniuses (genii?). Sure, maybe the art of photography has become irreversibly compromised and cheapened, but I don't necessarily have a problem with that.

The slow, dumb rise of Facebook "Hackers" | Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Original article.

According to Trend Micro, an internet security firm, more than 40% of teens are "social hackers".

Sigh. I remember a day when being a hacker meant that you had to actually know how to do something.

The "social hackers" are still split by gender though. Boys are twice as likely to go for the profile assassination, while girls are three times more likely to go straight for the PayPal.

What can I say - boys want power, girls love the bling. It's the nature of things.

The "new" idea of "social hacking" is that many social details are on view via social networking sites such as Facebook. A competent social hacker can find information which tends to give away security question answers.

And an incompetent target will use public information in their own security questions and password. And deserve everything they've got coming.

Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro said, "It's the online version of kids breaking into school to change their reports, it's just so much easier now."

Breaking into school to change your report card took planning, skill and cojones.

Anything that can be done from behind the safety of a computer screen requires nothing more than an Internet connection, a decent mix of self-loathing and lack of self confidence, and maybe some Red Bull. Sure, maybe a "social hacker" (*cough* *hack* *cough*) can find out where you live and hang out by hacking into your Facebook profile, but then what? Years of sitting on a couch with his laptop drinking latte mochaccinos will have left his body too weak and atrophied to pose any real threat.

I, on the under hand, can find out where you live, chase you down because I can run faster than you, and then dead-lift you off a bridge.

See kids? It's about branching out.

Oh, and it's called social engineering, and it's not new at all.

World's best MP3 player | Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

This is my Samsung YP-2J. It has:

  • One gigabyte (1,073,741,824 bytes) of flash memory.
  • An FM Tuner.
  • A voice recorder.
  • The ability to play both mp3 and ogg files.
  • No interface or software to speak of - I plug it in, it's detected as a USB drive, and I drag and drop music to it like any other folder.
  • Linux support.
  • A bare-bones, no-frills interface.
  • Buttons you click, not a flimsy touch-screen.
  • A battery that lasts for days.
  • A tiny tiny footprint.

I've carried it with me across countless borders, states and provinces. It's been with me on my runs, hundreds of visits to the gym, cycling for hours, and lying in bed. I bought it refurbished at Tiger Direct for $19.95 plus shipping and handling several years ago.

It is, without a doubt, the best MP3 player in the world.

However, after one too many falls, drops, knocks, or accidental immersions into liquids of varying degrees of alcohol content, it is seemingly on its last legs. The "hold" switch which keeps you from accidentally pressing a button has broken off, the headphone jack is loose and so once in a while the left earpiece will fade in and out, and during especially severe activity like running away from chasing people down, it'll shut itself off. I really don't want to replace this player because it's ideal for me, but I think it's time I move on. Time will heal. Until then, though, I need to find a new player that matches my lifestyle - spastic and disheveled. I basically copy a bunch of songs to my player, set it to random, and go. No playlists, no albums, no sorting. Live fast.

Entre Disfrutar Y Compartir | Monday, February 23rd, 2009

(reposted from my Cuba blog).

Slightly over a year ago, I was sitting at a restaurant next to a busy, noisy intersection with David, near El Poblado Metro station in Medellín, Colombia. As we were ordering food, I was debating whether or not to get the Bandeja Paisa, a large, gluttonous dish that includes such light fare as grilled steak, chicharrón (fried pork rind), red beans, rice, chorizo, eggs, an arepa, sweet fried plantains and a slice of avocado. It had been a long day with lots of walking, so I felt like I could probably handle it. On the other hand, I had had a fairly large breakfast (I had made breakfast burritos), and started doubting whether I could finish it - I don't like leaving any food on my plate. In certain cultures, it is a sign of weakness / disrespect / not being hungry. Nevertheless, when the pleasant-but-slightly-neurotic waitress came along, I went ahead and ordered it.

- Her: "Listo?"
- David: "Si, el _______." (I forgot what he ordered, though in all likelihood it was probably something girlish and frilly).
- Her: "Y por usted?"
- Me: "Si, la bandeja paisa, por favor - qué incluye?"
- Her: "[Long list of food items]. Es muchissimo!"
- Me: "No hay problema - podemos disfrutarlo."

She makes a strange quizzical smile, and then her giggly persona becomes even gigglier, as she smiles even wider and goes to the kitchen.