Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Zfone Encrypts VoIP CallsThe article continues by discussing how the encryption scheme exchanges a secret key: using vocal communications. Felton raises an interesting point: encryption does nothing if spyware is installed on one of the computers -- the conversation could still be archived unencrypted without knowledge of the key.
Felton says: "Phil Zimmerman, who created the PGP encryption software, and faced a government investigation as a result, now offers a new program, Zfone, that provides end-to-end encryption of computer-to-computer (VoIP) phone calls, according to a story in yesterday’s New York Times. "
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Research, research, research.
RAM is coming to visit in two days! I'm so excited. We are going to visit the great barrier reef and spend some time on the beach. Sydney is on the agenda, and we plan to see a show of some sort at the Sydney Opera House.
I found an Italian barber today and got a great haircut. The old Italian guys (especially guys like this who have been chopping hair for 40 years) have the best technique. They whittle away at your head using only scissors. Makes for a great haircut.
I spent a little time training with a Chinese guy -- he was teaching me the art of ping-pong. I still suck, but I suck less.
I've been trying to re-learn piano. It's not working, since I never learned it in the first place.
Sunday is the International Food and Fun Fair at my residence. Groups cook different foods from different countries, and perhaps perform some cultural things. I've been recruited to help cook food for Indian and Spain (I don't know why). Hopefully, the Spanish and Indian people will tell me how to cook stuff.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Mary Fonua says:
I was holding onto the bookcase and in fact, I'm standing in a pile of books now that have fallen on the floor. My son saved the X-Box but other things, you know, were falling off and we could hear the glasses breaking and the crockery shattering and the glasses singing, yes, it was quite an event.I like to see her boy has his priorities straight.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Comedian: Here it comes. Nu-cle-ar Pro-lif-er-ation. Nu-cle-ar Pro-lif-er-ation
Bush: Nuc-eer Prolif-iation.
Comedian: Aright, aright, maintain. Stay cool. Let's give this a try: We must enhance non-compliance protocols sanctioned not only at IAEA formal sessions, but through intersessional contact.
Bush: We must enhance non-compliance protocols -- sanctioned not only at E-I-E-I-O formal sessions, but through intersexual conduct.
Comedian: Looks around and shrugs ... Nailed it!
But I think the best thing Bush said during the discourse was:
My friends, our purple mountains with ramparts' red glare, white with foam and justice for all fruity plains gallantly streaming, from sea to shining sea with a shining city on a shining hill above a shining prairie, and maybe some shiny trees and a few shrubs -- I see a shiny America!
(Link to coverage by Canada.com)
(Link to the whole thing on YouTube)
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
This morning, my exceptionally cheerful office-mate comes walking in humming and whistling "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." (For those of you who don't know, whistling is probably the public behavior that annoys me the most.) He then proceeds to close the blinds on our window -- my only escape to the outside world.
I need to calm down. Where's my coffee?
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Update: Thanks Palila for upgrading me to Flickr Pro!!! I'm going to try to upload more photos now.
On Friday, I played hooky and went to Canberra with a group tour from the University. In an effort to get picked up at 6:30am from where I live and not from the university (which would be a forty minute walk), I organized six people. It was a fun group. We hopped the bus and then proceeded to the university where the other 100 participants were waiting.
The ride to Canberra was about 3 hours, and a very lazy ride since we were all sleepy. I fell asleep and missed a few kangaroo sightings, but woke in time for tea. We stopped about two hours into the journey, and the group leaders pulled out hot water, cups, cookies, tea and instant coffee. It was a nice treat, especially since it was pretty cold (about 9°C / 48°F) where we stopped. We had all been spoiled by the nice weather in Wollongong, which has not yet dipped below 15°C / 60°F. When we left, it was a balmy 20°C / 68°F.
We first stopped at Cockington Green Gardens. This was a place with little miniature buildings surrounded with gardens. It was quite nice, except for the chilly wind, clouds and occasional rain. Check out the rest of the photos in the set (click the image) to see more photos of the gardens.
Our next stop was the ever-important Parliament House. This exquisite building had floors and walls and pillars of black, white and pink marble. It was absolutely beautiful and modern. Connected by glass hallways, the many buildings (House, Senate, Reception, etc) were very modern -- being completed in 1988. Our tour guide gave us a few interesting facts:
- There are 4700 rooms
- It cost $1.1 Billion ($70/resident of Australia)
- There are 2700 clocks
- The black marble contains marine fossils
The building was awesome, and I would like to go back and see the House in session. I hear it's a lot of fun to watch. All I know is that the seats in the meeting rooms are very very comfortable. It's also a museum -- there were many neat artifacts and paintings there. There was a 1297 hand-written copy of the Magna Carta just sitting in a glass case. It was amazing -- there are only four copies like it in the world.
Leaving Parliament, I noticed a strange looking colorful building across the lake. I thought perhaps it was a theater or art gallery. When we pulled up at the building ten minutes later, I realized it was the National Museum where we would be having lunch. The building is very cool.
The only thing that confuses me about the building is the braille on the outside of the building. It is HUGE and high-up. I don't think blind people could read it. It's not like normal letters -- when you make it bigger, braille is not readable from a great distance! I am imagining a bunch of blind people crawling on the building's walls reading them. It did look very cool though.
We ate lunch there, throwing food to the seagulls, watching them squawk and fight over leftover bread crusts and chips, then had 15 minutes to explore the exhibits. Pathetic. We piled into a rotating theater called Cirque, which gave us a very post-modernist view of the museum. There were three screens, each with submersive video (ambient lights flashing and colored according to the video) and one of the screens had three smaller screens that moved around on it. It was fun. Then we had to leave. I want to go back.
Finally, we stopped at Telstra Tower. This tower is on a mountain in Canberra, and overlooks the entire city. From there we were able to see the whole city, and climb to a lookout platform 870m above sea-level. It was windy up there! The views were fantastic, and many people enjoyed overpriced iced cream and souvenirs from the shop at the top. The whole time we were there, I was disappointed that we didn't spend more time at the Museum instead. I find that stuff more fascinating, though the view was pretty cool.
On our way back, we drove past the War Memorial, which is an awesome sight even as driving past. There are beautiful memorial sculptures for each war, and then a big hall visible from the road, or even from the Parliament House. Yet another thing I want to go back and see. Somehow I have to rationalize going back.
The bus ride on the way back was fun. We saw a lot of kangaroos in the fields along side of the road. They behave a lot like deer, except they bounce a lot higher. When it got dark, the French people in the back of the bus started belting out their national anthem (La Marseillaise), then a German guy, then they got me to sing ours. I can't sing well on demand like that, especially a song with a big range, but I did my best. Next we tried to get a Chinese guy to sing his anthem, but he was too quiet. After much discussion, the German guy convinced the bus driver to allow use of the intercom. The next 30 minutes involved singing of many anthems (France, Germany, USA, China, Japan, Colombia, Australia, Indonesia) and attempts at convincing others.
We made one stop on the way back for toilets and foreign food (McDonalds). The 100-some people completely filled the restaurant, which to my surprise was able to serve everyone in about 10 minutes. Good job guys. The McDonalds menus here are much better than those in the US -- there are healthy sandwiches on the menu! And a large is only about 20oz, versus the huge tub 'o coke you get in the US. Finally, and the best part, is the McCafé. They serve espresso in McDonalds here. Yum.
The trip was good, but I want to go back. Canberra houses the history of the nation and many very interesting sights. Anyone up for a trip?
Monday, April 17, 2006
I have two complaints:
- Notify your users before you change the network. No matter what you're doing. It may affect them.
- Notify your users who they can call for support in case of an outage. Everyone I talked to said "yeah it sucks, but it's not my problem."
Bite me admins. At least I still have HTTP access. Anyone willing to put up an http tunnel for me?
Sunday, April 16, 2006
The Internet Hash Project
Curious how it worked, I looked at the source code of the page. Cleverly, the page uses AJAX to obtain the hash (and site-existence queries) from the server. An even closer look at the code revealed a particularly interesting source-code comment (warning: may disturb. Link.) (For more information on goatse silliness, see this page.)
Sunday, April 09, 2006
I get so few comments on my blog, I just assumed nobody reads it. To verify this, I installed a neat little web counter mapping thing.
Contrary to my belief, I've attracted some visits from interesting places. Leave me a note if you're from an interesting place!
On a side-note, I'm lazy, so I just grabbed this from a free service (ClustrMaps). It's neat, but I don't know details about my visitors. Maybe if I get bored I'll write my own. It would be nice to know the user-agents (i.e. to find out how many of these are just spiders).
- Media providers may have to use the DRM system that Microsoft provides, since it has to be built into the kernel. If Microsoft lets people build their own DRM components, then there is the issue of misbehaving components and buggy kernel libraries.
- If you look at the diagram, the sound card driver is given full access to unencrypted data. This means that one could write a misbehaving third-party driver to capture streams. The SAP designers get around this by forcing the driver to be authenticated (see diagram). The DRM component is not "authenticated" though.
- The decryption now happens in the kernel. Let's hope that the decryption module is not buggy -- especially if Microsoft lets vendors write their own kernel modules for DRM. Not only could the player program crash, but this could cause the whole system to go down.
Will this protect DRM media from being copied? I doubt it. Academics (or benevolent hackers) will publish instructions on how to subvert all of this, then the script kiddies will pick up the proof-of-concept software to scrape the streams. I think the only way this can "solidify" enforcement of DRM is with ALL pieces in kernel mode being "authenticated" (proven safe by signature and cert. authority) or no DRM decryption should work. The problem with this is that the CA (probably a Microsoft database protected from subversion with Trusted Computing hardware) will have control over which modules are authorized -- essentially control over which flavors of DRM get to be used.
Is DRM really the right approach to protect artists' and publishers' copyright? Is this protected audio path a good idea? I don't know a whole lot about SAP (just reading the whitepapers for the first time), so I welcome others' opinions...
Monday, April 03, 2006
(Link to screengrab of error)
Update (10-Apr): Thanks for the page grab, Jacob. (PDF 174k)
Anyhow, we built a sand castle -- the best one ever, I might add. It is called the castle "Caselu" (カセル) in light of our attempts at drawing Hiragana in the sand. (Only one of us could write Japanese, and she is an expert).
Link to more photos of the engineering feat.
Link to all my Australia photos.
Monday, March 27, 2006
(Link to Article)
Saturday, March 25, 2006
It was a pretty neat exhibit, though not as educational as I had hoped. Mostly it was showing off the guy's ability to turn veins, nerves, and bones into plastic -- though it was well worth the money. Since it was hosted in Sydney Olympic Park, I got to see that awesome sports venue. There are some very neat buildings there. It's a beautiful campus.
Afterwards, we hopped a train to do some shopping -- one of our group wanted to buy some beer cozies. Downtown, we emerged in a mall and people swarmed all around us. Finding two food courts, we surveyed one, decided it was costly, and went to the other where we found some good pasta meals for $5. I was impressed at the quality for the cost. It was not Fazolis.
For dessert, I had a crêpe. Mmmm. With cinnamon and sugar. Mmmm. And they made it fresh for me. Mmmm. With lots of butter. Mmmm.
We shopped, grabbed the train, and came back. It was a good day, but I am exhausted... not because I exerted myself, mostly because I get exhausted after spending time in public places swarming with people.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
He talked about the book "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." After telling a few mildly amusing anecdotes and reading from the book, he gave us life lessons. You could tell he was looking for laughter, but the students were not amused. He talked about appreciating the multi-cultural environment we have. I am for sure in one of those (living with people from all over) but for the most part, our accommodation complex is mostly white Aussies and Yanks.
He said we should first and foremost take heed to the golden rule -- then went on to explain that the rule expressed the need for "love and sanitation." I don't remember "sanitation" being part of that rule, but apparently he thinks we're all dirty.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Friday night was fun watching people walk around incredibly plastered. St. Patrick's day is one of those western-culture drinking days -- I can't really think of any others except maybe Mardi Gras. I attended a couple of parties; one of them was great because we represented most of the globe: Japan, US, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, India, Ireland, France, Germany, UAE, Lebanon,Colombia, Kenya, etc.
Saturday was fun too, another party (a birthday party for a guy whose birthday was in January). I won a limbo contest. Who knew I could bend that way.
I should do something exciting next weekend. Maybe I will tool around Sydney.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
- bought a french press so I can make coffee
- installed Gentoo Linux on my work computer... actually, I'm still doing that.
- met a bunch of grad students
Saturday, March 04, 2006
I woke up really early to catch the sunrise on the beach today (it rose at 6:50am). I got to the beach in time, but there were clouds blanketing the sky so I saw no sun, just a bit of a glow coming from behind the clouds. I kicked a bit of sand in disgust and thought, I got up for this? Then it occurred to me that clouds might make a trip up the mountain a bit more pleasant, so I set off towards it.
First let me explain about the path I need to take if I want to walk to campus, which is directly west of me. I have two choices. My first choice is to go south past a boring industrial area forever in the beating sun, cross 2 highways, cross the railroad, go north, take a bridge back over one of the highways, go north through 3 roundabouts, then walk into campus. My second choice is to go one block north, walk west across the highway and the tracks all at once via bridge, walk south for EVER, turn right, cut through the Illawara Institute's campus, walk around an oval (like a football field for cricket), cross a busy street, walk into campus. Both take about 40 minutes. Neither are attractive. This morning, I chose to go the north-first route. When I got to the campus I had to cut through, the gate was locked and so I was deftly turned away. I retreated to a McDonalds I had passed earlier, and grabbed a very big latte (yeah, McCafe). I backtracked a bit and took a very long detour *around* the Illawara campus, through some random residential community and then finally arrived at the office. There are five sets of doors I can go into to access our office. Only one of them works with my key, of course, and it is the fifth one I try. Additionally, one of my keys (they gave me three) gets me in that door, in the suite door, and into my office. I have no clue what the others (or the RFID card they gave me) is for... none of those worked.
Anyhow, I took a breather at campus, then began the trek to the Mount Kiera trails. In order to get to the official trails, I took a 2km trail up a steep embankment. It was a pleasant walk, complete with stairs and peoples' backyards. Finally, my easy-to-follow trail ended at some gravel service road that went left and right. Left was down, right was up, so naturally I went right -- and after 200m, it started going down... and kept going down... so I went back and took the left path which led me to the park entrance.
Once there, I watched a couple of older women (probably in their sixties) deliberating about which trail to take. The women went off in one direction, and I thought I would take the other one so I could have a nice quiet walk. I did, and it was beautiful. Along the way, there were many different plants that were fascinating, a few dripping rocks, lots of ups and downs, and it ended at a road. I looked left and right then crossed. There I saw a sign for a trail I had seen on the map: this one should lead me to the top! I looked around by the sign, but could not find a trail. Behind the sign was a vast field of ferns (about armpit high) and after staring for a while a slight indentation in the foliage showed up; sure enough, the sign had a little yellow arrow pointing right at the dent. I shrugged and plowed into the field. So I guess that the trails here are not really trails -- they are just suggestions. "You might want to go some way in this direction" arrows, which eventually, beyond the ferns and back in the woods, turned into white dots. Dots don't point. I had to follow a long series of connect-the-dots scanning all the big trees for white paint in hopes I would be able to somehow meander to the top.
Hot footed, I finally popped through the forest and saw the valley. Amazing. And all this view from a rock that ... holy crap. There was nothing on the other side of the rock, just a sheer 100m drop. I backed off and soaked up the view, surprised that nobody else had stopped here. Maybe they were scared of wind -- rightfully so. I sat and ate lunch (an old soggy leftover sandwich that in hunger tasted amazing), and decided that this would be called My Favorite Spot™. I would eat lunch here again. It was quiet -- birds chirped, leaves fell off the trees every once in a while -- the wind must've been broken by the other mountains and trees. Quite serene.
Finished with lunch, I backed through a massive spiderweb and freaked out for a moment. Once that had cleared, even though every tingle on my body was greeted as an indication that a redback might be looking for a nice juicy chunk of flesh to sink its jaws, or whatever it has, into. My freaking out stopped a few hundred meters later when a few noisy people passed me. They smelled like cigarette smoke -- that means one of two things: they are hard-core climbers, or there was an easier way to get to this spot. Quickly I found out (as I soon passed a woman with a baby in a stroller) that you can drive all the way to the top and then walk down as far as you want.
Lame. Oh well, I don't have a car anyway.
In fact, I met up with the two ladies I had seen down near the "bottom" of the trails. Let me stop here briefly to rant about how damn lazy Americans are. In the US you would never find two ladies of their age and build, who were talking about yesterday's nice tea and how well Evelyn looked, all the while climbing over huge boulders and up and down steep moss-covered sandy slopes. No way. These people are hardcore over here.
When I did eventually get to the top, my legs were worn (from a bit of pretty serious rock hopping I had to do) and I sat in a nice wooden bench on a tiled and railed terrace and enjoyed the view. After a short breather, I walked into a cafe (that was setting up for some wedding -- very nice) and ordered a white coffee for takeaway. I love this country: coffee doesn't suck. I haven't found a place to get drip coffee yet. Either places don't serve it, or they have an espresso machine that they use to make a long black (espresso+water), flat white (espresso+milk) or any other Starbucks-sounding beverages you can imagine. Hell, even McDonalds will make you a cappuccino.
I sat and drank my coffee out of a paper mug with neat little paper-folded mug ring (like the cheap kind you'd get at a really bad gas station) and although the espresso was not that good, the coffee still tasted great. I looked around and decided that I was enjoying the best view of any other spectators. I had walked from the very bottom. I had conquered this mountain (and much of the town on my way to campus). With that, I left.
The way back down was much faster, so I will not belabor this monologue any more than I need to, but I should add that it entailed the discovery of a few geckos that I thought were snakes, the discovery of a yellow flower that made the forest smell VERY GOOD, and an event with a very stubborn bug and my tonsils.
As I was plodding down a hill, I must have been halfway down one of the paths, and I left my mouth open at just the wrong time because something large and moving ended up affixed solidly to one of my tonsils. After long fits of coughing (usually bugs will come back out) it moved to the back of my tongue. I started to worry a bit since there are so many deadly insects in this country, and I had just swallowed what might very well be a tick infested with Lyme's disease. My nose started running furiously, probably as some reflex to a stubborn foreign particle that won't move out of my mouth with all the coughing. I gargled a few times with water I had brought with, but the bug stayed latched on.
At this point I had accepted the fact that I may very well need a pair of long tweezers to detach the bug, and perhaps lots of medication to cure me of whatever the bug infects me with -- venom or disease. The whole time I'm coughing and spitting and gargling (making an enormous racket), I'm walking down the trail towards a road. I figured that if my throat starts closing or my vision goes fuzzy, I could collapse along the road and hope for a car to pick me up.
The bug must've crawled further down my tongue, because my gag reflexes started kicking in. More gargling and spitting and coughing, but the bug was hanging on for dear life. If it was a tick, its head must be buried deep in my tongue by now. My thoughts flashed to an ad for a tick remover I had seen in the Sky Mall magazine on the plane. There was no way that remover device was going to reach all the way back to my throat. Anyway, I decided that it can't do much more harm in my stomach than it is in the back of my throat (what with acid down there), so I decided to force it down. First I tried to wash it with a tide of water, but that did nothing, so between coughing and gagging fits I pulled an apple from my backpack and went to town. Seemed to do the trick -- after about fifteen minutes of hacking, the apple was soothing my throat, or so I thought. Once I had decided everything was fine, the bug feeling came back. I coughed a few times and it wiggled loose, so I spit it out. Very small little beetle thing; not a tick, longer and thinner -- pretty nondescript. I think I will call this species the "esophogus clingica" beetle.
The rest of my walk was uneventful, except I got lost trying to take the south route home. I ended up almost all the way down to Wollongong (5km from home) before I realized how lost I was. Blister-footed, I stumbled into my room at three and took off my shoes. Beach. Beach was all I could think of. I took out my huge towel, slapped on some sunscreen, and went to the beach. If my feet were killing me after almost 20 miles of walking today, another 5 minutes would not make them much worse. I laid on the beach for a while, walked in the surf, got in a good mood, then came back and went to eat.
Looking back on my mountain journey, I have decided a few things: my memory card in my camera filled up on 48 pictures. Most of them are low quality (640x480), and an 8mb flash card just isn't cutting it. My camera sucks too because it is slow and has no zoom. I should just get a new one. Anyhow, you can see all of today's pictures by clicking on any of the photos in this post, or by clicking this Link.