Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Star Broadcasting

For reasons I cannot possibly comprehend, I suddenly had to listen to some recordings of Numbers Stations. Numbers Stations are short wave transmitters that send encoded messages to field agents such as spies, terrorists, special forces etc. I did some Googling and found loads of mp3's that people had recorded from shortwave receivers. My favourite ones were of New Star Broadcasting, a Numbers Station based in Taiwan. The station broadcasts numbers being read in Chinese although I'm not sure which dialect they are in. Go do some Googling, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Not Waving But Frowning

Met Keiko at the swimming pool. For various reasons we were both late. The swimming pool was being used for "aquafit" so we had a Japanese lesson instead. I'm not swimming as much as I feel I ought to be.

Today I read the magic words: "Released Firmware Version: v1.20 - Resolved Web e-mail issue under PPPoE (ADSL) Internet connection" on the Linksys webpage. I downloaded the latest firmware and now have wifi. After owning a wireless router for about a year...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm A little Concerned With Your Teaching...

The tutor for my college course was away so the class was taken by an "expert on spelling pedagogy". During the break I took him aside to have a go at him about his teaching, or lack there of. It worked quite well.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Escaping The Trap

Went to a friend's house to the last episode of Adam Curtis's groundbreaking documentary "The Trap". There were 24 of us watching it together in my friend's living room. The atmosphere was amazing. I still think TV sucks though.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Cost Of Living

Had Keiko and Emily over for lunch. I was determined to cook something decent, so I bought the ingredients for mushroom risotto at the supermarket. Lots of the ingredients were expensive but the result was more than worth it. I think Emily and Keiko were quite impressed...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Breaking Windows

When I got home from work I found "Hacking Exposed: Windows 2000" waiting for me. I bought it second-hand from Amazon Marketplace for just two quid. An utter bargain as I'll be able to have hours of fun using the information it contains...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Have Your Cake And Eat Him

I didn't get up as early as I intended, so I had to rush to the supermarket to buy things for today's party. When I got back I baked a moist chocolate cake, using I recipe I found on the web. I also made a pasta salad using tartare sauce, which I believe to be the best pasta salad in existence. Rumour has it that scientists are attempting to create a better one. Those crazy boffins!

Keiko came over at 1 pm to help me prepare some food. She wasn't massively helpful, but at least she tried. By 3 pm, Ayana, Yoshimi, Takako and Sora had arrived. Takako cooked okonomiyaki, a famous dish from Osaka using some ingredients she had prepared in advance. Okonomiyaki is an egg and batter-based pancake, containing cabbage and sometimes other vegetables, seafood and meat. It's served with bonito flakes, mayonnaise and a sweet-and-sour sauce.

Ayana and Yoshimi decorated the cake I had baked. For some reason they decided to draw my face on the cake using green, white and blue icing. I found it rather touching.

In the evening we all met up again for the Third Thursday lecture on Japanese culture. While there I talked to my friend Hirano about the changes that I've been noticing in the UK over the past few years. I told him that I would be moving to Japan, and that I would probably be staying there for good. He was quite surprised and possibly a bit upset. On the other hand, I think he is happy for me as he knows how much I want to get out of this sick country.

I took tea afterwards with Keiko and Sora. I'm really starting to dislike Pulse, one of the few cafes open in the evening in Norwich. It's slightly over-priced, and there's just no real atmosphere there. Being in Pulse made me remember how wonderful the cafes in East Village were last summer when I was in New York for the HOPE conference.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Caffeine Buzz

I've been avoiding caffeine recently, so as a result of drinking a cup of tea when I got home from work, I was awake and alert until about 2 am. I could/should have used the time wisely but somehow I frittered it all away doing nothing. I see a pattern developing...

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Game Of Life

Here is an article I found in the Adbusters magazine I was reading last Saturday. I wrote it out on a notepad while on the train, because I wanted to give the magazine to my friend Bal. I then typed it up late at night, so there may be a couple of errors. The issue was called The Game Of Life, and was published in Jul/Aug 2005. Before getting to know Mitch Altman, and seeing him work his magic in Berlin, I wouldn't have believed the following was anything more than a well-written short story.

Last week I had an extended layover at the Los Angeles Airport. The waiting area was pretty sizable, yet because of the noise of two mounted TV sets, there was nowhere to escape the inane banter from the local Fox News station. No matter where people sat, the ended up staring at the screen. One middle-aged couple sitting nearby caught my attention. The man's shoulders were slumped as he stared at the dirty carpet in front of him. The woman's face was a grimace of blank agitation as she kept her eyes on the television. Every now and then the man would glance at her as if to say something, but seeing he didn't have her attention, he'd sigh and look back at the floor. Suddenly, I remembered the TV-B-Gone I'd received in the mail the day before I left home. Pointing it at the TV, I pushed the button and the screen went blank. Noticing the television was off, the man glanced at his wife and asked her a question. She stopped staring at the blank screen and turned toward him. He smiled and leaned his face closer to hers. Later, as I headed out the gate to my plane, I glanced back at the middle-aged couple I'd freed from TV. The man had his hand on his wife's knee and a playful smile on his face. She too was grinning, almost shyly, and I imagined that I could see how they had fallen in love in the first place.

- Lott Hill

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Solid Sunday

I feel my Sunday this week was particularly well-spent. Early in the morning I went for a swim with Keiko. We spent several hours at the pool, swimming, chatting and relaxing. We then had breakfast in a pub and Keiko taught me Japanese. Later we went to another pub for lunch with Emily, Shujing and Sora.

In the evening I met some friends for dinner and we watched the new Adam Curtis documentary, "The Trap". It will be on Google Video soon and is essential viewing for anyone and everyone.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp Call For Papers

The call for papers has been announced for the Chaos Communication Camp. Talk submissions on the following topics are encouraged:

* flying and non-flying autonomous robots
* security, encryption and anonymity
* software projects
* technologies for the day after the climate change
* rapid prototyping and fabbing
* software and hardware for disaster-resistant infrastructure
* bringing broadband to the countryside
* politics and propaganda
* anti-crowd-control tactics and technologies
* lock picking
* alternative energy systems
* citizen surveillance, data mining technologies, and social networks
* data forensic methods
* all things radio (preferably digital)
* self-sustaining and -reproducing hardware
* pollution free transport systems
* hacker anthropology and sociology of the scene
* flying cars, saucers and carpets
* 42
* tesla generators
* telecommunication technologies
* FPGA based analysis
* military technologies
* all kinds of voting computers
* ebooks
* satellites and rockets

(and countermeasures against all of the above).

I doubt I'll submit a talk but instead I'll try to be a very active volunteer during the camp. I'm going to go a couple of days early, and will stay a day or two afterwards. Are you going? Please add a comment if you are.

When There's Something Strange In Your Neigbourhood...

I went to London to meet my friend Bal and, because Keiko wanted to go to some art galleries, she came along.

For some reason, I had been issued a first class ticket, instead of the second class one I had ordered from the One Railway website. The ticket collector seemed very surprised that I didn't want to sit in first class. I thought it best not to explain that I would have thrown several of the "first class" passengers off the train as soon as we had picked up enough speed to make it worthwhile.

The carriage that Keiko and I were in had a snack shop at one end. Once the train was going there was a long queue of fools rushing to buy the sugary drinks and chemical-laced sandwiches. Adults living as children. Moths attracted to the hot lamp, not realising that it will burn them to a crisp. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch them.

On the train we read a copy of Adbusters magazine from a couple of years ago. Every square inch of every page of Adbusters is pure genius. Subversive spoofs of adverts, intelligent and moving articles and fantastic artwork make Adbusters a joy to read. Subscribe now:

On arrival in London we travelled to Trafalgar square. There's a cheap cafe nearby so we had a drink there before going to the National Gallery. Keiko showed Bal and I some of her favourite paintings. Most were pretty poor.

After the National Gallery we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Soho. We then went to a Chinese bakery. Keiko and Bal were too indecisive while choosing baked goods so I pulled rank and chose six things at random.

Finding somewhere to sit down and eat was very difficult. After randomly wandering around for a while we found Soho park. In the park a girl was chalking "Should all the information on the web be controlled by one company?" on some steps. Within seconds a cop appeared. Someone monitoring the spy cameras in the park must have seen the girl and then dispatched the cop. I wonder whether a cop would have been dispatched to arrest a girl drawing a hopscotch grid on the pavement.

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar-man, Thief

Living In Hell
Two old beggar women were sitting in one a sprawling megacity, watching the chaos and insanity around them. One turned to the other and asked "What is it all about? Did anyone ever know?" The other beggar woman replied "A long, long time ago, when I was a young girl, a beggar man came to where I was sitting, watching the world go by. I'll never forget the calmness in his eyes as he gently touched my arm and said "We fucked it all up".

I think it's safe to say that the old Karamoon is back, and is here to stay.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Norwich, A Fine City

This morning I had to look after my Japanese teacher's niece, Ayana and her friend Yoshimi. The usual stuff; make sure they don't die, show them some exciting sights etc. This might sound like a very minor hassle except for two issues. Firstly, I'm becoming increasingly insane, and secondly this city sucks.

Yoshimi and Ayana are students from Osaka, I think it was there first time to visit the UK although they had both spent a year living in New Zealand. They seemed to enjoy Norwich and somehow found things that were of interest to them. We ate lunch at my favourite restaurant, visited some quaint shops selling crappy stuff, drank over-priced tea in a trendy coffee shop but mostly we chatted about random stuff.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fucked Up Lah!

While eating lunch in the Thai restaurant near my office, I overhead a woman from Singapore talking about the 5 C's that all Singaporeans are said to desire: Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium, and Country club membership. I've always considered Singapore to be more of a sick experiment than a country, and it's the sort of place that makes me ashamed to be alive. Having said that, some of the Singaporeans I knew at university were reasonable people, and they finished every sentence with "lah", which I find quite sweet.

"Let's get the fuck off this planet and nuke the site from orbit"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Security-Industrial Complex

Had a good swim this morning. Slightly disheartening to notice that the woman in the lane next to be was swimming better and faster than I was. The issue wasn't that she was a woman, it was that she only had one leg.

In the afternoon I wrote the following for a newspaper in London:

What does the HP printer on my desk have in common with the war on abstract nouns, your neighbourhood watch scheme and ID cards? The answer is, the "Security-Industrial Complex", 9/11's grown-up version of the Cold War's military-industrial complex. Instead of western economies and jobs being dependent on huge government contracts to produce nuclear missiles, tanks, military uniforms and port-a-loos for soldiers, western economies and jobs are becoming largely dependent on fear-fuelled obsession with "security", whatever that may mean.(gotta love those abstract nouns!)

The examples are all around us: the CCTV that just about every neighbourhood watch scheme is trying to get hold of (usually with help from the National Lottery), the little bits of plastic whose embedded computers will keep our biometric data safe in our pockets, not to mention prisoner tags, RFID shirt collars, number-plate recognition systems, security guards outside supermarkets and metal detectors at public buildings. Which just leaves my HP printer...

At the recent Netevents European Press Summit, held in Evian, France, many of the big names in networking and computing were making a fuss about the changing nature of IT and communication, and the demands that the police state are putting on it. A police state requires that data about everything is held until the end of time, the public, however, expect to be able to surf the Web and check their email while out and about, buy stuff by credit card on eBay and generally take advantage of wireless networking coupled with cheap broadband. The problem is that secure computing and mass surveillance don't exactly go hand-in-hand.

For computer systems to be secure, they must hold the minimum amount of data possible, and the data they do hold should be hard to access. For computer systems to be useful in the context of fighting imaginary enemies in the war on terror, they must hold records of every transaction they carry out, and must be able to provide those records to the very select group of government agencies and tens of thousands of companies across the globe who may have "legitimate" needs to access it.

Fortunately, help is at hand from the security industry. According to companies such as HP, trust is at the heart of the problem. By buying hardware that is "trustworthy", and buying computers and software which will only work with such hardware, we can sleep safely in our beds. For readers unfamiliar with this use of the term "trustworthy", here's a possible definition: "US-made, certified by Microsoft and Intel. Certainly not cheap hardware from Asia."

As for printers, many will reject refilled ink cartridges, or ink cartridges made by third-party companies. Such cartridges, we are told, are interpreted as counterfeit by the printer. Counterfeit goods, from ink cartridges and pirated DVD's to perfumes and fake Gucci handbags fund terrorism, or rather the security-industrial complex. Which is what allows us to have the money to buy the printer in the first place.