It’s been a while.

To say i fell off is a massive understatement would be completely accurate. I fell off entirely. For years. So if you’re reading this, just a heads up, there’s more to come.

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Being your own best competitor or how I learned to love the Samsung.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call me an Apple fanboy. But to a degree it’s true. If I were to tell you my daily online activities are all via iPad, iPhone or MacBook, I’d not be telling a mistruth.

I don’t own a single Android device (short of a really really shitty android phone two years ago while spending nearly a month in London). But since then nothing.

Now most Apple fanboys are arrogant about it. Elitist. Lord knows I was when it wasn’t the norm to have Mac. Back when every windows asshole have the generic response “oh, they [macs] are good for graphics but that’s about it.” -spoken like a true ignorant asshole.

But today you’d think Blackhat was an Apple press release at the Moscone Center. Apple has become the norm. What was once conforming to non-conformity has become conformity. What was the underdog is now the supreme overlord. Apple runs shit.

But let’s be honest. Did anyone think the last few years of apple devices were on the side of underwhelming?

iPad and iPhone changed shape. Wow.
Faster CPU. Great.
Thinner by millimeters and lighter by smidgens of a smudge. Fantastic.

Apple was once known for pushing the envelope constantly. Apple announcements meant new awesomeness every time. Now we just get different shaped iPhones, iPods and iPads. Remember the first MacBook Air? The first Iphone? The reaction? It was massive! Now? Womp womp.

Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying “you have to be your own biggest competitor”. How right he was.

Apple has lost it’s edge. It’s short on competition. It’s dragging ass.

So I’m excited about about Samsung. I’m excited about Googles Android platform. I’m excited about all the other vendors pushing technology forward and hopefully putting pressure on Apple to once again step it up.

I don’t want to own an Android phone. I don’t want to run Windows. I don’t want anything Samsung in my ecosystem. But capitalism loves competition. And hopefully Apple will step it up.

What was the last Apple product that blew your mind?

Why I’m not losing my shit over the iPhone 5

If you were hoping for something special from the iPhone 5, you, much like myself, must be disappointed. The differences between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 aren’t that much different.

  • iPhone 5 has a bigger screen. whooptie doo.
  • iPhone 5 has a faster CPU. hooray.
  • iPhone 5 has a different connector. wtf.

Aside from that, memory is the same, Bluetooth, camera, storage, display pixel density, audio, blah blah blah… all the same. Not mind blowing. Evolution not revolution.

But the bigger deal, the one that all of us will get, is IOS6. IOS6 is a big deal because it adds upwards of 200 new features and improvements. So why is it a big deal? Let me walk you through it.

Maps
Apple acquired a few companies over the last couple years and is finally replacing the Google Maps app with its own. Who cares? Well, you should.
The new maps app offers true turn-by-turn directions (with help from TomTom), crowd-sourced and real-time incident traffic reports (fastest route will actually mean something now), voiced by Siri with real-time integration with Yelp and a number of other services. Maps also has that super cool fly-over capability that will allow you to really drill in to see where you are… or where you want to be.

Siri
I often ask “Siri, why are you fucking with me?” to my iPhone. Because in most cases Siri screws up or doesn’t respond. But with IOS6, Siri has gotten smarter. She can now launch apps, send tweets, she integrates with opentable and yelp to check restaurant reviews and make reservations. She will pull rottentomatoes movie times and movie reviews. Epic. She will also be available on the iPad, which is also lovely.

Facebook Integration
Most people will love this. (I, myself, am not on Facebook, so it matters little to me, however…) Facebook is getting some major integration in this new update. With the ability to log into Facebook from the iPhone, users have easier access to Facebook in their apps, via web browser and also via Siri. Facebook contacts, birthdays and events will also now integrate with your calendar and local address book.

Quiet Time
In the phone app itself, Apple has made it easier to text folks back if you can’t take a call, or to enable a “Do Not Disturb” mode where the screen won’t come on, there won’t be any noise or vibrations so if you’re trying to sleep, or don’t want to be woken up at 4am by that crazy ex, you’ll love this. They can drunk dial for days and you’ll not even bat an eyelash.

FaceTime Over Cellular
FaceTime will now work over cellular connections, so you’re not dealing with Skype’s shitty ass IOS app that crashes every time you make a connection. Awesome.

Safari
Safari will get offline reading lists, a rip off of Instapaper, and a feature that came out in Windows 98.

Photos
Users can now share groups of photos to their friends over iCloud. Because not everyone has or wants to use photos. Especially for the nude photos.

Mail
There is a new VIP feature (from OSX Mountain Lion) that will highlight mail from people you need to prioritize, like your boss, your mom or the IRS.

Passbook
Have a ton of little “loyalty cards” from CVS, your local grocery store, AMC Theaters, Century 21, and all the others? Yea, me too. Like several other apps in both Android and Apple app stores, this collects all of your loyalty card data but also adds ticket information and other info into one central place for easy access and easy viewing. And it’s location-enabled so it knows what to show based on where you are (so you can get your movie tickets at the theater, your plane ticket at the airport, or your CVS card at… well… CVS.)

I’ll totally use this.

The update will be out on September 19th. So stay tuned.

Mountain Lion review

I’ll admit that I’ve been using Mountain Lion for the last few months, performing the updates, dealing with a few pieces of software which weren’t compatible (until today, Evernote shit the bed each and every time I opened it) but as of tonight I upgraded to the latest Release Candidate and what a difference it made.

I could be crazy but it seems MUCH faster. Granted my laptop is a beast, but fuck me is it fast. Everything is fast. Opening applications, browsing the web via firefox, closing applications, switching applications. Fast. And that’s very exciting.

Dictation is neat. Siri has been a bit of a challenge as it’s interactive, but I like the fact that Dictation will learn based on how you talk. Neat. I’m sure I’ll use that on a much more regular basis, as I find myself using dictation on my iPhone on a very constant basis. Let’s face it, we can talk faster than we can type. And the Human Interface Device is currently the issue that we, as humans, face. Using our hands? Think of version 2 of Siri. Of version 3. It will be fantastic.

But back to Mountain Lion. I’m still exploring, but I love the single search bar for URLs and for Google Searching. No more little browser bar for each search, no more big browser address bar for URLs. (Thank you Google Chrome for the inspiration).

Mountain Lion is evolution not revolution. It’s a step forward, it polishes up the applications (iCal, Contacts, Mail, etc.) and it does so in a very subtle way.

To see more about OSX Mountain Lion (which is due somewhere in late July) you can read about all of them here: http://www.apple.com/osx/ and I hope you enjoy the performance changes as I do. Your comments, of course, are always welcome.

AppleTV, you underwhelm me

Everyone who knows me knows I’m an Apple Whore. I have just about one of everything they’ve made in the last 10 years (minus that stupid boom box and the apple battery charger).

I had the old AppleTV. Which, to me, was a step forward. A movement in the right direction. A glimpse of what was to become. And that was because I had a full understanding of the iPhone. Of the potential for applications being written around the AppleTV. About how this could be a game changer.

But thus far, I’m underwhelmed.

I have two of the Circa 2010 (or was it 2009) AppleTVs. One for each TV. I use them for perusing content that’s stored out on my NAS, using the radio functionality and Netflix. Great. For $99 bucks, I’m not going to lose a kidney.
But after this weeks “update” I sit here thinking “Um. What the fuck.” Underwhelmed is an understatement. So much so I don’t actually know what word to use. What’s worse than underwhelmed.

Help me, Apple, understand WHY we are where we are with this thing.
And here’s a list of my current frustrations.

1. Why do I STILL not have a keyboard to use with this effin’ thing. Bluetooth? Wireless Keyboard? This isn’t rocket science. It will save me the aggravation of having to input my user/pass with that idiotic iddy-biddy remote each time it “forgets” it.
I use alpha/numeric/special char passwords that are no less than 14 chars long. It’s a 20 minute process to input all that crap. wtf. For fuck’s sake, at least give me T9!

2. Since we’re on the topic of a human interface device, WHY can’t I just use the keyboard on my iPad/iPhone to input data into the AppleTV? That doesn’t make sense? We can push content to it, but we can’t use it to enter data easier? Do you think I like searching for movies, etc using a single button remote circa 1998? This is idiotic. Sure, the iPhone Remote app gives me some of that, but fuck me, it leaves a LOT to be desired!

3. Since we’re on the topic of inputting information INTO this thing, help me understand WHY I can’t search my content. I have nearly a thousand movies. And on this interface I can’t just input a couple letters? Instead it’s scroll scroll scroll scroll…

4. The update gave us a new GUI. But what’s the benefit. How is this the killer app if I can’t add any apps? Apple, you tards, you own the fucking ecosystem. Help me understand why I can’t put apps on my AppleTV! I mean, wtf, even my Samsung TV has apps! It might be the worst user interface on earth but they at least have apps! Help me help myself!

Apple, I’m really hoping you are going somewhere with this. Thus far, I’m completely underwhelmed.

iPad 3 review:

I stood in line at Walmart last night in hopes of picking up a new iPad 3. Though I pre-ordered one, it wasn’t scheduled to ship until the 19th. And frankly, waiting that long just wasn’t in the cards. So off I went at 9:30pm last night, expecting a line half way down the block. I was shocked to find that I was the only one there for the iPad 3. So the line began behind me.

 
A few hours later I left with a 64 gig WIFI + 4G on AT&T, a dream and a prayer. 
 
Image
 
My previous iPad, the Generation One iPad, has been very good to me. I used her religiously, even up to last night while waiting to purchase the new one. So my review of this iPad may be a bit skewed. I didn’t own an iPad 2. So the jump for me is two generations, and with that, an entirely new experience.
 
I’ll start with the obvious:
 
1. The CPU/GPU: She’s fast. She’s really really fast. Switching apps, downloading, the multi gestures to swipe from one app to the next…  fast. Though my current apps are lower res, and not taking full advantage of the speedier processor and the jump in GPU, the current apps are really really impressive. And they’re only going to get better.
 
2. The Retina Display: As an iPhone 4s user, I know I’m already spoiled. I stood my Generation One iPad beside the Generation three iPad, and frankly, I’m not seeing a huge difference. At least, not at face value. The majority of the content I have isn’t HD. Yet. But now with the massive 64 gigs of space, I can see the content quality taking a significant jump. Till then, drilling in on text I could see a difference in Generation one vs. Generation three, but frankly, it wasn’t mind blowing. It was cleaner, but not something I’d lose my mind over.
 
3. Camera: The first thought of the iPad with a camera with the Generation two sounded ridiculous. But now having one, aside from looking like a tool waving an iPad around to take a photo, the photos look great. Not iPhone 4s good. But still really good. I’ll be using it for FaceTime and Skype. 
 
My only gripe, thus far, is the idiotic “case”. I bought the iPad Three [Project Red] with the magnetic cover. The challenge is that it protects nothing but the screen itself. Not the back, the sides, and frankly, if you drop this thing, it’s a goner. Idiotic case. So bad, in fact, I’ll probably return it and buy something more substantial. Dropping a $1k device on the ground with a “case” that does nothing but protect the front from scratches and saves me a single step of clicking the top button. Stupid.
 
I’ll update this as time passes.
 
 
Did you get yours? Thoughts? 

Blog fu

This isn’t do much a blog post so much as an internal conversation that I’m having externally.

When I log into twitter, LinkedIn or any other social site I’m blasted with automated NetSec posts. This got me to wondering whether anything I were is actually read. I mean sure, I can check blog stats. Where did people arrive on my blog from? Where did they go after? How long did they stay?

And all of that is fantastic but are people actually READING what is written?

We have become a nation of “skimmers” with a very short attention span. I’m as guilty as the next. I sit here now wondering if I ever make it to the end of anyones blog post. Or do I move on after just a few sentences.

What is your reading style. Am I alone on this?

Thoughts?

Me electric bill is “teh suck”

I was ripping up my floor when it happened. I, for one reason or another, bent down at the now bare concrete wall, pulled the pile of wood pieces from the previous flooring and reached under the drywall, the edge of which was now exposed.

I was shocked.

There was nothing there. Not a stitch of insulation. Just drywall glued to cinder-bloc. Not even a frame. Nothing. I almost choked. “What kind of low rent building did I buy into?!?” and that’s what started this project.

First step, rip the drywall out, fill the HOLES in the cinderblock (Let’s put it this way, I could see sunlight coming through the wall), frame everything, then spray foamed the hell out of it. That was a very quick way to burn through a grand in materials, but it cut 1/3rd off my electric bill from last year, where my biggest bill was $1200. I shit you not. For a one bedroom apartment. But I still don’t understand WHY it was still sitting at $300 a month for a 1 bedroom apartment, which, btw, I only use one room of.

This building has HVAC units. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of owning one, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Essentially HVAC stands for “Heater/Ventilation/Air Conditioner” which is an acronym which describes exactly the things it’s really really shitty at. For heat, these things are essentially a heater coil and a fan that blows hot air up at the ceiling. Very useful when you want to heat the air over your head. They don’t come with thermostats, so essentially if you want to adjust the temperature, you have to turn the knob. More blue or more red. Not “71 degrees fahrenheit”. And the way they work IN the apartment is basically there’s a giant hole cut in the side of the building directly into your apartment where they push these things in with a really shoddy seal.

Even better.

So, back to being green.

I stopped using my HVAC units. All three. And I sealed the hole between the exterior of the building, and the HVAC by putting fiber board insulation, and then adding pink insulation all around the HVAC and then stuffed it tight by any means necessary. As a replacement, I bought a Vornado heater/fan unit. This thing is neat. It’s sort of a space heater, looks like a fan, doesn’t get hot to the touch and has this phenomenal futuristic technology called a “thermostat”, which, unlike the HVAC don’t require you to dial “more red or more blue”.

This thermostat technology is going to be HUGE! You can actually just set this thing at a temperature… say… 71 degrees fahrenheit, and it’ll maintain that room temperature. It’s saved me hundreds this winter. Fantastic.

But my electric bill was STILL 300 bucks.

Damn it!

So I took this green tech thing even more seriously. I went Belkin power conservation crazy. First I bought a Belkin Conserve switch. It’s essentially a power strip with a remote that you can completely power off all the things that are vampire sucking power when still powered off. Examples being the surround sound processor, floor lamp, the subwoofer, the Xbox, the TV and one of my switches.

While I was at it I purchased a Belkin Conserve Insight unit. This puppy plugs into the wall, then the device in question plugs into that. And what it gives you is this really cool little display of how much power that device or devices plugged into it consumes, as well as what it costs on a monthly/yearly basis. And so I’ve gone around the house trying to identify  wtf is consuming over $300 in electricity. I’ve found that the Vornado heater uses between $75 and 100$ per month. I also found that my computer only costs me about $20.00 a month, and that was before I configured my computer to sleep at 1am each night and come back at 7am. No need to be online at that time. I’m not running SETI at home.

On the same Belkin train, I purchased the Belkin Conserve Socket Energy-Saving Outlet. Plug it into the wall. Plug a device into it. Then set your time at a half hour, three hours or six hours. When you need to use it, press the button. So what’s the use case? I set one at 30 minutes, and into that I plugged in my kitchen appliances on a power strip. When I need to use the microwave, or anything else plugged into that little nugget, it’s as simple as pushing a button and it stays on for 30 minutes, then automatically powers off. When I want to power my cordless drill, dremel, etc. I plug them in and let them charge for 6 hours. No need to leave it charging forever.

Finally, I bought a boat load of LED spotlight (G10) bulbs from various vendors. They consume between three and four watts per bulb. In my bathroom alone I have six lights. So, consider this, six lights in the bathroom times 35 watts per bulb is 210 watts being used. With the LED bulbs I’m now using 18 watts. That’s a MASSIVE decrease in power consumption! And I did these all through the house! They are dimmable, they use less power than the previous bulbs and lastly, they last 25 years.

I’ll get my power bill at the end of the month. Thus far I’m still scratching my head as my Belkin Insight isn’t telling me who the big culprit is, however, I’m hoping to find the sneaky bastard sucking up all my power, and with it, banish my electric bill down to 1/3rd of its current amount.

I’ll keep you updated.

My Audi Q5 review

I woke up this morning to find the earth cold and precipitation had blessed us with some snow. Sorta.

Now all of last year I was driving a Dodge Charger SRT. She’s a big girl. 450HP, 6.1 Liter HEMI. All balls, no cock.

She was something of a spectacle in the snow. Rear wheel drive meant I could spin her in circles, drift for days and floss my “mad” Yankee skills in the snow.

I didn’t give much of a rats ass about how much snow was out there. I drive that car through anything.

A year later my Audi S8 is in the shop for a number of tweaks and upgrades. Tires. Rims. The lot.

So today I was in fortune of driving a loaner from Audi, the Q5.

Its not a massive SUV. It’s mini. It’s big enough for a small family and small enough to not be a gas monster. “cute”. Dare I say even “soccer mom-ish”.

But with the Audi Quattro all-wheel drive transmission, I was chomping at the bit to go a little snow crazy.

And so I did.

The verdict? I love the little bastard. The full glass sunroof from front to rear let’s the light in and makes the interior feel larger than it is. Though it’s really quite roomy. Enough for kids, strollers and groceries… Or dogs, tools and bags of concrete.

Either way works.

The 2.0 liter turbo is more than enough “go” for city and country driving. The suspension is bumpy but not “bounce you out of the truck” bumpy. The truck rolls with the punches, sticks and moves and doesn’t offer any apologies.

The interior is basic plastic and leather with faux wood trim, but integrated iPod/iPhone integration makes it feel more elegant because your own personal theme music is then an integrated part of the experience.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed my limited time with the Q5. It makes for a great round town vehicle and not a bad day-trip car either.

Good enough for the family, or the guys, regardless of rain, shine or some rare October snow, she’s versatile and flexible enough for all.

10 days of Blackhat/Defcon: Two ends of the same [exhausting] spectrum.

I can tell that I’m getting old. I know this because I felt like an old man at Defcon. I couldn’t help but feel like it’s turned into a fashion show. A tourist attraction to helpdesk employees and wannabe’s. Out of the maybe 100 people I spoke to perhaps 10 of us actually know/do/understand some aspect of security. So wtf were those other 90 people? I’ll let you ponder that.

Lamest ResponseI shouldn’t complain, though. I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Though I wish I was as popular as Bijoux during DefCon, it felt great to see some friends. It was great to talk tech, ponder the future of netsec, and laugh at Dan Kaminski’s expense. (Does ANYONE know why DK was wearing a leather coat in the desert? I fear we’ll never know.)

People have often asked me what’s the difference between Blackhat and DefCon. I’ve heard others say that Blackhat is corporate and DefCon is “real”. But I’m not sure that’s true. In my own humble opinion, Blackhat and DefCon are two ends of the same spectrum.

Blackhat is organized. Each talk is on time. Each break is on time. Each class runs for exactly the amount of time set aside. It’s professional. It’s corporate, private sector, public sector security. It’s the big picture. And you pay for that. The cost is aimed at the corporate budget and is almost prohibitively expensive for the individual nerd. The fun stuff is limited to the Pwnie awards and a workshop or two.

DefCon, on the other hand, is the opposite of that. It’s young. It’s chaotic. It’s less than $200 bucks for 2.5 days of madness. It’s up to 2 hour lines to hear speaker talks. I can proudly say that the black t-shirt uniform was in full swing. It was heavy heavy on the side of caucasian males conforming to non-conformity. It was the love of security at the nearly matrix level granular detail. This specific buffer overflow. This specific exploit. This specific vulnerability.

DefCon Beard Moustache Competition

And there’s fun at Defcon. Lock picking, Capture the flag, video games, scavenger hunts and a glorious beard/moustache competition hosted by Red Beard himself.

The vendor areas are so vastly different that they almost can’t be compared.

Blackhat vendor booths: Firewalls, IDS’s, Security hardware/software and vulnerability assessment/pen testing services.

DefCon vendor booths: Long range wireless antennas, lock pick sets, old school hardware, stickers and black t-shirts.

After nearly 10 days of Blackhat and DefCon I can tell you that it was a blast. I wish I’d seen/done more at DefCon. I wish I’d gone to more parties and met more people. I wish I’d kicked Moxie in the knee. Next year I’ll attempt to partake in more DefCon. More social activity. More convos with real hackers, with real netsec nerds and real digital gangsters. But in all it felt like home. Both sides of the same spectrum. Blackhat and DefCon.

Until then I’m glad it’s over, but I’m already yearning for next year.