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2004-10-29

Ford not a good choice for hams

This emergency responder found Ford won't honor their extended warranty on multiple pretexts, including the installation of a two-way radio.

Gee, with all those Crown Vics running around with 2-way radios in them, you'd think Ford could find a more creative excuse.

2004-10-27

Free Basic Internet via WiFi

Verilan
now offers free basic Internet access via 802.11b WiFi to a large segment of Portland. They don't give you NNTP or e-mail, but just plain web access will suit many people perfectly well.

Forex, you can use Google Groups to search the entire history of USENET (sans binary groups), even post to USENET once you establish a free account with Google.

Or, you can download Free Agent, a very useful USENET newsgroup reader/e-mail client, and use that with HotPOP which offers free POP3/SMTP e-mail access, if you're still waiting for your Gmail invite.

A WiFi Cantenna (WiFi primer and antenna review here) on top of a bamboo pole feeding a good* WiFi card could provide basic access for a laptop from many homes and other locations. For field ops with line-of-sight to the KGW tower, this could be very useful.

Also, here's a WiFi HOWTO from Wikipedia, with more here, and more than you ever wanted here.

I will put my card back in my laptop and do some experimenting.

* A 'good' WiFi card is one with an input jack for an external antenna. Most don't have input jacks, and adding an antenna conneciton is non-trivial.

If you already have a card without an antenna jack, you can try using a folded aluminum foil reflector.

If you don't have a WiFi adapter yet, this Kiwi used a USB-connected WiFi adapter and a wok to make a very good antenna/adapter system. USB WiFi adapters are $15-$50 and dead bang simple to install.

For reference WiFi is the trade name for improved 802.11b wireless Ethernet. 802.11g is nicer, and almost all 802.11g adapters will do 802.11b. 802.11a was late to market, shorter range albeit faster, and is not recommended, unless the adapter also does 802.11g & 802.11b. There are even 'Super-G' systems, faster than 802.11g but backwards compatible with b, g and even a. But, for this use, b is Good Enough.

2004-10-26

Got Batteries?

Source: Canada NewsWire, 9 Oct 2004, excerpted

British Columbia Institute of Technology cyber security research leader Eric Byres testified for the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census in Washington D.C. on 1 Oct 2004, warning that hacker attacks on North America's critical industrial infrastructure [power, etc., and of course the information technology on which they all depend] could soon become as commonplace as the practice of hacking Web pages.

Particularly vulnerable are the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems used ubiquitously for operation and maintenance. They efficiently enable the collection and analysis of data and control of equipment from remote locations.

There is a growing concern that this reliance on computers and computer networks raises the vulnerability of critical infrastructures to attack by cyber terrorists. A recent National Research Council report has identified "the potential for attack on control systems" as requiring "urgent attention."

In May, a researcher at a British conference showed how by remotely adjusting overload settings on a grid's power transformers during the warm summer months, it is possible to destroy millions of dollars of equipment and shut the grid for days.

As early as 1997, a six-month vulnerability assessment by the White House's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee found basic security flaws in the computerized systems that control generators, switching stations and electrical substations. Among other things, the committee reported that operational networks controlling critical portions of the grid were accessible through electric companies' corporate LANs (local area networks). Some digital circuit breakers could be remotely tripped by anyone with the right phone number. Fixed passwords for remote vendor access went unchanged for years. Not enough has changed since then, Byres notes.

While getting into a critical control system might not be easy, it is certainly not impossible. Said Byres, "As we like to say in the lab, 'crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.'"


Ahem. Not fixed since 1997. Hmm.

Think I'll go crank up the generator tonight.

2004-10-22

Be A Lert, for America Needs More Lerts

CBS News reports our national warning system is very, very lame.

It's also optional. Yes, optional, for local or regional alerts. The huge megalithic radiocorp that owns the majority of stations people listen to can decide whether to alert you to volcanic eruptions, flash floods, tornadoes and the like.

Of course, if you're listening to satellite radio, or watching tapes, DVDs or satellite TV, you would not hear it anyway, as Uncle Sam never required the incredibly cheap ability to listen to an alert frequency at all times to be built into TVs and radios... but, it can require that you be nannied with the V-chip.

Sleep tight tonight! Me, I got a All-Hazards alert receiver that's SAME-compliant.

2004-10-17

Anything you Graffiti can be used against you...

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), those atomic clock people, has a step-by-step guide for law enforcement investigators to find and preserve digital evidence so that it stands up to scrutiny once cases are tried.

And, Uncle Sam wants your help in being the best he can be: A draft version of such rules for collecting evidence for PDAs is now available for review and comment.

It neglects the Symbian OS and Linux (??), but at least my first comments to ditch the section on PQAs (a dead letter now that Palm.Net's gone forever) got listened to, and the guide is a useful primer on the architecture of PDAs.