Weekly Update for August 10, 2020
Welcome back internet friend!
Howdy internet friend and welcome back! I am writing this weekly blog post from a new keyboard (a Redragon K552 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard if you were wondering) and it is taking a little getting used to. I didn’t look really closely when I bought it and didn’t notice that it was a tenkeyless keyboard. However, I will say that I really like the feel of the switches and keys and it is much more quiet than my previous keyboard. I am also writing this the day after DefCON28, which was in Safemode with Networking this year. I will have an entire section of the blog to talk about everything from that experience (and I will only refer to it three more times before getting to it), as well as having my regular section on Black Lives Matter. I am also going to talk about personal and professional stuff that happened last week, so if you couldn’t tell already this is going to be a jam-packed post so get ready! Or come back next week when I’ll have less to say ;)
Black Lives Matter!
I’ve mention this many times before, but Black Lives Matter! It is really important that I use the platform I’ve spent the last few years building to amplify that message because it is really important. Across this country black people experience oppression and indignity at the hands of police far too frequently. To be sure, other institutions of the government are also oppressive towards black people and other people of color in the United States, but it is high time that these policies come to an end. Anti-racism is something that has to be done every day, and even those of us who do our best to be anti-racist can still fail. So it is important to constantly look at ourselves and our actions in relation to racism and systems of white supremacy and to make sure that we actively and loudly reject those ideologies of oppression!
There are a number of authors that I could suggest on this subject, and in previous weekly updates I have shared a number of them. This week I am going to suggest a book that I loved when I read it in college and found tremendous benefit from reading, and that book was “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. I found this suggestion on an anti-racist reading list that Ibram X. Kendi shared, and you can find that full list here - that way if you don’t like that particular suggestion there are a number of others you can check out instead.
While there is more that can be said on the subject, I will continue the discussion next week. Until then, if you are a white person like myself I suggest you take some time to do a little reading and try to interrogate your own personal relationship with white supremacy. Hold your own feet to the fire and ask yourself hard questions. If you aren’t doing as well as you would like, there is time for you to do better. I believe that you can do it, if you really want to. However, it is up for each of us to do our parts to help dismantle racism and white supremacy everywhere that we find it, and that starts at home and with ourselves.
Much of last week for me was defined and revolved around DefCON28, which I am going to cover in greater detail below. Other than that, I was able to accomplish a number of my goals for my vacation, including doing stuff around the house.1 I am still hoping to reimage my daily-driving laptop and do a few other things, but I still have a little bit of time. I also got some really big news that I can’t share quite yet, but yesterday I got a really exciting e-mail that I did not expect to get! This absolutely lead to dancing around the house in celebration, but it was followed by some serious introspection and soul searching. I’ve got some big decisions to make in the coming days and weeks, and it is entirely possible that this blog will feature some essays that are on a more serious content and subject matter than before. It’s also possible that it won’t, but I’ve been giving serious thought and doing real work on writing more involved and long-form articles. Things that are coming closer to short book length, but still planning on distributing them either here or online so they can be made freely available for anyone with an internet connection and the time to read them. If that is something you’ve liked from the weekly blog posts, and are looking for even longer stuff in the future, you might soon be in for a treat. I am sorry for being so cryptic, but once what I am talking about becomes more clear, this should all make more sense.
I also want to add that I was able to achieve my goal of spending time every day (except Sunday) studying music theory and practicing guitar. I am able to remember a bunch of cool stuff from the AP Music Theory class I took in high school (shout out to Mr. McVicker, who taught me almost everything I know about music theory today) and it was nice to hear some of the old names of scales and crap like that. There is much to remember and this class is pretty frustrating, but I like it well enough so far. I’m at that boring stage of having to memorize scales, but I think I understand what the benefit are going to be. However, it is just not that fun right now because I want to shread! I know that investing the time to understand the theory will pay off in the long run, so I just have to be patient, but everyone knows that being patient sucks out loud! It’s demonstrable that being patient is a drag and it is so much easier to just have that instant gratification. Unfortunately, as the Rolling Stones song goes, “you can’t always get what you want” - and that is fine!
Last week I took time off for DefCON28 (I promise that there is a write-up of DC coming right below this, just be a little more patient) and also managed to spend time with my family. I’m still studying for the AWS Security certification and planning to take the exam in a few weeks. I mentioned this above because it blurs the line between personal and professional, but I am considering a redesign of this website with something more custom, or at the very least changing the theme so the page will look better on mobile. If you notice that the theme changes at some point or I tweet about it, you’ll know that it was coming. It’s been on my radar for months but I haven’t had the time, until now. Whether I will still have the time tomorrow remains to be seen, but sometime soon the redesign will happen!
DefCON28 - Safemode with Networking
Thank you for being patient internet friend, you’ve come to my very long DC28 rant! This year was my second year in a row attending DefCON, and this year it was famously in safemode. What that meant practically was that nearly all the activities were happening online so rather than ignoring my wife in Las Vegas, I was ignoring her in our home in the Coachella valley. There were a few things that I really liked about it being online this year. First and perhaps best was that my son was able to participate for the first time! I wasn’t planning on him being able to attend until he was a teenager, so the fact that he was able to participate at seven was fantastic! Unfortunately I was distracted by my own stuff and didn’t do anything from the Rootz village with him, but if next year requires a safemode component as well, one of the things I’m planning to do is male more time to do stuff with him and the village for kids. We found time to do BlanketFortCon and we may end up submitting a video of the blanket fort we made in our living room. During the week I also spent extra time with Joey going swimming and playing Fortnite, so I could tell that he was very happy. I am proud of him for swimming underwater and doing his first cannonball this week! He’s also been able to do the Dead Man Float and he’s almost got the backfloat down. He did a great job of reminding me to have fun and not to work too hard, which he always does! I am so proud of him and happy for how he is progressing, it was great that he could do stuff with me at the con this year. Hopefully next year we will also be able to do more stuff, including a version 2.0 of our blanket fort, with much more thought and effort put in and a practice run or two beforehand.
My time at the con was otherwise split between the following three things. Working on the Cloud Village CTF with Acetolyne and @GWeessies (who I frequently mention in my “to follow” section each week), watching talks, and playing the MUD with Acetolyne. I shared a link on Twitter for a write up of the MUD that I really liked, and I think it was so interesting I am going to share it here as well - check it out if you are interested I thought it was awesome! I should also add that the CloudCTF taught me a few things but it was also quite frustrating. However, many of the talks from the village were really good this year. I love that there was a torrent made available so we could watch all the talks, but it felt like I should have spent Thursday cramming videos so I could participate in the streams/QA on Friday and Saturday. Acetolyne made this point and I think he was right that if you/we would have watched more videos Wednesday/Thursday there would ahve been more opportunity to participate. If there is a safemode next year I will be sure to cram videos on Wednesday and Thursday, believe it!
Other than the disappointment of not being able to see my friends in meatspace, I also had some regrets about not participating in the Telechallenge this year. I spent time studying and learning stuff about VOIP and it would have been a good time to play with that stuff, but I just had a limited amount of time and I couldn’t do everything.2 When there is a year that I am going to do the Telechallenge, I am going to put together a team first and study stuff like DTMF tones so I can tell just by listening what each tone being pressed on a phone is. For me it was more important to spend my time hanging out with friends and learning about Cloud stuff. I plan on attending DC for years to come, whether it be online or in person. I am very much looking forward to the pandemic being over, but it was also very sobering to realize that last year may have been the last time we can gather in groups as large as 30,000 people. That is a subject for another day, and while there is plenty of time to be sad about that later, for now there are a few more things about DC that I would like to share. While on the subject of things that I didn’t like, I agree with others who said that the format of a Discord channel was just too chaotic for me. I think this caused me to withdraw more and is likely what drove me to spend the amount of time I did inside the MUD. But as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I think @EvilMog did a fantastic job and the MUD was a great throwback to some of my first experiences on the internet as a young person. From a nostalga perspective, staying up until two in the morning drinking Mountain Dew and hanging out with my friends brought me back to some of the best parts of junior high school, and that was really enjoyable!
Another exciting and positive thing to share with you, dear reader, is that my first soldering kit came in the mail and soon I am going to be playing with that and building a badge or two! This is going to drive me to experimenting with adding pictures to this blog (as I’ve threatened to do before) so you can see the results of my handiwork. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to do more stuff close to the metal and I am really excited to finally get my hands dirty and stoked to have an iron to start learning with! I have dreams of hacking on IoT stuff, but I am going to start with having a play with a soldering iron.
Finally, I was really glad that everyone was able to participate in DC this year who wanted to. From all around the world, people were able to join in virtually. I also don’t want to be too critical, and I only watched the first 54 minutes of the closing ceremony before my internet gave out, so it’s possible that they eventually changed this, but I didn’t see any women on the final panel. I know there were pictures of women in the opening video/montage, but after the first few minutes I didn’t see any more women. In fact, it looked like the only people that were on the live stream video were white men.3 We are living in the year 2020 and I was really hoping that DC would do better, but I would also like to imagine they won’t do any better unless we hold them to the high standards we hold for ourselves. Perhaps like every year, DC was a mixed bag, but I had fun and I am looking forward to next year!4
People to follow
As I do every week, here are some tech and non-tech people you might consider following on Twitter.
Martin Luther King III - The son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bernice King - The daughter of Dr. King
@cetolyne - great friend, awesome programmer, super helpful!
@blenster - cool maker, very positive, well worth a follow!
@GWeessies - very smart person doing interesting research!
Marley - first place champ! Marley is one of the best on Twitter!
Null Coder - another awesome person to keep an eye on!
@EvilMog - creator of the DC MUD and an interesting person to follow.
- I love my wife for giving me grief about this. “Only you would have a list of goal to accomplish during your vacation” she said. You know, she wasn’t wrong! I was afraid that I wouldn’t accomplish all I would like during my vacation and writing it out it reads as silly as it sounds in my head…. [return]
- I felt this way about DC27 as well, and I think it’s probable that I will always feel this way. It’s probably just impossible to see and do everything you would like to do. [return]
- I could be wrong about this, and if I am let me know on Twitter and I will update this blog with a correction. [return]
- Assuming I don’t get banned for being too critical. [return]