Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Welcome to Emmett Stewart - Guest Blogger

Hello CafeNinja fans,
I've been asked by CafeNinja to help return content to his blog.  Since I have worked with him for a long time and we have very similar political views, I felt it would be a good fit.  So please keep an eye out for new content coming from me on this blog.

Emmett Stewart
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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tablet vs. Laptop vs. Combo

So, my latest personal technology debate.  Which should be the next system that I invest in for my family members consumption.  Let me state that if I had more money than sense, I would invest for everyone (4 of us) to have Apple products across the board, but that option is way too expensive.  As well the two children should be taking theirs to public school and a loss of that kind of value would be crushing.

As  my primary goal, these new devices should replace older machines and multiple under-powered devices.  In an attempt to consolidate for the kids onto a specific device/platform by which they could accomplish school work.  That choice being more than adequate for their mother who does email and navigation mostly, and for myself something grander than a smartphone, but would clearly be under-powered for vitalization or some of the other purposes that require I have a modern desktop performance system.

Gaming is not coming into the equation at all.  This also drops some of the performance requirements.  I can add that I have an affinity for Linux over all other operating systems for the management of security. As I have mentioned before, Apple would be my mainstay if not so expensive, so I do not shy away from the most productive choice just because it is not my ideal.  In this comparison there are devices which are Win8, Android, and basic systems I would install Linux on.

So I started a quest with a budget.  Since that is probably the most limiting factor, let's discuss it as secondary.  €400-500 per person is what my target is.  This puts me in the high end tablet range or low end laptop.  My first inclination was to go towards the tablet, so that it would be as portable as possible with the longest battery life.  But I personally need to be able to use a hardware keyboard.  So, I know that a bluetooth keyboard can be added to most any device, I didn't want to have yet another thing to try and keep charged as a separate thing.  This has all gotten me down to looking at the following devices closely.

Asus Transformer Pad TF701T (Android 4.3)
Microsoft Surface 2 (Win8 RT)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) (Android 4.4)
Lenovo Miix 2 10  (Win8.1)
Asus Transformer Book T100 (Win8.1)

Reviewing point I used were apps, operating system, size, ports and expandability.  Due to some software limitations (like proper office suite missing for Android as well as limitations for Windows 8 RT to windows store only) leaned me towards to the new entries in the "convertible" space.  The Asus Transformer Book T100 and the Lenovo Miix 2 10.  With very similar specs, I've made a short list of the actual differences.

Lenovo Miix 2 10    (+full hd screen, -non standard micro-usb charger, - usb 2.0 only)
+Full HD screen
+rear camera
+larger kb keys
- kb numbers out of alignment
- magnet attach, with 3 fixed positions (no flexible hinge)

Asus Transformer Book T100 (Win8.1)
-HD screen
-kb a 95% like netbook
-no rear camera
+physical locking screen to dock
+kb #'s align

I had hoped to find a device that also had built in 3G.  It would seem that that module included on devices in my price range are not common at all.

The Asus came in a bit cheaper, but not really enough to polarize my decision.  So based on these few differences between the two systems I made the choice to go with the Transformer Book T100 based on these points:

  1. USB 3.0.  No matter how much I try, I will never be able to make USB 2.0 ports become a USB 3.0 port.
  2. I found a cover for the T100 that can let it function in all the best tablet modes (stand horizontal and landscape) that does NOT block the normal keyboard dock section of the tablet. Coodio Smart Asus Transformer Book T100TA.
  3. Linux adaptation has already started.
  4. Physical latching mechanism for the keyboard to attach.
I'll bet getting the devices very soon as I have ordered them just recently.  I've been watching Win8 "howto" videos on youtube to bone up on the UI as I have not operated a Win8 machine as a daily driver yet.  I'll post back here again after they arrive to follow up on my impression with the machine after some use.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hackit+ - Ethical Hacking training course

I'm excited to write about a little project I've been working on.  I've helped a team of very special and talented folks with creating Premier Course ware for Ethical Hacking.  It is a paid program for instructing on hacking from the very introductory levels.  If you've never worked on security before, or if you are thinking of trying to, but all the material you find out there is way too advanced, then try Hackit+.

With lessons that start with explanations of virtual machines and Linux all the way up to advanced exploitation techniques, this course will bring you from 0-60 in just 15 lessons.  The product has just launched, but the community plans are strong and engaging.  With user driven forums for members only along with access to download and try to hack example virtual machines.  Launching new ones all the time to test your lessons learned.  These virtual machines comprise "Hackville" which is what they call the collection of virtual machines which represent citizens and businesses inside a simulated town.  With resources and persons simulated with virtual machines, these test your learned material and challenge you to creative problem solving.

This courseware is not your traditional fare.  It is engaging and pushes the student to try and experiment and learn by doing.  This course is not for a passive student base.  But for people who are curious about the field of Penetration Testing, Security or just wanting to learn from the bottom up, this course is engaging and has the promise of a strong community structure to keep you engaged for months to come after your complete the course.

There is a certification exercise at the conclusion if you are so inclined, this process will earn you a certificate of completion that will be backed by the Hackit+ team.  This certification is included with the courseware at no extra charge.  Visit the website for the details and dive in if you too would like to learn how hacking works, even if you don't have any previous experience.

I do apologize, I normally don't endorse products on this blog, but as it is very much in line with my philosophy on these things and the Tin Foil Hat Show podcast, I thought it an interesting piece for anyone who normally follow what I'm writing about.

Happy Hacking.  And remember: If it hacks you, you should HACK IT BACK!
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Opensource pragmatism

I just wanted to revisit the discussion of software as dogma.  I think it is very important that the open source community get the preference when the software is equal to or better than the closed source version.  But when the closed source version is well ahead of any open source competition, there is a requirement as a professional that I am as effective and efficient as possible.

Yes, this is a declaration that I use closed source software.  Absolutely NEVER when I can avoid it, but always when it is a difference between doing my work/play well.  If I have to get something done and it means I have a binary blob in my Linux installation, then so be it.  Most of us make these compromises often with flash or java as a start, many more even with binary blobs for video drivers, skype and more.  So while I am an open source advocate and recommend transitions to linux and migration from corporate systems for infrastructure to open source servers and software.  But only where they are equal or greater than the closed source solution.

I don't want this to sound like I don't have respect for young software projects who are struggling to reverse engineer and create the replacement software.  I do have a vast respect for the persons who, scratching their own itch are looking to produce the open source alternative, and I've contributed to a couple of those projects in the past doing documentation and testing (I can't program).  I know how daunting and huge such an activity is.

I just wanted to write this post since I've heard, more than a few times, in the last months very derogatory statements against members of the community who participate and contribute just because they have a windows computer for playing video games.  And I have a strong sensation that most of the people to are very critical of that, probably have already binary blogs on thier own systems and that makes them hypocrites, even if the insults are being cast at the wider OS level of consumption, my argument is that a little closed source is just as bad as a lot.  So, unless you are running GNU Hurd linux on your system, then you probably need to silence any condescending remarks to any of the open source community who do use a Mac or Windows for specific tasks that fall outside the area of expertise and excellence by the closed source community.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Debian vs. Ubuntu

Hello guys and gals,
It's been a while, and I want to assure everyone that I'm still out there and doing geeky things, but between recent family health issues and work being a bit in a mix-up after a merger, I've been otherwise engaged.

But here to talk about the latest of the grand activities and give a quick background on why I came to ask myself the question "Debian vs. Ubuntu".  To start off I'd like to confess that I've been a strong Ubuntu user and promoter over the last six years.  While I think it is still a solid distro for new or novice users, I was running into issues with library compatibility, intolerance for proper release cycles and some of the choices that Canonical are making in regards to the technology choices they are making.  While I would _never_ begrudge them the option to make those choices, I just want to say that I don't 100% agree.  I say this not to start a flame war, but to declare that I recognize their freedom to make those choices and my freedom to choose another distro.

So my distro hunt was on.  I've been very impressed with the performance of Arch on a few machines I've owned, but I've also found it very easy for me to not pay close attention to things and find myself with a broken system and not sure how to recover.  I looked for about 20 min at several RPM based distro's out there which have enjoyed recent popularity, namely Mageia.  While the system was fine and there was no remnants of the old "RPM Dependency Hell" it was just a little out of sorts for me now that I've got nearly 8 working years on Ubuntu and Debian based systems.

So I went back and looked at the key features I would enjoy.  A rolling distro for the first time on my production machine would bring me some satisfaction, based on the Debian package system puts me in my comfort zone and keeping more with community standard desktop environments and graphic server standards and I felt that those points leaned me back to a core, base Debian install.  With Debian 7.0 on a very recent release I thought to give it a go.

I had very good success with Debian 7 on one of my slightly older machines.  Then, as a minor derivative for my net-book I installed CrunchBang #! using the Openbox window manager vs. Gnome3. I was quite pleased and comfortable in both.

As a result, I'm backing up my production machine right now in order to install Debian 7 in a dual boot with the windows 7 needed for some work applications (not my choice).  I've been pleased with the system, the installer is a little lacking, but not difficult to follow.  I've been able to re-install even closed source software which was advertised for Ubuntu (Debian based right?) without issue and feel that I'm in a real happy place with not having to worry about a "upgrade" breaking things like the wireless security protocols to connect to the corporate wifi.  I learned long ago with Ubuntu that it was almost always a safer bet to format and reinstall the system when a new release came out, to avoid older libraries and program settings conflicting with new ones.  The recent update to 13.04 was no exception and while I thought I was going to save some time by doing the in-line update, there were a very few things which were not content with that choice.  Those broken things are what started my research.

So while I do have a fond place in my heart for Arch, I don't feel comfortable enough there to lean on it for production as I have a very high AUR dependency (personal issue, I'm in a 12 step program).  And I have no courage for slackware or gentoo.  I think that Debian will offer me the ease of use, with a solid system on a rolling-distro.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm not sure if this embed code works correctly, but if not, clicking the monument on the right hand side then makes available a link directly to the archive.

A backup of the aired TFH shows has been made and are available at

While I have officially podfaded (yes, this is my formal announcement) I do plan to return once real life isn't quite as time consuming with family medical stuff.  I wanted to make a backup of the Tin Foil Hat Shows made to date in a place where I knew they wouldn't disappear.  The files maintain their jpg stenography embed and the password remains the same as posted in the blog post for episode number 1.

Thanks to you all for your support during my run, I do hope to initiate again, and will post here on my blog again once TFH is relaunched with all the details at that time.

I hope to be making blog posts which aren't as time consuming (relatively speaking) and once back to a routine that supports it I will be looking to produce TFH again.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tin Foil Hat Show - Episode 022

Episode 22. Moving quickly, but plenty to chat about.  My casts are less rant prone these days as health and family have made it difficult to keep my regular appointments with the microphone.  I hope with the return of school in a month or so that some normalcy will return and I can find one day in which I can do this without conflict.  Sorry for being behind, I'm trying to do better.  Don't take me out of your feeds.  If I ever retire, I will have the decency to drop a good bye show.

New wireless headphones have cleaned up some of my audio.  Less difficult to get a recording that doesn't need a lot of post production work just to sound decent.  This show has quite a few stories in there that I fly over, please do get the shownotes and read the full articles on any story that interests you.  If you are unable to get the shownotes out, please write me at and I'll send you direct url's if you need them.

In this episode I review the Dan Carlin podcasts "Common Sense" and "Hardcore History". Dan has a great mind and presents history in a light and with enthusiasm that few can deliver, the fact that he does so in audio only is enough to make me wish to be a student again, if I could name him my history and political science teacher.

The new episode should be in your favorite podcatcher for download already. If you haven't added me to your podcatcher software, please add the RSS feed on the right.

The podcast is also available to play directly online at the Fuzion Podcast Network.

For the instructions to get the show notes please see the instructions as posted in the post from the first episode. These instructions haven't changed.

Feedback as always is welcome, or you can contact me by any of the other methods listed here on this blog. Please remember that the show is very new and still settling in, but constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Enjoy and please do send me feedback and corrections, it can only make the show better. A permanent link to the show's rss feed is listed on the right side of the blog.

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