Your Life on the Internet

The following is a translation from an article published by French Magazine Le Tigre. It has been lovingly translated by one of my work colleagues (who happens to also be French, but now a New Zealand citizen, so he’s mostly okay 🙂 ).

It just goes to show how much information we’re putting out there on the web…

Happy birthday Marc. Today is the 5th December 2008 and you’re turning 29. Marc you don’t know me but never mind I know you very well. Unfortunately you’re Le Tigre’s first Google profile. Simple stuff really: we’re picking up one anonymous person and we’re telling his story thanks to everything this person has left and posted on the Internet, voluntarily or not. Do you mean we’re taking the piss? Not at all! We want to demonstrate the fact that private information posted on the Internet are not private anymore and that is worrying. But be sure that I have no bad intentions and I love meeting people I don’t know. Let me warn you: I am going to tell everything I know, in total contradiction to what we preach at Le Tigre. But this is for a good cause and anyway this is your fault: you just had to be careful.

I was initially sacred to have an issue with my sources. Not because I was missing information but because I had too much. Because of homonyms, there are at least 5 other Marc L on the Copains d’Avant website. But you’re not on this one: it must be a generation thing, at the end of 90s/early 2000, people registered massively on this website and published their education path in order to find friends they had lost (from primary school or college). It was before Facebook. Ah Facebook… But hold on. I met you Dear Marc on Flickr, this massive pictures’ database that allows people to publish photos and share them with friends (a feature Facebook quickly copied). In order to find someone to talk about, I did a search with “voyage” as key-word, hoping to find a good “client”, as journalists say, capable of posting his travels’ photos. I quickly found you: you have to admit you love Flickr where you posted more than 17000 photos in less than 2 years. Obviously there was a good chance for me to find your photos.

So Marc. Nice face, mid-long hair, thin face and big curious eyes. I am talking about the photo taken at the Starbuck’s Cafe in Montreal where you went with Helena and Jose on the 5th August 2008. Looks like you had a good evening as well as a good weekend in Vancouver. I really like this photo album because Jose took the photos and thus I can see you more often. You hired a motorbike, went to the beachfront but you didn’t have a swim, just chilled on the beach. Overall you spent a month in Canada. You were initially alone, at the Central Hotel, in Montreal (see the “around my hotel” photo album). You were there for work. Work? You have been an Architecture assistant in a big architecture firm, LBA, since last September (see your profile on Facebook). The firm has several offices in several cities and you’re supposed to work in the Pessac office, in the Bordeaux region. I guessed that because you often go to the Utopia (cinema/cafe in Bordeaux) and you often go to Arcachon. So in Montreal you were in an office with Steven, Philipp, Peter, working on new building plans, in front of 2 computers, one desktop and one laptop. By zooming the photo we can even see that you had a Packard-Bell laptop and that you used paper sheet as a mousepad. I didn’t say it was interesting, I just said we could see it. On the 21st August, Steven gave you a ride to the airport. Back in France to attend Juliette and Dominique’s wedding then the week after your Lola’s (your niece) baptism in Libourne. Lola is Luc’s sister; Luc often makes funny faces with his glasses.

But let’s talk about you. You’re single and heterosexual (see Facebook). In spring 2008 you had an affair with Claudia R who works at the “Centre culturel franco-autrichien” in Bordeaux (didn’t find it easily though because of the ü character that you have to spell ue in Google). I confirm that she’s a charming woman: small breasts, short hair, nice legs. You give us her parents’ details, Boulebard V in Bordeaux. You played petanque in Arcachon with Lukas T, who’s a colleague of hers. At the end of May, there are only 4 photos of your stay at Claudia’s apartement (looks like you wanted to hide something) and then a more compelling photo a few days later, taken by Claudia herself: we can see her bed and you’re laid down. With your clothes on though. On another one you’re brushing your teeth. It was on the 31st May: 2 days earlier you were at Lukas’ party (nice party where Lukas played piano and sang songs in German as, everyone had a good laugh as you can see in the video on Flick). On the 31st the way you and Claudia hugged each other tells the story. And then on the 22nd June, this time for sure, you’re holding hands at the Cap Ferret where you went for a walk. It’s the last time I’ve heard from Claudia. Please note than I have her work phone number (found the job description on Google and I know she looks after people’s recruitment) so I could give her a call. But even if I could, I won’t dwell on it. Before going out with Claudia, you were with Jennifer (it lasted 2 years at least) who like modern art (you went to Beaubourg together and then you went to see Madonna at Paris Bercy). She was living in Angers before moving to Metz, her cat’s name is Lula and she looks a bit like Claudia. In summer 2006 you went to a camping in Pornic, driving a white Golf Volkswagen. You went to the Atlantic coast, then to Brittany. You had short hair at this time and I have to admit long hair fit you better.

We didn’t talk about music. At the end of the 90s you were playing in a punk band; you were living in Merignac (near Bordeaux). There are still traces on this period on Flickr of course but also on Google archives. You know what? That’s where I found you mobile number: 068336****. I wanted to check out whether this number was still current. I called you, you said “Allo?, I said “Marc?, you said “Who’s that?, I hanged up the phone. Here it is: I have your mobile. This article was saying: “2001 was a great year for the Punks. Looked after by Domino, they performed in front of more than 700 people at the Olympia in Arcachon. It was a great concert”. But it looks like the band split in 2002. We understand why: you went to university in Montpellier (see Facebook, Education) and the others pursued their studies as well… But you see, never give up, because with Michel M, the guitarist, you played together again, on the 19th June 2007 at the Cafe Maritime in Bordeaux. There’s a short video in which I heard you singing, nothing’s great, just OK. And then with Dom, you started playing together again in the streets of Nantes during the music festival in 2008. You had practiced at his girlfriend’s place (Carine T). Dom is Dominique F, he’s finishing his PhD in Bordeaux. The subject is a sociology study of migrants. Funnily enough, I found you had an page on Youtube while searching for information about Dom. And then that you were in Italy early 2008 (till the 27th March when you filmed your comeback in Bordeaux). I have to admit I didn’t find out what you were doing in Rome: you probably went there for work because we can see you live in an apartment with a laptop. You went to a party with Philippe S and sang on Valentine’s Day at the Gep Wine bar.
I cheated twice: to access your personal profile on Facebook I setup a fake profile and I sent you a friend request… You didn’t accept my request at first – unlike Helena C (who’s one of your friend) – and you replied (in English I don’t know why): “Hi Who are you? Regards Marc”. I was about to write a lie (that I was a Facebook fan living in Vancouver and that I loved your photos and all this bullshit) but when I was about to click “Send” Facebook advised me: “If you send a message to Marc L, you allow him to see your profile and friends as well as basic information for a duration of a month”. I thought that the reciprocity should be true and then I didn’t have to send my reply back to you as I had access to your basic profile.

I’m thinking of the year 1998, 10 years ago, when everyone was going on about the power of Internet. I probably would never found anything about Marc L at this time. But nowadays I found everything I wanted. I can imagine what your life is like, your life as a young employee and soon-to-be architect, your love for music and how much you enjoy playing with your mates, your trips, your next girlfriend (I bet she’ll have short hair). But I’m missing one thing: your address. And this is an issue: how can I mail you Le Tigre? I know you live at Avenue F but I’m missing the street number and you’re not in the white pages. However is there a need for me to send you the magazine? In fact I don’t need to; after all you know your life better than anyone else.

Much thanks to Fred (who has a facebook profile but won’t give me permission to link to it, despite it’s ‘private’ status) for taking the 30 minutes out of his life to translate this work.

Home Networking – the Why (not the How or What)

The first of what may become a series of presentations covering the home networking space. This presentation covers WHY you may want a home network, and what considerations need to be top of mind during planning.

I’ve just finished a presentation on Home Networking, The first of what may become a series of presentations covering the home networking space.

This presentation covers WHY you may want a home network, and what considerations need to be top of mind during planning.

Home Networking 01 Why Not How

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: home network)

Obviously things in this space change fast, so please feel free to comment and correct me if things get out of date, or if you plain don’t agree!

Has wireless come of age? Will 802.11n be the silver bullet?

This post is sparked by an article on CNet which covers a recent Burton Group report comparing Gigabit Ethernet to 802.11n, the latest version of WiFi. So – will it happen?

I’m still not convinced. It’s not because 802.11n isn’t a good technology, it’s because I don’t really like the idea of sharing, at least when I need guarantees as to my level and quality of service (read: bandwidth).

We have a ‘pre-n’ access point and some devices where I work and it’s great, it’s fast and it works – but it’s still not a ‘standard’. If you follow the Wikipedia link above you will find a timeline of the .11n draft which started back in 2004. I still remember discussing it when it was first proposed and it sounded oh so wonderful, theoretical 270 Mbit/s easier and better security… It would make right what was so wrong of the current .11 standards of the day (at that point being mostly .11b with a smattering of .11g gear and the glimmer of .11a on the horizon – which incidentally still hasn’t really taken off). The specification is still in the IEEE process and it’s expected in March 2009 and has been through a couple of drafts now, the 2.0 version of which has seen manufacturers such as Belkin, Linksys (Cisco) and Apple become impatient and release their own ‘pre-n’ gear.

While it’s good that the market is driving urgency into the process, it must also be recognised that the consumer is the potential loser here should radio design and spectrum management change significantly between the premature release of the pre-n and the eventual release spec due in 2009. The manufacturers won’t care, they will just build new kit – and they get to save themselves the anguish of handholding ‘early adopters’ through upgrading the firmware of their pre-n devices to bring the device into line with the released spec.

Now – to the nuts and bolts of my concerns (let’s focus on the technology and ignore the customer). There are five major things wrong with wireless which I’d like someone to reassure me over:

  1. Shared Spectrum (thus bandwidth/throughput)
  2. Ease of Setup for normal people
  3. Security of Networks
  4. Connectivity / Coexistance with ‘legacy’ a/b/g standards
  5. The growing number of ‘connected devices’

So, let’s knock them off one at a time (as best we can anyway). The 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum is shared that means that if (which over a 3-7 year period will turn into WHEN) my neighbours also get .11n gear, they too will be wanting to use that spectrum, along with my (and their) legacy .11b/g devices, and DECT phones, and baby monitors etc. etc. Of course, the reach of .11n is just over 5 times that of it’s .11a/b/g predecessors so, while I can see one of my neighbours access points currently, and need to walk outside and to the back hedge to pick up another two, with .11n I will be exposed to a whole heap more access points, all wanting to use the 2.4 & 5GHz spectrum around my home. That then raises the question of how can this cross over be mitigated, how easy can we, as an interested/responsible community, make it for end users to switch on their gear and tune it for their (and only their) environment?

So ease of use is the next point we need to cover. “It’s working I don’t need to do anything more” seems to be the attitude of many users, and I base this on my semi regular drives around the streets in my suburb with a Laptop on the dashboard and NetStumbler running. There are a frightening number of access points out there not only broadcasting their SSID, but broadcasting the default name of DLINK or Linksys. Logic would predict that, if someone has neglected to turn off the SSID, or at least change the default SSID for their access point, then the odds are also good that they have not changed the administrative password for their device, which then exposes them to people not only ripping off their bandwidth, but also accessing their system, opening up holes in their home network and potentially (if they’re “bad people(tm)”) implementing a war pharming attack on their modem.

You may be interested in seeing what size the issue is where you live, there are some good resources here to help you with that, just bear in mind that in many countries, use or even possession of these tools may be considered an offence. It’s not good practise to go changing peoples settings, or to leech their bandwidth, so I’d recommend you educate yourself in the regulations covering your corner of the globe before you set out on your investigation, and if you do find open nodes and have an overwhelming urge to do something about it, how about just dropping a few notes into the letter boxes surrounding the location of the strongest signal advising them that their AP can be seen and accessed from the road.

If it’s easy to setup, this ease also needs to extend not only to the radio strength to avoid crossovers with other nearby networks, it also must account for the security of the home network.

So, security then – an unsecured AP allows a malicious (*#&(* to change your DNS settings so, the next time you head off to do your internet banking you are in fact directed by their rogue DNS server to a site they have setup to look like your favourite bank and, a few seconds later they have your credentials, they display a “failed attempt” message, and then direct you to the real site where you log in again (being careful with your typing) and successfully complete your transaction. The fake site in the meantime has sent your details to them (or someone in a country with more… flexible internet crime laws) and your account is cleaned out. Okay, that’s bad – you lose some money, per haps a lot, perhaps none because you bank has some two factor authentication running and you are alerted to the fraud. But consider this… with access to your local network, the malicious (*#&(* scans the address space, finds the machines which are switched on, including the one where all your digital photos and videos are shared and… deletes them. All your digital memories gone in the click of a mouse – you’d better have a good backup regime, or a very comfy couch and understanding spouse because there’s otherwise no way of getting those images back of your wedding / kids birthdays / special anniversary where you got drunk and… well… the images have gone, or have been compromised and posted somewhere where you may not want them to be.

Connectivity and co-existence… Now (uncaffinated) I’m an easy going kind of guy, but if someone is affecting my ability to stream HD content to the average 2.3 televisions in my home, then I’m going to get grumpy. If my neighbour starts a big P2P download in the middle of an All Blacks test, pumps up his wireless signal to boost his throughput, and kills my bandwidth in the process, then I’m going to get grumpy. If my legacy 802.11b web cams are reserving the 2.4GHz channels for themselves and not playing nice with my .11n gear, then I’m going to get grumpy – and let’s not even discuss the lowest common denominator approach to wireless security, I don’t care if my Webcams can only handle 64bit WEP, I want the rest of my devices, regardless of their a/b/g or n to be using the strongest possible encryption available to them.
Let’s also look at the throughput question. Wireless technologies tend to have nice theoretical maximum rates, and this is what the crayon eaters plaster all over the box when you go to buy your kit. But the reality is that the typical throughput of wireless is around half that of the theoretical maximum – except for .11n, which is around a third of the posted top rate. Now don’t get me wrong – 74 Mbits/s is better than what we’ve had to work with previously, but as I stated in one of the previous paragraphs, we need to remember that this is shared spectrum and, as the spectrum becomes more and more saturated by wireless enabled devices from laptops to set-top boxes, IP security cameras to video and VoIP phones, we are going to get a lot of traffic all wanting to use this shared highway, and for those of you based in Auckland, you’ll know all too well what happens when lots of traffic wants to get from A to B (or A to D, or wherever) all at the same time. This could be a “Very Bad Thing(tm)” for the user experience.

So how many things are going to expect an IP connection? Well, Yamaha, Pioneer and Denon are just three of many examples of manufactures of home audio equipment who are putting IP connectivity into their Amps for streaming media and in home distribution. As ‘no new wires’ connectivity increases, so too will the desire to run multiple zones of media, Korsakov in the kitchen, “Rage against the Machine” in the rumpus room and Lucy Lawless in all her flat screen, DVD box set glory in the lounge. Our appliances will also have data they need to share with the house, air conditioning units need to respond to remote sensors reporting a change, the fridge may be reporting that it no longer detects any bottles of milk inside itself. That’s not forgetting that we still will have data driven devices for VoIP calling, email and playing games all of which will have impacts and differing quality of service requirements on the home network. Then question very quickly becomes not if 74 Mbits/s can deliver a good experience, it becomes – will 74 Mbit/s be enough for all of the devices in your home to co-exist and transmit what they need to, without you noticing.

To summarise what has become a very long post – I’m looking forward to 802.11n. It’s been far too long coming and as an industry we need to shorten the cycle time for standardisation, 5 years is way too long to wait for a new generation of wireless.
I don’t think that 802.11n will solve all of our issues – and believe that there is still the need for a structured cable / wireless connectivity hybrid in the home. Am I wrong? Tell me why!

Disaster Recovery

I came across this link a few days ago which covers off some strategies for making technology work for you in terms of organising yourself in case of an emergency.

It kind of resonates with my recent posting on backups, but then takes it a step further into the analogue world and makes some suggestions as to what information you need to make avalible to those close to you should you be incapacitated.
While I don’t agree with some of the recommented digital storage mechinisms (especially since usernames and passwords are involved – I think that analogue is more secure, as long as the copy is physically secured too – much identity theft is perpetrated by family members after all). I would have to add the Domain certificates and authentications to this list, along with my many many identities on the forums around the web to which I belong.

Perhaps I should update my will with a brief note to be copied and pasted into the forums of all these sites, excusing me from any future interactions due to my death, kind of a posthumous adios 🙂

Where’s *my* honey monkey?

Not to be confused with the well known “squadron of flying butt-monkeys” (who seem to be the ones enlisted to attempt to deliver anything important and requiring both timelyness and robust creation), Microsoft are deploying web-bots they’ve named ‘Honey monkeys’ to attempt to discover and interpret new attack vectors against their operating systems.

Microsoft are using “Honey Monkeys” to see if they can catch any previously undiscovered attack vectors (assumably against their operating systems).
Now that would be an interesting project to work on as I’ve seen a number of machines where I work get compromised simply by visiting sites which look innocent enough. I sure like to know how you’d programatically emulate the social engineering which seems to be all the rage “Warning – your computer may be running slow, click here to fix” … yeah – right!