Ramblings & ephemera

Eavesdropping with your cell phone

From David S. Bennahum’s “Hope You Like Jamming, Too” (Slate): …innovative industrial spies, who have several neat new tricks. These days, a boardroom Mata Hari can purchase a specially designed cell phone that will answer incoming calls while appearing to be switched off. In a business meeting, she could casually leave her phone on the […]

Various confidence scams, tricks, & frauds

From “List of confidence tricks” (Wikipedia: 3 July 2009): Get-rich-quick schemes Get-rich-quick schemes are extremely varied. For example, fake franchises, real estate “sure things”, get-rich-quick books, wealth-building seminars, self-help gurus, sure-fire inventions, useless products, chain letters, fortune tellers, quack doctors, miracle pharmaceuticals, Nigerian money scams, charms and talismans are all used to separate the mark […]

How security experts defended against Conficker

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): 23 October 2008 … The dry, technical language of Microsoft’s October update did not indicate anything particularly untoward. A security flaw in a port that Windows-based PCs use to send and receive network signals, it said, might be used to […]

Why cons work on us

From Damien Carrick’s interview with Nicholas Johnson, “The psychology of conmen” (The Law Report: 30 September 2008): Nicholas Johnson: I think what I love most about con artists and the world of scammers is that they’re criminals who manage to get their victims to hand over their possessions freely. Most thieves and robbers and the […]

My new book – Google Apps Deciphered – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 5th book is now out & available for purchase: Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop. My other books include: Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox Hacking Knoppix Linux Phrasebook Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software (I’ve […]

Matthew, the blind phone phreaker

From Kevin Poulsen’s “Teenage Hacker Is Blind, Brash and in the Crosshairs of the FBI” (Wired: 29 February 2008): At 4 in the morning of May 1, 2005, deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office converged on the suburban Colorado Springs home of Richard Gasper, a TSA screener at the local Colorado Springs Municipal […]

How con artists use psychology to work

From Paul J. Zak’s “How to Run a Con” (Psychology Today: 13 November 2008): When I was in high school, I took a job at an ARCO gas station on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, California. At the time, I drove a 1967 Mustang hotrod and thought I might pick up some tips and cheap […]

The purpose of the Storm botnet? To send spam

From Tim Wilson’s “Researchers Link Storm Botnet to Illegal Pharmaceutical Sales” (DarkReading: 11 June 2008): “Our previous research revealed an extremely sophisticated supply chain behind the illegal pharmacy products shipped after orders were placed on botnet-spammed Canadian pharmacy Websites. But the relationship between the technology-focused botnet masters and the global supply chain organizations was murky […]

Craigslist “everything is free!” scams

Robert Salisbury From “Man scammed by Craigslist ad” (The Seattle Times: 24 March 2008): The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan. But Robert […]

Conservatives are more ruthless than liberals

From Alan Wolfe’s “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern” (The Washington Monthly: July/August 2006): Political parties expend the time and grueling energy to control government for different reasons. Liberals, while enjoying the perquisites of office, also want to be in a position to use government to solve problems. But conservatives have different motives for wanting power. One […]

Ubuntu Hacks available now

The Ubuntu distribution simplifies Linux by providing a sensible collection of applications, an easy-to-use package manager, and lots of fine-tuning, which make it possibly the best Linux for desktops and laptops. Readers of both Linux Journal and TUX Magazine confirmed this by voting Ubuntu as the best Linux distribution in each publication’s 2005 Readers Choice […]

The way to trick smart people

From Paul’s “The easiest way to fool smart people“: There’s a saying among con-men that smart people are easier targets, because they don’t think they can be conned. I’m not sure if that’s true, but there’s one scam that’s almost guaranteed to make smart people switch off their brains and reach for their wallets. It’s […]

Canals & tolls

From Andrew Odlyzko’s “Pricing and Architecture of the Internet: Historical Perspectives from Telecommunications and Transportation“: The modern canal era can be said to start with the Duke of Bridgewater’s Canal in England. Originally it was just a means of connecting the Duke’s colliery to Manchester. The parliamentary charter (which enabled him to take over private […]

Google ad advice

From “Google Adsense Tips, Tricks, and Secrets“: While every website is different, Google has published some heat maps showing the optimal locations. No surprise that the best spots are middle of the page and left hand side. … Google has also has published a list of the highest performing ad sizes: 336×280 large rectangle 300×250 […]

DRM Workaround #18: HP printer cartridges

From “Cartridge Expiration Date Workarounds“: In light of the lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard over the expiration date of their cartridges, two ways to fix the problem: 1) Remove and reinsert the battery of the printer’s memory chip 2) Preemptive: Change the parameters of the printer driver Search for hp*.ini … In it there is a parameter […]

My new book – Hacking Knoppix – available now

Knoppix is one of the great innovations in open source software in the last few years. Everyone that sees it wants to use it, since it is that rarest of software tools: the true Swiss Army Knife, capable of use by unsophisticated, experienced, and wizardly users, able to perform any of several hundred (if not […]

Amongst family and friends

From "The Producer" in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, an article about the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer: His creation achieved its brilliant apotheosis a few years ago, when he reconceived Brian Grazer as a form of performance art. He started putting photographs of himself, grinning like a pixie, in dime-store frames […]