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March 16th, 2006 - Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-03-16 02:54
  Subject:   More info on the RFID virus.
Public
There have been a lot of news stories about Melanie Reiback et al discovering an RFID virus capable of infecting RFID tags and the back-end databases that use the info on them. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that many of these stories give much in the way of technical details of the attack.

However, heavy duty technical info is out there for anyone who wants it. Reiback et al put up a whole website just to share the details of the threat with everyone. Though you'd never know it by reading 99% of the stories. So here it is:

http://www.rfidvirus.org/

(Easy enough URL for ya?)

Basically, we have another set of buffer overflow attacks caused by dumb programmers who said "nobody will EVER slip an invalid RFID tag into MY pile!" Oh yes they will, buck-o. Especially if your RFID tags are inventorying "secure" airline luggage or expensive retail merchandise.
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-03-16 19:45
  Subject:   Understanding (or not) engineers.
Public
  Mood:self-mocking
It's totally unfair to suggest - as many have - that engineers are socially inept. Engineers simply have different objectives when it comes to social interaction.

"Normal" people expect to accomplish several unrealistic things from social interaction:

  • Stimulating and thought-provoking conversation
  • Important social contacts
  • A feeling of connectedness with other humans

These goals are irrational and stupid. Experience shows that most conversations degenerate into discussions about parking spaces, weather patterns, elapsed time since you last exercised, and - God forbid - "feelings." Those topics hardly qualify as stimulating and thought-provoking. Nor are they useful. Engineers realize that making personal contacts is not valuable in their occupation. For them it's not "who you know" that matters, it's "who knows less than you do" that counts. Nor is there much tangible value in feeling "connected" with other humans. That stuff is best left to the poets and the multilevel marketing organization. To an engineer, most "normal" people are intellectually indistinguishable from Mexican jumping beans with faces. Feeling "connected" with carbon-based dolts holds all the joy of being handcuffed to a dead zebra - it sounds special, but it can get old fast.

In contrast to "normal" people, engineers have rational objectives for social interactions:

  • Get it over with as soon as possible.
  • Avoid getting invited to something unpleasant.
  • Demonstrate mental superiority and mastery of all subjects.

These are sensible goals and ones that can produce great joy. Tho social skill of an engineer must be evaluated on the basis of these rational objectives, not on the basis of bizarre and nonsensical societal standards. Viewed in this light, I think you'll agree that engineers are very effective in their social interactions. It's the "normal" people who are nuts.


http://www.jimgeary.com/faves/joxe/JOXSCE01.HTM

From "The Dilbert Principle" by Scott Adams


See also: Triumph the Comic Insult Dog vs. The Star Wars Nerds. (Guy: "I-AM-A-STORM-TROOPER!" Triumph: "YOU-ARE-A-HUGE-NERD!")
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-03-16 23:41
  Subject:   Cell phones in movie theaters: A technologically immodest proposal.
Public
Bruce Schneier wrote about this subject and I wanted to throw in my 2 cents as well. Purely because I enjoy the sound of my own keystrokes, you understand.

The problem is not people carrying cell phones into theaters. It's when the cell phones in theaters ring audibly, disburbing other people. The audible ringer is the problem, not the whole phone. So if you ask me, the real solution to this is not to install cell phone jammers in theaters, it's to install cell phone ringer silencers.

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