It’s Warm, Like Flesh

This article was originally written for and published at Exolymph on April 28th, 2016. It has been posted here for safe keeping.

As technology evolves, the line between science and science fiction starts to blur. At one point, the thought of space travel or even micro-computing was only a dream of the future, yet it became a reality within or before our lifetimes. More and more, we find ourselves questioning if something is real or only exists in thought — a pie-in-the-sky dream of hopefuls or holdouts. We are starting to find that the future is now, whether we are ready for it or not.

A video about a modular life-form grown from human cells made its rounds on the Internet only a few weeks ago. In the video, you are first presented with a couple of slabs of meat on a stainless steel counter. Cut to a scientist who introduces you to “OSCAR”, a modular human-like organism. We see Oscar get assembled: a brain module (literally a black box of electronic components) is plugged into a heart module is plugged into a lung module is plugged into a kidney module. With each insertion, we see the creature twitch, pulsate, or squirm. Then limb modules are added and Oscar awkwardly crawls around in search of warmth.

This Cronenberg-esque video was both terrifying and fascinating. With imagery straight out of eXistenZ (1999) or Naked Lunch (1991), we watch this organic creature struggle and writhe as it gains access to new organs; this is body horror from our fever dreams and darkest nightmares. It seems real, real enough, and a large number of people believed that the video was legitimate. After making the rounds on Facebook, it was eventually discovered to be content from a science fiction web series — not a promotional video from a medical lab deep in the bowels of some no-name organization.

What does this say about the state of our society? Is it not too far-fetched to believe that someone can grow living organs, link them together, and have the resulting life-form instinctively move around the room? For years we have been influenced by news on advancements in scientific fields such as biomedical and biomolecular engineering. From the infamous WWII Soviet propaganda film Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940), where a dog’s head was kept alive independent of a body, all the way up to the famed 1997 Vacanti mouse, with what looks like a human ear on its back, we have been shocked and mystified by the promises of science, especially its perversions. Even today we see cables from the relatively new field of tissue engineering with scientists poring over lab-grown meat cultures to be used as food or refining bioartificial liver devices constructed from animal cells.

Are we going to see this type of work packaged and sold to the consumer in a glossy box anytime soon? I don’t think so. I will admit, it would be incredibly interesting if I could head down to my local Best Buy and pick up Samsung’s new bio-hacking kit so I could grow my own cells and build a life-form as casually as I would order Sea-Monkeys from the back of a comic book. Imagine an organic branch of littleBits, selling you packs of organ and tissue for $99.95. What about a biopunk hacker who wants to grow himself a new eyeball with better night vision? This opens things up to more political and philosophical controversy.

While the video wasn’t real, we may not be lagging too far behind the concept of a modular body, speaking technologically. As the line between fact and fiction flickers and fades, we see the potential for groundbreaking scientific advancements for the human race, and unhinged scientific experiments stemming from the simple question, “What if?”

Our world may not be ready for Oscar.

Not yet.

 

Hyperboria 101 – Moving Through The Mesh

This article was originally written for and published at N-O-D-E on February 14th, 2016. It has been posted here for safe keeping.

HYPERBORIA 101 – MOVING THROUGH THE MESH

Hyperboria is a network built as an alternative to the traditional Internet. In simple terms, Hyperboria can be thought of as a darknet, meaning it is running on top of or hidden from the existing Internet (the clearnet). If you have ever used TOR or I2P, it is a similar concept. Unlike the Internet, with thousands of servers you may interact with on a day-to-day basis, access to Hyperboria is restricted in the sense that you need specific software, as well as someone already on the network, to access it. After configuring the client, you connect into the network, providing you with access to each node therein.

WF8CEM9

INTRODUCTION

Hyperboria isn’t just any alternative network, it’s decentralized. There is no central point of authority, no financial barrier of entry, and no government regulations. Instead, there is a meshnet; peer-to-peer connection with user controlled nodes and connected links. Commonly, mesh networks are seen in wireless communication. Access points are configured to link directly with other access points, creating multiple connections to support the longevity of the network infrastructure and the traffic traveling over it. More connections between nodes within the network is better than less here. With this topology, all nodes are treated equally. This allows networks to be set up inexpensively without the infrastructure needed to run a typical ISP, which usually has user traffic traveling up several gateways or routers owned by other companies.

But what is the goal of the Hyperboria network? With roots in Reddit’s /r/darknetplan, we see that the existing Internet has issues with censorship, government control, anonymity, security, and accessibility. /r/darknetplan has a lofty goal of creating a decentralized alternative to the Internet as we know it through a scalable stack of commodity hardware and open source software. This shifts the infrastructure away from physical devices owned by internet service providers, and instead puts hardware in the hands of the individual. This in itself is a large undertaking, especially considering the physical distance between those interested in joining the network, and the complexities of linking them together.

While the ultimate idea is a worldwide wireless mesh connecting everyone, it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, physical infrastructure can be put in place by linking peers together over the existing Internet through an overlay network. In time with more participation, wireless coverage between peers will improve to the point where more traffic can flow over direct peer-to-peer wireless connections.

ADVANTAGES

The Hyperboria network relies upon a piece of software called cjdns to connect nodes and route traffic. Cjdns’ project page boasts that it implements “an encrypted IPv6 network using public-key cryptography for address allocation and a distributed hash table for routing.” Essentially, the application will create a tunnel interface on a host computer that acts as any other network interface (like an ethernet or wifi adapter). This is powerful in the way that is allows any existing services you might want to face a network (HTTP server, BitTorrent tracker, etc.) to run as long as that service is already compatible with IPv6. Additionally, cjdns is what is known as a layer 3 protocol, and is agnostic towards how the host connects to peers. It doesn’t matter much if the peer we need to connect to is over the internet or a physical access point across the street.

All traffic over Hyperboria is encrypted end-to-end, stopping eavesdroppers operating rogue nodes. Every node on the network receives a unique IPv6 address, which is derived from that node’s public key after the public/private keypair is generated. This eliminates the need for additional encryption configuration and creates an environment with enough IP addresses for substantial network expansion. As the network grows in size, the quality of routing also improves. With more active nodes, the number of potential routes increases to both mitigate failure and optimize the quickest path from sender to receiver.

Additionally, there are no authorities such as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) who on the Internet control features like address allocation and top level domains. Censorship can easily be diminished. Suppose someone is operating a node hosting content that neighboring nodes find offensive, so they refuse to provide access. As long as that node operator can find at least one person somewhere on the network to peer with, he can continue making his content accessible to the whole network.

PEERING

One of the main differences between Hyperboria and networks like TOR is how connection to the network is made. Out of the box, running the cjdns client alone will not provide access to anything.

To be able to connect to the network, everyone must find someone to peer with; someone already on Hyperboria. This peer provides the new user with clearnet credentials for his node (an ip address, port number, key, and password) and the new user enters them into his configuration file. If all goes to plan, restarting the client will result in successful connection to the peer, providing the user access to the network.

However, having just one connection to Hyperboria doesn’t create a strong link. Consider what would happen if this node was experiencing an outage or was taken offline completely. The user and anyone connecting to him as an uplink into the network would lose access. Because of this, users are encouraged to find multiple peers near them to connect to.

In theory, everyone on the network should be running their node perpetually. If a user only launched cjdns occasionally, other nodes on the network will not be able to take advantage of routing through the user’s node as needed.

With the peering system, there is no central repository of node information. Nobody has to know anyone’s true identity, or see who is behind a particular node. All of the connections are made through user-to-user trust when establishing a new link. If for any reason a node operator were to become abusive to other nodes on the network, there is nothing stopping neighboring nodes from invalidating the credentials of the abuser, essentially kicking them off of the network. If any potential new node operator seemed malicious, other operators have the right to turn him away.

MESHLOCALS

The most important aspect of growing the Hyperboria network is to build meshlocals in geographically close communities. Consider how people would join Hyperboria without knowing about their local peers. Maybe someone in New York City would connect to someone in Germany, or someone in San Franscisco to someone in Philadelphia. This creates suboptimal linking as the two nodes in each example are geographically distant from each other.

The concept of a meshlocal hopes to combat this problem. Users physically close together are encouraged to form working groups and link their nodes together. Additionally, these users work together to seek new node operators with local outreach to grow the network. Further, meshlocals themselves can coordinate with one another to link together, strengthening regional areas.

Meshlocals can also offer more in-person communication, making it easier to configure wireless infrastructure between local nodes, or organize actions via a meetup. Many meshlocals have gone on to gain active followings in their regions, for example NYC Mesh and Seattle Meshnet.

INSIDE THE NETWORK

After connecting to Hyperboria, a user may be at a loss as to what he is able to do. All of these nodes are connected and working together, but what services are offered by the Hyperboria community, for the Hyperboria community? Unlike the traditional Internet, most services on Hyperboria are run non-commercially as a hobby.

For example, Hyperboria hosts Uppit: a Reddit clone, Social Node: a Twitter-like site,and HypeIRC: an IRC network. Some of these services may additionally be available on the clearnet, making access easy for those without a connection to Hyperboria. Others are Hyperboria-only, made specifically and only for the network.

As the network grows, more services are added while some fade away in favor of new ones or disrepair. This is all community coordinated after all; there is nothing to keep a node operator from revoking access to his node on a whim for any reason.

FUTURE

As previously mentioned, the ultimate goal of Hyperboria is to offer a replacement for the traditional Internet, built by the users. As it stands now, Hyperboria has established a core following and will see more widespread adoption as meshlocals continue to grow and support users.

Additionally, we see new strides in the development of cjdns with each passing year. As time has gone on, setup and configuration have becomes simpler for the end-user while compatibility has also improved. The more robust the software becomes, the easier it will be to run and keep running.

We also see the maturation of other related technologies. Wireless routers are becoming more inexpensive with more memory and processing power, suitable for running cjdns directly. We also see the rise of inexpensive, small form factor microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black, allowing anyone to buy a functional, dedicated computer for the price of a small household appliance like an iron or coffee maker. Layer 2 technologies like B.A.T.M.A.N. Advanced are also growing, making easily-configurable wireless mesh networks simple to set up and work cooperatively with the layer 3 cjdns.

CONCLUSION

Hyperboria is an interesting exercise in mesh networking with an important end goal and exciting construction appealing to network professionals, computer hobbyists, digital activists, and developers alike.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hyperboria grows over the next few years, and if it is indeed able to offer a robust Internet-alternative for all. Until then, we ourselves can get our hands dirty setting up hardware, developing software, and helping others do the same. With any luck, we will be able to watch it grow. One node at a time.

SOURCES

https://github.com/cjdelisle/cjdns
https://docs.meshwith.me
https://www.reddit.com/r/darknetplan/comments/1vq87d/project_meshnet_for_everyone_a_complete/
https://www.reddit.com/r/dorknet/comments/xry23/this_is_my_first_time_hearing_about_darknet_i/

––
BY MIKE DANK (@FAMICOMAN)

 

irssi-hilighttxt.pl – An irssi Plugin That SMS Messages You On Hilight

A few months ago after configuring irssi with all the IRC channels I wanted, I ran into the problem of being late to a conversation. Every few days I would check my channels only to see people reaching out to me when I wasn’t around. Sometimes I was able to ping someone to talk, other times the person left and never came back.

I had been using the faithful hilightwin.pl plugin to put all my hilights in a separate window I could monitor. I figured that with my limited knowledge of perl I could rig up something to send me an SMS text message instead of writing the hilight line to a different window in irssi where i may not get to it in time.

Using TextBelt’s free API, I was able to call a curl command from inside perl to send the message triggering my hilight to my mobile phone. It isn’t perfect, as there is some garbled text at the front of the message, but I get the message quickly and I can see not only who sends it but also the channel they are in.

Sensible text messages delivered!

Sensible text messages delivered!

I’ve put the code up on GitHub for anyone to use or improve upon. TextBelt’s API is a little limited in how many messages you can receive in a short period of time (as it should be to prevent abuse) and doesn’t support many carriers outside of the USA, so there is definitely room for improvement if another suitable API was found.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

[WANTED] Language Technology / Electric Word Magazine

Language Technology / Electric Word was a technology magazine running from 1987 to 1990, edied by Louis Rossetto who later went on to start Wired Magazine.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any issues of these publications, and little is available online beyond the Wikipedia page which states:

Electric Word was a bimonthly, English-language magazine published in Amsterdam between 1987 and 1990 that offered eclectic reporting on the translation industry, linguistic technology, and computer culture. Its editor was Louis Rossetto.

The magazine was launched under the title Language Technology by a translation company in Amsterdam, INK International. It was later renamed Electric Word and sold to a small Dutch media company. The magazine was terminated in 1990 due to insufficient revenues.

Electric Word was one of the first magazines published using desktop publishing software. It featured avant-garde graphics by the Dutch graphic designer Max Kisman.

After the failure of Electric Word, Rossetto and his partner Jane Metcalfe moved to San Francisco, California and established Wired Magazine.

Luckily, there is a defunct website located at http://rynne.org/electricword. Though the website is dead, we can see some cached information with the help of the Wayback Machine. Looking at this cached version of the site, https://web.archive.org/web/20100308041827/http://www.rynne.org/electricword, we can see some information about the publication and also note that some issues were released for PDF download. These are: #3, #5, #7, #20.

The PDFs were originally hosted at:

http://rynne.org/electricword/pdfs/ltew3.pdf
http://rynne.org/electricword/pdfs/ltew5.pdf
http://rynne.org/electricword/pdfs/ltew7.pdf
http://rynne.org/electricword/pdfs/ltew20.pdf

Now long gone, I can find no trace of these PDFs or even any issues online for sale.

Any help or information about locating any issues would be extremely helpful! We’re looking at a lost prototype for Wired magazine.

 

[WANTED] Chromed Pork Radio

Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for cyberpunk podcasts. Between the sci-fi dramas and current news shows, I found a surprising amount of references to Chromed Pork, an interesting podcast by a group of phone phreaks and hackers that ran for 22 episodes from early 2008 to early 2009.

Chromed Pork seems to have started out as a group of friends on IRC. They came together (originally or later I don’t know) on Binary Revolution, a hacking website which previously ran the popular Binary Revolution Radio show and published its own zine. The radio show has since been merged into Hacker Public Radio, though BinRev is kept alive through forums and IRC. I have been a member of the BinRev forums for 10 years now and missed this show when it first premiered. In 2008, the podcast scene was more immature but still well established. There was an explosion of content and it proved hard to keep up.

Chromed Pork Radio Logo

Chromed Pork Radio Logo

The BinRev forums do have archival posts, and I can find accounts for three hosts of Chromed Pork Radio: Multi-Mode, tacomaster, and Inode. Communication with them seems difficult. The most recent login date for any of these three accounts is 2010, and tacomaster’s email address on his profile returns as unreachable if you try to push to it.

I did a little more digging on Chromed Pork’s old blogspot site which contains old number scans and podcast show notes. I found links to episodes that have since died, apparently hosted on a “mobile-node.net” domain. This domain now points to yet another domain, but I’m not sure of that domain owner’s involvement if any. I’ve reached out to him and still hope to hear back one way or the other, but no word yet. I also found an old Chromed Pork general email address, but this too is deactivated.

Later, I reached out to /u/r3dk1ng on Reddit whom I saw posting about Chromed Pork, and he was able to get me a good amount (15/22) of episodes which I have since put on the Internet Archive here.

For reference, here is a list of the files I am still looking for:

ChromedPork-0012-Assorted_Bullsh-t.mp3
ChromedPork-0013-Phreaking.mp3
ChromedPork-0014-Guest-Wesley_Mcgrew.mp3
ChromedPork-0015-Newscasting.mp3
ChromedPork-0018-Porktopia_Election-Night.mp3
ChromedPork-0019-MC-Colo_and_other_news.mp3
ChromedPork-0020-Killing_Time.mp3

And here is a description of the podcast from the defunct radio.chromedpork.net site:

Chromed Pork Radio is an open information security “podcast”, featuring a variety of security related topics, such Info and Comms Sec, Telephony, Programming, Electronics and Amateur Radio. We do our best to work on an open contribution model, meaning any listener is a potential host. We do not censor our shows but do ask that contributors keep all contributions purely informational or hypothetical. Contributions should consist only of material the contributor is legally entitled to share.
Given our open uncensored model, the views and opinions expressed in this “podcast” are strictly those of the contributor. The contents of this “podcast” are not reviewed or approved by Chromed Pork Media.
If you would like to contribute, or provided feedback please visit our contribute section for details.

My trail has gone cold, and I’m still on the lookout for the remaining episodes or anyone who may have them.

 

(Re)Hacking a Boxee Box

I recently purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick and love that it allows the ability to sideload applications like Kodi (I still hate that name, long live XBMC!) for media streaming. I mainly use Samba/SMB shares on my network for my media, with most of my content living on an old WDTV Live Hub. The WDTV Hub works great and is still pretty stable after all of these years (except for a few built-in apps like YouTube, I wish they kept going with updates), and the Fire TV will gladly chug away, playing any video over the network. However, I had the need to have my media stream to a third television and I didn’t want to uproot an existing device and carry it from room to room.

So I needed a third device. I already have a second generation Roku kicking around, but it doesn’t appear to be able to run anything other than the stock software at this time. I also considered a Raspberry Pi and wifi dongle, but this puts the price up to around $50 (which is more than the Fire TV Stick. I do want something cheap). I looked for a less expensive option with older media streamers and found a lot of information about the Boxee Box appliance put out by D-Link in 2008, discontinued in 2011. I first encountered this box in around 2012 when I was tasked to do some reverse engineering on it, but that’s another story. In the time since, a Google TV hacking team figured out they could do simple shell command injection when setting the Box’s host name, which eventually evolved into a group developing Boxee+Hacks, a replacement operating system. Since Boxee+Hacks, other developers have been working on a port of Kodi which you can install onto the Boxee to give you more options and better compatibility over the operating system’s built in features.

After some eBaying, I was able to get a Boxee for around $15, shipping included (Make sure you get model DSM-380!). The item description said that the box already had Boxee+Hacks installed and upgraded to the latest version, so I figured I was on my way to a quick installation of Kodi and could get up and running in minutes.

When I first booted the Boxee and checked out the Boxee+Hacks settings, I noticed that the device only had version 1.4 installed while the latest available was 1.6. The built-in updater did not work anymore, so the box never reported that there was an available Boxee+Hacks update.Navigating the Boxee+Hacks forums was a little cumbersome, but I eventually found the steps I needed to get updated and launch Kodi. I’ve outlined them below to help any other lost travelers out there.

First, though, go through your Boxee settings and clear any thumbnail caches, local file databases, etc. We need all the free space we can get and there will be installation errors if you don’t have enough free space. The installation script we will run later automatically clears the device’s temp directory, but doesn’t remove these cached files.

On the Boxee, go to Settings –> Network –> Servers and enable Windows file sharing.

If you already have Boxee+Hacks, connect the box and your computer to your home network and check the IP address for the box on either the Boxee’s settings page or by checking for a new device on your router’s console.

To make things really easy, telnet to your Boxee on port 2323 using your box’s IP address (Mine is 192.168.1.100).

 telnet 192.168.1.100 2323

Once there, we need to download and run the installer script.

curl -L http://tinyurl.com/boxeehacks | sh

If you DO NOT have Boxee+Hacks installed already, never fear. On the same Settings –> Network –> Servers page on your Boxee, locate the Hostname filed and enter the following into it.

boxeebox;sh -c 'curl -L tinyurl.com/boxeehacks | sh'

Then, navigate away from the Settings page.

After executing the command through telnet, or through the Boxee settings page, the logo should glow red on the front of the box and you should receive on-screen instructions to perform an installation.

Boxee+Hacks installation screen, from http://boxeed.in/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1216

Boxee+Hacks installation screen, from boxeed.in forums.

The installation guide works pretty well. Here, you will be prompted to install Kodi in addition to Boxee+Hacks. At this point I chose NOT to install Kodi. From what I read, once you install it though the script, it can be difficult to remove, and I didn’t want to deal with the possibilities of a difficult upgrade.

Instead, I decided to install Kodi on a flash drive. I’ve had a cheap 512MB drive that has been kicking around for close to ten years, and it is perfect for fitting Kodi. To setup the flash drive, I formatted it as FAT32 and labeled the drive as MEDIA. I’m not sure if either of these matter, but this configuration worked for me. I downloaded the latest Kodi release built for Boxee from the boxeebox-xbmc repository (Version KODI_14.2-Git-2015-10-20-880982d-hybrid at the time of this writing) and unzipped it onto my flash drive. Make sure that the all of the Kodi files are in the root directory of the drive, and not within the KODI_14.2-Git-2015-10-20-880982d-hybrid directory you get from extracting the archive.

It might also help to label the drive

It might also help to label the drive

That’s all there is to it, just plug the flash drive into the back of the Boxee and it is good to go. If you leave the flash drive in, whenever you boot the Boxee it will go right into Kodi. Leave it out and it will boot to standard Boxee+Hacks. If you boot into Boxee+Hacks and then want to load up Kodi, just plug in the flash drive and it loads automatically.

This turns a seemingly unassuming and thought-obsolete device into a pretty powerful media center, and is a quick inexpensive solution to streaming your content to yet another television.

 

rtmbot-archivebotjr – A Slack Bot for Archiving

I’ve been working with the idea of trying to archive more things when I’m on the go. Sometimes I find myself with odd pockets of time like 10 minutes on a train platform or a few minutes leftover at lunch that I tend to spend browsing online. Inevitably, I find something I want to download later and tuck the link away, usually forgetting all about it.

Recently, I’ve been using Slack for some team collaboration projects (Slack is sort of like IRC in a nice pretty package, integrating with helpful online services) and was wondering how I could leverage it for some on-the-go archiving needs.

Slack has released their own bot, python-rtmbot on GitHub that you can run on your own server and pull into your Slack site to do bot things. The bot includes a few sample plugins (written in Python), but I went about creating my own to get some remote archiving features and scratch my itch.

The fruit of my labor also lives on GitHub as rtmbot-archivebotjr. This is not to be confused with Archive Team’s ArchiveBot (I just stink at unique names). archivebotjr will sit in your Slack channels waiting for you to give it a command. The most useful are likely !youtube-dl (for downloading youtube videos in the highest quality), !wget (for downloading things through wget. Great when I find a disk image and don’t want to download it on my phone), and !torsocks-wget (Like !wget but over TOR). I have a few more in there for diagnostics (!ping and !uptime), but you can see a whole list on the GitHub page.

Screenshot_2016-02-25-09-55-50

Right now, the bot is basic and lacks a wide array of features. The possibilities for other tools that can link into this are endless, and I hope to link more in periodically. Either way, you can easily download all sorts of files relatively easily and the bot seems reasonably stable for an initial release.

If you can fit this bot into your archiving workflow, try it out and let me know how it goes. Can it better fit your needs? Is something broken? Do you want to add a feature?

I want to hear about it!

 

The Best of 2015

As a nod to @fogus and his blog, Send More Paramedics, I’ve opted to start the annual tradition of recapping the year with the best things I’ve found, learned, read, etc.

These things are listed in no particular order, and may not necessarily be new.

Favorite Blog Posts Read

Not a lot here that I can recall, but this handful stood out as good reads. Some of them I plan to refer back to in the future.

Articles I’ve Written for Other Publications

I’ve tried something different this past year and have worked to write more for others than for just myself. This has been really fun, but has reduced the total number of entries I have written this year in general. I hope to find some more outlets to contribute to with like-minded interests. I like working with small teams like this instead of bouncing ideas around with only myself.

  • Finding Forgotten Footage – An article I did for Lunchmeat Midnight Snack #4 (a print zine) about finding strange VHS tapes with home-recorded footage.
  • Automating Site Backups with Amazon S3 and PHP – An article I did for the now-defunct TechOats website (still sad about that one). As the title describes, I automated backups of my websites using Amazon S3 and a simple PHP script.
  • The New Wild West – An article for NODE about how the internet of things and the sort of always-connected culture opens things up again for a wide variety of attacks. I draw parallels to the 1980’s boom of hacker culture where a lot of stuff was just left wide open.
  • How to Run your Own Independent DNS with Custom TLDs – A tutorial I did for NODE after remembering the failure of the .p2p project and the success of OpenNIC.

Favorite Technical Books Read

I’ve been trying to read a lot more this year to cut through my growing pile of books. I’ve mainly focused on technical books, including books I’ve only been made aware of in 2015 as well as ones that have been on my shelf for years.

  • Garage Virtual Reality – An antiquated virtual reality book from the ’90s touches on a lot of interesting technology from the time, including homemade projects and technological dead ends. The perfect amount of technical instruction and cyberpunk ideas.
  • Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering – An amazing book on reverse engineering. I picked this up around a decade ago, and it was completely over my head. At the time I dismissed it because it was already outdated with the popularity of “softmods” for the Xbox, but picking it up again it is really just a good general book on getting into reverse engineering and the focus on the Xbox is a fun nostalgic little bonus.
  • Cybernetics – A dated and likely obscure text, this book deals with the early ideas of cybernetics and expands into theory on artificial intelligence and neural networks.

Favorite Non-Technical Books Read

  • Microserfs – A fun book that follows a group of ’90s Microsoft employees as they start their own company.
  • Crypto – An incredible look into the world of cryptography, following all of the pioneers and the cypherpunk movement.
  • Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age – My favorite book of the year, a wonderfully- detailed look into the rise and fall of Xerox PARC and all of the completely fascinating things they invented.
  • The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing – I love coffee and this book lets you learn about all the varieties, proper brewing techniques, etc.
  • Ready Player One – A fun dystopic sci-fi book about a civilization obsesses with a treasure hunt and ’80s culture.

 

Number of Books Read

12

Favorite Musicians Discovered

  • King Tuff
  • Elle King
  • FFS – Franz Ferdinand and Sparks
  • Devo – Everyone knows “Whip It,” but I’ve been focusing on their first few albums.

Favorite Television Shows

Mr. Robot (2015), The X-Files (1993)

Programming Languages Used for Work/Personal

C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Objective-C, Python.

Programming Languages I Want To Use Next Year

  • Common Lisp – A “generalized” Lisp dialect.
  • Clojure – A Lisp dialect that runs on the Java Virtual Machine
  • Go – Really interested to see how this scales with concurrent network programming.

Still Need to Read

Computer Lib, Literary Machines, Design Patterns, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

Life Events of 2015

I became engaged to be married.

Life Changing Technologies Discovered

  • Amazon Dash Button – I hacked a $5 button to email me when I press it.
  • Ethereum – An interesting decentralized software platform. Still not entirely sure what to make of it.
  • Microsoft Hololens – I want one after seeing this video. I’ve already supported Oculus for VR, but this is winning me over for AR.

Favorite Subreddits

/r/homelab, /r/retrobattlestations, /r/cyberpunk, /r/homeautomation.

Plans for 2016

  • Get married.
  • Write more for NODE (if possible!), Lunchmeat, or other publicans I find out about.
  • Write an article for 2600.
  • Find my missing Leatherman.
  • Release a mobile app.
  • Do some FPGA projects to get more in-depth with hardware.
  • Continue to flesh out Anarchivism with videos/print.
  • Organization, organization, organization!

 

See you in 2016!

 

How to Run your Own Independent DNS with Custom TLDs

This article was originally written for and published at N-O-D-E on September 9th, 2015. It has been posted here for safe keeping.

HOW TO RUN YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT DNS WITH CUSTOM TLDS

BACKGROUND

After reading what feels like yet another article about a BitTorrent tracker losing its domain name, I started to think about how trackers could have an easier time keeping a stable domain if they didn’t have to register their domain through conventional methods Among their many roles, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), controls domain names on the Internet and are well known for the work with the Domain Name System (DNS) specifically the operation of root name servers and governance over top level domains (TLDs).

If you ever register a domain name, you pick a name you like and head over to an ICANN-approved registrar. Let’s say I want my domain to be “n-o-d-e.net”. I see if I can get a domain with “n-o-d-e” affixed to the TLD “.net” and after I register it, I’m presented with an easy-to-remember identification string which can be used by anyone in the world to access my website. After I map my server’s IP address to the domain, I wait for the new entry to propagate. This means that the records for my domain are added/updated in my registrar’s records. When someone wants to visit my website, they type out “n-o-d-e.net” in their address bar of their browser and hit the enter key. In the background, their set name server (usually belonging to the ISP) checks to see who controls records for this domain, and then works its way through the DNS infrastructure to retrieve the IP address matching this domain name and returns it back to you.

It’s a reliable, structured system, but it is still controlled by an organization who has been known to retract domains from whoever they like. What if you could resolve domains without going through this central system? What if there was a way to keep sites readily accessible without some sort of governing organization being in control?

I’m not the first to think of answers to these questions. Years ago, there was a project called Dot-P2P which aimed to offer “.p2p” TLDs to peer-to-peer websites as a way of protecting them against losing their domains. While the project had notable backing by Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay, it eventually stagnated and dissolved into obscurity.

The organization that would have handled the “.p2p” domain registrations, OpenNIC, is still active and working on an incredible project itself. OpenNIC believes that DNS should be neutral, free, protective of your privacy, and devoid of government intervention. OpenNIC also offers new custom TLDs such as “.geek” and “.free” which you won’t find offered through ICANN. Anyone can apply for a domain and anyone can visit one of the domains registered through OpenNIC provided they use an OpenNIC DNS server, which is also backwards-compatible with existing ICANN-controlled TLDs. No need to say goodbye to your favorite .com or .net sites.

If you have the technical know-how to run your own root name server and submit a request to OpenNIC’s democratic body, you too could manage your own TLD within their established infrastructure.

Other projects like NameCoin aim to solve the issue of revoked domains by storing domain data for its flagship “.bit” TLD within its blockchain. The potential use cases for NameCoin take a radical shift from simple domain registrations when you consider what developers have already implemented for storing assets like user data in the blockchain alongside domain registrations.

But what if I wanted to run my own TLD without anyone’s involvement or support, and still be completely free of ICANN control? Just how easy is it to run your own TLD on your own root name server and make it accessible to others around the world?

INTRODUCTION

It turns out that running your own DNS server and offering custom TLDs is not as difficult as it first appears. Before I set out to work on this project, I listed some key points that I wanted to make sure I hit:

– Must be able to run my own top level domain
– Must be able to have the root server be accessible by other machines
– Must be backwards compatible with existing DNS

Essentially, I wanted my own TLD so I didn’t conflict with any existing domains, the ability for others to resolve domains using my TLD, and the ability for anyone using my DNS to get to all the other sites they would normally want to visit (like n-o-d-e.net).

REQUIRED

For this guide, you are going to need a Linux machine (a virtual machine or Raspberry Pi will work fine). My Linux machine is running Debian. Any Linux distribution should be fine for the job, if you use something other than Debian you may have to change certain commands. You will also want a secondary machine to test your DNS server. I am using a laptop running Windows 7.

Knowledge of networking and the Linux command line may aid you, but is not necessarily required.

CHOOSING A DNS PACKAGE

I needed DNS software to run on my Linux machine, and decided upon an old piece of software called BIND. BIND has been under criticism lately because of various vulnerabilities, so make sure that you read up on any issues BIND may be experiencing and understand the precautions as you would with any other software you may want to expose publicly. I am not responsible if you put an insecure piece of software facing the internet and get exploited.

It is important to note that I will be testing everything for this project on my local network. A similar configuration should work perfectly for any internet-facing server.

Other DNS software exists out there, but I chose BIND because it is something of a standard with thousands of servers running it daily in a production environment. Don’t discount other DNS packages! They may be more robust or secure and are definitely something to consider for a similar project.

HOW-TO GUIDE:

Step 1. Initial Configuration

Connect your Linux machine to the network and check the network interface status.

ifconfig

The response to the command should look similar to this:

eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr f0:0d:de:ad:be:ef
                         inet addr:192.168.1.12  Bcast:192.168.1.255  Mask:255.255.255.0
                         UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
                         RX packets:8209495 errors:0 dropped:386 overruns:0 frame:0
                         TX packets:9097071 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
                         collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
                         RX bytes:2124485459 (1.9 GiB)  TX bytes:1695684733 (1.5 GiB)

Make sure your system is up-to-date before we install anything.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Step 2. Installing & Configuring BIND

Change to the root user and install BIND version 9. Then stop the service.

su -
apt-get install bind9
/etc/init.d/bind9 stop

Now that BIND is installed and not running, let’s create a new zone file for our custom TLD. For this example, I will be using “.node” as my TLD but feel free to use any TLD of your choosing.

cd /etc/bind
nano node.zone

Paste the following into the file and edit any values you may see fit, including adding any domains with corresponding IP addresses. For a full explanation of these options visit http://www.zytrax.com/books/dns/ch6/mydomain.html which has a nice write-up on the format of a zone file. I did find that I needed to specify a NS SOA record with a corresponding A record or BIND would not start.

As you see below, a lot of this zone file is boilerplate but I did specify a record for “google” which signifies that “google.node” will point to the IP address “8.8.8.8.”

When you are done editing, save the file with CTRL-X.

       ;
       ; BIND data file for TLD “.node”
       ;
       $TTL    604800  ; (1 week)
       @       IN      SOA     node. root.node. (
       2015091220      ; serial (timestamp)
       604800          ; refresh (1 week)
       86400           ; retry (1 day)
       2419200         ; expire (28 days)
       604800 )        ; minimum (1 week)
       ;
       @         IN    NS    ns1.node.    ; this is required
       ;@        IN    A       0.0.0.0         ; unused right now, semicolon comments out the line
       google  IN    A       8.8.8.8
       ns1       IN    A       0.0.0.0         ; this is also required

Now, we need to edit the default zones configuration file to include our new zone.

nano named.conf.default-zones

A the bottom, paste the following block to add our new zone to the configuration.

zone “node.” {
                       type master;
                       file “/etc/bind/node.zone”;
                       allow-transfer { any;};
                       allow-query { any;};
};

Now find the block in the file similar to the below:

zone “.” {
               type hint;
               file “/etc/bind/db.root”;
};

Replace this block with the following to make our root server a slave to master root server 75.127.96.89. This is one of OpenNIC’s public DNS servers and by marking it as a master, we can also resolve OpenNIC TLDs as well as any TLDs under control of ICANN.

zone “.” in {
                  type slave;
                  file “/etc/bind/db.root”;
                  masters { 75.127.96.89; };
                 notify no;
  };

After saving the file, we want to generate a new root hints file which queries OpenNIC. This can be done with the dig command.

dig . NS @75.127.96.89 > /etc/bind/db.root

Finally, restart BIND.

/etc/init.d/bind9 restart

You should see:

[ ok ] Starting domain name service…: bind9.

Configuration on the server on your Linux machine is now done!

Step 3. Configure Other Machines to Use Your Server

On your Windows machine (on the same local network), visit the Network Connections panel by going to Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network Connections.

Right-click on your current network connection and select Properties. On the resulting Network Connection Properties dialog, select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) if you are using IPv4 for your local network or Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6). Since I am using IPv4, I will be selecting the former.

Next, click the Properties button. On the resulting Internet Protocol Properties dialog, select the radio button for “Use the following DNS server addresses.” Enter the IP address of your Linux machine in the Preferred DNS server box (192.168.1.12 from my example, but make sure you use the IP address of your Linux machine) and then click the OK button. Back on the Network Connection Properties dialog, click the Close button.

Now, load up a command shell and ping one of our defined domains.

ping google.node

You should see the following:

Pinging google.node [8.8.8.8] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 8.8.8.8: bytes=32 time=15ms TTL=55
Reply from 8.8.8.8: bytes=32 time=17ms TTL=55
Reply from 8.8.8.8: bytes=32 time=16ms TTL=55

Congratulations, you now have a DNS server which will not only resolve your custom TLD but be accessible to other machines.

NEXT STEPS

This is just a proof of concept, and could easily be expanded upon for future projects. If you are wondering where to go from here, you could easily move on to make your DNS publicly accessible and expand the offerings. Further, you could construct multiple DNS nodes to act as slaves or links to your root server as a method of distributing the network to make it more reliable and geographically accessible

While I don’t think many BitTorrent trackers will be quick to adopt a system such as this, it still shows that you can create and resolve custom TLDs which may be useful for constructing alternative networks.

SOURCES

http://wiki.opennicproject.org/Tier2ConfigBindHint
http://timg.ws/2008/07/31/how-to-run-your-own-top-level-domain/
http://www.unixmen.com/setup-dns-server-debian-7-wheezy/

––
BY MIKE DANK (@FAMICOMAN)

 

[WANTED] Videostatic (1989)

Through a strange series of links, I have become aware of a 1989 film called Videostatic. Distributed independently for $10/tape, Videostatic looks like some sort of insane hodgepodge of clips and video effects that I am strangely drawn to.

med129

Here is a synopsis written around 1998 from Gareth Branwyn’s Street Tech,

This is a 60-minute audio-visual journey to the edges of alternative art-making and experimental video. The tape is divided up into four sections: “Poems” (intuitive, non-narrative, alogical), “Paintings” (video equivalent to the conventional canvas), “Stories” (Event-based sequences), and “Messages” (rhetorical stances, public “service” announcements). The most impressive pieces here are “Sex with the Dead,” a video memory-jog of our morbidly nostalgic culture by Joe Schwind, “Of Thee I Sing/Sing/Sing,” a musique concrete video by Linda Morgan-Brown and the Tape-Beatles, and “Glossolalia,” (Steve Harp) an absolutely mind-fucking excursion into language, synaesthetic experience, and the structuring of human thought and perception. Surrounded by the curious, the kooky, and the just plain boring (as kook-tech artist Douglass Craft likes to say: “Not every experiment was a success.”) At only $10, this is an insane bargain.

Videostatic compilers John Heck and Lloyd Dunn (of Tape-Beatles’ fame) plan on putting out a series of these tapes. As far as we know, 1989 is the latest release. Write for more info (or to submit material).

ACCESS:
Videostatic
911 North Dodge St.
Iowa City, IA 52245
$10/ 60-minute VHS cassette

I’m looking for this in any format, digital or physical.

I’m not quite sure what I’m in store for.

med130

EDIT: Here is some additional information from the PhotoStatic Archive,

VideoStatic 1989 was released in June, 1989. It is a video compilation along much the same lines as the PhonoStatic cassettes. It contains roughly an hour of video and film work by both networking artists and Iowa City locals. It was edited by John Heck and Lloyd Dunn. At the time of this writing (6/90) VideoStatic 1990 was not yet begun, but plans are underway. It will be edited by Linda-Morgan Brown and Lloyd Dunn.