First purchase with bitcoin

I used the first payout from Eligius to buy 20GH of SHA256 hashing from Hashie.

They have been running a deal where you can claim Continue reading


After XP: what is a linux distro?

distro is short for distribution.  Sometimes users call it a flavor, a spin, a version.

The idea is central to how linux is different from Windows.  Linux is free (as in “free beer”) and free (as in “freedom”).  Basically what this means to the non-technical end user is you can do what you want with it.  

Including repackaging/retooling/mutating/stripping the software and source code and making your own version called “Happy Holstein Linux”.  And giving it to your friends.  Or the world.  Or selling it.  Redistributing it.   See?  If you tried to do that with Windows you’d find yourself in a sharkpool of lawyers and/or prison.

Distros are intended by their creators to fill certain needs.  If they were trucks some would be stripped-down fleet trucks.  Some would be dualies.  Gas vs. Diesel.  2wd and 4wd.  Some are fully loaded Lincoln Blackwoods (shudder).  Different tools for different jobs.  

The job we address in this series is moving as painlessly as possible from Windows XP to Linux.



Thoughts on reducing the keyspace of the 2WIRE default WPA key

I visited my daughter recently and she gave me the (unchanged default) key  to her 2WIRE so I could use wifi on the Kindle.  


The key was 10 digits, which got me thinking.  10 alpha-numerical-special chars are impractical to brute force, but 10 digits are not.   It’s only 10 billion combinations, about 5 weeks to exhaust the keyspace on an old computer like mine.  Since we are resigned to checking all the keyspace what if we did it in an optimal order?  For the purposes of this discussion I will assume you have permission to analyze the router in question.


I have read that in some cases the the default key is the serial number of the device.  The serials are numerical like the default key.  Hmmmm…  I have also read that the nnn in the 2WIREnnn ESSID is the last three of the serial number.    Put these two things together and we can check for this default by doing something like:

# final $ anchors the expression to the end of the line, and the -v looks for inversion.
# so "dike out any string that ends in nnn"
seq --equal-width 0000000000 9999999999 | grep -v nnn$
and piping that to the input of your favorite analysis tool (cough aircrack cough).

which reduces this set to 1mil or about an hour.  No joy?  Fine, let’s plod on.


There are also cases of using the customer’s phone number for the default key.  Hmmm, fully-qualified tel numbers are 10 digits, too.  To use the Greater Dallas area as an example one might do something like:

for AREACODE in 214 469 817 903 972
    do         seq ${AREACODE}0000000 ${AREACODE}9999999 | \             # your tool here!     done

Check the exit codes upon each iteration (or code in a pause) to make sure you see the output.  Or maybe output could be redirected into a log or something.

Further gains could be made if the 2WIRE serials were in some known space, like 8nnnnnnnnn or whatever. 

After we’ve checked the easy stuff we can do the rest of the keyspace:

# build the egrep regex using the ${AREACODE} var above?

# drop anything that starts with an areacode or ends with the ESSID suffix.
seq --equal-width 0000000000 9999999999 | \
      nice egrep -v '(^214|^469|^903|^972|${ESSID}$)'

and pipe that to your analysis tool for the long haul.  Or give up on it as counterproductive and move to the next.


Anyhow, those are some rough first thoughts. 






Galaxy Note II == lurv

I am blown away by this beast.  It has remapped my understanding of what one can do on a phone.

Here are my notes, based on a review I did elsewhere recently.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

I am a long time smartphone user. I’ve run Palm Treo (270, 600, 650) Windows (Dash, SDA, MDA) and Android (G1, Optimus T, Inspire 4G) and this is the best phone I have ever used or even seen.  Mine is the T-Mobile SGH-T889 model;  an unlocked/international model is also available.


Yes, it’s big.  But the size does not seem incremental or evolutionary like the change from 3.5″ OptT to the 4.25″ Inspire.  The Note’s size and form factor are a totally different thing.  Some will love it, some will hate it.  I love it. And, yes, it does fit in a shirt pocket.  


  • battery life is a revelation. No more Android Charging Anxiety. I use the phone however I want and charge it when convenient. It’s just not an issue anymore.  Seriously.  Other manufacturers really, really need to pay attention.
  • the screen is not just big, it changes the way I use a phone. I find myself using a PC less and less.  My phone’s case has a kickstand, and I really do use it like a small tablet.
  • quad core w/2GB RAM never struggles. This thing is a beast.
  • Stock ROM based on Jelly Bean works quite well. Fulfills the promises made by ICS.  And Samsung did not totally hose it with “gotta stand out from the market” flashy, bloaty crap.  I have no desire at present to flash a CyanogenMod or AOSP-based ROM.  That’s high praise from me.  I did make some changes to streamline things:  Nova launcher, rooted to be able to freeze TMO/Samsung bloat.
  • the stylus is functional rather than a gimmick. I use it for boring stuff like selecting text, picking out small bits on the interface, etc. Like I used the stylus on the Palm devices. It even pops an alert if you walk off and forget the stylus. Smart!
  • there is a feature you can enable that checks to see if you are looking at the phone before shutting of the screen. Seems like a small thing but it really improves the experience. No constantly turning the phone back on or having to use very long screen timeouts.
  • HDMI out (have to buy an adapter) so you could hook it to a monitor, get a BT keyboard and conceivably use it as a minimal desktop for light duties. Google Drive docs, Netflix, social media stuff, kindle reading, whatever.


  • the phone is big and it’s not for everyone. I bought mine at a steep discount from someone who found it was too big for her in day-to-day use. It took me about a day to get used to the size. 
  • the internal/external sdcard thing is annoying. Some apps don’t let you save data to your SD card so it becomes mainly a repository for media files, etc.
  • I’ve never been a fan of branded TUIs from the various manufacturers. This version of TouchWizz I dropped in the freebie Nova launcher and am much happier.  
  • Lots of bloatware, as is (unfortunately) to be expected these days.  Root + Titanium Backup will freeze most of those parasitic annoyances.
  • the Exynos CPU is not overly friendly to CyanogenMod devs, unless Samsung decides to get generous with their proprietary code. But the phone cleans up so well (as described elsewhere in this review) that I am keeping the stock ROM.

Ideas to improve battery life even further:

  • turn off animations except for when you need to show off 🙂
  • run a simpler launcher (I use Nova)
  • use static wallpapers and widgets when possible
  • adjust the wifi sleep policy
  • root the phone so you can do things like freeze apps with Titanium Backup or hibernate them with Greenify. Use Better Battery Stats to find out what’s actually consuming power.
  • use the phone’s Power Saving Mode found under settings.
  • use dark themes in apps when available
  • set app syncing to longer intervals as appropriate
  • use apps like Tasker or the free Llama to disable syncing completely when you are asleep.


“Your Wish List Product(s) Will Soon Expire”

Not a weighty matter but an interesting marker.

In the past I had a long and oft-used wish list at  Since I’ve had a kindle I haven’t bought anything from Half and my wish list is expiring by attrition.

Make it easier to find free Kindle content on Amazon

I’ve been using browser quick searches to do similar kinds of searches on free Amazon ebooks. It uses the ability of FF, Chrome, and others Continue reading

AOSP Ice Cream Sandwich experiment over

I ran with an AOSP ROM for the HTC Inspire for a couple of months and have returned to CyanogenMod 7.2.

My longer-term thoughts on the AOSP build:

Pro —

  • Very clean / vanilla.  No crap.
  • Configuration sliders started to grow on me
  • Automagic attempts to pair with BT devices, presumably using the 0000 and 1234 default codes.

Con —

  • Good battery life for the most part, but rarely it’d get into something and blow through the battery in a few hours.  I didn’t see anything obvious in Better Battery Stats.
  • I did miss a couple of CM features, like the integrated phone blacklist, additional configs (and those configuration options in sensible places)
  • ICS doesn’t work with all my default apps (or vice versa)

The beauty of third-party recoveries (like ClockworkMod) is you can bop back and forth between ROMs with little trouble.


(vanilla) ice cream sandwich

I am pretty happy with Gingerbread, whether stock TMO or CM7.2


I have been following along with a completely vanilla (AOSP) ICS 4.x ROM, aospX.     Yesterday I decided to try it as a daily driver for a week or so.   Two apps, Tasker and PocketCasts are a PITA to move from rom to rom so I am using:

Tasker –> llama

pocket casts –> mort audiobook player



Better fonts and improved readability

better gmail app


Something confused my phone last “night” and it dropped my battery to 1% in 8 hours on the bedstand.  😦

Kindle content at local libraries

Since I’m editing this constantly, I’ve moved this post to a standalone page.

left justification on Kindle e-ink readers

Full justification bugs me, and it bugged me there was no option in the Kindle “Aa” text menu to change it.

Turns out you can edit a config file on the Kindle to allow changing justification from FULL to LEFT.  Hells, yeah.