Brett Rants


Being a Resource I'll Never Look at Ever Again

And So Should You!

The Futility of It All

Even before writing my first word, I know I will never use this page as a meaningful resource. Oh, sure. At some future date (having forgotten the datum in the interim), I may revisit this page to recall the name of some computer convention. But it's a long shot, as PyCon just ain't that hard to remember; besides, times change, so in ten years the leading conventions are unlikely to be those listed here. And it's even a longer shot that I'll bother to read this page in preparation for attending my next convention, because I never do that. But I need to write this page up nonetheless.

Ironically (and this may be hard for a non-writer to fathom, but) I have two scraps of paper on my desk (well, electronic text files on my computer's desktop) and rather than filing them away in some junk drawer (because, like I said, I know I'm never going to use them), it makes a silly sort of sense (to me, anyway) to make a web page from their content.
Hello. My name is Brett. And I am a hoarder of words.

Computer Conventions

At one time, I wanted to be a computer programmer. I am a computer programmer (better than the average bear, if you must know), but much worse than the average (or at least, leading) professionals in the field. But (whatever my skill level) it would appear that I've lost steam on trying to improve my game.

Rather than a quest in itself, programming has become a tool. And rather than writing new scripts, I find myself using those I've already completed.

Anyhow, back in the day (when I wanted to get better), I made a list of conventions (no, not that I would attend; but rather) that I wanted to listen to (or if you prefer, watch) their associated videos online.

And this then, is my short listing (being as far as I got) of computer conventions, in which I (personally) am (or was) interested. They are listed in monthly order, because the intent was to watch all the videos from the first convention, then second, and so on all throughout the year.

Fun, egotistical (as it does tend to take itself a mite seriously), Defcon is perhaps the premier security conference. I question whether the good stuff is posted online.

Black Hat USA
The poor man's DefCon... like I know. I maybe have ten DefCon and two Black Hat (or is it the reverse) videos under my belt. So, really, who knows which is better? Anyhow, after DefCon, I would have checked out what Black Hat had to offer. And in the end, that is the purpose of this list.

USEnix Security
Unix rocks. And you care about security, don't you? So, there you have it.

USEnix Enigma
I mean, come on! This sounds even more impressive than USEnix Security! But, yeah. I haven't got a clue. Like I said, I got as far as making the list... using it, not so much.

ESORICS is so far out of your league, it is ridiculous. Don't kid yourself. Me, I like reading things I can't understand, so that's my excuse. Anyhow, back in 2017, I got hold of all the conference papers online, and it was quite the read... so far over my head, I pinched a nerve, craning my neck. Sadly, in 2018, all I could find was a link to buy the two volume set. And what can I say, I'm all about the open source movement. After all, knowledge wants to be free... and, um, I didn't really understand the conference papers the last time around, so they are not worth money to me (few things are). Anyhow, if you want to stretch yourself, this-here is the one. And if this conference doesn't stretch you, well, congrats, if not now, soon you will be making as much in a year as I made my entire career.

I literally can no longer remember a single thing about this conference. But it did make my short list. So, I might watch a video or two before the year (or my life) is over.

I have no idea why this one was not on the list originally (and hence, why I add it out of order here at the end). Maybe, it's so well entrenched in my mind, I didn't feel there was any reason for its inclusion. Suffice to say, Python is my language of choice. And I found listening to these talks to be profoundly interesting and helpful in the development of my programming ability. But you know what? At this point, I may have exceeded the target audience of this particular convention. I mean, I'm not the best programmer in the West (and certainly not in Silicon Valley). But all those beginning and intermediate lectures are review for me at this point.

SciPy stands for Scientific Python and is the last convention I will mention. If you want an intro on how to use Python for astronomy, chemistry, or whatever particular scientific discipline rocks your boat, SciPy is the convention for you. And likely, until the end of time, I will find the Lightning Talks to be of use; wherein folks far smarter than me tell what they used Python for (or introduce a new library they are working on) in five minutes or less. For all those folks asking what their next programming project should be, these Lightning Talks are an invaluable resource.

Use It or Lose It

I will not be going to any of these conventions: this year, next year, or likely, ever. It's just not worth the money. I am not seriously looking for a job (but I will be more than happy to entertain you with my ridiculous counter offers should you come across something that looks like a perfect fit for me); and as such, a $500-1000 weekend isn't a rational expenditure of money (yes, I am a cheapskate), when I can stream the videos at home for free.

I recently went to a convention (not listed above), though; and I made a few notes, so that next year (when I go again), I can get with the flow that much quicker.

For a three day convention (or this particular three day convention): the first day was for work, the second play, and the third to wrap things up (make the sale, etcetera) prior to going home. There is absolutely no reason for me to buck the trend and if I don't want to work, play, or make the sale, there's probably little need for me to attend the corresponding day of the convention.

As far as swag goes, I wondered if I would be pushing it too far by dressing the part and coming with a swag bag. Personally, I was thinking about going with a Halloween theme and carrying around a Trick or Treat Pumpkin. But yeah, that would likely have been going too far. Anyhow, I like the written word and I would have been better off carrying two bags to even the load: two twenty-five pound bags being easier to manage than a single fifty pounder, as it wrenches my shoulder and pulls me off balance.

There was a printed program (available in the lobby) that I should have grabbed at the beginning of each day to plan my visit. And yes, the program was printed custom for each day of the convention... to maximize advertising revenue, no doubt.

And finally, I believe going in with a focus (however contrived or manufactured) will help me personally... for amusements sake if nothing else. But, also, to focus the conversation and direct the day.

As such, I give you my Personal Passion... or more accurately, my takeaway subjects (subjects I wanted to read up on because they sounded interesting) from the last convention.

The Internet of Things

The IOT (must you spell it out long hand each time, come on, this isn't 2017 anymore, everyone knows you're talking about The Internet of Things) is just too big of a category to have any meaning. It's fluff. It's dander (best get some medicated shampoo for that). And it's hype. It has no real meaning. Almost to the extent programming (or AI) has ceased to have any real meaning: security is not web development is not big data is not data that happens to be big and so on and so forth all the way down the line.

So, rather than say I am interesting in The Internet of Things (which, let's be honest, I am not, I could care less about toaster ovens), it might be far more meaningful to say, the following aspects of The Internet of Things are (presently) of interest to me, while automatic thermostatic controls and self-refilling refrigerators are not.

Building Security
Because Physical Access Trumps All
The Internet pushes information through a wire. It is amazing to me (truly amazing) how much information can be pulled out of a wire. Oh, sure. Such a thing is pretty obvious when we're talking about an Ethernet Cable. But you would be (or at least, I was) surprised at how much data can be extracted from the top (middle, or bottom) strand of a barbed wire fence... or even a fiber optic cable buried underground ten feet away. And then (of course), there's the esoteric stuff. But however you (or they) go, anything of that nature (by it's very nature) needs to be backed by cameras, which in turn need to be backed by boots on the ground. But let's go back to that camera thing for a moment.

Control Hubs versus Media Centers
This is my weapon!
This is my gun!
One is... to maintain security!
The other's for fun!

Eh, it's been a long time since I've watched Full Metal Jacket, so maybe I've scrambled the words a bit... or even have the wrong movie. Either way (the truth is), I never considered the similarities between a Control Hub and a Media Center prior to writing this very sentence. But regardless of my sheltered existence (and as any good paranoid would, I prefer to shelter in place), I've (recently) become (conceptually) interested in Media Centers (meaning, I've been in the research stage; and have been, for some time, now). Sure, one of my primary goals has been to sound proof a room to increase audio quality, while watching The Great British Baking Show. But it's a fine line between keeping the sound in and keeping the sound out. And I'm sure information (as well as building) security could be stated somewhat similar terms.

In the end, all of that is stretching. It's fun with words. Like I know the first thing about security. Seriously, the second (and I mean the very second) I applied for a NSA job, my website (this very one) was compromised. True story. Probably a coincidence. Still, a coincidence I enjoy. And since my website was comprised, not only did I not get the job (there were probably other reasons), it also means I know Jack Squat about security... media centers and just about everything else mentioned in this rant.

Besides (like I may have mentioned all the way up at the top of the page), the real reason for this rant (which I have now fulfilled) has been to give a permanent home to two small notes, which I would have otherwise filed away and never read again. And instead, I have a web page I can post... and now, both you and I can forget about it and never (like ever) read, again.

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Of course, my true interest in the Internet of Things can be summarized quite succinctly by noting that I bought a Raspberry Pi over a year ago and rather than automating a coffee machine, toaster over, or anything else, I have yet to, actually, open the box.

Or in other words, I'm really not spending that much time programming these days, as near senseless rants seem to take all my time.

© copyright 2018 Brett Paufler