Knives Exclusive Patron Content (hopefully) Simplified

If you are one of my treasured patrons and you have mentioned in the past that you cannot access the TOP SECRET super-awesome patron-only content, you should have received and email from me. If you are unable to access the special content, but didn’t get an email, please let me know.

The system is much simpler, but at this time it is not overly tested. Please let me know if you have any trouble.

Knives Episode 27 Released

Actually I hit the “publish” button a few days ago, but never got the announcement out. Whups.

In this episode the group, now one larger, returns to the ruin to get the thing that’s under all the bodies. Whatever is is. We learn a little more about the woman who lends her name to the title of this episode, and a little of Bags’ history as well.

Speaking of Bags’ history, I’m giving up on the Patreon plugin for WordPress that is supposed to “simplify” the process of allowing patrons to see content others can’t. It’s just not very good, and I simply don’t have enough patrons to warrant trying to fix it. This weekend I’ll set up a simpler, manual system to allow my bestest friends in the whole world to see the backstories without the current malarkey. I look forward to the day that manually granting access is overwhelming.

Also, I’ll be posting the last, sloppiest, part of Bags’ history, so I can get to the job of posting Kat’s backstory. Once I get that out I’ll start twisting arms again to get people to spread the word so we can cross the next backstory threshold.

Read the episode!

1

That Tingly, Geeky Feeling

My day job is building Web applications you will never see. That is by design; my apps deal with SECRET STUFF.

The first aside about failure: My first Internet application is also one you will also never see, not because of secrecy, but because it failed. We made an immersive app with a rich graphical interface that allowed people to share photos and messages with a select group of friends. The core app acted as an operating system, able to discover compatible services to provide data. It flopped. A few years later MySpace and Facebook provided crappy platforms that allowed the world to shout at each other. In retrospect my biggest mistake (among many) was assuming people valued privacy.

ANYWAY, I build Web applications. But I come from a background of developing desktop apps, and let me tell you, even now the world of Web app development is ridiculously painful. Slowly, slowly, software design principles worked out decades ago are finding their way to the Web.

Another aside about a failure: A while back I created a framework that allowed the UI (still running in a dang browser after all this time) to connect to the server with such efficiency that when anyone anywhere made a change, everyone saw it immediately. In geek terms, I created an MVC system where the central model was shared by all clients in real time. It also allowed anyone to track the entire history of every value in the system. I had a great 3D interface for that I never got to implement. The system worked so well I still get misty thinking about it. It was (still is) marketable. That project was shit-canned for reasons I could have managed better that had nothing to do with the technology.

But goddammit, I’ll fail shooting for making something great over succeeding at the mediocre, and I’ve got the track record to prove it.

I may have that chance again. I can’t be too specific (sorry for the tease), but I’m pretty excited. So this afternoon I snuck out of work early to go and… work. But fun work. Perhaps a chance to take my failures and put them together into a game-changer. I’ve come close before.

1

All-Nighter

She lay her head down on the table, wild dark hair soaking up spilled beer and mingling with the guacamole. “The problem with places that never close,” she said, her airy voice barely audible over the driving ranchero music of the cantina, “is that you can never go home.”

3

2017: Here we go!

I don’t usually resolve things, but last year I let some good habits slip away, and this year I want them back. So by publicly declaring them here, maybe I improve my chances.

  • Writing:
    • Write SOMETHING (almost) every day
    • More detailed character descriptions
    • Settings are characters
    • It ain’t worth squat if nobody reads it
  • Health:
    • Bicycle more miles than I drive (road trips excluded)
    • Improve commute pace by 3mph
    • Resume the no-beer-until-weekly-weight-target-reached regime (starting tomorrow)
  • Life:
    • Productive procrastination — use idle time better

The health ones are all things I have done well in the past. I didn’t have to wait for the new year to restart them, except that having a week off from work and being surrounded by excellent cooks would have doomed any attempt. Bicycling was improving in December, now I have to regain that momentum.

My average-speed-during-commute goal would put me back to about the speed I was going when I was in a state the fitness experts call “not potato”.

“Use of idle time” includes fixing the terrible Patreon plugin for WordPress, continuing to improve my Swift skills (especially on Linux), coming up to speed on photo editing and workflow options to replace Aperture, and keeping the Honey Do list short. The list of “productive” things will of course change over time.

But right now, I need to go play a game on my phone.

Edit to add:

Starting numbers for mileage challenge:
Bike: 7740 miles
Car A: 151968 miles
Car B (driven by two people): 6099

1

Knives Episode 26 Published!

With the Big Splash at the end of the last episode, it was time for Martin to take stock and do some planning. But not before contemplating just leaving everything and going back to his normal life as thief and assassin. But, well, there’s Elena.

On the patron front, it looks like my attempt to release more backstory was, well, unsuccessful. No worries — tomorrow I will do that first thing after taking down Christmas lights.

Episodes have been a bit slow lately, what with holidays and guests invading the Writing Bunker and whatnot, but episode 27 is forming up nicely and episode 28 is solidifying.

As always, thank you to all my generous patrons. You guys rock!

Read Knives.

Standing Rock and Internet Security

At the peak of the Standing Rock protest, a small city existed where none had before. That city relied on wireless communications to let the world know what was going on, and to coordinate the more mundane day-to-day tasks of providing for thousands of people. There is strong circumstantial evidence that our own government performed shenanigans on the communications infrastructure to not only prevent information from reaching the rest of the world, but also to hack people’s email accounts and the like.

Cracked.com, an unlikely source of “real” journalism, produced a well-written article with links to huge piles of documented facts. (This was not the only compelling article they produced.) They spent time with a team of security experts on the scene, who showed the results of one attack: When all the secure wifi hotspots in the camp were attacked, rendering them unresponsive, a new, insecure hotspot suddenly appeared. When one of the security guys connected to it, his gmail account was attacked.

Notably, a plane was flying low overhead – a very common model of Cessna, but the type known to be used by our government to be fitted with just the sort of equipment to do this sort of dirty work. The Cessna was owned by law enforcement but its flight history is secret.

What does that actually mean? It means that in a vulnerable situation, where communication depends on wireless networks, federal and state law enforcement agencies have the tools to seriously mess with you.

“But I only use secure Internet connections,” you say. “HTTPS means that people between you and the site you’re talking to can’t steal your information.” Alas, that’s not quite true. What https means is that connections to your bank or Gmail can only be monitored by someone endorsed by entities your browser has been told to trust completely. On that list: The US Government, the Chinese government, other governments, and more than a hundred privately-owned corporations. Any of those, or anyone any of those authorities chooses to endorse, or anyone who manages to hack one of those hundred-plus authorities (this has happened) can convince your browser that there is no hanky-panky going on. It shouldn’t surprise you that the NSA has a huge operation to do just that.

The NSA system wasn’t used at Standing Rock (or if it was, that effort was separate from the documented attacks above), because they don’t need airplanes loaded with exotic equipment. But those airplanes do exist, and now we have evidence that state and local law enforcement, and quite possibly private corporations as well, are willing to use them.

The moral of the story is, I guess, “don’t use unsecured WiFi”. There’s pretty much nothing you can do about the NSA. It would be nice if browsers popped up an alert like “Normally this site is vouched for by Verisign, but this time the US Government is vouching for it. Do you want to continue?” But they don’t, and I haven’t found a browser plugin that adds that capability. Which is too bad.

Edit to add: While looking for someone who perhaps had made a browser plug-in to detect these attacks, I came across this paper which described a plugin that apparently no longer exists (if it was ever released). It includes a good overview of the situation, with some thoughts that hadn’t occurred to me. It also shows pages from a brochure for a simple device that was marketed in 2009 to make it very easy for people with CA authority to eavesdrop on any SSL-protected communication. Devices so cheap they were described as “disposable”.