Category Archives: Review

Travel Report: Aruba

Many of you know that over this winter break from school, I traveled with my family to Aruba, a small island off the coast of Venezuela. I thought I’d write a brief report on my time there, and give some pointers for others who might head there at some point. Aruba is a nation part of the Dutch commonwealth, and thus the official language is Dutch, however most everyone speaks English (on top of Papimento and Spanish). The Aruban government has made it very enticing for Americans to travel there, everywhere I saw, the US dollar was accepted side-by-side with the Aruban Florens.
My trip was a bit on the short side (only five nights) so I mostly explored the area closest to our apartment at The Boardwalk, which is at the north-west end of the island. We booked our stay there, and as part of a package deal, windsurfing lessons and rental. The beach where the Vela windsurfing school was is just a short walk from the Boardwalk and along that beach are all sorts of other resorts and activities from sunset cruises to jet-ski rentals. Aruba is an excellent location for windsurfing due to its consistent winds of about 20 knots, year-round nice weather (mid 80s) and reefs extending out from the beach allow you to walk back if you’re a beginner. While most of my stay was dedicating to windsurfing, I did spend a half-day on a Landrover tour of the island, which brought us to a few areas off the beaten track which exhibit a far more rugged side of Aruba. The natural pool is very enjoyable, and the view is excellent. Additionally, the coral caves are a very different type of cave from the traditional, and are very neat to explore.

Recommended:

  • The Iguana Cantina – This Mexican cantina was very tasty, so good in fact that we returned a second time. I had the red snapper, which was an entire snapper fried, providing an excellent presentation. Between 5-7PM is happy hour, which means 50% off margaritas, sangrias and beers.
  • Gelato from Cafe Amici – There is a huge selection of flavors, and the gelato is very tasty, an excellent way to end the day.
  • Vela Sports windsurfing – The lessons and equipment I got from them was very helpful, and I was able to progress from the beginner lesson my first day to water starts and harnesses at the end of my stay.

Recommended with Reservations:

  • Moby Dick Seafood Restaurant – While the food here was very good, the service was terrible, and the portions left you looking for a second dinner, even though the prices were high.
  • ABC Island Tours – While the tour was a lot of fun, and I got to see parts of the island that were not very accessible, the tour did not go to all of the advertised locations, leaving much to be desired. I suggest verifying with the tour company prior to booking the stops.

I hope this provides some helpful information for those looking for an escape from the cold. If you have any further questions feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to reply.

Peace and chow,

Ranok

P.S. An obligatory photo of my windsurfing:

My windsurfing

Black Hat DC Day 2

Now that I knew what I was in for, the second day of Black Hat DC took quite a bit less adjusting to, I felt more okay to skip parts of a presentation to chat was presenters, which I did after the Tor presentation.

In the morning, Dan Kaminsky gave a brief review of the DNS exploit he found last year, and the current status of the source port randomization patch. The estimate for patch coverage was about 60% of DNS servers, though the unpatched servers are being pretty actively exploited. He also clarified his stance on DNSSEC, that he’s neutral to the technology, but feels that it can provide end to end trust, something that DNSCurve cannot do, and has a higher chance of being accepted on the root since it doesn’t require pre-operation cryptography. A big implementation hurdle that he sees is for the deployment of DNSSEC servers to be turn-key and not require extra maintenance or knowledge to use.

The following presentation was an interesting one that provided a technical solution to a political problem, how to share data without compromising the data privacy, and without letting the data sharing knowing what is being searched for.

After that, a researcher from Vietnam showed how to break the facial recognition software built into laptops. Simply by taking a photo of the user, and editing it for proper lighting and tones. I got to be the lovely assistant in this presentation, enrolling my face into one of his laptops, then having him take my picture through a Skype chat, then using that picture to unlock the computer. This got the crowd laughing and very impressed with how this technology can actually sell.

The presentation on Tor did very little for me, the research was of marginal value, but the talk after with the presenter and the creator of Tor was eye opening. The most important thing I brought back from that talk was that Tor is not meant to protect you from big brother, but to keep you anonymous from the sites you are browsing, and your ISP. After I saw that shift, I was able to accept the many attacks that have come out of the woodwork over the past few years, and finally put Tor in the proper place in my cyber tool chest.

Finally, the memory snorting presentation was very slick, it seemed to be a very clever way to reuse the signature data already in existence, and be able to both analyze a saved memory dump, and also potentially find malicious code before it hits the wire.

Overall, the show was a blast, and I hope to have the privilege of attending sometime in the future.

Peace and chow,

Ranok

Review: Blackfield – Blackfield II

This is my first music review, but I thought I’d give it a shot — any comments would be much appreciated.

After searching for more music like Porcupine Tree, I found another one of Steven Wilson’s project bands, Blackfield. Blackfield is a joint effort between british Steven Wilson and israeli Aviv Geffen. Blackfield II is their second album and overall is a very pleasant listen, with calming melodies and solem lyrics. From what I can tell, both Aviv and Steven take turns with the singing and the difference in accent is quite apparent. Listeners not used to a foreign English accent might find Aviv’s to be a little odd and take a little getting used to. Of the 10 songs on this album, the ones that stand out are “End of the World”, “1,000 People”, “Miss U” and “Epidemic”, each of which have sad, yet powerful lyrics, and a beautiful musical score to accompany them.

While very partial to Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree, I think that Blackfield expresses their emotions and thoughts in a very gestalt manner and comes highly recommended.

Blackfield Home

I know it was short, but please give feedback, as I’d like to review more music and critiques would be quite helpful. Ranok