A Geek With Guns

Views from a geek gun nut

Archive for April 2011

The Kurian Invasion Begins

Several people I know were reporting sightings of aliens in the Como area of St. Paul last night. Normally I’m just as skeptical as the next guy but when I put it all together it makes sense. Think about it for a second; we’re experiencing massive natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes during a time of economic downturn. That must mean the Kurian invasion has begun!

It’s been nice knowing all of you but I’m off to the Ozarks to jump start the resistance.

* I really need more opportunities to make Vampire Earth references on this blog.

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Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Rand Paul Delivers a Political Bitch Slap to Donald Trump

I’m liking Rand Paul more and more every day. Today I must say I like him because he can really deliver an old fashioned politial bitch slap:

“I’ve come to New Hampshire today because I’m very concerned,” Paul said. “I want to see the original long-form certificate, with embossed seal, of Donald Trump’s Republican registration.”

“Seriously don’t you think we need to see that?” he said, adding that Trump had donated to Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Hilarious.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Humor

Tagged with ,

TomTom Sending Customers’ GPS Data to Police

With the recent fiasco facing iOS and Android devices and their retention of location data it’s nice to know one company out there isn’t leaving speculation to chance but is openly admitting that they provide customer location data to government officials:

Dear TomTom customer,

Customers come first at TomTom.
When you use one of our products we ask for your permission to collect travel time information on
an anonymous basis. The vast majority of you do indeed grant us that permission. When you connect
your TomTom to a computer we aggregate this information and use it for a variety of applications,
most importantly to create high quality traffic information and to route you around traffic jams.

We also make this information available to local governments and authorities. It helps them to
better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make
roads safer.

We are actively promoting the use of this information because we believe we can help make roads
safer and less congested.

We are now aware that the police have used traffic information that you have helped to create to
place speed cameras at dangerous locations where the average speed is higher than the legally
allowed speed limit. We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at
if we should allow this type of usage.

This is what we really do with the data:

  • We ask for your permission to collect historical data. You can opt in or opt out and can disable the data collection function at any time.
  • If you are using a LIVE device, you receive traffic information in real time and you automatically contribute to generating traffic information.
  • We make all traffic data anonymous. We can never trace it back to you or your device.
  • We turn anonymous data into traffic information to give you the fastest route available and route you through traffic jams in real time.
  • We are working with road authorities around the world to use anonymous traffic information to help make roads flow more efficiently and safer.
  • Our goal is to create a driver community capable of reducing traffic congestion for everyone.

Although they anonymize the data it’s still quite possible to retrieve who location data applies to. For instance you can use records of credit card translations, cell towers the person’s phone was connected to, cameras to find what car was where and when, etc. It would be possible to setup a system to tie this anonymized data to drivers and write them speeding tickets using that system as evidence.

That’s a theoretical problem, a real problem is the fact that the data is being used to setup police revenue sources such as speed cameras. A Dutch firm has openly admitted that they use TomTom customer data to setup speed traps. So this anonymized data is actually being used to cost you money for something that isn’t actually dangerous as currently implemented (in other words speed limits aren’t actually a safety limit but an arbitrarily selected number).

Anonymous collection and transmission of data is a threat with any device capable of determining a location and sending data. Cell phones are the best tracking devices on the planet as a side effect of how they work. But TomTom has openly admitted they send not just location data but data relating to customer travel times which is then given to government entities. This providing of data sets up a mechanism that could allow for government agencies automatically writing tickets or performing other actions that will cost you money. Personally I find that disgusting.

Let this also be a lesson to those who don’t actually read the end user license agreements of the devices and software they use.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Never Bring a Knife To a Gun Fight

Even if you’re a fucking ninja you’ll still lose:

A Fayette County man attacked by a “ninja” with a sword quickly ended the encounter by pulling a gun.

“The only word that comes to mind is, ‘seriously?'” Santino Guzzo, 29, of South Union said today. “I know this isn’t a laughing matter, but how many people get attacked by a ninja? Really, a ninja?”

I’d like to point out that the confrontation was concluded without shots fired just in case somebody wants to make some comment about how this situation escalated unnecessarily. Many anti-gunners often claim introducing guns into a scenario ensures all confrontations turn into shooting wars but in reality that usually isn’t the case. An asshole with a blade because far less ballsy when his intended victim turns out to have bigger teeth.

A hat tip goes to Alexi for bringing this hilarity to my attention.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Minnesota H.F. 1467 Passes Public Safety Committee

H.F. 1467, the omnibus gun rights bill passed the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee with a 10 to 7 vote. Now the bill will move to the House Judiciary Committee for yet another round of fun and games. We’re making progress, now let’s just hope we can get this bill through and finally have castle doctrine and stand your ground laws in Minnesota.

If you want to watch a video of the debate an archive is available here.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

More on Open WiFi Networks

A couple of days ago I mentioned my reasoning for not running an open WiFi network. Funny enough the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted an article about why one should run an open WiFi network. As I said in my previous post on the matter I would like to run an open WiFi network so those who needed WiFi access could get it but I don’t want to deal with the fact anything an anonymous person accessed on my open network would appear as though I accessed it.

This has lead me to ponder a means of setting up an open WiFi network that could be publicly used while keeping my traffic secure, separate, and not having anything a third party does on my network reflect badly on myself. What follows is the solution I’ve thought up so far with no real concern yet for implementation.

Obviously I want my wireless traffic to be encrypted as I value my privacy. This is easy enough to do with good old WiFi Protected Access (WPA) using a strong key. Thus ideally I would have two access points, one open for third party use and one secured for my use. The other feature I would desire is keeping the publicly accessible network completely separate from my private network. This is easy enough to accomplish by using a gateway device with Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) capabilities. I could setup one VLAN for the public network and another for my private network which would prevent the public network from talking to my private network.

The final and most difficult requirement is avoiding any legal ramifications that could be directed at me because of the web traffic generated by a third party. Like many network problems requiring anonymity I believe I’ve found my answer in the form of the Tor project. Tor is a network that can be used to anonymously access the Internet. Anonymity is achieved by encrypting all traffic and bouncing it between multiple nodes until that traffic reaches an exit point and is decrypted and sent to its destination. The benefit for me is the fact you can’t trace the source of any data going across the Tor network back to either its source or destination meaning anything accessed on my public network wouldn’t reflect on me.

What I would need to setup is a mechanism of ensuring all traffic that goes across my public network would be sent through the Tor network (not really the intended use of Tor I realize but alas it fits my needs here). I would want to set it up in a manner where inability to connect to the Tor network would disable the public network from reaching the Internet. This wouldn’t be difficult once I actually setup the Tor gateway system. There would likely be a problem of a slow connection as the Tor network isn’t speedy but honestly I don’t care, you get what you pay for. Likewise multiple peoples’ traffic would be going through a single Tor relay but again that’s not my problem nor is the fact I can’t control what happens at the Tor exit node my problem.

So this is my initial proposal for setting up a publicly accessible WiFi network without having to worry myself with personal security or the actions taken by those accessing my public network. I’ll probably investigate this a bit more and may even try to setup a trial and see how it turns out. Or I may instead do something else and leave this proposal untested and assume somebody will like the idea, implement it, and tell me how it worked out for them.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Side Notes

Tagged with ,

If You’re Not Going to Do Something Well Don’t Do It at All

Glock is celebrating their 25th year in the United States. This celebration is being done by the released of 2,500 limited edition Glock 17 pistols. What makes them limited edition? A small metal plate on the grip that says 25 Years. Whoopty do!

Although I love Glock pistols I fully admit that they have an ugly and uninspired design lacking anything beyond the necessities for functionality. I’m fine with this because their guns work well. But if this is all Glock can manage to come up with for their limited edition pistol they might as well not even bother trying.

Still congratulations on 25 years in the United States Glock and here’s to another 25.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 29, 2011 at 10:30 am