Babycam Security Fail

November 12th, 2013

In the README.txt, when upgrading firmware of my Foscam FI8910W:

1) Fix the CSRF security vulnerabilities;
2) Encrypt all the username and password with MD5;
3) Update the ActiveX version to;
4) Add promption if the disk for video recording is full.


  1. passwords were in the clear before
  2. they don’t understand encryption vs hashing
  3. they choose MD5

So much fail.

Tahiti: My Travel Advice

May 23rd, 2013

“Some place with lots of sun. And maybe those huts over the water.”

It turns out if that’s what your fiance wants for her honeymoon, there’s really only one place in the world to go: Tahiti.

Even though I’m not usually a big fan of the sand & surf, I have to admit I loved it. I fell in love with the islands, especially Moorea.

I got a lot of good advice before the trip. In the spirit of paying it forward, here’s my advice to anyone having the good fortune to be traveling there as well.

TripAdvisor is your friend, especially the forums.

Overwater Bungalows (OWB) are totally worth it, but not all are created equal. Some are half on land, half over an inch of water. The good ones are over at least a few feet of water, with a view into the lagoon below. The bad ones are over just a half foot, or worse, half on land.

Before you book your room, find out how deep the water under your bungalow will be. Better yet, find a map of the resort & ask for a specific room.

If you take my advice & go to Moorea, I highly, highly, highly recommend the Hilton Moorea.

Here’s the resort map.

I recommend requesting rooms 75 or 87.

Most (all?) rooms have a DVD player. Bring DVDs. Pay-per-view didn’t seem common & most TV is in French. The only exception was ESPN & Fox News (no joke), which didn’t go over well with my new wife.

Bring anti-fog for your snorkel mask. If you forget, use spit. Seriously. Spit on the interior of the mask & use your fingers to rub it around. It’s not as good as anti-fog, but it’ll help.

Without question, get an underwater camera. Some of your best shots are coming to come when you’re wet.

Pre-order cash at your local bank. Do this at least a week or so in advance, as they may need some lead time. You’ll get a better exchange rate than on the island. If you run low on cash, switch to using a credit card & avoid the hotel front desk. Hotels tended to have the worst exchange rate & credit cards seemed to offer the best.

If you rent a car and do an island tour (and I hope that you do), get the insurance. It’s a total scam in the states, but when you’re international, it’s well worth it. Coverage, laws, and everything all changes when you leave the country. Even if you get into a minor fender-bender (as we did), you don’t want to have to waste time on your honeymoon dealing with it.

Tahiti is expensive. And I say this as a man living in one of the most expensive parts of the US.

I don’t mean the flights & room (although they are too), but the everyday items, like food & drinks. The “normal” price of things is going to be what would be considered expensive in LA. E.g., a typical drink is going to be $15. A can of Diet Coke is $4. Hamburgers are $30. And, of course, things go up from there.

You can’t really escape, but you can try to minimize the pain. Things are the most expensive at the resort. If you can find a local market, you’ll save a bunch. Bring what you can. This includes things like sunscreen & bug spray.

Still, plan to spend $100-$200/day. If you can’t bear the thought of that, don’t go. It’s pointless to shell out so much for the trip & then be miserable each day at the cost of everything.

Another smart thing to do is to opt for a package with a breakfast buffet. It’s usually a combination of French & American breakfast. Packages with it usually are much cheaper than getting it individually ($72/breakfast). It’s a good way to start to start the day and less strain on the wallet.

The ATV tours through the interior of Moorea are amazing & totally worth it. Wear pants (not shorts) to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure your tour includes Magic Mountain. A few don’t and it’s one of the highlights of the tour.

Speaking of excursions, don’t book solely through the hotel. Cheaper & more variety can be found by going direct to some of the local companies. Some research here ahead of your trip can pay dividends. (We used Albert’s.)

If you are fortunate to find yourself in an OWB, steal a few pieces of bread from the buffet each morning to feed the fish near your bungalow. Do it at a regular time each morning and after a few days, they’ll anticipate your arrival, and rush to greet you.

Sunburn sucks. If you’re a guy, bring a rash guard (or two).

Good for hoping in & out of the water too.

If you’re on a honeymoon, casually mention that fact as much as you can. Free upgrades, bottles of wine, rose petals, and chocolates will mysteriously appear.

I highly recommend Tahia Pearls. Pearl shopping is one of the “things” to do while there, and it’s a great way to get something for the love of your life to remember your trip by. Some places in Tahiti haggle on price, but Tahia doesn’t. No hard sell, no worry about getting ripped off on price.

The first time we entered a Tahia shop, I pushed my wife to get a more expensive necklace than the one she was looking at. (She doesn’t like to spend money on herself.) I thought the sales lady would take my side (as I wish pushing for one 3x the price), but she interrupted me & said my wife had to pick the pearl that spoke to her. She then told us she would hang on to the one she liked for the day, but before buying, she should also look at the other shops too & find something she really loved. #customerforlife

You’ll need to bring a power adaptor. I’ve had good experiences with this guy.

Rather than buying a few, I brought just one adapter & simple/lightweight power strip.

Also consider bringing a lightweight router with you. This lets you share the Internet connection (between laptops, ipads, iphones, kindles, etc.) instead of paying per device.

Also, don’t spend all your day online, but it’s worth getting an Internet connection. For at least some of the time, anyway. Using the Internet for phone calls or video chats is a good way to get in touch with people back home & it’s also help helpful for doing research on local options.

I also recommend picking up a luggage scale. Much easier than scrambling at bag check-in & cheaper than paying overage fees.

If you’re using air to travel between the islands, keep in mind the international airline is Air Tahiti Nui & the domestic carrier is Air Thaiti. They are different airlines. And, more importantly, they have different baggage allowances.

Unless you want to get hit with overweight fees, make sure your bags are under the limit of both.

Life at Commerce

October 14th, 2012

Commerce Casino. A newly opened table. 7 seats taken, 3 open. Woman shows up and takes the seat to my left. She stands out a bit. Everyone at the table is like me, a sloppy & ugly mofo. She’s both attractive & well dressed. But hey, everyone plays poker.

Someone else shows up, who she knows. He’s across the table. They make some chit-chat. I largely ignore, but hear her say something about moving to Santa Monica. Santa Monica? I’ll talk to a stranger about Santa Monica. I love Santa Monica.

They finish their chit-chat, so I ask her about moving here. She says she’s moving near downtown. I say I live near there & tell her my street. Turns out she’s moving into the building right next to mine, which just finished construction.

A bit later, a 3rd guy shows up. He chats with both of them. The rest of the table, which had be loud-ish, losses some thunder & goes quiet. 3rd guy hangs around for a minute or so, with his arms around the girl, clearly in a boyfriend/girlfriend type way, then leaves.

The table remains quiet. Then 20-30 minutes later the girl & the other guy leave. Table explodes.

“That was him?”
“Where’d they go?”
“Are you sure that was him?”
“Over there. Purple jersey. He’s got a soul patch type thing.”
“Holy cow, it is.”

I’m now massively confused. I ask the guy to my right who they’re talking about.

“Michael Phelps. That was his girlfriend, I guess. He’s over there now.”

Look over, sure enough there’s the girl. Standing next to her, purple jersey, soul patch type thing, is Michael Phelps.

So I don’t know what’s more amusing:
- I played poker with Michael Phelps’s girlfriend
- Michael Phelps is going to be my neighbor

Actually, I do know. Not an hour after that, 3 Eastern European men went batshit insane at the table over a hand, resulting in a lot of screaming, finger pointing & anger. But the best part were the repeated pleas to the “baby Jesus.”

“By Baby Jesus as my witness, I cannot have said to call! I say fold!”
“I say to the Baby Jesus I say that I fold!”

I didn’t know the Baby Jesus was a poker player. But honestly, if he was, I don’t think he’d play $1/$2.

Posted in poker | No Comments »

SmugMug is a frustrating site. They don’t understand what private means. They don’t let you bulk download photos.

Actually, they might let you do that. But you might have to pay to do it. Or you may have to be a paid member. Actually, I can’t figure it out.

For reasons I can’t fathom, they don’t simply let someone download all the public photos in a gallery. You can download them individually. You can even download them all individually. So why not make it easy to download them all? No idea.

Additionally, by downloading them individually, the file timestamps are all messed up.

So, if, say, your sister uses the site & took a bunch of pictures & you want to seamlessly blend them with yours, it won’t work. When you sort by time, all of the SmugMug photos will be at the end, since the filestamp is today.

The one saving grace is they have publish an RSS feed for each gallery. Using that RSS feed, we can download everything. Additionally, we use the metadata to fix the filestamp.

And that’s what my bulk downloader does. Feel free to use/copy/modify. If you run into any problems or bugs, let me know.

Posted in nerd-ness | 2 Comments »

Christy’s at her bachelorette party tonight.

Which means I’m home alone.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been home alone. So, since I don’t have anything better to do, I thought I’d share why I couldn’t stand the sci-fi movie Battle LA.

See, Battle LA isn’t a good movie.

Aaron Eckhart is a good actor, but the movie is bad.

Disappointedly bad.

There’s all sorts of reasons why it sucks.

It has a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and honestly, that’s generous.

So while there’s all sorts of legitimate reasons to think it sucks, my reason, admittedly, is somewhat ridiculous: My reason is geography. Battle LA is really, really bad at geography.

Not just a little; not just a few gaffes here & there, but a lot.

Like you-had-to-try-to-make-it-this-bad bad.

Let’s start with the beginning. There is where the attack of Battle LA begins.

Only, see that pier? That’s Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier is in, you guessed it, Santa Monica. Not Los Angeles.

So really, it should be Battle Santa Monica.

But okay, that’s a nit-pick.

A lot of people outside Southern California would think of Santa Monica as at least part of the Los Angeles area.

And, as seen here, they once they arrive at their destination, Santa Monica aiport, they acknowledge they’re in Santa Monica.

Let’s move forward to the briefing. Santa Monica has been evacuated. (Good to know I would have made it out safe.) The military has established a perimeter at Lincoln Blvd & everything west of it will be bombed. This is an important point. A point that will drive a lot of plot, so let’s highlight where that area is.

As the briefing continues, they say there’s civilians who need to be rescued at the police station at Venice & Amarosa.

Okay, so there’s no police station there, but movies often make up specific buildings. We’ll give them this one as well.

But I’ve never heard of Amarosa. But I know Venice Blvd.

Venice Blvd, believe it or not, is in Venice.

Not Santa Monica.

But let’s see the map he pulls out to navigate:

A map of Culver City.

Okay, so he’s going to travel to Santa Monica to find a street that’s actually in Venice… using a map of Culver City.


Nevertheless, they find it. Considering their methods, fairly impressive.

So after the rally point, they need to head to the police station.

Only…wait, that’s West Los Angeles police station. How the heck did they teleport to the West LA Police Station, some 3 miles east of them?!

Okay, but now look again!

See the palm trees? The ocean? You can’t see that in West LA. They’re back in Santa Monica. In fact, I think I know what building they’re looking at & it almost looks like they’re standing atop my apartment building.

Pretty impressive the military can teleport like that.

Moving on they find a bus. Only one problem: It’s orange.

Santa Monica buses aren’t orange. They’re blue.

They’re blue all over the city.

And the damn bus system is called the Big Blue Bus.

Kinda hard to get that one wrong.

Okay, but hey, look! They at least got the map right now! It’s a Santa Monica map.

But they have a new problem: bombing is 40 minutes away. Much concern. Being in the bombing zone, they’ll all be killed.

But wait. They’re not in the bomb zone. The movie went out their way to give very specific (albiet contradicting) locations.

Either they’re in West Los Angeles, or they’re at the location on 10th street. Both are east of Lincoln & out of the bombing zone.

So what’s the problem?

Anyway, they decide to drive the bus to the airport.

But it’s “25-35 minutes” to the airport. Jokes about LA traffic aside, even with traffic that’s a 10-15 minute drive.

And remember, Santa Monica’s been evacuated except for 5 civilians hiding in a non-existant police station. So there’s shouldn’t be any traffic.

Nevertheless, they get on the I-10 freeway.


Because if aliens attacked you’d want to be on elevated freeway, one that is mostly like clogged, the one that is the most likely to be damaged, the one that could collapse & the one the leaves you the most exposed to attack.

But let’s proceed.

Kindly, the movie tells us where they’re headed.

Wait, they’re going west? They only thing west is the ocean!

And the airport is to the east!

And how are there building off in the distance if they’re headed west?

Did someone build them in the middle of the ocean?

Does the 10 now drive off mysteriously in the middle of the ocean?

Okay, but let’s say they’re heading west. They get to their exit & discover it destroyed.

Hey, that’s Overland!

That’s a good several miles east of the airport!

It’s all the way on the other side of the 405. How the hell did they get there?

Okay, so exit destroyed, they say they’ll go to the next one: Roberston.

What?! That means they’re heading east!

If they were at Overland, they were east of their location & needed to be heading west. What the hell is going on?

Anyway, they get back to Santa Monica airport & once again, they’re worried about getting bombed.

But Santa Monica airport is waaaaayyyyyy east of Lincoln. So what the heck?

At this point, I gave up.

Think a few intersections near you. Easy, right? Now think of a few intersections that wouldn’t make sense. You had to think for a moment, right? So why would they go out of their way to screw all of this up?

When I first saw the Matrix, I still lived in Chicago got a kick out of the intersections used. Wells & Lake, Balbo, Wabash. The Wachowski brothers being from Chicago had used real Chicago intersections. Not a big deal. But they got it right.

Hollywood lives in Los Angeles. Heck, a lot of Hollywood lives in Santa Monica. They *know* these roads. These are the roads they take to get home every day to work, to the store, to go out to eat. So why would Hollywood go through the extra effort to give locations that don’t make any sense? And if they’re wrong, why go jump through hoops to show maps & exact locations on-screen?

One last thing.

The reason the scientist gives for the attack is “they want our water. No where else in the universe is water in liquid form.”

Hang on a minute.

Ice is all over the universe. Europa is covered in it. Comets typically contain water.

But the problem the aliens have — aliens who have spaceships, lasers & can travel across vast spaces in the universe — is they can’t melt the ice?

They have rockets, but they can’t figure out how to apply heat & turn ice into liquid water?

That’s the reason?


I hope Christy comes home soon.

Posted in nerd-ness | 3 Comments »

Setting up a New Mac

February 4th, 2012

On Friday, I moved from a 15″ Macbook Pro to a 17″ model.

A lot of my work these days is done in “the cloud.” I use it extensively at work & home. Gmail was good enough to get me to switch away from Thunderbird, and I’m sold on how Google Docs makes it possible to access my docs anywhere, not to mention to making it easy to collaborate. (ProTip: If you’re getting married, Google Docs is a huge time saver.)

With that, I was surprised to find it still took a bit of time to setup my new machine. It seems I still rely a fair bit on local application & resources.

To make my life easier in the future, here’s the steps I need to go through.

On the new machine:



  • Copy my Documents folder. Interestingly, most of the files hadn’t been modified since 2010 or so. I’ve started even keeping personal notes in Google Docs.

  • Copy my resource files: .emacs, .bashrc, .bash_profile, & .bash/. I split out a lot of files in .bash & dynamically load certain things based upon the environment (e.g., home vs work).

  • Setup iTunes

  • Change the Finder preferences to display my hard drive & change the icon to Strongbad.

  • Move the dock to the right. Set it to auto-hide & smallest size, with magnification enable & maximized.

  • Enable remote login (for ssh) and screen sharing (for vnc).

  • Copy over my TextMate Macros. I have a few simple macros to create a few standard meeting templates with a timestamp and folding patterns to allow me to collapse notes from a particular meeting.

  • Disable & hide bluetooth.

  • Run Keychain & have it display an icon in the menubar. This allows easy screen-locking, but I have no idea why this is where the preference is located.

On the old machine:

  • De-authorize iTunes & Audible.

Other notes:

  • I’ve ditched Growl. It’s now $2, which isn’t much, but I strongly dislike how they went about it. Surprising your community & taking advantage of them is never a good thing.

  • Due to issues w/ Emacs & color-theme.el showing funky, I’m going to forge iTerm for a bit & give Terminal another shot.


January 1st, 2012

November 24th, 2010

Earlier in the year, a UX designer left Google for Twitter. His blog post detailing his reasons why generated a furver in the websphere, the general reaction being Google doesn’t get design, but Twitter did.

Anyway, that’s the impression that it left with me at least. Heck, I knew I frustrated the UX designer I worked with, with my waving of the “Data! Data! Data!” flag, so I could see another designer being frustrated. Might he be right? I personally suck at design, after all.

Which is why so surprised when I tried to actually use Twitter’s new feature, lists.

It’s not that it’s bad. It’s terrible.

Like awful awful. Seriously terrible.

Seriously, it’s one of the most dysfunctional things on the web since Scribd launched. It’s like one guy had been cranking out all those shitty Geocities pages, and when it shutdown, he decided his next project would be Twitter lists.

It was one of the occasions, where you wonder if anyone actually used it before it launched?

It’s that bad.

Now, the idea is sound. A really good one, even. In fact, that’s what lead me to discover how terrible the UX is. I wanted to use it.

Some geeks & I are on a mailing list. Someone started a thread about Twitter, handles started to be shared, and soon a list created. A list list, not a twitter list. Well, not yet anyway.

But that’s what occurred to me. I should just create a twitter list of these guys & then everyone can just follow that. Easier for everyone!

So I head over to Twitter, create my list, copy/paste my list of Twitter homies and *boom* problem solved. Yay, Twitter!

Only, you can’t do that. Oh, you can create the list. But adding more than one at a time? Sorry, Charlie. After all, why would you want multiple people on a list? Apparently Twitter things we’re creating lists of one.

I’m half-OCD with lists, but even with me, lists of one is pretty strong. A “mom” list. A “dad” list. And so on. Luckily, I’m not the girl from Mama Mia.

So you have to search for each one. One-by-one. Each one. Even if you already know the handle!

To boot, you can’t just search by handle only. It searches everything. One of your entries have a handle that’s some generic, say “bill.” Well, lucky you, you get to dig through @BillCosby, @renewabill, “Bill Smith”, and so on until you find your entry.

Okay, so you do that. Now you want to add yourself. So you search for your handle. After all, lucky you, your handle is pretty unique (and awesome), so only one result should match.

Only you get none.

Apparently, you can’t search for yourself. So can’t add yourself.

So how the @#&$ do you add yourself to a list?? I really can’t add myself?

At this point I’m starting to suspect retarded web monkeys are out to get me again.

Whatever. My list is done. I send it out.

A short bit later, a few more people respond. More handles to add to the list. Okay, no problem.

I click the list. I look for the add button. Not there.

I click the edit button. Not there.

I click an empty list I created and the add-people thingie is at the bottom. Ah, I have to page down to the bottom. Fair enough.

I page down. Not there.

WTF!? Am I not logged in? I am. Was I logged in before? No, it let me edit the damn list. I had to have been.

I try again anyway. Not there.

This HAS to be possible! For crying out loud, I’m a 36 year old man. I’m an engineer. I’ve worked at Yahoo & Google. I’ve been online for 19 years. I love puzzles, even! I even know how to set the clock on a VCR! Yet I can’t figure this out.

I feel utterly defeated.

I give up & google it. I discover you have to click over to “Find People”, find them again, then click the middle icon, then select the list. Right. Totally obvious.

It turns out you can add yourself too. Click your lists of tweets & then you’ll get the little icon. Because the way you add yourself should be totally different from how you add everyone else, right?

Jumping Behind of the Curve

October 4th, 2009

In 1995, when I started my first job at the International Housewares Association, one of the big things the higher up were excited about was a Housewares BBS. A dial-in bulletin board system for members of the Housewares industry.

I’m not sure what they were supposed to be do once they were there, but being a fresh grad who didn’t know anything about business & housewares, my ignorance was neither surprising nor a red flag.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder. I knew a bit about BBSes, my brothers having run a fairly large one in my hometown.

But the main reason for a BBS’s popularity was warez. Sure some users liked to message other members & post to the forums, but only a few & for those things there was a better way now. I was familiar with the Internet from college. Wasn’t it obviously better for communication?

After all, one of my early projects was to shutdown our proprietary, internal-only email-esque system and switch us over to sendmail — to the email that everyone uses today. I hadn’t heard of Metcalfe’s Law, but obviously being able to email anyone was better than being able to email just people in our 30 person office.

You can guess were this is going: Despite ordering tons of schwag for the service, tons of coffee mugs, tons of t-shirts and so on, the service bombed. I don’t remember how many people signed up, but we had 100s of coffee mugs for a user base in the low 10s.

Now flash-forward. It’s 2009. It’s Sunday. A stranger in a strange land, I’m a Chicagoan in Los Angeles. It being football season, what do I want to do on a Sunday morning? You guessed it, watch da Bears.

Only I can’t. At least not on TV. Not with my cable package.

So what do I do? I find it online. (Thanks Moe!)

But it’s a pain to find. The quality isn’t that great. The streaming can be jerky.

And like digital music, I’m perfectly willing to pay a reasonable price.

So why doesn’t the NFL offer online streaming?

Instead, they’re focusing on pushing their NFL package on cable. But cable today is like the BBS was in the early/mid-90s. Sure, there’s lot of action there today, but it’s clear the writing is on the wall. Video is going online.

If I get the expensive cable package, my options on watching are fairly limited. I have to be at home, the package options are limited to what cable providers are willing to carry & so on.

None of that applies online. I’m traveling to Mexico in a few weeks. With an online package, I could get a season subscription to the Bears and still watch it there. They could even offer Tivo like functionality built in, so if I’m late getting home, I can still watch the game from the beginning and catch up. Or the next day.

I could choose to stream the game to my big screen TV, or put it on a second monitor while I work (like I sometimes do with Hulu).

So why would I ever want it on cable as opposed to online?

On the other hand, I guess I should be glad they didn’t setup a NFL BBS.