Pseudo-Review of “Zero Day” by Mark Russinovich and other stuff

I’m currently reading “Zero Day” by Mark Russinovich, and to sum things up: for the first time in a very very long time i’m actually considering abandoning the book before reaching the end. I’ll try to explain here what i mean by this. Even though i have not reached the end, i can safely say that i can’t recommend this book to anyone interested in a *solid* techno-thriller. But anyway, spoilers ahead.

I bought the book based on..what? Maybe a tweet? Maybe it was Amazon who recommended it to me or something. I’m not entirely sure. But i had just finished Bret Easton Ellis’ latest book “Imperial Bedrooms” which was.. well rather bland as well, and i was looking for a good read.

Zero Day starts out fast, exciting, like a real techno-thriller. But very soon, the reader will become aware that the book is written with a very very specific audience in mind: A person who is male, young and unaware of the ways of “hackers” and computer crime. Reading this book i feel almost insulted at times. I could for instance not recommend this to anyone who is easily offended by the objectification (is that even a word?) of women. The book reads like something written by and/or for horny teenage boys. Almost every (it may even be every) female character in the book is portrayed in a flirtatious manner. Like all women are raucious perverts, just looking to be fucked. Almost every “scene” describing a female character, no matter how minor, includes descriptions of things like men oogling the woman’s ass, breasts, how she looks, or she may talk in a flirtatious manner, proposing sex or just generally acting like sluts.

I thought it’d apply to just one or two characters, but this has to be a god damn joke, because i have never seen such horniness in any description of the IT industry. Where are all these big-breasted, ample-assed always-horny IT-expert women? I need to know, now.


Another annoying thing, that drives me mad, is the chapters where the protagonists are discussing on instant messenger, irc or whatever. The language is silly, and made up and not how people talk, anywhere! Christ! Do you have to put up a big sign saying “this is how hackers talk!!” by making the characters talk like fucking language-impared imbecilles? Sure, sometimes people talk in leet-speek, but this has become kind of an in-joke at this point. I’ve seen 14 year-olds express themselves quite clearly, and i find it very difficult to believe that 30-something IT-industry experts would sit in a chatroom writing sentences that lack most vowels or are otherwise compressed to the point of utter annoyance. It would actually take a concentrated effort to write like the characters in this book.

I have about 70 pages to go, and i’m so tired of these repeating themes. Oh and one can’t forget the continuous references to 9/11 (that’s September the 11th for people who write dates in a way that makes sense). I get that it’s a central plot point, and Al Qaeda is the pseudo-boogey-man, and how arabs are evil and the towers fell and the planes hit and oh the humanity. I don’t think it’s a very effective plot point at this point anymore, but then again, i’m not a US citizen. I don’t have the lifelong emotional scars.

This just.. doesn’t work for me. I might recommend this to someone who is entirely outside this industry, this scene  if you may. But under no circumstances would i recommend this to anyone who has spent more time in front of a computer, or who would like to read something about like cool cyber hackers (the word cyber also appears on nearly every page, which means, if you’re playing the Pauldotcom drinking game, you’d be dead by page 100), about criminals and terrorists and Osama Dead Laden, and how horny the girls are in the IT industry (not). But if you for some reason wish to read about this stuff, by all means, pick it up. A casual reader looking for a sure-flowing thriller might enjoy this book. I’m not sure i can finish it, because i find it so insulting to my intellect. And i write this without even a hint of arrogance, trust me.

The other stuff

Another chapter of miscellania. Most of the stuff is now in boxes or bags. Keys will be picked up on Friday. We’re on the waiting list to buy Assembly 2011 tickets  (me and H, P, M and O, at least). The other people, well.. they don’t seem too interested, as nobody has contacted anyone about tickets. But i guess that’s for the better.

This will probably be my last year. It’s a fitting end too. It’s the 20th aniversary Assembly, and i’ll get to show H what the fuzz is about. I also realize i’ve said this for the past three years. But you can’t trust me!

We’re rewatching Twin Peaks, and we just saw the episode with David Duchovny as Dennis, sorry, Denise. A brilliant episode, and a brilliant portrayal by Duchovny, keeping in mind that this was before The X-files started. Wonderful.

With B, we’ve discussed multi-dimensional objects, probabilities of intersection in finite and infinite spaces. Standard stuff.

Also wrapping up Mad Men Season 3, which is a great series to watch. Looking forward to the 4th season on DVD, whenever i can get that for a reasonable price. Also, Flash Forward, though i have only seen the first half of the series. The box is a bit pricey in Finland at the moment, so maybe i’ll wait to get it. I’m not sure they showed the entire thing on TV, and considering the fact that i don’t watch TV anymore  (haven’t watched more than an hour a week for the past two years), it’s unlikely i’ll see the remaining episodes there.

More assorted ramblings for week 21/2011

So this past week has kind of sucked ass in multiple ways, most of which i will describe as this post grows longer.

This week was spent learning about Horde 4, which was kind of a good start. But i dunno the rest of the week has been so-so. Yesterday i was going to attend a meeting that was supposed to start at 14:00, according to the mail the meeting organizer sent out the day before. So, a colleague drives me downtown, and since we were in a bit of a rush, we took the subway to the end destination. The problem? I had no more time on my “metrocard” which i thought i did.  I figured, two stations, i can’t be so unlucky as to be ticket-inspected.

Oh how wrong i was.

When i get to the station, and get off, i see the row of inspectors checking everyone getting off the subway, making sure they all have valid tickets. Most of them did. I did not. My own fault. Using my quick intellect (sarcasm here), i order a mobile ticket and walk up to the inspectors. My ploy failed, as the ticket has a timestamp, and the rule is that you need to have a valid ticket when you enter your departing station. So i was fined 80 bucks. This is the first time i’ve messed up, and the first time i’ve been fined. And i’ve been using public transport since i was seven!

Slightly miffed, i walk, fine in hand to the office where the meeting was supposed to take place. And then they tell us we are half an hour early. And we are like “Bitch, the mail you sent out says 14:00, not 14:30”. And inside, i’m hurting, because i figure, if i came half an hour later, i would not have been fined.

Aaaand to top things off, the meeting was a total commercial bust, with scarcely anything worth my time. So a total fucking waste of time and money.

Today was time for the annual inspection of my car, which is mandatory in Finland. I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to pass, since it already has about 160 000 km on the meter, and it has had it’s share of problems. And oh how right i was. Turns out i have to fix three different items, then have it re-inspected within a month. And all this will cost me about 300 euro in all. Wonderful.

I just also paid the 1000 euro security deposit on the new apartment, so i’m not exactly swimming in cash. This sucks.

On the other hand, this time next week i should be typing away at the new apartment, all nice and clean and with fast connectivity. Bliss.

Oh also, my MRI results came back “negative”. No, to everyone’s shock, turns out i do have a brain! But nothing of concern. Two minor structural “differences” from the perfect theoretical brain, but nothing that merits any action, further inspection or concern. So i’m fine. Which is kind of a relief for me. I was kind of concerned, but then i’m a hypochondric of some degree.

Don’t push me now cause I’m close to the edge

Ok so today was one of those days. I figured writing about today’s events would help ease the fucking throbbing pain and dull suffering feeling that I am experiencing.

First i woke up at like 6 AM because my girlfriend noticed her bus-card was .. lost.. at work or somewhere and she needed a ride to work, which starts at 7 AM. So i get up. Drive her to work. And since i’m a fucking retard, i decide to drive to work early. Get to work.Someone else is there too, in-fucking-credibly. And there’s freshly brewed coffee! This day may yet be saved!

The morning is spent doing various administrative tasks, more or less routine stuff, nothing too exciting. Change a backup tape here, check on a storage system there..

Noon rolls around, and suddenly, a task which was supposed to have two weeks left, has to be done on friday. “On friday is good enough, it doesn’t have to be “before friday”, one of my bosses assures me. Great. Calendar already swamped, i desperately try to delegate. Then i come across a Solaris problem. I’m showing a new LUN to a server, and it’s simply not seeing it. Google is full of “Oh run cfgadm -al and all your problems will be gone!”. Well listen pal, they are not. devfsadm, devfsadm -C, devfsadm -c disk, luxadm probe.. whatever i do, the LUN is simply not showing up. And every god damn page is the same, try this fucking magic, it’ll work, i promise! I would like to do a boot -r but as we all know, that’s not always an option.

I try removing some un-used LUNs. That works fine! So it must be talking to the SAN! Re-add the same LUNs i just removed? Not showing up. Na-ha. So i guess i have my work cut out for me.

Don’t get me wrong, i love a good conundrum. But sometimes these things just accumulate and fuck up your day.

Ok so, i leave the problem, which i hate doing, because i have to make it to the bank. The bank, which is supposed to serve the fucking working population, is open only between 8 and 16:30. This is when regular fucking people are at work. I guess physical banks are for pensioners and fucking bums, eh? The problem is, i had some cash that needed to be deposited, and there’s no other way to do that, than to visit an actual physical bank, and talk to some dude, who will look at you funny because you walk in with a wad of cash, thinking you’ve stolen it from somewhere. “Where did you get this money, sir?”. And i’m trying to think of something witty to say, but end up giving him the real explanation: it was just my birthday. I know it’s their job to ask when the deposit is over a certain sum, so uh… terrorists i guess? can’t deposit money to fund their illegal activities. And if i were a terrorist, i’d be sure to say “Oh these? They came from various drug deals and illegal arms trade”

So i deposit my cash, and go to the store, which i already know will end in fucking tears and disaster. Everyone and their grandmother is out shopping because it’s a special fucking day: Monday! So i do my shopping, trying my best to avoid human contact, weaving and ducking inbetween the unwashed masses. I make it to the check-out where, to my dismay, the fat lady infront of me is trying to pay for her shopping with a piece of paper. So i shoulder-surf the paper and see that it’s from the welfare bureau. I look at the check-out lady, who is ready to commit suicide because she has no idea on how to handle this as a payment method, clearly. I sympathize. I sold household appliances for two-and-a-half years when i was studying, and saw my fair share of those notes. They are a bureaucratic nightmare to handle.

So then, as the check-out lady finally figures it out, the fat customer-lady has the audacity to ask if she can swipe her bonus-card as well, and the check-out lady tells her she can’t. So let me get this straight: She gets my money from the welfare bureau and then she wants bonus for her shopping too? I was nearing the breaking point.

I pay for my shoppings, which come out at less than i had expected; just about the only positive piece of news i’ve had all day. I pack my stuff. Prepare to leave. And then i see him: The Shadow.

The Shadow was an infamous nutcase from when i sold electronics back in the day, in East-Helsinki. He would drop by every now and then, wearing the same clothes, and an old casette Walkman (which i doubt played anything). He’d walk into the store, and find a customer who was discussing with one of our sales guys. He’d then smooch up real close to the customer, uncomfortably close, so that they get disturbed, and he’d say things like “That TV is cheaper in this other store!”. He never bought anything, and we always threw him out, because we were not allowed to resort to physical violence.

So there he is, in the flesh: The Shadow. Wearing, probably, the same clothes, the same motherfucking walkman, and muttering to himself. I overheard just one sentence, which was nearly enough to throw me into a homicidal rage: “There’s so many people here because they are playing hockey today on the TV!”. He said this to nobody in particular, and walked at this unnaturally fast pace toward the exit.

I swear i just stood there with my groceries, staring blankly. I hope i wasn’t drooling uncontrollably, but that may not have been far. I made it home, and after ranting about all this to my girlfriend, i had to come and write this down.

Assorted updates, week 18

This week has been mostly about preparing for the move, which will take place at the end of the month. The new apartment is hopefully ready at this time (the day it is supposed to be ready is 16.5). If not, well, then we have 100 square meters of stuff with no place to go. Maybe i’ll dump it at the office….

Speaking of the office, there’s been a lot of cool stuff happening there as well. New hardware coming in, new stuff to learn. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down toward the summer just yet. Lately, i’ve mostly been learning more things about IBM hardware, VMWare and installing a very cool piece of IBM Power7 hardware. Work is more interesting than it ever was!

But back to the other stuff. Moving is arduous business. There are papers to be filed, documents to be signed. And the packing of the god-damn boxes. So far i’ve:

  • Canceled the old rental agreement
  • Signed the new rental agreement
  • Sent in a paper to the maintenance company to take our names off the door etc. by the end of this month
  • Sent in a paper to the new maintenance company to put up our names at the new place
  • Arranged for the transfer of my power contract
  • Arranged for the transfer of the home insurance to the new apartment
  • Official moving announcement to the magistrate
  • Ordered 30 boxes to put our stuff in
  • Arranged for a van (thanks B)

And i’m stressed out of my mind.

On top of this, i’m participating in a research on early detection of psychoses (as a control patient. don’t worry, i’m not that crazy just yet..), which included an extensive neuropsychological questionaire and test, an MRI scan, and some labwork. The MRI was fascinating business. The device was a 3 Tesla scanner, by General Electric. That’s a pretty powerful magnetic field it can generate, there. The scan took a little over an hour, and consisted of one anatomical “classic” scan, at a high resolution and different angles, and then two different fMRI’s (functional MRI), which measure brain activity during (in this case) answering questions, and watching a 10 minute clip of a movie. The scanner takes one (quite low resolution) image every 2.3 seconds, and then makes a “gif” out of the activity, which can be correlated to whatever question or thing you were watching at the time. This was then processed by a very powerful HP workstation (an xw8400 if i’m not mistaken), and then burnt on a disc and sent to a radiologist. I was allowed to look at some of the images, and boy was that cool! Turns out i do have a brain in there!

I sold my aquarium, and it’s being picked up on saturday. This means i won’t have to move it ever again. It’s kind of sad at the same time, but i’m glad to get rid of it. It’s been with me since 2005, and i’ve had an aquarium for the past.. what.. 15 years or so? The last original fish, an armored catfish, had survived for about that time, died a few months ago. It was probably more than 15 years old.

I came into posession of a Linksys WRT54G last week, but to my dismay, it was a version 7, which has the Atheros chipset, instead of the Broadcom, and is therefore about as useful as a cock-flavored lollipop. It’s not supported by any of the major distributions of “router linux”, openwrt or dd-wrt, and there are i think no plans to add support either. A bit sad. But maybe it’ll get a good home somewhere, or i’ll figure out a way to put it to good use. My OpenBSD router/pf machine crashed last weekend, i think due to a faulty secondary hard drive. I didn’t spend too much time debuging it; instead i just took out the drive (a Western Digital Green-series 1TB second of this type to break), and put in a smaller drive. Since 4.9 just came out, i decided to upgrade to that while i was at it. Install went well, and pf config was mostly intact from 4.8. I think they corrected some feature with the built-in egress-macro (?) , because it now worked better than in 4.8, where i decided to use my own macro instead.

Ubuntu 11.04 is also out, but i clicked “Don’t upgrade”. Unity can suck my ballsack, and i don’t think i’ll ever upgrade to that. It’s very possible that 10.10 is the last iteration of Ubuntu i will ever use, unless they somehow magically decide to backtrack to a sensible UI. KDE isn’t an option, and well, while i like XFCE, i don’t think i would run that as an everyday WM. I have been looking into Arch, and it seems like a solid choice. I have been using Linux for 12 years now, so maybe it’s time to take the training-wheels off anyway..

I got my Sony fail-mail last friday along with, oh, 77 million other people. I don’t own a PS3, but i have used PSN on a console, and registered for an account. I didn’t use a credit card though, luckily, so at least i won’t have to cancel that. And i’m lucky in that i very, very rarely use the same password anywhere, so i won’t have to worry about that either. But still, it’s nice to be a part of something bigger than me! Sony started blaming Anonymous a while ago, due to, alledgedly, a file left on a system that has the words “Anonymous” and “We are Legion” in them. That qualifies as proof i guess. And hey Sony, maybe if you play the blamegame long enough, nobody will notice that you (alledgedly) had an unpatched box on your fucked up network that enabled the attack in the first place!! I mean, if it was Anonymous, then who the hell cares about anything else, right? How about this instead: You man the fuck up, and say: Hey, we had an unpatched box, and we stored and trafficked data in an unsecure manner. We’re sorry, and we’ll work to create a better system. And try to be open about that new system, so people can test it, and point out flaws while you’re at it. Instead, i’m hearing that they are “fixing problems and coming out with a “new and improved PSN” very soon!”. Which means, they are spending didley-squat on security, audits and whatever, and just concentrating on getting back online ASAP. Which means, sooner or later, you are going to get fucked over again. But maybe that’s someone elses fault as well, and it won’t matter that you just lost the personal information of like half of the worlds console-gamers. Wake up, Sony. This alone is a good excuse not to buy one of your shitty, propietary consoles. If only it weren’t such a good bluray player..

There’s a 2600 meeting happening everywhere today, so go there. I’m going.