DefCon 2012

It’s that time of year again, time for me to fly out to Las Vegas and enjoy DefCon 2012.  As of writing this I’m already on my last full day out here.  I arrived on Wednesday night at about 10:30pm, and it has been a non-stop party ever since.  But really, what else do you expect from Vegas?

Cab ride in

Brad and Dan are my two partners in crime when it comes to hacker-cons (no pun intended).  We’ve been to DefCon, ThotCon, SchmooCon, and DerbyCon.  We’ve made various friends during it all, and have learned many important things relating to computer security.  One of the best parts of the conferences we go to are the number of parties that are sponsored by corporations in the field.  Spiderlabs, Rapid 7, and Exploit Hub, are just a few companies that have thrown awesome parties, each with an open bar.  I have to be reminded of a common FOSSsaying: “Free as in speech. Free as in beer.”

This picture was taken while standing in a pool hanging off the side of the Palms resort

The only thing I have negative to say about DefCon this year, is that it’s grown so big, it’s at times impossible to make it into a talk.  There are a total of five tracks, and any time a “cool” talk is presented, you have to get into the room about three talks ahead of time and sit there until the really good talk starts.  So far I’ve only made it to four talks, and I’m not sure how many I’ll make it to today since I’m supposed to be competing in Hack Fortress today.  For the uninformed, Hack Fortress is a game where five individuals play Team Fortress 2 while three other teammates try to hack into certain things to earn points.  When the hacking side completes a goal/task, their corresponding teammates on the TF2 side get powerups/bufs in the videogame.  At the end of it all points are tallied and a winner is announced.  Last year we lost by one point in the semi-final round, so hopefully we can pull it together this year.

Oh, and I got a mohawk to support the EFF.

Tomorrow is the flight home.  It leaves at 8:30am, so I’ll be waking up bright and early just to make it to the airport.  Brad and I actually are on the same flight into Chicago, and then I transfer on to Minneapolis, so it’ll be nice to spend that last bit of time together.  Dan had to leave early this morning to make it back in time for his sister-in-law’s wedding (technically he’s not married, but close enough).  I’ll be passing on DerbyCon when August rolls around, as I have a wedding to attend myself, so I’ll be making sure to enjoy my last day here.

Fixing the iPhone lens

A few months ago my iPhone lens ended up being scratched after falling on the ground. I don’t recall when, it definitely happened after a few adult beverages, and it essentially made it impossible to take a good picture with my phone.


On Amazon I ordered a replacement lens kit for about $5. It came with a few pentelop screw drivers, which are required if you want to take the screw out of the bottom of an iPhone.


After removing the bottom screws, the back of the iPhone case slides up and you can easily get to the internals.


It took les time to replace the lens itself than it did to take the back of the phone off.


After installing the new lens and putting the back on, I can take clear pictures again!


Definitely an easy fix, and I’m happy I did it myself instead of paying someone else $50 to repair it for me!

Quasar – Making the iPad more convenient

This weekend I’m in Chicago visiting Brad for his birthday, and since I don’t do as much programming on the road anymore, I simply brought my iPad instead of my Macbook Pro. The main area that the iPad lacks in is multitasking. Yea, you can switch back and forth between apps, but you can’t watch a movie while simultaneously typing out a blog post. Or can you……?
I’ve always been a supporter or jailbreaking. For a power user, there are many tweaks that jailbreaking can provide, which make the iPad experience more, well, powerful. One such tweak is Quasar, which brings a basic window manager to iOS. My experience after installing this has greatly improved, and in a sense I now have true multitasking.


Combined with the Apple Wireless Keyboard I’m decently happy with this laptop “replacement”. While it definitely has it’s shortcomings, they are small enough that the benefits of the iPad outweigh them. One of the biggest benefits is the battery life, no laptop I’ve ever owned can compete with the battery life of this thing. Another is it’s portability, nothing is quite as light and conveniently sized. Goodbye Macbook Pro! Until I pickup a Retina Display MBP atelast…

Life Hacks

While I enjoy hacking computer hardware and software, life hacks are also something that interest me.

Not this kind of life hacking

I recently had to get a key copied that has the dreaded “Do Not Duplicate” label engraved into the side.

Damn you key!

Obviously there is nothing that physically prevents this key from being copied, but an ACE Hardware employee has every right to refuse to copy it.  Call in the life hack!

To copy, or not to copy, that is the question.

I wrapped a tiny strip of duck-tape around my keys, and labelled them with a permanent marker, making it seem like I was just too cheap for key covers.  I brought in the key and the gentleman at the hardware store was none the wiser.  The best part is that the new key doesn’t have the “Do Not Duplicate” message on it, so if I need yet another copy, it’ll be even easier.

Other minor life hacks are fun to.  At the beginning of each year, hang your cloths in your closet with the hangers reversed.  When you wear each item, put the hanger back the normal direction.  At the end of the year, you will know what cloths you didn’t wear at all the whole year, and then you can donate those to a local charity.  If you lay your beers sideways in your fridge, you can use a heavy-duty paperclip to hold them in place (picture below).


What most consider “hacking”, I simply consider “thinking outside the box”.  I hope people find encouragement to explore their lives, and make things easier and more enjoyable, from getting keys copied, to preventing their beers from rolling around in the fridge.


The human mind is a crazy thing. Recently I’ve been reflecting on all of the recent experiences I’ve been a part of. Camping with friends, buying a new car, driving on several 5+ hour road trips by myself. But even while I try to think about recent events, it pales in comparison to the 24 years I’ve lived on this earth. It’s the proverbial “drop in the bucket”. So last night I decided to just sit, and think about my past, think about where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’m sure a day will come where even most of these memories will fade, so hopefully documenting them will preserve them ad infinitum (or at least until my hard drive and all my backups fail). So posted below are a handful of memories from my past.

The Pot

The earliest memory that I can recall is shitting in a ceramic flower pot. I don’t even fully remember the house that our family lived in at the time, but I remember playing outside in the back yard and really having to poop. “Oh hey! This thing kinda looks like a toilet!” So I sat down, did my business, pulled up my pants, and kept playing around. I definitely remember Mom and Dad not being too happy, but I was young and stupid.


Oh where to begin. Montini is full of tons of memories, from hot lunch days (don’t forget your lunch money!) to playing on the blacktop. I remember Patrick Truleson always being the troublemaker and breaking a tower I built once. Eric Net and Ryan Kranz ran around “monkey bumping” the other kids so that they would fall down (they would knee you in the upper thigh to induce a charley horse). I remember hating the uniforms, and Lucas Adams smashing a mustard packet with his fist, causing it to spray all over several students. Another Ryan Kranz moment was ding-dong-ditching the convent on the school grounds. Not typically something you would want to do, upset a group of nuns at a Catholic school, but he found it necessary. I remember liking all of my teachers, and even finding Mrs. Schotz to be really pretty. Of course you would, 8th grade me.

The Chair

Another strong memory I have from growing up was Omi’s house. For those not acclimated with the German language, “Oma” is the word for grandma. Apparently young Joe butchered the word and it became “Omi”. To this day I still love visiting Omi, but I’m not longer small enough to partake in one of my favorite activities: napping underneath her chair. It’s an oddly shaped chair, somewhat like a horse shoe with a platform in the middle. This created a little alcove that I was just small enough to fit in while curled up into a ball. It was such a comfortable place, and I’m not sure if it was the sense of security, the warmth, or just the general coziness that attracted me to it. I hope that when I have children someday, they have small nooks that they can claim as their own.


Can a young man ever forget about girls? Probably not, but we can go through the long list of girls I had crushes on growing up. My earliest “crush” (if you could even call it that) was on Heather Gebhardt. I don’t know why really, she was just the nicest and prettiest girl I had ever met, which I guess when you’re only 10 years old is about the only criteria you can rate girls on. I wasn’t exactly the most suave, or even outgoing for a grade school kid, and her friendship towards me was probably mostly sympathetic since I was a bit of a nerd, but all I can hope is that she’s still as nice to people today as she was to me over 14 years ago.

Tyler Foley

Next up though, first kiss! “WTF?”, you may be wondering. I thought the title said “Tyler Foley” (as you go back and re-read it). It does, but that’s because Tyler Foley is one of the most influential people in my life. As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t exactly a ladies man in my younger years (nor am I even now), but in high school I had a small group of amazing friends. One of those friends was Tyler, who has sadly since passed. I think about our friendship often, and got a tattoo to be constantly reminded of what an amazing person he was.

R.I.P. Tyler

That picture was taken only a few minutes after my tattooing session was done, so it’s layered with Vaseline and just bleeding a bit. Back to our story though, during our sophomore year at Marian Catholic High School, Tyler was dating Kim Pacton. Kim was friends with Sarah Kavouras, and the four of us ended up at a Marian basketball game. We were away at another school, and while I don’t remember which one, I remember eating two hotdogs that day. During some down time in the game, Tyler asked Sarah, “You and Kyle broke up, right?” “Yea”, she replied. “Cool”, he said, “Well now you’re dating Joe.” While probably not verbatim, that’s essentially how the conversation went. I’m sure I blushed, I know I felt awkward. Pretty girls didn’t date weird hot-dog-inhaling geeks like me. Or so I thought. But that was that, and Sarah and I ended up dating for a short while. As I had never kissed a girl before in my life, I was absolutely terrified about what to do. “What if I mess it up?!?!?! What if I do it at the wrong time?!?! I’ll be shamed for life!” I guess I got lucky, as Sarah got tired of waiting around for me to kiss her, and while at Kim’s house on a double date with Tyler and Kim, in the middle of Finding Nemo, she kissed me. It was no peck, I was definitely thrown into the deep end of the kissing pool, but I survived and didn’t make a fool of myself.

While Sarah and I only dated for 2 or 3 months, Tyler continued to influence my life in countless other ways. He invited me over for Halo LAN parties, which to this day are still some of the fondest memories in my life. I was able to be a geek, and still be social. He taught me how to play paintball in his back yard, and introduced me to a good percentage of the music I listen to today. Coheed and Cambria was a big one, and was one of the first bands I listened to where I realized that multiple songs could be strung together to form a story. There was also a heavy dosage of Linkin Park. Both bands I still listen to on a fairly regular basis, and while my tastes have more recently shifted to heavy metal, I will have a deep appreciation for the artists that created the music Tyler and I would just sit and listen to for hours.

The New

The saying is “out with the old, in with the new”, but in the case of memories, why not maintain both? This past weekend I’ve had the pleasure of hosting my younger sister Olivia, as well as my two best friends from high school at my new apartment. We had a blast, and while I was sad to see Brad and Danny leave last night, I had an awesome time with them and experienced many great things about Minneapolis. Every meal was eaten at a new restaurant, cafe, or diner. We visited several bars, and played a few rounds of billiards. Four days from now I’ll actually be down in Chicago, visiting them again and celebrating Brad’s birthday.

While I have many good memories past, I will continue to look forward, enjoy life, cherish those around me, and live to the fullest.

Another Week, Another Visit

This past weekend was a blast, and the upcoming one will be even better.  On Saturday Erin had a going-away party at the Ale House, followed up by a stop at Victor’s.  Many people attended, many beers we drank, and bottles of champagne were won at Victor’s Saturday night dance contest!  It was great seeing everyone, and I look forward to going back to visit and do it again sometime.

The end of the week is gonna be BIG.  Erin drives in Thursday afternoon, and Olivia flies into MSP on Thursday evening.  Then Brad and Danny drive in Friday around 5pm, so after I get off work I’ll have 4 guests staying over for the weekend!  There will definitely be grilling, a stop at the Mall of America, and hopefully many miscellaneous adventures!

And for something totally random, Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll) is the hottest vampire I know of.

Camaro & OnStar

On Friday I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a 2012 45th Anniversary Edition 2SS Camaro.  It has been a blast to drive, and I’ve been learning more and more about it as I drive it.

After picking it up in Joliet, IL, I drove straight up to Wolf River Campgroundsin New London, WI to go camping with Erin and a few other friends.  By the end of the weekend I logged over 400 miles.

Limited Edition Rims

It’s definitely a powerful machine.

6.2L LS3 V8
45th Ann. paint job

One cool part is that it comes with a free subscription to OnStar for 6 months.  OnStar integrates nicely with an iPhone/Android app that allows you to monitor your vehicle stats from wherever you are at.

Look at those sweet sweet stats
Lock and Unlock Doors!

The only downside to the app is that it seems to have trouble sometimes connecting to your vehicle.  When that happens, it COMPLETELY LOGS YOU OUT.  It doesn’t try again to connect, it just forces you to do a complete login again.  If this were a paid app, I would be pretty frustrated, but I guess I can’t complain since it’s free.

Overall the car is awesome.  Driving is tons of fun, and the fact that it’s a manual transmission causes me to pay much more attention to driving and almost no attention to things like my phone.  Fun AND safe!