Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wireless Shenanigans

I was in Borders about a week ago, and thought I would pick up the latest issue of 2600. I started reading 2600 regularly when I was a freshman in college, although I had read the occasional blurb on its website or in the newsgroup. The great thing about the print 2600 is that it's very well geared towards hands-on people. It's like Make Magazine, only older, and black hat.

Anyway, fast forward to this week. I'm in Michigan where two friends from college are getting married, and I'm staying in the same hotel as the reception. I plopped down my MacBook Pro yesterday to check my email, and I was greeted with the ubiquitous Terms of Service page. I was about to click through when a light popped on in my head.

I typed "" into the Firefox address bar, and, lo and behold, the hotel's wireless uses the same equipment that was given a step-by-step "how-to hack" in the latest 2600. Yikes.

IP address space abuse aside, I was not at all shocked at this discovery. Hotels don't subscribe to 2600, and from the hotel's perspective, I'm sure they are happy to pay someone else to take care of their wireless. Indeed, part of the TOS for wireless usage specified that a different company handled the wireless service, but hey, if they are in the business, then they should be aware of the (massive) security breach.

Long story short, I decided not to follow the instructions in the article, turned off Airport, and used the (probably) more secure wired connection. But I will definitely think twice before hooking up to another hotel wireless network.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July 4th, please treat the flag correctly

I noticed an article in the Washington Post requiring US flags to be "born" in the USA. These are state-level laws, not a federal law, and as such are somewhat different in what each one requires. But the result is the same: people are astounded, the typical anti-global and anti-xenocentrism arguments come out, etc.

But wait, what about the Flag Code? That's right, US Code, Title 4, Chapter 1. This was the law for which Abbie Hoffman was arrested (and later acquitted) for wearing a shirt that looked like a US flag. The Flag Code does not stipulate anything specifically related to the country of origin of the flag, but Abbie's acquittal set a precedent which might apply to these states' laws. The state laws were deemed unconstitutional, since they dealt with the mutilation of the flag (mutilation is also covered by the Flag Code). The First Amendment protects political speech, and mutilation of the flag falls under that category.

The Flag Code is quite interesting in what it permits and forbids. After reviewing it, I realize that nearly every single instance I see of the flag would be illegal under the flag code. For example, the flag cannot be used as part of an advertisement. In fact, just about the only legal displays are flags on a pole or mounted to a building, retired at dusk or with an overnight light.

The protectionism that is thinly veiled in the "born in the USA" laws is rather detestable, but so is gross commercial misuse of the flag. Why are states so concerned with the country of manufacture, but not doing a single thing to enforce already-existing laws?