Well, sh*t…

*taps mic* This thing still on? It’s been a while…

Well, shit. Now that I’ve moved the Wall of Amps (TM) due to the flooding from a burst water heater on the floor above me, things have settled enough for my analyst nature to take over. Take over, and make up for lost time. Thanks for that, brain. And yep, super thrilled here to have moved like 400 lbs of tube amps and cabinets at 1AM on Friday night (Saturday morning -Ed.), trying to save them from water damage as well as prevent electrocution on my part. At least I can write this while I wait for the carpet crew to come install blowers to keep me up all night. Yay for the rockstar life.

Pause, rewind, start from somewhere near the beginning…

So I met a lady (don’t all “well, shit” stories start that way?). To quell speculation as to where this is headed, she’s great. Miles ahead of great, actually. Neighborhood of Kick Ass; population, her. She’s intelligent and has style about her. She’s just enough punk, with sensibility. Caring – not just for her family and friends, but the community and children in general and essentially those that need someone to stand up for them or with them. She’s funny, witty… weaving this delicate ballet through charm and spunk and light-heartedness and scrappiness. Beautiful inside and out. And, she’s interesting as Hell.

Which is where we come to the “well, shit.”

Because she’s so interesting, I could sit and listen to her all night. Picture me sitting and thoroughly enjoying listening to her, mentally filing everything and thinking it through and finding her so mesmerizing. But all that’s happening on the inside, and I do a spectacularly shitty job of expressing it. (Shitacular? -Ed.)

Which is precisely what I found myself doing too many times tonight on our fourth date. “Well, shit.”

And of course, I’m introverted as they come. And re-donk-ulously out of practice in dating (funny how you forget after 17 years of not doing something). “Well, shit” part two.

I’m not out to impress her, obviously. That’s not my style, really, and not a foundation for a lasting relationship IMO. I share things about myself or my life with her because I want her to be a part of it, and because I want her opinion. I want her opinion because I value and respect it. But I didn’t tell her that, either. “Well shit,” The Trilogy.

Telling all this to my cat… eh, let’s just say the cat wasn’t a bastion of help. She did start sharpening her switchblades, which I don’t think was a great sign.

My plan for the next date? Foremost to pull my head from my ass. Let this lady know how genuinely interesting she is. Learn more about her interests and what she thinks and why she thinks it. And, probably try to find another pitcher plant to replace the one that she lost.

And avoid another “well, shit” evening on my part…

Postscript: The carpet crew is scheduled to arrive at 2:30AM to shop-vac 35 gallons of water up and start shampooing. Just call me Jacques Cousteau. ūüĎé

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Get REKT РWin10 Edition 

WARNING: This post is for educational purposes only. Well, that and possibly to underscore the importance of full-disc encryption (FDE) of a machine in the event an adversary has physical access to the computer but not the account passwords. Play nice, kids.

As much as I want to get some of my fiction writing up here, far too many opportunities arise in the technology security arena. And … well, I can’t just leave a sleeping bear lie… I have to poke it several times with a sharp stick.

Let’s say you work in I.T. and need to gain access to a computer of an old employee but they disabled your admin and maintenance accounts in Win10. ¬†Or, you only have a local account (good choice, you) on a Win10 machine and somehow forgot your login password (bad luck, you). Or you simply want to break into a Windows account on a computer you physically have (stolen, from your cheating spouse that ran off with Nigerian royalty to cash in a massive bank account … whatever – I’m not here to judge and this is supposed to be theoretical).

Breaking into a Windows computer without a password or password-reset disc should be difficult, right? Wrong. Five reboots and five tiny commands are all it takes. Let’s dive in:

First, you want to get a Command Prompt at the Windows login screen (you know, where you would normally enter the password that you obviously don’t have). This is primarily done by getting into the Recovery mode of the machine. Don’t have a Recovery Disc or similar? No problem… Windows 8 and 10 will automatically go into Recovery mode after three failed boot-up sequences. In other words, power on the computer, let the computer get somewhere in the boot-up process (but before the login screen appears) and pull the power plug. Sure, this is potentially damaging to the Operating System, but if you want to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.

In the Recovery section, usually under Advanced Options, there should be a choice for Command Prompt. But alas, this terminal is locked to only the recovery partition (like the X: drive of the system). DOS commands to change directory (cd) will not work. Stuck like Chuck, right?

lolnope.

Not to worry – we are going to use this terminal window to change the Ease of Access shortcut available on the login screen (the Utility Manager) to a far more useful process – a terminal window for the C: drive with elevated privileges. Yes, that icon no one ever uses.

From your currently (fairly useless) Command Prompt at the X:, type the following two commands (the “move” command is one line, and the “copy” command is the other line, but the spacing of the page here may display those separate commands on two lines… just type the “move” and “copy” commands¬†on one line before hitting Enter after each):

move c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe.bak

copy c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe

And voila, we have replaced the Ease of Access function on the login screen with cmd.exe. Next, type the following command into the (not so) useless X: terminal window to reboot:

wpeutil reboot

Upon reboot, click the following icon between the WiFi icon and Power icon (yeah, I never used this icon before either):

You should now be presented with a Command Prompt for C: overlaid on the login screen (no authentication or password necessary). From here, type the following two commands to add a new account to the machine (with no password), and then elevate that account into the administrators group:

net user username /add

net localgroup administrators username /add

Obviously the “username” above is your choice of a new user login (like GetRekt or something similarly clever and haxxorz). You can close the terminal window, reboot, and see your new admin account with no password allowing you entry to the computer.

pwnage and WEAK SAUCE.

It should also be noted that the (rather weak) security of this computer is now even more broken until the above steps are undone and the icon reverted back to its far less useful, albeit original, function.

Lesson for today boys and girls? Always use full-disc encryption to prevent kiddie level compromise like this. Any sort of FDE (BitLocker, VeraCrypt, TrueCrypt, et al) will prevent this exploit from being a possibility on your computer.

Featured image used under CC license from NASA.gov

Ghost in the Future

I didn’t go to the theater to see the new release of¬†Ghost in the Shell, nor will I. My abstention has nothing to do with the white-washing boycotts involving casting a Caucasian actress into an Asian role (though, there is a metric ton written about it online, if you care to partake). Rather, my economic voting merely involves not pandering to Hollywood for gutting and monetizing a masterful, philosophical manga/anime as a dumbed-down, lowest common denominator cash grab. I’ve watched¬†Ghost in the Shell anime for the past 25 years (including spin-offs such as the re-write¬†Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie that came out in 2015 also as an anime, and¬†Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence anime that came out in 2004).

The original¬†Ghost in the Shell goes into deep questions regarding artificial intelligence, technology, ethics and morals, and racism as a growing problem as society develops into the 21st century and beyond. The answers to these questions are left to time as much as the audience, and I’ve noticed my thoughts on the movie(s) change over time as I see technology develop as well as corporate and governmental adaptation and control over it.

Part of the issue is that human existence is no longer limited to the human body, and thus an individual’s existence no longer ends when the body dies. This has been the case for some time. Ever since we could store data, we have transferred memories to computer and digital storage. Thoughts, ideas, photographs, desires… it’s to the point now that people put account longevity clauses or terminations into their end of life wills: Twitter, Facebook and other online accounts, etc. This extension of the human mind is currently at stake with government and corporate invasion of privacy with cloud storage, browsing history, encryption, et al. Do a person’s rights end with their human body, or their existence? Do their final wishes laid out in a legal last will and testament allow for continuance of digital existence in online or digital storage?

If we can’t even answer these questions and get them right, how are we as a society to govern and control artificial intelligence?

The short of it is this: we as a society aren’t ready for AI. Sure, baby monitoring systems or cars with advanced safety features are beneficial. But the human influence over AI, if the government, daily news broadcasts of violence and crime, and weekly scandal of corporations are any indication, would prove to be a tainted seed the likes of which programming could not overcome. We aren’t civilized enough yet as a civilization to create artificial life.

But none of that is going to stop the shareholders from pushing tech beyond our limits …

 

Featured image Laughing Man logo copyright Bandai Entertainment and Manga Entertainment from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, designed by¬†Paul Nicholson after reading The Laughing Man by J. D. Salinger, using a quote from The Catcher in the Rye (also by J. D. Salinger)…¬†did I cover everybody?!?

Just. Stop.

*** WARNING *** 

The filters have come off completely for this post. The editors have been shackled, bound, gagged and shipped to spend 10 to 15 with The Gimp. This is the result of climbing atop a soapbox and then launching the Sputnik straight into the stratosphere. Full-on rant mode. You have been sufficiently warned. Proceed with caution.

 

The more I see the state of the world today (various economies around the world, corporations trying their level best to profit-monger on anything and everything, snowflakes and the general inability of independent thought, governments stooping to all-time lows of morality and ethics, Congress selling personal information like browsing history*, and the general death of the Constitution), the more I want to eventually buy a sailboat and ride off to the Sovereign State of Fuck All, population two. (I’m not leaving my cat behind, and she counts as a populous…. heck, she has to pay Pet Rent at our apartment, so I figure she has some rights.)

The Internet and this prevailing wind of instant gratification has birthed an unending stream of bile, bullshit and bat-shit insanity. Most music these days is garbage (no, not Garbage – they were a fairly decent act from years ago), pop culture is obsessed with who/what can be the dumbest (apparently), and technology seems more interested in quantifying people like rats in a maze for monetization rather than, I dunno … actually¬†improving the quality of life. It’s enough to make someone want to start kicking ass. (“Who’s Tony Romo now…?!? UPRIGHTS.”)

Granted, I’m generalizing. There are exceptions and moments of pure and endearing brilliance. But the world at large has drug itself to the precipice of total stupidity and, not having sufficiently quelled this self-imposed dare to see how far it can go, flung itself spread-eagle right over the edge.

Could we all just stop? Stop buying all this crap. Stop believing all the lies. Stop thinking we’re all entitled or better or immune. Stop letting others (corporations, the government, advocacy groups,¬†anyone) think for us? Stop being so busy we think that’s an excuse or a means to an end? Just stop for a minute, and think. Think about what is opinion and what is fact. Think about what those facts tell you. Think about how those facts make you feel. Think about what needs to change.

Then, start making those changes yourself and not waiting for someone else to do it.

 

*Okay, so Congress isn’t¬†technically selling your browsing history. They only voted approval for all ISPs to sell it… and I daftly wonder if any of those extra revenues of selling people’s lives like slaves will wind up back in the coffers of those same clowns in Capitol Hill as ‘campaign contributions.’ The statement above marked with an asterisk merely cuts out the middle man (the ISPs) and calls the situation as it is.

Down (to) the tubes

A week ago I got a Blackstar Fly 3 practice/mini amp, which sounds great if you approach it with the full and clear understanding it’s a battery powered, plastic-enclosed 3 watt solid state amp running though a speaker the size of a Cuties tangerine. It’s not a full 4×12 stack, nor is it ever going to sound¬†big like one. What’s remarkable to me, however, is how good solid state amps sound now compared to when I started playing in 1984. Go figure, right? Shocking what 30 years of technology can do…

It’s been so long since I’ve owned a solid state amp, I’m reminded of what a proper, royal Pain In The Ass tube amps can be. Turn it on … wait for the tubes to warm up. Wait for the tubes to cool before turning it off. Wait for the tubes to fully cool before moving the amp. Different brands of the same size tube have different tonal characteristics, so you have to try different ones for your particular amp to find what sounds best to your ears. Heck, even same brands of tubes with different shelf age can sound different. And replacing the tubes when they start to wear out or fail. And rebiasing the amp when you put new tubes in. Dealing with roughly 450 volts of electricity in the amp when you’re biasing it (you can’t bias an amp that’s off)… that kind of power isn’t something you want to aimlessly tackle with a fork in each hand, kids.

With all that maintenance and extra cost, do I still prefer tube amps? Yes, yes I do. To my ears, they sound richer. You play the amp just as much as you play the guitar: depending on the pick angle on the strings or force striking the strings, the amp reacts differently without touching any of the knobs. Roll back the volume knob on the guitar, cutting the signal to the amp, and the growl of the distortion will equally roll back and start to clean up. A solid state amp will keep that same growl, just at a lower volume. Tube amps are more organic in that regard. They react to how you’re playing at that exact moment. But they’re also finicky and far less tolerant to weak or fluctuating current that solid state amps. I’ve played some places that had poor electricity and my tube amp sounded thin or weak in its distortion.

Do I think solid state amps, or digital amps, will ever be able to fully replicate the sound and nuance of a tube amp? Sure, given enough time and technology. But until then, I’ll stick with my Marshall tube amps and manual transmission car and safety razors and other Old Style ways.

Featured image used under CC license from .tungl

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