Meeting Notes - 5 May 2015

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Meeting Notes - 5 May 2015

Post by bdahm on Mon May 11, 2015 10:03 pm

Chiang Mai Geeks - Notes

No free lunch - We’ve heard this expression time and again. It’s true. It’s equally true here. We don’t charge anything for our meetings, perhaps on the philosophy that you get what you pay for. Be that as it may, the River Market is providing us with a place to meet every week. They are providing us with parking, a projector and a screen and even a sound system for our videos. All they ask in return and all we ask in return is that you purchase something from the menu, even a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Information wants to be free; Food is something else. For those who may have eaten or are not hungry, a tip for the wait staff would be appreciated.

When I left a month ago air pollution levels were very high. When I returned, though the air pollution levels were low the temperature was pushing 100 F. That is approaching a milestone in itself.

Other than that what do we have?
* There’s been one case where a judge ruled that divorce papers may be served on Facebook.
* There are 35 M Facebook users in Thailand.
* There are 3.4 M active Twitter users in Thailand.
* The iPad has just turned 5.
* Music streaming services outsell CDs $1.87 B to $1.85 B in 2014

Tech Impressions During Vacation
I was vacationing in a small southern town in Thailand, away from the relatively developed technical infrastructure in Chiang Mai. Although I was able to get a good, strong 4G connection in town, I could only get 3G where I was staying. I was surprised that True had such a good network down there. My wife is on DTAC and her connection was not as good. 

Since we didn’t have a landline connection at the house, I had to rely exclusively on my cellular service. Public WiFi was nowhere to be found except in the larger cities of Surat Thani and the provincial capital of Nakorn Sri Thammarat. The resorts in town had good WiFi, but were password protected. Given all my podcast downloads, it only took days for me to blow through my 3 GB of high-bandwidth data (I have “unlimited” data). Once I hit that mark, throttling sets in and I was pushed down to EDGE speeds of about 300 Kbps. I was also tethering my laptop to my iPhone. 

True was willing to offer me another 1 GB of speedy bandwidth for just 150 baht, which isn’t all that expensive. Most of the time I hobbled along at EDGE speeds, but I did go to the well on three occasions for the extra speed. In each case it lasted 1-2 days.

The other thing I noticed, which is easier to see in the countryside than in town was the ubiquity of cell towers. They do tower above the countryside and there are usually three in relative close proximity to each other, probably True, AIS, and DTAC. I also noticed that as we tooled down the highway, we were never out of sight on them. When one disappeared from sight in the back another popped up in front. As some said at the meeting, this is because they are connected by microwave, which is line of sight.

Finally, I had a chance to try out iTunes Radio during my hiatus. There are a number of internet radio services and several music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdo. Since I am not a big music listener, I can’t compare them other to say that iTunes Radio was enjoyable. What is memorable about the service is that I can use Siri to say, “Never Play this song again” and it will never be played as part of that playlist. In doesn’t, however, keep it from being played as part of another playlist, which would seem to be a flaw.

Stefan’s Wrap-up
Stefan closed out his stay with us in fine style. He stated the difference between an hacker and a cracker. The hacker, contrary to the widely held perception, is a curious person by nature, someone who wants to explore and understand how things work. Many of the security issues and bugs are exposed by hackers, who may test the limits of the system to better understand its strengths and weaknesses. The cracker, on the other hand, is someone up to no good, gaining access illegally. Often these attempts are government sponsored or are crimes for profit.

Next he showed us a short video which he narrated describing the basics of asymmetric cryptography. He also gave a reference to a little more detailed explanation of how it works.

He once again emphasized that the public internet and particular public Wi-Fi is hostile territory. It is trivial these days to intercept data from public Wi-Fi hotspots. Hotel Wi-Fi is very vulnerable as well. One way around this, provided there is an ethernet plug in the room is to purchase a small travel router, which you attach to the ethernet cable and create your own personal hotspot in your room. These are made by many companies including Apple (Airport Express) and Buffalo.

Stefan then went on the explain the difference between a VPN (Virtual Private Network and TOR (The Onion Router). A VPN is a point to point connection and a connection initiated in Thailand can pop up in a number of cities world-wide, depending on the capability of the  VPN. For all intents and purposes it looks like your connection is being initiated from that city. TOR, on the other hand, is a way of anonymizing your connection through a network of routers, each of which does not know where the message originated or where it is ultimately destined. All the TOR routers know is who passed the connection to it and to whom the next hop is. So, its like peeling off the layers of an onion. I suspect this is what we see in movies and TV when people are tying to trace who originated a message or call.

Finally Stefan suggested a couple of browser extensions which block ads (AdBlock Plus) or prevent one from being tracked, Ghostery. 

With that he bid us farewell until next year when he will once again regale us with his “Big Bag of Tech”. Thanks again to Stefan.

With that let’s call it a wrap and hope for cooler weather.

- Bill 


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