heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

Our own vide grenier, sort of...

Most towns have a vide grenier at some point in the year. Our town (well, with about 300 residents in the boundary area it barely cuts it as a 'tiny hamlet', but town is easier to type...) chose to have theirs on Bastille Day. The French, incidentally, don't have a clue what that means, to them it is "qwa-tor-z jool-yay", or 14th July. Talk about Bastille and you'll just see a gallic shrug...
Anyway, vide grenier (vee-d gren-yay), literally "empty attic". Like a big car boot sale right in the middle of the town. Important for bargain hunters, as a meeting place for locals, and probably also so local busybodies can see what crap each other is holding on to, those worn out ballet pumps for a 12 year old and cracked 78s that probably should have been tossed in the rubbish long ago (you know, the girl who used to wear those shoes having since graduated, married, and popped out three sprogs), instead of being sold for 50 centimes and a euro respectively.

In case you are wondering, you can't do an awful lot with broken children's shoes, but old records... well, they are old. That puts the price up. Especially if it is impossible to get such a thing nowadays. It could be a 78 of Napoleon taking a dump, it doesn't matter (actually, the way the French seem to be with administrative concepts barely progressing beyond Napoleon, a recording of him on the crapper would be worth at least a tenner...). That a lot of turntables don't even play 78s just goes to show how old they are, hence... ker-ching! Oddly enough, I've yet to see an eight track tape or player. Did the brief trendy hit of quadraphonic sound pass them by?

Thankfully new laws have come in to place permitting a "particular" (a non-business) to only be able to exhibit their rubbish at two vide greniers in a calendar year. This is usually their local and a 'big one'. I say thankfully because it did get a bit tedious what with seeing the same rubbish over and over and over. Also, with the state of the economy, it gives everybody a shot at offloading junk, instead of being crowded out by the travelling mob that used to go from one to the next, turn up at 2am and bag the best spots. I can't believe anybody in their right minds would be that anxious to exhibit at a vide grenier, but then I don't have a cracked 78 of Napoleon doing a number two to sell. Maybe if I did I could look at it and see euro signs floating in the air...?

It wasn't bad in the morning, but the sky was a bit grey. Come noon, however, the rain started. And in order to justify the deep ditches by the roadsides, it chucked it down for a while. This, obviously, spelled the end of the day for some, but oddly enough not everybody. The picture below is fuzzy due to the rain playing with the camera's autofocus, but it shows a woman with her hair like she'd just come out of a shower, water squirting out of her shoes, walking around looking at stuff in the driving rain. And, get this, not being at all bothered standing in a puddle up to the straps of her shoes. Searching, I presume, for that incredible bargain that will make it all worthwhile... well, good luck to her!

I got two Gameboy Advance packs - Catz (which appears to be a computerised 'tamagotchi') and Witch (which appears to be based around a Disney cartoon?). Only cost a fiver, and being from two rather soggy teenage girls it is perhaps not a surprise that it is girly. Still, I'm boring of the point'n'shoot game...

 

Adventures with WiFi

From time to time we go and eat at a local bar. While the beef can be very variable (the "entrecôte" cut can be lovely or horrible, it's not exactly a fillet; this isn't a criticism of the bar, entrecôtes anywhere can vary dramatically), the salmon with chive sauce is nice. It is what I usually order. When my friend from London came over, we took him to the bar. Sure, we could have picked a swanky joint, but I think it is more realistic to show him places we know.
They had WiFi. Given their interest, I may be the first person to have used it! It's an Orange Livebox. I know this not only because she had to go press a button to authorise me to the box after I'd typed in an authorisation key of like a billion hex digits, but also it came up saying "Wanadoo-8F08" - Wanadoo is what France Telecom's internet service was called before it was taken over by Orange, and I've met the button-auth before.
This is the first time that I encountered blocked SMTP. Attempting to access my mail uplink was rejected. I tried with telnet, rejected. Then I thought to try mail.orange.fr and it worked. The signal was a bit weak, but I Googled, checked my Yahoo! mailbox, and so on without much problem. A speed test showed the link to be 2 megabit down, 0.5 up.

Outside I was able to connect to Skype. I called mom's phone but hung up as soon as it said it was 16c a minute. I will have to look at Skype charges some time. The voice test call was a bit iffy, but by now the signal was "very weak".

If this mail nonsense is Orange policy, I am going to have to talk to them about it. I have existing mail services that work for me, I don't want to have to send mail via the Orange server just because of some anti-spam excuse unless they are prepared to guarantee 100% reliability. You see, if my server 'x' should ever go down, I can always use server 'y'. That flexibility is removed when the ISP artificially restricts which server you can access. In a way, I would guess it also counts as censorship of the access? After all, why are we (western Europe, for I hear O2 does the same thing) being penalised when huge amounts of spam come from Eastern Europe, America, and places like Thailand? Additionally, there are enough loopholes and insecure systems that a committed spammer could offload his "penis surgery" adverts regardless of mail server restrictions by any particular ISP...

 

The following day I met my friend at the hotel he was staying in. Think of something akin to a "TravelLodge" and you won't be far off. It offered free WiFi access, but with some odd signin scheme. This link was unencrypted. Showing a nice 56mbit link, the actual transfer tested was 0.8mbit down, 0.2mbit up. But, worse than that, SMTP was blocked. I tried with telnet all the SMTP servers I could think of. Nothing. I investigated the service and found out it was iciwifi based in the Netherlands. I looked up the MX record and, usefully, they had no mail server. Furthermore, their help page said it was possible to just use your email software as normal. I went and asked the receptionist girl whose eyes glazed over. She couldn't even say who provided their service! I suspect that the firewalling was local to them, and in response to that she said if it was an important email I could send it from.... and then she pointed to the admin computer. Oh... God!

 

Next stop, McDonalds. Or "McWorms" as my friend called it. Basic to-the-point burgers with no pretensions. And free WiFi, unsecured. Hooked up were the two of us and some teenage boy with a regular laptop. After a really over-long disclaimer and legal blah (which I didn't bother to read - would anybody with it being that long?) McDonalds wanted to show something but instead reported that a popup killer had stamped on it. Maybe it wanted my name? I dunno, I closed the window and fired up Google...
Well... our speed test failed. I downloaded some info on Torchwood from Wikipedia, and it took six minutes to get most of the information on the Millennium Centre (Cardiff). It got as far as 'notes', so I aborted and saved what I had.
SMTP was very bizarre. Logging in to my mail server, I was greeted by McDonald's own server. Trying a different server, same thing. The mails did apparently go out, but it seems a bit dubious that when you try to sendmail to one site, another picks it up.


Mick and I at McDonalds; note the cross-over Ethernet cable too!

 

The following day, we had a phrase on the car repair bill that we did not understand. So I did a WiFi scan through a nearby town. There was an Ovislink router. Unsecure and open relay. I told mom to pull over and as she did so I told Azumi to connect. Within seconds, Google... piggybacking off somebody else's internet connection! I looked up the phrase and disconnected. Mom was extremely disturbed that this was possible. I was disturbed that in this day and age people still ran open WiFi systems. You can drive through towns and just keep hitting the link to search for WiFi connections.

I've yet to see an unsecure LiveBox. The Neuf boxes are more unsecure than secure. I don't know if the 'FreeWifi' is some sort of FreeBox (as in the "free.fr" service). In any case, for those who don't mind immoral piggybacking, there are plenty of available access points. An eeePC and a town with a quiet place to hide would be a perfect haunt for a hacker of the non-white-hat variety. Mom didn't like that it was possible to drive down the road and tell who had internet and with which service. Given a dark night and some legwork, it would be possible to make educated guesses as to exactly which house offered which service by looking at signal strengths in different places. And as for unsecure networks, hell, you might as well put your house keys in the plant pot by the door...

 

SECURE YOUR DAMN WIFI!!!

Remember that British hacker that got into those US military systems looking for info on UFOs? It would be a viable argument to say that he should not have been extradited as while it was a US system being broken into, the actual perpetration took place in the UK... but it was obvious he would be extradited as the inept British government don't have a backbone between the lot of them, series three of Torchwood even makes this point when the American military bloke walks in and takes over... Well, that was that bloke's problem.
How would you like it to be YOUR problem? That a sensitive machine is hacked and it was your IP address. Prove it wasn't you. Oh, yeah, maybe if you are lucky your router will record a machine with MAC address such-and-such connected. And? So perhaps you have or borrowed a laptop? Prove it wasn't you.

As the police walk out the door carrying anything with a plug attached and nobody is being polite as your connection was traced to downloading several hundred items of kiddy porn and, idiot that you are, you fell right into the honeytrap. Prove it wasn't you.

I could sit at the bottom of your garden and do whatever the hell I feel like with your open WiFi connection. If I do it late at night when your lights are off, or when you are at work... you won't even have the blinking "activity" light to tip you off. Prove it wasn't you.

There is too much hassle, too much at stake, too much to lose to be dumb enough to leave a WiFi connection open to anybody who happens to be within range. If you are doing a dipsey-doodle with the neighbours to let them use your Internet, fine, give 'em an access key. Whatever, if you are reading this and you have a WiFi router and you don't know for absolute certain that it is locked up tight, stop reading this. Go find your instruction booklet. Sort it out. NOW.

If you get as far as taking a pee before figuring "oh, I can't be assed finding the booklet, I'll do it tomorrow", then I have four words to ring in your ears: Prove it wasn't you.

 

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