YouTuber Spotlight – Hak5

Technically “Hak5Darren,” but we can get past silly technicalities when talking about the longest running tech show that I’ve been interested in on YouTube – ever.  🙂  Hak5 is a hacker/security/modder/tinkerer show that in no small way has influenced The Wacky World Of MultimediaJay and its more offbeat approach to things.  Plus their distinct lack of drama and insistence on keeping ownership of certain rights when joining networks has contributed to the show’s longevity in a day and age when even web shows can be cancelled on a whim like it’s still TV (TekZilla -> TekThing anyone?).

Two freebies for those wondering about this show’s influence on me.  The raster clips for time lapses in my videos hail back to the early days of Hak5 when they still called it “Hak Point 5” and “Jay’s Geekhouse” was at least partially inspired by the old “Hak 5 House.”  🙂

Channel Overview:

Hak5 was first introduced to me as a hacker show which doesn’t do the show justice.  It’s more along the lines of tinkering with things.  Part of that of course is hacking and network security, but I’ve also seen my fair share of mods, voiding warranties, snooping around “under the hood” of certain devices, and even iconic pet named tech thingies like the WiFi Pineapple.  🙂  Calling it a hacker show clouds what the show’s about and gets people thinking Hackers Vs. Security Admins at Defcon or something.  😛  Needless to say, as one of my favorite shows of all time on YouTube with a ton of longevity to boot, it’s definitely worth watching. 🙂

What First Got Me Watchin’:

Hak5 is basically the last remaining show that I still watch from the IPTV Introduction I watched on TechAnvil’s long gone channel back when he was doing Tech Vlogs in 2006.  (The exception being TWiT, which was audio at the time as Leo had returned to his radio roots).  Yes, we’re talking about vintage YouTube here from when I was first getting started 10 years ago, a.k.a. back in the day.  🙂  Nowadays the video is a who’s-who of shows that aren’t around anymore – except Hak5 of course.  🙂

The show being described as “hack scene” kind of veered me away for a bit due to my more multimedia presentation focus, but ultimately my curiosity got the better of me…  🙂

Fun stuff.  I was thinking I’d be looking at a Linux command prompt for an hour, but in my younger and dumber days (emphasis on the dumber) the idea of “hacking” meaning modding something was… a tad of something I hadn’t considered.  :o)

I actually sent the USB Hacksaw to the security admins at my 925 at the time and they were like, “Whoa hadn’t thought of that.”  Been paranoid about USB Autorun ever since.  🙂

By season 3, Hak5 was a show I wanted to binge watch.  Screw Netflix.  😛

I made plans to binge-watch from the beginning, and….  I’m still making plans all these years later.  😛  Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh lol.  :o)

I still watch the show, but just not in the way I wanted to back in the day…  🙂

The Hak5 Channel Today:

Besides still being around, Hak5 has become an umbrella of sorts.  Today they’re hacking things in 2 seconds apparently…  🙂

For things that just can’t wait until the next Hak5 show, they have ThreatWire, the first of their other shows I found out about.  🙂

TekThing is under their umbrella too these days.  Makes me wonder if the Hak5 folks are out to rival the TWiT network…  🙂  So long as what happened with Revision 3 doesn’t happen with these groups anytime soon.

This entry has been a long time in coming, but here’s to wishing all the best for Hak5 for decades to come.  🙂  They also have handled team changes exceptionally well too, so I’d say they even serve as a great example of how to develop a show like this in the first place.  🙂

Let’s close with a recent experiment of theirs with 360 degree video.  Cool stuff for the up-and-coming VR technology out there.  🙂

Trust Your Technolust indeed.  🙂

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Regarding The Passing Of Aaron Swartz

As a testament of how much my job has been running me into the ground over the past several months, my recent appearance on Out Of Continues Episode 59, as much of a technical mess as it was, was where I found out about what happened to Aaron Swartz, a very passionate technologist and outspoken advocate for internet and information freedom who took his own life earlier this month.  I never really ran in too many of his types of circles techwise, but the minute I found out about his ties to RSS, that was something to tip my hat about.  RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, was one of those things that revolutionized the Internet by allowing for so many things that have made the Internet into a successful form of mainstream entertainment, such as podcasting, vidcasting, blogging, etc., to work.

For those who aren’t all that geeky, what RSS does (and this blog has an RSS feed) is allow you to use an RSS reader to subscribe to stuff, which flips the traditional model of the World Wide Web in reverse and makes things much easier.  In the early days of the web, you had to know what you wanted and know where to look to find the information you were looking for, usually accompanied with a ton of long page loads because things were via dialup back then.  🙂  I vividly remember those bad old days of trying to look online for stuff on my high school library’s clunky old computer with its 28.8k modem (not even 56k lol) that kept cutting me off with no message whatsoever so suddenly my Netscape Navigator web browser would just stop working (yeah – that long ago lol) and I’d think the Internet had broke.  😀

Search engines such as Google helped change that a bit but you still had to know what to search for, so the process still began with you, plus you had to know how to Google really well to get decent results.  RSS on the other hand finished that switch by allowing people to subscribe to stuff online and then have the option of having stuff delivered to them instead of having to go look for it every single time, so with news for example if I really liked XYZ News reports I could subscribe to their RSS and see the stories every time I opened my RSS reader instead of having to constantly go to their website and see if there were any new stories.

This alone gives me reason to tip my hat to the late Mr. Swartz, but his defense of internet and information freedom only multiply that several times over.  He was a big defender of things like Net Neutrality, opponent of things like SOPA and PIPA with their “chew the meat spit the bones” style of combining internet-crushing regulation with noble-sounding ideas like protecting US trade secrets.  So what happened to him?  Here’s Hak.5’s report on it.

What we had here was grey area on both sides.  Was what Aaron did with JSTOR right?  Was what the government did in response the right thing to do?   Depends on who you are in both cases.  One thing that I hope everyone can agree on though is that there is a war on to crush the freedom of information even in this so-called “Information Age.”  Our schools are infected with these philosophies and worldviews today that discourage critical thinking and thinking for oneself and even the concept of objective information, rights/wrongs, etc., instead focusing far too much on people’s subjective internal feelings and expression, until of course someone breaks a law and gets arrested, at which point their own feelings on whether certain “wrong stuff” is right goes completely out the window.  😛  We have legions of people, including politicians and other people who can vote on things, who don’t think for themself and can’t even debate a simple point.  Meanwhile also in society today are legions of lobbyists, other politicians, people with money, etc., who seek to take advantage of the aforementioned folks who don’t think for themselves or can’t articulate a point in civil debate to twist things in their favor.  …and in the middle of this?  Information – and its freedom – constantly in the crossfire.

I mentioned on Out Of Continues that if the state of internet and information freedom contributed to Swartz’s suicide I can see why.  Broadband, after a decade of progress going from dialup to broadband and limited to unlimited access is now under siege from power-hungry and money-hungry interests all over the place who want to limit what information can be seen online while squeezing every last penny out of people’s already near-empty pockets.  It’s almost like these people want this decade to undo the last decade or two and bring us back to the bad old days.  Will anyone stop them?  Depends on how many people out there know what’s really going on versus the bobbleheads who don’t think for themselves who get fleeced and patronized by the people causing all of these problems.  In any event though, with how things are today, if Swartz was in any way further depressed by this sort of stuff it’s rather easy to see why.

The only hope that any geek can have right now is that this man’s death won’t be in vain, and that the discussion of the old saying, “Information longs to be free” will fire up even more following these events.  =(

The Last Remnants Of TechTV Are Outta Here

Ahhh TechTV, the now-ancient predecessor to today’s G4 network and many of Revision3’s shows, which brought us the monolith of geek culture via some form of mainstream video entertainment, is finally just about wiped out.

I remember the hour-long versions of The Screen Savers and Extended Play which morphed into today’s X-Play while The Screen Savers eventually became Attack Of The Show, and most of TechTV’s top talent eventually moved over to Revision3 or YouTube.  Now, it finally looks like it’s over for even those two shows, so the last remnants of that golden age of geek TV are history.

Quite frankly, I’m not too bummed out.  I really think if TechTV and now these remnant shows hadn’t been ended they would’ve been killed by new competition anyway.  I mean, for geeks like myself who care more about cable internet than cable TV with what broadband can do these days, why mess with traditional TV at all when all this IPTV geek show stuff is on demand online and can be either RSSed or directly-viewed on YouTube or sites like Revision3?

Yet even still, with these changes and G4’s eventual rebranding underway, how much of this old tech vlog that got me into these online geek shows back when I was first getting into YouTube back in 2006 is still relevant?  Any of it?  Times have definitely changed. : -)

Oh well.  Let’s have one last round of the classic Screen Savers theme song just for old times’ sake. : -)

Indeed, This Generation Has No Floppies =(

Had a flashback to a security issue I stumbled upon several years ago while browsing Ars Technica today.  Ugh, why are these types of incidents still happening out there?  =(

Ars Technica – Chinese Hackers Steal Indian Navy Secrets With Thumbdrive Virus

The sad part is, I learned about these kinds of exploits years ago.  Back in October 2006 Hak.5 way back in Season 2 did a show where they demonstrated how an innocent-looking USB drive could install a hidden program that “backed up” any future USB drive inserted into the computer and e-mailing the contents over a network.  After I saw this I actually reported this to my company’s Enterprise Security group the next day and they were interested in learning how to defend against this exploit too.

Although the production value is very crude compared to what they do today, here’s the YouTube version of that show from way back in 2006.

At the core of these kinds of problems lies a fundamental difference between removable storage nowadays and the removable storage of yesteryear.  Some people are tempted to say that all these flash memory cards and thumb drives are the floppy disks of the New Millennium.  That is NOT true at all.  Floppies didn’t have the kind of Autorun capabilities that today’s removable media has.

Autorun is really where these problems come from.  Autorun’s been on CD-ROMs for years but most CDs being write-once media wouldn’t be as vulnerable to this kind of exploit as something that could be rewritten to.  That’s how Autorun has passed under the radar of so many people, because they see Autorun and think CDs and think because CDs were safe everything will be safe, and that’s exactly the kind of technogaffe that malware writers who write these things will be looking for.

Really, I’d rather Microsoft hadn’t tacked Autorun onto everything under the sun.  Is it really that hard to just click My Computer and the drive to access the drive?  😛  Fortunately, there have been official Microsoft writeups on disabling Autorun, and another alternative to simply disabling everything or banning USB drives (like the DoD wound up doing after a similar attack on US systems that’s linked in the Ars article up top) is to configure computers to simply ignore Autorun.inf files, like in this Computerworld article.

http://blogs.computerworld.com/the_best_way_to_disable_autorun_to_be_protected_from_infected_usb_flash_drives

I guess you could say that floppies were so special that there’ll just never be another technology like it.  🙂  That however is the hard yet funny reality these days.  Point being – if it has Autorun- BEWARE, and hold down the Shift key while inserting the removable media.  🙂