About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 May 2014

JPO's 2nd 2014 Season, 4th Concert

The 4th and last concert of the 2nd season, was sponsored by Hollard, who also gave away tasty purple macaroons in the lobby - a great branding exercise I think! The concert was conducted once again by Adrian Parabava, who conducted all the pieces of the night from memory - which I don't think I have seen before at the JPO!

The first piece was the overture to Carl Maria von Weber's opera Oberon - which was also the last composition by Weber. The piece starts of slowly, as if drifting through the clouds - but does pick up in pace and excitement as it continues. Definitely a good way to start a concert!

Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1 is one of the most popular violin concertos, and it's a piece that is played often on radio. I have attended at least one previous performance, and last night's performance by Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts was quite mesmerising - and certainly more memorable than last year's, closing off with an impressive virtuoso encore.

Sibelius' Symphony No 1 finished off the evening. The piece had an interesting byplay between various woodwind, percussion and string instruments which made it quite an interesting piece to listen to. Compared to the Bruch, I don't think I have heard either of the other pieces from the evening, and they were certainly very interesting pieces and performances!

27 May 2014

ITWeb Security Summit 2014

ITWeb Security Summit in 2009 was my first "industry" security conference, and after a long diet of academic security conferences, ITWeb was a huge let-down. There were some interesting talks - especially the key notes, but a lot of the others were a big waste of time. So much so, I did not bother going again until last year - and even then, it was for half a day.

This year was slightly different - I was presenting in the afternoon, and so took the opportunity to also attend the keynotes in the morning and some of the other topics in my own track. The organisation was a bit sloppy: for a conference in its ninth year, starting late due to traffic is inexcusable - rather start late given that traffic in Sandton at 8am is bad! Likewise, the opening remarks were a long ramble with no particular purpose - especially given that the conference was already behind schedule!

The first keynote  by Jacob Appelbaum's was definitely worth attending; covering a number of interesting topics related to surveillance. A bulk of it related to a primer of the NSA surveillance techniques, and especially on how these techniques are leveraged and integrated to provide a holistic end-to-end capability to intercept, inject and siphon data. His observations were scathing - not only of the US government but also of the general attitudes - and called the European/US/Canadian stance effectively "deep seated racism" - that they see themselves as superior, and thus it is ok to be doing mass surveillance on other people. I particularly enjoyed his argument, that it is not so much the NSA that is wrong - but the fact that this capability is provided for, and accepted. His view that even court authorised targeted surveillance without informing the target should outlawed is extreme - but was logically sound in the context provided. Sadly, he did not have much in the way of solution - and his approach of effectively open source (not necessarily commercially free) software and hardware will take a long time to really mature to be usable by the masses.

 Christopher Soghoian's keynote continued in a similar vein, focusing more on the, almost willing, corporate participation in the NSA programmes. Some of it, such as major service providers like Google and Yahoo not forcing SSL connections for email logins by default inadvertently helped programmes like those run by the NSA. Although he did comment on the business models employed - effectively targeted advertising - I think part of the issue, that these services are free to the user could lead to undue expectations - after all, you do get what you paid for.

Unfortunately, I can't make day 2 - but at least the keynotes were well worth attending. The track I was on was ok overall - a wide diversity in the level of content presented; and was generally well attended.

26 May 2014

Online Trust and Jihadi Forums

Back at RSA 2012, Mikko Hypponen gave a very interesting talk on the IT platforms used by various terrorist groups - not only Islamists, but also white supremacists etc. I have seen sporadic articles since, but most are quite superficial without much detail.

A fairly lengthy academic research paper on trust in online forums, specifically Islamist Jihadi forums is therefore quite impressive - not only in the breadth of the article's coverage; but also in the author's conclusions.That trust will be difficult to achieve, especially in an online forum about terrorism, is not hard to fathom; but the fact that overall trust has declined and been supplanted by social media is harder to understand (although the period of research was before the NSA revelations).

The paper also doesn't discuss whether the issues of trust appear on other forums - both private and public on the Internet. The discussion points on why trust is difficult to achieve on the Internet would apply to all forms of Internet forums - not only Jihadists; and would these findings apply to forums for open source developers, car enthusiasts, media pirates and Hollywood gossip mongers?

That said, the paper is very interesting reading and covers a subject matter that is rarely discussed in any real level of detail. Even if it is ring fenced to a small Internet community - the methodology should be easy to transfer to other groups, and see if this is a general trend or not. If it is a general trend, there are interesting implications for telecommuting and perhaps even open source communities and other mostly digital communities.

25 May 2014

Last Night of the Proms

Richard Cock's annual colourful spectacle in support of Lifeline, had the theme of "Movie Blockbusters" this year. There were some great musical pieces, with Ennio Morricone's Gabriel's Oboe from The Mission was my personal favorite. The song selection was somewhat dated - but still generally well known. 

The sold out shows are a testament that classical music does have an audience in Johannesburg. The shows also help two of my assertions on what the JPO should be doing - more well known pieces; and having shows on the weekend.