... on a pentesting platform. that became my main 'social network'!
It feels like the natural progression from my walking down the stack: In the last year I re-lived my history of a physicist in IT or an IT security specialist trained as a physicist. I investigated the security of embedded systems and sniffed network traffic - mostly related to monitoring and control of physical devices for 'generating' or storing energy.
I wanted to fill in gaps of knowledge, I turned to classic introductions to computer science, and I caught up on C/C++ and Python. But trying to hack systems is still another kind of skill: I had been a 'defender' for many years, explaining to others how to secure their systems, but I lacked the skills of an attacker.
After I had dabbled in forensics of unknown files and in using automated testing tools with modest success, I decided I want to learn this craft thoroughly. Or was it? Maybe I just want to play and see how far I can get. It was a surprise that I was actually able to hack the entry challenge for that pentesting platform. Fast-forward: I had hacked more than 80% of the active boxes.
My experiences there are both very humbling and very gratifying. Sometimes I struggle with even getting an exploit tool to run as I lack some basic knowledge of compile switches. But sometimes I discover I can leverage some things I didn't even realize consciously or ancient things buried deep in my memory. Who knew that ASP and VBScript would ever be useful again? And my preferences of Python and C++ (for non-destructive purposes) feels eerie now - I could not have picked the languages for my exploit tools better! My adventures with learning SQL Server a few years ago also come in handy, and what I considered my most unprofessional hacks turned out to be most useful: Stringing together 'applications' from scripts and compiles code in different languages, burying one into the other, not being afraid of loads of different quotes embracing each other. As a side effect, I am also more daring when it comes to my non-malicious code now: I have no problems any more to state publicly that I write an application in C# that adds VBA macros to Excel and executes them!
My immersion in this addictive platform also told me something about my learning preferences ... again. I had known it but it was not that explicit: I want to learn from solving problems. That was my intuitive answer once, when colleague had asked how I make myself familiar with new technologies, a freshly released operating system at that time. I replied that I try to solve one specific problem on that new system (involving X.509 certificates then) - and then expand my knowledge from there. I have pontificated about my love of reading textbooks and immersing myself in abstract theory, and this is not a contradiction: Hadn't I ploughed through the later chapters of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - the ingenious explanation how compilers and assembly works - I might not enjoy my attempts to create buffer overflows that much. Which is a topic I need much much more reading and playing with, by the way.
I know am saying the same things again and again and again - here, on my blog, and on social media. It seems my websites have run their course for the time being - I am not actively trying to search for new content to create, and I feel like writing articles that flow naturally, rather than writing semi-scholarly papers with code and data. So I am leaving this article here, on the site that nobody reads, as a hidden away note maybe.
New rules (Yes, Google - I know, I've already done this for my blog, and now you will penalize me for duplicate content as the rules are exactly the same. Not the poem of course!)
- Search for your site on Google: site:elkement.subversiv.at/en
- Pick the first search result in the language of your site
- Pick a chain of words, a contiguous snippet from this Google search result. This becomes the title of your poem.
- Label X: Copy your chosen snippet and search again, now for this phrase.
- Pick the first snippet from the new search results, choose a phrase. This is the next line of the poem; re-arrangement, editing or skipping search results is not allowed.
- Goto X.
not funny though
it often just looked unfocused
while others procrastinate
silently cursing yourself
Much energy is wasted in talking
It can be measured
to answer the following questions
Need an extra hand?
meaning, pronunciation and more
the class of ostensive definitions
words will not be understood
Word of the Day
A rapid scramble down the shattered ridge
All too soon we were on the top
And with you went my dream
I know where I was going
a 1945 romance film
A complete list
clear it to fix issues
There are a number of problems
There is or There are
what to do when it's not so clear cut
Distinctly and sharply defined
A line that represents
Tough and Tricky questions
So you think you're pretty clever?
move forward or backward to get to the perfect spot
the best way
world of dreams
extremely powerful queries
they're a lot more trouble
work you have to do for something
questioning why we don't hold different cards
which basically translates to
which basically means
we're going to take
I start a radical experiment: Opening my blog's editor, and typing what I think right now - however, planning to never publish it to WordPress.
Contrary to what seems to motivate many freshly minted bloggers, and netizens inhabiting social web worlds in general, feedback and interaction had not been my primary goal. The appeal of writing 'in public' is that on principle somebody could read what you wrote, that the internet never forgets, and that you have to hold yourself accountable to what you wrote. Have to endure reading what you wrote when you were a different being.
The joy of my early web projects was also their subversive, semi-secret, and pseudonymous nature. Online spaces were wild places, blank sheets of paper, laid before me to hone my ideas.
There is another motivation for writing online, and this is as unrelated as possible from the philosophical approach: I enjoy crafting technical arguments, documentation of technical projects, 'science writing' because I want to force myself to turn my thinking into a consistent linear thread. I want to challenge my own ideas, find the loop holes in my own arguments. I know that my blog articles may be either boring or opaque or both unless the reader has explicitly searched for content like that. But actually the latter audience is who I am perhaps writing for: I have found so much useful tech / science stuff online, for free and in sublime quality, for my professional work, my own education, my pleasure of reading - and I do not want to remain on the receiving end of this communication only.
My second motivation is tied to a minimum level of 'feedback' - page views by fellow geeks - only seems to work for my articles written on our German blog: We only blog about two times a month now, but despite the smaller theoretical audience of German speaking readers the other blog has much more views, and views are still increasing. My English blog has fallen in oblivion again after I blog only twice a month and/or after I focussed more and more on energy, heat pumps, and down-to-earth engineering and physics of everyday life.
These are my personal recent top articles in the Physics / History of Science category so far:
- Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)
- Rowboats, Laser Pulses, and Heat Energy (Boring Title: Dimensional Analysis).
- Hacking My Heat Pump – Part 2: Logging Energy Values
- How Does It Work? (The Heat Pump System, That Is)
But ironically, a silent blog brings me closer to my other goal: Using the silent online space to write just for me, holding myself as accountable as possible though. Last year I had overhauled this / these website(s) here, and it turned more into a blog. Now I finally know what the purpose of having effectively two blog(-like) sites are:
Here, I give myself permission for introspection and self-centered updates. I don't share subversiv.at links anywhere on social media. If somebody wants to reads this, he or she really has to be determined and go to the 20th page of Google search results. There is no interaction. Of course this is also a consequence of my minimal web programming, but feedback can be blessing and curse. You (or maybe only: I) tend to write more about what 'people have liked before', or at least you feel a little bit guilty if you expose your loyal readers to something unusual - which turns each new post into a challenge, one you'd like to dodge sometimes. My writing self is quite 'authentic' here, in modern parlance.
But I don't want to appear fake on my real blog, the one that has much more content that this page, much more carefully crafted, and I don't want my blog to die. My solution has been - since a few months, I am only post-rationalizing now - to stay away from the autobiographical, from opinions, from philosophical, from big ideas ... and to focus on hard things. The stuff I do really know. I think The Internet would be a better place, if people would only post or comment if they 1) had through education on the subject, 2) practical experience with it, and 3) skin in the game - being personally exposed to risks and consequences arising from putting their opinions into practice. (In reverse order.)
So on my blog I just try to be useful (hopefully) to some tech and science enthusiasts, and perhaps a bit entertaining. If I will ever find a more useful 'spin' to what I have written here now, I might actually turn it into a blog article, like: What I learned from having two different websites. Why I stay away from opinion on the web. What I learned from tech / science blogging.
But for now this posting here will just remain some open-ended collection, snippets of my stream of consciousness, and I am copying these lines to a new 'post' at this silent website here and deleting the draft for a blog post.
We are flabbergasted as we notice that we tied 'Subversion' to hackneyed clichés from managers' self-help books and Dilbert-style satire. Or to fluffy internet poetry. Lest we don't forget that subversion is hard work and rather down-to-earth...
... THIS ist subversive:
On the German version of this page you do indeed find my original poetry, written in 1998. In order to allow English readers a glimpse into my post adolescent postmodern gloomy stanzas I resort to Google Translate. This is done deliberately to add that flavor of Search Term Poetry or Spam Poetry.
By the Subversive Element
in the depths of consciousness
on the surface
overdraw my picture of the world
with thousands of multicolored drops
rich like tentacles
in my reality
and tug at unwavering.
Burning streams of lava
Streams of water
wet the parched land
dig their tunnels
through my mind
let my soul
go on swaying bridges
about locations of past struggles
whose meaning I have forgotten
flow into my reality
here and now
and satisfy themselves
in a world
which has changed
in this moment
This is even worse than the German version. But with more help from Google I know we can do better.
I am running this now through Google Translate again and translate it - using
one result as an input for the next round:
>> to Spanish >> to Italian >> to French >> to Zulu >> to Nepalese >> to Korean >> to Finnish >> and back to German
The result (shown on the German page) is quite remarkable - to me this sounds like a Zen koan.
Now I am ready to translate it back to English - and this is what I call poetry!
By the Subversive Element and Google
deep knowledge of the
Search in my view of the world
Thousands of colorful drops
Subscribe to the rich
In fact, my
Hold on tight and pull.
burn the floor
swivel the foot
In the past, a state of war
Monuments of the past
The meaning is forgotten
And to ensure
Nearly 10 years have passed, so The Subversive Element can speak about it in public.
I do admit:
- I spent vacations on distant islands. Just like any other tourist.
- Vacations were for escaping the so-called real world.
- I used to make fun of literature about quantum consciousness and the like.
But I was penalized for all this.
At first days in the year of 2005 The Element and Somebody embarked on a journey they would never forget. Equipped with lots of popular science magazines on quantum physics and a few ones on so-called alternative physics the travelled to a quite calm, distant, very green, and very wet and foggy island.
[Skipping the boring part about nature and your typical vacation reports.]
There were some eerie forebodings of evil to come:
They were invited by a lonely inhabitant of natural caves at a stormy coast - uttering unintelligible sounds. They declined politely.
The Element was struck by a mysterious illness for one day, right after the island drowned it water as it rained heavily for two days.
Luckily the island did not break in two parts and cause a tsunami as had been proposed by serious scientists.
But the native spirits of that island found the most mischievous way to punish the busy corporate workers. They nearly managed in keeping Element and Somebody prisoners on that green former volcano.
When you see this in movies, you would say this is so improbably it is not even funny:
- At the island's airport the voice from the speakers says that the plane suffered from a technical defect - more information to come.
- The plane would not be able to depart today but there are 34 seats left in another plane - two seats left than stranded passengers. Any volunteers?
- Relief - we were not those two poor souls decided by drawing lots and happily boarded the plane.
- Finally the plane landed and Element and Somebody went to their car.
Element: I'll pay for the parking ticket.
Somebody: Let's check if it starts first
Element: Ha ha, yes - very funny!!
Somebody: [Turns the ignition key]
[... Silence ...]
- So the short story was that the small courtesy light had been on for two weeks and the battery was absolutely empty.
- Element found the manufacturer's emergency phone number at a sticker in the car. Fortunately it was a company as they discard that type of insurance-like services usually.
- A helpful human being was answering the phone - he will be here in about half and hour.
- It is getting cold - it is close to midnight.
- The helper arrives, and worries that the battery might be too exhausted.
- OK, it can be recharged and we warned to absolutely never stop for the next 150 kilometers.
- We drive - to the south. Target: The settlers' home in the Pannonian Plain, via Vienna.
- And then it starts to snow. Like it hasn't before in that season.
- We drive slower and slower.
- We realize we will never make it to z-village so that Element will be able to drive to Vienna again, somewhat recharged.
It should be noted that timing was probably a bit too optimistic. The ideas was to arrive at the airport before midnight, drive home through empty streets without issues, and sleep for a few hours - until The Element had to deliver one of its legendary security workshops. But based on perhaps a vague premonition of what was to come The Element had taken a USB stick with course material along during vacation, it had outsourced the preparation of virtual machines to a service provider, and it had its company badge, a toothbrush and some other things for grooming.
- So The Element accepted its destiny and said to Somebody: We will never make it, drop me off in Vienna.+
- Fortunately, at that time the Element's employer offered its overworked staff a so-called recreation room.
- So The Element sleeps peacefully for about two hours on the couch in the recreation room before it is waked up by the lights and sounds of the snowplow outside and by the cleaning stuff.
- The workshop went well.
Sleep is overrated.
The Element has tried hard to subvert the Modern World of Work. As discussed on this site often - but not necessarily in a way comprehensible to anybody - results are debatable.
The Strategy of Subversion was too complex in the long run - hence The Element now wishes to apply a Keep it Simple approach. It wants to ride real waves: Anything longer than a tweet is not a read anyway.
Up-to-date and meticulously updated information on the current elementary undercover disguise can be found here.
The Elementary Work Portfolio is truly diversified.
On Twitter its tagline reads:
Physicist, engineer, geek, dilettante science blogger, IT security consultant, search term poet, Subversive El(k)ement.
The Element indulges in working (playing) with technology, in particular if there is something to be hacked. As odd as this may seem - it especially likes heat pumps and digital certificates.
On subversiv.at we are still dedicated to spot the weird and the bizarre in daily working routines, mantras, and rituals.
The Subversive Element is delighted to report on our progress in Elementary Subversion:
All web sites that are controlled by The Element have been resurrected and updated in an extremely professional fashion. We do go to great lengths in explaining the details via appropriate communication channels. Websites that defy resurrection - for comprehensible reasons though - have not been updated. They have been clicked, hailed and worshipped instead.
The Elkement as an artist is undergoing a transformation: The traceable output of its activities has been increased due to recycling (Crowdsourcing)
The history of The Element including all highs and lows is in depth covered by:
- the resurrection of classical writing tagged with Everything.
- via its so-called timeline (formatted according to the requirements of the NSA) at an extremely subversive website.
We are proud to announce new high-scores with respect to the index of self-referentiality (AKA navel-gazing)
- The Element has been successful in publishing a guest post in the local community newspaper of z-village despite its critical and picky editor.
- The pseudo-twitter stream of e-stangl.at has been flooded with subversive vontent.
We set new standards in combining: Subversive Entrepreneurship, down-to-earth provincial craftsmanship, MacGyver-like tinkering, and modern communication via social media: punktwissen.wordpress.com
The Elkement has recently put forward a theory: Its life is cliché and some googling does prove that.
It has been proposed that there is a huge community of people (Netizens) who would share the following characteristics / properties / hobbies:
- IT security
- Interested in the history of science
- Star Trek fan
- Douglas Adams fan
- Douglas Coupland fan
We are now going to challenge this, and we will ask Google. As Scott Adams has pointed out correctly the internet is nothing else than the consciousness of an omnipotent being, once splintered and now reassembling itself.
- Searching for "physics" "IT security" "Star Trek" yields 5 out of 10 hits on page one that can be associated with The Element. Actually 2 more elemental links have been pushed down to page three since I wrote the German version of this article two days ago.
- "physics" "IT security" "history of science" yields 6 elemental page 1 hits.
Similar results can be achieved with nearly every combination of key words listed above.
So my advice is: If you are frustrated about being cliché:
- Write an article about those attribute
- And enjoy your page 1 Google hits.
The Element is Back!
After having started its blog (despite all the rants on this website about why not running a blog), the element embarks on another ambitious web project: the resurrection of the subversive web site.
Not a single character will be left unturned.
This website is blog-like as per content and de facto motivation, but not as per technology and platform. There are: RSS feeds, comments, likes and the like. Thus the Element is stuck with this rigid structure that basically allows for one category and one sub-category per article. And the article should better updated in English and in German approximately at the same time.
In order to avoid the dread of translation, the Subversive Element will rather use the English version to comment on the German one or vice versa.
Who Is the Element?
(Updated: October 9, 2012)
My Alter Ego had started its blog in a subversive way denoted as Clandestine Blogging.
Due to whatever reason, the Element has now disclosed some facts about its so-called real life, so its original introduction is rescued and archived here. Actually, this intro captures what always has been the driving force behind this subversive web site:
"This blog is written the (The Subversive) El(k)ement, a physicist who has explored different professional biotopes: from academia to global corporations, from so-called prestigious ventures to so-called menial tasks.
Elkement is a pseudonym but if you really want to know you will not have insurmountable problems to discover who the Elkement really is. I cannot resist the temptation anyway to leave all kinds of links and biographical information scattered all over this blog anyway.
Updated: November 2, 2012
(*) Misguiding Amazon's fans
This website is currently participating in our website resurrection program.
Extremely successfully, based on the metrics we have defined.
You might want to scroll down to dusty content just resurrected.
The Subversive Element is a species that was had been observed on planet earth especially at the beginning of the third millennium (Hint for future archeologists or time-travelling aliens: This refers to the third planet orbiting around the central star in system 2345745 in galaxy 6569634, and universal time 456578).
The Element is also known as Elkement or El(k)ement - which would be explained by legal / contact information in case such information would be provided.
This website is maintained by the Element approximately since the dawn of the new millennium. Originally the Element has been expired by subversive literature, cloaked as business book. The Element did undercover research in a so-called managerial position. During a so-called management training it stumbled upon other subversive entities: This website had been inspired significantly by spin doctor Paintblog and the collection of random words and characters here resemble the collection of images presented by Sammelraum.
As all stressed managers and other pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago the Elkement is on a journey to a promising destination. Somebody (Irgendwer) is accompanying the Element. He will most likely also influence this site.
What is this All About?
The Element is not a Digital Native, but an Early Internet Adopter - meanwhile it sometimes online-o-phobic. Here are its musing on life as a netizen.
As a modern so-called knowledge worker, nerd, and techie the Element is trying to improve the secure foundation its biotope is built on. The Element is acting in the role of an ambivalent and complex person. The results of these psychological studies are published here.
Anything beyond this scope and related to Live, the Universe and Everything in general can be found here.
Anything even weirder can be found here.
Marginal notes[*]: Yes, colors and layout have been developed carefully. Why red? Because real subversive pages have to be red. This does not increase readibility. That has been done on purpose. These pages lack Powerpointilism. If you find any bullet points, please inform the Subversive Element. Content has been growing over time, it may be inconsistent. Sometimes inconsistency may be the result of deliberately considerung the expectations of typical visitor of this web page. If you find errors, typos, self-reference and redundancy: Do not inform the Subversive Element.
[*]displayed in the left pane in the original Red Version of the subversiv.at website, using a tiny font size.
The Element could have become a really good blogger. In the second newsletter is it presenting trivial and pseudo-funny facts. 2 is a prime number - go figure.
Then it is referring to its own websites, lacking content as well and links have not been working all the time anyway. But a newsletter or a blog entry is always a good chance or an update (I haven't posted anything for five months - now I *have* to create a newsletter and distribute the same non-contents also on all of my web sites).
It is also very important to muse about web sites, blogging, newsletter, hyperlinks, the act of using that stuff etc. in a rather self-referential way. If you want to exceed beginner's level you have to start a meta-discussion on these types of meta-discussion.
And above all, you have to link to other websites, because (...to tell you a real secret...) the web is built on hyperlinks! Do not create an island web site - link! Link especially the sites nobody else links to, such as: latest news and "funny" sites. You will be rewarded by Thanks for Sharing replies.market for subversive consulting was increasing rapidly.
Though there was no content to present that was either subversive or funny. The Element started to develop its own school or subversive art or artificial subversion which is based on circular self-reference. In the meantime this art is well established and practiced by so-called bloggers every day. The Element eventually foresaw the next step in the evolution of the fine art of self-reference. That is: Including some more nodes in the referring circle to obscure self-reference. Again this can be observed in so-called blogosphere (Somebody blogging about anything nobody wants to read).
Due to the lack of really active community members at that time the Element included some of its other identities in the self-referential circle by referring users back and forth to the web pages of these (alien?) identities.
Being subversive - does anybody appreciate it?
Does appreciation result in financial compensation?
Are we not able to be subversive in so-called business world or do we just feel that we are not allowed to?
Or could we be subversive all the time?
Would anybody notice it?