July 31, 2006
The stupid "Real-ID" act demands that we have unified identity papers (state issued driver's license or ID card) with RFID chips in them. Also, new passports have to be chipped, with biometric crap as well. Welcome to the surveillance society. Still, I don't want every johnny with a extended range receiver able to read my data.
So I looked into protective wallets, to guard my ID, passport number, nationality, SSN, and/or address from going out when I walk by. I am a somewhat private person that way. I looked at two things: electromagnetic shielding fabric to make my own wallet, and ready made wallets and passport cases.
The first, I found Less EMF fabric, and ordered their sample pack. Much better that tinfoil and duct tape, like you find in NEW RFID Blocking Wallet. I haven't had time to pick which material to order and do the sewing, but they have some really nifty flexible fabrics which could do the job.
Then, I looked at DIFR Wear. They sell ready made wallets and passport cases. I bought one of each in black for a total of $39. When I got them, I was pleased by the aesthetic quality of both products. The leather is real. So far, so good.
My workplace, like many others, has a badge reader by the door, based on RFID. Therefore, I had a handy test platform. I stuffed my badge, still on it's lanyard, into my regular wallet, and put it up to the reader. Beep! So the badge and the reader were working. Then I tucked my badge into the DFIR Wear wallet, and put it up to the reader again. Nothing. Even with the wallet and badge resting on the reader.
So, the DIFR Wear products work in close range tests, and probably will work just fine to prevent ID skimming. I will still probably try making my own nylon and velcro versions, but I have good ones to fall back on when I get my big brother card next year.
BTW, EMvelope makes similar products, but much more expensive. Their wallet liner card alone is $15, and the passport shield is $25, and neither are leather.
July 30, 2004
Ah, meese, the boon and bane of our existance. Pointing devices have come a long way since the first "soap bars with buttons". Still, many leave a lot to be desired, especially for lefties and people with RSIs.
I usually use a trackball, like the Orbit Optical Trackball ($30) from Kensington, or Marble Mouse ($20) from Logitech. I loathe ordinary mice, because holding them makes my hand hurt in short order. The older Kensingtom Orbits were a bit of a pain to clean, but the Optical Orbit has no tiny, hair gathering moving parts. This is an improvement in movement.
On one job, I got to use the Roller Mouse, by Contour Design. It would figure, the most expensive gadget ($190!) would be my favorite! I no longer had to fumble for wherever the thing had been put this time (like on the wrong side of my keyboard by some helpful idiot), because its base went under my keyboard. The only thing that grumped me a little bit was trying to clean off the wrist rest pads without soaking them. The thing didn't come apart well for cleaning, and, well, I sometimes eat lunch at my desk...
If I am dealing with a laptop, I dislike having to plug in a pointing device. I hate having too many dangling cords. But I will if it has one of those awful "zit" type things like on the IBM ThinkPad. You want to talk about finger cramps! Touch pads are good, except for the face that I keep hitting them as I try to use the keyboard. It encourages good wrist elevation, I suppose. I prefer it if they have buttons instead of just relying on the "tap to click" idea.
However, I have never been able to draw with any of these things. It's like trying to draw portraits with oversized kiddie crayons. One of my current co-workers has a nice little Grafire Tablet ($100) from Wacom. Problem is, we haven't been able to get it working in absolute mode (e.g. the upper left corner of the table is always the upper left corner of the screen) in Linux (RH 9). This is too bad, because the thing could perhaps enable me to again entertain the illusion that I am an artist. The drivers and documentation aren't ready for prime time yet.
Oh, a final point on
soap bars standard mice: scroll wheels are not neccessary if you use a trackball. You also wouldn't have to try to clean the stupid little wheel when it clogged up with hair and crumbs.
June 18, 2004
I first started buying USB keys (USB Flash Drives) last year. The first ones I bought were AVB USB 1.1 and 64 Mb, for about $20 . They were nifty, blue plastic, and came with a lanyard that worked as a necklace. Problem is, the caps they had did not have a positive latch, and were prone to getting lost. The later models (as seen here) aren't as bad on the cap problem, and are USB 2.0. Another bummer with them is that with use, the guts came loose from the housing, and the connector started to wobble. While it hasn't affected data retrieval yet, it's not happy making.
Then I tried a fatter type, and bought an Apacer "Handy Steno" at 256 Mb. It seemed sorta clunky, and it didn't want to mount on a Linux box (which is most of what I have). It was twice the physical size of the AVB drives, and worked half as well. So I stuck with AVB.
Then, one day I was looking at SD cards for my camera, and spied these little stick-like things. They were USB, and tiny!
Thus began my love affair with PQI's Intelligent Stick. They were in a separate area from the regular USB keys, but they do fit an ordinary USB slot. Initially, a USB 1.1 128 Mb version cost a bit over $40, which made it damned competitive with the bigger, fatter, ones.
These nifty toys are less than 1.5" long, ~3.4" wide, and ~1/8" thick! The USB 1.1 version of these has only one moving part on the stick itself: the tiny "lock" switch. The USB 2.0 version doesn't have any moving parts.
The I-Stick often comes with an adapter that is simply a normal USB socket that it slots in to. Sometimes they can be found with a wallet credit card type holder that can store two. I've bought several now, and will buy more now that the price on them is dropping ($26 for 128 Mb USB 1.1, $55 for 256 Mb USB 2.0).
I've also really started beating on mine, including patitioning it, formatting it as an ext2 drive repeatedly, and all kinds of linux stuff. I've bought some for my teammates at work, too. I can even use Syslinux to write a bootable partition to an I-Stick, which another brand I got hold of, the SanDisk Cruzer Mini, won't allow (but at least its cap stays on.)