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Packet Sniffing

Sat 27 December 2014

On my November 11th post of this year, I talked about a new device Amazon is developing called Echo. I said then Amazon's Echo is designed around your voice. It's always on just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, "Alexa." It's also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound. Echo's brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

It is always on but will not activate until you call its name according to Amazon. Personally I believe this is a lot of horseshit! I believe it is one of the marketing coups of the decade in that people will willingly let this device listen to their conversations and deliver marketing information to Amazon. They don't say this is what it does but I bet the farm it does exactly that. If you had guests over and with the device "off" you talk about new refrigerators for example you can bet the next time you go to Amazon you'll see advertisements for refrigerators. If you were talking about pots and pans then you would see pots and pans on Amazon's home page. What an exceptionally brilliant idea to get people to willingly put a device in their house which can listen and delivered marketing data to Amazon.

I did put myself on the list requesting an invitation to buy the device when it becomes available. I've not received my invitation yet however I fully expect to once they built enough of these things to me what will be a huge demand. I think it will just be fun to play with but my interest goes deeper than that.

I've acquired the best "packet sniffer" being used today by both amateurs and professionals alike. This software captures "packets" going between devices on your own home network and the Internet. For those who don't know a packet is basically a box containing data which is being sent to and from computers, tablets, smart phones, and any other device connected to your home network. I just recently installed the program called "Shark Wire" on my laptop. Frankly I was rather taken back by the amount of data traveling over my network every minute. I'm talking about hundreds of packets some of which are in plain text and can be easily read without translation. This morning I saw one packet sent from my router to I laptop with the question, "who is this?" Funny don't you think?

This software is so sophisticated and so complicated I've not got a clue on how to use it yet. It would be like installing Photoshop on your computer with no previous knowledge of image editing or manipulation. Worry not, I will learn at least a basic understanding of the information the software collects. Heck, there are a dozen or more protocols I've never heard of before! The image above I made to illustrate my network and the points of sniffing. I want to see exactly what Echo sends home!

Many of you have probably heard of the cable network known as Fuse - they play music and sometimes have a program called "takeover" when they play music from a single artist. For 12 hours today they're playing Michael Jackson videos. I've been watching it often on which reminded me of how surprised I was to learn that Michael Jackson himself designs the choreographed videos and directs how they are produced. He's not simply a talented singer but rather is the whole ball of wax. Many artists you hear can sing but that's about it - what Michael Jackson does goes far beyond that. Much of this I learned by watching the movie "This Is It" - the rehearsal for his last concert before he died.

Of course I don't like all of his music but there is much I do like. One thing that is especially appealing to me is I can understand the words which is often not the case with other artists. The performance he gives in a video or in a concert is rather astonishing if you think about it. I know. I know. He's a bit weird but then if you look through history you will find that extremely talented people are out of the mainstream for one reason or another. I think Jackson could have been a pedophile but I don't know that. Clearly pedophiles are not mainstream. Leonardo da Vinci was gay which was out of the mainstream in his day. Stephen Hawking has lived with Lou Gehrig's disease now for 30 years longer than expected. Sigmund Freud smoked nicotine and cocaine almost continuously. Tesla was known to begin work each day at 3:00 AM and continue until 11:00 PM! Charles Dickens kept his comb nearby and ran it through his hair hundreds of times a day. I could go on and on but I believe I've made my point.

Today there are four or perhaps five bowl games I can watch. The first just started but the one I'm interested in - the liberty bowl - starts at 330 this afternoon. The University of Miami will play South Carolina University - I'm interested in both teams so that should be exciting for me. My team plays in the arms bowl on New Year's Eve.

Bitcoin has not been doing particularly well from a standpoint of the exchange rate in the last half of this year. Today the rate is down to around $320 when it was at $370 or higher most of the summer. The news has been nothing but positive as Bitcoin becomes more and more widely accepted than most ever dreamed. Merchants who accept Bitcoin don't worry because they exchange it for cash on an exchange within a few minutes of receiving the Bitcoin - Coinbase is the "PayPal" for Bitcoins. Of course I'm still holding onto the coins I have and remain optimistic that they will grow in value in the years ahead. I will admit it is disappointing to see its value cut in half over the past six months.

The best source of daily information on Bitcoin is a website called Coindesk.com. Their comment most recently was, "Over the past 12 months, the price has been buffeted by a diverse array of factors, ranging from adoption by payments giant PayPal and technology goliath Microsoft to the massive sell-order from the 'BearWhale' and rumoured clampdowns by the Chinese authorities." I can't tell you what really is going on concerning the exchange rate but I can say Bitcoin acceptance is growing dramatically. Thus I continue to remain optimistic.

Recently I was channel surfing and landed on one of those networks which talk about fashion, actors, musicians, etc. part of the interview I saw was with Justin Bieber who is no longer a little kid. I've not been following his music career but apparently it's doing exceptionally well. The only thing I hear about him is on the FOX Business news when he's been arrested for fighting, reckless driving, DUI, and those sort of things. They showed several pictures but one rather shocked me because he's a different kid now than when he first started singing at 13. Of course when I was in my early 20's I look like he does except without the tattoos! If you believe that I have some old bridges up like to sell in New York.

Posted at 02:55 pm in Uncategorized