April 4th 2016

Priscilla Queen of the Desert, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, 5th March 2016

Priscilla stage

I first saw Priscilla back in the summer of 2013 and it quickly became one of my favourite musicals. The last tour was so popular the show was brought back for another round: this marked my 4th time seeing it. This time, Duncan James of Blue fame played Tick, Simon Green played Bernadette and, Adam Bailey played Felicia. Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about seeing the show after the cast change however, the fresh faces provided a welcome change (though I think Adam Bailey stole the show).

There were a few song amendments from the last tour- “Downtown” and “I’ve Never Been To Me” have been included in the show (they were there in the original Australian production but were removed for Broadway). “True Colours” has remained in place of “Both Sides Now”. In terms of the set, he bus looks more like a proper bus- in the past it was more of a flimsy metal frame. Much better. The “Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera” scene is also much improved (Felicia no longer sits atop a tiny deck chair). The scene isn’t explained though and I guess it might look a bit random to those who haven’t seen the film.

A great day out- I really enjoyed this new production and I’m hoping to catch it again. I’ll leave you with an obligatory shot of the stage (no giant lipstick this time either!).

February 29th 2016

Securi-Tay V, 26th and 27th February 2016

At the end of last week, I attended the 5th annual Securi-Tay infosec conference (Securi-Tay V as it’s called). The conference is entirely student run by members of Abertay’s Ethical Hacking Society. Here’s a recap from the talks I attended over the 2 day event.

NCC Keynote: iOS Forensics by Derek Price
This talk touched on the hot topic of the Apple vs FBI case, detailing the problems and methods of extracting data from an acquired iOS device. Despite being an Apple fangirl, I don’t know so much about the forensics of their devices or the secure enclave e.g. I wasn’t aware that on iOS 8, the encryption key is tied to the passcode the user has chosen.


Sorry, We’re Cash Only by Henri Watson
Card payments are ubiquitous nowadays and this talk explored the complexities behind them. Initially, I thought the it might just focus on contactless payments, but instead it provided a full history, which was interesting. I learned a lot about how various types of card payments work e.g. signature vs PIN, and the differences in various regions of the world. Slides are available here.


Teach your brain to regenerate passwords instead of remembering them! by Grigorios Fragkos
Remembering passwords is difficult, especially when you work in computing (so. many. logins.). This talk discussed a different approach to choosing passwords, changing the way you think about them e.g. think about what pops into your head when you first visit a website. You might not want to tie your password to a particular image on the site, after all, site designs are updated frequently. It was also suggested that users might want to have different levels of passwords e.g. perhaps a stronger password for online banking vs a weaker password for a site you’re just getting information from.

To add to the discussion around passwords, the following link was posted on Twitter afterwards. An attempt to quantify the strength of passwords- https://blogs.dropbox.com/tech/2012/04/zxcvbn-realistic-password-strength-estimation/


AppCL LSM – A Linux kernel security module to implement application oriented access controls by James Johnson
I’ll admit I’m still largely a newbie when it comes to Linux so quite a bit of this talk went over my head. Nonetheless I learned something about access controls and the Linux Security Module. The presented noted he hadn’t really done much in C before- I was impressed by how much he has achieved in a relatively short time.


Infosec awareness, training and education – forget the tech, focus on the people! by Graham McKay
I’m all for the training and education of users (hence the research I’m conducting). This talk explored different ways to impart information to users, helping them stay safe online. Information was delivered to users via the use of clear, easy to understand company polices, and short, 3 minute videos explaining cyber security terms. This isn’t something I can integrate into my work but it was an interesting approach.


Tenable Keynote: 8 security lessons from 8bit games
Final talk of day one. I missed a few bits of this talk but it focussed on gamifying the reduction of security risks in the infrastructure of a company. It was nicely explained and I loved the throwbacks to retro games.


Red Team DevOps by Tim Brown
First talk of the Saturday. This one looked at the testing infrastructure Portcullis has developed to recreate threat models.


DLL Hijacking: The Eighth Circle of Dependency Hell by Keith Learmonth
This was the final talk I saw. Keith explained just how easy it can be to run a malicious DLL on Windows. Windows was my primary OS up until 2010 however, DLL bugs have existed in almost every version of Windows. If Windows can’t find the DLL in it’s correct location, it then looks in the current directory. Of course if you place a malicious DLL in the current directory, you have a problem… (I think the demo was done on XP).

* * * * *

Unfortunately, I missed out on the last 2 talks of the conference (had to head home). Many of the talks were recorded and should be available online at some point, if anyone wants to have a look. Keep an eye on the @AbertayHackers twitter account and the https://securi-tay.co.uk/. A big well done to the students for organising another great event. Here’s to next year.

November 12th 2015

WALL-E, Lego Ideas

In September, I purchased the latest Lego Ideas set: Disney Pixar’s Wall-E (Lego Ideas #12).

The whole premise behind Lego Ideas is that users can submit an idea for a Lego set which will be sold in shops. Wall-E was chosen as one of these designs. Surely everyone knows who Wall-E is? If you don’t, here’s a synopsis of the film from Wikipedia: “the story follows a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up an abandoned, waste-covered Earth far in the future. He falls in love with another robot named EVE, who also has a programmed task, and follows her into outer space on an adventure that changes the destiny of both his kind and humanity.”.

The Lego set wasn’t too hard to build however, it did take several hours (there’s a lot of pieces and it just takes time). I was very impressed with the final product and the cute little robot now lives on my desk. You can open the door on the front of him and the geek in me is tempted to put a motor in him, allowing him to move around. He also comes with his beloved plant too.

I got some feedback when I first tweeted about the build. Some people felt that Wall-E’s neck was a bit droopy. Admittedly, I thought that 5 minutes after I’d finished building him. I just angled his neck slightly and he now sits perfectly.

Personally, I think his eyes are the best part. Whilst they’re not particularly complex structures, they are so expressive. Lego have absolutely nailed it. Brilliant work.

November 11th 2015


Me with Legofy

It’s well known that I love Lego. I also really enjoy working on my photography skills. Recently I was sent a link to a tool which allows me to combine my love of Lego and photography.

The tool in question is called Legofy and it can be downloaded from the Legofy GitHub repository. What does it do? Using a Python script (and the Pillow and click modules), it turns your picture into a 2D Lego image. That’s it.

Neat, huh?

November 11th 2015

The end of Mythbusters

In October, it was announced that after 14 seasons, Mythbusters is coming to an end. That makes me sad.

I’ve watched the show since it started airing on Discovery in the UK. Full disclosure, I started watching it when I was off school on study leave for my exams (don’t worry, I passed my exams but had a week off before I went back to school).

By the time the show started airing, I was already interested in science (an interest which continues to this day). It illustrated a practical use for some of the concepts I had learned in physics class, and introduced me to others I hadn’t yet learned. Just to give an example, until I watched Mythbusters, I had no idea what a Faraday cage was. I’m now a PhD researcher in computing and just last year when working on a system, I was able to suggest the use of a Faraday cage when there were issues with wi-fi signals. Handy knowledge gained from the show.

The show has had a large impact on STEM and I have no doubt it has encouraged a new generation of kids to explore science. In fact, the NY Times has written a great piece about this and the demise of the show.

Whilst I’m sad the show is ending, I can’t wait to see what happens next with the Tested website. If you haven’t yet looked at the site, it’s full of great videos and articles about geeky and techy subjects. I’m particularly enjoying the podcasts which I’ve recently discovered, even if they do occasionally cause me to burst out laughing on public transport.