Categories
Programming Taiwan

Taiwan WWII Map Overlays

A while ago I came across the Formosa (Taiwan) City Plans, U.S. Army Map Service, 1944-1945 collection, in the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas in Austin. I’m a sucker for maps, enjoy learning about history a lot, and I have a lot of interest in my current home, Taiwan – so you can call this a magic mix of cool stuff.

There are 26 maps in the collection, made by the US Army by flying over different parts of the island, and mostly I guess stitching together aerial photographs. The maps themselves were not that easy check in an image viewer, since there’s no context, zoom is clumsy, and have no idea where about half the places should be located. Instead, I thought it would be great to have them as an overlay on top of current maps and satellite imagery on Google Maps.

The result is Taiwan City Maps overlays, which does exactly that. Feel free to click the link and explore right now! In the rest of this post, I try to first show how that page was made, and also some history lessons I gained by making it.

Categories
Programming Taiwan

Taiwan Bank SSL Continuous Monitoring

My previous post, titled SSL status of Taiwanese banks: a sad affair sparked a lot of visits and lot of discussion, clearly touching on something important. It was great to bring to light how well (or badly, in this case) these organizations are doing, as internet security should be one of their key focus.

Many of the organizations improved their setup since then, and it became quite troublesome to manually check each bank and each change, update the table and so on. It’s also good to have not just a snapshot in time, but a continuous record of how they were doing.

Thus I’ve hacked together some monitoring scripts, put the results online, and here’s the Taiwan Financial Institute SSL Status page.

TaiwanBankSSL
Click to check the current results

Page features include:

This is quite a bit more than “minimal features”, but wanted to make something that is actually useful.

Categories
Computers Taiwan

SSL status of Taiwanese banks: a sad affair

Today there was a story on Hacker News, how someone tweeting a screenshot of a bank’s SSL certificate got harassed by the bank in Greece. This got me thinking about the status of the banks here in Taiwan, especially how this place is so wired and online now. So I took a list of taiwanese banks and run each of their sites through the SSL Test. From past experiences I haven’t had my hopes up, but boy is the result ugly…

SSLTest_F
The usual result of this exercise

SSL Test Overview

I had a list of 43 banks, and for a quick overview I took into account a few key features only. The first is whether there are any active vulnerabilities against the site according to the test (these were mostly CRIME, FREAK, and POODLE attacks). The second is whether RC4 encryption was enabled, as it is now prohibited, and having it on is an automatic Payment Card Industry Data Security (PCI) compliance failure, according to one of the commenters. Other various warnings are mentioned when something really stands out, they are not crucial but more nice to have (though I’d contend that Forward Secrecy and HTTP Strict Transport Security is more than “nice” for anything financial).

Edit: Since publishing this post, there’s a brand new password recovery attack against RC4, so it’s even more urgent to switch it off.

Categories
Life Thinking

I know less now than I did as a kid

As part of my new-year reflections and resolutions, I’ve looked at how well-rounded human being I am. How do I look at the things around me, and how are my interests? Are they wide enough, are they deep enough (by whatever metric)? I came to the conclusion that I knew much more as a kid than I know now as an adult, regressed in a lot of areas, and it’s worth taking a look at why that could have happened & what does it really mean? Do I need to be worried about that?

Let’s see some examples of things that occupied the mind of kid-me and now-me…

Kid-me knew more

Dinosaurs & Prehistory

Triceratops
Triceratops

I don’t think there are many kids who were not fascinated by dinosaurs! I had a bunch of books about them, and about other prehistoric creatures. It’s amazing to see life forms that are not found anymore, and also see how they connect to animals living now. It’s a whole different world that is amazing to imagine. This also includes prehistoric people, their ways of living, a much simpler, very different way of being. This put everything into perspective, gained an appreciation to looooong times, and change all around us on earth.

Categories
Computers Life

My IT travel pack

I’ve just recently travelled from Taiwan to Japan on a short trip to check out the cherry blossoms of Kyoto. While it was fun, I did realize that there are a lot of technological details I’m keeping track of, that take up significant mental bandwidth. Technology is helpful even if it takes effort to keep it running. This is a writeup of a non-exhaustive, arbitrarily ordered list of tech I used on the trip, and the way I used them.

Internet connectivity

One of the first concern is how do I get online on the go? There seem to be a bunch of companies providing mobile hotspot rental. The one I wanted to use originally is in Taiwan, and tried to arrange it too late (needs ~5 days in advance). Instead I found another company online called Japan Wireless. They can send a wireless hotspot or pre-paid 3G card to a hotel, or to an airport to be picked up. Since the hotspot I wanted to get was out of stock for the first half of the trip, I went with a 3G card and wanted to use an old Android phone to act like the hotspot.

3G SIM card pack
3G SIM card pack

Picking up the card at Kansai Airport was very straightforward. My Android phone worked much less. Might be getting “too old”, sometimes it couldn’t start the wireless sharing at all, though when it worked it was good for a while. It is also worth enabling “network traffic monitoring” and appropriate warning levels. The pre-paid card had 1G traffic included. Definitely does not recommend running a Play Store update while connected, apps can easily take up 30-50Mb, and 50% of your traffic allowance is gone before you can say “Ice Cream Sandwich”…