Chaos Communication Congress 2008

CCC 2008 Presentation

Last year during the end of year holiday period, I went to a demo-party, this year, I went to the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin. While this is a conference, with speakers and demonstrations, it is still far from regular academic conferences: more people, beer, kids, people sleeping in a gymnastic hall, one corner with go players, another with lego. In short more life. I could not help thinking I was somewhere between the demo-party and the conference I was used to attend during my academic career.
In general the presentations were good and interesting, there was an interesting overview of new stream cyphers, and a review of the debian open-ssl debacle. The short attention span gave interesting insights in cross-site scripting problems. There were hacking workshops, but also lock-picking and building cool flying engines. I really look forward to reading the proceedings.
Finally, despite the cold, Berlin is really a nice city, so I could also enjoy nice restaurants and do some shopping, there is even 無印muji store.
A few hacks presented in this conference:

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Recyclage de Tunnels

Plan du Métro à Zürich en 1973

Étant fasciné par les passages secrets, les tunnels dont j’ignore la destination est une source de fascination pour moi. Je me suis souvent posé des questions sur les quais n°1 et 2 de la gare de Zürich où aboutissent les lignes S4 et S10. Ils se trouvent dans un tunnel parallèle aux quais en surface, mais perpendiculaire au lignes. J’ai toujours eu l’impression que le tunnel continuaient, alors que c’est une gare en cul de sac. En furetant sur le web, j’ai fini par trouver un site bourré d’informations sur l’histoire des transport publics de Zürich.

Ce tunnel a été originellement conçu pour un métro zürichois qui n’a jamais vu le jour – son financement fut refusé par référendum en 1973. Le projet prévoyait un réseau de trois lignes depuis la gare centrale qui auraient rejoint Dietikon, Schwamendingen et Kloten. Des travaux avaient été entrepris avant le référendum vu qu’ils s’intégraient à d’autres chantiers. Ansi furent construit une gare de métro sous la gare centrale, ainsi qu’un tunnel de métro intégré à l’ouvrage de la section d’autoroute entre Milchbuck et Schwamendingen.

Si le métro ne fut jamais réalisé, les ouvrages furent recyclés. À la gare centrale ce sont les trains S4 et 10 qui utilisent le gare, sur la section d’autoroute, la section de Schwamendingen est a présent emprunté par les trams 7 et 9. Cela a impliqué quelques aménagements, car la gare de métro avait été conçue sur un format en îlot, avec le quai entre les deux voies, ce qui implique des portes à gauche des trains. Hors les tramways n’ont que des portes à droite. Pour cette raison les tram doivent circuler à gauche dans ces tunnels (normalement, les trams roulent à droite, comme les voitures).

Il est intéressant de comparer les plans d’urbanisation de l’époque avec la situation actuelle. L’idée de métro n’est plus réellement à l’ordre du jour, ce sont les lignes de tram et de train qui sont développées. Les chantiers actuels ne sont toutefois pas sans rapports avec le plan de 1973 : une ligne de train souterraine entre la gare centrale et Oerlikon, augmentation de la capacité entre la gare centrale et Dietikon. Heureusement les plans mégalomanes de développement routier de 1953 n’ont jamais été réalisés.

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In my neighbourhood, at the Rietberg Museum, there is a very nice japanese wood-print exposition.

À côté de chez moi, au musée Rietberg, il y a une très belle exposition d’estampes japonaises.

In der Nähe meines Haus, Im Museum Rietberg, gibt es eine sehr schöne Holzdruck Ausstellung.

The woord-carving exhibit is the collection of an european artist, Marino Lusy (1880-1954). Beside painting Lusy also did mountaineering and travelled. He gave his surimono collection to the Zürich Modern Art Museum, which transferred it to the Rietberg Museum. The collection includes prints by masters like Hokusai or Eisen. Surimono are prints that were created to decorate poems and sent out to close friends, contrary to usual wood carvings, those were not intended for wide distribution.
One thing that struck me is the complexity and number of carving used to do one print. In many cases, beside colored carvings, there was one carving to emboss a pattern and thus give some depth to the picture.

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Japanese Groceries in Zürich

While I eat at work way to often, I still like to do japanese cooking when I have the time. One of the challenges is to find the various ingredients. Thankfully, there is a very helpful page by Maki about asian shops in Zürich.

Nishi’s Japan Shop
This is the only pure japanese shop I know, they have a wide variety of products, including rare things like bottles of ramune. They also sell non-food products, including beautiful iron tea pots. I do not go there often as the shop is quite far from the center (it is close to Irchel), and the people of Yumi Hana are more friendly in my opinion. They close quite early on Saturday (16:00). Schaffhauserstrasse 120, 8006 Zürich044 363 11 63

Yumi Hana
Conveniently situated close to the main train station, this is both a korean restaurant and a grocery store. They have some variety of japanese products and some nice kimchi. While the place is often crowded, it is also nice to eat there. A shame they are closed on Saturday evening (they close at 17:00). Schützengasse 7, 8001 Zürich ☎ 044 211 57 57

Lian Hua
Close to the Wiedikon railway station, this is a chinese shop, but you can find useful ingredients like tōfu, noodles. They have nice rice-cakes and a good selection of vegetables. Schaffhauserstrasse 269, 8057 Zürich ☎ 043 288 95 08

Asia Store
This shop is buried in the west gallery of the main railway station. You can’t reach that gallery from the main underground shopping center, you need to go up (or down) to the tracks and the down again at the height of the Sihlpost. While small, the shop has some basic goods: tōfu, fresh vegetables and the cheapest bottled green tea of the railway station. They also have some umeshu are open late during the week and open on Sunday. Halle Sihlquai, Hauptbahnhof Konradstrasse 1 8005 Zürich ☎ 044 211 44 34

New Asia Market
I have not yet gone there.
Confiserie Bäkerei Hiro Takashi
This japanese bakery is in Adliswil, opposition of the chinese restaurant Zen. I’m not particularly fond of Japanese cakes, but they have nice Melon Pan. Im Sihlhof 10, 8134 Adliswil ☎ 044 709 22 44

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Fibonacci ferroviaire…

Attraction of imperfection ⓒ Barbara Stumm

La gare centrale de Zürich est une des plus importantes d’Europe en terme de voyageurs, avec près d’un demi million de voyageurs par jour. Si la plupart des gens ont remarqué le gros ange de Nicki de Saint Phalle qui est suspendu dans le hall principal, il y a une autre œuvre un peu plus discrète, une sorte de spirale avec des animaux et une séquence de nombres: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… Chaque nombre de la suite est la somme des deux précédents. Il s’agit naturellement de la suite de Fibonnaci. La spirale a été créé en 1992 par Mario Merz et est intitulée Das philosophische Ei (l’œuf philosophique).

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Better Japan Style

screen capture of the japan-style wordpress theme

I’m using the Japan Style theme on this blog. While this skin is very beautiful, it had in my opinion a few problems. So I customized it. I made the following changes:

  • Bullets are now displayed in content lists (num­bered or unnum­bered).
  • Lists of links (for instance the archives) are more compact.
  • Lists of links define their bullet as being an image properly (instead of a background image hack).
  • The blog’s title is rotated to be aligned with the background label (webkit browsers only).
  • Generated content in the blog’s title is black (I use this for the 「」around the title).
  • The heading list only displays the root pages (the theme can only display four elements).
  • The posts’s date now honor the blog’s data settings.
  • Removed the vertical bars in the post information.
  • Many text elements are now localization ready. The theme does not have its own localized strings and currently uses those of the base wordpress installation, this means that some elements already get translated if the proper mo files are installed.

You can download the customized version of the japan-style theme. Please let me know if you find any issue. Many thanks to the people at Good Design Web for providing this beautiful theme, which now has reached 14’000 downloads.

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I now have used my iPhone for two weeks, which replaced the Sony Ericson Z610i I had been using for two years. Comparing the way both phones have been designed is quite interesting.

Physically, the iPhone is more bulky, and I still prefer the clamshell design, which protects the screen when the phone is not in use. Having a clear, mechanical mean of telling the phone it is not in use is very useful. I already had a few cases of putting the iPhone to my belt without pressing the button that “closes” it. The result was some random app launching, possibly using costly bandwidth. The iPhone’s screen is of course way larger and this makes it possible to have useful applications. It also means that while taking pictures you have an idea what you are taking. The Z610i had five external buttons, the iPhone has basically three, but they actually do something, while on the Sony they were programmed to do stupid things – I suspect Swisscom fiddling with the firmware explains why one of the external buttons would display the phone’s status on the internal screen. Both phones have a proprietary external port, but the iPhone also has a regular audio jack, which is nice. I only realized recently that the earbuds that came with the phone had a three polarity connector and included a microphone, which is even better.

I found the call quality of both phones similar, but having the option to use my earbuds for phoning is really convenient. I had some earbuds for the Sony, but as I could not listen to music with it, I never carried them. This brings us to the whole music player thing. Theoretically, the Sony could play music and decode both AAC and MP3 files. In practice, the Firmware would only accept to play signed audio files. This was not even a serious security feature as I could find a program that would sign arbitrary audio-files, but only for Windows. As audio playing never worked, I had to buy an iPod, which was really silly. The iPhone is an iPod, with all the bells and whistles, so this means I don’t need a mp3 player in my pockets. The camera of both phones have similar resolutions, but I had the feeling the actual quality of the iPhone’s picture was better. The iPhone cannot record movie, whereas the Sony could but I never really managed to shoot anything vaguely useful with the camera in movie mode, so this is no great loss.

The main advantage of the iPhone is the Wifi connection and proper internet programs: web browser, mail, maps. The last one, coupled with the GPS is for me already worth a lot (I have a bad sense of orientation). I also liked the fact that there are plenty of useful applications. Having a specialized interface to facebook is nice, I also recommend Tramdroid if you live in Zürich, having the schedule for all trams stored in your phone is a really nice feature. While the Z610 had a web-browser, I was never usable beside for visualizing rich-text files converted.

I see two weaknesses of the iPhone compared to the Sony phone: bluetooth and tethering. While the iPhone has bluetooth hardware, only one functionality is supported: connecting a headset. Nothing else, no way to send data to another device. This was something useful when I wanted to push a picture to a computer, or send a vcard to another phone. The other part is using the Edge/3G connection of the phone from a computer. The Sony supported two modes, bluetooth internet sharing and the ethernet emulation over the USB connection. The iPhone cannot do either, but this seems more related to operator stupidity than to anything technical. Finally I wish the phone could track ToDos and also a Swiss-French keyboard, because currently, if I want French spell correction, I need to use the awful French keyboard.

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Microsoft in ZürichMicrosoft à Zürich

Microsoft Office in Zürich Wollishofen

Microsoft seems to have a new office in Zürich, in the lower part of Wollishofen, along the south lake side. While the building seems empty, there is a nice decoration to show their appreciation of the city. Alas some of balloons have already popped. According to a Swissinfo article, this will be a Development Center for telephony and video-conferencing.

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