Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What position am I on the security hockey team?

I just got caught up again on some of my favorite blogs. Among those is the TaoSecurity run by Richard Bejtlich. If you ever get to speak with him, take one of his classes or generally hang out with him, take the time. You can sponge quite a bit listening to him and those that flock around him. Anyway on to the point..

Richard had a recent post comparing hockey to security work. He has a solid reference to a darn fine hockey player and how he changed the game by moving from being solely a defensemen to skating the ice and shooting the puck. I have always admired defensemen who can take solid shots - two of my favorites have played for the Av's: Blake and Bourque. There skill, as Bejtlich points out, is being well rounded, able to play as a forward and be back to help the goalie. He then asks what position you play on the security hockey team.

So it got me to thinking - what position do I play? Well I know I am not a goalie. You can never be a successful consultant and be a goalie. Getting and keeping contracts are based upon the individual being able to handle whatever situation is thrown at you, whether it is defensive and helping build a firewall, to being a forward and auditing the capabilities of the newest web application that is being deployed to being a bit of both and performing a PCI assessment.

So in the end I think I am a defensemen. I want to play as a forward, the rock stars - but I know my levels and that I can't skate that fast. So I will stay back at the blue line, let fly a slap shot every once in awhile that will rattle the goalie's teeth and be a good consultant. I will continue to learn as much as possible, question the forwards on what they are doing - asking Dan Kaminsky sometime to slow down and explain the DNS over DNS.

Thanks Richard - glad I stopped to get a better view of where I play on the team.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

MP4 versus WMV and why the Zune won't fly.

So in my spare time (sometime around 9pm, and ends somewhere around 2am) I picked up a fun new hobby/gig. I became the producer, editor and consultant to an online company. I have been around the internet for awhile and have learned a thing or two; so this opportunity really called out to me. I record video clips of physical trainers and models, edit them with Final Cut, add some background music (original score by me) using Soundtrack Pro and then hand it off to the web admin to have posted on the site. When the site officially launches I will point you in the right direction. As part of this I have stumbled across another gig, helping put together a DVD for sale that has training information for Professional Mountain Bikers.

So as one of the requirements to the content delivery I need to offer video clips to the widest audience I can. To do this I obviously want to hit the Video iPod market, and with the introduction of the Zune (it sucks!) I need to include them too. I happily started off encoding everything to mp4 directly from FC5 and was very happy with the results, everyone was happy, amazed (one of the models seemed shocked that I knew what I was doing!)

The Zune arrives and we decide we should encode to the best format for the Zune. Same video size as the Video iPod, with more compression. I start encoding and look at the results. They are horrible, artifacts everywhere. I go back tweak the settings higher, encode again. Results only mildly better. I decide to push the limits of the device and crank it up, encode and I get tolerable. I am really upset by this point, figure I am missing something. I grab my Zune, and head off to the Apple store, catch up with a Apple Pro and show them the final WMV product - after they laugh and point at the Zune - we start discussing my settings. The Pro says I have maxed the FC5 settings, that the windows media codec is giving me what it is going to give me. This really depresses me.

If I was going to introduce a product that i expected to compete with Apple I would try to deliver something that rocked. What was Microsoft thinking - the video is really horrible, and even doing encoding using the MS tools and using the best draft copies to encode with I got nothing better. The Zune while kind of cute will probably get returned to Best Buy because I can see little to no use for the device.

On a side note: my Zune software loaded without a hitch, although the Windows XP Pro computer was only two days old - I needed something to look at my WMV product and figured that the Dell in the corner was getting lonely.

Here are the recommended Zune WMV settings:

Audio: 128 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, stereo CBR
Video: 320x240
Video Bit Rate: 500K

Not pretty so I tried

Audio: 128 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, stereo CBR
Video: 320x240
Video Bit Rate: 1000K

not that much better so I tried the max the Zune will run with

Audio: 128 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, stereo CBR
Video: 320x240
Video Bit Rate: 1500K

I was still unhappy - blacks were ugly, colors not holding true. I did this all from the Windows Media Encoder 9. Until someone sits down and tweaks the codec, MS is going to have problems convincing anyone that they want a Zune for video content.

I will keep you updated as I play with the codec looking for a way to make things look better - just not ready to write MS off, I believe they can figure things out or I can find a suitable enough shim to make everyone happy.

*This is not a paid advertisement - I use a Mac for everything, but MS is kinda cool in a hurt puppy kind of way*

Monday, May 22, 2006

Where have I been?

So the big question - where did I go? What happened? Why did I stop posting?

Well for the last year I have been a security consultant, performing PCI assessments, VOIP audits, and generally geeking around in the security industry. This is all about to change - I took a new job - I will be starting at ManiaTV on May 31st.

Take a look at the web page, let me know what you think. I am excited and looking forward to the opportunity. I am planning on updating my blog more regulary, so stay tuned.