Bribing Cops in Central America

This weekend I read an insightful blog post by John McAffee. His post is a guide to travel. John lives in Belize, a country in Central America that borders on the Carribean. This is the same John McAffee that founded McAffee Associates, the antivirus company. Recently McAffee has been in the news as a person of interest in a murder. But let's get back to the travel guide.

Appanrently it is business as usual for the police to shake down travelers in Central America. And the use of bribes to get past these cops is also common practice. John has a bunch of tips to ensure you stay alive and stay out jail. One key point he makes is for you to stay in your vehicle at all times. That applies even if a cop tells you to get out of the vehicle.

Another theme John reiterates is to stay calm, smile, and negotiate. Cops may try and distract you to plant some drugs in your vehicle. Even that should not phase you. One somewhat radical recommendation from John is to smile, wave, and slowly drive away from the cops. Strangely enough, he says this works a lot of the time.

John calls the bribes "documentation". That is, the cops ask you for documentation. They are actually using that as a code for a small bribe so you can be on your way. I found it hilarious that John often uses some technical manual with a $20 bill stuffed in it as his official travel papers. He says most of these cops can't even read. But they know and appreciate the greenbacks.

You should go to John's blog and reading all the details and scenarios for yourself. This may come in handy if you find yourself on travel in a third world nation.

Hiding Email Transmissions

I just learned of an interesting way to send and receive emails with someone that makes the transmission almost impossible to detect. What you do is share the username and password to a Gmail account. Then you compose an email, but do not send it. That keeps the email in your drafts folder. The recipient then just logs in and checks out the latest draft message. They can then either edit that draft, or delete it and start a new draft. Sneaky huh?

I found out about this hack because General Petraeus of the US military used this technique to communicate with his mistriss. Sneaky devil. Terrorists have used this technique as well. Your email client never actually sends the email over the wire via email protocol. The message just sits on some server. The method is not foolproof. They figured out Petraeus' antics while investigating a crime. He was outed.

Rot-13 Job Posting

Today I spotted an apparent job posting over on Reddit. At first I thought the posting was written in a another language. Upon closer inspection, I figured they were just doing some encryption on the posting. The giveaway was the job title "Fravbe Fbsgjner Ratvarre". They put "Senior Software Engineer" in parentheses next to that job title.

The number of character in each word lined up. Then I saw that the letters E and then R were mapping to the same letters in the encrypted version. Wait. E went to R and R went to E. By golly, this is ROT-13 encryption, a very simple cipher.

The company is looking for what looks to be a junior developer (despite the title of senior software developer). They also want a PHP/Java/.NET hacker. That does not sound like me. Plus the salary is too low. However I found their ad pretty cool. Other Redditors were not as amused as me with the job posting encryption.

Movies API

I am taking an Advanced JavaScript class at the local community college. To tell you the truth, this class sucks. I am just not learning JavaScript, let alone advanced JavaScript. Nevertheless, the final project seems interesting. We need to implement a movie rental system like Blockbuster or Redbox. The real coup is that we are using a movie API from Rotten Tomatoes (which is a brand of Flixster).

To use their API, you need to obatin a key. This is done by registering. You will get a long alphanumeric string that must accompany every API request you send over the web. You are limited to 10 calls a second, and 10k calls a day. But that is enough to play around with. I love that you can send in a query and get all this movie data.

The movie data is returned in a JSON format. That is really easy to parse with JavaScript and jQuery. Here is an example of the JSON file you get back. They also provide some sample JavaScript code. If you are going to use this service, I have a couple hints for you. The default query results set is 30. So if you send in a query and do not specify the number of movies, it will give you the details for up to 30 movies. It will also tell you how many movies in total match your query. You can control the amount of movies returned with a parameter. However they limit the amount to 50 max per request.

There are a lot of terms of service you need to abide by. But this is a great source of tons of movie data. Yee-haw. I know our final project for the college class is going to rock with this data source. Maybe I will post the link to our final project here. I know my friends want to take a look at my Redbox killer.