Technocracy of War, Part 6

The one thing Thad liked most was how they had managed to port almost every GUI application over to a TUI. Thus, while losing some of the buttons and toolbars, the backend was the same for web browser, office suite, text editor, integrated system utilities — everything he needed with far fewer distractions. Best of all, it was lightening fast on older hardware.

Excerpt from the Bread OS System Administrator’s Guide:

Bread OS is actually the underlying system, and Butter is the graphical user interface (GUI). Butter is little more than an advanced framebuffer display. For graphical and video work, choose some other operating system, as Butter engages very little of the 3D acceleration capabilities on most graphics chipsets. The purpose is to enable the use of low cost generic hardware.

There is little advantage in having a GUI on most server configurations. For this reason, the Toast server OS defaults to a Textual User Interface (TUI) called Jam. Jam will can run at the default pixel resolution for almost every chipset and screen display combination. It is fully mouseable, and works pretty much the same as a GUI. Yes, you can have your Bread or Toast with either Butter or Jam, or both.

************

During his rather short stay in prison, Pete Jimmerson lost track of his nemesis. Upon release, he moved all his hardware to collocate with the server farm Brandon purchased from a failing ISP. This became the location of his physical office, too. He left two machines as before, one each NetBSD and CentOS, as bait. The other two were converted to Toast, but kept their old naming scheme for DNS.

Eventually the shadowy cracker found him again. It was about the time he was promoted to project manager, working directly with Brandon on a daily basis. Jennifer Runston retired and tapped him as her replacement. His passionate drive for Bread OS was a symptom of his still festering resentment. While Brandon mentioned he saw a haunting shadow in Pete’s eyes, he was satisfied the latter did not let it interfere with his loyalty. The results were better than even Brandon had envisioned, and Peter was frankly excited at the prospect of facing his enemy with much better weapons.

Pete had coded his two Toast servers to identify themselves, along with the standard networking ID protocols, simply as “I’m Toast!” Because access from outside the machine was based on explicit white listing, any unauthorized connection attempt would add to the end of any error codes: “No crackers, thank you. I like my Toast!” Aside from several notices in his logs of deflected attempts, the cracker seemed to have given up rather quickly on those two boxes.

Once the OS reached the release stage, Pete had more time for searching the old traces, but not much. He and Brandon made the trade show circuit, something Pete dreaded. His predecessor, even with her silver hair, was the next thing to a geek’s showgirl, quite charming. Peter was almost coherent in front of a live audience, though he did okay just chatting in the booth.

Every time they came back, his logs were silent for just awhile. He had almost given up when his firewall logs showed what he had hoped, that the cracker couldn’t get into his Toast boxes. Taking the bait with the other two, Pete offered the same resistance he had in the past, in cold calculation of pretending to have learned nothing. Quite the contrary, he had learned far more than any college courses could teach him during the forced period of concentration, earning respect and trust from the project leadership from his workstation in the prison. When in the office, he kept the same schedule he had then, meaning he paid no attention to meat space beyond the necessities of his job and his flesh.

This time the cracker was working on totally different ends. While still taunting Pete as before, including obscene personal references even to his prison stay, there was oddly no mention of the Bread Project. The intruder was obviously setting up a different operation than the petty crimes of the past. Pete’s logs showed the cracker always waited until his machines were idle. There would be quick penetrations through some means Pete did not yet understand, some code copied in, compiled, tested in some way, copied out, then deleted from his drive. It was all assembler code, and only once did Peter catch a glimpse, and did a quick screen capture before it was already done and gone. So far as he could tell from the few lines of code, it had something to do with manipulating the file system. Was that how his enemy kept getting in, a flaw in the file system calls or driver? Pete guessed this was something rather big and nasty brewing.

While the cracker left his taunting messages recorded in the logs as kernel message traffic, they also left just enough traces for Peter to discover at least one thing he expected: The traffic was coming through Tor. While he knew some people who might help him just a little with that, he decided he might get better results through one of the users. He had kept Thad Eyrie at arm’s length until now, but decided it was time to maybe make a deal.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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