Monday, November 10, 2008

Visiting the Big Apple

I took Kim to New York City for her birthday this year. We stayed in an inexpensive hole-in-the-wall (read: cash only, up front) hotel in the East Village. It was a lot of fun!

Here's my photos from the trip:

Kim's photos can be found at

Friday, September 19, 2008

Python script to get SSL Certificate information

Some time ago I needed an automated way to get the certificate DN, signing cert DN, and expiration date from a bunch of SSL web servers. I couldn't find a free tool out there to do that, so I hacked up this script in python.

You provide it the IP address and it connects, retrieves the aforementioned information, and spits it out. There isn't any error handling &etc, but I thought someone else might find it helpful. Or use it as a starting point for something more advanced.

It requires the M2Crypto library, since the built-in SSL library for python is SORELY LACKING in functionality.

EDIT: 2010.01.26 - Fixed broken link caused by new hosting provider!
Grab it here: sslprobe.python

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shower Door Warehouse

Just an empty warehouse in an industrial area of Atlanta.  This place has apparently been empty for about a decade, and has been well decorated with graffiti.  Oddly, around some corners and off an empty showroom is a small room with two immaculate, untouched shower models.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Holy Falling Phreakmonkeys!!!

Kim offered to buy me a tandem skydive for my birthday last year. It took me this long to get up the courage to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Abandoned Winery - Interior

So several months back I posted some exterior shots of an abandoned winery that I discovered on the South side of Atlanta. Well, some time later as I was driving by I noticed the place was wide open - doors and all - so I stopped by and snapped some photos of the inside.

Friday, August 8, 2008

DEFCON 16 Slides Available

If you are attending DEFCON this year (or just want to see my slides), the final incarnation of my slides are available here: The slides on the DEFCON CD are out-of-date.

Also, thanks to everyone who came out to the EFF party last night!

My talk is on Saturday at 3:00pm, track 5. :-)

EDIT 2008.08.12:

Another year, another DEFCON gone by.  A quick THANK YOU to everyone who makes DEFCON possible (if you attended that includes you!), and thanks to everyone who attended my talk or walked up to me at some point during the con to share your personal Urban Exploration experiences!  It was a lot of fun.  See you next year!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Abandoned Towing / Distribution Center

In South Central Atlanta, in the shadow of the freeway, sits this forgotten structure. The shape and layout indicates it was once a shipping / distribution center, but the most recent paperwork laying around shows that it's last purpose was as a towing and impound lot.

It looks to have been closed and abandoned sometime in the mid 90's.

There was a fire in the office section, judging from the smell and damage it was fairly recent.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Automobile Plant - Atlanta Assembly, Hapeville, GA

The metro-Atlanta town of Hapeville, GA lays claim to being the home of Jeff Foxworthy, Chick-Fil-A, and an automobile plant of a well known auto-maker. The "Atlanta Assembly" plant, located in Hapeville between Interstate 75, the Atlanta Airport, and the railroad tracks, was opened in December, 1947 and ceased operations in October, 2006.

The plant was bought by a local developer last month and is being demolished to make way for commercial structures. The developer was kind enough to allow myself and a couple of fellow explorer/photographers in to shoot the factory just prior to the deconstruction.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flying with an external video camera

I bought an Aiptek HD digital video camera on recently. Just for fun I strapped it to the right-main landing gear of my 172, basically adjacent to the wheel hub. I wanted to do a test flight like this to see if the video was watchable and whether there were any problems from vibration, wind, &etc.

Much to my surprise it worked just fine! The only problem was that I underestimated how far the main gear "sinks" when the weight is taken off of it, so the camera ended up with about a 15 degree right-tilt while in flight.

The flight was rather mundane, I was just hopping over to Madison (52A) for gas at dusk. I sped up the cruise portion of the video to make it shorter. Also, there's no audio. I plan to try and use this technique to make some more interesting videos in the future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lonely Pullman

It's late. Storms are in the area, but it has just stopped raining. On the way home from visiting some old friends I decide on a lark to drive by Pullman and see what's brewing.

The Georgia Power substation development on the North side of the property appears to now be independently secured and fenced off. The open holes in the chain-link fence along the West side of the Pullman property have recently been replaced with new sections of fence. The property itself seem to have been cleaned up quite a bit with the addition of their new neighbor. It's as if the State of Georgia decided to clean up their house now that they are having company over.

I wandered in to see what else had changed - sans flashlight, camera, or even appropriate clothing. Once inside the main central rail building I wandered into the darkest corner I could find and just stood in absolute nothingness for a while to let my eyes adjust.

Abandoned buildings have a life their own to them. Anyone who explores knows this. They breathe, and shift, and moan. Much more than occupied buildings do. It's like the building knows it's dying and is struggling with the concept - whaling in the darkness to call out to someone to come and resuscitate it.

And they smell different too. Staleness combines with the native smells of the facility to create a unique blend of "lost fragrance." In this building it's grease, iron, ozone, and mildew. The latter from the lack of maintenance. There is clearly more water on the floor inside the structures than there was a year ago when I first ventured into this facility, and I visited once during a storm then, too.

Also, the building here has been cleared of all the scrap junk and equipment, and the power has been turned off. That should have probably been done a decade ago, but you know how the government works. Somehow this place sat for 12 years with full power and HID lighting, and even power to the 15-ton cranes, without being maintained or used. Now, it finally looks abandoned. A shell of a facility with only the largest structures remaining, a lot more graffiti, and no electricity.

I listen to the echoing sounds of water dripping into pools in the large, brick room. Occasionally the wind shifts one of the huge aluminum doors or some other piece of metal creating a clank, clunk, or thump that seems to permeate the impossible darkness.

My eyes adjust and I can start to see the outlines of the walls and, more importantly, the shape of the ground ahead of me. I navigate my way over the rails and pits into the central part of the facility with a familiarity normally reserved for one's home.

I find myself facing the shadowy outline of the diesel locomotive engine simulator. Even in complete darkness I can tell it has been graffiti'd since I last saw it. I wander around back and climb into the back section. I was hoping to find a spot to sit down in there for a while, but every surface in there was covered in a thick layer of grit that I really didn't want to get on my pants.

I used the dim light of the outside LCD on my cellphone to look at the gauges and dials in the simulator, and then hopped back out.

Now my eyes had adjusted fairly well and I could see nearly the entire room. The large windows at the top glowed orange from the outside street lamps. Each end presented the telltale silhouette of a large industrial fan. The iron i-beam columns and cranes were visible as dark lines across the dim orange lighting. Pools of water appeared black against the dark outlines of the ground.

The Amtrack sleeper car was still there, albeit much more artistically decorated. I announced my arrival to avoid catching any squatters completely off-guard as I climbed up into one end of the car. Alas, it was completely empty - although the evidence of a former squatter residence in the lounge end of the car was present. I'm sure the regular patrol took care of the local residents. Or maybe they were out at a cocktail party. Who knows?

I lingered in the car for a while... I always wonder where this car journeyed, and who might have traveled in it back in the days when railroad travel was more of a luxury than it is now. After sitting in one of the sleeper sections for a while, I headed back into the main building.

I wandered next through the interior offices. These, being located inside a larger warehouse, have no windows at all and were shrouded in absolute darkness. I challenged myself to stop and hang out in there without even the aid of my cellphone LCD for as long as I could stand. Absolute darkness, even the moans and creaks of the surrounding building were muffled in here. Here, you are truly alone. Inside an abandoned office of an abandoned facility in a forgotten corner of a large city. Buried in the heart of madness.

I hit a few buttons on the forgotten 1980's vintage Ricoh copier and headed back out the other end of the offices. Now that I'd wandered around and found no one else I was more at ease. It felt like my property. For the moment, this is my corner of the world. No one else can claim it. No one else dares enter.

I found myself wondering if squatters have that same sense of presence somewhere. It's very alluring, in a way.

I took in the sounds and smells and odd, dark shadows across the vast building some more and headed back out. On the way out I stopped momentarily in the track-switching platform control booth, from which I observed the contrasting liveliness of the neighborhood across the street. People were coming and going, there was a party in one house with a small crowd of smokers on the front porch. A flat-screen TV in another blared some cable show.

I wondered if the residents ever cast their thoughts to the decaying, 100+ year old buildings across the street.

Monday, May 12, 2008

1922 Elementary School

East Atlanta is home to yet another abandoned school. John C. Bordon school was built in 1922 and closed in 1995. I read somewhere that a developer bought it in 1997 to convert to condos but ran into problems and never started on the project. Thirteen years after it is closed it sits in ruin, surrounded by a now bustling community.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Inn Fire

Last spring a Budget Inn in a South Atlanta suburb caught fire. According to the news reports, the fire started on a stack of discarded mattresses behind the building, near a gas meter. Arson is suspected.

Most of the occupants of this Budget Inn were residents. No fire sprinklers were installed. A family of five was trapped in a second floor room and failed to be rescued in time.

It is stunning to me that in the city that lays claim to the deadliest hotel fire in US history (the Winecoff, December 1946) we still allow hotels to operate without adequate fire protection.

These pictures were taken after the fire investigation ended and before the demolition crew arrived.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of those who died. I support efforts to require commercial residences and hotels to have adequate fire suppression equipment, and be maintained and inspected properly and regularly. I hope these pictures help drive that point home.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Lost Japan Photos

I went back through my photos of Japan and came up with these unpublished ones. Beyond these I have some more from my last day and one other Kyoto temple that I never posted, so I might do yet another posting later on.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Abandoned Chemical Company

Funny what you can find laying around in the North Atlanta suburbs! Enough pool chlorine for the entire state of Nevada, for instance...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

1923 Elementary School

West side ATL, the cornerstone for this school was laid in 1923. According to reports I've read the school was last occupied in 1970, but there are records boxes in the basement dating to 1994. (It's possible, even likely, that the school board was just using the basement for storage.)

This is the most deteriorated interior of a building I have ever seen. I wish I had brought a video camera to capture the sounds and movement of the water, which was raining in everywhere throughout the building. Water was dripping from ceilings and pouring down walls. The building was full of the sound of echoing water off concrete walls, like a concrete rainforest.

A "resident" of the building graciously gave us a tour and told stories of his life there, including his encounters with demons, the ghost of a small boy who returns at night, and occasionally the local sheriff.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Abandoned Winery

I ran across this while finding an alternate route home from work one day. It appears to be an old winery. TK and I returned and photographed the outside and the facilities room. The rest of it is locked up, and it appears someone is in the process of moving stuff out of it.

According to the weather reports a tornado came through the area while we were photographing. We ended up seeking shelter in that fairly questionable aluminum structure. For some reason, the fantastically awful movie "Twister" came to mind.

Yeah. We do urbex during tornadoes. We're hard core like that. Word. :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Auntie Em! Auntie Em! It's a twister!

Last night a tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta. I was visiting an old friend in Duluth, GA when it happened.

Once I heard about the damage, I headed back into town to see if my house was still standing. Thankfully, my block was spared. But neighborhoods on each side of me took some pretty moderate damage.

At daybreak the news helicopters started hovering over my roof and all my relatives started calling me when they saw my neighborhood on Fox News or CNN. So, I figured I might as well get up and walk around the area and take some pictures.

It is sad to see the damage to the historic neighborhood. The cotton mill lofts and the mill houses all took some damage. Much of it is minor, but some houses are completely destroyed by the oak trees that were ripped up by the twister.

The damage is extremely localized, which speaks to it being a tornado. My block suffered no damage at all.  Even the lightweight wicker furniture on my front porch is still in place, and it blows around during regular storms all the time. Yet on each side of me in the neighboring Cabbagetown and Old Forth Ward districts there is evidence of the tornado.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Visiting Seal & Stamp with friends.

Revisiting the site with some friends as it was getting dark, I decided to linger and shoot some exposures as they explored.

The Return of N2720L

Well, after a few months of downtime for service I finally got my plane back. Yaaaaay!

Lima had to have three cylinders replaced due to cracks. Two had really low compressions and one had an exhaust leak. Since they were also cracked they had to be replaced instead of overhauled. So that set me back a bit. Anyhow, she's running better than ever now and I decided to take the "run-in" opportunity to take a few pictures.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Glidden, revisited, again...

I know what you're thinking. "Another Glidden photo shoot? Don't you get tired of that place?"

In a word, yes. It's played out. But I was meeting some new people and visiting it with another explorer who hadn't been there yet. And, while we were there we ran into a guy doing a porn-fetish shoot. I'm going to withhold comments on that, but if you really want to see his work it's up on flickr. Maybe I'll post a link later.

So anyhow, I took some new photos since I was wandering around anyhow. No pr0n though, sorry. ;)

Flickr link:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Old Seal & Stamp Company

A couple of weeks ago I ran across this old "Seal & Stamp Company" factory while wandering the proposed Atlanta Beltline.

The company made rubber stamps, embossing seals, and those painted metal license plates that say things like "I ♥ Atlanta" and stuff like that. They operated at this location from 1969 until December 2006, when it seems they realized that the land they were on was worth more to a developer than it was to them.

I returned with fellow explorer tk0667 and some camera equipment. Enjoy!

Flickr link:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Slackware 12.0 on a Nortel Contivity 1010

My company recently de-installed and discarded dozens of these little Nortel Contivity 1010 VPN devices. I pulled one apart and discovered it's basically a tiny Intel Celeron PC with no keyboard/mouse interface, one serial console port, and two 10/100 Ethernet ports. I decided it would be fun to get Linux to run on one so I could play with it... maybe use it as a small firewall, router, or OpenVPN endpoint.

I built a stripped-down install of Slackware-12.0 with Linux kernel The install includes (amongst other things):

  • OpenSSL

  • OpenSSH

  • OpenVPN

  • iptables

  • dnsmask

  • dhcpcd

For more information, and the distribution, see my project page at:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

City Hall East / Ponce Park

Due East of downtown Atlanta on Ponce de Leon Ave sits the massive 2 million square foot complex that was once a Sears distribution center. Built in 1926 on the former site of Ponce de Leon Park, it is currently owned by the city of Atlanta and home to "City Hall East" and the Atlanta Police Department.

The developer who is renovating and converting this massive structure into a much more usable and beneficial space was gracious enough to allow a group of us explorers a tour of the facility.