* Posts by Steve Hersey

46 posts • joined 11 Aug 2009

Smart robots prove stupidly easy to hack for spying and murder

Steve Hersey

The original article leaves something to be desired

If the Reg article is correct (there are things said that cannot be verified from the linked docs), then the authors at IOActive are a bit uneven in their research.

The Reg article reports (though I can't find this in the linked docs) a claim that the UR robot has a "static SSH key," which is claimed to facilitate MITM attacks. This is drivel. A given SSH host MUST have a static SSH key, or you cannot authenticate the host; that's how SSH works.

Elsewhere, they make much of happily hacking the Baxter RSDK, blissfully ignorant of the fact that it is *built* for open access, not security. Yes, you can get into the ROS interfaces and do whatever you want; that's the whole point of a "research software development kit;" it isn't meant to be a secured industrial production system.

Still elsewhere, there's mention of carrying out MITM attacks on unencrypted communications traffic. Plaintext traffic is *inherently insecure*, so complaining about MITM is a bit beside the point of "totally insecure comms link." And, as noted above, it is important to know whether the system was intended for use in a hostile environment or in a university environment where open access is the whole point.

Certainly some of these systems are inadequately secured for their advertised purpose, but it's not accurate to slam them all as written by fools.

1
0

HBO Game Of Thrones leak: Four 'techies' arrested in India

Steve Hersey

The books are usually better.

I do enjoy a good SF movie now and then, but I generally find that the plot depth and special effects are much better in the books.

With the notable exception of Battlefield Earth, which I watched in bored horror one afternoon when marooned in San Jose on a business trip. I kept saying to myself, "That's ridiculous! The book this is based on couldn't possibly be THAT bad!" So I borrowed a copy from the library, skimmed it, and discovered that, yes, it was EXACTLY that bad, if not worse. Fully-functional 1000-year-old F14's and all.

5
0

Strip club selfie bloke's accidental discharge gets him 6 years in clink

Steve Hersey

'Cause it's a misprint.

Beats me why the founding fathers were so keen on arming bears, but there it is...

5
0

Trump-backed RAISE Act decoded: Points-based immigration, green cards slashed

Steve Hersey

Re: Another flatulent outburst

" I'd much rather have a government too incompetent to do anything than a government doing all the wrong things."

Be careful what you wish for. What we have is a government doing deliberately evil and destructive things to great effect, while incompetent to do anything positive. Not to mention being exceedingly corrupt even by comparison with a century's worth of US administrations.

I fail to see any sense in deliberately throwing a grenade into the works of government; it would be far better to work toward a government that furthers rational policies you agree with -- assuming that rational policies are your goal. (I've met enough folks who voted for that nutjob explicitly in order to break the government that rationality cannot be assumed here.)

Immobilizing the government might have been relatively harmless in the 1790s, but it's a lethally bad idea in the 21st century. Drop the ball on climate change, pollution control, voter disenfranchisement, and everything to do with civil rights? Abandon all allies and threaten other nuclear-armed nutjobs? Deliberately destabilize the health insurance markets, such as they are? People will die on account of this stuff. It is indefensible.

11
5

FUKE NEWS: Robot snaps inside drowned Fukushima nuke plant

Steve Hersey

Raadiation energy is too high to shield with leaded glass

The X-rays that got filtered out by ~1 cm of leaded glass in a CRT faceplate had energies of up to 25 KeV max. based on the TV's 25 KV anode voltage. That's pretty soft for X-rays.

The radiation making it through the water at Fukushima (ignoring suspended or dissolved radionuclides for the moment) is essentially all gamma rays, with orders of magnitude higher energy than CRT X-rays. As a result, leaded glass lenses wouldn't block enough of it to notice.

The other thing to keep in mind about radiation shielding, aside from having to shield your electronics from all angles, is that its effect is exponential rather than linear. If 1 cm of solid lead reduces exposure from a particular source by 50%, another 1 cm will only cut THAT dose by another 50% (= 25% of the original incoming dose), so twice the shielding thickness doesn't get you twice the effectiveness. Takeaway is this: Effectively shielding sensitive electronics from high radiation levels requires really bulky, massive hunks of stuff, or else staying far enough away that 1/R^2 is your friend.

35
0

In touching tribute to Samsung Note 7, fidget spinners burst in flames

Steve Hersey

Re: There's an opportunity here

I rather prefer the clay pot approach, as a metal can gets hotter on the outside from the fire within (though it is indeed quite fine if placed on a concrete floor). A handle is nice, but for best safety, the container must survive total burnout of the battery without setting anything else on fire.

1
0
Steve Hersey

Re: There's an opportunity here

The savvier R/C model fliers have known of this battery hazard for years. A Web search for "Lipo battery bunker" will show both commercial and home-built versions of fireproof charging containers for flight batteries. Some battery chargers make this a tad difficult by turning the charger into a wall-wart that the battery physically slots into, so the whole thing normally sits on the wall socket.

I have little to no interest in the silly spinners, so the idea of electrifying them evokes only a goggle-eyed wonderment, followed by "Gee, I wonder if they can be hacked remotely to go poof."

1
0

Everything you need to know about the Petya, er, NotPetya nasty trashing PCs worldwide

Steve Hersey

Our cats used to deliver half a dead mouse

And occasionally a stunned chipmunk.

And, on two days running when mice were in short supply, a very large toad from the front garden. THE SAME TOAD, TWICE. Undamaged.

I've always wondered how that went down. Did the cats bribe the toad somehow? Was the toad thinking, "Not this again!" as they carried it into the house?

11
0

US engineer in the clink for wrecking ex-bosses' smart meter radio masts with Pink Floyd lyrics

Steve Hersey

Re: Well, at least he has good taste in music

He's just a poor boy, from a poor family...

7
0

Seminal game 'Colossal Cave Adventure' released onto GitLab

Steve Hersey

Re: Left -- right?

In the variant I encountered, the message randomly cycled through a set of slight variants, such as, IIRC:

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, all alike.

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all different.

The sneaky bit being that the exact message text had no relationship to your actual location in the maze, and would change even if you went nowhere. I have a grudging admiration for the person who thought THAT part up.

2
1

It's been a few days, so what fresh trouble has Uber got into now?

Steve Hersey

I think Obstruction of Justice will be anough

I imagine that Uber actively detecting the enforcement authorities in places it wasn't allowed to operate, then feeding them a fake app to conceal the illegal operation, constitutes obstruction of justice. That seems quite apparent, though applying logic to the operations of law is always fraught with the most extreme hazard.

0
0

Autonomous cars are about to do to transport what the internet did to information

Steve Hersey

A new, odious class of pranking.

Clearly, I'm *not* the first to think of some of these dark-side things. My first thought when hearing today's Uber-automated-cars-will-Borg-the-taxi-industry story was that there will be a serious problem with vandals fouling automated cabs in assorted unpleasant ways.

0
0
Steve Hersey

Re: So...

Alas, the problem with sarcasm is the same as the problem with cynicism: It's so <expletive> hard to keep up with the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up that reality hands us.

I think the major problem with unreliable news at Internet speed is not that there's a greatly higher fake-to-real ratio (tabloids have been around for more'n a century), but rather that the information firehose is now so big and fast that human processing faculties are overloaded, and end up (metaphorically) lying dead-shorted in a smoking, charred heap.

With the equivalent of a hundred newspapers shouting for our attention every morning, it's not really a surprise that folks pick and choose the news sources that best fir their world views. It's a formula for society to end up in a (literally) lying dead-shorted in a smoking, charred heap, but it's not a surprise.

Back on topic, surely I'm not the first person to read about ubiquitous automated parcel delivery and wonder when and how some nasty minds will try to weaponize it?

0
0

S is for Sandbox: The logic behind Microsoft's new lockdown Windows gambit

Steve Hersey

Nothing to see here, run away very fast.

So, a notorious monopolist that screws its customers at every opportunity is offering a new jail cell -- I mean, computing experience -- and wants the sheeple to step inside? No, thanks, I'll wait until the hardware has been jailbroken and I can load Ubuntu onto a unit bought from the reminder bin.

I only tolerate Windows because of applications that run on no other platform. These days, that no longer even includes software development environments OR office apps; all the good stuff has versions for Linux. LibreOffice on Linux is amazingly useful. I can only see the Windows S platform being used for sacrificial computing devices to be issued to folks traveling internationally and to run Office apps for road warriors, never for any serious work that can be done on any other OS.

19
4

Startup remotely 'bricks' grumpy bloke's IoT car garage door – then hits reverse gear

Steve Hersey

Cloud is just another word for someone else controls your data/stuff, and they don't care

Show me a serious use case for needing to do X in your home from half a world away, and I'll believe there's a reason for it to be on the Internet. 'Course, its security will still be crap ;-)

When I bought my home many years ago, 'twas the first time I'd had a garage door with a remote opener. For yucks, one day I wandered the neighborhood clicking the clicker, and discovered several owners of compatible openers who, like the previous owner of my house, had never changed the default switch settings on their remote openers. It was fun running their doors up and down, but I went home and changed my switch settings right away. Still not really secure, of course, but less miserably INsecure.

4
0

User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

Steve Hersey

Always be nice to the IT folks.

I've done IT support as a many-hats activity from time to time, and I know how that world feels on the inside. So for many years I've made it a practice to ALWAYS establish a friendly, supportive relationship with the IT and facilities people. (Not that it's a *good* idea to make enemies anywhere, for that matter.) And always admit your mistakes to IT, especially the bonehead ones.

Aside from making everyone's life easier, this approach yields immense benefits when you really, really need some help from IT or the facilities crew. What goes around, comes around, and when it comes around with a replacement hard drive and a friendly greeting, you'll be glad.

3
0

One BEEELLION dollars: Apple sues Qualcomm, one of its chip designers

Steve Hersey

Re: Hmm..

Well, the handset manufacturers basically have no business if they don't continue to buy those chips, as the chips embody standards-essential tech. The manufacturers don't have anywhere else to go until Intel becomes a viable alternative. Consequently, it's no surprise that they continue to place orders...

0
0

Microsoft, IBM, Intel refuse to hand over family jewels to China

Steve Hersey

Perhaps not so much of a threat as you may think...

Or at least much more complicated.

Yes, China has a lot of money sunk into US government debt. However, that provides the second edge on the sword: If China were to dump T-bills onto the market in an effort to punish the US, it would depress the dollar, but the Chinese government would take a massive loss. Lower-cost dollar-priced US exports would also be an increased competitive threat against exports priced in the suddenly higher yuan.

These risks are likely to inhibit any use of China's US debt holdings as a weapon or threat, as that sword is pointy on both ends.

0
0

Silicon Valley's oligarchs got a punch in the head – and that's actually good thing

Steve Hersey

Humor or blunder?

If you follow the "Let's Be Beastly to the Germans" link to Wikipedia, you'll find that the correct title actually reads, "Don't..." instead. Could be either The Register's characteristic sense of humor, or The Register's characteristic nonchalant proofreading...

12
1

ARM: Hold my beer, we'll install patches for your crappy IoT gear for you

Steve Hersey

Re: OK, so the dystopian-but-realistic solution is...

A DDoS is hard to spot at the source end, but is pretty unmistakable at the target end (that's rather the idea, after all). The idea would be something like this: A DDoS target notifies their ISP, who analyzes the attack pattern, then starts back-tracing the source addresses of incoming attack packets and reporting them to participating source ISPs, who then filter or disconnect the originating addresses. A significant percentage of inbound traffic to the target will be malicious in a DDoS, so it's not such a needle-in-haystack proposition if you're the destination ISP.

Other ISPs could conceivably be triggered to get into the act by logging source addresses sending to the affected targets, filtering out the legitimate players, and dealing with the rest.

This is not a simple endeavor by any means, and it would definitely require careful automation, but if properly implemented it could nobble many DDoS attacks and deprive them of effect. Even if you don't actively disconnect attack sources, but simply throttle their traffic to the target, a DDoS could be mitigated to the point where it becomes not worth the trouble.

2
0
Steve Hersey

Re: OK, so the dystopian-but-realistic solution is...

Agreed, everyone *should* behave responsibly, but the core of the problem is that there are a lot of nonspecialists out there with no idea that this is a problem, and lotsa cheap-artists building insecure junk to sell to them. Educating everyone's Aunt Sally that the cheap baby-cam is a hazard will be a challenge, and getting the cheap-baby-cam folks to clean up their act will be a near impossibility (the sky is high and the Emperor is far away, after all). For that matter, even specialists (like us) would be hard put to name a SOHO router with decent security that we could recommend to our friends.

I agree with your stated principle, it's just that getting everyone to be responsible is difficult and unlikely.

5
0
Steve Hersey

OK, so the dystopian-but-realistic solution is...

The major ISPs and network infrastructure operators, who of anyone have the most skin in the game, wind up banding together and establishing an infrastructure to (semi-)automatically identify and black-hole the IP addresses of the insecure tat that's doing the DDoS'ing, preferably in close to real time. Your internet connection gets turned off until you fix or disconnect the offending devices on your net.

I already hear you thinking, "But that just creates another hackable service the bad guys can use to disable connectivity for the target of an attack, and this time they don't even need to pwn a thousand devices to do it, just pwn the countermeasure system!" Alas, that argument is true, and weighs against *any* realistic countermeasure; the ISPs would simply have to do a good job designing their system to be resistant to abuse. An imperfect system for sure, but at least it doesn't rely on tat-makers to become responsible netizens.

Clearly, *someone* needs to do a good job designing their system to be resistant to abuse, and it self-evidently won't be the bottom-dollar bottom-feeders making said insecure tat. Until then, it'll continue to be the Wild Wild Web.

2
1

Victoria Police warn of malware-laden USB sticks in letterboxes

Steve Hersey

The safest way to handle them short of a large hammer...

Would be to put them in a cheap USB hub attached to a Raspberry Pi powered by a suitably current-limited DC supply, to which Pi you're logged in through the serial port. This allows you to safely peruse the malware on said stick without being pwned, and if it's a BadUSB device, only the $5 USB hub takes one for the team. What are the chances that the USB malware can pwn an ARM-based Pi without your being able to detect it?

You already KNOW (or should at a minimum assume) that there's malware on it, the only question is "what kind, and can I turn the tables on the rat-bastards?"

2
0

Business users force Microsoft to back off Windows 10 PC kill plan

Steve Hersey

Story thumbnail pic is from Exploding Kittens; they OK with that?

I see that the thumbnail image on the link to this story is the same as the artwork on the Exploding Kittens rulebook (see also https://twitter.com/Efferve8cience/status/761992085281050624). Are they OK with this use of their artwork?

0
0

Irish Olympics' officials digital devices seized in Rio

Steve Hersey

Selling those tickets?

They'd better have been really quick about it, seeing as the Olympic closing ceremony was that same day.

0
1

Oculus Rift review-gasm round-up: The QT on VR

Steve Hersey

Re: Come on real time mocap

Hmmm. Full-body mocap would appear to be unnecessary if you have haptic gloves with motion tracking features; you're far more likely to care where your fingers are than your elbows, and the positional details of your legs can be similarly vague. Aside from which, your hands are usually in your normal field of view, which cuts down on the volume that has to be motion-captured.

While I myself am in the "Not quite there yet" camp, I *am* grateful to the early adopters who are buying this kit and thus creating the necessary preconditions for manufacturers to go that last vital, expensive, troublesome 10% of the way to "There it is!"

I'm looking forward to putting on VR kit, sitting in the cockpit of a virtual starfighter, and feeling the clicks as I press the buttons on the virtual control panel. Or even being able to type on a virtual keyboard (hey, now it's a work-related partial-disability adaptation to mitigate RSI from decades of beating on an actual keyboard!)

2
0

iPhone 6: The final straw for Android makers eaten alive by the data parasite?

Steve Hersey

The excluded middle

As I read your article, the thing that jumped out at me, threatening to seize my morning coffee mug and drain it dry before I could reach it, was this: If Apple owns the high-priced end of the smartphone market, and Android phones are only profitable in emerging markets, just who will occupy the midrange? Not Apple (their kit is just too expensive unless you've become addicted to the Kool-Aid), not Blackberry (alas, there's some seriously good kit there), and not WinPhones (the two hundred people using them in the world don't count). It's Android or nothing, then; there's no other contender. Someone will sell those phones and profit, there's a serious demand.

Your piece doesn't address this factor. What would you predict when you take it into account?

Me, I expect Samsung and a flood of cheap Chinese Androids to fill the bulk of the market.

6
2

Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco

Steve Hersey

This fits within the definition of engineering

Engineering; the discipline of dealing with technical artifacts that don't work. You start with something that is totally nonfunctional (indeed, nonexistent), perform engineering activity on it, and over time produce something that is nonfunctional at progressively higher levels. Just as soon as it all works, it ceases to be the subject of engineering, and the engineer goes on to something else that doesn't work (yet).

Viewed in this context, that overlooked blown fuse is clearly part of the engineering game. Look at it this way; at least you didn't vaporize an entire crew of astronauts because of a problem you'd been explicitly warned about. Plus, you HAVE a fuse, and the worst-case consequences of the error are noncritical. All part of the game.

14
0

Vulture 2 spaceplane STRIPPED to the bone

Steve Hersey

Beautiful, certainly, but what about flight stability?

I hope this craft has a decent autopilot; with no dihedral on the wings, it's not going to have any inherent attitude stability, meaning that it won't glide stably by itself. What do you have planned in terms of flight testing?

Nearly all free-flight model aircraft are designed to have lots of inherent stability to overcome the absence of an active control system. An active autopilot significantly mitigates this requirement, but tuning the autopilot up is a project all by itself. I hope you folks have a few extra copies for the initial test flights.

1
0

DRAMA at 75,000 FEET: Our Playmonaut's TERROR PLUNGE from EDGE of SPACE

Steve Hersey

So, was there a parachute deployment?

Since you planned on a balloon-burst at a set altitude (and the rig wasn't pulverized on impact with Terra Firma), there must be a parachute arrangement for the balloon payload. Did it function as expected?

0
0

LibreOffice 4.0 ships with new features, better looks

Steve Hersey
Linux

Re: @Eenymeeny

I work with a translator, and we have multiple versions of Microsoft Office on hand (some on quarantined PCs so they don't eat one another) specifically so we can deal with documents we receive in Word Version ~!@#$, which frequently aren't even compatible with earlier OR later Word versions. We cannot quite leap away from Microsoft Awful because of compatibility fears. It's not that LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org is incompatible with Microsoft Office; it's that they introduce a few extra incompatibilities. largely because Microsoft's file formats are obscure, poorly implemented, obfuscated trash.

While the various versions of Word interoperate poorly even with one another, we need to reduce file-format pain as much as possible, 'cause the translation clients have NO clue about this issue, and we will get the blame for any format weirdness that crops up. Sticking to the crummy software that created the document will, at least, eliminate another headache we just don't need.

In a more desirable environment, Microsoft and everyone else would be using open file formats, and work life would be easier and more productive. I've never really understood the Microsoft mind set; if they played well with others instead of being monstrously evil, I think they would still be the major player they now are, and still approximately as profitable. They just wouldn't be hated and despised to anything like the degree they now are. (Was it really worth it, Bill?)

0
0

Designer punked fanbois with asymmetric screw

Steve Hersey
Linux

More smug-gling ....

One of my mech-e colleagues took one look at this, and we immediately agreed, "Must be fake. They'd never get decent torque with slots that shallow, and it would be trivial to bypass with a flat blade screwdriver."

0
0

LOHAN seeks failsafe for explosive climax

Steve Hersey

Two thoughts

One, if you're going to use the pull-pin release as pictured, the pin will only respond to pulling in a narrow range of angles (i.e., pulling sideways on the pin does nothing). This may be good, may be bad. If it's bad, an alternate release would be to machine a groove 'round the circumference of the actuating rod, and use a flat, forked piece of metal with a slot that fits into the groove in the rod. The forked bit does the work of the safety pin, holding the rod back against some solid surface through which it passes. Attach the pull cord to other end of forked bit, and pulling in any direction more or less perpendicular to the axis of the rod will release it. In effect, this gains you a wider acceptance angle in one direction.

Another thought: To reliably detect balloon-pop, put a smaller, mostly deflated balloon (call it, say, "Mini-me") inside the main balloon through the neck, with said smaller balloon being connected to a tube running out through the neck of the main balloon. The interior pressure of the main balloon will remain above ambient pressure until it bursts, and up to that point the pressure in the mini-me balloon will do so as well. At main-balloon-pop, mini-me will be exposed to low ambient air pressure, and will inflate (and possibly pop as well, which is OK). The interior pressure of mini-me, and/or its abrupt drop, should be usable for triggering purposes.

Dunno if these are goo ideas, mind, just different ones.

0
0

LOHAN enjoys a silicone lightbulb moment

Steve Hersey

Ah, cold start test.

Much now becomes clear, though it'll frost up in the cold no doubt. ;-)

0
0
Steve Hersey

Rocket motor firing toward glass plate? Ummm...

Have you considered the effect of a jet of rocket exhaust on the proposed glass-plate lid of your vacuum chamber, and the effect on the vacuum therein of all that exhaust gas that's being generated? It occurs to me that you may experience a loss of vacuum from either 1) the glass plate being cracked by the exhaust gas jet, or 2) the evolved gas quantity raising the internal pressure and possibly blowing the lid clean off.

Some possible solutions: a) Increase the chamber volume considerably; this will reduce the effect of the added gas volume on the chamber's internal pressure. It would be instructive to know just how much gas the motor generates throughout its firing, as this may require an improbably big chamber. b) Put the viewing window at 90 degrees to the exhaust jet rather than bang in its path. To quote Larry Niven, "A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive."

0
0

LOHAN to straddle meaty titanium rod

Steve Hersey

Elevons are not such a problem...

We RC modelers operate V-tail configurations routinely. There are simple mechanical and simpler electronic methods for making this work well, so it's not really an issue. Most mid-range RC transmitters do elevon mixing, and an on-board controller could certainly do that as well.

0
0

LOHAN's flying truss: One orb or two?

Steve Hersey

Another advantage of a Very Long Tether

is that the natural frequency of oscillation of a very long pendulum is very low, which acts to your advantage.

Put a small drag chute or streamer on one end of the truss, and it will remain pointed upwind, so the rocket will take off crosswind, rather than straight into the balloon. At that point, it matters not whether the balloon is upwind of the truss or downwind, it'll be over one or the other end of the truss and out of the way of the launch.

0
1

PARIS in 89,000 ft climax

Steve Hersey

I'd be very interested in seeing some flight testing of the plane

I'm a long-time RC flier, and, for the record, NOT interested in pointless carping about the perceived deficiencies of this project. I think what you've achieved is brilliant. First-run tests always have glitches, so being able to build, launch, release the payload, and recover both carrier and bird deserves MUCH praise.

Now to the burning-curiosity part. How well does the Vulture 1 FLY, when, say, hand-launched in dead calm off a slight rise over a field of grass or the like (to avoid damage on landing, natch)? A few such tests could go far toward understanding the bird's behavior when released at altitude.

From the video footage, it looks like the bird did a full roll when released, then seems to have settled down into some sort of conventional flight. One wonders if its weight distribution or control trim caused it to circle; that would account for its landing near the carrier vehicle, I would expect.

Of course, the Vulture 1 is now a priceless artifact (any interest from the Guinness Book folks?), but have you folks any interest in characterizing the bird's flight behavior for posterity?

13
0

Our Vulture 1 aircraft begins to take shape

Steve Hersey

Tissue covering and high-tech options

Just FYI, the primary US aeromodeling association (Academy of Model Aeronautics, www.modelaircraft.org) has a plentitude of resources and articles on stuff like this, several of which I've read in their magazine, Model Aviation. I'm certain our British partners have similar resources, but more info sources are always nice...

For ultralight covering on wee-tiny-and-feather-light planes, the modern thing is "microfilm," which appears to be a high-tech version of cling-wrap. Dunno what its low-temperature characteristics are (which is likely to be critical for any plastic-based covering), but it is an option.

Heavier-duty self-adhesive shrink-on coverings like MonoKote, Ultracote, and similar are likely to be too vigorous in the shrinking department for this lightweight structure, BUT it's worth checking them out as options, 'cause some are less shrinky than others. For radar reflectivity, aluminized Mylar (Space Blanket stuff) may be worth a thought, though attaching it taut and wrinkle-free would be a nightmare, as it doesn't heat-shrink. Very snazzy look, though.

All that being said, the classic tissue and dope solution may well prove to be the most practical solution.

1
0
Steve Hersey

Let's hope they didn't do the entire Colditz thing...

... and plant spores of dry rot throughout the structure to destroy it in 50 years if all else failed.

0
0

ARM chippies cooperate on Linux

Steve Hersey
Linux

Let's not forget OpenEmbedded and Angstrom, shall we?

The OpenEmbedded Linux distro (http://www.openembedded.org), which is Debian-based, IIRC, provides excellent ARM support, and its Angstrom offshoot (http://www.angstrom-distribution.org/) has specific support for TI's OMAP processor (most notably the insanely cool TI-inspired BeagleBoard single-board computer), as well as the über-miniature Gumstix SBCs.

There's a massive amount of software available in these embedded distros, and they're extensively used in embedded applications. One hopes that common sense and support for existing development ecosystems doesn't fall victim to the not-invented-here syndrome. Concerted support from major industry players for a particular set of tools could really help things along.

0
0

A New Year's call to Apple: publish and be damned

Steve Hersey

Another reason APIs can be undocumented...

And one that I, personally, was bitten by when developing for the original 512K Mac, is that Apple, in their finite wisdom, may decide to yank the code to keep others' apps from competing with Apple-written code.

Back in the day, I worked on a project that planned to use the Mac SDK's CoreEdit package (full-function text editing with fonts and styles, basically equivalent to MacWrite) to implement text markup in a networked writing-lab system. Came the day we tried to link those libraries into our test app, the headers and libraries were all missing, though they were still listed in the SDK documentation. Apple bluntly told us they'd yanked the libraries for competitive reasons, and we had to devise crummy workarounds.

With this in mind, it doesn't take much imagination to tconclude that Apple might well hold a few cards up its sleeve in the form of perfectly functional but undocumented APIs.

0
0

Radio Society tries to beat back powerline networks

Steve Hersey
Linux

We've seen this same pantomime in the US

(Disclaimer. I'm an Amateur Radio operator, so I may have a certain inherent bias.)

Gee, now where else have we seen this same farce played out recently? There have been BPL (Broadband over Power Line) trials in the US, encouraged by the FCC, many of which were proven to cause harmful interference to licensed users (primarily Amateur Radio) and violate FCC regs. Enforcement was, to put it politely, lax. It took an organized, well-funded legal and regulatory challenge to beat this back.

The primary argument in favor of BPL is that it's cheaper than running proper kit, i.e., coax or optical fiber, especially in underserved rural areas, and gets the utility companies in on the Internet gravy train. The drawback is that power lines make great radiating antennas and lousy broaband data conduits. Performance has been poorer than advertised, interference problems worse than promised, and the economics haven't turned out well, either.

While it may have useful application in some regions, wide use of BPL is a Bad Idea, and the sooner it is staked in the heart and buried with a head of garlic in it, the better.

1
0

Vulture 1: Calling all electronics wizards

Steve Hersey
Linux

Cold temps, frozen release mechanisms, and reducing weright

Here's my $0.02 on barometric release mechanisms. Keep it simple, and think about the COLD. I was about to suggest an electronic solution based on a chip pressure sensor (the electronics weigh little if you use tiny surface-mount chips and avoid heavy packaging for the circuitry), but batteries tend to freeze at -40 C. Still, it may be more workable than a mechanical system. You may need to use heaters (probably left behind on the balloon at release) to keep the electronics functional.

For a mechanical release system, consider the flat, disk-shaped bellows used in an aneroid barometer (but filled with air so it expands at altitude to trip a release lever); simple, can be calibrated to operate at the right pressure/temperature, should be very reliable.

Speaking of very cold temperatures, that's going to be THE major issue at altitude; making the systems (primarily the batteries) function at those cold temps. By the way, the cold will raise hob with most mechanical release mechanisms like the syringe-plunger actuator.

Hypobaric testing is of minor importance compared to low-temperature testing that mimics the temperature profile of the intended ascent.

Here's another thought on electronics, light weight, and thermal issues: Sandwich the electronics between flat sheets of thin foam plastic that form the fuselage/wings; you can get flat batteries that can be insulated this way, too. For structural strength, you cannot go wrong with a strip of carbon-fiber tape as a wing spar. This is frequently used for RC model sailplanes; glue the tape to the top and bottom of a floppy foam wing, it becomes MUCH stiffer.

Another thought on weight: If using off-the-shelf electronics, strip off all the plastic cases from everything to pare down the weight.

0
0

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017