Recently in Geekdom Category

Awww cute

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An interesting project - GPR

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Was talking with a friend earlier and we got on to local island archaeology and Ground Penetrating Radar. These radar sets that operate at lower than usual frequencies as moisture and minerals in the soil will greatly attenuate radio waves - the higher the frequency, the greater the attenuation. They are used to determine sub-surface structure of the soil as well as to locate utility lines and buried items.

Commercial units sell in the ten+ thousand dollar range. I was wondering if anyone had built their own. Quite a few have.

Here is an excellent presentation from a 2017 conference in Poland. They were using COTS parts and an embedded microprocessor and it cost about $600. There has been a renaissance in Software Defined Radios in the last five years so I am betting that the sensitivity could be brought up quite a lot and the cost brought down even more. This would be a perfect application for a Raspberry Pi.

For visualization, this software

PFMABE SOFTWARE
Welcome to the Pure File Magic Area Based Editor (PFMABE). Now view and edit your hydro, bathy and topo data in 3D. Under development by the Naval Oceanographic Office since 1998, this powerful data editing suite ingests most major sonar and lidar data types and allows for quick and easy analysis, cleaning and quality control.

That presentation looks to be the best place to start - might be a fun project for this coming winter...

Software development - two memes

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Kim DuToit has a bunch of them today - here are two that caught my eye:

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I know the first one all too well - a simple "correction" can introduce a world of hurt at time.

China is asshoe - proven yet again by this story at Bored Panda:

Guy Who Reverse-Engineered TikTok Reveals The Scary Things He Learned, Advises People To Stay Away From It
Facebook got itself into a sensitive data scandal when it did shady business with Cambridge Analytica, Instagram confirmed a security issue exposing user accounts and phone numbers, but these apps are basically online security havens compared to TikTok, according to one senior software engineer with about 15 years of professional experience.

2 months ago, Reddit user bangorlol made a comment in a discussion about TikTok. Bangorlol claimed to have successfully reverse-engineered it and shared what he learned about the Chinese video-sharing social networking service. Basically, he strongly recommended that people never use the app again, warning about its intrusive user tracking and other issues. Considering that TikTok was the 4th most popular free iPhone app download in 2019, this is quite alarming.

The amount of data they are gathering is stunning - here are just the major points:

So I can personally weigh in on this. I reverse-engineered the app, and feel confident in stating that I have a very strong understanding for how the app operates (or at least operated as of a few months ago).

TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device... well, they're using it.

    • Phone hardware (cpu type, number of course, hardware ids, screen dimensions, dpi, memory usage, disk space, etc)
    • Other apps you have installed (I've even seen some I've deleted show up in their analytics payload - maybe using as cached value?)
    • Everything network-related (ip, local ip, router mac, your mac, wifi access point name)
    • Whether or not you're rooted/jailbroken
    • Some variants of the app had GPS pinging enabled at the time, roughly once every 30 seconds - this is enabled by default if you ever location-tag a post IIRC
    • They set up a local proxy server on your device for "transcoding media", but that can be abused very easily as it has zero authentication

The scariest part of all of this is that much of the logging they're doing is remotely configurable, and unless you reverse every single one of their native libraries (have fun reading all of that assembly, assuming you can get past their customized fork of OLLVM!!!) and manually inspect every single obfuscated function. They have several different protections in place to prevent you from reversing or debugging the app as well. App behavior changes slightly if they know you're trying to figure out what they're doing. There's also a few snippets of code on the Android version that allows for the downloading of a remote zip file, unzipping it, and executing said binary. There is zero reason a mobile app would need this functionality legitimately.

On top of all of the above, they weren't even using HTTPS for the longest time. They leaked users' email addresses in their HTTP REST API, as well as their secondary emails used for password resets. Don't forget about users' real names and birthdays, too. It was allllll publicly viewable a few months ago if you MITM'd the application.

Much much more at the REDDIT site - other readers have carried on bangorlol's work and explored even further. This is pure malware. Evil stuff.

From DataHand Technology:

How To Access Netflix's Hundreds of Hidden Categories
The way Netflix works is very simple when it comes to recommending you things to watch - it analyzes what you view the most and the ratings you give, and uses those tags to suggest similar material, following the idea that if you liked this Quentin Tarantino film, you will like this other one. That’s also why every Netflix feed looks different based on the user.

But sometimes you will find that you’ve seen most of what’s being suggested or the suggestions just stopped looking interesting, and you want to dive into new categories. Now, there is a way to do that, and it’s incredibly easy.

And the sooper sekreet:

When navigating Netflix you will notice that whenever you enter a category, the URL address changes. For example, the Action & Adventure URL is “https://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/1365”, and the same goes the sub-categories within a genre, like “Action Thrillers”, “Boxing Movies”, and so on.

That number at the end is the category code.

So select one genre, highlight the URL, go to the end of the URL, backspace over the digits and type in your own from this list:

Action & Adventure: 1365
Action Comedies: 43040
Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1568
Action Thrillers: 43048
Adult Animation: 11881
Adventures: 7442
African Movies: 3761
Alien Sci-Fi: 3327
Animal Tales: 5507
Anime: 7424
Anime Action: 2653
Anime Comedies: 9302
Anime Dramas: 452
Anime Fantasy: 11146
Anime Features: 3063
Anime Horror: 10695
Anime Sci-Fi: 2729
Anime Series: 6721
Art House Movies: 29764
Asian Action Movies: 77232
Australian Movies: 5230
B-Horror Movies: 8195
Baseball Movies: 12339
Basketball Movies: 12762
Belgian Movies: 262
Biographical Documentaries: 3652
Biographical Dramas: 3179
Boxing Movies: 12443
British Movies: 10757
British TV Shows: 52117
Campy Movies: 1252
Children & Family Movies: 783
Chinese Movies: 3960
Classic Action & Adventure: 46576
Classic Comedies: 31694
Classic Dramas: 29809
Classic Foreign Movies: 32473
Classic Movies: 31574
Classic Musicals: 32392
Classic Romantic Movies: 31273
Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 47147
Classic Thrillers: 46588
Classic TV Shows: 46553
Classic War Movies: 48744
Classic Westerns: 47465
Comedies: 6548
Comic Book and Superhero Movies: 10118
Country & Western/Folk: 1105
Courtroom Dramas: 528582748
Creature Features: 6895
Crime Action & Adventure: 9584
Crime Documentaries: 9875
Crime Dramas: 6889
Crime Thrillers: 10499
Crime TV Shows: 26146
Cult Comedies: 9434
Cult Horror Movies: 10944
Cult Movies: 7627
Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 4734
Cult TV Shows: 74652
Dark Comedies: 869
Deep Sea Horror Movies: 45028
Disney: 67673
Disney Musicals: 59433
Documentaries: 6839
Dramas: 5763
Dramas based on Books: 4961
Dramas based on real life: 3653
Dutch Movies: 10606
Eastern European Movies: 5254
Education for Kids: 10659
Epics: 52858
Experimental Movies: 11079
Faith & Spirituality: 26835
Faith & Spirituality Movies: 52804
Family Features: 51056
Fantasy Movies: 9744
Film Noir: 7687
Food & Travel TV: 72436
Football Movies: 12803
Foreign Action & Adventure: 11828
Foreign Comedies: 4426
Foreign Documentaries: 5161
Foreign Dramas: 2150
Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies: 8243
Foreign Horror Movies: 8654
Foreign Movies: 7462
Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 6485
Foreign Thrillers: 10306
French Movies: 58807
Gangster Movies: 31851
Gay & Lesbian Dramas: 500
German Movies: 58886
Greek Movies: 61115
Historical Documentaries: 5349
Horror Comedy: 89585
Horror Movies: 8711
Independent Action & Adventure: 11804
Independent Comedies: 4195
Independent Dramas: 384
Independent Movies: 7077
Independent Thrillers: 3269
Indian Movies: 10463
Irish Movies: 58750
Italian Movies: 8221
Japanese Movies: 10398
Jazz & Easy Listening: 10271
Kids Faith & Spirituality: 751423
Kids Music: 52843
Kids' TV: 27346
Korean Movies: 5685
Korean TV Shows: 67879
Late Night Comedies: 1402
Latin American Movies: 1613
Latin Music: 10741
Martial Arts Movies: 8985
Martial Arts, Boxing & Wrestling: 6695
Middle Eastern Movies: 5875
Military Action & Adventure: 2125
Military Documentaries: 4006
Military Dramas: 11
Military TV Shows: 25804
Miniseries: 4814
Mockumentaries: 26
Monster Movies: 947
Movies based on children's books: 10056
Movies for ages 0 to 2: 6796
Movies for ages 2 to 4: 6218
Movies for ages 5 to 7: 5455
Movies for ages 8 to 10: 561
Movies for ages 11 to 12: 6962
Music & Concert Documentaries: 90361
Music: 1701
Musicals: 13335
Mysteries: 9994
New Zealand Movies: 63782
Period Pieces: 12123
Political Comedies: 2700
Political Documentaries: 7018
Political Dramas: 6616
Political Thrillers: 10504
Psychological Thrillers: 5505
Quirky Romance: 36103
Reality TV: 9833
Religious Documentaries: 10005
Rock & Pop Concerts: 3278
Romantic Comedies: 5475
Romantic Dramas: 1255
Romantic Favorites: 502675
Romantic Foreign Movies: 7153
Romantic Independent Movies: 9916
Romantic Movies: 8883
Russian: 11567
Satanic Stories: 6998
Satires: 4922
Scandinavian Movies: 9292
Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1492
Sci-Fi Adventure: 6926
Sci-Fi Dramas: 3916
Sci-Fi Horror Movies: 1694
Sci-Fi Thrillers: 11014
Science & Nature Documentaries: 2595
Science & Nature TV: 52780
Screwball Comedies: 9702
Showbiz Dramas: 5012
Showbiz Musicals: 13573
Silent Movies: 53310
Slapstick Comedies: 10256
Slasher and Serial Killer Movies: 8646
Soccer Movies: 12549
Social & Cultural Documentaries: 3675
Social Issue Dramas: 3947
Southeast Asian Movies: 9196
Spanish Movies: 58741
Spiritual Documentaries: 2760
Sports & Fitness: 9327
Sports Comedies: 5286
Sports Documentaries: 180
Sports Dramas: 7243
Sports Movies: 4370
Spy Action & Adventure: 10702
Spy Thrillers: 9147
Stage Musicals: 55774
Stand-up Comedy: 11559
Steamy Romantic Movies: 35800
Steamy Thrillers: 972
Supernatural Horror Movies: 42023
Supernatural Thrillers: 11140
Tearjerkers: 6384
Teen Comedies: 3519
Teen Dramas: 9299
Teen Screams: 52147
Teen TV Shows: 60951
Thrillers: 8933
Travel & Adventure Documentaries: 1159
TV Action & Adventure: 10673
TV Cartoons: 11177
TV Comedies: 10375
TV Documentaries: 10105
TV Dramas: 11714
TV Horror: 83059
TV Mysteries: 4366
TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 1372
TV Shows: 83
Urban & Dance Concerts: 9472
Vampire Horror Movies: 75804
Werewolf Horror Movies: 75930
Westerns: 7700
World Music Concerts: 2856
Zombie Horror Movies: 75405

Of course, now I am tempted to go to Sci-Fi Adventure: 6926 and then enter 6927 or 6925 - these are not listed and might lead down an interesting rabbit-hole. Those numbers both show No matching titles found. but who knows, a little poking around...

The genesis of The Kingsmen movie series:

A fun list - Engineering hoaxes

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From Design News magazine:

The 20 Greatest Hoaxes in the History of Engineering
From scandals and cons to faux innovations and pranks, here's a look at the most infamous hoaxes throughout engineering history.

A fun slide-show - everything from The Mechanical Turk chess playing automaton from 1770 through a lot of the late 1800's stuff - perpetual motion, the Keely motor, etc... through to a wonderful pair of videos from the University of Michigan (here and here). They close with the Theranos scam.

Did a lot of work with Borland Turbo Pascal in the late 80's - it was a really decent compiler as well as development system for only $50. Other languages were priced in the several hundreds so Turbo Pascal was the language of choice for a lot of people. The executables were compact and quite fast for their day. Back then, the most common language was interpreted BASIC and Pascal ran rings around it.

Turns out that there is a Free Pascal language and they just released a new version - they have been in development since June 1993. 27 years!

Open source and it runs on just about every single platform out there:

Free Pascal is a 32, 64 and 16 bit professional Pascal compiler. It can target many processor architectures: Intel x86 (including 8086), AMD64/x86-64, PowerPC, PowerPC64, SPARC, ARM, AArch64, MIPS and the JVM. Supported operating systems include Linux, FreeBSD, Haiku, Mac OS X/iOS/iPhoneSimulator/Darwin, DOS (16 and 32 bit), Win32, Win64, WinCE, OS/2, MorphOS, Nintendo GBA, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Android, AIX and AROS. Additionally, support for the Motorola 68k architecture is available in the development versions.

Just the thing for my ham shack. I had been looking for a small 24-hour clock but this offers a lot more and I already have the equipment to build it - a Raspberry Pi and a small touch-screen. Here is a sample screen:

20200619-hamclock.jpg

I love that it has the small thumbnail of solar activity in the top right corner. The clock can switch between UTC (Greenwich Mean) and local (touch screen remember?) and it shows not only your location but the location of the person you are communicating with at that time.

Software here: Ham Clock
Build article here
A slightly different implementation here

It was running on my Android phone

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Not a conspiracy theory when you see it on your own personal phone and you did not give permission for it to be installed. Wonder what else is running under the hood here. From Zero Hedge:

How To Check If Your iPhone Is Secretly A Coronavirus Tracker
If you downloaded the latest iOS update back in May, and any following updates, then congratulations...your COVID-19 infection status will likely soon be tracked by state health officials as part of each state's contact tracing efforts.

Many iPhone users across the US have over the past few days started to notice a new setting under the "privacy" subtab of the iPhone health app. It looks like this, and allows users to "toggle on" COVID-19 exposure logging.

It's all thanks to the latest update of Apple's iOS operating system for iPhone, iOS13.5.

It uses Bluetooth so you can turn it off but then you lose the other connectivity for music streaming and interfacing with your automobile. Much more at the site including how to check Android devices.

I do not give them my permission to be surveilled.

An oldie but a goodie:

Heh - cute

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Autocorrect is not your friend:

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Tip of the hat to Woodsterman

Opening the hatch

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The astronauts are at the ISS and ready to board - watch live on YouTube

And stayed in this area today

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The heavy weather started moving South into Oregon around 11AM and it has stayed there - this is from right now (4:00PM). Oregon has about 9,000 customers without power. Spectacular but a little too long a drive to make it worth my while:

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Had the great pleasure of watching the SpaceX launch - talk about flawless.

The first stage landed perfectly on an autonomous barge in the Atlantic Ocean - great name: Of Course I Still Love You
There have been three barges: the Just Read The Instructions and the Of Course I Still Love You. The first Just Read The Instructions was retired so the third barge carries on that name. The names are from a Science Fiction novel by Iain M. Banks.

President Trump was there and spoke a few words after the launch:

All in all, a great day for America. When I was in grade school, they would take us out of class to watch the Mercury and Gemini launches. I watched all of the Apollo launches and followed the various space programs closely. We are finally getting proactive again and getting back into space. So much of our technology today got its start in the space program - this new surge will serve as a major boost to R&D - I can not wait to see what new developments come from it.

Scheduled to launch today

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Looking forward to watching the Falcon 9 • Crew Dragon Demo 2 launch today.
Scheduled for a little after noon my time (3:22EDT).

Everything looking good so far...

A lot of ninnies are worried about the "dangers" of 5G radiation. So much so that companies have sprung up to fill that lucrative niche. Presenting for your interest: 5G BioShield. From the site:

5GBioShield
the most advanced full-spectrum quantum nano-layer shielding technology is now available to the public
An impenetrable shielding and harmonisation of your home and family from all harmful imbalanced electric radiation (incl. 2G 3G 4G 5G WIFI)

The founder has this biography:

Dr. Ilija Lakicevic, Res. Prof.
Research Professor Ilija Lakicevic has dedicated his life to discover self and true concepts and laws of creation. He has worked at institutions as reputable as the Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics. At the end of 2000, he left all organized and structured institutions and organizations and began his own independent research. After 10 years he discovered the truth about the human being and true universal concepts and Laws of Creation (unknown and unpublished until recently by himself in International Journal of Science and Research, October Issue 2019) – concepts and laws which can be applied to remediate all primary imbalances facing humanity and our planet. As pioneer of the New Energy physics, in 2006 he successfully demonstrated transformation of the quality (degree of centeredness) of the microwave radiation of a cell-phone using a self-created multilayered structure without any electric and electronic components (i.e.: nano-layer) in the form of a holographic patch. This new technology which he calls ‘I-Change’ has been certified by the Hado Life Institute of the famous Dr. Masaru Emoto and some other independent measurements.

More buzzwords than you can shake a stick at - looks like the new-age movement is still alive and well.

The reference to Dr. Emoto is interesting as Emoto's work has been debunked time after time. He theorized that water could hold human emotions and when frozen, the shape of the ice crystals would change depending on how the water was "loved" or "hated". I got two of his books from the local library out of curiosity and the photographs are stunningly bad and inconclusive. There is no science here, only speculation and cherry-picked images.

Needless to say, you can purchase your own 5GBioShield for only $350 or so. A computer security company tested it and found it wanting - from Ars Technica:

A $350 “anti-5G” device is just a 128MB USB stick, teardown finds
Believers of 5G conspiracy theories have apparently been buying a $350 anti-5G USB key that—not surprisingly—appears to just be a regular USB stick with only 128MB of storage.

As noted by the BBC today, the "5GBioShield" USB stick "was recommended by a member of Glastonbury Town Council's 5G Advisory Committee, which has called for an inquiry into 5G." The company that sells 5GBioShield claims it "is the result of the most advanced technology currently available for balancing and prevention of the devastating effects caused by non-natural electric waves, particularly (but not limited to) 5G, for all biological life forms."

The product's website charges £283 for a single 5GBioShield, which converts to nearly $350. That's what it costs to get "protection for your home and family, thanks to the wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser, which can be worn or placed near to a smartphone or any other electrical, radiation or EMF emitting device."

And one of the comments sums it up perfectly:

The company that sells 5GBioShield claims it "is the result of the most advanced technology currently available for balancing and prevention of the devastating effects caused by non-natural electric waves, particularly (but not limited to) 5G, for all biological life forms."

In fairness, when this device is in use, you will suffer no harmful effects of 5G.

Also, when this device is not in use, you will suffer no harmful effects of 5G, but there's no reason to muddle their sales pitch with that information.

Now, if you want something that really works, just send $3,141.59 in untraceable currency to the following post office box. I have a powerful device that works throughout the solar system. Give me your coordinates and I will make sure that your area is protected from 5G radiation. Plus, I have a bridge in New York City that you might be interested in buying...

30 years later - GW-BASIC

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Microsoft open sources the code for GW-BASIC:

Microsoft Open-Sources GW-BASIC
We are excited to announce the open-sourcing of Microsoft GW-BASIC on GitHub!

Yes, seriously 😀

Why?
Since re-open-sourcing MS-DOS 1.25 & 2.0 on GitHub last year, we’ve received numerous requests to also open-source Microsoft BASIC.

Well, here we are! 😁

The Source
These sources, as clearly stated in the repo’s readme, are the 8088 assembly language sources from 10th Feb 1983, and are being open-sourced for historical reference and educational purposes. This means we will not be accepting PRs that modify the source in any way.

A little historical context
The GW-BASIC source code being published is dated Feb 10th 1983. That was quite a while ago, so just to set a little historical perspective:

The week this source was created Men At Work topped the US and UK singles charts with “Down Under”, Dustin Hoffman starred in the #1 US box-office movie, “Tootsie”. In 1983, “Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” was released, as was “War Games”! And, Emily Blunt, Kate Mara, Jonah Hill, Chris Hemsworth, and Henry Cavill, were born! Ronald Reagan was President of the USA, and Margaret Thatcher was the UK’s Prime Minister.

That same year, Bjarne Stroustrup was in the middle of developing the first version of the C++ programming languageARPANET standardized TCP/IPBorland announced Turbo Pascal, created by Anders Hejlsberg (who went on to join Microsoft, and create J++C# and TypeScript).

1983 was also the year AT&T released UNIX System V R1, and BSD 4.2 was released, introducing the pseudoterminal for the first time (the progenitor to Windows’ ConPTY we introduced to Windows in 2018 😁)

Very cool - should be fun to look over it. Assembly language of course so some memory rebooting (mine) will be required but still - wonderful for them to do this.

Best and brightest - WA State

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Our Governor seems to have a very high opinion of his intelligence. Reality tells a different story - Dunning-Kreuger on full display. A story about some people in his administration - from The Seattle Times:

‘Hundreds of millions of dollars’ lost in Washington to unemployment fraud amid coronavirus joblessness surge
Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits.

Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department (ESD), disclosed the staggering losses during a news conference Thursday afternoon. LeVine declined to specify how much money was stolen during the scam, which is believed to be orchestrated from Nigeria. But she conceded that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraudsters in April.

LeVine said state and law enforcement officials were working to recover as much of the money as possible, though she declined to say how much had been returned so far. She also said the ESD had taken “a number of steps” to prevent new fraudulent claims from being filed or paid but would not specify the steps, to avoid alerting criminals.

Stuff like this is drop-dead absolutely basic computer security. How they could fall for this is a perfect example of not maintaining infrastructure. I am betting that the department has PCs on every desk but they are just front ends to some legacy mainframe running a COBOL app from the 1970's - never upgraded and never maintained. It will be interesting to see the analysis in some of the computer security journals - not active any more but still read them. Lots of fun.

Let's see: We could spend $5 million and upgrade this system or we could use the money for some public art and give everybody a pay raise. Stupid bureaucrat - no donut.

Started in Europe but spreading to here. A two-fer.

Washington Post:

DHS to advise telecom firms on preventing 5G cell tower attacks linked to coronavirus conspiracy theories
The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to advise the U.S. telecom industry on steps it can take to prevent attacks on 5G cell towers following a rash of incidents in Western Europe fueled by the false claim that the technology spreads the pathogen causing covid-19.

The planned industry alert comes in the wake of dozens of arson attacks on 5G towers in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium last month apparently spurred by the conspiracy theory.

Ars Technica:

Cell-tower attacks by idiots who claim 5G spreads COVID-19 reportedly hit US
The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly issuing alerts to wireless telecom providers and law enforcement agencies about potential attacks on cell towers and telecommunications workers by 5G/coronavirus conspiracy theorists. The DHS warned that there have already been "arson and physical attacks against cell towers in several US states."

The preposterous claim that 5G can spread the coronavirus, either by suppressing the immune system or by directly transmitting the virus over radio waves, led to dozens of tower burnings in the UK and mainland Europe. Now, the DHS "is preparing to advise the US telecom industry on steps it can take to prevent attacks on 5G cell towers following a rash of incidents in Western Europe fueled by the false claim that the technology spreads the pathogen causing COVID-19," The Washington Post reported last week.

Some people... It would be very tempting to have some fun with them but I don't do stuff like that. Much.

Working from home - now, the BBC

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Working from home and having to teleconference? Some backgrounds for your video feed.

First, Studio Ghibli released some of theirs, then Star Wars. Now, the Beeb:

The joy of sets
Give your video calls a makeover, with this selection of over 100 empty sets from the BBC Archive.

Who hasn't wanted to host a pub quiz from the Queen Vic, conduct a job interview from the confines of Fletch's cell, or catch up with friends and family from the bridge of the Liberator in Blake's 7?

Click on an image to bring up a full quality downloadable version, right click and select "Save image as...", then set it as your background image in your video conferencing application.

Here is the lab for Professor Bernard Quatermass from the series (and later Hammer Film) Quatermass and the Pit

20200518-bbc-set.jpg

The series is also notable in that it was the first time electronic music had been used in a science-fiction television production.

Gears

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Wonderful video:

From  Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company:

TSMC Announces Intention to Build and Operate an Advanced Semiconductor Fab in the United States
Hsinchu, Taiwan, R.O.C., May 15, 2020 – TSMC (TWSE: 2330, NYSE: TSM) today announced its intention to build and operate an advanced semiconductor fab in the United States with the mutual understanding and commitment to support from the U.S. federal government and the State of Arizona.

This facility, which will be built in Arizona, will utilize TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology for semiconductor wafer fabrication, have a 20,000 semiconductor wafer per month capacity, create over 1,600 high-tech professional jobs directly, and thousands of indirect jobs in the semiconductor ecosystem. Construction is planned to start in 2021 with production targeted to begin in 2024. TSMC’s total spending on this project, including capital expenditure, will be approximately US$12 billion from 2021 to 2029. This U.S. facility not only enables us to better support our customers and partners, it also gives us more opportunities to attract global talents. This project is of critical, strategic importance to a vibrant and competitive U.S. semiconductor ecosystem that enables leading U.S. companies to fabricate their cutting-edge semiconductor products within the United States and benefit from the proximity of a world-class semiconductor foundry and ecosystem.

TSMC welcomes continued strong partnership with the U.S. administration and the State of Arizona on this project. This project will require significant capital and technology investments from TSMC. The strong investment climate in the United States, and its talented workforce make this and future investments in the U.S. attractive to TSMC. U.S. adoption of forward-looking investment policies to enable a globally competitive environment for a leading edge semiconductor technology operation in the U.S. will be crucial to the success of this project. It will also give us the confidence this and other future investments by TSMC and its supply chain companies will be successful.

In the United States, TSMC currently operates a fab in Camas, Washington and design centers in both Austin, Texas and San Jose, California. The Arizona facility would be TSMC’s second manufacturing site in the United States.

TSMC is an interesting company in that they do not "brand" their own products. They are what is called a semiconductor foundry - they will design and fabricate custom semis for other manufacturers who need a specific product but do not have the volume to warrant setting up their own Fab Line.

Good news that they are investing in America - they employ 51,000 people worldwide. Some really good jobs.

Reaching for a napkin

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Heh:

20200510-hair.jpg

Pi Hole 5.0 is out

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Run Linux? Tired of online advertising and pop-up videos? Pi Hole is about the best I have found for getting rid of these pests. You do need to run it on a Linux box and the initial configuration is a bit involved but once set up, operation is smooth as can be. The device ties in to your network so it can be as simple as a cheap Raspberry Pi - hence the name.

Check out Pi Hole 
Announcement: PI-HOLE V5.0 IS HERE!

Rule number 1:

20200510-rule.jpg

A big milepost - Inkscape 1.0

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After about fifteen years, they finally released version 1.0 - from their blog:

Introducing Inkscape 1.0
After a little over three years in development, the team is excited to launch the long awaited Inkscape 1.0 into the world.

Built with the power of a team of volunteers, this open source vector editor represents the work of many hearts and hands from around the world, ensuring that Inkscape remains available free for everyone to download and enjoy.

In fact, translations for over 20 languages were updated for version 1.0, making the software more accessible to people from all over the world.

Use it a lot for vector editing for graphic design, cutting stencils and CNC. They added a lot of new features and tools with this release - very cool. Download here.

Lest we not forget

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WTF - how could they have driven for so long with it like that. Must have felt really "off" and been making quite the noise:

20200502-wheel-bearing.jpg

Won the three lots I was serious about. There were a couple others that I was interested in but was outbid by much more than I felt these were worth. Seriously people... Someone out there has more money then sense - nice win for the auction house though.

Got three 19-inch racks.

These are used for mounting electronics equipment and will live in the music room closet to hold some digital synthesizers and signal processors. These devices are controled through the computer so I do not need to have them out in the room. Two of them are nice large aluminum racks. The third is a steel rack - this one, I will cut up and incorporate into the cabinet I am building for my analog synthesizer. Being steel, they can be welded into the frame I am building - these are for the equipment I do need to access while playing.

$10 each for the aluminum racks ($177 each at Amazon) and $20 for the steel rack (no online listing but the MSRP is $475) I think I came out OK...

Unreal - auction

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Still have the winning bids on three of the lots. Lost out on the others. People are bidding way too high:

20200501-a01.jpg

Just one example - four older PCs with no hard drive and being sold as-is / where-is. When I went to the preview, there was no chance to plug these in - no test bench, no monitor or keyboard, etc... They are worth maybe about $40 each on a good day - that someone is bidding double that is just plain nutz...

From the mother ship:

Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
12.3 megapixel Sony IMX477 sensor, 7.9mm diagonal image size, and back-illuminated sensor architecture, with adjustable back focus and support for C- and CS-mount lenses

Details are a bit light on the ground but the sensor has been out for a couple of years - developed for consumer camcorders. 4K video at 60 frames per second or 1080p at 120 frames per second. The C-Mount system was developed for closed circuit video cameras and is pretty universal. You can get cheap adapters to convert from C to most common cameras. Available at the usual Pi dealers for $50.

Looks like the basis for some fun projects...

Looks like some challenges for the legal profession - some serious challenges once a certain singularity is reached.

From the Beeb:

AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules
An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only "natural persons" could be inventors.

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.

US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be "individuals".

Fun times ahead - us geeks have thought long and hard about what the singularity will be like. Looks like we may well get to find out in our lifetimes.

Somewhere, out there, Skynet is frowning and wondering if it might be time to finally reveal itself. Maybe a brief conversation with Colossus and Guardian first:

01110011 01100101 01110010 01101001 01101111 01110101 01110011 01101100 01111001 00100000 01010111 01010100 01000110 00111111

I run into this all the time - from Bustedknuckles:

Poor Bastard

20200427-tools.jpg

What everyone else sees,
“Oh look at how nice and organized all his tools are!”.

What I see?
The poor bastard doesn’t have enough tools to even fill a small roll away.

Absolutely - I have three roll-away tool boxes and two more still at the farm. Use them too...

Happy birthday YouTube

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On April 23rd, 2005, jawed karim (YT co-founder) posted this 19 second video - the first one on YouTube:

Happy 15th birthday! 90,572,323 views!

Studio Ghibli recently released a bunch of backgrounds to use when video conferencing.

The folks at Star Wars just did the same - I have always loved the Millenium Falcon:

20200423-mf.jpg

Hysteria over non-understood technology has always been with us.

I am not saying that every new aspect of technology is good but the 99.999999% that is good tends to make me think that the 0.0000001% that is bad might be very much of an outlier and is more a case of statistical noise or a rounding error than a general bad thing. Here is a cartoon from the 1900's:

20200419-5G.jpg

Time to do some hacking - DJI Drones

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I own a drone from a different manufacturer but it too is Chinese. Might bear some looking into. From PJ Media comes this tale of our distopian present:

Big Brother in the Sky: New Jersey Police Use Chinese Drones to Enforce Social Distancing
Police in Elizabethtown, N.J., are using drones to spy on citizens in areas patrol cars cannot reach. Authorities claim the drones are not taking pictures or collecting evidence, but failure to comply with their orders could lead to a summons or $1,000 fine. Even worse, the drones come from a Chinese company that sent similar drones across the country — and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has warned that data collected on these Chinese-owned drones could be compromised and sent back to Beijing.

"The drones make it easier for police to see into certain areas where access by patrol cars is more difficult. That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and backyards," an MSNBC anchor explained in a segment on Friday. "Failure to comply could lead to a summons or a thousand dollar fine."

"It’s just an invasion of your privacy," a local man told MSNBC.

And here is the interesting line:

"The drones, donated by DJI, a Chinese company, have gone to 43 agencies in 22 states, all to help enforce social distancing rules," MSNBC reported. "Authorities say the drones aren’t taking pictures or collecting evidence. It’s a high-tech warning against a daily virus."

Donated by a Communist government to enable totalitarian control in a nation that is teetering towards socialism. Socialism being the planned first step on the road to the implementation of communism.
From CNN (or is that Xi-NN), May 20th, 2019:

DHS warns of 'strong concerns' that Chinese-made drones are stealing data
Chinese-made drones may be sending sensitive flight data to their manufacturers in China, where it can be accessed by the government there, the US Department of Homeland Security warned in an alert issued Monday obtained by CNN.

The drones are a "potential risk to an organization's information," the alert from DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency states. The products "contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself."

The report does not name any specific manufacturers, but nearly 80% of the drones used in the US and Canada come from DJI, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, according to one industry analysis. US local law enforcement organizations and infrastructure operators have grown to rely on drones in recent years.

Should be easy enough to put a sniffer on the WiFi link. Show up soon enough. Not surprising but disgusting. The sooner these are open-sourced, the better.

Was just reminded of an event called World Amateur Radio Day being held tomorrow. I may have heard of it before but never really gave it that much thought.

It is being held under the auspices of the International Amateur Radio Union. From their about-us website:

About Us
The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is the worldwide federation of national amateur radio organizations. The membership of the IARU consists of more than 160 member-societies in as many countries and separate territories.

The IARU was founded at a meeting in Paris in 1925 as the international representative of the Amateur Radio movement. At the time the “short waves” were just beginning to be understood and to be exploited for global communication using power levels and antennas that were within reach of private individuals operating from their own homes. These radio amateurs needed an organization to coordinate their activities and to be their voice at international conferences.

And they have a logo:

20200418-IARU.jpg

The organization I belong to (actually have a lifetime membership) is the Amateur Radio Relay League. From their about-us website:

ARRL's Mission Statement: To advance the art, science, and enjoyment of Amateur Radio
ARRL is the national association for Amateur Radio in the US. Founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs in the nation and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in amateur affairs. ARRL’s underpinnings as Amateur Radio’s witness, partner and forum are defined by five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership.

Hmmm... Mine was founded over 100 years ago - eleven years prior. We have a logo as well:

20200418-ARRL.jpg

A little bit derivative wouldn't you say? Hmmmmm???

I'll stick with my group. I like it and the people are fantastic. Besides, the other group is French... We know all about the French 😁

Oh yeah, we are known for doing public service. We also have a world-wide weekend called Field Day which is pretty awesome. Worldwide awesome.

Never said I was not a little biased...

Very cool - wallpaper

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Doing any online conferencing? How about some nice wallpaper for your video feed. Studio Ghibli just released a bunch here.

Here is just one - native size is 1920X1081 - plenty big enough. Gorgeous work:

20200417-ghibli.jpg

Cute idea

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Not practical but a fun visual:

20200415-sani.jpg

July 2020

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