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Category: Technical

Sentry mode – your car is always watching

Sentry mode – your car is always watching

The end of scuff-n-run parking lot door dings? Car prowling a thing of the past?

Elon Musk says Tesla is working on a “sentry mode” security feature that could let owners record damage and break-ins. The announcement came in response to a customer’s tweet complaining of a dent to his Model 3 and suggesting a “360 dash cam feature while parked.” 

Tesla introduced 360-degree surround camera views for cars with Hardware 2.5 as part of its October software update. The feature lets owners capture dash cam recordings from the car’s front-facing camera, which can be saved to a flash drive that plugs into the vehicle’s USB port. Pressing an icon saves a 10 minute clip, while holding it down pauses recording. The update also taps in to all eight cameras on every Model S, X and 3 to create a surround view of nearby cars

https://www.engadget.com/2019/01/23/elon-musk-tesla-sentry-mode/

It also raises the probability of unintented side effects. Cars, in our lifetime, will almost certainly become fully autonomous, always wirelessly connected to national networks, and have 360 cameras/sensor packages/etc.

This has really interesting implications for privacy, crime, and social contracts. It’s highly probable that when any kind of crime or incident occurs, there will now be a whole host of cars that will have recorded what happened from every angle. By using this footage, it would be possible to re-trace suspect paths back for possibly hours if not days/weeks.

For example, the Boston bombers could have easily been identified by watching feeds back until they planted the bomb in the trash bin. Then it might be trivial to follow them back, block by block, looking at the footage of every car they passed until they arrive at their home. You might even be able to follow them back for the weeks leading up to the crime – identifyng every store and person they met with. A complete, airtight case might be created – all without a detective leaving his office seat. Spousal cheaters would be turned in by their car. Lawyers might subpeona cloud services for video proof of a suspect/client’s whereabouts during events. Don’t even get me started about surveillance by fully autonomous cars that can follow you wherever you go and trade off every few blocks with other cars so you don’t even know they’re following you.

It also means everything you do next to a street will likely be recorded from many sources – including ones that pass you by and then are gone. All of which likely is immediately uploaded to the cloud and has only the security of those systems to prevent anyone from using that information for whatever purposes they choose. With data breaches becoming a regular occurrence, it’s something that should make us all give pause.

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

I absolutely love maps and visualizations. I’m always on the lookout for cool new creations.

Scott Reinhard combines contemporary land elevations with historic maps to create three-dimensional environments of a specific region, city, or state. To produce the digital maps, he pulls elevation data from the United States Geological Survey, which he then embeds with location information and merges with the original design of the old maps.

Reinhard was introduced to the methods he uses in his digital maps through Daniel Huffman’s website Something About Maps. You can see more of Reinhard’s digital works on Instagram and buy select high-quality prints, on his website. Check out his Shaded Relief in Blender tutorial (thanks to Dunstan Orchard and Anton van Tetering).

Grand Tetons 1899
1903 Acadia
1904 Glacier

Attaching 5.25″ floppies via USB

Attaching 5.25″ floppies via USB

Floppy disks are a relic of the past these days. You might still see the odd 3.5″ floppy – and there are even still companies making 3.5″ USB drives you can plug into your system today. But 5.25″ floppy drives (360k and 1.2 meg variety) are much more scarce. So scarce, in fact, that you’re likely not to find any outside of old vintage computers. Most modern PC’s since the Pentiums don’t even have connectors or interfaces that support them and I know of no vendors that make USB 5.25″ drives.

So what is one to do if they have old 5.25″ floppies they need to read? Turns out others have had the same problem – so you’re not alone. You have the following options:

  1. Find a service that will convert them – Usually for a fee around $5-$10 per disk.
  2. Buy an old vintage pre-Intel Core based computer from eBay that has a working 5.25″ drive.
  3. Use a 5.25″ to USB converter.
    1. Kryoflux – https://www.kryoflux.com/ -the Holy Grail of floppy readers. Is able to read all formats. Save as raw stream, or export to common sector formats supporting: Acorn Electron, Apple, Amstrad CPC, Archimedes, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, BBC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, MSX, IBM PC, PC-8801, Sam Coupe, Spectrum, E-MU Emulator & Emulator II, DEC RX01 & RX02 and many, many others https://www.kryoflux.com/
    2. Device Side Data’s FC5025 –http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html – USB 5.25″ floppy controller plugs into any computer’s USB port and enables you to attach a 5.25″ floppy drive. Even if your computer has no built-in floppy controller, the FC5025 lets you read those old disks. And it’s not just for IBM PC disks – it also understands formats used by Apple, Atari, Commodore and TI, among others.
    3. Supercard Pro. – Here’s a review and this page which contains a lot of useful information.

Replacement fans on 2016 Razer Blade 14″ laptop

Replacement fans on 2016 Razer Blade 14″ laptop

I recently bought a used 2016 14″ Razer Blade M970 (RX09-01652E22) gaming laptop for about 20% the price of a new one (seems the only things that lose value faster than a Porsche driving off the lot are gaming laptops with last gen technology). I needed this one since it had a high-end GPU that allowed me to do modern DX12/Vulkan work, while being in a nice transportable 14″ slim form factor (it had a M970 graphics card).

While a screaming deal, there was one other noise problem: the fans. Gaming laptops are kind of notorious for needing powerful fans to cool their graphics cards. Both the fans in this laptop were starting to make bearing noises. The temps were fine and the fans worked ok – they were just a little noisier than they should have been. I took them out and cleaned them, but same result.

The originals are Cooler Master FB07006M05SPA312’s. DC 5v 0.5A, 4 pin connector.

Unfortunately, finding these guys turned up next to zero hits. Best options I could find were:

  1. Live with it – but know the fans might be dying/making more noise soon.
  2. Send it in to Razer and they’re replace them out of warranty. They charged a flat $100 rate + parts (they quoted me about $20) + shipping. About $150. Ouch.
  3. Buy used fan/heat-sink assembly off eBay. They were still charging around $40, and the fans were definitely all used. They could have the same noise issues as I was having – or have them soon.
  4. Dig deeper.

Found:

I opted for #4 and found a company on AliBaba that hit the spot. I found this vendor selling off-brand versions that looked and speced out right. I took the gamble since the price was $32 for 2 fans – a SCREAMING deal:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/2PCS-CPU-fan-for-GIGABYTE-Razer-Blade-14-RZ09-01161E31-RZ09-01161E31-R3U1-laptop-cpu-cooling/32841110492.html

They arrived about 2+ weeks later as I opted for the free shipping. I popped out the old ones and can confirm these look and fit identically to the originals – sans the CoolerMaster stickers. They appeared to be brand new. Temps all appeared fine after gaming for well over an hour. They revved up to full power and then back down to idle perfectly. Best of all – they were nice and quiet. Success!

Alternative:

If you are looking for originals, I found these at $65/each, but that’s pretty steep to me:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Emacro-for-Cooler-Master-FB07006M05SPA312-Server-Round-Fan-DC-5V-0-5A-4-wire/32887795069.html

 

 

1.7 days – on average

1.7 days – on average

Glad to know our doctors and academics are still producing lots of great papers. While some things like magnets are seriously dangerous if swallowed, the goal of this one was to get over-protective parents to calm down about the risk of many other commonly swallowed household items.

Six pediatric health‐care professionals were recruited to swallow the head of a Lego figurine. The professionals then examined their stool samples for the next few days to determine:

  1. If Lego pieces passed through their system or got stuck
  2. The time it took to pass the Lego piece.

Full paper here:
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jpc.14309

SMB1 is unsafe

SMB1 is unsafe

If you use samba and connect to it via Windows, you might get a message that says:

You can’t connect to the file share because it’s not secure. This share requires the obsolete SMB1 protocol, which is unsafe and could expose your system to attack.

The right solution is to update the Linux Samba share software/service. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible – especially if the server is not yours. The only recourse is to find another solution, contact the server owner to update it, or accept the risk.  Installing support for SMB1 opens you to the risk of various attacks – including a brutal man-in-the-middle that exposes everything. It’s a good idea to do whatever you need, then disable the protocol, because a compromised server/man-in-the-middle might block safer SMB2.x/3.x protocols which might make your system fall back to the unsafe v1.x without you knowing it.

At any rate, sometimes you have to accept the risk. Here’s how to install/enable smb1 on Windows if all else fails:

  1. Run Powershell command processor in elevated mode (run as admin)
  2. Type the following command:
    get-windowsoptionalfeature -online –featurename smb1protocol
  3. Once SMB has been installed please type the following command to activate it:
  4. enable-windowsoptionalfeature -online –featurename smb1protocol
  5. Once done, press Y and hit enter to restart your computer.
Garbage bag art

Garbage bag art

Two hundred and seventy white garbage bags hang like ghosts in the columned hall of Vienna, Austria’s Museum für agewandte Kunst (MAK) for the exhibition Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty. The piece is by Nils Völker, and is titled after the number of bags present in the installation. Over 1000 precisely installed fans and 45 circuit boards keep their movement on track, helping to rhythmically inflate and deflate the hanging plastic objects.

Tiny spy chips were added to almost 30 companies products by Chinese supplier. Including Amazon and Apple.

Tiny spy chips were added to almost 30 companies products by Chinese supplier. Including Amazon and Apple.

Update: These facts are in dispute by many of the companies involved, but the accusations appear very specific and Bloomberg usually does a good job with verification. There’s also the possibility this is high-stakes cloak-and-dagger between the US/China, or nothing at all. File this one as plausible but needs more data category Jamie.

Excellent article and something with extraordinary repercussions.

The world’s largest supplier of mothersboards, Supermicro, was caught adding spy chips to silicon they fabed for such companies as Amazon and Apple. All these parts had one thing in common: a Chinese contractor. One of the first cases was caught at Portland’s own Elemental technologies. A 3 year investigation showed almost 30 companies had their hardware infiltrated.

What does the chip do? Basically – it opens everything.

This system could let the attackers alter how the device functioned, line by line, however they wanted, leaving no one the wiser. To understand the power that would give them, take this hypothetical example: Somewhere in the Linux operating system, which runs in many servers, is code that authorizes a user by verifying a typed password against a stored encrypted one. An implanted chip can alter part of that code so the server won’t check for a password—and presto! A secure machine is open to any and all users. A chip can also steal encryption keys for secure communications, block security updates that would neutralize the attack, and open up new pathways to the internet. Should some anomaly be noticed, it would likely be cast as an unexplained oddity.