Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coolest thing I've seen in ages. Gecko tonge robot gripper.

This is just freakin' genius.

The chameleon is able to catch a variety of different insects by putting its tongue over the respective prey and securely enclosing it. The FlexShapeGripper uses this principle to grip the widest range of objects in a form-fitting manner. Using its elastic silicone cap, it can even pick up several objects in a single gripping process and put them down together, without the need for a manual conversion.

It can pick up an egg, then a pair of glasses, then three ball bearings at once, one after the other. Better than fingers.

Technology is awesome, eh? :)

The Phantom

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ikea flat pack homeless shelter. I'm not kidding.

This is destined to be one of those Great Humanitarian Ideas that just fuck over poor people for years and years. The Ikea flat-pack "BetterShelter".

Better Shelter is a groundbreaking example of collaboration, technical innovation and practical application. The shelter has been put to the test by some of the world's most exposed families, and their experiences and needs lie at the heart of the development process.

Yep, its another "White Man's burden" great idea that's going to trap a lot of refugees in really fucked-up circumstances for a really long time. Just like the anti-malaria mosquito net that's denuding large parts of Africa of every frog and waterbug in existence as poor people scoop up every single thing that moves... and eat it.

This Ikea thing is designed to last for  three years. I bet  that we'll be seeing these damn things still in use ten years from now, all rotting and falling apart, by the same people moving into them now.

Tents suck, but at least with a tent you can pick it up and move it, patch it when it leaks, sell it if you need to. This Ikea thing, not so much.

Ikea: Swedish for Bleeding Heart Liberal Dumbasses.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Intel Edison: super duper small PC on a chip.

This is a whole PC. ~$50 retail. WiFi and Bluetooth included.
I just picked one of these up. Its an Intel Edison PC-on-a-chip widget. It can be powered for days on a small battery, if you don't have it doing much. It comes with wi-fi and Bluetooth capability built in. Its powerful enough to be used as a desktop PC for surfing the Internet.

Intel intends it as a rapid-prototyping device for kids making "Internet Of Things" projects, or robots and autonomous drones. The low power draw also makes it awesome for doing any kind of embedded control device, like adding a computer network to your car or making a solar powered weather station for the back yard. The battery out of a cell phone would keep it going all night, and it would charge up all day.

I bought one. Its pretty kewl.

The reason I bring it up is, this thing is SMALL. Like, really small. Fits inside a matchbook with its battery too kinda small. I bought it for something like $50 retail at Fry's in Phoenix, if you bought a whack of them from Intel it would be half of that.

If you wanted a throw-away PC for doing something silly, like counting every Cadillac Eldorado that crosses the Brooklyn Bridge, you could put this in an Altoids tin with a teensy camera and stick it to a bridge stanchion and leave it there forever.
Or if you wanted to seed an area with wi-fi coverage you could make up a bunch of them and stick them on lamp posts. Use a Pringles can antenna for extra distance coverage and the can is the biggest part of the thing.
Put two of them miles apart and communicate via laser.
Detect deer in the back yard by radar and squirt water at them.
Track your girlfriend's car, undetectably and wirelessly. (You know some weirdo is going to do that, right?)
Fly a camera drone up onto a building to look into a particular window... and leave it there.
Detect and report on the water level in your basement sump, and the temperature of the sump pump motor, and how many times an hour it pumps, and how much electricity it uses, and how the battery back up is doing, and if the whole system pukes it sends you an email...

All kinds of things you want a PC for, you can do in a matchbox run off a 9V battery. For CHEAP.

They didn't make it as small as they could, by the way. Its a toy, basically.

Imagine the kind of crap that could be built in to your car or TV or your cell phone or even a plain old extension cord, right now, that you'd never ever know about.

Update: Welcome Rifleman's Journal readers! Consider building a bunch of these: Pirate Box. Never know when a little bit of anonymous file sharing capability might come in handy. Make it out of an Intel Edison and then tell EVERYBODY how you did it, I don't think its been done yet.

Defeating air gaps using heat.

Traditionally, a computer that is off the Internet and off the local network is considered safe. This is called an air gap, there's air between the computer and all other computers. I've posted before about guys using radio frequency (RF) shenanigans to defeat the air gap.

Now there is a new idea. This one uses heat.

The proof-of-concept attack requires both systems to first be compromised with malware. And currently, the attack allows for just eight bits of data to be reliably transmitted over an hour—a rate that is sufficient for an attacker to transmit brief commands or siphon a password or secret key but not large amounts of data. It also works only if the air-gapped system is within 40 centimeters (about 15 inches) from the other computer the attackers control. But the researchers, at Ben Gurion's Cyber Security Labs, note that this latter scenario is not uncommon, because air-gapped systems often sit on desktops alongside Internet-connected ones so that workers can easily access both.

The method uses thermal sensors inside both computers to detect outside increases in heat. The malware uses the CPU to increase and decrease the temperature inside one machine, these changes are detected by the thermal sensors in the other machine. In this way they can exchange ones and zeros, one at a time, minutes apart. Slowly over the course of hours larger messages can be exchanged.

Currently the hack can be defeated just by moving one of them to the other side of the desk. But the very idea that you can transfer even small amounts of data like this is amazing. Previously it didn't matter what kind of malware your computer was infested with, if you unplugged the network you were safe from intrusion. Now, not so much.

Also to be considered is that this hack was developed by a student. Some kid whipped this up as part of a Masters or a PhD.

Imagine what the guys who do this for a living have come up with these last 25 years.

In other news the Kremlin has switched from word processing on computers to typewriters, in a back to the '50s move. So I guess they've been reading about this stuff too.

Personally I think the venerable typewriter is too hack prone, everything you type is recorded on the ribbon, don't forget. I'm going back to a pencil and paper for all my world domination plans. Inside a Faraday cage. In the cellar. Burn before reading.

The Phantom

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some things which are troubling today.

Hertz puts cameras in their rental cars.  Its in their newest navigation device, along with a microphone. But they have "no plans" to actually use the camera. Honest. Pinky swear.

Open secret StingRay phone tracker remains a State Secret. 

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.

Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

"So, just to be clear," Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, "we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers' money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don't have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money," he continued, but "you can't tell us more about it."

The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.

I've posted about this thing many, many times before. Everybody knows about it, some guys even built one and stuck it in a model airplane. There's Instructables on YouTube how to make one. But this StingRay remains a super secret as far as officials are concerned.

Interesting, yes? Probably because it can do things they don't want you to know it can do. Like, it can scan an entire area and identify every phone in its range, because that's how it actually works. It finds one phone by scanning ALL the phones.  And if I may speculate, it can most likely take control of any phone in its range, turning on camera and microphone on command. We know that can be done, this is likely the machine that does it. Speculating just a little bit further, it can probably hoover up the contents of your phone too.

Formerly only for super spies, now available to Constable Plod of the Podunk Police Department. You think they aren't downloading all the selfies off the phones of random hot girls they spot on patrol? If not there's a bridge in Brooklyn I can get you a really good deal on.

And now the kicker, Albert W. Gore comes right out and says Climate Change Deniers Must Be Punished!!!

For the third time in the last few years, Al Gore, founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, spoke at the festival on Friday. Naturally, his interactive discussion focused on addressing the climate crisis. The former vice president focused on the need to "punish climate-change deniers, saying politicians should pay a price for rejecting 'accepted science,'" said the Chicago Tribune.

Gore said forward-thinking investors are moving away from companies that invest in fossil fuels and towards companies investing in renewable energy. "We need to put a price on carbon to accelerate these market trends," Gore told the Chicago Tribune, referring to a proposed federal cap-and-trade system that would penalize companies that exceeded their carbon-emission limits. "And in order to do that, we need to put a price on denial in politics."

Are YOU a Climate Change Denier? Big Brother wants to know, and is more than happy to subvert your phone so he can listen to you in real-time, so as to gather evidence of your Denial.

Or just to get any pics of babes in yoga pants that you may have on there. Big Brother don't pay for pr0nz.

The Phantom

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

No, your iPhone/Android thing is not secure.

And its not secure because = government.

Technology companies are scrambling to fix a major security flaw that for more than a decade left users of Apple and Google devices vulnerable to hacking when they visited millions of supposedly secure Web sites, including Whitehouse.gov, NSA.gov and FBI.gov.

The flaw resulted from a former U.S. government policy that forbade the export of strong encryption and required that weaker "export-grade" products be shipped to customers in other countries, say the researchers who discovered the problem. These restrictions were lifted in the late 1990s, but the weaker encryption got baked into widely used software that proliferated around the world and back into the United States, apparently unnoticed until this year.

Researchers discovered in recent weeks that they could force browsers to use the weaker encryption, then crack it over the course of just a few hours. Once cracked, hackers could steal passwords and other personal information and potentially launch a broader attack on the Web sites themselves by taking over elements on a page, such as a Facebook "Like" button.

The problem illuminates the danger of unintended security consequences at a time when top U.S. officials, frustrated by increasingly strong forms of encryption on smartphones, have called for technology companies to provide "doors" into systems to protect the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance.

Yes, simply recording every packet on the internet is not enough. Big Kahunas in the US government want a backdoor into your smart-phone and desktop PC. Like, a hardware one.

I think what some of these guys would really like is all citizens living in work camp dormitories with cameras in every room, two in the bathroom. Because they need to be SURE you're not a terrorist, see?

The Phantom

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Toldja: rats with bubonic plague type fleas found in NYC.


Scientists studying rats in New York found the flea that carries the plague - the Oriental rat flea - hosting on some of the city's rat population, according to the study published Monday in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Bubonic plague is infamous as one of the most devastating pandemics in world history, known as the Black Death. During the 14th Century, the plague killed between 25 million and 50 million people in Europe.

Before panic ensues, it must be noted that researchers found no trace of the plague or typhus – another disease carried by the Oriental rat flea – in any of the fleas they sampled.

How long before one of those fleas comes down with something?