The fastest RC cars in the world

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Good Pop and Lock routine

Friday, July 14, 2006

Free Google Wi-Fi being beta tested

From GigaOm:

"Google’s Mountain View WiFi network is ready to go, though not open to the public, but about 100 people are already starting to receive invitations to test the service.

The invitations give directions on how to discover the SSID number of the network, which is the number that distinguishes one wireless network from another. (Anyone want to send one along to us?) Right now the SSID number is “cloaked”, so Mountain View residents can’t access it. A few of the residents were saying that they could already see the SSID number when their computer searches for a WiFi signal. That made a Google spokesperson look a bit nervous.

There were probably more than a hundred residents at the training session, and most were worried about not being able to get coverage. For a few areas of Mountain View the company could not secure space on light poles, so Google is asking residents if they wouldn’t mind putting an access point on their chimneys. They even thought about flyer-ing those areas, but said they didn’t want to be too aggressive. Google also said that “it is unlikely that a WiFi-enabled laptop or computer with a conventional WiFi card will work indoors at most locations. If you want to use the system indoors we suggest getting an extended-range WiFi modem.” So that’s another extra cost if the resident wants to rely on the network as a DSL or cable replacement.

After the 100 testers give the network a rigorous review, more trusted-testers will be invited to check it out. Google is calling it a “rolling launch.” They want to make sure that there’s as few glitches as possible for the official launch day, which they’ve only set at the “summer of 2006.” Hopefully we’ll get a chance to give it a spin pretty soon."
From PCMag:

Google will turn several hundred "Trusted Testers" loose on a new 12-square-mile wireless network in Mountain View, California next week, launching the beta test of the citywide network it is installing in its home town.

For the first site of GoogleWiFi, the company has deployed transmitters on approximately 370 light poles throughout the city, with base stations in three key locations (including Google's own headquarters) to provide 1 mbps Wi-Fi to 90 percent of Mountain View's streets, says Larry Alder, product manager, who explained the project to a receptive neighborhood meeting Thursday night. (No word on whether the transmitters also service Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, but Google employees have been the alpha testers for the past three weeks).

The service is expected to be open to all by the end of summer, and is free of charge, by agreement with the city. In fact, Google is picking up the tab to obtain a proof of concept for citywide wireless networking, since the project is similar to the much larger project it is developing for San Francisco. Logins will be required--when the net is fully operational, a Gmail account will serve as login--but Alder says GoogleWiFi won't carry banner ads or other commercial messages (other than eventually offering city and school events information on the home page, which each user will be able to customize).

For security, GoogleWiFi will offer an optional, downloadable VPN client called Google Secure Access (only for Windows at first; a Mac client is in the works and Google expects the Linux community will craft its own). GoogleWiFi will also support private and corporate VPNs.

Google stresses that GoogleWiFi is intended as an outdoor net, for access from city parks, cafes, and the library (which also has a transmitter); residents who want to access the free net from their homes will need to invest in a signal receiver such as Peplink's Surf 200BG unit or the Buffalo AirStation Turbo G Notebook Adapter to amplify the signal.

Alder was also careful to say Google isn't advocating Mountain View residents cancel their DSL or cable Internet access in favor of Google's free service, although he notes it will be a boost for current dialup users. (Clearly competitors AT&T and Comcast are nervous, though; Mountain View residents have seen a recent blizzard of promotional deals for their broadband services as Google gears up.)

Jon Stewart on Net Neutrality

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Airborne Laser team conducts successful ground test

The Airborne Laser conducted a ground test June 6. The ABL will locate and track missiles in the boost phase of their flight¸ then accurately point and fire the high-energy laser¸ destroying enemy missiles near their launch areas.

"Boeing, industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully conducted an Airborne Laser ground test June 6, demonstrating the weapon’s ability to track and target a ballistic missile.

During the test at Boeing facilities in Wichita, Kan., the ABL, which operates aboard a modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft, located a simulated boosting ballistic missile target created by a target simulator. After using simulated returns from a surrogate target illuminator laser to track the target, the Airborne Laser used simulated returns from a surrogate beacon illuminator laser to compensate for atmospheric turbulence that ABL’s high-energy laser would encounter in its path to a target.

The equipment used in the test is part of the beam control/fire control system, designed and integrated by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, developed by Boeing.

“The Airborne Laser team is working tirelessly to reach its first 2006 knowledge point, in which the two actual illuminators will be installed, integrated and ground-tested in the ABL aircraft,” said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “The June 6 achievement is a major step toward that goal and demonstrates the Boeing team’s commitment to chart the course and develop critical missile defense capability for our nation.”

The ABL program plans to install and test the illuminators later this year. The high-energy laser, which achieved lethal power and run-times in a ground laboratory in December 2005, is currently being refurbished and will be installed in the ABL aircraft in 2007 to prepare for the program’s first missile shoot-down test in 2008.

Boeing is the prime contractor for ABL, which will provide a speed-of-light capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight. Boeing provides the modified aircraft and the battle management system and is the overall systems integrator. ABL partners are Northrop Grumman, which supplies the high-energy laser and the beacon illuminator laser, and Lockheed Martin, which provides the nose-mounted turret in addition to the beam control/fire control system."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Unmanned Helicopter Demonstrator flies without safety pilot

The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F helicopter, flies without a safety pilot on board for the first time. (Mike Goettings photo)

From Boeing Internal News:

"The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F helicopter, has completed its first unmanned flight without a safety pilot on board.

The test vehicle had flown more than 250 hours as an unmanned aerial vehicle with the safety pilot, who could take control of the aircraft at any time. The milestone flight, a 20-minute sortie at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., was completed just after sunrise on June 30.

The flight included a liftoff to a stabilized hover followed by a programmed 15-mile (24-kilometer) mission route that featured six different waypoints prior to an approach to a stabilized hover and precise landing. The ULB Demonstrator mission payload for the first flight was more than 741 pounds (336 kilograms), not including fuel weight. The aircraft could have added an additional 550 pounds (249 kilograms) of payload.

The Unmanned Little Bird Demonstrator will help develop unmanned capabilities for the unmanned version of the A/MH-6M Little Bird rotorcraft.

"The A/MH-6M manned aircraft is a combat-proven and highly versatile platform," said Dino Cerchie, Advanced Systems program manager for the ULB Demonstrator and the A/MH-6X Little Bird programs, a part of Boeing's Advanced Rotorcraft Systems organization. "Now we can enhance this helicopter's operational capabilities with a variety of integrated systems."

The test aircraft was flown the 200 miles from the Boeing facility in Mesa to Yuma as a manned aircraft prior to the unmanned flight, demonstrating its rapid deployment capability through controlled airspace."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

MiniPC goes Core Duo with the LF800

The first one we have is the smallest form model, the VT800 (pictured above). Though it loses out on a PCI-Express slot, it gains an external sata drive slot, making it perfect for a Media Machine.

It features a Pentium Duo processor (you can pick between a variety of them). You can regulate the internal fan's velocity (though you have to open the box in order to do so). Gigabyte lan card onboard, up to 2GB of RAM (though I don't think it's a necessity for a (purely) media machine, unless you're running Vista).

The Core Duo models (without Windows Licences) costs approximately 1,104.61 USD/1,380.62 USD (512 RAM and Core Duo T2300E/Core Duo T2600 respectively and 40GB HDD).

The next model, the LF800 (picture below), has a very similar price to it's smaller brother, features a PCI-Express slot, but loses the external SATA slot.

Featuring a 250GB HDD, with the option of putting one 3.5" drive or two 2.5" ones, and a slim CD/DVD drive, this model is more versatile than the first, though also gains a considerable size and an ugly top for the heat to go out. But with it's PCI-E slot, you can easilly turn this into a media/gaming powerhouse, if you can find a good graphics card that fits in it.

With a Core Duo T2300E and 512 RAM this model costs approximately 1,086.15 USD. You can add a Gigabite Lan card and Wireless LAN card for 87.6462 USD each.

These are two fine and worthy contenders for a media machine, though, with these prices, I think you would be better off buying a laptop and hooking it up to a television.

ASUS wireless Skype phone

Final Words

What else can we say about this phone? What most users will expect is the ability to pick up the phone, receive a call or dial a number, maintain a good connection, and offer acceptable audio quality. The ASUS AiGuru S1 provides these basics and offers the opportunity for a Skype user to break free of the headset or microphone requirement for communicating with their friends, family, or business associates. This has been one of our main issues with Skype since we first started using the program as you were tied to the computer the program was loaded on. This is no longer an issue and we look forward to our new found freedom and no longer have to worry about missing a call because we stepped into the next room. However, we did find the ability to control playback functions within Windows Media Player and to sync a play list along with audio playback on the phone to be more of gimmick than a useful feature.

The performance of the phone in daily operations was very good to excellent with the latest version of Skype for Windows XP. The phone lived up to its specifications by providing right over two hours of talk time and approximately twenty eight hours of standby time during our testing. The audio clarity was better than our analog line the majority of the time and at times exceeded that of our headset. However, we noticed during heavy network traffic that the unit would not sync properly and left us sounding like a cat on a hot tin roof in one conversation. This is something to be aware of as connection quality is not always consistent, but overall the audio clarity did surprise us as we were expecting something more along the lines of a cellular phone.

The phone always connected properly when dialing or receiving a phone call from another Skype user or from our associates with both landline and mobile phones. Our only issue, and this occurred about five times out of thirty, is that it took about five to seven seconds for the phone to sync with our voice when we were answering a call from a landline or mobile phone. Once our voice was synched properly with the outbound signal we did not notice any further issues during conversations that sometimes lasted over one hour. We also noticed the signal and audio quality would slowly start to deteriorate about 75 feet from our base station until the phone was not useable at about 100 feet. We did not have any issues in a two story complex as long as we stayed within 75 feet of the base station.

We tried an interesting experiment by attaching the Wireless Link module to our test notebook and then traveling down to the local Barnes and Noble that supported a Skype WiFi hotspot. We were able to successfully dial out and receive calls with the phone while our notebook was connected via the 802.11G protocol within the hotspot. We noticed during our WiFi connection status checks that the phone generally had a connection rate of 48Mbps. We were able to keep an acceptable connection up to an estimated 40 feet with this configuration. We might have been able to go further but did not trust our ability to outrun the person who kept a keen eye on our notebook while inching closer to our table during extended distance testing.

Overall, we are impressed with the ASUS phone, but when looking at the specification sheets of upcoming Skype phones from the likes of NETGEAR we are definitely interested in features like full color LCD screens, icon based menus, the ability to see the actual online status of our contacts, full chat capability, and the ability to use the phone in hotspot locations without lugging your system with you. However, upon noticing the price differences we are brought back to Earth for the time being and recognize the ASUS AiGuru S1 is a good deal for someone looking at a Skype based phone at this time. We recommend this product currently based upon its performance but are anxious to review other Skype specific phones before declaring the ASUS phone to be a bargain or even the best unit available.

Princess Leia's Metal Bikini

Melissa Joan Hart, also known as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, at a costume party. With a slave chain and braided hair, there's no mistaking her for one of Jabba's dancers.
Melissa Joan Hart, also known as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, at a costume party. With a slave chain and braided hair, there's no mistaking her for one of Jabba's dancers."

Monday, July 10, 2006

How easy it is to break into crypto systems

Begin forwarded message:

From: Jon Callas
Date: July 9, 2006 5:56:15 PM EDT
Cc: Jon Callas
Subject: Re: [IP] more on FBI plans new Net-tapping push

Brian Randell said:

Just because the government *claims* it can't break a given code ... :-)

I realize that there was a smiley face at the end of this, and I might be showing humorlessness about this, but this concerns my profession in general, and my software in particular. Consequently, I have no choice but to comment on this remark.

Modern cryptographic systems are essentially unbreakable, particularly if an adversary is restricted to intercepts. We have argued for, designed, and built systems with 128 bits of security precisely because they are essentially unbreakable. It is very easy to underestimate the power of exponentials. 2^128 is a very big number. Burt Kaliski first came up with this characterization, and if he had a nickel for every time I tell it, he could buy a latte or three.

Imagine a computer that is the size of a grain of sand that can test keys against some encrypted data. Also imagine that it can test a key in the amount of time it takes light to cross it. Then consider a cluster of these computers, so many that if you covered the earth with them, they would cover the whole planet to the height of 1 meter. The cluster of computers would crack a 128-bit key on average in 1,000 years.

If you want to brute-force a key, it literally takes a planet-ful of computers. And of course, there are always 256-bit keys, if you worry about the possibility that government has a spare planet that they want to devote to key-cracking.

Now of course, there are other ways to break the system.

They could know something we don't. They could know some fundamental truth about mathematics (like how to factor really fast), some effective form of symmetric cryptanalysis, or something else. They could know about quantum computers, DNA computers, systems based upon non-Einsteinian physics, and so on. Yes, it's possible. But this quickly gets into true paranoid thought. There isn't a lot of difference between the *presumption* that they have such things and the presumption that they have aliens in a vault in Nevada. It isn't falsifiable. It gets irrational quickly. The evidence that we have about this suggests quite the opposite, but more on that later.

They could have something we don't. For example, they could know about software flaws in my or other people's computer systems. Yes, that's possible, too. At PGP Corporation, we guard against this by making our software available to people for their examination. Approximately 2,000 people per month do that. If you want to be one of them, go to and look at it yourself. While you're at it, take a look at our quality assurance letter at .

They could be hacking people's systems. This is a much more reasonable worry. If I were going to be doing this, it's what I would do. The state of computer operational security is such that it makes much more sense to invest time, money, and effort into rootkits than into cryptanalysis.

However, there are things that we know that they *are* doing. One of them is relevant to this particular case. That is work on cracking the passphrases that people use to protect their keys. The cryptography we're using is itself uncrackable, but about 2/3 of the people in the world use a password (not even a passphrase) that directly relates to a pet or loved one. The order of frequency seems to be pets (living or dead), then children, then ex-loves. We know that at least one government has a password cracker that is based upon building a psychometric model of person who owns the key and constructing passphrases on that model. If you're a Hollywood private eye and they seize your computer and find on it that you're a basketball fan from your browser cache, then "Lak3rz 4 Teh w1n!" is actually a very bad passphrase. Don't blame me when they find it in about two minutes.

It isn't just government that does this, either. Companies such as Access Data and Elcomsoft have distributed password crackers. These things aren't hacking the crypto, they're hacking the mind using the crypto. My old friend and colleague, Drew Gross, who is a forensics expert, has said, "I love crypto; it tells me what part of the system not to bother attacking."

The last bit of evidence we have that suggests that they can't break the crypto is that they are apparently devoting a lot of effort to traffic analysis. Look at what we've learned in the last few months. Listening for keywords is so twentieth century. They're looking at call patterns, message flow, and so on. I could go on about this for a long time, but it's a tangent from this. If you're interested in more, I am going to be leading a panel at Defcon this August on traffic analysis. Come liven up the discussion.


Jon Callas
PGP Corporation Tel: +1 (650) 319-9016
3460 West Bayshore Fax: +1 (650) 319-9001
Palo Alto, CA 94303 PGP: ed15 5bdf cd41 adfc 00f3
USA 28b6 52bf 5a46 bc98 e63d

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More net Neutrality: Mitch Ratcliffe vs. Richard Bennett

Mitch Ratcliffe says:

"If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level."

In other words, if I pay for a "slow" connection, everything will come through slow. If I pay for a "fast" connection, everything will come through fast. If a content provider needs more bandwidth at their data center, they can pay for it and their traffic will get to the backbone faster, where it will be treated equally. If the content provider wants to put a cache at a cable headend, connecting all the headends with dedicated 100 Mbps connections, they can do so and pay for it."

"The forward march left the carriers behind and they want to be back in control in a way that technology obliterated. They are now trying to regain what they lost through legislation, which is why the inclusion of Net neutrality principles are critically important, as Tim Berners-Less wrote: "I hope that Congress can protect net neutrality, so I can continue to innovate in the internet space. I want to see the explosion of innovations happening out there on the Web, so diverse and so exciting, continue unabated.""