Monthly Archives: November 2020

FlashFloppy: Open-source Firmware for floppy emulators

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Have a gotek flashed with this, it's delightful. Highly recommend.
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PhD Qualified

As of about a week ago, I’ve apparently passed my Qualifying Exam research proposal, which was my last hurdle to PhD candidacy.

My PhD project is on TDCI (Time Domain Continuous Imaging) – an alternative imaging technology that folks in the research group I’ve been working with for almost 15 years now have been building, with my help, for the last 6 years. The basic premise is that digital sensors are not, in fact, re-settable film, and we should leverage them accordingly. By rough concept, TDCI capture is like recording the waveform of incident light from each sensel of the sensor, then computationally exposing that data into an image after the fact, to maximize information capture and so that the sensor and shutter behavior can be tweaked after the fact.

The specific deliverables I carved out as a PhD project were building a high-quality capture device (By hacking a mirrorless body), adding non-uniform exposure behavior to TDCI integration (specifying functions and regions for integration), and building a decent user-facing tool for rendering TDCI images from TDCI captures (A DSL + a GUI to specify common options) – because these were some fun tool-building to carve out of the larger research needs.

The deck with notes that I used are uploaded here. Some of the notes are …not entirely proper… because they were second-screen things for my consumption.

It’s a slightly odd situation because I’ve been working things that feed into this project for 6 years (and 11 papers), and technically started UK’s CS PhD program in 2012 (admittedly, I just signed up so I could keep taking classes while I finished my MS work, finishing the degree is a little “eh, might as well”), but it looks like I’m getting away with it. Also odd, thanks to the COVID-19 situation, it was done via zoom, in pajama pants.

The only points in the presentation I did things I was immediately not happy about were:

  • I was asked about doing spatially continuous models, and spent some time babbling about sensor spatial quantization and fill factors instead of just saying “diffraction” and shutting it down.
  • I didn’t include anything for the “TDCI makes exposure time and shutter angle independent” concepts in the slides, and it came up twice.

Plus I have the concern that Rafi (my Co-Chair) soft-balled the hell out of me and pitched a bunch of questions I’m reasonably sure he knew I had prepared spiels for from my materials. That’s not his usual behavior by reputation or observation, and it makes me slightly paranoid.

Now to finish out the deliverables and actually become Dr.

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Digital Tools I Wish Existed

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Oof, yes, so much. IMO, Google Reader was the closest ever to exist, but the very fact that it was murdered by a single vendor because it interfered with advertising and "curation" rendered it a non-solution even before it died. I have a self-hosted substitute rigged with TinyTinyRSS and Wordpress and such, but the ecosystem isn't even close. As the article notes, it's not a new need, Vannevar Bush was on this idea by 1945 with the Memex, but it's not good for commercial exploitation, so we never get it.
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Comcast to enforce 1.2TB data cap in entire 39-state territory in early 2021

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: It's just _such_ a dick move. During a pandemic, causing heightened usage, which has also demonstrated that their network can handle the load. Our local cable monopoly was eaten Insight -> Time Warner -> Spectrum making it part of the Charter regional monopoly, which is fortunately not _these_ assholes.
Illustration of a Comcast Internet user being yanked away from a computer monitor and other equipment.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Comcast's 1.2TB monthly data cap is coming to 12 more states and the District of Columbia starting January 2021. The unpopular policy was already enforced in most of Comcast's 39-state US territory over the past few years, and the upcoming expansion will for the first time bring the cap to every market in Comcast's territory.

Comcast will be providing some "courtesy months" in which newly capped customers can exceed 1.2TB without penalty, so the first overage charges for these customers will be assessed for data usage in the April 2021 billing period.

Comcast's data cap has been imposed since 2016 in 27 of the 39 states in Comcast's cable territory. The cap-less parts of Comcast's network include Northeastern states where the cable company faces competition from Verizon's un-capped FiOS fiber-to-the-home broadband service.

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Blue Pill as a Nerdy Swiss Army Knife

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Well that's nifty. We were playing with doing a simpler similar concept on a 32u4 based micro as a cheap instrumentation dongle for students. It's a shame the hardware isn't 5v tolerant, if it were that would do everything I care about on a $335 (educational price) Analog Discovery 2 board for $2.

Not everyone can afford an oscilloscope, and some of us can’t find a USB logic analyzer half the time. But we can usually get our hands on a microcontroller kit, which can be turned into a makeshift instrument if given the appropriate code. A perfect example is buck50 developed by [Mark Rubin], an open source firmware to turn a STM32 “Blue Pill” into a multi-purpose test and measurement instrument.

buck50 comes with a plethora of functionality built in which includes an oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and bus monitor. The device is a two way street and also comes with GPIO control as well as PWM output. There’s really a remarkable amount of functionality crammed into the project. [Mark] provides a Python application that exposes a text based UI for configuring and using the device though commands and lots of commands which makes this really nerdy. There are a number of options to visualize the data captured which includes gnuplot, gtk wave and PulseView to name a few.

[Mark] does a fantastic job not only with the firmware but also with the documentation, and we really think this makes the project stand out. Commands are well documented and everything is available on [GitHub] for your hacking pleasure. And if you are about to order a Blue Pill online, you might want to check out the nitty-gritty of the clones that are floating around.

Thanks [JohnU] for the tip!

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OpenWrt and Self-Signed Certificates

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The self-signed cert thing is a little off-putting, the list of possible schemes to get around it is fascinating.
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As internet forums die off, finding community can be harder than ever

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The move to walled gardens (Facebook, Discord, etc.), which are properly 'deep web' since they aren't publicly index-able, really is a huge problem. It's a double-down on the old "these spaces are commercial not public" issue that has always plagued the 'net. I do wonder how much of the incentive structures (regulatory and social) that have pushed that way are intentional.
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DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Disney is well-known for being evil, but that is some next-level shit.
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Cybersecurity czar fired by Trump reportedly set up a Trump-proof line of succession

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: Imagine that, the security expert understands defense in depth.

President Trump fired Christopher Krebs, the well-regarded director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), via tweet on Tuesday, citing Krebs' public assurances that the 2020 election was historically secure and free of fraud or serious error.

Krebs was the rare Trump administration official almost universally regarded as competent, apolitical, and effective in a crucial area that needed such leadership. And he apparently found a way to make sure his agency continued without too much political inference in the event he was fired. "Late Tuesday," The Washington Post said, "acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf called Krebs' deputy, Matthew Travis, to inform him that the White House had overruled CISA's succession plan that named him acting director, essentially forcing him to resign, Travis said." A DHS spokesman said the White House did not directly ask Travis to step down.

With Travis out, CISA leadership goes to Brandon Wales, "a career employee whom Trump cannot fire," Politico says. "Mr. Krebs specifically created Mr. Wales' position as executive director to make it more difficult for the White House to install partisan replacements atop the agency," The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Before joining the Trump administration in 2017, Krebs worked in the George W. Bush DHS then served as a lobbyist for Microsoft. In 2018 he was promoted to DHS undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which became CISA with legislation signed in November 2018. Krebs became the de facto "cyber czar" when the White House eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator position at the National Security Council. During his tenure, he worked not just on shoring up America's creaky election security but also on cybersecurity and ransomware threats at hospitals, utilities, and other critical infrastructure.

Krebs won widespread praise for increasing trust and cooperation with disparate federal agencies, hackers, and state and local election officials. He survived several shakeups at Trump's DHS, but his "Rumor Control" initiative to swat down election misinformation was evidently a bridge too far for Trump, whose misinformation Krebs repeatedly, if indirectly, debunked. "Honored to serve," Krebs tweeted after his firing. "We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow."

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We can do better than DuckDuckGo

Source: Hacker News

Article note: It's an interesting (and hard) thought.
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