1. Repurposing pharmateuticals and developments in prosthetic limbs.

    09 February 2014

    It is well known that the human brain is a marvelously complex and flexible mechanism, capable of aggregating and processing information from our senses as well as ruminating and calculating based upon the results of other internal processes. It is so complex, in fact, that at this time we can't be sure of what its limits are or what's actually going on in there. People have built entire careers around studying emergent phenomena within the operation of the brain. The day to day operation of the human brain is so complex that it takes very little to tweak its functionality …

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  2. New advances in 3D printing.

    07 February 2014

    If you've been following my website for a while you've no doubt read me yammer on again and again about 3D printers that can only use low-melting point plastics as feedstock for manufacture. Usually ABS or PLA plastic, because they're cheap and relatively easy to acquire. Joshua Pearce and his research team at Michigan Tech announced late last year that they've developed an open source metal deposition printer for fabricating tools and components for which plastic isn't appropriate. Their printer lays down thin layers of metal instead of plastic to build up much stronger objects. The total cost to construct …

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  3. Problems cloning VirtualBox disk images.

    04 February 2014

    VirtualBox is a (mostly) open source virtualization stack designed to run on desktop machines. While you can run it in a "serious" fashion (such as using VMs to implement your network infrastructure) it really shines if you use it as part of your development effort.

    If you want to get under the hood the VBoxManage utility is the first place to start. It lets you do things like convert and manipulate disk images, something that I do from time to time at work these days. Until I ran into the following problem when trying to convert a VMDK virtual disk …

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  4. Turtles all the way down: SoCs and Storage

    03 February 2014

    This brings us along to designs that are rather common even though we don't normally think of them as either common or systems. By this, I refer to SoC's - Systems On A Chip. As the name implies, they are full (or nearly so) computers implemented as single mother-huge silicon chips (relatively speaking). On the die you'll find a CPU or microcontroller, supporting electronics for same, an MMU, and enough interfaces to do whatever you want, be it plug in a USB keyboard and mouse, an Ethernet adapter, or a simple USB-to-serial converter circuit. An excellent example of a SoC is …

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  5. Hellriding through Arizona.

    30 January 2014

    While Jason and I were driving cross-country late last year, we tried to clear two states a day to make sure that we'd get to the west coast on time. This usually meant setting out at 1000 hours local time, loading our luggage into the TARDIS, and putting the pedal to the metal. This usually wan't too big a deal because we usually started a day's travel from a half to a third of the way across a given state to begin with. Near the end of our journey, however, the only viable route meant clearing the state of Arizona …

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  6. Turtles all the way down: Integrated circuits

    23 January 2014

    The next phase of the trusted open computer project is actually manufacturing usable integrated circuits that you can plug into a circuit board, apply power to, and use to do whatever it is that you do. In other words, processing information.

    I hate to be a killjoy, but this is really hard. A vital question that we have to ask at this point is whether or not this is the point at which the project is pwnable by a determined third party. Fabbing integrated circuitry on silicon wafers is, to be gentle, a nontrivial process. Here are a couple of …

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  7. Malware which makes use of (even more) unexpected covert channels (than usual).

    18 January 2014

    Late last year, known and respected information security researcher Dragos Ruiu began tweeting about something he called #badBIOS - a malware agent of some kind that he says jacks the BIOS of a machine and sets itself up as a hypervisor-cum-backdoor beneath the operating system. He's gathered got some evidence that instances of the beastie communicate via near-ultrasound by directly manipulating the soundcard without interacting with the OS' drivers. Whether or not he's actually right, some of the NSA's older existing tools aside - it was surprising how fast corroborating details started popping up around the Net.

    In December of 2013 …

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  8. Organic mass production.

    17 January 2014

    Some days one wakes up and it feels as if the world has inexorably become a little more strange - a little more surreal, as if Philip K. Dick took an apprentice who runs the tabletop game that we call our lives and they're starting to try things on their own. And it's delightfully fifteen degrees off dead center.

    In China there is an industrial farm that not only raises pigs as food but clones them to keep certain germlines around. The company is called BGI and they've gotten the process of cloning refined to the point where it's methodical, repeatable …

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  9. Driving through Oklahoma.

    17 January 2014

    On our way across the country, Jason and I passed through and stopped at a number of interesting places. One of the states we drove through was Oklahoma, which I have fond memories of from when I was a youngster (okay, okay, it's because I fell in love with rattlesnake while I was there). Anyway, I took some photographs while passing through - here they are.

    There's just something about wide-open spaces, especially deserts, that call to me. I don't know what it is or why, only that it feels like home. It's why I love visiting places like Oklahoma, Arizona …

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  10. More random crap from my L2 and L3 cache.

    16 January 2014

    I've updated my .plan file again. The usual warnings about NSFW content, lack of context, sarcasm, and "Why in the hell would you put that in there?!?" apply.

    Incidentally, the reason I put some of that crap into my .plan file (he says to the people who clicked through the cut) is to remind myself that there are people who genuinely believe some of those things, so that I can make plans with them in mind and not get blind-sided yet again by the sheer bloody-mindedness and utter lack of compassion that some people live their lives by, and recommend …

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