Taghacking

Want to Do Your Own Space Research Project? ArduSat Wants to Help

ArduSat is a (funded) Kickstarter project that aims to launch an Arduino based satellite into space that will run experiments designed by people like you. The idea is that, since it will use open source hardware, you’ll be able to design your own research experiments and submit them to the ArduSat team. They’ll test your experiment and, if everything seems legit, upload your experiment to the satellite, collect data and send it back to you to do whatever you’d like.

Here are some possible applications of ArduSat from the Kickstarter page:

SCIENCE: Meteor Hunter – Small meteors that strike the atmosphere every day created trails of ionized gas in the atmosphere in the upper atmosphere. Write an experiment to try and detect meteor impacts, by listening for radio stations beyond the horizon, reflected by the meteor trails!

ENGINEERING: Your Eye in the Sky – Try writing an app that would synchronize the output of a head mounted-gyro to the steering system on the satellite. If you’re feeling really ambitious, try downlinking the attitude vector in real-time to watch the satellite follow your head – you could even tie-in your head-steering to our program that takes pictures! (Talk to Joel if you’re interested in this experiment!)

ENGINEERING: Point-and-shoot – The following settings can be set on the camera: “exposure, gamma, gain, white balance, color matrix, windowing”. Try designing an algorithm that fine-tunes the settings to take even better pictures or more artistic pictures!

ENTERTAINMENT: Geiger Counter Bingo – Write an app that transmits a message with a random number and letter every time a particle hits the satellite with enough energy. Have a ‘bingo from space’ game between HAM radio amateurs.

ENTERTAINMENT: Photography Competition – See who among your friends can snap the coolest/most interesting picture from space. The eye of a hurricane, sunrise over the Indian ocean, even aurora from space – see what marvels you can capture!

Take Pictures from Space

The satellite is not just for scientific purposes; ambitious photographers and artists will be able to steer the satellite cameras take pictures on-demand of the Earth, the Moon, or the stars. Especially from the Artist community we expect to see some spectacular private space pictures so we all can marvel at the beauty of Earth from above.

Drone Artists/Hackers Detained Held in London on Suspicion of Terrorism

Electronic Countermeasures drone art project

Silicon Republic reports on the detention of the drone hackers/artists group Tomorrows Thoughts Today:

The trio, headed up by Liam Young, had created the robotic drones from components that were originally intended for police surveillance.

The drones had been swarming around Science Gallery last night to show how they can broadcast their own Wi-Fi network as a flying pirate file-sharing formation.

As they swarm, people in the audience can log onto the drone network with their phones and laptops and use the drones as a local network to upload files and share data with one another.

It was just as the three performers were disembarking from their Dublin flight in London that their suitcases were swarmed in upon by customs officers at the new London Southend Airport.

They were released after about two hours of questioning.

Full Story: Silicon Republic: Quadcopter drone group held in London airport on suspicion of terrorism

The Military-Maker Complex: DARPA Infiltrates the Hackerspace Movement

In a two part essay Fiacre O’Duinn explains why DARPA’s partnership with MAKE magazine to fund 1,000 makerlabs in U.S high schools is antithetical to the maker movement and wonders whether it’s a line in the sand that will divide the movement:

While the MENTOR program involves cooperation, this is done so as part of challenge competitions, in which teams compete against each other for cash prizes. This seems in stark contrast to how maker culture has developed to date. Why is competition necessary? If the goal is truly for education using the hacker/maker model, can learning and exploration not take place merely for pleasure, in a completely open environment, or must it be reduced to yet another lesson in the need to hoard and compete for resources and information?

Third, why has the field of study in these makerspaces narrowed only to STEM topics? What happened to the transdisiplinary focus of hacker/maker communities that make them so innovative? Where are the arts? Where are wearables, knitivism, DIY molecular gastronomy? Why do the challenges involve working on unmanned air vehicles or robots, projects that are of interest to DARPA for their military applications? Shouldn’t we encourage STEAM rather than STEM? Could it be that regardless of their educational potential, these topics have no possible military application? With such a narrow focus, one could ask which culture will win the day, maker or military?

Finally, why are the full details of the Make proposal and specifics of the agreement with DARPA not being made public? Because in dealing with the military, lack of transparency is simply a matter of course. This works well for the military but why is it necessary for a community project involving children? Why was a “Secret” clearance level needed to work on designing modules for the program, according to this job advertisement? This lack of transparency also leaves other questions unanswered. For example, as the program expands to over 1000 schools, will military personnel be brought in to teach? This last question brings me to issues of recruitment, STEM education and the military.

The biggest issue of all may be the use of the the MENTOR program as a military recruitment vehicle.

Make, DARPA and the line in the sand, #1

Make, DARPA and the line in the sand, #2

I’ve long opposed military recruitment programs in schools, but what might the benefits of such a program be? I’ve been thinking lately that in these times of austerity, and given the general difficulty in getting public funding for education and social programs in the U.S even when we’re not in a recession, tying social programs to hawkish programs like defense and law enforcement may be the only way to go.

In his “State of the World” in 2009, Bruce Sterling suggested taking a national defense position on climate change:

If I wanted to be politically effective, rather than visionary, I’d disguise myself as a right-wing Green, probably some kind of hunting-shooting NASCAR “conservationist,” and I’d infiltrate the Republicans this year. [...]

So we publicly recognize the climate crisis: just as if we suddenly discovered it ourselves. And we don’t downplay the climate crisis: we OVERPLAY the crisis.

“Then we blame the crisis on foreigners. We’re not liberal weak sisters ‘negotiating Kyoto agreements.’ We’re assembling a Coalition of the Willing tp threaten polluters.

“We’re certainly not bowing the knee to the damn Chinese — they own our Treasury, unfortunately, but we completely change the terms of that debate. When the Chinese open a coal mine and threaten the world’s children with asthma, we will take out that threat with a cruise missile!

That’s our new negotiating position on the climate crisis: we’re the military, macho hard line.

Would it work? Would it be worth selling out the rest of your values for?

I don’t know, but also consider the sorry state of jobs in the country. On the one hand, Newt Gingrich’s moon base idea was justified as a defense measure, but it was widely seen as a proposal as a jobs program for NASA’s home state. Maybe a moon base was too wild an idea, but could something like sci-fi work? Remember, the interstate highway system in the U.S. was actually called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and was justified as a defense measure. If we want a jobs program to rebuild or crumbling infrastructure, it seems like we could do a lot worse than call it a homeland security program.

So given the sorry state of STEM education, and the expense of setting up hackerspaces and the absolutely dismal state of public libraries (which many suggest turning into hacker spaces), is it time to consider letting DARPA build hackerspaces for the kids, even if it means letting in military recruiters and having the kids focused on making weapons?

I can see the pragmatic benefit, but I still just can’t justify it. As Fiarce points out, the program is just too antithetical to the maker spirit. And although as many have pointed out DARPA has funded all sorts of research over the years, including the creation of the Internet, the MENTOR program will specifically include a competition for designing weaponized vehicles for military use. DARPA may do some good work too, but having kids design weapons for the military crosses a line for me.

So will it split the community? Someone with more knowledge of the history of the computer hacking movement and how the NSA and other defense agencies tried to hijack it might have more insight than me. But it seems that if the maker movement has any momentum of its own, then this shouldn’t be fatal to it. Those who want to collaborate openly and make things other than war planes, and those attracted to the militaristic elements of the DARPA program will go there. Hopefully the maker movement will be able to sustain both strands, much like the computer hacker movement managed to sustain an open source movement.

See also: 3 BIG questions (and lots of smaller ones) about DARPA & Make

Bruce Sterling: Network Culture Is Incompatible with Representative Democracy

TechCrunch TV interviews Bruce Sterling on Hacktivism at SXSW:

Electro-mechanical version of Pong

(Thanks Bill)

EyeWriter: Open source technology for people suffering from ALS

EyeWriter

EyeWriter

The EyeWriter project is an ongoing collaborative research effort to empower people who are suffering from ALS with creative technologies.

It is a low-cost eye-tracking apparatus & custom software that allows graffiti writers and artists with paralysis resulting from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to draw using only their eyes.

Members of Free Art and Technology (FAT), OpenFrameworks, the Graffiti Research Lab, and The Ebeling Group communities have teamed-up with a legendary LA graffiti writer, publisher and activist, named Tony Quan, aka TEMPTONE. Tony was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, a disease which has left him almost completely physically paralyzed… except for his eyes. This international team is working together to create a low-cost, open source eye-tracking system that will allow ALS patients to draw using just their eyes. The long-term goal is to create a professional/social network of software developers, hardware hackers, urban projection artists and ALS patients from around the world who are using local materials and open source research to creatively connect and make eye art.

EyeWriter

(Thanks to Brett Burton, who pointed this out on the post about Intendix’s brain-computer interface)

Car hacking: disgruntled ex-employee disables cars remotely

Payteck

More than 100 car owners in and around Austin, Texas recently discovered that their cars wouldn’t start. Or that their horns wouldn’t stop honking — all night long. Or that their vehicle leases were suddenly (and luckily, temporarily) transferred to deceased rapper Tupac Shakur.

All of these annoyances were thanks to a former collection agent for Austin-based car dealership Texas Auto Center, who is accused of taking revenge on his former employer by remotely disabling more than 100 customer cars. Twenty-year old Oscar Ramos-Lopez reportedly gained unauthorized access into the dealership’s remote vehicle immobilization system, which allowed him to stop customer vehicles from starting or cause their horns to honk continuously. Ramos-Lopez is also said to have deleted customer accounts and swapped celebrity names for the names of actual customers, according to a report by Austin NBC affiliate KXAN.

The vehicle disabling technology, powered by Cleveland-based Pay Technologies (PayTeck), is only supposed to be used when someone fails to meet their auto loan or lease obligations. Austin police arrested Lopez on Wednesday charging him with breach of computer security.

PC World: Ex-Employee Wreaks Havoc on 100 Cars — Wirelessly

(Thanks Bill!)

Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

inside cyber warfare

Interview with Inside Cyber Warfare author Jeffrey Carr:

MS: For China in particular: what are the things to consider and what are the things to look out for?

JC: China clearly has a lot of problems internally. Their economy is growing, but it’s still relatively fragile and highly dependent on the U.S. The difference in economic conditions varies radically from the countryside to the cities. On the other hand, they own over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt. That gives them incredible leverage. So that’s a balancing act that’s going to be very interesting to watch, especially over this Google issue. But they’ll never concede to eliminating censorship on their Internet. They’ll walk away from Google if that’s what it takes.

People inflate fear about China, but China has no interest in attacking the U.S. They want the same things that any country would want. And they’re going about it the same way that we would go about it. We’re doing espionage. We’re looking after our interests. We’re exerting our will as a nation. It’s silly to try to take the moral high ground here. It doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

MS: One of the interesting points that came out of the Google-China analysis is the idea that Google has its own foreign policy now. Do you think that’s the case?

JC: Honestly, I don’t see it as anything new. The idea of a new, more sophisticated attack against Google that we’ve never seen before, I think that’s overblown. The idea that you have hackers who gain entrance to a network and then exploit data from that network, that’s not new. This is all just espionage. Google is just another company that has something of value.

But Google does represent a turning point because it’s getting so much press. It’s raising the issue to the point where the U.S State Department got involved. That’s all good.

Read More – O’Reilly Radar: Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

(via Chris Arkenberg)

See also:

US oil industry hit by cyberattacks: Was China involved?

Bruce Sterling on cyberwar and cyberpeace treaties.

Update on drone surveillance in Iraq

Some military drones are “particularly susceptible” to having their video tapped, a senior military officer tells Danger Room. That’s because these smaller unmanned aircraft — like the Shadow, Hunter, and Raven — broadcast their surveillance footage constantly and in every direction. All you have to do, basically, is stand within “line of sight” of the drone, and you can tap in. “It’s like criminals using radio scanners to pick up police communications,” the senior officer says.

Larger aircraft — both manned and unmanned — are a little less vulnerable. They can shut off their video feeds if no friendly forces are watching at the time. And they can “neck down” those omnidirectional signals a bit. So it’s more difficult to intercept the transmission. The officer contends that there have “not been any significant — not any impact — on operations as a result of this.”

Still, systems like the ROVER (and the Predator, for that matter) were “built to be cheap. They used commercial off-the-shelf hardware. We wanted to get stuff out there. So it’s not gonna be perfect,” the officer adds. “So yeah, if we’re broadcasting in the electromagnetic spectrum and you’re underneath the footprint, you can receive it. Duh-uhhhh.”

Danger Room: Not Just Drones: Militants Can Snoop on Most U.S. Warplanes

Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Wall Street Journal: Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones

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