Computers and Internet

The Katyushas Little Sister

The Soviets were fond of multi-tube rocket launchers in WWII. They called them the Katyusha and the design persists to this day. They didn’t invent it – I believe that honor goes hundreds of years back to the Chinese – but they really turned it into a weapons system. As we see in the Middle East, they have never been able to hit the broad side of a barn, although they might scare half the cows to death anyway.

katushaWhy use them at all? They are an incredibly cheap and easily deployed way to get payload down field. Not remotely accurate but again very cheap and your truck driver can, in a pinch, serve as your firing team. “Yes Petrovich, I know the rest of the team is dead, but all you have to do is drive somewhere over there (pointing at map drawn in blood on a table in a bombed out cafe) point tubes up and towards Germany, and push button. Is piece of cake. All of our people over there are probably dead anyway! So what are you worried about! Shoot rockets, come back!”

Basic Soviet battle doctrine can be summed up as “why use 10 when 100 might work better?”. If you put enough explosives into the air then some of them will accidentally kill people you want to kill and destroy things that you want to destroy.

Enter the plucky little GBU-39B, a small bomb that is the antithesis of the Katyusha. It’s relatively small (50ish lb payload) so 6 of them can be carried INSIDE a Joint Strike Fighter. It has wings and a bunch of electronics allowing it to glide down and hit things with pinpoint accuracy. How pinpoint, I hear you ask?

SDB testingSDB testingNow engineers at Boeing and SAAB are partnering on what can be described as the smart kid sister of the Katyusha. They are taking the GBU-39B, gluing an existing off0the-shelf rocket motor to its butt and packaging it up so that it can be fired from the M270A1, which is a multi-tube launch vehicle that is already on the ground all over the world. The M270A1 has for the most part been a lot like the Katyusha and has even been nicknamed the GSRS, which stands for Grid Square Removal System because it can cover an entire 1 Km sqaure with grenades (of which several hundred probably won’t explode right away, which is bad).

So what will this new munition do? It will give the M270A1 12 guided bombs that can each be independently precisely targeted (no more hail marys) at ranges of up to 75+ Km. It’s a giant mobile battery firing pinpoint explosives, which among other things is good for civilian populations that aren’t all already dead.

Here’s the Janes take on this new system:

Computers and Internet

Another BitLocker Exploit?

The simple answer is “no“.

We knew (and modeled, and tested) DPA back when we were testing BitLocker. As readers of this blog know we also tested Freon attacks, dual ported memory, tempest attacks and going after the root itself. (And other tests! Many, many tests. I had an extremely enthusiastic team in the “let’s break all the things!” department.)

Of course if you can get the root keys out of the TPM you can bork the root – that kinda goes without saying, right? As in, duh? I can’t fault the paper writers for using BitLocker for PR for their paper – after all, what other solutions are as successful and secure as BitLocker? It sounds like they did some great work. But it’s so not new news. It’s a decade old fact.

If you worry about this attack then you should use a TPM that is DPA resistant – historically there hasn’t been much money in building higher security TPMs. I saw some extremely robust TPM designs as far back as 2002 but they cost more money and the exploits weren’t there yet so the vendors couldn’t charge for them.

If this attack becomes common then I hope that vendors will respond and build more secure TPMs.

Computers and Internet

We said 1 Gb? We meant 1.5 Mb…

Last summer CenturyLink announced that my  Beacon Hill neighborhood will have 1 Gb Ethernet service. Beacon Hill was considered to be particularly important. 

I just tried to sign up for service, and the best (and ONLY) service level available is “up to 1.5 Mbps”. Other places in the world with this kind of service include, uhm. NOWHERE. 

Centurylink don’t even admit in their online speed comparison that this service level exists: 

I talked to their new accounts department and they confirmed that 1.5 Mbps is all that’s available and they weren’t able to give me any  idea of when they’d offer something better. 

You got the PR, Centurylink. How about following thru? 

Computers and Internet

Modern Heirlooms

Son: what’s this, pops?

Father: you’ve been looking at the family moments, I see. 

Son: yep – what’s this? Is it jewelry? It doesn’t seem to do anything… 

Father: your grandpa gave that to me when I closed my first big sale! It’s an Apple Watch. 

Son: Apple? 

Father: they were a famous company back in the day! Made all sorts of stuff – cars, houses, airplanes… 

Son: so how do I turn this “watch” on? 

Father: you don’t, unfortunately. They had a very slow leak in the firmware garbage collector and when it finally wiped out the memspace, Apple had cancelled support for it

Son: but can’t you just hack it? 

Father: Apple didn’t publish their firmware interfaces… 

Son: what? Seriously? Isn’t that against the law?!? 

Father: well it is *now*, but that was a different age… 

Son: why don’t you sell it? 

Father: it’s only worth a little bit. Now that the oceans catalyst mining is up and running, we’re practically swimming in gold. 

Son: so Grandpa was a sucker? 

Father: it was just a different age, son. Now go reboot your brother, it’s time for school. 

Computers and Internet

Teamwork and Trust

For a great overview of the game that I am talking about in this post, please read this awesome article.


He would sit, dejected, for hours in the off season, wondering if all of the success had been a fluke. Four interceptions on balls thrown to him. Four. In one playoff game. It was no wonder that, in the final minutes, his QB threw to other people. Who in their right mind would continue to risk throwing to a four-time loser in the biggest game to date for this young team?

Years later, his football career behind him, he would still ruefully recall those misses and how his team had so rightfully turned their back on him. How they had gone with another option, and lost that night to a ferocious competitor. He would realize, much later, that this was where he started to doubt himself because his team had doubted him. Where he would think that maybe he really just was some kid from Lakewood, not a hero. Not a great football player.

And years later the QB, sitting in front of a fire, would recall that game as well. He would wonder what had gone wrong that day… And he would realize that the doubt that had entered into the team in January of 2015 slowly but surely eroded the team from within. The brotherhood he had been a part of, a brotherhood instilled in them from the bottom to the top of the organization, had started to unravel. What might have become a dynasty became just a statistical fluke.

This, of course, is not what actually happened.

What happened yesterday was two men who were directly or indirectly responsible for the worst performances of both of their careers made a choice. Russell Wilson threw, in the most important play of the game, to a man who had turned the ball over 4 times. Pete Carroll supported that play, Jermaine Kearse made the catch and the Hawks won the game.

If Jermaine had dropped that ball – or god forbid had turned it over again – we would all be questioning team leadership across the board.

Which, as it turns out, would be the wrong thing to do. Wilson had to throw to Jermaine because he was the right man to make the play, no matter what had just happened before. And I like to think that it’s because in the long game a Jermaine who has redeemed himself by doing his job well is just as valuable to the team in future seasons as this win was.

Perhaps it’s even more valuable – every man on the team will be looking at this and they will be thinking, as contracts roll around – “would any other other team continue to trust me after I had repeatedly and drastically failed to do my job? will they ever trust me that much?”

This is what makes this such a remarkable event. Jermaine Kearse was never a 4 time loser – he is an extremely good receiver who happened to have a few bad misses. By refusing to allow the narrative to change into Jermaine’s failures the Seahawks showed a level of depth that will last them well into the future.

The Seahawks showed that good teams win together – even teams whose individual players are having really, really, REALLY bad days.

Computers and Internet

Smart-ass is the First Word in Smart-ass Designer

This was fairly early on in a design:


Then Brooks made DCR #1, so I helpfully obliged. Note the recesses in the bolt heads, I thought those were a really nice touch.


Then Brooks added more engineering requirements into his DCR, creating DCR #2. I obliged that as well with what I thought was a very elegant solution:


Pippa raised marketing concerns about the new design, which in hindsight I probably should have thought of. Based on that I proactively did DCR #3 to accommodate branding:


When I looked up the specs on the solar panel that Brooks had added in DCR #2, I realized we’d need even more space, so I added that in DCR #4.


It’s nice being recognized as a genius.

Computers and Internet

Augmented Reality meet Modified Perception

This is, once you think about it, a total no brainer. As are most good ideas.

And it’s really freaking awesome.

The time has already come where it’s increasingly easy to fake things in video post production FX so that you can make videos appear to be “real” when they aren’t. Augmented Reality technology lets us apply things to the reality we are viewing, typically through glasses. If I’m wearing the glasses I can see the augmentations while if you aren’t wearing glasses, or you don’t have my exact same augmentation system and parameters, you can’t.

This projects a new reality onto the real world *for everyone present to witness* in real time.

This can make the reality you witness with your own eyes suspect. This doesn’t just augment reality, it can modify everyone’s perception of it.