Self driving cars… and open source systems

So I just watched an interview with George Hotz, you can watch it here:

For those that don’t have the time, George jailbroke the iPhone when he was quite young, and jailbroke the PS3, was threatened by Sony and is a proud proponent that once you’ve bought something that you should own it and be able to do what you want with it.

He’s taking it to the next step, and allowing you to add on a self-driving car system to any car (well, he’s aiming for 50% of the cars sold in the USA next year).  They obviously should have fly by wire controls so that his system uses the built in actuators, but as a sensor and processor platform he’s using the mobile phone.

What’s even more fun is that he’s making this completely open source, he’s crowd sourcing his data (download chffr for your phone) by offering a dashcam that then uploads driving data after it gets home.  All his software is available on github under an MIT license, and he thinks that we’ll have a critical mass of self driving cars in 5 years.

Now I’m looking forward to those days, not because I don’t like driving, but because I enjoy driving, but I don’t like repetitive day-to-day commuting driving, or driving to meetings when I’m thinking about the presentation I have to give and so on.  I would love to be able to have the choice to sit down and tell the car to take me home and have a nap on the way – hey, I’m getting old(er), I deserve a nap now and again.

Take a look at Comma Ai, maybe your next car won’t have to have self driving systems built-in, you’ll be able to buy it as an addon.


Report of a chained account hack.

Read Matt Honan’s tale of woe as an instruction on why not to use the same passwords on different accounts, and why you might think twice about chaining your accounts together.

On “Reflections on Trusting Trust”

In 1984, Ken Thompson wrote “Reflections on Trusting Trust”, and it is still valid today.

All students writing anything higher level than machine code (does anyone still do that?) should have an appreciation of what goes on at various points in the toolchain, and how it can be exploited at each of those levels.

The article can be read here and is also has some refelections on Open Source to consider.

Obfuscation can happen at many levels and nobody’s commits should be taken at face value – only vigilance in code reviews will keep everyone honest.

Oh, and apparently he implemented it, but never distributed the compiler.

A little bit of web design

I was looking at Mark’s my365 page as he’s also doing a daily photo project, and rather liked his presentation on there.

So last night I put my mind to developing a few lines of code to try to put something similar together. So a bit of Perl code to parse the XML from the RSS feed (yes it’s technical, but fun in a geeky way) from my flickr oneaday feed and I was able to put together a web page of my own which automagically updates whenever I add a photo to the oneaday set on my iPhoto album on my mac (which synchronises with flickr).

Suzy helped me out today with the CSS for laying out the page and in the end this tutorial on floats was also very helpful to end up with my oneaday gallery.

I’l probably tidy it up a little in the future, but it’s not bad for a few hours of work, especially when I consider how long it is since I coded in Perl and php. Definitely a worthwhile exercise, it helps to keep the coding muscles in trim, and I’m teaching web development tools in a couple of weeks.

IRC in aber

Especially for freshers…

There is a technology called Internet Relay Chat, which for many years was one of the few ways of interacting with your friends and colleagues around the world on the internet. Now we have lots of IM clients and protocols, but the cool kids all still use IRC.

There is a long and colourful history behind IRC at Aberystwyth, but to summarise (you can read the gory details in other places) bitternet is dead.

IRC is alive and well at

Get yourself onto a Sun machine, start up a terminal window and type the following…
*** Connecting to port 6667 of server
*** Unable to connect to port 6667 of server Unknown
*** Use /SERVER to connect to a server
… lots of joining stuff here…
/join #fresher
… stuff…
Hello I am a newbie

You may find yourself in a quiet empty channel, or it might have other folks around. If you feel really brave you might want to try joining #aber, but beware, here be dragons and *shudder* graduates of the department. You need to have a well developed sense of humour to survive for long on #aber, but it is worth the effort getting to know the regulars.

You may want at some point to graduate to another client with different features, but before using scripts, beware they may get you kicked or banned.

Also, get aquainted with it is a fount of useful (and pretty useless) information.

Enjoy, and see you around


Chip and pin just as fallible as old system?

A Guardian article about how chip and pin is not really any more secure than the old system, and the only change is that banks are now not paying claims, instead blaming the card owner for giving their cards and pins out. Their argument – you can’t copy these chips!

The article raises some important security concerns. Also, do you believe that reported card crime is down, now that you don’t report it to the police, the bank does that for you after they decide if it’s worth reporting?

And rather than make another post, I just have to link to this article about airport and airline security, and how completely absurd the whole thing is.
Personally, I fell that they’ve already won, by getting us to allow our government to take away civil liberties, whilst most of the voting public either encourage it, or just lay down and take it.
One of the comments near the top of the page, made by a pilot who is also subject to these security checks puts it quite succinctly:

Let’s think about something. I am in my pilot uniform and going through security and about to fly an aircraft and passengers from point A to B. I and my co-pilot will be sealed in the cockpit in front of a security door that cannot be opened from the outside. I will have in my hands the only “lethal” weapon used on 9/11, – the control yoke. So just what is it the TSA is checking me for? A gun? A knife? What? If I had been recuited by ‘the bad guys’ do I need to carry ANYTHING lethal? Of course not! Therefore, I should not have to go through security at all!