Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

June 29, 2023

There is no such thing as micro-cheating and these are not examples of it

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:17 PM

I am constantly surprised at how insecure these some of the men are. The following screenshot came up in my Mastodon feed (unfortunately I didn’t save the link to the post, just the image and I can’t find it now) and I was flabbergasted. This is a screenshot from a ‘romance’ guide that is explaining how addressing a man by their name instead of calling them hey you is an example of Micro-cheating…

34 Ways Your Girlfriend Is Micro- Cheating (And Totally Getting Away With It) 29. Addressing a man by his name unexpectedly (e.g. “Hey, Doug” instead of just “Hey”), which breeds a strangely powerful sense of intimacy.

What on earth is wrong with people? Calling folks by their name is basic curtsy. I admit I am bad at it because I have a hard time remembering names but that is not something I am proud of and I try to go the extra mile to ensure that I memorize names.

A quick search gave me the site, and the examples they use in this ‘article’ are beyond idiotic. Search for the text from the example above and you will find it. I am not linking to it because I don’t want to send them more traffic. For example, #25 claims that “giggling“, yes you read that right is an example of Micro-cheating… Some more gems from the site:

9. Letting a guy she interacts with ever so briefly on the bus or in an elevator believe that he’s got a shot for a few precious seconds before getting on with her day.
Just because someone smiled at you doesn’t mean they are interested in dating you.

30. Addressing a man by his full name instead of the nickname he goes by (e.g. “Hello, Douglas”), which is secretly one of the most subtle but impactful ways to flirt.
I don’t like calling folks by their nicknames unless I know them well enough to use it (not talking about examples where Christian is shortened to Chris) and that doesn’t mean I am flirting with them.

34. Sending texts to a guy that are laced with more emojis than she typically uses when communicating with her besties.

These folks need to talk to a psychiatrist because they need help. They are being trained from a young age to only think about women a certain way and to expect every lady they meet to fall at their feet to fulfill their every desire. This is obviously not what happens in the real world and then these folks grow more & more militant and misogynistic causing huge problems for everyone around them. Some of them have actually killed people because they didn’t get what they thought was their right.

– Suramya

June 28, 2023

Please stop shoving ChatGPT Integration into products that don’t need it

I am getting really tired of folks shoving ChatGPT integration into everything whether it makes sense or not. The latest silliness is an electric bike with ChatGPT integration. I understand the desire to integrate GPS/Maps etc in a bike, although personally I would rather use an independent device which would get updates more frequently than the built in GPS where the maps might get updated a few times a year. Unless the maps are getting downloaded live using 3G/4G/whatever. I even understand the desire to integrate voice recognition in the setup so that the user can talk to it. But why on earth do I want/need to have ChatGPT shoved in there?

Based on ChatGPT’s well known tendency to hallucinate there is a good probability that it might decide that you should take a path that is not safe or even dump you into the ocean because it hallucinated that it was the way to go. This is the same thing we saw with Blockchain a few years ago, everything was suddenly on the Blockchain whether it needed to be or not. The sad part is that these folks are going to make a ton of money because of the hype behind ChatGPT and then bail leaving the consumers with a sub-par bike that hallucinates.

Source: Urtopia Unveils the World’s First Smart E-Bike with ChatGPT Integration at EUROBIKE 2023

– Suramya

June 27, 2023

Thoughts on Meta joining the Fediverse (Mastodon)

Filed under: My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 4:29 PM

The past few weeks have been interesting over at Mastodon where some of the community has been screaming and loosing their minds about the possibility of Meta becoming part of the Fediverse. Bloonface summarized my feelings about it perfectly in the following Toot:

Let’s just say the blunt truth here: It’s not going to be Meta or Project 92 or whatever that kills fedi, it’s the fact that every time anyone suggests a way in which normal people can use it in the same way that normal people use social networks, the entire network shits the bed and starts screaming about keeping the outsiders out. But then also the same people heap judgment on people for still using Twitter when Twitter actually gives them what they want

People have reason not to trust Meta because of their behavior in the past, and we have extreme examples where Opensource protocols were subverted (XAMPP) and the opensource clients killed off. However, we also have the example of AOL which was a closed garden opening up their network and users to the Internet which introduced a ton of people to the Open Internet and while there were initial hiccups and adjustments required in the long run it was good for the internet to ingest the closed garden into an open network.

One of the biggest reasons for people sticking with Facebook/Whatsapp/whatever is the cost of switching and the Network effect. Basically, what that means is that people use a social network/site because their friends are already using it and it is difficult to get them to switch. I have tried getting my family and friends to switch to Signal from Whatsapp but since most folks are on Whatsapp it becomes a chicken and egg problem. We can’t move there because all the friends are here. Having Meta become a part of the Fediverse would allow me to move to a new network/server and still be able to connect with my friends / relatives on FaceBook. This interoperability lowers the switching costs allowing users the freedom to change servers without loosing the userbase/network they have build up on the old system/

Cory Doctorow has written a fantastic article about Facebook’s war on switching costs that goes into detail on how reducing the switching costs and increasing interoperability is a good idea.

Unfortunately, there are folks who think that only the chosen few should be allowed to use ‘their’ networks and are screaming their heads off about something that is not even a formal discussion yet. Meta has had a few exploratory calls with Mastodon server admins and that’s it. No one has ‘betrayed’ the users or sold out or whatever. I can’t remember how many folks have been referencing that post about ‘Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution’ that I wrote about a while ago (not linking to the original post because I don’t what to increase its visibility). It is the same standard whining for a certain part of the user group that always tries to gatekeep everything and it is annoying.

I would love to have everyone move to Mastodon so that I don’t have to log into Twitter to catch up with folks. Currently not everyone is on Mastodon which means that either I stop following their work or I log into Twitter to read what they are doing till they migrate. If Twitter federates then I wouldn’t have to do that, I could read their posts from the comfort of my own server. Same thing with Facebook, I don’t log in much there but that means that I miss a lot of updates from family who still use it actively.

However, the advantage of having an open federated network is that even if some of the admins have a hissy fit and block the Meta (or any other servers) nothing is preventing their users from deciding to move their accounts to a more sensibly managed server as they are not locked in.

– Suramya

June 26, 2023

BepiColombo takes fabulous photos during its flyby of Mercury 236 km above the planet’s surface

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Science Related — Suramya @ 9:10 PM

Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun has been a challenge to explore and examine because of its closeness to the Sun. This is the second craft to orbit the planet after NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which orbited the planet from 2011 to 2015. BepiColombo is a joint venture between European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The latest flyby was 3rd of the 6 planned flybys of the planet. The team has released a short video composed of 217 images taken during the flyby.

Photo taken by BepiColombo during its 3rd flyby of Venus

Pic Credit: European Space Agency/ Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The closest approach took place at 19:34 UTC (21:34 CEST) on 19 June 2023, about 236 km above the planet’s surface, on the night side of the planet.

Approaching on the nightside of the planet, a few features started to appear out of the shadows about 12 minutes following the closest approach, when BepiColombo was already about 1800 km from the surface. The planet’s surface became more optimally illuminated for imaging from about 20 minutes after close approach and onwards, corresponding to a distance of about 3500 km and beyond. In these closer images, a bounty of geological features are visible, including a newly named crater.

While not apparent in these flyby images, the nature of the dark material associated with Manley Crater and elsewhere will be explored further by BepiColombo from orbit. It will seek to measure just how much carbon it contains and what minerals are associated with it, in order to learn more about Mercury’s geological history.

The next Mercury flyby will happen in September 2024 but the next next long solar electric propulsion ‘thruster arc’ is planned to start early August until mid-September which will help BepiColombo in Braking against the gravitational pull of the Sun. During the lifetime of the project, the module will have completed 15,000 hours of solar electric propulsion operations which will allow it to perform 9 planetary flybys in total — one at Earth, two at Venus, and six at Mercury.

The more we explore our celestial neighbors, the more information we will have before we start working towards space colonization and building settlements. Although, I don’t think that Mercury will be a contender in the near future for a settlement, unless we find a rare mineral or something over there.

Source: Slashdot: New Video Shows a Flyby of the Planet Mercury – with AI-Assisted Music

– Suramya

June 21, 2023

India launches 2nd Gen satellite for the NavIC Navigation System

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Science Related — Suramya @ 1:07 PM

GPS has become so ingrained in our life that it is hard to imagine a world before GPS. I remember having to use paper maps and asking folks for directions during our road trips and now I don’t need to worry about anything, just follow the map and you can find anything. Even during my mountaineering course back in 1999 we learnt how to navigate and how to figure out where you were using landmarks. Towards the end of the course the instructor showed us a GPS receiver (which was ridiculously expensive at that time) as something that was available but couldn’t be relied upon because it was too expensive and might not be available. Now we have watches with built in GPS so the technology has come a long way since then.

However, since GPS is a US controlled system they have the ability to disable it for any area if they want and that creates a major risk. In the Kargil war, US disabled GPS for the entire region making it difficult for them to figure out where they were and perform the attacks more safely. This highlighted the risk and strategic importance of the functionality for India and they started working on an indigenous replacement.

Other countries have also realized the same and implemented their own version of GPS, these include Russian GLONASS, European Galileo, Japanese QZSS (Covers Japan and surrounding areas), and Chinese BeiDou. India’s replacement is called NavIC, which means sailor in Hindi. It is an regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services and currently covers India and a region extending 1,500 km (930 mi) around it. The system went live in 2018 via seven satellites. These satellites only operated in the L-5 band and S-band frequencies which are not supported in civilian equipment so wasn’t available for civilian use. After the Galileo constellation was granted approval to use the L1 band India also requested access and was granted permission by the International Telecommunication Union to use the L1 and L2 frequency bands.

On 29th May 2023, ISRO successfully placed the NVS-01 navigation satellite into orbit. This second generation satellite supports the L1 band which means the device manufacturers such as GPS receivers and smartphones just need a software update to support navigation using NavIC instead of needed extra hardware which was the case with the previous generation of the system. ISRO is planning on launching a satellite every six months over the next few years to put 11 new satellites in orbit so that the system has redundancy.

NVS-01 is the first of the second-generation satellites envisaged for the Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) services. NVS series of satellites will sustain and augment the NavIC with enhanced features. This series incorporates L1 band signals additionally to widen the services. For the first time, an indigenous atomic clock will be flown in NVS-01.

For now the system is concentrating on the Indian subcontinent and the area around it but as more satellites are launched they are planning on covering the entire globe and provide users with an alternative to GPS.

Source: EurAsian Times: Backstabbed During Pakistan War, India ‘Ditches’ US GPS For ‘Much More Accurate’ NavIC Navigation System

– Suramya

June 20, 2023

It is now possible to track someone using SMS Receipt Messages

Filed under: Computer Security,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 6:04 PM

With modern technology it is getting more and more easy to track someone. There are many apps, devices etc that allow a target to be tracked in near realtime by someone. This can be done using an App on your phone, find my phone functionality, family phone track etc etc. As someone who is worried about getting tracked they can disable GPS, get a new dumb phone that doesn’t support GPS etc which can mitigate the threat to a large extent. Unfortunately, now there is a new attack surface that allows an attacker to approximately locate a target with up to 96% accuracy.

Researchers have figured out how to deduce the location of an SMS recipient by analyzing timing measurements from typical receiver location. Basically they measure the time elapsed between sending a SMS and the receipt of the Delivery report and then use a ML model to predict the location area where the target could be located. The other advantage of this attack is that it doesn’t require any specialized equipment or access to restricted systems but can be executed via a simple smartphone.

Short Message Service (SMS) remains one of the most popular communication channels since its introduction in 2G cellular networks. In this paper, we demonstrate that merely receiving silent SMS messages regularly opens a stealthy side-channel that allows other regular network users to infer the whereabouts of the SMS recipient. The core idea is that receiving an SMS inevitably generates Delivery Reports whose reception bestows a timing attack vector at the sender. We conducted experiments across various countries, operators, and devices to show that an attacker can deduce the location of an SMS recipient by analyzing timing measurements from typical receiver locations. Our results show that, after training an ML model, the SMS sender can accurately determine multiple locations of the recipient. For example, our model achieves up to 96% accuracy for locations across different countries, and 86% for two locations within Belgium. Due to the way cellular networks are designed, it is difficult to prevent Delivery Reports from being returned to the originator making it challenging to thwart this covert attack without making fundamental changes to the network architecture.

The biggest problem with this method is that it doesn’t depend on any software or anything that needs to be installed on the target phone. You just need a phone that supports SMS, which is pretty much all phones in the market. There is an option to disable delivery reports which would mitigate the threat to an extent but is an opt-out setup rather than an opt-in. One way to reduce this vector would be for manufacturers to disable the delivery report by default and folks who need it can enable it from settings instead of the other way round which is the case right now.

Source: HackerNews: Freaky Leaky SMS: Extracting user locations by analyzing SMS timings
Full Paper: Freaky Leaky SMS: Extracting User Locations by Analyzing SMS Timings

– Suramya

June 12, 2023

A DIY Robot for automating a Cold boot attack now exists

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Computer Security,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

A Cold boot Attack has been around for a while (It was first demo’d in 2008) but it has been a fairly manual tricky operation till now. But now there is a new DIY Robot has been created that reduces the manual effort for this attack. Now you might be asking what on earth is a Cold Boot Attack? No, it is not referring to having to wear cold shoes in winter. It is actually a very interesting attack where the attacker freezes the RAM chips of a system while it is running and then shuts it down, after which they remove the RAM chip and put it in another device to read the data from it. Because the chip has been cooled significantly it retains the information even after the system is shutdown long enough for information to be extracted from it. The original cold boot attack involved freezing a laptop’s memory by inverting a can of compressed air to chill the computer’s DRAM to around -50°C so that it persists for several minutes, even after the system was powered down.

Ang Cui, founder and CEO of Red Balloon Security has created a process & robot to extract the chip from the system. The robot is a CNC machine which is has a FGPA (field-programmable gate array) connected to it. The robot chills the RAM chips one at a time, extracts them from the board and then inserts them into the FGPA that reads the contents of the chip allowing them to extract the data from it. To make it easier and allow them more time to remove the chip, the system monitors the electromagnetic emanation of the device which allows them to identify when the system is running CPU bound operations. Once they identify that, they can extract the chip when the system is using the CPU and not reading/writing to the RAM. This gives the robot a window of ~10 milliseconds to extract the chips instead of having to do it in nanoseconds.

Cui and colleagues demonstrated their robot on a Siemens SIMATIC S7-1500 PLC, from which they were able to recover the contents of encrypted firmware binaries. They also conducted a similarly successful attack on DDR3 DRAM in a CISCO IP Phone 8800 series to access the runtime ARM TrustZone memory.

They believe their technique is applicable to more sophisticated DDR4 and DDR5 if a more expensive (like, about $10,000) FPGA-based memory readout platform is used – a cost they expect will decline in time.

Cold boot attacks can be countered with physical memory encryption, Cui said.

This is not an attack the average user has to worry about but it is something that folks working on critical systems like banking servers, government systems, weapons etc need to be aware of and guard against. More details on the attack will be provided during a talk at the REcon reverse engineering conference in Canada titled “Ice Ice Baby: Coppin’ RAM With DIY Cryo-Mechanical Robot

Source: Hacker News: Robot can rip the data out of RAM chips

– Suramya

June 10, 2023

The World Book encyclopedia is still in print and I really wanted a copy

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Back in the early 1990’s we made a big investment and bought a copy of the World Book Encyclopedia. From what I can remember it costed quite a bit but it was worth it. Most of my research for any paper or project I had to do in my school years was done using these as the starting point. (and the middle and the end for most of the research).We still have the encyclopedias at home in Delhi but they are not much used. I think Vir has used them a few times to find something but with the internet putting the latest research at your fingertips the physical books are not that used.

However, there are multiple advantages to having a physical copy of something. For example, we are not dependent on internet connectivity or even electricity to be able to look up something in a physical book. Plus there is just a different feel to having a physical book in your hand rather than a digital copy.

Found a post earlier this week where this journalist found out that the World Book Encyclopedia is still being actively published in physical form every year and I was actually tempted to go and buy the latest version just so that I have it at home. Then I saw the cost for full set and decided that nostalgia is all well and good but not worth spending $1,199. You can also subscribe to an online version of the encyclopedia for lot cheaper cost but I don’t think I am going to do that. I have access to enough other sources where this is not needed.

This reminded me that I do have a CD version of the Encarta Encyclopedia lying around somewhere, maybe I should install it and see if it still works on my new system…

Source: Arstechnica: I just bought the only physical encyclopedia still in print, and I regret nothing

– Suramya

June 9, 2023

Sound based Quantum Computers are now closer to reality due to breakthrough research

We all know about the ongoing efforts to build a Quantum Computer by encoding information into quantum states of particles of light (photons), however there is a parallel effort ongoing that is trying to build Quantum Computers that are based on Sound instead of light. This effort being led by Andrew Cleland at the University of Chicago, just had a major breakthrough and created a device that is a key component in building a sound based Quantum Computer.

Phonons are the fundamental quantum vibrations within materials, with individual phonons representing the collective motion of many trillions of atoms. The team built a chip that allows them to create single phonons on demand which are about a million times higher pitched than audible sound. They then passed it into a beam splitter which consists of 16 tiny, parallel aluminium strips designed so that any sound that hits them gets reflected and transmitted in equal parts. At supercooled temperatures they found that the Phonon entered a quantum superposition state where the whole particle was simultaneously in the state of being reflected and transmitted.

Cleland says that this is exactly what they hoped would happen because this process is a necessary step for running calculations on quantum computers that rely on particles of light. To make their chip even more like a sound-based quantum computer, the researchers also successfully recreated the way two particles of light are commonly made to “talk to each other” and how their behaviour is controlled during light-based computations.

Here, they simultaneously sent two phonons from opposite directions into the beam splitter and saw their respective superposition states influence each other. In the future, they will use this procedure to implement simple operations that make up computer programs.

Dirk Bouwmeester at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says that for particles of light, procedures like quantum teleportation or creating entanglement hinge on using beam splitters, and now they could be done with particles of sound as well. “It is truly spectacular that the team could replace photons with phonons,” he says.

There are a lot of interesting applications for this technology once it matures, for example it could be used to connect computer components that are hard to connect to each other. Using sound as the carrier instead of light opens up more possibilities. Their research has been published in the Science Journal (DOI: 10.1126/science.adg8715)

Source: NewScientist: Sound-based quantum computers could be built using chip-sized device

– Suramya

June 7, 2023

Proof of Concept setup demoing technology to beam solar power down to Earth successfully demoed

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Emerging Tech,Science Related — Suramya @ 4:20 PM

The ability to beam power from space to earth has long been a staple of Science Fiction books and movies. On the surface it makes sense, space is huge and if we can setup solar panels in space to collect energy and get it to earth in a usable format then it is a win-win. No more having to deal with fossil fuels/nuclear reactors etc. Folks have been working on this for over 5 decades now and progress was slow as most people focused their efforts on other options such as improving land based solar panels, geothermal etc etc.

Now researchers from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have successfully demonstrated MAPLE (Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment) which is an array of 32 flat antennas packed onto a surface slightly larger than a dinner plate. During the experiment the energy was transmitted to earth and successfully received by a receiver on the roof of the Gordon and Betty Moore Laboratory of Engineering and they were able to successfully target receivers about a foot away alternatively and transmit ~200 milliwatts of power to the receiver that powered a LED light.

Using constructive and destructive interference between individual transmitters, a bank of power transmitters is able to shift the focus and direction of the energy it beams out—without any moving parts. The transmitter array uses precise timing-control elements to dynamically focus the power selectively on the desired location using the coherent addition of electromagnetic waves. This enables the majority of the energy to be transmitted to the desired location and nowhere else.

MAPLE features two separate receiver arrays located about a foot away from the transmitter to receive the energy, convert it to direct current (DC) electricity, and use it to light up a pair of LEDs to demonstrate the full sequence of wireless energy transmission at a distance in space. MAPLE tested this in space by lighting up each LED individually and shifting back and forth between them. The experiment is not sealed, so it is subject to the harsh environment of space, including the wide temperature swings and solar radiation that will be faced one day by large-scale SSPP units.
MAPLE also includes a small window through which the array can beam the energy. This transmitted energy was detected by a receiver on the roof of the Gordon and Betty Moore Laboratory of Engineering on Caltech’s campus in Pasadena. The received signal appeared at the expected time and frequency, and had the right frequency shift as predicted based on its travel from orbit.

This is a big step forward, but I still have major doubts about the feasibility of the project, at least in the current form. Here we are using microwaves to transmit the energy from space to earth, at the level of power we need to transmit the microwave beam will cook anything that crosses it, for example if a plane flies through the beam you can say goodbye to the passengers. Even if we decide that we will establish a no-fly zone around the area what is to stop birds etc from flying into the beam and getting fried. Another problem is that microwave beams generate heat as a side-effect and that can cause a major heating of the atmosphere and change the air-currents which can cause a massive environmental impact.

We also need to consider that in order to collect the solar energy at a scale where it would be useful and make financial sense we would need to setup massive solar-panels in space. This will case a huge problem for astronomers. We already have issues being caused by the Starlink Satellites, this will be the same but at a much larger scale.

However, that being said I see the potential and if we can ever get quantum entanglement or spooky action at a distance as Einstein called it working reliably and consistently then that could potentially be used to transmit the power to earth without frying everyone in the path.

Lets see what else the researchers come up with…

Source: In a First, Caltech’s Space Solar Power Demonstrator Wirelessly Transmits Power in Space Satellite beams solar power down to Earth, in first-of-a-kind demonstration

– Suramya

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