You don’t have to be smart to be rich…

As a matter of fact, apparently there are enough people in the stupid/rich quadrant that Denon has decided that selling $500 ethernet cables is a marketable idea. I can only imagine what the business case looked like that day in the halls of Denon HQ when the marketing exec pitched the idea to the board. The conversation that morning started out in either one of two possible ways:

1) OK guys, we need an ultra high margin accessory to compliment our standard line of ultra high margin products. What haven’t we charged an arm and a leg for yet? How about this thing – what’s this? An ethernet cable? A what? Well, I don’t know what the heck that is so there’s a good chance that 99% of our customers won’t either since the size of my paycheck means that I’m one of the smartest people in the universe. Perfect. Oh, and if I ever hear you call it an “ethernet” cable again, you’re fired. Are there any more chocolate donuts?

2) Hey Guys! We’ve done it! We’ve finally done it! After years of failure, disappointment, and millions and millions of R&D dollars, we’ve finally made an ethernet cable that can make digital music being transported over our our proprietary IP stack* sound significantly better than with just a regular ethernet cable. You’ve got to hear this! Check it out!

(* I’m guessing here, but they probably changed some bits in the IP header to something weird and can now call it proprietary since it’s not part of the standard. My point with this particular tangent is that nobody makes completely proprietary communication interfaces these days, especially not people that make home theater components.)

Personally, I’m guessing that it went down more like Option #1.

So if you happen to have any friends in the upper left quadrant of the above-mentioned category, please let them know that it’s not necessary to buy a $500 ethernet cable to connect their reciever to their cd player. A $3 one will work just as well.

Just to break this down a little further, let’s take a look at the product photo on the page:

The Cable in Question

Here’s the product sell sheet if you want an even closer look.

Based upon this image alone, I submit:
1) The connector appears to have the same dimensions as a standard RJ-45 ethernet connector. there is no side keying that makes it look any different than a regular RJ-45.
2) The wires that are terminated in the connector are laid out in the following order: white/orange, orange, white/green, blue, white/blue, green, white/brown, brown. You don’t have to be BICSI certified to know that this is a TIA/EIA-568-B connection… known to many as “the ethernet cable”.

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it’s at least a bird.

The history of TEMPEST

One of my favorite topics has always been the history of cryptography – I don’t know why it fascinates me so. Cryptonomicon is my favorite novel for this very reason. So you can imagine how happy I was to read that the NSA has finally declassified the history of the TEMPEST project. Here’s a link to the story in the Threat Level column over at Wired. As if reading about the fact that we discovered readable electromag emissions from digital hardware a full ten years prior to when everyone thought we really did isn’t enough – it ends by dropping a hint about SEISMIC… which apparently is a project that allows signal interception thorugh seismic sensors. [GRIN]

Hate to say I told you so…

For some background, see the previous rant I posted about biometric security. Taking that into account, there’s this story that just posted over on Dark Reading.

If there’s one thing that should worry you in that story, it’s this line:

“many biometric systems don’t encrypt biometric data during the authentication process”

Simply amazing/scary that this is gaining traction in the market and more people aren’t questioning it.

The Yellow Drum Machine Robot

This little post almost got me going as much as building the submersible camera bot did last summer. Wondering what the heck it is? Basically:

1) The bot navigates around, collects some data, and avoids obstacles, until it
2) Finds something “worth playing on” (a single isolated object or a wide flat surface that it can find an angle onto)
3) Snakes into place
4) Plays some beats on what it have found, and samples this, checking it has a “good sound”
5) Based on data collected in the area, and sample just made, then compose a little rhythm, and plays this along with the sample

The Yellow Drum Machine Robot

Now, if you don’t think that’s cool – even just a little bit – then there’s absolutely nothing I can do for you. Walk away from the computer now.

My only gripe is that the video clips on the above link only are playable if you use IE to view the URL. GRRR… Another wonderful Internet experience marred by IE bias. Still not nearly enough for me to ever consider switching from Opera!

Humans don’t know anything about physics

Just when you’re sitting back looking at all of your fine quantum computing work, feeling pretty smug about the progress of humanity’s understanding of our surroundings… along comes this and all of a sudden you realize there’s just an immense amount of things we have no clue about.

Anyone care to take a shot at explaining how the interaction of water and a DC electric field can create a water bridge?

Floating Water Bridge

Yeah, that’s what I thought. We don’t know squat.

Image Resizer Technology Explained

Until I saw this clip, I never really considered the art of image manipulation all that big of a deal.

My first thought when I saw IRT was this – if the expanding function increased the pixels by inserting an average of the two on either side, what would the image look like after doing an accordion type movement where you successively reduce and enlarge multiple times? If it preserves the image – or could be made to – then I see a huge application for this in cryptology. If the removal algorithm can be subjected to some kind of key exchange, then you’d effectively be able to completely remove sections of an image – or certainly some text – just by typing in a password and then sizing it out of the media.

If you have some basic Photoshop skills, you’ll really appreciate continuous resizing where “images are resized in a non-uniform manner”. Seeing continuous resizing and specifically the weighted energy protection/removal algorithms explained in action is just wicked.

Popular Biometric Security = Bad For The Masses

I saw this the other day and said to myself, “Now THERE’S a good alternative to biometrics for high security applications!”.

And here we go. Security rant on.

Grocery shopping in a bad future.

If you go to a grocery store that is trying to make you think that paying for your milk and peanut butter by placing your thumb on a reader is a good thing, please keep reading. The problem with these biometric security mechanisms isn’t that they’re insecure. The also problem is not what Hollywood would have us believe – that retinal scans can be compromised by cutting someones eye out and holding it in front of the sensor (ridiculous). The problem is a personal one. The problem actually lies in how good the security of these devices really are. If I’m getting off on a tangent, let me bring it back a little. Your fingerprint or retinal pattern is indeed capable of identifying you, and only you, out of the six billion other people on the planet. The problem is that the information *representing* your fingerprint or retina is probably stored as an algorithm somewhere. Stored as 0’s and 1’s, just like any other data file. Encrypted or not, it doesn’t matter. Now here’s the point of my rant… stored data can be compromised. Compromised and stolen. Stolen and decrypted. So now there’s a theif out there that has something *way* better than a credit card number that can be cancelled. They’ve got YOU. They have something that indelibly represents you and only you. Something that cannot be cancelled or re-ordered. Your most precious representation of your individualism has been compromised.

Typical product of a retinal scan.

Security rant off.

If this line of discussion interests you, I highly suggest you head over to Bruce Schneier’s site and start reading. Bruce has written some of the most prolific dissertations on modern security that are in print today. Highly recommended and encouraged reading.

So the reason I thought that this was such a good idea, is because it’s:

A) not a hard coded security algorithm like your fingerprint or retina are, and

B) common methods of compromise – like looking over someone’s shoulder while they type – won’t work.

Only the most exotic methods of compromise – like van Eck phreaking or TEMPEST – would remain viable… and that is a good thing, as most people don’t know how to build an eckbox.

So anyway, just remember not to let anyone scan your retina or thumbprint into a database, please… it’s bad for all of us.

Massive Cosmic Void Found

One of the most common misunderstandings regarding cosmology is that people think of the universe as being extremely large and empty, with intermittent pockets of matter in the form of galaxies. Not true at all, and actually the exact opposite is closer to the truth.

The Microwave Sky

From what we’ve been able to tell, the universe is actually *packed* with matter in the form of galaxies, dust clouds, and dark matter (the quantity of dark matter being a relatively recent discovery). So it was quite a suprise when NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite was running it’s study on the cosmic microwave background, and came up with a region nearly a BILLION light years across that was emitting almost no microwave heat – which means that simply nothing’s there.

The Void

I’m not sure yet what to make of this, but I’m sure there will be several thesis papers written on this topic in the coming year. Here’s the story from Dailytech.

The Election is Upon Us

    Signs to look for in the Geek choice for President

11. They offer amnesty to Han Solo for killing Greedo without provocation.
10. They say your administration will work together with the efficiency of the Borg.
9. They have a passing familiarity with the scientific method.
8. They legally change their name to Pedro, so everyone can keep wearing their Vote for Pedro shirts.
7. They avoid the suit and tie look, and go for the T-shirt with pithy saying look.
6. They mention victories in Civilization (or BF2) as part of their experience in international relations.
5. They find ways to quote Holy Grail in their stump speech.
4. They promise to appoint a Klingon in the Department of Defense.
3. They choose Weird Al to create their campaign song.
2. They refuse donations from the RIAA and MPAA.
1. They suggest that they favor Net Neutrality as well as Net Lawful Neutrality and Net Chaotic Neutrality.

OK, some of these things are really nerdy instead of geeky, but I promise not to split hairs if ANY of the candidates does ANY of these.

Seen the newest Chinese Jin-class boomer? Google Earth has…

The Chinese may be really good a building a lot of things, but apparently they’re horrible at building even the most rudimentary dock sheds for their nuclear submarines.

If you have Google Earth installed, here’s the kmz file that gives you the coordinates for the pic that they got from the commercial photo satellite, Quickbird.

Chinese Jin Class Sub

The fish was netted by Hans M. Kristensen and published by him in the Strategic Security Blog, supported by the Federation of American Scientists. Kudos to Mr. Kristensen on his excellent Google Earth find, and shame on the Chinese for being caught so completely off guard.

If this is typical of how they run things, then they are indeed total amateurs and their global power needs to seriously be reconsidered.

BTW, if you’re a BF2 player, this is part of the Dalian complex.