Archives for Toys

Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance | Politics and Law – CNET News

Categories: Crypto, IM, iPhone, Politics and Local Topics, and Rants and Rambling.

The DEA has figured out that getting a wiretap order for an iPhone, executed at the phone company, doesn’t get them iMessage content. It’s pretty obvious the various TLAs engaged in law enforcement will use this as a concrete example to push the “Going Dark” initiative to get CALEA reinterpreted (or legislated) to cover various internet based communication services. And designing a service to use end-to-end protection will be right out.

iMessage is a special case here, since it inserts itself into the normal text message user interface. It’s the phone’s preferred way to send messages, and from the user’s (and law enforcement’s) perspective, it’s a native feature of the phone rather than an app.

I’m worried this will bring up yet another concern–even if they get what they want with CALEA, they are going to discover that they have execute multiple, maybe even many, wire tap orders to track a single subject. How long until we require each ISP to be able to MiTM attach every TLS connection? Or another clipper chip initiative?

Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance | Politics and Law – CNET News

(Via MacRumors.)

iRobot Looj First Mission

Categories: Tech and Toys.

I just completed my first use of the iRobot Loojâ„¢125. The bottom line is, it was better than I expected.

When iRobot first announced the Looj, my reaction was along the line of “what were they thinking?” I couldn’t imagine that there was enough market in home gutter cleaning robots to warrant the R&D cost. But then we had new landscaping installed, and found a section being damaged by water overflowing the corner of one of our gutters. Candace said she’d fix that section of the flower bed, but not until I cleaned the gutters.

The Looj had reached its second generation by then, and they’re not that expensive, so I ordered one. Due to too many hands on my time, I only managed to deploy it this weekend.

Guess what? It works pretty well. It was not perfect, but it sure beat having to move the ladder every few feet. It plowed through the real debris with gusto. It was great for tree matter, etc. It was not quite as good with the several years build up of fine silt–it got most of that but left quite a bit behind.

This model is rated for 150 linear feet of gutter. I didn’t measure my gutters, but it handled the whole house on one charge. Now, it’s not a big house, and most of the gutters on the south side were mysteriously clean.

The unit had plenty of power. It would occasionally hang on something and flip itself over–but this model can run just fine upside-down. The only significant downside was that a lot of the spacer rods in my gutters were angled down too far, and blocked the Looj from its duties. I don’t blame the Looj for this; it was typically shoddy work on the builder’s part. On the other hand, if the Looj was made a little thinner, it would have fit under most of them.

Some other minor issues:

I don’t think the handle-remote was the best idea. It becomes difficult to remove and reinstall once the unit gets dust and grime on the handle rails. This is complicated by the need to hold onto the ladder while messing with it. The battery cover on the remote comes off too easily–I had to climb down the ladder to find my batteries more than once.

It sprays dirt all over the place–but I don’t see much way around that short of a built in shop-vac. You will need eye protection and a hat with a brim.

The NiCad battery needs too much babying–I thought we were past the days of having to pull the battery off the charger to avoid overcharging, and having to guess when the battery was fully charged instead of having an indicator.

But overall, it was a clear win over doing it by hand. I’m still not sure about the market for home gutter-cleaning robots, as I imagine I would use it once a year at the most. But I expect a single visit from a professional gutter cleaner would cost me more than the entire unit.

Kicking Myself…

Categories: iPhone and neither-camelids-nor-goats.

… for forgetting that my new iPhone will do video until the moment was past.

I pulled into our alley tonight at 9:38 CDT, to the sight of a family of raccoons running directly towards my car, until they had an attack of good sense and turned and ran the other direction. By other direction, I mean straight back down the alley so that I could follow slowly and keep them in my headlights for a good 90 seconds.

By family, I mean 1 adult (I assume mom) and 5, count them, 5, juveniles. Mind you, I was in the Miata with the top down. They probably could have taken me, had they not been awed by the glory of my HID headlights.

iPhone Keyboard

Categories: iPhone and Silly Stuff.

In the process of setting up the new iPhone 3.0 note sync feature, I ran across this relic from my first day with the original iPhone:

This is a test to see how fast I van go with one fibgerJpq alpirr rjiimba so they qpekj sow doingmirao fast


I’m somewhat better at it now.

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot

Categories: Eco-nerd, Tech, and Toys.

Tesla Motors is now taking deposits for their über-cool Model S sedan, which is planned for production in 2011 — they’ll be sold off in first-come-first-served order. The claims are 0-60 mph in a smooth 5.6 seconds, with seating for 5 adults. And 300 miles on a charge. Base models start at $50,000 — which seems quite the bargain, when you consider that it’s likely to compete with luxury sedans for amenities.

For a mere $5,000 ($4,950 of which can be refunded, at least as long as Tesla remains solvent), you can get your place in line.

Use all your speakers under OS X 10.4

Categories: OS X and Toys.

Something that had been bothering me for a while is that I have a full 5.1 setup hooked up to my MacBook Pro (via a USB SoundBlaster Live sound card), but generally end up using only two of the speakers. While native 5.1 content (DVDs, HD trailers) does play out all six speakers, any stereo source (like music in iTunes) uses only the two front speakers. Most annoyingly, the subwoofer just sits there doing nothing.

I finally figured out how to make stereo sound sources take advantage of the entire setup, with the help of various tools. Luckily, these are all free.

The most important tool is Soundflower. Soundflower adds two input/output sound devices (one stereo, and one 16-channel). These are actually very simple pass-throughs — any sound routed to the inputs appears at the outputs (For example, you can set default output to the stereo Soundflower device; and another to takes its input from the Soundflower device — viola! Instant full-system sound recorder!). It’s pretty simple, but very powerful. (Caveat: installation requires a reboot, since it’s creating new sound devices)

Another very useful tool (although not strictly necessary for what we’re doing here) is Soundsource. Soundsource sits in your menu bar, and allows you to select which output device is currently active. You’ll be changing this around quite a bit as you get this whole setup working, so I’d suggest you install it.

Finally, if you haven’t installed the OS X development tools, do so now. They’re on the disks that shipped with your machine.

Got all that installed? Good. Now the fun begins.

On the “SoundSource” menu, select “Open Audio MIDI Setup”. (If you haven’t installed SoundSource, you can find this in “Applications”, under “Utilities”). On the “Audio” menu, select “Open Aggregate Device Editor”. Add an aggregate device, and name it something useful (I called mine “Soundflower Stereo + SB Live”). Select the new aggregate device, and check “Soundflower (2ch)” and whatever your 5.1 soundcard output is (look for a “6” in the out column). You’ll want to make sure the soundflower appears first in the list. You probably want to select the soundcard as the clock source. You can now close the Audio MIDI Setup application.

The newly created aggregate device should show up in your AudioSelector menu; and it will probably be selected. We haven’t routed the sound anywhere yet, so any sounds your machine wants to make now won’t come out anywhere.

Now, open up the “AU Lab” program — you’ll find it under /Developer/Applications/Audio. You should be in the “Create New Document” window. Make sure the “Audio Device” is set to the aggregate device you created — there should be 8 channels indicated. If you don’t see 8 channels, try changing from the aggregate device to a real device and back again. Now, click “Add Output” three times — you should have four outputs total. Select output 3 and change it to mono. Drag it to channel 5 (this is your center channel). Select output 4, set it to mono, and drag it to channel 6 (this is your subwoofer). Now, grab output 2 and drag it to channels 7 and 8 (this is your rear channel); and, finally, drag output 1 to channels 3 and 4 (front channel).

Don’t worry — we’re almost there.

Now, under “Inputs,” there should be one input. Sometimes it creates it automatically for you; sometimes you need to add it. Click on “OK”, and you should get a window with a bunch of sliders on it. The lower-left slider should have four little boxes along its left side, labeled “1” through “4”, indicating which outputs this input is routed to. Click on “2”, “3”, and “4” to light them all up. As long as your output is still set to the aggregate device, you should now have music coming all all 6 speakers. Save this document before you close the AU Lab program.

One thing to note: the AU Lab program needs to be actively running to route sound from the Soundflower inputs to the outputs on your 5.1 soundcard. If you close AU Lab, your sound is once again routing to nowhere — but this is easily remedied by selecting a real device in the SoundSource menu.

You can play around with various effects on the channels to differentiate them. For example, I put a low-pass filter on my subwoofer; added a “Matrix” effect to the center channel to “enhance” the stereo; and put a 0.016 second delay on the rear channel.

One last troubleshooting trick that might help if you can’t get the audio flowing: soundflower and your soundcard need to be set to the same sample frequency or things just won’t work. I also had trouble converting 24-bit samples to 32-bit samples, but 16-bit to 32-bit seemed to work just fine. You can tweak these settings in the “Audio MIDI Setup” application.

As an aside — you don’t want this configuration active when watching actual 5.1 sources, as it will not only route the front channels to all six speakers; it will also send the center channel to the left front speaker; the subwoofer channel to the right front speaker; the rear left channel to the center speaker; and the rear right channel to the subwoofer speaker.

New User Interface Metaphor: The Wiggle

Categories: Dear God, Make It Stop! and iPhone.

I just updated my iPhone to 1.1.3. On restart, it popped a window telling me how to use the new feature allowing me to rearrange icons on the home screen. You simply touch and hold an icon until it, get this, starts to “wiggle”. Yes, it actually used the word “wiggle.”

Sounds disturbing? You have no idea. (Unless of course you have one.) All the icons start wiggling. But it’s a subtle wiggle. Just enough to wonder if you’ve had a bit too much rum or something.

Not that I ever have that problem.

Anyhow, finally getting the “find yourself” function in Google Maps is way cool. Even though all the Nokia E6x users have had it for months. Heck, the freakin’ MDA users have had it for a while. But I bet my user interface for it is better.

(btw, FIRST post for 2008!)