Archives for Toys

iPhone: Who needs security?

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

There are an increasing number of jailbroken applications that can be loaded onto the iPhone — so many, in fact, that someone has thrown together a nifty package manager for installing and managing all of them.

One of the more interesting things to do, of course, is run an SSH client so you can perform remote administration of other machines. Apparently, the installation of SSH from the package manager is a full-fledged OpenSSL install — including the server side of things.

And yes, it does start up the SSH service.

Combine this with the well-known passwords for both “root” and “mobile” accounts and what do you get?

orthrus:~/ adam$ ssh root@
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 7f:c4:18:1d:08:63:6c:04:0c:14:30:b2:09:f4:ee:17.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
root@'s password: 
Warning: No xauth data; using fake authentication data for X11 forwarding.
Last login: Mon Aug 27 17:34:23 2007 from
# ls
Library  Media
# uname -a
Darwin Q40 9.0.0d1 Darwin Kernel Version 9.0.0d1: Fri Jun 22 00:38:56 PDT 2007;
root:xnu-933.0.1.178.obj~1/RELEASE_ARM_S5L8900XRB iPhone1,1 Darwin
# df
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/disk0s1            307200    193116    111012  64% /
devfs                       18        18         0 100% /dev
/dev/disk0s2           7622368   6624600    997768  87% /private/var

Hmm… methinks the potential for havoc may be high here.

“It just works” – yeah right

Categories: General, Rants and Rambling, and Toys.

Sometimes I just don’t get the apple(computer) universe.

I loved my PPC laptop – almost anything I tried that was anywhere close to a mainstream use just worked. I could wave my hands at the machine and mutter vaguely and the result I wanted just happened.

I waited for awhile after the Intel macs came out so they could work out the “first run” bugs. I got a very nice Intel laptop just before the new year. It compiles things much faster, and for the most part runs the apps I need to run more effectively, BUT:

This thing is _far_ less stable than my PPC version and I find myself losing 10s of minutes a day (sometimes up to 6 of those) to getting it to do what I want to do.

– The wireless card and driver quality is _far_ below what I’d become used to. Connection management intrudes on my life daily now.

– It randomly (usually after being up for a day or more) refuses to sleep. I’d gotten so used to this “just working” that I got out of the habit of looking. My new laptop’s already had a really hot ride in my bag.

– I use a bonjour connection to a printer in the office. On the PPC version this was really stable. On this box, 1 time out of 3 that I try to print, it doesn’t “Just work”. (The most frustrating version of failure involves it deciding to use a different driver than it did last time – resulting in pages of “that’s not my printer language” showing up on the printer.

I’m watching my friends and coworkers (many of whom have new intel macbooks or macbook pros) going through similar pain, and I am alarmed at how quickly the “wave the chicken at windows” behaviors are becoming ingrained. The nice thing about OS/X (up to now) is that you didn’t have to have chickens – you could look at logs and figure out what was going wrong and _FIX_ it in the very rare situation when things didn’t “just work”. Those same logs are very silent on the above problems.

I’ve been moving my family and my lifestyle machines (I have a mac pro now too, and I _really_ like it when I’m not trying to print to freeBSD CUPS ipp queues). I am beginning to dread the probability of a new stream of family support issues that I can’t address without giving hours over to it. In particular, my boasts of the last couple of years about how living on a mac really lowers your frustration-with-the-machine pain are ringing hollow in their ears.

Apple – you are letting me down.

How did this happen?

A Cheaper Eco-Sport Car

Categories: Eco-nerd and Toys.

It certainly doesn’t approach the allure of the Tesla Roadster, but there’s another set of high-performance, alternate-technology cars in the works as well: a Brazilian company is poised to launch a line of cars under the name “Obvio!” next year.

The low end model, the Obvio! 828, starts at $14,000 for a hybrid version that runs on gas, ethanol, or any mix of the two; it gets mileage of 33 MPG city/44 MPG highway on gasoline (30/40 on ethanol) with a top speed of 100 MPH. It also comes in an electric-only version with a 200 – 240 mile range for $49,000, which increases the top speed to 120 MPH and has a 0-60 of 4.5 seconds. It has a lot of rather eccentric options, including an in-dash general-purpose touchscreen Windows XP computer featuring GSM/GPRS and 802.11 connectivity options. (And you know it’ll be in the US less than one week before somone blogs about their experience putting Linux on it).

The high-end, “microsport” Obvio! 012, which starts at $28,000 for the hybrid, keeps the same mileage as the 828, but raises the top-end speed up to 160 MPH. Specs for the electric-only 012 ($59,000) remain the same as the 828.

Hypercolor Monitors in the Works?

Categories: Science and Toys.

In an earlier post, I discussed the difference between purple and violet, and explored some of the color limitations of electronic display technology. Phil recently pointed out an article in Wired that discusses the use of adjustable diffraction gratings to produce arbitrary colors. (In practice, the gratings don’t produce the colors; they diffract a white light in such a way that the desired color can be made to pass through a pinhole). In theory, an array of these can be constructed to produce vivid-color televisions and monitors.

There’s something I find a bit suspect about the article, though. I mean, yeah, it’s full of the traditional Wired-style junk science (e.g., using relative voltage to compare power efficiency without taking current into account — plus, it includes a diagram of all the colors monitors can’t display [pause two beats here to let that sink in]), but in terms of color rendering, it says one thing that stands out as really bizarre.

The researchers are quoted as saying they intend to use white LEDs as the light source for this technology.


LEDs are diodes made with materials specifically chosen so that electrons crossing the p-n junction cause a photon to be released. The wavelength of these photons (color of the produced light) depends on the exact materials being used. Note I said “wavelength,” not “wavelengths” — LEDs produce a single color out of the spectrum at a time. (Strictly speaking, they produce a very narrow range of wavelengths, typically about 20 to 30 nm wide, with very steep drop-offs — but this is as close to a pure color as to make no difference for this conversation).

White LEDs can be produced by mixing together two or more carefully chosen single-color LEDs, but this is rarely done. Almost all white LEDs produced today use a blue LED as their base (gallium-nitride based, with a wavelength of ~460 nm); on top of this LED, they layer a phosphorescent substance (cerium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) which absorbs part of the blue light and emits a yellow light centered around 580 nm.

If you take the light from one of these LEDs and pass it through a prism, you’ll get a very thin, bright line of blue, and a slightly wider beam of orange/yellow/green.

By now, you should see where I’m going with this. If you use a white LED as your color source for a monitor that uses a diffraction grating, the results will be no better than today’s color display technologies, and arguably worse. Not only will you lack the ability to display colors below 460 nm (keeping in mind that s-cones peak at 420 nm: no violet for you!), but you’ll have gaps in the lower green and upper red spectrum as well.

Nonetheless, the adjustable diffraction technology is fascinating, and I hope something like this eventually gets to see the light of day — hopefully using something more wide spectrum than what the article implies for a light source.

Now all we need is a CCD that can record a full-spectrum scene, and we’re good to go.

Got a spare $100,000?

Categories: Eco-nerd, Science, and Toys.

Ben brought to my attention a new breed of electic car that Tesla Motors is producing. The vehicles themselves are styled and manufactured by Lotus.

The first car out the gate is the “Tesla Roadster” — a two seater with a trunk that can be described only as “vestigial.” It’s a soft-top convertable with a hard top option. So it’s an electic sports car? Yep. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: the Japanese have been outperfoming gas-powered cars using electric prototypes for years. (According to Wired, Tesla Motors has other cars in the works as well).

This car is as different from the electric cars of yesteryear — most of which were glorified golf carts — as is possible. With a 200 kW powertrain (that’s almost 270 horsepower for you luddites), it can go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds. It has a top speed somewhere north of 130 miles per hour. Under normal driving conditions, it can go 250 miles on a single charge. And while previous electric cars required exotic charging stations, this one has an optional “travel charger” that allows you to plug it into a normal wall outlet. (It does come with an exotic charging station that you install at your house that charges it up more quickly — empty to full in 3 1/2 hours).

And, for Ben’s sake, I’ll point out that the iPod dock comes standard.

At $100,000, I’m not quite putting in my down payment yet — but it’s really promising that someone can make a batch of these (1,000 for the 2007 year model) for a price that’s almost on par with gasoline cars in the same class. At this price, the first batch (limited edition) of 100 sold out — prepaid — within two weeks. They’re taking orders for the second batch right now.