Passenger Aircraft Remote Override Software

28 Jul 2006

This story about a group of 30 some odd European businessmen who just announced that they are developing software to be installed on passenger aircraft. This new system is intended to give a ground control station (apparently, the remote control software won’t work on airborn computers) the ability to thwart any on-board hijacking attempt.

The system “which could only be controlled from the ground would conduct the aircraft posing a problem to the nearest airport whether it liked it or not … [a] hijacker would have no chance of reaching his goal.”

I know I’m not the only who sees the potential for this new system to be abused. I think one of the most telling phrases in the announcement is:

The system would be designed in such a way that even a computer hacker on board could not get round it.

Sorry to burst your bubble, fellas, but there is no such thing as hack-proof. It’s a basic fact well known by anyone with any real security knowhow.

Besides, why would anyone want to hack such a system from on-board when they could hack the ground station? Why not hijack an airplane with as few risks as possible? Like the risk of your people being caught on their way through airport security (which is mostly a joke at this point, anyway); or with almost no risk of anyone on the aircraft being able to retake control; how about the risk of failure during the initial takeover. Gee, thanks 30-European-businessmen for making it so easy to hijack an airliner that there’s virtually zero risk in doing it.

Overall, I think it unlikely that the good part of this idea could be implemented without opening up other, far worse vulnerabilities.



Forced to Play Golf … Again

20 Jul 2006

The same student who was here last week is also taking this week’s class. It would seem that whenever this particular student takes a class that I am teaching, the fates conspire to make us play golf together. I don’t know why that is, but it’s a pattern that I don’t mind repeating.

So, this time, we decided to visit Lakeside Golf Course in West Bountiful, Utah. This course has a local nickname (some of you may even already know it); it’s also known as, “The Sponge” due to it’s usually rather wet state. It’s a very nice golf course, but we were surprised to find out that it was about 44% more expensive than the course we played last week. However, given the timeframe of some things we had to do in the afternoon, we decided to only play 9 holes.

We decided to take a 7:36am tee time. It was a beautiful morning, the air was clear, not too hot and not too cool, either. The sun was still a bit low over the east, which made the first couple of holes a little more difficult (playing towards the east), but it didn’t take long to get past that.

We had a great time. The course was a little wet in some spots, but overall, it wasn’t bad. Things were definitely greener than they had been last week. We didn’t keep too close a tab on our score, but we both noticed that I was significantly improved. I was hitting straight, solid shots one right after another. I even took par on a couple of holes and only double-bogeyed (or worse) on 3 of them.

There was one 530+ yard long par 5 (trust me, that’s a long hole, even for a par 5) I was about 30 yards short of the pin with only 2 strokes played. If I made the simple chip shot onto the green close enough to the pin, it could be an easy 1-putt for only the third birdie in my life. But, no, I had to nip the tip of my 9-iron on the ground before it reached the ball, rotating the club and sending the ball off to the right at a 35-degree angle to where I was aiming for. I just couldn’t putt it out from there, although I was only 18 yards from the pin. So, I chipped it on and my 1-putt ran out of steam about 2mm sort of dropping the ball (it was litterally sitting on the rim of the cup but didn’t go down). So, I ended up with a bogey.

Overall, I think I was about 16 over for the front 9. Considering how little golf I’ve played in the past few years, that’s not bad. I just really wish I could have made birdie on that par 5. It would have been nice. Oh, well. Better luck next time.



When You Have to Hit the Links

13 Jul 2006

This week I have been teaching one of Guru Labscourses at our offices in Bountiful, Utah. One of my students flew out from Washington, D.C., Maryland (i.e., just a couple of miles north of D.C.). He had brought his clubs out with him and had been asking for recommendations of good courses to play. We decided to visit Eaglewood Golf Course in North Salt Lake, Utah. This course is set up on the hillside and is only about a 12 minute drive from my office.

So, we went golfing.

After a quick bite of lunch at Bajio! (yummmmy!), we stoped at my house to pick up my clubs and then drove out to Eaglewood. It was a warm day, so I wore my Aussie hat, which I picked up about a year and a half ago while vacationing for Christmas & New Year’s in Australia & New Zealand.

Anyway, we didn’t really keep score, but I proved once more that I’m not just a hacker in computers, electronics and ham radio, but also in golf. Actually, I had a few good holes and even managed to win a couple. We took about 5 hours to cover the course (a little more than 4 is typical, but it was a hot day). The greens were excruciatingly slow, mainly due to having been aerated just three weeks before, but even worse was how long puts just would not break. There were several times that I had excellent puts that would have gone in if they had broken just a bit. It was a kinda strange thing to see, but it also made sense from the aeration.

My student thought that it was one of the most beautiful courses, mainly thanks to the views.

It was very nice to get back out on the links. The last time I played was nearly two years ago and it had been over a year before that, previously. It also didn’t hurt that I was able to work it into the schedule such that it made one of my students really happy. Boy, do I feel like one lucky guy.



Response: Will .mobi Get Any Traction?

11 Jul 2006

Richard K. Miller wrote about the new .mobi top level domain (a.k.a. TLD). Here’s a quote from the post:

Here are my 9 reasons why .mobi is a bad idea:

  1. You can already serve mobile content from any subdomain or folder, like mobi.example.com or example.com/mobi
  2. You can already use content negotiation. If the browser says “Accept: text/vnd.wap.wml”, then return mobile content.
  3. You can already use the “handheld” media type in your CSS.
  4. You can already create light-weight, semantic HTML that can be viewed on multiple devices.
  5. Since “mobi” isn’t a word, it’s not likely to be in the predictive text dictionary on most phones. A good domain for phones would employ a real word. (Actually .com works.)
  6. Without predictive text, typing “mobi” on a phone means pressing 6, then waiting, then 6-2-4. A good domain for phones would not use two adjacent letters on the same key.
  7. Phones with QWERTY keyboards are likely to have full-fledged browsers that can view .com websites anyway.
  8. Dot-mobi domains are expensive.
  9. Browsers like Opera can rerender existing web sites to make them viewable on movable devices.

If you see value in .mobi that I’m not seeing, let me know, but I think it will be a failure. We should as soon introduce a .BestViewedWithInternetExplorerAt800by600 domain so we can keep track of all those web pages from the 90’s.

Number 8 on Richard’s list is the reason why .mobi is a good idea … from the perspective of the registrars who are the ones who pushed for the new TLD.

But why not just .mobil ? I mean, come one, it would be so much easier for people to pronounce, even in a wide variety of languages.

Anyway, I think the addition of .mobi is just dumb. Basically for all the other reasons you already stated. Especially number 6; how irritating.



U.S. Navy Gets Patent on Firewall?

7 Jul 2006

Reading this newly issued patent, it sure seems like they are talking about a firewall to me.

I first read about this on Bruce Schneier‘s blog.



PHP Dinner

6 Jul 2006

This evening, Clint Savage and I met up with John Taber and Richard K. Miller at a little place in Provo called Pudding on the Rice, which sells only rice pudding in various flavors. The restaurant looks like it would fit in perfectly on Rodeo Drive or in Manhattan and was quite fun.

We spent a couple of hours discussing many things PHP. We talked about and compared PHP and other languages like PERL and Ruby. We spent some time discussing the pros and cons of several PHP frameworks like CakePHP (a.k.a. simply “Cake”), qcodo and CodeIgniter, among others. I’m not going to waste time here describing them, as John did an excellent job of comparing the various PHP MVC frameworks already.

It was a good time and I hope to be able to do more of them. If you have any interest in PHP at all (this definitely doesn’t mean you, Stuart), then you should make the effort to join us next time. Also, check out the Utah PHP Users Group site for details on other events for Utah’s PHP community.



First Ultrasound

4 Jul 2006

Yesterday, we went to the appointment for the first ultrasound of our upcoming little girl just off of 5300 South in Salt Lake. Everything looks great; healthy, normal, developing well. We saw her wriggling around a bit, too.

Oh what a fun time it was getting in for the ultrasound. We got up early and left to be a little early so that we could fill out paperwork (surely, you’re not surprised by that?). We had down that the appointment was for 10am, but when we got there, they told us the doctor had scheduled it with them for 9am. It ended up being almost 3pm before they got us in.

At least we didn’t have to sit there the whole time. They told us that they would phone if they could get us in earlier but to be back at about 2pm otherwise. Since we live in Centerville, we decided we would get some breakfast, do a little (mostly window) shopping and such so as to not waste $5 gas going back home and then down again. We also visited a couple of stores we hardly ever get to, while we were “down there”.

Here are some pictures from the ultrasound, many with annotations:

Well, I would post images, but they messed up the disc burn and I haven’t been able to read it. Hopefully, I’ll get that sorted soon. Sorry.



Review: Superman Returns

1 Jul 2006

Today, my wife and I decided to get out of the house and take in a movie. We saw the new Superman film, “Superman Returns.” (Ed. It now looks like the site is being redirected to http://supermanreturns.warnerbros.com/ and the new site now requires Flash 8 to view anything.)

I would recommend this movie to any movie-goers out there. It was thouroughly entertaining, had a really good story that fits into the Superman universe just right and even fits with the older films, and the cast really can act.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Excellent. I can’t think of anyone else who could have filled Gene Hackman‘s shoes better. I’ve liked everything I’ve seen Spacey do and he still continues to impress with his range and talent.

Brandon Routh plays Clark Kent/Superman. He looked a little young for the part in the ads I had seen. If anything, this was the one thing I was concerned with going into the theater. But, that concern faded after only a couple of scenes (he didn’t interact much in the first scene, so it was hard to gauge at that point). He did an excellent job as the Man of Steel and absolutely on the money as Clark Kent. His voice even has some of the qualities of the late, great Christopher Reeve‘s which, in my mind, help sell the character and the actor.

Kate Bosworth plays Lois Lane. In this story, the character of Lois has evolved quite a bit in the five years that Superman was absent. During the film, I had this feeling like something was missing from this character. It wasn’t until after the movie that I realized as I thought back on it that her character was 100% accurate and that Bosworth had played it perfectly. Sometimes, it was like Margot Kidder coached her.

Great performances were turned in by Frank Langella as Perry White and James Marsden as Richard White.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t. I’ll simply sum up with this:

Superman Returns gets a 9 out of 10 in my book (which will only have one film at 10, ever). It’s a must see and with some of the very impressive shots in the film, you will want to see it first on the silver screen.