Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category

Actually, they can read your poker face.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Or at least your cards.

This is a presentation that I overlooked from DEFCON 24, but the authors have now been blogging.

For somewhere between $1,300 and $5,000, you can buy a device that helps you cheat at poker.

The technology is quite interesting. It isn’t just “disguised” as a phone: the device is actually a fully functional Android phone, with a custom ROM and app that controls the cheating portion.

Ironically, there is a hardcoded backdoor password in the app, which makes this security measure pointless if you know the backdoor password.

How does it work? Hidden camera, concealed infrared LEDs, and…

What makes the whole thing work is the use of a special deck in which the four edges of each card are marked with IR-absorbing ink. As a result, when this marked deck is illuminated by the IR LEDs, the spots of ink absorb the IR, creating a sequence of black spots…
The sequence of black spots created by the IR illumination, illustrated in the photo above, is read remotely by the cheating device to infer a card’s suit and value. You can think of those markings as invisible barcodes.

So yes, you do need to slip in a marked deck. But the people who will sell you the phone will also sell you pre-marked decks, which are designed to look like they haven’t been messed with. And apparently the phone will pair with Bluetooth based audio and haptic feedback devices, so you don’t even have to be looking at the display.

And yes, because it is based on marked cards, it will work with card games other than poker, too. (High-end bridge cheating? Chris Christie, call your office, please. Sorry, little joke there.)

The post that’s up now is just the first one in a promised series: I’ll try to link to the other ones as they go up.

Random notes and a whole bunch of obits: September 19, 2016.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I didn’t have much to say about the Mew York attack because:

1) I was busy Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.
b) It was an emerging situation that I don’t think blog posts could have done justice to.
III) I didn’t have anything to add.

I still don’t have much to add (except that I went “Holy s–t!” when I read about this morning’s shootout), but I did think this was kind of interesting: the NYT on the finding of the second device and taking it away in a “total containment vessel”:

The total containment vessel is essentially an inside-out diving vessel, Lt. Mark Torre, the commanding officer of the department’s bomb squad, said in an interview in July. “Instead of keeping the pressure out and keeping you alive in five fathoms of water, it keeps the pressure in,” he explained. Should a bomb explode inside, tiny vents allow pressure to escape. “It sounds like a hammer hitting a piece of steel,” he said.

I don’t remember if the APD has one (or even if we talked about that during the bomb squad presentation) but I’ll try to ask next time around. I keep thinking I should do a post on the APD bomb squad, bomb squads in general, and the weirdness thereof. (Did you know: you can’t just have a bomb squad? Even if you’re a police force. In some cases, even if you’re a major metropolitan police force, as opposed to East Podunk that has six officers and makes their entire budget off of catching speeders where the limit drops from 70 MPH to 25 MPH. Nope, no bomb squad for you.)

I made note of most of the big obits over the weekend, but there are quite a few others that I think are worth observing and commenting on.

NYT obit for W.P. Kinsella.

Charmian Carr, who was the eldest von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”, was in “Evening Primrose” with Anthony Perkins…and that was pretty much it. No snark intended, but I bring this up because: I keep thinking about a new series spotlighting actors and actresses (but most of the ones I’ve found so far are actresses) who had very short careers – like one, maybe two, at most a small handful of credits – and then left Hollywood for whatever reason. I’m thinking the first entry may be sometime in October.

James Stacy, TV actor. He was in a series called “Lancer” that ran for three years and which I have no memory of. Not long after “Lancer” ended, he was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle: Mr. Stacy lost a leg and an arm, and his passenger was killed. He kept working in what the NYT describes as “specialized” roles, though his career was interrupted by a suicide attempt and prison time for child molestation.

Howard E. Butt Jr.. oldest son of the founder of the HEB grocery chain. HEB is huge in this part of the country, and Mr. Butt, Jr. was in a position to take it over. Except…

But Mr. Butt, a Southern Baptist, who as a college student and lay minister had led a Christian youth revival movement, wrestled with the dual pressures of the business and his spiritual pursuits. That struggle led to severe depression, which he later discussed openly.

He ended up turning leadership of the chain over to his brother, ran the family foundation, and continued his ministry.

At the same time, he continued to encourage the evangelical movement to engage other Christians, even those unaffiliated with a particular church. In 2000, he began giving a one-minute radio homily, a segment he titled “The High Calling of Our Daily Life,” which highlighted the role that faith has played in the successful careers and personal lives of ordinary people. His homilies were carried on 3,000 stations in every state, reaching millions of listeners.

I used to catch this on KLBJ-AM when I was driving to work at Dell and still listened to the radio.

Duane Graveline, who I’d never heard of before. And neither had my mother, who was an adult during this time. Dr. Graveline was an astronaut:

With much fanfare, the space agency named Dr. Graveline one of six new “scientist-astronauts” on June 26, 1965. The group included two physicians, two university teachers, a research physicist and a geologist, Harrison H. Schmitt, who would later walk on the moon and become a United States senator.

He was in the program for about two months. A month in, his wife announced she was divorcing him. Shortly after that, he “resigned”:

In his memoir, Donald K. Slayton, one of the original seven astronauts and a longtime NASA official, said: “The program didn’t need a scandal. A messy divorce meant a quick ticket back to wherever you came from — not because we were trying to enforce morality, but because it would detract from the job.”

I don’t recall Dr. Graveline being mentioned at all in any of the histories of the space program that I’ve read (and I’ve read several). It sounds like he had some issues: he was married a total of six times and lost his medical license twice. The first time, it was suspended for two years after “a large number” of Demerol went missing. The second time, it was revoked permanently “over allegations that he had sexually abused children” (though not, apparently, ones that were patients of his).

C. Martin Croker, animator and voice actor. I was most familiar with him as the voices of Zorak and Moltar on “Space Ghost Coast to Coast”. I’d include a clip here, but the one I want to use is actually on the A/V Club page. And: according to the A/V Club, most of the “Space Ghost” episodes are now up for free streaming on the Adult Swim website.

Don Buchla, one of the early electronic music innovators. I’d never heard of him (perhaps because Bob Moog got all the press). I’ll try to remember to ask Todd next time I see him if he was familiar with Mr. Buchla’s work.

Mr. Buchala and Mr. Moog were contemporaries:

In the early ’60s, the better-known Robert Moog, who died in 2005, and Mr. Buchla arrived independently at the idea of the voltage-controlled modular synthesizer: an instrument assembled from various modules that controlled one another’s voltages to generate and shape sounds. Voltages could control pitch, volume, attack, timbre, speed and other parameters, interacting in complex ways.

Part of the reason Mr. Moog may have gotten more press was that he put keyboards on his machines. Mr. Buchla “wanted instruments that were not necessarily tied to Western scales or existing keyboard techniques. To encourage unconventional thinking, his early instruments deliberately omitted a keyboard.”


Mr. Buchla’s instruments had modules with more colorful names, like Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator, Quad Dynamics Manager and, for his random-voltage noise generator, Source of Uncertainty.

Damn. I want a “Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator”.

In 1965, with $500 from a Rockefeller Foundation grant made to the Tape Music Center, the composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender commissioned Mr. Buchla to build his first voltage-controlled instrument, the original Buchla Box.
It included a module that would transform both avant-garde and popular music. Called a sequencer, it vastly expanded the concept and functionality of a tape loop by generating and repeating a chosen series of voltages, enabling it to control a recurring melody, a rhythm track or other musical elements. It would become an essential tool of electronic dance music.

Obit watch: September 3, 2016.

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

The late great Jon Polito.

I hate to be lazy here, but I’m going to point to the respectful and comprehensive A/V Club obit. (Though couldn’t they have found something better for Detective Crosetti than the misguided “Homicide” movie?)

(And I need to see “Miller’s Crossing” again.)

Also among the dead: Jim Pruett, legendary Houston radio personality turned prominent (and often quoted in the media) gun store owner. Mike the Musicologist tells me he sold the store a while back; I’ve actually wanted to visit it, but the last few times I’ve been down to Houston it just hasn’t worked out for one reason or another.

DEFCON 24 updates: August 11, 2016.

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

“SITCH – Inexpensive, Coordinated GSM Anomaly Detection” doesn’t just have slides up. Or a whitepaper.

It has an entire freaking website. Which does include, yes, slides and whitepaper. (Thanks to SecBarbie on Twitter for this.)

Slides for the Tamas Szakaly “Help, I’ve got ANTs!!!” talk are here. And his GitHub repo is here.

Good stuff is going up on the Black Hat 2016 briefings site, too. I haven’t had a chance to go through all of the abstracts yet, but my current favorite is: “Does Dropping USB Drives In Parking Lots And Other Places Really Work?”. Slides here, code here, blog post here, no spoilers here.

More on Blue Hydra.

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Earlier, I wrote “It runs! It works! Mostly. Kind of.”

I’ve been banging on Blue Hydra in my spare time since Thursday, and I stand by that statement. Here’s what I’ve run into so far.

The README is pretty clear, and I didn’t have any problems installing the required packages. (I don’t have an Ubertooth, so I skipped that one. We’ll come back to the Ubertooth later.)

First problem, which was actually very tiny: I know next to nothing about Ruby, other than that cartoon foxes are somehow involved, so the phrase “With ruby installed add the bundler gem” was more like “I don’t speak your crazy moon language”. Google cleared that up pretty quickly: the magic words are gem install bundler.

Next problem: running bundle install resulted in an error stating that it couldn’t find the Ruby header files. It turns out that, while my Ubuntu installation had Ruby 2.1 installed, it didn’t have the ruby-dev package installed. sudo apt-get install ruby-dev fixed that issue.

Next problem: the SQLIte Ruby gem failed to install when I ran bundle install. It turns out that I also needed the sqlite3-dev package as well. And with that installed, the bundle built, and I could do ./bin/blue_hydra.

Which gave an error stating that it didn’t have permissions to open a handle for write. Okay, let’s try sudo ./bin/blue_hydra (because I always run code from strangers as root on my machine; everyone knows strangers have the best candy). And that actually worked: Blue Hydra launched and ran just fine. In fairness, this may be a configuration issue on my machine, and not an issue with the software itself.

In playing with it, I’ve found that it does what it claims to do. Sort of. It’s been able to detect devices in my small lab environment with Bluetooth discovery turned off, which is impressive. I also like the fact that it stores data into an SQLite database; other Bluetooth scanning tools I’ve played with didn’t do that.

However, it seems to take a while to detect my iPhone; in some instances, it doesn’t detect it at all until I go into Settings->Bluetooth. Once I’m in the Bluetooth settings, even if I don’t make a change, Blue Hydra seems to pick up the iPhone. Blue Hydra also has totally failed to detect another smart phone in my small lab environment (and I have verified that Bluetooth was both on and set to discoverable.)

Now, to be fair, there may be some other things going on:

  • I’ve also observed previously that Bluetooth under Ubuntu 15.10 didn’t work very well. At all. So at one point on Saturday, just for giggles, I upgraded Project e to Ubuntu 16.01.1 LTS. And shockingly (at least for me) Bluetooth works much much better. As in, I can actually pair my phone with Ubuntu and do other Bluetooth related stuff that didn’t work with 15.10. That seems to have mitigated the discovery issues I was seeing with Blue Hydra a little, but not as much as I would have liked. (Edited to add 8/8: Forgot to mention: after I upgraded, I did have to rerun bundle install to get Blue Hydra working again. But the second time, it ran without incident or error, and Blue Hydra worked immediately aftewards (though it still required root).)
  • I was using the Asus built-in Bluetooth adapter in my testing. Also just for giggles, I switched Blue Hydra to use an external USB adapter as well. That didn’t seem to make a difference.
  • In fairness, Blue Hydra may be designed to work best with an Ubertooth One. The temptation is great to pick one of those up. It is also tempting to pick up a BCM20702A0 based external adapter (like this one) partly to see if that works better, partly because I don’t have a Bluetooth LE compatible adapter (and this one is cheap) and partly because the Bluetooth lock stuff is based on that adapter. (Edited to add 8/8: I’m also tempted by this Sena UD100 adapter. It is a little more expensive, but also high power and has a SMA antenna connector. That could be useful.)
  • It may also be that I have an unreasonable expectation. Project e is seven years old at this point, and, while it still runs Ubuntu reasonably well, I do feel some slowness. Also, I think the battery life is slipping, and I’m not sure if replacements are available. I’ve been thinking off and on about replacing it with something gently used from Discount Electronics: something like a Core i5 or Core i7 machine with USB3 and a GPU that will work with hashcat. Maybe. We’ll see. Point is, some of my issues may just be “limits of old hardware” rather than bugs.
  • And who knows? There may very well be some bugs that get fixed after DEFCON.

tl, dr: Blue Hydra is nice, but I’m not yet convinced it is the second coming of Christ that I’ve been waiting for.

DEFCON 24: August 7, 2016 updates.

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

The presentations on the conference CD are here, if you’re looking for something specific that I didn’t mention. I’m still going to try to provide links to individual presenters and their sites, simply because I believe those are the most recent and best updated ones. Just to be clear, I’m not trying to rip off anyone else’s work, which is why I link directly. I want to provide myself (and possibly other interested folks) with one-stop shopping for the latest versions of the things I’m most interested in.

This takes us into today. I’ve been at this for about an hour and a half now. I’m not proud. Or tired. But I do have some other things I want to do, and I think it is a bit early to expect Sunday presentations to be up. I’ll end this one for now, and see if I can do another update tomorrow. Also, I want to do a further write-up on Blue Hydra, possibly tonight, maybe tomorrow as well.
If you are a presenter who’d like to provide a link to your talk (even if it is one I didn’t specifically call out) or you have other comments or questions, please feel free to comment here or send an email to stainles [at]

DEFCON 24 notes: Hail Hydra!

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

GitHub repository for Blue Hydra.

I’m jumping the gun a little, as the presentation is still a few hours away, but I wanted to bookmark this for personal reference as well as the enjoyment and edification of my readers.

Edited to add: quick update. Holy jumping mother o’ God in a side-car with chocolate jimmies and a lobster bib! It runs! It works! Mostly. Kind of.

If I get a chance, I’ll try to write up the steps I had to follow tomorrow. Yes, this blog is my personal Wiki: also, while the instructions in the README are actually pretty good, I ran into a few dependency issues that were not mentioned, but are documented on Stack Overflow.

DEFCON 24: 0-day notes.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Another year observing DEFCON remotely. Maybe next year, if I get lucky, or the year after that.

The schedule is here. If I were going, what would I go to? What gets me excited? What do I think you should look for if you are lucky enough to go?

(As a side note, one of my cow-orkers was lucky enough to get a company paid trip to Black Hat this year. I’m hoping he’ll let me make archival copies of the handouts.)


Obit watch: May 23, 2016.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

The WP has a nice tribute to Nick Menza, former drummer of Megadeth, who died Saturday.

In 2007, he nearly lost his arm in a power saw accident. He required reconstructive surgery, and metal plates were inserted in his arm, according to Blabbermouth. Six years later, he auctioned off the bloodstained circular saw blade, which was placed in museum-quality glass with an x-ray of his mutilated arm, Loudwire reported.

You know, I bet we could get DNA off of that saw blade…

Also among the dead: Bill Herz, the last surviving crew member of Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

Obit watch: May 15, 2016.

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Katherine Dunn followups: A/V Club. NYT.

Harlan Ellison, the science fiction author and screenwriter, hailed it as “transformative.”

Julius La Rosa, who was a noted singer of the 1950s, but is perhaps most famous for being fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey.

On Oct. 19, 1953 — 23 months after Mr. La Rosa’s debut — Mr. Godfrey retaliated in a morning segment heard only on the radio. Mr. La Rosa had just finished singing “Manhattan” when Mr. Godfrey delivered the sentence in his solemn foghorn voice.
“That was Julie’s swan song,” he said.

The dismissal stunned Mr. La Rosa and the Godfrey audiences, whose reaction was largely negative. Most media critics also chastised Mr. Godfrey, whose avuncular image began to crumble.

New toy! New project!

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

I was out and about earlier today with my mom and my nephew: we stopped by Hobby Lobby because I was looking for something. I’ll be posting about that something later on, but while we were there, I found one of these and ended up getting a screaming deal on it with the 40% off coupon.

Which is great, but that looks like a manual control box, right? How do you control it with a PC? Lots of soldering and a custom circuit board?

Ah. Nope. They have a USB device interface for the OWI-535. Isn’t that nifty?

But wait! The included software only runs on a PC! How do you control it with a Mac, or a LINUX system?

Surprise! People have reverse-engineered the control protocol! For example, this guy! (I love that blog title, by the way.) It looks like most of the other control examples I’ve found all loop back to Vadim Zaliva’s work documenting the protocol for the OWI-535. (He’s also documented the control protocol for the OWI-007 here.)

And look! Here’s control code in Python. running on a Raspberry Pi! Isn’t that a clever cleaver!

We’ll see if I can get the arm together and working without breaking it. Bad news: I don’t have that much mechanical aptitude. Good news: they claim all you need is needle-nosed pliers, diagonal cutters, and a Phillips screwdriver. No soldering required, which is good. I could probably solder my way out of a paper bag if someone held a gun to my head, but I’ve never been what you could call “good”, or even “competent” at it…

(As a side note, I’ve been trying to get back to “Talkin’ GPS Blues“. Unfortunately, I also decided to upgrade Project e to Ubuntu 15.10…and Bluetooth apparently doesn’t work well on 15.10, at least as of when I completed the upgrade. So once I get Bluetooth working again, and have some more time, I intend to revisit GPS, this time with some skanky Perl, Python, and possibly even Java code. We’ll see.)

Obit watch: February 3, 2016.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Bob Elliott, of Bob and Ray fame. NYT. A/V Club.

Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network.

And now I really want the DVDs of Get A Life, a show I personally have fond memories of.