In what is surely an unthinking cut-and-paste issue, page 921 of the Brexit deal mandatesthe use of SHA-1 and 1024-bit RSA:
The open standard s/MIME as extension to de facto e-mail standard SMTP will be deployed to encrypt messages containing DNA profile information. The protocol s/MIME (V3) allows signed receipts, security labels, and secure mailing lists… The underlying certificate used by s/MIME mechanism has to be in compliance with X.509 standard…. The processing rules for s/MIME encryption operations… are as follows:
the sequence of the operations is: first encryption and then signing,
the encryption algorithm AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256 bit key length and RSA with 1,024 bit key length shall be applied for symmetric and asymmetric encryption respectively,
the hash algorithm SHA-1 shall be applied.
s/MIME functionality is built into the vast majority of modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x and inter-operates among all major e-mail software packages.
Many public sector organizations in the UK need to connect their existing on-premises facilities, data centers, or offices to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud so they can take advantage of the broad set of services AWS provides to help them deliver against their mission.
This can be achieved using the AWS VPN service. However some customers find it difficult to know the exact configuration parameters that they should choose when establishing the VPN connection in-line with guidance for the UK public sector.
AWS VPN services enable organizations to establish secure connections between their on-premises networks, remote offices, and client devices and the AWS global network. AWS VPN comprises two services: AWS Site-to-Site VPN and AWS Client VPN. Together, they deliver a highly available, fully managed, elastic cloud VPN solution to protect your network traffic.
For the purposes of this post, we focus on the Site-to-Site VPN configuration, not Client VPN because the NCSC guidance we’re discussing is specifically related to site-to-site VPNs. This post covers two areas:
An overview of the current guidance for VPN configurations for the public sector.
Recommendations on how to configure AWS VPN to meet or exceed the current guidance.
VPN guidance for UK public sector organizations
The starting point for security guidance for the UK public sector is often the NCSC. The role of the NCSC includes:
Protecting government systems and information.
Planning for and responding to cyber incidents.
Working with providers of critical national infrastructure to improve the protection and computer security of such infrastructure against cyber-borne threats.
Specifically, for guidance on the configuration of VPNs for the UK public sector to support data at OFFICIAL, the NCSC has created detailed guidance on the technical configurations to support two different profiles: PRIME and Foundation. These two profiles provide different technical implementations to support different equipment and are both suitable for use with OFFCICIAL data. Beyond these technical differences, NCSC also documents that Foundation is expected to provide suitable protection for OFFICIAL information until at least December 31, 2023, while PRIME has no review date specified at the time of writing.
Myth 1: I have to adhere exactly to the NCSC technical configuration or I cannot use a VPN for OFFICIAL data
It’s a common misconception that a public sector organization must adhere exactly to the configuration of either PRIME or Foundation in order to use a VPN for OFFICIAL data, even if other configuration options available—such as a longer key length—offer a higher security baseline.
Note that the NCSC isn’t mandating the use of the configuration in their guidance. They’re offering a configuration that provides a useful baseline, but you must assess your use of the NCSC guidance in context of the risks. To help with these risk-based decisions, the NCSC has developed a series of guidance documents to help organizations make risk-based decisions. A common consideration that might require deviating from the guidance would be supporting interoperability with legacy systems where the suggested algorithms aren’t supported. In this case, a risk-based decision should be made—including accounting for other factors such as cost.
It’s also worth noting that the NCSC creates guidance designed to be useful to as many organizations as possible. The NCSC balances adopting the latest possible configurations with backwards compatibility and vendor support. For example, the NCSC suggests AES-128 where—in theory—AES-256 could also be a good choice. Organizations need to be aware that if they choose to adopt devices that support only AES-256 and later need to connect in devices capable of only AES-128, there could be significant investment to replace the legacy devices with ones that support AES-256. However, AWS provides both AES-128 and AES-256, so if the remote device supports it, AWS would recommend opting for AES-256.
The NCSC also tries to develop advice that has some longevity. For example, the guidance suggesting use of AES-128 was created in 2012 with a view to providing solid guidance over a number of years. This means customers can choose different configuration parameters that offer increased levels of security if both sides of the VPN can support it.
It’s possible for a customer to choose options that might lower the security of the connection, provided that risks are identified and appropriately managed by the customers assurance team. This might be needed to support interoperability between existing systems where the cost of an upgrade outweighs the risk.
Myth 2: Foundation has been deprecated and I must use PRIME
Another common misconception is that Foundation has been deprecated in favor of PRIME. This is not the case. The NCSC has stated that Foundation is expected to provide suitable protection for OFFICIAL information until at least December 31, 2023. The security provided by both solutions provides commensurate security for accessing data classified as OFFICIAL. One of the main differences between PRIME and Foundation is the choice of signature algorithm: RSA or ECDSA. This difference can be helpful in enabling an organization to choose which profile to adopt. For example, if the organization already has a private key infrastructure (PKI), then the decision regarding which signature algorithm to use is based on what existing systems support.
Myth 3: I can’t use Foundation for accessing OFFICIAL SENSITIVE data
A final point that often causes confusion is the classifying of data at OFFICIAL SENSITIVE because it isn’t a classification, but a handling caveat. The data would be classified as OFFICIAL and marked as OFFICIAL SENSITIVE, meaning that systems handling the data need risk-appropriate security measures. A system that can handle OFFICIAL data might be appropriate to handle sensitive information. Hence Foundation could be suitable for accessing OFFICIAL SENSITIVE data, depending on the risks identified.
Deep-dive into the technical specifications
Now that you know a little more about how the guidance should be viewed, let’s look more closely at the technical configurations for each VPN profile.
The following table shows the configuration parameters suggested by the NCSC VPN guidance discussed previously.
IKEv* – Encryption
IKEv1 – AES with 128-bit keys in CBC mode (RFC3602)
IKEv2 – AES-128 in GCM-128 (and optionally CBC)
IKEv2 – Pseudo-random function
IKEv2 – Diffie-Hellman group
Group 14 (2048-bit MODP group) (RFC3526)
256 bit random ECP (RFC5903) Group 19
IKEv2 – Authentication
X.509 certificates with RSA signatures (2048 bits) and SHA-256 (RFC4945 and RFC4055)
X.509 certificates with ECDSA-256 with SHA256 on P-256 curve
ESP – Encryption
AES with 128-bit keys in CBC mode (RFC3602) SHA-256 (RFC4868)
AES-128 in GCM-128 SHA-256 (RFC4868)
Recommended AWS VPN configuration for public sector
Bearing in mind these policies, and remembering that the configuration is only guidance, you must make a risk-based decision. AWS recommends the following configuration as a starting point for the configuration of the AWS VPN.
IKEv* – Encryption
IKEv2 – AES-256-GCM
Suitable for Foundation and PRIME
IKEv2 – Pseudo-random function
Meets Foundation and PRIME
IKEv2 – Diffie-Hellman group
Suitable for Foundation and matches PRIME
IKEv2 – Authentication
RSA 2048 SHA2-512
Suitable for Foundation
ESP – Encryption
Suitable for PRIME and Foundation
In the table above, we use the term suitable for where the protocol doesn’t match the guidance exactly but the AWS configuration options provide equivalent or stronger security—for example, by using a longer key length.
With the configuration defined above, the AWS VPN service is suitable for use under the Foundation profile in all areas. It can also be made suitable for PRIME in all areas apart from IKEv2 encryption. The use of RSA or ECDSA is the main difference between the AWS VPN and PRIME configurations. This makes the current AWS VPN solution closer to Foundation than PRIME.
When considering which options are available to you, the starting point should be the capabilities of your current—and possible future—VPN devices. Based on its capabilities, you can use the NCSC guidance and preceding tables to choose the protocols that match or are suitable for the NCSC guidance.
The NCSC provides guidance for the VPN configuration, not a mandate.
An organization is free to decide not to use the guidance, but should consider risks when they make that decision.
The AWS VPN meets or is suitable for the configuration options for Foundation.
After reviewing the details contained in this blog, UK public sector organizations should have the confidence to use the AWS VPN service with systems running at OFFICIAL.
Someone is flying a drone over Gatwick Airport in order to disrupt service:
Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said on Thursday afternoon there had been another drone sighting which meant it was impossible to say when the airport would reopen.
He told BBC News: “There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption. We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.
“It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.”
The economics of this kind of thing isn’t in our favor. A drone is cheap. Closing an airport for a day is very expensive.
I don’t think we’re going to solve this by jammers, or GPS-enabled drones that won’t fly over restricted areas. I’ve seen some technologies that will safely disable drones in flight, but I’m not optimistic about those in the near term. The best defense is probably punitive penalties for anyone doing something like this — enough to discourage others.
There are a lot of similar security situations, in which the cost to attack is vastly cheaper than 1) the damage caused by the attack, and 2) the cost to defend. I have long believed that this sort of thing represents an existential threat to our society.
Abstract: We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ~500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion — life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.
Businesses and organizations that rely on macOS server for essential office and data services are facing some decisions about the future of their IT services.
Apple recently announced that it is deprecating a significant portion of essential network services in macOS Server, as they described in a support statement posted on April 24, 2018, “Prepare for changes to macOS Server.” Apple’s note includes:
macOS Server is changing to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network. As a result, some changes are coming in how Server works. A number of services will be deprecated, and will be hidden on new installations of an update to macOS Server coming in spring 2018.
The note lists the services that will be removed in a future release of macOS Server, including calendar and contact support, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Domain Name Services (DNS), mail, instant messages, virtual private networking (VPN), NetInstall, Web server, and the Wiki.
Apple assures users who have already configured any of the listed services that they will be able to use them in the spring 2018 macOS Server update, but the statement ends with links to a number of alternative services, including hosted services, that macOS Server users should consider as viable replacements to the features it is removing. These alternative services are all FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software).
As difficult as this could be for organizations that use macOS server, this is not unexpected. Apple left the server hardware space back in 2010, when Steve Jobs announced the company was ending its line of Xserve rackmount servers, which were introduced in May, 2002. Since then, macOS Server has hardly been a prominent part of Apple’s product lineup. It’s not just the product itself that has lost some luster, but the entire category of SMB office and business servers, which has been undergoing a gradual change in recent years.
Some might wonder how important the news about macOS Server is, given that macOS Server represents a pretty small share of the server market. macOS Server has been important to design shops, agencies, education users, and small businesses that likely have been on Macs for ages, but it’s not a significant part of the IT infrastructure of larger organizations and businesses.
What Comes After macOS Server?
Lovers of macOS Server don’t have to fear having their Mac minis pried from their cold, dead hands quite yet. Installed services will continue to be available. In the fall of 2018, new installations and upgrades of macOS Server will require users to migrate most services to other software. Since many of the services of macOS Server were already open-source, this means that a change in software might not be required. It does mean more configuration and management required from those who continue with macOS Server, however.
Users can continue with macOS Server if they wish, but many will see the writing on the wall and look for a suitable substitute.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
For many people working in organizations, what is significant about this announcement is how it reflects the move away from the once ubiquitous server-based IT infrastructure. Services that used to be centrally managed and office-based, such as storage, file sharing, communications, and computing, have moved to the cloud.
In selecting the next office IT platforms, there’s an opportunity to move to solutions that reflect and support how people are working and the applications they are using both in the office and remotely. For many, this means including cloud-based services in office automation, backup, and business continuity/disaster recovery planning. This includes Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service (Saas, PaaS, IaaS) options.
IT solutions that integrate well with the cloud are worth strong consideration for what comes after a macOS Server-based environment.
Synology NAS as a macOS Server Alternative
One solution that is becoming popular is to replace macOS Server with a device that has the ability to provide important office services, but also bridges the office and cloud environments. Using Network-Attached Storage (NAS) to take up the server slack makes a lot of sense. Many customers are already using NAS for file sharing, local data backup, automatic cloud backup, and other uses. In the case of Synology, their operating system, Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM), is Linux based, and integrates the basic functions of file sharing, centralized backup, RAID storage, multimedia streaming, virtual storage, and other common functions.
Since DSM is based on Linux, there are numerous server applications available, including many of the same ones that are available for macOS Server, which shares conceptual roots with Linux as it comes from BSD Unix.
Synology DiskStation Manager Package Center
According to Ed Lukacs, COO at 2FIFTEEN Systems Management in Salt Lake City, their customers have found the move from macOS Server to Synology NAS not only painless, but positive. DSM works seamlessly with macOS and has been faster for their customers, as well. Many of their customers are running Adobe Creative Suite and Google G Suite applications, so a workflow that combines local storage, remote access, and the cloud, is already well known to them. Remote users are supported by Synology’s QuickConnect or VPN.
Customers have been able to get up and running quickly, with only initial data transfers requiring some time to complete. After that, management of the NAS can be handled in-house or with the support of a Managed Service Provider (MSP).
Are You Sticking with macOS Server or Moving to Another Platform?
If you’re affected by this change in macOS Server, please let us know in the comments how you’re planning to cope. Are you using Synology NAS for server services? Please tell us how that’s working for you.
We’re usually averse to buzzwords at HackSpace magazine, but not this month: in issue 7, we’re taking a deep dive into the Internet of Things.
Internet of Things (IoT)
To many people, IoT is a shady term used by companies to sell you something you already own, but this time with WiFi; to us, it’s a way to make our builds smarter, more useful, and more connected. In HackSpace magazine #7, you can join us on a tour of the boards that power IoT projects, marvel at the ways in which other makers are using IoT, and get started with your first IoT project!
DIY retro computing: this issue, we’re taking our collective hat off to Spencer Owen. He stuck his home-brew computer on Tindie thinking he might make a bit of beer money — now he’s paying the mortgage with his making skills and inviting others to build modules for his machine. And if that tickles your fancy, why not take a crack at our Z80 tutorial? Get out your breadboard, assemble your jumper wires, and prepare to build a real-life computer!
Shameless patriotism: combine Lego, Arduino, and the car of choice for 1960 gold bullion thieves, and you’ve got yourself a groovy weekend project. We proudly present to you one man’s epic quest to add LED lights (controllable via a smartphone!) to his daughter’s LEGO Mini Cooper.
Patriotism intensifies: for the last 200-odd years, the Black Country has been a hotbed of making. Urban Hax, based in Walsall, is the latest makerspace to show off its riches in the coveted Space of the Month pages. Every space has its own way of doing things, but not every space has a portrait of Rob Halford on the wall. All hail!
Diversity: advice on diversity often boils down to ‘Be nice to people’, which might feel more vague than actionable. This is where we come in to help: it is truly worth making the effort to give people of all backgrounds access to your makerspace, so we take a look at why it’s nice to be nice, and at the ways in which one makerspace has put niceness into practice — with great results.
And there’s more!
We also show you how to easily calculate the size and radius of laser-cut gears, use a bank of LEDs to etch PCBs in your own mini factory, and use chemistry to mess with your lunch menu.
All this plus much, much more waits for you in HackSpace magazine issue 7!
Get your copy of HackSpace magazine
If you like the sound of that, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.
The Python release cycle has an 18-month cadence; a new major release (e.g. Python 3.7) is made roughly on that schedule. But Łukasz Langa, who is the release manager for Python 3.8 and 3.9, would like to see things move more quickly—perhaps on a yearly cadence. In the first session after lunch at the 2018 Python Language Summit, Langa wanted to discuss that idea.
PyCon UK 2018 will take place on Saturday 15 September to Wednesday 19 September in the splendid Cardiff City Hall, just a few miles from the Sony Technology Centre where the vast majority of Raspberry Pis is made. We’re pleased to announce that we’re curating this year’s Education Summit at the conference, where we’ll offer opportunities for young people to learn programming skills, and for educators to undertake professional development!
PyCon UK 2018 is your chance to be welcomed into the wonderful Python community. At the Education Summit, we’ll put on a young coders’ day on the Saturday, and an educators’ day on the Sunday.
Saturday — young coders’ day
On Saturday we’ll be running a CoderDojo full of workshops on Raspberry Pi and micro:bits for young people aged 7 to 17. If they wish, participants will get to make a project and present it to the conference on the main stage, and everyone will be given a free micro:bit to take home!
PyCon UK has been bringing developers and educators together ever since it first started its education track in 2011. This year’s Sunday will be a day of professional development: we’ll give teachers, educators, parents, and coding club leaders the chance to learn from us and from each other to build their programming, computing, and digital making skills.
We invite you to send in your proposal for a talk and workshop at the Education Summit! We’re looking for:
25-minute talks for the educators’ day
50-minute workshops for either the young coders’ or the educators’ day
If you have something you’d like to share, such as a professional development session for educators, advice on best practice for teaching programming, a workshop for up-skilling in Python, or a fun physical computing activity for the CoderDojo, then we’d love to hear about it! Please submit your proposalby 15 June.
After the Education Summit, the conference will continue for two days of talks and a final day of development sprints. Feel free to submit your education-related talk to the main conference too if you want to share it with a wider audience! Check out the PyCon UK 2018 website for more information.
First, let me tell you why this partnership matters to me. As a child growing up in North Wales in the 1980s, Scouting changed my life. My time with 2nd Rhyl provided me with countless opportunities to grow and develop new skills. It taught me about teamwork and community in ways that continue to shape my decisions today.
As my own kids (now seven and ten) have joined Scouting, I’ve seen the same opportunities opening up for them, and like so many parents, I’ve come back to the movement as a volunteer to support their local section. So this is deeply personal for me, and the same is true for many of my colleagues at the Raspberry Pi Foundation who in different ways have been part of the Scouting movement.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Scouting and Raspberry Pi share many of the same values. We are both community-led movements that aim to help young people develop the skills they need for life. We are both powered by an amazing army of volunteers who give their time to support that mission. We both care about inclusiveness, and pride ourselves on combining fun with learning by doing.
Raspberry Pi started life in 2008 as a response to the problem that too many young people were growing up without the skills to create with technology. Our goal is that everyone should be able to harness the power of computing and digital technologies, for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.
In 2012 we launched our first product, the world’s first $35 computer. Just six years on, we have sold over 20 million Raspberry Pi computers and helped kickstart a global movement for digital skills.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation now runs the world’s largest network of volunteer-led computing clubs (Code Clubs and CoderDojos), and creates free educational resources that are used by millions of young people all over the world to learn how to create with digital technologies. And lots of what we are able to achieve is because of partnerships with fantastic organisations that share our goals. For example, through our partnership with the European Space Agency, thousands of young people have written code that has run on two Raspberry Pi computers that Tim Peake took to the International Space Station as part of his Mission Principia.
Today we’re launching the new Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to help tens of thousands of young people learn how to create with technology through Scouting. Over the past few months, we’ve been working with the Scouts all over the UK to develop and test the new badge requirements, along with guidance, project ideas, and resources that really make them work for Scouting. We know that we need to get two things right: relevance and accessibility.
Relevance is all about making sure that the activities and resources we provide are a really good fit for Scouting and Scouting’s mission to equip young people with skills for life. From the digital compass to nature cameras and the reinvented wide game, we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about ways we can bring to life the crucial role that digital technologies can play in the outdoors and adventure.
We are beyond excited to be launching a new partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which will help tens of thousands of young people learn digital skills for life.
We also know that there are great opportunities for Scouts to use digital technologies to solve social problems in their communities, reflecting the movement’s commitment to social action. Today we’re launching the first set of project ideas and resources, with many more to follow over the coming weeks and months.
Accessibility is about providing every Scout leader with the confidence, support, and kit to enable them to offer the Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to their young people. A lot of work and care has gone into designing activities that require very little equipment: for example, activities at Stages 1 and 2 can be completed with a laptop without access to the internet. For the activities that do require kit, we will be working with Scout Stores and districts to make low-cost kit available to buy or loan.
We’re producing accessible instructions, worksheets, and videos to help leaders run sessions with confidence, and we’ll also be planning training for leaders. We will work with our network of Code Clubs and CoderDojos to connect them with local sections to organise joint activities, bringing both kit and expertise along with them.
Today’s launch is just the start. We’ll be developing our partnership over the next few years, and we can’t wait for you to join us in getting more young people making things with technology.
Earlier this year on 3 and 4 March, communities around the world held Raspberry Jam events to celebrate Raspberry Pi’s sixth birthday. We sent out special birthday kits to participating Jams — it was amazing to know the kits would end up in the hands of people in parts of the world very far from Raspberry Pi HQ in Cambridge, UK.
The Raspberry Jam Camer team: Damien Doumer, Eyong Etta, Loïc Dessap and Lionel Sichom, aka Lionel Tellem
Preparing for the #PiParty
One birthday kit went to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. There, a team of four students in their twenties — Lionel Sichom (aka Lionel Tellem), Eyong Etta, Loïc Dessap, and Damien Doumer — were organising Yaoundé’s first Jam, called Raspberry Jam Camer, as part of the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend. The team knew one another through their shared interests and skills in electronics, robotics, and programming. Damien explains in his blog post about the Jam that they planned ahead for several activities for the Jam based on their own projects, so they could be confident of having a few things that would definitely be successful for attendees to do and see.
Show-and-tell at Raspberry Jam Cameroon
Loïc presented a Raspberry Pi–based, Android app–controlled robot arm that he had built, and Lionel coded a small video game using Scratch on Raspberry Pi while the audience watched. Damien demonstrated the possibilities of Windows 10 IoT Core on Raspberry Pi, showing how to install it, how to use it remotely, and what you can do with it, including building a simple application.
Loïc showcases the prototype robot arm he built
There was lots more too, with others discussing their own Pi projects and talking about the possibilities Raspberry Pi offers, including a Pi-controlled drone and car. Cake was a prevailing theme of the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend around the world, and Raspberry Jam Camer made sure they didn’t miss out.
Yay, birthday cake!!
A big success
Most visitors to the Jam were secondary school students, while others were university students and graduates. The majority were unfamiliar with Raspberry Pi, but all wanted to learn about Raspberry Pi and what they could do with it. Damien comments that the fact most people were new to Raspberry Pi made the event more interactive rather than creating any challenges, because the visitors were all interested in finding out about the little computer. The Jam was an all-round success, and the team was pleased with how it went:
What I liked the most was that we sensitized several people about the Raspberry Pi and what one can be capable of with such a small but powerful device. — Damien Doumer
The Jam team rounded off the event by announcing that this was the start of a Raspberry Pi community in Yaoundé. They hope that they and others will be able to organise more Jams and similar events in the area to spread the word about what people can do with Raspberry Pi, and to help them realise their ideas.
Raspberry Jam Camer gets the thumbs-up
The Raspberry Pi community in Cameroon
In a French-language interview about their Jam, the team behind Raspberry Jam Camer said they’d like programming to become the third official language of Cameroon, after French and English; their aim is to to popularise programming and digital making across Cameroonian society. Neither of these fields is very familiar to most people in Cameroon, but both are very well aligned with the country’s ambitions for development. The team is conscious of the difficulties around the emergence of information and communication technologies in the Cameroonian context; in response, they are seizing the opportunities Raspberry Pi offers to give children and young people access to modern and constantly evolving technology at low cost.
Naturebytes are making their weatherproof Wildlife Cam Case available as a standalone product for the first time, a welcome addition to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem that should take some of the hassle out of your outdoor builds.
Weatherproofing digital making projects
People often use Raspberry Pis and Camera Modules for outdoorprojects, but weatherproofing your set-up can be tricky. You need to keep water — and tiny creatures — out, but you might well need access for wires and cables, whether for power or sensors; if you’re using a camera, it’ll need something clear and cleanable in front of the lens. You can use sealant, but if you need to adjust anything that you’ve applied it to, you’ll have to remove it and redo it. While we’ve seen a few reasonable options available to buy, the choice has never been what you’d call extensive.
The Wildlife Cam Case is ideal for nature camera projects, of course, but it’ll also be useful for anyone who wants to take their Pi outdoors. It has weatherproof lenses that are transparent to visible and IR light, for all your nature observation projects. Its opening is hinged to allow easy access to your hardware, and the case has waterproof access for cables. Inside, there’s a mount for fixing any model of Raspberry Pi and camera, as well as many other components. On top of all that, the case comes with a sturdy nylon strap to make it easy to attach it to a post or a tree.
Order yours now!
At the moment, Naturebytes are producing a limited run of the cases. The first batch of 50 are due to be dispatched next week to arrive just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, so get them while they’re hot. It’s the perfect thing for recording a timelapse of exactly how quickly the slugs obliterate your vegetable seedlings, and of lots more heartening things that must surely happen in gardens other than mine.
Three soldiers from Blandford Camp have successfully designed and built an autonomous robot as part of their Foreman of Signals Course at the Dorset Garrison.
Forces Radio BFBS carried a story last week about Staff Sergeant Jolley, Sergeant Rana, and Sergeant Paddon, also known as the “Project ROVER” team. As part of their Foreman of Signals training, their task was to design an autonomous robot that can move between two specified points, take a temperature reading, and transmit the information to a remote computer. The team comments that, while semi-autonomous robots have been used as far back as 9/11 for tasks like finding people trapped under rubble, nothing like their robot and on a similar scale currently exists within the British Army.
The ROVER buggy
Their build is named ROVER, which stands for Remote Obstacle aVoiding Environment Robot. It’s a buggy that moves on caterpillar tracks, and it’s tethered; we wonder whether that might be because it doesn’t currently have an on-board power supply. A demo shows the robot moving forward, then changing its path when it encounters an obstacle. The team is using RealVNC‘s remote access software to allow ROVER to send data back to another computer.
Applications for ROVER
Dave Ball, Senior Lecturer in charge of the Foreman of Signals course, comments that the project is “a fantastic opportunity for [the team] to, even only halfway through the course, showcase some of the stuff they’ve learnt and produce something that’s really quite exciting.” The Project ROVER team explains that the possibilities for autonomous robots like this one are extensive: they include mine clearance, bomb disposal, and search-and-rescue campaigns. They point out that existing semi-autonomous hardware is not as easy to program as their build. In contrast, they say, “with the invention of the Raspberry Pi, this has allowed three very inexperienced individuals to program a robot very capable of doing these things.”
We make Raspberry Pi computers because we want building things with technology to be as accessible as possible. So it’s great to see a project like this, made by people who aren’t techy and don’t have a lot of computing experience, but who want to solve a problem and see that the Pi is an affordable and powerful tool that can help.
Attention, case modders: take a look at the Brutus 2, an extremely snazzy computer case with a partly transparent, animated side panel that’s powered by a Pi. Daniel Otto and Carsten Lehman have a current crowdfunder for the case; their video is in German, but the looks of the build speak for themselves. There are some truly gorgeous effects here.
Vorbestellungen ab sofort auf https://www.startnext.com/brutus2 Weitere Infos zu uns auf: https://3nb.de https://www.facebook.com/3nb.de https://www.instagram.com/3nb.de Über 3nb: – GbR aus Leipzig, gegründet 2017 – wir kommen aus den Bereichen Elektronik und Informatik – erstes Produkt: der Brutus One ein Gaming PC mit transparentem Display in der Seite Kurzinfo Brutus 2: – Markencomputergehäuse für Gaming- /Casemoddingszene – Besonderheit: animiertes Seitenfenster angesteuert mit einem Raspberry Pi – Vorteile von unserem Case: o Case ist einzeln lieferbar und nicht nur als komplett-PC o kein Leistungsverbrauch der Grafikkarte dank integriertem Raspberry Pi o bessere Darstellung von Texten und Grafiken durch unscharfen Hintergrund
What’s case modding?
Case modding just means modifying your computer or gaming console’s case, and it’s very popular in the gaming community. Some mods are functional, while others improve the way the case looks. Lots of dedicated gamers don’t only want a powerful computer, they also want it to look amazing — at home, or at LAN parties and games tournaments.
The Brutus 2 case
The Brutus 2 case is made by Daniel and Carsten’s startup, 3nb electronics, and it’s a product that is officially Powered by Raspberry Pi. Its standout feature is the semi-transparent TFT screen, which lets you play any video clip you choose while keeping your gaming hardware on display. It looks incredibly cool. All the graphics for the case’s screen are handled by a Raspberry Pi, so it doesn’t use any of your main PC’s GPU power and your gaming won’t suffer.
To use Brutus 2, you just need to run a small desktop application on your PC to choose what you want to display on the case. A number of neat animations are included, and you can upload your own if you want.
So far, the app only runs on Windows, but 3nb electronics are planning to make the code open-source, so you can modify it for other operating systems, or to display other file types. This is true to the spirit of the case modding and Raspberry Pi communities, who love adapting, retrofitting, and overhauling projects and code to fit their needs.
Daniel and Carsten say that one of their campaign’s stretch goals is to implement more functionality in the Brutus 2 app. So in the future, the case could also show things like CPU temperature, gaming stats, and in-game messages. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from integrating features like that yourself.
If you have any questions about the case, you can post them directly to Daniel and Carsten here.
The crowdfunding campaign
The Brutus 2 campaign on Startnext is currently halfway to its first funding goal of €10000, with over three weeks to go until it closes. If you’re quick, you still be may be able to snatch one of the early-bird offers. And if your whole guild NEEDS this, that’s OK — there are discounts for bulk orders.
I was sure that somewhere there must be physically-lightweight sensors with simple power, simple networking, and a lightweight protocol that allowed them to squirt their data down the network with a minimum of overhead. So my interest was piqued when Jan-Piet Mens spoke at FLOSS UK’s Spring Conference on “Small Things for Monitoring”. Once he started passing working demonstration systems around the room without interrupting the demonstration, it was clear that MQTT was what I’d been looking for.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.
It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.
All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.
In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.
This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”
Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.
But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.
We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.
We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.
I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.
We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.
Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.
Join us as we celebrate the Year of Engineering in the newest issue of Hello World, our magazine for computing and digital making educators.
Inspiring future engineers
We’ve brought together a wide range of experts to share their ideas and advice on how to bring engineering to your classroom — read issue 5 to find out the best ways to inspire the next generation.
Plus we’ve got plenty on GP and Scratch, we answer your latest questions, and we bring you our usual collection of useful features, guides, and lesson plans.
Highlights of issue 5 include:
The bluffers’ guide to putting together a tech-themed school trip
Inclusion, and coding for the visually impaired
Getting students interested in databases
Why copying may not always be a bad thing
How to get Hello World #5
Hello World is available as a free download under a Creative Commons license for everyone in world who is interested in computer science and digital making education. Get the latest issue as a PDF file straight from the Hello World website.
We’re currently offering free print copies of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. This offer is open to teachers, Code Club and CoderDojo volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. Subscribe to have your free print magazine posted directly to your home, or subscribe digitally — 20000 educators have already signed up to receive theirs!
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You could write for us about your experiences as an educator, and share your advice with the community. Wherever you are in the world, get in touch by emailing our editorial team about your article idea — we would love to hear from you!
The very short version is that a UK bank, TSB, which had been merged into and then many years later was spun out of Lloyds Bank, was bought by the Spanish bank Banco Sabadell in 2015. Lloyds had continued to run the TSB systems and was to transfer them over to Sabadell over the weekend. It’s turned out to be an epic failure, and it’s not clear if and when this can be straightened out.
The more serious issue is the fact that customers still can’t access online accounts and even more disconcerting, are sometimes being allowed into other people’s accounts, says there are massive problems with data integrity. That’s a nightmare to sort out.
Even worse, the fact that this situation has persisted strongly suggests that Lloyds went ahead with the migration without allowing for a rollback.
Ever since we introduced our Groups feature, Backblaze for Business has been growing at a rapid rate! We’ve been staffing up in order to support the product and the newest addition to the sales team, Victoria, joins us as a Sales Development Representative! Let’s learn a bit more about Victoria, shall we?
What is your Backblaze Title? Sales Development Representative.
Where are you originally from? Harrisburg, North Carolina.
What attracted you to Backblaze? The leaders and family-style culture.
What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze? How to sell, sell, sell!
Where else have you worked? The North Carolina Autism Society, an ophthalmologist’s office, home health care, and another tech startup.
Where did you go to school? The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
What’s your dream job? Fighter pilot, professional snowboarder or killer whale trainer.
Favorite place you’ve traveled? Hawaii and Banff.
Favorite hobby? Basketball and cars.
Of what achievement are you most proud? Missionary work and helping patients feel better.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Neither, but probably Star Wars.
Coke or Pepsi? Neither, bubble tea.
Favorite food? Snow crab legs.
Why do you like certain things? Because God made me that way.
Anything else you’d like you’d like to tell us? I’m a germophobe, drink a lot of water and unfortunately, am introverted.
Being on the phones all day is a good way to build up those extroversion skills! Welcome to the team and we hope you enjoy learning how to sell, sell, sell!
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