Quote of the day—Maj. Gen. Robert Scales

Presidential involvement in small arms has been strategic and game-changing in our history. Obama comes along and tells the Army that, in this administration, money is going into small arms to build — not a deadly weapon, not an effective weapon, not a dominant weapon, not a lifesaving weapon, not a technological cutting-edge weapon — but a weapon that prevents accidental discharge. Give me a break.

Maj. Gen. Robert Scales
Former commandant of the U.S. Army War College
January 31, 2016
Obama’s eye-opening order to Pentagon: Make combat weapons safer, not more lethal
[He is doing just what he said he would do. He is fundamentally transforming our country.—Joe]

Quote of the day—Iain Thomson

NSA tiger teams follow a six-stage process when attempting to crack a target, he explained. These are reconnaissance, initial exploitation, establish persistence, install tools, move laterally, and then collect, exfiltrate and exploit the data.

During the reconnaissance phase agents examine a network electronically and, in some cases, physically. They work out who the key personnel are, what email accounts matter, how far the network extends, and maintain constant surveillance until they can find a way in.

Iain Thomson
January 28, 2016
NSA’s top hacking boss explains how to protect your network from his attack squads
[Via Bruce Schneier. See also NSA Hacker Chief Explains How to Keep Him Out of Your System.

Most of this process applies to physical as well as information security. Use this information wisely.—Joe]

Sean’s dream is coming true

Laser weapons are being tested right now and they are getting close to having them on military planes:

a number of other companies are also working on lasers that might be suitable for use on the AC-130. Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer, is developing a 60-kilowatt-class laser for the Army, for example, and Northrop has advertised its interest in developing airborne lasers as well. AFSOC has studies under way to determine the best solution.

And they are getting small enough to put on a small truck:

General Atomics has developed another version that fits in a box 12 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2 feet tall.

60 kW is a lot of punch. A six inch diameter magnifying glass collects about 15 W (1/4000th of the power of the laser) and quickly fries an ant.

And these are going to get smaller too. A 1 kW laser rifle would seem to be plausible and useful for some tasks.

I know it could make Sean’s dream come true.

Malware for good

What if someone created a computer virus which illegally infected as many systems as it could via the Internet and made them more secure against attacks by unauthorized users?

Would you call that malware? How about vigilante malware?

The further we dug into Wifatch’s code the more we had the feeling that there was something unusual about this threat. For all intents and purposes, it appeared like the author was trying to secure infected devices instead of using them for malicious activities.

Wifatch’s code does not ship any payloads used for malicious activities, such as carrying out DDoS attacks, in fact all the hardcoded routines seem to have been implemented in order to harden compromised devices. We’ve been monitoring Wifatch’s peer-to-peer network for a number of months and have yet to observe any malicious actions being carried out through it.

In addition, there are some other things that seem to hint that the threat’s intentions may differ from traditional malware.

Interesting.

But what you have to wonder is, why didn’t the software writers for these devices (these are embedded systems for the “Internet of Things”) include the capability for automatic updates and eliminate the need for some “vigilante” to do it for them?

First rocket VTOL?

This is pretty cool. Via Drudge. With video.

A rocket with landing gear. We saw that in books and SciFi movies all our lives. Never thought it would take this long, but apparently it’s difficult.

Better book yourself a flight. You get four minutes of free-fall, and the best “roller coaster” ride yet. Once they can go orbital it’ll cost more for a ticket I bet.

Quote of the day—Bruce Schneier

I have recently come to the conclusion that e-mail is fundamentally unsecurable. The things we want out of e-mail, and an e-mail system, are not readily compatible with encryption.

Bruce Schneier
November 12, 2015
Testing the Usability of PGP Encryption Tools
[Interesting observation. I tried to do encrypted email with some other people for a while and it didn’t last long. Things like searching for an old email was impossible. And the subject of the email was never encrypted so you would either leak a lot of information with the subject or you could decrypt just the one email you wanted to look at again.—Joe]

We told them so

For at least ten years gun owners, the police, and many others have been saying “ballistic fingerprinting” will not and cannot work (many of the links are dead but in January 2005 they were active, I include them anyway to give a hint at the number of people who were in agreement the system was doomed to failure):

Millions of dollars and over a decade later the Maryland legislators finally admitted what we have been saying all along:

Millions of dollars later, Maryland has officially decided that its 15-year effort to store and catalog the “fingerprints” of thousands of handguns was a failure.

Since 2000, the state required that gun manufacturers fire every handgun to be sold here and send the spent bullet casing to authorities. The idea was to build a database of “ballistic fingerprints” to help solve future crimes.

But the system — plagued by technological problems — never solved a single case. Now the hundreds of thousands of accumulated casings could be sold for scrap.

But the computerized system designed to sort and match the images never worked as envisioned. In 2007, the state stopped bothering to take the photographs, though hundreds of thousands more casings kept piling up in the fallout shelter.

And now we all get to say, “I told you so”:

No. Next question.

Nick Vivion asks, “Could this new Wi-Fi technology revolutionize airport security?”

Some of the most promising new technology has emerged from a multi-year project from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab: a Wi-Fi network that can identify who you are — even through a wall. Yep, you read that right. These geniuses have built a way to implement Wi-Fi as a means to identify the unique characteristics of individual humans.

 

The RF Capture technology is able to analyze how Wi-Fi signals bounce off a human being to create an outline similar to what you might see from a millimeter wave scanner. The secret sauce is a reconstruction algorithm that stitches the many refracted waves into an image and then analyses the results. The system was able to identify 15 different people with a 90% accuracy.

The last sentence is meaningless. There are two types of errors. False positives and false negatives. Which type is this 90% numbers? Furthermore there are two types meanings of “identify” in biometrics. There is, “Who is this person?” (identification). And there is, “Is this person who they say they are? (verification)”. If they are identifying one person out of a population of 15 90% of the time then the success with of a population of 100s, 1000s, or millions is going to be insignificant. If they talking about verification then it means that one out of ten times an imposter is falsely verified. This is way too poor.

If that isn’t enough they don’t address the fundamental difficulty with security. That is that you have an active adversary. The adversary is going to do whatever they can to fool you. Wi-Fi signals bounce off of humans, as shown in the video below, but they bounce of metal even better. A little bit of aluminum foil underneath your shirt and you will appear as a completely different image to their technology. Some outdoor clothing has aluminum built into it for heat retention. This would play havoc with their tech.

Vivion should have asked a security expert his question. The answer would have been “No. Next question.”

Oh, auto-correct

I received this customer inquiry today;
“Which of the has tunes would fit a polish style am.”
So I did a little translation;
“Which of the gas tubes would fit a polish style AK.”
And translation of the translation;
“Which of your forward optic mounts would fit a Polish style AK?”
Context. It’s all about context– I’m reasonably sure I wasn’t being asked about the appropriateness of certain music for Polish radio stations on the amplitude-modulation band, for example. And so now I can give an informed answer to the question without asking him to clarify.

Smaller is better, maybe

In the “learn something new every day” category.

The furnace doesn’t kick on much during the summer here in the PNW, and for 4-5 months of the year we just heat with the waste heat from appliances and electronics, controlling the temperature mostly by opening windows. Locals know the drill. Well, with fall rolling around, eventually it was time for the furnace to kick on and move a little warm air around. But the spousal unit pointed out that it was still a tad chilly in the house, even after turning the thermostat up. Continue reading

Core sand

In restoring a couple of late nineteenth century cider mills, I’ve had to reproduce a number of iron castings. To produce a hollow space, or a flange, as part of a casting, a hardened sand “core” is placed inside the mold cavity.

A mold that uses one or more cores is a “core mold” and the form used to produce the core is a “core box”. There are different types of cores, but the sodium silicate or “water glass” core sands were very common at one time, and are still used. You just need a source of CO2 to harden the sand, and you see my make-shift CO2 generator in the background. It uses soda and vinegar. It’s what I had on-hand.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

The sand is mixed with about six percent by weight of sodium silicate, which acts as a binder. That makes a slightly “wet” sand that can be packed into the core box. Carbon dioxide is then pushed through the sand under pressure, it reacts with the sodium silicate and hardens it in seconds, resulting in what you might call a form of concrete. The now rigid core is placed in the sand mold, the mold is closed and the hot iron poured in. Once it cools the new part is shaken out of the sand, and the cores are readily broken out from inside the part.

In this case I’m making new bearings to support one of the rollers in the mill’s grinder box. I had a new restoration up and running last season, only to break that bearing because I’m an idiot and used an oak stick as a stomper to push some apples down into the machine. Oak; bad. It jammed the roller and the running, 40 pound flywheel popped the bearing in two. POW! We’ll see in a few days whether this new bearing works out.

Foundry is awesome.

More on tightening threads

This is a deep, serious discussion of mechanical esoterica, with implications to life in general, so if you’re not interested in mechanics or in life lessons, go back to doing your nails, watching TV or stressing over your made-up relationship drama.

If you get the clamp screws tight enough, you probably don’t need the Locktite. If you don’t get the screws tight enough, the Locktite won’t help.

Thank you for sticking it out all the way to the end of this post, though if you needed to read it, you probably didn’t, and if you didn’t need to read it, you most likely did. I’m preaching to the choir then. Still it must be said.

I wonder what this will mean for concealed carry?

From CNN:

A cloak of invisibility may be common in science fiction but it is not so easy in the real world. New research suggests such a device may be moving closer to reality.

Scientists said on Thursday (September 17) they have successfully tested an ultra-thin invisibility cloak made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable with visible light.

The researchers said while their experiments involved cloaking a miniscule object they believe the technology could be made to conceal larger objects, with military and other possible applications.

The cloak, 80 nanometers in thickness, was wrapped around a three-dimensional object shaped with bumps and dents. The cloak’s surface rerouted light waves scattered from the object to make it invisible to optical detection.

What if you had a holster that was made with a cloak of invisibility? You could have the comfort and access of open carry with the discreetness of concealed carry.

Why women should panic?

I don’t think women have any reason to panic. The article was written by a homosexual man. He seems more than a little bitter toward women at times. He makes some interesting and entertaining points, but I disagree with most of them for the most part.

I can only speak for sure for myself, but I’m pretty sure that the drive among men to solve problems is not a result of wanting to impress women. Sure, for a young buck, that may be a big part of it, but he’ll rarely get very far in his problem solving if he’s distracted by an over-active sex drive. Once you’ve been married for decades and your children have gone on to lead their own lives, and you realize that happiness and sex have virtually nothing do to with one another, the desire to “impress women” (which is idiotic in the first place) goes by the wayside.
Continue reading

Canola, rapeseed, and synthetic oils

There has been a fair amount of discussion in the past few days about a “gun oil” that is suspected of being nothing more than repackaged Canola oil:

In response to a Facebook post on this topic I wrote the following comment:

We sometimes grow rapeseed and canola on the farm.

Rapeseed oil is the main component in all the “synthetic” motor oils. It can tolerate higher temperatures than the pumped from the ground. Rapeseed oil is believed to be toxic (not dramatically so, but you shouldn’t cook with it on a regular basis).

The Canola plant and seed look identical to rapeseed but the oil is much lower in erucic acid than the oil from rapeseed. The erucic acid is desired in the lubricating oils.

Canola oil is not going to be as good a high temperature lubricant as rapeseed oil. If you want to use something cheaper than the hyped up gun oils but better than common lubricants then use a Mobil One or some other synthetic motor oil.

There are some severe factual errors in that comment. It was probably 45 years ago Dad had told me Mobile 1 was made of rapeseed oil. Yesterday I discovered that was wrong. I went searching for a web page to show it was true and could not find evidence to support that claim.

I sent an email to my brother Doug asking him what the story was. He wrote back saying he had discovered the error many years ago himself. Dad was not one to exaggerate or make things up and Doug elaborated on how he might have come to this erroneous conclusion.

He elaborated quite a bit but it boiled down to the following (slightly edited to remove names):

I don’t think Dad fabricated the entire rapeseed story.  When I first started farming, I sat in several farm meetings where rapeseed and its many industrial uses was discussed.  I think much of it came from a certain plant breeder.  Dad really liked him and I did too.  He seemed like a great guy, but I have heard he was a bit of a visionary/exaggerator.  He left in the late 80s and was replaced.  The new breeder also seems like a great guy, but I have seen the results for enough years to know that most of his dreams don’t come true.  His great plans for various new crops have all fizzled over the years and he really has very little to show for his 25 years of plant breeding.

In answer to your question, I suspect much of the hype about rapeseed came from these two plant breeders and much of it was based on wishful thinking rather than reality.  I don’t have any other good explanation.

I did further research and found that while rapeseed oil has been used for lubricating oil for a long, long time it doesn’t have the extraordinary high smoke point that I had been lead to believe. When refined it is higher than many cooking oils but it’s not anything worthy of exception note.

The synthetic oils, like Mobile 1, do tolerate very high temperatures but it isn’t because they have any particular vegetable oil in them. It is because they have very particular, custom built, molecules in them that are temperature tolerant. Conventional oils, and vegetable oils, have a wide variety of molecules in them. Some of the molecules break down at lower temperatures than others. As soon as any component of the oil starts breaking down it changes everything. The viscosity can change, the lubricity can change, and the oil will cease to do its job.

I suspect that high temperature tolerance is important in firearms but I don’t know for certain. It’s not as if the oil is for the chamber and barrel of the gun. It’s for the metal on metal parts of the gun which doesn’t reach chamber and barrel temperatures.