OwnStar – Vulnerability in OnStar Application for GM vehicles

Hack of OnStar Remotelink lets attacker unlock, remote-start, and track cars.

The OwnStar device can detect nearby users of the OnStar RemoteLink application on a mobile phone and can then inject packets into the communication stream to the phone, getting it to give up additional information about the user’s credentials. Those credentials can then be used to gain access to the vehicle’s OnStar account and the full functionality of the OnStar RemoteLink app.

Kamkar says the vulnerability is in the app itself and not the OnStar hardware in GM vehicles. He added that GM and OnStar are working to correct the flaw in the vulnerable mobile application. GM customers who use OnStar can protect themselves for the time being by not using the RemoteLink app.

Good thing I don’t have a GM vehicle that heavily uses OnStar remote services.

Source: ArsTechnica

So, I made it into the Boston Globe.

Well, their ‘Innovation and Tech’ buzz site at least. But, cool, huh?

Dave Shevett is chairman of the US Drone Racing Association, an unaffiliated group based in New England. One day, he stumbled across an FPV drone-racing video online and was hooked. Not long after, he formed the USDRA. The group is small, but has been working with clubs in the Northeast to help set guidelines.

“When I got started in this hobby/sport/whatever you want to call it, no one had really tried to organize basic classifications and rules for running a race,” he said in an e-mail. “I decided to set up the organization to act as a sort of clearinghouse reference point for clubs.”

The latest tech sport taking the country by storm? Drone Racing.

Movie Catchup

In an effort to distract myself from Real Life, the past week or so has seen me doing a lot of “movie catchup”. Watching some flicks that have been in the queue for a while, but I just haven’t had the time…

  • Lucy – Scarlet Johansson plays a woman who, through a botched drug smuggling deal, gets an overdose of a drug that unlocks the ‘unused 90% of the human mind’. There were aspects of this movie that were a lot of fun, but my suspension of disbelief busted a gut trying to keep it’s head above water. The basic premise has been debunked for years… and while I understand Johansson’s continued detachment from humanity as she essentially went from happy go lucky girl to demigod, the ‘stony faced look’ got old pretty fast. But, hey, explosions, car chases, and gunfights. All is well, right?
  • Maleficent – I went into this hoping it would be a nice alternate take on Sleeping Beauty ala Wicked, a new perspective on an old story. It gave me new perspective alright. I’ll cut right to the chase. This movie was awful. There wasn’t anything even remotely believable about the story line, the actors, or the horrific overuse of plot devices. The visuals were “good”, in that it was vaguely pleasant to look at, but after 45 minutes of trying to be supportive to my partner (who loves the genre and this story), even SHE couldn’t hold it in any longer. Angelina Jolie tried really hard to be true to the original Sleeping Beauty character, but then tried to twist it to fit the new story arc – and in the end, it was a complete mess. There wasn’t a single character I could relate to. Not the king, the queen, Malefic
    Maximus shows what he thinks of you.

    ent, young Aurora (played by Elle Fanning), nada. Bleah.

  • Tangled – Moar Disney, I know. This one has been sitting on the back burner for a while, but finally got to watch it. It’s fun! They toss out anything approaching seriousness and just run with good clean goofiness. Rapunzel’s character presentation was brilliant, as were all the characters. The animation was EXCELLENT (the producers even said that even though this was a 3D CGI movie, they worked extremely hard to make it look hand drawn, and succeeded quite well, IMHO).  Unsurprisingly, I thought Maximus as the Horse Who Thought He Was A Dog was delightful, if a little forced.  “Yes, we get it, he’s a dog.  But he’s a horse.  Lets move on.”
  • Shooter – In general, I like Mark Wahlberg. This flick was pretty much dead on predictable from the outset. Sniper gets snubbed in the line of duty by the military, gets set up later for a ‘special job’ after he’s in “retirement”, blah blah. Having said all that, it was enjoyable, even in it’s predictability. I found the ending absurd, to the point of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” being voiced in the living room, so be warned. You’ll see it coming a mile away.

There’s a bunch of others on the queue as well, but it felt nice catching up on things “everyone else has seen”. This list is, alas, ever growing… hope I can keep up.

So you wanna be a wedding photographer…

Petapixel is rapidly becoming my favorite blog for articles about photography, both the business and the tech. A recent post entitled ‘You Sure You Want to be a Wedding Photographer?’ hit pretty close to home, as I’ve been shooting more weddings lately, and yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve done the mental exercise of “Can I do this full time?”

If you want to be a wedding photographer, you need to stop and think about your life.

So you want to be a wedding photographer? Want to go pro, go full-time, ditch that desk and take the industry by storm? Stop and think about your life. Do you LOVE to work? Like, truly LOVE working? Not the recognition, not the money and the fame, and least of all the internal accomplishment feedback that comes from achieving small successes that only you can see. Nope, you pretty much need to love doing the work.

I arrived at “Heck no”, long before before I read the article, but Levi’s point by point breakdown of “You really have to love photography – not be in it for the money, fame, glory, or any of that BS…” is, IMHO, spot on. I love taking pictures, I love doing post-processing, and I love hearing customers tell me they’re happy with my work. Is it frustrating sometimes? Sure… it’s a lot of work, and there are aspects that ain’t great. A good example is in Levi’s article:

And somebody’s gray uncle strapped with two DSLRs worth more than your car will waltz in and bogart all your shots while insinuating that you probably shouldn’t have even come. (You’re a real jerk, Uncle Bob.)

Boy ain’t that the truth. I’ve had this happen twice, though not quite with the snooty commentary from Uncle Bob.

So, no, not a full time career for me. In the meantime, I’ll happily take the work as it comes along, throwing myself into each job with all the professionalism, skill, and excitement I can bring. At the end, I’m happy with the product I give my clients, and I can go to sleep knowing I did my best, made someone happy, and be ready for the next days challenges.

Backing up your Photos – A Cautionary Tale

A recent article appeared on Petapixel regarding a Montreal photojournalist having all his photos stolen by burglars:

A photographer’s worst nightmare just happened to a well-known photographer: on Monday, Montreal-based photojournalist Jacques Nadeau returned home to find that burglars had stolen all the photos he has taken during his life and career.

CBC News reports that Nadeau, a photojournalist for the newspaper Le Devoir, walked into his home find that five of his hard drives had been stolen.

They contained an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 photos captured over the course of his 35 year photography career.

This is a terrible story, and absolutely devastating to the photographer.  My heart goes out to him.  But we can take a lesson from this…

Embrace the Paranoia.  Always ask “What if….”

Take a look around you.  At your life, at your belongings, at things you hold dear.  Ask yourself “What would happen if this were lost or destroyed?”  If the answer is “This is irreplaceable”, then move on to the next question “How can I protect these things in a way that makes sure they’re never lost?”

For anyone in the digital world, the answer is simple.  Backups.  There are myriad sites singing the song “Always do your backups!” and “Here’s how to back up your things!”  I won’t go into detail here.  But people should extend that idea to other things of value.  Important documents.  Printed photos.  Artwork.  That doll from your youth.  Look at these things of value and be a little paranoid.  “How could this be destroyed?”  Some china inherited from a relative – is it on a shelf that can be knocked over easily?  A doll you once cuddled as a child, perhaps putting it out of reach of the dog would be a good idea?

Yea yeah, okay.  So how do YOU do it?

I’m glad you asked!  This article happened to appear while I was in the middle of backing up my photo library!

Currently, I do all my photo work in Aperture.  Apple has announced that this product is being end of lifed, so no matter what, I’ll need to do a bunch of work migrating photos.  I keep my photo library on an external 1TB USB3 drive, and I’m acutely aware of how fragile that is.  Hard drives fail constantly, and having all my eggs in one basket is never a good idea.  The challenge is, photo libraries are BIG.  Hundreds of gigabytes of data.  If I were to try to back up my Aperture library onto DVD+R DS (the largest ‘consumer level’ long term storage medium available at 17G per disc),  I’d need 31 some odd discs.  That’s too many, and cumbersome as heck to work with.

I considered Dropbox, Box.net, Google drive, and Amazon Drive, but I feel these are targeted at a desktop user who just wants a drive out in the cloud.  While I use Dropbox extensively for making photos available to customers, it’s sync mechanism is quite tricky if what you’re storing on Dropbox is much larger than what you can store locally.  I’m also not confident these systems will last, unchanged and accessible, for the long term.  Google, in particular, has a dreadful record for keeping products and offerings available for the long run.

In the end I decided to use a pretty technical solution:  Amazon S3 storage.

Backing up to S3 and Glacier

Amazon has a bulk storage system called S3, coupled with a ‘long term storage’ system called Glacier.  S3 is in essence a big storage bucket where you can drop files and retrieve them at will.  Glacier allows you to take S3 elements and put them in, as you might guess from the name, ‘Cold storage’.  The costs for S3 storage is extremely low ($0.0240 per GB per month, or for my 600G of photo data, about $14/mo).  If I move those files into Glacier, it drops to $6/mo.  The difference is that restoring data from Glacier may not be immediate – it may take a few hours for your files to be available.  For this sort of long term storage, that’s fine by me!

This is not as cheap as current offerings from Amazon Prime (Unlimited storage free with Prime and Amazon Drive).  But I’m still very skeptical of the ‘drive’ offerings from the big players.  Everyone is trying to get into the “cloud drive” market with custom clients and apps.  My storage needs are exceedingly simple.  About 300 very large files (copies of each of my photo projects).  S3 is extremely well established, and used widely in the industry.

With S3, to back up my library, I go through these (for me) straightforward steps:

  • In Aperture, I select a project, and say “Export to library”.  I locate that library on my external drive.  This is an exact copy of my original masters / RAW images, as well as all the ‘versions’ I may have created (all in JPG form).  It’s also including metadata and Aperture edit notes.  While I know Aperture is not long for the world, I at least have things backed up.  This results in a directory that contains a mini ‘apilibrary’ containing all my files.
  • From the command line, I make a ‘tgz’ of that directory.  This compresses the directory down into a single file.  If I were so inclined, I could do this on the Mac just by selecting the directory and choosing ‘Compress’ – that will create a .zip file containing the entire library.
  • Next, I copy the file up to S3.  Because I’m a super-geek, I do this right on the command line using my Amazon credentials I created a while back.  If you’re a GUI person, you can use any number of S3 clients for the mac or PC.  For me, I do:
    aws s3 cp 2014-09-23\ CA\ Over\ 15k.aplibrary.tgz s3://daveshevettphotos/ --profile personal

After some time (some of the libraries are quite large.  A 25gig wedding archive took 85 minutes to upload) I have an offsite backup of that photo library!  Hurray!  At any point I can go to the Amazon S3 console and put these files into Glacier for long term storage, or download them as needed.

I realize this process is not for everyone.  I share here to simply raise awareness that in the modern age, many of our most important things are stored in an ephemeral, easily lost way.  Take the time to look around and see what you could lose if something were to happen.  Something as simple as your laptop being stolen,  a broken water pipe, or even a home fire.  Always ask.. “What if…”

Sunday Organizing Time

I’ve always been something of a pack rat.  Before I moved to a small house, I’d have crates and boxes and shelves full of things I’d probably never use, but was cool to have on hand.  Old computers, video games, all that stuff.

2015-07-12 15.46.12Now I live in a small house, with very little storage space, and I’ve had to be a lot more frugal with what I keep around.  But, keeping active with electronics projects, drone stuff, and the like, I’m down to ‘things I need to have on hand to get stuff done’. That ended up beign stuff stored in my downstairs bathroom, on wall mounted shelving. Unfortunately, these shelves were getting cluttered and ugly, so Something Had To Be Done.

An emergency run to Five Below netted 6 rigid cloth storage boxes and 6 metal half-bins. Perfect! I cleaned out the old shelving, threw away a bunch of things I’d never need (Why did I have 30 or so ethernet patch cords and ungodly numbers of Mini USB cables?), and sorted what was left into useful categories. Photography, power supplies (I have tons of these), etc.

And, I have lots of spare space now! Next step will be painting and finishing the rest of the bathroom, now that it’s not such a clutter haven.

Really Awesome drone racing day.

USDRA July 2015 Race Day 15
Had a great time on Sunday at the USDRA Race event. Flew my batteries dry (and flew several other folks’ batteries as well). No serious crashes (though we did break an astonishing number of props. This pic is the ‘cup o shame’. All the broken props 🙂

We’re definitely doing it again.

I did come away with some changes / updates / stuff I want to do different next time.

  • I need more batteries. 2 1800’s and a 1300 are not enough to get a good day of racing. Some of the other pilots were carrying at least 10 batteries.
  • My ‘loss of signal’ beeper needs to be in dependable working order. It works for low battery, but not for “Start beeping right now so I can find you”
  • My Mobius camera is on the fritz. I’ve tried reloading firmware, reflashing, reformatting the card… I’ll try a few more times, then I may order a replacement.
  • I tried a higher resolution set of goggles. The picture was definitely an improvement, but I’m not sure it’s $500 worth of improvement. Better to get a new groundstation antenna to get clear video.

Looking forward to the next event!