Raspberry Pi – fun with electronics

Internet of things devices are amazing. They are just really smart really tiny computers used in innovative ways.

  • smart electric socket
  • smart light bulbs
  • doorbell camera
  • video picture frames
  • autonomous vacuum cleaner
  • Amazon echo
  • Sonos speakers
  • Internet radios

It is really not that difficult to create your own IOT device but it is possible to get a head start by using either the Arduino or Raspberry Pi as a starting point. Both of these platforms bring a lot to the table but in different ways.

It might seem intimidating to create your own but this book can help clarify everything you need to know.

Topics
Theory and components
Tools
Simple circuits
Integrated circuits
Software tools
Arduino
Raspberry Pi
C programming
Makefiles
Kicad design software
Linux commands

Projects
Streaming audio
Network storage
Arduino LED cube
LED cube with custom PCB

This book describes everything you need to create your own custom device. This could be built on top of a pre-existing platform or even by designing your own custom circuit. This makes it fun to create your very own device from scratch. Most importantly everything is described with the assumption you are a beginner.

Getting started with Arduino and Raspberry pi

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Art imitating life

I just saw the movie “Don’t look up”

Synopsis – spoiler alert

Two scientists discover a planet killing asteroid that is headed directly towards earth. The story details their difficulties bringing this fact to the government. Once this issue is brought to light there is a lot of realistic twists and turns from denial that this is a realistic threat to other political denials that turn into a yet another conspiracy theory that the asteroid is to control people. The president has a case of the nepotism’s when staffing up her office. Things really get wild when an ultra rich businessman talks the government out of trying to divert the asteroid.

It is difficult to say if this movie was in any way inspired by the United States previous president Trump but unfortunately he did bring along the nepotism by bringing his daughter and son-in-law into the office of the president.

The first 150 or so years seemed to have politicians that were civic minded while in the last decade or so the American politicians seem to be purely partisan. It is telling that in the last 12 years three billionaires have run for president and one has one the position. In the movie the president seemed to be motivated only by winning and money. This in itself does not seem different from the modus operendi of the Trump adminitration.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/us/politics/trump-hotel-turnberry.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-has-paid-rates-as-high-as-650-a-night-for-rooms-at-trumps-properties/2020/02/06/7f27a7c6-3ec5-11ea-8872-5df698785a4e_story.html

Even if this parallel does not seem accurate, another true to life parallel was the different deniers of scientific fact and how it was assumed to be a big conspiracy theory. It does not take too much imagination to see this as our current Covid 19 situation with the various vaccine deniers and conspiracy theorists.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/01/why-the-covid-vaccines-dont-contain-a-magnetic-5g-tracking-chip.html

https://theconversation.com/its-almost-like-grooming-how-anti-vaxxers-conspiracy-theorists-and-the-far-right-came-together-over-covid-168383

The conclusion of the movie was not the typical Hollywood ending but the more likely outcome when reality is ignored and public policy is twisted by economic self interest. With any hope America will go back to electing non-partisan politicians whose goal is the betterment of their citizens both those to voted for them as well as those who didn’t.

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Trust us, the cartridge is genuine

Allegedly, The chip shortage seems to be affecting the ability of some companies from supporting their own DRM. DRM is one way for content creators to control their content to ensure that others cannot access that content. This type of technology can also be used by hardware manufacturers to control what types of reusable materials the users actually use in this hardware (ie ink or toner in printers).

I remember first thinking this is getting out of control when I read that the popular coffee machine Keurig had implemented DRM preventing any other coffee modules other than theirs from being used. I can understand why companies want to sell the device at a loss or at cost with the expectation of making their money on the backend of the transaction through the sales of consumables.

However, this should not lock out competitors from attempting to fill the need. My last two printers each have a small PCB on the toner cartridge that proves it is a “genuine” toner cartridge from that manufacturer.

I was surprise to see that these small PCB’s are starting to be a victim of the global chip shortage. Specifically, the camera / printer manufacturer Canon that is having problems because it cannot seem to source these custom PCB’s. I first learned of this issue from a Youtube video by Louis Rossmann, but after some investigation it seems that there is a lot of this type of DRM

From the video, it seems that this message can be cleared and you can use non-genuine cartridges. I have heard similar stories of multi-function printers that completely stop working if the ink overflow tray gets full or if the cartridges are completely removed.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2022/01/chip-shortage-has-canon-telling-customers-how-to-skirt-its-printer-toner-drm/

How to disable Canon message

… as well as a few other general “smart chip” solutions.

https://www.tonergiant.co.uk/blog/2014/07/printer-not-recognising-compatible-cartridges/

https://tonerconnect.net/blog/disable-electronic-chips-inkjet-toner-cartridges/

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Cloud technology – the dark side

There are a lot of good things about using cloud technology. If the cloud is powering your company you might be using the advantage of scaling the resources only when you need them. Nothing could be better than starting up 20 or 30 servers for two days every quarter for your reporting and only paying for the tie you need. Maybe a big Christmas or Super bowl deal supported by 100 times your normal server capacity for the weekend without being forced to buy computers that will be idle most of the year.

All of this is great when you are reaping these benefits but there is a problem with not owning your own infrastructure. It is quite possible that in the near future users of Google drive will no longer be able to share their files.

https://www.techradar.com/news/google-drive-could-soon-start-locking-your-personal-files

Terms of service are there for a reason and you cannot hardly fault the service provider from enforcing them – you really need to follow the rules.

Yet what can be worse than having your IT pulled out from under you? It doesn’t matter if you if renting space on a cloud drive or paying a monthly subscription for using Photoshop. If you don’t actually own your own hardware or software you may be in for rude awakening should your budget not cover these variable expenses.

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safe computing – data storage I

Only the most harded soul or boring individual has no pictures or stories to share.  It is easier than never before to share photos of cats, children, girlfriends or selfies. Simply take the photo and either email it or send it via MMS to your friends and family.

Although not ideal, it is still reasonably efficient to send photos with a distribution list when the photo is small.  This is increasingly not the case as as quite a few common cell phones have camera’s with well over ten megapixels.

Manufacturer Megapixel Model
Apple 8 iPhone S6
LG 13 LG G3
Samsung 16 Galaxy S5
Sony 20 Xperia Z3

Sending emails is easy but some older or company email systems have limits as low as five megabytes for attachments.  Even if these limitations didn’t exist why send emails with hundreds of megabytes to fifty people when only four or five are really interested.  Why not simply have some sort of network drive where this information can be stored.

The cloud

There may be some disputes who exactly coined the term “the cloud” to refer to services hosted over the internet.  These services might be a virtual computer or it might be a bunch of relatively dumb disks.

In any case, it has grown from a simple idea to a 38 billion dollar market which apparently will be exploding into the triple digits in the near future.

For a lot of consumers the cloud is simply some network storage that they can access from anywhere, but the available services make it possible to not only use it yourself but grant privileges to your friends. It is actually the perfect technology for sharing information with people who are geographically separate.

I can put some cat photos, baby videos or spreadsheets on such a virtual drive for my friends family and co-workers to access.  What could possibly go wrong?

Excluding the necessary setup to prevent your friends from accidentally moving your cat photos to their computer, there are other issues you should be concerned about.  I guess it all started with the lawyers ensuring 110% safety to the providers, perhaps it was due to fairly overzealous governments deciding they needed a peek or just maybe it was those clever guys in the marketing group.

All of this is summed up in the end user license agreement that comes with the service or software.

I didn’t actually need to read any of these to know that somebody was going to want more than I wanted to give.  When I started to read through these, I was rather disapointed to see I was correct.

Disclaimer

This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent opinions and observations of the author not those of his employer or any other firm. I am not a lawyer so it is possible there is a misunderstanding when reading legal texts.

The entire disclaimer for this site can be found here.

Dropbox

For reasons I don’t understand, I just love the name.  They provide a nice service which makes it really easy to share your personal pictures and such with friends.

One of my friends makes a point of reminding me that if the government wants your data that it really doesn’t matter what you have done, they will get it.  Not only that but you will most likely be helping them do so.  It is really simple, either they will take away your freedom or the costs of defending yourself will become too great causing you to eventually surrender.

With whom

Law & Order. We may disclose your information to third parties if we determine that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to (a) comply with the law; (b) protect any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of Dropbox or our users; or (d) protect Dropbox’s property rights.

The who seems simple enough.  I am not quite sure how the nice people at Dropbox will prevent death or fraud unless they go through your data files very carefully.  I am not sure if this means scanning for illegal pornography or checking if you have any manifestos with dangerous sounding words.  This doesn’t say too much so it is hard to get too worked up about it.

How

Retention. We’ll retain information you store on our Services for as long as we need it to provide you the Services. If you delete your account, we’ll also delete this information. But please note: (1) there might be some latency in deleting this information from our servers and back-up storage; and (2) we may retain this information if necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, or enforce our agreements.

This also sounds somewhat harmless on the surface as there are too many unknowns.  If there is a lawsuit against me does that mean my cat photos will be held until a subpoena allows them them to give everything over to the lawyers?  If one of the US states decides all internet companies need to store 10 years of information will my cat photos be backed up for 10 years after I asked that they be removed?

Despite my desire for privacy perhaps these are not unrealistic clauses.  We do live in a society of laws and we cannot pick which ones we want to follow and which ones not.

Changes

If we are involved in a reorganization, merger, acquisition or sale of our assets, your information may be transferred as part of that deal.

This last item actually is the most worrying.  My intellectual property is actually mine and I don’t want it to be handed over to the highest bidder.  Does the new owner get the deleted data as well or is that just in case the police come knocking on the door.

Apple iCloud

I am somewhat less familiar with the Apple solution.  Their solution appears to be less like a drive and more like the glue that is holding the apple infrastructure together.

  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Photos
  • Storage device
  • Backup service

If you already have a number of Apple devices and use their software then it does sound like a really nice service.  Of course those fine people in Cupertino also have quite a list of conditions that apply.

It looks like Apple is playing the part of the parent and is trying to decide what types of content is good for you. It appears that they have gone one step further by making the user agree that Apple is the final arbiter of what is good content.  I rather doubt that Apple goes too deeply into the affairs of their users but the fact that they want the right to pre-screen and remove my content without my direct approval worries me.

C. Removal of Content

However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable.

The removal of content clause actually pretty much sums up my main concerns but apply does seem to have granted themselves pretty expanded rights when dealing with law enforcement authorities. Perhaps this simplifies things for Apple when the law comes a knockin but it does sound a bit much to me.

E. Access to Your Account and Content

Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if Apple has a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.

(emphasis is mine)

Google Drive

Of course Google also has their own internet storage solution which is called Google Drive.

Just like most EULA’s, if you are not a lawyer this does seem extra wordy and complicated but the end user license agreement from Google is probably on par with with that from both Apple and Dropbox.

Oddly enough one of the things that worries me is that Google specifically promises to deal with infringers according to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  It isn’t so much that they promise to follow the law that is troubling as much as some of the abuses that have been reported by companies using the DMCA to game the system.  This concern isn’t aimed at Google as much as other companies using it to their advantage.

Privacy and Copyright Protection

Google’s privacy policies explain how we treat your personal data and protect your privacy when you use our Services. By using our Services, you agree that Google can use such data in accordance with our privacy policies.

We respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

We provide information to help copyright holders manage their intellectual property online. If you think somebody is violating your copyrights and want to notify us, you can find information about submitting notices and Google’s policy about responding to notices in our Help Center.

The big clause is of course the one that deals with your content.  The first line of the second paragraph sounds to give Google every possible right and more.  I suspect because of how harsh it sounds to the non-lawyers (including me) they added the first paragraph.

Your Content in our Services

Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The apple EULA seems to support different jurisdictions depending on the users location in their section on governing law.

It may be the same for Google as well but the only thing that I did find made it sound like the only law that would be used is the laws of California.

About these Terms

The laws of California, U.S.A., excluding California’s conflict of laws rules, will apply to any disputes arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services. All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA, and you and Google consent to personal jurisdiction in those courts.

End User License Agreements & Privacy policies

Dropbox
https://www.dropbox.com/privacy

Apple
http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/icloud/en/terms.html

Google
https://www.google.com/policies/terms/
http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/standard_terms.html

Other Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

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Year of the Linux Desktop – 2026

It seems like only yesterday (2003) that a large government entity, the city of Munich, announced it would be converting their cities personal computers over to their own edition of Linux called LiMux. The good news was that perhaps 80% of the desktops would be converted over by 2008.

Not sure if it should be a surprise or not but the rollout of Linux to a city full of civil servants who were perfectly happy using Windows didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of all 18000 workstations only 1800 were converted over by 2009, but the rollout was completed to 15000 of the desktops by 2013. The sky didn’t fall nor did I hear how Munich sunk into the earth so I guess it was a successful rollout.

It may or may not be a surprise that a politician might change their mind on any given topic and the conversion over to Linux was such a topic. We may never really know all of the drama going on behind the scenes nor will we know if Microsoft moving their German headquarters to Munich played a roll.

The summary is that Munich tried to create their own Linux distribution and despite what was general acceptance, see wikipedia, they switched back to Windows 10 by 2020.

Open source 2026

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein is planning on replacing proprietary software with open source software. Specifically they want to replace Microsoft office with LibreOffice and later to replace Windows with Linux.

This actually might be a reasonably good plan, start with the applications which is something the users are passionate about and eventually change the underlying operation system that they are not as invested in.

We will keep an eye on this particular German state to see if this plan succeeds.

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Hacking skills as determined by a politician

Words have meaning and it is a bit disturbing when you read an article or see a speech where they are being incorrectly used. The most recent example of this is how people use or refer to technology. When computers were new, well newish, a hacker was someone who was an advanced computer technology enthusiast. These “hackers” played with and pushed the limits of the technology that was available to them.

Over the years the term hacker has taken on a different tone until today. Today this is someone who is still advanced with computer technologies but uses their skills to gain access to data or systems that they do not have authorization to use.

I know a lot of smart computer types but none of them are really hackers using either definition of the word hacker. I was surprised to read how Mike Parson, the Governor of Missouri, was able to recognize a hacker without any real examination.

The background is that a reporter was visiting one of the states web pages and he managed to uncover a security problem. The problem was that the web site which allowed the public to search teacher certifications and credentials and the site was written in such a way that it also held the social security numbers of those teachers. This information was apparently not visible unless you looked at the source code.

Finding this information might be a leap too far for most people but web browsers take this HTML code and display the site in your browser but the browser can also display the actual source code. It was the actual source code that contained this highly sensitive information. This discovery was made by St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist. Once the journalist realized the seriousness of the problem it was reported back to the organization so the problem could be corrected before reporting on this issue in the newspaper. This is exactly how responsible security testing firms treat these same types of issues. Thus no information was in danger because of the article as the problem was corrected before it was published.

This is certainly embarrassing to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education which was maintaining this website. Yet, it was perhaps more embarrassing to Governor Mike Parson as the buck really does stop at the top. It seems Governor Mike allegedly feels that the Post-Dispatch reporter is a hacker and is recommending prosecution. I guess that to Governor Mike thinks the ability to press a key sequence on your web browser to view the page source code makes you a hacker. Yup utilizing a built in developer feature is apparently the new bar for determining hacker skills.

Not only that, apparently the new reward in Missouri for reporting security short comings in their infrastructure is threats of prosecution by their governor.

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More privacy or just annoying control

There are a lot of things you should be doing. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. These are some of the important things we should be doing as humans but there is quite a few things we should be doing with and for our computers.

  • backup our data
  • keep security patches up to date
  • be nice to your IT people

Unfortunately, we don’t always do these things but I decided to get my IT back under control and so I decided to start with the router. A new router, heck even the previous generation router has a lot of technology support beyond what you might expect – NAS, Television Streaming support, VPN and more.

I decided to work on the more mundane tasks such as ensuring that every device in the network had a name and that old devices were disabled. Ideally the next step will be to refuse any devices whose MAC address is not known.

Imagine my surprise to see my wife “owned” at least six identical iphones. That is simply not possible so I locked each of them down that did not have a MAC address equal with her actual phone. Unfortunately this was every single phone and yes, my wife was not impressed she had been locked out of the network. I could see that one of the phones actually was connected about a minute ago, the MAC did not match but I enabled it anyway. Believe it or not, that worked. The MAC address is a unique identifier that is burned into into the network card. How can this be?

This constant value is what helps make the entire system work. The router will typically assign the same IP address to the same MAC each time it expires. Apple did realize this could actually provide a unique identifier that the network operators could use to track you. They actually modified iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 so your devices don’t actually give their actual MAC when trying to join a network.

If you delete the iPhone entry from your network list and rejoin you will probably get a different IP address because the router got a different MAC address.

It really isn’t a big deal now that I know about this change from Apple but in this case knowing IT makes it harder to work with your new Apple iPhone not easier.

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A prelude to 1984

The book 1984 by George Orwell is about Winston Smith who works for a repressive regime that rewrites history to fit their current narrative.

It has actually quite a few years since I read this book but you might think with all that is going on in the world it is a rough draft for a new book. We don’t have a repressive regime at the moment but there is quite a few of the elements that could be important for such situation.

We definitely have the Stalinesque ability to track people. Oddly enough rather than having televisions that track us, well, we have some of that as well but most adults do carry around a device that can be used to track the person carrying it within a few feet. We also use computers in such a way that allows a number of different companies to know a lot about us including very personal information. The people tell search engines and ISP’s information about themselves and what they are interested in.

The US government does surveillance of their own citizens in quite a few different ways. One of which is to track the communications of its citizens. So much data has been looked at this is “this isn’t a wiretap, it’s a country-tap.”. Knowing who is calling who, along with the frequency, can help to get a picture of who your “circle of friends” are. To be honest, if you looked through my phone bill for a few months you would have a good idea who I call, if there is a pattern and perhaps by looking at the names you would know if they are family.

If you don’t make many phone calls this is a pretty easy way to see who you are really connected to but with all of the new technology some of these calls are starting to fall off the radar. It is possible to call your digital contacts using apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Facebook messager, Skype and many others. Some of these other apps actually make it harder for wiretaps whether they are with or without a warrant.

How can we fill in this lost information? The government could start to find your circle of friends a bit more directly by looking at the various social media groups you participate in.. Yet, how can you know if John Smith is a Facebook member and what his username is? Perhaps you can have your law enforcement gather which companies you frequent – nah that would be over the top.

LAPD officers told to collect social media data on every civilian they stop

Nope, I guess the Los Angeles Police force has been doing just this and this is including individuals who are not arrested or accused of a crime.

This would give a lot of direct information, again, the people being surveilled would be keeping all of their relationships current.

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The fall from grace

It is actually quite easy to label a group as the “enemy” if you have never spent any time with them. Governments in foreign lands are the perfect faceless enemy that provides the focal point for criticism or even hate. Different societies place different emphasis on different values from free speech, societal harmony, or even a patriarchal form of government. It is hard to judge a different culture from afar but it is easy to to make a list of differences.

Corruption in government

How can you truly measure the corruption? Only connected people tend to make it to government office and once they do their overall wealth, after a few short years, easily outstrips the average wealth of their constituents.

Minority rule

Through what seems to be some form of legal trickery the government is controlled not by the what the majority of the citizen. This also takes place in conjunction with legal maneuvers to disenfranchise various groups of voters.

Controlling their citizens

I guess dress code is all a matter of opinion. As a much younger person seeing the girls in their skimpy swim suits or ultra short skirts seemed ok but as the dad this much less appreciated. Just like I can control what my children wear some governments seem to have a lot of control of what their women and children wear outside of the house. Women are actualy limited in things that they can do with a male family member or even alone. One of the clearest indication of this women’s ability to get an abortion.

Legalized stealing by the government

Nobody expected to get held up by the police at a traffic stop. It is a sign of corruption if you do not know if the money in your pocket will be taken by the police with out knowing if you will ever get it back.

Living in primitive conditions

Everyone would recognize that living in a cave with nothing more than a rock for a pillow would be living in the stone age but it is rarely that clear cut. What if you live in an apartment building with no heating or air conditioning. A sign of true poverty is if we cannot expect reliability in some of the most basic human needs – water and electricity. Another sign of living in primitive conditions might be if your buildings and bridges collapse without being bombed by a foreign power.

Disbelief of science

Science can be very inconvenient when someone throws in your face to prove their point. It can be especially upsetting if someone uses science to increase your cost of doing business – especially if this something you don’t really believe in. This is difficult if your own government doesn’t support or in fact threatens your livelihood if you don’t toe the party line. This is even worse if science becomes politicized to the point facts no longer matter.

Civil strife

When 50% or more of the country can’t tolerate their fellow citizens.

This entire laundry list of issue could easily be pointed at a lot of different “third world” countries. They might sound like one or two specific countries but unfortunately they are all about one country in particular – the United States of America.

It is ok for the various political parties to disagree with what they see as the priorities for the country as a whole but at the moment it seems that both parties, perhaps one more than the other, is focusing on its own groups best interests not the best interests of the entire country.

Are these current troubles going to be a relatively short blip like the McCarthy years or will it last decades like the cold war. At the end of the day, it is important for everyone to behave as if they all belong to a single country and work for the betterment of that country.

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