Vegard Skjefstad

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Tag: Ramblings (page 1 of 22)

Let’s Hack A City!

If medical equipment isn’t a big enough target for you, why not hack a city?

A while ago I went on one of my familiar rants. The subject was how ridiculously easy it is to hack medical equipment, with medical device maker Meditronic’s pace maker programming devices being the concrete example. Even though I wrote the post in August, it’s still very relevant. Just a couple of days ago,  Meditronic made headlines again when they issued a statement saying that their CareLink line of pace maker programming devices is actually vulnerable to attacks.

The first news of vulnerable Meditronic equipment dropped during the annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. But medical equipment was not the only Black Hat target. Far from it. Another interesting subject of hacking was “smart” cities.

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Press Play On Tape

The Internet Archive’s free Commodore 64 games collection is open for business.

If you’ve heard of the Internet Archive, there’s a good chance it’s because of their Wayback Machine. Since 1996, it’s been slurping up every site it has come across on the internet. The sites are archived, and everyone can browse through historically accurate versions of all the archived webpages. Wonder what Google looked like in 1998, when it only did internet searches, and wasn’t evil? The Wayback Machine’s got you covered.

But the Internet Archive is more than just the Wayback Machine. A lot more. In addition to websites, the archive contains millions of videos, audio files, images, TV shows, eBooks, text, and a whole lot more. My favorite, though? The Internet Archive Software Collection.

The software collection has close to three hundred thousand files, covering every platform from MS-DOS to the Apple II. The real gems in the collection, however, are the games. You’ll find classic arcade games, and games for platforms like the ZX Spectrum, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Amstrad GX-4000, and many more.

Now, the Internet Archive has also started archiving games for the computer that broke the European home computer market wide open: The amazing Commodore 64.

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Telltale Games Calls It Quits

After 14 years, it’s game over for adventure game company Telltale Games.

Since its founding in June 2004, Telltale Games has almost exclusively released self-published episodic graphical adventure games. Adventure games were big business in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sierra On-Line and LucasArts where both household names back then, releasing classic titles like King’s Quest, Police Quest, The Secret Of Monkey Island, and Maniac Mansion.

But adventure games has been a niche genre since the beginning of century, when first person shooters took off. Telltale was one of the few companies that managed to do any business in the genre, but now that adventure has come to an end as well. On Friday, September 21, Telltale announced that they were letting 90% of their 250 strong staff go. A skeleton crew is being kept on the books to finish Minecraft: Story Mode for Netflix.

Some of the talent that got booted from Telltale Games.  If you’re in the games industry, and have job openings, please post them to Twitter using the hashtag #TelltaleJobs.
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Let’s Hack Medical Equipment!

Or rather, let’s not. Hacking is bad, m’kay? But if we wanted to, it turns out it’s outrageously easy to hack medical equipment.

I’m an information technology professional by trade. My work mantra is that “no matter how bad it goes, no one dies”. It have saved me from a lot of stress, and helped me keep my cool in times of crisis. The point is that even if all the IT systems are down, the data center is on fire, and the entire development team has been abducted by aliens, no one dies. At least if the aliens are of the good, not-anal-probing kind. Sure, it’s annoying that people can’t do their work, and we might lose some money during the downtime. But people can drink coffee, chat about the incompetent IT department while the problem is being fixed. And we’ll eventually cover the financial loss, because we learn from our mistakes, and become even better at what we do1.

Since IT is an important part of every industry these days, I have many choices when it comes to what domain I want to work with. Because of my work mantra, however, there are some businesses I will not to get involved with. One is control systems of any kind where a simple software bug may have disastrous consequences. Think ATC, nuclear power plants, and the like. I’d prefer not to kill scores of people because if (x > 1) had somehow turned into if (x > 1);. Many winters ago, I spent the better part of a workday trying to figure out a baffling bug, and the ; above was the cause2. Thankfully, I wasn’t responsible for making sure airplanes don’t crash into each-other. That would have been a bad day to fly.

Another industry I gladly stay away from is medical equipment. But I would have fit right in because it turns out that many of the people working in the medical IT industry are incompetent dimwits.

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Why Not The Sun?

The world is relying heavily on non-renewable, dirty, and poisonous oil, gas, and coal as energy sources. Why not use the giant, glowing ball of energy in the sky instead?

Every day, the Earth is bombarded with the Sun’s powerful rays. Some of the energy is used by plants and trees in photosynthesis, but most of it just heats up the planet. A better use would be to use the energy from the Sun to create electricity. The most common way to do this is by utilizing solar panels. Through the photovoltaic effect, electricity is produced when photons hit the solar panels. The commercially available panels are slowly getting more an more efficient. Currently, the sunlight conversion rate is roughly 21.5%, but this is expected to increase to 40% or even higher in the not-so-distant future.

So why aren’t the world throwing all their research money into solar panel technology? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we used a virtually endless, free source of energy instead of having to invest billions to be able to strip-mine non-renewable sources?

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