Week #139

Saturday, October 12th, 02013 at 13:31 UTC

139 is the 34th prime number and is paired with another prime, 137. Week #139 has nothing in common with week #137 in our books.

It has been a busy week 139! We took the first two days of this week and spent it at the Hacker Halted Conference here in Iceland. We don’t directly deal with computer security, forensics or penetration testing, but listening to people who do was quite amazing. It was pretty doom and gloom stuff. A lot of the examples could be summed up as “Where’s the password, it’s in a file. They didn’t encrypt it”, then demo number two, “Ah, they did encrypt the file, but not the network traffic, there’s the password”, then demo number three “The file is encrypted, so is the traffic… hm, let’s look in memory. Ah, there’s the password”. If you’ve compromised a running computer, it seems there is little chance of not finding what you want. With technology we can harden software and hardware pretty well, scan for viruses, trojans, etc., but we fall down horribly when it is easy to trick humans. Another session focused on social engineering showed us the darker side. Simply by creating a LinkedIn account, updating their work history and claiming to be a new hire they were sent a laptop with a VPN and email account. All the network security in the world couldn’t stop him now, he had a legitimate entrance without even having to write a single line of code.

The biggest take-aways from the conference were to have multiple passwords, most people are lazy and re-use passwords, which is incredibly dangerous and that everyone falls for social engineering attacks because we’re nice people.

The rest of the week was spent working on a new Vísar project, a new survey questionnaire for Icelandic kindergarten parents. We are pre-testing it soon, so it was a scramble to get all the questions sorted out and into our new survey collection software. We’ve been working on the collection server off and on since February 02013. Summer and other projects meant that we’ve never had the opportunity to roll it out. This will be our first full-scale, customer test and we’re getting excited and cleaning-up the remaining issues.

As part of the collection process, we also have a reporting tool. As part of that, we have our own custom graph generation server. This week we also added a small utility to generate maps based on Icelandic municipalities. This was a simple spike to see if it was possible and how much time we could estimate to make it fully part of any service we may offer in the future. The prospects are interesting and now our heads are buzzing with ideas!


In the office this week the topic of corporate theme songs came-up and for some reason we began to talk about the Microsoft Songsmith product. A few people had never heard of this, so we broke out some videos. Songsmith was Microsoft’s attempt at a GarageBand style application which you sung into and it would match your pitch, beat and compose a song in any style you’d like. From a technical point of view it had some interesting abilities and interface elements, but it was wrapped-up in an over-the-top cheesey corporate situational commercial. You should really check it out. The best part came after it was released. To show how awful the music suggestions really are, people took the audio track from famous songs and fed those onto songsmith to see what type of music it would produce. This is Queen’s We Will Rock You as composed by Songsmith.

The other interesting topic this week has been Disney Research. They have been creating some very innovational pieces of hardware. It’s like peeking through the keyhole, you can’t see the bigger picture of what they’re up too, but this tiny glimpse is certainly interesting. As big and lumbering as Disney has been, it’s certainly something not to be counted out. They have some smart folks and obviously innovative technology, it is up to them to apply it to our daily lives.

AIREAL: Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air

A tactile air cannon which gives feedback in a virtual environment. Imagine this for theme park rides. An entire virtual, every changing and adapting world, with feedback for the attendees.

Paper Generators: Harvesting Energy from Touching, Rubbing & Sliding

Using nothing but charge differentials and static electricity, they are allowing for electronic interactions in a world without batteries. The examples using children’s books are only the tip o fthe iceberg.

If these are the things that Disney Research let’s us see, one can only wonder what else they’ve got in the works.