The Hardware Hacker (Book Review)

The Hardware HackerThe Hardware Hacker
Adventures in Making & Breaking Hardware
Andrew “bunnie” Huang
$29.95 List. $18.43 Amazon (Prime)

I was excited to hear about this book and receive a copy of it but my feathers fell when I saw a quote by Edward Snowden on the dust jacket. The publisher also place Edward Snowden’s review at the top of the others in the pre-release reviewer’s list. This is not a book about Edward Snowden nor was he a hardware hacker, so I’m not sure what his “endorsement” does for the book except diminish its overall value to me. In fact, even if this book were a 10/10, which it isn’t, this inclusion decreases that review by at least two points right off the top. I was very disappointed to see any mention of Snowden in this book.

The Hardware Hacker is basically a reprint of Andrew Huang’s blog. Most of the information in the book is long outdated and is basically a memoir of stuff he’s done. If you’re looking for this book to actually teach you something, save your money. It’s basically one man’s adventure into various aspects of “hacking” and building things.

At the end of the book, there’s a lot of info about DNA, which totally doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. As one Amazon.com reviewer put it, it’s navel-gazing.

I’m sure there’s an audience for this book and it’s decently written, but it’s not a reference book by any stretch. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it technology historical nonfiction.

<rant>Edward Snowden is a fake hacker and a non-security professional. He’s not an authority on anything, especially security. His resume and history are sketchy at best and his claim to “fame” is that he stole documents and revealed them to a journalist, who of course, ran with them. He’s not to be trusted or held up as a hero. He’s a total zero who deserves prison time for treason. He should never be quoted, unless it’s ironically, for any book.</rant>

I guess if you’re interested in “how one guy did it”, then this is a good book. Otherwise, save your money and wait until it’s on the penny list or bargain bin at used book stores. I’m not actually sure why No Starch wanted to publish this book and I’m hoping that they didn’t invest a lot of money in its production. It seems more like something that should have been self-published and sold on Huang’s blog site as an ebook for his followers.

Originally, I was going to create a video review of this book but I just don’t see enough value in it to go to that much trouble. I am not really sure who the audience for this book is supposed to be. If you know who Andrew Huang is, then you’ve already seen this material, except perhaps for the weird DNA-related material. And if you’re like me and never heard of Andrew Huang, then this book is not likely to make you a fan.

I’ve seen some laudatory reviews on Amazon and other sites but I don’t think they’re to be believed. Honest ones like the three-star Amazon review I referred to earlier is more realistic.

I don’t mean any offense to No Starch Press because they have many great books available and generally speaking, I highly recommend them. I also don’t mean any offense to Andrew Huang, who I’m sure is a perfectly nice guy. I’m not sure who’s responsible for the inclusion of the Edward Snowden review and quote on the dust jacket, but that was a poor decision.

Rating: 5/10

Recommendation: If you like historical nonfiction and want to read about how someone else did it, read Huang’s blog and save your money.

IK Multimedia introduces Fulltone® guitar & bass effects collection for AmpliTube

March 16, 2017 – IK Multimedia is proud to present the new Fulltone® Collection for AmpliTube for Mac/PC, which offers guitarists and all musicians an essential palette of sounds that span from classic to contemporary tones.

Fulltone Collection for AmpliTube

Boutique sound for the discerning musician
Guitarist and composer Michael Fuller founded Fulltone back in 1991, with the aim of building stompboxes that sounded as good as vintage pedals, but that were more rugged and reliable than the old, often fragile classics. Today, Fulltone is recognized as being one of the most committed and scrupulous manufacturers worldwide.

IK Multimedia’s Fulltone® Collection includes 3 powerful processors that are equally at home in music production as well as in creative sound design. Guitarists, keyboard players, composers, producers, sound designers and mixing engineers can now take advantage of all the mojo and feel of the original Fulltone hardware but with all the practicality of AmpliTube’s well-known ease of use.

TERC – That 80’s Rack Chorus!®
Recreated by Fulltone and based on the original, nearly impossible-to-find Dyno My Piano unit (sold during the 80’s as Songbird or Dytronics), the TERC gives you that lush, expansive, huge and elegant chorus sound that made it so famous during the 80’s and was regularly used by some of the world’s top session guitarists such as Michael Landau, Steve Lukather, Dann Huff and many others. Despite its typically retro character not only is the TERC still very modern, but its timeless sonic signature works wonders on all kinds of material.

SSTE® – Solid State Tape Echo
The Solid State Tape Echo captures the full essence, warmth and vibe of the original Echoplex EP-3, but without its unavoidable drawbacks – the original unit was very noisy, featuring low-quality tape heads and would produce lots of hum. Fulltone’s SSTE fixes these issues, greatly enhancing the machine’s response and capabilities. IK Multimedia have recreated the SSTE in virtual rack format with added bpm sync function, offering ultimate DAW integration and sonic versatility.

OCD® – Overdrive Pedal
The OCD overdrive pedal is already a classic. It gives the sound more grit, punch and the same kind of touch sensitivity, warmth and complex harmonics that characterize a quality tube amp. The OCD is the “icing on the cake” that makes the Fulltone Collection perfect for all genres and styles of music.

Fulltone Collection for AmpliTube

Pricing and availability
The Fulltone Collection is available from the IK Online store and from within AmpliTube Custom Shop at $/€59.99*.

The TERC and SSTE  can be purchased as single processors for just $/€34.99 each.

The OCD is available as a single pedal at $/€24.99.

* All prices excluding taxes

For more information, please visit:
www.amplitube.com/fulltone

For audio and video demos of the Fulltone Collection, please visit:
www.amplitube.com/fulltone/audio
www.amplitube.com/fulltone/video

18 High-paying Jobs That Allow Work Flexibility

Engineers Get Fat StacksSpoiler Alert: Earn an Engineering Degree. Yep, that’s right, Engineers always top every list of the highest-paying jobs. A Bachelor’s Degree in most fields won’t put you into the tax bracket that Engineering ones do. A degree in Engineering starts off with a higher salary, grows faster, and has more potential for upward mobility than any other. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and it’s a heavy Engineering school and the prevailing joke, at the time, was, “What do you call an Aggie Engineer five years after graduation?” “Boss.”lexjob’s 18 Highest-Paying Bachelor’s Degrees with Flexible Jobs.

The 18 Highest-Paying Bachelor’s Degrees with Flexible Jobs.

It’s true that Engineers enjoy the fastest career growth curve of any profession. They’re respected in the workforce and they make the big bucks. I’ve personally never seen a poor Engineer or an Engineer that’s unemployed. They always have jobs. They always have good jobs, even in economic downturns. So, take the hint and get that Engineering degree.

A lot of students are afraid of pursuing Engineering degrees because of the math requirements, such as Calculus, Differential Equations, and other advanced math courses. My suggestion is to take some remedial math courses so that you begin to understand the concepts and the possibilities that advanced mathematics holds. I personally loved Calculus but struggled with Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry. Calculus is where I should have started. Unfortunately, the school system wasn’t setup for me. By the time I was first exposed to Calculus, I was in college and really scared of the requirement to take a full year of it. I made an ‘A’ in both semesters and then considered a degree in Mathematics. It was the opening of a whole new world to me.

Take a look at the 18 jobs, mostly Engineering gigs, that not only are the highest-paying but also have flexibility.

Workers Rebuke UC Regents’ Plan to Send Their Jobs to India

SAN FRANCISCOTomorrow UC San Francisco information technology employees will challenge UC Board of Regents’ plan to replace them with lower-paid workers from India. It is the first time a public university has ever offshored American IT work, undermining its own mission to prepare students for high-tech jobs.

WHAT: Workers speak out against offshoring at UC Board of Regents meeting

WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m. PST

WHERE: UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, Robertson Auditorium, 1675 Owens Street, San Francisco. Watch the Livestream here. 

WHO: UCSF information technology employees, University Professional Technical Employees-CWA Local 9119, and community leaders

Seventy-nine workers in UCSF’s IT department will lose their middle-class, family-supporting jobs in February.

Last summer, the UC system partnered with HCL, a multinational contractor based in India, to manage IT infrastructure and networking-related services. The contract covers all 10 UC campuses, potentially endangering thousands more IT jobs, but UCSF is the first to test this scheme to slash salary costs.

Since then, HCL and UC have imported Indian workers to UCSF on H-1B visas, which are temporary work permits for “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialized knowledge.” Congress originally created the visa program to help employers to fill talent gaps — not displace US workers. Yet UC is unscrupulously exploiting a loophole in the law, and adding insult to injury, requiring soon-to-be-laid-off UC employees to train their foreign replacements as a condition of their severance. Eventually, the H-1B visa replacements will depart too, returning to India to train large teams of workers who will do the work for even cheaper.

Members of University Professional Technical Employees-CWA Local 9119 have been mobilizing against the offshoring plan for several months, building public support for the IT workers and spotlighting the responsibilities of public institutions that receive taxpayer funding. Offshoring jeopardizes the privacy of medical center patients, students, faculty, and staff. Troublingly, both UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and UC Berkeley Dean of Engineering S. Shankar Sastry sit on the board of HCL.

###

The Communications Workers of America represents 700,000 workers in private and public sector employment in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. CWA members work in telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, news media, broadcast and cable television, education, health care and public service, law enforcement, manufacturing and other fields.

Why Filmmakers Will Never Adopt the iPhone 7

2017/01/18 Comments off

iPhone 7By Ken Hess

I’m a filmmaker, writer, iPhoneographer, i-Device videographer, and I won’t transition to the iPhone 7 or any device that doesn’t have an input jack that can be used for microphones. I doubt other such filmmakers will either. We have to have a way to get synchronized sound into the videos that we’re making. Bluetooth speakers are not really all that great and I don’t expect any Bluetooth microphones to be great either. Bluetooth also consumes a lot of power. It just isn’t a workable solution. Apple will likely lose a significant number of customers who make films and podcasts using iPods, iPads, and iPhones. I leave my iPad 4 connected to a tripod and a microphone constantly for quick access to creating video for reviews, news, and interviews. The new iPhones will have no such place in my repertoire.

The decision to remove the 3.5mm input jack is a very poorly conceived idea. I’m not sure that Apple really gained anything by doing so, except perhaps more revenue from their “Airpods.” Airpods are very expensive ($159.00) Bluetooth earbuds that will be easily lost or stolen. Apple does however, still supply a set of earbuds (Lightning connector) at no extra charge (A $30.00 value).

Filmmakers need to be able to connect a microphone and to connect earbuds or headphones to listen to sound. There are, of course, converter cables that one can use to allow 3.5mm access, but I haven’t tried one with an iPhone 7 yet to test how good they are. My daughter has an iPhone 7 and I will make that test soon and post when it’s complete. I have several 3.5mm jack microphones that I can use to test the cable. I purchased this adapter/converter to test, but haven’t had the time yet with her iPhone 7 to try it out.

I hope that some third party, perhaps via Kickstarter or Indiegogo, creates a good solution for iPhone 7s. I see projects like Tangerine not happening on this device and it’s unfortunate because the camera is so nice.

Note to filmmakers: You can still buy iPhone 5 and 6 models at reasonable prices, have great cameras, and have the 3.5mm jack at your disposal.

If I ever upgrade to something newer than my iPhone 5, I’m keeping the 5 for making films exclusively. The iPhone 5 has the right size, the 3.5mm jack, and I’ve invested enough in accessories to make keeping it a good idea. I wish it had more than 16GB of space or was upgradeable. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t give us the option.

Thanks Apple, for your inflexibility, non-upgradeability, and no 3.5mm jack.

Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid – Black (Review)

2017/01/17 Comments off

Blue Snowball iCE USB MicrophoneBlue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone
Blue Microphones
Amazon (Prime) $44.99

I know I’m not the first person to ever review the Blue Snowball iCE microphone (Snowball), but I am a professional reviewer, podcaster, and videocaster, so I’m evaluating it from the point-of-view of someone who might shop for this microphone to create professional voice recordings.

I purchased this unit from Amazon, myself, so it is not a review unit supplied by Blue Microphones or a PR company. I bought it for use as a home recording unit, because I use my Blue Yeti microphone for creating professional SecurityNOW podcasts with Preston Smith. Originally, I purchased this one to be the SecurityNOW microphone and to leave my precious Yeti at home. However, the Snowball lacks certain features that I require for my professional podcasts. So, I’m reviewing it here to give you the highs and lows of it in case you’re considering it for your own work.

What I like:

The Snowball is small, light and well-built. The price is right at $44.99 and free shipping from Amazon. The Snowball dismantles into the ball, the small stand, and the USB cable for a fairly compact transport. The sound is very good for the price. The microphone and parts feel durable and should last until its $45 value has been fully extracted. I like the cardioid voice pickup pattern. It filters out a lot of the ambient background noise from behind the microphone and in other parts of a large room, focusing on your voice.

What I don’t like:

The Snowball has no features. It’s a microphone on a stand and that’s it. It has no volume knob or any other adjustment buttons, sliders, or switches. It’s on when you plug it in and off when you unplug it. There’s no mute feature on the microphone. The non-adjustable stand is small and three to four inches lower than optimal height. The stand attaches to the microphone with a non-standard screw size, so you can’t mount it to a tripod of any kind, though you can optionally purchase an adjustable microphone ‘arm’ for $18.

The only accessory that I know of for the Snowball is the Ringer, which is a shock mount for $43.00 on Amazon. The shock mount gives you more options for placement, like the adjustable arm, plus it dampens sounds from bumps and other movements. Frankly, the Snowball should be used with a Pop Filter to filter out the “pops” you hear when speaking close to the microphone, which you really have to do with the Snowball to capture good sound quality.

The optimal distance from the microphone is probably three to four inches, depending on your voice quality and volume.

Here is a sample of raw audio from the Blue Snowball iCE.

However, if you spend $45.00 for the Snowball, $43.00 for the shock mount, and $10.00 for the pop filter, you’d be better off buying the Blue Yeti USB microphone for $100.00. It’s a much superior microphone and you’ll like it a lot better.

Overall, the Snowball is a decent microphone. I can’t say that I’d purchase another one, but for $45.00, it’s OK. I think my money would have been better spent on a different microphone that has options, better sound, and a more convenient or adjustable stand. If you’re wanting a microphone for some light podcasting, Skype, or test recording of some type, this microphone is certainly good enough. If you have any aspirations of doing anything long-term, professional, or something with an adjustable stand or even a volume knob, don’t buy this one.

Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: Don’t buy it unless you really like having no options and a mediocre microphone. Opt instead for the Blue Yeti.

The Future of IT: Hype vs. Reality

2016/12/16 Comments off

SpiceworksSpiceworks launched a new report today –Future of IT: Hype vs. Reality – that examines organizations’ adoptions plans of emerging technology like IoT, AI, VR, and 3D printers and the expected impact in the workplace.

The survey results show that among these emerging technologies, IT pros expect IoT devices and AI technology to have the biggest impact in the workplace. They don’t expect mass adoption to take off for VR and 3D printers, but some industries have significantly higher adoption rates than the industry average.

Key findings:

  • Artificial intelligence

o   Apple Siri is most commonly used in the workplace, but Cortana expected to overtake Siri in next 12 months

o   Over next 5 years, 60% of companies plan to adopt machine learning; 72% plan to deploy business analytics with AI; 32% plan to deploy self-learning robots

  • Internet of things

o   As with AI, security is the top concern with IoT in the workplace

o   Healthcare industry has highest adoption rate for IoT at 28% with an additional 50 percent planning to adopt it

  • Virtual reality

o   Only 7% of companies use VR and 13% plan to adopt it; Construction/engineering industry has highest planned adoption rate at 27%

o   Cost is biggest barrier to adoption; security/privacy is the least concern

o   IT pros surveyed named Oculus the most innovative leader in VR

  • 3D printers

o   Only 11% of companies use 3D printers and 22% plan to adopt them; Education industry has highest current adoption rate at 45%

o   As with VR, cost is biggest barrier to adoption and security is least concern

[Ken’s Notes]

No VR for BusinessThis report, like all reports from Spiceworks, is excellent and accurate. There’s a lot of hype around virtual reality (VR) tech and it will have some adoption in universities and in specialty businesses, but for most of us, don’t invest too heavily in anything VR-related. Most businesses don’t need VR and those that do, already have it in some form.

One point I disagree on, and it’s not uncommon for me to do so, is artificial intelligence (AI). For the past many* years, I have thought that AI would be the one technology that really surpassed all the others in terms of adoption, especially for voice-controlled applications, like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. I’ve waited for 20 years for a decent voice-recognition program so that I don’t have to type, but can just dictate. Yes, I know about Dragon, and it’s pretty good. But I want something that’s truly ready for prime time.
For me, voice recognition is the first step in AI. Once you have voice recognition, then you can create programs to respond to commands and to perform complex functions. I need for it to be better than my R2D2 robot and the current state of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. There are a lot of applications for voice recognition, but we just haven’t tapped into them yet.

Overall, this is a very thorough report. I like the visual statistics and the comparisons. I think that you’ll find it enlightening. Use the Comments section to tell me how closely these statistics come to your reality.

*many – A bunch. More than I’m going to tell you about.

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