Flight For Your Right (And Do It By Friday)

Model aircraft

About a month ago, the FAA – the governing body for nearly everything that flies in US airspace – proposed an interpretation of their rules governing model aircraft. The world hasn’t ended quite yet, but if the proposed rules go into effect, an entire hobby will be destroyed in the United States. While congress has given the FAA authority over nearly everything that flies, there are specific laws saying what the FAA has no jurisdiction over – model aircraft being one of the major exceptions.

Congress, however, is working on a definition of model aircraft that is at least 10 years out of date and doesn’t have any leeway for the huge advances in technology that have happened since then. Specifically, all FPV flight with video goggles would be banned under the proposed FAA rules. Also, because model aircraft are defined as being for, ‘hobby or recreational purposes,’ anyone who flies a model aircraft for money – a manufacturer conducting flight tests on a new piece of equipment, or even anyone who records a video of their flight, uploads it to YouTube, and hits the ‘monetize’ button – would be breaking the law.

The proposed FAA rules for model aircraft are not in effect yet, and you can still make a public comment on the proposal until 11:59 PM EDT Friday. If you leave a comment, please make a well-reasoned statement on why the FAA’s interpretation of the rules governing model aircraft are overly broad, do not take into account technological advances made since the drafting of Congress’ working definition of ‘model aircraft,’ and the effects of a complete ban flying model aircraft for any type of compensation.

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This is not a good comment.

Of course, if the proposed rules for model aircraft go through, the only option will be to turn to the courts. Historically, the FAA simply does not lose court cases. Recently, cases involving drones have come up with successful defenses and judges deciding in favor of drone operators. The legal services for the eventual court case challenging the proposed FAA rules will most likely be funded by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, who just so happen to be offering membership at 50% off.

Below is a video of some RC people we really respect – [Josh] from Flite Test and [Trappy] of Team BlackSheep – talking about what the proposed rule change would do to the hobby. There’s also a great podcast featuring the first lawyer to successfully defend drone use in federal court that’s worth a listen.

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HOPE X: Citizens Band Microwave Spectrum And Free Internet For All

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The bulk of HOPE X was the talks, but arguably the far more interesting aspect of thousands of hackers and tinkerers under one roof is talking to everyone about what they’re doing. One guy hanging out at HOPE gave a quick lightning talk to a few people about something very interesting: something the FCC is pushing through that’s open to just about everything: it’s the FCC’s new CB radio service (you’ll want to click the presentation link at the very top of the page), giving anyone, not just people with a radio license, access to a huge swath of microwave spectrum.

The short version of the talk was the fact the FCC is extremely interested in opening up 100 to 200 MHz of spectrum at 3.5 GHz. The idea is to create something like cellular service that can either be implemented by companies, or normal, everyday people. The initial goal of this is to provide -possibly- free Internet to anyone with the right USB dongle. Since it’s just radio, and open to everyone, just about anything can be implemented.

This is something the FCC, Google, Microsoft, and a whole bunch of startups are extremely interested in, and the fact that about half of the spectrum will be open to anyone creates some interesting opportunities. A community-based freenet of wireless Internet links becomes an easy solution, and since the hardware to access 3.5 GHz is similar to other hardware that’s already available means building your own wireless ISP could be relatively easy in 12 to 18 months.

A transcript of the lightning talk is available below.

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HOPE X: Interviews with Ellsberg and Snowden

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Two of the talks at HOPE X Saturday revolved around Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Snowden when he leaked thousands of classified NSA documents to several media outlets. The older readers may remember Ellsberg who released government documents, known as the Pentagon Papers, pertaining to government decisions made during the Vietnam War. It was a popular topic here as all three conference rooms were dedicated to the the talks and all three were completely filled to the point that staff again had to turn people away. Luckily, even if you couldn’t make it into a conference room you could still watch it as all talks are streamed live via the HOPE website.

Regardless whether you feel these two are heroes or traitors, the talks were interesting with both giving accounts of their story. Each interview was about an hour long.

Ellsberg, who was here in person, talked about his entire experience and why he felt it necessary to reveal the classified documents he had secretly made copies of. Even though Ellsberg did release what he felt was evidence that the government knew that the war could most likely not be won and would cause many more casualties, he does still feel that some things are necessary for the government to keep secret. He gave an estimate that 95% of the documents classified are over-classified at the time of document creation and after a few years only 0.5% of the those documents are still classified correctly, the remaining 99.5% still over-classified.

Snowden, who was available by video, was warmly welcomed and applauded by the attendees of the conference. During the talk he discussed that he did not feel that some of the NSA’s actions he was aware of were constitutional, specifically collecting enormous amounts of data of not only ‘people of interest’, but of everyday american citizens. Snowden feels that we, as a community, give too much trust in our electronic devices. He went on to suggest that the population do what it can to minimize the capability of organizations to monitor communications and track data. He urged that people, with the capability, help educate others on how to interact with technology safely, reliably and in a way that serves the interest of all people, not just a select few.

Let us know what you think below in the comments.

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The Raspberry Pi Model B+ Is Here (Again!)

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Depending on who you believe, yesterday someone either broke an NDA or was the lucky recipient of an Element 14 shipping error. Nevertheless, we were lucky enough to get a glimpse at the new Raspberry Pi Model B+. Today, everything is live, and Adafruit has a great teardown of what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s completely different in this new board.

The biggest question about this new Pi was the CPU: the Broadcom SoC in the models A and B are looking a little long in the tooth right now, and an upgraded CPU would be a very, very welcome addition. There is no change. This is the same 700 MHz Broadcom chip with 512MB of RAM. There will not be a ‘magical, because you’re awesome’ RAM upgrade the original Model B saw early in production, either – there simply aren’t enough address pins in the SoC.

Despite not having an upgraded CPU, there are some neat features that addressed the complaints of the original Pi: The standard sized SD card socket is replaced with a microSD card socket that won’t stick out over the edge of the board. The ports are rearranged, with the analog video out on a TRRS plug with the audio. There are now four USB ports and an Ethernet port thanks to this chip, and mounting holes galore: they’re M2.5 holes in a square 58mm wide and 49mm high. Also included in the B+ is a completely redesigned power supply – the jumbo linear regulator is gone, replaced with an all-around better power supply.

The biggest change for anyone looking making a project with the Pi is the expanded GPIO header. This is a 40 pin header, with the ‘top’ pins identical to the original 26 pin header. Yes, all your existing Pi plates/shields/whatevers will still work. The new pins on this header include nine more GPIO pins, the I2S pins for the Wolfson audio card, and a pair of pins for an ID EEPROM. Connections to an ID EEPROM have been a feature of the BeagleBone for a while now, and this will allow the Pi to configure the appropriate I/Os and kernel modules at boot, depending on what Pi Plates are attached.

The best part about this is the price – it’s the same as the OG Model B. Using the same case as you old Model A or B is out of the question, but that’s totally what Kickstarter is for, right? You might want to grab one of those, because this is probably going to be the form factor for the upgraded Raspberry Pi 2.0 that will probably be released in a year or two.

Detroit Meetup this Friday

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The plans are made, the swag has shipped, are you going to show up or what? Friday night at 8pm we’re having a Hackaday Meetup at i3 Detroit. That link is how you get your free ticket.

You can come for the hacking, the leisure time, or just to score a free shirt and enough stickers to avoid actually repainting that 1991 POS you call a car.

i3 is offering up their facilities for those that want to work on projects or just hang out. They share a roof with B Nektar so there are an amazing array for tasty beverages available (part of the reason we’re calling this an 18+ event). There’s even talk of parking a food truck out front for the night but they’re still working on that.

Bring some hardware to show off and see if you can keep up with the yarns that [Brian Benchoff], [Chris Gammell], and [Mike Szczys] are known to spin.

Two Weeks To HOPE X, And We’re Going

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In a little less than two weeks, the biannual HOPE conference in NYC will be in full swing. Attendance is more than likely to put you on a list somewhere, so of course we’ll be setting up shop, enjoying the sights and sounds, and throwing swag at hundreds of attendees.

Highlights of HOPE X include a keynote from [Daniel Ellisburg], a video conference with [Edward Snowden], a Q&A with the EFF, a talk I’ll certainly be attending, and the always popular talk on social engineering headed up by [Emmanuel Goldstein].

As with all our extracurriculars, Hackaday will be giving out some swag (200+ tshirts, stickers, and THP goodies), and manning a vendor booth. Look for the eight foot Hackaday flag held up with duct tape. We’ll also be doing the usual video and blog thing from HOPE, for all of you who can’t attend thanks to your company’s security reviews, and some super secret things I can’t believe the overlords signed off on.

In other 2600 news, they ain’t doin too good, with tens of thousands of dollars of debt thanks to rather crappy legal stuff with their distributors. Buying a ticket would help the 2600 guys out, as would buying July’s issue (also on Kindle).

2600 And Why Publishing Sucks

26002600: The Hacker Quarterly is the premier (print) infosec publication out there, and depending on who you talk to, the best publication out there that has anything to do with modifying electronics, infiltrating networks, and all the other goodies we post on a daily basis. They’ve also been around for longer than most of our readership, and to lose them would be a terrible loss for anyone who calls themselves a hacker.

Being a print publication, they are completely at the mercy of their distributors. Any sort of media is a very, very dirty business, so when 2600’s distributors recently decided to not pay them for a few previous issues… well, that’s a problem.

2600’s most recent distributor, Source Interlink, was recently dropped as the distributor for Time, throwing the entire company into panic mode. Source Interlink then rebranded itself as TEN: The Enthusiast Network, distributing a disturbing amount of hotrod magazines to bookstores across the country. With this change in names and a little corporatespeak, TEN: The Enthusiast Network has yet to pay 2600 what they’re due.

This isn’t the first time 2600 has faced near oblivion thanks to a distributor. They almost went out of business in 1997 when their distributor declared bankruptcy. 2600 have proven themselves to be resilient folk, though, and all bets are on them making it through this little impasse. Still, they’re still out six months worth of revenue, deep in debt, and they’re putting on a huge conference in a few weeks. It’s really not good timing.

If you’d like to help 2600, buy July’s issue, make them number 1 on Kindle, or buy a ticket for HOPE X. Hackaday is going to have a booth there (awesome!), and we’ll be putting a post up on that when  the already amazing list of speakers is finalized.