Free as in Beer, or the Story of Windows Viruses

Whenever there’s a new Windows virus out there wreaking global havoc, the Linux types get smug. “That’ll never happen in our open operating system,” they say. “There are many eyes looking over the source code.” But then there’s a Heartbleed vulnerability that keeps them humble for a little while. Anyway, at least patches are propagated faster in the Linux world, right?

While the Linuxers are holier-than-thou, the Windows folks get defensive. They say that the problem isn’t with Windows, it’s just that it’s the number one target because it’s the most popular OS. Wrong, that’d be Android for the last few years, or Linux since forever in the server space. Then they say it’s a failure to apply patches and upgrade their systems, because their users are just less savvy, but that some new update system will solve the problem.

There’s some truth to the viruses and the patching, but when WannaCry is taking over hospitals’ IT systems or the radiation monitoring network at Chernobyl, it’s not likely to be the fault of the stereotypical naive users, and any automatic patch system is only likely to help around the margins.

So why is WannaCry, and variants, hitting unpatched XP machines, managed by professionals, all over the world? Why are there still XP machines in professional environments anyway? And what does any of this have to do with free software? The answer to all of these questions can be found in the ancient root of all evil, the want of money. Linux is more secure, ironically, at least partly because it’s free as in beer, and upgrading to a newer version is simply cheaper.

Continue reading “Free as in Beer, or the Story of Windows Viruses”

Upgrading a solar lamp to charge an iPad

ikea_sunnan_upgrade

[Phillip] and the crew at Voltaic Systems took a look at the Sunnan solar powered desk lamp from IKEA a while back, and while they thought it was pretty useful, there were definitely some things they wanted to change.

First on their list of revisions was to increase the capacity of the stock battery pack. Taking the lamp apart and unscrewing the pack’s lid revealed a set of 3 AA cells, which they swapped out for higher-capacity models with more than double the watt-hour rating.

A beefed up battery is a good start, but the lamp’s tiny solar panel has no hope of topping off the batteries outside of Death Valley. To ensure that they get a nice full charge, a small jack was wired into to the battery pack, allowing the group to connect any size external solar panel they pleased.

Finally, [Phillip] and Co. wanted the ability to charge an iPad2 from the lamp’s battery pack. They hacked in a small USB connector and a slightly modified MintyBoost board to provide a little extra juice to their tablet.

While they are still testing the modifications, they say that everything is working nicely, citing that the extra battery capacity and charging abilities are a great addition.

Adding a pedal to a Yamaha DD35 drum kit

[Paul] Wrote in to tell us about a quick project that might be useful to others out there. He was having some problems with the DC jack on his Yamaha DD35 portable drum kit. Naturally, he did what most of us would do and just broke out the soldering iron and prepared to solder it back in place(hot glue it afterwards, that always helps too). That part isn’t a big deal, we’ve all seen it a million times. However, while inspecting the DC jack, he noticed something silk screened on the board right next to it.  As it turns out, that was a kick pedal jack. After a few minutes hunting for a victim around the house that would be sacrificed for its plug, he got his hands on one. A few moments later he was jamming away with a kick pedal.

We absolutely love these super quick upgrades. [Paul] thought maybe this feature was left out at the last minute, and we’ve seen this type of thing for a number of reasons. Maybe that was a feature kept aside for a more expensive model, maybe there was some other reason it was left off. Frankly, we don’t care, we just think it is awesome that it works!

Stay with us to see a quick video demonstration.

Continue reading “Adding a pedal to a Yamaha DD35 drum kit”