Sometimes you need something to be utterly, totally, irredeemably black. Not just a little bit black, not just really really really dark blue, but as black as it is possible to get. It might be to trap light in a camera or a telescope, for artistic purposes, or even to make your warplane a more difficult target for enemy missiles. Either way, we’re here to help, not to judge. So what are your options?
Well, first of all, there’s the much-lauded Vantablack. The name itself is a clue as to its origin – Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Arrays. It works by coating an object with a forest of carbon nanotubes in a complicated vacuum deposition process. When light hits the surface, some of it is absorbed by the nanotubes, and any that is reflected tends to be absorbed by neighbouring nanotubes rather than escaping the surface coating of the object.
Twitter is kind of a crazy place. World leaders doing verbal battle, hashtags that rise and fall along with the social climate, and a never ending barrage of cat pictures all make for a tumultuous stream of consciousness that runs 24/7. What exactly we’re supposed to do with this information is still up to debate, as Twitter has yet to turn it into a profitable service after over a decade of operation. Still, it’s a grand experiment that offers a rare glimpse into the human hive-mind for anyone brave enough to dive in.
One such explorer is a security researcher who goes by the handle [x0rz]. He’s recently unveiled an experimental new piece of software that grabs Tweets and uses them as a “noise” to mix in with the Linux urandom entropy pool. The end result is a relatively unpredictable and difficult to influence source of random data. While he cautions his software is merely a proof of concept and not meant for high security applications, it’s certainly an interesting approach to introducing humanity-derived chaos into the normally orderly world of your computer’s operating system.
This hack is made possible by the fact that Twitter offers a “sample” function in their API, which effectively throws a randomized collection of Tweets at anyone who requests it. There are some caveats here, such as the fact that if multiple clients request a sample at the same time they will both receive the same Tweets. It’s also worth mentioning that some characters are unusually likely to make an appearance due to the nature of Twitter (emoticons, octothorps pound signs, etc), but generally speaking it’s not a terrible way to get some chaotic data on demand.
On its own, [x0rz] found this data to be a good but not great source of entropy. After pulling a 500KB sample, he found it had an entropy of 6.5519 bits per byte (random would be 8). While the Tweets weren’t great on their own, combining the data with the kernel’s entropy pool at /dev/urandom provided something that looked a lot less predictable.
The greatest weakness of using Twitter as a source of entropy is, of course, the nature of Twitter itself. A sufficiently popular hashtag on the rise might be just enough to sink your entropy. It’s even possible (though admittedly unlikely) that enough Twitter spam bots could ruin the sample. But if you’re at the point where you think hinging your entropy pool on a digital fire hose of memes and cat pictures is sufficient, you’re probably not securing any national secrets anyway.
(Editor’s note: The way the Linux entropy pool mixes it together, additional sources can only help, assuming they can’t see the current state of your entropy pool, which Twitter cats most certainly can’t. See article below. Also, this is hilarious.)
We get a lot of awesome projects sent our way via the tip line. Well, mainly it seems like we get spam, but the emails that aren’t trying to sell us something are invariably awesome. Even so, it’s not often we get a tip that contains the magic phrase “determine Mach number” in its list of features. So to say we were interested in the Asgard Air Data Computer (ADC) is something of an understatement.
Now we’ll admit right up front: we aren’t 100% sure who the target audience for the Asgard is, but it certainly looks impressive. Team member [Erik] wrote into tip line with information about this very impressive project, which is able to perform a number of measurements on incoming air, such as true speed, viscosity, and temperature. The team says it has applications ranging from HVAC to measuring the performance of bicycles. We don’t know who’s going so fast on their bike that they need to measure air speed, but of course the hacker community never ceases to amaze us.
Even if you don’t have a jet fighter that could benefit from a high performance ADC such as Asgard, you have to be impressed by the incredible work the team has done not only designing and building it, but documenting it. From the impeccably designed 3D printed case to the stacked PCB internals, every aspect of Asgard screams professional hardware.
Data collected from Asgard can be stored on the internal micro SD if the device is to be used in stand-alone mode, or you can connect to it over USB or Bluetooth thanks to the HC-05 module. The team has even put together some scripts to merge the Asgard’s generated air data with GPS position information.