Sunday, 31 January 2016

Open Source and Hacking Drone Images

GHCQ and NSA intercepted scrambled video feeds from remotely piloted aircraft and tracked the movement of drones of the Israelis, Syrians, and other nations in that region.  They were even sometimes able to intercepted video from Israeli fighter aircraft during combat missions.

In this classified operation codenamed "Anarchist",  NSA and GHCQ didn't use some overblown super computing software from some large corporate entity....they used free and open source software such as Image Magick (an open source image manipulation tool) and open source software to defeat commercial satellite signal encryption (antisky) is the name of one of those tools.

GCHQ would exploit satellite and radio signals in the regions which include Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and much of North Africa. The encrypted signals were then processed with Image Magick and antisky. One image also uncovered appears to show an Israeli Heron drone carrying a weapon. The image is possibly the first direct public evidence that Israel is using armed drones.

Documents and images on this story can be found at

Friday, 22 January 2016

Contributing to Open Source in a Non-Code way

Contributing to open source is a fruitful undertaking but when software engineers ask other software engineers to contribute to open source they usually mean code contributions. There are numerous ways to contribute to open source without writing any code:

  1. Evangelize:  sharing your expertise in a technical talk. This is a great way to develop your own reputation and to attract more users to the project. For example your experiences with Open JDK since Google's fallout with Oracle over Java.

  2. Report bugs:  More users means more bug reports. More bug reports means more bug fixes. More bug fixes means better software. You’ve now indirectly, but meaningfully, contributed to the improvement of the software without writing a single line of code. 

  3. Write: Informative blog posts about the particular project are useful and once again attract more users to the project. If blog posts are too extensive an effort for you, consider answering questions about the technology on mailing lists, StackOverflow, or Twitter. This is a great way to not only develop your own knowledge about the technology, it contributes back to the collective pool of information available about it.

  4. Host a meetup: Consider hosting workshops or starting a Meetup in your town around the specific open-source tool. This gives you a chance to build non-digital communities around the project. These communities can be valuable for individuals who can’t afford to be online all the time (yes, they exist and yes, they matter) and for individuals who prefer to put a face to an avatar when interacting with other users about software.

  5. Improve security:  If you have experience with cybersecurity or security testing, consider donating your skills for the improvement of the project. Finding and providing fixes for security holes is a direct way to improve the software and the user experience around the project.  

Sunday, 17 January 2016

How code transparency can save lives

Karen Sandler's  is a executive director at Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) which helps to promote and defend free and open-source software.

She has a heart condition where her abnormally large heart could suffer a cardiac arrest at any time and as a result her heart has been fitted with a combined pacemaker-defibrillator.

This device has coded instructions for when to deliver a shock to correct potentially-fatal irregularities in her heart beat.

However for Karen these instructions turned out to be wrong where she was twice needlessly electrocuted by the unit.

For Karen, the mistaken suppositions coded into the device are a reminder of how important it is for software to be transparent.

"I've got a pacemaker-defibrillator implanted in my body that my life relies on," said Sandler. "I can't even review the source code, let alone hire people or write myself some code that is specific to my own situation that would avoid me being shocked.

"Expecting the device manufacturers to anticipate all the problems that I would have is naive. It's not in their financial interests but also it [my condition] is very rare.

"It really brings home the fact that if you don't have control over the software that you rely on it can be really problematic."

It's easy to see Sandler as an outlier and to assume that most people's lives aren't so dependent upon code. But as we move into an age where cars are becoming increasingly autonomous she argues that all of us will soon, to some degree, be reliant on software to keep us alive.

"The average luxury car has 100 million lines of code in it. The Software Engineering Institute estimates that one bug is introduced for every 100 lines of code. It's really scary to think about."

Read entire article here:

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Open Source in your ride

Recently the Linux Foundation stated that Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Subaru are taking part in the Automotive Grade Linux project

One aim of the project, according to this Linux Foundation is to bringing together the best open-source components into a single software stack that every automaker can utilize. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

US federal software acquisition reform in 2015

Within the next month, the U.S Budget and Management Office will gain ideas from the public on how to improve federal software procurement.  Open-source supporters see this as a method to acquire competitive advantage in federal marketplace.

OMB will be drafting a memo that outlines the best practices as a part of a broad effort on behalf of the White House “to improve efficiency, reduce red tape, and provide greater benefit for taxpayer dollars,” in federal acquisition.

For the open-source community, there is no better way of achieving these goals than to challenge the status quo of using commercial software in favor of pre-written, easily modifiable and widely available code to build applications.

Full article can be found here:

Friday, 1 January 2016

Ending the Sierra Leone Ebola epidemic with Open Source software developers

So how did they do it?   by solving the payroll issue of distributing wages to healthcare workers.

Emerson Tan from NetHope, a consortium of NGOs working in IT,  mentions the story at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg, Germany.

Healthcare workers on the frontline fighting the epidemic didn't get paid for months.    So when healthcare workers went on strike, Ebola patients in hospitals broke out in search of food, exacerbating the spread of the disease.

Also the country’s central bank at one point were going to run out of currency notes. On top of those problems, there were only 8 ATMs in the country.

To solve the issue, Massally and his team drew on existing open source software solutions for payroll management, biometrics, logistics and accounting.  They came up with a mobile money system, that substituted cellphone-minutes for cash, and created an automated payment system.    The core system was built in two weeks.  People’s faith in the healthcare system was restored.

Microsoft's Linux-based OS

Microsoft Loves Linux!

Microsoft has rolled its own "Linux distribution"   Yip!
But it's no surprise because Microsoft was among the largest contributors to the Linux kernel and today about 1/5 of the operating systems running on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform are Linux-based.
It's all happening due to customers, developers and enterprises making it know their preference to use of open source software.  
So Microsoft is now willing to make a Linux-based OS for datacenter networking. 
The .NET development framework, hitched Windows to the popular open-source container automation platform Docker, and even hinted it may one day lift the lid on the code that powers Windows.
So great thing for 2016!