Sunday Nerding: Getting To The Moon

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – the first moon landing, and that one small step for mankind that changed the world forever.

Apollo 8 Crew
Jim Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman.

In 1961, President John F Kennedy had set his his nation the goal of “landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth“.

A while back I wrote about the amazing – (and ongoing) – restoration of an Apollo Guidance Computer – one of the very first digital computers, developed at MIT for NASA, which was crucial to achieving the goal.

While everyone remembers Apollo 11 – (and to a lesser extent Apollo 13, due to the problems it struck) – very little is thought about with respect to Apollo 8 – the mission where NASA figured out how to do two of the four main important tasks of a successful moon landing – getting there and getting back.

The following video discusses the pivotal role Apollo 8 played in making Apollo 11, and all of the subsequent moon landings possible.

Further Reading:

Russian GNSS Spoofing

A recently released report from C4ADS following a year of research, appears to confirm the hacking and/or spoofing of GNSS transmissions by Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO).

GNSS is the collective term for “global navigation satellite systems“, of which the common GPS system is one. Russia and China are known to operate their own GNSS systems, alongside the GPS system developed by the US military.

The activities of the FSO – (in which it is apparent that false signals are deliberately broadcast to confuse GPS receivers, such as those you might have in your car, or those found in commercial ships or commercial aircraft) – are reputedly designed to keep attack drones away from Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

While this might seem like a not unreasonable use of such techniques, the report presents evidence that they are also using these techniques in Syria, possibly to confuse enemy military systems. There is of course a long running military conflict in the region.

It is therefore logical to assume that such techniques can and have been used all over the world at some time – past, present and future.

These techniques could be used to disrupt navigation in all sorts of transportation systems and infrastructures.

Russia shot down a Korean Air passenger jet in 1983 after an issue with the configuration of the navigation system on that Boeing 747. While this was found to be the fault of the pilots at the time, faulty navigation data could be used to initiate similar incidents, but with plausible deniability.

Quoting the report’s Executive Summary:

In this report, we present findings from a year-long investigation ending in November 2018 on an emerging subset of EW activity: the ability to mimic, or “spoof,” legitimate GNSS signals in order to manipulate PNT data. Using publicly available data and commercial technologies, we detect and analyze patterns of GNSS spoofing in the Russian Federation, Crimea, and Syria that demonstrate the Russian Federation is growing a comparative advantage in the targeted use and development of GNSS spoofing capabilities to achieve tactical and strategic objectives at home and abroad. We profile different use cases of current Russian state activity to trace the activity back to basing locations and systems in use.

The full report can be found here.

DARPA’s Open Source eVoting Initiative

I’ve never been a fan of the concept of electronic voting. I’m still not a fan of electronic voting.

For the most part the idea that I might cast my vote, walk away from the machine that contains my vote, and not know what happens with that machine afterwards scares me.

How do I know my vote eventually gets counted?

It could be argued that a paper ballot in a ballot box might “go missing” too. Most systems have certain kinds of vulnerabilities, whether they be electronic or otherwise.

But can eVoting be made reliable and verifiable?

With this initiative from DARPA, I’ve moved into the “maybe” column. I’m not convinced, but this is the best concept I’ve heard to date.

It’s worth discussing, and we do need to understand that DARPA is part of the US Department of Defence. How much can we trust that?

As an open source initiative, their work would be able to be closely scrutinized by any interested party. This perhaps means the eventual product they develop can be trusted.

It contains a lot of verification mechanisms to instill confidence in it.

Here is their plan as discussed on the most recent episode of Security Now!


Sunday Nerding: Apollo Guidance Computer

Like many a nerd, not only do I love computers and computing, I also love space exploration.

Today I present a magnificent combination of the two, as a group of what can only be described as massive enthusiasts, work at getting an actual Apollo Guidance Computer – (which hasn’t been powered up in around 50 years) – up and running, and executing actual NASA Apollo code.

While this particular unit was never flown into space – (it is understood to be serial number 14, which was used in LTA-8) – it is basically an almost flight-ready prototype.

Is it Huawei or the Highway?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether allowing Huawei telecommunications equipment into major infrastructure is a good idea or not.

Given the company has strong and proven ties to the Chinese military, I don’t think it is even unreasonable to have an honest discussion about the security implications of using their equipment.

However, if we’re going to have such a discussion about their equipment, we should have the entire discussion.

An excellent example is the common HG659 modem/router, in use all over the world, including extensively in Australian premises as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

The HG659 is an extremely popular modem with ISPs, because it is an extremely versatile modem.  It supports both ADSL and VDSL connections, and FTTP connections.  For this reason it is widely deployed in Australia as part of the “multi-technology mix” hodge-podge Malcolm Turnbull turned the NBN into for political reasons, rather than for technology reasons.

Australian ISPs using the HG659 therefore only have to stock one type of modem, and you as the end user just plug it into whatever NBN technology is serving your premises, and the modem self-configures to suit.


A great number of Australian ISPs use it – (and brand it with their own logos) – see a selection below:

ISPs in other countries also use it:

The use of the HG659 modem is widespread worldwide – including in jurisdictions where the lawmakers are seeking to ban the use of Huawei equipment in telecommunications systems, such as Australia and the United States.

I’ve even read of instances where one Australian ISP appears to have an active backdoor into their private customer’s networks, using the custom firmware in their supplied HG659 modems.

But why ban Huawei in the implementation of 5G networks, but happily welcome them into other significant network infrastructure?

One might argue that having a footprint inside millions of homes is a bigger concern than having them in mobile phone towers – (which can be and are actively monitored by the carriers operating them, and suspicious activity might be detected) – as the vast majority of home users get the modem from their ISP, plug it into the wall and never think about it again.

Monitoring?  Yeah, right.

I think the politicians are clearly – (as is often the case) – trying to make a political point without having any real understanding of what they are talking about.

Huawei may or may not present information or national security issues, but if you’re going to take a stand against them, you cannot and should not be so selective.

Ban them or don’t ban them – but just don’t half-ass your decision.

Further Reading:

C64 Resurrection: Project Update 4

Moving along from the teardown in Part 3, I have cleaned up and restored the keyboard and case of my Commodore 64 in preparation for the rebuild into my modern Commodore 64.

Check out Part 4 here!

Also – have you ever wondered if a Commodore 64 can be connected to Wi-Fi and therefore the internet?

Video says “yes”…

C64 Resurrection: Project Update 3

Carrying on from Part 2, during my time off work last week, I also did the teardown of my Commodore 64 in preparation for cleaning and restoration of the case and keyboard, which will be covered in Part 4.

Check out Part 3 here!

Also, check out this amazing two-part restoration of a Commodore 64C, left outside in a field for more than a decade!