Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bringing the movie "The Codebreaker": A film about Alan Turing-to youngstown state university. Free Viewing with Executive Producer Patrick Sammon Questions and Answers

The Northeast Ohio Professional Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (NEOACM), in association with the Youngstown State University's Student ACM and Computer Science Department is sponsoring a college screening of a drama-documentary on the life of Alan Turing titled CODEBREAKER. Patrick Sammon, the Executive Producer and Creator of CODEBREAKER, will attend this screening to introduce the film and provide Q & A afterward. This screening will be free and open to the public and will take place on September 12, 2013 at the Williamson Auditorium on Youngstown State University's campus. NEOACM is looking for sponsors for this event.

This drama-documentary is about the heroic life, death, and legacy of Alan Turing, one of the 20th century's most influential scientists, yet few people have heard his name, know his story, or understand his legacy. Turing was a British mathematician and logician, who made major contributions to mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, philosophy, and biology. He also laid the foundations for computer and cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life thus laying the foundation for our modern society. Turing's crucial involvement in breaking the German naval Enigma code during World War II is accredited by historians in helping shorten the war by two years and saving millions of lives. Tragically, this great mind only lived 41 years. In 1952, British police arrested him for having a relationship with another man. Two years later, Turing committed suicide due to events surrounding his arrest.

Considering Turing's wide influence, this film is ideal to be watched by students and professionals of a wide variety of disciplines including computer science, mathematics, engineering, informatics, information security, biology, and history. During 2012, marked the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth, universities, technology centers, and professional associations worldwide celebrated by honoring his legacy. This special screening will enlighten a well-varied audience and inspire them to value diversity in their profession and in our world.
It is our hope you will see the value of this screening on YSU's campus and will choose to serve as a sponsor for this important event or join as an advertiser!
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Hughes:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act or SHIELD Act, to prevent EMP damage

Can your teenage children survive without Texting or Internet, for a day, a weak or years? Recent storms across the country have had many go without power for days, and a few people without power for weeks. Now consider what happens when the power goes out for years. The U.S. has 80,000 miles of extra-high voltage (EHV) transmission lines making up the backbone transmission grid that enables the long-haul transport of electricity for our nation, all of it acting as a giant antenna to pick up Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events. Such a EMP event could come from natural solar storms or a man made deliberate attack. "The first warning the U.S. would have of such a strike in progress would be the EMP..."

Congressional documents (see below) from the Committee on armed services indicate that a small nuclear device detonated 250 miles above northeastern Nebraska would have wide spread devastation throughout the continental United States, as well as Canada and Mexico.

As hard as it is to believe, Congress (113th Congress, 1st Session) actually tries to do something that makes sense on a very rare occasion. In this case they created H. R. 2417 "Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act" or the "SHIELD Act":

Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act or SHIELD Act - Amends the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. § 824a(c)] to authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), with or without notice, hearing, or report, to order emergency measures to protect the reliability of either the bulk-power system or the defense critical electric infrastructure whenever the President issues a written directive or determination identifying an imminent grid security threat.

Directs FERC to consult with governmental authorities in Canada, Mexico, and the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) regarding implementation of emergency measures.

Prescribes: (1) implementation procedures; and (2) related cost recovery measures affecting owners, operators, and users of either the bulk-power system or the defense critical electric infrastructure.

Directs FERC to require any owner, user, or operator of the domestic bulk-power system to implement measures to protect the system against specified vulnerabilities.

Requires FERC to issue an order directing ERO to submit for approval, within 30 days, a reliability standard requiring implementation, by any owner, operator, or user of the bulk-power system in the United States, of measures to protect the bulk-power system against an identified grid security vulnerability (including a protection plan with automated hardware-based solutions [This could be creating a new market area for Embedded Systems]).

Directs FERC also to order the ERO to submit reliability standards to: (1) protect the bulk-power system from a reasonably foreseeable geomagnetic storm event or electromagnetic pulse event (EMP); and (2) require entities that own or operate large transformers to ensure their adequate availability to restore promptly the reliable operation of the bulk-power system in the event of destruction or disability as a result of attack or a geomagnetic storm or EMP.

Directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a program to: (1) develop technical expertise in the protection of electric energy systems against either geomagnetic storms or malicious acts using electronic communications or electromagnetic weapons; and (2) share it with owners, operators, or users of systems for the generation, transmission, or distribution of electric energy located in the United States and with state commissions.

If you are not familiar with the potential threat from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events, I've have explained how it works and the decades worth of damage that could be caused in the past:

Some of the mega-transformers have a two year lead time, when they need to be replaced. 90% of consumed power passes through a high voltage transformer at some point. If these transformers fail, especially in large numbers, therein lies a very big problem. --- Power Hungry: Prototyping Replacement EHV Transformers EHV transformers, and the nation's electric grid, are on the Department of Homeland Security's mind.

Alas in typical politics can't just get something done in one try, H.R. 2417 has been handed off to the Energy & Commerce Committee, where it may take a EMP event to get it moving...You may want to speak to your congressional representative about this issue.

Not addressed is the issue of the cost to the 'user', which is you and I. In typical government overreach The Man could come and demand that you retrofit your house with EMP protection, at your expense. On the upside the massive and permanent failure of The Grid could finally result in things like Cold Fusion becoming a reality on a large scale.

Make no mistake here, far more than just The Grid will fail during a EMP event. Potentially every unprotected semiconductor, that is your fancy phone for example, could be damaged beyond any hope of repair. The hobby of Steampunk, that typically features steam-powered machinery, could suddenly go from a hobby of some, to the survival of the fittest for all in a EMP flash...

Congressional Committee on armed services EMP reports, and other government documents:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

They could not afford Linux?

I was recently walking down Beverley Boulevard in Beverley Hills, where I walked past a store that my bank account is unworthy of entering. In the store's window there was a very large multicolor LED sign. What the sign was selling was the Windows[TM] crash dialog, asking for a button to be pressed. I'm sure this is not what the store wanted to be selling. My first thought on seeing this was "This place can't afford a sign that uses Linux?".

It is unlikely that the buyers of that sign had any idea of what made it work, until it crashed. Makes me wonder if we should start labeling our products like "Linux Inside"? A quick web search even found a GNU/Linux distribution intended for digital signs.

While Linux has no fee that does not necessarily mean it has no costs with designing it into a product. A designer that has only ever used Windows may end up spending less money designing in Windows[TM] due to the learning curve that it takes to embedded Linux in a product.

Something that I find a bit annoying is that the majority of the world thinks the choice is either Linux or Windows[TM] when there are other options available. Commercially there is QNX, vxWorks. uCOS-II and uCOS-III from Micrium, and other commercial vendors. I'm partial to uCOS-II myself, as you find my name in the first edition of the book for helping getting it debugged and documented.

In the Free and open-source software (FOSS) area there is NetBSD that works, and can be made to work, on many kinds of odd hardware. I'd prefer it over Linux due to its non-viral license. There is also Minux-III, the original Minux being the direct parent of Linux. Inferno is also interesting if you need a large scale networked system for something like a medical office application.

What uncommon systems do you recommend? Do you even think such systems are always required for embedded devices? Sometimes a simple 'big loop' might be enough, or be preferable as it is easier to verify.