• Seismograph – Part 2

    We will get back to the topic of urban noise in another blog… This blog is all about what does an earthquake look like on my RaspberryShake?

    Sadly, because I have been so focused on cleaning up the urban noise, I have not been 100% diligent in taking screenshots and noting down the quakes that I have seen, so here are the few I have….

    This is from a different bit of software that I can run at my house.
    The plot is from the Pi and it is a small quake off the coast of San Francisco. I don’t remember what magnitude it was. Something around M2 from poor memory.

    This is the M5.6 in Montana the other day.
    This screenshot also shows very clearly why I want to reduce the urban noise, it makes recording the quakes a lot clearer.
    This quake is a bit interesting as it shows a bigger rumble after the quake started.

    This is the big M7.8 at the Solomon Islands a while back.
    I really like this trace as it clearly shows the P-Waves that come (not always, but usually with the big ones) some time latter, this is the quiver of the planet from such a big shake.
    The P-Waves actually come through the planet, not over like the quake.
    These P-Waves are important for us to understand lots of different parameters of the quake and the planet.

    I hope I get time to list some nice resources that are out on the web about all these different waves and why they matter.
    I never was much for geology at school, but this thing has me all excited to learn stuff that just never made sense back then.

    This one shows a very small quake (M1.6 from memory) just down the road from us at The Salton Sea.

    Last one….. As I was writing this blog, I looked at the current trace and it shows three perhaps four quakes…. I have never seen that many in one hit. Just amazing on the timing.
    They are all small ones, M1.48, M1.3 and M1.18 in Northern California.
    But, it beautifully shows the range of quakes that I can see from my back yard. it shows how well and very interesting the device is.

    As I said, its one of my favorite Kickstarter projects. I think now you can get a bit of a sense why.

    BTW, The guys have another project in the works at the moment, the new one has more features and is more expensive. I would love to back it, but just don’t have the money.
    Thankfully they are going to pass down to us as many of the software features as they can, one of which I am most excited about, and that is an email feature. I will automatically get an email when my sensor picks up a quake. That will make having the system a lot more exciting.

  • Seismograph – Part 1

    My names thebaldgeek and I am addicted to Kickstarter.
    I have not said it before.

    One of the best projects I have ever backed is a Raspberry Pi seismograph.
    For no reason, I have always been interested in earthquakes. Hard to recall when I first started to tinker with building one (I think I was 12 years old and we lived in a Brisbane suburb called ‘The Gap’).
    Anyway, no need to repeat it, but we all know I also love me some Raspberry Pi.

    So, when this one came along, it was an immediate and automatic backer.
    To their credit, they delivered. Not only on time and on budget, but these guys set the gold standard (in my books) for how a Kickstarter campaign should be run.
    Great product and great communication with their backers. You could honestly feel their excitement for us.

    Ok, so it arrived and I very quickly powered it up. Worked first time out of the box and I was about the 11th person in the world to get it going (which is not bad considering they themselves had about 9 running).

    So, what is it and how has it all been going?

    It’s a Pi with a very low noise amplifier hooked to a special microphone.
    That’s it in a nutshell.

    I can get some more close up photos if it’s needed, but this really is it.
    Plastic box to hold all the bits nice and square which is really important, and the guts. Extra love given since they engraved my name in it.

    The transducer is on the bottom, the silver can with the gray and blue wires. They are twisted together to reduce noise. They can not be very long as they will pick up noise.
    They go into the blue circuit board and that is the low noise amplifier and converter. It converts the analog signal from the ground vibrations to the computer data stream (serial 3.3v Pi).
    You can separate the blue board from the Pi. More on why you might want to do this as we progress through these blogs.
    The Pi needs 5 volts DC at around 2 amps. Since the Wifi causes interference to the very faint earth signals, I opt not to use it and so have a standard ethernet cable going out to the unit in the yard.

    Lastly, you run their software which understands their data stream and it turns it into a few different data streams. The most common on my website (and groov) is a page that shows the current wave.

    It looks like this;

    So what are we looking at.
    Ok, so the times are in UTC. That’s the earthquake standard. It just is.
    The different color lines don’t mean anything. They just use a different color for each 15 minutes of each hour, so 4 quarters, 4 colors. It helps break up each strip. Black, red, blue, green. And they repeat the same for the next hour(s).
    There are no quakes on that screen shot (will get to that in a bit).
    So, what’s the noise then?
    You have heard the saying ‘the throb of the city’ (or words to that effect)…. Well, that’s what you are seeing here.
    It’s quiet up the top, that’s my night, then as day breaks you see the signal become bigger. That is traffic and wind.
    Yeah, as the wind blows, the trees sway and the noise of their branches is passed into the ground.
    The big jaggies? No idea. Big trucks. Garbage truck. Mail truck. UPS delivery truck. Next door neighbour jumping off a ladder after changing a light bulb. Who knows.
    Its weird. I listened for trucks and then tried to see them on the plot and I quickly found that if it sounds loud, it might be smooth and stuff that sounded soft, set the rumble line a wobbling.

    There is a whole world under our feet that we are oblivious to.
    Much fun.

  • Powertrain encryption

    Tesla cars are out of my price reach (and frankly, they are too big for our needs – plus the whole fact that they are not doing another convertible for eleventy eight years….), but they are creating quite the stir around the the world with their product and ‘auto drive’ features.

    [Side note. I see one in Terrys not too distant future].

    I probably should have been blogging about these cars as I have been learning about them and watching them evolve over the past many years, but can’t go back and fix that, so lets jump in.

    Short version. Each car is pretty much a mobile data center. They collect a TON of information and send it back to the mother ship via cellular data.
    Since they are so connected, it stands to reason that they are a prime target for hackers to break into.
    Elon addressed that in an interview recently.


    There were several interesting tidbits of information about Tesla that came out of Elon Musk’s talk at the National Governors Association this weekend, like removing the possibility of a solar roof option on the Model 3 and announcing that 2 or 3 more Tesla Gigafactories are coming to the US.

    But Musk also made some interesting comments on Tesla’s approach to cyber security that received less attention.

    The increasing connectivity in vehicles has made them more subject to hacking in recent years and there’s no more connected vehicle on the road today than Tesla’s.

    Musk continued with what Tesla is doing to try to prevent that:

    “We gotta make super sure that a fleet-wide is basically impossible and that if people are in the car, that they have override authority on whatever the car is doing. If the car is doing something wacky, you can press a button that no amount of software can override and ensure that you gain control of the vehicle and cut the link to the servers.”

    Then even if someone gains access to the car, Tesla has already implemented some features to prevent taking over important sub-systems. Musk added:

    “Within the car, there are multiple sub-systems that have specialized encryption, like the powertrain for example. Even if someone gains access to the car, they cannot take control of the powertrain or braking system.”

    That’s something that came to light last year when a Chinese whitehat hacker group, the Keen Security Lab at Tencent (a Chinese conglomerate that later became a major Tesla shareholder), managed to remotely hack the Tesla Model S through a malicious wifi hotspot.

    Once gaining access, the hackers were able to upload their own software to take control of the vehicle, but Tesla pushed a fix with code signing to add a cryptographic key to change onboard software. Tesla CTO JB Straubel said at the time:

    In short. I want this blog to link back to the one I did a few days ago.
    The government wants to remove end to end encryption. Tesla is rolling out end to end encryption because it is so important and vial for life.
    To the point where their powertrain, batteries, gearbox and motor – all have encrypted communications between themselves.

    I am going to leave this here and hope that you can join the dots.

  • End to end encryption in Australia

    It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out across the world.


    Australia’s Attorney-General has said he will be meeting with Apple as the country becomes the latest to demand that the company cease offering end-to-end encryption, reports Sky News.

    Attorney-General George Brandis says he will hold talks with tech giant Apple this week in bid to get co-operation on the Turnbull government’s proposed laws compelling tech companies to give police and intelligence agencies access to encrypted information messages from suspected terrorists and criminals.

    Australia is apparently determined to join the US and UK in the hall of fame of governments who don’t understand how encryption works. Brandis said that the new laws would be directly modelled on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, introduced last year

    I still feel pretty helpless in all of this. The powers to be are doing this disconnected from both reality and from the voters that put them in said position of power.
    Also, I am not sure that the average person on the street would have much of a feel for what is at stake here…. Sadly, the politicians argument would sound very solid to the average Joe….. ‘The bad guys are sending secret messages to each other over the Internet, we want to make that illegal’. I bet most people would say ‘Yes!’ to that idea.

    Lastly, I have another blog in a day or two coming up that talks about end to end encryption in a place that I sort of knew would need it, but later than sooner…..

  • Tesla wins the bid

    We blogged about this back on March 15th;

    The bidding war is over and Tesla won.

    Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared a national energy emergency as parts of the country were under prolonged power outages over the last year due to its unstable grid. South Australia got it worst with a state-wide blackout in September.

    They set out to stabilize their grid by adding a large amount of energy storage and started a bidding process to install over 100 MWh of energy capacity. Tesla CEO Musk made the company’s bid very public and even promised that Tesla could deliver over 100 MWh of energy storage in 100 days or it would be free.

    Today, it was announced that Tesla won the contract.

    Not only that, they increased the capacity of the system. The energy capacity is 29 MWh higher than expected, but the power output is even more impressive. Tesla wrote in a blog post:

    “This week, through a competitive bidding process, Tesla was selected to provide a 100 MW/129 MWh Powerpack system to be paired with global renewable energy provider Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, South Australia. Tesla was awarded the entire energy storage system component of the project.”

    It’s 3 times the power capacity of the next largest system in the world.

    That pretty much sums it up.
    Not sure I have too much more to add.
    Just a matter of waiting now and see how it all works out when the next storm hits.