Jul 16 2016

Null Island

Category: Humour,Location Based ServicesTeknovis @ 5:46 pm

Wow! I realise that it is a long time since I blogged…

Anyway, a friend recently told me about Null Island! It sounds like a great place!

Unfortunately, it is difficult to actually get there, according to If You Can’t Follow Directions, You’ll End Up on Null Island.

Mar 26 2016

Mobile World Congress 2016

Category: Events,Mobile Computing,TelecomsTeknovis @ 7:19 pm

I have been threatening for ages to write-up some thoughts on Mobile World Congress, but at this stage I am writing less than I originally planed, and much later than originally planed! However, it is better late than never!

Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress

The major themes this year (based upon walking around) appeared to be:

  • Virtual Reality: This was probably the biggest new area, and there were many impressive demonstrations!
  • Phone Cameras: Lots of advancements here, and I think that the smart phone manufacturers are finding new ways to differentiate themselves (e.g., dual lenses, dual pixels)
  • Wearables: Nothing here really impressed me!
  • Connected Vehicles: Every large stand had some sort of vehicle present, although very few actually needed them present!
  • 5G: There was very little about 5G, which was a surprise to me!

Perhaps the show has peaked in technical terms, and it is becoming more focused on consumer products!

Some other non-technical thoughts that struck me were:

  • I did not see a single booth babe!
  • I think that there were less local university students than in previous years promoting products that they did not understand!
  • Local model makers probably did good business!
Mobile World Congress Models

Mobile World Congress Models

I live tweeted photos and thoughts during the event, and you can view these on my Twitter feed.

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Nov 28 2015

Irish Incomes

Category: Economy,MoneyTeknovis @ 5:33 pm

I am always interested in statistics relating to Irish incomes, and I often get asked about this while travelling, so I thought the the following statistics from Plans to slash the USC are rash and dangerous – here’s why were very interesting:

  • 70% of earners have an income greater than 12,000€ per annum
  • 50% of earners have an income greater than 27,000€ per annum
  • 22% of earners have an income greater than 50,000€ per annum
  • 16% of earners have an income greater than 60,000€ per annum

These figures relate to earned income, so they do not include non-earned income.


Nov 17 2015

Ripping DVDs

Category: Android,Digital Imaging,SoftwareTeknovis @ 9:15 pm

I have a small (or perhaps average) collection of DVDs. Some are old, some are new, and there are many that I have not yet watched. There are also some that I have seen several times. They are a mix of films and series.

The way that people consume media has changed dramatically over recent years, and I am no exception to this phenomenon! So it has been a while since I last looked at a DVD. There are probably two significant reasons for this:

  • I no longer have a laptop with a DVD player
  • I use my phone for accessing online content

However, I would like to watch some of my DVDs. So I decided that it was time I learned how to rip them!

Unfortunately the process turned-out to be slightly more cumbersome to get started than I expected. I was told by colleagues to use HandBrake. It is a neat application, and it is easy to get it running. However, the videos that it produced were stuttering and pixelated. I spent a while playing with settings, and browsing the web site to no avail :(

I then came across this very useful and up-to-date article: How to Rip a DVD to Your Computer. It transpired that my problems were being caused by not having libdvdcss installed! So I installed the latest 64bit version (rather than the version linked to in the article), and everything worked smoothly!

The “normal” preset plays back perfectly on both my computer (using VLC media player) and my mobile phone!

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Sep 26 2015

Secure Instant Messaging App Selection

Category: Mobile Computing,SecurityTeknovis @ 7:23 am

I was searching for a new secure instant messaging app, and I previously described my requirements in Secure Instant Messaging App Requirements. My search has finished, and I have a winner :) Let me explain how I got to this point :)

There are lots of messaging apps available that claim to be secure. Indeed, they may well be depending on what is meant by secure. My requirements were very clear, so it was relatively easy to reduce the field to an initial short list of four (in alphabetical order):

All of these apps are covered in the Secure Messaging Scorecard by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I found that was a very useful resource.

Surespot was the first to be eliminated. This was an easy decision, because there are rumours that it has been compromised. I am not sure that I believe all of these rumours, but they are enough to scare me away! See any of the following:

Telegram was next to be eliminated. It has several good and bad features, and the main ones of interest to me are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Available for desktops Founded by, and run by, Russians
Provides end-to-end encryption, but only for secret chats Group chats do not use end-to-end encryption
Scored 4/7 in normal use, and 7/7 for secret chats Uses phone numbers
Available for both Android and iOS There are some concerns over its use of a very custom protocol

It was fairly to easy to eliminate Telegram, because I do not like the way that it only provides end-to-end encryption in the secure chat mode. It would be too difficult for me to educate my target audience in the differences between the various types of chats.

This left Open Whisper Systems and Threema, and I spent the most time studying both of these. Obviously I looked at their respective web sites, and I also found the following two resources very useful:

The main good and bad features of Open Whisper Systems in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Open source Based in the US
Includes voice support Funded by the US government
Great endorsements (Bruce Schneier, Edward Snowden) Previous links with Twitter, and current vague links with Whatsapp/Facebook
Scored 7/7 Linked to the device’s SIM
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Integrates with the native messaging app
Provides end-to-end forward secrecy
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Similarly, the main good and bad features of Threema in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Does not include voice support
Provides end-to-end encryption for group chats No desktop version
Cryptography provided using a respected library (NaCl) Not free
Scored 5/7 Does not provide end-to-end forward secrecy
Not linked to the device’s SIM, so it can be used on devices without SIMs
Hosted in Switzerland
Standalone app
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Of course I realise that some of my opinions are very subjective (such as the nationalities of the people behind them). I am also aware that I must have a certain amount of trust in the app provider, and that no secure app in the world can compensate for a compromised operating system!

So what app did I ultimately select? Threema :) So far I have been extremely happy with my choice!

However, I have been impressed by Open Whisper Systems, and I am considering using it for work purposes. (I like to keep my personal apps separate from my work apps.)

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Sep 20 2015

The Billion Dollar Startup Club

Category: Business,InfographicTeknovis @ 12:40 pm

A very nice interactive infographic: The Billion Dollar Startup Club

Aug 30 2015

Deleting Temporary Files in Windows

Category: WindowsTeknovis @ 4:49 pm

I often get orphaned temporary files in Windows. Typically they are associated with an Office file that I have, and they normally have the same name, except that it is prefixed with a tilde.

I find them very annoying!

I never knew how to search for them until recently. It is actually very simple – just use the following command in the search box in Windows Explorer!


It works great!

Aug 16 2015

Secure Instant Messaging App Requirements

Category: Mobile Computing,SecurityTeknovis @ 10:18 pm

Lately I have been on a mission to find an instant messaging app for my mobile phone. The initial plan is to use it for personal purposes with immediate family members, and I am in the position of being able to move them all to a new app. I am less concerned about less immediate family and friends.

If there is a suitable app, then I want to be able to use it for work purposes also.

The obvious choice is WhatsApp, but I detest it in principle for a few reasons:

  • It is owned by Facebook, which I do not use – nor do I want to use it!
  • It is tied to a specific device, and it uses the phone number as an identifier. This is such an outdated approach!
  • I am very sceptical of its security model (i.e., there is none), and I dislike allowing an entity in the middle of my communications to have access to them!

In fairness to WhatsApp, the user interface is very polished and easy to use!

So my main mandatory requirements are:

  • Easy to use
  • Uses well established cryptography
  • Uses end-to-end encryption
  • Not dependent upon a mobile phone number (and hence capable of running on devices without SIMs)
  • Capable of sending and receiving photos
  • Supports group chats (less than 10 people)
  • Available for both Android and iOS
  • Trustworthy (whatever that means!)

Nice to have features include:

  • Available for Windows desktops
  • General verification features

Aspects that do not concern me:

  • Having to pay (a reasonable) once-off fee for it
  • Voice call features
  • Corporate features
  • Recalling messages
  • Remotely deleting messages
  • Establishing secure communications with people that I do not meet in person

I will create a new post in the near future describing what apps I eliminated, and what app(s) I decided to use!

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Aug 05 2015

Rube Goldberg Machine

Category: Humour,PeopleTeknovis @ 5:51 pm

Sometimes I wonder if my colleagues are building Rube Goldberg machines!

Jul 11 2015

The “Evil” Bit

Category: Humour,Networks,Security,StandardsTeknovis @ 6:37 pm

I had to read about the “Evil” bit in Request for Comments: 3514 this afternoon!

I wonder why it never caught-on!

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