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Rick's Kitemark

You see that little kite flying up in the title (desktop view only)? That is my kitemark. That is my self-certified promise to you that I will never ever leak any of the information that I don't have on you. Your bank account details, that you have not given me, are entirely safe and no amount of hacking or SQL attacks against Rick's Blog will cause this information to fall into the hands of Russian criminals. Or criminals of other nationalities, for that matter.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, go Google for "TalkTalk", a British ISP run by a well connected woman by the name of Dido Harding who gets paid a lot (£4M last year, I believe) to utterly NOT have anything that even resembles a clue when it comes to data security practice and... well... go read some of the quotes. Read some of the stories. Watch the progression of events as politicians and regulators alike fall over themselves to protect one of society's supposed elite.
She needs fired. No golden handshake, a cardboard box and escorted from the premises. Most of the management needs fired for equal amounts of incompetence. And somebody with a clue about basic security should be brought in to fix things. It does not matter that they are not legally obliged to encrypt data, they handle customer's private data including credit card details. There is a basic duty of care that shouldn't make it possible for a teenager with an SQL injection (the current line of enquiry as of time of writing) to extract that sort of customer information. The back end (customer details, payment processor, etc) should be segregated from the front end (website) and it should respond to specific requests. Customer wants to change their bank card details? Fine. It's write only. The back end will only disclose the last four digits of the card. No amount of hacking the front end will change that.
But no. A person without a clue is managing a company without a clue, and if this was any normal company (you or I, for instance), there would be police investigations into our malpractice, the ICO would be saying "kerching!" and the credit card companies (who, incidentally, appear to specify encryption as part of their compliance protocol) would drop our company like a hot potato. But, hey, that's because we're nobody and we aren't connected except in a digital sense.

So there you have it. In one of the dumbest ideas to not come from Dido herself, an MP whose name I have forgotten suggested that trustworthy websites ought to have a kitemark like the ones used by British Standards. Taking this idea, I have decided that my website is "safe" and have, accordingly, found a nice animated kite (here), and stuck it on my title bar.
Rick's blog is safe.


Of course, you won't see this if you use the mobile version of my blog. That's because you are using a mobile device so you're already screwed. If Apple isn't tracking you, Google undoubtedly is...



Having previously experimented with helicopters, I finally took the plunge and got myself a drone. In this case, a PNJdrone DR-BEE.

Here it is on my desk:

The more interesting thing is below. Not just a camera, but a WiFi camera:

In flight, the drone drifts, but this is most likely because I have not trimmed the controls yet. It's my first flight, okay? ☺ The drone is actually pretty stable in flight, way moreso than the helicopters. I can imagine once I have the controls trimmed, it will hang steady in the air.
I did not get much time in the back hangar as I flew the drone all the way around from the front of the house. I have never ever (not once) had such a controlled flight with a helicopter. The helicopters tended to go where they wanted to go. The drone went (more or less) where I told it to go. Bear in mind that this was in the darkness, as well.

The controller is a 2.4GHz device, the usual two-stick design. The left stick is for up and down and left/right rotation. The right stick is for moving forwards, backwards, left, and right. It's an eager thing, I've not "opened 'er up", so to speak. Pushing the forward control slightly, the drone tips itself forward and is outta there. Accordingly, for small movements (as in the video below), it is some delicate work.

The range of the controller appears to be around 70 metres (according to the booklet) and 50 for the phone link. The phone link is by way of a built-in WiFi hotspot. Connect to it, start up a special app, and you're good to go.

This, however, is a double-edged sword. The good part, and one of the reasons I considered buying this drone, is that you can actually see what the drone sees. When I am a bit more used to the behaviour of this device, I will have a crack at flying in the daylight using the FPV (first person view). There is a nifty little clip that fits onto the controller to hold a smartphone so you can look at it while controlling the device, and see what it sees. I didn't take any photos, it is night time so there was an awful lot of black to look at.
The downside? It is the phone that performs the video recording. This means that it is only capable of recording as well as the drone can fling data; and that seems to work out at around 250KiB per second, at a resolution of 720×576 at 25Hz (full size PAL). I did a test last night and it was full of noise. Absolutely horrid. Convinced that no product that bad would make it to market sufficiently to be picked up by the local supermarket, I went out the following morning and tried in the daylight. Different story! So the original video has been removed.

Other stuff: The drone has an array of indicators. There are red LEDs inside, on the main board and on the camera board. We can skip these. There are two "eye" LEDs, but mostly hidden behind the top casing, they are mostly for character. Shame, some bright white LEDs like on a phone torch could have added some interesting possibilities. This leaves us with the four LEDs, one on each arm. Yellow for the front, red for the back. Invaluable for knowing which way you are facing at night! The arm lights also provide status on the drone. Rapid blinking means the controller has not synced. Steady means ready to fly. Slow blink means the battery is running out (and you have about 30 seconds in which to land).

The Android software has three control modes. The first is "off" which means the controller will be used to pilot the drone. The second mode places a joystick on the screen and you can control it with touch. This should be an interesting exercise in how to crash a drone - it might work on a iPad or tablet, but I'm not sure I'd want to attempt it on the small size of the screen of a phone, especially given that you'd be likely to use thumbs (your biggest and clumsiest digit). The final control option is surely made of fail - you can use the sensors in your phone to control the drone by tipping and rotating the phone. Oh, wow. You don't want to know how badly I suck at Penguin Racing. There's no way I'm ever going to try this!
The camera module is detachable, and there are recessed sockets marked "WiFi" and "Cam". It rather suggests that it may be possible to swap out the WiFi camera for a traditional SD card type. Or, you can just take the camera off if you'd like to save 10g. The drone - with camera, battery, and blade guards fitted - weighs 149g.
The battery is changeable. It is a 3.7V 750mAh LiPo pack. It takes about 45 minutes to charge, for about 7-8 minutes of flying time.
To finish up - here is a photo taken from the drone in my room. You can see it is much clearer. I'm not sure if this is a result of better lighting, the phone being about 10cm away from the WiFi transmitter, or the controller (which uses the same frequency range!) is not in use.

That said, I can't be too hard on it. This device cost me €80 (well, 79,99 but who still falls for that?) which places it in the "slightly expensive toy" category. The manufacturer makes other drones. The better ones? They cost half a month's wages. So, yeah, I must be realistic as to the capabilities of this drone.
But, come on. FPV for under three digits. What's not to like?



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Rob, 23rd August 2016, 19:55
Makes me laugh, any data breach, the breached all go on about how your credit cards are safe (or not..) Like losing a credit card number is the end of the world! I mean, what's the chance of your bank immediately refunding you for fraudulent transactions. Or stopping the cards and issuing you with new ones at zero notice. Now, if they lose my name, date of birth, postal address, they don't care. Because, of course, it's just so each for me to change those, isn't it?!
Rob, 23rd August 2016, 19:56
s/so each/so easy/ 

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