Have you seen all that stuff in the news about Amazon’s proposed new delivery method? At first glance, it looked like an April Fool’s joke – but then I remembered it was December. My money’s on it being a project that nobody intends to come to fruition; but a very clever bit of marketing for a month when Amazon sees more business than it does in any other month of the year.
The idea here is that orders under five pounds weight will be delivered to your doorstep in 30 minutes by one of these little drones from 2015. Let’s put aside objectionable thoughts about getting civil aviation licences for thousands of drones at one time; about scalability; about range; and about the way people in certain of Amazon’s markets have a habit of keeping guns in the house and shooting things. It’s a nice bit of PR and it made me smile.
But I was particularly tickled to find several people email me Samy Kamkar’s other objection to the drone idea: namely that they’d be very simple to subvert if you happen to be the no-moral-compass type who wants to get their hands on other people’s shopping. And (astonishingly quickly, given that Amazon broke the news three days ago), he’s built a demonstration of just how you’d go about doing that. Samy’s SkyJack is an autonomous drone that seeks other drones within range of its WiFi and hacks them, turning them into zombies under its control. Samy says:
Using a Parrot AR.Drone 2, a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUS036H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, node-ar-drone, node.js, and my SkyJack software, I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will.
We at Pi Towers are full of raucous glee. You can read more about SkyJack and Samy’s exploits, and find out how he did it, at his website.
Oh – and you can buy a Raspberry Pi from Amazon.
I had mail yesterday from Andrew Gregory, a Linux journalist we’ve really enjoyed working with over the last few years. Andrew was already writing about Raspberry Pi before we had even started selling them, and it was good luck for us and for him that on the day we announced our launch, he already had a life-sized image of the Raspberry Pi squarely positioned on the front cover of Linux Format Magazine in shops across the UK. We like Andrew. He’s good people.
Andrew and much of the rest of the editorial team has since departed Linux Format, and they’re working on setting up a new magazine – one with a business model which we think will resonate incredibly well with the FOSS community; it’s a business model which is completely new in the magazine sector. Linux Voice, which is currently raising money via IndieGogo for its launch, has got us all aquiver.
Sample content: part of a Minecraft Pi tutorial. Click to embiggen.
What makes Linux Voice unusual? It’s that business model. Fifty percent of profits will go straight back to FOSS and Linux communities, with readers given the ability to nominate which projects, devs and events are sponsored. And after each issue of the magazine has been out for nine months, all of its content will be made available for free under a CC BY-SA licence. This is not something I’m aware of any other paid-for magazine doing, and it has enormous implications for teachers, after-school groups – and for the rest of us.
We’re very excited about this project. We know the team, and they’ve got some great writers and editors on board with a huge breadth and depth of domain knowledge and experience. These are the people who first put an article about Raspberry Pi on newsstands. I asked Andrew if he had a few words for readers of this website, and this is what he sent me:
Under traditional licensing systems, the copyright owner can print and reprint content as often as they see fit, often charging several times for the same old copy.
We don’t want to exploit our readers by charging them several times for the same old content, but we also don’t want our old content mouldering away on some server somewhere. Instead, we’d rather it were put to use. Things move on so quickly in free software that a lot of our old content will be worthless to us commercially, but it will have value to teachers, students, maker groups and code clubs.
Releasing Linux Voice’s material under the CC-BY-SA licence means that anyone will be able to take what we’ve done and update it, so it doesn’t go stale; incorporate it into larger works, such as school or university worksheets; or just download it and use it as it is.
What this means is that once we’ve created something, it will (we hope) be out there, and be useful to somebody, for ever. Learning is about sharing knowledge, and we want to help make our contribution to the shift in computer science teaching that’s been kicked off by the Raspberry Pi.
We’re proud to support Linux Voice, and we’re watching their IndieGogo like a hawk. Please head along and sign up to support them by buying a print or digital subscription. We’ll be signing up alongside you.
Well, that was a very long 30 days for both of us. Thanks to the following people and organizations, and one anonymous donor, for raising £1,500 (plus £236 of gift aid) to support Movember’s work in promoting men’s health.
PiFace – OpenLX SP Ltd
TR Computers Ltd
I’ll leave you with a picture of the final result, and the scene in Liz’s and my bathroom at one minute past midnight on Sunday morning.
Enjoying one last moment of moustache-themed goodness.
Have you tried turning it off and on again? Decembeard here we come.
We’re welcoming a new member to the team at Pi Towers today. Some of you already know Ben Nuttall from his work on the Pi Weekly email newsletter (if you haven’t signed up already, you should), his hosting of the Manchester Jams, and his STEM activities.
Ben is sheepish about being photographed. He asked me to use a picture of Fry from Futurama instead. Tough luck, Ben.
I first crossed paths with Ben when we met the incredible Amy Mather, a 14-year-old from Manchester who does amazing things with her Pi. Ben was tutoring Amy outside school, along with a number of other local kids, and we got chatting as a result of his work with her. He’s a STEM Ambassador, a FLOSS advocate, and curates Pi projects for youngsters. He’s also saved the life of a drowning, hypothermic, trouserless dinghy paddler. Like many of us, he cycles to work. His laptop has a sticker of Carrie Anne Philbin on it. His birthday cake had raspberry icing. We think he’s going to fit in just fine.
Ben just moved to Cambridge from Manchester for this job at the weekend. He’s going to have a number of roles here: he’s working on a revamp of this website, with separate areas for projects and for educators, which we’ll be trialling in 2014. He’s building demos; writing educational materials; and doing outreach work, especially with kids. We’re very excited to have him join us: welcome to the family, Ben!