A libcurl postergirl?

google for libcurl

If you click the image you’ll see a full-resolution screendump for my recent search for “libcurl” on google. Where did that (image of a) girl come from? Judging from where it appears on the results page right next to the information about the cURL project you can’t but assume that she’s somehow related to the project.

That’s of course not true. When moving the mouse over the image I get a tooltip with a funny “hair curling” URL and that’s also where a click on the image takes me.

A mighty weird way of presenting a search result if you ask me!

I like a good firmware bump

So I have this TV that I got for Xmas 2009. As it happens the guys at Philips clearly kept fixing the software and removed bugs after that moment. No surprise there really. I’ve been an embedded software developer for some twenty years by now. I know that software never gets “done” and that what ships in products is only what seems to be “good enough” at some point in time. Sometimes of course not even that good.

So the other day I took a photo of my TV firmware version. It shows how the firmware was made in April 2009. I did it during a discussion with a friend who happens to have the exact same TV as I do, and it then of course turns out he has a different (newer) firmware.

Oh right, I wonder if I can upgrade to a newer one? Once I’ve mastered the maze of the Philips web site I eventually found a download link and PDFs that told me how to. The list of fixes since my version was extensive and I noticed a few flaws mentioned that I have actually experienced!

The TV firmware download was a whopping 43MB. I realize this is because it is a full-fledged Linux system with kernel and God knows what else they’ve crammed in there. I decided to give it a closer check! The result of that was a little disappointing. It is quite clearly encrypted after some basic initial header.

hexdump -C firmware image

The data that starts on offset 0x220 is not x86 instructions and in fact nothing in the beginning of the file looks like x86 code (I just ran a quick “objdump -D –target binary -m i386” on the file). Of course, I don’t know what architecture my TV runs so perhaps even checking for x86 is wrong. I know MIPS is popular in DVDs, settop-boxes and related graphics stuff but…. Nah, I decided it really wasn’t worth the effort so I stopped investigating. I have no real intention of hacking on it anyway.

So I instead proceeded to the actual procedure of upgrading the thing.

Unzip the zip file and put the file in the root dir of a FAT32-formatted usb-stick. The instructions of course didn’t say it needs to be FAT32 but I used that and it worked, and I just smug in the dark to how a manufacturer like this just assumes that we would have FAT32 on our usb-sticks…

But I digress. When I inserted the upgrade USB, the TV switched itself off, was dark for a short while and then turned itself on again and showed the firmware upgrade screen.

The process was very fast, just like 30-40 seconds or something like that and then it was done and asked me to remove the “media” and restart. Of course we know that a usb stick is “media” so I removed it from the TV set.

The instructions were very clear that to “restart” the TV I must only press the ON/OFF button on the remote once and only once. So I was careful to do just that… 😉

Nothing strange happened, but after a brief moment of black screen the regular and familiar interface.

I jumped into the firmware version menu to check it out and yes, it shows an updated version now:

I did a quick check to see if I could detect my previous quirks now, but they may really be gone. They’ve been related to sound through HDMI and some graphical “glitches” when feeding the TV with full HD from a laptop.

So, with this firmware that was shipped many months after I got my TV, I seem to have gotten a better product.

I haven’t yet tested this new version to a significant degree so I don’t know yet if I’ve gotten some new nasty side-effects from it, as sometimes these kinds of firmware upgrades really cause you pain when something that formerly used to work so good suddenly turns out to not work that good any longer.

Stockholm from above

At my little party for my 40th birthday, I got a present from a few awesome friends: a flight over Stockholm by helicopter. At August 19th 2011 it was made into reality and I spent roughly 20 minutes in the air. I took a (shaky) movie of the tour that you can see below. Enjoy.

Tack Grönros, Ericsson och Feltzing!

I had the seat to the left of the driver and had a spectacular ability to view everything both forwards and to the left. The ride was “shaky” and you could really feel the wind affect the little thing. The weather was sunny and 20-21 something degrees Celsius, a perfect day for this.

To really make it a day, I also opened up and had a sip from my Smokehead Extra Black that I received at the same time as the helicopter ride. It was similarly super!

I took the video with my simple Fujifilm FinePix F100fd camera, and I edited it with Openshot – which I had never done before. I found it to be a nice experience and I’m likely to use that tool again. I also learned that if you upload a 1.2GB video to youtube that is longer than 15 minutes, it will allow you to waste a long time to upload it, it will convert it, it will give you a link to it and then when you view that link… it says the video was too long so you can’t see it!

What SOCKS is good for

You ever wondered what SOCKS is good for these days?

To help us use the Internet better without having the surrounding be able to watch us as much as otherwise!

There’s basically two good scenarios and use areas for us ordinary people to use SOCKS:

  1. You’re a consultant or you’re doing some kind of work and you are physically connected to a customer’s or a friend’s network. You access the big bad Internet via their proxy or entirely proxy-less using their equipment and cables. This allows the network admin(s) to capture and snoop on your network traffic, be it on purpose or by mistake, as long as you don’t use HTTPS or other secure mechanisms. When surfing the web, it is very easily made to drop out of HTTPS and into HTTP by mistake. Also, even if you HTTPS to the world, the name resolves and more are still done unencrypted and will leak information.
  2. You’re using an open wifi network that isn’t using a secure encryption. Anyone else on that same area can basically capture anything you send and receive.

What you need to set it up? You run

ssh -D 8080 myname@myserver.example.com

… and once you’ve connected, you make sure that you change the network settings of your favourite programs (browsers, IRC clients, mail reader, etc) to reach the Internet using the SOCKS proxy on localhost port 8080. Now you’re done.

Now all your traffic will reach the Internet via your remote server and all traffic between that and your local machine is sent encrypted and secure. This of course requires that you have a server running OpenSSH somewhere, but don’t we all?

If you are behind another proxy in the first place, it gets a little more complicated but still perfectly doable. See my separate SSH through or over proxy document for details.