ProtonMail: A better, secure, mail service?

A friend recently recommended I look into the ProtonMail Secure Email Service as an alternative to Gmail, Hotmail, or one of the other free email services.   So I decided to give it a try and requested an invite through their website.

While no networked computer or communications system can be completely secure this one seems to have the right mix of security + usability.  They have an interesting list of security features and are upfront about their services threat model.

This article from ExtremeTech is too early for ProtonMail but contains interesting information on secure email in general as well as some other services.

The main problem I’ve found with encryption is not that it is difficult for a techie or determined person to use.   It is that it is difficult for people in general to use, thus preventing it from becoming ubiquitous.

From ProtonMail’s website it seems that they have been to strike a balance between usability and security.   I have to wait a few days before my account is setup but I’m hoping they are right!

There is also an excellent paper writing by Daniel J. Solove on Misunderstandings of Privacy and their implications.   And I feel that while most people don’t have something to hide they also don’t necessarily want people to know their medical history or conditions, certain private family matters, and confidential business matters.  I strongly agree with Daniel that the discussion should not be about “having anything to hide,” and more of “why do you need to know?”

Once I’m able to get an account on Protonmail will post a follow up on ease of use and setup.

One last note on email security and computer security in general, any system is only as  secure as it’s weakest link.

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Commercial Drone/UAV services and ADS-B

Ok what does ADS-B have to do with UAV’s and Drones?  And why is Google looking at this technology?  I’ll get back to Google in a moment but first what is ADS-B and what does it do?

The acronym doesn’t really do it justice but here goes:   ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast.

Perhaps a simple explanation is that it allows your aircraft (or drone) to see other aircraft and also allows it to be seen by other aircraft.   This can be useful for situational awareness and Collision Avoidance (CA) amongst other things.

Wikipedia also has an entry that provides additional information.

So why are Google and other drone companies looking into this technology?   As commercial drones become more prevalent there is a very real and emerging need to ensure that unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft don’t cross paths at the wrong time and place.  With this technology, a drone could always or almost always take an avoidance action to avoid such a conflict.

The main problem with installing ADS-B in smaller aircraft, such as a drone, is that the payload is limited and somewhat costly.   Current systems for civil aviation can cost over US $1,500 making it a somewhat expensive technology to incorporate into many hobbyist and commercial drones.

However unmanned aircraft market will certainly need this or a similar technology in the future and I’m hopeful that Google and other engineering companies/individuals can help improve the technology to drive the cost down.

In the U.S. the  FAA has already issued some proposed rules and has a basic guide to safety, licensing and/or certification requirements posted on their website.

As I read through the FAA website, I noticed that it is already required for hobbyist aircraft to not interfere with and must give way to any manned aircraft.  This is as it should be, but what if the drone is flying a pre-programed route?  Or in a “follow-me” mode?

Hopefully manned aircraft won’t be flying that low, but if there is a cost-effective way to incorporate ADS-B then I believe it is possible to make this avoidance automatic.

Happy and safe flying!

DRONELIFE

I was just thinking about a creating a comparison database for all the various drones, quadcopters, and various RC craft.  The one thing about the web-sphere is sometimes you just have to think it and someone has already done it.

And as luck would have it, there is one!  If you are looking for a drone or any craft in that space, I highly recommend you check out DRONELIFE.COM!

Why?  A few reasons:

– Some amazing videos

– Video Tutorials

– Product Selector (by feature, price, flying time, and other criteria)

– Professional Services

– Applications

They may not have everything but they are pretty close and growing so I encourage you to check them out!

Kickstarter Projects I’m Following Part I

Below is a diverse collection of links for various Kickstarter as well as other projects I’m following with a short description of each project and category:

Home Automation

Switcheroo is a cool home automation/remote device control project that requires some skill to install but provides and interesting set of options in a VERY small form factor. [Almost Funded]

RC Aircraft and Semi-Autonomous Aircraft

C-mi  A compact, portable, light weight, manual and phone controlled copter with a quite a few camera and configuration options. [Funded]

Krossblade-Skyprowler A versatile craft with a removable fixed wing configuration.  The project also has a number of interesting software functions and features.  [Funded, but still many days left in the campaign]

The Vertex I didn’t think this would get funded but I like the idea of electronically variable flight configurations. [Project Ended – Not Funded]

Sensors

Femtobeacon I think this is an interesting project but given it’s size perhaps it can be also be incorporated in other devices. It’s current status is funded but I really want to follow how this projects develops.

Gimbal Not sure if this belongs under sensor, photography, or drone category but I think it is a quite interesting gimbal project. [Funded – Still days to go]

Photography

Radian2  As they say on the project page this is a camera (DSLR) accessory that allows for timelapse, motion control, and remote control of your camera.   [It is already funded, but still a few days left in the campaign]

3d Printing

Hubble Laser Cutter An affordable and versatile laser cutter that I’m happy to say met their funding goal. [Funded – Days to go on their campaign]

I’m halfway done with my list more to follow…

RC Aircraft APMs and Sensors

Ever wonder why or how there all of sudden came to be so many different semi-autonomous “drone” models?  The answer is open source hardware and software and this is a good thing!

Below are links that I found interesting related to the development of both hardware and software solutions:

The following collection of links, is again, mostly for my own benefit for future reading and research.

APM (Auto-Pilot Modules) Hardware, Software (Firmware), and Sensors

– A good place to start is the Linux Foundation’s Dronecode site.

Pixhawk Software and Hardware (Pixhawk.org)

3DR’s Store for Pixhawk Hardware

The link below about what a FLOW camera is and how it works can also be found at Pixhawk.org, but I found the description and documentation to be very interesting and helpful.  They also have an inline video showing the sensor in action!

PX4FLOW Smart Camera

Sensors:

MaxBotix Ultrasonic Sensors

More from MaxBotix on understanding sensor “beam patterns.”

This is just the start of what will ultimately be a comprehensive list of add-on sensors, not just the currently listed ones from the sites above, but emerging technologies as well.   More to follow soon…

A documentary video on autonomous aircraft and drones

Found this documentary video about all kinds of autonomous aircraft and drones on YouTube whilst looking for something else:

The future drone wars

To be honest I found the first part of the video to be somewhat of a history lesson with the more modern technology being presented in the second half of the video…so if you get bored skip ahead!

It is fascinating, to me at least, to see the miniaturization and cost reductions of various sensors and MEMS technologies to allow the APS (Auto Pilot System) to do things it can do. I will write more on this in a subsequent post.

 

Welcome!

Dear Visitor,

What is Ontology? I like the way Tom Gruber from Stanford defines it even if this site doesn’t strictly incorporate these principles.

Mostly this site is organized around my own personal interests and was started as a way to share articles and links with friends and colleagues.  It is however a public site so if you find your way here somehow hopefully you will also find some of the articles interesting or useful.

Kind Regards,

XS