about & FAQ

absorptions is a blog about my hobbies. So far it's mostly about signals, electronics and programming, but may pick up a random new field at any point. It's a place for me to direct my need to talk nerdy. Why? I like the smell of unsolved mysteries. Call them obsessions or special interests; I call them absorptions.

Here I've collected some questions often asked in the comments section etc.

Contact info

How did you learn about signals? How could I learn, too?

See my nerd story. I learnt by spending most of my free time SWLing, programming, playing musical instruments, and reading for many, many years. This geeky stuff is what I've always enjoyed doing and I find it relaxing as well. It's like when some people like listening to heavy metal or reading manga, and end up having a lot of knowledge on the subject as a byproduct.

Here are some sources that might be suitable for beginners:

And maybe not-so-beginners:

I don't sell ad space nor do I write sponsored content or product reviews at this point.

Do you do talks or workshops?

I've talked about my blog at several events, notably Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Hamburg, 44CON in London, and t2 infosec in Helsinki. See above for contact info and availability.

Videos of some talks:

What's your decoding software of choice?

Some command-line tools I use:

  • csdr does many kinds of basic low-level DSP tasks and can be used with pipes on the command line.
  • SoX can do sinc filtering and writing WAV file headers.
  • For simple FSK stuff, minimodem is the perfect choice.
  • multimon-ng for many digital modes

I've also written a number of special-purpose tools in C++ myself, many of them using the liquid-dsp library. Some of these are open source:

Have you heard about GNU Radio?

I have heard about GNU Radio, but haven't found it particularly useful yet. I don't use GNU Radio in my projects, simply because I'm happy with my current toolset.

What kind of radio hardware you've used in this blog?

In most radio-related projects I've used a cheap USB DVB-T receiver stick, also known as RTL-SDR. Some FM radio related projects were done using a modified "worldband receiver".

What's the software you use to draw graphics and waveforms?

For waveforms I use my own program called oscille (explained in a blog post). Baudline renders beautiful spectrograms. For graphics design and compositing I use Inkscape, GIMP, ImageMagick, and librsvg.

So you're a 'hacker'. That means you break into computers? Could you hack my friend's Facebook account?

No, this is a misconception. People who break into computers are security hackers; I'm not a security hacker. Contrary to popular belief, a 'hacker' is someone who misuses technology to learn and alter how it works. See hacker definition ambiguities on Wikipedia.

Why I originally labeled myself a 'hacker' is explained in this post. Long story short, I reverse engineered an encryption that was supposed to be "adequate to deter other than the most determined hacker", as literally stated by the standard. But I didn't break into any computer; instead I received a public FM radio broadcast.

I also can't hack your friend's Facebook account.

Hui, olet siis hakkeri. Ethän murtaudu tietokoneelleni?

Tämä on yleinen väärinkäsitys. Tietokoneisiin murtautujat ovat tietoturvahakkereita; minä en ole tietoturvahakkeri. Hakkerit ovat yleisemmin tietokoneiden ja muiden teknisten järjestelmien toiminnasta, muuntelusta ja rakentelusta innostuneita harrastajia. Populaarikulttuurissa sen merkitys on typistynyt tietoverkkorikolliseksi.

Tämän postauksen alusta selviää, miksi kutsuin itseäni hakkeriksi: erään salausmenetelmän kuvausdokumentissa nimittäin todettiin, että salaus on riittävän vahva pysäyttääkseen muut paitsi "kaikkein määrätietoisimmat hakkerit", ja purin tämän salauksen. En kuitenkaan murtautunut mihinkään järjestelmään, vaan vastaanotin ainostaan Radio Suomen FM-lähetystä tavallisella radiolla.

Oletko ns. valkohattuhakkeri tai hyvishakkeri, joka paljastaa tietoturvahaavoittuvuuksia?

En ole; tämä on yleinen väärinkäsitys. Olen työkseni ohjelmistokehittäjä eli ohjelmoija. Vapaa-ajallani muun muassa teen musiikkia ja kuuntelen radiotaajuuksia. En siis etsi tietoturvahaavoittuvuuksia enkä siksi myöskään voi sellaisia paljastaa.

Tämän postauksen alusta selviää, miksi kutsuin itseäni hakkeriksi: erään salausmenetelmän kuvausdokumentissa todettiin, että salaus on riittävän vahva pysäyttääkseen muut paitsi "kaikkein määrätietoisimmat hakkerit", ja purin tämän salauksen.

Hakkeri on myös yleisemmin sana, jota käytetään näperrystasolla tietotekniikkaa harrastavista ihmisistä. Haavoittuvuuksien etsijöille ja minulle on kyllä yhteistä uppoutuminen teknisiin yksityiskohtiin.

Will you decode this signal / write this program for me?

Yes, I can be paid to do reverse engineering or programming; see contact details and availability above.

C++ and Perl are my preferred programming languages. I don't do GUI / mobile app / web development at this point. Please note that I also have a full-time job.

Could you release source code for this project you wrote about?

Unfortunately I don't usually release source code. A couple of reasons:

  1. To spare me of the burden of dealing with bug reports and support requests.
  2. I feel partly responsible for things people do with tools I made.
  3. Code is a programmer's calling card. I like to control the quality of code I release. Some of my hobby code might be quickly put together, sloppily designed, difficult to read, or downright unsafe.

I have published some of my more matured projects on GitHub.

What do you do for a living?

I work as a C++ programmer.

What's your educational background?

I'm a High School graduate, see my nerd story.

What are you working on right now?

I work full-time as a software developer. As for the blog, I always have some posts as drafts, but there are no rigid plans or schedules. When the blog starts to become a burden I take pauses of several months – even years – to think about other things. These would be outside the subject matter of this blog. They include music making, photography, and the universe, broadly speaking. I also like bike rides.

How is your name pronounced?

/ɔ:nɑ/ ("awna")

I have questions!

I'm on ask.fm.

10 comments:

  1. Discovered the dial-up poster last year. Loved it.
    Discovered your blog today. Enjoyed it.
    Saw that you have a radio license. Congrats!

    de VA1DF

    ReplyDelete
  2. I grew up hacking telephone systems, A lot of this for me is the old school of tech. Still, I find your signals analyses really interesting. Thanks again.

    -C

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi

    Great blog! Would you mind sharing the details of the HW you use for your investigations?

    Thanks
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I've added info about that.

      Delete
  4. Hi Oona,
    I started to follow your blog some years ago, congrats, I love this stuff... A personal question came up (sorry I'm curious), what's your type/result of Myers-Briggs test?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oona, what is the baudrate of the human ear and auditory processing system? What I mean is that someone could listen to and process a morse code transmission at 300 letters per second using just a single frequency (and different durations). If we added more frequencies could we double or quadruple this rate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Googling around, seems there's a world record for CW RX from 1939, at 75 WPM = 6 letters per second.

      Delete
  6. hi, if you didnt know there is a nice project on SDR, modem, codecs. There is even a physics defying low power tests... http://www.rowetel.com/blog/

    ReplyDelete

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