I’ve been editing some of the honeymoon footage from Burma and I found these little loops that made for a great HTML5 video tag experiment, I hope you like them.
I was hoping that installing these would be as simple as apt-get install nodejs and apt-get install mongodb but it took a little more than that. NodeJS is straightforward but I needed this guide to build and install MongoDB. Even with this, the process took about a day to grind out on the Pi and left me with 75% of my SD card full.
Something they don’t really get into in the guide is that you need use raspi-config to knock the GPU memory down to 32mb in order for the build to succeed. Without that extra memory, the linker will fail with “ld terminated with signal 9 [killed]“.
The next step is to apt-get install npm and you can add express and mongoose to get your app started.
I bought a Raspberry Pi this week and used it to replace the server this blog is hosted on. There are plenty of guides to installing WordPress on the Pi but I was pleasantly surprised to find that none of them were necessary and the whole process took only a few hours.
I even managed to get Ampache up and running with little effort. Tomorrow I will add NodeJS and MongoDB and see how they run.
It is not as fast as the last server but the switch from a 250w power supply to the 3.5w that the Raspberry Pi consumes makes the whole effort worthwhile. I have overclocked the Pi, switched on Quick-Cache in WordPress and now I’m happy with the results.
Daniel Fitzpatrick kindly invited me to show some films at Hollywood Babylon last weekend and as ever it was a fantastic night out. I don’t know know how he managed to persuade so many people to come for the Super 8 films but I had a huge crowd for the trailers reel and the excerpts from Rollerball ’75.
I brought along my Kenneth Anger T-shirt and a professional-looking flashlight on a chain. The Cannon Distributors badge came courtesy of Hollywood Babylon. All I need is a haircut now.
Christmas is over and we got rid of the tree today, but it wasn’t all sad news; I put up Ronan’s Birdhouse in the back garden today. I haven’t been able to find a nest camera yet but at least the house is up in good time for nesting season.
I hosted another night of films in Annesbrook on the 11th, all organised by Shane at 50% Human. We screened films and provided a meal for about twenty guests. As well as some Super 8 digests, Tim Hawkins and I had spent the afternoon assembling a rough cut of a horror movie to round off the night whilst Carmel managed the logistics. At midnight we were able to premiere our short film;
‘The Picture in the House’ is a loose version of the H.P. Lovecraft story that marked a transition from gothic horror to a more local New England sort of tale. This adaptation shifts the action from post-civil war America to Ireland, after our own civil war. A young anthropologist collecting folk tales on a tape recorder takes shelter in a remote Mayo farmhouse during a storm and begins to doubt the occupant’s hospitality as a fever takes hold. The old man of the house can be seen in the still below;
Imagine the mind-bending horror when the hideous old man from the film appeared at the screening!
As well as the home-made horror, we had a full programme of films, from a 10 minute trailer of ‘The Phantom Planet’ with a surf rock soundtrack to a hypnotic screening of George Méliés ‘Voyage Dans la Lune’ from 1902.
Just before dinner we gave the audience a condensed version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and for a classic Halloween flavour we screened some Hammer House classics, The Crimson Cult and The Devil Rides Out. You can get a flavour of the films from this trailer I made for the night;
I think everyone had a good time.
We’ve had amazing halloween parties in Annesbrook for the last two years and we’re having our biggest ever this year. There’ll be a minibus laid on for anyone who wants to come up from Dublin. This year will be a mix of classic movies and hopefully some homemade horror films thrown in. There’s a three course meal and a Georgian ballroom. The house will be suitably spooky for the evening.
Today I spent some time adding user avatars to a NodeJS application. I’m using Formidable and Express to do it, but it’s finicky enough that I want to get the endpoint working before I start doing any forms.
If you want to upload an image with curl you can use
curl -d @avatar.jpg "http://localhost:3000/avatar/2"
but if you want to add some ancillary data, you’ll need something like;
curl -F "firstname.lastname@example.org;type=image/jpg"-F "id=2" "http://localhost:3000/avatar/2"
Whilst we were visiting Cambridge last month, we had an opportunity to take a trip to Bletchley Park. During the second world war the estate became the Government Code & Cypher School, where many of the brightest mathematicians and engineers of the time laid out the future of modern computing. Today the original buildings have been taken into a trust by volunteers and the large campus houses a number of museums, open to the public.
I have always wanted to visit but even more so since I found this passage in my Grandfather’s military record, from the Military Archive in Cathal Brugha barracks.
The entry is very cryptic; what is it referring to? He worked in G2, the Irish military intelligence organisation during the war (or ‘emergency’ as we like to call it). When I searched for the mysterious ‘Syko Code’ mentioned in the report, I was directed to the Park museum where they have one of the machines on display.
Bletchley Park is not pretty, it is a rather stuffy victorian house surrounded by dilapidated one-storey buildings of both brick and wood, painted white. The complex has a curiously anonymous understated air and does not look at all as if 9,000 people worked there.
The trust at Bletchley Park have restored the huts and equipment contained the Turing Bombes and Tommy Flower’s Colossus, but they have done so on a very small budget which has ensured that the complex is not over-restored and retains its original feel. Most of the important work was done in hastily-erected huts which were not intended to be permanent structures, you can see one being restored here.
We went on a tour with one of the volunteer guides which took us through from the construction of the first bombe to the electric relay machines that were necessary to decode the more complex ciphers that were in use towards the end of the war.
The staff made a really good job of illustrating the chronological progression of the code-breaking equipment as the cipher complexity ramped up. It is also possible to see how it ties in with Turing’s pre-war papers which are all presented in the museum.
Seeing the machines in situ conveys a very good sense of how cramped and gloomy the working conditions were. Once the Colossus machine starts running it also becomes very hot and noisy.
The guide painted a vivid depiction of the hut, blast walls over the windows, filled with cigarette smoke, hot in summer with the machine on and cold in winter when they pushed messages through a pipe connecting the decryption and descipherment huts.
Operating a bombe meant a full 8 hour shift on your feet and the Wrens only had a partial picture of the process. Communication between huts was forbidden and one Wren only discovered that the phone she used to deliver results connected to a neighbouring hut when she came back to visit the interpretive centre recently.
It seems the Bombe was a universal enigma machine. The intention was to “remove hay from a stack to find the needle” i.e. brute force the messages, and each 3 wheels on the bombe replicates one enigma machine. As you can see from the photographs, each bombe can attempt many parallel attacks.
Eventually this wasn’t enough. Although the Bletchley Park codebreakers made many optimisations and shortcuts, the Germans could exponentially increase the key size by adding wheels to their Enigma machines.
The Lorenz machines used towards the end of the war were invunerable to Bombe decryption but, with D-Day as a deadline, Tommy Flowers managed to deliver the first valve-driven electronic relay computer, Colossus.
Colossus was the real reason that the facility was shut down and dismantled after the war. Churchill wanted to make sure the Russians knew nothing of the decryption successes and there was a spy, John Cairncross, working in the facility.
The site also houses the National Museum of Computing, featuring an amazing array of familiar old machines. But the part I was really waiting for came at the end of the day when we visited the exhibition centre. Right at the back, behind the much more impressive Enigma and Lorenz machines, I found the Syko display case.
There are two machines, each with a description. They have carry cases and metal trays for holding messages. Evidently they were intended to be portable and they required no power source. Even from looking at the layout of the machine, it is obvious that the cipher is not very complex and in fact the German B-Dienst service cracked it during the war.
This does not particularly detract from the usefulness of the cipher; with regular changes of key, it could be used safely for air and sea traffic. “80 percent of the intercepted radio messages were read. However, only 10 percent of them were decrypted in time to take effective action“
Syko – Mark I
“A low-grade British mechanical cipher machine used for ground to air instructions by the RAF in World War Two. This cipher machine is very fiddly to use as the paper strips tear very easily.
This wooden-cased version dates from 1936 and is a prototype.”
Syko – Mark II
The Mark II Syko utilised sliding letters instead of paper strip and was more durable. The Mark II was used in the later stages of World War Two.”
I was delighted to finally get to look at the machine after chasing up the references but it did occur to me that it was unusual for the RAF to share encryption resources with the Irish intelligence service during the war when we were a neutral country. There was definitely a link between British and Irish intelligence at this time and some of the information collected in Ireland would have been of great interest to the RAF.
It appears that my Grandfather was also involved in collecting intelligence at Foynes airport and tracing bomber flight paths. The service was also involved in picking up and debriefing downed pilots from both sides. Maurice Walsh’s book on G2 describes the involvement of the head of signals at G2 (Richard Hayes) in the code-cracking effort; it details the contributions of G2 in breaking the Goertz cipher and a visit from ‘the head of their Cipher Department at Bletchley’.
Perhaps we were given the Syko machines in recognition of this collaboration or perhaps just so that British intelligence could monitor anything sent using the machines. There is a precedent for this; many former colonies were given Enigma machines by the British in the post-war period without being told that MI6 could read their messages. We also spent £1 million on a Crypto AG machines during the Anglo-Irish negotiations in the 1980s that later turned out to have a back-door for MI6.