General, General Science, Robotics, Technical

Underwater ROV Project (Part 1)


As as the tides ebb and flow so do my posts.

For the last 6 months I have been designing, sourcing parts for, and building an underwater “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It started from a simple thought, “what should I do with my Raspberry Pi zero?” and turned into a multi-month, $400 expenditure that has taught me much about electronics and various kinds of fabrication.

Why an underwater ROV? Well, I live near the Pacific Ocean and spent 2 years writing control software for a competitive Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) team. Where an ROV needs a human controller (usually through a joystick) an AUV is fully autonomous and has no line going to shore or to a ship. It makes decisions “by itself”.

The ROV I am currently building has AUV capabilities but I have not written the software for it just yet. I plan to in the future.

I plan to chronicle my ROV’s construction and this is the first of a 2-part series on it.

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General Science, Technical

Privacy and Identity

I have always been a (relatively) cautious man when it came to providing personal information online. I know these words come from the owner of, but willfully disclosing information online is different than providing information that is to be kept private. Different rules apply. Some information can leak though – such as your name in news articles, academic papers, crawlers that scrape social media, etc.

In many talks, courses, and my own discussions I am seeing a trend where the “traditional” sense of privacy, where the idea it to not provide any information unless it is required, is shifting (with the help of social media). This “minimalistic” mentality is great for restricting the dissemiation of personal information – especially online. However, the “new” sense of privacy gravitates towards liberally providing personal information and having complete control on how that information is accessed by third parties (or the original holder of the information).

This is a big change, and it can lead to disastrous outcomes.

Take myself, for example, I limit the information that I add to social media websites (if I use any at all) and I make sure to continually review the privacy measures for each one. I try to apply the best of both “traditional” and “new” privacy approaches. This can work fantastically if you explicitly trust the website (or group) to secure your private information. I even run queries on my name in various search engines to see what are the results. This gives me a rough measure as to how exposed I am to crawlers.

What I did not expect is that, after taking care to secure my own online “identity” and my private information, the weakest link would be my government. I am talking about the current situation with the Canadian Student Loan information breach. A removable hard drive with the personal information of over half a million current, or previous, students disappeared. I was shocked. I suppose I shouldn’t have been.

All of my hard work; circumvented by the carelessness of a person I had never met – someone that I never knew was even handling my personal information.

Through my frustration I have come to be reminded that the weakest link in most security, or privacy, chains is the human link. The link that requires a person the have the correct training, common sense, and authorization to access, transport, and dispose of my personal information correctly and securely.

In my case, this is the second time that a major organization has “lost” my personal information due to a removable hard drive: Note that removable hard drives are usually restricted in general for this reason.

All I can do is take the necessary precautions – now that it’s out there.

General Science

Asteroid-Mining Company Launch Revitalizes Space Hopes

In the wake of the decommissioning of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, and also it’s success with the Mars rover “Curiosity”, a new company has cast it’s lot into the space game. This company, Deep Space Industries Inc, is focusing on near-Earth asteroid mining. They plan to have prospect ships working by the year 2015.

This is on the heels of the company Planetary Resources’ unveiling last April with a similar goal.

This is quite an interesting development as space mining companies, backed by some wealthy investors, may become the new “space race”. There is a lot of money to be made if you can figure out how to get the resources back to Earth. I suspect some may be waiting and watching these two companies, and their success may trigger more to follow suit.