eXtensions - Wednesday 10 October 2018
eXtensions - Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (4): Live Railway Museum Visits and Some Wednesday Notes
By Graham K. Rogers
Apple sent a letter to Congress denying the reports Roger Fingas (AppleInsider) reports and also includes links to the Department of Homeland Security and GCHQ who are both "casting doubt on the allegations". The GCHQ comments are included in an item by Malcolm Owen (AppleInsider) and this comment is revealing: "We are aware of the media reports but at this stage have no reason to doubt the detailed assessments made by AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Apple." Bloomberg is sticking by its report. Comments from Homeland Security are included in an item by Jon Fingas (Engadget) and the main thrust is the same: no reason to doubt refutals at the moment.
Apple's letter to members of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Committee on Energy and Commerce is available online. Not only have no such chips been found, but the tone of the letter suggests some exasperation with Bloomberg. Apple has been working with them since October 2017. Some of the details were vague and some Apple inputs were ignored. As the letter suggests, it would be in Apple's interests to get to the bottom of anything like this, but nothing can be found. Apple also put out a Press Release.
The smoking gun (for me) was in a report cited by Philip Elmer-DeWitt (Apple 3.0) which examines the comments of hardware expert, Joe Fitzpatrick. He was interviewed by Patrick Gray Monday for his Risky Biz podcast and the main comments are cited here. He had been contacted by Jordan Robertson of Bloomberg who asked him about hardware and the possibilities for attacks using embedded chips. Fitzpatrick says: "details that were even remotely technical, seemed like they had been lifted from from the conversations I had about theoretically how hardware implants work", adding that when the attack vector was disclosed he told Jordan, "this doesn't make sense". A note from Bloomberg mentions that 17 sources were used and Joe FitzPatrick was not one of these.
Dressed to kill? - Photos by Maurice
Plan AAs this time of year is when fewer people are on vacation, many of the live railway museums are closed during the week. Sunday is the only day most operate: at least those within reach of my location. I had already decided that the Didcot Railway Centre was my main destination. I had been there last year on a static day: exhibits could be viewed, but there were no trains running.
The journey down was easy although the navigation system (Apple Maps) brought me to the station and not the parking facility I wanted: that was my fault. I soon found the area I wanted, but it was changed from last year, with a multi-storey car park in use (first floor only) and a new payment system in operation run by a private company. I had to enter the car registration number and then put the coins in. Rather than walk back to the car, I saw the number was hand-written on the key fob. After entering that number, I needed to put the right amount of coins (not notes) into the machine.
With no change given, the tariffs were an odd choice, with 4 hours priced at £4.10, just to catch those who did not have the right amount. The first time I tried, I had taken too long between entering the number and inserting the coins. The machine returned only 3 of my 4 pound coins. I tried again, but this time, only 1 coin was recognised as having been inserted, although all 4 were returned. The next time I was successful and the ticket appeared. When I returned to the car, I found I had misread the number: not KT18NBW but KT18NBN.
I tried to phone the company, but a recorded message told me that office hours were Monday to Saturday. I collected the cameras and my jacket, then walked to Didcot Station. I was given access to the station by railway staff when I told them I was visiting the rail centre and walked through the subway.
Plan BIn the car I looked at Apple Maps. From Didcot there appeared to be two options: Gloucester Warwickshire Railway at Toddington, which I had visited two years ago; or the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton, which was on the way home in a way. I made for Quainton and, although there were some families there, it was much quieter. There was also less live activity, with only one steam engine operating.
See also:Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (1): Return to UK
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (2): The Dance of the Red Kites
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (3): Bells in the Streets
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (5): Linton Zoo
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (6): Walks in the Country; Apple Watch 4; a Delayed Flight Home<>/a>
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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