[OT] Urban OS

Martin Baxter mblivecode at harbourhosting.co.uk
Sun Oct 2 06:34:16 EDT 2011

On 30/09/2011 17:23, stephen barncard wrote:
> THis is absurd for them to expect this to take off.

Optimistic perhaps, absurd is too strong. It strikes me as YAOM (Yet
Another Optimistic Moonshot). If they are exactly on target they may do
very well. If they miss, even slightly, they probably get nothing.

> What about security - not trivial

Not achievable either as long as hordes of unaccountable and frequently
clueless people are involved, which will obviously be the case. The
whole concept is a nightmare really, but nobody will realise until it
actually goes badly wrong because that's the way we do things, rush in
where angels fear to tread and D'oh later.

However, security will be a nightmare regardless of any OS that is or
isn't used, the fundamental issue is opening everything to the
possibility of remote control or monitoring. If history is anything to
go by, the more we are accustomed to thinking of a device as a dumb or
passive mechanism, the more casual we will be about its security. There
are apparently wireless interfaces in modern cars that have no security
worth speaking of, which could theoretically allow wireless attacks to
control parts of the car while on the road, medical implants such as
pacemakers can be hacked wirlessly. I recall hearing that the Taliban
eavesdropped on the control traffic of military drones which nobody
thought to encrypt!! People already hack traffic signs and ticker tape
displays and so on.

> Is this proprietary? - if so, bound to fail

Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, bound to fail.

> what processor is this based on?

Don't know, but my guess is whatever processor makes commercial sense.

> Who coordinates development and support?

LOL. Moxie Marlinspike Maybe?

> How is it paid for?

My assumption was that this is probably funded by venture capital at
present, and likely looking for more investors, hence the article.

> an OS of any kind is a big deal.  I am very skeptical.

Seriously, the sinister world of interconnected mundane gadgets is
supposed to be an inevitable outcome of ubiquious networking and IPv6
and if that is the case, it is surely arguable that there should be an
OS designed specifically for purpose rather than relying on some
cannibalised desktop OS.

I think I share your scepticism of this particular project, if only
because I don't know enough about it, but I would not be surprised if
something of this general nature is very successful at some point.

If you want to make some quick money though, write a scifi blockbuster
movie based around the premise of an urban environment that is entirely
connected and controlled by AI software which has gone mad. CGI fun!
Comedy/paranoia genre. "Brazil" on steroids. Plausibility irrelevant.

Actually, just the other day I threw out my keyboard after I realised it
was typing characters by itself and sometimes sending random keypress
commands to the OS. That's a foretaste of the future perhaps.

Martin Baxter

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