Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

October 13th, 2020

The latest iteration of Microsoft Flight Simulator was released August 18th, 2020. I had always considered getting earlier iterations of MSFS, and I hesitated even on the current iteration. Although it has had software issues, I do not regret buying the Premium Deluxe edition eight days after its release. The software continues to be supported by the developers, Asobo Studio SARL. At the time of writing, three major updates have been released and several updates are planned.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is more than a video game. While interacting with the simulator, I learned about the auto-pilot systems used by Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. This knowledge eased the transition to the Garmin G1000 and auto-pilot systems used in other aircraft. I have also gained familiarity with instrument landing systems (ILS), distance measuring equipment (DME), VOR navigation, and the phraseology used between pilots and air traffic controllers. This software has motivated me to look at approach plates and VFR charts. Documentation, tutorials, and instructional videos unrelated to flight simulation are also applicable to Microsoft Flight Simulator. Everything that I have learned may be useful for when I work toward a private pilot license with instrument rating.

Cessna 172 landing at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (KHHR)

Once the novelty of flying jetliners on auto-pilot and landing with ILS wears off, actively managing indicated airspeed, vertical speed, altitude, approach heading, and keeping centered with the runway makes landing the most rewarding aspect of the simulator. Actively landing, sometimes with assistance from instruments in nighttime, foggy, or cloudy conditions, is a worthwhile experience.

The above video shows my landing a Cessna 172 at KHHR on runway 25 (“runway two-five”). The plane is maneuvered so that it is flying west parallel to the I-105. The plane flies over the I-110 on its approach to the airport. KLAX is visible to the right of KHHR.

Frames are noticeably dropped in the video. My desktop computer, which the simulator reports is unsupported, consists of the following components:

  • ASUS AREZ Radeon RX560 2GB (AREZ-RX560-2G-EVO) [$99.99]
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600X [$189.99]
  • MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus ATX [$154.99]
  • G.Skill 2x8GB DDR3200 [$69.99]
  • Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 SSD 500GB [$104.99]
  • NZXT H510i ATX Case [$99.99]
  • Corsair RM850 80+G Fully Modular ATX PSU [$159.99]

Subtotal: $879.93
Tax (7.75%): $68.19
Total: $948.12

The video card is the performance bottleneck. An MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10GB [$854.99] seems worthwhile. The experience provided by Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is definitely worth the cost of upgrading.

Transitioning SSH from RSA to ED25519

May 27th, 2020
Posted in Security | No Comments

Nick Sullivan1 writes:

You can compute how much energy is needed to break a cryptographic algorithm and compare that with how much water that energy could boil. This is a kind of a cryptographic carbon footprint. By this measure, breaking a 228-bit RSA key requires less energy than it takes to boil a teaspoon of water. Comparatively, breaking a 228-bit elliptic curve key requires enough energy to boil all the water on earth. For this level of security with RSA, you’d need a key with 2,380 bits.

ED25519 uses a 256-bit elliptic curve key.

Release notes for OpenSSH 8.3 announce that ssh-rsa is disabled by default in future releases. It is a good time to adopt ed25519 for public key authentication.

Installed Debian 10.4 on Mini 9

May 24th, 2020

I successfully installed Debian 10.4 on the Dell Mini 9 (Inspiron 910).

Facing discontinuation of support for 32-bit x86 systems after Lubuntu 18.04 LTS, I was pressured to find another GNU/Linux distribution. I wanted to avoid future transitions and found several pages on the Internet suggesting that Debian is known for long term support of many architectures.

I tried the Debian 10.4 LXQt (non-free) LiveCD, debian-live-10.4.0-i386-lxqt+nonfree.iso, before continuing with installation.

The wired network card has no issues, but the wireless network card does. I encountered the following errors when booting the LiveCD:

[26.504] b43-phy0: Broadcom 4312 WLAN found (core revision 15)
[26.562] b43-phy0: Found PHY: Analog 6, Type 5 (LP), Revision 1
[26.562] b43-phy0: Found Radio: Manuf 0x17F, ID 0x2062, Revision 2, Version 0
[26.576] Broadcom 43xx driver loaded [ Features: PNLS ]
[26.624] b43 ssb0:0: firmware: failed to load b43/ucode15.fw (-2)
[26.624] b43 ssb0:0: Direct firmware load for b43/ucode15.fw failed with error -2

Before migrating from Lubuntu 18.04 LTS to Debian 10.4, I created an archive of the /usr/lib/firmware/b43 files from my Lubuntu installation for copying onto the new Debian installation.

I avoided having to enable the non-free repository and installing additional packages by simply copying the b43 files after installation. Rebooting after copying the files allows for the firmware to be loaded:

[24.419] b43-phy0: Broadcom 4312 WLAN found (core revision 15)
[24.475] b43-phy0: Found PHY: Analog 6, Type 5 (LP), Revision 1
[24.475] b43-phy0: Found Radio: Manuf 0x17F, ID 0x2062, Revision 2, Version 0
[24.496] Broadcom 43xx driver loaded [ Features: PNLS ]
[24.540] b43 ssb0:0: firmware: direct-loading firmware b43/ucode15.fw
[24.541] b43 ssb0:0: firmware: direct-loading firmware b43/lp0initvals15.fw
[24.544] b43 ssb0:0: firmware: direct-loading firmware b43/lp0bsinitvals15.fw
[24.630] ieee80211 phy0: Selected rate control algorithm 'minstrel_ht'

connman is used to manage the wireless network card. Graphical user interface front-ends to connman were finicky. I proceeded with using connmanctl.

My Dell Mini 9 is usually an isolated computer. I disabled the connman service so that it does not connect to the wireless network automatically during boot:

$ sudo systemctl disable connman

When I update the software, I start the connman service for temporary connectivity to the wireless network with the following command:

$ sudo systemctl start connman

All features of my Dell Mini 9 are now functioning without any issues.

What is a Nonce?

May 7th, 2020
Posted in Security | No Comments

A nonce is a value, N, that is used only once: Nonce. Nonces or nonce values are encountered in cryptography.

The initialization vector used for AES in CBC mode are typically nonces:

C1 = CIPHK(P1 ⊕ Nonce)
Cj = CIPHK(Pj ⊕ Cj-1) for 2 <= j <= n

Here, cipher block 1 is the result of the cipher block function keyed on K applied to the XOR value of plaintext block 1 and a nonce. The following cipher blocks are the result of the cipher block function keyed on K applied to the XOR value of the corresponding plaintext blocks and the previous cipher block.

apr: Failed Creating Threads

May 5th, 2020

There is a potential segmentation fault when executing ‘make test’ while building apr-1.7.0. The following lines are output:

testatomic          : -Line 413: Failed creating threads
-/bin/sh: line 2: XXXXX Segmentation fault      ./$prog -v
Programs failed: testall
make[1]: *** [check] Error 139
make[1]: Leaving directory `.../apr-1.7.0/test'
make: *** [check] Error 2

The segmentation fault is caused by a call to apr_thread_join() on an invalid apr_thread_t instance in test_atomics_threaded(). The problematic functions, test_atomics_threaded() and test_atomics_threaded64(), continue processing even when apr_thread_create() returns an error value.

The segmentation fault is avoided and the remaining tests are executed if either of the following is performed on …/apr-1.7.0/test/testatomic.c:

1. Comment out the following lines:

abts_run_test(suite, test_atomics_threaded, NULL);
abts_run_test(suite, test_atomics_threaded64, NULL);

2. Update NUM_THREADS with a smaller number, for example:

#define NUM_THREADS 25

A lack of memory resources is the underlying cause of this segmentation fault. Reducing the number of threads created for these tests allows testing the atomic operations as intended.