Following the success of the CTF the St. Louis chapter of the MCPA had put on in the Summer of 2015, we decided that we would make it a recurring event. Unfortunately, the scoring platform that we had used to keep track of team scores did not meet our needs and was cumbersome to work with. We decided to implement our own scoring server and we decided to name it after our competition, "HackTheArch".

HackTheArch is a responsive Ruby on Rails application with a comprehensive test harness that gives CTF designers complete control without having to worry about the scoring platform. We have added a few features we have not seen in other open source scoring platforms and are extremely proud of the result. HackTheArch implements an optional web-based administration console for creating, changing, and deleting challenges and hints. We've implemented a dynamic hint system that allows competition designers to optionally provide hints for a configurable number of points to be subtracted either when the problem is solved or when the hint is requested adding a whole new level of complexity to CTF. Further, the hints can be optionally provided to certain brackets as a type of handicap for less experienced players. We also implement an optional Stripe payment system so competition designers can collect money securely from competitors for registration. Finally, we have extensively tested the application for security vulnerabilities with no serious findings. The project has been published as open source and is available at the St. Louis MCPA github page. We also host a live demo at: https://hta-demo.mcpa-stl.org.

On June 7th 2015 I along with two friends developed an app for the social networking site lockerdome.com for GlobalhackIV and placed second out of thirty teams winning $15,000. The teams were asked by the prize sponsor lockerdome.com to build a new method for their publishers to provide engaging content. Our idea was to create a way for the publishers to easily create games to engage their users since a lot of research has concluded that games are good at holding attention. So, how do you create a game that is easily branded and infinitely customizable? How about choose your own adventure games! Added bonus, the popular variable outcome quizzes can easily be implemented using our tool. We figured that we weren't marketing professionals so we would leave marketing to them and focus on a way for the content providers to be able to introduce their own content in a new, but somehow familiar and proven way. Choose your own adventure games have been around forever, our tool brings them back with some twenty-first century updates.

The app was created using JavaScript with some help from jQuery. It interfaced with the lockerdome API and produced a JSON object to be interpreted by a custom iframe we wrote. The game was implemented as a simple graph stored as a single dimensional array. Each index in the array had up to four pointers to children and an optional timer. If the timer was set, an auto-advance child had to be chosen so the game knew which slide to load when the timer ran out.

PiTherm is a thermostat application designed on and for the Raspberry Pi computer. PiTherm consists of a backend python script which controls three solid state relays to control the temperature in my home. It also uses a wireless network card in monitor mode to passively detect the presence of cell phones which allows the backend controller to adjust the set point when nobody is home. Finally, there’s a web interface for viewing and modifying the set points and current temperature.

This was my first real Raspberry Pi project. One day I realized just how simple thermostats were. The one we had in our house was too simple and only had a few set points. We’d occasionally forget to turn it down when we left and thus were wasting a lot of energy. Additionally, I realized that if I had a Raspberry Pi controlling my thermostat, then I could do things based on whether my phone (and by extension myself) was in the house. Further, if I forgot to set it to a more energy efficient set point before I left the house then I could always VPN in and fix it. I did a little research and realized a thermostat was basically three switches or relays and a temperature sensor. So I decided to build a solid state relay board with three relays (heat, cool, and fan). I ordered a 1wire thermometer and wired it all up to the handy GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi.

The Controller: The backend controller is written in python and very simply just checks and updates the MySQL database. Depending on user input to the database and input received from the 1wire temperature sensor, the controller will drive the GPIO pins linked to the relays to turn the heat, cool, or fan on or off. It also keeps the database updated with the current temperature from the temperature sensor. The User Interface: The UI is written using jQuery mobile and a PHP backend for database interaction. The user has the capability of changing the current set point, overriding the presence detection and associated programming, controlling the heat/cool/off mode, and forcing the fan on. So the set points are based on whether the house is occupied. Well, what if you have guests over and you don’t want to register their phones with the system? You can override the program and have it act just like a regular old thermostat. Full source can be found on my Github.

Shortly after moving to Scott AFB, my wife and I realized a need for a convenient way to track our spending. I wanted an asynchronous way for us to do that and of course I immediately thought of a database. But how could I convince my wife to learn SQL and then add her expenses using it? So I developed this little application for tracking expenses to help us stay within our budget.

So as I may have previously implied, this is a very simple web application. It’s a sqlite database with a web-based user interface. The front end is written using jQuery mobile with a PHP backend to interact with the database. I did build a little php authentication mechanism for this which I know isn’t bulletproof, but it has stopped all of the automated attacks (so far).

So it’s pretty simple, but it gets the job done. Full source can be found on my Github.

TTOCUI is a cross-platform user interface for a tire uniformity machine that I wrote while working for CTI. TTOC was a controller for a machine that would test tires once they came off a production line. My application was a user interface which communicated with the controller over a TCP connection so that it could be local to the machine or run remotely.

This applicataion was written primarily in C++ using the GTK+ framework (gtkmm). It used a TCP connection and a specialized protocol to communicate with the controller written in C. When I left CTI, the application compiled and ran in Linux, Windows 7, and Mac OS X. It was designed so that a machine operator could use it on the local machine (which ran linux), and the plant manager could remotely control and check status of the machine from his office (on a computer running Windows).

Challenges: I say primarily written in C++ because the embedded web browser and laser applications were both written in C. They take advantage of the GTK socket feature. I had to do this because embedding a web browser is not an easy task. The only way we could do it was to use the deprecated gtkmozembed module which had not been maintained since gtk2. The work-around was to run a seperate process using gtk2 and then connect the output of the display to the primary process running with gtk3.

Another problem I faced while developing this application was how to implement the plotting feature. The UI takes up to 8 streams of floating point integers (double) and displays each on the same plane while each bound by different parameters. For example, the operator might need to visualize the air pressure while simultaneously viewing the lateral load to determine if it’s forcing air out of the tire as it is applied. Well, the parameters for each of these numbers is very different. The operator would want to see the air pressure between 29 and 31 PSI but the lateral load between 0 and 1200 lbs. Sometimes a video is better: