virtual machine sonification

A while back I instrumented the Smalltalk virtual machine to generate visualizations of object memories. Now I’m designing instrumentations for sonification, so that the virtual machine will generate sound as it runs. This could be especially interesting for insights into the virtual machine’s operation, since I think it will run usefully in real time. It might be a useful profiling tool, for example. If you have any ideas for how to map messages and executed instructions to sound, please let me know!

9 Responses to “virtual machine sonification”

  1. Won’t you need to slow the machine down so that sounds can last long enough to be audible?


  2. Reinout Heeck Says:

    In the old days one would place an AM radio receiver close to the CPU cabinet to do this type of monitoring. It tended to work great in recognizing certain software loops and their behavior.

    I guess nowadays you could do the same with a modified radio receiver (that downconverts from the much higher CPU frequencies used nowadays).

    Such a hack would mean (1) no instrumentation needed in the execution machinery (2) also monitoring the environment – how the OS behaves…


    • Reinout Heeck Says:

      I just learnt that computers *already* produce enough sound to recover encryption keys. Your project is moot ;-)

      “Many computers emit a high-pitched noise during operation, due to vibration in some of their electronic components. These acoustic emanations are more than a nuisance: they can convey information about the software running on the computer and, in particular, leak sensitive information about security-related computations. In a preliminary presentation, we have shown that different RSA keys induce different sound patterns, but it was not clear how to extract individual key bits. The main problem was the very low bandwidth of the acoustic side channel (under 20 kHz using common microphones, and a few hundred kHz using ultrasound microphones), many orders of magnitude below the GHz-scale clock rates of the attacked computers.

      Here, we describe a new acoustic cryptanalysis key extraction attack, applicable to GnuPG’s current implementation of RSA. The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate that such attacks can be carried out, using either a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 4 meters away.


  3. When I was a kid my brother has an SR-56 calculator that would make noise while it computed trig and log functions. Just held it up to my ear and pressed the keys. That was amazing to me.


  4. I had an Apple 2+ clone that would interfere with our radio. It didn’t take very long to know what program someone was using just by listening to the interference. Many game sounds actually came through the radio the same as on the Apple!!


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