Esther Schindler writes "If you ever needed evidence that Isaac Asimov was a genius at extrapolating future technology from limited data, you'll enjoy this 1964 article in which he predicts what we'll see at the 2014 world's fair. For instance: "Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. The I.B.M. exhibit at the present fair has no robots but it is dedicated to computers, which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the "brains" of robots. In fact, the I.B.M. building at the 2014 World's Fair may have, as one of its prime exhibits, a robot housemaid*large, clumsy, slow- moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning and manipulation of various appliances. It will undoubtedly amuse the fairgoers to scatter debris over the floor in order to see the robot lumberingly remove it and classify it into 'throw away' and 'set aside.' (Robots for gardening work will also have made their appearance.)" It's really fun (and sometimes sigh-inducing) to see where he was accurate and where he wasn't. And, of course, the whole notion that we'd have a world's fair is among the inaccurate predictions."
the_newsbeagle writes "Most of the researchers who work on flexible electronics imagine putting their materials to use in flexible displays, like a rollable, foldable iPad that you could cram in your pocket. And I'm not saying that wouldn't be cool. But researcher Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo has a different idea: He wants his ultra-thin, ultra-flexible electronics to be used as bionic skin. Someya and other researchers have created circuits that stick to your skin, and that can stretch and bend as you move your body. These materials are still in the labs, but the scientists imagine many uses for them. For example, if a synthetic skin is studded with pressure and heat sensors, it could be used as a lifelike covering for prosthetic limbs. There are also potential biomedical applications: The e-skin could discreetly monitor an outpatient's vital signs, and send the data to a nearby computer. The article includes a short video showing Someya's material in action."
Trailrunner7 writes, quoting Threat Post "By tweaking the firmware on certain kinds of phones, a hacker could make it so other phones in the area are unable to receive incoming calls or SMS messages, according to research presented at the USENIX Security Symposium. The hack involves modifying the baseband processor on some Motorola phones and tricking some older 2G GSM networks into not delivering calls and messages. By 'watching' the messages sent from phone towers and not delivering them to users, the hack could effectively shut down some small localized mobile networks. Essentially the hacked firmware ... can block ... pages by responding to them before the phones that were initially intended to receive them do, something Kevin Redon and company called during their research 'the race for the fastest paging response time.'" Thanks to the power of Osmocom BB, which has implemented Free Software baseband for several GSM devices. Also see the research paper.
coondoggie writes "Talk about starting a business on shaky ground. The Manhattan District Attorney's office says former Wall Street traders stole electronic trading source code and data from their then trading firm in an effort to start up their own financial business." Sending yourself pilfered code through your company email account is probably not the wisest plan.
snydeq writes "Complaints of stricture over structure, signs of technical prowess on the wane — the best days of the Apache Software Foundation may be behind, writes InfoWorld's Serdar Yegalulp. 'Since its inception, the Apache Software Foundation has had a profound impact in shaping the open source movement and the tech industry at large. ... But tensions within the ASF and grumbling throughout the open source community have called into question whether the Apache Way is well suited to sponsoring the development of open source projects in today's software world. Changing attitudes toward open source licensing, conflicts with the GPL, concerns about technical innovation under the Way, fallout from the foundation's handling of specific projects in recent years — the ASF may soon find itself passed over by the kinds of projects that have helped make it such a central fixture in open source, thanks in some measure to the way the new wave of bootstrapped, decentralized projects on GitHub don't require a foundation-like atmosphere to keep them vibrant or relevant.' Meanwhile, Andrew C. Oliver offers a personal perspective on his work with Apache, why he left, and how the foundation can revamp itself in the coming years: 'I could never regret my time at Apache. I owe it my career to some degree. It isn't how I would choose to develop software again, because my interests and my role in the world have changed. That said, I think the long-term health of the organization requires it get back to its ideals, open up its private lists, and let sunshine disinfect the interests. My poorly articulated reasons for leaving a long time ago stemmed from my inability to effect that change.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A new report today has ranked the Top 10 'Internet Cities' around the globe, based on a set of five criteria: connection speed, availability of citywide WiFi, openness to innovation, support of public data, and security/data privacy. One might expect high-tech cities like San Francisco and Tel Aviv to appear on a list of 'Internet Cities,' but they don't. Indeed, no Middle Eastern cities appear here at all, and — due, largely, to the United States' poor Internet speeds — the only US city to make this ranking is Seattle."
carmendrahl writes "Famed astronomer Galileo Galilei is best known for taking on the Catholic Church by championing the idea that the Earth moves around the sun. But he also engaged in a debate with a philosopher about why ice floats on water. While his primary arguments were correct, he went too far, belittling legitimate, contradictory evidence given by his opponent, Ludovico delle Colombe. Galileo's erroneous arguments during the water debate are a useful reminder that the path to scientific enlightenment is not often direct and that even our intellectual heroes can sometimes be wrong."
McGruber writes "CNN has the news that some financial lending companies claim that Facebook social connections can be a good indicator of a person's creditworthiness. One company determines if you are friends with someone who was late paying back a loan; if so, that is bad news for you. It is even worse news if the delinquent friend is someone you frequently interact with. Another company gathers information from the manner in which a customer fills out the online loan application. The chances of getting a loan improve if you spend time reading information about the loan on their website. Conversely, if you fill out the application typing in all-caps (or with no caps), you are knocked down a couple pegs in that company's eyes. A third lender requires that small business borrowers grant them access to the borrowers' PayPal, eBay and other online payment accounts (what could possibly go wrong with that?), thereby disclosing real-time sales and delivery information."
benrothke writes "Little did anyone know that when the first Hacking Exposed book came out over 15 years ago, that it would launch a set of sequels on topics from Windows, Linux, web development, to virtualization and cloud computing, and much more. In 2013, the newest edition is Hacking Exposed Mobile Security Secrets & Solutions. In this edition, authors Neil Bergman, Mike Stanfield, Jason Rouse & Joel Scambray provide an extremely detailed overview of the security and privacy issues around mobile devices. The authors have heaps of experience in the topics and bring that to every chapter." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "L. J. Williamson writes in the LA Times that with no running water, no plumbing, and no electrical outlets Burning Man isn't the kind of place to expect full bars on your smartphone and for many of the participants that's a big part of its charm. 'If you want to partake in the true Burning Man experience, you should leave your phone at home,' says Mark Hansen. In past years, the closest cellular towers, designed to serve the nearby towns of Empire (population 206) and Gerlach (population 217), would quickly get overwhelmed each August when Black Rock City (population 50,000 or so) rose from the featureless playa. Although Burning Man attracts a sizable Silicon Valley contingent including tech giants like Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin — the feeling of being 'unplugged' has become an integral part of the Burning Man experience. But another part of the event is an intrepid, DIY ethos, and in that spirit, David Burgess, co-creator of OpenBTS, an open-source cellular network software, brought a homemade in 2008, an 'almost comical' setup that created a working cellular network that routed a few hundred calls over a 48-hour period. In each subsequent year, Burgess has improved the system's reach and expects to have about three-quarters of this year's event covered. Burning Man proved an ideal test bed for development of Burgess' system, which he has since made available for use in other areas without cellular networks. 'People who have a lot of experience in international aid say Burning Man is a very good simulation of a well-organized refugee camp,' says Burgess. 'Because there's no infrastructure, it forces us to contend with a lot of problems that our rural customers have to contend with in very remote places.'"
Zothecula writes "New research demonstrates that triggering an out-of-body experience (OBE) could be as simple as getting a person to watch a video of themselves with their heartbeat projected onto it. According to the study, it's easy to trick the mind into thinking it belongs to an external body and manipulate a person's self-consciousness by externalizing the body's internal rhythms. The findings could lead to new treatments for people with perceptual disorders such as anorexia and could also help dieters too."
First time accepted submitter sbjornda writes "A glitch in an internal system led to erroneous trades on some funds whose listings begin with the letters H through L. Goldman Sachs has put four Senior Technology Specialists on administrative leave as a result. From the article: 'The system, called a "trading axis," monitors the Wall Street bank's inventory to determine whether it should be a more aggressive buyer or seller in the market. But a technical error misinterpreted non-binding indications of interest, or IOIs, as firm bids and offers, leading to some trades that were vastly out of line with where market prices were, Reuters reported previously, citing a source familiar with the matter.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "In the 'Iron Man' trilogy, billionaire inventor Tony Stark uses a gesture-controlled hologram to draft new designs of the titular armor, sending virtual parts flying around his lab with the flick of a wrist. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk—who is often compared to Stark by the tech press—is apparently creating the real-life equivalent of that fictional hologram system. 'We figured out how to design rocket parts just w hand movements through the air (seriously),' he Tweeted August 23. 'Now need a high frame rate holograph generator.' In a follow-up Tweet, he added: 'Will post video next week of designing a rocket part with hand gestures & then immediately printing it in titanium.' But Musk has no plans to actually make an Iron Man-inspired suit of armor. 'I am not going to make an IM suit,' he wrote on Twitter, 'however design by hand-manipulated hologram is actually useful.'"
Last week you had a chance to ask Guido van Rossum, Python's BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life), about all things Python and his move to Dropbox. Guido wasted no time answering your questions and you'll find his responses below.
theodp writes "There has been lots of heated discussion on the topic of where-the-girls-aren't, both in the tech and larger business world. Dave Winer broached the subject of 'Why are there so few women programmers?', prompting a mix of flame, venom and insight. Over at Valleywag, Nitasha Tiku pegs 'Culture Fit' as an insidious excuse used to marginalize women in tech. Completing the trilogy is an HBR article, 'Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?', in which Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic concludes the problem is that manifestations of hubris, which occur much more frequently in men than women, are commonly mistaken for leadership potential. So, with a gender and age strike against her, would a Grace Hopper in her prime even land an interview in today's Silicon Valley?"
First time accepted submitter Dave Jurgensen writes "Uber has said it will be purchasing 2,500 of Google's self driving GX3200 cars to be used around America. They are hoping to have their first set of driverless cars on the road by the end of the year. From the article: 'Uber has committed to invest up to $375 million for a fleet of Google’s GX3200 vehicles, which are the company’s third generation of autonomous driving cars, but the first to be approved for commercial use in the U.S. The deal marks the largest single capital investment that Uber has made to date, and is also the first enterprise deal that Google has struck for its new line of driverless vehicles.'" Update: Yes, this is a piece of speculative fiction.
fergus07 writes "NASA has released new concept images and animations outlining one version of its plan to capture an asteroid with an unmanned craft. The scenario presented for a possible mission around the year 2025 involves literally bagging an asteroid in a huge inflatable cylinder and returning it to lunar orbit for astronauts to study."
jfruh writes "For years, DDoS attacks on various websites have been routinely launched by hackers within China. Now an attack of this sort has been launched against the foundations of the Chinese Internet — the domain servers for the country's top-level .cn domain. The attack raged over the weekend, disrupting and slowing access to .cn sites."
As reported by the Washington Post, a U.S. spacecraft headed for the moon (to circle it, though, not to land) is to be launched for the first time from the facility at Virginia's Wallops Island. If you'll be in the D.C. area on the night of September 6 and the weather cooperates enough for a launch, it should be worth staying up for. "The robotic mission is to collect detailed information about the moon's thin atmosphere. Sometimes thought to be nonexistent, the lunar atmosphere has been described as extremely tenuous and fragile, but present. According to the space agency, the launch will record many firsts. One will be the first launch beyond Earth orbit from the Virginia facility. It also will be the first flight for the Minotaur V rocket, NASA said. NASA said the five-stage Air Force rocket is an excess ballistic missile that was transformed into a space-launch vehicle. It will boost the space probe into position for it to reach lunar orbit." Though the satellite is NASA's, the launch will be controlled by Orbital Sciences.
cold fjord writes with an excerpt from Science Codex: "CSIRO scientists have written software that could guide spacecraft to Alpha Centauri ... Dr George Hobbs (CSIRO) and his colleagues study pulsars — small spinning stars that deliver regular 'blips' or 'pulses' of radio waves and, sometimes, X-rays. Usually the astronomers are interested in measuring, very precisely, when the pulsar pulses arrive in the solar system. Slight deviations from the expected arrival times can give clues about the behaviour of a pulsar itself ... 'But we can also work backwards,' said Dr Hobbs. 'We can use information from pulsars to very precisely determine the position of our telescopes.' 'If the telescopes were on board a spacecraft, then we could get the position of the spacecraft.' Observations of at least four pulsars, every seven days, would be required. ... A paper (paywalled) describing in detail how the system would work has been accepted for publication by the journal Advances in Space Research." (Here is a related story from the same source.)
jarold writes to point out an intriguing entry in the expanding smart-watch field: the Omate TrueSmart watch. Production of samples is about start on the watch after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Unlike some of the smart watches now out (or promised for soon), the TrueSmart is capable of making voice calls, sending texts, and using social media messaging without a separate smartphone or tablet. The specs are impressive, for something you wear on your wrist: Android 4.2.2 running on a dual core Cortex A7 and half a gig of RAM, 4GB of storage (expandable via micro-SD slot).