An anonymous reader writes "While speaking at the TED Conference in California earlier today, Sergey Brin seemingly tried to set the stage for a world where using Google Glass is as normal as using a smartphone. What's more, Brin went so far as to say that using smartphones is 'emasculating.' Brin said that smartphone users often seclude themselves in their own private virtual worlds. 'Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people,' Brin asked. Are people in the future destined to communicate via just walking around, looking down, and 'rubbing a featureless piece of glass,' Brin asked rhetorically. 'It's kind of emasculating. Is this what you're meant to do with your body?' Is wearing futuristic glasses any better?" Another reader sends in an article that also muses on our psychological connection to our devices. Or, as he puts it, the "increasingly weird and perhaps overly intimate relationship we have with our gadgets; the fist we touch when awake, the last at night. Our minds have become bookended by glass."
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An anonymous reader writes "MIT has posted a letter to campus newspaper The Tech providing a timeline of last weekend's 'gunman' hoax. On Saturday morning, Cambridge, MA police were contacted via Internet relay by a tipster who claimed that a someone wearing armor and carrying a 'really big gun' was in Building 7 at MIT (the Massachusetts Ave. entrance to the Infinite Corridor) and was heading towards the office of MIT President Rafael Reif. The call continued for 18 minutes, with the caller eventually claiming that the gunman was seeking to avenge the suicide of Aaron Swartz, who was being prosecuting for alleged illegal downloads of millions of journal articles using MIT's computer network. The caller also identified the gunman as an MIT staff member, who has since been questioned by police and cleared. MIT has been criticized for waiting 1.5 hours before sending a campus-wide alert after the call was received."
Last Thursday, we discussed news that millionaire Dennis Tito was planning a private mission to Mars in 2018, but details were sparse. Now, reader RocketAcademy writes that Tito has provided more information about the tip, and that he intends the mission to be manned: "Dennis Tito, the first citizen space explorer to visit the International Space Station, has created the Inspiration Mars Foundation to raise funds for an even more dramatic mission: a human flyby of the planet Mars. Tito, a former JPL rocket scientist who later founded the investment firm Wilshire Associates, proposes to send two Americans — a man and a woman — on a 501-day roundtrip mission which would launch on January 5, 2018. Technical details of the mission can be found in a feasibility analysis (PDF), which Tito is scheduled to present at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March. Former NASA flight surgeon Dr. Jonathon Clark, who is developing innovative ways of dealing with radiation exposure during the mission, called the flight 'an Apollo 8 moment for the next generation.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Develop reports on comments from Blake Jorgensen, Electronic Arts' Chief Financial Officer, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference. As you may have guessed from the name of the conference, the business aspect of EA was the topic. Jorgensen said, 'The next and much bigger piece [of the business] is microtransactions within games. ... We're building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be, and consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.' This is particularly distressing given EA's recent implementation of microtransations in Dead Space 3, where you can spend money to improve your weaponry."
puddingebola writes "The Guardian reports that hackers have been targeting officials from over 20 European governments with a new piece of malware called 'MiniDuke.' 'The cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which discovered MiniDuke, said the attackers had servers based in Panama and Turkey – but an examination of the code revealed no further clues about its origin (PDF). Goverments targeted include those of Ireland, Romania, Portugal, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The malware also compromised the computers of a prominent research foundation in Hungary, two thinktanks, and an unnamed healthcare provider in the US.' Eugene Kaspersky says it's an unusual piece of malware because it's reminiscent of attacks from two decades ago. 'I remember this style of malicious programming from the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. I wonder if these types of malware writers, who have been in hibernation for more than a decade, have suddenly awoken and joined the sophisticated group of threat actors active in the cyber world.' The computers were corrupted through an Adobe PDF attachment to an email."
Nerval's Lobster writes "As we discussed yesterday, Google is bringing a Quickoffice viewer to its new high-end Chromebook Pixel, with full editing ability expected within three months. According to TechCrunch, Quickoffice-on-Chromebooks comes courtesy of Native Client. If Chromebooks prove a hit (and Google ports Quickoffice onto devices other than the ultra-high-priced Chromebook Pixel), could that mean the beginning of the end of Microsoft Office's market dominance of the productivity software space? While Microsoft has been pushing into the cloud with software like Office 365, that's also Google's home territory. But can Google actually disrupt the game?"
helix2301 sends this quote from CNET: "LG's reluctance to embrace Windows Phone 8 underscores the difficulties that the platform faces with both consumers and vendor partners. LG was one of the early partners that signed on with Microsoft, releasing the LG Quantum in the first wave of Windows Phone devices. Microsoft's has a great relationship with Nokia, which is considered in the industry first among equals when it comes to Microsoft partners, has some vendors reassessing their own support for the operating system. Over the past year or so, LG has been focusing on Android and has started building phones running on Mozilla's Firefox mobile OS."
pigrabbitbear writes "Look outside of your window: if you see miles of farmland, chances are you have terrible internet service. That's because major telecommunications companies don't think it's worth the investment to bring high-speed broadband to sparsely populated areas. But like most businesses, farms increasingly depend on the internet to pay bills, monitor the market and communicate with partners. In the face of a sluggish connection, what's a group of farmers to do? Grow their own, naturally. That's what the people of Lancashire, England, are doing. Last year, a coalition of local farmers and others from the northwestern British county began asking local landowners if they could use their land to begin laying a brand-new community-owned high-speed network, sparing them the expense of tearing up roads. Then, armed with shovels and backhoes, the group, called Broadband for the Rural North, or B4RN (it's pronounced 'barn'), began digging the first of what will be approximately 180,000 meters of trenches and filling them with fiber-optic cable, all on its own."
gurps_npc writes "Recently there was a poorly designed study that claimed computers don't help teaching. Here with the opposing viewpoint is Sugata Mitra in his recent TED talk. He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.' At heart, his argument is that the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats, so it creates minimally competent people that know how to read, write, and do math in their head. He wants to update our teaching methods with more creative and technological solutions." One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that. Mitra won the $1M TED prize this year for his work. He said in an interview, "We spent 7000 years debating this issue of how do we educate everybody. We have never lived in a world where one standard educated everyone. And given that we have failed for over 7000 years, perhaps we will never have one standard. Maybe the right conclusion is that we do away with standard education. Maybe the convergence of technology and curiosity will solve this problem."
An anonymous reader writes "The Parallel Universe blog has a post about parallel data processing. They start off by talking about how Moore's Law still holds, but the shift from clock frequency to multiple cores has stifled the rate at which hardware allows software to scale. (Basically, Amdahl's Law.) The simplest approach to dealing with this is sharding, but that introduces its own difficulties. The more you shard a data set, the more work you need to do to separate out the data elements that can't interact. Optimizing for 2n cores takes more than twice the work of optimizing for n cores. The article says, 'If we want to continue writing compellingly complex applications at an ever-increasing scale we must come to terms with the new Moore's law and build our software on top of solid infrastructure designed specifically for this new reality; sharding just won't cut it.' Their solution is to transfer some of the processing work to the database. 'This because the database is in a unique position to know which transactions may contend for the same data items, and how to schedule them with respect to one another for the best possible performance. The database can and should be smart.' They demonstrate how SpaceBase does this by simulating a 10,000-spaceship battle on different sets of hardware (code available here). Going from a dual-core system to a quad-core system at the same clock speed actually doubles performance without sharding."
astroengine writes "Astronomers have directly measured the spin of a black hole for the first time by detecting the mind-bending relativistic effects that warp space-time at the very edge of its event horizon. By monitoring X-ray emissions from iron ions (iron atoms with some electrons missing) trapped in the black hole's accretion disk, the rapidly-rotating inner edge of the disk of hot material has provided direct information about how fast the black hole is spinning. Astronomers used NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) — that was launched into Earth orbit in June 2012 — and the European observatory XMM-Newton measured X-ray radiation as a tool to directly infer the spin of NGC 1365's black hole. 'What excites me is the fact that we are able to do this for the very massive black holes at the centers of galaxies but we can also make the same measurement for black holes in our galaxy ... black holes that resulted from the explosion of a star ... The fact we can extend this from billions of solar masses to 10 solar masses is pretty cool,' Fiona Harrison, professor of physics and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., and principal investigator of the NuSTAR mission, told Discovery News."
Tim Lord met Jay Kim at the RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.
Velcroman1 writes "Biochemical engineers can now download a piece of software and with a few simple clicks, assemble the DNA for new life forms through their laptops. 'With the proper computer tools, biologists can write their own genetic code — and then turn that code into life,' said biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, who founded Genome Compiler Corp., the company that sells the software. He demonstrated at a coffee shop early one morning by manipulating a bacteria's genes on his laptop. The synthetic biology app is still in beta; on Jan. 15, the company added an undo feature and support for new DNA file formats. Building creatures is increasingly like word processing, it would seem. But such is the strange reality in the age of cheap genome sequencing, DNA synthesizing and 'bioinformatics.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Continuing a firehose tradition of maximum information density, Xiph.Org's second video on digital media explores multiple facets of digital audio signals and how they really behave in the real world. Demonstrations of sampling, quantization, bit-depth, and dither explore digital audio behavior on real audio equipment using both modern digital analysis and vintage analog bench equipment... just in case we can't trust those newfangled digital gizmos. You can also download the source code for each demo and try it all for yourself!" Plus you get to look at Monty's beard and hear his soothing voice. There's a handy wiki page with further information and a summary of the video if text is your thing.