One intrepid Android fan is extolling the virtues of the open smartphone platform that helped him to route SOS messages in the recent Haiti disaster. "Well, when you are in such a situation, you don't really think about going to Facebook, but it happens that I have a Facebook widget on my Android home screen that regularly displays status updates from my friends. All of a sudden, an SOS message appeared on my home screen as a status update of a friend on my network. Not all smartphones allow you to customize your home screen, let alone letting you put widgets on it. So, I texted Steven about it. As Steven had already been working with the US State Department on Internet development activities in Haiti, he quickly called a senior staff member at the State Department and asked how to get help to the people requesting it from Haiti. State Department personnel requested a short description and a physical street address or GPS coordinates. Via email and text messaging, I was able to relay this information from Port-au-Prince to Steven in Oregon, who relayed it to the State Department in Washington DC, and it was quickly forwarded to the US military at the Port-au-Prince airport and dispatched to the search-and-rescue (SAR) teams being assembled. So the data went from my Android phone to Oregon to Washington DC and then back to the US military command center at the Port-au-Prince airport. I was at first a little skeptical about their reaction: there was so much destruction; they probably already had their hands full. Unexpectedly, they replied back saying: 'We found them, and they are alive! Keep it coming.'"
More details have come about about what was behind PayPal's decision to suspend personal payments to any user in India, as we discussed on Sunday. In a blog post today, PayPal revealed that payments to India will remain in suspension for at least a few months. Customers in India will be able to pull rupees out of the service into their bank accounts within a few days. The suspension came about when Indian government regulators raised questions about whether PayPal's service was enabling remittances (transfers of money by foreign workers) to Indian citizens. "The problems may have been triggered by a marketing push that promotes PayPal as a way to send money abroad, a source familiar with the matter said. The campaign — which reads 'As low as $1.50 to send $300 to countries like India' — may have caught the attention of Indian regulators, the source said."
Nethemas the Great writes "Information has leaked ahead of the scheduled NASA press conference tomorrow that we have found unambiguous evidence for water on the moon. From the article, 'Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called "unambiguous evidence" of water across the surface of the moon.'"
Christophe Bisciglia, Google's former infrastructure guru and current member of the Cloudera start-up team, has commented on Google's latest iteration on their GFS file system and deemed its features well within the evolutionary capabilities of open-source competitor Hadoop. "Details on Google's GFS2 are slim. After all, it's Google. But based on what he's read, Bisciglia calls the update 'the next logical iteration' of the original GFS, and he sees Hadoop eventually following in the (rather sketchy) footsteps left by his former employer. 'A lot of the things Google is talking about are very logical directions for Hadoop to go,' Bisciglia tells The Reg. 'One of the things I've been very happy to see repeatedly demonstrated is that Hadoop has been able to implement [new Google GFS and MapReduce] features in approximately the same order. This shows that the fundamentals of Hadoop are solid, that the fundamentals are based on the same principles that allowed Google's systems to scale over the years.'"
The blog of Anthony Wesley, an Australian amateur astronomer, has what may be the first photos of a recent comet or asteroid impact on Jupiter, near the south pole. These photos are 11 hours old. The ones at the bottom of the page show three small dark spots in addition to the main dark mark. The Bad Astronomy blog picked up the story a few hours later — but cautions that what we're seeing may not be an impact event. This is all reminiscent of the closely watched impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter in 1994.
The Narrative Fallacy writes "Wired reports that with just a few weeks of training, you can learn to 'see' objects in the dark using echolocation the same way dolphins and bats do. Acoustic expert Juan Antonio Martinez at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain has developed a system to teach people how to use echolocation, a skill that could be particularly useful for the blind and for people who work under dark or smoky conditions, like firefighters — or cat burglars. 'Two hours per day for a couple of weeks are enough to distinguish whether you have an object in front of you,' says Martinez. 'Within another couple weeks you can tell the difference between trees and pavement.' To master the art of echolocation, you can begin by making the typical 'sh' sound used to make someone be quiet. Moving a pen in front of the mouth can be noticed right away similar to the phenomenon when traveling in a car with the windows down, which makes it possible to 'hear' gaps in the verge of the road. The next level is to learn how to master 'palate clicks,' special clicks with your tongue and palate that are better than other sounds because they can be made in a uniform way, work at a lower intensity, and don't get drowned out by ambient noise. With the palate click you can learn to recognize slight changes in the way the clicks sound depending on what objects are nearby. 'For all of us in general, this would be a new way of perceiving the world,' says Martinez."
shutdown -p now writes "On April 28, Microsoft released service pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2007. Among other changes, it includes the earlier-promised support for ODF text documents and spreadsheets, featured prominently on the 'Save As' menu alongside Office Open XML and the legacy Office 97-2007 formats. It is also possible to configure Office applications to use ODF as the default format for new documents. In addition, the service pack also includes 'Save as PDF' out of the box, and better Firefox support by SharePoint."
volume4 writes "The South African Department of Home Affairs has begun rolling out security enhanced passports to new applicants from this week. A facility in Pretoria which prints the new passports was officially opened last week by the minister of home affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The new passports have an embedded RFID chip which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details, a high-resolution colour photograph and fingerprint information."
An anonymous reader writes "MIT has been monitoring student internet connections for the past decade without telling them. There is no official policy and no student input." The Tech article says, though, that the record keeping is fairly limited in its scope (connection information is collected, but not the data transferred) and duration (three days, for on-campus connections).
darkjohnson writes with this impressive excerpt from Rocketry Planet: "On April 25, 2009, history will be made. At Higgs Farm in Price, Maryland, Steve Eves will enter the history books as the person who flew the largest model rocket in history. The rocket will weigh over 1,600 pounds, it will stand over 36 feet tall and it will be powered by a massive array of nine motors: eight 13,000ns N-Class motors and a 77,000ns P-Class motor."
mikeljnola writes with an excerpt from NOLA.com that says state senator Danny Martiny (R-Kenner) will introduce a bill to the Louisiana legislature on April 27 to "'make it illegal to "create or attempt to create a human-animal hybrid, ... transfer or attempt to transfer a human embryo into a non-human womb ... (or) transfer or attempt to transfer a non-human embryo into a human womb."' With budget cuts all around, our struggling state is concerned with the eminent danger of human-animal hybrids. The upside is that the odds of the Louisiana becoming the Bayous of Dr. Boudreaux are now even slimmer."
pkluss noted Kevin Turner, COO of Microsoft making the proclamation that "Vista today, post-Service Pack 2, which is now in the marketplace, is the safest, most reliable OS we've ever built. It's also the most secure OS on the planet, including Linux and open source and Apple Leopard. It's the safest and most secure OS on the planet today."
Peter N. M. Hansteen writes "In real life, zombies feed off both weak minds and the weak passwords they choose. When the distributed brute-force attempts stopped abruptly after a couple of months of futile pounding on ssh servers, most of us thought they had seen sense and given up. Now, it seems that they have not; they are back. 'This can only mean that there were enough successful attempts at guessing people's weak passwords in the last round that our unknown perpetrators found it worthwhile to start another round. For all I know they may have been at it all along, probing other parts of the Internet ...' The article has some analysis and links to fresh log data."
CurtMonash writes "Twitter was hit Saturday by a worm that caused victims' accounts to tweet favorably about the StalkDaily website. Infection occurred when one went to the profile page of a compromised account, and was largely spread by the kind of follower spam more commonly used by multi-level marketers. Apparently the worm was an XSS attack, exploiting a vulnerability created in a recent Twitter update that introduced support for OAuth, and it was created by the 17-year-old owner of the StalkDaily website. More information can be found in the comment thread to a Network World post I put up detailing the attack, or in the post itself. By evening, Twitter claimed to have closed the security hole."