nairnr writes: A report published this week by San Francisco-based tech publication The Information has industry journalists and casual Facebook users alike shaking their heads over what the social network is now alleged to have done in an effort to glean information: Make its own Android app crash, on purpose, to see how people would react.
"Facebook has tested the loyalty and patience of Android users by secretly introducing artificial errors that would automatically crash the app for hours at a time" writes veteran tech reporter Amir Efrati for The Information, referring to Facebook's app in the Google Play store.
nairnr writes: The 3D rendering software behind films such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Harry Potter is to be given away free for non-commercial use. RenderMan, which is developed by Pixar, has faced increased competition from rival animation rendering programmes such as VRay and Arnold.
Although Pixar, which is owned by Disney, produces its own films, it licenses RenderMan to rival studios. In a statement, the firm said it would release a free version of RenderMan "without any functional limitations, watermarking, or time restrictions".
"Non-commercial RenderMan will be freely available for students, institutions, researchers, developers, and for personal use," it added.
Ian Dean, editor of computer graphics magazine 3D World, told the BBC the move "could be seen as a reaction to the rise of alternatives such as Arnold," but that Disney/Pixar are also looking to "build a community".
He added that RenderMan, which has been around for more than 25 years, was "very important at the higher end of the entertainment, animation and visual effects industries".
nairnr writes: The troubled federal health insurance website, which went offline just before a climactic hearing in Congress, is back in action again, officials said Thursday.
They said Healthcare.gov was working and handling fairly high volumes. And after days of badgering from Congress, journalists and critics, officials named two of the tech whizzes drafted to help fix the troubled site.
“Our focus now is really on maintaining system stability and testing,” Julie Bataille spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the site, told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Obama says an "A-team" of technical experts has been brought in to fix the problems. He appointed his incoming chief economic adviser, Jeff Zients, to head the project. But CMS had given little detail about just who was working on the site.
Bataille finally named some of them. “They come from leading technology companies such as Red Hat and Oracle; and include individuals with expertise on site reliability; stability; and scalability," she said.
nairnr writes: According to Techcrunch “Distributing a desktop browser is hard and expensive (especially if you don’t have an operating system or the world’s most trafficked website to promote it)” says Rockmelt, so today it announced it will soon stop supporting its social browser. Rockmelt concedes it was using up to 50% of its time trying to keep up with the changes to Chromium, the browser it is based on. They will continue to develop a new web portal, as well as mobile apps to enhance the browsing experience
nairnr writes: Technology that tracks shoppers using their cellphones has been shut off at two U.S. malls over privacy concerns, a U.S. senator says.
Promenade Temecula in Southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va., had planned to run tests of the technology from Nov. 25 to Jan.1, reported Cleveland, Ohio-based Forest City Commercial Management, which owns the two malls.
The cellphone tracking technology, called Footpath, is made by Path Intelligence Ltd., a Portsmouth, U.K.-based company. It uses sensors placed throughout the mall to detect signals from mobile phones and track their path around the mall. The sensors cannot gather phone numbers or other identifying data, or intercept or log data about calls or SMS messages, the company says.
Forest City Commercial Management said it planned to use the data gathered about shoppers' length of stay and shopping patterns to determine whether to relocate some stores, figure out what other retailers should be added, and learn what events and promotions are most effective for attracting shoppers.
nairnr writes: Are users of other Web browsers smarter than the people who use Microsoft's Internet Explorer?
A new survey doesn't quite say so. But it sure as heck suggests it.
The survey by AptiQuant, a Vancouver-based Web consulting company, gave more than 100,000 participants an IQ test, while monitoring which browser they used to take the test.
The result? Internet Explorer users scored lower than average, while Chrome, Firefox and Safari users were slightly above average.
And users of the more obscure Camino and Opera browsers, as well as those using Explorer with Chrome Frame (a plug-in designed to let users view emerging HTML5 content), had what AptiQuaint called "exceptionally higher" IQ levels.
nairnr writes: Accounting for 29.7% of all information downloaded during peak usage hours by North American broadband-connected households in March, Netflix Inc. received the title in the latest Global Internet Phenomena Report released by Sandvine Corp. on Tuesday.
In its ninth such report, Waterloo, Ont.-based Sandvine found the amount of data consumed by users streaming television shows and movie from Netflix’s online service exceeded even that of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing technology BitTorrent.
nairnr writes: The booster rocket used in a test flight was badly dented when it fell into the Atlantic because of a deflated parachute, NASA said Thursday.
The new Ares I-X — the precursor to NASA's planned moon rockets — completed a two-minute flight Wednesday. The launch itself went well, officials said, but one of the three parachutes on the booster failed to work properly.
The first-stage booster — similar to what's used for the space shuttles — was found to be dented near the bottom when it was recovered from the ocean. It was expected back on shore Friday.
The Ares I-X is a prototype of what's supposed to replace the space shuttles and ultimately fly to the moon. The White House, though, may nix those plans.
nairnr writes: According to The National Post The most famous physicist in the world could be moving to Canada to work at a prestigious institute for pure scientific research in Waterloo.
Dr. Stephen Hawking, the award-winning author of A Brief History of Time, is reportedly considering leaving Britain's Cambridge University, after almost 50 years of groundbreaking work there on theoretical physics, in favour of the Perimeter Institute, founded by the Canadian owners of high-tech firm Research in Motion Ltd.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that the 66-year-old scientist is looking seriously at the offer to move to Canada after attacking the British government for cuts to scientific funding he has called "disastrous."
Colleagues say Dr. Hawking believes British government policy is making the nation the home of "dull science" and Dr. Hawking said publicly last month that the $160-million funding cuts would "cause enormous damage both to British science and to our international reputation."
nairnr writes: Canadian scientists and engineers have developed a robot with a keen sense of touch that will let doctors perform microscopic operations on the brain using the most vivid visuals yet, they said on Tuesday.
A melding of brain surgery and rocket science, the neuroArm allows neurosurgeons to do their riskiest work on patients within a magnetic resonance imaging machine, or MRI, giving a clear 3-D picture of even the smallest nerves.
The robot was developed with only plastic & composite parts as you can't have metal within an MRI machine. Clinical trials are set to start soon. The robot was built with the help of the company that built the CanadArm for the Space Shuttles
nairnr writes: Windows Vista is set to take a hard line on Piracy. Yahoo is reporting that Vista will start disabling some of its features if it thinks it is a pirated version.
Microsoft said Wednesday that people running a version of Windows Vista that it believes is pirated will initially be denied access to some of the most anticipated Vista features. That includes Windows Aero, an improved graphics technology.
If a legitimate copy is not bought within 30 days, the system will curtail functionality much further by restricting users to just the Web browser for an hour at a time, said Thomas Lindeman, Microsoft senior product manager.
Under that scenario, a person could use the browser to surf the Web, access documents on the hard drive or log onto Web-based e-mail. But the user would not be able to directly open documents from the computer desktop or run other programs such as Outlook e-mail software, Lindeman said.
Microsoft said it won't stop a computer running pirated Vista software from working completely, and it will continue to deliver critical security updates.