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Submission + - Building a Personal Cloud VPN in case geo-dodging VPN services are blocked (

oztechmuse writes: The battle of largely US-based media companies against Australian consumers has turned temporarily from concern about illegal downloads, to Australians circumventing geographic streaming restrictions. Media companies are hoping that proposed amendments to copyright law in Australia will allow them to force ISPs to block VPN services.

A solution may be for consumers to go through the relatively simple process of setting up their own VPN. This has become much simpler thanks to software such as SoftEther VPN and cloud services from a range of providers. Setting up a VPN in this way only takes someone with moderate technical skills, about 30 minutes.

Submission + - A computer beating humans and passing Turing's test wasn't a fair fight. (

oztechmuse writes: The recent success of computer program Eugene Goostman in passing the Turing Test has been hailed as a first. This is not necessarily a view shared by the creators of the program, Vladimir Veselov and Eugene Demchenko. They have long been involved with the Turing Test and have previously written that their approach was to find ways to deal specifically with behaviours of the judges and the types of question they ask to check if the subject is a computer or not. They have written that “Turing’s Test is, actually, no more than a joke of that genius British mathematician. This game has nothing (or very little) in common with the question “Can machines think?”"

The other thing this event won't do is resolve the long-standing bet between Mitch Kapor and Ray Kurtzweil about whether the Turing Test would be passed before 2029. Their test set a much higher bar than the Royal Society that ran the recent test.

Submission + - Samsung S5 now reports stress levels through heart rate variability measure (

oztechmuse writes: Samsung has just released an updated version of its health software for the Samsung Galaxy S5 that measures stress levels. Using the heart rate sensor on the back of the phone, the S5 will calculate a measure of stress from low to high.

Although this may seem far-fetched to some, the phone is actually using a measure of the heart rate to calculate something called “heart rate variability” or HRV. HRV has been shown to be related to a range of clinical conditions that include problems with the heart but also mental issues of stress and anxiety. Athletes have also used HRV as a measure of over-training and so use heart rate monitors to check if they need rest days.

Samsung seems to be claiming the ground in terms of innovation in health-related sensor technology. In addition to the built-in pulse oximeter sensor used for the HRV measurements, Samsung phones now support direct connections to heart rate straps using the Ant+ protocol as well as through Bluetooth. Apple and others have a long way to go to catch up.

Submission + - Australian bank NAB's Bitcoin ban a symptom of the digital currency threat (

oztechmuse writes: The move of banks like Australia's NAB to close accounts of businesses trading in Bitcoin is being justified on the basis of risk whereas the more likely motivation is guarding against a currency that threatens their own business. The issue of risk is largely a smoke screen — especially when compared with the $2.1 trillion that is involved in crime globally — most of which goes through the banking system. This compares to the less than $10 billion in total capitalisation of cryptocurrencies.

Submission + - Firefox banned by OkCupid as Mozilla CEO discovers that first impressions matter (

oztechmuse writes: The campaign against Mozilla's appointment of CEO Brendan Eich has led to dating site OkCupid warning users against using Firefox to access their site. Eich's difficulty is that he was largely unknown before the revelation that he had donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, legislation seeking to ban gay marriage.

Social psychology has shown that negative first impressions are extremely powerful and are very difficult to overcome, despite repeated positive behaviour subsequently.

For Eich and Mozilla Corp, this is very bad news as there is little they will be able to do to prevent Eich's continued negative image tainting the Mozilla Foundation, damaging their image further.

Submission + - In the unverified digital world, are journalists and bloggers equal? (

oztechmuse writes: As the source of news moves increasingly away from traditional channels to the millions of people carrying mobile phones and sharing commentary, photos and video on social networks, the distinction between journalists and bloggers has become increasingly blurred.

Making sense of this type of information has been as much a challenge for journalists as it has bloggers. Journalists, like bloggers, have had to learn new skills in working in this environment. Highlighting this has been the release of the Verification Handbook which attempts to education journalists in how to process user-generated content in the form of videos or images acknowledging that much of the reporting about situations, especially emergency ones, comes from the public.

The techniques outlined are accessible to anyone reporting on a story, adding to the eroding gap between bloggers and journalists.

Submission + - Do centralised broadband networks like the NBN enable systematic surveillance? (

An anonymous reader writes: In a document produced by network equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent on the security of Australia's broadband network, the NBN, it considers the security-based responsibilities of Government including managing information sensitive to national security; managing personal information on nearly every resident in Australia and; Supporting Law Enforcement agencies.

The document then goes on to outline the convenience of the NBN in providing interception on behalf of network service providers (NSPs):

“NBN will also have an opportunity to provide universal standard lawful interception capabilities on behalf on NSPs (who would otherwise be obliged to each develop and deploy a solution). This will lower the barriers of entry for NSPs, and in turn, this should result in lower costs to the consumer. This might be some way off but with NBN it becomes a real possibility and even likelihood.”

In the light of Prism, do these networks provide a centralised and systematic means for surveillance both by government security agencies, but also potential enemies?


Submission + - Australian Telco's Plan to Shape BitTorrent Traffic Won't Work (

oztechmuse writes: Australian Telco Telstra is planning to trial shaping some BitTorrent traffic during peak hours. Like all other telcos worldwide, they are facing increasing traffic with a long tail of users: 20% of users consume 80% of bandwidth. The problem is, telcos in Australia are already shaping BitTorrent traffic as a study by Measurement Lab has shown and traffic use continues to increase. Also, the 20% of broadband users consuming the most content will just find a different way of accessing the content and so overall traffic is unlikely to be reduced.

Submission + - How American are American Tech Companies? (

oztechmuse writes: American tech companies have a large percentage of their employees working outside the US (MIcrosoft has 40% of its workforce abroad), employee a large number of foreign workers, pay little US tax, keep most of their profits offshore, and most importantly manufacture the majority of their products overseas.

So what makes them "American"?

Tenuously, the only thing that really defines these companies as American is that their headquarters are based in the US.

If tech companies are redefining geography, consumers are quickly catching on with multiple ways of subverting their location and get around regional restrictions.


Submission + - Stanford's open source Class2Go: the next phase of the MOOC revolution (

oztechmuse writes: The concept of free online courses from some of the world’s most prestigious universities like Harvard, MIT, Stanford and others has certainly proved popular with the public with literally massive enrolments. 160,000 people enrolled in Stanford University’s first MOOC on artificial intelligence given by Professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun.

Participation by other universities around the world is going to be that much easier thanks to a small group of engineers at Stanford University. They have released an open source platform called Class2Go which is being used by Stanford itself to host two upcoming MOOCs on Computer Networking and Solar Cells, Fuel Cells and Batteries.

Developed using open source databases and software itself, Class2Go also makes use of existing services like YouTube to host video, and piazza to host online exercises. The idea is that content becomes portable and not necessarily locked into the platform.

Using a platform like Class2Go effectively reduces the barrier to establishing a MOOC from any university. This means that we could soon start seeing courses offered in languages other than English, tailored for local cultures and content.


Submission + - People abusing celebrities on the Internet are not all Trolls (

oztechmuse writes: A TV personality called Charlotte Dawson was recently hospitalised in Australia after a prolonged battle on Twitter. Originally centring around an abusive tweet sent to a follower suggesting suicide, the abuse of Charlotte Dawson escalated after she outed the tweeter and that person was suspended from her job.

The media characterised all of the people abusing Dawson as Trolls and cyber-bullies. However, looking at the tweeters, it was clear that most were ordinary people exhibiting "online disinhibition". The distinction is important because it will determine what strategies will work when dealing with abusive communication. Someone who is abusing because they are angry will not respond to being "retweeted". Ultimately moderation or blocking is the only strategy until software is available to do this automatically.


Submission + - Copying is the default creative process of developers and designers (

oztechmuse writes: Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in 1994 “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”. Tim Cook, in a memo to staff declared the Samsung court case to be about "originality and innovation".

The idea that any innovation is created in a vacuum is clearly not tenable. As a software or hardware designer, it is impossible not to be influenced by the products you use and see every day. In fact, part of the design process is to look at the competition and to make sure that you cover off features of their product in yours. This is a fundamental way both consumers and reviewers make decisions on what products to buy or recommend. Look at the functional similarities and design decisions in numerous product categories from Office productivity to games.

Apple iOS and Android are based on Unix and Linux with code from thousands of people who contributed for free.

When it comes to innovation, companies like Apple are ok about taking it from any source, but not so happy to give it to others.

Social Networks

Submission + - Redefining Apple (

oztechmuse writes: Apple has reached a point of success where two companies Microsoft and IBM have both been before. In the case of Microsoft at least, it didn't stop being a successful company, it just stopped having the public and the market believe it was.

Our perception of Apple and its value is distorted through the lens of our social identities. This is especially the case when the company is responsible for technology that we interact with on a constant basis. The challenge for Apple will be for it to allow us to maintain this identity through its products. It is not clear how Apple will do that though because it is not known for inventing things from scratch but more for being able to redefine existing products. Looking around, there is really nothing for it to redefine.


Submission + - Google Talk is down. Is the sky falling too? (

oztechmuse writes: How much do you rely on instant messaging services like Google Talk? One way to find out is for the service to go down around the world as it has done today. Quickly trending on Twitter, the impact seemed to be world wide, highlighting how important a mechanism of communication it has become and how vulnerable we happen to be when it fails.

Whether this outage has the same impact on Google as a similar global outage experienced by RIM’s BlackBerry messaging will be interesting to see. Google’s reputation has been built around delivering a reliable and technically sound service in everything it does online. A service disruption as wide-spread as this one has the potential to cause lasting reputational damage to the organisation. Of course, it also highlights that as everyone rushes to the “Cloud” and relies on services like Google to preserve our digital lives, this trust may be misplaced.


Submission + - Why SMS is still an important communications platform (

An anonymous reader writes: In 2011, nearly 8 trillion SMS messages were sent by about 3.7 billion users. These numbers are staggering for a technology that is limited to being able to send 160 characters from one mobile phone to another.
It turns out that there are a few reasons why SMS has become so popular as a communications technology.

Firstly, the simplicity of a text message of 160
characters is enough to carry important information and restrictive enough to ensure that people are concise and to-the-point.

Secondly, there is the pervasiveness of SMS-capable phones. There are approximately 6 billion SMS capable subscribers world-wide.

Finally, there is the cost, with SMS messages being affordable and certainly cheaper than a phone call.
All of the characteristics of SMS have led to its use in a range of applications aimed at fostering improved communication in rural and remote regions, especially in the so-called developing world.

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