Ye Olde Computer

An interesting take on the beige box:

What Is A Chromebook *Really* Like?

Google's Chromebook notebooks have fallen off the radar lately, amidst the tablet tsunami and waiting for Windows 8. The Chromebooks run Chrome OS (which appears very much like using the Chrome browser), but is almost entirely a cloud centric device. There is little or no local storage, and the software used comes in the forms of apps. If my recollection is correct, the initial suggestion was that businesses were going to buy or lease these devices to replace Windows boxes. However, the article below features a 3-month test drive that does point out some problems, even after several years of ongoing development.

For all but the lightest, web-focused users, the OS will present major problems, many of which are hard to notice until they emerge in regular use. While Google has had more than three years now to fix the more obvious issues, the amped-up Chrome OS release cycle ensures that new ones emerge just as soon as the old ones disappear.

Tie Me Quantum State Down, Sport

Australian scientist don't hang out on surf boards at the beach or study the flight physics of boomerangs - well, maybe a few of them do - but they are doing some cutting-edge work with quantum computers. Quantum computers are not something we are likely to have in our homes, but the technology does promise some exciting changes in the kinds of supercomputers we will have, and the ways in which we can use them.
While there is a growing consensus among scientists that working quantum computers will emerge during this decade, there is also a growing belief that they will not replace the conventional computers that are now carried in the pockets of more than half the world’s population. For one thing, most of the quantum computing approaches only worked when temperatures were cooled to near absolute zero.

NOT an Aussie Scientist

Another Week, Another Java Security Flaw

Another security issue with Java reportedly allows attackers to bypass Java sandboxing and gain control of the host PC. According to the reports, this affects all version of the last three Java releases 5,6 and 7, and the exploit should be present on Java installations on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux  operating systems where Java is enabled - so, kind of A Big Deal. Fortunately, it has not been seen in the wild yet, but this is getting kind of ridiculous, is it not?
The bug lets attackers violate the “type safety” security system in the Java Virtual Machine. “A malicious Java applet or application exploiting this new issue could run unrestricted in the context of a target Java process such as a Web browser application...".


Android USSD Control Code Problem

I have posted this on my other blog, but it seems to be pretty important so I wanted to add this small voice to the existing warnings to Android users (of which I am one).

So, if you have an Android phone, you need to be aware of a recently-discovered exploit. Most smartphone brands appear to be affected, not just Samsung devices as initially reported. Simply put, baddies can embed USSD codes in links, QR Codes, web pages and so on that can seriously muck up your device, including wiping the SIM – unless you are running the very latest version of Android – and only around 1 or 2 percent are running 4.1.x.


Stan Lee Still The Man!

Stan Lee - the most visible and lovable of the comic-book titans - is doing okay. After indicating he was canceling future appearances, fans naturally worried about the health of the now almost 90-year old writer and co-creator of Iron Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. However "Stan The Man" later announced that he had a pacemaker installed and plans to hang around for a while yet. Excelsior!

A Kinder, Friendlier Apple?

Apple, as a company, gives the impression of being rather cold and clinical at times, and even somewhat aloof. It's hard to know how much of this is a direct result of the leadership of the late Steve Jobs and his vision for the company (and indeed of his own personality), or if it's just a general perception whether correct or not. In any case, current CEO Tom Cook has made a public statement on the recent problems with Apple's new iOS 6 mapping App via an open letter, and the tone is quite contrite, saying the company is "extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers". It's not that Steve Jobs would never have apologized - he did, on occasion - but both the relative speed and the tone of the statement this time are quite refreshing.

DHS Getting It's Aerial Drones In Order

The US Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) is apparently getting pretty serious about the whole domestic drone program. Many drones are actually pretty big, certainly large enough to cause problems to other air traffic, and so DHS has a program called RAPS that they want drone makers to participate in so that everyone is on the same page regarding safety and navigation issues. No-one seems to be questioning the actual premise of monitoring Joe Public from aloft, but I suppose at least they are trying to keep the things from crashing into news helicopters or someones apartment building.

Why US Internet Access Is Slow And Expensive

In case you didn't know, our Internet access here is the good old US of A is pretty feeble compared with the rest of the world. Considering DARPA started the frikkin' thing, it's unsettling to realize we now rank around 29th in the world for Internet speed. Twenty-ninth?? David Cay Johnston goes over the depressing stats in a new book. His main issue is that the major communication companies are lobbying the heck out of Washington for sweet deals and no-one seems to care.


Gentlemen, Start Your (Search) Engines

In yet another sign of the coming Apocalypse, Top Men over at the ICM Registry have come up with a porn-only search engine, SearchXXX. The ICM Registry are the folks who brought us the .xxx domains in the first place, for use by websites whose primary focus is to enlighten mankind on the infinite variations of the "horizontal tango", or as we might say in the auld country: "hochmagandy".

Porn Search Engine

Buddhist Statue From Beyond

In a set of circumstances that would not be out of place in an Indiana Jones movie, a Buddhist statue that was brought to Germany by a Nazi archaeological team in 1939(!) has turned out to be an actual heavenly body. The representation of Buddhist deity Vaiƛravana was itself apparently carved from a meteorite fragment - probably from a known meteorite that crashed to Earth between 10-20,000 years ago. It's thought that the people who used the meteor were likely aware of it's origins, thinking perhaps that metal from the sky would be a most fitting material with which to honor the subject.


Aw Snap, Another 100,000 Passwords Fly Free

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) - who one would hope might know better - apparently had 100,000 passwords laying around on an ftp server's log files in plain text form. A Romanian researcher found them and informed the IEEE folks who took corrective action. Kind of discouraging when an entity that would certainly be considered by most as "tech savvy" presides over such a fustercluck.
Compromised IEEE members span practically every continent, with particularly high concentrations in the US, the UK, India and China. Of the 99,979 unique accounts exposed, 271 of them were "secured" with the password "123456," the second most used password was "ieee2012," while the third was "12345678."
Wait, what?

Rent To Own Computers Came With Skeevy Software

You can't afford to buy a "nice computer", so you go to the local rent-to-own store and sign up. What you didn't know and were not told that in some cases the rental companies had software in place that could perform some rather skeevy tricks, in the name of making sure you kept up with your payments. By activating "Detective Mode" on  the computers of (presumably) delinquent customers, all manner of data could be gathered:
Data gathered by DesignerWare and provided to rent-to-own stores using Detective Mode revealed private and confidential details about computer users, such as user names and passwords for email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions; Social Security numbers; medical records; private emails to doctors; bank and credit card statements; and webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home.
I understand the motivation on the part of the stores, but come on people - what were you thinking??

Squawking Over Windows 8 Readiness

I have noticed several articles (examples here and here) primarily based around comments from Intel head honcho Paul Otellini that Windows 8 is "not ready" for release. While that could be true - and Lord knows have seen examples from Apple, Microsoft and others in the past about slightly-better-than-beta-quality products being released as 1.0 software  (Windows Vista and the first version of  Mac OS X come to mind) - it seems most people who have worked with Windows 8 thus far are saying pretty positive things about the overall performance - fast, smooth, etc. It's not entirely clear from the reports I've see what Mr. Otellini is specifically referring too.

The complaints I have seen (disregarding the Metro/Modern UI interface, which I personally dislike) are that the Apps are a bit hinkey and there are only a very few of them. I doubt that would overly concern Intel at this stage though, those should come along in due course. The comments were made at a private company function and were not intended for public consumption (wink, wink), so who knows what the cunning subterfuge is behind all this...

Google's Sergey Brin Certainly Has (Self) Drive

Google CEO Sergey Brin said he thinks autonomous (self-driving) cars will be a reality for us ordinary folks within 5 years. Google has been beavering away at this admittedly odd-sounding concept for some time, and has already racked up over 300,000 miles on public roads without any accidents, but not without the need for driver intervention on a couple of occasions. This is something that Brin does not shy away from - possible mechanical malfunctions, software problems and so on are being explored and fretted over. Two US states - Nevada and more recently, California -  have already made the first steps in allowing these vehicles to operate on their roads, but obviously a lot of legislation will be forthcoming before such a grand scheme can be fully realized on a large scale. I myself believe that the hardware and software will be ready within the 5 year window, I'm just not entirely sure I will be...

Ho, Ho, Ho - Green Giant

The Incredible Hulk is one of those comic book characters that must be particularly difficult to translate into a live action setting. Apart from being a fairly ridiculous premise, just the physical realization of a large green humanoid thing must be a daunting proposition - and yet, we keep plugging away at it. The original "TV Hulk", with the big green version played by Lou Ferrigno, looks quaint now, but I can recall seeing the pilot show with Dr. Banner (the late Bill Bixby) "hulking out" unexpectedly while trying to fix a flat tire in the rain - it was pretty cool and rather startling.

In the realm of CGI Hulks, there is quite a difference in the three versions we have had so far - partly due to the technology available no doubt, but also in the individual movie "takes" on the character. I should say I am not a Hulk comic reader, so I don't know which versions if any come closer to the actual written character. There were a couple of moments I really liked in the first movie with Eric Bana, but parts of it were really trippy. The second one with Edward Norton was a little too cartoony during it's climactic battle to be satisfying. To my mind, the most recent "Avengers" Hulk was something special, with Bruce Banner played in a touching way by Mark Ruffalo.


JLENS Radar Blimps Actually Work...

From the If-You-Throw-Enough-Money-Around-It-Might-Eventually-Work department, the "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor" (JLENS) is a shark with a frikkin' laser beam, er sorry, a large pair of radar blimps that provide high altitude, long range detection of enemy missiles. Yes, blimps - those big balloon things with fins that used to float over London in WWII to try and cause problems for attacking German aircraft. The JLENS blimps are much bigger, much, much more expensive, and have high-tech stuff in them. High tech stuff that has caused impressive cost overruns. Anyway, the JLENS did finally help to shoot down a test missile, so it's all good.

Lytro Light Field Camera Coming Soon

The revolutionary light field camera from maker Lytro should be making it's way to major retailers near you ... in time for the holidays! The unique camera's claim to fame is the almost unbelievable ability to allow you to focus your photographs after you take them. You can play with some light field images on the Lytro site here.


Tin Foil Hat Time - NGI

I don my tinfoil hat from time to time, mostly when I read articles like this. The description of the FBI's new Next Generation Identification system gives me that queasy feeling you sometimes get when you realize something unsettling is coming to fruition. In this case, the system will use biometric and closed circuit TV data to create a permanent recognition file - and not just for convicted criminals.

Going far beyond the scope of those with criminal backgrounds, the NGI data includes criminals and non-criminals alike—in other words, innocent American citizens. The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. For example, the New York Police Department began photographing irises of suspects and arrestees in 2010, routinely telling suspects that the scans were mandatory, despite there being no law requiring defendants to have their irises scanned.
That, to me, is unsettling.

UEFI Windows 8 Bootkit Works. Oops.

UEFI is the "more better" replacement for the traditional system BIOS, and is appearing on newer motherboards and is supported by the latest operating systems such as Windows 8. Italian researchers have discovered that it is possible to insert custom code at boot time (a bootkit) and thereafter perform all kinds of naughty stuff on the operating system with impunity. They also indicate that it should be possible to use this type of exploit on OS X and Linux systems that support UEFI. How nice. They have a pretty detailed look at the issue at the link below. Note the English grammar is a little shaky in parts, due to the Italian source.

Popinator: Promising Possible Popcorn Projector

Submitted for your approval, the Popinator popcorn launcher . The device shoots a popped kernel when you say "Pop!", and apparently targets your piehole via the sound of your voice. This is something I think we can agree that we all need.

The company in question, Popcorn Indiana, states:

All we have to say is: it is a work in progress right now. We certainly hope that one day it will become a commercial project, but as of now there is no shipping date and no price tag. It is purely a fun internal project we are toying with here at Popcorn Indiana. Based on the very positive responses we are getting online, we think this is well worth looking into as a commercial product.
And here is it (looks pretty advanced for a "fun internal project") -


NASA Mulling Over A Warp Drive, For Real

In a wonderful chicken-or-the-egg moment, I find out that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (good old NASA) has Top Men looking into a real-life warp drive, potentially capable of powering spacecraft at faster than light (FTL) speeds. The article on Gizmodo goes to great pains to point out that while we can't travel faster than light according to our current understanding, by warping spacetime and sort of cheating, we can get the same effect (by taking a "shortcut" we arrive at our destination much, much more quickly). 

Apart from the jaw-dropping potential of this, I am confused as to whether the Star Trek writers just pulled the Warp Drive concept out of their butts 40-odd years ago, or if this has been a whispered-about notion for decades and we are only now beginning to see that it might be something we could actually bring about. Life imitating art, or scientists being inspired by a beloved SciFi franchise?

National Plug In Day, September 23rd

"A nationwide observance drawing global attention to the environmental, economic and other benefits of plug-in electric vehicles".

EV Charging Etiquette: 


Apple's Janky iOS 6 Map App

Apple's decision to replace Google Maps with it's own Map App in iOS 6 has produced some head-scratching and has cast a bit of a pall on an otherwise successful product launch. I get the impression this was a philosophical decision by Apple, to throw off any remaining associations with Google. CNET ran a side-by-side comparison, and it's obvious that in most cases the Google version is noticeably superior. While the Apple product is new and likely to be improved upon, it's odd they would launch with a product that compares so poorly to the previous solution. It also looks like Apple realized they had a bit of a dog on their hands as the The Register reports they put out ads for map engineers less than two weeks before the launch.


It's not a new game, but a patent application by Microsoft on a method of silencing your mobile device just by "whacking" it. Instead of scrambling and looking embarrassed when your phone goes off in the middle of a quiet bit in the school play - just slap your pants pocket real quick and look innocent. Technology at work, folks!


Just For Fun

This actually occurred to me, and I was a little chagrined to see a gazillion versions already floating around...


A Career In Computing!

There's a commercial I hear a lot on the radio (and it may be on TV too for all I know) that encourages you to look into a "career in computing", and gives a website to visit to start the process. I can't even recall the name of the site, and it's not really that important. The gist of the commercial seems to be, unless I am completely stupid and just not listening, if you go to this site and spend a short time studying - I believe they said "in as little as 6 months" - you can earn "up to $130,000 a year" in a rewarding IT career. 

Now, I work in IT and have done for years. It can be a rewarding career in many ways. HOWEVER, making $130,000 a year in IT demands a lot more than 6 months of study - suggesting otherwise is silly, irresponsible and setting folk up for disappointment. This is not a selfish diatribe because I don't make 130k - it's simply not realistic. To wit, the latest US Census Bureau shows median earnings for computer and math jobs rose 2.8% between 2010 and 2011 to $70,594

Mini-rant over... 

Happy Birthday, Google Android!

The Google Android operating system celebrates it's 4th birthday this month. In September 2008, version 1.0 was publicly released, although the history goes back considerably further. In 2003 the Android company was started in Palo Alta, CA, and Google purchased them in 2005. Android is a Linux-based operating system geared primarily to mobile, touch screen devices and is developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance.

"Internet Exploder" Seems Oddly Appropriate At Times

When I hear the snarky moniker "Internet Exploder" I have a brief vision of Steve Ballmer, red-faced and fuming, with veins popping out on his sweaty temples. In my vision, he is berating some cowering minion - yes, my mind actually works like that sometimes. Anyway, I should not be surprised if he has been in fine form lately, as Internet Explorer (all current versions) are once again affected by a zero-day vulnerability that falls outside Microsoft's update schedule. Microsoft is issuing a temporary fix in the next few days, which I'm sure all of two or three dozen users will actually install. The "real" fix will presumably come in a forthcoming "Patch Tuesday" release. I don't blame Microsoft, in the sense that IE is such a HUGE target for the bad guys - Internet Explorer is a victim of it's own ubiquity.


Just For Fun

The Elderwood Project Revealed

I am usually a little leery of sensational-sounding claims by security firms; "feathering the nest" is the phrase that usually comes to mind. That said, Symantec has a sobering blog post regarding something they are calling The Elderwood Project. They outline ongoing efforts to infect and otherwise disrupt critical infrastructure using zero-day exploits:

The primary targets identified are within the defense supply chain, a majority of which are not top-tier defense organizations themselves. These are companies who manufacture electronic or mechanical components that are sold to top-tier defense companies. The attackers do so expecting weaker security postures in these lower tier organizations and may use these manufacturers as a stepping-stone to gain access to top-tier defense contractors, or obtain intellectual property used in the production of parts that make up larger products produced by a top-tier defense company.
That's not very comforting, is it?
Symantec Offical Blog 

A Microsoft "Holodeck" In The Wings?

Microsoft is boldly going ... or they are at least thinking about it, as a recent patent application reveals. Now, of course a patent and a  real-life product are opposite ends of a lot of hard work in the middle, but it's intriguing to see what could be. The basic premise appears to be a room in which an (XBox) game player is surrounded by peripheral (moving?) images that complement the game play. It's not a virtual reality set-up in the sense that the gamer wears goggles to produce the immersive experience, but rather the actual physical environment is involved (others in the room would be able to see it too) - pretty trippy.

SSD vs HDD Three Years Later

ComputerWorld writer Lucas Mearian @LucasMearian has a extensive article on the merits of SSD, HDD and Hybrid Drives and is able to use a similar article he wrote three years ago as an excellent baseline for comparison. He is very much pro-SSD, but gives out caveats in the article also, and so overall it's a balanced and rather detailed piece that should provide good food for thought.


Android Rules! (In 2013)

Android is poised to to become the first smartphone platform to reach one billion devices by next year. We are so used to huge numbers being tossed around these days with a multi-trillion dollar national debt and the like, but just think of all those smartphones. One thousand million devices. Imagine if all those little buggers start talking to each other and gang up on us...


Opportunity Still Knocking

More than 8 years since it began it's exploratory mission, the Mars Rover Opportunity is still providing valuable data to NASA and their researchers. While Curiosity is naturally getting the most attention at the moment, the old school vehicle is still delivering the goods. This time, the discovery of an unusual kind of "blueberry" - no, not real blueberries; these are small, round objects thought to be evidence of concretion, a phenomenon usually associated with water interaction. Water. On Mars. Previous blueberries have had a high iron content but this crop appears to be different, giving the geologists something new to ponder.
Opportunity, before she hit the road.


Legos + Raspberry Pi = Supercomputer!

If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. If you happen to have some Lego bricks and a bunch of Raspberry Pi computers laying around, make a Supercomputer  - at least, this guy did.


Arty-Fartsy Google Glasses Video

So, here we have the future (I guess) - a video made entirely of clips made by Google Glasses (the wearable video system you can plainly see in some of the shots). The quality appears to be quite good, and it certainly opens up some creative possibilities. Anyway, enjoy lots of pretty ladies strutting their stuff at the DVF Spring 2013 fashion show:


Considerate Chinese PC Makers Pre-Install A Virus

I don't think there is anything amiss here; the Chinese PC makers just want you to enjoy the whole Windows experience right off the bat - viruses included. Free.

Microsoft’s digital crime researchers purchased 20 new computers from different cities in China and discovered that four of them had been infected with viruses. In each case, the computers were running counterfeit versions of Windows software that were infected with the virus.

Helium Makes You Sound Funny, Makes Hard Drives Work Better

Helium, the lighter-than-air gas used to make party balloons float and to let us talk in a funny voice has another use: allowing hard disk drives to run cooler and more efficiently. Western Digital believes their technology will allow more platters per drive, higher data density and lower drag on the drive heads (which "fly" over the surface of the platters at ridiculously tiny distances). The drives are evacuated, filled with Helium, and hermetically sealed.


Windows iTunes Security Update Fixes Many, Many Holes

According to TheH Security:
The latest update to the Windows version of Apple's popular iTunes media player closes an alarming number of security holes. According to the company, iTunes 10.7 for Windows addresses a total of 163 vulnerabilities, all of which are in the WebKit browser engine used by the media player to display HTML-based pages in its iTunes Store.
Note that this refers to the Windows version of iTunes, the OS X version already addresses these security issues. The new version 10.7 of iTunes is available for Windows, and for Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later. The Mac version contains some non-security related fixes.


Google's Android Statues

Google - like some other tech companies - has some quirky ways at times; whimsical doodles on their flagship search page to celebrate dates and events, and goofy names for their Android operating system versions. Ubuntu also does this with their Linux operating system versions. 

Google Android is the operating system used on millions of smartphones and tablet computers. It has "normal" version numbers like 2.3 and 4.0, but also carries official version names like Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and the latest one: Jelly Bean. Google being Google, they also have some small statues representing these versions at their headquarters in California, and in fact they recently had to replace the Jelly Bean statue because...yep, the fake Jelly Beans were melting in the hot Cali sun. Can't make this stuff up folks.

The new, mo'better Jelly bean statue


Apple UDID Update

The brouhaha over the claims by the AntiSec and Anonymous hacker groups of millions of Apple device UDID being stolen from an FBI computer is the gift that keeps on giving. Now publisher Blue Toad's CEO Paul DeHart says the data was actually stolen from them a couple of weeks ago. Scout's honor. 
Can we tighten things up just a wee bit people? Please? ANYONE??
Both the FBI and Apple denied that the device IDs had originated from their information assets. An exclusive report by NBC news explains that there are no clues as to how the data was leaked, though BlueToad says it has "fixed the vulnerability". DeHart says he can't rule out the possibility that the data was shared with others and ended up on an FBI computer, but he also doesn't know who took the data originally.


Faith And Begorrah, 'Tis A Gaelic Virus!

Gaelic, an ancient language still used in Ireland and parts of the UK, now has the dubious honor of having a computer virus use Gaelic to threaten an unsuspecting Irish computer user.

The malware – dubbed Gaeilge – is a strain of ransomware that locks up an infected computer and attempts to extort €100 from the user for an unlock code. The demand for cash reportedly appeared in poorly written Gaelic, and the software nastie was spotted on a computer in County Donegal, Ireland.

Ubuntu Out, Sabayon In

My current whirlwind tour of operating systems has taken another turn - I dumped Ubuntu and installed Sabayon Linux. The Unity interface in Ubuntu was making me mental. It was just too cumbersome when working with more than one thing at a time - I need to readily switch between two or three things and it was too clunky for my liking, or perhaps I should say for my way of working. I'm taking a bit of a chance on Sabayon 9 - it's Gentoo-based, so I'm moving away from the Debian/Ubuntu/Mint universe. This version has Gnome 3 and so far the differences between that and Unity seem to be acceptable. So far so good - stayed tuned!


Microsoft+Adobe+Flash+IE10 = Clusterfizzle

Well, this is just silly. 

The IE 10 browser that come with Windows 8 has a bundled Flash player in the browser, a'la Google's Chrome. Neither browser's plugin can be updated by Adobe - they are patched by Microsoft and Google respectively, so the recent Flash update can't be applied to either. Chrome gets security updates pushed to it as needed, whereas Microsoft issues security updates on "Patch Tuesday" - the second Tuesday of the month - primarily to provide a timetable for sysadmins around which to organize their update deployments. 

Adobe also releases updates on Tuesdays, but usually the third or fourth Tuesdays - see where I am going with this? There is potentially a big friggin' G-A-P twixt the two. Flash player exploits are very prevalent, so I think the two companies need to figure this out pretty quick. Also, Microsoft has apparently decided not to issue a patch for the IE 10 version of Flash player until the official release of Windows 8, so those using the consumer or developer preview versions should take note.

Thoughts On The Kindle Fire HD

Amazon has come up with a revamped line of Kindle Fire tablets, the head of which - the almost 9 inch Kindle Fire HD - had a pretty high specification display (close to Apple's Retina display resolution), and some other nice hardware improvements. No doubt they will sell in gobs, just like the original Fire and the iPad have. Amazon has a great marketing infrastructure, obviously, and they have tweaked the Android OS (now Android 4.0) on the Fire models to better suit their audience and the products they are offering to them. In that sense, it's a similar kind of deal to Apple and iTunes - a carefully curated store of media to be consumed by paying customers. 

On the other hand, the "normal" Android Store (now Google Play) for the rest of us is a bit more loosey-goosey, and to be honest I sort of like the latter approach. To see the sales of the previous Fire tablet and the continuing success of the iPad, I must be in the minority though. So, should be an interesting holiday season!


Another Run In With Ubuntu

One thing I have noticed about getting older is that I have the attention span of a gnat. I never was a great thinker or ponderer, but now I find my interests flitting about like a butterfly on a Summer day. It can be useful to some degree when multitasking at work, but it can be a detriment too. I mention that as I am now on my fourth laptop operating system in a few months. Yeah, I know...

The Little Space Probe That Could

I'm not referring to Curiosity, trundling around in Mars - but rather the Grandaddy of space probes, Voyager. Voyager 1 and 2 are still going, still communicating with Earth, and are expected to do so for perhaps another 10 years. Voyager 1 has been chugging along for 35 years and is around 11 billion miles from the Sun, about to leave our solar system for ever. We got the first great close up views of several planets from the little probes, and Voyager 1 also gave us the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photo about which Carl Sagan waxed so eloquently. From Wikipedia:
Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life-forms from other planetary systems.[4] The discs carry photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people (e.g. the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States) and a medley, "Sounds of Earth", that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of Earth music, including works by Mozart and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode".

Happy Birthday Freddie Mercury!

Rovio Entertainment turns Freddie Mercury into an Angry Birds character as a tribute to the Freddie For A Day campaign, which raises money and awareness for the HIV/AIDS charity Mercury Phoenix Trust.


One Million Apple Device ID's Leaked

The AntiSec hacker group has released one million Apple UDIDs (unique device identifiers) onto the web, a fraction of the 12 million UDID's they claim to have obtained from a compromised FBI employees laptop. This immediately raises the question "What the Aitch-Eee-Double-Hockey-Sticks was an FBI employee doing with 12 million Apple UDIDs in the first place"? But that's just me, I guess.

The released information was reportedly edited to not show names and cell numbers, where those were originally present. Not clear what can be done with this information, but anytime a unique identifier can be tied to an account or a person, that can't be good. Neither Apple nor the FBI are making any comment so far.


Classic Atari Games Online

Microsoft and Atari got together to offer quite a few classic arcade games - Pong, Centipede, etc - playable online for free in your browser (preferably Internet Explorer, the site says). The Atari 40th Anniversary games are also playable on touch devices, but that's not required. Some looked more or less like the original Arcade versions, while some were spruced up with different graphics.

I tried a few using Firefox 15 and Opera 12 running on Linux, and they seemed to work fine. Google Chrome (actually Chromium 18) looked really wonky, for some reason.


Java Fixed - Er, No, Wait...

We are not doing well with Java exploits...
Only hours after Oracle released its latest Java 7 update to address active exploits, security researchers found yet another vulnerability that can be exploited to run arbitrary code on systems that have the runtime installed.

Oracle's latest release of its Java 7 runtime has come under scrutiny in the past few weeks after it was found being actively exploited in malware attacks that target Windows systems. While so far the vulnerability has only been found being used against Windows, other platforms such as the Mac OS could potentially be targeted through the same explo

TARDIS Spotted Via Google Street View

Doctor Who's preferred mode of transportation, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), is showing up in Google Street views across the UK. As Dr.Who viewers will know, the Doctor's TARDIS got "stuck" looking like a 1960's UK Police Call Box after it's chameleon circuitry went wonky. Some may argue that Google is simply catching some surviving relics from that time that are still dotted around the shores of Old Blighty - but as the TARDIS can travel through time and space, and could therefore appear in more than one place at the same time, I think we have our answer...