Showing posts from December, 2013

Batman vs Superman

The superhero movie boom continues, with hits and misses all over the place; when they do it "right", it can be a real blast - but the others can be pretty hard to sit through. "Man of Steel" was a great one (in my opinion anyway) and the recent Chris Nolan "Batman" movies were certainly widely enjoyed and lauded. So, why not put the two characters together into the upcoming "Batman vs Superman"?  Not only that, but it seems that some groundwork may be be laid in this movie for a Justice League franchise, because we now know that at least Wonder Woman will also make an appearance of some kind. The casting so far is...intriguing; Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Kal El/Clark Kent/Superman, Ben Affleck has the unenviable task of following up Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Fast & Furious 6 actress Gal Godot will play Princess Diana/Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. As I said, it could be great, or....

Finding That Mystery Song From TV Or Movies

If you enjoy watching any amount of movies or TV shows, then you’ve likely been down this road. You’re sitting on your couch enjoying a bit of entertainment, then suddenly there is a tune playing and either you know it, but can’t place it, or it’s simply something you’ve just never heard before. It’s the kind of thing that has long sent us scrambling to friends and family, begging for someone who can let you know. Worse, you’ve resorted to Google, or another search engine, with high hopes of settling your brain.

But take heart, as there are easier ways, thanks to technology. Both mobile devices and computers can be utilized and, given the number of us who now watch TV with a smartphone or tablet, that’s a good thing.
Read the whole article "2 Simple Ways to Track Down that Movie or TV Show Song" at MakeTechEasier

Tricky Thieving Trojans Tripled In 2013

Online thieves had a successful year in 2013, infecting three times as many computers, targeting a broader collection of nations' financial institutions and branching out into bitcoins, according to the latest analysis by security firm Symantec.

In a report surveying the impact of financial Trojans–the malicious software used to compromise consumers' PCs and steal money from their bank accounts–Symantec discovered 237 percent more infections in the first nine months of the year, compared to the previous year, the company stated in a blog post.

While the owner of an infected computer may not necessarily be a victim of financial fraud, their accounts are in much higher danger, Vikram Thakur, a researcher with Symantec Security Response, told eWEEK.

"They have been infected, so they will likely be a target," he said. "These are not idle threats; we know the threats work, because we've seen the code."
Read the rest of "Financial Trojan Attacks Against Ba…

Dr Who And Me

When I was a kid and a young adult in the UK, I watched Dr Who pretty religiously; it was a unique show at the time, and seemed to check a lot of the boxes that made engrossing TV for yours truly.

The fantasy/scifi/adventure show began in 1963 and ran for 26 seasons on the BBC, and I remember my younger brother hiding behind the couch whenever the Cybermen showed up - a victim of that delicious fear/thrill response that we sometimes get as kids.

He was actually scared, but would not fail to watch the show each time it came on. Like so many UK kids, we were hooked. The show eventually fizzled, but left behind a truly beloved legacy of quirky characters, hate-worthy (and sometimes sympathetic) villains, and some mend-bending storylines and concepts.

Cubli, The Weird Walking Cube

If you ever played with a gyroscope, you know if can be pretty mesmerizing and seems to have a mind of it's own; when you try to move them while they are spinning, they "resist" the change - kinda disconcerting. Well, if you lash together some gyroscopes and some computer stuff, you end up with the "Cubli".
Swiss researchers have created a metallic cube that can "walk" across a surface. Staff at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich crammed a series of inertia sensors and constantly-spinning rotors (called reaction wheels) into a 15-centimeter cube, dubbed Cubli, that enable the contraption to move around on its own. When one or more of the weighted rotors abruptly stops spinning, the machine sort of jumps on its edge -- all thanks to centrifugal force. Once upended, the rotors act like a gyroscope to maintain Cubli's position. Halt another wheel and things get really crazy: the device defies gravity, tipping up and balancing on one of its ei…

The Coming Robot Apocalypse

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Google Knows, You Know

Google knows quite a bit about you; you may have already gathered that from general discussions on privacy and Internet habits. If you have an Android mobile device, they likely know where you have been, too. Remember the Apple revelation from a few years ago that the company was keeping GPS data from iPhones? This is a bit like that, but Google is not really hiding it with their location history browser.
If you carry any Google-filled gear (like, say, an Android phone or tablet), there was a prompt during the initial setup that asked if Google could transmit your location data back to the mothership. [The location history browser] is that data. You know how Google Now can auto-magically figure out where you work and warn you about traffic? This is the data that makes that possible (or at least a good chunk of it.) TechCrunch

Windows 8.1 And Wonky SkyDrive

As people have moved to Windows 8.1 in the past two months, the drumbeat of reports that the OS update has affected the SkyDrive cloud storage service has grown louder.
Frustrated users have started more than 120 unique discussion threads on the SkyDrive section of Microsoft's Community site. There are other threads dealing with this topic in other sections of the site, and in third-party discussion forums.
Most of the threads on the company's Community site are active, and few have received a satisfying answer from Microsoft forum moderators.
The problems for the affected users began after installing Windows 8.1, the update to Windows 8 that started shipping in mid-October. The complaints include nagging and persistent error messages, slow performance, difficulty uploading files, lost and corrupted folders and documents, and sync troubles, including duplicate files and processes caught in a loop.
Read the rest of "Frustrated users complain about SkyDrive problems after … - We Hardly Knew Ye

I must confess I missed this particular meme (or advertising ploy). I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes, and if something has not been around for more than a few days it may well escape my attention. Although in my defense, my wife and I do enjoy the Animal Planet "Puppy Bowl" - so I guess there is hope. was gone almost as soon as it came. For three days, people passed around the link to that gave them a glimpse into a holiday idyll: a grandmother and an elf, surrounded by cats fluffy and sleek, who teased the sweater-swaddled animals with toys as an old-timey Christmas soundtrack played in the background. On December 6 at 5pm, it was reduced to a loop of past footage. It looked for all the world like a public access channel holding pattern, with only a couple more accoutrements than the looping video of a fireplace set to holiday carols. It combined that comforting, if artificial, display with one of the Internet’s greatest gi…

Firefox 26: Java Be Gone!

The latest release of the Firefox web browser, version 26, now blocks Java software on all websites by default unless the user specifically authorizes the Java plugin to run.

The change has been a long time coming. The Mozilla Foundation had originally planned to make click-to-run the default for all versions of the Java plugin beginning with Firefox 24, but decided to delay the change after dismayed users raised a stink.

Beginning with the version of Firefox that shipped on Tuesday, whenever the browser encounters a Java applet or a Java Web Start launcher, it first displays a dialog box asking for authorization before allowing the plugin to launch.

Users can also opt to click "Allow and Remember," which adds the current webpage to an internal whitelist so that Java code on it will run automatically in the future, without further human intervention.
Read the whole article "Exploits No More!" at

SugarSync Dropping Free Cloud Backup Service

I don't have large amounts of data to back up, either on my laptop or on our family PC. That works hand-in-hand with my inherent cheapness, allowing me to use the free plans of a couple of online backup services, including SugarSync. Alas, SugarSync is going paid-only, starting in February 2014. Thanks for using SugarSync. We wanted to let you know that beginning on February 8th, 2014 we will transition to a paid service. In order to continue using SugarSync you will need to upgrade your account.Making this change is something we’ve planned for a while. It will allow us to serve you better and add features that will help SugarSync users get more from the service. I can't really blame them; they are just clearing out the dead wood (like me) in order to offer the service to more users, and to make some money - that's the whole point after all. It's a good service, and the couple of times I have needed to use it, it has worked well, with no problems. The paid for SugarSyn…

Remember This? The "Blue Marble"

Forty-one years ago, in 1972, the Apollo 17 astronauts whipped out their trusty Hasselblad medium format camera fitted with an 80mm lens, and took this image of our home. No manned space vehicles have since travelled this far into space to get a similar shot, and this view of a fully-illuminated Earth has become perhaps the classic Earth image and is usually known as "The Blue Marble" - for obvious reasons. To paraphrase Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot"; this is where every human being that ever lived, good or evil, great or small, has called home. It's the only home we have, sailing serenely through space on an unknown journey - our blue marble ark.

Microsoft's Scroogled Campaign Presses On

Microsoft's adverting blitz war of words against Google is pressing on. The negative campaign (have you been "Scroogled"?) is of course, perfectly legitimate, if a little too urgent and desperate-sounding. The latest video features some "man in the street" interviews concerning a Google Chromebook laptop, which seems to be the latest focus of Microsoft's ire. It strikes me as kind of odd that Microsoft is berating a modestly-selling competitor with such vigor, but what do I know? The Chromebook is wheeled out in front of bemused passers-by and shown to be unable to complete some tasks while not connected to the internet and not running Windows.
Other passers-by are polled on whether they have one, know anyone who has one, or has ever seen one in use. The answer to all of these questions is always a rather firm "no".
This is not surprising. If people were to wax lyrical about the Chromebook to a camera crew and interviewer on Microsoft's pay…

Are We The Baddies Now?

Our covert agencies seem to be enjoying poking their fingers in the collective eye of the rest of the world. The latest weirdness finds the US National Reconnaissance Office stuck in a 1960's spy movie, where the baddies' organizations had names like SMERSH, SPECTRE or Z.O.W.I.E.  The latest batch of US Spy satellites sport a logo depicting a leering giant Octopus enfolding the Earth in its tentacles, and (almost unbelievably) the captions reads "NOTHING IS BEYOND OUR REACH".
Seriously? I guess we should be grateful they did not use Cthulhu...

Photo Tagging, And Sneaky Algorithms

A new algorithm designed at the University of Toronto could change the way we find photos among the billions on social media sites such as Facebook and Flickr.

Developed by Parham Aarabi, a professor in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and his former Master’s student Ron Appel, the search tool uses the locations of tagged persons to quantify relationships between them, even those not tagged in any given photo.

Imagine you and your mother are pictured together, building a sandcastle at the beach. You’re both tagged in the photo quite close together. In the next photo, you and your father are eating watermelon. You’re both tagged. Because of your close ‘tagging’ relationship with both your mother in the first picture and your father in the second, the algorithm can determine that a relationship exists between those two and quantify how strong it may be.

In a third photo, you fly a kite with both parents, but only your mother is tagged. Given th… - Hope vs Reality

Without wanting to pile on the whole ACA/ morass, I thought this NYTimes article is very insightful "How Was Supposed To Work, And How It Didn't". It takes you through a sort of interactive flow chart, indicating a frankly astonishing number of failure points. With new health insurance plans scheduled to begin for many people on Jan. 1, insurers are worried that repairs to some of the so-called back end systems of the federal health exchange website may not be completed in time. One of these critical systems is supposed to deliver a consumer’s enrollment information to insurers. And the system which the government will use to pay insurers the subsidy portion of a consumer’s premium had not yet been built as of the end of November. (Emphasis mine)


Another Suspect Set Of Toolbars

Toolbars are a bit of a blight, as far as I am concerned - you know, those little "strips" that mysteriously appear at the top of your browser after you have installed something or other (Java updates, for example). Only a few of them, in my opinion, actually give any true functionality; most are at least useless and at worst contain malware. Well, here is another wrinkle - how about a toolbar that ("legally") installs a bitcoin-mining engine on your computer? Not only does it slow down your PC, but you don't even get any of the "benefit" of the bitcoin mining process. Nice. ...the Myfreeproxy toolbar add-on is designed to let users easily toggle a proxy server, allowing them to anonymise web browsing or watch foreign internet streaming broadcasts such as Hulu or Netflix US.
However, buried in plain sight in the end user licence agreement (EULA) is a clause giving the program permission to install a Bitcoin miner on the user's machine. Given …

Playing Flash In IE11 Is A Little...Cranky

If you're having problems getting Flash sites to display properly in Internet Explorer 11 -- whether you're running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 -- you aren't alone. The support forums are clogged with complaints, citing different symptoms, from sites (including YouTube) that don't render properly and/or freeze completely to BSODs to repeated, bogus exhortations to download the latest Flash player. Microsoft hasn't come up with an explanation, much less a fix. The IE patch delivered on Black Tuesday earlier this month was supposed to help, but it doesn't. The only solution that seems to work: Use Firefox or Chrome.

To understand the nature of the problem, it helps to know the history. Adobe Flash has long been one of the three primary infection targets for Windows PCs, with Adobe Acrobat and browser-based JavaScript providing the other favored vectors. Adobe was never able to plug the security holes, and Windows customers suffered.
Read the whole story "IE11 leave…