Showing posts from August, 2014

A Recipe For Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is the "oh gosh, it's so cute!" little single-board computer that has captured the imagination of hobbyists and students around the world. It's not the only single-board computer available (Arduino!), and not the only one with a sizeable following,  but it's cheap and incredibly flexible. The only reason I don't have one yet is that I am tight with a buck and I just upgraded my laptop to an SSD. My next project will likely be to replace my big, dusty media center PC (the guts of which are about 8 years old) with a Raspberry Pi-based system. Sweet.
If you are at all interested in this kind of thing, PC World put out a nice article on how to get started, how to load up the Raspberry Pi system and start having fun. It's very beginner-friendly, but still has some meat to it.

AnandTech Creator Steps Down *updated*

This was a bit of a surprise, but after almost 18 years of geeky goodness, Anand Lal Shimpi is stepping away from his AnandTech site and onto other things. The site has long been a mecca for those of us who want the down-low on PC hardware. The site will continue, but I still gave a little "*sniff* when I read the news... If you've built a PC in the past 17.5 years, chances are you read some hardware reviews on AnandTech at some point. The site's creator, Anand Lal Shimpi, has announced that he is retiring from the tech writing business. He said, "AnandTech started as a site that primarily reviewed motherboards, then we added CPUs, video cards, cases, notebooks, Macs, smartphones, tablets and anything else that mattered. The site today is just as strong in coverage of new mobile devices as it is in our traditional PC component coverage Wired 

*update* Looks like Anand is taking his "street cred" over to Apple, in an as yet unknown capacity.

Fixing Wonky Fonts In New Google Chrome Browser

Google releases new versions of it's Google Chrome web browser on a pretty regular schedule (every 6 weeks or so), and most updates go relatively unnoticed. The current one is version 37, and some Windows users have been puzzled/frustrated to see some issues with "zoomed in" fonts. Google has released Chrome Stable 37 yesterday and with it came a new feature to improve font rendering on Windows. The text rendering was switched from Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to DirectWrite in Chrome 37 and while the majority of users did not report any issues, some users noticed that contents looked zoomed in and kinda blurry in the browser. Most users who experience the issue on Windows seem to have set the DPI scaling to 125% instead of the default 100% value. I was not able to reproduce the error on a Windows 7 Pro and a Windows 8 Pro system though which makes it likely that something else needs to be causing the issue. Google is tracking the issue since Chrome 37 Beta …

JP Morgan Hacked Over A Period Of Several Months

Bloomberg - Hackers burrowed into the databanks of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and deftly dodged one of the world’s largest arrays of sophisticated detection systems for months.

The attack, an outline of which was provided by two people familiar with the firm’s investigation, started in June at the digital equivalent of JPMorgan’s front door, exploiting an overlooked flaw in one of the bank’s websites. From there, it quickly developed into any security team’s worst nightmare.

The hackers unleashed malicious programs that had been designed to penetrate the corporate network of JPMorgan -- the largest U.S. bank, which had vowed two months before the attack began to spend a quarter-billion dollars a year on cybersecurity. With sophisticated tools, the intruders reached deep into the bank’s infrastructure, silently siphoning off gigabytes of information, including customer-account data, until mid-August.
Read the rest of "JPMorgan Hack Said to Span Months Via Multiple Flaws" at…

Cloudy, With Price Wars

Dropbox just announced that they are increasing the storage of their "Pro" accounts from 100GB to 1TB, and this for $9.99 per month. Along with the substantial storage increase, they are bringing online some other features such as the ability to remotely wipe a lost or stolen device.

This continues a welcome trend for cloud storage provides, where costs are coming down and storage is increasing.


Apple OS X Yosemite vs Microsoft Windows 9

The website Cult Of Mac has an interesting short video teaser where they "take a look at everything we know about OS X Yosemite and what we think we know about Windows 9 so far." It's fun to see a side-by-side comparison, even if neither are officially out yet; OS X should be here this Fall, as will the preview of Windows 9. The actual release of Windows 9 should be early 2015.

Microsoft Hoping Windows 9 Hits The Spot With The Corporate Crowd

eWeek - Probably the best news about Windows 8.1 these days is that you don't have to use it. Microsoft, having seen how disappointed its corporate users are about Windows 8, has relented from last year's stance, and is allowing computer vendors to continue installing Windows 7 on new machines. This is a good thing because, otherwise, Windows 8.1 was well on its way to convincing corporate America that switching to Macs or Linux machines was the only choice.

In fact, I keep wondering if one major reason for the resurgence of Apple is actually because Microsoft had fallen so far out of touch with what corporate users needed. Let's face it, office users have a variety of desktop and laptop computers, few of which have touch-screens. They need an interface that's friendly to mouse and keyboard users. Windows 8 and 8.1 are strongly aimed at touch-screens.

Fortunately, Microsoft will be announcing the availability of Windows 9 at the end of September, with a preview version…

Mobile Phone Bills: US vs UK

NYTimes - If your monthly cellphone bill seems high, that may be because American cellphone service is among the most costly in the world. A comparison of two similar plans, one in the United States and one in Britain, reveals a marked difference.

Both plans include a new iPhone 5S with 16 gigabytes of memory. Both require a two-year commitment and allow unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting. The plan offered by the British provider, Three UK, offers unlimited data and requires no upfront payment. With Britain’s 20 percent tax included, the plan costs 41 pounds a month, or $67.97 at current exchange rates.

The plan provided by the American carrier, Verizon Wireless, has an upfront cost of $99.99 and then $90 a month, not including taxes. Spreading the upfront cost over 24 months and adding 17 percent tax — typical for the United States — comes to $109.47 a month. But while the British plan includes unlimited data, the American plan does not. It includes two gigabytes a month, wi…

ISIS Beheading: To See Or Not To See?

Personally, I do not want to see a real beheading. While I am not a "gore hound", I can suffer through all kinds of carnage in movies, even if I don't seek it out. I can even admire the techniques involved in the illusion. That's entirely different to watching an ISIS terrorist decapitating a US reporter (who was also a professed Christian). Even if I can imagine a good deal of the grisly, ghastly and bestial details on my own, I could not un-see that. 
I don't know that banning the video is the solution either; while I don't want to encourage the ISIS group by having this act "go viral", is it not also a kind of disservice to the victim by pushing it aside as too gruesome? Is that not the point? It's a sadistic and ultimately cowardly act of barbarism that should be acknowledged for what it is - and yet, are the majority of those seeking out the material just satisfying a base curiosity?
Food for thought:…

Red Light, Green Light, Hacked Light

The Register - Criminals monkeying with traffic lights are a staple of cinema: the 1969 Italian Job and Luc Besson's Taxi are particularly fine examples. Now researchers have demonstrated that fact is much less glamorous – and simpler – than fiction.

In a paper [PDF] delivered to the USENIX Security 2014 conference this week, a team led by University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman has found that traffic signals and their controllers can be hijacked in minutes.

Halderman and co claim this is possible from half a mile away with nothing more than a laptop and some radio broadcast equipment, since the electronics behind the lights communicate using almost no security checks.

To make matters worse, when the team approached the maker of the vulnerable traffic systems equipment, the academics were brushed off. The unnamed manufacturer apparently told the researchers that it "followed the accepted industry standard and it is that standard which does not include security,&…

It Slices, It Dices - TV With Baked-In Roku Box

TechSpot - Earlier this year, Roku announced that it had its eyes on the smart TV market and would soon be shipping devices running Roku OS supported by partnerships with Hisense and TCL.

The smart TVs are equipped with much of the same features found on the Roku 3 streaming box and will finally release starting next month. Users will be able to access over 1,500 channels from the new TVs including everything from Netflix and Amazon to Hulu, Pandora, HBO Go, Vevo and many others. As opposed to the included Roku remotes that come with the company's popular streaming boxes, the Hisense and TCL TVs come with their own remotes featuring quick keys to Netflix, Amazon, Rdio and others. The included remotes were initially positioned as a simple take on existing options with only 20 buttons, removing an unnecessary controls.
Read the rest of "Roku smart TV will release starting next month." at

Canadian Hitchhiking Robot

TORONTO (AP) — He has dipped his boots in Lake Superior, crashed a wedding and attended an Aboriginal powwow. A talking, bucket-bodied robot has enthralled Canadians since it departed from Halifax last month on a hitchhiking journey to the Pacific coast.

HitchBOT, created by team of Ontario-based communication researchers studying the relationship between people and technology, will reach its final destination Sunday in Victoria, British Columbia, where it will receive a traditional aboriginal canoe greeting at Victoria Harbor.
"What we wanted to do is situate robotics and artificial technologies into unlikely scenarios and push the limits of what it's capable of," said David Smith, the robot's co-creator, who teaches at Ontario's McMaster University. "It's challenging but it can also be highly engaging and entertaining as hitchBOT has proven."
The robot looks like it was made out of components scavenged from a yard sale — a bucket, pool noodl…

Windows 9 Preview On The Way Sooner Than Later

ArsTechnica - Microsoft could be shipping a preview release of the next major version of Windows—codenamed "Threshold" and expected to be named "Windows 9"—in either late September or early October, according to sources speaking to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. The preview will be widely available to anyone who wants to install it.

The final version of the operating system is currently believed to be scheduled for spring 2015.

Microsoft has all but confirmed some of the features that Threshold will ship with, including a new hybrid Start menu that includes bits of the old Windows 7 Start menu alongside new live tiles and the ability to run modern Metro applications in windows.
Read the rest of "Windows 9 preview could materialize as soon as next month" at ArsTechnica.

Lyft And Uber: Sh*t Gets Real

NYTimes - All is fair, they say, in love and war. And Uber and Lyft, two smartphone-based car services, are most certainly at war.

This week, Lyft, a San Francisco-based ride-sharing start-up, said that many Uber employees had tried to sabotage drivers working for Lyft, according to data Lyft shared with CNN. Approximately 177 Uber employees have requested and quickly canceled more than 5,000 rides from Lyft drivers over the past 10 months, Lyft said, in an effort to frustrate Lyft’s customers and drivers.
Read the rest of "Accusations Fly Between Uber and Lyft" at NYTimes

Apple Celebrates Robin Wiliams

AppleInsider - Following the untimely death of actor and comedian Robin Williams on Monday, Apple has dedicated a special featured iTunes section to a collection of his best work, ranging from classic comedy routines to movies.

The new section, titled "Remembering Robin Williams," showed up in the iTunes app's top carousel on Tuesday and points to a number of well-known movies, TV shows and audio recordings of Williams' stand-up acts.
Read the rest of "Apple remembers Robin Williams with iTunes tribute page" at AppleInsider

Old School, New School, And An Antique Radio

HackADay - Sometimes it is not how good but how bad your equipment reproduces sound. In a previous hackaday post the circuitry of a vintage transistor radio was removed so that a blue tooth audio source could be installed and wired to the speaker. By contrast, this post will show how to use the existing circuitry of a vintage radio for playing your own audio sources while at the same time preserving the radio’s functionality. You will be able to play your music through the radio’s own audio signal chain then toggle back to AM mode and listen to the ball game. Make a statement – adapt and use vintage electronics.

Pre-1950’s recordings sound noisy when played on a high-fidelity system, but not when played through a Pre-War console radio. An old Bing Crosby tune sounds like he is broadcasting directly into your living room with a booming AM voice. You do not hear the higher frequency ‘pops’ and ‘hiss’ that would be reproduced by high-fidelity equipment when playing a vintage recording. Th…

Deepin Linux 2014 - A Quick Look

Deepin is something a little different - a Chinese Linux distribution with it's own home-baked Desktop manager. It's not Mate, or Unity or Gnome 3; rather Deepin Desktop Environment, a sort of blend of Unity and Windows 8, built with HTML5. For the record, I never liked either interface although for some reason this makes more sense to me than either of those. The underpinnings are (surprise!) Ubuntu LTS, and the downloadable .ISO file is about 1.5GB, which seems to be the case for a lot of Linux distributions these days. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available.

Hope You Are Not Tired Of Live-Action Comic Book Movies Yet

Screenrant has an article listing 40 live-action comic book movies in the works to be released over the next 6 years. These are from both DC and Marvel, and feature both sequels to existing movies, and quite a few new ones with more "far out" characters, like Doctor Strange. There may be other animated fare as well, but this list sticks to live-action adaptations - that should satisfy the big kid in most of us.

XBMC Is Now Kodi Entertainment Center

XBMC (standing for XBOX Media Center) has been a popular media app for years. Originally designed to work on the first XBOX through some hacky tricks, it has also been available as a media center solution for various computer platforms and also as a packaged standalone solution known as XBMCBuntu, running on a version of Ubuntu Linux. I use the latter on an old PC, and it gives a pretty slick Roku-like system.
Moving away from it's XBOX roots, the XBMC team is rebranding as Kodi Entertainment Center. The developers now have control over their trademark, and the move should prevent trouble with "other companies" -- no doubt including Microsoft -- that might send lawyers after fans or the XBMC team itself. The first Kodi release is a rough alpha, so don't expect to see the new name everywhere just yet. However, it shouldn't be long before the XBMC badging is consigned to the history books. Engadget

D-Bag Of The Week/Month/Year

CNET - If you had been in a car crash, totalling the other person's car, then driven on, hitting another car and totalling that one too, what would your first instinct be?

I fancy it wouldn't be to post a Facebook picture of your car, with severe damage, and accompany it with the caption: "That's her front end after I got done with her lol." You surely wouldn't add a smiley face at the end either.

Yet this is what police say Michael J. Vanwagner of Coon Rapids, Minn. did on July 26.

The worst was yet to come. In the second car was 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. He subsequently died from his injuries.

As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, 24-year-old Vanwagner admits to posting the image and caption. Moreover, he posted a second image to Facebook, with the message: "I'm all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol."