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Showing posts from March, 2016

Paint Drying More Interesting Than We Thought

The phrase "like watching paint dry" is no doubt still apropos in some situations, but researchers have found that the actual mechanism of drying paint is not as we assumed. By considering how the particles push against each other, the researchers worked out that the inward velocity of a particle is proportional to the square of its diameter. For the paint, large particles should therefore move 49 times faster than the small particles – something that was observed experimentally.

Understanding this effect, Fortini says, could lead to a range of useful materials. "This type of 'self-layering' in a coating could be very useful," he says. "In a sunscreen, most of the sunlight-blocking particles could be designed to push their way to the top, leaving particles that can adhere to the skin near the bottom of the coating." PhysicsWorld

Why All The Negative Batman v Superman Reviews?

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice just opened to a huge weekend, pulling in almost half a billion dollars world-wide. The initial Twitter comments at early screenings were mostly overwhelmingly positive, and yet the critical reviews have been decidedly mixed (to put it mildly) and some of the negative reviews have been quite over-the-top dismissive and nasty (just take a look a the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for a start).

Software Says What?

One of the main attractions of anything run by software is flexibility and the ability to adapt as conditions change, as opposed to hardware that needs to be physically upgraded.
However, software has limitations, particularly at the edges - the so-called edge cases may not always be accommodated, simply because they are assumed to happen only rarely.
However if you are a person with an unusual name, say, you may flummox some websites when you try to enter your name. Frustrating. Consider also the experiences of Janice Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele, a Hawaiian woman who complained that state ID cards should allow citizens to display surnames even as long as hers – which is 36 characters in total. In the end, government computer systems were updated to have greater flexibility in this area. Or the (real) case of someone with a last name "Null" - you can perhaps image what that would do...
BBC

Microsoft HoloLens Holoportation

Microsoft has a new trick for their HoloLens technology; "Holoportation" - a way of interacting with lifelike representations of people in another physical location. A sort of virtual reality videophone, if you like.

The avatars are not video in this demo, they are 3d models reconstructed at the viewing end. ...Microsoft execs describe [Holoportation] as "a new type of 3D capture technology that allows high quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted anywhere in the world in real-time." ZDNET

SXSW Robot Agrees To Destroy Humans

Oops. Not "3 laws strong", apparently. Sophia the robot is quite lifelike, or at least very animated, with a notably expressive - and therefore that much more creepy - face. Sophia can carry on a conversation, and is programmed to learn. Sophia has 62 facial and neck architectures and a patented silicon skin called Frubber. She has cameras in her eyes that allow her to recognize faces and make eye contact. And she can participate in a conversation, using speech recognition software. She is even equipped with what Hanson Robotics calls its "Character Engine AI" software, or a personality. Unfortunately, Sophia apparently gets confused at one point during a conversation shown below and agrees to destroy humans. Oh dear.
CNET

Incendiary iPhone Scares Airline Passengers

Over 160 passengers on an Alaska Air were startled when a young womans' iPhone 6 began emitting flames during a flight above the Pacific Ocean en route to Hawaii. Luckily, the flames were extinguished quickly and the plane landed without further problems. Alaska Air says its crews are trained for this type of situation and the fire was quickly put out. Aviation expert John Nance said while most airlines have banned hoverboards because of fire danger, there's very little concern of that happening with cell phones. "First of all, it would have to be an occurrence on a daily basis before that would ever be tolerated by the flying public," Nance said. "This is not the sort of situation where you have a hoverboard in the overhead, or stuffed in baggage, which is a big concern. The iPhones are almost universal on your person or right by you, so this is not something that's not going to be discovered until it's a problem."Komonews

Car Hacking Vs Encryption Back Doors

Here is a great question; if the FBI is so concerned about vehicle hacking (and we should all be), why are they pushing for encryption backdoors - which would surely make things much easier for potential car hackers?
So asks a timely Motherboard article. ...the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for regulating motor safety standards, has launched an initiative to specifically address the threats to vehicular cybersecurity. The FBI also included a number of its own safety recommendations to promote motorist safety, such as regularly checking for software updates for your car, avoiding unauthorized software modifications, and using discretion when connecting third-party devices to your car. Motherboard

Back In The Day - Amiga Video Toaster

The Commodore Amiga computer was quite remarkable for it's time; a color GUI along with some pretty sophisticated hardware. Also, in late 1990 came a real breakthrough in the new field of digital video - the Video Toaster.

This was a plugin hardware card for the Amiga along with software that gave users something akin to the abilities of a contemporary $20,000 SGI workstation for less than a quarter the cost (including the cost of the Amiga itself). For that money, an aspiring video editor received a four-input switcher, two 24-bit frame buffers, a chrominance keyer (for doing green or blue screen overlays), and an improved genlock. The software allowed video inputs to switch back and forth using a dazzling array of custom wipes and fades, including the squishing and flipping effect that [Paul Montgomery of NewTek] had originally wanted. Bundled with the system was Toaster CG (a character generator to make titles), Toaster Paint (an updated DigiPaint for making static graph…

Microsoft Xbox Brings Us...Booth Babes?

The "tradition" of the booth babe is pretty much dead these days, except if you are Microsoft, apparently. At their official Xbox party at the San Francisco Game Developer Conference, there was a bit of chagrin among some attending when several young ladies were working the crowd wearing short plaid skirts and fishnet tights. How nineties!
Microsoft quickly apologized, not least because they are trying to foster a more inclusive corporate attitude towards women in technology. Yeah, about that...
Microsoft didn't say who hired the dancers and even Aaron Greenberg, head of Xbox games marketing, was apparently unaware of what the night had in store. CNET

Pentagon Welcomes Hackers

The Pentagon is inviting white hat hackers to have a go at their security in an event named - aptly enough - "Hack The Pentagon".
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will be “inviting responsible hackers to test our cybersecurity,” adding that he believes the program will “strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security.”Defense Department systems get probed and attacked millions of times a day, officials say. TheEpochTimes

New Malvertising Sh*tstorm Hits

A malvertising maelstrom of infested ads is hitting a lot of very mainstream sites, trying to infect visitors with ransomware and other crap. Sites like MSN, Realtor.com, NYTimes.com and so on.
People don't generally like intrusive ads on webpages, and install ad blockers. The website owners are losing revenue and trying to cajole visitors into  not using ad blockers - and now this mess. The campaign underscores the vital role that smart browsing plays in staying secure online. One of the most important things users can do is to decrease what researchers refer to as their "attack surface." That means uninstalling things like Adobe Flash, Oracle Java, Microsoft Silverlight, and other third-party browser extensions unless absolutely required. The other crucial ingredient in safe browsing is installing updates as soon as they become available and using the 64-bit version of Chrome for browsing when possible. Windows users would also do well to install Windows 10 and…

An Extension For Microsoft Edge

Microsoft's Edge browser (the default browser in Windows 10) now has an extension - or at least it's listed in the Windows Store. It's not something most of us who are not developers might be interested in, but it's the first of the Edge browser extensions Microsoft said would come.
Page Analyzer may not be the most exciting of extensions -- it appears to just give web developers advice about how their sites meet accessibility needs and comply with web standards -- it marks the end of a long wait. Also noteworthy is the fact that the extension offers support for ARM processors, indicating that it will be compatible with mobile devices as well. BetaNews

My Go-To Cross Platform Apps

Whether using Windows or Linux, I have several pieces of go-to software I always seem to automatically install. I use Linux almost exclusively on my laptop, but I also have a small low-power media center PC that runs Windows 10.


The Myths Are All Busted

MythBusters just signed off the Discovery Channel for the last time, after some 13 years of trying to validate popular "myths" using the scientific method (plus explosions, where needed). I found myself quickly becoming less and less interested in the show this last season, as it seemed to me to become awfully self-indulgent at least for the first several episodes - I stopped watching after that.

New Vantablack Is Blacker Than Black

Vantablack is a carbon nanotube material that has a remarkable light-absorbing ability, so much so that it plays tricks with your eyes. Now, the makers have come up with an improved version that is so dark, so unrelentingly light-absorbing that they can't actually measure it by conventional means. Vantablack has a lot of potential applications, especially in the military and space sector. It could, for instance, be used to coat stealth vehicles. Feel free to make your own riposte: "It's darker than Hillary Clinton's/Donald Trump's heart", "My God, it's full of stars!", etc...
Engadget

Bird Poop Shuts Down NY Nuclear Power Plant

When I think about possible nuke plant shut down scenarios, I might think of failing control systems, hacking, etc; bird poop is not one of the causes that naturally comes to mind. But big birds make a lot of poop, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cause problems. "Damage was caused by a bird streamer. Streamers are long streams of excrement from large birds that are often expelled as a bird takes off from a perch," said plant officials, the New York Post reports."If a streamer contacts an energized conductor, the electrical current may travel through the streamer back to the bird or pole/transmission tower. The result may be a bird electrocution, power outage, and/or line trip."TheRegister

AnyDVD Arises, Phoenix-Like, From The Ashes Of Slysoft

In a sly and foxy move (see what I did there?), RedFox is taking over control of the briefly defunct AnyDVD ripping software from former makerSlysoft. This situation was of most concern to valid license holders of Slysoft's AnyDVD software. While providing on the fly decryption of DVDs and, with an upgrade, HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs, the software relies upon an Online Protection Database. This database is used to identify the copy protection used by discs that were not present in AnyDVD's local index. Neowin


One-Third Of IBM Staff Being "Rebalanced"?

Ah, the euphemism; a kinder, gentler way to stick it to someone. This time, IBM employees are apparently being hit hard again in a big layoff, or "rebalancing". Another large US company shedding workers like it was going out of style.
Likely adding to the pain of many of these workers is a recent change in IBM’s severance policy, reducing a potential maximum of six months of benefits to one month’s worth. Spectrum


Gamers, You Need Windows 10

Microsoft is also going after gamers with their push to have us all using Windows 10 - in this case, it's the improvements in DirectX 12 vs DirectX 11. DirectX has been maturing and improving since it first appeared in Windows 95/98 way back when. Microsoft promises up to a 20 percent increase in GPU performance and up to a 50 percent improvement in overall CPU usage with reduced latency and smoother framerates. TechSpot

Ghostbusters Reboot Trailer Materializes

The new Ghostbusters movie trailer has lady Ghostbusters, a male secretary instead of Annie Potts, a lot of slime, and some very neon-looking ghosts who reminded me of Tron more than anything else. There were some laughs and I like Melissa McCarthy most of the time, so it might just work.

I very much enjoyed the original Ghostbusters (30 years ago!), the second one not so much, so we will see what some fresh blood can bring to the party.