Future Megacities Will Be High Tech Snake Pits - Pentagon

A leaked Army video paints a bleak picture of megacities in the 2030's, looking and sounding a lot like your standard "dystopian future" science fiction trope. Somewhat unusually for Pentagon training fare, the video portrays some of the social aspects of this predicted future. 
Strikingly, the megacities the Army imagines are like something from the pages of an early William Gibson novel. Rich people with unimaginable technologies live alongside shantytowns, and both groups are knit together by “unaligned individuals” who work “in the shadows” on digital weapons and social media counter-insurgencies.

Internet Of Things Getting Out Of Control

I dislike the Internet of Things concept (IoT)as a whole; I know I am being a stick in the mud, but so may of the things being connected simple don't need to be. You can count on one finger the number of times you might actually need to interact remotely with your slow cooker, for example. No one needs web-connected cameras in their fridge - c'mon, really? 

You just open your fridge before you go to the store and make a list or record a memo on your phone - you don't need to spend $1,500 to buy a new web-connected fridge. Or worry about your fridge become part of a botnet...

More than just being a grumpy old man though, the shocking lack of regard to even rather trivial security measures found with most of these devices is just depressing, and it will end in tears (or lawsuits), I am pretty sure.
The IoT is expanding faster than device makers’ interest in cybersecurity. In a report released Monday by the National Cyber Security Alliance and ESET, only half of the 15,527 consumers surveyed said that concerns about the cybersecurity of an IoT device have discouraged them from buying one.
Scientific American

Orionids Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

Seems like there is always some kind of meteor shower in the offing, this time is the Orionids, so-called because the shower appears to originate from the constellation of Orion to us here on planet Earth. For several days after October 20th, the meteor shower is expected to hit its peak - so it's a good time to head out to try and see something.
One reason that the Orionid meteor shower is so popular is that it’s very easy to see. Pretty much everyone on Earth can find Orion in the sky – although in the Southern hemisphere he’s usually standing on his head.

However, we’re still talking about stars here, so you will need to find a place that’s dark, free of ambient light, and not too cold to sit down and relax. Camping grounds, hills outside of town, mountain trails, and so on are all popular choices for a meteor shower party.
Digital Trends
Images courtesy Wikipedia


ReactOS - A Reflection Of Windows Of Old

Remember Windows 2000 and Server 2003? I have a soft spot for Windows 2000 myself, but yeah I recall those golden oldies. Curiously enough, there is actually an open source, free version of those flavors of Windows; ReactOS. It's not Linux, it is a Windows clone - it's a bit crash-y, and in alpha, but it lives...
While ReactOS' source availability and current usage is mostly intended for programmers to expand and improve on, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use it, and in its final state will be a consumer friendly OS. If you've used Windows before, you'll find yourself in a familiar environment with ReactOS. The learning curve, if any, should be minimal, since ReactOS duplicates many of the Windows graphical environment applets, control panels and dialogs (Windows 2000/XP/2003).


Dr Strange End Credit Scenes Are Quite Revealing

Those little snippets after the end of a movie - the post-credit or mid-credit scenes - have become quite a thing in superhero movies, to the point where some folks are disappointed if one does not show up. 

Some of them are just a cute bit of fan service (like the "shwarma-eating scene" at the end of The Avengers), but they can be quite revealing too. Sometimes they even refer to other forthcoming movies - little teasers, in effect.

Just some superheros eatin' schwarma...

The upcoming Dr Strange apparently has a couple of very spoiler-y doozies at the end of that movie. I am certainly not going to spill the goods here, but if you click on over to GamesRadar, you can find out for yourself, if you are so inclined.


Nerd Alert! Lightsaber School Opening In San Fransisco!

LudoSport International has been teaching people how to fight with "light sabers" for several years already, but not in the US - until now. A new school in opening in San Franscisco:
The school teaches the seven forms of lightsaber combat, including Shii-cho, Makashi, Soresu, Ataru, Djem-so, Niman and Vaapad. The classes follow rules similar to those in fencing and martial arts, and assign specific uniform colors for students' lightsaber skill levels, as with karate belt colors.
The CNET article does not say if LudoSport has some kind of agreement with Lucasfilm or Disney to talk about lightsabers and so on, one would assume they do otherwise I would expect them to have the ever-loving crap sued out of them...


Travel To Mars Fraught With Long-Term Dangers

Living here on Earth, as we all do (I assume if you are reading this you are doing so from somewhere on the planet) it seldom occurs to most of us that our home is flying through space at a pretty good clip. 

We also tend not to think of the cold void of space surrounding us; a void filled with cosmic rays and other nasty stuff that is fortuitously filtered out by our tenuous atmosphere.

However, if we actually get around to sending people to Mars, they will be subject to the effects of the damaging space environment for many months - and the adverse effects of extended exposure are not looking good.
"Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel," said UCI professor of radiation oncology Charles Limoli in a release, "such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."



Linux Desktop - Beginners Guide

Offering a computer user to reload their older Windows XP PC with some flavor of Linux usually meets with incomprehension, confusion or resentment. The concept of a 3rd "type" of computer vs just "Windows" and "Apple" really throws most users, and I completely understand the reaction on a human level.

Conversely, I have heard more than a few anecdotes (some from people I know) about sneakily switching out the OS on some pretext ("Its the new version of Windows!") and having the unsuspecting user carry on checking Facebook, looking at emails, watching videos, etc. with little impact.

Now of course, Linux comes with different Desktop Environments, the variety of which can appear confusing - although more than a few still follow the Windows 95 "Start Button" paradigm. Microsoft struck gold with that one, I have to say.

The "Beginners Guide To The Linux Desktop" is an article and series of videos that go into a little more detail that perhaps is needed for actual beginning end users (would they really need to go into any detail about X11 for example), but for someone who in interested in Linux in general it's certainly informative.

I still say it's unfortunate that we need to formalize the transition, as doing so makes it seem more of a big deal than it perhaps has to be for the casual PC user. After all, there is not much difference between using the Firefox browser in Linux Mint and Windows 7.


Go Go (New) Power Rangers!

I can't say I grew up on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, but our kids sure did. The hokey sci-fi/fantasy/kung fu mashup basically took large chunks of an existing Japanese TV show, mixed in some clean-cut US teens and bingo! Big toy sales and a very popular kids show.

Like many properties these days, Power Rangers is getting a remake/reboot/whatever. Photos of the suits are already out, and almost inevitably they look different from the spandex outfits of the TV show - more like multi-hued Iron Man suits.

Ah, the 1990's

A movie trailer for Saban's Power Rangers is out now too, and indicates an almost Spider-Man like origin story; put-upon high schoolers gain super powers through a strange device (I don't really remember actual super-powers from the TV show, but hey).


Altoids Mint Tins Feed Ingenuity

Altoids "Curiously Strong Mints" have been a favorite candy of mine for many years. I don't indulge often, but when I do, the little red and white tin empties alarmingly quickly. I knock those bad boys down 2 or 3 at a time.

And those rectangular metal boxes with the snap-fit lid have a "Curiously Strong" fascination for some folks, to the point that numerous articles have sprung up around projects utilizing the empty containers. 

Folks use them for everything from housing tiny computers to first-aid packs, and also for more mundane purposes like storing paper clips, or nuts and bolts (I keep my spare mini quadcopter propellers in an Altoids tin, for example).

Altoids Tin Morse Code Oscillator


Serious Systemd Bug Affects Several Linux Distros

Exploring the intricacies of Systemd calls in Linux is above my pay grade, but the way this latest discovery is described does not sound good; it's serious and apparently easy to invoke. What's worse, the bug affects multiple Linux distros, appears to be a rather obvious oversight AND has been floating around for a couple of years. That's more than a little unsettling.
[The command] sends a zero-length message to the world-accessible UNIX domain socket located at /run/systemd/notify. PID 1 receives the message and fails an assertion that the message length is greater than zero. Despite the banality, the bug is serious, as it allows any local user to trivially perform a denial-of-service attack against a critical system component.

The immediate question raised by this bug is what kind of quality assurance process would allow such a simple bug to exist for over two years (it was introduced in systemd 209). Isn't the empty string an obvious test case?
Andrew Ayer


Raspbian OS Gets Some Spit And Polish, Hello PIXEL

Raspbian and Noobs are currently the two officially-recognized operating systems for the Raspberry Pi single board computer; they both provide a visual front end to your Raspberry Pi hijinks.

Raspbian just got an upgrade, known as PIXEL, adding some (mostly visual) bells and whistles to the original product. It looks like Raspberry Pi users are a bit divided on this at first, since the little computer was originally intended as a learning environment, with simplicity being a main goal. 

Some say the new PIXEL OS is bloating things unnecessarily, while others welcome the snazzification and polish.

A typical Raspberry Pi computer