Archive for May, 2014

Quick look: Google’s self driving car

Google’s sensors avoid trouble, even when other drivers try to distract the cars

Google’s self-driving car technology likely will not be available for several more years – think 2017 or beyond. Recently the company took a number of reporters on little rides to show off what the car’s technology can do now. Here’s a look at the picture profile Reuters shot at the event.

A Google self-driving vehicle drives around the parking lot at the Computer History Museum after a presentation in Mountain View, Calif.

A look at the sensing/camera device on the roof of the Google Lexus RX 450h car.

A closer look at the roof mounted sensor because of the roof-mounted laser sensor which spins 10 times a second, gathering a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings.

Another sensor mounted on a Google self-driving vehicle. According to a Reuters story: Other drivers who spot the self-driving car often swerve in front of it and tap on their brakes, hoping to gauge the Google car’s reaction, according to the two Google staffers in the car’s front seats. Another favorite involves car drivers waving their hands in the air, in an attempt to get the Google driver-seat staff member to take his or her own hands off the wheel and prove the car is really steering itself. “We just laugh at them,” said one of the Google staff members in the car.

Google’s cars have never “caused” an accident in self-driving mode, although they have been involved in a few fender benders, such as an incident in which a Google car stopped at a red light got rear-ended, Chris Urmson (pictured here], the head of Google’s self-driving car project told Reuters.

A screen displays views from various onboard sensors in a Google self-driving vehicle.

Picture given out by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles shows a Google self-driven car in Las Vegas, May 1, 2012. Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles approved the nation’s first autonomous vehicle license in 2012.

A video look at Google’s car and report on Computer History Museum’s new driverless car exhibit.

Google of course isn’t the only company interested in driverless cars. Here we take a look at Ford, MIT and Stanford efforts.

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Microsoft unveils Surface Pro 3 PC designed for enterprises

Surface Pro 3 is a tablet/laptop that’s bigger, more powerful than an iPad

Microsoft is betting the future of its PC hardware business on enterprises with the introduction of a high-end portable called Surface Pro 3 that has a larger screen and more processing power than previous Surface devices, and makes no attempt to go toe-to-toe with the iPad.
Microsoft Surface Pro 2

The device is bigger than a Surface Pro 2, sporting a 12-inch touch screen rather than 10.6, is built around a range of Intel Core (Haswell), low-power processors. Battery life is ranked at 8 to 9 hours. It’s thinner and lighter than Surface Pro and has a longer battery life as well.

+ Also on Network World: Microsoft gives businesses reason to adopt Windows 8.1 | Windows 8 Update: Microsoft wants Windows 8 to get small to run on more devices +

“Even with an Office version for the iPad, there was still a need to offer full corporate functionality that the iPad couldn’t readily achieve,” says Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates in a blog.“Directly targeting the high end of the enterprise market with full Windows compatibility across all apps is an area where Microsoft can win and it doesn’t need to sell tens of millions of this device to be successful.”

With support for all legacy Windows apps plus the modern Windows Store apps that cater to touch, Surface Pro 3 can fit immediately into corporate environments as a laptop replacement by adding a docking station that supports a 4K monitor. It sports a removable keyboard cover with a larger trackpad.

“We are not interested in competing with our OEMs with our hardware,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “We are trying to spark new categories of hardware. It is a device that takes the best of the tablet and the laptop and enables any individual to be able to read and be able to create and write, to watch a movie and create a movie.”

A major change is the kickstand that holds up the device when it is in laptop mode. With Surface Pro 2 there were just two positions that the kickstand could hold. The new device has a kickstand that can be stopped at any angle up to 150 degrees so the screen can be viewed optimally regardless of the height of the surface the device is sitting on and the height of the user.

The detachable keyboard has a hinged edge that can be magnetically snapped to the base of the screen in addition to the magnetic attachment that properly aligns the keyboard and the main device. The effect of this second connection is to stiffen the bond between the two halves so it doesn’t flex and so feels as stable as a conventional laptop, says Panos Panay, vice president of Surface computing.

The screen has an unconventional aspect ratio – 3:2 rather than 16:9 on Surface Pro 2 – in an effort to make the dimensions closer to that of a sheet of paper, Panay says.

The device has a thinner set of layers making up the display, meaning that when the device’s pen is applied to the screen it appears that ink is coming out of it, not that there is a gap between the pen and the surface on which the ink appears, says Panay.

The pen itself can turn the device on. So if a user wants to write on the screen when the device is turned off, they click the pen and that click turns on the machine opened to a OneNote screen for taking notes. The notes are automatically stored to the OneDrive cloud storage account when they are saved.

Surface Pro 3 has front-facing speakers, whereas the Surface Pro 2 had speakers at the sides.

Base price is $799 plus $99 for a keyboard. Gold predicts most businesses will opt for the mid-range $1,299 version with an i5 processor and 256GB RAM. Top of the line is a $1,949 model with a Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM. The devices are available tomorrow.

“Many corporate users have chosen iPads as a default believing that the Windows tablets are far inferior,” says Gold. “This new unit, given the potential performance available, may be enough to swing users its way, and will certainly be attractive to IT groups seeking to influence (or direct) such user choice.”

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IT Gifts for your Mother on Mother’s Day

Find a Mother’s Day gift with a techie vibe

Mother’s Day is coming up, and we’ve found Twenty Five gifts inspired by tech, science and math for geek-minded matriarchs.

Tablet stand
For sleek tablet viewing on the go, Rain Design’s iSlider pocket stand ($49.90 via Amazon) is lightweight and portable. The base slides out of its aluminum casing and can be adjusted to the user’s preferred viewing angle.

iPad kitchen stand
The Smart Tools for iPad set ($199.95) from Williams-Sonoma gives a tablet its own place in the kitchen so you can watch cooking shows, browse for recipes, or video chat while you’re cooking. The Kitchen Stand supports a tablet horizontally or vertically in four different positions. The three-piece set also includes a Bluetooth speaker that nests under the Kitchen Stand and a removable Screen Shield to protect the screen from splatters.

Hidden heart mug
Show some heart with a ceramic cup that reveals a heart shape when it’s filled. The Hidden Heart Espresso Cup ($35) is made by Daniel Chamberlin, who has a shop on 3D printing company Shapeways.

3D-printed bag
The 3D-printed Geometric Urban Code Bag 01 has an architectural quality, like a city façade. Best suited for holding documents, it has a slot for a phone and detachable handles. It’s available from Geometric, a storefront on Shapeways, in nylon plastic ($535.82).

Leafy phone case
Christopher Beikmann is the artist behind Da Vince Case. His vibrant Green Leaf set ($44.95) includes a zippered wristlet and a matching iPhone case. The artwork, titled “Leaf of Knowledge,” is by Beikmann, who makes and ships the cases from his studio outside of Denver.

Vessel pendant
Plenty of jewelry makers are inspired by natural forms and complex geometries, but I’m partial to the interpretations by design shop Nervous System. The founders are Jessica Rosenkrantz (who holds degrees in biology and architecture from MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Design) and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (who majored in mathematics at MIT). The crescent-shaped Vessel pendant ($39.99 for the 3D-printed nylon version) was inspired by the formation of veins in leaves.

Lineage art
After studying his own family history, graphic designer Michael Allen started making customized family trees that have a fresh, modern vibe. The Lineage style (pictured; $50) shows four generations, and you can choose from a number of color combinations. More styles are available at Allen’s Etsy shop, ModernTrees.

Astronomer’s cuff
For all those period she pleased you at nighttime, check out this cuff bracelet ($18) inscribed with a line from a poem by 19th century British poet Sarah Williams (and often attributed to Galileo), “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” The author of the brass bracelet is Kelley DeLaney from Etsy shop StarryBasementCo.

Portable power
If mom needs power on the go, Anker has her covered. Anker’s second-generation Astro portable external battery ($29.99 via Amazon) packs 6000mAh of power into a candy-bar shaped pack, and the even tinier Astro Mini ($19.99 via Amazon) slips easily into a bag or pocket.

Pillow places
A map can make mom think of a special place — a former home, a favorite vacation spot, a place she wants to visit. Etsy shop My Bearded Pigeon renders maps on pillow covers. Pictured is a vintage map of Pittsburgh ($52.54), printed on organic cotton. The owners of My Bearded Pigeon, Cath and her husband Neil, live on the east coast of Australia.

High-tech cooking app
Is mom intrigued by the math, science and physics of cooking? If the six-volume, $446 “Modernist Cuisine” set is too much cookbook, check out another option from techie author Nathan Myhrvold, who was Microsoft’s first CTO. “Modernist Cuisine at Home” is geared for home cooks, and it’s available in hardcover ($106.55) and app form (the ebook is $79.99; individual chapters are $4.99).

Modern birdhouse
Add a modern touch to mom’s backyard with a handcrafted birdhouse from Etsy shop Twig & Timber of Seattle. Choose from the Modern Craftsman style (pictured; $70) or a number of minimalist alternatives. Each structure is individually handcrafted.

DNA print
This made-to-order watercolor painting ($25) is inspired by the genome of Haemophilus influenza, a bacterium, and the colored bars in the circular genome represent potential protein-coding regions. The artist, Sandra Cullito, is inspired by the simplicity of the circle and the complexity of genomics. She runs an Etsy shop and is based in Rosaryville, Md.

Star pendants
Choose two birthdays — such as a mother and her child’s birthdays — and Dyo will combine the constellations from their astrological signs to create a pendant. The Dyo jewelry line is an offshoot of, a 3-D printing start-up launched by MIT graduates Dylan Reid and Greg Tao. The starscape pendants are available in brass ($75) or silver ($100) via The Grommet.

Smart planter
Increase mom’s odds of gardening success with Smartpot from Click & Grow. Battery-operated sensors and software measure soil conditions and control the supply of water. Smartpot with Basil (pictured, $79.95) is one option; starter kits with strawberry, chili pepper, mini tomato and other plants are also available.

Science beaker terrarium
A trio of glass Erlenmeyer flasks, planted with Dicranum mood moss, makes for a cool terrarium ($59) for a science-loving mom. The tapered shape of the flasks keeps moisture inside and reduces the need for frequent watering, says Patricia the creator and owner of Etsy shop Doodle Birdie Terrariums, based in Eagan, Minn.

Smart air conditioner
Help mom keep cool this summer with a smart air conditioner that raises the bar on design. The Aros window unit from Quirky can “learn” from mom’s budget, location and schedule to automatically maintain her ideal temperature without going over budget. Plus it can be controlled from a mobile device using the Wink app. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon ($300).

It’s in the mail
Is mom nostalgic for the old days of handwritten correspondence? Give her an iPad case made out of upcycled mail bags ($55 from Uncommon Goods). The inside of the canvas cases is lined with ultrasuede to protect devices from scratches.

Hand-quilted city map
They’re pricey, but stunning. City quilts from Haptic Lab are hand-stitched to depict cities around the world. Pictured is Washington, D.C. ($450).

Geometric heart
A heart-shaped hanging mobile ($93) is a modern take on a Finnish tradition. It’s called a Himmeli, from the Swedish word “himmel,” meaning sky or heaven, according to designer Melissa of Etsy shop Hruskaa. She’s based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and specializes in Scandinavian-inspired designs.

Compass necklace
Even when you’re far from home, mom can look in your direction with a functional compass necklace ($26) from JustBeDesigns, an Etsy shop run by Bianca Fleischman in Pawling, N.Y.

Reusable glass cup
Appeal to mom’s earth-loving side with Joco, a reusable glass cup that’s durable, lightweight, and perfect for savoring a cup of coffee. Each Joco cup comes with a silicone thermal sleeve and a lid for splash-free sipping. The 12-ounce cups ($24.95) are available in many colors via The Grommet.

Architectural mug
Adam Nathaniel Furman, an artist and designer based in London, was inspired by Gothic fan vaults to create his ceramic Fan mug ($62.62 via Shapeways). “… the great gift of the morning brew is elevated to positively ecclesiastical heights in its own inverted cathedral,” writes the artist.

Moon pendant
Give your mom the moon with a bronze-infused stainless steel pendant ($55 via Shapeways), designed with visible print lines and a rough feel for topographic effect. The 3D-modeler and designer, Urbano Rodriguez, is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Jane Eyre book scarf
Help mom get wrapped up in a great tome with a book scarf from Storiarts, a line of wearable literature created by designer Tori Tissell. My personal favorite is the Jane Eyre book scarf (pictured; $42). There are plenty of other literary classics to choose from, including Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes. You can also opt for fingerless gloves, pillow covers and t-shirts. (If mom is more of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of gal, check out this scarf.)

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Malicious Downloader’s calls out Microsoft

Anti-malware vendors advise about downloaders used to infect PCs

Microsoft is placing makers of downloader software on observe when it sees that their softwares are getting used to infect PCs, and it is effective anti-virus vendors that maybe these downloader agenda ought to be tagged as malware.

In its latest Security Intelligence Report the corporation comments that the use of previously benign downloaders has ever more become a means to infect computers with malware, mainly click-fraud programs and ransomware in which assailant extort cash from wounded in return for return their equipment to a useful state.

As part of its manufacturing teamwork, Microsoft shares the data it gathers from its clients about infections with related parties. In this case it tells the downloader makers in hopes they can restrict use of their products to legitimate purposes.

It tells anti-malware vendors so they are aware that certain downloaders represent a threat and should be removed from computers protected by their products, says Holly Stewart, a senior program manager in Microsoft’s Malware defense Center.

A downloader called Rotbrow was the one mainly often used to help malicious actions throughout the last partially of 2013, most usually by downloading a click-fraud app called Sefnit. Before that Rotbrow didn’t record at all as a tool use by attackers, Stewart says.

characteristically the downloaders are bundled with useful freeware such as software to unzip archive. The downloaders might be used legitimately to download updates to the unzip programs, or to download malware, Stewart says.

The dominant types of malware Microsoft observed being downloaded in this way during the last half of 2013 were BitCoin miners and click-fraud programs.

Bitcoin miners run in the background of infected computers to confirm and process Bitcoin transactions in exchange for earning Bitcoins. The attacker reaps the Bitcoins earned by the infected computers. Click fraud forces the infected computer’s browser to automatically click on advertisements that earn cash for each click logged. In both cases indication of the infections can decrease performance of the engine involved.

Microsoft also experimental the proliferation of ransomware, with one called Reveton important the pack and enjoying a 45% raise in use during the last half of 2013, Stewart says. The need to disinfect Microsoft computers of ransomware tripled during the same time period, according to the Security Intelligence Report.

Microsoft procedures prevalence of malware by including the number of computers cleaned per 1,000 computers that are execute Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool. For ransomware in general, that count rose from 5.6 to 17.8 between the third and fourth quarters of last year, Stewart says.

Ransomware attacker’s goal picky regions with particular ransomware platforms, she says. For example, the one called Crilock is aimed mostly at computers in the U.S. and U.K. while Reveton aims at the likes of Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Hungary and Austria.

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Open sources software’s are expensive than Microsoft

Microsoft cheaper to use than open source software, UK CIO says

British government says every time they compare FOSS to MSFT, Redmond wins.


A UK government CIO says that every time government citizens evaluate open source and Microsoft products, Microsoft products forever come out cheaper in the long run.


Jos Creese, CIO of the Hampshire County Council, told Britain’s “Computing” publication that part of the cause is that most staff are already familiar with Microsoft products and that Microsoft has been flexible and more helpful.


“Microsoft has been flexible and obliging in the means we apply their products to progress the action of our frontline services, and this helps to de-risk ongoing cost,” he told the publication. “The tip is that the true charge is in the totality cost of ownership and exploitation, not just the license cost.”


Creese went on to say he didn’t have a particular bias about open source over Microsoft, but proprietary solutions from Microsoft or any other commercial software vendor “need to justify themselves and to work doubly hard to have flexible business models to help us further our aims.”


He approved that there are troubles on together sides. In some cases, central government has developed an undue dependence on a few big suppliers, which makes it hard to be confident about getting the best value out of the deal.


On the other hand, he is leery of depending on a small firm, and Red Hat aside, there aren’t that many large, economically hard firms in open source like Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. Smaller firms often offer the greatest innovation, but there is a risk in agreeing to a significant deal with a smaller player.


“There’s a huge dependency for a large organization using a small organization. [You need] to be mindful of the risk that they can’t handle the scale and complexity, or that the product may need adaptation to work with our infrastructure,” said Creese.


I’ve heard this argue before. Open source is cheaper in gaining costs not easy to support over the long run. Part of it is FOSS’s DIY ethos, and bless you guys for being able to debug and recompile a complete app or distro of Linux, but not everyone is that smart.


The extra problem is the lack of support from vendors or third parties. IBM has done what no one else has the power to do. 20 after Linus first tossed his creation on the Internet for all to use, we still don’t have an open source equivalent to Microsoft or Oracle. Don’t say that’s a good thing because that’s only seeing it from one side. Business users will demand support levels that FOSS vendors can’t provide. That’s why we have yet to see an open source Oracle.


The part that saddens me is that reading Creese’s interview makes it clear he has more of a clue about technology than pretty much anyone we have in office on this side of the pond.

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