Posts tagged Tech

Weird science: The 10 oddest tech stories of 2014

Online telepaths, culinary AI, criminal drones — the tech world was full of offbeat surprises this year

Weird science: The 10 oddest tech stories of 2014
Every now and again, strange events from the world of high tech bubble over to the general news cycle and make headlines for a day or two. No doubt these crossover hits favor reports that enforce the general populace’s sentiment that technologists are fringe lunatics with their eyes on our collective future demise. This phenomenon has become more common in recent years as the intersections of technology and pop culture have become busier and more crowded. In 2014, plenty of technology weirdness cycled through the “odd news” section of mainstream media outlets. But for the real connoisseur of weird tech news, there’s a very specific sweet spot.

It concerns those instances in which emerging technology seems to misbehave, wandering to places we don’t anticipate, thereby generating a moment of cognitive dissonance. Here we take a look at 10 of the weirder tech stories of 2014, featuring online telepaths, moonlighting artificial intelligences, and criminal drones. And now, here’s the news….

IBM creates AI foodie chef
Advances in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing continued to make headlines in 2014, with Johnny Depp getting all transcendent and ex-“Jeopardy” champ AI Watson doing on-the-fly Twitter translations and demonstrating its first machine learning API. IBM launched another cognitive computing initiative earlier this year, partnering with the Institute of Culinary Education to create what is essentially a hipster foodie AI chef.

Designed to think, experiment, and learn, the computer chef has generated recipes like Belgian Bacon Pudding, Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche, and the deeply disturbing Austrian Chocolate Burrito. The foods, prepared by a team of carbon-based chefs, have been touring around to industry events in the IBM Food Truck — three words that really should never appear in sequence.

3D printer hacked into tattoo machine
“Trypanophobia” is the medical term for fear of needles, and for us dedicated tryanophobes, this may be the scariest tech story of the year. Back in April, a group of psychotic French design students hacked a commercial 3D-printing machine and added, yes, an actual tattoo gun.

Check out the accompanying video and you’ll see that the machine pretty much works how you think it might. A young insane person volunteer sticks his arm into the tattoo machine, whereupon his flesh is inked automatically by the computer-controlled needle, in place of the printer’s original extruder. In case you’re interested in making your own tattoo machine, the team has posted full instructions on the hack at Instructables.

Fans of Franz Kafka will note that “In the Penal Colony” got a little less metaphoric

Robot hitchhikes across Canada
Then there’s the curious case of the Canadian hitchhiking robot. In July, researchers from a pair of Canadian universities deployed hitchBOT onto the highways of the Great White North, where the experimental ‘bot ultimately traveled from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia — hitchhiking the entire way.

The project was part of a larger research study concerning the utility of social robots and the psychology of human kindness. Using its LED-screen face to petition for rides, hitchBOT made the coast-to-coast trip in 21 days, plugging into cars’ cigarette lighters to recharge, posting videos on social media, and relying on the kindness of strangers. Canada, generally regarded as the planet’s nicest nation-state, may be the only country where this could have worked.

University builds city of robot cars
More from the robotics desk: Back in May, an odd little news story started making the rounds about a fake city sprouting up in southern Michigan. Designed by engineers and robotics researchers at the University of Michigan, the 32-acre simulated city center is intended to be a future home for hundreds of autonomous robots.

Well, sort of. The Mobility Transformation Facility is a test site for the future of automated vehicles and self-driving cars and trucks. Situated only a few dozen miles from the original Motor City of Detroit, the ersatz metropolis will eventually include a four-lane freeway, merge lanes, stoplights, a railroad crossing, and even mechanical bicyclists and pedestrians.

Drug-smuggling drone crashes outside of prison
Probably the single most prevalent tech topic in 2014, drones made for weird news throughout the year — from controversial FAA decisions to eerie footage of Chernobyl to insanely great Halloween projects.

In July, authorities at the maximum security Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina reported on a new and potentially problematic drone development. It seems someone attempted to fly a small drone loaded with contraband — marijuana, tobacco, and mobile phones — over the walls and into the prison yard. The scheme didn’t work, though. The drone crashed short of the prison walls.

Smartphones are the new plumage
Sometimes the worlds of hard science and social science converge to make news in a weirdo, Venn diagram kind of way. Such was the case in October when researchers at the University of Würzburg in Germany released a report that was both intriguing and entirely predictable. According to the study, men who are single or in uncommitted relationships are more likely to purchase high-end smartphones than other men.

The phones are a mating signal of sorts, the researchers conjecture, intended to communicate that the bearer of the phone has sufficient resources to provide for potential partners. “Studies have suggested that, as part of short-term mating strategies, men are particularly willing to engage in conspicuous consumption to attract mates,” according to the research abstract. The full report will be published early next year in the prestigious quarterly journal Incredibly Obvious Things We Get Paid to Quantify.

Scientists test Internet telepathy
Another odd trend in 2014 involved news stories about an emerging kind of online telepathy — really. In November, researchers at the University of Washington sent direct brain-to-brain transmissions over the Internet in which one test subject was able to move the hand of another, simply by thinking about it.

In a similar study back in August, scientists from several different countries employed Internet-linked neural devices to essentially broadcast one person’s thoughts to other people around the world. The single-word thoughts (like “hola” and “ciao”) were detected by electroencephalogram units, translated into binary code, then reassembled in the receivers’ brains by way of transcranial magnetic stimulation technology.

Google Glass app promises brainwave control
In yet another variation on the theme, an intriguing open source app surfaced over the summer that — in terms of strict dictionary definition — appears to give users telekinetic powers. The MindRDR system uses Google Glass plus a commercially available EEG headset to let users take pictures and post social media — using brainwaves.

The dermal patch on the headset can be positioned to detect when you’re concentrating hard on a particular image in your field of view. When the displayed indicator reaches a threshold, MindRDR snaps a pic via the Glass camera and uploads it automatically to whatever online destination you’ve previously chosen. When news broke about MindRDR in July, nerdier observers noted that the effect is arguably telekinetic — you’re effecting change in the material world by the power of thought. Jean Grey would be proud.

Smartphone chip beams real hologram
Speaking of nerdy, the new “Star Wars” trailer has fans geeking out yet again, nearly 40 (!) years after the first film’s debut. That movie featured one of the most iconic images in all of science fiction: R2-D2 projecting a free-floating hologram of Princess Leia imploring Obi Wan Kenobi, “You’re my only hope.”

Hope for actual free-floating holograms has waned in the years since — the technology is further away than the Death Star, it seems. Or maybe not. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported on a low-profile but impressively funded project to create a hologram projector chip small enough to fit into a smartphone. The report even featured video evidence — a short clip of the technology generating a 3D hologram of floating dice.

Letterman hosts hologram musical guest
In the absence of actual free-floating holograms, you can always rely on show business to bring you the next best thing. In October, the indefatigable David Letterman welcomed his first hologram musical guest: the Japanese pop star sensation known as Hatsune Miku.

The technology behind this particular brand of hologram is similar to that used for famous previous appearances by, for example, hologram Tupac. The image appears to be free-floating, but it’s actually projected onto a transparent 2D surface. Hatsune Miku’s “voice,” meanwhile, is synthesized from vocal samples. Nevertheless, the virtual pop star is regularly booked in theaters and arenas. Hatsune Miku’s name, by the way, translates roughly to “First Sound From the Future.” There you go.



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Career PC Multimedia Training Courses In MCTS Network Support

Because you’re doing your research on MCTS courses, the chances are you’re in 1 of 2 situations: You might be wondering about completely changing your working life to the field of computers, and research demonstrates there’s a growing demand for people with the right qualifications. In contrast you could already be in IT – and you want to enhance your CV with the MCTS accreditation.

When looking into training providers, ensure that you steer clear of those that short-change you by failing to provide the latest Microsoft version. This will only hamper the student due to the fact that they’ll have learned an old version of MCTS which doesn’t fall in with the present exams, so they’ll probably fail. A training provider’s focus must be centred on the most for their students, and everyone involved should have a passion for getting things right. Studying isn’t simply about qualifications – the process should be all about helping you to decide on the best course of action for you.
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It’s essential to have an accredited exam preparation programme included in your course. Because many examining boards for IT are from the USA, it’s essential to understand how exam questions will be phrased and formatted. It’s no use just answering any old technical questions – they must be in an exam format that exactly replicates the real thing. A way to build self-confidence is if you test your depth of understanding by doing tests and mock ups of exams prior to taking the actual exam.

There are colossal changes washing over technology over the next generation – and this means greater innovations all the time. We’ve barely started to see just how technology will affect our lives in the future. Computers and the web will profoundly revolutionise how we see and interrelate with the entire world over the next few years.

Let’s not ignore salaries moreover – the typical remuneration in the UK for a typical person working in IT is considerably better than remuneration packages in other sectors. Odds are you’ll make a whole lot more than you could reasonably hope to get in other industries. With the IT marketplace developing year on year, it’s predictable that the requirement for well trained and qualified IT technicians will continue actively for decades to come.

Make sure you don’t get caught-up, like so many people do, on the training course itself. Your training isn’t about getting a plaque on your wall; this is about employment. Focus on the end-goal. It’s a sad fact, but a great many students begin programs that seem amazing from the syllabus guide, but which provides the end-result of a job that is of no interest. Try talking to typical university leavers for examples.

It’s a good idea to understand what expectations industry may have of you. Which precise qualifications they will want you to have and how you’ll go about getting some commercial experience. Spend some time assessing how far you think you’ll want to go as often it can control your selection of accreditations. Talk to a skilled advisor that has a commercial understanding of the realities faced in the industry, and could provide an in-depth explanation of what tasks are going to make up a typical day for you. Getting to the bottom of all this before commencement of any study program will save you both time and money.

Many trainers will provide an useful Job Placement Assistance program, to assist your search for your first position. Don’t get caught up in this feature – it’s easy for eager sales people to make too much of it. In reality, the massive skills shortage in the United Kingdom is why employers will be interested in you.

Nevertheless, don’t leave it until you have finished your training before bringing your CV up to date. As soon as your training commences, mark down what you’re doing and tell people about it! Quite frequently, you will get your first job whilst you’re still studying (occasionally right at the beginning). If your CV doesn’t say what you’re learning (and it isn’t in the hands of someone with jobs to offer) then you won’t even be considered! Actually, an independent and specialised local recruitment consultancy – who make their money when they’ve found you a job – is going to give you a better service than a recruitment division from a training organisation. They should, of course, also know local industry and the area better.

A slight frustration of many training companies is how hard people are prepared to work to get qualified, but how little effort that student will then put into getting the job they have trained for. Don’t falter at the last fence..

MCTS Training, MCITP Trainnig

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Microsoft hopes to draw Android developers to Windows Phone

Microsoft is trying to woo Android application developers, offering them help in porting applications to Windows Phone.

The company has released a Windows Phone API mapping tool for Android developers to help them find their way around the Windows Phone platform. Developers should think of the tool as being like a translation dictionary, Senior Technical Evangelist for Interoperability Jean-Christophe Cimetiere wrote in a blog post.

 

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REVIEW: Developers find a lot to love in Windows Phone 7 Mango

It has also published a white paper, “Windows Phone 7 Guide for Android Application Developers,” describing the differences between the two platforms, including the way they handle inactive applications and multitasking.

For Windows Phone to become a success, Microsoft and partners like Nokia have to convince developers to add the operating system to the list of platforms they target.

Android and Apple’s iOS are the most popular operating systems among developers, according to a survey by VisionMobile published this week. It found that 67 percent of developers target Android, and 59 percent target iOS.

Windows Phone is the seventh most popular platform, with just 36 percent of developers working on apps for it: More still target Symbian, the OS that Nokia is abandoning in favor of Windows Phone, the survey found, although Symbian’s share fell to 38 percent in June from 46 percent a year earlier.

Microsoft has already reached out to iPhone app developers with specific Windows Phone guidance and an API mapping tool for iOS.

This summer, it plans to expand the scope of the API Mapping tools to include the features in Mango, the next major upgrade of Windows Phone.

Enterprise software developers are starting to show an interest in having their applications running across a range of mobile devices. Last week, German company Software AG acquired Metismo, developer of a platform that can convert Java apps to run natively on Android, BlackBerryOS, Windows Phone and webOS.

Microsoft System Center

This section of the MSDN® Library hosts developer information for System Center products, which help manage IT computing environments. The System Center products support performance and health state monitoring, software updates and deployment, data storage and recovery, reporting, and operations management. The following System Center products expose programming interfaces.
System Center Configuration Manager

 

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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (formerly known as System Management Server or SMS) helps automate and manage deployment of operating systems and applications. Configuration Manager also manages software updates and configuration. This provides a comprehensive asset management tool for servers, desktops, and mobile devices.
Resources

System Center Configuration Manager Software Development Kit

System Center Configuration Manager SDK download

System Center Configuration Manager TechCenter

Previous version: SMS SDK 2003 3.1 Introduction
System Center Operations Manager

System Center Operations Manager 2007 (formerly known as Microsoft Operations Manager), allows you to monitor servers, applications, and client computers to provide a view of the health state for your IT environment. This view of the health state is key to being able to respond rapidly when events and problems occur. You can monitor events, services, alerts, and performance information across many operating systems and applications. Additionally, you can access management packs for various Microsoft software applications, which help you to discover, monitor, troubleshoot, and resolve problems for a specific technology component.
Resources

System Center Operations Manager 2007 SDK

System Center Operations Manager SDK download

System Center Operations Manager TechCenter

Previous version: Microsoft Operations Manager
System Center Reporting Manager

System Center Reporting Manager (SCRM) 2006 is a reporting tool that consolidates event and performance information from Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 and change and configuration management information from Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003, and combines this information with business context data from sources such as Active Directory Domain Services. SCRM 2006 uses Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services as the foundation of its reporting capabilities.

The SCRM 2006 Software Development Kit provides the necessary documentation for customizing existing SCRM 2006 reports. SCRM 2006 reports are customized using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence Studio and make extensive use of SQL stored procedures and SQL views in the SCRM 2006 presentation database MCTS Online TrainingMCITP Online Training.
Resources

SCRM 2006 Software Development Kit

System Center Reporting Manager download

System Center Reporting Manager TechCenter

The 4 Biggest Stories in Tech, Social Media & Business This Morning

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on four particular stories of interest today.

Apple Unveils iCloud, iOS 5 & More

 

 

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At its developer conference Monday, Apple announced its much-anticipated iCloud service; that the next version of Mac OS X, Lion, will be out in July for $29.99; that its next-generation mobile software, iOS 5, will be deeply integrated with Twitter, offer wireless syncing, its own messaging service and Newsstand, and more.

Rep. Weiner Admits to Tweeting Lewd Picture

Admitting that he had “not been honest with myself, my family and my constituents,” Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed at a press conference Monday that he sent a lewd photo via Twitter and that he had since lied about his account being hacked.

HTC Reports Strong May Sales

HTC says it generated $1.42 billion in sales in May, which is more than double than the same month in 2010 and a solid improvement from April’s $1.35 billion.

Xbox Live Getting Live TV, YouTube & Voice Search

Microsoft unveiled a redesigned version of Xbox Live at E3 Monday, one that includes more voice commands, YouTube integration and live television.

Further News

* Tuesday is World IPv6 Day, and Google is leading the charge to test and adopt the new Internet Protocol.
* As expected, former CBS Evening News anchor Kate Couric has signed a multiyear contract with Disney/ABC Television Group to host her own nationally syndicated talk show and join the ABC News team.
* Sony’s next-generation handheld gaming system, the PlayStation Vita, made its official debut at E3 Monday.
* Microsoft has released a trailer for Halo 4.
* Note-taking platform Evernote now has more than 10 million registered users, up 67% from January.

Microsoft Kinect camera hacked

MIT graduates tinker for $2,000 wager

Eager tinkerers have already managed to hack Microsoft’s Kinect motion control camera, following a $2,000 wager to crack the new gaming tech.

A company headed up by two MIT graduates offered the $2,000 prize money to anyone able to hack the Kinect system.

 

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Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone, of Adafruit Industries, think that the tech used in Kinect is too useful to not be adapted for use in non-gaming applications.

Microsoft does not condone modification

For its part, Microsoft says this: “Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products. With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering,”

“Microsoft will continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”

The hackers have provided a video which they hope proves how they have managed to work around Microsoft’s security measures to get control of Kinects’s motors.

“It’s amazing hardware that shouldn’t just be locked up for Xbox 360,” said Adafruit’s Phillip Torrone.

“Its ‘radar camera’ being able to get video and distance as a sensor input from commodity hardware is huge.”

You can see the Kinect hack video from YouTube right here.

Six tough questions for your next IAAS vendor

1. What happens if your cloud computing resources are unavailable?

While questions about disaster recovery and high availability in the cloud will be similar to those asked about your own data center, you need to be a lot more specific when looking to implement or utilize a cloud environment.

IAAS is smart choice for ConnectEDU

SLAs vary widely between providers so you’ve got to make sure you’re clear on the details surrounding guaranteed uptime, and then decide if that works for your business.

2. How (and more importantly where) do you backup data?

In a cloud environment, IT executives need to be confident that their data not only will be replicated but also stored across multiple sites in separate locations to ensure they will still have access to that data in the event of a data center failure or other incident.

 

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3. How do you handle large data migration and what are the costs?

While provisioning a cloud environment takes minutes, populating that cloud with the necessary data is an entirely different story.

For example, if you need to migrate or populate a database to the cloud that is too large to send over the network, you need to consider factors such as additional costs, available data load options, and the process for working with your provider on the migration.

4. What are my network access options – and, more importantly, the restrictions?

One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is being able to access critical data over the Internet from any location. Beyond obvious questions such as whether you can access the cloud from mobile devices is whether the provider can support VPNs or dedicated connections. This is particularly true for organizations like financial services firms that have more stringent rules around access.

Tips for picking an IaaS provider

5. My organization must comply with regulations. What are my options for using IaaS?

For some organizations, particularly ones that have to comply with stringent regulations, public cloud IaaS offerings might not make sense.

Ultimately, everything is shared even though it’s separate both logically and from a security perspective. For this reason, many CIOs may look to community clouds, which enable companies with similar requirements – for example, two pharmaceutical companies that both must meet strict FDA regulations – to share a cloud and achieve true economies of scale.

6. What’s the cost to decommission an IaaS project?

While most cloud providers are upfront about the cost of specific IaaS offerings (for example the cost per megabyte for storage), it is much more difficult to provide a cost for decommissioning – a critical but often forgotten step in the cloud life cycle.

The Top 10 Best Laptops 2011

Shopping for a laptop these days is a pretty daunting task. The sheer number of laptops available online or in a store’s electronics section is enough to make your mind spin. Most people have a general idea of what their laptop should look like and what they want in terms of features, but are often intimidated by the choices available. That’s where we come in.

 

 

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The editors of PCMag.com test hundreds of systems each year to help you find the best laptop. There are a lot of laptops out there, from the large-screen desktop replacements to the lightweight ultraportables, and even netbooks, but all share common features. In this story, we help you narrow your choices by collecting the top 10 laptops on the market today.

HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl : Front HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl

In terms of looks, features, and cost, the HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl was already a great laptop, but the addition of a second generation Intel processor and dramatically improved graphics and gaming capability make it a winner.

Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) : Angle Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge)

With a Sandy Bridge quad-core processor and excellent battery life, the Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) is arguably the most complete desktop replacement laptop, even if it isn’t the fastest or the prettiest.

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 : FrontLenovo ThinkPad X220

The Lenovo ThinkPad X220 business ultraportable is an amazing piece of engineering when you factor in all the features it squeezed into a 12-inch frame, including best-in-class battery life and the new Intel Core i5 i5-2520M CPU.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) : FrontApple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt)

The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) is the fastest, most technologically advanced laptop to grace our Labs benches, thanks to new Intel architecture, a renewed romance with AMD graphics chips, and a connection technology called Thunderbolt.

Asus_U41JF-A1 : Angle Asus U41JF-A1

The Asus U41JF-A1 is the most well-balanced mainstream laptop, combining excellent power with all-day battery life.

HP Pavilion dm1z : Front HP Pavilion dm1z

The HP Pavilion dm1z and its AMD Fusion APU offer the best of both worlds: faster-than-Atom speeds and great battery life.

Sony VAIO VPC-Z1390X Sony VAIO VPC-Z1390X

The Sony VAIO VPC-Z1390X is, hands down, the lightest and most powerful ultraportable money can buy.

Toshiba Portege R705-P35 : Angle Toshiba Portege R705-P35

The Toshiba Portege R705-P35 is a more practical alternative to the Sony VAIO Z, bundling a 13-inch widescreen, optical drive, and a standard volt processor.

Acer Aspire AS5745-7247 : Angle Acer Aspire AS5745-7247

The Acer Aspire AS5745-7247 is one sweet laptop deal, putting in parts and features you don’t normally get at these prices.

Asus U45Jc-A1 Asus U45Jc-A1

The U45Jc-A1 is powerful and battery efficient enough to work through an entire day and look good while doing it.

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