Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kinect-Powered Shopping Carts

Not quite ready for primetime.

Terrence O'Brien reporting … Whole Foods experimenting with Kinect-powered shopping carts that are smarter than you (video):

A new experimental shopping cart is being tested by the market that puts a tablet and a Kinect in the driver's seat -- literally. Because you can't be expected to multi-task, the cart drives itself, monitors your shopping list and can even warn you if you grab the wrong item<

Android Malware up 3,325%

Scary stuff from Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Report: Android malware up 3,325% in 2011 | ZDNet:

During 2011 there was an ‘unprecedented growth’ of mobile malware attacks, with Android up a stratospheric 3.325 percent, according to a report by the Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center.

The report makes depressing reading. Across all platforms, mobile malware attacks are up 155 percent, with mobile malware samples increasing from 11,138 in 2010 to 28,472 in 2011. BlackBerry malware grew by 8 percent, and Java ME saw a 49 percent increase. But the platform hit hardest was Android, with malware increasing by an incredible 3,325 percent in a year. During the last six months of 2011, Android malware samples had increased from 400 to 13,302.

Spyware was the most popular Android malware, accounting for 63 percent, while 36 percent were premium rate SMS Trojans. Another 30 percent could obtain location information without user consent and 14.7 percent had the ability to make calls behind the user’s back.

The report also notes that malware is becoming more sophisticated, with malware like Droid KungFu using encrypted payloads to avoid detection and Droid Dream disguising itself as a legitimate app.

Security guru Bruce Schneier isn’t surprised. ‘I don’t think this is surprising at all,’ wrote Schneier in a blog post. ‘Mobile is the new platform. Mobile is a very intimate platform. It’s where the attackers are going to go.’

Full report here.


Data Locker - Encrypt Your Dropbox Data

Sounds like a great service! Data Locker:

The explosive growth of personal cloud services like Dropbox sends a clear message that computer, tablet, and smartphone users greatly value synchronized data access across all of their devices. But many users struggle with the trade-offs between convenience and concern over the security of personal data stored in the cloud. DataLocker eliminates this concern by enabling users to easily encrypt sensitive information in their Dropbox account without sacrificing the convenience of anywhere access.

The DataLocker suite, offered for free by AppSense Labs, includes native clients for Windows, Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The Windows and Mac clients are capable of encrypting and storing secure files in any local file system or cloud storage location, including Dropbox. The DataLocker iOS application stores files in Dropbox. (Additional storage options are planned in future versions of the iOS application.)


What's the Result of a Routing Error?

Jeremy Kirk reporting … Routing Error Knocks 3 Million Telstra Customers Offline:

An Internet traffic routing error by a rival ISP is suspected of causing up to 3 million Telstra customers to be knocked offline for around 35 minutes on Thursday afternoon.

Telstra said it lost connectivity to its international data network at 1:50 p.m. Customers could not access websites with either their mobile phones or fixed services. Those customers then over-accessed domestic websites, causing more problems, according to a company statement.


Simon Kong, a network engineer based in Perth, said it appeared that all of Telstra's traffic was routed through Dodo, another ISP, by mistake. It appeared that Dodo announced new BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) routes, which are used to configure routers used by network providers to exchange traffic.

Dodo announced incorrect BGP routes, which should have been filtered by Telstra but weren't, Kong said. All of Telstra's traffic then flowed into Dodo's network, which was overloaded.

Configuring BGP routes incorrectly can cause major problems. ISPs are only supposed to announce routes for blocks of IP addresses that have been assigned to them. Other ISPs are also supposed to double-check those announcements to ensure they are correct.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

M.C. Escher's Workspace Imagined

From Cyriaque Lamar … Short film takes an imaginary look at M.C. Escher's trippy work space [Video]:

Director Cristobal Vila of Etérea Studios has createdInspirations, a nifty cinematic short that offers a fictionalized interpretation of M.C. Escher's desk and the various objects that informed his mathematical art.

INSPIRATIONS from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I've Had Cats My Whole Life ...

… and I've never seen anything like this. Sadly, the cat is a better swimmer than I am.

Xeni Jardin shares … Video: Cat likes to swim in the sea:

U.S. Courts and Encrypted Hard Drives

I'm more confused now – I'm not sure how the two rulings don't conflict, but I'm not a lawyer.
Via Bruce Schneider … U.S. Federal Court Rules that it is Unconstitutional for the Police to Force Someone to Decrypt their Laptop:
A U.S. Federal Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the police to force someone to decrypt their laptop computer:
Thursday’s decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that an encrypted hard drive is akin to a combination to a safe, and is off limits, because compelling the unlocking of either of them is the equivalent of forcing testimony.
Here's the actual decision. And another blog post.
Note that this a different case, and an opposite ruling, than this. Although the legal experts say that the rulings are not actually in conflict:
Also note that the court’s analysis isn’t inconsistent with Boucher and Fricosu, the two district court cases on 5th Amendment limits on decryption. In both of those prior cases, the district courts merely held on the facts of the case that the testimony was a foregone conclusion.

Android Handsets Short on Security

Shaun Nichols reporting … Vendors Falling Short On Smartphone Security:

Smartphone handset vendors are failing to ship devices with adequate security protections and software updates, according to researchers.

UK mobile security firm MWR InfoSecurity said that Android vendors in particular have been selling users handsets which lack adequate protections and contain security flaws which could be targeted by attackers for malware and fraud operations.

The Neuro Version of the SAT

Jonathan Wai wonders … Could brain imaging replace the SAT? Could lead to better scores for students with test anxiety.
Imagine it's the year 2032.  You are a high school student.  You are at a center where a visual scanner confirms your identity so you can enter a room where you are about to receive a brain scan.  A robot attendant with a soothing voice recommends that you should relax and that you are welcome to take a nap.  As you lie down in the scanner and earphones playing your favorite music block out ambient noise, you find yourself drifting off to sleep.

You wake up.  The scan is now over and there is good news.  You don't have any medical complications.  Rather, you've found out that with your brain characteristics, you have a good chance of being admitted to the college of your dreams.  Why is that?

Well, as you were sleeping, you just took the neuro version of the SAT.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Disrupt Education Yes, But How?

Isaac Lewis begs … Please, Someone, Disrupt Education. He does a great job at identifying the problem, but what about the solution? What's the disruption?

People in the past did lots of things that seemed completely normal at the time, and seem completely bizarre or perverse to us now. Human sacrifice, slavery, mullets, that sort of thing. So it’s likely that lots of the things we enlightened moderns think normal will seem completely backwards and barbaric to our descendants. What might those things be?

Here’s one. Having millions of young people, in virtually every country in the world, spend three years of their life doing useless busywork. Having them all repeating the same tasks, producing work which is likely of no value to anyone, but will only be glanced at for about ten minutes by their taskmasters. I’m talking, of course, about the current university system.

Up until about, say, 1991, it made a lot of sense to tie research and education together. Professors were gatekeepers of knowledge at the limits of human experience, and it made sense for students to go to them to learn. Then the web appeared, and that knowledge has slowly opened up to everyone. But the universities have remained the same.

The main priority of professors is not teaching, but research. The main priority of students is not learning, but earning grades and getting their career passport. We’re so used to this situation that we rarely stop to question it. The part that will seem really weird to future generations is the monumental waste of labour involved. At this very moment, tens of millions of students are writing near-identical essays, solving near-identical equations, or debugging near-identical pieces of software. Bleary-eyed postgrad students will then be distracted from their research to mark all this work. Yes, the students are “learning”, but in an incredibly inefficient way. The system simply isn’t optimised for learning, but for ranking people by intelligence and the disposition to complete arbitrary tasks when ordered.

The current system was great at producing the bureaucrats needed to run an industrial society, and completely incapable of producing the knowledge workers needed by modern society. Evidence: youth unemployment is in the double digits, and university graduates are being forced to work menial jobs for no pay. Meanwhile, firms in the few areas of the economy that are actually growing cannot find the highly-skilled and enterprising employees they need.

Please, someone, disrupt education.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Apple is a Sector Unto Itself


From Mike Schramm … JP Morgan: Apple is a sector unto itself:

JP Morgan's hardware analyst Mark Moskowitz has laid bare exactly how huge Apple has become lately, calling the company an actual "sector," not just a company any more. Of course, on paper, Apple is competing with other computer and device manufacturers like Dell and Samsung, but the numbers just don't make that comparison meaningful any more, says Moskowitz. Apple's stock is by far the largest single stock in the S&P 500 index, and when you compare the company's income to other tech sectors like Pharmaceuticals and Software as a whole, Apple's take actually lines up within the top 10.

Zorin: Linux for Moms and Dads

David Galloway shares … Zorin is a Linux OS That Looks and Behaves Like Windows7

I thought Ubuntu was Linux for moms and dads, but this seems even more parent-friendly. Get it here.

If you're building a computer for a relative or friend and wish to avoid the cost of Windows 7 you might look into Zorin—the Linux OS' elements such as the taskbar, file system, start menu, and desktop all work just like in Windows. This combined with Zorin having the WINE Windows Emulator preinstalled means that the end user can install Windows programs easily. I downloaded the ISO (around 1.14GB), burning a DVD of the ISO, and running the OS from my optical drive. The OS performed well, as you'd expect from running it from the disc. Windows emulated worked well, and although the familiar copyrighted logos are missing otherwise it looks and runs just like Windows7 for average computing tasks.

In addition to WINE Zorun also comes with Play-On-Linux, another Windows emulator I'm not very familiar with. The OS also includes lots of standard open-source/freeware apps and there is a Software Center that functions just like the Ubuntu Software Center but with a slightly smaller catalog.

You can also change the look of GUI from the "Look Changer" in the control center to mimic Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X, or a vanilla Linux GNOME interface. Zorin's Background Plus makes it easy to use a video file or screensaver as your background.


I Heart Dropbox

Bill Gurley answers the question – Why Dropbox Is A Major Disruption:

Drew Houston and his team had taken a hard problem — file synchronization — and made it brain dead simple. Anyone that had used previous file synchronization programs, including Apple’s own iDisk, constantly encountered state problems. Modifications in one location would get out of synch with those in another, ruining the  entire premise of seamless synchronization. It wasn’t that these other companies did not understand the problem, it was just that they could not execute on the solution. The Dropbox team solved this, which was a critical innovation.


Once you begin using Dropbox, you become more and more indifferent to the hardware you are using, as well as the operating system on that device. Dropbox commoditizes your devices and their OS, by being your “state” system in the sky. Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company. And the further they take it, the less dependent any user becomes of the physical machine (HW and SW) that is accessing that data (and state). Imagine the number of companies, as well as the previous paradigms, this threatens.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Objective C Quick Reference for iOS Developers


If you're interested in iOS programming, you can get an Objective C Quick Reference Shahzaib Khan.

Its sometimes hard to remember the syntax and the best way to remember the syntax is to do lots of practice. The more you will practice the easy it is to remember the syntax. But still sometimes you want to take a quick reference, here is a quick reference guide for Objective C.

Here's the download link.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Air Really is Cleaner at 5Ghz

Qualcomm Atheros with a humorous look at the 2.4 GHz band versus the 5 GHz band. The older wifi standards (802.11b, and 802.11g) operate at the crowded 2.4 GHz frequency, as does 802.11n, which was approved in 2007. Although 802.11n can operate at the 5GHz frequency, most implementations are at 2.4 GHz.

The upcoming 802.11ac standard – also called gigabit wifi – operates only at the cleaner, less crowded 5 GHz frequency.

Good News for 802.11ac

Chipsets that support gigabit wifi! Can't come soon enough.

From Andrew Tarantola … Qualcomm Atheros Announces 802.11ac Chips, Wireless Connectivity Goes HD:

For mobile devices, the company [Qualcomm Atheros] will offer a combination Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM chip compatible with the company's Snapdragon S4 line of processors. The S4's are also compatible with current 802.11n chips, which should hasten the transition to the new wireless standard. Similar-caliber chips will also be paired with the S4 line for desktop, tablet, and notebook applications.

"By enabling client devices, such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks, with easy migration from 802.11n to 802.11ac, Qualcomm Atheros is paving the way for rapid adoption of products based on the new Wi-Fi standard," said Qualcomm Atheros president Craig Barratt in a statement,"This should provide for a smooth, full-scale transition to Gigabit-capable Wi-Fi networking within the next two years."


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Security of 4-Digit PINs

From Bruce Schneier ... "1234" and Birthdays Are the Most Common PINs
Research paper: “A birthday present every eleven wallets? The security of customer-chosen banking PINs,” by Joseph Bonneau, Sören Preibusch, and Ross Anderson:
Abstract: We provide the first published estimates of the difficulty of guessing a human-chosen 4-digit PIN. ... We find that guessing PINs based on the victims’ birthday, which nearly all users carry documentation of, will enable a competent thief to gain use of an ATM card once for every 11-18 stolen wallets, depending on whether banks prohibit weak PINs such as 1234. The lesson for cardholders is to never use one’s date of birth as a PIN. The lesson for card-issuing banks is to implement a denied PIN list, which several large banks still fail to do. However, blacklists cannot effectively mitigate guessing given a known birth date, suggesting banks should move away from customer-chosen banking PINs in the long term.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Free Education Online

Why should someone pay for an college education? Are our days in higher ed numbered?

Whitson Gordon gives a nice rundown of Where to Get the Best Free Education Online:

Whether you're a student looking for supplemental learning or you're in the workforce but thirsty for knowledge, you don't have to drop thousands of dollars in tuition to enjoy a top-notch education from some of the best schools in the world.


While most online resources won't grant you a college degree, there's a lot more to the internet than Wikipedia when it comes to learning. Whether you learn best through video or text, want to take a year-long course or just to touch up on a few topics, there are more than a few places online that can give you the full experience. In fact, there are enough that it can get quite overwhelming, so we've rounded up the best resources to make it all a bit more manageable. Here are some of the best places to get an education without ever leaving your computer.

First Stop: The OpenCourseWare Consortium

MIT began their OpenCourseWare initiative and published their first batch of courses online in 2002. In 2005, they formed the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which partnered with other universities to bring free education to the masses via the internet. Most courses offered on OpenCourseWare are available as free audio or video lectures for free, and under open licenses. The easiest way to find a course you're interested in is to search the OpenCourseWare Consortium site


The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a bit more narrow than the others; as it isn't an aggregator, it's mostly the work of one man, an electronic chalkboard, and YouTube. It focuses mostly on math, from basic arithmetic to calculus, as well as a bit of science.


Academic Earth

Previously mentioned Academic Earth aggregates lectures from 19 different universities on a variety of subjects. The idea is similar to that of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, although it's slightly smaller and organized differently


iTunes U

The last video resource is the ever-growing iTunes U (accessible through the iTunes Store at the bottom of the front page). If you're an iPod, iPhone, or iPad user, iTunes U is fantastic because you can download these lectures right to your device and take them with you.


WikiversityWikiversity (and its sister site, Wikibooks) is a fantastic resource for all kinds of information. Users can contribute their own projects or research to the wiki, and it hosts a ton of textbook-like resources, organized in a tree

Textbook Revolution

We've also mentioned Textbook Revolution before, and it deserves a little more attention. Textbook Revolution's goal is to bring together as many free textbooks on the net as they can.

Straight from Universities

It's also worth noting that a few other universities offer online textbooks, such as Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative and the Supplemental Resources section of MIT's aforementioned OpenCourseWare (in fact, while OpenCourseWare focuses on video, they have a ton of other resources like online textbooks, lecture notes, and assignments for many of their classes

Monday, February 20, 2012

HSPA+ Multiflow May Double Download Speeds

Hspa multiflow

Kyle Wagner reporting … New HSPA+ Multiflow Tech Could Double Your Download Speeds:

Nokia Siemens is going to demo HSPA+ Multiflow—a new cell tech that lets phones talk to two cell towers at once—at Mobile World Congress. It's the first time that the tech, which can apparently double data speeds, will be shown working on stuff you might actually be able to buy.

HSPA+ Multiflow works by sending and receiving data from the base station in two totally separate streams when your phone is in range of two cell towers at the same time. Devices with the tech won't be available until probably late 2013


Sunday, February 19, 2012

iPad 3

Sanjay Dalal predicts iPad 3 - The Most Amazing iPad Yet!
What will make the iPad 3 insanely great?
1. Awesome Performance: least four to six times faster than the current tablets,


2. Beautiful Display:

3. High Definition Camera:

4. 4G Connectivity:

5. Siri & Beyond:

6. Apps, Apps, Apps: Expect Apple to promote new productivity, entertainment and education apps that will capitalize on the iPad 3's performance, display, camera, interactivity and connectivity.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Everything is a Remix – Part 4

Kirby Ferguson is back, with Everything is a ReMix - Part 4. A bit of a letdown – Parts 1, 2 and 3 were much better.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Primary Elections Explained

Great video explaining the primary process in the US. Great resource for introducing students to the political process.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Social Media Jobs and Salaries Guide

There's been a movement against infographics, but not all infographics are bad. Particularly interesting are the locations with and without social media jobs and the various social media job titles.

Social Media Jobs and Salaries Guide:

Social media job opportunities continue to grow as more companies focus their hiring on skilled professionals who can drive business by through innovative social media marketing. This gives job seekers and seasoned social media pros a wealth of national career options, and now they have a resource to help them find their next social media jobs even faster.

Introducing the new Onward Search Social Media Jobs Salary Guide - a comprehensive look at the best job markets, the most in-demand job titles and salary ranges for social media professionals in the top 20 U.S. cities. This free guide makes it easy to take your social media career to the next level, so download it below, link to it and share it with your fellow social media pros!

To give you the most complete information about developing your social media career, we’ve also gathered career tips from those people who’ve helped shape the social media industry. Check out our featured Social Media Career Advice for professional guidance from social media experts!

Social Media Jobs and Salaries Guide
© 2012 Onward Search

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

13 Security Myths – #4

13 security myths collected by Ellen Messmer:

Myth #4: “You can rely on the wisdom of the crowds”

Bill Bolt, vice president of information technology for the Phoenix Suns basketball team: Employees claim lots of people they know are telling them about a new virus or other imminent threat, but upon investigation, these notions don’t pan out.


13 Security Myths – #3

13 security myths collected by Ellen Messmer:

Myth #3 “Regular expiration (typically every 90 days) strengthens password systems”

Ari Juels, chief scientist, RSA: “In fact, recent research suggests that regular password expiration may not be useful,” and that if an organization is going to expire passwords, “it should do so on a random schedule, not a fixed one.”


13 Security Myths – #2

13 security myths collected by Ellen Messmer:

Security Myth #2: “The DDoS problem is bandwidth-oriented”

Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware: It’s an “urban myth” that distributed denial of service attacks would just ”go away with more bandwidth.” Over half of DDoS attacks are not characterized by bandwidth at all but are application-oriented. Only a quarter of DDoS attacks are mitigated by adding bandwidth.


13 Security Myths – #1

13 security myths collected by Ellen Messmer:

Security Myth #1: “More security is always better”

Bruce Schneier, security expert and author of “Liars and Outliers”: “More security isn’t necessarily better. First, security is a always a trade-off,and sometimes security costs more than it’s worth. For example, it’s not worth spending $100,000 to protect a donut.”


What Happens to Our Digital Data?

A third party owning nearly 4 years of your life - scary!

Network from Michael Rigley on Vimeo.

(Via vanderwal's brain bits on Tumblr)

Defending Brute Force SSH Attacks

Rainer Wichmann gives a nice rundown on Defending against brute force ssh attacks:


During 2005, bute force attacks on the ssh (secure shell) service became pretty popular. These attacks are based on a rather simple idea: use an automated program for trying, one after the other, many combinations of standard or frequently used account names and likewise frequently used password (e.g.: guest/guest).


There are a number of methods to defend against such brute force attacks. The following list is intended to give an overview of them, and briefly mention their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Open-Source Books Offer Cost Savings

D.D. Guttenplan reporting … Big Savings for U.S. Students in Open-Source Book Program:

Students worried about the rising cost of college textbooks are about to get a break. Connexions, an initiative at Rice University in Houston devoted to producing textbooks using open-source materials, will produce free textbooks for five of the most-attended subjects in American colleges.

Funded by a number of philanthropies, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the OpenStax College textbooks “will be competitive with texts that currently retail for $150 or more,” said the books’ editor in chief, David Harris. “Furthermore, because our content is openly licensed, faculty will be able to easily modify and adapt OpenStax College content to meet specific course needs.”

Physics and sociology texts are due out next month and texts for introductory biology, anatomy and physiology are scheduled for next fall. Connexions’ director, Richard Baraniuk, said, “if we capture just 10 percent of the market with these first five textbooks” students in the United States could save $90 million over the next five years.

Books will be available free online via computers, tablets and smartphones. Connexions’ print-on-demand feature will also make it possible for students to order low-cost print copies. A series of partnerships with companies providing testing, tutorials and other services will be announced at the Connexions conference in Houston on Wednesday.

4G LTE Explained

… sort of, by Saturday Night Live

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A "Moneyball" Statistician Predicted Jeremy Lin's Success

… in May 2010!

If you've followed Jeremy Lin's recent success with the New York Knicks, this assessment of his NBA prospects - in 2010 - won't surprise you.

From Ed Weiland … A "Moneyball" statician predicted Jeremy Lin's success 2 years ago:

Any team looking to find a starting PG in the 2010 NBA draft had best win the lottery and get the top pick. A year after the legendary PG draft of 2009, the pickings for playmakers are going to be thin. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a player or two who surprise the experts though.

The best candidate to pull off such a surprise might be Harvard’s Jeremy Lin. The reason is two numbers Lin posted, 2-point FG pct and RSB40. Lin was at .598 and 9.7. This is impressive on both counts. These numbers show NBA athleticism better than any other, because a high score in both shows dominance at the college level on both ends of the court.

Free EPUB Versions MakeUseOf's Free Manuals

Great stuff from Justin Pot – lots of great, free resources available, whether you're a student, a teacher, a techie, or a caveman!


EPUB Versions Of Our Free Manuals Now Available!:

Like our free manuals, but find them a pain to read on your e-reader, tablet or phone? You’re in luck! We’re proud to offer the ever-growing MakeUseOf manual collection in a new format: EPUB!

If you’re sick of reading tiny text, or constantly scrolling just to read a single page, this is the change you’ve been waiting for. The EPUB format is open source and designed to work well with both phones and e-ink devices.

Head to our manual download page and you’ll see most of our manuals are now available as EPUB files. Enter your password, as usual, and you’ll find the link to the new EPUB file.



Friday, February 10, 2012

Digital Exams on the iPad


After describing how they setup iPads to do secure student testing, Fraser Speirs considers the attack tree – various ways a student might circumvent all of the security measures.

Digital Exams on the iPad:

Having done all this, I decided to develop an attack tree for cheating while doing exams on an iPad. The tree is below, but here's the minimum you would need to do:

  1. Set up some kind of hotspot that Kismet can't detect in range of the exam hall
  2. Connect to it during the exam
  3. Sign in to iMessage
  4. Relay each question to a knowledgable conspirator outside the exam hall
  5. Receive each answer and paste it into the exam paper

…all without being detected by the invigilator. That's a pretty sophisticated, well-resourced and coordinated attack for a school pupil but I'm not deluding myself that such an attack is impossible. It's not. With proper invigilation it shouldn't be a problem but I would feel happier if iMessage could be disabled or if I could lock the device onto one network only. I may be over-thinking it a bit.


The purpose of exam invigilation is not to absolutely prevent any cheating. It's to prevent any undetected cheating. The decision to make an attempt lies with the individual candidate and they should be detected and suffer the consequences.

At the same time, I'm defending this system against 15-18 year old kids from Greenock, not GCHQ and the NSA. It's important not to go overboard with the paranoia.

That's how we're doing Digital Question Papers on iPad.

Photo from Fraser Speirs

Story via Bruce Schneier

Thursday, February 09, 2012

An Android Fan Reviews the Galaxy Nexus

From Naveed Mahmood ... An Android Fan's Take on the Galaxy Nexus

I won’t sugarcoat it: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was underwhelming and unimpressive, and this is coming from a long-time Android user who has a contract-renewal credit waiting to be applied (I use Verizon, which offers the Galaxy Nexus). That’s not to say the Galaxy Nexus has no strong points. Positives include the unfiltered version of Android 4.0 ICS, the ability to receive Android OS updates in a timely fashion, and the amazing display.

Unfortunately, I expect more from a phone that would set me back a few hundred dollars and follow me around for two years. As much as I enjoyed ICS and look forward to having it on a future phone, I can’t overlook some of the Galaxy Nexus’s hardware issues. Until they’re sorted on a later device, I’ll get my ICS fix from my Motorola Xoom tablet and modified HTC Incredible.

How Much Energy in a Gallon of Gasoline?

Amazing! Explains why we're still dependent on petroleum products.

From Ken Cohen … How many gallons of gasoline would it take to charge an iPhone?:

This may seem like a strange question to ask, considering iPhones obviously are charged with electricity, not gasoline.

But the answer speaks to why gasoline and other liquid fuels will remain an important part of the energy mix in the future.

In ExxonMobil’s recently released Outlook for Energy, we predict that by 2040, about 90 percent of the global transportation fleet will still be powered by liquid petroleum fuels – that is, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

When asked why that’s the case, Bill Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president for Corporate Strategic Planning, often starts the discussion using this fact to put it in perspective:

All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The New HP Slate 2

How is this different than the original HP Slate – has anyone ever seen one of these?

Now Available: HP Slate 2:

The operating system is Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. Prices start at $850, right where the iPad starts to max out, price-wise.

(Via The Brooks Review)

Electronics Reference Manual for iPhone/iPad


Looks good for $2.99, but there are a lot of similar apps that are cheaper and some even free.

Circuit Playground Is a Mini Electronics Reference Manual for iPhone:

iPhone/iPad: If you dabble in electronics tinkering with the likes of Arduino or you enjoy popping open your electronics and poking at them, Circuit Playground is an app that offers quick reference to decipher between components and make calculations.

Created by the electronics store Adafruit Industries, Circuit Playground works as a simple reference manual for all your electronic tinkering. It has a guide to deciphering color codes on capacitors and resistors, a number of different calculators for different equations, and the ability to quickly convert between decimal, binary, and hexadecimal. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you hack electronics, it's a powerful resource. Circuit Playground is $2.99 in the iTunes App Store.

Does Amazon Need to Open Stores?

Or what they're call "distribution centers". Or should they buy a shipping company?

Kas Thomas considers The Trouble with Amazon
Amazon's business model is a model of confusion. Their business is really three businesses: eRetailing (what Amazon calls EGM: Electronics and General Merchandise), publishing, and cloud services. 
According to Amazon's 10K filing, EGM currently accounts for 60% of the business. And that's precisely where the big trouble lies. 
Recent indications are that Amazon has reached a tipping point. For 2011, Amazon's net income was a paltry $631 million on net sales of $48 billion. Compare this to 2010's net income of $1.152 billion on $34.2 billion in net sales. Basic earnings-per-share has gone from $2.58 (2010) to $1.39 (2011). 
Basically, Amazon has become a logistics company without wheels. To survive in its present form, it badly needs to acquire an Airborne Express (except that AE has already been acquired by DHL), or maybe a railroad and a package delivery company. Ideally, it also needs to acquire a payment-processing system (a PayPal). Why not just admit the obvious? Amazon needs to acquire eBay. 
The alternative is to join the long list of department stores that tried to be all things to all customers (and ended up broke). 
Amazon claims it will enjoy greater efficiencies (going forward) by opening more fulfillment centers and putting pressure on suppliers. But their story, frankly, is starting to sound old and is (how shall we say?) at this point painfully unconvincing. Inefficiencies are rising faster than efficiencies, at Amazon. That's what the numbers show. And that's the real point.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Open-Source Textbooks

Mitch Smith reporting … Rice University announces open-source textbooks:

soon, introductory physics texts will have a new competitor, developed at Rice University. A free online physics book, peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers’ offerings, will debut next month through the non-profit publisher OpenStax College.

Using Rice’s Connexions platform, OpenStax will offer free course materials for five common introductory classes. The textbooks are open to classes anywhere and organizers believe the programs could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market. OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation.

Practical Packet Analysis

Jim Clausing reviews Practical Packet Analysis, 2nd ed, (Tue, Feb 7th):

A few months ago, the good folks at No Starch Press sent me a review copy of Chris Sanders' book Practical Packet Analysis, Using Wireshark to Solve Real-world Problems, 2nd Edition.


I really wanted to love the book, but wasn't quite able to get there.  A couple of small technical errors bothered me (probably more than they should have) and I was a little confused at who the target audience was (for example, if the book is targeted at newbies, it doesn't make sense to me to introduce filters before explaining the structure of IP packets including the IP, TCP, and UDP headers; if aimed at experienced networking folks, why bother with explaining the OSI model again).  Even so, I did like the book.  Starting with chapter 8 is where I think the book really becomes worthwhile.  I especially like the  idea of using "real-world scenarios" (even if sometimes a bit contrived) to teach the features of a tool.  This is often one of the best ways to teach new techniques or concepts.  I learned some new tricks for both wireshark and tshark which itself would have made it worth the price to me.  I'm not going to give it stars or anything, but I do recommend this book to folks that aren't wireshark experts (and even those who have plenty of wireshark experience may pick up a new trick or two).

Monday, February 06, 2012

DIY: Build the BrushBot Kit

Learn to build the BrushBot Kit from the Maker Shed. Great project for Engineering clubs!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ouch – Microsoft "Buying" iPads for Wisconsin

Daniel Eran Dilger reporting Wisconsin uses Microsoft settlement funds to buy iPads for schools:

The capital of Wisconsin is buying 600 iPads this spring and plans to buy another 800 this fall, all paid for using funds from the state's settlement with Microsoft related to consumer lawsuits claiming the company overcharged customers for its software.

Apple Versus HTC

… and by proxy Google

Ken Ray with a good summary of a recent ruling from the ongoing Apple–HTC patent dispute. Andy Rubin's early career at Apple and his current role leading Android development seems likely to bite Google in the rear.

Patent Wars & Microsoft, Buyer of iPads:

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner has issued an interpretation saying not only is HTC in violation of the Apple patent, the Apple patent looks pretty solid.

Now I’d imagine some of you have zoned out because it sounds like just another of the countless fights between Apple and other phone makers. But I need you to snap out of it. At least on this one. Because it looks like this could conceivably affect the whole Android ecosystem.

You know how we’ve heard that Apple’s suits against HTC and Samsung are really attacks against Google without actually attacking Google? Here’s the thing: The “263 patent” is not a layer added by HTC. It’s at the core of the Android operating system. An operating system guided by Andy Rubin, who just happens to have worked in the department at Apple that pioneered the technology that led to the patent in question.

Quoting the piece, “Apple argued that Rubin ‘began his career at Apple in the early 1990s and worked as a low-level engineer specifically reporting to the inventors of the ‘263 [realtime API] patent at the exact time their invention was being conceived and developed.’”

Mueller thinks, with the new guidance by Judge Posner, a jury would be likely to acknowledge not only the validity of Apple’s patent, but also HTC’s infringement of it. And, with the dots connected by Apple illustrating Rubin’s early work at Appel to his status as head of Android today, the win might not be infringement but willful infringement — which could, of course, be worse for Google and the whole Android ecosystem.

Towards Digital Fluency

Great presentation from Alec Couros!
View more presentations from Alec Couros

Friday, February 03, 2012

Apple Clarifies iBooks Author EULA

From Megan Lavey-Heaton iBooks Author 1.01 out with updated EULA
An incremental release for iBooks Author has been released with changes to the program's EULA. The update is 143.50 MB, which seems pretty hefty for a EULA change.
The change is an important one though, clarifying that Apple has rights over the format a book is in, not the content. If someone wants to charge a fee for an .ibooks formatted file, that document can only be sold or distributed through Apple, and that work will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple. The restriction does not include works distributed in non-.ibooks formats (such as the Kindle,)

Fear Versus Understanding

Some good advice for students, from Jessica Hagy. Go on, look behind the curtain.

To address a students' fear of math - help to understand math!

Texts and Tweets: Myths and Realities

David Crystal - Texts and Tweets: myths and realities - YouTube:

Professor David Crystal, one of the world's leading linguistic experts, challenges the myth that new communication technologies are destroying language

via courosa

Thursday, February 02, 2012

If Only They Would Use Their Powers for Good ...

Iain Thomson reporting … Students Busted For Hacking Computers, Changing Grades:

Three high school juniors have been arrested after they devised a sophisticated hacking scheme to up their grades and make money selling quiz answers to their classmates.

The students are accused of breaking into the janitor’s office of California's Palos Verdes High School and making a copy of the master key, giving them access to all the classrooms. They then attached keylogging hardware to the computers of four teachers, and harvested the passwords needed to access the central files of the school network.

They then used that access to change their grades slightly, nudging them up by increments so that all three got As. At the time they were caught, keyloggers were found on three other teachers’ systems, indicating the group was expanding its efforts.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Is Motorola a Good Buy for Google?

Bower Anchor  MauretaniaCharles Arthur doesn't think so … his best line:
the mobile phone and set-top box maker looks more like an anchor than a balloon

Will Google have to start a patent war to get $9bn of value from Motorola?:

Google intends to buy Motorola Mobility (MMI) for $12.5bn. Is it a good deal? Following the announcement of Motorola's financial results for the fourth quarter, we can take a view. From the purely financial viewpoint, the simple answer is: no.

Judging by the numbers, owning MMI will be a significant drag on Google's profits - by about 10 percentage points, making its earnings per share around one third smaller. In profitability terms, the merged company won't actually make any more profit than before. It might even make less.

Motorola Mobility figures

Motorola Mobility (MMI) financial results since Q4 2009

Nor will being owned by Google necessarily help Motorola's profitability - unless perhaps it rebrands its phones as "Google". But even that might not help. For example, after it introduced the Motorola Droid, the first big-name Android phone in the US, in October 2009, it make a whacking loss in the mobile division of nearly $200m in each of the next quarters.

Photo by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums -


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