The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 25th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 25th 2013

Hello

I am an analyst and consultant with 20 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the Geeks List when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

Click to Subscribe

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1.        D-Wave Computer’s Solution Raises More Questions

There is a fair bit of discussion regarding this company’s product. You would think that what something is, and what is does, would not normally be a subject of debate. Very curious.

“An experimental computer made by a Canadian company has proved its ability to solve increasingly complex mathematical problems. But the question remains — just how much of this calculating power is actually due to the strange properties of quantum mechanics?”

http://www.insidescience.org/content/d-wave-computers-solution-raises-more-questions/1453

2.        Microsoft Pulls Windows RT 8.1 Update

Microsoft apparently reported better than expected results the other day. It is not clear to me the company has much to celebrate: novel licensing schemes may extract a few more dollars from existing customers but debacles such as Windows 8, 8.1 and even the 8.1 update process are not predictive of long term success.

“Microsoft took its Windows RT 8.1 update offline until further notice on Saturday, after users reported that it resulted in bricked devices and lost data.”

http://mashable.com/2013/10/19/microsoft-removes-windows-8-1-update/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link

3.        Dutch Telcos Used Customer Metadata, Retained To Fight Terrorism, For Everyday Marketing Purposes

Who do these companies think they are, Bell Canada? (see below). Abuse of customer privacy, and cynicism by companies, is so widespread, you can’t help but wonder if there will be a backlash.

“One of the ironies of European outrage over the global surveillance conducted by the NSA and GCHQ is that in the EU, communications metadata must be kept by law anyway, although not many people there realize it. That’s a consequence of the Data Retention Directive, passed in 2006, which: requires operators to retain certain categories of data (for identifying users and details of phone calls made and emails sent, excluding the content of those communications) for a period between six months and two years and to make them available, on request, to law enforcement authorities for the purposes of investigating, detecting and prosecuting serious crime and terrorism.”

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131017/08120824913/dutch-telecoms-companies-used-highly-personal-user-data-retained-to-fight-terrorism-serious-crimes-everyday-marketing-purposes.shtml

4.        Behind the ‘Bad Indian Coder’

‘Outsourcing’ software development and maintenance to low cost jurisdictions like India sounds appealing. In reality, problems often arise and these do not necessarily emerge due to a lack of skill but through mismanagement and miscommunication. Another factor which comes into play is the lack of ‘corporate memory’ associated with outsourcing as the ‘outsourced’ developer usually chance on a regular basis. I suspect it is an experiment which has run its course.

“A few years ago, American web developer John Larson wrote that outsourcing code has caused him, among other woes: real-time communication made inconvenient and response times made long by the time zone difference, a reduced sense of accountability, commitment and partnership inherent in the long distance relationship, and text like “Link will be sent to your mail for to update your Password.” sprinkled throughout public facing parts of the website, which just doesn’t give your customers the best impression of you and your business.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/behind-the-bad-indian-coder/280636/

5.        Windows 8.1: My Opinion Elaborated

A review of Windows 8.1. I am sure some such reviews are favorable, but I haven’t seen one.

“I want to clarify something: I’m not in the habit of blindly criticizing changes in Windows, and this was not just another generic ill-considered anti-Windows 8 rant, which are a dime-a-dozen on the Internet. If all I wanted to do was have a pot-shot at Windows 8, I could have done so over a year ago, when I was using the Release Preview version, and subsequently, when I sat down for several months and wrote the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for Windows 8 book. I wasn’t terribly thrilled with Windows 8 at any time over that period, but I always maintained some faith that Microsoft would set things right, once they saw the widespread negative feedback translate into relatively poor sales.”

http://www.tweakguides.com/Windows81_1.html

6.        Apple didn’t revolutionize power supplies: new transistors did

I have no interest in a hagiography of Steve Jobs, however, this article shows what a small amount of knowledge and/or research can do to most claims that “Apple invented …”. Honestly? They claimed the switching power supply?

“The new biography Steve Jobs contains a remarkable claim about the power supply of the Apple II and its designer Rod Holt: Instead of a conventional linear power supply, Holt built one like those used in oscilloscopes. It switched the power on and off not sixty times per second, but thousands of times; this allowed it to store the power for far less time, and thus throw off less heat. “That switching power supply was as revolutionary as the Apple II logic board was,” Jobs later said. “Rod doesn’t get a lot of credit for this in the history books but he should. Every computer now uses switching power supplies, and they all rip off Rod Holt’s design.”

http://www.righto.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html

7.        Extracting a Toll From a Patent ‘Troll’

One of two articles suggesting the worm continues to turn against ‘patent trolls’ in the lucrative US market. Based on the two recent debacles in court for Wi-Lan, large companies are also more willing to go to verdict when faced with a particularly weak claim. Ultimately, I believe this theme peaked a year or so ago.

“It looks as if “patent trolls” are going to lose a big one. The Supreme Court announced this month that it would hear two appeals of decisions by the federal appeals court that oversees all patent cases. In each case, the company that was sued for patent infringement won on the merits but did not prevail in having its legal fees paid by the losing party.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/business/extracting-a-toll-from-a-patent-troll.html?_r=0

8.        Taking Cities to the Next Frontier

I firmly believe in ubiquitous, inexpensive (preferably free) broadband for all citizens. This is particularly importance as governments and businesses increasingly move products and services online to reduce costs. In the US, at least, telecom companies, who have decided they own communications, have fought these sorts of initiatives vigorously in the courts.

“In August, Los Angeles, began research on a program that would make it the largest city in the country to blanket the city in free Wi-Fi. Currently, over 57 U.S. cities are providing “muni Wi-Fi” on some level. These cities hope “muni-Wi-Fi” will provide job opportunities to their underserved populations, facilitate waves of innovation, and brand the city as tech-friendly. But a single-minded focus on municipal Wi-Fi is misplaced. To maximize investments in digital infrastructure, local governments should look beyond cosmetic solutions such as municipal Wi-Fi, install a fiber-optic network, and implement a public-private model to finance the construction.”

http://www.bridge50.com/7/post/2013/10/taking-cities-to-the-next-frontier.html

9.        Amazing New Escalator Design

Interesting concept – so much so that you have to wonder why nobody has thought of it before. One thing that strikes me is the durability of such a design: not that I see any inherent flaws, however, it seems that escalators are forever being repaired and a durability differential (one way or the other) would likely make a major difference in total cost of ownership.

http://www.pbh2.com/science-nature/technology/amazing-new-escalator-design/

10.   Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

This is really too astonishing for words: a company which gathers information for ‘credit checks’ – and sells identity protection services – then allegedly resells the data to whoever wants it, including criminals, providing the money keeps coming and the police don’t start asking questions. The defense that they believed they were selling to a private investigator is laughable because they would really have no control over what happened to the data even if that counterparty was legitimate, which it clearly wasn’t.

“An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.”

http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/10/experian-sold-consumer-data-to-id-theft-service/

11.   Microsoft Office squashes Google Apps, open source alternatives

Office doubtless leads by a wide margin, however, the statistical validity of the data is not exactly above question: Forrester surveyed Forrester clients, and there is no reason to believe Forrester clients represent a valid cross section of industry from which you can draw broad brush conclusions.

“Google may dream that Google Docs will one day rival Microsoft Office but a recent Forrester report makes it clear that’s only a dream. Especially in enterprises, Microsoft Office remains the gold standard, and Google Docs and others mere also-rans.”

http://blogs.computerworld.com/desktop-apps/22995/microsoft-office-squashes-google-apps-open-source-alternatives?

12.   UK Wikipedia probe into paid-for ‘sockpuppet’ entries

‘Sock puppet’ reviews and content are a major problem on the Internet as companies have learned to manipulate whatever resources are available to them. I don’t know if this would apply to Wikipedia entries, but one way to deal with things like product reviews is to pay much more attention to the negative ones, especially if they make specific complaints.

“UK Wikipedia editors have expressed “shock and dismay” at the discovery of hundreds of user accounts set up to make paid-for entries. Paid-for advocacy and the adoption of fake “sockpuppet” identities for promotional purposes are against the free web encyclopaedia’s policies. Sue Gardner, executive editor of the Wikimedia Foundation, said “as many as several hundred” accounts were suspect.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24613608

13.   Bell Canada To Track Web, TV Surfing Habits For Ad Purposes

You really have to admire the complete cluelessness and amorality of Canada’s communications oligopoly. The staggering disregard for their customers and a willingness to do anything – anything – to marginally raise their bottom line is breathtaking. One has to wonder, however, that is a company is undertaking massive surveillance of your activities, do they still merit the legal protection of a common carrier?

“Bell Canada plans to track customers’ web, TV viewing and calling habits in order to serve them customized ads, the company has announced on its website. In a statement on its privacy page, the company that provides TV, Internet and phone and mobile services said as of November 16, “Bell will begin using certain information about your account and network usage for select purposes” such as improving network performance, fraud detection, and serving ads that are “more relevant to you.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/22/bell-track-customers-ads_n_4138197.html

14.   Power Grid Stability and Challenges to Alternative Energy Technologies

The thing with “alternative energy” is that it is largely a politically driven technology. Ultimately you end up with a highly subsidized generation infrastructure which wreaks havoc on the distribution grid and ‘traditional’ production which has to be maintained unless people are willing to tolerate regular rolling blackouts. All this brings you no further ahead in practical terms. Is the solution really to rebuild the grid, at a cost of trillions of dollars?

“The energy economy of the world is currently based upon largely nonrenewable sources, meaning that there is a finite lifetime upon our current sources of energy. In the media, much has been made about many alternative energy technologies that are meant to replace fossil and other nonrenewable fuel sources, though none have been commercially viable as a full long-term replacement for gasoline, natural gas, and coal. Aside from efficiency problems relating to the physics behind some of these devices, including hydrogen fuel cells, solar cells, and wind, there is a good deal of industrial inertia from power utilities in regard to accepting their usage on a widespread scale.”

http://www.eeweb.com/blog/alex_toombs/power-grid-stability-and-challenges-to-alternative-energy-technologies

15.   Where phone meets body

I am not entirely convinced that invasive technologies are the way to go, unless prescribed by a doctor for a specific reason. Setting aside the mind boggling privacy implications, sticking something into your body comes with risk, even if it is done for the greater glory of the Internet.

“Imagine taking a hands-free call without a headset, for example. Or feeling your temple buzz when you enter an open Wi-Fi zone. Or swallowing a pill that can report your body temperature and health back to a dedicated phone app.”

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/where-phone-meets-body-1192906

16.   The mysteriously disappearing drive: Are power outages killing your SSDs?

First I’ve heard of this and it is rather worrisome. Mind you, once a problem like this becomes an issue, solutions soon follow. I suspect that as many SSDs are in laptops (which have batteries) sudden and unexpected power failures are less likely. In any event, I have suffered several catastrophic hard drive failures for no particular reason.

“SSDs offer enormous benefits over traditional spinning discs. They’re up to an order of magnitude faster in certain operations, weigh less, and consume less power under load. They’ve become increasingly popular with enthusiasts and mainstream customers alike — but a report from the 11th Usenix Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST 13), given early this year, suggests most models have a fundamental problem with sudden power loss.”

http://www.extremetech.com/computing/169124-the-mysteriously-disappearing-drive-are-power-outages-killing-your-ssds

17.   Finally, a bill to end patent trolling

There have been a number of attempts to cur ‘patent trolling’ in the past. Most have not made much progress due to divergent needs of ‘legitimate’ stakeholders most notably high tech companies and health sciences companies. If not for the largely dysfunctional US government, this initiative would have some promise because it skirts around the issue of the disparate needs of those industries.

“The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has introduced a bill [PDF] that directly attacks the business model of “patent trolls.” The bill has a real chance at passing, with wide backing from leadership in both parties.”

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/its-finally-here-a-bill-to-end-patent-trolling/

18.   The scienciness of economics

In case you don’t get the reference, ‘scienciness’ is an allusion to Stephen Colbert’s ‘truthiness’ (something known to be true due to ‘gut feel’). I have found that, if you want to outrage an economist, simply observe that their field of study is not a science and it has never been shown to have any predictive skill. After all, a science is not defined as something with a lot of PhDs and interesting math, but something which makes testable and falsifiable claims.

“A few of you may have read this recent New York Times op-ed (hat tip Suresh Naidu) by economist Raj Chetty entitled “Yes, Economics is a Science.” In it he defends the scienciness of economics by comparing it to the field of epidemiology. Let’s focus on these three sentences in his essay, which for me are his key points …”

http://mathbabe.org/2013/10/23/the-scienciness-of-economics/

19.   Starship troupers

There is one field of study which may not bear any meaningful result for hundreds of years, namely the development of viable star ships. It has been observed that, if humanity can imagine it, humanity can do it, and there is no reason to believe there is an absolute obstacle to interstellar travel. Thanks to Bob Russell for the article.

“Most sci-fi waves away the problem of the colossal distances between stars by appealing to magic, in the form of some kind of faster-than-light hyperdrive, hoping readers will forgive the nonsense in favour of enjoying a good story. But there are scientists, engineers and science-fiction writers out there who like a challenge. On October 22nd a small but dedicated audience gathered at the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in London to hear some of them discuss the latest ideas about how interstellar travel might be made to work in the real world.”

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21588349-if-starships-are-ever-built-it-will-be-far-future-does-not-deter

20.   Toxin-Emitting Bacteria Being Evaluated as a Potential Multiple Sclerosis Trigger

We hear from time to time about new theories as to the cause and possible treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. This announcement is certainly intriguing, although a lot more work would have to be done before we’ll know where it is correct. It sure makes a lot of sense, though.

“A research team from Weill Cornell Medical College and The Rockefeller University has identified a bacterium it believes may trigger multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic, debilitating disorder that damages myelin forming cells in the brain and spinal cord. Their study, published in PLoS ONE, is the first to identify the bacterium, Clostridium (C.) perfringens type B, in humans.”

http://weill.cornell.edu/news/releases/wcmc/wcmc_2013/10_16_13.shtml

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 18th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 18th 2013

Hello

I am an analyst and consultant with 20 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

I have been very sick with the flu for the past 10 days or so, which has probably negatively impacted the quality of articles this week. Sorry. It is a bad one – you don’t want it – get the flu shot!

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the Geeks List when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

Click to Subscribe

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1.        The Forest Mafia: How Scammers Steal Millions Through Carbon Markets

Other than carbon credits, in what other market do neither the buyer nor the seller have any real interest in whether the commodity actually exists? I figure most ‘carbon credit’ schemes are likely fraudulent – though defining fraudulent sale of an intangible asset is probably challenging. If you think about it, the only real carbon credits should come when you buy lumber at the hardware store and build something with it.

“When the balding Australian first stepped off the riverboat and into the isolated pocket of northeastern Peru’s Amazon jungle in 2010, he had what seemed like a noble, if quixotic, business plan. An ambitious real estate developer, David Nilsson hoped to ink joint venture agreements with the regional government of Loreto province and the leaders of the indigenous Matses community to preserve vast thickets of the tribe’s remote rainforest. Under a global carbon-trading program, he wished to sell shares of the forest’s carbon credits to businesses that hope to mitigate, or offset, their air pollution.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/the-forest-mafia-how-scammers-steal-millions-through-carbon-markets/280419/

2.        ‘Tonight I Strike’: bringing sci-fi to life with a $1,200 laptop

This article shows how far video effects and editing software have come, which is a long way indeed. Unfortunately, watching the short, it is not immediately obvious what the robots and sci-fi bring to the story.

“Visit a world-class facility like Industrial Light & Magic, and alongside legions of brilliant artists you’ll find racks upon racks of servers, all devoted to one task: making the impossible come to life. But as computers have become cheaper and more powerful, technological bottlenecks have opened up, allowing ambitious young filmmakers to stand out by creating low-budget shorts with big-budget effects. It’s a trend that’s brought us names like Neill Blomkamp, whose Alive in Joburg became District 9, and Fede Alvarez, who parlayed his robot-invasion short Panic Attack! into a gig directing the recent Evil Dead remake. Another filmmaker to recently walk down that path is 28-year-old Dan Gaud.”

http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/11/4824724/tonight-i-strike-bringing-sci-fi-to-life-with-a-laptop-dan-gaud

3.        Toyota plans mid-decade launch of anti-collision system and self-driving cars

I’m really looking forward to this sort of technology. Mind you, we live in a society where people blame the car when they push the gas instead of the brake pedal, and don’t seem to be aware they can just move the transmission into neutral to disengage the engine. All things considered this should save lives, however, the cost may so high that only a small number of cars on the road end up having the capabilities.

“In 2015, Toyota plans to make an advanced anti-collision system available to consumers, starting with Japan. The system uses sensors that watch for other cars, pedestrians and other obstacles and not only hits the brakes, but steers the vehicle to avoid hitting whatever is in its path. It gives the driver a chance to react first, bringing up a visual cue then setting off an audible alarm, before taking action on its own.”

http://www.engadget.com/2013/10/11/toyota-pre-collision-system-self-driving-car/

4.        Google’s Quantum Computer in Limbo After Government Shutdown

D-Wave generates a lot of attention, though I have a strange feeling about it. After all, some is or is not, and what D-Wave is or does seems to remain a matter of debate and discussion. I found the video to be essentially a long, over produced commercial, and, in general frustrating. It really doesn’t tell you anything.

“When Google and NASA announced plans to boot up an honest-to-goodness quantum computer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, it seemed like the beginning of something very big. Researchers from around the world would get their chance to kick the tires of a D-Wave Two — an entirely new type of computer built by a Canadian company that claims it has harnessed the computing power of quantum physics. Lockheed Martin was already running a D-Wave system operated out of the University of Southern California, but the Google-funded Ames Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab was to be the company’s second customer.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/10/dwave-nasa/

5.        Apps on iPhone 5s Crashing at Twice the Rate as on Other iPhone 5 Models

This is kinda funny – after all, with a 64 bit processor, you’d expect everything to happen twice as fast, including crashing! Seriously, however, the absolute figures seem rather low so it doesn’t look like anything to panic about.

“Whenever there is a new operating system, it’s not surprising to see apps crash at a somewhat higher rate, given all the changes. But one of the interesting things in Apple’s latest iPhone transition is that apps appear to be crashing at a much higher rate on the new iPhone 5s as on either the iPhone 5c or the iPhone 5. In its look at hundreds of millions of app launches since the debut of the latest iPhones, Crittercism says that programs crash about two percent on the iPhone 5s, as compared to just under one percent on both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5.”

http://allthingsd.com/20131011/apps-on-iphone-5s-crashing-at-twice-the-rate-as-on-iphone-5-iphone-5c/

6.        Protests follow Google ‘endorsed advert’ change

This is pretty evil stuff. I wonder how contract law works generally to ‘opt-out’ clauses. For example, could I start a business and decide I am going to post all the personal information regarding my customers online unless they opt-out? Perhaps I can decide to take my neighbour’s belongings unless he/she ‘opts-out’ before an arbitrary deadline.

“Google is facing a backlash over plans to put people’s faces and comments about products and places into adverts. The “shared endorsements” policy change starts on 11 November and covers the comments, “follows” and other actions people do on Google+.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24519300

7.        Intel says get ready for $99 tablets, $299 Haswell notebooks, $349 2-in-1 hybrids

It is a little unfortunate the author conflates ‘Android’ (which in an operating system) with PC (which is an architecture, and, in any event, not relevant when talking about tablets.) I would hope/expect a $99 tablet is likely to run Android as there is little room for an OS license. In either event, at these price ranges, things like displays, etc., may be of questionable quality.

Hoping for some tech bargains for the holidays? Yes? Then read on, as Intel has some good news for you. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich says that he expects OEMs to push prices down over the coming weeks, and that this will result in $99 tablets, $299 Haswell laptops, and $349 2-in-1 hybrid tablets and notebooks.”

http://www.zdnet.com/intel-says-get-ready-for-99-tablets-299-haswell-notebooks-349-2-in-1-hybrids-7000022020/

8.        Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray

Interesting progress, but the headline is nonsense: what would throw the story of human evolution in disarray would be the discovery of a modem human from 1.8 million years ago – everything else is hypothesis and speculation. As you dig up more bones you fill in more gaps and have a better understanding of what happened.

“The spectacular fossilised skull of an ancient human ancestor that died nearly two million years ago in central Asia has forced scientists to rethink the story of early human evolution. Anthropologists unearthed the skull at a site in Dmanisi, a small town in southern Georgia, where other remains of human ancestors, simple stone tools and long-extinct animals have been dated to 1.8m years old.”

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution

9.        How Safe Is Your Information in the Cloud?

Not exactly a highly informative article and one that seems to suggest most problems are in the past. Mind you, SAP does have a horse in this race, and they might have mentioned that the very nature of cloud storage – its centralization – makes it a juicy target for hackers. Plus, no matter what, service providers always move toward low cost of operation, meaning your data will probably end up being managed in India or China.

“Today, technology continues to rapidly advance by leaps and bounds. At one time, it seemed like the (now humble) laptop was the proverbial end of the line when it came to home computing technology. Then along came the variety of mobile computing technologies we have today. So too has the means by which we store and share information. Whereas in years past, most people stored all their data on the hard drives of their home computers. Now much of our data is stored on cloud servers.”

http://blogs.sap.com/innovation/cloud-computing/safe-information-cloud-0733576

10.   Gamers solve HIV

Protein folding is an immensely complex computational problem best solved with quantum computers (since the protein is itself a quantum computer). This approach – structuring the problem as a multiplayer game – is brilliant as it exploits massive computing power as well as the ability of the human mind to quickly resolve spatial problems.

“Scientists from the University of Washington solved a ten year old problem with the HIV virus structure by packing the image off to a bunch of gamers who solve these things for fun.”

http://news.techeye.net/science/gamers-solve-hiv-problem

11.   A mega to giga year storage medium can outlive the human race

Long term storage is an admirable goal, especially if you consider the benefit post-apocalypse. The main problem I see is simply that you specifically don’t want a machine readable format unless you know for sure the machine are going to be around when you need to read it. I figure many copies, printed in text, on a highly durable substrate like polycarbonate, is a lot more practical.

“Mankind has been storing information for thousands of years. From carvings on marble to today’s magnetic data storage. Although the amount of data that can be stored has increased immensely during the past few decades, it is still difficult to actually store data for a long period. The key to successful information storage is to ensure that the information does not get lost. If we want to store information that will exist longer than mankind itself, then different requirements apply than those for a medium for daily information storage. Researcher Jeroen de Vries from the University of Twente MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology demonstrates that it is possible to store data for extremely long periods.”

http://phys.org/news/2013-10-mega-giga-year-storage-medium.html

12.   Apple Says iMessage Interception Would Require Re-Engineering Systems, Has No Interest in Doing So

Still, it is awfully convenient there is a comfortable back door in the system, even if they have no intention of ever exploiting ever, not even once, unless of course they were asked to.

“Yesterday, researchers made a presentation at the Hack in the Box conference arguing that Apple’s iMessage system could theoretically allow Apple or another party to intercept the encrypted messages. The concern stems in part from Apple’s use of a private server for storing users’ public keys used to encrypt messages, meaning that senders have no way of knowing whether a potentially false key has been inserted in order to intercept messages intended for a different recipient.”

http://www.macrumors.com/2013/10/18/apple-says-imessage-interception-would-require-re-engineering-systems-has-no-interest-in-doing-so/

13.   WAIT! Before you upgrade: You simply must know a few things about Windows 8.1

I wasn’t planning on ‘upgrading’ from Windows 8 since I stripped it from the machine which was running it. Now I can see it is pretty much impractical: given my abysmal rural Canadian Internet service the download would take the better part of a few days, assuming it didn’t fail, which likely it would, and assuming it didn’t fail the download would cost $40.

“Microsoft is rolling out Windows 8.1 as a free upgrade for all Windows 8 users. But installing the new OS may not be as simple as it sounds, particularly for those with multiple computers to manage or those who installed the earlier Windows 8.1 Preview. The basics are simple enough: Windows 8 users can apply the update by downloading it from Microsoft’s Windows Store.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/17/windows_81_update_what_to_know/

14.   Volvo finds a way to turn body panels into batteries

Certainly sound world changing and revolutionary, but the facts about batteries remain the same: they don’t store much energy and they wear out relatively quickly. So, a structural member or body panel which is a battery becomes a structural member or panel which has to be replaced prematurely. Mind you, the batteries of most electric vehicles are so expensive you are better off scrapping the vehicle instead of replacing the battery after 5 to 10 years, so maybe it’s a wash.

“One of the problems with designing an electric vehicle is figuring out where to fit the battery pack. Volvo – as a part of a European Union research project – is working on a way around this issue by replacing standard parts with lightweight components that double as batteries on both conventional and plug-in vehicles. The image above shows one such piece on a Volvo S80. While looking like nothing more than a carbon fiber plenum cover, the piece is actually a battery pack that can store and supply enough energy for the car’s entire 12-volt power system.”

http://www.autoblog.com/2013/10/17/volvo-turns-body-panels-into-batteries-video/

15.   Fleet of eBee drones capture the immensity of the Matterhorn

An interesting project, though I don’t really know how critical the mapping of Matterhorn is to the rest of us. The video is certainly interesting. Perhaps a more useful application would be to deliver high quality high resolution maps to farmers, etc..

“Explorers have mapped the surface of the iconic Matterhorn painstakingly by foot, by satellite, and now by drone, thanks to a partnership between drone maker senseFly and nonprofit Drone Adventures. Launching a small squadron of eBee minidrones off the summit and sides of the famous Alps mountaintop, the mission tested the navigational abilities of the system and created a staggering data-rich 3D model.”

http://www.gizmag.com/sensefly-ebee-drone-data-matterhorn/29400/

16.   Teeny Tiny Pacemaker Fits Inside the Heart

The device itself is interesting, however, I don’t like the idea of a AAA battery rattling back and forth inside a chamber of my heart: you have to wonder how hard it would be to dislodge and what consequences (likely promptly fatal) would be.

“A tiny pacemaker that doesn’t need wires to stimulate the heart has been approved for sale in the European Union. It’s the world’s first wireless pacemaker to hit the market. This device, which is about the size and shape of a AAA battery, is designed to be inserted into the heart in a non-invasive procedure that would take about a half-hour.”

http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/teeny-tiny-pacemaker-fits-inside-the-heart

17.   Choose Your Own Route on Finland’s Algorithm-Driven Public Bus

This application makes sense, especially on relatively little used routes and/or in low-ridership times of day. Of course, in order for this to work, you’d have to have affordable mobile broadband, meaning Canada could not even consider it.

“Technology should probably be transforming public transit a lot faster than it is. Yes, apps like Hopstop have made finding stops easier and I’ve started riding the bus in unfamiliar parts of town a bit more often thanks to Google Maps’ route info. But these are relatively small steps, and it’s all limited to making scheduling information more widely available. Where’s the innovation on the other side? Where’s the Uber-like interactivity, the bus that comes to you after a tap on the iPhone?”

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-choose-your-own-adventure-bus

18.   Amaze project aims to take 3D printing ‘into metal age’

Just to be clear, 3D printing in metal has been around for a while. That being said, aerospace is probably an ideal industry for application due to the high value associated with weight reduction and the low volumes of items produced. I find the 3D printed bearing a bit questionable, however: bearings with the slightest texture (vs. high polish) quickly self-destruct.

“The European Space Agency has unveiled plans to “take 3D printing into the metal age” by building parts for jets, spacecraft and fusion projects. The Amaze project brings together 28 institutions to develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24528306

19.   Brain Implants Near Milestone

You sometimes have to wonder if there is a point where too much regulation does more harm than good, especially in emerging technologies in the medical area. I’m not suggesting that doctors be allowed to install brain implants without significant checks and balances, however, the amount of suffering which may have been relieved with more timely approval is likely immense.

“The product Steve Archer started work on 14 years ago is just about to hit the market — he hopes. The NeuroPace RNS is the first implant to listen to brain waves and autonomously decide when to apply a therapy to prevent an epileptic seizure. It was developed by a company with a staff of less than 90 people, only about 30 on the core electronic, mechanical, and software engineering teams.”

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319819&

20.   New EU rules to curb transfer of data to US after Edward Snowden revelations

The headline and most of the article certainly sounds reassuring, however, farther on we find that, in fact, these laws do not actually apply to “security agencies” which is, pretty much the point. So you can bluster all you want but if the law don’t actually apply to the people doing the spying, it isn’t going to change anything.

“New European rules aimed at curbing questionable transfers of data from EU countries to the US are being finalised in Brussels in the first concrete reaction to the Edward Snowden disclosures on US and British mass surveillance of digital communications. Regulations on European data protection standards are expected to pass the European parliament committee stage on Monday after the various political groupings agreed on a new compromise draft following two years of gridlock on the issue.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/17/eu-rules-data-us-edward-snowden

 

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 11th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 11th 2013

Hello

I am an analyst and consultant with 20 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

NOTE: I will be delivering a keynote address at the 19th Annual Annual SMCouncil Executive Forum on Microsystems and CMC 2013 Symposium October 16th entitled “Broadband Backwater:  Is it too late for Canadian Technology?” I believe the presentation will be posted online, however, if you wish to attend you can register at www.cmc.ca/en/NewsAndEvents/Events/Symposium2013

 

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the Geeks List when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

Click to Subscribe

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1.        American and British spy agencies targeted Tor network with minimal success

Winston Churchill once remarked “In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” The same goes for intelligence in general. That which you believe is true likely isn’t, leaks can be manufactured, and ‘secrets’ can be planted for eventual leak and discovery. Maybe Tor was secure, maybe it was never secure and just a ‘honeypot’, maybe it is still secure. You never know with these things.

“Considering the NSA and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been trying to thwart encryption on the internet, it comes as no surprise that the two have spent significant resources trying to crack the Tor network. Tor, as some of you may know, is designed to keep a person’s identity, location and activity anonymous and protect him or her from surveillance. Before panic sets in, know that Tor remains largely secure — the agencies had only limited success in trying to identify users.”

http://www.engadget.com/2013/10/04/american-and-british-spy-agencies-targeted-tor-network/

2.        Adobe source code breach; it’s bad, real bad

I avoid Adobe bloatware as much as possible the stuff is massive and seems to be forever having to be updated for security reasons. Of course I can’t fault them for being hacked, however the single point of weakness in their system not only cost them their source code (aka crown jewels) but it cost millions of their customers their credit information. Presumably class action lawyers are smacking their chops right now.

“The theft of source code for Adobe Acrobat, Cold Fusion and other products poses a wide-spread threat given the installed base of these products, particularly Acrobat, security specialists said. Adobe disclosed the issue in a blog post on Thursday.”

http://gigaom.com/2013/10/04/adobe-source-code-breech-its-bad-real-bad/

3.        Intel’s Internet of Things roadmap led by low-power chips

It is about time the x86 crowd noticed Internet of Things (IoT), but you have to wonder if it might be too late: first there is a very narrow product offering (two devices) and proprietary software (McAfee and Wind River) which is alright if you are leading the charge, not so much when you are banging on the door asking to be let in.

“Intel tapped into some of the bigger brands under its umbrella for a number of new Atom processor products being unveiled this week — namely the family previous known as “Bay Trail-I.” These new products make up the processor giant’s new roadmap based on buzzy trend disrupting IT and beyond: the Internet of Things.”

http://www.zdnet.com/intels-internet-of-things-roadmap-led-by-low-power-chips-7000021700/

4.        Department of Basic Education bans Free and Open Source Software in SA Schools and mandates programming an ancient, moribund language …

You see something like this and you might conclude that the people responsible for the decision were corrupt, stupid, or both. Being Canadian, I find it easier to believe public officials are corrupt instead of stupid, but maybe it is different in South America. Thanks to my friend Humphrey Brown for this article.

“Today I received a copy of a Circular S9/2013 from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that made me as angry as I have ever been in my life. In effect it destroyed any initiative in schools that offer the subjects “Computer Applications Technology” (CAT) and “Information Technology” (IT) and that use open source software. For CAT, the DBE has indicated that only Microsoft Office can be used and that this will only be MSO2010 and MSO2013 as from 2014. I learned that in IT they have dumped Java, effectively from 2013, and have prescribed Delphi, a language that is not in general use today and is basically Pascal with a Graphical User Interface.”

http://dkeats.com/index.php?module=blog&action=viewsingle&postid=gen21Srv8Nme0_40332_1381256759&userid=7050120123

5.        10% of Amplify Tablets Broke in Their First Month, One North Carolina School District Reports

Golly – give children expensive, fragile, devices and they break them! That would never happen in my house! Setting aside the abundantly questionable educational value of tablets, until they can literally make them bullet proof, this is going to be a common experience. A second hat tip to my friend Humphrey Brown for this article.

“Newscorp’s entry into the education market, the Amplify tablet, didn’t receive a lot of user reviews before being sold to waiting school districts; that may have been a mistake.               One school district in NC put their 1:1 program on hiatus just one month into the school year. They discovered that some 10% of the Amplify tablets issued to students were being returned with cracked screens or suffering from malfunctioning power supplies.”

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/10/07/10-amplfiy-tablets-broke-first-month-one-north-carolina-school-district-reports/

6.        ‘Look ma, no hands’ on the car steering wheel still some way off

You can imagine how unnerving it must have been to sit in an early horseless carriage, or even one with an automatic transmission. That being said, consumer resistance will probably disappear in due course, but it is still many years off.

“When General Motors Co Vice Chairman Steve Girsky slid into a Cadillac SRX luxury crossover vehicle specially equipped to drive itself, his reaction echoed that of many consumers as more self-driving technologies are rolled out. “It’s a little unsettling at first when you take your hands off the wheel and then it’s one of these ‘Oh wow’ moments,” Girsky said in a September 27 interview about the vehicle he test drove over a year ago.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/10/us-autos-driverless-idUSBRE99902D20131010

7.        HP Admits What We Already Knew: Microsoft Is At War With Its OEM Partners

Things are bad when one of your largest customers called you out as a threat. Right now HP doesn’t have much choice but to play by Microsoft’s rules, but that could change.

“HP sells software, services, and devices. So does Microsoft. Here’s the key quote from HP CEO Meg Whitman: “Current [HP] partners like Intel and Microsoft are turning from partners to outright competitors.” Microsoft is no longer content or able to mint money by selling software to partners, corporate clients, and the public. As it moves into services and devices, companies that were partners will retain that status, but also garner a new classification: adversary.”

http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/09/hp-admits-what-we-already-knew-microsoft-is-at-war-with-its-oem-partners/

8.        IDC: PC industry bleeding slows as Q3 global shipments beat estimates

If the best you can say about disappointing numbers is that they weren’t as bad as expected, they were pretty bad. Ultimately, this trend will plateau, but when is anybody’s guess. By the way: unit figures are less than half the story, we keep score in dollars.

“For most of 2013, the narrative of the PC industry has been on the verge of becoming a bloody horror story. But the bleeding has finally slowed, based on the latest figures from the IDC. The market research firm published its third quarter report on Wednesday after the bell, with analysts affirming that worldwide shipments of 81.6 million units beat expectations.”

http://www.zdnet.com/idc-pc-industry-bleeding-slows-as-q3-global-shipments-beat-estimates-7000021775/

9.        What is the Hardware Revolution?

I am not entirely sure I agree with the assertion (but I would be very happy if it were true) simply because the level of effort and skill required to create a hardware product is significantly different from creating software. That being said, it makes for an interesting read.

“We are at the very beginning of an amazing change in the way we build, buy, consume, and experience devices. It’s been called a whole bunch of different names over the past decade, but now that things are (finally) heating up the name that feels like it’s going to stick is “hardware revolution”. I want to dive into how this all came to pass. Where we are in the resurgence of hardware. What the triggers were and what needs to continue to happen. For starters: why. What has actually happened?””

http://blog.upverter.com/what-is-the-hardware-revolution

10.   Your car is about to go open source

What makes this article so interesting is not that they would move to open source but why they would move to open source, namely the challenge of maintaining and updating numerous custom made closed source applications. This sort of trend tends to be self-fulfilling as it becomes more true as more manufacturers adopt open source. I don’t like the idea of sophisticated GUIs on IVI systems in cars, however – it is a safety disaster waiting to happen.

“Automakers are working to standardize on a Linux-based operating system for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems that would make it easier for cars to act more like smartphones. An IVI is the “black box” that powers a car’s audio and entertainment systems, as well as hands-free phone service and satellite navigation systems. Most IVIs today have touchscreens and can be voice-activated, but many car buyers pass up those options.”

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9243075/Your_car_is_about_to_go_open_source

11.   The Linux Backdoor Attempt of 2003

One might immediately be tempted to blame the NSA for this but I suspect they are more diabolical. One thing about Linux is, once an exploit was successful the community would have promptly discovered the ‘back door’ and closed it. More likely this was just a ham handed attempt by some crooks.

“Josh wrote recently about a serious security bug that appeared in Debian Linux back in 2006, and whether it was really a backdoor inserted by the NSA. (He concluded that it probably was not.) Today I want to write about another incident, in 2003, in which someone tried to backdoor the Linux kernel. This one was definitely an attempt to insert a backdoor. But we don’t know who it was that made the attempt—and we probably never will.”

https://freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/the-linux-backdoor-attempt-of-2003/

12.   802.11ac ‘gigabit Wi-Fi’ starts to show potential, limits

This seems highly technical but it provides some insight into what is coming in the near future. Nonetheless, unless spectrum is freed up, it seems we are getting near the end of the road in terms of increased WiFi speeds.

“Vendors have been testing their 11ac products for months, yielding data that show how 11ac performs and what variables can affect performance. Some of the tests are under ideal laboratory-style conditions; others involve actual or simulated production networks. Among the results: consistent 400M to 800Mbps throughput for 11ac clients in best-case situations, higher throughput as range increases compared to 11n, more clients serviced by each access point, and a boost in performance for existing 11n clients.”

http://www.networkworld.com/cgi-bin/mailto/x.cgi?pagetosend=/news/2013/100713-gigabit-wifi-274535.html

13.   Police Arrest 8 In International Silk Road Busts

I guess a bazar for illegal activity has the same weakness as any other cloud service: a common point of failure. In other words, once you are in, you are in. Note how the arrests came within hours of the capture of “Mr. Big” implying he either kept a little black book or, more likely they already knew who they were going to arrest before they caught him because they had hacked the site.

“Authorities in Britain, Sweden, and the United States have arrested eight more people following last week’s closure of Silk Road, a notorious black market website which helped dealers to sell drugs under the cloak of anonymity, officials and media said Tuesday. In the U.K., the country’s newly-established National Crime Agency warned that more arrests were on the way.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=230442617&ft=1&f=

14.   Apple reportedly cutting iPhone 5C production in half

I have no idea how credible this report is, however, for a ‘cheap’ iPhone the 5C is damned expensive – maybe that is the root of the problem.

“Apple is said to be cutting production of the iPhone 5C in half, from 300,000 to 150,000 units per day, according to a new report from Chinese Web site C Technology.”

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57606922-37/apple-reportedly-cutting-iphone-5c-production-in-half/

15.   Canadian spies met with energy firms, documents reveal

The news flash that Canada had spied on Brazil’s mining and energy ministry had me amused the whole week – I mean, seriously people everybody spies on everybody else. As for why, well it could be for national security purposes, fun, or profit. After all, a number of bond films are based on commercial spying. In any event, if you worked for CSEC you could gather this information and tip off your brother in law who could make a fortune on insider trading.

“The Canadian government agency that allegedly hacked into the Brazilian mining and energy ministry has participated in secret meetings in Ottawa where Canadian security agencies briefed energy corporations, it has emerged.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/09/canadian-spies-met-energy-firms-documents

16.   Fotoforensics

I came across this photograph of raccoons cooperating to access food. I doubt whether the photo is legit (however, nothing raccoons do surprises me). In any event, further research brought me to www.fotoforensics.com which purports to allow you to automatically check a photograph for tricks. And I got and excuse to show you the picture of the raccoons.

http://fotoforensics.com/analysis.php?id=8cf711a95944a2a39dcb2073e7a9bb7540a6d339.567771

17.   Unscientific spoof paper accepted by 157 “black sheep” open access journals – but the Bohannon study has severe flaws itself

I carried the story about this ‘experiment’ recently. I don’t find it altogether surprising that ‘bad’ papers are accepted by open access journals since enough of them are accepted by ‘reputable’ journals. This item is a reasoned critique of the earlier piece.

“This week, the journal Science has published a news article about the apparent lack of proper peer-review at many open access journals. The author, contributing Science reporter John Bohannon, concocted a spoof paper with scientific problems, which ended up to be accepted in 157 out of 304 open access journals.”

http://gunther-eysenbach.blogspot.ca/2013/10/unscientific-spoof-paper-accepted-by.html

18.   Why tablet magazines are a failure

Some good points and some interesting figures. I have never paid for a tablet magazine so I don’t really have an informed opinion on the matter – not that that has ever stopped me from commenting before. It could simply be that tablet magazines are trying to impose a traditional format into a new media. Usually it takes a few years for that sort of thing to get worked out.

“We’re starting a new magazine,” the entrepreneur told me. “We have a potent niche to cover, and advertisers are dying for us to deliver interactive ads.” Another woman I met with wanted to launch a tablet magazine about renewable energy. “It’s global and I have all the right connections to get it out there,” she said. “And I’ve found an out-of-the-box software solution to power it.” Both projects impressed me. From an editorial point of view, they both nailed it. The entrepreneurs’ energy was great. A few years ago I would have been all in with them.”

http://gigaom.com/2013/10/06/tablet-magazines-failure/

19.   New strategy lets cochlear implant users hear music

The real story hear is not so much the music, but the idea that external signal processing software can be upgraded to the extent that patients can hear music, which probably has significance for normal hearing.

“For many, music is a universal language that unites people when words cannot. But for those who use cochlear implants — technology that allows deaf and hard of hearing people to comprehend speech — hearing music remains extremely challenging.”

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-10/uow-nsl100913.php

20.   How to lose half a trillion euros

I get the sense that the “renewable energy at any cost” policies in certain EU countries is leading to disaster. Unfortunately, as governments eventually discover, it is much easier to fall behind than to catch up, especially with respect to infrastructure. The thought of coal plants ramping up while cleaner natural gas plants are mothballed only adds to the story.

“ON JUNE 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity. It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.”

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21587782-europes-electricity-providers-face-existential-threat-how-lose-half-trillion-euros

 

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 4th 2013

The Geek’s Reading List – Week of October 4th 2013

Hello

I am an analyst and consultant with 20 years of experience as a sell side technology analyst and 13 years of prior experience as an electronics designer and software developer.

The purpose of the Geek’s Reading List is to draw attention to interesting articles I encounter from time to time. I hope that what I find interesting you will find interesting as well. These articles are not to be construed as investment advice, even though I may opine on the wisdom of the markets from time to time. That being said, it is absolutely important that investors understand the industry in which they are investing, along with the trends and developments within that industry. Therefore, I believe these comments may actually help investors with a longer time horizon.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on. Of course, if you find any articles you think should be included, please send them on to me!

I blog at www.thegeeksreadinglist.com.

 

NOTE: I will be delivering a keynote address at the 19th Annual Annual SMCouncil Executive Forum on Microsystems and CMC 2013 Symposium October 16th entitled “Broadband Backwater:  Is it too late for Canadian Technology?” I believe the presentation will be posted online, however, if you wish to attend you can register at www.cmc.ca/en/NewsAndEvents/Events/Symposium2013

 

 

Brian Piccioni

ps: Google has been sporadically flagging The Geek’s Reading List as spam/phishing. Until I resolve the problem, if you have a Gmail account and you don’t get the Geeks List when expected, please check your Spam folder and mark the list as ‘Not Spam’.

 

Click to Subscribe

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1.        Miniature monocentric camera records details of scene while maintaining extremely wide field of view

There have been a number of apparently novel lenses covered over the past year or so. I don’t know enough about optics to say how significant this is, but is sure looks interesting. It may be the traditional lens industry is due for disruption.

“A monocentric camera lens developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) achieves the optical performance of a full-size wide-angle lens in a device less than one-tenth of the volume. In a monocentric lens, all lens surfaces have a common center of curvature, giving the lens spherical rotational symmetry: this means that there is no particular optical axis, the image field is spherical, and, barring lens misalignments and tolerance errors, all points in the field have exactly the same point-spread function (PSF).”

http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/2013/09/miniature-monocentric-camera-records-details-of-scene-while-maintaining-extremely-wide-field-of-view.html

2.        Stanford’s new linear accelerator is just three millimeters long

The headline is a bit premature: yes, it is a linear accelerator, but it is not yet a particularly useful one. If the mechanism is scalable it might lead to miniature systems, or, perhaps, be used to start the process going. I’m sure it would be pretty embarrassing for the folks working on the Large Hadron Collider if the whole thing could be made on a desk top.

“Stanford researchers unveiled a new kind of linear accelerator in Nature today, both smaller and more powerful than its enormous predecessors. Instead of using microwaves like traditional accelerators, the new accelerator works by accelerating electrons to near light-speed through conventional techniques, then run through an intricately cut glass prism in combination with laser light, which increases their energy without increasing their speed. Nanoscale ridges in the prism allow particles to interact the laser light in asymmetrical patterns, boosting energy levels at 10 times the rate of devices at the more conventional Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.”

http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/27/4777840/stanfords-new-linear-accelerator-is-just-three-millimeters-long

3.        F.T.C. Targets Patent Companies

One cannot help but wonder if the worm has turned on the patent licensing industry. This would not be a complete surprise as IP laws tend to move in fairly long cycles, swinging from highly restrictive to a near free for all. Time will tell.

“The Federal Trade Commission voted to begin an inquiry into “patent assertion entities,” businesses whose only purpose is to stockpile patent portfolios and use them to sue companies like software designers and smartphone makers, the agency announced Friday.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/ftc-targets-patent-companies.html?ref=technology

4.        ‘Free Unix!’: The world-changing proclamation made 30 years ago today

The GNU project is really the heart of Open Source software, which thanks to Android (a Linux) is now the most used operating system on earth. I continue to believe that acceptance of Android will ultimately be the undoing of Microsoft (also, see item 19, below).

“It was 30 years ago today that the seeds were planted for both Linux and the open-source software movement, though neither is called that name by the man who help set both of them into motion, the irascible Richard Stallman. On that day, Stallman, then working at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, posted on the net.unix-wizards and net.usoft newsgroups about an ambitious new project he was embarking on. ”Free Unix!” began the missive.”

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2050440/free-unix-the-worldchanging-proclamation-made-30-years-ago-today.html

5.        Physicists inch toward atomic-scale MRI

MRI is a remarkable achievement of science though it is a little hard to understand how it could possibly work on objects as small as a virus. Nonetheless, it appears to be doable, and, these things usually work, it we can imagine it, we can do it.

“A team of physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University is working on a novel MRI technique that has achieved nanoscale resolution — meaning scientists could soon view biological samples such as influenza viruses very clearly.”

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57605074-1/physicists-inch-toward-atomic-scale-mri/

6.        Has a quantum computer solved the ‘party problem’?

The back and forth associated with D-Wave (claim, counter claim, etc.) leaves me a little baffled. After all, a true quantum computer should be so remarkably different from anything else that the results of any test should be beyond dispute. In either event, the applications for such systems are probably rather limited.

“A quantum computer made by the Canadian company D-Wave Systems has been used to solve a famous puzzle in mathematics known as the party problem – according to a team of physicists in Canada and the US that has done the work. D-Wave describes the result as one of the most significant achievements for its devices to date, but some physicists are being party poopers by remaining unconvinced there is anything to boast about.”

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2013/sep/27/has-a-quantum-computer-solved-the-party-problem

7.        Are We Witnessing the Decline of Ubuntu?

I use Ubuntu and it is far from perfect, however, it seems a lot friendlier to a new user than most other Unix distributions (I threw in the towel after spending a weekend trying to install Debian). It is, however, quite clear Ubuntu is falling out of favor with purists, which may or may not be important to its long term outlook for the unwashed (like me).

“History is written years after the events it describes. But when the history of free software finally is written, I am increasingly convinced that this last year will be noted as the start of the decline of Ubuntu.”

http://www.datamation.com/open-source/are-we-witnessing-the-decline-of-ubuntu-1.html

8.        Let’s Talk About Truckerless Trucking

I suspect that we will see a transformation in logistics over the next 20 or so years as autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles result in faster and more efficient deliveries. This is bound to be disruptive in a number of industries and is, at least, worthy of discussion.

“Automation is the future of transportation, but Canada is stuck grinding its gears. Google’s self-driving cars have quietly logged hundreds of thousands kilometers on public roads since 2010, and now a growing number of auto manufacturers—including GM, Toyota, Volvo, Audi and Mercedes—are working on driverless cars of their own. Just last week, Tesla Motors announced a plan to include an auto-pilot feature in their electric cars by 2017.”

http://www.thevaultmag.com/archives/5944

9.        Stolen phones blacklist launches in Canada

The IMEI has been around for decades, and an equivalent scheme was around when I designed my first cellphone in the 1980s. The fact that this sort of system is being launched in late 2013 shows how slothful the industry is. Needless to say, the claim a blacklist system would cost $20 million to implement is laughable – unless, of course the industry is as inefficient at software development as it is at everything else. $200,000 is probably a better estimate.

“Cellphones, tablets and other wireless devices that have been reported lost or stolen can no longer be activated — and therefore used — on most wireless networks in Canada, following the launch of a new national “blacklist” of such devices Monday.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/stolen-phones-blacklist-launches-in-canada-1.1873674

10.   I cheated YouTube for 5 months and finally got caught

This article provides an example of how to game the system. Not a significant accomplishment in this context but certainly important to anybody planning a ‘viral’ marketing campaign.

“After more than five months, $500 spent, and more than half a million views, YouTube has finally deleted the video that I blatantly juiced with fake views all winter.”

http://www.dailydot.com/business/youtube-buy-fake-views-deleted/

11.   Scientists discover possible cure for noise-induced hearing loss

If this proves to actually work it could be a very big deal indeed. This sort of hearing loss is not solely associated with a handful of DJs and musicians, but many working people or even hobbyists involved in noisy activities without proper hearing protection.

“Scientists have found a potential cure for permanent deafness caused by loud noise exposure, infection and toxic drugs, using a drug that stimulates the inner ear. Until now, it has been regarded as impossible to restore the sensory hair cells responsible for hearing once they have been lost, and the type of deafness often suffered by musicians and DJs was assumed to have been incurable.”

http://thepositive.com/science-cure-hearing-loss/

12.   FBI shuts alleged online drug marketplace Silk Road

One is tempted to think of computer criminals as geniuses but they are often not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer. After all, if you were running a black market for drugs and were visited by the FBI wouldn’t you flee the country? Most of the details of how they caught him are probably a smoke screen to hide the likely fact the entire network has been compromised so it could be interesting for a few months. One interesting side-note: this is the second bust of a major Bitcoin exchange, and the price of the ‘currency’ promptly bounced back. What non-fraudulent commodity maintains its price despite the collapse of a major end market?

“U.S. law enforcement authorities have shut down Silk Road, the web marketplace for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine as well as criminal activities including murder for hire, and arrested its alleged owner, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Wednesday.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/02/us-crime-silkroad-raid-idUSBRE9910TR20131002

13.   Could Apple be forced into charger redesign by EU?

The comments by the nitwit analysts are somewhat amusing: there is nothing to prevent Apple from having a micro-usb port for charging and a ‘wider’ connector for charging and other applications. In either event, other vendors somehow manage to comply so they should suck it up.

“Apple could be forced to scrap its iPhone chargers under EU plans to make a universal phone charger law. Under the proposals, mobile phone manufacturers would have to make devices compatible with the universal charger which would hit companies like Apple who have their own design.”

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101068270

14.   Intel launches Galileo, an Arduino-compatible development board

A week or so ago a company announced an Intel based ‘open source’ platform with no chance of success due to its staggering cost. This might have better odds as x86 compatibility, Arduino ‘shield’ support, and the likely backing of the Arduino community are a good combination. The only wild card is price, which is, as yet, undisclosed.

“Notice how so many maker projects require open-source hardware like Arduino and Raspberry Pi to function? Intel has, and the company is leaping into bed with the former to produce the Galileo development board. Galileo is the first product packing Intel’s Quark X1000 system-on-chip, Santa Clara’s new low-power gear for wearables and “internet of things” devices. Don’t imagine, however, that Intel is abandoning its X86 roots, as Quark’s beating heart is a single-thread Pentium-based 400MHz CPU.”

http://www.engadget.com/2013/10/03/intel-ardino-galileo-development-r-pi-education/

15.   Sham science: bogus research paper exposes shoddy standards of some journals

This article explores the dark side of scientific research: basically sham publications willing to put anything out, for a price. Given the importance of publication to the careers of most scientists the emergence of these publications is not entirely surprising. Of course, Science, and most other ‘legitimate’ publications are a huge and profitable business so there are no clean hands here. It is also worth noting that highly ‘reputable’ publications such as The Lancet are scarcely beyond reproach, having published the infamous Wakefield anti-vaccine article. Hat tip to my friend Duncan Stewart for this article.

“Pseudonyms, foreign bank accounts, IP traces, and an intentionally botched body of work. The elements of a newly unveiled sting operation sound like a top-secret, high-tech undertaking to bring down some criminal mastermind. But in reality, the sting’s target was something far more mundane: a league of peer-reviewed scientific journals that want to give research away for free.”

http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/3/4798840/fake-research-paper-exposes-poor-standards-open-access-journals

16.   Ex-Amazon Engineer Builds Library for World’s Software Code

This is a really good idea however I find it rather odd that the system does not seem to index ‘c’ language software which is the lingua franca of Linux and much of the open source movement.

“In building software, modern companies rely on all sorts of code and tools they don’t develop themselves. This includes open source software that’s freely shared with the world at large, but also application programming interfaces, or APIs, that provide hooks into online services across the web. The open source search engine Ohloh spans 20,656,731,705 lines of publicly available code, and the API tracking site The Programmable Web lists over 10,000 publicly available APIs.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/10/runnable/

17.   L.A. Unified takes back iPads as $1-billion plan hits hurdles

Truly a predictable outcome: give some kids expensive, fragile toys and limit what they can do with them. Eventually one of the kids (or a big sister) figures out how to unlock the expensive, fragile, toy, and that information spreads like wildfire. The unlocked toy is now outside the control of teachers and, being unlocked, is a valuable commodity which can be ‘lost’ and resold. I have to wonder if and when the remaining third of devices will be returned.

“Los Angeles school officials have taken back iPads from students at Westchester and Roosevelt high schools and possibly other campuses as well until further notice, the latest fallout from student hacking of the devices. The move is another complication in efforts to provide an iPad to every student as part of a $1-billion technology plan in the nation’s second-largest school system.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-1001-lausd-ipads-20131001,0,270074.story

18.   French Gendarmerie: “Open source desktop lowers TCO by 40%”

Not exactly the sort of thing which Microsoft likes to hear, but likely true. A couple things about Linux worth considering: no annual subscriptions (most software companies are pushing customers into annual contracts and/or cloud services) and a lower likelihood of a back-door. The online commentary I read about this article really illuminated the challenges faced by small businesses as a consequence of annual fees, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

“Using an open source desktop lowers the total cost of ownership by 40%, in savings on proprietary software licences and by reducing costs on IT management. Using Ubuntu Linux massively reduces the number of local technical interventions, says Major Stéphane Dumond. “The direct benefits of saving on licences are the tip of the iceberg. An industrialised open source desktop is a powerful lever for IT governance.””

https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/community/osor/news/french-gendarmerie-open-source-desktop-lowers-tco-40

19.   Windows 7 outpacing Windows 8 adoption

You have to wonder how it feels if sales of your older generation product are increasing faster than your latest product. Of course, my view has been that Windows 8 is an abject failure from a user perspective and Microsoft’s licensing games (disallowing ‘downgrades’ on most systems) only rub salt in the wound. I still run Windows 7 on one home machine and at the office, but stripped Windows 8 off my development system and replaced it with Ubuntu.

“Latest NetMarketshare figures suggest Windows 7 is outpacing Windows 8’s adoption, despite a rapid reduction in Windows XP usage over the past quarter. Over the past month, Windows 8’s share has increased by 0.61 percentage points, rising to 8.02 percent of the total share. Whereas, on the other hand, Windows 7’s share increased by 0.8 percentage points, rising to 46.3 percent of the market.”

http://www.zdnet.com/windows-7-outpacing-windows-8-adoption-shows-latest-figures-7000021383/

20.   The Much-Hyped 3D Printer Market Is Entering A New Growth Phase, Says Gartner

Gartner forecasts are, in general, not word the electrons they are distributed with, however, there are some interesting facts and figures in this article. 3D printing is having a growing impact on manufacturing, though I remain skeptical about home adoption – after all, how many chess pieces do you want to make yourself? Eventually, service businesses will pop up and you will be able to order up custom manufactured items with little difficulty, and no need to learn a CAD program. A second hat tip to my friend Duncan Stewart for this article.

“3D printing remains a nascent market, despite high levels of hype around the technology’s potential — such as, most recently, news that astronauts will be using a 3D printer in space next year. The hype may be a little overblown but there’s no doubting the technology’s trajectory. Enter analyst Gartner with a new report, which predicts worldwide shipments of sub-$100,000 3D printers will grow 49% this year, to reach a total of 56,507 units.”

http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/02/gartner-3d-printer-market-forecast/