Tech Today w/ Ken May

Featured entries writes Nick Wingfield reports at the NYT that for the last couple of years, the companies building virtual reality headsets have begged the public for patience as they strive to create virtual environments that don’t make people physically sick. “We’re going to hang ourselves out there and be judged, ” says John Carmack, chief technology officer of Oculus, describing what he calls a “nightmare scenario” that has worried him and other Oculus executives. “People like the demo, they take it home, and they start throwing up, ” says Carmack. “The fear is if a really bad V.R. product comes out, it could send the industry back to the ’90s.” In that era, virtual reality headsets flopped, disappointing investors and consumers. “It left a huge, smoking crater in the landscape, ” says Carmack, who is considered an important game designer for his work on Doom and Quake. “We’ve had people afraid to touch V.R. for 20 years.” This time around, the backing for virtual reality is of a different magnitude. Facebook paid $2 billion last year to acquire Oculus. Microsoft is developing its own headset, HoloLens, that mixes elements of virtual reality with augmented reality, a different medium that overlays virtual images on a view of the real world. Google has invested more than $500 million in Magic Leap, a company developing an augmented reality headset. “The challenge is there is so much expectation and anticipation that that could fall away quite quickly if you don’t get the type of traction you had hoped, ” says Neil Young. (More, below.) Read more of this story at Slashdot.

McDonald’s announced today it will begin only sourcing chickens raised without medically important antibiotics in the U.S. When a juggernaut like McDonald’s makes such decisions, the food world listens—and sourcing only antibiotic-free chicken is a big deal. Read more…

NYC public schools to close for two Muslim holidays

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2015

(Muslim worshippers pray during Eid al-Fitr services in the Queens borough of New York, July 28, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton) The largest public school district in the United State will close for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. Read the rest

Water droplets bounce off these new self-cleaning surfaces

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2015

Every day, we interact with a myriad of surfaces ranging from soft fabrics to hard metals. Inevitably, this means we have to spend our time cleaning them. A class of self-cleaning materials would certainly make our lives easier. Previous attempts to create these materials have focused on developing surfaces that are rough and waxy; these cause water droplets to roll along the surface, picking up dirt and dust due as it goes. These materials have been relatively successful, but they have many limitations. For example, they’re easily worn away and easily contaminated by oils like those found on our skin. Luckily, scientists have now developed a waterproof, self cleaning coating that can be applied to materials that are as soft as cotton and as hard as glass. This coating is composed of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles with two size distributions, delivered as a suspension in ethanol containing the chemical perfluorooctyltriethoxysilane. After application, the ethanol is allowed to evaporate for 180 seconds before the coating is ready for use. This coating can be sprayed, dipped, or painted onto a surface, and it maintains its performance after several types of damage. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft Releases Preview Build for Office for Mac 2016

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2015

Mac: Microsoft Office for the Mac hasn’t been fully updated since 2011, but Microsoft just put the training wheels on its preview build for Office 2016, and you can check it out for free right now. Read more…

MojoKid writes Intel held an event at a location adjacent to GDC last night, where the company discussed some updates to its 5th Gen Core processor line-up, Intel graphics developments, the Intel Hardware SDK, and its various game developer tools. Chris Silva, Director of Marketing for Premium Notebook and Client Graphics teams disclosed a few details that a socketed, unlocked, 65W desktop processor based on Intel’s Broadwell architecture, featuring Iris graphics, is due to arrive sometime in mid-2015. It’s noteworthy because this will be Intel’s first desktop CPU with Iris Pro graphics and because it is multiplier unlocked. It will be interesting to see what Iris Pro can do with some overclocking. Intel then showed off a new NUC mini PC powered by a 28W, quad-core Core i7 Broadwell processor, which also featured Iris graphics. The device has a tiny .63 liter enclosure with support for high-performance M.2 solid state drives and features an array of built-in IO options, like USB3, BT4, and 802.11ac WiFi. Bryan Langley, Principal PM for Windows Graphics also talked a bit about DirectX 12, disclosing that the company would be ready with DX12 support when Windows 10 arrives and that there are optimizations in DX12 and their drivers that would deliver performance enhancements to current and future Intel graphics platforms. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A researcher at OpenDNS Security Labs has developed a new way to automatically detect and block sites used to distribute malware almost instantaneously without having to scan them. The approach, initially developed by researcher Jeremiah O’Connor, uses natural language processing and other analytics to detect malicious domains before they can attack by spotting host names that are designed as camouflage. Called NLPRank , it spots DNS requests for sites that have names similar to legitimate sites, but with IP addresses that are outside the expected address blocks and other related data that hints at sketchiness. The practice of using look-alike domain names as part of an effort to fool victims into visiting websites or approving downloads is a well-worn approach in computer crime. But recent crafted attacks via “phishing” links in e-mails and social media have gone past the well-worn “typo-squatting” approach by using domain names that appear close to those of trusted sites, registered just in time for attacks to fly under reputation-scoring security tools to make blacklisting them harder. Fake domain names such as and, for example, were used in the recently discovered “Carbanak” attacks on banks that allowed criminals to gain access to financial institutions’ networks starting in January 2013 and steal over $1 billion over the next two years. Many security services can screen out malicious sites based on techniques such as reputation analysis—checking a centralized database to see if a site name has been associated with any malware attacks. But because attackers are able to rapidly register new domains with scripted systems that look relatively legitimate to the average computer user, they can often bypass reputation checks—especially when using their specially crafted domain names in highly targeted attacks. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Deer aren’t the slim, graceful vegans we thought they were. Scientists using field cameras have caught deer preying on nestling song birds. And it’s not just deer. Herbivores the world over may be supplementing their diets. Read more…

FTC Targets Group That Made Billions of Robocalls

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2015

coondoggie writes Given the amount of time the FTC and others have put into curing the robocall problem, it is disheartening to hear that a group of companies for almost a year have been making billions of illegal robocalls. The Federal Trade Commission and 10 state attorneys general today said they have settled charges against a Florida-based cruise line company and seven other companies that averaged 12 million to 15 million illegal sales calls a day between October 2011 through July 2012, according to the joint complaint filed by the FTC and the states. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Quantum computing could make complex calculations trivial in the future, but right now it’s fraught with problems . Consider one of them solved, though, in the shape of a new quantum error correction technique. Read more…