Tech Today w/ Ken May

Featured entries

This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood Air

Posted by kenmay on April - 16 - 2014

Let’s take rooftop farming to a whole new level—a microscopic level. Unveiled at Expo Milan this week, the Urban Algae Canopy is a living, breathing alternative to our inert roofs and facades. Could algae be the next hip trend in urban agriculture? Read more…

Google  added a paragraph to its terms of service as of Monday to tell customers that, yes, it does scan e-mail content for advertising and customized search results, among other reasons. The change comes as Google undergoes a lawsuit over its e-mail scanning, with the plaintiffs complaining that Google violated their privacy. E-mail users brought the lawsuit against Google in 2013, alleging that the company was violating wiretapping laws by scanning the content of e-mails. The plaintiffs are varied in their complaints, but some of the cases include people who sent their e-mails to Gmail users from non-Gmail accounts and nonetheless had their content scanned. They argue that since they didn’t use Gmail, they didn’t consent to the scanning. US District Judge Lucy Koh refused Google’s motion to dismiss the case in September. Koh also denied the plaintiffs class-action status in March on the grounds that the ways that Google might have notified the various parties of its e-mail scanning are too varied, and she could not decide the case with a single judgment. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Today a software update is being rolled out to Roku 3 players that adds support for its universal search feature to the iOS and Android apps. This feature allows users to hunt for any actor, TV show, or movie and find it on all of the streaming services that carry it, right from the mobile app. Read more…

ananyo writes: “If ever a technology were ripe for disruption, it is the microscope. Microscopes are expensive and need to be serviced and maintained. Unfortunately, one important use of them is in poor-world laboratories and clinics, for identifying pathogens, and such places often have small budgets and lack suitably trained technicians. Now Manu Prakash, a bioengineer at Stanford University, has designed a microscope made almost entirely of paper, which is so cheap that the question of servicing it goes out of the window. Individual Foldscopes are printed on A4 sheets of paper (ideally polymer-coated for durability). A pattern of perforations on the sheet marks out the ‘scope’s components, which are colour-coded in a way intended to assist the user in the task of assembly. The Foldscope’s non-paper components, a poppy-seed-sized spherical lens made of borosilicate or corundum, a light-emitting diode (LED), a watch battery, a switch and some copper tape to complete the electrical circuit, are pressed into or bonded onto the paper. (The lenses are actually bits of abrasive grit intended to roll around in tumblers that smooth-off metal parts.) A high-resolution version of this costs less than a dollar, and offers a magnification of up to 2, 100 times and a resolving power of less than a micron. A lower-spec version (up to 400x magnification) costs less than 60 cents.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

SRLabs The heavily marketed fingerprint sensor in Samsung’s new Galaxy 5 smartphone has been defeated by whitehat hackers who were able to gain unfettered access to a PayPal account linked to the handset. The hack, by researchers at Germany’s Security Research Labs , is the latest to show the drawbacks of using fingerprints, iris scans, and other physical characteristics to authenticate an owner’s identity to a computing device. While advocates promote biometrics as a safer and easier alternative to passwords, that information is leaked every time a person shops, rides a bus, or eats at a restaurant, giving attackers plenty of opportunity to steal and reuse it. This new exploit comes seven months after a separate team of whitehat hackers bypassed Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner less than 48 hours after it first became available. “We expected we’d be able to spoof the S5′s Finger Scanner, but I hoped it would at least be a challenge,” Ben Schlabs, a researcher at SRLabs, wrote in an e-mail to Ars. “The S5 Finger Scanner feature offers nothing new except—because of the way it is implemented in this Android device—slightly higher risk than that already posed by previous devices.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

 Amazon’s smartphone leaks are starting to pile up quickly, and today our own report about some of its 3D features and Android-based FIreOS operating system was followed quickly by an extensive report about the phone’s supposed specs, complete with pics of the gadget housed in a case designed to keep its final look a secret. The pics and specs come from BGR, which reports that Amazon is… Read More

Among the other new features in Windows 8.1′s latest update , Microsoft has also added a small rundown of what’s taking up space in your home folder and Recycle Bin. Read more…

Microsoft’s Office Online —the free, web-based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote—is headed for the Chrome Web Store as a series of apps. Read more…

If you thought that the NSA wanted too much personal information , just wait a few months. The EFF is reporting that the FBI’s new facial recognition database, containing data for almost a third of the US population, will be ready to launch this summer. Codenamed NGI, the system combines the bureau’s 100 million-strong fingerprint database with palm prints, iris scans and mugshots. Naturally, this has alarmed privacy advocates, since it’s not just felons whose images are added, but anyone who has supplied a photo ID for a government job or background check. According to the EFF’s documents, the system will be capable of adding 55, 000 images per day, and could have the facial data for anything up to 52 million people by next year. Let’s just hope that no-one tells the Feds about Facebook , or we’re all in serious trouble. Filed under: Internet Comments Source: EFF

IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative’s Debt

Posted by kenmay on April - 15 - 2014

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes “Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them of tax debts they never knew about: often a debt incurred by their parents. The government is confiscating their checks, sometimes over debts 20—30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4 (in 1960), her father died … ‘Until the kids turned 18, her mother received survivor benefits from Social Security … Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family in 1977. … Four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. … “It was a shock, ” says Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”‘ The Treasury Department has intercepted … $75 million from debts delinquent for more than 10 years according to the department’s debt management service. ‘The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.’” Read more of this story at Slashdot.