Tech Today w/ Ken May

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The FCC is ready to adopt a proposal that’ll bring a new protocol to wireless networks to help people with disabilities communicate. It’s called real-time text (RTT) and will be a replacement for the aging teletypewriter devices that let users transmit text conversations over traditional phone lines. According to the FCC’s statement, RTT will “allow Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled or deaf-blind to use the same wireless communications devices as their friends, relatives and colleagues, and more seamlessly integrate into tomorrow’s communications networks.” The big differentiator for RTT over current, commonly-used text-based messaging systems is that RTT messages are sent immediately as they’re typed. The RTT technology will let text users communicate with people on voice-based phones and vice versa; it can also work easily in your standard smartphone, eliminating the need for specialized equipment. The proposal calls for RTT to roll out over wireless networks run by “larger carriers” by December of 2017. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Slack To Disable Thousands of Logins Leaked on GitHub

Posted by kenmay on April - 30 - 2016

An anonymous reader writes: Thursday one technology site reported that thousands of developers building bots for the team-collaboration tool Slack were exposing their login credentials in public GitHub repositories and tickets. “The irony is that a lot of these bots are mostly fun ‘weekend projects’, reported Detectify. “We saw examples of fit bots, reminding you to stretch throughout the day, quote bots, quoting both Jurassic Park…and Don Quixote….” Slack responded that they’re now actively searching for publicly-posted login credentials, “and when we find any, we revoke the tokens and notify both the users who created them, as well as the owners of affected teams.” Detectify notes the lapse in security had occurred at a wide variety of sites, including “Forbes 500 companies, payment providers, multiple internet service providers and health care providers… University classes at some of the world’s best-known schools. Newspapers sharing their bots as part of stories. The list goes on and on…” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Poorly maintained equipment, as shown in a union complaint about Verizon maintenance. (credit: Communications Workers of America ) Verizon says its network has suffered 57 incidents of vandalism in seven states in the two weeks since 36,000 workers went on strike . The “incidents of sabotage,” mostly involving the severing of fiber optic cables or damage to terminal boxes, “have cut off thousands of Verizon customers from critical wireline services,” the company said Wednesday . Under normal conditions, there are only about a half-dozen incidents of sabotage over the course of a year, a Verizon spokesperson told Ars today. Verizon says it is still investigating the incidents and hasn’t pinned the blame on anyone specific. But the company’s announcement pointed out that “these malicious actions take place as Verizon is experiencing a strike.” Verizon reported similar incidents of vandalism during another  strike in 2011 . Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cover art for the first Wheel of Time novel. (credit: Tor Books) After a rough false start , it looks like Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic  The Wheel of Time will be coming to television after all. The news was delivered on the series’ Google+ page by Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, who owns the copyright to the novels and has controlled the franchise’s direction since Jordan’s death in 2007. We have few details about the project at this point, aside from assurances that a “major studio” will have more to share soon: Wanted to share with you exciting news about The Wheel of Time . Legal issues have been resolved. The Wheel of Time will become a cutting edge TV series! I couldn’t be more pleased. Look for the official announcement coming soon from a major studio —Harriet Optioning  The Wheel of Time makes sense, given the appetite for TV adaptations of dense, sprawling fantasy series. HBO’s  Game of Thrones  and Starz’s  Outlander have both been successful, and  Wheel of Time  is a firmly established property that has the added benefit of actually being a finished story already. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

One of the really nice things about the newest builds of Raspbian is that it comes with just about all the software you need to get running. The downside of that is that all that software takes up a ton of space. RasPi.tv points out you can quickly snag about a 1GB back by deleting two apps: LibreOffice and Wolfram. Read more…

 Big, complex things running on tiny things is a common theme this week. Earlier we had a hack that put Counter-Strike on Android Wear, and today some maniac has installed Windows 95 on his Apple Watch. At last it’ll do something worthwhile! That is, of course, if you can find the Start button. Read More

(credit: cncphotos ) Entertainment company Rovi announced that it has officially acquired DVR maker TiVo in a deal worth $1.1 billion. Rovi will pay for the deal mostly in stock at $10.70 per share, with approximately $277 million to be paid in cash at $2.75 per share. Rovi’s CEO Tom Carson will continue to run the company, although it will now assume the “iconic TiVo brand” as its name. The deal seems to be centered on patents. According to The New York Times , Rovi’s interactive TV program guides account for less than half of its $526 million revenue last year, while the rest is made up of its licensed intellectual property. TiVo made a name for itself with its DVR technology, but the patents that make its DVR hardware and software work are proving to be more valuable. Together, Rovi and TiVo have over 6,000 patents issued and pending in the digital entertainment space. “Rovi’s acquisition of TiVo, with its innovative products, talented team, and substantial intellectual property portfolio, strengthens Rovi’s position as a global leader in media discovery, metadata, analytics, and IP licensing,” Carson said in a statement . “It’s an exciting time as the media and entertainment landscape undergoes a significant evolution…. By working together, Rovi and TiVo will revolutionize how consumers experience media and entertainment and at the same time build value for our stockholders.” Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google AI Has Access To 1.6M People’s NHS Records

Posted by kenmay on April - 29 - 2016

Hal Hodson, reporting for New Scientist:It’s no secret that Google has broad ambitions in healthcare. But a document obtained by New Scientist reveals that the tech giant’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service goes far beyond what has been publicly announced. The document — a data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust — gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to. The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free — each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years. According to their original agreement, Google cannot use the data in any other part of its business. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Flow is Microsoft’s take on IFTTT automation (Updated)

Posted by kenmay on April - 29 - 2016

Microsoft is about to release its take on the automation service IFTTT called Flow, according to a blog post published and removed by the company. Update : the service is now live ! Flow connects to over 35 services, with more integrations planned. These include Microsoft products like Office 365 and OneDrive; third-party platforms such as Twitter, Dropbox, MailChimp, Google Drive, Slack and Trello; and developer-focused options like Github and SQL. Just like IFTTT, you’ll be able to create workflows across multiple services. Examples include adding a card in Trello if your boss emails you with “to do” in the subject line, sending a text alert if a Dropbox file is modified, or saving all of a user’s tweets to OneDrive. Some of this functionality has been available as part of a private preview for Microsoft’s Azure business customers, but Flow appears to be a more user-friendly take on the concept. It’s aimed squarely at businesses, schools and other large institutions, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t be useful to individuals, especially if you’re the sort of person that organizes your life through Trello. It’s not clear exactly when Flow will be ready. Twitter user @h0x0d first discovered the service (as spotted by The Verge ) along with the blog post, but it was swiftly removed. The article itself had a typo and didn’t appear finished, so it seems that it was posted before it was ready. Ironically, one of the workflows mentioned in the post intended to ensure “that all of the posts [about Flow] were reviewed and approved.” It appears that particular Flow failed. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for more information on Flow, and will update you once we have more details. Update : As noted above, Microsoft’s Flow service went live on Friday morning. Via: The Verge Source: Microsoft Flow (Google cache)

IMAX films shot in space aren’t anything new, but with A Beautiful Planet , longtime IMAX director Toni Myers still manages to show us entirely new perspectives of Earth. Shot on the International Space Station by several crews (including internet sensation Scott Kelly) and narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, it’s a groundbreaking film in many respects: It’s the first IMAX space feature to use digital cameras as well as off-the shelf shooters (the Canon EOS C500 and 1D-C). And it’s also the first film from IMAX to use SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to ship equipment to the ISS. While A Beautiful Planet uses converted 3D footage (it wasn’t shot with actual 3D cameras), there’s still an immense sense of depth to the imagery. The film also evokes the Spaceship Earth concept, which centers on the idea that we’re all traveling together on an organic craft with limited resources. It’s hard not to be taken aback when you see how dry the Colorado River Basin appears from space, which has led to droughts in California and surrounding states, or when you see how much of Brazil’s rainforests have been destroyed. In many ways, the film is a call to arms for the next generation of would-be environmentalists. Back when the NASA’s space shuttle was running, IMAX was able to get its large 2D and 3D cameras sent up fairly easily. But these days it’s more difficult to get material into orbit, because there’s no space shuttle for sending up large cargo. Luckily, modern digital filmmaking equipment is also far less cumbersome to deal with than it was during the days of the shuttle program. Not only are the cameras significantly smaller, but there’s no need to handle large reels of IMAX film, which weighed around 10 pounds and could record only three minutes at a time. IMAX says the data packs used today are around the size of an iPhone and can record 30 minutes of 4K video. Astronauts were trained to use the cameras by cinematographer James Neihouse, and they were tasked with getting footage from more than 100 targets (though they were also told to “shoot what they saw”). Though much more convenient, there was a bit of a tradeoff with the new hardware. IMAX’s older film cameras delivered stunning footage with a resolution comparable to 12K. But while the digital cameras might not pack in the same level of quality, their footage still looked astounding when projected in 3D on a full-size IMAX screen at Manhattan’s AMC Loews Lincoln Square theater. And despite the lower resolution, the digital cameras still managed to outdo their predecessors with their ability to handle low-light shots. “We would not have the nighttime scenes without the digital dynamic range, ” Myers said in a statement. “What the digital capture did was totally open up that night world to us, with stars, cities at night, lightning and other phenomena that you see at night, like aurora.” Those night scenes are indeed stunning. Viewing Earth in daylight conveys the immensity of the natural world, but at night you also see the impact of human civilization in cities ablaze with electricity. It’s also a reminder of how different even neighboring societies can be: South Korea is one of the brightest spots on Earth at night, but it’s almost complete darkness over the border in North Korea. On the natural side of things, the brief glimpses we get of aurora dancing across Earth’s atmosphere look more like computer-generated effects than something organic. Another first for the film: It took advantage of the International Space Station’s “Cupola, ” a dome-like arrangement of seven large windows, giving astronauts an incredibly wide view outside the craft. That was helpful for their own work taking care of the ISS, but it also allowed for a wide variety of angles for recording footage of Earth. IMAX also developed a special shield that protected the windows when they weren’t being used, which the astronauts were able to control. A Beautiful Planet gives us a clear sense of what it’s like to be on the ISS working alongside some of Earth’s most talented astronauts. We see them exercise, shower and try to maintain a sense of normalcy in a zero-gravity environment. Sure, they’re in space, but their jobs aren’t exactly glamorous. Much of their time is spent running and maintaining experiments. The astronauts also didn’t get any time off to shoot the film — they worked with what little personal time they had. At only 45 minutes, the film is more of a showcase for its incredible footage instead of a deep think piece. (At times it feels like it was written mainly for children.) Still, it makes a big impact: You’ll see things you’ve never seen before, and it gives you a broader sense of our impact on the environment. I’m sure we’ll get an even more immersive space experience with 360-degree video or virtual reality eventually ( Adr1ft comes close ), but at this point, it’s the closest thing to being in orbit.

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