Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 3rd, 2012

When Jayson E. Street broke into the branch office of a national bank in May of last year, the branch manager could not have been more helpful. Dressed like a technician, Street walked in and said he was there to measure “power fluctuations on the power circuit.” To do this, he’d need to plug a small white device that looked like a power adapter onto the wall. The power fluctuation story was total bullshit, of course. Street had been hired by the bank to test out security at 10 of its West Coast branch offices. He was conducting what’s called a penetration test. This is where security experts pretend to be bad guys in order to spot problems. Read the comments on this post

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Last year we reported on a new way of gathering power from wastewater , one that combined power generating from salinity gradients between salt and freshwater, and that produced by waste-eating bacteria, to create a self-sustaining power supply. But what happens if you’re somewhere inland, where there isn’t any saltwater to be had? More »

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If you want to slap a hefty price tag on a watch, fine craftsmanship and precious jemstones don’t cut it anymore. You need a gimmick, like a sprinkling of moon dust , or the magical floating balls in Christophe Claret’s new X-Trem-1 . More »

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Is turnabout fair play? A handful of Anons have found themselves on the wrong end of a hack in the wake of the US government takedown of Megaupload . On January 20, just one day after Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom was arrested in New Zealand, an unknown attacker slipped code from the infamous Zeus Trojan into the slowloris tool used by members of Anonymous to carry out DDoS attacks on websites that have drawn their ire. As a result, many of those who participated in DDoS attacks targeted at the US Department of Justice, music label UMG, and whitehouse.gov also had their own PCs compromised. Security firm Symantec details how some Anons ended up with Zeus on their systems. After modifying the Slowloris source to include code for the Zeus trojan on January 20, the attacker changed a couple of Pastebin guides used to bring would-be DDoSers up to speed to show a new URL for downloading the Slowloris tool. Each time Slowloris was downloaded and launched after the 20th of January, a Zeus botnet client was installed too. The Zeus client then stealthily downloaded a “clean” version of Slowloris to replace the modified copy in an attempt to conceal its existence on the infected PC. In the meantime, the Zeus trojan did its usual dirty work: capturing passwords and cookies, as well as banking and webmail credentials, and sending them off to a command-and-control server. Symantec’s research shows the modified version of Slowloris was widely downloaded. “This Anonymous DoS tool on PasteBin has become quite popular among the Anonymous movement with more than 26,000 views and 400 tweets referring to the post,” noted Symantec’s official blog. The compromised version of Slowloris is no longer linked to on Pastebin: it appears that coverage of the shenanigans pulled on Anonymous has resulted in what looks to be a link to the correct verison of Slowloris being restored to the Pastebin guide. Having Zeus installed on one’s PC is absolutely no fun at all, so those who have downloaded the compromised version of Slowloris are going to have their hands full trying to hunt down and eradicate the trojan. Indeed, we see a number of clean OS installs in the immediate future for those who participated in DDoS attacks after the Megaupload takedown. Read the comments on this post

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Valve Reportedly Working On 'Steam Box' Gaming Console

Posted by kenmay on March - 3 - 2012

An anonymous reader writes “This article at the Verge claims that Valve is currently working on a way to bring Steam to the living room with its own gaming console. Quoting: ‘According to sources, the company has been working on a hardware spec and associated software which would make up the backbone of a “Steam Box.” The actual devices may be made by a variety of partners, and the software would be readily available to any company that wants to get in the game. Adding fuel to that fire is a rumor that the Alienware X51 may have been designed with an early spec of the system in mind, and will be retroactively upgradable to the software. Apparently meetings were held during CES to demo a hand-built version of the device to potential partners. We’re told that the basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU. The devices will be able to run any standard PC titles, and will also allow for rival gaming services (like EA’s Origin) to be loaded up. Part of the goal of establishing a baseline for hardware, we’re told, is that it will give developers a clear lifecycle for their products, with changes possibly coming every three to four years. Additionally, there won’t be a required devkit, and there will be no licensing fees to create software for the platform.’” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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03-03-12 – Windows 8 consumer preview!

Posted by kenmay on March - 3 - 2012

Let’s learn all about the Consumer Preview of Windows 8!

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If you’ve ever downloaded an app from iTunes then congratulations, you are a part of history. Just a few minutes ago Apple notched its 25 billionth download, thanking all involved for getting there, and of course (like it did for 10 billion , and 1 billion ), gifting the lucky individual who crossed the line with another $10k gift card . Not sure what you would buy with $10,000 in App Store bucks? That’s ok, since you probably don’t have it, but don’t forget — our official Engadget and Distro apps are free, and will love you back all the same. Remember way back in 2008 when all this was fresh and new ? Relive the iPhone SDK press conference via our liveblog right here . [Thanks, Sam] Apple crosses 25 billion App Store downloads, thanks all the little people originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 03 Mar 2012 01:29:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink | Apple | Email this | Comments

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Our master plan is slowly working, and soon every man and woman in our great nation will own a smartphone. Pew Research Center reports that just under half of adult Americans, or 46 percent, own smartphones currently, meaning that smartphone owners now outnumber their feature phone counterparts by five percent. Pew polled multiple demographics to get its numbers, and there was growth across the board over the last nine months. Of particular interest is the rise in ownership in the study’s lowest income demographic — under $30,000 a year — which spiked 12 percent to 34 percent. Additionally, it showed that Android and Apple are neck and neck, with 20 and 19 percent market share of mobile owners, respectively, and Blackberry ownership declined from ten percent to six percent. The largest growth came from the 18-24 age group, up 18 to 67 percent. (Who do you think is doing all that checking in on Foursquare ?). Of course, you know what they say about statistics, so head on down to the source for a full accounting and form your own opinion of what they mean. Smartphones spread out: Pew says 46 percent of US adults now own one originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 03 Mar 2012 06:40:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink Ars Technica | Pew Research Center | Email this | Comments

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Random House, the world’s largest publisher of the kinds of books you and I read, has made some adjustments to the way it sells e-books to libraries . Notably, they have tripled the price of many titles. Librarians across the country are expressing their discontent. The changes were telegraphed by an announcement a month ago that suggested prices would be going up soon, and most expected significant increases — but across the board popular genres and titles have gone up as much as 300%. Nothing is offered below $25, and some common titles are going for above $100. As Kathy Petlewski, a librarian in Plymouth, puts it : “The first thing that popped into my mind was that Random House must really hate libraries.” But the dismay at the major increase in prices is tempered by a sort of desperate gratefulness that the publisher is willing to play ball with libraries at all. The other big publishers have been less than generous: HarperCollins’ e-books “expire” after 26 uses , Hachette and Macmillan only make part of their list available, and others like Penguin and Simon&Schuster don’t allow library lending at all. So Random House, in a way, is the gold standard right now. They even make the library books available on the day they first go on sale. (Incidentally, The Digital Shift has a great page describing publishers’ policies on this topic. ) And despite the obvious ugliness of charging obscene amounts for the purpose of making books available to the public, one can see that the publishers’ backs are against the wall. Any concession at all is to be, if not admired, at least understood as a difficult and possibly disastrous course of action. These companies are faced, after all, with the prospect of selling one book and having it lent to a hundred people at once (though that is not the case here), never get stolen or damaged, be easily duplicated, and so on. In a way, the idea of having e-books “expire” or selling them at a significant markup is easily understood. They have to do something to make the new market at least partially reflect the old one. Should libraries and readers reap all the benefits of the digital revolution in publishing? They certainly don’t think so, but that doesn’t make them right. It’s rare, however, that a technology or idea only benefits one side of the equation. With e-books, the big publishers can rid themselves of much of the overhead their business entails. They can reach more markets and deliver things faster. But to take advantage of this without conceding anything to the other side is an unrealistic hope that they have nevertheless cherished. The libraries are the victims today, but let us not forget that the publishers are the victims every day. The difference is the libraries are the victims of the publishers, but the publishers are the victims of progress. Which is going to give up first? Hopefully it won’t be the libraries. They are underfunded and often underutilized, but they are still an extremely valuable social service and should not be mischaracterized (as they often are in tech) as anachronisms. They will be changing form over the next decades, but the institution of the public library has existed for thousands of years, and will endure, though it may change. Big publishing houses, however, are a fairly modern invention and are perhaps more likely to become extinct. [via The Digital Reader ]

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Ford Focus gets EPA rating: 105 MPGe, 76-mile range

Posted by kenmay on March - 3 - 2012

The EPA has finished its usual gauntlet of tests and has found that this year’s Ford Focus Electric is the most efficient five-seater in America. The agency certified that it gets 105 miles to the electric equivalent to the gallon (divided between 110MPGe in the city and 99MPGe on the highway), which is better than Ford’s own claim of just 100MPGe. The company’s found cause to celebrate the milestone and throw a few jabs at its closest rival, the Nissan Leaf . In fact, you could say that the House that Henry built has a bit of a complex about the leafy EV — in the press release we’ve got for you after the break, it mentions the rival vehicle no less than nine times. Continue reading Ford Focus gets EPA rating: 105 MPGe, 76-mile range Ford Focus gets EPA rating: 105 MPGe, 76-mile range originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 02 Mar 2012 15:35:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink Autoblog | | Email this | Comments

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