Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for April 11th, 2017

Amazing Chinese Robotic Mail-Sorting Facility

Posted by kenmay on April - 11 - 2017

Global shipping company Shentong Express (a/k/a STO) is China’s answer to UPS. To increase efficiency—and cut human staff—they’ve designed this rather amazing facility consisting of a huge open floor punctuated by a grid of square holes that open onto chutes. Human beings pull parcels off of a conveyor belt and place them on the robots, which then do most of the work. Check out the traffic: China’s People’s Daily states that “The company estimates its robotic sorting system is saving around 70-percent of the costs a human-based sorting line would require, ” while the South China Morning Post reports that “An STO Express spokesman [says] that the robots had helped the company save half the costs it typically required to use human workers.” The savings is massive no matter which figure is correct, and this will certainly lead to less human employment for STO. “We use these robots in two of our centres in Hangzhou right now, ” said the STO spokesman. “We want to start using these across the country, especially in our bigger centres.”

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Enlarge / A sample e-mail from Dridex campaign exploiting Microsoft Word zero-day. (credit: Proofpoint) Booby-trapped documents exploiting a critical zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Word have been sent to millions of people around the world in a blitz aimed at installing Dridex, currently one of the most dangerous bank fraud threats on the Internet. As Ars reported on Saturday, the vulnerability is notable because it bypasses exploit mitigations built into Windows, doesn’t require targets to enable macros, and works even against Windows 10, which is widely considered Microsoft’s most secure operating system ever. The flaw is known to affect most or all Windows versions of Word, but so far no one has ruled out that exploits might also be possible against Mac versions. Researchers from security firms McAfee and FireEye warned that the malicious Word documents are being attached to e-mails but didn’t reveal the scope or ultimate objective of the campaign. In a blog post published Monday night , researchers from Proofpoint filled in some of the missing details, saying the exploit documents were sent to millions of recipients across numerous organizations that were primarily located in Australia. Proofpoint researchers wrote: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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According to Reuters, Boeing has hired Norsk Titanium AS to print titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, paving the way to cost savings of $2 million to $3 million for each plane. The 3D-printed metal parts will replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing, thus making the 787 more profitable. From the report: Strong, lightweight titanium alloy is seven times more costly than aluminum, and accounts for about $17 million of the cost of a $265 million Dreamliner, industry sources say. Boeing has been trying to reduce titanium costs on the 787, which requires more of the metal than other models because of its carbon-fiber composite fuselage and wings. Titanium also is used extensively on Airbus Group SE’s rival A350 jet. Norsk worked with Boeing for more than a year to design four 787 parts and obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification for them, Chip Yates, Norsk Titanium’s vice president of marketing, said. Norsk expects the U.S. regulatory agency will approve the material properties and production process for the parts later this year, which would “open up the floodgates” and allow Norsk to print thousands of different parts for each Dreamliner, without each part requiring separate FAA approval, Yates said. Norsk said that initially it will print in Norway, but is building up a 67, 000-square-foot (6, 220-square-meter) facility in Plattsburgh in upstate New York, where it aims to have nine printers running by year-end. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Sony’s new superthin E Ink tablet costs just $700

Posted by kenmay on April - 11 - 2017

Despite being the only horse in the niche race, Sony continues to develop E Ink devices. The company has tried to sell higher-end professionals on edit-friendly displays since it released the 13.3-inch Digital Paper in 2014, which cost a whopping $1, 100. The latest version , DPT-RP1, incrementally improves on its predecessors. But its $700 price tag might still be hard to stomach for a device ultimately trying to out-value regular paper. The new Digital Paper keeps the 13.3-inch size but boosts the resolution from 1200 x 1600 dots to 1650 x 2200 dots. It’s also lighter and thinner, with new quirks like using NFC to unlock. Unfortunately, the model still only reads PDFs. But Sony is also pairing it with a Digital Paper App for desktop that converts websites and documents to PDF form and sends them wirelessly to the DPT-RP1. You’ll have to ping the edited documents back to the hub computer to upload them to the cloud, though, as the device doesn’t appear to have that capability. While Sony’s slowly driven the price down, knocking $100 off later in 2014 before reaching its current $700 price point, it’s still an expensive way to mark up PDFs. And it’s no longer the only E Ink-editing game in town, with startup reMarkable’s E Ink device launching last fall. But with the latter still honing its prototypes, at least the latest Digital Paper will almost certainly come out soon. It’s scheduled to go on sale in Japan on June 5th. Via: The Verge Source: Sony

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When you drive to the airport, you expect a certain amount of tracking, if just from security cameras. However, San Francisco International Airport might be taking things a step too far. The travel hub recently received approval from the Airport Commission to collect the license plate info for everyone who uses its roads and garages, storing that data for over 4 years. It’s ostensibly meant for collecting revenue from parking and commercial drivers like taxis, but SFO has permission to release that info to both local law enforcement and the FBI. Needless to say, that’s raising eyebrows among privacy advocates. The ACLU’s Matt Cagle warns KQED that the airport could become a “honeypot” for police wanting to collect information about anyone paying a visit, whether or not they’re suspected of committing a crime. Also, it’s not clear why SFO needs to preserve all that license plate data for so long. If there isn’t reason to hold on to plate info (whether for crime reports or long-term parking), shouldn’t it be erased within a matter of days? In theory, this is legal: the airport implemented its new policy in response to a law that required public disclosure and security measures for license plate data collection. The very act of scooping up license plates is theoretically legal, then. The question is whether or not SFO is managing that info in a responsible way, and it’s not clear that this is the case. About 53 million passengers go through the airport every year, and many of them drive to get there. While this could help catch car thieves and terrorists, it could also help less scrupulous authorities track the movements of activists and other innocents. Via: SFist Source: KQED News

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There’s so much focus around autonomous cars these days it’s easy to forget that the military’s trying to plug artificial intelligence into fighting vehicles, too. And not just in computer mock-ups, like last June’s exhibition wherein a flight AI beat a retired USAF Colonel in simulated dogfights. In a recent test , military contractors used an unmanned system autonomously flying an F-16 combat jet as a wingman to support a human pilot in a separate aircraft. The system successfully met its goals to adapt, plan and execute maneuvers all on its own. #SkunkWorks partnered with @usairforce to demonstrate manned/unmanned teaming capabilities: https://t.co/lewPOLz1fI Photo via U.S. Air Force pic.twitter.com/FThukW424N — Lockheed Martin (@LockheedMartin) April 10, 2017 The two-week demonstration, Have Raider II, was the second in a series of tests run by key players in the aerospace industry, including Lockheed Martin, Skunk Works and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The first exhibition focused on keeping the autonomous F-16 flying in formation as a wingman, while the recent tests pushed the self-flying plane to react to changing threats during an air-to-ground strike mission and calculate new plans on the fly. Tech developed for this recent battery of tests will allow the autonomous system’s operators to insert new software components that will improve its flexibility. This is a big step in Loyal Wingman, a program dedicated to building a system to pilot autonomous planes that operate as wingmen to human pilots. Crucially, the unmanned aircraft are directed by the lead aviator, not ground control. This setup lets the human pilot offload some cognitive workload to their AI partners to preserve brainpower for mid-flight plans and mission management — assuming the computer doesn’t go rogue like all the bad sci-fi films predict. Source: Lockheed Martin

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