Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for May 10th, 2017

Ice Energy A Santa Barbara-based company called Ice Energy has partnered with NRG Energy to deliver 1,800 “ice batteries” to commercial and industrial buildings served by electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE). The units are expected to reduce air conditioning bills by up to 40 percent and eliminate 200,000 tons of CO 2 over the next 20 years. Ice Energy has been building ice-based cooling systems since the early 2000s. Much like pumped storage or compressed air “batteries,” Ice Energy essentially stores electricity by drawing power from the grid at non-peak times to freeze water in a special container. Then at peak times, when the cost of electricity is high and grid operators are struggling to keep up with demand, Ice Energy’s systems kick in and use that block of ice to cool the space that the air conditioning unit normally serves. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Scientists have been trying to replace retinas in otherwise healthy eyes to help people suffering from diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. Unfortunately, earlier efforts were only able to use rigid, hard materials , which are very different from the natural retina. A researcher at Oxford University, however, has created a synthetic retina made of biological materials to better match natural human tissues. The study, titled “Light-Patterned Current Generation in a Droplet Bilayer Array” was published this April in Scientific Reports . Your retina sits at the back of your eye collecting light and converting them to electrical signals for your brain. The research, led by 24-year-old Vanessa Restrepo-Schild, uses a retina made of soft water droplets called hydrogels and biological cell membrane proteins. These cells act like pixels to detect light and create a gray scale image. It can then generate electrical signals to stimulate the neurons at the back of your eye just like a natural retina does. The artificial tissues don’t contain anything other than natural, biodegradable materials, making it less likely that recipients’ bodies will reject the implant. It’s also far less invasive than devices that reproduce the system mechanically. While the new synthetic retina has only been tested in the laboratory, Restrepo-Schild hopes to continue her research to explore its potential with living tissues. That may still be a ways off, but it could surely become a more viable way than other efforts to restore sight to people with retinal issues. Via: MedicalXpress Source: Nature.com

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Microsoft tests a secured Edge browser for business

Posted by kenmay on May - 10 - 2017

If the idea of a more secure Windows browser appeals to you — and why wouldn’t it — then you might want to have a peek at the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build . That’s because it includes the Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, which was announced last September but is finally available for testing today. This Application Guard essentially encases your browser in a virtual machine, so that if your browser ever gets attacked by malware, it won’t affect the rest of your PC. To enable this, you need to use the “Turn Windows features on or off” dialog, and then mark the checkbox for “Windows Defender Application Guard.” Now when you open Microsoft Edge and click on the menu, you’ll see the option for a “New Application Guard window.” Click it, and a new special isolated browser window will appear. The whole thing is possible due to the Virtualization Based Security (VBS) made possible by Windows 10. The virtual PC created by Application Guard would keep the Edge browser separate from storage, other apps and the Windows 10 kernel. Other browsers offer “sandboxes” too, but Microsoft says that Application Guard is unique because there’s a hardware container that makes it impossible for malware and other exploits to seep through. There are a couple of caveats though. Running Edge in a virtual machine will likely slow it down, and since each browser’s session is siloed, all data and cookies are lost once you close it. It’s also only available for Enterprise users for now, presumably because their security needs are much higher than the average person. Still, perhaps it could be introduced as an optional feature later on for everyday users. Aside from Application Guard, the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build also includes an improved PDF Reader for Microsoft Edge and integrated Cortana settings.

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In the nearly 18 months since a CD-ROM-based “Nintendo PlayStation” prototype was first found in an estate sale , emulator makers and homebrew programmers have created a facsimile of what CD-based games would look like on an SNES . Efforts by hacker Ben Heck to get that kind of software actually working on the one-of-a-kind hardware, though, had been stymied by problems getting the CD-ROM drive to talk to the system. Those problems are now a thing of the past. In a newly posted video , Heck lays out how the system’s CD-ROM drive suddenly started sending valid data to the system literally overnight. “I was working on this yesterday and the CD-ROM wasn’t even detecting the disc,” Heck says in the video. “I came in this morning and jiggled the cables around and got ready to work on it some more, and all of a sudden it works… did a magic elf come in overnight?” Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Intel ) A remote hijacking flaw that lurked in Intel chips for seven years was more severe than many people imagined, because it allowed hackers to remotely gain administrative control over huge fleets of computers without entering a password. This is according to technical analyses published Friday. As Ars reported Monday , the authentication bypass vulnerability resides in a feature known as Active Management Technology. AMT, as it’s usually called, allows system administrators to perform a variety of powerful tasks over a remote connection. Among the capabilities: changing the code that boots up computers, accessing the computer’s mouse, keyboard, and monitor, loading and executing programs, and remotely powering on computers that are turned off. In short, AMT makes it possible to log into a computer and exercise the same control enjoyed by administrators with physical access. AMT, which is available with many vPro processors, was set up to require a password before it could be remotely accessed over a Web browser interface. But, remarkably, that authentication mechanism can be bypassed by entering any text string—or no text at all. According to a blog post published Friday by Tenable Network Security, the cryptographic hash that the interface’s digest access authentication requires to verify someone is authorized to log in can be anything at all, including no string at all. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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When director James Gunn revealed that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would be the first movie shot with Red’s 8K Weapon camera , he triggered a bit of speculation: what prompted the move beyond the incredibly high resolution? You might have a better answer today. Red has posted a behind-the-scenes look at the movie that, to no one’s surprise, talks a lot about why the Vol. 2 team shot with such relatively exotic gear. And no, it’s not just about that picture quality. As director of photography Henry Braham summarizes: the Weapon is a “large format” camera that’s simultaneously “tiny.” That let the crew shoot very detailed imagery regardless of the shot — important for a CG-heavy movie, since it maintains a consistently sharp look. They could use the same cameras for handheld close-ups or unusual rigs, such as a spider rig that flies along a wire. In short, they didn’t have to switch cameras or resort to convoluted setups. The behind-the-scenes video is undoubtedly a puff piece meant to sell you on both the camera and the movie. However, it’s also a hint as to where movie technology is going. You can expect 8K digital cameras to become more commonplace, of course, but they also promise more elaborate cinematography that might have been difficult just a few years ago. Source: Red

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In what sounds like a clichéd horror movie premise, a recent investigation suggests as many as 7, 000 bodies are buried across 20 acres at the Mississippi Medical Center Campus—the former site of the state’s first mental institution. Officials at the university now face the grim task of pulling 100-year-old bodies… Read more…

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When we last looked at Google’s Fuchsia operating system , it was very modest. While it was designed for everything from Internet of Things devices to PCs, there wasn’t even a graphical interface to show. Well, things have… evolved. Ars Technica has revisited Fuchsia several months later, and it now touts an interface (nicknamed Armadillo) that makes it clear this isn’t just some after-hours experiment. It’s only a set of placeholders at the moment, but it gives you a good idea as to what to expect. The home screen is a large, vertically scrolling list of cards for “stories, ” or collections of apps and OS components that work together to complete a given task. There’s also a Google Now -style section that has “suggestion” cards for tasks — use them and you’ll either add to an existing story or create a new one. The prototype UI also includes a simple split-screen interface, and scales up to tablet size. Fuchsia isn’t based on Linux, like Android or Chrome OS, but it still uses open source code that would let anyone tinker with the inner workings. Apps, meanwhile, are built using Google’s Flutter kit, which lets developers write both Android and iOS apps. Things are clearly coming along. But there’s one overriding question: just what role will Fuchsia have? Google’s Travis Geiselbrecht stresses that this “isn’t a toy thing, ” but there’s no public strategy. Ars speculates that Google is treating this as a sort of Android re-do: what if the company could design a platform while dumping all the technology it no longer needs or wants, such as Linux or any traces of Java ? The use of Flutter would let you run Android apps until there’s broader software support. It might take years before Fuchsia is ready for public use, assuming that’s the ultimate plan, but there could be a day where Android is no longer the center of Google’s computing universe. Source: Ars Technica

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(credit: Patrick Wardle ) Hackers compromised a download server for a popular DVD-ripping software named HandBrake and used it to push stealthy malware that stole victims’ password keychains, password vaults, and possibly the master credentials that decrypted them, security researchers said Monday. Over a four-day period ending Saturday, a download mirror located at download.handbrake.fr delivered a version of the video conversion software that contained a backdoor known as Proton, HandBrake developers warned over the weekend . At the time that the malware was being distributed to unsuspecting Mac users, none of the 55 most widely used antivirus services detected it. That’s according to researcher Patrick Wardle , who reported results here and here from the VirusTotal file-scanning service. When the malicious download was opened, it directed users to enter their Mac administer password, which was then uploaded in plain text to a server controlled by the attackers. Once installed, the malware sent a variety of sensitive user files to the same server. In a blog post published Monday morning , Thomas Reed, director of Mac offerings at antivirus provider Malwarebytes, wrote: Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Blackbelt lets you 3D print really long items

Posted by kenmay on May - 10 - 2017

 The conveyor belt has long been the center of wacky adventures. From Charlie Chaplin to Lucy, things whizzing by on a flat belt has made for comedy gold. Now you can watch your 3D printed objects whiz past on the Blackbelt, a conveyor system for FDM printing that lets you build huge objects. The Blackbelt Kickstarter will launch in 3 days and you can expect the system to cost about 9, 500 for… Read More

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