Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for July 3rd, 2017

Winamp’s woes: How the greatest MP3 player undid itself

Posted by kenmay on July - 3 - 2017

Tens of millions of Winamp users are still out there. (credit: Flickr user uzi978 ) As many of us are busy crafting the perfect playlist for grilling outdoors, most likely such labor is happening on a modern streaming service or within iTunes. But during the last 15 years or so, that wasn’t always the case. Today, we resurface our look at the greatest MP3 player that was—Winamp. This piece originally ran on June 24, 2012 (and Winamp finally called it quits in November 2013). MP3s are so natural to the Internet now that it’s almost hard to imagine a time before high-quality compressed music. But there was such a time—and even after “MP3” entered the mainstream, organizing, ripping, and playing back one’s music collection remained a clunky and frustrating experience. Enter Winamp , the skin-able, customizable MP3 player that “really whips the llama’s ass.” In the late 1990s, every music geek had a copy; llama-whipping had gone global, and the big-money acquisition offers quickly followed. AOL famously acquired the company in June 1999 for $80-$100 million —and Winamp almost immediately lost its innovative edge. Read 87 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Henry Romero/Reuters An ongoing excavation in the heart of Mexico City, once the great Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, has revealed a legendary tower inlaid with hundreds of skulls. This tower was first described by Europeans in the early 16th century, when a Spanish soldier named Andres de Tapia came to the city with Hernan Cortez’ invading force. In his memoirs, de Tapia described an “ediface” covered in tens of thousands of skulls. Now his account is corroborated by this historic find. A tzompantli, illustrated in the 16th-century Aztec manuscript, the Durán Codex. (credit: Wikimedia) According to a report from Reuters , the tower is 6 meters in diameter, and once stood at the corner of a massive temple to Huitzilopochtli, an Aztec god associated with human sacrifice, war, and the sun. It’s likely the tower was part of a structure known as the Huey Tzompantli, which many of de Tapia’s contemporaries also described. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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ITWire reports: A flaw in systemd, the init system used on many Linux systems, can be exploited using a malicious DNS query to either crash a system or to run code remotely. The vulnerability resides in the daemon systemd-resolved and can be triggered using a TCP payload, according to Ubuntu developer Chris Coulson. This component can be tricked into allocating less memory than needed for a look-up. When the reply is bigger it overflows the buffer allowing an attacker to overwrite memory. This would result in the process either crashing or it could allow for code execution remotely. “A malicious DNS server can exploit this by responding with a specially crafted TCP payload to trick systemd-resolved in to allocating a buffer that’s too small, and subsequently write arbitrary data beyond the end of it, ” is how Coulson put it. Affected Linux vendors have pushed out patches — but the bug has apparently been present in systemd code since June of 2015. And long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd also reports a recently-discovered bug where systemd unit files that contain illegal usernames get defaulted to root. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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All about the weird and adorable pangolin

Posted by kenmay on July - 3 - 2017

Animalogic offers a beginner’s guide to the adorable pangolin. Maybe the best thing about them is that they walk on two legs like some sort of tiny, strange T-Rex:

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Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a temperature sensor that runs on tiny amounts of power — just 113 picowatts, around 10 billion times less power than a watt. The sensor was described in a study recently published in Scientific Reports . “We’re building systems that have such low power requirements that they could potentially run for years on just a tiny battery, ” Hui Wang, an author of the study, said in a statement . The team created the device by reducing power in two areas. The first was the current source. To do that, they made use of a phenomenon that many researchers in their field are actually trying to get rid of. Transistors often have a gate with which they can stop the flow of electrons in a circuit, but transistors keep getting tinier and tinier. The smaller they get , the thinner the gate material becomes and electrons start to leak through it — a problem called “gate leakage.” Here, the leaked electrons are what’s powering the sensor. “Many researchers are trying to get rid of leakage current, but we are exploiting it to build an ultra-low power current source, ” said Hui. The researchers also reduced power in the way the sensor converts temperature to a digital readout. The result is a temperature sensor that uses 628 times less power than the current state-of-the-art sensors. The near-zero-power sensor has a temperature range of -4 to 104 degrees fahrenheit and could potentially be used in wearables and both environmental and home monitoring systems. One power tradeoff is that it gives readouts slightly slower than currently used sensors, at around one temperature read per second. But the researchers said that shouldn’t be a problem when giving reads on things like the human body where temperatures don’t change too quickly. They’re now working on optimizing the design and improving its accuracy. [Image: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering] Via: UCSD Source: Scientific Reports

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“On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power, ” reported the Los Angeles Times. Mic reports: California is generating so much solar energy that it is resorting to paying other states to take the excess electricity in order to prevent overloading power lines. According to the Los Angeles Times, Arizona residents have already saved millions in 2017 thanks to California’s contribution. The state, which produced little to no solar energy just 15 years ago, has made strides — it single-handedly has nearly half of the country’s solar electricity generating capacity… When there’s too much solar energy, there is a risk of the electricity grid overloading. This can result in blackouts. In times like this, California offers other states a financial incentive to take their power. But it’s not as environmentally friendly as one would think. Take Arizona, for example. The state opts to put a pin in its own solar energy sources instead of fossil fuel power, which means greenhouse gas emissions aren’t getting any better due to California’s overproduction. The Los Angeles Times suggests over-construction of natural gas plants created part of the problem — Californians now pay roughly 50% more than the rest of the country for power — but they report that power supplies could become more predictable when battery storage technologies improve. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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