Tech Today w/ Ken May

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Google buys $1.1bn piece of HTC

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Rumored for some time, Google’s purchase of a significant chunk of handset-maker HTC was announced today . The WSJ: Google said an HTC team that helped develop Google’s flagship Pixel smartphone will join the company. The Mountain View, Calif., company will also get a nonexclusive license to HTC intellectual property. HTC was hired by Google to be the contract manufacturer for the Pixel, a high-end smartphone that was launched last year, in part to better compete with Apple Inc. $1.1bn in cash is probably most of HTC. The company’s market share evaporated over the last half-decade but it remains a well-respected manufacturer. Alternative Betteridge headline: “Will Google buying HTC go better than Google buying Motorola?”

Synthetic muscle breakthrough could lead to ‘lifelike’ robots

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

A breakthrough in soft robotics means scientists are now one step closer to creating lifelike machines. Researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a 3D printed synthetic tissue that can act as active muscle. The material, which can push, pull, bend, and twist (thanks to its use of silicon rubber and ethanol-dispensing micro-bubbles) is also capable of carrying 1, 000 times its own weight. Not only could the invention result in super-strong machines (like a Terminator that works in manufacturing ), but it will also release soft robots from their current shackles. You see, synthetic muscle tech is presently reliant on tethered external compressors or high voltage equipment. But, robots fitted with this new tissue could theoretically be freed up to move around like humans, enabling them to better grip and pick up objects. Which is a big deal, because the plan is to eventually get these bots to help with non-invasive surgeries and to care for the elderly — among other tasks. The researchers are touting the material as the first synthetic muscle that can withstand both high-actuation stress and high strain. “We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive, ” said lead scientist Hod Lipson. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.” After 3D printing it into the desired shape, the team electrically actuated the artificial muscle using a thin resistive wire and low-power (8V). They then tested it in a variety of robotic applications, where it demonstrated significant expansion-contraction ability. The researchers claim the synthetic tissue is also capable of expanding up to 900 percent when electrically heated to 80°C. Building on their initial findings, the team plans to incorporate conductive materials to replace the need for the connecting wire. Further down the line, they intend to combine it with artificial intelligence that can learn to control the muscle, resulting in (they hope) “natural” movement. Source: Columbia Engineering

Roku reportedly has a 4K streaming stick on tap for this fall

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Roku’s getting ready for a new round of hardware updates this fall (we’ve previously reported on their interest in a smart speaker ), and we have some news on what may be coming. According to Zats Not Funny , Roku will unveil a 4K HDR streaming stick with a newly designed universal remote. Currently, only Roku boxes (Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra ) support 4K. The new stick (called the 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+) will be a mid-range device and be elongated, rather than in a dongle form. The universal remote it’s paired with will allow you to control your TV, incorporating both power buttons and a volume rocker. Zats Not Funny speculates that the remote will use HDMI-CEC, rather than traditional IR. It will be included with a few other 2017 Roku models as well. Source: Zats Not Funny

Unlimited ‘Stargate’ streaming will cost you $20

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

MGM Studios announced a new web-based entry into its popular Stargate franchise, Stargate Origins , this past July at San Diego Comic Con. In order to see the prequel series, though, you’ll have to subscribe to a Stargate -only streaming service, too. Called Stargate Command , the new portal for all things Stargate is now online and ready for subscribers. This isn’t the first entertainment property to push fans to a new paid service, of course, with CBS All Access and Star Trek: Discovery as a prime example. This new MGM service, however, will only include video from the Stargate properties. For a one-time fee of $20, you’ll get access to some 354 television episodes, according to The Verge , and the three films from the Stargate franchise, making for some serious binge-watching . In addition to access to the new Origins show, members can stream series television shows SG-1 , Stargate Atlantis and (the best of them all) Stargate Universe , as well as the associated movies, like Stargate , Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate Continuum . They’ll also get behind-the-scenes access to Origins and a members-only digital edition of the Origins script later this year. Free members of Stargate Command can browse the site and all the media, and can participate in a fan forum , read news about the series and take Stargate -themed quizzes and polls . Via: The Verge Source: Stargate Command

AI Just Made Guessing Your Password a Whole Lot Easier

Posted by kenmay on September - 20 - 2017

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: The Equifax breach is reason for concern, of course, but if a hacker wants to access your online data by simply guessing your password, you’re probably toast in less than an hour. Now, there’s more bad news: Scientists have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a program that, combined with existing tools, figured more than a quarter of the passwords from a set of more than 43 million LinkedIn profiles. Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, started with a so-called generative adversarial network, or GAN, which comprises two artificial neural networks. A “generator” attempts to produce artificial outputs (like images) that resemble real examples (actual photos), while a “discriminator” tries to detect real from fake. They help refine each other until the generator becomes a skilled counterfeiter. The Stevens team created a GAN it called PassGAN and compared it with two versions of hashCat and one version of John the Ripper. The scientists fed each tool tens of millions of leaked passwords from a gaming site called RockYou, and asked them to generate hundreds of millions of new passwords on their own. Then they counted how many of these new passwords matched a set of leaked passwords from LinkedIn, as a measure of how successful they’d be at cracking them. On its own, PassGAN generated 12% of the passwords in the LinkedIn set, whereas its three competitors generated between 6% and 23%. But the best performance came from combining PassGAN and hashCat. Together, they were able to crack 27% of passwords in the LinkedIn set, the researchers reported this month in a draft paper posted on arXiv. Even failed passwords from PassGAN seemed pretty realistic: saddracula, santazone, coolarse18. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

15 neat hidden features in iOS 11

Posted by kenmay on September - 20 - 2017

 After months and months of beta, iOS 11 is finally here — and it’s a huge update. In particular, Apple has tucked away many little features that you won’t see right away. If you want to impress all your friends with your mad iOS skills, here is a list of some of these features. I also wrote a short and sweet review of iOS 10 if you want to learn more about all the changes… Read More

A dead body sat in a pickup truck for eight months in a parking lot at the Kansas City International Airport before someone discovered it. 53-year-old Randy Potter disappeared January 17, and had parked at the airport that same day. When his family contacted the airport police to report their missing relative and to see if his truck was still in the parking lot, the police said if it was, they would find it. Astonishingly, they somehow missed it. It wasn’t until someone reported a bad odor that the body was spotted inside the truck. Apparently, according to police, Potter had committed suicide, but no other details were released. According to Time : The truck’s windows are tinted, but are light enough to allow anyone to see inside. When an airport police officer found the body, it was covered up by a blanket, according to a police report. “No one should go through what we went through,” said Potter’s wife, Carolina. “We should not have gone through eight months agonizing, speculating.” Potter’s truck had been listed in the missing person flyers circulated by Lenexa police. The family had visited the airport early on. Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said city officials were gathering facts to determine how Potter’s body remained in the lot as long as it did. The economy lot where Potter’s body was found is one of three lots situated about 2 ½ miles (4 kilometers) north of the airport terminals. Shuttles carry travelers from the lot to the terminals. The airport has over 25,000 parking spaces, and clearly needs a better way of managing them. Image: Dean Hochman

iOS 11 Released

Posted by kenmay on September - 20 - 2017

Today, Apple released the final version of iOS 11, its latest mobile operating system. If you have an iPhone or iPad that was released within the last few years, you should be able to download the new update if you navigate to the Settings panel and check for a software update under the General tab. The Verge reports: OS 11, first unveiled in detail back at Apple’s WWDC in June, is the same incremental annual refresh we’ve come to expect from the company, but it hides some impressive complexity under the surface. Not only does it add some neat features to iOS for the first time, like ARKit capabilities for augmented reality and a new Files app, but it also comes with much-needed improvements to Siri; screenshot capture and editing; and the Control Center, which is now more fully featured and customizable. For iPads, iOS 11 is more of an overhaul. The software now better supports multitasking so you can more easily bring two apps into split-screen mode, or even add a third now. The new drag-and-drop features are also much more powerful on iPad, letting you manage stuff in the Files app more intuitively and even letting you drag and drop photos and text from one app to another. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

(credit: Hanno Böck ) There’s a bug in the widely used Apache Web Server that causes servers to leak pieces of arbitrary memory in a way that could expose passwords or other secrets, a freelance journalist has disclosed . The vulnerability can be triggered by querying a server with what’s known as an OPTIONS request. Like the better-known GET and POST requests, OPTIONS is a type of HTTP method that allows users to determine which HTTP requests are supported by the server. Normally, a server will respond with GET, POST, OPTIONS, and any other supported methods. Under certain conditions, however, responses from Apache Web Server include the data stored in computer memory. Patches are available here and here . The best-known vulnerability to leak potentially serious server memory was the Heartbleed bug located in the widely used OpenSSL cryptography library . Within hours of Heartbleed’s disclosure in April 2014, attackers were exploiting it to obtain passwords belonging to users of Yahoo, Ars , and other sites. Heartbleed could also be exploited to bleed websites’ private encryption keys and to hack networks with multifactor authentication . Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Here’s how to eat slimy woodworms from the Philippines

Posted by kenmay on September - 20 - 2017

Tamilok is a kind of worm that eats dead mangrove tree wood. It is considered a delicacy that tastes like slightly sweet oysters.