Wired brings us yet another failed attempt to launch an X-Wing fighter! It would seem that crazed Star Wars fans have nothing better to do with their money, as this is not the first attempt we've seen on YouTube. "Amateur rocketeer Andy Woerner led the 2,500-hour, $7,000 effort to get the thing airborne. His 40-person crew of doctors, mail carriers, construction workers, and other Star Wars obsessives labored without a blueprint, guided mainly by memories of George Lucas' magnum opus, scaled-up measurements taken from a 15-inch model, and their own high midichlorian counts. The biggest challenges: figuring out how to make the hinged wings lock into attack position and ensuring that all four class-M rocket engines would fire at the same time." In the video, they say they are doing it for the kids but I'm not so sure...
An InfoWorld news article describes a couple of "sophisticated" hacker attacks on computer networks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The article says "it appears that intruders accessed a database of visitors to the Tennessee lab between 1990 and 2004, which included their social security numbers and dates of birth." There is further speculation that the personal data could be a bit of a smoke screen for a more serious intrusion by "a rival government". Of course we've heard a lot this fall about apparent intrusions by Chinese sponsored hackers, doesn't appear as though anyone is throwing another volley in that direction just yet but it will be interesting to see how this develops. Seems to me if the labs were compromised by "several waves of phishing e-mails with malicious attachments" then there is a serious lack of education at these sites... my kids know not to open attachments or provide sensitive info via e-mail!
JetBlue Airways Corp. is poised to start offering e-mail and Instant Messenger access to travelers, starting with one flight next week. The service will be free of charge and will be limited but it's a step that has been a long time coming. According to the Globe and Mail "General Web surfing and e-mail attachments won't be permitted because of bandwidth constraints, and services on laptops and handhelds with Wi-Fi wireless access will be limited to e-mail and messaging from Yahoo Inc." No surprise here but Research In Motion has gotten in on the action, "Passengers can check other personal and work e-mail — but only on two BlackBerry models that have Wi-Fi wireless capabilities"
Other US carriers are said to be getting their own services ready and plan to offer broader capabilities in fee based offerings.
The Province of Prince Edward Island's Development and Technology Minister, Richard Brown, announced yesterday that Longtail Studios Inc. is leasing office space at the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown, and plans to hire up to 40 people over the next two years. According to a press release issued by the Province, Longtail Studios was "established in 2003 by Gerard Guillemot, a co-founder of Ubisoft Entertainment" and is "committed to developing character-driven games and content." Longtail Studios operates offices in New York City, Quebec City and now in Charlottetown.
The Songwriters Association of Canada is proposing a similar solution to the P2P issue as was imposed when the recordable media tax was introduced many years ago. The proposal would have Canadian ISPs (Internet Service Providers) charge each subscriber $5 a month for the right to legally trade music, the fee would then be distributed amongst the artists and content owners. According to Ars Technica "The proposal also hopes to encompass all forms of not-for-profit sharing under the same legal umbrella, whether sharing is done via P2P, wireless networks, e-mail, CD trading, or exchanging hard drives. The proposal excludes tracks obtained from music services like the iTunes Store and PureTracks, since these tracks are governed by their own licensing and value-added incentives." So basically all Canadian Internet subscribers will pay for the thieving ways of the P2P users! I'm not so sure this will go over too well with consumers, but if it becomes reality expect people to want to get their moneys worth...
Continental Airlines is testing a system that allows passengers to use their cellphone or personal-digital assistant (PDA) instead of a regular boarding pass. During the test being conducted in Huston, Continental and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to present a code the airline has sent to their cellphone or PDA. According to USATODAY.com "The two-dimensional bar code, a jumble of squares and rectangles, stores the passenger's name and flight information. A TSA screener will confirm the bar code's authenticity with a handheld scanner. Passengers still need to show photo identification. The electronic boarding pass also works at airport gates."
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are claiming victory in the fight against movie piracy. With new legislation to back them, the RCMP have arrested a 25 year old Montreal man who is "facing two counts under the Copyright Act of knowingly distributing copyrighted material - pirated Hollywood films - on the Internet." according to the Globe and Mail. The police admit they have no way of knowing how many movies were pirated and sold but say they were tipped off by the FBI and the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association. The Canadian Government took action against piracy in June "when the government passed Bill C-59, amending the Criminal Code to make recording a movie without permission a crime punishable by two years in jail. Taping a film for future sale or rental carries a maximum five-year jail term." In this case the defendant is alleged to have used a camcorder to tape movies inside of a theatre and then distributed the pirated tapes via the Internet and on the street.
The Globe and Mail is reporting that an Ontario man was able to uncover personal information about other passport applicants when he was creating his own Canadian Passport request online. The hack occurred with a simple change of a few characters in the site URL, "I was expecting the site to tell me that I couldn't do that," said Jamie Laning of Huntsville. "I'm just curious about these things so I tried it, and boom, there was somebody else's name and somebody else's data." Mr. Laning is apparently an IT worker and immediately informed the Passport Office or his discovery. The site was taken down and apparently fixed, however when it came back up yesterday The Globe and Mail was able to view at least some data of other applicants including "names, addresses and numbers for references and emergency contacts." Glad I renewed by mail!
Researchers in Japan have proven that young chimpanzees do amazingly well at short term memory tests. In an experiment, sort of a brain age for chimps, the researchers found that a 5 year old chimp out performed 9 university students by a 2 to 1 margin. "Our study shows that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollection, better than that of human adults," reported Tetsuro Matsuzawa and Sana Inoue in the Dec. 4 issue of the journal Current Biology. The chimps however did not fare so well at the beer bong competition. ;-)
If you've got a geek on your Xmas list and they happen to be into gaming, then Ars Technica is the place to go! The folks at AT have compiled a great list of this years must have games arranged by system and complete with reviews. My little tip, don't stop on your game system's page, keep going through to the 8 bit tie and USB beverage chiller... you don't have to be a gamer to be a geek, but it helps.
Vivendi and Activision are joining forces to create what they call "the world's most profitable games business". Vivendi owns Blizzard who produces the immensely popular World of Warcraft online game while Activision is behind the Call of Duty and Guitar Hero franchises. Blizzard will invest $2 billion in the new company, while Activision is putting up $1 billion. The BBC has more details.
The head of MI5, Britain's domestic spy agency made famous by Ian Flemming's James Bond character, says that “Chinese state organizations” are spying on British financial institutions, accountancies and legal firms. MI5 apparently sent letters to the heads of 300 British firms warning them of the hacking attempts and telling them how to identify Chinese trojans within their computer systems. The Chinese have not responded to this specific allegation but have previously denied any wrong doing saying that they too have been the target of hackers. I'll bet it's Goldfinger or Scaramanga!