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Saturday, July 14, 2007

ATM Reprogrammed and stipped of cash

Wired has a story with a moral to it and the moral is change your passwords from time to time, especially if you are an ATM owner. The perpetrator of the crime used an ATM administrator password, which had never been changed from the default '123456', to reprogram the machine and access all of the cash inside. If that weren't bad enough, he came back the next day and did it again! The Triton ATM's user manual is apparently readily available online.

Useful Google hack on video

The embedded video contains a tutorial by an enterprising young gentleman who has figured out how to use Google to find certain "files" on the Internet without using pier to pier networking. While it is obvious what the video producers motives are, the hack is really quite useful, if you watch the entire 8:53 minutes you'll see how he finds great content from University sites but the method works elsewhere as well.

Intel backs One Laptop Per Child initiative

Chip maker Intel has decided to take an active roll and support the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation that it once dismissed as a gadget. The foundation founded by Nicholas Negroponte, of MIT Media lab fame, has developed a laptop which was designed to be cheap to make, energy efficient and built to withstand rugged conditions. "It can be hand-powered so it will work in remote locations." Negroponte said in an interview "Collaboration with Intel means that the maximum number of laptops will reach children," The machine which uses free and open source software and has other corporate backers, is meant to be offered in South America, Africa, and parts of Asia where children would otherwise not be exposed to the technology. They require 3,000,000 orders to make the foundations production plan work. 7000 prototypes have been tested and the price is expected to be about $175 US. CBC story here.

A noble cause indeed!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Government embraces free Wi-Fi

The Saskatchewan government is backing what is being touted as Canada's largest Wi-Fi network. The switch was turned on yesterday in the downtown, the 13th Avenue business district and in the historic warehouse area (Note: I'll try to dig up some more info and provide a google map). There are some restrictions, porn and hate sites will be blocked, and since it is open Wi-Fi it is suggested that you don't do any Internet banking or other sensitive transactions. The cost to the Province is $1.3 million in infrastructure and startup costs and $340,000 per year in operational cost. Later this month, similar networks will be opened in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw, and the Province's University campuses will go live in the fall. See the CBC story here.

Walls made of water?

The CBC is reporting that MIT architects are planning to produce a building that has walls of water. The Digital Water Pavilion, will be created for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain, and will have walls of water created by thousands of computer-controlled jets. Using technology similar to an ink-jet printer, only on a much larger scale, the walls will be able to display images and be turned off or on in order to allow people to pass through them. The pavilion will house a cafe and at a cost of about $6000 per square meter, if my math is correct, I hope they sell a bunch of lattes! It's interesting in a technological sense but I don't think it would withstand our Canadian winters. Personally, I think this is a much better use of ink-jet technology and I'll bet it didn't cost $3,000,000.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Meet Runbot

The BBC has the scoop on Runbot a biped robot that was developed using the theories of a 1930's human Physiologist, Nikolai Bernstein. While other robots have achieved two legged walking, Runbot walks at a rate that is nearly the same as the fastest walking humans. The robot's gait is adjusted in real time which allows it to maneuver over uneven terrain, and learn from it's mistakes. Professor Florentin Woergoetter of the University of Gottingen says "When Runbot first encounters a slope these low level control circuits 'believe' they can continue to walk up the slope without having to change anything. But this is misguided and as a consequence the machine falls backwards. This triggers the other sensors and the highest loop we have built into Runbot - the learning circuitry - and from that experience of falling the machine knows that something needs to be changed." Have a look at this video, it's quite impressive to see the machine learn from it's mistakes. It really does move along at a pretty good pace!

Remember the Milk

I have a wife, 2 Children, a cat, a few friends, a job, a house, a car, a yard, a blog, and my 73 year old father who lives with me, all of which require my attention from time to time. My oldest has a job, both boys play baseball, and hockey, and live active teenage lives. How am I to remember to pick up the milk?

I have just signed up for (beta release) and I believe it will be making life a little more organized, if not easier. I have always prided myself in being organized and in a lot of ways that is what I do for a living, I organize! But even the best of us can get a little caught up in life's bigger issues and fail to remember all of the little ones. Sometimes you just have to rearranged your priorities and the little things get dropped. RTM allows you to create to-do lists and has a whole host of features too numerous to list. The developers say "We created Remember The Milk so that you no longer have to write your to-do lists on sticky notes, whiteboards, random scraps of paper, or the back of your hand. Remember The Milk makes managing tasks an enjoyable experience." A few of my favorite features include the ability to share your tasks, task an item to a friend, make tasks private or public, and creating an rss feed for your tasks. Finally, as of this week you can integrate Twitter and Remember The Milk. It seems as though Twitter is finding it's way into my life more and more! Thanks RTM.

Microsoft keeping surface PC close to vest, for now

This Cnet blog post quotes a Microsoft official as saying that a Software Developers Kit (SDK) which will allow developers to write software for the newly announced Surface PC will be available "starting in April, I think the hope is...". For now the platform is only available to a few select developers and the focus of development is on the hospitality, gaming, and retail markets. The cost per unit is around $10,000 but I'd love to get my hands on one! I'm personally more excited about this than I am the iPhone, neither of which I can truly rationalize spending the money on or get a hold of even if I could.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lightning strikes intensified by mp3 players

Both the Globe and Mail and the CBC are running this story and the main message is don't listen to your mp3 player outdoors during a lightning storm. The doctors are not necessarily saying that the devices, including cell phones and pagers, attract the lightning strike but rather the affect, on your body, of a strike nearby will be intensified by the metal in the devices and could cause greater injury. It is also noted that change in your pocket will have the same unwanted affect, but even so it's probably just good practice to put the devices safely away and head indoors if possible. The consequences chronicled in the news articles above sound rather unpleasant.

My Maps feature on Google Maps

Google has added a new feature to Google Maps called "My Maps" that lets you create and share personalized, annotated maps of places that are important to you. Add descriptive text, including rich text and HTML, embed photos and videos in your map, share your maps with others, and open it in Google Earth. Additionally you can apply mash ups to your map such as Google Real Estate Search, Our Earth as Art, and others including my personal favourite, Crop Circles.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Power utilities go high tech in an attempt to stop copper theives

The Globe and Mail has an interesting article about the power utilities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia turning to DataDot technology to deter thieves from stealing copper grounding wire from substations. The technology involves painting tiny micro dots onto the wire, the dots can then be uniquely identified by a code that is laser etched onto them. This allows the utility to identify the wire as their own and may serve as a deterrent. In my opinion, it will only really aid police in identifying wire as being stolen, after the fact, and will help in prosecution. Which, I guess, in turn helps to deter the thieves. I don't expect the scrap metal dealers will be examining the wire they purchase with microscopes. The technology though is quite interesting and the manufacturer describes many uses, mostly from the recovery standpoint.

The latest in USB hubs

I've been contemplating the purchase of a USB hub for a short while now. Not that it should be a tough decision to make, just that I'm a bit of a procrastinator at times. My Dell has 4 USB ports, one occupied by my printer, another by my web cam, the third usually has my HomeScan cable and the forth alternates between my thumb drive and digital camera. To make matters worse the two ports on the front of my PC are angled downward towards the floor, while this does allow the little door on the front of the Dell to remain closed, it is often a point of contention as I find it difficult to plug into from a seated position.

Alas, I think I'm glad I waited! According to Engadget, Belkin has just introduced 3 new hubs to the market. While I'm not overly excited about two thirds of the new offerings, the Swivel Hub at $29.99 US may just be what the doctor ordered. It allows you to swing its four USB ports in any direction via an articulating joint. I'll just have to decide which is more practical in my case, another cable to dangle from my desk or removing the little door on the Dell to accommodate the Swivel Hub... there I go again!

Image from Engadget.

This is about as green as your ride can get

Found this little beauty on Gizmodo, I can't think of a mode of transportation that leaves less of a footprint on mother nature. Except perhaps your two feet! It is a little hard to tell in the movie but there is no seat, no chain, just a wheel and some peddles. The Gizmodo post has a good picture. It reminds me of the B.C. comic strip, perhaps we have come full circle now...

Big brother watches New York City

Engadget is reporting that New York City will soon be under the watchful eyes of a London style "surveillance veil" consisting of thousands of video cameras monitoring people and vehicles. The "Lower Manhattan Security Initiative" will have more than 100 cameras in place by years end. The cameras will be capable of reading license plates and enable authorities to send out alerts if suspect vehicles are detected. The move is the start of a greater plan which will eventually see 3000 or so cameras by end of next year, as well as a series of gates that will be installed at intersections, giving the city the ability to block off traffic at the push of a button. The project which is being hotly debated on Engadget, is expected to be in full operation by 2010.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Google addresses security concerns of hosted applications

Google has been busy over the last few years developing and acquiring technology that would end up being hosted applications such as Docs and Spreadsheets, Calendar, Talk and Gmail. While many individuals and small businesses have embraced the hosted concept, big business is a harder sell with security being the major concern. Google has made a large stride towards easing these concerns with news today that they are acquiring Postini, "a global leader in on-demand communications security and compliance solutions". The deal worth $625 million will likely get done in the 3rd quarter of this year, according to the news release. While there are obvious gains for Google, they promise to "continue to support Postini customers and invest in Postini products."

Sony to drop PS3 price by $100 US, new model coming

Just in time for the industry's big trade show, E3, Sony has announced a reduction in the price of the Playstation 3 by $100 US and a new beefier model to be rolled out in Asia initially. Sony's PS3 has lagged behind the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 and the move is an attempt to draw more customers to the gaming platform that has been badly beaten at the cash register. A new PS3 with an 80GB hard drive has also been announced, it will sell for $600 US and come bundled with the breakout title "Motorstorm" which has sold a million copies to date. The new price makes it just slightly more expensive than the most expensive Xbox 360, although Microsoft is rumored to be contemplating a price shift of it's own. Good news for the gaming crowd! CNN has the story.

Electric utility and Ford team up for plug-in hybrid

Ford Motor Co. and Southern California Edison are teaming up in an attempt to bring plug-in hybrid vehicles to market more quickly. The plug-in hybrid is primarily run on electricity but switches to internal combustion engine when the batteries run low. They are known as plug-in hybrids because the batteries that drive the electric motor is recharged by plugging into a standard wall jack. Mass production of the vehicles, which many manufacturers are prototyping, has been held back by cost and battery technology. The purpose of this partnership, in which the electric utility will get one vehicle by the end of this year and as many as 20 by 2009, is to test the vehicles durability and impact on the power grid. The Globe and Mail has the story here.

Boeing launches 787 on o7/08/07

The best pre-selling commercial jet to date has yet to carry passengers but was celebrated with much fan fair in Washington yesterday. The 787 Dreamliner will carry it's first paying customers next May. Boeing has already received 677 orders for the 330 passenger (depending on configuration) commercial jetliner whose range is 8,500 miles. A company spokesman is quoted as saying "The most important promise of the Dreamliner,is to make the world a smaller place, and in doing so, bring us all together." CNet has the story here.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

WOW on the iPhone?

The creator of this video, found on, claims to be playing World of Warcraft on his iPhone. I'm not that impressed to be honest, the game play looks incredibly bad... I think I'd be terribly frustrated if this is indeed for real. The system does not seem very responsive, perhaps this is due to the AT&T data network that was complained about during the last TWIT.

Business Startup from zero to launch in one long weeked

Startup Weekend is an interesting concept! The idea is to bring a number of people together, throw your ideas on the table, decide on one idea to pursue and then build it in 3 days! Once built the participants will receive equal equity in the startup. As I write this there is only a little more than 12 hours to launch. The idea chosen from 50 entries is Vosnap, a social site that facilitates quick decision making among a group, wonder where that came from? This is brainstorming to the extreme and it will be interesting to see if the 70 participants can pull it all together, and what the end product will look like. I know from experience that working on projects under extreme time lines is difficult, but there is also a strange rush to it. If you get the right combination of people together great things can happen in a short period of time, but it only takes a few odd balls to spoil the productivity. Matching strengths and controlling the rebels will be key to the success of this experiment, in my humble opinion. Good luck weekenders! Wish I could be there to experience this. By the way, there are some interesting ideas in the ones that were rejected...