Apocalypse Update: Robot Builds Other Robots

BBC has a post about robots learning to build other robots, uh oh!

Engineers have developed a robotic system that can evolve and improve its performance. A robot arm builds “babies” that get progressively better at moving without any human intervention.

The ultimate aim of the research project is to develop robots that adapt to their surroundings. The work by teams in Cambridge and Zurich has been published in the journal PLOS One.

40 Key Computer Science Concepts Explained In Layman’s Terms

computer science
CC by @matylda

Here’s another brilliant article hosted on Lifehack: 40 Key Computer Science Concepts Explained In Layman’s Terms

It was written by software developer Carl Cheo, founder of technology blog Carlcheo.com.

Read Carl’s fantastic article to find out how to explain to your parents and spouse all they need to know about algorithms and data structures, AI, computer architecture, concurrency, computer security, cryptography and software development methodologies.

New Machine Learning Course on Coursera

machine learning

Coursera has just opened a new version  of the course “Machine Learning” in the on demand format.

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. In the past decade, machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, effective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Machine learning is so pervasive today that you probably use it dozens of times a day without knowing it. Many researchers also think it is the best way to make progress towards human-level AI. In this class, you will learn about the most effective machine learning techniques, and gain practice implementing them and getting them to work for yourself.

The on demand format allows you to work through the materials at your own pace. All materials are available at any time, and there are no deadlines for exercises or assignments.

The Swift Programming Language Is Growing Like Mad

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Wired is reporting that Apple’s new programming language called Swift has an incredible adoption rate. Introduced 7 months ago it is already the 22nd most popular language in use.

Apple’s main goals for Swift were ease the process to develop apps for Apple devices, make it easy to learn and fast to use. Also this would lower the bar for developers to onboard to the Apple platforms.

Learn more about Swift at http://www.learnswift.tips , or if you want to jump right to some code samples to get a lowdown of the language head on over to Apple’s Swift guided tour.

The Industries Being Overhauled by IOT

IOT

IOT (Internet of Things) is not just a buzzword, it’s a paradigm shift in how we think about computing and devices…and it’s here today. The folks at Motley Fool have identified the industries being overhauled because of IOT and how this may be an opportunity to invest in the right places now.

They identified these big 3 that require overhauling to handle IOT pushing their boundaries:

– Healthcare industry – Basically most medical devices are connected now and generating lots of machine generated data as well as handling private patient data.

– Public Sector Management – From municipal systems from power, water, waste treatment and more.

– Transportation – One example is the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin is proposing new national rules requiring cars to communicate with other.

Being Green When We’re at Home and on the Web

Eco-Friendly

We’ve become accustomed to the most common ways to reduce energy in our homes and at work, including using more public transportation, turning off the lights in unused rooms, replacing light bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs and CF bulbs.

In the last couple of years I’ve been paying more attention to my energy consumption and finding ways of reducing my carbon footprint. One big consumer of energy are data centers, and as our applications and devices push more of the processing to the cloud, I expect that usage to increase year over year dramatically.

A few years ago it was found that data centers were expected to consume 19% more energy in 2012 than 2011. This is likely a trend that will continue, and addressing this is one good way for some data centers to differentiate themselves.

There are other non-intuitive things you can do to reduce your energy footprint in the cloud. This includes hosting your web services with a company that actively reduces energy usage through heat reduction in their data centers and using more efficient server power supplies like here, in 1&1.

Other things you can do that may be intuitive for us geeks, but not for all our friends and family is to adjust the power management settings on their PCs and laptops to aggressively reduce energy. In Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 there are advanced settings to turn off the screen or reduce screen lighting a little, to turn off the hard drive if not actively loading/saving files. Here’s a video for Windows 7 that walks you through changing these settings.

What additional, non-intuitive things can we do to reduce our energy usage?

Samsung tests 5G technology – But What Does It All Mean?

All the news and technology websites have been abuzz for the past few days with news that Samsung has been testing out new 5G mobile broadband communications which are capable of speeds hundreds of times faster than current download and browsing speeds offered by 3G and even the new 4G. But what will this powerful new era of mobile broadband mean for consumers? We’ve taken some time to demystify and explain all the hype surrounding this new 5G phenomenon, and give you some stats about how it works, when it will be available, and what we can use in the meantime.

What is 5G?

5G generally stands for the 5th generation of mobile communication standards (just as 3G meant 3rd generation) While Samsung had been calling this new communications standard ‘5G’, it’s not actually a defined set of standards just yet like 3G or 4G, but rather just a general name or concept for the technology that will inevitably succeed 4G in the not so distant future. It will still be some time before there is a uniform set of standards and minimum and maximum download speeds established for 5G.

What speeds is it capable of?
In its trials, Samsung reported that it transmitted data of just over 1gb per second, potentially meaning that watching and downloading high-quality and 3D movies, whole TV series, games and other huge data files in a matter of seconds will soon become the norm. Compare this to 3G, which is capable of maximum speeds of up to 7.2Mb per second (although user testing unfortunately often finds that the average speed is much, much lower than this), and 4G, at a maximum of 8-12Mb per second. So, 5G is definitely a huge leap and a jump forward in terms of speed. 5G also has potential benefits for things like remote medical services, allowing rural doctors to communicate with each other and patients much more quickly and efficiently than before.

How does it work?
So – how has Samsung managed to achieve these huge speeds? New towers? General network upgrades? A little of both. Samsung announced that it has developed “the world’s first adaptive array transceiver technology operating in the millimeter-wave Ka bands for cellular communications”. But what does this mean, exactly – Samsung summarizes things nicely for us, stating that “the implementation of a high-speed 5G cellular network requires a broad band of frequencies, much like an increased water flow requires a wider pipe” – so essentially, their new towers allow for a higher range of frequencies to be utilized when transmitting data.

When will it be available?
Sadly, 5G network capabilities aren’t expected to be available to regular internet and mobile subscribers like us until at least 2020, when Samsung is planning to commercialize the technology. Even after that, it will probably still take some time for full roll outs to be completed, and for local carriers to start offering it to their customers. But with the impressive capabilities and speeds which are already being explored, we think it will be well worth the wait!

What’s available in the meantime?
While this all sounds very exciting, 5G is still very much in the initial testing stages. In the meantime, phone and internet networks are still busy working on rolling out the latest in 4G technology. 4G enable devices are already available at plenty of trusted retailers such as The Good Guys, so be sure to speak to a tech expert about what kind of network speeds your particular handset can achieve, based on your phone network carrier.

What do you think of Samsung’s latest 5G network trials? Do you think there’s any we’ll see it become available any sooner than 2020 as more companies start trialing the new technology?

Backdoor to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Computer System?

Boeing

 

Researchers claim the chip used in military systems and civilian aircraft has built-in function that could let in hackers. The chip in question is ProASIC3 chip , it’s used in medical, automotive, communications and consumer products, as well as military use. Among applications where it’s used are remote surveillance systems, drones, and for flight-critical applications on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Good god, this is all we need to worry about now for possible terrorist attacks that no longer need to penetrate physical security to down a plane, now all they need is a really good hacker.

Read more at the Guardian.

Future of the ‘Lumpy” Cloud

Lumpy Cloud

While browsing technical articles tonight I stumbled upon a new term called the ‘Lumpy cloud’ in reference to an aberration of the classic cloud we think of today.

The article in question with this term is just a short debate on whether mainframes have any place in the cloud or if it’s expected to be x86 based. There’s nothing earth shattering here but the article is worth taking the 5 minutes to read.

Anyway, the term ‘Lumpy cloud’ is defined below and I thought it was interesting enough of a term that it deserved to be called out:

It just means that it’s not all four-CPU PCs. Instead, you have lumps that are basically 100 processors and up, whether it’s the mainframe or something else, and 100-virtual-machine-and-up machines. I just don’t think that x86 is there yet.

Most references on the web refer to lumpy cloud in the context of weather, not 100x CPU VM servers. Smile

IP protectionism gone wrong?

the guys over at TechDirt have pointed out an issue where a comedian was required to re-tape a joke due to Comedy Central not having the licensing for the song “We Are The World”.
The issue here is not really a matter of copyright, but IP protectionism gone wrong.
There is a clear case of fair use under parody with this and such issues have previously been held by the Supreme Court as a first amendment issue when the parody has been intended as a criticism as was the case in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music.

Now, to be fair, in that case the criticism was of the original work. But looking at the specifics of that case, the court deemed that the work was transformative which using a song in a joke would certainly be, provided social benefit by making use of the earlier work which this appears to do as well as the effect upon the the potential market of the original work which in this case I can only imagine would be nil.
The remaining factor is the amount of the original work used in the transformative work. In this case, its four words sung by a comedian… not a singer doing a cover of the song, just singing the four words and that’s it.
The Supreme Court sent that issue back to a trial court to determine if the use of the original work was excessive, but I have to believe that a non-singer using four words to frame a joke about the overuse of the word love with no music from that song to accompany him certainly would not fall under excessive.

My own personal viewpoint is that Comedy Central’s parent company Viacom is in a rather no win situation on this type of issue. If they stand by the fair use principal that opens them up to others claiming fair use on IP that they own the rights to undermining any future attempts to maximize control and the ability to monetize the works they own the rights to. It would be good if they could see the unreasonableness of taking such action, but I doubt they will.

IE continues its slide while Safari stumbles a bit too

Its become fairly commonplace to see Internet Explorer taking yet another small step towards a smaller market share with its browser. While it is still the predominant browser being used out there, the competition in that area is has heated up a bit more with Google’s Chrome Browser who has reciently taken over third place from Safari.
As pointed out by our friends at Endgaget, taking a deeper look at the numbers can reveal some interesting information.

  • Google Chrome made the largest gains while most others stayed flat
  • IE6 remains the top browser by version.
  • By version split, Firefox 3.5 is only about 6% lower than IE 6 or 8.
  • No one really uses the built in browser on the PS3 (so much for convergence in that arena)

Its no surprise to anyone really that the browser which comes packaged with the operating system that has the largest market share would also have the highest share, but this is sure to be good news to Google with its upcoming launch of the G1, rumors of a Google tablet surfacing and the attention Android is getting from everyone.

The Human Computer Interface of the Future for People w/ More Than Two Fingers

Good insight here from gizmag on why touch is and is NOT a good replacement for the mouse/KB:

Using a traditionally-placed desktop screen as a touch interface, even for short periods, places too much strain on a user’s arm. Touchscreens used in a drafting table configuration lessen the strain on the arms, but increase the chances of neck strain, as users are forced to look down at the display. And in either setup there is also the problem of the user’s hands obstructing the display. Miller’s 10/GUI overcomes these problems by splitting the touch surface from the screen, and using a touch surface similar to a drawing tablet that is large enough to accommodate all ten fingers.

10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo.

Titan Backup With A Bang!

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Hey folks!  Our good friend, Flavius Saracut over at Neobyte Solutions (creators of Titan Backup)got a hold of me the other day to tell me about a fantastic weekly giveaway they’re sponsoring right now.  Every week, one lucky person will walk away with a 500gb LaCie external hard disk.  How awesome is that?  I think everyone could use an extra 500gb of storage, myself included :)  All you have to do is head on over to their website, and click on the banner across the top of the page.  Good luck!

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Click HERE to go check out the review on Titan Backup!