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Curiosity killed the cat. And now it turned a space rock into plasma with a laser.

Outasight, man! The Mars rover Curiosity got a chance to go to the gun range yesterday. It tested out its laser by firing it at a rock. MTR talked to Roger Wiens, in charge of the laser (ChemCam), just before the rover touched down, and he described its power as a: “million lightbulbs into the spot the size of the pin for five billionths of a second.” That’s just cool, right?

The Verge reports:

According to a statement from NASA, the test — billed as "target practice" for future missions — involved hitting the rock with 30 brief laser pulses, each delivering more than a million watts of power. The barrage transformed the target area into a stream of molten plasma

The test was deemed successful as the laser-enabled plasma was able to detect the rock’s chemical makeup.

That crazy, little Curiosity has a sense of humor too. Its official Twitter account tweeted this after the test:

“Yes, I've got a laser beam attached to my head. I'm not ill tempered; I zapped a rock for science: http://1.usa.gov/P7IXF1  #MSL#PewPew

Somewhere, deep in a maze of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, Calif. Roger Wiens has just high-fived everyone in arm’s reach.


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Aug 20, 2012

Apple responds to reports of SMS spoofing

Last week, hackers revealed that it is possible for bad guys to send text messages with misleading phone numbers attached to them. So someone could send you a text claiming to be from your bank and have it look like the call back number really is from your bank, then when you actually call it, it’s the bad guys’ hideout and they steal your money. I know it’s not like a real bad guys hideout like in the movies, I just like to imagine it like that. All secret knocks and stuff.

Apple’s iPhone was the case cited in the reporting on this bug although every phone uses SMS so it could be a problem with any mobile device.

Apple has come back to say that its own iMessage system is much more secure than the regular SMS system.

It told Engadget:

Apple takes security very seriously. When using iMessage instead of SMS, addresses are verified which protects against these kinds of spoofing attacks. One of the limitations of SMS is that it allows messages to be sent with spoofed addresses to any phone, so we urge customers to be extremely careful if they're directed to an unknown website or address over SMS.

Of course, iMessage only works between Apple devices. So let’s all make sure that bad guys only have iPhones and this won’t be a problem. See? Simple.


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Aug 20, 2012

Sure, AT&T will let you use FaceTime. Just sign up for a new shared data plan.

People have been speculating at how AT&T was going to handle the expected influx of video-enabled calls, as Apple expands its FaceTime feature from Wi-Fi to cell networks. Ma Bell speaks, this time through an interpreter who calls himself AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel.

From the Wall Street Journal: “AT&T will offer FaceTime over cellular as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans.”

You may recall that Mobile Share is AT&T’s plan that lets users share a pool of data across devices like phones and tablets. Anybody wanting to sign up for Mobile Share can do so beginning this Friday. If you’re a current AT&T unlimited plan holder, you’ll have to make a choice: keep unlimited (which really isn’t unlimited, because you get slowed down after you reach certain thresholds) or switch to the shared plan and most likely pay more scratch to watch your phone calls.

But hold on a second! The Hill reports that the new plan might violate FCC Rules.

Free Press and Public Knowledge argue that AT&T's plan violates the Federal Communications Commissions's Open Internet rules, which restrict mobile providers from blocking applications that compete with its voice services.

"Although carriers are permitted to engage in 'reasonable network management,' there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, in a statement. "'Over-the-top' communications services like FaceTime are a threat to carriers' revenue, but they should respond by competing with these services and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sprint does not plan to change its fees as FaceTime becomes accessible on its network. There’s no definitive word on which way Verizon will swing on this issue.


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Aug 20, 2012

Google trying to block iPhones, iPads, and Macs from being sold in the US

Google’s Motorola Mobility unit has filed suit against Apple for - you’ll never believe it- patent violations. The company claims that Siri, the flagship feature of the iPhone 4S and probably a zillion other device before too long, infringes on patents owned by Motorola Mobility and, because Google bought that company, ultimately owned by Google.

From Bloomberg:

The complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission claims infringement of seven Motorola Mobility patents on features including location reminders, e-mail notification and phone/video players, Motorola Mobility said yesterday. The case seeks a ban on U.S. imports of devices including the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. Apple’s products are made in Asia.

The effort to get that comprehensive ban is featured in the latest issue of Good Luck With That magazine.

This is actually the second patent lawsuit that Google will have going against Apple. The verdict in the first suit is expected to be announced on August 25th.


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Aug 20, 2012

Apple vs. Samsung wraps testimony

Before the trial got underway, Judge Lucy Koh put a time limit on how long Apple and Samsung lawyers had to tell their stories. 50 hours - 25 per side. That time came to an end on Friday, so now  what? Closing arguments are set for tomorrow, and then the jury goes on deliberate one of the biggest patent cases in history.

All Things D gives the bottom line:

Apple has sued Samsung for violating several patents as well as infringing on several protected design elements, known as “trade dress.” Samsung denies those charges and has countersued Apple for infringing on three feature patents as well as some core wireless patents.
The jury will have to unanimously agree that a particular patent is valid and infringed by a particular device in order for a finding of infringement. There are dozens of different phones and tablets at issue in the case, in addition to the many patents.

Details that have come out of the trial ranged from the mundane - what denotes a rounded corner? - to the va-va-VOOM - Apple brings in an average of 558 bucks of revenue on each iPad, roughly $100 more than Samsung.
But the battles of the super rich could have an effect on you.

The New York Times writes:

If Apple prevails, experts believe Samsung and other rivals in the market will have a much stronger incentive to distinguish their smartphone and tablet products with unique features and designs to avoid further legal tangles.


And if Samsung prevails? Well then, this holiday season should be filled with iPhonies. Innovation be damned!


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Aug 20, 2012

Restaurant offers 5% discount for giving up your cell phone

Eva, a restaurant in Los Angeles, has apparently had enough. Enough of people gabbing on their cell phones with friends while having dinner with other friends. Enough of people dinking around on their phones instead of deciding what to order. Enough of people taking pictures of their damn food and posting them on Instagram instead of enjoying the food. So instead of putting up with that and instead of grabbing all the phones and hitting them with a meat tenderizer, Eva is providing some incentives. It’s offering a 5% discount if you hand over your phone when you come in. 5% off for common decency.

CNET goes snarky:

(Owner/Chef Mark) Gold claims that around half his customers take up the offer. These people would be called producers. They give him their phone, they take the 5 percent, and they have another phone stashed in their trouser-pocket upon which they can dial, activate speakerphone and Google blind.

 


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Aug 17, 2012

This is how long we will wait for cool stuff

Driverless cars, 3D printing, “smart” drugs, and hummingbird drones have all made appearances on Marketplace Tech Report. Some form of the same caveat seems to emerge time and time again. It has to do with when all this cool stuff will actually be in our lives. Analytics firm Gartner has just released its 2012 Hype Circle of Emerging Technologies report, which estimates the tipping point for lots of this cool stuff

Sorry mobile robots, 3D bioprinting, and the Internet of Things, Gartner says we’ll have to wait more than 10 years for you. And even though Google prints its own pasta, every day 3D printing still looks to be 5-10 years down the road. Don’t laugh, Internet TV, because along with NFC payments and crowdsourcing, you’re on the same 5-10 year trajectory. On the other hand, expect to see wireless power, private cloud computing, and biometric authentication methods to become integrated in the next 2-5 years. Hooray - I’m totally planning to remote-retina scan into my home network and turn on some wireless lights in 2015!

 


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Aug 17, 2012

Threat level goes from orange to malware

Security firm Trusteer says it has uncovered malware on an airport computer system. It’s unclear if the motives behind the attack were for money or more nefarious reasons, and Trusteer won’t say which airport was attacked.

Business Week has the details:

The attack used Citadel Trojan malware—which computer users can unknowingly install simply by clicking on a Web link—to read the screens of employees who logged in remotely to the airport’s virtual private network (VPN). It also allowed the cybercriminals to capture the username, password, and one-time passcode of the victims with a form-grabbing technology, according to Trusteer. With the employee’s credentials in hand, the hackers would have unlimited access to the airport computer system’s software to the extent the worker’s account would allow.

Trustee says VPN access was immediately cut off after the breach was discovered.


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Aug 17, 2012

Nokia is about to silently scream “WE HAVE A NEW WINDOWS PHONE!”

The Finnish smartphone maker, that most see as on its last leg, announced it will hold a joint media event with Microsoft on September 5, presumably to herald a new Windows 8  smartphone. Once at the top of cell phone heap, Nokia has been struggling to keep up with the Joneses - that’s Apple Jones, Samsung Jones, Motorola Jones, and probably even Mother Jones. Even though the event is scheduled a week before Apple’s rumored-announcement of a new iPhone, expect it to make less of a splash than a tiny pebble dropped into a puddle on the sidewalk.

The Guardian reports:

For both Nokia and Microsoft, the upcoming version 8 of Windows Phone will be a key weapon in trying to regain leverage in the smartphone business. The next version of Windows Phone will use the same code kernel as Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 – which has just been "released for manufacture" to computer makers – meaning that for programmers it should be simpler to write apps that will run across both platforms, while the appearance of the Windows Phone interface, using large tiles rather than the small icons of Apple's iOS and Google's Android, will become more familiar to millions of users around the world who buy Windows 8 PCs.


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Aug 17, 2012

Forget hard drives, DNA is the storage device of the future.

At the same time my brain can barely process this information, it can apparently TOTALLY process and store this information. And then some. In an effort to figure out how we’re going to manage all the “big data” that is being unearthed (and mined), researchers at Harvard have successfully coded an entire book into DNA. According to the Guardian, “53,000 words, 11 images, and a computer program” were successfully encoded and able to be recalled using our genetic makeup.

Chew on this quote from the Wall Street Journal: “‘A device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet,’ said Harvard University molecular geneticist George Church, the project's senior researcher.”

OK, get that? No? The Guardian has even more context:

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA – the chemical that stores genetic instructions in almost all known organisms – has an impressive data capacity. One gram can store up to 455bn gigabytes: the contents of more than 100bn DVDs, making it the ultimate in compact storage media.

In addition to vast amounts of storage, the researchers say that DNA is built to last, meaning it won’t become obsolete. No more trying to figure out how to run your floppy disk on the cloud or play your wax cylinder collection on iTunes.
To be clear, the researchers didn’t use living DNA for the tests. They say there would be too much room for error. Similar to the zeros and ones that power current technology, DNA uses the letters A, C, G, and T. The Guardian reports:

The fragments on the chip can later be "read" using standard techniques of the sort used to decipher the sequence of ancient DNA found in archeological material. A computer can then reassemble the original file in the right order using the address codes.

Even though the price for this kind of storage is dropping, it’s still prohibitive. Don’t expect to be copying your music library to DNA for a good 10 years.


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Aug 17, 2012

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About this collection

A special series from the Marketplace Wealth & Poverty Desk looking at the demographics of the growing income gap. For instance, based on sales data from the last few months of 2012, we know that Toyota is the go-to car brand for people making about the median household income. Similar data exists about commute times, home ownership and all sorts of information.