Codebreaker - Most Recent
We talk about video games from time to time here on Tech Report. Here’s one we wholeheartedly DO NOT ENDORSE. Brain hacking. Armed with a gaming headset, researchers from California, Switzerland and the UK were able to piece together banking PINs and addresses of test subjects. The Daily Mail tells how they did it:
The scientists took an off-the-shelf Emotiv brain-computer interface, a device that costs around $299, which allows users to interact with their computers by thought, and is often used to control games.
The scientists then sat their subjects in front of a computer screen and showed them images of banks, people, and PIN numbers.
They then tracked the readings coming off of the brain, specifically a signal known as P300.
The P300 signal is used by the brain when a person recognizes something meaningful, such as someone or something they interact with on a regular basis.
It is released by the brain around 300 milliseconds after recognition occurs, hence its name.
The good news is that it would be pretty difficult for somebody to “slip” one of these headsets on you, show you recognizable images and get you to spill the beans without you knowing. The researchers say this technology could be promising in prisoner interrogation. Slip a headset on, show the perp some pictures, and see whether they show any signs of recognition. If they do, then questioning might continue. If not, they’re either clean or a STONE COLD KILLER.
We like pictures
Of course Facebook still looks like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building, but a recent poll by Experian shows how much ground Pinterest and Instagram have gained in the last year, we really, really like pictures. Grouping pictures snagged from the web, that would be Pinterest, is the third largest social network site, behind Big Face and Twitter, which is up 185 spots, or 5,124 percent, from last year.
As if that’s not impressive, making pictures look old and distorted, that would be Instagram, has gone from the 609 to No. 11 on the charts - that’s a 17,319 percent increase. That kind of movement is also probably a big reason why Facebook bought purchased Instagram earlier this year. AllThingsD writes:
Based on the habits of early adopters, Experian research head Bill Tancer predicted that the window is still open for additional niche social networks.
Tancer has been studying growth patterns since following the breakout of YouTube in 2005, and attested that these days the hits are emerging faster than ever.
“The ramp is much quicker,” Tancer said. “You see a bunch of demographic segments adopting at once versus that sequential adoption.”
Google+ isn’t doing too shabby either. The site is currently sitting in the No. 4 spot, and Tancer thinks it has a secret weapon: local. Again from AllThingsD:
Earlier this summer, Google released Google+ Local, which combines place pages, free Zagat ratings and related social activity.
Why does that matter? Because local information is one of the biggest things people search for.
“When you look at search distribution being such a significant channel, local will cause a pretty strong growth pattern for Google+,” Tancer predicted.
Why waste good real estate?
If you’ve been to the Google homepage today, you may have noticed what CNET is calling a first. A big, ol, ad for Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet.
That Google would go to such lengths underscores the company's desire to make a bigger dent in burgeoning tablet market, one still dominated by Apple's iPad. Given the traffic that goes through Google, the home page is one of the most coveted spots and prime real estate for advertisers. The company, however, has traditionally resisted attempts to run advertisements on its main page, beyond a link to its Chrome browser.
Does this mark some sort of more fundamental change a Google? Is the Google search page going to morph into a Google store? And what about those artists that redesign the Google logo on holidays? Are they going to have to become ad guys now?
Bonus question: Why do so many tablets coming on the market cost $199?
What happens to your media when you die?
We’ve all watched that scene in a movie where a family gathers around a lawyer’s desk as he reads the last will and testimony of some pivotal character. (It’s a movie, so the lawyer is a “he.” Don’t get mad at me, send your hate mail to Hollywood.) Great Aunt Harriet left her entire fortune to her duck!!! And what now? We each get a month to take care of the duck, and whoever can get her to lay an egg gets the loot?!? Crazy? Sure. You bet I’m in.
But what if Aunt Harriet was a book collector? Better yet, what if all her books were on her Kindle, and she had terabytes of music all purchased from iTunes? Dividing up her digital detritus might be more of a headache than getting Quackers to produce an heir. When you buy a song from the iTunes store or an eBook from Amazon, you’re technically only buying a license - a non-transferrable license. Marketwatch spoke with estate planner Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss:
Most digital content exists in a legal black hole. “The law is light years away from catching up with the types of assets we have in the 21st Century,” says Wheatley-Liss. In recent years, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Indiana, Oklahoma and Idaho passed laws to allow executors and relatives access to email and social networking accounts of those who’ve died, but the regulations don’t cover digital files purchased.
The article goes on to profile DapTrust, lawyer-created software getting ready to come to market that will let users create a trust account for media files. Sure, this sounds like a solution, albeit a labor-intensive one.
… experts say there should be an easier solution, and a way such content can be transferred to another’s account or divided between several people.“We need to reform and update intellectual-property law,” says Dazza Greenwood, lecturer and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.
Smartphones on a plane
What’s more grating than a fit-pitching toddler on a cross-country flight? A loud-mouth grownup complaining into a cell phone on that same flight. “The turbulence is crazy.” “Did you know crackers cost like 5-bucks now?” “And then he said....” From PC World:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking a new look at the use of portable electronics on airplanes, seeking public comments starting this week and forming a government-industry group to study when smartphones, tablets and other devices can be used safely.
But, and this is an important but: "One thing the study group won't look at is allowing voice calls on cellphones during flight, the FAA said."
Airlines once commonly offered pay phones in seatbacks, but since passengers started getting online in the air using Wi-Fi, the carriers have taken a firm line against calls using VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol).
Thank you FAA, for keeping a whole lot of passengers saner. (But if tablets and smartphones might be OK, what is the problem with VoIP calls?)
**Update: The FAA's actual request for comments doesn't make it sound like it has ruled out VoIP on Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs). From the document:
Increased access and usage of PEDs may distract passengers during crewmember safety briefings and instructions. In addition, PED usage may have an adverse impact on flight and cabin crew responsibilities and duties. In 2005, the FCC solicited comments on the potential to expand the use of cellular phones in flight and received responses from passengers concerned about the use of cell phones by other passengers. One of the main concerns expressed by the public comment was the fear of passenger disruptions caused by cell phone use in a crowded public conveyance.
• If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft systems, should there be
restrictions on the use of PEDs for other reasons?
• Should voice communications using other technologies such as voice over IP be
limited or restricted?
Doing the two-step
If you’re one of those people with the password “password”, this next bit isn’t for you. But if you do worry about your online security--maybe you’ll be interested. According to The Verge, Dropbox is introducing two-step authenication.
You'll need to download the latest beta version of the desktop software to try the feature out. Once you do, visit this link to activate yourself in the beta, and follow the steps to turn on two-step authentication. Just like Google's popular version of the security feature, you receive the codes via text message or an authenticator app that uses Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) protocol (e.g. Google Authenticator).
A mini announcement
Unnamed sources have “confirmed” that the iPad mini, or whatever it’s going to be called, will not debut at the special Apple event being planned for September 12. And really, if you were Apple, would you want to debut the next iPhone alongside a brand new tablet? Probably not - too much competition for shiny things makes them dull (I think it’s called a shiny double negative or something). That’s why AllThingsD says the company will hold a second media event in October to announce the smaller tablet, pretty much ensuring that the taste of Apple will be on the lips of consumers well through the holiday shopping season.
Only after the next-generation iPhone is out the door and on sale will Apple announce the smaller iPad it’s been working on. That device, which is expected to have a display of less than eight inches, will be uncrated at a second special event, which sources said is currently scheduled for October.
ZDNet thinks the mini could be the device that delivers a thermonuclear blow to Google but cautions to take this latest news with at least a few grains of salt.
… nothing concrete is known about the iPad Mini, and everything written about it is being based on guesswork and speculation. Not a single hardware component allegedly belonging to the iPad Mini has been leaked, in stark contrast to the endless leaking of purported iPhone 5 components.
High-Def x 16
Here’s a hot tip for those of you trying to figure out what to do with your lives. Make up. You know, like powder, foundation, mascara - yeah, make up. If a newly approved television broadcast standard, which allows TVs to produce pictures with 16 times more resolution than current HD systems, is an indication of what’s to come, make up artists stand to strike it rich and be in high demand.
The new standard, called Super Hi-Vision 8k, was ushered in and ballyhooed by Japanese broadcaster NHK. The technology was recently showed off for spectators wanting to catch the Olympics in “just like being there” quality, who gathered around giant screens broadcasting in Super Hi-Vision. The BBC writes:
NHK has used a 145-inch (3.7 metre) prototype display co-developed with Panasonic to show off its footage.
But it will be some time before such models become commercially available.
TV makers are currently focusing efforts on launching 4K enabled devices offering half the resolution. This is the format currently used by most digital cinema cameras.
LG unveiled the biggest 4K television set to date earlier this week - an 84 inch screen costing more than $22,000.
But manufacturers are likely to want to offer 8K screens by 2020 when NHK aims to begin its first experimental broadcasts in the standard.
2020 might be too long a wait for your budding make up career to take bloom, but I’m pretty sure beauty schools will be accepting college savings plan money by then. So maybe you should just save your pennies and push this career path on your middle-schooler.
Buying online reviews
If those purchased Twitter followers not doing enough to promote your new book or brand--don’t fret. There are other options, like buying positive reviews. A tid-bit from an interesting article about the market for online book reviews in the NYTimes:
Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake. Yet it is all but impossible to tell when reviews were written by the marketers or retailers (or by the authors themselves under pseudonyms), by customers (who might get a deal from a merchant for giving a good score) or by a hired third-party service.
As anyone who shops online knows, those good reviews really matter. Why buy the (insert item here) with three stars when you could buy the slightly more expensive (insert item here) with 4 and half stars.
But if a third of those reviews are fake, what’s a consumer to do? How can you spot an ad posing as a review? The Bits blog has a breakdown of a fake review (including more users of the first person singular). Or, if you really want to get into it, you can read the journal article by a couple of Cornell professors.