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ICT News

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Quick hits

  1. Angry Brazilian whacks NASA to put a stop to … er, the NSA
  2. Programming bug kills NASA’s deep-space comet-hunter mission
  3. When software kills: bad design and its consequences
  4. Facebook and 22 universities to give Computer Science students academic credit for open source projects
  5. Apple II DOS source code released into public domain
  6. Microsoft is making $2-billion/year on Android licensing: five times more than on Windows Phone
  7. How long do disk drives last? You might be surprised by the answer—and by the follow up!

And in other news …

US Department of Denfense Pentagon logo2011-11-07 The United States of America is preparing for war—in cyberspace! “The Pentagon’s advanced research arm, which played a key role in developing the Internet 40 years ago, said it will boost efforts to build offensive cyber arms for possible use against enemy targets by the U.S. military [because] modern warfare will demand the effective use of cyber, kinetic and combined cyber and kinetic means.” Reuters has the details.

Medtronic insulin pump from http://www.medtronic.com/health-consumers/diabetes/getting-a-device/insulin-pump/right-for-you/2011-10-26 Medtronic Inc has asked software security experts to investigate the safety of its insulin pumps, as a new claim surfaced that at least one of its devices could be hacked to dose diabetes patients with potentially lethal amounts of insulin. While there are no known examples of such a cyber attack on a medical device, Medtronic told Reuters that it was doing “everything it can” to address the security flaws.

report cover photo2011-09-21 “Is the Internet a fundamental human necessity? Is a workplace with flexible mobility policies as valuable as salary? To demonstrate the role of the network in our lives, Cisco commissioned an international workforce study of nearly 3000 people. The study revealed that one in three college students and young professionals consider the Internet to be as important as air, water, food, and shelter. The study also found that their desire to use social media, mobile devices, and the Internet more freely in the workplace is strong enough to influence their future job choice, sometimes more than salary.” Read the report, watch the video summary, or read one of the two infographics.

Brian Wong headshot from http://www.leighbureau.com/speaker.asp?id=5132010-11-22 When Vancouverite Brian Wong made his first trip to Silicon Valley last year, he had to take a train from San Francisco because he was too young to rent a car. But this young entrepreneur, already a business-school graduate and the founder of a company that developed the (FollowFormation.com) networking application for Twitter, has just raised $300 000 in venture capital. The National Post has his story.

Chinese Firefox logo from http://dreams.neonspice.net/?m=200907&paged=22010-11-18 China “hijacked” 15 per cent of the world’s internet traffic earlier this year in what could be a new form of cyber-terrorism. Experts fear that the authorities could have carried out “severe malicious activities” as a result of the 18-minute operation, even harvesting sensitive data such as the contents of email messages or implanting viruses in computers worldwide. The Telegraph has the story.

The father of Chen Xiaofeng with her photo after she was killed last month in Baoding by the drunken son of a police official from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/world/asia/18li.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=li%20qiming&st=cse2010-11-17 The tale is precisely the sort of gripping socio-drama—a commoner grievously wronged; a privileged transgressor pulling strings to escape punishment—that sets off alarm bells in the offices of China’s Communist Party censors. And in fact, party propaganda officials moved swiftly after the accident to ensure that the story never gained traction. But as the New York Times explains, the opposite has happened.

African in tribal dress with mobile phone from http://www.economist.com/node/173661372010-10-30 Three-quarters of the 4.6 billion mobile-phone users worldwide live in developing countries, and only 18% of people in the developing world have access to the Internet, but more than 50% owned a mobile-phone handset at the end of 2009 (a number which has more than doubled since 2005). A useful piece of technology is now being placed in the hands of a large number of these people who might be keen to use their devices to make some money: a new service called Jana (formerly txteagle) distributes small jobs via text messaging in return for small payments. Read The Economist’s story.

Starcraft 2 from http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=1414962010-10-30 Computer games can be played com­peti­tive­ly and in front of paying spectators. South Korea, where the original Starcraft game was released in 1998, is the spiritual home of e-sports. One player, Lee Yoon-Yeol, aka “Nada,” is rumoured to earn around 200 000 USD a year. Starcraft 2 was designed with spectators in mind, The Economist reports.

Web-Is-Dead skull from http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/2010-09-11 Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services—think apps—are less about the searching and more about the getting. Wired explains how this new paradigm reflects the inevitable course of capitalism and why the new breed of media titan is forsaking the Web for more promising (and profitable) pastures.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle MQ-8B Fire Scout from http://www.wishtv.com/dpps/military/Errant-drone-almost-met-by-fighter-jets_35769942010-09-10 The US military almost launched fighter jets and discussed a possible shoot-down when an errant Navy drone briefly veered into restricted airspace near the US capital. As the fighter jets were about to be launched, the Navy was able to reprogram the helicopter-like craft and bring it back. The Associated Press has the story.

app review guidelines from http://developer.apple.com/appstore/2010-09-09 Apple announced that it has finally published the App Store Review Guidelines it uses to accept or—more commonly—reject the apps that developers submit for “the world’s largest mobile application platform.” Wired has the story.

HD & H.264 MPEG-4/AVC newsRight from http://www.itechster.com/2008/12/20/hd-h264-mpeg-4avc-newsRight-psd/2010-08-26 A Macworld analysis suggests that the Web might soon get a royalty-free standard for HTML 5 video. This is good news for everyone who uses different operating systems and browsers to watch content on sites like YouTube, CNN, ESPN, and Major League Baseball—and for everyone who designs websites!

young girl pondering computer overlaid iwth iTunes U slogan: 'Click. Sync. Learn.' from http://albanylawtech.wordpress.com/2008/01/2010-08-24 iTunes U downloads have topped 300 million and it has become one of the world’s most popular online educational catalogues. Over 800 universities throughout the world have active iTunes U sites, and iTunes users now have access to over 350 000 audio and video files. Read Apple’s press release, or check out a free copy of iTunes for yourself.

Casio_TC-500 watchface from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/personal-tech/controller-freak/a-chat-with-microsoft-principal-researcher-bill-buxton-part-i/article1679332/2010-08-23 “You’ve likely never heard of him, but he has almost certainly had an impact on your life. A principal researcher with Microsoft Research who commutes from his home in Toronto to Redmond, Washington, one week out of every month, he conceives and develops innovations in user interfaces. He played a chief role on the team that invented the multi-touch user interface. That was in 1984.” The Globe and Mail has the interview.

Stephen Cook posed before a chalkboard2010-08-21 A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California, Vinay Deolalikar is a mathematician at Hewlett-Packard Labs who thinks he may have solved the P vs NP Problem first proposed by University of Toronto computer scientist Stephen A. Cook. If Dr. Deolalikar’s solution Adobe Reader icon is found to be correct, he could win one of the seven $1 000 000 Clay Mathematics Institute Millennium Prizes, but The Globe and Mail reports that he may not be there yet.

Tom Cruise in Minority Report (photo: LA Times)2010-08-21 When the hurricane approached Florida, Wal-Mart stocked its shelves with frosted pink pastries! A computer analysis of sales data had found that when Mother Nature gets angry, people want to eat a lot more strawberry Pop-Tarts. Similar sophisticated computer analysis of crime information could predict where and when crimes will occur. At universities and technology companies, scientists are working to develop computer programs that, in the most optimistic scenarios, could enable police to anticipate, and possibly prevent, many types of crime. The Los Angeles Times reports on predictive policing.

IOI 2010 newsRight2010-08-19 Facebook users carrying their smart phones will soon be able to “check in” to real-world locations such as bars, parks, and live concerts as the social network makes its first foray into the location services craze. Read how “Where are you?” is joining “What’s on your mind?” as Facebook lets its users declare whereabouts to friends and people nearby.

Two children play and socialize in the presence of multiple sensors: cameras on the wall, a microphone on the table, and a wearable sensor on one child’s wrist. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek)2010-08-19 Computer Science + Psychology = $10M to develop computing techniques for measuring and analyzing child behaviour. A team led by the Georgia Institute of Technology pushes the limits in a new scientific discipline called computational behavioural science, drawing equally from computer science and psychology. “There is a great deal of creativity in the computer science research community today,” said Deborah Crawford, acting assistant director of Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the US National Science Foundation.

 train operator display within the vehicle onboard controller2010-08-19 Inside a north Toronto office building, rows of bulky computers operate virtual subway systems half a world away in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai, managing trains as they pull into stations, drop off passengers, and accelerate through tunnels. The action is a computer simulation, a kind of subway video game. But the virtual subways the engineers at Toronto-based Thales Rail Signalling Solutions Inc. operate are vital for ensuring passengers in major global centres get where they’re going quickly and safely. Read the full story.

Cameron Diaz2010-08-19 Searching for celebrities can pose a danger to your computer’s health, says a McAfee news release. “Cameron Diaz has replaced Jessica Biel as the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Web, … while politicians like Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are among the safest” according to the security company

keyboard close-up with one key labelled with a padlock icon from http://www.smartproductivity.com/password-protect-your-big-goals2010-08-17 “Right now we can confidently say that a 7-character password is hopelessly inadequate,” says Joshua L. Davis, a research scientist. In fact, if it’s less than 12-characters long, any password could be cracked by brute-force attacks using today’s powerful graphics processors. The best password is an entire sentence, preferably one that includes numbers or symbols. Learn more at Georgia Tech Research Institute.

abstract head with ants forming synapse2010-08-12 “The search for artificial intelligence modelled on human brains has been a dismal failure. AI based on ant behaviour, though, is having some success.” So begins an article in The Economist on how the study of insects lead to recent advances in robotics, networks, and logistics.

IOI 2010 newsRight2010-08-11 More than 300 of the most gifted high school students from 81 countries around the world put their computing and problem-solving skills to the test against the very best when Canada hosted for the first time an elite programming competition: the 22nd International Olympiad in Informatics. Of the 21 Canadian participants, 14 are from the GTA.

R2 headshot2010-08-06 Robonaut 2 “is a state-of-the-art highly dexterous anthropomorphic robot” created by NASA and General Motors “working together to accelerate development of the next generation of robots and related technologies for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.” R2 (the robot’s nickname) “can take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks on places such as the International Space Station.” You can follow R2 on Facebook and Twitter.

Ubisoft newsRight2010-07-28 According to Toronto Life, “One of the hottest sectors to watch right now is information and communications technology, which has created roughly 16,000 jobs in the Toronto area since May of 2009. In addition to the big guys like RIM and IBM, many small firms are making their presence felt. The Toronto-based digital marketing firm Klick has added 10 employees to its operations since the start of the year and will hire another 10 in the next three months. Then there’s Ubisoft, the French video game developer whose arrival in Toronto was announced at a splashy news conference last summer. It plans to create 800 jobs and is currently hiring by the handful, including signing on recruiters to do the hiring and recruitment managers to oversee the recruiters.”

hacker bee by Claudio Munoz2010-07-22 Which countries have the cleverest hackers? In a well-guarded room near the Potomac river, north of Washington, DC … there is a laptop that is finding the answer. The little machine is a honey-trap which has detected more than 11m failed attempts to penetrate its defences since it was put in place in early June 2010. The Economist has the white-hat/black-hat story.

Rs in a “do not” circle2010-07-15 India announced a new symbol for the rupee, claiming (incorrectly, in our view) to being one of only five countries to have a unique symbol for its currency. This new symbol is a challenge to Unicode, because a new code must be devised so that all computers can correctly display the new rupee character.

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[This page last updated 2014-01-23 at 14h00 Toronto local time.]