How about selfies as password substitutes then?

Tuesday, 21 October, 2014

Michael Daniel, a senior US government official, thinks that passwords may not be the best way to maintain the security of computer systems. It’s possible he’s not alone on that point either. But what to make of his suggestion that selfies, or photos we take of ourselves, might be a better option?

Daniel suggested that “selfies” would be one possibility. A device could scan a photo of a person’s face and grant access only to the right one. “You could use the cameras on cell phones, which are now ubiquitous, so the selfies are used for something besides posting on Facebook,” Daniel said.

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Executed for theft but not murder? Once upon a time, yes, it seems

Tuesday, 21 October, 2014

The justice system’s perception of the seriousness of an offence looks to have changed over the centuries, for instance execution appeared to be an acceptable penalty for petty theft, at least in Britain, in the seventeenth century, according to a study of transcripts of old court cases that were tried at London’s well known criminal court, the Old Bailey.

The records of the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, tell the tale of one John Randal, who was tried on Sept. 9, 1674. He was charged “with two Indictments, one for Fellony for stealing several pieces of Plate, and other Goods…, and the other for Murder, Killing his House-Keeper.” That his theft and his murder were described and tried together was natural for a world where the protection of property was a virtue at least on par with the promotion of human happiness. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1769, William Blackstone argued that it is quite reasonable to execute someone convicted of stealing “a handkerchief, or other trifle, privately from one’s person,” even though other crimes that involve goods of higher value are punished less severely.

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Some fine instances of slow motion in the movies

Monday, 20 October, 2014

Slow motion scenes can make or break a movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, for instance, is an example of the effect being over-worked, but films such as Hurt Locker, Drive, The Shining, Watchmen, and Dredd, are another matter all together.

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Aborting the launch of the Space Shuttle, easy… in theory anyway

Monday, 20 October, 2014

There was a procedure in place to abort a Space Shuttle flight if a problem became apparent on, or immediately, after launch, but it certainly wasn’t a simple matter of switching off the engines, and heading towards a nearby landing strip…

About two minutes into the flight, the SRBs [Solid Rocket Boosters] would burn out and then be jettisoned. The SSMEs [Space Shuttle Main Engines] would continue to burn fuel from the ET [External Tank] until about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. For missions with a particularly heavy payload, the two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines could be fired during ascent to help the shuttle aloft. The OMS engines were also used later to adjust the shuttle’s orbit, including the deorbit burn that brought it home at the end of the mission. After Main Engine Cutoff (MECO), the shuttle would jettison the empty ET, which would disintegrate as it tumbled back to Earth. That’s all there was to it. What could possibly go wrong?

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Whoever said as life as a billionaire was easy?

Monday, 20 October, 2014

It may come as some comfort to those of us who are not billionaires, that life as a billionaire is not always beer and skittles, or caviar and private jets, as the case may be. In fact, life for the super well off may very much be caviar and private jets, but it is often devoid of some of the simpler pleasures, and that it seems, can be a drawback. Apparently.

“Mark Zuckerberg will never get to bum around a foreign country,” Graham writes. “He can do other things most people can’t, like charter jets to fly him to foreign countries. But success has taken a lot of the serendipity out of his life.”

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How do you get ahead? That depends on what country you live in…

Monday, 20 October, 2014

Hard work aside, is our success, be it personal or professional, out of our hands? Does it come down to luck, or to the people we know? The part of the world where we live, seemingly, looks to hold some sway in this regard:

People in developing economies were far more likely to say that “having a good education” and “working hard” were 10/10 in terms of importance. That appears to be something of a paradox, since many respondents in those same countries also claimed that “giving bribes” and “being lucky” were very important. Although people in wealthy countries also think diligence and education are important, a smaller share of respondents gave those factors top marks in determining their lives.

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Well, this is one way to cross a bridge

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I doubt you’d be able, or possibly even want, to incorporate this style of bridge crossing into your commute however…

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Establishing a human colony on Mars, not so straightforward?

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I was quite excited about the Mars One idea, when I first heard of it a couple of years ago. Both pioneering and audacious, the project founders proposed sending four people at a time to Mars in 2024, followed by another group every two years thereafter, gradually establishing a human colony on the red planet in the process.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, analysis of the concept, based on what is currently known publicly, however finds the plan, to be unsustainable. In short they conclude that Mars One is trying to achieve too much, too soon:

The lead author, Sydney Do, a Ph.D. candidate in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said via email that in his view “the Mars One Concept is unsustainable” because of the current state of technology and its “aggressive expansion approach” of quickly adding more and more people rather than keeping the settlement at a fixed size for a period of time.

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A photographic glimpse of life in a nunnery

Friday, 17 October, 2014

Probably not something that we see all that often, a glimpse into life in a nunnery, or convent, by Edinburgh based photographer Craig Buchan.

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The next stage in GIF animation evolution, the GIF Video

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I think GIF animations are more widely used now than twenty years ago, when they were one of the few ways to serve motion files the web. While the latter day animations are often fun, they can chew up download or airtime allocations, on account of their size.

So what to do? Online image hosting service Imgur may have a solution by way of Project GIFV, an application that converts GIF animations to video files. The reduction in file size certainly looks promising, a raw GIF animation at fifty megabytes becomes a video GIFV file of some four megabytes.

The cornerstone of Project GIFV is a platform-wide upgrade to automatically convert uploaded GIF files on the fly into the MP4 video format. The converted MP4s are significantly smaller than their equivalent GIFs, which allows them to load at lightning-fast speeds with better quality. By lowering bandwidth consumption, the change also optimizes Imgur for users on mobile. Rejoice!

Mind you, four megabytes still seems sizeable for a GIF animation, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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