An illustrated catalogue of computer viruses

Thursday, 24 July, 2014

The Computer Virus Catalog, an illustrated guide to the worst viruses in computer history, may feature some pretty nasty examples of malicious code, but at least this catalogue of them is easy on the eye and informative.

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Ditching simple passwords isn’t all that simple

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014

The use of simple, or weak, passwords isn’t so bad, nor for that matter is using the same password on multiple websites. Only in certain circumstances though, for instance where the web service you are using is deemed to be “low risk”, say a group of Microsoft researchers.

Email and bank or finance applications are obviously examples of high risk websites that require complex pass codes, but it might be – and who knows – that the password for your tennis club’s online discussion forum isn’t.

While the use of strong, or complex, passwords is encouraged, there’s a limit to how many we can remember though, and forgetting, and then having to reset, too many of these codes can soon become more trouble than they are worth.

The trio argue that password reuse on low risk websites is necessary in order for users to be able to remember unique and high entropy codes chosen for important sites. Users should therefore slap the same simple passwords across free websites that don’t hold important information and save the tough and unique ones for banking websites and other repositories of high-value information. “The rapid decline of [password complexity as recall difficulty] increases suggests that, far from being unallowable, password re-use is a necessary and sensible tool in managing a portfolio,” the trio wrote.

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Are digital technologies a threat to documentary film revenues?

Tuesday, 15 July, 2014

Digital technologies are making it easier for documentary filmmakers, especially those who are emerging, to produce and distribute their work, but what are the chances of audiences ever seeing these productions? And if more documentaries are to be distributed solely online, what future, if any, will these sorts of films have?

Thanks to cheaper digital production equipment and a seemingly endless line of new distribution options, documentary filmmakers are experiencing boom times. But who’s getting the bucks from this bang? “An individual can pretty easily and cheaply put their film online; whether anyone sees or finds it is another matter,” Michael Lumpkin, executive director of the International Documentary Association, told TheWrap. “There have been a constant parade of new platforms to watch movies online. But I think for filmmakers, not enough of those opportunities are actually financial opportunities.”

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What might the internet of ten years time be like?

Tuesday, 15 July, 2014

Regulation, surveillance, and commercialisation, are some of the forces that will play a part shaping the way the internet is used over the next decade, but technologists do not believe, or should that be hope, their impact will be significant.

As Internet experts look to the future of the Web, they have a number of concerns. This is not to say they are pessimistic: The majority of respondents to this 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing say they hope that by 2025 there will not be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online today. And they said they expect that technology innovation will continue to afford more new opportunities for people to connect. Still, some express wide levels of concern that this yearning for an open Internet will be challenged by trends that could sharply disrupt the way the Internet works for many users today as a source of largely unfettered content flows.

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Can health problems be diagnosed by way of credit card statements?

Thursday, 10 July, 2014

Medical professionals who are able to view your credit card transactions may be able to anticipate the sort of ailments you could be afflicted with, based on your spending habits – I guess they’d be looking for purchases that incorporate alcohol, high fat foods, and the like – and can begin devising an appropriate course of treatment

Information on consumer spending can provide a more complete picture than the glimpse doctors get during an office visit or through lab results, says Michael Dulin, chief clinical officer for analytics and outcomes research at Carolinas HealthCare. The Charlotte-based hospital chain is placing its data into predictive models that give risk scores to patients. Within two years, Dulin plans to regularly distribute those scores to doctors and nurses who can then reach out to high-risk patients and suggest changes before they fall ill.

All very commendable I’m sure, after all there’s nothing more important than our health, but I can see some potential privacy concerns here.

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The app that lets you rate colleagues, there goes the workplace…

Monday, 7 July, 2014

If we can rate shops, cafes, hotels, employers, former romantic partners, and who knows what else, then it makes sense we should be able to do the same for colleagues. Doesn’t it?

Founded by former Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella, Knozen pits two coworkers against each other and asks the user a series of questions such as, “Which person is friendlier?” or, “Who is more likely to buy cookies from a girl scout?” The user then selects which coworker best fits the description and is told how many other colleagues voted the same way. At least seven people from an organisation need to sign up for Knozen before they’re allowed to start rating each other to protect everyone’s identity.

Didn’t the founder of Facebook try something a little like this back in the day?

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Mobile phone tower says you were there, so you were there

Thursday, 3 July, 2014

I’d be concerned if prosecutors were securing convictions against alleged wrong-doers based solely on mobile phone tower data, backing their ascertain that a person on trial was at a certain place at a certain time, but that appears to be the case.

If I make a cell call from Kenmore Square, in my home town of Boston, you might think that I’m connecting to a cell site a few hundred feet away. But, if I’m standing near Fenway Park during a Red Sox game, with thousands of fans making calls and sending texts, that tower may have reached its capacity. Hypothetically, the system might send me to the next site, which might also be at capacity or down for maintenance, or to the next site, or the next. The switching center may look for all sorts of factors, most of which are proprietary to the company’s software. The only thing that you can say with confidence is that I have connected to a cell site somewhere within a radius of roughly twenty miles.

I think anyone who peruses their phone bills will realise they were no where near some of the places they supposedly made some calls from.

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The horror, the horror, old school telephones

Wednesday, 2 July, 2014

Our children will no doubt laugh at us when we tell them what telephones – you know, those devices you Snapchat and Instagram with – used to be like in “the olden days”. I baulk when I remember how… cumbersome the old rotary dial models especially, used to be.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t fit a phone in your pocket or purse. You couldn’t use it to play music, take pictures, shoot video, or check the Internet. You couldn’t select your ringtone or customize your desktop image – because your phone didn’t have a desktop, and its tone was predetermined, for many decades, by Ma Bell, and then, after deregulation, by the manufacturers of budget-priced, cheaply-made phone sets. You could, starting in the late 1980s, speed-dial the last number you entered, and program up to seven or eight others; but your phone probably still needed a wire to work, and woe unto you if your emergency situation didn’t occur in close proximity to a wall jack.

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Getting high on your own code

Thursday, 26 June, 2014

Does this take me back to the early years of disassociated.com, and my web design days, or what… David Auerbach’s eloquent depiction of coding, or programming, until the break of day

These days I write more than I code, but one of the things I miss about programming is the coder’s high: those times when, for hours on end, I would lock my vision straight at the computer screen, trance out, and become a human-machine hybrid zipping through the virtual architecture that my co-workers and I were building. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, and even pain all faded away while I was staring at the screen, thinking and typing, until I’d reach the point of exhaustion and it would come crashing down on me.

I’d often listen to tracks such as Blue Amazon’s No Other Love to get, and stay, in the zone, and code the night away with ease.

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Your particle accelerator, don’t leave home without it

Friday, 20 June, 2014

Particle accelerators, think the Large Hadron Collider, aren’t entirely about solving the mysteries of the universe… they also have a number of day to day applications:

Accelerators use electromagnetic force to accelerate charged particles. The resulting particle beams can be directed along the desired path, including to the outside of the accelerator walls. When a charged particle moves past an atom, it can interact with the electrons in that atom, knocking them out of their orbits and breaking bonds. That can cause some chemical compounds to fall apart and others to polymerize. The latter ability has been used in one of the earliest industrial applications of accelerators, stretching back at least to the 1980s: sealing potato chip bags and milk cartons. The potato bag is made from two layers of aluminum foil held together by glue. That glue would take too long to dry on industrial conveyor belts. “It would be sticky forever,” says Kephart – but electron beams can make it happen instantly. “With an accelerator you can polymerize that glue and it’s set.”

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