Google’s working on a phone that maps your physical surroundings

Feb 21, 2014 – 2 hours ago
Brandon Bailey @ San Jose Mercury News

Why would you want such a phone? Google is inviting developers to help come up with applications, and it’s posted some ideas on a website created for what it calls Project Tango:

“What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? … What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?”

The prototype uses a motion-sensing camera and other sensors to take up to 250,000 measurements per second as the device is carried around, according to Google. The data is crunched by software to create a constantly growing, virtual map of the physical world.

“We are physical beings that live in a 3D world. Yet, our mobile devices assume that physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen,” said project leader Johnny Lee in a blog post. “The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

It’s an intriguing idea that represents another way in which technology might become an ever-present intermediary between ourselves and our physical surroundings. Of course, it also raises questions about who sees the data that’s gathered and how it can be used.

Project Tango’s website lists some other uses:

“Imagine playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or transforming the hallways into a tree-lined path. Imagine competing against a friend for control over territories in your home with your own miniature army, or hiding secret virtual treasures in physical places around the world?”

The other interesting thing about the project is its origin: Tango was started by the Advanced Technology and Projects Group at the Motorola phone business that Google bought in 2011 and is now selling to Lenovo. Google said it was keeping the research group, and Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai indicated this week that it will become part of the Android and Chrome division that he runs.

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Microsoft Fan Says: ‘Windows 8 Is A Disaster In Every Sense Of The Word’

JULIE BORT FEB. 10, 2014, 9:40 PM AP

One of Microsoft’s strongest supporters took a good, hard look at the soon-to-be released next version of Windows 8, which could arrive in April, and threw his hands up in frustration.
The new version is called Windows 8 Update 1, and it includes a number of small changes, mostly minor tweaks.

These tweaks try to fix some of the complaints people still had about Windows 8. But blogger Paul Thurrott of the influential Windows blog “Supersite for Windows” says they really just make Windows 8 more difficult to use, especially on a tablet.

He took Microsoft to task, writing:

Windows 8 is a disaster in every sense of the word. This is not open to debate, is not part of some cute imaginary world where everyone’s opinion is equally valid or whatever. Windows 8 is a disaster. Period.

There’s no reason to rehash the long list of complaints users have about Windows 8. We can summarize them: Windows 8 is not well designed. It’s not easy to use.

While the idea behind it was good — a two-in-one device that melds a PC with a table — in practice, it’s “a mess” Thurrott says, because it’s really two operating systems, “mobile and desktop, fused together unnaturally like a Frankenstein’s monster.”

He’s got a great explanation for how Microsoft got here, too. It’s all thanks to former Windows boss Steven Sinofsky:

It’s fair to say that this man shares many of the same character traits—and flaws—that defined Steve Jobs. He was belligerent and one-sided, didn’t work well with others, had no qualms about tossing out features and technologies that didn’t originate with his group, and had absolutely zero respect for customer feedback. … [but] he lacked Jobs’ best gift: An innate understanding of good design.”

What Microsoft has done with Windows 8 since its release is what Thurrott likened to an apology tour. It’s tried to listen to everybody’s feedback, changing this and that, and making it more confusing with each attempted fix.

The answer, Thurrott says, is obvious: stop trying to make Windows into something for everyone. Make it really great for its most important users: enterprises and productivity workers. Or as Thurrott advises:

You can’t please everybody, Microsoft. So stop trying.

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California Leaders Push For Smartphone Kill Switch

February 07, 2014 7:05 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Legislation unveiled Friday in California would require smartphones and other mobile devices to have a “kill switch” to render them inoperable if lost or stolen — a move that could be the first of its kind in the country.

State Sen. Mark Leno, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and other elected and law enforcement officials said the bill, if passed, would require mobile devices sold in or shipped to California to have the anti-theft devices starting next year.

Leno and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, both Democrats, co-authored the bill to be introduced this spring. They joined Gascon, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other authorities who have been demanding that manufacturers create kill switches to combat surging smartphone theft across the country.

Leno called on the wireless industry to step up as smartphone robberies have surged to an all-time high in California.

“They have a choice. They can either be a part of the problem or part of the solution, especially when there is one readily available,” Leno said.

Leno and Gascon said they believe the bill would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Gascon and Schneiderman have given manufacturers a June 2014 deadline to come up with solutions to curb the theft of smartphones.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for wireless providers, says a permanent kill switch has serious risks, including potential vulnerability to hackers who could disable mobile devices and lock out not only individuals’ phones but also phones used by entities such as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and law enforcement.

The association has been working on a national stolen phone database that launched in November to remove any market for stolen smartphones.

“These 3G and 4G/LTE databases, which blacklist stolen phones and prevent them from being reactivated, are part of the solution,” Michael Altschul, CTIA’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “Yet we need more international carriers and countries to participate to help remove the aftermarket abroad for these trafficked devices.”

Almost one in three U.S. robberies involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices — mostly smartphones — cost consumers more than $30 billion in 2012, the agency said in a study.

In San Francisco alone, about 60 percent of all robberies involve the theft of a mobile device, Police Chief Greg Suhr said. In nearby Oakland, such thefts amount to about 75 percent of robberies, Mayor Jean Quan added.

“We’re in California, the technological hub of the world,” Suhr said. “I can’t imagine someone would vote against” the proposed kill switch law.

Gascon said the industry makes an estimated $7.8 billion selling theft and loss insurance on mobile devices but must take action to end the victimization of its customers.

“This is one of the areas in the criminal justice system where a technological solution can make a tremendous difference, so there’s absolutely no argument other than profit,” Gascon said.

In 2013, about 136 million smartphones were sold in the U.S., according to International Data Corp., a Massachusetts-based researcher. More than 1 billion smartphones were sold worldwide last year, accounting for $330 billion in sales, IDC said. That’s up from 725 million in 2012.

Last year, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, proposed installing a kill switch in its devices. But the company told Gascon’s office the biggest U.S. carriers rejected the idea.

A Samsung statement issued Friday said the company doesn’t think legislation is necessary and it would keep working with Gascon, other officials and its wireless carrier partners to stop smartphone theft.

Apple Inc., the maker of the popular iPhone, said the “Activation Lock” feature of its iOS 7 software released in the fall is designed to prevent thieves from turning off the Find My iPhone application, which allows owners to track their phone on a map, delete its data, and remotely lock the device so it cannot be reactivated.

“This can help you keep your device secure, even if it is in the wrong hands, and can improve your chances of recovering it,” Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said Friday without commenting specifically about the proposed legislation.

Gascon has praised Apple for its effort but reiterated Friday that it is still too early to tell how effective its solution will be.

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Help Stanford University scientists studying Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many cancers by simply running a piece of software on your computer.

Help Stanford University scientists studying Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many cancers by simply running a piece of software on your computer.

The problems we are trying to solve require so many calculations, we ask people to donate their unused computer power to crunch some of the numbers.

In just 5 minutes …
Add your computer to over 167,000 others around the world to form the world’s largest distributed supercomputer.

Step 1. Download protein folding simulation software called Folding@home.

Step 2. Run the installation. The software will automatically start up and open a web browser with your control panel.

Step 3. Follow the instructions to Start Folding.

Stanford University will send your computer a folding problem to solve. When your first job is completed, your computer will swap the results for a new job.

What is protein folding?
Proteins are biology’s workhorses- its “nanomachines.” Proteins help your body break down food into energy, regulate your moods, and fight disease. Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or “fold.” While protein folding is critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology much of the process remains a mystery.

When proteins do not fold correctly (misfolding), there can be serious health consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, AIDS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many cancers.

If we better understand protein misfolding we can design drugs and therapies to combat these illnesses.

How you can help right now.
Start Folding by downloading and running the free Folding@home software from Stanford University. Once installed the software runs behind the scenes using otherwise unused computing time.

Your computer’s calculations provide us valuable data for our research into protein folding.

You’ll get feedback along the way if you want it, or you can just let it run. You might not even notice how much work is going on.

Every computer we add gets us closer to the cures.

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NSA ‘developing code-cracking quantum computer’

The NSA wants to use its quantum computer to break encryption used to protect online communication Continue reading the main story

The US National Security Agency is building a quantum computer to break the encryption that keeps messages secure, reports the Washington Post.

The NSA project came to light in documents passed to the newspaper by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The spying agency hopes to harness the special qualities of quantum computers to speed up its code-cracking efforts.

The NSA is believed to have spent about $80m (£49m) on the project but it has yet to produce a working machine.

If the NSA managed to develop a working quantum computer it would be put to work breaking encryption systems used online and by foreign governments to keep official messages secure, suggest the documents excerpted in the Post.

The quantum computer is being developed under a research programme called Penetrating Hard Targets and is believed to be conducted out of a lab in Maryland. Processing power

Many research groups around the world are pursuing the goal of creating a working quantum computer but those developed so far have not been able to run the algorithms required to break contemporary encryption systems.

Current computers attempt to crack encryption via many different means but they are limited to generating possible keys to unscramble data one at a time. Using big computers can speed this up but the huge numbers used as keys to lock away data limits the usefulness of this approach.

By contrast, quantum computers exploit properties of matter that, under certain conditions, mean the machine can carry out lots and lots of calculations simultaneously. This makes it practical to try all the possible keys protecting a particular message or stream of data.

The hard part of creating a working quantum computer is keeping enough of its constituent computational elements, called qubits, stable so they can interact and be put to useful work.

The NSA is not believed to have made significant breakthroughs in its work that would put it ahead of research efforts elsewhere in the US and Europe. However, the documents passed to the Post by Edward Snowden suggest the agency’s researchers are having some success developing the basic building blocks for the machine.

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Virus problems on the rise

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