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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Global Cell Phone Scam, for Tech Geeks

Ever notice smart phones tend to lag before disconnection? Ever notice how much screwing around it takes to hang up on a caller if you’re using your hands free kit and have the phone in your pocket? It’s usually easier to let them hang up than scramble for your phone, home key, swipe, key in your pin, home key, tap the call, tap end call (in the case of iPhones) right? Well I got to wondering, just why do modern smart phones, even when you DO hang up, take so long to drop the connection? I figure it’s big money.

Let’s assume you don’t roll over into a new 30 second block, and merely pay per second, and let’s give it a really conservative estimate of 1 cent per second. The average time to drop carrier for my iPhone 3G’s and my iPhone 3GS is between 6-8 seconds. There are over 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world. Let’s assume that all of these lag 6 seconds for efficacy of fact. That’s $240,000,000 in phone fees just from one design flaw coming out of every mobile phone owners pocket.

Let’s go one step further and assume that each phone makes one call per business day of the week, that’s $1.2 billion per week. I guess designing flaws in your technology is big business, because you know there’d be kick backs. Let’s not even count in the money makers of voice mail, or other scammy crap. $62.4 BILLION per annum, and remember these are conservative estimates.

Man Kills Gods; Creates Life in Lab

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him…”
Friedrich Nietzsche. The Gay Science (1882), s126.

Long have we theorised the above line by a madman bearing a labtern not to be talking about the literal God believed in by so many theists. Instead, we interpret, he is talking about what this god represented for European culture, the shared cultural belief in God which had once been its defining and uniting characteristic.

So to has man thrown off the yolk of theism, every element of the divine has been replicated at large through science, trickery, art, illusionism except one final element; the creation of life.

Until yesterday when flamboyant geneticist Craig Venter held true to the pledge he made nearly 15 years ago, unveiling his magnum opus. This landmark of scientific progress, published in the Journal of Science, stands on the shoulders of his race to decode the human genome in his own laboratory, egotistically his own DNA I might add.

The madman carrying this lantern has indeed created the first instance of purely synthetic life, opening the doors nanoscience falter at with the potential to create designer microbes for special jobs such as production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals, through to filtering contaminents from air and water.

“This is the first synthetic life that has been made, and we call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromasome, made with four bottles of chemcals on a synthesizer from information on a computer,” Dr Venter said.

Lauded as a tour de force by Prof. Mattick from the Australian Research Council, Dr. Venters work is as ground breaking as science gets these days, the applications for man made life are phenominal and limited only by our imagination. That being said, mans imagination can often be self destructive, so think of all the fantastic synthesized zombie viruses the US military will make with this!

The bacterium used decoded DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides imprinting the synthetic DNA and inserting it into living bacterium, in this case Mycoplasma capricolum, allowing the bacterium to flourish with both it’s own and the synthetic DNA within, then finally using an antibiotic designed to kill all but the synthetic DNA allowing only the synthesized organism to proliferate and produce protein strands from the original Mycoplasma mycoides creating, simply, artificial life.

Klatu barada neck-tie?

TPG, cheap but shit

As many of you know I was lured away from Optus not only because they kept breaching contract and restricting my connection to below 1kbps when I reached my cap (which made it fundamentally unusable as it was slower than even my mobile phone on 2G), but due to their social media VIP handling team courting me.

I thought I’d give it a shot and see how it goes, they are by far one of the cheapest ISP’s with decent caps. The first hurdle was the fact they wanted me to install a new line, $270 right there, second that they demand you use their overpriced hardware, $300 right there. So $570 later they then tell you it’ll take ‘up to 20 business days’, which is ridiculous and patent nonsense.

They got me connected in 8 days, and I suggest any of you wanting to use theirs or any ISP service demand service in under 10 days or tell them to fuck off and stop being prats. Here’s the kicker though; they got me connected alright, but again my mobile phone on 2G goes faster.

I’m currently on a 200kbps ADSL2+ connection, how the fuck it can get that low is beyond me, yet that’s not half the pain of the situation. The painful part is the fact when you call TGP you go to some dodgy call centre in the phillipines with horrible line quality. Every single person I have dealt with fails to take responsibility for the matter and see it through, they palm you off, and in some cases if your situation sounds difficult they’ll just outright put you on hold then ‘accidentally’ hang up.

Yes, they hang up on you! I’ve had it happen several times, if you call them at say, 7pm, and they close at 7:30, even if they answer you before cut off, as soon as 7:30 hits they just outright hang up on you mid sentence! I shit you not.

The entire downfall of TPG in my opinion, and this was told to me by almost everyone I know before I went with them, is their inability to manage customer support, services, or management of any nature. Their call centre team are under-educated in case management. I’ve had dozens of random people try and help me, every time you have to start back at square one and be VERY CAREFUL not to confuse them, if you get too technical they get confused and suddenly the line ‘accidentally’ drops out again.

I’m a week in to having a TPG/SOUL connection and it’s still 200kbps, I’ve explained to them I am not authorising payment from my CC to them until I have a connection as outlined in contract. So, for a week in, they’re as good as Optus for handling contractual obligations.

I am going to attempt, again, to contact them today. I highly doubt I’ll have any luck, and I’m so disinterested now in having to repeat my story. The biggest piss off is when they’re all “computers and p2p or routers can slow your internet”, yeah, you’re right it can, but there’s no fucking way it’ll reduce a 10 megabit link to 200kbps unless you’re the worlds biggest leech, but I happen to have NOTHING connected to the network aside from an iPhone to talk to the modem and measure speeds.

Nonsense. Oh well, let’s try this again. I love how the recorded voices are all ocka Aussie (for non-Australian’s ‘ocka’ is our term for like, really really Australian, nasal beer drinking footy watching working class type stuff) yet it’s a front for a call centre with some poor underpaid saps who are barely coherent in English.

“What is the username?”
“Can you please spell the username?”
“I did? Tango, Hotel, X-ray, 6, 9, 0.”
“T for Tango, R for Romeo, X for X-ray?”
“H for Hotel, Harry, Hippo, Happy, H, H?”
[hangs up]


It’s like getting blood from a stone, I swear. Apparently ‘Mark’ from Telstra (because there’s only one Mark who works for Telstra!) is ‘assigned to rectify the problem’. I should update this post just so I can laugh in retrospect when my line is working correctly, and dread the day I EVER need to contact them by phone again.

I’m waiting for Optus to complain about me not paying my bill. I already told them there was an anticipatory breach of contract, and listed several other occasions of breach and advised them that further breach would void (ab initio) the contract as they cannot maintain the terms required for service.

Posted: February 8th, 2010
Categories: consumer reviews, general, reviews
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AUS R18+ Petition, Ending Feb 28

UPDATE: Submissions to the Government close on February 28. Once this closes, it may be many years before Australian’s get a chance to raise this issue again.

EB Games has launched a petition, which you can sign at any of their 350 stores, urging the Government to bring in an R18+ classification so that games deemed too graphic for the current MA15+ rating can still be sold without massive edits that impact on gameplay.

Despite the average age of a gamer being 30, Australia remains one of the last major territories in the world in which an R18+ rating for gaming does not exist. As a result, games that fail to get the MA15+ rating are either banned or require editing to pass the Classification’s Board’s strict guidelines.

Last year the Federal Government released a discussion paper on whether or not an R18+ rating for games should be adopted and called for submissions. EB Games managing director Steve Wilson said the company started the petition after finding overwhelming support for R18+ ratings from customers, News Ltd. polls depicted a 98%+ demographic demanding a fair go and an EB Games poll on the R-rating attracted more than 50,000 respondents, with 84 per cent voting in favour of an 18+ game rating.

Submissions to the Government close on February 28.

“Once this government paper is closed, it could be many years before we get another chance to voice our opinion on this issue.” Mr Wilson said the call for an R18+ rating was not to gain access to more violent or sexual content in games.

“This is not a call for violent video games but rather a call for a better classification system that brings Australia in line with the rest of the world and other Australian entertainment industries, such as films,” he said.

Recently the Classification Board overturned a decision to ban up-coming title Aliens Vs Predator after game publisher Sega appealed against the decision while refusing to edit the game in any way, stating that their game will turn better profits in nations where their Governments believe their citizens are mature enough to evaluate their choice of entertainment for themselves without Government interference.

Games edited for Australian players include Left 4 Dead 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV – the latter broke sales records in 2008, both of which on many platforms include impacting gameplay butchering which leads to incompatible play with international players, especially along the Xbox Achievement and Gamer Point reward system.

Posted: February 5th, 2010
Categories: games, lifestyle, politix, pop culture
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Optic Fiber to go ‘Bubbly’

Optical fibres make it possible for us to use the technologies we take for granted, such as the internet our mobile phones, and other ‘unwired’ tech, but now new research from Macquarie University may hold the key to more cost-effective, energy-efficient, durable and easy-to-use fibre optics in the future.

Professor Town’s team of fibre optics specialists from the University’s Department of Electronic Engineering has been developing a new prototype for fibre optics which is made from a “bubbly” polymer fibre. “Our technique involves heating the polymer to form bubbles-it’s easier and cheaper than assembling tubes or drilling,” he says. “This could be a cheap, clean and relatively fast way of developing an optical network and the production process uses significantly less energy than if we were working with glass.”

Traditionally, glass has been used to produce optical fibres, but the equipment needed in order to process the glass at high temperatures makes this an expensive option. While several groups around the world are investigating polymer as a potential future replacement, the Macquarie team is the only group to develop and test a system which uses bubbles within the polymer to guide and scatter light.

Deliberately leaky fibres are ideal for transmitting data over short distances. “This technology would be applicable to, for example, inter-office connections where workers could use ‘wireless’ laptops within a certain area of the workplace,” Professor Town says. “The bubbly design allows you to scatter out of the fibre and also to scatter back in: if you can do that, it reduces the cost of coupling and the overall system costs are reduced.

“It’s like when you drive into the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and you can still listen to your car radio-they use a co-axial cable that leaks in a similar way so that you can receive the signal anywhere on the roadway.” He doesn’t go on to explain how a leaky feeder can be implemented with light, where light lost will cause errors in reception of the signals target.

Because the bubbly polymer allows light out and in, it also makes it potentially very useful for sensing applications. “This type of polymer optical fibre may also prove useful for distributed sensing of materials such as toxic or explosive gases,” says Professor Town.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
Categories: gadget, news, science, technology
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Action Games Improve Eyesight

I’ve had many an argument online with folks obsessed with ‘you’ll go blind’ mentality towards video games, amongst other things. I feel vindicated today as I read that a study found video games are “good for eyes”, far from being harmful to eyesight action games provide excellent training for what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity.

Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice tiny changes in shades of grey against a uniform background, and is critical to everyday activities such as night driving and reading. It often degrades with age.

The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected adaptability in the brain, and could open the way to new therapies, the researchers said. ”This is not a skill that people were supposed to get better at by training,” said Daphne Bavelier, a professor at the University of Rochester in New York state and the study’s lead researcher.

”It was something that we corrected for at the level of the optics of the eye – to get better contrast detection you get glasses or laser surgery.”

”What we found is that even without this correction you can help your brain make better use of whatever information is received from your retina,” she said.

For the study, Bavelier and three colleagues conducted two sets of experiments. In the first, they compared the contrast sensitivity of hard-core action game players with video game aficionados of the same age who preferred less rapid-fire fare.

In action games, players typically target and shoot figures that pop up suddenly on a computer screen. The researchers found that the action buffs were 50 percent more efficient at detecting contrast. But there remained a chicken-or-egg question: had their vision been improved by playing, or did they become action game players because they had better than average contrast sensitivity to start with?

To find out, Bavelier asked two groups of non-action video game players to undergo 50 hours of training. One played a popular point-and-shoot game called Call of Duty, and the other played a game that offered a rich visual experience, but one bereft of action.

”We found that the people in the first group improved by 43 percent, and the other group not at all,” she said. As important, the study also found that the improvement was not transitory. ”The positive effect remained months, even years after training, indicating long-lasting gains,” she said.

Is there some limit beyond which playing action games loses its positive effect or becomes detrimental? Can you, in other words, have too much of a ‘good thing’?

“For your visual system, probably not. For your social life, perhaps,” said Bavelier.

Roxxxy the Sexbot, by ‘TrueCompanion’

In what is billed as a world first, a life-size robotic girlfriend complete with artificial intelligence and flesh-like synthetic skin was introduced to adoring fans at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

“She can’t vacuum, she can’t cook but she can do almost anything else if you know what I mean,” TrueCompanion’s Douglas Hines said while introducing Roxxxy to the world, needless to say most men would see that as a fair trade off.

“She’s a companion. She has a personality. She hears you. She listens to you. She speaks. She feels your touch. She goes to sleep. We are trying to replicate a personality of a person.”

Roxxxy stands 170cm (five feet, seven inches) tall, weighs 54.43kg (120lbs), “has a full C cup and is ready for action,” according to Hines, who was an artificial intelligence engineer at Bell Labs before starting TrueCompanion.

Roxxxy comes with five personalities. Wild Wendy is outgoing and adventurous, while Frigid Farrah is reserved and shy.

There is a young naive personality along with a Mature Martha that Hines described as having a “matriarchal kind of caring”. S & M Susan is geared for more adventurous types.

Aspiring partners can customise Roxxxy features, including race, hair colour and breast size. A male sex robot named Rocky is in development.

People ordering the robots online at truecompanion.com detail their tastes and interests much like online dating sites but here, the information is used to get the mechanical girlfriend in synch with her mate.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
Categories: consumer reviews, gadget, pop culture, technology
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@OMGFacts Fails at #OMGFacts

Has anyone else noticed that user @AdorianDeck and his bum chum @brysonen are the users behind the recent cash in on the #omgfacts trend of Twitter creating @OMGFacts? Has anyone noticed how all of their facts tend to be wrong?

It’s like they’ve googled ‘list ob kool faxtz’ and are just copy-pasting without any critical evaluation or quality control. Idk about you, but shit like that drives me up the wall. On average most humans are pig shit ignorant, but ‘pop sci’ facts are the bane of academia, science, and thought. Nutshell ‘facts’ may be easy for the ignorant to digest, but they get stuck in the craw of anyone of any education.

It’s possibly one of my biggest pet piss offs, it’s always the pseudo-intellectual type who everyone knows are full of a substance other than book-learnin’s who spout such shit, propogated by morons, who later take these facts to be truths self evidently held on the grounds that they read it on ‘teh interwebs lololol~`!1′

I’m calling you out, bitch. @OMGFacts, employ some form of quality control, or hand the account over to your nearest University. But whatever you do, don’t let @DrKarl touch it, his pop sci facts are almost as ubiquitously fucking WRONG and flawed as yours are.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
Categories: general, lifestyle, pop culture, science, technology, twitter
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Comments: 2 Comments.

Dolby Silences Loud Adverts

Dolby Volume was developed to address a complaint seeming as old as television itself; that shows on screens seem to whisper while commercials shout despite being on the same volume settings. Volume inconsistencies can also occur when compact disks are switched in players or between music files in MP3 devices.

For fellow Australians, you really don’t appreciate how loud adverts are until you download and listen to an American broadcast with adverts intact. You think our ads are loud? The US ones are screamingly loud, I’m talking at least twice the volume of the show that’s being aired!

“One of the biggest complaints consumers have had is volume inconsistencies,” Mr Eggers said. “We solved that problem. Dolby Volume gives us the capability to choose our favourite volume level for all media then set aside the remote and never touch it again.”

The technology is being built into Toshiba televisions and car audio products this year, according to Dolby.

The company recently showed off Dolby True HD, which is being built into Blu-ray high definition video players and disks to deliver sound tracks as immersive as the imagery. “A person with a Blu-ray player can literally hear the same quality heard in the studio when they were mixing the audio; the same quality as is on the master tapes,” Mr Eggers said.

Dolby also developed a Digital Plus audio technology to bring “surround-sound” to online films and other content delivered to televisions that are being built with “widgets” linking them to online services. France, Italy and Poland have adopted Dolby Digital Plus as a standard for high-definition audio in televisions, according to the company.

Dolby also has put technology in headphones that provide stereo surround-sound experiences to people playing films or music on computers, MP3 players or mobile telephones. Dolby Axon in headsets for videogame lovers gives positional feedback to people talking to each other while playing together online by making voices sound as though they are coming from where virtual characters happen to be.

Voices get louder as gamers approach one another, and fainter with distance, according to Dolby. Like in life, sounds made by on-screen characters are obstructed by objects in the game.

“As a gamer, I can tell you it comes in pretty handy to be able to hear your enemies footsteps coming up behind you,” Mr Eggers said.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
Categories: gadget, general, hack, lifestyle, movies, music, technology
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GSM Mobile Phones, Integrity ‘Intact’

A wireless technology industry group has claimed that mobile phone conversations are still safe from eavesdropping in the wake of German researcher Karsten Nohl’s leaking of code used to unscramble calls made by most of the worlds phones last week.

The London-based GSM Association yesterday said that it has spent the past few years figuring out ways to thwart hackers who might try to tap into wireless calls using Nohl’s research, which it first learned of in 2007.

GSM Association engineers have figured out a short-term solution to block eavesdroppers, said James Moran, head of security for the association. It involves making slight changes to the settings in each wireless operator’s network. Carriers can quickly make those adjustments by tweaking existing features in the technology, Mr Moran said.

Mr Nohl’s research applies to GSM technology, which runs about 80 per cent of the world’s mobile phones, including systems run by AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom. Over the next several years, GSM carriers will adopt a new standard for encrypting, or scrambling, voice conversations that will be tougher to crack, according to Mr Moran.

Posted: January 10th, 2010
Categories: gadget, general, hack, pop culture, technology
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Digitising the New York Times

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart and was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas Hopper and John Langford of Carnegie Mellon University, who developed the CAPTCHA programme. To us mere mortals it often appears as hemetic arabic language font, so heavily distorted even humans can’t read it. However they’ve gone a step further, and whilst I may be slow on picking up on this I noticed the ‘easier’ CAPTCHA code to read looks like old type font, and sure enough it is!

CAPTCHA is a program developed by that can tell whether its user is a human or a computer. CAPTCHAs are used by many websites to prevent abuse from “bots,” or automated programs usually written to generate spam. No computer program can read distorted text as well as humans can, so bots cannot navigate sites protected by CAPTCHAs.

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

In an attempt to archive human knowledge digitally archive materials, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being scanned as images, and then transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). Whilst images are readable by humans the text isn’t searchable and cannot be indexed, also file size is compromised as images are much larger and harder to store.

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

I was sold by this point and thought it absolutely novel and twee, but I couldn’t help but wonder how they know what we’re entering is correct. The gimmick is, one of the words is a control word, already known and intentionally seeded back and usually from the same source as the second word, the project assumes that you have entered it correctly and saves the word after enough people have entered the same word in the same fashion and assumes it is correct with higher confidence.

The only downside to this project is that at present they’re digitizing old editions of the New York Times, which isn’t of much benefit to mankind as a whole IMHO, but such is life. If you’re REALLY bored, you can click here to answer reCAPTCHA’s just to contribute to the project.

More by von Ahn

Matchin’ is a covert experiment in artificial intelligence. Every time players agree on a picture, it’s tagged as prettier. Von Ahn, a 28-year-old professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, will put the game online this summer, and as thousands of people play it, his database of 100,000 photos will be imbued with something quintessentially human: an aesthetic sensibility, encoded as a ranking of attractiveness.

The game basically tricks humans into teaching computers what constitutes prettiness. If enough people play Matchin’ — and von Ahn’s previous games have garnered millions of play-hours — it could eventually rate the appeal of every image on the Internet. Google could incorporate the ratings into its search engine, so you could search specifically for “beautiful” pictures of houses, people, or landscapes.

“People are good at figuring out what’s attractive, and computers are good at quickly searching and finding,” von Ahn says. “You put them together, and bang!”

This is “human computation,” the art of using massive groups of networked human minds to solve problems that computers cannot. Ask a machine to point to a picture of a bird or pick out a particular voice in a crowd, and it usually fails. But even the most dim-witted human can do this easily. Von Ahn has realized that our normal view of the human-computer relationship can be inverted. Most of us assume computers make people smarter. He sees people as a way to make computers smarter.

Odds are you’ve already benefited from von Ahn’s work. Like when you type in one of those stretched and skewed words before getting access to a Yahoo email account or the Ticketmaster store. That’s a Captcha, which von Ahn developed in 2000 to thwart spambots. Or there’s von Ahn’s picture-labeling games, which have lured thousands of bored Web surfers into tagging 300,000 photos online — doing it so effectively that Google bought his idea last year to improve its Image Search engine.

Above excerpt from Wired Magazine (16.07) For Certain Tasks, the Cortex Still Beats the CPU by Clive Thompson

Posted: December 15th, 2009
Categories: general, news, technology
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