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Wednesday December 31, 2014 Tech News

Sensor that can detect vibrations from living cells could be used in alien life search.NASA to hack its own 10-year-old Mars rover to fix its flash memory issues.Study: 83% of dark web traffic goes to child abuse sites, not drugs or government leaks.Android app promising pirated version of "The Interview" also installs malware that steals Citi or Korean banks accounts' info.DARPA seeks drones that can fly up to 45 mph indoors, small and agile enough to enter through open windows, optimized for urban / disaster areas; weaponization not specified.Idaho researchers unveil lightpaper, tiny-LED-infused sheets that can be applied to walls or printed on any object; run current through conductive layer to get light.Future cities to get power from footsteps; 130-year-old idea, only possible to leverage with modern manufacturing techniques.Funny: Aussie police accidentally retweets porn and favorites it; heavy into social media, awarded for marketing efforts.Email is NOT dead: survey shows it at top of "must have" tools for adult workers who use the internet; click for more insights.Let's poke a nuke: South Korean activist to launch balloons with DVDs of Sony's movie "The Interview" above North Korea. Not known if SK government will intervene.Quick news briefs:
Chinese Huawei smartphone maker's revenues jump nearly one third, to ~$12 billions.
Possibly Sony insider, not North Korea, responsible for Sony hack (developing).
Chicago: Uber driver charged with sexual assault of female passenger (last November).
Trevor Baylis, wind-up radio inventor, gets knighted (UK); never profited from invention, by choice.
FTC case: your bank account info can be bought for as little as 50 cents.

Tuesday December 30, 2014 Tech News

Funny: brick-and-mortar suits playing it cool, and mercilessly outed on Twitter.Grocery delivery startup Instacart just about to close $220 million funding round.Gmail traffic starts picking back up in China, where it was blocked for four days.Chevron to support Apple Pay at the pump in early 2015 (already in convenient stores).After unwittingly forcing users to recollect the past year's traumas, Facebook apologizes for its pushy Year in Review feature.New bicycle-mounted dashboard inspired by Audi includes turn signals, headlight, tail light, and smartphone dock/charger combo.Snowden files show NSA and GCHQ (UK) difficulties in tracking users across Tor network, accessing sites on dark web.Half-light-half-matter quantum particles discovered at room temp in semiconductors from molybdenum and sulfur atoms layer; breakthrough could allow devices to leverage properties of both light & matter.United Airlines and Orbitz suing 22-year-old developer of site that saves travelers money by finding flights with layover in your destination city - often much cheaper.Hacker recreates German defense minister's fingerprint from hi-def pic of her hands.Where does Ebola come from? Bats and primates are top picks, but still unsolved.Next gen: stealth combat drones built for conventional warfare, like US vs. China.NASA designs ape-like robot for disaster and recovery, inspired from Mars rover.Yahoo Directory, pre-search-engine portal, to be shut down this week - nearly 20 y.o.From device activations, Apple sees iPhone as top Christmas gift, Samsung far behind.In Europe, Apple now offers 14-day refund option in App Store and iTunes.Apple granted patent for motion-tracking pen and stylus, great for rumored iPad pro.Microsoft introduces "Spartan" light web browser for Windows 10, to supplement IE.

Monday December 29, 2014 Tech News

Random use of antibiotic & self-medication in India lead to colistin-resistant bacteria, a last resort drug banned for its toxicity, but used in antibiotic-resistant infections!! After Gmail, China's "Great Firewall" now seems to block access to Google's search engine as well; could be accidental.German hacker: a simple photo can fool a cell phone's fingerprint reader; still difficult to pull off, so this protection remains the safest option to protect access to your data.China now blocks Gmail, Google's free email service; possibly also to weaken Google, since Chinese recipients might not even receive messages sent from Gmail.Uber updates its safety regulations to work around its ban in New Delhi earlier this month (after woman raped by driver).Psychologically, making deadlines feel more present means less procrastination: break up tasks into smaller, sooner-due chunks, and think in terms of weeks instead of months.Airlines pick from an array of tracking technologies, based in part on cost. Just like vanished AirAsia plane, 90% of US airlines use the cheaper technology, "ACARS".Poor Sony: K-Pop star (South Korea) sues company for unauthorized use of her song (30 seconds) in "The Interview" movie.New generation, 40 and under, heaviest user of tech, but also most clueless when it comes to its underpinnings; some schools try to renew interest in hardcore engineering.Sony's movie "The Interview" makes $15 million online in opening weekend.

Sunday December 28, 2014 Tech News

Viral - NY app developer posts video of Christmas gift to parent: house paid off.Despite initial Apple refusal, Sony's movie "The Interview" now offered on iTunes.Quick overview of robot uses in traditional industries, like elderly care (NZ-focused).Booming: illegal but highly profitable sales of medical drugs online, gang-operated; estimated average return of 5,000%!For third day, Sony trying to restore its PlayStation Network from Christmas day hack; FBI looking into it.Despite FBI claims, some US security experts doubtful that North Korea is responsible for Sony hack; too sophisticated for NK.Editorial: the year the internet finally came of age - it's now an integral part of our lives.The Observer's tech quiz of 2014: part 1 of 3 (links included for parts 2 and 3).Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (still down) hackers release 13,000 passwords and some users' credit card information.Stanford team creates gloves mimicking gecko sticky feet, allowing humans to climb glass walls; potential for NASA to grab space junk, plus climbing and toy industry.Downside: fitness gadgets that measure steps or running activity can be used in court, especially for personal injury claims.Mexico researchers develop new ways of cleaning industrial waste from metals with patent-pending process; great potential for battery manufacture, electro-plating, coal power facilities.

Saturday December 27, 2014 Tech News

Tactile Astronomy: teaching blind kids about stars, thanks to 3D-printing, which slashes down costs of custom models, previously only affordable by museums.4D-Printing: 3D-printed models made of materials that adapt to light, temperature, and other external stimuli; detailed look at a 4D-printed dress, now already at MOMA.Trending Twitter hashtag #BringHimHome for ISIS' release of captured Jordanian pilot whose plane was shot down in Syria.Cars with wireless networks and internet connections can be hacked, even allowing control over breaking and acceleration.Reflections on the blurring lines between human and machine, thanks to increasingly powerful processors, yet very vulnerable.Swiss scientist eliminate battery issues in pacemakers; create heartbeat-powered version with self-winding clockwork tech.Amazon gets 10 million new Prime members this holiday season (at $99/head); announces new, unspecified cities for the "Prime Now" service (same-day deliveries).NSA, in response to ACLU lawsuit, releases heavily redacted documents outlining its violations of citizens' privacy in 2011-2013.Unwittingly, Sony's The Interview becomes case study for new business ways: releasing new movies both in theaters and online.Overview of Lizard Squad, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network hackers; usually more like pranksters, until Twitter bomb threat.How to recycle old gadgets after Christmas: bring them to Best Buy, sell them on Gazelle, or find a nearby recycling center.Spanish agricultural engineer tries to save diversity and rare grapes; commercialized operations focus only on most popular ones.

Friday December 26, 2014 Tech News

Hackers reportedly stopped their distributed denial-of-service attacks on Sony and Microsoft after getting vouchers from German entrepreneur Kim DotCom.2.3 billion people using mobile internet, one third of Earth's population, which profoundly changes lives in the developing world.Xbox Live back up after yesterday's cyber attack, PlayStation Network still down.Iran switches from site-blocking policy to "smart filtering" content instead.Scientist trying to develop Christmas trees that don't lose their needles, top reason consumers don't get a real tree.Lung cancer can be controlled by preventing cells from unbinding; hard to treat, because cancer can stay dormant for up to 20 years.Hackers take credit for Sony PlayStation Network outage, month after Sony hack.Same hackers takes down Microsoft's Xbox Live service, along with Sony PlayStation.Research shows that 40% of cancers stem from life choices like smoking, unhealthy diets / obesity, alcohol, skin damage from the sun, and lack of physical activity.Genomics (study of genetic code) has exploded in recent years, thanks to falling costs and increases in analysis speed; enormous potential for medicine.

Thursday December 25, 2014 Tech News

Blood-pressure measuring apps can be dangerously wrong, particularly 7 Android apps that use data from pressed finger.Research team across Japanese universities prototype sticky sensors that can attach to live tissue; strong medical implications.Facebook to face class action lawsuit for scanning its users messages' content for advertising purposes (stopped in 2012).Rackspace DNS down on Monday from distributed denial-of-service attacks; issue fixed, investigation ongoing.Another 14 tracks from Madonna's latest album leaked online, from an album not due for release until next March on iTunes.Following Sony hack, Japan hardens cyber defense mechanisms; expects to be North Korea's next target, since "The Interview" movie was released after all.Apple not interested in offering Sony's "The Interview" on iTunes, despite Sony going through White House as "mediator".Guardian's yearly roundup: the best mobile apps of 2014 for iOS and Android.

Wednesday December 24, 2014 Tech News

South Korean blind students get a 3D-printed yearbook to remember what their friends' faces "look" like! (only 8 students).What's the internet like in North Korea? A giant intranet called "Kwangmyong", gov-controlled cell phones, and propaganda.UK: Manchester U researchers discover potential of graphene for batteries, using filters that generate electricity from air! Samsung closes its flagship London store, keeps other UK-based store open, and will collaborate with retailers for outlets.Surprisingly, Ireland says it would be "pleased to consider" US DOJ requests for Microsoft emails stored domestically.Strong profits at American Airlines (falling oil prices), pay increases to union employees.China to simplify foreign investment rules to tame domestic factories' excess capacity.Russia: sovereign credit rating near junk status despite strong countermeasures.India: PM Narendra Modi uses rare exec order towards joint insurance and coal industry privatization - politically risky.Consortium led by Apple and Microsoft just sold 4,000 tech patents to RPX Corp for $900 million (Google was outbid in 2011, when purchased bankrupt Nortel Networks).Microsoft's Windows App Studio integrates with "TouchDevelop", programming language designed to easily create apps directly on a target device (still in beta).As Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba expands beyond its borders, it just spent $160 million tackling counterfeits.Tech in clothing: the ski gear that adapts to light, to your body moisture, and safety.

Tuesday December 23, 2014 Science and Tech News

South Korea: Seoul city government promises to pays ~$900 to anyone who reports unlicensed (Uber) driver Capitalizing on Sony hack, a messaging app is pitched to Hollywood: year-old Confide app sends encrypted messages which automatically self-destruct. Apple releases Mac security update for first time without prompting users - no restart needed. This vulnerability also affects Linux / UNIX (upon which Mac OS X is built). Two experimental DNA vaccines for Ebola and related Marburg virus being tried in the US, the UK, Mali, and Uganda. Oldest stone tool found in Turkey, 1.2 million years old, show humans through Asia and Europe much earlier than thought. Top 10 tech articles of 2014, according to The Age, like the most expensive tweet. In-depth review: philosophical and moral underpinnings of The Talos Principle. Ever-cheaper prices popularize the drone an its uses: mapping drones now used in all kinds of unpredictable scenarios (read!) Diamonds, strongly linked carbon atoms that form the strongest known mineral, could be used to understand life's origins on Earth. Google shows off first non-prototype build of its self-driving car: features headlights, and keeps manual override controls. Following EU court's "Right to Be Forgotten" ruling, Google expunges over 250,000 URLs from search results tied to a person's name. In switching from hunting-gathering (heavy exertion) to farming, human bones got lighter and weaker; 7,000 years ago, humans had bones as strong as an orangutan's.

Monday December 22, 2014 Science and Tech News

In collaboration with Boeing, the struggling Canadian BlackBerry manufacturer RIM may have found a new niche: self-destructing smartphone for governments and other security-sensitive organizations, featuring tamper-proof case and biometric scanners, and an enterprise service to remotely wipe any BlackBerry or Android device. News increasingly consumed online, with customizable formats and niche topics. Israel startups fastest to get acquired, raising concerns that full potential is never reached. WikiLeaks posts CIA tips for secret agents on the go; disappointingly commonsensical. Pirate Bay file sharing site shows first signs of life since being shutdown by Swedish authorities on December 9. Romance: number of bacterias exchanged by French kiss 8 times higher than previously thought, and it's good for your health. The best innovations of 2014: cancer-detecting pills, compact nuclear fusion reactor, the HP Sprout, and more. Over half-a-billion people use a smartphone in China: mobile advertising growth takes over TV. Western and domestic brands creatively leverage apps + viral marketing. US cybersecurity firm finds malware, likely Chinese, infecting Afghan government websites: there is currently no known antivirus protection available. 3D-printed functional polymers change color / shape / composition under stretching / light / heat; promising medical applications. Sony hack draws blueprint for entities intent on silencing organizations through cyber-warfare, should be a wake-up call for all. One week before CES, Samsung launches 34-inch curved-screen TV, ultra-wide quad high def for a more immersive experience. Geek fun: Santa's sleigh redesigned for high-altitude, aerodynamic efficiency. Data visualization: entire world population mapped as peaks and valleys, Asia peaks.

Sunday December 21, 2014 Science and Tech News

Known for quality programmers, Romania wants to become #1 tech startup scene in Europe: international corporations already attracted by highest number of tech workers per capita, and 0% tax rate for IT workers. Sharing economy (massive, worldwide, online barter exchanges) displaces industries and shifts traditional businesses' priorities and tactics. Successful examples of sharing econ: AirBnB (home-based hotel services) and Uber (use someone's car as taxi). Without court order, Russian Facebook agrees to censor page created to organize rally for opposition politician. Industry experts (academics, legislators, people in tech) forecast that privacy will be a luxury by 2025, and that our current notion of the concept will by then seem quaint. NASA unveils Tess, new satellite to search for life on other planets; launch in mid-2017. Following Sony's decision not to release its movie "The Interview", BitTorrent (file-sharing ecosystem) offers to distribute it. As often, regulators take time catching up with tech; California DMV officials struggle regulating self-driving cars (mostly safety concerns, though driverless cars tend to have a better safety records than human drivers - 700,000 accident-free miles in one case). US government asks help China's help in stopping future North Korean cyberattacks (their telecommunications run through Chinese-operated networks). Science tackles the problem of farm animals' farts, aka methane-rich greenhouse gases.

Saturday December 20, 2014 Science and Tech News

ISS astronaut needs socket wrench, NASA emails him one! (A 3D-printing model :) T-mobile: $90m fine over unauthorized third-party charges on customer bills. Hackers selling online the next Sony-style attack, a very lucrative specialty. 5G, the new revolution in communication technologies: more channels for simultaneous connections, higher bandwidth, and lower-latency - all for less power consumption. Strong dollar is a problem for US-based software companies, affecting profits. Samsung considering Apple Pay competitor that would also read physical credit cards. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, despite issues, discovers new planet, 2.5 times Earth size. iPad as a school teaching tool: study tracks how kids think when using a tablet. FCC proposal to ease access to cable programming for online video companies. Amputee dog gets Oscar-Pistorius-like, 3D-printed running blades as front legs.

Friday December 19, 2014 Science and Tech News

Google slams MPAA for wanting to revive SOPA following Sony hack. Microsoft sues tech-support scammers (you've seen their ads), offers tips. Facebook-owned Instagram deletes million of suspected-spam accounts. Elon Musk's Hyperloop 800mph train kept alive without funding thanks engineers working for shares instead of cash. Israel: 8,000 years-old olive oil discovered in Israel, oldest to date; most common crop in the Bible, along with grain and must. Whopping 469 new top-level domain names (gTLDs) in 2014, including ".pizza" and ".florist"; 3.6 million already registered. Tracking devices on birds shows they can hear / feel tornadoes while still time to escape, and come right back when it's over. littleBits releases do-it-yourself, smart-home automation kit: SMS text when the laundry's done, curtain up when the sun's up... Cyberattack via malicious email against German iron plant causes physical damage. Australian magistrate taken off a case after admitting she had googled the accused. Android M project will bring Google's operating system into cars in 2015. German researchers find security flaws allowing anyone to tap into cell phone calls. After Sony hack, companies completely revisit IT and data security measures. Apple under attack over employees treatment in contractors' Chinese factories. U. of Toronto professor creates algorithm to scan deep into DNA to find diseases. Lawsuits vs. SXSW after car fleeing cops crashes through barricade on concertgoers. By the numbers: should Google compete with Amazon in the e-commerce space? Following backlash, Yahoo-owned Flickr discontinues selling picture prints, never sharing profits with copyright owners.

Thursday December 18, 2014 Science and Tech News

Canada boost competition, auctions wireless spectrum with advantage to new carriers. New Cadillac CT6 with virtual mirror (cam) increases rear visibility by 300%. jQuery most popular JavaScript library, used on over 60% of sites around the world. ICANN hacked, employees' emails and personal information compromised. Man who lost two arms 40 years ago now fitted with mind-controlled robotic arms. Amazon pilots 1-hour deliveries for Prime members in Manhattan (extra $7.99/order). Microsoft browser choice screen for EU Windows users retired. Data visualization charts of Chinese pollution over the past 13 years. Death scene from The Interview leaked online; movie won't be released next week. Microsoft Sway web publishing app (beta) now open to the public, no invite needed. Cattle sounds recorded and analyzed for 10 months, patterns emerge: louder + higher pitch when mother separated from calf. Much more of Earth's oldest water, billions of years old, under surface than previously thought; much more hydrogen as well. Intel, dominant in desktop computing but not mobile, sees a double Atom processor find its way in Lenovo's latest mid-range phones. Curiosity rover finds first definitely identified piece of organic matter on Mars; these molecules are necessary for life as we know it, but also exist outside of it.

Wednesday December 17, 2014 Science and Tech News

2014 sees new wave of tech disruptions: 3D printing and robotics, Bitcoin and crowdfunding, Apple's HealthKit, robotic surgeons, and drop in genome sequencing prices, fracking, grid parity, and the disappearance of landline. 2015 to see even bigger transformations of existing industries. Despite regular (and tired) claims that "email is dead", small business should keep low-cost email marketing a top priority. Feeling an emerging trend, over a third of Google Ventures' 2014 investments went into health and life sciences. 3D-printed tumor replicas help docs fight cancer by better targeting the real thing. $3,000 3D-printed dress flows like fabric, built from interlocking plastic parts; custom software created to push the tech's limit. Google mulls warning users about visiting unencrypted sites (non-HTTPS); already uses HTTPS out of 200 factors to boost ranking. A look inside AirBnB's luxurious call center in Portland, OR: open space, couches, wood appointments and exposed bricks! At 9.5% market share, Nokia stays second largest mobile phone maker by unit sold. #AskACop trending Twitter hashtag illustrates tensions from events like Ferguson - mostly used to gripe, rather than asking. 18% of Europeans have never used the internet, down from 43% in 2006: Iceland is top user, and Romania the most offline. Blackberry seeks differentiation and a rebound by launching "the Classic", a brand new phone with a physical keyboard. Using copyright law, Sony achieves aim: Reddit users banned for sharing documents stolen during the hack. Europeans willing to give up lots to keep mobile internet access: fast food, newspapers, chocolate, alcohol and books top the list.

Tuesday December 16, 2014 Science and Tech News

Most-spoken languages not necessarily the most influential: data visualization charts for book translations, Wikipedia, and Twitter. Apple cleared in 10-year-old iPod antitrust lawsuit, for DRM-protected music, not readable on other MP3 players. (Note: DRM was there to get reluctant / hesitant recording industry on board with the then-new-world of digital music and online distribution.) GM to invest $3.6 billion over next 4 years, building factories in Mexico; creating 5,600 direct GM jobs and 40k indirect ones. Online travel booking site, founded in 1998, sold for $120 millions to Swiss travel firm Bravofly Rumbo. Equine DNA shows selective breeding evolution, with some genes absent from ancient horses, like "speed gene". New image format BPG promises JPEG quality 50% smaller, with open-source HEVC algorithm; but needs own viewer, unlike backward-compatible mozjpeg. Slideshow: yearly electric consumption of our most popular electronics. Cancer patients shown to physically alter their DNA through meditation. File-encrypting ransomware TorrentLocker infects 40k+ worldwide, only 570 pay. Catering to the fast-growing, online Chinese female shoppers demographic. New York City to offer free gigabit WiFi -very fast-, funded by ads on ultimately 10k kiosk doubling as charging stations. Skype now offers real-time translation, starting with spoken English and Spanish, and 40+ written languages for text chat. 2014 fastest rising global and domestic Google searches eerily similar: Robin Williams, World Cup, Ebola, ISIS, etc. Industry supports Microsoft appeal against DOJ overreach on stored-abroad emails.

Monday December 15, 2014 Science and Tech News

Yahoo makes $68 million from investment in big data software company Hortonworks, following $45 billions from Alibaba IPO earlier this year (BI). Volvo starts selling cars online, direct-to-consumer (Reuters). 3D map shows weather information in real time (PS). One step closer to human cell: DNA anchored to silicon chip synthesizes protein (IBT). US Navy's spy fish, "Silent Nemo", spies in hostile waters and protects US fleet - video (CNN). Bird songs related to human speech: genome sequencing could help human speech disorders (SA). One's initial product assessment is mostly based on color; employee satisfaction is linked to workplace colors (NZH). In a legal hard-sell, Sony forbids viewing or distributing materials leaked during last month's massive hack of the company's computer systems (CBC). Initial outrage in Australia at Uber's surging prices (automatically adjusted by app during high demand) for rides out of Sidney, during the hostage situation; rides are now free (Age). Increasing discontent with Google's crowdsourced map app "Waze", which guides freeway traffic onto faster routes through residential areas (CNET).

Sunday December 14, 2014

Amazon UK hour-long glitch via "Repricer Express" software yields number of items sold for pennies, during peak Christmas shopping (CNET). Script of next James Bond movie ("Spectre", Nov 2015) also stolen during Sony hack (BBC). New software-enhanced, holographic microscopy technique developed by NYU physicist with off-the-shelf equipment, potentially replacing electron microscopes, which cost millions (SA). Following DOJ overreach on emails stored outside the US, Microsoft appeals in major precedent-setting case (TG). After 7th documents release, Sony hackers promise "Christmas Gift", as logistic and PR problems mount for the company (Yahoo). Detailed look at upcoming Windows 10 and Cortana, Microsoft's Siri-like virtual assistant (Giz).

Saturday December 13, 2014

Microsoft confirms problems with patch KB 3004394 on Windows 7, and recommends manually uninstalling it (Forbes). This year's most shared YouTube video was the spider dog (100m+ views). Apple's new A9 chip, for the iPhone 7, will be made in the US, in Samsung's factory in Austin, TX. Following massive Sony hack, the company, unable to process payments, suspends filming. iOS developers' growing frustration with Apple, which inexplicably pulls apps from its mobile app store. WSJ guide to the best tablets for kids. Iowa first state in the US to put drivers' license on an officially approved mobile app.

Friday December 12, 2014

Google moves its engineers out of Russia, maybe following last summer's law forcing internet companies to keep Russians' personal data in the country. YouTube now supports sharing videos as animated GIFs (click Share > GIF > Set start and end time). New Uber setback: industry pressure makes French court consider a ban; boost in China, by getting investment from local internet giant Baidu. Microsoft fights reach of US search warrant for emails stored outside the country, in criminal investigation. Like PayPal, Microsoft now accepts the Bitcoin digital currency in its App Store and various Xbox e-stores. Once in, Sony hackers found sensitive files unencrypted, important passwords stored in spreadsheets. Adobe buys Fotolia (stock photos), expanding its offerings to its 3.5 million Creative Cloud subscribers.

Thursday December 11, 2014

Sony Pictures Entertainment execs, whose inappropriate emails were leaked after the Sony hack, apologized to President Obama and Angelina Jolie. California sues Uber for the startup's iffy background-check claims, while competitor Lyft is settling its own lawsuit; Uber suspends Dehli operations after driver rapes passenger. With over 100 million new users in 2014, Instagram is now officially bigger than Twitter (300 vs. 284 million users). Microsoft announces January 21 event dedicated to Windows 10.

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