Not to be outdone by its competitors (or future owner), Time Warner Cable has released a transparency report of its own. From January to June last year, the telco obeyed some 12,000 information requests from the government that break down as such. Of the legal requests, 82 percent were for subpoenas, 12 percent were for court orders and four percent related to search warrants. Seventy-seven percent of the time that data was requested, it was subscriber and transactional info that was disclosed, 20 percent resulted in no data shared at all and three percent of the time, content information was disclosed. Because the report doesn't give exact numbers, though, comparing the precise amount of requests that TWC handled with its competitors isn't exactly easy.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
It's arguably cool enough that Google is working on smartphones that can scan your surroundings, but now those devices are slated to take a spin in space too. How's that for living in the future? NASA first started sticking smartphones to machines back in 2011 when it used Samsung's Nexus S as the brains for a trio of robotic SPHERES satellite that use bursts of carbon dioxide to putter around the International Space Station. Those aging handsets will soon get the boot, as two of Google's Project Tango smartphones will hitch a ride on Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft when it resupplies the ISS in May. Why? The space agency is interested in seeing if the phone's spatial sensing abilities can help those floating robots navigate their surroundings better than they can right now. If it's lucky, NASA's zeal to upgrade the SPHERES' brains could ultimately lead to the development of a roaming robot that works as well outside the station (or around an asteroid) as it does inside a tin can hurtling around the earth.
Posted by Augustine at 1:15 AM
The Social Security numbers and billing information of hundreds of thousands of patients in San Francisco and Los Angeles have been stolen after a break-in at a billing contractor.
The information was stored on computers that were stolen from Sutherland Healthcare Solutions in Torrance, Calif., which provides billing services for the health departments of Los Angeles County and San Francisco.
The breach affects 55,900 patients in San Francisco and 168,500 patients in Los Angeles County.
Most of the affected patients are uninsured, according to a press release from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Personal information that was compromised includes names, billing information, some social security numbers, dates and locations of services, and dates of birth.
The theft underscores the dangerous possibility of data being stolen from contracted companies that have been entrusted with thousands of people's sensitive personal information.
Los Angeles County Assistant Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell told the Los Angeles Times that he's "not aware of another breach of this significance ever having occurred."
The health departments are notifying those affected by mail, but it might be challenging to reach everyone because some patients might have changed addresses or have difficulty receiving mail, said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. San Francisco is also organizing other outreach efforts to track down affected patients.
Free credit monitoring will be offered to those whose information might have been compromised.
Posted by Augustine at 1:01 AM
Friday, March 21, 2014
How one doctor helped develop the weapons to battle cancer.
Hopes were high when Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971. If scientists could build a nuclear bomb, send a man to the moon and cure polio, they could surely defeat cancer.
But over 40 years later millions still die from the diseases that fall under this broad banner. Can it therefore be said that the war on cancer has failed?
No, says Paul Marks in "On The Cancer Frontier". But the goal should be containment, not victory, because the enemy is uniquely intractable. Cancer sabotages cells, then uses their resources to destroy the body. Treatments often kill good cells along with the bad. Even when forced to retreat, cancers return in more potent forms. "Medical science has never faced a more inscrutable, more mutable, or more ruthless adversary," says Dr Marks.
He would know. As the former head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a leading cancer centre in New York, Dr Marks has taken part in many of the developments that have enhanced the understanding of the disease. Like an intellectual Forrest Gump, he has worked with Nobel prizewinners, counselled first ladies and been sought out by a shah.
But it is the story behind the science that makes this book a compelling read, even for non-boffins, who can rely on good metaphors to decipher the jargon. (A virus that contains only RNA, and no DNA, is like "a functioning automobile with a transmission but no engine".)
Human cells mystified scientists until the 1950s, when James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA. As researchers began to unravel how cells worked they also began to understand how cancer attacked and reprogrammed them. But the medical community, long focused on visible symptoms, was slow to embrace the idea of looking at cancer from the inside out. And when the government ! began po uring money into the anti-cancer effort in the 1970s, the debate over how to confront the scourge intensified.
Although the science behind cancer was still in its infancy, some argued that the funds should go to finding cures quickly based on existing, but incomplete, leads--the "moon shot" approach. Penicillin, after all, had been discovered without anyone knowing its exact molecular workings. Sceptical scientists wanted to continue studying cancer’s biology--they still hardly knew how the enemy worked. But Nixon’s war led to high expectations. "The politics had got way ahead of the science," says Dr Marks. The result was a muddled policy and a disappointed public.
Nevertheless Dr Marks claims America is winning this particular war. The death rate from cancer has fallen, though total deaths are up because of a growing and ageing population. If Dr Marks is right, then some of the credit must go to efforts aimed at prevention--the fact that Americans smoke less than they used to has little to do with advances in cellular biology. But he gives this short shrift. And though he encourages screening in order to catch more cancers early, he makes little of the controversy surrounding the needless treatments that can result.
These quibbles hardly detract from Dr Marks’s fascinating journey through the world of cancer research. Scientists have made great strides in working out how cancer cells conduct their guerrilla war on the body. As a result, they have been able to develop precision weapons to replace the carpet-bombing treatments of old. Cancer is now a less lethal enemy. Still, Dr Marks doubts it can be eliminated. Many will have trouble seeing that as success.
Click here to subscribe to The Economist.
Posted by Augustine at 4:30 PM
It's not a bad idea to measure a room before you go out and buy a bunch of new furniture. And if you've got an iPhone, that becomes less of an ordeal because you can trade your tape measure for this slick app called RoomScan. It automatically generates floorplans by simply tapping your phone on every wall.
Posted by Augustine at 2:49 PM
Aerogel must be one of the strangest supermaterials to ever exist. Ghostly and shimmering in appearance, it's insanely light, incredibly strong, and an amazing thermal insulator. And its tricks look absolutely impossible when you see them up close.
Posted by Augustine at 2:49 PM
PlanetQuest is NASA's effort to search for new Earths, exoplanets like ours that would probably contain life too. They're doing some really cool stuff, like this sunflower-telescope combo spaceship—"a cutting-edge effort to take pictures of planets orbiting stars far from the sun." Imagine that—seeing the actual planets!
Posted by Augustine at 2:46 PM
DARPA is investigating handheld UV laser devices to help soldiers detect biological and chemical weapons from a safe distance. But when they master that technology, it won't just be used on the battlefield; it could also help public health workers detect and track outbreaks of communicable diseases. Fighting flu with lasers? This really is the future.
Posted by Augustine at 2:33 PM
Smartphones already use a variety of different technologies to make everyday tasks easier. Don't know where you're going? Fire up Google Maps or any other navigation app that can leverage your phone's GPS sensor. Need to know the answer to a quick question? Just whip out your phone and ask Google or Siri.
But current technology can only take us so far, according to a professor at Purdue University. Researchers at Purdue are working on technology that could essentially turn your smartphone into a third human-like eye. The tech, which would use a system of algorithms known as deep learning, could enable your smartphone's camera to immediately understand any object it sees.
Eugenio Culurciello, an associate professor in Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering who is involved in the project, said the technology would work similarly to that shown in the movie "Her."
"It would give [smartphones] that capability," Culurciello told Business Insider, specifically referencing a scene in which Joaquin Phoenix's character takes out his phone ("Samantha" voiced by Scarlett Johansson) to show it the world around him. "The phone would see the way [Joaquin Phoenix] sees ... that's basically what we're really going for here."
According to Culurciello, the technology would dig deeper than current augmented reality apps and contextual computing. Apps such as Nokia City Lens, for example, can use your smartphone camera's viewfinder to tell you which building is in front of you or which restaurant is nearby. City Lens does that by pulling information from Nokia Maps and overlaying it over your environment. With the technology that Purdue is researching, however, Culurciello says there would be no server communication required. The phone would simply understand the image it's seeing, just like you would.
Posted by Augustine at 2:27 PM
At Sony Mobile's HQ in Tokyo, Kichiro Kurozumi is itching to go into detail about the new flagship Xperia Z2. The VP says it's "all in the details." We really hope so, because it's getting increasingly hard to tell Sony's recent smartphone iterations apart, especially when it comes to the Xperia Z2 and Z1. Kurozumi emphatically states that it's all the work done behind the scenes (reengineered frame, a 20.7-megapixel camera that records in 4K) that makes the Z2 stand out. "2014 is about premium smartphones, tablets and the smartwear experience but we... Sony has to do it differently."
Take the Xperia Z2's 4K-recording camera sensor. Sony's certainly not the only smartphone maker with a device capable of recording video in Ultra HD, but Kurozumi reckons the company's software-based "SteadyShot" stabilization keeps the Xperia Z2 ahead of the pack. Because of the relatively large camera sensor, it can compensate for more movement than its rivals -- up to 21 percent. He offers up a professional-level clip and his own real-world sample from a few weeks earlier in Barcelona, and (courtesy of a 4K Sony TV in the room) the level of detail is noticeably beyond that of 1080p video, but won't the lack of 4K screens (UHD TVs are still pretty rare) limit the usefulness? We asked Kurozumi exactly that.No surprises -- the Sony exec didn't see it that way:
"There's no dependency on 4K TVs. [Video] will look best on those, but even when downscaled to 1080p, the higher-resolution video looks good -- better than simply recording in 1080p."
We got to test out the Xperia Z2's 4K recording for ourselves -- embedded below -- which should offer a good estimation of what you can expect. (You should be able to play it back in 1080p or 4K, if you've got the hardware.) We gave it a tough order: filming Tokyo's lit-up skyline at night. Sony is fairly proud of the still-photo capabilities of its top smartphone imaging sensor. We've already documented the performance of its predecessor, but this time there's image stabilization (a wish-list item from our last review), so it wouldn't hurt to try the Xperia Z2 before our review, right?
You can immediately check out the lack of bluish noise and haze in the video, despite the mostly pitch-black subject material. Those image-stabilization skills also appear to dramatically boost the low-light photos too, even in our short testing time, although it made some shots look a little unnatural -- Sony tells us that this Xperia Z2 wasn't the final retail model. Sure, it's got the same megapixel count as the camera inside the Xperia Z1, but it's different. (A lot of Sony people stressed this during our playtime with the sequel.)
The video results are surprisingly pleasing. The image stabilization smooths away our handshakes, and our biggest complaint is the sporadic refocusing. Once it does lock on, however, you can see the extra pixels there on the video -- if your monitor's got the resolution for it.
So when will we get a smartphone with a 4K display? Kurozumi and Sony's VP of Mobile Development Akihiro Hiraiwa both laugh. Hiraiwa says, "Some day! There was the idea that users wouldn't be able to discern any increases in resolution once it got to a certain level, but that's wrong. People can tell." Kurozumi adds, "We now need the right size for phones, the right processors capable of running 4K. We're looking for [these] solutions." Smartphones would also need enough battery power to run on such a high resolution for a respectable amount of time.
"We now need the right size for phones, the right processors capable of running 4K. We're looking for [these] solutions."
But back to the displays we're using right now. Sony has taken on board the criticism for its existing -- often middling -- smartphone screens. "Live color LED" is the solution, swapping out a blue LED and yellow phosphor for a combination of blue LED plus red and green phosphors. Sony reckons this makes the screen substantially brighter, and expands the color palette beyond previous models. The company had some of those weird color gamut graphs to prove it, but it's there for you to see on the new phone -- it's a substantial improvement on what came before.
Another change from the Z1 to the Z2 was to rethink how it made the smartphone's frame. Instead of three separate parts, Sony managed to craft the same structure in one piece, and in the process reduced the number of seams and weak points, making the phone easier to water protect. Oh and it made the entire thing lighter and thinner, too: there are those details.
Earlier in the day, Sony Mobile's CEO (and Kurozumi's boss) Kunimasa Suzuki told us how 2013 was Xperia's breakout year. However, Sony still hasn't breached the global top 5 smartphone sellers list yet. In its native Japan, it's the top Android manufacturer -- it sells more phones and tablets than Samsung. He says, "The best of Sony is realized in these products" -- something we've heard many times before, with mixed results. The Sony Mobile CEO elaborates on his MWC presentation: "But ... without being bolder, we cannot be a bigger player. We can't make better products."
"Without being bolder, we cannot be a bigger player. We can't make better products."
"This year, we're taking a bolder mindset." With a new lifelogging wearable on the horizon, that's the plan, but Sony could find it difficult to push its new Xperia Z2 as another big step forward, regardless of its attention to detail. "We think the similarities are a positive thing," says Kurozumi. "If you already owned the Xperia Z (or Z1), then you'll see the Z2 in stores and know what it is ... what it can do. You'll also see the extra features, like 4K recording and the free noise-canceling headphones."
"The issue is marketing. We need to show everyone these are great products and communicate this." Will that be enough to create a top-selling smartphone? "If we didn't have Apple, then we wouldn't be here. iPhones are still very innovative." (Earlier, he also said that Sony has no plans to introduce a fingerprint sensor -- not yet.) "...But we don't think that we're losing in this game, either."
Posted by Augustine at 1:59 PM
If you're a hardcore gamer, you probably know Snowdrop, the new game engine used in the new Tom Clancy's The Division. I'm not, so I learned about Snowdrop through this new video just released for the Game Developers Conference 2014. It's unbelievable.
Posted by Augustine at 7:04 AM
As meaningful as GarageBand's mobile life is to Apple, the tune-making app is still considered a valuable piece of real estate on the desktop. However, last year GarageBand for Mac lost MP3 exporting as a feature, something which unsettled some of its users. The good news: today's release brings that back, once again allowing you to export those music creations as MP3 files. Additionally, Apple's thrown in a few Drummers and drum packs from various genres, including songwriter, rock and R&B. Who knows, these kits might play a part in you becoming the next Pharrell. Maybe, just maybe.
Source: Mac App Store
Posted by Augustine at 6:54 AM
Pepsi Max kicked off its 'Unbelievable' campaign by pranking commuters sitting inside a typical London bus stop.
A stop on New Oxford Street was rigged with hidden digital technology that tricks unsuspecting passengers into thinking they are steps away from hovering alien ships, a loose tiger, and a giant robot with laser beam eyes.
Rachel Holmes, senior marketing manager at PepsiCo UK said, “It truly lives up to Pepsi Max’s Unbelievable proposition from the innovative media planning through to the fantastic creative," reports the Drum.
Here are some of their reactions to these 'unbelievable' scenarios:
This woman watches in horror as a giant meteor hurls towards her and explodes into the pavement.
A giant tenticle scoops up someone standing on the sidewalk.
This couple noticies a tiger prowling on the sidewalk before it disappears off the screen.
In the end, some people figured it out.
Check out the whole prank:
Posted by Augustine at 6:51 AM
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook often try to assist and provide tools for coders, both current and future ones. With that in mind, the social network today announced Hack, an open-source language for programmers. This new language has been used internally at Facebook for the past year and offers a lot of potential for developers, enabling them to program faster and be able to catch errors more easily, among other things. Hack, which was developed for the HHVM platform, is designed to be extremely friendly with PHP; as Facebook puts it, its new programming language "offers the best of both dynamically typed and statically typed languages, and that it will be valuable to projects of all sizes." Essentially, this means you theoretically could have access to websites that are faster and more reliable. Interested in learning more? Head over to Facebook's Engineering blog, where you'll find all the nitty-gritty details you're looking for.
Posted by Augustine at 4:39 PM
Your Gmail inbox may well be full of chain letters and kitten photos, but Google just announced two security changes that'll help keep prying eyes away from all your important messages. From now on, Google will always use a secure HTTPS connection when you're checking or firing off emails. You may remember that Google made such secure browser connections the default back in early 2010, but you always had the option to disable HTTPS if you really believed in the security of your network. The second (and arguably juicier) change is that your messages will be encrypted as they get routed through the company's many data centers. Google isn't exactly being coy about why, either. It said in a blog post that internally encrypting those messages became a priority "after last summer's revelations"... a not-so-subtle way of saying it doesn't want organizations like the NSA poking around where users don't want them.
Via: The Next Web
Posted by Augustine at 4:39 PM
Google Glass got an unofficial augmented reality app on Thursday as Layar introduced its immersive platform to the wearable device. The beta software has to be downloaded directly from Layar’s website and installed manually to Glass. Once that’s done, however, you can simply say “OK Glass, scan t...
Sent via Flipboard
Posted by Augustine at 2:43 PM
Glass users are all too familiar with the battery of commands required to get the headwear to spring into action. Beginning today, two of those lines are available in the Google Search for Android app. If you say "Okay Google" followed by "take a photo," your device will launch the camera app. Similarly, "take a video" accomplishes the same, albeit it in movie mode. Of course, we prefer to speak into a smartphone only when absolutely necessary, and with plenty of other methods for launching into photo mode (including, of course, simply tapping the camera icon), this is a feature we don't plan to use anytime soon.
Posted by Augustine at 8:24 AM
There are a plethora of geo-location-based apps that make it incredibly convenient to do friendly things, like chat with nearby peers about local hotspots or meet up with a coworker on the fly. A new iOS app called Cloak, however, utilizes services from Foursquare and Instagram for a more anti-social purpose. The brainchild of Brian Moore and former Buzzfeed director creative director Chris Baker, Cloak identifies the location of friends (read: those you'd rather not bump into) based upon their latest check-in. While perusing the map, you can choose to "flag" certain undesirables, like exes or annoying third-wheels, to be notified when they wander within a preset distance of your personal bubble. Or you could, ya know, skip town altogether just to be safe.
Posted by Augustine at 8:23 AM
Keyboard software updates for Android, or any other mobile device, are relatively unexciting because... well, you know, keyboards. But, if you happen to have opted for Google's particular stock version by way of the Play Store, you're about to get a better autocorrect experience. A new update that's currently rolling out introduces the option for Personalized Suggestions, meaning the app can mine data from any other Google service you use to better serve your swift typing needs. Don't worry, all that info is apparently stored locally on your phone. And it's not like you'll have to dig through menu options to find this particular setting, either. Google's put it front and center so the first time you fire up the keyboard post-update, a helpful alert message will appear above the keys to make sure you know the deal. You can always turn it off, however, and return to a life less finely autocorrected. The choice is yours: one path leads to unintentional humor and the other to accuracy.
Source: Google Play
Posted by Augustine at 8:22 AM
Sure, IBM's Watson crunches data for mobile apps and powers food trucks, but its owners are constantly looking for important studies that can put its cognitive computing expertise to the test. With the recent announcement of a clinical trial studying ways to deliver personalized care to brain cancer patients, the Jeopardy-conquering supercomputer appears to have found that next major challenge. In collaboration with New York Genome Center, Watson will be tasked with trawling archives of medical literature and clinical data, using its patten recognition skills to identify the best cancer treatments based on a patient's genetic make-up. Teams of scientists had manually undertaken the process before, but it's exactly the kind of problem Watson was designed to help solve. IBM says it will begin a trial later this year and hopes to open its findings to doctors across the world.
Source: Financial Times
Posted by Augustine at 8:21 AM
Since Intel's next Haswell chips are aimed squarely at enthusiasts, what better place to unveil them than at the Game Developer's Conference? The 4th-gen Core-i7 Extreme Edition CPU, codenamed "Devil's Canyon," will feature eight unlocked cores and 16 threads, trumping the last model's six cores. It'll also support the latest DDR4 memory standard, which brings much higher transfer speeds and lower power drain than DDR3. Along with a better thermal interface, all that will enable "significant" overclocking and performance enhancements, according to Intel. It also announced a Pentium Anniversary Edition with unlockable cores and revealed the "Black Brook" reference all-in-one -- designed to show off tech like its RealSense 3-D camera (see the video after the break). Finally, Intel revealed that its 5th-gen Broadwell 14-nanometer processors will be available unlocked and with IRIS graphics. Given that those chips are expected soon and the Extreme Edition Core CPU will arrive in mid-2! 014, it might be prudent to put off that upgrade.
Posted by Augustine at 8:21 AM
If you can't spend a summer night outside without slapping your ankles — and you still end up with dozens of mosquito bites — then it might be true that the flying pests really do love you.
And those lucky people who say they don't get bitten? They exist too.
But it's not because one person's blood tastes better to the small hovering bloodsuckers — or at least, not just that. In a TED 2014 talk on Wednesday in Vancouver, microbial ecologist Rob Knight explained that the bacteria, or microbes, on skin produce different chemicals, some of which smell more attractive to mosquitoes.
The trillion or so microbes that live on skin are a small percentage of the 100 trillion bacteria that live on and inside the body, but they play a huge role in body odor. Without those bacteria, human sweat wouldn't smell like anything.
However, those different bacteria vary greatly from person to person. Knight explained that while we share 99.9% of DNA with other humans, most people only share about 10% of their microbes.
A siren song for mosquitoes
To demonstrate that mosquitoes are overwhelmingly attracted to certain types of skin microbes, researchers asked 48 adult male volunteers to refrain from alcohol, garlic, spicy food, and showers for two days. The men wore nylon socks for 24 hours to build up a collection of their unique skin microbes.
Researchers then used glass beads that they had rubbed against the underside of the men's feet to pick up their scent as mosquito bait.
Nine men out of the 48 proved to be especially attractive to mosquitoes, while the scents of seven lucky volunteers were largely ignored. The "highly attractiv! e" group had 2.62 times as high a concentration of one common skin microbe, and 3.11 times higher concentration of another common microbe, compared to the "poorly attractive group." That poorly attractive group had a more diverse bacterial colony on their skin as a whole.
Researchers say that it's possible that some people's smell acts a natural deterrent.
But there's an equalizer for those that naturally draw swarms of mosquitoes. The same pests are attracted to beer drinkers.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Posted by Augustine at 8:17 AM