Friday, April 08, 2016

State-run healthcare websites aren't as secure as you'd think


Health insurance websites in California, Kentucky and Vermont apparently aren't as secure as they should be. According to the Associated Press, based on the vulnerabilities found by the Government Accountability Office, other states' health care websites could be just as ripe for intrusions. Without naming names, the GAO reported that one state didn't encrypt passwords, another didn't have the right type of encryption server-side and the last anonymous state failed to "properly use a filter to block hostile attempts" to visit its site.

The scary part is that some of the issues still exist, even though the GAO's examination concluded last March. Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear says that no information was compromised and there were never any security breaches, however. The GAO says that isn't much better about security either, but, that like Kentucky, private data has not been lost or pilfered despite numerous "security incidents." Comforting!

It isn't all unsettling news though. From the sounds of it, the Golden State's Covered California site is trying its best to prevent intrusions and fix any new holes since the GAO's investigation concluded. There's a joke that could be made here about the government's attitude toward encryption given current events, but I'm going to let the comment section sort that one out.

Source: Associated Press


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Basis Peak gets smarter with music control and activity editing


The Basis Peak fitness tracker just got an update that controls the music playing on an Android or iOS device and lets users manually enter the type and duration of a workout. Good news for music fans that get in shape with activities that might necessarily get tracked like yoga or surfing.

Workout editing is done within the app and can be applied to old activities as well as recent ones. To control your jams, a music app will have to playing on your phone before you can adjust the volume and change tracks. It supports any media app on iOS and Google Play, Amazon and Spotify on Android.

The Peak with its black and white display has been marketed as more of a workout companion than a full on smartwatch like the Apple Watch or Android Wear. But Basis has added smarter features like notifications to appease people that don't want to take their phone out of their pocket just see who's texting them.

Today's update along with last year's update that let it talk to other fitness apps is more inline with the band's original workout ethos.

Source: Basis


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Panasonic's Lumix GX85 is a compact camera that packs a punch


The Lumix series is expanding with the GX85, an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera featuring a compact body and impressive specs. Panasonic says this shooter combines the best of its GX8 and GX7, but with some improvements over both. For starters, the Lumix GX85 sports a 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a new Venus Engine processor, along with a max ISO of 25,600, WiFi, up to 8-fps continuos shooting and in-camera image stabilization. Panasonic's also eliminated the low-pass filter, which should help you capture sharp and color-accurate pictures.

Not surprisingly, given how Panasonic has been a big proponent of 4K, the GX85 also records Ultra HD (3,849 x 2,160) videos at 24 and 30 fps, as well as 1080p at 60 fps. And if you're familiar with the Lytro camera, you'll probably like playing around with Panasonic's Post Focus function. So how does that work? The GX85 uses 49 areas from its autofocus system, near or far, to record every single focal point and, after you take a shot, you tap anywhere on the 3-inch screen to choose your preferred focus area. That means you could end up having 49 different pictures.

Panasonic's Lumix GX85 is coming to the US in mid-May for $800, which includes a 12-32mm kit lens and your choice of a black or silver model.


Monday, April 04, 2016

World's most powerful X-ray laser will get 10,000 times brighter


If you think that Stanford's use of an super-bright X-ray laser to study the atom-level world is impressive, you're in for a treat. The school and its partners have started work on an upgrade, LCLS-II (Linac Coherent Light Source II), whose second laser beam will typically be 10,000 times brighter and 8,000 times faster than the first -- up to a million pulses per second. The feat will require an extremely cold (-456F), niobium-based superconducting accelerator cavity that conducts electricity with zero losses. In contrast, the original laser shoots through room-temperature copper at a relatively pedestrian 120 pulses per second.

The first X-ray laser isn't going away -- if anything, it'll be more useful than ever. The combination of the two beams will cover a wider energy range and help scientists study extremely small and extremely fast processes that either couldn't be recorded before or would take ages to examine in full. That, in turn, should lead to discoveries that advance electronics, energy and medicine. The big challenge is simply waiting for the upgrade, since it won't be ready until sometime in the early 2020s.

The LCLS-II accelerator upgrade

Source: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory