Another Tech blog

Another Tech blog

US Military Wants ‘Mission Impossible’ Self-Destructing Devices

Self-destructing tapes from the “Mission Impossible” TV series and films served fictional spies well during the Cold War. Today, the U.S. military wants a modern version of vanishing electronics that are able to disappear upon command in the environment or a human body.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for such spy craft technology at a time when swarms of electronic sensors and communication devices already help U.S. troops hunt enemies, keep track of friendly forces and monitor threats from nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Futuristic electronics able to self-destruct upon command would help prevent devices from falling into enemy hands and littering the environment.

“The [Vanishing, Programmable Resources] program seeks to address this pervasive challenge by developing electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner,” DARPA said in a special notice on Jan. 25.

Disposable electronics could either degrade into environmentally harmless substances or get absorbed into the human body if they act as biomedical implants, DARPA said. The idea could fit with another DARPA project aimed at making “nanosensors” capable of monitoring or even fixing the human body like a swarm of tiny doctors.

Lab versions of vanishing electronics already include microchip components, biomedical implants and even a 64-pixel digital camera. But DARPA points out that degradable electronics based on polymeric or biologically derived materials often perform worse than traditional electronics or prove less durable — a problem for U.S. military standards.

Researchers must also tackle the challenge of making a new generation of vanishing electronics that can self-destruct upon command, rather than simply building varieties that slowly disappear over time.

The “Vanishing, Programmable Resources” program has planned a Proposer’s Day on Feb. 14 at the Capital Conference Center in Arlington, Va. — a day for researchers and companies to find out more about DARPA’s vision of the future.

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Six reasons why Vine is a killer news tool

So far, much of the coverage of Vine tool has focused on its “porn problem,” with commentators being distracted by the Twitter-owned short-video tool’s propensity to be corrupted by dildos and dominatrixes. Thanks to that perhaps more alluring subject (which, I’m sure, requires

intensive research), there has been less discussion about just how powerful a tool Vine will be for the practice and consumption of journalism. I’m tentatively excited for Vine’s potentially transformative powers. Its six-second looping films will expand Twitter’s abilities as a broadcast network while arming journalists with greater storytelling firepower in the digital form. Its advantages are already obvious, and they will become only more so if the tool is integrated natively into Twitter’s website and apps, thereby nixing the need to use a separate piece of software. Of course, it is early days for the technology which is still a long way from confirming its worth, but with Twitter’s distributive power behind it, Vine has a shot at becoming important. Consider the following points.

1. It’s quick and easy It takes only a few seconds to shoot a serviceable video, which can be instantly uploaded without a second thought. That makes for decent, quick visuals of very timely events and scenes, such as tours of hurricane damage, snippets of celebrations, or audio-visual perspectives on riots. Like Instagram with its filters for photos, the basic “jumpcut” function – which allows users to splice together scenes just by touching the device’s screen at various intervals – helps mask amateur camerawork. Sometimes a breaking news nugget is better told visually, and Vine will facilitate that.

2. The audio is just as important as the video For the first time on Twitter, we have a very quick and easy way to not only listen to audio, but to upload and publish it. When it comes to news events, the noise is often as important as the picture. So, imagine audio snippets from sports games, concerts, protests, or the roar of a waterfall in flood conditions. Sounds add more than just context for a story – sometimes they are the story.

3. People will actually watch the video Online video can be great for news, but for people in a rush, or in the office, or even on a mobile phone, sometimes the video can take too long to download, buffer, or simply play – asking someone to take even one minute out of their day to watch a news story they can quickly skim in print in 20 seconds can be a tough ask. As a chronic multitasker, I infrequently interrupt my workflow to watch a news clip. But if I know the commitment is only six seconds and I can watch it without having to leave my Tweet stream, I’m all in.

4. It has invented a new form of storytelling The six-second looping video offers a new way to tell a story. As there are with haikus, sonnets, feature films, and the inverted pyramid, there will be masters of the Vine form. Just as it is possible to tell a good story in one sentence, it is possible to tell a strong audio-visual story in six seconds. There will be a Vine Film Festival. Art forms will emerge, and so will pithy brand messages. Toyota Spain has already demonstrated how that’s possible. In journalism terms, the six-second video might be thought of as the audio-visual equivalent of a written lede.

5. It will help put a face and a voice to a name For television and radio journalists, this obviously isn’t an issue, but for many print journalists, bloggers, or highly-followed Twitter users, Vine can be used to round out aspects of their personalities – namely, the visual and audio aspects. The potential for journalists to broadcast snippets of their own voices and faces without the mediation of traditional recording equipment helps expand their “personal brand” beyond the photo by-line or Twitter avatar.

6. It consolidates Twitter’s position as the first port of call for news Many people already turn to Twitter first for breaking news, even as some rely on live blogs and continuously updated news stories on news organization websites. Now that Twitter has added instant, quick-hit video to its repertoire of 140-character accounts, links, and pictures, it is making less and less sense to look anywhere else for the first take on a breaking news story. I suspect it won’t be for a while, but this development should ultimately be freeing for newspapers, agencies, TV, and radio, who can instead position themselves as an

authoritative port of call for news. (All the above should use Vine, too, though.) Once people have got the “raw” version of the news on Twitter, they can turn to those organizations for more facts, context, depth, and, hopefully, assurance that the facts being reported are actually true. Vine is far more than just porn and cat gifs. It just so happens that the porn industry and cat lovers are the earliest adopters in any new medium. Same happened for the Web, same happened for online video, and same happened for online payments. The news industry will be a little further behind, but not by much. Once journalists, editors, and producers catch up to the porn innovators, Vine will help Twitter become a critical part of the news infrastructure. Hamish McKenzie Hamish McKenzie is a Baltimore-based reporter for PandoDaily who covers media, politics, and international startups. His first name is pronounced “hey-mish” and you can follow him on  Twitter.

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Google Earth Used to Spot North Korean Labor Camp

  • Google Earth Used to Spot North Korean Labor Camp (ABC News)

    ABC News – Google Earth Used to Spot North Korean Labor Camp (ABC News)

 

North Korea appears to be both a threat and an enigma. In recent days, it has boasted that its ballistic missiles are a threat to the United States, but hard information is difficult to get from that very closed communist country.

American intelligence agencies watch North Korea very closely, and so does Curtis Melvin, a Ph.D. economics student at George Mason University in Virginia. He keeps a blog called North Korean Economy Watch, which has become something of a clearinghouse for people who want to know more about the country under Kim Jong Un. To get information, he uses such sources as online newspapers, Korean TV newscasts, accounts from defectors who share their experiences – and Google Earth.

PHOTOS: An Inside Look At North Korea

Now, he reports, he has spotted what may be the perimeter of a new prison camp (a kwan-li-so in the local language), hidden in the mountains of North Korea. Based on his find, another blog, One Free Korea, posted two images from Google Earth, the first shot by an Earth-observing satellite in December 2006.

Google Earth has just posted new images of the same spot, shot by a different satellite in September 2011, and Melvin says there are signs that a new camp may have been set up.

“I hope I am completely wrong on this,” he wrote in an email to ABC News. “However, the facility bears a remarkable resemblance to other known prison camps in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”

Melvin said he visited North Korea in 2004 and 2005, and has been watching it since. With help from others who are curious about that very closed society, he has spotted rocket launch sites, palaces – and, apparently, gulags, some of them larger in area than sprawling cities. There appear to be at least half a dozen major camps, and some analysts say they hold more than 100,000 prisoners.

“After seven years,” he said, “I have amassed a colossal amount of satellite imagery that has been used to show the development of new factories, expansion of the electricity grid, the spread of markets, new military infrastructure and, unfortunately, apparent changes in the incarceration system.”

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The Death of ‘Foodstagram’? Readers React

 

One of the biggest stories in social media this week was the report in The New York Times that restaurants in New York City have begun banning customers from taking photos of their food.

[More from Mashable: Facebook, Twitter, Stop Fighting!]

Usually our weekly top comments roundup features discussions pulled from various stories, but this week we were particularly impressed by the ideas and discussions you offered in reaction to this one.

The potential death of “foodstagram” brought on a much larger debate about the etiquette involved in being part of the connected generation. Is it rude to snap a picture of your food at a fancy restaurant? How can restaurants take advantage of these customer interactions? What does the future of food photography look like?

[More from Mashable: McDonald’s Nutrition Info Now in QR Code Form]

SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Delicious Food Photos

Some of our readers pointed out that using the flash while taking food pictures could take away from fellow diners’ experience. Others argued that once they had paid for the food, it was theirs to do with as they pleased. Someone even suggested that getting thrown out for taking a food pic before the bill had been paid was a great way to score a free meal.

We loved the conversation that ensued. What do you think about the idea of a “social table,” (similar to smoking rooms at restaurants), or an Instagram menu that features pictures of food? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo via iStockphoto, MorePixels

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Hands-on With The Week’s Top Apps

It was a big week for apps.

Twitter released Vine, a new way for creating and sharing video content, and Temple Run 2, the app that garnered an astounding 20 million downloads in its first 4 weeks in the iOS App Store finally made its way to Android.

[More from Mashable: Google Officially Responds to Safari-Tracking Lawsuit]

We saw a few new apps for reading your news, and a new app for sharing your opinion about literally everything.

Curious what some of these new apps really look like? Check out the video above for a visual run-through of our top apps from the week.

[More from Mashable: Vine Has 4 Flaws Holding It Back From Greatness]

Have you given any of this week’s top apps a try? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.

 

Click here to view the gallery: 7 Apps You Don’t Want To Miss 1/26/2013

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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Top 5 Kids Apps You Don’t Want to Miss

Click here to view the gallery: Top Kids Apps This Week

Chris Crowell is a veteran kindergarten teacher and contributing editor to Children’s Technology Review, a web-based archive of articles and reviews on apps, technology toys and video games. Download a free issue of CTR here.

[More from Mashable: 40 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed]

Is it too far out of season for a vampire-themed app? Let’s hope not. Click through the gallery to see which apps — some spooky, some not — to download for your kids this week.

 

[More from Mashable: Xbox Marks the Spot, or ‘Why Is my Son Always Trying to Kill Me?’]

Children’s Technology Review shared these 5 top apps with us from their comprehensive monthly database of kid-tested reviews. The site covers everything from math and counting to reading and phonics.

Check back next week for more Top Kids Apps from Children’s Technology Review.

Image courtesy of Flickr, flickingerbrad

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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7 Superb Gadgets to Encourage You to Eat More Fruit

Click here to view the gallery: 7 Superb Gadgets to Encourage You to Eat More Fruit

We all know we should eat more fruit, but sometimes it can be a struggle to consume the recommended five servings of fruit (or vegetables) per day.

[More from Mashable: Top 5 Kids Apps You Don’t Want to Miss]

To try and encourage us all to get more fructose in our faces, we have taken a look at cool kitchen gadgetry that makes eating fruit easier, quicker and more fun.

[More from Mashable: When the Object of a Search Ad Is a Phone Call]

Take a look through our healthy options in the image gallery above. Share in the comments below any great gizmos you use to help you get your five-a-day.

Thumbnail image courtesy of James

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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Samsung to invest $1.7 billion in Kunshan plant: Xinhua

  • The company logo is displayed at the Samsung news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

BEIJING (Reuters) – South Korean electronics giant Samsung plans to invest $1.7 billion in expanding and fitting out its operations in Kunshan, a fast-growing manufacturing hub west of Shanghai, the Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

Samsung’s expansion comes as the world’s largest maker of handsets, memory chips and televisions attempts to diversify its clients and exert greater control over its sprawling manufacturing network, which includes 250 supplier factories in China.

The company is already building a $7 billion chip complex in Xi’an, an industrial city in northwestern China.

The Kunshan investment will be used to build workshops, purchase equipment and set up research institutes operated by Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co., to support a chip carrier related project, Xinhua said, citing sources with the Kunshan municipal government.

Manufacturing in China is rapidly expanding, with electronics assembly lines displacing low-margin producers of textiles and toys.

Samsung’s growing presence in China has earned it the attention of labor activists more accustomed to scrutinizing rival electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn.

Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, conducted an internal audit and pledged to address issues at its supplier factories, after a report in 2012 found it had hired underage workers.

The Kunshan plant was originally set up in 2008.

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Ahead of the Bell: Yahoo to update turnaround bid

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo’s fourth-quarter earnings report will provide an update of new CEO Marissa Mayer’s efforts to revive the Internet company’s revenue growth.

The results, due out after the stock market closes Monday, cover Mayer’s first full quarter as Yahoo’s leader. She left Google Inc. to join Yahoo in mid-July, shortly after the third quarter had already begun.

Although Yahoo still hasn’t proven it can generate sustained revenue growth for the first time since 2008, investors have already been betting Mayer is on her way to pulling it off.

Yahoo’s stock price has been trading above $20 for much of this month, hitting its highest levels since September 2008. The shares closed last week at $20.37. That translates into a gain of about 30 percent since Mayer joined the company.

Much of the confidence in Mayer, 37, may stem from the respect she won while helping to build Google into the Internet’s most profitable company during her 13-year tenure there.

Since coming to Yahoo, Mayer has been trying to improve employee morale and intensify the company’s focus on mobile and social networking services — two of technology’s hot spots in recent years.

Despite its early enthusiasm for Mayer, Wall Street isn’t expecting a lot from Yahoo Inc. Analysts surveyed by FactSet foresee a slight rise in earnings from the previous year, to 27 cents per share, excluding an $83 million charge that Yahoo plans to take to account for the recent closure of its South Korean operations. Investors are likely to pay more attention to Yahoo’s revenue, minus ad commissions, which analysts predict will be unchanged from the previous year at $1.21 billion.

The stalled revenue has stemmed from Yahoo’s inability to attract more advertising, even though a bigger slice of the marketing budget is being diverted to the Internet. Google’s fourth-quarter report released last week showed the Internet search leader’s ad revenue, minus commissions, had climbed 17 percent from the previous year.

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Anonymous hackers target US agency site

Hackers claiming to be from the activist group Anonymous have hacked a US government website in response to the death of Aaron Swartz.

Activists embedded a video statement on the homepage of the United States Sentencing Commission, an agency of the US government.

The statement referred to the death of Mr Swartz, an internet activist who apparently killed himself in January.

“Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed,” the statement said.

“Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win.”

Mr Swartz, who was 26, was facing hacking charges and is believed to have taken his own life.

His federal trial was due to be held next month. If found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison.

Following his death, Mr Swartz’s family released a statement blaming “intimidation” and “prosecutorial overreach” from the criminal justice system.

‘Operation last resort’

The attack on the website was scheduled to begin at midnight eastern standard time, according to documents that appear to have been posted online by Anonymous activists.

Later on Saturday the website was not functioning.

Aaron Swartz Aaron Swartz took his own life two weeks ago

The USSC is responsible for issuing sentencing guidelines for US federal courts.

The hackers, who had labelled the attack “Operation Last Resort”, said the site was chosen for symbolic reasons.

“The federal sentencing guidelines… enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers [and] are a clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments,” the video statement said.

The statement also suggested the hackers had sensitive information relating to a number of US judges that may be made public.

There have been numerous attacks by hackers operating under the Anonymous banner in recent months.

On Thursday two British men were jailed after taking part in an attacks on payment services including Paypal, organised by Anonymous.

Government websites of the UK and other countries have also been the subjects of attacks.

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