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October 12, 2014

Take Orders From A Cat And Learn Cybersecurity

Here’s an interesting site that teaches Cybersecurity to folks in the form of a game. As you know cyber criminals are getting more and more sophisticated and the best way to counter that is to train more folks on the basic principles of Cyber Security. It is targeted towards children but is good fun for adults as well.

Take cybersecurity into your own hands. In this Lab, you’ll defend a company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. Your task is to strengthen your cyber defenses and thwart the attackers by completing a series of cybersecurity challenges. You’ll crack passwords, craft code, and defeat malicious hackers.

Check it out at: NovaLabs Cybersecurity
Source: Popsci.com

– Suramya

October 11, 2014

Microsoft Research releases Android Wear keyboard prototype

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Computer Software,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 5:33 PM

Yes, you read that correctly. Microsoft Research has released the prototype of it’s new keyboard for Android Wear which allows you to input text by drawing letters on the watch face. This is not the first time MS has released stuff of android and I am quite happy with this trend.

The idea of inputting text by drawing characters is not new. If you remember the Palm OS devices they had a keyboard call Graffiti which used a sort of shorthand of letting you input text. I used to love it and had it installed it on my Galaxy Nexus and used it quite often till it got replaced by the voice typing option on the Google Keyboard.

As touch screens are getting smaller, soft keyboards are getting harder to use. For example, on a 1.6” smart watch, a soft keyboard with 10 keys across has keys less than 1/8” (3mm) wide. Speech recognition can be a viable alternative, but unfortunately, speaking into your watch is not always appropriate or even possible (noisy environments).

With the Analog Keyboard Project we are exploring handwriting recognition for text input on small touch screens. Handwriting, unlike speech, is discreet and not prone to background noise. And unlike soft keyboards, where many keys have to share the small touch surface, handwriting methods can offer the entire screen (or most of it) for each symbol. This allows each letter to be entered rather comfortably, even on small devices. In fact, it has been shown that some handwriting systems can be used without even looking at the screen . Finally, handwriting interfaces require very little design changes to run on round displays, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Interestingly the developers decided to support lower-case alphabets instead of upper-case in this first release. I would have thought they would go the other way as it is easier to identify upper case letters for the most part than lower-case.

Please keep in mind that this is a prototype (Alpha) release so it possibly has a lot of bugs and is not production ready. Plus it can’t be installed on the watch from Google Play, it has to be side loaded and the process is a bit complicated so might not be the best option for non-tech savvy folks right now.

Source: androidcentral.com
Project Page: The Analog Keyboard Project
Download: Analog Keyboard for Android Wear

– Suramya

October 10, 2014

Instead of wasting time playing Sudoku you should mine Bitcoins with Pencil and Paper

Filed under: Computer Related,Computer Security,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

Do you like to play Sudoko? If so then you should look at using paper and pencil to mine Bitcoins instead and make some money out of your hobby. A bloke named Ken Shirriff who is an engineer at google has created a video and a detailed blog post on how this can be done. Apparently it is a slow process but the algorithms for Bitcoin generation are easy enough to crunch.

Shirriff completed a round of SHA-256 in 16 minutes and 45 seconds at which rate a full Bitcoin block would take about a day and a half, less with more practice, he said.

“The SHA-256 algorithm is surprisingly simple to do by hand,” Shirriff said.

“In comparison, current Bitcoin mining hardware does several terahashes per second, about a quintillion times faster than my manual hashing.

All I can say is, go for it if you like crunching numbers… I know I won’t. :)

Source: Theregister.com

– Suramya

October 8, 2014

Crystal that can absorb all Oxygen in a room and release It later

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:07 AM

Researchers in Denmark have created a crystal out of a cobalt salt that absorbs oxygen and stores it. If the crystal is then exposed to heat or low oxygen conditions it releases the stored oxygen back out. It is efficient enough that just a spoonful of the crystal can suck up all the oxygen in a room. This is an awesome find/creation and I can think of a lot of uses for this of the top of my head:

  • Firefighting/Fire suppression systems in buildings
  • Scuba Diving
  • Underwater Search and rescue
  • Space travel

and a whole bunch of other uses that I haven’t thought of yet.

The crystal is a salt made from cobalt*, and it appears to be capable of holding oxygen at a concentration that is 160 times higher than the air we breathe. The paper notes that “an excess” of the substance would bind up to 99 percent of the oxygen in a room.

But what’s more remarkable is that the crystal can later release the oxygen when exposed to heat or low-oxygen conditions. In a press release, study author Christine McKenzie likens it to the hemoglobin in our blood, which uses iron to bind and release oxygen in the human body.

If you must know, the chemical name of the salt is written out as [{(bpbp)Co2II(NO3)}2(NH2bdc)](NO3)2 * 2H2O, where “bpbp” stands for 2,6-bis(N,N-bis(2-pyridylmethyl)-aminomethyl)-4-tert-butylphenolato, and “NH2bdc2” stands for 2-amino-1,4-benzenedicarboxylato).

Now if you can understand the gobbledy gooke in the last paragraph hats off to you, I will just call it a crystal and be done with it. This is the first findings paper and hopefully the crystal will live up to its expectations. The research paper detailing the findings is available at: findresearcher.sdu.dk

Thanks to popsci.com for the original story.

– Suramya

October 7, 2014

Find Recent Files in Windows with the Run Dialog

Filed under: Computer Tips,Knowledgebase — Suramya @ 5:40 AM

Tip for all you windows 8 users out there, If you want to see a history log of every file that you have touched on your computer, there is a easy built-in way of getting that information without installing any special software on Windows 8 by following these steps:

  • Open the run dialog box by pressing Win + R
  • Type in “recent” (without the quotes)
  • Click ‘OK’

This will display any file you’ve touched, as well as the last time it was modified all in one place. You can also access this data by browsing to the following location using ‘Windows Explorer':

C:/users/username/recent

Source: lifehacker.com

– Suramya

October 2, 2014

Celebrating 10 years of Blogging

Filed under: My Thoughts,Website Updates — Suramya @ 1:51 AM

As of 1st Oct 2014, Suramya’s Blog has been online for exactly 10 years and I have spent a lot of time posting random thoughts, tutorials, event analysis etc on the Blog. In my first post I said “I don’t know how often I will be updating this but I will definitely try to update this a little more often than my website.”, if nothing else I know for sure that I did manage to update the blog more often than the main site (which is something I do plan to change BTW by updating the site more often). There were periods where I didn’t post much and the blog just languished and periods where I posted tons of posts.

Here are some stats as of 2nd Oct 2014:

Total published posts : 876
Total Published Comments [1] : 560
Spam Comments Blocked : 438,580
Maximum posts in a Month (Made in Jan 2010) : 81
Media Uploaded : 26MB

I wish I had visitor stats to share but I don’t because the plugin I was using earlier maxed out my DB size allocation and I deleted the data to bring the site back online. I just enabled a new plugin today that is highly recommended and doesn’t use that much space (as per the reviews). Let’s see how that works out.

It is interesting to note that most of the folks who had active blogs when I started no longer blog actively, for some post once every few months others haven’t posted in years. Some of you may wonder why that is the case. Well the answer is that I don’t know. Some folks got busy, some ran out of things to say or just lost interest. I blog because I like to have a way to talk about stuff I have been thinking about, stuff I find interesting or just random things I find online. I think as long as I keep finding cool things I will keep posting about it (Provided I get the time to write posts that don’t sound like they were written by a 5 year old.) Here’s to another 10 years of ‘successful’ blogging.

Well this is all for now, will post more later.

– Suramya

[1] A lot of the comments were lost when I moved from my old blogging software to WordPress. I had intended to spend time writing a parser to import them to WP but never got around to doing it.

October 1, 2014

Erase Your iCloud Drive by reseting your iPhone settings

This has not been a good month for Tech, we are getting issues across the board on all fronts. First we had the iCloud hack (or fappenning as it was called). Then ShellShock hit followed by this new issue in iOS 8 where if you reset your iPhone settings your backups on the cloud also go bye-bye. Ouch! I hope if you are using the iCloud (or any cloud for that matter) you have a duplicate copy of your data somewhere else or you better not try to reset your phone.

The bug creeps up when you select Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. Typically, this is just supposed to reset your network settings to give your iOS device a clean slate to work with, but it turns out it’s also deleting all your files from iCloud Drive.

The issue was discovered by members of the MacRumors forum. It just shows that no matter how much we try nothing is perfect and there are bugs in every system. The best way to ensure that don’t loose data is to store it in multiple places using multiple types of media/services.

I have a lot of my data backed up on a RAID array and am in the process of setting up a cloud server at home to sync it across different locations. I am not using Dropbox or other such services because I don’t want to trust my data to any external provider. Earlier I used to back up data on DVD’s/CD’s. Before that I used to store the data on Floppy disks.

Fun fact, I was recently looking for some code that I had written around 1998 and ended up searching through my old Floppy disks to find it. Interesting thing was that about 90% of the disks still worked and I was able to read the data without issues. (Well… no issues other then the fact that I had to buy a USB floppy drive as my mother board doesn’t have a connector for floppy drives…) I don’t see the same level of longevity in either DVD’s or CD’s so far. I haven’t tried Blue-Ray disks yet because of the cost and the fact that HDD’s are getting cheaper / larger.

Thanks to lifehacker.com for the initial links.

– Suramya

September 28, 2014

Modi’s speech at madison square garden.

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:05 PM

Wow! Just finished watching  modi’s speech… it was amazing! The guy is a great orator.

It is late and i have to get up in 4 hrs to drive ~500 kms back to bangalore so will post more thoughts on this later.

– Suramya

September 24, 2014

India’s Mangalyaan successfully enters Mars orbit

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:00 PM

Yay! India’s low cost Martian mission successfully entered Mars orbit earlier today. The 4.5bn rupee ($74m;) mission is the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken by the world. In fact production of the movie Gravity cost more than the entire mission.

This is an amazing achievement, now my only question is: what are we doing to reward the scientists that made this possible? When India won the world cup, every state in India rewarded millions of rupees to the players who were already well paid and compensated. Why is there no similar prizes being announced for the scientists who made history today? Mr Modi, this is a question for you and your government…

Additional links:
* http://www.engadget.com/2014/09/24/india-successfully-reaches-mars/
* Mangalyaan: India’s race for space success

– Suramya

September 22, 2014

Project Hieroglyph: Returning to Science Fiction that inspires

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:13 AM

If you have been following the Science Fiction Genre recently you will have noticed that most of the popular SciFi stories nowadays are about post-apoplectic future where civilization got wiped out by a virus or zombies or some other disaster etc etc. Not many stories are being written that talk about a golden future with new advances etc that would serve to inspire folks to create new stuff like Author C Clarke’s writings on communication satellites that inspired folks to actually create them, or Star Trek Communicators that partially inspired the creation of cell phones. Those items along with numerous other things both small and large were initially created by writers as Science Fiction but then slowly became reality.

Recently Neal Stephenson wrote an article entitled “Innovation Starvation“, where he called for a return to inspiration in contemporary science fiction, this call inspired people and Project Hieroglyph was born shortly thereafter.

The name of Project Hieroglyph comes from the notion that certain iconic inventions in science fiction stories serve as modern “hieroglyphs” – Arthur Clarke’s communications satellite, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ship that lands on its fins, Issac Asimov’s robot, and so on. Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research described hieroglyphs as simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.

What science fiction stories—and the symbols that they engender—can do better than almost anything else is to provide not just an idea for some specific technical innovation, but also to supply a coherent picture of that innovation being integrated into a society, into an economy, and into people’s lives. Often, this is the missing element that scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs need in order to actually take the first real steps towards realizing some novel idea.

While the mission of Project Hieroglyph begins with creative inspiration, our hope is that many of us will be genuinely inspired towards realization.

Here writers post questions or just talk about idea’s that are meant to make people think and speculate on the important question in life “What if?”. The site is a great read not just for authors but for readers as well. It pushes you to think about new idea’s or a different aspect for an existing idea. Check it out and you won’t be disappointed.

– Suramya

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