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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 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

April 11, 2014

France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours

Filed under: News/Articles — Suramya @ 11:58 AM

France because a very attractive place for employees yesterday when an agreement between employer organizations and labor unions in France has made it illegal for French managers to contact their employees about work-related matters outside of normal business hours. Think about it… if you were in France right now you could switch off your blackberry/email after 6pm and not worry about any work related items till next morning.

Although this is great news for workers, thinking about it from the employers perspective, it is not such a great ruling. What if a critical server went down at 7pm? Would you have to reach out to outsourced IT call centers for resolutions?

The agreement, which amends an existing pact signed in 1999, specifies that employees must have “the opportunity to disconnect from remote communication tools at their disposal” (in the words of Google’s Francophone translating robots) to ensure that they comply with strict rules on working hours.

That means French workers who receive emails or calls from coworkers or the boss at dinnertime can now safely ignore them without fear of retribution.

I bet a lot of folks are thinking about moving to France right about now…

Thanks to The Register for the story.

– Suramya

March 26, 2014

Using E coli to build futuristic materials

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:44 AM

Back in 2000 I had written an article for NJIT’s college newspaper ‘The Vector’ about how boffins at the University of Texas were using viruses to create semi-conductor chips. This weekend I was going through my files and I found a scanned copy of the article that I had been meaning to transcribe and post on the site but never got around doing, Then today I had a story about MIT researchers using Bacteria to assemble furniture pop-up in my feeds so I had to write a post about it. :)

Specifically, the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work producing conducting biofilms, some of which were studded with quantum dots, and arranging gold nanowires. This paves the way for the development of mass manufactured cell-based material factories, and even “living materials” that have some of the desirable properties of bones or trees, Lu confirmed.

They were able to do this by using E. coli, which naturally creates biofilms containing amyloid fibril proteins which, somewhat like the hooks in Velcro, help it attach to surfaces. The hooks on this gloopy velcro are made from a repeating chain of protein units called CsgA, which can be modified by adding peptides, which can be used to let parts of the film capture specific materials, like gold nanoparticles.

Basically the researches were able to make the bacteria grow in a particular design using a genetically engineered strain of CsgA, opening the way for future generations to be able to create bio-engineered equipment on demand. One of the things that is a bit scary is that they are using live bacteria for this experiment so they would have to be absolutely sure that they don’t mutate and cause a potential outbreak down the line.

I don’t know if this research is going to go anywhere or will it become another curiosity like the story on chip manufacture in 2000’s that never really went anywhere after the initial story. I did a cursory search today on that story but didn’t find any follow up articles or papers on it. Guess not every initial success is followed up by later successes and commercial successes.

Thanks to Slashdot and The Register for the original links.

– Suramya

February 12, 2012

Google Wallet PIN cracked on Android devices

Filed under: Computer Related,Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:53 PM

The past few days there has been a lot of press around the fact that the Google Wallet Pin was cracked on rooted android phones. Lots of people including computer programmers and technologists (who should frankly know better) have reacted to this by posting messages/comments equivalent to: “rooting is bad”, “rooting causes security holes” etc etc etc… Guess they have forgotten the simple rule of computer security: “physical access is total access”, basically it means that if I have physical access to a device I can get full access to it eventually.

This fact was demonstrated it quite nicely by the news that you don’t really need to root your phone to get your pin hacked, all you need to do is reset the application data.

The problem in both cases is caused by the fact that the Google Wallet’s pin is stored locally on the phone itself instead of online so if you can get access to it you can bruteforce it or if you clear the app data it removes the pin and lets you choose another.

One way of fixing the second issue would be to force the phone to link to the internet after the local cache is cleared to sync the pin with the online secure server instead of just letting a user choose a new one. The fix for the first case is a lot harder because you can’t have a wallet that requires the phone to be connected to the web everytime you use it, and if you store it locally then you are just asking for trouble.

Another way would be for the receiving side to validate the pin sort of line how we do it for credit cards but that doesn’t seem too feasible either. Or we could salt the pin with the user’s account info/do a dual encryption, first one requires the pin to unlock the second one requires the account password.

Now if I can come up with such solutions then I am sure the people at Google and the various banks working on this issue will come up with other more secure options. Its not the end of the world. yet. This is a new technology and like all new tech it has its teething issues and I am looking forward to the final fixed product.

– Suramya

February 10, 2012

Kodak discontinues its Camera business

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles — Suramya @ 6:33 PM

Its been expected for a while now but its finally official; Kodak is shutting down its camera business by June to focus on its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Its sad that the company that was once a synonym for camera’s and photos is going to shut down. :( I remember my first camera, it was a point and shoot Kodak camera that I spent loads of time and effort on to take some really cool and interesting photos with. I think I still have it at home sitting in one of the boxes of old stuff along with my Nintendo and other artifacts of my childhood. Future generations will have no idea what a kodak moment refers to and that just sucks.

From their press release:

Eastman Kodak Company (the “Company”) (OTB: EKDKQ.PK) announced today that, as a result of its ongoing strategic review process and commitment to drive sustainable profitability through its most valuable business lines, it plans to phase out its dedicated capture devices business – comprising digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames – in the first half of 2012. Kodak will instead expand its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Following this decision, Kodak’s Consumer Business will include online and retail-based photo printing, as well as desktop inkjet printing.

Kodak has contacted its retail partners, and is working closely with them to ensure an orderly transition. Kodak will continue to honor all related product warranties, and provide technical support and service for its cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames.

“For some time, Kodak’s strategy has been to improve margins in the capture device business by narrowing our participation in terms of product portfolio, geographies and retail outlets. Today’s announcement is the logical extension of that process, given our analysis of the industry trends,” said Pradeep Jotwani, President, Consumer Businesses, and Kodak Chief Marketing Officer.

A few months ago I remember reading about how Kodak went from being a leader in its field to a struggling company that is almost ready to shut down, can’t find the article right now but it was a really interesting read.

RIP Kodak.

Thanks to CNET for the initial story.

– Suramya

February 9, 2012

Biocomputer can retrieve images from DNA storage

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 4:06 PM

Practical bio computers took a step closer to reality thanks to work by Sivan Shoshani1, Dr. Ron Piran1, Prof. Yoav Arava2& Prof. Ehud Keinan. They have managed to create a Biomolecular computer that is capable of decoding images stored in DNA. Biocomputers are something that I find really interesting and I try to keep an eye out for any new developments in the field. Even though this doesn’t sound like a big deal, its a huge step forward because till now we could only store a very limited amount of data in Biocomputers (stuff like a couple of 0’s & 1’s) but now that we can store an image we are closer to being able to store more complex data and the best part is that since this doesn’t require an interface it can work directly with organic flesh.

A biomolecular computer made in a test tube has proved capable of decoding images stored in DNA. The computer, built by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have created a mixture of DNA molecules, enzymes, and ATP (the substance that provides energy for our own cells) that successfully decrypts information from a DNA chip, in this case the images shown above. The images were first encrypted onto the chip, and then decrypted by the computer and stained in a way that displays only particular sequences. This means that several images can be overlapped on the same chip, then recovered separately by looking for separate genetic sequences.

The boffins have published their paper in Angewandte Chemie, a German journal of chemistry. Tried to read the paper but unfortunately its behind a pay wall and I am curious about the issue but not curious enough to pay for access.

Thanks to The Verge for the initial story.

– Suramya

January 5, 2012

A new file-sharing religion Kopimism is recognized

Filed under: Humor,Interesting Sites,News/Articles — Suramya @ 9:53 PM

When I first saw this I thought it was a joke and that maybe I have had too many cold meds in too short a time period. However it looks like the newly founded religion ‘Kopimism’ is real and its central tenet; the right to file-share has been formally recognised by the Swedish government. The Church of Kopimism claims that “kopyacting” – sharing information through copying – is akin to a religious service.

This is quite interesting and funny at the same time. Most governments in the world allow religious freedom so if that same right is given to Kopimism, then the war on piracy would grind to an abrupt halt because continuing would open a large can of worms.

The Swedish government agency Kammarkollegiet finally registered the Church of Kopimism as a religious organisation shortly before Christmas, the group said.

“We had to apply three times,” said Gustav Nipe, chairman of the organisation.

The church, which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V (shortcuts for copy and paste) as sacred symbols, does not directly promote illegal file sharing, focusing instead on the open distribution of knowledge to all.

It was founded by 19-year-old philosophy student and leader Isak Gerson. He hopes that file-sharing will now be given religious protection.

“For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament. Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore copying is central for the organisation and its members,” he said in a statement.

Before you get all offended and upset, remember we already have a church of the flying spaghetti monster.

Thanks to BBC News for the initial news. If you want to learn more visit Kopimism’s Official website.

– Suramya

December 30, 2011

Yucky Slime may be what is needed to make the next breakthrough in Biocomputing

Filed under: Computer Related — Suramya @ 11:05 PM

According to Toshiyuki Nakagaki, a professor at Future University Hakodate the lowly slime mold that most of us associate with gym showers and broke college students may be what helps us make the next major breakthrough in Biotechnology and computer algorithms.

Basically, Physarum polycephalum, or grape-cluster slime which looks like mayonnaise when looked at without a microscope has the ability to organize its cells to create the most direct root through a maze to a source of food. During experiments the research team successfully managed to get the molds to form the pattern of a railway system quite similar to the railroad networks of the Kanto region centering Tokyo. If this can be harnessed then we can use the networks in future designs of transport systems. The best part is that the networks created are resistant to unexpected stimulus so if used in real world applications that would make them resilient and fault tolerant.

He says slime molds can create much more effective networks than even the most advanced technology that currently exists.

“Computers are not so good at analysing the best routes that connect many base points because the volume of calculations becomes too large for them,” Tero explained.

“But slime molds, without calculating all the possible options, can flow over areas in an impromptu manner and gradually find the best routes.

“Slime molds that have survived for hundreds of millions of years can flexibly adjust themselves to a change of the environment,” he said. “They can even create networks that are resistant to unexpected stimulus.”

Research has shown slime molds become inactive when subjected to stress such as temperature or humidity changes. They even appear to “remember” the stresses and protectively become inactive when they might expect to experience them.

Sources: Yahoo News & Engadget

– Suramya

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