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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 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 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 21, 2014

India’s Mangalyaan races to MARS

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 7:30 PM

Did you know that India’s very own Mangalyaan is racing to Mars and about to do the final course corrections to enter Mars orbit? If the corrections work then India will be the first country to successfully enter the Mars orbit on the first try and the first Asian country to make it to mars.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has published a handy slide deck (PDF) explaining what happens next. There’s lots of little chores like uploading of commands going on at the moment, but things get interesting on September 24th. :) The PDF has a breakdown of what is expected when the action starts so do check it out.

I am going to try staying up at night to see if there is live coverage of the event. This is a great day in the Indian Space age. :)

Now, there are a lot of folks who are making comments to effect of “India should spend money on feeding the poor, instead of launching space rockets”. I have seen multiple comments to this effect on various blogs and forums. What these folks don’t realize is that spending money on the poor is all well and good but we need to start spending money on the Space program as well because end of the day we don’t have that much room on earth and the only place for us to go once Earth is full is out in space. There we have a lot more resources, enough space to expand and figure out new technologies that will make it easier/cheaper to feed the folks on earth.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

Links:

1. India vs America: Earthling invaders in race to MARS
2. India’s MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
3. ISRO Website

July 8, 2014

World’s smallest 3D-printer pen allows you to create 3d art in air

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 6:10 PM

I have been meaning to blog about this for a bit now, but better late than never… Lix, a UK based company has unveiled the world’s smallest 3D-printing pen. To give you an idea of how small, it is about the size of a regular fountain pen and weighs about 40g. It is supposed to go on sale with the final production model by Sept and price is not that bad either (~$180)

Basically, Lix is a professional tool that enables you to sketch in the air without using paper.

Lix 3D pen is a dream coming true. With Lix 3D Pen you can create anything from small to big, from details to prototypes. It allows you to express your creativity on a whole new level. We are changing the world’s view on 2D as we are now giving the possibility to make your creations in 3D in an never-been-so-easy way!

I am eagerly waiting for it, not because I am an Artist (god no) but Anjali is and she could create some cool art with it. Plus it is a cool toy to have to play with. :)

Source: The Register
More details: Lix Kickstarter

– Suramya

April 20, 2014

Facebook Stat generation followup

Filed under: Computer Tips,Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 2:16 AM

In my previous post I had talked about some of the stats I pulled from Facebook about it’s usage by my friends. This was an ad-hoc number crunching done just because I was bored and got curious. After the post went live a friend of mine, Ankush asked for more details on how I generated the numbers so in this post I am going to go over my process and how I got the numbers I shared.

Before we start, keep in mind that this is all data that is publicly available on FB, or at least shared with me. If you don’t want others to generate data about your activity on FB, you should change your privacy settings on FB and restrict access. Please don’t try to use this information to try to get access to data you are not supposed to. You will get in trouble and I will not take responsibility for it. Now that all that is out of the way, lets get to the details of the process.

The first thing you need is to have the Facebook Command Line client installed. Instructions on how to install are here so I am not going to repost them here. Make sure you authenticate the install and follow the steps in ‘Obtain Additional Authorization’ section of the installation guide otherwise the rest of the guide won’t be of much use to you.

Once you have FBCMD installed and configured, you can start playing with the options. Check out fbcmd Commands for the list of available options. You can also run the script with –help for the same.

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php --help

Since I was interested in the photos uploaded the first command I ran was:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php OPICS =all FB_Pics

This command gets all the photos uploaded by folks in my friend list and downloaded them to the FB_Pics folder. As I mentioned in the previous post, this downloaded over 58k photos to my system. So be careful when you run it. You can also restrict it to a particular user by passing their name as a parameter.

To get the wall post count’s of all my friends, I ran the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO wall_count =all

This gave me a output similar to the following:


NAME WALL_COUNT
Suramya Tomar 247
ABC 1405

I took this output, put it in an Excel file and did some analysis on it to get the max post count, least post count, Total count and top 10 user post counts. I could have done this using shell commands as well, but since this was a one time task I didn’t see the point. Maybe in the future I could set up a job that would do this periodically and do trending on the data but lets see. I don’t see much use for this data except for the coolness factor and to satisfy my curiosity.

Getting the birthday count was as easy as running the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO birthday_date =all |wc -l

This returned the number of folks who had shared their birthday’s on FB and then I got the current location count using the following command:

/usr/bin/php /var/www/fbcmd/lib/fbcmd/fbcmd.php FINFO current_location =all |wc -l

So there you have it. This is how I generated the numbers I had posted earlier. As you can see there is nothing too complicated about it, so if you want you can generate similar stats for your friends as well.

Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

Well this is all for now. I should go and get some sleep now.

– Suramya

April 19, 2014

Some stats & numbers from my friends on Facebook

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:54 AM

A few days ago I was trying to get a download of all the photos/events I was a part of from Facebook just so that I have a local copy of them. After looking around a bit I got the bright idea of using the Facebook Commandline interface that I was already using to sync the blog to the site. Instead of running it for only photos I was tagged in, I thought it would be easier if I ran it for all photos my friends had uploaded and then remove the ones where I am not there and events I wasn’t part of. I kicked it off at night before I went to sleep expecting it to have completed by the time I got up. The download ran for almost 36 hours and downloaded over 58,000 photos.

Keep in mind that these are all photos that I have access to on Facebook i.e. I can view the pic by clicking on the photogallery of the person that uploaded the photo. There might be more pics posted by these folks that I don’t have access to which are not accounted in this total.

The time it took to download it all wasn’t the most surprising part, that was for the number of photographs I downloaded. I have ~250 friends on Facebook and between all of them they have uploaded over 58k photos. Yes you read that correctly over 58,000 photos totaling about 4GB in size. Looking at the number of photos I just deleted all of them as I don’t have the time or energy to go through all of them searching for photos of me. I will at a later time kick off another download which will be restricted to only photos where I am tagged.

Once I got these numbers I got curious to see what other numbers I could get while looking at my friend circle. So I tried getting the number of wall posts that were made by friends. For some reason I only got results for 206 friends when I ran this query, which could be because of many reasons, most likely of which would be that these folks have blocked the access for the program to look that their post count, or they haven’t made any posts (which is highly unlikely). These 206 friends made a total of 89182 posts to Facebook with the highest no of posts being 3047 and the lowest being 4 with an average of 432.9. My post count is 207 in case you are wondering. 164 friends publicly shared their birthdays on FB and 187 of them posted their current location. (Not sure how accurate that is, but I did get GPS coordinates with the results…)

I am sure there is a lot more data I can pull out from FB, if I felt like it. But this is about as far as my desire to collect this data goes. I knew people posted a lot on FB but these numbers are way over what I thought the count would be…

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

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