ellestra: (lightning)
So today is the Winter Solstice and the days will finally start getting longer. I'm hoping that this is the reason behind me being so sleepy and tired all the time. This and the weather change. The season started with pouring rain and the beginning of heatwave (for winter). It's 10 pm and it's still 16oC (60F) outside and it's only going to get warmer. Also coming - more thunderstorms. I need to decide witch summer dress to wear for Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, I'm thinking capris since I'm going to spend 3 hours in the cinema (yes, I'm finally going to see Star Wars) and it might be cold inside. How is global warming treating you?

The third episode of The Expanse is on Syfy today but you can watch it and the 4th one on the Syfy website today. I saw all 4 of them and I love it so far but I'll write down the details after it shws up on TV. Also the shows you can see early are the occupied LA of the future drama Colony and Frankenstein-inspired cop drama Second Chance. I'm glad we are no longer playing the "leaked" pilot game and they just officially put them out early to get people interested in the shows (NBC Universal cable channels especially). It turns out that if you give people a way to watch thing legally that what they'll do - Netflix took over torrent as the main internet traffic hog by far this year. But this is still just US solution - the rest of the world is still left catching up on that other internet. Unless you don't care that much and wait for it to show up on TV. I remember that for shows I liked but didn't care to stay current on AXN channels, Fox and Universal were doing pretty decent job on staying current.

Meanwhile on real Mars Curiosity has drilled some more holes. We got detailed pictures of the real Ceres; some even in 3D (almost as pretty as Pluto). And Yutu shows that the Moon is more geologically complex than we knew. And here on Earth the robots are slowly taking over... raindeer jobs. Lucky us they don't fly yet or Robot Santa would come for us all.
ellestra: (big gun)
Back home the heat wave is just ending (36C!) and school begins and I'm making an aggregation post again.

There were some good news today. Syfy just announced that both Dark Matter and Killjoys are getting renewed for another season. And The Dome is finally being put out of its misery.

And Tatiana Maslany is being linked to another Star Wars leading role -this time in Episode VIII. (Along with some other awesome people.)

Some interesting changes - like Google making most radical change in their logo since last century (it's sans-serif now and G has multiple colours).

And if you want to get angry (or depressed) Anita Sarkeesian released another Tropes vs Women in Video Games video and it's Women as Reward this time (reminds me when I unwisely tried to see how Falling Skies ended and wanted to throw something at TV).



And if you want to get really sad - Terry Pratchett's last book has been released today in US (it's been out in UK and Commonwealth since last Thursday). The Shepherd's Crown is part of Tiffany Aching series. The final glance at Discworld before the glass ball becomes completely opaque.
ellestra: (tiger)
Remember that "impossible" drive that everyone agreed cannot work but few labs made it work? Sceptics said that it wasn't really working. That thrust was just natural thermal convection currents arising from microwave heating or some other environmental conditions external to the drive. So NASA used it in vacuum and it still works. The physicist are very aggravated as noone understands how it works. It's like something out of an sf novel. I hope it's really true. Not just because space travel but also because there a whole new branch of physics that will need to explain this. And maybe other impossible things are possible too - like wormholes at reasonable energy levels.

After all there are other planets out there. We discover more and more everyday and now you can name them. The International Astronomical Union started a NameExoWorlds contest were you can propose popular names for 15 stars and 32 planets. Just remember you need to explain your choices.

So if we are getting ready to space travel maybe also same better power storage system. Tesla just made new batteries. Not just for cars - for houses. Right now if you generate your own power (solar, wind, etc.) you cannot really store it. You can sell it back to the grid but it's usually at the times when it's least necessary (solar) or it's unpredictable (wind). But if you could store it for the night and cloudy days it wouldn't go to waste. That's what these are supposed to accomplish. And they come in different colours.

And something needs to run the calculations for all that space travel and new physics. Good thing that IBM just made a crucial breakthrough in quantum computing. They found a new method for correcting errors on a quantum circuit. Unfortunately quantum bits are prone to spontaneous flipping between 0 and 1 or changing the sign of the phase relationship. Those two types of quantum error (called bit-flip and phase-flip) that will occur in any real quantum computer. IBM found a way to detect them both at the same time which should allow for greater reliability of quantum computers which should finally make them usable.
ellestra: (tiger)
I just updated to Lollipop and I don't like it. I liked all the previous versions of Android and I was very happy with KitKat when I got S5 but this update is all kinds of irritating. The worst part is white background on the notifications and settings and all the phone stuff (phone, contacts, messaging). It was so much better looking and easier on the eyes in black. It's the new Material Design thing that's supposed to give more freedom to designers and bring 3D looks but just looks bad and too bright. Also now screen uses up noticeably more battery. Luckily for me TouchWiz still uses transparent background for App Drawer.

Another deeply annoying thing - the app switcher (Overview) screen. The one when you can look at and close the open apps. You can still use it to close and switch between apps (although I like the old list version better then the new wheel one) but I can no longer go to the home screen by taping the background. It was so much more convenient when I could chose between any of the apps and the main screen in the same place. Why? Why would they remove that?

Samsung Apps updates for Lollipop are also not an improvement. As I mentioned before I used the Health app to track my movements and it just became much less useful. We get the attack of white background again and a lot of less, badly designed information. The screens are much more cluttered and I can no longer check how many steps I did in every 20 minute interval (the graph is smaller and without any scale and you cant move the check point). Also map tracker is pretty much usless now that it's no longer a real map. And a lot of cool statistics got lost too or switched to small pictures instead of something that you can touch, zoom and check at different points. But there whole bunch of stupid, useless awards. YAY! (I'm being sarcastic here).

I could install dark Materials but I would have to root the phone and there are some default things I want to keep so I'm contemplating going back to KitKat. Or I could try different launchers. But the fact that there are already options for darkening available shows I'm not the only one who hates this. As far as I can tell this is a very common complain.

First

Apr. 1st, 2015 11:49 pm
ellestra: (muppets)
It's April First and it's time to look at all the fake news and specials today. Going around the web and finding all the treats is a hard work but luckily the every site in existence gleefully posts their findings. And some are truly awesome - like CERN's scientist discovering the Force (so this is what the LHC upgrade was really about). And I'm sure even John Oliver would agree the PacMan Google maps should be a permanent option. Judging from experience at least some of the Thinkgeek joke products will become real (it's becoming less of a joke and more product testing every year) - I know everyone's rooting for Groot Beer but think about all those selfies. But I laughed (full lol) the most when I saw Samsung Galaxy Blade Edge. Cameras, phones, watches, kitchen utensils...

These were just my favourites but everyone has tons of others. BBC concentrated on the tech sites. So did Gawker sites really - Lifehacker started theirs early so you could spend the day exploring them and Kotaku just picked their favourites. Tor.com has some author news - from [livejournal.com profile] grrm narrative breakthroughs to [livejournal.com profile] mistborn cloning experiments and Stephen King's return to TV. And countless people live in dread they may not have been joking. There is also picture collection of many of the pranks. Like photos from vacations on the internet that you can then turn into memes.
ellestra: (charlie jade)
LHC was supposed to be back in operation after two years of upgrades but it short-circuited during booting so we'll still have to wait for that dark matter explanation a little longer. They need to opposite of vacuum it first by flushing it out with high-pressure helium gas.

For the first time since MIR there will be someone living in space for a year. Or rather two someones. One is Russian and the other is American and a part of real life re-enactment of the famous identical twins experiment. The one when one stays on Earth while the other is in space. Identical twins and space. No near relativistic speeds this time so age difference will be unnoticeable but there are plenty of other things to learn. The last cosmonaut in this mission crew will be only staying for standard 6 months but that will allow him to become the person who spent the most days in space ever nevertheless.

Curiosity discovered another compound that's connected to life as we know it - nitric oxide. Most people think about it as laughing gas but it only has that effect because it's an important signalling molecule that triggers a lot of metabolic pathways. It can also be the result of lightning or meteor impact so it doesn't mean much by itself but might be also another clue in Curiosity's search for life. Meanwhile her landing marks fade.

While Curiosity is still only beginning her journey Opportunity has just finished a marathon. It's been more than 10 years and 42km and it's still going. Maybe xkcd is right. Maybe she's marking what hers. Unless amnesia gets her first.

I thought that starfish ripping themselves apart were horrific enough but now octopodes are eating their own arms. In next Syfy movie this will be an alien virus that just goes up the animal kingdom all the way to humans. The trick is to invent even more horrific form of self mutilation than those already described.

Graphene light bulbs because what is leaving in the future worth without it being made of science fiction materials.

Artificial ants working together just like the real ones
ellestra: (cosima)
The forecast yesterday promised snow or freezing rain and as expected we got the worse option. This morning all cars were encased in ice and it also covered all the over the air walkways. It's hilly here so they often connect the buildings to streets. I was sliding on mine to the pavement and then pulled myself by the railing to the building I work in. Later they put a cone with a note - very slippery on it. Good thing it melted by noon because there'd be a full blown disaster here. Although it is supposed to drop below zero again tonight so we can repeat all this tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile I replaced one of the hard drives on my laptop - the non SSD one - as the old one fell victim to my Christmas clumsiness. The new one is bigger so I did what I always promised myself to do and installed Linux on part of it. I also finally got a printer and installed it. I don't need it much so it's a cheap, monochrome one but it has NFC so I can print directly from my phone. I realised I need it because I had a lot of documents to process in a past month and sometimes wished I didn't have to go to work to get something reprinted. It's all done now - I have new visa and I'm staying for a while longer (no thanks to the incredibly slow HR department - the process started almost a year ago and it ended up being last minute due to their mistakes and incredible slowness) but there will be other things I'd like to be able to print instantly.
ellestra: (lightning)
Last year ended with snow in Europe and snow (even in Clifornia) and cold (blow -40 in some parts) in North America. It's going away now with rain - here the temperatures are to rise to 20oC before it gets sunny and cold again - I think some forecast even say snow and/or minus temperatures during the day.


I finally upgraded my phone. I was postponing it because I didn't know if I was staying and if not I'd rather have European phone. But I have T-Mobile (GSM) so it works back home anyway and I'm almost certainly staying (my visa is still not processed even though there are only two weeks left but everyone assures me it'll make it - sometimes I wish I'd stayed in Europe and wouldn't have to care about things like that). So I replaced Galaxy S2 with S5.


I thought about other phones - LG or HTC, even Lumia with Windows 8 but in the end I decided to stick with Samsung. One reason is that I also have Samsung tablet so sticking with Android and Samsung ecosystem made sense but the main reasons were pretty much the same as when I was picking S2 - replaceable battery. I hope the stupid reviewers always criticising Samsung for lack of metal won't sway it's designers. Who cares for brushed aluminium look if you can change battery for new one on the go? Almost everyone puts their phones in plastic covers anyway. As always I also appreciate extra storage and the main advantages over iPhone - not using iTunes (still hate it - connecting as USB storge is where it's at) and micro USB (USB 3 charges so fast).

I got it during Thanksgiving - the old one kept freezing and they had a promotion. I'm annoyed with some of the TouchWiz stuff - like the stupid Magazine thing I can't get rid of - but I like others - I started using S Health and track my steps. It started out of curiosity - I always told my mum I'm so tired after I get from work because there is a lot of running in biology and now I have proof. I do over 6 km just at work. I think it was a little more in Poland - longer corridors. I usually do more than 10 000 steps without much effort - I only missed that mark when I was sick. And there is only 100 m from my door to bus stop so that doesn't add much.

I had a small issue with sound switching from headphones to speakers when I looked at home screen for no reason at all but there was software upgrade at the same time and it fixed it. Unfortunately it wasn't the software upgrade. No Lollipop for me yet. Poland always gets them first (even before Korea - somehow we became Samsung's test grounds) and USA is always last (maybe I really should've stayed closer to home).



Last year I've also been using laser hair removal - Tria Beauty (I have previous version). Buying it was cheaper than going for treatments and I could do them more often.


My hair grow very fast which is nice when you want to change bad haircut but it means the other body hair is longer (hair grows for certain amount of time before it falls off - the length it is is what it can reach in that time - for head it's years for other places months or weeks) and it's often gets pulled by clothes. It's also very dark so it's very visible and both of that means shaving only lasts few hours. Waxing also doesn't last weeks. Especially since my hair has tendency to break and those grow back even faster. And they all grow in so every time I would get goosebumps it felt like my legs were on fire (much worse than the waxing itself). I had to pull the hair one by one with needle.

Luckily for me, I'm a perfect subject for laser hair removal. My skin is pale and my hair is dark. There are people with with lighter skin and darker hair but I'm pretty much at the end of both spectrums. This is important because laser finds melanin. If you have it too much in your skin it will burn more than just hair (well it will burn skin instead of hair). If you have it too little in your hair it won't find the hair. The lighter the skin and darker the hair the better the results. So it's only suited for very specific group of people but luckily for me I'm one of them. And I say luckily because nothing else really worked before but this works great for me.

I have no rush, basically no redness, even at highest levels after using it - my skin really takes it well. I also almost don't tan - generally very depressing (my grandma always said "you should go out more child you look so pale" while my blond bother gets brown without trying during the same vacation trip) - but I don't really have to worry about not being able to use it even during summer. I have much, much less hair and the ones that are left are thinner (the thickest ones go away most efficiently - they were the darkest). The ones left are still pretty long but I can shave and have it last for a day or two. I finally understood why people do it. It was too much bother for too little result. I have only short weak hair left in my armpits and no longer have to worry about abscess (bikini area was especially bad).

If you are in the right skin and hair colour range I highly recommend it. They have range for skin and hair colours on the page but it's hard to judge your own. However, to unlock it and use it you have to scan your skin with it and it will only work if it detects it's light enough so if you are not sure you can try to see if it unlocks. It is awesome.
ellestra: (slingers)
It's the end of the year and it's time to sum up this year in science and that's a much better story than news. Multiple sites have than their pick of th best and most important science and technology stories this year - from weird to futuristic, from space to new element and quark combinations, from new biological organs to synthetic chromosomes and from Nature to Science. And Wired. And New Scientist. And Scientific American.

There are things that only just happened so I didn't get a chance to write about them yet and they didn't land on any list - like the strange fish that lives 8 km deep in the ocean and looks more alien than most science fiction creatures ever will (although it kind of reminds me of Falkor). Scientists learning how to speak monkey. Venus is hell (hot, hot, hot and full of sulphur) but NASA Research Center has plans to put cloud cities on it high in the Venus atmosphere where it's not too bad - apparently living just above hell is doable just as long as you don't fall. And you can name a crater on Mercury.

For me the two most important things that happened in science was - one - all the progress at organ replacement and prosthetic - from new ways to create stem cells and 3D printing organs and growing replacement ones in a vat - like vaginas to creating new, better fitted, cheaper and cooler, prettier 3D printed prosthetics and reconecting nerves in paralysed to advances in cybernetics that allows for mind-controlling the artificial limbs and feeling the objects you touch (bionics is real and cyborgs are no longer sf). Two - all the comet stuff - the Rosetta mission most of all - from the Philae drama to water that's different from the one we know (so comets are not the source of our oceans) - but also the Siding Spring pass of Mars.
ellestra: (tiger)
This is how one orbit lap looks like from the space station - the sun going the full round. This one was going parallel to terminator so the sun never sets/rises. It just makes the full loop.

This is so awesome - real space videos always are.

Venus the least welcoming of our rocky neighbours as runaway greenhouse effect turned the place into hell - almost 500 oC and clouds of sulphuric acid that hard to survive by even the most advanced of our equipment. The Venera program manage to put the probes there after few first got crushed by the incredibly dense atmosphere. Now the Venus Express probe will start a series of dives into the Venus atmosphere - something it'll probably won't survive - to record conditions in a largely unstudied region. It already has served as Venus weather satellite and now it will give us information about the atmosphere from the inside.

We made a new type of rock - plastiglomerate. It is made of solids of volcanic origin, sand, shells and plastic. It's most likely the plastic that got to close to the fire on beaches, melted and bound the beach minerals together. The new substance appears to be persistent, destined to stick around for a long, long time. I hope you are all proud of yourselves.

There is a first chatbot that managed to convince 1 in 3 judges that it was a 13-year-old non-native-English-speaking Ukrainian boy. I'm not sure if that's really passing the Turing test as everyone says but it shows the programs are getting better at this. Soon all your porn chats will be completely human free.

Heartbleed

Apr. 9th, 2014 11:41 pm
ellestra: (lightning)
Everyone is panicking and rightfully so because a really, really awful security bug was discovered. One that lets people get random fragments of data that supposed to be supper secure. It is as bad as everyone says and you can't do anything about it - it has to be fixed on the server sites by providers - and noone knows what data got out - the chunks that were caught were random so maybe they got your credit card numbers they might've contained passwords or even SSL private encryption keys and then you could get everything else. Or just grab so many of those chunks you got everything anyway. That's why they called it Heartbleed.

Basically, an attacker can grab 64K of memory from a server. The attack leaves no trace, and can be done multiple times to grab a different random 64K of memory. This means that anything in memory -- SSL private keys, user keys, anything -- is vulnerable. And you have to assume that it is all compromised. All of it.

"Catastrophic" is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.

Half a million sites are vulnerable, including my own. Test your vulnerability here.

The bug has been patched. After you patch your systems, you have to get a new public/private key pair, update your SSL certificate, and then change every password that could potentially be affected.

At this point, the probability is close to one that every target has had its private keys extracted by multiple intelligence agencies. The real question is whether or not someone deliberately inserted this bug into OpenSSL, and has had two years of unfettered access to everything. My guess is accident, but I have no proof.


So to sum up not only you don't really know if you've been compromised (or where) you also cannot do anything about it. Just wait till it gets patched and change all your passwords. Again.

CNet checked the most popular American sites so you'll know which password you can change now.

The funny thing is I learned about it from xkcd (before all the big news outlets and official work emails).
ellestra: (tiger)
I got my 3Doodler - pen that uses 3D printer plastic so you can draw 3D objects. I Kickstarted it and now I have it. I spent this evening trying it out. Here are some of my first tries:


It's nothing special and it's kind of hard to even tell I was trying to make cats but I'm getting the hang of it. Still the way I do it uses up the plastic very quickly so I need to try something more openwork. There are some people doing pretty awesome stuff with it and I probably will never get this good but it is a lot of fun.
ellestra: (cosima)
I'll get to Nobels tomorrow when last of the science ones gets announced. Today I'm talking about some newer science.

There is a chance that world's first malaria vaccine - called RTS,S - will be available pretty soon. Right now it's on its way to the European Medicines Agency to be filed in 2014. If everything goes well, it can be approved in 2015 and land in Africa for vaccinations in 2016. I know it still long but everything has to be checked before mass vaccinations. Of course, since is heading for the official approval, all the clinical test are finished. The vaccine was tested in 15,000 children in 11 African trial sites. Half were babies aged 6 to 12 weeks and the other half toddlers aged 5 to 17 months. Half in each group received the vaccine and half a placebo, and all continued where possible with other precautions to prevent malaria such as sleeping under bed nets. It worked best in older group with 56% less cases of malaria compared to the control group (younger had 31% less cases). It still needs boosters (like tetanus vaccine) but it's better then nothing and, hopefully, with large percentage of population vaccinated we can count on herd immunity lowering number of people falling ill. There are also other malaria vaccines in the works - one that kill the parasite in mosquitoes and one using weakened parasite. Together they might help us eliminate another one of the great killers. Unless, of course, the anti-vaccers don't mess up this one first.

For the first time nuclear fusion produced amount of energy exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel. This is still not producing more energy than it took to create this reaction but it's better then anything we could do in a lab before. Controlled fusion has been a white whale of energy production since we learned how it worked and the laser facilitated one has the best outcomes but it's still not there as fusion still doesn't generate as much energy as the lasers supply - just more then it absorbed from lasers (absorption isn't 100% effective). However, scientists from National Ignition Facility (NIF) hope to achieve ignition in this way creating a self-sustaining fusion. One day we may all watch Greenpeace protesting the newest fusion powerplant being build in our neighbourhood.

The biggest problem with typing on the touchscreens is lack of feedback. You can feel whether you pressed the keys on the keyboard. On a screen there's no such feedback so mistakes are much more frequent and typing usually more tiresome and many people get keyboards for their tablets. UltraHaptics is preparing to change all that. It uses ultrasonic waves to create a feeling of touching something in the air. If you move your hands through vibrating air you feel the vibrations and can discern their force. The vibrations will change depending how hard you press so you can have a touch feedback when you want to change something (volume, page etc.). It's still not the utility mist but, according to specs, it might feel like one.
ellestra: (anomander rake)
Due to an error in the ebook version George R. R. Martin - A Feast for Crows was randomly inserted into the text of the novel. Internet as always found a way to make it into meme.

Steven Erikson is going to answer questions about Toll the Hounds on tor.com - he does that after they finish reread of each of the books. I can't wait for The Crippled God. I need to ask about the Princes of Amber and The Little Prince inspirations.

And I learned how to make Vine play on Firefox. The about:config solution fixed my problem (plus of course whitelisting it in Flashblock).
ellestra: (telamon)
So I concentrated on body augmentation but other things happened in science recently, too.

We learned last years that dolphins introduce themselves by name (their signature whistle) but it turns out they also call friends and family members by their names (copy their signature whistles) when they look for them. That's makes them the only other animals, other then us, who call each other by names. And they also exhibit almost all our social behaviours - from extremely good to extremely bad - which shows on how fragile foundations our feeling of uniqueness is built (and that you think before you eat someone's mum).

Our whole universe might be even more fragile as scientist who study Higgs boson think that if the the recently discovered Higgs-like particle is really Higgs then its mass would make the universe inherently unstable, like a pencil balanced on its point. The vacuum of space should be most stable at its lowest energy and current Higgs mass calculations indicate that this is not it yet so our space is only temporarily stable and will ultimately collapse. Eventually, a little bubble of an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us. But some experimental results indicate that there might be more particles so Supersymmetry may save the universe, yet.

Speaking of pens and 3D-prining (I know it seems to pop up everywhere recently) - you can kickstart (and eventually own) a 3D-printing pen. It will use fast solidifying plastic and you will be able to doodle objects that you can then play with. This is like my childhood coming true as one of my favourite Polish children toons was Zaczarowany Ołówek (Enchanted Pencil) - whatever the main hero drew with that pencil became a real 3D-object. I used to wish I could have a pencil like that. Now, I can. I love living in 21st century.
ellestra: (tiger)
Today's episode of science links is all about replacement body parts and interfacing them.

Remember, I mentioned 3D printing lately and all the wonderful things they can make for us. It turns out one of those things can be body parts. Scientists from Cornell University made a replacement ear by putting injection of living, cartilage-producing collagen cells in 3-D printed the soft mold of the ear and the ear grew. Their next step it to print by directly the using the living cells as "ink". Right now the experiments are done using cow cells but if it works they plan to switch to humans. Right now, the biggest problem is making enough of the collagen cells but after that is solved printing new ears, noses or even parts of ribcage (especially for children) might become as normal as sewing fingers back on.

Nine patients have been fitted with an Alpha IMS - a new retinal prosthesis device that uses a grid of 1500 electrodes implanted underneath, the retina. It only works for people who lost their vision through diseases that destroy the light-detecting cells in the eye but leave the vision-processing neurons intact. The device takes the visual signal and translates it to the neurons. It's also powered by wireless battery*. Unlike previous visual prosthesis, that use an external camera, Alpha IMS detects light entering the eye. That allows for looking around by moving eyes instead of moving the head. Think how it must feel to suddenly be able to see the world.

The first bionic hand that allows an amputee to feel what they are touching will be transplanted later this year in a pioneering operation that could introduce a new generation of artificial limbs with sensory perception. The hand's wiring will be connected directly to the nervous system via electrodes clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves. Hopefully, this will allow the patient to not only control the movements of the hand but also to receive touch feedback from hand’s skin sensors. This should allow for better control and more delicate movement. As any robotic operator knows, without the touch information it's easy to either grip to lightly and let things slip or to grip too hard and squash it.

Wearable technologies are usually connected to smart clothes but last year circuits that can be put directly on skin were developed . Epidermal electronic system (EES) is an electronic circuit mounted on your skin, designed to stretch, flex, and twist — and to take input from the movements of your body. The devices are the as thin as human hair and they consist of circuitry embedded in a layer or rubbery polyester that allow them to stretch, bend and wrinkle. The circuit is applied to skin like a temporary tattoo. Now, all I can think of is the Organic Circuitry tattoos from Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth novels.

At first, the uses were mostly for monitoring (ECG, EEG, EMG) and they've shown it can also stimulate muscle. Now they have been shown to electrical signals linked with brain waves. Researchers found they have the ability to detect brain signals reflective of mental states (e.g. recognition of familiar images). They are also pursuing monitoring premature babies to detect the onset of seizures that can lead to epilepsy or brain development problems. The circuits already incorporate solar cells for power and antennas that allow them to communicate wirelessly or receive energy but they can also add like thermal sensors to monitor skin temperature and light detectors to analyse blood oxygen levels. In the future it might be used for interfacing things like replacement eyes and hands or even new, detachable limbs and communicating with computers and networks through touch in a way that makes them part of our body. Imagine flying planes or driving cars just like do walking.

*Wireless electricity is becoming the next big thing and it's not just batteries for things but can also be used for charging batteries as a German student has shown when he built what he calls an electromagnetic harvester. It's a device that converts electromagnetic fields in the immediate environment into electricity to recharge a common AA battery.
ellestra: (tiger)

I went to the signing of Cory Doctorow's new book Homeland. He had a very good lecture about internet freedom, laws that are skewed against users, Aaron Schwartz and how we all need to do something about it before we get even more reliant on the computers and the internet. It reminded me why I ended up feeling so pissed off I almost stopped reading the first book in this duology - Little Brother - it is just a little more extreme that the stuff that actually happened in the examples he talked about. I could try to describe it in more detail but it's much better coming form the man himself (from some earlier stop on his tour).



Doctorow makes his books available for free download under Creative Commons licence and still manages to sell quite a lot of them. Proving that his belief that file sharing is not destroying creativity and original content is not unsubstantiated.

There was also a presentation of 3D printing. One more thing showing how expressing creativity and manufacturing can be much more accessible to everyone now and how the distributed network of sharing ideas directly between users (from building 3D printers to sharing designs) can make our lives a better place. They talked about people creating companies making game pieces or just making stuff the need at home. The small things you can just make when you need them

And here's the printer in action and some of the stuff printed


And it is a self-build 3D printer. You don't have to spend thousand on one you can build it. And now, that the community is bigger your will be more precise (and print parts for next one thus starting the machine evolution).

PS. Today is 540 anniversary of Nicolaus Copernicus birth and I hope you saw the doodle. Orbiting the Sun FTW!
ellestra: (charlie jade)
You can pick a face expression that will be on Cory Doctorow's head 3D print. The face expressions are presented by John Scalzi. I can't stop thinking Doctorow has no chance of replicating it correctly. Especially that one cross eye.

If just sharing your 3D bust is not SF enough for you here is a chip that will turn you into a battery. Coming next year. Just to spite everyone who made fun of Matrix. And so you can finally power your gadgets. No more fighting for that one plug at the airport.

You still have to wait a year to get the chip but you can get your microbiome sequenced right now. Or, more precisely after May but you can sponsor the project now and become a participant at the same time. It's also not full sequencing but just 16S RNA that's a highly conserved sequence used to identify species. It codes RNA that is part of a ribosome and is therefore highly conserved (very little mutations because if it fails cell dies) so the changes allow to track evolutionary history. It's often used to identify species and families of bacteria that live in different environments (we do it for plants in our lab). Now you can do it for yourself and see what lives inside you. There is 10x more bacteria cells on and in you then your own. Maybe it's time to get to know your inner life better.
ellestra: (Default)
I just got my new Kindle Paperwhite. I bought it for myself on birthday but due to demand I had to wait. It came faster then I expected - at first it was to be delivered by the end of the month. It came yesterday. Amazon has been spanning me with emails about how I should prepare for its arrival for about a week.

It is nice. I mentioned before there was just one thing I would like to have in old one - a touchscreen - so I've been thinking about getting one ever since they made the first Touch. I just didn't feel the expense was justified but now that it also has built in light I broke down. Most of the book lights are too uneven and unwieldy so I like the idea of it being part of the device.

It is nice. Smaller because there is no keyboard. The screen is sharper (old one is 2 years old so that was obvious) and it feels nicer. I bought version without "special offers" so I have wallpapers and the details on them are so pretty (although I miss the portraits). I also bought the version without 3G this time. I almost never used it anyway and now that I have a smartphone it's even less likely. I'd like to have the option but it wasn't worth it.

The light is nice - there is slight uneven space at the bottom but it doesn't reach the text. Besides that it looks like the screen is shining. It's hard to explain how it's different then back light but it's easier on the eyes nevertheless. it's also easy to change the light intensity so that's helps too.

This one has multitouch feature so it's not just keyboard, scrolling and menu - you can also zoom in and out (or change font size) like on a tablet. It's also nice that the interface is very alike the one for Kindle app so  I'm already familiar with most of the function. However there are some quirks like I kept expecting for the slide for the book scrolling to show up so it took me longer then it should to find out how to jump to the middle of the book. The screen changes are taking more time then on tablet devices and there is that page change reset blink but this is feature of e-ink.

I like that font choices (both size and type). I like that I can switch between the List (just text) and Cover View. I like the keyboard and the fact that I no longer need to do that weird thing with the arrows to pick things out from the symbols (that was one thing that is really annoying in the keyboard version). I'm a little sad it doesn't have sound (old one plays mp3 and read books) but as I said I have other things that can do that. I think I already love it.

I'm planning to give the old one to my mum. My dad has a lot of books in pdfs but my mum doesn't like to read from the screen. My mum has eye problems and I think that ability to change font size combined with more paper-like look of the e-book readers will be good for her. I just wish it'd had Polish as system language so the menu could be in Polish and it would read books in Polish. I mean there is no offcial one -  I may try to install community based Polish TTS on it for her.

May 2016

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