Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Say, kids, what time is it?

What with winter blahs and post-holiday letdown, what better moment could there be for some diversion? And so, drawing upon classical SF and Nonsense subject areas, herewith an assortment of thought-provoking items (well, they provoked my thoughts):

They're bot-tastic
"Robotic Micro-Scallops Can Swim Through Your Eyeballs." And why would you want that? As a medical-delivery system. Eyeballs are attention-getting, of course, but the larger point is that blood, like eyeball fluid, doesn't act like water. Autonomous tiny bots able to make their way through non-Newtonian fluids like blood and vitreous humor (that's doc-speak for eyeball fluid) to inspect, repair, and/or deliver meds with precision will be a Big Step Forward. (Not to mention a Small Miracle(s), but that's a whole 'nother story ;-)  ....)

Shifting our attention to robots on a larger scale, consider "Flying Selfie Bots: Tag-Along Video Drones Are Here: Sports enthusiasts are clamoring for aerial robots that can record their best moves." Read the details or watch the video and you'll see that "here" is a tad overstated -- but with more than a million in Kickstarter funding, this is a product category we can expect to see before long.

Clever gadgets such as drones often have embedded in them a lot of software. Alas, overly broad patents and patents granted for nothing more than algorithms often get in the way of software progress. (I most recently opined on software patents last April, within a post titled "Because a distraction seems therapeutic." Alas, Russian incursions into Ukraine continue.) If you share my concern about these impediments to software development, check out "Software patents are crumbling, thanks to the Supreme Court." Way to go, Supremes!

Even aside from excessive patent barriers, the process of developing software has its share of challenges. Buginess, for one. Consider the recent news that "Microsoft fixes 19-year-old Windows bug."
The bug, which is present in every version of Microsoft Windows from Windows 95 onward, allows an attacker to remotely take over and control a computer.
That's not to say insecure, buggy software is a Microsoft monopoly. If you ever felt otherwise, consider -- as just one example -- "Flaw in New ‘Secure’ Credit Cards Would Let Hackers Steal $1M Per Card."

It's well known that the FBI recently called out North Korea for hacking Sony Pictures Entertainment. The bureau has been much more reticent about China's hacking. "List of hacked government agencies grows: State Department, White House, NOAA & USPS."

There's a fine line in cyberspace between spying and hacking. Nor is that distinction academic, as "NSA was tracking North Korea back in 2010, docs reveal." The NSA will doubtless say their network penetration didn't cross the line. FWIW, I'd agree with them.

Voice-driven applications are also software-intensive. That makes it less than heart-warming to read that "Voice Hackers Will Soon Be Talking Their Way Into Your Technology."
Voice-activated technology is so vulnerable to attack that users should immediately disable speech recognition on all their devices, a security researcher at AVG has warned.
But all is not lost on the security front. "These Norton-approved jeans can keep hackers out of your pants."

And speaking of voice-activated devices ... does your phone running out of juice get you down? Then take heart: "Recharge your phone in 30 seconds? Israeli firm says it can." That's nanotech you can use -- as soon, possibly, as sometime next year :-)

And on the topics of voice technology and things that are (sometimes) kept in one's pants, do you often find it difficult to actually, you know, carry on a conversation using your cell? Me, too. For a ray of hope, see "Why Mobile Voice Quality Still Stinks -- and How to Fix It."

Are you provoked and/or diverted yet?


Anonymous said...

Most of the topics deal with hacking/spying or potential hacking/spying ... which we fear, fail to guard against, or embrace based on current fashion rather than understanding. If technology is predisposed to 'original sin' the way people are supposed to be, we are hosed. The machines will eat the apple and herd us poor humans to the meatpacking plant. Even the eyeball swimmers 'fixing' things could conceivably hijack our operating systems.

BTW, It's Howdy Doody time. Whatever happened to Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring?

Edward M. Lerner said...

I wondered when someone would pick up on the Howdy Doody reference. Congrats on being the first.

As for the machines, we can hope they'll all be vegans ;-)