Saturday, August 10, 2013

App Helps Students Find Scholarships

In this article by USA Today, Christopher Gray, a student at a Drexel University, founder and CEO of Scholly, has created a way for the app named Scholly to help students find what scholarships they are eligible for. The app costs about 99 cents. Gray states that he wants to keep the cost down so that everyone can take advantage of it. The search process does not require personal information which cuts down the amount of time users need to spend on the app. Gray wanted an app that was most importantly simple and fast/efficient. According to the article, "Scholly uses eight specific parameters — such as state, race, GPA or major — to instantly filter listings into a comprehensive directory of scholarships for which the prospective applicant is eligible." Within five minutes a person can see the results. I think this is wonderful that someone who is still in college is already taking his talents and knowledge and directing them toward a way to help others. One of the big debates about education today is how high college costs are. I think it is wonderful when technology and innovation can join together to help others meet their needs and open educational opportunities.

Robots in Schools

In this article by USA Today, a new robot named Projo was created by Sandra Okita at Columbia University to try and help children who need tutors. Okita says children benefit from having a person with them to help monitor their progression or track a mistake during homework. Projo would be doing just that, but rather than a human tutor will be a robotic tutor for young kids. The robot can look at the same problems as the child and take turns solving the math problems with the child. What I think is fantastic about Projo is that Okita says the robot can help track a child's progress and help them self correct. I do think Projo is limited though in that a robot will not be able to use teaching analogies like human tutors can in trying to help students learn from their mistakes and understand concepts.

Space Fence Could Be Shut Down

According to this article by Slashdot, the Airforce Space fence could be shut down. The Space fence is the only monitoring system of its kind that gives real-time information on tracking orbital debris. Part of the issue is a cut to the Pentagon's budget. It is interesting to see how much the space program has taken a hit from government cut backs. And it is alarming that something that is the only one of its kind would be shut down.

Dracula Robot

Ever get tired of when a nurse misses your vein while drawing blood? According to this article by PopSci, a new robot named Veebot was created to draw blood more accurately than humans, however, as of now the results don't show much improvement. The robot seems to miss just as much as humans do when trying to locate a vein to draw blood. But scientists are optimistic that soon the robot will advance and be able to locate veins more accuractely than humans. The Veebot uses a combination of infrared light, ultrasound and machine learning to find the right vein. I think this is very interesting that robotics are being designed for something in the medical field such as this.

Cars are Computers Too!

This article by NPR, describes how smart cars may be vulnerable to hacks that could be very dangerous for those in the car. Researchers were able to hack into the small computers in a car's operating system that controls things such as seat belts, breaks, acceleration, etc. It is scary to read that the researchers were able to hack into the smart cars and make them break of accelerate. This could be very dangerous for people in smart cars. When the researchers presented their findings to top car manufacturers they were shocked that the companies did not seem to be startled by this information. The companies believe that by the time a person is able to hack into a person's car that the person will notice. Also each car has a different operating system and machine language so hackers would have to learn that first. But the prospect that this is a potential safety risk is still undeniable.

Foreseeable Problems with Internet Security

This article by the MIT Technology Review, discusses the daunting idea that with the advancements in mathematics that it is possible for the discrete logarithm problem that secures RSA and Diffie-Hellman encryption to be broken. Many researchers believe that within a few years it is possible for the algorithm to be found and if that is the case then these two previously mention encryption techniques will be broken. RSA and Diffie-Hellman are used by many companies to guard serious financial and person information. If these encryption are broken then access to online banking accounts, and etc. would be viewable and cause major security issues. This makes me a little warry of having online banking.

One thing my mom and I differ on is how we do our banking. She does everything the old school way, while I use online banking. My mom told me she didn't want to use online banking because she wondered if someone could break the security measures put in place. I told her that was very unlikely, but after reading this article it makes me feel vulnerable and realize how reliant most people are on these encryption methods and that a lot of people don't realize they could be broken.

IBM Presents Brain-Like Computer

I found this article by the MIT Technology Review to be very interesting and exciting! The article talks about IBM presenting the blue prints for a computer, TrueNorth that is designed more like the human brain. One of the biggest advancements is that they developed a new programming language. In the article it is said that trying to use normal programming language that is used today on new on the new architecture is like fitting a square peg in a round hole. IBM will no longer use the Von Neumann architecture for its computers. According to the article, "Instead, TrueNorth stores and processes information in a distributed, parallel way, like the neurons and synapses in a brain." This is very exciting to see the advancements of a computer being able to complete tasks such as visual sensing. Before my computer science course I would not have understood the magnitude of this news but after the course I am very excited to understand what a big break through this is in programming and what a change this is that I will be able to computers possibly change from Von Neumann architecture.

Silicon Valley on Immigration

In this CS101 class it is interesting to see how much of a sway the Silicon Valley companies have in other aspect of American life/policy that isn't just technological. In an article by the MIT Technology Review, Silicon Valley is pushing looser immigration laws, especially since half of the engineers and scientists working for these companies are foreign born, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, even commented on how it is a shame to turn a talented person away from a company based on current immigration laws. With a technological boom that has become world wide, Silicon Valley still remains the hub of innovation. I am interested to see if big companies from Silicon Valley will have an affect on lobbying for looser immigration laws when much of the political discussion today is on whether our immigration laws are too relaxed.

Video Games Dominate

In this article by the MIT Technology Review, begins by talking about the dominance of the game Minecraft. The article states, "the profits it’s generated—$86 million in 2012 alone—rival those of the world’s largest entertainment releases." The game is programmed using Java code. We learned about this class and the article explains the reason for this is the programming language emphasizes "speed and lightness." The game Minecraft may not look as life like as one would expect with its Lego-like box animation. The article explains how the game is able to creatively enter the minds of what users want from a game. The ability for uses to see a "birth, death, and rebirth" in the game hooks them. But all video games can draw a player in, but one key aspect that sets Minecraft apart is its encourage sharing of the game. The game allows for communal construction projects. The game's goal is also more user defined. This is interesting to me because I am not a video game player but these ideas seem very different from what I would traditionally think a video game could offer to its users. The ability to share and work on each others worlds and have the goal of the game be more user defined allows for people to get lost in the game and see it more as a world than a simple "end-goal" game.

Small E-mail Providers Commit Business Suicide

In this NYTimes article, Two small e-mail providers committed business suicide and destroyed data to protect their users information from government surveillance. In recent weeks the topic of discuss has been centered around U.S. citizens outrage towards the unnecessary government surveillance of private data. One company listed was called Lavabit, and reported was the e-mail carrier that Snowden used. According to the article the company's owner Ladar Levison said, “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot," and added, “This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without Congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.” This raises concern on the topic of why is it that the larger companies are complying with the government while the smaller ones are choosing to shutdown. The article explains that a larger company, such as Facebook, has too many users and its users would be outraged if it simply "shutdown." But that these smaller providers are able to fight back and say rather than sharing its data it will close. But the closure of these smaller companies in response to government crack down on surveillance laws is reigning in the circle of providers, causing a monopoly like dominance of larger companies that cannot deny government data searches. This is very upsetting to me since one of the greatest freedoms in the U.S. is a right to privacy. I do not think that wanting to protect one's right to privacy means a person has something to hide from the government either.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Buzz About GlassUp

This TechNewWorld article, raises the question of whether the newly talked about GlassUp will find itself a successful market in the wearable tech department. As previously stated in one of my previous posts about FIDO, the wearable tech market is volatile in its unpredictability of whether consumers will really want to buy the product. Quote from the E-Commerce Times, Jeff Orr, a senior practice director of ABI Research said, "Is it necessary or an entertainment factor?" I believe that question will ultimately decide the fate and longevity of GlassUp. The article had a video that explained some of the practical uses of GlassUp, which I believe people would find just as "necessary," as Orr puts it, as GPS or smartphones. GlassUp displays a small green text screen in front of viewers eyes. GlassUp users can see new messages, recipes online while cooking, directions while driving, and subtext to a foreign language. However, GlassUp is also facing legal action from Google saying the product's name should be changed since it may be confused with the product, Google Glass.

Video Game Redefines Notion of Athlete

According to this TechNewsWorld article, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service reportedly recognized the video game League of Legends as a professional sport. Thus allowing the most elite players to qualify for Internationally Recognized Athlete visas, also known as "P-1A" visas, which permit athletes holding them to stay in the United States for up to five years. However, this recognition has not come without its skeptics. In the article, sources say they understand the premise of recognizing the game as a sport but don't believe its players are worthy of the term "professional athletes." This raises the question: how do we define an athlete and how will the arena of sports competition change as technology advances? I personally feel that those who play the video game are considered "players" rather than "athletes". In my mind the difference is comparing the training necessary for someone who "plays" Fantasy football vs. actually being an NFL athlete.
FIDO Helping Dogs and Humans Communicate

In this TechNewsWorld article, Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations (FIDO) believes it has found a middle grown between wearable technology and communicating with training assistance dogs. The technology would be worn by dogs that are trained for purposes such as being guides, search and rescue dogs, or military dogs; and the technology would allow humans and dogs in certain situations to communicate more precisely. For example, a trained personnel would be able to ask the dog for more details about what kind of bomb the dog might be sniffing and receive that information in return. This new technology shows how computers really are  used as tools to better facilitate open communication. The fact that two different species can begin to communicate via technology is ground breaking and I hope this technology finds its market so that FIDO becomes a success.

Although, according to this article it is not very clear how exactly this technology reads and translates what is being said between the dog and human. But a picture of the device is displayed with the article showing a dog with a wearable computer device on its back that is connected to a microphone like bulb that is in the dog's mouth. I would be interested to learn more specific details about how FIDO works logistically.
First Pen with Built in Spell Check

In this article by CNN,  the Lernstift Smartpen is the first of its kind to be both a pen and computer. The pin's AAA battery-powered LINUX computer includes a non-optial motion sensor that recognizes character shapes and a vibration module to notify when a spelling error has occurred. The smart pen is able to follow strokes through the motion sensor regarding what words are being written and if a misspelling is made then the pen vibrates. I think this product will be very well received and popular, but I also believe it shows how reliant people have become on computer systems for efficiency. It makes me wonder though if people are using this tool as a crutch to manually fixing spelling problems. Our culture has become so computer reliant that when we go to write by hand we become vulnerable to not having the luxury of spellcheck from the computer and wish we did. But regardless of the minor skepticism, I am very excited about this new product. I think the practicality of this product is remarkable and the fact that computers are now being made in pin size form is fascinating.

No More Ads for Apple TV?

In this article by Bloomberg, it was reported that Apple is considering adopting a new strategy of allowing viewers to skip through ads on their TVs. This idea is forward thinking, since ads have been a primary source of revenue for TV networks. According to a survey, three-quarters of consumers use DVRs in order to fast forward through commercials. The idea of being able to skip through ads is one that has been recently voiced, however, many different networks and companies are reluctant to change this since ads are their main source of revenue. I am interested to see what deal could be reached between Apple Inc. and its sponsors, who pay for the ads that could be skipped through. 
Why Is Microsoft Surface RT Struggling to Sell?

In this New York Times article, author Nick Bilton expresses his theory on why Microsoft is struggling with its Surface sales and lagging behind Apple's ipad. His theory is the issue of simplicity. That the Microsoft Surface RT is too much work for consumers, especially those who are not very tech savvy. I think this is an interesting point that the author makes. In my opinion Apple products are very user friendly (particularly in troubleshooting).

This reminds me of another article I posted about the creator of the mouse who had died. It was Steve Jobs who said he wanted the mouse to be  much simpler than its original design. At the time, those who understood the architecture of the mouse wanted many buttons on it, while Jobs said less was better for the everyday consumer. Perhaps it was that attitude that Jobs portrayed that it still evident today and helps propel Apple forward with its simplistic tech-design approach, as compared to Microsoft.
Amazon Domain-name Struggle

In this New York Times article, a committee in the ICANN stated that the online company would not be able to use the word Amazon "as a so-called global top-level domain — the letters that follow the dot in Internet addresses." This is due to the opposition of several Latin countries which state that the word amazon is in reference to a geological area and should not be reserved the right to solely represent the online company's top level domain name. I find this story interesting since we recently learned about domain names and can now see how the ICANN oversees these type of problems.

Friday, July 19, 2013

F.C.C. Plans to Update School Technology

In this article by The New York Times, it is reported that the Federal Communications Commision (F.C.C.) recently voted to expand its E-Rate program to 2.3 billion dollars in an effort to give more schools up-to-date technology, such as high-speed Internet. The article goes on to say that President Obama recently remarked that he would like to see 99 percent of school students, "connect to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years."

I find this article interesting because we have recently been talking about how the networking of computers and the Internet works. When the Internet was first created, one of its primary uses was to connect universities. I grew up going to a high school and college that offered high-speed Internet and feel as if I have taken this amenity for granted. I am glad to see that access to the internet and the ability to network for educational purposes is being placed at a higher priority for high schools across the country.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Technology Workers Younger than National Average

According to an article by The New York Times, PayScale found amongst 31 of the most successful technology companies that the average age of an employee was around 30 years old . For seven of the 31 companies, the average age was under 30. The New York Times article stated that the median age of American workers is 42.3 years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For newer and more innovative companies the average age and time worked at the company is lesser than those tech companies that pride themselves on employees with greater experience. According to the article, older companies have employees working with them for an average of six years, while newer companies, such as Facebook, on average have had an employee working for the company only 1.1 years. I found it interesting that the median age for Facebook was 28 years old and for Google 29 years old. Unfortunately though one piece of information from this article that saddened me was the fact that the number of female employees working in these newer tech companies was less than 30 percent.

Overall, this data supports the widely accepted hunch that the more innovative and forward thinking a tech company is the young its employees will be. After just starting my Intro to Computer Science course I have seen how quickly the technology regarding the internet has progressed in the past 25 years. It makes sense as to why some of these tech companies, that are competing for innovative ideas, want employees who are young and grew up with the latest technological knowledge.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Inventor of Computer Mouse Dies

According to this The New York Times article, Douglas C. Engelbart died this past Tuesday due to kidney failures at the age of 88. He is survived by four children and nine grandchildren. But even moreso, what lives on after Engelbart's death is a techological contribution that most people know simply as, the mouse.

In 1964, Engelbart attended a computer graphic conference during which he first thought of the idea of the mouse. His vision was to design a way to move a cursor across a computer display, and thus designed a small case carrier that could hold the mechanical contents to do so. His early mouse had three buttons; however, he wished for there to be more. Today most people use a more simplistic version of the mouse to navigate their computers.

 I find the fact that Engelbart was a part of the first wave of inventors and scientists that dealt with the evolution of computers to be fascinating. For him to see a vision back then in the 60's and for it to be widely implemented by the 80's is inspiring. The mouse is something I have always used, but never stopped to think about who invented it.