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.