Tech Kills

Technology at its best and worst

Acer Shows Off 3D Laptop

Before getting into this story, I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of ‘3D’. I hate 3D movies, and having to wear glasses to see an image come towards me is more than I care to go through when watching a movie. Barring all of that, Acer is at least pushing the capabilities of notebooks with their first 3D laptop.

Acer 3D laptop

The machine is called the Acer Aspire 5738PG (inspirational, I know). The device uses a combination of hardware, software, and the same tried and true glasses to present a 3D effect. Again, with the glasses. PCPro demoed the product, and everything they’ve reported on sounds positive as of now:

“And it works well. I watched a number of nice-looking demos where futuristic planes flew through futuristic landscapes, monsters emerged threateningly from the screen at random moments, and, um, I looked at a 3D photo.

There are drawbacks. You need to have your head positioned carefully to see the 3D effects without ghosting – where every object seems to have the slightest of shadows – and you do look a bit of a fool. Just to prove it, that’s me looking a fool above.”

The 3D laptop releases later this month, to coincide with Windows 7.

[via: PCPro]

Use Your Guitar Hero Controller To Play Online Poker

Oh, so much genius wasted on something so invaluable. Not that this isn’t cool, but how about developing things to better benefit mankind? Oh well, enjoy your online poker mixed with a Guitar Hero controller.. ;)

What’s up with the Crop Circles? Google’s Image Today Starts a Rumor Rampage

We all know that Google throws up cute images whenever the world is celebrating, grieving, or aware of a event of global or national significance. During my customary visit to google.com today, I found a picture that took a second click to figure out. Crop circles? It didn’t seem to me to have the same kind of significance that the fourth of July had, so it got me wondering.

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When Will We See PlayStation 4?

During the Hot Chips Conference in Palo Alto, California, Rich Hilleman, the Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts philosophized and prophesied on gaming during a conference keynote.

Playstation 4

Of particular interest to gamers was how and when they might see upgrades to their gaming consoles. Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox are growing older, and in the gaming world, are due for a facelift pretty soon.

However, that facelift may not come in the form of a brand new console, but rather in a stepped approach—improving the console slowly by degrees, rather than making an entirely new one. “I expected we’ll see a PlayStation 3.5 before we see a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox 560 before we see an Xbox 720,” he said.

Part of the challenge is dealing with the rise of mobile games. While developing games like Madden, Medal of Honor, and Guitar Hero take millions of dollars, months of labor, and hundreds of people, an iPhone game may take a few days of work by just one developer working from his parent’s basement.

So far, such “democratization of game development” is not a killer for mammoth companies like Electronic Arts. Rather, it gives promising talent an easy entrée into the industry where they can eventually join the ranks of serious game developers in bigger firms.

Making a game means lots of resources. When a game is designed, marketed, and eventually published, game corporations like Electronic Arts have to sell over a million copies to merely break even. A statistic like that stands in direct contrast to the free and easy turnaround of most mobile games.

And that is part of the saga of the delay in seeing new Playstations and Xboxes. The problem isn’t interest; the problem is the games themselves. Thankfully, gaming isn’t going away. Ever. But in order to enjoy the nascent form of next generation gaming, don’t wait for the Xbox 560. Go buy an iPhone.

Bringing Evil To The World Of AI

Have you every truly stopped to think — what is evil? So many times we coat what’s dastardly or not by the pieces of fiction in our society. Then you have to think about what truly makes something/someone evil. Is it in the actions, or the soul? Hopefully, Selmer Bringsjord, a logician, philosopher and chairman of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Cognitive Science will find the answers for us. In the study of AI no less.

Merriam-Webster defines evil simply enough – morally reprehensible or causing harm. I might be in over my head, but I have to disagree with their second definition. Causing harm is something we all do, I mean you can cause harm by being in an accident. It doesn’t make one evil, does it?

These questions and conditions lead me to ponder, can anyone be truly evil? Bringsjord states his thoughts on the matter,

To be truly evil, someone must have sought to do harm by planning to commit some morally wrong action with no prompting from others (whether this person successfully executes his or her plan is beside the point). The evil person must have tried to carry out this plan with the hope of “causing considerable harm to others,” Bringsjord says. Finally, “and most importantly,” he adds, if this evil person were willing to analyze his or her reasons for wanting to commit this morally wrong action, these reasons would either prove to be incoherent, or they would reveal that the evil person knew he or she was doing something wrong and regarded the harm caused as a good thing.

The experiment that Bringsjord conducted to help find the mysteries behind evil was called “E”. The character was given a physical shaped, and they began testing E to see how he would respond to certain situations. They programmed him with evil based AI, in which they took a situation of evil from a piece of literature and made E believe he was the person responsible. The situation was that a group of parents had given a pistol to their distraught son who killed himself. They led E to believe he was the parents.

Once the AI was scripted, they interviewed E to try and discern the logical reasoning behind his actions. He had but one cold, and calculated answer – “The boy wanted a gun, E had a gun, so E gave the boy the gun.”

Luckily, Bringsjord is keeping ‘E’ under tight lock and key. You can imagine if this AI was ever used for the wrong reason. I’d say something along the lines of ‘Wargames’ perhaps. All of this studying of his work has led me to a roadblock. Can you truly create something evil in AI? Without understanding on a completely human level, can AI discern what is harm and what is not? Or is it all just numbers and code?

[via: ScientificAmerican]

DDoS Attack Lands British TV Show In Hot Water

A show aired on the BBC’s technology program “Click” may have landed the British television broadcasting firm in hot water. In an effort to demonstrate how easy it is to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, the program producers used information and software acquired via online chat-rooms to create a botnet.

The software the BBC used controlled 22,000 computers, causing them to send out spam to two email accounts set up specifically for the demonstration. It also used the botnet to launch a DDoS attack against a site owned by security vendor Prevx, with the site owner’s consent.

The question is, did the BBC break the law? They don’t think so. In fact, their response to the blogosphere discussions http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/13/bbc_botnet_analysis/comments about the televised experiment focused on how they believed they had managed to educate Internet users on the benefits of PC security. http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/BBC-Responds-to-Botnet-Controversy

Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, and editor of OUT-LAW.COM, thinks otherwise.

“The BBC appears to have broken the Computer Misuse Act by causing 22,000 computers to send spam. It does not matter that the emails were sent to the BBC’s own accounts and criminal intent is not necessary to establish an offence of unauthorized access to a computer,” he said, reports OUT-LAW.COM. http://www.out-law.com//default.aspx?page=9863

“The Act requires that a computer has been made to perform a function with intent to secure access to any program or data on the computer. Using the botnet to send an email is likely to satisfy that requirement. It also requires that the access is unauthorized – which the BBC appears to acknowledge. It does not matter that the BBC’s intent was not criminal or that someone else created the botnet in the first place.”

Machines can be compromised simply by visiting an infected website or opening an email containing a virus as an attachment and, according to TRACE, a quarter of all machines are part of a botnet. Protecting a machine with anti-virus software is the first line of defense however Prevx CEO Mel Morris believes that the security industry isn’t doing enough in this field. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.96800#1504549

Tron Legacy Trailer Is Quite Stunning

Pondering on things now, topics like video games, virtual reality, and 3D worlds are pretty commonplace. Think back to 1982 though when these concepts were still very new, and for some seemed like they were so far away. It’s so amazing to look back to older movies, and other forms of media to see how they viewed the future. Metropolis is a movie I highly recommend for trying this out. It’s a film that was made in 1927, it’s silent, but not much has to be said to convey the message. If you watch the movie you’ll see the birth of concepts such as cyborgs, flying cars, telecommunications, and flat screen televisions decades before any other movie would even conceive of using them.

Tron in a way is like Metropolis. There are so many elements used in Tron that seemed so ahead of their time. Again, there were technologies seen in the movie that no one had even dreamed of using yet. The internet, 3D gaming as I mentioned before. Along with the technologies there were messages concerning A.I., and the power that computers could obtain.

Fast forward to 2009, and now we have an official trailer for the Tron sequel — Tron Legacy. It really is quite amazing looking, and judging from the effects alone will be a movie to keep an eye on.

Jivox Shows Who’s Boss

On Thursday,Jivox won a coveted spot on the AlwaysOn Global 250 List. Jivox, a online video ad producing company, has carved out a noticeable niche in the cut-throat marketing and advertising industry. Though a recent startup, they were awarded the prestigious recognition from AlwaysOn Global 250. AlwaysOn is an open-media trailblazer, which delivers the award “to private, emerging technology companies creating new business opportunities in high-growth markets.”

Jivox is no stranger to prestigious awards. American Business Awards handed them a “Best New Company” ribbon, TiE50 nodded their hat this year, Red Herring gave them a spot on the top 100 list, and SiliconIndia called them one of the Top 10 most promising technology firms. Jivox

How did Jivox do it? In the highly competitive technology marketing industry few companies rise like Jivox has done. It boils down to 4 things.

A Good Idea
It starts with a brainchild, but a brainchild that offers something that is rewarding to the customer. “Video content is the best way to connect with customers online,” says Jivox’s CEO, Diaz Nesamoney who founded the company with that simple statement guiding him.

A Customer-Shaped Product
If the “customer is always right,” then why not just let them do their thing, and pay you for it? You will consult, provide insight, guide them along, and deliver the final package, but allow them to shape their dream. After all, it’s their product you’re marketing. They know their product best. Therefore, they follow Jivox’s grade-school simple model—three steps. First, they create the ad; second, point out their target audience; finally, launch the campaign. When dealing with the customers, simplicity and ease of service is key, something that Jivox excels at.

An Economic Win-Win Solution
In the end it’s about revenue—but not just revenue for Jivox. The company crafted a model which puts their credibility on the line, and invites users to challenge their trustworthiness…for free. Advertising is only productive when it generates customers. Therefore, Jivox devised a model whereby their customers would only pay them if their online video ad is viewed. Pretty simple, but very powerful.

Smart Advertising
Jivox, as a marketing and advertising firm, knows what marketing and advertising is all about. They don’t let anything slip through the cracks when it comes to advertising. Their 800 websites garner traffic, their stellar product compels word-of-mouth referrals, and their networking web spans Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They even have an easy survey that they kindly ask you to fill out as you browse away from the site.

The reasons for the reward are apparent after understanding those four core principles. Thankfully, those are principles that any firm can leverage to their own advantage.

Spain Takes Unpopular but Sensical Approach To P2P Networks

The battle against piracy has been met with some crazy, zany lawsuits and policies. There’s the horror stories of grandmas and 8 year old girls being sued for thousands of dollars because of a few songs. There are talks that the RIAA will now be tracking uploaders, instead of downloaders. Websites themselves have had to close shop because of apparent pirating taking place.

Perhaps we can all take a step back and really look at the situation. While doing this, perhaps we can take a cue from Spain and how the situation is being handled there. In numerous cases, the judges are falling on the side of the sites in question. In this article, from TorrentFreak, we can learn of the reasoning behind the court’s decisions,

“The Coalition quickly backtracked, suggesting they would accept some type of throttling instead, but that fell largely on deaf ears too. Then new Coalition president Aldo Olcese said that the solution would be to go after the country’s 200 torrent sites instead, but this could also prove problematic. Time and again Spanish courts have ruled that sites that link to infringing content are not illegal, providing profits aren’t made directly from any infringement.”

Of course the organization that is trying to protect the copyrights (SGAE), didn’t take this lying down. They’re now trying to intercede against these sites with a more creative approach. Instead of relying on courts, they’re going after the sites privately. In doing so, they can file an injuction against the site and have it closed so its legality can go before a court.

In one such case, the SGAE lost again as the judge ruled in favor of the website. Here’s what the judge had to say,

P2P networks, as a mere transmission of data between Internet users, do not violate, in principle, any right protected by Intellectual Property Law,” said Raul N. García Orejudo, a judge in Barcelona. Although some activities are barred, those do not concern P2P he said, noting that there has to be a presumption of innocence.

Along with ruling on P2P networks, the courts also addressed the act of uploading and downloading copyrighted material using these sites. Basically, the belief is that if you’re using the community websites for copying and sharing files then it’s not an act of “reproduction”. Meaning that no one benefits monetarily from the sharing. However if an actual website hosts the data, then it’s different because there’s profit based on ads and so forth.

I for one am shocked at the stance of the courts in Spain. Not in a bad way, but to hear a different perspective regarding downloading, and P2P networks is a breath of fresh air.

Mobile Marketplace May Allow Users to Test-drive Apps for Free

When Microsoft’s app store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, rolls out this fall, it’s going to have to do some serious one-upmanship to outdo the iPhone app store. Apple has a head-start of, oh maybe 25,000 apps, and that’s some serious catch-up for Microsoft. Not to be defeated, Microsoft has plans to offer something that Apple hasn’t thought of: a return policy.

Windows Mobile

Somewhere a rumor began that Windows Mobile customers may be able to return purchased apps that they decide that they don’t want. Here’s how it supposedly works. Users may purchase the app, but must do so directly through the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The user then has twenty-four hours within which to decide if the app is worth keeping or returning. Essentially, the “return policy” allows customers to try the app free for a while, the only downside being you have to pay if you keep trying it for more than a day. Pretty innocuous. However, like any return policy, users will probably find a way to abuse it.

The Windows Marketplace for Mobile should start on opening day with 600 apps. Most users will probably never use 600 apps in their life, but compared to Apple’s staggering tens of thousands of available apps, and even Android’s offering of thousands, 600 feels small.

Windows Mobile began a viral marketing campaign to solicit apps for Windows Marketplace for Mobile. They are inviting developers to “bring your best ideas…use familiar development tools and technologies to create global market opportunities.” The interface seems streamlined, organized, and comprehensive with a three-step develop, test, and distribute pattern that may be effective in luring enterprising developers.

Random Thoughts About Microsoft Natal

If  you watched the keynotes for E3, and have been keeping up with news then you undoubtedly know that Microsoft Natal was the highlight of the show.  If you haven’t been keeping up, then let me give your a summary of what Microsoft Natal is about.

Microsoft Natal is a technology that looks to cash-in on the motion sensoring craze that has driven many sales for the Nintendo Wii. Instead of relying on a device like the Wii remote, Natal relies on a camera based technology. The Natal scans a room and is able to pick up a person, there is also facial recognition that is tied into your Xbox 360 profile.

With the camera based technology, Natal is able to recognize the entire body of a person. As movements are made in real life, they are shown off on screen. They utilized a few programs to show off Natal at E3, and it really looks impressive. There’s one game that plays a bit like Breakout, and was shown during Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Show. Below is the video.

As you can see, the Natal is responsive and has amazing potential. The hype that has surrounded Natal will probably gurantee a large amount of purchases. I’m a still a bit iffy on some aspects of Natal, specifically the ‘mime’ type feel I get from watching the videos. Second, it is going to have a hard time penetrating the market that Nintendo seems to have already with the Nintendo Wii.

Whether it’s a financial success or not, one thing is for certain — Microsoft Natal is definitely pushing the boundaries of gaming. Which is a great enough feat in and of itself.

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