Syrian hackers attack western media

In 2011 when I was writing The Universal Machine I searched for a topical example of demonstrators using social media to publicise their protests. I chose the Syrian uprising as the latest example of the Arab Spring uprisings, little thinking that two years later this tragic conflict would still be raging. I also wrote about the rise of state-sponsored hacking, using China and North Korea as examples. Now the Guardian reports that Syrian pro-Assad hackers are attacking western targets. The Syrian Electronic Army has hacked the twitter accounts of the BBBC, France 24 TV, National Public Radio and Associated Press in the United States, al-Jazeera, the government of Qatar, and Sepp Blatter, the president of football’s governing body Fifa. In one hack they claimed via twitter that a bomb had exploded in the White House and that President Obama had been injured.  It really does seem as the next war will be fought in cyberspace.
  Incidentally Twitter recently announced that it was going to start using two-factor authentication. It seems like they should hurry this up.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/syrian-hackers-attack-western-media.html

Network Geeks

My colleague, Brian Carpenter, has just published a book called “Network Geeks” – “Part history, part memoir and part cultural study, Network Geeks charts the creation of the Internet and the establishment of the Internet Engineering Task Force, from the viewpoint of a self-proclaimed geek who witnessed these developments first-hand.” The Internet pioneer Vint Cerf says the book “is a geek page-turner! I learned much about the European side of the Internet’s history that I did not know in detail and a lot about Brian himself, too. I don’t know how he remembered so much in detail!
    Network Geeks is available from all your usual book sellers – highly recommended.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/network-geeks.html

A date for your diary…

The lead lecturer for our Department’s Gibbons Lectures this year is Professor Geoff Wyvill from the University of Otago, who will speak on “A Better Paintbrush.”  Geoff is one of the founders of Computer Graphics animation in New Zealand and is always an entertaining speaker. Way back in the 1980s before computer animation was used in movies Geoff gave our department a showing of short video “The Great Train Rubbery” that explored creating images from intersecting spheres that moved on trajectories – unfortunately, all we have to show now is a still from the movie. Back in Dunedin Geoff was one of the founders of Animation Research Ltd., that has made many memorable videos, including the famous (in New Zealand) “Bluebird Penguins.” [Click here for a video]
   The date for your diary is Thursday 2nd May 6:30pm. If you’re not in Auckland the lecture will be streamed online. Full details of the talk, date, time and venue are available here.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-date-for-your-diary.html

Would you fund this startup?

Quora recently posed the questionWhat are some of the most ridiculous startup ideas that eventually became successful?” There list of crazy startup ideas that have actually become huge successes amused me; for example here are their first two:

  • Facebook – the world needs yet another Myspace or Friendster except several years late. We’ll only open it up to a few thousand overworked, anti-social, Ivy Leaguers. Everyone else will then join since Harvard students are so cool.
  • Dropbox – we are going to build a file sharing and syncing solution when the market has a dozen of them that no one uses, supported by big companies like Microsoft. It will only do one thing well, and you’ll have to move all of your content to use it.

Read the full list on Quora and if you can think of any others add them to the comments below.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/would-you-fund-this-startup.html

IBM’s Watson helps cure cancer

I’d obviously like this story wouldn’t I. But, IBM’s Watson system certainly isn’t named after me or even after Sherlock Holme’s sidekick, it’s named after a former CEO of IBM. A couple of years ago Watson famously beat the two best Jeopardy! competitors to win $1,000,000 by answering (in real time) Jeopardy! questions. IBM then announced that Watson would be turned to work in healthcare. Archiving and searching the vast, and growing, corpus of medical literature. Clinical Ontology News reports that: “The Watson product in oncology, called Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, provides a Watson-based advisor, accessible through the cloud, that is intended to help identify individualized treatment options for patients with cancer, starting with lung cancer, … In principle, oncologists anywhere will be able to access detailed treatment options to help them decide how best to care for a patient. To prepare for its work in oncology, Watson has taken in more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, and 2 million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials, … Watson is able to search through 1.5 million patient records and provide physicians with evidence-based treatment options in seconds.”

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/ibms-watson-helps-cure-cancer.html

A Centenary Slips By

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At the Easter meeting for 1913 on 22nd
and 24th March the Auckland Jockey Club set operating at their
racecourse at Ellerslie in Auckland an automatic totalisator machine. The
centenary of this event has slipped by without remark by the media (despite
some reminders!) The reason that this was an interesting event is that this was
the first such machine, the
forerunner of a series of improved machines that were designed and operated up
until the 1970s. Nowadays, the work of the totalisator (adding up the number of
bets made on each horse) is still performed, but by computer programs.

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The first automatic
totalisator was designed by George Julius (later Sir) an engineer working out
of Sydney. Unlike later totalisators, the first used no electricity and was
driven entirely by clockwork. It was a huge machine as can be seen by
comparison to one of the mechanics working on its assembly.

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The machine is described here in a subset of a general history of totalisatorsOne may wonder why this anniversary has been
unobserved? Horse racing used to be a very popular form of entertainment when
there was little alternative. In the 1950s crowds of 50,000 people would gather
at Ellerslie on race days. Now the races appeal to a much smaller group,
because of alternative forms of entertainment and gambling, and the horse races
themselves struggle to attract crowds. The races have become high society and
fashion events. This seems to be the same the whole world over.
[This post was provided by Bob Doran]

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-centenary-slips-by.html

Dom’s laptop is in Iran

This story caught my eye today. A young man, called Dom, has his laptop stolen in the UK. He’s installed “Hidden” on his Mac which (eventually) reports the Mac’s new location as Tehran in Iran! It starts sending home photos of its new “owner” and reporting on what they’re using their new laptop for. An interesting and amusing story and a caution to laptop thieves – you never know who’s watching.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/04/doms-laptop-is-in-iran.html