Telescopic Contact Lenses Are Here

in science on (#42JM)

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed a pair of telescopic contact lenses with 2.8x magnification. Really just a pair of super-tiny aluminum telescopes, the contacts are still only about 1.5 millimeters thick, and feature 1 mm-wide channels or pores that allow the required breathability — maintaining airflow. This last part proved to be one of the biggest challenges, requiring years of experimentation.

While the contacts do all the work, they currently require polarized glasses to turn the magnification on or off. That said, the researchers are working towards an on/off capability — activated by winking. "We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)." But will a wider and more general user-base be interested in contact lenses that covertly give them super-human telescopic vision?

Live Long and Prosper, Leonard Nimoy

in space on (#3Z6H)

It is a sad day for Science Fiction and film fans.

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

The New York Times has the details.

Live long and prosper, Leonard.

NOTE to Editor: We need more categories.

The FCC has approved Net Neutrality rules and declared Broadband a Utility

in internet on (#3Z6G)

As has been reported everywhere, the FCC has approved Net Neutrality rules and declared Broadbadn a Utility.

The text of the document is probably worth scanning, at least.

Apple entering the car business

in apple on (#3T6W)

story imageYou've got an Apple product on your desk, and you've got another in your pocket. You might even have one on your wrist. But is the next step something for your garage?

Many outlets are reporting that Apple has recently indulged in a spate of poaching, picking up battery and automotive engineers from leading car makers and battery suppliers in the EV industry. That leads to more than just casual speculation that Apple is working on an automotive product of some sort. Will your next car be an Apple product? At the moment we don't know much, but it is beginning to seem at least a little bit likely.

TV Is Dying, Broadband Declining

in internet on (#3T6V)

story imageThe pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever. Ratings for both cable and the broadcast networks are down. There has been negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011. The number of U.S. households is still growing, but fewer households have TV because they are watching video on mobile devices instead. The amount of video viewed on mobile devices is going through the roof. About 40% of all YouTube traffic comes from mobile.

Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn't; people are also unplugging from broadband internet service. Most are likely utilizing free wifi hotspots provided by businesses, campuses and some cities. Fifty-seven cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, offer free wifi; anyone within range of a hotspot can avoid the monthly fees.

Cable TV ratings are in an historic slump, but revenues are still rising because companies are charging the dwindling number of customers more in subscription fees. Those higher prices are "part of the problem" that pushes out poor subscribers — losing the TV business even more eyeballs. This is having a counter-intuitive effect on TV ad sales: prices are going up. It's still really difficult to gather a large, mass audience in any kind of media. That scarcity makes TV's dwindling-but-still-big audience increasingly valuable... for now. Ad dollars are likely to follow that shift in the long run.

Late lament on the death of slide-out keyboards

in mobile on (#3NZG)

story imageIsn't it strange how all the high-end smartphones with keyboards have disappeared? There isn't a desirable smartphone with a keyboard on the horizon. The original Motorola Droid was the phone that started the Android phenomenon, yet the Droid 5 never materialized.

For years, buying a smartphone with a keyboard has meant settling for less than the latest and greatest technology on the market. There hasn't been a top-tier smartphone with keyboard since the Samsung Epic 4G set the bar in August, 2010. The carriers treat sliders as messaging phones for teens rather than tools of pros, and adjusted their asks and advertising respectively. There’s also the myth that there’s an Android phone out there for everyone. The differences in Android phones were huge. Slide-out keyboard, small screen, large screen, slim or bulky. Now it seems like phones are all merging into the same basic design principle; slim with a huge screen, leaving a market gap that any competitor could jump into, much the way Android did when the one-size-fits-all iPhone dominated.

When Android came along and smartphones began to take off, handsets with keyboards did very well for Sprint. The Samsung Moment, the EVO Shift, the Epic 4G: "We sold multimillions of those," said Kaufman. When Sprint asked customers whether they'd buy a physical keyboard the next time around — not so long ago — 75 percent of existing QWERTY users said they would. "We went out and built the LG Mach and the Photon Q. It was a big party and nobody came." So much for surveys. "Half of your customers buy the iPhone [...] boom, take them out of the equation." In addition, "the market has moved to everyone buying iconic phones... people see the advertising, they walk in, they want to buy a Galaxy S III."

You might be thinking a slide-out keyboard is old technology, but there are advantages. People can type much faster and error-free on hardware keyboards. Being able to see everything on screen is a huge plus, and playing games is infinitely more enjoyable with tactile, mechanical buttons.

As a devout user of physical QWERTY keyboards, I'm pretty sure I'm screwed.

Lenovo apologizes for pre-loaded insecure adware "Superfish"

in microsoft on (#3GD2)

Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, has apologized for security flaws in the malware they pre-install on consumer laptops, and attempted to issue instructions on how to fix a flaw that fatally compromised user security. The company was forced to issue a second set of instructions after security experts said that following its first set would do nothing to patch up the security holes the adware created. But even the second set is “incomplete”, according to researchers, and leaves users of the popular Firefox browser vulnerable.

Sadly, while apologizing for the security hole the software opens up, they are standing by their pre-installed malware, saying "this tool was to help enhance our users’ shopping experience". The software bombarded affected users with pop-up adverts and injected more ads into Google searches. Security experts say it also left a gaping security hole on every computer, in the form of a self-signed root certificate. That certificate was used by the software to inject adverts even into encrypted websites, but its presence has the side-effect of making affected Lenovo computers trivially easy to hack with a “man in the middle” (MITM) attack, in which a hacker uses the certificate to pretend to be a trusted website, such as a bank or e-commerce site. The “man in the middle” can then steal information passed over the internet, even while the user believes they are safely browsing with encryption turned on. Filippo Valsorda, who created the Badfish tool for determining if a computer is affected by the software, has offered instructions for how to remove it from that browser as well.

Mozilla's Flash-killer 'Shumway' appears in Firefox nightlies

Anonymous Coward
in internet on (#3CQG)

story imageIn November 2012 the Mozilla Foundation announced “Project Shumway”, an effort to create a “web-native runtime implementation of the SWF file format.” Two-and-a-bit years, and a colossal number of Flash bugs later, Shumway has achieved an important milestone by appearing in a Firefox nightly, a step that suggests it's getting closer to inclusion in the browser.

Shumway's been available as a plugin for some time, and appears entirely capable of handling the SWF files. Few average users know of Shumway's existence, never mind seek it out. So the inclusion of the software in Firefox's nightlies will give it greater exposure. For now the code can only play certain videos hosted on, but developers intend to expand the list of sites from which Shumway will play SWF files. For now, Shumway-in-Firefox-nightlies works only on Windows Vista or later versions of Windows, and OSX. But expanded support is promised.

WiFi versus LTE to dominate the future of mobile services

in mobile on (#39V2)

The New York Times is asking what the primary wireless technology of the future will be: Traditional wireless carriers operate their services primarily with cell towers, but offer Wi-Fi as a secondary option to bear some of the load. Upstarts FreedomPop and Republic Wireless do the opposite. They offer services that rely primarily on Wi-Fi networks, and in areas without Wi-Fi, customers can pull a signal from regular cell towers. “They demonstrate just how disruptive a Wi-Fi-first operator can be, and just how much cost they can take out.”

Plenty of budget-conscious consumers want cheaper cellphone bills and do not mind making the leap to a phone service powered primarily by Wi-Fi. The majority of Republic Wireless customers opted for a $10 plan (a traditional wireless contract costs around $100 a month--comparison of family cell phone plan prices) which includes a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular services. In other words, the traditional cellular infrastructure will not go away, but may become the second option, not the first. “There are many, many implications to cellular being relegated to a backup position.”

In major cities, the Wi-Fi-first network makes sense. While sitting around offices and apartments, Wi-Fi can handle the job just fine. But once people start moving around, it is not so simple. The benefit of a cell service is that your phone can switch among multiple towers while you are on the go. This process is called handover, which Wi-Fi was not originally designed to handle. Although 802.11r, SyncScan, and other enhancements attempt to address this limitation.

Big players are looking to enter the fray as well: Last month, Cablevision announced a phone service that would be powered entirely by Wi-Fi, for $30 a month, while a traditional wireless contract costs around $100 a month. Google has also been working on a cellphone service that relies heavily on Wi-Fi.

End of the m0n0wall project

Anonymous Coward
in bsd on (#382N)

m0n0wall is an embedded firewall distribution based on FreeBSD. It provides a small image which can be put on Compact Flash cards, CD-ROMs, or hard disks, and includes a web-based GUI to control all aspects of the firewall without having to type a single shell command.

The developer of m0n0wall has announced the project is ending, effective immediately. He suggests switching to a m0n0wall-inspired spin-off, such as pfSense, FreeNAS, AskoziaPBX, or OPNsense in particular.
while m0n0wall has made an effort to keep up, there are now better solutions available and under active development. Therefore, today I announce that the m0n0wall project has officially ended. No development will be done anymore, and there will be no further releases. The forums and the mailing list will be frozen at the end of this month. All the contents of the website, repository, downloads, mailing list and forum will be archived in a permanent location on the web so that they remain accessible indefinitely to anyone who might be interested in them.