Story 2014-03-20

TransPose algorithm writes the soundtrack to novels

in books on (#3GN)
The automatic analysis of sentiment in text is fast changing the way we interpret and interact with words. On Twitter, for example, researchers have begun to gauge the mood of entire nations by analysing the emotional content of the tweets people generate.

In the same way, other researchers have started to measure the emotional temperature of novels by counting the density of words associated with the eight basic emotions of anticipation, anger, joy, fear, disgust, sadness, surprise and trust.

The next step, obviously was to write an algorithm that measures that emotional temperature throughout full length novels, and generate a musical soundtrack to accompany the text.

Interesting research, or pointless? Time will tell, but energy and money is increasingly being used to judge moods and allow software or equipment to react accordingly. The true value of this research might not become apparent until sometime in the future, even if it is only used so your phone can sing you a soothing song after you receive a nasty email from your boss.

Fruit Flies are Better at Calculus than You

in science on (#3GM)
Some researchers at Cornell University have been studying the way fruit flies respond to gusty winds. They've found that the wing neurons are able to react without input from the brain to more quickly respond to changing wind conditions. Reported by the New York Times : "Whatever the fly neurons are doing, they have the right stuff. The wings of fruit flies beat about 250 times a second. Disturb a fly's flight in an extreme way, Dr. Cohen said, and 'within three wing beats that sucker has recovered completely.'"

The research papers can be found here and here .

Lightweight C library musl 1.0 released

in linux on (#3GK)
musl, a lightweight alternative to the GNU Clibrary , has just had its version 1.0 released after three hard years of development. musl is, according to its developers:
a lightweight, fast, simple, MIT-licensed, correctness-oriented alternative to the GNU C library (glibc), uClibc, or Android's Bionic. At this point musl provides all mandatory C99 and POSIX interfaces (plus a lot of widely-used extensions), and well over 5000 packages are known to build successfully against musl.
musl is indeed lightweight, and a chart showing how musl compares to uClibc, dietlibc, and eglibc shows musl compares favorably and often outshines other small C libraries. Several options are available for trying musl. Compiler toolchains are available from the musl-cross project, and several new musl-based Linux distributions are already available (Sabotage and Snowflake, among others).

Some well-established distributions including OpenWRT and Gentoo are in the process of adding musl-based variants, and others (Aboriginal, Alpine, Bedrock, Dragora) are adopting musl as their default libc.

Canadian Bitcoin exchange defrauded of $100,000 BTC

in security on (#3GJ)
story imageOttawa bitcoin exchange Canadian Bitcoins was subject to a heist that led to $100,000 worth of bitcoins being stolen. But it was no complicated, security fraud: it was simple, social engineering.

The Ottawa Citizen reports:
The Ottawa police are investigating an Oct. 1, 2013, incident at Canadian Bitcoins, when someone opened an online chat session with a technical support worker at Granite Networks, now owned by Rogers Communications, and claimed to be Canadian Bitcoins owner James Grant. He claimed to have a problem with a server and asked the attendant to reboot it into recovery mode, allowing him to bypass security on the server. "It's ridiculous," said the real James Grant when asked about the incident. "There was absolutely zero verification of who it actually was."
The most frustrating details relate to the high degree of physical security that the real owner was subjected to when attempting to access his server cage - something the thieves didn't face. Canadian Bitcoins' statement on the matter is here.

Airlines using wearables to get more personal

in hardware on (#3GH)
Don't be surprised if the next flight attendant that serves you seems to know more about you than you'd expected. Airlines seem to be strongly interested in the possibilities offered by new wearable technology, and at least two - Qantas and Virgin Atlantic - are giving wearable tech a try in order to provide more personalized service to their customers.

Looks like you shouldn't be surprised if the person to whom you hand your boarding pass is wearing Google Glass, now.

Cable TV subscribers down for the first time

in movies on (#3GG)
The Cord Cutting movement , in which people choose to do away with cable TV packages in lieu of entertainment provided over the Internet, seems to be picking up the pace. In 2013, the number of American cable TV subscribers dropped for the first time ever, and by the impressive amount of 105,000. A recent report by the Leichtman Research Group finds that the top nine cable companies lost about 1.8 million video subscribers in 2013 (more than they lost in 2012), while other providers gained some users, for a total (net) loss. 2013 was the first year numbers dropped.

Just a blip on the radar? Or the beginning of something more?

IBM Scrambles To Stay In XaaS Race

in internet on (#3GF)
story imageCEO Ginny Rometty is finishing off another round of divesting commodity product lines, along with associated headcount, as IBM tries to remain in the forefront of high-margin IT product and service businesses. At or near the top of Rometty's forward agenda is cloud computing, starting with the expansion of the SoftLayer business IBM bought last year.

Some investors like the story. But, as the folks at (a very underrated news site focusing on IBM and its competitors) point out, cloud computing might not turn into the sort of high margin business IBM is accustomed to, even with the enticement of Big Data analytics that IBM and others have been pushing.

Meanwhile, in contrast with generations past, many of the biggest consumers of IT are also among the biggest and innovative producers of platform technology: Google, Amazon, Facebook.

Operation Windigo - Linux ssh exploit and bot net

in security on (#3GE)
Here's an unpleasant start to your morning: confirmation of a long-running openSSH exploit [PDF] that has led to an extensive botnet pumping out spam, viruses, malware, and of course links to redirect farms. Symantec provides some analysis here . "Operation Windigo" as it's called has been alive since 2011, stealing SSH credentials on Windows, Linux, and BSD systems, and it has hit a couple of well-known companies, including cpanel and the Linux Foundation.

Check your system in the time it takes for your morning coffee to cool, with this command to see if you've been affected:
ssh -G 2>&1 | grep -e illegal -e unknown >/dev/null && echo "System clean" || echo "System infected"
Uninfected systems return an "error illegal option" or "unknown option" for the -G flag, plus as the usage message, whereas infected systems will return only the usage message.

If your system doesn't come up clean, you are probably one of an estimated 25,000 compromised servers currently sending out over 35 million pieces of spam.