Friday special video. Farewell to boring Power Point slide shows, now come iPad magicians! The City of Stockholm surprised with an iPad show. New iPad Act – Stockholm with Charlie Caper and Erik Rosales. New iPad magic. On behalf of Stockholm — The Capital of Scandinavia and Step2 Communication. Performed at MIPIM in Cannes by Charlie Caper and Erik Rosales. Magic with technology. I was busy with my eyes, didn’t recognized anything they were blabbering about Does not matter. Enjoy the show.
Archive for March, 2012
Credit card fraud is a wide-ranging term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or any similar payment mechanism as a fraudulent source of funds in a transaction. The fraud begins with either the theft of the physical card or the compromise of data associated with the account (card account number and/or verification codes).
Skimming is the theft of credit card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction. Instances of skimming have been reported where the perpetrator has put a device over the card slot of an ATM (automated teller machine), which reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly passes their card through it. Technology needed to read the contents of the magnetic strip is pretty simple. Usually a miniature camera or fake keypad over original is used to read the user’s PIN at the same time. Skimming is usually very difficult for the typical cardholder to detect. All About Skimmers article series is about ATM skimmers, gas pump skimmers and other related fraud devices.
Skimming has been on news in Finland lately. Police has revealed some details of the hard to detect skimming devices that have been found installed on tens of ATM devices around Finland. Articles Ovela huijaus Otto-automaateilla – huomaatko eron kuvissa?, Kummassa pankkiautomaatissa on huijauslaite? and Skimmaajat teettivät erikoislaitteita Suomen oloihin show you pictures of ATM with and without skimming device. These device custom made for Finnish ATMs are really hard to detect. According to articles thousands of ATM card have been compromised and used to steal several hundreds thousand euros. Look carefully next time you use ATM.
Throughout Europe the traditional in-store credit card signing process is increasingly being replaced with a system in which the customer is asked to enter their PIN instead of signing. PINs were widely introduced at the same time as EMV chips on the cards. In Finland the PIN codes that comes with the card are predefined by card issuer. In some countries with some banks the customer can freely choose them. Security of Self-Selected PINs Is Lacking article tells that Cambridge University Computer Laboratory team collected statistics on how people choose banking PINs when they are permitted to select their own keys. There is every incentive for the bad guys to try guessing PINs on every card that they steal. “A thief can expect to get lucky every 18th wallet — except for those banks which negligently allow their customers to choose really dumb PINs like 1111 and 1234″. Their report traces an idiosyncratic history of the use of passwords by financial institutions. The researchers wrote that there were two lessons to be drawn from their study. First, customers should never use date of birth as a PIN or password. Second, banks should institute blacklists of common passwords, or prohibit user selection of passwords entirely.
Proximity payments are coming. Pay-by-wave: At least it’s better than being mugged article tell that the public thinks that paying with a tap of the phone is risky, with criminals able to intercept and steal credentials, so it seems a good time to take a closer look at proximity payments. Today’s proximity payment systems are based on the NFC standard, which uses a radio connection at 13.56MHz for short-range peer-to-peer communications. The same frequency is used by RFID tags, in a simplistic way, but NFC is a good deal more complicated, and expensive. Proximity payments are implemented in smartphones and contactless credit cards.
Hacker’s Demo Shows How Easily Credit Cards Can Be Read Through Clothes And Wallets article tells that contactless cards are far more common than they might seem: According to the Smart Card Association, about 100 million of the RFID-enabled cards are in circulation. Visa calls its technology payWave, MasterCard dubs it PayPass, Discover brands it Zip, and American Express calls it ExpressPay.
Hacker’s Demo Shows How Easily Credit Cards Can Be Read Through Clothes And Wallets and Shmoocon Demo Shows Easy, Wireless Credit Card Fraud articles tell that some contacless cards have serious security holes. Paget, a well-known security researcher for the consultancy Recursion Ventures, used a simple method for her hack: impersonating a legitimate contactless point-of-sale terminal with her own RFID card reader. Commercially-available RFID reader can read the data from a contactless card as easily as a store’s point-of-sale device does. With a Vivotech RFID credit card reader she bought on eBay for $50, Paget wirelessly read a volunteer’s credit card onstage and obtained the card’s number and expiration date, along with the one-time CVV number used by contactless cards to authenticate payments. She flashed the volunteer’s credit card number on a screen in front of an audience of hundreds of hackers and security researchers. “You were planning on cancelling that card, weren’t you?”. A second later, she used a $300 card-magnetizing tool to encode that data onto a blank card. And then, with a Square attachment for the iPhone that allows anyone to swipe a card and receive payments, she paid herself $15 of the volunteer’s money with the counterfeit card she’d just created. Paget’s firm has been working on a credit-card-shaped protection device known as GuardBunny that sits in a wallet alongside payment cards and blocks any would-be RFID fraudster. So it sound like this hacking demonstration was just a marketing gimmick for their product.
Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the industry group the Smart Card Alliance, points out that despite previous research on the contactless attack, no real-world instances of the fraud have ever been reported. To fight against fraud contactless cards do offer one security feature traditional cards don’t: Along with the card’s 16-digit number and expiration date, the cards are set to offer up a one-time CVV code with every scan. Those codes can only be used for one transaction, and have to used in the order they’re generated. If a payment processor detects multiple transactions with the same code or even codes being used to make transactions in the wrong order, it will disable the card. So a contactless card scammer can only use each stolen number once.
According to a smart card expert I know Square and card issuer bank is also to blame on that this worked (and would not work with European banks and other payment services). Also the sum was so low that the payment company might not do all the check it does for bigger sums of money. In card where things are built well, there is different card number for normal swipe card use and contactless operation. The contactless number would fail to work if you try to pay with their code on the terminal that swipes the card. So the security holes are not as big and bad as it seems based on those hacking news.
My friend Henri Sundelin told few days ago that that he had became tablet-crazy and decided to get himself a proper tablet. Not those proprietary iPad or Android stuff, but a real computer. Ubuntu (Precise) on Samsung Slate 7 article tells that the Windows 7 that came with it was a truly poor excuse for an OS, so he went and installed Canonical’s latest, Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) Beta 1. Well, his initial impression is that it “kinda” works, but needed some tweaks to work. My friend is going to document my hacks & proof-of-concepts in his blog.
Touchscreen & Pen article tells that the first issue that came along was usage of both pen & touchscreen. In real life, it is totally impossible to use the pen, since you cannot lay your hand on the screen while writing. Who uses paper like that?? What is need is a mechanism to smartly adapt to the input mode we’re using, either pen, fingers or both.
Better approach for on-screen keyboard tells that the on screen keyboards currently available are frustrating. The main issue is that keyboard “floats” on the screen, and typically bounces around the screen depending where you’re writing (unless you actually fix it to the screen, which sucks even more). This is something that Apple, Android, Nokia et al really do way better – the existing Linux solutions are just conceptually copies of similar poor Windows solutions. He modified Onboard so that it always keeps at bottom at the same place, as wide as possible. If editable field would be behind keyboard, we signal Compiz to move that window up so we can see what we edit. The article contains also a link to a video that shows how this hack works.
Some time ago I bought Powerlight HX-G011 1W 1xAA LED Flashlight Grey. This is a very useful and cheap LED flashlight. It only uses 1 AA battery, which is really is great. Light is quite bright for the price (feels like between my other old 1W LED flashlight and new 1W LED flashlight) with nice spread beam. The light output is a bit blueish color, but nothing too bad. The body really does not feel like less than 4$ flashlight.
There is one issue: specifications. It seems that you can’t rely on those Chinese specifications. The product description describes this as 1V, but the Powerlight flashlight I received is imprinted, and indicated ‘3W’ instead of ‘1W’. What is the reality? This needs to be tested.
The reality seem to be that neither of the specifications are right (I did not expect them to be when I bought this). When I measured the flashlight takes around 400 mA of current from AA battery. That translates to around 0.6W of power. Taking in account the losses of the switch mode power supply that generates the needed around 3V power for the LED, I would not expect that LED would get somewhat less than 0.5W of power. So I would expect the real power figure for LED to be around 0.5W or less. This is far from 1W or 3W specifications!
If you can ignore the fact that the specifications are not right, this Powerlight HX-G011 1W 1xAA LED Flashlight Grey product feels like a pretty good product for the price.
Is your working desk clean or messy? Do you have a home laboratory and how messy it it? Computer History Museum honors Jim Williams and Bob Pease tells that some messy engineering working desks end up in Computer History Museum as exhibit. Both work of Bob Pease and Jim William have been a source of inspiration and have had messy desks. Messy and overcrowded desk can be very productive laboratory. Instead of being distracted with fluff and appearances, Bob and Jim focussed on the key engineering (and other) issues and fundamentals, and thereby encouraged the right mix of creativity and rock solid design methodology.
EDN Magazine has also shown the images of other laboratories. Ever wonder where an EDN editor engineers and what tools they like? Check out photos from Paul Rako’s home lab and see where he works on his own designs, teardowns, and testing.
You can find home laboratory pictures of other more or less known electronics engineers on EDN article series:
For some reference here is a picture of my home lab desk from few years back. Much less equipment than what those engineering legends had, but still some productive mess.
Design News magazine has a series of pictures of very messy work desks of engineers:
You can live with mess, when it’s an ORGANIZED mess!
Can you train people to innovate? Financial analyst Barry Ritholtz has shared a helpful slide set titled “Innovation can be trained” that’s worth reading. Printing and then tacking individual slides to your cube walls can be used as a daily reminder that organizations can create cultures of innovation. It’s based on the work The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen.
Quantum computers could revolutionize the way we tackle problems that stump even the best classical computers.
Single atom transistor recently introduced has been seen as a tool that could lead the way to building a quantum computer. For general introduction how quantum computer work, read A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work article.
D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer article tells that computing company D-Wave has announced that they’re selling a quantum computing system commercially, which they’re calling the D-Wave One. D-Wave system comes equipped with a 128-qubit processor that’s designed to perform discrete optimization operations. The processor uses quantum annealing to perform these operations.
D-Wave is advertisting a number of different applications for its quantum computing system, primarily in the field of artificial intelligence. According to the company, its system can handle virtually any AI application that can be translated to a Markov random field.
Learning to program the D-Wave One blog article tells that the processor in the D-Wave One – codenamed Rainier – is designed to perform a single mathematical operation called discrete optimization. It is a special purpose processor. When writing applications the D-Wave One is used only for the steps in your task that involve solving optimization problems. All the other parts of your code still run on your conventional systems of choice. Rainier solves optimization problems using quantum annealing (QA), which is a class of problem solving approaches that use quantum effects to help get better solutions, faster. Learning to program the D-Wave One is the first in a series of blog posts describing the algorithms we have run on D-Wave quantum computers, and how to use these to build interesting applications.
But is this the start of the quantum computers era? Maybe not. D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer article comments tell a story that this computer might not be the quantum computer you might be waiting for. It seem that the name “quantum computer” is a bit misleading for this product. There are serious controversies around the working and “quantumness” of the machine. D-Wave has been heavily criticized by some scientists in the quantum computing field. First sale for quantum computing article tells that uncertainty persists around how the impressive black monolith known as D-Wave One actually works. Computer scientists have long questioned whether D-Wave’s systems truly exploit quantum physics on their products.
Slashdot article D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer comments tell that this has the same central problem as before. D-Wave’s computers haven’t demonstrated that their commercial bits are entangled. There’s no way to really distinguish what they are doing from essentially classical simulated annealing. Recommended reading that is skeptical of D-Wave’s claims is much of what Scott Aaronson has wrote about them. See for example http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=639, http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=198 although interestingly after he visited D-Wave’s labs in person his views changed slightly and became slightly more sympathetic to them http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=954.
So it is hard to say if the “128 qubits” part is snake oil or for real. If the 128 “qubits” aren’t entangled at all, which means it is useless for any of the quantum algorithms that one generally thinks of. It seem that this device simply has 128 separate “qubits” that are queried individually, and is, essentially an augmented classical computer that gains a few minor advantages in some very specific algorithms (i.e. the quantum annealing algorithm) due to this qubit querying, but is otherwise indistinguishable from a really expensive classical computer for any other purpose. This has the same central problem as before: D-Wave’s computers haven’t demonstrated that their commercial bits are entangled.
Rather than constantly adding more qubits and issuing more hard-to-evaluate announcements, while leaving the scientific characterization of its devices in a state of limbo, why doesn’t D-Wave just focus all its efforts on demonstrating entanglement, or otherwise getting stronger evidence for a quantum role in the apparent speedup? There’s a reason why academic quantum computing groups focus on pushing down decoherence and demonstrating entanglement in 2, 3, or 4 qubits: because that way, at least you know that the qubits are qubits! Suppose D-Wave were marketing a classical, special-purpose, $10-million computer designed to perform simulated annealing, for 90-bit Ising spin glass problems with a certain fixed topology, somewhat better than an off-the-shelf computing cluster. Would there be even 5% of the public interest that there is now?
When was the last time you carried around a 2nd device for taking pictures? No need! Phones now come equipped with cameras. With all these advances in camera phone technology, point and shoots just aren’t as important as they used to be. There is still lots of room for innovation in mobile phone cameras. Here are two recent innovations.
Turning a camera phone into a microscope article tells that researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland have developed an optical plastic lens accessory that can turn an ordinary camera phone into a microscope with a resolution between 6-10 microns. A new Finnish start-up called KeepLoop (Tampere, Finland) is already exploring the commercial potential of the invention (first products expected this spring).
Nokia announces camera phone with 41 megapixel sensor. Nokia has history of making best camera phones. Video and movie shooting with a smartphone tells how N8 phone has been used to shoot full lenght movie. Now Nokia has made a nice successor to N8. Nokia recently announced 808 PureView: Belle OS, 4-inch display and 41-megapixel camera. It has a sensor resolution of over 41-megapixels when shooting stills — or 34-megapixels for 16:9 images. One of the key advantages is it lets you zoom in three or four times in either photos or video and still have a sharp image with many megapixels resolution. Nokia said it can create a better five-megapixel image by using the data in the seven extra pixels to inform which single pixel it uses. It’s not about the amount of the pixels, it’s what you do with them.
If it were easy to put a decent zoom lens in a camera phone, Nokia might never have come up with its biggest breakthrough in mobile phone imaging in years. It has been difficult it is to achieve good optical zoom performance in smartphones. The lens must be very tiny to fit inside phone, so lenses lets very little light in and their structure is very complex and hard to manufacture.
Nokia 808 PureView ushers in a revolution in smartphone imaging: The Nokia 808 PureView features a large, high-resolution 41 megapixel sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology. The Inside Story of Nokia’s 41-Megapixel Camera Phone: Five Years in the Making article tells the the development team inside Nokia had been working on the technology in secret for the last five years. “We were aware that it is possible to do zooming by very high resolution image sensor, but the idea of putting such a large and high resolution image sensor into a smartphone felt completely crazy,” Alakarhu said. “That was five years ago, and I guess it still feels like that.” One of the key advantages is it lets you zoom in three or four times in either photos or video and still have a sharp image. Finnish articles Zoomissa miehet Nokia Pure View –teknologian takana and Nämä miehet – Eero ja Juha – Nokian kamerahirviön takana give some more details on the invention and men behind the invention.
Nokia 808 PureView’s primary selling point: it’s a phone for camera enthusiasts. In many ways, Nokia’s phone more closely rivals a point-and-shoot camera in size than a smartphone. Let’s say bye to point and shooting cameras! Expectations of the future sales price of this camera-phone will be 450 euros (without taxes).
Fritzing is an interesting open-source initiative to support designers, artists, researchers and hobbyists to work creatively with interactive electronics. We are creating a software and website in the spirit of Processing and Arduino, developing a tool that allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a pcb layout for professional manufacturing. Fritzing – An Introduction video gives you overview of Fritzing.
Easy creating of a printed circuit board using Fritzing video show how to design circuit board with the software starting from broadboard circuit model.
Then you can make the circuit board yourself (print and make circuit board) or use Fritzing Fab service turn your sketch into a real custom PCB.
John Huntington’s Entertainment Technology Site blog has an interesting article series on using Ethernet on show control applications. The articles concentrate on Gravesend Inn haunted attraction, that is a pretty good reflection of the progress of networking technology in the field of entertainment control. Back in 1999, was built around around hard wired sensors/closures and by 2011, almost every single control system was moved fully onto out integrated, managed, VLAN’d network.
Managed Switch/Routing Ethernet Infrastructure for The Gravesend Inn, Part I talks about the evolution of the network for the Gravesend Inn, and gaves a little background on VLANs and managed switches.
Managed Switch/Routing Ethernet Infrastructure for The Gravesend Inn, Part II talk more about the specifics of the implementation of the Gravesend Inn network.