Here’s what I’m talking about on today’s Breakfast Club:
Love on the net
Teenage social networking isn’t so bad, according to the MacArthur Foundation. According to the lead researcher on the project, called the Digital Youth Project, “their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”
The study, part of a $50 million project on digital and media learning, used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours.
The bit I like in the NYT report is the shameless flirting that goes on, cleverly disguised:
First, the girl posted a message saying, “hey … hm. wut to say? iono lol/well I left you a comment … u sud feel SPECIAL haha.” A day later, the boy replied, “hello there … umm I don’t know what to say, but at least I wrote something …”
U.S. Military Under Attack
Spooked by the rapid spread of a worm called Agent.btz, the U.S. military has banned everything from external hard drives to “floppy disks.”
USBs are a problem: Lenovo this week offered a software package to XP users with a Trojan dropper called Meredrop, found in one of the drivers.
And Telstra earlier this year handed out USB drives at a security conference that were infected with malware.
Could it be China? The conclusions reached in this year’s US-China Economic and Security Review are far more dramatic than before. In 2007, it says, about 5m computers in the US were the targets of 43,880 incidents of malicious activity — a rise of almost a third on the previous year.
Much of the activity is likely to emanate from groups of hackers, but the lines between private espionage and government-sponsored operations are blurred. Some 250 hacker groups are tolerated, and may even be encouraged, by Beijing to invade computer networks. Individual hackers are also being trained in cyber operations at Chinese military bases.
How to Make the Perfect Phone Call
According to the UK Post Office, the perfect phone call should last nine minutes, 36 seconds and contain a mix of chat about family news, current affairs, personal problems and the weather.
Three minutes of that should be spent catching up with news about family and friends, one minute on personal problems, a minute on work/school, 42 seconds on current affairs and 24 seconds on the weather. Chat about the opposite sex should last 24 seconds. 12 seconds of every call should be set aside for a little quiet contemplation.
One in five people said they spent most time on the phone to their mother. The research, by the Post Office, revealed that the phrase “I’ll get your mother” is common. Only three per cent of people named their father as the person they spent most time on the phone with.
“Please help!,” she writes. “I took my husband’s iPhone and found a raunchy picture of him attached to an email to a woman in his sent email file. When I approached him about this, he admitted that he took the picture, but says that he never sent it to anyone.
“He claims that he went to the Genius Bar at the local Apple store and they told him it is an iPhone glitch – that photos sometimes automatically attach themselves to an email address and appear in the sent folder, even though no email was ever sent.
“Has anyone ever heard of this happening?,” she asks. “The future of my marriage depends on this answer!” Read more here.
Texting reduces obesity
If your kids are getting a little overweight, then treat them to a bit of texting. But it’s not quite how it sounds (I thought it might be something to do with the aerobic workout you get from the thumb twiddling.) No, a study by the University of North Carolina suggests that if obese kids are encouraged to keep a record of their eating habits via SMS, they are more likely to adhere to the health regimen—less TV, more exerices, less Coke—than those who just wrote down the same information. (Attrition rate was 28% against 61% for the paper diary kids and 50% for the control group.)
Part of this may be down to the fact that the kids get instant feedback via SMS on their results. So actually this is more about the interactivity of health regimes rather than the physical benefits of cellphones or texting. (Actually this whole SMS for health thing is quite a meme. Check out this conference here.)
The miracles of life in 2000—as seen from 1950
Popular Mechanics of February 1950 predicted a number of things, some of which have come true, some of which haven’t, and some of which should, if we got our act together.
What they got right
- Highways broad without any curves
- Doubledecked highways
- soup and milk come in frozen bricks (but thought that cooking would be a thing of the past)
- TV connected to the phone; but would buy stuff over the TV with store clerks holding the goods up obligingly for customers to inspect…
- robots in factories, but controlled by punch cards
- air travel would be frequent, but expensive because of jet fuel; rocket plane fare from Chicago to Paris would cost $5000
What they got wrong
- Heart of the town is the airport
- Clean as a whistle and quiet
- Crime to burn raw coal
- Illumnitated by electric suns on 200 ft high towers
- A house would cost only $5000 to build
- Houses don’t last more than 25 years
- Wash using chemicals that shave as well.
- Dishes dissolves in superheated water, so no washing machines
- Plastics derived from cottonseed hulls, Jerusalem artichocks and and fruit pips
- Clean the house by turning a hose on it; everything is synthetic fabric of waterproof plastic; drain in the middle of the floor
- worried by mass starvation, scientists came up with food from sawdust, table linen and rayon underwear converted into sweets
- ‘calculators’ would predict the weather
- storms diverted
- no one would have gone to the moon—yet…
What I wish they’d gotten right
- Used underwear recyled into candy
Janella Spears, nursing administrator in a place called Sweet Home, Oregon, who practices CPR and is a reverend, has given $400,000 to scammers. She got letters from President Bush, the president of Nigeria and FBI director Robert Mueller. Wiped out husband’s retirement account, mortgaged the house and took out a lien on the family car. Everyone told her to stop but she didn’t.
This is the problem with scams; it’s very hard to accept you’ve been scammed, and so perversely it’s easier to continuing giving money in the belief that it will all come good.
A team at UCal San Diego have come up with software, called Sneakey, that can take a picture of a key and convert it to a bitting code, which is enough for a locksmith to make a new key:
- The user provides point locations on the target key with a reference key as a guide.
- The system warps the target image into the pose of the reference key and overlays markings of where the bite codes are to be found.
- The user specifies where the cut falls along each line and the bit depths are decoded by the system into a bitting code.
In one experiment, the Sneakey team installed a camera on their four story department building (77 feet above the ground) at an acute angle to a key sitting on a café table 195 feet away. The image captured (below) was correctly decoded.
They’ve not released the software but say it would be pretty easy to put together.
I make an appearance on the excellent Breakfast Club show on Radio Australia each Friday at 01:15 GMT and some listeners have asked me post links to the stuff I talk about, so here they are.
Follow football on your cellphone through vibrations: a team in Scandavia has come up with a way to convey movement of a ball via vibrations. This would allow folks wanting to follow a soccer game with the phone in their pocket, in theory.
This is how it would happen, as far as I can understand it: someone would watch a game and input data whenever the ball was kicked. This data would translate into vibrations—short if the ball is in midfield, longer and more insistent as it got nearer the goal. The researchers claim that users quickly figure out what is happening and can follow a game pretty well.
Reminds me of when I was a kid trying to follow a soccer match on a bad radio: You kind of guessed when things were getting exciting by the rise in crowd noise and the voice of the commentator.
Obama’s victory has quickly translated into an opportunity for bad guys. Sophos reports that 60% of malicious is Obama related, including what looks like a link to his acceptance speech, but which is in fact a trojan which, among other things, captures keystrokes and sends information back to the Ukraine. Obama-related malware has even been seen in the sponsored ads appearing on Google News.
EA has made another boo-boo: some copies of its Red Alert 3 CDs are missing a character on the serial number. “Try guessing the last character,” explained the support site until someone pointed out that this was dumb and encouraging amateur cracking.
Lost in translation: The continuing saga of Welsh being a language that non-speakers are never going to be able to guess at took another twist with a sign that, in English, reads “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only,” but which in Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”
I don’t think I need to explain more, except to say that the sign has been removed—apparently by the council that installed it. What Welsh truck drivers made of it has not been recorded.
Photo credit: BBC