Category Archives: Technology

Elders Should Be Online


A few hours online could reduce an older adult’s chances of succumbing to the twin plagues of loneliness and depression by more than 30 percent, says a recent analysis published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

“It all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks and just not feel lonely.” says lead study author Sheila Cotten, professor of telecommunication, information studies and media at Michigan State University (MSU), in a press release. Cotten’s team tracked the rates of internet usage, loneliness and depression in a group of more than 3,000 seniors who were part of the larger “Health and Retirement” survey, a nationwide survey of 22,000 older adults conducted every two years.

Loneliness can have serious health consequences. And, with 43 percent of Americans over 55 feeling lonely on a regular basis (according to a University of California, San Francisco study) it’s essential to look for new ways to keep people in touch with their friends and family, especially as they age.

Is there anything that works in the Obama Administration?

The Pentagon Spent $2.7 Billion on an Intelligence System That Doesn’t Work

Here’s another item for the (long) list of spectacular waste in the Pentagon’s budget: a $2.7-billion intelligence program that’s supposed to help Army troops on the ground collect and use intelligence on enemy fighters. It sounds like a good idea, but the thing is, the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System doesn’t actually do that, according to report from Foreign Policy. The article cites an internal assessment of the DCGS’s effectiveness, long requested by Congress but kept under wraps by the Pentagon for eight months. Probably because they didn’t feel like talking about such a spectacular failure.

The existence of DCGS is hardly a secret. Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics — all the major defense contractors — were all involved in creating it, and it’s featured on the Army’s website as “an enterprise system that will replace the Army’s multiple intelligence ground processing systems currently in the field.” The Army even has promotional videos showing DCGS in action. But according to some troops, the DCGS is very difficult to use and too slow to be practical for the on-the-ground situations for which it was designed.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now…

U.S. to relinquish remaining control over the Internet

U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move that pleased international critics but alarmed some business leaders and others who rely on the smooth functioning of the Web.

Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash last year to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance.

The change would end the long-running contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit group. That contract is set to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.

Another one bites the dust…

Maryland fires contractor that built troubled health insurance exchange

Maryland has fired the contractor that built its expensive online health insurance marketplace, which has so many structural defects that officials say the state might have to abandon all or parts of the system.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted late Sunday to terminate its $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Columbia-based Optum/QSSI, which the state hired in December to help repair the flawed exchange, will become the prime contractor, while Noridian will assist with the transition.

“We worked very hard with [Noridian] to find a path forward,” said Isabel FitzGerald, the Cabinet secretary in charge of information technology. “And the decision now is that we are just not making the progress that we had hoped.”

Wonder if they’ll get their money back?

As of Monday, Maryland had paid Noridian $67.9 million for its work and had unpaid invoices totaling $12.9 million, state health officials said.

Maryland “is preserving all rights to seek damages against Noridian and its subcontractors for problems with the IT system,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, state secretary of health and mental hygiene, said Monday before a legislative panel that is monitoring the exchange.

Experimental Surgery Aims to Revive a Paralyzed Limb


Doctors will attempt to reanimate a patient’s paralyzed arm with a pioneering surgery that involves capturing signals from his brain and restoring movement through a fine network of electronics linked to arm muscles.

The new effort, being planned by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, will use a brain computer interface, or BCI, developed by researchers at Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital. In previous work, patients have used this interface to control a computer cursor or a robotic arm (see “Brain Chip Helps Quadriplegics Move Robotic Arms with Their Thoughts” and “Patient Shows New Dexterity with a Mind-Controlled Robot Arm”).

The new effort will use the same technology to control the patient’s actual arm with a system called functional electrical stimulation (FES). This will send signals to as many as 18 arm and hand muscles to allow the subject, who is paralyzed from the neck down, to perform tasks such as eating and nose-scratching.

Let this simmer…


This is an awesome device

The TEK Robotic Mobilization Device is a machine developed to replace the wheelchair. In this demonstration video, we see a man with a severe injury to his spinal cord able to move about in ways that a wheelchair would make very difficult.

How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet

Why the Internet will never be the same.

But even if the spy programs are viewed as justified, and whether they are tempered or not, we’re still left with the most sickening aspect of the Snowden revelations: The vast troves of information gathered from our digital activities will forever be seen as potential fodder for government intelligence agencies. A lot of people became inured to worries about Little Brother—private companies—knowing what we bought, where we were, what we were saying, and what we were searching for. Now it turns out that Big Brother can access that data too. It could not have been otherwise. The wealth of data we share on our computers, phones, and tablets is irresistible to a government determined to prevent the next disaster, even if the effort stretches laws beyond the comprehension of those who voted for them. And even if it turns the US into the number one adversary of American tech companies and their privacy-seeking customers.

“I was naive,” says Ray Ozzie, who as the inventor of Lotus Notes was an early industry advocate of strong encryption. “I always felt that the US was a little more pure. Our processes of getting information were upfront. There were requests, and they were narrow. But then came the awakening,” he says. “We’re just like everybody else.”

Drink up!

What a waste: Turning poo into plastic

That rather unappetising image may soon be a reality, thanks to the rise of bioplastics.

These biodegradable materials may soon offer a realistic – and cost effective – alternative to plastics derived from oil.

They are part of a movement to better utilise the ever increasing mountains of waste created by humans.

Saima Mohsin  travels to Sacramento, California, to visit a company that is using some of the  seven million tonnes of dry solid human waste produced in the US every year, to create useful products.

‘Mother’ gadget seen at CES can help guide children, adults


Mother comes from, a firm that focuses on data collection and data analysis. The website states the company’s mission is to “develop really smart systems allowing the creation of new services in all areas of everyday life.”

The one-pound, programmed “parent” has been compared in looks to a white, robotic Russian-nesting-doll. It works using “cookies,” or motion-tracking devices, to sense when an action has or hasn’t occurred.

Mother has some features, like checking teeth brushing and what time a child comes home at night, that can help parents watch over children, but many of Mother’s features help adults who might feel a void in the face of missing an at-home mom.


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