Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
Italian researchers say the Nintendo Wii Balance Board has therapeutic applications, provoking changes in brain connections associated with balance and coordination that reduce the risk of accidental falls.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system of which balance impairment is a defining symptom, and the Nintendo Wii could be a more practical tool for rehabilitation than physical therapy, allowing patients more independence.
“This finding should have an important impact on the rehabilitation process of patients, suggesting that they need ongoing exercises to maintain good performance in daily living activities,” says lead author Luca Prosperini, M.D., Ph.D., from Sapienza University.
In the study, researchers worked with a unique form of MRI analysis called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) that allows close observation of the white matter tracts that send messages within the brain and to the body.
A total of 27 participants with MS used Wii Balance Board-based visual feedback training for 12 weeks under the researchers’ surveillance.
The scans showed changes in the nerve tracts important for balance and motion which correlated with marked improvements in balance.
“The most important finding in this study is that a task-oriented and repetitive training aimed at managing a specific symptom is highly effective and induces brain plasticity,” says Prosperini.
As it turns out, the scanners are actually pretty easy to fool.
On Thursday, security researchers from UC San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins presented results from a months-long study that show how someone can hide weapons from the scanners through a number of simple tricks. From using Teflon tape to cover an object or just strategic placement of an object around the body, to more cunning approaches like installing malware onto the scanner’s console, a person could get away with a concealed weapon or explosive with little trouble.
Although the scanners the researchers tested – the Rapiscan Secure 1000 machines – haven’t been used in airports since 2013, they are still widely used in federal buildings like jails and courthouses. It cost taxpayers over $1 billion to have them installed in more than 160 airports.
Wired has more details on the study. One of the more striking aspects is how the researchers approached their testing, which differs from past experiments:
Unlike others who have made claims about vulnerabilities in full body scanner technology, the team of university researchers conducted their tests on an actual Rapiscan Secure 1000 system they purchased on eBay. They tried smuggling a variety of weapons through that scanner, and found—as [blogger Jonathan] Corbett did—that taping a gun to the side of a person’s body or sewing it to his pant’s leg hid its metal components against the scan’s black background. For that trick, only fully metal guns worked; An AR-15 was spotted due to its non-metal components, the researchers report, while an .380 ACP was nearly invisible. They also taped a folding knife to a person’s lower back with a thick layer of teflon tape, which they say completely masked it in the scan.
Anxiety disorders affect one in eight teens.
There are medications and therapies that can help alleviate symptoms, and now there’s even an app that can help.
The MindShift app aims to teach young adults how to combat everyday anxiety, panic, conflict and worry. Teens can input their symptoms and the app will create a plan to help reduce stress.
Created by two non-profit organizations, Anxiety BC and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Mindshift app gives users the ability to customize tools like mindfulness, visualization and positive thinking.
The free app also includes articles, questionnaires and a tracking system to analyze results over time.
Nearly two years after the Librarian of Congress decided to make it illegal for consumers to unlock cellphones and take them to a new carrier without getting permission from their current wireless provider, the U.S. Congress has finally signed off on legislation that will restore that right to Americans.
After passing easily through the Senate earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.
In the fall of 2012, the Librarian of Congress bowed to pressure from the wireless industry and used his authority to reinterpret the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act to declare that because of proprietary software on cellphones, consumers never actually own their devices. Instead, the consumers have a license to use the software on their phones. And if a consumer wants to take that phone — even if he owns it outright — he needs to get permission from the carrier that licenses the software or be in violation of the law.
This isn’t just a pain in the butt for consumers who found that wireless companies were less than eager to assist them in taking their devices to different providers. It also put the entire industry of wholesale phone reselling at risk, as buyers of used phones would have to somehow get permission from each individual carrier to unlock each device they resold, or only resell phones if they remained on the old carrier.
Regardless of whether it’s an individual looking to switch carriers without having to invest in a new phone, or a phone reseller looking to unlock used phones to resell for use on a network of the buyer’s choosing, the LOC’s decision meant that consumers had fewer choices for carriers and devices.
John Napier Tye is speaking out to warn Americans about illegal spying. The former State Department official, who served in the Obama administration from 2011 to 2014, declared Friday that ongoing NSA surveillance abuses are taking place under the auspices of Executive Order 12333, which came into being in 1981, before the era of digital communications, but is being used to collect them promiscuously. Nye alleges that the Obama administration has been violating the Constitution with scant oversight from Congress or the judiciary.
“The order as used today threatens our democracy,” he wrote in The Washington Post. “I am coming forward because I think Americans deserve an honest answer to the simple question: What kind of data is the NSA collecting on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”
Executive Order 12333 is old news to national-security insiders and the journalists who cover them, but is largely unknown to the American public, in part because officials have a perverse institutional incentive to obscure its role. But some insiders are troubled by such affronts to representative democracy. A tiny subset screw up the courage to inform their fellow citizens.
Tye is but the latest surveillance whistleblower, though he took pains to distinguish himself from Snowden and his approach to dissent. “Before I left the State Department, I filed a complaint with the department’s inspector general, arguing that the current system of collection and storage of communications by U.S. persons under Executive Order 12333 violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures,” Tye explained. “I have also brought my complaint to the House and Senate intelligence committees and to the inspector general of the NSA.”
Cockroaches are some of the most resilient creatures on earth. They can live for 45 minutes without air and over a month without food. Cutting their heads off won’t even kill them—at least not immediately. Their bodies can live on for several days without their heads.
Now, a team of open source developers wants to make it easier for just about any company to build the sort of resilient cloud computing systems that run online empires like Google. They call their project CockroachDB, billing it as a database with some serious staying power. That may sound like an odd name for a piece of software, but co-creator Spencer Kimball—a former Google engineer—says it’s only appropriate. “The name is representative of its two most important qualities: survivability, of course, and the ability to spread to the available hardware in an almost autonomous sense.”
Like so many other open source projects designed to drive large online operations, CockroachDB is based on ideas published in a Google researcher paper, in this case a detailed description of a massive system called Spanner. Spanner is a sweeping software creation could eventually allow Google to spread data across millions of computer servers in hundreds of data centers across the world, and it took Google over five years to build. Even with Google’s research paper in hand, the CockroachDB coders still have their work cut out for them. But it’s a noble ambition.
Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson assured Congress last week that the VA is working hard to replace its “antiquated” scheduling system, but the Obama administration first received clear notice more than five years ago about the need for an overhaul to reduce patient wait times.
“Excessive wait times are addressed by moving to a resource-based management system,” Veterans Affairs technology officials told the Obama-Biden transition team in a briefing report that included mention of VA’s “schedule replacement” project.
The Washington Times obtained the report through the Freedom of Information Act.
More than five years later, VA officials are hard pressed to explain their lack of progress.
The IRS said under oath Friday that former agency official Lois Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed and recycled, echoing earlier testimony from its commissioner.
In its most extensive comments yet on Lerner’s hard drive, the agency said in court filings Friday that the hard drive was destroyed in 2011 to protect confidential taxpayer information.
Before that, the IRS said, the hard drive underwent a process designed to permanently erase stored data. That process occurred after a series of IRS technical officers examined Lerner’s hard drive, and found that it couldn’t be restored after a crash.
The IRS’s court filings came as part of a lawsuit filed against the agency by True the Vote, a conservative activist group.
A week ago, Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court in Washington imposed a Friday deadline for the IRS to tell the court what happened to Lerner’s hard drive, among other questions.
The IRS said last month that Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011, leaving a chunk of her emails for the previous two-plus years missing.
That admission reignited the investigations into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt groups. Lerner kicked off that controversy in May 2013 by apologizing for the IRS’s behavior, and has since become the central figure in the inquiry.
John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, said in congressional testimony last month that Lerner’s hard drive had been recycled and destroyed, drawing gasps from GOP lawmakers.
Republicans and conservative activists have said they have serious doubts that the Lerner’s emails are lost for good, and have noted that her hard drive crashed less than two weeks after GOP lawmakers started questioning the IRS’s oversight of tax-exempt groups.
Having offices work together is difficult in the private sector, but in parts of the federal government it comes with a $56 million price tag.
The telephone system — known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP — enables “the transmission of voice communications primarily over the Internet.”
But transitioning to the new Internet-based communications system across more than 14 department offices, as well as getting parts of it such as “hardware, support services and licensing costs” coordinated, hasn’t gone smoothly, the inspector general said.
“We acknowledge that upgrading to a VoIP solution is likely to improve the department’s telecommunications infrastructure. However, the path the department is on is not fiscally sustainable or efficient,” the IG said.
At Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, for example, all four sites with the VoIP system implemented it differently, meaning they all work differently. That’s not what department officials had in mind when they adopted the new system.