Category Archives: Technology

Simple Circuit Could Double Cell-Phone Data Speeds

MITTechReview

A relatively simple circuit invented by researchers at the University of Texas could let smartphones and other wireless devices send and receive data twice as fast as they do now.

The circuit makes it possible for a radio to send and receive signals on the same channel simultaneously – something known as “full-duplex” communications. That should translate to a doubling of the rate at which information can be moved around wirelessly.

Today’s radios must send and receive at different times to avoid drowning out incoming signals with their own transmissions. As a smartphone accesses the Internet via a cell tower, for example, its radio flips back and forth between sending and receiving, similar way to the way two people having a conversation take turns to speak and listen.

The new circuit, known as a circulator, can isolate signals coming into a device from those it is sending out, acting as a kind of selective filter in between a device’s antenna and its radio circuitry. Circulators are already a crucial part of radar systems, but until now they have always been built using strong magnets made from rare earth metals, making them bulky and unsuited to the circuit boards inside devices such as laptops and smartphones.

The new circuit design avoids magnets, and uses only conventional circuit components. “It’s very cheap, compact, and light,” says Andrea Alù, the associate professor who led the work. “It’s ideal for a cell phone.”

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The light dawns…

Colorado Residents Wake Up, Vote To Bypass Protectionist State Broadband Laws

Colorado’s 2005 state law hindering community broadband bills was pushed for by local incumbents CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) and Comcast, which, like AT&T, have a long and quite sleazy history of passing awful laws, trying to sue such operations out of existence, or engaging in misleading disinformation campaigns (like telling locals their taxpayer money will go toward subsidizing porn). In Colorado’s case, the 2005 law fortunately included provisions allowing locals to build networks if they call for an election. Last week, Boulder and six other communities voted to move forward with the idea of building their own networks.

Comcast is busy in Washington trying to maintain a clean facade in order to get regulatory approval of its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, so it didn’t challenge the efforts, something that helps explain the campaign’s success:

“How were they able to secure such a big victory? There might be some factors at work that are bigger than even Colorado. Comcast, the state’s largest cable provider, did not fight the referendum, perhaps because it is focused on getting its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable approved in Washington. (Comcast declined to comment for this report.)”

Like so many technology issues (net neutrality springs to mind), this issue of community broadband has somehow been caught in the partisan politics team cheerleading wormhole, even though letting a giant corporation write your state laws and erode local authority simply to protect its mono/duopoly revenues isn’t something either Conservatives or Progressives would support in a sane world. Refreshingly, a lot of the community revolt against these laws currently occurring in places like Colorado, North Carolina and Tennessee is being championed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who collectively (though belatedly) seem to have realized that better, cheaper broadband ultimately benefits everybody.

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Technology

Doctors, hospitals rethinking electronic medical records mandated by 2009 law

WashingtonExaminer

A revolt is brewing among doctors and hospital administrators over electronic medical records systems mandated by one of President Obama’s early health care reforms.

The American Medical Association called for a “design overhaul” of the entire electronic health records system in September because, said AMA president-elect Steven Stack, electronic records “fail to support efficient and effective clinical work.”

That has “resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients,” Stack said.

Congress approved the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in 2009, which mandated the health care industry to undertake a massive digitization of patient medical records.

More than 75 percent of all physicians now use some type of electronic records system, up from 18 percent in 2001, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a report sent to Congress Thursday, the office also said hospital adoption of at least a basic electronic records system has increased from 12 percent in 2009 to 59 percent this year.

The concept of digitizing patient records where they can be accessed in real-time by multiple health care providers is popular, but a lengthening list of problems with its implementation is prompting increasingly vocal complaints.

The complaints focus on poorer quality care for patients and fewer medical reports while immense new financial burdens are imposed on medical providers. In addition, the new digitized system leaves millions of people vulnerable to hacker attacks.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Government, Health, Insurance, ObamaCare, Technology

Pulling an IRS…

EPA can’t find top official’s text messages

Interesting. They should be able to get a court order and serve the phone company–who keeps a record of all text messages. Cops do it all the time.

The EPA is poised to “do an IRS” — similar to what the tax agency had to do with dismissed top official Lois G. Lerner — and officially notify the National Archives that it may have lost key electronic records, according to a think tank that’s suing to get text messages under an open-records request.

Justice Department lawyers told a federal court on Tuesday that the alert will be coming soon, in a case that’s shaping up as a significant battle over whether government agencies are required to keep cellphone text messages as “official” records.

In this case, researcher Chris Horner and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are trying to get a peek at Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy’s text messages, believing that she switched from emails to texting in order to talk about the agency’s controversial plans to crack down on coal power plants.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Cronyism, Democrats, Elitism, Entitlement, Environmental Laws, Government, Hypocrisy, Impeachment, Liberals, Politics, Stupidity, Technology, Useful Idiots

Could Taking A Selfie In A Museum Violate Copyright Law?

In this day and age? Probably…

With the news that the National Gallery in the UK has rescinded its long-standing “no photographs” rule, it appears that another opportunity for incidental and accidental infringement has been unleashed upon people in the UK. The National Gallery apparently realized that with everyone carrying a smartphone these days (and the fact that it offers free WiFi that it encourages patrons to use), it became kind of ridiculous to try to block photographs while encouraging people to use their phones to research the artwork they were looking at.

However, the original notice noted that “temporary” exhibits will still have restrictions on photography “for reasons of copyright.” But, as IPKat notes above, it’s not clear why that should only apply to the temporary exhibits, since many of the permanent exhibit works are still under copyright as well (though the museum itself might also hold the copyright on many of those works). Either way, IPKat wonders if merely including a piece of copyright-covered artwork in the background of a photo — such as a selfie — might lead to claims of infringement. While some countries have freedom of panorama laws** that say it’s okay to represent artistic works on public display, that apparently does not apply to paintings (though it does apply to sculptures).

In the end, it appears that while it may be unlikely to get sued over taking a selfie in the National Gallery, if you’re the extra cautious type, you might want to avoid it for fear of yet another ridiculous copyright claim. As IPKat notes, the caselaw is at least ambiguous enough that if someone wanted to go after you for your selfie with fine art, you might be in trouble. That this end result is ridiculous and kind of stupid isn’t really discussed in the piece, but seems rather obvious. Yes, it may be unlikely that a lawsuit will come out of it, but we’ve seen sillier lawsuits in the past, and I doubt it would surprise many if this new policy also results in a lawsuit down the road. Because that’s just the way copyright works.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Government, Security, Technology

No, it isn’t…

FCC Chair: Current Definition Of Broadband Isn’t Fast Enough

The FCC’s current definition of “broadband” Internet is 4Mbps downstream and only 1Mbps up. These were adequate speeds in a world where you occasionally watched a grainy YouTube video, but they don’t reflect the needs or uses of most consumers, and those benchmarks are only going to grow more irrelevant with each passing day. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler admitted as much to Congress yesterday.

“When a single HD video requires 5 Mbps of capacity, it’s clear that the FCC’s current benchmark for broadband – 4 Mbps– isn’t adequate,” wrote Wheeler in his prepared remarks before the House Committee on Small Business.

Earlier this summer, the FCC proposed that if broadband providers wish to receive Universal Service funds from the Commission — money raised through phone bill surcharges and disbursed to help deploy needed services — these companies would need to adopt 10Mbps downstream as the new benchmark.

“When 60% of the Internet’s traffic at prime time is video, and it takes 4 or 5Mbps to deliver video, a 4Mbps connection isn’t exactly what’s necessary in the 21st century,” Wheeler explained to the Committee. “And when you have half a dozen different devices, wireless and other connected devices in a home that are all going against that bandwidth, it’s not enough. What we are saying is we can’t make the mistake of spending the people’s money, which is what Universal Service is, to continue to subsidize something that’s subpar.”

Both AT&T and Verizon have come out against increasing the benchmark to 10Mbps, claiming it is a “casual, back-of-the-envelope calculation of bandwidth requirements of the highest-volume households that are simultaneously using multiple bandwidth-intensive applications.”

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There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

New ISIS threat: America’s electric grid; blackout could kill 9 of 10

Former top government officials who have been warning Washington about the vulnerability of the nation’s largely unprotected electric grid are raising new fears that troops from the jihadist Islamic State are poised to attack the system, leading to a power crisis that could kill millions.

“Inadequate grid security, a porous U.S.-Mexico border, and fragile transmission systems make the electric grid a target for ISIS,” said Peter Pry, one of the nation’s leading experts on the grid.

Others joining Pry at a press conference later Wednesday to draw attention to the potential threat said that if just a handful of the nation’s high voltage transformers were knocked out, blackouts would occur across the country.

“By one estimate, should the power go out and stay out for over a year, nine out of 10 Americans would likely perish,” said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.

At the afternoon press conference, Gaffney dubbed the potential crisis the “grid jihad.”

A lack of electricity would shut off water systems, impact city transportation services and shutdown hospitals and other big facilities. Fresh and frozen foods also would be impacted as would banks, financial institutions and utilities.

Pry provided details of recent attacks on electricity systems and said that ISIS could easily team with Mexican drug cartels to ravage America.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Cronyism, Democrats, Elitism, Entitlement, Government, Hypocrisy, ISIS, Islam, Liberals, Politics, President, Radicals, Security, Security, Technology, Terrorism, Useful Idiots

Nintendo Wii Balance Board could be useful to MS patients

NYDailyNews

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.

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Weapons Can Be Carried Easily Through The TSA’s Full-Body “Naked” Scanners

 The backscatter technology might be completely ineffective

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.

 

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New app helps teens calm anxiety

AnxietyBC.com

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.

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Filed under Health, Mental Health Issues, Relationships, Technology