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Interesting snippets from around the globe

11-year old sells secure passwords for $2

A good password may be worth its weight in gold, but an entrepreneurial 11-year-old from New York City will supply you with one for just $US2.

11-year old Mira Modi uses the Diceware system to create secure passwords for her customers. By rolling standard six-sided dice, she comes up with random numbers that correspond to different words. When those words are combined into a string, they’re difficult for a computer to crack, but easy for humans to remember.

Modi has managed to sell 30 passwords in her first month of business. She’s the daughter of a veteran privacy-minded journalist at ProPublica.

Using a pleasingly low-tech process, Modi rolls real-world dice, looks up the matching words on a physical copy of the Diceware word list (see third link below) and then handwrites the resulting password to be distributed via snail mail.

ARSTECHNICA.COM, DICEWAREPASSWORDS.COM, WORLD.STD.COM
(Nov’ 15)

 

Want a threesome?

Want a threesome? There’s an app for that – 3nder – pronounced ‘Thrinder’ to rhyme with Tinder, and enables users to find partners willing to take part in a threesome. What next?

Launched last year, the app says it allows “kinky, curious and open-minded singles and couples” to match, exchange photos, group message and arrange meetings.

And the app – which is “for all ages and orientations” – has proved hugely popular so far, boasting almost one million downloads.

According to the report, users are sending about 1.2 million messages a month, while logging around 4 million swipes.

The tech start-up has just raised another $US500,000 seed round from two anonymous angel investors.

It is currently only available on iOS.

TECHCITYNEWS.COM, 3NDERAPP.COM
(Nov’ 15)

 

A smartphone app to help the blind

Phone cameras aren’t all that useful to someone who is blind – not, at least until Be My Eyes.

The app, developed by the Danish Blind Society, connects visually impaired users to sighted ones. Through a live video feed, sighted volunteers can decrypt unfamiliar street signs, expiration dates on food packages, or anything else for which the visually impaired needs a quick visual assist.

Since it launched at the beginning of the year, the app has helped 23,000 users over 100,000 times.

The app is free.

BEMYEYES.ORG
(Nov’ 15)

 

Coin operated vehicle vending machine

A used car website Carvana, has built the world’s first coin operated vehicle vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee. They maintain it is cheaper than buying a vehicle in the old fashioned, traditional way.

The company has been working on the concept for the past two years – their original car vending machine was installed in Atlanta in 2013 – and have been working on improving the design.

The machine consists of a five-story glass tower that can hold up to 20 cars at a time. Inside the tower is a ‘welcome center’, an automated delivery system, and three delivery bays. The tower basically serves as a pickup point for used cars that customers purchase through the website, enabling competitive pricing and eliminating delivery costs.

Clients can access a long list of specifications, ratings, reviews, and lots of other details about the cars they’re interested in on the Carvana website. They even get virtual tours that point out every nick and scratch on the body of the car. Once the car is chosen and paid for, the company usually delivers the car to the customer for a seven-day trial period. This means that the delivery costs must be worked into the price of the vehicle.

But with the Vending Machine, customers are able to go pick up their cars eliminating the delivery costs.

To get their car, customers place an oversized coin in a slot and watching their car roll down automatically.

ODDITYCENTRAL.COM, CARVANA.COM
(Nov’ 15)

 

Replacement of writers is top of Gartner’s predictions

According to Gartner's annual list of near-future predictions, many human writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, that is one-in-five documents you read, will be authored by a machine.

They also predict that by 2018, two million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This may seem a lot like George Orwell’s 1984, but certain jobs require people to be fit, such as public safety workers.

By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is based on the belief that the world is moving to a post-app era, where assistants such as Apple's Siri will act as a type of universal interface.

Big Brother is getting closer.

COMPUTERWORLD.COM
(Nov’ 15)

 

Pepsi smartphones in China

According to a report from Reuters and others, Pepsi plans to launch smartphones and a line of accessories in China in the coming months. The company won't be manufacturing the phones, instead it'll be licensing its brand to a partner (there's really no shortage of phone makers in China).

Mobipicker reports that one of the phones is called the Pepsi P1, and for the most part, looks like a mid-range Android phablet with a 5.5-inch screen, 1.7 Ghz CPU and 16GB of storage, but it sure to be adorned with plenty of Pepsi logo bling.

What’s next? The Coke phone? McDonalds?

MOBIPICKER.COM, REUTERS.COM, GFORGAMES.COM
(Nov’ 15)

 

Rhino horn cameras to catch poachers

Anti-poaching teams have been trying for years to protect rhinos from poachers but they can only do so much. Their immediate presence can be a deterrent but a lot of the slaughter happens before these teams even know that something's wrong.

That's where British non-profit group Protect's RAPID (Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device) comes in. The system uses a mix of heart rate sensors, GPS tags and cameras drilled into one of the rhinos' horns (don't worry, it's painless) to warn conservationists when a rhino is under threat. If a rhino's heart starts racing or suddenly goes still, the teams get an alert that lets them turn on the camera to see if something's wrong.

Ideally, this will prevent poachers from even firing a shot because they’ll know that they'll likely be caught within minutes if they chase or kill a tagged animal.

The system is currently being trialled in South Africa, but there is expected to be a wider launch by the end of 2016. It’s also hoped that versions of RAPID could protect elephants, lions, tigers and whales.

THEVERGE.COM, WEAREPROTECT.ORG
(Sept ’15)

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Swatch trademarks Apple’s “One more thing”

You'll surely know the phrase, “One more thing” from almost every Apple keynote address that involved Steve Jobs. It also appeared near the end of the recent Apple Watch launch event too.

It announces that ‘extra something’ that the Apple cultists at the keynotes are hanging out for. It's the thing. The next big thing. The one more thing.

Why, then, would Swatch trademark it? A webpage that details the trademark was pointed out by the website Patently Apple. The page seems to declare that "One More Thing" is an active Swatch trademark in Switzerland, registered in May this year and one that holds until November 27, 2024.

The trademark covers an amazing array of commercial areas. Are you ready for the list? Here you go:

"Scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; compact discs, DVDs and other digital recording media; mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment, computers; computer software; fire-extinguishing apparatus; precious metals and their alloys, and goods in precious metals or coated therewith, not included in other classes; jewelry, precious stones; horological and chronomatic instruments."

I think we should all get in line for a One More Thing Fire-extinguishing Apparatus… or perhaps a One More Thing Calculating Machine?

This might be a small measure of Swatch’s competitive defence against the Apple Watch or perhaps it’s just a bit of humour at Apple’s expense.

PATENTLYAPPLE.COM, WIRTSCHAFT.CH
(Sept ’15)

 

Pee proof walls in San Francisco

For those who choose to empty their bladders on the streets of San Francisco karma awaits.

The San Francisco Public Works Department (SFPW) is coating selected city walls with water-repelling paint that makes the urine splash back onto the feet and pants of the originator of the illegal fount. It’s a system borrowed from Hamburg in Germany, where the superhydrophobic paint has drenched enough perpetrators that fewer people are choosing to take care of their business in public.

In San Francisco, people making city walls their personal restroom has been a persistent problem as evidenced by the fact that since the beginning of 2015, the SFPW has received almost 400 requests to steam clean urine from the streets.

The city is currently testing the liquid-repellent paint on nine walls in some of the most urine-drenched parts of the city, and they plan to coat more walls in other city districts. The paint contains Ultra-Ever Dry, the same superhydrophobic coating that’s been used in self-cleaning car paints.

SFGATE.COM
(Sept ’15)

 

Ancient Peruvians invented the telephone

Around 1200 years ago, long before Alexander Graham Bell was fighting over the patent for the electric telephone, the Chimu people of Peru had invented a primitive, non-electric form of telephone. Similar to the old tin cans-and-string which we played with as kids, the Chimu people figured out that with two hollow containers (gourds coated in resin) connected by a 22.8 metre length of waxed string they could transmit audio from one cup to the other.

The invention appears to have come from the coastal Chimu people in the Río Moche Valley of northern Peru. It was certainly no 4G smartphone.

Since the article points out that the Chimu were known to be a top-down society, it‘s entirely possible that a member of the elite or a priest used the device to order room service.

ANCIENT-ORIGINS.NET
(Sept ’15)

 

Is IBM becoming a cloud computing patent troll?

An article in InformationWeek from Charles Babcock, an Editor-at-Large, notes that IBM has been hoarding patents on every aspect of cloud computing. In fact, they've secured about 1,200 in the past 18 months, including about 400 so far this year.

This from the article:

For those who conceive of the cloud as an environment based on public standards with many shared elements, the grant of these patents isn't entirely reassuring. Whatever the intent, these patents illustrate how the cloud, even though it's conceived of as a shared environment following public standards, may be subject to some of the same intellectual property disputes and patent trolling as earlier, more directly proprietary environments.

Are we at the beginning of the cloud patent wars? Let's hope not.

INFORMATIONWEEK,COM
(Sept ’15)

 

Cyber-flashing in the UK

Ever heard of "cyber-flashing?" Me neither.

The BBC has reported on a strange case that the British Transport Police are currently investigating. It appears that while a woman was travelling to work on a London train, unsolicited pics of a male’s appendage started appearing on her iPhone. First, the lady in question saw a preview image of a stranger's genitals pop up on her iPhone, sent via AirDrop, followed by another after she declined to accept the first.

Understandably, she was pretty distressed by the weirdo's oversharing, especially since the offending party would have been within AirDrop range, and reported it to the police.

Unfortunately, since the pictures were declined, the police didn’t have a digital trail to follow up on, so there's little chance of an arrest.

Some years ago, we reported the same type of activity with Bluetooth, but this seems to be a first for AirDrop.

BBC.CO.UK
(Sept ’15)

 

ATMs in Kenya dispense water

In Nairobi, Kenya, people can go to central spigots and pay a fee for access to groundwater that's both drinkable and readily available. For the privilege, they pay a fee to the man who opens the valve. The problem is, the valve-keeper is not inclined to pass the money back to the community and therefore limits the city’s ability to re-invest the money in purification systems.

To solve the problem of dispensing water while also creating revenue for the local community, Grundfos, a Danish engineering company, developed AQtap. It's a machine that essentially functions like an ATM for water: users get a "water card" where they can collect points, either by making a purchase from a vendor or making a payment on their phone. When they swipe their card at the machine, a simple interface will allow them to select the amount of water they want and then deduct the points from their card. A hose below the screen dispenses the selected amount of clean water.

The project is still in its pilot stage, but being tested in Kenya, Uganda, Thailand and Nigeria. In the slums of Nairobi, where the company has worked with the local government to set up four AQtaps ATMs, community members pay 3 Kenyan shillings (~$NZ0.30) for a 20-litre jerry can of water.

FASTCODESIGN.COM
(Sept ’15)

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