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Interesting snippets from around the globe

95% of ATMs still running Windows XP


95% of the world’s ATMS are still running Windows XP, the Microsoft operating system for which support ends on April 8th. The 13-year old OS was replaced by Windows Vista in 2007, Windows 7 in 2009, Windows 8 in 2012 and Windows 8.1 in 2013.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the news is both good and bad. On the upside, the more advanced fleets of ATMs should be able to upgrade their machines to a newer version of Windows through their network. Older ATMs however, will still have to have a new version of Windows installed one by one, which means the techies will be making lots of trips to different outposts to make sure upgrades are going as planned.


(Jan ‘14)


1Gbps over copper lines


ISPs have been plagued by the last mile ever since the Internet arrived. While projects like our own Ultra-fast Broadband can deliver massive bandwidth to your neighbourhood, getting it into your living room is a whole different story.

However, the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has begun the process of approving a new standard called “G.fast” that will allow for access speeds of 1,000 megabits per second (1000Mbps or 1Gbps) over copper telephone lines. G.fast (full name ITU-T G.9701) is expected to be a cheaper and easier-to-deploy alternative than FTTH (fibre to the home) and if it works, it will finally bring super-fast broadband speeds to the masses who are stuck with copper wires for the dreaded last mile.

Older iterations of DSL technology were able to provide broadband connectivity through existing telephone lines thanks to a modulation technique that allowed voice and data to share the same wire at different frequency ranges—DSL at 25 to 1104 KHz and voice between 30 Hz to 4 KHz. However there is only so much signal a single twisted copper cable can carry. This limits the current standard, VDSL to just 100 Mbps over a bandwidth of 30 MHz, though you'll be hard pressed to find any ISP that actually offers these speeds.

G.fast, on the other hand, uses a much larger 106 Mhz section of bandwidth to deliver speeds up to 1Gbps – the same as fibre. The new standard is not perfect, though, as its upper frequency range overlaps with the FM radio spectrum, which can cause interference. Plus its wide frequency range generates a large amount of cross-talk between the bundled wires themselves. And, like VDSL before it, ISP's could potentially cut the maximum available speed in half to just 500 Mbps due to financial or technical constraints. Still, even at half capacity G.fast is 5 times quicker than its predecessors.

The G.fast standard is expected to be finalised some time later this year and could begin rolling out soon thereafter.

Don't ditch your land line just yet.


(Jan ‘14)


Dogs poop in alignment with earth’s magnetic field


A team of Czech and German researchers found that canines actually align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field when they defecate.

To demonstrate that they are really dedicated to their work, the researchers measured the direction of the body axis of 70 dogs from 37 breeds during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years, and found that dogs "prefer to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions."

There could be a Nobel Prize in the offing for this ground-fouling discovery.


(Jan ‘14)


Samsung also makes tanks


Samsung Techwin, a subsidiary of Samsung Group, is a surveillance, aeronautics, optoelectronics, automations and weapons technology company with revenues in 2012 of 2,935 billion South Korean won ($NZ3.3 billion).

Founded in 1977, the company established a precision instrument laboratory in 1978 and started making cameras in 1979.

In technical cooperation with General Electric, it started manufacturing jet engines for Korean aircraft in 1980, and manufacturing of 155 mm self-propelled artillery in 1984.

In 2008, Samsung Techwin directly entered the European and North American closed-circuit television/surveillance market under its own name, featuring a line of true day/night cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs).

Check out the link for tanks, AVRs and other combat gear.


(Jan ‘14)


The best business card in the world

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Guangbiao Chen, one of China's richest men, has a very impressive business card: most prominent philanthropist, moral leader, earthquake rescue hero, well-known and beloved Chinese role model, most charismatic philanthropist, top low carbon emission and environmental protection advocate, and foremost environmental preservation demolition expert.

I wonder how he got all those titles?


(Jan ‘14)


One in four British 8-year olds has a tablet


More than one quarter of British children under eight-years-old have tablet computers according to a recent survey.

The poll for uSwitch.com, a price comparison company, found 27% of under-eights have one of the gadgets, while 17% were aged between two and three when they first learned to use a touch screen, and 10% were under two.

Some 84% of parents bought technology for their children last year, spending an average of £462 ($NZ900) with the majority of spending on gadgets for Christmas. And more than a third of parents (36%) expect to spend more on gadgets for their children this year, with 91% saying their children already own at least one games console.

Almost a fifth of parents (16%) believe their under 16-year-olds are "addicted" to gadgets, while more than a quarter (26%) say their children would feel lost without them. Almost three-quarters of parents (71%) limit the hours their children spend using technology.

Whatever happened to playing hide-and-seek?


(Jan ‘14)


Fridge sending spam email


A fridge has been discovered sending out spam emails after a web attack managed to compromise smart gadgets. It was one of more than 100,000 devices used to take part in a botnet-driven spam campaign.

Uncovered by security firm Proofpoint, the botnet attack sent about 750,000 messages via compromised computers, home routers, media PCs and smart TV sets with about 25% of the messages not passing through laptops, desktops or smartphones. Instead, the malware managed to get itself installed on other smart devices such as kitchen appliances, the home media systems on which people store copied DVDs and web-connected televisions.

Many of these gadgets have computer processors onboard and act as a self-contained web server. The majority of devices that had been used to send the messages had not been subjected to extensive or complicated compromise. Simple misconfiguration and default passwords had left the devices open to attack.

That folks, is the Internet of Things.

What’s for dinner?


(Jan ‘14)

Back to top


Dial 00000000 to blow up the world

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For 20 years, the password for the U.S. nuclear arsenal was '00000000’.

President Kennedy instituted a security system on all nuclear warheads to prevent them from being armed by some unauthorised rogue. The system called  PAL or Permissive Action Link, meant every nuclear device was fitted with a small black box that ensured that a missile could only be launched with the right code.

Unfortunately for Kennedy (and I guess, the rest of the world) U.S. military leadership was more concerned about delaying a launch than securing Armageddon. They technically obeyed the order but then set the password to 8 zeroes, or 00000000.


(Dec ‘13)


NORAD’s Santa Tracker is back


The holidays are all about traditions, and once again NORAD is back with an updated version of its Santa Tracker, letting kids keep tabs on Saint Nick as the 25th creeps closer and closer.

In addition to updated apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices, the website has also been tarted up with a new design that makes it a little easier to use on touch-friendly devices.

The new site also includes games, videos, and even a playlist of Christmas tunes to keep your kids occupied for at least a few minutes while you attempt to get some shopping/baking/gift wrapping done.

It all started in 1955 in Colorado Springs. An ad was run by Sears, the retail giant, with a telephone number to call Santa at the North Pole. Well, it wasn’t Santa’s number. They got it wrong. The number they published was the hotline for CONAD, the Continental Air Defense's Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup. This was at the height of the Cold War.

The CONAD boss wasn't amused when he got his first call. Instead of a report of missiles falling over New York or a Soviet submarine surfacing in the San Francisco Bay, what he got was a six-year old telling him what he wanted from the jolly fat man.

However, instead of telling the kid all he could offer was nuclear warheads, he did something else. After the second boy called, and after realising what was happening, he told his staff to start giving Santa's polar coordinates to every child calling that line. And that’s how it started.

In 1958, CONAD became NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. More at the second link.


(Dec ‘13)


A mower that personalises lawns

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While 3-D printers have become all the rage, now you can personalise your lawn with the Grass Printer, an automatic lawnmower that can also be programmed to cut text messages into the grass.

The mower features a touchscreen that allows the user to program a graphic design to be cut into the lawn. Equipped with smaller blades than normal and motors in the shaft that move the blades horizontally and vertically, the Grass Printer will travel within an area defined by sensor markers to cut the grass in the desired design.

Think of the berms in Auckland, and what messages its citizens could leave for Mayor Len Brown.


(Dec ‘13)


(Dec ‘13)


Buying cars from a vending machine

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Polls have shown that car salespeople are amongst the least trusted and rank even below politicians.

Carnarva, an online car dealership in Atlanta, Georgia allows customers to shop for cars online, secure loans online, and pay for cars online. Now they have gone one step farther and are claiming to remove the despised car salesperson from test drives and even post-purchase pickup by creating a giant auto-vending machine.

The facility, which will open before Christmas, will be a fully digital, 24/7 interactive 'vehicle-delivery center' designed to offer customers pick-up options after purchasing a vehicle online. They'll have floor-to-ceiling windows, custom LED lighting, flat screen TV's plus interactive keypads that identify customers based on unique buyer credentials. There will be three car pickup bays to allow for simultaneous pickups.

The one thing they won't have are car sales people but they will have customer service reps available to answer questions.

Would you like fries with that?


(Dec ‘13)


The price of stolen identities is dropping

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The price of stolen identities has dropped by as much as 37% in the cybercrime underground: to $US25 for a U.S. identity, and $US40 for an overseas identity. For $US300 or less, you can acquire credentials for a bank account with a balance of $US70,000 to $US150,000, and $US400 is all it takes to get a rival or targeted business knocked offline with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)-for-hire attack.

ID theft and bank account credentials are getting cheaper because there is just so much inventory (a.k.a. stolen personal information) out there. Bots are cheap, too: 1,000 bots go for $US20, and 15,000, for $US250.


(Dec ‘13)


The price of a plane


Boeing publishes a price list for its commercial airliners right there on its website. 737-700s are a snip at $US76 million ($NZ93m)! Boeing 787s, the Dreamliner, start at $US211.8 million ($NZ258m). The prices given are labelled “average”.

For the 767-2CFX, a cargo plane, there is a note which says "Contact Sales and Marketing for Pricing Information”.


(Dec ‘13)


Beer building better bricks


Researchers have discovered that adding spent brewing grains to red clay bricks can increase their insulation capabilities by up to 30%. This proves beer can warm more than just the soul.

Bricks are often embedded with polystyrene to increase their insulation abilities, but polystyrene and other synthetic materials can be expensive to make and bad for the environment. Spent brewer’s grain, on the other hand, is often in plentiful supply, and has been proven to enhance the ability of the clay bricks to trap heat without sacrificing strength.

Wonder if your house will smell like hops?


(Dec ‘13)


Neil Armstrong’s suit was made by a bra manufacturer


The spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore when he stepped onto the moon was constructed by a bra manufacturer. 

Smithsonian magazine tells the story of the Apollo suit:

For the suit’s creator, the International Latex Corporation in Dover, Delaware, the toughest challenge was to contain the pressure necessary to support life (about 3.75 pounds per square inch of pure oxygen), while maintaining enough flexibility to afford freedom of motion. A division of the company that manufactured Playtex bras and girdles, ILC had engineers who understood a thing or two about rubber garments. They invented a bellowslike joint called a convolute out of neoprene reinforced with nylon tricot that allowed an astronaut to bend at the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and ankles with relatively little effort. Steel aircraft cables were used throughout the suit to absorb tension forces and help maintain its shape under pressure.


(Nov ‘13)


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