Watch out Google! Mercedes Benz is developing its own autonomous car

Mercedes Benz
Mercedes Benz is developing a new technology called Intelligent Drive that will compete with Google’s driver-less car.  Using a combination of cameras and radar, the system builds a model of the outside world and updates it 10 times per-second.  They recently completed a totally-autonomous road trip, retracing the very first over-land road trip in a car.  Check out the video after the break to see it in action!

Update: Nissan is also throwing its hat in the ring.

Take the Red Pill

Words

An interesting take on web design.  Start with the words, and let the design follow.  Most designers work the other way around…

Source: Words.

Wine Coming to Android, Will Run Windows Apps on Google’s Mobile OS

WINE AndroidThis is getting ridiculous.  When are we going to give up our unnecessary dependency on Windows-only apps?  I’m not a Microsoft hater or an Apple fan-boy; in fact, I enjoy using  Windows 7 at home.  I also like Macs too, and that’s the point:  I want applications to run seamlessly on all platforms.  New applications should be developed with the cloud in mind.  Whether it be web apps, or native apps that wrap cloud based data in a nice presentation layer that’s specific to the device your using.  We shouldn’t be trying to get Windows apps run on Android.  We should be trying to make an offering on both platforms that is appealing to users.  We live in a new information age where the most successful apps run on all platforms (think Dropbox).

Source: Wine coming to Android, will run Windows apps on Google’s mobile OS.

Programmer ‘Outsources’ His Own Job to China for One-Fifth His Salary

A software developer for Verizon named “Bob” decided that all he wanted to do was browse the web all day and get paid a programmer’s salary for it. Well, it came back to bite him because his somewhat smart idea was stupidly implemented. “Bob” made six figures with Verizon, but paid a Shenyang consultant firm one-fifth his salary to do his job.

Seems like a pretty good idea at first, right? What started off as a good business venture quickly turned south when this genius decided to FedEx his personal network security RSA token key fob out to the Chinese. He also gave them his username and password. They would login under his credentials and it would seem that “Bob” was working from 9-to-5.

Still sounds legit? Well maybe “Bob” hasn’t been keeping up with the tech news lately, but China is constantly launching cyber attacks against American targets. They are hacking 24/7 to try to access anything and everything. (They recently were successful in an 18-month long attack on British Aerospace (BAE), a US government contractor, and obtained classified data on the F-35 fighter jet, the newest in America’s arsenal.) So when a company’s network security staff sees a spike in traffic coming from China, they investigate it! When security determined that “Bob’s” credentials were being used, he’s the first one they went to see. He should have just given them a task, requirements, and a schedule. Then they could have sent him some code, and he could have logged in himself and submitted the work. That would have been a better plan!

Source: Programmer ‘outsources’ his own job to China to laze around at work – Yahoo! News UK.

$300 Tool that Decrypts BitLocker, PGP, and TrueCrypt Disks in Real-Time

Forensic Disk Decryptor (EFDD)A new tool called Forensic Disk Decryptor, released by Elcomsoft, that promises to decrypt partitions encrypted with BitLocker (Microsoft), PGP (OpenPGP), and TrueCrypt, the three most popular encryption schemes for personal computer users.  Elcomsoft Forensic Disk Decryptor (EFDD) can either decrypt the entire partition or can mount the encrypted volume as a new drive which allows on demand, file-by-file decryption on-the-fly.  EFDD also leaves the original encrypted disk digitally intact, meaning none of the original files are modified.

To decrypt the data, EFDD analyzes memory dumps or hibernation files from the target PC.  On PCs with hard disk encryption software, decryption keys are usually stored in a computer’s volatile memory (the RAM) so that files can be decrypted and accessed quickly by the authorized user.  By either obtaining a memory dump from a running target PC or by obtaining a PC’s hibernation file (which is essentially a memory dump performed by the operating system), EFDD can find the decryption keys and therefore decrypt the data.

So, is your data at risk?  Well, if an attacker gets a hold of your PC or has already planted a virus that allows the attacker to obtain memory dumps, then yes.  To keep your data safe, ensure your anti-virus definitions are current and that you perform virus-scans frequently.  Also, ensure you keep your PC physically secure.  If your PC gets stolen, there’s a good chance your encrypted data has been compromised.  And as always: use complex passwords and change them often.

EFDD supports all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows and even supports decrypting removable media such as USB flash drives.

Source: This $299 tool is reportedly capable of decrypting BitLocker, PGP, and TrueCrypt disks in real-time – The Next Web.

Microsoft Begs Web Developers not to Make WebKit the New IE6

There’s a new instance of browser standard fracturing coming, and it is between WebKit based browsers and new browsers such as IE10.  Back in the day, web developers would have to design essentially two different websites, one for IE6 and another for modern browsers, so that everyone would get the exact same experience no matter what browser they were using.  It was mostly because the CSS support in IE6 was lacking.  Well, it’s happening again, but this time with WebKit.  WebKit is supporting “Touch Events” standard while IE10 is supported a newer, more broad reaching “Pointer Events” standard.  It’s based on the way that the standards are implemented before it officially becomes a standard.  For example, when Border-Radius wasn’t an official property, WebKit would prefix the property with “-webkit-” but the correct, browser independent, and now standard, way is simply “border-radius.”

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is opting to support “Pointer Events.”  For all web developers out there, be sure to periodically validate your webpages on the different platforms (WebKit, IE, Chrome, and other popular platforms).  A handy tool is the W3C CSS Validator (it has advanced options to choose which version of CSS you want to validate against).

Source: Microsoft begs Web devs not to make WebKit the new IE6 | Ars Technica.

No Women In CS? Well, Not For Long

She++We need more female programmers.  They offer a different perspective and bring a constructive argument to the table.

She++ (a play on words referring to the popular programming language, C++) is a new niche online community for women computer science majors and potential computer science majors in the Silicon Valley area that has potential to grow nation-wide.  Ayna Agarwal and Ellora Israni founded the group a year ago to help inspire more women to major in CS.  They plan to have their second annual conference for women in computer science in April 2013 at Stanford.

Source: No Women In CS? Well, Not For Long | TechCrunch.

Google Launches Native Maps For iOS

Google Maps IconFinally,  the app we’ve all been waiting for (I know I’m a little late): Google Maps!  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Apple and Google broke off their partnership a year early and that starting with iOS 6, Apple no longer has Google apps pre-installed.  First, Google released the YouTube app, just before the iPhone 5 went on sale.  Many people were disappointed that Google Maps was not available at launch.  Wait no more: Google Maps and YouTube are now the top apps in the App Store.  (I was one of those people who waited because of Google Maps.  I was still rockin’ my 3GS!)

The one thing I still don’t like is that Apple locks down the default apps for various actions.  This is all too reminiscent of the old Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit and the European Union competition case over Internet Explorer being bundled together with Windows as the default browser.  As a result of those cases, Windows now supports setting a default browser other than Internet Explorer and the world is a better place for it.  Apple needs to allow a default browser, default email, and a default maps handler (and even a default phone application, but that is not as vital) to be set in the iOS settings.  I would even condone a stricter app approval process for apps that wish to be identified as default action handlers.  I understand they’re trying to protect their empire, but I believe the iOS community will be better for it.

Source: Google Launches Native Maps For iOS, And Here’s The Deep Dive On Navigation, Info Sheets And More | TechCrunch.

The Death of the Password

You've Been Hacked!The time of convenient security and password protection is over.  Even though your password may be “secure,” the Hackers have stopped trying to guess passwords and have started attacking the convenience loopholes companies build into their authentication architecture.  The “Forgot Your Password” and “Reset Your Password” links have now become the most sought after targets of hackers trying to gain access to your digital life.

A few months ago, Mat Honan got his digital life turned upside down.  His email, Twitter, and personal home Mac computers were compromised and all his personal data was erased, including all his irreplaceable family pictures.  Since this tragedy, he has dedicated his time to researching digital security.  What he’s found does not look promising for the continued use of the password as we know it today.

Take the Red Pill

The Node – a Sensor-Packed, Low Power, Bluetooth Dongle

The NodeThe Node packs a suite of scientific sensors into a small dongle that is controlled by your smartphone.  A modular tube device, the Node enables sensors to be included or excluded.  Communication over low power Bluetooth 4.0 allows for long remote operation.  There are free iPhone and Android apps that display the data the Node collects, and will even record data for a certain period of time.  The applications of the Node are endless, including remote sensors around your house, temperature readings inside equipment racks or home theater systems, a mini weather station, etc.

The Kore is the simplest Node that includes basic sensors and costs $149.  Additional modules can be purchased for $25.  What originally started as a Kickstarter project is now a full fledged product, with a developer support site as well.  This is a neat little device that has a big future.

Source: Hands On With The Node, A Sensor-Packed Smartphone Dongle | TechCrunch.

Unlimited Talk, Text, and Web for $25/month and No Contracts

free mobileA small telecom company in France, Free Mobile, offers unlimited everything for $25/month, no contract.  They’ve forced the big three in Europe to offer similar plans, and have gained more than 5% market share.  They don’t offer discounts on phones, so you pay full price, but you don’t get charged ridiculous monthly rates.

If France can do it, why can’t the US?  Whatever company offers something similar here in the US, I think will eventually become the #1 carrier.

Source: How The Telecom Company Free Disrupted The Mobile Landscape In France | TechCrunch.

The JBL Soundfly is a Little Wireless Speaker That Hangs From an Electrical Outlet

JBL SoundflyThis neat little wireless speaker doesn’t require a place on the desk or time to recharge.  It does take up both outlets though…

Just plug in the JBL Soundlfy to an outlet and there it stays.  Push your music over Bluetooth or Airplay and start the party.  These would be great for outdoor barbecues or get-togethers.  Also they would be great for those people who have plugs in their ceilings to get that surround sound effect.

Source: The JBL Soundfly Is A Little Wireless Speaker That Hangs From An Electrical Outlet | TechCrunch.

3 iPad Mini Design Considerations For Developers

3 iPad Mini Design Considerations For DevelopersApple has released a new, ‘mini’ version of their wildly successful iPad, called the iPad Mini, just in time for the holiday season.  Expect millions to be sold, and with that, millions of apps to be downloaded.

Developers of apps shouldn’t just pop a release of their existing iPad app into the app store and call it good.  There are a few considerations to take into account that will require a redesign to the layout of your app.

One handed design will be important.  The iPad Mini’s size lends itself well to using only one hand to hold and operate the device.  Navigation controls should be redesigned so that they are accessible from either one side of the app or the other.  Also, don’t rely on pinch-to-zoom in your app either.  Double-tap, scrolling, and other one-handed gestures should be used instead.

Portrait will be your layout.  Given the one-handed operation, the device will almost always be used in portrait orientation, except when watching videos.  Either ensure your app handles transitions between portrait and landscape very well, or include support to turn off rotation within your app and stick to portrait mode only.  Don’t just make a bigger iPhone app.  Actually take the time to design your app for the iPad Mini.

The source link talks about Glance-ability and the fact that this is a mobile device so developers should expect short bursts of eyes-on-app time, but I don’t agree 100%.  I believe the use case is very similar to the iPhone, where yes, there will be times of quick glances at apps, but it won’t be all the time.  I think that it depends on your app and what its purpose is.  Make your own judgement on how your app should be used and design it accordingly.

Source: 3 iPad Mini Design Considerations For Developers | TechCrunch.

Valve Engineer Praises Linux Over Windows for Gaming

Valve LinuxValve has begun the transition over to Linux for hardcore gaming, an OS previously ridden with limited video card driver support and reduced 3D gaming performance.  Over the past few years, popular distributions of Linux, such as Ubuntu, have gained mainstream popularity and with that has come better driver support from the top video card manufacturers.

As the dust settles on the Windows 8 release, Valve has made it known that they are leaning towards Linux.  First, CEO Gabe Newell called Windows 8 a “catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”  Now, Valve engineer Drew Bliss believes that Linux is “more viable” in the PC gaming space since Microsoft has taken a locked down, more ‘Apple’-like, approach with applications on Windows 8.

With Linux gaining mainstream acceptance, Valve has positioned itself for the coming rise in Linux gamers.  It has ported its popular Steam gaming network over to Linux, currently in limited beta.  They are actively looking for Linux beta testers and continue to show support for the transition.

Source: Valve Engineer Praises Linux Over Windows for Gaming | Maximum PC.

Makers Can Use Circuits.io to Prototype Electronics in Their Browser

circuits-ioIt’s about time this functionality came to the browser!  I remember hating all versions of any of the circuit diagram / PCB layout software tools.  Their interfaces were not intuitive and their simulation tools, the bread and butter of those applications, rarely worked correctly.

Circuits.io uses an easy drag-and-drop interface that runs on JavaScript inside your browser.  Their back-end uses Rails running on Heroku servers.  Simulation is not available yet at circuits.io, but I feel that it’s probably coming in the future.  This website is still in “beta” so take it easy on them.  They’re disrupting a new area of software and deserve a little leeway.  Check out a demonstration video after the break.

Source: Makers Can Uses Circuits.io To Prototype Electronics In Their Browser | TechCrunch.

Take the Red Pill

Software Architecture Cheat Sheet

Software Architecture tipsThis is a good sheet of paper for all programmers to have on their walls above their monitors.  It lists 10 important questions you should ask yourself before implementing major software architecture changes in your projects.

Hit up the source link for further explanations of each topic.

Source: Software Architecture cheat sheet.

The Wii U Launches Nov. 18 Along Side 23 Games

Wii UThe long awaited update to the Nintendo Wii will be available in North America on November 18th.  It will be launching with 23 games, including a new take on an old classic: New Super Mario Bros. U.  The launch price is $300 for the white 8GB version and $350 for the premium bundle in black with 32GB of storage.

Will you be getting one?  Are you going to keep your old Wii or trade it in/sell it?

Source: These are the 23 games launching with the Wii U on November 18 — Engadget.

PayByGroup Lets Friends Split Group Purchases

PayByGroupEver try to organize a big trip with your friends, only to have it cancelled at the last second because a couple people couldn’t/didn’t pay?  Or even after the trip, try to get your money but found it annoying that the people who didn’t pay keep dodging you?  A new service called PayByGroup aims to remedy that by making it super easy to pay for things as a group.  No one gets charged until the tipping point is met, and you don’t have to nag people for their money.  The funds then go to the organizer’s bank account and the purchase/reservation can be made.

The company also wants to eventually allow people to buy things online with PayByGroup.  (Think siblings all pitching in for a parent’s birthday or Christmas present, etc.)  Check out the source link for a video explaining the service.

Source: No More Awkward “You Owe Me Money” Reminders: PayByGroup Lets Friends Split Group Purchases | TechCrunch.

Animated GIFs the Hard Way

An interesting take on animated images.  Details how to create a series of PNGs, pack them into one PNG, then use JavaScript to create the animation.  This overcomes some of the drawbacks of animated GIFs, such as the 256 color limitation and large file sizes.

Source: Animated GIFs the Hard Way.

How To Undo Facebook Hiding Your Email Address Before Your Friends Use iOS 6 Contact Sync

Facebook Email Privacy ChangesFacebook just modified your email privacy settings without telling you.  It all ties into iOS 6, which was officially released today.  Facebook is now deeply integrated into iOS and you can sync your contacts with Facebook and pull in profile pictures for your contacts.  Facebook took this opportunity to change your email address that it displays on your timeline to your @facebook.com email address without notifying you.  If you want your friends to email you to your original email address, check out the source link below for instructions on how to change the privacy settings back.

Source: How To Undo Facebook Hiding Your Email Address Before Your Friends Use iOS 6 Contact Sync | TechCrunch.