Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Since the only holiday going on right now is Christmas, allow me to wish you a merry one.  I hope, despite all that goes on in the world, a joyous and peaceful Christmas....and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Independent Review of NSA Surveillance Not 'Independent'

A panel of so-called independent experts appointed by President Obama to review the federal government's surveillance programs "has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts," according to a report from the Associated Press. AP writes:

 The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.

 Even though no classified information has been discussed, the meetings have remained closed, and the press office for the DNI said that Clapper exempted the review panel from the Federal Advisory Committee Act due to the "highly classified nature of their review." The office also told the AP that, "We are conducting this review as openly and transparently as possible." In one meeting, representatives from tech giants including Microsoft and Apple advocated for more permission to be open with their users.

Read More at: The Atlantic

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The American Public's Foreign-Policy Reawakening

Political analysts over the next year or so, and historians well into the future, are likely to point to the fall of 2013 as a fundamental inflection point in American politics. That period, they will say, is when the American people forced a major new direction in American foreign policy. Before the events of this fall, the country’s electorate largely delegated foreign policy to its political elite—and largely supported that elite as it projected American military power with more abandon than the country had ever before seen. Even as the government steadfastly expanded the range of international problems that it said required U.S. military action, the electorate accepted that expanded international role and that increasingly promiscuous use of force.
Those days are gone now. The American people conveyed emphatically, in public opinion surveys and in communications to their representatives in Washington, that they did not want their country to launch air strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Not even if Assad used chemical weapons against his people, as they generally believe he did. Not even if the strikes are limited in magnitude and duration, as Obama promises they will be. Not even if the president of the United States says the strikes are in the country’s national interest. They don’t buy it, and they don’t want it.
Poll numbers in recent days have demonstrated this turnaround in stark fashion. In addition, congressional reluctance to support the president’s authorization request was growing inexorably. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the president was "losing ground in both parties in recent days," while the Wall Street Journal said support for Mr. Obama’s position on Syria "was slipping in Congress." If Russia’s Vladimir Putin hadn’t interrupted the U.S. political process with his call for a negotiated end to Assad’s possession of chemical weapons, it seems inevitable that the president would have suffered a devastating political defeat in Congress. That’s still the likely outcome if it ever comes to a vote.
And there’s no doubt that his difficulties in Congress are driven in part by recent poll numbers, which are startling. Gallup reported recently, based on polling between September 3-4, that American support for the Syria attack was the lowest at this stage in a prospective military action seen over the past twenty years—36 percent, compared to 59 percent for the 2003 Iraq invasion, 82 percent for the initial Afghanistan action in 2001, 62 percent for the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and 43 percent for the Kosovo bombing of 1999.
But the 36 percent support number in the Gallup poll quickly was overtaken by lower numbers in subsequent polls. A later CNN poll showed that nearly 70 percent of respondents believed it wasn’t in the U.S. interest to get involved in Syria’s civil war, and a slightly higher percentage said airstrikes wouldn’t achieve any significant goals for the United States. A Reuters/Ipsos poll from September 5-9 pegged support for U.S. involvement in Syria at just 16 percent, down from 20 percent just a week earlier.
In a survey reported in Tuesday’s New York Times, the paper asked broader questions about American foreign policy, and the results were revealing. Fully 62 percent of respondents said the United States shouldn’t take a leading role in trying to solve foreign conflicts, while only 34 percent said it should. On a question whether the United States should intervene to turn dictatorships into democracies, 72 percent said no. Only 15 percent said yes. The Times said that represents the highest level of opposition recorded by the paper in various polls over the past decade.
To understand the significance of these numbers, along with the political pressures building on lawmakers on the issue, it’s important to note that American political sentiment doesn’t change willy-nilly, for no reason. What we’re seeing is the emergence within the American political consciousness of a sense that the country’s national leaders have led it astray on foreign policy. And, given the country’s foreign-policy history of the past two decades, it isn’t surprising that the people would begin to nudge their leaders with a certain amount of agitation.
They were told in late 1992 that the U.S. incursion into Somalia was for the benign purpose of merely feeding starving people. A year later that adventure ended in a disaster for America and a major embarrassment for President Bill Clinton, who had expanded the Somalia mission. The American people were told they had to invade Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction and serious ties to Al Qaeda. Neither was true. They were told that the Iraqi people would embrace some form of Western-style democracy once Saddam Hussein was out of the way. Didn’t happen. They were told that Hosni Mubarak’s departure in Egypt would lead to the emergence of democratic institutions there. They got, first, an Islamist government through election, then another military coup of the kind that has characterized that country and region for decades. They were told the Libyan people would be better off without Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the result was societal chaos, with Qaddafi’s weapons streaming into the hands of Islamist radicals (and being used against U.S. diplomatic personnel). They were told to embrace "globalization," and it led to the worst economic dislocation since the Great Depression.
In other words, the country’s elites—of both political parties and across the political spectrum—have been wrong on just about everything they have done since the end of the Cold War. And the voters, as a collective, aren’t stupid. They know that these fiascos have been the products of particular philosophical concepts that have emerged since the beginning of America’s "unipolar moment" around 1990.
They may not understand these philosophical concepts in all their complexities and nuances, but they know the Republican neoconservatives and the Democratic humanitarians have been driving the agenda.
Thus, you can look now for the American people to take back the agenda. When this sort of voter clawback occurs in American politics, as it has from time to time, you see it first in the polls, then in defensive congressional actions, and then in voter punishment directed at those who can’t seem to get the message. It’s going to be an interesting time in the politics of American foreign policy over the next few years.

Americans Must Sacrifice Some Security for Freedom

Gen. Keith Alexander, NSA Director // Jeff Chiu/AP File Photo
By Bruce Schneier
The Atlantic

Leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden have catapulted the NSA into newspaper headlines and demonstrated that it has become one of the most powerful government agencies in the country. From the secret court rulings that allow it collect data on all Americans to its systematic subversion of the entire Internet as a surveillance platform, the NSA has amassed an enormous amount of power.

There are two basic schools of thought about how this came to pass. The first focuses on the agency’s power. Like J. Edgar Hoover, NSA Director Keith Alexander has become so powerful as to be above the law. He is able to get away with what he does because neither political party -- and nowhere near enough individual lawmakers -- dare cross him. Longtime NSA watcher James Bamford recently quoted a CIA official: “We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander -- with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets.”

Possibly the best evidence for this position is how well Alexander has weathered the Snowden leaks. The NSA’s most intimate secrets are front-page headlines, week after week. Morale at the agency is in shambles. Revelation after revelation has demonstrated that Alexander has exceeded his authority, deceived Congress, and possibly broken the law. Tens of thousands of additional top-secret documents are still waiting to come. Alexander has admitted that he still doesn’t know what Snowden took with him and wouldn’t have known about the leak at all had Snowden not gone public. He has no idea who else might have stolen secrets before Snowden, or who such insiders might have provided them to. Alexander had no contingency plans in place to deal with this sort of security breach, and even now -- four months after Snowden fled the country -- still has no coherent response to all this.

For an organization that prides itself on secrecy and security, this is what failure looks like. It is a testament to Alexander’s power that he still has a job.

The second school of thought is that it’s the administrations’ fault -- not just the present one, but the most recent several. According to this theory, the NSA is simply doing its job. If there’s a problem with the NSA’s actions, it’s because the rules it’s operating under are bad. Like the military, the NSA is merely an instrument of national policy. Blaming the NSA for creating a surveillance state is comparable to blaming the U.S. military for the conduct of the Iraq war. Alexander is performing the mission given to him as best he can, under the rules he has been given, with the sort of zeal you’d expect from someone promoted into that position. And the NSA’s power predated his directorship.

Read More at: The Atlantic

Friday, September 6, 2013

NSA Has Backdoors in Commercial Products

New IRS Rule Counts Automatic Tips As Income

An updated tax rule is causing restaurants to rethink the practice of adding automatic tips to the tabs of large parties.  Starting in January 2014, the Internal Revenue Service will begin classifying those automatic gratuities as a service charge.

What most people don't know is that restaurants pay their staff around $4 or less per hour.  Tips or "gratuities" are allowed by law to make up the difference to the minimum wage.  Restaurants, no matter what you receive in tips for the day, will add your tips to your income earned for the day (based on sales) to ensure you make minimum wage.  No, that does not mean they actually pay you, the restaurant "assumes" you've earned the difference.  Yes, those coupons and early bird special hurt.  Currently, restaurants are required to report to the IRS what its employees report receiving for tips and to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes on those amounts.  Naturally, restaurants are able to save millions collectively on payroll and income taxes.  Servers, at least at the expensive places, can earn quite a bit and avoid the tax man on a good portion...assuming they aren't completely honest.

Restaurants in many European countries pay their staff full wages.  Tips are a Euro or two in German, 20-20 cents in Belgium, and a Euro at most in Austria....just enough to round up.  That's a win-win for everyone involved.  The staff get paid a steady wage, with extra for a good there is no rushing you out the door so they can get the next table seated.  Put the bill on the table before the customer has asked for it is liable to get you yelled at.

What gets this authors goat is the automatic tip added to the bill if you have, generally, six or more people at the table.  Frankly, when that happens I don't give my usual 20%.  I do that on principle.  Restaurants supposedly adopted automatic gratuities to help ensure that their servers weren't stiffed on large tabs, which I frankly doubt.  Most business adopt policies to help themselves, not their employees. But the new IRS ruling (from 2012) is getting frosty support from many servers and restaurants who don't like the idea of tips being treated as wages.  Wages requires upfront withholding of federal taxes, and that money will have to be paid out on a payday vs. in cash that day.  Likewise, restaurants will have to pay additional income, social security, medicare and other taxes on those wages.

The IRS ruling was issued in 2012 to clarify earlier tax guidance on tips, and note how automatic tips were to be treated.  The updated rule says the automatic tips are service charges because they aren't voluntary. However, the IRS did say that suggesting different tip amounts isn't subject to federal withholding because the customer is still free to choose whether and how much to tip.

Personally, I want tips eliminated altogether.  Let the restaurants pay a wage like any other business.  If I choose to leave an extra few dollars for outstanding service, then that should be my choice, not a social obligation.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

HDMI 2.0 officially announced

HDMI 2.0 officially announced and bringing you 18Gbps bandwidth, 60fps 4K, 32 channel audio.  Shortly after the new specs leaked out, the HDMI Licensing group are announcing HDMI 2.0 officially.  This announcement arrives just in time for the rollout of a new generation of Ultra HDTVs, adding key capabilities to the HDMI connection standard. The bandwidth capacity of up to 18Gbps, has enough bandwidth to carry 3,840 x 2,160 resolution video at up to 60fps, and 32 audio channels. 

Fortunately, the connector's shape has not changed. allowing for backwards compatibility with previous HDMI connectors.  This may disappoint those hoping for a sturdier socket to help support those suddenly-popular dongles. The cables will also remain the same, as the group states that the current version of high-speed Category 2 wires can handle the increased bandwidth.  
The HDMI Forum has listed additional specs in its FAQ, including that HDMI 2.0 is able to handle up to 1536kHz audio sample frequency, dual video streams for multiple users on a single screen, multi-stream audio up to 4 users at once and support for 21:9 widescreen displays.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SOPA Is Back 2013

(Image via Flickr user banky177)

The demise of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act, a 2012 legislative proposal to severely restrict online content sharing died a well-deserved death due to a concerted effort by Americans to quash that monstrosity.

Content providers and sharers such as Wikipedia and YouTube blacked out their websites in protest, and thousands of citizens called or emailed their members of Congress. Finally President Obama came out against SOPA, as did lawmakers on the left and right (who normally don't agree on anything), and the bill was stopped.

One of the first shots fired took place on the White House site, "We the People", to demand SOPA be shut down. That most likely didn't have much of an effect on SOPA but it helped kick start We the People, which was only a few months old at the time.

Potential laws that are popular with citizens, and may even make their lives better, often die a quick death and are never heard of again.  However, laws back by the infamous entertainment industry keep popping back up because their initiatives to quash free speech come with the power of campaign contributions.  So, you guessed it, a key element of SOPA is back in a report from the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force and the protesters are back on We the People. A petition to Stop SOPA 2013 has received more than 88,000 signatures since it was posted Thursday and is well on its way to acquiring the 100,000 signatures necessary for an official White House response.

The Commerce proposal would make it a felony..yes, a felony to stream copyrighted works without permission.  Parodies and homage music videos that clog the pores of YouTube might be included in that, and could ensnare even other music artists in its dragnet, such as Justin Bieber.

In response to a similar proposal in legislation by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the teen heart throb said the senator should be “put away in cuffs.”  Frankly, I agree with him.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Minority Report

A change of pace.   Good article by Clyde Lewis of GroundZero, which I had to share.

As I was arriving to my office I was, once again, listening to other talk shows revealing the double standard in America. The media and even the President were actually pushing an agenda of racial tensions with the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case a month ago and now, with the recent hate crime committed in Oklahoma where a white baseball player was targeted for death by ‘three black youths’, there seems to be no rage and no comment, which is aggravating already-strained race relations in the United States.

It has been discussed numerous times that there seems to be a blueprint for the construction of the police state in this country and it can be argued that the literature of the past has somehow given ideas to our psychopathic leaders on what the foundation of dystopia should have in it.
As we look at countries like Syria and Egypt, we realize the bricks and mortar used for the foundations of the new governments being proposed will have blood and bones as the key ingredients.
It may be necessary to point out that in the United States there seems to be this nudge or this shove of political end game strategies that are similar to these “crisis ridden” countries where the system is destined to fail in order for our leaders to provide a solution that they feel is necessary to allegedly keep the peace.
Many times we have pointed out that much of what we are see transpiring has all been written about before in books like ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four‘ and ‘Brave New World‘.
The elite have developed this passion for what can only be termed mental fingerprinting, possibly to monitor their progress in creating a traumatized populace that eventually can all be medicated to as Huxley put it, enjoy their chemical enslavement.
Meanwhile, there is a silent group of people that secretly wonder if the entire world has lost its mind and whether or not people will awaken to the injustices and criminality of government before it is too late.
The trouble is, it may be a logical assumption that it is already too late and that it may be time to adapt to the changes and then find way to work out of them and try to correct the social ills of a nation through meaningful dialogue and legal action.
Propaganda is altering perception and steering the population to an approximate goal by the elite.
Recently, I was caught up in a poorly produced film about propaganda called “Branded.” The film was supposed to be a satirical view of marketing and its effects on people. The desired outcome of propaganda was explained in a heavy handed way and the entire film had a subplot involving the methods in which Lenin marketed Communism to the Russians.
It was proposed in the film that, in 1918, the father of Communism actually invented marketing in order to pitch the concept to the Russian people. Vladimir Lenin knew that he needed poster boards with bold colors, a star as straight forward and bold logo, and pictures of victorious sunbursts that enforced the idea of a ‘new dawn‘ with hope and change on the horizon.
It was later shown in the film that even though there is a so-called democracy in Russia it is merely another provocative media advertising ploy as the hammer and sickle remain on government buildings and that tensions between Russia and the United States still exist.
In its own convoluted way, the film demonstrated that everything we choose has already been predetermined by an aggressive marketing cycle and that, in reality, the cold war still exists – albeit with a fresh coat of hyperreality to convince the world that it is dead and buried.
With Syria taking over the nations headlines, we are seeing how the United States and Russia are again sinking deeper into the cold war mentality and this is prompting those who remain in the left right paradigm to point the finger at Barack Obama and openly say that the shaky relations we have had with Russia are now at a point of failure.
It is a point of incredulity that people are seeing the failure now when others were seeing both countries as selectively adhering to their so-called democratic relationship.
It is obvious that the powers of both countries are willing to set up a controlled demolition of anything that even appears to be constitutional or democratic, and both countries are using well known tools of division and straw man argument to foment the cold war and the undercurrent of who will strike a blow first.
The bigger question is: Was our so-called happy relationship with Russia all just a clean veneer provided by an aggressive marketing campaign and is this campaign now being reversed in order to set us back decades and put us back at square one?

It is important to see how core messages are changing now, and that aggressive marketing is giving us a way to collectively accept psychotic behaviors of our leaders and the incessant ploy of issuing terror threats, engendering a collective attitude of race baiting, fear of Islam, and the fingering of certain groups that we are told are a threat to the way we live.
It must be said, that like communist Russia and their aggressive marketing of paranoia and victory, the United States seems destined for the same type of government that sells liberty and freedom as a veneer for the atrocities and criminality that is being allowed to spread throughout the world.
It is now time to admit that the United States government has become just another authoritarian monolith that now looms over the world and wishes to sell and market a lie to other countries that wish to be left alone.
Americans will swear that the country they live in is “free”. However, it needs to be said that this is merely a product of exceptionalism program provided in the public schools which are now teaching young and impressionable minds a different story and are painting a different picture that includes collectivism and vilifies sovereignty.
In the past, we have been use to the age-old programming and marketing that the United States is a free country and therefore other countries do not experience the same freedoms as we do.
The truth is that, while human rights vary from country to country, there are many counties that consider themselves free, as well. Contrary to popular programming, other countries that we see as “unfree” have constitutions as well, many of them similar to the one we have.
The countries that we single out as being ‘less free’ than ours have already made changes to their constitutions and, in a lot of respects, have made the same mistakes we are making – which include the curtailing of speech, disarming the populace and completely negating due process in favor of a more brutal and effective police state.
These countries have, within their histories, points where their democratic form of government disintegrated. Many of these areas deal with division of the people over a proposed threat, or an economic threat. The solution that has been offered over time is the power to be placed in the hands of a few. The ploy and the aggressive marketing tool is to make the people look dangerous, lazy, and sick and therefore in need of a discipline that includes new and effective methods of fear based control.
The United States is now at a point in its history where the power structure is losing its appeal and therefore has to create a number of crisis in order to show the people that the “old ideals” cannot hold and in times of terrible tragedy, the people pull together and voluntarily give up their civil rights so that they no longer have to deal with problems left best to be tranquilized by a government that has no accountability.
No matter that allowing these types of concessions makes our country look like a beast swimming in an ocean of hypocrisy. The new policy of America with all of its red-white-and-blue confidence is a sociopathic, delusional, violent and criminally insane mandate that is somehow supported by people who feel that it is time for us to commit political suicide because we are coerced into believing that this is the only future that guarantees our victory over a manufactured threat.
I can admit that dishonesty provided by leaders of the world is nothing new, but we are now lying to ourselves about who we really are and it has to be said that the marketing campaign that brought us President Obama has truly worked on people.
Taking a page from the aggressive techniques of Lenin, we can remember that President Obama is the only president that has a marketing logo. The only president that continues to use clever marketing techniques to sell policies and changes and a media that cooperates with his whims and doublespeak.
We have a government that knows the value of data management. The reason is because if you can mine the data of blogs, forums and social networks you can propose predetermined outcomes, as the words of the people later become actions and the so called chatter they pick up on indicates that the entire country is about to eat itself.
It is like what Phillip K. Dick envisioned when he wrote his short story “Minority Report.”
Current technological applications can be used to control outcomes, predetermined possible criminal activity and even shape the nightly news. You may think that the spying on Americans is used to find terrorists, but it also can be applied to monitoring the collective mental health of the country and exploit the fears of the populace.
Concerns about race, environment, economy, and even personal attitudes about sex and health can all be analyzed with a quickening pace. This is why we see less news about government malfeasance and more news about pop culture, fashion, sports, gay lifestyles and those who are rebelling against the system.
They are convenient distractions.
Another convenient distraction is white on black and black on white crime. It seems to be a valid concern in the zeitgeist and an effective topic to open the dialogue about the police state and the policies that include gun control, curtailing of free press, and the elimination of due process.

The distraction that we speak of is the distraction that is used to make us ignore that a government that is supposed to uphold constitutional policies is actually breaking the law.
No matter how many times these unlawful practices are revealed there always seems to be an aggressive marketing campaign for Americans to accept the continued criminality and this always rolls down and affects the youth of the country. They don’t see a way out and so they act out.
The frightening part is that when a government operates outside the law and answers to no one, there always seems to be a contingent of people that will revolt – and when they do, the people eventually declare on their own police and their own military.
The result is not a revolution, but an inevitable civil war.

Source: GroundZero

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Superpowers We'd Like to Have

I need the no-speeding tickets power too.

Ok, not a superpower.  But damn is Morena Baccarin HOT!
Source: Mademen

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NSA to MAC Owners: Remove Your Webcam

Image via Blazej Lyjak/

Seems like everything gets hacked these days. Baby monitors. White House employees' personal email. Toilets.

If it's connected to the Internet, it seems at least a little vulnerable.

But surely we can trust that workhorse selfie-generator, the iSight webcam built into the top bezel of Mac laptops. Then again, maybe not. Yesterday, security researchers Steve Glass and Christopher Soghoian were passing around a National Security Administration factsheet ( with a little bit of advice for Mac users on how to "harden" their computers to attacks.

Among the tips, we find the following suggestion: "Disable Integrated iSight and Sound Input."

"The best way to disable an integrated iSight camera is to have an Apple-certified technician remove it," the NSA writes (emphasis added). Then, you might try "placing opaque tape over the camera" or try the software-only method of removing one of the components of Quicktime's files. And if the NSA doesn't trust a particular piece of hardware can't be used for surveillance, it's probably safe to assume an average user shouldn't either.

Read more at: The Atlantic

No Need to Diet, Just Move to a New City!

Most people think that gravity is a constant.  The same across the entire planet.  However, because the Earth varies in shape and density, so does the amount of gravity. A super-accurate gravity map now reveals that the fluctuations are vary even more than previously thought by scientists.

Scientists from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, gathered data from satellite accelerometers and topographic studies, which they used to map out the varying gravitational field between of over 80 per cent of Earth's land masses. Over 3 billion measurement points were used, down to a resolution of around 250 meters. Your PC at home would normally take 5 seconds to calculate each point; however, the scientists were able to use a supercomputer which got the job done in just three weeks.

Scientists found that Mount Nevado HuascarĂ¡n in Peru has the lowest gravitational acceleration, whereas the highest occurs at the surface of the Arctic Ocean. New Scientist puts into perspective the consequences of the findings:

"[I]n the unlikely event that you found yourself falling from a height of 100 meters at each point, you would hit the surface in Peru about 16 milliseconds later than in the Arctic. You would also lose 1 per cent of your body weight in moving from the Arctic to the Peruvian mountaintop."

Geophysical Research Letters via New Scientist via Gizmodo

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Internet In 60 Seconds

What happens online in an average minute online?  We think you’ll be fairly surprised. 

Qmee Online in 60 Seconds Infographic

Online in 60 Seconds [Infographic] is an infographic that was produced by Qmee

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Hidden Kindle Features

On the surface, Kindle devices focus squarely on reading e-books. Even their ancillary features, such as connecting to cloud storage and looking up word definitions, accent the reading experience. However, with the release of the Kindle Fire in late 2011, Amazon's e-reader continued to march into tablet territory with a full-color, multi-touch display and a library of games and apps. Some of Kindle's tablet-like features exist as hidden secrets, while other obscure tricks are buried deep in the device's instruction manual.


The classic computer game "Minesweeper" lies hidden away as perhaps the Kindle's most talked-about secret. On your Kindle Keyboard, press “Alt-Shift-M” to bring the game up. You can access this hidden feature from the home screen. Once open, press “I,” “J”, “K” or “L” to move up, down, left or right, respectively. Press the “Space” key to uncover a cell or “M” to mark a mine. If you tire of "Minesweeper," the Kindle features yet another secret diversion, the strategy game "GoMoku." Simply press “G” from the "Minesweeper" game to open "GoMoku."


Although it may not be listed under its specifications, the Kindle series features fairly complex calculator functionality. To access this feature, just type equations into the search bar and press “Enter.” In addition to basic math, the calculator can handle square roots, power functions and even trigonometric functions. This trick works on third-generation Kindles and the Kindle DX.


Kindle models with the experimental browser have a mysterious geolocation feature, perhaps a fragment of a potentially more robust GPS feature left buried in the device. From the browser, press “Alt-1” to make Google Maps display your current location. From this page, press “Alt-2” to show the nearest gas stations or “Alt-3” to bring up the nearest restaurants.

Other Tricks

Pressing “Alt-Shift-G” on third-generation Kindles takes a screenshot, which goes to the device's Documents folder. Some users find the Kindle Fire's copy and paste function to be a bit opaque; tap and hold a word and drag the highlight marker, and then tap the text to add it to your clipboard. Long-press a text field and select “Paste” to paste into that field.

Source: OV

How Much Does It Really Cost to Be Batman?

Finally, a comprehensive look at the financial cost of being Batman. Movieclips Trailers analyzed the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, comparing Batman's gear to current market prices, to come up with the price it would take to be the dark knight. The final total won't even make a Haliburton executive blink, is $79,237,480.98. Very affordable for a Billionaire playboy.

Who needs to buy a yacht when you can own the Batwing!  Frankly, the bulk of the millions spent is on that self-flying piece of awesomeness, with the closest thing in real life being the US Marine V-22 Osprey which runs for about $60 million. Cut that out and you have a very reasonable 20 million dollar superhero.

Still, a super-hero knows where to pinch pennies.  It's nice to see that Bruce Wayne makes his own DIY Batarangs. That doesn't cost him more than $45 in sheet metal.

Source: MovieClips, Gizmodo

Arguing over what to watch can be a thing of the past for you with Samsung's news, and expensive, answer to this age-old problem.

Samsung's new OLED $9,000 TV has a “Multi-view” feature which allows two or more people to watch up to two different programs at the same time. Samsung’s has described it as a “marriage saver”; however, married people with kids know this will be a sibling saver.

Unlike a split-screen or picture-in picture, the set modifies the technology used for 3D, to give viewers, by wearing separate glasses, a completely different image on the screen. Audio from the relevant program is sent wirelessly to the built-in ear-buds

Although that's cool, it’s not actually the main point of the new set.  Rather, it's the OLED technology being used on this 55-inch screen, which means it can be thinner and lighter than an LCD screen and requires no back-lighting.  This allows it to display deep blacks, better contrast while also reducing motion blur.

A new twist to HDTV's is Samsung’s use of a slightly concave screen.  Theory is that widescreen pictures are more suited than 4:3 ratios for the position of your two eyes, while the curved screen works better with the curves on your eyeballs.

Consumer Reports reviews state that the curve makes the picture more immersive, but reduces the ideal viewing angles.  Likewise wall-mounting may be impossible.  Viewing of 3D material also reduces the resolution if either viewer is watching a program using that technology.

Glenn Greenwald's partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours

The partner of the Guardian journalist, who has has been the leading reporter of NSA surveillance programs by the US National Security Agency, was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.

Photograph: Janine Gibson
Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

Since 5 June, Greenwald has written a series of stories revealing the NSA's electronic surveillance programs, detailed in thousands of files passed to him by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The Guardian has also published a number of stories about blanket electronic surveillance by Britain's GCHQ, also based on documents from Snowden.

While in Berlin, Miranda had visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has also been working on the Snowden files with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights.

"This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process," Greenwald said. "To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere.

"But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively."

A spokesperson for the Guardian said: "We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport. We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities."

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said: "At 08:05 on Sunday, 18 August a 28-year-old man was detained at Heathrow airport under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was not arrested. He was subsequently released at 17:00."

There was no comment from the Home Office in relation to the detention. However, there was surprise in political circles and elsewhere. Labour MP Tom Watson said he was shocked at the news and called for it to be made clear if any ministers were involved in authorizing the detention.

He said: "It's almost impossible, even without full knowledge of the case, to conclude that Glenn Greenwald's partner was a terrorist suspect.

"I think that we need to know if any ministers knew about this decision, and exactly who authorized it."

"The clause in this act is not meant to be used as a catch-all that can be used in this way."

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act has been widely criticized for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorization or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.

Those stopped have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning under schedule 7, which critics say is a curtailment of the right to silence.

Last month the UK government said it would reduce the maximum period of detention to six hours and promised a review of the operation on schedule 7 amid concerns it unfairly targets minority groups and gives individuals fewer legal protections than they would have if detained at a police station.

"There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government. The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analyzing the data released by Edward Snowden."

Source: theguardian

Thursday, August 8, 2013

BMW i8: 95 MPG, 4.5 Seconds to 60

The Germans were late to the club, but they are racing towards the lead with new innovations in EV and Hybrid vehicles.   BMW is taking a different tact from the likes of the boring Toyota Camry Hybrid: they’re creating a gas-electric hybrid that’s out to redefine the sports car, combining massive MPGs with Porsche performance.

On the heels of the the all-electric i3 unveiling, the first of BMW’s new i brand, the automaker has finally released information on the i8 hybrid, a sports car that’s about the same size as their Z4 coupe. Although we've seen plenty of the i8 in concept form, we now get to take a look under the carbon fiber and aluminum body, which shows that BMW plans to blend sports car performance with fuel efficiency.

The BMW i8 starts with an aluminum Drive module, which houses the engine, two electric motors, the battery, the electronics and chassis bits in a single safety cell. The engine is a mid-mounted and turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder, a half-size version of BMW’s next generation in-line six, which is also destined for a place in the next Mini Cooper, and puts out 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. But wait, that's not all.  An electric motor is mounted up front, sending power to the front wheels.  That motor has a maximum of 131 hp and 184 lb-ft available the moment you mash down on the throttle. The electric motor can warp the i8 to 75 mph for up to 22 miles on battery alone.  The battery pack on the i8 is relatively small at 7.2 kWh, and takes three hours to charge off of a 110-volt outlet.

All photos/images courtesy of BMW

Both engines combined give you 362 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque in all wheel drive sport mode.  The front-mounted electric motor is able to control the wheel speed on-demand for maximum traction, and a zero to 60 mph of 4.5 seconds.  Unfortunately,  you are electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph.

BWM had to work hard to keep the weight down, in the right places, in order to achieve those numbers.  Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) reduces the passenger compartment’s weight by 50 percent over steel or 30 percent over aluminum, yet provides the same level of protection.

The doors save another 50 percent in weight by using an inner structure comprised of CFRP coated in an aluminum skin. Ducts are made of a plastic foam, some wiring made from aluminium, and the frame of the instrument panel from magnesium.  The icing on this this cake is the rear window which is made from the same chemically hardened glass as on your smartphone (Gorilla Glass).  The glass is stronger, and lighter that normal glass, while also helping to reduce cabin noise. We can guess that BMW will utilize active noise cancellation in the cabin.  

This attention to detail keeps the i8 at 3300 lbs, only about 200 pounds heavier that a Porsche 911.

For those of you fortunate enough to live in Europe, you can see the i8 in person (without the blue camo) next month at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  The model should arrive at the dealer in late 2014.

Maps of Languages People Speak In The U.S.

 The Census Bureau has released interactive maps of the United States, which show the concentrations of people who speak a language other than English at home.

According to the data, 58% of U.S. residents age 5 and older speak English “very well” and also speak a language other than English at home.  Of those, almost two-thirds of those people speak Spanish (37.6 million), followed by Chinese (2.9 million), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), German (1.1 million), and Korean (1.1 million).

California leads with the highest percentage of people who speak another language than English at home with 44%, while West Virginia has the lowest, with 2%. Laredo, Texas, leads as the city with the highest percentage, 92%.

1. Arabic

 2. Chinese

3. French

4. German

5. Italian

6. Spanish

Read more: Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wearable Patch Makes You Invisible To Mosquitos

Mosquitoes track down their blood meals by sniffing out human breath, skin, and sweat. But the main thing they zoom in on is the smell of carbon dioxide, which a mosquito can detect emanating from a prospective meal from hundreds of feet away. The Kite Patch, a small, non-toxic sticker that you place on your clothing, can jam up a mosquito's CO2 radar. The patch's creators say that you'll be effectively invisible to the bloodsuckers for up to 48 hours if you wear one.

As noted in a June 2011 issue of Nature, researchers had identified three groups of chemicals that can disrupt a mosquito's carbon dioxide receptors. The different group of chemicals, each work a little differently to confound its target. The first actually mimics carbon dioxide, and could be used to lure mosquitoes away from their human targets and into insect traps; the second prevents the mosquitoes from detecting carbon dioxide altogether; and the third actually switches the CO2-sensing machinery of the mosquitoes into overdrive, overloading the mosquitoes' senses to the point of confusion.

The team hopes to field test the patch in Uganda, "one of the toughest proving grounds there is".   The team is currently seeking funding on indiegogo.  "With your help, large-scale testing in Uganda will simultaneously provide over 1,000,000 hours of protection during a large field test for families who are suffering from malaria infection rates of over 60% and allow us to optimize Kite before we begin scaling for global distribution".

Read more at io9 and Kite Patch's indiegogo page.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

DEA Using NSA Data To Prosecute U.S. Citizens and Then Hides The Source

Snowden, a hero or a traitor?  That is up for argument, and has split the nation into those who believe in freedom and liberty, and those who are willing to trade it all for the illusion of security.  Whichever camp you fall in, the "Snowden Effect" continues to reverberate through the many quasi-police forces that keep Americans in line.  Fresh evidence about how the NSA is supplying its surveillance data to agencies, such as the DEA, in order to aid in domestic criminal prosecution has come to the surface.  The idea, and the defense, that NSA's spying activities only impacts non-United States citizens and terrorists, is now utterly debunked as a lie.

The NSA is one of a number of member agencies of a DEA unit called the Special Operations Division (SOD). The SOD, according to Reuters, is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch [and win] criminal investigations of United States citizens".

What this means is that there direct connection between the NSA, its surveillance efforts, and the criminal prosecution of normal (ie. non-terrorists) American citizens in the United States.

What’s most disturbing about today’s revelations is that the DEA is hiding how they came about this information from both the production and the defendant.  The DEA covers the tracks of its information by using “parallel construction,” which is basically making up a whole new story (a lie) about where information came from.  Reuters notes that a judge was told that a tip kicked off the investigation, but after pressing for more information the DEA admitted that the data had in fact been first captured by the NSA, and distributed by the SOD.

By creating new past, or story, for received data, the DEA can avoid potentially awkward questions about the legality of its evidence, which of course would get thrown out of court.  So much for a fair trial, laws or the Constitution for that matter.

This illegal data sharing is only going to get worse.  According to the New York Times, other agencies inside the Federal government are starting to demand the information that the NSA has collected, and continues to collect.

One the leading arguments from members of Congress, the Administraion and the NSA itself is that this program is is overseen by Congress.  That the NSA hasn't gone rogue.  However, it was recently reported that members of Congress are being denied access to information about the NSA’s activities, both by having requests ignored, or simply denied. Glenn Greenwald, at The Guardian, has direct evidence of letters sent by members of Congress asking for specific information.

Other Members of Congress have reported similar issues through social media, including Rep. Justin Amash, who tweeted that access to requested information was provided during a small widow, just a few hours.  Many Representatives missed opportunity to see the document, but were not allowed to obtain the information from those who had already seen the document.

The NSA and its allies are working hard to keep its activities secret, and out of the public spotlight.   To a point, that may seem reasonable, given that such agencies are clandestine by nature.  However, when Congress, tasked  by law with overseeing the American intelligence operations, is lied to, denied information, and then provided only select facts for limited periods of time, something is very wrong.  Adding the illegal evidence used to prosecute alleged criminals in the USA...denying their right to a fair trial, we’ve never needed greater controls and oversight over the NSA.  Rep. Amash had it right.  Strip them of their powers and give back to them only what is needed and constitutional.

Source: TechCrunch

Monday, August 5, 2013

Peter Capaldi Named As The New Star Of “Doctor Who”

After much speculation, BBC has finally named Number Twelve. Peter Capaldi will take over as the Doctor from Matt Smith, who will depart the role in this year’s Christmas Special.

The TARDIS is getting a new Time Lord, 55-year-old veteran actor Peter Capaldi.
After weeks of speculation, from fans and bookies alike, the BBC finally announced on Sunday who will be taking over as the Time Lord, after the current series star Matt Smith leaves during December’s Christmas Special.

“The decision is made and the time has come to reveal who’s taking over the TARDIS,” executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat had teased ahead of the broadcast. “For the last of the Time Lords, the clock is striking twelve.”

Capaldi being cast as the Doctor was announced during a live BBC One special, Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, lifting a shroud of secrecy surrounding the highly anticipated casting news. The special featured live and pre-recorded appearances from Smith, Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor), Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor), and former companions.  Asked for three words to describe the new Doctor, Moffat said, “Different from Matt.”

Recognize him now?
Capaldi walked out on stage through a Time Tunnel-like laser light show, with much fanfare from the audience. “It’s so wonderful to not keep this secret any longer, but it has been absolutely fantastic in its own way,” said Capaldi. “So many wonderful things have happened. For a long time, I couldn’t tell my daughter, who would be looking on the internet and seeing that so-so should be Doctor Who and so-so should be Doctor Who and they never mentioned me.”

Capaldi said that it was a bit of a challenge preparing for the role, though he has been a huge fan of the Time Lord for most of his life.
“It was quite hard because, even though I’m a lifelong Doctor Who fan, I haven’t played the Doctor since I was nine on the playground,” joked Capaldi, who said that he missed the call from his agent with the news of his casting (he was filming BBC’s Three Musketeers in Prague). “She rang me up and said, ‘Hello, Doctor!’ and I just started laughing and I’ve been laughing ever since.”

Capaldi is perhaps best known for playing Malcolm Tucker, in The Thick of It. He also appeared in The Hour, Skins, World War Z, and In the Loop.  He also has Doctor Who credits, as he played John Frobisher in spinoff Torchwood: Children of Earth.  He also appeared in the “Fires of Pompeii” episode of Doctor Who, opposite future Who star Karen Gillan.
Fan reaction to Capaldi as Smith’s replacement remains to be seen, but even Smith noted that fans didn't welcome him at first. “There was a backlash when I was cast,” said Smith in an interview on Doctor Who Live on Sunday. “I was 26 and I was unknown and people went, that is not Doctor Who.”

“There are no parts like this,” continued Smith. “I think it’s a good time for me to move on. We’ve got the 50th anniversary and it’s the biggest year in the show’s history and… I pass it on with a smile to the next guy and I say, ‘Good luck, buddy. You’re going to have to work hard.’ If I had to pick anyone, I’d pick him. After ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ he came up to me in the street and said, ‘Really well done, mate.’ And I really needed that… It’s been a really cool job. It will be hard to top.”

Capaldi is excited about taking on the mantle of the doctor (or the scarf, bow tie or fez) of one of the most iconic television characters ever. “Being asked to play The Doctor is an amazing privilege,” he said in a prepared statement. “Like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can’t wait to get started.”

Truth in Mascots

If Corporate Mascots Were More Accurate:

Read more at: Cracked

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Animation of the Earth Breathing

It is an incredible view of our planet ‘breathing’ over the course of a year.

Created using images from Nasa, the incredible animated images give the iconic ‘blue marble’ view of the Earth a dramatic new twist.

They were created by John Nelson, a Michigan programmer for IDV Solutions.

He stitched together images provided by Nasa as part of its ‘Blue Marble Next Generation’ project, which took a picture of the Earth each month.

The images, created by Nasa, are part of a series called Blue Marble: Next Generation, and give a years worth of monthly composites at a spatial resolution of 500 meters.

‘These monthly images reveal seasonal changes to the land surface: the green-up and dying-back of vegetation in temperate regions such as North America and Europe, dry and wet seasons in the tropics, and advancing and retreating Northern Hemisphere snow cover,’ said Nasa.

‘From a computer processing standpoint, the major improvement is the development of a new technique for allowing the computer to automatically recognise and remove cloud-contaminated or otherwise bad data—a process that was previously done manually.

‘The new version also improves image clarity, and gives highly reflective land surfaces, such as salt flats, a more realistic appearance.’

Read more: DailyMailOnline

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Different Types Of Algorithms for Rubik’s Cube

People who are enthusiasts of solving the Rubik S Cube often do so by following Rubik S Cube Algorithms. But let us look at what the Rubik’s cube is. Earlier known as the Magic Cube it is a three dimensional puzzle. It was created by a Hungarian person named Enro Rubik. He was both, an architect and a sculptor. He was a professor at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts where he taught design. The rights to manufacture this puzzle were then given to a company known as Ideal Toy Corp.

Different Types Of Algorithms for Rubik’s Cube

Rubik S Cube Algorithms

While some people consider it to be a toy, others call it a puzzle. It was first created in the year 1974. It won several awards the year it was released. It reached the heights of its popularity in the 1980s. But it still continues to sell in large quantities every year. To give you an idea of it’s popularity, it is the highest selling puzzle game ever produced. Some people also consider it the highest selling toy.

Real enthusiasts who are looking for Rubik S Cube Algorithms say that the reason they are so crazy about the cube is the belief that it makes them smarter. Maybe the fact that it make you think about several different outcomes of a single rotation of the cube stimulates the brain.

Some people also believe that children become smarter if given the cube to play with.

Using the Rubik S Cube Algorithms

Solving one face of the cube is very easy, but solving all six faces needs an entirely different approach. Most people will, however, agree that solving the cube cannot be done one face after another.

This is because the minute you finish one face and move on the next, the face that you finished is all messed up. The most common approach to solving the cube is to do it in layers.

Several people have come up with solutions such as Rubik S Cube Algorithms. An algorithm, in their parlance is a series of moves which give the result that was expected.

Three popular algorithms exist for solving the cube – Thistlethwaite’s algorithm, Kociemba’s Algorithm and Korf’s Algorithm. Kociemba’s Algorithm was an improvement on Thistlethwaite’s algorithm. Korf’s Algorithm was developed by Richard Korf in 1997. He claimed to optimally solve the cube by iterative deepening. With his algorithm he claimed one could solve the cube in 18 moves.

Several other people have also come up with algorithms independently. A quick search on google will give you thousands of websites containing both videos and tutorials on how to solve the cube. But all of them require practice. A common practice is to get the “cross” right at first. This involves getting the central pieces of the same color on all six faces., and then to solve the cube in layers.

Though many notations exist to show the moves required by Rubik S Cube Algorithms, the most common notation is called the Singmaster notation. It was created by a metagrobologist called David Singmaster.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vote and Make The LEGO Ectomobile a Reality

When even World of Warcraft has its own line of "building bricks", one has to wonder why some of the most iconic movies of the 20th Century aren't immortalized in Lego blocks.  One could argue that Ghostbusters is so Lego-ready that it's already a done deal. It isn't: however, you can help make this a reality by logging your support with a vote (link below).  Every single one makes this fan-made set closer to being a real product on shelves.

Come on, you know you want this for your desk at the office!

Vote at:
Via: NerdApproved

Your Own Personal Holodeck

Yes, I'm not kidding, your own holodeck.  It won't have any physical feedback or safety protocols, like in Star Trek, but it will allow you to run around in your own virtual environment for less than you might think.

The system is composed of the Virtual Reality (VR) goggles called Oculus and the Atlas iPhone app.  The Atlas positioning system maps the markers, which you can print at home, using your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscopes to know where your are in the room. When you walk forward your virtual room changes as though you were walking forward in it.  The added bonus to all this that you are interactive.  It could end up being a great alternative to going to the gym.

The beauty of this system will be its estimated $100 price-tag.  Although real-space VR systems have been around for well over a decade, you couldn't get a wide-field-of-view head display with low-latency and head-orientation tracking for under $50,000.  Plus, the positioning systems cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We’re really living in Year Zero of virtual reality,” Rasmussen giddily tells me. “We’re going to to see more wearable technology become consumer products. As developers work on games, we’ll work on a consumer version that kids can get under their Christmas tree. My vision for the system is something you and some friends bring to a racquetball court, play a high-intensity game for an hour, and get a workout.”

Read more at TechCrunch