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JuliaCon draws global users of a dynamic, easy-to-learn programming language

“Julia is a great tool.” That’s what New York University professor of economics and Nobel laureate Thomas J. Sargent told 250 engineers, computer scientists, programmers, and data scientists at the third annual JuliaCon held at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

If you have not yet heard of Julia, it is not a “who,” but a “what.” Developed at CSAIL, the MIT Department of Mathematics, and throughout the Julia community, it is a fast-maturing programming language developed to be simple to learn, highly dynamic, operational at the speed of C, and ranging in use from general programming to highly quantitative uses such as scientific computing, machine learning, data mining, large-scale linear algebra, and distributed and parallel computing. The language was launched open-source in 2012 and has begun to amass a large following of users and contributors.

This year’s JuliaCon, held June 21-25, was the biggest yet, and featured presentations describing how Julia is being used to solve complex problems in areas as diverse as economic modeling, spaceflight, bioinformatics, and many others.

“We are very excited about Julia because our models are complicated,” said Sargent, who is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. “It’s easy to write the problem down, but it’s hard to solve it — especially if our model is high dimensional. That’s why we need Julia. Figuring out how to solve these problems requires some creativity. The guys who deserve a lot of the credit are the ones who figured out how to put this into a computer. This is a walking advertisement for Julia.” Sargent added that the reason Julia is important is because the next generation of macroeconomic models is very computationally intensive, using high-dimensional models and fitting them over extremely large data sets. 

Sargent was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2011 for his work on macroeconomics. Together with John Stachurski he founded quantecon.net, a Julia- and Python-based learning platform for quantitative economics focusing on algorithms and numerical methods for studying economic problems as well as coding skills. 

The Julia programming language was created and open-sourced thanks, in part, to a 2012 innovation grant awarded by the MIT Deshapnde Center for Technological Innovation. Julia combines the functionality of quantitative environments such as Matlab, R, SPSS, Stata, SAS, and Python with the speed of production programming languages like Java and C++ to solve big data and analytics problems. It delivers dramatic improvements in simplicity, speed, capacity, and productivity for data scientists, algorithmic traders, quants, scientists, and engineers who need to solve massive computation problems quickly and accurately. The number of Julia users has grown dramatically during the last five years, doubling every nine months. It is taught at MIT, Stanford University, and dozens of universities worldwide. Julia 0.5 will launch this month and Julia 1.0 in 2017.

Presenters at JuliaCon have included analysts, researchers and data scientists at the U.S. Federal Reserve, BlackRock, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Intel, Conning, and a number of universities around the world. In addition to a community of 500 contributors, Julia’s co-creators include Alan Edelman, professor of applied mathematics at MIT; Jeff Bezanson SM ’12, PhD ’15; Viral Shah, co-founder of Julia Computing; and Stefan Karpinski, co-founder of Julia Computing.


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Tech Meets Art: Capturing Life with the Eyes of a Machine

The two women make their way painstakingly around the cramped apartment, dancing in sync with each other in a sort of techno-tango. Ziv Schneider steadily passes a discontinued PrimeSense Carmine 3-D scanner over rows of picture frames, pots and pans. Its infrared sensors take in every curve and divot of the tiny studio apartment. Caitlin Robinson tails her, shotgun microphone in hand, carrying the computer that’s tethered to her partner by a USB cable. Their subject, Telma, sits frozen on her living room sofa bed, caught up in an episode of Downton Abbey.

When Schneider and Robinson finish, they’ll have a miniature, egg-like, 3-D printed replica of Telma inside her home—a single moment in the life of an East Village resident that can be held in the palm of your hand.

“When you don’t have five different rooms, then the one room you have—everything in that space—becomes critical to who you are as a person,” says Robinson. “So we wanted to capture that: people’s personalities as they are reflected on the walls.”

Schneider and Robinson set out hoping to document a time in New York City’s history in which more people are choosing to live alone. Capsule Portraits began as a documentary project at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. But the project quickly evolved when the technology itself became an integral part of the creation process.

What began as a very human-centered project spurred a fascinating dialogue between the two artists and their frequently-glitchy gear and software—a dialogue that’s influenced their art in surprising and beautiful ways.

Robinson says she’s come to think of the technology as a third collaborator on the team. “It’s kind of interesting,” she says, “to see the world not through my own eyes, but through the eyes of a machine.”

Schneider and Robinson had originally imagined that the scans would be a virtual environment, static worlds experienced with Google Cardboard or a similar VR platform. However, they quickly realized that the detailed 3-D meshes created by the scans were too data-heavy to be processed by most current mobile devices. So as an experiment, they gave 3-D printing a try, incorporating the “watertight” function of their Skanect 3-D software.

Watertight employs an algorithm that uses the internal structure of the apartment to guess at the external shape so the scan can be closed up into an object and printed. The results were odd: curvy, bumpy, organic-looking shell enclosures with strange, unintended color artifacts. Schneider admits that she didn’t like them at first, but quickly fell in love when she realized how the prints resembled a living creature—a physical representation of the symbiosis between an apartment and its occupant.

Other happy accidents continue to inspire possible future directions for their work. Schneider says the Kinect 1 scanner she uses has trouble with reflective surfaces, for instance, causing the software to make strange guesses about mirrors and what exists on the other side. The result is an Alice in Wonderland-like “world beyond the mirror.”

“It’s fascinating to see the sensor’s interpretation of what might be another reality—or another layer of reality,” says Schneider.

Rather than being frustrated by the now-discontinued hardware and problematic software, Schneider says her biggest worry is actually that its creators will make updates, “fixing” the glitches that she’s come to love so much.

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Episode 67: New Nest gear and a shocking experience

For the first time since it became part of Google/Alphabet, Nest has released a new product. It’s an outdoor camera for home security. But Nest has added a bit of a twist. We discuss the $199 camera and the ideas behind it with Mehul Nariyawala, a product manager who was in charge in building the camera.

The new Nest Cam Outdoor.The new Nest Cam Outdoor.

Before we dig into the deets on Nest, Kevin Tofel and I share this week’s news. First up, Kevin installed an Ecobee 3 and learned some valuable lessons. (This is the Steve Jenkin’s post that Kevin wished he had seen.) And because we felt left out of the general hubbub about Pokemon Go we talked about the game and augmented reality. It probably could have helped Kevin with his install. To make sure we got into the IoT news of the week, we ran down the partnership all-in-one security device Canary signed with an insurance company, GE and AT&T’s partnership with Microsoft Azure and bit more depth on Alibaba’s new smart car. Also, he’s a link to my new favorite app, Lexa.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mehul Nariyawala of Nest
Sponsors: Xively and wolfSSL

  • Kevin’s shocking Ecobee experience and some good advice
  • Pokemon whoa!The game taking the world by storm
  • Microsoft’s Azure is cleaning up with the enterprise IoT
  • Is this the Nest security product you were looking for?
  • Outdoor cameras are so hot right now!

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SuperTuxKart 0.9.2 Released

Linux gamers all over the world will be happy to hear that a new version of SuperTuxKart is available. This should strike a nostalgic chord to people who have used desktop Linux to play games during the past ten years.

At first glance, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Mario Kart, but it has its own charm. With a number of unique tracks and game modes, the gameplay is quite different (but still very familiar).

SuperTuxKart has been maturing for more than ten years now, but the developers have kept improving the graphics and performance with each new release. Version 0.9.2 also brings several new features and content.

Ghost replays allow you to record a race and then attempt to beat yourself. The AI has been improved, so the computer opponents put up more of a fight during races. Combat mode and soccer mode both benefit from AI upgrades as well.

There also is a new Kart Characteristics feature that allows you to modify the physics characteristics of the karts. You can give yourself a tougher challenge or alter the gravity for comical effects.

Fans who were hoping for networked multiplayer mode will be disappointed as the code isn’t quite ready for production yet. The mode has been coded, but it’s still too glitchy, leading to a bad experience during testing. Hopefully, they’ll iron out the glitches in time for the next release.

This version also includes a couple new race. With a name that reminds me of H. P. Lovecraft, “Antediluvian Abyss” was previously part of the “gift pack” (which I cover shortly). “Volcano Island” is a submission from a new team member.

Additionally, Ozone0ne and Krobonil have lent their musical talents, composing new tunes for several race tracks.

Beneath the hood, there have been several improvements that most users may not notice. For instance, the application now uses TTF fonts, which means it has better support for internationalization. Previously, there were some glyphs that did not render correctly for languages other than English. Now the game can render characters from all of the most common languages.

The SuperTuxKart team also has released plugins for Blender, so you can create your own tracks and game assets. As an open-source project, it’s possible to take an active role in developing the game by creating new race tracks or arenas, or you could help code new features.

The team is looking for sponsors, and it has a special gift for anyone who donates at least $5 to the project. The “gift pack” provides early access to racetracks and arenas that will be released with the next version. These donations help cover the costs of web hosting and fund the development of new features.

SuperTuxKart is a fun diversion. For budding game developers, the source code contains plenty of practical lessons. Contributing to open-source projects is a great way to “learn the ropes.”

With networked multiplayer mode in the pipeline, the next version could become a major time drain!

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Genetically Engineered Rat Cells Make This Robot Stingray Swim

Robots have advanced an enormous amount over the past few years, but they’re nowhere close to the efficiency and capability of animals. One way to avoid playing catch-up is to simply steal everything you can from animals as directly as possible. Which is exactly what a team of researchers, led by Sung-Jin Park and Professor Kevin Kit Parker at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard did.

Why a stingray? Read all the details: A Cyborg Stingray Made of Rat Muscles and Gold

Video and Photo Credits: Sung-Jin Park,  Kyung Soo Park, Karaghen Hudson, and Michael Rosnach

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Google’s SwiftShader Released

Year by year, plain-old HTML 5 websites are becoming fancier, and right now, the home entertainment world is buzzing about VR and 3D. But most sites are missing the boat; they have no 3D content. Well, that’s about to change.

Google recently opened the source code for its SwiftShader project. If you have used Google Chrome or Android, you probably have seen SwiftShader in action before. It’s a high-performance software renderer that improves the performance of games or 3D content on low-end machines.

Until recently, SwiftShader was a closed-source project. Although Android and Chromium are open source, SwiftShader always was distributed as a separate component, covered by a proprietary license. Now that Google has released SwiftShader to the world, other web browser developers will be able to use it too. This, in turn, should stimulate the development of richer 3D web content.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about new software bringing 3D to the web. Various solutions have been proposed since the late 1990s. Obscure developers and massive companies have released both free and expensive software to make it a reality. Even the W3C got in on the act.

3D CSS and WEBGL have been standards for some time, but web developers have been reluctant to use them. Inconsistent browser support for 3D is one reason why they have been unwilling to dive into the third dimension, but recent versions of the popular browsers all have offered relatively solid support for these technologies. So, what’s holding web developers back? It’s mainly a lack of hardware support.

High-end gaming PCs and consoles ship with dedicated 3D graphics cards, and they can render 3D web content without difficulty. But, low-end PCs usually lack dedicated GPUs. Instead, they rely on much cheaper integrated GPUs or software rendering. Both of those solutions fall short of the power needed for smooth 3D web content.

As Linux users, we often face a different problem—insufficient driver support. In other words, some desktop Linux users have great hardware, but their GPU drivers are buggy (or they don’t offer the full range of features).

The GPU manufacturers typically put all their efforts into developing Windows drivers, neglecting Linux desktop users. Sometimes, there are no official Linux drivers, and the community has to painstakingly build them from scratch.

For these reasons, the 3D web has not been a level playing field. Web developers and designers have shied away from developing 3D content because a large number of users can’t consume it.

Google worked out a simple solution for the problem back in 2009 and licensed SwiftShader from TransGaming. TransGaming is a company that created games for smart TVs, which typically are quite underpowered systems. SwiftShader was one of the tools the company developed to give its games a wow factor, and of course, the source code was closed.

It re-creates the same software interface that GPU drivers offer, so games and web browsers can treat it exactly the same as a real GPU driver. However, all of the complex 3D rendering is performed by the PC’s CPU using optimized algorithms.

SwiftShader isn’t magic—you still get much better performance from dedicated graphics hardware with hundreds of cores. But, that’s not the point. It offers better performance than the common software rendering libraries. It makes software rendering bearable.

The SwiftShader license is why Google Chrome has led the field in support for 3D web features. But even if Chrome offered great support, web developers still had to think about all the users who used different browsers. Until 3D content could run on all PCs and devices, most developers wouldn’t touch it.

Last year, TransGaming decided to sell its SwiftShader technology to raise funds. The smart TV gaming platform was not bringing in enough money, so the company sold SwiftShader to Google for a cool $1.25 million. Since then, TransGaming has stepped out of the game development arena entirely—in fact, it’s no longer a tech company.

So, after playing with the code for a year, Google is releasing SwiftShader as free software for the whole world to use, which is great. As other browsers start using it, we should see much better support for 3D, even on old or low-spec machines.

Does that mean that every website is about to turn into a jumbled mass of VR? Has William Gibson’s vision of “cyberspace” finally arrived? Hopefully, no. Instead, web designers will gain a new tool they can use to make the web a better place. And web-based gaming should improve significantly as well.

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Google’s a Spy, It Knows What You Want to Hear, It Knows Your Deepest Secret Fear…

By Elsie Eyakuze
I was recently asked what I thought about the Internet of Things and how it would affect my life. Had to be honest: As it is, the Internet of Things is the purview of a very small minority of technophile Tanzanians.

You have to have means to buy Things, and you have to have uninterrupted electricity, and you have to have a certain kind of education for it all to come together.

There is very little danger of this being a widespread trend in my generation but you never know, so let’s leave room for surprises.

This question was really about the implicit “threat” of being always connected to our machines, and having so much of our lives monitored by entities we don’t always know are collecting data about us.

Last week’s rant was about our governments’ misdemeanours in ICT, this week it is about the truly sinister organisations: The profiteers.

When I took the introduction to economics for the third time as I grappled to understand this “rational man” that keeps showing up in their bizarre neoliberal models, I tripped across another offensive term: Consumer. If Rational Man is reductive, Consumer has been deprived of all humanity.

To repeat what I heard recently: If you are not paying for a product, then you are the product. Here is how it all comes together: We “consumers” buy technology to facilitate our communications.

On these devices we have come to expect the “free services” of a handful of conglomerates: Ye Google (Alphabet) and Facebooks and such like.

Precisely because they are “free,” we have little influence on what they do with the data they collect on us.

If you don’t know what I mean, you have never engaged in an infuriating and futile battle to keep your privacy settings correct on Facebook.

The end result is that, nowadays, apparently between Facebook and Google and your data providers, a “consumer” is effectively just another data point in the history of the world’s largest ever human survey.

The algorithms that observe our online lives know what we like and who we are with apparently more intimacy than our fellow human beings. Does this give you pause? If not, then consider this: These technogiants can sell or provide your data to whomever they wish for whatever reasons they concoct.

Sure, at present they are resisting governments’ attempts to subpoena them for information about citizens. But who knows how that will go?

To bring this back to the Internet of Things and where ICT is driving our human development, I was unpleasantly surprised when the Google app on my new phone encouraged me to use the voice search. I did, and my phone demonstrated that it can hear what I say and interpret my question and provide me with answers.

I say unpleasant because we all have different reactions to smart technology: Mine is frankly hostile. Google has made no secret of the fact that it records every single interaction you have with it, ever.

In the relationship between humans and machines I am firmly on the humans’ side. Sometimes this means being a very careful non-consumer. I don’t respond to advertisements voluntarily, and take pains to avoid too much capitalistic stimulus.

It means being content with the limitations this places on my life, and it is liberating. Having no need for the latest new-fangled doodad is salutary; it means that marketing departments can’t exploit my self-esteem to make me a cash-spitting zombie.

More important, I think, is that it keeps life rich. I am coming to believe that the more convenient life is for us, the less complex, then the worse off we are.

It is a contradiction of modern life: Never have humans been smarter as a species. But then again: Never have we been more violent towards the environment nor more subject to the manipulations of economic elites.

As it is, universities in the West are complaining about students’ inability to use libraries and having to train them to think beyond Wikipedia as a credible (and sometimes only) source for academic papers.

Some guy who had an extremely beautiful and expensive car managed to wreck it and kill himself because he figured that the autopilot function meant it was a good time to watch a Harry Potter movie. Even airline pilots don’t take a nap just because the autopilot is on, for heaven’s sake.

This is why I am hoping against hope that the Internet of Things doesn’t make it to Tanzania.

If it does, and our Things are constantly telling us what to do, we will become fat and lazy and stupider than we should be.

Let us keep leaner, meaner and hungrier than the masses who are being slowly but surely enslaved by the technologies that are supposed to liberate them. And here you thought The Matrix trilogy was just a harmless piece of entertainment.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report.

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With U.S. Shootings, Power of Live Streaming Takes Center Stage

By Sharon Gaudin
Live streaming, a technology that has been around for years, became white hot this week after it was used to capture the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer in Minnesota. Diamond Reynolds opened her Facebook Live app and live-streamed what happened after the shooting that left her boyfriend Philando Castile dead and a country in turmoil.

“Live streaming is quite different … than what we’ve seen before,” said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. “Skype and Facetime are most often used as one-to-one communication vehicles. But live-casting is different in that it gives users a one-to-many live broadcasting capability — something that had only been available to broadcasting companies up until now.”

Facebook Live automatically records live streams. That capability enabled Reynolds’ video to be watched, shared and posted across the internet, across news outlets and around the world.

By showing more than photos or a delayed video, the live stream enabled viewers to experience the incident along with the people actually in the car. It was more frightening and more intimate.

Not including all the times it has been seen on YouTube and aired by various news services, the video has been shared 5.2 million times from Reynolds’ Facebook page alone.

Live-streamed events seem to be a phenomenon that people can’t turn away from, said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst.

“Live streaming is powerful, and I don’t really believe we are ready for it yet,” he said. “This is the next step into tomorrow. I believe this area will have lots of competition and it will be interesting to watch it mature as we all try it, use it, and get embarrassed by it.”

Thomas Husson, an analyst at Forrester Research, said live streaming will be pushed ahead by the growing need for “real-time” information.

“Live-streaming technologies enable people to simply live and communicate simultaneously,” he told Computerworld. “They no longer live and then post content online. It is a shift in how we communicate…. With mobile, anyone can broadcast oneself with no limit.”

As a technology, live streaming isn’t new. It’s the way it’s being used and how frequently it’s being used that is changing.

Apps like Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Live and Stringwire have made broadcasting and watching live streams easy, compelling and fun.

In a 2016 survey by AYTM Market Research, 7% of those polled said they regularly use live-streaming services to broadcast, while 10% said they watch live streams regularly. Twenty-eight percent said they have watched a live stream at least once.

Including the crushing amount of attention that this week’s Facebook Live broadcast received, live streaming and other social media have been in the news a lot recently.

On Thursday night, as police in Dallas were under fire from a sniper assault, a witness live-streamed the attack using Facebook Live while seeking cover behind a tree.

Last month, a group of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives held a sit-in to push for a vote on gun control measures. However, when the Republican leadership ordered C-SPAN’s cameras shut off, the group turned to their smartphones and live-streamed their protest using apps like Periscope and Facebook Live.

Eventually, C-SPAN and major news channels picked up those live feeds and carried them as well.

Later this summer, NBC, which will be airing the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, announced that it will live-stream 4,500 hours of the games.

There are many challenges — such as concerns about privacy and security, and the need for sufficient network bandwidth — that will arise as live streaming gains more traction. Such issues may come to a head relatively soon as people realize the power of a live feed.

Pushing the technology ahead is the fact that apps now are able to offer high-quality live streaming via almost any device. Users are discovering these abilities and are quickly jumping on board.

“Despite the tragic circumstances of this week’s [shooting aftermath] broadcast, it really showcases Facebook Live’s capabilities and potential,” Olds said. “The thought that someone was able to get into the tool so quickly and was able to broadcast high-quality video from the side of a street is something that most people will find surprising.”

As people become increasingly comfortable with sharing and receiving information via live streams, the technology will be further incorporated into enterprise operations.

Live streaming already is being used in healthcare. Patients in remote areas can share images of injuries, for instance, with doctors or specialists in other locations.

“I think that live-casting will be used increasingly in business in a variety of ways,” said Olds. “Chief executives can live-stream meetings to all hands, regardless of where they are in the world. Companies can also communicate live to large groups of customers, perhaps introducing new products or offering timely information about existing products.”

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Probability-1(Shiryaev)

series:Graduate Texts in Mathematics

This book contains a systematic treatment of probability from the ground up, starting with intuitive ideas and gradually developing more sophisticated subjects, such as random walks, martingales, Markov chains, the measure-theoretic foundations of probability theory, weak convergence of probability measures, and the central limit theorem. Many examples are discussed in detail, and there are a … Original Link

[VIDEO] 37 Sensors and Modules Kit (Version 2) for Raspberry Pi and Arduino

In this video, I’m going to take a look at each sensor in Sunfounder’s 37 modules for Raspberry Pi and Arduino kit, and explain a little about how it works and what it can be used for. It’s a really nice kit to have, especially if you’re just starting out in DIY electronics.

The post [VIDEO] 37 Sensors and Modules Kit (Version 2) for Raspberry Pi and Arduino appeared first on Circuit Basics.

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Episode 66: The smart home will make you love your insurance company

Insurance firms might be the savior of smart home technology. Because the price for many connected gadgets are so high, and consumers are uncertain if they are worth the investment, insurance discounts and programs are one way connected devices could find their way into a home. But they also could help the insurance companies totally transform their business. This week, we discuss the future of the smart home and insurance with Ryan Rist, the VP of Innovation at American Family Insurance.

Ryan Rist of American Family InsuranceRyan Rist of American Family Insurance

Before we get to that, though Kevin and I talk about how manufacturers should kill connected devices using the end of EyeFi as our case study. Then we offer consumers some advice on how to kill their accounts for connected devices when they want to return them to stores or just leave them behind based off the experience a Redditor had with an Arlo camera from Netgear. And just for fun we also covered the Nest patent for a baby crib, the expansion of LoRa networks and my thoughts on the Arlo camera.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Ryan Rist, American Family Insurance
Sponsors: Ayla Networks and Wolf SSL

  • The end of EyeFi and how to kill a product.
  • Don’t return your connected device before doing this.
  • LoRa, LoRa everywhere!
  • Taking insurance from reactive reimbursement to proactive protection.
  • Will your insurer make an app for that?

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South Africa Opposed UN Resolution On Internet Access

By Rejul Bejoy
South Africa recently opposed a human rights council resolution that calls on governments to ensure access to the Internet and recognizes that the right to freedom of expression extends online.

Contrary to many media reports, South Africa did not vote against the resolution itself; the resolution was passed by consensus on 30 June, meaning that no official vote was recorded. 53 countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia sponsored the resolution.

Prior to its passage, South Africa had voted in favour of an amendment submitted by China and Russia that would have deleted text ensuring people’s access to internet.

South Africa also supported another Russian amendment to remove any references to freedom of expression. These amendments, considered hostile by the resolution sponsors, were defeated.

In explaining her concerns with the resolution, South African Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ncumisa Pamella Notutela claimed that the resolution was calling for an absolute right to freedom of expression online, which runs counter to provisions against hate speech and racism within South African law.

She stated that “incitement of hatred is problematic in the context where we are having our domestic debates on racism and the criminalisation thereof. The exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is not absolute and carries with it duties and responsibilities for rights’ holders … The draft resolution omits key provisions on the permissible limitations and prohibition of hate speech under international human rights law.”

She also said that the resolution made no reference to hate speech and cyber bullying.

But the resolution references the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which do allow for limitations on the freedom of expression. South Africa is a party to both covenants.

Additionally, the resolution calls for “combating advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence on the Internet, including by promoting tolerance and dialogue”.

Since no country called for an officially recorded vote, the resolution automatically passed by consensus. With its passage, the Human Rights Council now officially recognises that people have a right to Internet access and online freedom of expression.

However, the resolution was non-binding meaning that no country is obligated to follow through with providing these rights.

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Zimbabwe Shuts off Social Media

Zimbabwe Shuts off Social Media

06 July, 2016

Source: Linkedin Pulse

 

The Zimbabwe government has fallen to a new low. According to Techzim, WhatsApp appears to have been blocked on a number of networks including the incumbent fixed line carrier TelOne, Liquid Telecom, Zimbabwe Online, Telecel and Econet Zimbabwe.

For more, please point your browser to https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/zimbabwe-shuts-off-social-media-jabulani-dhliwayo?published=t

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Electric Motorcycle Races for the Finish at Pikes Peak International

This year an all-student electric motorcycle team from Ohio State University, hoped to set a new course record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Pikes Peak, Colorado, with their Buckeye Current bike. The challenging course rises a punishing 1,440 meters over just a 20-kilometer course, and that meant the bike’s design had to tradeoff delivering power and storing energy. The team chose to give priority to power so that they could tackle tight turns and blaze up the hill, storing just enough to get up the hill. (They decided they would walk the bike down afterwards, if they had to.)

During the four days leading up to the race, the team ran head on into several last-minute engineering crises, including a burned out noisemaker—required of all e-vehicles, so that errant pedestrians could hear them coming. The fix: an $8 car alarm.

More serious was the tendency of the motor to cut out, which forced the professionl driver, Rob “The Bullet” Barber, to reset the system. The initial fix was a workaround circuit, but when the power cutouts became more frequent the team realized they had a fundamental problem, traced to a failure of the inverter, which turns the battery’s direct current to the alternating kind. Two days before the race was to be held, the bike would not start—and the vendor of the inverter was deep into the weekend on the other side of the world.

The team pulled yet another all-nighter, found the culprit—a circuit that had been misaligned and whose fuses had thus blown out—and repaired the damage. On Saturday, they got the bike working at full capacity at a local track. Twelve hours later they brought the bike to the base of the mountain.

Watch the bike and action and find out how it finished the race in this video.

Read More: Day One at Pikes Peak Motorcycle Race With Ohio State’s Electric Motorcycle

 

Music Note: Think Tank by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Photos (in order of appearance): Corey Davis/Randels Media Group, James Harris/Randels Media Group, Philip Ross/IEEE Spectrum

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Five School of Science faculty members granted tenure

The School of Science recently announced that five of its faculty members have been granted tenure by MIT.

This year’s newly tenured professors are:

Oliver Jagoutz, an associate professor of geology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, addresses question related to the formation and evolution of the Earth’s oceanic and continental crust and the interplay between geological processes and long-term climate change. Central to his research are detailed field observations in combination with analytical chemistry and thermodynamic calculations. His work has furthered our understanding of how continents form, tectonic plates move, and geological processes initiate ice ages. At the undergraduate level, Jagoutz studied chemistry and geology at the University of Mainz and as an Erasmus student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). After graduating, he began a PhD with J. P. Burg at ETH Zurich, during which he spent three months at the Tokyo Institute of Technology with Shige Maruyama. Following a postdoc at the University of Bern, he joined the MIT faculty in 2008.

Markus Klute, associate professor of physics, focuses on particle physics at the energy frontier, both in the design, construction, and commissioning of particle detectors and in the analysis of the data collected. In 2012, his group played a central role in the discovery of the Higgs boson using the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The discovery sheds light on the fundamental question of the origin of elementary particle mass and the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking. The exploitation of the Higgs boson and direct searches for physics beyond the standard model at the LHC are the focus of his future research. Klute received his diploma and PhD from Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany, in 2004, and then joined MIT as a postdoc and later as a research scientist working on the CDF and CMS experiments. In 2007, he accepted a position as associate professor with tenure at Goerg-August University in Goettingen, Germany, where he started a research group on the ATLAS experiment before coming back to MIT in 2009.

Associate professor of chemistry Elizabeth Nolan’s research program is motivated by the global problems of infectious disease and antibiotic resistance. She investigates the chemistry and biology of small molecules, peptides, and proteins that participate in the human innate immune response and host-pathogen interaction and that contribute to microbial pathogenesis. In many projects, she explores how transition metals, and metal-ion chelators produced by either the host or microbe, contribute to these phenomena. After graduating from Smith College in 2001, Nolan conducted her graduate studies in inorganic chemistry at MIT in the lab of Professor Stephen Lippard. She pursued postdoctoral research at the Harvard Medical School and then returned to MIT as an assistant professor in 2009.

Philippe Rigollet, associate professor of mathematics, works at the intersection of statistics, machine learning, and optimization, focusing primarily on the design and analysis of statistical methods for high-dimensional problems. His recent research focuses on the tradeoffs between statistical accuracy and computational efficiency. At the University of Paris VI, Rigollet earned a BS in statistics in 2001, a BS in applied mathematics in 2002, and a PhD in mathematical statistics in 2006. He has held positions as a visiting assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then as an assistant professor at Princeton University.

Feng Zhang, the W. M. Keck Career Development Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering, is a bioengineer focused on developing tools to better understand nervous system function and disease. He has pioneered the development of genome editing tools for use in eukaryotic cells — including human cells — from natural microbial CRISPR systems. Using CRISPR and other methodologies, Zhang studies the role of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying diseases, specifically focusing on disorders of the nervous system. He is especially interested in complex disorders, such as psychiatric and neurological diseases, that are caused by multiple genetic and environmental risk factors and which are difficult to model using conventional methods. Zhang joined MIT in 2011, and he holds appointments in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the McGovern Institute, and the Broad Institute. He received his BA in chemistry and physics from Harvard College and his PhD in chemistry from Stanford University. Before joining the MIT faculty he was a junior fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows.


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Episode 65: All about Wink and Alexa’s new Skills

Are you curious about Wink? On June 11 it started selling its Relay switch, a light switch that contains a screen and two soft programmable switches for $99 each. Two cost $149 and also double as an intercom. So we talked to Nathan Smith, Wink’s co-founder and CTO, about what happened to bring Wink out back into the game and what to expect next.

The Relay switch from Wink.The Relay switch from Wink.

Kevin Tofel and I also discussed another Wi-Fi light switch from Plum as part of a discussion on switches and a home without hubs. Before we got there we cover Amazon’s makeover of the Alexa App to highlight Skills, the new Dash buttons and an update on Wi-Fi. Just for fun, I covered my doorbell review that ran in the Wirecutter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Smith of Wink
Sponsor: Ayla Networks

  • Alexa’s new skills
  • Here come new Wi-Fi light switches
  • Wi-Fi is getting better!
  • What belongs on a glanceable interface?
  • Some fun Wink robots for y’all

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Peppermint 7 Released

Peppermint 7 launched a few days ago. Peppermint is a lightweight Ubuntu-based Linux distribution with an emphasis on speed and simplicity. Although the name is similar to Linux Mint, the projects aren’t directly related. Peppermint originally was envisioned as a “spicier” alternative to Mint—whatever that means!

Many distros come with a wide assortment of feature-rich applications, and that’s great for power users who need those apps. But older machines can struggle to cope with those demanding distros. Peppermint solves the problem by offering a carefully curated suite of web apps that perform tasks traditionally handled by native apps. It’s an approach that will be familiar to any Chromebook users reading this article.

Thanks to Peppermint’s Ice program, these web applications look and feel very similar to native applications—they integrate with the menu and desktop. Users also can add new web applications using a simple dialog box.

Unlike Chromebooks, Peppermint can run without an internet connection. It includes native Linux apps. Besides supporting offline work, these apps are useful when you need advanced features that cloud apps don’t offer.

Simplicity is a cornerstone of the Peppermint design philosophy. Since the project started, Peppermint wanted beginners to feel at home. The interface is familiar to anyone who ever has used a Windows machine.

At the same time, power users are free to customize the machine to suit their needs. If you prefer to use a native app, you’re free to install it and tweak it to your heart’s content. As an Ubuntu derivative, Peppermint has a huge library of software packages that are simple to install.

When version 1 was released in 2010, Peppermint’s approach was unique. Since then, we’ve seen other desktop distributions adopt similar features. So what’s new in version 7?

Peppermint 7’s desktop combines features from several different desktop environments. You’ll see components from Cinnamon alongside a taskbar from Xfce 4. Session management comes courtesy of LXDE.

Although this may sound like an eclectic mix, Peppermint’s developers have carefully selected and honed these components to provide a simple interface that’s elegant and modern. They have tweaked individual apps to improve their integration into the default desktop theme. For instance, Firefox is known to have some display difficulties when it’s used with a dark GTK theme.

One of the most visible changes is the new menu—Whisker Menu. The Peppermint community demanded modern features, such as a favorite menu and application search. Whisker Menu provides these features—it’s based on the Xfce 4 menu.

The standard theme is new as well—it’s flat, with a new set of colorful custom icons.

Peppermint’s developers have decided to switch from Chromium to Firefox, as Google has dropped support for older 32-bit systems. But if you prefer Chromium, you can install it and use it to launch your web apps.

Peppermint 7 is based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus). Ubuntu 16.04 is a longtime support version, and it offers a stable base for Peppermint.

Because Peppermint is lightweight, it’s a good choice for older hardware and low-spec machines. Old laptops and netbooks can run it without breaking a sweat.

You can download version 7 from here.

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Libarchive Security Flaw Discovered

When it comes to security, everyone knows you shouldn’t run executable files from an untrustworthy source. Back in the late 1990s, when web users were a little more naive, it was quite common to receive infected email messages with fake attachments.

The attachments usually were disguised as images or mp3s, but a quick look would tell you they were executables. Nevertheless, the promise of illicit images often overwhelmed common sense, and millions of machines were infected.

Since then, we’ve learned not to open dodgy executable files. But other file types are okay, right? Surely nothing bad could happen if you opened an archive and looked inside it?

Well, it turns out that very bad things can happen—even to Linux users. You don’t have to run an executable file compressed in the archive, just opening or decompressing the archive is enough.

How can this happen? It’s because of a security flaw in a popular library used by many projects. The library is used in file managers, archive browsers, office software, package managers and many other places too. It’s present in open-source software and proprietary applications.

Libarchive is an open-source library that can create and read archives in a range of different formats. It’s a very popular library, and it’s used in hundreds of applications on several operating systems, including Linux, Chrome OS and OS X. And on Tuesday, June, 21, 2016, Cisco’s Talos team revealed that it contains three serious security flaws.

These flaws mean that attackers can cause your PC to execute arbitrary malicious code when you open or extract an archive. All they have to do is trick you into downloading it.

How is this possible? Each of the weaknesses revolves around a memory management error that attackers can exploit. When the archive contains a certain pattern of data (such as a specific number of folders), it triggers an error in the code.

Data that should be constrained within a specific area of memory spills over, and this allows attackers to overwrite legitimate code with their own evil instructions.

You can read the full technical details here.

The Talos team has worked with the libarchive maintainers to fix the flaws, and they have written three patches that address each issue. As I write this, maintainers throughout the Open Source community are updating their software to fix the problem, but it will take some time before every app is updated.

In the meantime, it’s worth reviewing your security procedures. Don’t open archives from untrustworthy sources. Don’t even download them. And, keep your system updated—security exploits are discovered all the time, and attackers prey on victims who don’t update.

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Sony Settles in Linux Battle

When Sony released its PlayStation 3 console in 2006, most fans were excited by the enhanced graphics and processing power, but a small (yet significant) group of buyers was excited about an entirely different feature. The PS3 allowed users to install an alternative operating system on their machines—a feature they called Other OS.

Users were free to choose from several operating systems, including Linux. And, it wasn’t the first time Sony had released a Linux-compatible console. The PlayStation 2 also supported alternative operating systems, and Sony had promoted the fact heavily in its marketing.

The PS3’s Other OS ran inside a VM, and it had limited access to the PS3’s hardware. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge gaming hardware. For bedroom game developers, it was a dream come true.

It also meant console owners could run desktop apps on their TVs. For users with modest needs, it meant they could run an office suite or graphics application without having to invest in a separate PC.

In 2010, Sony lost a lot of fans by deleting the feature with a firmware update, saying it was removing the feature to prevent piracy. But, many console owners were enraged.

After all, the official support for Linux was one of the reasons why they bought the consoles in the first place. Now it had been taken away, so they felt cheated and betrayed.

Still, Sony didn’t seem too worried. After all, most PS3 owners were completely unaware of the Other OS feature. So what are a few disgruntled owners to a tech giant?

Within a few weeks, this “insignificant” minority launched a class action suit against Sony. It was the first shot in an ugly legal battle that has dragged on for more than six years.

While the legal battles were raging in court, PS3 owners also attacked the problem directly. A number of workarounds and hacks were developed to circumvent the firmware update process, and Geohot (George Hotz) released a hack to reinstate Other OS.

In 2011, Sony retaliated on two fronts. First, the company started banning users who had “hacked” their PlayStation consoles. At the same time, Sony filed suits against several individual PS3 owners, including Hotz, for jailbreaking its machines.

According to the firm, these users had harmed Sony immeasurably by installing “unauthorized” software. In jailbreaking their property, those users apparently had violated the DMCA, the CFAA, committed trespass and broken their contracts with Sony.

Hotz and Sony settled out of court, and the terms of the settlement banned Hotz from hacking Sony products in the future.

In the same year, the class action suit against Sony was dismissed from court. The judge said the plaintiffs had failed to provide relevant facts or explain why Sony should be held liable.

Although it appeared Sony was winning, the battle was far from over. In 2014, the decision was overruled. This time, the judge ruled that the claims were clear and sufficient. Sony was dragged back into the courtroom to defend its actions.

This week, Sony has thrown in the towel and settled. Although the settlement has not yet been approved by the judge, it is available here

The settlement means that 10 million PS3 owners who were affected by the firmware update are entitled to a payout of $55. But, strings are attached—claimants must prove that they used Other OS feature.

So the question now is, how would you prove you used Linux on your PS3?

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Buying Bitcoin, Uber Style

Paxful is a Peer to Peer Bitcoin marketplace connecting buyers with sellers. Simply select your preferred payment method and type in how many bitcoins you need. Paxful is PayPal meets Uber.

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How to Design a PCB Layout

Breadboards are great for prototyping circuits, but they aren’t so good for actually using the thing you’re building. At some point, you’ll probably want to make a project more permanent. The best way to do that is to put it on a PCB. In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through the process of designing a PCB layout and getting […]

The post How to Design a PCB Layout appeared first on Circuit Basics.

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Seacom Adds Exchange Points in Nairobi and Kampala to Boost User Experience

Pan-African telecom enabler and network provider, SEACOM, has added new internet exchange points in Nairobi and Kampala to its list of peering (traffic exchange) agreements in Africa.

These new peering agreements will further enhance the performance and reduce the inactivity users will experience when they connect to Web services in Europe and across Africa.

SEACOM launched Africa’s first broadband submarine cable system along the eastern and southern coastlines in 2009, bringing with it a vast supply of high quality and affordable Internet bandwidth. Since then, SEACOM has moved beyond being a cable operator to become a major pan-African service provider, offering a full suite of resilient and scalable data services that allow Africa’s growing ICT community to develop and evolve

“We continue to invest in enhancing the Internet experience for our customers, whether they are connecting with services and content in Africa or the rest of the world,” said SEACOM Head of Engineering Mark Tinka.

SEACOM’s transit network now offers African service providers and network operators direct connectivity to a range of small, medium and large partner networks in Europe.

The company has point of presence (PoPs) in Europe’s five busiest centres for Internet traffic – Stockholm, Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt and Marseille. Marseille is one of the key landing points in Europe for most of the marine cables coming in from Asia, Middle East and Africa. Since the bulk of Africa’s international traffic goes into and comes out of Europe, SEACOM is now positioned to provide a better experience for the continent’s growing population of broadband users.

“The fact that we control the infrastructure, from our global and African IP transit networks to remote peering points in Europe means that we can guarantee quality to our customers. The latest investments in Europe further strengthen our ability to deliver high levels of service availability and quality at an affordable cost,” added Mr. Tinka.

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Africa Uniquely Placed to Develop Diverse Energy Mix

Johannesburg — Africa is uniquely placed to build a sustainable, renewable energy matrix with immense potential, says Rentia van Tonder, head of power at Standard Bank. “However, how quickly, efficiently and at what cost the continent builds this energy infrastructure will be influenced by sovereign wealth, governments’ commitments and capital markets,” she points out.

The World Bank estimates that only 24 percent of people across sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity. Furthermore, limited, inefficient or expensive distribution networks ensure that the bulk of what little power is available is narrowly concentrated in a handful of countries and commercial centres.

The rapid evolution of renewable energy generation and distribution technology provides sub-Saharan governments with a range of new sustainable energy alternatives. However, base-load electricity remains a key driver.

“Scalable wind and solar projects are often smaller and more focused, requiring less capital and time to develop,” says Van Tonder. “Smaller renewable projects, while often generating less power, can nevertheless support growth in investment if focused on the most productive sectors of an economy through focused investment.”

Renewable energy projects also have the advantage of costing less the longer they operate, depending on the specific technology and operation and maintenance agreements. This means once they are paid off – through user-pay tariff structures that correctly reflect cost – they can be re-focused on supplying cheaper power to non-capital generating elements of the economy.

“Creating the institutional infrastructure to attract global capital at affordable rates and then manage it efficiently remains important,” says Van Tonder. “The development of local currency pools of liquidity and capital is essential. In short, if Africa is to achieve power self-sufficiency, we need to move beyond having to rely on the US dollar to fund every major project.”

While project finance is often raised in foreign currency, project revenues on the continent are generally denominated in local currency. Where the exchange rate between the currency of revenue and the currency of debt diverge, the cost of debt increases dramatically. This carries the risk of extending repayment periods – or defaulting entirely – with exponential cost implications over the long term.

Given these risks and costs, the attempts currently being made by legislators across the continent to deepen domestic capital markets should be encouraged and Pan-African multilateral forums would do well to consider how Asia and other emerging regions deepened local capital markets as a critical development enabler.

Africa stands uniquely placed to develop a diverse and sustainable energy mix, in the shortest time. The strategic use of renewables can also deliver this at the lowest costs and least environmental impact, while building energy infrastructure with the longest shelf-life addressing the long term power needs for the continent.

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Episode 64: How a VC views the internet of things

Do you need money? Want to buy or sell an internet of things startup? Then this week’s interview is must-listen stuff. Matt Turck, of FirstMark Capital came on the show to give some advice to those seeking financing, discuss the overall funding landscape and try to pinpoint where the next big exits are going to come from. Why Turck? Because a few months ago he covered this who topic in amazing depth. So listen up to see what has changed!

Sproutling was one of the VC exits this year. Sproutling was one of the VC exits this year.

Before you listen to Turck, Kevin shares his karaoke picks, we dig into the upcoming Bluetooth 5.0 specification and lay out what we think Apple’s HomeKit and Home app mean for the industry. We also talk about Samsung’s plan to invest $1.2 billion into the internet of things, its cloud, and Elon Musk’s offer to buy SolarCity. It’s not that crazy, y’all!

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Turck of FirstMark Capital
Sponsor: WolfSSL

  • Kevin’s karaoke nightmare (also the latest on Bluetooth)
  • Apple’s Home app is somewhat demoralizing
  • What Samsung needs in IoT
  • We’re in the second wave of IoT exits
  • Don’t quit your day job to rush to build a new product

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6.047 Computational Biology (MIT)

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MIT OpenCourseWare is a free & open publication of material from thousands of MIT courses, covering the entire MIT curriculum.

No enrollment or registration. Freely browse and use OCW materials at your own pace. There’s no signup, and no start or end dates.

Knowledge is your reward. Use OCW to guide your own life-long learning, or to teach others. We don’t offer credit or certification for using OCW.

Made for sharing. Download files for later. Send to friends and colleagues. Modify, remix, and reuse (just remember to cite OCW as the source.)

Learn more at Get Started with MIT OpenCourseWare

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Thai govt grants tax break for VC firms

Thailand, keen on promoting the country’s digital economy, is granting a dividend and income tax break for VC firms for up to 10 years, to help encourage the influx of investments into businesses and start-ups operating within the 10 supported industries, according to a report published at Thairath.

Deputy Minister of Finance Wisuth Srisuphan says the tax exemption also extends to indiviudals who have contributed to the partnered VC funds, and will be eligible for new businesses and start-ups established between the 1st of October to the 31st of December this year.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Science and Technology – in partnership with various venture capital firms – has recently agreed to the establishment of a 500-million baht ‘fund-of-funds’ aimed at investing in tech start-ups operating within the supported industries. According to the Bangkok Post’s “Tax Break for Start-up Funds” May 5th 2016), the ten core industries include next-generation cars, smart-electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.

The fund will be established within the latter part of the year, and will be a co-investment between the government and its partner VC firms, with the government holding no more than 50% stake in each individual fund, according to Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Science and Technology.

“The government will be establishing a dedicated asset management firm to manage the fund, which will be directed mainly at technology businesses within the 10 core industries,” added the Minister.

To speed up the process of patent sharing and to provide businesses with a steady supply of innovation and research, the Ministry of Science and Technology is also currently trying to pass a new bill that will allow VC firms to more easily distribute patents to the businesses that can best utilise them. The bill will also allow the private sector to gain access to research funding from the government, for the research and development of new technology.

Mr. Pichet says “The government hopes to encourage VCs to have a part in the development of the business sectors, which will not only help to establish a digital market base in Thailand, but also to help hasten its growth as well.”

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Dongbu provides iPDK support for Synopsys

Dongbu HiTek and Synopsys recently unveiled the interoperable Process Design Kits (iPDKs) that enable Dongbu HiTek foundry customers using Synopsys’ Custom Compiler solution to design specialised targets analogue/power and mixed-signal chips.

The new iPDKs initially support Dongbu HiTek’s mixed-signal process nodes at 0.11?m as well as BCDMOS technology at 0.18?m node operating at 1.8V/5V and up to 30V with LDMOS. The combination of the iPDKs and Custom Compiler’s ability to shorten analogue layout tasks from days to hours will enable mutual customers to design specialised analogue/power and mixed-signal chips that target high-growth markets.

“Our mixed-signal foundry processes support a host of applications ranging from home and handheld electronics to automotive and industrial systems,” noted G.T. Kwon, vice president of technology enabling at Dongbu HiTek.

Kwon confirmed that the two new iPDKs co-developed with Synopsys are available now. “The two new iPDKs support our 0.11?m mixed-signal process, which works for implementing audio codecs and DACs, and our 0.18?m BCDMOS, which is for designing PMICs, data converters, wireless chargers and LED drivers. The applications for such analogue-intensive chips include smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions.”

The Korean foundry reports that it intends continue to collaborate with Synopsys to develop additional iPDKs. Expected to be introduced later this year, forthcoming iPDKs will support 90nm (nm) mixed-signal designs as well as 0.18?m BCDMOS designs that deploy LDMOS to operate up to 45V/60V.

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Graphene e-paper promises brighter display

Dubbed as “the world’s first graphene electronic paper,” Guangzhou OED Technologies, in partnership with a company in Chongqing, has developed a new electronic paper that will take the material to a new level.

Graphene, a material known for its durability and light weight, with its single layer measuring 0.335nm thick, conducts heat and electricity.

The material can be used to create hard or flexible graphene displays, used in electronic products such as e-readers and wearable smart devices.

Compared with traditional e-papers, graphene e-paper is more pliable and has more intensity and its high-light transmittance means optical displays will be much brighter.

Production costs are also expected to be reduced significantly with graphene e-paper than traditional e-papers, as the latter uses the rare, expensive metal indium and graphene is derived from carbon.

Produced on a commercial scale since 2014, e-papers are energy-efficient, thinner and bendable, making them more portable than their crystal-display counterparts.

Graphene e-paper will see production within a year.

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[VIDEO] How to Setup an LCD on the Raspberry Pi and Program it With C

In this video you’ll see examples of what you can do with an LCD on the Raspberry Pi in the C programming language. Find out how position text, clear the screen, control the cursor, and print the date/time and IP address. Also see how to scroll text, create custom characters, and display data from sensors.

The post [VIDEO] How to Setup an LCD on the Raspberry Pi and Program it With C appeared first on Circuit Basics.

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C-AIM in Africa

There is a rapidly growing need to optimally manage the integrity of physical assets over their entire life cycles, from design to decommissioning. This requires maintaining assets in a fit-for-service condition while simultaneously extending the remaining useful lives of such assets. Enterprises University of Pretoria’s Research Solutions, through the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Asset Integrity Management (C-AIM) unit, has the ability to address these needs and is currently involved with international projects on an advisory basis.

C-AIM was recently contracted to assist with the instrumentation and data logging of the strain response of acid tanks that form part of the ore beneficiation process in Namibia. Concerns were raised that the geometry of the tank was not within specifications, which could give rise to high stresses that might have put the tank at risk of damage.

A team from the C-AIM group was sent over to perform the instrumentation and measurements over a period of two weeks while the tank was being subjected to a hydro test. Measurements and data processing was done successfully, resulting in the proposal of efficient remedial measures that allowed the tanks to approach an operational state in a safe and efficient manner, without the risk of permanent deformation or damage to the tank’s welds.

In another international project, a design company approached C-AIM to assist with the structural design of a crusher complex in a copper mine in Zambia. The unit also had to assist with the instrumentation and data logging of the vibration response of a building that houses the secondary crusher complex which contains Metso MP2500 crushers – among the largest cone crushers in the world. Excessive vibration was encountered due to suspected improper connection between the crushers and the concrete monoliths, which was rectified.

Vibration measurements were taken over a one week period by a team from C-AIM for various operational circumstances and processes to characterise the overall building response, displacement magnitudes as well possible relative movement between the crusher and the foundations. The project was completed successfully and production was resumed without risk to the structure and crusher.

For more information on Enterprises UP’s Research Solutions visit http://www.enterprises.up.ac.za/research-solutions/ and for more information on C-AIM, visit http://www.enterprises.up.ac.za/the-centre-for-asset-integrity-management/

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C-AIM in Africa

There is a rapidly growing need to optimally manage the integrity of physical assets over their entire life cycles, from design to decommissioning. This requires maintaining assets in a fit-for-service condition while simultaneously extending the remaining useful lives of such assets. Enterprises University of Pretoria’s Research Solutions, through the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Asset Integrity Management (C-AIM) unit, has the ability to address these needs and is currently involved with international projects on an advisory basis.

C-AIM was recently contracted to assist with the instrumentation and data logging of the strain response of acid tanks that form part of the ore beneficiation process in Namibia. Concerns were raised that the geometry of the tank was not within specifications, which could give rise to high stresses that might have put the tank at risk of damage.

A team from the C-AIM group was sent over to perform the instrumentation and measurements over a period of two weeks while the tank was being subjected to a hydro test. Measurements and data processing was done successfully, resulting in the proposal of efficient remedial measures that allowed the tanks to approach an operational state in a safe and efficient manner, without the risk of permanent deformation or damage to the tank’s welds.

In another international project, a design company approached C-AIM to assist with the structural design of a crusher complex in a copper mine in Zambia. The unit also had to assist with the instrumentation and data logging of the vibration response of a building that houses the secondary crusher complex which contains Metso MP2500 crushers – among the largest cone crushers in the world. Excessive vibration was encountered due to suspected improper connection between the crushers and the concrete monoliths, which was rectified.

Vibration measurements were taken over a one week period by a team from C-AIM for various operational circumstances and processes to characterise the overall building response, displacement magnitudes as well possible relative movement between the crusher and the foundations. The project was completed successfully and production was resumed without risk to the structure and crusher.

For more information on Enterprises UP’s Research Solutions visit http://www.enterprises.up.ac.za/research-solutions/ and for more information on C-AIM, visit http://www.enterprises.up.ac.za/the-centre-for-asset-integrity-management/

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Git 2.9 Released

A new version of Git was released this week, bringing a number of improvements that will be a welcome sight to software developers. Alongside the normal bug fixes and general maintenance work, some interesting new experimental features have been added.

Git is an open-source version control system. If you have no experience in software development, you may be scratching your head right now. A version control system is best understood by comparing it to the undo option you find in most applications—except it’s about a million times more useful and powerful.

Software projects are made up of many files—often hundreds or more. These files contain code and data. As the programmers build the software, they make changes and add new files. Often, there are several people working on the same files at the same time. Now, if you’ve ever had to use the undo option, you’ll know easy it is to introduce a mistake into your work.

Text editors allow you to undo a mistake that you just made, but what if you don’t spot the mistake until much later? What if you accidentally delete a paragraph of text, save the file and close the app? The undo feature can’t help you anymore.

Git allows you to store every version of the files you are working on—that’s why it’s called a version control system! It can track every important change you make, including edits, adding new files and so on. And it makes it easy to merge the changes when several programmers work on the same file at the same time, which is extremely valuable in the world of software.

So, why should non-programmers care about this? Many important projects depend on Git, including Linux itself. In fact, Git was created by Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator. He found that the existing version control systems weren’t up to scratch, so he made one of his own.

Version 2.9 brings several changes to Git. Several bugs have been fixed, and there have been some improvements “under the hood” to improve its performance. That’s always good news, but it’s hardly exciting.

But, this release does bring excitement, in the form of new features, including an experimental “multiple worktree” feature. This feature allows developers to check out branches, so other developers can’t make destructive changes to the files they are working on.

It’s a little bit of a departure from the normal way of dealing with things on Git. Normally, any member of the team can work on anything. If others get their changes into the remote repository before you do, then you have to merge your changes into the code manually, carefully checking your code to ensure it doesn’t introduce errors. That can be frustrating, so this feature could help to reduce stress levels in busy code shops.

The source code for Git 2.9 is available now, and the binary version should make its way into the repositories soon.

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Bringing Derivatives to Bitcoin

Ex-Goldman Sachs director Timo Schlaefer is bringing derivatives to bitcoin with a first class futures exchange, CryptoFacilities.

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Episode 63: Two summertime gadget reviews and wisdom on wearables

This week is all about health and wearables, starting with Kevin Tofel discussing his frustration with fitness trackers that aren’t sharing everything. This ties into this week’s guest, Ernesto Ramirez, who just received a doctorate in public health and is an expert on how people and companies are using wearables. Ramirez and I spoke about fitness trackers’ accuracy, their utility and then moved on to questions about how employers might use them for good and ill. We also talk about Kevin’s issue of being able to transfer your data because you should own it.

Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.

Aside from the health and wearables chatter, I reviewed the Ilumi color-changing outdoor BR30, which was pretty great, but had one flaw, and brought on my father-in-law who was testing the Rachio sprinkler system in his yard (since I don’t have one). Both of these gadgets are great for summer! Kevin and I didn’t get to the Apple HomeKit news this week, but we will next, so enjoy this show and you’ll have something to look forward to in the next one.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Greg Allemann and Ernesto Ramirez

  • You’ll never believe why Kevin bought a Fitbit!
  • 3 awesome things about the Ilumi and 1 bad one.
  • Never install a smart sprinkler without checking this one thing!
  • Check out how wearables are changing healthcare
  • This story about your boss and fitness trackers will terrify you!

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Snappy Moves to New Platforms

Canonical’s Snappy package manager is taking its first steps outside the Ubuntu world. As of now, you can install it on Arch, Debian, Fedora and several other popular distros. And with developers like Mozilla getting behind it, it could soon become a new “universal standard”.

Snappy has more than a few fans—and plenty of detractors too. It certainly seems to be stirring up some strong emotions online. Could it be the next systemd?

Snappy is a new type of package manager that takes a very different approach to managing dependencies. Linux package managers make it relatively easy to install and update software. They manage the complex web of dependencies upon which modern applications rely.

But sometimes there are conflicts between different versions of these dependencies. Maybe application A works only with version 2.3.4 of library X. When you update to version 3.4.5, the application stops working.

Snappy aims to solve these problems by running each app within its own ideal environment. It essentially creates a container for the application, providing it with all the dependencies it needs to run. So you can run multiple apps that depend on different versions of the same libraries And, this makes it much easier to deploy an app to multiple environments, such as different Linux distros.

It’s a neat idea, but not every loves the prospect of adding another “universal standard”. Some say that Snappy violates the UNIX philosophy—programs should do one thing well—but Snappy does several very complex things.

Then there are those who worry about security issues. If a security weakness is discovered in one of the popular libraries, it usually gets fixed pretty fast. Linux distros update their repositories, and users are alerted to download and install the updates.

With Snappy, individual developers must update their app to work with the new version. And, if they are already several versions behind, that can be a long task. The risk is that some apps will continue to run the outdated version, exposing the system to exploits.

In some respects though, Snappy is more secure. As each application is containerized, the risk of cross-process exploits is reduced, but the risks of running outdated software are still real.

What do you think about Canonical’s Snappy? Will it become a new universal standard? Should we be worried about the added complexity? Or, is it a bold step into the world of tomorrow?

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Machine Knitting Is Now as Easy as 3-D Printing

No Skills Required: Kniterate’s software allows anyone to create pro-knit garments with the click of a button


Kniterate’s founders think it’s time that machine knitting became as easy as 3-D printing. They have developed Photoshop-like software for designing knitting patterns, plus a knitting machine that reads the patterns from an SD card. The company plans to sell its US $2500 system to schools and maker spaces, aiming it at people who might want to create, say, a scarf with a special design for a friend, but aren’t committed enough to knitting to buy a more traditional hobbyist knitting machine (which generally costs under $1000) and to master the techniques for turning out garments.

Read more: Kniterate Updates the Knitting Machine to Be an Easy-to-Use 3-D Printer for Fabric

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Episode 62: Tony Fadell set to Away mode

This week we got to the big story of the last few days, Tony Fadell leaving Nest. We discuss what that means for any Nest buyers out there and what it says about selling connected device. And because Father’s Day is around the corner, we came up with three gift ideas for Dad. None of them relate to ties, golf or grilling. And for people who love lighting as much as I do, we found reports of white BR30 lights from Philips Hue, something I’ve been eagerly awaiting since the launch of the white, standard A19 bulbs.

The Nest thermostat courtesy of Nest. The Nest thermostat courtesy of Nest.

Then we move to this week’s guest, Chris Penrose, the SVP of IoT at AT&T. He chatted with me about the carriers plans for building an IoT business beyond cars, and also talked about the opening of the latest AT&T innovation center devoted to medical devices. This AT&T Foundry is based in Houston, Texas and will tackle home health devices as well as challenges associated with connected hospitals. Enjoy the show!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Chris Penrose, SVP of IoT, AT&T

  • Next steps for Nest
  • 3 gift ideas for Dad
  • My dreams have come true
  • AT&T takes on medical devices
  • Why the last mile is now the last meter

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Willem Malkus, professor emeritus of mathematics, dies at 92

Willem Van Rensselaer Malkus, emeritus professor of mathematics at MIT, died in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Saturday May 28, at the age of 92. He was a professor of applied mathematics at MIT from 1969 until his retirement in 1996.

Malkus was a physical applied mathematician who focused on problems in thermal convection, magnetohydrodynamics, and geophysical fluid dynamics. A pioneer in fluid dynamics, he inspired students and colleagues alike to delve deeply into the important problems of his time.

As a graduate student, Willem worked with the preeminent physicist Enrico Fermi, who convinced him to begin his research career by trying to discover magnetic monopoles. While this was a risky and ultimately unsuccessful venture, it left Malkus with an abiding skepticism that he put to good use throughout his career. Following graduate school, Malkus left particle physics and turned his attention to a more tangible subject — fluid mechanics, where he was particularly interested in its geophysical applications.

Malkus made fundamental contributions to the theory of thermal convection, turbulence, magnetohydrodynamics, elliptical flows, and their applications in geophysics. He was particularly focused on the magnetic dynamo problem, as concerns the manner in which the motion of an electrically conducting fluid can generate a magnetic field. In 1968, he proposed a novel theory for a precessionally-forced geodynamo, well known to workers in the field.

Willem Malkus devised the chaotic waterwheel with MIT colleague Louis Howard. The device, now widely used in the teaching of chaos theory, realizes equations by fellow mathematician Edward Lorenz that describe chaotic systems.

Video: SpockTock

In the early 1960s, Malkus struggled, along with Edward Lorenz, to understand the origins of what is now widely known as “chaos.” With his colleague Louis Howard, he invented a simple mechanical device, known as the “Malkus-Howard-Lorenz Waterwheel,” that realized Lorenz’s famous equations. Malkus joked that Lorenz’s equations much better described his mechanical toy than the phenomenon they were intended to describe, atmospheric convection. Malkus’s waterwheel became a paradigmatic realization of a chaotic system, and is now widely used in the teaching of chaos theory.

Throughout his career, Malkus worked on diverse problems, making decisive and deep contributions to our understanding of a range of subtle phenomena. His work was characterized by a combination of careful experiments and theoretical modeling designed to illustrate fundamental principles. He delighted in variational principles and was always seeking new applications for them, especially in deducing criteria for hydrodynamic stability. His work continues to inspire applied mathematicians, geophysicists, and the wider scientific community.

Malkus was a founding member of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) Program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1959. This program has been hugely influential in growing an entire community of scholars. In 1959, GFD was a new field — but over the years more than 450 student fellows and 1,000 visitors have participated in the program. Malkus was a regular at the GFD summer lectures at Walsh Cottage for almost 50 years. In 2008, the GFD program’s founding members, including George Veronis of Yale University and Louis Howard of MIT and Florida State University, received the Excellence in Geophysical Education Award by the American Geophysical Union.

When he arrived at MIT, Malkus founded the Applied Math Laboratory, where he carried out a variety of fluid mechanics experiments, including seminal experiments on thermal convection and elliptical flows. He recognized the value of an experimental facility to the subject of applied mathematics, and encouraged and supported its use by his students and colleagues.

During his time at MIT, Malkus twice served as chair of the Applied Mathematics Committee: 1977-79 and 1984-87. He was a beloved supervisor of graduate students, many of whom now occupy leading academic positions. They all saw at first-hand how his passion for scientific inquiry burned strongly — remaining undimmed even into his 90s — and were inspired by the high scientific standards he demanded of himself and invariably of any seminar speaker. 

He was strongly influenced by his mother, Alida Sims Malkus, who was an accomplished author and daring traveler, and who raised Malkus and his brother alone through the Great Depression. Malkus’ passion for fluid dynamics was matched by a love of sailing in the waters that surround Woods Hole. While sometimes his crew showed reservations, Malkus was always eager to share what strong winds, hard currents, and narrow passages could teach about dynamical systems. In his later years, when his gait on land was unsteady and reaching the boat was a challenge, Malkus persisted and was stable and at ease under sail in Vineyard Sound.

Willem V. R. Malkus was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1923. He studied at the University of Michigan and Cornell University, and was admitted to the PhD program in physics at the University of Chicago, to study under Enrico Fermi. Malkus received his PhD in physics in 1950.

He was appointed assistant professor at the University of Chicago from 1950 to 1951 and later joined the staff at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as a research associate from 1951 to 1956, and was promoted to physical oceanographer from 1956 to 1962. From 1958 to 1960, he was jointly appointed professor of oceanography at MIT. In 1960, he joined the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles as a professor of geophysics and was a professor of geophysics and mathematics there from 1967 to 1969, before joining the applied mathematics faculty at MIT.

Malkus was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1964. He was also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships in 1972 and 1979. In 1972, he was elected a Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Malkus is survived by his wife of 51 years, Ulla C. Malkus of Falmouth, Massachusetts; children David S. Malkus of Madison, Wisconsin; Steven W. Malkus of Falmouth, Massachusetts; Karen E. Malkus-Benjamin of Brewster, Massachusetts; Per N. Malkus of Carrboro, North Carolina; and grandchildren Christopher B. Malkus, Annelise C. Malkus, Byron F. Malkus, Renata L. Malkus, Michael B. Herrmann, Esme E. Herrmann, and Kira A. Malkus. 

A family memorial is under consideration. Further information will be posted on the MIT Department of Mathematics website.


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2.051 Introduction to Heat Transfer (MIT)

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OpenSwitch Finds a New Home

OpenSwitch has joined the Linux Foundation’s stable of networking projects. This is a significant step. It means the network operating system’s development will be driven by community needs, instead of the needs of few private companies.

OpenSwitch was released as an open-source project by Hewlett-Packard. It’s a complete network operating system (NOS) based on Linux. As the name suggests, it’s designed for use in data-center switches. HP builds enterprise switches, so it was well positioned to develop an NOS.

Since its earliest days, OpenSwitch has attracted plenty of interest. Firms of all sizes have used it in their data centers, and they’ve benefited from a solid, secure product that is free of proprietary code or restrictive licenses.

Network hardware vendors also have benefited. Instead of investing heavily in their own NOS software, they can ship their hardware with OpenSwitch. It allows them to concentrate on what they’re good at—hardware. Several of these firms have become official project sponsors, including Accton Technology and Broadcom.

As an open project based on Linux, OpenSwitch can be installed on switches from many different vendors. As such, it provides a single reliable interface for network administrators, regardless of the actual hardware used on-site. This provides much more flexibility, allowing admins to replace a physical switch if a better option appears. Each organization has its own requirements, and those can change during the lifetime of a product, so being locked in to a single hardware choice can have far-reaching consequences.

LinkedIn has restructured its data center from scratch. The goal is to simplify scalability, reducing complexity and overhead. Among many other changes, LinkedIn’s engineers are using OpenSwitch throughout the three layers of their new network.

LinkedIn isn’t just a consumer, it’s a contributor too, and it has been working on its own switching solution, Project Falco. Although much of the code is particular to LinkedIn’s networking needs, some of it is general and suitable for other organizations. LinkedIn has contributed some of that code back into OpenSwitch.

Now that the OpenSwitch project is under the Linux Foundation umbrella, the project leaders hope to attract new developers, but the expected benefits go beyond the pedigree of the contributors. With Linux forming a core component in the NOS, coordination between the two projects is very important.

The Linux Foundation also brings more resources to help manage the project. Although HP and their commercial partners will continue contributing, they are now free from the burden of managing the work of other contributors.

Managing big teams is an area where the Linux Foundation excels—there are thousands of individual developers who contribute to the Linux project. Coordinating all of these programmers is a demanding job!

OpenSwitch isn’t the only open NOS with a Linux heart, but it is the first to be officially embraced by the Linux Foundation.

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Episode 61: Look inside Google Home and what’s up with Jawbone?

This week is all about chips and presence. First Kevin and I dig into the disclosure that the Google Home Device will have the same chip as the Chromecast, and we explain what that means. Then we dive into the Jawbone rumors and cover Atari’s plans for building IoT devices through a partnership with Sigfox. Finally, we ran across a presentation to add a wake up and receive technical spec to Wi-Fi, which was worth talking about since it will lower the power consumption of Wi-Fi connected “things”.

The Trackr Bravo trackers. Image courtesy of Trackr.The Trackr Bravo trackers. Image courtesy of Trackr.

After the break, I interviewed Chris Herbert, the CEO of Trackr, a presence tag. Hebert’s vision involves making it easy to tell what room in your home something is, as opposed to just offering the address. But to do this, you’ll have to buy a $99 set of plugs that help offer fine-grained presence detection. It’s cheaper than Zuli, the other maker of presence detecting outlets, so I’ll probably give them a try when they come out later this summer. Please enjoy.

  • Bulk is better. What’s inside the Echo and Google Home?
  • Those Atari IoT devices may have a catch.
  • The Wirecutter reviews smart home hubs.
  • Taking Trackr from $70 to $30 dollars
  • The future of voice and instant gratification

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European Space Agency Selects Tyvak International for ISS CubeSat Study

Programme to Demonstrate Small Satellite Capabilities in the ISS Environment

TORINO, ITALY (May 31, 2016) – The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Tyvak International SRL – an originator of nanosatellite technology – to demonstrate the feasibility of having nanosatellites provide autonomous inspection and support services on the International Space Station (ISS) while in orbit.

Tyvak International will serve as the prime contractor for the “Multi-Purpose CubeSat at International Space Station (ISS)” study, conducted under the ESA General Studies Programme (GSP), meant to serve as a proving ground for the Agency’s future space-based activities.

Tyvak International was selected for this programme because of their unmatched knowledge of the nanosatellite industry and prior experience working on similar demonstrations. The ESA study is expected to be complete by early fall 2016.

“Working with ESA on such a groundbreaking effort is an honor. We look forward to developing our mutual experience in advanced nanosatellite missions and we hope one day to serve as ESA’s ‘go-to’ small satellite provider for inspection and proximity rendezvous missions,” said Tyvak International CEO Dr. Marco Villa.

Nanosatellites have the capability of providing multi-purpose platforms that can be deployed, retrieved, and refurbished by astronauts or robotically in the ISS environment.

As part of this contract, Tyvak Nanosatellites will:

  • Develop a conceptual design for the ISS base platform
  • Identify models for the platform’s launch to and deployment from the ISS
  • Identify logistics needed to support maintenance and refueling of small satellites from the ISS
  • Identify safety needs and possible constraints of having small satellite units operating autonomously in the ISS environment
  • Plan the optimal path forward to ensure full flight readiness in a short timeframe.

Subcontractors on this study include Politecnico di Torino University, and OHB System AG, Human Spaceflight Department.

About Tyvak International
Tyvak International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Terran Orbital, provides turnkey nanosatellite solutions for civil and commercial customers around the world. At Tyvak International, we make space research and utilization more accessible today than it has ever been by leveraging unparalleled industry knowledge with state-of- the-art technology to develop solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional spacecraft developers. Tyvak International’s systems are adaptable, have low power consumption and are easily customizable to support multiple applications. Visit tyvak.eu for more information.
The view expressed in this press release can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.

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Robot Surgeons Are Taking Over the Operating Room

robots report icon

Advanced surgical robots are already helping doctors perform operations with previously unimaginable precision. But fairly soon, doctors may be able to hand the scalpel over entirely—at least for simple, repetitive procedures—freeing up human surgeons’ valuable time for more complex work.

Some of the latest surgical robots can already plan and execute simple surgical tasks entirely on their own, select optimal approaches and tools, and even use deep learning to observe and replicate new procedures. So we’ve rounded up a few of the coolest robo-surgeons just for you.

Read more about this technological revolution in the O.R.: Would You Trust a Robot Surgeon to Operate on You?

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How to Build a Moral Robot

robots report icon

Whether it’s in our cars, our hospitals or our homes, we’ll soon depend upon robots to make judgement calls in which human lives are at stake.

That’s why a team of researchers is attempting to model moral reasoning in a robot. In order to pull it off, they’ll need to answer some important questions: How can we quantify the fuzzy, conflicting norms that guide human choices? How can we equip robots with the communication skills to explain their choices in way that we can understand? And would we even want robots to make the same decisions we’d expect humans to make? 


TRANSCRIPT

NARRATOR: How do you teach a robot right from wrong?

It’s a question straight out of a sci-fi movie—but it’s also something we may have to grapple with a lot sooner than you might think.

Take a self-driving car, that has to choose between hitting a child or slamming its own passenger into a barrier.

Or imagine a rescue robot that detects two injured people in the rubble of an earthquake, but knows it doesn’t have time to save both.

BERTRAM MALLE: How does that robot decide which of these people to try to save first? That’s something we as a community actually have to figure out.

NARRATOR: It’s a moral dilemma. Which is why a team of scientists is attempting to build moral robots.

If autonomous robots are going to hang with us, we’re going to have to teach them how to behave—which means finding a way to make them aware of the values that are most important to us.

Matthias Scheutz is computer scientist at Tufts who studies human robot interaction—and he’s trying to figure out how to model moral reasoning in a machine.

But with morals, things get messy pretty quickly. Even as humans, we don’t really have any concrete rules about what’s right and wrong—at least, not ones we’ve managed to agree upon. What we have instead are norms—basically thousands of fuzzy, contradictory guidelines. Norms help us predict the way the people around us will behave, and how they’ll want us to behave.

MATTHIAS SCHEUTZ: Right now the major challenge for even thinking about how robots might be able to understand moral norms is that we don’t understand on the human side how humans represent and reason if possible with moral norms.

NARRATOR: The big trick—especially if you’re a robot—is that none of these norms are absolute. In one situation, a particular norm or value will feel extremely important. But change the scenario, and you completely alter the rules of the game.

So how can we build a robot that can figure out which norms to follow, and when?

Thats’ where the social psychologists at Brown Univeristy come in. They’ve started by compiling a list of words, ideas and rules that people use to talk about morality—a basic moral vocabulary.  The next step is figuring out how to quantify this vocabulary: How are those ideas related and organized in our minds?

One theory is that the human moral landscape might look a lot like a semantic network, with clusters of closely related concepts that we become more or less aware of depending on the situation.

MALLE: Our hypothesis is that in any particular context, a subset of norms is activated—a particular set of rules related to that situation. That subset of norms is then available to guide action, to recognize violations, and allow us to make decisions.

NARRATOR: The key here is that the relationships between these subnetworks is actually something you can measure. Malle starts off by picking a scenario—say, a day at the beach—and asking a whole bunch of people how they think they’re supposed to behave. What are they supposed to do? And what are they absolutely not supposed to do?

The order in which the participants mention certain rules, the number of times they mention them, and the time it takes between mentioning one idea and another—those are all concrete values. By collecting data from enough different situations, Malle thinks he’ll be able to build a rough map of a human norm network. In the future, a robot might come equipped with a built-in version of that map. That way it could call up the correct moral framework for whatever situation is at hand.

But even if that robot could perfectly imitate a human’s decision making process—is that something we’d really want? Malle suspects that we might actually want our robots to make different decisions than the ones we’d want other humans to make. To test this, he asks his research subjects to imagine a classic moral dilemma.

Picture a runaway trolley in a coal mine, that’s lost use of its brakes. The trolley has four people on board and is hurtling toward a massive brick wall. There’s an alternate safe track, but a repairman is standing on it—and he’s oblivious to what’s happening.

Another worker nearby sees the situation. He can pull a lever that would switch the train onto the second track, saving the passengers in the trolley but killing the  repairman. He has to choose.  

MALLE: So the fundamental dilemma is will you intervene and kill one person to save four? Or are you going to let fate take its course, and most likely four people will die.

NARRATOR: Malle presents this scenario a few different ways: some of the participants watch a human make the decision, some see a humanoid robot, and some see a machine-like robot. Then he asks participants to judge the decision the worker made.

Generally, participants blame the human worker more when he flips the switch—saving four lives but sacrificing one—than when he does nothing. Apparently, watching another person make a cold, calculated decision to sacrifice a human life makes us kind of queasy.  

But evidence suggests that we might actually expect a robot to flip the switch. The participants in Malle’s experiment blamed the robot more if it didn’t step in and intervene. And the more machine-looking the robot was, the more they blamed it for letting the four people die.

There’s one more interesting twist to this. If the robot or human in the story made an unpopular decision—but then gave a reason for that choice—participants blamed that worker less.

And this is really, really important, because it gets at a fundamental skill that robots are going to need: communication.

Back in Matthias Scheutz’s lab at Tufts, they’re working on that exact problem. They’ve programmed a little autonomous robot to follow some simple instructions: it can sit down, stand up, and walk forward.

But they’ve also given it an important rule to follow: Don’t do anything that would cause harm to yourself or others. If a researcher gives the robot an instruction that would violate that rule, the robot doesn’t have to follow that instruction. And it will tell you why it won’t.

The researcher can then give the robot new information. And the robot will update its understanding of its little world and decide on a different course of action.

This communication is essential because moral norms aren’t fixed. We argue and reason about morality—and often, we learn from each other and update our values as a group. And any moral robot will need to be part of that process.

We’re still a long way from building truly moral robot. But this is what the very first steps might look like.

NOTE: Transcripts are created for the convenience of our readers and listeners and may not perfectly match their associated interviews and narratives. The authoritative record of IEEE Spectrums video programming is the video version.

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[VIDEO] How to Set Up the DHT11 Humidity Sensor on the Raspberry Pi

Get accurate humidity and temperature readings on the Raspberry Pi with the DHT11 digital humidity and temperature sensor.

The post [VIDEO] How to Set Up the DHT11 Humidity Sensor on the Raspberry Pi appeared first on Circuit Basics.

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MIT receives six historical preservation awards

The MIT Museum was a fitting venue for the Cambridge Historical Commission’s Annual Preservation Awards program on May 25. Before the ceremony, which recognized 22 preservation projects throughout Cambridge, Massachusetts, guests were invited to view the MIT2016 centennial exhibit, “Imagining New Technology: Building MIT in Cambridge.” Historical Commission Executive Director Charlie Sullivan had worked closely with the MIT Museum to plan the exhibit and was featured in the Institute’s centennial documentaries.

The annual preservation awards ceremony — now in its 20th year — honors property owners and individuals who conserve and protect the city’s historically significant architecture. This year, in recognition of the Institute’s 100th year in Cambridge, the Historical Commission decided to bring attention to six building renewal projects on the MIT campus.

“It’s unprecedented for one organization to receive so many awards,” offered Sullivan as he introduced MIT’s projects. “It’s a reflection of the Institute’s increased commitment to preservation in recent years.“ 

In providing a welcome to attendees at the event, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz congratulated the Historical Commission on its 20th anniversary of presenting the awards, noting, “Cambridge is a special city with an important heritage and history.” Ruiz also thanked the Commission for placing a spotlight on MIT projects. “Over the last decade, MIT has been engaged in a very deliberate and thoughtful process to evaluate all of its buildings and take steps to repair and restore those that need attention.” Ruiz was referring to the Institute’s comprehensive capital renewal program, which has resulted in improvements to systems and structures in many buildings across campus.

Gary Tondorf-Dick, program manager for capital projects in MIT’s Department of Facilities and a trained architectural historian, worked as a program manager or as an advisor on all six of the projects honored by the Historical Commission. “These are beautiful buildings. Of course, we wanted to retain the original designs, and we had the benefit of being able to utilize modern restoration technologies,” he said. MIT sought specific expertise on every project, whether related to windows, mortar, ornamental steel, roof materials, or other building features. “We found the best people that we could,” Tondorf-Dick said. “I know that the project teams are so proud to have had the opportunity to bring new life to these buildings.” Referring to the Institute’s motto of “mind and hand,” Tondorf-Dick, added, “I feel that each team embodied MIT’s motto of ‘mens et manus’ as they worked painstakingly to renew and restore facilities where math, economics, music, theater, and other academic subjects are taught.”

Thayer Donham, senior planner in the Office of Campus Planning, also worked on the six projects. While accepting one of the awards on behalf of the Institute, she reflected, “It’s a privilege for me to be able to work with these incredibly talented teams of architects and specialists as we serve as stewards for MIT’s assets.”

The six restorations honored by the Historical Commission include:

Building 2 (Simons Building) renovation: This project’s award recognized the building’s rooftop addition and creative adaptation of interior spaces. Sullivan said at the ceremony that he had been skeptical about the fourth floor addition, but now sees it as an “entirely appropriate intervention.” Building 2 is one of the 100-year-old Beaux Arts buildings designed by William Welles Bosworth at the heart of the MIT campus. The renovation project included restoration of the building’s masonry and façade window wall systems as well as the original lenticular glass transoms, sidelights, and corridor door panels. The previously concealed structure in the ziggurat was exposed to show the original concrete construction. 

Building W31 (duPont Athletic Center) masonry restoration: This majestic and iconic building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street was originally built in 1903 as the city’s armory. The project included the rebuilding of the 113-year-old upper façade, slate roof, and entrance arch, including the brick and granite parapets. Windows and doors were carefully replaced to match the building’s original profile and style. The Massachusetts Avenue entrance was renovated to provide accessibility while reflecting the building’s architectural character.

Building E52 (Morris and Sophie Chang Building) sensitive modernization: The complete renovation of the former headquarters of the Lever Brothers Company and later MIT’s original Sloan School of Management building features a glass-enclosed seventh-floor addition. Sullivan told the crowd that the addition is the “most glorious meeting space on the campus, or even in the Boston area.” The project team responded during the ceremony by saying that they call the Samberg Conference Center space “the Best Room Ever.” The building, which is in the Streamline Moderne style, was designed in 1938 by Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon, the architects of the Empire State Building in New York City. Features including the canopy over the Memorial Drive entrance and the exterior limestone were carefully restored to highlight the original architecture.

Building W16 (Kresge Auditorium) curtain wall restoration: Designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, the Kresge Auditorium required renovations to its 60-year-old curtainwall window system. A laser-based dimensional survey of the existing facade was utilized in order to create a stainless steel replication that would match Saarinen’s original design. Because of the building’s unique circumstances, the project required a broad-based “design-assist” approach involving the collaborative work of many design and fabrication specialists.

Building W15 (MIT Chapel) restoration of moat and entrance structure: The project team worked carefully with design and fabrication specialists, including glass restoration artisans, to restore the concrete, waterproofing, ornamental steel, and leaded glass in one of the most visited buildings on the MIT campus. Authentically restoring the structure to its original Eero Saarinen design required the installation of handblown restoration glass from Leipzig, Germany. The fragile aluminum Chapel spire was removed, repaired, and reinstalled.

Building NW23 (195 Albany Street) restoration and adaptive reuse: A former commercial lab building that is one in a set of four matching warehouse facilities constructed in 1924, the restored structure is now the home of the Department of Facilities and the Office of Campus Planning. The project included a new roof and windows, and a complete renovation of the interior spaces featuring a new lobby and reconfigured main entrance.


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Looking Ahead 4 Tomorrow’s Materials

Materials have always been about enthusiasm. Materials are a dream that we have realized. Everything is possible, it’s just that we have to make it happen,” says Mark Miodownik, the author behind the popular book Stuff Matters, in the fourth film of the Looking Ahead series.

The age of new materials

Throughout history, materials and advances in material technology have influenced humankind. Now we just might be on the verge of the next shift in this type of technology, enabling products and functions we never believed possible.

Demands from industry are requiring that materials be lighter, tougher, thinner, denser and more flexible or rigid, as well as to be heat- and wear-resistant. At the same time, researchers are pushing the boundaries of what we imagine is possible, seeking to improve and enhance existing materials and at the same time come up with completely new materials that, while years away from day-to-day use, take us down entirely new technological pathways.

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The sky is the limit

Based on the research we’re seeing today, the field of applied material science is set to move in new, almost science-fiction-like directions. Looming resource scarcity is demanding innovations and out-of-the-box thinking.

On the materials front, composites with such desirable attributes as low weight, high strength and high durability look likely to take a larger market share, and more of these materials will likely be based on renewable resources, as the need for this becomes greater.

The most promising jewel in this arena is graphene. Only a single atom thick (1 million times thinner than a human hair), but 200 times stronger than steel by weight, extremely flexible, super light and almost transparent with great heat and electricity conductivity. It’s the stuff legends are made of.

In fact, researchers at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, recently found that a graphene sponge can turn light into energy, thus taking humankind one step closer to a fuel-free spacecraft, one that runs by the light of the sun.

Heading for the graphene revolution

Other potential areas of application for graphene range from water purification and energy storage to household goods, computers and other electronics. Meanwhile, although graphene-related patents are increasing by the thousands, widespread industrial adoption of graphene is limited by the expense of producing it – but that may be about to change. Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a way to produce large sheets of graphene at a cost some 100 times cheaper than the previous production method.

Synthetic skin, capable of providing sensory feedback to people with limb prostheses, is one of the many possibilities that could grow out of this development. “Graphene could help provide an ultraflexible, conductive surface that could provide people with prosthetics capable of providing sensation in a way that is impossible for even the most advanced prosthetics today,” says Dr. Ravinder Dahiya, who led the research team at the University of Glasgow.

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If it’s broken, let it fix itself

Nanocomposite research is opening up the possibility of materials that fix themselves, much the way the human body heals itself. Researchers at the Beckman Institute’s Autonomous Materials Systems Group at the University of Illinois in the United States are working on fiber-composite materials with self-healing properties that involve the integration of healing agents that are released to mix and polymerize when a defect is detected.

“Materials that heal themselves are coming,” says material scientist Mark Miodownik in the new Looking Ahead film, Tomorrow’s materials. For now, what’s technically possible isn’t close to being reasonable economically, but the possibility of fixing anything on the fly, from airplane wings to bike frames to car parts crucial to the safety of vehicles and passengers, is on the horizon. And it will have massive impact on product development, life cycle and sustainability. Researchers are even working on materials that will allow a roadway to repair itself instead of waiting for an overworked, understaffed maintenance crew.

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Sustainability as a key driver

Material science and the development of new materials, as well as improvement of existing ones, look likely to play a crucial role in such areas as resource scarcity and sustainability. New materials – for example, light-absorbing building materials – could help counter global warming.

We seem to be on the verge of a new age, one that is characterized not only by digitalization and the Internet of Things but also, importantly, by new materials – materials that can make our future easier, safer and more sustainable. The sky really is the limit.

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Episode 60: Everyone takes on the Amazon Echo

Kevin is back from Google IO this week, and so of course, we discussed the Google Home product in detail. But since voice + a personal assistant is so hot right now, we also talked about the recent Apple rumors that said it was building its own Echo-like device and opening up Siri to developers. We then talked about Pebble’s new gear, how much power my devices are sucking and Samsung’s possible decision to use Tizen instead of Android Wear on its smart watches.

Google's proposed Home speaker and AI assistant. Google’s proposed Home speaker and AI assistant.

In the spirit of Father’s Day and the start of summer, I spoke with Chris Klein the CEO of connected sprinkler maker Rachio, who talked about how a municipality could use connected sprinklers to control water usage, how to talk to your vocal users and what he learned selling Rachio in a Big Box retailer. You’ll also get my first impressions of the device. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Rachio CEO Chris Klein

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Rootstock, Magnr, and More…

Eddy Travia joins us today as a guest on the bitcoin.com podcast, to discuss coinsilium portfolio companies.

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[VIDEO] How to Setup an LCD on the Raspberry Pi and Program It With Python

See how to connect an LCD to the Raspberry Pi in either 4 bit mode or 8 bit mode, and how to program it with Python. I’ll show you how to do the basic stuff like positioning text, turning on and off the cursor, and printing the date, time, and IP address. Then I’ll go into more advanced stuff like scrolling text, creating custom characters, and printing data from a sensor.

The post [VIDEO] How to Setup an LCD on the Raspberry Pi and Program It With Python appeared first on Circuit Basics.

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