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Government officials can no longer be ignorant about cybersecurity

It’s sort of cute when someone you know, usually an older family member, announces that he doesn’t understand Facebook or smartphones. It’s far less endearing when elected officials and law enforcement flaunt their ignorance of technology and cybersecurity.

Hacking is no longer something that most of us only hear about in movies. It’s a weekly occurrence that affects everyone. Whether your credit card information was part of the huge Target breach or your personal data was leaked by the OPM, Experian or Home Depot hacks, you’re no longer a bystander; you’re the target.

And it’s not just large companies with shoddy security that are at risk either: Hackers are also after the treasure trove of data on individual people’s smartphones. We’ve gone from rooting for Matthew Broderick in WarGames and giggling at the hilarity of the 1990s movie Hackers (hack the planet!) to wondering how long before we have to change our passwords and replace our debit cards.

Meanwhile, tech companies like Apple and Google are in a constant battle to keep ahead of these hackers. That means fortifying their software and hardware with ever-increasing levels of encryption and security. That work protects not only your information but also their business. No one wants to buy a device that spills her secrets right out of the box.

So when elected officials and law enforcement start railing against encryption, insisting that it’s an uncrackable tool for criminals and terrorists, they’re ignoring the security benefits for individuals and businesses. Defeating tech company protections hurts US citizens and businesses; it doesn’t stop crime.

On several occasions government officials have floated the idea of making Apple and Google keep encrypted applications out of their app stores. The ramifications of this would be disastrous. In addition to creating a certification headache for the purveyors of those digital marketplaces, it would also discourage innovation.

If a company can’t sling its security wares in the United States, it’ll offer up its application in other countries. Worst-case scenario, it’ll move its entire operation out of the US, taking those jobs and tax revenue with it.

Plus, making an app unavailable in the United States won’t stop criminals from downloading it from foreign stores. You and I won’t go to the trouble of downloading something from overseas, but you can bet anyone planning a crime will be happy to figure out how to sideload an application.

The pinnacle of government shortsightedness is the bill introduced last month by Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein. The Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 would require companies to hand over data in an “intelligible format” or risk fines.

I could spend all night listing the various ways that Feinstein-Burr is flawed & dangerous. But let’s just say, “in every way possible.”

— matt blaze (@mattblaze) April 8, 2016

It’s a fancy way of saying that tech companies need to be able to decrypt any data on any device at the behest of the courts. That would require intentionally leaving exploits in hardware and software just in case something is used during the course of a crime.

Bad actors (hackers and nation-states with less-than-ideal human rights records) live for zero-day exploits. They poke and prod at hardware and software, hoping they can find a way in. If the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 passes, their jobs will get much easier, because they’ll know that everything has a exploit now. The law requires it.

While these officials may be well meaning, their ignorance of security is troubling. It’s easy to write up a bill or tell the Senate that encryption is used by terrorists and criminals and therefore it’s bad. It’s tougher to take the time to talk to experts in that field.

But if your job is to understand security, it might be in your best interest (or at least the interest of the people who voted you into office) to actually learn how it works. Hacking is an ongoing threat, and encryption lessens the damage caused by it.

If you’re a government or law enforcement official who can’t wrap your head around that, maybe it’s time to retire.


Microsoft thinks disorientation is the key to touch in VR

To manipulate virtual objects in VR, you have to use an Oculus Touch or other “virtual wand” controller like some kind of hands-off, digital tong. To get an actual “haptic” or touch experience, you need real objects, but it’s computationally challenging because the system needs to precisely track each one. Researchers from Microsoft, USC and the University of Waterloo have discovered that by manipulating how you see your body and the world in VR, they can make you think that a single physical object has magically multiplied.

To demonstrate the technique (below), the team set up a hand-tracking Kinect and had subjects don an Oculus Rift. In the first exercise, the user was shown three real cubes on a table, but after they put on the headset, two were removed. The program then asked subjects to grab one of three VR cubes, even though there was only one physical object. By using “body warping,” the subjects saw their arm reaching for multiple imaginary objects, and were rewarded haptically by grabbing the one physical cube.

In the second instance, the subjects were asked to look away, and while they did so, the world subtly shifted so that the VR objects corresponded to the real cube’s position. A third technique combined the two, warping both the subject’s VR body and the virtual world to match the physical object. It works both horizontally and vertically, letting you not only move blocks around but stack them too — a useful technique for a game like Minecraft.

The team reports that “participants reported higher presence levels from the hybrid approach in comparison to each warp used individually, and overall preferred haptic re-targeting to the virtual wand method.” The research is just that right now, and Microsoft hasn’t said yet whether it will incorporate the technique into its Hololens or any other AR or VR products. It will reveal a paper on the subject at the CHI 2016 (Human-Computer Interaction) event in San Jose starting May 7th.

Source: Microsoft (YouTube)


Gumball team creates Lamborghini-powered Batmobile

Look, whatever you think of the Gumball 3000 Rally, it does attract some spectacular machinery. High-end supercars and modded monsters are the norm, but occasionally, something really special pops up. Like the Batmobile.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly the Batmobile, but the Dark Knight’s wheels clearly served as the inspiration for this brute. It comes from Team Galag, one of the many groups that contest the globe-trotting Gumball. This car has had very real, very talented hands on it during development. According to the video, the lead engineer spent 15 years at Sweden’s Koenigsegg, which might explain the lovely detail on the carbon-fiber body. The fixed wheel covers are impressive but disorienting, making it look like the car just hovers over the road.

Underneath all that carbon fiber sits a thumping 5.2-liter V10, borrowed from a Lamborghini Gallardo. This might be the only application where this engine is underwhelming – look at that body, and then listen to the engine. It just feels a little mismatched for such a wild looking car. Still, the work here is impressive. Now, if only it can get through this year’s Gumball without crashing…

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Source: Mr JWW (YouTube)


Dear Veronica: So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Dear Veronica: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

Well, dear viewers, our time has come to part ways. It’s been an incredible year of question answering, but I’m moving on from the world of video for now. Thank you to the entire team here at Engadget for letting me make this crazy show (really, they only ever encouraged me to make it weirder), and to you folks out there for sending me hilarious, serious, and thought-provoking questions for me and my gaggle of internet friends to answer.

I’m not sure where I’m going to end up next, but I’m excited for it! You can follow me on Twitter, Snapchat, and all the other usual places if you want to know what I’m up to. See you out there in Internetland!


Marvel videos will help ‘Black Panther’ readers catch up

Superhero comics are a notoriously difficult medium for beginners to jump into. Where to begin? So many are a continuation of long-running series, constantly referencing prior events or other characters’ books. Marvel’s latest attempt to solve the problem is a complementary video series for the “All-New, All-Different” Black Panther line. It’s narrated by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the comic’s new writer and a national correspondent for The Atlantic. The first instalment will be an introduction to the character, but the plan is for subsequent episodes to act as “previously on” recaps.

It’s a fresh take on a problem that has plagued Marvel and DC comics for years. The videos will be released every month and serve as a trailer for the next issue, teasing what’s to come or unpacking prior events. Production house Bow & Arrow will be putting them together and plans to feature music from a number of rising hip-hop artists. Coates will be at the core of each episode, however, explaining his vision for the popular superhero.

The move makes sense, given the proliferation of YouTube channels explaining Marvel and DC lore. ComicsExplained, for instance, has accrued over half a million subscribers diving into prolific characters, items and storylines. Black Panther is an ideal candidate for Marvel’s new experiment — last month, the first “All-New, All-Different” issue racked up more than 330,000 sales in its first week. For a graphic novel that’s impressive, and will likely improve now that Captain America: Civil War is in theaters. Black Panther is one of the standout characters in that movie, giving fans all the more reason to start reading the hero’s counterpart comic series.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, Co.Create


IBM opens its quantum computer to the public

Want to use a real, honest-to-goodness quantum computer yourself? Now’s your chance. IBM has introduced a cloud-based platform, the Quantum Experience, that lets anyone try a 5-qubit quantum computer for themselves. You can run algorithms and experiments, try simulations and tutorials or even work with the individual qubits. This isn’t a truly universal machine, but it’ll show you at least some of what non-binary computing can do.

The company is quick to admit that it doesn’t expect huge queues. Its service is mainly for researchers and scientists that want to discover new uses for quantum computing or otherwise move the industry forward. If you’re comfortable with the concept, though, it won’t hurt to give the Quantum Experience a try — you could learn something about the likely future of computer technology.

Via: Wired

Source: IBM, IBM Quantum Experience


Building community through arcades and beer

It’s springtime in downtown Phoenix, and Cobra Arcade Bar is open for business. Wednesday afternoon sunlight spills through two massive open windows at the front of the bar, illuminating silver tap handles, neon-splattered paintings from local artists and shiny black booths. Organizers from a nearby business set up shop on the front patio, preparing for a company event. Even in the middle of a weekday, Cobra hums with activity.

It also beeps, pings and pows. Roughly 40 arcade games hug every wall and spill into the open space on one side of the bar, blinking and begging to be played. They’re old, but clean and in full working order. Kids these days would probably call them “vintage.”

“We don’t have a clientele,” Topher Bray, Cobra’s general manager, says. “We have the young ASU kids that think these games are really cool because they’re old, and then we have the older crowd who think they’re really cool because they played them when they were young. My grandmother and parents were in here like a month ago playing games. It’s really cool to see all walks of life.”

Cobra has all the bells and whistles of a traditional bar, including signature cocktails, flat-screen TVs and DJs on busy nights. That’s part of the secret to running a successful arcade bar in 2016 — start with a solid foundation. The bar can’t rely on games alone, Cobra co-owner Nico Paredes says.

“Think about how popular arcades were in the ’80s and ’90s,” he says. “They died out because, I think, they didn’t have a model that grew with the players. That’s what we’re offering. It’s a model that grows, and it actually offers a lot more than just going in and playing games.”

So far, Cobra’s approach is working. It opened in January and saw lines down the block every weekend for the first month. Now that it’s May, the initial rush has settled down but the bar remains packed with dancing queens and button mashers every weekend. The line still wraps around the building some nights.

Cobra is part of a larger trend in the international bar scene. Arcade- and e-sports-themed bars are hot tickets, popping up at an increasing rate since the early 2000s. Two of the first arcade bars in the United States — Ground Kontrol in Portland and Barcade in Brooklyn — both set up shop around 2003. From opposite sides of the country, these two establishments busted down the doors down for other entrepreneurs, and there are now easily more than 100 arcade bars in the States alone, Paredes estimates.

For example, Denver’s 1UP opened in 2011; New York City’s Two Bits opened in 2012; Chicago’s Emporium and Headquarters Beercade both opened their first locations in 2012; San Diego’s Coin-Op Game Room opened in 2013; Columbus’ 16-Bit Bar+Arcade opened its first location in 2013; and San Francisco’s Brewcade opened in 2014. Barcade now has six locations, and Ground Kontrol underwent a remodel in 2011, and all of these spots are still open.

On the world stage, Meltdown is the name to know. It’s an e-sports-focused franchise with 27 locations across Europe and Canada, founded in 2012 by former StarCraft II commentator Sophia Metz.

“Our generations have always known gaming; it’s part of our culture and in a lot of cases much more so than regular sports,” Metz says. “Watching e-sports tournaments can be just as enjoyable as playing it, and the world definitely needs social places to do so.”

One reason Meltdown was able to grow so quickly is its franchise system. Anyone with enough capital and drive can open up a Meltdown bar, and Metz says she receives five to 10 applications a day from interested people all over the world.

Much like Cobra, Meltdown bars don’t rest on the e-sports theme alone. Metz emphasizes quality, even if the clientele is young.

“You can’t just expect them to come back because you’re a gaming bar,” she says. “You need to go out of your way to make their stay memorable.”

Paredes and Cobra co-founder Ariel Bracamonte also understand the importance of quality. Bracamonte owns Cobra’s arcade cabinets, and he has more than 120 in total. The bar houses 40 at a time, but they’re swapped out regularly — partially so they can get some rest and a good cleaning, and partially to keep Cobra feeling fresh.

Bracamonte is in the bar every day, cleaning and caring for the machines. Plus, every security guard knows how to handle simple fixes like unjamming a token, and a tech walks the bar on weekend nights to handle any larger issues. Paredes, Bracamonte and Bray never want customers to see a broken cabinet on the floor.

“Ari and myself, we put a lot of work, a lot of money into getting these games up and running the way they should be,” Paredes says. “When you come in here, you’re not going to see a game that looks like it’s been in a laundromat.”

Successful gaming-focused bars seamlessly mix two disparate worlds: the bumping, grinding glee of a night club and the rapid-fire button-mashing of classic arcades or e-sports tournaments.

“Gamers are just like everyone else — they like to go out and party,” Metz says. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of: having managed to show the world that we’re not asocial freaks.”

“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of: having managed to show the world that we’re not asocial freaks.” – Sophia Metz

Cobra sees these worlds colliding every day. One recent night, a patron asked for $100 in ones, which he then gave to a waitress so she could make it rain on the dance floor. Another night, someone dressed as Link from The Legend of Zelda came in and hung out for a while. Cobra wasn’t having a cosplay contest or anything, but Paredes and Bray were happy to see the costume. So were the other customers.

“Everybody was actually taking pictures with them,” Paredes says. “They get it. It’s not like you’re in a regular club and people are like, ‘What?’”

Community is important to Paredes and Bracamonte. They’re plugged into the Phoenix arts and culture scene, and the bar is right next door to Arizona State University’s downtown campus. The murals along Cobra’s walls were painted by local artists, except for one big piece at the front of the bar: a woman’s face surrounded by Medusa-like swirls, all in black and white. The portrait was done by El Mac, a prominent LA-based artist, and the tendrils were added by David Choe, the muralist who famously adorned the walls of Facebook HQ in 2005 (and made about $200 million in stock once the company went public). Cobra’s design respects the local community while raising the bar — literally — with high-profile work from world-renowned artists.

Cobra also hosts regular theme nights — May the 4th and Cinco de Mayo parties are next — and every Sunday Paredes hosts tournaments with some of the more competitive gamers. The bar opens at noon, complete with a food truck out front, and the players go at it for the chance to win some cash, swag and their name on the Cobra Facebook page. Eventually, Paredes, Bracamonte and Bray will set up a website with current champions and leaderboards, and they’re talking about hosting viewing parties for things like EVO and other livestreamed e-sports events.

In June, Cobra will have a huge presence at Phoenix Comicon: It’s actually re-creating the bar at the convention and encouraging people in costume to come down to the real location.

Arcade bars are a hot trend, which suggests many of them will close up once the fad runs its course. However, the Cobra and Meltdown owners want their bars to become permanent fixtures in their communities, much like Barcade or Ground Kontrol, which have been around for 13 years now. Bray hopes that advances in video game technology will continually drive interest in the industry’s roots. Take that latent intrigue, add a dash of quality and a pinch of community, and that’s the secret sauce, Metz says.

“Most people just want to meet like-minded people, take part in amateur tournaments to feel the adrenaline, or watch friends play while having a drink,” she says. “The atmosphere is key. The era of internet cafes is over: People want interaction.”

A lot of the arcade-bar boom has to do with timing, as well. Those who grew up playing games in arcades are now old enough to appreciate a stiff drink while surrounded by friends, and younger gaming fans get a chance to experience cabinets first-hand, perhaps for the first time. Whatever the reason, Cobra, Meltdown and gaming bars across the world have stumbled onto something special for social gaming fans.

“It’s been amazing, just the response and they way we connected with the community,” Paredes says. “People come in here to dance, to play, to drink and just to generally have fun. That’s the most rewarding thing for me and for Ari, I know, to see that people have completely embraced it and understand what we were trying to put out there.”

Images: Cobra Arcade (Lead, Gallery, 2, 3, 4); Meltdown (1)


Simple exploits use images to attack websites

Would-be hackers don’t always have to jump through hoops to bring down a website. Researchers have discovered relatively simple exploits in ImageMagick, a common package for processing pictures on the web, that let attackers run any code they like on a targeted server. If someone uploads a maliciously coded image and ImageMagick handles it, they could theoretically compromise both the site and anyone who visits it. That’s particularly dangerous for forums and social networks, where user uploads are par for the course — a vengeful member could wreck the site for everyone.

Thankfully, there are fixes. The ImageMagick team is closing the security holes within the next few days, and it’s possible to thwart at least some attacks by either verifying the integrity of images or using a policy file to disable the susceptible features. The concerns are that these safeguards won’t cover everything, or that website owners won’t rush to shore up their defenses. It could be a while before you can assume that your favorite social sites are protected.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: ImageTragick, ImageMagick


Twitter for Mac Gains Support for Moments and Polls

Twitter today updated its dedicated Mac app with support for several Twitter features that have previously been available to Twitter users on iOS and the web, including Moments and Polls.

Introduced in October, Moments is a new Twitter tab that’s designed to help users discover popular news stories, events, and trending topics, aggregating interesting content into categories like News, Sports, Entertainment, and Fun.

The ability to create custom polls embedded within Tweets was also added in a separate October update, allowing Twitter users to query their followers through multiple choice 24-hour polls.

Along with support for Moments and Polls, Twitter for Mac users can now share GIFs in tweets and Direct Messages through a new GIF search feature.

What’s New
– Find the best of Twitter in an instant with Moments. Follow top stories through immersive pics, clips, and conversations. Get insights and perspectives you won’t find anywhere else.
– Create polls on Twitter and with just a couple of taps, people can weigh in on all the topics they care about.
– Sharing GIFs in Tweets and Direct Messages is even easier with our new GIF search.

Today’s Twitter for Mac update comes five months after a major app overhaul that was introduced in December. The Twitter for Mac 4.0 update introduced a slew of features like inline video playback, group direct messages, mute, a dark theme, and Notification Center widget.

Twitter for Mac can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

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Garmin Vivomove Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

Garmin Vivomove.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the main arguments against fitness trackers is their design. These devices can be bulky and simply too unsightly to wear, especially for a fancy occasion. Garmin is all too familiar with this problem, but that’s all about to change. The company’s new tracker combines fitness and fashion all wrapped up in a single package.

The Vivomove is an analog watch with a full year of battery life and support for interchangeable bands, compatible with any 20mm band on the market. It can also track things like steps and sleep, and will remind you to remain active with move alerts throughout the day. Like all of Garmin’s devices, the watch is waterproof down to 50 meters (165 feet), so you can swim and shower with it. All in all, it’s pretty similar to the Withings Activite.

The watch is sleek, stylish and offered in a variety of different models. The Vivomove Sport has a silicone band, while the Classic comes with a leather one. There’s also the Vivomove Premium, which features a steel body and a leather strap.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is a device you won’t be ashamed to wear to the office or a wedding. The build quality of the Premium model felt nice. The watch had good weight to it, but not enough to annoy you when wearing it. While I didn’t get to do extensive testing, I was pretty impressed.

My only complaint would be the software. The watch syncs with Garmin’s Connect mobile app on Android or iOS. This is where you can view activity stats, connect with friends and more. The software has improved in the past few months and added new features, such as personalized insights and feedback, but it’s still clunky and confusing to navigate compared to apps from competitors Fitbit and Jawbone.

The Vivomove Sport model is available for $150 or £140 in black or white, while the Classic can be had for $200 or £180 in black or rose gold. The stainless steel Premium model costs $300 or £240 and is also available in a gold-tone steel variant. Australian prices weren’t available, but the UK prices convert to AU$270, AU$350 and AU$465.

Vivomove accessory sport bands are available in white and black for $30 or £24 (about AU$45), while leather accessory bands in black, rose gold and white, dark brown or light brown will run you $60 or £46 (about AU$90).

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