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NASA and Germany extend the life of their flying observatory

SOFIA, the airborne telescope that backed up New Horizons in studying Pluto, will go on flights to observe our universe until the end of 2020. NASA and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR) have extended their joint project for four more years. SOFIA is a 17-ton infrared telescope with an 8.9-foot-diameter primary mirror fitted into a Boeing 747SP wide-body plane. A hatch on the aircraft slides open so the telescope can get a view of the sky. And since it operates at altitudes of about 41,000 feet, it can make its observations above most of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks some infrared waves.
SOFIA has flown at least 250 10-hour flights since 2011, studying the atmosphere, comets, planets and stars. While the new contract is only until 2020, the aircraft itself was designed to last until 2030. NASA and DLR will sit down again in 2018 to determine whether they should extend the partnership even further.

Source: German Aerospace Center


American Airlines planes will get ViaSat’s powerful WiFi

American Airlines is equipping a fleet of Boeing 737 MAX planes with in-flight WiFi other than Gogo’s. It has inked a deal with California-based company ViaSat, which also provides internet connection to some of Virgin America’s newest A320 planes. ViaSat promises an “at home” experience by providing you with a (12 Mbps) connection strong enough to stream movies and music. It uses a high-capacity satellite system, and it’s launching another satellite in 2019 to make its connection even faster. You can’t confirm that speed on an AA plane just yet, though: the 100 737 MAX planes the carrier ordered won’t be delivered until September 2017.

According to Chicago Tribune, Gogo’s shares dropped after the partnership was announced. However, despite AA’s and Gogo’s tumultuous relationship, they’re not completely breaking up just yet. American Airlines petitioned a district court in February to allow it to ditch Gogo and switch to ViaSat. It ended up withdrawing its request, though, and agreed to equip 134 Airbus planes with Gogo’s newer 2Ku WiFi service.

Source: ViaSat


Password app developer overlooks security hole to preserve ads

Think it’s bad when companies take their time fixing security vulnerabilities? Imagine what happens when they avoid fixing those holes in the name of a little cash. KeePass 2 developer Dominik Reichl has declined to patch a flaw in the password manager’s update check as the “indirect costs” of the upgrade (which would encrypt web traffic) are too high — namely, it’d lose ad revenue. Yes, the implication is that profit is more important than protecting users.

The impact is potentially quite severe, too. An attacker could hijack the update process and deliver malware that would compromise your PC.

To his credit, Reichl notes that he’d like to move to encryption as soon as he believes it’s possible. You can also verify that you’re getting a signed download, if you’re worried. However, it’s still contradictory to develop a security-centric app and decide that security should take a back seat. Even if it’s true that ad income would take a steep hit, the consequences of knowingly exposing people to attack (including alienating those who once trusted the password tool) are likely far more severe.

Via: Hacker News, SwiftOnSecurity (Twitter)

Source:, Sourceforge


Silk Road 2.0 staffer gets 8 years in prison

It’s clear that authorities want Silk Road 2.0’s operators to face stiff penalties for running an online black market… even when they’re not the top dogs. A federal judge has sentenced Brian Farrell, a key assistant to site architect Blake Benthall, to 8 years in prison. Farrell had pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to sell illegal drugs (including cocaine, heroin and meth) through the Dark Web portal, which emerged just weeks after law enforcement shut down the original Silk Road in fall 2013.

The penalty isn’t entirely shocking. Prosecutors say that Farrell admitted to being vital to Benthall. He may not have been running the show, but he was more than just a cog in the machine. However fitting the penalty might be, it’s likely intended as a warning to other secret site workers: you won’t get a slap on the wrist just because you’re a subordinate.

Source: Reuters


Microsoft Band 2 gets Cortana support for Android users

Microsoft Band 2 pairs up just fine with Android phones. But if you want to be able to issue voice commands through the wearable, check out the latest update for Microsoft Health. The app’s newest version comes with Cortana integration for Android users — something that only used to be available for people whose Bands are connected to a Windows Phone device.

After updating your Health app, you’ll be able bark voice commands on the Band’s mic without having to touch your phone and get instant notifications. ​According to The Digital Lifestyle, though, you have to be in the US (due to the app’s limited availability) and have Cortana for Android installed on your phone to be able to use the feature. You can read the application’s change log on Google Play, which also lists the ability to create challenges for everyone in your friends’ circle who has the wearable.

Via: The Digital Lifestyle

Source: Microsoft Health (Google Play)


RNA gene editing could stop viruses in their tracks

The gene editing technique CRISPR promises to treat all kinds of genetically-linked conditions, but it’s so far limited to tweaking DNA, not the RNA that does everything from carrying protein sequence info to regulating gene expression. That may change soon, however. Scientists have discovered that a commonplace mouth bacterium (Leptotrichia shahii) can be programmed to break down whatever RNA you want. You could rip apart viruses, which are frequently based solely around RNA, or kill a cancer cell by denying it the chance to make vital proteins.

This isn’t a cure-all right now. Researchers have to refine their approach before it works in humans, and it’s hard to say whether or not this RNA editing will be as effective in practice. As you might surmise, though, the potential is huge. If this works as well as it suggests, you could fight a wider array of illnesses with gene editing, even those that are notoriously difficult to treat using conventional methods.

Via: New York Times

Source: Science


[Review] Charge your robot boyfriend with a Blitzwolf battery

The Blitzwolf charger is a sleek, aluminum portable battery that I was sent to review. Of all of the battery packs I’ve reviewed so far, this one is my favorite. Let’s find out why.

First Impressions

The aluminum curves of this battery pack would make Jony Ive swoon. This is a beautiful piece of tech, and one that I love to use. Like an iPhone, this battery pack is prone to picking up scratches here and there, but I find that this gives gadgets more character.



  • Model: BW-P1
  • Capacity: 10400mAh/37.44Wh
  • Battery Type: LG 2600mAh Li-ion battery x4
  • Input: 5V/2.1A 9V/1.8A
  • Output: 5V/2A (Universal), 5V/2.1A, 9V/1.8A, 12V/1.35A (for Android QC2.0), 5V/2.4A (for Apple)
  • Size: 102 x 76.8 x 21.5mm / 4.02 x 3.02 x 0.85in
  • Weight: 270g
  • Certification: CE, FCC, CEC, Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0


The power bank holds roughly four full phone charges, unless of course your Android phone has a ginormous 3000mah+ battery. Like most chargers and power banks, it’s a breeze to use. Just plug it in and go. It only has one USB output port, which is kind of limiting. If it had one more port I’d say the battery would be 100% perfect.

“I had a baby battery! And it was perfect, in every way!”

-Mad Max: Fury Road (or something)


I’m deeply sorry for forgetting that apostrophe but I’m too lazy to go back and edit. Although a small thing, one of my favorite things about this power bank is that when I unplug my phone after a good charge, the battery automatically turns itself off. With some battery packs I’ve used, you have to manually press a button to turn it off and on.

On the front of the device you’ll find the button, LED light indicators, a micro USB port to charge the power bank itself, and a USB 3.0 port to charge your gadget. As you can see, it’s a 10400mAh battery. My love of symmetry wishes it was an even 10000 or 11000, but I’m not complaining.


I love this thing and I recommend it everyone. I’m not just saying that either, I personally tell my friends and family to buy one. You can pick one up for $21.99 at Banggood.

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The Prophix smart toothbrush will film the inside of your mouth

The American Dental Association recommends using an electric toothbrush over a manual one, but even with the added power, it’s possible to miss spots while cleaning your teeth. The forthcoming Prophix smart video toothbrush from Onvi aims to improve your brushing efficiency by showing you a live stream of the inside of your mouth — on your phone.

The Prophix packs in a small light and an HD camera, capable of recording 1080p video and 10-megapixel stills. This allows users to get a gag-inducing closeup view of where the brush head is cleaning — not to mention the flecks of food and gunk caught between your teeth. Luckily, the system includes four interchangeable attachments — a brush, a prophy cup, a rubber picking tip and a tiny mirror — to help you scrub away that effluence. What’s more, if you happen to find a trouble spot, you’ll be able to snap a photo of it to show your dentist later.

The ability to film the inside of your mouth will not come cheap. Despite the fact that this device performs the same basic function as my existing system (aka my bathroom mirror and a pair of functional eyes), Onvi is asking a whopping $400 for the Prophix. That’s roughly double what both the Sonicare FlexCare Platinum and Oral-B 7000 SmartSeries brushes sell for. I mean, I can understand the advantage of including the prophy cup and rubber pick attachments, especially for people who are already dealing with dental issues like gingivitis. But slapping a camera and light on this thing — not to mention having to install yet another app — feels gimmicky.

Also, if you’ve got $400 to blow on a video toothbrush, then you’re clearly an adult. An adult who, presumably, is responsible enough to brush his damn teeth regularly without having to follow the directions of a gamified stat tracker.


Facebook shoves mobile web users toward the Messenger app

Remember when Facebook divorced instant messages from the main app and forced folks to download Messenger if they wanted a direct way to send quick missives while on the go? Well, the social network is doing something similar once again. Reports are floating about that people accessing their messages from the mobile web either isn’t possible or that there are a few annoying obstacles in place.

Android Authority writes that some mobile web users are getting a reminder that “Your conversations are moving to Messenger” with a near instantaneous redirect to the Google Play download page for Zuckerberg’s blue chat application. In our tests, it’s been hit or miss. I can still access everything from Chrome on iOS without any hiccups, but Android-owning coworkers experienced a couple of hurdles to get to their existing message threads — including a few bounces to Messenger. Zuckerberg and Co. are cranking the nag factor way up here for Android users.

Facebook’s motivation is pretty clear: It’s putting an awful lot of effort into Messenger and wants everyone to use it, whether the users care to or not. After all, there have been hints at ads making their way to the chat app. If there are ways to circumvent seeing those, people are going to use them. Until they’re gone, that is.

Source: Android Authority


MSQRD: Take selfies to the next level [Review]


It’s time to take selfies and videos to the next level with all sorts of fun filters that MSQRD has waiting for you. It has what you need to make your friends and family laugh with at you

Developer: Masquerade Technologies

Cost: Free

How To Use

MSQRD2There are two options, you can shoot a 30-second video or take a selfie with the many different face filters. Once you have taken your snap you are then given the option post to Instagram, Facebook, or just about any app you can think of to share it on. The video or picture is also saved to your photo gallery.  That’s it. That’s all there is to this app.


This is probably one of the simplest apps in the Play Store. MSQRD has 23 different filters that you can use including Pee Wee Herman, Daredevil, and even Jimmy Kimmel. Though I’m not sure why you would want to have Jimmy Kimmel’s face.

What makes this app great is how well it recognizes your face and adapts to it. I have played with a few apps that attempt this same thing and have fallen short. But, the folks at Masquerade Technologies have really nailed it on this one.


This sort of app doesn’t appeal to everyone and I get that, but honestly my family and I must have sat around for 45 minutes tinkering with this app and having fun with it. This app doesn’t do much, but what it does do, it does it well. I’m sure at some point they will add some filters for a premium, but for now, it’s 100% free. It’s worth the download.

Download MSQRD in the Play Store


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