? Episode 298
 all tech radio show
 
 
  • International Monetary Fund computers by hackers said to be linked to a foreign government follows incidents against companies and governments that illustrate the growth of cyber-attacks as an espionage tool. The IMF hack resulted in the loss of a "large quantity" of data, including documents and e-mails, according to a person familiar with the incident, a security expert who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak on the subject. This year, the Group of 20 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have also come under cyber-attack. The person said the intrusion was state-based, without saying which government is thought to be behind it. The Washington-based IMF approved a record $91.7 billion in emergency loans last year and provides a third of bailout packages in Europe.
  • When the final space shuttle mission launches later this year, two iPhone 4s will be on board. The iPhones will be running an experimental app called SpaceLab for iOS, designed by Odyssey Space Research. The inspiration to create an iPhone-based space experiment came when the iPhone 4 debuted in 2010, Rishikof said. The new model includes a gyroscope. "For the kind of work we do, that suddenly made it a far more interesting platform," Rishikof said. That's because Houston-based Odyssey's business is developing software and simulations for guidance and navigation used in several spacecraft; a gyroscope meant that the iPhone could potentially be used to determine a vehicle's orientation in space as well as its position.
  • Microsoft has lost its patent case against i4i over Microsoft Word. Microsoft will have to pay $279 million for the loss, and this opens the flood gates for patent trolls who will be looking for patents that may have been violated so they can sue and hopefully settle for big money against big players like Apple, Google and Microsoft.
  • The US Government is leading a global effort to deploy "shadow" Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks. A group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype "Internet in a suitcase." Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet. Cell towers provided by towers on US Army bases will allow 3G connectivity back to the internet.
  • It was bound to happen sooner or later: just one week after Apple's formal announcement of iCloud at WWDC 2011, a company called iCloud Communications has filed a trademark suit against Apple. The Arizona-based company points out that its own trademarks have been in use since 2005 and that Apple has infringed on its name with the introduction of its own cloud-based service-which it alleges is part of a pattern of willful infringement on Apple's part. According to iCloud Communications' website, the company focuses on VoIP solutions for business and residential customers, though in its complaint filed in the US District Court of Arizona, the company also says it provides other cloud computing services to its customers as well. In addition to having spent more than $550,000 building up its data center and telecommunications hub in Phoenix, the company claims to spend "tens of thousands of dollars" annually in advertisements using its own iCloud logos.
  • Scientists have merged light-emitting proteins from jellyfish with a single human cell to create a unique first: a living, biological laser, according to a report published in the journal Nature Photonics. "This is the first time that we have used biological materials to build a laser and generate light from something that is living," said Seok-Hyun Yun, an optical physicist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who created the "living laser" with his colleague Malte Gather. Lasers require two elements: a material that amplifies light, called a "gain medium," and an arrangement of mirrors to concentrate light waves into a beam. Gain mediums have traditionally been crystals, semiconductors or gases. Yun and Gather turned instead to green fluorescent protein (GFP) -- the substance that makes jellyfish bioluminescent.
  • Responding to some people's seemingly insatiable need to share their thoughts online, Nuance has updated its Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software so users no longer need to type to post updates to Facebook or Twitter. "We're seeing a strong user interest in interacting with social media sources," said Peter Mahoney, Nuance senior vice president and general manager of Dragon. The newly released Dragon 11.5 also allows the iPhone to be used as an input microphone. First released in 1997, the Dragon line is one of the most widely used speech recognition software programs in use today. The company, which holds about 1,000 patents on speech recognition-related technology, offers the technology for personal, mobile and corporate use. Version 11.5 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes with a number of updates that bring the software into the mobile and social-networking age.
  • A breakthrough study has revealed that each one of us receives approximately 60 new mutations in our genome from our parents. Apparently, we're all mutants. The report is the first-ever direct measure of new mutations coming from mother and father allowing researchers to answer the question: how many new mutations does a child have and did he get them from mom or dad? Although much of our variety results from the reshuffling of genes through sexual reproduction, "new mutations" are the ultimate source of new variations. "New mutations" are those that occur in the sperm or egg cells, mutations not seen in our parents. Finding new mutations though, is extremely challenging given the event's rarity - only 1 in every 100 million letters of DNA is altered each generation. As such, instead of directly measuring new mutations, previous studies often averaged mutation rates across both sexes or measured them over several generations.
  • E3 Wrap Up
  • Game-playing heads to the 'cloud' Apple has gotten a lot of attention recently for the unveiling of its iCloud, but in the video-game sphere, two companies already in the "cloud" - delivering complex games via the Net to smaller, simpler devices than consoles and PCs - unveiled new advances. OnLive demonstrated new apps that allow full-featured games to be played on tablets such as the iPad, the Motorola Xoom and other devices based on Google's Android system. Many games will be able to be adapted for touchscreen control when the service expands later this summer. From Dust, a game in development by Ubisoft for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, was shown being played using the iPad's touchscreen. Players also can choose to use an accessory universal controller (no price set). "You can have this little TV, if you will, and this controller, and have a full gaming experience," says Steve Perlman, president of OnLive, which began delivering games via browsers to computers and, using an adapter, to TVs last year. (Games can be rented, purchased or played as part of a $9.99 monthly subscription.) www.onlive.com If publishers choose, they could adapt games so that OnLive players could use a tablet and TV in tandem, "very much the vision that Nintendo was showing" at E3, Perlman says. The in-development Wii U console's handheld controller includes a 6.2-inch touchscreen. "The difference is, of course, this is something that works outside of your living room and is not tethered to the TV." Also on the way: OnLive capability built into Vizio TVs and other smart sets. Cloud-gaming competitor Gaikai (www.gaikai.com) takes a different approach, pitching publishers such as EA to use its globally connected network of servers to deliver their games directly to consumers. Games and demos can be played within a standard Web browser on computers, TVs and tablets. Most games can be streamed, but deep, rich games such as Mass Effect 2 might have a portion of the software downloaded to the user as the initial scenes play out. The download would be smaller than the standard game installation, says co-founder David Perry. "You don't have to install. We believe in the Web being the future," he says. Publishers also could allow their games to play directly through Facebook. Services that deliver console-quality experiences without requiring console-strength hardware could be a glimpse into the future, says M2 Research analyst Billy Pidgeon. "This may be the last generation of consoles, and if it is, it's going to be replaced by this sort of thing," he says. Having two competitors "just validates the space." 'BioShock' flies higher in 'Infinite' Perhaps the most talked-about game at E3 was BioShock Infinite (due in 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PCs), the third in 2K Games' celebrated sci-fi action series. Unlike its predecessors, based in the ruins of the underwater city of Rapture, this imaginative sequel takes place in the floating-on-air city of Columbia in an alternate 1912. You play as ex-Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, who is attempting to rescue the mysterious young Elizabeth from her jailer: a 20-foot-tall birdlike mechanical creature called the Songbird. The stunningly detailed world, memorable characters and intense action sequences - including a heated firefight that becomes dizzying when Booker hops on a roller-coaster-like sky-rail system to get around - all add to the unique, immersive experience. "We really wanted to put the player in this amazing world and tell our story not through non-interactive sequences - we tell the story through the world," says creative director Ken Levine, who is also co-founder of Irrational Games, which created the original 2007 hit BioShock."We tell the story through the character you are. We tell the story through the woman you're with." Lara Croft's back in reborn 'Tomb Raider' First James Bond, then Dr. Who. Now the latest British action hero to be reborn? Lara Croft. An origin story due in 2012, Tomb Raider unveils Lara Croft's transformation into the tomb-raiding adventurer. And this game, now in development for PS3, Xbox 360 and PCs, leaps out of its previously cartoonish mode into a full Mature-rated treatment, a first for the series. The story line involves Lara surviving a shipwreck only to be pursued on a mysterious island. "In order to portray this survival experience, this real visceral experience on the island going through these situations, you cannot do that in a Teen-rated world," says Karl Stewart of Crystal Dynamics, which is developing the game for publisher Square Enix. Early creepy scenes show her evading a shadowy captor in a dark, claustrophobic escape and self-treating serious wounds. "It is not about being able to constantly drop the F-bomb and have gore and grotesque use of language," he says. "It's just real survival and real situations. We want to make you feel like you are right there with her." At the outset, Lara is "sort of innocent, young and naive, but she has some of the qualities and the essence, the determination and the grittiness," Stewart says. "There are stages of character development. The goal of that is there will be a point in the game, probably within the first 1½ or two hours, when the player will sit back and go, 'That is Lara Croft. It's a Lara Croft that I now feel I understand. … You will have a connection to her." The franchise also is getting a movie reboot (the two originals starred Angelina Jolie). Cowboys & Aliens writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby are working on the film, which is expected in 2013. Sony's new handheld: The Vita Sony officially christened its next-generation portable the PlayStation Vita, successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP), to sell for $249 (Wi-Fi) and $299 (Wi-Fi plus 3G) when the global rollout begins at year's end. The PS Vita has a 5-inch multitouch organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen, a rear touchpad, two thumbsticks, front- and rear-facing cameras and SixAxis motion control. Among the Sony games in development for PS Vita are Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipeOut, Sound Shapes and Modnation Racers. Several third-party games were revealed as part of the Vita roster, too, including an original BioShock title from 2K Games, Street Fighter X Tekken from Capcom and Call of Duty from Activision. Other publishers such as EA, THQ and Ubisoft also are supporting the portable. "We believe this device will change how people think about portable gaming," says Sony's Scott Rohde. "The advanced technology packed into the PS Vita will deliver experiences never before seen on any handheld." AT&T will serve as the exclusive carrier for the 3G models. Sony is introducing the Vita as it attempts to reverse its fortunes in the portable gaming market. Although the company's announced sales of the PSP exceed 70 million units worldwide, the device has struggled against Nintendo's formidable DS, which has already sold more than 135 million.

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