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December 23, 2008  3:26 PM

Skype’s 2008 — the good, the bad, the… back door?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

On FierceVoIP, Doug Mohney discusses the kind of year Skype’s had: 2008 Year in Review: Just Skype, Baby

Skype celebrated its fifth year of operation over the summer and now has more than 370 million registered users. The company brags that its peer-to-peer VoIP/IM/video client software is in use in nearly every country on the planet and that people have made more than 100 billion minutes worth of free Skype-to-Skype calls.

Further on in the post, Mohney mentions that Skype’s Chinese parter was discovered to be eavesdropping on customers and in this post, Mohney speculates about the possiblity that Skype has a built-in back door for precisely that purpose:

Rumors have been floating around on Skype selling a special listening device to interested governments and there has long been speculation about a back door to the program. Because Skype’s code and protocols are both proprietary and closed, security experts have long wondered what Skype is capable of and what risks may arise in deploying the software in an enterprise environment.

December 15, 2008  1:25 PM

Seebeck effect demo

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/HSQ54Vo6Lzo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

December 10, 2008  1:20 PM

Skype tutorial demos

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

This video takes you through the process of making free calls with Skype from downloading the software to connecting:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rdyuqhht1Mg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


This video from Skype demonstrates using the service for business: 

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/8zjEsSw3Bno" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


FrugalTech discusses more ways to save money using Skype for business:

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Kid Guru explains how to record calls for podcasting and other purposes:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VZBHRDsVX0E" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Betchaboy demonstrates making a video call with Skype:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zWq7n4w3cq4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

December 10, 2008  11:43 AM

Happy 40th birthday, computer mouse!

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

first mouseToday the computer mouse celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Pictured is version 1.0, held held by inventor Douglas Engelbart.

[Image credit: CERN Courier]

Modern mice have come a long way since this wooden prototype but the essential function — transferring physical motion to moving a cursor on the screen — remains the same.


Some great factoids about the computer mouse, via Wikipedia:

  • The name ‘mouse’ originated at originated at the Stanford Research Institute, where researchers noted its similarity of the cord to a certain rodent’s tail
  • Bill English, builder of Engelbart’s original mouse, invented the so-called ball mouse in 1972 while working for Xerox PARC.
  • The first mouse shipped as a part of a computer came with the Xerox 8010 Star Information System in 1981
  • Inclusion with Apple’s Macintosh is where the mouse really took off

The BBC has posted videos of Englebart explaining how the mouse got its name and the first demonstration of the mouse in a fascinating story that includes extensive quotes from the inventor.  (Sorry, no embeds available for BBC video content.)

Gearlog also has a great guided tour of 40 Years of The Mouse, if you’d like to take look back at the evolution of modern computing’s most ubiquitous peripheral.

Just move that cursor over and click on the hyperlink above — and thank Engelbart for his vision.

December 9, 2008  6:17 PM

Jaguar and ECOphlex – Greening the data center, fast

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

This video from Cray takes you on a tour of the ECOphlex cooling system at work in a data center.

December 8, 2008  5:59 PM

Adobe’s Zoetrope really takes you back

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Adobe's come up with an application that lets users look at past versions of Web pages or sections of pages and perform complex comparisons of various data, such as exchange rates or gas prices over time. A scroll bar at the bottom of the screen allows you to scroll backwards in time. So, for example, if you were on the WhatIs.com home page, you could scroll backwards to see what the Word of the Day was yesterday, check out the Overheard in the Blogosphere quote and the trivia and Writing for Business questions. You can also perform more complicated research and explore correlation among varying factors over time.

Here's a video demo:

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Erica Naone wrote about Zoetrope for MIT’s Technology Review.  As Naone points out, the historical data will have to be available for the system to maintain it. That’s a lot of data and it will take a while to amass.

Zoetrope isn’t available as a download yet but it could be pretty useful when it is. It’s not yet known whether it will be released as a standalone application or will be a browser component.

November 30, 2008  5:38 PM

Who could resist Fennec? It’s so cute!

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Site director Margaret Rouse and I were IMing a couple of weeks ago, which we do a fair amount of because our “office” spans about 800 miles. We were discussing a definition for Fennec, Mozilla’s mobile version of the Firefox browser when suddenly she said, apropos of nothing I could discern, “It’s so cute!”

As you probably know, IM conversations are prone to the occasional missed step or dropped thread. I wondered briefly what she was talking about. A cute browser, I wondered? But I had faith… and then there it was, a link.  Here’s what I saw:

fennec-fox.jpg No denying, it’s cute. But I was still none the wiser. I knew that Margaret is a dog person and, in fact, has raised guide dogs. That’s a cute pup, I said. “What kind is it?” It’s a fennec, she told me. A little fox. (Comprehension was, you’ll be glad to hear, swift and, well, comprehensive: Big Firefox: full-sized fox mascot. Small verson: small fox mascot. Gotcha.)

At least at this point, the mobile adaptation of Firefox is named for a small, desert-dwelling fox. Here’s a video demo:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/plykL77bL-c" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

All clear? Me too. Now I wonder what this week's IMs will bring...

~ Ivy Wigmore


November 20, 2008  9:08 AM

Windows Azure video demo

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Here’s Manuvir Das’ presentation about Windows Azure, from Microsoft’s 2008 Professional Developers’ Conference:

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November 15, 2008  4:21 PM

g-speak: Oblong brings the “Minority Report” operating system to science reality

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

William Gibson noted recently that the cyberpunk fiction he’d been writing over the past quarter century has now become science fact. Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are both set in near-futures with technology and social norms that are only a slight extension of the complex technological realities of the present. The neural shunt that jacks you into the network he imagined in Neuromancer hasn’t quite have arrived yet but some humans now have direct brain-computer interfaces implanted in their brains.

Brad Feld appreciates this relationship between science fiction and fact as few others do. As he writes in ‘Science Fact‘ on Oblong’s web blog, the future of human-computer interaction is looking breathtaking. And, while the genetically-engineering precognitive humans Philip K. Dick imagined in “Minority Report” in 1956 haven’t arrived yet, g-speak certainly has.

g-speak is a spatial operating environment from Oblong Industries that combines a gestural interface, DLP projectors and ‘recombinant networking.” It’s modeled upon the virtual OS operated by Precrime Agent John Anderton in Minority Report, the film adaptation of Dick’s short story.

That connection is no accident. The science adviser that Spielberg consulted for the film, John Underkoffler, has been quietly busy since the film’s premiere in 2002. A few stories have popped up over the years, to be sure, but since Oblong Industries was founded in the research in 2006 he and other technologists have advanced the technology considerably, as you’ll see in the video below.

Once you’ve watched it, read g-speak in slices and about the origins of Oblong in the MIT Media Lab to learn about the potential for this human-to-machine interface and the long road to bringing it into reality..

[kml_flashembed movie="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2229299" width="555" height="335" wmode="transparent" /]

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

[Hat tip to Engadget’s Josh Topolsky and Jamie.]

Embedded below is a 2007 report on g-speak featuring an interview with Underkoffler.

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November 6, 2008  4:56 PM

Will buckypaper cars fly — or will we need buckypaper airplanes?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

From the Associated Press:

It’s called ‘buckypaper’ and looks a lot like ordinary carbon paper, but don’t be fooled by the cute name or flimsy appearance. It could revolutionize the way everything from airplanes to TVs are made.

See the video:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/hkijxr4z_mY " width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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