Ultra-cheap PC for education: 25$ gets you a very smart USB stick.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | May 5, 2011 - 10:37 PM |
Tagged: usb computer, Education

In case you did not get enough solder for one day: you are in luck! David Braben, previously known for his work developing such games as Rollercoaster Tycoon, Thrillville, and Kinectimals, created an extremely low cost PC for educational use. His goal is ultimately to have computers like the one he created be accessible such that there would be functionally zero barriers to entry for students to pursue studying computing. A charity was created, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, under these beliefs to distribute this device hopefully sometime within the next 12 months.

Am I the only one who finds it weird that an affordable PC uses HDMI?

Given our demographic it would be blasphemous to not relay the specifications of the PC he created. The PC itself is slightly larger than a USB key in size and runs Ubuntu as its operating system though other distributions are likely possible. The processor is an ARM11 clocked at 700 MHz supported by 128MB of RAM and a GPU which supports OpenGL ES2.0 outputting at least 1080p resolutions. For connectivity it has USB port to attach to a keyboard and an HDMI port to attach to a monitor or flat screen TV. Storage is handled for by an SD card and other accessories are mountable such as the demonstrated 12 MP camera. While not explicitly listed on their site it appears as if connectivity is achieved wired via Ethernet through USB.
While this is obviously a low powered device its cost is only around 25$ and should be powerful enough to handle website interaction, scripting, and other educational applications. This PC and others like it should hopefully ensure that everyone has access to the internet and all of its educational, professional, and employment benefits.
Source: Geek.com

Potential LastPass Break-in Disclosed by LastPass

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2011 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: security, lastpass

One of the most important parts of security is authentication. A lot of our methods of authentication online revolve around passwords. There is an expectation these days that you are required to remember large passwords composed of completely random characters including numbers and symbols each unique from each other in the event that one source compromises the password you provide it. This necessity confronts our human nature of having terrible memory. Many programs have made attempts at solutions by storing and generating secure passwords for you.



LastPass is currently one of the most popular platforms for that such need. Wednesday, Lastpass announced on their blog that they have noticed on odd behavior on Tuesday morning in their network traffic without being able to track the source. The security firm claims that while they are unable to tell if user data was compromised that there was a possibility that their list of user email addresses and the corresponding salted and hashed, an algorithm designed to encode data in a way that is almost impossible to ever decode, passwords. Passwords are hashed since the server does not need to know what the password is, only whether it is the same as what was input by the user, so storing the password itself is just asking for trouble in case of intrusion.
LastPass is claiming that they will require their users to change their master password especially in the event that your LastPass password is easily guessed. Currently I have not received such notification on my account but comments on their blog suggest that some have been notified of this requirement. If anything this potential break-in illustrates just how hard actual security is and how much of a concern it should be for the general population at all times that valuable information is being handled.

The 8GB Atari 810 Drive, now with flash memory support

Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 5, 2011 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: mod, microSD, atari 810

It is common knowledge that technology gets smaller as time advances. There is, however, a point where a certain level of advancement trots along the border to absurdity and makes you think about exactly what is possible with modern technology and occasionally an innovative spirit. Leave it to the hackers to consistently push that boundary and entertain the rest of us less talented individuals.

Recently a blogger by the name of Rossum detailed on their Posterous blog their project of creating a microSD reader as a model replacement of an Atari 810 disk drive.
Image from Rossum
The original Atari 810 disk had the storage of 88K which is about 90,000 times smaller than the 8GB microSD card used in the miniaturized model 810 drive. Rossum claims to provide all the models, schematics, and code for the project in the near future for anyone wishing to dust off their soldering irons and create their own.

Gigabyte goes wireless with their new Aviva mouse

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2011 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: mouse, wireless, gaming, gigabyte

Gigabyte has joined in the attempts of many companies to convince gamers that wireless mice are cool.  With 50 hours of battery life and 6500DPI sensor the Aviva M8600 sounds good on paper but until you get it on the mat you will never know how well it performs.  Hardware Secrets were certainly impressed by its ambidexterity, they were just as uncomfortable using it with the left hand as with the right.  No complaints about input lag though.


"Gamers usually shun wireless peripherals, always wary of a possible energy loss. No one wants to rummage around for a cable and lose an online match. With that in mind, Gigabyte has released a wireless gaming-grade mouse with a long lasting 50 hour battery that comes with an extra battery that you can rapidly switch. Besides those characteristics, the Aivia M8600 reaches 6,500 DPI and features a design for both right- and left-handed users, plus ten reprogrammable buttons. Let's talk first about its physical aspects and then test its wireless operation."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Recent Study Finds Students In US Are Not Properly Prepared To Protect Themselves Online

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 5, 2011 - 08:35 AM |
Tagged: Internet, Education, Cyber Security

 Microsoft recently posted a press release detailing the results of its sponsored study by the NCSA (National Cyber Security Alliance). The study sought to determine whom people believe bears the responsibility for teaching children how to protect themselves on the Internet, as well as what the current situation is as far as K-12 students’ level of preparedness and education. The executive director of the NCSA, Michael Kaiser, had this to say:

“Just as we would not hand a child a set of car keys with no instruction about how to drive, we should not be sending students out into the world without a solid understanding of how to be safe and secure online."

According to Microsoft, the NCSA advocates for a “comprehensive approach” to teaching children from K-12 how to stay safe and secure online. While the consensus seems to be that students do need educated in Internet security, people are divided on exactly who bears the primary responsibility for teaching children. Children’s teachers, parents, and even government leaders and law enforcement have all been raised as possible responsible parties. The majority of teachers (80 percent) and school administrators (60 percent) surveyed are proponents of parents being responsible for teaching their kids about “digital safety, security, and ethics.” On the other hand, more than 50 percent of the IT coordinators surveyed believe that teachers are the ones that bear the most responsibility of educating kids. From the survey, one area where all groups do seem to agree is on the question of government responsibility in educating kids. Microsoft states that less than one percent believe law enforcement and government officials should bear the responsibility.


While cyber security is important for students to learn, as 97 percent of school administrators believe schools should have courses and an educational plan for students throughout their K-12 grades, only 68 percent of administrators “believe their schools or school districts are doing an adequate job of preparing students...”

The situation of adequate education looks even bleaker when teachers where surveyed. When asked whether they feel prepared to teach students adequately, 24 percent believed they were adequately prepared to talk about and educate kids on protecting personal information on the Internet, and 23 percent are comfortable teaching the risks of cyberbullying. Further, only one-third of teachers surveyed believe they are prepared to educated students on basic Internet security skills “such as password protection and backing up data.” The low numbers are attributed to the lack of professional development training that teachers are receiving. Microsoft states that “86 percent received less than six hours of related training.” Microsoft quotes Kaiser in saying that “America’s schools have not caught up with the realities of the modern economy. Teachers are not getting adequate training in online safety topics, and schools have yet to adopt a comprehensive approach to online safety, security and ethics as part of a primary education. In the 21st century, these topics are as important as reading, writing and math.”

In all of this, there is a ray of hope. Comparing the 2010 study to the NCSA’s 2008 study which you can read here, an increasing number of teachers believe cyber security and professional development training is a priority.More than 60 percent of school officials and teachers are interested in pursing further security training. This interest in training among teachers is up to 69 percent from 55 percent in 2008. IT coordinators and administrators are also becoming more interested in revamping the educational curriculum to better teach their students and workers.  Further improvements in interest among educators pursuing further security training can be seen between the 2010 and the 2011 NCSA study.  Also, slightly higher percentages exist across the board for teachers who have tought aspects of security in their classrooms compared to both the 2010 and 2008 studies.

On the other hand, while interest in training is increasing for teachers, from 2010 to 2011, security topics taught in clases have actually dropped.  This is in addition to a decrease in teachers' beliefs that they bear responsibility in educating kids.


A comparison paper between the 2008 and 2010 study can be downloaded here (PDF).

What are your thoughts on this issue; who bears the primary responsibility in educating children on the importance of Internet safety?


Image 1 courtesy 2011 NCSA study.  Image 2 courtesy 2008 to 2010 NCSA comparison study.  Material is copyright NCSA, and used according to fair usage guidelines for the purpose of commentary and reporting.

Source: Microsoft

Seagate Shows Off 1TB Per Platter Hard Drives

Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 5, 2011 - 08:28 AM |
Tagged: Hard Drive, Areal Density, 1TB Platter

 In an amazing feat of data density, Seagate has once again made a leap to the next level of storage technology unveiling 1 Terabyte per platter drives. WIth an areal density of 625 Gigabytes per square inch, Seagate claims the new drives are capable of storing “virtually countless hours of digital music,” and “1,500 video games.”


The move to 1TB per platter drives is an especially important step for high capacity drives. Current 1TB+ drives are using two 500 GB platters, while current 3TB drives are using either four 750 GB platters in the form of the WD Caviar Green 3 TB that PC Perspective has reviewed here, or the five 600 GB platters. With Seagate’s new technology, they will be able to cut the number of platters in their highest capacity 3 TB drives almost in half. By moving from five platters to three, their drives will run cooler, faster, and with less power draw. Improved areal density also reduces the number of moving parts, and thus decreases the points of failure, even with the inclusion of newer and more sensitive read heads.

The place in the market where this new technology will make the most noticeable difference is in the mobile segment. With just a single platter, mobile users will have close to 1.5 terabytes of internal storage in a two platter drive, or 750 GB in a one platter drive while using less power and being capable of faster reads. This means that road warriors will be able to keep more of their files with them without reducing battery life compared to the current crop of mobile hard drives.

Unfortunately, mobile users will have to wait, as Seagate has only announced 3.5” desktop and external drives. These drives will be branded under both the Seagate Barracuda XT and GoFlex lines respectively.


For desktop users, they can currently expect capacities ranging from 1TB to 3TB drives. In a RAID array, these new lower power and potentially faster drives would make for a great addition to an HD video editing rig. Call me crazy, but I’m going to hold onto my old school 320 GB Seagate drives until I can jump straight to 4 TB. So, where’s my 4 platter, 4TB drive Seagate?

Are you excited about this new platter technology? What would you do with 3 terabytes of storage?

Source: Seagate

What is AIDA64 Extreme Edition? Only the new improved replacement for the Everest benchmarking tool

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Storage | May 4, 2011 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: ssd, everest, benchmarking, benchmark, aida64, aida

BUDAPEST, Hungary - May 04, 2011 - FinalWire Ltd. today announced the immediate availability of AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.70 software, a streamlined diagnostic and benchmarking tool for home users; and the immediate availability of AIDA64 Business Edition 1.70 software, an essential network management solution for small and medium scale enterprises.


The new AIDA64 release further strengthens its solid-state drive health and temperature monitoring capabilities, and implements support for the latest graphics processors from both AMD and nVIDIA.

New features & improvements

  • LGA1155 B3 stepping motherboards support
  • Preliminary support for AMD “Bulldozer” and “Llano” processors
  • Intel 320, Intel 510, OCZ Vertex 3, Samsung PM810 SSD support
  • GPU details for AMD Radeon HD 6770M, Radeon HD 6790
  • GPU details for nVIDIA GeForce GT 520, GT 520M, GT 550M, GT 555M, GTX 550 Ti, GTX 590

Pricing and Availability
AIDA64 Extreme Edition and AIDA64 Business Edition are available now at www.aida64.com/online-store. Additional information on product features, system requirements, and language versions is available at www.aida64.com/products. Join our Discussion Forum at forums.aida64.com.

AIDA64 license renewal is now available. For more information, visit www.aida64.com/aida64-renewal.
A migration program is available for all EVEREST customers at www.aida64.com/everest-upgrade.

Source: AIDA

Antivirus effectiveness report: Microsoft Security Essentials behind its peers

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2011 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: mse, Malware, antivirus

One of the major drawbacks of having general purpose computation devices is malware. Your computers are designed to manipulate and store instructions and information and they do that amazingly. Your computers, however, cannot tell who gave what instruction; they follow a set of instructions until it links to another, which they follow, ad infinitum. When someone who wants to use your computer can get their series of instructions run by your computer: that is when you got a problem.

Antivirus software is designed to detect when a bundle of bits on your computer could translate to a likely attack. The big question is how effective are each antivirus package at doing just that.
Oh is it reeaaaalllllyyy?
The firm AV-test.org tests antivirus software and assigns it with a score based on various factors. They recently published their findings for this quarter and found Microsoft Security Essentials was the second-least effective at preventing infections from occurring according to their scoring metric. Their report (PDF) shows that while Microsoft is effective at blocking recent malware it has difficulty with 0-day attacks.
Despite the ranking it should be noted that antivirus software should be just a guard looking over your shoulder monitoring what you do. Keep your computer and all programs on it that receive data up to date, be careful of what you run, and keep a minimum number of ports forwarded to your PC. Then and only then will an Antivirus package help protect you against what is left.
Lastly, if you happen to suspect that your computer has an infection: back up your data, reinstall your operating system, and enjoy a speedy virus-free computer. That method is free and more effective than hoping an Antivirus package reversed all the damage the virus did because you have no method of knowing otherwise.
Source: av-test.org

Rumor: Amazon Tablet in 2011 looking more likely

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 4, 2011 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: tablet, kindle, amazon

Amazon certainly has a knack for causing a ruckus in just about any industry they step into. Their inception placed them in stiff competition with bookstores and mail-order catalogs; since then they have branched out even as far as rental computing and storage, content production and publishing, and consumer electronics.

A recently rumored OEM order to Quanta Computer, already an OEM partner of RIM and Sony, proposes that Amazon is looking to beef up their portfolio to include Tablet PCs.


Could Amazon be Kindling for a much bigger fire? 

According to DigiTimes’ accounts from an unnamed source the orders Amazon placed would be for touch screens. The source expects that units shipped would be around 700,000-800,000 units per month starting in the second half of the year. The total transaction is also expected to be worth $3.5 billion US for Quanta.
This rumor, if true, does not suggest which type of tablet Amazon would be up to. Currently Amazon is involved in the e-book market through their Kindle line which DigiTimes also suggests might receive a price cut to reposition itself in the market. Amazon is also currently invested in the Android platform through their Amazon Appstore for Android. They also developed an in-browser trial for Android Apps called Test Drive. This sequence of events tends to suggest that Amazon is gearing up for an Android-based tablet but does little more than just that: suggest.
Source: DigiTimes

Intel Invents New 3 Dimensional Transistor for 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs, Dubs it "Tri-Gate"

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 4, 2011 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: transistor, Intel

"After a decade of research, Intel has unveiled the world's first three dimensional transistor" states Mark Bohr, a Senior Fellow for Intel. Silicon based transistors in computers, mobile devices, vehicles, and embedded equipment have only existed in a planar, or two dimensional, form until today.

The new three dimensional transistor, dubbed "Tri-Gate," is now ready for high volume production, and will be included in Intel's new Ivy Bridge 22nm processors. This new Tri-Gate transistor is a huge deal for Intel as it will enable them to maintain the pace of current chip evolution as outlined by Moore's Law. If you are not familiar with Moore's Law, it states that approximately every 18 months, transistor density will double, bringing with it increases in performance and yeild while decreasing cost of production. Intel states that "It has become the basic business model for the semiconductor industry for more than 40 years." 

As processors become smaller and smaller, the electric current becomes more and more difficult to contain.  There are hundreds of thousands of minute connections and switches inside today's processors, and as manufacturing processes shrink, the amount of current leakage increases.  With Intel's Core 2 Duo processors, Intel created a new "high-k"(high dielectric constant, which is a property of matter relating to the amount of charge it can hold) metal gate transistor using a material called Hafnium.  The new material replaced the silicon dioxide dielectric gate of the transistor to combat the current leakage problem at 32nm.  This allowed the chip process to shrink while scaling to produce less current leakage and heat.  To be more specific, Intel states that "because high-k gate dielectrics can be several times thicker, they reduce gate leakage by over 100 times. As a result, these devices run cooler."

Unfortunately, at the much smaller 22nm process, Intel was not achieving results congruent with Moore's Law using even their high-k gate transistors.  In order to maintain the scaling predicted in Moore's Law, Intel had to once again re-invent their transistors.  In order to create a smaller manufacturing process while overcoming current leakage, Intel had to develop a way to use more of what little space they had available to them.  It is here that they entered the third dimension.  By designing a transistor that is able to control the electrical current on three sides instead of a single plane, they are able to shrink the transistor while ending up with more surface area to "control the stream" as Mark Bohr puts it.


The proposed benefits of Tri-Gate lie in it's ability to operate at lower voltages, with higher energy efficiency, all while running cooler and faster than ever before.  More specifically, up to 37 percent increases in performance at low voltages versus Intel's current line of 32nm processors.  Intel further states that "the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips."  This means that at the same performance level of the current crop of Intel CPUs, Ivy Bridge will be able to do the same calculations either while using half the power needed of Sandy Bridge or nearly twice as fast (it is unlikely to scale perfectly as there is overhead and other elements of the chip that will not be as radically revamped) at the same level of power consumption.  If this sort of scaling turns out to be true for the majority of Ivy Bridge chips, the overclocking abilities and resulting performance should be of unprecedented levels.

The use of Tri-Gate transistors is also mentioned as being beneficial for mobile and handheld devices as the power efficiency should allow increases in battery life.  This is due to the chip running at decreased voltages while maintaining (at least) the same level of performance as current mobile chips.  While Intel did not demo any mobile CPUs, they did state that Tri-Gate transistors may be integrated into future Atom chips.

Source: Intel