China's Newly Completed FAST Now World's Largest Radio Telescope

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2016 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: seti, science, radio telescope

The Chinese officially began searching the stars around noon local time on Sunday using the newly completed FAST radio telescope which has surpassed Arecibo in being the world's largest single aperture telescope. Nestled in the natural Dawodang (limestone) depression in the remote and mountainous Pingtang county, Guizhou province, the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will search the heavens to catalog pulsars, investigate dark matter, gravitational waves, and fast radio bursts, and assist in the search for extraterrestrial life and natural hydrogen in distant galaxies.

The $180 million project has been in development for 14 years with construction beginning in 2011. The massive scientific endeavor required the relocation of several villages and 10,000 people living in the vicinity. Further, the remote area required the telescope to be constructed without the use of heavy machinery and the dish had to be constructed manually. FAST is modeled after the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico and uses 4,450 triangular reflector panels supported by a steel mesh suspended over the limestone valley using large steel towers anchored to the surrounding hills. FAST deviates from Arecibo when it comes to reflecting and receiving radio signals, however. While Arecibo uses a 900 ton movable receiver with a complex set of mirrors that make up a sub reflector, FAST uses 2,250 actuators (winches) that pull on up to 300m sections of the dish to create a parabola that can move in real time to track signals as the Earth rotates and reflect them back to the receiver which is reportedly much lighter and can contain more instruments than Arecibo.

While Arecibo, with its 305 meter dish, can track signals up to 20° from the zenith, FAST can track signals up to 26° from the zenith at 300 meter parabola sizes and up to 40° with smaller parabola sizes making it rather versatile. The massive dish combines the benefits of a large single fixed dish and a smaller dish (or dishes which could be combined to provide higher resolution using interferometry) that can tilt and rotate.

Specifically, Dennis Normile quoted experts in saying:

Single dishes excel at observing point sources like neutron stars and at scanning a multitude of frequencies in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, says astronomer Li Di, a FAST project scientist, who previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Another advantage is that, compared with the multiple dishes in an array, single dishes are “relatively cheap and relatively straightforward to upgrade,” says George Hobbs, an astronomer at CSIRO. “You just keep building better receivers.” (Dennis Normile at Science Magazine)

FAST is quite the accomplishment and I am interested to see what the scientists are able to discover using the world's largest radio telescope. Hopefully it will continue to receive adequate funding!

Also read:

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Evoluent

The Handshake Approach

Evoluent is a maker of ergonomic mice and keyboards, and we received one of the company's vertical mice for review. At a glance you can see that it's a very different design than the typical mouse, as it is intended to be used with the arm in a "handshake" position.

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"The patented ergonomic shape supports your hand in an upright neutral posture that eliminates forearm twisting. Many users said the Evoluent VerticalMouse provides superior comfort and even relieved their wrist pain."

The vertical design has been implemented to reduced strain on the arm and wrist, but how much of an adjustment is there in moving to this orientation? How sensitive and accurate is the sensor? Depending on your workload, precision might trump comfort, but if the VerticalMouse can provide both it would be quite an achievement.

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To test it out I resolved to use the VerticalMouse with my PC exclusively for a week. It was a startling change at first, feeling quite foreign in the first minutes. For someone who uses a standard mouse hours a day (sound familiar?) I felt like I wasn't in control as I attempted to move the cursor around, and I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to adjust. But I pushed on, and rapidly began to grow accustomed to the feeling.

Switching to something that promises to ease discomfort doesn't always mean instant gratification, as any seller of orthopedic shoes can tell you. There is going to be a period of adjustment, with the end result outweighing any initial hesitation - when it's effective, of course. I could spoil the review a bit here and tell you if I'm still using the mouse after a week (I am), but I'll fully describe my impressions below.

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Continue reading our review of the Evoluent VerticalMouse C Right wireless mouse!

It's a good time to be slinging lithium

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2016 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: lithium ion, battery

The price of lithium ion batteries is likely to spike in the near future as demand is far outstripping production.  While we are using them in ultramobile laptops, there is another quickly growing industry which consumes these same cylindrical lithium polymer based batteries, the electric car industry.  The demand has grown enough that suppliers are about to demand a noticeable raise in prices and as there does not seem to be any production increase they are likely to get it.  This will result in a small increase in price in ultraportables and a larger one in electric cars.  There is a concern that DigiTimes did not raise in their post; that this level of imbalance in supply and demand can lead to knock-offs and lower quality suppliers being considered as a source simply to ensure that a product is available. 

That could be somewhat of a concern; these batteries often hold a larger charge and are usually found in greater numbers than the ones currently in the news.

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"In addition to the 18650 cylinder battery, the lithium polymer battery, which is commonly used in ultra-thin notebook models, is also suffering from shortages as many vendors including Apple, Acer and Asustek Computer, have all scheduled to released new ultra-thin notebooks models in the near future."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Microsoft Announces Windows Defender Application Guard

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2016 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, virtualization, microsoft

Microsoft is currently hosting their Ignite conference, which is somewhat the successor of TechEd. Monday kicked off with a couple of keynotes, including one from Satya Nadella himself, but this post will focus on a specific announcement: Windows Defender Application Guard.

With a typical web browser, a malicious website can infect the user's PC by knowing an unpatched vulnerability, and exploiting it before they update their browser. The next feature release of Windows 10 is expected to include virtualization technology, again called Windows Defender Application Guard, which runs websites in a lightweight virtual machine if they are opened in Edge and not part of a whitelist. This means that the attacker, who wants to infect the user's device, not only needs to know of a vulnerability in Edge; they also need to know of a vulnerability in the virtual machine, and they must be able to use the Edge vulnerability to exploit it. Especially for enterprise environments, where ransom malware that encrypts any data it finds can be devastating, this should add a huge wall protecting a large, complex application platform (the web browser) from untrusted third-parties (websites).

Of course, this concept isn't new. Not only are virtual PCs are common in the enterprise for security and control reasons, but applications like SandboxIE have more directly implemented similar ideas. Still, having it be a built-in feature of the operating system should mean that it gets even more support with regards to performance and stability, versus tacking on a third-party solution through public APIs.

Speaking of public APIs -- Microsoft won't be providing one at first. It will only be used for Edge for the time being. Also, it's only available for Windows 10 Enterprise, so I hope you didn't get your hopes up.

Wow, that turned dark real quick.

Source: Ars Technica

The toasters are revolting!

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2016 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: iot, security, upnp

Over the weekend you might have noticed some issues on your favourite interwebs as there was a rather impressively sized DDOS attack going on.  The attack was a mix of old and new techniques; they leveraged the uPNP protocol which has always been a favourite vector but the equipment hijacked were IoT appliances.  The processing power available in toasters, DVRs and even webcams is now sufficient to be utilized and is generally a damned sight easier to control than even an old unpatched XP machine.  This does not spell the end of the world which will likely be predicted on the cable news networks but does further illustrate the danger in companies producing inherently insecure IoT devices.  If you are not sure what uPNP is, or are aware but do not currently need it, consider disabling it on your router or think about setting up something along the lines of ye olde three router solution

Hack a Day has links to a bit more information on what happened here.

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"Brace yourselves. The rest of the media is going to be calling this an “IoT DDOS” and the hype will spin out of control. Hype aside, the facts on the ground make it look like an extremely large distributed denial-of-service attack (DDOS) was just carried out using mostly household appliances (145,607 of them!) rather than grandma’s old Win XP system running on Pentiums."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Can't WiFi and LTE-U just get along?

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: wifi, lte-u, qualcomm

LTE-U, aka LTE in unlicensed spectrum, is a new standard originally proposed by Qualcomm which allows LTE signals to stray into the 5GHz band to allow faster data transfer over short throws without having to join your phone to a WiFi network.  It seems that the assumption is that users are to lazy or ignorant to have added their commonly used WiFi networks to their phones and so need this feature for convenience. 

There is the small problem of signal interference however, dual band WiFi uses the 5GHz spectrum and we are already seeing congestion on that band.  T-Mobile and Verizon claim that this extra traffic will not have any effect on WiFi signals and are already complaining about the thresholds they must honour, while Qualcomm seems to be trying to remain reasonable.  Tests are currently under way, under the monitoring of the WiFi Alliance, who have posted a technical paper describing what will be tested and how.  You can pop by The Register if you want to delve into the nuts and bolts of the current proposal.

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"Carriers, already under a spectrum squeeze, are hoping they can pitch their tents on Wi-Fi's campground, promising that LTE-U won't disrupt Wi-Fi. will play nice if there are Wi-Fi users around."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Lenovo's Signature Edition; hold the Superfish, heavy on the RAID

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2016 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Lenovo, linux, signature edition, microsoft

Yesterday we saw the first stories appear about how the malware free Lenovo Signature Editions of mobile devices such as the Yoga 900S and Yoga 710S blocked the installation of Linux and effigies of Microsoft and Lenovo were set afire.  As is common on the interwebs, the true villain was not implicated until the excitable crowd ran off with their pitchforks and torches and let the rest of us research the issue and track it back to Intel.

The issue is that the Intel soft RAID present on these machines is not really compatible with Linux, quite a common issue unfortunately.  Lenovo is not innocent in this however as thee have greatly exacerbated the issue by making it difficult to change your SATA from RAID to AHCI in the BIOS in Windows and impossible in a live boot of Linux.  In order to change your SATA settings Lenovo has decided to let you relive the days of Windows XP, when you had to bash on F6 during the initial installation of Windows to let it know you had a special disk with drivers on it to enable AHCI or RAID mode.  Even better, apparently you have to get in touch with Lenovo to get these drivers and they only work in Windows, of course.

So thanks to the lousy Linux support offered by Intel's soft RAID implementation you cannot install Linux on Signature Editions of some Yoga machines and if you have a need to set your SATA to AHCI, say because of Endpoint Encryption, you need to go through a process that went out with that OS Microsoft wants people to stop using.  If you want to track back the reddit thread and the research that was done to determine the culprit, The Register has compiled a good reference.

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"A Reddit thread this morning accuses Microsoft and Lenovo of conspiring to prevent the installation of non-Windows operating systems on the Chinese goliath's PCs at the firmware level. Linux fans vented on the message board about the difficulties of installing open-source distributions on certain Lenovo machines."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #418 - Air cooler roundup, Samsung 960 EVO and Pro announced and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2016 - 11:25 AM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, rivet, podcast, nvidia, msi, killer network, fatal1ty, evga, cooler, amd, 960 PRO, 960 EVO

PC Perspective Podcast #418 - 09/22/16

Join us this week as we discuss an air cooler roundup, Samsung 960 EVO and Pro announcement and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Sebastian Peak and Ken Addison

Fall in! Battlefield 1 specs released

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2016 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield 1, frostbite

If you want to join in the fight in Battlefield 1 we now have the minimum specs needed to run the newest version of the Frostbite Engine.  AMD users are looking at a minimum of a FX-6350 and HD 7850, Intel powered systems an i5-6600K and NVIDIA fans will want at least a GTX660.  You will need 50GB of drive space free and the game would like at least 8GB of RAM available for it.  To really get the best out of the game, you need to up that to an RX 480 or GTX 1060 and either a FX 8350 or i7-4790, with 16GB of RAM free.  It will be interesting to see how much VRAM this game will take advantage of.  Props to Guru 3D for getting this up first.

32bit systems need not apply.

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"The Battlefield website now offers the official system requirements for Battlefield 1. These come along with a couple of videos highlighting the HUD-less interface in the upcoming World War I shooter. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: Guru of 3D

To read this story just post your first pet's name and the first address you remember living at in the comments

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2016 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: security, idiots

David Hannum underestimated humanity greatly when he claimed a sucker was born every minute, we are now up to one every 15 seconds and accelerating.  Online scammers continue doing what they are doing because it works, even those who should know better regularly share personal details online which make scammers lives much easier.  It is not just those suspicious phone calls, texts or websites; many people's social media feeds are a cornucopia of personal information which allow scammers to profit off of your money.  The problem is only getting worse, in the UK The Register reports that losses in 2015 were £755m, 26% more than 2014.  A quick search reveals that the trend applies to the US as well

You've heard it before and will hear it again, take a second to ask yourself if you really should be sharing what you are about to post before you send it.

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"Between January and June 2016 there were 1,007,094 fraud cases in the UK compared to 660,308 in the first six months of 2015. Each case represents a card or account attacked, not an individual person."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register