Mapping Computer Techniques to the Real World

As a recent Times article describes, shopping plazas are now using cell-phone tracking technology to map shoppers’ activities and movement patterns. The "Path Intelligence" hardware used to track the movements works like this:

  • A cell-phone-wielding shopper enters the shopping plaza.
  • Path Intelligence monitors mounted throughout the plaza detect that a new mobile phone is in the vicinity and log its IMEI code.
  • As the shopper moves around the mall, his or her movements are continuously triangulated by the multiple Path Intelligence units, allowing movements to be mapped and saved for later analysis.

The good news: it’s totally private, there isn’t any (automated) way to map a particular record in the Path Intelligence logs to an actual person. The resulting logs can be analyzed for shopping patterns (where people go after visiting a certain store, peak hours of traffic, most popular regions, etc.) later on, providing valuable intelligence and allowing for improvements.

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Why is it You’re Studying CS, Again?

Some people tend to be rather stupid about the choices they make in life. For the most part, that’s OK – it’s human nature after all, and it can (most of the time) be rectified with a bit of hard work and a lot of concentration. But at other times, these mistakes run so deep that it’s almost impossible/unfeasible to set them straight afterwards, making you wonder just why they happened in the first place.

Take, for instance, the average class of computer science students. Go to the nearest university on a day where 2nd or 3rd year computer science students have a hands-on lab session for programming in the language of your choice. Watch as half of them struggle with the basic logic that’s already up on the board/overhead-projector. Notice how half of them (or more) have trouble writing a simple if statement or a for loop (no matter what language) that properly tests-for/does something.

It’s not their fault. In a world that has been turned upside-down in less than a decade and revolutionized in its entirety by the digital PC, you can’t blame students for turning to the number most popular field of work/study when it comes to deciding what they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives. The facts certainly support their decision: you no longer have to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, a Lawyer, or a Doctor to be making 120k+ a year (and if you’re a lawyer or doctor you have to handle licensing fees, insurance, and many other money-sapping necessities) – you just have to be a programmer with 5+ years of experience.

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VIPeR: The Israeli Murder Machine

Israel has just unveiled its newest way of “defending itself” that would “reduce the risk to it’s forces [IDF].” It’s called the VIPeR, and no, despite the spelling, it’s not a warez team. It’s an autonomous hand-to-hand fighting machine, that has an onboard Uzi submachine gun and grenade storage. It’s supposed to be able to enter combat zones on its own, and engage enemy fighters. According to its manufacturer, Elbit Systems, it’ll be used to move “undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels.” It has an onboard camera that lets it aim, and a hell of a lot of ammo in case it misses.

That’s rather scary. A robot – that can fight, kill, & plant bombs – all indiscrimanetly of course. The last time we checked, AI wasn’t in production yet, so we highly doubt the “VIPeR” can tell the difference between civillian and “guerilla fighter.”

If it’s an indiscrimate killing machine, remotely deployed to “combat zones,” it’s going to kill all the wrong people. If you’ve ever been to Lebanon or Palestine, you’d realize just why this is such a ridiculous deception: there are no “combat zones,” just combatants amongst civillians. All of them are next-door-neighbors, fathers, brothers, children. They’re not fighting against an army, they’re fighting against armed citizens and rebels. There’s a big difference.

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How Pioneers in Technology are Different

While reading Amy Armitage of Lunartic’s interview with Eric Meyer, the biggest advocate of CSS, it became obvious that there is something completely different about pioneers in computers and technology. Although we can’t testify to having personally spoken to explorers and inventors in other fields, we think it’s highly unlikely that they’re as down-to-earth normal as the “geeks” and “nerds” that bring computing and technology to the next stage.

Reading through the interview, you can’t honestly tell that this is man is the epitome of what some would call “geek;” after all, you can’t write six books on a topic without being some kind of half-human half-android hybrid, can you? But geek or not, here’s a guy that lives in Cleveland, has a BA in History, and had his own radio show for an entire decade.

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US Military Unveils Working Heat-Ray Gun

The heat-ray gun previously discussed on Slashdot back when it was first certified for use by the US Military in Iraq against civilians and rebels has been officially unveiled. The “millimeter wave” technology it uses causes the skin and body tissue to react in a way similar to that of being exposed to extreme heat – without the temperature. It’s being released as a “highly effective nonlethal crowd-control system;” whatever that means.

The “heat ray” is mounted on a Humvee or other vehicle, and has a range of up to 500 meters – which is 1,650 feet or one-third of a mile – that’s a long way.

The only problem is, this “non-weapon” hasn’t been tested by anyone other than the military. Needless to say, it’s not FDA-approved, nor is it likely to give it’s creators the Noble Peace Prize. The military claims its safe, and only the military will ever be in a position to find out – at least so long as it’s deployed in Iraq and the Middle East, and not back at home.

How long before this becomes standard riot-squad gear? How long until it can be inconspicuously mounted mounted on the back of that Ford Explorer used by the local police department? And the biggest question of all: how long until we find out what this really does to the human body, and just how many previously-unknown ailments it can produce. After all, all that energy has to go somewhere, and if it’s not a visible burn (according to the military, that is), where does the damage appear?

With these kinds of “tools,” the damage is usually long-term. Who knows, in 10 years from now everyone ever shot at with this thing could experience some severe form of cancer or even something worse and never-before-seen – but the Military isn’t waiting. Just like a child on Christmas, they have their new toy, and they’re not waiting to read the instruction manual, they just want to have fun!

What WinFS is all About

WinFS has been officially pulled out of Microsoft’s road map for products and services – permanently. People all around the web are shocked and complaining. But the thing is: who didn’t expect this?

OK, sure, maybe Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public didn’t expect this, and maybe Joe Blogg didn’t either, but then again, does it really matter to them? But for everyone else, WinFS was gone. Although no one came out and said it directly, no one spoke of WinFS except as a distant memory, it was quite obvious that people didn’t buy Microsoft’s story of it shipping separately. If people had believed it, the shock and outrage today would be ten times as big as it was when the LH project was rebooted and WinFS torn out with the veins strings still hanging.

But the question many people are asking these long years later is: What is WinFS anyway? And what’s the big deal if everyone already knew it wasn’t coming?

WinFS was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Anyone that is familiar with the term “Cairo” should know immediately what we’re talking about. For 15 years now, Cairo was Microsoft’s vision, almost every single decision made for the desktop operating systems came from a vision of Cairo becoming a reality, and over the years, Cairo began to take shape. Everything was in place, and only WinFS was left.

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