Melted my Mind during a Mind Meld!

For all dedicated and part time “Trekkies” both young and old it was a sad day this year to learn of the passing of Dr Spock, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Probably the most type cast actor in the history of television.
“Spocky” was capable of conducting a Vulcan mind meld. The Vulcan mind meld was a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.
Even the fictional character Dr McCoy quoted back in the day “Vulcan mind melds; utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn’t share his brain with someone else; would you? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The first real step was taken in 2013 when researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco, completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Andrea Stocco – University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

This is not a standalone step but rather a progression in the decade’s long research into brain computer interface.
Implications from technological change on the battlefield have always driven innovation and invention.

During the American Civil War, field commanders did not realise the impact the new rifled musket and mini ball would have on tactics.

They persisted in using outdated tactics and the result was over 600,000 deaths and more than 80,000 amputations during its four deadly years.

The longer range had soldiers running into the face of at least three volleys rather than one and rarely coming to grips with the enemy.

The spinning bullet striking any arm or leg would split the bone and invariably require amputation.

Any visit to antique, second hand and curio shops throughout America reveals a multitude of artefacts and inventions used by civil war amputees in the years after the war.
It is not surprising then given the number of amputee veterans resulting from IED’s (improvised explosive devices) during the last decade of America’s military efforts that major funding has come from the U.S. Army Research Office and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The primary interest is brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain, are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical prosthesis helping paralysed patients regain some power of movement.
But brain to brain experimentation has some bioethicists raising concerns about the more controversial uses.

They have a particular concern with experimentation into brain-networking. This method involves the linking brains together to create a collective network of thought.
For example in recent experiments, Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University wired the brains of four rats and had the same signal delivered into their brains and when a computer monitor showed their thoughts were synchronised they were offered a reward.

They were able to manipulate the brain patterns of the rats so they shared a collective thought pattern.

The resulting manipulation enabled the minds of the rats to act as an information-processing chain.

In other words they were able to train one rat to produce a brain activity and pass this onto the second rat that in turn passed it onto the third.
Don’t buy any shares in a rat trap company I’m thinking.
They have also demonstrated this with monkeys which don’t bode well for my mates at the pub.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface (BMI), a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” Miguel A. Nicolelis – Director of the Centre for Neuro-engineering at Duke University

Will some futuristic marriage celebrant have a marriage mind meld ritual chip planted in the couples brains as part of the wedding service conducted on a holographic beach complete with virtual guests?

Forever after when your darling asks you “what are you thinking?” You will be truly screwed.
No more nothing, saying nothing will no longer do.

Related Articles:
Scientists achieve first human-to-human ‘mind meld’
Real-Life Mind Meld? Scientists Link Animal Brains
Scientists ‘mind-meld’ a rat and monkey
Researcher controls colleague’s motions in 1st human brain-to-brain interface
Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans

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With a Digital Sneeze I got a Wireless Virus!

In 2009 and in 2012 the Australian Science organisation CSIRO won landmark court case’s on the invention of Wi Fi technology. From its introduction Wi Fi security has been an issue ignored in the wake of the convenience of its features and potential. In early 2000 I recall reading that Queensland University students proved that Wi Fi could never be made totally secure. A gene out of its bottle is rarely put back in and in the case of technology it’s the risk reward ratio that kept the Wi Fi gene out of the bottle as it made device based mobile computing possible and now indispensable.

In Wi Fi’s earliest days I would observe many a poor uni student hunkered down in a shopping mall with a laptop, piggy backing the shopping malls Wi Fi to do their research for free. Now that’s just taken for granted and we expect open access Wi Fi wherever we go as a no charge customer service.
Some time ago a student showed me a device he bought at an electronics store.
“It scans for Wi Fi networks.” He said.
“Why do you need it?”
“I might want to see if I can get online from the wood shed down the bottom of my back yard.”
“Right …….. So how many unsecured Wi Fi networks did you find down your street then?”
“Five”
Wi Fi security is now under a new threat. A digital influenza is now possible. ‘Chameleon’ a codenamed virus designed by researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed an airborne Wi Fi virus.
Piggy backing Wi Fi waves this coded common cold spreads faster than Bali Belly from network to network. The denser the networks the faster it spreads.
It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks,” computer security expert Professor Alan Marshall said. “But we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly.
So those places offering open access networks, the shopping malls, the coffee shops, free hotspots and my TAFE campus could be dangerous places easily infiltrated.
Straining the distinction between research and Ukrainian hackers the team designed and simulated attacks that spread quickly between home and business avoiding detection and also finding and remembering unprotected networks. In a laboratory setting which must make it alright, they simulated successful attacks on Belfast and London. The team reported that “Chameleon” behaved just like a real airborne virus.

 

When “Chameleon” attacked an AP (Access Point) it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other Wi Fi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other Wi Fi APs that it could connect to and infect.”
Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security

 

Shopping malls could become areas of high digital pestilence, with the majority of AP’s in close proximity mostly within a 10-50 metre radius; a Wi Fi virus like “Chameleon” will propagate like the plague.
It slips past virus protection because virus protection software only looks at viruses on our devices not within the Wi Fi network itself. You might beat it with your home and business secured AP only to find yourself “nailed” at your favorite coffee shop or conference.

 

Wi Fi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus. It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely.” Professor Marshall

 

Well thanks for that but, what about copy cats. I think the first computer virus was let loose by some early computer genius having a random academic moment wondering if he could give networked computers a form of digital cancer, contemplated some likely code and hit the enter key forgetting he was on a huge university network and thus gave birth to the first computer virus. He owned up and apologized but that gene was out of its bottle.

 
I really do wonder sometimes why we keep a laboratory sample of a virus or bacteria causing a horrific disease that took hundreds of years to eradicate just in case we might need it in the future. It’s a trust us scenario because we are scientists and you are just people who don’t know any better and you should leave it to us.
Are they going to do a perpetual computerized quarantine of “Chameleon” while they protect us from others that might invent a “Chameleon” knock off but who are not them? I would either look to putting virus protection on my smart phone or try going to a coffee shop to just have a cup of coffee with a friend and talk, a device free time. It’s fast becoming one of those life crisis issues requiring professional help and mental health coverage on your medical insurance plan.

 

Related Articles:
How CSIRO’s stars won the WiFi battle
Detection and analysis of the Chameleon WiFi access point virus
Adelaide CBD wi-fi network

The Girl with the Tasteful Tattoo

As a teacher it is always inspiring to be on the other side of a classroom and to get taught well. Recently I found myself a student again at a conference about how my organisation can apply social media. I have always believed that learning has a law of three. The three things required for learning to take place. It has to be the right time, the right place and the right person. If only one of those is absent learning doesn’t happen and it’s nobody’s fault. As soon as the missing piece or pieces drop into place it happens. An empowered team of digital natives directed by the girl with the tasteful tattoo aided by representatives from Australia’s new Twitter team and from LinkedIn Australia, we were guided back to the Future.

 
Now I have two traffic lights between me and my workplace. If any of them are red I’m likely to have an instance of male menopausal road rage. So Sydney is not a place I could live in again. Never the less it is truly a beautiful city. When I lived there a Sunday afternoon at an intimate little pub in the Rocks, with jazz notes drifting in on the wind and coffee brewing in the distance, was just the best day. It’s even better down there now, the Sydney foreshore by night in the middle of the Vivid festival took me back down the years to the Sydney citizen I once was. I walked all the way from the Opera House to Darling Harbour and on up to Central Station. The city has done a great job. It’s a beautiful walk especially at night. A walk with the new and the memory of places that have stayed the same.

 
It got a bit scary at Central Station, 11 o’clock at night. Walking head on into a drunken mob with breaths that were incendiary, I nearly freaked out until I noticed red and white scarves. I yelled out “Up the Mighty Swanees ……. Mate I’m from the bush, where the “f###” is the platform to Cronulla?” Well the lads bundled me up and deposited me down, on the right platform, slapped my back, shook my hand and were gone with comments about how good it was that we kicked Geelong’s arse.

 
No one told me there are three thousand stops between Central and Cronulla. What’s more the train seats just don’t smell the same.
In my youth I lived with two other uni students in a flat near the Cross. One of them, Rod was going out with a very straight girl. In the middle of the sexual revolution he is going out with a girl who will only let him kiss her once on the doorstep of her parents’ house on a Saturday night.
Dump her I used to say. Back then I could be insensitive sometimes.
They would go to a movie, rush to catch the second last train to Southerland, walk a million miles, sweaty hand in hand, catch a kiss on a cold front porch, run to catch the last train back, fall into an exhausted sleep of unfulfilled lust and go around and around the city circle all night. He would stagger back into the flat early next morning smelling like a train seat. Well Rod after all these years I finally realise the hell you went through. I did the second last train to Cronulla.

 
It’s extraordinary that for the first time in human history desktop PC sales have dropped the last 2 years running. Every presenter from the Social Media companies showed us stats’ ranging from 60 to 80 percent of all social media content is currently being consumed on mobile devices. I learned that one minute of video is equivalent to 1.8 million words. I was encouraged to make my content relevant (so much for this post), make it local, mobile optimised and use multimedia that’s multi directional and above all embrace conversation and don’t be afraid to let that conversation have a life of its own.

Related Information
Buzz Numbers
Quiip
Twitter Australia
Darren Keppie (LinkedIn Australia)

Spy RATter’s

A Google search of the word RATters reveals either people with a passion for little dogs chasing rats and mice or perverted men using remote access software (RAT) to take control of young girls webcams, take compromising pictures of them to display and swap on slaver forums. The pervert spying came to light in early 2013 in a comprehensive article in Ars Technica. The article claimed that one of the ‘slave forums’ had 23 million total posts.

 
The technology is not new so it begs the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Were government surveillance agencies already using it and young perverts adapting it later, or were young perverts leading the way for government agencies to emulate? A recent article in the Washington Post has claimed that the FBI has been spying on its “persons of interest” via their webcams for several years already, without triggering the webcam indicator light.

 

At least one judge in a rare case of protecting individual privacy rejected an FBI request for remotely activating video feeds in a bank fraud case in Houston, Texas, in December last year. The judge ruled that the risk of accidentally obtaining information of innocent people was too great.

 
FBI surveillance teams use the same technique as ratters, by infecting the computer with a malicious software (malware – through phishing). By sending an email with a link, which could be to a website, an image or a video, the user is tricked into downloading a small piece of software onto their machine. Once installed, the malware allows the FBI to take control of the computer and the webcam at any time, working similarly to the system large corporations use to update software and fix IT problems.

 
“We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate. Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”
Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is not only governments that are employing RAT techniques but activist and political groups are using it as a protest and spying tool against their rivals. Hackers have been discovered using a tampered-with version of a legitimate remote access tool (RAT) to target activists, industrial, research and diplomatic targets. Hungary-based security firm CrySys Lab discovered an attack on diplomatic targets in Hungary which installs legitimate software first, but then remotely alters the program to enable it spy on victims. This had been going on since 2008.
“The attackers control the victim’s computers remotely by using [a] legal remote administration tool. This application is signed with legitimate digital certificates and is used by more than 100 million users around the world. To avoid alerting the user that somebody is spying on him, the attackers dynamically patch [the program] in memory to remove all signs of its presence.” – Kaspersky Lab

 
High profile targets ranging from a high-profile victim in Hungary, multiple victims in Iran, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan and attacks on Belarusian pro-democracy activists last year. The malware searches for multiple document formats, disk images and file names that suggest they contain passwords or encryption keys.
The leaked Snowdon files suggest that spy teams around the world have been using these techniques since 2004. Their usage of remote administration tools (RATs) comes to light as the world’s most powerful technology firms call on Barack Obama to curb government spying on internet users.

Related Articles:
FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance
Hackers use legit remote IT support tool in spy attack

That was the year that was!

That was the year that was. Let’s start with the tech deals done dirt cheap that didn’t make it in 2013:

  • Simcity 10 years in the relaunch of a much loved game totally botched the games launch.
  • Reddit lost it in its attempt at social media justice by muddying the waters in the search for the Boston marathon bombers.
  • Twitter’s new music discovery service started with a whimper and died with a burp.
  • Dell can’t say die and refuses to accept the general PC’s day is dead and gone.
  • BlackBerry is undergoing a death by a thousand cuts. Apart from President Obama who do you know that has one? No one.
  • Adobe upset everyone with its move to subscription software to absolutely outrage 38 million of their customers with a massive security breach of their credit card details.
  • Facebook Home for smart phones didn’t grab users with its first attempt although the company insists it will persist.
  • Microsoft Surface Tablet didn’t make a ripple on the surface of worldwide tablet sales.

Australians internet habits for the year was to check the weather, download videos big time, check our social media, and play smart phone games. However the difference in 2013 was the increasing use of mobile smart devices. Half of Australia is now on the internet and one third of them now access the internet on mobile or wireless links.

Google trending analysis of our search curiosity put celebrities dead before their time high on the list. Points of trivia concerning trivial reality TV shows confirmed the public’s increasing demand for reality avoidance.

We did however use the Rural Fire Service during our increasingly deadly bush fire season. Nearly all of us worried about someone near to us in the path of a fast moving fire somewhere. Our wonderful BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) received 471 million visits reflecting our fascination for cyclones heatwaves and bushfires.
We all expressed a morbid interest in the 24 hour, slogan driven, negative message electioneering of our modern more than likely reviled politicians. The Electoral Commission’s more than 12 million page views on election night reflected a 45% rise from the previous election.

Much else didn’t change. We are too lazy to bookmark so we banked, emailed, social media’d, checked weather, searched for jobs and real estate, booked accommodation and travel, shopped on Ebay and the such all from shortcutting out of Google.

The Twitter spikes caused by Australia’s 2 million Twitter users was a depressing reflection on our general level of education. It is not surprising that the majority of spikes were around mindless conversation pieces like the moment Dami Im was crowned winner of The X Factor. Whoever the hell he or she is. It’s not surprising after a survey of Australians general science knowledge found that 40% of us had no idea it takes the earth one year to revolve around the sun and that since the re-release of Jurassic Park on Blu-ray that humans lived in the time of dinosaurs. Small wonder that Twitter peaks concentrated around conversation pieces from television shows.

Some serious topics did trend, leadership spills and drugs in sport being the main ones. However the word television needs to be qualified. 2013 saw a large increase in the number of people using internet, subscription TV, video on demand and catch-up TV particularly children’s shows. Does anyone still have a video “Blockbuster” store in their town? If you do you won’t for long.

Season three “Game of Thrones” confirmed Australians as the most prolific illegal downloaders in the world. Downloading from smartphones and tablets rose 97 per cent to about 6545 terabytes a month.
Looking forward to 2014 I’m wondering if I will be able to 3D print a lifelong replacement for a chronic ingrown toenail or invest in an e-ink tattoo parlour providing removable, moving multi-coloured tattoos.

Related Articles:

 

Larrikins and one liner’s

I had many comments about my last post. Trying to explain why cricket is not boring. A depressing number of you were likewise unconvinced. It made me depressed. It was a combination of your ignorance and my inept explanations. I tried to explain the game. That was stupid of me. The only people apart from foreigners who find cricket boring are those who only watch it on TV. You have never been at the cricket. That’s obvious.

You don’t go to the cricket to watch the cricket. You go to the cricket to be at the cricket. Being at the “G” (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for the Boxing Day test is a semi religious experience. You have 90,000 people mostly Australians who have gathered at this hallowed ground for one reason and one reason only. They have walked through the turnstiles to be part of an Australian cricket crowd. You are there to enjoy the larrikins and the one liners, the cricket itself is incidental.

When you are at the cricket you can’t see the cricket. It’s too far away. They are like little stick figures on a disturbed red ant nest. If you are going to be at the cricket and for some weird reason you want to watch the cricket you take a mobile device with a paid cricket app and subscription or you be completely primitive and crane your neck toward the grounds big screen if something ever happens.

It all starts with what people try to smuggle into the cricket, up their shirts and about their persons. More of that later.  The main parts of a cricket crowd are the signs, the costumes, the barracking and the crowd participation.

The best sign I saw this year was “Kentucky Fried Poms”. There is nowhere around the ground where you don’t get a visual chuckle sooner rather than later. Every day is different and the signs evolve with the game.

The costuming started years ago when people bought watermelons to ease a blistering hot day, ate the inside out and wore the shells on their head. Wearing Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets is a Johnny come lately imitation. Since then cricket costuming has become magnificent, imaginative and truly entertaining. Those that are provocative and bordering on bad taste are smuggled in under the shirt.

Apart from signs the most common things smuggled in under your shirt are blow up beach balls, sex dolls and blow up sheep (If we are playing New Zealand). A released beach ball out on the ground is invariably followed by a fat unfit security dude trying to stab it with a penknife amidst fickle winds and jeers from the crowd.

A dejected batsman dismissed for a duck(no score) on that long lonely walk back to the pavilion will often look up to see someone in the crowd simulating sex with a blow-up sex doll. A clear and unambiguous message.  If it’s a New Zealander it will be a blow-up sheep and the whole crowd will be going Baa…Baa…Baa!

This last test series a lot of little kids had Mitchell Johnson moustaches drawn on their faces. I loved it. That’s the true spirit of the game.

That brings me to the one liner’s. Somewhere in the crowd around you will be a true Aussie larrikin with a fantastic sense of humour. He or she will entertain you all day. I was at a test match with my Dad when we were playing the West Indies. Big bad Wes Hall, a really fast, fast bowler was ripping them down to some poor unfortunate Aussie. He swung and missed, he swung and missed again, swung and missed a third time when in a dry drawl an Aussie voiced called out: “Hey mate it’s a little round red thing.”

Priceless are the gems, the one liner’s you will hear at the cricket. It is a good enough reason alone to be part of a cricket crowd. The crowd feeds of the fun its larrikins provide.

I often think the real game is not played on the ground; it’s played between the crowd, security and the coppers (police).
Apart from the construction of “beer snakes” made from empty beer cups the Mexican wave has long been a favourite part of crowd participation at the cricket. They tried to ban it a few years ago. Some thought it was because someone threw a fried chicken into the air and it brained a kid. The other reason given was that someone threw a baby into the air during a Mexican wave.

Security would try and identify the person initiating the Mexican wave and throw them out. Wear a hoodie sit next to some poor old innocent start the wave and like a well-trained sniper quickly change position and watch while the crowd booed and jeered security as they dragged the old guy away. People smuggled balloons in, blew them up, tied them to a piece of string and placed them in front of that sections security camera, ran down and started a new wave undetected.

Then the crowd just changed the wave, a cheeky Aussie variant that they could rightly claim was not in fact a Mexican wave. The authorities have since given up and I am pleased to announce the Mexican wave is back in all its glory. The true challenge of the Mexican wave at the “G” is to get those pompous pricks in the members stand to participate. Usually the wave goes around the ground, stops at the members stand and starts up again on the other side. On rare occasions the members stand goes up as well and you will hear the crowd roar approval and appreciation.

As the day gets late and lubricated its drunken dickhead Showtime. Sometimes police can be jeered for trying to eject a happy drunk or cheered as they hunt down an obnoxious drunk and throw them out. The crowd points out the ones they want thrown out and defends those they don’t. The coppers walk the thin and fickle line of the crowd’s approval and sense of justice. Tell me another place you ever see that happen?

It’s a little glimpse of the ancient colosseum, temporary time travel. When you see a section of the crowd verbally abuse a security guard trying to sanction a larrikin running on the edge of the rules but still, for now, a crowd favourite you will understand the perverse joy Romans must have had when turning their thumbs up or down.

During the day you make lifelong friends with the couple in the next row and forget them completely tomorrow.

You think I’m wrong? Watch cricket on TV but ignore the players and notice the crowd, none of them are watching the cricket unless there has been a wicket, a boundary, a big 6 hit into the members stand or a batsman scores a ton(100). The rest of the time they are their own entertainment. In fact the slower the game the better the day you are going to have.

It’s a bucket list experience, ask anyone that’s ever been there. I rest my case.

Thanks and Best Wishes

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes for the Festive Season, whether you are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Rastafarian. In particular I extend my thanks to you all for reading my blog this year. The support, encouragement, ideas and feedback I have received from everybody has been truly gratifying. My posts have been few in the last two months due to an overload of public service paperwork required by my profession as a teacher. Because of your fantastic support I will aim for one or two stories per week in the New Year.

I failed miserably with my class of wonderful Danish students from Aalborg in two things. First I totally failed to convert them into happy little vegemite’s.  Universally they hate it. They think it tastes like shit. In fact that was my first Danish word, “Lort”. It tastes like lort with salt they said. One of them wanted to take a few jars back as presents to reek revenge on friends. Another thought it was illegal in Denmark and if it wasn’t it should be.

They arrived 18 weeks ago, milk white and freaked out to be in a country that has more poisonous snakes and spiders than anywhere else in the world. They left bronzed beach lovers still confused by Australian slang. Was a “good piece of crumpet” a breakfast food or a pretty girl? It’s both mate didn’t help. They left in board shorts, thongs (not the underwear kind) and T shirts to arrive home to minus five degrees. It doesn’t get that cold in the average Australian refrigerator. If you want a piece of Denmark this time of year sit in your fridge for 30 minutes. A form of extreme bonding.

My next failure was to excite them about cricket. No matter how hard I tried I could not excite them about our wonderful summer game. Best of luck today everybody in your back yard test matches. When I told my nephew I reckoned I could still take him down like I could when he was a little kid I got this reply:

“HaHa, merry Xmas to you numb nuts. I hereby accept your backyard cricket challenge and will commence bodyline training immediately. All challengers will be required to bring their own bat and ball and I recommend you bring a box uncle. “

I couldn’t entice the Danes even with the mathematics of Mitchell Johnson bowling at 155 kilometres an hour over 22 yards. The batsman has milliseconds to decide whether to play the ball forward or back. Nah it’s boring they said. How can you play a game that takes five days to play and even then its likely nobody wins? Trying to describe the variable unknowns of a wickets wear over the five days of a test match being a highly strategic part of the game was totally lost on them.

I will try harder with next year’s group. Thank you once again, one and all.