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  • Antikythera Mechanism- Humankind’s First Computer

    The word ‘computer’ essentially refers to a device that ‘computes’; in other words, it means a machine that can be used to perform complex calculations within a short amount of time. However, computers these days have become so advanced that it can be easy to forget this simple definition.

    Hence, it can come as quite a surprise when you hear that first computing system yet to be discovered dates over 4000 years back- long before the birth of Charles Babbage- the father of computing as we know it. In fact, the first computing system pre-dates even Jesus Christ!

    Known as the Antikythera Mechanism, the first computer mechanism was discovered off the wreckage of a Roman ship near the Greek island of Antikythera (hence, the name). It is an analogue computing system that could predict the dates of eclipses as well as serve as a calendar to record dates for the ancient Olympics!

    The device consists of 40 bronze gears- all made by hand and has a dial at the front showing the Greek zodiac as well as the Egyptian calendar. Behind this are two more dials- one for keeping track of lunar cycles and other for predicting eclipses.

    The Antikythera mechanism was capable of tracking the individual planetary positions of planets such as Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and could also keep records of the Saros cycle- a period of 18 years after which the sun, moon and the earth all return to the same relative positions.

    It is undoubtedly a great example of the ingenuity of the ancient civilizations and even this day, scientists are astounded by how advanced the Antikythera Mechanism was for its time.

  • Facebook To Build Teleportation Device

    Teleportation is perhaps one of those fantasies that most people have had. The idea of being able to be anywhere in the world is too enticing to pass up on but it is also something that is palpably impossible to achieve. However, Facebook is in the works of doing something just like that and we couldn’t be more excited.

    Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said at a press event today held in Dublin that he hopes to turn this fantasy into a reality. “Facebook wants to build a device that allows you to be anywhere you want, with anyone, regardless of geographical boundaries” Schroepfer said while addressing the summit.

    Now before you start wondering how on earth this seemingly unreal technology will be created, you should know that Facebook will not be able to teleport you physically but will create simulated teleportation.

    “Facebook wants to build a device that allows you to be anywhere you want, with anyone, regardless of geographical boundaries”

    This doesn’t exactly come as a shock since Facebook acquired Oculus Rift for a staggering $2 billion, and the social media giant is attempting to find vertical niches outside of gaming, which would allow it to make use of its Oculus Rift acquisition. And so, teleportation or simulated teleportation seems like the right fit.

    So how exactly will this work? According to Schroepfer, the concept is to trick your senses into believing that the virtual world is real. And this will come as a challenge.

    Although making a different virtual world in a VR headset isn’t all that difficult now, but movement, real-time feedback and interaction with people and objects in virtual reality isn’t an easy task. However, Facebook thinks that with the Oculus Touch controllers that are slated to be released in the second quarter of next year will make it easier to overcome some of the issues.

    The other major concern is creating content. You can’t have virtual teleportation without creating a world to go to. Facebook has spoken to film studios to turn this into a reality.  However, Oculus is taking a different approach to this and purchased Surreal Vision earlier this year through which users will be able to create their own environments.

    It’s true that the challenges regarding teleportation are very real but it is also possible to overcome them and Facebook will be moving in the right direction to achieve that. For now, we are ecstatic about a breakthrough like that and can’t wait to travel the world in a VR headset!

  • Google Offers $190,000 Salary To Indian Student

    Tech giants often hire employees from around the world who haven’t even completed their college education. Google in particular, is well known for organizing employment exams in several countries worldwide. Now, a student from India has made the headlines after being offered a $190,000 salary in Google.

    Chetan Kakkar, a final year student at Delhi Technological University (DTU) was recently offered this salary- the highest yet to be paid by Google to a new entrant. He will be joining the Google HQ next year.

    Both of Chetan’s parents are professors at Delhi University. His father Subhash Kakkar is a Professor of Management while his mother Rita Kakkar is a Professor of Chemistry.

    About his unexpected offer from Google, Chetan stated, “Even though I was preparing myself so that I can get a decent job, I never really thought that I would be offered a job at Google right at the start. I am very delighted at this offer.”

    Previously, a student from the same institution (DTU) was offered a job at a tech firm for a yearly salary close to 100 lakh rupees.

    Recently, Google organized an employment exam for the fourth time for Bangladesh students and tech professionals. The exam took place at 8 pm on 11 November.

  • Google To Launch Delivery Drones Within 2017

    How’d you like it if one day you opened your door to a drone waiting for you with the package that you ordered online? No matter how farfetched this might sound, it could soon be a reality, specially now that Google officially announced that its Project Wing tests have been successful and delivery drones can be expected within 2017.

    The idea of drone deliveries is nothing new by the way- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was among the first to entertain the idea and many others reciprocated. In fact, drones are already being used in in an experimental basis in certain remote areas to transport necessities. But now that Google has put a date on it, the possibility of drone deliveries has become all that more real.

    Google’s drones can fly vertically and also hover in place like helicopters. To deliver a package, the drone will lower it by a tether and once the product s safely on the ground, it automatically detaches and pulls the cord back up. The drones so far has a carrying capacity of 2.3 kgs which can be expected to increase once delivery actually starts.

    While the test phases have gone smoothly, a lot still needs to be done if this service is to be made available. Right now, the major challenge would be to get past regulatory obstacles thrown by government agencies, and then there is also the issue of ensuring safety of the drones as well as the goods they are delivering.

    Nevertheless, it would be really cool to see a drone waiting patiently at your doorsteps, and you wouldn’t even need to tip it!

  • Google To Merge Chrome OS Into Android

    When Google had announced in 2009 that it would be launching the Chrome OS, the tech community was understandably quite excited. And rightly so- the Chrome OS devices are a great option for the budget constrained and have generated significant traction in the education sector due to the low price.

    However, when it comes to the mainstream market, Chrome OS has not has as much success compared to Google’s other platform- Android. Naturally, Google execs have been dealing with questions such as why push Chrome OS when Google can instead focus on Android? And since Microsoft has successfully made the Windows OS compatible across all its devices, it seems more apt for Google to follow suit and make Android its default OS for both mobile devices as well as PCs and laptops.

    Now, a Wall Street Journal report has surfaced which confirms that Google is planning to just that. According to the report, by 2017, the Chrome OS will be folded into the Android platform to create a unified OS that will be compatible over all devices. While this move may sound surprising to some, it really isn’t from out of left field if you’ve been following Google’s activities closely.

    In 2013, Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was put in charge of both the Android and the Chrome OS divisions and since then, he has taken several measures to bring the two platforms closer to each other. Major among them was the decision to provide Android app support in Chromebook. Google also displayed the Pixel C- an Android powered laptop that could be taken as a sign of things to come.

    Google spokespersons have clarified that while there are no immediate plans to kill off Chrome OS, the tech giant is indeed planning to merge Chrome OS and Android together, and sources further say that a demonstration is likely to come at the Google I/O next year.

  • Google, Facebook And Almost All Other Sites Are Leaking Your Info!

    It is no secret that most websites track our activities with or without our consent and those who do tell us that they are keeping records of our activity online, also claim they are doing this for research purposes so that they can provide a better service and user experience. What they don’t tell us is that almost all of these sites eventually end up sharing this information with third parties.

    In fact, a peer reviewed research by Tim Libert from University of Pennsylvania shows conclusively that 9 out of 10 websites leak the recorded data to third party companies without any consent of the users!

    To conduct research, Libert used own open source software- webXray, to analyze website trackers. He had previously used this same tool to look at trackers on health and porn websites as well. In his paper, Libert wrote:

    “Sites that leak user data contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that users may be tracked by multiple entities in tandem.In an interview with Motherboard, he also made this alarming statement: “If you visit any of the top one million sites there is a 90 percent chance largely hidden parties will get information about your browsing.” He further added, “Most troubling is that if you use your browser setting to say ‘Do Not Track’ me, the explicitly stated policy of nearly all the companies is to flat-out ignore you.”

    “The worst perpetrator is Google, which tracks people on nearly 80 percent of sites, and does not respect DNT [Do Not Track]  signals.”

    He also had this to say about Google: “The worst perpetrator is Google, which tracks people on nearly 80 percent of sites, and does not respect DNT [Do Not Track]  signals.”

    While Google did not officially respond to this, upon reviewing its User policy, we did find that the firm has numerous safeguards in place to prevent privacy breach, including privacy controls, data sharing settings as well as an opt put browser add on for Chrome. However, it remains to be seen exactly to what extent Google adheres to its own policy of not sending out user information to thirds party operators.

    Facebook on the other hand, is clear about its policies. The social media giant clearly states: “Technologies like cookies, pixel tags (“pixels”), device or other identifiers and local storage (collectively, “Cookies and similar technologies”) are used to deliver, secure, and understand products, services, and ads, on and off the Facebook Services.”

    The alarming part is there really is no full proof way of preventing such leakage of our personal information. using VPNs or browser extensions can only patch one leak or two, but it cannot cap the info leakage completely. Using TOR browser could be a potential solution but it is a much slower browser compared to others and also comes with a lot of usability issues.

    Maybe talented local developers can figure a way out!

  • Hackers Win Big Bounty After Remotely Jailbreaking iPhones

    Usually, Apple devices are thought to be safe from viruses and hacking attempts even though there have been cases where hackers did manage to get past Apple’s security measures. Recently, Zerodium, a startup that offers attractive rewards to people who can discover bugs in IT systems, started a competition with $1 million as prize for any hacker who could successfully develop a browser based and untethered way to remotely jailbreak iOS 9, the latest iPhone OS till date.

    To win the challenge, hackers would need to come up with either a browser (Chrome/ Safari) or text/ multimedia based system that would jailbreak an iPhone remotely so that Zerodium could verify by gaining full access to the device and installing any app it wanted.

    The competition was slated to end on 31st October and the following day, Zerodium announced that it had found a winner for the challenge.

    Now here’s the ominous part- Zerodium is quite infamous for selling off such sensitive information to the highest bidder, and naturally, news of Apple’s vulnerability would definitely fetch top dollar. In fact, Chaouki Bekrar, CEO of Zerodium, had another startup that actually pit rival firms, inlcuding public institutions, against each other in sort of an ‘intelligence arms race!’ VUPEN, his earlier startup, even lists the now infamous NSA as a client.

    This is a grim reminder that secure does not really mean unbreachable; it only means that it will take the bad guys a little longer to get at your data. So the best course of action to be safe from attacks is to be careful about how we use our devices.

  • Kids Can Now Learn Programming With Minecraft

    Minecraft, as one of many popular kids’ title, is now joining code.org to bring children’s affection for it into learning programming. Microsoft, Minecraft’s recently bought-in owner, has reached an agreement with code.org as announced on Monday.

    The Minecraft based coding tutorial has 14 levels to progressively learn coding with a free-play board included at the end, according to Microsoft’s Minecraft Education director Deirdre Quarnstrom. Microsoft is a major financial backer of code.org.

    For code.org, this is not the only popular title there is. The computer science education group uses games themed on Disney movie ‘Frozen’, viral smartphone game Flappy Bird and others to design its programming tutorials to attract children into learning to code using by dragging and dropping various coding blocks. The new agreement is not the only one for the site this week. code.org has also added a Star Wars themed lineup to their repertoire.

    Code.org launched in 2013 by Hadi Partovi, a former Microsoft executive, with his brother, Ali, to make computer-science education more available to children, particularly focusing on bringing more girls and otherwise children with non-white background in. As of now, more than 100 million students have experimented with their Hour of Code, which uses contemporary titles mentioned above. They also encourage schools to participate in their offerings during Computer Science Education Week, which is on Dec 7-13 this year. They also have curricula for teachers or caretakers so that they can better teach childern computer science.

  • Firefox To Make Private Browsing Even More Secure

    Internet security is a big issue. Even with private modes in browsers, such as the incognito mode in Chrome, there still remains a chance that some of your activity is vulnerable to being tracked. Firefox aims to bring a stop to that by rolling out a new feature in its browser update where it gives users more control over the data they choose to share with third parties online.

    In a statement Mozilla said “With the release of Tracking Protection in Firefox Private Browsing we are leading the industry by giving you control over the data that third parties receive from you online. No other browser’s Private Browsing mode protects you the way Firefox does—not Chrome, not Safari, not Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer,”

    Firefox, which has been a long time supporter of initiatives such as ‘Do Not Track,’ is claiming to be the only player out there that will enable you to browse securely.

    The feature that has begun rolling out today will be available across the Window, Mac, Linux and Android platforms. The company also states that this feature will automatically block ads, analytics trackers and social share buttons which could essentially be tracking your activity on these sites with you being completely unaware of it.

    Aside from the Tracking Protection, Firefox will also introduce a new Control Center to help keep all the site security and privacy controls in one place. You can use the Control Center to turn on or turn off tracking protections depending on which sites you are visiting.

  • Company Behind Candy Crush Gets Acquired For $5.9 Billion

    We all know about the incredibly popular mobile game Candy Crush and for those of us who do not engage in playing this game, are aware of how equally annoying it can be. But our opinions aren’t exactly the ones that count as the company behind Candy Crush, King Digital Entertainment, just got acquired for $5.9 billion – yes you read that right.

    The acquisition was made by one of the biggest names in video games – Activision Blizzard. The company is responsible for creating popular military shooter franchise Call of Duty and the fantasy game World of Warcraft.

    The acquisition was made by one of the biggest names in video games – Activision Blizzard. The company is responsible for creating popular military shooter franchise Call of Duty and the fantasy game World of Warcraft

    In a statement made after the acquisition, Activision’s CEO Robert Kotick said in a statement, “Mobile gaming is the largest and fastest-growing opportunity for interactive entertainment and we will have one of the world’s most successful mobile game companies and its talented teams providing great content to new customers, in new geographies throughout the world,”

    King Digital which was founded in 2003, has over 180 games under its belt but the one game that overshadows all is Candy Crush Saga. According to the company, it has 158million daily user, with over a billion game plays per day. Now that is a feat which remains unparalleled.

    The game was initially designed to be played on Facebook, before it went on to conquer mobile devices. Candy Crush was released in April 2012 on the social network followed by its iOS release in November of the same year and on Android a month after. A year since its release, Candy crush ‘crushed’ the then most popular game on Facebook, FarmVille 2. It eventually went on to become the most download iOS app of 2013.

    Activision will pay $18 a share for King, which is a 16% premium to the company’s closing stock price Monday of $15.54. After the company went public in March 2014 at $22.50, its stock price has been dwindling.


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