Category Archives: Tech News

Amazon WorkSpaces

https://aws.amazon.com/workspaces/

This service may highlight the beginning of a revolution in how we do personal and professional computing.

MIT Professor Develops NSA-like Email Data Visualization Software

See for yourself:
https://immersion.media.mit.edu/

Race at the Pump – Electric vs Gas

Watch this quick video showcasing Tesla’s new tech that could give the gas giants a run for their money:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2420802,00.asp

Wall Street Journal – CIA Chooses: Amazon or IBM

Showcases how large Amazon’s Cloud infrastructure has become.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324904004578539722533829106.html

Google and NASA Team Up to Tackle AI, D-Wave quantum computing

Read the full article here: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514846/google-and-nasa-launch-quantum-computing-ai-lab/

In the last 150 years the strength of Earth’s magnetic field has decreased by 10%

The European Space Agency has started a project known as “Swarm” to identify this rapid loss of magnetic field strength. Without the field, life on Earth could not sustain above ground.

Reference:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/03/us-science-earth-magneticfield-idUSBRE8920X620121003?feedName=OutloudFeed&feedType=RSS

Amazon Makes $13 million on Living Social Ad

LivingSocial Coupon for Amazon

LivingSocial Coupon for Amazon

What am I talking about?

Living Social and Groupon are relatively new websites featuring coupons and advertisements which target your local demographic.

Some of these coupons are backed by large names, such as Amazon, whereas others may be small businesses, like “Joe’s Pizzeria” down the road.

These sites are growing in popularity, even Google recently offered Groupon $6 billion to acquire it (this was turned down).

Yesterdays coupon on living social was a $20 gift card being sold for $10. Over 1.3 million gift cards were sold, as you can see in the image above. This equates to approximately $13 million gross for Amazon..

How they make money

Historically, individual products are marked up by retailers to cover their costs. Discounts on products simply lower the mark-up and in many cases there is still profit realized even when an item is “on sale”.

With e-commerce, many direct drop-shipping techniques have reduced the mark-up, however, shipping, freight and warehousing competition has increased the wholesale costs so the effect is relatively the same for the consumer.

Ask yourself, who makes more and less out of this scenario?
- Retailer
- Distributor / Warehouser
- Manufacturer

Amazon is fairly unique in the e-commerce world, with the exception of Overstock and similar others; they sell and warehouse their products directly.

This allows them to ascertain profits on much lower prices since their wholesale savings are much greater.

Selling a $10 coupon worth $20 in Amazon credits is not profitable for an item which is marked up less than double its value, but for many small items, such as Amazon’s Kindle books… there is almost no cost at all, so sales for almost any amount usually equates to profit.

What would you rather purchase, 8 books at 50% off, or 2 DVD’s at 50% off? Either way, these small items cost little or nothing to reproduce, so margins are high regardless of the price.

If you bought yesterday’s coupon, but had no intention of buying anything on Amazon, my advice would be to save it until you actually need something from Amazon then use it in conjunction with your normal purchase.

Consumers shift between tendencies to save or spend. Make sure you can rationalize any purchase, big or small. By simply spending the coupon on small items you may not have otherwise purchased, you would have bought directly into what Amazon was trying to get you to do. >:)

What does the future hold?

Imagine a large warehouse where everything you would like to purchase is stored (kind of like walmart)… There’s no need to walk down endless aisles looking for goods, because there are computer terminals easily accessible from multiple entryways where you can request a specific good which is sent to you via a pneumatic tube for you to inspect before buying. If you approve the purchase, you send it back in the tube and mark off on a list of inspected items which ones you want to buy. A box or other container is now dropped off via conveyor belt or by other machinery like warehouse robots with your requested items. You can choose to take it back home with you (that’s why you came to the store in the first place isn’t it?) Or have it shipped via any shipping method you choose.

On the front of this superstore will probably be a name you recognize, spelled across the top in huge letters visible from afar.. That name might be Amazon. Until someone bigger and better comes along. ;)

References:
LivingSocial, http://livingsocial.com/deals/21336?ref=conf-jp&rpi=4630849

Net Neutrality

Tron Legacy Freedom of Information

Tron Legacy Freedom of Information

With the recent release this winter of the movie Tron: Legacy, I only saw it fitting to contrast some of the conflicting nature in the “Net Neutrality” bill that was recently passed by the FCC with the themes prevalent in Tron on the “freedom of information”.

Ironic, that a theme which the movie shares with its’ predecessor (the original Tron), decades before, would still be relevant today.

I don’t typically lean to only one side, and this recent bill, like many others has it’s pros and cons.

On the positive side, providers won’t be able to restrict access based solely on the context of content provided – such as a political and ethical debate like this one :). The premise of restriction in this case requires the content to conflict with legal standards before removal or limited access can be justified.

This differs based on the connection type (wired or wireless), but the realm of these two is likely to gradually converge.

On a negative note, the bill is contradictory. It does feasibly allow providers to restrict access to, or remove, content that is not paid for separately as a premium service. Therefore, visiting a site where you are receiving a free service (such as YouTube) may cost you more monthly since the provider can justify that your bandwidth usage is higher for this service (such as streaming video content).

This opens up the door for the provider to create and/or advertise services which compete with free ones, with the goal of profiting more at the consumer expense.

Although this profiteering aspect of the bill isn’t formally legislated, the legalities of the bill are vague enough in this case that they are open for interpretation by the providers.. In my opinion, this should have been more specific to regulate this type of monopolistic behavior.

Unfortunately, consumers cannot necessarily do anything about it. You can choose not to pay the providers at all, but if you do this you’re sacrificing other services which might be an essential part of your life. The internet in general is practically a necessity if you want to be successful in modern day America.

The solution? DIY LAN’s and WAN’s. :)

There are many small wireless networks now, and with not too much technical effort, these can easily be linked and bridged together. With a simple high amplified antenna (such as the cantenna for $40) you can bridge a wireless network with someone else very far away. Bridge a few of these networks together, and now you have a WAN.

The internet originally evolved from a series of WANs as well as funding by ARPA. Hopefully ACTUAL net neutrality – keeping the freedom of the internet – can be realized by this bill and others that may follow. However, if there is a dualist effect, allowing corporations to profit by other “freedoms” built into these bills, then we may find ourselves creating our own networks. Either way, I strongly believe the flow of information can be redirected, but never cut off.

References:
SaveTheInternet, http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-101
Google, http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/search/label/Net%20Neutrality
Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/21/need-care-net-neutrality/
NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/21/business/media/21fcc.html
IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084827/, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1104001/
Cantenna, http://www.cantenna.com/

Thoughts on Wikileaks

Prior to the recent major events surrounding the release of 250k classified documents by Wikileaks on Julian Assange authority, I had browsed Wikileaks and discovered rarely any information that provided anything more than “tabloid style” unverified references as proof of their authenticity.

With the release of these recent government documents, based on the international reaction, it is now clear at least some, if not all of these documents are in fact valid and not tabloids or conspiracy theories after all.

Assange has made many statements regarding his reasons behind releasing these documents, but overall, in my opinion, the manner in which these documents have been released is of malicious intent, and if “free speech” and “free information” was the goal, the information should have been made available in timed released spurts in accordance with government and/or traditional press.

Aside from the implications of the content released, this establishes a dangerous precedence in which other groups of mass whistle-blowers and spies may attempt to leak sensitive information. This is already apparent with the recent launch of a similar site – “Indo Leaks”.

The question that poses itself now is how the government should handle the situation both locally and internationally; not just with the WikiLeaks situation, but also with proposed policies on future international electronic leaks of similar nature.

Ultimately, the way Assange is handled may be the determining factor in these policies, but the procedures that dictate justice in this instance are complex and not necessarily straight forward. I’m sure many minds with legal experience greater than mine will speculate on this, but aside from humanist values to consider, there are also technological factors which should go under careful and thorough investigation to avoid accidentally implementing regulations that could impact technological growth.

As the internet fades the lines between nations there will be many difficulties to face, as a nation and as an individual. With every technology, there is potential misuse and regulation. However, we should use our behavior historically as a civilization to remember that extreme regulation on technology only limits growth.

Aldi Stores Credit Card Fraud

A recent article I came across from my Security Focus newsletter inspired my latest post regarding the recent Aldi Credit Card fraud that occurred across 31 states. (See entire article below)

To quote the article’s author:

“It looks like this was the work of a network of criminals who went into stores and somehow distracted store personnel long enough to take out PIN pads and swap them out with retrofitted devices…rogue PIN pads allowed the attackers to capture payment card data wirelessly from within the store itself or from a nearby location…tampering likely occurred over a period of several months…driving the trend is the easy and growing availability of sophisticated counterfeit payment terminal kits…rings of fraudsters, largely from Eastern Europe…same types of fraudsters are organized to attack multiple stores in multiple states simultaneously…”

These kind of high level crimes set a dangerous precedence if they increase in popularity. Our current civil authorities simply put do not have the level of sophistication required to stop these types of criminals.

A common police protocol in this type of situation might be to see the video types for individual stores for the last 6 months, however, most stores do not carry footage for this long and unless the devices themselves can be traced back to original manufacturing, not many leads could be extracted without the resources of federal investigative units.

This emphasizes the importance of security corporations and organizations to help and assist these government agencies in any way possible. Federal units are currently highly diversified, and with increased focus on countering violent terrorists, these other acts that are non-violent may get overlooked.

Even with federal and state-wide corporate assistance, their may still be needed political resources. Groups which organized crimes such as the Aldi Stores Fraud may have established rings outside of the country, and fly in trained professionals, either consultants or direct employees, most likely with fake identities, to commit the crimes and then fly back out, etc.

To stop this kind of international crime will require treaties and help of many government and corporate agencies, as this clearly indicates the need for international policy to combat all forms of terrorism, even these non-violent actions.

The defense and security of individual nations can only be a realized with international cooperation.

I’m sure these realizations and concerns are not mine alone, and can only hope this same thought is shared across the right people to truly make a difference.

References:
Jaikumar Vijayan. “Aldi data breach shows payment terminal holes”. Computerworld. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9189982

October Newsletter. Securityfocus. http://www.securityfocus.com/

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