Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Can You Run A Computer Via Your Own Thoughts?

To some, it might be a newfangled concept but did you know that as far back as 1974, computer engineers had already been toying with the idea of using ones thoughts to run a computer?

By: Ringo Bones 

Our recent exposure of the concept is probably a documentary showing a US Air Force experiment on a pilot using his thoughts to fly a plane – actually it was an F-22 Raptor flight simulator – with a surprising degree of success. But did you know that as far back as 1974, computer engineers had already been toying with the idea of using one’s thoughts to run a computer? Just imagine the possibilities if you can buy an “affordable” interface that will allow one to run your personal computer or smart-phone by just using your thoughts. Would an affordable and portable thought run computer with a “non-obtrusive neural interface” be the next information technology revolution? 

Back in 1974, a computer was hooked to the human brain by Lawrence Pinneo of Stanford Research Institute, who programmed it to take orders from the subject’s thoughts. Pinneo started with 25 subjects, each fitted with an electrode-studded helmet. The electrodes were connected to an electroencephalograph – a machine that measures brain waves. 

The subjects were asked to think but not to articulate seven different commands: up, down, left, right, slow, fast and stop. The brain-wave patterns from these commands were then fed into a computer that had been programmed to recognize the patterns. If the computer detected the brain-wave pattern for “down” for example it would move a spot of light or cursor towards the bottom of the television screen. If it discerned the pattern for “slow” it would slow the motion of the dot. Each subject, thinking at random of any of the seven commands, was capable of moving the computer-directed dot of light around the TV screen – literally at will – making it respond correctly about 60 percent of the time. 

Pinneo is convinced that the accuracy of the computer’s recognition of brain waves can be greatly improved. He foresees the time when the pilot of a high-speed aircraft, too occupied to scan the complex bank of instruments for a correct reading will merely have to think “rate of climb” or “compass heading” and the plane’s computer will immediately flash on a large display board in front of the pilot the correct number of feet per minute or degrees away from north. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Celebrity-Endorsed Apps: The Future of App Marketing?

Even though the “App Industry” had been on a plateau – some say even on a slow decline – after a peak back in 2012, will celebrity endorsement reinvigorate the now lagging smart-phone app industry? 

By: Ringo Bones 

From actors with a very large “cult following” like Richard Dean Anderson endorsing the MacGyver Deadly Descent app to political humor based apps, like the “Ronald Reagan Pornography Identification App” that poked fun on the US Republican Party’s hypocritical view on the U.S. pornographic industry, it seems that celebrity endorsed apps seems like a logical way to revitalize lagging demand of the smart-phone app industry that seems to have seen better days since its peak back in 2012. But will such relatively zany marketing gimmicks truly work? By the way, have you already checked out apps that make the latest smart=phones and tablet computers more relatable and soulful to folks born before 1979? 

As the world’s leading app developers now seek star quality for their “virtual wares”, Oscar-winning actor and collector of vintage typewriters Tom Hanks has recently endorsed an app that pays homage to manual typewriters. More likely to appeal to folks who are old enough to remember World War II first hand, the Tom Hanks app – or more unofficially and aptly referred to as Hanx Writer App – somehow managed to generate a large cult following to younger users. And it even managed to reach the top of the iTunes Chart back in August 19, 2014.  

Way before our present age of Android compatible smart-phones and related apps, celebrities used to endorse more “tangible” items, like perfumes, shoes and other related fashionista doodads, but the runaway boom of the app economy back in 2012 had many celebrities – famous or otherwise – start to contemplate other alternate endorsement options. Will apps be the latest celebrity endorsement du jour? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Should There Be A Ronald Reagan Pornography App?

Given that 1980s throwback themes had recently become bestsellers in the burgeoning app industry, would a “Ronald Reagan Pornography App” be the next must have retro app? 

By: Ringo Bones 

With the release of the MacGyver Deadly Descent App back in the second half of May 2014 that had taken the app world by storm – for a 1980s themed retro app that is and based on a hit 1980s TV series nonetheless – many could be asking right now if “there was a pornography detection app based on that notorious then US President Ronald Reagan and then US Attorney General Edwin Meese III’s pornography commission report?” Imagine – for possible comic effect – the app’s pornography detection criterion be based on that Ronald Reagan’s “big blue 1,960-page book on pornography that was published back in July 1986 that almost nobody reads anymore and was labeled a big waste of American taxpayers’ money back then”. Would such a 1980s themed retro app prove to be a “best-seller”? 

Given that July has become the more or less ad hoc “Ronald Reagan Pornography Month” – the release of a “Ronald Reagan Pornography” themed app this July 2014 seems apt – if you’ll excuse the pun – to try out what the hubbub is about on that notorious of American taxpayers’ money Ronald Reagan Pornography Commission Final Report was back in July 1986. Would it also necessitate the addition of a “hypocrisy chip” or “hypocrisy module” on your Android capable smartphone given how the US Republican Party tackles such problems since the days when Ronnie was still president? Or would it be like – as legend has it – act like former US First Lady Nancy Reagan when she first saw an exhibition of the paintings of Old Masters in a museum and exclaimed “pornography”? Maybe somebody is already making and/or designing a US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart Pornography App right now. 

Given the capabilities of a typical contemporary smartphone, an artificial intelligence like program that could make the Ronald Reagan Pornography app act like a typical dyed-in-the-wool US Republican Party stalwart could not only provide countless hours of hilarity for history buffs or those old enough to have been singed by “Reaganomics” this sort of “pornography app” could prove to be a best-seller in today’s overcrowded app marker. Or should it carry the proverbial “caveat emptor” warning?  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Should Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Users Be Wary Of An Evil Twin Attack?

Given that virtually all of our contemporary lives now revolve around our ability to access and transact business on the internet, should we be wary of an evil twin attack when using public Wi-Fi hotspots?

By: Ringo Bones 

Almost all aspect of our contemporary life is now defined by our ability and ease of accessing and conducting commerce and paying our bills via the internet. Sadly, cyber-criminals are now capitalizing on this and had since gave birth to the concept of the “evil twin attack” on people hooking up their smart-phones and other mobile computing device on an unsecure public Wi-Fi connection. Some cyber-criminals use “authentic looking sites” to entrap unwary users that got bamboozled into giving / surrendering their private financial information like credit card numbers, ATM PIN numbers, etc. for the financial gain of the cyber-criminal at the expense of the unwary user. But how can we all protect ourselves from an “evil twin attack”, especially those who conduct their businesses in public Wi-Fi connections whose security status they are quite unsure of? 

Due to the recent advances in mobile personal computer technology, cyber-criminals and malicious hackers no longer need a van full of electronics to build their own “evil twin” of a legitimate website in order to steal private financial information - cyber criminals can now use a sufficiently powerful laptop and the required software. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are easy targets for “evil twin” attacks since public Wi-Fi hotspots like those in posh Parisian style coffee shops have their passwords on display to their paying customers and thus are extremely vulnerable to cyber-criminals launching an “evil twin” attack to phishing private financial information. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are also ideal for cyber-criminals to employ older illicit key-logging software to steal password information. 

Evil twin Wi-Fi scams have been around for awhile ever since Wi-Fi hotspots had been around, but since the advent of advanced smart-phones, such attacks had since become more brazen. One should wait until they come home or arrive in a place whose Wi-Fi hotspot have security features specifically optimized to foil evil twin attacks whenever they access their vital online banking account information or using their credit cards in purchasing big ticket items.  In an unsecure public Wi-Fi hotspot set-up, the cyber-criminal hacker could be sitting right beside you as he or she steals your vital access codes without even you knowing it. One proven deterrent to an evil twin attack while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot is to set their inbox to the more secure “https” mode. Dynamic single-use password Wi-Fi networks like those provided in most hotels are inherently more secure but many are lured to a public Wi-Fi hotspot because they are much more convenient to use. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Google’s Driverless Cars: The Revolutionary Way to Drive?

If Google’s fleet of driverless cars works as foolproof as its iconic search engine, will it soon create a driving revolution?

By: Ringo Bones 

Set for mass trials before the end of 2014, Google’s driverless / self-drive cars could very well be representing a revolutionary way to drive if it performs as foolproof as the internet company’s iconic search engine. With its top speed limited to around 25 miles per hour – or 40 kilometers per hour – to make it as safe as possible given that it only has a start / stop button and no pedals, steering wheel and gear shift to speak of, Google’s driverless cars is said to be equipped with a camera, laser and radar based guidance system that integrates the car’s navigation with Google’s existing on-line navigation aids – as in Google Maps and Google Earth and the Global Positioning System satellite navigation. And given that the "idiosyncrasies" of most human drivers, Google's driverless cars could prove to be very good for our environment by making driving times / trips as short as possible thus lowering carbon dioxide emissions of Google's driverless cars that still burn carbon based fuels.

Though more evolutionary than revolutionary given that its proprietary autonomous self-drive and navigation system was first retrofitted to existing production cars during extensive tests and development years before, it is only recently that Google decided to design its first production autonomous driverless cars from the ground up instead of retrofitting its extensively tested autonomous driving system to off the shelf cars made by major car manufacturers like Ford or Toyota, etc. Designed as an ultra-compact two-seater to make it acceptably appealing in crowded urban environments, Google says that its 2014 era driverless cars will serve as a test-bed for more complex autonomous commercial mass transit systems like buses and passenger ferries. 

Google’s proprietary autonomous driverless and navigation system had been tested up to 100,000 miles without a single collision related mishap in its Silicon Valley headquarters for years and given their system’s exemplar safety record, Google plans to fully test their autonomous driverless system in “real world” conditions and also to test the concept of making driving much safer by removing the human error factor. The only question now is – “Where’s the stereo?”