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Tip of the Week

Watchful Wizard

With so many viruses, malware and web lurgies doing the rounds it’s a scary time for the paranoid. Thankfully most of us have got the message and installed effective security software and know not to take chances with unsolicited email attachments, download pirated media or software and avoid dodgy websites, but the threat, however small, still remains that one day we’ll pick up something nasty. It’s even more of a concern for users of Windows XP, now that Microsoft has stopped issuing security updates, and whilst there is still a good selection of free and paid for security software for XP, many owners feel they’ve been left high and dry, so what if there was a way to immunise your computer, Windows XP and later against such misfortunes? Well, maybe there is, and it’s a freeware utility called Toolwiz Time Freeze. Basically it stops anything from making changes to your computer by putting all of its critical system files in a ‘Sandbox’. This is a protected storage area, and should the worst happen and critical files are interfered with, the changes will be automatically undone the next time the PC is booted. Should changes be needed or required you can decide to allow them from an Exclusions list. Simply put, nothing bad can happen to your PC when Timefreeze is running, and if you want to live dangerously, you can turn it off with just one click.


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Google’s Globetrotter

One of Google’s balloons has just travelled around the world in just 22 days, ten days faster than expected. The balloon, codenamed Ibis 167, is part of Google X Lab’s Project Loon,  -- a study into providing Internet access to the most remote, poorest and least developed parts of the world. The data collected by the remotely controlled hot air balloons is being used to forecast wind speeds and trajectories, to calculate the most effective and efficient distribution of the proposed fleet of aerial hotspots. It also allows them to test the pumps that move air in and out of the balloons; this changes their altitude and gives them some manoeuvrability, by moving them into wind streams travelling in different directions.



Eyes Everywhere

If you thought the proliferation of CCTV cameras was worrying, you ’aint seen nothing yet. Recently Bell Labs came up with a digital camera chip that doesn’t need a lens and this idea has been developed by a several companies, including one called Rambus, which has created a camera on a tiny glass chip that is just 200 micrometers across. That’s actually too tiny for it to be fitted with a lens, as they’re next to impossible to make that small. Instead of a lens it uses a combination of spiral shaped gratings, which capture the light and direct it onto an array of sensors, and some fancy processing, to ‘map’ the light and turn it into an image. Thus far the captured images are a bit low-res, but they are recognisable – the image on the right is what it makes of the Mona Lisa (the original is on the left)  -- and the real point is these chips could eventually be cheap enough to fit them just about anything. The big question is what could they be used for and this is where it gets scary. Imagine a world where just about every gadget is to ‘see’. It’s happening people, toasters and kettles will take over, mark my words…