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Tip of the Week

Heartbleed Hero

A great deal of nonsense and far too many scare stores have been written about the Heartbleed security flaw in the past week or so, but I am not about to add to the confusion. There clearly was an issue and if it has you worried here’s a very simple way to make sure that the web sites you visit are now free of this particular bug, though only if you are using the Chrome and Firefox browsers; IE users will have to stay worried. Two browser add-ons and an extension, called ChromeBleedFoxBleed and HeartBleed-Ext , respectively, have been created by Filippo Valsorda. When you open the website the add-on carries out a check and if it is affected by the bug it tells you straight away, by displaying a red bleeding heart icon. Heartbleed–Ext puts a easy to spot coloured heart logo on the Firefox toolbar. They are all easy to use and should help calm a few nerves, though there is always the possibility of a false positive, so there’s another check you can do. Filippo has created a Heartbleed Test website, simply copy and paste the address of the website you want to verify and it tells you if there’s a problem.


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Tizen On The Horizon

Irritated by iOS, annoyed by Android or just weary of Windows? Well, here’s another smartphone. Tablet PC and smart TV operating system to grumble about, or possibly not, especially if you’re a fan of Linux. It’s called Tizen and it has actually been around for a year or two but now its out in the big wild world with the likes of likes of Intel and Samsung getting behind it with actual hardware. Samsung are already using it in its NX300 smart camera and the Gear 2 smartwatch and plans are afoot for Tizen-powered phones, starting with the ZEQ 9000, due out in the next few months. So what will Tizen do for you? Well, it’s Open Source, which means manufacturers won’t have to stump up costly licence fees to the likes of Google and Microsoft. It is based on and around HTML5, which makers it easier for developers to create apps that will run on a wider range of devices. More importantly, it also means that some HTML5 apps created for Android will also run on Tizen, with little or no modification. Some reports suggest that Tizen devices may have longer battery life but from the user’s standpoint there probably won’t be any seismic changes. Tizen smartphones will look and work a lot like Android devices though there is the possibility they could be a little cheaper but otherwise it should be pretty much business as usual. By the way, in case you were wondering, the name comes from a mashup of the word Tie – suggesting connectivity -- and the meditative qualities of Zen…


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…