Categories
Technology

A vision of the future – presented by Microsoft

The other day I stumbled across a video on Microsoft Office’s YouTube Channel which showed a vision that Microsoft had of the/a possible technological future.

The video contained all sorts of cool, crazy and weird things, from electronic mugs that determined your mood and glasses (the ones on your eyes not the ones you drink out of!) that could translate audio, to animated newspapers (digital paper) and 3D holograms.

Below is the video:

So what do you think, is this the future, is it too optimistic, or just a little weird?

I am now very much looking forward to the future to see how right Microsoft got it!

As with most things in life, a rather comical spoof has been of one of Microsoft other visions of the future. I thought I would include it here to give you a laugh too 🙂

What’s your take on these two videos? Does the second speak more truth than the first, your newspaper will crash, we will all have mental implants, oh, and there will be small fiddly bits of tech which you can easily loose!

I enjoyed both videos, what about you?

Categories
Gadgets Technology

5 Most Popular Two-Factor Authentication Security Devices

As we had discussed before, one-factor authentication is not sufficient in order to have good security. Especially when we talk about sensitive transaction such as banking transactions, it is not secure anymore today if it were done only using username and static password.

Two-factor has to come into the IT security field to ensure that the correct person is authenticated. The items below are the five most popular methods used for any two-factor authentication.

1. Mobile OTP

Mobile One-Time Password
Mobile One-Time Password (OTP)

A very popular and cost saving method is to use a SMS gateway and send OTP (one-time password) to a mobile phone user. This method is used widely simply because everyone has a mobile phone today which means everyone can use two-factor authentication as long as the host of the application willing to invest and provide this service.

2. OTP Token

One-Time Password Token
One-Time Password (OTP) Token

OTP token works more or less the same as the Mobile OTP. The difference is that this is a separate device and the OTP can be generated immediately instead of waiting for the SMS gateway to send. As a result, it is more reliable than the Mobile OTP but additional cost needed to have this device.

3. PKI USB Token

Public Key Infrastructure Token
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Token

PKI USB Token offers the second best security in the market by beating off man in the middle attack such as phishing attack. However, PKI implementation needs an infrastructure where it is going to be costly. Due to the cost matter, PKI is not well known in certain countries as people will go for OTP to have the balance of security and investment cost.

4. EMV Cap OTP with Signature

Europay, MasterCard and VISA Cap One-Time Password with Signature
Europay, MasterCard and VISA (EMV) Cap One-Time Password (OTP) with Signature

EMV Cap OTP offers the best security around as it not only beats off the man in the middle attack, but also the man in the browser attack. This is simply because the user needs to sign the transaction using the EMV card reader instead of the web browser. As a result, the Trojan of the man in the browser will no longer work. The drawback is that, signing with transaction device can be a tedious thing to do. The user needs to enter correctly the recipient’s account number and the amount in order to perform the transaction successfully.

5. Out of Band Transaction Detail Verification

Out of Band
Out of Band

This method provides the best security similar to the above and solves as well the weakness of the EMV Cap OTP. What this method does is to send the user the details of the transaction such as the recipient’s account number, amount and the OTP code via non-internet channel such as voice call or SMS. The user will verify those details given and confirm the transaction by submitting the OTP code into the web browser. This gives great security but not anything more after that. Unlike PKI, that piece of digital certificate can do not only authentication signing, but also document signing, PDF signing or even data encryption.

Nothing is perfect in this world where everything has its good and bad. You have to clearly define what you want and I’m sure you can find the device that is suitable to you.

Categories
Technology

Technology and sport

Should we use more technology in sport? Well it depends on the sport I guess, or does it?


I have been watching a bit of Wimbledon lately and it’s got me thinking about technology and sport. Go back 50 years and technology had a very small part in the sporting world. There was no Hawk-Eye technology in tennis or cricket, meaning that it was purely down to human perception as to whether the point was scored, or out.

Hawk-Eye at Wimbledon
Hawk-Eye technology being used at Wimbledon

This is still true of football. Some say that it “adds to the excitement of the game” but others say that it is time to move on. Last years world cup started serious discussions into the use of technology in the sport, specifically goal line technology. There were incorrectly awarded goals as well as goals not awarded.

England was cheated of a point against Germany when the referee decided not to award a goal. It was hard for the linesman to judge, due to where he was standing, however goal line technology and goal cameras could easily have verified the truth. This wasn’t the case for England though.

England's discounted goal against Germany in the 2010 South African World Cup
The ball clearly went in the goal, however the referee decided that it was not a goal

Many sports have now adopted the use of technology to improve the accuracy of scores/results, athletics, tennis and cricket are just a few. But my question to you is should other sports yet to use the technology, like football, make the switch too, or does technology just not have a place in every sport?

Categories
Science Technology

What do we need to know about nanotechnology?

As you may already know, nanosciences innovative advances encompass technology, medicine and manufacturing and so affect our world to more and more of an extent. Some in the scientific community are hesitant to endorse the developments and wonder about the consequences of these advances.

However, fascination surrounding this field, and lets not forget excitement over the potential for profit, is at the forefront and pushing nanoscience forward.

Nano-Imaging

When we think of a nanometer, we need to wrap our minds around the fact that this is a measurement of a substance 100,000 times smaller than a single human hair. Before any form of mass production using these substances is in place, researchers need to accurately image them to learn of their topography and composition. Observation of nanomaterials is achieved by impressively powerful microscopes. The atomic force microscope (AFM) provides for extremely high (nanometer) resolution.

Nanotechnology being used in medicine
Nanotechnology being used to modify red blood cells

Today we hear of many developments and new manners of operation devised for the AFM paving the way for serious strides in nanotechnology. Therefore, with advances in nano-imaging comes progressive research and subsequent manufacturing which has benefits as well as potential risks.

First of all, industry, research bodies and governments are not aware of the amount of nanomaterials being produced. Without knowing these amounts, how is it possible to know the amount of potential exposure and therefore risks?

Does the law protect us now?

Governments do have regulations and guidelines but new materials like these have proven difficult to classify and sometimes are grouped together with already existing materials and so not independently classified at all. Other countries are already climbing aboard the nanotechnology bandwagon in a big way and governments need to properly regulate the importation of products containing these materials. How much to regulate leads to much discussion. The “bottom line” question needs to be answered…. “Is nanotechnology going to do more harm than good?”

All in all, the most basic risk assessments cannot be made because of a lack of information. Without appropriate analysis, we cannot have adequate laws.

What are our concerns?

Communities are becoming more ‘green’ in their approach to environmental issues. Concerns are valid over the potential these substances have to contaminate our water supplies or potentially harm plants and animal populations. After all, environmental sustainability is the only option and so, industry must always remain accountable.

The potential risks to human health and the environment differ greatly from risks associated with conventional materials which exhibit different characteristics.

Scientists are at work to increase their understanding of how nanomaterials interact with biological systems such as cell membranes so as to minimize any adverse effects. However, nanomaterials are still marketed commercially by the ton. They are in our cosmetics, sunscreens and lotions, car wax, paints and clothing. As research progresses and findings can be marketed in products, the list grows. The threat of potential toxicity of nanomaterials entering our tissues and cells exists and there could be real health implications.

Industry cannot allow for health, environmental or ethical concerns to decrease or halt the progress of nanotechnology. There is an agenda here – in the end it is much to do with a fat wallet.

Developments in this field are exciting but at what cost?
The point here is, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the questions that matter.

For further reading, check out my article on nanotechnology on my site Microscope Master. Links in my bio.

Categories
How To Guides Technology

Is technology taking over your life?

Blogs.

Tweets.

Feeds.

Not too long ago if you had told someone that you spent a good chunk of your spare time with these things, they wouldn’t have had a clue what you were talking about.

As citizens of the new virtual landscape, we are pioneering new technologies at what seems like lightning speed.

It’s Hard To Fly Underwater

The ancient Greeks tell the story of Daedalus and his son Icarus. Trapped on the island of Crete (home the vicious and anatomically incorrect Minotaur), Daedalus skilfully crafted two sets of wings for him and his son thus enabling them to fly away off the island in an impressive escape.

But as they made their getaway, Icarus started to become quite enamoured with this new gift of flight. He flew higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun…

You know the story.

I think this parable could very easily be about our modern relationship with technology. Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against technology at all.

In fact, I’m madly in love with it. The new tools available to us today would have been unthinkable in any other period in history. It’s exhilarating to say the least.

But as we integrate more of these “tools” into our life, venturing deeper and deeper into the unknown, we have to realize we are taking a risk. We are flying higher without checking to look at the state of our wings.

Technology wants more and more of our limited time and resources. And as if right on cue, we keep on flying higher and higher, oblivious the wax melting all around us.

No one knew Twitter could spark a democratic revolution.

No one knew that blogs could provide news better and faster than traditional media outlets.

But no one knew either just how heavily addicted to and reliant on the internet we could become. No one knew that World of Warcraft could cost you your job or your marriage. No one knew that without warning their self-esteem could become dependent on how many anonymous “subscribers” or “page hits” they receive on a given day.

Who could have known?

I’m not here to bash technology. (This is after all, a pro-technology blog is it not?) But what I’d like to say is that in our adoption and usage of technology, new and old, we should be careful not to fly too high.

I wont pretend to have all the answers, but here are some guidelines to enjoy a smooth flight away from the evil Minotaur of the interwebs.

Take A Time-Out

Have you ever counted just how many hours you spend online?

Give your self a time-out every once in a while. My wife and I do our very best to be completely done with our computers by 9 pm every night so that we can actually spend some time together.

It’s shocking how hard that can be sometimes. But it’s amazing how much you can think of to do when you’re not on your computer.

Prioritize, Then Move On

Read only the blogs you want to read. Remove the bookmarks and feeds that aren’t quite contributing to where you want to go.

If you have too many sites and social media services in your diet, you are overfeeding yourself. Your body won’t be able to digest it all and it will start to make you sick, depressed, and lonely.

Figure out what is actually important to you and then swiftly and deliberately cut out all the rest. Do online what you came there to do and then move on to something else.

Discover Your Inner Chimp

Humans are social animals. The internet is a great playground, but it’s not always the ideal place to foster healthy and deep relationships.

We are genetically predisposed to want to interact with other human beings. Did I say want? I meant need.

An avatar will not provide the same warmth and connection as another person in the flesh. Find real live human beings in your neighbourhood to play with. I promise you they are more fun and they will (almost always) respond to your comments.

I’m no psychologist but the place where I find deepest and most lasting fulfilment? Yep, it’s offline.

Get Sober

About a month ago, I realized something was wrong. After about a year and half of being a die hard fan of Netflix, I realized that the amazing miracle of streaming movies and television had taken hold of me.

I was watching more than I planned to. It was keeping me up later than I wanted it to. And all of a sudden, it was hurting more than helping.

I love Netflix and think it’s a wonderful company. But it was time for it to go. I had to break the spell it had over me.

You see, I had a goal of reading more books and to improve my writing. But without sacrificing a few episodes of Burn Notice, this blog post would never have been written.

Find out what technological “tool” has a hold over you. Examine where your bigger goals are not matching up with your daily technology habits. Then get some freedom. Sober up.

It’ll be hard but it’s worth it.

Spread Your Wings

So what’s the big take away? Make sure that these new wings of yours are flapping for you.

Or in other words:

Make sure technology is your slave.

Otherwise you might unknowingly become its slave.

And if you are a slave to technology, the only place that will lead… is down.

Happy flying!

Categories
Business News

What happens in Japan stays in Japan?

Some say that despite Japan being the third largest economy in the world, what happens in Japan, usually stays in Japan. After the recent Tsunami, this seemed to be the case, initially.

However now that most of the countries industry has shut down, the effects are really being felt around the world. Why? Well, Japan is a major exporter of electrical and motorised goods – after all companies like Honda and Sony are based there.

A Busy Japanese Street - Representative of the Japanese EconomyOften the Japanese factories make some of the parts and then the final goods are assembled closer to where they are going to be sold. This is great as it increases capacity due to specialisation, but it does have it’s problems too.

Due to the Japanese parts of such businesses currently being shut down, the entire supply chain for such goods has ground to a halt, as nobody can get the parts they need out of Japan.


Around the world Japanese firms are shutting down their plants, due to a lack of parts. Toyota are actually now withdrawing their UK operations due to the Tsunami – among other things.

Japanese Car Logos
The logos of well known Japanese cars

Sony are in a similar situation, as their firm is considering a complete shut down for 2 weeks due to power shortages. No doubt other firms like Panasonic, Nissan and Fujitsu wont be far behind too.

It looks like the shifting of a few tectonic plates might have caused a lot more than a devastating earthquake and tsunami, but also a slowdown in the global tech industry – leading to a large loss of jobs worldwide 🙁

What are your views on this, will the world really struggle without Japan?