Imagine turning on your computer to read a newspaper…

This is a report about what it will be like in ‘the future’, when we will be reading news from our computer. This is ‘newspapers by computer’.

It is truly awesome to see how far we have come in terms of the Internet and networking computer communication. It is also slightly amusing to see how out of the loop the media was only 30 years ago, and more specifically how they did not, immediately, see the huge potential of networked computers, and how these system could possibly affect home computer users in very near the future.

UFO Files Released – March 2011

UFOThe National Archives have recently released a large amount of documents on reported UFO sightings and related internal and public communications relating to them.

In total, the National Archives have released over eight and a half thousand UFO related pages this March. You can download all the documents in PDF format individually. However, for the convenience of anyone reading this I’ve created a torrent containing all the March 2011 UFO files.

Download UFO Files – March 2011 (torrent)

Below is an extract from the National Archives website relating to the release of these files, stating the details about the release and what it contains.

“Over 8,500 pages of UFO discussions, sightings and reports have been released today by The National Archives. Covering the years 2000-2005, this is the largest batch of UFO files to be released so far.

The files document how UFOs became a global issue, discussed by the highest levels of government around the world, including the United Nations, the US Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s House of Lords. This latest release of files also reveals documents on the government’s UFO policy for the first time. […]

The files reveal hundreds of reports of UFO sightings by radar, ‘UFO crashes’ and other close encounters, including one incident which saw a flying saucer hoax by students which was treated as a potentially real alien invasion of the UK (Catalogue reference: DEFE 24/1986).”

Hope this collection is interesting for those interested in space exploration and the potential of alien life existing somewhere out there in the universe.

Mark Gasson ‘Cyborg’ catches a Computer Virus

Dr Mark Gasson, from the University of Reading has had a virus infected computer chip implanted in his arm. Tests proved this virus could spread to external control systems wirelessly.

The BBC who initially reported this proof-of-concept ‘infection’ stated that Dr Gasson admitted that the test is only proof of concept but believe that there are significantly implications for advanced medical devices. In my opinion, such systems should be incapable of malware infection as a heavily important part of their design. Such real-time systems should not have the necessary capacity to carry and distribute, both in terms of storage space and system capability.

If you are running an (operating) system capable of malware reception* on mission critical systems (and thus required anti-malware measures), such as those used in nuclear power plants or reservoirs to regulate containment, there there is a fundamental problem with this design. This is akin to a school teacher wearing a condom during classes – while this technically provides additional safety, there is obviously something fundamentally wrong with this principle at a more basic level.

* I’m aware there is no system that is 100% secure from malware, but levels of security exist. For example, the mission critical systems discussed here do not require a full Microsoft Windows operating system, nor a full consumer operating system of any kind in fact. Such devices should be self-contained in most cases, with entirely custom code. Lesser mission critical systems may rely on a Linux kernel as the base operating system with the business/operational logic running on bespoke programs running ontop of this base system.

The BBC article and Mark Gasson goes into further details on the  security risks of advanced medical devices which may be subject to malware.

“With the benefits of this type of technology come risks. We may improve ourselves in some way but much like the improvements with other technologies, mobile phones for example, they become vulnerable to risks, such as security problems and computer viruses.”

He also added: “Many people with medical implants also consider them to be integrated into their concept of their body, and so in this context it is appropriate to talk in terms of people themselves being infected by computer viruses.”

However, Dr Gasson predicts that wider use will be made of implanted technology.

“This type of technology has been commercialised in the United States as a type of medical alert bracelet, so that if you’re found unconscious you can be scanned and your medical history brought up.”

We can all hope that security in these heavily critical devices is never designed alongside the principles of many general purpose computers.

Imagine an equivalent of the Storm botnet that, rather than infecting and making zombies of its host computers, infects human medical devices. In fact, that is not even a future I want to consider.

The Next iPhone ‘found lost in a bar’ by Gizmodo

Gizmodo, a blog well known for spreading hype about Apple products has apparently found ‘Apple’s next iPhone’. Here is a quote from the article Gizmodo recently posted.

You are looking at Apple’s next iPhone. It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS. We got it. We disassembled it. It’s the real thing, and here are all the details.

While Apple may tinker with the final packaging and design of the final phone, it’s clear that the features in this lost-and-found next-generation iPhone are drastically new and drastically different from what came before. Here’s the detailed list of our findings:

What’s new

• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It’s unclear if it’s the 960×460 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the “Connect to iTunes” screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

What’s changed

• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery

This information was sourced from Gizmodo’s recent article about the next iPhone. Apparently this iPhone has indeed been reported lost by Apple… and unsurprisingly, they want it back.

So, is this a clever marketing ploy by Apple or is someone at Apple very much fired?

Can Morality be Derived from Science?

Values can be reduced to facts about the experiences and related well-being of the minds of concious beings. Since we know the human brain is the physical existence of the memories and personality of concious beings, we will be able to, eventually ,map these experiences and the related effect on the well-being of individuals. Based on this logical progression, it follow that there could potentially be scientifically provable right and wrong answers on the subject of morality.

Morality itself is generally deemed to not be answerable by science, and science often has no official standpoint on morality, but why not? There are experts in all other fields of knowledge. Why could there not be experts of morality?

Sam Harris discussed these points at TED2010 and a variety of common morality related questions of good and evil, right and wrong, stating that science can, and indeed should, have an authority on moral issues.

He states that science should be able to logically shape human values and more specifically determine what exactly a good moral life can consist of.

What do you think?

Get Opera Mini from the iPhone App Store

This is just a quick follow up to my previous post regarding Opera Mini for the iPhone to state that, contrary to Apple’s own terms and conditions, Opera Mini has been approved for the Apple iPhone App Store.

iPhone users now have a choice in their web browsing experience!

Opera Mini for iPhone

I previously ran a post regarding Opera Mini being sent to Apple for approval. I also had a post in the works for how Opera Mini was still not released to the App Store.

However, in a turn of events, it seems Apple have approve Opera Mini for inclusion in the App Store after 20 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes (to be unnecessarily precise). This count is was available on Opera Mini’s website ever since it was sent to Apple for approval. Although not an iPhone user myself, I know several people who will be relieved to have additional browser choice beyond the default Safari web browser which is built-in.

British Space Agency (UKSA) – It’s here!

I’ve previously posted about the possibility of a British Space Agency and amazingly, it is it going to happen! The name of the ‘UK Space Agency’ (or UKSA) and its logo, as shown below were recently announced at a conference in London.

UK British Space Agency

The British… well, UK space agency will come into being on the 1st of April (here is me hoping it is not an elaborate April’s fool joke) and will take full responsibility for all government policy and budget decisions regarding space exploration, research and travel.

The British Space Minister, Lord Drayson, who initially put forward the idea of a UK / British Space Agency, had the following to say about the announcement.

“People in the UK are not aware of just how good Britain is both at space research and in terms of our space industry; [a space agency] is going to make people more aware of that,”

“But in practical terms, it’s going to make the decision-making by government in all aspects of space policy much more joined up, better co-ordinated – a single point within government which has responsibility for making sure that we get everything in alignment such that the space research we do, the space industry that we’re building, fulfils its true potential.”

Source: BBC News

As someone who is find the idea of space travel fantastic, I’m glad to see Britain getting its own space agency. Hopefully this will push more official space missions.

Although to be fair, the British public are not doing too bad on their own, with a guy called Robert Harrison taking some amazing photos of space, with a device which cost no more than £500!

Take a look at the photo his budget space exploration device below. If you want to, you can browse the entire Icarus Project photo collection on Flickr, or read some more about his space photography ventures.

Robert Harrison space photography

Are you British? Tell me what you think of the Space Agency. Incredibly cool, or not?

Opera Mini being released on the iPhone

I’ve recently been using Opera Mini on my Nokia N97. It is a really great portable web browser which works incredible well in my humble opinion.

One of its best features being the automatic reformatting of text columns in websites so they fit on your phone’s screen regardless of its orientation. This makes reading on it fantastic, as scrolling left and right continually is just not required, as it so commonly is with the N97’s built in web browser.

Anyway, it turns out the iPhone is getting the Opera Mini goodness shortly.

Well, that is the optimisitic view point at least. Opera have submitted the browser to the Apple App Store and are now just awaiting confirmation that the App will go live. They have even put up a counter stating the amount of “Time since Opera Mini was submitted”. As of typing this, the counter currently stands at just over ten hours.

Opera Mini portable browser released for iPhone

Apparently, whoever guesses closest to the time at which Opera Mini goes live can win a new iPhone. Interesting. It seems to me that Opera Mini breaches Apple’s own terms which state that submitted applications should not duplicate existing or ‘built in’ iPhone functionality… such as web browsing, which Safari already does.

“Your move Apple” says an article on Mashable, and rightly so. Let’s hope their move is the right one for their users – choice.

What do you think? Is this counter the real deal or merely a marketing ploy and a bit of a stab at Apple? Will Opera Mini really get accepted to the App store?

The iPad and its effect on the Mobile Web

Apple iPadI recently wrote an article on my company blog regarding the Apple iPad and its potential effect on the mobile web.

“The release of Apple’s ever popular smartphone, the iPhone, back in mid 2007 caused a huge development spike in websites and dynamic web applications designed the mobile devices. Of course, the vast majority of these mobile website were developed specifically with the iPhone in mind, however the results were beneficial to pretty much all smartphones with the capability the browse the web and with some form of web browser application.

So, why do I think the iPad will slow this development in the mobile web market? The iPad is a mobile device itself is it not?

Well, perhaps not. Apple’s iPad does indeed use an operating system very similar to the iPhone, with backwards compatibility with almost all of the iPhone’s downloadable apps, and yes, it is mobile in the true sense of the word – it can be easily carried around unlike a full desktop computer and much more easily than a typically larger and much heavier laptop. However, the one aspect of the iPad which stands out is its native screen resolution of 1024×768”

If you’re interested, feel free to read the full article on how the iPad may affect the development of mobile websites in the near future.