Category: Software

Computer graphics display mind-bending new tricks


We already had our minds bent at Siggraph’s Emerging Technologies exhibit earlier this year, but some of the new computer graphics technology that will be on display at Siggraph Asia starting next week won’t just bend your mind, it’ll snap it right in half.

Read the complete article and watch more videos at DVice.

Programmers are the New Art World Renegades

Just as photography was a controversial new art form in the late 19th century (critics questioned the role of the artist if the machine ultimately produced the work), it seems computer programmers have yet to be fully accepted into the art world.

This much was clear at the first Leaders in Software and Art (LISA) Conference, which took place at the GuggenheimMuseum in New York last week. The conference grew out of the LISA Salons that conference organizer Isabel Draves has hosted for three years in an effort to create a sense of community among software artists.

Panel discussions at the event addressed questions about the place of software art in history. Draves said in her opening remarks that it could even become the next big artistic movement: “something has to come after post-modernism. It’s only a matter of time” before media art takes its rightful place in history.

But software art—images, videos, and interactive content created by programming computers—is still experiencing resistance from the mainstream art community, according to Draves and others at the conference.  While the field is decades old, they said, it still hasn’t been accepted as a mainstream art form.

Read the complete article at technology review.

Hardware Hacks Are Cool Again, and Software Stands to Gain

Last weekend I was at a party with a bunch of people from various parts of the tech industry, and one of them brought up a cool hack from Techcrunch Disrupt. But the hack the group marveled at wasn’t merely cool code; it had a hardware component, and that’s a big part of why it was so interesting.

The hack is called Livebolt, and it’s an authentication system that lets users unlock a door via a smartphone app. Hackathons like the one at Disrupt have tended to produce purely software, but that’s changing. Back in June, I served as a judge for AngelHack2 in Boston, and two of the three finalists had a hardware component. (One helped personalize your workout at the gym, the other was a smart cigarette case that tracked your smoking.)

You can point to several reasons why hardware is becoming cool again, from the rising profile of “maker” culture to the plummeting cost of technologies like 3D printing, but I want to focus on just one. Over the past several years we’ve increasingly layered information networks over our physical environment, and that environment is poised to itself be reinvented. Here’s what I mean…

Read the complete article at Technology Review.

Actually, file-sharers buy more legal music than everyone else

A study has found that music fans who use peer-to-peer file sharing services actually purchase more music, on average, than those who stay completely legit.

The study by the American Assembly, a nonpartisan public policy think tank housed at Columbia University, found that file sharers purchase around 30 percent more music than non-file sharers. File sharers also have much larger music collections, naturally, with a big boost to their libraries provided by files they’ve downloaded without buying.

Read more at venturebeat.

New Software Makes Synthesizing DNA As Easy As ‘Drag and Drop’ With Icons

Omri Amirav-Drory wants to be the Bill Gates of the DNA world. Windows revolutionized personal computers by providing a graphic user interface for MS-DOS. Afterwards people didn’t need to be trained in the arcane logic of computer language to be able to use computers.

In an analogous way, Amirav-Drory wants to create a graphic user interface that would empower people to manipulate the arcane logic of DNA. His new software, Genome Compiler (free and available for download at, converts the various parts of a DNA sequence into easy-to-understand, and easily manipulable, icons. The software turns the complex task of DNA design into an easy drag-and-drop exercise. I caught up with Amirav-Drory recently at Singularity University where he took me through a demo of the program and told me how it might be used by researchers, biology hackers, and what sorts of risks are involved in bringing genetic design into the DIY space.

Trained as a biochemist at Tel Aviv University, Amirav-Drory knows firsthand that designing and constructing the DNA tools used for experiments is labor-intensive and plagued with too many fatal errors. “I hated cloning,” he admits. “It seemed silly to me.”

As a former ‘gene jockey’ myself, I can relate.

To get a sense of the convenience that Genome Compiler could potentially offer requires a general idea of what goes into building a bit of DNA in the lab. Typically, designing an experimental piece of DNA containing the gene you’re interested in starts with manually going through the actual genetic sequence – thousands of A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s – and, if you were in my lab, using several different colored highlighters to label the important parts on pages in a three-ring binder. The next step would be to design the little stretches of DNA called ‘primers’ to run a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify your sections of interest. Then you would add enzymes to your amplified DNA to cut out those sections, and later add enzymes to paste them into the newly constructed DNA. Finally, your new little molecular masterpiece is injected into bacteria so that, as the bacteria multiply, so does your DNA. The entire process takes a few days.

Read the complete article at Singularity Hub.

Free 123D Catch App Makes Your iPhone a 3D Scanner

3D scan (using your iPhone camera!) and model for free with 123D Catch. Then send it on to the printer.

In three years 3D scanners have gone from $30,000 to $3,000 to—$0.00?! AutoDesk’s free 123D Catch app is now available for the iPhone and iPad. Users can take up to 40 pictures, upload them to the cloud, and receive a digital 3D model. Simply, 123D Catch is a free handheld 3D scanner as mobile as you are. Coupled with 3D modeling software and 3D printing services, Autodesk aims to bring 3D fabrication to the masses.

If you’re an architect or manufacturer or computer animator, chances are you already know Autodesk. Their 3D modeling software AutoCad—first released way back in 1982—is near ubiquitous in the professional world. But not so much at home.

Autodesk hopes to change all that with its user-friendly, free suite of 3D modeling software. The 123D Catch app was first released on the iPad in May 2012 and more recently adapted for the iPhone in early September. Added to 123D, 123D Catch (web), 123D Sculpt (iPad), and 123D Make, Autodesk has made 3D scanning, modeling, and printing as easy as 1-2-3. (Clever, huh?)

How does it work? Grab something you want to digitize—a statue or household item. Now, take 20 to 40 photos of the object from as many different angles as you can. Review your photos and replace any errant shots. When satisfied, upload the images to Autodesk’s cloud service.

Read the complete article at Singularity Hub.

Software That Tells Fibs on Your Behalf

Lately, I’ve heard a lot about a new website that shows what percentage of someone’s Twitter followers are “fake,” “inactive” and “good.”

If the Fake Follower Check site is accurate, some of the biggest Twitter users, including President Obama, Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber, have thousands or even millions of “followers” who aren’t real people.

I’ve been looking into this phenomenon, and I’ve been shocked by what I’ve found. There is, apparently, a massive lies-for-sale industry made up of services that either offer tools to help people lie, or tell lies directly on behalf of their customers.

Popularity lies

How much does it cost to fake popularity? On the cheap side, you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers for $14 on a site called InterTwitter; 5,000 followers cost $43; 100,000 cost $487.

Followers are even cheaper on FanMeNow, where you can buy 1,000 followers for $10 — or 1 million for $1,350.

Read the complete article at PCWorld.

This Software Never Forgets a Face

If you’re smart, you use a complex password for every secure website you log in to. If you’re human, you’re sick and tired of having to remember complex passwords for every secure website you log in to. SensibleVision promises a better solution in the form of software that logs you in practically the instant it recognizes your mug. I’ve been using a beta version of the program on a Windows laptop, an iPad, and an Android smartphone, and have been very impressed so far.

If you’ve been following the epic fail of Android 4.1’s Face Unlock feature, you’re probably snickering. Jelly Bean had barely emerged from Google’s labs when people figured out that Face Unlock could be fooled by a simple photograph of the user’s face. Google quickly tweaked Face Unlock so that you had to blink to prove you were human, but that didn’t provide much of an obstacle, either. So what makes FastAccess any more secure than Face Unlock?

Two-Factor Authentication

For starters, FastAccess offers two-factor authentication: Choose this option, and in addition to enrolling your face, you’ll also preregister either a connect-the-dots gesture or a symbol (such as a snowflake, puzzle piece, butterfly, and so on); both elements will be required to log in. So even if hackers successfully trick the facial-recognition algorithm using a photo or video—a feat I couldn’t accomplish with this software, by the way—they’d also need to know your secret gesture or symbol before they could pose as you. These elements pop up in random areas of the screen, to prevent finger smudges from giving them away.

Read the complete article at PCWorld.

Mars rover Curiosity improves image on Patch Monday

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is getting a software patch that will improve its image processing, among other important areas. If you think patch management is hard in your organization, imagine what it’s like at a distance of 350 million miles.

Read more at Computerworld

IBM claims spintronics memory breakthrough

Computerworld – In a paper set to be published this week in the scientific journal Nature, IBM researchers are claiming a huge breakthrough in spintronics, a technology that could significantly boost capacity and lower power use of memory and storage devices.

Read the complete story at Computerworld