Tag Archives: engineering

PTJ 218: Some Bot to Watch Over Me

The Consumer Electronics Show is over for another year, leaving a pile of press releases, product releases and demo videos in its wake. El Kaiser and J.D.  discuss the highlights of the 2017 mega-gadgetfest, and sample a few other stories in the tech headlines this week. Also on the show, J.D. points NASA fans in the direction of the new movie Hidden Figures — and the apps and sites celebrating these inspiring women. Through hardships to the stars, indeed.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

I have seen the future: Alexa controls everything (Ars Technica)

All the cool new gadgets at CES 2017 (CNET)

Battle of the CES 2017 coffee and tea robots (CNET)

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone’s Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week (Gadgets360)

Marissa Mayer is resigning from Yahoo’s board (Business Insider)

After Verizon deal, Yahoo to become ‘Altaba’ and Marissa Mayer to step down from board (The New York Times)

United State Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K

Facebook is going to start showing ads in the middle of its videos and sharing the money with publishers (Recode)

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities identified in St. Jude medical’s implantable cardiac devices and Merlin@home transmitter (FDA Safety Communication)

Commission proposes high level of privacy rules for all electronic communications and updates data protection rules for EU institutions (EU Commission press release)

Our continuing commitment to your privacy with Windows 10 (Windows blog)

One place to manage your privacy (Microsoft)

Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002 for PC (Windows blog)

Coming Soon to Windows 10 (Microsoft)

Facebook, Google face strict EU privacy rules that could hit ad revenues (Ars Technica)

KGI: 3 new iPads to debut next quarter will slow decline in sales, 10-10.5 inch model wildcard (9to5Mac)

Apple releases fix to MacBook Pros in response to Consumer Reports’ battery test results (Consumer Reports)

Subject: The iPhone turns 10: a visual history of Apple’s most important product (The Verge)

Phil Schiller on iPhone’s launch, how it changed Apple, and why it will keep going for 50 years (Backchannel)

Ad Astra Per Aspera

Nonfiction or fiction plot, space rules at the cinema this month. For those who may have missed it, the movie Hidden Figures dethroned Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the Number One film at the box office this past weekend.

Hidden Figures tells the story of a group of African-American female mathematicians working at the NASA facility in Virginia in the mid-20th century, and how they used their skills as human computers to calculate trajectories for launches, landings and other things you need to do to get to and from space. It’s based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film is set in the years right up to and including the early Project Mercury missions that put the first American astronauts into suborbital and orbital flight.

The film is set in the years right up to and including the early Project Mercury missions that put the first American astronauts into suborbital and orbital flight. The late John Glenn is portrayed in the movie, as are his fellow Mercury astronauts.

Hidden Figures focuses on three women who had to battle not only sexism — but racism as well — in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s. Mathematics wizard Katherine Johnson, engineer Mary Jackson and computing supervisor Dorothy Vaughn were all integral members of NASA back then, and their stories have been largely overlooked. For that reason, go see this movie. It’s an inspiring story brought to life by wonderful actresses that gives long overdue credit where credit is due. And if the film piques your interest about that era, there’s more to learn.

IBM, which has a bit pf product placement in the film, weighs in with an inventive augmented reality app called Outthink Hidden for Android and iOS. The app, developed with the T Brand Studio arm of The New York Times, lets users activate text, photos and video content about the women depicted in the movie. This is done by tracking down AR markers within ad units on nytimes.com, via ads in select print editions of The New York Times, and at 150 geofenced locations throughout the U.S. The app also celebrates diversity in STEM education.

If you want background reading on the black female computers of the NASA facility in Virginia, the Smithsonian, New York magazine and Popular Mechanics have all done stories in the past few months. For the story of women working for NASA out west at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, check out The Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, by Nathalia Holt. That book was also published last year.

As it did with Matt Damon’s The Martian movie in 2015, NASA fully supported Hidden Figures and has rolled out educational pages on its site for those who want to know more about this particular chapter of the agency’s history. Check out the Hidden Figures to Modern Figures section of the NASA site. You can also find the agency’s coverage when Katherine Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

And continuing its visible progress in diversity issues, NASA also announced new crew members for the International Space Station last week. In 2018, Dr. Jeanette Epps will become the first black American astronaut to serve a term aboard the station.
Congratulations, Dr. Epps!

PTJ 149 News: BBQ and Robots, Too!

This summer is turning out to be a big one for space news and demoted-planet Pluto is due for its star turn next week. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft, which woke up from hibernation last December, had a bit of a glitch that knocks it into Safe Mode on July 4th, but scientists say the craft is ready for its close flyby of Pluto on the morning of July 14th. If everything goes according to plan, New Horizons is expected to pass less than 7,800 hundred miles from the surface of little Pluto, which is relatively close in space terms; The New York Times has a great video on the topic. (And earlier this week in space, scientists on the Philae lander project were hoping to find signs of alien life on old Comet 67P, but comet experts are now pooh-poohing the notion.)

More than a dozen pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists have come together to produce a paper called “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity By Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications,” and in this paper, they challenge the intelligence agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom over government desires for special backdoors to be built into encrypted communications. The cryptographers find the government proposals to be unprincipled and unworkable. Many of the same cryptographers came together back in the 1990s to take down the Clinton administration’s proposed Clipper Chip, which would have provided a hardware backdoor into encrypted communications.

BBmicrobitThe British Broadcasting Corporation does more than just global news shows, historical costume dramas and Doctor Who. This week, the Beeb introduced its new initiative to help kids get into tech. The organization, along with 29 corporate partners, is giving out a programmable, pocket-sized “BBC Micro:Bit” bare-bones computer to all Year 7 students. Microsoft, ARM and Samsung were among the corporate partners on the project.

While Samsung helps out in the UK, its overall corporate intake dipped in the second quarter this year. The South Korea-based company reported a four-percent drop in 2Q, thanks in part to weaker-than-expected sales of its new phones. You can, however, get $200 off a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 if you buy it before July 26th.

tosserSpeaking of Microsoft, the Redmond giant is gearing up for its Windows 10 launch at the end of the month. The RTM, or Release to Manufacturing edition, is reportedly out the door this week, the preview of the revamped Bing Maps arrived and the Xbox Music service has now been rebranded as Groove. Xbox Video is now called Movies & TV, and there’s a special Windows 10 beta version of Minecraft on the way July 29th as well. And over in the experimental labs of Microsoft Garage, a new app called Tossup (shown here) is out now for Android and iOS smartphones.

Word from the Appleverse blogs has it that selected third-party accessory makers hoping to sell their wares in official Apple Stores will have to use new packaging co-designed by Apple itself. The reported shift is said to be part of a transition to a “premium feel” for products sold in Apple emporiums, as well as reducing clutter on store shelves.

Also in Apple news, many Kaisers, er, users were up in arms last week when it was discovered that the iOS 8.4 update that brought the Apple Music service into the world also took away the longstanding music Home Sharing feature. Home Sharing, which had been around since iTunes 9 back in 2009, allowed the streaming of one’s music library between devices and Macs and PCs running iTunes. While most people assumed the feature was yanked due to the legal tangle of music rights wadded up in Apple Music, Eddy Cue, Apple Senior VP and Taylor Swift best buddy, said the company is working to restore Home Sharing in the upcoming iOS 9.

Photographers who like Instagram but feel the 640 x 640 resolution was way too low for quality presentation will be happy to know that the service has quietly goosed up the rez to 1080 x 1080 pixels. A company representative said the Instagram apps for Android and iOS are bring updated to take advantage of the new feature.

goproAlso in photography news, GoPro, which makes those small wearable video cameras for recording first-person action adventures, now has an even smaller camera on the way. The company’s new model, the Hero4 Session, is half the size of the Hero4 Black model. The new tinycam is expected to start shipping next week and has a decidedly not-tiny price tag of $400.

Twitter has added the ability for users to list their birthdays on their Twitter profiles. If you have a massively public feed or draw a lot of hate tweets, though, perhaps you want to skip the sharing there.

Giant robot battles just aren’t for the movies anymore. Last week, MegaBot USA threw down the big iron gauntlet at Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry and challenged the company to a giant robot duel with a video. Naturally, Suidobashi responded with its own video to accept and the battle is on for next year. Get ready for some mecha-stomping good times!

bbqbotAnd finally, summer is here and the backyard grilling and barbecuing is in full flame. Texas and the rest of the South may get all the press for the quality barbecue eats, but don’t forget about that Yankee ingenuity. Way up yonder in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 16 engineering students from Harvard University have built what Wired is calling “the ultimate BBQ Bot” that brings science to the smoke. Admit it: you are totally hungry now, aren’t you?

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

adabookOctober 14 is Ada Lovelace Day, and a time to celebrate both the amazing Ada Lovelace herself and the achievements of all the women out there working in science, technology, engineering and math. If you missed it last year, The Atlantic had a great roundup of essays and other commentary on technology and gender here. To really read more about how it all got started, check out the new book Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger, out now from Melville House Books. So here’s to Ada Lovelace, and all the women that followed her into tech!