[NEWS] How to turn $27 into $886,000

Picture of The Guardian reported today that lucky Norwegian Kristoffer Koch’s $27 investment in Bitcoin 4 years ago had ballooned to a jackpot of almost $900,000. Apparently Koch had purchased the virtual currency for 1,500 kroner while doing research for his thesis but then forgot about his “investment” (understandable given the pressures of writing a thesis) in 5,000 bitcoins. Luckily, he recently remembered his bitcoins and went back to claim them. He cashed in a fifth of them and bought an apartment.

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[NEWS] Samsung fined $340K for faking comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Photo courtesy of Erik Hörnfeldt

If you ever needed more proof that you can’t believe everything you read online (except, of course, this blog), then you need to look no further than the case of Samsung getting caught manipulating online comments in Taiwan using “a large number of hired writers and designated employees.”

The problem was first brought to the attention of regulators by Samsung competitor HTC who became concerned when large numbers of online commenters started to highlight HTC’s phones while praising Samsung’s. Apparently Samsung had hired a 3rd party marketing company to do their dirty work.

Via The Verge.


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[NEWS] Saturday Night Neat Stuff Roundup

Picture of rusted chain links

Lots ‘a links to get you through Saturday night Photo courtesy of Liz Jones

It’s Saturday night and if you’re bored (or even if you’re not!) here are some nifty links to some of the most interesting digital stuff of the week:


If you’re freaked out that Google’s going to start using your face and name in their ads, TechCrunch has a quick n’ easy tutorial on how to opt out of becoming an unintentional spokesmodel.

On the other hand, Google released a really cool video about their new work with quantum computers. Mind? Blown.

Former Apple design guru (and current bigwig at Nest) announced the new Nest Protect, an incredibly beautiful (and useful) reimagining of the ubiquitous smoke detector. Perfect if you happen to be the kind of person who burns the buffalo wings when getting ready for Sunday’s game.

Speaking of which…if you’re a cord cutter (someone who’s ditched cable), you might be wondering what your options are when it comes to kicking back on Sunday with some football. Luckily, Bloomberg BusinessWeek is there to offer a way to watch NFL games online…cheap and legal!

If you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you’ve got a paper due on Monday and can’t hang out watching football on Sunday, this article on 14 Silicon Valley startup execs who missed out on their big payday ought to help you feel better.  No matter how bad you feel about doing schoolwork instead of watching the game on TV, you’re never going to feel as badly as Ronald Wayne, an early backer of Apple who sold his 10% stake in the company for $800. Today he’d be worth $43.8 billion (yeah, with a “b”).

Of course, we all know that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t miss out on the big bucks. And what’s he doing with all his loot? Oh, buying four houses that surround his house for $30 million bucks in order to “protect his privacy.” Shame he doesn’t seem to care as much about your privacy. Oh! Snap!

Well, we can’t promise that you’ll end up as smart (or as rich) as Zuckerberg, but this quickie tutorial on Free Technology for Teachers shows you how to boost your brainpower (and your retention) by using Google Docs to make flashcards. No more late night trips to the CVS for index cards!

And speaking of educational technology, one of the big fads of the past year or so has been to issue students iPads. What do they do with them? Apparently they hack them so that they can use them for other than educational purposes. The Atlantic thinks that’s pretty cool.

But iPads aren’t just for hacking so that you can post to your Instagram account instead of doing more “educational” activities. With the soon-to-be-released Blockify software, you can put your Minecraft skills to use to build 3D models using blocks and then make your creations come to life by printing them to a 3D printer.

If you’re involved in more nefarious activities than creating 3D models of things you shouldn’t be printing, you might be interested in this article published in the Guardian this week about how the NSA uses some down-and-dirty tricks to break through anonymizing software.

And that just about wraps it up. But if you’re still feeling lonely on this Saturday night, you might want to check out this article on NextGov that explores how dating in the future might be augmented by computers…or shut down.

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[NEWS] Instant Internet history: See what Google looked like in 1998

Old Google logo from 1998

Google’s logo from 1998


If you’re 18 now and want to know what Google looked like around about the time you were dribbling Goldfish crumbs into the keyboard of your  ol’ home PC (RIP) or if you’re  older and just feeling nostalgic for a time when the Internet was simpler, for a limited time you can type “Google in 1998” into your Google search bar and see what it looked like way back when. But while this little trick might lead to a trip down memory lane, it unfortunately won’t let you go back an invest in the 1998 Google…a move that could have landed you a 10,000X return on your money. Oh well. Easy come, easy go, right?

One thing not to miss (especially if you avoided investing unwisely during the boom going on at the time): take a look at the “Try your query on:” links in the footer. Most of the search engines listed there either don’t exist anymore or barely touch Google’s marketshare. In fact, is the only one really giving Google a run for its money, and even that’s not close: in 2012, Google’s revenues were 313% more than Amazon’s. 

And oh, yeah: Facebook was still 6 years away from launching in 1998. Not a big surprise: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have only been 14 years old when he saw the page you can see today.


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[NEWS] Fingerprint scanner security and law enforcement

Closeup of finger with fingerprint visible

Fingerprint, courtesy Stefano Mortellaro

The iPhone 5s might not be the first phone to feature fingerprint-based security (the Motorola Atrix beat Apple to the punch back in 2011 even though it seems that Motorola has been quick to forget this little detail), but the release of the new phone has stirred a lot of discussion on the Interwebs about the pros and cons of biometric security. Probably one of the best discussions so far is this one (scroll to the bottom of the article) in which user Robzilla points out the law enforcement implications of using fingerprints instead of passwords to secure personal information:

There’s one arena where the fingerprint scanner is absolutely less secure: Law enforcement. Courts have been ruling that you can’t be forced to give up a password. The 5th and all that. But the Supreme Court has ruled that fingerprints are fair game. And before some idjit comes along with the old “If you aren’t doing anything wrong” BS, when the police start going through your stuff (United States v. Wurie and Riley v. California are two lawsuits being considered by the SCOTUS right now for just this), well, we no longer live in anything resembling a free society.

It’s a compelling argument, but are fingerprints really fair game when the police want to get into your phone? User bigshock73 disagrees:

The police are allowed to force you to give fingerprints for the purposes of identification, just like they used to be able to require blood to preserve evidence. The Court recently held that the exigency that existed in 1966 no longer exists due to changes in technology and 24/7 availability of a magistrate judge. Now, police need a warrant to draw blood in most cases. Just because they can take fingerprints for id’s doesn’t mean they can take them to access your phone. Given the ruling on passwords and blood draws the Court is likely to frown on the expanded use.

Makes sense…but until we get a court case that decides this one either way, it’s another example of how changes in technology are challenging the law to keep up. After all, if the Chaos Computer Club can figure out how to hack the iPhone’s fingerprint scanner using lifted fingerprints after just a couple of days after the phone’s release then it may just be a moot point.

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[NEWS] Harvard and MIT scientists coax photons into forming molecules. Can you say lightsaber?

Researchers Mikhail Lukin and Vladan Vuletic (whose names sound suspiciously like never-before-mentioned Sith Lords) have done something that physicists had theorized about but hadn’t yet been able to pull off in the lab: coaxing photons (once thought to be massless particles that couldn’t interact with each other) into binding together into “photonic molecules.” As Lukin explains in

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules.”

He then goes on to drop the bombshell that’s going to make Star Wars fans squeal like tipsy Ewoks:

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers…The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”


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[NEWS] Big Data, freedom, and security debated at Social Good Summit

Social Good Summit logoThe Social Good Summit, a joint project of social media news site Mashable, the 92nd Street Y, The United Nations Foundation, The United Nations Development Programme, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and mobile phone giant Ericsson held a panel yesterday which focused on the issues around so-called “Big Data” and social good around the world.  In attendance were Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the UN’s Global Pulse initiative, Cario Ratti, an MIT architect and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, and Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Ericsson’s VP of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility. The discussion covered a wide range of issues dealing with governments and their ever-expanding capabilities for collecting data on their citizens. And while opinions ranged from the alarmist to the sanguine, it was Cario Ratti who probably summed up the problem best:

“When you digitize things, then the way you interface with it is different, you create a world of total recall, a world where its impossible to forget.”

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[NEWS] #JustinTimberlake and #JimmyFallon #parody the #silliness of #hashtag #culture

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[NEWS] Louis CK Explains Why He Hates Smartphones

Kinda makes you think about this whole technology thing, huh?


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[NEWS] Before There was GPS: Personal Navigation in the 1920s and 1930s


The Plus Four Routefinder: Personal navigation from the early 20th century

GIS Lounge has a fascinating (if not frustratingly short) article about early attempts at developing personal navigation devices. Both examples — the Plus Four Routefinder and the Iter-Auto– used scrolling maps to help early motorists (and, in the case of the Plus Four Routefinder, walker, bikers, and horseback riders) figure out where they were and how to get from there to where they wanted to go. Both had problems– most notably the fact that you had to switch out map rolls when you went “off the map” — but they show that the idea of personal navigation aids goes back far before the GPS system so many of us rely on today.


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