Cybasurfa has moved…

29/08/2009

Cybasurfa has moved to a new location.

Thanks to WordPress.com for a great service over the past couple of years (still the best blogging platform in the world!).

Visit Cybasurfa for more breaking news and product reviews. The future as it happens!


US now trains more drone operators than pilots

24/08/2009

As part of an expanding programme of battlefield automation, the American air force has said it is now training more drone operators than fighter and bomber pilots.

In a controversial shift in military thinking – one encouraged by the confirmed death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a drone-strike on 5 August – the air force is looking to hugely expand its fleet of unmanned aircraft by 2047.

Three years ago, the service was able to fly just 12 drones at a time; now it can fly more than 50. At a trade conference outside Washington last week, military contractors presented a future vision in which pilotless drones serve as fighters, bombers and transports, even automatic mini-drones which attack in swarms.

Five thousand robotic vehicles and drones are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2015, the Pentagon’s $230bn (£140bn) arms procurement programme Future Combat Systems expects 15% of America’s armed forces to be robotic.

A recent study ‘The Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Plan 2020-2047’ predicted a boom in drone funding to $55bn by 2020 with the greatest changes coming in the 2040s.

“The capability provided by the unmanned aircraft is game-changing,” said General Norton Schwartz, the air force chief of staff. “We can have eyes 24/7 on our adversaries.”

Read the full story on the Observer website.


‘Green palm oil’ claims land Cadbury’s in sticky mess

22/08/2009

They are breaking open the chocolate bars at Auckland zoo in New Zealand this week. The keepers have been running a campaign to get Cadbury to remove palm oil from its chocolate. It’s been headline news down there, since Cadbury’s recently added the palm oil to make local Dairy Milk “softer”.

Zoo staff simply refused to consume or sell bars made with oil grown on former rainforest once occupied by endangered orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. On Monday, Cadbury gave in. They grovelled. “We got it wrong… we hope Kiwis will forgive us. I’m really sorry,” said local managing director Matthew Oldham. They were going back to cocoa butter, he said.

Of course, this about-face doesn’t affect the brand in countries such as Britain, where palm oil is a long-standing ingredient. So Cadbury still looks like a soft target for campaigners.

But there was something else buried in this PR own goal. A continuing greenwash that should have Cadbury hauled over the coals at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a corporate initiative to promote the sustainable production of the world’s most ubiquitous food ingredient, of which Cadbury is a founder member.

On Monday, Oldham told New Zealanders that despite the debacle “Cadbury is a responsible business and we purchase certified sustainable palm oil.” The company has “independent GreenPalm certification for the palm oil purchased for its Dairy Milk range”.

The implication was that the zookeepers were wrong to fuss about Cadbury’s palm oil because they bought the right stuff. So who is right?

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Who will be responsible for autonomous machines?

20/08/2009

Within a decade, we could be routinely interacting with machines that are truly autonomous – systems that can adapt, learn from their experience and make decisions for themselves. Free from fatigue and emotion, they would perform better than humans in tasks that are dull, dangerous or stressful.

Already, the systems we rely on in our daily lives are being given the capacity to operate autonomously. On the London Underground, Victoria line trains drive themselves between stations, with the human “driver” responsible only for spotting obstacles and closing the doors. Trains on the Copenhagen Metro run without any driver at all.

While our cars can’t yet drive themselves, more and more functions are being given over to the vehicle, from anti-lock brakes to cruise control. Automatic lighting and temperature control are commonplace in homes and offices.

The areas of human existence in which fully autonomous machines might be useful – and the potential benefits – are almost limitless. Within a decade, robotic surgeons may be able to perform operations much more reliably than any human.

Smart homes could keep an eye on elderly people and allow them to be more independent. Self-driving cars could reduce congestion, improve fuel efficiency and minimise the number of road accidents.

But automation can create hazards as well as removing them. How reliable does a robot have to be before we trust it to do a human’s job? What happens when something goes wrong? Can a machine be held responsible for its actions?

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


US man stole 130m credit card numbers

18/08/2009

US prosecutors have charged a man with stealing data relating to 130 million credit and debit cards. Officials say it is the biggest case of identity theft in American history.

They say Albert Gonzales, 28, and two unnamed Russian co-conspirators hacked into the payment systems of retailers, including the 7-Eleven chain.

Prosecutors say they aimed to sell the data on. If convicted, Mr Gonzales faces up to 20 years in jail for wire fraud and five years for conspiracy. He would also have to pay a fine of $250,000 (£150,000) for each of the two charges.

Gonzales used a complicated technique known as an “SQL injection attack” to penetrate networks’ firewalls and steal information, the US Department of Justice said.

According to the indictment, the group researched the credit and debit card systems used by their victims, attacked their networks and sent the data to computer servers they operated in California, Illinois, Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. The data could then be sold on, enabling others to make fraudulent purchases, it said.

Read the full story on the BBC News website.


Scientists pioneer method for DNA microchips

17/08/2009

Researchers have found a way to create a new generation of tiny microchips that use DNA – rather than traditional silicon – to achieve potentially revolutionary advances in computing.

A team based at IBM’s Alamaden research facility in San Jose, California, has found a method for building chips that they believe could eventually replace the current standards for creating electrical circuits using silicon wafers.

The technique, which was developed in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology, creates tiny microchips using strands of DNA and carbon nanotubes – microscopic cylinders constructed from carbon molecules.

In a paper published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal, the team describes a method that uses so-called “DNA origami” – pieces of genetic material which can be arranged into patterns similar to those used in the microchips common in computers and other electronic devices.

After creating a scaffold of DNA, nanotubes are then inserted into the design to build a microchip that is several times smaller – and therefore faster – than anything that today’s most advanced techniques can achieve.

“This is the first demonstration of using biological molecules to help with processing in the semiconductor industry,” IBM research manager Spike Narayan told Reuters.

“Basically, this is telling us that biological structures like DNA actually offer some very reproducible, repetitive kinds of patterns that we can actually leverage in semiconductor processes.”

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


China drops Green Dam web filtering system

15/08/2009

Chinese officials appear to have retreated from their controversial plan to install an internet filtering system on computers in the country.

The industry and information technology minister, Li Yizhong, said today that the notion that the Green Dam programme would be required on every new computer was “a misunderstanding” spawned by poorly written regulations.

He said all public computers in schools and internet cafes must install the software – but the government “respected the choice of individuals who do not install it”. He said: “Those who overstated and politicised the issue, or even attacked China’s internet regulation, are irresponsible,” and added that pornography was the main target of the software.

Its initial plans met with fierce opposition when they were announced, with many internet users fearing that the software – which blocks pornographic, violent and politically sensitive content – would also be used to monitor behaviour, curb access to information and track users.

At first it appeared that the campaign, which was backed by the US government, was gaining ground. However last month, hours before the programme was due to be implemented, officials briefed that there would be a delay, but the plans would eventually go ahead.

Today’s announcement appears to make that suspension permanent, with Li saying the government would neither require the programme to come pre-installed on new computers, nor force computer makers to include the programme on a CD with optional software.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.