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RSA: The Pwn Pad is an Android Tablet-Based Penetration Tester (Video) 46 46

Last year Pwnie Express showed us their Stealthy Pen Test Unit that plugged directly into a 115 VAC wall outlet. This year at RSA they're proudly displaying their Pwn Pad, which is a highly-modified (and rooted) Nexus 7 tablet "which provides professionals an unprecedented ease of use in evaluating wired and wireless networks." They list its core features as Android OS 4.2 and Ubuntu 12.04; large screen, powerful battery; OSS-based pentester toolkit; and long range wireless packet injection. If you can't see the video (or want to read along) the transcript is below.

RSA: Self-Encrypting USB Hard Drives for all Operating Systems (Video) 154 154

Tim Lord met Jay Kim at the RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.

How the Open Invention Network Protects Linux and Open Source (Video) 28 28

This is a Google Hangout interview with Keith Bergelt, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Invention Network (OIN), which was jointly founded by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony to share their relevant patents with all Linux and Open Source developers and users in order to prevent patent troll attacks on FOSS, such as the famous SCO vs. IBM lawsuits that hampered Linux adoption during the early 2000s. It costs nothing to become a an OIN licensee, and over 500 companies have done so. Few people know, however, that individual developers and FOSS users can become OIN licensees; that you are welcome to do so, and it costs nothing. Read their license agreement, sign it, and send it in. That's all it takes. They also buy patents and accept patent donations. And "...if your company is being victimized by any entity seeking to assert its patent portfolio against Linux, please contact us so that we can aid you in your battle with these dark forces." This OIN service is called Linux Defenders 911. We hope you never need to use it, but it's good to know it's there if you do need it.

CES: American-Made, Industrial-Strength Smartphone and Tablet Cases (Video) 57 57

Even the most loving fathers tend to get upset when their kids destroy "...VCRs, DVD players, a Nintendo Wii, a Sony PS3, [and] numerous mobile phones." With smart phones costing lots more than older stupid phones, and most tablets costing even more, Greg Pilling decided to make aluminum and plexiglass smartphone and tablet cases strong enough to be, if not childproof, at least child-resistant. Since he owned an auto parts manufacturing company in Tucson, AZ, it was no big deal for him. So now he has SASCASE as a second business, and can make you a case for almost any kind of mobile device you might own. His cases look plenty tough, and they aren't cheap. But if you want to save money and make your own, Greg says plans for all cases he makes are open source (even though they aren't on his website yet). Also on the open source front, he is working on an open source "ruggedized" tablet he hopes to bring to market "in the $300-$400 range" to compete with the Panasonic 7” Toughpad that runs more like $1100.
Input Devices

CES: Using Eye Movements to Control a Computer or TV (Video) 43 43

Imagine not being able to move a mouse or use a keyboard to control your computer. Frustrating, right? A company Timothy Lord found at CES named Eyetech has a solution for this problem: an eye tracker system that can control your computer or TV (or whatever) purely through eye movements. This isn't something you buy on a whim; the system costs $3000. That's a lot, but Eyetech claims they were the first ones to produce a high-accuracy eye tracker for less then $20,000. Obviously, this is a boon to profoundly disabled people. But Eyetech's Keith Jackson says, in the video, that they also have customers who use Eyetech instead of a mouse because of carpal tunnel syndrome, and that with voice recognition and on-screen keyboards -- and Eyetech, of course -- you can use your computer without (literally) lifting a finger.

Book Review: To Save Everything, Click Here 115 115

Bennett Haselton writes "Evgeny Morozov's forthcoming book To Save Everything, Click Here describes how an overly helpful 'kitchen of the future' might stifle the learning process and threaten culinary innovation. True, but we could certainly do better than the current state of how-to directions (in cooking and most other subjects) that you can find today on Google. I suggest that the answer lies not in intelligent kitchen technology, but in designing an algorithm that would produce the best possible how-to directions -- where the 'best' directions are judged according to the results that are achieved by genuine beginners who attempt to follow the directions without help." Read below for the rest of Bennett's review.
Editor's Note: This article was not intended as a full review, but rather a commentary on one point in the book. The author's actual review of the book will appear in March.

Senior Game Designer Talks About Game Violence, Real Violence, and Lead (Video) 223 223

William Volk may not be the world's oldest game designer, but he's up there. He started out as a play tester for Avalon Hill in 1979, and since then has worked for Activision and other major players in the game space. His current job is with PlayScreen, where he's working on their Word Carnivale iOS game, which is not violent at all. But over the years Volk has worked on slightly violent video games and has watched public outcries over video game violence since 1976. He's also tracked how much less violence we've seen since lead was removed from gasoline. (Editorial interjection: Aren't most remaining pockets of massive gun violence in cities where many poor kids grow up in apartments that have lead paint?) Due to technical problems during the interview, some of the conversation is missing, primarily about the recent spate of multiple murders. It seems, for instance, that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was heavily into violent video games, which is sure to spark plenty of new discussion about how they affect players. But then again, as Volk reminded me in an email, "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now," a meme that has been floating around Facebook since last year, if not earlier.

CES: Tiny Fuel Cell is Supposed to Charge a Cell Phone for Two Weeks (Video) 204 204

Many of us have plug-in external batteries of one sort to recharge our smart phones when we're away from power outlets. Or we have gigantic aftermarket batteries that make our phones so fat they barely fit in our pockets. So there is this company, Lilliputian Power Systems, that is just starting to market a tiny, butane-powered fuel cell they call the Nectar that plugs into your cell phone (or whatever) through a USB port and supposedly charges it for up to two weeks. That's a lot better than an add-on battery. It looks expensive, although the power "pods" aren't too pricey at $19.99 for two. But wait a minute: Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars? A decade back, fuel cells were going to revolutionize our power delivery and consumption systems. A cell phone charger is cute, but is that really all we can get fuel cells to do?

Interviews: Ask Derek Khanna About Government Regulations and Technology 72 72

Republican staffer Derek Khanna was thrust into the spotlight in December for being fired after submitting a controversial brief titled: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. In the brief Khanna said: "Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets – rather it destroys entire markets," a view not very popular with Republicans in the House of Representatives. Since the firing, Khanna has continued to speak out on the need for copyright reform and most recently on the law against unlocking cellphones. Derek has graciously agreed to take some time to answer your questions about copyright reform and IP law. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

CES: Formlabs Co-Founder Describes Their Stereolithographic 3D Printer (Video) 59 59

"It uses a totally different process called Stereolithography," says Max Lobovsky, while other low-cost 3D printers use a process called FDM (fused deposition modeling). Max explains the differences between the two processes in the video, but what it comes down to in the real world is that his process can "do features down to 0.3 mm," which, he says, is much finer than you can get with FDM. It also seems that structures made with Stereolithography can be made stronger and can be machined more accurately than those made by the FDM process. So this is another step toward fully-useful home fabrication of... almost anything. So Formlabs and the company's initial product, the Form 1, are interesting. And surely there will be other "consumer" Stereolithography machines in the market before long, and prices for both the machine and the chemicals they use as raw materials will come down. Meanwhile, a company called 3D Systems is suing Formlabs for patent infringement. This isn't a nickel and dime deal; Formlabs raised $2,945,885 through Kickstarter, says TechCrunch in a story about the suit. And since their 3D printer is an order of magnitude less expensive than earlier Stereolithography machines and the company's future looks bright, 3D Systems might be better off taking a stock settlement than going for cash. They've settled with other alleged infringers before, so there's a precedent for that idea. Suit or no suit, Formlabs is going forward, building and shipping 3D printers as fast as they can -- and President Obama mentioned 3D printing in his State of the Union speech last night, which will surely help boost the entire industry, including Formlabs.
Open Source

SCALE 11 is Coming to Los Angeles Feb. 22-24 (Video) 25 25

The Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) is a venerable and-well regarded volunteer-run, regional Linux conference that draws over 2000 attendees and an amazing array of speakers and open source projects displaying their goodies in the exposition area. The tutorial and speech schedule is crazy-dense, with as many as 10 tracks going at once. Conference Chair Ilan Rabinovitch admits that there is no way you can take in all of SCALE. On the other hand, you are certain to find something new and interesting to learn if you have any interest at all in Open Source. And yes, we mean Open Source, not just Linux. This show has grown far beyond its humble roots as a get-together for a few local students interested in Linux. One last thing: When you register, if you use the promo code SLASH, the $70 pass for all three days is magically reduced to $35. And there are many other ways to get that discount or another one just like it, including affiliation with virtually any Southern California Open Source group or almost any Open Source project. SCALE is 100% non-profit, and wants to "spread the word," not make money.

Interviews: Ask Lead Developer Ben Kamens About Khan Academy 69 69

Ben Kamens spent over 5 years at Fog Creek, eventually working his way up to VP of engineering. However, after watching one of Salman Khan's talks he started to volunteer his time at Khan Academy, and is now the lead developer. In-between providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere, he's graciously agreed to answer some of your questions. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.