There’s something to be said for Sci-Fi and tech aficionados and their passion for Star Wars at AwesomeCon 2014 this weekend. You can’t make half a turn around before seeing a Stormtrooper, Boba Fett or a RC-controlled R2-D2. As one would have it, we went over to meet Washington DC’s R2 Builders group, R2DC.
In the tutorial below, one of their members talked to us about his fully functioning RC-controlled R2-D2 robot that’s been a hit at AwesomeCon this weekend. The wheels spin, the dome (head) turns, and R2 can make any of the official Star Wars noises using the track list uploaded to an on-board microUSB. He can also last an entire day on his two 12-volt, 20ah batteries when the dome lights aren’t on.
R2 runs on two scooter motors and uses a 2.4 Ghz remote control (same used in a model airplane) to be controlled. Sounds are played using a standard RF remote with fifteen different buttons. R2DC didn’t tell me how fast he moved, but said R2-D2 was on “low” as to not run over children.
When it comes to phone customization, users these days don’t have much power. Take the iPhone, for example. Apple’s engineers made it impossible for the average user to crack open the iPhone to replace its battery, forcing consumers to go to the store to get it fixed. (Thanks a lot, guys.)
Breaking news from Google this morning. Chrome Remote Desktop is now available in the Play Store for controlling your PC or laptop remotely. The application has been available in Chrome’s Web Store since 2011 as an extension, but only with limited use for controlling other computers from, well, computers. The mobile application is available for use on Android devices, so there’s hope even your most curated of app stores (for instance, Amazon Kindle’s) will also allow you to download Chrome Remote Desktop.
One of the most shocking cyber security failures, the Heartbleed Bug, is said to have been exploited by the NSA for over two years, Bloomberg reports. The Heartbleed Bug, which has allowed hackers to gain credit card information and passwords of accounts from nearly any OpenSSL protocol website was just reported this week by Google.
In the story, Bloomberg cites two unnamed sources saying that the NSA had knowledge of the virus and used Heartbleed to obtain passwords and other data. However, in this secretive use, NSA left millions of web users “vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.”
In addition, Bloomberg retrieved comments from Jason Healey, the Director of Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, who said, “It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first…They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
NSA Spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment on the knowledge of the agency’s exploitation of the Heartbleed Bug for its own purposes. The main concern relative to the NSA is the large black budget, which is partly used to pursue software exploits which can be used by criminals to steal sensitive information. Because OpenSSL protocols are used for the majority of major web services online (i.e. Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Tumblr, and credit card companies), most anyone on the web could have been affected. NSA’s supposed use of the exploit brings concerns to both sides of the cybersecurity aisle, government and black hat hacking community.
Earlier this week, roll outs of security patches for websites left vulnerable by the Heartbleed exploit were announced, including many mainstream services. You can see the full list of these websites and their current situation on Mashable’s chart here. Users of these websites are encouraged to change passwords and security information after these security patches are officially announced by their changes.
No one has time to read anymore. At least, that’s what the team behind Rooster is hoping. The iOS app, created by a team of writers and technologists, is geared toward people who are too busy browsing their social networks to read a 500-page novel. To make powering through a book seem less daunting, each one is broken up into installments. Whereas chapters would range between a few pages to dozens, each installment is time-based–15 minutes a piece.
We tested out the $4.99 app for a few weeks to see if technology can really get someone to read more. Check out the full review below.