Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alan #Turing Monopoly set

My Alan Turing Special Edition Monopoly set has arrived (finally) from the UK. It features a replica of the game that Turing and his colleagues made and played at Bletchley Park during WWII. One of the "Chance" cards reads, "Your paper on computable numbers is published, collect $150" - one "Community Chest" card reads "You are asked to inspect a tortoise at Ferranti, receive $100."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tim Berners-Lee speaking in Wellington NZ

Tim Berners-Lee is making a presentation in Wellington on Wednesday 30th Jan from 5:00pm-6:30pm entitled The open Internet and the World Wide Web. If you can't attend the Wellington event it is being streamed live to OGGB3/260-092 & OGGB4/260-073 lecture theatres at the University of  Auckland. Those interested in attending the live stream gatherings are encouraged to sign up here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is technology a problem in schools?

The Washington Post reports that a new survey by the  Pew Research Center has found that "nearly 90 percent of teachers believe that digital technologies were creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans. About 60 percent said it hindered students’ ability to write and communicate face to face, and almost half said it hurt critical thinking and their ability to do homework. Also, 76 percent of teachers believed students are being conditioned by the internet to find quick answers, leading to a loss of concentration."

Monday, January 21, 2013

How was the Enigma machine cracked?

Here is a video that explains how Alan Turing and the code breakers at Bletchley Park cracked the German Enigma machine during WWII.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How secure is Java?

Well, according to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, really not very secure at all! Reuters has reported that Homeland Security is advising "Unless it is absolutely necessary to run Java in web browsers, disable it."  This may come as a surprise to you if like most of us Java is routinely enabled in your browser. Moreover, it seems that this isn't a new problem caused by a new version of Java - Reuters quotes Charlie Miller, a computer engineer with Twitter who has previously worked as a security consultant to Fortune 500 firms and as an analyst with the National Security Agency.  "It's not like Java got insecure all of a sudden. It's been insecure for years.
    If you want to disable Java in your browser consult your browser's help information.
[Thanks to my colleague Clarke Thomborson for pointing this story out to me.]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Google Cloud Print - useful

I'm not sure how this one slipped by me but I stumbled across it yesterday by accident whilst looking at an email attachment on my iPad using the Gmail app. - Google Cloud Print. This lets you print from any device to any printer you've shared via the cloud. You can print from you iPad or Android phone to your printer at home or the office printer. Moreover, you can share a printer with family or friends; a friend could for example print a photo on your printer from anywhere in the world. Some new printers are "cloud ready" but you can also configure old school printers using Google Chrome. This is Cloud Print's big advantage over Apple's AirPrint in that you don't need a new printer to use it. I have to say I'm impressed. Setting up my printers following Google's instructions was easy and I can now print documents from Gmail or Google Docs on my iPad - very useful.
[Note: if you have a Mac installing the free handyPrint program on your Mac let's you share any printer to any iOS device across your network.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Oscars and Gibbons 2013

You might have noticed that folks at Weta Digital in Wellington have just been nominated for three Oscars . If not, have a look here. You might perhaps have wondered how it could be that New Zealand has developed such expertise. If so, place a note in your diary to attend our free public 2013 Gibbons Lectures in May - Picture This! Computer Graphics in New ZealandOur annual lecture series on IT topics is in memory of our late colleague and Head of Department, Peter Gibbons. Read about past lecture topics here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz and information freedom

You may have heard that Aaron Swartz has committed suicide at the age of 26, and you maybe wondering who and how does this effect me? Swartz was a prodigy; as a teen he helped develop the code behind RSS and then the Reddit web service, which he sold for a fortune. In a way his whole life was about giving people easy access to information, an ethos he shares with many who view the Internet as a powerful force for good. Stuart Brand, a guru of the hacker community, famously said "information wants to be free," and Swartz and his colleagues acted on this. Inevitably this brought into conflict with those who want to control access to, and profit from, information. Most recently MIT and the FBI had been after Swartz. The Guardian is a good place to start to learn more about this remarkable young man and I'll leave you with a tweet by Tim Berners-Lee: "Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."

Friday, January 11, 2013

A peek inside China’s internet giants and their massive scale

We in the West often tend to assume that the rest of the world lags behind us in their use of the Internet - after all "we" invented the PC, the Internet and the Web. An interesting article in the Washington Post called "A peek inside China’s internet giants and their massive scale" clearly shows that this world view is quite wrong when it comes to China at least. Here are a couple of figures from the article to encourage you to read more: Taobao (China's eBay) did $3.05 billion of trade on November 11 - eBay did $3.4 billion of trade in the entire third quarter of 2012. Clearly the scale of China's Internet infrastructure has to match these figures - we should be careful of our assumptions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

7 Fascinating Computer History Documentaries

My colleague Bob Doran has pointed out a website called Make Tech Easier that has lots of interesting information on it for the tech savvy and newbies alike. Our attention in particular was drawn to a list of 7 fascinating computer history documentaries from 1982 to (almost) the present. 
    Happy viewing and if you know of any other computer docos you'd like to recommend why don't you add them to the comments below.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Are flexible displays the future?

Delegates at CES 2013 in Las Vegas have been wowed by a flexible screen display prototype called PaperTab developed by Intel, Queen's University (from Canada not the UK one) and the British company Plastic Logic. Certainly the video below shows some very interesting capabilities (if you ignore the power and data cables connecting the "tabs"). However, I'm left wondering if the desire to replicate the look and feel of paper isn't in some way like the way the first cars were literally horseless carriages. Do I really want to have to manipulate multiple pieces of paper? I'm not sure I do. Do I want a lighter tablet, with longer battery life, that can be safely dropped - yes. Anyway you can decide for yourself by watching the video below.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year Alan #Turing

Turing's statue on his birthday in Manchester
As 2013 rolls in around the world the Alan Turing Year comes to end and what a year it has been - beyond our wildest expectations. We always new there were going to be some major academic conferences honouring the legacy of the father of computer science, but we didn't expect the literally hundreds of conferences, meetings and public lectures that took place all over the world. We knew there would be some major museum exhibitions but again we didn't expect the numerous and diverse events that took place celebrating Turing's genius. We knew there would be some major publications from the usual Turing experts, but again we didn't expect science-fiction books, childrens' stories and more: art projects, plays, music, an opera, dance, documentaries and other projects that defy easy categorisation. The news media and commentators have published hundreds of articles on Turing and the radio and TV followed. Turing has not received a pardon (yet), but he still may grace the next £10 note.
   2013 is a new year for Alan Turing - I believe that he is now much better known and understood than he was on January 1st 2012 - the Alan Turing Year (and all who were involved) has started the process of Turing claiming his rightful place as one of the greatest minds who ever lived.

[Note: although the Alan Turing Year has ended, such is the interest that events are continuing into 2013, check the Alan Turing Year website for details. Also plans are in progress to archive as much of the activity that took place in 2012 under the Alan Turing Legacy.]