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Richard Chirgwin

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Smallpox virus

Dead letter office: ancient smallpox sample turns up in old US lab

It's a scene reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark's climax: something very dangerous is put in storage by a government agency, and forgotten. America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to hose down fears about its control of stockpiles, following the startling discovery of 1950s-era smallpox samples in a …
Rosetta Flash diagram

Weaponised Flash flaw can pinch just about anything from anywhere

Get cracking with the latest Flash upgrade, because the vulnerability it patches is a peach, allowing a cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attack for stealing user credentials. According to the Switzerland-based Google engineer that turned up the vulnerability, Michele Spagnuolo, sites that are/were vulnerable to the attack …
Printed GHz diode

Printed diode can slurp power from phone signals

A group of Swedish researchers has created a printed diode that can use the radio output of a smartphone for power – and along the way has answered a long-standing question about how printed diodes work. In this paper at PNAS, the researchers demonstrate a device created by printing a niobium silicide layer over a silicon paste …
Tools

What's that? The Bureau of Stats has an API and nobody TOLD you?

Australia's national data-collector, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has quietly published an API to its data sets. While it won't replace most peoples' preferred (or at least tolerated) means to get ABS data - the spreadsheets and CSVs the ABS provides for easy database ingestion - the API will allow others to embed ABS …

AdaptiveMobile joins Chipzilla's SDN club

Dublin-based AdaptiveMobile has joined Intel's Network Builders software defined networks-network function virtualisation (SDN/NFV) program. The company says its participation in the program will deliver “NFV-ready service assurance”. AdaptiveMobile's announcement notes that its software was already designed to run on generic …
Airbus A380 lift-off. Picture courtesy of Airbus

Airbus to send 1,200 TFlops of HPC goodness down the runway

Airbus is going to expand the modular data centre strategy it initiated with HP in 2011, with a 1,200 TFlop target capacity. The HP PODs will be added in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Airbus first started parking HP PODs – Performance Optimsed Datacenters – in a contract announced in September 2011. However, HP says …

IEEE expands malware initiatives

Standards body the IEEE has launched two new anti-malware initiatives designed to help software and security vendors spot malware that's been inserted into other software, and improve the performance of malware detection by cutting down on false positives. The organisation's Anti-Malware Support Service (AMSS) is designed to …
Bitcoin bloodbath

Gendarmes grab French Bitcoin exchange in €200k sting

The operators of an illegal French Bitcoin exchange have been collared by the gendarmes and their Bitcoin holdings confiscated. A sketchy story out of Reuters says that the raid netted €200,000 worth of the crypto-currency, but doesn't outline what specific laws the exchange is accused of breaking. The Reuters story merely …
Contraceptive pill

Wireless-controlled contraception implant is coming, says MIT

MIT's decade-plus pitch to embed microchip-based drug-dispensaries in humans has been re-framed as a microprocessor-based, wireless-controlled, fully Internet-of-Things-compliant, implantable contraceptive. Since 1999, MIT's Robert Langer et al have been pitching the idea of using microchips to deliver medicines. The idea, way …
SwissInfo.org blocked

Kiwi ISP 'Slingshot' stones geo-blocked content

New Zealanders will once again get offered “global by default” Internet access that lets them past the geo-blocking of international services like Netflix, the BBC's iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Kiwi ISP FYX announced a similar service in 2012, but it only lasted two days. Now another New Zealand ISP, Slingshot, has decided …
Suitcase bulging with cash

Atmel buys more IoT capability

Atmel, best known as a maker of microcontrollers and capacitive touchscreens, is expanding its Internet of Things footprint with the acquisition of low-power wireless chip designer Newport Media. Newport Media started out life shipping TV system-on-a-chip (SOC) devices, and during 2012 and 2013 branched out into 802.11n, 802.11b …
ESA's "Dropship" drone

European Space Agency demos MARS LANDINGS BY DRONE

The European Space Agency has used an off-the-shelf quadcopter to demonstrate the latest output of its StarTiger rapid-development program: precision guidance and safe delivery of a rover-like vehicle onto a simulated Mars surface. Getting to Mars is one thing, but as the ESA knows only too well, executing a successful landing …

Standby consumes MORE POWER THAN CANADA: IEA

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is worried that the world's addiction to gadgets that sip electricity in standby mode use more power than is necessary or sensible, and wants manufacturers to try harder to cut power consumption. The agency says inefficient “network standby” modes are common: consumers think a device has …
The Warlipiri Education and Training Trust

Help us out readers: How would you sniff and store network traffic?

Having successfully averted the XP-ocalypse at the Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre in the remote Australian desert community of Willowra, Vulture South's operatives felt pleased with themselves. As regular readers will know, our encounter with the facility, run by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, led to …

Euro banks warned off Bitcoin as Canada regulates it

The European Banking Authority, which has previously warned consumers that they're unprotected if they get themselves into the crypto-currency game, has followed up with a don't-touch warning to banks. In this announcement, issued on Friday July 4, the EBA says it's identified “more than 70 risks” that apply to users, banks, …
Artist's concept: NASA's Space Launcher System

Boeing to start work on most powerful rocket ... EVER!

NASA and Boeing have inked a key contract that should see agency's Space Launch System take to the skies in 2017. Under the $US2.8 billion contract, the aerospace giant will be building the core stage of the space giant: the Space Launch System will stand 212 feet (more than 64 metres) tall, and will be powered by a combination …
HummingBoard SBC from SolidRun

SolidRun pitches upgradeable SBC into the IoT fray

Another single-board contender has emerged to challenge the Raspberry Pi's title as lightweight champion of the world, with a pitch that it supports processor and memory upgrades in a single-board-computer form factor. SolidRun is offering a 1 GHz ARM v7 processor as the base level CPU on a new HummingBoard board, which it says …
NSA parody T-shirt

NSA dragnet mostly slurped innocents' traffic

NSA babbler Edward Snowden's latest drop alleges something that's been suspected ever since he went public during 2013: that spy agencies reach far beyond “persons-of-interest”, with data on ordinary internet users far outstripping that held over formal “targets”. According to The Washington Post, the latest set of documents – …
Communicating using the magnetometer

Phone motion sensors can receive data

Boffins from the University of Oulu in Finland and Huazhong University in China have put together a prototype that uses an Android smartphone's magnetometer as a short-range one-way communications channel. The applications for such a system are limited, of course: magnetic fields decay very quickly, so the system has a range of …
Namibia's HESS-II radio telescope

HESS-II scope spots its first pulsar

Namibia's HESS-II telescope has shown off two-years' worth of software upgrades, identifying gamma rays at 30 GeV emanating from the Vela pulsar. Vela is a well-known object, having been associated with the supernova remnant of the same name in 1968, and is visible in the radio, optical, X-ray and gamma spectra. HESS-II's …
qubit

Boffins cage qubits inside superconducting silicon

Boffins at the University of Maryland's Joint Quantum Institute think they're on the verge of creating qubits (quantum bits) that could be fabricated using technologies close to today's silicon techniques. The JQI group wants to create a blend of superconductor-style qubits and semiconductor qubits: superconducting wires and …

Bill Gates asks telcoms standards boffins to define future of money

Two-and-a-half billion adults in the world don't have bank accounts, and the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thinks it's got the answer: deliver financial services to mobile phones. And the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agrees: late in June, it established a focus group to look at Digital Financial Services …
management regulation2

Dotcom crypto keys not for the FBI: NZ High Court

A New Zealand court has ruled that data on Kim Dotcom's hard drives held by the FBI will remain encrypted, even if the Megaupload founder hands his encryption keys over to NZ police. Dotcom has been in a long wrangle with authorities over the contents of the drives. During the 2012 raid in New Zealand that killed off Megaupload …
Double Facepalm; when one facepalm is not enough.

Google BLOCKS access to Goldman client-leak email

A Goldman Sachs contractor's inadvertent leak of client data through Gmail has brought the banking giant to a New York court to try and force The Chocolate Factory on a search-and-destroy mission - and Google seems to agree with the bank. Reuters says the slip, which sounds to The Register like someone trusted autocomplete in …
Generic mast

Ericsson and ZTE run demos, join the 'my 5G is the real 5G' club

Mobile vendors are continuing to jockey for position in a market that doesn't yet exist, with Ericsson and ZTE the latest kit-shippers to give the 5G can a kick. Ericsson pitched its latest horseshoe in a demonstration at Kista in Sweden, where the company says by using frequencies in the 15 GHz band it was able to run enough …
NIST's one-way photonic metamaterial

NIST shows off one-way photon-passing metamaterial

If photonics is ever to displace or supplement electronics in microprocessors, the operations we perform on electrons need to be replicated on photons. A group at NIST is the latest to demonstrate a photonic diode – a device that passes light in one direction only, similarly to how diodes pass electrons in one direction only. …

Microsoft, Google et al form club to push 25/50 Gbps Ethernet

A new consortium of vendors is firing up to give 25 Gbps and 50 Gbps Ethernet a push, in an effort to get the kind of performance demanded in cloud data centres. While lab demonstrations have shown that Ethernet will one day be able to reach 400 Gbps, you need standards to turn speed into systems, and that's what Microsoft, …
Auto Grade Linux example screen

Linux turns the crank on code for cars

Linux's quest to become the default operating system for motor vehicles has taken a step closer to reality, with the Linux Foundation releasing downloads of code from its Automotive Grade Linux project. The project, announced here, is described as being built on Tizen IVI, adding “key applications developed in HTML5 and …
Facebook down

Trick-cyclists defend Facebook emoto-furtling experiment

Facebook's “creepy” feed-manipulation experimentation, which has generated an avalanche of outrage among users, isn't without its chums. A growing collection of psychologists and tech pundits is linking arms, standing next to Mark Zuckerburg, and singing “We Shall Overcome” in the direction of mobs carrying metaphorical …
Microsoft Surface tablets

Surface Mini fondleslab farewelled

Rumours are emerging in Asia that Microsoft has decided not to enter the phablet market and has canned its rumoured Surface Mini. According to Taiwanese outlet Digitimes, manufacturers' reps say Redmond has followed up its decision in May to delay the never-actually-announced device by cancelling build orders. Digitimes' …
Artist's illustration of Supernova 1987A

Speed of light slower than we thought? Probably not

With the simple headline “Einstein was wrong”, yet another piece of questionable physics has garnered world attention. It starts with this kind of canned statement, which originated at Phys.org and apparently arose from this uncritical write-up at the Medium-hosted Physics at Arxiv blog. To quote Physics at Arxiv, “James …
Random numbers

MIT and CERN's secure webmail plan stumped by PayPal freeze

The Proton Mail project, which offers end-to-end encrypted webmail from the user's browser, has had a stick thrust into its operational spokes courtesy of PayPal. The MIT-and-CERN-inspired project, based on Switzerland, had decided against VC funding for reasons of credibility among users. Instead, it relies on users willing to …
Cambridge's superconducting magnet levitating

Cambridge's tiny superconducting magnet breaks strength record

Boffins at the University of Cambridge say they've packed the equivalent of three tonnes of magnetic force into a superconducting material roughly the size of a golf ball. In what they call a “trapped field” experiment, the university says its researchers managed to cram a 17.6 Tesla magnetic field into the brittle “high …
NBN FTTN cabinet

Keep monopoly or make network expensive, NBN Co warns

Australia doesn't need to revise its telecomms competition policy, says NBN Co – except if the policy is interpreted as allowing infrastructure-based competition to its national network. That's the conundrum the company building Australia's reduced-scope national broadband network has raised in its submission to the competition …
China's Tianahe-1A Supercomputer

China's world-beating Tianhe-2 super has brawn, not brains

China has put a lot of iron into its 2.5 billion yuan (roughly $US400 million) world-beating home-grown supercomputer, but concerns are now emerging that too much attention on the hardware has come at the expense of giving the system usable software. The latest TOP500 report reconfirmed the position of China's 3-million-core, …

Western Australia considers ban on R18+ games

The Australian State of Western Australia (WA) is reviving the country's vexed games classification debate, with a new report suggesting the state government should consider banning games currently carrying an R18+ classification. The suggestion is contained in a report from the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for …
Abbott and Costello dressed as policemen

New South Wales' prime plod pushes data retention, again

NSW Police, through its commissioner Andrew Scipione, has offered a clear picture of the world it wants for Australians: a plod on every Internet connection to protect us from terrorists. Scipione made the remarks in a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, reports of which, such as one from Fairfax Media, suggest he asked …

Facebook Australia's 'small company' status makes it a small target

There's an old joke about failed CEOs, which runs “how do you create a small company? Give a big one to CEO X”. Facebook has found a new wrinkle: you build a small company merely by getting regulators to agree that it's a small company. Apparently in order to manage its corporate reporting requirements in Australia, that's just …

NSW government agencies bend over and take it from telcos

Even though telecommunications contracts are an eternal staple of government contract management, government agencies in the Australian state of New South Wales lack the expertise needed to get the most out of the agreements they sign with carriers. That's the conclusion of a report prepared for the government by the auditor- …
India's PLSV-C23 rocket on launch pad

Indian rocket set to sling five satellites

India will today attempt to launch several satellites that will include Earth imaging and microsatellite payloads. The nation's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PLSV) specialises in hoisting satellites into sun-synchronous polar orbits, with 25 successful launches recorded by April 2014. Perhaps its highest-profile launch in …

Web collab outfit Assemblage becomes Cisco's latest appendage

Cisco's vision for the enterprise might still be telepresence and $US1,500 Android tablets, but The Borg is at least prepared to consider that some people might want their collaboration to come as cheaply as possible. To that end, the company has just bought WebRTC/HTML5 collaboration startup Assemblage, which pitches itself as …

Qld Health payroll worker charged over fake overtime claims

Not only did Queensland Health's notorious botched IT upgrade cost the state upwards of a billion dollars: it's also alleged that the chaos created an opportunity for a dodgy worker to siphon tens of thousands of dollars from the department. The state's Crime and Misconduct Commission is alleging 46 counts of fraud against an …
Workers in a Foxconn plant, credit: Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA

Foxconn CEO: 'Suicides weren't our fault'

An investor meeting has heard from Foxconn's CEO that the worker suicides that plagued the company in recent years weren't the company's fault. Urging patience among investors as the Chinese giant works to reinvent itself beyond product assembly, hiring thousands of researchers and looking at everything from cloud services to …

Facebook 'manipulated' 700k users' feelings in SECRET EXPERIMENT

Facebook let researchers adjust its users' news feeds to manipulate their emotions – and has suggested that such experimentation is routine, which is seemingly how the idea got past the advertising firm's ethics committees. In 2012, the trick cyclists, led by the company's data scientist Adam Kramer, manipulated which posts from …
Perseus galactic cluster

'Sterile neutrinos' re-ignite 'we found dark-stuff' debate

Astro-physicists remain cautiously (around media) excited (among themselves) about an unexpected X-ray signal discovered in a survey of galactic clusters. Having first put their findings in the public sphere in March, as reported by The Register at the time, the work has now passed peer review to hit the presses in the …

SQL fights back against NoSQL's big data cred with SQL/MDA spec

With the growing popularity of big-data tools like NoSQL databases and Hadoop, it might have looked like SQL could be in line to be moved on from “venerable” tag to “obsolete”, but last week, the ISO SQL working group agreed to start work on SQL/MDA (multi-dimensional array) specs. The people behind SQL have decided it's time to …

Google pries open YOUR mailbox, invites developer partners

Google's announced a grand plan for email that involves letting World+Dog write apps to access your inbox, just so long as you've given them permission to do so. Hailed by some as “replacing IMAP” (good luck with that, Google, if it's your aim), the new Gmail API is more prosaically outlined by the Chocolate Factory's Eric …

Boffins untangle why your software builds fail

Dependency errors aren't just the bane of Linux users living the configure-make-install life: they also have a significant impact on developer productivity that could be dealt with in the tools developers use. That's one of the conclusions arising out of a new analysis, carried out by researchers from Hong Kong, the University …
Qantas A380 tail

Australia relaxes in-flight device use rules

Australia is following the US in eliminating the air-flight ritual of switching off electronic devices during take-off and landing. If, however, you're the kind who dreads listening to an hour of someone else's life between Sydney and Melbourne, don't worry: voice and data communications with the outside world will still be …

Queensland man arrested on charges including Bitcoin theft

Back in March, a man from the Queensland town of Kingaroy identified by News Limited as Shane Duffy was charged for breaching the systems of Riot Networks.Those attacks included copying files and briefly hijacking the company's Twitter account, and in April, a Maryborough magistrate confirmed bail conditions that forbade him …