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NSA gets cryptic with coded job ad in Twitter post

06 May 2014

magnifying-glass

The US National Security Agency (NSA) posted an intriguing message on its Twitter account over the weekend, in a novel way to appeal to those who have an aptitude for cracking codes and ciphers.

Usually the NSA's careers Twitter account posts up short, bland opportunities for applications, but this one is very different.

It is very obviously a cipher, and looks a lot like one that uses substituted letters. The question mark is something of a clue and suggests that the NSA is happy to leave such hints.

There are various ways and means of cracking substitution ciphers and one of them is to start with the letter E - the most commonly used of English letter characters, and work back from that.

You can do this manually, automatically or in your browser using Javascript. The end result should be the same, the time spent working on the solution may differ radically though.

We can confirm that the advert is not actually a job ad, but is more of a knowing wink in the direction of people that like codes and ciphers, want a job with the NSA, and are not Edward Snowden. You can see the solution to the NSA code puzzle in this YouTube video.

Last year the UK agency GCHQ carried out a similar experiment to help it in its search for the next Alan Turing. At the time GCHQ's head of resourcing, Jane Jones, said that modern threats require new ways of finding talented people to help crack complex codes.

"We want employees who have evolved with the ever-changing digital world and therefore have the right skills to combat these challenges," she said at the time. "It's a puzzle but it's also a serious test - the jobs on offer here are vital to protecting national security."

Long-lost Atari ET game cartridges dug up from the desert

28 Apr 2014

digger4

A much-maligned console flop of 1982 ET the Extra-Terrestrial video game, has been exhumed from its sandy grave and presented back to the world.

While ET the movie was a solid hit, the same could not be said of the Atari 2600 game that followed it. Slow, weak, confusing and frustrating, it was bought by punters but then quickly returned to stores. It was a massive unplayable flop and someone decided that the only way to deal with it would be to, literally, bury it and forget all about it.

Some people did not forget it, though, and since those dark days of digging and dumping game fans have been searching for the missing movie tie-in.

Fuel Entertainment, an entertainment company, was first to act, and this weekend it finally broke ground in New Mexico at the appointed site in Alamogordo having announced its plans to do so last year.

Mike Burns, CEO of Fuel Entertainment, said at the time: "ET was one of the first video games based on a licensed property, and one of the earliest and most poignant examples of mass over-hyping in digital entertainment."

Now the dig is dug and the earth has thrown up copy after copy of the 22-year-old title. We do not know if the games are playable – if they ever truly were – but there are apparently reams of them.

The dig has been filmed for a documentary that is directed by Zak Penn, who co-wrote the script for X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand and he produced photos from the excavation on Twitter.

The documentary will be released later this year.

This is not the first earthy reveal of the year, and back in February a Steve Jobs time capsule, which included an old mouse of his, was uncovered.

V3 seeks talented reporter to join London team

25 Apr 2014

V3 is seeking a reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis, video and reviews for IT professionals, so a passion for IT and the tech scene are crucial for this role.

The role is full-time and based in our central London office, where you will get plenty of opportunity to gain experience and hone your skills across all areas of digital journalism.

The role will see you writing news, features and blogs, attending events in London, the UK and across the world, and interviewing senior executives at world-leading companies ranging from the likes of Google and Microsoft to hot startups. You’ll also be encouraged to break stories, take unique angles on industry topics and source off-diary stories.

An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy under pressure is a must, as well as a can-do attitude, a willingness to adapt and alter working practices at a moment’s notice, and understanding the job may require working, and socialising, after office hours.

There will be the opportunity to film and edit video, so video production skills, while not a pre-requisite for the role, will be a bonus. You will also help manage the V3 brand on numerous social media sites, so we’re looking for someone with an affinity for Twitter, Google+ and the next big thing in social.

This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism or making their next step on the career ladder onto an online, well-established tech brand, with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too. Ideally you will already have some practical experience of working as a technology journalist, either through your current role, work experience or freelance.

Salary: DOE.

Deadline: 23 May 2014

To apply, please email a covering letter and CV to news editor Dan Worth.

Lost Andy Warhol art found on Amiga floppy disks

24 Apr 2014

Lost Andy Warhol art has been found on a collection of old floppy disks that were used by the artist. Andy Warhol may seem like an ideal Apple user, but back in the 1980s he aligned himself with Commodore and its Amiga 1000.

The artist took to the stage at the launch of the machine and painted, on it, an image of Debbie Harry. That image and footage of it being created was preserved, but other Amiga daubs by Warhol were believed to have been lost. Until now.

The disks were not actually lost, they were in the hands of the Andy Warhol Museum, but they were gathering dust. It is the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Club's Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry that blew the dust of the disks and freed them from the archives.

The results have been posted to the Studio's website and show a number of common Warhol themes, including a certain brand of soup.

"What's amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium: the digital," said New York-based artist Cory Arcangel, who kicked off the hunt.

Twenty-eight image files were found on the disks, and each had promising names, such as marilyn1.pic, however they were in a format that could not be opened. The CMU reverse-engineered the format and revealed the disks' content. Of the 28 images, 11 bear the artists signature.

Apple taunts Samsung with green boasts in newspaper ads

22 Apr 2014

Apple ad mocking Samsung as its touts its green credentialsAs Apple and Samsung continue to fight it out in courtrooms around the world, the iPhone maker has shown it is willing to use whatever tactics it can to score a cheap point over its rival.

In printed newspaper adverts, such as the one on the back of The Times on Tuesday (pictured left), the iPhone maker has touted its green credentials through its efforts to use renewable energy sources and reduce the use of harmful materials under the pointed statement of: “There are some ideas we want every company to copy”.

The ad continues: “There’s one area where we actually encourage others to imitate us. Because when everyone makes the environment a priority, we all benefit.”

No doubt Samsung executives and their legal counsels spluttered into their coffee when they saw the ad, which will only add another level of frisson to the proceedings currently taking place in a California courtroom.

The ad forms part of Apple’s marketing push for its green efforts to coincide with Earth Day, celebrated on Tuesday, with the company promoting a new ‘Better’ mantra, as vice president of environmental initiatives Lisa Jackson explained.

“We aim to create not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world. We have a long way to go, but we are proud of our progress. For example, every one of our data centres is powered entirely by clean sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy,” she said.

“So whenever you download a song, update an app or ask Siri a question, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature.”

Even head honcho Tim Cook lent his time to the push, with his dulcet tones providing the vocals for a new video that promotes all these efforts in Apple's typically stylistic manner. Hopefully the chaps at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) don't see it, or else one more screen could be headed for the landfill.

Computer displays made of mist unveiled by the University of Bristol

16 Apr 2014

The University of Bristol has made a computer display from a curtain of mist, which allows users to reach through fog screens and move images around with their hands.

Due to be unveiled later this month, the "MisTable" technology was shown off in a video embedded below. The invention includes a conventional interactive table with personal screens made using fog, Kinect and a Leap Motion Controller.

Professor Sriram Subramanian and Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia from the University of Bristol's Department of Computer Science, who are leading the research, claim that the development could change the way people interact and collaborate in the future.

"These personal screens are both see-through and reach-through. The see-through feature provides direct line of sight of the personal screen and the elements behind it on the tabletop," the university said on its website. "The reach-through feature allows the user to switch from interacting with the personal screen to reaching through it to interact with the tabletop or the space above it."

The personal screen allows a range of customisations and novel interactions such as presenting personal 2D content on the screen, 3D content above the tabletop, or supplementing and renewing actual objects differently for each user.

"MisTable broadens the potential of conventional tables in many novel and unique ways. The personal screen provides direct line of sight and access to the different interaction spaces," said Subramanian.

"Users can be aware of each other's actions and can easily switch between interacting with the personal screen to the tabletop surface or the interaction section. This allows users to break in or out of shared tasks and switch between 'individual' and 'group' work."

Subramanian noted that users can also move content freely between these interaction spaces, allowing them to share it with others or to get exclusive ownership over it. Having personal screens allows each user to customise their own view.

Written by Lee Bell

Twitter turns eight: First tweets from the great and good of the tech world

21 Mar 2014

 Twitter

It is now eight years since the world was given the ability to share what was on its mind in 140-character snippets. Since then world leaders, pop stars, sporting heroes and top tech talents have all joined the bandwagon.

To celebrate eight years of success Twitter has created a nifty tool to help you easily find your first ever post on the site. V3 thought it would be fun to use the site to find out what some of the tech luminaries had to say for themselves. Some are more inspiring than others.

Bill Gates was snappy and to the point.

Oracle's Larry Ellison was his usual bullish self.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was late to the party and in typical business mode.

Security hero Eugene Kaspersky set about offering pearls of wisdom on staying safe online.

We're not sure what was going on when Sir Tim Berners-Lee first posted, but as he invented the web, we'll forgive him.

We here at V3 can't criticise too much, though, as our first effort was hardly the stuff of legend. Still, we like to think we've got a little better since then.

Our favourite, though, is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who kicked-off with a message about dancing and has never looked back.

Happy birthday Twitter. Here's to the next eight years.

Apple claims Samsung owes it $40 per Galaxy device sale

13 Mar 2014

Rich man with moneyApple has always prided itself on its uniqueness. Usually this has related to its products' design and software features, but this week the company's unique nature was shown by its legal department, which mounted fresh legal action claiming that Samsung owes it $40 for every Galaxy handset it sells.

The iPhone maker made the claim during a hearing at the US District Court, Northern District of California. The case claims recent Samsung smartphones, such as the Galaxy S3, infringe on five critical patents owned by Apple and is due to be heard on 31 March.

The patents relate to Samsung phones' data tapping, unified search, asynchronous data synchronisation, slide-to-unlock feature and auto-complete technologies. As a side note, during a previous case with Motorola, Apple claimed one of the same patents involved in its new Samsung offensive was worth just 60 cents per phone.

The move is atypical to most technology companies, which are currently moving to diffuse the ongoing, never-ending cycle of patent claims raging between them.

Samsung has already signed licensing deals with Google, Cisco and IBM, promising to play nice with them when it comes to patents. Even HTC and Nokia have joined the game, signing a cross-patent licence agreement in February.

V3 welcomed the deals, viewing them as a sign that smartphone makers were finally going to stop quibbling about who copied who, and re-focus on creating better phones.

But our hopes were short lived, as Apple's move against Samsung shows that even though it risks painting itself as the villain, it has no intention of making peace with its competitors.

This is particularly true when you consider Apple's past successes in the courtroom. Before its latest claim, the court ruled that Samsung owes $930m in damages to Apple, which isn't small change by any means.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

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