Apple's mapping service has been an unmitigated disaster for the company, damaging its usually unimpeachable brand and causing several executives to fall on their swords due to its poor reception.
However, until now no-one's life has been at risk from the service but that small crumb of comfort has gone after Australian police issued a warning urging people not to use the service because it was leading them into life-threatening situations.
It's been revealed that several people attempting to find the town of Mildura (population 30,000) in the outback were sent 70km in the wrong direction, deep into territory with no access to running water and slowly frying in roasting temperatures.
The above picture shows Apple placing the town at the red dot, when it is in fact on the purple dot.
"Local police have been called to assist distressed motorists who have become stranded within the Murray-Sunset National Park after following directions on their Apple iPhone," the Mildura Police warned.
"Tests on the mapping system by police confirm the mapping systems lists Mildura in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70km away from the actual location of Mildura."
The police also highlighted the state of peril many of the drivers are in due to this poor mapping advice.
"Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the Park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life threatening issue."
The police said they had contacted Apple to try and rectify the situation and urged people to use other forms of mapping than Apple's own service.
Perhaps a good old-fashioned paper map would be a sensible addition before setting off - better to be safe than sorry after all.
When Alan Turing first proposed his idea of “unorganised machines” in 1948, he was attempting to represent a new approach to artificial intelligence.
The infant human cortex, he reasoned, was an example of an unorganised machine, with its seeming random initial construction proving capable of being trained to perform particular tasks.
Now researchers at think they've made progress in building their own “gooware” computer, based on Turing's unorganised machines.
In Turing's seminal paper, he argued the simplest form of unorganised machine would be a randomly connected network of NAND logic gates – which he dubbed A-type machines.
Andrew Adamatzky and his colleagues the University of the West of England's Unconventional Computing lab have long been interested in chemical computers – mostly based on an unusual group of chemical reactions known as a Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction.
What's interesting about these reactions is that they don't reach a stable equilibrium point, and subtle stimuli can produce patterns in an otherwise tranquil mixture. The waves of chemical changes in the BZ reaction are used as the basis of transferring information.
Adamatzky and his team have shown previously that it's possible to build a NAND gate using a BZ reaction.
Unlike traditional processors, that have intricate nano-scale designs and bits behave in a regimented fashion, a BZ processor can potentially move information in any direction. It could be capable of handling far more data than a traditional computer.
Now, Adamatsky's team have shown they can use their BZ NAND gate as the basis of an A-type unorganised machine.
“It was then shown how a number of well-known benchmark logic circuits can be designed from A-type unorganised machines using an approach inspired by a comment from Turing on cultural search,” the group wrote.
At this stage, the work is still some way off producing a new form of artificial intelligence, but the researchers believe it has serious potential in the pharmaceutical industry, as the basis of so-called smart drugs, which only deliver their cocktail of chemicals when the conditions are right.
06 Dec 2012
The strange story of millionaire software pioneer, and alleged user of mind-bending drugs, John McAfee took another bizarre turn recently. While hold up in a Guatemala prison McAfee began blogging about his life in incarceration.
This wasn't some sort of Guatemala prisoner rehabilitation programme either. Evidently, McAfee just asked for a computer and then it suddenly showed up.
"I am in jail in Guatemala; vastly superior to Belize jails. I asked for a computer and one magically appeared. The coffee is also excellent," McAfee wrote from behind bars.
McAfee's jab at the Belize prison system comes following his lengthy fight to avoid a the authorities there. The security software luminary was recently sent to a Guatemalan prison having entered the country illegally.
The imprisoned blogger is currently wanted for questioning in Belize, where authorities say they just want to ask McAfee some questions. But McAfee is convinced they plan to throw him in jail for life.
McAfee says he has been doing some snooping and discovered high-level corruption in the Belize police system. He says the Belize authorities want to silence him for what he knows.
But wait, it gets better. McAfee is not only getting free computer time in jail he is also looking to get asylum in Guatemala.
McAfee has convinced the former attorney general of Guatemala to represent him in his fight for asylum. He's even calling on his supporters to tweet the president of Guatemala on his behalf.
No matter how this turns out, we can't wait for the TV movie of the John McAfee story. Just wait until Gary Busey dyes his hair and plays the beleaguered security software luminary.
06 Dec 2012
Google has updated its maps for Andorra, Bulgaria, Estonia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The updates come as part of Google's Ground Truth initiative. Ground Truth aims to bring high quality maps to every place on the globe. Google claims its using a combination of advanced algorithms and superior mapping data to deliver on its promise.
Google's recent updates are just one of many that have occurred this year. The search giant started mapping UK Rivers earlier this year. Google also deployed staff to map out the inside of a number of UK landmarks last July
Among the more interesting updates to come out the current European revisions are the additions of ferry lines, walking paths, and university campuses. Google specifically pointed to the addition of detailed walking paths of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Spain as a point of pride.
Google also wants to hear some user feedback on the Map updates. The Android OS developer says that it can update Map issues in as little as a few minutes following users reported issue.
While the constant updating of Google Maps is exciting, they still are not without some foibles. The search giant's maps recently led a team of explorers to be lost at sea when an island listed by Google proved to not exist.
Tech giant Apple may have incurred the wrath of eco-campaign group Greenpeace over its practice of making its gadgets all but unrecyclable, but that doesn't mean it's comfortable being the bad boy of green IT. The firm has just confirmed plans to double the size of its fuel cell project at its $1bn datacentre in Maiden, North Carolina.
According to filings made to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, first reported by the Charlotte Observer, Apple will begin operating 50 biogas fuel cells at the plant from January, generating up to 10MW of electricity from cleaned methane, obtained from a landfill site.
The first phase of the fuel cell deployment began in October 2012, intended to test the feasibility of generating 4.8MW at the site.
Apple's Maiden facility has become the poster child of its environmental efforts. The site uses free air cooling to reduce the energy spent on cooling its servers; a chilled water storage system reduces energy consumption further.
The fuel cells Apple will use are from Bloom Energy, which is believed to use solid-oxide fuel cells that combine natural gas with oxygen from the air, and produce electricity without burning. Bloom Energy also counts eBay and Google among its customers.
One of the reasons tech firms have been so keen to adopt fuel-cell technology is because of the massive power requirements of modern datacentres – the vital organs of cloud services.
Earlier this year, Greenpeace savaged both Apple and Microsoft over their datacentre energy use, criticising the pair for their use of “dirty energy” to power their datacentres. Greenpeace regards electricity generated at coal or nuclear power plants as dirty energy.
FRANKFURT: While HP is famed for its hardware chops dating back to its early days, the firm has been a notable absentee from the mobile market.
Obviously last year's flip-flop on hardware between Léo Apotheker and Meg Whitman didn't help, but the firm has hinted earlier this year that it would look to get back into the mobile world to offer enterprises a device from a brand they know and trust.
"We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that would be your first computing device...," Whitman said when speaking to Fox Business News in September.
"We are a computing company, we have to take advantage of that form factor."
However, at the firm's Discover event, the focus on software and services underlines that HP recognises it cannot assume its hardware divisions will be able to compete, especially with rampant competition from market leaders Apple, Android and now Microsoft.
This point was elucidated by Sukhi Gill, European chief technologist for HP, who during a panel interview with select media, said that he believes the firm is better placed developing its software services rather than mobile.
"It's a hugely competitive market with Android, iOS and Microsoft devices and I think with those three players our focus on the datacentre and analytics will bring more value than selling mobile devices," he said.
"Some firms are knocking out devices for $25, you've got the Raspberry Pi for £22 - everything is getting miniaturised so my sense is that investments around analytics and information will give us better rewards."
Gill may well be right, as firms like HTC who only a few years ago were market leaders are now struggling, while the numerous legal spats may also prove unnerving to HP, given it's already embroiled in issues with its own subsidiary Autonomy.
Then again, with Windows Phone 8 proving compelling and offering numerous enterprise benefits, perhaps Steve Ballmer will be joining Whitman on stage later at Discover in Germany to announce an HP hardware/Microsoft mobile software tie-up. We'll let you know if so.
Mike Lynch, the under-fire founder of enterprise search firm Autonomy, has published a new website intended to counter the claims flying his way from HP, which has accused management at the UK software maker of cooking the books to bump up its acquisition price.
Currently, AutonomyAccounts.org contains little new information, featuring previously published responses to HP's claims, along with an interview with Lynch.
But by establishing a website to focus on countering HP's claims, Lynch has upped the ante in the PR battle.
“This site is designed to be a public point of contact for Dr Mike Lynch and other former managers at Autonomy with the wider world. It will contain information about Autonomy and any public statements made on behalf of the former management team related to these issues,” the site proclaims.
In November, HP chief executive Meg Whitman confirmed the firm would be writing down $8.8bn largely in relation its acquisition of Autonomy. Whitman blamed Autonomy's former management team for wilfully misrepresenting the value of the software maker.
HP has asked the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the UK's Serious Fraud Office to investigate.
Lynch has flatly rejected HP's claims, arguing the acquisition was pored over by hundreds of accountants and auditors. He accused HP of trying to create a smokescreen for its own management problems.
Disputes over acquisitions in the IT industry are relatively rare. But when disputes do arise, the parties typically engage their lawyers, and then remain tight-lipped until their arguments are heard in court.
This makes the mud-slinging between HP and Autonomy's former management even more unusual.
04 Dec 2012
The Curiosity rover has analyzed Martian soil for the first time ever.
Among the findings from the first study of Martian soil, Curiosity found that dirt on Mars contains water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances. While the discovery isn't as historical as the unearthing of little grey aliens, it's still a pretty big deal for the Curiosity rover.
Last month, principal investigator for the rover mission John Grotzinger said during a radio interview that the data coming back from Curiosity was "one for the history books". That statement got a lot of NASA followers thinking that the Mars rover had found organic life on Mars.
Of course, NASA quickly put the kibosh on that idea with the new announcements. Sulfur isn't life on mars, but it does proof that Curiosity can be a very effective tool on the red planet.
Curiosity uses an advanced onboard lab called Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) to define the red planets sand. SAM heats samples to 800 degrees Celsius and then examines the gases that lift from the heat.
The results from SAM prove that Curiosity can do its job while up in space. Meaning, while Curiosity hasn't found anything "for the history books" yet it still has all the tools do so in the future.