17 Feb 2011 @ 12:34 AM 

An article posted in The Economist a few years ago presents an interesting take on the safety messages you hear every time you fly in a commercial airline.

GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form
of disturbance that can cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be. We don’t want to scare you. Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft’s navigation systems. At least, that’s what you’ve always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn’t sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. We are aware that this video is tedious, but it is not meant to be fun. It is meant to limit our liability in the event of lawsuits.

Once we have reached cruising altitude you will be offered a light meal and a choice of beverages (a word that sounds so much better than just saying drinks, don’t you think?)  The purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy. That said, we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. We appreciate that you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which you have never heard of. Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean doors to automatic and cross-check. Thank you for flying Veritas.

Enjoy your next flight!

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 17 Feb 2011 @ 12:34 AM

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 15 Feb 2011 @ 7:29 PM 

Granted part #1 of this article turned out to be a little more complex to execute that first reported (don’t believe EVERYTHING you read in a blog!), but this one turns out to be a little more serious.

Reported fairly widely in the mainstream tech-press, this vulnerability permits the retrieval of private data from the iPhone and bypasses any user passcode available. Looking at the process involved, this puts the technique into the hand of someone with mid-level technical expertise (thankfully we aren’t quite at the Hollywood-security model of hitting a few keystrokes to bypass a password prompt).

The following video gives you a good demonstration of the process and for those wanting a little more detail, the technical paper supporting this process can be found here.

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 15 Feb 2011 @ 07:32 PM

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 11 Feb 2011 @ 10:09 PM 
Google Art Project

Google Art Project

Launched recently with next to no publicity is Google’s interesting new application of the technology perfected with Google Street View call the Google Art Project (http://www.googleartproject.com/).

Instead of driving down your street taking photographs, Google have removed the Street View rig off the van (hopefully!) and gone into a number of world renowned art galleries.

The concepts is the same as Street View, only applied to the gallery and the art displayed within. The site will give you the opportunity to take a tour around the selected art gallery in the same way you could tour around a select street.

As I said, this has been fairly under reported in general and the news that you can find on the site seems to be a little picky about the implementation and the concept in general (see Google Art Project is underwhelming, Google Art Project is second rate and Is the Google Art Project the best thing since real eyes: Critics respond). Also let’s not forget that in this day and age there is little that is genuinely new; Synethescape have also come up with a similar and very functional concept themselves.

But when all is said and done, I think there are two things that should be noted about this project. Firstly, art should be for everyone and not just those in close proximity to it. This isn’t a replacement for a trip to an art gallery by any means, but makes far away galleries and artwork more accessible to anyone with a computer or a local Internet cafe. Also, like most Google project I would expect that this takes a similar “beta” approach. Try it out, throw it to the public and see what works. It has served them well so far (minus a few exceptions…. Wave does come to mind!)

Secondly, and I think more importantly this demonstrates a potentially lucrative commercialisation of the Street View technology. Taking the camera off the street and into a building can provide a number of opportunities for business of all kinds. Imagine being able to virtually enter the world’s biggest and most famous stores from the comfort of your own keyboard. Being able to buy “off the rack” from Harrods or London, or Bloomingdale’s of New York. Being able to click on a store item and then be redirected to an online shopping portal to purchase the product that you just virtually selected.

I don’t think we are there yet, but I do believe it presents and interesting amount of scope for the future of the online shopping experience. As altruistic as the Art Project may be, remember Google likes making money too!

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 13 Feb 2011 @ 09:31 PM

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