Category Archives: Interesting Items

Things the staff found interesting, or fun.

Remembering Once and Future Losses on January 28

The fourth week of January is usually cold, dark, bitter and dreary here in the Northern Hemisphere. With the brightness and excitement of the holidays faded away, summer is a distant memory and cabin fever grows, and yet there are scant signs that life and hope will ever return. This makes it an oddly appropriate time to pause and contemplate the price of technological progress, what is lost when things go bad, and how to prevent such in the future. And indeed on January 28, there is not one but two solemn “celebrations” for just that purpose. For the twenty-eighth of the first month of the year is both NASA’s Day of Remembrance and also Data Privacy and Protection Day. They couldn’t be more unalike, this solemn memorial to America’s fallen star-voyagers and this reminder of the importance of safeguarding our personal data online, yet there are commonalities. Most fatalities in the space program occurred at least partly because of complacency and over-confidence, traits which are also in abundance on the Net. In both arenas, stakes are high, technology is complex, and vigilance and knowing what you’re doing is vital. This is not to equate the risks or consequences of the two fields in any way. But space travel and the Internet are technological contemporaries, born and developed under the shadow of the Cold War, nurtured by the same military industrial complex. Thus both share the same mindset of gee-whiz … Continue reading

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Cool Projects: The Expanse is Coming

2015 looks to be an amazing year, entertainment-wise, especially if you’re a science fiction fan. Many of us at SWCP are, unashamedly so, and we are all incredibly excited by the trailer for a new series coming out on Syfy, The Expanse. It’s set in a future where the stars are still out of reach but the Asteroid Belt has been settled by a diverse and rowdy human civilization. But the story is a grim, far-reaching noir mystery, with all life at stake. The trailer looks great; dark, gritty, intense, and claustrophobically, awesomely realistic, including the zero-g scenes. If the series does justice to the book, Leviathan Wakes, it should be an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a monstrosity as grotesque and horrific as anything in the Alien franchise. We’d be excited about it anyway, but we’re proud and thrilled that the book was co-authored by none other than our former director of Technical Support, Daniel Abraham. With fellow author Ty Franck, together they (under the pen name of James S.A. Corey) have published four books in the series so far. Hopefully, the Syfy series is just the beginning of a long television run. So belt yourself into your acceleration couches, and check the trailer out here. It’s going to be a hell of a ride, and the countdown has started.

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Home Comcast Xfinity Routers As Public WiFi Hotspots

ISP giant Comcast has quietly implemented a plan to turn its home Wifi routers into public hotspots. On the surface, it seems like a good idea, as it would allow their customers to get online easily over a much larger area, no longer confined to the environs of coffee shops and airports. But Comcast has embarked on this sweeping effort without offering users anything in return for participating. They did not ask permission or even notify them. Beyond that, the corporation has not made the public hotspot easy to opt out of, or provided any clear, technically useful information on the service, such as addressing security risks or how it might affect the paying customer’s own bandwidth. Perhaps they don’t know, or have other reasons for not doing so – such as many people opting out. Alongside with the home user’s private Wifi spot, the gateways set up a parallel public one for other Comcast customers, called “xfinitywifi“. These customers will be able to log in for free using a smartphone, tablet, or other enabled device. And once they do, they’ll be automatically logged into all others also called “xfinitywifi”. What could go wrong? Potentially, quite a lot, apparently. Comcast apparently began rolling out the service this summer, first testing it in Houston, but it is in effect in other major urban markets by now. So far there’s been little outcry, possibly because Comcast has been very quiet about it. … Continue reading

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