Sunday, February 15, 2015

[Running Riot] #3 - Our Tax Dollars

Kickass Torrents switches from .so to .to

Kickass Torrents
Whew, what a quirky month it's been for the likes of digital piracy! While ThePirateBay is making its fantastic comeback, Kickass Torrents it still just trying to survive server seizures. Truthfully, Kickass was riding on the curtails of TPB's supposed defeat, picking up new visitors by the millions when they couldn't connect to PirateBay. But then we got back our beloved Bay, and now it's Kickass' turn to ebb.

Kickass is switching from the .so (Somalia) domain registry to the .to (Tonga) one, which may just be a procedural move as Kickass was originally on the .to TLD (top-level domain) to begin with. So, for the time being, we may just have to put up with some minor technical difficulties as our torrent sites slowly get back into the swing of things...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Microsoft's Project Orleans, the cloud set-up for Halo 4, now open-source

The people behind Project Orleans
Microsoft is making one more move towards a more open-source world by putting it's Project Orleans up for scrutiny. What's Project Orleans? That's the cloud framework working in the background when you play Halo 4. It's part of the coding behind the Azure cloud, another tool in Microsoft's cloud repertoire. And now it's available for the public to use and improve.

It may not sound particularly exciting, but Project Orleans can handle a large amount of data in ways other frameworks can only dream of. This is why it has been a particularly fond project at Microsoft/Xbox, which handles millions of players' online records, as well as thousands and thousands of games happening concurrently.

This is how you can see that your friend is playing War Games in Halo 4 while you're sitting in the dashboard, looking at your friends list. This is how you are able to send invites to join your party and chat, and likely has a hand in matchmaking on Halo 4 and perhaps even several other games -- and now it's open source to the public.

Despite a gap in manned missions at NASA, space exploration still strong

New Horizons mission plan
Just a couple of months ago we all got to see some close-up images of a comet (Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko), as well as even drop a lander on the surface. A lot of cool images were received, and the Rosetta spacecraft is still continuing to perform studies of the comet itself.

Building on that momentum, let's see some of the other cool things we'll be up for real soon: we've got the Dawn craft approaching the dwarf planet Ceres AND New Horizons finally approaching Pluto and nearby Kuiper Belt objects. Looks like the far reaches of the Solar System are finally getting the attention they deserve, considering the large number of planetoids out there. Despite it's demotion from full planet status, it will still be cool to see the surface of Pluto.

On the flip side, NASA is trying to keep manned missions as a possibility, successfully launching the experimental Orion probe into a double orbit around the Earth. The max altitude reached from Earth was the farthest reached by a probe intended for manned missions since the Apollo Moon missions themselves -- a great feat considering the lack of funding.

It's a good time to be alive.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sony fights dirty against hackers who stole sensitive files

"make.believe" and "" didn't really
fit as well as "hacked.again" does

Today it has been revealed that Sony Pictures Entertainment is taking a stand against the hackers who jacked important, sensitive documents from personal file records at the company. Infiltrating Sony's obviously ill-protected system, the supposed "Guardians of Peace" (which are, in all likelihood, North Korean hackers trying to get the Sony/Rogen/Franco film The Interview shut down by holding innocent employees' data hostage) released the files all over the Internet, for the entire world to look at.

And look at them we did. In fact, it's hard to find a news site that hasn't read or at least screened the files themselves and reported on the situation. Re/code, Gizmodo, Wired, TechCrunch, TechMeme, you name it, this hack is really running the gamut. Seemingly less newsworthy (but still, in my opinion, at least as integral to the discussion) is the fact that instead of trying to ameliorate the issue in a reasonable way, Sony is going to fight fire with fire.

Yes, even though Sony has been the subject of several vicious cyber attacks, and even though they should be in total damage-control-mode, the entertainment company will instead be taking an offensive stance that probably isn't even really all that legal. Amazon is denying all allegations, but Re/code reported that Sony intends (or intended) to utilized Amazon AWS proxy servers to DoS ("denial of service") attack sites where the sensitive files are being uploaded, adding more e-casualties to the already-growing list. Yikes.

If you ask me, it's just as a writer at Gizmodo put it: the victim here isn't Sony. It's definitely not the hackers who certainly do not guard any sort of peace. It's the people who work at Sony that are now suffering one of the grossest invasions of personal privacy that we've had in a long time -- the last one that comes to mind was Sony's previous PSN debacle. What will it take to stop waging war on the innocent?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Asteroid Day is a thing now

Asteroid Day will be officially taking place on June 30, 2015, for the very first time. *Cue trumpets and confetti.*

Famous scientists and influential citizens of the world are banding together to sign what is being called the "100x Asteroid Declaration." The purpose is simply to raise awareness of the issue that asteroids raise, as they constantly remain poised to entirely obliterate all life on Earth, at any moment. Detection rates wouldn't even allow use a proper response to such a threat. That Bruce Willis movie was being generous with the time it took them to put that project together and actually destroy an asteroid.

Considering our manned missions are still only in testing phases right now and the massive expense and time it would take to build a useful weapon or method to use against something as terrible as an asteroid, we will likely perish at the very first asteroid strike. Nobody wants that, now.

So, that's why this group, which includes Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, and more astronauts than you can shake a fist at, is committing itself to building proper detection and response to the threat of an asteroid strike -- truly, an inevitable circumstance that will be a threat at some point to humanity's history. We've already been cutting it close with things like the Tunguska explosion, and even that was a baby compared to some of the big 'uns coming close enough to thread the space between Earth and the Moon.

Let's not leave it up to chance. We have the resources. We have the brainpower. We have the technology. This is something any government should be keenly aware of, as well as keenly working on solving. A good first step: allocate even a tiny portion of Defense funds or something to NASA instead, a little fraction of a fraction of a sliver, just enough to fund a project that will make sure Earth won't be destroyed by a space threat any time soon.

I think it's a no brainer!