Archive for January, 2010

Gotta love these studies that take MRI’s of brains of people doing particular tasks.  It’s worth noting that similar findings have been found in many other tasks as well.  We just have to accept that sometimes people are better at doing that things than others, and it is probably to some degree, innate talent.

This also explains why I never was able to beat Super Mario Brothers.  Curse that level 8 stage 2!

Prior cognitive, psychological, and neurological studies have shown that expert video game players are capable of outperforming novices in measures of attention and perception. They also have demonstrated that, when novices train on video games for 20-plus hours, they experienced no measurable increase in cognitive ability. These two pieces of information would seem to point to an innate difference between expert and novices gamers, instead of suggesting that gaming is a skill that can be learned.

New neurological research, published in—and made freely available by—the journal Cerebral Cortex has found a correlation between the size of a trio of structures in the human brain and their owner’s ability to learn and play video games. Animal studies had focused the authors’ attention on three distinct structures deep within the brain: the caudate nucleus and the putamen in the dorsal striatum, and the nucleus accumbens in the ventral striatum. It was known that the striatum was used in habit forming and skill acquisition, so a role in video games skills makes sense.

via Bad at video games? Your brain structure may be at fault.

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hat-tip to the Pope, for acknowledging our changing world…

The Popes speech was posted in advance of the World Day of Communications set to take place in May, and its clear that this year, the Popes message is all about being active online. He emphasized that its not enough to merely be present on the Web—”Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”

via Pope: priests should blog, tweet the gospel too.

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Well, I had an old G4 PowerMac tower that was running at my grandparent’s place for the last couple years, but it looks like the power died, and I’m not sure it is worth fixing.  The truth is, it was to difficult for them to use anyway (they are both over age 85 and have never used a computer), and it was only being used by visitors.

So… I started poking around craiglist for some old desktops, and I’m looking to setup some sort of bulletproof installation which will allow them to do all the basics: email, web surf, watch video, check out online photos, maybe even skype/videochat.  I want to lock it down to a user-level so that nothing can break.  Even better if I can setup VPN so that I can remotely login to provide tech support.

So… Windows is out, it will eventually slow down and break, or some virus or worm will get on it.  Mac has proven too hard to use.  Google Chrome OS appears to have some potential but is too half-baked at this time.

Then I found Eldy.eu, and project that originated out of Italy to create an easy interface for the eldery.  They have a linux version, it looks like it can be installed over most linux distributions including Ubuntu, which is something I haven’t had problems installing before.

Who knows, does anyone know of any other strategies out there for this problem?  I’ll try to update this post with a followup…

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Those crazy Ars Technica writers again, pointing out how data and surveys can be manipulated.  From someone with epidemiology background, I was particularly interested in the comments about how the Metacritic score was affected.

The whole article is actually worth a read, but it struck a nerve with me from the point of view of someone with interest in both statistics and gaming….

In conclusion?

Modern Warfare 2 can be a fun game. The single-player is short, but intense. It’s not a $1 billion game in our opinion, however, and the precedents set by its release and success aren’t pointing towards good things for the industry.

Of course, after selling all those games, why should Activision care?

via What we (and Activision) learned from Modern Warfare 2.

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Further update on the reported attack on Google, as it turns out, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer may have been to blame.  Please, if any of you are still using Internet Explorer, it is time to switch to a better browser now.  Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

The German government has warned web users to find an alternative browser to Internet Explorer to protect security.The warning from the Federal Office for Information Security comes after Microsoft admitted IE was the weak link in recent attacks on Google’s systems.Microsoft says the security hole can be shut by setting the browser’s security zone to “high”, although this limits functionality and blocks many websites.However, German authorities say that even this would not make IE fully safe.Speaking to BBC News, Graham Cluley of anti-virus firm Sophos said the warning applied to versions 6, 7 and 8 of the browser.

via BBC News – German government warns against using MS Explorer.

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I posted on this earlier, and Ars Technica has a followup post this morning.  I think the most relevant concern is below, which has to do with the cost of allowing government monitoring:

Why only subject lines? If the attackers could get access to subject lines, why couldn’t they access entire e-mails? Apparently because the hackers infiltrated automated systems set up to provide such information to law enforcement in the US and elsewhere. (Getting access to the contents of e-mail messages is harder under US law than getting access to addresses, subject lines, etc, which are considered to be on the “outside of the envelope” and subject to pen register searches).

According to a Macworld source, “Right before Christmas, it was, ‘Holy s—, this malware is accessing the internal intercept [systems].'” Later, Google cofounder Larry Page supervised a Christmas Eve meeting on the security breach.

Fun fact: Google’s security team managed to penetrate one of the servers being used by the attackers, which was how the full extent of the attack—more than 30 companies—was revealed.

Breaches by design. Former Ars writer Julian Sanchez, now covering security at the Cato Institute, sees a problem with these automated law enforcement tracking systems in place at most major ISPs and Web companies. “As an eminent group of security experts argued in 2008, the trend toward building surveillance capability into telecommunications architecture amounts to a breach-by-design, and a serious security risk. As the volume of requests from law enforcement at all levels grows, the compliance burdens on telcoms grow also—making it increasingly tempting to create automated portals to permit access to user information with minimal human intervention.

“The problem of volume is front and center in a leaked recording released last month, in which Sprint’s head of legal compliance revealed that their automated system had processed 8 million requests for GPS location data in the span of a year, noting that it would have been impossible to manually serve that level of law enforcement traffic. Less remarked on, though, was Taylor’s speculation that someone who downloaded a phony warrant form and submitted it to a random telecom would have a good chance of getting a response—and one assumes he’d know if anyone would.”

via Google and China: the attacks and their aftermath.

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Pretty astounding news, and really important regarding US relations with China.  I suspect China will hack my account now, but thought this should be further publicized anyway.

Well, we’ve got to hand it to Google—the company’s “don’t be evil” schtick has long worn thin and governments around the globe are already probing its potential monopoly power, but who else would come out swinging against the entire Chinese government and announce an end to its own collaboration in censorship, all while recognizing that it could lose access to the entire Chinese market? And do it in a blog post?

This far but no further

The extraordinary announcement came this afternoon: Google has had it with China’s pervasive web of censorship and spying, and the company is done censoring its search results in China. The decision wasn’t made in a vacuum, but rather came after years of increasing cyberattacks from the Chinese mainland. A recent, massive infiltration attempt that targeted Google and 20 other tech companies was the final straw. Though Google stops short of naming the Chinese government as the party behind the attacks, the implication is clear.

via Furious Google throws down gauntlet to China over censorship.

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Often, the most effective techniques are simple, so simple that they make medicine look bad.  Handwashing effectiveness was one thing, but how about the idea of cleaning the patient before surgery?  NY Times summary to the recently published New England Journal articles linked below.

The studies, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, examined infections that develop at the site of surgery, often around the incision, and afflict more than 300,000 patients a year in the United States.

While experts are increasingly trying to stop hospital-acquired infections by approaches including stepped-up hand-washing by doctors and nurses, the new studies looked at the bacteria patients may be carrying before entering the hospital, especially a common bacteria, staphylococcus aureus.

“About one-third of people at any one time carry this bacterium in their nose or on their skin,” said a co-author of one study, Dr. Henri Verbrugh, a professor of medical microbiology at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “It does not give them any problem, but if they go to a hospital and the skin is somehow breached, they are really prone to invasion or infection by their own bacteria.”

Dr. Verbrugh and colleagues tested patients for the bacteria using nasal swabs. They treated about 500 who carried the bacteria for five days with an antibiotic ointment on their noses and showers with soap treated with chlorhexidine, an antiseptic. After surgery, which sometimes occurred during the five-day treatment, those patients were 60 percent less likely to develop infections than patients receiving a placebo of ointment and soap.

via Hospitals Could Stop Infections by Tackling Bacteria Patients Bring In, Studies Find – NYTimes.com.

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Those of you who use a Fujitsu ScanSnap on the Mac (a device which I LOVE and highly recommend) who have updated to Snow Leopard, you may have noticed that you can’t “Save to Folder,” and the work around was to “Attach to Email” and then copy the attachment to somewhere on your computer.  Kinda annoying.  Well Fujitsu updated their driver for you, but it isn’t the easiest thing to find on their website.  They may have also notified me by email but maybe it got spam blocked.  Anyway, I don’t know how long this has been out, I just happened to go look because I was annoyed with the work-around today.  Anyway, the link is below.

Snow Leopard Update for ScanSnapFujitsu announces ScanSnap Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard Update for ScanSnap S1500M, S300M, S510M, and S500M.Updating select ScanSnap models listed above is a two part process. The first update restores features associated with ScanSnap Manager and the second update restores features associated with FineReader for ScanSnap.Note: These updates are for compatibility with Snow Leopard only. If you are using an earlier Mac OS, do not install these updates.

via Snow Leopard Update for ScanSnap : FUJITSU United States.

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Disclosure Policy

I’m a bit late to the game, but the FTC has recently published a set of guidelines for endorsements and testimonials which includes requirements for bloggers who review products and services to disclose what sort of compensation they receive. The purpose of these guidelines is to protect consumers by exposing the “material connections” between advertisers and endorsers. Basically, if a blogger receives anything as compensation, whether it is a payment, free products, or anything else of value in exchange for writing something, the reader should be made aware.

It is about freaking time.  Posts “reviewing” or products and services has polluted the web, and the endorsements need to be made clear whenever anyone searches out a posts and reads something.

So I thought I should also briefly give my disclosure policy, which is… I don’t get paid for anything.  Pretty simple. 🙂  It would be nice if I could serve up Google Adsense or something, but I haven’t had the time to figure out how to do that within WordPress.com, and I think they are blocking it, honestly.  If you see any ads on my page, they are generally not mine, and belong to WordPress.com, the blog-hosting company that I use.

Maybe, someday, that’ll change.  As of right now, I post on my blog largely because I’m bored, feel like it, or just want to track a link that I can reference to my friends later.

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