Technology in development to detect guilt

An English research team plans to develop a computer system that can detect guilt to aid security screenings. According to a ScienceDaily report, the team will use a new technique, called “real-time dynamic passive profiling,” to monitor facial expressions, eye movement, and pupil changes, then evaluate physiological changes such as blood flow to produce an analysis. Dr. Hassan Ugail of the University of Bradford says that the technology would support trained border officers – humans are better at reading facial expressions, but the computer system could make use of nonvisual cues such as thermal imaging. (ScienceDaily)

FCC mulls delaying “white spaces” decision

The US Federal Communication Commission is considering an emergency request from the National Association of Broadcasters to postpone its decision on the use of white spaces for broadband access. The NAB wants a 70-day public-comment period before allowing the use of white spaces, which otherwise would go into effect concurrent with the digital television switchover on 17 February  2009. The FCC released its report on white spaces last week, detailing its proof of concept that wireless devices can operate on unused portions of the television spectrum without interfering with broadcast signals. But the NAB expressed concern over a part of the report that showed some false positives and negatives when the devices searched for vacant frequencies. (Ars Technica)

Study finds families get closer with Internet and cell phones

Contrary to popular belief, recent technology has helped people create “new connectedness” with their families, although that might mean less physical togetherness and less leisure time overall, according to a study released Sunday. The Pew Internet and American Life Project conducted a survey that found 89 percent of married couples, with or without children, were at least somewhat satisfied with the amount of time they spent with their families. Much of that time was shared online in a home computer network, on cell phones, or through other means. (Computerworld)

Microsoft technology filters out profanity

Microsoft has obtained a patent for technology that would automatically censor audio streams, which could help prevent profanity in online gaming and live television broadcasts. The technology uses batch analysis of audio data based on a lattice of phonemes to detect undesirable speech, then makes the objectionable sound unintelligible. Ars Technica speculates that governments could use the technology to censor speech on devices such as cell phones. (Ars Technica)

Noiseless amplifiers boost quantum computing

In a possible breakthrough for quantum computing and encryption, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado at Boulder, have developed a “noiseless” amplifier for the measurement of microwave signals. Current amplifiers add random fluctuations, known as “noise,” that force researches to make repeated measurements to get reliable results. As detailed online in the journal Nature Physics, the new amplifier performs better than previous noiseless amplifiers and is tunable, operating between 4 and 8 GHz. According to JILA group leader Konrad Lenhert, the new technology lets researchers “squeeze” microwave fields, reducing noise in one area while increasing it in another. The squeezed entities can then be "entangled," a process that links their properties, which could help make quantum computing easier. The amplifiers are lined with 480 magnetic sensors called SQUIDS (superconducting quantum interference devices), and according Lenhert can be manufactured quickly. “If you can make one you can make a hundred of them,” he said. (NIST)

Merb could help Ruby gain programming language edge

A new open source framework, Merb, could bolster the rapidly growing Ruby programming language, reported. Merb 1.0, a Model View Controller, is in the final development stages and is targeted for release by the end of October. The framework is designed to give programmers more scalability and flexibility in the use of specific tools and libraries than the popular framework that influenced it, Ruby on Rails. But Merb still lacks some functions such as full support for SOAP. (

IRS systems have security vulnerabilities

Two internal IRS computer applications have security vulnerabilities that were known when the applications were deployed, according to a US Treasury Department report issued last week. The Customer Account Data Engine, a tax processing tool rolled out in phases beginning in July 2004, lacks adequate protection against malicious code, transfers information without encryption, and doesn’t have a sufficient timeout mechanism for user sessions, among other deficiencies. The Account Management System, a database of taxpayer information, has similar vulnerabilities, according to the report. According to NextGov, the IRS says it has already addressed 11 of the 22 listed vulnerabilities. (NextGov)

FireWire’s absence from new Macbook causes furor

Not long after Apple unveiled its new line of Macbooks on Thursday, customers flocked to the company’s support forums with complaints about the absence of a FireWire port on the lower-end model. In several hundred posts, users complained that without a FireWire port, they wouldn’t be able to hook up FireWire-only devices such as video cameras, audio interfaces, and external hard drives. Apple, which has dropped technologies in the past (it was the first to go without a 3.5-inch floppy drive), didn’t address the change in the official product launch. According to Apple Insider, Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs responded to one e-mail complaint by stating, "Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2." (Computerworld)

Microsoft objects to informational use of Windows Update

Microsoft is attempting to fend off a legal request to use its Windows Update service to inform customers of a “Windows Vista Capable” class-action lawsuit against the company, according to a report in Computerworld. Calling the idea a form of spam, Microsoft said it has promised users that Windows Update would only be used for security patches and other updates and not for general information messages. Plaintiffs in the case made the request in an effort to notify other potential plaintiffs and direct them to an informational Web site. The suit alleges that Microsoft misled customers by  letting PC makers  put a “Vista Capable” sticker on  machines  capable of  running only  the Vista Home Basic version. (Computerworld)

Google’s Android has a kill switch

Google’s new Android smart phone has a kill switch  that lets the company  remotely remove third-party software from users’ devices, according to reports. The company  states in its terms of service that it can kill applications that violate distribution agreements, similar to how  Apple’s iPhone works. Apple’s kill switch caused an uproar when it was discovered by a hacker earlier this year, and chief executive officer Steve Jobs eventually admitted that Apple had  inserted it  to prevent malicious applications. (Information Week)

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