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Londoners Use Technology to Help Clean Up Riot Mess

After days of rioting throughout London, social media is being used for good. Residents throughout the area are using Twitter to coordinate cleanup efforts and are including local businesses and police in their efforts. @RiotCleanup, which reportedly has more than 48,000 followers, is posting locations for cleanups, including lists of supplies volunteers need to bring. The person with the Twitter account claims to be contacting police before posting locations to ensure the area isn’t a crime scene. The group also has a Facebook account. The rioting started Saturday night in Tottenham after a peaceful demonstration over the death of a man shot by the police and later spread to other British cities. Forbes reports that in the next 24 hours there will be 13,000 police officers on duty in London. (Forbes)(CNN)(PC Magazine)

New Microscope Lets Scientists Peer to the Nanoscale

UC San Diego researchers have developed a new x-ray microscope that lets researchers see a material’s structural details at the nanometer scale. The microscope’s images are reportedly not produced by a lens, but by means of a powerful computer program. It uses an algorithm that converts the diffraction patterns produced by the x-rays bouncing off the nanoscale structures into images. Specifically, the researchers have looked at magnetic structures in anticipation of developing smaller, denser computer storage devices. The researchers examined a film of gadolinium and iron, which is commonly used to make high capacity, fast computer memory and disk drives. It will also be used in other areas to develop a better understanding of how materials behave at the nanoscale. (redOrbit)(University of California San Diego)

NCSA, IBM Scuttle Petaflop Computing Project

IBM and the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications issued a joint announcement Monday stating that they are no longer planning to jointly build a petaflop-speed supercomputer. The organizations had been working on a project called Blue Waters for which IBM was to have supplied the hardware and software as well as other resources. IBM, which terminated its US$208 million contract 6 August 2011, will return the funding it had been given thus far; NCSA will return the IBM equipment.  “The innovative technology that IBM ultimately developed was more complex and required significantly increased financial and technical support by IBM beyond its original expectations,” the joint statement read. “NCSA and IBM worked closely on various proposals to retain IBM’s participation in the project but could not come to a mutually agreed-on plan concerning the path forward.” The computer was to have been used for advanced simulation, modeling, and other data-intensive computations in disciplines including physics, materials science, and meteorology. IBM reportedly declined to offer any more information beyond the joint statement. The NCSA stated that it is now “coordinating with the National Science Foundation to ensure project continuity and that the goals of the project are achieved.” (PC World)(The Washington Post)(National Center for Supercomputing Applications)

UK Politicians, Media Point Finger at Technology for Aiding UK Rioters

After days of rioting throughout the London, both politicians and the media are singling out Blackberry’s messaging network as well as social networking sites for helping rioters assemble. Blackberry’s technology in particular is in the crosshairs because its communications are encrypted.  The Metropolitan Police stated its officers are monitoring social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook; they are also getting assistance from Research In Motion, manufacturer of the Blackberry, which has said it’s cooperating with law enforcement. The rioting started Saturday night in Tottenham after a peaceful demonstration over the death of a man shot by the police. The unrest spread Monday to cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool. More than 450 people have been arrested since the riots began. Tottenham MP David Lammy says he wants BlackBerry Messenger shut down to quell the unrest, looting in particular. This approach was used earlier this year by the Egyptian government, which cut most communications to try to dampen protests. (The Wall Street Journal)(The Washington Post)(The Telegraph – 1)(The Telegraph – 2)

Black Hat Focuses on Siemens Vulnerabilities

Conferees attending the Black Hat Security Conference remain intrigued by vulnerabilities in Siemens programmable logic controllers, which were first made public last year after the Stuxnet exploits were uncovered. Among the numerous security researchers discussing the technology during the conference was Dillon Beresford, a researcher with NSS Labs, who demonstrated how he could control the Siemens devices. He said that although he wasn’t an expert in SCADA, he needed only two-and-a-half hours to write code that exploited the vulnerabilities. Jerome Radcliffe, also a security researcher, says the problem is that these systems have passwords that are hard-coded into the devices, which makes them easy targets. Thomas Brandstetter, acting head of Siemens product CERT, reportedly briefly appeared during Beresford’s talk, confirming that Siemens was working on fixing the flaws in its devices. (Information Week)(Reuters)

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