Saturday, January 21, 2012

Listening for Whales

Here's a great example of technology being deployed to benefit residents of Cape Cod... even if they are only "seasonal residents".  I'm talking about the North Atlantic right whale.

Over the past 40 years, humans have been responsible for just about half of all documented North Atlantic right whale deaths.  Of those caused by humans, roughly a quarter are from fishing gear entanglement, and three-quarters are from ship strikes.  The whale's propensity to feed by slowly skimming just below the water's surface is what makes them especially vulnerable to ship strikes.

Technology deployed by the Right Whale Listening Network, a project of Cornell University's Bioacoustics Research Program, is an effort to reduce ship strikes within the shipping lanes leading into Massachusetts Bay.  In 2008, they installed buoys which can listen for and detect a whale's call from up to 5 miles away.  The resulting map (below) shows any detected right whale calls in near real-time:

The green dots on the map above show locations of buoys listening for endangered right whales.  If you see a red whale icon instead, it means that the buoy has heard a right whale within the last 24 hours.  This information is made available to NOAA and to ship captains, so they may slow to 10 knots and post a lookout to avoid a collision.

(Note:  Right whales often leave Massachusetts Bay in spring.  If you don't see any whale detections here, see this archived map from April 2008.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stuxnet: The First Weaponized Virus

Stuxnet video: Anatomy of a Computer Virus

Director:Patrick Clair (,
Written by:Scott Mitchell
Produced by:Zapruder's Other Films
Motion Graphics:Patrick Clair

I stumbled across this incredibly well-done video, which describes, in concise layman’s terms, the nature and ramifications of last year’s Stuxnet virus.  Stuxnet is arguably the first weapon of war that’s made entirely of computer code, deployed on a global scale. This 3-minute segment was produced for the Australian TV program “HungryBeast” on ABC1.

Although many of us have still not heard of Stuxnet, this was one virus that should make everyone sit up and take notice.  Those who have studied this virus say it is undoubtedly a “cyberweapon”, and many believe that it specifically targeted Iran's nuclear uranium enrichment facilities.  Further still, it is widely speculated that Israel and/or the United States may have been involved.

Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Russian computer security firm Kaspersky Lab said on the company's website that “This malicious program was not designed to steal money, send spam, grab personal data... no, this piece of malware was designed to sabotage plants, to damage industrial systems.”

In the new world order of tomorrow, the victor may not be the one with the mightiest guns, bombs, planes or armies, but rather, the one with the mightiest code.
Dieter Groll
“We believe this type of attack could only be conducted with nation-state support and backing.  The sophistication of the multi-layered attack brings us to an understanding that Stuxnet was created by a team of extremely skilled professionals who possessed vast resources and financial support”, he concluded.

I first wrote about Cyberwarfare in 2009.  Stuxnet is the first concrete example of the future of warfare, with truly frightening potential.  Stuxnet's successors may indeed possess the potential to bring down an enemy nation’s electrical grid, or other critical infrastructure.  In the “new world order” of tomorrow, the victor may not be the one with the mightiest guns, bombs, planes or armies, but rather, the one with the mightiest code.

Monday, December 7, 2009

(USB) Power to the People

TruePower UCS Power Outlet w/ Built-in USB Ports

TruePower UCS Power Outlet w/ Built-in USB Ports
From the “It’s About Time Department”: has announced their custom-designed TruePower UCS Power Outlet with Built-in USB Ports.  At just $10 a pop, you can pick up a couple of these bad boys and put one next to the couch, one by your nightstand, etc.  Oh, add the cost of shipping, plus permitting fees and electrician’s fees, but if you decide to go renegade and trim those costs with it a simple do-it-yourself weekend project, I’ll take NO responsibility for the consequences.

These outlets are scheduled to begin shipping in early 2010, after final UL approval.  That’s just in time for USB 3.0 to begin coming out later in the year, but hey, what technology isn’t obsolete the moment you drive it off the lot?

One added bonus is that the USB ports only draw power when a device is physically connected to it, unlike the typical “vampire” chargers that continually suck electricity when we leave them plugged in – but we never do that, do we?  [Ahem, excuse me a moment while I crawl under my desk and unplug the 3 unused chargers that I just noticed... Ok, I’m back.]

Belkin In-Desk USB Hub

The Belkin In-Desk USB Hub
Speaking of desks, another useful device is the Belkin In-Desk USB Hub, a 4-port USB 2.0 hub that’s designed to fit into a 3-inch-round opening on your desk and connect to your computer with the included USB cable. It retails for around $40.

And if your desk doesn’t have a 3-inch hole, it’s easy to add with a hole-saw drill attachment, but I’ll let somebody else blog about that.  What’s that?  My desk?  Yup, the hole’s there – I remember seeing it a couple years ago before all the paper got piled on top of it....

Update December 10, 2009: 
Disclaimer: The author received absolutely no compensation whatsoever for mentioning these products.