Round up for Feb 13, ’17

In startup news, INJAZ Egypt has redone its startup program! Two phases: Phase one, 50 teams pre-incubation. Phase two, 7 teams incubation. Details here.

There are Saudi women contributing to the good of their country. Case in point, Mounira Jamjoum, Basma Bushnak and Sarah Zaini who founded Emkan Education. Their startup offers a slew of educational services to schools, parents and teachers as well. They built a platform called Madarisna which lists schools and allows some reviewing with the bonus of getting in direct contact with management at the school. Reviews are crucial feedback to help improve service. Speaking of which, let us know what you think of Tekqio.

In science news, the Economist (!), has a piece on a special type of film that allows to cool a surface, and consequently a space enclosed by the surface (think walls and roof) even if the temperature/weather is warm. Bear with us here, heat moves from place to place depending on temperature. High temperature to low (hot to cold). This film relies on the fact the space is cold generally. You know, space. When we are on the surface of the earth, we can only reliably dump heat into space if the heat is in the form of infrared light (infrared radiation). So, if we can convert any heat we have into infrared and just shine it into space we should be set. It isn’t easy but this team of scientists from University of Colorado, in Boulder made something pretty clever. Traditionally we just turn the A/C on, it pulls heat from inside the room and dumps it outside. But that consumes electricity and is rather involved as a process, luckily with industrialization you don’t worry about it, you just buy an A/C, install it and turn it on. To accomplish the heat conversion to IR without needing electricity relies on how bodies radiate heat as expressed in the depth of physics. Any radiation (light is radiation) has a wave length. Certain wavelengths can be tuned just by making the object a certain size. This is what this team focused on, they drew out commercially available TPX (polymethylpentene) making superthin sheets of it with one side silver (to reflect) and the other side covered with tiny glass beads at the size we need to emit IR. Space is always bulk cold compare to Earth, so I think this warrants serious roll out for practical testing.

Venus is hot and very “heavy”. The surface temperature reaches 470C (recorded) and “heavy” at an atmospheric pressure round 90 bar (Earth is @ 1 bar). PCs, Phones even DVRs and satellite receivers stop working when they get too hot and that happens around 70C for the most sensitive components. Making chips that run hotter requires special care and even then, above 120C is very tricky. 470C is a much much bigger challenge. ICs (and consequently CPUs) need semiconductors to “switch” so as to perform the basic functions they need to compute. At very high temperatures semiconductors become conductors and no computation can be done. That is just the physics of it. Recently however, another semiconductor was improved and shows great promise in this regard. Silicon Carbide (SiC) based semiconductors have been used to construct a test chip (oscillator) and subjected to extreme conditions (Venus like) and apparently the chip performed as expected for up to 521 hours. I guess we might indeed get a another mission to Venus since the last one was back in 1985.

When tech meets art, you could get automated scalping. Motherboard has an excellent article on how Wiseguy’s founder Ken Lowson where during the 2000s was able to hoover up as many public tickets as possible to sell at much higher prices. The entire piece details how a shady part of the ticket industry works and how most fans end up getting shafted because of the tilting of the scales through supply and demand. Mind you, the artist gets cut-off when he or she want to keep ticket prices fitting to their craft and audience and tickets end up getting sold for multiples of the face-value price. The fans get hurt the most here. But artists perform for audiences and perhaps feel more appreciated by their fans. Where is the tech in this? Bots are the key. Ticketmaster is a ticket sales and distribution company (since way back in the mid 70s) that takes care of all manner of ticket sales. In the past, tickets could be sold by phone and you’d get them in the mail. With the internets, you get them online. Bots wreak havoc online and the ticket world was played. CAPTCHA you say? Wiseguy pwned Ticketmaster’s CAPTCHA. The FBI raided the office and charged the team with 42 counts of fraud. 20 years jail on each count. The incident happend years ago but the story is timeless.

In productivity news, Microsoft is rolling out a pseudo assistant. We guess we can call it that. Actually the feature is being added to Cortana where by using machine learning it will “read” what you write in an email and remind you that you mentioned and/or promised something to your boss, SO, family, friend…etc. Interesting feature as email is a separate thing from a schedule/calendar yet both are often intertwined especially in a professional context. A meeting is discussed and agreed upon yet needs to be separately added to your calendar. This should (theoretically) make such a task more convenient and a cherry on top of that would be to automatically reschedule if the correspondence indicates so. We’ll see how this turns out.

In shady warez news, some torrent sites are being blocked. Law enforcement? Or censorship? Tough question. Never the less, the big deal is that this is coming from a backbone internet provider, Cogent. Not your ISP, the provider that gives to your ISP. What are they doing? Alledgedly, they are blocking traffic to The Pirate Bay, Primewire, Movie4k, TorrentProject, TorrentButler as well as others.

Running a site is a responsibility. Your baby needs a website (by that we mean your project). If you use WordPress, you have probably heard of the REST API flaw and probably updated to 4.7.2. But in case you are curious, over 1.5 million pages have been defaced since the flaw was announced back in February. BleepingComputer made a nice follow-up on this flaw and reached that number in its findings. Google also got notice of what was going on and started alerting owners registered in its Google Search Console causing some owners to feel nervous even though they have already updated. What really caught our collective eye at Tekqio is the signatures used by the defacers. In the past we heard of “Anonymous” and other h4XXorZ!!1 names but some of these seem to carry a different air to them, intriguing. The numbers however point to hacker groups more than individuals.

Like to geek out with numbers? How about this: Playing with 4 4s to get any number.

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