20th anniversary of Defcon hacking convention - increases knowledge on security

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Defcon hacking convention in Las Vegas.  Each year, the convention brings together people from around the world to discuss security and innovation.

Although the term "hacker" generally has a negative connotation to the general public, the actual meaning is something very positive.  The true definition of hacker is someone that develops true mastery of a product and uses or modifies it in innovative ways.  As HowStuffWorks states:

"Hackers were visionaries who could see new ways to use computers, creating programs that no one else could conceive. They were the pioneers of the computer industry, building everything from small applications to operating systems. In this sense, people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were all hackers -- they saw the potential of what computers could do and created ways to achieve that potential."

In this sense, hacking is a very good thing.  It helps push technology to the next level.  Hackers are the reason that we have laptops, phones, and electricity.  It's because people constantly try new and innovative ways of using the world around us.  There are only a select few who give an entire community a bad rap.  Let's focus on the majority that use technology for good.  As they say "With great power comes great responsibility" :)

Even if you cannot make it to Vegas this year to celebrate innovation and learn about security at Defcon, try to think about hacking in a positive light.  Who knows, maybe you have a little hacker deep inside of you and one day will bring the new big idea that will change the world!


Peace and Love,



National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) Winners Announced

Over 1,300 students from 100 schools participated in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio, TX.  The Department of Homeland Security was one of the sponsors of this large event where the hacking teams from the colleges competed against each other to determine the 2012 winner.

This event was important for several reasons.  The annual event brings security awareness to the world, it entices students to gain security skills that will help them through their careers, and it educates thousands of individuals which will in turn make the world a safer place.

Congratulations to the University of Washington for winning the 2012 NCCDC!


First Place (2 Time National Champion) – University of Washington

Second Place – United States Air Force Academy

Third Place – Texas A&M University


Regional winners:

At-Large: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Rocky Mountain: United States Air Force Academy

Southeast: UNC Charlotte

Northeast: Rochester Institute of Technology

Southwest: Texas A&M University

Mid-Atlantic: Towson University

Midwest: St. Cloud State University

North Central: University of Wyoming

Western: Cal Poly Pomona

Pacific Rim: University of Washington




Researchers generate electricity with viruses

It's not often you hear something good about a virus. They can make you sick, or wreak havoc on your computer. But a special virus being studied at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory could one day add years to your life.


A little science experiment could be heralding big things to come. By pressing down on a thin rubbery film, Professor Seung-Wuk Lee is generating electricity -- enough to power a small digital circuit.

"And then as you can see that, it generates the number one," Lee said.

But what's more remarkable is what the film is made of.

"We use genetically engineered viruses," Lee said.

It's not as scary as it sounds; they aren't the type of virus that can make you sick.

"This is a totally not toxic and benign viruses," Lee said.

The viruses cost nothing because they manufacture themselves.

"We ended up with trillions or jillions of these virus particles, which can generate the electricities," Lee said.

At a microscopic level, Lee explained, the viruses are long and skinny like pencils. If you drop a bunch of pencils in a Petri dish and shake it, they line themselves up. The viruses line themselves up the same way until someone puts pressure on them, causing them to scatter and creating a spark, that for Lee, was like fireworks going off.

"I was very surprised and excited," he said.

The amount of power this prototype generates isn't very much -- it's only about one-quarter of what comes out of this AAA battery. But once scientists get it producing more power, the possibilities could be endless.

"Maybe 5 or 10 years later, we can begin to make very small, personalized electric generators," Lee said.

Generators that could charge your smartphone.

"By walking or jogging or typing, you can basically collect all your mechanical movement as electricities," Lee said.

Or -- save your life.

"So we can implant in your body and then it's a self-sustainable electric source," Lee said.


(Copyright ©2012 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)




Bloom, Jonathan. "Researchers generate electricity with viruses" ABC. 14 May 2012. Web.

View original article at


KinderTown’s Educational App Store Adds Apps For Bigger Kids

KinderTown, the startup behind the educational iOS app store for parents (and honestly, a personal fav) is expanding its focus today. According to feedback from its users, the number one complaint was that KinderTown wasn’t available for older children. Now that changes, as the service will bump up its supported age range from 3-6 to include children ages 7 and 8 as well. To kick off the launch, 125 new apps aimed at older children have been added to service, and more will be added every week.

The company is also starting to see some growth, doubling the total number of users in April. In fact, KinderTown reports that it added more users in April than it did in the five previous months combined.

Returning users also increased by 300% during this time, KinderTown CEO (and DreamIt Ventures co-founder) Steve Welch says.

While the startup doesn’t offer raw download numbers or active user counts, it does attribute the bump in usage to its newly launched social sharing integration. A recent update allowed parents to share a list of their favorite apps for kids within the KinderTown app and then post that list via a link to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. When other parents click the link, they’re directed to the user’s “My Apps” page where they can then download the recommendations.

For those not following the ‘kid app” space, a refresher. Launched back in November,KinderTown is one of the first companies to build an app store within an app that’s sold in the app store. (Ha!) That is, the company filters through the 600,000+ iOS apps (iPhone/iPad) to surface just the educational apps that are designed for children. It then further curates the selection by vetting the apps for quality of content. The staff includes former educators, who review the apps prior to having parents test them. Only when both groups agree the app is worthy, does it get accepted into the KinderTown store.

The result is an easy-to-use alternative to searching through iTunes for age-appropriate (not brain-rotting!), apps and games for the kids. The company says that users pay an average of $2.65 for an app when they buy through KinderTown, which redirects them to iTunes. To date, the company has driven 100,000 downloads in the iTunes App Store.

As someone who cared not one bit for kids until I had one, KinderTown has been a lifesaver in helping me fill up the kid’s iPad with better content. I had no idea what was out there, what was good, or what other parents would recommend. I was always googling for app reviews and ideas, and jotting down the occasional personal suggestion from parents I bumped into while out and about.

Apparently, this is par for the course for new parents. As Welch explains, “one of the first things parents do when they buy a new iPad is ask their friends what apps to download. With KinderTown, parents can now just send a link,” he says. Welch also notes that the company is starting to see teachers using the app as a resource to inform their students’ parents about what apps to download at home.

The updated app is expected to roll out to iTunes today. You can get the current version here in the meantime.

Thanks to KinderTown, one day – I swear – I’ll have enough new apps that the kid won’t notice when I delete Talking Tom and Talking Ben. One day! 



Perez, Sarah. "KinderTown’s Educational App Store For Parents Doubles Users, Adds Apps For Bigger Kids". TechCrunch. 4 May 2012. Web.  

View original article at


Mind-reading robot links with partial quadriplegic, takes orders

Mind-reading robots? It's not as scary as it sounds.

Researchers in Switzerland are developing a robot that can respond to human thoughts, and may one day help immobile people better interact with the external world.

On Tuesday, scientists from Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne marked a milestone in this research, when they demonstrated that a partially paralyzed man could control the movements of a 1-foot-tall robot from more than 62 miles away, the Associated Press reported.

The human guinea pig was Mark-Andre Duc, a hospital-bound Swiss man who has lost control of his fingers and legs and is considered partially quadriplegic.

The robot was a foot tall little guy equipped with a camera and monitor -- making it look like a rolling laptop with Duc's face displayed on the screen.

Duc was fitted with a simple head cap able to record the signals emitted by his brain when he imagined lifting his paralyzed fingers. The signals were decoded by a laptop at the hospital and were then transmitted to the foot-tall robot scooting around the Lausanne lab, 62 miles away.

Duc told the AP that it was fairly easy to control the robot using nothing but his thoughts on a good day, but it became more difficult when he was in pain.

That's because the robot needs the thinker to focus entirely on controlling the robot. Other thoughts such as pain considerations, or paying attention to a television show that might be on in the same room, weaken the strength of the brain waves.

It should be noted this is not the first time scientists have demonstrated the workings of mind-reading robots, but previous experiments have involved either able-bodied patients or invasive brain implants.




Netburn, Deborah. "Mind-reading robot links with partial quadriplegic, takes orders" Los Angeles Times. 24 April 2012. Web. 

View original article at,0,2828415.story

Subscribe to this RSS feed