Hackers release data from Fraternal Order of Police, largest U.S. police union

Fraternal Order of Police president says the union had called in security contractors to investigate, and the hack was traced to an IP address in the UK. Photo: Reuters

Sensitive electronic files from America’s biggest police union were posted online this week after a hacker breached the Fraternal Order of Police website. The ill-gotten dump includes officers' names and addresses, message board posts bashing Barack Obama, and details of eyebrow-raising contracts made between the union and city authorities.

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What's the programming language for you?

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The simple online questionnaire at bestprogramminglanguagefor.me will help starting-out programmers pick the right language for the job. It's not really for beginners who know absolutely nothing of code (start with javascript!) but more a guide to what tools are popular for what purposes and, hence, where all the free googlable help will be. Read the rest

PC sales drop to 2007 levels, and some blame Windows 10

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Lenovo is on top of a shrinking market; only Apple is shipping significantly more machines this year than last, according to trade group numbers. HP is sinking fastest among the big players, but still in #2. The rest of the market ("Other") seems to be evacuating the bowels of modern life entirely, losing 20% its size last year.

Both analysts blamed the drop in PC sales on a combination of factors: an economic slowdown in China; a strong US dollar; and the continuing growth of smartphones and other mobile devices. IDC also noted that free Windows 10 upgrades may have hurt PC vendors as consumers chose to upgrade their OS without forking out for new hardware. However, both analysts expect sales to pick up in 2016 as businesses—by far the largest market for PCs—start to upgrade to Windows 10.
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Dell's making great laptops again

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It might not be a huge surprise, in the big scheme of things, but Dell's return to private ownership brought focus to its laptop designs and it is seeing growth in places formerly filled only with doom.

Mark Walton explains:

Going private, Dell claimed, would help the company plough more money into R&D, and create better products for consumer and business alike. Three years on, and Dell's strategy may finally be coming to fruition. At this year's CES it unveiled a new line of business notebooks and tablets under its Latitude brand. They sport premium materials like carbon fibre tops and magnesium alloy chassis, and much thinner and lighter designs. Crucially, they continue to feature the strong encryption, wireless tech, and remote management services demanded by IT managers. Finally, Dell has a desirable set of business notebooks.

If you're in the market for a Windows laptop, Dell's thin-bezel models are my faves right now. Check out the new Latitude 7370, a work-harder version of last year's lighter but slighter XPS 13. Their monitors are excellent. too. Read the rest

8-bit personal computer trump cards

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This delightful-looking deck of cards, featuring classic computers, is yours for $15 from the already-successful Kickstarter campaign.

The selection is good and each card has the right stats: CPU model and bit-width, clock frequency, RAM, display resolution, maximum number of on-screen colors, and the year it was launched.

There are already over 30 retro computers in the deck. As well as 8-bit classics there are a few early 16-bit and 32-bit machines too (e.g. Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn Archimedes). The machines we have so far:

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Dell's "business class" Chromebook gets good reviews

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Dell's "business class" Chromebook is almost perfect, writes Wired's Scott Gilbertson. The release of this 13-inch model marks a shift from the low-end zone most ChromeOS laptops occupy, to the middle ground of "real" computers. It's $400-$900 and has all the trimmings, yet is more practical than flashy flagship models like Google's Pixel.

The Dell comes as close to the ideal Chromebook as anything I’ve tested. The catch is that you’ll pay for it. It’s probably best compared directly to the only Chromebook that’s more powerful and pricier—the Pixel. If you want a high-end Chromebook and don’t mind spending $900 for it, the Dell bests the Pixel in many ways, including battery life.

At Computerworld, JR Raphael prefers it to Toshiba's similar Chromebook 2

Dell's Chromebook 13 is a different story. The laptop has a carbon-fiber cover and an aluminum-magnesium body that work together to make the system stylish and approachable, as well as exceptionally sturdy. It's by no means at the level of build quality or design of a high-end system like Google's $1,000 Chromebook Pixel, but it's a really nice laptop -- and a meaningful step above every other system in the sub-$500 class.

Engadget's Nathan Ingraham says it has outstanding battery life and is the ChromeOS computer to beat.

Dell's Chromebook 13 costs a little more than the competition, but for that extra money, you get: hardware that feels like it's from a much more expensive machine, excellent performance, fantastic battery life and one of the best screens you'll find on any Chromebook.
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Kubb, a minimalist wooden cube computer

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Such things usually come with beautiful and pointless greebling, but this one is a simple 5-inch cube made from three choices of finish: white ash, brown ash, and elm.

The Kubb has an i3 or i5 CPU, SSD storage, up to 16GB of RAM, and Intel HD onboard graphics. There are 4 USB ports, miniDisplay, miniHDMI, Wifi, Bluetooth, and an actual honest-to-God ethernet port. Bring 'yer own peripherals. (There are plenty of wooden ones on Amazon)

Prices start at 459 Euros for the cheapest model. It's already available in steel, too.

[via Uncrate]

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Watch Pixar co-founder's 1972 computer animations of face and hand

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In 1972, Frederic Ira Parke, while a grad student at the University of Utah, created the first computer graphics animation, above, of a human face, and with fellow student (and Pixar co-founder) Ed Catmull made the groundbreaking computer animation, below, of a human hand. Read the rest

"The Computer Girls," 1967 Cosmopolitan magazine article on women working with technology

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Back then, the women themselves were sometimes called “computers.” They used these machines to compute.

34 weird vintage photos of women in tiny miniskirts at huge old computers

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Enjoy ogling these broads' gams, and get a load of those ginormous mainframes.

Watch the trailer for new Steve Jobs documentary

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"His stuff was beloved, but it wasn't that he was beloved." Read the rest

PC shipments decline sharply, again

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"The death of the PC," writes Davey Alba, "has not been greatly exaggerated."

Research outfit Gartner tracked a 9.5 percent decline in shipments in the second quarter of this year compared to the same time a year ago, posting a tally of 68.4 million units. Meanwhile, researchers at IDC, which doesn’t count tablets in its report, calculated an 11.8 percent drop year-over-year to 66.1 million PCs shipped. To put that number into context, Apple said in its most recent earnings report that it had sold 61 million iPhones during the same quarter—and that’s just one smartphone from one (massively popular) company.

Can you guess which PC maker saw growth? Read the rest

BBC finalizes Micro:bit computer design

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To Britons of a certain age, the BBC Micro was a legendary 8-bit computer perfect for learning to code (and to play with between lessons). The public broadcaster's Micro Bit will be its spiritual sequel.

The tiny 4cm device has an ARM CPU, bluetooth and a USB port, through which it can be powered.

Uniquely, it has a series of 25 LED lights to help young children get instant results and appreciate its simple programmability, said to be a key differentiator between the Micro:bit and more elaborate devices such as the Raspberry Pi.

It also has an accelerometer, a motion detector, a compass, and and an array of inputs for more sensors to be attached. The wee board is 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro, which recently celebrated its 33rd birthday—and about 600 times lighter. The BBC will reportedly give a million Micro:bits to kids in the UK. Read the rest

The IBM 1620, an affordable “scientific computer” from 1959.

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Some users gave it the acronym CADET: "Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try."

WATCH: A lady goes insane trying to comprehend computers

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"Why is it that men understand computers so easily, but women don't?" After being driven mad by her technophobia, a hapless woman is visited by the spirit of Ada Lovelace, who patiently guides the woman back to her miserable reality. Read the rest

A farmhouse shrine to obsolete computers

York University's Jim Austin, a teacher of neural computing, has accumulated some 1,000 machines across 30 years of collecting obsolete computers. He keeps them in four sheds at the top of of a hill behind his farmhouse in Yorkshire.

The London Review of Books visited Austin and learned some fascinating things about hardware depreciation:

‘This IBM mainframe was $8.7 million in 1983,’ he told me when I went to see them. ‘Which in today’s money is $24 million. I mean, that’s astronomical. And they’re scrapped after four years. That’s it. Scrap.’ He points to another. ‘The Fujitsu supercomputer, I think it depreciated at £16,000 a week for three years. Then it was zero.’ Behind the IBM and the Fujitsu are more machines: DECs, Wangs. ‘I just take them all home. I preserve them. I just collect them, because I like them. And I’ve got the sheds, so I just put them in.’

The visit to Austin's shrines to obsolescence makes for almost poetic reading -- especially the story of 2005's 64th-fastest machine in the world, whose former owner traded away half its processor boards for chocolate bars. Read the rest

Online activism and why the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act must die

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Courts have appreciated that even distributed denial of service attacks can be legitimate form of public protest. Molly Sauter on the insane U.S. law used to criminalize them and other forms of online activism.

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