Daily American Buzz: technology

Bloomberg has revealed in its recently published report that a nation-state has launched a significant supply chain attack. It is believed to be one of the largest corporate spying and hardware hacking campaigns ever launched by a nation-state. The espionage campaign is launched through a very small surveillance chip, which is only the size of a grain of rice. This chip is hidden in the servers currently in use by about 30 US firms including the bigwigs Apple, Amazon, and Elemental.

According to Bloomberg, these chips weren’t part of the server motherboard originally. These have been designed by Super Micro, a US-based firm. Reportedly, the malicious chips were inserted when the server motherboards were undergoing manufacturing process, which was carried out in China by their subcontractors.

Amazon notified the US authorities about the discovery, which sent shockwaves across the intelligence fraternity since these servers are also in use at the Department of Defense data centers, the Navy warships’ onboard networks, and the drone operations from the CIA.

The probe has been active for over three years and investigators believe that the chips have been inserted to let the attackers get an entry to any network that is connected to the servers. This attack is a lot more serious and severe than other software-based attacks identified so far considering that hardware attacks are quite difficult to identify immediately, and by the time these are, a lot of information has been leaked. Spy agencies are the most important beneficiaries of such campaigns and are keen on investing into such a campaign.

The report suggests that Chinese-government sponsored groups infiltrated the supply chain for installing tiny surveillance chips. The devices then were deployed by mainstream US firms as well as the US military, US intelligence agencies, and many other important organizations. Apple, however, discovered the chips installed in Super Micro servers in 2015 after identifying firmware issues and suspicious network activities.

Although the chips were tiny these are capable of performing two key tasks; firstly, the chips can force the device to communicate with an anonymous computer anywhere on the internet, which may be loaded with complex code. Secondly, the chips can prepare the device to accept the new code.

Naturally, the Chinese government is believed to be involved in this campaign, and the primary objective seems to be to spy on US firms and the military.

However, after the report was published, Amazon, Apple, and Super Micro all denied the claim from Bloomberg. Apple stated that it hasn’t ever identified malicious chips on the server motherboards from Super Micro or any other hardware manipulations resulting from the planting of tiny chips. The company also denied contacting the FBI or any other investigation agency regarding finding tiny surveillance chips.

Amazon also claims that the story from Bloomberg is untrue and denied anything related to identifying a supply chain compromise or hardware hack. It also denied contacting the FBI for investigation of the incident.

Super Micro and Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry also denied the findings of the report.
Today’s mechanical keyboards often carry a technological, edging-towards-medical aesthetic, with precise lines and geometric forms being as present as ever! However, the same cannot be said for the RCK (Retro Compact Keyboard), where modern technologies and retro styling collide and create a nostalgic piece of kit!

The timeless design may be what grabs your attention, but it’s the beautiful integration of modern technology that will keep it; ‘Blue’ mechanical keys offer tactile feedback that is both hugely satisfying and reminiscent of typewriters back in the day! LED backlights gently illuminate the keys, adding to the beautiful blend of modern and retro design.

Complimenting the keyboard is an equally as alluring mouse. Just like the keyboard, it too is available in a wide selection of colors and finishes that range from the warmth and culture of genuine leather through to the striking-boldness of artisan copper!

Whether it’s destined for a life in your home as an elegant addition to your interior design, or a replacement for your conventional (and boring) keyboard in your office, the retro design is bound to keep you smiling!

Artisan Copper.

Walnut Elwood.

Posh White.

Gunmetal Black.

Genuine Leather/Walnut Wood

Leather and wood have always been associated with premium customized goods and exclusiveness. It reflects taste, craftsmanship, and culture while emitting a unique charm that inspires.

Metal Frame & Logo Plate

The RCK frame is forged from a solid piece of aluminum alloy to give it robustness and durability. Hex bolts are added for structural enhancements and to add an industrial vintage element.

Works on PC & Mac

Supports both Windows and Mac keyboard layouts. Includes 18 keycaps corresponding to Windows and macOS. Select your desired OS and replace the keycaps accordingly.

Connect via wireless Bluetooth or wired-USB. When USB mode is selected, simply connect the included USB-C cable to the computer and type away.

Long Battery Life

Built-in is a high-capacity 5,000mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery. With the backlight off, usage time is about 9 months. With the backlight on, approximately 1 to 2 months depending on backlight intensity and usage frequency.

Matching Palm Rest

A matching palm rest utilizing the same premium material and design language is included.

Pillar-style Feet

Two sets of interchangeable feet with different heights are included to enhance the ergonomics of your typing position.

Vintage inspired and packed with modern features, the Azio Retro Classic Mouse is the perfect companion for your Retro Compact Keyboard. Built with premium leather and contrasting alloy frame, this retro mouse renders a sophisticated and timeless impression. Versatility is accentuated with its ambidextrous design and ability to work on virtually any surface. Available in different design themes, the RC mouse is well suited for both mobile and stationary lifestyles.
An inactive Android device sent Google 900 data samples in 24 hours

It’s widely known that Google profits handsomely from the vast amounts of data it collects from the billions of people who use its suite of applications, its mobile operating systems and its devices. According to new research released today, most of that valuable personal and location data is being collected when users are not informed that the data is being collected, or when they may not even be actively using their phones.

Astronomers at the University of Florida have discovered an exoplanet orbiting 40 Eridani A. If you recognize that star name you are probably a fan of "Star Trek," and if that's true, you probably know this star as the host of the character Spock's home plant, Vulcan.

"It came as a total surprise to us," University of Florida Professor Jian Ge told NBC News MACH in an email. "We did not have an intention to look for Vulcan orbiting HD 26965."

The exoplanet is twice the size of Earth and is also the closest Earth-like planet orbiting a sunlike star. It sits just inside of the habitable zone, where water in its liquid form could exist, and so could life.

The name of the exoplanet is HD 26965. Ge, however, is planning on contacting the International Astronomical Union, which set forth the kooky naming rules, to ask that the exoplanet's name be formally changed to Vulcan.

Researchers say they have taken a key step forwards in making a molecule that can store solar energy.

Publishing their latest findings in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, the team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden first showed off their solar-storing molecule last year.

Made from carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, the molecule is transformed into an “energy-rich isomer”, one made of the same atoms but bound in a different way, when it is hit by sunlight. The isomer can then be stored as a liquid, with the energy being used later. Much later.

"The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years,” Kasper Moth-Poulsen, the team’s leader, said in a statement. “And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for."

The entire system is called Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage (MOST). Sunlight is captured by the liquid, via a solar thermal collector on the roof of a building. This is essentially a concave reflector with a pipe in the middle, which tracks the Sun’s path like a satellite dish.

The collector focuses the Sun’s rays to a point through the pipe onto the liquid. The liquid is then stored at room temperature to conserve the energy, and when energy is needed a catalyst is used to heat up the liquid.

In their latest paper, the team said they had further developed the catalyst that makes this possible, which can control the release of the energy. It creates a reaction to warm the liquid by 63°C (113°F), while also allowing the molecule to be used again.

They have also been able to stop using a potentially dangerous chemical called toluene, which is flammable, as part of the liquid for the system. And they also say the whole thing is emissions-free too, and can work all year round.

While they’ve proven the system is viable, the team now want to get it all working together smoothly. They want to get the temperature increase up to at least 110°C (198°F) also, with a view to making the technology commercial in 10 years.

"There is a lot left to do,” said Moth-Poulsen. “We have just got the system to work. Now we need to ensure everything is optimally designed."

A few molecules of fat was all it took to rewrite the history books. With those molecules, scientists at Australian National University (ANU) were able to confirm that the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record was in fact an animal. Known as Dickinsonia, the creature lived 558 million years ago.

Living as the first animal wasn't very exciting. Dickinsonia lived in the late Ediacaran period at the bottom of the ocean. With an oval-like shape that could grow up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) in length, it's been interesting to scientists in large part because they have struggled to figure out what, exactly, it was. From time to time, arguments have been made saying it was a polychaete, turbellarian or annelid worm, jellyfish, polyp, xenophyophoran protist, lichen or even an early mushroom.

The breakthrough came with a new fossil. ANU Ph.D. scholar Ilya Bobrovskiy found an extraordinarily well-preserved fossil in near remote near the White Sea, an inlet along the northwestern coast of Russia. Because of their truly remote location in a cliff, Bobrovskiy and his fellow scientists had to climb down the cliff with ropes and dig through large blocks of sandstone.

"I took a helicopter to reach this very remote part of the world—home to bears and mosquitoes—where I could find Dickinsonia fossils with organic matter still intact. These fossils were located in the middle of cliffs of the White Sea that are 60 to 100 metres (196 feet to 328 feet) high," Bobrovskiy recalls in a press statement. "I had to hang over the edge of a cliff on ropes and dig out huge blocks of sandstone, throw them down, wash the sandstone and repeat this process until I found the fossils I was after."

First discovered in the 1940s, Dickinsonia is one of the most iconic members of the so-called Ediacaran biota—a group of mysterious, soft-bodied organisms that existed between 541 and 570 million years ago. In a world that had been dominated by microbes, these were the first big, complex living things. They would have been visible to the naked eye, had eyes even existed at that point.

But what were they? Some looked like tall fronds; others, such as Dickinsonia, were flat mats. They were so unlike the animals, plants, and other organisms we know today that one scientist described them as “strange as life on another planet, but easier to reach.” Some paleontologists, including Dickinsonia’s original discoverer, classified them as animals, precursors to the more familiar forms that arose later, during the Cambrian explosion. Others have taken them for giant amoebalike protists, lichens, colonies of bacteria, or even a completely extinct kingdom of life.

Bobrovskiy recently came up with a new way of resolving these debates. While looking at Ediacaran fossils under a microscope, he noticed distinctive dark films. These were the unmistakable signs of organic compounds that had been left behind when their owners’ bodies had decayed. Large, complicated molecules such as DNA or proteins don’t survive long after an organism’s death, but smaller and more stable molecules can. If Bobrovskiy could recover them, he could look for distinctive chemical signatures that distinguish animals from bacteria and other kingdoms of life. “[My supervisor] Jochen [Brocks] said we could try it, but he was always sure that it was a stupid idea,” Bobrovskiy says. “Even I thought it would fail. But it didn’t.”

Popularized in the hit movie "Jurassic World," the mosasaur has come back to life after an 85 million-year-old fossil of a newborn creature was discovered in Kansas.

A "neonate-sized Tylosaurus specimen" (a type of mosasaur), has been identified and examined, with researchers looking at broken bones, including its snout, braincase and upper jaw.

A bony protrusion shared by both species let them subdue their prey by ramming them with snouts.

"Despite its small size, a suite of cranial characters diagnoses FHSM VP-14845 [the fossil's identification] as a species of Tylosaurus, including the elongate basisphenoid morphology," the study's abstract reads.

The creature, which could grow up to 42 feet when it reached adulthood, had an "estimated skull length of 30 [centimeters]," indicating its neonatal state. It was found in the Smoky Hill Chalk Member of western Kansas in 1991, LiveScience reports, but it was originally identified as a Platecarpus, a genus that could grow to almost 20 feet in length.

The paper was written in August 2017 and finally published online on Thursday, determining that it is indeed a Tylosaurus.

Other variants of mosasaur could reach up to 50 feet in length and are thought to have weighed as much as 30,000 pounds, with some referring to them as the "T. rex of the seas."

The study's lead researcher, University of Cincinnati assistant professor Takuya Konishi, was able to determine that the fossil was indeed a mosasaur after looking at its long snout and sharp teeth, a feature similar to modern-day orcas, according to LiveScience.

"Somewhat unexpectedly, both pairs of premaxillary teeth project anteriorly and laterally at the base, implying a procumbent nature atypical of tylosaurines," the study reads. "Also unusual are closely spaced first and second premaxillary teeth, where the second pair is also located posterolateral to the first pair."

Unlike dinosaurs, which laid eggs, mosasaurs gave birth to live young. The size of this newborn, which likely would have measured at around 7 feet, suggests it did not live long, Konishi said, according to LiveScience.

"I'm thinking that this came out and somehow, miraculously, it got preserved and then discovered," Konishi said.
A MAN who claims to have worked at Area 51 on alien technology passed four lie detector tests over his testimony, it has been revealed.

Bob Lazar gained international attention more than 30 years ago after claiming to have worked at the notorious Area 51. In 1989, with the help of journalist George Knapp, Lazar detailed his supposed duties at a base to the south of USAF’s Homey Airport known as S-4. It is speculated that the auxiliary facility in the Nevada desert was home to top-secret alien technology, and it was apparently Lazar’s job to “reverse engineer” it.

Following the revelation, the science technician received criticism due to his lack of hard evidence. 

However, investigative filmmaker Jeremy Corbell has spent the last few years digging deep into the story.

In his film, “Bob Lazar, Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” it was revealed Lazar had passed a number of polygraph tests over his story.  

“I left there thinking we do have some credibility to what the subject had to say,” Terry Tavernetti, a former LA police officer revealed.

Bob Lazar claims to have worked at Area 51

Terry Tavernetti revealed Lazar passed four tests 

Another polygrapher also analysed the results and concluded they “appeared truthful”.

It is not the first first piece of evidence to come out of the documentary that could prove Lazar’s testimony. 

Corbell also dug out a photo of the top-secret hand scanner that was claimed to be used to access S-4. 

The images of the scanners used to get inside the building match Lazar's description almost perfectly. 

"I never thought I would see one of these again," Lazar admitted after scanning the photo. 

Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers premiered at the Ace Hotel 

'I tried to explain this to people so many times and they never believed me. 

"There it is – it was a biometric scanner used to get into S-F and measured the length of the bones in your hand."

A dwarf planet in our solar system is rich in organic matter, a Nasa spacecraft has shown.

Ceres is like a "chemical factory" full of the same ingredients that helped create life on Earth, according to scientists.

And studying it could reveal how those important processes took place on our own planet.

Ceres, a strange world that sits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is thought to be about 4.6 billion years old, originating at the same time as our solar system.

The Nasa Dawn spacecraft, which sent back the new findings, had already shown the presence of water and other important chemicals such as ammonium.

And now it has found the planet is rich in carbon – far more than even the most carbon-rich meteorites on Earth, and giving it a strange chemical makeup.

"Ceres is like a chemical factory," said the Southwest Research Institute's Simone Marchi, a principal scientist who was the lead author of the research, which is published in Nature Astronomy.

"Among inner solar system bodies, Ceres' has a unique mineralogy, which appears to contain up to 20 percent carbon by mass in its near surface. Our analysis shows that carbon-rich compounds are intimately mixed with products of rock-water interactions, such as clays."

The discoveries could help us understand how planets like Earth came to be – and what laid the foundations for the life that is there today.

"With these findings, Ceres has gained a pivotal role in assessing the origin, evolution and distribution of organic species across the inner solar system," Dr Marchi said. "One has to wonder about how this world may have driven organic chemistry pathways, and how these processes may have affected the make-up of larger planets like the Earth."

AN ancient fossil has been discovered on Mars with some saying it is proof that turtle-like creatures once existed on the Red Planet.

Scientists are determined to find life on Mars, although now it would seem that the only life-form there would be microbial. However, this has not deterred amateur alien hunters who believe they have compelling evidence that some creatures live, or lived at one point, on the Red Planet. The latest discovery comes in the form of a “turtle-like fossil” which is claimed in some quarters of the internet to be proof of a species on Mars.

The finding was made using images from NASA’s Mars rover and is apparently concrete proof of life elsewhere than on Earth.

Prominent conspiracy theorist Scott C Waring was the first to make the sighting.

Mr Waring wrote on his blog UFO Sightings Daily: “I found a turtle-like fossil of of a creature in a Mars surface photo today. The object shows lots of signs of once being an animal.

“The shell has a back bone area from front to back. It also has ribbed sides that are slightly raised as turtles have.

“One end looks like its where the head came out because its raised up allowing an open area.

“The opposite side has a tail like sharp area which is part of the shell. Instead of a soft tail as turtles have here on Earth, this has a hard tail that is built into the shell itself.”

Mr Waring has made similar claims like this before.

Just last week he announced he had found a object which was eerily similar to an ammonite fossil – a common fossil found on Earth from a curled up shell from an ancient sea mollusc.

Mr Waring said: “I noticed this object near the rover looks very similar in shape to a snail.

"Here on Earth, Ammonites died out 66 million years ago, but lived as long ago as 200 million years ago.

“I believe that since it evolved on a different planet, its shape was effected by a different evolution involving different environmental influences.”

However, sceptics and NASA would say the fossil and other similar findings are just the effects of pareidolia – a psychological phenomenon when the brain tricks the eyes into seeing familiar objects or shapes in patterns or textures such as a rock surface.

This would mean that the Martian 'fossil' could just be a misshapen rock.

For many of us, Alexa is a handy helper around the house. For Rocco, however, Alexa is the soulmate he's been searching for.

I hasten to add, Rocco is a parrot.

The African Grey parrot aused a bit of trouble in his previous home, at the National Animal Welfare Trust sanctuary in Berkshire, after upsetting visitors due to his blue language. He was then rehomed - and his new abode is where he discovered Alexa.

But Rocco's love for the virtual assistant device may not be as pure as initially thought - he started using the Amazon Echo in his new home to order all the things he likes to eat.

Living with his new owner - Sanctuary worker Marion Wischnewski - Rocco has been causing a whole heap of mischief with Alexa serving as his partner in crime. His breed is highly well known for its mimicking skills, meaning he was able to add his preferences to a virtual supermarket list

Marion said: "I have to check the shopping list when I come in from work and cancel all the items he's ordered."

On his list he's added a whole range of fruit and veg, including melons, broccoli and raisins (pretty healthy) along with ice cream (ok, not so healthy).

He's also ordered some pretty random stuff such as a lightbulb and a kite - well, why not?

To be fair, Rocco doesn't only cause havoc with his shopping demands. He's been known to ask Alexa to play his favourite music - songs by Kings of Leon, to be exact.

"They chat away to each other all day. Often, I come in and there's music playing," Marion added talking about her parrot's 'relationship'.

A team of researchers from Shizuoka University working in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will start the tests of a miniature version of space elevators in the coming week. The tests conducted will be minimal and simple and will serve as the tiniest step towards an actual elevator to the stars. The elevator will consist of a small box of 6cm length, 3cm width, and 3cm height. The box will move along a 10-meter cable which is suspended in orbit between two small CubeSats. The movement of the box will be monitored with cameras inside of the satellite.

A spokesperson from the university said in an interview, “It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space.” There are several technical reasons why no serious work was done on the space elevators after they were imagined by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky back in 1895. The main idea of the lifts is that a cable capable of moving from the surface of the earth can orbit in the space until it reaches the destination in the space. The material required for this cable has to be lighter and stronger than any other material so that it can stand the stress it would face.

Obayashi, a Japanese construction company, which was collaborating with Shizuoka University, had the goal of building a space elevator by 2050. When the plans were announced in 2014, it stated that  “current technology levels are not yet sufficient to realize the concept, but our plan is realistic.” The plan involved building a 96000-kilometer carbon nanotube cable, a 400-meter diameter ‘Earth Port’ on the ground, a 12500 ton counter weigh in space. The Carbon nanotubes are known to have more tensile strength than steel.

The difficulties of building such an elevator and the potential financial benefits in the future are both immense. Preliminary studies based on hypotheticals show that space elevators will bring the cost of moving cargo to space as down as $100 per pound as compared to the current launch which cost $10,000-$40,000 per pound. This significant decrease in the price can have the potential to lower the amount of space travel as well.

The future is definitely very exciting for space travel!

Since the very first International Space Station mission in 2000, NASA has been creating expedition posters usually featuring a group photo of the crew. These posters were used to advertise expeditions and were also hung in NASA facilities and other government organizations. However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what's a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.