Sunday, March 4, 2012

3 Technology Link

3 Technology Link

Liquid battery could charge green energy

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 01:19 PM PST

Liquid battery could charge green energy

Liquid battery could charge green energy

The sun is reflected in a solar panel. Engineering professor Donald Sadoway on Thursday used an old-school chalk board at the prestigious TED gathering to write the formula for a liquid battery that could one day cut the need for new power plants. Inexpensive batteries made from liquid metal could store electricity from solar panels, wind farms, or existing generation facilities.

Engineering professor Donald Sadoway on Thursday used an old-school chalk board at the prestigious TED gathering to write the formula for a liquid battery that could one day cut the need for new power plants.

“The way things stand, electricity demand must be in constant balance with supply,” Sadoway told the tech-savvy audience in southern California.

Inexpensive batteries made from liquid metal could store electricity from solar panels, wind farms, or existing generation facilities and save it for when it is most needed.

That would be a major change from today’s consume-it-now-or-lose-it systems.

“The battery is the enabling device here,” he said. “With it we could draw electricity from the sun even when the sun doesn’t shine.”

Sadoway and his team of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology were so confident in their creation that they started Liquid Metal Battery Corporation and plan to have bistro-table size models out in two years.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is among the company’s backers.

The company plans to eventually bring to market a liquid battery the size of a 40-foot shipping container and capable of holding enough electricity to serve the daily needs of 200 typical US households.

“You could have these batteries in the basements of buildings drinking up power in the wee hours,” Sadoway said.

“It means we don’t have to build more plants, power lines just for peak use,” he continued. “The limits are way out there, not only in terms of what it can do for renewables.”

The key metals in the battery are common vanadium and magnesium, the professor explained as he chalked a basic chemical equation on the board.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a series of conferences designed to present cutting-edge ideas. Speakers are given only 18 minutes to give deliver their pitch.

Share and Enjoy

FacebookTwitterLinkedInDiggDeliciousStumbleUponRedditGoogle BuzzFriendFeedMySpaceAdd to favoritesEmailPrintPDF

A new optimum design method of bicycle parameters for a specified person

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 01:10 PM PST

A new optimum design method of bicycle parameters for a specified person

A new optimum design method of bicycle parameters for a specified person

This is a sketch of a rider on a bicycle.

The optimum design of bicycle parameters has been explored by many scholars and institutes since bicycles were first invented. Professor Xin-Jun Liu and his group at Tsinghua University established a new way to design bicycle parameters according to the dimensions of the rider’s body. They introduced a new perspective of the rider–bicycle system by considering the complete system as a mechanism. The group then established a new method for the optimum design of bicycle parameters from a completely theoretical basis, which may result in a new field of optimum design of bicycle parameters.

Their work, entitled Analysis and optimum design of rider–bicycle mechanisms: design of bicycle parameters for a specified person was published in SCIENCE CHINA Technology Sciences, 2011, Vol. 54(11).

Since bicycles were first invented, they have played a crucial role in people’s lives. Thus, many scholars, engineers, and institutes have made efforts to optimize the design of bicycles. The tools that have been employed to optimize the bicycle have been based entirely on experimental and statistical results. For example, Henri and Bremner conducted experiments to measure the effect of parameters of the bicycle frame on the level of comfort experienced by riders. They developed a system for the commercial design of bicycles from their experimental results. Using a self-organizing-data excavating algorithm, Zhang from Beijing University of Technology analyzed experimental data for 210 riders and their bicycles, and proposed an empirical formula describing the relationship between the two datasets.

A new optimum design method of bicycle parameters for a specified person

This is a graphic of the rider-bicycle mechanism (a double-crank-and-rocker mechanism).

Professor Liu’s group considered the issue of optimal bicycle design from a mechanical perspective. They first analyzed rider–bicycle mechanisms, and mechanized the system as a double-crank-and-rocker mechanism. Figure 1 is the sketch of a rider and a bicycle. The corresponding rider–bicycle mechanism is illustrated in Figure 2, in which the rider’s buttocks are fixed to the seat and connected to the thighs through the hips, the thigh is linked to the lower leglower leg by the knee, the lower leglower leg is connected to the foot through the ankle, and the foot is attached to the crank of the bicycle. All the connections are considered as revolution pairs, and the thigh and crank are considered as bars. A double-crank-and-rocker mechanism is thus established. In such a mechanism, the thigh works as the driver and the vertical seat bar as the frame.


After mechanizing the rider–bicycle system, the group constructed a design space to calculate the length of the crank and the seat height (i.e., length of the vertical bar) with the constraint of geometry and the rider’s physical dimensions. In the design space, they introduced the global transmission index (GTI) and global strain index (GSI) to describe the efficiency of force transition and the fatigue of the thigh. It is well known that the better the efficiency of the force transition is and the less the fatigue of the thigh is, the better the performance of the rider–bicycle system will be. The researchers revealed that the GTI increases with improving force transition and that GSI increases with less fatigue of the thigh.

A new optimum design method of bicycle parameters for a specified person

This image shows the optimum region (dashed area) when GTI ≥ 0.63 and GSI ≥ 0.96.

Professor Liu’s group contoured the GTI and GSI in the design space. That is, they obtained charts of GTI and GSI. Since the design space and the performance indices are related to the constraints of the dimensions of the rider’s body, different riders with different ratios of the thigh and lower leg will have different charts of GTI and GSI. Thus, according to the requirements for the GTI and GSI, there will be an optimum region for the bicycle parameters (i.e., the crank length and seat height).


The group then established a design process based on their theoretical work as follows. First, the lengths of the thigh and lower leg of the rider are measured. Second, the contours of GTI and GSI are drawn using the lengths of the thigh and lower leg. Third, the optimum region is found according to the requirements of GTI and GSI, as shown in Figure 3. Finally, the design is taken from the optimum region and is verified.

After many years’ research on the optimum design of a bicycle, scholars have established applicable empirical formulas. This research project explored a new way to optimize the design of bicycle parameters. The innovation of this work is the provision of a calculation method having a mechanical perspective. In this project, the structure of the human body (thigh and lower leg) and the crank length and seat height of the bicycle were mechanized. A double-crank-and-rocker mechanism was thus obtained as the bicycle–rider mechanism. From a mechanism perspective, a method to optimize the design of the crank and seat height of a bicycle according to different lengths of a person’s thigh and lower leg was proposed. In this manner, a “customized bicycle” is realized. The result of the paper is useful for matching bicycles to athletes, bicycle manufacturing, and the design of cycling robots. This project was supported by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 51075222 and 51135008) and a grant from Tsinghua University Student Research Training.

Share and Enjoy

FacebookTwitterLinkedInDiggDeliciousStumbleUponRedditGoogle BuzzFriendFeedMySpaceAdd to favoritesEmailPrintPDF

Android mug shots have no lock and key

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 12:58 PM PST

Android mug shots have no lock and key

Android mug shots have no lock and key

 If Google loyalists will persist that this Internet Goliath can do no evil, they at least need to admit, based on new evidence this week, that Google can do a lot of mindless harm. A security door in Android smartphones is left open that can enable Android apps to nab your photos without your permission. In fact this has been an unsettling week in smartphone revelations. People have been informed that whether their smartphone of choice is from Apple with iOS or another vendor's phone with Android, they can never be certain who out there in cyberspace is able to view all their photos.

Apple's OS was the first platform to get nailed for photo insecurity. The loophole is tied to the permission that apps seek to use location data, when access can be gained to the entire photo library.

Now The New York Times reports that because of a security loophole, Android apps can gain access to the photo libraries of users without permission and can copy the photographs to a remote server—with no impedance. According to experts, as long as an app has the right to go to the Internet, the user's photos can be copied to a remote server, with no notice to the user.

It is not clear whether any apps that are available for Android devices are actually doing this. What was confirmed by experts is that an app can read pictures without having to get any special permission.

As part of the NYT report, an Android developer put together a test application of a timer. When the app started and the timer was set, the app went into the photo library, retrieved the most recent image and was able to post it on a public photo-sharing site.

While the picture-scoffing app was only a test, the point was made thatGoogle could do more to maintain people's confidence in Android as a safe mobile platform for their smartphones.

In response, Google confirmed that it’s an issue, and is looking into the situation.

Interestingly, Lookout, a mobile security company, late last year prepared a report listing the firm's 2012 mobile threat predictions, In 2012, they said that they expected to see the mobile malware business turn profitable. "What took 15 years on the PC platform has only taken the mobile ecosystem two years."

They talked about vulnerabilities in smartphones, saying that "due to the difficulty of updating software and patching vulnerabilities on mobile phones, malware writers will continue to exploit iOS and Android OS at a pace greater than vulnerabilities can be resolved."

Share and Enjoy

FacebookTwitterLinkedInDiggDeliciousStumbleUponRedditGoogle BuzzFriendFeedMySpaceAdd to favoritesEmailPrintPDF

Social-network use leads companies to boost security

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 12:52 PM PST

Social-network use leads companies to boost security

When Randy Kortering decided to upgrade computer network defenses at Haworth, a $1 billion-a-year office fixtures manufacturer, his chief of security warned him about social-networking use.

“He laid out what was coming through a Facebook connection and how it could very quickly spread a virus that we weren’t prepared to block,” recalled Kortering, vice president of global information services for the Holland, Mich., company.

Kortering began reviewing new security systems designed to closely monitor or restrict, as needed, employee use of Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedInand other popular online services. Because of a surge of headline-grabbing database breaches, many companies attending the massive RSA security conference here this week are following suit.

“The problem is pervasive,” said Jeff Wilson, principal security analyst at Infonetics Research. “Companies of all sizes are definitely re-evaluating what they have installed for IT security.”

Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report supplies a benchmark. Its 2011 study examined patterns in 800 corporate intrusions, up from 761 in 2010. By contrast, Verizon’s forensic experts were called in to solve 900 database break-ins in the previous six years combined, 2004 through 2009.

This is new terrain. The tech industry’s marquee players are intensifying the collection and sharing of personal information in order to sell more advertising. Yet the implications of companies acquiring beefier security systems to restrict employee access to popular services are difficult to discern.

Security analysts and criminologists say this much is clear: “Spear-phishing” attacks, crafted to get unsuspecting employees to inadvertently seedcomputer viruses and infections at targeted organizations, are jumping. And the surge of attacks on corporations correlates to the rise in unfettered use of social networks, search engines and Web apps on company networks, analysts say.

These popular free online services have turned out to be a boon for spear phishers, who prowl social networks and use search engines to gather intelligence. “Just like online marketers and advertisers, criminals see a tremendous value in knowing more about their targets,” said Rob D’Ovidio, a criminology professor at Drexel University.

Spear phishers are adept at inhabiting social networks to troll for victims. And they have proved endlessly inventive at crafting emails and social-network postings that appear to arrive from a trusted source, while stealthily delivering a malicious payload to gain them access deep inside company networks. The desired booty: customer lists, design documents, patents, financial statements – anything that can be sold in the cyberunderground.

“In most of the high-profile breaches we’ve seen in the past 12 months, hackers used social engineering to get an initial foothold inside the company,” said Hugh Thompson, RSA conference program committee chair. “It isn’t a generic stranger trying to deceive your employees; it’s someone who knows them through online reconnaissance.”

Recent studies illustrate this dark side of social networking. Firewall maker Barracuda Networks analyzed Web traffic of 5,500 PC users in 20 nations and found one in 60 Facebook postings, and one in 100 Twitter tweets, carried malicious code.

“The dangers associated with social networking have climbed exponentially,” said Barracuda chief research officer Paul Judge.

Meanwhile, an analysis of Web traffic at 1,636 companies by firewall supplier Palo Alto Networks found a marked increase in employees’ use of Facebook to run Web apps and games, not just read wall postings. In December 2011, employees used Facebook apps three times as often than they did in October 2010; and they used Twitter seven times as often.

Those increases tracked with an uptick in corporate use of Facebook and Twitter for marketing and recruiting, said Palo Alto senior security analyst Wade Williamson.

But new Web apps are being pumped out so swiftly that many organizations aren’t able to fully grasp the security risks introduced by their employees trying out every cool new app that comes along, Williamson said.

What’s more, companies now routinely permit employees to connect their personally owned smartphones and tablet PCs into company systems, creating myriad fresh pathways into corporate networks.

Apple recently had to quell a furor over disclosures that social network Path and several other makers of apps for iPads and iPhones routinely collected and stored the contents of users’ address books – without asking permission.

The Path revelation underscored how intrinsically porous services delivered to PCs and mobile devices from the Internet cloud can be. Cybercriminals, of course, long ago realized this and continue to take full advantage.

A recent Juniper Networks survey of applications available for all mobile device operating systems, except Apple’s iOS, tallied 28,472 malicious mobile apps in 2011, a 155 percent increase from the 11,138 malicious apps that existed in 2010. (Apple does not make iOS apps available for independent inspection.)

“Companies are going to have to learn exactly which applications are on their networks, who is using them, why they’re being used and make sure they are being used securely,” Williamson said.

Some companies have already begun doing just that. Haworth’s Kortering was persuaded to upgrade to a next-generation firewall that can distinguish traffic going to and from specific applications, and block very specific types of traffic deemed non-productive or too risky.

“The easiest thing would be to block everything,” said Kortering. But “we block what we feel is outside of our policies and values.”

Waqas Akkawi, director of information security at global moving company SIRVA, is keeping much closer watch on his company’s network, too. Last fall, SIRVA purchased cutting-edge network access control, or NAC, technology to meticulously manage who gets to log into its networks and to block any malicious programs trying to load from specific devices.

Many of SIRVA’s 3,000 employees, and most of its customers, log in to the company’s network remotely. “I could not say no to anybody because they’d say, ‘Hey, you’re limiting revenue generation,’ ” Akkawi said. “So I said, ‘No problem; you can bring it in.’ ”

Sales of next-generation firewalls and NAC systems are expected to grow robustly over the next five years as more companies come to grips with rising security threats. Many will discover that limiting employee access to social networks and Web apps can also directly help the bottom line, said Chris Rodriguez, network security analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Haworth, for instance, has used its new firewall to restrict employees from watching streamed videos in the lunchroom because that activity was consuming bandwidth needed on the production side at the fixtures manufacturer. “There’s a lot to be said for the value security tools offer operational-wise, such as the ability to automate tasks and reduce lost productivity,” Rodriguez said.

Even so, it is the capacity for new tools to help corporations protect against as yet unforeseen threats likely to arise from employees’ escalating use of social networks, Web apps and mobile devices that’s generating buzz at the RSA conference.

Some security experts worry about the chronological nature of Facebook’s new Timeline interface, which went live for most users this month.

No evidence has surfaced that spear phishers have begun mining Timeline. And Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin says that Facebook essentially works the way it always has and that Timeline surfaces no new information, nor does it change any privacy settings.

But a cottage industry appears to be taking shape to more systematically broker stolen Facebook account logons. Aviv Raff, chief technology officer at threat alert service Seculert, tracked down a criminal server set up to continually harvest data from tens of thousands of infected PCs. Raff found an unusual program running in the background.

“They created specific code to extract just the Facebook credentials,” Raff said. “We found logon credentials for over 45,000 different Facebook accounts.”

Criminals use stolen logons to pose as a trusted source in attempts to dupe employees into clicking a poisoned link or opening an infected document, said Anup Ghosh, chief scientist at browser security firm Invincea. “With Timeline,” he said, “literally years worth of status updates, photo uploads and links can be pored through to create convincing personalized messages.”

Share and Enjoy

FacebookTwitterLinkedInDiggDeliciousStumbleUponRedditGoogle BuzzFriendFeedMySpaceAdd to favoritesEmailPrintPDF

No comments:

Post a Comment