Mozilla Launches an Incubator to Fix the Internet

safe texting

Due to increased consolidation of influential websites on the internet (like Google and Facebook scrapping content from other sites) the quality of the web has arguably decreased. To stymie this corporatization of the internet, the makers of Firefox, Mozilla, have decided to launch a fund to create companies that make the internet a better place. This is sorely needed in a time of media concentration and influence.

“The mission of this incubator is to catalyze a new generation of internet products and services where the people are in control of how the internet is used to shape society,” said Bart Decrem, a Mozilla veteran (think Firefox 1.0) and one of the principals at the Builders Studio. “And where business models should be sustainable and valuable, but do not need to squeeze every last dollar (or ounce of attention) from the user.”

“We think we are tapping into the energy in the student and professional ‘builder communities’ around wanting to work on ideas that matter. That clarion call really resonates,” he said. Not only that, but students with canceled internships are showing up in droves, it seems — mostly computer science, but design and other disciplines as well. There are no restrictions on applicants, like country of origin, previous funding, or anything like that.

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Fashionable Solutions to Thwart Invasive Surveillance

What you wear can impinge the ability of people to look at you. That’s been true for centuries, but today your fashion choices can actually make it harder for governments or private entities to track you throughout the day. The mass surveillance in our current society should concern you as it erodes our freedoms. One fashion designer has had enough of her liberties being attacked that the designed some flashy gear to obfuscate who you are. The clothing designed by Kate Rose confuses algorithms to think that you are something you are not, for example by wearing certain patterns a computer may think you are a car.

Use of patterning and adversarial input techniques are on the rise as computer vision analysis of everything from our faces to our license plates becomes ubiquitous for everything from marketing to state surveillance. This talk will be a highly tactical guide to give an overview of the work in the area of confounding or intentionally triggering computer vision systems with fashion. This presentation will show you the same open source guides, libraries, and resources to build your own adversarial clothing, via the process used to develop ALPR-triggering fabrics. This talk will review not only the technical and aesthetic considerations, but also getting over the manufacturing hurdle from design to prototype so you can quickly deploy your fashion hacks to the people

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How We can Track COVID-19 and NOT Invade Your Privacy

To figure out the spread of COIV-19, or other diseases, the technique of contact tracing gets used by researchers to decipher who is likely to have been exposed. When too many people are infected then contact tracing takes too much labour and subsequently becomes less useful, which has led tech companies and government to propose the ability to track you everywhere you go. You might think “what’s the big deal?”, the big deal is that this tracking will continue past the pandemic and it doesn’t need to happen in the first place. There are ways to build technical contact tracing without the government or an undemocratic mega-corporation spying or profiteering off of your personal location.

The wonderful Nicky Case put together a comic explaining how we can have technologically-driven contact tracing without spying on your everyday actions.

nick case covid tracking privacy

Read the comic.

Technical documents:
Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing
Temporary Contact Numbers, a decentralized, privacy-first contact tracing protocol
Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing

Folding@Home now Faster Than Fastest Supercomputer

computer screen

Scientists can use your help folding. In particular they could use your computer to help understand how proteins fold. In order to understand viruses and ways to fight them it helps to run simulations to see how proteins interact with each other. You can get your computer to devote a percentage of it’s computational power to helping that research, and thanks to enough people doing that the Folding@Home network is now more powerful than the fastest supercomputer!

If you have access to multiple computers you can spin them up and get them computing towards helping researchers create more efficient and safer drugs.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been taxing for a number of computational biology and chemistry projects. IBM recently formed its COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium that pools together major supercomputers run by various research institutions and technology companies in the USA to run research simulations in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling. Cumulative performance of supercomputers participating in IBM’s COVID-19 HPC Consortium is 330 PetaFLOPS.

Folding@home distributed computing project uses compute capabilities to run simulations of protein dynamics in a bid to better understand them and find cures for various diseases. Recently F@H started to run projects simulating theoretically druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2, which attracted a lot of attention as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are clearly the hottest topics these days.

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3D Printing Respirators to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic

drs with 3d print

The Italian health care system finds itself short on parts due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. Due to the nature of the virus people with it are more likely to need breathing support as lungs are in such a bad shape. Some geniuses at one Italian hospital decided to not wait for new parts and make their own instead. They 3D printed a key part of a respirator to help patients get through the worst aspects of COVID-19. Sadly, the company which manufactures the $11,000 part threatened the hospital with legal action so the ~$2 3D printed part won’t be available for other places.

This example is part of a greater movement of hackers, makers, and doers to create open source and 3D printable respirators for the medical system.

While the article uses the term “reanimation device”, it’s clear we’re talking about respirators here, necessary to keep patients alive during respiratory distress. The valve in question is a plastic part, one which likely needs to be changed over when the device is used with each individual patient to provide a sterile flow of air. After the alarm was raised by Nunzia Vallini, a local journalist, a ring around of the 3D printing community led to a machine being sent down to the hospital and the parts being reproduced. Once proven to work, things were stepped up, with another company stepping in to produce the parts in quantity with a high-quality laser fusion printer.

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