Tag Archives | Computers

Can You Improve Your Mental Health From Your Computer?

HAL 9000Via the The Economist:

The treatment, in the early 1880s, of an Austrian hysteric called Anna O is generally regarded as the beginning of talking-it-through as a form of therapy.

But psychoanalysis, as this version of talk therapy became known, is an expensive procedure. Anna’s doctor, Josef Breuer, is estimated to have spent over 1,000 hours with her.

Since then, things have improved. A typical course of a modern talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, consists of 12-16 hour-long sessions and is a reasonably efficient way of treating conditions like depression and anxiety (hysteria is no longer a recognised diagnosis).

Medication, too, can bring rapid change. Nevertheless, treating disorders of the psyche is still a hit-and-miss affair, and not everyone wishes to bare his soul or take mind-altering drugs to deal with his problems. A new kind of treatment may, though, mean he does not have to.

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Half Of All Tablet Users Transmit Sensitive Data

Evan-Amos (CC)

Evan-Amos (CC)

48% of tablet owners have used their tablet device to transmit sensitive data, according to a new online survey by Harris Interactive.

This compares to just 30% of smartphone users, though it’s younger adults (aged 18-34) who are more likely to than adults.

52% of tablet owners between the ages of 18 and 34 say they’re confident about transmitting sensitive data over their tablet device, versus just 41% between the ages of 35 and 34, and 28% between the ages of 45 and 54. (While just 33% of people over the age of 55 shared the same confidence.)

“There may be an psychological explanation for the main tablet vs smartphone security point,” notes one technology site. “Somebody using a tablet – even though its on a wireless connection – may think of it in the same way as a computer, where it’s well established people are usually happy to transmit sensitive data…With a smartphone, there’s still more of a psychological reminder that any information you send is literally beamed through the air.”

There’s also some other caveats.… Read the rest

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Scientists Develop Better Methods To Match Police Sketches To Mug Shots

Sketch To Mug ShotReports Michigan State University:

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The long-time practice of using police facial sketches to nab criminals has been, at best, an inexact art. But the process may soon be a little more exact thanks to the work of some Michigan State University researchers.

A team led by MSU University Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Anil Jain and doctoral student Brendan Klare has developed a set of algorithms and created software that will automatically match hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots that are stored in law enforcement databases.

Once in use, Klare said, the implications are huge.

“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst here,” he said. “Police sketch artists aren’t called in because someone stole a pack of gum. A lot of time is spent generating these facial sketches so it only makes sense that they are matched with the available technology to catch these criminals.”

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The Space Jam Website: A Surreal Slice Of Internet History

liveanim8In 1996, Warner Brothers was on the cutting edge by building a “web site” to promote its new blockbuster film Space Jam. Since then, the site has been neither updated nor removed, but remains gloriously preserved, a fascinating museum piece showcasing what the internet looked like in its dark days fifteen years ago. There’s GeoCities-style web design, a slightly hallucinogenic swirl of animated graphics, goofy audio clips, garish patterns, screen savers, and difficult-to-navigate frames within frames — it’s amazing to think it was created for a billion-dollar, multinational media conglomerate. Gather any nearby teenagers for a history lesson and explore one of my favorite recent online discoveries, the Space Jam homepage.

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The Race To Built A Computer That Acts Perfectly Human

GoldPrizeAMT Computers may now be able to win on Jeopardy, but they still cannot quite trick us into thinking that they are flesh and blood. Writing for the The Atlantic, Brian Christian discusses taking part in the annual Turing Test, the goal of which is to design a computer that thinks and talks as a human does, and to fool judges into believing that they are chatting with a living person:

Each year for the past two decades, the artificial-intelligence community has convened for the field’s most anticipated and controversial event—a meeting to confer the Loebner Prize on the winner of a competition called the Turing Test. The test is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, one of the founders of computer science, who in 1950 attempted to answer one of the field’s earliest questions: can machines think? That is, would it ever be possible to construct a computer so sophisticated that it could actually be said to be thinking, to be intelligent, to have a mind?

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How To Get DIY Internet Access When The Government Shuts It Down


In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a number of national governments shut off internet access in attempts to quash dissent. PC World has a guide on how to access the web when the powers that be are blocking it, or post-apocalypse, when telecommunation networks are in shambles. Supposedly antiquated devices such as dial-up modems may someday be direly important amid the smoking ruins of post-America:

These days, no popular movement goes without an Internet presence of some kind, whether it’s organizing on Facebook or spreading the word through Twitter. And as we’ve seen in Egypt, that means that your Internet connection can be the first to go. Whether you’re trying to check in with your family, contact your friends, or simply spread the word, here are a few ways to build some basic network connectivity when you can’t rely on your cellular or landline Internet connections.

Even if you’ve managed to find an Internet connection for yourself, it won’t be that helpful in reaching out to your fellow locals if they can’t get online to find you.

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Shutting Off The Web: Who Controls The Internet’s ‘Choke Points’?

inline_NOTA In an article for the Atlantic, Andrew Blum points out that recent events in Egypt have reminded us of something oft forgotten: the networks that comprise the Internet are connected physically, and can be disconnected by snipping cables. Here in the United States, Verizon and Google have recently gained control over two such “choke points,” which should raise alarm bells:

The news Thursday evening that Egypt had severed itself from the global Internet came at the same time as an ostensibly far less inflammatory announcement closer to home. Verizon, the telecom giant, would acquire “cloud computing company” Terremark for $1.4 billion. The purchase would “accelerate Verizon’s ‘everything-as-a-service’ cloud strategy,” the press release said.

The trouble is that Terremark isn’t merely a cloud computing company. Or, more to the point, the cloud isn’t really a cloud.

Among its portfolio of data centers in the US, Europe and Latin America, Terremark owns one of the single most important buildings on the global Internet, a giant fortress on the edge of Miami’s downtown known as the NAP of the Americas.

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Republicans Push For Tracking Of All Of Your Internet Activity

e4233ab3-7ea4-4159-82ea-40632981d47aIs this what those tea party Republicans mean by “restoring freedom” and “less government”? CNET reports:

The House Republicans’ first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users’ activities for later review by police.
One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.

Tomorrow’s data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users’ privacy by storing less data. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for “limited retention” of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

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McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda, Microsoft Sued For Tracking Internet Users’ Histories

450px-Ronald_mcdonald_thailandAlways remember — the vacant, shining, plastic eyes of Ronald McDonald are upon you. A lawsuit claims that internet users’ browsing histories are tracked and shared among corporations that use the data to tailor advertising. Via MediaPost:

A New York resident who recently sued behavioral advertising network Interclick for allegedly violating her privacy by using history-sniffing technology has filed a related lawsuit against McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda and Microsoft.

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sonal Bose alleges that McDonald’s and the other companies “acted in concert with Interclick,” to mine users’ Web surfing history for marketing purposes. “Defendants circumvented the privacy and security controls of consumers who, like plaintiff, had configured their browsers to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring their online activities,” Bose alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes.

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Americans Turn to Technology to Control Impulses

Don't Dial!Leanne Italie writes in the AP via PhysORG:

Dan Nainan can’t trust himself to work at his computer without clicking on distractions, so he uses an Internet-blocking program to shut down his Web access twice a day.

“I’m sorry, but try as I might, I could never, ever do this on my own,” said the New York City comedian who’s struggling to finish a book. “I wish I could, but I just don’t have the discipline.”

Nainan’s system of two, two-hour blocks is one example of how Americans are trying to control their impulses using technology that steps in to enforce good behavior.

With the new year days away, many tools are now available to help people stay in line, including a GPS-enabled app that locks down texting once a car gets rolling and a program that cuts off credit-card spending. Another device monitors your workout and offers real-time voice feedback.

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