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Weekly tech news roundup for September 26

Shellshock bug hits the web and everyone is freaking out
Given that I’m not a programmer, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the Shellshock bash bug means for those of us regular folks. Here’s what I understand so far: this week a bug/hole/problem in the Linux/Unix “command-line shell” (called the Bourne Again Shell – or “bash” for short) was discovered. This shell is how users launch programs and features in software. The problem with this shell (which apparently has been around for 25 years) is it could be influenced by some well-written code and essentially give hackers control over an individual computer/server (thank you to The Guardian for their good explanation). Mac OS X and many Linux machines (like web servers!) use bash, but I’m reading this morning that OS X is safe. I’ll keep you posted when and if I hear more about problem and what you should do to protect yourself (or if you can – it sounds like much of the problem may be on servers, not PCs). For more info you can check out Mashable, The Verge, Wired, and the Washington Post.

It’s done! Almost every spaceship ever imagined on one poster
I talked about this last year, I believe, but now Dirk Loechel’s spaceship comparison chart is officially complete (above). The chart does NOT include those less than 100 meters or over 24,000 meters (he said, “I had to draw the line somewhere”) and does not include Dr. Who’s TARDIS which is at once both too small and too large. Dirk says that this is the “final major content update,” but will fix issues that people find. Definitely worth a look-see if you’re a sci-fi fan. I have to admit that as a geek, it’s really tempting to download the file and have it printed off somewhere in a big way, just for fun.

Newman_biosuitNew shrink-wrap spacesuit being developed by MIT
The so called “bio-suit” is a whole new take on existing, bulky space suits. Still in development, it offers mechanical pressure to the body rather than air pressure, making it a whole lot slimmer and way less balloon-like. More than just a whole lot of spandex, the suit uses teeny coils of wires that shrink to fit when exposed to the correct amount of heat—basically, shrink-wrapped astronauts. Sounds super cool, but the tricky part of using this “shape-memory alloy” is figuring out how to keep the suit heated to the proper temperature without adding hefty batteries or burning the wearer—or, better yet, to get the material to stay in shape after a single heating. It’s MIT so I’m sure they’ll figure it out :-).

Polaroid introduces teeny Cube to take on GoPro
The Cube, about the size of a quarter (I’d tell you the exact dimensions, but I couldn’t find them anywhere for some reason – even on Polaroid’s own site!)is, as one website put it, adorable. The camera takes both stills and videos, and is only $99. The Cube has a shock-absorbent cover, rounded corners, is weatherproof, and comes in three fun colors (all with the retro Polaroid rainbow stripe, of course). It is, basically, very pocketable but there are plenty of mounting accessories available too. Reviews say it’s not really aimed at the professional cameras like GoPro, but clearly Polaroid is going aggressively for the casual user. Gizmodo says it could be fun to have around a party, but is not convinced it really will stand out with smartphones dominating the casual photography market. What do you think? A fun purchase, or a waste of money?

Robot octopus is just plain cool
There’s no really great reason for including this story this week other than I thought it was cool. I think all of us tend to think about robots as stiff metal, incapable of being graceful or mimicking nature. Well, the “bot-oct” (I couldn’t resist!) developed by a team of Greek researchers might just change your mind. They used silicone to create a flexible robot that moves almost exactly like the real deal. The scientists think they could create one of these with a camera to observe sea life without disturbing it. Check it out:

A lightbulb so smart it’s genius
Some former Tesla engineers are doing for lightbulbs what Nest did for thermostats—changing them from a “dumb” tool, to a smart and responsive device. The Alba bulb by Stack will change tone and brightness depending on the time of day – greeting you in the morning with cool, natural color when you’re waking up and changing to warmer tones later in the day. It’ll also self-dim or turn off when there’s a lot of ambient light, or will brighten when there’s a lot of action. The lights will also work with a mobile app, but really the point is to NOT have to use an app—to have the bulbs be smart enough on their own. You can preorder a set of two bulbs with a hub for $150 which is similar in cost to Philips’ Hue bulb which isn’t nearly as feature-rich. Apparently the responsive features of the Alba bulbs make them 60-80 percent more efficient than a regular LED bulb (which is really saying something!).

The humble fire hydrant, reinvented
The Verge had a cool story this week about a former fire fighter who took something rather ubiquitous—the fire hydrant—and has re-invented it to make it better. The standard hydrant you’re used to seeing is apparently about 100-year-old technology, relatively unchanged in all that time. They’re made of steel, iron, and rubber parts all of which corrode or fail over time. The constant maintenance is costly and hard to keep up with, and in some cities (such as New York), finding working hydrants can be a problem, costing precious time (and maybe even lives). Enter the Sigelock Spartan, a virtually indestructible stainless steel with a design that’s tamper resistant (in a big way), and even internal drainage system that keeps water from freezing inside.The video is from The Verge, so I apologize in advance for the ad, but I thought it was cool to see it in action:

blackberry-passport-3_2040.0BlackBerry tries to stay relevant with Passport
The size of a Canadian passport, BlackBerry’s almost square device had the tech blogs chatting this week. What’s more, everyone was anxious to see whether this phone would pull BlackBerry out of their prolonged slump and back into relevancy. Boasting at 4.5-inch screen and a real keyboard, it’s not a teeny device and will sell for $200 on contract (and $750 if not) starting October 1 in Canada (elsewhere by the end of the year). Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the reviews so far are not super favorable. The Verge felt it was awkward and got in the way of productivity and Gizmodo said for the price, you can get a better phone (whether it was Android or Apple) for not much more.

 
 

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids. You can find Missy on G+ and on Twitter.
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