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in « Weekly recap »,
 August 11 2017

Weekly Tech Recap - № 132 - Firefox Send, Razer White, unreliable Surface, tripod robot, etc.

Martian tripod robot

Martian Petit tripedal robot.

Martian Petit tripedal robot. © Osaka University.

Most mammals are four-legged, with very few exceptions being occasionally or completely bipedal. But the animal kingdom has no examples of three-legged animals; the kangaroo, which uses its tail for balance, is not considered to be truly tripedal. To explore this further, Yoichi Masuda and his colleagues at Osaka University decided to build three-legged robots, inspired by the Martian robots in HG Wells’ 1898 sci-fi novel “War of the Worlds”. Previous experiments like STriDER (2007) had shown that until now, three-legged robots were at best “intermittent bipeds”, using only two out of three legs at any given time. But Masuda’s tripod, called Martian Petit, is different. His robot has not only trilateral symmetry but a trilateral gait as well. In other words, the three legs are identical, each moving in a similar way. But performance is not the best and, watching Martian Petit walk, you can guess why Evolution went for even leg numbers. Researchers led by Masato Ishikawa, a professor of mechanical engineering at Osaka University, are already working on the next version, with a few extra degrees of freedom (and consequently more complex dynamics) in the legs to continue exploring problems and limitations in tripedism.

IEEE Spectrum, “Martian-inspired tripod walking robot generates its own gaits.”


Unreliable Surface

Taux de panne portables.

Problems with laptops within two years of purchase. © Consumer Reports.

Black eye for Microsoft: Consumer Reports, the well-known American consumer protection magazine, has announced that it no longer recommends Surface tablets and laptops because of an unusually high number of problems, far higher than the competition’s. According to Consumer Reports, 25% of Surface owners experienced issues by the end of the second year of ownership. The Redmond company responded: “We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences”. Apple’s laptops are the most reliable on the market.

Circuit Breaker, “Consumer Reports stops recommending Microsoft Surface PCs over reliability concerns.”

Consumer Reports, “Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets not recommended by Consumer Reports.”


How Facebook handles the competition

Menlo Park, CA, USA.

Facebook World Headquarters. Menlo Park, CA, USA. © iStock.

Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman, two reporters for the Wall Street Journal, revealed that Facebook is monitoring potential rivals, including new startups with exceptional performance, thanks to an in-house database. Facebook acquired the database when it purchased Onavo, a young Israeli company. Onavo’s application, Onavo Protect, guarantees users full data protection while routing traffic through a VPN. Then, it gives Facebook a highly-detailed report on clients’ use of their phones, tracking their use of applications. For example, Facebook decided to purchase WhatsApp based on data collected through Onavo Protect. In other words, Facebook is using a VPN application that is supposed to protect users’ privacy to analyze their use of applications, hence violating their privacy. As a general rule, beware of “free” VPNs. If something is free, it means you’re the product.

The Wall Street Journal, “The new copycats: how Facebook squashes competition from startups.”


Razer jazzes it up

When it comes to PC gaming accessories, you can have any choice of colours as long as it’s black. Same thing goes for Razer’s gaming suite: black mouse, black keyboard, black mousepad, and did we mention the black headset? But now you have choices! Razer has unveiled two new revolutionary colours for its gaming suite: “Mercury”, i.e. white, and “Gunmetal”, or grey.

Circuit Breaker, “Razer’s gaming gear now comes in colors other than black.”


Mozilla Send Service

Firefox Send.

Firefox Send. © Mozilla.

Mozilla is testing a new service called Send, allowing users to send a 1Gb, encrypted file to a single recipient. When users send a file, Send creates a link that can be shared with anyone. Every link Send creates expires as soon as the file is downloaded, or after 24 hours if it’s not. All downloaded files are automatically deleted from Send servers. The service isn’t 100% safe due to technical reasons, but it still offers reasonable security for everyday use. In any case, it’s free.

Ars Technica, “Mozilla’s new file-transfer service isn’t perfect, but it’s drop-dead easy.”


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