Connect with us

Technology

China set vs unofficial Lego fan design • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

NASA’s Perseverance is currently trundling around Mars. In the absence of an official Lego version, your hardworking vultures had a crack at a pair of recent designs for the nuclear-powered rover.

We have a bit of a chequered history when it comes to the plastic bricks. Sure, we had fun building the International Space Station and Apollo Lunar Module, but those were genuine kits containing genuine Lego bricks.

Our other excursions were less successful. The crawler transporter for the Saturn V launch tower was a bit of a beast and the less said about the launch tower itself the better. (Glue. Glue.)

But Perseverance’s successful landing has given us the construction itch once again. We missed the boat when Curiosity was all the rage (although remain tempted by the Descent Stage and Sky Crane in the Lego Ideas model) so opted to try the model retailing at $43.99 from Vonado.

To be clear, this is not an official set by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it made of official Lego parts. Like our crawler and tower, the 661-brick beast comes direct from a vendor in China.

As a comparison, we also picked up a design from SkylabBricks, which cost us £4.52. (Although one must supply one’s own bricks. More on that later.)

We started with the Vonado model, the design and modelling of which is credited to YCBricks (you can pick up just the PDF instructions for $6.99 at Rebrickable.)

Compared to the pain of the Saturn tower, the build was relatively straightforward, although we’d have to caution that skipping ahead in the PDF instruction file is highly advisable since some steps aren’t particularly clear.

Vonado Perseverance set

Click to enlarge

The bags of parts come numbered, although as with the crawler, those numbers have no bearing on what is needed when. More than one leap of faith was needed, to the point where one couldn’t help but wonder if anybody had actually tried to follow the steps before flinging the kit up for sale.

That said, the resulting rover was satisfyingly large even if its proportions seemed subjectively a little at odds with its inspiration. It does, however, feel a little fragile and not something that one would want to handle too much, which is a shame. One benefit of models like the Saturn V and Apollo lander is the ease with which one can use them to explain how spacecraft work. Not so much with this.

The SkylabBricks version was an entirely different beast. The cost of a London pint of beer gave one a link to PDFs detailing how to make the rover and Martian landscape. Parts files are provided to submit to the Bricklink site for ordering up components and spending, as Joe Chambers of SkylabBricks succinctly put it, “lots of money.”

SkylabBricks set

Click to enlarge

This is most definitely not the cheap option. The plans are helpfully split into rover and surface, but doing both with new Lego parts will come in at about £90 depending on the vagaries of the Bricklink marketplace (and what you already have in stock).

Cost of parts aside, the PDF instructions from SkylabBricks are streets ahead of those for the Vonado rover. As well as the expected step-by-step assembly instructions, a good few pages are dedicated to documenting the rover itself, its mission, payload, and the Ingenuity helicopter.

The instructions also give a nod to Lego’s original (and discontinued) Curiosity set, although this is considerably more detailed. It also comes in at 323 pieces for the rover and 370 for the display stand.

As for those pieces, we used the Bricklink site and the .xml parts files supplied by SkylabBricks. We allowed Bricklink to select the stores to supply the bricks (from a variety of geographical locations, including the UK, Europe, the US, and Malaysia). Over the course of a couple of weeks, little parcels of Lego joy arrived.

Saturn V not included

We bought a knockoff Lego launchpad kit from China for our Saturn V rocket so you don’t have to

READ MORE

As with the Vonado rover, the packaging of the parts had no bearing on the order of assembly. However, since careful auditing was needed to ensure what was delivered was what had been ordered, putting together the SkylabBricks rover was a good deal easier (although we can understand why one might want to have one’s bricks arrive in one, big package).

The difference between the rovers is surprising. While smaller, the SkylabBricks version is considerably more “play-with-able” and feels a good deal more solid. Bits did not fall off when a small child decided to take it for a spin over an imagined Martian surface consisting of dirt, gravel, and a lichen-encrusted paving slab. Parts dropped from the Vonado version just moving it from shelf to shelf (and resulted in more than one glance at the dread bottle of glue).

The Lego recreation of the surface of Mars was also a hoot to assemble, and made for a handy display stand.

The Register spoke to SkylabBricks’ Joe Chambers about the designs and the effort involved. Each design takes between three to four months, depending on the size of the project. “My instructions,” he said, “are somewhat unique in that I do a technical writeup of the subject and put it into the PDF.

“That is more for me, to be honest, but sometimes that takes a couple of weeks alone. I overdid it on my Delta IV, I must admit, writing something about all seven versions, but I love the stories and the technology of these things.

“The main focus of my designs, if you haven’t noticed, is space exploration and rocketry. I design things that I like or that I want to display.

Lego ISS

Vulture discovers talons are rubbish for building Lego’s International Space Station

READ MORE

“For lack of a better description, I make models of things through the design constraint of Lego. I may be weird in that I want to make something look as accurate to the real thing that Lego will allow. I even try to hide studs behind tiles as much as possible. I am not building with mini-figs in mind or that it will be a playset. With all respect to people who enjoy that, my mindset is 100 per cent on the side of form over function, and, sometimes, over structural integrity.”

We can, however, confirm that the Perseverance model is excellent for playing with as well as being impressively detailed. The cost of assembling all the parts when compared to the alternative might however be a bit much for some.

As the name implies, a Skylab design can also be picked up from the SkylabBricks site. After this week’s announcement of a new official Lego Space Shuttle set, Chambers mused: “It suddenly hit me that it is about the same scale as my big Skylab. Ever hear of the Skylab Rescue mission? I think that might be a quick one to do…”

If only NASA had been able to do the same. ®

Source link

Technology

New York’s mayor is getting paid in bitcoin. But can he pay the bills with it? | Eric Adams

Voice Of EU

Published

on

New York’s new mayor gets his first paycheck on Friday – and as part of his bid to keep the city “on the forefront of innovation”, he’ll be receiving his wages in cryptocurrency.

“New York is the center of the world and we want it to be the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations,” Eric Adams said in a press release.

But even in the center of the world, trying to live on ethereum or bitcoin might be a struggle. The subway won’t take it, and it’s hard to fit dogecoin in the quarter slot at the laundromat. So what will Adams actually be able to do with his paycheck?

Will he be able to eat?

Yes. Getting groceries might be difficult – in 2019, Whole Foods began accepting cryptocurrency via an app-based payment system called Flexa, but a customer care representative said on Thursday that the company was not currently taking cryptocurrency.

But the vegan mayor might have better luck at restaurants. Yelp allows users to filter for restaurants that accept cryptocurrency – though calls to the spots and visits to their websites suggest some of the claims are inaccurate.

He could also use a workaround and purchase a gift card with bitcoin using one of various platforms such as Bitrefill and Fold. That could get him a coffee at Starbucks or an order through DoorDash; it also works for Amazon, Netflix and other companies.

(Adams’s cryptocurrency paycheck is itself the result of a workaround, since department of labor regulations require the city of New York to pay employees in dollars. The mayor’s office says the paycheck will “automatically be converted” to cryptocurrency before it is made available to him, using the platform Coinbase.)

That means that Adams’s paycheck must first be converted from dollars to cryptocurrency, then be converted to a gift card, and finally be used to buy a smoothie. Efficient!

Another trick: he could turn to PayPal, which lets users spend cryptocurrency for transactions (Mastercard has a similar program). But the app first converts the cryptocurrency to actual dollars – creating another pointless cycle and contributing to a system that, according to Cambridge researchers, uses more electricity per year than the country of Argentina.

Will he be able to keep the lights on?

Probably not without turning to his actual bank account. Con Edison, New York’s enormous electricity and gas utility, does not accept cryptocurrency payments, a representative said. Cryptocurrency does a great job of draining the world of energy, but using it to buy some back appears difficult.

Of course, he’ll be living in Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s residence – meaning, presumably, he won’t be paying these bills anyway. Nor will he have to worry about whether his landlord accepts bitcoin.

Will he be able to get anywhere?

Not if he wants to take the subway like a normal New Yorker or any other transportation provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA doesn’t accept cryptocurrency, a spokesperson said.

If he gets stuck, Adams might be able to hail an Uber using his paycheck, but it could be a long wait at the corner. Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, indicated in February that he was open to accepting bitcoin in the future, but when is unclear. In the meantime, he could buy an Uber gift card.

Will he be able to use the very internet that cryptocurrency depends on?

Again, he could have trouble. Verizon Fios, New York’s biggest internet provider, does not appear to offer a cryptocurrency option for online payments. Adams may find himself turning to his pre-mayoral savings if he wants to check the price of bitcoin.

So what will he actually do?

Adams’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he may well just “hold on to it as an investment”, says Neeraj Agrawal, communications director at Coin Center, a non-profit focused on cryptocurrency policy. “That has become the more common use of bitcoin these days.”

Or, if he’s feeling really financially innovative, he could go totally virtual: it won’t get him a ride on the subway, but he could buy the word “MetroCard” as an NFT for the equivalent of about $30.

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

The assailants were pixelated, I’d know them anywhere • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Stop that uterus! It stole my wallet!

What do you mean, “Can you identify the uterus in question?” It looked like a uterus! Or, as we’ve been singing it all through Christmas, a wooooom*.

Talk about getting the new year off to a bad start – I’ve just been robbed by a delinquent reproductive organ. Yet the all signs were there: I knew 2022 would be doomed back in early December when I read that the Salzburg Schokolade company, inventors of the mighty last-minute-airport-gift-shop chocolate ball Mozartkugel, had gone bust.

No, an oversize Toblerone will not suffice. M&Ms? In the bin, pal. Mr Ambassador, you can stick your Ferrero Rochers up your arse. Mozartkugeln were my faux-posh-but-actually-quite-cheap traveller chocs of choice. And now they’re gone forever!

First Bowie, then this. The world is falling apart.

A kindly officer of the law tries to bring me back to my senses following my unexpected mugging. Yes, thank you, I would like a drink. I’ll have an Adios Motherfucker*, please.

Without batting an eyelid, the policewoman strides down the corridor to the drinks machine, taps a few buttons on the display and returns after just 30 seconds with my glass of blue liquid revival. That was quick. The drinks machine must be a Mixo Two: an ingenious local invention that claims to be able to mix any of 300 cocktails in half a minute.

I glug it down, spit out the lemon slice and cherry, and hand back the little umbrella. I decide I’m feeling particularly agitated and may well need more calming down. 299 to go.

Now that my thoughts are clearing, I admit it’s possible my assailant might not have been a uterus after all. It might have been a whole human. I tell my police interviewers that my initial impression of a uterus suggests that it may have been a woman. I am lectured for the next 10 minutes on my questionable observation with the aid of infographics and a flipchart.

Choosing my words more carefully, I try to provide a full description of the thief. It all happened so fast. The last thing I remember, I had escaped the pandemonium at home – workers fixing the WC again – and settled down in a nearby cafe for a break. Well, primarily for a pee in their restroom, then I felt obliged to order a coffee. While waiting for it to arrive, I opened my laptop and continued browsing the hundreds of images taken during Mme D’s recent MRI scan.

Here’s one.

Screenshot of MRI scan of patient's uterus

Protect the innocent: to avoid identification by a web-scraping AI, this uterus has been pixelated. [Click to enlarge]

Prior to this, my only knowledge of MRI scanning comes from British colleagues at the IEEE who are finalising the unveiling of an IEEE Milestone plaque to commemorate the development in London during the 1980s of active shielding of superconducting magnets.

Mme D had a more detailed prior knowledge of MRI scanning as the result of watching every episode of House on Netflix. She reported that her only disappointment was that the operators seemed to concentrate on the scan rather than discuss their sex lives or call each other an idiot before suddenly dashing out the room after answering a call on their cellphone.

What neither of us expected was to be handed a CD of the highlights.

It doesn’t just contain a folder of images but a Windows autoplay program to browse them in detail. My favourite feature of the CD is the Cinema View, which plays back the scans at 25 frames per second. In fact, I had settled down in the living room with a Kia-Ora and carton of popcorn to watch Mme D’s innards on the big screen when the workmen arrived and enforced an early intermission.

It was when the coffee arrived at my table that I realised my wallet was not in my usual pocket, or indeed in any of my unusual pockets either. “Robbed!” I wailed. “No tip!” wailed the waiter. The police were duly called.

What was the last thing I saw before the incident? Er… a uterus. I describe it in as much detail as possible, at 25 frames per second.

So, I ask, are you going run it through your vast, secretive photo-fit database of the population, using some whizzy AI to shortlist the candidates?

Ah no, they respond, we’re not allowed to do that. And then they wink. All of them, in sync, which is a bit creepy. Then I am sent on my way, gently steered back up the corridor in the opposite direction from the Mix Two.

This is the usual conundrum. Scraping the net for the purposes of building a database for security services is still illegal unless you have really good PR, and the use of AI to crawl around the net and randomly apply face recognition to identify ne’er-do-wells is ethically dubious. In most cases, it can’t be done at all (yet).

On the other hand, machine learning is a fabulous tool for health research, if only we can throw enough data at it. The problem is that more people would be happy to share their medical data if they thought it wouldn’t be subsequently misused. And it will always be misused: that’s what personal data is for.

The last thing I’d want is for my photo to turn up on a hit-list of Interpol’s most-wanted criminal uteruses.

Back home, I am comforted by Mme D, who had been wondering what had prompted me to leave the house while a team of plumbers, electricians, interior decorators, plasterers, architects, stone masons, ironmongers, seismologists, stage illusionists, tap dance instructors, steel drummers, and celtic swordsmen were trampling all over it to refit the toilet for the fifth time.

I mumble a reply, collect the now-soggy popcorn and drag myself back into my office.

“By the way,” she calls, “you left your wallet on the kitchen table so I locked it in the filing cabinet.”

Youtube Video

Alistair Dabbs

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. Back when he ran an office in London’s trendy Hoxton, he attended several cocktail workshops – an essential skill for the Silicon Roundabout crowd. The one thing he learnt was that everything is topped up with sugar water. Bleuh. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

*As an infant, I reasoned that “wooooom” was the kind of thing that a sheet-clad apparition moans while a haunting a castle. It was the holy ghost.

**Vodka, rum, tequila, gin, blue curacao, 7 Up, sweet & sour mix.



Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

‘Hiring is a big challenge for the IT industry’

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Citrix’s Meerah Rajavel discusses the biggest challenges in today’s IT landscape, from remote working and talent shortages to security.

Meerah Rajavel is CIO at Citrix a multinational cloud computing company that provides server, application and desktop virtualisation, networking and cloud computing technologies.

Rajavel has more than 25 years’ experience at well-known tech companies such as McAfee, Cisco and Forcepoint. In her current role, Rajavel she leads the company’s IT strategy.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

Many companies viewed remote work as a temporary solution to the pandemic and business leaders continue to push for a return to the old days where employees work in the office every day. But we just did two polls on LinkedIn and Twitter that show this isn’t likely to happen.

That’s going to challenge a lot of organisations, because working remote isn’t easy. When it comes to addressing the technical aspects of how employees can cope and remain productive, you’ve got to walk in their shoes and understand how they leverage technology to achieve business outcomes.

The key to keeping employees engaged lies in providing consistent, secure and reliable access to the systems and information they need to get work done – wherever it needs to get done. And it takes more than just flipping the switch on technologies. Culture plays a huge role in adoption.

Another big challenge IT is faced with is hiring. It’s difficult to find high quality candidates in the areas of security, design thinking and user experience, data science and analytics right now. And there are a few reasons for this. Security remains a critical priority for CIOs. In the hybrid cloud, remote working, BYOD world we now live in, more resources are required to ensure that corporate networks and assets remain safe. And demand far exceeds supply.

When it comes to design thinking, the paradigm is shifting away from user-centric thinking toward human-and-machine thinking. This requires designers to be well versed with the constructs of the possibility of artificial intelligence and machine learning and analytics in addition to user experience in their workflow design process. And that’s a skill that’s not widely available.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry?

In the last decade, the digitalisation of everything has caused every company – regardless of industry – to become a software company. From mobile banking and virtual healthcare visits to self-driving cars and automated food prep and delivery services, software applications are embedded into nearly every aspect of the economy and our lives.

And as they embark on digital transformation initiatives to support this trend, IT leaders need to align with their business counterparts and make sure they’re collectively approaching things from an inside-out, company-wide perspective.

For me, any type of change management needs to be broken down into three key focus areas: people, process, and technology. But it’s imperative that you start with the people because without first establishing a culture around the change, it will be difficult to achieve success.

‘Digitalisation of everything has caused every company – regardless of industry – to become a software company’
– MEERAH RAJAVEL

When it comes to people, we are particularly mindful of two important elements: culture and training. First, we’ve worked to establish a culture that encourages risk taking and organisational success over individual success. Second, we’re investing in training programmes that enable individuals to confidently transition to the new technologies or way of working and be immediately effective.

In digital transformation, technology needs to be integrated into the ‘flow’ of business, which demands IT and business to embrace shared methods and process. For process, we’ve anchored on standards like safe agile frameworks that make culture and operational efficiency key pillars of any project, to help iterative value delivery and ease of adoption across all areas of the business.

And perhaps most important, we’re investing in the technology – including our own – to help automate and integrate workflows so we can reduce time to production, minimise disruption to the business and increase effectiveness.

What are your thoughts on how sustainability can be addressed from an IT perspective?

In embracing remote work and enabling it through technology, companies can drive their ESG goals and create a more sustainable business and future.

Using digital workspace technologies, for instance, they can give employees access to everything they need to engage and be productive wherever they happen to be, reducing the need to commute and the carbon emissions associated with doing so.

They can also eliminate the need for applications and data to reside on endpoint devices and transition from energy-intensive desktops to energy-efficient laptops to increase their energy efficiency. And because no data is required to live on these devices, they can extend the life of their equipment and reduce waste.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

We did some research that showed 93pc of business leaders think the increased digital collaboration forced by remote work has amplified more diverse voices, resulting in richer idea generation. And as flexible work becomes the norm, the vast majority expect enhanced equity and collaboration to continue and fuel an era of hyper-innovation. And this excites me.

With flexible work, I see more innovation happening to converge physical and digital experiences. Whether it’s concept like metaverse or technologies like AI/ML and VR/XR integrated into the collaboration tools, all aim to enhance the experience and effectiveness for users in a location agnostic fashion.

What are your thoughts on the security challenges currently facing your industry?

The threat landscape has become much more sophisticated as a result of remote and hybrid work and protecting employees has never been more critical – or difficult.

Employees want the freedom to work when, where and how they want using the devices of their choice. And to attract and retain them in what is no doubt the tightest labour market the world has ever seen and keep them engaged and productive, IT needs to serve it up, all while ensuring corporate assets and data remain safe.

It’s among the biggest challenges we face. And to overcome it, we must move beyond thinking that security and user experience are mutually exclusive and take an intelligent approach to workspace security that combines the two following the zero-trust model to give employees simple, unified access to the apps and information they need, when and where they need it, to perform at their best.

We’ve also witnessed two major software supply chain attacks in the last 12 months with SolarWinds and Log4j.

The first is an example of how easily malicious code can be remotely injected into a simple software update delivered to thousands of enterprises and government agencies worldwide. The second highlights how threat actors are increasingly targeting the vulnerabilities in third-party software components to cause widespread havoc.

All of this underscores the importance of securing the software supply chain and adopting practices like DevSecOps.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!