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Aurich Lawson / HBO

This week, as revelations about the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying continued to unfold, Ryan Gallagher brought us an article about the types of hardware that agencies outside of the NSA use to gather information from mobile devices. These agencies, which include local law enforcement as well as federal groups like the FBI and the DEA, use highly specialized equipment to gain information about a target. Still, the details about that hardware is largely kept secret from the public. Gallagher summed up what the public knows (and brought to light a few lesser-known facts) in his article, Meet the machines that steal your phone’s data.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


MWE Lab's Emperor 1510 LX—don't call it a chair.

MWE Labs

Science fiction is filled with cherished seats of power, workstations that put the universe a finger-touch or a mere thought away. Darth Vader had his meditation pod, the Engineers of Prometheus had their womb-like control stations, and Captain Kirk has the Captain's Chair. But no real-life workstation has quite measured up to these fictional seats of power in the way that Martin Carpentier's Emperor workstations have.

The latest "modern working environment" from Carpentier's Quebec City-based MWE Lab is the Emperor 1510 LX. With a retractable monitor stand that can support up to five monitors (three 27-inch and two 19-inch), a reclining seat with thigh rest, a Bose sound system, and Italian leather upholstery, the Emperor 1510 LX looks more like a futuristic vehicle than a workstation.  And it's priced like a vehicle, too—it can soon be yours for the low, low price of $21,500.

Tale of the Scorpion

In 2006, Carpentier was slaving away as a web designer when he reached a breaking point. He was tired of his tangle of cables, the struggle to manage multiple monitors, and the horrible ergonomics that came with a standard computer desk. Inspired by the emperor scorpion, Carpentier modeled his workstation after its tail, with the monitors suspended at the stinger.

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CloudFlare's CDN is based on Anycast, a standard defined in the Border Gateway Protocol—the routing protocol that's at the center of how the Internet directs traffic. Anycast is part of how BGP supports the multi-homing of IP addresses, in which multiple routers connect a network to the Internet; through the broadcasts of IP addresses available through a router, other routers determine the shortest path for network traffic to take to reach that destination.

Using Anycast means that CloudFlare makes the servers it fronts appear to be in many places, while only using one IP address. "If you do a traceroute to Metallica.com (a CloudFlare customer), depending on where you are in the world, you would hit a different data center," Prince said. "But you're getting back the same IP address."

That means that as CloudFlare adds more data centers, and those data centers advertise the IP addresses of the websites that are fronted by the service, the Internet's core routers automatically re-map the routes to the IP addresses of the sites. There's no need to do anything special with the Domain Name Service to handle load-balancing of network traffic to sites other than point the hostname for a site at CloudFlare's IP address. It also means that when a specific data center needs to be taken down for an upgrade or maintenance (or gets knocked offline for some other reason), the routes can be adjusted on the fly.

That makes it much harder for distributed denial of service attacks to go after servers behind CloudFlare's CDN network; if they're geographically widespread, the traffic they generate gets spread across all of CloudFlare's data centers—as long as the network connections at each site aren't overcome.

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silicon valley class action

It’s been a year since we’ve heard any news aboout the allegations of widespread no-hire “gentleman’s agreements” between Silicon Valley’s top companies. Twelve months and nearly 200 legal filings later, the case is moving forward, and Judge Lucy Koh is saying that internal emails reveal executives believed the agreement would bring real financial benefits to their companies, reports Reuters. At a hearing in San Jose, the judge also ordered a four-hour deposition of Apple CEO Tim Cook, over the opposition of Apple’s attorneys, who claimed that as COO of the company he had nothing to do with the no-hire agreements.

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The inside of Equinix's co-location facility in San Jose—the home of CloudFlare's primary data center.

Photo: Peter McCollough/Wired.com

On August 22, CloudFlare, a content delivery network, turned on a brand new data center in Seoul, Korea—the last of ten new facilities started across four continents in a span of thirty days. The Seoul data center brought CloudFlare's number of data centers up to 23, nearly doubling the company's global reach—a significant feat in itself for a company of just 32 employees.

But there was something else relatively significant about the Seoul data center and the other 9 facilities set up this summer: despite the fact that the company owned every router and every server in their racks, and each had been configured with great care to handle the demands of CloudFlare's CDN and security services, no one from CloudFlare had ever set foot in them. All that came from CloudFlare directly was a six-page manual instructing facility managers and local suppliers on how to rack and plug in the boxes shipped to them.

"We have nobody stationed in Stockholm or Seoul or Sydney, or a lot of the places that we put these new data centers," CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told Ars. "In fact, no CloudFlare employees have stepped foot in half of the facilities where we've launched." The totally remote-controlled data center approach used by the company is one of the reasons that CloudFlare can afford to provide its services for free to most of its customers—and still make a 75 percent profit margin.

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Silicon Valley commuter bus route

Taking the bus isn't usually considered a luxury. But Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, and Electronic Arts transport their employees to and from work, no matter where they live in San Francisco, on Wi-Fi equipped private buses with cushy, leather seats. 

San Francisco-based design firm Stamen Design tracked those companies' bus routes to figure out where their employees live and how many people rely on those private corporate buses, Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal reports.

Stamen mapped out the routes to better understand the connection between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

"Historically, workers have lived in residential suburbs while commuting to work in the city," the Stamen blog states. "For Silicon Valley, however, the situation is reversed: many of the largest technology companies are based in suburbs, but look to recruit younger knowledge workers who are more likely to dwell in the city."

That understanding of Silicon Valley's topsy-turvy urban geography is itself a bit outdated. When Google pioneered the buses a decade ago, a few hundred employees rode them. Since then, companies like Salesforce.com, Twitter, and Zynga, as well as countless startups have sprung up in San Francisco. What started out as a nice productivity-boosting perk has become an essential weapon for companies based 30 to 40 miles away from San Francisco to court employees.

Regardless, the buses remain popular and essential. Since the routes aren't marked, Stamen utilized Foursquare, the location check-in service, and Field Papers, an online mapping tool, to find the locations for some of the bus stops. Members of the Stamen team also took turns camping out at one of the known Google bus stops on 18th Street in San Francisco. The company even hired bike messengers to follow and track the buses. 

Stamen's research estimated that the buses transport roughly 7,500 tech employees a day, Monday through Friday, and concluded that the unmarked buses ferry a third as many commuters as ride on Caltrain, a commuter train that travels between San Francisco and San Jose. 

Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck told Fowler that he expected the majority of traffic to come from the Mission District, a young, hip neighborhood in San Francisco, and was surprised to see how much traffic came from other parts of the city. 

"That's a conversation about citywide change," he told Fowler. "Is the city a place where valuable work can happen, or is it just a bedroom for Silicon Valley?"

If you live in the Bay Area, you can visit the "Seeking Silicon Valley" exhibit at the Zero1 Biennial in San Jose until December 8. You can also check out more information about the study on Stamen's blog

 

Silicon Valley commuter bus route 

 

Don't miss: Bravo's 'Start-Ups: Silicon Valley' Shows Geeks Just Want To Have Fun, And That's Simply Not Allowed >

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The photographer Tim Greyhavens has documented the modern sites of historic anti-Chinese violence in the United States long ago, challenging his audience to draw the connections from past to present.

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Events celebrating and protesting LGBT rights took place in many parts of the world in the last several months. Pride parades were met with violence or intimidation in Russia, Georgia, and Albania while other places saw wild street parties. Three million people celebrated on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, often considered the biggest Pride event in the world. Activists in Uganda and Chile sought to change laws, while in the United States Barack Obama became the first American president to endorse same-sex marriage. Gathered here are pictures from events related to gay rights issues, LGBT Pride celebrations, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. -- Lane Turner (39 photos total)
Mark Wilson carries a rainbow flag during San Francisco's 42nd annual gay pride parade on June 24, 2012. Organizers said more than 200 floats, vehicles and groups of marchers took part in the parade. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)

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From the late 1930s to 1969, amateur photographer Charles W. Cushman traveled the country documenting American life and landscapes with color photographs. Upon his death in 1972, he bequeathed his collection of 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater, Indiana University, where they remain today. Below are a selection of Cushman’s photos from 1938 [...]

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