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Ministry of Innovation

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We live in a silent century. Though no less powerful than their pre-millennial ancestors, our post-millennial innovations are mostly intangible; even when they do occupy physical space, they but wobble neighboring air particles and scarcely make a sound.

Compiling the "Sounds of the 21st Century" is a steep challenge, therefore, but one that legendary beatboxer Beardyman didn't shy from.

"There's an absence of sound rather than a defining sound," he tells Wired.co.uk. Pay attention to the objects around you—the ones that are truly 21st century make next to no noise when we interact with them. The clatter of keyboards? 20th century. The din of car engines? 20th century. The cacophony of the city? Choose whichever century BC you like.

To create a track that begins to "encapsulate the mood of living in the future," as Beardyman puts it, you have to amplify the silent touches we make to interact with modern society. First and foremost, the tapping of fingers on smartphones. "That's all everyone does these days. That's [partly] the point of the video," he says.

In the song, Beardyman meshes beatboxing, phone-tapping, key-bashing, and other sounds in a glitchy track, which will be performed live on September 2 at the O2 Campus Party Europe opening party.

Beardyman presents "the sounds of the 21st century"

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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: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson

This is the first in a two-part series exploring Butterfly Labs and its lineup of dedicated Bitcoin-mining hardware. In part one, we look at the company and the experiences customers have had with it. In part two, to be published on June 29, we share our experiences running a Bitcoin miner for a couple weeks. Spoiler alert: we made money.

The more I dig into Bitcoin, the stranger it gets. There’s gray-market online gambling and Russian-operated futures markets—to say nothing of the virtual currency’s wild ride over the last several months. It’s full of characters with names like “artforz” and “Tycho,” supposedly two of the largest Bitcoin holders out there. Of course, like most things Bitcoin, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure.

While reporting on a Bitcoin-based gambling story earlier this year, I interviewed Bryan Micon, who works with a Bitcoin-based poker site called Seals With Clubs. (To continue the lack of information, Micon won’t say who owns the site.) Micon has taken it upon himself to investigate what he believes are Bitcoin-related scams—such as the ill-fated Bitcoin Savings and Trust online bank—and he makes public pronouncements about them.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar


Stephen Balaban is a co-founder of Lambda Labs, based in Palo Alto and San Francisco.

Cyrus Farivar

PALO ALTO, CA—Even while sitting in a café on University Avenue, one of Silicon Valley’s best-known commercial districts, it’s hard not to get noticed wearing Google Glass.

For more than an hour, I sat for lunch in late May 2013 with Stephen Balaban as he wore Google's new wearable tech. At least three people came by and gawked at the newfangled device, and Balaban even offered to let one woman try it on for herself—she turned out to be the wife of famed computer science professor Tony Ralston.

Balaban is the 23-year-old co-founder of Lambda Labs. It's a project he hopes will eventually become the “largest wearable computing software company in the world.” In Balaban's eyes, Lambda's recent foray into facial recognition only represents the beginning.

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Cyrus Farivar

On Thursday, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, announced that it would require all users to “be verified in order to perform any currency deposits and withdrawals. Bitcoin deposits do not need verification, and at this time we are not requiring verification for Bitcoin withdrawals.”

The company did not provide any explanation about why it was imposing this new requirement, but it did say that it would be able to process most verifications within 48 hours.

The move comes two days after federal prosecutors went after Liberty Reserve, another online currency that had notoriously poor verification. (In court documents, a federal investigator in that case included an address of “123 Fake Main Street, Completely Made Up City, New York” to create an account that was accepted.) It also comes two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security started investigating Mt. Gox over the possible crime of money transmitting without a license.

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Casey Johnston

Casey Johnston

Aereo, a service that streams over-the-air channels to its subscribers, has now spent more than a year serving residents of New York City. The service officially expands to Boston tomorrow and is coming to many more cities over the next few months, including Atlanta and Washington, DC. Aereo seems like a net-add for consumers, and the opposition has, so far, failed to mount a defense that sticks.

But the simple idea behind Aereo is so brilliant and precariously positioned that it seems like we need to simultaneously enjoy it as hard as we can and not at all. We have to appreciate it for exactly what it is, when it is, and expect nothing more. It seems so good that it cannot last. And tragically, there are more than a few reasons why it may not.

A little about how Aereo works: as a resident of the United States, you have access to a handful of TV channels broadcast over the air that you can watch for free with an antenna (or, two antennas, but we’ll get to that). A subscription to Aereo gets you, literally, your very own tiny antenna offsite in Aereo’s warehouse. The company streams this to you and attaches it to a DVR service, allowing you both live- and time-shifted viewing experiences.

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WIRED UK

Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium

Imagine a future where solar panels speed off the presses like newspaper. Australian scientists have brought us one step closer to that reality.

Researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) developed a printer that can print 10 meters (about 33 feet) of flexible solar cells a minute. Unlike traditional silicon solar cells, printed solar cells are made using organic semi-conducting polymers. These can be dissolved in a solvent and used like an ink, allowing solar cells to be printed.

Not only can the VICOSC machine print flexible A3 solar cells, the machine can print directly on to steel. It opens up the possibility for solar cells to be embedded directly into building materials.

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Original author: 
Megan Geuss

A website built by two programmers, Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, displays recent changes to Wikipedia in real-time on a map of the world. When a new change is saved to the crowd-sourced encyclopedia, the title of the edited article shows up on the map with the editor's location according to his or her IP address.

Not all recent changes are counted, however. Actually, the website only maps the contributions made by unregistered Wikipedia users. When such a user makes an edit, they are identified only by IP address. This is just as well—a similar website called Wikistream logs all changes to Wikipedia (although not in such a graphically-friendly way), and watching the flood of new entries can get overwhelming, fast.

LaPorte and Hashemi said they built their map using the JavaScript library D3, datamaps-world.js, a service for searching the geolocation of IP addresses called freegeoip.net, and Wikimedia's recent changes IRC feed. The two programmers note in their blog that “you may see some users add non-productive or disruptive content to Wikipedia. A survey in 2007 indicated that unregistered users are less likely to make productive edits to the encyclopedia.” Helpfully, when you see a change made to a specific article, you can click on that change to view how the page has been edited (and change it back if it merits more editing).

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WIRED UK

Bryan Mills

A study of the Bitcoin exchange industry has found that 45 percent of exchanges fail, taking their users' money with them. Those that survive are the ones that handle the most traffic—but they are also the exchanges that suffer the greatest number of cyber attacks.

Computer scientists Tyler Moore (from the Southern Methodist University, Dallas) and Nicolas Christin (of Carnegie Mellon University) found 40 exchanges on the Web that offered a service changing bitcoins into other fiat currencies or back again. Of those 40, 18 have gone out of business—13 closing without warning, and five closing after suffering security breaches that forced them to close. Four other exchanges have suffered serious attacks but remain open.

One of those is Mt Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange, with Moore and Christin stating that at its peak it handles more than 40,000 Bitcoin transactions a day, compared to a mean average of 1,716. It has been the victim of a huge number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks over the past month during the peak of the Bitcoin bubble (and its subsequent bursting—though the price now appears to be rising again). Its latest statement, dealing with the attack it suffered on April 21, is long and comprehensive, seeking to assuage the fears of Bitcoin users who feel that Mt. Gox is becoming a weak chain in Bitcoin's infrastructure.

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