Friday, February 20, 2009

Anonymous Caller? New Service Says, Not Any More

By Kevin Poulsen


A new service set for launch Tuesday allows cellphone users to unmask the Caller ID on blocked incoming calls, obtaining the phone number, and in some cases the name and address, of the no-longer-anonymous caller.

The service, called TrapCall, is offered by New Jersey's TelTech systems, the company behind the controversial SpoofCard Caller ID spoofing service. The new service is likely to be even more controversial — and popular.

"What’s really interesting is that they’ve totally taken the privacy out of Caller ID," says former hacker Kevin Mitnick, who alpha-tested the service.

TrapCall's basic unmasking service is free, and includes the option of blacklisting unwanted callers by phone number. It also allows you to listen to your voicemail over the web. It's currently available to AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers, with support for the other major carriers due within weeks, says TelTech president Meir Cohen.

Logobeta "It’s not meant for spies, it’s not meant for geeks, it’s not meant for any specific target audience,” Cohen says. "Everybody hates getting blocked calls, and in this day and age they want to know who’s calling, and they want the option of taking the call or not."

Consumers have had the option of shielding their number from display since Caller ID was introduced in the early 1990s, either by dialing *-6-7 before placing a call, or asking their carrier for blanket anonymity for their line. But TrapCall takes advantage of a loophole in Caller ID blocking that’s long benefited corporate phone customers: Namely, calls to toll-free numbers are not blocked, because those calls are paid for by the recipient.

TrapCall instructs new customers to reprogram their cellphones to send all rejected, missed and unanswered calls to TrapCall’s own toll-free number. If the user sees an incoming call with Caller ID blocked, he just presses the button on the phone that would normally send it to voicemail. The call invisibly loops through TelTech’s system, then back to the user’s phone, this time with the caller’s number displayed as the Caller ID.

The caller hears only ringing during this rerouting, which took about six seconds in's test with an iPhone on AT&T. Rejecting the call a second time, or failing to answer it, sends it to the user’s standard voicemail.

Step1The service comes as bad news to advocates for domestic violence victims, who fought hard to make free blocking an option in the early days of Caller ID. "I have huge concerns about that,” says Cindy Southworth, director of technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in Washington, D.C. Southworth fears that abusers will use the new service to locate partners fleeing a violent relationship.

In a notable case in 1995, a Texas man named Kevin Roberson shot his ex-girlfriend to death after locating her through the Caller ID device on her roommate's phone line.

The problem is serious, because domestic violence victims who've fled an abusive relationship often have to stay in contact with their abuser by phone, particularly in situations where the former couple share custody of their children,” Southworth says.

"The judge will require that the victim contact the offender to discuss where they’re dropping the children off, for example," says Southworth. "And there’s often court-mandated phone contact between the abusive partner and the victim." In those cases the victims often rely on Caller ID blocking to keep their former partner from knowing where they’re living.

Cohen dismisses that concern, arguing that Caller ID blocking was never secure to begin with. "It’s very simple for somebody to forward a phone to an 800 number in their office, and right there, they’re picking up the phone number of the person who is calling," he says. At least now the false illusion of Caller ID privacy will be dispelled by TrapCall, he adds.

Step3In addition to the free service, branded Fly Trap, a $10-per-month upgrade called Mouse Trap provides human-created transcripts of voicemail messages, and in some cases uses text messaging to send you the name of the caller — information not normally available to wireless customers. Mouse Trap will also send you text messages with the numbers of people who call while your phone was powered off, even if they don’t leave a message.

With the $25-a-month Bear Trap upgrade, you can also automatically record your incoming calls, and get text messages with the billing name and street address of some of your callers, which TelTech says is derived from commercial databases.

TelTech is no stranger to controversy. Its Spoofcard product lets customers send any phone number they want as their Caller ID. Among other things, the spoofing service has been used by thieves to activate stolen credit cards, by hackers to access celebrities’ voicemail boxes, and by telephone hoaxsters to stage a dangerous prank called "swatting," in which they spoof an enemy’s phone number while calling the police with a fake hostage situation. The goal of swatting — realized in hundreds of cases around the country — is to send armed cops bursting into the victim's home.

Cohen’s company has cooperated in law enforcement investigations of Spoofcard abuse, which have led to several prosecutions and convictions. Despite the spoofing-linked crimes, he insists that most Spoofcard users are just privacy-conscious consumers, including celebrities, government officials, private investigators and even spousal abuse victims and shelters.

He also expects his new business will be good for his old one.

“The only way to block your number after this is released is to use Spoofcard,” he says with a laugh.

Original here

Wikileaks Forced to Leak Its Own Secret Info -- Update

By Ryan Singel


What's Wikileaks, the net's foremost document leaking site, supposed to do when a whistle-blower submits a list of email addresses belonging to the site's confidential donors as a leaked document?

That's exactly the conundrum Wikileaks faced this week after someone from the controversial whistle-blowing site sent an emergency fund-raising appeal on Saturday to previous donors. But instead of hiding email addresses from the recipients by using the bcc field, the sender put 58 addresses into the cc field, revealing all the addresses to all the recipients.

Someone then submitted the email as a leaked document, writing "WikiLeaks leaks it's own donors, aww irony. BCC next time kthx."

Wikileaks, which has been criticized for lacking discretion in deciding whether to release documents or not, published the email and the donors' email addresses on Wednesday. The entry noted that the email was submitted "possibly to test the project's principles of complete impartiality when dealing with whistleblowers."

One notable email address belongs to convicted former hacker Adrian Lamo, who now runs his own security company. In a Twitter post on Saturday, Lamo noted the screw-up, writing "Thanks WikiLeaks, for leaking your donor list.[...] That's dedication." See more in his comment to this story.

Earlier this month, Wikileaks scored another leaking coup, publishing hundreds of thousands of pages of copyright-free but rarely seen Congressional Research Service reports. Congress members and their staff rely on those reports to craft laws and policy, but the reports are rarely made public. The site also just recently published an unseen NATO civilian casualty 2008 report for Afghanistan, showing the country's civilians casualties jumped 46% last year.

Wikileaks says that no one leaking documents to the site has ever been identified, but the site's amateur slip-up isn't likely to be soothing to those who have or are thinking about slipping docs to the fearless site.

In the comments, Jay Lim of Wikileaks says whistle-blowers need not worry.

"[W]hile definitely not good form, the mistake was a missed shortcut made by one of our admin people and is not related to the efforts or systems involved in source protection," Lim wrote.

Update: This post was updated Thursday morning to note Lamo's tweet and update the post with information from the comments.

Original here

Editorial: Ten reasons why Windows Mobile 6.5 misses the mark

by Joshua Topolsky

The talk this week at Mobile World Congress has been largely positive about Microsoft's latest iteration of its smartphone UI, Windows Mobile 6.5. Still, some of us at Engadget (well, one of us, at least), feel like the folks in Redmond missed the mark by a longshot. Instead of demonstrating its technical prowess and vast resources, Microsoft limped out a half-hearted rehash of an OS we've seen all too much of, and managed to blind most onlookers with a storm of big time partnerships and bloated PR. While their major competitors (and even some allies) in the mobile space seem bent on changing ideas about how we interact with our portable devices, the company proved once again that it's content to rest on its laurels and learn little from its mistakes.

To give you another side of the story -- a side which I think Microsoft has done an immaculate job of hiding this week -- here's ten reasons why Windows Mobile 6.5 disappoints.

1: It's exactly the same as Windows Mobile 6... er, 5.

That's right -- there are no underlying changes to the core system here at all (Windows CE 5). Sure, there are a few cosmetic tweaks and couple of new pieces of functionality, but underneath what amounts to a new skin, this is essentially the same Windows Mobile you've come to know and... well, you've come to know it, right? Just imagine if Palm gave Palm OS a new paint job and told you it was a new version. Sort of the same idea.

2: The interface improvements are still way behind the curve.

At a distant glance some of those updates seem pretty neat, but get up close to them. The swiping and scrolling gestures are awkward (as noted by Chris Ziegler in his hands-on), in fact, they seem to work almost opposite of what is truly intuitive and "finger friendly." The honeycomb menu is a glorified grid, a sign that Microsoft has gone out of its way to avoid a grid -- but they fail to see (or don't care) that regular grids make a lot of sense. They essentially fixed something that wasn't broken. In our video, the rep says you can tell you're at the top of the honeycomb because there's an "empty space at the top." Intuitive, no? Besides that, the big menus may be easier on the eyes, but they're just zoomed in versions of previous iterations... you're still jumping through multiple levels to get where you need to go. Microsoft touts touch in the new version, but things like the corner buttons aren't optimized for fingers at all. I was going to give Redmond points for the unlocking scheme (which lets you jump right to a specific app), but they've already been beaten there by... the Meizu M8!

3: The UI tweaks are mostly just skin deep, and third-parties have already gone way deeper.

Why didn't Microsoft just buy the UI from SPB? Look at the most recent version of SPB Mobile Shell running on a Touch Diamond.

Not only does it include truly interesting and innovative features like Facebook integration and multiple homescreen support, but it blows the doors off of 6.5 in terms of speed... and it's running on previous generation hardware. 6.5 seems to have serious trouble doing basic things like scrolling through the honeycomb menu (on the newest HTC device), while Mobile Shell introduces an almost Tegra-like 3D interface on an older phone. Where were these guys when Microsoft was reskinning? If the company had introduced this UI at MWC, we're pretty sure people would have lost their minds completely. Adding insult to injury, there are still plenty of areas in the UI that are just as dated and janky as they were in 6 and 5. Just take a look at those My Phone screens or the calendar view.

Beyond that, companies like HTC and LG who've spent a lot of time and money developing their own skins for Windows Mobile may not be so quick to part with their work -- especially when it seems markedly better. Don't be surprised if Microsoft's tweaks get left on the cutting room floor with some of the higher end devices.

4: It doesn't support capacitive touchscreens.

6.5 supports resistive touchscreens. In fact, it only officially supports resistive touchscreens. Resistive touchscreens are less accurate and more frustrating to use with full touchscreen devices, and most of the new Windows Mobile devices are built around full touchscreen navigation! It's truly a mystery as to why Microsoft refuses to implement a superior technology. We did see it installed on a TI device with a capacitive screen, but it's clear that there's no effort to make this play nice with these displays (the rep in the video seems to suggest that Microsoft didn't lend a hand here). At any rate, if the scores of inaccurate, jumpy demos we've seen are any indication, using 6.5 -- no matter how "finger friendly" they tell you it will be -- is going to be a royal pain on resistive screens without a stylus. And you know how we feel about styli.

5: It's not due out until "later this year."

Word on the street in Barcelona is that Microsoft won't be releasing 6.5 until not just "later this year," but the end of the year (Q4 2009), which means what might seem interesting and exciting now is likely going to get real stale by the time you can actually put this on your device. And that brings me to my next point...

6: You probably can't upgrade your phone.

Guess what? If you want to use 6.5 on your device... well, you're probably going to have to buy a new device. According to Microsoft, no device older than what was launched this week at MWC will be eligible for an upgrade. That's right, not your new Touch Pro, Touch Diamond, Xperia X1, Shadow, or Treo Pro (assuming you can find one anyway). Furthermore, the company is saying that no phone without a Start flag hardware button will be eligible for 6.5, so you might want to put those TG01 plans on hold for a moment (even though Toshiba claims it will be running 6.5... maybe they're going rogue).

7: No Zune integration. Not even a new Windows Media Player.

C'mon Microsoft. You're gonna boost a variation of the Zune interface for your mainscreen navigation, but you're not introducing some actual integration with your Zune service? Oh, and you're just leaving that busted old WMP on there, old skin and all? If that doesn't say 50 percent effort here, nothing does.

8: Where's the keyboard?

This year, there are a lot of keyboard-less devices hitting the market. With phones like the Touch Diamond2, Garmin M20, and the LG GM730 all headed into user's hands, anything less than a "best in class" on-screen keyboard would be a tragedy. The only 6.5 device we've seen demoed that wasn't using a third-party keyboard was TI's OMAP dev unit... and it was sporting the tiny, frustrating standard WM 6 pop-up keyboard. Not exactly heartening stuff.

9: The browser is still weak.

There's no question that Microsoft has gone to great lengths to improve mobile IE, but it's still not where it should be. Scrolling and zoom smoothness is still way off for a browser of this class, and some of the navigation (like controlling that zoom) is clunky at best. There's a reason companies like HTC are tacking Opera Mobile onto their devices, and we're not sure that this will do anything to alleviate the issues.

10: It doesn't innovate in any way.

More than anything else, however, the main reason I'm disappointed with the new Windows Mobile doesn't have to do with features, lack of features, or UI design. It has to do with what 6.5 shows of Microsoft. Instead of stepping up to the plate and trying to do anything daring, new, or even remotely innovative, the company has shrunk from taking chances and delivered a new phone OS that's not simply more of the same, but more of the same dressed up to look like something new. While scores of their competition in the mobile space are working new angles to improve the user experience and change attitudes about what mobile devices can do, Microsoft has taken a bare minimum approach, likely satisfied that a new coat of paint and some minor flash will keep consumers coming back for more.

Unfortunately for the company, they may find reactions from even their base might not be what they're expecting. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that new ideas are just as -- if not more -- important than sheer market presence. Brute force may get the job done for a short time, but failure to innovate has repercussions... just ask the auto industry.

Original here

From Vista to Linux (It was a lot easier than I thought)

Like many I had been looking for a way to get my office computer off of Windows for some time. I had played around with various Linux distros and even Mac for about 5 years, but I always had some excuse as to why I couldn’t just make the switch. Usually this amounted to “but what would I do without [insert app here].” For the most part I use my computers for web development as well as a little software development as well as networking with friends and colleagues. I don’t play games and I don’t have to work with many proprietary applications so the idea that I couldn’t replace the apps I use with those available on Linux was a little less founded.

Well, last week I decided enough was enough. I was tired of the 7 and a 1/2 minute boot-up. I was tired of the random waiting after clicking on anything in nearly any program. I was generally tired of all the little nuances we take for granted in Windows. It was time to switch.

For the switch I picked Ubuntu 8.10. Why? Well there are a few reasons. First, it has one of the largest package repositories available. Although I don’t mind compiling and installing apps, the idea that they are there waiting for me does make things a little easier. Second, although I don’t often pay for commercial support I am a big believer in that a strong base of free support such as forums, blogs, etc is a necessity. In this area Ubuntu really seems to outshine the competition. Nearly every search I’ve had to do to answer a Linux question has presented the answer based on Ubuntu (Fedora was a close second, but just not quite there). Finally, I like Gnome. Say what you want about KDE, Gnome, etc but Gnome for me has always been stable in all the distrobutions I’ve worked with. On top of that, although KDE has matured with 4.2 there just seems to be too many bugs and other problems to make it worth it.

So what about the app issue? How did I manage to replace Microsoft Office, Adobe Web Suite, and all the other apps I use with Windows? Well here’s the breakdown:

For Office I chose Openoffice and I’ve been highly impressed. I had used the App back in the 1.0 line and it left a lot to be desired. With the advent of 3.0 however it seems to have come of age in both features and stability. I’ve been able to completely replace MS Office without looking back.

For Dreamweaver I’ve migrated to Aptana. For those who like the WYSIWYG features of Dreamweaver this won’t be an option, however as I hand code everything myself and haven’t use Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG since DW 3 or earlier I didn’t lose anything. In fact, I’ve gained quite a bit in code support and the ability to integrate my projects with other applications such as Eclipse (which I’ve used for some time on Win/Mac).

Photoshop has been a little trickier. For the most part I’ve been able to do everything I did in Photoshop using Gimp and Inkscape. However I still can’t do all the little details I had perfected in Photoshop over the years and I admit that I have kept Photoshop installed on my Mac. Over time I’m sure I’ll be able to get rid of this as well, however for now I still use it for about 20% of the graphics I need to do.

For web browsers I’ve finally given up my IE and Safari and migrated to Firefox. This was another app which in the past hadn’t quite evolved to where I needed it. However with 3.0 I’ve found it to be the most versatile browser I’ve used especially when combined with all the add-ons available.

For development I’ve been using FTP and testing remotely for years, but with dropping Dreamweaver I just haven’t found the same ease of integration that Dreamweaver has with their FTP features. Instead I’ve replaced it with something better. Namely, I’ve migrated my projects to Subversion repositories using SmartSVN as a client and I test locally with XAMPP. This setup has even managed to work on some of my servers in that I can use an SVN update to push the latest version of the files out to the server without having to deal with FTP or any other technologies (although I do keep Filezilla on all my systems just in case).

As for keeping my files in sync between all my computers I’ve gone from Sugarsync on Mac and Windows to Dropbox. For the most part its a flawless solution however Dropbox does have one downside in that you cannot choose individual folders to sync on each machine. It isn’t something I can’t live without but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss Sugarsync for that one feature.

Lastly there have been a few things that I just have to have Windows for. Namely there is an app known as Talon we use at work which is specifically designed to only run on Windows/IE (don’t get me started on that topic). For this I’ve gone with Virtualbox and loaded a copy of Windows XP in a virtual machine. Considering I only have to look in Talon for a few minutes once every few days this has been a fine solution. Using the Virtual Machine also gives me the added ability of testing websites on Window’s browsers so in the end it definitely is a worth-while setup.

All in all I couldn’t be happier with my switch. On top of having a much faster, more stable system I have found that using Open Source apps has been a great benefit over the multiple computers I use (so I’m a little behind on that one, what can I say). At this point I’ve managed to integrate all the new apps I’ve found with Linux into my other Windows and Mac machines. The only exception has been Photoshop which I have left on my Mac for the few tasks I still can’t figure out in the Gimp.

Original here

Jack Dorsey on the Twitter ecosystem, journalism and how to reduce reply spam. Part II

Jack Dorsey of Twitter
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. (Credit: Joi Ito via Flickr)

On Wednesday we posted the first half of an interview with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (@jack), in which he talked about the conceptual roots of the site. This is the second half of that talk. Here Dorsey speaks more about Twitter's contours as a communications medium, its evolution and how its strong suit -- so far, at least -- is in exposing the present moment, rather than the past.

In the first part of the interview you talked a lot about how both the inspiration and architecture of Twitter came largely from the mobile world. But it seems like more and more people are using it from static locations -- laptops and desktops -- where all the Web's info and tool sets are much more accessible.

The Web provides a very easy way to immediately grasp what's going on. It really offers the transparency, so you can see, especially with the search engine, how people are using Twitter at one glance. The phone doesn't allow for that.

A lot of different [geographic] markets are using SMS [text messaging] more than here in the U.S. I think what we're seeing here with SMS is that people are still getting more comfortable with it. It's relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Europe has had it and been comfortable with it for over 10 years, and we just got comfortable in 2006. There's still some maturity in terms of using mobile technology in the American culture and what that means.

But the mobile aspect of the service is really engaging, and you see that a lot in these "massively shared experiences" that we've done well at: natural disasters, man-made disasters, events, conferences, presidential elections. A lot of these people are not sitting in front of a laptop screen -- they're typing from their phone. We feel that even though we started with that, and it lessened a bit in relative proportion, it'll continue to increase.

Do people use the service differently depending on whether they're mobile or fixed?

Yes, that's one of the things about Twitter, is that the experience degrades gracefully. When you're out mobilely and you're probably at a party or you're traveling, etc., you're sharing that experience. When you're in front of a computer, you have a little more time to compose yourself. You may have more thoughtfulness in your message, you may have more reflection. It's a little bit less off-the-cuff. And maybe a little bit slower as well, but at the same time, in terms of consumption of the information, you can just take in huge amounts of information in a very rich way in a short time.

So I think it really depends on what you're asking -- if it's production of the content or the consumption. But I absolutely feel that Twitter scales to every end of that spectrum.

How do you think of Twitter? Is it a service, a medium, a piece of software, what?

I feel that it's something new. I think it's a new way to communicate. It has a new take on the address book. It's a new way to interact with people. And at the same time, it does a very good job of exposing what's happening in the world right now: You can see what's ...

... trending globally, you can limit that locally and figure out what's trending within a five-mile radius of you, or you can use it socially and figure out what's trending within your own social network. That's where the newness is. I just haven't seen anything like that before.

When I think of Twitter, I think of -- it's really hard to define because we're still coming up with the vocabulary -- but I think it's defined a new behavior that's very different than what we've seen before. So yeah: new medium.

What's been one of the most surprising steps in Twitter's evolution for you?

Well, we really haven't changed the application or feature set in over two years. It's pretty much maintained the original vision since Day One. And that really adds a lot of weight to the concept and how much desire there is for communication of this sort.

Back in the day we thought, well, if we get to this many users or this level of relevancy in the mainstream, we're going to have to add a bunch of features, and make this or that group of people happy... but that really hasn't come to pass. The only substantial thing we've added to the service is search. Which is huge, but it doesn't change the fundamental aspect of what Twitter is. Search does a great job of exposing what's going on, but it's not changing the interaction dramatically, it's just making it much, much easier.

So the ability to have a service that really hasn't changed and is still growing by leaps and bounds is astonishing to me because it's like, wow, a simple concept like that -- the essence of some communication pulled out from other mediums -- really has wings on its own.

But even if the service itself isn't evolving, the community and ecosystem around it is growing.

And that's the trick. The concept is so simple and so open-ended that people can make of it whatever they wish. They seek value and they add value. I've always said that Twitter is whatever you make of it. Because the first complaint we hear from everyone is: Why would I want to join this stupid useless thing and know what my brother's eating for lunch? But that really misses the point because Twitter is fundamentally recipient-controlled -- you choose to listen and you choose to leave. But you also choose what to put down and what to share. So if you decide to hook your plants up to Twitter and have it report when it needs to be watered, then that's a valid usage, or if you just decide to report what you're eating for lunch, that's a valid usage too.

How do you feel about the role Twitter is playing in news gathering and news creating?

Suddenly you have all these people on the street roaming about, and they're able to report on everything they see. So a certain mass of them can report on the earthquake they just felt, and another mass reports on what they felt about the Obama inauguration, and another group on the homeless issues in San Francisco. You've got a further richness to add to a typical journalistic process.

And when you have a mass of people updating about a particular thing, you're exposing a trend: This is happening right now in this location or on this topic. It gives you an immediacy and relevancy for what people are talking about right now.

Some people follow thousands or tens of thousands of people. What's the use of that? Doesn't it undercut half of the point of the service, which is to get a coherent stream of incoming information?

I don't know how people do it. I personally can't do it. I don't follow people in the traditional way. There are a few people whose messages I get delivered in real time via SMS. So those people are very close to me, or I'm around them. Like when I'm visiting New York, I turn on my New York friends just because I'm more interested in their particular interruptions. And then I follow like 300 people on the Web.

But I don't go back in time. You're kind of as good as your last update. That's what you're currently thinking or doing, or your current approach towards life. If that really interests me, I go to that person's profile page and read back a little bit. But in terms of my timeline, I'm just not obsessive about going all the way back in time and catching every single message that people have updated about. It's only relevant in the now, unless I'm fascinated by it.

I imagine that people follow a lot of people just to get a sense of, like, I've got a full room here, and I've got a lot of people that are giving wildly different opinions and updates -- I'll try them out for a time and if I don't like what they say next, I can very easily leave them. But like any other technology, we figure out what our relationship is to it. Some people want to go big right away and filter out, some people want to stay small and add people as they find them. And some people are constantly editing the balance between both. It's just important that the technology allows for all of those approaches.

Is there any idea of splitting or filtering the stream so you won't get so much '@reply traffic' -- where you can see the people you're following replying individually to their followers?

There's actually a setting. If you go to your settings page and you say, show me @replies ["at replies"] only from those I'm following. So if my co-founder Biz [Stone] replies to his friend Joe, if I set that setting I won't see that reply, I'll just see Biz's reply to anyone I'm following.

So it's kind of an unknown feature but we do have it in there, and I definitely keep it on because it's just way too much information. I don't need to see all these diverse conversations happening all over the Internet. I only care about those people that are conversing together that I know. So when Biz is replying to @ev[an Williams], then I'll see Biz's @reply.

Got it. Thanks for the tech support.


-- David Sarno [follow]

Original here

Robot helps stroke victims to grasp objects

By Daily Mail Reporter

A hand-holding robot can help partially-paralysed stroke patients regain their ability to grasp and pick up objects, according to a new study.

The therapy uses a computer-driven robot, which has a metal 'hand' that wraps around and opens and closes the patient's fingers.

The technology was found to help significantly reduce a patient's disability long after a stroke had occurred.

The robot guides the partially-paralysed hand to open and close, helping the patient to re-learn how to grip objects

Scientists in the US studied 15 patients with an average age of 61 who had suffered partial paralysis on the right side of the body. They had suffered strokes up to 10 years before starting the treatment.

Seven patients were assigned to a 'motor therapy' technique consisting of computer-aided grasping and releasing, alternating with rest.

Eight others received a more complex variation known as 'premotor therapy'.

This involved grasping, releasing and resting in response to visual cues, and required the engagement of a higher area of the brain called the premotor cortex.

Recovery was tested by a standard scoring system for motor performance called the Fugl-Meyer scale, and the Action Arm Research Arm Test which measures tasks such as grasping an object, gripping drinking glass, or pinching to pick up a small marble.

Another test called Box-and-Blocks assessed dexterity by asking patients to move blocks from one side of a box to another.

A month after two weeks of therapy the Fugl-Meyer and Action Research Arm tests, but not the Box-and-Block test, revealed significant improvements.

Both forms of therapy produced similar gains, but six patients who had less disability at the start of the trial benefited more from the 'premotor' technique.

The findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego, California.

Study leader Dr Steven Cramer, from the University of California at Irvine, said: 'Robotic therapy may be useful in its own right, but it could also help rewire, or reshape, the brain in conjunction with other stroke therapies.

'One of the key points in the current study is that the way we use robots to help people recover function might differ according to how severe their stroke was.'

Original here

How-To: Use Your iPhone as a Wireless Laptop Modem

Mike Keller

I travel a lot. And if you’re a geek like me, you can’t go a full day sans internet access without experiencing some severe withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, my iPhone, with all its WiFi and 3G goodness, has been instrumental in feeding my addiction while on the road. But though Apple’s smartphone provides the best mobile browsing experience out there, the small screen and touch controls still don’t compare to the pixel real estate and tactile qwerty speed of a laptop. Not to mention such luxuries as Flash compatibility, page caching, and tabbed browsing.

So the next time you’re stranded without an open WiFi network (but your 3G signal is going strong), you’ll be glad you installed Addition’s iPhoneModem 2 (free to try, full license is $9.99). Unfortunately, Apple has apparently deemed the app to be in conflict with its App Store Terms and Conditions, so it is only available for jailbroken phones via Cydia. Here’s a quick guide:

1) Jailbreak your iPhone.
Download and install QuickPwn, an easy-to-use jailbreaking application for Windows and Mac (the latest version works with iPhone OS 2.2.1). Run the software and follow the onscreen instruction very carefully!

2) Install iPhoneModem by Addition.
QuickPwn installs an app on your phone called Cydia, which is essentially the App Store for apps that were rejected from the official App Store (or, for whatever reason, the developer chose not to release through Apple). Run Cydia, search for iPhoneModem by Addition and install it. Keep in mind you can only delete Cydia installed apps via Cydia’s Manage-Sources function. Now download and install the helper app on your laptop and you’re almost ready to go.

3)Set up the network.
Run the helper app and hit Connect. The helper app sets up an ad hoc wireless network that can be accessed via iPhone. The default network it creates is called “iPhoneModem” and does not have a password (you can change this in the Preferences of the helper app). Now open up your iPhone’s Settings and tap WiFi. Make sure WiFi is turned on and select the network “iPhoneModem” (or whatever you called it). Type the password if you assigned one. Open up the Modem iPhone app and everything else will configure automatically. After a few moments the helper app and the iPhone app will confirm that a connection has been established and you can browse away with all the comforts of your laptop!

While 3G seems plenty fast on a phone, it feels a little slow on a laptop. Also, most major web browsers work but not all are supported. In addition, a lot of other internet applications aren’t supported, but for all intents and purposes, you should be able to browse just fine.

*Note: If you haven’t already discovered, jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a world of possibilities, including themes and apps that aren’t allowed in the App Store. While it technically voids the warranty, you can easily return your device to its original state with the “Restore” feature in iTunes, wiping all traces of the jailbreak hack.

Original here

iPhone forensics expert creates AMBER Alert app for iPhone

By Chris Foresman

Well-known iPhone developer and hacker Jonathan Zdziarksy is hoping to revolutionize how people receive alerts about missing children and how information about sightings is reported to law enforcement agencies with his new AMBER Alert iPhone app.

Zdziarski often assists law enforcement agencies—at no cost—in forensic examinations of iPhones or iPod touches for a variety of cases. "Unfortunately, a large percentage of these cases involve crimes against children, which can start eating at your soul after a while," Zdziarsky told Ars. He wanted to do something about it, "which is how the idea for a GPS-based AMBER Alert system came to mind," he said.

"I decided to approach the AMBER Alert folks about it, and they liked it," said Zdziarski. "So over the weekend, I worked with one of their engineers to put it together. It went from idea to finished product in about 24 hours."

The app lists all current, active AMBER alerts with a small photo of the victim. Clicking one of the alerts brings up detailed information about the abduction, including physical description, last known whereabouts, and details and photos of suspects (if any). A "Report Sighting" button allows you to report a sighting of a victim or suspects along with your current GPS coordinates. This information is analyzed for accuracy and forwarded to the investigating state patrol agency that issued the AMBER alert.

"The iPhone is ideal for not only disseminating [the alert] information, but also for its GPS, which can allow us to aggregate multiple sightings together to assess credibility and to also build better reporting logic to the state police conducting these investigations," according to Zdziarksi.

In addition to the AMBER Alert app, which wil be available for free pending approval from the App Store, Zdziarksi is offering free code to any developer who wishes to incorporate an AMBER Alert system into their own apps. "We'd like to get as many AppStore developers to work this into their software," he told Ars. The code periodically checks the AMBER Alert system for updates in the background. "We provide a view controller and a status manager which can be used to easily flash an icon or pop up a dialogue box," in the event an AMBER alert is issued while an app is running. "Hopefully, some news apps will pick it up," he said.

Anyone can also sign up at to receive email or SMS alerts forwarded to an iPhone, and then use the AMBER Alert app to get more details or report a sighting. Zdziarski told Ars he is hoping to be able to port the software to work with similar alert systems in other countries.

Original here

Apple absent from universal phone charger push

By Zach Spear

Although AT&T and several other iPhone partners joined an industry initiative to standardize mobile phone chargers over the next few years, Apple has yet to follow suit and may remain committed to its proprietary dock-connector interface .

The GSMA and 17 mobile operators plan to develop a universal charging solution that would appear by January 1, 2012. Micro-USB will be the common charging interface.

The group includes AT&T, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, and Vodafone. According to the GSMA, which represents the interests of GSM operators, the change would make things simpler for the consumer, who could use the same charger with all future phones and charge anywhere with any available unit.

The chargers will boast a 4-star or higher efficiency rating in order to be three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger and consume 50% less stand-by energy. The GSMA estimates greenhouse gas reduction by 13.6 to 21.8 million metric tons as the replacement rate for existing chargers decreases.

Noticeably absent from the list of supporters is Apple. Its ubiquitous dock connector was introduced on the third-generation iPod in 2003 and has appeared on every iPod and iPhone since. By the time of the 2012 deadline, the dock connector will have been around for almost a decade.

In a possible nod to the iPhone's exemption, the GSMA targets only "majority" adoption by 2012. The BBC notes that the move may be a response to pressure from the European Commission, which has observed more than 30 different kinds of chargers in use across the European Union.

Original here