Archive for January, 2007

Google has updated imagery for Belgium

AtomiumGoogle has updated imagery for Belgium, France, Portugal, and France to use CNES/Spot Image satellite imagery at 2.5 meter resolution imagery instead of the old Terrametrics/NASA 15 meter resolution base imagery. This means that the low resolution areas are 6X better resolution.

The details from Spot Image:

It covers France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. It is made of imagery from our SPOT5 satellite : 2.5m in resolution. The images are selected from our existing catalog (most recent and cloudfree). They are then combined to make one single uniform image. To cover France, we need roughly 500 SPOT5 images which are of course taken at various date, sunlight, angles, etc…

There are also some new high resolution Digital Globe strips are in Belgium, mainly around Brussels.

And while you’re flying over Brussels, make sure to stop over at the Atomium.

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January 31, 2007 at 11:40 Leave a comment

Wireless power transmission presented at CES

Cut those wires…

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, a couple of high-tech companies presented a demo of wireless power transmission. The technology (inductive charging) is under development for some time already, but now the first commercially available products start to emerge.

One of the presented products is an induction charging pad. It enables you to recharge the batteries of your mobile phone, MP3 player or even a laptop, just by putting the device on the pad. Note: it does require a miniature “receiver”, wich sticks to the battery.

A second development goes literally a step further – by using “sender” and “receiver” antenna’s, it allows devices to charge while beeing a couple of meters apart.

Inductive charging is a way to recharge portable electronics batteries without plugging in any cords. It generally charges too slowly and generates too much heat for portable electronics, though it is common in electric toothbrushes and some wet/dry electric shavers.

An induction coil creates an alternating electromagnetic field across the surface of the base station. The induction coil in the portable device takes power from the field and converts it back into electrical current to charge the battery.

In November 2006, however, researchers at MIT reported that they had discovered an efficient way to transfer power between coils separated by a few meters. The team, led by Marin Soljacic, theorized that they could extend the distance between the coils by adding resonance to the equation.

Source: Wikipedia & BBC

January 29, 2007 at 14:35 Leave a comment

3D morphable model face animation

Mona Lisa in 3D

The Morphable Face Model captures the variations of 3D shape and texture that occur among human faces. It represents each face by a set of model coefficients, and generates new, natural-looking faces from any novel set of coefficients, which is useful in a wide range of applications in computer vision and computer graphics.

The Morphable Face Model is derived from a data set of 3D face models by automatically establishing point-to-point correspondence between the examples, and transforming their shapes and textures into a vector space representation. New faces and expressions can be modeled by forming linear combinations of the prototypes.

In this framework, it is easy to control complex facial attributes, such as gender, attractiveness, body weight, or facial expressions. Attributes are automatically learned from a set of faces rated by the user, and can then be applied to classify and manipulate new faces.

Given a single photograph of a face, we can estimate its 3D shape, its orientation in space and the illumination conditions in the scene. Starting from a rough estimate of size, orientation and illumination, our algorithm optimizes these parameters along with the face’s internal shape and surface colour to find the best match to the input image. The face model extracted from the image can be rotated and manipulated in 3D.

Take a look at an animation on YouTube:

More interesting projects can be found on http://mi.informatik.uni-siegen.de/html/data/morphmod1.pdf

January 25, 2007 at 16:41 Leave a comment

About 60% (more than 1 out of 2) emails is Spam

According to Message Labs’ last results, about 60% of all email traffic can be labelled as “spam.

Note that only 0.1% of all messages are virus infected, meaning that spam mails has become the major problem.

Millions of Euro’s are lost each month, directly and indirectly related to spam mails, not to mention the time people loose weeding

What is spam ?

“Spam involves sending unsolicited commercial messages to many recipients. Unlike legitimate commercial e-mail, spam is sent without the explicit permission of the recipients, and frequently contains various tricks to bypass e-mail filtering.
The most common purpose for spamming is advertising. Goods commonly advertised in spam include pornography, unlicensed computer software, pills such as Viagra, credit card accounts, and fad products. Many of the products advertised are fraudulent in nature, such as quack medications and get-rich-quick schemes. Spam is frequently used to advertise scams, such as diploma mills, advance fee fraud, pyramid schemes, stock pump-and-dump schemes, and phishing.”

More info can be found on Wikipedia

Why is spam expensive ?

Emails are electronic messages transmitted over the internet and stored on mail servers and later-on on local PC’s. Storage is *not* free however, certainly not when you have to process millions of messages (of which 60% is… well.. junk).

Why do people send spam ?

Every month, millions of spam mails are sent. While it seems totally useless to do, the spammers keep on doing so, because:

  1. there is a small percentage of people who actually buy the Viagra, fake Rolexes or diploma’s
    Even with a success-rate of 1% at 5 EUR profit per sale, this is big money if you send millions of spam mails per day

How do they get my email address ?

  • Harvesting
    Most of the email adresses used for spamming are gathered using special software designed to search the internet for email addresses. Think of all the email addresses you see passing by while surfing the web. Imagine you can do this at a rate of 1.000 webpages per minute and that you can write down every single email address: that’s a big pile of “live” email adresses.
  • Spyware
    Special spy- or advertising software is installed on your PC and next to keeping track of your surfing behaviour (they know your hobbies, what car you drive, what company you work for, what bank you deal with, your sexual interest, wether you have kids or not, etc…), they also steal your addressbooks (and your banking details …)
  • Viruses
    More and more viruses are used to send spam. Your PC gets infected without you knowing about it, and then becomes a “spambot“, and will start sending out millions of emails together with other infected PC’s.
    Other viruses steal your addressbooks.
  • Lot’s of companies literally sell your email address. Remember the “customer satisfaction surveys” ? Right. and what do you think they do with all this personal info ? Indeed. “Targetted advertising” or better known as “spam”.

What can I do about it ?

1. Prevent spammers from “harvesting” your email addresses.

  • Don’t react on spam messages or fake “email was undeliverable” messages.
    Most spams use “spoofed” email addresses anyway; hiding the real sender’s address. Replying to it does not make sense, since it would be an inocent victim you’re shouting at…
    Even so, if the email address would be valid, it is as if burglars first call your home phone to check if you’re still at home. Each reply to a spam mail – even when you kindly request to unsubscribe — has the inverse effect: your address is tagged “alive” and you will get even more spam !
  • Don’t just give your email address away.
    Why would you give your email address to strangers ? Do you do the same with your home address or phone number ? Same applies here. If you leave your email addresses in guestbooks, blogs or when you submit it to get “free” stuff on the web, you *will* start receiving spam on it in the near future.
    If you really, really need to supply your email address, mask it so it cannot be “harvested” automatically.
    e.g. Stef[dot]Andries[at]makeitwork[dot]be

2. If you do get spam, get rid of it

  • As stated above do NOT react on it
  • If you still get a lot of spam, one drastic measure would be to discontinue your email address and set-up a new one (and keep this one clean).
  • Easier (and very effective) is to use decent mail clients such as Thunderbird, which has an excellent anti-spam filter built-in.
  • Another tip: use two email addresses: 1 for professional/private use and one for the “less-official” purposes: registration in games,… ; jokes; free stuff ; surveys ; etc…

The bottom line:

Email is only a different medium, but is virtually the same as normal postal mail. Why do people use it differently then ?

Make the analogy with Postal mail:

  • do you reply on advertisement ? No.
  • do you forward funny letters to 50 friends and collegues ? No.
  • do you open envelopes with strange objects in it which you get from someone you don’t know ? No.
  • do you send a Nigerian guy money if you get a nice letter from him ? No.

Beating spam starts with all of us. Right ?

Now, forward this mail to 100 friends or bad luck will happen to you 😉

Related info: http://www.messagelabs.com/StatisticsThreat/StatisticsThreatType=Spam

January 24, 2007 at 11:30 1 comment

Scientists succeeded in storing an entire image into one photon

Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image into a single photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact. While the initial test image consists of only a few hundred pixels, a tremendous amount of information can be stored with the new technique.

The image, a “UR” for the University of Rochester, was made using a single pulse of light and the team can fit as many as a hundred of these pulses at once into a tiny, four-inch cell. Squeezing that much information into so small a space and retrieving it intact opens the door to optical buffering — storing information as light.

“It sort of sounds impossible, but instead of storing just ones and zeros, we’re storing an entire image,” says John Howell, associate professor of physics and leader of the team that created the device, which is revealed in today’s online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. “It’s analogous to the difference between snapping a picture with a single pixel and doing it with a camera–this is like a 6-megapixel camera.”

“You can have a tremendous amount of information in a pulse of light, but normally if you try to buffer it, you can lose much of that information,” says Ryan Camacho, Howell’s graduate student and lead author on the article. “We’re showing it’s possible to pull out an enormous amount of information with an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio even with very low light levels.”

Optical buffering is a particularly hot field right now because engineers are trying to speed up computer processing and network speeds using light, but their systems bog down when they have to convert light signals to electronic signals to store information, even for a short while.

January 22, 2007 at 12:20 Leave a comment


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