Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Zesting Up a Presentation With a Creative Touch… For Free!

By Micah Kelly

Have you ever had a presentation that needed a little something to push it over the edge? Have you ever wanted to put more of your creative side into a tangible, easy to understand format? Well, in this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create simple, polygonal motion graphics to convey information to an audience.

Blender is one of the most flexible open source programs out there, and is readily available for download here:

An example of the final product can be found here:

Setting Up

First, open Blender

Press the A hotkey to select everything, then press the X hotkey to delete everything in the default scene
Press NUM7 to go to the top view, then NUM5 to make sure that you’re in orthographic view, meaning that there’s no perspective.
Press the SHIFT+A command, then create a new camera. A camera will appear on the cursor. Make sure that the cursor is centered at the scene origin by using the SHIFT+C hotkey.
Snap to the side view by pressing the NUM3 hotkey, then move the camera along the Z axis by pressing the G hotkey to move the camera, then press the Z hotkey whilst moving the camera to snap it to the Z axis. It won’t matter how far the camera is from the origin, since it will be orthographic.
Let’s change the camera to orthographic, to do this, go to the camera options tab, then click the orthographic icon in the LENS dropdown menu. The camera is now void of perspective.
Objects and Materials

To create a new 2D object, press the SHIFT+A command, then create a new plane.
Go into edit mode, then select 3 of the vertices by holding SHIFT and right-clicking. Press the X hotkey, then delete VERTICES.
Now, we have a single vertex point. To create a shape, select the vertices, then begin extruding it into the outline of your shape. To extrude, press the E hotkey while a vertex is selected, then move your mouse, then left-click to complete the action.
To close the shape, SHIFT select the start and end vertices, then use the F hotkey. A new edge has now been created. I’ve made a potato.
To make the outline into a solid face, use the A hotkey to select all vertices, then press the F hotkey to create a face. After a new face has been created, press CTRL+T to triangulate the face into a form that Blender can understand easier.
Sometimes the mesh’s normals are flipped. This will make their lighting look abnormal. The faces will look darker than usual. To fix this, select the affected faces, press SPACE, then search for FLIP NORMALS. Click the action in the search results, then the problem should be solved.

To add a material, first switch the viewtype to material.
Go to the materials tab, then in the shading menu, click SHADELESS.
Go into edit mode for your desired model, select the all vertices, then after choosing a color, click ASSIGN. The model has now been applied with a material

Creating text in Blender is very simple. First use the SHIFT+A hotkey, then create TEXT.
Going into edit mode allows you to edit the text by typing.
The text can then be textured using the same method as the objects before.

The animation aspect is also very simple.

First press NUM0 to snap to the camera view, we’ll animate from here.
Select the desired object in object mode, then move the bar on the timeline to where the movement will start.

Create a keyframe by pressing the I hotkey, then click the LocRotScale option.
Move the bar on the timeline to where the movement will end, then make another keyframe. The object should move between the keyframes in that space of time.
Keyframes can be easily edited on the DOPE SHEET. Keyframes can be scaled around the timeline bar with S, or moved with G.

You have now created a simple 2D animation in Blender, that can be used for presentations, instructional videos, cartoons, or anything else your heart desires!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

easy use chopsticks

By Ben Titus

If you like Chinese food but you can't use chopsticks, you will find this tutorial useful.

Use Google SketchUp to design and print your own chopsticks.

Lost in Translation

by Hanwen Liang

In 10 years, Google Translate has gone from supporting just a few languages to 103, connecting strangers, reaching across language barriers and even helping people find love.

Google Translate is a free translation service that provides instant translations between 103 different languages. It can translate words, sentences, and web pages between any combination of our supported languages. It was launched on April 28, 2006.

Now, with Google Translate, You can speak, snap, write or type words or sentences you want to translate to talk to someone with a different language. It can also operate on other websites or applications. It can even run offline.
Google Translate also could translate idioms, sayings, book/movie titles by its more common translation rather than translate it word-for-word like a few years ago. It could also translate sentences without major grammatical issues.
With the advancement in Artificial Intelligence, translation software also evolves.
Modeled after the way neurons connect in the human brain, deep neural networks are the same breed of AI technology that identifies commands spoken into Android phones and recognizes people in photos posted to Facebook, and the promise is that it will reinvent machine translation in much the same way. Google says that with certain languages, its new system—dubbed Google Neural Machine Translation, or GNMT—reduces errors by 60 percent.
Companies like Google are racing towards the same future—working not just to improve machine translation, but to build AI systems that can understand and respond to natural human language. As Google’s new Allo messaging app shows, these “chat bots” are still flawed. But neural networks are rapidly changing what’s possible. “None of this is solved,” Schuster says. “But there is a constant upward tick.” Or as Google says the Chinese would say: “Yǒu yīgè bùduàn xiàngshàng gōu.”
Also: A Music Video Made with Google Translate

Work Cited:
Works Cited
Google Translate. " Translate." About – Google Translate. Google, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
"Google Translate." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Google. "Translate." Google, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Metz, Cade. "An Infusion of AI Makes Google Translate More Powerful Than Ever." Wired. Conde Nast, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Turovsky, Barak. "Found in Translation: More Accurate, Fluent Sentences in Google Translate." Google. Google, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

“Ransomware”: Technology Hazard or not?

By Tim Bartos
For those who have been watching the news lately, the propagation of a malware called “WannaCry” has sparked a wake-up call from technology experts and governments alike. This malware, known as ‘ransomware’ spread rapidly across the world in mid-May, affecting FedEx, the United Kingdom National Health Service, Renault, and many countries across the globe. However, for those ‘out of the loop’, here’s the story behind what ‘ransomware’ is.
What is ‘Ransomware’, Anyways?
Ransomware is a type of malware, or ‘malicious software’. Existing since the rise of Microsoft operating systems in the early 1990’s, malware is usually separated into two categories: viruses, and ‘Trojans’, which usually describes their method of ‘entering’ a user’s system. Some types of malware can exploit two or even more methods of transmission.
Viruses, like their biological counterparts, are spread through infected files or programs from computer to computer, such as email attachments or downloaded files. Viruses tend to thrive off of multiplying themselves and their code across many files within a user’s system, essentially opening the door for more spreading, like a real-life infection.
“Trojans”, in reference to the ancient Greek story of the Trojan horse, are files designed to mislead the user into installing/executing, allowing malicious code to be executed, thus letting the creator of the malware add any form of malicious alterations. Most commonly, a ‘backdoor’ is installed, such that an outside user can manipulate files within a computer in order to find important information to steal.
While ‘ransomware’ is traditionally not a category of its own, ransomware can exist in both of these categories, and can be transmitted in a similar fashion. However, the outcome of a ransomware is what makes it unique. After infecting a user’s system, all of the user’s files are encrypted, or modified such that they can only be read with a certain code, or ‘key’. The user will traditionally read a message which notifies them of their files being encrypted, and usually demands a monetary sum in return for the ‘key’ to unlock their files.
The history of ‘ransomware’ is fairly new, and ‘WannaCry’ is a new contender. The first major malware attack was that of “CryptoLocker’, a ransomware which utilized Bitcoin transactions to allow for easy, untraceable money exchanges. Before the existence of Bitcoin, cash transactions were easy to trace. However, in an internet like ours, this is no longer the case, and ransomwares can earn millions of dollars without any consequence.
What makes ‘WannaCry’ so Bad?
Computer viruses and malware have existed for decades, and most often exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems. As computer systems advance, changes in the form of ‘patches’ remove known vulnerabilities. This is why malware from the 1990’s cannot harm us today—we have removed its method of propagation. Additionally, many computer security companies work around-the-clock to find and fix loopholes before the average consumer is exposed to any excessive danger.
However, this does not mean that all computers are protected. Large computer networks, especially those in business settings, are expensive to update and ‘patch’. For this reason, many consumer services like checkouts at the grocery store still run on older versions of operating systems, like Windows XP or Windows 98. As these systems age, the chance that old vulnerabilities are exploited increases exponentially. This is the reason many regular consumers don’t need to worry about “WannaCry” and its demand of 300 dollars—your system is likely up-to-date and well beyond the vulnerabilities of older systems affected by this malware.
Help! I got ‘WannaCry’!
If you are affected by a ransomware, it’s important to stay calm. While it may seem like the only option, paying the sum of money required to decrypt your computer is not a guarantee. Even if your computer is decrypted by a code given to the malware, it is also not a guarantee that the software will be removed at all. In fact, several ransomwares continue to operate in the background of computers which have paid—which signifies the user is vulnerable to malware threats—and steal more information without the user even knowing. These targeted individuals are almost always the ‘technologically unproficient’ in our society.
However, there is a solution. Several ransomware viruses have been documented, and security agencies have created software that can simply decrypt the system, albeit over several days. Additionally, new technologies can detect ransomware’s encryption before it can complete, allowing an analysis of the malware, and ultimately, a faster solution.
Otherwise, the simplest solution is always to exercise caution when sharing and downloading files on the internet. The only way for malware to spread is through vulnerable computers—checking to verify the legitimacy of every file we receive from the internet and the programs we install limits the chances that a computer virus slips under our radar. To be extra sure, make sure to keep your security programs and operating system up-to-date to be less vulnerable to existing exploits.
If you’re looking to learn more about the WannaCry ransomware, I recommend this timeline of stories regarding the malware by The Verge:
If you wish to learn about ransomware in general, you should check out the Microsoft Malware Protection Center. Microsoft is one of the biggest targets of malware—and they’ve got a lot of resources to learn from. You can access the article on ransomware as well as find other articles at
Image Citation

WannaCry Virus Notification. Digital image. The Verge. The Verge, 14 May 2017. Web. 24 May 2017. <>.

Technology Retrospective

No. 1    More installments to come...
From the first Apple computers to NetScape, fiber optics infrastructure to the software diaspora, the technological developments of the late 20th Century have had a lasting impact on the modern world.  It is vitally important to study the technological, economic, and cultural changes that took place twenty and thirty years ago, especially as young people developing new technologies today.  When considering people like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the lesser known (to today’s generation, anyways) James H. Clark, and even older innovators such as Ray Kurzweil, we have to consider the various benefits from the technologies that they themselves envisioned, and then weigh that with what actually came into reality.  While they all certainly got money, and loads of it, most had another goal in mind; to change the world forever, by making it a more productive, leisurely, and accommodating one.  What we feel most evidently sometimes, however, is not what they wanted, but the undesirable outcomes that may have been unavoidable.  
One rather superfluous, but nonetheless entertaining, detail of this tech progression comes from the development of the Apple 1 in 1976.  Designed in Steve Wozniak's bedroom in Los Altos, California, Steve Jobs decided to sell the personal computer enthusiasts kit, fully assembled for $666.66.  That the number of the devil spearheaded the personal computer revolution to follow may be indicative to some of the monumental change that has ensued over the following forty one years, including a severe drop in average economic growth, from around 5% per year in the 50’s to just 2% today.  To others, it would rightly mean nothing.
This venture into computational devices has also dramatically increased our overall workplace productivity, which is highly apparent to almost anyone who lived through the shift in eras.  Although the transformation is a fascinating one in regards to entertainment, with the introduction of personal gaming devices and PC’s, the most earth shattering developments were in the world of business.   Pre internet-tech-revolution, the common practice of most businesses was downright arduous compared to today.  With every piece of data being written on paper, it was both a less productive process, and a more wasteful one.  To quote Thomas L. Friedman about the influence of the internet on modern businesses, “The fact that all of your departments within your company were seamlessly interoperable and that work could flow between them was a great boost to productivity. . .” (Friedman, pg. 74)
What made all of this possible was the fiber-optic bubble of the late 1990’s.  Massive over speculation of the demand for data traffic over these cables resulted in millions of dollars being invested into an absolutely unreasonable amount of newer and better cables going all over the world.  The interesting piece of technology here is that the capacity to transmit data across the wires does not rely on the size of the wire itself, but on the capabilities of the transmitter and receiver at either end.  Fiber optic cables work by bouncing waves of light down long tubes of plastic or glass in mathematical pattern, to then be deciphered on the other side of the world.  That is exactly where the technology has been developed over the last twenty years, allowing for more and more data to be transmitted and received.  Described by Friedman on page 70, who compares it to a “national highway system where people were first allowed to drive 50 mph, then 60 mph, then 70 mph, then 80 mph, then eventually 150 mph on the same highways without any fear of accidents,” it is the “gift that keeps on giving.”   
In hindsight, we know what the dangers of the internet and personal computing devices such as cellphones can bring.  Social isolation instead of social inclusion, and as some would argue, the reason for increased anxiety.   The researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University, San Diego California published in 2014 a report stating that “Across four surveys (N = 6.9 million), Americans reported substantially higher levels of depressive symptoms, particularly somatic symptoms, in the 2000s–2010s compared to the 1980s–1990s.”  Is this paradigm shift brought on by the internet responsible for such an increase in anxiety? Coinciding perfectly with the proliferation of comprehensive internet services such as NetScape and Windows 95, propped up by the fiber optics bubble of the late 1990’s, all of which paved the way to social media of the 2000’s and 2010’s, it is well worth consideration.  
The two words to sum up these developments are unparalleled connectivity.  The trend that was started forty years ago was that of personalization.  People slowly became economic individuals, in control of their own day, career, and destiny.  To combine that with the ability to collaborate with the best talents from all over the world, from anywhere in the world, equates to a kind of potential that is absolutely inconceivable to anyone that has not lived in it.  And that is exactly where we find ourselves today, as young impending high school graduates, with all of the ability in the world to make the next revolutionizing technology.  We have the freedom to choose where we stand, and where we innovate, on a broad spectrum of values; weighing both individualism over community, and commercialism over neutralization.  What Steve Wozniak and Jobs did was give us the freedom of independence.
Works Cited
Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the Twenty-first Century. London: Allen Lane, 2005. Print.
Mesa, Andy F. "Apple 1." Apple Museum. N.p., 1998. Web. 23 May 2017.
Twenge, Jean M. "Time Period and Birth Cohort Differences in Depressive Symptoms in the U.S., 1982–2013." SpringerLink. Springer Netherlands, 05 June 2014. Web. 23 May 2017.
"United States GDP Annual Growth Rate  1948-2017 | Data | Chart | Calendar." Trading Economics, 2017. Web. 23 May 2017.