appBlaster lets you kill the aliens hiding in your home

Last month we reported on the Aurasma augmented reality (AR) app, and compared it to the special sunglasses in the John Carpenter movie They Live, that let their wearers see the aliens secretly living amongst us. Well, the new appBlaster iPhone accessory is much, much more reminiscent of that film. It’s essentially a toy gun, that your iPhone mounts on top of. Running the free Alien Attack AR game, the phone will proceed to show you the virtual otherwise-invisible aliens that are all around you, overlaid on real-time video of your your real-life surroundings. You then use the gun to shoot the little goobers before they nab you.

Unlike some AR apps, Alien Attack appears not to recognize real-life objects, so aliens won’t come through doorways or sit on chairs, for instance. The aliens do maintain their orientation to actual objects, however, so if you swing the gun back and forth, the aliens will stay where they are within the room instead of swinging with the gun. They can even come at you from behind, which the game’s radar function will warn you about…

The whole thing is a bit like the Ghost Gun, a Hasbro toy from the 70s that five or six readers might remember. It projected an image of a ghost on the walls of a darkened room, which flared-jeans-wearing youngsters then “shot” at by using the gun’s trigger to poke holes in a film within the gun, that the image of the ghost was printed upon … OK, I said it was a bit like it.

If you’ve previously managed to alter your own relationship to reality with your chemicals of choice — I can envision some of you enjoying a truly memorable gaming experience with this device.

Malaysia Airlines banning babies in first class on long flights

Malaysia Airlines will ban babies from traveling first class on its Airbus A380 super jumbo jets…

The decision comes after the airline banned babies from the first class section of its fleet of Boeing 747-400 jets…

The airline ordered six A380s and the first is expected to be delivered in June 2012. “We’re planning to stick to our policy for now,” CEO Tengku Azmil told Australian Business Traveller in a Twitter exchange when asked whether the first class section of its A380 planes will have bassinets…

Some Twitter users questioned why the airline doesn’t try other nursing techniques, such as employing sky nannies and distributing baby blankets.

Defending his policy, Azmil said that while it was “a tough call,” it addresses complaints from first class passengers that they spend a lot of money on first class travel but are often unable to sleep because of wailing infants.

Instead, babies and their parents will now need to fly in the airline’s business and economy classes.

I think I’ll skip a smart-ass comment on this one. Certainly, I appreciate some level of accommodation for air passengers. I’m not at all certain everything should be decided on the basis of profit and class.

Royals greeted by protesters in Montreal

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge faced the first organised protests against their visit to Canada within minutes of their arrival in Montreal on Saturday night.

Demonstrators held up placards denouncing the couple as “parasites” as they arrived at the world renowned Sainte-Justine university hospital. They were heavily outnumbered by others who had come out to cheer the royal couple, but one of the protest organisers, Guillaume Martin, told reporters: “We think the monarchy is something from the middle ages and we don’t want to pay for the trip.”

The Canadian government, which is meeting the bill, says that the extra cost, equivalent to £950,000, amounts to only a few cents a head for the country’s population…

Royal visitors have had an uncertain welcome in Quebec province – where more than 80% of the population speak French – in recent decades. The Queen has not returned to Quebec City since protesters turned their backs on her and booed in 1964, and two years ago Prince Charles and Camilla were held up by scuffles between demonstrators and police as they visited Montreal.

Radical young protesters from the Quebec Resistance Network have called for a demonstration outside the city hall, though they have promised it will be peaceful.

Patrick Bourgeois, leader of the network, said the separatists want to send a message “that the monarchy is not welcome in Quebec”…

The royal couple on Saturday went through the near-obligatory tree-planting ceremony at the governor-general’s residence – a Canadian hemlock. They later met military veterans and members of the war brides association at the Canadian war museum – nearly 45,000 young British and European women emigrated to the country after the second world war.

People forget their own history so easily. The Canadian half of my kinfolk arrived on board slave ships. Forced to emigrate by Lairds who decided sheep were more profitable than people — they didn’t feel required to transport Highland Scots at the “standards” required for slaves. Half died either on the voyage…or that first winter after they were dumped on the shore in Nova Scotia.

No – I wouldn’t be as polite as the Quebecois in my greeting to the royal sponges. They contribute as little to the life of all the other mortals on this planet as ever. Perhaps less.

Homeland Insecurity is just as precise in the UK as in the US


Hundreds greeting Salah on his release from an Israeli prison
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Home Office’s hi-tech passenger data centre sent an alert to Terminal 1 at Heathrow about the impending arrival of Raed Salah, a “preacher of hate” who had been barred from the country by order of Theresa May, the Home Secretary.

However, he was on a plane heading for Terminal 5, a UK Border Agency source said. The mistake meant the immigration officer who checked his passport was not fully aware of the passenger’s significance and waved him through…

“There were a series of cock-ups in terms of getting information to the front-line,” said the UKBA source…

The Home Office has launched an investigation into how Salah was able to enter the country despite a travel ban, but last night refused to offer a “running commentary” on the inquiry.

Mrs May is likely to face tough questioning on the bungle when she appears before the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday.

The National Border Targeting Centre opened 15 months ago as part of the Home Office’s “e-Borders” scheme, which is behind schedule after the IT company hired to deliver the project had its contract terminated.

The Wythenshawe centre receives “passenger name record” information, which airlines flying into Britain are required by law to provide, and analyses the data in a bid to spot terrorist suspects, known criminals and illegal immigrants.

Salah was banned from Britain on the grounds that he holds hard-line anti-Semitic views. However, the UKBA mistake meant he was able to enter the country on June 25.

He delivered speeches in London and Leicester in the early part of last week and was later due to speak on the Israeli-Palestine conflict at the House of Commons at the invitation of three Labour MPs.

He was detained at 11pm on Tuesday and is now believed to have been deported.

Phew! Sounds to me as if the Brits are living up to all the standards established by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. From inept programming to boundless fear.

Exxon celebrates America with oil spill on the Yellowstone River

An undetermined amount of crude oil spilled from an ExxonMobil pipeline into the Yellowstone River in Montana, prompting evacuations of nearby residents on Saturday, authorities said.

The spill that was detected early Saturday came from a crude oil pipeline that runs from Silver Tip to Billings, Montana, the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company said in a statement. The pipe was subsequently shut down and state and federal authorities were alerted, the company said.

Nearby residents in Laurel, Montana, were evacuated in the wee hours of the morning but were able to return to their homes by 6 a.m., said a spokesman for Laurel City Fire and Ambulance…

Exxon said the cause of the rupture was not yet known and it was unclear how much oil had been released.

We recognize the seriousness of this incident and are working hard to address it,” the company said in a statement. “Our principal focus is on protecting the safety and health of the public and our employees.”

Here – let me get my Wellies on before the crap gets any deeper.

Quality assurance offered by the company we come to love and revere – for taking our cash at the pump, tax dollars from Congress and abusing us every chance they get.

This is the model company the Republican Party has in mind when they say we should have someone “friendly to business” running the country. I can see Mister Montana, Dick Cheney’s smiling face right now telling us “not to worry”.

World Computer Champion Rybka stripped of titles amid plagiarism claims


Vasik Rajlich, creator of Rybka

Players who use computers to cheat are a growing concern in the chess world. Now the developer of Rybka, the winner of the last four World Computer Chess Championships, has been accused of plagiarizing code to create the program.

Rybka has been stripped of its titles, and the developer, Vasik Rajlich, has been barred from entering programs in competitions.

The ruling on Rybka and Mr. Rajlich was made Tuesday by the International Computer Gaming Association, the group that organizes the championships. It concluded that Mr. Rajlich, who has American and Czech citizenship and lives in Poland, had used source code from programs called Crafty and Fruit…

The group’s president, David Levy, who is also an international master, said in an e-mail that Mr. Rajlich had been invited to defend himself but declined to do so.

When questions were first raised about Rybka earlier this year, Mr. Rajlich wrote on a forum on his program’s Web site that “Rybka is and always was completely original code, with the exception of various low-level snippets which are in the public domain.”…

Mark A. Lemley, a Stanford law professor who specializes in science and technology issues, wrote in an e-mail that because Fruit and Crafty are freely available may mean that Mr. Rajlich is not guilty of misconduct if he copied some of the code. But, Mr. Lemley added, “I can see why the Computer Gaming Association might want to prohibit it under its rules.”

Larry Kaufman, a grandmaster who helped Mr. Rajlich in the development of Rybka, but who now works on a rival called Komodo, said in an e-mail that he believed only earlier versions of Rybka were based on Fruit and Crafty.

This gets into the issue of what we have lost in chess as a result of computers. We have gained so much as well.

I look forward to following the discussions on this one.