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Welcome to iBrattleboro!

Welcome to iBrattleboro!
It's a local news source by and for the people of Brattleboro, Vermont, published continually. You can get involved in this experiment in citizen journalism by submitting meeting results, news, events, stories, reviews, how-to's, recipes, places to go, things to do, or anything else important to Brattleboro. Or, just drop by to see what others have contributed.

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Sci-Tech


Science and Technology section

Which Reality Do You Mean? A Look At VR, AR, MR, and SR

In the world of computing there a few flavors of reality. Can you tell your VR from your AR? Let’s look at some of the most popular realities available today.

To start, we have Reality. This is the world as it actually exists. No headsets or equipment required. It’s free and open-source.

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Occasional Robot Roundup - Artificial Intelligence Edition

In December it was announced that a chess player with four hours of training beat the world’s world champion chess-playing program. The player was AlphaZero, an AI (artificial intelligence) program operated by Google.

It was told the game rules, but was given no chess-playing strategies or solutions. It knew very little at the outset, played itself over and over again (rather randomly at first,) and got better very quickly over the course of 68 million games played. It had the benefit of massive computing power as well, something unavailable to its opponent, which ran on an ordinary PC.

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Are UFOs Real?

 A UFO or Unidentified Flying Object is any real or apparent flying object which cannot be identified by the observer and which remains unidentified after investigation.  They are also known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).

 

The NY Times recently released 2 front page articles about UFOs, the department of defense & the pentagon:

  • Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program

By HELENE COOPER, RALPH BLUMENTHAL and LESLIE KEAN  NY Times, Dec. 16, 2017

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Electromagnetic Radiation

Whenever someone says “Let’s”, someone else immediately forms an ad-hoc group to oppose it. Doesn’t matter what is said after “let’s”.

Back in Edison’s days, people opposed putting electricity in homes. Some even claimed that electricity would “leak” from wall outlets and harm peoples’ health.

In the early days of TV, people feared “cathode rays” emanating from the cathode ray tubes in every TV. I can remember my mother telling me not to sit directly in front of the TV. Turns out these things are harmless streams of electrons, not rays at all, and they are entirely contained within the tubes.

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iBrattleboro Supports Net Neutrality

It should come as no surprise that iBrattleboro is a supporter of Net Neutrality. It's essential for a vibrant, free, all-access internet.

Getting rid of it opens up the possibility and likelihood of ISP's deciding what internet content gets seen, and what sites get traffic. Comcast content will slide right to you; iBrattleboro content, well maybe.

Internet access should be treated like a utility. It's a necessity, like water and electricity.

We don't pay extra for water to cook with and less for water to wash with -- it is on, or off.

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What It Looks Like To Be Tracked

Intergalactic Armies - Lightbeam VisualizationA couple nights ago I was shutting down my computer when, in the process of quitting Firefox, a mysterious screen opened before my eyes with what appeared to be a galaxy of circles and triangles, interconnecting and sprouting new satellites as I watched. Closer inspection revealed it to be a graphic visualization of sites I had recently visited with all the third party sites they had notified in clusters around them. It was a moment out of War Games. Had I been hacked, I wondered?  But no, it turned out to be Lightbeam, a browser add-on that allows you to see in real time how your information is being shared on the Internet by the sites you visit, and with whom. I vaguely remember installing it a while back but I never got around to using it, hence my initial surprise when it seemingly opened itself in my browser.  But once I saw what it revealed, I was riveted.

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Plastics, and Recycling in Brattleboro

Brattleboro is about to change from dual stream to single stream recycling on July 3. The Town of Brattleboro sent out a postcard with a reminder of this date, and a reminder that another big change is coming: plastics 1-7 will now be collected.

I thought it might be helpful to dive a bit deeper and look at each type of plastic that Brattleboro could collect.

The first thing to know is that many plastic containers and packaging have numbers associated with them. This is a “resin identification code” developed by the plastics industries in the 1980’s to help with recycling. It’s sometimes stamped or molded into the bottom of the container.

Let’s look at each, how they are used, how they might be recycled, and also how to avoid them in the first place.

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Robot Roundup Spring 2017

Time for an occasional robot roundup, where we look at advances in robotics.

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Cobots. One of the big trends at the moment is development of cobots, or collaborative robots. It’s a friendly name for you helping the robot do its work until you are no longer needed, though they advertise these as robots to work with humans.

For example, here’s a robotic arm that can be placed next to humans and do work such as screwing, drilling, and buffing. The big innovation? Torque control, to be able to detect when it collides with anything at all. Previous robotic arms hand a tendency to snap humans in half if they collided. This one can avoid those sorts of accidents.

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Two Factor Authentication, Do It Now!

First let me say sorry for the dramatic title, but seriously,  DO IT NOW!  If you are unfamiliar with what two factor authentication is, it is a way for you to add another security layer for your important logins besides just a password. Many websites and services that contain potentially valuable data will have the ability to use two factor authentication, but it is usually disabled by default.

Why is two factor authentication important? Well, lets just say a hacker is able to obtain your password somehow. Once he tries to log into your account, he will be prompted to enter another code which is typically sent to your cell phone via text or an authentication app. There are some variations in how it works, but you get the idea.

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Wind Turbine Syndrome Is Real

It’s caused by a virus, and the virus is spread by word of mouth!

Seriously, there is such a thing as wind turbine syndrome, but it’s not caused by the turbines themselves.

It’s caused by negative feelings toward turbines harbored by individuals.

In medical terms, this is called a “nocebo”.

These negative feelings, in turn, are mostly created by anti-wind evangelists who travel the state spreading their gospel of misinformation.

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Cyber Threats. How Real Are They?

Working in the IT field I often see a common occurrence with businesses and consumers alike. Everyone hears about large companies being hacked or their neighbors computer catching a virus, but often times people do not put as much priority on their computers security as they should. We all hope that it never happens to us, and many people think they are too small to be a target for hackers. The truth is, smaller targets are often easier to attack so instead of spending months trying to penetrate a large corporation or financial institution, hackers will spend far less time attacking many small businesses at once.

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Internet Advice Needed

     I need some advice.  VTel has sent around a holiday offer.  One level of their service, the lowest, is 2GB of data per month for $10.  They say that is equal to about 10 hours of internet usage after which download speed keeps diminishing.  They didn't want to tell me how much it diminishes.  They're answer was, 'well, that's when people usually upgrade."  My Fairpoint deal is $15/month, at a slow speed (750 kb/sec), but I can spend 100 hours a month on the net and notice nothing in terms of speed diminishing.  In fact it seems that I can spend 24 hours a day on the net, or streaming, and the speed seems the same on the last day of the month as it was on the first.

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Big Tech Companies Are Messing Up

In a quest for profit and automation, big tech companies are making mistakes that matter to people using their services. Some are small and annoying; others are more significant.

Some examples:

Turn on the Weather Channel in Brattleboro and you’ll be welcomed to Putney. Yes, Putney. The Weather Channel made a switch a year or so ago and decided that the big city in our region, right up there with Albany and Burlington, is Putney.

LinkedIn makes sure to tell everyone that employees in Brattleboro work in the Springfield area. Springfield, MA, that is. So helpful!

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Peak Oil? Peak Demand?

I saw this interesting article about how technology is disrupting the petrochemical industry, and perhaps, challenigng old conceptions of peak -oil.

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Staying Safe Online at Putney Library: Viruses, Scams and Flim-flams in the 21st Century

There are many ways to be snookered, manipulated, tricked and even bullied into becoming a victim on the internet, as well as through regular mail, phone, etc. People tricking others into doing things against their better interests is not a new phenomenon, but the ways that can happen has changed in recent times. It helps us all to have us all be more aware, more informed, and more skeptical of seemingly innocent inquiries.

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Random Robot Round-Up Fall 2016

Time for another random robot round-up, in which we take another snapshot of the progress of our future friends and overlords.

Each of the following is a specific robot in development, but that’s not the best way to think about these things. It’s better to think of each of these studies as part of a greater whole. That is, anything one of them can do now, all can potentially be capable of in the future. Keep that in mind as you read about monkey-controlled robot armies, flaming ping pong balls, and soft micro robots.

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Improve Your Tweets - Actually Write Them

For those who ignore social media, you can ignore this.

For the rest of you, I have a word about laziness. Yes, I’m talking to you, person who has your Facebook feed set to automatically retweet things.

Here is the situation. Twitter allows for 140 characters. It is an art and science to craft messages that fit the space and make sense. Much can be communicated in a good tweet.

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Business Pitch Practice Session for Technology Entrepreneurs Scheduled for July 21

The Brattleboro Area Tech networking group will meet on July 21 at 6:00 when it holds its first Business Pitch Practice Session. The meeting will be at the Marlboro Grad Center in Brattleboro..

The event will provide an informal setting where would-be entrepreneurs can present technology-oriented business ideas to a sympathetic audience. Each presenter will be given 5 minutes to make a presentation, followed by a short question and answer.

This one is specifically for technology entrepreneurs. Presenters from all stages of business development are encouraged to attend and participate, from those with only a concept to those who are out actively raising money to fund their startup.

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Firefox "Urgent" Hoax

If you use Firefox and you get a webpage that URGENTLY tells you to download it, DON'T DO IT!.  It's malware.

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