Epic Blog of Awesome


Mystery malware wreaks havoc on energy sector computers | Ars Technica

Like malware that attacked Iran, Shamoon permanently destroys hard disk data.

Malware researchers have uncovered an attack targeting an organization in the energy industry that attempts to wreak havoc by permanently wiping data from an infected computer’s hard drive and rendering the machine unusable.

The computer worm, alternately dubbed Shamoon or Disttrack by researchers at rival antivirus providers Symantec and McAfee, contains the string "wiper" in the Windows file directory its developers used while compiling it. Combined with word that it targeted the energy industry, that revelation immediately evoked memories of malware also known as Wiper that reportedly attacked Iran‘s oil ministry in April and ultimately led to the discovery of the state-sponsored Flame malware.

via Mystery malware wreaks havoc on energy sector computers | Ars Technica.

Flexible robots, in (not quite) living color | Ars Technica

If you model your robot on a cephalopod, it should change colors, right?

Last year, we covered a radically different approach to robotics. Instead of the hard, mechanical skeletons that are features of most robots, a team was inspired by squid, and built a soft, flexible robot that literally ran on air. By pumping different segments of their robot full of air using a set of pre-programmed commands, the rubbery creation could flex its legs and stride across surfaces, slipping neatly under barriers when needed.

But, if the researchers were inspired by cephalopods like the octopus and cuttlefish, then they seemed to also have been a bit jealous of one of these creatures’ other abilities: rapidly changing color to match their surroundings or make a warning display. So, the team is back with a modified version of their previous robot—one that can change color on demand.

The method for doing this was a straightforward variation on the technique used to propel the robot: an external compressor was used to pump material into the robot from an external reservoir. Instead of air, however, the material was a fluid that contained a variety of dyes or fluorescent molecules that gave the robot some color.

The fluid went into a separate set of channels from those that propelled the robot, giving the team a great deal of flexibility. This allowed them to create patterns like the stripes shown above, which are probably closer to a zebra’s than anything that would typically show up on a cephalopod. But the team also crafted some patterns that were more like a mottled patchwork, which could be more useful for camouflage (as they demonstrated on a backdrop consisting of small rocks).

Although their robot is shaped like a squashed X, it can easily move while carrying an irregular sheet of tubes on top. This let the authors build more elaborate camouflage patterns, such as the one shown below. The whole process is reversible, too, so the robot could be restored to its translucent, colorless form, or have one set of colors replace another.

via Flexible robots, in (not quite) living color | Ars Technica.

Dextrous robotic hand gets thumbs up – Yahoo! News Canada

The team from Italy and Germany built a hand using strings that are twisted by small, high-speed motors in five fingers, each with three segments.
Dubbed the Dexmart Hand, the device was able to handle a delicate Easter egg and lift a five kilogram load, the team reported.
"We used the human hand as our model," researcher Claudio Melchiorri from Italy’s University of Bologna said in a statement issued by CORDIS Features, an agency that highlights EU-funded technological research.
"This provides the ultimate example of dextrous manipulation."
The hand also has a primitive "brain".
Light sensors were attached to the hand, making it possible to calculate the force required for the fingers to grasp an object without squashing it or losing its grip.
"The capability of the robotic hand is so near to that of humans that the vision of robots as personal assistants in the household, in the operating room as well as in industrial settings is becoming ever more realistic," said fellow Bologna researcher Gianluca Palli.

via Dextrous robotic hand gets thumbs up – Yahoo! News Canada.

Extension methods in Silverlight and C#

Extension methods are great way to add and use custom functionality on your objects.

So what is an Extension method?

In a short and simple describing: instead of creating a method that takes an instance of your object, applies your changes and then returns you the instance of that control, you can create an Extension method for that specific object to do the same thing but in a way of built-in within your object.

via Extension methods in Silverlight and C#.

Q.bo Robot Platform

Q.bo is a low cost general purpose robot, designed to provide a platform for the development and progress of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. We have developed this robot as a configurable "box". You can change or add the Hardware and Software that you, or other communities such as the OpenQbo community, develop around Q.bo

via FAQ.