Radio Controlled Beetle

Robotic Flower Beetle PhotosScientists at the University of California have implanted electrodes into different spots in a giant flower beetle’s brain. Those electrodes are wired to a microcontroller and wireless radio which receives commands from a laptop. By sending electric impulses to the beetle’s optic lobes and flight muscles the scientists are able to directly control the beetle’s flight. Pulses of varying frequency, amplitude, and duration have different effects on the beetle’s motor activity. Instead of trying to redesign a system that can maintain flight from scratch, these scientists are piggybacking on millions of ears of evolutionary progress in the natural world. A cyborg in the most literal sense. Technologyreview.com has an article that explains all of this much better than I can. What’s most impressive, though, is the video. Be sure to take a look at it.

There seems to be two reactions to this news, wonder and nervousness. Personally, I rank myself in the ‘wonder’ category. The story popped up as a Twitter post from Ed Stafford (@pixel8r) right as I was hitting the meat of the book How the Mind Works (which I wrote about briefly earlier). The mechanical processes that go on inside our nerual systems are extremely fascinating, and it’s exciting to see progress in the field.

I think the nervousness (or straight up fear) from most people comes from a couple areas: the concepts of sentience and conciousness in organisms (with the concepts of suffering in the beetle), and the fact that the research was funded by the Department of Defense. For sure, these aren’t issues to be made light of, and there’s some very interesting discussion going on in the comments of this Hack a Day post about the story.

I for one would like to welcome our new robotic beetle overlords.

Via: @pixel8r, Make: Blog, Hack a Day, Technology Review

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Netatalk for AFP on your iPhone/Touch (and toggle switch)

AFPd in ActionA year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about using AFPd on my hacked iPhone to get access to my phone’s file system through Finder using Apple’s AFP system. When firmware 2.0 came out I went legit with my phone and lost touch with jailbreak app updates. I recently re-jailbroke my iPhone and now I’m having to relearn how to accomplish the things I used to have set up. A lot has changed in a year and a half!

AFPd apparently broke with firmware 2.0, and Netatalk was developed to take its place. You’ll find Netatalk in Cydia. If it’s not showing up under default repositories, do a web search to find out where it’s living. Once installed, you’ll see your device as a shared computer in the left sidebar of Finder. When you select the device, you’ll need to hit “Connect As…” and log in as either root or mobile. If you haven’t changed the password for these accounts, it will be alpine, but you really should change this password. Until you do, anyone who knows anything about Mobile OSX defaults will be able to access your file system.

That point about security brings up another issue… anyone on a Mac on the same WiFi network as your device will see your name in their finder sidebar. It’s not a huge deal, I’m a pretty public person, but I’d still like better control over my name being thrown around in places like coffee shops and other public connections. This is where RupertGee’s Boss Prefs toggle comes in. With it installed, you can turn AFP on and off instantly, letting you control the broadcasting of your name as you roam around networks.

I really think having manual control over this service is a must-have. Instructions on installing the Boss Prefs toggle for AFP are located at RupertGee’s blog here: http://redwolfberry.com/rupertgee/iBlog/2008/11/08/netatalk-toggle-v100/

Bookmarklet: Youtube in “HD”

Youtube HD Bookmarklet

Drag that up to your bookmarks bar, and you should be able to click it when you’re at a Youtube video page to access the high-resolution H.264 stream. It’s a bookmarklet I put together after reading about the existence of the streams at the Weapons of Mass Destruction Blog.

Here you can compare the standard/HD streams of the Halo 3 trailer.

Halo 3 Trailer | Halo 3 Trailer HD

Thanks for the heads up Henry.