Want to Track the Tesla Roadster in Space? There’s a Website for That

Want to Track the Tesla Roadster in Space? There's a Website for That

An electrical engineer working in the aerospace industry has created a website to track Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Roadster – the car tied to Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX– which is zooming through space.

SpaceX fan Ben Pearson has created Where is Roadster website that makes use of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Horizons data to track the progress of the car and its dummy driver ‘Starman’ through space, TechCrunch reported on Sunday.

The website would also predict the car’s path and let people know when it would come close to meeting up with various planets and the Sun.

The platform would even tell the Roadster’s current position as well as its speed and whether it was moving towards or away from Earth and Mars at any given moment.

The website is not officially affiliated with the SpaceX or Tesla, Musk took a note of it on Twitter.

“I’m sure it’s parked around here somewhere http://whereisroadster.com,” Musk, the SpcaeX CEO, tweeted late on Sunday.

The car was originally intended to be inserted into an orbit that would fly closer to Mars but the third engine burn of the Falcon Heavy upper stage “exceeded” that orbit, sending the car into deep space.

Currently, the Roadster is still much closer to Earth — 2.25 million miles away — than to Mars, 137.5 million miles away, Fortune reported.

“Meanwhile, Mars is moving too, so when the Roadster first intersects its orbit this July, the planet itself will already be millions of miles away,” the report said.

After that, the Roadster will actually return to something close to Earth’s orbit, though again, Earth itself won’t be anywhere close.

According to the site’s data, the Roadster won’t actually be close to Mars until early October of 2020. The car does not have any landing equipment or thrusters to land it on the surface.

Earlier in February, the Virtual Telescope Project of Tenagra Observatory in Arizona caught the car moving across the night sky.

Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project and Michael Schwartz of the Tenagra Observatory were able to pinpoint the car’s location by using data generated by the Solar Systems Dynamics Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The project said that the Tesla was “quite bright”.

It released a GIF showing the Tesla moving across space, looking a lot like a comet or asteroid. The GIF strings together 54 images captured by Tenagra, CNET reported.


There’s a New Way to Make Strong Passwords, and It’s Way Easier

There's a New Way to Make Strong Passwords, and It's Way Easier

People tend to hate computer passwords, that often nonsensical jumble of letters, numbers and special keystrokes said to be essential for digital security. The secret codes seem impossible to remember. It’s why every login page has a “Forgot password?” life preserver. The struggle even has a name: Password rage.

Now, a new standard is emerging for passwords, backed by a growing number of businesses and government agencies – to the relief of computer users everywhere. No longer must passwords be changed so often, or include an incomprehensible string of special characters. The new direction is one that champions less complexity in favor of length.

Passwords that once looked like this: “[email protected]!,” can now be this: “mycatlikesreadinggarfieldinthewashingtonpost.”

Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love.

A series of studies from Carnegie Mellon University confirmed that passphrases are just as good at online security because hacking programs are thrown off by length nearly as easily as randomness. To a computer, poetry or simple sentences can be just as hard to crack. Even better: People are less likely to forget them.

“You’re definitely seeing more of it,” said Michelle Mazurek, one of the Carnegie Mellon researchers, now at the University of Maryland College Park. “For equivalent amounts of security, longer tends to be more useful for people.”

One sign of change came this year from the federal agency overseeing government computer policy. The National Institute for Standards and Technology issued draft recommendations that called for a password overhaul – encouraging longer passwords and ending the practice of forcing new ones every 60 or 90 days.

“Passphrases are much harder to crack and break, and much easier to remember,” said Paul Grassi, a NIST senior adviser.

It was an acknowledgment that current password practices are a pain.

Passwords today are “completely unusable,” Grassi said. “Users forget, which creates all sorts of cyber-security problems, like writing it down or reusing them.”

The demand for simpler passwords has grown along with the share of time spent online, where hard-to-recall codes restrict access not only to work and school email, but shopping, playing games, managing health claims and finding recipes. The average person has 19 to 25 different online passwords, polls have shown.

But the change to simpler password protocols remains slow. When Lorrie Cranor joined the Federal Trade Commission as chief technologist in January, she was stunned to learn that six of her government passwords came with automatic expirations. A couple months later, she had whittled that list down to four.

Cranor said NIST’s draft rules send a signal to agencies and companies that the revamped password guidelines have the blessing of the federal government.

“One of the things we’ve seen when we talk to companies is they say, ‘Well, this is all good,’ but I can’t change things until I have something I can point to,” Cranor said.

Now, they can point to NIST special publication 800-63, which still needs final approval.

The government’s move was applauded by privacy advocates such as Christopher Soghoian at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The fact that NIST is clearly coming around to embracing modern, science-based policies is great,” Soghoian said.

It’s possible the government could be the nimbler mover on this topic.

Guillaume Ross, senior consultant at computer security firm Rapid7, said businesses are often forced to slow adoption of new password policies because of legacy computers.

“On those systems it’s really hard for a security group to support long passwords,” Ross said.

Still, Ross tells clients to focus on password length for beefing up security rather than any other variable.

Joe Hall, chief technologist at think tank Center for Democracy and Technology, has noticed easier password rules among the 800 different logins he uses. (He admits he’s an outlier having so many accounts. But, he says, that’s part of his job.) In recent years, he has seen more sites allowing 16 character if not longer passwords. Fewer are requiring regular resets.

“This is part of a big push to make things more usable for humans,” Hall said.

Like many computer experts, Hall has been a fan of passphrases for years.

“I tell people to think of a sentence that is shocking and unpredictable, even nonsensical,” he said.

One example: “The spherical brown fox jumped into the Russian Bundestag.”

A friend of his likes to use pet peeves as his passwords, such as the malapropism “all intensive purposes.”

Of course, most experts say passwords of any kind are outdated. Many have been pushing two-factor verification, where users have to prove their identity by entering a code sent to their email address or cellphone number. This standard is being more quickly adopted than passphrases.

In the meantime, experts caution against using popular song lyrics or poetry lines in passphrases. So no Beyoncé or Wallace Stevens. Hackers can download libraries of information to try common phrases. Mazurek suggested typing in your passphrase into a Google search bar and seeing if the search engine can auto-complete it – signifying that it’s a common phrase.

Rich Shay, another Carnegie Mellon researcher, said the studies grew out of experiences on campus: School email passwords had to be eight characters long and include one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, a special character and a number.

The researchers figured there had to be a better way.

Still, the studies showed that even with passphrases throwing in a little complexity – a number, a special character – could only help.

“There is no magic bullet,” said Shay, now at MIT. “There is no perfect password.”

And that’s something everyone already knows.

© 2016 The Washington Post

Tags: Apps, Cyber Security, Internet, Password, Passwords, Social



There’s a Serious Problem With Voice Control That We’re All Ignoring

There's a Serious Problem With Voice Control That We're All Ignoring

The other day, I received a text message that made me realize something big about modern etiquette and voice control and just how rude I’ve been without even thinking about it. I’d just flown a red-eye in from Las Vegas, my hands were full of luggage and I was not in the mood to drop everything to answer the text. So, I did what I tend to do at home when my hands are covered in soapy water or flour.

I said, in a clear and somewhat stern tone, “Hey Siri . . . . ”

Immediately, the woman in front of me turned around and started to open her mouth almost as if to reply, but then stopped. She looked both puzzled and almost offended. Was I talking to her? Was I, in fact, issuing an order to a complete stranger?

This got me thinking. As we look at new ways of controlling our gadgets, it’s becoming clear that some of them are more suited to being used in public and others are best left to more private use. To me, voice control which is becoming a big feature in many, many gadgets — falls firmly into this second category, because it’s something best done when you’re one-on-one with your phone.

After all, if you hate it when your dinner companion is bent over a screen, how much worse is it for them to be carrying on an entirely different conversation without you? Have you ever had a half-conversation with someone who turns out to be talking on the phone using a Bluetooth headset or headphones? Getting caught up in someone’s conversation with their inanimate assistant is just like that, only worse.

I’m not alone in thinking this way.

“I do think that there are places where having that speaker out loud isn’t appropriate: out on the street, in the subway, the elevator, in a car, standing in line to get a sandwich or coffee. Those are places I wouldn’t use it,” said Lizzie Post, the great-great-grandaughter of etiquette extraodinaire Emily Post and writer and podcaster on etiquette in the modern age for the Post Institute.

Post also noted that, even when you’re in a more private setting, there are still times when it feels odd to bring your technology into the conversation. She said that she’d once been brainstorming a project with someone who pulled out his phone and asked it to find an item for him online. It was off-putting, Post said.

“There was no reason not to type it in he had no reason to be hands-free,” she said. “It starts to sound like you’re dictating to a secretary when you don’t need to be.”

I’m not saying voice control technology is bad. In the car, it can be a literal life-saver if it keeps you from fumbling with a touchscreen behind the wheel. I’m as excited as anyone about reports that Apple’s working on wireless earbuds that let you control Siri, or that Amazon is working on a more portable version of its voice-controlled Echo. In your home, with your family, it feels kind of neat to speak to your gadgets to set timers or reminders.

But those are all situations when you’re either alone, or where it’s acceptable for you to pull your attention to the side for a moment. In other social settings many people tend to pitch their voices as if they’re issuing orders when talking to their technology, as I did at the airport. That makes people sit up and take notice, even if you think you’re being discreet. “Remind me to buy deodorant” is not something you want to bark into your phone on the bus. Ditto to dictating emails within earshot of your co-workers. (Bonus rudeness points if the emails are about your co-workers.)

Even if you’re saying something totally harmless “Hi sweetie, running a little late” saying it out loud in public still drops people into discussions in which they never asked to be participants. That can be uncomfortable, particularly if it comes out of the blue and makes those around you feel as if they’ve wrongly stumbled into a private conversation. And making the people around you uneasy is pretty much the definition of rude.

Which gets back to the notion of public technology versus private technology. I’ve come up with a basic way to categorize this: If it’s something you’d feel goofy doing at your cubicle, it’s probably a private technology. To define it even more clearly, here are some examples. Eye-tracking screens, for instance, are fine to use in public because they’re unobtrusive. Virtual reality is private, because you are literally cutting off all sensory inputs to the outside world. Augmented reality, which blends the digital and virtual worlds, walks a fine line but is arguably more public because you still interact with the world (and people) around you. Gesture control depends on the situation. If you’re having to make big arm-waving motions, that’s best done at home. If it’s more subtle, like a hand swipe to get to the next presentation slide, you’re probably fine.

This isn’t to say that either of these is more useful than the others, or even more social using VR with another person is surprisingly wonderful for conversation. The same is true of voice control: Using your voice to dictate messages can save you time or let you be more coherent than you could be in a fast, thumb-typed message. But those are situations when you’re using your phone to facilitate communication, not to step away from it.

So, yes, talk to Siri or Cortana or Google or Alexa, but think about the context. “The blanket tip we offer for all technology is to think about the people you’re with first,” Post said.

That’s good advice for using voice control, and for whatever other crazy and wonderful technologies may come down the pike.