Weekend tech reading: Crushed wood is stronger than steel, the argument against Quantum computers

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Crushed wood is stronger than steel A chemical bath and a hot-press can transform wood into a material that is stronger than steel, researchers report. The process, and others like it, could make the humble material an eco-friendly alternative to using plastics and metals in the manufacture of cars and buildings. “It’s a new class of materials with great potential,” says Li Teng, a mechanics specialist at the University of Maryland in College Park and a co-author of the study published on 7 February in Nature. Nature.com

Designing Windows 95’s user interface Three years ago I came across an interesting paper written up by a Microsoft employee, Kent Sullivan, on the process and findings of designing the new user interface for Windows 95. The web page has since been taken down – one reason why I’m a bit of a digital hoarder. It specified some of the common issues experienced from Windows 3.1’s Program Manager shell and looked at the potential of developing a separate shell for ‘beginners’. Socket 3

How to Design a New Chip on a Budget We recently had an interesting exchange with bunnie Huang, hardware guru and creator of Chumby, NetTV, and the Novena laptop, among other things. He’s also the author of Hacking the Xbox, The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen, and not one but two feature articles in IEEE Spectrum. IEEE Spectrum

Mass production of new class of carbon nanotube semiconductors is close University of Waterloo chemists have found a way to simultaneously control the orientation and select the size of single-walled carbon nanotubes deposited on a surface. That means the developers of semiconductors can use carbon as opposed to silicon, which will reduce the size and increase the speed of the devices while improving their battery life. Next Big Future

Windows 10 Build 17093: Multi-GPU Controls, Fewer Passwords, HDR Calibration Microsoft’s upcoming Redstone 4 build of Windows 10 (aka Windows 10 Spring Creators Update) is still adding features, including several new capabilities of interest to enthusiasts — and a few puzzling changes unique to Windows 10 S. Let’s take a look at what’s in the pipeline. ExtremeTech

‘Humans Not Invited’ Is a CAPTCHA Test That Welcomes Bots, Filters Out Humans Chances are that at some point when searching Google, purchasing concert tickets, or signing up for a forum, you’ve had to click a few boxes to confirm your humanity. But while these CAPTCHA tests are usually meant to keep robots out, one website is welcoming them in. The conceit of Humans Not Invited is essentially a reverse CAPTCHA. Motherboard

The Equifax hack could be worse than we thought The Equifax breach may have exposed more personal information of customers than previously thought. Additional information, including tax IDs and driver’s license details, may have been accessed in a hack that affected 145.5 million customers, according to confidential documents Equifax provided to the Senate Banking Committee seen by CNN.

Also read: The Biggest Tech Fails of the Last Decade

The Sixth Stage of Grief Is Retro-computing Over the last few days I’ve been crazy for emulation—that is, simulating old, busted computers on my sweet modern laptop. I’ve been booting up fake machines and tearing them down, one after the other, and not doing much besides. Machines I’ve only heard of, arcade games I never played, and programs I never used. Software about which I was always curious. And old favorites like MacWrite. Medium

The Argument Against Quantum Computers Sixteen years ago, on a cold February day at Yale University, a poster caught Gil Kalai’s eye. It advertised a series of lectures by Michel Devoret, a well-known expert on experimental efforts in quantum computing. The talks promised to explore the question “Quantum Computer: Miracle or Mirage?” Kalai expected a vigorous discussion of the pros and cons of quantum computing. Instead, he recalled, “the skeptical direction was a little bit neglected.” He set out to explore that skeptical view himself. Quanta Magazine

Researchers discover efficient and sustainable way to filter salt and metal ions from water With two billion people worldwide lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, joint research by Monash University, CSIRO and the University of Texas at Austin published today in Sciences Advances may offer a breakthrough new solution. It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. Phys.org

A freeze dryer you can build in your garage What do trail mix, astronaut ice-cream, and cryogel have in common? This may sound like the introduction to a corny riddle, but they are all things you can make in your garage with a homemade freeze dryer. [The Thought Emporium] built his own freeze dryer with minimum fuss and only a few exotic components like a vacuum pump and a high-quality pressure gauge. The video is also posted after the break which contains a list for the parts and where they can be purchased. Hackaday

New Device Could Drive MicroLED Displays, Li-Fi A new device could make upcoming microLED displays easier to engineer and visible light communications systems, like LiFi, faster. As IEEE Fellow Kei May Lau sees it, the problem with conventional LEDs, which are current controlled devices, is that turning them on and off rapidly to control brightness or using them for Li-Fi takes careful engineering and a bunch of circuitry. IEEE Spectrum

Would You Have Spotted This Skimmer? When you realize how easy it is for thieves to compromise an ATM or credit card terminal with skimming devices, it’s difficult not to inspect or even pull on these machines when you’re forced to use them personally — half expecting something will come detached. For those unfamiliar with the stealth of these skimming devices and the thieves who install them, read on. Krebs on Security

Man Handed Conditional Prison Sentence for Spreading Popcorn Time Information A man from Denmark has been handed a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about Popcorn Time. In what is being described as a first for Europe, the man was convicted after telling people how to download, install and use the movie streaming service. He was also ordered to forfeit $83,300 in ad revenue and complete 120 hours community service. TorrentFreak

How did Google Talk change from a dream to a nightmare? Years ago, I used Google Talk with almost everyone I talked to. Nowadays, I talk with almost no one on Hangouts. Google Talk has changed from “so good I can recommend to everyone” to a nightmare called Hangouts. So how did we get to this point? tnhh

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