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My dad sent me this video over the weekend. Such a cool video, it made me miss home so much. If you have never been, you should check Barcelona out. The best city in the world by far. As my mom always reminds me, there are no wild fires, earthquakes, hurrican Irenes and Sandys, arctic cold waves, etc. in Barcelona.

Ps. I love the song on the video.

I recently had to generate the camera ready of a paper for a conference. Oddly, the camera ready required to add the IEEE copyright and publication id at the bottom of the first column on the first page. This is usually done by adding:

\IEEEpubid{\makebox[\columnwidth]{978-1-4799-3360-0/14/\$31.00 \copyright 2014 IEEE \hfill} \hspace{\columnsep}\makebox[\columnwidth]{ }} However, the \IEEEpubid is deactivated by default in a IEEETran .tex file when it is of type conference. I did a bit of research and found many different solutions. A quick look at the documentation of the IEEETran class told me that what should be done is to unlock the commands that are locked in the conference document type. To do so, one has to add the command: \IEEEoverridecommandlockouts The problem was that my file would not compile anymore and would launch some errors on vboxes and other column formatting problems. I noticed that, at least in my case, the placement of the commands (\IEEEpubid and \IEEEoverridecommandlockouts) that I found online would not work. I did not manage to solve the problem until I place the commands right after the \begin{document} line: \IEEEoverridecommandlockouts \IEEEpubid{\makebox[\columnwidth]{978-1-4799-3360-0/14/\$31.00 \copyright 2014 IEEE \hfill} \hspace{\columnsep}\makebox[\columnwidth]{ }}

For a year and a half I had the chance and the luck of working among great minds at Columbia university in nanofabrication and interesting mechanical engineering-related projects. I was never myself involved in any graphene-related projects, but I did meet quite a few PhD students and faculty working with this fascinating material. Last night, when reading the IEEE Spectrum Magazine, I was happy to see some of these people I met featured with a very cool story.

A team under James Hone and Kenneth Shepard at Columbia University has built the tiniest FM transmitter in the world, which is made of graphene.

From the IEEE Spectrum Magazine:

Many research groups have built graphene transistors that could be used in future RF circuits such as signal processors. Hone and his colleagues decided to test a different radio application for graphene, by building a moving, vibrating, electromechanical device. The team reckons that such graphene-based nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) could be more compact and easier to integrate onto chips than silicon MEMS and quartz devices, which are used today to pick up and filter RF signals in smartphones and other gadgets.

To build a graphene transmitter, the team suspended a 2-4 micrometer-long strip of graphene above a metal electrode. By applying a voltage to the electrode, they could draw the strip of graphene down. The resulting strain altered the strip’s resonant frequency, tuning it up much as you might tighten a guitar string. By altering the voltage on the gate, the team found they could use the graphene device to generate a frequency-modulated electromagnetic signal. In a paper published this week in Nature Nanotechnology, they report the device could transmit radio signals at 100 MHz, right in the center of the FM band.

It is very interesting how the graphene acts as an oscillator, which moves and vibrates, providing a more compact, small and easier to integrate form than quarz oscillators. Very cool stuff. Specially the demo of the project, by transmitting Gagnam Style with the graphene FM transmitter and playing it on a normal FM radio. You can listen to the recording of the experiment here.

You’ll notice a fair amount of static in the audio clip. That’s partly because the graphene oscillator is quite sensitive to electrical noise: a small voltage on the gate electrode can dramatically shift the frequency, Hone says. The team didn’t add insulation in order to optimize their set-up for this demonstration. “We were also trying to operate at 100 MHz, right smack in the middle of the FM spectrum, where you can pick up a lot of FM signals,” he adds.

I was reading this story earlier today after a colleague shared it. I thought it was very interesting. The research company Renesys has recently disclosed their findings on something as interesting as concerning. For a few days, all the traffic coming from a list of some of the major cities in the US and over the world was routed over Belarus and Iceland. Renesys claims this was an attack and that the main goal was to scan, analyze and perhaps even store all the traffic to obtain who knows what.

In the data analysis they perform they found highly interesting cases, like the one mentioned in the article. An email sent from Guadalajara in Mexico to DC was, at some intermediate step in Virginia, routed to Russia and then, after going through the potentially malicious route in Belarus, was routed back to the US via Frankfurt and New York. It seems that everything originated from an attack on the BGP routing tables (BGP hijacking).

All our communications are encrypted and secured and, unless you work in some top secret organization, there is nothing to worry about. But, still, this is quite preoccupying. I wonder what was the motivation behind this attack.

The report from Renesys presents more evidence from the subsequent attack that routed traffic over Iceland. This report, which you can find here, also discusses in the implications of this attack.

When looking for a good link to refer readers to BGP hijacking information, I found this Defcon talk. Very interesting stuff.

As usual in Fall, Apple is ready to unveil some new products today. Nothing has been announced officially yet, but everything indicates that we’ll see a new model of the iPad (rumored to be thinner and lighter and, possibly, with a fingerprint scan), a new release of the iPad Mini (we’ll see about this one, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, starting with a retina display… not I don’t like it. I own one and I love it!) and perhaps new versions of the MacBook.

If you want to follow the iPad 5 and new iPad mini presentation live, you can use either of the following links:

Did you install iOS 7 because you did not want to wait. Well, in that case, you should make sure you do not loose your phone or get it stolen. The reason is a quite preoccupying and basic security flaw in iOS 7 that allows to bypass the lock screen.

This flaw was found by a Spanish soldier, who posted a video on YouTube to prove it. Now Apple representatives say they are working on fixing it.

You can read more about it in La Vanguardia (news in Spanish).

By the way, note that the flaw affects every type of device able to run iOS 7 *except* the new iPhone 5S.

My brother recently forwarded me the information on Fairphone, a new smart phone that claims to put social values first. According to its description, it is priced right, letting the user know exactly what she/he is paying for. Also, Fairphone is sourcing raw materials that don’t fund armed forces or violent conflicts, from mines that treat people like the human beings they are. The phone is assembled in China, where a fair wage and fair benefits are provided for the workers.

From the mines to the factories, we want every worker involved in creating this smartphone to earn a fair wage. Beyond monetary benefits, our ultimate goal is to ensure that employees work in safe conditions that comply with environmental regulations.

For our first phone, we’ve focused on our factory in China, including creating a fund to improve worker’s wages and working conditions and open discussions between workers and their employers.

In terms of technical specifications, it is actually a quite interesting phone. It is compatible with all GSM bands and can pump up to 40MBps with HSPA+ compatibility. However, no LTE radio. The phone does not have NFC, but it is equipped with all the typical gadgets you expect from a high-end smart phone, such as sensors, a decent camera, etc. I find particularly interesting that it allows to install two SIMs, so you can keep using it when you travel abroad with a second, local, SIM without removing yours. Or perhaps you could use the same phone as a BYOB at work, having a leisure persona and a work persona. Something similar to AT&T’s Toggle.

In terms of security, though, the phone is rooted by default. This will allow people to do cool stuff with it and install the OS they want. However, I bet there is going to be a bunch of these phones getting infected by malware and trojans. And the end result will always be the same, surprises when you get your monthly bill or your phone turned into a spammer. After all, rooted phones are like candy for mobile fraudsters.

Anyhow, a very interesting and cool phone if used securely and cautiously.

Tomorrow is the day chosen by Apple to unveil its new iPhone and, probably, a new set of colorful “low-cost” iPhones for emerging markets. Despite most believe that the new devices will just be an iPhone 5 with an improved processor, a better camera and iOS7 (so, not really any innovations), some rumors indicate it might come with a fingerprint reader at the home button.

What is clear is that no wearable device will not be presented (except for a major surprise), so Apple will this time be behind Samsung and their new smart watch, the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Follow live the iPhone 5S presentation at any of these sites:

Apple will announce whether they stream the event live on www.apple.com

EDIT: Updated links. Go check the new iPhones out!

I recently read a very interesting paper that discusses one of the coolest wireless comm-related projects I have seen around for a while. A team of researchers from University of Washington presented this paper at Sigcomm this summer in Hong Kong. The paper was, by the way, awarded with the best paper award.

The idea is simple but could lead to a whole new technology with a great spectrum of applications. These researchers have designed a simple communication system that operates with no need for battery or power. Essentially, the nodes use the signals that are transmitted around them (for example TV signals) and modulate them in such a way that they are able to communicate with each other. Essentially, is a further step more from, for example, RFID tags that use the power of the transmitted signal to power themselves and send a reply. Although ambient backscatter (which is the name the authors give to this technology) has very short range, it could potentially be used for multiple applications, including certain types of wireless sensor networks.

The ambient backscatter project website presents the following video. One can observe the huge antennas these small devices have, which indicate that they operate at not too high frequencies and give an idea of the very low power they operate at. No room for inefficiencies of small twisted or patched antennas. They keep it simple for now with a dipole tuned at the wavelength.

By the way, this project is lead, among others, by Prof. Shyam Gollakota. He was recently awarded with the prestigious ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award and shortly after got a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Washington. Good stuff.

[UPDATE]

While browsing more stuff for this post I found about another project from Gollakota: WiSee. Again, really cool stuff. They are using subtle variations in wireless signals when a person moves to do gesture control. Very interesting. Check it out here.

I recently enjoyed a demo of a very cool new visualization technique. A group of researchers at AT&T Research has come up with a new data structure, the nanocube, that allows very fast and accurate visualization of huge data sets.

This new techniques allows the visualization of huge data sets and the ability to interact with the visualization in nearly real time without requiring large amounts of time to re-load and re-process the data.

You can check a couple of demos in their website. Really cool stuff.

Born in Barcelona, moved to Los Angeles at age 24, ended in NYC, where I enjoy life, tweet about music and work as a geek in security for wireless networks.
All the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not related to my employer.