Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan is a Scientist, Author, Hacker and Tinkerer, and co-founder of a startup working on fixing the Internet of Things. He is the author of a number of books, and from time to time he also stands in front of cameras. You can often find him at conferences talking about interesting things, or deploying sensors to measure them. Last year rolled out a mesh network of five hundred sensors motes covering the entire of Moscone West during Google I/O. He's still recovering. He sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him, or more frequently provides commentary in 140 characters or less. He is a contributing editor for MAKE magazine, and a contributor to the O'Reilly Radar. A few years ago he caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all the time. This caused several class action lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing. Several years on, he still isn't sure what to think about that. Alasdair is a former academic. As part of his work he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes which, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of what—at the time—was the most distant object yet discovered.

The Snapchat Leak

4.6 million phone numbers, is one of them yours?

While the site crumbled quickly under the weight of so many people trying to…
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3D printing from your fingertips

The 3Doodler is tapping a new market: People who want a 3D printer but can't afford one.

The 3Doodler is a 3D printer, but it’s a pen. This takes 3D printing and turns it on its head. In fact the 3Doodler rejects quite a lot of what most people would consider necessary for it to be called a 3D printer. There is no three-axis control. There is no software. You can’t download a design…
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The inevitability of smart dust

Why general purpose computing will diffuse into our environment.

I’ve put forward my opinion that desktop computing is dead on more than one occasion, and been soundly put in my place as a result almost every time. “Of course desktop computing isn’t dead — look at the analogy you’re drawing between…
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Digging into the UDID data

The UDID story has conflicting theories, so the only real thing we have to work with is the data.

Over the weekend the hacker group Antisec released one million UDID records that they claim to have obtained from an FBI laptop using a Java vulnerability. In reply the FBI stated: The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed. At this time there…
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Mining the astronomical literature

A clever data project shows the promise of open and freely accessible academic literature.

There is a huge debate right now about making academic literature freely accessible and moving toward open access. But what would be possible if people stopped talking about it and just dug in and got on with it? NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory…
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They promised us flying cars

Tired of waiting, hackers and billionaires alike are building the future they want to see.

We may be living in the future, but it hasn’t entirely worked out how we were promised. I remember the predictions clearly: the 21st century was supposed to be full of self-driving cars, personal communicators, replicators and private space ships. Except, of course, all that has come true. Google just got the first license to drive their cars…
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Tertiary data: Big data's hidden layer

Tertiary data: Big data's hidden layer

Thoughts on the hidden data that's generated about us, rather than by us.

Big data isn't limited to multi-terabyte datasets or data markets. It also includes the hidden data you carry with you all the time and the growing data on your movements, contacts and social interactions.

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Fighting the next mobile war

Fighting the next mobile war

Recent moves by Apple and Google could ignite the external accessories space.

While you'll likely interact with your smartphone tomorrow in much the same way you interacted with it today, it's quite possible that your smartphone will interact with the world in a very different way. The next mobile war has already begun.

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Apple and a web-free cloud

Apple and a web-free cloud

Apple's approach to the cloud is business as usual, and that's what makes it interesting.

From custom chips, to the data centers backing its new iCloud effort, Apple is committed to controlling the end-user experience. The web has no place in their vision.

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The next, next big thing

The next, next big thing

The web had its day. Mobile is already peaking. So what's next?

Those evangelizing the revolutionary qualities of "the next big thing" (whatever it may be) would do well to revisit past "big things." Truth is, computing goes in cycles.

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