University students fake GPS signal, misdirect $80 million yacht

It turns out that the GPS signal guiding you to your summer vacation or to a client meeting could easily be hacked.

A team of students managed to distort a GPS signal near an $80 million yacht, sending it off course on the open seas.

The university students at the University of Texas at Austin set out to see if they could “spoof” the GPS signal being received by navigation equipment.

Their test subject: a giant 213-foot $80 million yacht travelling just south off the coast of Italy, on its way from Monaco to Rhodes, Greece.

Well, the students didn’t exactly hijack the luxury vessel without asking. They did have permission to board the White Rose of Drachs – but the findings of the experiment may bring about uninvited consequences.

From the upper deck of the boat, the students emitted a faint GPS signal from a device the size of a briefcase.

Directing the signal toward the ship’s GPS antennas, the students gradually turned up the strength of their spoofed signal to drown out the signal sent by real GPS satellites.

And then, they began transmitting a spoofed location that was slightly different than where the yacht was really located.

Little by little, the crew noticed their location was slightly off-course. So, they would turn the ship to correct the direction.

So while the GPS map in front of the yacht’s crew showed it was going in a straight line, the students could see the ship’s wake was leaving a “pronounced curve.”

This is almost like what Elliot Carver and his evil henchmen did in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

All this just shows how GPS isn’t all that secure – especially when it comes to devices such as ships and planes that rely on it to guide their path.

New in-flight entertainment feature could let you flirt with other passengers

A new feature available to travellers on Virgin America flights could let them flirt with their flight mates.

So, if you want to send a drink over to the girl in seat 24 B, no problem. Just order it up on the in-seat entertainment system.

Likewise, you can send messages to the cute guy in 16 D using the chat system…all at 30,000 feet above ground.

 And if you don’t like the attention you’re getting from the stranger somewhere in the cabin…perhaps consider a parachute? Not like you can leave the bar at cruising altitude.

Creepiness aside, this is all Sir Richard Branson’s idea to get you leaving the plane with a “plus one.”

From the on-board delivery service to the in-flight instant messaging, the new features available from the airline could help lonely passengers find everlasting love, or perhaps a quick connection between connecting flights.

Not all of Virgin’s in-flight amenities are meant to help you make in-person connections, some are meant to help you make actual connections to the real Internet.

Wi-Fi has long been available on every flight, along with handy plugs at every seat so passengers can charge their laptop and their phones.

But would you send a random message – or a drink – to a fellow passenger in hopes of finding love?

The further you travel, the happier your tweets?

twitter_logoSick of seeing your friends’ happy, optimistic tweets when they’re away from home? Or can’t stand that co-worker who gleefully gloats about their vacation on Twitter?

You can’t blame them, a new study suggests.

According to researchers at the University of Vermont, people’s tweets are happier the further away they are from home.

The group analyzed roughly four billion tweets, sent from the year 2011 to now.

They compared tweets sent from a user’s geographical home location to messages sent out of town.

Using the exact latitude and longitude of tweets (to within 10 metres), researchers classified tweets based on whether they were sent near where a user lived, or from somewhere different.

You might be wondering – how did they know where a user lived? Well, it was simply a matter of knowing where most tweets were sent from, over and over, on a consistent basis.

Figuring out a tweet’s happiness was a little more complicated. To solve that problem, they came up with hedonometer.

Taking into account the number of words in a tweet, such as “great”, “new” – helped classify a tweet as being happy.

Meanwhile, a tweet with “hate” or “bored” would symbolize a negative tweet.

What they found was that the happiness of tweets goes up the further away they are from home, especially when they’re thousands of kilometres away from home.

Tweets about 1 km from home are typically less happy.

Users on Twitter who usually have a wider variation in distances also tended to use the happier words more often those who didn’t always tweet from such a selection of different places, away from home.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that jet-setters are happier, but it just means that they’re tweeting happier thoughts.

Do you get sick of seeing really happy or sad tweets on Twitter?

Tech I travel with – what’s in my bag?

Laptop, tablet, headphones and smartphones for travel.

Laptop, tablet, headphones and smartphones that are good for travel.

As a big gadget guy, it’s tough for me to leave home without my toys. So what do I bring with me when I travel? And how do I pack light?


You’ll see I pack my Ferrari-red Lenovo Thinkpad x100e. With an 11-inch screen, it’s not the biggest of laptops. But with a keyboard and a 64-bit processor under the hood, it’s a smart laptop that works for me. Other than the awesome colour, the keypad features the classic IBM eraser head-style mouse in the middle of a well-sized keyboard – making it great to type and navigate windows with.

The battery charge is enough to get me across Canada. When it’s not on, I use it’s active power USB port to charge up my next gadget.

Note: The Thinkpad has since been replaced with a Microsoft Windows 8 based Lenovo Yoga, which is yet to make its maiden voyage. I’ll let you know how it goes.


I love reading magazines on long flights for two reasons: it’s usually the only time I’ll read, and reading sometimes puts me to sleep (I can’t nap while travelling). The full-size Apple iPad gets the job done for all the right reasons.

It also doubles as a handy device to get caught up on news and email when I’m away from home – and I can find good places to go see (and eat) without having to wait for my laptop to boot up.

I recently took the smaller iPad mini with me on a trip. While the smaller size meant I could break it out while waiting in lines and stash it in a small carry-on bag, the non-Retina display didn’t make it very comfortable for reading.


I used to bring my biggest headphones and blast the music to drown out the drone of jet engines. Then I discovered noise-cancelling headphones.

The sound from my Sennheiser cans sound great – and the noise-cancelling function dramatically cuts down the steady racket of air travel. When it’s time to land, they fold up into a small and stashable carrying case that keeps them protected.


It’s important to see the world in all it’s glory -whether you’re out on a patio or carving down the slopes. They’re not the most stylish sunglasses, but my Adidas sport sunglasses do the trick. The polarized lenses also help cut out glare and pump up the colours.

What else?

You might see there’s an LG phone in there. I’m often testing out gadgets, so there’s a good chance I’ll put one to the ultimate test when I’m away from home. Did I mention I really love the LG Optimus G? Ok, there you go. Quad-core power is awesome.


Hitting the slopes? New Google feature lets you scope out resorts in 360

When picking a vacation to a snowy, winter getaway, it’s important to know what you’re going to encounter.

From the type of terrain to the selection of chutes – wouldn’t it be great to know what to expect before you hit the slopes?

Well, thanks to Google  Maps, you can check out the slopes using Streetview – although they should really call it Slopeview.

Google announced on its blog that the world’s top ski resorts are now mapped in all their snow-covered glory.

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Seatguru is the app for all your flight needs

Seat Guru can help you find the best place to sit on the plane.

If you’re a frequent traveller, you likely have an arsenal of apps to help you navigate foreign cities and decipher unknown lands. But I’ve found one app that takes care of all my air travel needs, really simply.

No stranger to the web world, the Seatguru app does three main things.

Obviously, it lets you find out the best seat on the plane you should sit. Just enter in your flight code and departure day, and the app will bring up the specified plane’s seating plan along with symbols to tell you which are the best – and least desirable seats.

If you’re looking to book a flight, the app’s flight booking component  offers a basic fare finder. It easily sorts flights by price and stops, comparing costs across most major airlines.

Lastly – there’s a feature to tell how early (or usually, late) your flight is.

Granted, other apps have fancier features and more advanced functionality, but they can really bog you down when all you need to know is that your flight is an hour late.

For its simplicity and ease of use, I take flight with Seatguru.

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