Facebook acquires Israeli Face.com


Facebook acquired an Israeli company that specializes in facial recognition software.

The terms of the deal between Facebook and Face.com were not disclosed by either company, according to the New York Times, which reported the deal on Monday. 

Face.com has been used by Facebook in the past two years for its “tag” feature in order to identify individuals across Facebook.

The facial recognition technology used by Face.com is designed to identify individuals by their gender and age.

Flame computer bug may have been released by Israel, minister says


A computer virus attacking computers in Iran and the West Bank may have been created with Israeli involvement, a government minister hinted.

Israeli vice prime minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an interview Tuesday on Israel Radio that “Anyone who sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat would be likely to take various steps, including these, to harm it.”

“Israel was blessed as being a country rich with high-tech, these tools that we take pride in open up all kinds of opportunities for us,” Ya’alon also said.

The discovery of the Flame virus was announced Monday by the Kaspersky Lab in Russia. It was discovered in high concentrations in Iranian computers and also in the West Bank, Syria and Sudan.

The virus was created to collect data, and may have lain dormant for several years and is controlled by a remote computer, which can turn it on and off at will. It is being called “the most sophisticated virus of all times,”

It reportedly shares some characteristics with the Stuxnet virus, which damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges before it was discovered in 2010.

Experts believe that it took a sophisticated programming team and state resources to create the program.

So you want to be a DJ . . .


You’ve danced your last on the bar or bat mitzvah circuit and moved on to high school. But that doesn’t mean the party has to end.

For those who have dreamed of going from an infinite iPod playlist to playing live on the ones and twos, the bar and bat mitzvah party scene is a great place to get your start. Setting up a DJ business takes practice, planning and professionalism, but it beats baby-sitting and burgers.

The Journal turned to two local experts to help you get started: DJ Elan Feldman of Elan Entertainment, a 21-year-old economics major at Claremont McKenna College, and DJ Chris Dalton of C.D. Players Entertainment, a 36-year-old entrepreneur who began his career as a teen talk show host in Detroit.

Starting Out

It might seem like a daunting task to turn a hobby you like into a lucrative business, but both DJs say it isn’t that hard.

“There are some formalities, like creating business cards, buying insurance and buying equipment,” Feldman said. “But the hardest part of starting a DJ company is finding a market. DJing is one of those businesses that a hobby can be a real business, too.”

Start by asking your parents to help you buy a DJ system as an investment. Spin every opportunity you get, even if it’s just to perform for friends at their events for no cost. Practice makes perfect, and if you do a good job, word of mouth goes a long way for these events.

Getting Hired

Referrals do wonders. If you have already worked one bar or bat mitzvah party, chances are the parents know other parents from the Hebrew school who need to hire someone to DJ their child’s event.

“All of my business involves referrals,” Dalton said. “I don’t spend anything on advertising. One time, I put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and it almost put me under.”

Having your own Web site or establishing a presence on Facebook or MySpace doesn’t hurt, especially if the student is doing the research. But parents don’t necessarily turn to a Web site for information about hiring a DJ for their child’s special day.

More important is a professional-looking business card. You can expect to spend about $65 for a box of 1,000 cards if you order them through a designer or retailer. But it’s also possible to get print-it-yourself packages from office supply stores for about $15.

Be sure you bring cards and any other marketing materials to the event. If the adults like what you do, there’s a chance they will pass your card on to someone else and get your name out.

Equipment

Feldman prefers Apple products, saying that he’s found them to be the best and easiest to use.

“I have several DJ programs; the most popular right now is Traktor,” he said. “I like to use an iPod, because I feel more involved with the party when I’m not hiding behind a DJ booth.”

Dalton brings a DJ rig with him that uses dual CD players, much like a vinyl turntable. He uses a tracker scratch with a laptop and will even break out an iPod as a backup to make sure those special moments go without a hitch.

For speakers, Dalton swears by Mackies and JBLs, which he considers to be the most dependable available. He also prefers American Audio mixers, which he says last up to three years.

Cost

Some DJs say shelling out a few hundred dollars a year for insurance purposes is worth the expense, while others say it isn’t necessary. Those who do carry insurance say it provides venues and clients alike with peace of mind.

Most of your expenses will come from investing in new equipment.

“I upgrade my equipment annually,” Dalton said. “It can cost a minimum of $10,000.”

Labor is another a big cost. It’s possible that you will have to pay dancers and assistants based on the size of the party.

And then there’s transportation. You may have to start shelling out for travel expenses, depending on your level of success. Given fluctuating gas prices, consider your transportation costs as part of your price quote.

Rates

Check to see how others in your area structure the rates they charge.

Dalton charges a flat fee of $925 for four hours. But Feldman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a set rate.

“I consider the type of event, its length and the financial situation of the customer before I set my price,” Feldman said.

Generally, if a party lasts longer than four hours, the customer will be paying more for that luxury.

Setup

If there are issues with the synagogue or hall where you need to set up — for example, there isn’t enough room for dancing — go with the flow.

“I teach everyone to give yourself an hour of prep time to make sure everything is OK,” Dalton said. “I work very well with everyone and make sure that everyone working for me understands that we are a team and that there is no ‘I’ in the word ‘team.'”

When dealing with pushy or demanding parents, it is imperative to figure out what they want well before the party starts so you aren’t hit with any last-minute issues. Micromanaging takes the fun out of the event for all parties involved, so before the day of the event, it’s important to come to an agreement on party details (for example, what time the cake comes out, what time dancing starts, if anyone is going to light the candles or give speeches and when, etc.).

Remember to handle parents in a professional manner, because you need their referral.

Playlist

A good DJ must be confident, engage the crowd and never forget that the event is to celebrate someone else’s personal moment, not to showcase his or her ability to entertain.

“Before any party, I meet with the client to discuss and plan the event. All my parties are fully customized. So these meetings serve as an opportunity for the family to tell me exactly what they are looking for and what type of music to play, as well as how the order of events should play out,” Feldman said.

A good DJ should understand his/her audience and keep current with popular music trends. Clean radio edits for certain hip-hop songs don’t hurt, especially because b’nai mitzvah kids often have little brothers and sisters at the party.

A great DJ must be able to guide the party in the right direction based on what the parents and bar or bat mitzvah student want. But then a little musical spontaneity never hurt anyone, and the variety will probably keep partygoers out on the dance floor clamoring for more.

No WiFi? WiPeer software says ‘no problem’


Whenever Technion computer science professor Roi Friedman visited conferences and lectures with his students, he found himself growing increasingly frustrated.

In an age of supposedly instant communications, he felt impatient that in locations without access to the Internet or a cellular network, there was no way to communicate or share files with fellow researchers, even though they all carried laptops and were often in the same hall or building.

The answer, he realized, was to develop a new solution.

One and a half years later, a team of doctoral students under Friedman’s guidance has developed WiPeer. The new software enables mobile and desktop computers to communicate directly with one another in a local area without any mediating factor, such as an Internet server. The software, which is available free on the Net, enables users to send messages, pictures, files, movies and games to one another wirelessly within a 100- to 300-meter radius.

Direct communication via computers has been technically possible for years. Any laptop or desktop computer with wireless connection capabilities should be able to communicate directly with another. The only problem is that this form of wireless ad-hoc communication is highly complex and requires a long configuration process. Even professionals in the field have shied away from tackling this problem.

“We always knew the possibility existed but it was just too complicated,” Friedman said. “When we wanted to share files, pictures or games it was much easier to just use a USB or disk on key.”

Work on WiPeer began in January 2006. It was undertaken as a doctoral dissertation by three of Friedman’s graduate students, Vadim Drabkin, Gabi Kliyot and Alon Kama. Their goal was to devise a solution that would not only solve their own communication problems, but which could also be put to use by the general public. As a result, the team focused on building software that looks attractive and professional.

“Typically when you build software in academia it is very rough and not always easy to use,” Friedman said. “Right from the start we made sure that WiPeer would have an attractive GUI [graphic user interface], could be easily installed and was simple and appealing to use.”

The user-friendly application platform enables simple communication between computers in close proximity — 100 yards inside a building and up to 300 yards in the open air. Users can transfer dozens of pictures from one computer to another in less than a minute, and even a 700 megabyte file can be transferred in up to 15 minutes. It is also possible to carry on chats without disturbing anyone in the vicinity or to play collaborative games like chess.

WiPeer is only available for systems that run Windows XP or Vista.

“It’s very fast and extremely simple,” said Friedman, adding that in addition to students and researchers, the software will also appeal to businesspeople, particularly those that travel frequently for their work.

“Employees who go abroad on company business may be seated separately from one another in the airplane,” Friedman said. “With this software, they can work together on their presentation during their flight.”

The software was completed earlier this year. Since it was published, several thousand people have

Israeli photo application promises more beautiful you


If the camera could lie, would you let it?

Three Israeli computer scientists from Tel Aviv University have developed the ultimate enhancement tool for retouching digital images. Called the Beauty Function, their program scans an image of your face, studies it and produces a slightly more beautiful you.

Introduced at a conference in Boston recently after more than three years of work, the Beauty Function is the inspiration of Tel Aviv University’s Daniel Cohen-Or and Tommer Leyvand.

In developing the Beauty Function, they asked 300 men and women to rank pictures of peoples’ faces — with varying degrees of beauty — on an attractiveness scale of 1-7. The scores were correlated to detailed measurements and ratios of facial features, such as nose width, chin length and distance from eyes to ears.

Some 250 measurement points were taken into account and, once formulated, researchers developed an algorithm that let them apply some of the desired elements of attractiveness — as mathematical equations — to a fresh image.

The result is a computer program that within minutes can decide how to make you more beautiful. Larger eyes perhaps? A less-crooked nose? How about lips slightly closer to the chin?

When carried out on a large number of sample images, volunteers agreed that 79 percent of time the effects of the Beauty Function — which can be applied to both men and women — made a face more attractive.

Photo-editing software companies such as Adobe (manufacturer of Photoshop) are potential customers of the new tool, and researchers hope it will also become a must-have add-on for all digital cameras in the future, “just like the red-eye function is today,” Leyvand said.

Like a true scientist, Leyvand has also tried using the Beauty Function on himself and family members. One relative told him that she was pleased with the output.

“She told me, ‘Now I know what I need to do to improve my makeup application,'” Leyvand said.

“If you can understand what the algorithm of the Beauty Function has chosen to do on your face,” he added, “it can help you accentuate parts of yourself deemed more attractive. You might want to use more lipstick to make your lips fuller.”

Plastic surgeons, he adds, may find it helpful to increase business. With a flick of a switch they can show people how minor alterations on the face and neck can enhance attractiveness.

Chances are most people will opt to keep enhancements in the realm of the digital world. And there is a need: It is no big secret that celebrities and models are being digitally enhanced in pictures and magazines. Why shouldn’t all of us enjoy some of that picture-perfect retouching too?

“Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder,” co-researcher Cohen-Or said. “Beauty is merely a function of mathematical distances or ratios. And interestingly, it is usually the average distances to features which appears to most people to be the most beautiful.”

“I don’t know much about beauty and I don’t pretend that I do,” he added, “but the nice thing about this project is that we didn’t intend or aim to define beauty. We don’t care about the reasons that make someone appear to be more beautiful. For us, every picture is just a collection of numbers.”

Leyvand and Cohen-Or envision that such a tool will be used for producing the ultimate dating site picture, and as a one-stop-shop enhancement tool for photo editors at glossy magazines.

Whatever the purpose behind using Beauty Function, the researchers are confident it will make a splash in the photo-editing world. Unlike existing software that relies on human intervention to decide what changes to make, the Beauty Function uses the computer to decide. Also, current touch-up software has magazine editors complaining of doctored images looking “cartoony” and little like the original. By comparison, the output of the Beauty Function looks natural.

Since its unveiling in Boston, the response to the Beauty Function has been overwhelming: Media, including New Scientist and Forbes, have been eager to report on a computer program that can change the landscape of digital photography.

The Beauty Function idea started around the time Leyvand had finished his master’s degree in 2003. Lingering around the computer science lab at Tel Aviv University, he continued to ping-pong ideas off his former mentor, Cohen-Or. Together they decided to build on a body of work in the area of computer learning, which was started by Dr. Gideon Dror at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo.

“When I thought about what he did, I thought about using his idea to guide an actual change towards making a picture more beautiful,” Leyvand recalled.
Today, Leyvand is in Redmond, Wash., working for Microsoft as a computer developer, while Cohen-Or has taken on the task of commercializing the beauty software.

As part of his ongoing work as a computer scientist, Cohen-Or also works with the notion of finding a similar beauty function related to color. Color harmonies exist, he said, yet not a lot has been done with aesthetics and color. Finding or matching the right harmonies of color — opposites or colors belonging to the same hue — can have a big impact on advertising and art, he believes.

But with or without color, the Beauty Function is bound to impact the way snapshots of our faces are taken and processed.

“Think about how great this could be for a professional photographer at a photo shoot,” Leyvand said. “Normally they take hundreds of pictures to capture the right expression for the perfect shot. It is a rare combination of light, camera position and angle of the face that makes the perfect picture.

“Getting that moment is a kind of magic. I think with our software we can capture that magic moment every single time.”


Tel Aviv University Homepage:
‘ TARGET=’_blank’>http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/~tommer/

Daniel Cohen-Or’s page:
‘ TARGET=’_blank’>http://www2.mta.ac.il/~gideon/

Karin Kloosterman is a freelance writer for ISRAEL21c, a media organization focusing on 21st century Israel.

Time Is More Than Money


Everybody wants to talk to Randall Kaplan, co-founder of Internet-content software company Akamai Technologies and founder of the investment network Jump Investors. On Jan. 25, Kaplan delivered an hour-long speech to The Jewish Federation’s Hi-Tech Division breakfast at Westwood’s Regency Club and spent well over an hour afterward meeting, greeting and giving advice to the young professionals at the networking event.

In his speech, Kaplan told of how he shifted from legal work to a sort of CEO training school by landing a position as assistant to SunAmerica’s Eli Broad. He did it by carefully researching and writing one letter each week to a different L.A.-area CEO. Broad was so impressed with his drive that Kaplan landed the job despite his lack of business experience. From there, Kaplan’s success helping to create two successful companies was again a matter of hard work combined with meeting and cultivating relationships with the right people.

Following the event, Kaplan emphasized the people-centered nature of his work, both in business and in his philanthropy. Kaplan founded and has led organizing efforts for The Justice Ball, a benefit for Bet Tzedek Legal Services that raised $700,000 last year. He said, “That’s a large dollar figure, but in addition to the money, it’s gotten a whole new group of Jewish and non-Jewish people involved and raised [Bet Tzedek’s] profile. Of all the things I’ve done, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

He added, “It’s not about the money. People focus too much on the money. If everyone spent a few hours a week helping other people, the world would be a better place; not everyone does.” For Kaplan, time and personal relationships are more than equal to money.