This Week in Tech
Welcome back to another weekly news round up.
A short while ago we got news of the Spectre and Meltdown hacks on Intel CPUs. AMD claimed that the chip design flaw that made these hacks possible did not apply to their CPUs and so they were soooo much better than Intel. Buy AMD instead! Well.... The shoe is now on the other foot. Researchers have found that anyone with 'Root' (administrator) level access to a computer or a network can get malware to run on the protected secure enclave of the CPU, making that malware impossible to detect or eliminate.
A disturbing part of the discovery is that it appears that the Israeli firm that published the report breaking news of these flaws seemed to be trying to use its findings to affect the stock price of AMD and other companies (i.e. trying to make money from the flaws by messing with the markets).
The fact remains that the flaws are real though - and are yet to be patched.
Facebook just kicked Cambridge Analytica off the system - for pulling private information from more than 50 000 000 users. To help Trump win his election (Ouch!! That's adding insult to injury!). They claim the event is not a hack or breach because no passwords were stolen - only personal and private information...
The New York Times has a detailed piece on this.
Here's Facebook's official explanation of what happened.
Here's Joy of Tech cartoon's take on it - Mark Zuckerberg Vs Wonder Woman!
BUT WAIT.... Here's more...
The Next Web has a piece showing what data Facebook has on you - and how you can check it out for yourself...
|Every time you open Facebook, the time, location, IP address, browser & device have been recorded. If you’re part of the 1.4B people that use Facebook on a daily basis, they have enough data points to determine your everyday life patterns with great accuracy: home and work address, daily commute, wake up & bedtime, travel duration & destination, etc.|
Video games don't create mass killers
One of President Trump's reactions to the recent school shooting in Florida (besides suggesting that teachers be armed) was to say that video games are responsible for creating a mindset that makes mass killings possible.
Luckily for us, science proves otherwise - and Gizmodo has the details.
Passwords Out, Biometrics In
CNN Money has a segment on how quickly the US is moving away from passwords and resorting to biometrics for security. I'd take the statistics with a grain of salt, but interesting nonetheless.
Tourism & The Selfie
The Citizen has a great in-depth article on how selfie culture is affecting tourism. Great for broadening your view and gaining insight.
Android - with malware pre-installed
The Hacker News has an article detailing how 5 million Android devices have been found with some particularly nasty malware pre-installed.
Climb into a taxi - and find there's no driver...
Waymo is trialling driverless cars in its service in the US. Digital Trends has an article on how people are reacting. Video below.
Digital Trends explains:
Criminal using drone to scout target in JHB
The Citizen has the details.
That's it for this week. Happy teaching!
The FPB (Film and Publications Board) which so recently and unreasonably overreached itself by giving the film Inxeba: The Wound a pornographic "X" rating, is one step close to trying to censor the internet.
MyBroadband has the details here and here. This gives you a great opportunity to discuss and debate the issue of censorship in general, its dangers and, more importantly, the practical feasibility of enforcing this law.
The Human Error dept.
On 7 March all Occulus Rift VR headsets worldwide stopped working. Not because of a bug or a software problem, but because a security certificate was not renewed. MyBroadband has the details.
This Motherboard writer found himself stuck without a heater in the latest cold blitz in the USA. His solution? Fire up his cryptocurrency mining rig. His article explains how effective it was - and the upshot in terms of cost. A short but entertaining read.
Alexa's Creepy Laugh.
Just read the BuzzFeed article. If it happened to me I'd probably also be creeped out.
The Yellow Pages finally bends the knee
The Yellow Pages. Remember them? That fat book of (obviously) yellow pages containing business listings and advertising for the landline, pre-internet area. Well, it still exists and is going digital. MyBroadband has the details.
What to do when your ISP over-promises and under-delivers
Your ISP sells you a 20 mbps line. You never get to experience that speed. In fact, you are lucky when you get 10 mbps. What to do? In SA, unfortunately, not much. The UK govt has seen the light and has passed a bill which will allow users to simply tear up their contract and move on without penalties. Cool. Engadget has the details.
Deepfakes. AI generated face-transposing videos.
There has been a lot of buzz about the problem of DeepFakes - a technology which has been used to create fake pornographic videos of celebrities by putting their faces on the bodies of porn stars in porn videos. This New York Times article takes a deeper look at the tech and how it works - and foresees the fake news problem becoming worse with a looming increase of fake videos.
More on the fake people in video scene...
If you saw the original Blade Runner movie and the new sequel then you would have noticed the appearance in the new movie of a character from the old - completely unchanged. Boing Boing has an article showing how this was done.
Two articles on News, Fake News and reading from the New York Times.
Both are worth reading.
The Guardian has an article in a similar vein detailing MIT research on why fake spreads faster than true on Twitter.
DigitalTrends "What is" series
Finally: China's first space station due to crash back to Earth
This will happen somewhere around the end of this month. No one knows exactly where or when. Engadget has the details.
That's it for this week. Ciao.
In case you missed the viral post: Richard Appiah Acute (a Ghanaian teacher) does it on the blackboard. The learners must pass a tech exam and he has no computers. You think you have it rough....
Since the post on Facebook Mr Akoto has received many offers of help, computers, software and projectors.
Wired has an interesting article that shows how even at the recruiting level the prevailing atmosphere and attitudes discourage women from entering tech.
MyBroadband details how SA retailers are dealing with the shortage of GPUs - because cryptocurrency miners bought more than 3 million GPUs globally last year!
Htxt.co.za has a link to a game that can teach your kids how fake news is created and spread.
Top 500 Supercomputers details how AI beats lawyers at contract reviewing.
Using Black Panther as a springboard Engadget looks at how the proliferation of CG is resulting in overwork, lower salaries and poor quality scenes.
Finally, the NASA video below shows how the older, thicker artic ice has been vanishing over the years...
That's it for this week. Ciao.
Facebook never seems to stop putting its foot in its mouth. They're in the news again this week because of, amongst other things, spreading fake news videos about the victims of the recent mass school shooting in the USA. China also features with a concept sure to appeal to at least some of your learners - namely gaming schools! Then there's a whole batch of other interesting tidbits - specifically an in depth article on how it is becoming more difficult to learn to program.
E-Sports - a career option?
E-Sports are a thing. There are competitions with significant prizes and even TV stations dedicated to covering people playing games such as StarCraft against each other. The Citizen has an interesting article on China's approach to the concept of learners playing games in school. Well worth a read...
|260 million people are already playing eSport games or watching competitions...|
the eSport industry will be worth $906 million in global revenues in 2018
China an example of future surveillance state?
Not really an article you can use in the classroom, but an interesting view of ways that the state can use technology to surveil its citizens. Engadget has the details.
Always Connected Windows - limits exposed
Remember a few posts back I mentioned the prospect of an 'Always Connected' Windows machine using ARM processors - and feared that it would have the same kind of limitations as the failed Windows RT project. Well, DigitalTrends has an article detailing these limitations that was briefly listed (and then pulled) by Microsoft. Spoiler: if you were expecting the full Windows experience then prepare to be disappointed.
YouTube, Facebook and Fake News
Recently 17 young people were killed in a school shooting in Florida. Or were they? Right wing gun freaks claim its all a hoax - and YouTube and Facebook spread their message... Business Insider has the details. Om Malik Explains why Facebook will never change this kind of behaviour.
This YouTube channel has a set of lessons on how computing theory that you could find very useful.
That's it! Hope it's useful.
Welcome to our 50th blog post. We hope that the blog has at least made one useful contribution to your teaching, classroom and / or learners. This week's news tends towards the lighter side and there are a couple of fun things you can show your learners to put smiles on their faces.
The first item on the agenda is MIT engineers proving that you don't need GPS and precise knowledge of location to improve an autonomous drone's ability to avoid obstacles. Instead they allow the drone to keep what they call a 'nano map' in memory which the drone continually refers to. By comparing past images with the current image the drone can position itself relative to obstacles and take the appropriate evasive action.This is much closer to how we humans do things and reduces crash rates from 28% to 2%!
Weird Hardware Hack
Q: What do you get if you combine parts from a flatbed scanner, dot matrix printer and a hard drive, with some mechanical parts and a pencil?
A: The weird 'printer' below that uses a pencil to 'tap' out an image.
Useful? NO. Fascinating? Yes!
Robots continue their advance...
Wired has a story on how Boston Dynamic's Spot robot dog can now open doors (video below). Makes me think of the 'Metalhead' episode from Black Mirror season 4.
Or maybe not so much... The Winter Olympics provided the ideal opportunity for various robotics teams to show just how far robots have to go. The narrative is not English but the visuals are universally understandable.
5G and Wild Boars
More from the Winter Olympics. 5G is a specification that is only due to hit mainstream in 2020. South Korea has been using the technology (capable go 10 Gigabits data transmission speed) in various demonstrations throughout the Olympics. One of the uses is for automated defences against Wild Boars to keep them from invading competition tracks. TechCentral has the details.
Recycling old computers into art
Zayd Menck has built a model of Midtown Manhattan (New York) from old computer parts...
In other news:
And that's it for this week. Enjoy!
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