This Week in Tech
It seems like the days of parents and teachers telling kids to stop wasting their time playing computer games might really be at an end. If you've been reading along with previous blog entries you will have noted that e-sports tournaments have huge money prizes and are being considered for the olympics. Not only that, people are earning incomes from sponsorship as top gamers (just like top sportsmen do) - and from streaming their gameplay on services such as Twitch (where they earn money from advertising). The inevitable has finally happened. Parents are paying for their kids to get extra lessons - for Fortnite! Expect to see more of this....
Hacking, Scamming, Phishing
Programming & Resources
That's it for this week. Enjoy!
At least that's what it feels like. There's been a lot of articles on Google this last week. From DRMing your email - to record setting fines from the EU - to winning a contract to supply internet to rural Kenya with its balloons, Google has been in the spotlight. Besides Google: Facebook melted down its stock, Amazon made a lot of money from its Bit Barns (data centres) and the internet proved once again that it never forgets anything!
This is about Google insisting that phone makers can only license Android and use it on their phones if they meet certain conditions - like making Google the default search engine. The EU thinks this is unfair and monopolistic behaviour and has fined Google $5 Billion for the practice. Despite the fine Google still made more than $3 Billion in profit in the last 3 months.
Email is tricky. Once you hit the send button anything you have written is kinda beyond your control. The receiver can forward the mail, print it, do what they like with it. Businesses especially would like more control overt what happens to the email they send. Google has added 'Confidential Mode' to Gmail, giving users some kind of control over their mail. The article explains the concept, the flaws in the solution and how it can be abused.
Its 85 000 + employees have a physical USB dongle key. Result: They haven't been phished in a year!
The internet's long long memory
Copyright and IP
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.
Those of you who saw "Minority Report" will remember that Tom Cruise's disgraced policeman character had an eye transplant to hide his identity from ubiquitous iris scans - but kept his old eyes in a baggie so that he could still log on to the police network. Iris scans have been touted as even more effective than fingerprints as a form of biometric identification. That's why there was a frisson of excitement that rippled around tech circles when Samsung introduced iris scanning to unlock the new Galaxy S8 smartphone.
We all know that any new security technology is seen by some people as a challenge. AND, no security technology is completely foolproof. So, it didn't take too long before hackers touted that they could fool the iPhone's fingerprint scanner by getting a mould of your fingerprint and casting a replica of the finger. Not something your average girlfriend of boyfriend wanting to check out your texts to see if you are cheating is likely to do. It involves a bit of skill and technique to execute effectively and is definitely more than a 30 second hack.
It is a little faster to hack the iris scan on the S8 - all you need is a camera with night mode (so that it captures infra-red), a good printer and a contact lens. It's still not a 30 second hack, but it's certainly easier to get a photo of someone's eyes than it is to make a mould of their fingerprint.
The lesson is that no biometric security will ever be infallible - people will always find a hack. It's probably better to use a combination of biometrics and the good old PIN / password.
Green power - solar and wind
Tramp and Eskom / the SA Govt have at least one thing in common: they seem determined to cut all support for green renewable energy. This is not the case all over the world though. China just created a 40 Megawatt floating solar power plant that has the added benefit of protecting water supplies by reducing evaporation. Check it out at Digital Trends. In the UK a wind farm of 32 turbines each capable of generating 8 Megawatts has just gone on line. Supposedly a single rotation of one turbine can power a house for 29 months! Read it at Engadget.
Printed Ovaries - that work!
This was meant for last week's blog but somehow got left out. CNN has an article on how scientists created a 3d printed ovary, placed it inside a mouse which mated naturally and then gave birth to two pups. The video is with watching - but put it on silent: there is no voice over and the music is irritating!
WannaCry - and what's next...
Al Jazeera has an interesting video on the ransomware attack and cybersecurity in the future. Worth paying attention to is the fact that EternalRocks is quietly spreading itself in a much stealthier fashion but not delivering any payloads yet. Linux systems also have a vulnerability to the same type of SMB exploit used by the two worms and sysadmins are advised to patch ASAP - info and links to patches at The Hacker News.
CSO Online compares the real cost of ransomware to the actual amounts paid in ransoms.
The Guardian got hold of leaked documents that reveal the guidelines given to the thousands of people employed as moderators for the site (this second article is very interesting, informative and a great source for classroom discussions). This prompted a little bit of internet outrage over where the lines are drawn between what can stay and what can't. It blew over fairly quickly. Basically: it is a grey area and moderators must use their own judgement....
At the same time Facebook is taking steps to counter the rising problem of the filter bubble that isolates people into worlds that only confirm their own biases and viewpoints. Engadget has more on their new approach to trending topics that might bring balance to both the news and the debates and discussions it sparks.
The connected future might belong to Thunderbolt 3
Engadget reveals that Intel is planning to build Thunderbolt controllers into their CPUs (removing the need for controllers on motherboards) and also plans to make the standard royalty free, meaning that putting Thunderbolt 3 ports into computers will cost no more than the hardware. Good news for those who want the fastest external device connection technology available. CNET has an excellent article on the differences between the different types of USB and Thunderbolt. Well worth the read.
FNB is introducing cashless ATMs in rural areas in South Africa. The machines allow people to do banking tasks without having to travel to bank branches.
Walt Mossberg retires
The well regarded tech journalist has written his last article and it is well worth a read: find it at recode.net. In it he discusses what feels like a current lull in technology (iteration of existing products rather than the next big thing) and relates it to preparing the ground for the rise of what he calls 'ambient computing'.
8K Monitor - too good for current computing
If you have R70 000 burning a hole in your pocket and are prepared to spend it all on a monitor you can buy Dell's new 8K beauty. Digital Trends explains just how wonderful the screen is, and how modern computers (and even GPUs) just are not up to the task of getting the best from this screen.
And on that note, that's all for this week folks. Good luck with the exams and marking ahead.
Strangely enough, the news this week has been full of stuff about robots. So, we'll run with it and let the blog focus on robotic topics.
UBI (Universal Basic Income)
Let's start off by talking about a concept that features in Science Fiction and has been in the news lately relating to Bill Gates' call for a tax on robots and Elon Musk's statements in support of the concept. A UBI is when the state pays every citizen, no matter what other income they may earn, a set amount each month (Wikipedia's explanation here, Wharton School of Business discussion here, Brookings arguments in favour of). Part of the motivation for calls for a UBI is the increasing loss of jobs due to automation (robots). Some places (Finland, Ontario) are actually trialling the concept.
The topic of a UBI is a great one for class discussion and a topic for 'Social Impact of ICT' that your learners can really get their teeth into. How about a debate? Why not make up a 'parliament' where speakers get to argue for and against a UBI and then the class has to vote? This is a topic that can fire up your learners, get them involved, make them talk after class to friends and family and make your class even more relevant!
How big are robots, economically speaking?
According to an article by Fast Company, researchers put the economic value of all robots in America at $732 Billion - bigger than the economy of Switzerland!
Robotic ear surgeon.
Cochlear implants. Devices that help deaf people to hear. Wired has an article about a robot that can perform the operation to give someone a cochlear implant - by itself.
CNet has an article detailing a journalist trying out a robot porter that followed her around New York for a day. The robot follows you around and can be used for things like carrying your groceries. Great for city life where you don't use a car.
Drone Pilots outnumber real pilots.
OK, so drones are not real robots. The combination of mechanised constructions under remote human control (with the distinct possibility of self control in the future) is enough of a grey area to qualify for inclusion in this blog. Digital Trends has an article detailing how the US air force now employs more drone pilots than pilots for real planes.
Robots and specialised AI chips
The world of the microprocessor is also being affected by the increased demand for more intelligent robots. AI performs better when running on hardware specially developed to support it. Google set the trend by developing the TPU (Tensor Processing Unit) last year and many other companies are working in this hot new area of tech research and development. Mobileye is just such a company, making chips and cameras for self driving cars. Intel just bought them for $15.3 Billion.
UWVs? Seafaring Drones? Whatever you call them, they are real and being tested in Norway.
Engadget has the details.
PRINT THIS OUT AND STICK IT UP IN YOUR CLASSROOM - and email it to everyone you know!!!
Cartoon courtesy of XKCD.
EWN republishes and article from the World Economic Forum studying how to control fake news.
That's it from a full and busy blog for this week.
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