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This Week in Tech

AMD fail, Facebook wail and video games don't create mass killers

Welcome back to another weekly news round up.

AMD fail...

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.

Read about it at Ars Technica and The Hacker News.

Facebook wail....

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:

What is RAM

What is an SSD

Criminal using drone to scout target in JHB

The Citizen has the details.

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!

Comments

Gaming at school

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.

Good Reads:

  • DigitalTrends has the history of 3D printing.
  • 2018 Budget means smartphones will become more expensive in SA - MyBroadband has the details.
  • The New York Times has a great article titled: 'In an era of smart things, sometimes dumb stuff is better'.
  • CNN Has a great segment of biometrics and giving IDs to people without official documentation.
  • TechCentral announces that a Driverless Taxi service has been improved in the US.
  • The BBC shows us a motorbike racing robot.
  • The BBC has a segment that asks the question "What if the internet stops working?".
  • Did you know? Samsung has a TV factory in SA that can produce 5000 units a day. MyBroadband has the details.
  • Allen Downey has an excellent article on why it is becoming more difficult to learn programming.
  • Bloomberg has a great segment on the connected car. Ars Technica adds more information to scare you even more.
  • Business Insider talks about how social media lures you in and makes an addict of you.

Free Resource:

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.

Comments

Human ingenuity vs Biometrics.

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.

Social Media

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.

Cashless ATMs

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.

Welcome back

Welcome back after the Easter break. In this blog we'll summarise the news from the holidays, and warn that the next post will only be on 6 May as the author will be away. Happy catching up!

Mastercard test fingerprints in SA

Soon forgetting your PIN / protecting your PIN might not be so important anymore. Mastercard has been trialling a card that includes a fingerprint reader in the card in conjunction with ABSA and Pick n Pay. Many articles from all over. This one from BizNews.

All is not as it seems

Our learners live in a world where they are often bombarded by images of a 'fake perfect' culture. People pose, pimp, preen, ensure the light and camera angle are just so and create that all important 'perfect' image for posting on instafacebooktwitter. These girls at Hello Giggles show the difference between their posts and what they look like most of the time.

Might be worth a discussion about perception, the need to appear perfect and reality....

Bug in Firefox, Chrome and Opera makes phishing almost impossible to detect

This one is a bit technical, but bear with me... The WWW doesn't use ASCII. Instead it prefers utf-8 a unicode character encoding that helps make it easy for browsers to display other languages and symbols. This makes it possible for the web address https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e.com/ to be displayed as apple.com in your browser. A problem for detecting phishing, because one of the first things to do is check that the name in the browser looks correct. Read more at Hackaday.

One fingerprint to rule them all

Mastercard might be too late with its fingerprint reading bank / credit card. Those pesky researchers are at it again, creating not one but a set of 'master fingerprints' that act like skleleton keys and make breaking into digital biometric fingerprint security possible. Check out the article at Digital Trends.

Facebook and murder

So a guy has issues with his girlfriend. He thinks the best way to get her attention is to walk up to a stranger, get them to say his girlfriend's name, shoot them in the head, record it all on video and then post the video to Facebook. Where it remained for three hours before Facebook took it down, despite the video being reported. Discuss.

Learn to think like a computer

An interesting piece from the New York Times on computational thinking.

Germany to parents: 'split on your kid's piracy!'

OK, so its basically a 'tell us who did it or the person paying for the internet connection pays the fine' scenario. So German parents will have to cough up for underage children but will have to choose between splitting on their adult kids piracy activities or paying the fine themselves

10m wide 4k display

Cinemas might not have projectors anymore. Samsung just revealed a 10m wide 4k LED display designed for small cinemas.

Teraco Data Center in JHB

Mybroadband has photos....

That's it for now, back in 2 weeks. Happy teaching

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