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This Week in Tech

18 cores, a surf-able drone and jaywalking

Exams are upon you, so you don't have too much time to deal with in-depth news and articles right now. So this week I'll keep it short and sweet.

18 Cores

That's right: Intel just just announced a new i9 series of core processors that maxes out at 18 cores (36 threads) on a single CPU - trumping AMD's earlier announcement of a Ryzen processor with 16 cores. That's if you are willing to pay $1 999 (over R30 000) just for the CPU in your system! As always though, this development is an indication of how CPUs are developing and where they are going. That, and the fact that everybody (including Apple) seems to be trying to catch up with Google and their Tensor chip by creating silicon designed specifically for AI and machine learning.

Surf-able Drone

This is not something that is on the market, more a proof of concept used in a cool way. Digital Trends has an article on a guy delivering the match ball to a soccer cup final in Portugal.


Don't Jaywalk!!

What's jaywalking? Crossing the street anywhere that is not an official pedestrian crossing - or crossing against the light. Paris has a problem with jaywalking - statistics say that over 4000 people a year are hit by cars whilst jaywalking. So, obviously, authorities would rather people did not jaywalk and have come up with an innovative technical way to discourage people from jaywalking. Digital Trends has the details.


An AI chatbot that helps you get a job

CNN Money has and article on a startup trying to develop a chatbot that deals with recruitment and preliminary job interview questions.

VR Training midwives

Virtual reality has been 'on the cusp' of mainstream use since the early 1990's. I remember the first huge clunky VR sets and the blocky graphics that they displayed. Today's VR is much more realistic and immersive but still faces the problems of lag (even milliseconds of lag can cause headaches and sea-sickness) and expensive hardware. That said, I think VR is closer to mainstream use than ever before and is seeing some innovative use cases. An Australian University is using VR in its final exams to test how good a trainee midwife is at delivering a baby. CNet has the details.

Facial Recognition in education

A French business school will use facial recognition software to check how much attention its students are paying in class. Useful? Invasive? Creepy? You decide. read the article at The Verge. This author strongly agrees with the sentiments expressed in the second last paragraph.

I promised this week would be short and sweet - so that's where we stop! Good luck with exams, invigilation and marking!

Comments

Gif Attack!

Deadly pictures. Farmers becoming hackers. SSDs that can double as RAM. Lasers protecting Salmon. A physical key for safety in the digital world.... This week's news is a mixed batch - most of which sounds and feels a little incredible and sci-fi. Enough credible news outlets have reported on the topics to be reasonably sure that none of it is 'fake news' ;-) [and now I have just used an emoji in a blog post, something I never thought I'd ever do!]. Anyhow, there's a lot in this post that will make you shake your head in disbelief and which you can use to amaze and astound your learners.

Gif Attack.

Gif. The image format that allows for animated images to be shared on the web and through social media. The image format that has been intentionally used to physically attack a human being. You see, people who suffer from Epilepsy can have a seizure triggered by flashing lights (that's why there are epilepsy warnings for some video games, movies,etc.). So a Trump supporter (who else would be that dumb and malicious) designed a Gif that would trigger a seizure and then sent it to a reporter that they felt was criticising the president too much. He also made his intentions clear by putting “You deserve a seizure for your post” below the image. A Texas jury has just ruled that a Gif image can be considered a deadly weapon. Read the fascinating story at here and here Digital Trends. The person responsible tried to hide his tracks by creating and using a fake twitter account but has been traced and identified.

American farmers pwn their farming equipment.

No, pwn (pronounced 'pone') is not a typo. Well, it actually was originally one when some unknown hacker typed 'pwn' instead of 'own' when describing taking over someone's computer. This 'leetspeak' (language used by the 'elite', the hacking community) term is what American farmers are having to do to their Tractors, Combine Harvesters, and other computerised farming equipment, especially those made by John Deere. A fascinating article on Motherboard describes why and how they are doing this.

"What you've got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market"

Save the Salmon - with lasers

Sea Lice. Parasites that flourish in the nutrient rich environment of a densely packed fish farm. A real problem for fish farmers. Enter.... an underwater drone armed with lasers that shoots to kill! Check out the article on Digital Trends. Or just watch the video below.


Storage or Memory? Both!

The line between storage and memory is being blurred by a new Intel product - the Octane SSD. Ars Technica has a technical but interesting article that is worth a read, more for you to be informed so that you can say to your learners that maybe in the future Ram and Storage will be the same thing. Basically a normal SSD is 10 000 times slower to respond to a read or write request than RAM is. The new Octane SSD is only 10 times slower than RAM! This means that you can choose to use it either as RAM or storage, depending on the needs of the moment. NB: A very exciting and interesting technology that could have a huge impact on hardware of the future! Of course, like most new technology, it is insanely expensive now - expect to pay around R20 000 for less as 375 Gb unit.

The poisoned wine problem

Brian Brushwood presents this video (from his 'Scam School' Youtube Channel) which you can use to have some fun with your learners when doing binary numbers.


A battery that powers chips whilst cooling them

This is a loooooong way off, but holds some very exciting potential. I'm not going to repeat the article so just head over to Engadget and read it there.

Fido. The physical key to your digital security.

This one is also a long way off, but is a potential solution to the 'hackers keep stealing usernames and passwords' problem. Read it at My Broadband. In the meanwhile make sure your learners understand the need for (and use) two factor authentication on any of the sites and services they use that offer it.

Which is the Safest browser?

Google's Chrome remains uncracked at 2017 hacking contest.

PC Building Simulator Game

Your learners might have fun with this. And they can learn something without destroying expensive hardware. Download the software (still in beta) here and check out the video below.


Fake news corner:

  • Social media wrongly identifies the London attacker
  • The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) - the organisation that ranks countries student in academic ability (if you see headlines telling you that, for example, 'Singapore students best at math in the world' then the research and testing has been done by PISA) - currently tests and ranks students in maths, science and language. They are planning to add a test for students ability to identify fake news. Read about it from the BBC.

Other News for the week

That's it for this week. Hope you find it all as amazing, astonishing and interesting as I do. Happy teaching.

Google beats Go champ

Artificial Intelligence.

Prominent science and tech personalities such as Professor Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla motors and SpaceX) have recently made public statements about how they fear that AI poses a threat to humanity (think along the lines of SkyNet in the Terminator movies or the killer AI in The Matrix).

Read more about this here, and here, and here - and many more locatable with a quick search.

"The development of full Artificial Intelligence could spell the end of the human race". - Stephen Hawking, December 2014.

Artificial Intelligence is potentially the "biggest existential threat" to humanity. - Elon Musk.

Why is this topical?

Well, this week Google's Deepmind AI beat the human world champion of a game called "Go". This is significant because "Go" allows for many more potential moves than other strategy board games such as chess and checkers. In fact the number of potential moves in a game of "Go" is said to outnumber the atoms in the universe - which makes it virtually impossible for an AI to win using brute force (i.e. simply calculating all the possible moves in a way no human can). In order to win the AI has to "think" and strategize in an almost human fashion. This week Deepmind's AI won the first two games (out of 5) against Lee Se-Dol, a feat that many believed completely impossible with current technology and 'at least a decade away'.

How it applies to real life:

As teachers of computer subjects we have always spoken of how computers, robots and automation have impacted on so-called 'blue-collar' work. Manufacturing jobs have been lost to computer controlled, automated assembly lines. Rote administration and clerical jobs (filing, switchboard operation, typing pools, rooms full of accountants and mathematicians performing calculations) have also been wiped out by faster, more efficient computers. But, we have also been able to reassure that there are many jobs out there that computers could never do - because they can't think. Rapid advances in AI are due to change that in the near future. Suddenly many 'white-collar' (office / admin work) jobs are on the line with the World Economic Forum predicting between 5 and 7 million jobs potentially lost by 2020. Just think of all the taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers that self-driving car technologies will put out of work (just one example of AI impact on previously 'safe' jobs).

AI is no longer the concern of researchers and scientists but a real factor of influence in the lives, careers and choices of your learners.

What else happened this week?

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!

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