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This Week in Tech

Smartphones in schools

Last year France did exactly this. The UK is thinking of doing the same. There are schools in South Africa where this is policy. It's a global topic of debate and contention.

Here's what a whole lot of other people have to say on the matter.

Links for this week...

That's it for this week...

Comments

Smooth Skullcaps Exhales - pure genius!

GPS. It lets us know where we are on the surface of our huge and amazing planet. Software allows us to combine our position with digitised maps and routing algorithms to find how to get to a specified destination. Our location can even be used to draw up lists of shops / attractions / faculties nearby to us, so that even if we are new to an area we can easily know what destinations are around us.

But, it is never quite so easy to let people know where we are. Sure we can share a location - if we are online and using the same app. Reading out lattitude and longitude co-ordinates to tell someone where we are is tedious - and often inaccurate. What is needed is an easy-to-communicate global standard method for communicating a location on the planet.

Enter "What Three Words". This amazing startup has divided the entire globe into a grid of 3m x 3m squares. Each grid has been given a name made up of three words. 26 Languages are supported (including isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans). These words are easy to remember, easy to communicate and can be typed directly into a mobile app or online browser map to find the location they represent.

It's a unique idea, well worth pushing as a global standard. It has tremendous potential for businesses and customers to quickly and accurately communicate location. In the UK emergency services are adopting it as a standard and it is rapidly garnering support in many other places (including here in SA).

The app (Android and iOS) is free - and so is access to the online map in a browser.

What if the company fails? What happens to your ability to convert locations into words and vice-versa? To quote from the site:


If we, what3words ltd, are ever unable to maintain the what3words technology or make arrangements for it to be maintained by a third-party (with that third-party being willing to make this same commitment), then we will release our source code into the public domain. We will do this in such a way and with suitable licences and documentation to ensure that any and all users of what3words, whether they are individuals, businesses, charitable organisations, aid agencies, governments or anyone else can continue to rely on the what3words system.

Reassuring.

I'd really recommend installing the app, using it and telling as many other people about it as possible.

And the article's headline? That's one of my favourite places to camp.

Digital Trends article.




GauGAN - the AI Artist

A short while ago I wrote about 'This Person Is Not Real' - an AI project that created realistic human faces from scratch. nVidia is experimenting with an app that can turn MS Paint style sketches into realistic looking photographic images. The app is not generally available, relies on computers with AI CPUs (Tensor chips) and so is not something that you can rush out and try.

Some of the resulting images can look like bad uses of the cut, paste and clone stamp tools in Photoshop, but that even this much is possible is pretty amazing.

But the video is cool in a kinda awesome, breathtaking way. Well worth showing your learners.


Google- The serial App, product and Services killer.

I am a voracious reader of news. That's why I write this blog. I manage this by using RSS - and for a long time I relied on Google Reader as my go-to RSS reading tool. Seven years after creating it Google summarily cancelled Reader.

I also enjoy taking (and editing) photos. One of the best plugins tool suites for image editing is called the NIK Suite, of which Viveza is my favourite tool. Google bought the tool in 2012. It dropped prices drastically (from $500 to $130) and then, in 2016, started to give the suite away for free. In 2017 they decided to kill the NIK product line. Luckily Dx0 (a photography software company) bought the brand from them and has continued development.

The list of Apps and Services that have died at the hands of Google is long - and does not include examples such as the NIK photographic plugins (because they were bought out and so did not die). Many of these were not created by Google. They were bought; they had loyal, enthusiastic users who watched their favourite tools languish and die at the hands of a mindless behemoth that consumed them, used them up and excreted them on the dungheap of history.

How long is this list, you ask? Just take a look at KilledByGoogle.

Does that seem like the behaviour of a responsible digital citizen to you?

Talking of irresponsible: Facebook strikes again.

It might be a really good idea to change your Facebook or Instagram password. And anyother password that is the same as your Facebook password (you naughty user you!).

Why? Because it turns out that Facebook kept hundreds of millions of user's data stored on locally accessible computers in plain text (i.e. unencrypted format). That means any Facebook employee (or person with access to the data) could look up the password of almost any Facebook user.

Since 2012.

Liklihood that someone actually looked up your password: Low. Change it anyway, to be safe. And think about just how irresponsible Facebook is when it comes to valuing / protecting your data and your privacy.

Malvertising vs Adware

CSO Online explains (includes a brief explanation of the use of steganography).

Fabian Fights Back - against Ransomware

Great read from the BBC.

Pay by Face

Not sure I'm ready for this. Apparently the Chinese are.

Follow up on Boeing 737 Max 8

Popular Science on software as part of aircraft design.ExtremeTech on how safety features that could have prevented the crashes were 'optional' (expensive) extras. CNN on how pilots with experience on other 737 models were 'trained' on the 737 Max 8 (with no reference to the new MCAS system in the course materials).

Profits over lives. Not looking good for Boeing.

Flat Earth?

I've known about people choosing to believe that the earth is flat for a while. What I have not known is the craziness of the world that these people inhabit. Ars Technica has an article that sums up the content of 'Behind the Curve' - a documentary screening on Netflix, Amazon and Google Play. Not really tech or IT related, but the article is worth reading and the documentary worth watching.

Other Links:


That's it for this week.

Comments

Rio scales up Cybercrime for Olympics

If your learners need proof that Cybercrime is an industry - and an increasing threat to the general public - CSOOnline.com has an article on how malicious URLs (fake web sites for phishing, hacking, etc) have grown by 83% in preparation for the Olympics that start today. The New York Post has a more detailed article on the topic. A general prediction is that attempts to breach the cyber security of the event itself will be four times greater than the 165 million attacks recorded during the 2012 Olympics in London. Tripwire.com has some common sense tips to avoid being scammed / hacked whilst visiting the Olympics.

This might be a great opportunity for a task on Cybercrime for your class - a lot of information is available and you can easily break them up into groups and get them to do things such as:

  • Create an informative glossary of cyber crime terms for Olympic spectators
  • Create a few plausible phishing sites and a guide on how to identify them
  • Write an expose on how prevalent Cybercrime is in Brazil and how poorly it is policed
  • Write a short story entering on an Olympic spectator's experience with cybercrime
  • Create posters that could be put up to warn users of the dangers of free wifi
  • Make a short informative video / animation warning people about what to look out for on the streets of Rio

Phones, Security, Fingerprints and 3D Printers

Earlier this year we saw the whole drama about the FBI trying to force Apple to unlock a phone used by a terrorist. Now police in Michigan needed to unlock the phone of a murder victim to search for clues to the identity of the murderer. They managed to make a 3D scan of the victim's fingerprints and then create a 3D print of the fingerprints good enough to unlock his Samsung Galaxy S6 phone. Read about it here at qz.com.

Australia is changing its longitude and latitude

We all know the earth moves. That's why there are earthquakes. Well, tectonic shifts mean that Australia moves around 7 cm per year. Overall Australia has moved around 1.5m since 1994. That's a problem - for GPS and self driving vehicles. An error of 1.5m is large when you are trying to keep a car on the road.Officially changing the longitude and latitude fixes this problem. It is also a problem for some even more commonly used self-driving tech: farm equipment! Check out this article at CNet for some insight into tech and farming. There's a great video showcasing some of the tech built into John Deere farm equipment that should awe your learners too!

An illustration of Global Warming in action

If you have been paying attention to the news you will know that the world has just completed a streak of 14 months of record average temperatures - a streak that shows no sign of stopping in the near future. This article from the Washington Post contains some animated graphs worth looking at (and showing to your learners).

That's all for this week. Happy teaching!

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