• Providing quality teaching resources for the 'computer subjects' (CAT and IT) since 1995.
  • We believe that all learners should be comfortable with computers as part of their lives.
  • Content is presented through real-life examples and scenarios, so that learners may identify with the material more easily and make it relevant to their lives / experiences.
  • We provide videos, PowerPoint presentations, solutions to exercises and data files for exercises - all to make life easier for teachers and learners.
Stacks Image 58588

This Week in Tech

Looking in the Black Mirror

I have been a fan of the Black Mirror series since its debut. I have wondered whether to post about it on this blog - its musings and insights into possible technologically dystopian futures are disturbing but thought and conversation provoking. I can see how watching an episode can be very useful in the classroom - for debate and follow up exercises around which current technologies will develop to make the depicted future possible. Seeing a review of Black Mirror in The Daily Maverick prompted me to include it in this post.

I would highly recommend that if you have not seen Black Mirror you take the time and effort to do so. Even if you don’t include it in your classroom it will arm you with ammunition to pull out when you need to talk about possible future trends and social implications of the technology that you are teaching...

Hardware:


Programming

Malware, hacks, Etc...

AR & VR

Robots

Fake News

Teaching:

Social & privacy

That’s it for this week - really do try to watch Black Mirror (Netflix). Ciao


Comments

Google News

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!

Google news:

Google gets massive fine from EU.

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.

Google adds DRM to your email

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.

Alphabet (Google's parent company) to supply internet connectivity using balloons in Kenya.

Google not being phished.

Its 85 000 + employees have a physical USB dongle key. Result: They haven't been phished in a year!

  • How Google came to be

Facebook

Hacking

The internet's long long memory

Robotics

Netiquette

Copyright and IP

Social Impact

3D Printing

  • Al Jazera talks about 3D printing houses

Medicine

Resources

Comments

The blockchain edition

Blockchain. It's the new buzzword in tech. Everybody is talking about it. Everybody wants to use it. In some ways it feels like a solution in need of a problem. But boy, when that problem is identified... we might see block chain add some order and accountability to the otherwise unruly wild-wild west of cyberspace.

What is blockchain?

When you hear the word blockchain you probably immediately think about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum. Whilst blockchain is part of the technology that makes these currencies possible - it is not a currency itself. It is easier to understand what blockchain is if you get the idea of cryptocurrencies out of your head when trying to understand it.

Blockchain is a public distributed way of tracking transactions secured by cryptography. Let's break this down:

  • Public means that everything is out in the open and everyone has access to the records.
  • Distributed means that the records are kept in multiple places - and have to match in order for a transaction to be valid. This stops a single person or institution from controlling the transactions or changing the records after a transaction has taken place. It also means that validating a transaction is not the instantaneous transaction we are used to (e.g. an EFT payment through your bank). The transaction is only valid when multiple record keepers have indicated that they have added the record to their database. This also means that no single computer can cause a failure or data loss by being hacked or crashing or for any other reason.
  • Tracking means recording and writing down. Before computers people recorded transactions by writing them down in books. 'Ivan deposited 10 000 Rubles into the bank on 10 March 1914'. 'Ivan transferred 2 789 Rubles to Dmitris account on 16 May 1914'.... etc. These books were called ledgers. Ledgers needed to be controlled by trusted third parties - which is part of the function of a bank. Only the third party could update the ledger - they could demand a fee for doing so (which is why you pay your bank fees) and opens up the possibility for fraud, breaches of trust, etc. It is hard to share a physical book based ledger. ICT makes it possible for multiple computers to share the same electronic ledger and communications means that they can keep those ledgers synchronised and up to date in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Transactions means that blockchain can be used to track anything transferred between locations, people, institutions, businesses or countries. Shipping goods around the world? Blockchain can be used to verify that the goods were sent and received.

Other resources and explanations:

  • Digital Trends explanation
  • Lifehacker explanation
  • Blockgeeks explanation (very detailed - includes multiple descriptions of possible uses for blockchain)
  • Video explaining how blockchain works (excellent)

  • World Economic Forum's video explanation (more like an ad describing what it can do in the future)

  • IBM explains (actually tries to sell) their implementation of blockchain as a way of tracking transactions in the diamond industry (excellent)

The blockchain stuff in the news this week:

In 2014, Maersk followed a refrigerated container filled with roses and avocados from Kenya to the Netherlands. The company found that almost 30 people and organisations were involved in processing the box on its journey to Europe. The shipment took about 34 days to get from the farm to the retailers, including 10 days waiting for documents to be processed. One of the critical documents went missing, only to be found later amid a pile of paper.

A dose of reality amidst the hype:

Blockchain is designed to record transactions. That is all.

More data added to each transaction (e.g. note, images, other fields in the record) makes the calculation of the secure hash far more complicated and requires additional computing resources. Also, each transaction is only valid when 'accepted' by more than 50% of the network, which can make validating a transaction much slower. As the list of transactions or 'blocks' grows, so does the computing power needed to manage the blockchain. It also makes each transaction slower to process. What incentive is there for people to keep on running their part of the distributed network with no reward but considerable cost?

"...last year it was claimed that the computing power required to keep the [Bitcoin} network running consumes as much energy as was used by 159 of the world’s nations"

Here are some people raining on the parade...

  • Hackernoon - The missing blockchain user guide (read past the beginning to the AirBnB comparison, which is a concrete example)
  • Digital Trends: Blockchain has real problems to solve.
“Right now, Ethereum can process 17 transactions per second. Facebook can handle 175,000 requests per second. Visa, 44,000 transactions per second. So, if we really want to use cryptocurrencies as currencies, it would not be possible as of this moment.”
Justas Pikelis, co-founder of blockchain Ecommerce platform, Monetha
As of late 2016, it [Bitcoin] can only process about seven transactions per second, and each transaction costs about $0.20 and can only store 80 bytes of data.

Hacks and Cracks

Robots and Robotics

Social media & social implications

AI

Hardware

Miscellaneous

That's it for this week. Hope you have a much better understanding of blockchain and are no longer stymied when the learners ask tricky questions about it!

Comments

Show more posts

Navigation


Contact Information

E-mail:

Fax:

Tel:

Postal Address:

soemail

086 293 2702 or 012 546 5313

012 565 6469

PO Box 52654, Dorandia, 0188

Copyright Study Opportunities 2016 - 2018. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy | Terms of use