This Week in Tech
Welcome back from what has hopefully been a good, refreshing, energising break.
The holiday period has seen quite a bit of activity in the tech sector - including some far reaching hacks and bugs. There's a lot of it, and so this blog will have little discussion and lots of links...
Here's a short summary of (some) of the most important news and activities:
Hacks & Bugs:
A huge security hole in CPU microcode and hardware affects almost all CPUs made since 1995. OS vendors have to patch to work around the hole. Endless articles about the issue are available online. This article makes the issue comprehensible. Also includes a great graph showing the relative speeds of memory and storage.
Swatting is when you make a fake emergency call to the Police to get them to send a SWAT team to raid the house of someone who has been irritating / annoying you in your game. This article shows how it can go wrong.
This malware will even record conversations that take place when you are in a specific location! It feels like a type of 'James Bond 007' spy app with some pretty insane capabilities.
Someone pushed the wrong button. For 38 minutes a whole American state's inhabitants thought they were about to be nuked.
The state of the IT industry
A fascinating read for the gear heads out there. TLDR; the overhead of modern OS and multitasking means that yes, it takes longer for a letter to appear on your screen when you press a key today than it did on an Apple II!
A New York Times article looking at the possible robot impact on jobs in the future. Good read.
According to Wired though, the answer might be to learn to use Spreadsheets (perfect for CAT learners).
An interesting article that looks at the rise and fall of technologies through the years.
Speculative research is that online porn used over 5 million Kwh of power in 2016. That's a lot of power! The article shows that porn consumption has increased due to the internet - so much so that the cost of power overwhelms the savings made by getting rid of physical products such as DVDs (and their packaging).
Africa produces about 5% of the world's e-waste but recycles almost none of it. Around 44 million tons of e-waste (TV sets, smartphones, etc) was dumped last year alone. A study speculates that the gold, silver, copper & other valuable materials that were not recovered is around $55 Billion.
Bad news: Not planned for commercial release anytime soon...
Really interesting & short.
56 cores, 3Tb of RAM, 1700w power supply (4 household fridge's worth), 10Gb ethernet, TWO nVidia Quadro graphics cards... A maxed out spec costs over $69 000 (nearly 1 million bucks!). Just think of your gaming performance ;)....
ENI is a gas and oil company that has successfully used supercomputers for prospecting (it found huge gas fields in Mozambique and Egypt). It has expanded its supercomputing power to a 18 Teraflop machine in Milan.
Imagine your laptop is always on, always connected (just like your tablet) and its battery can last more than a day. The idea of Windows running on low power ARM CPUs could make this possible. Microsoft has a proof of concept - but real world performance is still to be seen. It would have to be a lot better than the discontinued Windows RT for anyone to be convinced...
And that's it for this week. Welcome back and happy teaching.
Tech is always pushing the boundaries. A continual fountain of new ideas, new gadgets and new ways of doing business bubbles up, with entrepreneurs and investors (and consumers) eagerly jumping aboard the latest bandwagon. The 'next big thing' arrives and is proclaimed by its inventors / creators / designers; we all reach, starry eyed and full of hope, for the magic that will miraculously improve our lives and ease our blighted souls.
The problem is: new tech is untried, untested and - even it performs flawlessly and does what it is meant to do in an exemplary fashion - people are wily and conniving and deceitful and will find a way to pervert the purpose of even the best technology.
This brings me to the cause of this negative and cynical rant: Poachers are trying to hack the tracking technology designed to protect and preserve their prey (Full scientific article available at Wiley Online Library). Cyber poaching. A new term to learn and loathe.
“Animal tracking can reveal animal locations (sometimes in nearly real-time), and these data
can help people locate, disturb, capture, harm, or kill tagged animals,”
Another job bites the dust
Used to be that people thought that jobs flipping burgers at fast food joints would be the last refuge for humanity whilst robots took over the world. Flappy, the burger flipping robot might hake something to say about that. Read it at Engadget and check out the video below.
Wikileaks and the CIA
The big news this week, splashed all over the news and just about every publication you care to read, is the Wikileaks publication of CIA hacking tools. The New York Times has an article detailing how to protect yourself if you are worried (summary: update, update, update!), Popular Science retcons it is all over-hyped and Digital Trends has a summary of the leak.
Welcome back. We hope you have had a good and welcome rest and are now gearing up to face a new year full of challenges and fulfilment.
Before we get onto other tech news, a quick reminder that we have a NEW version of the CAT Grade 10 book out - full of lots of updated, relevant information to keep your learners on track and well informed in their studies. If you haven't already done so, check out our catalogue, download our order form and get the new book - you'll be very glad you did!
Time to get skeptical
If 2016 taught us anything it is that people are terribly trusting an ill informed about the internet as a reliable source of news. The impact of fake news on the outcome of the American elections is just one example. It is our job as teachers to try to prevent out learners growing up to be gullible guppies who simply believe anything they see online and regard Facebook as their best (and only) source of news. We need to make them aware of the problem of fake news and teach them to be critical and skeptical of what they read online. Perhaps we need to get a weekly controversial news article and discuss whether it is real or fake - and how to tell the difference!
Motherboard has an article on the need to teach kids how to be skeptical of the internet.
The Joy of Tech has got a great cartoon (worth printing out and putting on your notice board) about the sad, sorry state of the internet with all its scams and abuse.
Levels of computer skills - in the first world
|This chart comes from a study by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group. The OECD conducted a study of 215,942 people across 33 countries from 2011-2015. The study tested the skills of people aged 16-65 to measure their literacy in job-related tech skills. Tests ranged from simple tasks like deleting an email (considered “below level 1”), up to figuring out things like “what percentage of the emails sent by John Smith last month were about sustainability?” (considered level 3).|
See the whole report here.
The work we do is important - even more so than perhaps you realise. All you need to do is look at the graph above, shudder, and know just what a difference you can (and are) making!
Computer security in 2017
What to expect? Keep it short an simple: Hacks, lots of them!
Try to remember how vulnerable computers are. Robert Morris, a founding developer of computer cryptography, had this to say about computer security:
The three golden rules to ensure computer security are:
do not own a computer;
do not power it on; and
do not use it.
Just a reminder of how bad things got in 2016: CSOOnline has an article detailing how Ransomware earned hackers $1 BILLION last year.
Also check out clickclickclick.click for a demonstration of how a website can monitor what you are doing on it. Turn on your sound for this!
New Hardware dept:
Two new drool worthy laptops have been announced at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas every year at this time). They are the Razer Valerie with THREE screen built into it. This one is so new that pricing, tech specs and availability is not being supplied. In the meanwhile Acer has launched a gaming laptop with a 21" curved screen, 64Gb RAM, 2TB RAID SSD AND 1 TB HDD, with TWO Nvidia GTX 1080 Graphics cards. This beast of a machine costs R 144 000 and will be available from February on (so you better start saving now).
True or False?
This article on Boing Boing about a water cooler hanging because its updating Windows could be fake news - or not. Either way its pretty funny!
That's it for this week. May your preparations for the year ahead be going well.
The UK started including Cyber Crime in its crime survey for the first time last year. Surveys do not include the whole population - so the statisticians who run them make projections from the data that they do receive from the survey. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) "estimated that there were 2.46 million cyber incidents and 2.11 million victims of cyber crime in the U.K. in 2015”.
Policing, especially in cyberspace, is no longer the exclusive preserve of law enforcement. The private sector, academia, and citizens themselves all need to be involved’
INTERPOL 22 January 2016
The National Crime Agency report can be found here and is very interesting reading. Particularly useful is the differentiation between Cyber dependant and Cyber Enabled crime:
Krebs On Security reports the article as follows: According to the NCA, cybercrime emerged as the largest proportion of total crime in the U.K., with “cyber enabled fraud” making up 36 percent of all crime reported, and “computer misuse” accounting for 17 percent. I am unable to find those figures in the document, but if correct then computer related crime adds up to 53% OF UK CRIME.
Bratwurst Bot - The Independent Robot Chef
A robot that takes orders then cooks and serves the required sausages independently recently performed flawlessly at a German Government event - delivering over 200 perfectly grilled Bratwurst! Take a look at the video of it in action over at Engadget,
New Graphics from nVidia and storage from Seagate.
nVidia's new TitanX graphics card includes 128 Gb of Ram includes 3 584 cores running at 1.5 Ghz delivering 11 teraflops of computing power. It costs $1200 (around R17 000).
Seagate has a new desktop drive with a 10 Tb capacity - that will cost you $535 (around R 7 600). For comparison the first 1Terabyte drive became available in 2007 and cost $399.
Referencing tool for Creative Commons images
We always have a problem getting our learners to reference properly. ImageCodr.org is a useful tool that will help them to generate correct references for Creative Commons images found on Flikr.
That's it for this week - happy teaching!
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