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Study Opportunities' Blog

You can't repair that!

DRM VS Right to Repair

You buy something, you own it. That means you have the right to fix it if it breaks, right? That's what you might think, but that's not always the case in the world of tech - and tech driven products (which can include anything from cars to combine harvesters). The right to repair problem in South Africa is mainly limited to cars - car manufacturers refusing to provide independent repair workshops with information / parts needed to repair vehicles - people must rather use the (more expensive) manufacturers repair service instead.

In places like America manufacturers can not only obstruct repairs by third parties but they can also sue you if you try to repair the product using a third party - or try to do it yourself. They claim the the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) protects the software in their product and that repairing it infringes their copyright.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has a great summary article on the concept of why we need a 'right to repair' and Motherboard has a great article on how farmers are at the forefront of the fight for the right to repair in America. More great social implications material here!

Hacking news for the week:

Hacking prevention for the week:

  • Common Craft : a video on how to avoid identity theft - designed to be used for education.
  • CSO Online : a technical look how difficult it is to automate protection against phishing and spear phishing. More for your use than the classroom.

IT Divisions - how they see themselves and others

Good summary of how IT divisions see themselves on Imgur - but if you are worried about 'flipping the bird' or feel that your learners / colleagues / parents easily take offence then don't use it in class.

Your Pacemaker can snitch on you

Even devices that you think couldn't possible reveal details of your life can and do!

A man gets in some kind of financial trouble. Decides on an old but favourite criminal solution to the problem: burn down his house for the insurance money. When the fire is done and dusted, he has an insurance claim for around $400 000 in damages (well over R 4 million). He claims he managed to save some stuff from the fire by putting it in suitcases and chucking it out the window - and then lugging it to safety. Problem is, he has a pacemaker. Police got the data from his pacemaker and it shows no evidence of the strenuous activity involved. That and the fact that firefighters have identified that the fire was started from multiple points outside the house have led to the man being charged with arson and insurance fraud.

Article at Network World.

SHIMMERS: Chip & Pin cards can be skimmed

Now you can worry about your chip and pin cards not being safe in ATM machines and POS card readers. Hackers insert a circuit between the card and the chip reader. This captures the card data before passing it through to the ATM / POS device. The bad guys can then make a duplicate magnetic stripe version of the card.

Article and pictures at Krebs on Security.

Robots VS immigration / Globalisation

Trump says American workers are losing jobs to immigrants and globalisation (sending jobs to other countries where labour is cheaper). He has forgotten about (or simply doesn't know about) the real reason for job losses: robots and automation. CNN Money has a great article and video on the topic. The video is a perfect resource for the 'social implications of IT'.

Fake news corner

This dog seen at the protests against Trump's 'Muslim Ban' says it all:


Welcome to 2017

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.

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