This Week in Tech
Welcome back. The news this week contained some interesting tidbits - the most awe inspiring of which was Elon Musk and SpaceX's successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Besides the rocket (whose 27 engines did literally shake the earth) there's nothing of earth shaking, overwhelming importance. Let's jump straight into it then...
The Falcons have landed.
Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in operation today (and the most powerful since the Saturn V which took humanity to the moon) completed its test launch this week. Your learners might like to know (if they don't already) that there is now a cherry red sports car (with a space suit clad mannequin in the driver's seat) on its way to Mars!
More significant and beautiful and awe inspiring was the simultaneous landing of the two booster rockets at Cape Canaveral (these rockets had both been used before). The whole launch is worth watching just for this landing.
Of course, SpaceX's rockets are completely computer controlled and the precision of that landing would be impossible without IT.
Watch the video below.
Sim Swap hacks reaching the US
SIM Swapping is nothing new for South Africans. It has been part of our cyber crime landscape for yonks. Seems like that is not the case in America. Motherboard has an article on T-Mobile issuing warnings about the scam. They call it a 'phone number port out scam'. Sim Swap seems so much easier to understand...
Social media & the death of originality
The video below is a collage of people's travel photographs on Instagram. Read the article on Boing Boing to see what the photographer Oliver KMIA has to say about our obsession with photographing and posting. He also points out his video is a cliche - a copy of what others have done before...
The House IS the SPY
Gizmodo has a fascinating article that was intended to reveal how much as smart house spies on you - but ended up revealing a bigger problem with the technology...
It's just plain irritating!
South Africans need to improve their Cyber Manners
htxt.africa has an article detailing Microsoft report showing how badly South Africans behave online.
As teachers we need to make sure our learners, friends & family know better and tech others to behave better!
US Navy buys first big Laser Canon
Motherboard has the details.
Smartphones used in fighting crime in New York City
The headline of this Digital Trends article is about how New York cops are switching from Windows Lumia phones to iPhones. Read past that for some insight on how smartphones are actually used by the police.
3D Printing in full colour
If you have $50 000 - $100 000 you can get one of HPs new full colour 3D Printers. It may be unaffordable now, but is shows what kind of future is heading our way - fast!
That's it for this week. Enjoy & tech well.
Two HUGE hacks dominate the news this week.
KRACK - patch your WiFi fast!
KRACK affects WiFi at its lowest level - the WPA2 password security that encrypts and protects communication on the network. The bad news is that this security has been cracked, making all communication on the affected network vulnerable. The good news is that most new OS's have patches out there or patches will be coming in the near future. Fixes for routers may take time, but as long as your OS is fixed you should be safe, so make sure you install those updates as soon as they become available! Ars Technica explains how the KRACK exploit works.
SA Database leak - 60 Million affected - and that includes YOU!
This one is a bit more tricky. A database of more than 60 Million South Africans' information has been leaked online - the source of the leak is yet to be determined (read it at My Broadband). The bad news: The leak contains Names, full ID numbers, email addresses, contact details, age, marital status and income estimates. It is a perfect source for identity thieves. The database contains records of almost anyone involved in economic activity between 1990 and 2015. This includes people who have passed away in that time - hence the fact that the leak is larger than our current population!
The good news: There is none. The information is out there and you can't get it back. Watch out for any signs of Identity Theft... You can check if your data is in the leak - go to Have I Been Pwned, enter your email and hold your breath...
What can you do? Not much. Check your credit status now and regularly to see if someone has stolen your identity and obtained credit in your name. Then try to get the credit cancelled / revoked.
Backup and data recovery
The Hacker News has an interesting article on how a ransomware attack took down an American city for four days. Their point is to show the cost of the breach - I think it is a good illustration of the importance of doing backup right...
Microwaves make 40tb hard drive possible
Western Digital has announced that a new microwave technology will enable 40tb hard drives by 2025. Engadget has the details.
LED foils copyright breaking photography
This is an interesting story of how pulsing LED lights can ruin the photos taken by digital cameras and prevent them being used to take copyright breaking images in museums, etc. Digital Trends has the story.
Ever wondered how your smart device (or home speaker, or smart TV) is able to tell when you want to give it a command by using its own special trigger phrase? Apple has published a full explanation of how its "Hey Siri" feature works. As complex as the process is, the astonishing thing is that it takes place all the time without having a noticeable effect on battery life. NB: The same explanation cannot be applied to other devices (all companies use their own technology).
The Uncanny Valley
What is it? This video explains perfectly!
The same people have a well reasoned explanation of why to be sceptical (as I am) of the VR hype...
That's it for this week....
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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