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Welcome to BarelyAdequate.info!

Computers are marvelous machines. They have revolutionized the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we shop, the way we live. But that same technology is also disruptive: it threatens to radically change or make obsolete whole methods of commerce; makes it infinitely harder for government officials to hide their excesses and misdeeds from the citizens they allegedly serve; makes it easier for citizens to secure their activities, records and communications from surveillance by government, law enforcement and corporate interests who have grown used to spying on us unasked; and gives those same government and corporate interests powerful new tools to search for and aggregate data about us.

The focus of this page is to provide commentary on news events that concern the intersection of technology, law, politics and the freedoms granted to citizens by the US Constitution; and illuminate attacks upon these freedoms by bureaucrats, law-enforcement officials, Congresscritters, government agencies domestic and foreign, and numerous moneyed interests. Many of the articles commented on here will also deal with what, for lack of a better term, I call "fairness in the digital age." And because I am a techie, I'll also comment on cool technological happenings in my industry, and uncool ones as well!

Some of those in positions of power — particularly in government, law enforcement and certain key industries — feel that if they are to preserve their power over society and/or protect their profits as we move into the digital age, the law needs to be changed to the detriment of our freedoms! Every time I learn about one of these issues, you will read about it here!

I started this site in 1996 as a test bed for trying out new HTML programming techniques. However, over the years it has turned into something much more serious. Please bear with me as I continue to bring issues to light and discuss them here, and feel free to send your constructive criticism and suggestions to the e-mail address below.

Our only chance to preserve our rights in the Digital Age is to rise up as citizens and demand that they be protected! Hopefully this site will provide you some of the knowledge necessary to do that effectively. Please return often, and direct others here to learn what is at stake in the battle to secure our rights in a digital age!

Once again, welcome to BarelyAdequate.info! Enjoy your stay and come back often!

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Last Updated: April 10th, 2017

March 31st, 2017
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InfoWorld posted an article on why itís a good idea to have an incident response plan for when bad things happen. Granted, the linked article is obviously enterprise-oriented, but the underlying concepts apply as much to a home network, particularly since the users are often less security-oriented! A well-used axiom applies here: failure to plan is planning to fail!
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In an article titled Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, makes a pretty compelling argument against the latest government actions to capture and deport undocumented aliens:
Since we're in San Diego, we've seen illegal immigrants. What are the vast majority of them doing? Working for willing employers. Renting apartments from willing landlords. Buying stuff from willing merchants. Sending money home to their families. Maybe even sitting next to you in class. They sure look innocent - even admirable. But the U.S. government can and does forcibly arrest and exile them to the Third World. Why can't they all just come legally? Because exile is the default; they're all exiled unless the U.S. government makes a rare exception. This is far less bad than killing or imprisoning them, but it sure looks like a severe human rights violation. If the U.S. government forbade you to live and work here, wouldn't that be a severe violation of your human rights?

Read the whole article. He has a point!
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In a CNBC article titled Here's the real 'immigration problem' Trump should be tackling, Benjamin Powell, senior fellow with the Independent Institute, factually disproves President Trumpís "immigrants are terrorists and criminals" argument:
[President Trump] claimed that "the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country." But the people he is referencing are not immigrants!

Over the last 40 years, 3,024 people have been killed in the United States by foreign born terrorists. But 2,834 of these deaths were caused by foreign born people who came to the United States on tourist visas.

Terrorist deaths caused by people with Lawful Permanent Resident, Asylum, and Refugee visas totaled only 15. In fact, you are nearly 300,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed in a terrorist act committed by a refugee.

Again, read the whole article. I love it when the libertarians — who Trump claims as supporters — use facts to trip him up!
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Back in the day, even after Windows took over the desktop, power users learned and used the power of the command line interface using the built-in batch language to do things not easily done otherwise. Microsoft has not abandoned it Itís still useable today (I use it all the time!). Instead, in 2006, starting with Windows Server, and now an open source tool for all operating systems, it created PowerShell, an expanded command line language that is a completely different animal than the old batch language, with a very different syntax and command set. If you are interested in getting your feet wet tweaking your OS at a very deep level, TechRepublic posted PowerShell: The smart person's guide with links to all the files and resources you could ever want to get started!
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A federal class action lawsuit filed in Illinois claims that upgrading to Windows 10 trashed their hardware and/or software. This should be interesting to watch!
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Dťjŗ vu! I remember back when digital watches began taking off, the traditional watchmakers and jewelry makers started coming out with their own pricey models. Flash forward a few decades, and the big watchmakers are jumping on the smart watch bandwagon as their sales steadily decline. Why? Best guess is that whole generations have a smartphone that tells time just fine, so why buy a watch?!
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The Republican-led House of Representatives repealed the rules preventing Internet Service Providers from selling their customersí personal information. The Senate passed a similar bill the week before. I predict anonymizer services are going to become really popular!
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Samsung has released their Galaxy S8 smartphone series, viewed as the Apple iPhoneís main competition.

InfoWorld posted a nice hands-on review of the Galaxy S8. They particularly liked the S8+ model with a 6.2-inch screen!
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In a InfoWorld article titled Congress has sold off your privacy—and U.S. security, Paul Venezia states, "I strongly believe the bill represents a danger not only to consumer privacy, but also to our national security interests," and warns us:
If certain data collected by ISPs land in the hands of foreign hacking groups or hostile foreign governments, it could quickly become blackmail fodder and disrupt the normal function of our government and society. This is not an exaggeration. Anyone paying the slightest attention to the smoke billowing from Capitol Hill and the White House would be foolish to dismiss this possibility. Moreover, foreign governments wouldnít have to hack anything to get this data: They could simply buy it.


InforWorldís Caroline Craig posted a nice article titled Want privacy? Congress says you'll have to pay for it that deals in detail with all the various concern regarding this Congressional action.
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Samsung is showing off its Connect Home mesh network system, a competitor to Linksysí Velos system, which is focused on supporting Internet of Things (IoT) devices (such as Samsungís smart appliances).
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Samsung is pushing its Galaxy S8 smartphone, and TechRepublic has posted one of its smart personís guide on this new phone.
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Commercial space flight company SpaceX made history by successfully launching a previously-used Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a communications satellite to orbit.
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) submitted a complaint (PDF) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the use of Starter Interrupt Devices (SIDs) used by subprime auto lenders who attach these devices to vehicles as a condition of financing. EPICís alleges that these devices are used to remotely disable vehicles when borrowers are late on payments or travel outside of certain geographical areas (a practice called "geo-fencing"; use GPS to monitor the location of vehicles; and record and store where the driver is traveling in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
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March 15th, 2017
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I mentioned two weeks ago about an idea trending across the news spectrum equating the intolerant activities of the Trump Administration and their followers to a similar, earlier build-up leading to Nazi domination of Germany. Least you think that the libertarian quote I mentioned before was a glitch, here is one from Republican Senator John McCain, made at the Munich Security Conference, originally formed after World War II to further western ideas of freedom and cooperation, and prevent future tyranny. This speech sadly received so little attention in the press that I needed to go to the senatorís own official Web site to find its full text, which the quote below is just a small part thereof:
What would [Munich Security Conference founder Edward] von Kleistís generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it.

They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.

They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.

But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West ... that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without ... and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will.
Please read the whole speech.

And just in case Conservative and Libertarian voices arenít enough, check out the decidedly Liberal Web site TruthDigís article titled Beware of Another Reichstag Fire from Holocaust scholar Helene Sinnreich

Convinced? Then find a small part of our society that resonates with you; guard it against the rising greed, intolerance and hate; and jealously protect it with whatever talents you have: your money, your words, or your advocacy.
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Kingston is finally selling its new DataTraveler Ultimate GT 2TB flash drive, but plan on paying a premium price for it: list price is $2,273. But considering that Western Digitalís 2TB My Passport USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive lists for only $109 on Amazon, and other vendors offer similar drives around that price, you have to really need the small flash drive form factor!
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Hackers accessed a database belonging to the makers of Internet-connected stuffed animals CloudPets, exposing 2.2 million voice recordings of parents and children. It was incredibly easy, given that the public-facing database required no authentication!
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Eastern U.S. customers of Amazon Web Servicesí simple storage service (S3) experienced weird slow-downs and service interruptions. The cloud service is used by a great many companies for cheap off-site storage, and even a brief outage can be crippling if data the company depends on is not available!
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Private space rocket maker plans to launch two passengers into space in an autonomous Dragon capsule, loop around the Moon, then return them to Earth. The trip will take about a week. Future missions could send passengers to Mars. Well-heeled passengers: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wouldn't say what it would cost, so it has to be expensive!
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Talk about a high-tech bug zapper: former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvoldís Intellectual Ventures has developed a system that uses cameras and a laser beam to detect and shoot down insects. Itís currently being tested in Florida citrus farms.
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Older readers might remember the many electronics kits available for experimenters in the pre-computer era. I assembled and modified several of them, including an FM tuner kit that spent some time in my stereo system at the time! As small computers began to emerge, hobbyist computer kits quickly followed. I purchased my first computer kit in 1981. It was a Sinclair ZX81, which came with a circuit board, case and a pile of parts I had to solder into the board! It had one kilobyte of memory, an 8K Read-only Memory (ROM) chip that held the operating system and a simplified version of the BASIC programming language, an RF modulator to connect it to a standard TV, and a cheap membrane keyboard. This was the computer that stirred my interest in programming!

Jump forward to today, and the computer hobbyist device of choice is the Raspberry Pi, a surprisingly-capable, single-board computer that sports a Broadcom BCM2837 SoC single-core 1GHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, both Mini HDMI and USB ports, a Micro USB power port, a 40-pin expansion header (to connect it to other cool stuff!), a composite video header (to hook it to a TV), a reset header (to hook up a reset button), and a CSI camera connector. The W version (linked to above) also includes 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.1, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless networking built in! The computer runs Raspbian, a free Debian-based Linux operating system. All of this for only $10.00, although the components to make a working computer — a microSD card to hold the OS and data, a keyboard, and a TV to connect it to — will add to the cost unless you already have spares laying around (most hobbyists do!). The Wikipedia page on the Raspberry has detailed info on the computer.

For those who want to play with one, InfoWorld has posted a A beginnerís guide to Raspberry Pi 3 that would make a good starting point.

And TechRepublic posted a tutorial article titled How to fire up Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and XP on your Raspberry Pi, if that is something you might be interested.

Although the most popular, the Raspberry isnít the only single-board computer out there these days. TechRepublic posted a a slideshow of alternatives starting at $5.00. Some of the models shown are essentially full-up computers in extremely small form factors. And virtually all run on a free operating system, mostly some flavor of Linux, Android or both!
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The latest thinking in programming these days is functional programming using the F# programming language. If you think you might be interested, check out the linked article. In my case, BASIC, Visual BASIC, and C++ were enough languages for me! Now that Iím retired, Iíll let younger minds pick up the torch and learn the new stuff . . . unless I get bored!
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Have a job you need a drone to do, but donít want to buy one? Rent-a-drone shops are popping up to satisfy the need, but a new service gives it a twist! Up Sonder is being dubbed the "Airbnb for drone rentals." It provides a forum that drone owners can use to rent out the use of their drones when they arenít using them, or rent out their services using their drone!
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TechRepublicís Tom Merritt thinks 5G wireless will change life as we know it, at least in the corporate world. Some of the "changes" he notes have already arrived in the consumer market, particularly among Millennials and their kids, who already access everything through their smartphones.
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Canadian startup Kindred AI is pairing robots with VR-equipped human "pilots" to teach them how to perform difficult tasks.

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A ZDNet article claims that soon, you can buy gadgets that self-destruct when stolen. The technology mentioned doesnít explode the device or set it on fire, it just crushes the devices internally!
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Cell phone makers are building retro phones without a lot of the features everyone has come to expect. They are hoping retro will be cool enough to sell phones. Maybe.
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The Republican-led Congress passed a law allowing Internet Service Provides to collect their customersí web browsing data and sell it to others.
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Hyperloop One, one of the teams competing to build Elon Muskís ultra-high-speed Hyperloop "bullet train," has built a tubular test track in the Nevada desert.
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An editorial in The Economist lays out A blueprint for getting more women into information technology, saying:
What puts them off? At [high school] age, it is hardly differences between the sexes in annual salary (typically $6,000) or glass ceilings that can obstruct promotion. Nor is it likely to be the tech industryís notorious sexist behaviour. Though real, such biases are encountered only at a later stage. For young girls, however, negative stereotypes abound ó in the home, on television, at school. Possibly the most damaging is the long-held (and erroneous) view that boys are somehow better at mathematics. They do outscore girls at tasks involving spatial skills, but that does not necessarily make them any better at developing apps or building data networks.

But in popular culture, the nerds are always boys, while girls are seen as the caring ones. Parents frequently reinforce these stereotypes. For instance, boys are twice as likely as girls (11% vs 5%) to be given a mobile phone when young, and more likely to pull it apart to explore its innards, says CompTIA. Schools are not much better at piquing girlsí interest in IT. Despite the proliferation of laptops in classrooms, staff members qualified to teach computer science are in seriously short supply. As a result, computer courses fail to explain what a career in IT entails, and the wide range of jobs on offer. And, as the CompTIA study found, girls depend far more than boys on their teachers for advice about future careers.

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Intel is testing a version of Windows Server running on ARM CPUs. The chipmaker claims it is developing the OS to power ARM-based servers in its own Azure cloud, and has no plans to offer it to others. Weíll see!
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Amazon complied with law enforcement demands for audio recordings from an Echo device as part of a murder case. But Amazon didn't succumb to law enforcement pressure: the defendant himself said he didn't mind if Amazon released the audio recordings to prosecutors!
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Networking equipment giant Cisco is working on building security technology into its new equipment lines. Cisco bought consumer networking equipment maker Linksys in 2003, and has steadily improved the quality of devices it sells in that market. Hopefully, weíll see enhanced security deployed down to Linksys products as well.
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Speaking of Linksys: we have been planning for some time to move three generations of our family into one large house. The new house we bought has over 3,200 square feet spread out over two and a half floors. A normal single-router Wi-Fi network just wonít cover a house that large. So, after significant research into the market, I recently purchased a Linksys Velop three-device mesh networking system to set up. It uses mesh network technology that, up to now, has only been available for more-costly enterprise systems. In simplified laymanís terms, mesh networks use the same Wi-Fi signals users use to communicate back and forth between the three nodes. So, unlike earlier range extenders, a mesh network extends one large Wi-Fi cloud throughout the home on a single SSID. Itís supposed to cover up to 6,000 square feet, so if I set it up wisely, Velop should cover all the rooms, plus the back and front yards, and let us move around the house without losing a connection! Thatís the plan, anyway! IĎll be setting it up as soon as I find the box the shippers packed it in, and will report on how well it actually worked (or didnít!).
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IBM researchers have created the worldís smallest magnet from a single atom of holmium! The goal is to eventually use it as a single bit in a digital storage device. A very small storage device!
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A Swedish 3D maker and RepRap builder, is demoing the Hangprinter, a room-sized 3D printer that uses wires connected to the walls, ceiling and floor as its "frame," similar to those cameras we see floating around the field in NFL games!
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WikiLeaks posted thousands of files documenting hacking tools used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, leading to gloomy industry predictions that they would also post the "zero day" computer code hacks the CIAís exploits exposed. However, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange promised that WikiLeaks would work with the hardware and software vendors whose security flaws were exposed to fix them before WikiLeaks posted the details!
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Once deployed, 5G wireless networks should be able to move data 10 to 20 times faster than current 4G networks. But since it operates in the 28 GHz "millimeter wave" band it is more easily blocked, and no one is sure how well devices using it will fare in the real world. So AT&T has set up a test site to see what happens when weather, trees, people, etc. get in the way!
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ZDNetís Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, in his article titled Amazon could hammer the final nail into the iPad's coffin, suggests that Amazonís rumored plans to add phone call functionality to its Alexa-capable devices, like the Echo and its Fire tablets, could make the iPhone far less attractive. Maybe. But Apple has very many fanboys (and fangirls!) world-wide who buy Apple products simply because they are Apple products. Time will tell!
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Wiredís Kate Krauss warns that, after all the threats the media has been getting from persons in power, it is Time for Journalists to Encrypt Everything.
Think about it: In recent weeks, weíve seen front-page controversies about national parks, FISA warrants, education, healthcare, oil pipelines, fashion, hotels, and movie stars. Teen Vogue is covering wiretapping; Vanity Fair is reporting on the travel ban. Editorial boards, such as the one at The Philadelphia Inquirer that recently compared Donald Trump to a dictator, should probably also batten down the hatches.

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Ford Motor Company is partnering with 3D printer maker Stratasys to develop 3D printer technology for making custom and small-batch car parts, tools, etc..
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IBM reported that its Watson system achieved a 5.5 percent word recognition error rate while "listening" to a normal conversation between two humans. Humans typically suffer an error rate of 6 percent, so Watson is almost there!
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Intel is planning to buy up MobleEye, which makes sensors and sensor control systems installed in several companiesí autonomous cars!
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InfoWorld posted a nice comparison of the features that Microsoftís Office applications provide on the various platforms they can run on. Note that this list is somewhat deceptive, since different platforms have different strengths that make certain features less than useful on them. For instance, anyone who has tried to type using an on-screen keyboard would probably not want to compose a complicated Word document or build a large Access database with it!
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InfoWorld posted a nice review of the QNAP TVS-882T Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. It is so feature-rich that, when I was reviewing NAS devices with an eye to purchase one, I actually considered getting one of these for a few minutes . . until I remembered its $2499 list price! I could easily see this device used as the primary storage server, and Web server, for a company intranet.
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World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee posted an article in the Guardian titled I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it:
We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology such as personal "data pods" if needed and exploring alternative revenue models such as subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government overreach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is "true" or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the "internet blind spot" in the regulation of political campaigning.

Good stuff. Too bad that the Trump Administration is fighting so hard to let Corporate America take over control of the Internet, at usersí expense.
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TechRepublic posted a video that describes Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and explains the differences!
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New York City took Verizon to court, claiming the telecom giant has apparently failed to fulfill a 2008 contract with the city to make its FiOS fiber-optic Internet service available to all city residents by 2014. Verizon was apparently hesitant to deploy fiber where existing copper wires didnít already go. Guess they probably will now!
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For those (like me!) who got in trouble with their parents as a kid for disassembling things to see how they worked, TechRepublic posted an article on a complete tear-down of an Amazon Echo device!
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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier posted a report on the latest WikiLeaks posting of details of CIA classified records of its offensive Internet operations, saying:
The most damning thing I've seen so far is yet more evidence that — despite assurances to the contrary — the US intelligence community hoards vulnerabilities in common Internet products and uses them for offensive purposes.
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In a blog post titled Defense Against Doxing, Mr. Schneier laments the "death of ephemeral conversation", and suggested:
When secrecy is truly paramount, go back to communications systems that are still ephemeral. Pick up the telephone and talk. Meet face to face. We don't yet live in a world where everything is recorded and everything is saved, although that era is coming. Enjoy the last vestiges of ephemeral conversation while you still can.
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The FBI declined to release details about the third-party tool they used to unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter, saying it would "cause serious damage to national security." And besides, they are still using it to "gather intelligence information."
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Decades after the Concorde ended its transatlantic service, supersonic aircraft may be coming back.
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February 28th, 2017
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After having a home server since the Windows NT days, I finally retired my last server, a large Windows 2008 Server Standard tower behemoth that took up way too much desk space. But I didnít eliminate the backup system I used it for, I just replaced it with a second Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. After much research into price, functionality, and reliability, I purchased a Buffalo LinkStation 220 8 TB 2-Drive NAS from Amazon. It has two 4TB hard drives configured as a RAID 1 (mirroring) server. Since the server it replaced only had 2TB of main storage, I doubled my storage space at a cost less than a single Windows server license (thereís a lesson here for Microsoft, I think). So far, itís been a painless migration. I plugged it in to the network, installed the included software (mainly to simplify some functions), copied the folder structure and files from the old server (it took a day and a half!), mapped it to a drive letter on my PC and pointed my sync software jobs to it, instead of the old server. Worked perfectly!

While Iím at it, I should give a shout out to the sync software I use: Goodsync. It gives you complete control over what you sync, where you sync it to, and when you do it, all totally automated. You can set up multiple sync "jobs" (I currently have 14 jobs set up!), and will even detect if you plug in a flash drive and automatically scan it for changes and copy them (in my case to my main PC's Documents folder)! At $29.95, itís well worth the cost. Highly recommended!
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The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that solar energy installations increased 95 percent in 2016, producing 14,626 megawatts of photovoltaic power.
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Intel is shipping its newest Itanium CPU, dubbed the "Kittson", but this might be the last version of the server CPU to be released. Operating system and database software makers have slowly abandoned support for Itanium, in favor of Intelís Xeon CPUs. This matters because you don't want to buy a server if no one makes software to run on it!
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MIT Technology Review posted a nice article titled 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017. Some of them, like self-driving trucks and gene therapy, have already gotten press in the past, but the rest are, until recently, the stuff of Science Fiction stories. Interesting stuff!
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The IEEE Spectrum posted a very interesting article titled Want an Energy-Efficient Data Center? Build It Underwater, written by four Microsoft network engineers who are actually testing the concept!
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Apparently, many of the progress bars we see in computer programs are fake, placed there solely to assure the user the computer is really working hard for them! Interface designers even have a name for the practice: "benevolent deception"
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Makers of Wi-Fi routers for the home market use simplicity as a selling point. But that simplicity leaves behind a Wi-Fi network with a standard set of parameters that are easily determined which leaves the network vulnerable. InfoWorld posted a nice article titled 7 Wi-Fi vulnerabilities beyond weak passwords. Some of them only apply in a corporate network, but the rest are really spot on. So, compare them to your Wi-Fi network settings and fix it before bad guys come calling!
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Researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University demonstrated how to infect a computer that causes the hard drive light to blink at 6,000 blinks per second, then use a telescope or drone camera to record the signal. Since the hard drive light is constantly blinking on most PCs, the user is unlikely to even notice that data is being transmitted!
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San Francisco robotics company Otherlab has designed a single-use biodegradable paper drone dubbed the Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions, made out of cardboard, that can be used to drop critical medical supplies in remote areas and left to decompose. The early cardboard version can only transport a two-pound payload, but the final design will be able to carry 220 pounds, and will be made from a mushroom-based material called mycelium, which would decompose in a matter of days after landing!
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With all the hype about new self-driving cars these days, itís worth noting that farm equipment maker John Deere has been experimenting with self-driving tractors for twenty years (video)!
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The next big thing in advertising will be face recognition, which of course would require that they already have a picture of you cross-referenced to data they have about you (and if you think they donít already have data you, youíre in denial!).
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Non-tech, but . . . the Trump Administration excluded the New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News and the BBC from a briefing, in an apparent deliberate snub of news organizations that have posted "fake news," i.e. unflattering articles about the President. If this practice continues, the potential negative impact on free speech should be of great concern to everyone.
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As Iíve mentioned before, I read a lot of content from all ends of the political spectrum, from Far Right to Far Left and many sources in between. Every once in a while, I read echoes of the same thought all across the spectrum. While more alarmist than some, I submit for your consideration an article from the libertarian site The Future of Freedom Foundation, by John W. Whitehead, titled The Police State Is Alive and Well, that makes chilling comparisons between the rising hatred and intolerance in this country, and the rise of the Nazi party in pre-World War II Germany. If the following quote piques your interest, please read the whole article, then start looking for similar thought in other sources, as I have:
Freedom demands responsibility.

Freedom demands that people stop sleep-walking through life, stop cocooning themselves in political fantasies, and stop distracting themselves with escapist entertainment.

Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or at the very least, Americans.

Freedom demands that we not remain silent in the face of evil or wrongdoing but actively stand against injustice.

Freedom demands that we treat others as we would have them treat us. That is the law of reciprocity, also referred to as the Golden Rule, and it is found in nearly every world religion, including Judaism and Christianity.

In other words, if you donít want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp — if you donít want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest — if you donít want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves — if you donít want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say — if you donít want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts — if you donít want your children to grow up in a world without freedom — then donít allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how tempting the reason or how fervently you believe in your cause.
The best way to prevent the grim future presented in this article is to get out of your bubble, keep your eyes open, and join the rising chorus nation-wide saying "Not on My Watch!"
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InfoWorld posted a very useful article titled The ultimate guide to increasing your Android phone's battery life. They came up with a few tricks I didn't know about, but some of them kill performance bad enough that I reversed the changes!
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February 15th, 2017
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A class-action lawsuit filed by a Marin County woman claims that internal Apple emails prove the company intentionally disabled the FaceTime video-calling feature in iOS versions 6 and earlier to save money! Apple had no immediate response.
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Not exactly tech, but funny in a weird way: Nissan recalled 341,000 2015 through 2017 Altimas because lowering a rear window might cause the doors to open! Hope you donít have one!
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AT&T is discussing testing its Project AirGig 5G wireless gigabit internet service with power companies in at least two cities.
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Google Gmail e-mail service will no longer work on versions 53 and lower of Googleís Chrome browser. So if you haven't upgraded your version of Chrome, itís time!
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President Trumpís pick for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai started reversing the commissionís net neutrality rulings, including AT&Tís DirecTV Now which lets AT&T wireless users stream DirecTV content without racking up data charges:
As Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, observed, "Zero-rating as practiced today is selective zero-rating for a few apps and websites; exclusion for the rest of the internet." This is "bad for the ability of new entrepreneurs to grow onto the global scale. It is bad for the long term health of the internet."

Where this move to "free data" actually leads is to your ISP — not you — deciding on what internet services you can afford. Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu, for instance, will all be more expensive than AT&T's DirecTV Now.
Of course, thatís the idea! Their hope is you'll stick with your ISP's content because its cheaper.
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Windows Secrets posted a nice article by Michael Lasky titled The Problem With Passwords Is Us, that suggests ways — like password manager programs, hard-to-guess passwords, and plug-in biometric devices — to keep your computer access secure.
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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier posted a lengthy article titled Security and the Internet of Things that describes the scope of the security problems with IoT devices:
We have a practical problem when it comes to internet regulation. There's no government structure to tackle this at a systemic level. Instead, there's a fundamental mismatch between the way government works and the way this technology works that makes dealing with this problem impossible at the moment.

Government operates in silos. In the U.S., the FAA regulates aircraft. The NHTSA regulates cars. The FDA regulates medical devices. The FCC regulates communications devices. The FTC protects consumers in the face of "unfair" or "deceptive" trade practices. Even worse, who regulates data can depend on how it is used. If data is used to influence a voter, it's the Federal Election Commission's jurisdiction. If that same data is used to influence a consumer, it's the FTC's. Use those same technologies in a school, and the Department of Education is now in charge. Robotics will have its own set of problems, and no one is sure how that is going to be regulated. Each agency has a different approach and different rules. They have no expertise in these new issues, and they are not quick to expand their authority for all sorts of reasons.

Compare that with the internet. The internet is a freewheeling system of integrated objects and networks. It grows horizontally, demolishing old technological barriers so that people and systems that never previously communicated now can. Already, apps on a smartphone can log health information, control your energy use, and communicate with your car. That's a set of functions that crosses jurisdictions of at least four different government agencies, and it's only going to get worse.
Although long, this article does a really good job of describing the problem and makes some well-reasoned suggestions about how to regulate the market . . . which the Trump Administration will likely ignore!
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At a recent RSA cybersecurity conference, Trend Micro researchers reported that a scan of the ten largest US cities found more than 178 million Internet of Things (IoT) devices visible to potential attackers! Imagine how may there are worldwide!
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The Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General reached a $2.2 million settlement with smart TV manufacturer VIZIO. The TV maker installed software on more than 11 million TVs that collected usersí viewing data without their knowledge or consent, then combined it with usersí demographic information and sold this enhanced data to others!
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January 31st, 2017
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I have decided that, were I to post my thoughts every time Donald Trump or one of his sycophants said or did something wrong or stupid (or both!), this site would devolve into the "Look what Trump and Company just did" Web site! Not wanting that result, I will try to refrain from discussing the Trump Administrationís many faux pas, except those that affect technology and civil rights!
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) submitted an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) seeking a complete report on the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.
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In a CNN article titled Why proving the source of a cyberattack is so damn difficult, computer security expert Bruce Schneier explains why it is so hard to prove who hacked the presidential elections, saying:
The constellation of evidence attributing the attacks against the DNC, and subsequent release of information, is comprehensive. It's possible that there was more than one attack. It's possible that someone not associated with Russia leaked the information to WikiLeaks, although we have no idea where that someone else would have obtained the information. We know that the Russian actors who hacked the DNC — both the FSB, Russia's principal security agency, and the GRU, Russia's military intelligence unit — are also attacking other political networks around the world.

In the end, though, attribution comes down to whom you believe.

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Film student Anthony van der Meer put spyware on a smartphone and then intentionally allowed it to be stolen, then posted a movie he made of what the spyware recorded.
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Microsoft is hoping that we will all eventually use our computers by having conversations with them!
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Computer security firm Fallible found hundreds of Android apps that have leaky secret keys and tokens programmed into them, which could be used by hackers.
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When hackers used a botnet made up of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to take down computer security journalist Brian Krebsí web server, they picked the wrong target! In a lengthy article on his blog site, Brian describes how he used his considerable investigative skills to track down the perpetrators! He offers compelling evidence that Rutgers University student Paras Jha wrote the code used in the botnet malware.
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A chilling Wired article titled Itís Time to Stand Up for the Climate — and for Civilization warns that Donald Trumpís promise to reverse federal support for climate change and kill the 2015 Paris Treaty is "such a big deal — perhaps the biggest deal ever," saying:
Other assaults on civilization and reason eventually wore themselves out—fascism, communism, imperialism. But thereís no way to wait out climate change, because this test has a timer on it. Melt enough ice caps and you live on a very different planet. Either we solve this soon or we donít solve it. And if we donít, then the cascading crises that follow (massive storms, waterlogged cities, floods of migrants) will batter our societies in new ways that we are ill prepared to handle, as the xenophobia of this election season showed.

Lest you think this is an intellectual issue, for the third year in a row, 2016 set another world temperature record. Of course, this is likely the last year US government sources will be researching and reporting on climate change.
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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) led an effort to remove provisions from the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act that would have allowed the government to access browsing history and email records without a court order! Way to go Ron!
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In an interesting ZDNet article titled How social media is crippling democracy, and why we seem powerless to stop it, Jason Perlow suggests that social media exacerbates usersí existing bad practices, and suggests we shun news sites that skew to the far left or far right, saying:
We are now living in the information age, and we're all victims of Technology Augmented Autism. We all have tiny little attention spans, and we consume news by information snacking. In all likelihood, most people looking at this article right now probably did not get past the first 200 words.

I donít disagree with the above quote but, unlike the author, I believe that the solution is widening your sources, not narrowing them. I get my news from newsletters sent to me by about 35-40 web sites, skewing from far left to far right and everything in between (as well as keeping TV news on in the background!). The farther right or left the siteís agenda skews, the more skeptical I am! So why go there at all? Because knowing what others on the fringes are thinking — even if I think most of it is total dreck! — helps expand my knowledge, and occasionally gives me early hints of something going on, particularly when both fringes are pointing at it!
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Another new memory technology to watch: Redox-based, resistive switching random access memory (ReRAM) being developed has the potential to do some processor functions as well as storing data.
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InfoWorldís Ian Paul suggests users accessing the Internet should use virtual private network (VPN) connections. This is fine if you are a corporate user connecting via VPN to your companyís network before going to the Internet. For home users, however, itwould require paying for a VPN service. And it wonít do anything to prevent you from being tracked by the web sites you visit. To do that you need one of the secure Web browsers available.
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Another non-tech article, but Iím a big fan of Martin Luther King, Jr., so live with it! Alternet posted 9 MLK Quotes the Mainstream Media Won't Cite. My favorite of the ones listed:
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

As the racial tension that spawned the Black Lives Matter and similar movements nationwide proves, this 1963 quote is sadly as applicable today as it was when Dr. King wrote it in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell.
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Wired reports that when scientists learned that the incoming Trump administrationís EPA transition team intended to remove climate data from the EPA and NOAA websites, they began furiously copying off data to preserve it!
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Tesla is reporting that, as part of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation (PDF) into a fatal Tesla wreck, the investigators noted that, after Tesla's Autosteer feature was installed, the rate of crashes dropped 40 percent, from 1.3 crashes per million miles to 0.8 crashes per million miles!
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ZDNetís Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports that The headphone jack will vanish from most premium smartphones by the end of the year, saying:
Not only is the headphone jack gone from the latest iPhone, but the HTC Bolt, Moto Z, and LeEco smartphones have already eradicated the jack, and rumor has it that Samsung's decided to do the same with its upcoming flagship Galaxy S8.
Bummer. They donít want you to keep those high-end headphones anyway!
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The UKís Daily Mail posted an interesting article with a table showing how far the 50 most popular cars in America will really drive on empty.
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Yet another reason to not read fake news (beside the fact that it is, you know, fake!):
[James] Scott [senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT)] mentions that fewer people are frequenting news sites, reading newspapers, or watching televised news with any regularity—they prefer to get daily news via social-media platforms, usually on their mobile devices. This applies to Millennials (adults who are 18- 34-years-old), who are more likely to passively absorb the coverage of societal, economic, and political events.

"Consequently, cyber-threat actors can leverage the publicly-available information about Millennial sub-populations when crafting fake-news social-engineering lures," explains Scott. "That means tailored lures are more effective, are propagated by the victims within social circles, and enable the adversary to influence large portions of an entire generation."

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ZDNetís Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft will include Ebook support into the Edge browser in latest Windows 10 Creators Update build, using the open ePub format. The upgrade will also include access to a new ebook store (of course!).
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Twitter has raised a stink from approximately 560,000 users hoping to automatically continue following President Obama on @POTUS44 by keeping them as followers of @POTUS, now managed by President Donald Trump. Twitter blamed the gaff on a flaw in the script used to migrate followers to the new accounts.
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Weíve been working on selling our current house and merging our extended family into a single large house with six bedrooms. Most of them have three floors, so, as you can imagine, getting Wi-Fi networking deployed into one of these behemoths could be a challenge: one router just wonít do it! So Iíve been researching possible solutions. The ones I think are the best so far are the Netgear Orbi AC3000 Tri-band WiFi System, and the Linksys VELOP Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System . Both use wireless mesh network technology, and are comprised of a router and two satellites that are supposed to cover up to 6000 square feet! Others Iíve looked at require a cloud-based connection! No thank you! I donít want someone on the cloud to have access to the middle of my home network!
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TechRepublic reports that a group of university researchers proved that video and computer vision software can be used to remotely unlock an Android Pattern Lock in five attempts!
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Wiredís Aarian Marshall claims that Texting and Driving Isn't a Millennial Problem. It's an Engineering Problem, saying:
For researchers, product designers, and policymakers, the challenge is to figure out how to allow people to use tech (which theyíre going to do no matter what) without killing themselves.

Weíll see. I have a Blue Ant device that interfaces with my smartphone via Bluetooth. It sits on the visor and lets me know when I have a call, from whom, and asks if I want to "answer or ignore" the call. If I say "answer," it plays the phoneís audio through its speaker, and sends my voice to the phone! I bought it several years ago when Oregon started ticketing drivers holding their phone to their ear!

Seems to me, someone should be able to build a similar device that detects incoming texts, ask if we want it read, read the text to us over the speaker, and take our answer verbally! Get to work, somebody!
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Samsung is trying to blame the Galaxy Note 7 explosions on manufacturing irregularities that caused the battery to short out:
A short circuit within the batter may occur when there is damage to the separator that allows the positive and negative electrodes to meet within the jellyroll. Based on a detailed analysis of the affected batteries, both Battery A from the 1st recall and Battery B from the second recall, we identified separate factors that originated in and were specific to the two different batteries.

The post has lots of color diagrams to illustrate what they are talking about.
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Tesla announced that the new Model S has an available battery option that will increase the vehicle's range to 335 miles on a single charge. Elon Musk also promised "major revisions every 12 to 18 months," just like smartphones!
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Now HP is having battery troubles! The have recalled 101,000 notebook computer batteries so far!
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In a ZDNet article titled Made in China or the USA? It won't matter: These jobs are going to robots, Jason Perlow warns:
. . . there are the drones that Amazon is experimenting with, which will one day drop small packages at your front door. But before that happens, we will probably see autonomous trucks drive goods from distributors, factories and port facilities to Amazon shipping centers, and from those shipping centers to parcel carriers in your neighborhood, where the last mile may be one of the few places that will continue to involve human beings.

Right now that's good old UPS, USPS and FedEx, which use flesh and blood. But that is likely to change, and Amazon and other large companies selling durable goods (like Wal-Mart) will probably cut out that part of the equation with their own intra-facility shipping services and local delivery soon enough. And if they can pull humans out of any part of that process, they will.

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InfoWorld posted an article titled What the end of net neutrality means for you, that pretty well describes what the Internet will be like if the Trump Administration has its way, stating:
The internet was built on the very idea of net neutrality. It has a history going back more than a century in "common carrier" laws, when Standard Oil was fined for creating a deal with a railroad (also a common carrier) in which it got a "rebate" whenever a competitor shipped oil on the line. These kinds of deals create vertical monopolies to the disadvantage of consumers, escalating prices. They also stifle innovation as they price access to the market out of the reach of startups and inventors.

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Boeing has designed a new spacesuit in Boeing Blue that is more stylish than the old orange suits currently in use!
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With memory chipmakers focusing their efforts on making their next generation of memory faster and smaller, the resulting supply of current memory chips has flattened at the same time that production has caused increasing demand for them! This is causing hardware prices to soar.
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Never mind the futility of expecting Trump's Mexico Wall to stop illegal immigration: environmental experts warn that itís an environmental disaster waiting to happen:
Architects have called the border wall a "pharaonic project" and a misplaced infrastructure priority. Environmentalists say it will continue to cut off the flow of water and wildlife in a changing climate but is little more than political grandstanding that won't keep out people.

And climate activists say that President Trump's border wall with Mexico and other efforts to keep people out represent a backward effort to stem a tide of migration that would be better addressed at its source: in places where climate impacts are already happening.

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved their Doomsday Clock up to 2.5 minutes to midnight, based primarily on the Trump Administrationís actively working to stifle scientific facts:
"Climate change should not be a partisan issue," said Bulletin board member David Titley, former chief oceanographer for the US Navy and a meteorologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. "The well established physics of the Earthís carbon cycle is neither liberal nor conservative in character."

Titley called on new US President Donald Trump to state "unequivocally" that climate change is real and caused by humans. "There are no Ďalternative factsí here," Titley said, referencing the language used by several Trump spokespeople earlier in the week.

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In a MIT Technology Review article titled What Happens If Net Neutrality Goes Away?, Mike Orcutt warns:
To get a sense of how things will be different, look no further than AT&Tís new product called DirecTV Now, which lets users stream content from DirecTV (which AT&T owns) over the wireless network without it counting against their monthly data cap. The general practice of letting wireless users stream video for free is known in the industry as ďzero rating.Ē Under the Open Internet Order, the FCC has the authority to police zero-rated services on a case-by-case basis, and late last year the agency expressed ďserious concernsĒ that AT&T was unfairly favoring its own content. Paiís FCC, on the other hand, will likely encourage such products.

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Syracuse Universityís One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence released the first of its planned 5-year studies titled Artificial Intelligence and Life In 2030 (PDF). The report makes the following recommendations:
1. Define a path toward accruing technical expertise in AI at all levels of government . . .
2. Remove the perceived and actual impediments to research on the fairness, security, privacy, and social impacts of AI systems . . .
3. Increase public and private funding for interdisciplinary studies of the societal impacts of AI . . .
The whole report, while somewhat long, is a well-written, extensively-referenced scholarly work worth the time to read it.
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January 15th, 2017
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reports that, prior to putting out its drone policy, there was significant communications between National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials and the Small UAV Coalition, a drone industry trade group. EPIC had lobbied for inclusion of mandatory privacy rules, but the final rules included only voluntary guideline.
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If itís January (it is!), then itís CES — the annual Consumer Electronics Show — where all the hardware and software makers go to show off their newest products! Some notable items (to me at least!) being demonstrated this year:
There were many other cool things, and many wacky things, but the above are the items I would actually buy if I could afford them!
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An architect used drone video and 3-D printing to create a model of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, destroyed by ISIS radicals, in what he called "an act of resistance" against terror.
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Not tech-related, but an AlterNet article titled An Insider's View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America, by an author calling himself (or herself!) the pseudonym Forsetti's Justice, explains how the results of the presidential election happened:
How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only god can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by godís command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening to people who donít live around minorities and have never interacted with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when theyíve voted for such policies for decades? I donít think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic, yet a large swath of the South believed — and still believes — they were right and had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

Before you say "no way!," read the entire article. From personal experience — having living in Tennessee and Kentucky for three years, and North Dakota for seven — I have to agree with his conclusions! I donít "paint all Christians with the same brush," being one myself, but I met enough white Christian fundamentalists in those parts that behaved and thought exactly as the author describes! And unfortunately, I see no easy solution unless we do away with the Electoral College process and go to a popular-vote election for President. Because, as long as a candidate can pander to white Christian fundamentalistsí prejudices and fears, weíll likely see a repeat in 2020.
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Automaker Ford has plans to integrate Amazonís Alexa into its autos. I canít even imagine all the ways this could go wrong!
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Teslaís Gigafactory in Nevada has begun producing lithium-ion battery cells. Tesla built this factory primarily to ensure a steady supply of batteries for its electric car and solar power markets, but it will also supposedly have capacity to spare, which will improve market supply for these batteries, and eventually lower prices for everyone, which is in line with Tesla founder Elon Musk's goal to promote solar power.
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Tech industry research firm Gartner predicts that PC sales should pick up in 2018. The PC sales slowdown was blamed in-part on Microsoftís free Windows 10 upgrade, which runs well on hardware purchased with Windows 7 and 8.1, and extended the useful life of older PCs. But I also think the fact that Windows 10 has been out long enough to shake out the bugs has a lot to do with corporate decisions to upgrade.
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NetworkWorld reports that Windows Defender, the anti-malware software built-in to Microsoftís Windows 10, is good enough for home users, but has issues for corporate users, saying:
Defender will download signature updates as part of the normal Windows update process, eventually.

But that isnít acceptable to most corporate users, who want to play a more active role in their endpoint security and donít want to clog up their network pipes with multiple Windows updates.
Agreed. Most anti-malware products designed for enterprise use has a server option that allows a single download from the cloud. User systems then update from the server. Windows Defender has no such option (so far). And I really hate that, unlike earlier versions, Windows 10 Home doesn't have an option to download updates and ask when to install them. You either let Microsoft push updates on its schedule, or don't update at all!
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Although they quit pushing it months ago, Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade can still be installed if you do a little work. ZDNetís Ed Bott posted a nice tutorial on how to do it! Although I used this method to successfully upgrade a Windows 7 box the last week of January, Iíd do it sooner than late if you want too, though. Microsoft might decide to stop letting it work at any time!
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It is expected that, with Trump at the helm, his picks for FCC commissioners could doom net neutrality, and allow further Internet service provider consolidation.
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MIT Technology Review posted a list of The Best Gadgets Coming in 2017. Included are new smartphones by Apple, Samsung and Microsoft; smart watches and VR headsets.
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It sounds counterintuitive, but one of the biggest advances in digital cameras is the single-pixel sensor that uses randomization to make multiple captures:
The randomization process changes the intensity of light each time the pixel records it. These differences in intensity are not random but instead correlated with the scene in front of the pixel. So producing an image is simply a question of mining this data to find the correlation. And the more data that is collected, the better the image becomes.

So by recording the intensity of light many times, it is possible to create a high-resolution picture with a single pixel.
No word yet when this technology will find its way into digital cameras and smartphones.
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Like many tech news sites, SiliconValley.com posted an homage to Appleís iPhone on its 10th anniversary. However, most sites, if they discussed them at all, spent short shrift discussing Android phones, which have paralleled the iPhone in development, usually at less cost for similar features.
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Computer security journalist Brian Krebs posted his Krebsís Immutable Truths About Data Breaches. This needs to be posted in every IT shop, and forwarded to their CEOs!
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One of the first Web portals on the Internet, Yahoo! Is no more. After their buy-out was completed, Verizon Verizon renamed them Altaba.
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GM has jumped into the ride sharing market last year by purchasing startup Maven. The service appears to be more appealing to millennials, many of whom donít own cars.
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In a rare burst of bipartisan support, the Email Privacy Act passed the House with a 419-0 vote! This would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access email and messages older than 180 days, which current law only requires a subpoena to access.
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The military has conducted the test of a 108-drone swarm released from F/A-18 Super Hornets fighter jets in flight. The drones communicate with each other, without direction, to perform a series of formation flying "surveillance" exercises.
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The next computer memory technology expected to go mainstream is Nano RAM (NRAM), based on carbon nanotubes. Its developers claim NRAM is 1,000 times faster than the DRAM we currently use as our main PC memory. But unlike DRAM and other volatile memory types that lose their data when they power off, NRAM is non-volatile, and like the NAND flash memory in flash drives it retains its data when the power is turned off. So a PC using NRAM for its main memory would be capable of "instant on" startup, with all applications and data files open exactly as you left them! Expect to see this technology appearing in 2018, and eventually replace both DRAM and NAND memory.
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Windows Hello is part of Microsoftís efforts to replace usernames and passwords with biometrics on Windows 10 PCs, and there are now numerous devices you can buy to securely open your PC without having to log on.
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This is deep geek at its best: a video of CNET techies disassembling Star Warsí BB-8 droid!
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TechRepublic posted a slide show of concept cars from the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Very cool-looking for the most part.
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Recovering from a September launch pad explosion, SpaceX successfully launched a payload containing 10 satellites, and landed the first stage rocket booster on a drone ship.
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December 31st, 2016
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Last year, smartwatches and fitness trackers were considered niche products. But TechRepublic reports that this year their sales took off, driven by interest from techies and fitness buffs.

The article linked to above doesn't point it out, but in my opinion these devices are selling better this year because the newest crop of smartwatches and fitness trackers are just better than their earlier predecessors! Thereís a reason techies often call the Leading Edge the "Bleeding Edge." The first generation of a product is the result of what the developers thought it should do. The second and subsequent generations of a product are usually made significantly better by fixing what customers didnít like in the previous version, and adding in technology to respond to usersí "why canít it do X" questions!
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Tesla and SolarCity shareholders approved the $2 billion merger between the two renewable-energy tech firms.
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With the GOP in charge in Washington, weakening net neutrality is expected to be a target.
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Despite the epic failure of Googleís Glass project, Snap, who make the teen obsession SnapChat, are selling their Spectacles, a pair of sunglasses with a built-in camera that can take 30-second videos that are uploaded to a smartphone. They are apparently popular with millennials, since the initial stock bought out!
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One of the issues to come into prominence during the presidential election was the proliferation of fake news, particularly via social media, and whether social media should take a hand in preventing it.
After the company faced criticism that it isnít doing enough to prevent misinformation from going viral, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his preeminent social media site is looking into ways to prevent fake news.

However, there is a legitimate concern that letting any site filter out what it considers fake news could impact free speech.
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I read this and couldnít resist: a toy every pre-teen male (maybe even every frat boy!) is salivating over, the Nerf N-Strike Elite Terrascout Remote Control Drone Blaster. Hell, I was even tempted to get one, just because of its total nerd coolness! My question: how long until a full-size version shows up shooting better ammo?
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Since the early days of the genre, Sci-Fi authors have suggested that the first large-scale commercial enterprise in space would be mining the asteroids for valuable metals and elements. Well, the idea has taken off with real companies looking to get into the business!
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The new GOES-R weather satellite was successfully launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the enhanced data from the satellite to radically improve weather forecasting.
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Apple is getting out of the wireless router business. The primary concern is that Apple will likely discontinue support for them in the near future.
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Israeli researchers have created malware can convert your PCís headphones into a microphone to spy on you!
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How tech nerdy is this: a Wired article on The Physics of Throwing a Starship Off a Cliff to Make It Fly, as suggested by Star Trek Beyond.
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MITís Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has developed a wireless virtual reality interface that could "untether" VR gamers!
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After having it on the back burner for a decade, Microsoft is ramping up the development of quantum computing hardware and software.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy including performance guidelines and a model policy for state regulations of self-driving vehicles.
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The Intercept posted an interesting article on itís decade-long legal battle with the FBI to quash a National Security Letter looking for information on a registered user — a battle the FBI decided to drop to avoid judicial scrutiny that might get the law allowing NSLs ruled unconstitutional!
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Now this is just too much! A start-up is advertising the AirSelfie, touted by the manufacturer as "The only portable flying camera integrated in your phone cover," controlled by a phone app. Really!
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TechRepublic reports that the global market for electronic sensors is projected to generate more than $162 billion in 2019, driven by technology advances like 3D printing, eHealth, the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, etc.
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Starting in 2017, the Bank of Korea will begin a pilot program to use prepaid cards rather than coins, with the goal to make the country a coinless society by 2020.
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If you have a really large data set you need to put up on the cloud, call Amazon. The have configured a fleet of tractor trailer rigs, dubbed Snowmobile, with 100,000 terabytes of storage each, which is faster than the fastest available Internet connection currently available (read the article to see why!). The service is an out-growth of their Snowball service, which features 80-terabyte appliances Amazon customers can use to move data to the cloud.
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Manufacturing engineering company Instrumental performed a teardown of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and thinks the cause of the battery fires and explosions is a "super-aggressive manufacturing process" that cut tolerances so thin the battery doesnít have space to expand when it heats up! Which, of course, leads to an explosion when the heat expansion exceeds the case strength!
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The next major update to Windows 10, dubbed the Windows 10 Creators Update — which will include several new, consumer-focused features, most notably 3D support — is expected to be out by "Spring 2017" .
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Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Alphabetís YouTube said Monday that theyíre going to be sharing hashes for terrorist content theyíve pulled from their services. Detractors voice concerns that such collaborative censorship could be turned to suppression of free speech.
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In a wired article titled Stop Trying to Kill Smartphones. You Canít Kill Smartphones, David Pierce thinks itís weird that everyone is trying to figure out what the Next Big Thing after smartphones will be, saying:
Before long, six freaking billion people will have an internet connection, secure ID, electronic payments, a microphone, and camera in their pocket. You donít have to build that stuff! Instead of trying to save us from our phones, you can use our phones to make our lives better.

I agree. There was a time when I had to carry a cell phone to take and make calls; an MP3 player for listening to music during my commute; a Pocket PC to read email, keep up my calendar, and track my tasks; and a digital camera. Now, the functionality of those four devices is available in a smartphone which also surfs the Web, and runs applications that would rival those running on PCs back in the day. So my best guess is that as long as there are current and future functionalities that people want to carry around with them, and arenít currently running on a smartphone, weíll likely see them incorporated, too!
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ZDNet posted a nice article titled Samsung Gear S3 Frontier review: The smartwatch of the future is now here. Now that the technology has matured, Iíve been looking to buy a smartwatch, and the S3 models have addition capability if you own a Samsung smartphone, which I do!
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Researchers at cybersecurity firm SEC Consult have discovered backdoors in as many as 80 of Sonyís IP cameras models, which could allow attackers to run them as part of a botnet, or spy on users.
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InfoWorldís Andrew C. Oliver posted an article titled China didn't steal your job — I did, in which he corrects candidates who make claims that blue-collar jobs are going to China and Mexico, saying:
Capital tends to win in the end. Why? Technology — that is, "we" — tend to make investing in tech cheaper or more productive than labor eventually. Whether weíre designing robots to replace factory workers or developing machine learning to make administrative assistants redundant, we help justify technology purchases rather than hiring messy, expensive, unpredictable humans.

I strongly believe this is better for us all in the end, but the economic and social costs in the short-to-medium term are high.

I agree. The problem is that no one has been willing to pay for adult education to retrain replaced blue collar worker into any of the new technology-support or knowledge worker jobs created by the new technology.
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Western Digital is shipping its samples of its new 14TB HGST Ultrastar He12 PMR drive to key customers for testing.
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Microsoft closed its purchase of business job search site LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. Microsoft plans to integrate access to LinkedIn into itís software products, particularly Microsoft Office.
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In a Wired article titled Universities Must Help Educate Woefully Uninformed Lawmakers, Justin Talbot-Zorn and Sridhar Kota point out that Congress slowly defunded their Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a group of subject matter experts that helped Congressmen and Senators understand the technology they were legislating about, and suggests that universities should pick up the task saying:
For universities, taking on the role of legislative tutor isnít just a selfless patriotic act. It could bring benefits like creating new professional opportunities and exposure for faculty and students, opening new long-term research and funding opportunities, and bolstering academic brands in policymaking circles. Yet, given all that universities receive through taxpayer-supported research opportunities and other forms of government funding, this kind of advising represents a meaningful yet affordable way to give back. Itís time for universities to move beyond their traditional lobbying functions toward a new model of intellectual partnership with policymakers. In 2017, university presidents and deans should think about initiating pilot programs to send faculty and top graduate students to DC, state capitals, and city councils to offer workshops, technical assistance, and ideas to policymakers in need of the help.

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Members of Best Buyís Geek Squad received payments from FBI agents for passing them incriminating evidence found on customersí computers! The moral of this story: make sure your PC is "evidence-free" before turning it in for maintenance. Better yet, if you must be bad, store "questionable" info on a flash drive or other removable drive, never on your PC's hard drive!
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Samsung says over 96 percent of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones have been returned, and the FAA says itís going to stop making those embarrassing preflight announcements to not use them during pre-flight announcements!
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The FBI dropped a National Security Letter and accompanying gag order on Internet services company Cloudflare, seeking detailed information on one of their users. With the with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Cloudflare successfully filed a lawsuit against the FBI who rescinded the NSL. Again, it is theorized that the case was dropped because the Feds don't want NSLs to reach a judge to be declared unconstitutional!
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If you run a Netgear R7000 or R6400 router, it could be vulnerable to attackers who could run commands with root privileges. In other words, they would have complete access to your home network! Carnegie Mellon University's public vulnerability database (CERT) recommends you stop using these models!

InfoWorld reported that Netgear has upped the concern to eight vulnerable router models — the R6250, R6400, R6700, R7000, R7100LG, R7300, R7900, and R8000 — and firmware updates are coming for all of them.

Boy, am I glad I have a Linksys router!
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If Amazon has itís way, the grocery stores of the future wonít have checkout counters. Sensors will keep track of what the customers pick up off the shelves and bill them when they leave.
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Samsung is releasing an update that will deactivate any Galaxy Note7 devices in the US, to force users to return them. But Verizon is refusing to push the update, claiming it could leave users without a phone in case of an emergency.
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FreePress reported that Facebook has been censoring documentation of human-rights abuses when requested to do so by law enforcement and government agencies.

A coalition of civil rights groups wrote a letter to Facebook, asking the company to explain why it has been removing usersí posts documenting human rights violations.
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In an MIT Technology Review article titled News Flash: Women Like to Tinker, Too, Eleonore Fournier-Tombs points out that even if they have an aptitude for technology, workplace sexism discourages them from choosing tech jobs:
The representation problem is not only important because of the harassment that women experience at work, but also because it deprives women of a life path for which many are perfectly suited. And companies that want skilled, creative, and passionate employees are depriving themselves of half of the potential workforce. Instead, theyíre either harassing them out of a job or ignoring them completely.

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Amazon announced that its Prime Air service drone has successfully delivered a package to a customer! Amazon isnít clear when this will be a real service!
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President Elect Donald Trump (still cringing when I write that!) will hold a meeting with tech industry CEOs, most of whom were not supporters of his! The focus of the meeting is supposed to be how to get tech jobs to move back o the US.
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Wired reports that 150 documentary filmmakers have signed an open letter to camera-makers Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Fuji, Kodak and Ricoh, asking the companies to add encryption to their cameras. That way, if someone steals or confiscates their camera, the pictures would be protected.
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Bruce Schneier posted an article in the Washington Post titled U.S. elections are a mess, even though thereís no evidence this one was hacked saying:
What the allegations, and the ripples theyíre causing on social media, really show is how fundamentally untrustworthy our hodgepodge election system is.

Accountability is a major problem for U.S. elections. The candidates are the ones required to petition for recounts, and we throw the matter into the courts when we canít figure it out. This all happens after an election, and because the battle lines have already been drawn, the process is intensely political. Unlike many other countries, we donít have an independent body empowered to investigate these matters. There is no government agency empowered to verify these researchersí claims, even if it would be merely to reassure voters that the election count was accurate.

Oregon moved to vote by mail years ago: get the ballot in your mailbox, mark your choices, and mail it in. Ballots are coded so duplicate votes are discarded! It works great, and has empowered whole classes of voters who were never able to travel to a polling place and stand in line to vote!
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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier posted My Priorities for the Next Four Years in response to the presidential election results, concluding:
Like many, I was surprised and shocked by the election of Donald Trump as president. I believe his ideas, temperament, and inexperience represent a grave threat to our country and world. Suddenly, all the things I had planned to work on seemed trivial in comparison. Although Internet security and privacy are not the most important policy areas at risk, I believe he — and, more importantly, his cabinet, administration, and Congress — will have devastating effects in that area, both in the US and around the world.

Read the entire article. Itís good stuff!
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Researchers at the University of Utah demonstrated how to use off-the-shelf inkjet printers and special ink to print hidden images that are only visible when illuminated with polarized terahertz waves.
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The MIT Technology Review reported that Britainís intelligence agency, GCHQ, and the US National Security Agency (NSA) used satellite systems to track cell phone usage on passenger aircraft flights starting in 2005.
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Yahoo posted a warning on its web site that a major security breach of its systems in 2013 exposed the personal information of more than 1 billion users. This is a separate hack from the previously-reported 2014 event that exposed 500 million accounts.
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (PDF), alleging that internet-connected toys My Friend Cayla and i-Que Intelligent Robot violate federal privacy and consumer protection laws, and urging the recall of the toys.
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Windows Secrets posted The ultimate utilities list: Windows 10 Edition, their annual list of the best Windows utilities. Good stuff.
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A National Transportation Safety Board reports that a solar-powered drone Facebook has been using to test internet access to remote areas of the world crash landed after strong winds damaged its right wing.
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A group of hundreds of tech professionals pledged to not assist in building a database to track US citizens "based on race, religion, or national origin."
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A Florida court ruled that police can force you to give up your iPhone password. Iím actually fine with this ruling. Hereís a similar physical-world example: if the police have sufficient evidence to convince a judge that a suspectís safe contains evidence of a crime, and the judge issues a warrant to get the safe opened, the owner of the safe is legally required to open it. A locked phone is a "digital safe" so the same rules should apply. I object to law enforcement frequently trying to skirt around getting a warrant before looking inside a phone, but if they have a warrant, the phone owner needs unlock the phone!
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Civil liberties group Free Press is sponsoring a 100 Days of Disruption to motivate people to resist curtailment of free speech by the Trump Administration and fellow travelers.
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Despite rumors that Google was going to merge its Chrome and Android operating systems, Googleís senior vice president for Android, Chrome, and Chromecast Hiroshi Lockheimer says the two platforms will 'cross-pollinate,' but remain separate, saying: "Thereís no point in merging them. Theyíre both successful." Heís right! Per IDC analyst Linn Huang, starting the first quarter of 2016, Chromebooks outsold Appleís Mac 2 million to 1.7 million!

There may be a reason for the Macís decline: Bloomberg reports that, by concentrating on its highly-successful iPhone products, Apple has alienated its Macintosh users by reducing upgrades, saying:
Mac upgrades, once a frequent ritual, are few and far between. The Mac Pro, Apple's marquee computer, hasn't been refreshed since 2013. The affordable and flexible Mac mini was last upgraded in 2014. And when a new machine does roll out, the results are sometimes underwhelming, if not infuriating, to devotees.

Given that, I would expect that, if a Mac user is frustrated by poor support, they would be less likely to buy a new one!
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Microsoft has posted an Office 365 Roadmap page that lists pending updates the software make plans to make that are Launched, Rolling out, In development, Cancelled, or Previously released. Note that the Home and Enterprise versions each have features the other does not, so updates listed are sometimes for one, the other or both, so read the entries carefully!

I should note that Iíve been an Office 365 Home user since Microsoft came out with it, because the attractive price ($99 for five PCs and unlimited mobile devices!) allowed me to keep my familyís PCs up to date economically. Despite a few minor issues during the initial upgrade to Office 2016 (which were common according to tech news!) it has been painless! And the price is still right!
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The Outlineís Adrianne Jeffries posted a humorous article titled In which we try to rebrand the dongle, wherein she documents a failed attempt to rename the dongle:
As a final test, we took the debate public. In a Twitter poll of 574 respondents, throughport won 13 percent of the vote, Schiller won 18 percent of the vote, plugadoo won 19 percent of the vote, and 50 percent voted to keep dongle.

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Uber is deploying a new app feature that lets users request a ride to a person, instead of a location. The problem? You have to sync the Uber app with your contacts! Hereís the explanation of how it works:
To use the feature, you have to sync your contacts with the Uber app. Then you type a friendís name in the "where to?" box, and your friend gets a request from Uber to provide their location. If they accept, that destination goes right to your driver, and your friend gets sent your ETA and updates on your trip.

I understand the utility, but Iím not sure what my friends would think about me sharing their name, address and phone number with Uber without their consent!
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Space.com posted a nice article titled Sci-Fi Gets Science Right: 'Passengers' Nails the Physics. Iíve intended to watch this movie, but this seals the deal! After being a "space nut" most of my life, and having taken calculus-based Phisics I, II, and III, Iíve always been critical of how things like spacecraft movements and explosions are depicted in movies and TV shows. Star Trek was particularly wrong! Thatís a (small) part of why I love the Babylon 5 TV series. They had a physicist on staff to verify the spacecraft movements, etc., were scientifically correct!
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The House Judiciary Committee & House Energy and Commerce Committeeís Encryption Working Group posted its Encryption Working Group Year-End Report (PDF) which reported on four well-reasoned observations they discussed at length:
  • Observation #1: Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest . . .

  • Observation #2: Encryption technology is a global technology that is widely and increasingly available around the world . . .

  • Observation #3: The variety of stakeholders, technologies, and other factors create different and divergent challenges with respect to encryption and the "going dark" phenomenon, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the encryption challenge . . .

  • Observation #4: Congress should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies.

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Finnish cell phone giant Nokia filed patent-infringement lawsuits against Apple, claiming the company is illegally using Nokia technology in iPhones, iPads and other popular devices, which it claims violate Nokia 32 patents relating to display, user interface, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding.
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TechRepublic posted a nice tutorial on using the Memory Diagnostics Tool built into Windows 10. Most times we complain about buggy software, but memory issues can symptoms that appear to be software-related but arenít. The Memory Diagnostics Tool is a simple, free way to rule out memory before reinstalling software, which can be a royal pain if you have to recreate settings afterwards.
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After having bought out solar power company SolarCity, Tesla has tapped their battery-making partner Panasonic to make solar panels for them as well.
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November 30th, 2016
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Last year, smartwatches and fitness trackers were considered niche products. But this year their sales kicked off, driven by interest from techies and fitness buffs.

My opinion is that these devices are selling better now because the newest crop of smartwatches and fitness trackers are just better than their earlier predecessors! Thereís a reason techies often call the Leading Edge the "Bleeding Edge." The first generation of a product is the result of what the developers thought it should do. The second and subsequent generations of a product are usually made significantly better by fixing what customers didnít like in the previous version, and adding in technology to respond to usersí "why canít it do X" questions!
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Tesla and SolarCity shareholders approved the $2 billion merger between the two renewable-energy tech firms.
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With the GOP in charge in Washington, weakening net neutrality is expected to be a target.
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Despite the epic failure of Googleís Glass project to garner market interest, Snap, who make the teen obsession SnapChat, are selling their Spectacles, a pair of sunglasses with a built-in camera that can take 30-second videos that are uploaded to a smartphone. Not only are they significantly cheaper (at $130 vs. $1500 for Glass), they are apparently popular with millennials, since the initial stock was quickly bought out!
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Twitter is complaining that law enforcement has been using its public APIs to track usersí activities is not acceptable, and warned that developers who violate use policies could lose their access to the APIs.
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During the presidential election, the subject of fake news became an issue, with social media site Facebook taking the brunt of accusations. Facebook quickly announced plans to stop the proliferation of fake news. However, their efforts garnered criticism, primarily from right-wing speakers, saying censoring 'fake news' is a threat to Free Speech. I donít know if there is an easy answer to this issue. My idea would be a compromise: go ahead and post the news articles in question, but flag them as possibly fake.

Kartik Hosanagar, professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in a Wired article titled Blame the Echo Chamber on Facebook. But Blame Yourself, Too, warned that lack of cross-cutting news — "defined as sharing a perspective other than their own (for example, a liberal reading a news story with a primarily conservative perspective)," — is often as much Facebook usersí fault as Facebooks', saying:
On a social network like Facebook, three factors influence the extent to which we see cross-cutting news. First, who our friends are and what news stories they share; second, among all the news stories shared by friends, which ones are displayed by the newsfeed algorithm; and third, which of the displayed news stories we actually click on. If the second factor is the primary driver of the echo chamber, then Facebook deserves all blame. In contrary, if the first or third factor is responsible for the echo chamber, then we have created our own echo chambers.

This is why I depend primarily on e-mail newsletters for my information, from sites from the far left, far right, and everything in between. I rarely agree with everything I read, but it is important to understand a point of view before I can comment on it!
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The Network Time Protocol is what a great many computers use to synchronize their clocks, but itís an open source project that has slowly losing most of its financial support.
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November 15th, 2016
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Intel is jumping on the self-driving car bandwagon by starting up an Automated Driving Group. To really get going, though, I would expect they'll have to partner with a automaker..
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Changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) approved last year by the Library of Congressís Copyright Office kicked in on October 1st, and will allow research on consumer devices to detect security defects; and digital repair of vehicles.
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TechRepublic reports that worldwide Internet traffic from mobile devices has exceeded traffic from desktop computers. Which means that companies that arenít marketing to mobile devices need to get at it!
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ZDNet posted a nice review of Microsoftís HoloLens 3D headset, which displays augmented reality rather than virtual reality, i.e.: it displays content over a real-world image.
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Some California cities are considering adopting a streaming video tax on internet customers, to replace fees they used to get from cable TV subscriptions! My opinion? Most people agree (as have the courts!) that a company should not be allowed to protect its revenues when a newer way of doing things causes them to lose business! I think this should apply to governments as well: they shouldnít assume that, having lost income from fees on one service, they have a right to impose fees on those that use another service! Hopefully, their voters will remind them of that!
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So far, the consumer drone market is slower than expected, with prices falling as much as 70 percent as a result.
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The first person to use a brain implant at home is a permanently paralyzed woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who can only move her eyes.
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Commenting on several major DDoS attacks recently using Internet of Things (IoT) devices, computer security technologist Bruce Schneier, in an article titled Your WiFi-connected thermostat can take down the whole Internet. We need new regulations. warns:
In general, the software market demands that products be fast and cheap and that security be a secondary consideration. That was okay when software didn't matter — it was okay that your spreadsheet crashed once in a while. But a software bug that literally crashes your car is another thing altogether. The security vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things are deep and pervasive, and they won't get fixed if the market is left to sort it out for itself. We need to proactively discuss good regulatory solutions; otherwise, a disaster will impose bad ones on us.

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Mr. Schneier also posted an interesting article on his blog titled Intelligence Oversight and How It Can Fail, that warns that, when dealing with technology issues, lawyers are ill-trained to deal with them, saying:
In many places I have separated different kinds of oversight: are we doing things right versus are we doing the right things? This is very much about the first: is the NSA complying with the rules the courts impose on them? I believe that the NSA tries very hard to follow the rules it's given, while at the same time being very aggressive about how it interprets any kind of ambiguities and using its nonadversarial relationship with its overseers to its advantage.

The only possible solution I can see to all of this is more public scrutiny. Secrecy is toxic here.

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Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics is buying out US auto parts maker Harman International Industries for $8 Billion, which is seen as a move to enter the connected car market.
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HTCís new Bolt smartphone has followed appleís lead and ditched the headphone jack. Please don't say this is a trend!
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ZDNet posted detailed support dates for Microsoftís Windows and Office products.

Unlike previous years, when the software giant offered custom support agreements to some of its large corporate accounts, Microsoft is sticking to its October 2017 deadline for extend support for Office 2007.
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A Security firm found a backdoor in some budget Android phones that secretly sends user information to a server in China! The affected devices are primarily international and prepaid devices.
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Although Iíve tried to stay away from politics during the presidential campaign, the following quote from an AlterNet article probably sums up my thoughts about the process and the result:
The clash between Trump and Clinton slit open the underbelly of America and a toxic stew has oozed out. Old, familiar race hatred and anti-Semitism have reemerged, newly swathed in the cloak of the "alt-right." Misogyny has proved its enduring electoral strength. Anti-immigrant hysteria, ironically, has given validity to anti-American policy proposals. With Trump at the lead, all this has been married with old-fashioned fear-mongering, racial profiling and contempt and disdain for the "other," be they Muslims, people of color, the handicapped, or even journalists just trying to do their jobs.
As Thomas Jefferson noted, "eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty." We all need to be watching very closely after the Trump Inauguration in January.
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking information about the agency's plans to transfer biometric data their Next Generation Identification System to the Department of Defense. The system contains digitized facial scans, fingerprints, and iris images of millions of Americans.
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Wired posted a surprisingly correct technical answer to why You Canít Just Link Batteries Willy Nilly and Expect Everything to Be OK, including diagrams and math! They even show you how to set up a test for yourself!
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October 30th, 2016
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The Department of Justice petitioned the appeals court to reopen their case against Microsoft, in which the court ruled that Microsoft could not be forced to hand over user data stored overseas. Their reason for asking for a second look is the claim that the ruling is making it harder for them to prosecute cases. Microsoft has always claimed that, if they want to access data stored in Europe, the European Union has laws they can work under to gain access.

Senators Christopher Coons (D-DL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT); and Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Tom Marino (R-PA) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch(PDF) concerning the DOJ trying to reopen the Microsoft case, saying:
. . . for nearly two years, we have advanced legislation to establish a legal standard for accessing extraterritorial electronic communications. The governmentís current position presents unique challenges for a number of industries that increasingly face a conflict between U.S. law and the laws of other countries. For example, when technology companies receive demands from U.S. law enforcement to tum over data on behalf of foreign customers, they are forced to make a difficult decision: either comply with the demand and satisfy U.S. law and risk violating the privacy laws of the host country, or challenge U.S. law enforcement`s request in order to comply with the laws of the host jurisdiction. No one should be placed in this untenable situation.

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Brian Krebs reported that Russian hackers were inside the Web storefront of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) been for six months, gleaning credit card data from customers. So, they steal e-mails from the Democrats and money from the Republicans! Interesting!
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Consumer Reports asked Tesla to rename itís Autopilot self-driving system, saying, "marketing their feature as ĎAutopilotí Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security."
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If you still own a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone (if so why?! You have a death wish?!), leave it home if you need to take a flight on an airliner: the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration banned the phone from air transportation in the US!
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In a Wired article titled If Billionaires Fund Your Research, Donít Take Public Money, Jim Kozubek points out that, if researchers take both public and private money, court fights over rights to the results of the research often result, saying:
Taxpayers, and importantly, our national funding agencies, ought to consider ďinstitutional healthĒ rather than the needs of individual investigators. Some federally funded institutions are exploiting the tax base to protect the wealth of their investors and partners, often spending millions on grueling patent battles. Why should taxpayers front the money for basic research only to watch scientists clobber one another?

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North Dakota has dismissed riot charges against Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman. Ms. Goodman was arrested for reporting on pipeline company security guards attacking Dakota Access pipeline protestors.
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Tesla told customers who preordered a Model 3 that their cars will be shipping in mid-2018.
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A new site called Recursor TV specializes in independent Science Fiction TV shows and movies. It allows you to drill down by subcategory: post-apocalyptic, military, etc. This might actually be the point at which I watch videos on my computer. Guess itís time to reconnect the HDMI cable from my PC to the 42-inch monitor!
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According to Microsoft's own research, their artificial intelligence (AI) technology is slightly better at recognizing conversational speech better than humans who do it for a living! Hmmm. Where can I get this?!
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Cyrus Vance Jr., a Manhattan, NY prosecutor, continues to pressure Washington to pass legislation to prohibit smartphone encryption.
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Tesla has announced that, as of mid-October 2016, all new cars will have the necessary hardware installed for its Autopilot self-driving system, including the pending low-end Model 3. It just wonít be activated until more-robust testing is completed.
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Two University of Washington researchers developed a technique using backscattering of Wi-Fi transmissions to power Internet of Things devices without batteries. They have successfully used this technique to communicate up to 100 feet away!
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In an InfoWorld article titled At the mercy of AI: Your job, your health, your money, Galen Gruman warns that our continued use of cloud-connected AI could give away more about us than we ant, saying:
All of these artificial intelligent systems — Watson, Cortana, Google's DeepMind and intelligent assistants, Facebook, and Apple's Siri — are being proposed as all-knowing, objective advisers to people, companies, and governments. The AI will tell you who's a good job candidate, what's the best medical treatment, what car you should buy, where you should live, what gas station you should frequent, and what you should eat.

That's supposed to be a good development because it's based on analysis of information that individuals don't have access to and couldn't process if they did — plus, the AI has no inherent bias in the calculations it bases its recommendation on. Thus, AI systems using algorithms and data from who knows where, with who knows what degree of accuracy and who knows what degree of encoded biases, will make these decisions on the fundamental aspects of our lives.

Scary!

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Gorgetown Lawís Center on Privacy and Technology posted a report titled The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America (PDF) warns about large unregulated databases of citizensí faces, culled from ID and drivers license records:
There is a knock on your door. Itís the police. There was a robbery in your neighborhood. They have a suspect in custody and an eyewitness. But they need your help: Will you come down to the station to stand in the line-up?

Most people would probably answer "no." This summer, the Government Accountability Office revealed that close to 64 million Americans do not have a say in the matter: 16 states let the FBI use face recognition technology to compare the faces of suspected criminals to their driverís license and ID photos, creating a virtual line-up of their state residents. In this line-up, itís not a human that points to the suspect — itís an algorithm.

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The media consolidation continues: after buying out DirecTV in July 2015, AT&T paid $85.4 billion for media giant Time Warner which includes HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros studios. This would give AT&T immediate access to decades of content, and numerous Internet, TV and satellite services to play it on.

In an InfoWorld article titled What's really at stake if AT&T buys Time Warner, Caroline Craig warns that the merger would be a "lose-lose for consumers and the economy alike," saying:
If the merger is approved, AT&T will own media titan Time Warner's trove of content. If you're a fan of HBO ("Game of Thrones" or "Westworld"); watch TBS ("Full Frontal with Samantha Bee") or TNT ("The Last Ship"); get your news coverage from CNN; follow Major League Baseball, the NBA, or March Madness; wax nostalgic over Turner Classic Movies; or are a fan of the "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings" films — and a range of others, from "Inception" and "American Sniper" to "Wedding Crashers" and "The Notebook" — all that content is owned by Time Warner. Warner Bros. also controls DC Comics and the rights to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and a host of pop culture icons, and its Interactive Entertainment division is one of America's most prominent video-game publishers.

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The European Space Agency Schiaparelli Mars lander lost contact with their Schiaparelli Mars lander minutes before it was supposed to land. The ESA thinks itís likely the spacecraft crashed.
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Brian Krebs reports that one of the companies who make electronic components used in a wide range of Internet of Things devices has a hard-coded, unchangeable password that the hackers took advantage of to capture IoT devices for a recent large Distributed Denial of Service attack of Mr. Krebsí web server and other companiesí sites.
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InfoWorldís Security Adviser Roger A. Grimes, in an article titled The only realistic plan to avoid DDoS disaster, suggests that the Internet needs to be rebuilt to make it more secure, saying:
I believe the world would be willing to pay for a new internet, one in which the minimum identity verification is two-factor or biometric. I also think that, in exchange for much greater security, people would be willing to accept a slightly higher price for connected devices -- all of which would have embedded crypto chips to assure that a device or personís digital certificate hadnít been stolen or compromised . . .
. . . This would effectively mean the end of anonymity on the internet. For those who prefer today's (relative) anonymity, the current internet would be maintained.

Sorry, Roger. But an Internet that everyone needs to be "logged on to" with credentials that can be traced back to them would be a privacy and security nightmare! Law enforcement and stalkers would love it! But anonymous speech would be impossible. And in some countries (including, no doubt ours), anonymous speech is the only way truth can be spoken to power, be it government, corporate, etc., without risking careers, freedom and/or lives! No thanks!
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According to an MIT Technology Review article, AT&T has been charging the feds and law enforcement millions of dollars a year to analyze its customersí phone records!
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An MIT Technology Review article titled Solving the Lack of Diversity in Genomic Researchreports that the GWAS Catalog used in genomic research is almost exclusively of European stock, and suggests efforts should be made to reach out to companies and researchers to make the database more inclusive.
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The New York Times, in an article titled The Pentagonís ĎTerminator Conundrumí: Robots That Could Kill on Their Own, claims that the Department of Defense is very close to deploying autonomous drones with facial recognition:
Almost unnoticed outside defense circles, the Pentagon has put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United Statesí position as the worldís dominant military power. It is spending billions of dollars to develop what it calls autonomous and semiautonomous weapons and to build an arsenal stocked with the kind of weaponry that until now has existed only in Hollywood movies and science fiction, raising alarm among scientists and activists concerned by the implications of a robot arms race.

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ZDNet posted a nice review of the new Lenovo MotoZ, the first smartphone released since Lenovo bought out Motorolasí consumer phone division. The advantage of this phone is the clip-on backs you can add to the phone, including a Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod camera with a physical zoom lens.
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As of November 1st, PCs with Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs should no longer be for sale, at least in the mainstream retail market. But Microsoft despite Microsoft wishes, unsold PCs will likely be available for several months until resellers sell them all!
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Google suspended its Google Fiber in ďmostĒ of the cities being considering for expansion, pending adoption of "new technology and deployment methods," which are rumored to be wireless technologies.
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Microsoft is showing off its Surface Studio all-in-one PC. The $2,999-list device — targeted at artists, designers, architects and other graphics-heavy professionals who usually choose Apple systems — sports a 28-inch, 13.5 million pixel, 4,500 x 3,000 resolution touchscreen display that can be laid flat to use as a work surface.

TechRepublic posted a nice review of the Surface Studio.
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With Uber and Lyft cutting into their business, the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, representing the traditional Taxi industry, sued the city of Chicago demanding "just compensation" for their losses. In an unanimous appeals court ruling, the court found the case had no merit, stating, "íPropertyí does not include a right to be free from competition. A license to operate a coffee shop doesnít authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening," and went on to say:
Were the old deemed to have a constitutional right to preclude the entry of the new into the markets of the old, economic progress might grind to a halt. Instead of taxis we might have horse and buggies; instead of the telephone, the telegraph; instead of computers, slide rules. Obsolescence would equal entitlement.
Indeed!
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Within ten years, Uber is planning to deploy electric powered, fixed wing, tilt-rotor aircraft in the near future that will take off and land vertically.
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The Apple TV has a new app, called "TV," that will simplify use of the streaming service, and allow the device to replace other set-top boxes, except for one shortcoming: no support for Netflix or Amazon.
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By a vote of 3 to 2, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed sweeping new privacy rules (PDF) that requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get their customersí consent before using or sharing customersí data like browsing history, location, and other sensitive information with other companies.

Computerworldís Evan Schuman called the new rules "toothless," saying:
I applaud the sentiment, but what came forth from the commission will do little to nothing to advance privacy. Yes, ISPs must now get explicit permission from consumers to release their data, but nowhere is there a prohibition on such permission being hidden in a 29-page T&C form that requires a one-click acceptance to begin the ISP service.

In short, itís either "accept this agreement" or get ISP service elsewhere — which will be hard to do if every major ISP insists on similar language.

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NASA is planning a Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission in 2019, sending test communications from the International Space Station to ground stations in Hawaii and California, using technology they hope to use in the future to talk to spacecraft that travel to Mars. A previous 2013 test successfully sent data from Earth to a spacecraft orbiting the moon, at a data rate of 622 megabits per second.
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MIT Technology Review posted an interesting article titled Who Will Protect You from Drone Surveillance?, saying:
. . . our new drone reality has privacy advocates spooked: low-cost vehicles and sensors are likely to spur widespread adoption of a technology that can be used for persistent aerial surveillance, and bad actors could exploit gaps in existing privacy laws. Itís also not clear which government entities, if any, are responsible for addressing drone-related privacy concerns. The FAA has declined to make rules. The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. governmentís primary consumer privacy cop, is still exploring the issue. A few state laws have emerged to fill the void, but the overall landscape is inconsistent and unclear.

The one clear rule I think everyone but a few hotheads agree on: itís probably not OK to shoot a drone out of the sky!
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An autonomous truck owned by Uber startup Otto, made a two-hour, 120-mile trip . . . to deliver 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer from the Fort Collins brewery to Colorado Springs, Colorado!
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Tesla is showing off a new line of solar panels designed to look like conventional roofing tiles in four different styles, made from hard quartz glass.
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October 15th, 2016
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Brian Krebs reported that source code used to set up a botnet in "Internet of Things" (IoT) devices to use in large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks conducted recently (including against Mr. Krebsí own Web site!) has been publicly released, insuring lots of future attacks! And sadly, most of these devices have their networking code fixed in firmware that, in most cases can't be upgraded.
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The Paris Motor Show is where the world goes to see what trends European automakers are focusing on, and this year every automaker is showing off electric cars. But if it were up to me (and I could afford it!) Iíd pass up all the European models and own a Tesla Model 3!
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Virtual reality hardware maker Dextarobotics is making a exoskeleton called the Dexmo that adds a sense of touch to Virtual reality. Per its inventor, Aler Gu, the devices have many possible uses outside of the gaming world, including CAD work; and professional training environments for bomb disposal, medical procedures, and equipment maintenance!
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The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA database was officially passed to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an independent corporation that has been managing the IANA database on behalf of the US Department of Commerce for years.

Long-time readers will remember I was an active member of ICANN At-Large (sometimes written ICANN@Large), a now-disbanded organization that attempted to give average Internet users a voice in Internet governance. However, under pressure from large Internet providers, it was marginalized and later was "reorganized" into an organization of domain name owners. We actually discussed the IANA database move at length for several years, with most international users being for the idea for various reasons, and many US users (including me at the time!) being against it for various other reasons. I guess weíll find out the hard way which group was right!
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The US Army is testing a highly customized Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 powered by a hydrogen fuel cell! Given how cool it looks, I can see a military-to-commercial future for this vehicle, similar to the Hummer.
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If you host your e-mail account on Yahoo, beware: Yahoo reportedly complied with a classified directive from an as-yet unnamed U.S. intelligence agency last year, and allegedly built custom software to secretly scan its usersí emails looking for key words and phrases! Yahoo quickly responded, saying, "The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems."
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Blue Origin, the spaceflight company run by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, conducted a successful "in-flight escape test" of its New Shepard crew escape system, opening the way for testing of human flights in the near future!
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Google is selling a new smartphone dubbed the Pixel and TechRepublic posted a nice in-depth review of the new device. When I was new phone shopping last month, I looked at one briefly, but I liked the feel of the Samsung Galaxy 7 interface better. Of course, that is a highly personal choice.
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The FBI have arrested another contract security analyst working for the NSA, who was employed by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton (yeah the same firm as Edward Snowden!). This case is weirder: Harold Thomas Martin III was accused of releasing to the public classified NSA software that could be used to break into other countriesí computers, and apparently had a house full of classified computer equipment!
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The FBI is knocking on Appleís door again, this time asking them to unlock another iPhone that belonged to Minnesota knife attacker Dahir Adan. Another court case is expected!
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Lockheed Martin is testing its new Hybrid Airship, which is part helium balloon and part hovercraft. If all goes well, it will be able to airlift up to 20 tons of cargo at speeds up to 70 mph, and doesnít need an airfield or tethers, just an open space large enough to land its 300-foot length into!
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When the federal governmentís National Radio Astronomy Observatory stopped funding the Green Bank Observatory, the observatory broke away from the government and continued its operations independently, using cash on hand and private contracts to keep operating!
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Auto-follow camera drones are the latest thing for journalists, runners, skiers or anyone else wanting to capture their action without having to concentrate on the droneís movements. Just program the droneís behavior and forget it, and the drone will automatically follow its user at a set distance and position away from them; stopping, speeding up and changing direction when its user does to maintain the relative position.
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With many web sites like Facebook using software algorithms to steer customized advertising to users when they visit, the concept of Algorithmic Transparency has emerged, basically saying, "we want to know why you are making the choices you are."
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Internet service provider (ISP) CenturyLink intends to spend $34 Billion to buy out Level 3 Communications, a "global networking company focused on managed security, network, voice and data services." Is CenturyLink looking to expand from consumer networks to business? Probably. Comcast is already doing it for small businesses. But Level 3 is a large-enterprise provider!
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Now that even the recall replacements are burning up, Samsung "temporarily" stopped production and shipping of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. To keep them in the fold, Samsung is giving U.S. customers a $25 bill credit through carriers and retailers to return a Note 7 for a refund, or any other companyís smartphone, or a $100 bill credit if they buy another Samsung model!
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Wired posted an article titled Gluing Galaxy Note 7 Batteries Down Made It Worse for Samsung, which points out that gluing the battery into the case is increasingly common in many of the latest smartphones, and could lead to further safety issues:
The industryís obsession with slimmer gadgets requires slimmer batteries. So they increasingly turn toward lithium polymer batteries. Such batteries are incredibly delicate, and encased in a flexible foil-like case. This reduces bulk, making the batteries easy to package. But it means essentially wrapping a potentially incendiary device in tinfoil.

And then pasting it into a device people hold near their face.

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The Obama Administration, in a report titled Big Risks, Big Opportunities: the Intersection of Big Data and Civil Rights ,expressed concerns, warning that the way big-data technologies are used could inadvertently automate discrimination against certain groups:
As technology advances and our economic, social, and civic lives become increasingly digital, we are faced with ethical questions of great consequence. Big data and associated technologies create enormous new opportunities to revisit assumptions and instead make data-driven decisions. Properly harnessed, big data can be a tool for overcoming longstanding bias and rooting out discrimination.

The era of big data is also full of risk. The algorithmic systems that turn data into information are not infallible mdash; they rely on the imperfect inputs, logic, probability, and people who design them. Predictors of success can become barriers to entry; careful marketing can be rooted in stereotype. Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity.

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Which no doubt begs the question for some out there: what is Big Data. This is an information processing term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them. Sorry if the Wikipedia page quoted from above makes your head hurt if you try to read the whole thing!
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Tesla Motors has proposed construction of 4.6 million square feet of new manufacturing space next to its electric vehicle factory in Fremont, California, which could create 3,100 new jobs and would nearly double the size of its existing auto plant.
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TechRepublic posted an interesting article titled How tech can help seniors 'age in place,' save money, and be independent. I donít disagree with most of the facts in this article, but unfortunately, it doesnít really address a key issue. Being a techie Iím somewhat of an anomaly, but many members of my Baby Boomer generation have only a cursory knowledge of computers and technology in general. To me, one of the biggest needs as people age is to learn to leverage technology to make their lives easier. Getting some of them to learn to use technology is a challenge in many cases, but Iíve never had a person my age or older who, once they got proficient at using computers, smartphones, etc., ever thought it was a waste of their time or mine to learn!
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The Guardian posted an interesting article titled Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster that suggests that as the systems and devices we use become smarter, we become less able to perform a task manually if the automation fails! This is called the paradox of automation:
The paradox of automation, then, has three strands to it. First, automatic systems accommodate incompetence by being easy to operate and by automatically correcting mistakes. Because of this, an inexpert operator can function for a long time before his lack of skill becomes apparent — his incompetence is a hidden weakness that can persist almost indefinitely. Second, even if operators are expert, automatic systems erode their skills by removing the need for practice. Third, automatic systems tend to fail either in unusual situations or in ways that produce unusual situations, requiring a particularly skillful response. A more capable and reliable automatic system makes the situation worse.

This theme has been used in several science fiction stories where, in some far future, systems have become so autonomous for so long that no living humans know how they work, and the collapse of civilization comes quickly when they start to fail! Probably not something we want to encourage in real life!
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TechRepublic posted a nice article titled The real reason companies don't take security seriously: Their money isn't on the line, saying:
If investors were made to bear the true costs of breaches, they'd flee the stocks of those companies that couldn't get their security act together. This, in turn, would drive enterprises to invest in better security which, in turn, would benefit their customers.
Of course, this will never happen! To implement this would require laws forcing companies to pass such losses on to the the shareholders, God Forbid they be inconvenienced!
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The ACLU reports that a company named Geofeedia has been aggregating data from social media sites and selling it to government and law enforcement, who in some cases used the information to stifle legal dissent!
From live videos to hashtags, social media has played a big role in race-related protests over police shootings in the United States.

It turns out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also played another role. Theyíve provided user-data access to a company that has helped police surveillance of protesters and activists in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere, the ACLU of California says.

After being contacted by the ACLU, the social media companies say they have cut off access to Geofeedia, a Chicago-based company that touts a "location-based intelligence platform" to predict and analyze social media content.

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Wired posted an interview with President Barak Obama about artificial intelligence, its impact of society today, and challenges for the future. One Obama quote I liked:
A recent movie captured the same spirit — The Martian. Not because it had a hugely complicated plot, but because it showed a bunch of different people trying to solve a problem. And employing creativity and grit and hard work, and having confidence that if itís out there, we can figure it out. That is what I love most about America and why it continues to attract people from all around the world for all of the challenges that we face, that spirit of ďOh, we can figure this out.Ē And what I value most about science is this notion that we can figure this out. Well, weíre gonna try this — if it doesnít work, weíre gonna figure out why it didnít work and then weíre gonna try something else. And we will revel in our mistakes, because that is gonna teach us how to ultimately crack the code on the thing that weíre trying to solve. And if we ever lose that spirit, then weíre gonna lose what is essential about America and what I think is essential about being human.
Overall, President Obama has shown that he has definitely developed a keen knowledge of technology. Why do I not see President Trump being equally adroit tech-wise?
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Many people, particularly those in the Radical Right, have suggested that its somehow unpatriotic for newspapers, magazines and Web news sites to publish leaked documents. In an article titled Can the Media Reveal Stolen Truths?, Andrew P. Napolitano, a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge and visiting professor at Brooklyn Law School, noted:
In a case that has come to be known as the Pentagon Papers case, the high court ruled that when the media obtains truthful documents that are of material interest to the public, the media is free to publish those documents, as well as commentary about them, without fear of criminal or civil liability.

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With lithium-ion batteries getting lots of negative press due to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle, research into inexpensive, high-capacity solid-state batteries is getting more attention.
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EPIC filed an amicus brief in Gubala v. Time Warner (PDF), claiming that the lower court — who dismissed the suit, concluding that the plaintiffs had suffered no "injury" — ignored the fact that a violation of federal law which provides the basis to bring the lawsuit is the relevant injury!
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The FCC has posted Chairman Wheelerís Proposal to Give Broadband Consumers Increased Choice Over Their Personal Information. Other than to give them a nice laugh, I donít know that the Big ISPs will be impressed.
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The White House held a Frontiers Conference on current technology innovations in the US, co-hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. During the conference, President Obama announced over $300 million in partnership funding for smart cities, improved healthcare, and a mission to Mars. Let's see how much of this gets slashed by the Trump Administration!
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In a recent article titled We Need to Save the Internet from the Internet of Things, computer security guru Bruce Schneier warns of recent Distributed denial-of-service attacks which, instead of computers used Internet of Things (IoT) devices in their botnets:
[Large software] companies can support [security] teams because those companies make a huge amount of money, either directly or indirectly, from their software — and, in part, compete on its security. This isn't true of embedded systems like digital video recorders or home routers. Those systems are sold at a much lower margin, and are often built by offshore third parties. The companies involved simply don't have the expertise to make them secure.

Even worse, most of these devices don't have any way to be patched. Even though the source code to the botnet that attacked [computer security journalist Brian] Krebs has been made public, we can't update the affected devices. Microsoft delivers security patches to your computer once a month. Apple does it just as regularly, but not on a fixed schedule. But the only way for you to update the firmware in your home router is to throw it away and buy a new one.
Not entirely true of some companiesí routers, but virtually true for almost all other IoT devices
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Mr. Schneier posted another good article titled Security Design: Stop Trying to Fix the User, saying:
The problem isn't the users: it's that we've designed our computer systems' security so badly that we demand the user do all of these counterintuitive things. Why can't users choose easy-to-remember passwords? Why can't they click on links in emails with wild abandon? Why can't they plug a USB stick into a computer without facing a myriad of viruses? Why are we trying to fix the user instead of solving the underlying security problem?
Amen, Brother!
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I should mention that Bruce Schneier publishes a Crypto-Gram newsletter with very good articles of his own, and many links to other articles around the Web, that discuss computer security. Itís well worth the read. Go here to subscribe to the newsletter!
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September 30th, 2016
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The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an official recall for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices in the US. Users can swap their phone for a replacement Note 7, or for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge.

Unfortunately, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Users report that replacement devices they received are also overheating.
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Tesla has won a bid to provide utility Southern California Edison a with a battery-based storage system for its Mira Loma substation. Tesla has hoped that they could find outside markets for its "Gigafactory" battery plant in Nevada, to drive down production costs, and thus lower the cost of its all-electric sports cars.
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Google has partnered with manufacturing giant GE to allow the Googleís Alexa hands-free voice control system to control GE's connected appliances.
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Now that the patents on some of Monsantoís Roundup-Ready genetically-modified crops are expired, farmers are legally planting the GMO crops without paying Monsanto, usually buying seeds from other farmers who held them back for resale!
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The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman published a three-part series ( Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 ) detailing the little-publicized CIA battle with the Senate over torture (too many good quotes to post one. Please read all three articles!).
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An article by Dr. Joseph Mercola titled Why These Federal Agencies Should Be Abolished, presents compelling evidence with many citations that the federal government, especially the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to keep marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, despite significant evidence that it has numerous medical uses.
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In his article titled WashPost Makes History: First Paper to Call for Prosecution of Its Own Source (After Accepting Pulitzer), journalist Greg Greenwald explains:
In the face of a growing ACLU and Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Snowden, timed to this weekendís release of the Oliver Stone biopic "Snowden," the Post editorial page today not only argued in opposition to a pardon, but explicitly demanded that Snowden — the paperís own source — stand trial on espionage charges or, as a "second-best solution," accept "a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency."

In doing so, the Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own source — one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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A LA Times editorial titled Why President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden , makes a compelling case, saying:
Since Snowden first disclosed documents in 2013 detailing the National Security Agencyís mass surveillance programs, weíve seen an unprecedented global debate about the proper limits of government spying. This debate has had a transformative effect: on privacy laws and standards, on the security of the devices we depend on to communicate with one another and store sensitive information, and on how we understand our relationship to the institutions that govern us.

There is wide consensus that these developments have benefited our democracy and our security.


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This will be my only response to Appleís iPhone 7 roll-out: no headphone jack?! Really?! A CNET article titled Why you'll soon forget the iPhone ever had a headphone jack notes there are many options for Bluetooth headsets, never mind that all the models mentioned cost more than $100 each! What about the poor schlub who can only afford the $20 set, or can't afford to replace the headphones they already have? And what about the folks who already own older versions of high-end headphones that need the jack? The article notes that those folks have to purchase a Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter: more money for Apple! Any way you cut it you're paying for something in addition to the phone if you want to use headphones. Just sayiní . . . !
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A friend of mine who recently bought a Windows 10 PC to replace a Windows XP box, immediately missed his Quick Launch bar. So I helped him get it back. In case others out there have the same problem, here is how you get it back.

1. Right click on the taskbar, click on Toolbars, then click on New Toolbar. The Folder field.

2. Copy and paste the following text into the Folder field and hit Enter: %UserProfile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
The Quick Launch Toolbar will be added.

3. To hide or show text and title of Items in Quick Launch, you first need to unlock the taskbar: right click on the dotted separator line of Quick Launch just to the left of the Quick Launch toolbar, then click on Show Text and Show title to check or uncheck them for how you want them set.
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Weíre seeing mergers consolidating the solar power market. Automaker Tesla motors, which recently stared up its GigaFactory to mass produce batteries, dropped $2 billion to purchase SolarCity no doubt to provide a market for its batteries other than its all-electric sportscars; and SunPower announced is buying a Malaysia solar cell company for $170.
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The Department of Transportation has published its first
Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (PDF).
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With the emergence of the Internet, and the need for large, reliable mass storage, makers of mainframe computers like IBM found a new market for their systems, and companies already having them were able to repurpose them at minimal cost. But with public cloud services starting to dominate the small and medium business markets, making such purchases make less sense, particularly given their startup and support costs.
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Chinaís Tiangong-1 space station, launched in September 2011, stopped talking to itís Earth-bound operators and is expected to eventually crash into the Earth somewhere.
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Apple is reportedly in talks to buy sports car maker McLaren.
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AT&Tís Project AirGig is researching how to deploy wireless gigabit internet over power lines. Field trials are expected to start in 2017.
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InfoWorldís Security Adviser Roger A. Grimes hates the stock password reset questions many web sites use to validate who you are if you log on from a different PC, etc. His answer to keep your login secure is to lie:

Hereís what you do: Treat the KBA answers like a password. If youíre asked for three [knowledge-based authentication] KBA questions and answers, make all the answers separate, nonsensical, and passwordlike.

Never put in the real answer. Donít even put in possible fake answers that look realistic. A hacker will have an easier time guessing that your favorite answer is aardvark, than SimpleMan7!

Iíve be doing this for years. I try to choose humorous responses that are hard to guess, so Iíll remember them.
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The New York Times reports Apple holds a patent for technology to automatically prevent texting while driving, but has never implemented it into its iPhones. The reason why? Apple isnít talking, but industry watchers think that implementing such technology would drive users to other manufacturers smartphones!
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The Associated Press reports that law enforcement databases that are only supposed to be accessed for legitimate law enforcement activities are regularly being used for reasons unrelated to official police work:
Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained.

No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur.

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SpaceXís Elon Musk revealed his long-term plans to make manned travel to the planet Mars relatively affordable. No timeline so far. I might live long enough to see it!
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Journalist Sam Biddle, in an article titled Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts — and May Share Them With Police, warning:
Apple promises that your iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends. But according to a document obtained by The Intercept, your blue-bubbled texts do leave behind a log of which phone numbers you are poised to contact and shares this (and other potentially sensitive metadata) with law enforcement when compelled by court order.

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A new organization called Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, formed by tech giants Amazon.com, DeepMind, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft, whose Web site claims is:
Established to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the publicís understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.

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The New York Times reports that the massive Yahoo hack that exposed 500 million user records for over two years was caused by new CEO Marissa Mayer, who prioritized user experience over security:
When Marissa Mayer took over as chief executive of the flailing company in mid-2012, security was one of many problems she inherited. With so many competing priorities, she emphasized creating a cleaner look for services like Yahoo Mail and developing new products over making security improvements, the Yahoo employees said.

The "Paranoids," the internal name for Yahooís security team, often clashed with other parts of the business over security costs. And their requests were often overridden because of concerns that the inconvenience of added protection would make people stop using the companyís products.

Iím sure their users are regretting those business choices now!
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In an interview with Yahoo's Katie Couric (thatís where she went!), former NSA contractor Edward Snowden claims that justice in the US is 'two-tiered,' saying:
Snowden said that Petraeus leaked "information that was far more highly classified than I ever did," but he still never "spent a single day in jail." According to Snowden, weighing Petraeus' punishment against his own status as a fugitive is evidence that justice isn't always cut and dry.

"We have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States, where people who are either well-connected to government or they have access to an incredible amount of resources get very light punishments."

Just figuring that out, are you?
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As a recent victim of same, computer security journalist Brian Krebs posted an article titled DDoS, IoT Top Cybersecurity Priorities for 45th President, saying:
As I noted in a November 2015 story, The Lingering Mess from Default Insecurity, one major contributor to the massive spike in denial-of-service attacks over the past few years is that far too many ISPs and hosting providers allow traffic to leave their networks that did not originate there. Using well-known attack techniques known as traffic amplification and reflection, an attacker can "reflect" his traffic from one or more third-party machines toward the intended target.

The article references a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report titled Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy (PDF). Of course, everything they discussed will have to be implemented by the Trump Administration (sigh!).
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End of an era: BlackBerry will stop making its own smartphones. Instead they will license their technology, and live off the royalties.
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The FBI reports that more attempts to hack voter registration systems, and scan additional systems in preparation of further attacks.
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In what is being viewed as a loss for consumers and a win for cable, the FCC postponed a vote on new rules for set-top boxes that would have required content providers to make TV programming available on other devices besides their own set-top boxes. The cable and satellite providers are against the idea, and are less concerned with the content, and more concerned with losing their revenues from set-top box rental fees.
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Online sales giant Amazon announced a $2.5 million competition to stimulate research into developing software to allow Googleís voice-controlled assistant Alexa to hold convincing conversations. Those signing up for the challenge will receive $100,000 and several large data sets (including a full archive of the Washington Post!) they can use to teach its software to learn about language! The best solution will win $500,000!
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According to FCC statistics, in areas with broadband internet access, 78 percent have only one broadband provider! And 30 percent of the country have no providers offering broadband access at all! Even worse, telecom lobbies have prompted state legislatures to pass laws that ban municipalities from deploying their own broadband solutions.
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Computer guru Woody Leonhard reported that, even after the major Anniversary Update, Windows 10 still has lingering problems including hanging updates, freezing and disconnecting external hard drives, and changing settings taskbar icons. So far, with five Windows 10 PCs in house, I havenít experienced any of these issues [knock on wood!].
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The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft intentionally crash-landed on a comet to learn more about their composition.
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September 15th, 2016
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Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are said to be joining forces to develop a standard of ethics around the creation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The idea is to avoid an evil AI. Think the Terminator!
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Google has patented technology for driverless cars that would detect police car lights and pull the car over!
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Online civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that Windows 10 forces users to choose between privacy and security, and needs to offer "real, meaningful opt-outs" to users when it comes to data collection.
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Per a congressional report, a major data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) "was preventable" because the agency didnít keep up with the latest threats, and didnít make cybersecurity a priority.
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By repeatedly saying "no" when the Feds asked for access to their usersí private data, Microsoft has become the foremost guardian of our online Fourth Amendment rights, and probably one of the few companies rich enough to take on the feds!
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InfoWorldís Editor Caroline Craig explains how broadband Internet Service Providers are playing fast and loose with data caps, and suggests that data caps should be eliminated. As I've noted before. despites Internet industry claims to the contrary, data caps are an attempt to keep the ISPs from making expensive upgrades to their networks. Without caps, users would see annoying delays as networks got increasingly saturated. Video would be especially affected, resulting in stop-action and pixelated images.
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My Motorola Droid X smartphone finally died: it would suddenly power off for no reason! So I visited the Verizon store and looked at five or six Android phones, and finally settled for the Samsung Galaxy S7 . Itís a bit larger than the Droid X and runs Android Marshmallow (6.0.1). It has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage, a 12 megapixel back camera, and a 5 megapixel front camera. Itís also a so-called "world device" that will work in over 200 countries. The down side: no MicroSD card slot, so the 32GB flash is all the storage you have; and the 3,000mAH battery is non-removable.
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I always take time to read anything Bill Moyers writes, since it is usually well written and factual, with lots of hyperlinks to no-nonsense articles, reports, etc., that back up his claims. His recent article, We, the Plutocrats vs. We, the People - Saving the Soul of Democracy is a treatise on income equality: what it is, why itís bad and how it happened. Well worth the lengthy read.
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Libertarian journalist Gary North predicts that, once it becomes a mature technology, 3D printing will doom the traditional patent process:
Patent law works because it is enforceable. A manufacturer has a facility. It is in a location. If it produces goods based on designs that belong to someone else, the owner of the counterfeiting operation can be fined or sued by the owner.

What happens when the tools used to manufacture items are owned by individuals? They don't sell what they produce. They use it. There is no trail of money to trace buyers to a single manufacturer.

How does an inventor sue 10,000 manufacturers? . . . This will be digital whack-a-mole.

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Tesla has upgraded the software and hardware of its Autopilot system, making the system use radar more, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk says may could have detected the truck crossing the vehicleís path that resulted in a fatal crash in May.
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Despite fears that robots might replace many low-wage workersí jobs, Forrester researchers claim that AI tools and robots will only have eliminated 6% of jobs by 2021, with the automotive, customer service, marketing, taxi and truck driving, as the first industries to be affected, but the effect will accelerate from there.
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Google in a race with Amazon to set up a drone delivery system, and is currently testing its system by delivering burritos to students on the Virginia Tech campus!
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Wired Magazine reports that proposed amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure would allow the FBI to secretly use malware to invade thousands of computers with a single warrant!
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Oliver Stone had made a film called Snowden that paints Edward Snowden as a hero for leaking NSA secrets to the public.
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Space historian Rod Pyle posted a Space.com article titled Why Exploding Rockets Are Not Always a Bad Thing, suggesting that SpaceXís Falcon 9 rocket that exploded on the launch pad, was less disastrous than it would look at first, saying:
The Falcon 9 will soon be lofting astronauts to the International Space Station, and anything that can be learned about how to make the rocket safer and more reliable are best learned now, before crewed missions launch.

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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier warns that documents posted online from the National Security Agencyís server show that the agency has been actively looking for information about security vulnerabilities, so it can use it to hack others' computers.
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In another article titled Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet, Bruce Schneier warns:
Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don't know who is doing this, but it feels like a large a large nation state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technologyís Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory posted an article titled Keys Under Doormats (PDF) that makes a well-referenced argument that creating backdoors in software and encryption protocols is a really bad idea, saying:
Political and law enforcement leaders in the United States and the United Kingdom have called for Internet systems to be redesigned to ensure government access to information &emdash; even encrypted information. They argue that the growing use of encryption will neutralize their investigative capabilities. They propose that data storage and communications systems must be designed for exceptional access by law enforcement agencies. These proposals are unworkable in practice, raise enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when Internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm.
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Both Facebookís Mark Zuckerberg and FBI Director James Comey have covered the webcam on their laptop with a piece of duct tape! If you donít you should — there is malware out there that can turn the camera on without lighting up the LED that tells you the camera is on!
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The new iPhone 7 Plus sold out globally. My two oldest grandkids both have iPhone 6S models. I played with an iPhone 7 a bit, but after being an Android user for years, and given my general displeasure with "bit fruit" products, I wasnít impressed enough to make the switch.
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New York Times journalists Kenneth Roth and Salil Shetty make a case to Pardon Edward Snowden, concluding:
In his biography on Twitter, Mr. Snowden says: "I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public." That should not be something that gets you locked up for a lifetime or compels you to live in exile. The president has an opportunity to correct that injustice. Itís time to pardon Mr. Snowden and bring him home, not to face the music but to work for the security and privacy of us all.

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Uber has been testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, but the company is ready to start sending them out to pick up members of the public. Starting with a dozen taxis, they expect to ramp up to 100 vehicles by the end of the year. At least for now, the self-driving taxis will have backup drivers, just in case!
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The commercialization of space travel continues to ramp up: Jeff Bezos announced that his space exploration company, Blue Origin, is building a large booster rocket, named the "New Glenn" after astronaut John Glenn, that will be able to boost satellites and people into orbit. Two- and three-stage versions will eventually be built, both with vertical landing capability, to allow reuse.
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A Gartner report claims that PC makers must stop trying to compete on price and performance, and start ramping up their customer service. If not, they are doomed by 2020.
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ESPN plans to broadcast drone races this fall.
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August 31st, 2016
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A Michigan family is suing the makers of Pokemon Go, saying game features are being placed on or near private property without the permission of the owners!
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Ford Motor Company announced that it will have thousands of fully autonomous vehicles ready by 2021 for its planned car-sharing and ride-hailing fleets.
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Not tech, but something I know about after 24+ yeas in the U.S. Air Force: in an LA Times article titled If Trump wins, a coup isn't impossible here in the U.S., James Kirchick points out that
Try to imagine, then, a situation in which Trump commanded our military to do something stupid, illegal or irrational. Something so dangerous that it put the lives of Americans and the security of the country at stake. (Trumpís former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio, said the United States could not trust ďthe nuclear codesĒ to an ďerratic individual.Ē) Faced with opposition from his military brass, Trump would perhaps reconsider and back down. But what if he didnít?
In that case, our military men and women, who swear to uphold the Constitution and a civilian chain of command, would be forced to choose between obeying the law and serving the wishes of someone who has explicitly expressed his utter lack of respect for it.
Actually, by refusing such an order, they would be obeying the law. After World War II, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (PDF), the laws governing the military, were written to clarify what military members can and cannot do. A key tenant in the UCMJ requires military members at all levels to refuse to carry out illegal orders from their superiors. So if any President tried to order actions that grossly violate the Constitution, his generals are required to tell him "no way."
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Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems plans to lay off 14,000 employees by the end of the summer. The announcement was made as part of its fiscal fourth-quarter results.
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The Google Fiber project, to deploy fiber-based high speed Internet service nation-wide, has been placed on hold as ISPs plan wide-area high-speed wireless networks.
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Intel has partnered with ARM to manufacture ARM's processors in its foundary. ARM CPUs are currently found in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and high-end smartphones, markets Intel has had trouble penetrating with its own CPUs. Smart move: better to get paid to fab the CPUs than not get anything!
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A spin-off of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is producing new lithium metal batteries with double the capacity of similarly-sized batteries.
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Intel's 7th generation Core chips, code-named Kaby Lake, will have 4K graphics processors integrated into the CPU. Laptops based running on Kaby Lake CPUs are expected to ship this fall.
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Reviewers are giving Samsungís Galaxy Note 7 "phablet" lots of praise for its novel iris scanning unlock mechanism and other security features. Too bad the devices had to be recalled due to exploding batteries!
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Fiber connections in the data center have primarily been used to interconnect backbone devices like switches and routers, and interconnect with other data closets on campus, but Intel is planning to put laser-based silicon photonics transceivers on chips, that will allow the servers in the data center to talk over fiber connections as well, potentially at speeds of 400 gigabits per second.
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InfoWorld has posted a review of the new Android OS version 7, dubbed Nougat. The new OS started pushing to newer Google Nexus devices in August. But as with all previous Android versions, when (or whether!) the new OS will will push to your phone is totally up to your wireless provider.
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One of the fears keeping drivers from more-widely adopting all-electric cars is ďrange anxiety:Ē the assumption that electric cars canít go very far before running out of power. But MIT researchers found that the latest crop of electric cars can easily hold up to about 90 percent of all car travel in the U.S.
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Chip designers ARM have announced a new ARMv8-A CPU architecture using Scalable Vector Extension (SVE) for use in supercomputers. The first supercomputer to be based on the new architecture will be the Fujitsu "Post-K".
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This might be too techie, but . . . DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) is a technology used to immunize hijackers and spoofers who would otherwise be able to use various DNS-related attacks to take down company servers. Given its importance, servers are configured within a company to run DNSSEC on the network. Unfortunately, a study conducted by network security software Neustar found that, of 1,300 DNSSEC-protected domains examined, 80 percent were misconfigured, leaving their company vulnerable to attack. The reason I mention this is that some of the companies found wanting were those that serve as host providers, managing domains, Web site hosting, and e-mail hosting for small companies and individuals!
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Alphabet, Googleís parent company, has ordered Google Fiber to cut its staff in half. Rumors say itís related to the companyís plans to deploy wide-area wireless networks.
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Do you hate people of privilege who try to use their power and position to get back at "little people" for insignificant slights, but love it when they get tripped up by smart police? Then read the LA Times article Framed. A long article, but well worth the time, and a good example of how cell phone data can be used to track your movements!
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Known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, it is written into a vast network of treaties that govern international trade and investment, including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress must soon decide whether to ratify.
This system is already in place, operating behind closed doors in office buildings and conference rooms in cities around the world. Known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, it is written into a vast network of treaties that govern international trade and investment, including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress must soon decide whether to ratify. These trade pacts have become a flashpoint in the US presidential campaign. But an 18-month BuzzFeed News investigation, spanning three continents and involving more than 200 interviews and tens of thousands of documents, many of them previously confidential, has exposed an obscure but immensely consequential feature of these trade treaties, the secret operations of these tribunals, and the ways that business has co-opted them to bring sovereign nations to heel.
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After election systems in Illinois and Arizona teams were breached, the FBIís issue a nationwide alert warning that itís possible state election offices could be hacked is raising concerns that a nationwide attack could be afoot, with the potential for creating havoc on Election Day.
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Luxembourg satellite operator SES SA SESFg.LU is the first commercial company to sign up with SpaceX to use a previously launched Falcon 9 rocket for a satellite launch.
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According to the New York Times, Palo Alto, California is thinking about enforcing a zoning regulation banning firms whose ďprimary business is research and development, including software coding,Ē.
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Microsoft has opened the source code for its PowerShell server scripting language.
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August 15th, 2016
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In an article on his Schneier on Security blog, computer security expert Bruce Schneier claimed that the Russians are behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee's computer network. One has to wonder if they are working on behalf of Donald Trump!
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Elon Musk opened his gigantic Gigafactory battery production plant. This plant is critical to lower battery costs so Tesla can drive down production costs for his electric cars, particularly low-end Tesla 3. Tesla will also be buying solar power contracting company SolarCity for $2.6 billion in stock
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Wired Magazine, in an article titled Americaís Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets, saying:
The list of those problems is what youíd expect from any computer or, more specifically, any computer thatís a decade or older. Most of these machines are running Windows XP, for which Microsoft hasnít released a security patch since April 2014. Though thereís no evidence of direct voting machine interference to date, researchers have demonstrated that many of them are susceptible to malware or, equally if not more alarming, a well-timed denial of service attack.

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The FAA has given Googleís Project Wing drone delivery program approval to test drones at FAA-approved test sites.
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It was bound to happen: businesses are figuring out ways to make money from Pokemon Go.
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Cloud backup and storage provider Backblaze — which has servers running 68,000 hard drives — posted hard drive reliability rates for the drives it uses. The Seagate model ST4000DM000 6GB SATA drive lasted longest at 16,688,047 days!
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Researchers in South Carolina and China plan present to the Defcon hacker conference techniques they could use to deceive Teslaís autopilot sensors.
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Companies, sports venues and government sites tired of drones flying over them have begun deploying anti-drone technologies to keep them away, take over control, or trash them!
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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been on Mars for four years! Unfortunately, the long treks across the Martian surface have been tearing up its wheels pretty good.
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The Atlanta Braves have contracted with Comcast to set up a 100GBPS Wi-Fi network with over 1000 nodes in their new SunTrust Park and adjacent parking structure.
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Seagate is showing off a new 60TB Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) solid state drive (SSD) , which is currently the world's highest capacity SSD.
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A group of over 40 documentary filmmakers have endorsed a letter to the justice department, asking them to investigate the ďharassmentĒ and ďtargetingĒ of citizens who record episodes of police violence.

Note that in Oregon it is legal under a July 2015 law to "openly and in plain view record law enforcement officer while officer is performing official duties and person is in place where person may lawfully be.". Gotta love this state!
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In a recent blog post, computer security journalist Brian Krebs discuss how most smartphones can be hacked when plugged into a hacker-modified USB charging station:
A little-known feature of many modern smartphones is their ability to duplicate video on the device's screen so that it also shows up on a much larger display — like a TV. However, new research shows that this feature may quietly expose users to a simple and cheap new form of digital eavesdropping. Dubbed "video jacking" by its masterminds, the attack uses custom electronics hidden inside what appears to be a USB charging station. As soon as you connect a vulnerable phone to the appropriate USB charging cord, the spy machine hijacks the phone's video display and records a video of everything you tap, type or view on it as long as it's plugged in — including PINs, passwords, account numbers, emails, texts, pictures and videos.
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A team of researchers at the University of Birmingham (England) has detected a flaw affecting most Volkswagen vehicles built since 1995 that leave them vulnerable to theft.
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Google has asked the FCC for authorization to conduct radio experiments in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS in the 3.5GHz band in multiple US locations for two years, to develop "last mile" wireless connections!
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Microsoft will continue support for Windows 7 to January 2020, and Windows 8.1 to January 2023 . . . but only on PCs running on Intel Skylake processors.
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3D printing is being used for a lot of cool things, but the coolest is creating tissues and organs for medical use.
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In a Washington Post article titled By November, Russian hackers could target voting machines, computer security expert Bruce Schneier warns:
Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with Internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified.

We no longer have time for that. We must ignore the machine manufacturersí spurious claims of security, create tiger teams to test the machinesí and systemsí resistance to attack, drastically increase their cyber-defenses and take them offline if we canít guarantee their security online.
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A Wired.com article points out that most wireless keyboards are unencrypted, which makes them vulnerable to all sorts of attacks.
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The Federal Trade Commission's chief technologist Lorrie Cranor warns that requiring frequent password changes is a bad security practice because it encourages the creation of poor passwords.
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In an prophetic article titled The Internet of Things Will Turn Large-Scale Hacks into Real World Disasters, computer security expert Bruce Schneier warns:
Today's threats include hackers crashing airplanes by hacking into computer networks, and remotely disabling cars, either when they're turned off and parked or while they're speeding down the highway. We're worried about manipulated counts from electronic voting machines, frozen water pipes through hacked thermostats, and remote murder through hacked medical devices. The possibilities are pretty literally endless. The Internet of Things will allow for attacks we can't even imagine.
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According to Space.com, the creators of Star Trek Discovery series are dedicated to the diversity of its cast, to honor Gene Roddenberry's goals for the original series. The new series is scheduled for release in January 2017.
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July 31st, 2016
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A Tesla Model S owner is the unfortunate first fatality of a car on autopilot. This just points out that, until all cars on the road are on autopilot and talking to each other, you still need to be aware of what is going on outside the car!
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Dell has stopped selling itís Android-based Venue tablets. Even worse, DEll will not be pushing OS upgrades to Venue tablets already in use!
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Just in case you werenít sure about upgrading to Windows 10, Microsoft is planning to push a full-screen upgrade request reminding you of the July 29th deadline.
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Big Oil company Exxon is claiming a First Amendment right to claim climate change is not real, and use that claim to block subpoenas for company documents that would prove they knew otherwise! A group of GOP climate change deniers have sided with Exxon. The basic case boils down to this: do you have a First Amendment right to speak, even if you know what you are saying is a lie?!
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Hewlett Packard Enterprise was awarded $3 billion in its lawsuit against Oracle over Oracleís failure to continue developing versions of its database for Intelís Itanium processor, which it had contractually agreed to do. The case was brought over five years ago, when many of HPís high-end servers ran Itanium CPUs, created by Intel specifically for the server market. The Itanium is slowly being replaced by Intelís Xeon CPU line, but is still being offered in some very high end HP servers.
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Streaming media no longer requires a set-top box. Roku is offering a Streaming Stick, a device slightly larger than a flash drive that plugs into an unused HDMI port on your HDTV, and comes with a remote control larger than it is, and mobile aps are available to control it from your iOS or Android mobile device!
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Some are concerned that Appleís patent to disable iPhone cameras during concerts could also be used to block filming of protests, police activities, government meetings, etc., as well.
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The Silicon Valley News reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating alleged age discrimination by Google:
"The magic word 'diversity' doesn't seem to apply to age in Silicon Valley," [UC Davis computer science professor Norman] Matloff said. "Age discrimination is rampant in the industry. We're not talking about age 55 necessarily — it even occurs at age 35."

Pay tends to rise with experience, Matloff noted. "Literally, the bottom line is money," he said. "The older people are just considered too expensive."

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An article in The Intercept notes that Secret rules make it pretty easy for the FBI to spy on journalists, noting:
The classified rules, obtained by The Intercept and dating from 2013, govern the FBIís use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalistsí calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form.

Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalistsí information.

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Local-built cell phone networks using new, low-cost fiber-connected equipment could give the traditional cell phone companies a run for their money.
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Now that deep-pocket investors like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have shown that commercial exploitation of space is possible, venture capitalists have started moving into the industry.
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Now that biometrics are increasingly used to control access to devices, the law is unclear about whether you have the right to control access your own biometric data! Pending lawsuits may eventually change that, but Congress may eventually have to act to create protections under law. As the article notes:
Social Security numbers, when compromised, can be changed. Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft.

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Not exactly tech-related, but actor Jerry Doyle, who played Security Chief Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5, died at age 60. I still consider Babylon 5 the best Sci-Fi TV series ever broadcast. This has prompted a binge watch of the B5 series (I own all 5 seasons of the show on DVD).
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Wired magazine reports that almost all smartphones have chipsets for FM radio built in, but only about a third of the phones in the US have them enabled. Why? The wireless carriers are afraid FM use will cut into streaming audio use, which the companies get paid for through data usage!
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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity put itself into "safe mode" on July 2nd for what might be a software mismatch, but the autonomous rover is talking with its handlers back on Earth. NASA was able to bring Curiosity back out of safe mode several days later, and it began full operations again.
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The Pokemon Go craze is getting out of hand. I wasnít going to comment on it (computer games are not my thing!) but, playing in the Holocaust Museum, on the battlefield against ISIS?! Really? And how about accidents while watching the screen instead of the real world? Geesh!
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Since the earliest days of the PC, every model has used a keyboard for input, and a mouse since graphics user interface (GUI) operating systems came on board. But Microsoft is looking at alternative input methods to replace or augment them.
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A ZDNet article titled FBI says its malware isn't malware because 'we're the good guys' points out the Fedsí twisted thinking:
The FBI does "not believe" that the hacking tools it uses to break into the computers of suspected criminals should be considered "malware," because it says they're used with good intentions.

In the court filing, first spotted by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, the FBI said that its hacking tools, so-called network investigative techniques (NIT), are not "malicious."

In other words, "if we do it itís OK, but if you do it itís bad!"
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Samsung is showing off its 850 EVO 4TB solid state drives (SSD), being called the highest capacity consumer SSD currently available. List price is $1,499.
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Display screens that can be rolled up or folded should start showing up in products next year, probably first in mobile devices.
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According to computer security journalist Brian Krebs, credit card company Visa is warning companies using MICROS point-of-sale devices to look for malicious software or unusual network activity, and to change their passwords.
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Over 100 tech industry leaders signed an open letter claiming Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would be a disaster for innovation, saying:
His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.
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After noting the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act, President Obama signed into law the FOIA Improvements Act of 2016, which strengthens the law.
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Having been unable to keep up with competitors Google and Facebook, once-dominant web site Yahoo was put up for sale. Verizon quickly agreed to buy Yahooís core Internet business for $4.83 billion in cash, to gain access to Yahooís advertising technology.
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Having lost their legal bid to force Microsoft to give up data stored overseas, the feds are turning to Congress, seeking legislation to make it legal, by also allowing foreign states to directly demand data from US companies! Talk about two wrongs not making a right!
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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) implied that his Senate Armed Services Committee might subpoena Apple and Google executives to answer questions about encryption in their newer smartphones.
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Netflix has brokered a deal with CBS to stream the new "Star Trek" TV show when it airs starting in January 2017, but only in 188 countries, not the US or Canada. The new show, to be called Star Trek Discovery, after the name of the featured starship, will only be available online via the broadcast networkís $5.99-a-month CBS All Access. However, all episodes of previous "Star Trek" TV series will be available on Netflix by the end of this year.
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Google is launching YouTube Music, YouTube Kids and YouTube Gaming apps, to improve viewer experiences by tailoring content to their respective audiences.
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SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 first stage on land at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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Researchers from the Netherlandís Delft University have developed a method to write data onto a surface, one atom at a time. Theoretically, it could provide storage with data densities of 500 terabits per square inch!
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The American Civil Liberties Union posted a 27-page memo (PDF) outlining the unconstitutional acts Donald Trump has claimed he would implement if elected as President.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is publicizing his "Master Plan Part Deux,", an update of his original 10-year-old- Master Plan which includes deploying electric pickup trucks, tractor-trailers and buses; improving self-driving systems; setting up a ride-sharing network of electric cars, and furthering the use of solar power. Since his original Master Plan called for him to start up a popular electric-vehicle company, Iíd say heís been successful so far!
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A new generation of Wi-Fi enabled, cloud-connected toys using speech recognition similar to Apple's Siri to listen, understand, and respond to children, are being demonstrated. But privacy experts are concerned that data collected by these toys raise serious privacy questions, and current law doesnít provide clear answers!
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House Republicans attached an amendment to the defense authorization bill to prevent the Department of Defense from spending money to plan for climate change!
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If you have PCs running Windows 7 that you arenít ready to upgrade to Windows 10, and want to keep in place long-term, Windows Secrets posted a nice article on Keeping Windows 7 running for the long haul. Good info.
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NetworkWorld posted a nice article on 9 ways to bend Windows 10 to your will, that includes videos that demonstrate how to implement each change.
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American intelligence agencies told the White House they have "high confidence" that the Russian government was behind the cyberattack of the Democratic National Committee.
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Israeli company Mobileye announced it would stop working with the automaker Tesla to provide the automaker with the computer chips and software that powers the automakerís Autopilot system. Apparently, Mobileye was freaked out by the recent deadly crash of an Autopilot-controlled Tesla S.
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Speaking of which, the National Transportation Safety Board reported that the driver in the fatal Tesla Model S crash was speeding 74 mph in a 65 mph zone with Autopilot engaged when his Model S slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer that turned left across the lanes in front of the car. As I noted before, only an idiot would trust their life to self-driving car technology by not continuing to monitor the carís progress and the road around them!
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A nice tip to pass on that I figured out: If you need to find out what video and audio chips you are using (usually, to get the latest drivers!), right-click the Command Prompt icon and click Run as Administrator, then enter dxdiag. This will call the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, which displays a lot about your system.
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Chinese video streaming service company Letv renamed itself as Leeco, and bought out US TV maker Vizio for $2 billion. It is assumed that Leeco wants a platform to sell its video streaming services in the US.
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Testing conducted of prototype 5G mobile equipment shows they are able to transmit 10 gigabits of data per second, roughly 100 times faster than current 4G devices. The new technology is not compatible with existing 3G or 4G networks, and will require wireless providers to deploy all-new network equipment in the millimeter wave radio spectrum (above 24 gigahertz), so it wonít be available for two to five more years.
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Chinese wireless device makers are poised to start selling their smartphones in the US market at lower prices the current wireless market canít match! I expect to see a trade war ahead!
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The US Copyright office published its Section 1201 Rulemaking: Sixth Triennial Proceeding to Determine Exemptions to the Prohibition on Circumvention, which includes recommendations to allow vehicle owners to access and modify the software in their vehicles, and so-called "jail-breaking" of cell phones.
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The legal case Perry v. CNN is asserting that the privacy protections afforded video rental customers in the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 should apply to users of smartphone apps as well. They appear to have a good case.
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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled (PDF) that Texas Senate Bill 14 — which requires voters to obtain government-issued photo IDs — violates the Voting Rights Act, saying in part:
As the State would have it, so long as the State can articulate a legitimate justification for its election law and some voters are able to meet the requirements, there is no [Voting Rights Act] Section 2 violation. This argument effectively nullifies the protections of the Voting Rights Act by giving states a free pass to enact needlessly burdensome laws with impermissible racially discriminatory impacts. The Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent just such invidious, subtle forms of discrimination.
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July 15th, 2016
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A Tesla Model S owner is the unfortunate first fatality of a car on autopilot. This just points out that, until all cars on the road are on autopilot and talking to each other, you still need to be aware of what is going on outside the car (duh)!
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Dell has stopped selling itís Android-based Venue tablets. Even worse, they are not going to be pushing OS upgrades to Venue tablets already in use!
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Just in case you werenít sure about upgrading to Windows 10, Microsoft is planning to push a full-screen upgrade request reminding you of the July 29th deadline.
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Big Oil company Exxon is claiming a First Amendment right to claim climate change is not real, and use that claim to block subpoenas for company documents that would prove they knew otherwise! A group of GOP climate change deniers have sided with Exxon. The basic case boils down to: do you have a First Amendment right to speak if you know what you are saying is a lie?!
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Hewlett Packard Enterprise was awarded $3 billion in its lawsuit against Oracle over Oracleís decision to cease developing versions of its database for Intelís Itanium processor, which HP claims Oracle had contractually agreed to do. The case was brought over five years ago, when many of HPís high-end servers ran Itanium CPUs, created by Intel specifically for the server market. The Itanium is slowly being replaced by Intelís Xeon CPU line, but is still being offered in some very high end HP servers.
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Streaming media no longer requires a set-top box. Roku is offering a Streaming Stick, a device slightly larger than a flash drive that plugs into an unused HDMI port on your HDTV, and comes with a remote control larger than it is, and mobile aps are available to control it from your iOS or Android mobile device!
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Some are concerned that Appleís patent to disable iPhone cameras during concerts could also be used to block the filming of protests, police activities, government meetings, etc., as well.
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The Silicon Valley News reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating alleged age discrimination by Google:
"The magic word 'diversity' doesn't seem to apply to age in Silicon Valley," [UC Davis computer science professor Norman] Matloff said. "Age discrimination is rampant in the industry. We're not talking about age 55 necessarily — it even occurs at age 35."

Pay tends to rise with experience, Matloff noted. "Literally, the bottom line is money," he said. "The older people are just considered too expensive."

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An article in The Intercept notes that Secret rules make it pretty easy for the FBI to spy on journalists, noting:
The classified rules, obtained by The Intercept and dating from 2013, govern the FBIís use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalistsí calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form.

Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalistsí information.

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Local-built cell phone networks using new low-cost, fiber-connected equipment could give the traditional cell phone companies a run for their money.
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After deep-pocket investors like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have shown that commercial exploitation of space is possible, venture capitalists have started moving into the industry to fund additional space ventures.
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Now that biometrics are increasingly used to control access to devices, the law is unclear about whether you have the right to control access your own biometric data! Pending lawsuits may eventually change that, but Congress may eventually have to act to create protections under law. As the article notes:
Social Security numbers, when compromised, can be changed. Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft.

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Not exactly tech-related, but actor Jerry Doyle, who played Security Chief Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5, died at age 60. I still consider Babylon 5 the best Sci-Fi TV series ever broadcast. Mr. Doyle's death may prompt a binge watch of the B5 series (I own all 5 seasons of the show, and all the movies, on DVD).
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Wired reports that almost all smartphones have chipsets for FM radio built in, but only about a third of the phones in the US have the chip enabled. Why? The wireless providers are afraid FM use will cut into streaming audio use, which the companies get paid for indirectly through data usage!
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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity put itself into "safe mode" on July 2nd due to what is thought might be a software mismatch after a recent upload. However, the autonomous rover is still talking with its handlers back on Earth.
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The Pokemon Go craze is getting out of hand. I wasnít going to comment on it (computer games are not my thing!) but, playing in the Holocaust Museum, on the battlefield against ISIS? Really?! And how about accidents while watching the screen instead of the real world? Geesh!
Note: to request a Pokemon Go gym or Pokestop be removed, go to this page and click the submit a request button!
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Since the earliest days of the PC, every model has used a keyboard for input, and a mouse since graphics user interface (GUI) operating systems came on board. But Microsoft is looking at alternative input methods to replace or augment them.
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A ZDNet article titled FBI says its malware isn't malware because 'we're the good guys' points out the Fedsí twisted thinking:
The FBI does "not believe" that the hacking tools it uses to break into the computers of suspected criminals should be considered "malware," because it says they're used with good intentions.

In the court filing, first spotted by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, the FBI said that its hacking tools, so-called network investigative techniques (NIT), are not "malicious."
In other words, "if we do it, itís OK. But if you do it, itís bad!"
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Samsung is showing off its 850 EVO 4TB solid state drives (SSD), being called the highest capacity consumer SSD. List price is $1,499.
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Display screens that can be rolled up or folded should start showing up in products next year, probably first in mobile devices.
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A new class of PCs dubbed "tabtops" are becoming increasingly popular. Sometimes called two-in-one tablets, these PCs (Microsoftís Surface Pro is a good example), have both touch screens — to use as a tablet — and a keyboard that detaches or swings out of the way — to use like a laptop PC. They are increasingly popular among college students and enterprise "road warriors" that appreciate the light weight and versatility of these devices, and the ability to run full desktop software: most run full-up Windows 10 and Microsoft Office applications.
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A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of Microsoft and reversed a lower-court decision that upheld a warrant issued by federal prosecutors seeking data stored in an email account stored in a Microsoft server located overseas. Prosecutors claimed Microsoft must comply because the data was hosted by a US-based company! The court stated in part:
We conclude that ß 2703 of the Stored Communications Act does not authorize courts to issue and enforce against U.S.-based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e-mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers.

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If someone tries to sell you a 5G phone, donít bite! As Wired succinctly reports, unlike previous generations of wireless technology, 5G will force wireless carriers to deploy new, expensive networking hardware. And the 5G standard is not even ready yet, and not expected to be finalized until at least 2020. So sit back and wait a few years, and enjoy 4G which is already pretty awesome in most respects.
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June 30th, 2016
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Intel released its timeline for its new Optane solid state disk SSD line, which it claims will be 1,000 times faster than NAND flash-based SSDs. The line includes models that can be installed directly on system boards.
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Intel also rolled out its new Xeon Phi 7290, a 16GB, 1.50 GHz, 72-core CPU, targeted at the GPU market and intensive-computing tasks like deep learning systems.
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One of biggest worries among historians is the idea of a "digital dark age", as darta stored on old storage media — floppy disks, Zip disks, etc. — becomes unreadable, and once-popular Web pages go off line, taking their documents with them. Vint Cerf, one of the engineers who actually invented the Internet, and the team behind the Internet Archive, are working on a Permanent Web that automatically archives everything put online.
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With companies like Airbnb and Uber changing the way we live — and faced with strong lobbying against them by the traditional industries they are undercutting! — mayors from ten cities world-wide are joining forces to draft common policies to regulate them. Good luck with that.
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President Obama joked that, once he leaves office heíll "get on LinkedIn and see what comes up". Somehow I think he'll have plenty of job offers without trying to look for them!
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TechRepublic reports that a recent survey found that the average age of software developers is under 30, which may validate industry thinking that older programmers are being passed over for employment due to their age.
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Intel is considering selling off of its McAffee cyber-security business, originally purchased to allow them to build anti-malware code into its chips.
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Apple was issued a patent for technology that would temporarily disable cell phones cameras when they receiving an infrared transmission from a broadcasting device the venue turns on.
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Free Windows 10 upgrades end on July 29th, and InfoWorld suggests that you reserve you free upgrade even if youíre not sure if you intend to use it.
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Japanese Internet company SoftBank bought out ARM Holdings, which designs chips used in a wide range of devices.
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According to an annual federal wiretap report, although real-time intercept requests were up by 17 percent compared to the previous year, none of the requests made were rejected.
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The Supreme Court ruled in Utah v. Strieff (PDF) that even though a police stop was illegal, an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation made a search of his person legal.
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled (PDF) that Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and media access control (MAC) addresses are not "personally identifiable information" (PII) under the Video Privacy Protection Act, which makes sharing the PII of minors illegal. Obviously, the court doesnít understand how these numbers are used. IP addresses can track you right down to the cable modem or DSL modem in your house. MAC addresses are unique to each device with a network connection, and even include a manufacturerís code. We use them all the time to find unknown devices on a network! So with both of these numbers, anyone with the technology (i.e. a web site being accessed!) can point to a "device with MAC address X (your kidís computer iPhone, etc.), located at IP address Y (your house!)." Thatís about as personally identifying as technology gets.
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The Supreme Court ruled in Birchfield v. North Dakota (PDF), that persons cannot be prosecuted for refusing to submit to a warrantless blood test. However, warrantless breath tests are OK.
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June 15th, 2016
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Industry researchers Net Applications noted that Windows 10 market share was up 2% to 17.4% in May. However, Windows 7 was also up 0.7 percent to a 48.6% market share, and Windows XP still had a 10.1 percent market share. Microsoft canít be happy with these numbers. Probably explains why they started pushing the Windows 10 update again!
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Wired Magazine reports that AT&T is going to start imposing data usage caps on its Internet users, but unlimited data from AT&T-owned U-Verse TV or DIRECTV is free. See where this is going? Explain to me again why we shouldnít have to impose net neutrality on ISPs?
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Intel has changed its focus from PCs to servers, but makers of ARM-based CPUs are pushing new server chips sporting support for the newest memory, I/O ports and network technologies to compete.
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Samsungís new PM971-NVMe 512GB solid state drive is being dubbed the world's smallest SSD, at only 20mm x 16mm x 1.5mm in size, and weighing only about one gram. Itís designed to connect directly to the system board of small devices.
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NASA's Jupiter probe Juno captured its first image of Jupiter from 2.7 million miles out.
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In an effort to restrict access by VPNs users which they assumed to be foreign users — online media streaming provide Netflix has been blocking many IPv6 users as well. A TechRepublic article does a good job of explaining the issue:
Ignoring the semantics of "tunneling" versus "VPN" for now, consider the situation from a complete perspective: A Netflix subscriber who pays for access using an American credit card, with an American billing address, with an IPv6 address that geolocates to the United States, and an IPv4 address that geolocates to the United States, and is physically present in the United States is blocked from using Netflix due to their inability to reliably determine that the user is where the preponderance of evidence indicates that they are.

This is not a user problem, this is a Netflix problem.

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The Federal Communications Commission is considering banning a broadband providersí practice dubbed "pay for privacy": making their customers pay to opt out of having their ISP tracking their online activities!
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A recent accident revealed that Tesla cars communicate with the company in real time over the Internet while operating. Other auto manufacturers are expected to eventually follow suit.
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Intel has released its new 24-core Xeon E7-8890 v4 CPU, targeted at the high-performance server market.
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Microsoft bought out tech job search site Linkedin. Best guess is theyíd like access to the data the site holds on all its users.
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Company Pavegen is trying to market floor tiles to generate electricity by capturing the force of footsteps.
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Media streaming company Rhapsody has purchased rights to the name Napster, and apparently plans to rename itself to the illustrious (notorious?) name to hopefully draw in more business!
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May 31st, 2016
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Google was awarded a patent for a new package delivery drone system.
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The FBI has directed law enforcement agencies that use Stingray cell site simulators to gather evidence need to obtain the evidence by other means before presenting it at trial. The reason? Court cases are a matter of public record, and publicizing its use would violate the manufacturerís non-disclosure agreement! Of course itís much easier to find evidenceonce you know what and where it is by other means!
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Mobile device maker HTCís sales were down 64 percent in the first quarter of 2016. The company is hoping their HTC 10 smartphone will bring the company back.
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TechRepublic posted an interesting article on the Potential legal challenges of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, noting, "Prosecutors and defense attorneys often cite prior case history to bolster their position. However, legal precedent is sorely lacking when it comes to cases involving the Internet of Things (IoT)."
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SpaceX once again successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a ship at sea, after launching a Japanese communications satellite into orbit. This is the third Falcon 9 first stage they have recovered post-launch.
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One of the dirty secrets of the Android smartphone business is that, even though Google regularly creates and distributes security updates for even the earliest versions of the Android OS, the wireless providers decide which ones to distribute to its customers, and like a recent Qualcomm bug fix, even important updates are often left out, which, of course, leaves phones running the OS versions that should have been patched vulnerable to hacking. And given that these vulnerabilities are disclosed by the industry, the hackers know exactly what to spend their time on!

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has apparently taken this issue on (about time someone did!), and filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing AT&T, Sprint Nextel, TMobile and Verizon of deceptive business practices and knowingly selling defective phones to consumers and businesses.
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Itís important to remember that, when talking about the Internet of Things, we arenít just talking about consumer products. They also include a whole range of machines and devices used in almost every industry, and often these devices are often more vulnerable than consumer products, and hacking them could lead to far more damage!
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Google has been awarded two robotics patents that describe how robots could operate a warehouse, no people required! Bad for warehouse workers, but good for techies that build, program and repair robots!
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No tech involved in this thought, but with all the talk flying around post-Orlando, I thought Iíd jump in. First I donít disagree that most Americans have a right to bear arms (ďmostĒ meaning we should exclude those who are homicidal, suicidal, planning violence against others, etc.). However, the ultra-right assertion that we need to arm ourselves to protect the people from our own government is woefully ignorant of modern military reality: unless you have access to equivalent weapons, no number of automatic attack rifles will serve very well when the Apache helicopters and M1A1 Abrams tanks come over the hill. And if you do somehow manage to hold out against those (not likely, but just to further the argument), a few A-10 Warthogs will take care of any tanks you might have rat-holed, and if necessary, a load of 500-pound bombs from a B-52 or two will take out whatís left. Get the idea? The time when "the people" could stop the military quietly went by the boards around World War I. Just sayiní!
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Google released a beta candidate of version N of Androidís mobile OS.
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Big Media is again trying to impose restrictions on Internet free speech by modifying the "notice and takedown" procedures in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — which critics say Big Media is already abusing, by using automated search routines to find infringing content, and in the process they often requesting take-down of short samples of content permissible under Fair Use. Now they want to take down whole sites, which often contain legitimate content as well.
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In a TruthDig article titled The Federal Government Is Helping Police Nationwide Secretly Exploit Intrusive Technologies, Matthew Harwood and Jay Stanley warn that federal effort to promote "21st Century Policing" have morphed into local efforts by law enforcement to invade citizensí privacy:
Indeed, the [Task Force on 21st Century Policing] report emphasized ways in which the police could engage communities, work collaboratively, and practice transparency in the use of those new technologies. Perhaps it wonít shock you to learn, however, that the on-the-ground reality of twenty-first-century policing looks nothing like what the task force was promoting. Police departments nationwide have been adopting powerful new technologies that are remarkably capable of intruding on peopleís privacy, and much of the time these are being deployed in secret, without public notice or discussion, let alone permission.


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Microsoft has made available a convenience rollup for Windows 7 SP1 that includes all updates pushed through April 2016. This will significantly simplify rebuilding a Windows 7 PC. About time! But donít call it a Service Pack!
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California startup Tri Alpha Energy thinks it can make fusion power a reality using new technologies other failed attempts a fusion power havenít tried yet.
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The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) had its first test flight of Indiaís Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), an unmanned test vehicle they hope will gather data necessary to start their own manned space flights.
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The FBI has a database called the Next Generation Identification System (NGIS) that includes biometric data — fingerprints, iris scans, facial scans, palm prints, etc. — gleaned from numerous federal systems. The FBI wants to see the system exempted from the Privacy Act, which would keep citizens from finding out if their data is included!
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As its name implies, new Wi-Fi feature called multi-user multiple input and multiple output (MU-MIMO) allows multiple users to use two or more data streams at the same time, which increases performance, but itís limited to downloads only, and only on 802.11ac devices.
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Computer Security journalist Brian Krebs reported on fake Dell tech support calls where the caller knew the serial number and service ID for their Dell PC! The assumption is that Dell or one of its support partners have been hacked! So if you own a Dell PC and get an unsolicited support call from Dell (or anyone for that matter!), hang up!
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Non-tech, but if youíre a Fantasy fan, a so-far unnamed major studio has purchased the TV rights to Robert Jordanís Wheel of Time fantasy novel series. This is good news, since the huge 14-novel series would be impossible to do via film. Even as a TV series, it would take more than just one 22-episode season just to get through some of the longer books and do them justice!
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The ACLU asked a Seattle court to join Microsoftís suit against the Justice Department, objecting to government demands to keep requests for customer data secret, saying the gag orders violate their customersí Fourth Amendment rights. The civil rights organization joined the case as a Microsoft customer!
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After pulling back the automatic push of the Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1, Microsoft started pushing it again as a recommended upgrade, which means PCs set to automatically install updates are being automatically upgraded to Windows 10! Not cool. Thatís why most companies Iíve worked at turn off automated downloads, then install updates manually after testing them first.
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Oracle lost the lawsuit it brought against Google over the use of Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in its Android OS. The judge found that, although APIs are copyrighted, using them fell under the copyright lawís fair use doctrine. This is good news for the software industry. Programming language APIs are published by publishers to describe the variables and data types needed to program using the language. Therefore it is impossible to program software using a language without complying with the languageís APIs!
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April 30th, 2016
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The developer edition of the Opera Web browser includes a free virtual Private Networking (VPN) service that includes cloud-based servers. Unlike corporate VPNs, which provide a secure link to a corporate network, this VPN is designed to allow a private connection to the cloud, to protect users' privacy.
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InfoWorld posted a good review of Cloud-based storage services Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Joyent Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. I know these services are very popular, particularly with savvy home users who usually find the low-end free offerings big enough gigabyte-wise for their needs. But my biggest concern with storing files online is security. Sure, they all will tell you that their services are secure. But no security is foolproof — despite assurances by the companies offering them — and it will always be easier to break into a cloud-based service — which has to have holes open to the Internet! — than one sitting on a server on a non-routable local network.
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With PC sales steadily declining, ZDNetís Adrian Kingsley-Hughes warned that The PC industry needs to evolve or get ready for extinction, saying:

Rather than bore you with paragraphs of history and analysis, here, in a nutshell, are the problems facing the PC industry:
  • PCs are lasting a long time (and as SSDs replace hard drives, their lifespans are only going to get longer)

  • New releases of Windows aren't driving sales anymore

  • Smartphones and tablets are getting faster and more capable with each passing iteration

  • Smartphones and tablets have taken over many of the tasks that PCs used to do

  • People are finding they can live without a PC (some 20 percent of millennials don't have a PC at all)

As Iíve noted before, desktop PCs will not go away completely, particularly in the enterprise, and particularly for tasks like graphics design, computer Aided Drafting (CAD), video editing, etc. But for my grandkids' generation, tablets and smartphones are their primary means or accessing the Internet, playing games, etc. But they still need a PC for doing their homework! Granted, the PC my grandson will be taking to University of Oregon with him this fall is a Surface Pro 4 tablet, but it runs Windows 10 and Microsoft Office, and has a detachable keyboard, and a screen bigger than most desktop PCs I used in the last decade!
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Tech support folks are wondering whether Microsoft intentionally pushed a Windows Update to Windows 7 PCs that causes a blue screen error 0x0000006B on copies of Windows 7 it considered to be pirated.
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HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California have developed a process for printing 3D parts using ceramics. Parts made with this technology have the potential to be stronger and lighter than metal parts.
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The Windows Secrets newsletter has posted info on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update due out in July. Preview builds have been pushed to members of theWin10 Insider Preview system. Of course, what features actually make it into the production version could vary wildly.
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After its 12,000+ layoff, Intel is cutting its PC-related products, while increasing emphasis on its 3D Xpoint memory, Xeon server CPUs, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and silicon photonics.
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A panel of federal judges upheld the FCC's Net Neutrality rules. The Internet industry is expected to take the next step and appeal to the Supreme Court.
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The Wall Street Journal posted an interesting article that discusses the question Should You Be Allowed to Prevent Drones From Flying Over Your Property? Current law protects the space over a property up to 500 feet, but the law was set in response to the increasing use of aircraft, which typically fly very high, not drones, which can fly very low and hover in place.
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Commercial space launch company SpaceX won an $82.7 million U.S. Air Force contract to launch a GPS satellite.

SpaceX also announced it plans to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule to Mars as early as 2018.
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Wired Magazine posted a nice article on the vulnerabilities of Signaling System No. 7 (SS7), the administrative network that all cell phone networks operate on top of:
The problem is that SS7 is based on trust. Any request a telecom receives is considered legitimate. Therefore, anyone with access to a server or gateway on the SS7 network can send a location or redirect request to your telecom for purposes of roaming, and the telecom will likely comply, even if the roaming request comes from St. Petersburg or Mumbai and you and your phone are in New York. This makes it possible for a remote attacker to spy on lawmakers, corporate executives, military personnel, activists and others.

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A former Philadelphia Police sergeant suspected of possessing child pornography was jailed for contempt of court because he refuses to assist the court in decrypting his hard drives. The defendantís attorney claims that forcing him to decrypt is drives violates his Fifth Amendment protection against compelling him to be a witness against himself! Of course, law enforcement says he has nothing to fear if he has nothing to hide! But itís not that simple. If the cops are searching a room in the real world subsequent to a warrant, anything they find ďin plain viewĒ is fair game. However, once the law has access to a drive, its entire contents are fair game, and thereís no telling what they might find.
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April 20th, 2016
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Windows Secrets newsletter posted an article on Tracking Microsoft updates that can be useful if you want to find out which updates have and havenít been installed.
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Tesla unvieled its Model 3 all-electric sedan, which lists at $35,000. Although it wonít be available until 2017, they already have over 115,000 reservations!
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Tech author John Havens, in his recent book titled Heartificial Intelligence: Embracing Our Humanity to Maximize Machines suggests that, since artificial intelligence (AI) is going to happen whether we like it or not, if we want to prevent rogue technology, we need to build ethics into AI.

As a SciFi fan, Iíve always thought that Isaac Asimovís Three Laws of Robotics should be implemented in reality. The Three Laws state:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

How they would be implemented has always been the rub!
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ZDNetís Larry Seltzer, in an article titled Stop the Obama administration from surrendering authority over the Internet, thinks transferring the Internet's DNS Root control to ICANN is a bad idea, saying:
To put it bluntly, I don't understand why we would do this. The only changes it could bring are bad ones. Once our authority over the parties administering core Internet infrastructure is gone, ultimate political control over it is gone. I think this is a bad thing. The US has done an admirable job of supervising the development of the Internet and there's no evidence that it has ever exerted untoward influence over the processes. I like the idea that the administrative bodies are clearly accountable to some clearly independent body.


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The commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin, owned by Amazonís Jeff Bezos, launched its New Shepard rocket and successfully landed the booster for the third time in five months.

Space.com posted videos of SpaceXís booster rocket landing on a sea-going platform. Throwing away large, expensive single-use booster rockets is one of the single largest costs related to launching spacecraft.

Reusable boosters are essential for reducing launch costs, which will make commercial more affordable and practicle.
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Microsoft is shipping the Development Edition of its Hololens augmented reality headset. Unlike virtual reality headsets that play games and other visual content, augmented reality displays the real world with additional content overlaid on it.
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The latest version of online messaging service WhatsApp uses full end-to-end encryption for all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moved through the service. And, of course, there are versions of WhatsApp that run all phones running Apple iOS, Google Android or Windows Mobile.
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InfoWorld posted an article detailing Top 25 free apps for Windows 10. A nice mix of tools, utilities and built-in apps.
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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2666, No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, which "prohibits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from regulating the rates charged for broadband Internet access service." If enacted this law would give ISPs free reign to charge whatever they want, charge different users different prices for content or services, and add any new fees they like, and would prevent FCC enforcement. They should call this the Anti-Net Neutrality Act!
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Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California posted a draft bill that would require encryption system vendors and service providers to ensure products and services they license can make encrypted communications intelligible. The only functional way to do this is to build in a back door. And weíve already talked at length about how bad an idea that is!

The tech industry and several congressmen and senators, including our Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), came out against the bill. Sen. Wyden tweeted, "I will do everything in my power to block Burr-Feinstein anti-encryption bill. It makes Americans less safe." You go Ron!
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What?! A bill in congress that would actually protect online privacy?! H.R. 699, The Email Privacy Act, would give email and data stored on the cloud new privacy protections from law enforcement searches, including requiring a warrant to access it!
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Microsoft filed a suit in federal court against the Justice Department, objecting to government gag orders that force tech companies to turn over data without their customers' knowledge. The software giant argued that such gag orders are unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment.
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America Online founder Steve Case, in a TechRepublic Q&A, says that, as the "Internet of Everything" (as he calls it!) becomes reality, government needs to partner with the technology industry to craft regulations that focus less on technology and more on the people using it, saying:

Government needs to understand they can't just focus on keeping bad things from happening. They also have to enable good things to happen. They do have to be more agile and lean into the future and be more flexible and take more risks, and it requires engaging with the innovators, so that they understand the situation before they decide to make any kind of regulatory policy decisions. Part of my frustration is that they're talking past each other. We have to get beyond that and figure out a way to have a constructive dialogue.

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Computer Security expert Bruce Schneier, in a Washington Post article titled Your iPhone just got less secure. Blame the FBI,
This is the trade-off we have to consider: do we prioritize security over surveillance, or do we sacrifice security for surveillance?

The problem with computer vulnerabilities is that they're general. There's no such thing as a vulnerability that affects only one device. If it affects one copy of an application, operating system or piece of hardware, then it affects all identical copies. A vulnerability in Windows 10, for example, affects all of us who use Windows 10. And it can be used by anyone who knows it, be they the FBI, a gang of cyber criminals, the intelligence agency of another country — anyone.

And once a vulnerability is found, it can be used for attack . . .

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Wired posted a nice article about Microsoftís Holoportation 3D communication system. Think of the Star Wars Jedi meeting with half of them physically elsewhere but still interacting with each other in real time.
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In a Wired Magazine article titled You Pay to Read Research You Fund. Thatís Ludicrous, Ryan Merkley points out that anyone wishing to read the results of federally-funded research has to pay for the privilege, saying:
If it wasnít so well-established, the traditional model of academic publishing would be considered scandalous. Every year, hundreds of billions in research and data are funded, in whole or in part, with public dollars. We do this because we believe that knowledge is for the public good, but the public gets very little access to the fruits of its investment. In the US, the combined value of government, non-profit, and university-funded research in 2013 was over $158 billionóabout a third of all the R&D in the US that year. Publishers acquire this research free of charge, and retain the copyrights, even though the public funded the work. Researchers arenít paid by publishers for their research as itís sold piece-by-piece or by subscription through academic journals. The reviewers who evaluate the research arenít paid either. So we pay for it, and then we have to pay again if we want to read it.

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Vayyar Imaging is selling the Walabot, an add-on device for Android smartphones that adds a radar sensor capability to your phone!
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