Tech Today w/ Ken May

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In the self-driving future envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, car owners might be saying “goodbye” to a whole lot more than steering wheels. From a Mashable report: Musk is so sure of the safety features bundled into Tesla vehicles that his company has begun offering some customers a lifetime insurance and maintenance package at the time of purchase. No more monthly insurance bills. No more unexpected repair costs. “We’ve been doing it quietly, ” Tesla President of Global Sales and Service Jonathan McNeill explained on the call, “but in Asia in particular where we started this, now the majority of Tesla cars are sold with an insurance product that is customized to Tesla, that takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance costs of the car.” “It’s our vision in the future that we’ll be able to offer a single price for the car, maintenance and insurance in a really compelling offering for the consumer, ” added McNeill. “And we’re currently doing that today.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Peeking inside a book bin at a Seattle Goodwill, Redditor vadermeer caught an interesting, unexpected glimpse into the early days of Apple: a cache of internal memos, progress reports, and legal pad scribbles from 1979 and 1980, just three years into the tech monolith’s company history. The documents at one point belonged to Jack MacDonald — then the manager of systems software for the Apple II and III (in these documents referred to by its code name SARA). The papers pertain to implementation of Software Security from Apple’s Friends and Enemies (SSAFE), an early anti-piracy measure. Not much about MacDonald exists online, and the presence of his files in a thrift store suggests he may have passed away, though many of the people included in these documents have gone on to long and lucrative careers. The project manager on SSAFE for example, Randy Wigginton, was Apple’s sixth employee and has since worked for eBay, Paypal, and (somewhat tumultuously) Google. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also features heavily in the implementation of these security measures. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Enlarge (credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) The total download capacity for a single 5G cell must be at least 20Gbps, the International Telcommunication Union (ITU) has decided. In contrast, the peak data rate for current LTE cells is about 1Gbps. The incoming 5G standard must also support up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometre, and the standard will require carriers to have at least 100MHz of free spectrum, scaling up to 1GHz where feasible. These requirements come from the ITU’s draft report on the technical requirements for IMT-2020 (aka 5G) radio interfaces, which was published Thursday. The document is technically just a draft at this point, but that’s underselling its significance: it will likely be approved and finalised in November this year, at which point work begins in earnest on building 5G tech. I’ll pick out a few of the more interesting tidbits from the draft spec, but if you want to read the document yourself, don’t be scared: it’s surprisingly human-readable. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The best password managers

Posted by kenmay on February - 24 - 2017

By Joe Kissell This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter , a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here . If you’re not using a password manager, start now. As we wrote in Password Managers Are for Everyone—Including You , a password manager makes you less vulnerable online by generating strong random passwords, syncing them securely across your browsers and devices so they’re easily accessible everywhere, and filling them in automatically when needed. After 15 hours of research and testing, we believe that LastPass is the best password manager for most people. It has all the essential features plus some handy extras, it works with virtually any browser on any device, and most of its features are free. Who should get this Everyone should use a password manager . The things that make strong passwords strong—length, uniqueness, variety of characters—make them difficult to remember, so most people reuse a few easy-to-remember passwords everywhere they go online. But reusing passwords is dangerous: If just one site suffers a security breach, an attacker could access your entire digital life: email, cloud storage, bank accounts, social media, dating sites, and more. And if your reused password is weak, the problem is that much worse, because someone could guess your password even if there isn’t a security breach. If you have more than a handful of online accounts—and almost everyone does—you need a good password manager. It enables you to easily ensure that each password is both unique and strong, and it saves you the bother of looking up, remembering, typing, or even copying and pasting your passwords when you need them. If you don’t already use a password manager, you should get one, and LastPass is a fabulous overall choice for most users. How we picked and tested Although I’d already spent countless hours testing password managers in the course of writing my book Take Control of Your Passwords , for this article I redid most of the research and testing from scratch, because apps in this category change constantly—and often dramatically. I looked for tools that do their job as efficiently as possible without being intrusive or annoying. A password manager should disappear until you need it, do its thing quickly and with minimum interaction, and require as little thought as possible (even when switching browsers or platforms). And the barrier to entry should be low enough—in terms of both cost and simplicity—for nearly anyone to get up to speed quickly. I began by ruling out the password autofill features built into browsers like Chrome and Firefox—although they’re better than nothing, they tend to be less secure than stand-alone apps, and they provide no way to use your stored passwords with other browsers. Next I looked for apps that support all the major platforms and browsers. If you use only one or two platforms or browsers, support for the others may be irrelevant to you, but broad compatibility is still a good sign. This means, ideally, support for the four biggest platforms—Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android—as well as desktop browser integration with at least Chrome and Firefox, plus Safari on macOS. I excluded apps that force you to copy and paste passwords into your browser rather than offering a browser extension that lets you click a button or use a keystroke to fill in your credentials. And, because most of us use more than one computing device, the capability to sync passwords securely across those devices is essential. After narrowing down the options, I tested eight finalists: 1Password, Dashlane, Enpass, Keeper, LastPass, LogmeOnce, RoboForm, and Sticky Password. I tested for usability by doing a number of spot checks to verify that the features described in the apps’ marketing materials matched what I saw in real life. I set up a simple set of test forms on my own server that enabled me to evaluate how each app performed basic tasks such as capturing manually entered usernames and passwords, filling in those credentials on demand, and dealing with contact and credit card data. If my initial experiences with an app were good, I also tried that app with as many additional platforms and browsers as I could in order to form a more complete picture of its capabilities. I did portions of my testing on macOS 10.12, Windows 10, Chromium OS (as a stand-in for Chrome OS), iOS 10, Apple Watch, and Android. Our pick You can access LastPass in a browser extension, on the Web, or in a stand-alone app. Before I get to what’s great about LastPass, a word of context: LastPass , Dashlane , and 1Password are significantly better than the rest of the field. I suspect most people would be equally happy with any of them. What tipped the scales in favor of LastPass was the company’s announcement on November 2, 2016, that it was making cross-device syncing (formerly a paid feature) available for free. Although there’s still a Premium subscription that adds important features (more on that in our full guide ), this change makes LastPass a no-brainer for anyone who hasn’t yet started using a password manager. Even its $12/year premium tier is much cheaper than 1Password or Dashlane’s paid options. LastPass has the broadest platform support of any password manager I saw. Its autofill feature is flexible and nicely designed. You can securely share selected passwords with other people; there’s also an Emergency Access feature that lets you give a loved one or other trusted person access to your data. An Automatic Password Change feature works on many sites to let you change many passwords with one click, and a Security Challenge alerts you to passwords that are weak, old, or duplicates, or that go with sites that have suffered data breaches. LastPass works on macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Linux, Firefox OS, Firefox Mobile, Windows RT, Windows Phone—even Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches. (Sorry, no BlackBerry, Palm, or Symbian support.) It’s available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge, and it has desktop and mobile apps for various platforms. Upgrade pick for Apple users 1Password offers Mac and iOS users features not found in LastPass, plus a more-polished interface. If you’re a Mac, iPhone, and/or iPad user with a few extra bucks, and you’d like even more bells and whistles in your password manager, 1Password is well worth a look. 1Password has a more polished and convenient user interface than either LastPass or Dashlane. It’s also a little faster at most tasks; it has a local storage option if you don’t trust your passwords to the cloud; it gives you more options than LastPass for working with attached files; and it can auto-generate one-time tokens for many sites that use two-step verification—LastPass requires a separate app for this. 1Password is, however, more expensive than LastPass and doesn’t work on as many platforms: Windows and Chromebook users, especially, are better off with LastPass. This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter . To see the current recommendation, please go here . Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

Cellebrite Can Now Unlock Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus

Posted by kenmay on February - 24 - 2017

Patrick O’Neill writes: A year after the battle between the FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone 5s used by a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, smartphone cracking company Cellebrite announced it can now unlock the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for customers at rates ranging from $1, 500 to $250, 000. The company’s newest products also extract and analyze data from a wide range of popular apps including all of the most popular secure messengers around. From the Cyberscoop report: “Cellebrite’s ability to break into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus comes in their latest line of product releases. The newest Cellebrite product, UFED 6.0, boasts dozens of new and improved features including the ability to extract data from 51 Samsung Android devices including the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, the latest flagship models for Android’s most popular brand, as well as the new high-end Google Pixel Android devices.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

World’s Only Sample of Metallic Hydrogen Has Been Lost

Posted by kenmay on February - 24 - 2017

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionize modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed “the holy grail of high pressure physics.” The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the center of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid. Scientists theorized that metallic hydrogen — when used as a superconductor — could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionize medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets. Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated. The metal was being held between two diamonds at a pressure of around 71.7 million pounds per square inch — more than a third greater than at the Earth’s core. According to The Independent, one of these diamonds shattered while the sample was being measured with a laser, and the metal was lost in the process. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Paralyzed Man Uses Brain Implant To Type Eight Words Per Minute

Posted by kenmay on February - 23 - 2017

A study published in the journal eLife describes three participants that broke new ground in the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) by people with paralysis. One of the participants, a 64-year-old man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, “set a new record for speed in a ‘copy typing’ task, ” reports IEEE Spectrum. “Copying sentences like ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, ‘ he typed at a relatively blistering rate of eight words per minute.” From the report: This experimental gear is far from being ready for clinical use: To send data from their implanted brain chips, the participants wear head-mounted components with wires that connect to the computer. But Henderson’s team, part of the multiuniversity BrainGate consortium, is contributing to the development of devices that can be used by people in their everyday lives, not just in the lab. “All our research is based on helping people with disabilities, ” Henderson tells IEEE Spectrum. Here’s how the system works: The tiny implant, about the size of a baby aspirin, is inserted into the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement. The implant’s array of electrodes record electrical signals from neurons that “fire” as the person thinks of making a motion like moving their right hand — even if they’re paralyzed and can’t actually move it. The BrainGate decoding software interprets the signal and converts it into a command for the computer cursor. Interestingly, the system worked best when the researchers customized it for each participant. To train the decoder, each person would imagine a series of different movements (like moving their whole right arm or wiggling their left thumb) while the researchers looked at the data coming from the electrodes and tried to find the most obvious and reliable signal. Each participant ended up imagining a different movement to control the cursor. The woman with ALS imagined moving her index finger and thumb to control the cursor’s left-right and up-down motions. Henderson says that after a while, she didn’t have to think about moving the two digits independently. “When she became facile with this, she said it wasn’t anything conscious; she felt like she was controlling a joystick, ” he says. The man with the spinal cord injury imagined moving his whole arm as if he were sliding a puck across a table. “Each participant settled on control modality that worked best, ” Henderson says. You can watch a video about the study here. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Frog saliva is even stranger than scientists expected

Posted by kenmay on February - 23 - 2017

Frog tongue mechanism has been well-documented, but only recently have scientists started looking at the remarkable combo of tongue softness and frog spit’s chemical makeup . (more…)

Sony’s ‘world’s fastest’ SD card writes data at 299 MB/s

Posted by kenmay on February - 23 - 2017

Sony’s upcoming SF-G series of SD cards will be available this spring, the company announced today . When that time comes, Sony said they “will be the world’s fastest SD cards.” Boasting a maximum write speed of 299 MB/s, that claim is right on point. The cards (available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB sizes) also have a slightly higher top read speed of 300 MB/s. Speed is a priority, so the cards also support the UHS-II interface, which adds a second row of connecting pins to the card for increased transfer rates on compatible hardware. More than any card before it, the SF-G series will be able to handle quick-shooting cameras smoothly, as well as capturing 4K video and other technically demanding uses. To fully take advantage of the tremendous speed, Sony also revealed it will offer a specialized card reader so users can quickly transfer files to and from their computers. The SF-G series will take good care of your files, too. In addition to being compatible with Sony’s file rescue software , these SD’s are also waterproof, temperature resistant, shockproof and X-Ray proof. For comparison, B&H Photo Video says that two of the fastest SD card lines out there today, SanDisk’s Extreme PRO UHS-II series and Lexar’s Professional 2000x UHS-II series, can achieve read speeds of 300 MB/s and write speeds of 260 MB/s. For the more casual user, Amazon’s best-selling card, the 32GB SanDisk Ultra Class 10 SDHC UHS-I , tops out at 80 MB/s for read and write speeds. Sony has yet to announce the pricing for these cards, but the 32GB version of the aforementioned SanDisk card sells for about $60 . The SF-G cards are technically superior, though, so expect them to retail for a bit more than that. Source: Sony

After a deluge of teasing press releases and premature speculation , we can finally share some Very Important NASA News: Today, the agency announced that a team of scientists has confirmed seven Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a star located just 39 light-years away from our Sun. The six inner planets are… Read more…