Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 7th, 2017

National Geographic explores the ancient history of grillz. Coming in the sequel, meet the Incas who wore sundials around their necks.

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prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Back in January, we told you that the development of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 kicked off with the first Beta release and promised to let users send and open tabs from one device to another, among numerous other improvements and new features. Nine beta builds later, Mozilla has pushed today, March 7, the final binary and source packages of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 web browser for all supported platforms, including GNU/Linux, macOS, and Windows. The good news is that Firefox 52.0 is an ESR (Extended Support Release) branch that will be supported until March-April 2018. Prominent features of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 ESR release include support for the emerging WebAssembly standard to boost the performance of Web-based games and apps without relying on plugins, the ability to send and open tabs from one device to another, as well as multi-process for Windows users with touchscreens. With each new Firefox release, Mozilla’s developers attempt to offer new ways to improve the security of the widely-used web browser across all supported platforms. Firefox 52.0 ESR implements a “This connection is not secure” warning for non-secure pages that require user logins, along with a new Strict Secure Cookies specification. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Robots in Warehouses To Jump 15X Over Next 4 Years

Posted by kenmay on March - 7 - 2017

The worldwide warehouse and logistics robot unit shipments will increase from 40, 000 robots in 2016 to 620, 000 robots annually by 2021, according to highly reliable numbers from Tractica, which adds that the $1.9 billion market in 2016 is expected to jump a staggering tenfold to an annual $22.4 billion by the end of 2021. From a report on TechRepublic: As a measure of global market value, Tractica also expects the robotic shipments to reach $22.4 billion by the end of 2021, up from an estimated $1.9 billion in 2016. The report, which highlights market drivers and challenges, profiles 75 “emerging industry players, ” and is divided into sections based on robot type. According to the report, “warehousing and logistics industries are looking for robotics solutions, more than ever before, to remain globally competitive, ” which will “lead to widespread acceptance and presence of robots in warehouses and logistics operations.” To allay fears about lost jobs due to automation, the report authors said they expect that the increase in robots will likely yield new jobs and opportunities for businesses. “The next 5 years will be a period of significant innovation in the space, bringing significant opportunities for established industry players and startups alike, ” said Manoj Sahi, a research analyst, in the report. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Meet the automated triage nurse of the future

Posted by kenmay on March - 7 - 2017

If you think that the march of automation isn’t going to affect jobs in the medical profession then, uh, you better sit down. A Belgian company called BeWell is showing off Wellpoint, a self-service kiosk that’s designed for patients entering hospitals or clinics. The Wellpoint is a touchscreen-enabled booth that operates as a first port of call for visitors, quickly checking your basic vitals before you see a medical professional. According to BeWell’s, initial contact with a nurse where your blood pressure, pulse oximetry and weight were tested, it would take seven minutes. Then, of course, there would be an additional few minutes where that nurse would take that data and enter it into the hospital’s internal IT system. Wellpoint, by comparison, can do it in three minutes and instantly update your medical records. In addition, the touchscreen can also be used to run through a series of pre-analysis questions to update your medical history. As such, medical professionals could avoid going through the tedious form-filling process that begins every consultation. In addition, the unit has apparently already proven effective, raising the alarm when it found a patient on the edge of an embolism during a test in a European hospital. The process begins by sitting down at the booth and activating the test, which would normally require offering up your hospital ID card. You’re then asked to slide your arm into an automated blood pressure cuff on the left side and pushing the start button when ready. Once that’s done, you stand up as the footplate of the booth doubles as a scale. Finally, you sit back down and shove your finger into an oximeter to test your levels of oxygen saturation. So far, a history and the three measurements outlined above are all that the device can do, but that’s likely to change soon. The company is eyeing up a way of connecting people’s blood sugar monitors to the hardware, letting them share their diabetes testing data to their records. It’s also not the most expensive piece of gear, especially considering the usual high price of medical equipment. One unit would effectively cost a hospital around €8, 400 ($8, 800) a year. And, given that the average US nurse earns around $67, 000 , you can see why there would be interest.

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One of the largest spam operations in the world has exposed its entire operation to the public, leaking its database of 1.37bn email addresses thanks to a faulty backup. From a report: A faulty backup has inadvertently exposed the entire working database of notorious spam operator River City Media (RCM). In all, the database contains more than 1.37 billion email addresses, and for some records there are additional details such as names, real-world addresses, and IP addresses. It’s a situation that’s described as “a tangible threat to online privacy and security.” Details about the leak come courtesy of Chris Vickery from macOS security firm MacKeeper who — with a team of helpers — has been investigating since January. River City Media’s database ended up online thanks to incorrectly-configured Rsync backups. In the words of Vickery: “Chances are you, or at least someone you know, is affected.” The leaked, and unprotected, database is what’s behind the sending of over a billion spam emails every day — helped, as Vickery points out, by “a lot of automation, years of research, and fair bit of illegal hacking techniques.” But it’s more than a database that has leaked — it’s River City Media’s entire operation. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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In response to a U.S. Justice Department order that requires colleges and universities make website content accessible for citizens with disabilities and impairments, the University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts. Officials said making the videos and audio more accessible would have proven too costly in comparison to removing them. Inside Higher Ed reports: Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university’s webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20, 000 audio and video files from those platforms — a process that will take three to five months — and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them. The university will continue to offer massive open online courses on edX and said it plans to create new public content that is accessible to listeners or viewers with disabilities. The Justice Department, following an investigation in August, determined that the university was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The department reached that conclusion after receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley’s free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues. Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, made the announcement in a March 1 statement: “This move will also partially address recent findings by the Department of Justice, which suggests that the YouTube and iTunes U content meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from ‘pirates’ who have reused content for personal profit without consent.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Enlarge (credit: William Warby ) Shamoon—the mysterious disk wiper that popped up out nowhere in 2012 and took out more than 35,000 computers in a Saudi Arabian-owned gas company before disappearing—is back. Its new, meaner design has been unleashed three time since November. What’s more, a new wiper developed in the same style as Shamoon has been discovered targeting a petroleum company in Europe, where wipers used in the Middle East have not previously been seen. Researchers from Moscow-based antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the new wiper “StoneDrill.” They found it while they were researching the trio of Shamoon attacks, which occurred on two dates in November and one date in late January. The refurbished Shamoon 2.0 added new tools and techniques, including less reliance on outside command-and-control servers, a fully functional ransomware module, and new 32-bit and 64-bit components. StoneDrill, meanwhile, features an impressive ability to evade detection by, among other things, forgoing the use of disk drivers during installation. To accomplish this, it injects a wiping module into the computer memory associated with the user’s preferred browser. StoneDrill also includes backdoor functions that are used for espionage purposes. Kaspersky researchers found four command-and-control panels that the attackers used to steal data from an unknown number of targets. Besides sharing code similarities with Shamoon, StoneDrill also reuses code used in an espionage campaign dubbed “NewsBeef,” which targeted organizations around the world. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Steele Law Firm ) One of the attorneys behind the Prenda Law “copyright trolling” scheme has pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering. After years of denial, John Steele admitted Monday that he and co-defendant Paul Hansmeier made more than $6 million by threatening Internet users with copyright lawsuits. It’s perfectly legal to sue Internet pirates—but not the way Steele did it. Steele and Hansmeier set up “sham entities” to get copyrights to pornographic movies, “some of which they filmed themselves,” according to the Department of Justice’s statement on the plea. Steele and Hansmeier then uploaded those movies to file-sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay, and then sued the people who downloaded the content. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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IBM plans to build a universal quantum computer

Posted by kenmay on March - 7 - 2017

Companies can technically buy a quantum computer right now, but it’s not really the same as a general-purpose computer. Even if you don’t question whether or not it is quantum computing , it really amounts to specialized hardware. However, IBM hopes to change all that: it’s planning to build the first commercially-oriented universal quantum computer. The plan is to build a system with roughly 50 quantum bits (the Quantum Experience started with 5 and now simulates 20) within the next few years. That may not sound like much, but 50 qubits could be more powerful than the best supercomputers when handling some calculations — tasks that were impractical before would suddenly be within reach. Not surprisingly, you probably won’t get to use this quantum machine yourself. Much as in the old mainframe days, this computer is aimed at “business and science” customers that need to solve specific problems. To that end, IBM is helping research partners Canon, Hitachi Metals, Honda, JSR, Nagase and Samsung explore potential uses for quantum tech. The exciting part, IBM argues, isn’t so much the known performance as the possibilities. No one knows the full extent of what a universal quantum computer can do — it’s entirely feasible that the device will solve problems that aren’t even on the table right now. The biggest challenges are creating a tangible roadmap for production, and developing something affordable enough that it’s genuinely practical to use outside of a handful of cases. Source: IBM Think Blog , IBM News Room

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