Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for September, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Autobahn ) An alarming number of Macs remain vulnerable to known exploits that completely undermine their security and are almost impossible to detect or fix even after receiving all security updates available from Apple, a comprehensive study released Friday has concluded. The exposure results from known vulnerabilities that remain in the Extensible Firmware Interface, or EFI, which is the software located on a computer motherboard that runs first when a Mac is turned on. EFI identifies what hardware components are available, starts those components up, and hands them over to the operating system. Over the past few years, Apple has released updates that patch a host of critical EFI vulnerabilities exploited by attacks known as Thunderstrike and ThunderStrike 2 , as well as a recently disclosed CIA attack tool known as Sonic Screwdriver . An analysis by security firm Duo Security of more than 73,000 Macs shows that a surprising number remained vulnerable to such attacks even though they received OS updates that were supposed to patch the EFI firmware. On average, 4.2 percent of the Macs analyzed ran EFI versions that were different from what was prescribed by the hardware model and OS version. Forty-seven Mac models remained vulnerable to the original Thunderstrike, and 31 remained vulnerable to Thunderstrike 2. At least 16 models received no EFI updates at all. EFI updates for other models were inconsistently successful, with the 21.5-inch iMac released in late 2015 topping the list, with 43 percent of those sampled running the wrong version. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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FDA OKs a blood sugar monitor that doesn’t need fingerpricks

Posted by kenmay on September - 29 - 2017

A fingerprick isn’t just a fingerprick when you have to do it all the time to test your blood sugar levels. Thankfully, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first continuous glucose monitoring system for adults that doesn’t require you to draw blood several times a day. Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System works by inserting a tiny sensor wire below the surface of your skin. The wire needs 12 hours to start up, but once it’s ready, you can simply pass a mobile reader over it to read your glucose levels. It even works for 10 days before you have to replace it. FDA’s Donald St. Pierre explained that the agency has always been welcome to new technologies that can help people manage chronic conditions. “This system, ” he said, “allows people with diabetes to avoid the additional step of fingerstick calibration, which can sometimes be painful, but still provides necessary information for treating their diabetes — with a wave of the mobile reader.” Abbott already has a similar system available called the FreeStyle Libre Pro , but you need a doctor’s help to use it and to activate the sensor wire under your skin. You don’t need a doctor’s help to determine if your sugar levels are too low, too high or just right with the Flash, but you have to be 18 and older to be able to get it. Source: FDA , Abbott Freestyle Libre

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Atlus wants to cut off a PS3 emulator because it runs Persona 5

Posted by kenmay on September - 28 - 2017

Enlarge Video game publishers often use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to try to stop things like fan-games , ROM hacks , YouTube videos , and even “obsolete titles” from being distributed on the Internet. Japanese publisher Atlus, though, is using a more expansive view of DMCA protections to try to take down a PC-based PlayStation 3 emulator merely because it enables players to run copies of  Persona 5 . The battle centers on the Patreon page for RPCS3 , an “early, work-in-progress” effort to create a functional PS3 emulator that currently attracts more than $3,000 a month from 677 patrons. As Reddit user ssshadow notes in a thread , Atlus issued a DMCA request to Patreon to have the page taken down. While Patreon did not agree to that request, the RPCS3 team says it removed all references to Persona 5 from the Patreon page to help “resolve the situation.” Though Atlus reportedly acknowledged that “the PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks,” the publisher argued that “no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable.” In a followup message to Patreon, Atlus reportedly argued that “to make Persona 5 work on the emulator, the user has to circumvent our DRM protections” and points out that the non-Patreon RPCS3 page provides generalized instructions for how to “dump” a legitimate copy of the game from your PS3. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Scientists record a fourth set of gravitational waves

Posted by kenmay on September - 28 - 2017

Last year, researchers confirmed the existence of gravitational waves with two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. Shortly thereafter, they detected two additional gravitational wave-causing events that sent ripples through the universe. Well, we can now add a fourth to that list, as astronomers announced another set of waves. And for the first time, they observed the waves with a third detector — the Italy-based Virgo. Let’s review a little before we dig into the huge benefits that come with having three detectors rather than two. First, gravitational waves are essentially ripples in spacetime. When some major event occurs in the universe — like, for example, when two black holes merge into one — a ripple is sent out in all directions and it travels through spacetime at the speed of light. Albert Einstein predicted these sorts of waves existed, but it wasn’t until the LIGO project that researchers could actually observe them. The LIGO and Virgo detectors are all largely the same design. Two very long tunnels are arranged perpendicular to each other. At the point where they meet, a laser beam is split and part of it travels down one tunnel, and the other part down the second tunnel. Mirrors at the tunnel ends bounce the beams back and if no major cosmic activity has occurred, the two beams cancel each other out. However, if say two black holes slam into each other and create gravitational waves, those waves will stretch and pull spacetime, changing the length of the tunnels ever so slightly. When that happens, the two laser beams are bounced back at slightly different times and when they meet, the difference between them provides astronomers with all sorts of information about what happened, where and when. The earlier detections of gravitational waves were done with the two LIGO detectors in Washington and Louisiana. Virgo joined them on August 1st and scored its first detection on August 14th. The gravitational waves that were detected were created by two black holes — 31 and 25 times the mass of our Sun — merging around 1.8 billion light-years away. The resulting black hole is approximately 53 times the mass of the Sun. What happened to those three leftover solar masses? They were converted into gravitational wave energy. A third detector means scientists can get a much better idea about which direction the waves came from and it works similar to the way seismometers pinpoint the location of an earthquake. The two LIGO detectors themselves can provide a general direction of the event — a pretty large area equal to around 1/40th of the night sky. But adding Virgo into the mix reduces the window to a tenth of that area, which means once a signal is detected, astronomers can swing a telescope towards the region of origin and maybe catch a glimpse of it in action. The Virgo team hints in their press release that more detections from the three units will be announced sometime soon and some are hoping to hear that they’ve snagged a measurement, and maybe even a visual, of another big celestial event — two neutron stars merging . The recent detection was described in a paper published in Physical Review Letters . Image: NASA Via: BBC Source: Physical Review Letters , Virgo , National Science Foundation

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AMC will install room-scale VR in theaters by 2019

Posted by kenmay on September - 27 - 2017

Movie theater chain AMC is committing to virtual reality in a big way. The company has announced a $10 million investment (as part of a $20 million investment round) in Dreamscape Immersive, a VR storytelling studio with a focus on room-scale installations and real-time motion tracking. AMC plans to put six VR stations in its multiplexes in North America and the UK over the next year and a half, according to a press release. That number is key: Unlike things like the John Wick VR experience, or the ones made for Interstellar or Alien: Covenant , Dreamscape’s are social in nature, supporting up to six “players” at a time. The Verge reports that the installation spaces will be 16′ x 16′ walkable spaces with a railing around the perimeter. Haptic floors, fans and scents can be implemented if the experience calls for them. Users will wear a VR headset, a backpack computer and a few sensors for motion tracking. The result is life-size avatars that act and react in real-time with your body’s movements. Info about what those experiences could be isn’t available, but half of AMC’s investment is earmarked specifically for making them. And, with the likes of directors Gore Verbinski and Steven Spielberg, composer Hans Zimmer and former Disney Imagineering chief Bruce Vaughn calling the shots, maybe they’ll be a bit more memorable than crappy tie-ins we’ve seen before. Source: PR Newswire

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Atlus has been infamously protective of Persona 5 even before it came out, and it looks like that hasn’t changed a bit. The game developer has submitted a DMCA takedown notice against the creators of the PS3 emulator RPCS3 and their Patreon crowdfunding page . Emulators typically fall within the legal gray area of copyright law — they don’t infringe on anybody’s intellectual property, but they can run illegal ROMs that do. However, as Kotaku noted, RPCS3’s Patreon included updates about how far they are on getting Persona 5 to run on the emulator. A company that tried putting streaming restrictions on a much-awaited game would definitely not be happy that an emulator maker is getting donations in part due to its property. As of this writing, the RPCS3 Patreon page has removed all references to Persona upon the crowdfunding website’s request. Patreon advised RPCS3 to get rid of the references after refusing to comply with Atlus’ demands to kill the emulator’s page entirely. According to the emulator maker’s report on Reddit , that seems to have resolved the situation. Atlus has confirmed that it issued a DMCA takedown notice in an announcement, where it explained its reasons for doing so. The company said it didn’t want people’s first experience with an Atlus game to come riddled with framerate drops, crashes and other issues. It explained that the company thinks a format it didn’t personally oversee won’t deliver the experience and quality it intended. The gamemaker admits that it’s aware of how a lot of fans would like to see Persona titles for the PC, and while it’s not making any promises, it says it’s listening to people’s wishes. Those who’d like to see PC ports of Atlus’ most beloved games might want to cross their fingers and hope for the best. Here’s Atlus’ statement in full: “You might have heard earlier today that we issued a DMCA takedown notice involving emulation developer group RPCS3 and their Patreon page. Yes, it’s true. We settled upon this action for two reasons: 1. We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen. We understand that many Persona fans would love to see a PC version. And while we don’t have anything to announce today, we are listening! For now, the best way to experience Persona 5 is on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. 2. We appreciate the awareness generated by the emulation community for Persona 5 and know that it is a fantastic example of how much people are loving our game. We want to keep bringing you titles like Persona 5. Unfortunately, when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences.” Via: Kotaku Source: Atlus

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John Kobuki demonstrates the remarkable patience, dexterity, and craftsmanship required to spend 40 minutes shaping a clear glass sphere with a flower inside. (more…)

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Dyson says it will spend $2.7 billion developing an electric car

Posted by kenmay on September - 27 - 2017

Enlarge / James Dyson at the “James Dyson Award 2007” ceremony in Berlin. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images) (credit: Franziska Krug | Getty Images) To most people, the name Dyson conjures up images of vacuum cleaners and those powerful air dryers in public restrooms. Soon, you might be able to add “electric cars” to that list. In an e-mail to his staff, James Dyson revealed that the company has started work on a battery electric vehicle. According to the message , the project is expected to cost at least $2.7 billion (£2 billion), and, if all goes to plan, the EV should be launched in 2020. James Dyson just announced to @Dyson employees that we’ve begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to launch in 2020. pic.twitter.com/yUZNvIsYIi — Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017 The EV project is already 400-strong—that number includes some veterans of Aston Martin, Tesla, and BMW —and is “recruiting aggressively.” As Autocar notes, last year Dyson received a $21.4 million (£16 million) grant from the UK government. That is part of an ongoing strategy to provide funding to many of the country’s small-volume manufacturers and suppliers. Morgan, that most traditional of car makers, is one such recipient, as is another sports car outfit, Ariel . The BBC reports that half of the $2.7 billion investment will go toward developing the batteries for the EV, with the rest spent on the vehicle itself. Nor should we expect something cheap and cheerful, as Dyson is targeting the “tech end” of the market. According to Bloomberg, the car will use solid-state batteries , not lithium-ion. Recently, VW Group also committed to developing solid-state batteries for EVs. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Equifax CEO Richard Smith suddenly decides to ‘retire’

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

Equifax has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, following a chain of blunders and mismanagement after it revealed that a security breach leaked the personal data of 143 million people . This morning, the CEO of Equifax and chairman of its board, Richard Smith, retired effective immediately. In a release, Equifax stated that it has appointed Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., as interim CEO. He’s been with the company for seven years and most recently was the president of Equifax’s Asia Pacific division. Smith will stay on as an unpaid advisor to oversee a smooth transition. He cites the reason for his departure as the data breach: “At this critical juncture, I believe it is in the best interests of the company to have new leadership to move the company forward, ” he said. Smith is the latest casualty of the epic breach (their Chief Security Officer and Chief Information Officer also “retired” ), which has been catastrophically mishandled by Equifax. The company’s failure to patch a well-known security hole is the reason hackers were able to gain access to the data. The company’s executives are also under DOJ investigation for suspiciously timed stock sales that occurred after Equifax realized the breach had occurred but before it disclosed information to the public. And their credit freeze pins had security issues of their own . It’s unclear whether new management will ease Equifax’s woes, after how mishandled this entire breach has been from the start. Senators have called for credit report changes , allowing for consumers to have more power over their information. It makes sense; credit agencies should be held accountable when they make terrible errors in judgment and don’t take action to protect the sensitive personal data they handle every day. Via: CNBC Source: Equifax

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The Ataribox will cost under $300 and ship next spring

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

Atari has so far kept pretty schtum about its forthcoming Ataribox , but in an email newsletter it’s now revealed a few nuggets of information that should tide fans over until the console’s Indiegogo launch this fall. As the newly-released pictures show, design-wise you can expect an Atari 2600 influence with a modern twist (and yes, that is real wood). Inside, the console will be powered by an AMD customized processor and run Linux, so you’ll be able to tinker with the OS and access games bought from other platforms, as well as do all the usual PC-for-TV things, such as streaming, listening to music and navigating social media. Frustratingly, there’s still no word on pre-loaded games, although the company says it’ll “start talking titles very soon”. However, it has said it plans on shipping in late spring 2018, with an expected price tag of $250-$300 (£185-£225). Fans who get involved with the Indiegogo campaign, coming this fall, will be able to get their hands on special editions and exclusive pricing. And by then they’ll be chomping at the bit.

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