Geekly Update - 05 April 2016

Category: Tech-News

Big changes are coming to prepaid cell phones, but will they really stop terrorism? Can you guess what is the biggest problem facing driverless cars? And how exactly does the Streisand Effect work? Get answers to these burning questions, and the scoop on the latest tech news, in this edition of the Geekly Update. It's guaranteed to make you 146% smarter. Read, think and comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

It turns out that replacing a $2 light switch with an iPad and home automation gadgetry enables a hacker to seize control of the climate control system, lights, and electric window shades of every room in a hotel, in about two minutes. "We'll leave the light on for you. And then we'll flick it off, and then on..."

How NOT to teach the crafting of secure passwords: cable station CNBC posted an interactive form inviting viewers to enter a “potential” password and see an estimate of how long it would take a hacker to crack it.

Of course, many people entered their real passwords, which was then transmitted in clear text to more than 30 advertisers and who knows what other entities. posted a list of 100,000 entries it somehow got hold of.

No bitcoin for you, comrade! Bitcoin users in Russia now face prison sentences of up to seven years, up from a former law’s maximum penalty of two years. The financial penalties now range up to 2.5 million roubles ($36,896), or 2-4 years of the total income of an individual or organization involved with Bitcoin.

Geekly Update 04-06-2016

Anyone wishing to buy a prepaid cellphone would have to provide the retailer with name, home address, birth date, and an approved document bearing his/her Social Security Number, if a bill introduced to Congress passes. Retailers would have to maintain databases and provide access to law enforcement. So if you're a terrorist, please be sure to provide accurate information when buying your "burner phone" at Walmart.

“Scamp” is a foot-long robot that flies, clings to rough surfaces, and can climb walls, even recovering from potentially fatal slips, to provide communications and video views through windows and other openings. Developers see it useful in disaster areas too rough for helicopters to land. Law enforcement licks its chops.

Police must obtain a search warrant before deploying “stingray” devices that simulate cellular towers and vacuum up all nearby phone traffic, ruled the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

A self-driving car for only $20,000 is already here. Honda’s new Civic LX Sedan can be ordered with advanced-driver assistance systems (ADAS), which keeps a car in its lane and allows for automatic braking and cruise control. Just don’t call it a self-driving car because Honda does not want the legal liability.

Faded road lane markings are the biggest obstacle faced by self-driving cars. The problem is unique to the USA; European countries have standards for lane markings and traffic light configurations that make life easier for self-driving cars. 'You need to paint the bloody roads here!' complained the president of Volvo at a failed Los Angeles Auto Show demo.

Ten pigeons wearing tiny backpacks full of electronics are flying around London, monitoring and reporting levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone gases. The Pigeon Air Patrol even has its own Twitter account.

After crippling a Silicon Valley startup with eight months of delays in hooking up its cable Internet service, Comcast had the nerve to charge the customer over $60,000 to get out of its four-year contract.

The owners of Gawker Media are gawking at a $115 million judgment a jury levied against them for violating the privacy of Terry Bollea, better known as wrestling star Hulk Hogan. Gawker, which owns Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Kotaku, Jezebel, and Jalopnik, may not survive that financial hit. The company is appealing the verdict as well as the size of the damages.

The Turkish government learned about the Streisand Effect when it summoned the German ambassador and demanded that Germany ban a video mocking Turkish president Erdogan. The video is now duplicated all over the world and has been seen by millions who never heard of it before Turkey complained.

Internet busybodies jump the shark. An Oklahoma grandfather cooked burgers for six grandkids, but only one of them showed up. The photo of “Sad PawPaw” she posted went viral, sparking death threats against the prodigal grandchildren. When they held a cookout to make amends, hundreds of well-wishers and selfie-seekers showed up, including a woman who packed her two kids in the car and drove 20 hours to buy a “Sad PawPaw” t-shirt.

Three student suicides have been prevented in three years by monitoring software installed at Ontario Christian Schools near Los Angeles. The GoGuardian software alerted the school district’s IT manager when students searched for or browsed suicide-related terms or sites. Despite the good outcomes, this use of monitoring software raise privacy concerns.

Microsoft has developed a version of Windows that includes “management and security controls” mandated by the Chinese government. “We partner with the Chinese government” has got to be one of the most unfortunate marketing talking points for a business-oriented operating system.

Told that security cameras for her county jail would take two years and cost $20 million, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith spent $761.24 of her own money on 12 security cams from CostCo, and had a jail maintenance worker install them. More are needed, but she made her point. Oddly, the president of the correctional officers’ union thinks such unilateral action “hurts morale.”

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 05 April 2016"

Posted by:

Mike Brose
06 Apr 2016

I will not join the "Lazy Generation" that cannot get off the chair and adjust the thermostat, flick a light on, or innumerable other things by "controlling" them via a tablet, smartphone etc. You are just opening up yourself to hacking. Now where's my TV remote?

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

The Volvo president quoted here is Dutch. However, his comments are typical of southern Swedes who haven't driven in the more northern parts of Sweden. In the far north of Sweden it is not unusual to go for months without being able to see painted lane markings as the roads are covered with layers of ice. Maybe road markings aren't the best strategy.

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

With the appalling state of highway maintenance on all but motorways in the UK, a strategy avoiding lane marking recognition and concentrating on avoiding potholes would be more sensible.

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

The bit on the security cameras for a county jail - Is insane!!! This is what happens when unions are involved these days.

The County Sheriff Laurie Smith showed initiative and spunk. If she was my County Sheriff I would vote for her, every time she would run!!! She showed that BIG Government, even on the county level, can be thwarted. Good for her - 100 Atta Girl to Laurie Smith!!!

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

Oh, by the way - I forgot to mention that I am 155% smarter, after reading your Geekly Update! LOL

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

Thanks for a great geekly update. Lots of interesting info here. And, I agree with Mike. I am not joining the "Lazy Generation." I don't even use cruise control.

Posted by:

dennis king
06 Apr 2016

Good work Bob.
When hardly anyone in America makes an issue of outsourcing millions of jobs and high tech intellectual property and we allow companies like Huawei to install telecom systems in the US that can be controlled from China, why should we care that a company that writes the software for most computers used in America partners with a Communist Country? There’s a reason Google pulled out of Communist China.

Posted by:

06 Apr 2016

I am wondering if this new law would apply to
"AT&T To-Go" Phones too? I guess they would be considered "Prepaid Phones". I have been using one for 20 years. Basically I only keep it in case of an emergency, since all the public telephones have disappeared with a few exceptions.

Posted by:

07 Apr 2016

Of course the union leader of the correctional union is unhappy. How much graft can he get out of $761.24?

Posted by:

07 Apr 2016

Lighten up on the 'Union' propaganda, folks. They have nothing at all to do with the decision-making process and financing for the camera system.
Was reading comprehension not one of your strong suits in school?

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Geekly Update - 05 April 2016 (Posted: 6 Apr 2016)
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