Geekly Update - 09 April 2020

Category: Tech-News

Video conferencing can bring friends and family together, but is it a major privacy risk? Are new features in the Edge browser enough to make you want to switch? And on the artificial intelligence front, is mind-reading technology ready for prime time? Get answers in today's Geekly Update -- it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. This issue is guaranteed to make you 146% smarter -- you'll see why. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

Be careful what you think. Neuroscientists at the University of California are working on a system that uses artificial intelligence to decode brain waves into written text or speech. The researchers hope it will help those with speech disabilities.

Microsoft has agreed to buy the CORP.COM domain for $1.7 million, to keep it out of the hands of hackers who might use it to gain access to passwords and other sensitive data from poorly configured business computers.

Microsoft's Edge browser is slated to get some new features soon, including Vertical Tabs, Collections (to store web pages and other items into a group), Smart Copy (to paste rich content from the Web into other documents), and improved support for extensions. Will this tempt millions of Google Chrome users to switch from one faceless corporate giant to another?

Geekly Update 04-09-2020

The Intercept reports that the popular Zoom video conferencing app may be leaking encryption keys to servers in China. Other reports of Zoom security flaws have prompted government and private firms to steer their staff to alternatives, such as Skype Meet.

A cord-cutter dishes on how things have gone since dumping cable TV in favor of streaming services. It's mostly good news, but there are six unfortunate truths cord-cutting newbies should know.

The editors at CNET have curated list of the top home security cameras priced at or under 100 bucks.

Samsung says six smartphones in its A Series lineup -- cheaper alternatives to the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note devices -- will soon be available in the US at prices ranging from $110 to $400. The A Series have fewer bells and whistles when compared to Samsung's flagship devices.

Boeing's ill-fated 737 Max runs on two 16-bit computers from the early 1990s that have about the same compute power as a handheld Super Nintendo. That's making it harder for engineers to fix the software problem that caused two crashes that killed 346 people.

A UK art gallery in East Sussex is employing a video-conferencing robot to help virtual visitors view art exhibits from home during lockdown period.

This just in from the "Oh the Humanity" Department: Lockheed Martin is bringing back the airship as a means to affordably deliver heavy cargo to remote locations. Like the Hindenburg, Lockheed's P91 also gets it bouyancy from hydrogen gas.

Getting back to the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, did you know that 62 of the 97 people on board survived the fiery crash? Here's a really interesting video with animations that show how the ship was designed.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 09 April 2020"

Posted by:

Ken H
09 Apr 2020

Here is a far more comprehensive article on Zoom's many flaws and what steps (if any) have already taken to correct them and what they are working on now and even more important what steps (if any) the end user can take to mitigate them:

I will probably continue to use Zoom using the pretty simple security methods advised in the article in TidBITS above as I am not that paranoid and the functionality is far superior to what I have seen in Google Hangouts or Skype.

Posted by:

Robert A.
09 Apr 2020

It's 2020, and the fact that Boeing 737 MAX jets are running two 16-bit computers is incredibly scary. With all the billions of dollars Boeing has made in the past 40 years has me shaking my head as to how cheap or naïve that company is. Surely they could have Intel and/or Microsoft (a Washington state neighbor) and/or IBM to develop some proprietary 128-bit CPUs and a super secure specialized flight operating system, not offered to any other business, for their planes. What will we learn next - Airbus is running their planes on 32-bit computers running Windows XP?

Posted by:

10 Apr 2020

To: Robert A.

What do you think is more complicated task - to control commercial passenger flight or to control Moon landing? Well, for Moon program was used a computer, also 16-bit, with 72Kb memory that had performance like Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum. To solve specific task you don't need any special power. Most of power of modern computers is used for interface - for all those whistles and bells that are absolutely worthless for real work. So I wouldn't be surprised if Airbus had 32, 16 or even 8-bit computer on board. Any computer has two parts - hardware and software. Modern software is a power sucking hog, bad-written and ineffective. Because the most important part of modern programming is support and easy to modify code. Hardware's becoming cheaper pretty fast, so no point to polish code, it's easier to wait for the next generation of hardware and make ineffective things work effectively enough. Really effective code is usually written at hardware-level assembler and very hard for any kind of modification. For most specific projects, like a plane, most of controlling devices are in the core old, so they are usually use decades-old code - aerodynamics is the same, as at brothers Wright time. And properly written code will ran perfectly fast at 16-bit hardware. It's not rocket science, believe me. And the algorithms crashed those unlucky Boeing 737 MAX. Not just programming, but algorithm of creating a plane in modern Boeing. This is the problem. Management.

Posted by:

10 Apr 2020

I left DirecTV a little over a year ago in favor of broadcast TV and a streaming service. I did a lot of research before selecting a service, and landed on Philo. At the time, they had two packages, a $16 and a $20. Now, they only have the $20 package (but existing users could grandfather the $16 package.) At the time we joined, the $20 plan had about 40 channels. Now it has 59. And no price hike. Very refreshing after the stagnation + annual price hike of DirecTV. I also have an Apple TV+ sub, which is free right now. But, for only $5 a month, I will keep it after my free year is up. $25 a month is a far cry from the $85 I paid for DirecTV - and that was with a $50 per month retention discount that I’d requested. I have more than enough to watch, and didn’t have to give up my favorites.

As a broadcast TV viewer, I look forward to see what broadcasters will be offering with all that the new ATSC 3.0 broadcasting standard can do. It should be interesting.

Posted by:

Lori in Vancouver, BC
12 Apr 2020

The school I work with uses RingCentral - a subsiduary, so to speak, of Zoom. Simple and easy to use with younger students.

Posted by:

21 Apr 2020

I bet if Boeing hired BobRankin for the job of needed upgrades to 64bit-code running Octal cores; he would do it in [errrrr....] half the time and half the cost... but only if the project would not require none of the certification requirements. If you have never interfaced with or never worked around Boeing military/commercial aerospace endeavors; you could not imagine the complexity just in standards, specifications, qualification and documentation. It has been appropriately described as "An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications!" Every one of those specifications probably have Boeing ink on them and that was not such a bad thing. The management culture, as with other market forces, had to adopt to the 21st century and I feel that these changes originally started with Triple7 program. Boeing 777 really started out as a cute little mouse...

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