Geekly Update - 15 September 2016

Category: Tech-News

If a drone lands in your front yard, are you allowed to eat it? Are robots replacing humans at fast food restaurants? And can Google convince aspiring terrorists to change course? Find out in today's Geekly Update -- it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. And it's *guaranteed* to make you 146% smarter. Read, think and comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

A New Zealand insurance company is refusing to pay a homeowner’s claim despite losing a court battle in which the insurer accused the man of burning down his own home while he was 400 km away. The insurance adjuster's “novel theory” involves remote access software, a printer, and a match.

"Why can't we be friends?" A psychiatrist was puzzled when Facebook began recommending her patients as potential friends. Then she became alarmed to learn that Facebook was also recommending her patients to each other.

The voice of Star Trek’s ubiquitous and invisible Library Computer Access and Retrieval System (LCARS) will soon be available for Siri and other vocal AI devices. That voice, by the way, belonged to the late wife of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Robot Burger

Edible drones will deliver themselves to disaster areas with much greater accuracy than supplies dropped by parachute. The wings can be eaten and the fuselage can contain water. The drones can even be made of food tailored for the culture of the area in which they are used, avoiding waste due to religious proscriptions of certain foods.

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles now allows car owners to cancel their license plates online, authenticating their ownership of a vehicle simply by entering its VIN, plate number, and their ZIP code. Hmm, I wonder how that could be exploited by pranksters…

It’s bad enough when robots take over humans’ jobs, but when the robot is made of Lego blocks it becomes downright humiliating. Behold the Lego Whopper Meal Machine, which makes a Burger King meal for $5.

Great idea: free WiFi for visitors to the City Hall of Norfolk, VA. Bad idea: naming the network “CON-PUBLIC,” as in “City Of Norfolk.”

Google Chrome version 53 was released during the first week of September. It’s lighter, faster, and for the first time brings Google’s Material Design layout to Windows. If you use Chrome but have not yet been prompted to install v53, go to Settings > About > Check for updates.

Google has a clever plan to turn aspiring ISIS terrorists back to the light. Searches commonly entered by susceptible people now produce results that are accompanied by ads leading to counter-information: testimonials of former ISIS members, videos of actual life in the ISIS “caliphate,” etc.

AT&T, which owns DirecTV, has “zero-rated” DirecTV, allowing mobile customers to watch DirecTV content on their phones without using any of their data allotments.

A poorly worded agreement between the FCC and AT&T allowed the latter to charge its poorest customers its highest rates for its slowest Internet service: $30/month for speeds less than 3 Mbps. A public interest group, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, has finally pressured AT&T into charging households that get food stamps $5/month for sub-3 Mbps Internet, the same as those who get 3-5 Mbps.

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 15 September 2016"

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

This article was extremely intresting and very informative. Not to say that the others are not, this one was of particular interest to me, and probably a lot of others.

Thanks so much, and keep them coming

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

Thanks for the news! Always interesting.

I'm not surprised that ATT charged its poorest customers its highest rates. They are a souless company, so glad to be out of the ATT business.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

The Lego machine is great, especially if you like a cold burger and fries, and a flat, warm Coke.

Now which would be better, the food from the Lego machine, or the drone wings?

Posted by:

Jay R
15 Sep 2016

CON-PUBLIC is a bad name? It sounds like an honest name to me. Sadly, I don't see any turf battles over this one. Wouldn't it be fun to see the DNC and RNC go toe-to-toe over the rights to this name?

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

Regarding the story on the psychiatrist where Facebook was suggesting friends among her patients, it turns out that Facebook and LinkedIn silently take your phone contacts and use them. In the past, you had no choice if you wanted to use the Facebook or LinkedIn apps. But now at least with Android 6 (Marshmallow), you can block those apps from getting at your contacts.

I have gone through my apps (all 200 of them) and turned off access to Contacts except in the few apps that I specifically want to allow it. Some apps that I allow to access my contacts include phone (so I can dial them), maps (so I can navigate to them), camera (so I can email them photos I take), email (so I can easily email them).

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

I didn't know there was such a thing as "Former ISIS Members". All I have ever heard of former members is that they were dead. Maybe Google has found a way to communicate with them in a zombie state.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

Former ISIS members appear on shows, or write books, giving more insight into ISIS and its tactics and goals. I've seen them on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.

At least I don't believe they were zombies, like Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

"That voice, by the way, belonged to the late wife of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry."

I think that using her voice is such a cool idea, but I wish that you had named her instead of identifying her as the late wife.

She was Majel Barrett, who was an actress and played the part of Nurse Chapel and Lwaxana Troi, on the original and Next Generation Star Trek.

Thank you.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

Still confirming and reconfirming the issues with some rural libraries, but I can say that it APPEARS that AT&T may inadvertently (given them credit where none us due) be harming rural libraries. One town in Calif. I pass through to get to my research site in Nevada has THE MAIN SWITCHING STATION for the intersection of three counties. NONE of the libraries, the ONLY public access to the web since many ranches have very dirty 'farm lines' (lines installed and kept up by the ranchers on the road along which it runs) and have a hard time at 14.4. Two Public libraries can reach 56.6 BUT they have to disconnect their business phone in order to allow students 'high speed' access to the web (Oh, On COME ON BOB!!! REMEMBER HOW EXCITED YOU WERE WHEN YOU WENT FROM 28.8 T0 56.6!!!??) -- The reason was 'they don't really need web access for their work at their grade level (K-12!!!!).

So HOW COOL IS THIS EXCUSE: "Mom, I'm going to the library to do some homework." Mom, "Yes dear, be sure to home when it closes." (45 minute drive to the library)-- then if (when) mom calls to check on you, she gets a busy signal. How cool is THAT!? - All the library can say is 'we were hooked up to the internet (and at that speed the library WAS -- on the internet NOT the web - imagine loading images and graphics at the blinding speed of 56.6 on a good day, or around 15-20K on a bad day (think cold, wind, and show [but DON'T think about The Dead!] :-o ) is not really the 'web' (I hope).

I asked the librarian why they didn't lay new lines to the library when AT&T laid new lines around and across the valley - "It was too expensive for them to run the line in from the street (all of 50 feet?) "And it wasn't in the library budget."

I've kind of quit worrying about such things, Karma has a way of making things 'balance' -- be it while on The Beauty Path, or Highway 49. Things will always balance. Sometimes it takes a small asteroid or a Carrinton Event to make things balance . . . .

Meanwhile back at The Ranch, AT&T forced me into U-verse, no land line, and I've lived here my entire life - (on and off) - long enough to know that every 10 years or so our power and phone go out -- phone for up to three days in a 4 foot drop, and power for up to 2.5 weeks with the same 4 foot drop. Now they'll both go down for 2.5 weeks. When I call tech support they ended the call by saying "Thank your for choosing AT&T," (and I point out I have no choice, they forced me off of my generally always trusty land-line) "and don't text and drive." and I point out that I'm in a Radio shadow and have to walk about 1/4-1/2 MILE or a tad more up the hill to get a good radio signal - so thank you for 1951 Italian Phone service, but no thanks -and in the middle of Nevada where I do research, there ARE no cell phones, so don't worry." Then some blather about "where we make technology work for you" -- and all I can say is, "If that's true, why am I talking to you?" 3 strikes and you're out, right? So, Bob, how about a satellite web connection and a cell phone? Would they work from a very very steep canyon covered in Pines, Cedars, and Oaks -- with about 15° of sky at best? Yeah, that's what I thought too. But it's cool in the summer.

Let's all thank AT&T for NOT hooking up public libraries, charging them for line from the main-line to their building (~50 feet) and for all the help they provide for our future leaders (they get one computer at a time over a 56k connection on lines which often run closer to 30k so they might as well save the money and get a REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD AND FAST 28.8 - they'd probably run with graphics which load at a screaming 35 minutes per image).

I remember when I was told that my Apple II with 128k RAM was 'crazy', that 2 disk drives was 'insane', and that there really wasn't a need to go faster than 12-14K, though 28.8 was workable, who would ever send things that fast, it was a 'total waste of money'.

So I always told my students: when you buy a computer pay attention to only two things: RAM and Speed, take speed over RAM because swapping out a RAM-BOARD was kids play and it gets cheaper and faster all the time, and the fastest chip you could get would carry you at least 3-5 years before it began to get noticeably slow, and you could live with that for another couple of years.

Now AT&T negates that good advice - now it's buy the slowest chip you can find, with the least amount of RAM you can get that is the slowest on the market because you'll never notice the difference if all you are doing is writing a paper for a high school or college class, your computer will be just a fancy typewriter. Thanks AT&T. I'm glad you make technology work for me, and don't worry about me texting and driving because you make me walk 1/4-1/2 mile up my driveway to get two bars; I'm glad that is your definition of a 'working cell phone' -- standing in the 'cold, rain, and snow' half a mile from home being buffeted by wind. Now THAT'S what I call 'Service' -- while you smile and charge me by the minute.

I worry about rural libraries and our adults of tomorrow when I read things like this about AT&T (with others to follow) - and even if it is going to be turned around - that is all future tense, and I'm certain that 'soon' will see me in my grave before some of those public schools and libraries get real web service and more than one computer.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2016

If you have the new version of Chrome and don't like its looks, specifically the tiny icons in the toolbar...

In the browser, go to:


Select Non-Material in the drop down for "Material Design in the browser's top chrome."
Relaunch Chrome to make the change.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2016

@ Doc- And Verizon's offering of ~3mbps dsl speed is almost bearable. In this dying SE Pa. town/city? $36 a month. 6 years ago they offered 12mbps dsl. Line degradation?
In a similar move, Comcast reran a cable across this property. My woman complained she didn't want it run across. C's customer service said they'd be back Sept.10 to discuss a relocation. Right. There's electric and phone running to the back of the neighbor's house which doesn't cross this property.
Yes we know about restrictive utility rights in townships. Who was paid off?

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Geekly Update - 15 September 2016 (Posted: 15 Sep 2016)
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