Geekly Update - 21 August 2013

Category: Tech-News

Are helicopter drones getting out of control? Is Google secretly changing the definition of words in Webster's dictionary? And is your smartphone using more electricity than the refrigerator? 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

"For better or for... WHACK!" A couple getting married in Utah hired a photographer to film their nuptials with a camera mounted on a remote-controlled helicopter drone. Unfortunately, he lost control of the drone and it hit the groom in the face.

Capitulating to the Internet’s innumerable vocabulary-challenged people, Google has added a secondary definition to the word, “literally.” It now means, “figuratively,” the opposite of “literally,” so one can use it indiscriminately and still claim to be adequately educated. (See also:

The good news: the NSA says it collects only 1.6% of worldwide Internet traffic. The bad news: that’s 29 petabytes of data; Google indexes only 20 petabytes a day.
Geekly Update 08-21-2013

The more you use Facebook, the unhappier you are likely to be. That’s the manifestly obvious and strictly logical conclusion drawn by researchers at Michigan University. Your tax dollars at work.

"There's an app for that..." A computer glitch may have simultaneously opened all the cell doors in a Florida maximum-security prison, allowing inmates to attack each other. But since this was the second time in a month, deliberate human hacking is also a possibility.

Facebook is testing a real-world payment system similar to Paypal, according to rumor. The test involves only one unnamed retailer and Facebook members who have used a credit card to purchase games, gifts, etc., on Facebook. Will the social networking giant be able to challenge “the world’s most loved way to pay and get paid,” or at least disabuse Paypal of that delusion?

In what is totally not a meaningless publicity stunt, Wikileaks claims to have posted a 400 GB file of “insurance data” whose key will only be released if something bad happens to “specific individuals associated with Wikileaks” whose surnames sound nothing like “Assange” or “Snowden.” Of course, the sites where the files reside are beyond the reach of government influence; right, Twitter and Facebook? (How do you upload 400 GB to either of those, anyway?)

"That'll fix ya!" An Alabama woman is suing The Geek Squad, claiming that one of the Best Buy employees uploaded nude pictures of her to the Internet while fixing her computer’s hard drive.

Pay attention, class! Mindflash for iPad is a new training software app that tracks a user’s eye movements using the tablet’s camera. It pauses the courseware when eyes wander for more than a few seconds, forcing one to pay attention to complete the course. Version 2.0 will hurl whiteboard erasers with terrifying accuracy.

It’s not a bug until it bites the boss. A hacker discovered a security flaw that allows an attacker to post on any Facebook member’s Wall without the member’s permission. He dutifully reported the bug to Facebook’s security team, which told him “it’s not a bug.” So he posted to Mark Zuckerberg’s Wall; now it’s a bug.

An iPhone uses more energy than two refrigerators, according to a report on the energy consumption patterns of high-tech industries entitled, “The Cloud Begins With Coal.”

Which looks yummier: “Frish” ice cream or “Frosh” ice cream? Subjects surveyed by NYU researchers chose “Frosh,” even though neither ice cream exists and all the subjects “tasted” was a press release. How your mouth moves when you speak or even read a word influences how you feel about what the word symbolizes. So, “YouTube MySpace and I’ll Google your Yahoo” makes perfect sense now.

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 21 August 2013"

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
21 Aug 2013

Hi, Bob,

With regard to your observation, "Google has added a secondary definition to the word, 'literally.' It now means, 'figuratively.'"

Sadly, it's not just Google, and it's not new. My literal (read that: "real, in the flesh, actual, not figurative") Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition," hard cover, thank you, published in 2009, offers this secondary definition of literally: "in effect; virtually." It cites usage by Norman Cousins: "... will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty."


Well, ... my dictionary takes about eight pages to explain the role and function of the dictionary. One key point is that dictionary editors do not arbitrarily report how a word is supposed to be used. Rather they report, based on vigorous research, how a word IS used, by literate and notable writers and speakers (Norman Cousins, for example).

Therefore, the meanings in a dictionary change over time, as new uses for a word find their way into mainstream conversation and writing.

That's how it happens. Literally. ;-)

Here's a good example (I'm going to disguise a particular word, to avoid being politically incorrect): Your first name, Bob, spelled with TWO of the same vowel, not one, was used by earlier generations to mean a "simpleton, an awkward person." But to most modern Americans, the word is a (vulgar) reference to a portion of the female anatomy. Or two portions, literally.


Posted by:

Kimber Olli
21 Aug 2013

There is no "Michigan University", well at least one that is supported with tax dollars.

Posted by:

21 Aug 2013

Maybe literally meaning figuratively is a typo or misprint. Google isn't that stupid, are they?

Posted by:

21 Aug 2013

Will the Face Book payment system overcharge users 30% like their IPO did earlier this year? Heck, the price of the item purchased will eventually catch up with the FB price charged via inflation.

Posted by:

Jon Stubbs
21 Aug 2013

While Lee's comment is essentially correct. It is important to keep in mind that English is an international language and that word meanings can vary by country or region. In this instance, the word under discussion is not as common in other English speaking countries.

The example of Bob is interesting in that typical meanings in countries outside of the US differ from what Merriam-Webster cites. Then, that's just one more example of English in all its versions.

Bill Bryson's book "Mother Tongue" is probably the most interesting and generally accurate non-academic work on English I've found. He can give a real "feel" for what Lee is saying.

All in all, English is "top dog" as far as languages go. It may be that its flexibility is what makes it so heavily used. Too, there is no official body that approves or disapproves new words and/or meanings - unlike many other languages, we the people make the changes. This won't be the first time a word's meaning has changed to the opposite.

Posted by:

Richard Dengrove
21 Aug 2013

When I heard that literaally was used to mean figuratively, I was literally eaten by mosquitoes.

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
23 Aug 2013

Grateful thanks to you, Jon Stubbs, for your insightful remarks. I hadn't considered the international ubiquity ("Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls," to borrow a phrase from the 1960's TV hit comedy series, "Laugh In") of English.

I also appreciate your reference to "Mother Tongue." It is indeed a delightful book. Author Bryson even had the audacity to use the word I was afraid to use when he wrote, "English is full of booby traps." Bravo. Literally.

Posted by:

Mac the Knife
23 Aug 2013

Richard wrote, "When I heard that literaally was used to mean figuratively, I was literally eaten by mosquitoes."

Hopefully, poor Richard was literally eaten by figurative mosquitoes.

Ouch. That bites.

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