Geekly Update - 24 May 2017

Category: Tech-News

Will the pilot on your next flight be carbon or silicon-based? What should you do if you get a digital parking ticket? Do donuts from space taste better than terrestrial confections? And should you be thinking about getting an exoskeleton? 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

An exoskeleton may help Lowe’s Home Improvement workers stock shelves with fewer back injuries. The company is conducting a trial of the technology in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Would you eat a donut that travelled 97,000 feet into space, and then returned to Earth? A donut shop in Kansas City, Missouri has the item on display, in case you're that hungry.

We may have 7 million drones zipping around by 2020. The FAA, NASA, and industry players are developing an air traffic control system for them.

Geekly Update 05-24-2017

How easy is it to fool a voice recognition system that's designed to protect your banking information? (Hint: pretty easy, at least if you have a twin brother.)

Are human pilots obsolete? Airliners have landed under auto-pilot for decades. But Aurora Flight Sciences is bragging that one of its robots landed a simulated Boeing 737 by sitting in the copilot’s seat and manipulating controls with its “protuberances.” It is hoped that robotic pilots will be cheaper than auto-pilot software. (And is it just me, or does this item call to mind a scene from the 1980 "Airplane!" movie?)

Shadow Brokers, the hacker outfit behind the worldwide Wannacry ransomware assault, says it will release new zero-day exploits to others who subscribe to its “malware as a service” program. Subscribers would then create new malware based on the exploits.

"Not dead yet." The new Ektra phone from Kodak (yes, that Kodak) has a souped-up camera designed for “hipster photographers.” It runs Android 6.0 and works with AT&T or T-mobile.

A Denver woman did not fall for a phishing email that purported to be a digital parking ticket, and neither should you.

Who says hackers are heartless? A Taiwanese victim of the Thundercrypt ransomware emailed the hacker “help line” to explain that he is too poor to pay the ransom. Surprisingly, the hackers decrypted his hard drive free of charge.

Over 200 art books are available to download, print, and enjoy courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

If you had purchased $100 worth of Bitcoin seven years ago, it would have been worth $72.9 million on May 22, 2017.

USB-C ports were invented to allow consumers to have one charger for all their devices. But they can actually cause problems and confusion. Dieter Bohn explains the problem, and why Microsoft didn't include USB-C ports on its latest Surface laptop and tablet.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that patent trolls must sue people in their home jurisdictions, putting an end to the “forum shopping” that made one Texas district court the favorite of patent trolls.

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 24 May 2017"

Posted by:

gg pence
24 May 2017

Re: Robots that can land an airplane

Bob, I made my living driving airplanes for about 46 years. Light aircraft, Mach2 fighters, and airliners. Something for you to ponder: an autopilot is a wonderful invention, and can share the load of driving the beast hour after hour, and a good one can land it, in limited conditions. I have been cleared to land a 767 full of people on a runway which was , unknown to the tower, occupied by another airplane. The two of us, seeing the airplane, poured on the coal and went around. About 10 seconds into the go around, the tower said, with alarm, XX62 GO AROUND!!! A robot is not looking out the window and has no idea if landing is a good idea right then. While landing a flying machine is normally a piece of cake, a robot has no idea how to land the beast in a stiff crosswind, on a wet runway with antiskid inop, or if the crosswind is beyond the limitations of the aircraft. Humans put all this together, along with a lot of other stuff, as part of the job. Sometimes, you actually can do something, but you shouldn't. Knowing the difference pays well. A robot can't tell the difference. If offered a free ticket on such an infernal machine, stay home. ggp

Posted by:

gg pence
24 May 2017

Bob......i just submitted a note regarding robots landing airplanes. i made a couple typos that you might discover, and would be most appreciative if you would change ONA to ON A, and WIN to WITH. two errors in one sentence. some type of record, i'm sure. tnks apparently, my flying is better than my typing. ggp

EDITOR'S NOTE: Done, thanks for the comment!

Posted by:

24 May 2017

Great point gg. typos included

Posted by:

24 May 2017

gg pence: Thanks much for your excellent comments.
They give all of us something to think about if this idiotic idea is ever attempted.

Posted by:

24 May 2017

You can likely guess the thoughts of those of us taking cautionary stances on the latest land-based, self-driving vehicles that are always in the news. Fly Me! No... Tanx.

Posted by:

24 May 2017

I fly the 737 for a living, so I watched the video embedded in the linked CNBC story with some considerable interest. As I suspected before I hit play, it did *not* show the robot landing a plane. It showed the robot manipulating the speed knob, flap lever, autobrake knob, landing gear lever and thrust levers. Those are what I would call "trained monkey" tasks, not flying.

For a routine landing in calm wind, doing each of those things in the right sequence could be programmed with simple "IF, THEN" logic. Giving the robot a motion path for each control manipulation is a very basic industrial automation task. There's nothing at all revolutionary, or even evolutionary, here.

The aircraft's autopilot performed the landing and its autobrakes brought it to a stop. The video was carefully edited not to show when or how the autopilots (two are used in parallel for the autoland function) were engaged. Did the robot do it, or its human masters? Why did Aurora edit this out of the video?

What wind conditions were programmed into the simulator? It must have been calm or a direct headwind, as there was no evidence that the robot had control on the rudder, brakes or nose wheel steering, yet the plane rolled out straight down the runway. Simulators, like real planes, are unforgiving of poor technique; failure to apply crosswind corrections will result in what accident investigators call "departing the paved surface."

Finally, the robot took no notice of the Master Caution light that illuminated during the approach (at about 1:30 in the video). In this case it appeared to be an AIR COND (air conditioning) annunciation, so making no immediate response was probably acceptable. Not all fault annunciations can be so blithely ignored.

When the robot can analyze a radar picture in combination with surface wind conditions, reports from preceding aircraft and current flight conditions to determine whether it's safe to continue an approach into a windy, rainy airport at night, then manually fly the plane to touchdown, on centerline, in the first 1,500' of runway, in a 25 knot gusting crosswind, then I'll be impressed (and concerned for my future employment). Until then I'll take stuff like this for what it is: a publicity stunt.

Posted by:

25 May 2017

Thanks for the detailed professional opinion, Joe.
It was a fascinating read for someone like me who flies semi-regularly.

Posted by:

25 May 2017

Bob, short but sweet... You did a good one again! Love your work. Take good care, tom-tom [Endicott]

Posted by:

25 May 2017

I want my Robot Pilot and drone software to be written by a Republican. They seem more aggressive! If I am going to have to relent to something else driving me about, I want others to be getting smaller in my rear-view mirrors. [Errrr... Will these SmartVehicles have mirrors?]

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