Tag Archives: North Korea

PTJ 126 News: Dawn of a New Day

draftbillThe Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for Net Neutrality are scheduled for a vote on February 26th, but that has not stopped Congress from doing something in the meantime. Republican leaders put out draft legislation this week that prohibits the FCC from reclassifying broadband service as regulated public utility like radio, television and telephone, as President Obama proposed last year. The proposed bill does ban throttling or blocking, but has a “network management” loophole for the telecom companies. Several Internet activists like Free Press have already taken up the call to protest, so this issue certainly isn’t going to fade into the background anytime soon.

Remember when the United States government blamed North Korea for the massive hack on Sony Pictures last year and some security experts questioned how officials could be so sure North Korea did the deed? As reported in The New York Times, it turns out that the National Security Agency itself had totally pwned, er, infiltrated North Korea’s networks back in 2010 so they were familiar with some of that territory.

zombiesCloser to home, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a list of apps and services that do and do not protect you from Verizon Wireless’s user-tracking perma-cookie that was discovered by researchers last fall. The ProPublica site published a story last week about how the online ad company Turn was using Verizon’s tracking numbers to regenerate deleted cookies and keep tabs on the users who thought they deleted them. Once busted by ProPublica, Turn said it would suspend its use of these back-from-the-dead Zombie Cookie IDs — pending further evaluation.

Bloomberg News reports that like everybody else, Taiwanese electronics maker HTC is working on its own smartwatch, as well as a new flagship smartphone with a 20-megapixel rear camera and Dolby 5.1 audio. Both products are expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona the first week of March.

Google Glass, which made a couple year-end lists of Biggest Flops of 2014, is getting discontinued (the original version, anyway). Microsoft, however, has Project HoloLens in the works, so people who want to compute while wearing strips of see-through plastic on their faces have a fresh new option. The company’s holographic goggles will arrive around the same time as its new Windows 10 system; both got some event love this week.

win10

One little wearables flop isn’t slowing down Google, though. The company, which took out a lease from NASA last year for the historic Hangar One in California, is doing business with other space firms as well. The Big G (and Fidelity) are making a billion-dollar investment in SpaceX for a project that would use about 700 small satellites to provide Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it.

We have yet another NASA mission to follow this year. This March, the space agency’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive for its assignment at Ceres, a 600-mile wide asteroid in the belt of flying space rocks between between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn, which launched in 2007, has previously orbited Vesta. The Dawn spacecraft combines state-of-the-art technologies tested by other recent space experiments with off-the-shelf components and spare parts and instrumentation left over from previous missions. The spacecraft will make a study of Ceres, which NASA considers to be a dwarf planet, and has already beamed back some images from about 238,000 miles away.

And one more NASA item of note: the agency says the Earth is due to get buzzed by an asteroid later this month.  The big rock should be visible to those in the Americas, Africa and Europe the night of January 26th  and the Virtual Telescope site also plans to track the asteroid starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time that day for those who pref to stargaze from inside the house.

Facebook wants to help you further cut down on the amount of floating garbage on your News Feed. In a company blog post this week, two Facebook staffers described an update to the News Feed mix that reduces the distribution of posted stories that have been reported as hoaxes or deleted by other users. (While this could help declutter News Feeds around Facebook, the tool does have the potential for abuse from organized campaigns to discredit, say, an environmental issue. Let’s hope Facebook has thought of this, too.)

Amazon announced this week that it has plans to develop its own original theatrical films that will also be available quite early on its Amazon Prime Instant Video service. This move comes a few months after Netflix announced it was producing a sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for both IMAX theaters and its own streaming customers that will premiere this August 28th.

The new movie Blackhat opened in theaters this past weekend, and although the hacking action thrilled starring Chris Hemsworth got blown away at the box office by American Sniper, it did get a little cred from the Ars Technica site for not having completely illogical, implausible and just plain stupid technology scenes. The film’s creators hired not one, but two hacking consultants. Judging by the movie’s poor reception from critics, perhaps the producers should have sprung for a script consultant or two as well.

mariogoombaAnd finally,  over at the University of Tübingen in Germany, a group of researchers in the area of cognitive modeling have developed an artificial intelligence system that allows the videogame character Mario the plumber to  experience emotions and respond to voice commands. Mario AI is also aware of his environment, makes decisions in the game on gathered data or “learning.” Yes, there’s a video demonstrating the experiment. Maybe for the next experiment, the researchers can get the Angry Birds to talk through their feelings so they’re not quite so outraged all the time.

PTJ 123 News: Same Old Lang Syne

Will the Drama Llama ever leave Sony’s living room?  While US officials are thinking North Korea had some help or perhaps subcontracted the job, the hermit kingdom is still denying involvement and threatening retaliation, (as it often does). Not everyone is convinced North Korea did the hit, however, as some cybersecurity experts are questioning the FBI’s investigation into the matter and are now dubious as to the assumed motives and methods.

Speaking of The Interview, the film made about $3 million in theaters and about $15 million in online streams at Google Play, YouTube and Xbox Video on Christmas Day. Also on Christmas Day: hackers took down Sony’s PlayStation network, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live network in what was thought to be a opportune-yet-unrelated-to-North-Korea attack by the Lizard Squad.

And yet, a hacker’s work is never done. A member of Europe’s Chaos Computer Club is claiming he can fake a fingerprint and potentially fool a fingerprint scanner with high-quality digital photos of the aforementioned finger taken from afar and commercially available software. A video of the demonstration is on YouTube, but it’s in German. (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?) The Chaos Computer Club has claimed to have beaten Apple’s Touch ID scanner on the iPhone 5S before, and say vulnerabilities still exist in the iPhone 6.

There are a lot of iPhone 6’s out there now after the gift-giving season. According to the analytics firm Flurry, 51% of new device activations around the world from December 19th to December 25th were for Apple devices. Samsung had second place with 18% of new device activations and Microsoft had third place with 5.8%. (Apple also got a patent for a “smart stylus” this week, so get ready for those iSty and Apple Pen rumors.)

apple stylus

Sony may have had a rough year, but its old PlayStation 3 game consoles are doing their part for science, like helping crunch data in the study of black holes and gravitational waves. The New York Times has the story of how a scientist in the University of Dartmouth’s Physics Department has been making his own supercomputers by networking together stacks of old PS3s.

In space news, a recently discovered comet called 2014 Q2, also known as Lovejoy, should be visible in the night sky on the Northern Hemisphere for much of January if you live in an area free of light pollution.  For experienced stargazers, the comet is currently near the constellation Lepus the Hare and is passing close to Orion’s belt on its way to the constellation Taurus the Bull by January 9th.

lovejoy

It the Department of Out with the Old, Yahoo has now shut down its long-serving Yahoo Directory, a page of categorized topic links that had been around since 1994. And while it seems like Internet Explorer has been Microsoft’s browser since the dawn of Web Time, but new reports say that the company is building an entirely new browser codenamed Spartan for its upcoming Windows 10 system.

In legal news, the United States Bankruptcy Court here in Manhattan has ruled that Aereo — the now-squashed teeny tiny antenna company that got sued out of business for redistributing broadcast TV signals — can sell off its technology to the highest bidder.

Facebook has apologized for its Year in Review feature, an algorithm that created an automatic slideshow from a user’s photos that could be shared with Facebook friends. While it was meant to be a celebration of the year’s best moments, all capped with the tagline “It’s been a great year” some users complained that the software pulled in photos from sad events they’d rather not highlight. (For those who didn’t have tragedy but hated the photos Facebook pulled, keep in mind you can edit the results.)

yir

The Consumer Electronics Association’s CES tradeshow opens next week in Las Vegas and its planners say the 2015 show will be “the largest ever Internet of Things showcase” with more than 900 exhibitors rolling out their future wares. New products for home security and climate control systems, automotive connectivity, kitchen appliances and more are expected, as well as new innovations in sensor technology.

And finally, the Alternet site has put out its list of Biggest Product Fails of 2014. At the top of the flop list: the Amazon Fire Phone. At least the Fire Phone is topping a list somewhere, although it’s probably not the one Amazon had in mind. Happy 2015, y’all!

fire

PTJ 122 News: Hyper Holidays

Will the drama of the Sony Pictures, North Korea and a certain Massive Network Hack every end? After announcing last week it was canceling the theatrical release of The Interview, Sony said on Tuesday that it was making the picture available to theaters who wanted to start showing it on the original Christmas Day release date. That was Tuesday. On Monday of this week, Internet access to, from and within North Korea, went dark for about nine hours in a complete network failure and was still unstable at least a day later.

opBack in the USA, Sony is still trying to get itself back together. At least one Sony employee has spoken to the press about what it was like to work in a place that suffered a catastrophic breach (hint: not fun) and in a sternly worded letter, the company has threatened to sue Twitter unless it removes the accounts of people who’ve been shared data leaked from the hack. The beleaguered entertainment company has also said to be working with crisis manager Judy Smith, a consultant and inspiration for the Olivia Pope character on the ABC drama Scandal.  It’s apparently that bad.

It’s been a bad year for corporate IT departments.  A report in The New York Times this week says the massive hack of JPMorgan bank earlier this year might have been blocked if one server on the company’s very large network had been upgraded to handle two-factor authentication.  Hackers were reportedly able to get into the network after swiping the login credentials from a bank employee.

mac updateMeanwhile, Apple isn’t leaving it to sysadmins or mere users to update their Macs. While the company usually pushes out its patches and pesters with popups to install them, an update to fix a vulnerability in the system’s network time protocol was delivered over the Internet and automatically installed. (In other Apple news, the company has recently added a Tumblr blog and an Instagram account for iTunes.)

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably gotten a message from the site about the yet-again revamped privacy policy that goes into effect in January 2015. In a nutshell, the letter describes a new tool called Privacy Basics and some other modifications to the policy.

failThe proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable has been given a time out. The Federal Communications Commission paused its regulatory review of the $45 billion dollar deal this week when it discovered that thousands of requested documents from Time Warner were improperly withheld from the agency and another 31,000 did not get submitted properly due to “vendor error.” The FCC sent a letter to Time Warner, Comcast and Charter Communications saying it was going to “stop its informal 180-day transaction clock until January 12, 2015.”

lyricsMany of us have looked up song lyrics on the web for various reasons, but if you use Google for the search, you just may get those lyrics back at the top of your results page in that Knowledge Graph area. Not every song-lyrics search out there returns Google’s own results, but for those that do, you also get a link to the Google Play store for the full set and a link to buy the corresponding song. Google’s intentions may be a bit transparent there, but not as crystal-clear as the latest version of its own Transparency Report that tracks government requests for information. In a post on the Google Public Policy Blog, legal director Trevor Callaghan reports that from June to December 2013, Google received 3,105 government requests to remove 14,637 pieces of content.

The Hyperloop, the Elon Musk futuristic mass-transit project we talked about on the show last year could be moving farther from fantasy and closer to fact. JumpStartFund, the project’s developers have released a 76-page white paper detailing the current state of the system. The project’s managers are also thinking that the Hyperloop could be a reality within 10 years. Buckle up.

hyper

Roberto Orci is not going to be sitting in the director’s chair for Star Trek 3, but Deadline.com and a few other Hollywood publications are reporting that Jason Lin — known for his work on the Fast & Furious franchise — will be taking over on the third film. It’s due out in July 2016, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek‘s first broadcast in September 1966.

NASA’s Orion space capsule is home for the holidays. After its post-orbit splashdown in the Pacific on December 5th, the capsule took a week-long cross-country roadtrip back to Cape Canaveral, arriving on December 18th. Scientists are digging into the data collected during its trip around the Earth, and NASA has released images and video taken by the Orion capsule as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere.

The VentureBeat site claims Amazon is working on an update for its epic fail of a smartphone. No comment from Amazon, but the Fire Phone 2 is rumored for 2016. The six people who bought the original Fire Phone will probably be due for an upgrade by then.

810And finally, even though that hotly anticipated Fire Phone 2 may not be out next year, Mashable as a story on five smartphone innovations that are coming out in 2015. The predictions are based on the arrival of Qualcomm’s powerful new Snapdragon 810 processor and what it can do for the smartphone experience. If the predictions hold up, we’ll be using these powerful new phones as PCs and gaming consoles when we’re not enjoying their superior video and audio capabilities. It’s something to look forward to in the new year, along of course, with the return of Orphan Black on BBC America in April and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December.

Episode 33 News: “Siri, Get Me Tickets for ‘Star Wars VII,’ NOW!”

Data Privacy Day is January 28th each year, so start planning your 2014 parties now! Twitter and Google celebrated the event this week by releasing stats for requests from government and rights holders concerning material on the sites. To check out the stats in detail, visit Twitter’s transparency page and Google’s Transparency Report.

While Google was talking about privacy this week, it also unveiled a more detailed map of North Korea, a country known for its intensely reclusive approach to privacy. The map, created by the help of citizen cartographers including some from South Korea, shows subway stops, schools and hospitals in the capital, Pyongyang.

haretvA digital edition of Anne Frank’s diary is now available as an app for the iPad and the Barnes & Noble Nook in the United Kingdom, with a US release expected to follow. If you find your 64-gigabyte iPad is stuffed to the max, Apple just announced a bigger capacity version of its fourth-generation iPad and the company also released iOS 6.1 this week. The update contains the usual security and bug fixes as well as the ability to tell the Siri assistant to buy you movie tickets with Fandango. The little black Apple TV also got a software update, which now lets the set-top box work with Apple’s Bluetooth wireless keyboard (and other Bluetooth keyboards), and manage music better.

Facebook had an update for its iOS app as well, a week after it updated the Android version of its mobile software with voicemail, video recording and other perks. Twitter’s video-sharing service, Vine, arrived week the iPhone and iPod Touch and is already a favorite for people who like to share those really special pornographic moments.

Research in Motion held is BlackBerry OS 10 launch this week. In addition to announcing new phones and software and changing its corporate name to “BlackBerry,” the company confirmed that the BB10 OS is will eventually make its way to the BlackBerry Playbook tablet.

Yahoo is also trying to climb back from mediocrity and beat its fourth-quarter earnings estimates by 14 percent and YouTube is set to launch channels that require paid subscriptions. Microsoft has finally officially launched Office 2013 desktop productivity software and its Office 365 premium Web service this week.

Up on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover continues its testing in preparation for drilling into a rock to collect a sample. And while the rover going through drilling drills is exciting, it was the news about J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars VII that really sent a tremor through the Force. (The announcement even inspired an online musical number with a tap-dancing Darth Vader.) A new hope for the galaxy, indeed.