Blog Index for June 2018

SD Express, finally an SD card that doesn't suck - 985MB/sec 128 TB maximum

(June 29, 2018) SD Cards are convenient bits of storage you can slide in and out of computers, cameras, and the like, but their slow performance makes them unattractive for anything much. Plus SD cards are not exactly reliable, so anything put on a card can easily be lost. This week the SD Association announced an update to the SD Card standard, SD Express, that promises to solve the speed problems and stands to make SD cards more equal to SSD drives.

Facial recognition technology used to solve cases like Capitol Gazette newspaper shooting in Annapolis

(June 29, 2018)

The immediate reaction on Thursday to the Capitol Gazette newspaper shooting was that the climate of violence encouraged by Pres. Trump, all the vindictive aimed at newspapers by Trump, has resulted in some lunatic acting out the grievances inflamed by Trump's rhetoric. In other words, some Patriot believing the Capitol Gazette to be a hub of Liberal nonsense could have decided to shoot the place up. Supposedly the shooter, to mess up law enforcement efforts, had damaged his fingerprints, and did not carry identification, making us think maybe this was some kind of terror attack. At the end of the day, "Facial Recognition Technology" was used to identify the shooter as a person with a long-standing personal grievance against the staff of that newspaper, because of reporting by that newspaper about that person.

In other words, there is no nefarious dark scheme here. While it is true that Pres. Trump, and others in his administration, are inflaming the public against journalists with eery similarity to the Nazi Germany playbook, this particular case is a straight-up personal grievance. And, we have proof that while we should be concerned about big brother implications of facial recognition technology, in some cases like this one the technology is higly useful.

Google employees demand AI rules to preclude use as weapons

(June 28, 2018)

Google's culture of open free-flowing discussion could be ending in the wake of an uproar over Google's partnership with the US Dept. of Defense, called Project Maven, on AI software to analyze drone footage. Since Google's participation in Project Maven was publicly revealed in March, a raging debate with Google has swirled around whether the company famous for its "Do No Evil" slogan should be involved with making weapons. Googlers even sent an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai starting with the declaration "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war." That letter flatly called for Google's participation in Project Maven to be canceled.

On June 27, 2018, it is learned that Google has instituted new rules for internal discussion and workplace conduct within the company.

Inside the RFID cards running a cashier-less shop in China

(June 22, 2018) Scotty from Strange Parts stumbled across a cashier-less store in Yiwu City, China, that may predate the cashier-less stores fielded by Amazon and others in the USA. In this store every product has an RFID tag, and the checkout process involves reading the RFID tags and using a smart phone to read QR codes on a screen to approve the purchase. Inside the RFID tag is a curious little chip, and the opportunity to talk with some experts on such technology about how RFID tags work, and the equipment used in studying and designing these tags.

Amazon employees demand stopping face-recognition contract with federal government

(June 22, 2018) Among the Amazon Web Services is Rekognition, a facial recognition system running on Amazon's cloud. Anyone can sign up with the service, to have video analyzed to identify people or objects. Turns out the federal government is using this service for various tasks including deportation and detention programs run by ICE, the Immigration Control force. A group of Amazon employees have written to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon not do as IBM did during the 1940's when IBM's systems were used by Nazi Germany to help round up the Jews.

Apple might not actually be ignoring the Mac

(June 15, 2018)

Despite appearances to the contrary, Apple might not be ignoring the Mac, instead Apple might be on the verge of announcing some big things regarding the Mac. Long-time Apple-oriented tech journalist Rene Ritchie tries to make the case that Apple has been making significant changes to the Mac, and has some interesting stuff in store. And, he points to a recent series of advertisements that Apple is indeed still focusing on Mac development.

Will Microsoft be able to steal from private Github repositories?

(June 11, 2018)

The biggest concern with Microsoft's Github acquisition is whether Microsoft will do something evil with the private repositories stored on Github. Some of Microsoft's competitors use Github, and they should be concerned. Any company has to be worried about leakage of intellectual property -- with Microsoft ownership, does that risk increase?

Inside a huge Printed Circuit Board factory in China

(June 11, 2018) Curious how the printed circuit boards in electronics gadgets are made? Scotty from Strange Parts takes us to a PCB Factory in China, showing us the manufacturing process from design files to the finished product.

Microsoft is buying Github, the end of the world?

(June 4, 2018)

Invoking memories of The Empire Strikes Back when Lando Calrissian warns everyone in his city that the Empire has taken over, I awoke this morning to news that Microsoft is buying Github. Microsoft has long been the arch enemy of open source advocates like myself. But the irony in this is that I'm a happy user of Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, and am using that editor to write this post. Truth is that Microsoft is seeming to be changing for the better.

Apple introduces macOS Mojave

(June 4, 2018)

Today's release of a new macOS appears not befitting of a major version upgrade to a major operating system. The feature list here is a bunch of simple additions and changes, and does not describe any deep or significant update to the operating system. Between this and the migration of iOS application frameworks to macOS is what gives us the justification to think Apple is slowly abandoning the Mac. Obviously the majority of Apple's income is from iOS devices which would tend to draw the attention to that market area, and away from the Mac.

Apple previews iOS 12

(June 4, 2018)