News

USPS being destroyed not just over election, but for replacement with FEDEX/UPS/DHL/etc

(August 15, 2020)

The US Postal Service has existed for over 200 years, and is a vitally important part of America. It reaches into every last nook and cranny in the USA, delivering mail and packages through all kinds of weather. But short term political calculations seem to have driven the Trump Administration to destroy the US Postal Service. According to the mass media this was undertaken as an election tactic, to prevent the voters from mailing in ballots. But it's been a long time dream in so-called-Conservative circles to eliminate the USPS so that entrepreneurs can can do the job more efficiently, as they claim.

It's true that Pres. Trump has repeatedly attacked the US Postal Service, and the USPS is removing mailboxes and sorting machines. What's uncertain whether these moves are solely focused on the 2020 election, or whether it is to fulfill a long-standing Conservative/Corporatist goal of replacing the USPS with for-profit commercial service providers.

COVID-19 origin in question due to early detection in Barcelona on March 2019 and Milan in December 2019

(July 25, 2020) The official story of the origin of COVID-19 (SARS-nCOV-2) is an origin in a Wet Market (market where live exotic animals are sold) in Wuhan China, and that the virus made a jump from Bats to Humans. They eat bats in China, by the way. According to this Oxford Univ researcher, samples of COVID-19 RNA were found in samples from the Barcelona sewage system in March 2019, and other sewage systems in Europe a little later. That indicates an earlier spread of the virus and raising doubts about the official story.

U of Houston researchers develop COVID-19-killing air filter for HVAC systems

(July 11, 2020) Rather than sit around moaning about being unable to do anything because COVID-19 fears say we can't go anywhere, researchers at the University of Houston went to the lab and developed a “catch and kill” air filter that can trap the virus responsible for COVID-19, killing it instantly. The device is simply a nickel "foam" air filter, that is heated to a temperature that kills pathogens. That's it, very simple, and shown to be effective at killing 98% of COVID-19, as well as other pathogens, in one pass through the filter.

Pres. Trump endorses violent response to Minneapolis protests, earns Twitter warning

(May 29, 2020) In what is sure to earn another Trump tirade, Twitter has put a warning on his tweet this morning threatening a violent response to protests in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis (and elsewhere around the country) have seen some violence, with a police station burned, other buildings burned, a shooting in another city, and so forth. Into this maelstrom of emotional outburst, Pres. Trump threatens to start shooting people, causing Twitter to add a label reading "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."

Pres. Trump attacks Internet after Twitter adds fact-checking to his tweets

(May 28, 2020) President Trump is engaging in a multi-front war against mail-in-voting, and on one of those fronts Twitter started adding fact-checking links to Trump's tweets. Today, President Trump responded by issuing an Executive Order that aims to regulate how social media companies moderate the content posted on their networks. We've known all along that Pres. Trump has strong authoritarian tendencies, and this is a clear example of Trump's belief in ruling by dictate.

Raspberry Pi 4 gets 8gb memory, USB Boot, and 64 bit OS, heralding new use as desktop system

(May 28, 2020) A cluster of Raspberry Pi announcements has us thinking "Desktop Computer from Raspberry Pi?" Last week videos started circulating showing how to boot a Raspberry Pi from USB, then today the Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled an 8GB model, and support for a 64 bit version of Raspberry Pi OS (formerly known as Raspbian). Taken together this vastly increases the possibilities for how this diminutive humble little computer can be used.

Video on internal UV light COVID-19 treatment supposedly yanked from YouTube

(April 28, 2020) A few days ago Pres. Trump made a strange statement about using ultraviolet light inside the body as a COVID-19 treatment. At first that seemed like another of Trump's stupid ideas, but then news surfaced of a company (Aytu Bioscience) who has licensed just such a technology from Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and is rapidly trying to commercialize it. But then YouTube seems to have pulled a video from the company touting the technology, followed by a right wing agitator trying to gin up a controversy via a series of Twitter posts. The agitator is claiming this matches an existing pattern where YouTube is supposedly suppressing right wing conservatives because YouTube supposedly has a liberal bias.

Instacart shoppers planning strike next week amidst huge demand from customers sheltering from Coronavirus

(March 29, 2020) The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is well underway, with people around the world following shelter-in-place orders. To get food some of us have turned to Instacart (and other delivery services) to have food brought to our homes, rather than to risk virus exposure in the stores. That means Instacart's Shoppers are risking virus exposure in the store, rather than those of us hunkering down at home. To make it worse, Instacart Shoppers, as independent contractors, do not have the protections a regular employee would have. As a result, a group of Instacart Shoppers plan to stage a strike next week.

Sen. Sanders, others, question Amazon about COVID-19 safety in its warehouse and shipping operations

(March 27, 2020) With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to stay at home, many are turning to online retailers like Amazon to delivery necessary supplies. But if the shipping facilities are themselves infected with COVID-19, the infection can reach into our houses even if we don't go outside. Sen. Bernie Sanders and others have sent queries to Amazon over whether conditions in Amazon's warehouses are safe for workers, and by extension safe for the products shipped through those facilities.

Romanian tech lab, Modulab, develops autonomous disinfection robot amid Coronavirus worries

(March 27, 2020) With the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic well underway we all face a challenge of protection against a disease where only a small number of people have immunity. A technology team in Romania has developed an autonomous robot capable of disinfecting an area regardless of what pathogen is present, meaning it is useful not only for COVID-19 but for any other similar disease in the future. The new robot is the teams first prototype, and they are aiming to develop it further, and to find interested agencies who want to buy copies.

Apple updates MacBook Air, Mac Mini and launches new iPad Pro, all with more goodness

(March 18, 2020) Today, Apple released some long expected updates to the MacBook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro. The MacBook Air received the long-awaited new Magic Keyboard which promises to fix the deep badness that is the Butterfly keyboard, while also getting performance and storage boosts. For the Mac Mini, you have to read carefully to even know it was updated, the newer model has performance and storage boosts. The new iPad Pro gets a long list of new features, from trackpad support to improved cameras to pro audio support and to a LIDAR sensor.

Cyber-attack intrusion into energy infrastructure causes 2-day outage

(February 18, 2020) The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced today it had recently worked on a cybersecurity threat to the operational network of a natural gas compression facility. Such facilities compress natural gas, and presumably the CISA is referring to a facility that prepares CNG for sale to other countries. The cyber-attack caused a couple days of outage, and the facility lost revenue for those two days. While there was no immediate threat -- the attacker had access to the control system, and instead of leaving behind a ransomware attack could have caused damage to systems.

Of course people are confusing Corona Beer with the Coronavirus, unfortunately

(January 30, 2020) The Coronavirus is apparently a very serious issue. The World Health Organization just declared a world health emergency over this disease outbreak. Since they did that after only 300 or so deaths indicates that officials see something serious in the pattern of this disease that it is feared it will become a major problem. On the other hand there is a spike in Google Searches for the phrase "corona beer virus" - which just tells us that a lot of people are easily confused. Hey! People! It's not about Corona Beer!

Apple ditches dreaded butterfly keyboard for magic on 16 inch MacBook Pro

(November 13, 2019) The quest for thin-thin-thin-thin MacBook Pro's led Apple to introduce the Butterfly keyboard with the 2015 Retina MacBook Pro. While it made the MBP ultra-thin, the keyboard is widely reviled and extremely prone to breaking. The Retina MBP butterfly keyboard is one of the reasons to avoid all MacBook's from 2015 to 2019 model years. Back in July rumors were that Apple would replace the MBP keyboard with a radically different design. Today Apple fixes that with a new 16 inch MacBook Pro that has improved CPU, improved graphics, faster memory, and a whole new keyboard. It's not the bendable glass keyboard rumored back in July, and instead the keyboard was borrowed from the Magic keyboard shipping with iMac's. The new keyboard uses a scissor design as did the pre-Butterfly keyboards, but Apple didn't simply revert to the older design. Instead created a new scissor switch design based on the aforementioned Magic keyboard. The CPU and GPU improvements are also worth mentioning, but the keyboard was such a sore point with users to prevent us from talking about anything else. Oh, by the way, Apple also updated the Mac Pro and its associated ultra-pricey display, but the MacBook Pro keyboard took up all the space. Apple's press release below has all the information.

Microsoft announces readiness to join OpenJDK project, any sign of Hell Freezing Over?

(October 30, 2019) Today Microsoft sent an email to the primary mailing list of the OpenJDK project making an announcement many thought would never happen. That Microsoft is ready to contribute work to the OpenJDK project. Those of us with long enough memory recall the turmoil in the software industry because of Microsoft's predatory approach to Java nearly twenty years ago. In recent years Microsoft has had a huge change of policy, and is now readily working with all kinds of open source projects. That Microsoft is willing to join the OpenJDK project is a grand step forward, and is incredibly welcomed.

Twitter reminds us we are the product, by providing our data to 'partners'

(August 7, 2019) Remember - if you're using a service for free, that means you are the product. Twitter, Facebook, etc, are rich well funded companies, but the service they provide is free for the users. How do these companies make their money by offering a free service? Recently Twitter disclosed they've been sharing data with "partners", but they've now stopped doing so. Honest injun.

Pres. Trump attacks Internet after white supremacist massacres in Texas and Ohio

(August 5, 2019) Today Pres. Trump, in a statement about about the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend, called for an end to activities on social media networks which incite hatred and violence. In the speech he blamed everyone else but his own actions as being the source of this violence. While the other things named, video game violence, online radicalization, and so on, are partly to blame for the rising violence, Pres. Trump's own words and deeds are also to blame.

The case of Pres. Trump and the two-headed Presidential seal from an alternative universe where Trump is a Russian agent

(July 26, 2019) On Tuesday, at the Turning Point USA conference, President Trump appeared at a campaign-rally-like event where somehow a fake Presidential Seal appeared. The seal which presented on the stage behind Pres. Trump as he basked in the audiences attention, and it looked enough like the real thing to fool everyone. But it was strangely different. The eagle had two heads, and the slogan was strangely different, and so on. How did a fake Presidential Seal appear on the stage at an official President Trump event? And who created this fake seal, is a byproduct of the Internet Age.

US Dept of Justice opens investigation into Big Tech (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc)

(July 23, 2019) Today the US Dept of Justice announced an investigation into "the Practices of Market-Leading Online Platforms" as Pres. Trump continues attacking Big Tech. In the past year or so, so-called Conservatives have criticized social media platforms for supposedly silencing their voices. While the DOJ press release doesn't reference that criticism, it's very likely that the two are connected.

EU opens investigation into Amazon unfair selling practices

(July 18, 2019) On Wednesday, the European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, said the EU had begun an Investigation into whether Amazon uses data from 3rd party retailers in order to gain an unfair advantage in selling its own products. The issue is one American lawmakers, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has raised, namely that Amazon is both a seller in the Amazon marketplace as well as the operator. That dual role naturally raises huge questions.

FTC fines Facebook $5 Billion, which will be seen as slap on the wrist

(July 12, 2019) Today via the Wall Street Journal we learn that the Federal Trade Commission has approved a $5 billion fine against Facebook over privacy violations. But because Facebook makes so much money every year, and has billions of dollars in the bank, the company may just see it as a slap on the wrist and keep on keeping on.

MAGA Republican running for Congress sues AOC over Twitter Block

(July 10, 2019) Following a recent Federal Court ruling that Pres. Trump cannot block folks on Twitter, a MAGA Republican running for Congress has sued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) over being blocked from her personal Twitter account.

Pres. Trump like other government officials cannot block twitter users from his account

(July 9, 2019) A federal court has ruled that President Trump cannot block twitter users from seeing his postings, because he uses that account to conduct official government business. The ruling is applicable to any government official conducting official business through postings on Twitter.

FBI, ICE mined driver’s license photos for facial recognition

(July 8, 2019) Tens of millions of U.S. citizens have had their faces scanned by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without their knowledge or consent, according to new documents collected by researchers at Georgetown Law. The goal, to develop a facial recognition database that would recognize "illegal immigrants", is dubious at best. But the action was taken without approval by Congress, or the individual people.

Raspberry Pi team amps up popular Linux single-board-computer with Raspberry Pi 4 model B

(June 24, 2019) The Raspberry Pi 4 is now available at the same traditional starting price of $35. This popular linux single-board-computer (Linux SBC) comes in the same familiar form factor, but with upgraded specs across the board. Perhaps the most important is it can be purchased with up to 4GB of memory, but there's a lot more to consider.

Apple offering MacBook Pro 'Flexgate' fix - how to check if your MacBook Pro is eligible for fix

(May 22, 2019) Apple is finally admitting to the Flexgate problem affecting MacBook Pro's sold between October 2016 and February 2018. The problem was that the display cable was too short and, after repeated opening and closing of the display, the display would stop working. After many months of not saying a thing about this issue, Apple has launched the MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program in which affected laptops will receive a free fix. Curiously, earlier reports by MacBook Pro owners suggest the Flexgate problem exists in 2015 MacBook Pro's, but Apple is limiting the repair effort to 2016 MacBook Pro's.

Wikileaks founder Assange faces Espionage charges, but nothing on his role in Trump-Russia conspiracy

(May 22, 2019) In April, Julian Assange was arrested in London, and the USA immediately filed for extradition over one count of assisting in the computer hacking in 2010 that lead to the release of leaked documents. When Assange assisted in the hacking to acquire those documents, he stepped over a line. Today the USA Dept of Justice filed additional counts against Assange related to the 2010 leak, but the Dept did not file any indictment related to Assange's role in the conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government to release Clinton e-mails during the 2016 campaign.

Trump Administration bans 5G equipment from Chinese company Huawei

(May 15, 2019) Today the Trump Administration announced a ban against 5G Networking equipment supplied by Huawei, a Chinese company. The move was long expected but has to be seen within the context of the stupid trade war launched by the Trump Administration. The Administration has claimed buying networking equipment from China is a grave national security risk.

Apple's 2019 MacBook Pro - 8 core laptop

(May 12, 2019) Apple has released what it calls the fastest Mac laptop ever. The latest MacBook Pro has an 8-core 8th or 9th generation Intel Core processor allowing Apple to claim MacBook Pro now delivers two times faster performance than a quad-core MacBook Pro and 40 percent more performance than a 6-core MacBook Pro.

NY Times: Russian propaganda inflaming fake 5G Wireless Apocalypse story

(May 12, 2019) According to the NY Times, RT News (a Russian propaganda outfit) is inflaming negative stories about 5G Wireless in order to undermine The West. While RT is a Russian propaganda outfit, one wonders just how truthful this article is. The two substantive claims - RT News is inflaming the backlash on 5G Wireless - 5G Wireless is inherently safe - may be true, or may itself be talking points supplied by the 5G Wireless industry.

Wikileaks and Assange stopped being Hero's, became political hacks, according to Mueller Report

(April 21, 2019) Within the released and redacted Mueller Report is details of Julian Assange's efforts to ensure Wikileaks played a partisan role in the US Election of 2016. Wikileaks portrays itself as a journalistic organization, but Assange's effort to play a role in ensuring Clinton lost is not the action of a journalist. Journalists do not pick sides, but report events. Some wish us to see Assange as some kind of hero of the people. Perhaps Assange and Wikileaks used to play a positive hero-of-the-people role, but taking sides in political contests has destroyed that image of Wikileaks.

Atty General Barr clears Trump of collusion because of single charge against Wikileaks founder Assange

(April 18, 2019) Last weeks arrest of Julian Assange is playing a strange role in US Attorney General William Barr's decision around whether the Trump Campaign is guilty of conspiracy with Wikileaks to damage the Clinton Campaign by releasing stolen emails. The USA has charged Assange with a single count from 10 years ago of aiding Bradley Manning (now known as Chelsea Manning) break into top secret computers to steal documents that were then released by Wikileaks. The line of reasoning behind the single charge for Assange is also crucial in saying the Trump Campaign did no wrong, in Barr's eyes.

Samsung Fold, the first foldable cellphone - screens break in reviewers hands - similar to Apple Flexgate

(April 18, 2019) With great fanfare Samsung recently introduced the Samsung Fold, it is a cellphone with the first foldable screen on any device. That sounds kind of cool, that you might not require adding a screen protector to keep the screen safe. If it works I'm sure all the cool kids will salivate over it. But, in light of the Apple Flexgate problem we should not be surprised to learn that screens on the Samsung Fold's given to Tech Reviewers are breaking.

FCC warns against illegal set-top streaming devices

(April 17, 2019) The FCC is charged with enforcing rules about radio-frequency equipment like WiFi devices. Seeing an increase in uncertified video set-top boxes, the FCC issued a warning last week that manufacturers and retailers of such products are subject to huge fines, and everyone should stop using these things.

Wikileaks founder Assange arrested, not charged in leaking Clinton emails during 2016 campaign

(April 11, 2019) The USA is extraditing Julian Assange from British custody after he was arrested today on an outstanding warrant from 2012. Assange has not been charged with his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 elections, but has curiously been charged with a single count from 2010.

Facebook has/had hundreds of millions of account passwords stored as plain text

(March 21, 2019) The latest Facebook security fiasco is that plain-text text files containing hundreds of millions of Facebook account passwords were kept on Facebook internal servers. It is thought these password files were not available to the public, but still represent a security risk because Facebook employees could then access and use those passwords for who-knows-what purposes.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan calls for Amazon HQ2 in Youngstown Ohio area

(February 18, 2019) With Amazon's decision to cancel plans for Amazon HQ2 in Queens NY, other locales could be jockeying for attention. In this interview, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D) makes the case for Ohio as the best location for Amazon HQ2. There are many locales around the country with airports and universities where America's high-tech industry could locate their operations.

Amazon cancels planned HQ2 in Queens NY after massive protest by locals

(February 14, 2019) In November, Amazon stunned folks across the country by announcing plans to build an HQ2 facility in Queens NY, and another HQ2 facility in Arlington VA. The Queens location became controversial almost immediately, and today Amazon announced cancellation of the Queens HQ2 project. In canceling the project, Amazon said they would not reopen the HQ2 search at this time, meaning Amazon is missing out yet again on the opportunity to expand in the Midwest.

Amazon uses dirty energy, failing at clean energy promise, says Greenpeace

(February 14, 2019) Despite a promise to use clean renewable energy, Amazon's largest data center in North Virginia is wholly dependent on dirty electricity from coal and natural gas. Loudoun County Virginia, colloquially known as Data Center Alley, thanks to the many Internet hubs in the Reston/Herndon/Ashburn area, and is served by a utility, Dominion Energy, that relies heavily on coal and natural gas. One of Amazon's biggest AWS hubs is located there, as are data centers owned by many tech giants.

Amazon's missed opportunity with HQ2 choice - Midwest USA versus NYC and Washington DC

(November 13, 2018) After several months of looking for "HQ2", it's new headquarters for the USA, Amazon has chosen two locations - Queens NY and Arlington VA. Each location will house about 25,000 employees and there are hopes of rehabilitating or diversifying the economies of each area. But, while this choice is good for those two locations, it represents a missed opportunity. Plenty of locations in other parts of the country could use the sort of economic injection Amazon HQ2 represents, at a lower cost to Amazon for office space.

USA advanced weapons systems vulnerable to attack over Internet, weak cybersecurity

(October 11, 2018) It's a brave new world. Consider a military warplane flying into battle, or a warship engaged in a sea battle, or a tank battle. In the past that military equipment was standalone, with communications limited to voices speaking over the radio. Now such equipment is connected in a digital communications network using the same technology as the Internet. A recent US Government Accountability Office report found these systems are vulnerable to attacks due to weak cybersecurity. One wonders if the result might be an airplane plummeting out of the sky, or a tank stopping in its tracks, or the guns on a warship going silent, during combat, because the adversary hacked into critical systems.

Microsoft throws its patent library behind Linux, not quite open-sourcing its patents

(October 11, 2018) As a software developer coming of age in the 1980s, Microsoft was the enemy. During the 1990s I worked for three companies that died or nearly died because Microsoft yawned and stretched its arms a little bit. Microsoft was brutal about dominating the PC market with its operating systems, and software developers chafed under their restrictions. But, something shifted, and over the last few years Microsoft got the open source religion. The various actions Microsoft has taken should make us all rethink labeling Microsoft as the enemy. Today Microsoft has pivoted its strategy around patents. Where Microsoft was formerly threatening the open source world with its patent pool, Microsoft has now joined the Open Invention Network, a multi-company patent pool that is protecting Linux.

Slackified Google+ coming to G Suite by August 2019

(October 9, 2018) On Monday Google announced it was shutting down Google Plus following a review of the Google product line-up. Most of the news coverage is focusing on a bug that probably revealed user data. While that bug surely weighed on the decision, from the official blog post it is clear, irregardless of any bug, Google was going to pivot Google Plus to an Enterprise offering through the G Suite product line.

Facebook demotes news from liberal website on conservative site's say-so

(September 11, 2018) Recently many Conservative politicians and the Conservative-friendly news outlets have been beating the war drums against Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al, because of supposed censorship of Conservative viewpoints. The evidence is weak on this, because the culprit is the algorithms for presenting search results. The irony is rich to learn that a Conservative news outlet, a designated Facebook fact checking organization, have labeled news from a Liberal-leaning news outlet as "false". Meaning that Liberal-leaning news is being downgraded by Facebook, when the actual news piece is entirely factual, solely on the say-so of a Conservative-leaning news outlet that has a long history of printing mistruths.

Dept of Justice starts threatened attack on tech companies over supposed stifling of ideas

(September 5, 2018) Following a rage-tweeting incidents where Donald Trump attacked Twitter, Facebook, et al, over supposedly stifling of Conservative voices, and describing it as a serious situation, and threatening that it "will be addressed", the US Department of Justice is starting to put some oomph behind that threat. While representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared before a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Justice issued a statement that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will convene a meeting with several US State Attorneys General to discuss "a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms".

NSF launches an Institute to manage huge data output from Large Hadron Collider

(September 4, 2018) The upgraded Large Hadron Collider is expected to produce 1 billion particle collisions every second, of which only a fraction are the collisions that physicists want to study. To weed out the collisions of interest will require a big data software system on a massive scale to essentially find the needle in the haystack. That is, the interesting collisions in a flood of humdrum everyday collisions. When the LHC is fully operational in 2026 scientists will be completely buried in data unless they develop better tools. To that end the NSF is funding a new institute explicitly for that purpose.

Trump rage-Google's himself, rants about conspiracy to silence Conservative voices

(August 28, 2018) In a series of tweets this morning President Trump demonstrates how little he understands search engines and ranking algorithms. The President claimed that Google is stifling "Conservative" news outlets, that 96% of news search results are slanted against Conservatives by the "National Left-Wing Media" and other Liberal establishments like Google. This attack follows recent similar attacks against Twitter and Facebook and the supposed "shadow banning" exercised to keep folks from seeing Conservative views. What this really shows is either that Trump does not understand how search engines and ranking algorithms work, or else that Trump and his cronies are propping up a fake controversy. Based on this misportrayal of Google/Twitter/Facebook policies, the Trump Administration is promising to "look into" regulating these services, raising the chilling prospect of using this to then stifle actual freedom of speech.

Facebook usage may fuel anti-refugee violence in Germany

(August 21, 2018) What steers a peaceful young man to commit violence? We say Muslims can be radicalized by information they find online, causing them to commit violence like terrorist missions. What if that person is instead an American, or German, practicing Christianity, who suddenly commits violence? A recent study of anti-refugee attacks in Germany suggest a strong correlation with Facebook usage, especially if one is flocking to hard-line right-wing groups or postings.