Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wild and crazy (not always in a good way) stuff

It will surprise no one who often stops by this blog that I follow science news -- but that doesn't mean I get excited about every supposed finding. Perhaps that's because some reported results are made up. See, from Scientific American, "Publishers Withdraw More than 120 Gibberish Science and Engineering Papers." Because said papers were shown to be computer-generated nonsense!

Bigger than worlds
It should likewise be no surprise that I follow reports about hacking -- but this headline (from the IEEE) blew me away: "Hacking the Van Allen Belts: Could we save satellites and astronauts by wiping out the Van Allen belts?" I'd be loath to tinker with a system as little understood as interactions between Earth and its nearby space, but the possibility is fascinating. And I can see the case for restoring the Belts to their natural state before above-ground nuclear testing.

Because there are a lot of satellites. Don't take my word for it when you can see "Every single satellite orbiting Earth, in a single image."

Coming down to Earth, consider "How 3D printing could transform Amazon and online shopping." It'll be, IMO, more transformational than last week's splashy announcement about yet another set-top box, the Amazon Fire TV.

(If you're not yet ready to come down to Earth, a reprieve: NASA has a plan for "Building a Lunar Base with 3D Printing." If only NASA  remembered how, once upon a time, they put people there ...)

Now, back to Earth with a thump. Today's the day  Microsoft releases the final updates/patches for Windows XP. Given commonalities between XP and the more recent versions of Windows, each future batch of Windows 7/8 monthly updates, reverse engineered, becomes an instruction kit for hacking remaining copies of XP. And, the Washington Post informs us, "Government computers running Windows XP will be vulnerable." 100Ks of government computers. Because who could possible have known this day was coming? 

Oh, wait. Everyone not in a coma knew.

Across the pond, in a similar predicament, "UK government pays Microsoft £5.5M to extend Windows XP support." There's no word of the US government making a similar arrangement ...

95% or so of ATMs in the US are XP-based. It's supposedly a tailored version of XP, and banks are paying MS for additional support, but that's still (to me, anyway) cause for concern. And yet, methinks, TIME is being a bit melodramatic: "Microsoft Is About to Blow Up ATMs All Over the Country."

Do you have a beloved old app that just won't run on post-XP versions of Windows? I've encountered plenty of shallow articles about what you might do, but here (from PC World) is a rare good article: "How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support."

Meanwhile, because inviting other governments -- such as, say, free-speech bastions Russia and China -- to participate in Internet governance is such a good idea, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently published "NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Function." This, not to be coy, is a horrible idea.

How horrible? See, from The Wall Street Journal: "America's Internet Surrender: By unilaterally retreating from online oversight, the White House pleased regimes that want to control the Web."

And while I'm being alarmist, IEEE also reports "Study Suggests That You Will Obey Your Future Robot Boss." Seriously.

But all is not lost. No sirree. Nope, nope, nope. Not while technology is still used for good. Not when "Oscar Mayer Wants to Make Your iPhone Smell like Bacon."

And with that, I'm off ...

No comments: