The SDK: 2015.11.06

My Little Toaster, & Some Other Clarifications

Digital Transformation Going Mainstream in 2016, IDC Predicts, New York Times, Nov. 4, 2015
“The IDC report foresees big growth for Internet of Things devices and for the software needed to make sense of all the sensor data. By 2018, IDC predicts, the number of Internet of Things devices will more than double, prompting the development of 200,000 new apps. In the near future, companies lacking an Internet of Things strategy and expertise, the IDC report said, will be ‘like individuals functioning without most of their five senses.'”
Note: If you are like most people (in that you’re not an Engineer), and don’t quite get what the “Internet of Things” is yet:
Put simply, instead of just being websites (like you’re probably used to seeing), like this blog, the Internet of Things (IoT) is comprised of… well… things. Except for that those things have something called an “IP address” (which I would need another blog post to explain fully) which allow them to talk to each other and to other IP addresses (like websites). These things are special. Typically, they are sensors of some kind, and they communicate in an effort to convey the information they sensed. 
I often refer to this notion as “ET phone home!”, like when my printer contacted the ink company, all on its own, when it senses that it’s ink levels were low.  Another example is Phillip’s Hue lightbulb, which has partnerships with multiple things (including Fitbit) in an effort to better automate your life. With Fitbit, you can tell your lightbulb how long you want to have slept before it slowly wakes you up like a pleasant sun (rather than an awful beeping noise).   In this example, the “IoT” is simply the name for the way Fitbit & the Phillips Hue Lightbulb communicate.

A cartoonist was kind enough to illustrate (pun intended!) this one for you all:

FCC fines Cox for falling for Lizard Squad scam, exposing customer data, Ars Technica, Nov. 6, 2015

“‘Hi, I’m from IT’ call yielded access to customer records, lulz; Cox fined $596k.”
Note: the notes for this article will be in the form of hypothetical questions & their real-life answers.

Q: What did Cox do that I should avoid doing?
A: Many things, but the #1 most important is to never ever click on a link in message where you are not absolutely certain of the source. The hacker convinced the Cox employees that he worked in the IT department, and when they clicked on the link the hacker sent, he gained access to their log in credentials. It was all down hill from there.

Q: Is clicking on a link really illegal??
A: With respect to this scenario, the reason Cox was fined $596k is because the Communications Act, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, requires “that cable operators such as Cox must ‘take such actions as are necessary to prevent unauthorized access to such information by a person other than the subscriber or cable operator.'” Which, of course, is an extremely straight-forward and easy-to-understand standard 😉
Essentially, Cox should have complied with industry standards for data protection. Which they clearly didn’t.

Q: Ok, but $596k seems a tad excessive.
A: Maybe, except for that “Cox never directly informed customers of the breach or reported the breach to the FCC.” So that pretty much earned them a giant fine + “the Federal Communications Commission watching its every information security move for the next seven years.”

Summary: Review your company’s data protection policies. The FCC isn’t messing around.

Colbert talks about a possible Russian attack on undersea internet cables, Slate, Nov. 4, 2015
“Colbert also used the news story as an opportunity to teach people about the infrastructure of the Internet. “First of all—what is the Internet doing underwater?” he joked. “Last time I checked I’m not supposed to get my computer wet. … What happened to the cloud? I was told there was a cloud.” It may sound silly, but it’s not unimportant to remind people that the Internet isn’t quite the omnipresent spirit entity it appears to be. Connectivity exists because of very real physical infrastructure.”
Note: Seriously though. Even I forget sometimes that, in 2009, this was “the Atlantic’s newest and most advanced submarine cable system. It [was] so powerful that it could carry the entire internet content in both directions.”

You May Say I’m A Dreamer But I’m Not the Only One
Robot Toddler Learns to Stand by “Imagining” How to Do It, MIT Technology Review, Nov. 6, 2015

“Like many toddlers, Darwin sometimes looks a bit unsteady on its feet. But with each clumsy motion, the humanoid robot is demonstrating an important new way for androids to deal with challenging or unfamiliar environments. The robot learns to perform a new task by using a process somewhat similar to the neurological processes that underpin childhood learning.”

SWIFT LEARNING: New bot uses Taylor Swift-inspired lyrics to describe what it sees, Fusion, Nov. 6, 2015

“Samim Winiger, a self-described artificial-intelligence experimenter, designed an image-recognizing computer brain trained on dozens of Taylor Swift songs. When the bot looks at photos, it now describes them in a Swiftian way. Winiger then set the impressive, but absurd, results to music.”
Note: In fairness, I pretty much describe the Workd using T-Swift lyrics (see ).

Victory! From Jailbreaking Phones to Fixing Your Car, Users’ Rights to Tinker Reaffirmed, EFF, Oct. 27, 2015
In fairness, this summary came from the EFF newsletter, not the blog piece I linked to.
“The new exemptions mean that the following types of technological tinkering are explicitly lawful, at least for the next three years:

  • Jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software;
  • Ripping DVDs and Blu-ray video that you own in order to create fair use remixes and analysis;
  • Preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them;
  • Security research and modification and repairs on car.”

Note: Though there were (and are) various points of contention, if the car-tinkering piece had come out any other way, the future of the concept of “working on your car” would have gotten very strange. Can you imagine not being able to do yourself whatever the future equivalent of changing your oil yourself winds up being? Or not being able to customize parts of your engine? I mean, without a depot entrenched history in America of tinkering with automobiles, we wouldn’t have such classics as Fast and the Furious 😀

Candy Crushed
Beware: New Android malware is ‘nearly impossible’ to remove, The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2015
“New strains of Android malware are masquerading as popular apps like “Candy Crush” and Snapchat, but once installed dig themselves so deeply into smartphones they are “nearly impossible” to remove,and could force people to replace their devices, according to cybersecurity firm Lookout.”
Note: As the article goes on to say, there’s a pretty easy way to avoid this:
“Only install apps from Google’s official Play Store.”
I know, I know, that’s no fun at all. Especially if you got an Android purely for independence. But if you got your Android so that you could develop software… Maybe find a better way to spend your off-time than playing Candy Crush or using Snapchat. You are way too cool for that.

Airbnb defeated Prop F. What it means for everywhere else, Fusion, Nov. 4, 2015
“He told me that people should be able to do whatever they want with their own apartment so long as they actually live there and those that live near them are okay with it and have avenues to pursue legal action if they aren’t.”
Note: Well yes, you probably shouldn’t be able to list an apartment in Airbnb that you don’t live in 🙂

New U.K. online surveillance proposal could have international reach, The Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2015 The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill released by British Home Secretary Theresa May Wednesday would force tech companies to build intercept capabilities into encrypted communications and require telecommunications companies to hold on to records of Web sites visited by citizens for 12 months so the government can access them, critics allege.

Facebook ads are about to get even more personal, The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2015
Facebook “is offering small businesses new location-aware adverts, to let them distinguish between users in different places.”
Scarier: “That information includes standard advertising metrics like age and gender, but also facts like the proportion of people passing who are local residents versus tourists. The feature also lets businesses link (in aggregate) the people who have seen their ads to the people actually passing the store, so they can discover how well-targeted their adverts actually are.”
Note: Can this at least mean that if I buy a product the store will recognize that & at least start advertising a different product to me? Because that would be a nice consolation prize.

Netizen Report: The Mexican cybercrime law that wasn’t, Slate, Nov. 4, 2015
“Known as the Fayad law, it contained broad language that conflated everyday computer activities with criminal acts. For example, the law made it illegal to “willfully destroy, disable, damage or perform any act that alters the functioning of a computer system.” While this may have been intended to target individuals actively seeking to harm others’ computer systems, the act of “altering the function of a computer system” could be as simple as running a software update or changing one’s operating system. The law proposed five to 15 years’ jail time for this offense.”
Note: I definitely punish myself enough when I update my Operating System before absolutely necessary. Let’s just leave 5-15 years of jail time out of this, and let me cry in the dark corner while I’m forced to find another way to contact help (or God forbid Tech Support. Does the Mexican Givernment realize that Tech Support alone is a bad enough punishment??).


FBI official: It’s America’s choice whether we want to be spied on , Ars Technica, Nov. 4, 2015 ““There are many ways to think about the ‘going dark’ problem,” [FBI General Counsel James Baker] said. “At the most fundamental level, it really is about the relationship between the people and the government, in particular… when it relates to surveillance by the government of the people and under what set of circumstances do the people want that to happen. What do you want us to do and what risks are you willing to take on all sides of the equation?””
Note: ummm… ok. its nice to hear both sides… *awkwardly shuffles away*

The Digital Disparities Facing Lower-Income Teenagers, New York Times, Nov. 3, 2015

At a time when school districts across the United States are introducing digital learning tools for the classroom and many teachers give online homework assignments, new research suggests that the digital divide among teenagers may be taking a disproportionate toll on their homework as well.
Note: “In households without regular computer or Internet access, she added, some teenagers resort to doing their homework on smartphones.” So that means there are homes where students have a smartphone, but not a computer. It’s possible that those students already have older smartphones, but if they have newer smartphones and no computer, that just seems like a connection-type choice. With an older smartphone on tether mode, students could purchase an inexpensive laptop with the money saved from not upgrading their phones, and they could use the same data access to do work on a larger screen.

As a Bonus For Making It This Far
The Dipper Audio Necklace by Tinsel, Indiegogo

“Premium headphones made into a necklace that sounds as good as it looks.”
Note: So, unfortunately, you can’t order one unless you were already on their preorder list. But I wanted you to be aware that they exist & got funded because this is really really cool!!! (I wear my earbuds regularly and they’re nowhere close to this cute)

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