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Posts Tagged ‘computers

[LINK] “Apple smartphones affected by ‘Error 53’ spark controversy”

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The Toronto Star‘s Raju Mudhar writes about how Apple’s control-freak tendencies are resulting in consumer outrage. Justifiably, I think!

Whose iPhone is it anyway?

That’s one of the questions surrounding Apple’s smartphones after a growing number of people have reported their devices being made unusable — accompanied by an “Error 53” message — after having them fixed by a third-party repair shop.

Thousands of consumers have reportedly been affected by this error message, according to the Guardian, which has sparked talk of lawsuits against the computer giant.

Apple said in a statement that this error stems from a security feature of iOS9, related to its Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the Home button of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S models. “This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support,” the company said in a statement.

[. . .]

“It’s outrageous . . . they’re really extending their rights and reach, and it’s not clear to me the justification for doing so,” said David Fewer, director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

“Because it certainly looks like they are interfering with my property.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Economics

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “BlackBerry lays off 200 employees in Waterloo, Ont., and Sunrise, Fla.”

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CBC notes the continued decline of BlackBerry.

BlackBerry has confirmed it is laying off 200 employees, in Waterloo, Ont., where the company is headquartered, and at a manufacturing facility in Sunrise, Fla.

The company filed a worker adjustment and retraining notification with the state of Florida on Thursday to lay off 75 manufacturing workers between Feb. 4 and Feb. 26. The other 125 jobs, part of the 200 overall, would be cut from Waterloo.

BlackBerry denied reports in the tech blog Mobile Syrup, which suggested the number of layoffs at BlackBerry’s Waterloo headquarters could be as high as 1,000 people, or 35 per cent of the company’s estimated workforce.

[. . .]

The company has also parted ways with Gary Klassen, creator of BlackBerry Messenger.

“We can confirm that Gary Klassen has left BlackBerry. The company is grateful for his many contributions during his tenure and we wish him the best in his future endeavours,” said BlackBerry in a statement.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

[LINK] “Appalachian Miners Are Learning to Code”

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Tim Loh’s Bloomberg article is ensuring, but I’m wondering whether this education will be enough to reverse the awful socioeconomics of the region.

Jim Ratliff worked for 14 years in the mines of eastern Kentucky, drilling holes and blasting dynamite to expose the coal that has powered Appalachian life for more than a century.

Today, he rolls into an office at 8 a.m., settles into a small metal desk and does something that, until last year, was completely foreign to him: computer coding.

“A lot of people look at us coal miners as uneducated,” said Ratliff, a 38-year-old with a thin goatee and thick arms. “It’s backbreaking work, but there’s engineers and very sophisticated equipment. You work hard and efficiently and that translates right into coding.”

He works for Bit Source now, a Pikeville, Kentucky, startup that’s out to prove there’s life after coal for the thousands of industry veterans who’ve lost their jobs in an unprecedented rout that has already forced five major producers into bankruptcy. Bit Source has only hired 10 coders, but almost 1,000 responded to its ads as the realization spreads across Appalachia that coal’s heyday is over. What fills its void is a challenge so immense that presidential candidates including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have cited the industry’s woes on the campaign trail.

“We’ve got a lot of high-skilled hillbillies here,” said Rusty Justice, a 57-year-old co-founder of Bit Source. “We want to prove we can run a tech business from the hills of eastern Kentucky.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 3, 2016 at 5:12 pm

[LINK] “The Neurologist Who Hacked His Brain–And Almost Lost His Mind”

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Wired‘s Daniel Engber has a long-form article about a neurologist, one Paul Kennedy, who tried to anticipate the future by installing a primitive mind-machine interface in his own brain, and nearly died. We are not yet ready for this.

When Kennedy had arrived at the airport in Belize City a few days earlier, he had been lucid and precise, a 66-year-old with the stiff, authoritative good looks of a TV doctor. There had been nothing wrong with him, no medical need for Cervantes to open his skull. But Kennedy wanted brain surgery, and he was willing to pay $30,000 to have it done.

Kennedy was himself once a famous neurologist. In the late 1990s he made global headlines for implanting several wire electrodes in the brain of a paralyzed man and then teaching the locked-in patient to control a computer cursor with his mind. Kennedy called his patient the world’s “first cyborg,” and the press hailed his feat as the first time a person had ever communicated through a brain-computer interface. From then on, Kennedy dedicated his life to the dream of building more and better cyborgs and developing a way to fully digitize a person’s thoughts.

Now it was the summer of 2014, and Kennedy had decided that the only way to advance his project was to make it personal. For his next breakthrough, he would tap into a healthy human brain. His own.

Hence Kennedy’s trip to Belize for surgery. A local orange farmer and former nightclub owner, Paul Powton, had managed the logistics of Kennedy’s operation, and Cervantes—Belize’s first native-born neurosurgeon—wielded the scalpel. Powton and Cervantes were the founders of Quality of Life Surgery, a medical tourism clinic that treats chronic pain and spinal disorders and also specializes these days in tummy tucks, nose jobs, manboob reductions, and other medical enhancements.

At first the procedure that Kennedy hired Cervantes to perform—the implantation of a set of glass-and-gold-wire electrodes beneath the surface of his own brain—seemed to go quite well. There wasn’t much bleeding during the surgery. But his recovery was fraught with problems. Two days in, Kennedy was sitting on his bed when, all of a sudden, his jaw began to grind and chatter, and one of his hands began to shake. Powton worried that the seizure would break Kennedy’s teeth.

His language problems persisted as well. “He wasn’t making sense anymore,” Powton says. “He kept apologizing, ‘Sorry, sorry,’ because he couldn’t say anything else.” Kennedy could still utter syllables and a few scattered words, but he seemed to have lost the glue that bound them into phrases and sentences. When Kennedy grabbed a pen and tried to write a message, it came out as random letters scrawled on a page.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2016 at 9:17 pm

[LINK] “Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing”

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Public Radio International hosts an article noting that people read online and printed materials differently. E-books and books are not perfectly interchangeable after all.

Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC’s New Tech City, recalls a conversation with the Washington Post’s Mike Rosenwald, who’s researched the effects of reading on a screen. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed,” she says.

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Zoromodi says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”

So what’s deep reading? It’s the concentrated kind we do when we want to “immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,” Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don’t typically do on a computer. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 28, 2016 at 5:11 pm

[LINK] “Webcam search engine raises privacy concerns for connected devices”

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CTV reports on the astonishing lack of security for Internet-networked devices. The search engine in question, Shodan, might be appalled for what it enables, but the manufacturters bear much more responsibility.

A young child asleep on a couch in Israel. Mourners huddled together at a small funeral in Brazil. An elderly woman stretching in a fitness centre in Poland. All available for anyone to watch via the unsecured webcams overhead.

This isn’t “1984,” it’s the world in 2016. Shodan, a search engine that indexes computers and devices rather than information, now allows users to pull screenshots from nanny cams, security cameras and other connected devices around the world that don’t ask for a username or password.

Those screenshots are connected to an IP address, a unique identifier for each Internet connection or device that can be traced back to a general geographic area.

Anne Cavoukian, former Ontario privacy commissioner and now the executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, said she was appalled when she saw the Shodan webcam search in action.

Yet, she said, it’s only a symptom of the wider problem with the so-called Internet of Things, where many webcams and other connected devices such as wearables, TVs and thermostats ship with a low level of security — and some with none at all.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

[LINK] “Is France’s unloved AZERTY keyboard heading for the scrapheap?”

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The BBC News’ Hugh Schofield notes the belated decline of France’s AZERTY keyboard.

France’s 100 year-old AZERTY keyboard – the equivalent of the English-language QWERTY – is to be reconfigured after the government ruled that it encourages bad writing.

The AZERTY set-up has infuriated generations of writers, because of labour-creating peculiarities like the need for two strokes to make full-stops and numerals.

But official ire is directed less at such inconveniences, and more at certain quirks and oversights which, it says, make it hard to construct proper French.

“Today it is practically impossible to write French correctly using a keyboard that has been bought in France,” the ministry intones.

“More surprisingly, certain European countries like Germany and Spain respect French writing better than the French are able to – because their keyboards permit it!”

The culture ministry has commissioned Paris-based consultancy AFNOR to draw up a list of recommendations by the summer.

The aim is to produce a new standard keyboard that will gradually replace the many varieties of AZERTY currently on the market.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 25, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Economics, Science

Tagged with , , ,

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