Tag Archives: China

The Apocalypticon ~ Football narks, Hacking-tosh, Google, Japan, China, US flaming poo, Chile plastic ban


Spanish football app turns users into narks — With the World Cup just a few days away, everyone is trying to figure out the best ways to watch and keep track of their favourite teams. But before you download any apps, here’s something to think about: the La Liga app, the official streaming app for Spain’s most popular football league, has reportedly been using the microphones on fans’ phones to root out unauthorised broadcasts of matches in public venues such as bars and restaurants. [For God’s sake, is nothing sacred!?]

Apple hacks — For years, hackers could hide malware alongside legitimate Apple code and sneak it past several popular third-party security products for Mac computers, according to new research. This is not a flaw in MacOS but an issue in how third-party security tools implemented Apple’s APIs. A researcher from security firm Okta found that several security products for Mac – including Little Snitch, xFence, and Facebook’s OSquery — could be tricked into believing malware was Apple code, and let it past their defences. [But did hackers actually do this? Doesn’t appear so, so far.]

In the ‘yet  more to love about Google’ pantheon … Jarek Duda, the inventor of a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), dedicated the invention to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on his breakthrough. But Google is trying to patent a video encoding scheme using Duda’s Public Domain compression technique! The inventor is fighting Google in the European courts and has won a preliminary ruling, but Google’s still trying for a US patent for it.

Japan, for once … A bullet train en route to Tokyo reportedly struck and killed a 52-year-old man on Thursday afternoon, but the man’s death wasn’t uncovered until some 32km later, where authorities made a grisly discovery. [Yuk!]

China to track cars, too — Under the plan being rolled out July 1, a radio-frequency identification chip for vehicle tracking will now be installed on cars when they are registered. Compliance will be voluntary this year but will be made mandatory for new vehicles at the start of 2019. [China says this is to improve public surveillance …oh, sorry, they said ‘security’.]
A Chinese-linked cyber-espionage unit has hacked a data centre belonging to a Central Asian country and has embedded malicious code on government sites. The hack of the data center happened sometime in mid-November 2017, according to a report published by Kaspersky Lab.

American trampers set forest on fire with their poo — No, really. Two campers were burning poop in a hole, you know, as you do … 500 acres went up in flames. [Well, this is a country that actually voted Trump into power, so I guess I should not be all that surprised.]
Revenge porn king sues Twitter for breaching his First Amendment rights — Craig Brittain, the creator of defunct revenge porn site IsAnybodyDown who is now running for Jeff Flake’s vacated Arizona Senate seat, is suing Twitter for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights by suspending his Twitter accounts. [Again, anyone surprised?]
Illustrated conflict calendar — Here’s what a mid-level government employee working in Leavenworth, Kansas, for the US Army’s Combined Arms Combat Development Activities division, noticed about the world in the first week of March 1981: the US embassy in El Salvador was attacked (again). Lent began. It was Sonny Park’s last day in the US Army, and Walter Cronkite’s last day at CBS. Kansas won the Big 8 Tournament. He had a “nice day with Liz.” All of these details, along with many more, were recorded in brightly coloured notes and illustrations in a government-issued calendar. [Aw – stick that on the fridge.] This dude had wide-ranging interests – he chronicled truckers, terrorism, snow at home and in Lebanon, the death of a Nazi collaborator, Reagan’s 72nd birthday, Israeli politics, football results, the first female Supreme Court justice swearing in the first female Secretary of Transportation, overlong budget meetings, full moons, vernal equinoxes, Beltane, International Women’s Day, a killer tornado, Tunisian riots, trade deficits and much more.Long-term planetary offending — New research shows that even our ancestors in the Bronze Age changed the chemistry of the soils they farmed over 2000 years ago. It’s some of the earliest evidence of humans having lasting a environmental impact on planet Earth. [Um, ‘go us’?]

In good news, Chile is the first country to ban plastic bags — Chile’s Senate has passed a bill that will prohibit the use of plastic bags in stores, with a vote in their House of Representatives overwhelmingly for the measure. The new law would give large retailers one year to phase out the use of plastic bags, and smaller businesses two years. This makes Chile the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags, and officially recognise how important such a ban would be in the effort to reduce unnecessary single-use plastic waste. [But Chile has not banned plastic clothes, car parts, computers, containers, implements, devices, pegs, pens, cables, book covers, packing, binders, cable ties …]

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “Supply networks [in an apocalypse] will immediately be effected by … losses to staff, clogged roads, damage to infrastructure, survivor trauma … usually, as soon as there’s a hint of disaster, people stock up. If citizens were already filling their cupboards before the disaster struck, with news reports that doctors feared a disease outbreak, or dramatic weather change, flooding, volcanic or earthquake activity, military action etcetera, supply may already have come under constraint before the full disaster becomes apparent.”

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The Apocalypticon ~ China, surveillance, inequality, Face-oogle, data, Math Men


According to World Health Organization data, China has overtaken the United States in healthy life expectancy at birth for the first time. The data from 2016 finds Chinese newborns can look forward to 68.7 years of healthy life ahead of them, compared with 68.5 years for American babies.
The United States was one of only five countries, along with Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where healthy life expectancy at birth fell in 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of the WHO data, which was published without year-on-year comparisons in mid-May. [I’m trying to get my head around 68.7-year-old babies.]
Maybe Americans should ask for more surveillance? A high school in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province located on the eastern coast of China, has employed facial recognition technology to monitor students’ attentiveness in class, local media reports. Three cameras at the front of the classroom scan students’ faces every 30 seconds, analysing their facial expressions to detect their mood. The different moods – surprised, sad, antipathy, angry, happy, afraid, neutral – are recorded and averaged during each class. A display screen, only visible to the teacher, shows the data in real-time. A certain value is determined as a student not paying enough attention.
Still sucks to be a girl, though. China’s gender gap is not confined to tech. The country’s gender parity ranking fell in 2017 for the ninth straight year, leaving China placed 100 out of 144 countries surveyed in a report by the World Economic Forum.
The country ranked 60th in terms of female labour force participation and 70th in terms of wage equality for similar work. Men on average had an estimated income of around $19,000, over $7000 more than women.
Samantha Kwok, the Australian-Chinese founder of the Beijing-based recruitment firm JingJobs, said clients often gave her two job descriptions: one to be published publicly and a second internal one that detailed requirements based on age or gender…
A greenhouse gas is billowing into the atmosphere from a source somewhere in East Asia that no one can identify at a rate scientists have never before seen, and it’s ignited a scientific dash to get to the bottom of it. In 2014, mysterious toxic plumes of CFC-11 – a type of CFC – began to drift across the Pacific Ocean. [And who left the question mark off that headline, left?]

In the data wars, Google is reminding organisations to review how much of their Google Groups mailing lists should be public and indexed by Google.com since sensitive data is being exposed. The notice was prompted in part by a review that KrebsOnSecurity undertook with several researchers who’ve been busy cataloging thousands of companies using public Google Groups lists to manage customer support and in some cases sensitive internal communications. Google Groups is a service that provides discussion groups for people sharing common interests. Because of the organic way Google Groups tend to grow as more people are added to projects – and perhaps given the ability to create public accounts on otherwise private groups – a number of organisations with household names are leaking sensitive data in their message lists.
Once, the Mad Men ruled advertising. They’ve now been eclipsed by Math Men: engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence. Yet Math Men are beleaguered, as Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated when he humbled himself before Congress, in April. Math Men’s adoration of data, coupled with their truculence and an arrogant conviction that their ‘science’ is nearly flawless [which has more to do with its money-making potential, I suspect], has aroused government anger much as Microsoft did two decades ago.
Unknown third parties appear to be exploiting the Chrome Store’s ‘theme’ section to offer visitors access to a wide range of pirate movies including Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Rampage. When clicking through to the page offering Ready Player One, for example, users are presented with a theme that apparently allows them to watch the movie online in ‘Full HD Online 4k’. Of course, the whole scheme is a dubious scam which eventually leads users to Vioos dot co, a platform that tries very hard to give the impression of being a pirate streaming portal but actually provides nothing of use.
That’s why we all trust Google to build military drones, right? No? Coz that’s what’s happening. In March, Google signed a secretive agreement with the Pentagon to provide cutting edge AI technology for drone warfare, causing about a dozen Google employees to resign in protest and thousands to sign a petition calling for an end to the contract. Google has since tried to quash the dissent, claiming that the contract was “only” for US$9 million, according to the New York Times. Internal company emails obtained by The Intercept tell a different story: the September emails show that Google’s business development arm expected the military drone artificial intelligence revenue to ramp up from an initial US$15 million to an eventual US$250 million per year.
Meanwhile, users in Europe have already filed complaints against Facebook and Google, saying the tech companies are in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Apple approves Telegram update even after Russian government demands Apple shut the app down — Amidst a contentious battle with the Russian government over demands to pull Telegram, the encrypted message app, from the App Store, Apple has approved an updated version of the messaging app having seemingly blocked such changes for two months.

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: Essentially, there are many threats that could wipe out huge numbers of humans. It’s worth recalling the dinosaurs were on the planet for around 60 million years before volcanoes and an asteroid wiped them out – Homo Sapiens has only been around for about 200,000 years. Yet, numbers of us may survive an apocalypse: we have done many times before.

The Apocalypticon ~ Nuke yourself in sim, surveillance, Apple, your passwords, China, forest shapes and good news


Nuclear Explosion Simulator shows just how screwed we’d be if Russia dropped another Tsar Bomba — For years, one of the more perversely interesting things on the internet has been Alex Wellerstein’s NUKEMAP, which — true to its name — shows you the estimated damage if you dropped a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world. Now the Outrider Foundation has released its own, rather more elegant version, and we’re back to blowing up our backyards.
Outrider’s simulator lets you enter any location and select from a number of bomb strengths, from the 15KT Little Boy (the first nuke used in war) to the 50,000KT Tsar Bomba, which Russia tested in 1961. [Finally, a more compelling reason to move to the outer burbs! Except for the Tsar Bomba – that just wipes out the entire Greater Auckland from Pukekohe in the south to north of Orewa.]In the US, President Trump has slammed Amazon for ‘causing tremendous loss To the United States’ — President Trump recently escalated his attack on Amazon, saying the e-commerce giant does not pay enough taxes, and strongly suggested he may try to rein in the e-commerce business. A sexual harassment lawsuit against Google might proceed as a Class Action; a department of the US State Department dedicated to diplomatic security has reportedly procured a $US15,000, Apple TV-sized device its manufacturers advertise as being able to break iPhone encryption in anywhere from two hours to three days (the FBI did not have the technical capability to access an iPhone used by one of those behind the San Bernardino shooting, it turns out).
Facebook may be able to listen to you through its app … During an appearance before a committee of UK lawmakers, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie breathed new life into longstanding rumours that the Facebook app listens to its users in order to target advertisements.

Dark Australian — In 2015, during the transition from paper to contactless public transit cards, Australia passed sweeping new data retention laws. These laws required all Australian internet service providers and telecommunications carriers to retain customers’ phone and internet metadata for two years: details like the phone number a person calls, the timestamps on text messages or the cell tower a phone pings when it makes a call. So Claire Reilly ‘went dark‘…

Apple adds more privacy and security — Apple’s updates (macOS 10.13.4, iOS11.3 and tvOS 11.3) were prompted by the enormous new European data protection regulation GDPR, and have been in the works since at least January. But they come at a good time for the company, whose head Tim Cook has been merrily capitalising on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, publicly rebuking Mark Zuckerberg over the social network’s business model.

Your passwords — Do you know whether the ones you’re using are strong enough to stand up to repeated hacking attempts? If you want to know how to do a self-audit on password security, and the best combinations to use to keep your data safe, Gizmodo has asked the experts to explain.

China sin-drome — China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve. The network will be three times bigger than Spain[And it uses burners! Yeah, global warming, China, for goodness sake!]
But hey, at least the jaywalkers will be sent ‘punishing text messages‘. [Angry face sad face …]

Shaping forests — Scientists have made a fundamental discovery about how fires on the edges of tropical forests control their shape and stability. The study implies that when patches of tropical forest lose their natural shape it could contribute to the catastrophic transformation of that land from trees to grass.

Some good news — A class of antibiotics heralded as an essential future weapon against drug-resistant superbugs passed an important test. There’s now evidence they can be used to treat serious infections in live animals (in vivo) without being toxic.
Staunch ancients — Soon after the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age, our planet was vulnerable to abrupt and dramatic shifts in climate, including prolonged cold snaps that lasted for decades. New research suggests early hunter-gatherers living in the British Isles didn’t just manage to survive these harsh conditions – they actually thrived.

The Apocalypticon ~ Hackers, water, China, Space-X hole, medical, stupidity, apocalypse


But wait! There is more from the a-holes at Cambridge Analytica — Cambridge Analytica got its hands on millions of people’s Facebook likes in 2014 by getting an academic, Aleksander Kogan, to design an app with a personality test that hoovered up data from the 250,000 or so Facebook users that took it, as well as from their millions of friends. Cambridge Analytica then used all those likes combined with the magic of big data to help put Donald Trump in the White House. But that’s only the half of it ….
It may be a while since you’ve heard the handle Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. He messed up once, and now Guccifer 2.0 has been fingered as a particular GRU officer working out of the Russian agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.
AI outsmarting its creators — A paper recently published to ArXiv highlights just a handful of incredible and slightly terrifying ways that algorithms think.

Gyre-normous — The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is filled with 79,000 metric tonnes (87,000 tons) of plastic, and that’s between 10 to 16 times higher than previous estimates, according to new research.
Marine researchers say recent sea star wasting disease epidemic defies prediction. Some sea star communities on the west coast could recover, but marine scientists still can’t pinpoint the environmental factors behind the unprecedented disease outbreak.
The number of people short of water could rise to 5.7 billion people by 2050. Currently, about 3.6 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with a potential for water scarcity for at least one month per year.

China’s terrifying “social credit” system isn’t planned to be fully implemented until 2020, but we’re already seeing facets of it being put in place. In May, people who have committed acts of “serious dishonor” will reportedly be unable to travel on trains or flights for up to a year.
And China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest propaganda machines as it looks to improve its global image. [Greetings from George Orwell, and good luck with that.]

Space-X made a hole — The Falcon 9 rocket that launched last August reportedly ripped a temporary hole in the ionosphere due to its vertical launch.

Cell tower cancer link — Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy announce that a large-scale, lifetime study (PDF) of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer.
A massive new study concluded that lead is 10 times more dangerous than thought, and that past exposure now hastens one in every five US deaths. Researchers at four North American universities, led by Bruce Lanphear, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, studied the fate of 14,289 people whose blood had been tested in an official US survey between 1988 and 1994. Four fifths  had harbored levels of the toxic metal below what has, hitherto, been thought safe.

People asked to name women tech leaders said ‘Alexa’ and ‘Siri’ — The tech industry has a persistent problem with gender inequality, particularly in its leadership ranks, and a new study from LivePerson underscores just how depressingly persistent it truly is. When the company asked a representative sample of 1000 American consumers whether they could name a famous woman leader in tech, 91.7% of respondents drew a complete blank, while only 8.3% said they could. But wait, it gets worse: Of those 8.3% who said they could name a famous woman tech leader, only 4% actually could — and a quarter of those respondents named Siri or Alexa. [OMFG.]

The duelling visions for how humanity will survive — By 2050, the world’s population will top ten billion. As industrial capitalism evolves across the globe like no time in human history, will our planet’s ecosystem be able to sustain itself during this rapid transformation? Charles C. Mann’s grapples with these problems in The Wizard and the Prophet.
We’re sleepwalking into a mass extinction, say scientists. The most biodiverse aquatic communities may be the most vulnerable to extinction. Arctic wintertime sea ice extent is among lowest on record[But some of us are looking at the stars. We could become a galactic wrecking crew rather than just an Earthbound one.]

But yes, there’s a little good news: A few decades ago, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest freshwater lake. But in the 1950s, it became the victim of the Soviet Union’s agricultural policies. The Aral Sea began to disappear and nearly completely vanished. But things have changed for good. Its total area of water, straddling Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is now a tenth of its original size. What’s left has broken into two distinct bodies: the North and South Aral Seas. In Uzbekistan, the entire eastern basin of the South Aral Sea is completely desiccated, leaving merely a single strip of water in the west. But Kazakhstan’s North Aral Sea has seen a happier outcome, thanks to a nearly $86 million project financed in large part by the World Bank. [Great, huh? Hah!]

The Apocalypticon ~ Fake news, tech calumny, cartel phones, radioactive, plastic not fantastic, China, climate change, filthiest animal


Fake news: it’s us! Over the last year, ‘fake news’ has gone from being a niche concern that charlatans exploited for profit, to a code red existential threat to the fabric of society … But our scientific understanding of how and why false stories spread is still limited. Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are diving in to correct that blind spot and for anyone looking to point a finger, Gizmodo has some bad news. It’s not all bots: ‘major Twitter influencers’ [perhaps they really should be called Twats] were more likely to share true stories.
Twitter has also suspended several popular accounts known for stealing tweets or mass-retweeting tweets into manufactured virality.
Meanwhile, Facebook subsidiary Instagram and its competitor Snapchat have both disabled GIF-embedding service Giphy after an extremely racist image began spreading via the platform.
Hacking Team’s developers are actively continuing the development of spyware, and Reddit says it has identified and removed hundreds of Russian propaganda accounts. [Or is that Reddit propaganda?]

Shadowy phones for drug cartel — For years, a slew of shadowy companies have sold so-called encrypted phones, custom BlackBerry or Android devices that sometimes have the camera and microphone removed and only send secure messages through private networks.
Now, the FBI has arrested the CEO of one of the most established companies, Phantom Secure, as part of a complex law enforcement operation, according to court records and sources familiar with the matter.

Radioactivity — Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation has released its evaluation of what went wrong in December during demolition of the nuclear reservation’s highly contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant. The Tri-City Herald reports the study said primary radioactive air monitors used at a highly hazardous Hanford project failed to detect contamination. Then, when the spread of contamination was detected, the report said steps taken to contain it didn’t fully work.
So what about bricks? A team of researchers at North Carolina State University thinks they have a simple way to detect the leftover radiation simply by taking a core of material out of a brick. Something like this could be important for things such as nuclear weapons inspections. [I can do that just from a place name: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl …]
So, how about ‘better’ nuclear plants? Scientists want to create miniature suns in power plants here on Earth. [Yeah, this idea doesn’t worry me at all.] MIT has announced it is working with a new private company called Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) to make nuclear fusion finally happen. CFS recently attracted a $US50 million ($64 million) investment from the Italian energy company Eni, which it will use to fund the development.

Plastic water bottles full of plastic-filled water — The bottled water industry is estimated to be worth nearly US$200 billion a year, surpassing sugary sodas as the most popular beverage in many countries. But its perceived image of cleanliness and purity is being challenged by a global investigation that found the water tested is often contaminated with tiny particles of plastic. [I’ve always found this so absurd for so many reasons: this just adds another. Water should always be heated and filtered through ground coffee for maximum safety.]

China wants to bar people with ‘bad social credit’ from trains and planes — People who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on Friday. [This from a country dumb enough to willingly give its authoritarian leader even more power.]
The suspected Chinese cyber-espionage group dubbed TEMP.Periscope appeared to be seeking information that would benefit the Chinese government, said FireEye, a US-based provider network protection systems. The hackers have focused on US.maritime entities that were either linked to, or have clients operating in, the South China Sea.
But hey, at least the pollution has diminished. Over the past four years, pollution in China’s major cities has decreased by an average of 32%.
But be careful, the Chinese space station may still wipe out your city. [From Heavenly Palace to Earth-smashing malice.]
Is this why Frazzled Chump wants a Space Force? 

Half a degree more global warming could flood out 5 million more people — A new study finds that by 2150, the seemingly small difference between a global temperature increase of 1.5 and 2° Celsius would mean the permanent inundation of lands currently home to about 5 million people, including 60,000 who live on small island nations.
Extreme winter weather in the US has been linked to the warmer Arctic. Extreme winter weather is two-to-four times more likely in the eastern US when the Arctic is unusually warm.
In Florida, wildlife officials are smashing the skulls of iguanas. Over the past decade, the population of this invasive lizard has absolutely exploded. Native to Mexico and Central America, these herbivorous lizards were introduced to the state as pets, but they have since taken Florida by storm, munching on plants and flowers in gardens, and damaging footpaths and seawalls with their burrows. [So officials smash ’em.] The head-bashing technique falls within the bounds of Florida’s animal cruelty laws …
But, in ‘good’ news … Around 74,000 years ago, a massive caldera erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, triggering a prolonged and devastating volcanic winter. Scientists have speculated that the Toba eruption pruned back human populations to a considerable degree, but new research published today suggests at least one group of humans living in southern Africa not only managed to survive the event, they actually prospered.

For a bit of fun, what do you reckon is the filthiest animal? Gizmodo asked the experts. [Don’t worry, humans get a mention.]

(Image from Gizmodo)

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “Say you wake up one morning, and 40% of people no longer exist. That’s the honeymoon vision of apocalypse, as ridiculous as that sounds … because it is ridiculous. If people didn’t just evaporate, which you have to admit is extremely unlikely under any imaginable apocalyptical scenario, the immediate problem is getting rid of the dead. There are 56 houses in my street. If there are three people in each, averaged out, that’s 168 people. At 40% mortality, that’s 67 bodies to cope with straight away …”

The Apocalypticon ~ Korea, Russia, China, Social Media, cleaners, CRISPR threat, time travellers, booze anger


Korean DMZ — Is this the ‘scariest place on Earth?’ (I think Washington DC is scarier, myself). The Korean Demilitarized Zone was established in 1953 as part of the armistice agreement that ended three years of brutal fighting between North and South Korea. Stretching across the 250km (155-mile) width of the Korean peninsula, the approximately 3.2km (2-mile) wide swath of land is bounded on both sides by several lines of barbed wire fence and one of the largest concentration of soldiers and artillery in the world. President Bill Clinton once called it the “scariest place on earth.” Now you can see images of it.

Enriched uranium floating about — On 3 August 2016, 7km above Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a research plane captured something mysterious: An atmospheric aerosol particle enriched with the kind of uranium used in nuclear fuel and bombs.
It’s the first time scientists have detected such a particle just floating along in the atmosphere in 20 years of plane-based observations. And this has baffled scientists. [North Korea?]

The Russian charges — Surprise! The US Justice Department has revealed an eight-count indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities over their alleged meddling in US politics, including the 2016 US presidential election. So while the current White House may result from Russian meddling, it has been eight months since the malware known as NotPetya tore through the internet, rippling out from Ukraine to paralyse companies and government agencies around the world. On Thursday, the White House finally acknowledged that attack. And in a reversal of its often seemingly willful blindness to the threat of Russian hacking, it has called out the Kremlin as NotPetya’s creator.
Meanwhile, Russian bots flooded Twitter with pro-gun tweets after the school shooting in Florida.

Social media — General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. “One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E,” reports the BBC. Dr Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. Maybe he’s not the only one: Facebook lost around 2.8 million US users under 25 last year.

China — The heads of six top US intelligence agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. [That’s going to go down well …] Huawei responded that it “poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor.”
China has reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plan trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest coverage. The soldiers are from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s armed police force. The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city.

Household cleaners, paints and perfumes have become substantial sources of urban air pollution as strict controls on vehicles have reduced road traffic emissions, scientists say. Researchers in the US looked at levels of synthetic “volatile organic compounds”, or VOCs, in roadside air in Los Angeles and found that as much came from industrial and household products refined from petroleum as from vehicle exhaust pipes.

CRISPR could be triggering unintended mutations — Last winter, a letter appeared in a scientific journal that challenged how truly “revolutionary” and world-changing CRISPR gene-editing technology really might be. Researchers found that when they used CRISPR to cure blindness in mice, it had resulted in not just a few but more than a thousand unintended effects. Those unintended changes to DNA, they found, were not detectable using common methods for checking for off-target effects. This, the authors wrote, meant that CRISPR needed significant fine-tuning before it was ready to cure disease in people. Stocks tumbled. The scientific community freaked out.

And in good, or at least funny, news — Time travellers: though most of their wild tales were eventually disproven, the stories are still incredible. Here are five of the most memorable.
Australian scientists are trying to work out why some drunks get so mean. Dramatic mood shifts while drinking alcohol are normal, but for some of us, booze takes us down a path toward nasty, belligerent and downright aggressive behaviour. By studying brain scans of drunk men, Australian scientists have pinpointed the parts of our brain that go weak when we drink, making us meaner than usual. But like so many aspects of human psychology, it’s a lot more complicated than that. [I’ve always thought drunkenness reveals true nature, myself.]

China, Ireland and India, PingPlotter analyses networks


(Image from SecureWorld)
(Image from SecureWorld)

New Chinese cybersecurity law will force Apple to keep data on local servers, aid gov’t. searches — The Chinese parliament has officially approved new electronic security legislation, due to go into effect in June 2017, which could force companies like Apple to make changes to how they handle their data infrastructure – particularly if they’re concerned about privacy.

Irish High Court fast-tracks the Apple data center challenge — The Irish High Court has agreed to put Apple on its commercial list, fast-tracking the resolution of legal objections over its planned €850 million (£756 million) datacenter near Athenry, County Galway, according to Business Insider.

Apple seeks incentives from India’s government before setting up a manufacturing plant — Apple has sought incentives from the Indian government before setting up a manufacturing unit in the country, according to the Economic Times. The incentives are purportedly related to the Department of Revenue and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY).

PingPlotter is a powerful, versatile and a solid tool troubleshooting a connection issue and goes from free to pro — No matter how reliable and fast your Internet is, there are times of unexplained slowness or times when you simply cannot connect reliably to a website. PingPlotter allows you to view the various ‘hops‘ between you and another server. You can view each step in real time and it graphically shows the speed as well as each server that is being used along the way. You can set up multiple windows to trace multiple connections.
PingPlotter can be downloaded free and comes with versions for macOS, Windows, and iOS. The free version has quick troubleshooting all the way up to a US$200 version for professional users. There is a detailed manual online if you would like to see all the application can do.

More Apple Watch water resistance, China, NY Times free, Nuimo controller, PhoneClean


Nuimo is a freely configurable, wireless controller for your favorite apps and smart devices. It's on Kickstarter and doing well.
Nuimo is a freely configurable, wireless controller for your favorite apps and smart devices. It’s on Kickstarter and doing well.

Apple Watch stands up to extreme water submersion in new tests — The Apple Watch has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means it can survive dunks up to three feet deep and still work. Apple doesn’t recommend showering, swimming, or diving with the watch, and most people will abide by that advice. But not triathlete Ray Maker, who did everything to his Watch Sport that Apple warns against. Meanwhile, Apple Watch video banner ads have appeared atop YouTube’s homepage.

China’s military bans Apple Watch and other wearable tech — Apple may have a hard time finding a place on the wrist of Chinese soldiers because the country’s military has banned Apple Watch as a potential security threat. Other companies are up against the same brick wall, too, because the military sees wearable tech devices as tools enemies could use to spy, or to track soldier’s movements. [‘Synchronise your watches … not.’]

New York Times goes free in app update, Periscope moves beyond Twitter accounts — In a pair of iOS app updates, The New York Times dropped subscription fees for unlimited article access, while live-streaming video app Periscope added profile creation options for users who lack Twitter accounts.

Scenic’s Nuimo on Kickstarter — Nuimo is a freely programmable controller for computer applications and connected devices including Sonos, Philips Hue and Lockitron and more than 30+ other integrations.

PhoneClean tidies up iPhones – now on 74% price reduction — PhoneClean helps you reclaim space filled with useless information, so you can download the newest apps, snap endless photos, and jam to your favourite tunes without maxing out your space. Plus PhoneClean helps you clear out private information so you don’t risk it getting in the wrong hands. And it’s now on special.

Apple Store in China, Nisus Writer Pro on special, Thunderbolt


The new Apple Store in Chongqing's Guotai Plaza will be the company's fourth shot at combining a cavernous underground space with an above-ground landmark
The new Apple Store in Chongqing’s Guotai Plaza will be the company’s fourth shot at combining a cavernous underground space with an above-ground landmark (and no, I have no faith in Mayor Brown’s idea that Auckland’s getting an Apple Store, BTW).

Apple unwraps second retail store in China with cylindrical glass entrance — In the midst of a major retail expansion across China, Apple continues to make progress on its latest flagship outlet in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, recently breaking down the scaffolding surrounding the new store’s dramatic cylindrical entrance.

My favourite Mac word processor on special — Nisus Software has teamed up with great developers of great tools such as Scrivener, DEVONthink Pro, Tinderbox, Aeon Timeline, and of course Nisus Writer Pro. Use this special link to save 25% on Nisus Writer Pro. To save 25% on other excellent WinterFest software use the coupon code WINTERFEST2014 during checkout.
You can learn more about this collection of exceptional software for writers from the WinterFest 2014 page.

OWC’s Viper Pro SSD-based external hard drives — These sport dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, which the company says can push transfer speeds up to 1,400 megabytes per second. The drives will be available in 4-terabyte and 8-terabyte capacities, and users will have the option to purchases a RAID edition preconfigured in RAID 4.

Futurology 19 ~ Waterless life, Vesta mapped, moon lamp, Microsoft robo-security, Chinese sys, Egyptian spells


Hige asteroid Vesta has been mapped in detail
Huge asteroid Vesta has been mapped in detail

Life might evolve on waterless planets — Astrobiologists Nediljko Budisa and Dirk Schulze-Makuch believe supercritical CO2 might be capable of acting as a life-sustaining solvent in a planetary, environment, which means life could evolve without the presence of water.
~ I’ll drink to that. 

Incredibly detailed map of Asteroid Vespa — A beautiful geologic map of big asteroid/minor-planet Vesta has been created (main picture) by a team led by planetary scientist David Williams, from data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft during its 15-month orbit of the oblong object between 2011 and 2012.
~ I believe you can get lotion for bad asteroids. 

Supermoon lamp — An LED lamp designed by Nosigner is based on the March 19th, 2011 Supermoon, where the moon appeared 14% bigger and 30% brighter. It’s also completely accurate to the actual moon. Nosigner used data from the Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya. ~ Have your own full moon every night. 

Microsoft testing robo-security guards — Microsoft is testing five robot security guards. They contain a sophisticated sensor suite that includes 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging, night vision, LIDAR, and audio recorders. They can also detect various chemicals and radiation signatures, and do some rudimentary behavioral analysis on people they see. They weigh about 300 lbs each, can last roughly a day on a battery charge, and know to head to the charging station when they’re low on power.
~ Stop or I’ll shoot! Please wait while Critical Security Update is in progress …

Cern discovers two knew subatomic particles — Particle physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider have detected two new subatomic particles that were predicted to exist but never seen. The discovery of the two new baryon particles stands to deepen our understanding of the universe.
~ I predict there might be another one. 

Intel panning thumb-sized PCs — Intel is shrinking PCs to (big) thumb-sized ‘compute sticks’ for next year. The stick will plug into the back of a smart TV or monitor “and bring intelligence to that,” said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, during the Intel investor conference in Santa Clara, California.
~ Catchy name? Not so much. 

Ancient Chinese pigment eliminates a dimension — Han purple is an ancient pigment that wasn’t reconstructed by modern chemists until 1992. The physicists found the pigment eliminates an entire dimension. It makes waves go two-dimensional!
~ Ancient Chinese cleverness strikes again.

Bike bottle gathers it own water — The weight of water limits how much can be brought on a long bike ride. There isn’t always an option to stop and fill up from a clean stream or drinking fountain, but  Austrian industrial design student Kristof Retezár has created the prototype of a water bottle system that condenses humid air into clean, drinkable water.
~ Fill, damn you!

1300 year old Egyptian spells deciphered — Arcane invocations in the Handbook of Ritual Power, an 8th-century, 20-page codex, has been translated and published by two Australian scholars of religion and ancient history. The researchers, Malcolm Choat at Macquarie University and Iain Gardner at the University of Sydney, believe the 27 spells in the codex were originally scattered among other documents, and later combined with other invocations to form a “single instrument of ritual power.”
~ I have one of those – iPhone 6. 

Apple Pay burgers, sleek Mujjo 6 case, Apple Pay in China, Heyday


Mujo's new leather iPhone 6 case lets you pack your iPhone, drivers license, and a debit and credit card all in one sleek, classy package
Mujo’s new leather iPhone 6 case lets you pack your iPhone, drivers license, and a debit and credit card all in one sleek, classy package

Apple Pay now accounts for 50% of top-to-pay transactions at McDonald’s in the US — Apple Pay certainly wasn’t the first mobile payment platform to hit the market, but it’s increasingly starting to look like it will be the first to actually have an impact on the way consumers pay for goods and services. Just days after Whole Foods indicated that it has processed over 150,000 Apple Pay transactions, the New York Times reports that Apple’s new mobile payment platform has seen impressive adoption at McDonald’s and Walgreens.

Classiest iPhone 6 case so far looks after your Credit Cards too — The Leather Wallet Case 80° for iPhone 6 Plus (and 6) offers a very classy, slender package based on the concept of its popular predecessor. Redesigned to complement the larger iPhone 6 Plus, the new leather case from  Dutch company Mujjo (check out the gallery at the site) is designed to be as slim as possible, and crafted from Mujjo’s signature high quality vegetable-tanned leather (pictured above). Placed at an 80° angle, a slant line marks the card pocket, placed at an 80° angle. This positions the cards to fit in at an upward angle, to keep them tightly secure and in place. It costs 49 euros (about NZ$77).
This company also makes gloves that work with iDevice touchscreens.

Apple strikes App Store deal with UnionPay, China’s massive bank card provider — Millions of Chinese will now be able to buy from Apple’s App Store through the country’s major domestic banking card provider, in a deal that could help the company squeeze even more revenue from one of its biggest markets.

Heyday is a wonderful, well-designed personal journal app for iPhone — Steve Sande reckons “Day One is one of my favorite apps both on iOS and OS X. But I’ve often wished for a way that my daily travels and photos could be automatically captured for posterity. That’s the idea behind Heyday, an iPhone app that’s billed as a ‘Smart Photo Organizer and Collage Journal/Diary’.” [Will your great grandchildren ever get to read it, though?]

Record price for vintage Apple, 25 Stores for China, Baleful, Yosemite, SSL, suit


The Apple-1, essentially a stand-alone circuit board, was hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976
The Apple-1, essentially a stand-alone circuit board, was hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976

Vintage Apple-1 computer sells for a record US$905,000 — A 38-year-old working Apple-1 personal computer (above) sold Wednesday at auction for a record $905,000 (about NZ$1,157,688.67), almost double the auctioneer’s high-end estimate. [Now to find some software …]

Tim Cook says Apple plans 25 new retail stores in China within 2 years — In an interview conducted on his trip to China to visit Foxconn and discuss security, Cook reportedly confirmed Apple’s plans to open up 25 additional retail stores in China within the next two years. Cook had intimated as much earlier this week during Apple’s earnings conference call.

Confirmed: Christian Bale to play Steve Jobs in Aaron Sorkin penned biopic — Christian Bale will be taking on the role of Steve Jobs in the upcoming Aaron Sorkin penned biopic on the Apple co-founder. Bloomberg confirmed the news early on Thursday, with Sorkin himself noting that Bale secured the role without even going through a formal audition. [Gah.]

OS X Yosemite: The Quintessential Review — On October 16. Apple released OS X Yosemite which is version 10.10. John Martellaro at Mac Observer has been beta testing since the first developer release and also testing with iOS 8. Here is everything that he has learned about “this stellar OS X release“. Meanwhile TUAW tells you how to address its most annoying features, and some Mac users report Bluetooth lag & connection issues after updating to OS X Yosemite. [I have noticed lag – coming soon to this site: 5 Yosemite tips.]

Apple ending SSL 3.0 push notifications in wake of severe POODLE vulnerability — Apple will stop support next week for an encryption protocol found to contain a severe vulnerability, the company said on Wednesday. Support for SSL 3.0 will cease as of Oct. 29, it said.

Apple Wins GPNE patent lawsuit, calls company a Patent Troll — GPNE lost its patent infringement lawsuit against Apple on Wednesday,after which the iPhone and iPad maker promptly called the company a patent troll — a term it was barred from using during the trial. GPNE accused Apple of designing its mobile devices around its years-old pager patent and asked the court to bar the use of “patent troll” in the proceedings.

Wall Street on Apple earnings, record Mac sales, more Yosemite tips, Spotlight backlash, Hackers in China, Windows backups


No more fiddly phone keyboarding – you can now send Text Messages from your Mac (with Yosemite)
No more fiddly phone keyboarding – you can now send Text Messages from your Mac (with Yosemite)

Wall Street blown away by Apple’s ‘remarkable’ record September quarter — Apple exceeded market expectations this week with the results of its record breaking September quarter, leading analysts to heap praise on the company and raise their price targets as it heads into what is expected to be a blockbuster holiday season.
Apple last quarter sold 5.5 million Macs, more than it’s ever sold in any other quarter in company history. MacObserver weighs in, too.

Apple just sold more Macs than iPods for the first time in a decade — The iPad and iPhone are both selling extremely well these days, but Apple’s other portable, the iPod, is not. Being replaced by smartphones as the default mobile music player of choice, the iPod dipped to under 15 million units sold in fiscal 2014, which means two things: the iPod’s bottom has not yet been reached, and the Mac just outsold Apple’s dedicated media player for the first time since 2003.

Bottom line: should you upgrade to OS X Yosemite? Recently we’ve covered OS X Yosemite up one side and down the other. Read through Macworld’s guides for installing Yosemite; getting familiar with the new operating system’s design; putting Handoff and Continuity to good use; and learning about changes to Safari, Notification Center, Spotlight, and Mail, Messages, and Calendars. And check out How to send and receive SMS text messages in OS X Yosemite.

New in Yosemite: Mail Drop, signatures and annotations in OS X Mail — Mail in OS X hasn’t gotten a lot of love over the last few years, with its feature set remaining pretty inert. Finally, with the release of Yosemite, Mail has received some very nice and useful updates.

Apple responds to Spotlight Suggestions ‘backlash,’ says personal data collection limited — In response to a Monday report alleging Apple has started to automatically collect user search and location data through Spotlight Suggestions, the company has issued a statement clarifying the extent to which customer information is gathered and how it is used.

Hackers targeting Apple iCloud users in mainland China with ‘massive’ attack — Hackers have reportedly begun targeting iCloud users in mainland China, utilising a so-called “man-in-the-middle” approach in an attempt to steal user information, with one group accusing the Chinese government itself of perpetrating the attack.

Paragon Software Group releases Boot Camp Backup Beta — the industry’s first all-in-one Windows system backup, restore and migration solution on OS X. The easy-to-use tool includes incremental sector-level backup and other advancements. The official press announcement follows below. With the beta release, Paragon Software gives away 40 commercial product licenses and a 30% discount on the final product to all beta testers.