Star Wars: The Force Awakens Warms Hearts, Too

The upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie is exciting for many fans, but the movie has also been surrounded by several emotional real-life events. The deaths of three fans in particular have sparked some remarkable examples of kindness and sympathy that give some hope in our sometimes very troubling world:
A lifelong fan who was granted a look at the movie before his death from cancer.
Another young fan's friend died in an accident, and they had planned to see the movie together. "Chewbacca" actor Peter Mayhew reached out to the youngster with words of encouragement.
Most recently, we learned that a pink R2-D2 style "droid" - constructed as a comfort to a little girl who died from a brain tumor - will be in the new movie as a tribute.


Dell's Dumb Decision

Computer giant Dell has subjected new PC owners to a monumental cock-up by supplying the computers with a poorly-configured root certificate (eDellRoot) that leaves users open to security vulnerabilities. PCs shipped since at least August have had this cert installed, and which perversely cannot simply be deleted in the usual way. They will soon be issuing instructions on how to remove the offending cert.
If you've got a new Dell, you can check here to see if you the dodgy root CA cert installed. And if you can't wait for the official advice, you can try deleting the .DLL from the filesystem, and the cert from the Windows certificate manager – or use Mozilla's Firefox because that web browser has its own set of trusted certificates, and ignores the rogue eDellRoot.


Ransomware Roadmap

DarkReading - As PCs and servers get better protected and employees more knowledgeable about the ransomware threat, criminals will go after less secure systems such as smart TVs, conferencing equipment, or other unsecured devices.

An interesting read on where this scummy technology may be heading.

Google Earth's Forgotten Forerunner, Microsoft TerraServer

I actually recall seeing and using Microsoft TerraServer, and am disappointed that I forgot all about it until I read "Microsoft Invented Google Earth in the 90s Then Totally Blew It". TerraServer was remarkably Google Earth-like, but Microsoft seemed to consider it more of a technical proof of concept than any kind of viable product at the time.
Terraserver could have, should have been a product that ensured Microsoft would remain the world’s most important internet company well into the 21st century. It was the first-ever publicly available interactive satellite map of the world. The world’s first-ever terabyte-sized database.


Germany Almost Ready To Fire Up New Fusion Reactor

A hideously expensive and complex German nuclear fusion reactor is almost ready to be fired up after 19 years of construction and $1 billion. Most of the reactors we know are fission reactors, fusion is the process that powers our Sun - a "cleaner" (greener?)  method of nuclear power generation.
All the blood, sweat and dollars put into the project will be tested later this month when Germany’s nuclear regulatory body is set to give the go-ahead to start up the W7-X. If all goes well, this technology could become a mainstay in the clean energy future of the planet.

Self-Drive Car Arms Race Under Way

Automobile makers are falling over themselves to bring self-drive features to new car models; if not yet fully autonomous, these vehicles include all kinds of collision avoidance, self-parking and other features.
Automakers hope semi-autonomous features will, over time, help drivers and regulators get over fears of riding in vehicles that accelerate, steer and stop themselves, making potentially life-or-death judgments.
Shorter term, car companies want these features to make driving more convenient - and cars more profitable. 
"People like features that make driving easier, safer and more fun," says Joseph Vitale Jr., who heads global automotive consulting for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. "The question is what customers will pay for them."

Where Is Luke Skywalker?

Luke Skywalker has been noticeable by his absence in all the trailers, teasers and TV spots for Star Wars: The Force Awakens so far. With a December 18th release, I am pretty sure he won't suddenly pop up now. So what's up?

Well, skillful marketing by Disney and Lucasfilm, for one thing; reminding us that that although we have seen a fair bit of footage already, we still only know Episode VII's story in the broadest of strokes - or think we do, anyway.

Luke reaching out to R2-D2 with his robotic hand?

Cherry Picker Point-Of-Sale Malware Shows Up For The Holidays

Retailers rely tremendously on the holiday season to generate a lot of their revenue for the year, and the last thing they (or we) probably want to hear about is point-of-sale (POS) malware.

Well, sorry about that.
Trustwave, the security firm that first publicly identified the Backoff POS malware that affected more than 1,000 U.S business in 2014, is now warning about the Cherry Picker POS malware.
Cherry Picker is unrelated to the Backoff malware family and could well be older than Backoff, according to Eric Merritt, security researcher, Trustwave SpiderLabs. He noted that the initial reporting on Cherry Picker was done several years ago. 
"We encountered Cherry Picker again in a recent investigation, and given the uptick in POS malware across the industry, we decided it was important to conduct a much more in-depth analysis of the threat in order to ensure the public was made aware of this specific malware and the broader problem," Merritt told eWEEK.

Ads Can Use Inaudible Sounds To Track You Across Devices

Money is the mother's milk of polictics, so the saying goes. That holds for advertising too, and the big thing in web advertising is targeting - presenting ads that are more likely to the interesting to the person on the other end of the web browser. More interest, more clicks; more clicks, more revenue.

On the other side, it's palpably creepy to have advertisers doggedly monitoring every single thing you do - and many of us wonder what else that data could be used for? It's not like data ever goes astray or is used beyond it's original purpose, is it....?

Now, there is another feather in the advertisers quill - using high-frequency sounds to sneakily talk between devices (like a TV and a tablet), to better track your  habits across devices.
"As a person goes about her business, her activity on each device generates different data streams about her preferences and behavior that are siloed in these devices and services that mediate them," CDT [Center for Democracy and Technology] officials wrote. "Cross-device tracking allows marketers to combine these streams by linking them to the same individual, enhancing the granularity of what they know about that person."


Star Wars: The Force Awakens SuperDuperCut Trailer

"SuperCuts" happen when someone with way too much time on their hands (and some editing skillz) takes footage from various sources and mashes them up. In this case, we are talking about the new Star Wars movie - "The Force Awakens", due in theaters the middle of December.

This is actually a SuperCut on steriods - a so-called SuperDuperCut - made by taking trailers, teasers and TV spots then pounding and massaging them into a pretty impressive almost 5 minute peek at the new movie. 

It's remarkable for two main things:

1 - someone has the time to do this, and do it well
2 - we still (by design) really know very little about the story, even with all this footage


Blender 3D Guides

Blender 3D is a free (!) piece of cross-platform software which allows you to model, render and animate spiffy 3D stuff. As you might guess, software like this is not something you can jump right into and produce the next "Toy Story" movie in an afternoon, no matter how well-designed the software is.

To help out newbies, Make Tech Easier is assembling a series of guides by Phil South, focusing on various aspects of the platform - textures, modelling, rendering, and so on.

Here's a Blender demo reel to show what can be done in the right hands...


Make Tech Easier Blender Guide

Rolls-Royce Recalls One (Single) Car

Time was when a Rolls-Royce vehicle was seen as the epitome of quality and luxury. That may or may not still be true, but the company (now a division of BMW) has issued a safety recall for a single vehicle - not a single model, a single car. A particular 2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost, in fact. 

Now that's service!

A 2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost


iPad Pro Purchase, Lease Deals Arrive From Major Phone Companies

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have rolled out a variety of packages for those of you itching to pick up a new iPad Pro.
T-Mobile is making the iPad Pro available to its customers starting Nov. 18 through its Jump! On Demand program, which lets users trade in their devices later for newer models at no extra upgrade cost. T-Mobile also is only offering the iPad Pro that is equipped with WiFi and cellular services for $199.99 up-front and $34 a month, or they can buy it with interest-free financing for $199.99 down and payments of $36.67 for 23 months, plus a final payment of $36.59 (total $1,079.99). 
More details here at eWeek

iPad Pro with optional keyboard - image from MacWorld

Proposed Lytro VR Camera System

Lytro already has consumer still camera that has the rather mind-bending ability to allow you to change the focus of shots after they are taken. They are now proposing a VR system ("Immerge") that should push that envelope even further into the almost magical (to my sensibility, anyway).
The Immerge system includes the configurable light field camera array, a server for storage and processing, a VR video editor and a playback engine.
That combination allows for stichtless videos, multiple perspectives, precise parallaxes and depth data embedded in every frame, the company said.
Captured content is optimized for playback on a variety of high-end headsets, and mobile platforms are supported, according to Lytro.


Apple CEO Tim Cook Asks Why Would You Buy A PC Anymore?

With their new mo' better iPad Pro ("Combining Two Worlds") launching imminently, Apple CEO Tim Cook wonders aloud why any of us would buy a PC instead? To me, the iPad Pro actually sounds quite a bit like Microsoft's Surface Pro - a large screen tablet with an optional detachable keyboard.

I am sure the iPad Pro will be a sweet piece of kit, and I am also sure it will be pretty expensive (the canny Scot/cheapskate in me rearing his ugly head again), so I could probably tell Mr. Cook why I personally would consider buying a PC instead - or possibly even a Surface Pro.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Cook said, "I think if you're looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?"
He continued: "Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people.


Cryptowall 4: A Better Mousetrap (But We Are The Mice)

The sociopathic cretins who code and deploy the Cryptowall ransomware have upped the ante yet again with a few "improvements" to their product.
Andra Zaharia of Denmark-based Heimdal Security says Cryptowall 4.0 is employing "vastly improved" communications and better code, so it can exloit more vulnerabilities.
"Cryptowall 4.0 still includes advanced malware dropper mechanisms to avoid antivirus detection, but this new version possesses vastly improved communication capabilities," Zaharia says
"It includes a modified protocol that enables it to avoid being detected, even by second generation enterprise firewall solutions.
"This lowers detection rates significantly compared to the already successful Cryptowall 3.0 attacks."


More New Star Wars: The Force Awakens Footage In TV Spot

The creative team behind the new Star Wars movie (episode VII - "The Force Awakens") have done a great job so far of keeping major plot points secret. The trailers have given us a tantalizing preview of the look and scope of the movie, while revealing very little of the actual story - which is great, from my point of view. I have little self-control in matters like this, and will voraciously scoop up every detail I can, while perversely still hoping to be surprised when I put my bum in the theater and actually see the film this December.

Toyota: Ta-Ta, Takata

Following some potentially very serious operational issues with Takata airbags, Toyota is following Honda in dropping those products from future use.
At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.
Although Takata had been seen to overcome the initial recall announcement, the fact that two major customers have chosen to source their vehicle airbags elsewhere can't be good news for the company.

Hey! Don't Bump The Nuke!

If you are transporting a nuclear missile in a big rig, you likely don't want one of your escort Humvees bumping into the back of the trailer. That is supposedly what this short clip shows; a military convoy passing by and one of the escort vehicles slowing to tell the person with the smartphone they can't record the event (some brief NSFW language). 

While this is happening, one of the trailing vehicles rear-ends the trailer (gulp), and the convoy carries on. The Air Force would not confirm what was in the tractor trailer.
The video was captured and uploaded Nov. 2 by a user who identified himself as Paul Tedford and resident of Great Falls, Montana, near Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is home of the 341st Missile Wing, part of the Air Force Global Strike Command.
“Have you ever seen a nuclear missile being transported in a convoy?” the post states. “Several helicopters in the air and federal marshals leading the way. The crazy thing is that the fed pulled over and was yelling and waving his hands that I can’t record this video! And then a truck rear ended the nuke!”


Original Batmobile Creator Dies at 89

George Barris, the creator of the Batmobile from the 1960's TV series, has passed away at age 89. Mr. Barris created the still-pretty-frickin-awesome Batmobile (below) from a 1955 Ford Futura concept car and $15,000.


XBox One Patched To Play Some XBox 360 Titles

I have been out of hard core gaming for a while now, but this sounds like a pretty big deal. Microsoft is patching the XBox One this month to allow backwards compatibility with a decent chunk of XBox 360 games. The first 100 tiles will be officially announced 11/9 - Happy Holidays, indeed.


Star Trek To Boldly Return To TV

With two successful rebooted movies and a third underway, the Star Trek franchise continues to be a popular one. It's not a huge surprise therefore that CBS is bringing Star Trek back to TV in 2017 - streaming TV, at least.

It's likely the proposed show will follow the "new timeline" of the movies, but the press release notes:
The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.