Apple Looks To Open Up Siri To Developers

The Apple Siri digital assistant platform may be opened up to third-party developers. In addition, Apple is reportedly working on an Amazon Echo-like environment for Siri. It looks like many households will be talking to digital assistants of one kind or another in the coming month and years.
The rumored Siri developments were reported May 24 by The Washington Post, which said the plans came from a person with direct knowledge of the alleged plans. Interestingly, Apple could be a bit late to the Echo market. In March, rumors began flowing that Google was working on its own such Echo competitor in a voice-activated product that is under development.

No, Wait - Cell Phones ARE Linked To Cancer Again

This is why I tend not to live my life ruled by the results of "scientific studies". Now we are hearing that cell phones are "linked" to triggering cancer in mice (with some qualifications). Just recently we were informed that no, there is no established link between cell phone use and cancer.

However, it hasn't taken long for researchers to note several problems: the study had a small sample size; irradiated rats lived longer than those that got no dose; the cancers appeared only in male rats; and nobody's proposed a mechanism for the signals to cause the cancers.
There's another oddity that's received less attention: the alleged cancer link is modulation-dependent, it seems.
The Register


Railgun Rising

Remember in Transformers 2 when a Navy railgun knocks out one of the baddie robots? Well we have that and it works - er, the railgun, that is.

A railgun is an electromagnetic cannon that fires a solid projectile at ludicrous speeds at the target, where the huge amount of energy expended does the destructive work. We have the technology, it works, and it is being honed for battlefield use.
The Navy developed the railgun as a potent offensive weapon to blow holes in enemy ships, destroy tanks and level terrorist camps. The weapon system has the attention of top Pentagon officials also interested in its potential to knock enemy missiles out of the sky more inexpensively and in greater numbers than current missile-defense systems—perhaps within a decade.
Wall Street Journal


Users Turning Off Critical Updates To Avoid Windows 10

It's not that Windows 10 is a bad operating system, and it's not that Microsoft was not being generous when they offered a limited time free upgrade to existing Windows 7 and 8 users; it's the heavy-handed, even obnoxious way that Microsoft has chosen to encourage those upgrades.

Some users have even turned off Windows updates in order to stop seeing the upgrade offers and nag screens. Turning off updates is not a good idea, but I can sympathize. I have installed Steve Gibson's "Never 10" on our main PC to avoid upgrading. 

I already upgraded one PC at our home, and that went fine, but I do not want this second PC to be upgraded. I simply want updates to continue, but not to upgrade, and without having to micromanage things every time Windows changes it's upgrade notification tactics.
Microsoft’s security updates are supposed to protect Windows users from threats, but customers are disabling the updates to avoid a different type of 'threat' -- from Microsoft itself.
Microsoft is going to great lengths to get unwilling customers to upgrade to Windows 10, forcing those unwilling customers to go to greater lengths to avoid it.
The free upgrade offer ends in July anyway, so the games should end then.

Beta News



Python v Johnson

Well, this is pretty ghastly; a Thai man was bitten where it really hurts as he went to the bathroom. A python emerged and latched onto his penis, and the ensuing struggle to detach it lasted for some 30 minutes.

The man is recovering in hospital, the snake was released into the wild, and I am crossing my legs as I type this.

NBC News


Most Of US Government IT Budget Spent On Decrepit Tech

A new Government Accounting Office report details the unsettling news that the government spends over 75% of their annual IT budget to keep shonky old computer gear limping along. It's a sad example of what some of us think goes on in the government a lot of the time, and no one ever seems to be held to account.
  • The DOD’s system used to send emergency messages to U.S nuclear forces, which runs on a 1970’s IBM platform and still relies on 8-inch floppy disks.
  • The Treasury’s systems for storing taxpayer information are 56 years old and obviously use an outdated computer language.
  • Social Security systems are 31 years old and use the COBOL programming language, developed nearly 60 years ago.
  • The Transportation Department’s Hazardous Materials Information System is around 41 years old.


The Navy's "Kill Web" - Because "Sky Net" Is Too Obvious

The US Navy is creating a offensive anti-surface network, or Kill Web, tying to together different resources to target weapons against surface targets.
Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, who works admiring rears at the Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), used lots of buzz words to describe how it worked.
“The All Domain Offensive Surface Warfare Capability is “integrated fires, leveraging all domains, the ability for us to utilize air-launched capabilities, surface launched capabilities and subsurface launched capabilities that are tied together with an all domain [information network],” he said.
What he said.



F-35 Can Have Some Little Buddies Fly With It

The F-35 fighter will be able to have a small swarm of drones flying along with it to assist in various mission aspects. This science fiction-sounding technology comes along with already notable cost overruns, some real-world performance questions (it can outfly 40-year-old F-16s, yay!), and some 10 millions lines of (sometimes buggy) code running the bleeding-edge weapons platform.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot.  As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things. 

Gay Dating Apps Leaking Physical Locations

There are apps for just about anything, including gay dating apps such as Grindr and Hornet. There appears to be a potentially dangerous problem with some though, as they can be hacked to reveal the user's rather precise location (whether they want it or not). 

While that might not initially sound like a huge issue (presumably you want to meet someone at some point), a little thought can see where this may lead.
And unlike previous methods of tracking those apps, the researchers say their method works even when someone takes the precaution of obscuring their location in the apps’ settings. That added degree of invasion means that even particularly privacy-oriented gay daters—which could include anyone who perhaps hasn’t come out publicly as LGBT or who lives in a repressive, homophobic regime—can be unwittingly targeted.


A Cheaper Graphics Card That Still Costs $600

The last PC I built cost around $600 for the parts - and it was pretty nice, IMHO. Back in the day, I kept up with the Nvidia vs ATI thing and actually purchased a few "expensive" (meaning over $100, in my skinflint world) graphics cards to scratch my gaming itch.

These days, though, the current crop of high end cards are so out far of my price range that they may as well be made of solid gold - and some almost weigh as much. 

That said, Nvidia has pulled off quite a trick with their new GTX 1080 - it's apparently not far behind their Titan X card in performance, but uses a lot less juice and is about 60% of the price of the flagship card.
The consensus seems to be that the GTX 1080 is a fantastic card at the price point, and a big step up from previous generations. But unless you need that power, there’s no point upgrading from a 900-series graphics card. If you’re a new buyer, it’s no real competition. The 1080 (and its cheaper sibling, the 1070) are the cards of choice.


Reddit May Block Links To Sites That Block Ad Blockers

This ad blocker war is really heating up into something. The latest skirmish comes via a Reddit forum [ /r/ Technology ] that is considering blocking links to sites that disallow ad blocker use, citing it as a potential security concern. 
If the Reddit tech forum starts blocking domains of publications that require users to turn off their ad blockers, it would deprive some publishers of the kind of eyeballs they crave, according to John Carroll, mass communications professor at Boston University.
"The technology subreddit is one that's heavily male and tech savvy. That's exactly the audience these publications want to reach," he told TechNewsWorld.


DOOM 2016 Is Here

So, the 2016 version of DOOM is out and it looks as good as you would expect it to. Of course, I now have to put on my Old Fart hat  and say that (purely based what I have seen in demos, etc.) it looks a bit more like an updated version of Quake, than Doom.

That's not meant as a snub, necessarily, as Quake was pretty damn good back in the day. But Doom was the first game I played that actually had me sweating and slightly flipping out as I played it. 

Old school DOOM, ca 1993


RAID Rebuild Times With SSDs

This is the kind of stuff I would love to investigate, if I had the resources. I don't, but we can turn to the folks at The Register in this case.

RAID is great technology, but when the rubber hits the road and you need to replace a failed drive, rebuild times can be pretty horrible with large disks. In a production setting that can be a problem.

As you might expect/hope, SSD drives do allow faster rebuilds of RAID arrays. How much faster? Check out the full story.
There are two questions here: SSD vs HDD RAID rebuild times and RAID-vs-erasure code rebuild times. We’ll look at HDD vs SSD rebuild times here.
In a RAID disk rebuild, a portion of that time is disk access latency. What percentage of, say, a near 10 hour RAID rebuild of a failed 4TB disk drive is taken up disk latency? We can then ask: what percentage of a failed 4TB SSD data rebuild will be taken up by SSD access time? Will SAS vs SATA vs NVMe SSD access influence the overall SSD rebuild time?

Comparing Intel I3, I5 and I7 Processors

It seems to me that in the "good old days", it was pretty easy to pick a processor for a PC build, or when buying computer from a dealer. You essentially picked depending on the processor speed and/or the number of cores, depending on what you thought you needed. 

These days, we have moved away from raw processor speed as a metric, and we now have (I feel) a less-than-obvious collect of names and letter qualifiers. Intel in particular seems to follow this paradigm, and I find myself relying on articles like this from Makeuseof, to give me some useful perspective.

Here is a look at the differences between the Intel I3, I5 and I7 and there various flavors (too many choices, if you ask me).

Image from Makeuseof


The Luke Skywalker Prosthetic Arm

If you caught The Force Awakens, you briefly saw Luke Skywalker sporting the prosthetic hand he got way back in The Empire Strikes Back after his evil dad, Darth Vader, lopped off his real hand in a fit of pique.

While we already have pretty impressive prosthetic hands, arms and legs here on Earth, we are just starting to see them actually be attached to the living body - usually prosthesis are attached by suction, straps or other methods.

Enter the so-called Luke Skywalker Arm, courtesy of the US military.
A Florida man who lost his left arm above the elbow to cancer eight years ago stopped by the Pentagon courtyard on Wednesday to show off the U.S. military's latest research into prosthetic technology.
The futuristic prosthetic caught the attention of numerous attendees -- not only could he control the hand and fingers with his mind, the device was also attached by way of a titanium stud surgically implanted and affixed to the living bone of his upper arm.
Image courtesy


Linux Partitioning Scaring Off New Users?

Hard disk partitioning is one of those things that IT folk generally don't stress over, but if a new Linux user is face with, say, creating a swap partition during an installation - it may just me the one things that turns them off before they even start.

While the various installers - and Linux desktop distros in general - have improved mightily in recent years, there are still a few "ouches" when a sweaty-palmed Windows user approaches the process of actually trying to install Linux.
The last time I looked (maybe 40 minutes ago) when you click that check mark via a Mint install, it will dutifully inform you that there is not a swap partition configured. it further informs you that not having a properly configured swap partition can possibly launch your planet into a collision course with a quasar. 
“Do you want to go back and configure a swap partition?” 
Cue the befuddled new Linux desktop user beginning to form slobber at the corners of their mouth. Houston, we have a problem. 
Yeah, that whole partitioning thing.


First Siri, Now Viv Is Waiting In The Wings

Siri was something different when Apple baked it into iOS 5 back in late 2011; you could now talk to your computer device, and actually get it to respond. The personal digital assistant concept was put into a popular platform and was followed by other similar utilities in Android and Windows.

The creators of Siri now have a next-generation product, Viv.
The goal was to create a better version of Siri, one that connected to a multitude of services, instead of routinely shuffling queries off to a basic web search. During a 20-minute demo onstage at Disrupt NYC, Viv flawlessly handled a dozen complex requests, not just in terms of comprehension, but by connecting with third-party merchants to purchase goods and book reservations.



Windows 10 Free Upgrade Winding Down

If you want to upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC to Windows 10 for free, you have until July 29th 2016 to do it. Microsoft appears to be sticking with the "one year of free upgrades" offer they made when Windows 10 first launched. After that date, you will need to pay for the upgrade.

Microsoft has been very (overly?) aggressive in trying to get Windows user to upgrade to Windows 10, and they now have around 300 million users. This news may prod some more of us to switch, as the thought of "free" vs $119 for the Home version of Windows 10 sounds appealing.

At our house, I allowed one PC to upgrade, and it has been working fine. However, the main PC that my wife uses will not be upgraded, I have strict instructions on that...


Hulu and YouTube Making Some New Waves In Streaming TV

A couple of interesting tidbits on the world of TV and for cord-cutters among us:

Both Hulu and YouTube are bringing streaming TV services in 2017, according to news reports.
"This means our viewers will be able to enjoy live sports, news and events all in real-time without a traditional cable or satellite subscription," said [Hulu CEO] Hopkins. "We're going to fuse the best of linear television and on-demand in a deeply personalized experience optimized for the contemporary, always-connected television fan."

YouTube executives have discussed these plans with most major media companies, including Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, Viacom Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and CBS Corp., but have yet to secure any rights, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
Android Central




Chinese Dalek Is Shocking

China now has a robot to be used for crowd control that can zap you with an electric shock if needed. Because China already has such a great record in the handling of dissidents...

The robot measures just under five feet and weighs around 171 pounds. It has a top speed of 11 miles per hour and is equipped with a range of sensors that it uses to identify objects and dangers. While its “electrically charged riot control tool” sounds terrifying, the AnBot is also designed to help people; it has an “SOS” button that citizens can press to alert local police in the event of an emergency.
Yeah, like I am going to try and press an SOS button on something that can shock me if it doesn't like the way I look.


Don't taze me, bro!