The Emerald Isle Due A Pile 'O Greenbacks From Apple

Not sure if this is simply justice being served or an old-fashioned shakedown, but the Eurocrats have figured out that Apple likely owes Ireland more than the equivalent of one billion dollars in back taxes.

*update - it's quite a bit more than one billon dollars*

Ireland has been something of a tax haven for high tech companies for years, fueling the "Celtic Tiger" renaissance of that country - but apparently there can be too much of a good thing as Apple just found out.
The European Commission has finally finished its investigation into Apple’s tax breaks with Ireland and it appears that the company will be slapped with a fine for more than $1 billion in back taxes. 
The commission’s final ruling is expected to come tomorrow, according to a new report that claims Ireland will be expected to calculate exactly how much Apple owes.
Cult of Mac


Opera Password Manager Sync Hit By Security Breach

The Opera browser's built-in password manager has been compromised - specifically the sync system. While the attack was just discovered, it's unknown at this point when it started. It appears all Opera sync users are affected though, on any platform.
Although we only store encrypted (for synchronized passwords) or hashed and salted (for authentication) passwords in this system, we have reset all the Opera sync account passwords as a precaution.
We have also sent emails to all Opera sync users to inform them about the incident and ask them to change the password for their Opera sync accounts. In an abundance of caution, we have encouraged users to also reset any passwords to third party sites they may have synchronized with the service.

Juno Make Successful First Close Pass Of Jupiter

NASA's Juno exploratory spacecraft just made it's first successful close pass to gas giant Jupiter on August 27, orbiting within 3,000 miles of the surface. Jupiter is an enormous, active planet, and there are a lot of forces at play that could adversely affect the RV-sized space probe, so getting the first orbit under their belt without mishap is a big deal.
NASA hopes to get 36 orbits out of Juno over the next 20 months before radiation slowly breaks down its electronics and propulsion system. Even though a 1cm-thick wall of titanium provide some protection for the spacecraft’s electronics, a few of its nine instruments may begin to fail in as few as eight or 10 orbits.


Is Something Wrong With Windows 10 Testing?

Windows 10 Anniversary Update came with a few unwelcome surprises for some users. The lockups, Kindle crashes and broken webcams are all thing we should probably have expected to be caught as part of internal testing the Insider program, but they obviously were not.


Linux Is 25 Years Old

25 years ago, sometimes irascible and often potty-mouthed Linux creator Linus Torvalds gave us the Linux kernel, which led to the Linux operating system and it's derivatives. Linux is now found in most supercomputers, many web servers and a ton of mobile devices.
In 1984, Richard Stallman started working on GNU, a Unix-clone that stands, paradoxically, for “GNU’s not Unix.” By 1991, Stallman and company had successfully rewritten most of Unix, but they were missing one crucial component: the kernel, which is the fundamental core of an operating system—the part that talks to the hardware and translates the basic input from your keyboard, mouse, and touchscreen into something the software can understand. So Torvalds decided to create a kernel.


iPhone 6 Touch Screen Issues Surface *Updated*

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones may be exhibiting a hardware problem where the touch screen stops responding and eventually the phone has to be repaired or replaced. I say "may", because from the article here it all seems a bit anecdotal with no firm numbers.  It sounds like a potentially severe issue if the nature and scope of the problem are being accurately described, and it does show up in Apple forums.

*update* - this is now being reported by Apple Insider as accounting for 11% of Apple's daily service issues, so yes, it's a big deal
Nicknamed "Touch Disease" by repair specialists iFixit, the problem starts with a flickering gray bar at the top of the screen and reduced touch functionality. Over time the bar spreads and eventually the whole screen stops responding to touch.
iFixit spoke to several repair professionals who confirmed they had seen numerous devices exhibiting the same flaw.


Android 7 Nougat Heads To Most Nexus Devices

Users of most Google Nexus devices will soon be getting the Android 7 (Nougat) upgrade, with 250 "major" features, although that sounds a lot like marketing speak to me. I say most Nexus device as a couple of older models (including my 2013 Nexus 7 tablet *sniff*) are no longer part of the upgrade process. They will continue to get security updates, but no more version upgrades.
Perhaps the biggest addition is the multi-window view, which allows users to run two apps side-by-side in resizable windows. A new notifications pane is also included in Android 7.0—which will offer a direct reply feature, making it possible to reply directly to notifications rather than needing to open an app.


Teeny Quadcopter Proves To Be Big Fun

I finally succumbed and purchased a quadcopter after some hand-wringing. I should mention that pretty much all my purchases are accompanied by hand-wringing, as I am a bit of a skinflint.

Naturally then, I purchased just about the cheapest little drone that I could for two reasons. The first was that - as mentioned - I don't like spending a lot of money on an indulgence like that for myself; that's just the way I am. 

Yep, the Cheerson CX-10 is really that small


US Hospitals Ground Zero In Latest Locky Ransomware Campaign

Locky ransomware appears to be targeting US Hospitals, according to FireEye researchers. The present campaign uses phishing emails with Word attachments using a macro payload. Ransomware, as the name implies, encrypts user data then demands a monetary payment to provide the means to recover that data.
The latest Locky email campaigns are directed at various industries, but the amount of emails sent to healthcare organizations vastly surpasses other industries, including financial and federal government agencies. Further, these are global attacks, but the U.S. tops the list again for campaign size.
Healthcare IT News

USB Webcams Borked In Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Microsoft's Insider Program has some 'splainin' to do - the webcam issue introduced in the Anniversary Update was not noticed by anyone? A fix is forthcoming next month, by that seems (to me) to be a pretty obvious thing to overlook. 

Since Microsoft loves to hump Skype at every turn, and using a USB webcam in Skype with HD video is now broken, that appears to be poor quality control, no? Kind of disheartening for the first major upgrade for the new OS.
In the Anniversary Update, Microsoft only allows USB webcams to use YUY2 encoding. Microsoft removed support for MJPEG and H264 streams, which many webcams–including the very popular Logitech C920 webcam–use.
This means that doing something as simple as enabling HD video in Skype will cause your webcam’s video to freeze.
Meantime, How-To Geek has a registry fix that will help until the "official" fix.

NSA Snooping - Alex Jones Is A Genius

It's odd how many "conspiracy theories" seem to end up being pretty accurate, especially ones concerning the massive digital surveillance of, well, pretty much all of us here in the US.

The usual comments would be along the lines of "Oh, they can't do that - they don't have the technology", and "Oh, they can't do that - we have the Constitution to protect us, this isn't Soviet Russia!"

Guess again, Skippy. 
In a revelation that shows how the National Security Agency was able to systematically spy on many Cisco Systems customers for the better part of a decade, researchers have uncovered an attack that remotely extracts decryption keys from the company's now-decommissioned line of PIX firewalls.


Engaging Readers - By Outsourcing Comments To Social Media?

Web sites of all kinds love (and need) to build their brand and audience by engaging them in various ways. One traditional method that has been taking a pummeling recently is the "comments" section. Lacking the will or the wherewithal to moderate or respond to comments, many sites are blocking comments and relying on Social Media to pick up the slack by proxy.
By outsourcing all conversation to Facebook, you're not really engaging in your readers, you're herding them to a homogonized, noisy pasture where they're no longer your problem. In short, we want you to comment -- we just want you to comment privately or someplace else so our errors aren't quite so painfully highlighted and we no longer have to try to engage you publicly. All for the sake of building deeper relationships, of course. 


Snapchat's "Anime" Image Filter Pulled After "Yellowface" Outcry

"Funny" is funny; something that one person feels is amusing or silly may be a real slap in the face to another. Snapchat's so-called Anime filter essentially made people look like Western caricatures of Japanese circa 1940; slant eyes, buck teeth and yellowed skin.

Almost the exact opposite of what a typical Anime character looks like, in fact. Not really funny, either.

A fairly typical anime-style character
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find anime characters resembling Snapchat’s skeptical interpretation. None of the genre’s typical features, such as colorful hair, disproportionately large eyes, or angular faces, seem to be referenced by the filter.
Snapchat has since pulled the filter.

Not really looking like anime...

Android 7 Bringing More Security

It looks like security will be a big focus for Android 7 "Nougat", from file level encryption to media server hardening. They also plan to incorporate "seamless updates", a feature currently used in Chrome OS.

I hope it does not slow down my older Nexus 7 tablet!
Google has improved security in Android Nougat in a handful of different areas. Some are designed to harden Android itself, while others are tools for developers to use so it stays that way when we install apps.
Android Central


Kenny Baker (R2-D2) Passes Away At Age 81

The news of Kenny Baker's passing marks the hard reality that the original Star Wars movie was released in 1977 - almost 40 years ago - and many of the original cast have either since also passed on, or are now very old.

I think we tend to forget that with people in movies or TV shows; we see them at a certain time in their life and career, then when we see them 10, 20, or 30 years later, we are a bit shocked to see how they have aged.

Mr Baker was never really on screen in person in the Star Wars movies as he was acting inside the little droid R2-D2, wobbling from side to side or twirling the "turret" head. Regardless, he helped realize the character of the plucky little robot.

Kenny Baker had a great smile and an even greater attitude. Born at a time when little people (was less than 4 feet tall) were not expected to have much of a life expectancy, he went to have a TV and movie career and lived to be 81 years old.


You Can Keep Your Windows 10

Well, my return to Windows (10) ended up being fairly short. I have an almost 5-year-old Samsung laptop with an AMD chipset. It originally had Windows 7 and a year or so after I got it, I started slapping various Linux distros on it and have basically done that ever since, with a couple of brief returns to Windows (8) and most recently Windows 10.

I wanted to see how Windows 10 had evolved during the past year, and put it on before the free upgrade ran out. It worked fine, with the exception of some quirky touch pad behavior, which I could never quite configure to my liking - it seemed very "jumpy", and no amount of tweaking seemed to fix it.


Coffee And Donuts Delivered By Drone

Rejoice! The future is here; the first commercial delivery of coffee and donuts by a drone has happened.
The delivery took place in Reno, Nevada, with the items loaded into a special box for hot and cold food and flown to a local family.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have 7-Eleven, the largest convenience chain in the world, embracing new technologies and working with us at Flirtey to make drone delivery a reality for customers all over the world,” said Flirtey chief executive Matt Sweeny.


Venus May Not Have Been So Bad, A Couple Of Billion Years Ago

There was a time not that long ago when the planet Venus was thought of as Earth's twin in some ways. Science fiction stories and movies would depict visits to Mars and Venus as a matter of course. More recently, both planets have revealed themselves to be much less hospitable, with Venus actually being the bleakest of the two, with high temperatures and a toxic, stormy atmosphere.

And yet, if computer models are actually to be trusted for things like this (and I personally am a little dubious), Venus may have been close to habitable one or two billion years ago.
“It’s one of the big mysteries about Venus. How did it get so different from Earth when it seems likely to have started so similarly?” says David Grinspoon at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “The question becomes richer when you consider astrobiology, the possibility that Venus and Earth were very similar during the time of the origin of life on Earth.”
Yeah, not so much


Windows Anniversary Upgrade Process Is Rather Draconian

Having gone out on a limb last weekend and finally upgraded to Windows 10 on my laptop (usually the home of some flavor of Linux), I just completed the update to the Anniversary Edition. I had wanted to see how things have come along over the course of a year, so I figured I should jump in and apply the big upgrade too. 


8K TV Comes To The 2016 Olympics

Hey kids, we'll be able to the see the sewage in the Olympic water venues in "Super Hi-Vision". That's what the Japanese public TV channel NHK is calling their 8K programming from the Rio Olympics.

Kinda like a high tech version of the infamous "candy bar in the pool" scene from Caddyshack...
Of course, viewing an 8K broadcast will be rather difficult even in Japan, as none of the equipment required to receive and display the 8K signal has yet been commercially released. Instead, NHK has set up two special 8K viewing theatres in Tokyo and Osaka for the duration of the trial. For really determined home users, Sharp apparently sells an 85-inch 8K TV for about £120,000 (about $160,000)



Driving For Uber - What's The Deal?

Driving for Uber seems like an interesting choice to make some extra money, and my wife and I have talked about it a couple of times. As with most things in life, it's a little more complicated than the ads make it sound. While that's not to say it may work well for you, you should check out this article on How-To Geek that does nice job of bringing up several points you may not have considered.
When you’re an employee at a company, they’ll pay around half of your FICA taxes while you pay the other half (on top of your income tax that you’ll need to pay, which is likely withheld). However, if you’re an independent contractor, you have to pay every penny of your FICA taxes. You’ll receive a 1099 when tax season approaches, instead of a W-2.