If you allow “smart” devices to listen to you non-stop, you’re crazy

Yet again, we’ve been reminded that all these “smart” devices like Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Homepod, and Google Home are a security threat to our privacy, and potentially even worse. … a quarter of Americans have bought “smart speaker” devices such as the Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. (A relative few have even bought Facebook’s Portal, an adjacent smart video screen.) Amazon is winning the sales battle so far, reporting that more than 100 million Alexa devices have been purchased. But now a war is playing out between the world’s biggest companies to weave Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Alphabet’s Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Facebook’s equivalent service

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But what if the power goes out?

Having had some little (very little) experience with ships, boats and such things, I couldn’t help doing a double-take at the news that paper navigation charts appear to be on the way out. [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production… . . . For nearly 200 years, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has produced traditional paper nautical chart products. Originally, this took the singular form of hard copy paper charts, today, there are several raster digital chart formats available to download or print through a NOAA certified agent. Similar

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Apple Mac versus Windows 10 – the verdict

Last year I mentioned that I was going to buy a refurbished Apple Mac Mini (the 2014 model) to run Vellum (publishing software that would help me produce cleaner, better-formatted manuscripts).  In that article, I concluded: It’s too early to say yet, but I might be tempted in due course to transition entirely to Apple hardware and software, and move away from the PC altogether.  Being my own boss as a writer and not having to run an employer’s PC-specific software, I have that flexibility.  I never thought I’d say that (yes, I’ve joked about Apples and their fanbois for many years, along with the rest of the computer world), but

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Analysis of helicopter crash blames “software glitch”

With Boeing’s 737 Max variant in the news due to potential software issues that may have caused two fatal crashes, I was interested to read that software issues also caused the crash of the first Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky S-97 Raider prototype in 2017.   Nearly all helicopters have one main set of rotors. The S-97 has two sets of rotors, plus a propeller in the back intended to give it about twice the speed of traditional helicopters. In the 2017 crash, every rotor blade and every propeller blade either was bent or broken after the helicopter rolled more than 60 degrees to one side from

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Google Mail and Blogger problems

Just a quick heads-up:  Gmail and Blogger have been logging me out for the past hour.  I can’t check e-mail at all, and this is the first time I’ve been able to reach Blogger. If you don’t see any blog posts tomorrow morning, it’ll be because of these problems.  I hope they’ll be resolved soon. Peter

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Your job – and what will replace you

It won’t necessarily be a “machine” as such – it may be a computer program instead.  Nevertheless, a very large proportion of traditional blue-collar and white-collar jobs are, right now, being replaced by automation;  or, at the very least, their replacement is already being planned.  The threat is real, and it’s immediate, not sometime in the future. A couple of days ago, I mentioned, in passing, a New York Times article titled “The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite“.  Here’s an excerpt. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis. All over the world, executives are spending billions of dollars to transform their businesses into

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Improving your online privacy

I’ve written several times in the past about the threat to privacy and private information posed by the Internet and social media companies who see us as the product they sell to others, to be exploited for their greatest advantage.  That’s why I’m still not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or any of the other big names in social media.  The only one I use is Gab, and they guarantee the privacy of their members, making it a much safer environment. If you’ve wondered how to improve or safeguard your online privacy, there are ways.  Many of them have been

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A novel hi-tech “display” that’s almost a new art form

I don’t have a very visual imagination.  I’m good with words, but I can’t paint or draw to save my life, and while I enjoy and appreciate some painting styles and schools (landscapes, some portraits, etc.), I don’t like most modern alleged “art” at all.  However, some modern forms of visual expression are so novel that they catch my eye, and my imagination – including this one. When art and function meet technology, you can bank on the product looking something a little like magic. After years of dodging reinvention, the humble clay brick has met its 2018 match, with New

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“Smart” gadgets versus your privacy and security

I’ve had a few things to say about the so-called “Internet of Things“, and how it threatens our personal privacy and security.  Any moderately competent hacker can use such devices as a way to spy on us.  However, it now appears that the authorities are doing the same thing, by forcing the providers of such devices to hand over what they record.  Worse still, the companies in the field are not very helpful in letting their customers know about such issues. A decade ago, it was almost inconceivable that nearly every household item could be hooked up to the internet. These

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How NOT to win friends and influence customers

What’s the old saying?  “Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.”  A British banker should have borne that in mind. Banks are facing a furious reaction from customers after saying they should foot the compensation bill for fraud by paying a tax on every transaction made. UK Finance chief Stephen Jones told MPs on the Treasury committee today that banks shouldn’t always have to cover the costs when criminals con people into transferring money out of their accounts. A tiny levy on each payment made in the UK could be a solution to covering the rising cost of

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