Yesterday I pulled up some websites using Firefox on my Android phone and I was surprised to find two notifications on my phone that a file called “dbsync” had been downloaded. I do not download files without having some idea of what they are, so needless to say I was surprised. The files were zero-bytes, however, so I didn’t think they would pose much of a threat.
I later did some Googling which led me to this reddit page discussing the issue. Several others have had this happen to them. Some linked to dubious “virus scanner” software which would remove it, though this cure looks more dangerous than the disease.
I chalked it up to some fluke until I was reading the website of local TV station WRAL.Com from my Ubuntu desktop. After a while I had a Firefox prompt asking me to download dbsync:
This is brilliant. It’s a service that screens your phone calls and answers with an annoying, delaying robot if the caller is a telemarketer or scammer.
How does it work?
1) You buy a subscription, telling us your phone numbers and your email address.
2) Pick a robot you like from our “Pick a Robot” page. Mark down the robot’s phone number and keep it handy.
3) When you receive a telemarketing call, you transfer it to the robot (see “Use a Robot” page for instructions).
4) After our robot is done talking to the telemarketer, it will send a copy to your email so you can have a laugh.
Source: Jolly Roger Telephone Company, saving the world from bad telemarketing | How Does it Work?
According to these numbers, a single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as thirty-one U.S. households use in one day. Insanity.
Bitcoin electricty consumption
The continuous block mining cycle incentivizes people all over the world to mine Bitcoin. As mining can provide a solid stream of revenue, people are very willing to run power-hungry machines to get a piece of it. Over the years this has caused the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin network to grow to epic proportions, as the price of the currency reached new highs. The entire Bitcoin network now consumes more energy than a number of countries, based on a report published by the International Energy Agency. If Bitcoin was a country, it would rank as shown below.
Source: Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist
This is a great lesson on how some common parliamentary procedures are frequently misused.
There are a number of “urban myths” about Robert’s Rules of Order that can get in the way of democratic process for your council. If your municipality, county council, or special district avoids these bad habits, congratulations! If these errors happen at your meetings, however, you might want to bring them to the attention of your colleagues to straighten them out – in a pleasant way, of course.
Source: Four Bad Habits to Avoid at City Council Meetings – CitiesSpeak
I don’t know why I feel better about the possibility of Raleigh landing Apple than I do about Amazon. Both are huge, game-changing projects. It might be because I think Apple treats its employees better.
North Carolina lawmakers are preparing a bid for a new Apple campus, according to a report in the Triangle Business Journal.Separately, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has also floated areas near Washington D.C., like Crystal City and Tysons, as locales for Apple.
Citing unnamed sources in real estate, law and the North Carolina government, the Triangle Business Journal said the Research Triangle Park “tops Apple’s short list,” although the process is far from finalized — Apple is still looking at sites across the country.
Source: Apple’s new campus: North Carolina Research Triangle on shortlist, report says
This is pretty interesting.
Right now, if you happen to be in North America, chances are pretty good that there’s at least one little face staring at you. Look around and you’ll spy it, probably about 15 inches up from the floor on a nearby wall. It’s the ubiquitous wall outlet, with three holes arranged in a way that can’t help but stimulate the facial recognition firmware of our mammalian brain.
No matter where you go you’ll find those outlets and similar ones, all engineered for specific tasks. But why do they look the way they do? And what’s going on electrically and mechanically behind that familiar plastic face? It’s a topic we’ve touched on before with Jenny List’s take on international mains standards. Now it’s time to take a look inside the common North American wall socket, and how it got that way.
Source: The Electrical Outlet and How It Got That Way | Hackaday
Google’s AI has gotten so good, it’s scary.
A long-standing goal of human-computer interaction has been to enable people to have a natural conversation with computers, as they would with each other. In recent years, we have witnessed a revolution in the ability of computers to understand and to generate natural speech, especially with the application of deep neural networks (e.g., Google voice search, WaveNet). Still, even with today’s state of the art systems, it is often frustrating having to talk to stilted computerized voices that don’t understand natural language. In particular, automated phone systems are still struggling to recognize simple words and commands. They don’t engage in a conversation flow and force the caller to adjust to the system instead of the system adjusting to the caller. Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.
Source: Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real-World Tasks Over the Phone
This is a fascinating look into the world of a saturation diver.
For 52 straight days this winter, Shannon Hovey woke up in the company of five other men in a metal tube, 20 feet long and seven feet in diameter, tucked deep inside a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. He retrieved his breakfast from a hatch (usually eggs), read a briefing for the day, and listened for a disembodied voice to tell him when it was time to put on a rubber suit and get to work. Life in the tube was built around going through these same steps day after day after day … while trying not to think about the fact that any unintended breach in his temporary metal home would mean a fast, agonizing death.
Hovey works in one of the least known, most dangerous, and, frankly, most bizarre professions on Earth. He is a saturation diver—one of the men (right now they are all men) who do construction and demolition work at depths up to 1,000 feet or more below the surface of the ocean.
Source: The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver – Atlas Obscura
I was reading this New York Magazine article about how the pioneers of the Internet were apologizing for what it has become, nevermind that many of the “pioneers” they mentioned were Johnny-come-latelys in comparison to the actual beginning of the Internet.
NYMag’s story did feature two actual pioneers, though computer pioneers more than Internet ones: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. They included this photo and captioned it “Steve Jobs (left) in his parents’ garage in 1976, working on the first Apple computer with Steve Wozniak.”
There are a few problems with this photo and caption. First off, the photo is backwards. If you switch the photo to the proper orientation, you’ll be able to read that the text on the computer under Wozniak’s hand reads “Apple II.”
This brings us to the second issue with this photo and caption: it is not the first Apple computer (the “II” thing kinda gives this away). Apple’s first computer, the Apple I, did not come with a keyboard nor case. It was essentially a circuit board.
Was this photo really taken in the garage of Jobs’s parents? Wozniak has said that the whole garage thing is a myth and that no testing or production ever took place there. The photo shows a very neat-looking workspace with a workbench. According to what’s said to be the first news story on Apple Computer, the Steves were still working out of the Jobs garage when the article was written.
Yet another security flaw with Intel chips.
Intel has addressed a vulnerability in the configuration of several CPU series that allow an attacker to alter the behavior of the chip’s SPI Flash memory —a mandatory component used during the boot-up process.
According to Lenovo, who recently deployed the Intel fixes, “the configuration of the system firmware device (SPI flash) could allow an attacker to block BIOS/UEFI updates, or to selectively erase or corrupt portions of the firmware.”
Source: Intel SPI Flash Flaw Lets Attackers Alter or Delete BIOS/UEFI Firmware