Episode 482 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

posted in: Show Notes


Cloud POS vendor Square adds 490 Australian resellers

Cloud-based credit card reading device vendor Square Reader has announced its release to 490 retail outlets in Australia through major chains Officeworks, Apple and Bunnings.

The product is available for $19 via the retailers or the company’s website with free shipping across the country. Square can be used with the free POS Square app, which is compatible with Intuit’s QuickBooks Online and Xero’s accounting system.

Square accepts debit and credit payments from Visa, MasterCard and American Express with a 1.9 percent charge per transaction.

Reward for dobbing in pirates quadruples to $20,000

People that dob in the use of unlicensed software by Australian business will get up to $20,000 reward from BSA The Software Alliance – four times the previous $5,000 reward.

The reward applies for leads on the illegal copying or use of software that belongs to BSA members, which includes Adobe, Apple, CA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec.

IDC research revealed that the higher the unlicensed PC software rate in a country, the more malware was generally registered.

Reward payments will be made 30 days after the BSA members obtain a judgement or out-of-court settlement. Potential recipients must provide assistance and evidence to support the information provided.

Last year Western Australia was the state with the highest number of software piracy settlements by businesses. BSA said the majority of offenders were in the manufacturing industry.

Sydney school bans laptops: labels them ‘scandalous waste of money’

The Sydney Grammar School has banned students from bringing laptops to his school,

“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting,”

Sydney Grammar students still have access to computers in the schools labs and can use laptops for homework, but are required to handwrite assignments until year 10.

The prestigious Sydney school charges a $32,644 annual tuition fee and regularly leads in national literacy and numeracy tests.

Bitdefender’s free tool protects against TeslaCrypt, Locky, CTB-Locker ransomware

Anti-virus software vendor Bitdefender released a free tool that can be used to protect systems infected by several growing ransomware strains.

The “combination crypto-ransomware vaccine” protects infections from the rising ransomware family Locky, and two older ransomware strains CTB-Locker and TeslaCrypt that recently resurfaced, the company said.

Many ransomware creators also build checks into their programs to ensure that infected computers where files have already been encrypted are not infected again. Otherwise, some files could end up with nested encryption by the same ransomware program.

The new Bitdefender tool takes advantage of these ransomware checks by making it appear as if computers are already infected with current variants of Locky, TeslaCrypt or CTB-Locker. This prevents those programs from infecting them again.

The downside is that the tool can only fool certain ransomware families and is not guaranteed to work indefinitely. Therefore, it’s best for users to take all the common precautions to prevent infections in the first place and to view the tool only as a last layer of defense that might save them in case everything else fails.

Users should always keep the software on their computer up to date, especially the OS, browser and browser plug-ins like Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java and Silverlight. They should never enable the execution of macros in documents, unless they’ve verified their source and know that the documents in question are supposed to contain such code.


FBI agrees to unlock another iPhone in homicide case

Police in Arkansas wish to unlock an iPhone and iPod belonging to two teenagers accused of killing a couple

A judge agreed to postpone the Arkansas case on 28 March to allow prosecutors to ask the FBI for help.

Apple's refusal to help the FBI unlock Syed Farook's iPhone sparked widespread debate and even protests

Hackers charge big bucks for stolen Aussie creds

Credentials for Australian accounts held with ANZ Bank with balances of A$23,827, were on sale for US$2250, US$3800 and US$4750 respectively.

The cost of MasterCard and Visa cards with magnetic strip data went up to US$25 compared to US$19-US$20 last year, with premium cards costing US$35 each.

Globally, hourly rates for denial of service attacks to disrupt networks have gone up, costing US$5 to US$10 per hour, or double that of last year, Secureworks said.

Longer attacks have halved in price, however, with day-long network flooding going for US$30-US$55, and weekly runs for US$200 to US$555.

Telstra customers hammer network on free data day

Telstra customers used up 2686 TB of data on Sunday during the telco’s free data day mea culpa for its recent outages, outstripping previous records by 46 percent.

In the February free data day, Telstra customers downloaded 1841 TB of data.

Stuart – 7/4/16

Kodak launches new Super 8 camera

It was the low-tech, easy-to-use film format beloved of budding auteurs and cinema-obsessed visual artists, but Super 8 died a death in 1982, when Kodak stopped making the camera units after the rise of video. Now, however, Kodak has announced it will issue a new version of the Super 8 camera, half a century after it was first launched in 1965.

Super 8 – so called because of the redesigned camera and film stock, which allowed a larger image to be derived from film that was a similar size to the standard 8mm gauge – helped revolutionise home movies in the 1960s and 70s by operating with an easily-loaded film cartridge, and adding capability to record sound on the same film strip.

‘Nothing beats film’ … Kodak’s Super 8 LCD camera

Despite the current predominance of digital formats in photography, Kodak is aiming to capitalise on what it calls the “analogue renaissance”, with a product launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. High-profile Swiss designer Yves Béhar has taken a lead role in the creation of the new camera.

Major directors have lined up to endorse Kodak’s new Super 8, many of whom used the format as teenagers in their first film-making attempts. Interstellar director Christopher Nolan said: “The news that Kodak is enabling the next generation of film-makers with access to an upgraded and enhanced version of the same analogue technology that first made me fall in love with cinematic storytelling is unbelievably exciting.” Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams – whose third feature, made in 2011, was called Super 8 – said: “While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film … The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true.”

And also in black … Kodak Super 8

However, the new Super 8 is not entirely devoted to celluloid: anyone sending their footage to Kodak for processing will also receive a digital copy of their film. The camera, which is expected to be available later this year, is likely to be sold for $400-$750 (£270-£510).

US Army hopes to outfit soldiers with tiny drones by 2018

American soldiers should soon get drone support beyond just big, expensive machines flying well above the battlefield. The US Army has requested industry information on the feasibility of making tiny drones (Soldier Borne Sensors in official lingo) that would help infantry gather intelligence on a small scale, such as peeping over a hill or around a building. Its dream recon machine would weigh no more than a third of a pound, launch within one minute and fly for at least 15 minutes. Ideally, the drones would be in service as soon as 2018.

These kinds of drones aren’t completely new (both British and Norwegian soldiers are already using them). However, they’re usually hand-built and expensive — not very practical for one of the world’s largest militaries. This initiative could lead to mass-produced miniature recon drones that help squads when conventional air support just isn’t an option.

NASA’s use of HoloLens puts you on Mars with Buzz Aldrin

I got a ticket to Mars.

At the end of an exhibit hall at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, a Microsoft representative punched my orange ticket. I was ready to strap on the company’s augmented reality headset for a holographic stroll on the neighboring planet. I was one of eight HoloLens-wearing visitors in a group at NASA’sDestination: Mars installation at Build. Although the demo was open to a limited audience last week, it will open its doors to all visitors at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer.

Inside a pitch-black room, stars twinkled in every direction I looked through my headset. Within seconds, I heard a male voice behind me. I turned to look in the direction of a life-size and lifelike hologram of Buzz Aldrin, the legendary Apollo 11 astronaut. Standing on the rusty red surface, he welcomed the group to the planet and proceeded to give us a tour. Many arms in the room stretched out to touch him but only cut through the light projection of his NASA jacket.

Halfway through the experience, Erisa Hines, a Curiosity rover driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, showed up on the planet. Her holographic avatar, dressed in dark denim and high boots, introduced the six-wheeled vehicle that has been gathering data on Mars since 2012. As she talked about discovering specific formations based on the rover’s findings, a small white arrow simultaneously popped up on the screen to make me look at a large rock before pointing me to a drilling site.

“We didn’t concoct this environment for people to look at,” Dr. Jeff Norris, lead mission operations at JPL, told me later. “It’s not a theme park ride. This is what Mars really looks like. People are looking at it the same way as many of our scientists are looking at it.”

Destination: Mars is an offspring of OnSight, a mission-control software that helps JPL scientists navigate the surface of the planet with HoloLens. Through the collaboration between NASA and Microsoft, which kicked off early last year, the team has been able to project an accurate 3D replica of Mars. “When scientists put the HoloLens on, Mars fills out the room around them,” said Lorraine Bardeen, GM Windows and HoloLens experiences. “So they can get up, walk around and say, ‘Oh, actually we were going to go that way but there’s a dip that would’ve gotten the rover’s wheels caught in. Let’s go around that way.’ They wouldn’t see that from the 2D images.”

Prior to OnSight, scientists have worked with two-dimensional information, images stitched together for scientific planning and estimation. “They have spent years being trained for this. They’re optimized to understanding those images but it’s still challenging,” said Bardeen. “With augmented reality, they’re able to avoid challenges they wouldn’t have realized were coming.”

Because AR is a medium that modifies a user’s reality, it’s easy to compare its applications to VR. While the use cases may sound similar, they’re not interchangeable. “We use HoloLens for OnSight because we wanted the scientists, who we’re building the tools for, to be able to use other tools in conjunction with it,” Norris pointed out. “So when they’re on the surface of Mars, they can look up and see where things are but also do things on their computer at the same time.”

Having successfully employed the device internally and even sending a couple of headsets to the International Space Station, bringing the holographic experience to tourists and space enthusiasts in Florida seems like a natural step forward. “This is the best way for us as scientists and engineers to look at the planet but this is also the best way to involve the public in what’s happening in the journey,” said Norris. “Space exploration feels so abstract to people when they’re just looking at the picture or a video. But this allows us to speak to the part of their brain that will make them realize that this is a real place. We greatly respect the innate ability and desire to explore. We want to unburden and unlock that.”

While both VR and AR have the power to solve specific problems and unlock immersive experiences, in some use cases like a public installation, one medium is more effective than the other. Where VR creates a full, deep immersion, AR can build shared experiences. The ability to have a personal moment as you view the spectacle of space through your headset is only made greater when you hear other people in your group “ooh” and “aah” at the same sights. “It’s very important to us that it’s not a solo experience,” said Norris. “We want the group to be self directive, crisscrossing in the room and pointing together. We needed to have an untethered device like HoloLens to be able to do that.”

NASA’s use of the device is transforming the way scientists are studying an alien surface. It validates the visual capabilities of Microsoft’s technology. Imagine being able to experience the solar system with a legendary astronaut in addition to reading about it, seeing your future holographic home in your architect’s office or collaborating on a design project in real time over Skype.

But outside of Microsoft’s initial partnerships with NASA and Case Western Reserve University (where HoloLens is being tested in a medical setting), the landscape of applications is wide but mostly barren at the moment. The infancy of the medium is its biggest challenge right now. “For Destination: Mars we were figuring out how to render a full-scale person and the Mars terrain together, within the performance constraints of the device,” said Norris. “But also how do we tell a story about Mars where people can look anywhere they want but also attract their attention to things that are exciting. We had to find a balance between leaving them alone and drawing them in.”

The inclusion of Aldrin and Hines in this narrative keeps the viewer engaged in the experience. “I’m hoping that the way we connect participants with Mars, we will also connect them with the explorers,” said Norris. “Mars is a real place and real people are exploring it. Maybe this will help people think, ‘I can be a part of that exploration.’ I think if we achieve that then Destination: Mars was successful.”

Back in the dark-room installation, Aldrin stepped back into view to conclude the holographic journey on Mars. He talked about the future of space exploration as he drew the group’s attention to a human-built camp. All HoloLens-wearing heads in the room followed his lead to find two astronaut figures in the far distance, overlooking the vast expanse of the tawny planet. Within moments, a space shuttle blasted into space with a rumbling sound. I turned my head up, way up, to follow its fire trail cut across the dark sky. As I watched it fade into space, I suppressed the lump in my throat before slowly making my way out.


Apple Admits To Serious iOS 9.3.1 Problem

OS 9 hashad a bumpy ride. Despite being claims this generation of iOS would focus on optimisation as opposed to major features, each major iOS 9 release – 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3 – has suffered fromsignificant problems. But even if the bugs haven’t improved since iOS 8, AppleAAPL +1.05%’s attitude towards them certainly has…

Apple iOS 9.3.1 - Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Apple iOS 9.3.1 – Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Last week Apple launched iOS 9.3.1 – primarily to address serious problems introduced in iOS 9.3 – and this fix in turn was discovered to cause amajority security hole. Yet, unlike the silence that greeted many problems in iOS 8 (7 months toadmit to ‘WiFried’ anyone?), Apple has again fronted up immediately and admitted to the flaw.


Will Apple’s FBI Tussle Take a Bite Out of the Brand?

he revelation that the FBI was able to break into a secured iPhone without Apple’s help won’t take a bite out of Apple’s brand reputation, but consumers will be looking for security improvements soon.

The Apple brand has already withstood worse. In 2014, hackers posted nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities after guessing their passwords and breaking into their Apple iCloud accounts. Beyond security, Apple has faced complaints that the iPhone 6 Plus bent too easily and that the iPhone 4 lost signal strength when users held it a certain way.

In each case, Apple’s reputation recovered — and the company went on to sell 232 million iPhones last year. And on Thursday, crowds formed at some stores as the new iPhone SE went on sale, though the company hasn’t released figures.

YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks brand perceptions, said that the Apple brand has been trending modestly positively since early March and that the FBI dropping the case had no effect on that.

And investors haven’t shown much concern: Apple’s stock has increased 4 percent since the FBI said late Monday that it didn’t need help to break into the phone. Investors have typically been more worried about whether Apple can maintain its growth as smartphone sales slow down.

Apple resisted the FBI’s demands that it rewrite the iPhone’s software to override safeguards against repeatedly guessing passcodes. But the FBI now says it didn’t need Apple’s help after all in breaking into an iPhone used by a San Bernardino killer. It was an older model, but has recent iPhone software.

Apple is already expected to tighten security even more with its next iPhone software, likely to be announced in June and available in September. But can Apple assure its phones are unbreakable when the FBI won’t reveal what technique it used?

“They have a window to address the problem, but … there has to be news soon, with Apple saying ‘Here’s how the new iPhone is now Fort Knox,” said Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting.

Apple won’t comment on specific plans, but says it’s constantly working to improve the security of its devices, because it knows hackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities. Apple also says it can deliver software updates quickly because it sends them directly to users. With Android, any updates have to wait for phone makers and wireless carriers to approve them.

And even if the FBI doesn’t disclose the technique it used, it may become outmoded as Apple continues updating its security protections.

Christopher Lehmann, managing director of branding firm Landor in San Francisco, said iPhone buyers will understand that Apple’s in a business that’s “always about improvement, evolving and being agile about how you approach technology.”

In addition, Apple likely got some kudos from consumers for standing its ground against the government.

And Apple benefits from a quick resolution. Scott Galloway, clinical professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, said Apple risked public sentiment turning against the company as people became more informed about the case, and particularly if Apple lost.

For now, he said, “the line isn’t going to be any shorter for the iPhone because the FBI in concert with a third party figured out a way to hack into one phone. I haven’t heard anybody say ‘That’s it, I’m switching to Samsung.'”               


Tesla steals the show with the Model 3

The new Tesla Model 3 has arrived and so has the hype.

The high-end electriccar company last week revealed its more affordable Model 3, which starts at $35,000. Customers lined up to snag one, and Tesla said preorders for the Model 3 — which won’t even be delivered to customers until late next year — hit 276,000 over the weekend. We discuss whether excitement about Tesla’s new vehicle has already overreached or if the Model 3 signals a big shake up in the car world.

While Tesla may be enjoying the attention, Apple is uncharacteristically not getting much notice for its newest product. The iPhone SEreportedly posted weak sales during its first weekend, revealing a lack of interest in the 4-inch phone.

We also discussApple’s 40th birthday and, naturally, whether its rumored car project will come to fruition.

The 3:59 gives you bite-size news and analysis about the top stories of the day, brought to you by CNET Executive Editor Roger Cheng and Senior Writer Ben Fox Rubin.


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