The End Of The World Via Text Message

It's sobering and rather depressing to realize that if the bombs do start raining down upon us, if we get any warning at all it will be from our smartphones.

Residents of Hawaii found this out during a very unpleasant 30 minutes or so when island residents all received an early Saturday morning alert on their phones:
What would you think?

While it was indeed an official alert (i.e. not a prank or a hack) it was thankfully not correct, and explanations and apologies were sent via Twitter after around 10 minutes and then via the cell phones again after about another 30 mins. 

While I expect some will make light of it, the way we do after a near miss - but for several minutes, real fear must have spread though the population of that lovely place. 

And the bell tolled via a text message alert.


Snow Shoveling - SafetyTips

It's that time of year again in the heartland of the USA, where is snows. Sometimes it snows a little, sometimes it snows a lot; but it typically will snow from time to time.

If you have to clear your driveway of snow, and don't own a snow blower/thrower, here are a few safety tips, especially geared towards older folks.

1 - dress in layers, wear warm gloves, and remember to hydrate
2 - assemble your tools; snow shovel, snow melting material, etc
3 - find a 14-year-old and pay them to do it
4 - drink warm cocoa


Weekly Round-Up - Jan 12

I have gotten into the habit of coming up with a list of interesting links on a more-or-less weekly basis and posting them on this little corner of the web.

My goal is to try to mix it up between informative, funny, ridiculous, etc. and so I hope many of you will at least enjoy a couple of these in another weekly round-up.

What to do if you forget your Macs password

Everything is way too complicated - CES malarkey

Have you/will you invest in cryptocurrency in 2018?

Is 2018 the year the Internet finally died?

How to securely erase most tech

Tech Trends from CES 2018 that will actually matter

Why does "Doohickey" mean a gadget?


Microsoft Patches, Some AV Products Clash Over Meltdown

Microsoft's patches designed to mitigate against the recent meltdown and spectre cpu-related security issues have butted heads with some antivirus products that have their claws a wee bit too deep into the tender flanks of Windows.

The upshot is that if antivirus vendor xyz can't certify their product does not violate Microsoft's requirement for a particular registry setting to be in place, then that installation of Windows will not get any more security patches (until the situation is rectified).
“Customers will not receive the January 2018 security updates (or any subsequent security updates) and will not be protected from security vulnerabilities unless their antivirus software vendor sets the following registry key”
The reason is that some antivirus products behave in such a way that can cause Windows to crash (and perhaps even become unbootable) if the new security patches are applied. Not a good situation.

Microsoft does not specifically call out any antivirus makers or products in the above link, but there is some more information here.


Car Autonomy - Level Up!

We are pretty quickly heading towards the age of self-driving or fully-autonomous private cars, and we are probably further along that path than many of us think. 

The level of autonomy is usually presented as a numbered scale, 0 or 1 being the kind of car most of us are familiar with, and 4 or 5 being effectively a "robotic car", depending on the particular scale being used.

The SAE scale (PDF) is basically as follows:

0 - no automation
1 - driver assistance - e.g. help with steering or braking
2 - partial automation - e.g. help with steering AND braking
3 - conditional automation - e.g. car helps with most driving
4 - high automation - e.g. car drives itself under many conditions
5 - full automation - e.g. car drives itself all the time, anywhere

These are not legal definitions, but rather technical guidelines indicating what a particular technology is expected to do or is capable of.

Right now, in early 2018, we are playing around in the level 2 and 3 sand box (Tesla's system is level 2 on this scale, the new Audi 8 is allegedly level 3). That snuck up on us pretty quick, didn't it?

Click to enlarge