Posted by & filed under Censorship, China, Civil Liberties.

Microsoft confirmed Thursday that Bing was unavailable in China, raising concerns that it could be the latest in a growing list of global internet platforms to be shut out of China’s huge market.
Hours later, however, some users were once again able to access the service.
“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” a Microsoft(MSFT) spokesperson told CNN Business on Thursday.
Bing is the last major foreign search engine operating in China after Google (GOOGL) pulled out in 2010. The service interruption suggested that even tech companies that submit to Beijing’s strict internet censorship regime can still run into trouble in the country.
Source: CNN Technology
Date: January 24th, 2019
Discussion
1) Should Microsoft operate in a country that subjects its citizens to censorship of information like this?
2) Is it possible for Western, democratic governments to censor information on the internet?

Posted by & filed under Autonomous aircraft.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and air taxis are no exception.

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, said it completed the first flight of its autonomous air taxi Tuesday at a small airport outside Washington, DC. No one was on board.

The flight lasted less than a minute, according to Boeing, and it didn’t actually go anywhere. Instead, it hovered above the runway. Boeing declined to share how high above the ground it flew.

But Boeing is hailing the achievement as a milestone for its NeXt division, which develops autonomous airplanes.

 The flying car prototype is 30 feet long and 28 feet wide. It’s designed to fly up to 50 miles at a time.

Source: CNN Technology News

Date: January 24th, 2019

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/23/tech/boeing-flying-car/index.html

Discussion

1) In what ways are the issue with an autonomous air taxi different from an autonomous car?

2) What could go wrong?

Posted by & filed under Amazon.

Scout, the delivery robot

Amazon is experimenting with delivery robots, starting with a little truck called Scout which is taking to the pavements in Washington State.

Six of the autonomous electric trucks will deliver parcels “at walking pace” round Snohomish County.

The robots will only operate during the day and will be accompanied by an Amazon employee initially.

It is the latest in a series of trials of pavement robots, seen as being a good alternative to road deliveries.

“We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle, ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path,” said Amazon vice-president Sean Scott on the company’s blog.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: January 24, 2019

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46987779

Discussion

1) What problems, if any, do you see with a robot delivery system like this?

2) It is currently snowing in Missoula, Montana.  How would this work in the snow?

Posted by & filed under Consumer Technology.

 

After three hours wandering through endless aisles of gadgets at CES, the world’s largest consumer technology conference, the products start to blend together. Was this automated cat litter cleaner the same one we saw 20 minutes ago? How many internet-connected locks can the world possibly need?

But somewhere between hour four and five, something strange happens. There is a moment of clarity — not about the future of technology, but about who we are right now and what we think is wrong with our lives. We realize that CES is a collection of devices that cash in on our biggest issues, and that we have a ton of them.

Source: CNN Technology

Date: January 17th, 2019

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/11/tech/ces-2019-gadgets-anxiety/index.html

Discussion

1) Why is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas so important (or not)?

2) Is it ethical of companies “to play on our fears”?

Posted by & filed under Amazon, Privacy.

For Amazon, getting Alexa’s new security-guard feature to work meant literally breaking a lot of windows.

In December, the company started inviting Amazon Echo users to try out Alexa Guard, a new setting that turns the smart speakers into home security devices. It listens for suspicious sounds when you’re away and sends a smartphone alert if it detects, say, a window breaking and a possible break in.

According to Prem Natarajan, vice president of Alexa’s AI division, Amazon employees had to destroy different types of glass, such as window glass, wine glasses and drinking glasses, with tools like baseballs or hammers to train the technology.

Source: CNN Technology News

Date: January 17th, 2019

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/15/tech/amazon-alexa-guard/index.html

Discussion

1) Amazon surely can’t have people doing lab tests like this for every single thing.   Why is it worth it to Amazon to spend time and money on this?

2) What privacy issues might there be if you turn your Amazon speakers in to listening devices that, presumably, are always listening?

Posted by & filed under Apple, Samsung.

The South Korean company said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter operating profit is set to plunge nearly 30% from a year earlier, well below analysts’ forecasts. It blamed the sharp drop on “lackluster demand” for its memory chips and “intensifying competition” in the smartphone industry.
Samsung’s guidance comes after Apple (AAPL) set off alarm bells last week by warning that it will sell fewer iPhones than previously expected, mainly because of disappointing demand in China amid an ongoing trade war with the United States.
Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, didn’t mention China specifically in its earnings guidance on Tuesday, but it said “mounting” macroeconomic uncertainties are affecting its business.
Source: CNN Technology News
Date: January 10th, 2019
Discussion
1) Why is it important (or not) to pay attention to how companies like Samsung and Apple are doing?
2) Samsung says they have “intensifying competition” yet Apple is not that competition.  Who is?

Posted by & filed under Competitive Advantage, Cyber Security.

Huawei's stand at CES

In a corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a row of Huawei Mate P20 smartphones are lined up, sparkling, for CES delegates to try out.

It’s a typical scene at the trade show but one made slightly surreal by the fact that few Americans will likely ever own these phones. Right now, US networks don’t offer any Huawei smartphones, because US security services are worried they could be used for Chinese surveillance.

And yet, Huawei has still decided to promote itself at CES in some force – at a time when the company’s chief financial officer faces possible extradition to the US over accusations of bank fraud.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: January 10th, 2019

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46819325

Discussion

1) Any phone can be “used for surveillance”, so why the particular issues with Huawei phones?

2) Should consumers be just worried Chinese phones, or other devices and manufacturers too?

Posted by & filed under Cloud Computing.

Keys, CES, Security

A digital solution for lost house keys has been revealed at the CES tech show.

KeyHero will scan and upload a precise image of a key to the cloud for free, but it can only be accessed in one of the firm’s partner stores.

This image is encrypted and linked to a phone number or email, rather than a home address.

If a key is lost, its image can be then recalled via a mobile phone app and recreated in a shop, instead of calling out a locksmith.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: January 8, 2019

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46795616

Discussion

1) What are reasons for wanting to, or not wanting to upload your house key to the cloud?

2) Is the cloud more or less secure than your phone?

Posted by & filed under Facebook.

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Source: New York Times

Date: December 19th, 2018

Link (open with an incognito browser to avoid limitations on article access): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/technology/facebook-privacy.html

Discussion

1) Facebook is a company, and there is no requirement to use Facebook in order to live your life.  Given that, should it matter at all what Facebook does with the information you provide to them, freely, on the platform they provide, freely, to you?

2) Would it matter to most people if Facebook was very explicit about what they were doing with your information?  That is, would user behaviour change if Facebook was more open?

Posted by & filed under 5G, Emerging Technologies.

Ushering in the mobile 5G era, AT&T announced Tuesday that it will start selling a 5G wireless hotspot. It can offer speeds up to 400 megabits per second, which is way faster than most home broadband connections and between 10 and 100 times faster than 4G, depending on network conditions. 4G is the fastest wireless technology available to most people right now.

The hotspot will convert the network’s airwaves into Wi-Fi, allowing PCs, phones, and other internet-connected gadgets to access AT&T’s ultra-fast 5G speeds.

Source: CNN Business news

Date: December 18th, 2018

Link (includes video): https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/18/tech/5g-mobile-att/index.html

Discussion
1) The article suggests that 5G “will enable some really cool, futuristic technology.”  What might this mean?
2) How do things change if you don’t need to have a broadband service provider as a company, and can instead operate completely off a wireless network?