If you've been around computers awhile, you probably have heard the term ASCII, American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It was limited though, because it only had 256 different letters, which is fine for our alphabet and left a lot of room for accents and glyphs. But, to be practical, we needed more than 256. There are many other alphabets with non-Roman characters. So we went to Unicode, which is 16 bit instead of 8 bit, and that gives us more than 65,000 different characters.
This Week in Tech News
In the aftermath of this week's election, people are blaming Facebook for not taking down fake news reports that could have impacted it. Leo says that Facebook can't vet every single post to verify if it's accurate. That's just unrealistic. And according to Facebook, the fake news posts this year was only a very tiny percentage of the posts that were put up. Leo also says that the most important thing we can teach kids today is to develop critical thinking, to verify what they read themselves and not to take things without a grain of salt.
In this election season, Leo says that touch screen voting machines are simply a bad idea. Technology can be a great thing, but not everything needs to be high tech. Voting machines need to be highly secure, must be constantly calibrated, and are ripe for hacking. Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should, and voting machines are a great example of that. By keeping paper ballots, there's also a paper trail, so it's harder for someone to falsify them.
Apple announced a new MacBook Pro with an interesting OLED Touch Bar that replaces the function key row. The design is really cool, but technology reporters think that Cupertino has no idea who the new computer is for. Leo also says that people are complaining that Apple is only giving lip service to the Mac platform now, and when it comes to the professional market, Apple has lost its way. Leo doesn't disagree. Pros are complaining that Apple has eliminated key ports like the standard USB, and even the Magsafe connector, all in favor of a USB-C capable Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Microsoft announced its very first desktop computer, as well as some new apps they're calling the "Windows Creative Edition" of Windows 10. The desktop is called the Surface Pro Studio, a 28" all-in-one desktop with an articulating arm that collapses the high resolution screen down into a huge drafting table configuration for painting and drawing. There's two color standards, including True Color and standard RGB. They also announced a wireless dial which you place on the screen and then can use it to change color pallets, tool bar options, menu access, etc.
A new article on Motherboard details how hackers used a spearfishing attack to get passwords and break into the email of members of the Democrat National Committee, namely John Podesta, and also Colin Powell. The attack came as a phoney message from Google that someone had their password and they should change the password immediately, along with a big "change password" button.
A Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDOS) hit the internet yesterday, tossing several networks offline. Leo says this happens all the time as robot computers are drafted to clog networks with phoney requests. What's disturbing about this particular attack is that it's using not only computers, but it's taking advantage of smart devices used in the home (called the internet of things), like routers, DVRs, smart refrigerators, and even internet enabled home security systems.
AT&T is buying Time Warner for $85 billion. Time Warner includes HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT, Warner Bros, and more. The reason these carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc are buying media companies is because they don't want to be in the business of being a 'dumb pipe' for internet access. They want to be in the content business. It's expected that the deal will get regulatory approval without issue.
Leo got the Google Pixel and inevitably you're going to compare it to the iPhone 7. First off, it's expensive. Leo also says that the iPhone feels better crafted and better built than the Pixel. But Leo has always preferred the Android OS to the iPhone. Leo likes the aliases you can have with Android. Widgets are also great. The artificial intelligence called Google Assistant is remarkable. Light years ahead of Siri, which lately has gotten dumber. Speech recognition is nearly perfect on the Pixel, while Leo says he has a lot of trouble with Siri.
President Obama has ordered the CIA to develop a "proportional response" to the reported Russian hacking of the DNC which exposed emails about the Clinton campaign. But Leo says what could the CIA expose by hacking the Kremlin? Putin posts bare chested pictures of himself on Instagram? The man is embarrassed by nothing! And could such a response cause an escalation? Leo says that our utility infrastructure is vulnerable to hacking and such a cyber war could devolve into crippling our electrical grid ... or worse.