Weekly Tech Roundup #6
"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers" - Pablo Picasso
NASA still doesn’t know how long SpaceX’s astronaut mission will last
We’re fast approaching crunch time for the partnership between NASA and SpaceX that will culminate in the first NASA astronauts being launched from US soil since the Space Shuttle era. SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and on May 27th, the spacecraft will carry a pair of astronauts to the International Space Station.
It’s going to be a very big day and a huge milestone for both SpaceX and NASA, but there’s still a big question left unanswered: How long will astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley remain in space during this first crewed SpaceX launch?
Elon Musk and Grimes named their baby X Æ A-12 and the internet reacted accordingly
Celebrity couple Elon Musk and Grimes welcomed their new child to the world late Monday or early Tuesday.
Musk posted to Twitter the two had a baby boy, and that Grimes and the child were healthy. He also answered a Twitter user who asked about the baby's name. And well... how do we now pronounced this one?
Elon Musk explains his baby's name on Joe Rogan's podcast
Elon Musk — the eccentric and very online billionaire — returned to Joe Rogan's podcast shortly after his child was born.
In case you missed it, Musk and his partner Grimes set the internet ablaze by naming their child — who was born on May 4 — X Æ A-12 Musk. A lot of folks wondered how, exactly, you pronounce that name,
Rogan asked the Tesla founder about that immediately.
"How do you say the name?" Rogan asked. "Is it a placeholder?"
"First of all, my partner is the one who, mostly, actually came up with the name," Musk answered.
"I mean it's just X, the letter X," Musk explained. "And then the AE is like pronounced 'ash'... yeah... and then A-12 is my contribution."
Rogan asked, "Why A-12?"
Musk explained it was in honor of the plane the Archangel 12, the precursor to the SR-71, which the billionaire described as "the coolest plane ever."
So, if we put that all together, phonetically it's something like: "X-ash-A-twelve."
Nintendo Switch Laptop Isn't As BASIC As It Looks
Remember the days when computers booted up straight into a BASIC screen, where theoretically you could program yourself a full game without any further software needed? Well, in reality most of us were amused enough making it print “butts” over and over again, but there are those who are adept in the dark arts of making impressive things with such a limited language. [Bugtaro] is one of those people, and to help with his game development in SmileBASIC 4 on the Nintendo Switch, he built himself a dock that turns it into a laptop with an integrated keyboard.
Details on the build are scarce as it’s only outlined in his Twitter account, but there’s enough to give us an idea about what it’s composed of. The Switch slides into the top just like the official dock it comes with, and the laptop shell takes advantage of those functions. Inside it is a 5000 mAh battery to extend the portable life of the whole ensemble, plus a USB hub which gives it its built-in keyboard and allows for a mouse to be plugged in as well. The laptop also gives the Switch its docked TV output mode and can hold the Joy-cons slotted on its sides.
Twitter steps up its fight back against 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories
Twitter will begin prompting people who tweet about the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory to read British government-verified information about the technology.
The theory, which has spread on social media, has resulted in attacks on mobile telecoms masts and abuse directed at engineers in Britain. Scientists, phone companies and the government have said it is completely untrue.
Twitter said the search prompt would inform users that the government had seen no link between 5G and COVID-19, and include a link to a government website with credible, factual and verified information in relation to 5G.
GitHub Codespaces lets you code in your browser without any setup
In a major announcement for developers, GitHub has launched Codespaces — a feature that lets you code directly on the web. Think of this as a virtual Integrated Development Environment (IDE) on the cloud.
Earlier, to contribute to a project you would need to make a pull request, and set up the environment on your local machine according to the requirements of a project. With Codespaces, you don’t need to do that anymore. As soon as you click on the code button, the website sets up the environment in seconds.
Researchers explore quantum computing to discover possible COVID-19 treatments
Quantum machine learning, an emerging field that combines machine learning and quantum physics, is the focus of research to discover possible treatments for COVID-19, according to Penn State researchers led by Swaroop Ghosh, the Joseph R. and Janice M. Monkowski Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering. The researchers believe that this method could be faster and more economical than the current methods used for drug discovery.
Funding from the Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, coordinated through the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences as part of their rapid-response seed funding for research across the University to address COVID-19, is supporting this work.
21st Century Cheating: WiFi In A Calculator
Obviously, we would never endorse cheating on an exam, but sometimes a device is just too tempting to be left untouched. For [Neutrino], it was an old Casio calculator that happened to have a perfectly sized solar panel to fit a 128×32 OLED as replacement. But since the display won’t do much on its own, he decided to connect it to an ESP8266 and mount it all inside the calculator’s housing, turning it into a spy-worthy, internet-connected cheating device, including a stealthy user interface controlled by magnets instead of physical buttons. (Video, embedded below.)
To achieve the latter, [Neutrino] added two Hall effect sensors and a reed switch inside each end of the calculator. Placing a magnet — possibly hidden in a pen cap — near the reed switch will turn the display on, and placing another magnet near the Hall-effect sensors will navigate through the display’s interface, supporting two inputs with long, short, and multi-tap gestures each. To obtain information through WiFi, the ESP8266 connects to Firebase as backend, allowing to set up predefined content to fetch, as well as a possibility to communicate with your partner(s) in crime through a simple chat program.
Zoom Acquires Keybase and Announces Goal of Developing the Most Broadly Used Enterprise End-to-End Encryption Offering
We are proud to announce the acquisition of Keybase, another milestone in Zoom’s 90-day plan to further strengthen the security of our video communications platform. Since its launch in 2014, Keybase’s team of exceptional engineers has built a secure messaging and file-sharing service leveraging their deep encryption and security expertise. We are excited to integrate Keybase’s team into the Zoom family to help us build end-to-end encryption that can reach current Zoom scalability.
This acquisition marks a key step for Zoom as we attempt to accomplish the creation of a truly private video communications platform that can scale to hundreds of millions of participants, while also having the flexibility to support Zoom’s wide variety of uses. Our goal is to provide the most privacy possible for every use case, while also balancing the needs of our users and our commitment to preventing harmful behavior on our platform. Keybase’s experienced team will be a critical part of this mission.
New coronavirus revelation changes what we know about the outbreak’s origins
A peer-reviewed study looking at the genetics of the novel coronavirus published earlier this week said the virus has been spreading worldwide since late December, which would be much earlier than initially believed. However, the virus hasn’t circulated long enough to infect a significant amount of the population, which would get communities closer to acquiring herd immunity. The concept refers to having enough people in a community develop immunity to a pathogen via infection or vaccine so that outbreaks aren’t possible.
The study supports separate discoveries that say COVID-19 was spreading in several countries in Europe and in the US well before the first official cases were documented. More interestingly, it offers a timeframe for the virus’s jump to humans, saying SARS-CoV-2 could have infected the first people as early as October 2019.
MPA and Amazon Ask Github to Suspend Kodi Add-On Developer’s Account
The MPA, MPA-Canada, and Amazon have filed a request with Github requesting that a Kodi add-on developer's account be deleted from the platform. Citing a copyright case and a permanent injunction handed down by Canada's Federal Court, the content companies claim that the account is still being used to infringe their rights. Github has left the account intact, however.
Following a massive surge in interest over the past several years, Kodi remains the platform of choice for millions of people looking to access movies and TV shows for free.
In its standard form, the Kodi software is entirely legal but when augmented with third-party add-ons, it turns into a piracy powerhouse.
As a result, the developers of Kodi are legally in the clear but the same cannot be said for the developers of the countless add-ons designed for the express purpose of finding, accessing, and delivering infringing content. The MPA and like-minded companies are in a constant battle to disrupt their activities, sometimes ending up in court to achieve those goals.
Could this be the world’s most harmless IoT botnet?
When researchers investigate suspected malware on an IoT device they normally expect to find a cryptominer to earn a hacker digital cash or perhaps botnet code to launch DDoS attacks against websites.
What they probably never expect is to stumble across an entire botnet secretly operating under the radar of security firms for years, with the sole purpose of downloading Japanese anime videos.
The so-called Cereals botnet, created eight years ago, exploits a security vulnerability in D-Link NAS (Network Attached Storage) and NVR (Network Video Recorder) devices to hijack them for its anime-collecting purposes.
The 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory just took a really dark turn
Mobile phone masts in the UK are still being attacked by arsonists on a daily basis because of a conspiracy theory linking 5G to the spread of coronavirus. New data seen by WIRED reveals that dozens of attacks have taken place in the last fortnight, with conspiracy theorists targeting both infrastructure and key workers in the misguided belief that they are somehow spreading coronavirus. In one incident, a broadband engineer was spat at in the face by an enraged member of the public. The engineer is now ill with suspected coronavirus.