Amazon Prime Day Announced Oct. 13th to Oct. 14th

Amidst weeks of silence from Amazon and frenzied speculation among supplicants Amazon has officially announced that their Prime Day will take place from October 13th-14th.

The shopping event exclusive to Amazon normally takes place in July but was postponed due to the pandemic. During the event Amazon has promised 1 million deals across the globe all from top brands.

In a statement Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said “In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,”

He continued “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes – and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”

As always, many Amazon branded products will be on sale include a bunch of their newest devices. Some of the highly anticipated deals are:

  • Two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
  • Fire TV Recast for $129.99
  • Four months of Amazon Music for $0.99
  • Toshiba 32-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $119.99
  • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99

The company is also offering customers a $10 coupon to spend with select small businesses who sell through Amazon. This is intended to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

 

Paramedics Navigate Trick Terrain Using Jet Packs

In the UK paramedics are testing a jet suit for use in the popular, but difficult and hilly landscape of the Lake District.

The 1050 horsepower jet suit allowed one paramedic to make a flight that took just 90 seconds. The hike would have been 25 minutes due to the terrain.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) is testing the suit along side its maker Gravity Industries.

The area is popular with hikers, but the ground is treacherous and filled with dangers terrain features. GNAAS believes they could get to injured hikers much more quickly with the jet pack. It would not only help lessen the suffering of some patients but be the difference between life and death.

The heritage area is protected by UNSESCO and contains some of the UKs highest peaks. The data shows there are dozens of patients a month, but the terrain makes them difficult to reach quickly.

While neither GNAAS or Gravity Industries was sure the jet pack would be an appropriate solution the test flights have left both parties certain the jet packed paramedics are the wave of the future in difficult terrain.

New Reality Show Promises Trip Into Space as Grand Prize

An in-the-works reality show says it will gift the winner of its competition what they are calling the best prize on Earth: a 10-day stay on the International Space Station.

The show is called “Space Hero” and its winning competitor could hit the ISS as soon as 2023, this according to the production company behind the series.

The production company, also named Space Hero, claimed in a press release that anyone from any background can win the chance to become the first “globally-elected space explorer.”

The production company says they are currently searching for global brand and primary distribution partners. They say the application process for contestants will start in the first half of the new year and broadcasting should begin in 2022.

Space Hero says their price is worth approximately $65 million.

 

38 Year Old “Microsoft Flight Simulator” Gets New Update

After almost a decade and a half Microsoft is releasing a new version of its video game title “Flight Simulator. It includes new features like traffic, live weather and a incredible world map.

The game lets players become a pilot and fly anywhere in the world, checking out cool sights during the journey.

For those who don’t know the game is very much a real-life simulation—players start by selecting a flight route, taking off, flying and landing all while balancing speed and momentum as a real pilot would have to. While players can skip or fast forward parts of the game, the journey and sight seeing is part of the purpose.

“Microsoft Flight Simulator—or “Flight Sim” as die hard fans call it—is 38 years old and predates both Windows and Word. Over the years it has found a very loyal fan base.

The update starts $59.99 but players can purchase new planes and new airports. It will be available for Xbox and Windows. The update also includes live weather which spices up the journey as pilots have to navigate different kinds of weather. And when Microsoft says live, they mean “LIVE.” A recent storm that passed by the US’s East Coast was visible in the game.

 

 

 

Possible Solar Flares and Their Effects on Our Technology

The sunspot labeled AR2770 could be cause for some concern as it is expected to grow in size according to spaceweather.com. Some minor solar flares have been emitted by this sunspot already. Though this has caused no reason for alarm.

However, if this sunspot, which can be up to 50k kilometers in diameter, may release a huge amount of energy in the form of solar flares. The phenomenon called Coronal Mass Ejection can cause solar storms and flares whose energy can reach all the way to earth and have a major effect on radio communication, GPS, satellites and even power girds.

NOAA stated that CMEs can cause changes in electrical currents in space which varies the Earth’s magnetic field. CMEs can also cause auroras.

A sunspot is a dark part of the sun that appears cooler than the other parts and contains electrically charged gases which in turn can generate great magnetic forces. Solar flares are the result of changes in the magnetic fields in the sunspots which cause huge explosions—the flares’ radition can disrupt many different types of technology on earth. One solar flare can be as powerful as one “Little Boy” atomic bomb like the ones dropped on Japan in 1945 by the United States.

 

EBay Sells eBay Classifieds for $9.2 Billion

EBay’s classified ads business, one of the oldest businesses on the internet, just sold to Adevinta (Norway) for $9.2 billion in order for them to create the largest online classifieds company.

Today classifieds online aren’t a huge business. Only about 3% of the $125 billion online advertising market (2019 according to Interactive Advertising Bureau).

However, in their day Craigslist and what became eBay Classifieds were some of the largest on the web.

EBay Classifieds Group was started 25 years ago as the AuctionWeb. EBay’s classifieds business was once known as DBA which was a popular, Danish all-classifieds newspaper that started publishing in the 1970s far before the idea that everyone would have a network connected computer in their home was commonplace. It decided to give the web a go in 1995.

EBay bought DBA along with lots of other similar businesses in 2008 to form the eBay Classifieds Group. However, classifieds weren’t ever at the center of eBay’s profit ambitions and in the first quarter of 2020 accounted for just 10% of the company’s total revenue.

Now, among a growing group of other non-central businesses like Skype, PayPal and StubHub, eBay decided to dump another branch of its business as it struggles to keep up with its primary and much larger rival Amazon.

 

New Research Finds Potential Security Risk in Internet Based Home Monitoring Cameras

A new study found that some popular home security cameras could alert a tech savvy burglar whether you are home or not. The researchers claim they could tell not only if someone was home but perhaps even what they are doing by looking just at the data uploaded by the camera and not even the actual footage.

The study was conducted by Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science. They used data provided by a large Chinese manufacturer of IP security cameras. Consumers use the cameras to remotely monitor their homes via a video feed over the internet.

The study found that the unencrypted data upload increased when a camera was recording movement. And that they could even tell by the data—and not the video feed itself—if someone was sitting or running for example.

While researchers were quick to note it would take a fairly technically savvy criminal to passively monitor this data it isn’t out of the question that someone could create and sell a software program that takes away the need for technical know-how.

The researchers also noted that they found no evidence that this was happening regularly or at all but it is a potential loop-hole in internet based home monitoring cameras. Someone could potentially collect and compare data to decide when someone is least likely to be home. Researchers suggested companies might want to inject random data into the stream to make it more difficult to make the data useful to criminals.

As of know these cameras aren’t very “smart” (to keep costs down) and record everything. In the future cameras might be able to decide when to record or when not to. For example, pet owners would probably want to set their cameras to ignore their pets’ movements.

Pop Cultural Icon, the Segway PT, to Stop Production 15 July 2020

While the Segway PT will forever have a place in 21st century pop culture the vehicle never saw the widespread use required for its inventor’s society-changing hopes. And this summer the Segway PT will be put to rest.

Chinese company Ninebot, who bought Segway in 2015, will stop production on the Person Transport on July 15th this year. They will also say goodbye to twenty staff involved in the project at their Bedford, New Hampshire plant.

The Segway PT made waves when it was first revealed on Good Morning America in early December of 2001.

Dean Kamen, the Segway inventor, had said that cars would become obsolete and the personal transport revolution would begin. Kamen thought it absurd that 2-ton vehicles are used for short trips—and perhaps he is still right about that. But consumers spoke out and the Segway PT only accounted for 1.5% of Ninebot’s revenue. Costing between $6k-$10k only tour companies and police departments could afford it.

Even police departments have switched over to Ninebot’s less expensive electric scooters.

With many more options of electronic or electronic-assisted personal transport out there the Segway, perhaps sadly, will become a museum piece this July.

KFC “Trolls” Playstation and Xbox New Console Announcements

As Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox announced their newest consoles fast food chain KFC announced the launch of their own gaming console. Unfortunately, (?) it was just a gag.

The day after Sony revealed its PlayStation 5 console whose design was met with mixed initial reviews KFC posted a video of its new “KFConsole” on social media.
The KFConsole looks like a legitimate gaming console complete with power button, disc drive, lights etc.

The video also claimed that the KFConsole would have cross-platform compatibility. There was, however, one feature that gives away the KFC game system as a joke. The KFConsole has a built in BBQ grill called a “chicken chamber” to be employed when the gamer has a hankerin’ to grill up some chicken.

The KFConsole video claimed the system would be released on November 12th. Many are hoping they have a follow up planed for that date.

While this may seem an act of total absurdity on KFC’s part to some, they do have a standing relationship with the gaming community. Their KFC Gaming Twitter has 123.6k followers and their KFC Gaming Instrgram has 66.6k followers. They’ve also released an actual video game on Steam called “I Love Your Colonel Sanders Dating Simulator Game. The fast food company has also encouraged games to create KFC themed Minecraft builds and share them.

Additionally, they are no stranger to unusual marketing including items like KFC nail polish, KFC chicken scented sun screen or KFC Crocs.

The Little Light Technology Getting Loud About Sterilization

LEDs, the now ubiquitous “Light Emitting Diode,” can be found everywhere—all over your house, your car, in the flashlights your family takes camping or uses for safety and visibility while riding bikes. The are tough, tiny, bright and energy efficient making them the perfect technology for additional research and applications.

A Mr. Zollner and his colleagues have been studying LEDs that emit ultraviolet light, particularly UV-C light, which is deadly to bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus.

The goal of the project is to create LEDs that are more powerful, tougher and cheaper. They want to make them ten to twenty times more powerful.
His goal is to make those LEDs more powerful, robust and cheaper. Zollner believes the technology could be widely adopted and used to clean surfaces and other things in the event of another pandemic or even just during our typical flu season.

Currently the technology is strong enough to clean a close cabinet. But to clean a room the lights need to be about twenty times more powerful.

These lights are so powerful that they are dangerous to human eyes and skin.
However one firm has already found a use for them by creating the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle. To protect the human user the LEDs, seated in the lid, only function when the lid is securely sealed. Users must push down on the lid to turn on the lights. The creating LARQ claims their bottle will be clear of most bacteria and viruses in just 60 seconds.

Coronavirus Contact Tracing

So now we are in the middle of this pandemic. In the face of this, Google and Apple has joined forces to supply contact tracing. They will be releasing software to automatically and autonomously log all the people you have been in contact with. It uses Bluetooth to collect (encrypted) codes but it doesn’t know the identity of the person. The codes stay on your phone while you remain anonymous.

Apps can be built on the API they make that can do what needs to be done with the codes but you will have to give permissions. Contact tracing is used to try to keep coronavirus at bay. This will help find those who are positive stay quarantined during their contagious period and find those they have contacted before they were symptomatic.

Having Apple and Google on this, will ensure their respective OS systems can be ready for this. They have only built a way to collect and make alerts. It is up to healthcare/governments to build the app to handle the information.

May the Force (4th) Be With You!

Today is May 4th and many promos may say “May the 4th be with you” as play on words of a popular line from Star Wars. So where did this punny way of saying it come from?

An early use comes from an ad in the London Evening News on May 4th in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was first elected as British Prime Minister. The ad read “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

It was used a second time in 1994 when Harry Cohen of the parliament made a joke in the House of Commons. In 2008, groups celebrated “Luke Skywalker Day” with the same phrase. It has been more popular since 2011 when the Star Wars Day event at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

May 4th is considered “Star Wars Day”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Day

Why Are People Still Using Zoom?

Since the last time we mentioned Zoom, it seems there have been alerts put out there asking people to stop using it. There are numerous problems with it. Sure, it is probably the easiest meeting software for non-technical people to use but the security is what has people up in arms.

So what is the problem? There are a few. Even last summer they found there was software used to bypass security to be able to launch it in a few clicks. This also makes it easy for hackers to start webcams and watch users without them knowing. The other bad thing is this bug remained even after the user uninstalls Zoom. Apple has removed this component by issuing a force-deployed update to every Mac in the world.

There are other things. Zoom can use your private video calls and sell ads. What if you are using Zoom to speak with your therapist? What kind of ads will they be marketing?

Another thing that was “fixed” was the fact that Zoom was sending user info to Facebook. That has since been fixed in an update.

To see more about this:
OneZero.medium.com
Tidbits.com

Here is a light-hearted parody of the Zoom security issues:

Some Ways Covid-19 has Changed the World

There are too many ways to count how this pandemic has changed the world. Here in America, it is like life has come to a stand-still. Many establishments are closed including schools, churches, libraries, dine-in restaurants, to name a few. Sometimes while we wallow in our own self-pity, we forget how it is affecting others, especially children, teenagers, and college students who are missing once in a lifetime milestones. We want to talk about how tech can be used to help.

First, the high school seniors are missing out on prom. Some have taken the initiative to try to have a virtual prom on Instagram or TikTok.

One college in Japan is holding their graduation via robots. The robots, dressed in cap and gown, have the students faces via Zoom showing their faces where the robot faces would be.

Our church has been able to bring services weekly during this crisis by keeping band members at least 6 feet apart. We were streaming every week anyway so we had everything in place for this to begin with. Our small groups have all moved to using online virtual meetings using software such as Webex or Zoom.

There are also new cautions about using Zoom. You need to make sure your settings are set up correctly as it could be hacked. Meetings are being “Zoombombed” and intruders putting in awful posts and images.

Zoom vs Skype vs Webex

We need to follow our government orders and stay at home. Many of us are fortunate enough be able to work from home, some already having been working remotely. Some of us already have some favorite tools to use. I only need a chat program but a lot of them have gone by the wayside: AIM, Googletalk, Yahoo messenger, Windows Live messenger, to name a few. ICQ is still around but who can stand “UH OH” every time a message comes in? Some messengers come with many more tools such as Slack.

Some groups or workforces need to have meetings where everyone can be in on the call. With the Covid-19 pandemic people are looking for ways to meet. Most people these days are using Zoom. ZDNet saw the trend of people using Zoom and did an informal survey to find out why people were Zooming and not Skyping.

Here is what they found out:

It seems that Zoom is easier to use, especially for non-technical people.

Next, they found people found Skype buggy, especially the apps.

Third issue was spam. Unless you have your settings locked down, you will be contacted by a lot of people you don’t know, or people trying to sell or get you to do something.

Webex, by Cisco, is a little trickier for some to use. They recently enhanced their free tier to allow up to 100 participants in each meeting instead of 50; they have allowed the meetings to be as long as you want up from 40 minute limit.

Some organizations that have regular meetings, like Bible studies or other meetings have had to find alternate ways to meet. Personally, we have tried Skype but as mentioned above, there were too many issues. We have moved to Webex ourselves.

I have not personally used Zoom but have signed up on their site and it does look very easy to use for small meetings. Zoom has up to 100 participants in a meeting, 40 minute limits but unlimited number of meetings. There are plans that cost money for each of the video conferencing software programs with added features like cloud storage, recording transcriptions, numbers of users, ways to connect, for example.

Charges are usually per host. So if you have one lead person hosting each meeting, that will be the only charge. Webex charges go from $13.50/month to $26.95/month. Zoom paid plans start at $14.99/month to $19.99/month/host minimum 10 hosts or 50 hosts for the business plan. Skype is free up to 50 people for video calls.

ZDNET article

To Track or Not to Track

Zachary McCoy, a restaurant worker in Florida, received a surprising email from Google. Google’s legal support team was letting him know that the local police department demanded some of his Google account data. Unless he tried to block it in court, they would release the data in seven days.

Not knowing what he had done, but noticing a case number, he began to search for the information. He found there was a burglary of a woman’s home within a mile of his and his roommates’ house. Knowing he had nothing to do with this, he contacted his parents who in turn hired a lawyer for him.

Their lawyer found out that they were looking for a “geofence warrant,” which just sweeps up all Google data from all GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connections nearby.

It turns out that McCoy uses an app on his phone called RunKeeper to record his bike rides. He found he passed by the victim’s home a few times within one hour, which is actually part of his normal frequent loops he makes all the time.

Even if you are innocently using your apps with GPS that keep track of your activities, you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Read the full article

Passwords…Again!

Yes, they are a pain. All the requirements to have minimum characters, numbers, symbols, lower case, upper case, where does it all end? Well for now it doesn’t. The Portland, Oregon division of the FBI has recommendations for passwords and security.

Some people seem not to care about passwords and just make a simple one to get them into a site. They reuse passwords for multiple sites without changing them. Sometimes there are a couple favorites they just use over and over again. If they are asked to change them out, they just rotate the same ones around.

So back to the recommendations of the FBI. They recommend using passphrases. This would be three or four totally unrelated words strung together. You still may need to add special characters or numbers or capitals with some sites like banks, but you can slip in between words if that makes it easier for you. If you need help, try out this passphrase generator.

Read the full FBI article

Malwarebytes 2020 Report

We talked about Malwarebytes a few years ago. Back then, it was mostly PC users that worried about malware and exploits. Well, in their latest reports–surprise, surprise–Malwarebytes reports that in 2019, they saw a 400% rise in MAC exploits! That is a significant change from previous years.

Many of the malware items are called PUPs-Potentially Unwanted Programs. Many of them need to be quarantined. Malwarebytes scans for those as well as PUMs-Potentially Unwanted Modifications. For a PC, PUMs could be found either in the registry or in a browser setting.

Read the report (PDF)

Source

Avast Caveats

Do you use Avast antivirus programs? It has come to light that they harvested user data and sold the information collected to a firm called Jumpshot who in turn sold to other companies: Google, Microsoft, Intuit, to name a few. This pertains to both PCs and Macs. This includes both free and premium services. So while you are trying to protect your privacy and data, Avast is going behind your back and selling your data and privacy.

To be fair, you have the option to opt-in to allow some user data to be collected, but you are not really told how or what is being used. The data collected includes location lookups, searches, YouTube video listings, Google Maps, LinkedIn, and various others.

Think twice before you download a free or even paid software. Don’t allow them to collect information.

Source

Do You Really Own What You Think You Own?

Wow – that sounds confusing. And it is. You purchase something you think is good tech only to find out it is no longer usable. The Victor crew came across this article and it is true. Many things no longer work because it is no longer supported.

For instance, in 2011, Lenovo came out with an Android tablet IdeaPad K1. So that Christmas, I treated myself to one. I went all out and bought the keyboard, a nice leather case, and carrier. I was set. About 6 months later, I find out it will no longer get updates of Android and they left us with and Android 4.0 update to flash on it which would wipe out any customizations ore even any apps on it. I did flash it but the hardware now is old enough it probably won’t run much anymore.

Another example is HP Printers. For some printers to print, you HAVE to be enrolled in their InstantInk program or they can remotely disable your printer.

Back to the article. It is about Sonos. Sonos announced they will stop sending security and software updates to their legacy systems. Products introduced between 2005 and 2011 are considered legacy. People are being offered a 30% discount to trade in their old systems, however, they put the item into a 21 day countdown before goint to “recycle mode”. Once in this mode, it cannot be used or repurposed without their permission.

It would be nice to know the expiration dates of our devices, whether it is security updates, general software updates, or when they think the hardware will no longer work.

Source

Amazon Sidewalk

The Victor crew recently heard of Amazon Sidewalk and wonder what this is about. Let’s find out.

Most homes have devices using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It may be to steam music, use a home camera system, maybe your appliances hook up to an app. Depending on your home systems, you might be maxing out or using all your available connections.

Amazon sidewalk wants to extend the range of low-bandwidth, low-power devices. Their new protocol hopes to increase the connection range. This will enable you to use smart devices anywhere on your property where Wi-Fi and Bluetooth usually can’t reach. They are utilizing a 900 MHz spectrum to help devices communicate. The 900 Hz spectrum has been around for a long time. It is the same used for cordless telephones which some of you may still have at home.

More practical applications would include getting notified when the mail is delivered, when to water your lawn through sensors, or even extending Amazon Fetch – a small device you can put on your pet’s collar and limit your pet to your yard using Ring.

Learn more

Contract for the Web

Do you realize there are many people who still cannot connect to the Internet? For most of us, all we need to do is pull out our cell phone and we are online. For those who cannot, there is a plan of action globally to try to ensure everyone a chance to connect.

This objective, spurred by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who implemented HTTP and is the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, is to join governments, companies, organizations, and individuals in an effort to allow all people to be able to go online free from the fear, abuse, privacy violations we are seeing now.

Some of the principles:
Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet
Keep the Internet available all the time
Respect and protect online privacy and personal data
Make the internet affordable and accessible to all
Develop technologies that support the best in humanity while challenging the worst.
Create and collaborate on the Internet

You can also join in the contract by sharing your email to be updated.

Find out more

Account Safety/Ring Camera

The Ring Camera system has recently been in the news because it can be hacked easily and one person hacked has filed a lawsuit against the owner, Amazon.

It seems that in plain terms, the authentication used by the family was not robust enough. Ring does offer two-factor authentication that can help prevent this from happening.

Many people fail to use two-factor authentication to begin with because they don’t really understand what it is. Once again we are urging people to get a password manager and use two-factor authentication where possible.

What two-factor authentication does is alert you to the fact a new device is trying to log into your account. If you don’t have two-factor enabled and have a weak password for ANYTHING, you are just asking to be hacked. Be safe and make it priority in 2020 to up your security game.

Kids these days…

This year’s top earning YouTuber with $26 million is 8-year-old Ryan Kaji. This young man has made his money as an “influencer” with his unboxing of toys. His channel was originally called “Ryan Toy Review” and was expanded to more than just unboxing. He uploads a new video every day. His channel is now called “Ryan’s World” and has 23 million subscribers.

Ryan has his own Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan%27s_World

This is his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/

Here is his latest video:

Check this out before buying a new Smart TV

New Smart TV on your Christmas list? Be careful of what features you get on your TV. Specifically the ones with cameras or microphones built in. They could be used to spy on you according to the FBI.

Smart TVs connect to the Internet in order to update, download apps, connect through the apps. Some of the newer ones have built-in cameras for facial recognition so they can suggest your favorite programming. Microphones are generally used for voice control for the remotes to change channels.

If your Smart TV is unsecured, hackers can listen and watch you as well, or take control of the TV. If you can’t turn off the camera, consider using black tape over the lens. Make sure to keep the software updated.

If you are victimized by any fraud on the Internet, contact the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center).