Major League Baseball Hacking Incident

According to the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, a Minnesota man has been charged with hacking Major League Baseball’s computer systems and trying to extort $150,000 from them.

According to court documents, 30 year old Joshua Streit sent emails to an MLB executive threatening to publicize the vulnerability he discovered and used to access the website the MLB uses from streaming live games before asking for the $150,000.

Allegedly Streit renewed his extortion attempt in September, when the MLB was under increased stress building up to upcoming playoff season.

Many news outlets contacted a Twitter accounted listed in the criminal complaint as being Streit’s, but the account has not yet responded to any requests for comments. James Beckcer, the attorney listed as Streit’s in court documents as also not responded to requests for comments.

The charges listed against Streit, aka Josh Brody, include illegally hacking a computer to commit fraud, wire fraud and sending threats over state lines with the intent to extort. Streit/Brody could face anywhere from 2-20 years in prison for each charge.

Robots in the Ocean

For much of human history we have explored and lived in some of the most extreme environments on the planet—mountains, jungles, deserts. However, the largest environment on Earth composing 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean largely remains a mystery to us.

Only about 20% of the ocean bed has been mapped.

A fuller picture of the ocean would bring many benefits including safer navigating ships, creating more accurate climate models, laying new telecommunication cables, the building of offshore windfarms and of course protecting marine species.

Many refer to this as the “blue economy” and it could be worth an astonishing $3 trillion by 2030.

While underwater robotic vehicles equipped with various equipment have been in service for quite a while and have increased the amount of data we collect and at a lower cost, many of these robots rely on batteries and have to return to the shore or a boat to recharge making it impossible for them to ever map the most remote parts of the ocean.

Yi Chao’s Seatrec startup is working on solving this challenge by channeling the natural temperature differences in ocean waters.

Snapchat Gets Safer

Snapchat is set to roll out a what some are calling a “buddy system” feature that will let users share their location with a friend for a time.

The safety feature comes as young people return to campuses, traveling, dating and perhaps going back to work in the office, according to Snapchat. The feature is not unlike Apple’s Find My app which allows users to share their phone’s location in real time with friends for varying, pre-determined amounts of time (from 15 minutes, 1 hour or even 8 hours). Snapchat found a partner in It’s On Us which is a nonprofit created in 2014 whose goal was to combat sexual assault on campuses.

Snapchat, since 2017, has let users share their location with Snap Map, however a user’s location only updates when the app is open. Snapchat claimed that 250 million people use Snap Map each month. In May 2021 Snapchat had 500 million monthly active users. An internal survey revealed that 78% of users had no problem using Snap Map to share their location with friends as a safe way to connect with other people.

Like Snap Map, the new safety feature is not turned on by default but can easily be found by users. Smartly, Snapchat has limited with whom and how long users can share their instant location to reduce the risk of the feature being used for stalking.

TikTok Lawsuit

Former TikTok content moderators have hit the social media platform with another lawsuit in which they are claiming damages because the job traumatized them.

Ashley Velez and Reece Young are the former contract-based content mods suing TikTok. They allege that their work required them to few unedited, unfiltered content they described as “disgusting and offensive.” They further described it as sexual and violent but used more explicit terms. The plaintiffs allege that TikTok and parent company ByteDance failed to protect moderators from harm and that they provided no support after moderators reviewed shocking content.

The complaint continued by noting that the companies required content moderators to review high volumes of disturbing content which constitutes requiring moderators to participate in unusually dangerous activities. Furthermore, the companies failed to implement widely accepted best practices to mitigate risks that are a natural part of such work.

This is the second such lawsuit in which TikTok was accused of not supporting its content moderators after viewing disturbing content.

Snapchat Gives Parents Tools to Protect Teens

Social media platform Snapchat, after a 10-month old promise from the company to Congress, has developed tools that are supposed to help parents keep their teens safe while they use the app.

The new tool is called Family Center. It promises to give parents additional information about who their teens are chatting with on the messaging app but will not divulge the content of those conversations. Currently, parents have to create their own Snapchat account and their teens have to opt-in and give permission to their parent’s account to use the feature.

According to Snapchat, Family Center was created to emulate the way that parents engage with their children in the real world. In which, parents typically know who their teens are friends with, when they are hanging out, but don’t listen in on their teens private conversations.

After the Facebook-whistleblower incident last fall, social media companies like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram were intensely questioned by Congress about steps they would take to protect teens using their platforms.

 

 

To “Like” or Not to “Like”

In a surprising move both Instagram and Facebook will be giving all users the ability to hide the number of “likes” or “reactions” a post gets from the public. This will change a keystone of the platforms as “likes” are seen as social currency on social media, a measure of status and influence.

Facebook has been experimenting with the idea since 2019 and the company sees it as a way to make Facebook and Instagram less stressful or anxiety-inducing to use.

Every user can choose whether people can see the number of likes on their own posts and also whether to see how many people liked other users’ posts, according to a blog post by Facebook.

The social media giant has been working to reverse mounting disapproval about the fact that social media platforms can be harmful to the mental health of its users and society at large. However, users have to choose the option, it will not be a default, so it remains unclear how many users will take this step or how much the platforms will really change because of the new option.

Meta’s Facebook Develops New AI

If you frequent Facebook or other online platforms you know conversations can get out of hand quickly. Facebook is hoping to use an AI program to keep things calm. The social media platform is testing a machine learning program that would detect fights in Facebook’s Groups and report it to the group admins so they can intervene.

Facebook will be rolling out a number of new tools to help the 70 million users who run and moderate groups on the social media platform. Facebook has 2.85 billion monthly users, 1.8 billion participate in groups each month and there are tens of millions of active groups on the platform.

Along with these other tools, AI will decide when to send out a “conflict alert” to those admins and moderators who maintain groups on the platform. When the AI finds a conversation to be “unhealthy” or “contentious” the AI will send out a message and the human administrators of the group can decide from there what to do.

Social media platforms have increasingly relied on AI to filter what users see and to help remove hate speech from their platforms. However, AI has not always treated users fairly when left to its own devices. So, Facebook is hoping this new combination an AI watch dog and allowing the human administrators of the group to make final decisions will be a more fair way to handle things.

Is My ISP Delivering the Speed I Pay for?

Are there times when you aren’t sure you are getting the speed from your ISP that you pay for? Running a simple test on your computer will tell you. First you need to know that the speed you receive via a computer connected through an ethernet cable may be closer to what your ISP says you have and connections through Wi-Fi will be lower.

Why would you need to do these tests? Well if you are streaming and run into a lot of buffering problems or connection problems, you might want to take a look at your speeds. Are others in your household doing things that require more bandwidth such as streaming or gaming?

An internet search will reveal popular ISP speed testers.

TikTok Clocks Big Numbers

TikTok, a short video based social media platform, has reached the tech world milestone of one billion monthly active users—what is, perhaps, more impressive is they are a rare platform to achieve the one billion user status that is not owned by Google or Facebook.

This growth came from both social media consumers spending more time online during the pandemic and more consumers becoming creators looking to make a living from content creation over social media.

The growth happened despite many hurdles. Among those was former president Donald Trump’s failed attempt to ban the Chinese-owned app in the U.S. Others include the app being banned in India and facing inquiry from European regulators over children’s safety as well as their data protection practices.

Artificial Art?

Artificial intelligence has been a part of science fiction for years and has often been portrayed as anywhere from troubling to outright evil.

AI is not commonly associated with things like art and poetry, but that is the purpose of the very realistic human-like robot, Ai-Da, invented by Aidan Meller in Oxford, England. She spends her time creating poetry and visual art. She is the worlds first robot of her kind and publicly performed some of her poetry that she wrote using her AI. The poetry was in celebration of famous Italian poet Dante.

Ai-Da performed her poetry recital at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University as part of an exhibition marking Dante’s 700th death anniversary.

Ai-Da’s poem was a response to Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Ai-Da’s AI analyzed Dante’s writing patterns and vocabulary but also her own databank of words—between the two her AI created the final product.

Ai-Da’s creator, Meller, stated that her ability to imitate human writing is so incredible it is hard to know it wasn’t written by a human.

Ai-Da doesn’t only write poetry, she also is very capable of creating works of art. She made one of the Dante exhibition. It was inspired by her own experience in Egypt when security forces detained Ai-Da and Meller over security concerns over the cameras in her eyes, which they wanted to remove. The piece is titled “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Apple to Raise Base Pay for Employees

Due to the tight labor market, rising inflation and burst in unionization efforts Apple will be raising the starting pay for US employees.

Starting pay for US Apple team members will be increased to $22 or higher based on the cost of living in the market. This is a 45% jump from 2018 pay levels. Apple stated that their compensation budget will be a topic at their annual performance review process.

Apple stated that workers annual reviews would be pushed up by three months so their new pay will take effect by early July.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests from media outlets for further information on their compensation increases. Apple is well known for having a tight-lipped culture among its employees. Yet, in 2021, a handful of both current and former employees criticized Apple’s working conditions through online outlets.

In April, Apple workers in Atlanta submitted a petition to hold union elections. They would have been the company’s first union. This was just one among many moves for unionization in Apple at the time.

 

 

Some Gentle Reminders About Passwords

We’ve talked about passwords before and yet it is such an important thing because of all the security breaches we see. Some people say they don’t have anything that important protected behind a password, so it doesn’t matter. Or they say they need to use the same password for everything.

This is an unsafe practice and a dangerous attitude to have about passwords and your personal data.

Think about all your accounts where you have purchased items, or your banking or credit card accounts. Do you really want to use the same password for everything? Once they breach one account, say your email, they can look through that to find what other accounts you are subscribed to and have a field day. This is even how identities are stolen.

Using the service LastPass is one of the best ways to secure your accounts. Once you download LastPass, set it up with a hard to hack easy to remember password. An unusual set of simple words and an attached string of numbers that is also easy to remember is a good place to start. You can then import all the passwords saved to your browsers. Once you have LastPass you can also run a kind of audit check for recommendations on which passwords to change – it will show you duplicates or not so secure passwords you already have.

A Week Late: Happy Pi Day

Pi Day is coming up this week. The date is 3/14 and happens every year. Some places even offer Pi Day deals. People celebrate it in various ways. Maybe they will make a pie with the pi symbol on top; perhaps they will go out for pizza pie; maybe even participate in pie throwing contests.

Pi Day was founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw, a physicist. Why 3/14? Well, duh – Pi is approximately 3.14159… It also happens that it is the birthday of Albert Einstein. Pi is a number that is used in calculating the circumference of a circle.

Buying a Graduate a Laptop? Common Myths Busted Part 2

Many graduating seniors will be receiving laptops as graduation gifts before going off to college. Here are some “myths” about laptops and some other items to consider before selecting the best laptop in your price range.

Myth: More RAM will always speed up your PC.

Facts: It doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t always help. For basic usage (Microsoft Office, web browsing, streaming, social media and email) 8 to 16 gigs of RAM will likely be plenty. Special applications for graphic design, video or audio editing may require more.

Mac (Apple) vs. PC (Windows)

The average student probably doesn’t need an expensive Mac Book Pro or other Mac laptop. Those going into graphic design, audio or video fields may want to invest in one however. Consumers should also know that much of the popular software in these fields now runs on PC (Windows) and there are many fine high-end PCs that compete with Mac laptops for power and speed. Students with special computing needs should consult with an advisor in their program before buying a computer.

Tablets/iPads

These days a table or hybrid is a real option that many students may prefer for portability and cost. Google tools like Google Docs as well as Microsoft 365 both run on iOS, Android and Windows tablets and hybrids. These tablets will also run all your student’s social media and streaming apps. Bluetooth keyboards and keyboard cases are available to make the devices easier to use for schoolwork.

Buying a Graduate a Laptop? Common Myths Busted Part 1

Many graduating seniors will be receiving laptops as graduation gifts before going off to college. Here are some “myths” about laptops and some other items to consider before selecting the best laptop in your price range.

Myth: A CPU with more cores is always faster.

Facts: Each “core” in a multicore processor allows the computer to better allocate its processing power to multiple applications or processes running at once. If one is only running one program at a time more “cores” won’t increase the power or speed of the computer. For basic usage, a faster CPU with less cores is probably preferable.

Myth: You always want the fastest CPU and graphics card you can afford.

Facts: Fast CPUs and power graphics cards will run hotter and run down a laptop battery faster. For many students, longer battery life will probably be more important than having the fastest computer. Unless the student is a gamer or using specialty software that requires more resources like a graphics card or a powerful CPU, buying a laptop with the most powerful components may be a waste of money that could be spent on an extended warranty or other necessities.

Mac (Apple) vs. PC (Windows)

The average student probably doesn’t need an expensive Mac Book Pro or other Mac laptop. Those going into graphic design, audio or video fields may want to invest in one however. Consumers should also know that much of the popular software in these fields now runs on PC (Windows) and there are many fine high-end PCs that compete with Mac laptops for power and speed. Students with special computing needs should consult with an advisor in their program before buying a computer.

Tablets/iPads

These days a table or hybrid is a real option that many students may prefer for portability and cost. Google tools like Google Docs as well as Microsoft 365 both run on iOS, Android and Windows tablets and hybrids. These tablets will also run all your student’s social media and streaming apps. Bluetooth keyboards and keyboard cases are available to make the devices easier to use for schoolwork.

Instagram Bringing Back Algorithm-Free Feeds

Popular social media platform Instagram is bringing back an old feature: the ability to organize one’s timeline in reverse chronological order rather than according to the whims of the platform’s algorithms. Instagram stated that the default sorting method would be the algorithm method.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri teased the feature last year during a Senate hearing on the effect of social media on teens. During the hearing the mention of the feature seemed to be in regards to addressing the issue that algorithms will sometimes drive teens towards harmful content that affects their mental health.

Instagram stated that users will be able to select from two new post display methods on their feeds. Long time social media users will recognize is a “following tool” which displays posts from the accounts the user follows in the order in which they were shared.

There will also be a “favorites” method of post display that shows the latest post from a list of specific accounts created by the user that might consist of close friends, family or their favorite content creators. Users will be able to have up to 50 favorites. Starred posts from a user’s favorites will take high priority on the user’s home feed. Accounts are not notified when they are added or subtracted from a user’s favorites list.

Twitter Takes Down Bummer of a Bot Account Tweeting Wordle Solution

Twitter recently suspended a bot account which was posting the solution to the next day’s puzzle on popular app Wordle.

The account “@wordinator” would send out this tweet: “Guess what. People don’t care about your mediocre linguistic escapades. To teach you a lesson, tomorrow’s word is _____” Filling in the blank with tomorrow’s solution to the puzzle.

Twitter stated that the account violated the platform’s rules surrounding automated messages and unsolicited @mentions. The social media app’s terms of service clearly state an account cannot disrupt other users’ experiences which includes sending a high volume of unsolicited replies.

It wasn’t difficult for the bot to find the answers to future puzzles as the answers to Wordles’ puzzles are easily found in its source code. Words are simply assigned a date and store in the player’s browser.

Thousands of Wordle players post their scores on Twitter daily and often discussing how few or many tries it took them to solve the puzzle. The popularity of the Wordle game has skyrocketed recently because of people sharing their results online.

The New York Times has recently interviewed Josh Wardle who claims he built the game for his partner who loves word games. And. Yes. Even the game’s name is a play on words. After keeping the game just to his family, Wardle eventually took the app public.

 

Sorting Out the Disney+ Movie Release Schedule

The MCU movie Eternals has finally arrived to Disney+ as part of the app’s standard catalog (no extra cost to subscribers).

It has been difficult to get a grip on Disney’s release schedule for new movies. Some have been released exclusively to theaters, some have been released to theaters and streaming on the same day, meanwhile others have been released long after their theatrical release.

Like the Marvel movie Shang-Chi, Eternals arrived very late in the release cycle, unlike how Disney films had been released in the last year. Eternals came out about 68 days after worldwide release in theaters.

Pre-pandemic a film took between 5 to 8 months after its theatrical release to become part of the standard catalog on Disney+. The theatrical exclusive period pre-pandemic was typical 75-90 days.

Previously online rental, Blu-ray and DVD would be the first home watching options after the theatrical exclusive period. Now Disney has skipped Disney+ to the front of the line over these other home viewing mediums where previously Disney+ would follow digital rentals and physical copies.

Also, keep in mind that subscribing to a month of Disney+ cost less than half the amount a 24-48 rental does. For example, a digital rental or download of Eternals cost about $20 while a month of Disney+ is only $8 (just remember to cancel if you don’t want to continue subscription!).

 

Change Your Default Mail and Browser App, iOS 15

While many love Apple’s iOS mobile devices one frustration has been the inability to use your preferred mail or web browsing app. Now in iOS 15 Apple has released its grip, somewhat, on these items and will now allow you to set a different default mail or web browsing app.

For one to use another app for web browsing or email, the developer has to have updated their app to support the new feature on iOS. Users should make sure to check the App Store for an update to your favorite email or web app. After one knows the app will support it this is what one needs to do.

Open the Settings on your iPhone or iPad. When one finds the app they want to set to default, Google Chrome or Microsoft Outlook for example, select the appropriate option: Default Browser or Default Email App. Select the correct option Default Browser App or Default Email App. Then one should pick from the list of available apps on the next screen. After this, back out of settings.

Now if one clicks a link or email app their preferred app will handle the job instead of the iOS default.

 

Google Maps Help Capture Mafia Fugitive

The Italian police have caught a high-profile mafia fugitive. The fugitive has been on the lamb for almost two decades until, with the help of Goolge Maps, investigators apprehended him.

After two years of investigation, 61 year old Gioacchino Gammino was tracked to Galapagar, Spain. He lived in Galapagar under a false identity. The town is just outside the nation’s capital, Madrid.

A simple photo in the street view option offered by Google Maps pictured a man who looked suspiciously like Gammino out front of a fruit shop. This photo was instigated a deeper investigation.

According to Nicola Altiero, deputy director of Italy’s anti-mafia police unit, confirmed that the photo helped confirm what the unit believed to be true about Gammino’s whereabouts through traditional investigation methods.

Gammino is a member of the Sicilian mafia group called Stidda. He escaped Rome’s Rebibbia jail in 2002. In 2003 he was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed some years earlier.

Altiero stated that Gammino is currently in custody in Spain and they hope to return him to Italy by the end of February.

 

 

Little Tikes Released “Pellican” Stationary Bike for Kids, Childhood Development Experts Not Impressed

The new indoor cycling craze (a la’ Peloton bikes) has now become available for young children; however, child development experts aren’t excited about it.

Well known toymaker Little Tikes attempted to mimic Peloton’s recent stationary bike success by building versions for children to enjoy alongside their parents, according to a statement by the toymaker.

Little Tikes’ Pelican stationary bike for kids 3-7 was released this summer. Like Pelotons it has a screen attached for watching videos. Pelotons come standard with a screen that displays exercise classes, intended to add a touch of socialization to home exercise. Pelotons cost $1,495 and then there is a monthly fee of $39 to view video classes.

Little Tikes stated they saw a way for kids to have fun with their parents and want to inspire an active and imagination filled lifestyle among kids.

Similar products have been tried before. Fisher-Price released a stationary bike for kids in 2017. It was available on Amazon, originally costing $150, it was later lowered to a $100 price tag and eventually discontinued. Neither company commented on why.

But child development experts aren’t having it. They say a stationary bicycle, especially one with a screen attached, is a step backward for what a bicycle can mean to child development. Kids riding a stationary bike lose the learning experiences that come from roaming their neighborhood on foot or on bike.

Basically, childhood development experts say that a stationary bike for kids cannot replace the social experiences they will have exploring their neighborhood with friends on a real bike. They claim kids need to interact in the real world to learn how to socialize and work out problems in real life.

 

 

 

 

China Increases Restrictions on Online Gaming for Minors

Recently China has banned gamers under 18 years of age from playing online games during the weekdays and is limiting them to just three hours of game play on weekends. This is a considerable increase on the country’s huge gaming industry.

The specifics state that minors will be allowed only an hour of online gaming time between 8 pm and 9 pm on Friday, weekends and public holidays according to statement released by Chinese media watch dog, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA). It was posted by state news agency Xinhua.

Previously in 2019 the agency had set relatively lighter limits on online gaming for minors to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends for minors. Authorities have stated in both cases the restrictions are intended to protect children from becoming video game addicts.

The NPPA stated that the rules were being put in place “at the beginning of the new [school] semester, putting specific requirements for preventing the addiction to online games, and protecting the healthy growth of minors.”

 

Twitter Announces New Protective Feature

Twitter is increasing efforts to provide user-side tools for those users who are experiencing harassment to help themselves.

The social media platform announced that it will be testing a new feature called “Safety Mode.” This new feature is intended to protect users from being overwhelmed by harmful tweets or unwanted replies or mentions. The feature will block, temporarily, accounts from interacting with users to whom the harasser has sent harmful speech and repeated or uninvited replies and mentions.

Over the years Twitter has often bored criticism for the recurrent use of hateful or abusive content submitted to its platform by users. There are even rare and unfortunate cases where the harmful content has extended to the real world, most often when the target of the content is a marginalized group.

Twitter hasn’t spoken of any major protective features since 2017 when it released, among other features, its “safe search” function along with the user’s ability to block potentially abusive or “low-quality” tweets to appear in their conversations.

 

The Famous Analog Computer Toy

While most may not think of the Rubik cube as a computer, the famous toy is a very basic analog computer.

The Rubik’s Cube has been around since the 70s. Invented by a Hungarian professor named Erno Rubik, his first prototype was made in 1974. When he had built his first cube, it took him a month to solve it. He got his patent in 1975 for his “Magic Cube”. In 1979, it was presented to toy fairs in various countries.

Tom Kremer, a toy specialist with a passion, convinced the Ideal Toy Company to pick this up as a product. The first thing they did was change the name from Magic Cube to Rubik’s Cube and launched it in 1980. By 1981 it was a world-wide craze. Through the years it has been reworked and made even faster. In 2017 they released the Rubik’s Speedcube.

The First Programmable, General Purpose Computer

ENIAC or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. It was Turing-complete and able to solve “a large class of numerical problems” through reprogramming.

Although ENIAC was designed and primarily used to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory (which later became a part of the Army Research Laboratory), its first program was a study of the feasibility of the thermonuclear weapon.

ENIAC was completed in 1945 and first put to work for practical purposes on December 10, 1945.

ENIAC was formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania on February 15, 1946, and was heralded as a “Giant Brain” by the press. It had a speed on the order of one thousand times faster than that of electro-mechanical machines; this computational power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists alike. The combination of speed and programmability allowed for thousands more calculations for problems, as ENIAC calculated a trajectory in 30 seconds that took a human 20 hours (allowing one ENIAC to displace 2,400 humans).

The completed machine was announced to the public the evening of February 14, 1946, and formally dedicated the next day at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000 (approximately equivalent to $7,283,000 in 2020). It was formally accepted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in July 1946. ENIAC was shut down on November 9, 1946, for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland in 1947. There, on July 29, 1947, it was turned on and was in continuous operation until 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955.