Top Stories for the Week of October 19, 2016

  • Episode 474
  • October 19, 2016
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday October 19, 2016

Firefox and Chrome are constantly writing to disk, which could be shortening your SSD's lifespan.

It has been discovered that modern browsers including Firefox and Chrome are writing excessively to disk, even when you aren’t at your computer. The problem? It's quite possibly shortening the life your drive.

We don't need to go into the details of how a magnetic hard drive works in comparison to a solid state (or SSD) hard drive, but instead let's focus on the simple fact that your web browser is adding unnecessary wear and tear.

Firefox and Chrome have a fantastic, sometimes life-saving feature: Session Restore.

The browser constantly saves the current browser state, such as how many browser windows are open, number of tabs, what URLs you are on, and the contents of each of those pages. If the browser crashes or you reboot your computer with the browser still open, it simply reloads all the content from the session store as if nothing had happened.

The problem is that Firefox is saving the state every 15 seconds and unfortunately it’s not doing so in an efficient manner: It seems to simply be saving everything each time, whether it has changed or not, and it’s saving the actual contents of the page.

If you have a large page with a lot of images, on it, the session restore feature will write all of that over and over again to disk. It’s even saving this information when the computer is idle.

The person who discovered this left Firefox open with a few browser windows and tabs open and found Firefox writing about 10GB of data each day. It turns out, Chrome is writing even more! Up to 20GB per day. That is an excessive amount of writes to your SSD.

To be fair, when the session restore feature was implemented most people were still using traditional magnetic hard drives. However, now that SSD has taken over the world, this clearly is a problem.

While a number of users are changing the interval through the browser's settings, we don't recommend this if you rely on the session restore feature. Instead, you can either move your browser's temporary storage to a magnetic drive, a separate, perhaps cheaper SSD that you don't mind replacing if wear and tear takes it out, or just hang tight until the browser authors come up with a better solution, such as checking if a session has changed before saving it to disk.


Sent to us by: ABQTKY

A newly discovered systemd vulnerability could cause instability in Linux systems.

Linux users are being warned about a recently discovered systemd vulnerability that could shut down a system using a command short enough to send in a tweet.

If left unpatched, the flaws could allow a remote attacker to crash the system or retrieve delicate information.

Update your systems immediately.

SSLMate founder and Linux administrator Andrew Ayer spotted the bug which has the potential to kill a number of critical commands while making others unstable.

Ayer said. “A vulnerability like this shouldn't be possible in such an important operating system component, and wouldn't be possible if systemd were better designed."

He added that there is cause for concern, especially as systemd replaces more and more components of the Linux operating system.

A patch has reportedly been released on Github, and Canonical announced a series of patches that can immediately be applied to Ubuntu-based distros.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Saya, a highschool student from Japan is computer-generated, but you might not realize it to look at her.

Japanese high school student Saya has flawless skin, shiny hair and her uniform is always clean. That's not surprising since her parents are computer graphics artists who worked together to design their own virtual child.

When Saya was first unveiled about a year ago by creators Teruyuki and Yuka Ishikawa, she blew viewers away. She's so realistic -- from her perfectly crafted features and the ultra-high detailed skin to the way the light catches each individual strand of hair. People were scratching their heads in amazement.

This month has seen Saya get an upgrade of sorts, bringing her into the moving world. This video of Saya shown at this year's CEATEC, or Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, shows her smiling and nodding at the camera.

It is said Saya's CGI-designer "parents" have effectively bridged "the uncanny valley". The term refers to our natural sense of unease around things that are almost-but-not-quite human, like robots, or CGI children for that matter. The "parents" have created a character that's both appealing and fascinating to look at.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

UK officials plan to ram drones into passenger planes on purpose.

After a number of close calls in recent months, UK officials are committed to safety testing drones that share the air with passenger jets by crashing them into one another mid-flight.

Committing more than £250,000 ($304,962), the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority teamed with the Ministry of Defense to carry out the tests on 5,000 square miles of restricted airspace in Snowdonia, Wales.

Dr. Peter Downer of the Ministry of Defense says, "We are conducting mid-air collision studies for the CAA to look at impact of aircraft with unmanned vehicles. There is a series of trials about the security risks and we need to continue this with a commercial study. There will be further studies of mid-air collisions of drone impact with fuselage and windows."

According to the National Air Traffic Service, there are now more than two million drones competing for airspace in Britain. Many more are set to come online in the coming years.

Testing on empty flights is an attempt to learn more about the potential ramifications if one of Britain’s reported 23 near-misses over a six month period were to actually make contact.

The Next Web calls it "a toddler mentality of ramming things together to see what happens."


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Verizon's $4.8 billion takeover deal for Yahoo may be doomed.

Verizon in July said it would buy Yahoo for $4.83 billion and merge it with AOL. Since that time, Yahoo has faced a lot of bad press.

Earlier this month, news reports said the US government had Yahoo surveil user emails for intelligence information. And last month, Yahoo disclosed hackers swiped personal information associated with at least a half billion Yahoo accounts, marking the biggest data breach in history.

Now, Verizon's general counsel has told some reporters, including the Washington Post, that they are leaning toward declaring Yahoo's huge data breach a "material event." That likely means Verizon wouldn't have offered as much money -- or made a bid for Yahoo at all -- had it known about the hack earlier.

The Washington Post said Thursday the decision likely will halt the acquisition.

Verizon General Counsel's Craig Silliman said, "I think we have a reasonable basis to believe right now that impact is material, and we're looking to Yahoo to demonstrate to us the full impact if they believe it's not. They'll need to show us that, but the process is in the works."

A Verizon spokesman, when asked if a "material" finding kills the acquisition, said "the statement stands on its own. Nothing more."


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

A drone-related injury could cost the Cleveland Indians the World Series.

Baseball has been played for more than 150 years, but Monday night marked a historic milestone — the first time a professional player has had to leave the game due to a drone injury.

Trevor Bauer, a self-described drone fanatic and one of the top pitchers for the Cleveland Indians, had to leave Game 3 of the American League Division Series after just two outs and 21 pitches into the first inning, after the pinkie finger on his pitching hand started bleeding profusely.

Bauer cut his finger on a drone rotor last week. He was originally scheduled to start Game 2 on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, but was pushed back a game in hopes that the injury would heal enough that he could play.

On Sunday, Bauer brought the offending drone to a news conference in Toronto, where he explained what happened, saying “So I plugged it in, like I’ve done thousands and thousands of times, and for whatever reason it was sitting like this... I was plugging the battery in and my finger happened to be right here, and for whatever reason these three propellers didn’t spin like they were supposed to and this one spun up at max throttle. It never happened to me before. I have no idea why it happened. And my finger just happened to be in the way of the prop and it cut me.”

Unless he can heal quickly, his drone hobby could have a huge impact on the Indians’ chances to win their first World Series since 1948. Though Cleveland won Monday’s game, Bauer’s injury will force the team to rework its already injury-depleted pitching rotation.


Sent to us by: Frank/Brittany


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