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Top Stories for the Week of November 23, 2016

  • Episode 479
  • November 23, 2016

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday November 23, 2016

A universal translator has found its way to a megaphone.

As Japanese tourism grows, businesses struggle to bridge the language divide between international visitors and locals. Panasonic, however, may have a solution: a multilingual loudspeaker.

The Megahonyaku—an amalgamation of "megaphone" (megahon) and "translation" (hon'yaku)—automatically translates Japanese into English, Chinese, and Korean.

Simply speak into the microphone; the machine listens and analyzes sentence structure, and transcribes the words. Using the integrated touch screen, pressing the respective dialect button outputs your sentence in one of the three available languages.

Aimed at corporate customers including train stations and airports, the amplifier could prove very useful in crowded locations and tourist destinations where information is dispensed to groups who may all speak different languages.

The megaphone is expected for launch Dec. 20, on sale for less than ¥20,000 ($183) per month on a three-year contract, which includes future updates and maintenance.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

The latest ranking of the world's fastest supercomputers is out and Linux owns it once more.

The TOP500 List shows 498 out of 500 of the speediest computers on the planet are running Linux.

Linux has long-dominated the supercomputer ratings, but now it's getting close to knocking out all its competition.

Other than systems running Linux, there are two Chinese supercomputers running IBM AIX, a Unix variant. This pair, tied at 386 and 387, may not be long for the list. That's because supercomputers are growing ever faster.

Systems running faster than 1 petaflop now occupy the first 117 positions -- nearly a quarter of the TOP500. Last year, there were only 81. At the bottom of the list, the slowest system runs at 349.3 teraflops. In November 2015, the bottom supercomputer ran at 206.3 teraflops.

Analysts at ZDNet believe that at 434.8 teraflops, the Unix systems probably won't be around for another year and Linux will completely dominate the list by this time 2017.

Microsoft Windows was bumped off the Top500 one year ago.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A $2,500 Dell gaming laptop for just $33? Yes, please!

Dell accidentally put their $2,500 laptops up for just $33, and Mexican officials are forcing them to honor the sales.

Mexican officials have ordered Dell Computers to honour the sale of laptops that had been mistakenly advertised online for just 679 pesos (£27; $33).

The computers normally sell for up to 50,000 pesos (£1,990; $2,500).

But because of an apparent software malfunction, only the shipping costs - 679 pesos - were included in an advert published earlier this month.

When the US company realised the mistake they promptly cancelled the sales and offered refunds, but buyers complained.

Some created a Facebook group inviting other buyers to refer the case to Mexico's federal consumer protection agency Profeco.

Profeco agreed to consider the complaint and said on Thursday: "Dell will have to deliver the equipment offered to customers who received an email confirming the sale before the ad was withdrawn."

The agency also urged the company "to improve its customer service mechanisms".

Dell later acknowledged it had made a mistake and said it was "working with the relevant authorities" to rectify it.

It is not clear how many computers were sold before the ad was taken down.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A couple big retailers in the US have been caught using illicit social engineering tactics in their computer service department.

Office Depot and its sister retailer OfficeMax have stopped using a technically dubious piece of malware-scanning software after two news services caught the stores recommending costly fixes for PC infections that didn't exist.

According to an investigation conducted by KIRO TV News, four out of six stores in Seattle and Portland, Oregon claimed that out-of-the-box PCs showed "symptoms of malware" that required as much as $180 for repairs and protection. The computers, according to the report, had never been connected to the Internet and were diagnosed as free of malware by security firm IOActive. A separate TV News team from WFXT in Boston reported on Friday that the same free scanning service OfficeMax offers similarly misdiagnosed two of three brand-new PCs as potentially infected.

According to an IOActive security researcher who spoke to KIRO, PC Health Check automatically signals a malware problem when store employees check any one of four boxes indicating that a customer has experienced pop-up problems, slow speeds, virus warnings, or random shutdowns.

Derek Held, the IOActive researcher said that when any one of those boxes is checked, malware symptoms is shown in the report. He says, "It didn’t matter anything else that was on the report. It was automatic that made it show up on the report."

KIRO also reported that PC Health Check is sold by, a company that along with partner AOL agreed to pay $8.5 million in 2013 to settle a lawsuit alleging that they misrepresented the results of free malware scans and then charged fees to fix the non-existent infections.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Pigs fly and Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation.

Microsoft has thrown its financial weight behind Linux, the operating system that rivals its own Windows.

It is now spending $500,000 (£400,000) to join the Linux Foundation, which promotes the open-source OS amongst businesses and developers.

Other platinum members include companies such as Google, Facebook and Samsung.
Microsoft and Linux have not always seen to eye to eye. In 2001, then Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a widely-reported newspaper interview: "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

However, the company's priorities have changed over the last 15 years and under its new leader Satya Nadella. Much of its current focus is on the cloud, in particular the Azure online storage and data processing services it sells to other organisations.

As the tech blog ZDNet noted: "It's only on the desktop that Microsoft is still omnipresent.

"Everywhere else - clouds, supercomputers, and servers - it's a Linux world.

Microsoft said that it wanted to help developers achieve more and capitalise on the industry's shift towards cloud-first and mobile-first experiences.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said: "Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology." He goes on to say, "Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open-source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company's expanding range of contributions."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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