Top Stories for the Week of January 18, 2017

  • Episode 487
  • January 18, 2017
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday January 18, 2017

BT is adding anti-junk-call filters to their phone service.

BT recorded more than 31 million nuisance calls in a single week before Christmas, and is doing something about it.

The company supplies 40% of the landlines in the UK.

BT is now launching a new service for its customers which it says could block up to 30 million such nuisance calls per week.

Called BT Call Protect, the system monitors call data to identify rogue numbers. It will, for example, highlight phone numbers that make an unusually large numbers of calls.

Those calls will then be automatically diverted into a junk voicemail box.

The system will continue to block such callers even if they change their number, a common tactic used by solicitors.

Customers will also be able to identify nuisance callers that get through by dialing a code after receiving such a call.

Talk Talk introduced a similar central call blocking system for landlines three years ago, while Vodafone operates a system for mobiles.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

An autonomous transit bus is being tested in Las Vegas.

A small autonomous bus called an Arma is running a short route along Las Vegas’ Fremont Street, marking, according to transit operator Keolis, the first time a self-driving bus has moved passengers on an American public road.

The route is short—just three blocks. And this is only a pilot test, which started a week ago and will end on Friday. While the test lasts, the fully-electric bus can carry around a dozen passengers, moving at a top speed limited to 16 miles per hour, though the bus is capable of hitting 30.

The bus has sensors that detect obstacles and an emergency button that any passenger can use to stop the vehicle. During the test, there’s also a staffer on board to monitor passenger safety.

Navya, the French company that makes the Arma, has already deployed vehicles in Singapore, France, and Australia.

Nevada has a strategic interest in developing transportation technology. The state could benefit from easier long-distance transportation to gambling centers from California, while autonomous vehicles like the Navya bus could provide flexible transportation for visitors once they make it to Vegas.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Dell’s Latest Laptop is $100 Cheaper If You Buy It With Ubuntu

Dell has announced the immediate availability of the Dell Precision 3520 laptop and buyers can save over $100 by choosing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS pre-loaded instead of Windows 10!

Dell’s Barton George says more Ubuntu-powered Precision workstations will go on sale in the coming months, worldwide, including an Ubuntu version of the company’s stylish new Precision 5720 All-in-One desktop PC.

Unlike other vendors, Dell don’t ship their Linux option on no-frills reduced power hardware. All models in the Dell Precision lineup pack powerful 7th generation Intel Core and Intel Xeon processors, support USB-C Thunderbolt 3, and can have up to 32GB RAM!

The Dell Precision 3520 is available now.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Yahoo wants to change its name.

Yahoo revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company would change its name (to "Altaba") after it completes its transformation from an actual business to a corporate wrapper around Alibaba stock.

If all goes as planned, CEO Marissa Mayer would step down, the board would be trimmed, and "Altaba" would simply continue to exist as a way for investors to own a chunk of a non-controlling interest in a Chinese e-commerce company.

Whether that transformation happens as the result of a successful sale of the Yahoo Internet portal to Verizon or some other, less-desirable outcome has yet to be determined. It's still far from a sure bet that the Verizon acquisition will go as planned.

The change to "Altaba" (apparently some non-trademark-infringing sort of reference to Alibaba, in which Yahoo holds a 15 percent stake) depends on the completion of the sale to Verizon of Yahoo Holdings, the new corporate wrapper for its Internet business.

Verizon initially offered $4.8 billion for Yahoo last July, but the deal was in doubt after it was revealed that Yahoo had failed to disclose a huge security breach in 2014 to customers (and Verizon). A second major breach, dating to 2013, was discovered later.

Verizon’s plan for the Yahoo brand isn't completely clear, other than that it would be somehow aligned or merged with AOL—which Verizon acquired for $4.4 billion in 2015 and is still in the process of assimilating.

Given that Yahoo's management is not in a position to go look for a better offer—Yahoo would have to pay Verizon a $145 million "termination fee" to walk away from the table and find another buyer, and there isn't exactly a long line of people looking to make a better offer—it may end up having to settle for whatever Verizon decides on as a purchase price at this point or wait for Verizon to walk away from the deal. Verizon has already reportedly knocked $1 billion off its offer.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Google has revealed how they secure their cloud infrastructure, and it includes some clever, custom-built silicon.

Google has published an Infrastructure Security Design Overview that explains how it secures the cloud it uses for its own operations and for public cloud services.

Revealed last Friday, the document outlines six layers of security and reveals some interesting factoids about the Alphabet subsidiary's operations, none more so than the revelation that “we also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.”

That silicon works alongside cryptographic signatures employed “over low-level components like the BIOS, bootloader, kernel, and base operating system image.”

“These signatures can be validated during each boot or update,” the document says, adding that “the components are all Google-controlled, built, and hardened. With each new generation of hardware we strive to continually improve security: for example, depending on the generation of server design, we root the trust of the boot chain in either a lockable firmware chip, a microcontroller running Google-written security code, or the above mentioned Google-designed security chip."

The document goes on to explain that Google's fleet of applications and services encrypt data before it is written to disk, to make it harder for malicious disk firmware to access data.

There's plenty more in the document, like news that Google's public cloud runs virtual machines in a custom version of the KVM hypervisor.

If you're interested in seeing the document for yourself, you can access the master at


Sent to us by: Nicd-


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