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Top Stories for the Week of August 16, 2017

  • Episode 517
  • August 16, 2017

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday August 16, 2017

Special glasses for viewing the coming solar eclipse have been recalled by Amazon because they might fry your retinas.

On Monday, the United States will witness a total solar eclipse, the first for almost 99 years, and the likes of which the world has never seen.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything like it ever again. Suffice to say, America’s gone eclipse-crazy, with hotel rooms in the best viewing locations going for thousands of dollars a night.

But to observe the spectacle without frying your retinas, you need special filtered glasses that conform to the ISO 12312-2 safety standards.

Unfortunately though, some folks are flogging ordinary shades and handheld viewers with labels falsely stating they conform to the standard. According to the American Astronomical Society, these “do not block enough of the Sun’s ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation to make them truly safe.”

Predictably, many of these were sold through Amazon, and the Seattle-based retail giant is taking action to recall them. KGW News, an NBC affiliate based in Portland, reported receiving an email from Amazon explaining the solar filters they purchased were “not confirmed safe for viewing.”

“We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse,” Amazon said.

Speaking to tech blog The Register, an Amazon spokesperson said that it decided to start the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

The company didn’t mention the scale of the recall, whether the recall had been completed, or indeed, how it makes the determination that glasses are unsafe.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

A new camera and app solution turns any dumb fridge into a smart fridge.

The world’s first wireless fridge camera goes on sale in the UK next month aimed at helping households slash food waste by being able to check exactly what they have in their refrigerator at any time.

As well as taking selfies to be sent to the user, the Smarter FridgeCam and app will also monitor use-by dates and send out automatic top-up reminders to buy more milk, for example. It will also encourage people to eat what they already have – typically festering at the back of the fridge or in the salad box – by suggesting recipes.

The device joins tech initiatives such as mobile apps and scales that calculate the cost of food waste which aim to transform the way people think about what they consume.

The FridgeCam provides a cheaper alternative to smart fridge brands like Samsung and Bosch. For example, Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator costs £4,499. The FridgeCam however turns any old fridge into a smart fridge for only 100 pounds.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Thanks to a firmware update blunder, an automatic over-the-air upgrade will break front-door smart locks for at least five days.

Hardware company Lockstate has managed to brick hundreds of internet-connected so-called smart locks on people's front doors with a bad firmware update.

The upshot is you can't use the builtin keypad on the devices to unlock the door. Lockstate's smart locks are popular among Airbnb hosts as it allows them to give guests an entry code to get into properties without having to share physical keys. Lockstate is even a partner with Airbnb.

Earlier this week, though, new software was automatically sent out to folks' $469 Lockstate 6000i locks – one of the upstart's top residential smart locks – which left the keypad entirely useless. The crashed locks – which connect to your home Wi-Fi for remote control and monitoring as well as firmware updates – are now going to be out of action for at least a week.

Owners have two choices. They can either remove the back panel of the lock and send it in to the manufacturer so the software can be manually updated, which will take between five and seven working days. Alternatively they can ask for a replacement, which will take 14-18 days to ship, and then send back the junked lock.

The physical key on the lock should still work, but that's going to be cold comfort for a lot of Airbnb users, who prefer to keep the physical keys to themselves and set an access code for each lodger that stops by.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

No need to worry: the asteroid heading toward earth and thought to hit us in October will miss our planet by a long shot.

Good news for those of you who live on Earth: The European Space Agency has confirmed there is no danger of asteroid 2012 TC4 hitting our beloved planet in October, despite what some panicky YouTube videos might tell you.

The rock was spotted five years ago when it whizzed past Earth, missing us by 94,800 kilometres. Last month NASA reckoned the asteroid may this year come as close as 6,800 kilometers, which is too close for comfort in cosmic distances.

However, the asteroid's orbit path has now been firmed up, and we're gonna be fine: it will skip past our fragile planet in October, missing us by 44,000 kilometres.

The agency said on Thursday, "The original observations revealed the asteroid’s next approach to our vicinity would be in October 2017 but its orbit meant that it could not be tracked during the last five years, leaving astronomers unsure on how close it would come."

Shortly after its 2012 flyby, astronomers lost sight of the alien object because it is so small and dark. It was picked up again this year at the ESE's "Very Large Telescope Observatory" in Chile.

Even if 2012 TC4 did hit Earth, it wouldn't be an end-of-civilization event by any stretch. The rock is only 15 to 30 metres wide and after being worn away by air compression on its trip through the atmosphere, the final boulder would be about the same size as the meteorite that hit in 2013, which hurt 1,500 folks in Russia when it smashed into our planet but caused no deaths.

The asteroid, which is traveling at about 30,000 miles per hour, will make its closest approach to Earth on October 12. Astronomists are gearing up for the event and will be studying the rock closely to work out what it's made of.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A teenager was just awarded $10,000 for a bug he found in Google's back-end.

A teenager in Uruguay has scored big after finding and reporting a bug in Google's App Engine to view confidential internal Google documents.

While bored in July, high schooler Ezequiel Pereira, who has all the makings of a competent security researcher, used Burp to manipulate the Host header in web connections to Google's App Engine. The 17-year-old's target: webpages protected by MOMA, Google's employees-only portal apparently named after a museum of modern art.

Normally, connecting to a private staff-only Google service requires signing in via MOMA. However, it appears not all of these services fully checked a visitor was authorized to view the content.

By connecting to a public Google service, such as, and changing the Host header in the HTTP request to, say,, Pereira was redirected to Google's internal project management system YAQS. Viewing that system should have required a MOMA sign-in, but instead, he was able to view YAQS pages marked "Google confidential."

The student reported the loophole to Google on July 11, and on August 4, about a month before his 18th birthday, he was told the issue had been fixed and that he had earned a $10,000 reward from the ad giant's bug bounty program.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash



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