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Top Stories for the Week Of September 6, 2017

  • Episode 520
  • September 6, 2017

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday September 6, 2017

Reddit is going closed-source.

Nine years after going open source, Reddit is archiving the source code for its website and mobile apps.

The source code will still be accessible, but will no longer be updated -- Reddit cites concerns about competition as one of the reasons for the change in direction.

But Reddit is not completely turning its back on open source. While it will no longer be possible to access the full source code, it will still be possible to access a limited number of small codebases -- such as baseplate, rollingpin and mcsauna. The site says, "those who have been paying attention will realize that this isn't really a change to how we're doing anything but rather making explicit what's already been going on," but users are not convinced by the explanation.

Reddit explains that the initial thinking behind open sourcing the project was to ensure the site would stay alive no matter what happened to the company itself. Nine years later, Reddit has evolved into a gigantic online beast and the company points out that it has done a terrible job of keeping its open source project repos updated.

In a post explaining the changes, founding coder Christopher Slowe says, "Open-source makes it hard for us to develop some features "in the clear" (like our recent video launch) without leaking our plans too far in advance. As Reddit is now a larger player on the web, it is hard for us to be strategic in our planning when everyone can see what code we are committing."


Sent to us by: Sparklyballs

Iconic board game Settlers of Catan is coming to virtual reality.

Iconic board game Settlers of Catan is coming to virtual reality.

A new version is being developed by game studio Experiment7 — which previously created a pair of VR takes on chess — with feedback from the original minds behind Catan.

The VR game, which is coming to both Oculus Rift and Gear VR and called simply Catan VR, is described as “true to the classic, but optimized for virtual reality” with “a fresh, fully-immersive format.”

Unfortunately, right now the creators aren’t showing off what the new VR title looks like, though it appears that it will feature both a single-player and online multiplayer component.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Amazon is facing at least one lawsuit from those recalled solar eclipse glasses.

A US couple have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Amazon, claiming they sustained eye injuries from solar eclipse glasses purchased on the site.

Corey Payne and Kayla Harris said they experienced headaches and vision impairment after using the glasses to watch the US eclipse on August 21.

Amazon issued a recall on potentially hazardous eclipse glasses on August 10, which we reported on August 16.

The couple however claimed they were not informed of the recall.

Legal documents filed by the pair say the warning was "tragically too little, too late".

Amazon has declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in South Carolina last Tuesday.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Nearly 1/2 million pacemakers are vulnerable to an easy hack attack that could kill the user, and a firmware update is immediately required.

Talk about painful software updates. An estimated 465,000 people in the US are getting notices that they should update the firmware that runs their life-sustaining pacemakers or risk falling victim to potentially fatal hacks.

Cardiac pacemakers are small devices that are implanted in a patient's upper chest to correct abnormal or irregular heart rhythms. Pacemakers are generally outfitted with small radio-frequency equipment so the devices can be maintained remotely. That way, new surgeries aren't required after they're implanted. Like many wireless devices, pacemakers from Abbott Laboratories contain critical flaws that allow hijackers within radio range to seize control while the pacemakers are running.

Abbott representatives wrote in an open letter to doctors, "If there were a successful attack, an unauthorized individual (i.e., a nearby attacker) could gain access and issue commands to the implanted medical device through radio frequency (RF) transmission capability, and those unauthorized commands could modify device settings (e.g., stop pacing) or impact device functionality."

The update will require patients to visit a clinic where doctors will put the pacemakers in backup mode while the firmware is being patched. The Abbott letter said that, for certain patients, the update should be performed "in a facility where temporary pacing and pacemaker generator change are readily available, due to the very small estimated risk of firmware update malfunction."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A huge breakthrough has been made in Cancer research as scientists develop a nanobot capable of killing cancer cells in under three minutes.

Nanobots that drill into cancer cells can kill the cancer in just 60 seconds.

The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated.

In one test conducted at Durham University the nanomachines took between one and three minutes to break through the outer membrane of prostate cancer cell, killing it instantly.

The 'motor' is a rotor-like chain of atoms that can be prompted to move in one direction, causing the molecule to rotate at high speed.

Dr Robert Pal of Durham University said: "We are moving towards realising our ambition to be able to use light-activated nanomachines to target cancer cells such as those in breast tumours and skin melanomas, including those that are resistant to existing chemotherapy.

“Once developed, this approach could provide a potential step change in non-invasive cancer treatment and greatly improve survival rates and patient welfare globally."

The scientists, whose work is reported in the journal Nature, created several different light-activated motorised molecules designed to home in on specific cells.

The researchers are already proceeding with experiments in microorganisms and small fish and hope to move to rodents soon, ahead of clinical trials in humans if animal testing is successful.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston



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