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Top Stories for the Week Of December 6, 2017

  • Episode 533
  • December 6, 2017

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

Google has released an AI toolkit for the Raspberry Pi.

Google has announced the “AIY Vision Kit,” opening up a new way for Raspberry PI users to access its AI tools.

The kit comprises a low-power Intel Movidius MA2450 circuit board, and computer vision software, that can be connected onto an existing Raspberry Pi computer and camera modules.

The circuit board provides the ability to run neural networks on the device rather than having to add on an external source for processing the data; or use a cloud processing system.

The software includes access to three neural network models: one to recognise objects, one to recognise faces and human facial expressions, and a third that can identify the difference between a human, a cat, and a dog.

Google said its AIY Vision Kit could be used for a whole range of applications, including identifying plants and the individual species, monitoring where your dog is in your home, seeing when your car left the driveway, and recognising emotion—for example, whether your guests like your home decor.

This is the second product released in the AIY line by Google. Its AIY Voice Kit was released in May and enables Raspberry Pi developers to build a standalone voice recognition system using Google Assistant. Users can also add their own voice recognition and natural language processing to projects.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Thanks to new regulations, cellphone-unlocking is now free in Canada.

Effective immediately, cellphone-unlocking is now free in Canada.

Prior to this, carriers such as Rogers, Telus and Bell could charge you $50 to unlock your phone. That’s no longer the case. On top of that, devices must also be sold unlocked as well.

So, why should you care? It’s simple. If your device is unlocked, you can take it to any carrier and get service for it. Which means if your current carrier isn’t meeting your needs, is too expensive, or has horrible customer service, you can go elsewhere easier. On top of that, you can switch phones at will without being forced into a new plan.

The change also means that when you go overseas, you can use a local SIM card at a much lower price rather than be charged by your cell phone carrier for expensive roaming service.

All of this is great for the consumer, but likely bad news for cell phone providers, as they will now have to up their game if they want to retain customers.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

A ridiculously dangerous bug in macOS was fixed quickly, but unfortunately, comes right back after a software update.

The serious and surprising root security bug in macOS High Sierra is back for some users; shortly after Apple declared it fixed.

The root bug, discovered last week, allows anyone to log in or authenticate as a system administrator on systems running macOS High Sierra. In many circumstances, all they need to do is simply type in the username "root" and leave the password field blank.

The bug is so serious that it drew an uncharacteristically strong apology from Apple, which said its "customers deserve better."

After Apple released a patch for the initial bug, some users quickly discovered that the security update caused file sharing functionality to break. Apple, in turn, released a new version of the security update that addressed that issue. Now, within just a few days, this additional wrinkle has been discovered.

Users who had not installed macOS 10.13.1 (and thus were running a prior version of the OS when they received the security update) found that installing 10.13.1 resurfaced the bug.

For these users, the security update can be installed again (in fact, it would be automatically installed at some point) after updating to the new version of the operating system. However, the bug is not fixed in that case until the user reboots their computer. Many users do not reboot their computers for days or even weeks at a time, and Apple's support documentation did not, at first, inform users that they needed to reboot. So some people may have been left vulnerable without realizing it.

The documentation has been updated with the reboot step now.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Facebook Messenger is coming to pre-teens. Should parents be concerned?

Facebook Messenger is coming to pre-teens.

Strictly speaking, only those aged 13 and over are allowed to use Facebook. But the prevention methods are trivial, meaning more than 20 million under-13-year-olds are thought to be using the network.

So on Monday, Facebook launched its first app tailored for young users. It's a ringfenced network that needs parental approval before use, and will not, the company has promised, be used to feed data for advertising.

“Messenger Kids” is a simplified, locked-down version of the messaging app that Facebook currently offers to those over 13.

Loren Cheng, product manager for Messenger Kids said, "Parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate."

If two children want to be friends on Messenger Kids, that friendship has to be approved by a parent for each child. Once confirmed to be safe, friends can do live video chat and send pictures and text to each other.

There will also be "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools [that] lets them decorate content and express their personalities."

Approved adults can also contact children through the app—but they will still get their messages through the normal Facebook Messenger app.
Messenger Kids will of course collect data: the child's name, the content of the messages, and typical usage reports for how the app is used.

Facebook will share that information with third parties, which must have data protection policies that comply with Coppa—the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US.

Facebook has promised the data will not be used in any way to power the "grown up" Facebook.

That's important—the obvious commercial benefit to this new app might be to target ads to parents based on what their kids are talking about. Or use what was discussed in Messenger Kids to target ads at teens as they graduate into over-13 Facebook.

Neither of those things will happen, Facebook said. The app doesn't know specifically how old the children signing up are, so users will not be prompted to move onto Facebook when they are old enough.

If a child does decide to join full Facebook, it will be a brand new account with no data carried over from what was said on Messenger Kids.

As YouTube found out when videos with disturbing content found their way onto YouTube Kids, trying to make a child-safe space is difficult: a minority of people will always be looking for ways to get around protections.

Messenger Kids is initially available in the US on iOS, and will later come to other platforms.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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