28 June 2024

Humanity's satellite habit could end up choking Earth's ozone layer


Large numbers of low Earth orbit satellites such as those operated by Starlink could pose a threat to the planet's ozone layer once they re-enter the atmosphere, according to recent research.

Constellations of small satellites being deployed for purposes such as broadband coverage typically have a relatively short life span, said to be about five years for Starlink, after which they re-enter the atmosphere and burn up, with replacements sent up to take over their roles.

But researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) say that this leads to the generation of aluminum oxides in the atmosphere, which are known to accelerate ozone depletion. The large number of satellites involved – Starlink alone was estimated to have 6,078 satellites in orbit as of May 2024 – could mean this presents a serious risk.

A research letter published in Geophysical Research Letters, "Potential ozone depletion from satellite demise during atmospheric re-entry in the era of mega‐constellations," says the demise of a typical 250 kg satellite can generate around 30 kg of aluminum oxide nanoparticles, which may endure in the atmosphere for decades.

The researchers calculate that large constellations of satellites may cause over 360 metric tons of aluminum oxide compounds to enter the atmosphere per year, which could lead to significant ozone depletion.

Aluminum is one of the most common materials in satellites, the article says, and reacts with oxygen upon re-entry in the atmosphere to generate aluminum oxide that can interfere with ozone chemistry. A chlorine activation reaction catalyzed on the surface of aluminum oxide particles boosts ozone depletion.


25 June 2024

Bible 101: a complete guide to Bible versions


If you’re new to Bible reading — or even if you’re not — you might feel completely bewildered by the array of Bible versions, translations, and editions available today.  

Whether you’re browsing the Bible section at your local bookstore or comparing Bible Gateway’s own library (which features dozens of English translations, let alone the huge variety of other languages), you might feel overwhelmed by the alphabet soup of abbreviations in front of you.

You’re not alone — Bible decision fatigue is real. In fact, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to leave stores empty handed rather than risk buying the “wrong” Bible version. 

Here’s the good news: with very few exceptions, there is no “wrong” version of the Good News. But depending on what you’re looking for, there are better or worse places for you to start. 

This guide will help you sort through the major Bible versions available today and make a choice that suits your personal circumstances. You’ll also learn a bit about the different translation types, or philosophies, and a crash course in their histories. When you’re done, you’ll have no trouble telling your NIV from your ESV, your NRSV from your NASB, and your KJV from your NKJV.  Read more...


20 June 2024

World Motorcycle Day: 21st June


Motorcycles have a surprisingly long history, with the first one being created in 1860 by one Pierre Michaux in Paris. This early motorcycle was steam-powered and was one of a few varieties that would spring up in the ensuing decades. 1885 would see the invention of the first internal combustion powered motorcycle, and from there on out things would explode as this popular form of conveyance entered the public consciousness.

Today motorcycles are used for an increasing number of applications, including delivery driving, passenger conveyance, recreation, and even just daily commuting. This is due, in no small part, to the incredible gas mileage these vehicles get, and how compact and easy they are to store even if you live in an apartment. Whether you’re using your motorcycle to get around from day to day, or are an enthusiast or hobbyist who goes on long rides as part of your yearly vacation, World Motorcycle Day is for you.

The best way to celebrate World Motorcycle Day is to get out on the road and enjoy the freedom of riding on a motorcycle. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind blow through your hair and wrap around you as you experience the complete freedom that is cruising beautiful roads from the back of a motorcycle. If you’ve been struggling with the costs of owning a car but have to have a way to get back and forth from work, then it’s time to look into becoming a motorcyclist.

The cost of a motorcycle along with the incredible fuel efficiency makes these vehicles perfect for the economically minded. On the other hand, if you just like the speed and power you can get out of one of these bad boys, then this holiday is your excuse to get out and tear up some pavement.


19 June 2024

Eating cheese plays a role in healthy, happy aging


A massive study of 2.3 million people has found that, independent of socioeconomic factors, mental well-being may be the most important single aspect to healthy aging and living longer lives. But a surprise finding was that those who reported the best mental health and stress resilience, which boosted well-being, also seemed to eat more cheese.

Yes, cheese – something we've been making around the world and eating for more than 4,000 years, as recorded on the walls of tombs in ancient Egypt. In fact, a few years ago the world's oldest cheese – aged a few centuries beyond palatability – was dug up in the region. Read more...

Funny that! I remember the doc telling me that I was eating too much cheese. Perhaps I misheard, and it was not enough cheese ;0). Let's not waste time: I'm off to grab some fromage!


18 June 2024

Majority of London’s motorists consider trading in cars for motorbikes to reduce costs

BikeSure conducted research that indicates a potential transformation in transportation choices within London in light of the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The financial implications of ULEZ have seen 57% of London’s motorists express a willingness to transition from cars to motorcycles as a cost-effective alternative. This research follows on from our previous ULEZ studies in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023.

In the wake of the expansion to London’s ULEZ, the strictest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the country, residents in areas of limited public transport like Bromley and Croydon, face a daily driving charge of £12.50. Motorbikes, largely exempt from this fee, could be a compelling financial choice.

Most motorbikes not only have lower upfront costs compared to used small cars but also have the potential of greater annual savings, especially those 125cc bikes that are typical city commuters.

In a comprehensive cost analysis for operating a city-appropriate car, in this case, a second-hand Toyota Aygo, the total is approximately £18,735 to commute five days a week. This includes driving test fees, initial expenditures, and average running costs.

In contrast, a comparable setup for a motorbike, factoring in driving test expenses, initial outlays and running costs, amounts to just £5,220. This reflects an average saving of £13,515. Read more...

17 June 2024

Microsoft: New Outlook security changes coming to personal accounts

Microsoft has announced new cybersecurity enhancements for Outlook personal email accounts as part of its 'Secure Future Initiative,' including the deprecation of basic authentication (username + password) by September 16, 2024.

The software giant also announced the end of support for 'Mail' and 'Calendar' apps on Windows, the deprecation of Outlook Light, and removing users' ability to access Gmail accounts via Outlook.com.

Starting September 16, 2024, Basic Authentication (username and password) for Outlook clients will be phased out for all Outlook personal accounts, including Outlook.com, Hotmail.com, and Live.com.

The basic authentication method is unsafe as it sends credentials over the wire without encryption, allowing networking monitoring tools to capture them. Furthermore, browsers and other applications commonly cache basic authentication credentials until the browser is restarted, allowing them to be used by others with access to the device.

"While Basic Auth was the standard for quite some time, it also made it easier for bad actors to capture a person's login information," explains Microsoft.

"This increased the risk of those stolen credentials being reused to gain access to a person's email or personal data. Email-based cyberattacks have only increased with time, so we are requiring modern authentication for all Outlook customers to better help protect their personal accounts."

By switching to more modern authentication methods, the basic authentication credentials will be replaced by token-based authentication backed by multi-factor authentication (MFA).

10 June 2024

Sales of Chinese CCTV cameras surge despite UK security ban

A Chinese CCTV giant labelled a security risk by the Government more than doubled sales of its surveillance cameras in Britain last year despite an official ban at sensitive locations.

Hikvision’s sales to UK and Irish customers rose to £32.6m in 2023 - the first full year of the company’s cameras being banned from certain government sites.

Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister, announced 19 months ago that Chinese camera companies would be banned from high-risk government properties amid a string of security and human rights concerns.

However, departments have been given lengthy timelines to rip out the equipment and the order does not cover many public sites or the private sector. Hikvision’s cameras are commonplace in schools, hospitals and local councils.

06 June 2024

Yet another "Smart" gadget gets dumped by it's manufacturer!

As we’re currently seeing with AI, when a new technology becomes buzzy, companies will do almost anything to cram that tech into their products. Trends fade, however, and corporate priorities shift - resulting in bricked gadgets and buyer's remorse.

That’s what's happening to some who bought into Oral-B toothbrushes with Amazon Alexa built in. Oral-B released the Guide for $230 in August 2020 but bricked the ability to set up or reconfigure Alexa on the product this February. As of this writing, the Guide is still available through a third-party Amazon seller.

The Guide toothbrush's charging base was able to connect to the Internet and work like an Alexa speaker that you could speak to and from which Alexa could respond. Owners could “ask to play music, hear the news, check weather, control smart home devices, and even order more brush heads by saying, ‘Alexa, order Oral-B brush head replacements,'” per Procter & Gamble's 2020 announcement.

Oral-B also bragged at the time that, in partnering with Alexa, the Guide ushered in “the truly connected bathroom.”

On February 15, Oral-B bricked the Guide's ability to set up Alexa by discontinuing the Oral-B Connect app required to complete the process. Guide owners can still use the Oral-B App for other features; however, the ability to use the charging base like an Alexa smart speaker - a big draw in the product’s announcement and advertising - is seriously limited.

The device should still work with Alexa if users set it up before Oral-B shuttered Connect, but setting up a new Wi-Fi connection or re-establishing a lost one doesn't work without Connect.

Windows Recall demands an extraordinary level of trust that Microsoft hasn’t earned

Microsoft’s Windows 11 Copilot+ PCs come with quite a few new AI and machine learning-driven features, but the tentpole is Recall. Described by Microsoft as a comprehensive record of everything you do on your PC, the feature is pitched as a way to help users remember where they’ve been and to provide Windows extra contextual information that can help it better understand requests from and meet the needs of individual users.

This, as many users in infosec communities on social media immediately pointed out, sounds like a potential security nightmare. That’s doubly true because Microsoft says that by default, Recall’s screenshots take no pains to redact sensitive information, from usernames and passwords to health care information to NSFW site visits. By default, on a PC with 256GB of storage, Recall can store a couple dozen gigabytes of data across three months of PC usage, a huge amount of personal data.

The line between potential security nightmare” and “actual security nightmare is at least partly about the implementation, and Microsoft has been saying things that are at least superficially reassuring. Copilot+ PCs are required to have a fast neural processing unit (NPU) so that processing can be performed locally rather than sending data to the cloud; local snapshots are protected at rest by Windows’ disk encryption technologies, which are generally on by default if you’ve signed into a Microsoft account; neither Microsoft nor other users on the PC are supposed to be able to access any particular user’s Recall snapshots; and users can choose to exclude apps or (in most browsers) individual websites to exclude from Recall’s snapshots.

04 June 2024

It's not just Windows 11 that can't get the numbers, Edge sucks too!

Statcounter's latest findings for May 2024 revealed an increase in Windows 11 users after a couple of months of steady decline. The report also contains information about desktop and mobile browsers, showing what apps customers prefer to browse the internet. According to the May 2024 report, Microsoft Edge managed to reach a new all-time high of 13.14%, beating the previous month's result by 0.32 points.

Although there is no reason to believe we will have a new most popular browser in the world any time soon, Chrome lost quite a chunk of users in May 2024. Statcounter says its market share went down from 65.65% to 64.87%.

Apple's Safari browser is third, with a respectable 8.79% market share. Firefox is fourth with 6.64%, and Opera closes the list of top 5 desktop browsers with a 3.23% share.

Meanwhile in other news: Microsoft plans to lay off about 1,000 people across the tech giant, despite what CEO Satya Nadella (so OK for some then, eh Satya) described during the corporation's April earnings call as "a record third quarter." 
While reports have suggested Microsoft would cut as many 1,500 people just from its Azure for Operators group, The Register has been told that number is not accurate and is inflated.