This Week in Tech 616: That’s Not a Hot Dog

Is Apple just pretending to be innovative? Does AlphaGo’s latest victory mean that general AI is around the corner? Who knows more about you, Facebook or Google? Should the NSA stockpile exploits? How long can Tesla stay on top of the EV market? Are robot cops coming? And… Is that a hot dog?

–Clayton Morris recommends Cosmic Disclosure for the latest in UFO conspiracies.
–Dan Patterson recommends Gerrit Lansing for the latest in political data analytics.
–Tim Stevens knows that if you gaze long at the Cap’n Crunch, the Cap’n Crunch also gazes at you.

This Week in Tech 613: My Husband’s an iDoctor

Mark Zuckerberg drops in for dinner unannounced, talks with firemen, and feeds a calf. Is he running for President, or just trying to convince us he’s not secretly a robot? Apple has more than $250 billion in cash – what should it do with all that money? Microsoft introduces Windows 10 S, the Surface Laptop, Code Builder for Minecraft: Education edition, and more tools for schools. How much technology do schools need? Amazon’s new echo has a camera, and its next one will have a touchpad. Is ubiquitous voice computing going to lead to the end of privacy forever? The Google Docs phishing attack makes us question if users are to blame. Facebook and Twitter want to be your next TV.

–Amy Webb’s new book is The Signals are Talking
–Nick Bilton’s new book is American Kingpin
–Brianna Wu is running for Congress in Massachusetts

This Week in Tech 611: Bezel Come Back

At the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook shows off its hot new augmented reality technology – which looks a whole lot like Snapchat. Apple is secretly working on non-invasive blood sugar detection, which could be a boon to millions of diabetics. Apple also wants to save the Earth by using 100% recycled materials in its products, covering its headquarters in solar panels, and manufacturing its own sweat. Wait, what? Google, which has made billions in ad revenue, is working on an ad blocker. The Samsung Galaxy S8 came out this week and has yet to explode. Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant, seems to be fizzling. According to Qualcomm, the first Windows PC using an ARM chip could be out later this year. in completely unrelated news, Intel has canceled the Intel Developer Forum. HTC’s newest phone, codenamed Ocean, will have a squeezable frame and a questionable logo. Steve Ballmer’s new site makes government spending more accessible. Another bad week for Uber. And McDonald’s new uniforms highlight the techno-dystopia we all live in.

This Week in Tech 609: Strippers, JFK and Stalin

Apple issues a mea culpa for the Mac Pro and promises a new model is on the way – just not this year. YouTube TV launches – it isn’t perfect, but it may be the most promosing over-the-top TV solution. Facebook launches a fund to fight fake news. Jeff Bezos is spending $1 billion a year of his own money on Blue Origin. XBox’s Project Scorpio specs revealed. Is the Twitter outrage over Pepsi’s new ad justified?

• Harry McCracken loves the serial comma.
• Iain Thomson insists that it should properly be called the Oxford comma.
• Christina Warren is more annoyed by people who mix up “your” and “you’re”.

Host: Leo Laporte
Guests: Harry McCracken, Christina Warren, and Iain Thomson

Facebook pays $10,000 to 10-year-old for finding Instagram flaw that allowed comments to be deleted

By | TechSpot

You have to be at least 13 years old to have an account on Instagram, but this didn’t stop one 10-year-old Finnish boy from exposing a vulnerability in the Facebook-owned photo-sharing application and winning $10,000 for his work.

Helsinki-based Jani (his parents didn’t reveal his last name) discovered that he could erase any written content on Instagram by altering code on its servers. Facebook told Forbes that he verified this by deleting a comment the company posted on a test account.

The Facebook spokesperson added that the problem came from a private application program interface not properly checking that the person deleting the comment was the same one who posted it.

“I tested whether the comments section of Instagram can handle harmful code. Turns out it can’t. I noticed that I can delete other people’s comments from there,” Jani told Helskini-based newspaper Iltalehti. “I could have deleted anyone’s – like Justin Bieber’s for example.”

Facebook’s bug bounty program rewards people who identify and report security issues. In the five years since it launched, it has paid $4.3 million to more than 800 researchers for over 2400 submissions. Instagram was added to the program in 2014.

Payouts vary based on the level of risk a bug poses. Considering the average reward last year was only $1780, Jani’s $10,000 shows that Facebook regarded it as a fairly high-level threat.

Jani, who learned his skills by watching YouTube instructional videos, is now the youngest person to receive a reward from the program, beating the record set by a 13-year-old back in 2013. He said he plans to buy a football and new bicycle with some of the money.

Reports claim that Facebook will soon introduce ads inside Messenger

By | Tech Spot

Facebook’s incredibly popular Messenger service will introduce ads inside the platform sometime within next few months, according to a report from TechCrunch. A document obtained by the site says that businesses will be able to send advertisements as messages, but only to those users who have already initiated a conversation.

The document, which TechCrunch says it acquired from a “verified source” that it is keeping anonymous, also revealed that Facebook has introduced a personalized URL short link for companies to share that, when clicked, will open a chat thread with the business.

As TechCrunch points out, this short link is essentially the next generation version of a customer support number. It uses the format fb.com/msg/ followed by the Facebook username of the page, like fb.com/msg/TechSpot.

Brands will be able to share their personalized short links as a quick way for consumers to get in touch with a customer service agent. And once someone contacts a business on Messenger, they’ll start receiving ads from the company.

The exact nature of the ads is still unclear, although it’s been suggested that they could be used to inform people of upcoming sales and product launches, and possibly use videos or GIFs to promote items. Firms may even contact Messenger users to inform them that a product they previously showed an interest in has been reduced.

If the report proves to be accurate, it appears that you’ll be unable to opt out of receiving ads from companies you make contact with, which could stop people from messaging them at all. It is possible, however, that users may be able to ask firms to stop sending them ads, much like unsubscribing from an email marketing list.

Facebook has talked about increasing Messenger’s use as a B2C platform in the past, so it looks as if this feature really will be implemented, but there’s always the chance that Facebook may alter some elements if the public response is overwhelmingly negative. We’ll no doubt learn more at F8, the company’s annual global developer conference, in April.

Facebook becomes the latest company to ditch Flash, switches to HTML5 for all video

By | TechSpot

In what may be the final nail in the coffin for Flash, Facebook has now abandoned the technology in favor of HTML5 for all web videos that appear on its News Feed, Pages, and in the embedded Facebook video player.

Facebook says it is continuing to work with Adobe to deliver a reliable and secure Flash experience for games on the platform, but the social network has switched to HTML5 video playback by default in all browsers.

Daniel Baulig, an engineer at Facebook, said: “Not only did launching the HTML5 video player make development easier, but it also improved the video experience for people on Facebook. Videos now start playing faster. People like, comment, and share more on videos after the switch, and users have been reporting fewer bugs. People appear to be spending more time with video because of it.”

Baulig added that Facebook introduced the HTML5 player a while ago to a small number of browsers, but there were several problems stopping the company making a complete switch from Flash across all platforms.

“In theory, most browsers in use support HTML5 video. However, in practice we noticed that a lot of the older browsers would simply perform worse using the HTML5 player than they had with the old Flash player. We saw more errors, longer loading times, and a generally worse experience,” he said. “That’s why we waited until recently to ship the HTML5 player to all browsers by default, with the exception of a small set of them.”

Back in July, Facebook’s chief of security, Alex Stamos, tweeted that it was time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask browser makers to set killbits on the same day. YouTube switched to an HTML5-based player in January this year, and Adobe recently tried to distance itself from the technology by renaming Flash Pro to Adobe Animate CC.

As Facebook joins the ranks of so many other companies in denouncing Flash, will 2016 be the year we finally say goodbye to the aging system once and for all?

Microsoft, global law enforcement agencies disrupt Dorkbot botnet

By | Techspot

Microsoft, in cooperation with a number of law enforcement agencies around the world, managed to disrupt a botnet that’s infected over a million PCs across more than 190 countries.

First discovered in April 2011, Dorkbot is an IRC-based botnet that has been commercialized by its creator and is readily available for purchase on underground online forums as NgrBot. The malware relies on USB drives, social networks, IM clients, spam and drive-by downloads for distribution.

It’s most often used to steal login credentials for many of today’s top sites and services including AOL, eBay, Facebook, Gmail, Godaddy, Netflix, PayPal, Steam, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube.

Over the past six months, Microsoft said it detected Dorkbot on roughly 100,000 systems each month with the majority of infections spotted internationally.

Microsoft said it worked with CERT Polska, ESET, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, Europol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to disrupt the botnet.

Details on exactly what actions were taken to disrupt Dorkbot weren’t mentioned.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) advises those that have been infected to use and maintain anti-virus software, change passwords, keep operating system and application software up-to-date, use anti-malware tools and disable Windows Autorun.