July 24, 2015 by Tris Hussey

This Week in Tech July 24

This Week in Tech July 24

Great now our watches and cars can be hacked

July is wrapping up, but I think for Chrysler-Jeep they'd probably rather this month never happened. The City of Surrey, BC is using IBM's Watson to help residents out. Costco and Walmart shut down their photo printing sites. There's a guy who has a business restoring old-school, clacky IBM keyboards. And if you want to travel 1400 light years, there's a planet that might be the closest thing to an Earth 2 we've seen yet. Yep, this is the week in tech that I thought looked cool.

HP says your smartwatch doesn't do a good job of protecting your info and you might not always be in control of your Jeep

HP tested 10 popular smartwatches and found they didn't do a great job of protecting your data. Sometimes it was just not encrypting connections, sometimes letting people get into devices too easily if the passcode was wrong. HP believes the biggest culprit is manufacturers wanting to get product out the door really fast...and maybe skimping on the security stuff. Whatever the case may be, this is something watch in the future.

Speaking of the future, I'm really looking forward to self-driving cars, but Chrysler/Jeep has a different problem. Not computers steering the cars, but hackers remotely connecting to the car's systems and then steering (and crashing) the cars. In a live test with a Wired writer, (Engadget and The Register) hackers were able to first connect to the car's entertainment system and mess around with non-vital systems (radio, wipers, etc) and then the poop got real. With a few commands the hackers were able to force the car to brake, steer, and other rather vital functions from their handy laptops. Chrysler/Jeep says they have patches available, but wow, you'd think this kind of thing would be a little more automatic.

City of Surrey uses Watson to help residents

The City of Surrey, BC has created the My Surrey app to help residents with city services and bylaws. The app uses Watson to handle questions like "when is garbage day" or "how many dogs can I have". The goal is to help the city reduce the number of calls into city help lines for many types of questions. The folks behind the app say other cities want in on the action, so maybe folks in other cities can ask Watson for help. Hmm, I wonder if the app will help you play along with Jeopardy too. (Engadget)

Just who is printing your pictures from Costco?

This summer is turning into Hackerpalooza. Seems like every week some service is hacked or taken down or just messed with. This week it's Costco, Walmart, and Sam's Club and their photo printing service website. Turns out all of these folks use the same company to power their photo printing on demand service. Pity that the systems were compromised. While the customer data stored there was minimal, it's still pretty scary. We have to wonder with the recent spate of publicized hacks how many have gone unreported.

Hmm, let me go peruse my server logs...

Would you like to use a 20 year old restored IBM keyboard?

I'm pretty picky about keyboards. There are whole brands of laptops that I refuse to use because their keyboards are sub par. When you write (or code) a lot, how a keyboard feels can be a huge plus or minus to your productivity (my keyboard is pretty good here). For keyboard aficionados, the IBM Model M from 1985 is one of the must have keyboards. I might not be willing to pay a premium for a vintage keyboard, but Brandon Ermita has made a whole side business of restoring them for people. Ermita takes keyboards apart, cleans, fixes, and then resells them for as much as $175 a piece. Which is a bargain if look at brand new mechanical keyboards. Who would of thunk it.

NASA might have found Earth 2

The Kepler space telescope has found one of the most likely candidates for "Earth 2.0". Kepler 452b is a little larger than Earth, but is about the same distance from a similar sized sun as our Sun. A planet in this magic area is just the right distance for there to be liquid water on the surface of the planet. Unfortunately until we figure out a much (much) faster way to travel, it's pretty out of reach. At 1400 light years it's not practical for us to get there. On top of that the sun Kepler 452b orbits is 1.5 billion years older that ours. Which might mean the planet has dried up if the sun is hotter (now) than ours. Still pretty exciting. XKCD has a few suggestions for planet names...

XKCD planet name suggestions

And that's my take on this week in tech...

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