Welcome to issue #8 of the Dithering Digest Weekly Tech Roundup of geeky news and links! This one is a little larger than normal to make sure you have plenty of geeky goodness to keep you going over the Christmas break.
I hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday and you get lots to tech toys to play with 🙂
Table of Contents
National Grid removes Chinese equipment over cyber fears
In an apparent move to decrease the cyber security threat against critical national infrastructure the National Grid in the UK have begun to remove Chinese supplied equipment from the electrical grid. This follows on from previous action to outlaw all equipment from supplier Huawei on the nation’s 4G and 5G telecoms networks over fears that the equipment could have backdoors allowing spying and interception of UK citizens data.
1Password is all in on Passkeys
1Password (my password manager of choice) is soon to be all in on passkeys. Passkeys are a new technology in passwords that stores a secure key on your device, protected by FaceID, fingerprint or other mechanism depending on device. This token can automatically log you onto a site without a password and is touted to be the “end of passwords”. It is a significant security upgrade over passwords and is being adopted by more and more big names (eBay, Google etc). So to see 1Password adding support for them not just for sites, but also to replace your master password, is amazing.
Channel 1 to bring AI news and newsreaders to the web
Not sure how to feel about this one. Seems like it’s playing with fire a little. This company are making a news channel that will feature AI generated news stories read by AI animated anchors. The avatars are generated, the voices are all automated. No humans, just AI creating news and reading it to you. People are not going to know what to believe soon, and I think that is going to be so dangerous. You can tell at the moment that the avatars are not real humans, but I don’t think it will be too long before they become indistinguishable from humans.
Facebook heating your home?
In slightly happier tech news, Facebook is heating homes in Denmark by piping excess heat from its massive data centre to underground systems that allow the heat to be distributed to homes nearby. Data centres generate masses of heat and rely on expensive air-conditioning and cooling systems, so by re-using some of that heat they can really help offset some of that waste. And given that AI systems are incredibly processor intensive and will generate even more heat, being able to recycle it in a useful way could become the norm!
Help warm a Dane today by liking our Facebook Page and sharing it with your friends!
Mini data centres to heat tower blocks
Following on from the Facebook example, doing the same thing but on a smaller scale could also have benefits. An Australian cloud operator ResetData thinks that by having mini data centres in the basement of residential blocks, they could use the excess heat to heat water and the building. This would also allow for data centres to be distributed across many cities which would make them more resilient by spreading the data and better able to withstand local outages. I would think that physical security of the data in these cases would be one of the biggest challenges but using that excess heat in an environmentally friendly way certainly seems like a big win.
Apple Watch to be banned from sale in US
This is a big one. Apple is having to pull all Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from sale in the US over a patent dispute with Masimo. It seems they think Apple’s blood oxygen sensor infringes on a patent of theirs, and a judge agrees. Apple are reportedly working on a software fix to see if that can appease the company. If not they might be holding out hope that President Biden steps in to veto the ban. Bad timing for Apple right in the mouth of Christmas to have to pull a product from sale!
Linux gets better on modern Macs
Asahi Linux have teamed up with The Fedora Project to release Fedora Asahi Remix, which is the most compatible version yet for M1 and M2 based Macs. It looks like all the basics are working, including sound (on Linux, I know!!!). Some more advanced things like Thunderbolt 4 are not working and also Touch ID , but if you are itching to try Linux on the blazing fast M-series chips, now is your chance!
UK officials caught unaware over 2G and 3G switch off
I feel like “UK government caught unaware” is becoming a regular section to this newsletter! This time it is in relation to the upcoming switch off of 2G and 3G mobile networks. The latest will be 2033 but some networks including Vodafone have indicated they will switch off this coming January 2024! This won’t affect most people with their phones, but a lot of devices use the older frequencies, like parking meters, electricity meters “phoning home” etc. Once services switch off, it could cause all manner of unexpected disruption.
Last minute geek gifts
If you are still looking for a geek gift, you are probably too late to order anything on our Geek Gift Guide before the big day. But you could order a SetApp gift card! SetApp is a software service for the Mac that gives you access to 240+ apps for a low monthly fee. If you have a geek that uses a Mac, maybe gift them a few months of SetApp to see if it works for them!
Computer Joke of the Week
I started a band called 1023MB, but we haven’t gotten a gig yet.
See you all next week! Happy holidays and keep dithering!