Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

US Nuclear Arsenal Controlled by 1970s Computers


Government Accountability Office report details ‘museum-ready’ machines which are still controlling nuclear force messaging system that is ‘obsolete’. The US military’s nuclear arsenal is controlled by computers built in the 1970s that still use 8in floppy disks.

A report into the state of the US government, released by congressional investigators, has revealed that the country is spending around $60bn (£40.8bn) to maintain museum-ready computers, which many technical staff members do not even know how to operate, as their creators retire and no updates put in place.

The Defense Department’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System (DDSACCS), which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to US nuclear forces, runs on a 1970s IBM computing platform. It still uses 8in floppy disks to store data.

We’re not even talking the more modern 3.5in floppy disk that millennials might only know as the save icon. We’re talking the OG 8in floppy, which was a large floppy square with a magnetic disk inside it. They became commercially available in 1971, but were replaced by the 5¼in floppy in 1976, and by the more familiar hard plastic 3.5in floppy in 1982.

Shockingly, the US Government Accountability Office said: “Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now so obsolete.”

The Pentagon said it was instigating a full replacement of the ancient machines and while the entire upgrade will take longer, the crucial floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year.

Given that magnetic media has a finite shelf life, and that disks and the drives needed to read and write to them are older than some of the operators of the machinery, the floppy revelation makes you wonder whether the US could even launch a nuclear attack if required. An “error, data corrupted” message could literally mean ‘life or death’.

Read Article (Hal90210 | | 05/26/2016)

OMG, this is the most embarrassing post I’ve ever made. To think, in this 2016 Digital Era any portion of our Nuclear capability being managed like this is unthinkable.

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ACLU Joins Microsoft in Suit Against the DOJ


SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft got an ally in its lawsuit against the Justice Department Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to join Microsoft’s effort to challenge DOJ gag orders that prevent the tech company from telling customers when the government has ordered it to turn over data.

The ACLU is a Microsoft customer. Microsoft filed its lawsuit in April, one of a number of legal challenges the Redmond, Wash., company has mounted against growing law enforcement requests for its cloud-based consumer data.

“A basic promise of our Constitution is that the government must notify you at some point when it searches or seizes your private information,” said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Notice serves as a crucial check on executive power, and it has been a regular and constitutionally required feature of searches and seizures since the nation’s founding.”

Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said the company "appreciates the support from the ACLU and many others in the business, legal and policy communities who are concerned about secrecy becoming the norm rather than the exception.”

Requests from law enforcement agencies for access to users' personal information routinely flood tech companies that store vast amounts of data in the cloud. Massive data centers run by Microsoft, Amazon and other big tech companies allow businesses and individuals to access email, photos and other content from multiple devices, wherever they are.

Law enforcement officials say that access to such data is critical to fighting crime and terrorism. Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the U.S. government is increasingly targeting such data, according to Microsoft, which says the government has mandated secrecy in 2,576 instances over the past 18 months. People would know if the government went through their filing cabinet or their hard drive, but are unaware when their privacy in the cloud is intruded upon, they argue.

The 1986 law was written before the Web was born and long before Americans started sending, receiving and storing so much of their personal communications and documents on the Internet.

Microsoft alleges the Electronic Communications Privacy Act violates users' Fourth Amendment right that a search be reasonable and Microsoft's First Amendment right to talk to its users.

"Notably and even surprisingly, 1,752 of these secrecy orders, or 68% of the total, contained no fixed end date at all. This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote in an April blog post when the suit was announced.

Tech companies increasingly are being drawn into legal battles with federal agencies over access to consumer information. A broad swath of major technology names filed amicus briefs on behalf of Apple during the iPhone maker's protracted battle with the FBI earlier this year over access to the smartphone used by one of the San Bernardino killers.

Read Article (Marco della Cava | | 05/26/2016)

Today Microsoft is fighting a battle to protect your digital privacy, tomorrow you may need to fight your own battle to protect your digital privacy. But only if you realize it’s been hacked and only if you know what you are talking about.

By now you should have some idea of what we are about, if not read our about page. But our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing digital literacy and how to fully use devices that connect to the Internet and the Internet itself.

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Smartphone Literacy: Understanding Feature Terms


If you’re shopping for a new smartphone, you might feel like you need a geek-to-English dictionary just to understand the lingo. Some also have been faking it, acting as it they have some geek in them and know this lingo, you just might know one or two. Megapixel this, gigahertz that, terabyte this. All this could make your head spin. Am I right?

If you’re one of the many looking to upgrade your smartphone this summer – but need a bit of help to understand what all the tech specs mean — look no further than this following glossary of popular mobile terms and acronyms.

4K: Many new smartphones have a rear-facing camera that can shoot “4K,” which refers to video with four times the resolution of 1080p HD. In other words, the video contains more than 8 million pixels (little dots) compared to roughly 2 million. You’ll best appreciate this bump up in detail when playing back the video on a 4K TV. Be aware, 4K takes up a lot more storage on your phone and uses up more battery power.

aptX: Regular Bluetooth is fine for hands-free calls, but subpar when it comes to streaming music to your headphones or speaker. This is because it’s difficult to send large files through a small “pipe” without sacrificing sound quality. Smartphones with aptX, however, can reduce the size of audio so they can easily flow through the wireless pipeline, delivering near CD-quality audio over Bluetooth.

Always-on display: For added convenience and to help with battery preservation, a few Android smartphones today have an “Always-on display,” which shows you notifications on the screen – such as date and time, calendar appointments, text messages and emails, recent calls, and more -- without needing to wake up the phone.

IP67/IP68: The Ingress Protection (IP) rating system shows you how much protection your tech has from the elements. Phones that are IP67-certified means the device and connectors can withstand up to 3.2 feet of water for up to 30 minutes (and are dust-resistant, too). An IP68-certified device can withstand “more than” 3.2 feet of water, but it varies by device. To err on the side of caution, consider these phones ideal for splashes, rain, sweat, and accidental submersion. Don’t go swimming with your phone.

LTE: Long-term evolution, or LTE, is an industry term that refers to higher data speeds – comparable to (or even faster than) your home's broadband Internet connection. Sometimes referred to as 4G speeds, all major phone carriers offer LTE phones, tablets and Internet sticks or pucks, all of which grant you fast downloads, streaming and uploading in supported (mostly urban) areas.

Gorilla Glass: From Corning, Gorilla Glass is a tougher screen technology that can withstand the bumps and knocks of everyday life. With the latest version, Gorilla Glass 4, Corning says it could withstand 3-foot drops onto rough surfaces 80% of the time, which they claim is up to twice as good as competitive glass designs. It’s still a good idea to go with a case to protect the entire phone from accidental drops.

mAh: Short for milliamp, this refers to the capacity of your smartphone’s battery. Generally speaking, the higher the milliamp (mAh), the longer the phone will last between charges. There are other variables that can affect battery performance, such as environmental conditions (such as heat), operating system and applications (software), processing power, and more. A rule of thumb: the bigger the number, such as 2800mAh compared to 1900mAh, the longer the phone’s battery will last.

Marshmallow: Android 6.0, or “Marshmallow,” introduces a number of improvements and new features tied to the overall user experience. A few highlights: tap and hold the Home button to activate “Now on Tap,” which provides contextually-relevant info and apps based on what you’re doing on the phone; a “Doze” feature automatically puts the device into a sleep state, but still takes calls and messages; use your fingertip or thumb to unlock your phone and shop on Google Play; new keyboard refinements; and more.

NFC: Near-field communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless technology that allows for two NFC-enabled devices to make a digital handshake, by simply placing them within 1.5 inches of one another. There are many applications, such as tapping your phone to make a payment on a retailer’s contactless terminal, quickly pairing a phone with NFC headphones, or two compatible phones quickly exchanging contact information.

Push-to-talk (PTT): Some phones today support push-to-talk – which may be advertised as “PTT,” for short – which have a walkie-talkie-like button on the side that instantly connects you to a preprogrammed person or group. Popular among workers “in the field,” especially if they’re wearing protective gloves, PTT phones are almost exclusively Android-based, therefore iPhone fans can’t take advantage of this feature.

SIM: A SIM (“Subscriber Identity Module”) is a small white card inside your phone. It's what enables cellular service with your provider. It also stores your phone number, and other info. When you upgrade your phone, simply pop out the SIM, which is usually found in a small slot in the side or on top of your phone, or underneath the battery, and insert it into a new phone. They’ve become smaller over the years: from SIM to mini SIM to microSIM to nano SIM. Some phones offer dual SIM support, so you can pop in a second card, perhaps having one number for personal use and one for work, or using a local SIM when traveling.

Super AMOLED: There are two major smartphone screen technologies on the market – AMOLED and IPS LCD – and each has their own benefits. With AMOLED, individual pixels are lit separately on top of a thin film transistor array that passes electricity through organic compounds; colors and bright and blacks are deep as portions of the screen can be turned off (like an LED TV). Super AMOLED reflects less sunlight than AMOLED, while IPS is said to show more accurate colors than AMOLED/Super AMOLED — but the latter excels in contrast (blacks), and energy efficiency

Wireless charging: While the name is a little misleading as your phone isn’t charging up over airwaves (yet!), smartphones with a “wireless charging” feature can be powered up by placing it on top of a compatible base at home, in the car, at the office, in an airport, or at a restaurant. In other words, no USB cable is needed. Phone carriers often sell these small pucks to place the phone on top of to charge up, plus IKEA now sells furniture with this feature built in. A catch: you likely have to remove your case for this to work.

Now you too, can talk like a techie but have some idea of what you’re talking about.

Read Article (Marc Saltzman | | 05/21/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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Why Billionaire Dumped all His Apple Stock


Apple has had a tough week after reporting that its quarterly revenue fell for the first time since 2003. Things got worse Thursday when billionaire investor Carl Icahn announced that he had sold his shares in the company.

The news sent Apple stock, already depressed by the disappointing earnings report earlier this week, down another 3 percent. Apple's stock, one of the most widely held in the world, is now down about 10 percent this week, erasing about $56 billion from its market value.

Icahn has been one of Apple's most prominent — and vocal — investors. In 2014, he suggested that Apple was undervalued and was worth more than $1 trillion. Icahn has also repeatedly tussled with the firm about a program for buying back its stock, which could raise its value. The company eventually relented.

But, Icahn said on CNBC Thursday afternoon, he has now sold all of his shares in the company and made a $2 billion profit. "We obviously made a great deal of money," Icahn said. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple is a "great company," Icahn said. Icahn said he called Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, to alert him to the news. "He seemed sort of sad to hear that," Icahn said.

Apple reported its earnings earlier this week, revealing that its revenue dropped from the previous year for the first time in 13 years. It also reported its first ever decline in iPhone sales from year to year — Apple sold 51.2 million phones in its latest quarter, down from 61.2 million the previous year.

The report ended a remarkable run that helped the tech firm become the world's most valuable company. In Apple's latest earnings call, Cook called the current situation a "pause" in Apple's growth. Yet with a majority of its revenue wrapped up in the slowing smartphone market, any perception that the iPhone is weakening has enormous repercussions.

Apple, like every other smartphone vendor, has watched consumer appetites for smartphones shrink during the past several quarters. That slowing growth seems to have caught up with the company this quarter, particularly in the critical market of China. Apple reported that revenue was down 26 percent from the same period last year, making it the region of the world where the firm saw the greatest downturn.

That appears to be behind Icahn's decision to sell his shares in the company, which were once valued at more than $5 billion. "China could be a shadow for [the company], and we have to look at that," he told CNBC.

Note: A Beijing court’s decision against Apple Inc. resulted in losing its exclusive trademark rights over iPhone. The winner of the case is a small-time accessories company that produces wallets and purses.

Legal Daily also confirmed, Xintong currently has a Class 18 trademark that allows them to use the label on their range of leather, which includes smartphone casings, wallets and clutches, Products that weren’t launched before by Apple. The decision sided with the Beijing Company due to the 2013 ruling which states, Xintong applied for a trademark in September 2007, during the time when Apple’s iPhone was not available in China. The tech company started selling the smartphone from 2009.

Read Article (Merle & Tsukayama | | 04/28/2016)

As the smartphone loses its bling the effects slowly start to appear across the entire industry without exception. Carl Icahn had the vision to see it coming and acted accordingly. The digital era does provide indicators of current and future status but one must be able to identify and act on these indicators.

The effects caused by a lack of Digital Literacy is also an indicator and some of our prominent officials are trying to respond accordingly.

Unfortunately, many of them assume that providing Internet access alone will suffice but that alone has little effect on digital literacy. An example of a modern day service that can accomplish this is Master Level High-Tech Webinars.

Please donate to this cause today so we can help someone tomorrow.

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Elementary Students Teach Classmates & Teacher Tech


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In the age of technology, parents are used to having their kids teach them how to use a smart phone or a new device. At an Albuquerque elementary school, some students are teaching their classmates and teachers about technology. A group of fourth and fifth graders from Petroglyph Elementary in northwest Albuquerque are doing things with technology that a lot of adults struggle with.

“We go around the school and help people with technology,” explained James Yan. The fifth-grader is one of 23 ‘SWAT’ members, which stands for Students Who Advance Technology. The group is part of a bigger program, GenYes, within Albuquerque Public Schools to incorporate technology in education.

“They’re naturally curious, and when they get curious, how nice to put something in their hands that’s gonna get them engaged in the classroom,” explained Paul Romero, Chief Technology Officer for Albuquerque Public Schools.

Yan, 11, demonstrated for KRQE News 13 a Star Wars themed game he created on the computer using code. Kids also take what they learn in SWAT to teach younger students in other classrooms.

Tuesday, they helped third-graders use IPads to create virtual presentations for their artwork. The students designed avatars and recorded their own reports on famous paintings.

Ms. Tia Turner spearheads the technology-based classes at Petroglyph. “We find that they’re more motivated to do their classwork and come to school, because they’re using the technology,” Turner explained.

The students also serve as tech support for teachers. Kids make sure software is up-to-date, they troubleshoot computer problems, even educate classmates on how to use high-tech devices.

Fourth-grader Eli Salazar is somewhat of a 3D printing expert. “You can make your own designs,” Salazar showed off a box of objects he and his classmates designed first on a laptop, then transferred to the 3D printer.

Students design some pretty cool stuff, including a detailed dragon figurine, and watch their creations come to life. Tuesday, the class was printing a 3D bracelet.

“It’s just fun,” said Ava Martinez, a fourth grader who’s learning from classmates. “Other schools don’t have this so you’re just so grateful that your school is one of those schools that has it.”

Like her peers, Martinez is inspired by technology. “I wanna be a graphic designer at Pixar,” she told KRQE News 13. “It’s really good having this head start at a very young age,” she added.

Students said they love teaching and learning from each other. Turner said her kids also make tutorial videos, covering anything from how to take a screenshot, to how to edit videos.

In 2014, Petroglyph Elementary won $10,000 from, a site that teaches kids about programming. The school used the money for technology based teaching tools, like the iPads and 3D printer.

Read Article (Gabrielle Burkhart | | 01/05/2016)

The current number of tech-savvy senior citizens in the US are solely the results of efforts from family members, friends, volunteers and elementary, high school and college students. Their efforts alone have contributed to the digital literacy of senior citizens more than all other efforts combined. But these efforts barely slow the growth of the divide.

There are so many adults, of all ages, that need the service we can provide. This isn’t a campaign just to start business, it’s a campaign to start the closing of the digital divide. Everyone who reads this post knows someone who needs our service. And we sincerely ask for your support to assist them and the millions that struggle with Digital Literacy.

We feel our campaign is simply doing the right thing, funding this effort is also doing the right thing. Join with us and change the digital world, forever.

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