By Bob Pepalis
Let's take a look at recent tech highlights, looking for news that's interesting to you in the journals, websites, newsletters and other online sources.
This Tech Blitz blog is intended to feature a round-up of the latest news, announcements, opinions and insights. We especially are interested in sharing news about software development, self-service business intelligence and the tools used to implement them.
If you notice we've missed something or just want to make sure we add something to our next Tech Blitz blog, send us your ideas by email
Japan Earthquakes Disrupt Electronics Supply Chain
Powerful earthquakes in Japan that killed at least 42 people and left more than 1,000 injured also disrupted the electronics supply chain.
Sony suspended work at a factory that produces digital image sensors in the southwest Japan Kumamoto prefecture. The factory makes components for cameras and smartphones, including Apple's iPhone. It's too soon to say if this tragedy will affect production of these devices.
The U.S. military answered Japanese officials' request to make airlifts of supplies to the quake-ravaged areas.
Problems May Lead to Theranos Founder's Ban from Labs
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may ban Theranos CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes from owning or running any lab for two years or more, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Investigations revealed major problems at its blood-testing lab in California. Ars reported the company faces sanctions, including losing its approval to test human samples.
Make Your Computer Smart
Want to create your own smart computer? Google users got a hand from TensorFlow, which will allow anyone with access to computer software to create their own smart computer. Customize the settings for what programs you want the computer to learn, and it starts learning. You might end up with a computer that talks, draws and recognizes pictures, depending on what programs you specify.
TensorFlow, the company bringing this software to Google users, will allow for anyone with access to computer software to create their own smart computer from scratch that can program itself. Users can customize the settings to specify what programs they want the computer to learn, and it takes off from there. Learned skills can range anywhere from drawing and talking to recognizing pictures.
You might not want to put your smart computer in charge of the pod bay door, especially if it's named "Hal."
Tech Hotspots Do Exist Outside of Silicon Valley & the Research Triangle
Do you live in or near a hotspot? Don't assume the answer is "no" if you don't live in Silicon Valley, San Francisco or one of the other traditional tech centers. If you live in Baltimore, Atlanta or Washington, D.C., you are in the top 10 of America's software and tech hotspots.
What they found is a geography dominated by traditional tech centers, particularly those with strong universities. The San Jose, Calif., metro area and Seattle led the way, followed by San Francisco and Boston. The back half of the top 10 is a bit more surprising, featuring Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Microsoft Wants to Tell You Feds Have Your Data
Microsoft sued the U.S. government to stop it from forcing them to hand over customers' data and not letting the technology corporation tell those customers about it.
"Not surprisingly, business customers regularly convey to us their strong desire to know when the government is obtaining their data. And not surprisingly, they want the opportunity for their own lawyers to review the situation and help decide whether to turn over information or contest the issue in court," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, in a company blog
American University law professor Michael Carroll said
Microsoft's business customers worry that their emails, documents and other data are being accessed without their knowledge.
Apple told a federal court
that the Department of Justice has not proved it needs the company's help in accessing a drug dealer's iPhone.
"The government has utterly failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that Apple's assistance in this case is necessary," lawyers for the Cupertino, Calif., company said in a brief filed with a federal court in New York on Friday. "The government has made no showing that it has exhausted alternative means for extracting data from the iPhone at issue here, either by making a serious attempt to obtain the passcode from the individual defendant who set it in the first place ... or by consulting other government agencies and third parties known to the government," Apple's attorneys said in a brief filed with a federal court in New York.
This follows reports by The Washington Post
that the FBI paid hackers a fee for an iPhone exploit that was used to access a device connected to terror suspect Syed Rizwan Farook. The agency leveraged a software flaw to create a hardware solution to bypass Apple's iOS passcode counter, according to those sources.
Will the matter become a moot point? Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein drafted a bill to allow judges to order tech companies to help law enforcement agencies break into devices upon request.
But a data privacy authority leader in France said forcing Apple to create backdoors into iPhones poses its own threat. It could create a free pass for cyber criminals, said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin
, which could weaken personal security.
Will Self-Driving Vehicles Stop for Hitchhikers?
A dozen trucks drove across Europe without human drivers handling the wheel.
A dozen trucks utilizing an autonomous driving system arrived Wednesday in Rotterdam, Netherlands, after traveling across Europe in the European Truck Platooning Challenge.
The project allowed the commercial trucks to follow one another close enough to reduce drag, improve safety and create economic growth in the transport sector. WiFi connections allowed the close platooning that wouldn't be possible - or advisable - with human drivers.
This project's was designed to create a system that allows commercial trucks to follow one another closely, which would reduce drag, improve safety and potentially create economic growth in the traffic and transport sector.
No Astronauts Needed for This Spacecraft
A billionaire and a famous scientist want to send tiny spacecraft several light years away to another solar system using light to propel the nanocrafts.
Alpha Centauri is 4.27 light years - 25 trillion miles - from Earth. Plan for a 30,000-year trip to get there with today's technology. Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner's plan for Breakthrough Starship would use scaled up laser beams directed at the nanocrafts' sails to propel them at 20 percent the speed of light.
The $100 million project still needs engineers and astrophysics experts to overcome the technological hurdles to build the nanocrafts, light sails and lasers.
Skip Stack Overflow and Bing It
Writing some code and need that snippet you almost remember, or an algorithm that would fit your need perfectly? Until recently you'd need to search StackOverflow or one of the other usual sites favored by software developers. But now, Microsoft wants you to just use Bing.
A partnership with HackerRank brings those code snippets right into Bing search results. But why would you want to replace your usual method of finding these code snippets? With Bing's search results, you can edit and execute the code right on those pages, too.
Uninstall QuickTime Before it Hurts
Get rid of QuickTime, now! Apple has abandoned it and no longer provides security updates, so it's a disaster about to happen.
Many of us installed QuickTime when it was a required component for iTunes for Windows. But without security updates, Trend Micro issued a call to action as part of its Zero Day initiative, identifying two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows that will never be fixed or patched.
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