Geek Software of the Week: Etcher!

This is a very cool Open Source tool for setting up a bootable USB stick from .ISO files! Available for 32 and 64 bit Windows, Mac, and Linux!

Etcher – USB Tool for Setting Up Boot Drives

“Burn images to SD cards and USB drives, safely and easily.

Validated Burning
No more writing images on corrupted cards and wondering why your device isn’t booting.

Hard Drive Friendly
Makes drive selection obvious to avoid wiping your entire hard-drive

Beautiful Interface
Who said burning SD cards has to be an eyesore.

Open Source
Made with JS, HTML, node.js and Electron. Dive in and contribute!

Cross Platform
Works for everyone, no more complicated install instructions.

More on the way
50% faster burns, simultaneous writing for multiple drives.”

An “Open Source Siri” Called Mycroft

Check out the video linked below, and see what Mycroft can do!

This Open-Source AI Voice Assistant Is Challenging Siri and Alexa for Market Superiority

Forbes – By: Matt Hunckler – “When you issue a command to a virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, natural language processing technology (NLP) allows the program to interpret your speech and respond in everyday language. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are making great strides forward in NLP technology, but unfortunately, these tech giants aren’t interested in sharing how they do it.

‘There’s an entire community of developers looking to access this technology, but so far, it’s been the purview of a few large companies. The technology is walled-off, proprietary, and secretive,’ said Joshua Montgomery, CEO of Kansas City-based Mycroft AI, Inc.

As an alternative to these market leaders, Montgomery and his team created Mycroft, the world’s first open-source AI voice assistant. Mycroft is free to download and use, and developers are invited to alter its code to expand and improve the NLP functionality. More than 700 independent developers are already making contributions to Mycroft’s software.

Mycroft AI, Inc. ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to fund its initial product, the ‘Mark 1,’ a smart speaker similar in function to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. But the Mark 1 is only the launching point for Mycroft, which also runs on desktop and can be integrated into any device, from wearables to automobiles.

‘Ask yourself: if your technology could understand human speech and respond naturally, what would you build?’ challenges Montgomery. Watch the pitch below to dig deeper into this world of possibility.

Adaptable Technology with Extraordinary Potential

Mycroft’s open-source software and hardware are the keys to its potential. The team based the Mark 1 unit on the Raspberry Pi circuit board and Arduino microcontroller, to encourage users to hack and modify the core equipment. Desktop users can run Mycroft on the developer-friendly Linux OS through the KDE Plasma distribution.

Independent developers can then ‘teach’ Mycroft new skills beyond its original programming and share their code with the community, increasing Mycroft’s functionality for everyone. The number of potential applications is limitless.

Mycroft AI, Inc. is initially focusing on the automotive industry, where there’s a huge opportunity to improve voice control functionality in new vehicles.

‘J.D. Power and Associates has reported that the voice control in the car is the single most complained-about feature in the automobile. We solved that problem, so that’s how we land with companies like Jaguar Land Rover, who’s a strategic investor and soon will be a customer, and General Motors, who we’re working with through 500 Startups,’ Montgomery said.

The Leaders in Open-Source AI

After earning $189,000 in crowdfunding in 2015, Mycroft AI, Inc. went on to complete a $350,000 angel round and a $1.17 million seed round. The team completed the Techstars accelerator program in 2016 and are currently engaged with 500 Startups. They hope to leverage their funding and mentorship to increase their global influence.

‘The seed money we’ve obtained allows us to position ourselves as the open technology in this space,’ Montgomery said. ‘Our goal is that when you think ‘open’ and ‘virtual assistant,’ you’ll think Mycroft.’

This goal may be within reach if the company’s talks with GM, Jaguar, Walmart, GE, and Canonical Ltd. (publisher of the Ubuntu OS) are any indication. Although Mycroft isn’t currently available to developers using Windows or Mac, Montgomery said the software will eventually run on all operating systems.

The biggest threat for Mycroft comes from the possibility that one of the major NLP players will make its own software open source, but that doesn’t seem likely given their track record. Instead, Montgomery is confident in the multi-billion dollar market of companies who don’t want to do business with the Silicon Valley tech giants.

By 2020, it is estimated that 34 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things. Montgomery believes Mycroft AI, Inc. is in a position to capture a huge slice of that market with its free-to-use customizable, NLP technology.”

“Wannacry” Ransomeware Hits Businesses

The “Wannacry” Ransomeware has been in the news. You can protect yourself, if you just will patch your systems!

Despite security risks, older Windows versions plague thousands of businesses

ZDNet – By: Zack Whittaker – “After the global cyberattacks on Friday that infected hundreds of thousands of computer with the WannaCry ransomware, the blame game has begun.

Who was behind the attack? How did the NSA lose control of its hacking tools used as part of this huge ransomware attack? Should we blame Microsoft for not patching older versions of Windows that were left vulnerable to the attack?

As it happens, thousands of businesses may only have themselves to blame.

According to recently released data from IT networking site Spiceworks, about half of all businesses still have at least one computer running Windows XP, despite the aging operating system losing Microsoft security support after more than a decade since its release in early-2014.

That means for over three years, these machines haven’t been patched with the latest security updates, including the fix released in March that could’ve prevented machines from getting infected. (Following the outbreak, Microsoft released a rare, emergency out-of-support patch.)

Granted, some companies will have more machines running Windows XP and Vista, which lost support earlier this year, than others. Some businesses may rely on the aging operating system for their entire fleet of computers, whereas others may rely on one or two machines running custom-built machines, like MRI or X-ray scanners in hospitals, for example, which aren’t always connected to the internet, making them less vulnerable to malware and ransomware.

The data shows that newer operating systems that were patched prior to last week’s ransomware attacks, including Windows 7 and Windows 10, make up a 83 percent share of all business computers.

But despite the risks, Windows XP and Vista still take up a 15 percent share across the corporate world — representing hundreds of thousands of computers.

It’s worth noting that not one single set of data offers a perfectly accurate figure of how many devices are vulnerable to these kinds of mass ransomware events or other kinds of cyberattacks. Spiceworks, which has a commercial stake in the security space, says it uses inventory data to see computers that may be networked but not connected to the internet. Other sources rely on different methodologies, such as the US government’s own digital analytics service, which bases its data on visitors directly accessing government sites. It said just over 1 percent of all visitors in the past three months were running Windows XP or Vista.

The question remains: for all the benefits that software updates provide, why the apathy?

‘Many companies subscribe to the theory that if it’s ‘not broke, don’t fix it,’ especially those that aren’t prioritizing IT,’ said Peter Tsai, a senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. ‘As a result, many IT departments lack the resources and budget needed to upgrade to newer operating systems like Windows 10. It takes time to upgrade all systems in an organization and train end users on the new features and functionality.’

In all, just over half of all businesses say that there’s no need to update because the current system still works. Others cite IT pressures and lack of time, investments, or budget constraints.

Those barriers can translate into real losses. Take what happened with last week’s cyberattack. Dozens of hospitals around the UK were affected, with some forced to turn patients away. But unlike NHS trusts and hospitals in England and Scotland which suffered significantly at the hands of the ransomware attack late last week, NHS Wales wasn’t affected by the ransomware attack at all, a feat largely attributed to the fact the health system recently updated its entire network.

‘Now more than ever, it’s critical for IT professionals to make a business case for more resources,’ said Tsai.

If this ransomware attack has proven anything, investing in security isn’t just a good idea, it’s mission critical.”

Dr. Bill.TV #416 – Video – “The Privacy and Security Edition!”

Dr. Bill discusses protecting your privacy and security on-line with VPN, and uBlock Origin, a Plug-in for Chrome, a blocker that can load and enforce filters, then, the Chrome Plug-in from the EFF called ‘Privacy Badger’ that blocks spying ads trackers.

Links that pertain to this Netcast:

TechPodcasts Network

International Association of Internet Broadcasters

Blubrry Network

Dr. Bill Bailey.NET


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clicking on the “Play” Button in the center of the screen.

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Dr. Bill.TV #416 – Audio – “The Privacy and Security Edition!”

Dr. Bill discusses protecting your privacy and security on-line with VPN, and uBlock Origin, a Plug-in for Chrome, a blocker that can load and enforce filters, then, the Chrome Plug-in from the EFF called ‘Privacy Badger’ that blocks spying ads trackers.

Links that pertain to this Netcast:

TechPodcasts Network

International Association of Internet Broadcasters

Blubrry Network

Dr. Bill Bailey.NET


Start the Video Netcast in the Blubrry Video Player above by
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You may also watch the Dr. Bill.TV Show on these services!

 

Dr. Bill.TV on YouTube Dr. Bill.TV on Vimeo

 


Dr. Bill.TV #415 – Video – “The Mars, Backup, with Solar Flowers Edition!”

Apple patents an iPhone/Macbook dock, GSotW: Remix OS, German scientists create an artificial sun, World Backup Day, Mars has ice! Japanese scientists develop more efficient solar panels, a Solar Flower for your house, Elon Musk wants to enhance brains!

Links that pertain to this Netcast:

TechPodcasts Network

International Association of Internet Broadcasters

Blubrry Network

Dr. Bill Bailey.NET

Remix OS


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Dr. Bill.TV #415 – Audio – “The Mars, Backup, with Solar Flowers Edition!”

Apple patents an iPhone/Macbook dock, GSotW: Remix OS, German scientists create an artificial sun, World Backup Day, Mars has ice! Japanese scientists develop more efficient solar panels, a Solar Flower for your house, Elon Musk wants to enhance brains!

Links that pertain to this Netcast:

TechPodcasts Network

International Association of Internet Broadcasters

Blubrry Network

Dr. Bill Bailey.NET

Remix OS


Start the Video Netcast in the Blubrry Video Player above by
clicking on the “Play” Button in the center of the screen.

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Elon Musk Wants to Enhance Our Brains!

I think I will wait for the wireless version.

Wish a firmware upgrade could make you smarter? That’s Elon Musk’s new goal

ZDNet – By Liam Tung – “Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has created another out-there venture called Neuralink, which will develop tech to enhance human brain capacity.

Details of Musk’s new medical research company were reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Musk plans to reveal more details in a piece on waitbutwhy.com, possibly next week. While the entrepreneur clearly has enough on his plate with new Tesla models, SpaceX, and philanthropy projects, he says the ‘existential risk is too high not to’ to launch Neuralink.

The company will explore software on implantable devices for the human brain, which would ultimately help people’s intellect advance alongside artificial intelligence rather than lag behind it.

Musk has previously referred to this direct brain-to-machine interface as ‘neural lace’, which would help avoid the fate of humans becoming ‘house cats’ to artificial intelligence. Back then he envisaged a brain-enhancing device that could be inserted through a person’s jugular vein.

Musk, who has previously warned that artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity, last year described neural lace as an artificial-intelligence layer on the human brain.

One of the advantages of neural lace is that it would allow humans to communicate with computers without interference from a physical interface, such as information on a display. Musk hinted in January that his neural-lace concept would be launching soon.

Musk isn’t alone in looking to artificial intelligence as a way to boost human intelligence. Braintree founder Bryan Johnson announced a $100m commitment to his firm Kernel to develop a ‘neural prosthetic’ to enhance human intelligence.

Johnson noted that the market for his brain prosthetics could include cognitive enhancement and treatment of medical conditions.

DARPA is also exploring an implantable neural interface to boost bandwidth between the brain and networked computers. It’s hoping to build systems that can communicate clearly with neurons in the human brain, but achieving it requires breakthroughs in neuroscience, synthetic biology, hardware, software, and clinical testing.

Musk’s plan initially will focus on treating dangerous medical conditions, which could include epilepsy and depression disorders. In a similar vein, researchers recently showed how a brain-computer interface could help severely disabled people communicate with the outside world.

As TechCrunch notes, Neuralink’s early focus on medical applications that extend existing technologies for treating neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, could offer it a runway for its longer-term ambitions for enhancing the human brain.”

Japanese Scientists Develop More Efficient Solar Panels

I would love to get “off the grid” power-wise! Not because I hug a lot of trees, jut because I like being independent!

Japanese company develops a solar cell with record-breaking 26%+ efficiency

Ars Technica – By: Megan Geuss – “Solar panels are cheaper than ever these days, but installation costs can still be considerable for homeowners. More efficient solar panels can recapture the cost of their installation more quickly, so making panels that are better at converting sunlight into electricity is a key focus of solar research and development.

The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it’s just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won.

Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

In the Nature Energy paper, the researchers described building a 180.4 cm2 cell using high-quality thin-film heterojunction (HJ)—that is, layering silicon within the cell to minimize band gaps where electron states can’t exist. Controlling heterojunctions is a known technique among solar cell builders—Panasonic uses it and will likely incorporate it into cells built for Tesla at the Solar City plant in Buffalo, and Kaneka has its own proprietary heterojunction techniques.

For this record-breaking solar cell, the Kaneka researchers also placed low-resistance electrodes toward the rear of the cell, which maximized the number of photons that collected inside the cell from the front. And, as is common on many solar cells, they coated the front of the cell with a layer of amorphous silicon and an anti-reflective layer to protect the cell’s components and collect photons more efficiently.

After describing the architecture of the solar cell, Kaneka researchers analyzed the energy losses that prevented the cell from reaching that 29-percent efficiency ideal, which could help future solar cell builders optimize their cells to get closer to the limit. Kaneka researchers estimated that overall efficiency was reduced by 0.5 percent due to resistive loss, 1 percent due to optical loss (the way the cell receives light), and 1.2 precent due to extrinsic recombination loss—where a free electron recombines with a positively charged hole rather than going on for current collection.

The paper noted that this solar cell was created using ‘industrial applicable’ processes, like plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), which deposits thin films onto a solid wafer from a gas state. While the solar cell may be vapor-ware in the sense that chemical vapor helps create them, the industry-friendly process reduces the likelihood that the high-efficiency architecture will end up as something we’d call vaporware more colloquially. (Thanks folks, I’ll be here all night.)
That said, the authors note that ‘further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel.’ But further work seems likely. Kaneka’s research was funded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, abbreviated to NEDO, and according to IEEE Spectrum, the company will continue to work with NEDO to bring the levelized cost of solar cells down to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2030.”

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