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 March 24 2016

Weekly Recap: Apple vs FBI, Android vulnerability, San Andreas Deer, and a lot of robots

The Latest on the Apple/FBI Saga

Apple vs FBI

The FBI’s court date against Apple, scheduled on Tuesday, was cancelled on Monday at the request of the American Department of Justice. The DOJ filed a stay of proceedings to give the FBI extra time to test a “third party” method of unlocking the iPhone 5C belonging to one of the perpetrators of the December 2nd killings in San Bernardino. Up until now, the FBI had claimed it was unable to unlock an iPhone without Apple’s cooperation. Apple claims to have no knowledge of the third party’s method or identity.

A progress report should be filed with the court by April 5th. At this point, it is impossible to predict whether this latest development will end the stand-off between the DOJ and Apple, though some specialists believe it will. In any case, speculation is rife regarding the identity of the mysterious “third party”.

Post-scriptum: Cellebrite, an Israeli company helping FBI crack iPhone security.

Ars Technica, “Apple gets short-term win, but new mysterious FBI unlocking method looms.”

[Photo by Surian Soosay, CC BY 2.0.]

Major Android Vulnerability

Vulnerable Android

Millions of Android handsets on kernel versions lower than 3.18, including the entire Nexus line of devices, are vulnerable to attacks that can execute malicious code and take control of core functions almost permanently.

An application available on Google Play was found to exploit this vulnerability. Any handset not protected by the March 18 patch is vulnerable to a rooting application. The vulnerability is due to a bug in the Linux kernel that was fixed in April 2014 and identified as a security issue in February of the following year (CVE-2015-1805). The only fix is to re-flash the operating system.

Android, “Android Security Advisory—2016-03-18.”

Ars Technica, “Android rooting bug opens Nexus phones to ‘permanent device compromise’.”

[Photographie Uncalno Tekno, CC BY 2.0.]

Wandering Deer in San Andreas

San Andreas Deer Cam is a live video stream from a computer running a modded version of Grand Theft Auto V, hosted on The mod creates a deer and follows it as it wanders throughout the 100 square miles of San Andreas. The deer has been programmed to control itself and make its own decisions, with no one actually playing the video game. The deer is ‘playing itself’, with all activity unscripted… and unexpected. In the past 48 hours, the deer has wandered along a moonlit beach, caused a traffic jam on a major freeway, been caught in a gangland gun battle, and been chased by the police., “San Andreas Deer Cam.”

BBC News, “Grand Theft Auto deer causes chaos in game world.”

Liam the Undertaker

At its Monday event, Apple’s big news was not big at all: a tiny iPhone SE, a smaller iPad Pro and more watch bands… even the die-hard fans were disappointed. However, Apple did unveil Liam, a robot designed to take apart old phones for parts recycling. Apple has often been criticized for its environmental record; now, it is setting an example, says Lisa Jackson, vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Liam can take apart an iPhone every 11 seconds.

MacRumors, “Apple tackles e-waste with iPhone recycling robot ‘Liam’.”

DRU the Deliverer

DRU, Domino’s Robotic Unit

And now for a completely different kind of robot: pizza giant Domino’s unveiled its pizza delivery robot, currently under trial in New Zealand and fetchingly called DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit). DRU can deliver pizzas within a 20-kilometer radius, which is its battery capacity limit. Its various compartments keep drinks cool and pizzas warm, and are opened by clients with a special code. It is not clear how DRU will evade peckish highway robbers or deal with big-city traffic.

Ars Technica, “Domino’s is trialling an autonomous pizza delivery robot.”

Hello Woonyan Kitty

Omnibot Hello Woonyan

Do you long for a cat that won’t shed, claw your couch or wake you at 4 a.m.? If so, Takara Tomy has the answer: the Hello Woonyan catbot. Your new cat won’t do any of the catty things above, but it will do things a real cat can’t, like bark. Hello Woonyan will be released in Japan on April 28th for 18,000 yen, or about CA$210. However, if you prefer the fur-and-blood version, the SPCA has plenty of mouse murderers awaiting your love.

CNET, “Tamagotchi 2K16? This electronic cat takes robotic animal companions to the next level.”

⇨ タカラトミ, “ハローウ~ニャン|オムニボット.”


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