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Weekly Tech Recap - № 186 - Google’s 20th anniversary, voting machines, self solving Rubik’s Cube, Amazon 4-star, etc.

Google celebrates its 20th birthday

Susan’s garage.

Susan’s garage. © Google.

Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin officially launched their company on September 4, 1998, headquartered in their friend Susan Wojcicki’s garage in Menlo Park, California. Now, on Google’s 20th birthday, you can see the legendary garage on Street View, restored in all its former glory. If you want to see what the space looked like in 1998, have a look at this video filmed by Harry Cheung, Google’s sixth employee:

Susan Wojcicki’s house on Santa Margarita Avenue is now owned by Google and is no longer lived in. In 1999, Wojcicki became the first Marketing Manager at Google. Today, she is the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc.

To further mark the occasion, a Doodle video has been produced on the last twenty years’ most popular searches:

Google Street View, “Susan’s Garage, Santa Margarita Avenue.”

Mashable, “Google unveils its birthplace on Street View, plus more for 20th birthday.”


Vulnerable voting machines

ES&S iVotronic DRE.

ES&S iVotronic DRE. © iStock.

A recent report revealed that the voting machines used in 26 American States as well as in the District of Columbia have a serious security flaw. Election Systems & Software’s Model 650’s update procedures pose a security risk that had been identified in a report commissioned by Ohio’s secretary of State back in… 2007. While Election Systems & Software stopped manufacturing the Model 650 in 2008, the technically obsolete machines are still widely used today in the United States. Researchers have also discovered other security flaws on the Model 650, as well as flaws on many other current models of voting machines. For example, another machine, currently used in 18 States, can be hacked in just two minutes, while it takes about six minutes to vote. Democracy should worry. Prominent experts are urging state and local officials to employ paper ballots and post-election audits in order to mitigate against cybersecurity threat.

DEF CON, “Report on Cyber Vulnerabilities in U.S. Election Equipment, Databases, and Infrastructure [PDF].”

CNET, “Half of US states using voting machines with a known vulnerability, says report.”


Robotized Rubik’s cube

Self Solving Rubik’s Cube.

Self Solving Rubik’s Cube.

Self solving Rubik’s Cube. © Human Controller.

The famous Rubik’s cube, invented in 1974 in Hungary by Ernő Rubik, an architect and professor of design, has been sold by the hundreds of millions. Today, it is practically being reinvented: thanks to the ingeniousness of a Japanese engineer, the puzzle now comes equipped with internal actuators and electronics to solve itself. And while our interest is piqued by this masterpiece of engineering, its inventor is not revealing either his identity or any technical details of his invention. However, some pictures ans drawings are available here.

Hackaday, “Self-Solving Rubik’s Cube.”


One fined hacker

Singapore skyline at Marina Bay.

Singapore. © iStock.

It should not be forgotten that there is a protocol to follow to report vulnerabilities. Zheng Dutao, a Chinese engineer, hacked into the Wi-Fi system of the hotel where he was attending the Hack in the Box security conference. However, instead of reporting the security vulnerability, he shared details of how he did it in a post on his blog, which has since been shut down. Zheng (aka “Ricter”), was fined US$3,660 by Singaporean authorities for his indiscretion. ANTLabs, the maker of the hacked device, however, thanked Zheng for finding the vulnerability. The company added that it affected only old models no longer in production, including the IG 3100 device the hotel used as its internet gateway system.

CNET, “Engineer fined for blogging exactly how to hack a hotel’s Wi-Fi.”


Amazon 4-star brick-and-mortar store

Amazon 4-star.

Amazon 4-star, NYC. © Amazon.

Today, in New York, Amazon opened a new store that only sells the most popular products on its on-line platform. Called Amazon 4-star, the store sells electronics, kitchen and home items, toys, books and games that have garnered a 4-star rating or higher, or are best-sellers. Prime member get to pay the lower, on-line price in-store. Digital price tags display the average star rating, total number of reviews, the Prime price and the list price. And of course, you’ll find a table dedicated to Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices. Amazon 4-star seems to us to be an expanded version of the Amazon Books store concept, a chain of 15 analog stores that only sell Amazon’s digital best-sellers. It is unclear, however, whether Amazon 4-star stores will also replicate and multiply.

Ars Technica, “Amazon’s newest brick-and-mortar store sells only top-rated products.”


This entry was posted in Weekly recap
by Laurent Gloaguen.
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