GeekSpeak for 2015-05-23

Distracted Flying Car Crashes into Walled Garden

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Wearables while driving, hacking while flying, self driving cars, Facebook instant’s walled garden, and passwords, passwords, passwords.

Distracted Driving Laws Yet to Catch Up With Apple Watch

While several states and countries have laws in place that make operating a handheld device such as a smartphone or portable media player illegal, the release of the Apple Watch has created a gray area in terms of distracted driving legislation. Given that the Apple Watch is technically not a handheld device, the laws in many jurisdictions are left open to interpretation at this point.

Google’s Built From Scratch Autonomous Cars to Test on Public Roads

On Friday, the Internet giant announced that the first autonomous vehicle it has manufactured — a squat two-seater, unveiled a year ago, with no steering wheel or brakes — will begin rolling out on public roads in northern California this summer. Urmson and his team have assembled 25 of the cars, which, for now, are just called “prototypes.” (Re/code has dubbed them “clown cars”; Google may be more partial to the “Koala car” nomenclature.) When they hit the roads, they will not exceed 25 miles per hour. And, due to current state regulations, they must be equipped with brakes, an accelerator pedal and a steering wheel.
But ultimately, Google wants to strip those out.

Aeromobil flying car crashes during critical test

A flying car has spectacularly crashed during a test flight by its inventor, likely showing that the idea is unlikely to take off in the near future.
Despite being the dream of many sci-fi fans, flying cars have repeatedly proved more difficult in practice. And the crash — during last week’s test flight in Slovakia — is likely to dampen those dreams even more.

Hacker hacks into airplane

While we were all busy arguing whether our cellphones could affect planes, one security researcher was busily hacking into aircraft and potentially gaining access to engine control. An ill-advised tweet got infosec specialist Chris Roberts barred from a United flight last month, after he joked about tinkering with aircraft systems like passenger emergency oxygen control. Turns out, so documentation submitted by the FBI reveals, Roberts’ abilities were even greater, to the point of momentarily controlling engine thrust.
The saga started on April 15th, when Roberts told Twitter followers that he was on a 737-800 and suggested he had access to the plane’s control systems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was promptly prevented from flying, had his laptop confiscated, and was banned from traveling with United ever again.

Facebook launches Instant

If you listen to media commentators, Facebook’s move to publish articles directly on its platform is a fateful choice.
Yet in talking to publishers, there’s not as much hand-wringing as you’d expect. In fact, top publishers not in the initial handpicked group of prestige publishers in the launch of Facebook Instant Articles product last week are putting aside any reservations they might have had, determined not to be left behind.

Once upon a time there was the internet. Then the web exploded, creating a technological democratizing force that allowed anyone to publish their thoughts. The open web and web standards have seemed to march towards an inevitable establishment of the universal platform. But, current trends in more native mobile applications are upsetting this story of the web.

Starbucks still grappling with fraud in online accounts, gift cards

Starbucks is still grappling with fraud involving its customers’ online accounts and gift cards, with some victims seeing hundreds of dollars stolen.

Statistics Will Crack Your Password

When hackers or penetration testers compromise a system and want access to clear text passwords from a database dump, they must first crack the password hashes that are stored. Many attackers approach this concept headfirst: They try any arbitrary password attack they feel like trying with little reasoning.

Speaking of easy passwords: Space Balls!

President Skroob: Great. Now we can take every last breath of fresh air from Planet Druidia. What’s the combination?
Colonel Sandurz: 1-2-3-4-5
President Skroob: 1-2-3-4-5?
Colonel Sandurz: Yes!
President Skroob: That’s amazing. I’ve got the same combination on my luggage.
Dark Helmet, Colonel Sandurz: [looks at each other]

Verizon buys AOL for $4 Billion

Or at least a way to make money from content. There’s some debate about whether Verizon is really interested in the content properties like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch — one report suggested the company may spin them off — or if Verizon is mainly interested in the advertising platforms that AOL has built to make money from those properties. 
But either way, Verizon is clearly interested in profiting from the consumption of content on mobile devices.