None more black

None more black

Accidental discoveries have been responsible for many useful items like rubber and penicillin. A couple of science types at MIT in the US wanted to see if they could grow carbon nanotubes on aluminium to increase its conductance properties. Instead they found they had made the blackest substance yet known to man. It absorbs 99.96% of the light from any angle making it 10 times blacker than the current options. Potential uses include telescopes, optical blinders and art. Carbon nanotubes, is there anything they can't do, eventually?

It is time for another of those hacked, millions-of-patient-medical-records stories. In this instalment, 24 million records have popped up on the internet thanks to insecure servers. They include about 400 million available images. The records seem to have come from old technology servers, many of which have little or no security so require no specialised hacking software. Being old can sometime mean that they are less secure. The data spans 22 countries and besides medical data includes personally identifying data. There are still many organisations, including financial institutions, that have stayed on old hardware because it still works. People who can code COBOL, an old programming language, are in demand because these systems still exist.

If you are living in the UK or have registered a internet domain, then I have a story for you. If you went through 123-Reg or NamesCo, you either have or will receive an equivalent set of invoices for your domain, but for just .uk, the one you didn't order. Some will just pay it not realising they didn't order it. This is an approved scam that sounds to me like an oxymoron. It turns out that Nominet, the organisation that oversees web registrations in the UK, wanted the .uk in addition to the domain so introduced both because the latter's addresses were running out, and so they could make money. To get it past the hurdles they offered a two years for free opt out option for anyone with a version. So people are suddenly finding they are up for a fee they didn't even ask for or want.

A parliamentary report from the UK has revealed that the soon-to-be-enforced minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps will be obsolete about the time it comes in. Compared to the original minimum speed requirement in Australia of 12Mbps for the NBN, this is quite a pedestrian target. Some of my friends are unhappy with their 96Mbps speeds and are looking forward to 1,000 if they can get it. Really, 10 is not fast enough for high-def video streaming, you need something closer to 50 for that, so UK parliamentarians seem to be out of touch with the modern world's demands.

A security engineer was installing a new HP printer and decided to read each of the agreements. The installation process involved downloading and installing an app either on the computer or phone. Part of the reason for this was to try and get people to sign up for expensive printer ink refills and to get the user's email address. What was more surprising was the amount of information the printer sends back to its home base if you agree to its automatic data collection setting. It allows for "product usage data such as pages printed, print mode, media used, ink or toner brand, file type printed (.pdf, .jpg, etc), application used for printing (Word, Excel, Adobe Photoshop, etc), file size, time stamp, and usage and status of other printer supplies". It also sends back "information about your computer, printer and/or device such as operating system, firmware, amount of memory, region, language, time zone, model number, first start date, age of device, device manufacture date, browser version, device manufacturer, connection port, warranty status, unique device identifiers, advertising identifiers and additional technical information that varies by product". So basically, anything on your computer it can get its greedy data claws on. Remember this next time you agree to everything that pops up.

By the time you read this I will be a few days away from no longer, or rarely playing, the smartphone game Ingress. This was the first game I'm aware of that required you to get outside to play. It comes from the same company that later brought out Pokémon, the one that had people doing all kinds of things to capture creatures based on the anime series. I started out as a beta tester for Ingress many years ago and have been active ever since. At the end of September, the original version of the game is being discontinued. It has been replaced by Prime, which is pretty to look at, is draining on your phone battery and has basic game play that takes longer, a classic example of form over function. From what I understand, I'm not the only person who will be moving on to other pastures. Response to this from Niantic can be summed up with a word recently introduced to the English language, from The Simpsons, "m'eh".

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at

James Hein

IT professional

An IT professional of over 30 years’ standing. He has a column in Bangkok Post tech pages and has been writing without skipping a beat every week all these years.

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