Biggest IT fix you never heard of
The clock ticked over to 2020 and the UK giant Lloyds Bank fell over -- well it had some problems populating bank accounts with payments at least. The problem? Apparently a Y2K bug that affected mobile apps and web logins. A similar problem occurred again on Jan 2. Well before the year 2000 was reached I was one of those involved in Y2K mitigation. Large teams spent months making sure that software didn't fail when 2000 and 2001 kicked over along with a few other key dates, one of which was indeed Jan 1, 2020. Now I'm not sure if these issues are Y2K related but the Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks in the UK had similar issues that Lloyd's did, not processing payments into customer accounts. Latter reports did indicate the issue was with processing date problems.
- I remember after 2000/2001 was over, the commentariat were making fun of the fears because "nothing happened". In fact, some things did happen. One aircraft developed a fault, manually handled by the crew. Some elevators descended to the ground floor until they were fixed, along with a few other incidents around the world. The reason more didn't occur was because of the huge effort by the IT world to minimise the fallout. I consider it the greatest global effort on a single potential problem in the computer world. There are still a few dates to come that might cause a problem or two.
- If you spend over US$500 (15,000 baht) on your phone it should support wireless, ie cable free, charging. A charging pad starts at around $15 or so and the more you spend the higher the charging rate if your phone supports it. If you are prepared to spend $130 or so for a charging pad you can also get auto photo backup capability. Enter the SanDisk iXpand Wireless charger with 128 or 256GB backup capability, the latter being about $170. It is a little esoteric, but having just returned from a trip it caught my eye and according to reports it does just what you'd expect, a large charging surface that doesn't get too hot. After you install the app it will grab your photos and even backup your contacts if required. So why bother as your Android or Apple phone will already back your stuff to the cloud? Two reasons, security and local storage versus it being on someone else's server somewhere. I don't see a particularly big market but it is an interesting idea and the 256GB version would keep the family supported for photo backups.
- Marketing people and in this case, lobbyists, do more damage than good? At the recent CES, initially as a joke, someone started pushing a 10G logo, standing for 10 gigabit-a-second broadband fibre speeds. It was an idea floated to push the success of the 5G mobile technology but for those who make cables, as in "Zyxel to Showcase 5G/LTE and 10G Broadband". So, a 10-gig fibre speed indicator. This spawned a series of references to "10G" rather than 10G-E, 10-gigabit Ethernet, which is a real thing. It is bad enough that 4G providers are pretending that they have 5G, flagged as 5Ge. 5G in phones stands for 5th generation. The 10G tag stands for a theoretical maximum speed. Back in 2018, 5G didn't really exist some someone described it as "25% technology, 75% marketing". In speed terms as used here, 10G is twice as fast as 5G. Bottom line the term 10G has been misused and misapplied but looks like it is here to stay, so I'm not sure what happens when mobile phone speeds reach that in the series.
- It has been a while since I looked at the state of the web browser market. Back in the day I was a big fan of Firefox but recently I've been using Chrome. Mozilla has version 72 of Firefox out that now includes picture in picture support extended to Linux and macOS. Pop-up notification handling has been improved along some privacy updates that are aimed at limiting tracking through site fingerprinting. Developer tools have also been updated with some new features. According to the Statcounter site Firefox has only a bit over 4% of the browser market worldwide with Chrome sitting at 63%, Safari on 17% and IE sitting well below even Firefox.
- Computers are dumb. Everything they do is based on their programming. A software bug in Boeing 737 Next Gen airliners blanked the flight screens when landing from the west on a "selected instrument approach" at some airports. Seven runways triggered the bug, five in the US and two in South America. The software has since been removed or updated. There have been other problems like the requirement to reset 787 Dreamliner every 248 days and the Airbus A350 every 149 hours to stop the avionics from powering down. Fully automated systems are potentially dangerous, especially if they are thousands of feet in the air. Remember, computers are dumb.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.