Change is nigh?

Change is nigh?

A long-awaited US congressional report into Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google has been published. The surprise for some is that this report from the Democrat-run House Judiciary Committee concludes that the online giants are monopolists that need to be broken up.

The report took 16 months to produce, is 449 pages long and while it was expected to be critical of the giant corporations, it was not expected to recommend restructuring and other antitrust actions like the banning of them being able to enter other markets.

- The report points out that in the early years these companies were start-ups that challenged the status quo but have since grown into monopolies like the oil tycoons and rail barons of the past. The committee chairman Jerrold Nadler also noted that while they deliver benefits to society, they control the marketplace and are accountable to no one, while undermining privacy and a free and diverse press. There has been support from both sides of the House for action to tame the social media giants and this could be the start of that process.

- For some reason my home PC decided it was going to reboot a few times and each time it produced the infamous blue screen of death, so something was definitely wrong. For those on Windows, if it happens to you, I recommend going to the command line by typing CMD in the Search area and selecting "Run as administrator". Then from the command line run the following command: DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth.

- This will use Windows Update to provide the files that are required to fix any system file corruptions. When this has finished then type the following command: sfc /scannow.

- The combination of these will make sure your key files are up to date and that there is no corruption. For me it reported that some corrupt files were fixed and as of writing I haven't seen the blue screen again. At the same time my machine was freezing regularly and the above did not solve that. Looking around in Device Manager I found there were two instances for the mouse. I only have one. Deleting one of these instances solved that issue as well.

- Readers will know that I'm a big fan of E Ink devices. I've owned a number of Kindles and most recently a Kobo. I recently saw that the ONYX BOOX Poke 2 Color device is the first I have seen with a decent colour screen, but I'm not looking for one of those yet. I have been on the lookout for a larger unit to read reference and non-fiction books. I had a pre-order in for the Remarkable 2 but after a review that showed how bad the e-book handling was I cancelled that order and instead ordered the new Boox Note Air. Both devices have a 10.3-inch screen, but the Boox has an 8-core CPU, 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage. Claimed to be the thinnest Android tablet it supports all the usual programs under Android 10, has a far greater e-book support and a host of other features not found on the Remarkable 2. With a cover and the new pen, it was also less expensive than the Remarkable 2 and I should receive it earlier. More after I get and play with it.

- This year has been a strange one, particularly with Covid-19 affecting many aspects of our lives. In a semi-related story, around 16,000 Covid-19 cases were not reported in the UK due to an Excel issue. Another estimated 50,000 were not informed of close contact with infected individuals. The cited reasons included CSV data, row limits and an out of date Excel file format. This from a multi-billion-pound contact-tracing system described as "world beating". Worse, it was known to be problematic for months but was not fixed. Covid will eventually pass but I suspect the known problems with various versions of Excel will continue for a long time afterwards.

- The 74-year-old John McAfee, who founded the once famous McAfee anti-virus product, was recently captured in Spain, on the run for alleged tax evasion and securities law charges. He has been on the run for some time now and faces potentially 30 years in prison.

- In other anti-virus news Kaspersky, the Russian anti-virus maker, has discovered "rogue UEFI firmware images" that have been linked to China. These images contain "malicious modules" collectively named MosaicRegressor. Their purpose is data gathering and espionage. The multiple modules work together to download information and execute malware payloads on targeted machines. UEFI firmware is shipped in SPI flash storage soldered onto the motherboard and has been a target of malware for a few years now. Common targets include charities across the globe and is typically triggered on boot. How it gets into the system is unknown as it could be anywhere in the supply chain from manufacture to infection after setting up through, say, a phishing email. At the time of writing the China connection was strong but not definitive.


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

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