Scams on the rise as inflation bites
We start this week with a webserver with extras in a single file that runs on any x86-64 operation system. Enter redbean 2.0. Created by Justine Tunney, it uses the "Actually Portable Executable" that you can read about here, justine.lol/ape.html. When you compile a program to its native binary, in this case x86-64 code, and don't call any external code, then the only difference between a Windows and a Linux would be the file format. If you can solve this, then it could run on any platform. To do that you need Cosmopoliton libc because any real program needs to make some calls, in this case the standard C ones. So, with Cosmo and the APE format, you can write a C program and compile it to a single file that will load and run on six very different operating systems and the same binary can also be booted directly from the PC BIOS. It's not perfect, but any programmer would be scratching their heads by now. Pause for techie amazement.
- In this week's latest old hack, the extortion group RansomHouse claims to have 450GB of AMD's data. This is from a hack back in January of this year and they are demanding money so that the data pack is not released. As the world goes through an inflation cycle and with supply chain issues, the number of scams is on the rise. One I saw asks about your vaccination status with fake links to a fake health site. As usual, hovering over the link before doing anything will show a crazy URL, enough to show you it is a fake one. This should be your standard practice before clicking on any link.
- There have been some attacks on 7-Zip lately. A single blog post is calling for a boycott of the well-known data compression app. Igor Pavlov's FOSS compression app 7-Zip has been around since 1999. There has been discussion about this on Reddit recently and it appears the boycott is nothing more than anti-Russian sentiment. It is free, safe and it works well. I've been using it for years.
- If you have some old DOS programs and are feeling nostalgic, there are ways you can still run those files on your Windows 64 machine and Linux. One solution is to run a virtual machine with an older version of Windows, eg 7. You can install a PC emulator like DOSBox or DOSBox-X that will run those old games with your original Soundblaster. If like me you just want to run a DOS executable then something like vDos and vDosPlus work just fine. This even works for the old DOS WordPerfect. Linux users will need DOSEMU that even supports your old parallel port and will run at the old native speeds for those blocky games. DOSEmu2 is for those after the V86 mode. I just tried vDosPlus and within a few minutes was running an old program I wrote that will no longer run in a modern OS version.
- When you think computer chips, you think Intel as they have been the biggest chip makers for decades. That may be about to change. The Taiwanese giant TSMC is expected to beat Intel on sales for the first time after growing by 43% as Intel dropped by 2% in the second quarter. Qualcomm, AMD, Apple and Nvidia all outsource their chip making to TSMC along with others. Even Intel use TSMC for some components as they expand their facilities in the West. This increases the focus on China's posturing to take over Taiwan in the near future. It would be a significant blow to the ability of the West to source chips in the future if this occurs.
- In recent AI news, the future could be the size of a dinner plate. US hardware start-up Cerebras claims to have trained the largest AI model on a single device powered by the world's largest Wafer Scale Engine 2 chip, the size of a plate. They claim that up to 20 billion parameters can be configured on a single CS-2 system. They also claim it can take just minutes for set up, after no doubt the months of training required to do so. The CS-2 contains 850,000 cores and has 40GB of on-chip storage running at 20 Pbps. Compared to the big boys this is still small but as a single standalone system this is quite the achievement.
- In other AI news, a robot trained by John Hopkins University, using data from the internet, has been declared racist and sexist. It is a classic example of what the data tells the AI and what the researchers believe. Since a robot can't be inherently racist or sexist then the data is either invalid or deemed to be that way. The experiment used image detection of faces on blocks being sorted into categories such as doctor, homemaker or criminal. Either data was incorrect or the robot was just deciding based on the real-world information it had been trained by. I'll let the reader decide this one.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.