ATM out of order

News – Telstra network outage

Just recently, a Telstra outage left bank and retail customers across Australia stranded at ATMs and checkouts that some had to process payments manually including accepting cash only.

Cash only board sign

A twitter post from @dobes

Among the businesses affected by the network breakdown were Woolworths supermarkets and Caltex service stations. Others adversely affected by the said outage were St George Bank, Coles, Westpac, NAB, ANZ, Big W, BWS and Dan Murphy’s.

The telco giant has even confirmed in a statement, that they are “currently investigating an issue affecting services, including EFTPOS and access to ATMS, for a number of enterprise customers nationally. We’re sorry for any issues caused and will provide an update when we know more.”

This has raised various sentiments from netizens.

Tl; dr;

On Thursday afternoon, numerous EFTPOS transactions at major retailers have been affected by a Telstra outage affecting businesses such as Woolworths and Caltex.

The outage meant that some payment methods are offline.

Earlier on Thursday, the Commonwealth Bank said it had been “impacted by an issue” with a telecommunications provider. CBA added it was affecting ATMs, EFTPOS and some in-branch services, but NetBank and the CommBank app were still functioning.

Shortly before 7 pm, Telstra provided an update saying most of its services had been restored.

Telstra’s Network Outage

Telstra's truck with employee

Source: itnews

On Thursday, a Telstra outage hit ATMs and EFTPOS machines across Australia with problems begun at around 3 pm.

Directly affecting the big four banks, namely NAB, ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac including Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

The cause of the outage is Telstra’s COIN network (an industry hub), that moves EFTPOS, ATM and bank payments is down.

At about 4 pm on same day, Commonwealth Bank announced the issue saying:

“We are impacted by an issue with one of our telco providers. It’s affecting some of our services. CommBank app and NetBank are up.

“There are issues with the following services: CBA ATMs, CBA EFTPOS terminals, some in branch services as well as issues logging onto CommSec.”

But by 9 pm it said:

“Services have returned to normal including our ATMs. We apologise and thank you for your patience today as we worked to restore services.”

It also affected Caltex service stations and Woolworths stores.

For Caltex they tweeted:

Caltex tweet

While the supermarket giant, Woolworths said:

Woolworth tweet

Some netizens also reported EFTPOS outages at McDonalds.

Tweet about McDonald

Shortly before 7 pm, Telstra provided an update saying most of its services had been restored.

Telstra tweet

Summary

A Telstra outage has affected payments across banks, retailers, and ATM across Australia. The issue directly affected the big four banks, namely NAB, ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac as well asBendigo and Adelaide Bank. It also affected Woolworths supermarkets and Caltex service stations.

A Telstra spokesman said:

“We are currently investigating an issue affecting data services, including EFTPOS and access to ATMS, for a number of enterprise customers nationally. Many of our services are starting to restore. We’re sorry for any issues caused and will provide an update when we know more.”

The Commonwealth Bank announced the issue earlier and later at 9pm said the services have returned to normal.

Shortly before 7 pm, Telstra provided an update saying most of its services had been restored.

By Tuan Nguyen

self driving technology

Technology review – Where are we at Self-driving technology?

Self-driving technology has been making rounds in media and is said to revolutionize the way people travel and get around. With 94% of car crashes reported to have been caused by human error as stated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there’s really a huge opportunity for these vehicles to be on the market. The development of this technology could save countless lives.

Also, it is much helpful for disabled drivers who are visually impaired, having mobility issues, and mental health issues, which currently prevent them from driving. These vehicles will allow them to live independently without relying upon somebody else.

Having all these possibilities and documented benefits regarding the advantage of employing autonomous vehicles, are we already close to a driverless future?

Tl; dr;

Countless articles and tweets on social media are making rounds lately about self-driving vehicles. They promise to revolutionize the way we travel and get around, believing they can possibly make driving safer and easier.

Experts say it’s best to think of self-driving cars as a patchwork of technologies, rather than minding statements from those giant full-stack companies promising that we’ll be enjoying our robotic shuttles by the end of next year.

How are we close to self-driving technology?

self driving tech roadmap

Source: Monash University

The quick answer is NOT YET.

In spite of Elon Musk’s self-assuring claim that Tesla will have a “full self-driving” capability by the end of 2020, the world is too diverse and unpredictable, robots are deemed too pricey and temperamental, for cars navigating all the things human drivers navigate now.

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo (the grown-up company that was Google’s self-driving car project), even agrees, saying last year, “Autonomy always will have some constraints.”

Companies believe being the first to claim and launch self-driving vehicles publicly brings prestige and millions sales, the downside would be quite insane. Just recently, a death of a passenger who was in autopilot mode lead questions over safety standards.

“Autonomous driving is not going to be here overnight,” Jeremy Carlson, senior analyst with the automotive division of IHS, a financial analytics firm in London, said in a statement. “It’s going to be a gradual rollout of technology, and it’s going to take some time from even today before we have fully autonomous vehicles.”

What are the roadblocks?

Here are other reasons why self-driving technology is not even here yet at this time:

  • Complexities on roads. Most of the existing autonomous vehicles are spending their days in places with warm, clear weather than travelling on places with extreme conditions such as rain, snow, and ice, which might be thought to compromise their AI decision making.
  • Regulation and restriction obstacles. In reality, most states and local governments are quite conservative when it comes to regulating standards of self-driving cars for public testing, because there are no existing laws for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads and selling to the general public yet.
  • Unmet promises. Numerous personalities such as Elon Musk of Tesla have been making bold promises about the future of self-driving cars for a long time. From 2016 and early 2017, all his promises of unlocking fully autonomous vehicles with unrealistic timelines imply low confidence over the market.
  • Cost effectiveness. Though most companies like Tesla is producing autonomous vehicle models with hardware capabilities to support fully autonomous driving technology since 2016, still it is not a guarantee. Companies like Tesla, should need to make sure they can reliably produce and distribute a cost-effective technology.

Summary

Though certain news, studies, and company advertisements promising that self-driving technology is the next future thing. We cannot simply assure with that, because there are certain obstacles ahead which can prevent the most sough technology to be on its peak. Consider road complexities, state or government regulations and restrictions, bold and unmet promises from giant full-stack companies, and cost effectiveness of the technology. Experts say it’s best to think of self-driving cars as a patchwork of technologies.

By Tuan Nguyen

facebook and instagram logo

News – Facebook and Instagram Outage

For those who haven’t noticed, Facebook, Instagram and other affiliated systems have been experiencing some technical issues on Wednesday morning with users reporting problems in logging-in and getting their feeds that continued for hours before being mostly resolved in the late afternoon.

According to Down Detector which tracks website issues, its outage map shows that the issues have affected certain regions across the globe, concentrating in the eastern United States and parts of Europe and South America.

Tl; dr;

Facebook and Instagram and its affiliated platforms are reported to have been experiencing certain issues such as trouble in viewing, uploading, or sending images, videos and other files on early Wednesday, disrupting the communications of millions of users worldwide.

According to Down Detector, a web service offering a real-time overview of bugs and outages online, the issues impacted users across the globe particularly in parts of the United States and Europe. Earlier in April this year, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down globally and back in March, Facebook faced its longest disruption of over 24 hours, known to be its biggest outage in history, stating that the issue was due to a “server configuration change” and not a cyber attack.

Facebook and Instagram Outage

massive outage text

Source: ABC57

It’s not just you who’s been seeing blank gray or broken icons in places where photos should be, everyone experienced the same thing.

On early Wednesday, users in social media platforms namely Facebook, Instagram and other affiliated systems reported experiencing certain bugs concerning image viewing, app notifications, and messaging. While, several others have raised the fact that their feeds were not getting refreshed.

Due to the widespread social conversation surrounding the service interruption, hashtags #InstagramDown, #FacebookDown and #WhatsApp have since started trending on Twitter.

Menlo Park-based Facebook, posted a message on its competing social media platform Twitter regarding the issue.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble uploading or sending images, videos and other files on our apps. We’re sorry for the trouble and are working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible,” Facebook tweeted.

tweet post

Instagram posted a similar tweet on its Twitter account.

instagram post

In another statement, a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business, on behalf of its other apps Instagram and WhatsApp:

“During one of our routine maintenance operations, we triggered an issue that is making it difficult for some people to upload or send photos and videos. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Twitter on the other hand faced certain issues (direct messages) as well but the company declined to elaborate.

In a tweet Twitter said:

“We’re currently having some issues with DM delivery and notifications. We’re working on a fix and will follow up as soon as we have an update for you. Apologies for the inconvenience.”

Resolution time

Down Detector indicted that the widespread impact of the issues for all three apps were drastically reduced by about 4 p.m. PST.

On Twitter, Instagram indicated that the main problem was resolved at 4:45 p.m. PST.

instagram post about fixed issue

Shortly after 5 p.m. PST., Facebook tweeted an update that the problem has also been resolved.

facebook post about issue fixed

Earlier in April 2019, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down globally. A month before too,Facebook experienced its longest outage in history of over 24 hours.

Summary

On early Wednesday of July 3, 2019, users from across the globe reported experiencing bugs surrounding Facebook, Instagram and their affiliated system.

According to Down Detector, a web service offering a real-time overview of bugs and outages online, indicted the issue has been affecting millions of users worldwide concentrating on countries such as parts of Europe and the US.

On the other hand, Twitter faced certain issues as well but the company declined to elaborate.

Down Detector indicted that the widespread impact of the issues for all three apps were drastically reduced by about 4 p.m. PST.

After a few hours, Instagram tweeted indicating that the main problem was resolved at 4:45 p.m. PST. While Facebook posted shortly after 5 p.m. PST that the problem has also been resolved.

Earlier in April 2019, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp experienced a global outage. A month before too, Facebook experienced its longest outage in history of over 24 hours.

By Tuan Nguyen

lifi concept

Technology review – What is LiFi?

Since the advent of lighting in the early 19th century, a lot has already changed.

From illuminating offices, cars, homes, and streets, lightings could now power our great demand for connectivity.

Wondering what that tech innovation is?

It is the so-called, “LiFi.”

LiFi (Light Fidelity) is a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system which runs wireless communications travelling at very high speeds. It uses common LED (light emitting diode) bulbs to enable data transfer with boasting speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second.

The term LiFi was first coined by University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Haas during a TED Talk in 2011. He envisioned that light bulbs could act as wireless routers.

Tl; dr;

LiFi or Light Fidelity was first coined by University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Haas during a TED Talk in 2011. It is based on a “visible light communication” utilizing only LED bulbs. Known to have boasting speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second, it is 100 times faster than its predecessor, the Wi-Fi.

LiFi: Limitless possibilities

office with people

Source: Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)

A high-speed wireless data transmission technology, LiFi aims to replace Wi-Fi by using lights to transmit internet signals. It utilizes the LED (light emitting diodes) bulb that act as visible light transmitters.

Professor Harald Haas was the first to study the possibility of exploiting the frequencies belonging to the light spectrum during a conference held at TED Global in 2011 stating LiFi as a Wi-Fi optical correspondent.

With LiFi, data is transferred through the LED light beam and then through a photo-detector (photodiode), it is converted again by the receiver into electrical signals. These signals are then converted once again into the binary data stream, which may be in the format of a video clip, anaudio or any online application.

lifi diagram

Source: pureLiFi

Advantages

Offering mobility, speed, cost, security to smart cities, homes, hospitals, transports, and enterprises solutions, LiFi is:

  • Cost-efficient and simple. As we know, radio frequency communication requires radio circuits, antennas and complex receivers. On the other hand, LiFionly uses direct modulation methods similar to those used in low-cost infrared communications devices such as remote control units. The LED light bulbs are high intensity and can achieve very large data rates.
  • Fully secure. Using visible and near-visible light to connect electronic devices, LiFi cannot pass through walls. Data exchange would remain confined to lit areas, thus lowering your chances of getting hacked (e.g. man-in-the-middle attacks).
  • Runs at a very high speed. LiFi offers great user experience because it reduces the need to share the wireless bandwidth with other users. The connection can reach approximately 1000 times the data density of Wi-Fi, offering more data per square meter.
  • Less harmful. LiFi can be an absolute for 3G or cable connections, avoiding the use of use of radio waves known to be potentially harmful to human health.
  • Multipurpose lighting. Having lights almost everywhere, everything from private or public lighting such as streetlamps can be used to provide LiFi hotspots. Plus, these same communications infrastructure can be used to monitor and control lighting and data.
  • Absent from interferences. Wi-Fi (radio frequency technology) is vulnerable to a wide variety of devices such as smartphones, cordless phones, microwaves, and other neighboring Wi-Fi networks. LiFi signals, as defined by the area of illumination, interference is much simpler to avoid.

Limitations

Though it’s quite beneficial, LiFi’s drawbacks are the following:

  • Won’t work in the dark
  • Won’t work if a LiFi enabled devices is in your pocket
  • You need to be within the radiance of light to remain connected

Summary

LiFi or Light Fidelity was first coined by University of Edinburgh Professor Harald Haas during a TED Talk in 2011.It is based on a “visible light communication” utilizing only LED bulbs.

LiFi is cost-efficient, secure from hacking, has high speed connection, less harmful to health, multipurpose, and has no interferences.

By Tuan Nguyen

woman face with measurements

Discussion – What is DeepFake?

We can now see the late known personalities such as the iconic sex symbol Marilyn Monroe and the most celebrated Spanish Surrealist painter and printmaker, Salvador Dali moving back to life or the famous portraits like Mona Lisa and the Girl with a Pearl Earring making funny faces.

So how it’s done?

These things are made possible using DeepFake.

DeepFake is an AI (Artificial Intelligence)-based technology used to produced or alter video content to combine and superimpose existing images and videos into source images or videos using a machine learning technique known as generative adversarial network (GAN).

Tl; dr;

DeepFake, a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” is an AI-based technology used to produced or alter video content in which the subject is face-swapped using machine-learning algorithms.

There has been made videos online of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and known personalities such as Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a Russian novelist) and Salvador Dali by having the AI system map facial features and movements to bring photos back to life.

What is DeepFake?

Deepfake tech 1

Source: WIRED

deep fake tech 2

Source: BGR

DeepFake is an AI-based technology used to produce or alter video content. The term “deepfake” was coined in December 2017 when a certain anonymous Redditor under the name “deepfakes” began uploading videos of celebrities stitched into the bodies of pornographic actors.

Recently, Samsung’s AI lab in Russia published a paper outlining how one can train a neural network to learn facial movements and expressions and then applying the obtained data to stills from videos, images, and even paintings.

The results are pretty amazing to the video demonstrating how the system worked.

With the DeepFake’s rapid technological advancement, the technology already exist to create convincing but “inauthentic” audio and video content. It can be an avenue to create fake news, malicious hoaxes and fake celebrity porn video clips.

Cited in a February 2019 report entitled ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com Uses AI to Generate Endless Fake Faces, James Vincent raises his concerns over the technology:

As we’ve seen in discussions about deepfakes (which use GANs to paste people’s faces onto target videos, often in order to create non-consensual pornography), the ability to manipulate and generate realistic imagery at scale is going to have a huge effect on how modern societies think about evidence and trust. Such software could also be extremely useful for creating political propaganda and influence campaigns.

In other words, ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com is just the polite introduction to this new technology. The rude awakening comes later. (source)

The horrifying consequences of this technology could get more and more difficult to determine what’s between fake vs. reality.

That’s why in connection, Melissa Dykes of Truthstream Media writes:

We are coming to a point in our post-post-modern society where seeing and hearing will not be believing. The old mantra will be rendered utterly worthless. The more we consider the sophistication of these technologies, the more it becomes clear that we are just scratching the surface at attempting to understand the real meaning of the phrase “post-truth world”. It’s not a coincidence this was an official topic at last year’s ultra-secretive elite Bilderberg meeting, regularly attended by major Silicon Valley players including Google and Microsoft, either. (source)

Today’s changing media landscape requires greater challenge for reliable journalism regarding deepfake. Media practitioners and technology innovators should be readily on guard with this primary issue. Also, responsible citizens must not patronize fake news just for self-gain and destroying over one’s reputation.

Summary

DeepFake, a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake, is an AI-based technology. It is used to produce or alter video content in which the subject is face-swapped using machine-learning algorithms.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s AI lab in Russia recently published a paper explaining how one can train a neural network to learn facial movements and expressions and then applying the obtained data to stills from videos, images, and even paintings.

Due to DeepFake technology’s rapid evolvement, it can be an avenue to create fake news, malicious hoaxes and fake celebrity porn video clips.The horrifying consequences of this technology could get more and more difficult to determine of what’s between fake vs. reality.

That’s why media practitioners and technology innovators should be readily on guard with this primary issue. Also, responsible citizens must not patronize fake news just for self-gain and destroying over one’s reputation.

By Tuan Nguyen

Libra logo on purple background

Discussion – Will Libra cryptocurrency change our lives?

In a bid to shake up the world’s banking system, Facebook has recently unveiled a cryptocurrency called Libra allowing its billions of users to make financial transactions across the globe.

Libra will be administered by a non-profit known as the Libra Association based in Geneva, Switzerland with 27 founding members including Uber, Spotify, Mastercard, Paypal, and Andreessen Horowitz. The association will promote an open-sourced Libra Blockchain and developer platform with its own programming language, plus sign up businesses to accept Libra for payment including giving customer discounts/rewards.It is expected to launch in the first half of 2020.

With all these developments, how will Libra cryptocurrency change our lives?

Tl; dr;

With a goal to foster better, cheaper, and open financial services, Facebook finally revealed the details of its crytocurrency Libra. The social media giant won’t fully control Libra. It will be governed by a non-profit Libra Association based in Geneva, Switzerland with 27 founding members including Visa, Spotify, Uber and Andreessen Horowitz. It is expected to launch in the first half of 2020.

Will Libra cryptocurrency change our lives?

Libra ecosystem

Libra is a unit of the Libra cryptocurrency named after the Roman unit of measurement for coins. It is represented by a three wavy horizontal line unicode character   just as dollar is represented by $.

Providing an alternative to cash, credit cards and bank transfers, Libra will differ from other major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin in being backed by a group of currencies including the pound(£) and the dollar($), thus making it far less volatile.

Its value is tied to a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities. Moreover, it is built on a secure, scalable, and reliable blockchain.

Lisa Ellis, an analyst at Moffett Nathanson Research says, Libra has the potential to be “highly” successful. “Payments is foundational to doing commerce,” she said, “and this would be a significant step toward enabling that.”

 

With these developments going underway, how will Libra cryptocurrency change our lives?

phone using libra apps

Simple global currency and financial infrastructure.

Wanting to make Libra the evolution of PayPal, Facebook is hoping to make the said cyptocurrency simpler to set up.

In its Libra documentation, Facebook writes:

“Success will mean that a person working abroad has a fast and simple way to send money to family back home, and a college student can pay their rent as easily as they can buy a coffee… …That would be a big improvement on today, when you’re stuck paying rent in insecure checks while exploitative remittance services charge an average of 7% to send money abroad, taking $50 billion from users annually. Libra could also power tiny micro-transactions worth just a few cents that are infeasible with credit card fees attached, or replace your pre-paid transit pass.”

Financial opportunities for those lacking access to financial platforms.

Libra might be a great opportunity for those people who are unbanked and underbanked. It is bringing an entire generation of people into a more formal financial system. And also it helps them build their credit and move up the socioeconomic ladder.

In a released white paper, the Libra Association said:

“The advent of the internet and mobile broadband has empowered billions of people globally to have access to the world’s knowledge and information, high-fidelity communication, and a wide range of lower-cost, more convenient services… …Despite this progress, large swaths of the world’s population are still left behind: 1.7bn adults globally remain outside of the financial system with no access to a traditional bank, even though one billion have a mobile phone.”

Cryptocurrency for those with limited internet access.

One of the most common outcries about cryptocurrencies from the community has been, you need regular internet access to use bitcoin. The cost of using bitcoin in terms of phone data and miner fees often outweighs any benefits to actually using the currency.

This is where Facebook enters the picture.

Around the globe, Facebook has been the only way people can access the internet, and subsequently, any “non-cash-based financial system.”

With Libra’s introduction to the financing market, people will have free access to financial services on their phones everywhere.

Protection from unreliable currencies.

In the present, most people are forced to use their country’s fiat currency, even when that is a massive disadvantage to citizens.

Like the Argentinian peso for example, if Argentinians had put their life savings into bitcoin at its peak. Let’s just say way up over $20K USD, they would still have more money today than had they left it in the plummeting Argentinian peso.

With an increasing number of people taking advantage of the bitcoin over time, Libra will offer a wider audience refuge from inflation in a short term.

Summary

Facebook recently announced the launching of its envisioned cryptocurrency called Libra. The said digital currency will be under the supervision of a non-profit known as the Libra Association based in Geneva, Switzerland backed with its 27 founding members including Uber, Spotify, Mastercard, Paypal, and Andreessen Horowitz. It is expected to launch in the first half of 2020.

With all these developments, Libra has the potential to simplify the global currency and financial infrastructure, open great opportunities for those lacking access to financial platforms, make people have free access to financial services using only their phones everywhere, and offer a wider audience refuge from inflation.

By Tuan Nguyen