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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Magnetic memory, hacks and idiocy

5 December 2018

There was nothing that reached out and grabbed me as the subject for today's column so I'm going to just brush over a few items of interest instead.

First up, I notice that magnetic memory is back in the news.

No, I'm not talking tapes and magnetic disks, I'm talking about multiferroics, a form of memory that harnesses the spin states of electrons rather than their charge state, as a method of storing data.

Yeah... it's "eyes glaze over" time again but basically the benefits are that you can fit more memory in a smaller space and use less power to do so. That's got to be good.

When I read this, I immediately cast my mind back to the "magnetic bubble memory" technology that featured on the cover of a Byte magazine back in the 1980s.

Hmmm... where is that tech now I wonder? Eclipsed long ago I suspect.

More interesting stuff from the wires is the hack of Quora and the exposure of 100 million users' details.

This on its own might be worrying enough but it is even more when it comes just a week after a gob-smacking 500 million Marriott Hotels customers details were lost in a hacking attack.

And let's not forget that a few weeks before that, the credit card details of 380,000 British Airways customers were accessed by hackers as well.

I wonder when someone will stand up and say "oi, we have to do something about this!"

What could be done?

Well to be honest, I'm still amazed that PCs, laptops and such aren't already fitted with a biometric or some kind of hard-encryption hardware that would provide some kind of digital authentication for use with credit card transactions, log-ins etc. This type of tech costs just cents to make these days and could save billions in lost time, money and hassles each and every year.

Now, to round off the day's observations, a drone story -- with a twist.

We all know that drones and manned aircraft ought not be mixed. Pilots and regulators are constantly complaining that idiots fly their drones near airports and in areas where manned aircraft are already flying. They claim that this puts lives in jeopardy because a collision between a manned aircraft and a drone could result in injury or death. This goes double if the manned aircraft is a helicopter.

So read this and scratch your head.

Excuse me?

So this heli pilot decided to place his own life (and potentially the lives of others) at risk by knocking a drone out of the sky -- because it was filming a surfing contest?

Come on, if what we're being told about the risks associated with merely "sighting" a drone from a helicopter are to believed, this heli pilot was obviously endangering his own craft and life by way of this action. Surely that's against FAA regulations.

I love this quote from the article which says:

"While some might argue that the drone operator was within the law to fly their drone in a public place, more responsible drone operators would be quick to point out the dangers associated with flying a drone directly over people"

So let me get this straight.... it's too dangerous to allow a 900g drone to fly over people but it's okay to allow a huge helicopter with a gas-turbine engine, "slice-you up" rotor blades and a weight in excess of a tonne to do the same?

Sigh!

Ah well, on the bright side, yesterday's thunder storms seem to have passed -- although we have 30kph winds and occasional light showers forecast for today.

Have YOU seen anything on the wires worthy of mention today?

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