Google’s 1-character typo locked users out of their phones and more

Google says it has fixed a major Chrome OS bug that locked users out of their devices. Google’s bulletin says that Chrome OS version 91.0.4472.165, which was briefly available this week, renders users unable to log in to their devices, essentially bricking them.

Chrome OS automatically downloads updates and switches to the new version after a reboot, so users who reboot their devices are suddenly locked out them. The go-to advice while this broken update is out there is to not reboot.

ChromeOS is open source, so we can get a bit more detail about the fix thanks to Android Police hunting down a Reddit comment from user elitist_ferret. The problem apparently boils down to a single-character typo. Google flubbed a conditional statement in Chrome OS’s Cryptohome VaultKeyset, the part of the OS that holds user encryption keys. The line should read “if (key_data_.has_value() && !key_data_->label().empty()) {” but instead of “&&”—the C++ version of the “AND” operator—the bad update used a single ampersand, breaking the second half of the conditional statement.

I spent a fair piece of time as an English major. I practically have a major neurological breakdown every time I bump into a typo. Which means – on the InterWebiTubes – probably once or twice per hour. Or more.

This one wins the prize horse laugh.

Possible Link between ‘Oumuamua and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

Two things to consider:

First, the interstellar object discovered in 2017, ‘Oumuamua, was inferred to have a flat shape and seemed to be pushed away from the sun as if it were a lightsail. This “pancake” was tumbling once every eight hours and originated from the rare state of the local standard of rest—which averages over the motions of all the stars in the vicinity of the sun.

Second, the Pentagon is about to deliver a report to Congress stating that some unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) are real but that their nature is unknown. If UAP originated from China or Russia and were a national security risk, their existence would have never been revealed to the public. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that the U.S. government believes that some of these objects are not human in origin. This leaves two possibilities: either UAP are natural terrestrial phenomena or they are extraterrestrial in origin. Both possibilities imply something new and interesting that we did not know before…

Many or even most UAP might be natural phenomena. But even if one of them is extraterrestrial, might there be any possible link to ‘Oumuamua?

Enjoy your read of Avi Loeb’s wee article…and it is small by the standards of the sort of learned scientific works he often produces. Still, the two possible conclusions he entertains…only one of which is mathematically likely…suggest a potential conclusion just this side of the late Isaac Asimov.

What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely

In 2017, the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, declared loneliness an “epidemic” among Americans of all ages. This warning was partly inspired by new medical research that has revealed the damage that social isolation and loneliness can inflict on a body. The two conditions are often linked, but they are not the same: isolation is an objective state (not having much contact with the world); loneliness is a subjective one (feeling that the contact you have is not enough)…Older people are more susceptible to loneliness; forty-three per cent of Americans over sixty identify as lonely. Their individual suffering is often described by medical researchers as especially perilous, and their collective suffering is seen as an especially awful societal failing.

…Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advised health-care providers to start periodically screening older patients for loneliness, though physicians were given no clear instructions on how to move forward once loneliness had been diagnosed…

So what’s a well-meaning social worker to do? In 2018, New York State’s Office for the Aging launched a pilot project, distributing Joy for All robots to sixty state residents and then tracking them over time. Researchers used a six-point loneliness scale, which asks respondents to agree or disagree with statements like “I experience a general sense of emptiness.” They concluded that seventy per cent of participants felt less lonely after one year. The pets were not as sophisticated as other social robots being designed for the so-called silver market or loneliness economy, but they were cheaper, at about a hundred dollars apiece.

In April, 2020, a few weeks after New York aging departments shut down their adult day programs and communal dining sites, the state placed a bulk order for more than a thousand robot cats and dogs. The pets went quickly, and caseworkers started asking for more: “Can I get five cats?” A few clients with cognitive impairments were disoriented by the machines. One called her local department, distraught, to say that her kitty wasn’t eating. But, more commonly, people liked the pets so much that the batteries ran out…

A beige dog with a red bandanna went to an eighty-five-year-old man named Bill Pittman, who lives in a tidy mobile home filled with piles of quilts sewn by his deceased wife. “I’m legally blind. I can’t do a heck of a lot,” he told me. The dog’s barking broke up the days. “It’s good for a person who doesn’t have anybody else,” he said. “I went to get her some water the other day. She wouldn’t drink it.”

“Did you think she might?” I asked.

“No,” Bill said. “I just kid around with her.”

I hate to admit I wasn’t aware of all this. I’m a truly long-term geek. I was a geek before I was old enough to vote, to become an activist about many of the social issues that plague our society unnecessarily.

I thoroughly understand the connection folks of any age can make with a non-human that is significant to their lives. My pickup truck is 37 years old. The speedometer stopped working at 224,000 miles. It’s name is RUFF BOY.

My favorite quote from the article? “The English mathematician Alan Turing famously judged, in 1950, that a machine can be said to possess “intelligence” when it can fool a human into believing that it is not a machine. Producers of the latest companion robots don’t seem to care much about achieving Turing test-level authenticity. For a robot to win the affinity of a human, it doesn’t have to seem real; real enough will do.”

Anyway, RTFA. A truly worthwhile read, long and full of information. Kudos to the author, Katie Engelhart, and the NewYorker.

We’ll be back, tomorrow, Saturday, mid-day

Completely nutso afternoon and evening …expecting one new piece of digital hardware to be delivered of several on the way – and three arrived. And, of course, there was a software problem with the most important piece. Which I just resolved; but, now, I’m brain-dead and need a bunch of sleep.

See y’all mid-morning or a touch later.

Ed

Among other upgrades throughout our networked life at Lot 4. I decided to return to a proper desktop in our home office. Much to my dismay, I learned Apple no longer offers a 21″ iMac. So, here’s a snap of the 24″ beastie sitting on my desk. Actually works out OK for projects needing graphics here and there, notes to myself on projects, etc..

I’ve used larger BITD; and I didn’t trade-in my laptop. It’s moved to the living room along with other new [and not so new] goodies. Wiped out my next couple of SSA checks, though.

Best places to live as an ex-pat


Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan, Mexico and Costa Rica have been ranked as the top spots to live and work abroad in 2021, based on their cost of living, ease of settling in and overall quality of life.

The U.S. was ranked only 34th out of 59 places, largely because of how expats viewed quality of life in America, according to a new survey published Tuesday.

Taiwan topped the charts for the third year in a row in the survey of 12,420 expats conducted by InterNations, a Munich-based expat network with about 4 million members. Expats appreciated Taiwan’s medical care, on top of quality of life. A full 96% of respondents were happy with the quality of care, compared with 71% globally. Expats also reported they were more satisfied with their job security in Taiwan and state of the local economy than their peers in other locales.

Read on, my friends. Read on!