Welcome back to 5Things, the weekly newsletter where I share 5 newsmakers in technology! This week also includes a good helping of space news! ????
1. Perseverance: Safe On Mars
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars on Thursday, surviving the “seven minutes of terror”. I watched the landing live, and it was terrifying to picture the rover hovering over the surface of Mars, all alone with no human control. Because it takes 11 minutes for signals from Mars to reach Earth, the rover had to control every aspect of the landing. Here on Earth, we were receiving telemetry data, but if something went wrong, it would take too long to get a command back to the rover. Thankfully, everything went perfectly! The callout was heard: we are safe on Mars! The rover has since sent back a few photos, and is due to send back video of the landing on Monday. The rover will now begin to look for signs of life in a crater that was previously flooded. The Inguniety helicopter will test powered flight on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet.
Further Reading: NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars to begin hunt for signs of ancient life – Space.com, NASA, Perseverance in epicly successful entry, descent, and landing at Jezero Crater, Mars – NASASpaceFlight.com
2. Linux Goes Interplanetary
Linux, the kernal that runs most of the internet, has made it to Mars! This is a big win or open source software, as Linux is totally free and open to anyone. I think this is a case of not starting from scratch. Instead of designing an operating system from scratch, NASA (or anyone for that matter) can use Linux to get the basics down and focus on their specific application. SpaceX has said in the past that components of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule run on Linux. I find it cool that an kernal that you can run on your laptop (or your phone in the case of Android) is powering an autonomous helicopter on another planet!
Further Reading: Linux has made it to Mars – The Verge
3. Comcast’s Heart Grows Once Again
Comcast has delayed the rollout of data caps until 2022. Comcast planned to enforce a 1.2 TB / cycle data cap across regions where such data caps have not already been enforced. They cite wanting to allow customers to have more time to get used to the changes as their reasoning for the delay, but I think it’s because of the massive amount of pushback they’ve been receiving. The Pennsylvania Attorney General fought to have the cap delayed, and many customers have reached out via social media to share their displeasure with the new rules. Some experts in the telecom field have pointed out that data caps will do nothing to decrease network stress, the reason Comcast cites for these data caps. We’ll see how this situation turns out, but I think the data caps will either disappear or be raised a bit.
Further Reading: Comcast is yet again delaying its data cap rollout to 12 states, this time until 2022 – The Verge, Comcast reluctantly drops data-cap enforcement in 12 states for rest of 2021 – Ars Technicia
4. Mac Gets Malware
A new innovative piece of malware has been found on macOS machines. This new malware is specifically interesting because it is available for the traditional Intel based Macs and the M1 based Macs. The software checks in with a central server for new commands, but has not been observed actually downloading a payload. The malware also is able to completely remove itself from a victim machine, but has not been observed doing so.
The interesting part of this story is that Apple and their fans have been known to claim that macOS is not vulnerable to viruses and malware like Windows. This claim isn’t totally false, but it isn’t true either. macOS is more secure by design when compared to Windows, but it is not impenetrable by any means. Viruses typically target Windows machines just because of their sheer market value. There are many more Windows machines in the wild than macOS machines, making Windows a bigger target. This new malware isn’t the first for macOS and certainly isn’t the last, but is possibly the first for the new M1 platform that was released a couple of months ago. This might just be someone’s experiment, or this could turn out to be a major outbreak, only time will tell.
Further Reading: New malware found on 30,000 Macs has security pros stumped – Ars Technica
5. macOS in third place…
Expanding upon what we discussed in the last item, macOS isn’t the most popular operating system in the world. Windows still holds the top spot, but Chrome OS has dethroned macOS for the second place spot. According to a report from IDC, Chrome OS devices have risen in market share to the point of overtaking Apple’s successful line of computers. The pandemic caused many schools to need a device for every student. Because Chromebooks are cheaper, many schools bought as many as they could. This caused a disruption in the supply of Chromebooks, with most manufactures behind. Chrome OS has been dismissed as just a fancy browser in a cheap laptop, but this report suggests otherwise. Rather, Chrome OS is a major concern for both Microsoft and Apple. Both companies have been trying in vain to grow their education offerings in the past year. However, for many schools, one company (Google) can offer everything from email to online classrooms to video calls in one package with hardware that integrates with every service perfectly for a low price. As a daily user of both Windows and Chrome OS, I see a place for both. Chrome OS is a lightweight, secure, and easy to use OS that is perfect for light to medium intensity tasks. Windows is a sometimes bloated, somewhat secure, and sometimes complicated OS that is perfect for almost everything. I use my Windows PC(s) to accomplish tasks such as video editing, web development, desktop publishing, and writing these posts. I use my (school issued) Chromebook to complete assignments, read news articles, join video meetings and watch the occasional YouTube video. Chromebooks were never designed for heavy tasks, and likely never will be. However, it still fills the gap as a lightweight OS for everyday tasks. If I were Microsoft or Apple, I’d be terrified of what Chrome OS could do to my existing product lines.
(whew, that was a long one…)
Further Reading: The world’s second-most popular desktop operating system isn’t macOS anymore – Ars Technica
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