The Year in News: What Happened Next (Stories From January-February 2015)

opportunity

It’s time once again to take a look back at some of the news stories we’ve covered here at GaS in 2015 as well as following up on later developments.

In January the Mars rover Opportunity began suffering problems with the flash memory which it used to store data before sending it back to Earth whenever convenient via a passing satellite. Reformatting the memory didn’t do the trick, so in the summer NASA switched to storing the data in RAM and then sending it back on a scheduled daily upload.

Julia Reda, one of the few Pirate Party members elected to the European Parliament, was asked to be the lead author on a Parliamentary report on reforming copyright law. Her initial draft called for copyright laws across Europe to be harmonized and for laws to be updated to reflect modern technology, including exceptions for digitizing books and creating searchable databases. Several proposals had to be ditched when the report went to the full Parliament, including the idea of having all copyright exceptions apply in all European Union countries rather than be determined by individual governments; the idea of all government publications automatically being free of copyright; and the idea of setting down some basic test which, if met, would allow an automatic exemption for future technologies not covered by existing regulations. The negotiated report was formally approved by a strong majority in parliament, though is still some way from leading to changes to the law.

A sealed copy of the rare Stadium Games NES cartridge reached at least $99,850 in bidding on eBay, which would have shattered the existing record of $33,400 for the Atari 2600 game Air Raid. The high bid appears to have been withdrawn as the game eventually sold for what was a record by a much slimmer margin at $35,100.

Elon Musk announced plans to build a test track for his Hyperloop technology, in which sealed capsules are propelled along a tube by rapidly switching magnets on and off, with solar panels above the tube helping to power the system. Musk later ditched plans for a Texas site and is now one of two companies building test tracks in California. However a rival company, Hyperloop Technologies, looks set to become the first to test the technology in January 2016 on a track in Nevada. It’s hoping to go from zero to 335 miles per hour in two seconds.

Details began to emerge of a cellphone service from Google by which handsets would switch between two mobile networks and default to Wi-Fi where possible for calls as well as data. It’s now launched as Project Fi, though is invite only and limited to the Nexus 5X, 6 and 6P. The service costs $20 per month for unlimited calls and text messages, with an additional flat data rate of $10 per GB.

In February, Mattell unleashed a $75 Hello Barbie, a version of the doll which has speech recognition and can engage in increasingly-relevant conversations with children. The speech recognition is processed online via a Wi-Fi connection, which led to natural fears. Those have since been borne out by the discovery that, among other security concerns, the doll was set to automatically connect to any unsecured wireless network with the word ‘Barbie’ in the SSID. The security researcher who discovered the problems disclosed them to the manufacturers before publication and many were quickly fixed.

We’ll be back on Monday to take a look at updates from March and April’s stories.




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