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Watch Computer Experts Discuss the Y2K Problem in 1999 // Computer Chronicles // Computer Chronicles

In the late 1990s, computer nerds (myself included) were up in arms about the Y2K problem. In brief, the issue was that many computer systems used six-digit dates (two digits each for day, month, and year), which meant that when the year 2000 hit, the system might read it as 1900. That could be a big problem.

Much money, time, and computer programming was necessary to fix the Y2K Problem, and for the most part, we survived just fine. But anyone using a computer in 1999 (especially for business) was pretty concerned about keeping things clean. In this 1999 episode of Computer Chronicles, host Stewart Cheifet goes deep on the Y2K bug. Exhibit A is Cheifet's own credit card from Shell, which expires in the year "1000." Oops.

In this episode, Cheifet and friends dig into a bunch of actual applications that are not Y2K-safe. Perhaps the biggest problem was with spreadsheets, which often included lots of dates and date math. In this episode, a Symantec rep comes along with a tool that reviews all your Windows apps for problems. A Microsoft rep shows some Wizards (oh, the 90s) to help with Excel problems.

Have a look, and think back to a time when we were thoroughly ready to flip out on New Year's Eve:

There's one other notable part of this episode—the demo of Audible (now, around the 26-minute mark. At the time, Audible was a combination web service and hardware player (basically a proto-MP3 player with poor fidelity). The player cost $200, or $99 if you committed to buying a handful of books on tape, er, digital. Amazon eventually bought Audible in 2008.

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Find Out If Your Passwords Have Been Stolen With This Free Service

In the modern world, data breaches happen with startling regularity. They can happen to giant credit monitoring firms, social networks, or the fast food restaurant down the street. In late 2017, a security research firm found 1.4 billion stolen usernames and passwords floating around unencrypted on the Dark Web, giving even the most unsophisticated hackers a shot at your online accounts. In many cases, you may not realize that your account has been compromised.

As CNET reports, a security tool called Pwned Passwords can help you figure out with a simple search which of your passwords has already been leaked. Created by a regional director at Microsoft named Troy Hunt in August 2017, the free site is designed to make it as easy as possible to check the security of your online accounts. It's as simple as entering your password into the search bar. In February 2018, Hunt updated his original site to include passwords from more major breaches. The database now features half a billion passwords that have been leaked as part of hacks on sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, DropBox, and Gawker. Some are sourced from breaches you may not have even heard of, but which still contained your information.

"Data breaches are rampant and many people don't appreciate the scale or frequency with which they occur," Hunt writes on the site. When he analyzes the user credentials leaked after big hacks like the one on Adobe in 2013, he finds that he will keep seeing "same accounts exposed over and over again, often with the same passwords." And once that password is leaked once, that puts all the other accounts that you use that password for at risk, too.

A screenshot of the site asks 'have i been pwned?' Below, the word 'password' is typed into the search bar.
Pwned Password

So if you're one of those people who uses the same password for multiple accounts—we know, it's hard to remember a different password for every website you ever visit—now would be a good time to see whether that password has ever been part of a data breach. Pwned Password will tell you if your password has been revealed as part of any major data breaches, and which ones. (CNET advises against searching your current passwords, since revealing that info to third parties is never a good idea, but checking old passwords you no longer use is OK.)

I, for one, searched a standard password I've been using for a steady rotation of online accounts since high school, and found out it has been spotted 135 different times as part of data breaches. Oh boy. (Presumably, those might not all be related to my accounts, instead coming from other people out there in the world who base their passwords off tidbits from The Fairly OddParents, but who knows.)

If, like mine, your passwords show up on Pwned Passwords, you should update them as soon as possible. (Here are some good tips on coming up with secure ones. Maybe don't use "password.") This would also be a good time to get yourself a password manager, like LastPass or 1Password.

The latter service actually has a Pwned Password integration so that you can check each of the passwords stored in your 1Password with Pwned Password. If you use LastPass, the service's security checkup can also search for potential data breaches in your roster, but it looks for leaked usernames, not passwords.

[h/t CNET]


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