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Short Topix: Internet Explorer Officially DIES June 15, 2022 ... Sorta

by Paul Arnote (parnote)

U.S. Appeals Court: Snapchat Can Be Sued Over Role In Fatal Car Crash

According to a U.S. federal appeals court, Snapchat can be sued for its role in a car crash that left three Wisconsin teenagers dead, according to an article from NPR (National Public Radio).

In May 2017, these three teen boys were set on driving down a cornfield-lined country road at a high rate of speed, and planned to share it all on social media. Snapchat has a controversial feature, called "Speed Filter," which captures and documents real-life speed. The faster the speed, the more attention they hoped to garner from followers on Snapchat.

Activating Snapchat and the "speed filter" are the last things they did, right before the car left the road, running into a tree at 123 mph (198 kmh), and killing all three of them.

The boy's parents feel that Snapchat is partially to blame for their untimely deaths. They claim that Snapchat created an unsafe game with the speed filter, which encouraged users to attempt unsafe "feats" for the sake of being noticed on the social media platform.

The initial U.S. district court dismissed the case against Snapchat, citing immunity under the controversial Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law provides tech companies a bush to hide behind, protecting them from libel and other civil suits for what people post on sites, regardless of how harmful it may be.

However, the three-judge U.S. appeals court (9th Circuit) says that Section 230 does not apply because the case is not about what someone posted to Snapchat. Instead, the case is/was about the design of the app itself. "Snap indisputably designed Snapchat's reward system and Speed Filter and made those aspects of Snapchat available to users through the Internet," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court (PDF file). "This type of claim rests on the premise that manufacturers have a 'duty to exercise due care in supplying products that do not present unreasonable risk of injury or harm to the public.'" Wardlow went on to explain that CDA immunity under Section 230 is "unavailable in this case."

This case, which has been remanded back to the lower courts, may have ramifications for how broadly or narrowly the courts interpret the controversial Section 230 portion of the Communications Decency Act. This case could open up an end-run around Section 230 immunity, especially when it comes to bad or faulty product design.

Google To Automatically Enroll Users Into 2FA

After security experts have banged the drum on two-factor authentication (2FA) for the past 700,000,000 years, Google is automatically turning 2FA on for its users ... provided that you have provided either a secondary email or a phone number.

There is no question that 2FA is infinitely more secure. There is no question that using complex, unique passwords is much more secure (despite user insistence year after year after year on using weak passwords, such as 123456).

Google used World Password Day on May 6 to announce on their blog that 2FA would soon become the default for Google users who have provided either a secondary email address or a phone number. The searches for "how secure is my password" tripled in 2020, as many across the globe were forced to telecompute (also known as "work from home," or WFH) during the pandemic.

Still password reuse between sites, as well as using less-complicated passwords, puts your data at risk. If one site gets hacked, then all of the other sites that use the same password are also vulnerable. If a password isn't complicated enough, it makes it easier for hackers to obtain or hack your passwords. We've covered password security here in the pages of The PCLinuxOS Magazine more times than we can count.

As part of their blog post on World Password Day, they (Google) mentioned that they are looking forward to the day that passwords are obsolete and are no longer needed. Without a doubt, passwords are the chink in the security armor. Your data is only as strong as the weakest part of your armor.

Hallelujah! Internet Explorer Officially DIES June 15, 2022 ... Sorta

As of June 15, 2022, Internet Explorer 11 will be officially retired from most versions of Windows 10, according to "The Windows Experience" blog post on May 19, 2021. Microsoft has spent much of the past couple of years just wishing that Internet Explorer would just go away. They even replaced it with Microsoft Edge, and then reworked Edge to use Chromium as the basis for its web browser.

Internet Explorer, despite all of its awfulness and non-adherence to established web standards (for a while, Microsoft thought its britches were big enough to entitle it to SET the standards, rather than follow the standards that EVERYONE ELSE had already agreed upon), had to be one of the absolute worst web browsers around. Yes, it did have a few shining moments, but mostly, it was just awful.

Internet Explorer was first released in August 1995, based on the Spyglass Mosaic web browser. Since Mosaic was produced by NCSA, a public entity, a much heavier reliance was placed on its commercial licensing partner, Spyglass. Initially, Spyglass delivered two versions of Internet Explorer. The first one was based entirely on NCSA source code, and the other was made from scratch by Spyglass, but conceptually modelled after the NCSA browser. Much to everyone's chagrin, Microsoft chose the Spyglass code model, rather than the NCSA code model.

The latest version of Internet Explorer is 11, and was released in 2013. Yes, nearly 8 years ago! It's the browser that refuses to die. The main reason is to support all the legacy websites and applications that vitally depend on IE to run. To facilitate the end of IE, Microsoft Edge has a built-in Internet Explorer mode (IE mode) for the times that those legacy IE websites and applications need to be accessed.

You might have noticed that the headline says that IE "dies" on June 15, 2022 ... sorta. Well here's the "sorta" part, spelled out in a "Note" after the first paragraph of the announcement on the Microsoft blog:

"This retirement does not affect in-market Windows 10 LTSC or Server Internet Explorer 11 desktop applications. It also does not affect the MSHTML (Trident) engine. For a full list of what is in scope for this announcement, and for other technical questions, please see our FAQ."

So, we may not be "officially" done with IE just yet. But, come June 15, 2022, there might just be a LOT fewer users of it than before. We can only hope. After all, hope springs eternal.

Motorola Preparing World's First Phone With Over-The-Air Charging

One thing is for certain: Motorola does not shy away from innovation, even after being purchased by Lenovo. Last November, Motorola reinvented its hugely successful Razr line of flip phones. Now, they sport a flexible screen, with a secondary screen on the outside of the closed phone.

Not resting on their laurels, Motorola has partnered with GuRu to bring wireless charging to its line of cellphones in a move that was widely reported in the computer press, as well as announced in a press release.

Imagine being able to walk into a room and your phone immediately starts to charge. Currently, the charging ability is able to take place within 30 feet (9.14m) of the charging transmitter. The charging will be slow at first, typically limited to 5W or 10W charging. That's pretty slow, considering that some "fast chargers" can deliver up to 65W charging power. The goal will be, obviously, to increase that wattage over time.

It's unclear when we might see wireless charging come about, but some experts are "predicting" that we may see Motorola phones with the GuRu wireless charging chip within the next couple of years. Of course, there will most likely be all sorts of regulatory issues to overcome, as well.

Move Over Calibri: MS Replaces Default Office Font

In 2007, Calibri became the default font for Microsoft Office. Unless you changed it when you started typing your document, Calibri was there, front and center, just waiting for you to start typing.

Now, 14 years later, Microsoft is looking to replace the easy to read, easy-on-the-eyes font with one of five font candidates to become the new default Microsoft Office font. In an April 28, 2021 Microsoft 365 blog post, the five candidate fonts -- Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford, and Grandview -- were introduced to the public, and public input was invited via social media.

Calibri's creator, Lucas de Groot, a Dutch type designer, is a bit surprised that Calibri is being replaced already. He originally started work on Calibri in 2002 for an unspecified client, which turned out to be Microsoft. CNBC ran a nice retrospective article on de Groot, capturing his surprise at the change away from Calibri.

No one seems to have captured the fonts in the wild. Either that, or no one is sharing. The fonts are available if you are a Microsoft 365 user, and then you just select the fonts in a Word document, and the fonts are downloaded to your computer for use in all Office 365 programs.

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