Update on Meltdown-Spectre security vulnerabilities

Anti-virus software makers are detecting malware that attempts to exploit the security vulnerabilities identified as Spectre and Meltdown. Since code must execute on the computer to exploit these vulnerabilities, anti-virus software is being updated to detect such malware attacks. Of course, some such malware may yet get through our defenses and could end up on machines.

Source: Meltdown-Spectre: Malware is already being tested by attackers | ZDNet

My view is that for most of us, its just another form of malware. We all need to be pro-active about avoiding malware by taking appropriate steps such as installing code we know to be good, using anti-virus software, and keeping our systems generally update. Meltdown and Spectre are just two more exploits that hackers can use.

Is your computer now protected from Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities? 

Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation has provided a downloadable program that says whether or not your Windows PC has been updated with fixes for Spectre and Meltdown. The program also offers, if possible, options to disable the security protections (such as you find the updates cause your computer to run slower).

Go here to read about and download the utility program: GRC | InSpectre  

High level overview of compiling a program into executable instructions

A high level look at the concepts of compilers, interpreters, byte codes and Just-in-Time compilation, as ways of converting our programs into executable programs or machine instructions processed by the CPU.

The first video provided a high level look at computer system architecture.

The second video introduced the concepts of the CPU or processor.

This video introduces the conversion of our high level programs into machine executable code. Note that this video does not cover specifically how App Inventor blocks code is converted into an executable program.

The fourth video, relying on the information covered in the first 3 videos, will explain the ideas behind the SPECTRE exploit.


Intel updates performance impact of SPECTRE and MELTDOWN fixes

Intel is continuing to measure and evaluate the performance impact of their own firmware changes to address the SPECTRE and MELTDOWN exploits. Click on the chart to view the results in full size.

The chart shows Intel’s measurements for certain 6th, 7th and 8th generation Intel processors. The measurements are made using standard “benchmarket” tests that simulate specific usage scenarios. Consequently, these are measurements of performance impacts to these benchmark tests, which may not represent how we use our own computers.

Source: Intel Security Issue Update: Initial Performance Data Results for Client Systems

Separately, Google says they managed to upgrade their cloud servers with their own fixes that had negligible impacts.

While AMD processors appear to not be impacted by the MELTDOWN exploit, AMD did announce that one of the variants of SPECTRE does impact the AMD processors.

This suggests that over the weeks and months to come, future updates may appear that fix new variations of the exploits but also improve performance as better solutions are identified.

New drone quadcopter programmable using Scratch #AppInventor #STEM #Drones #CES2018

The ability to code is an important part of literacy and will enable kids to learn about creative problem solving and how to communicate their ideas. Engineers at Ryze have made Tello programmable with Scratch, an MIT-developed coding system that allows kids and teens to learn the basics of programming. Kids can program their Tello to string multiple flips into a single command or create their own flight patterns using MIT Media Lab’s easy-to-use block-based coding interface called Scratch.

Source: Ryze and DJI team to create Tello $99 drone – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

The Scratch programming system came before App Inventor and inspired the “blocks” programming model used in App Inventor.

The “Intel CPU” Exploit – does it affect App Inventor apps? #SPECTRE #MELTDOWN

Yes, but Android has already been updated to deal with it.

What is the “Intel CPU” Exploit? Well, its not just Intel, as first described. The SPECTRE exploit works on processors from many vendors. The MELTDOWN exploit might mostly impact Intel processor (but could affect some others).

What are these exploits and what do they do?

This first video is a high level overview. I hope to add another video going into more details – which means explaining a bit about what goes on inside your computer or smart phone processor and computing system.

There is a typo in a title in the slide set – about half way through the video the title says “What do this exploits actually do?” and of course, that should say, “”What do these exploits actually do?”

Ignore the type “doe” in the FB link below – that’s been fixed on the web site! But the typo in this tittle, in the middle of the video should say “What do THESE exploits actually do?

App Inventor to run on iPhones? Yes. How about Windows and Mac OS X? #AppInventor #Stem

MIT has announced that App Inventor will run on iPhones and iPads, hopefully by spring of 2018. You can help make that happen by making a donation to their effort – go to http://appinventor.mit.edu and follow the links to make a donation!

Did you know that you can run App Inventor Android apps on Windows and Mac OS X? Sure can!

All you need is to install an Android simulator for Windows or Mac and then install your App Inventor .apk app into the simulator. This way you can run your apps on Windows or Mac!

This short video shows you how to do that – take a look!


There are several Android simulators for both Windows and Mac OS X.

This video demonstrates using BlueStacks for Windows (also available for Mac OS X) and Nox App Player for Mac OS X.