The Switchboard: North Korea makes a tablet — and it reviews pretty well.

November 4, 2013

In this April 13, 2011 photo, people work on library computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is undergoing a digital revolution of sorts, even as it holds on to some of the strictest cyberspace policies in the world. (David Guttenfelder/AP)

Published every weekday, The Switchboard highlights the five tech stories you need to read.

The North Korean tablet computer Samjiyon: Hardware, software and resources. This is a long read, but Ruediger Frank at 38 North, a Web site covering North Korea, has an incredibly in-depth review of a tablet manufactured (and only offered for sale) in North Korea. Frank was actually pleasantly surprised by its performance, writing, "This is one of the few cases in my career as a consumer when I got more for my money than I had expected." But don't be fooled by the existence of the iPad alternative: "This tablet does not in any way change the fact that the DPRK is, for many of its people, a country of hard manual labor and simple living conditions," says Frank.

How a grad student trying to build the first botnet brought the Internet to its kneesThe Switch's Timothy B. Lee takes a look at the Morris Worm 25 years after it wreaked havoc on the Internet. Robert Morris, the graduate student behind the worm, became the first person prosecuted and convicted under a federal anti-hacking law. However, Lee notes, "the most significant effect of the worm was how it permanently changed the culture of the Internet. Before Morris unleashed his worm, the Internet was like a small town where people thought little of leaving their doors unlocked. Internet security was seen as a mostly theoretical problem, and software vendors treated security flaws as a low priority."

How social media killed iGoogle. Writing for The Switch, I explain how the Internet (and Google's) shift to social media may have meant death for its personal landing page product iGoogle: " Google+ is not just a service meant to compete for a place in the social media market, it's a way for the company to create cohesive identities for users across all its services, including search, Gmail and YouTube, that can be used for improved ad targeting. But, like Reader, iGoogle didn't quite fit into that broadly interconnected vision of the Web that Google+ represents. And now it's dead."

Europe looking to follow the United States to approve in-flight electronics. Samuel Gibbs at The Guardian reports that the British Civil Aviation Authority is taking a look at in-flight electronics after the recent U.S. Federal Aviation Authority decision to allow some electronics use during takeoff and landing. He writes, "The ultimate decision over the use of electronic devices during all phases of flight now lies with the pan-European body, the European Aviation Safety Agency," which oversees flight safety in Europe and has ultimate responsibly for "airworthiness" issues.

No morsel too minuscule for all-consuming NSA. "From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations, " writes Shane Scott, in The New York Times about the agency's voracious appetite. "It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agency’s official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve 'diplomatic advantage' over such allies as France and Germany and 'economic advantage' over Japan and Brazil, among other countries."

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Andrea Peterson · November 3, 2013