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Independent news, views, opinions and reviews on the latest gadgets, games, science, technology and research from Apple and more. It’s about the technologies that change the way we live, work, love and behave.

Couple harvest dead son’s sperm to create grandchild

This will strike some as remarkably disgusting, even perverse. A couple lost their son in a car crash so they “harvested” his sperm in order to create a grandson for themselves. Certainly we’d expect there to be calls that they can’t do that – despite the fact that they obviously can. What is meant of course is that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that but then perhaps they should. You see, to have grandchildren is to win.

 

widow-uses-husbands-frozen-sperm

 

Thus this is a story of someone winning:

A wealthy British couple have created a “designer grandson” using sperm taken from their dead son, it was claimed yesterday.

Yes, this is indeed winning. For details you could read the work of Charles Darwin and the like but it’s simple enough. The aim and purpose of life is to have children which go on to have children:

The couple were left devastated after their only child was killed in a motorcycle crash and seemingly ended their chance of becoming grandparents.

But the pair, who are in their 50s, were reportedly desperate for an heir decided to harvest the 26-year-old’s sperm, which was frozen and exported to the US, bypassing strict laws in the UK.

Their grandson is now three and is believed to be living with them in Britain in a case that highlights ethical and legal concerns.

Well, yes, ethical and legal concerns. That’s the voices of those who insist that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that. Who wish to, insist upon, imposing their own morality on the lives of others:

Professor Allan Pacey, a former chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: “If the son in this case wasn’t being treated by a clinic, and had not signed the necessary consent forms for the posthumous retrieval, storage and use of his sperm, then a criminal act has probably taken place.

“The clinician who extracted the sperm is in breach of the law as is the facility which stored and exported the sample.”

Well, yes, except for that winning by the grandparents. That aim and purpose of all life being exactly that, to reproduce in a manner that leads to the next generation doing so and thereby becoming those grandparents. So, despite the difficulties here they’ve done that, they’ve won that life lottery.

The only pity here being that British law, for some unknown reason, would deny them that ability to produce the life which carries them on into perpetuity.

Posted: 11th, September 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Apple Already Manufactures In The US

Donald Trump is insisting that Apple should move its manufacturing over to the United States. The problem with this being that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand that Apple already does its manufacturing in the United States. Calling for Apple to do what Apple already does isn’t all that useful. What’s being missed is that Apple only assembles equipment in China. And that’s of trivial value so we don’t care where it is done:

Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that Apple should make products in the United States if it wants to avoid tariffs on Chinese imports.

The company told trade officials in a letter on Friday that the proposed tariffs would affect prices for a “wide range” of Apple products, including its watch.

Apple’s AirPods headphones, some of its Beats headphones and its new HomePod smart speaker would also face levies if the current package of $200bn in tariffs goes ahead as expected in the coming days.

The usual point of trade is to make us better off. So, if having tariffs to block trade makes us worse off – which is what price rises do – then why are we having tariffs? Well, the correct answer is because the President of the United States doesn’t understand this.

But why would we want to do that?

The thing is that Apple already, pretty much, makes things in the US. What it doesn’t do is assemble them there. So, take an iPhone, say it costs $800. About 40% of that – $320 – is pure profit to the company. That’s added in Cupertino in California – yes, the recent tax changes mean that it is, not Bermuda, not Ireland. The expensive parts of the kit itself are the processors and the screens. The screens are made in Taiwan or Japan and no one else in the world knows how to make them – not even Apple. The processors are made in Texas.

All that’s left is the cheap stuff – a few wires etc – and the assembly. And we know how much that costs, about $10 per iPhone. And that’s the bit that’s done in China too. In terms of who adds the value and where then Apple already manufactures in the US. The only bit that’s done in China is that $10 worth of sticking it altogether. And why would we care at all where $10 of an $800 piece of kit is done?

As we started out saying Donald Trump doesn’t understand trade. His ideas about Apple just show this.

Posted: 10th, September 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Technology | Comment


Facebook users should sue over 1.3billion fake accounts

When you busy ad space on Facebook, be warned: robots are not brand loyal unless programmed to be so and they’ve got no cash. When Facebook’s chief executive noted in July 2017,  “As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially two billion people! We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together”, he omitted to mention the bit about 1.3billion on those accounts being fake.

That’s how many accounts Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, told the Senate Intelligence Committee the social media giant had deleted between October 2017 and March 2018. You know that weird thing when your follower numbers went down? Well, you didn’t lose anything other than numbers.

What advertisers who believed the bogus numbers lost has yet to be calculated, but if you paid to reach, say, a million people, chances are you were charged 50% over the odds. Next time Facebook offers you the chance to pay $20 to reach 2,000 people in your area (your own followers!), ask them to prove the accounts are all genuine…

Posted: 10th, September 2018 | In: Money, Technology | Comment


BBC reporter demands people stop using Instagram, Facebook and their phones to look at the BBC

“How do you deal with smartphone ‘zombies’?” asks the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2. You mean people like Mhairi McFarlane (@MhairiMcF), who responds: “What’s wrong with looking at your phone? I have £500 worth of computer in my pocket containing all my friends and the sum of human knowledge but I’m supposed to prefer what, small talk with random johnnies?” Not talk. Listen. Sorry. LISTEN!

The Vine show’s judgemental man at large is Tim Johns who under his @timoncheese handle tweets: “Here is how I spent my morning: using a megaphone to heckle members of the public for having their heads buried in their phones.”

To which my response is: ever been punched?

Johns is wonderfully lacking in self awareness. He says the people with their faces “buried in their phones” are “completely oblivious to the fact I’m walking around with a big microphone”. Tim, mate, they’re not. They’ve seen you. It’s not the 1950s or Wrexham, when and where you’d cause quite a stir. To wit, the first pedestrian (only three are recorded – and one of them’s a Cabbie) he gets to speak with is an Australian woman. There will be emails home.

Johns is a middle-aged man in central London looking to annoy people minding their own business. He’s more in common with a chugger than a happening. He also has a megaphone slung from his neck “to keep them safe” lest they step out into the road and be killed, or not pay him a blind bit of notice. Give it up Instagram and Snapchat – real narcissists have old media credentials. “Life is more important than Facebook,” Johns chides one stranger. But Facebook might be more important than the BBC.

 

Posted: 6th, September 2018 | In: News, Technology, TV & Radio | Comment


China and the EU check your toilet for signs of illegal drug use

To China, where a wonk is hiding in your toilet bowl checking your poo and wee for signs of banned substances. Well, soon. for now the burgers have gotten only so far as checking sewerage for levels of narcotics. They want to see if anti-drugs campaigns are working. Chinese dictator / king / president for life Xi Jinping thinks human waste surveillance programs are just dandy:

Zhang Lei, an environmental policy researcher at Renmin University in Beijing and a collaborator with Li, notes that WBE studies are a more objective way of measuring whether government initiatives to reduce drug use in the community are working. She says that solely relying on traditional methods of monitoring changes in drug use, such as the number of arrests of users or the number of drugs being seized by police, can be misleading because they are indirect measures. “WBE offers an unequivocal measure of the effectiveness of efforts,” says Zhang.

Don’t most drugs users just go in a bush or their trousers?

Li and his team put this to the test when they measured two popular synthetic drugs, methamphetamine and ketamine, in waste water across China two years after local and national agencies launched campaigns to crack down on drug use and manufacturing in 2013. Zhang’s team found that following these initiatives, methamphetamine use dropped by 42% and ketamine use decreased by 67%. Li thinks the drop in drug use is a result of police campaigns.

That’s a huge impact. Can it be that drugs enforcement initiatives in China re so fantastically effective? Or can it be that the people who measure the poo are talking crap?

This year the EU drugs agency EMCDDA checked the sewers in 56 cities in 19 European countries. It turns out that Barcelona is the sewer cocaine capital of Europe, just ahed of Zurich and Antwerp. Amsterdam is number one for MDMA. Germany leads the amphetamine league table. The EMCDDA admits its tests “cannot provide information on prevalence and frequency of use, main classes of users, and purity of the drugs”.

Just wait til they link it to your DNA.

Spotter: Nature.com

Posted: 20th, July 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


European Union fines Google €4.3 billion over Android

It sounds a bit odd that someone has to pay a fine to the European Union for giving something away but such are the twists and turns of antitrust law. The EU has fined Google €4.3 billion (£3.8 billion) over Android, the operating system that they simply give away to anyone who asks for it.

Ah, well, not quite, it comes with some conditions, even if payment is not required, and it’s those conditions which matter:

The European Commission fined Google €4.3 billion ($5 billion) on Wednesday for antitrust violations related to Android, its popular mobile operating system.

The penalty represents the largest ever antitrust fine levied by Europe’s competition authorities against a single company, and marks a significant step by Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, in her ongoing stand-off with the U.S. search giant.

There’s a significant problem here concerning the very definition of what is bad behaviour concerning antitrust law. Being a monopoly and then rooking everyone is indeed bad behaviour about which we’d like government to do something. But just being dominant may or may not cut it. It’s this distinction which is at the heart of why the EU’s decisions are different from those of the US.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google has used its Android mobile phone operating system “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, preventing rivals from innovating and competing “and this is illegal under EU antitrust rules”.

The following isn’t exactly accurate but it’s close enough. The US system says that consumers must actually be harmed before there’s a monopoly or antitrust issue that must be addressed. Near all economists agree on that point, that if harm is being done then do something. The EU position is rather more, well, if people are working themselves into a position where they could do harm if they decided to, then we must do something. The actual harm doesn’t come into it. Not that many economists agree with this formulation.

That’s why we’ve got activity which is entirely legal under US law being fined here in the EU. My own view is that the US is right here.

There is one little delight though:

Vestager said Google has become dominant across Europe for internet search, licensable smartphone operating systems and for the Google Play app store. “With market dominance comes responsibility,” she explained.

It’s that Google Play part that amuses. Google has some 90% of the market for places which people can download Android apps from. Hmm, OK.

Apple has 100% of the market for places people can download iOS apps from. If I were Apple I’d be a little worried right now.

Posted: 18th, July 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Being dead breaches Paypal’s contract terms

It would appear that all of us with a Paypal account should live forever. Presumably Elon Musk’s old firm has some idea as to how this should or even could be achieved. For their contract seems to indicate that the popping of clogs is a breach of their terms.

A widower told last night of his shock after receiving a letter from online banking company, PayPal, threatening his dead wife with debt collection and legal action.

Howard Durdle was contacted by the ‘insensitive’ company, which claimed the death of Mr Durdle’s wife, Lindsay, constituted a ‘breach’ of their rules.

Well, yes and no actually:

The death of the 37-year-old British woman, Lindsay Durdle, who passed away from breast cancer, apparently violated PayPal’s account holder policies. After being notified by her surviving husband, Howard, of her tragic end on May 31, the American company demanded, in a quite peculiar way, repayment of about £3,200 that she owed.

“You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased,” PayPal scolded, in a letter addressed to Mrs Durdle, after her husband provided copies of her death certificate, her will and his ID.

It’s badly worded, that’s true.

But here’s the full situation. She had borrowed money from Paypal Credit – OK, that’s what it’s for. There are certain repayment terms on such loans – that’s normal enough, when are you going to repay? Death does make following such terms a little difficult. But the debt’s still owed of course. It’s part and parcel of her estate in fact. What she owns is bundled up, what she owes – if secured of course – is also bundled up, one is used to pay the other and then what’s left over is distributed according to her will. This will be true of any other debts she has as well. The whole process is called probate.

So, yes, badly worded, possibly even a source of amusement for us out here, but nothing terribly odd about it at all. Being dead means the last chance they’ve got of getting the loan repaid is her estate. Thus the letter demanding immediate – for which read, the executor of the will out of that estate – repayment.

After all, a little delay here’s not going to harm her credit rating all that much, is it?

Posted: 14th, July 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Technology | Comment


Britain’s 35th place in international broadband speeds – simply appalling

It appears that the UK is 35th in a listing of countries by the average speed of the broadband enjoyed there. This is appalling, a condemnation of all that is holy, a product of Tory Austerity and—-actually, it’s meaningless. Entirely unimportant, except for the reason that Britain has slow broadband, which is that we’re a rich nation already. The places doing better than us are, with a few exceptions, largely poor places. Which is why they’ve thrown a large amount of money at this new technology. They didn’t already have the one that came before that is:

The UK has slipped to 35th place in an annual league table of global broadband speeds, putting it in the bottom third of EU countries and below the likes of Madagascar and Bulgaria.

An analysis of more than 160m broadband speed tests conducted across 200 countries revealed Singapore was once again the world’s fastest country, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Norway, while Yemen came last.

The Scandis are different, that’s obvious enough in many different ways. The rest of the list who are faster, well, there’s a good historical reason for it:

Analysis of 163 million broadband speed tests across 200 countries indicates Singapore ranks as the world’s fastest country, with Yemen the slowest.

Well, yes, Yemen’s in the middle of a bloody civil war and the place has never, ever, risen above medieval poverty. Singapore, well, that’s an island city state. Damn near everyone lives in tower blocks. As you can imagine, it’s a lot easier to wire up the one city than it is to run fibre to every village and hamlet in the country.

When it comes to internet provision, the situation varies both by country and region. Generally speaking though, you can apply the rule that the larger and less developed the nation is, the slower the internet access tends to be.

The economy of Singapore, for example, relies heavily on digital infrastructure, while the country itself occupies a relatively small space. There is economic necessity, coupled with the relative ease of delivering high-speed connections across a small area.

That’s from the report itself and yes, well, quite.

Britain has slipped four places in the world broadband speed league, leaving its network lagging well behind the likes of Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania.

There is that other technical issue though. When the internet arrived we in Britain already had a copper telephone network which reached damn near every house in the country. Something like ASDL – which runs internet over such copper cables – was and is a fine technical solution for us therefore. We’ve got near everything already, we just have to stick the right equipment in the telephone exchanges. Countries that were very much poorer when that internet arrived – and yes, this very definitely includes all those ex-Warsaw Pact and socialist countries – didn’t have that basic and effective telephone network to start with. They couldn’t piggy back off that extant system, they had to go build the whole thing from scratch. At which point fibre to every home is a sensible idea.

That is, the reason that UK broadband is comparatively slow is because we were already a rich country, already had that telephone network. This isn’t unusual by the way. The British ATM network is, in its capacity to do things other than just spit out money, really pretty shite. That’s because we’ve had ATMS since the mid-1960s. Poorer places didn’t start to install them until the 1990s which is why they’ve installed a more advanced form of the technology.

Posted: 12th, July 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Hey Remainers: The EU wants to kill the Internet with Article 13

The European Union is coming for the Internet. On June 20, the EU’s legislative committee will decide if Article 13 and Article 11 should form part of the EU’s Copyright directive. Article 11 says you can only link to a story if you’ve paid the site your liking to. Paying for a link is nonsense. What company or political party will permit a link from a critic?

Article 13 says things will be marked as a copyright violation if the bots say it is. Claim the work as yours first and it will be. Make the clim of copyright theft and the bots will back you up long before any human can make the correction. The bots are never wrong.

This proposed legislation is dire. A right to property is sound. A right to information is vital to any functioning democracy. The EU needs to think again.

In an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, lots of big thinkers on tech say Article 13 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

 

article 13

Ouch

 

Wired says: “It’s a direct threat to the established legal notion that individual users, rather than platforms, are responsible for the content they put online.”

Boing Boing says it will empower the big platforms and kill competition and inovation:

These proposals will make starting new internet companies effectively impossible — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and the other US giants will be able to negotiate favourable rates and build out the infrastructure to comply with these proposals, but no one else will. The EU’s regional tech success stories — say Seznam.cz, a successful Czech search competitor to Google — don’t have $60-100,000,000 lying around to build out their filters, and lack the leverage to extract favorable linking licenses from news sites.

The bizarre, byzantine, undemocratic EU will allow big America companies to rule the web.

Kenan Malik has a word:

The EU wants to strengthen the music industry in negotiations with sites such as YouTube. But the proposal would inevitably require an automated system of monitoring that could not distinguish copyright infringement from legal uses such as parody. The plan will require the indiscriminate monitoring of platform users. It might also harm code-hosting platforms – key to open-source software – and scientific repositories, undermining access.

Copyright is a delicate issue, requiring the rights of content creators to be balanced against the demands of free speech and open access. What it doesn’t require is the kind of size 13 boots treatment threatened by the EU.

And Brexit? Copybuzz muses:

“Even if they are not required to implement an online censorship system immediately, new companies will have the threat of mandatory upload filters hanging over them as they grow.

“Why would startups choose to operate under these terms in the EU when they can avoid the problem by setting up a company in jurisdictions with laws better-suited to the digital age? Similarly, why would venture capitalists risk investing in new EU companies, which will be hamstrung by a requirement to filter everything once they grow beyond a certain size?”

Time to leave the EU, right?

Posted: 18th, June 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


1979 computer shop manager predicts the future (video)

The terrific filmmaker David Hoffman made this film in which a computer shop worker predicts the future. Says David: “I was shooting a documentary called ‘The Information Society’ in 1979 and filmed this in Cedar Rapids Iowa. Compushop had just begun selling the Apple II and this guy had a keen sense of what was coming.”

You can see lots more of David’s work on the brilliant Flashbak .

 

Via: flashbak and David’s YouTube Channel.

Posted: 30th, May 2018 | In: News, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Stephen Hawking’s time travel proof – none turned up to his funeral

Time travellers are invited to come to Stephen Hawking’s memorial service in June. We expect – as he himself would have expected – none of them to turn up. There being rather an in-joke going on here.

Hawking’s work was rather famously about black holes, wormholes an other bits and pieces of weird physics mixed with astronomy. And it’s those weird bits which some think hold the secret to time travel if that is indeed possible at all. We’re really pretty certain that there isn’t – and isn’t going to be – some little box that allows us to go forward to next Tuesday nor to go back. All those sci-fi stories about being able to get the racing results and make a fortune aren’t going to come true.

But Hawking’s work was all about this sort of thing. And some of his theoretical results said that it might be possible using these weird bits of astrophysics. Or not, as the case may be. So, thus the joke about the memorial service:

A thousand people have been invited to attend a June memorial service for theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, whose ashes will forever be interred next to Sir Isaac Newton’s in the halls of the 11th century Westminster Abbey church.

And travelers from the future, it seems, are permitted to attend.

The joke here being that Hawking had already tested the idea a few years back:

I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible. I gave a party for time-travellers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.

No, really, he did.

And that’s a rather good proof of time travel too. Imagine that it does exist. So, where the hell are they all? That there aren’t any is rather evidence that it’s not possible, isn’t it?

Posted: 13th, May 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Arsenal and Atletico Madrid fight in an ‘Orphanage’: Google Translate does the Europa League

When Arsenal contrived to toss away a fantastic opportunity to put Atletico Madrid to the sword in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, we went to see what Spanish newspapers made of the 1-1 draw. When fans are feeling blue at their team’s shortcomings – and how did Arsenal playing at home, a goal and an extra man to the good following a 10th minute red card in their favour finish the game 1-1? Answer: comical defending – it’s a fun idea to read the match report via Google Translate.

Spanish newspaper El Pais tells us of a fight in an orphanage and much more besides:

In ten minutes he had seen how Arsenal was going over him and the arbitration decisions that put the game uphill were unleashed. The bad deliveries generated an initial decomposition that caused the first bombing of the Arsenal and also the first yellow to Vrsaljko for tripping Wilshere. With this card the French referee Clèment Turpin set the bar very low. Soon, Oblak put a prodigious hand to deflect a header from Lacazatte, who had already hovered the goal after a center past Welbeck. In the middle of the game cascade produced by Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere, Vrasljko arrived late to a dispute with Lacazette and stepped on the French striker. The referee showed the second yellow to the Croatian side and Simeone was demonized. He began to protest with fuss and vociferate. Perhaps he is accustomed to these protests in Spain, but Turpin did not allow them. Atlético stayed with a player less and orphaned coach.

From that orphanage so early in the morning, he had no choice but to be more of Simeone than ever…

Turned into a split pediment, Arsenal fell into the routine and prompted the Atlético take air to play something. Griezmann had a shy shot from the edge before having the clearest chance of the first half. It originated Thomas, who understood that the context of the shock was for heroic adventures…

The start of the second act revived the local offensive thunders from innumerable centers on the sides. He also seemed to adjust better Wenger set to prevent the Athletic could progress and generate kickbacks. Center to center, the harassment and demolition paid off…

It was the Montenegrin center who put a long ball to Griezmann to persist with Koscielny. He tried to control the ball, but was met by the insistence of Griezmann, who slipped the ball and stood before Ospina. The Colombian goal took the first shot, but the rejection no longer forgave the Frenchman…

They still had another drink in a header from Ramsey, but Oblak with another stretched museum certified the resistance of Atlético to fall.

It’s rivalled by AS, whose reporter goes full tonto:

Arsenal came out to win, without trembling. The Atleti, like a flan, at six minutes already added a stick of Lacazette and the first miracle hand of Oblak. But he was 115 years old at the Emirates and could only do so with a game that matched his history . With suffering, epic and blessed madness . Because there was, a lot. Because very soon Vrsaljko would leave with ten of his own . He saw yellow in the 2 ‘to avoid a counter and in the 9’ he stepped on Lacazette without thinking that he already had a card. The referee, Turpin, did not either. To think that the party had not even reached 10 ‘. Yellow, red and to the tunnel. Soon Simeone would follow .

The referee did not punish with yellow a foul on Lucas and that burned him. I would turn off Turpin’s finger. To the tier. For many minutes the Arsenal would not stop raining . It was Lacazette, storm between the lines, it was that deadly Welbeck headbutt. Al Atleti was only held by a redoubt, the goalkeeper of 13 on his back. Second hand miracle of Oblak…

Adding:

It seemed the sentence but, then, when the clock said 81, Welbeck lost that ball that Giménez sent long to Grizi , for 1-1, and Oblak stopped that last time, Ramsey, to leave to Wenger that smell of defeat in clothes . Because there are games that smell like that, like some nights. It does not matter to tie them, you smell them, the clothes, and there it is. The defeat, although his Arsenal did not lose. The Metropolitan will decide.

Or as the Arsenal website outs it: “We CAN do it.”

Posted: 27th, April 2018 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Technology | Comment


These standing seats are the plane travel of the grim future

Aviointeriors

 

No worries if you didn’t book a seat on your budget airline and don’t fancy the scramble to get one. This is the Skyrider 2.0 saddle seat, positioned by Italy’s Aviointeriors at “the new frontier of low-cost tickets”. The new frontier looks a lot like standing.

On the plus side, travellers sat on something that looks like those plastic mantlepieces you get to ‘rest’ on at bus stops need not worry about deep-vein thrombosis, biting their knees and asking other people to move. The Boston Globe says the Skyrider 2.0 (an upgrade on the Skyrider 0.0 (cross-legged on the floor) and the Skyrider 1.0 (tied by the wrists to the roof)) “makes perfect sense… the design allows a 20 percent increase in passengers per flight. It also weighs 50 percent less than a standard economy seat, lowering the fuel cost per passenger.”

Seats are now just 23 inches away from the row in front. More people can get on the same-sized plane.Smell that? That’s progress – and you stuck in an overstuffed flying tube like a flaying carcass.

Posted: 26th, April 2018 | In: News, Strange But True, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Facebook Must Change Data Access Rules – But Wait, Not For Us, Not For Us!

None of us can fail to have seen all that screaming about how Facebook really must change the way that it handles data. Who gets to see it, how they get to see it, what they can do with it and all that. For the allegation is that it was Facebook data which swung Brexit and elected Donald Trump, wasn’t it? Two things so heinous, so massively against all good thinking, that we must change the world to make sure they don’t ever happen again.

So, Facebook changes what it does with data, who gets to see it and how they see it. At which point screaming again. From those who rather assumed that they would still be able to see it all, it would only be the bad thinking people who would be restricted:

A group of the world’s leading internet academics say Facebook’s decision to tighten access to user data in reaction to will actually hamper genuine research and oversight of the platform.

An open letter, signed by 27 researchers and published on Wednesday, said while the privacy changes might generate positive publicity for Facebook and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, they were “likely to compound the real problem, further diminishing transparency and opportunities for independent oversight”.

On 4 April, Facebook announced it would make changes to protect the privacy of users, including restricting access to application program interfaces used by third parties to access data.

What you’re seeing there is the end stage of Kip Esquire’s Law. Which states in its original form that people arguing for planning always, but always, assume that they’ll be the people doing the planning. This has wider application of course. Those arguing for more data secrecy always, but always, assume that they’ll still have access because they’re the good guys. It’s only those baddies over there who will actually be restricted, right?

That’s not quite how it all works out of course. And thus this end stage – sheer incomprehension at the thought that what they themselves were arguing for, greater privacy protections, might actually apply to themselves. I mean, how could it, they’re the good guys, right?

Snigger.

Posted: 25th, April 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Martin Lewis Is Suing Facebook – Good Luck With That

Martin Lewis we all know as the money saving expert who set up – and made a fortune from – MoneySavingExpert. Which is why various people trying to flog scam cryptocurrencies have been using him to push their wares in Facebook ads. We know of Lewis as being pretty savvy about money so why not try to co-opt his image?

Well, one reason why not is that it will obviously piss him off:

The founder of MoneySavingExpert and well known money saving expert Martin Lewis is to began a lawsuit against Facebook in London’s High Court on Monday.

Lewis said he had taken the decision “to try and stop all the disgusting repeated fake adverts from scammers it refuses to stop publishing with my picture, name and reputation.”

There’s a problem here of course. One such being that people who saw the ads might well have been mislead into investing into entire and complete duds:

He claims Facebook has published more than 50 fake posts bearing his name in the last year, causing vulnerable people to hand over thousands of pounds to criminals.

Mr Lewis told the Press Association the legal action was the result of months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation and preying on Facebook users with outlandish get-rich-quick scams.

He said people have handed over money in good faith, only to find the advert has nothing to do with Mr Lewis or his company.

That’s a significant problem, of course it is. But there’s another one here as well:

Today (Monday 23 April), I will issue High Court proceedings against Facebook, to try and stop all the disgusting repeated fake adverts from scammers it refuses to stop publishing with my picture, name and reputation. To explain it, below is the official press release announcing the action.

You see, in law, Facebook isn’t the publisher. Therefore a claim of defamation doesn’t work. The actual publisher, the person responsible in law, is the person who wrote the post, or made the ad. Not Facebook itself. The situation here is akin to the telephone company or Royal Mail. Sure, both systems of communication can be used to do illegal things. And the people who do so are guilty of using them to do illegal things. But the systems themselves aren’t guilty. They have a legal status called “common carrier.” They’re responsible for what they do themselves which is illegal but not for what other people use the system to do.

And at least as far as we know the internet giants like Facebook are given this common carrier status.

A suit against those posting or making ads would almost certainly succeed. One against Facebook not so much. And you shouldn’t be buying cryptocurrencies because of Facebook ads anyway, no matter whose face appears in them.

Posted: 23rd, April 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Technology | Comment


Will Flickr go the way of Facebook under SmugMug?

Flickr, the useful and easy-to-use photography app, grew and then began dying on the vine under Yahoo!’s slack ownership. Under dire Verizon control it withered. Now it’s been taken over by family-owned photo sharing service Smugmug from Oath (the clunky Verizon vehicle).

 

flickr smugmug

 

Flickr and its vast archives of images has been great for sites like Flashbak, which features gems from the past. Through it you can contact users directly and see which images are open to free use with the Creative Commons stamp by each photo.

Smugmug CEO Don MacAskill tells USA Today:

“We don’t mine our customers’ photos for information to sell to the highest bidder, or to turn into targeted advertising campaigns. It sounds silly for the CEO not to totally know what he’s going to do, but we haven’t built SmugMug on a master plan either. We try to listen to our customers and when enough of them ask for something that’s important to them or to the community, we go and build it.”

It’s not all that clear, then, what Smugmug plan to do with Flickr. It’s always been about the data with social media companies, so why will SmugMug be any different? Ads revenues, protectionism and greed power the American-run Internet.

The only announcement sent to users tells them:

We think you are going to love Flickr under SmugMug ownership, but you can choose to not have your Flickr account and data transferred to SmugMug until May 25, 2018. If you want to keep your Flickr account and data from being transferred, you must go to your Flickr account to download the photos and videos you want to keep, then delete your account from your Account Settings by May 25, 2018.

Seems fair. But what a big loss to the web it will be people do just remove their images. Is there nowhere Flickr users can store their work for free elsewhere? Is everything we put on the web just a way for a big US company to make a buck?

Spotter: USA Today

 

Posted: 22nd, April 2018 | In: Money, Technology | Comment


Amazon is now the world’s largest investor in research and development

One of the more amusing things that we’re told about the tax dodging by the internet giants is that the government needs all that money in order to be able to invest. We’ve got low productivity rises, this means that wages will rise slowly into the future – and it’s true that if productivity rises are slow then so will wage rises be. Thus the Treasury should get a goodly slice of the moolah so that those wise people in the House of Commons can invest it.

This rather fails with Amazon:

Amazon passed Volkswagen AG in late 2016 to become the world’s biggest corporate R&D spender, and its hold on the No. 1 spot has only grown more secure since.

Amazon doesn’t pay a dividend, the only share repurchases it does are to buy the stock that is then awarded to employees as part of their pay. It also doesn’t make much of a profit. Sure, the number can be large, but as a percentage of anything it has always been tiny. The reason being that any money they do make on one line of business is then sent off to be invested in some other line.

They’re actually doing what people claim they want companies to be doing, sending their profits back into investment so as to create more growth and more jobs with higher wages in the future. So this claim that they should pay more taxes so that government can invest the money is more than a little odd.

Of course, the claim that companies should pay more tax so that government can invest is ridiculous anyway. The company can invest it itself, or it can give it all to shareholders. Who then make the decision to either spend it – raising demand and thus wages- or invest it – raising future growth and future wages. There’s nothing else that can be done with money, you either spend it or invest it, that’s all that’s possible.

The real complaint here is that the politicians can see a pot of money and they’re pissed off that they don’t get to spend it. But then we knew that, right?

Posted: 12th, April 2018 | In: Money, News, Technology | Comment


Toilet hand dryers spray bits of poo all over you and the room

Hand driers might not be all that sanitary. A study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology investigated the bogs at the University of Connecticut. Were hand driers pulling in bits of poo from the air – they spray up when you flush with the lid raised – warming them, then pebble-dashing them about the place?

 

Nichole Ward’s petri dish, 48 hours after she put it briefly in an enclosed hand dryer.

Nichole Ward’s petri dish, 48 hours after she put it briefly in an enclosed Dyson hand dryer. Via

 

As personal bugbear, I can’t understand those Dyson driers, the ones you slip tour hands down into, trying not to touch the sides. “Using a Dyson hand dryer is like setting off a viral bomb in a bathroom,” read a story. Dyson reacted with “Paper’s dirty little secret“, the voice warning: “Did you use a paper towel today? It wasn’t as hygienic as you might think.”

Maybe best to touch nothing and wash your hands at home?

Anyhow, here’s the latest news in hand drying:

PS533 “was almost certainly dispersed throughout bathrooms in the research areas as spores, which would easily survive desiccation in room air, as well as the elevated temperatures in hand dryer air; however, growing or stationary-phase bacteria would not be nearly so hardy as spores,” the authors note. “However, the facile dispersion of one bacterial strain throughout a research facility should probably be a concern to risk assessors and risk managers when dispersion of potentially pathogenic bacteria is considered.”

In a final test, the researchers did a cursory look at some of the other bacteria the dryers were blowing around. They found that with or without a HEPA filter, the blowers stirred up potential pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus.

The findings should be a wake-up call to managers of research and clinical settings. The authors note that Clostridium difficile—a devastating and intractable diarrheal plague—also forms spores, and researchers have found that a flushing toilet can easily launch it into the air.

“This suggests another means of C. difficile transmission and one that may not be interrupted by either hand washing or traditional surface decontamination methods,” the authors conclude. “The role of this potential mode of C. difficile transmission is worthy of future study.”

An independent study by the Mayo Clinic in 2000 found no difference in hygiene between dryers and paper towels.

To recap: dry your hands on your trousers.

More: Deposition of Bacteria and Bacterial Spores by Bathroom Hot-Air Hand Dryers.

 

Posted: 11th, April 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Facebook data harveting is no worse than the Guardian’s

Anyone who has ever written an email to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should check their inbox. A report on  Techcrunch claims Zuckenburg’s messages have vanished. Their own replies and missives were intact – but all of his words had gone. Erased down the memory hole?

Did it happen? It seems so. Reports says Facebook has been secretly deleting Zuckenberg’s personal messages since 2014, at around the time Sony Pictures was hacked.

So will Facebook extend the same courtesy to you? Don’t bet on it. Apparently, when Facebook claimed any private videos uploaded by users would vanish on the users’ request, instead Facebook “permanently retained these videos”. Who owns your photos and videos?

Is it all matter of, if you think Big Tech is taking you for  fool, it’s taking you for  fool? Facebook is a bit of fun, a distraction from the stress and joys of real like.  You can tun it off of ignore it. Many are.

Techcrunch reports:

Facebook now says that it plans to launch an “unsend” feature for Facebook messages to all users in the next several months, and won’t let Mark Zuckerberg use that feature any more until it launches for everyone. One option Facebook is considering for the Unsend feature is an expiration timer users could set. But it’s alarming that Facebook didn’t disclose the retractions or plans for a Unsend button until forced, and scrambling to give everyone the feature seems like an effort to quiet users’ anger over the situation

Facebook is mired. But let’s not be hypocritical.

Around its story “‘Utterly horrifying’: ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting as routine”, the Guardian is operating not one but three trackers, including Doubleclick (it gathers data for Google ads to target you with stuff), Scorecard Research Beacon. What it does you can read about on the Guardian:

…it has “approximately two million worldwide consumers under continuous measurement”…

the cookie may be used to observe certain types of browsing behaviours, which are then combined with other browser data to give a picture of what people are likely to do when they surf the web. The data obtained through ScorecardResearch cookies is kept for up to 90 days. When it is aggregated to observe trends, it may be used for analytical purposes indefinitely.

And – get this – the Guardian story also uses Facebook Custom Audience, which once all the user data has been harvested and stored can:

  1. Create an ad using the ads create tool. You can set it to show in News Feed or the right-hand column and on any device.
  2. Choose your Custom Audience and select targeting options like location, age, gender and interests
  3. Set a budget and place your order. Your ad will be served to the audience you’ve chosen to target.

Do all Guardian readers know?

Spotter: Techcrunch

Posted: 8th, April 2018 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Lying Mercedes mechanics captured robbing customer on dashcam

Do we trust mechanics? No, of course we don’t. When Daniel Sheikhan wnt to collect his Mercedes after a routine service, he marvelled at the invoice: $700 for ‘transmission work’. Sensibly, Sheikhan had left the Dashcam running. the video revealed that the mechanics had carried out no work on his car. But they had: put it on the ramp for 11 minutes, admitted to not having bothered reading the work order, driving it to buy ice-cream – a jaunt that involved one specialist hitting the curb cracking a rim.

Says Daniel on his YouTube video:

S63 AMG Transmission Service – Customer Dashcam Video Paid Over $700 for transmission service and it wasn’t even done! Car was on the Hoist for 11 minutes! And charges for Over 90 minutes labour!! MercedesBenz Service Scam!! They don’t do what they charge you for!

 

A BMW garage in the UK did pretty much the same to me, but this company had the audacity to produce their own video of “urgent” work carried out – work that involved a mechanic holding up a worn brake disc to the camera to prove all four were so bad they needed replacing immediately and without my permission. The estimate for the job they gave me: £340. The bill they hit me with: £1200. I refused to pay. Then one mechanic told me on the QT a former mechanic, spurned on by seeing so many dissatisfied customers being charged over the odds, had left the place to set up his own company. So next time I went there. And he’s great. Lets hope honesty and professionalism defeats the greedy big garage with the big branding.

Posted: 8th, April 2018 | In: News, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Craigslist closes personal ads as internet restrictions bite

You can no longer browse the personals section of Craigslist in the US. The owners of the online classified ads site have closed personal listings in reaction to Congress’s passage of a law that makes websites accountable for users who “misuse” personal ads. A click on the “casual encounters”, “strictly platonic” or any other romance-seeking connection tabs coughs up this message from San Francisco-based Craigslist:

US Congress just passed HR 1865, “FOSTA”, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully. Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.

To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!

Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) aims to curb online sex trafficking.

Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the bill, stating last month:

“Facing the threat of extreme criminal and civil penalties, web platforms large and small would have little choice but to silence legitimate voices. Platforms would have to take extreme measures to remove a wide range of postings, especially those related to sex.”

The fear is that only the the most moneyed platforms will survive. Forced to err on the side of caution and view users as suspects, platform owners will shut down accounts.

You can still use the personal ads on the UK site. But the impact of the new riling is spreading. Reddit has switched off a raft of its community pages. On Reddit’s r/announcements we learn:

As of today, users may not use Reddit to solicit or facilitate any transaction or gift involving certain goods and services, including:

  • Firearms, ammunition, or explosives;
  • Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, or any controlled substances (except advertisements placed in accordance with our advertising policy);
  • Paid services involving physical sexual contact;
  • Stolen goods;
  • Personal information;
  • Falsified official documents or currency

Gizmodo notes:

In the comments of the announcement, it was further clarified that relatively benign activities like beer trades and e-cigarette giveaways are also likely to fall under the purview of this rule, which encompasses not just purchases but transactions of any sort.

So much for freedom.

 

Posted: 23rd, March 2018 | In: News, Technology, The Consumer | Comment


Robot wars: driverless Uber kills pedestrian

Uber car arizona

 

To Arizona, where a pedestrian has become the world’s first person killed by an autonomous vehicle. A human was behind the wheel of the Uber cab but the vehicle was self-driving when it hit the walker, reports KNXV. Early news is that the victim was walking outside of the crosswalk. There were no passengers in the Uber. The make a of car? A super-safe Volvo.

 

 

Can it be right that experimental technology is operating heavy vehicles that can travel at speed on public roads? And like all accidents, doesn’t this one contains a deep vein of human error?

Would you be happy to ride in an automated car?

Be quick. Here come the robots.

Posted: 20th, March 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Nordstrom denies liking ‘Dick’ DS tweet

Now that every brand is also a publisher, we can cock a glance at the twitter account of Nordstrom. Who they? Well, according to the company’s website, they are visionaries with “an incredible eye for what’s next in fashion”, possessed of a “passionate drive to exceed expectations”. They’ve been in business for around 100 years. And they’ve now confirmed that they did NOT “like” a tweet that said the “DS” in the computer game system “Nintendo DS” stood for “Dick Suck.”

 

Nordstrom denies liking 'Dick' DS tweet

 

“The DS in Nintendo DS stands for Dick Suck,” said Nick Wiger. “The idea was, playing it was as fun as gettin your dick sucked. 3DS, as fun as 3 dick sucks.”

That was followed by someone operating under the name ‘KatieMetzi’, who offered: “Um, this appeared in my feed because @Nordstrom liked it?”

“Sorry for the confusion, Katie,” Nordstrom fired back. “We can confirm we have not liked this tweet.”

 

 

These are heady times for big brands on twitter, where reputations can can trashed in a trice. Why do they bother?

Posted: 19th, March 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Super Seducer: the Playstation on Stream game where you grope women

 

How sad are you around women? If you aspire to James Bond levels of sadness – all that precise drinks ordering, flash cars and innuendo – then Super Seducer is the game for you.

With Super Seducer, gamers “learn state-of-the-art seduction secrets from the master himself, Richard La Ruina, in this incredibly valuable live action seduction simulator.”

La Ruina is the kind of character you first wonder if someone made up and second why anyone would  bother. With his tutelage you can say such things as, “If you’re not good at cooking you better be real good at sucking dick then” and “‘I like big boobs,’ and try and touch her boobs.”

A shadow of the one salient point La Ruina makes is in his line: “In the game that’s cool, in real life it’s totally illegal.” Quite. Fantasy is not reality. In our pornified world, it might well  be the motto.

Spotter: BB

Posted: 4th, March 2018 | In: News, Technology, The Consumer | Comment