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.
Are you scared and unarmed by mass communication? Jonathan Safran Foer is worried by his “always on” digital environment. He says “technology is diminishing us”. Foer says inattentiveness is morally wrong. ‘Simone Weil wrote that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’,” says Foer. “By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.”
As with all adult fears it’s not long before children are mentioned: “Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention – even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less.”
Paying attention in the modern age is so very hard, argues Foer. Our attentiveness is linked to the value we put on things. Our phones, the argument goes, have reduced human interaction to the point of meaningless. The technology has determined us.
He laments: ‘Each step “forward” has made it easier – just a little – to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”
But isn’t technology used to seek attention? Look at how many tweets are narcissistic, directed to show off the writer’s virtue on the back of whatever outrage can be found in the dust. The message is not about you; it’s about me.
We’ve been here before, of course.
Was Conrad Gessner right to warn about the “confusing and harmful” presence of too much information? He wrote that about the printing press in 1565.
A 1883 article in a New York medical journal said reading and schooling would “exhaust the children’s brains and nervous systems with complex and multiple studies, and ruin their bodies by protracted imprisonment”. Is education bad?
Before both of them Socrates bewailed writing: “This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”
Why can’t those pesky kids just be happy with learning from their elders?
Have you found yourself checking email at dinner, or skipping from book to screen, unable to focus? The closer the world gets to our fingertips, the more we stand to lose
Isn’t the real worry that education has been diminished to such an extent that we put stock in bite-sized data hits and exclaiming what we are not? If people don’t read weighty texts it’s not because of their tactile and reassuringly expensive gadgets – “…the phones in our pockets nowadays are always built in dialogue with marketers who have carefully noted how colour and curve, brightness and texture, heft and size make us feel,” he writes. It’s because they put less stock in reading a good book.
“I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts,” he writes in words seemingly taken from a Victorian melodrama.
In 2005, CNN warned us that email was hurting the IQ “more than pot”. The July/August 2008 edition of The Atlantic asked: “Is Google making is Stoopid?”
The argument is always the same: humans are victims of technology.
Maybe it’s not about the internet, books, radios, TV, comic books, smart phones or whatever new technology the older generation sees as a threat. Maybe it’s just about education and the erosion of once weighty cultural authority that promised a path to the awe of understanding? Or maybe it’s just that the older we get the more resistant we are to new things that when distilled all rehash a timeless and basic human need: to communicate?
Drones can hack your lightbulbs. It’s true. It sounds mad to say it, granted. But it’s true. PC World reports on a cyber attack on your so-called smart bulbs:
Researchers were able to take control of some Philips Hue lights using a drone. Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code.
The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away.
If they can blink for help, presumably they can also be turned off and on in, say, an attack by an enemy? The war-time command to “Put that light out” would be null and void if the enemy was controlling the things.
“There is no other method of reprogramming these [infected] devices without full disassemble (which is not feasible). Any old stock would also need to be recalled, as any devices with vulnerable firmware can be infected as soon as power is applied,” according to the researchers.
Apparently, the Israeli and Canadian researchers have informed Philips of the design flaw and it’s been “patched”.
Isn’t technology marvellous.
If you use Apple computers you are an “Apple fan”, says the Daily Mail. You’re also a mug because the Apple stuff you buy in the UK is pricier than the same stuff you can buy in the US, the paper notes.
The Mail thunders: “That’s not how you convert from dollars to pounds, Apple! British fans outraged as new range of Mac laptops costs far more here than in America.”
Fans, of course, never mind paying a surcharge to support their touring idols. But Alexander Robertson has a spotted the outrage and is keen to report on it.
Apple fans in the UK are once again being hit in the pocket after the tech giant announced prices for its new laptop. The company’s latest range of notebooks were announced on Thursday, with the cheapest option coming in at £1,449 in Britain and $1,499 in the US.
That’s the kind of exchange rate only Brexit and the bureau de change on Times Square can recreate.
The pricing means customers in the UK will pay £218 more than their American counterparts after converting the two currencies.
What a rip off! The Mail sense the “fury”. And then readers get this:
The majority of American buyers will pay slightly closer to the UK price due to many states putting a sales tax on top of the price. In New York for example, where the sales tax is 8.875 per cent, customers would only be saving £50 compared to their British counterparts.
As Tim Worstall says, “US prices are quoted exclusive of sales tax, UK prices are quoted inclusive of VAT.”
Robertson fails to mention that. Apple does. Take this quote for one of its products:
2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
8GB 1866MHz memory
256GB PCIe-based SSD1
Intel Iris Graphics 540
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Includes VAT of approx. £242.00.*
You can claim the 20% VAT back if you are VAT registered. So, yeah, the Apple stuff might be cheaper over here than it is in the USA!
How big is space? The 2MASS Redshift Survey is trying to find out. After 10 years toil,we can see the universe rendered as a 3D map. It features – get this- 43,000 galaxies within 380 million light-years from Earth.
It is awe-inspiring.
When Ashley was blind, her nearest and dearest described colours to her like this:
Yellow. I didn’t touch anything for this, they just told me that whenever you laugh so hard you can’t stop, that that happiness is what yellow looks like.
Green. I held soft leaves and wet grass. They told me green felt like life. To this day it is still very much my favorite color.
Like millions of you, I’m not buying the New iPhone 7 because: a) they told me the iPhone 6s was the greatest phone ever and could not be beaten, and I beliveed them – still do!; b) the new cameras are so clear they force you see your own life as it really is; c) something about tax and stuff.
In the Guardian, you can read one man’s reasons for opting out:
….because they had pulled the Double Irish, the European commission has ruled, Apple deprived the EU of $14.5bn over the last 10 years. The EU ordered Apple to pay the taxes with interest at the end of August, a decision whose logic the company refutes.
No. The EU does not set tax rates.
This is hardly surprising: Apple is a massive multinational, and behaves like one despite its sanitized image. It has a long track record of looking the other way on suppliers’ human rights abuses, documented by the New York Times and other outlets. And it pays a tax rate lower than that of 99.99% of the human beings reading this story right now – and they clearly work harder at that profit margin and squeezing their supply chain now than they do on their actual technology. And in the last few years it is beginning to show.
d) They’re expensive.
On July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 blasted into space. In this video the blast off is stretched from 30 seconds of action to over eight minutes of viewing time.
“The Saturn V vehicle produced a holocaust of flames,” says NASA.
Lock up your sons and daughters – the sex bots are coming. The Mail warns:
Teenagers may lose their virginity to sex robots in the future, a leading expert predicted yesterday. Professor Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics at Sheffield University, warned that android sex dolls may have damaging consequences for society.
He said that just as the rise of internet porn took the Government by surprise, a similarly seismic robot revolution is on the way – with far-reaching consequences.
Seismic stuff. did the earth move for you?
“It’s not a problem having sex with a machine. But what if it’s your first time, your first relationship? What do you think of the opposite sex then? What do you think a man or a woman is?… It will get in the way of real life, stopping people forming relationships with normal people.”
How do you fend off carjackers? On YouTube, we find an answer:
When this foot switch is pressed, two things happen. One, a 14-thousand volt spark would appear here in this nozzle, and then you have these four jets here shooting out gas. Liquid gas from the gas bottle in the boot. Liquid gas, as soon as it exits over the spark here, will ignite and a ball of flame will shoot out of both side of the vehicle. Incapacitating the hijackers immediately.”
Amazingly perhaps, the system’s legal in South Africa – provided the driver is acting in self defence as depicted in this mock-up.
Do you trust machines? Would you buy a driverless car? To Tobermory, Ontario, Canada, where a 23-year-old woman who followed her car’s SatNav instructions ended up in a harbour.
Ontario Provincial Police say the driver “took a wrong turn into Little Tub Harbour… weather conditions and the driver being new to the area, a fully submerged vehicle was the result,” police said. The woman escaped by sliding from the car’s window and swimming 30 metres to the shore in 4°C water.
YouTuber **Sally71** has created the “DON’T TOUCH!!! BOX – a variant of “The Most Useless Box Machine”.
This is a new chart of cosmic exploration from Pop Chart Lab. It “traces the trajectories of every orbiter, lander, rover, flyby, and impactor to ever slip the surly bonds of Earth’s orbit and successfully complete its mission — a truly astronomical array of over 100 exploratory instruments in all.”
Big news in the Daily Mail that Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is “gunning down rivals” by playing Call of Duty on his PlayStation.
Those rivals had best watch out. The Daily Mail told us Call of Duty turns you into a murderer – maybe:
He shoots! He shoot! He keeps on shooting until the game is over and his wife call him down for dinner…
Wind turbines reduce the amount of CO2 being released to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. Well, that’s the idea. And then you see this picture from Sweden.
The rotor blades of a wind turbine to ice up bringing the blades to a complete stop. To fix the “problem” a helicopter is employed (burning aviation fuel) to spray hot water (which is heated in the frigid temperatures using a truck equipped with a 260 kW oil burner) on the blades of the turbine to de-ice them.
The aviation fuel, the diesel for the truck, and the oil burned to heat the water, could produce more electricity (at the right time to meet demand) than the unfrozen wind turbine could ever produce. (Before it freezes up again).
Cars have gotten a lot safer. In this 2009 video by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevy Malibu collide head-on. The new car is far heavier, so maybe there’s bit of give in that the Malibu would have been more likely to hit a lighter car. But that Chevy airbag fires out fast:
We glimpse into the future with paleoanthropologist Dr. Matthew Skinner of the University of Kent. He says that as the world’s temperature alters, we will see humanity adopt. You will grow webbed feet and fingers, a third eyelid and lots of hair.
People of the Forest of Dean, Norfolk and Westminster, as you are.
In the race to get their children ahead, those Other Parents will stop at nothing. They will buy Baby Einstein books, move to the best school catchment zones and transport their loved ones in get-out-of-my-way-4x4s, the bumpers of which are the ideal height by which to brain other people’s less lofty brood. Now they can buy “Babypod“.
Slither a Babypod speaker up a vaginal tract and blast the foetus with sweet music. If you’re having twins, use two speakers, so fostering the kids’ individuality.
Oh, and, mum and dad can listen in, too, via split headphones which hang out of the vagina. What can possibly go wrong?
What more can any pregnant woman want than having more stuff crammed up her private Clown Car?
And take care when cutting the umbilical cord, guys. Those phones are pricey!
Spotter: The Guardian
The car’s the star in the tabloids. Manchester United players love a Bentley.
Daily Mail: “Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal arrives at favourite restaurant in a Bentley”
The car’s value is not stated.
Daily Mail, December 21: “Defender Chris Smalling rolls into Carrington in his sporty Bentley following United’s 2-1 defeat by Norwich on Saturday”
Not before the defeat. After it.
Daily Mirror, January 3: “Memphis Depay spotted in £250,000 Rolls Royce – hours after being slammed by Ruud Gullit”
Make the link. Can you? The Mirror seems to be suggesting that Depay is so upset at what Gullit said about him he’s downgraded his car. Depay risks being mocked by his Manchester United teammates for looking cheap. Right?
In other team news:
Daily Mail, January 5: “Like many of the most gifted players, Arnautovic is a mixture of raw ability, eccentricity and insecurity. He arrives at Stoke’s training ground from his Cheshire home every day in a personalised Bentley.”
A Bentley has very secure locks.
With SkyDeck, there is a whole new layer of air travel class. SkyDeck, created by the Everett, Washington-based Windspeed Technologies LLC, is, it says here, a “revolutionary new in-flight entertainment product.”
It’s a bubble atop the plane. You can reach it but stair or lift. The creators’ say:
“We have not been approached by the airlines yet, however we have started to receive enquiries from private jet owners who would like to consider having one installed on their aircraft.”
It looks utterly terrifying.
The Daily Express says a company claims they’ll be able to “RESURRECT THE DEAD by 2045”. To which the obvious response is: but will that be too late to save the last Daily Express reader?
Josh Bocanegra says his new company Humai area aiming to bring the dead back to life…. by freezing human brains for extended periods of time using cryonics, a deep freezing technology using very low temperatures, and then putting them into artificial bodies. But Josh claims the company’s ultimate goal is to preserve a human brain BEFORE a person dies.
As you were Daily Express:
The Daily Express: keeping the dead newsworthy.
Avid technophile, program developer, and educator, William Ralph “Bill” Fink, whose master functions were harnessed by Microsoft Corp. as a technical evangelist has sadly passed away at the age of 46.
Mr Fink, from Belleville, Illinois, encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical STOP condition on Wednesday, December 16, 2015.
He is survived in legacy by his wife, Rhonda Michele, nee Gardiner, Fink, his children, Cassidy Gardiner and William John Fink, his parents, William and Nancy, nee Kaiser, Fink, and his brothers, Michael and Matthew (Kelly) Fink.
Diagnostics indicated multiple cascading hardware failures as the root problem. Though his hardware has been decommissioned, Bill’s application has been migrated to the Cloud and has been repurposed to run in a virtual machine on an infinite loop. < END OF LINE >
In this advert professional skydiver Jeff Provenzano show us that so hip are Nvidia Shield tablet computers that anyone owning one can experience the thrill of skydiving with their cat by simply turning one on.
The selfie-stick met its match with Evan Griffin’s dad, who borrowed his lad’s Gopro for trip to Las Vegas. Dad wanders here and there, stick raised, narrating to the folks back home what they’re looking at.
They’re looking at you, dad.