Anorak

Technology | Anorak - Part 2

Technology Category

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.

80 years of New York city side by side in this neat video

The New Yorker has created this neat video of showing how New York City has changed from 1930s until today.

 

 

Spotter: Open Culture, Flashbak,

Posted: 19th, June 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology, The Consumer, TV & Radio | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Schools use loaned laptops to spy on students

Rhode Island schools operating ‘1-1’ programs are spying on students. Under the terms of the program adopted by 22 of the state’s 33 school districts, students each get a laptop supplied by a third party. The issue is that everything students do on those laptops gets seen by the State.

Even if you use the machine at home, the State is watching you.

If you can afford your own laptop, no problem. What you do at school can be monitored but at home you have a right to privacy. But if you’re poorer, a child in a family that can’t afford laptops, you are watched day and night.

Something that was intended to open up young minds and increase freedom and free thought is being used to control and limit. The people behind these schemes have a pretty low opinion of the students they teach, treating them as suspects.

How that webcam, kiddo?

The ACLU adds:

It also discovered that a majority of those districts allow school officials or administrators to remotely access the device — while a student is at home, without their knowledge, and without any suspicion of misconduct. We know from an outrageous Pennsylvania case, in which school administrators were found to have activated webcams to spy on students in their homes.

 

Blake Robbins computers

Blake Robbins: a screenshot of the sleeping student taken by the school district

 

CBS reported on that appalling abuse of trust in Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District. The school had captured over 50,000 screenshots o! students using their computers:

Holly Robbins, Blake’s mother, told CBS News, “I don’t feel this school has the right to put cameras inside the kids’ home, inside their bedrooms and spy on them.”

The Robbins family claims they learned of the breach after the assistant principal showed Blake pictures of himself and confronted him for engaging in “improper behavior in his home.”

Blake said, “She thought I was selling drugs, which is completely false.”

That’s when Holly and her husband, Michael Robbins, filed a federal lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District, claiming officials had “spied” on their son.

School officials admitted they’d captured thousands of webcam photographs and screen shots from student laptops in a misguided effort to locate missing computers.

The school district agreed a $610,000 settlement. Blake received $175,000 in a trust and $25,000 up front. The lawyers got a huge slice of it, naturally.

Spotter: RicCentral,High School Non-Confidential: How School-Loaned Computers May Be Peering Into Your Home.

 

Posted: 19th, June 2017 | In: News, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Artist creates brain-controlled sperm

thought-controlled sperm

 

If you sperm start swimming towards the front door and then onto Massachusetts, this is why? Ani Liu reveals her plan:

Reflecting on the cultural and scientific discourses that shape notions of the female body, and in an expression of female empowerment, I seek to challenge this status quo by engineering a system by which I, a woman, can control something inherently and symbolical male: spermatozoa (sperm). Through the use of a brain-computer interface, I control the movement of sperm along an XY axis with the agency of my thoughts.

While at first glance the idea of controlling sperm might be absurd, it is my hope that it causes the viewer to reflect on the very real absurdities of control happening to the bodies of women. Genital mutilation, forced sterilization, sexual abuse, rape, and contraceptive regulation currently occur as forms of control projected onto female bodies. In creating a subversive counter-narrative to these practices of control, this work presents a hope for reimagining and shifting our notions of gender.

Spotter: MIT

Posted: 16th, June 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The original Twitter homepage linked to Instagram

Update: If you look at the screenshot closely, there’s a familiar name at the top of the “What your friends…” box: Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom (his Twitter user id is 380…meaning that he was one of the first 400 people to sign up for the service).

 

 

In th“What your friends…” box on the first version of Twitter, we see the name of Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. He got in early – one of the first 400 to sign up.

Spotter: Kottke

 

Posted: 16th, June 2017 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Politicians and students agree that looking is a gateway to crime

Politicians all want to censor the web. CapX writes:

It took us many centuries, a lot of effort and much expended blood and gore to get to this place where we are free – at liberty and ruled by the law, not the whims of people nor the rage of the mob. That we have those who would snatch them from us worries me far less than what our rulers will do to us and our liberty in the name of protecting us from those bearded nutters.

Just wait until the next generation of politicians arrive in Westminster from our elite universities. Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings tells us: “The more prestigious universities, those ranked highest in popular league tables, are nearly always the most censorious; the few green-ranking institutions are generally less highly esteemed.”

Joanna Williams adds:

The link between academic success and a fondness for censorship is more than just a mindset. It is precisely because they are the academic achievers that students at elite universities demand freedom from speech…They’ve learned that language constructs reality, and that ‘words that wound’ can inflict ‘spirit murder’ on those who, according to their gender, ethnicity or sexual identity, are assumed to be forever powerless. The students who excel in elite universities today have come to embody the vulnerability they see in others.

They don’t trust us. They moralise about our choices, thoughts and movements. They pick technical arguments about what should be banned and permitted over debating the root cause of the problem that leads people to become Islamist killers. In the minds of these superior prudes and knowing gatekeepers, the mere act of looking becomes a gateway to crime.

Posted: 7th, June 2017 | In: News, Politicians, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


This Russian vending machine sells Instagram likes

As Alexey Kovalev writes: “Russia takes the worst excesses of capitalism to the extreme, so here’s a vending machine in a mall for buying Likes for your Instagram pics.”

How sad is that:

instagram likes russia vending machine

 

Spotter:  @Alexey__Kovalev

Posted: 6th, June 2017 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Dominoes falling show us how changes happen

Something about butterflies and things getting bigger:

 

 

No, me neither. But I like the video

Posted: 5th, June 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


After London Bridge and Manchester: Douglas Adams was right about the internet

After London Bridge, the news is that there will be crackdown on the internet. Freedom of speech must be curtailed. Encryption must be done away with.

Author Douglas Adams go it. In 1999 he wrote:

 

Douglas Adam London terror

 

“I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet’. They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea’, though each of these was new and controversial in their day.”

Agreed.

 

Posted: 4th, June 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


A red ejector button for your car’s lighter

Be like Bond with this red eject button to excite your car’s bland and pretty useless cigarette lighter.

 

eject button cigarette lighter car eject button cigarette lighter car

 

 

Spotter: Pee-wee Herman

Posted: 1st, June 2017 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Liverpool has the friendliest hackers in the world

To the Liverpool One Shopping Centre, England, where hackers have issued a directive: ‘we suggest you improve your security – sincerely –  your friendly neighbourhood hackers – #JFt96’.

 

hackers liverpool

 

Spotter: Reddit

Posted: 30th, May 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


UKIP candidate campaigns for inter-stellar colony ship for ‘the chance to begin anew’

Check out this brilliant flyer from Suffolk UKIP candidate Aidan Powlesland. He calls for a fleet of inter-steller vehicles to mine Saturn’s astroid belt for platinum and water. Why? For “the chance to begin anew”.

 

UKIP flyer funny GE17

UKIP candidate Aidan Powlesland

 

Spotter: Johnny Paige

Posted: 26th, May 2017 | In: Politicians, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Police watchdog investigates Met’s links to Indian hackers

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating an anonymous tip-off that the London Metropolitan Police’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit asked Indian police to hire hackers to break into the private communications of hundreds of British people, including journalists, Greenpeace and Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones.

PCC deputy chairman Sarah Green appeals:

“This will be a complex investigation given the potential involvement of foreign participants.

“We would like to hear from the officer who brought these allegations to light or any other officers or police staff who may be able to provide information of use to the IPCC investigation.”

The Met Police said: “The IPCC made the Metropolitan Police Service aware of anonymous allegations concerning the access of personal data and requested the matter referred to them by the MPS. This has been done.

“The MPS is aware that the IPCC is carrying out an independent investigation.”

Spotter: BBC

Posted: 15th, May 2017 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Computers fines drivers for ‘parking’ in a traffic jam

Computers can be wrong. Yes, we know what the system says but it is wrong. This bit of computer knowing resulted in human beings fined £100 per carload:

Parking cameras went live at the Ashford Retail Park in Kent in April, with signs telling drivers the new maximum stay is three hours.

But motorists got caught in gridlock on Easter Monday, and were trapped in the car park for hours when they struggled to join traffic on adjoining roads.

Says one customer parked in neutral:

Mr Donald continued: “On Monday we received a penalty charge notice from Highview Parking who enforce the three hour time limit on parking at this site.

“They must have had a flood of Penalty Charge Notices from this day.

“What troubles me is that there’s no quality control. It was utter madness. It’s just a money making exercise.

“I find it rather disappointing that these companies apply no common sense or quality control to their issuing of parking fines to innocent motorists who have over stayed due to no fault of their own.”

They apply computer sense.

Spotter: Daily Mail

Posted: 10th, May 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


US tech titans mint millionaires as globalised business model pays off

When the web first boomed, the dream was to become a dotcom millionaire for running you own website. Now you can rich by working for someopne who built a website that went huge. The trick is to work for one that operates on a global scale and is based in the US. In “Tech titans pay $20bn in bonuses” The Times’ Danny Fortsun writes:

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google’s parent Alphabet doled out a combined $20bn (£15.4bn) in share payouts last year, on top of the techies’ salaries, according to an analysis of stock market filings…

The $20bn bonanza equates to $29,850 for each of the quintet’s 670,000 employees. Last year Britain’s bankers and insurance workers took home £13.9bn in bonuses, an average of £13,400 per employee.

Well, quite. As Tim notes: “Global industry pays more in bonuses across the world than the one country sector of a global business.” If you’re tax efficient, the share price will rise leaving more money to dish out amongst friends and employees back at HQ.

What we don’t know is that bonuses the  Big Five’s UK-based workforce took home when compared to their colleagues in the USA, say, or Luxembourg?

Posted: 7th, May 2017 | In: Money, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The horror beneath the $10,000 sex doll’s skin

Over at Realbotix boffins are “dedicated to integrating cutting edge emerging technologies with silicone doll artistry to provide a bridge between technology and humankind on emotional, mental, and physical levels.” They’re making love dolls. “When interacting with these dolls, we want users to ask themselves, ‘What is she thinking?'”

This is the love doll’s head (yours for $10,000):

 

robot sex head doll

 

sex doll teeth

 

She can listen, so don’t mention the terrifying teeth, the terrifying eyes, the terrifying nose or the terrifying colour. Just wonder ‘What is she thinking?’

 

Realbotix V2.0 expression tests #realbotix #realdoll #sexbot #robotlove

A post shared by RealDoll (@abyssrealdoll) on

Via: Realbotix

Posted: 4th, May 2017 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Man adapts car to let him piss whilst driving

One man has turned his car into a mobile toilet. With the power of hosing, need and creativity, he’s created a car you can piss in without soiling the seats.

Behold the Jeep Catheter:

 

driving wee toilet seat

 

If that’s Number 1, is this Number 2?

 

Rolls-Royce toilet 2

 

Spotter: Reddit

Posted: 1st, May 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The French Election is a huge waste of paper

The French election are riding high on the news cycle. The field has narrowed into a straight fight between Front National’s Marine Le Pen and independent Emmanuel Macron. Round 2 will be defined not what the French are for but what they are against. Do you want a samey rosy-fingered dawn (Marcon) or a honey-soaked past dipped in aspic (Le Pen)?

But this post is about the system. In Round 1, French voters were given 11 pieces of paper – 1 for each candidate. In the booth they choose 1 and put it in envelope. The rest are, presumably, thrown away.  More paper is printed than used. There is no electronic voting and very few voting machines.

 

 

Michæl Saunby tweets: “Avoids the need for pencils, which some (kippers) have a phobia of.”

Indeed, at the EU referendum some voters smelled a rat:

@Rox_Tans tweeted: “When you vote take a pen with you! They just tried making me do mine in pencil yeah ok so you can rub it out? Don’t think so bruv.”

Echoing this sentiment, @Kez_777 wrote: “Please make sure you take a BLACK PEN with you to vote as pencil votes can be tampered with (I wouldnt put anything past Cameron) #VoteLeave”

So is the French system better?

 

Posted: 24th, April 2017 | In: Politicians, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


The Internet of things: hacker makes all city’s emergency sirens go off at once

When everything is on the Internet, it might be wise to sleep with one eye open and beneath a tinfoil blanket. People living in Dallas didn’t get much sleep when a hacker triggered the city’s 156 emergency sirens – used to hail sever weather – to wail all at once 60 times from 11.42 pm until 1.17am.

Feel safer?

 

hacking toaster amazon

 

You might want to unplug that toaster. When Andrew McGill linked his toaster to the web, hackers plugged in. In a day, 300 hackers had attempted to control his toaster. “I switched on the server at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday, fully expecting to wait days—or weeks—to see a hack attempt,” says McGill. “Wrong! The first one came at 1:53 p.m.”

If it’s on the web, it can be hacked.

Spotter: TelegraphUSA TodayThe Inevitability of Being Hacked

 

Posted: 9th, April 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Government uses Westminster terror attack to limit hard-fought freedom

The reaction to Khalid Massod’s murderous attack in London was clear: we will not let the heinous actions of one man threaten our hard won freedoms. Theresa May assured us that “Any attempt to defeat those values [liberty, democracy, freedom of speech, the spirit of freedom, the rule of law and human rights] through violence and terror is doomed to failure.”

 

whatsapp terror the sun

 

And then came news that two minutes before he attacked, Masood received an encrypted message via WhatsApp. Would knowing the contents of that message have helped the police stop Masood’s “depraved” and “sick” crime? The police weren’t watching him, so maybe not.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd, like May, her eavesdropping predecessor in the Home Office who introduced the invasive Investigatory Powers Act, is no fan of privacy. Rudd says encryption represents a threat to national security. She wants apps like WattsAp to aid government investigations by letting them in to look around.

And so from not giving into terrorists by refusing to play the terrorists at their own game, the State soon begins to chip away at our liberties.

The Liberal Democrat’s home affairs spokesman, former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police and onetime London mayoral hopeful Brian Paddick says allowing the authorities to view encrypted messages would be “neither a proportionate nor an effective response” to the Westminster attack. “These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society,” he says. “By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would be playing into their hands.”

The Sun uses its editorial to argue that Rudd is right. “Home Secretary Amber Rudd is right to read them [WhatsApp, Apple and Google] the riot act and tell them the terrorists should have no place to hide,” the paper thunders. “Because that’s just what WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – lets them do. By encrypting messages, it stops the police being able to track terror plots.They can’t even investigate in the ­aftermath of a terrorist atrocity.”

But “if you build a back door, it’s there for everybody to access,” says Tony Anscombe in the same paper. “And if you store that data you collect, even in encrypted form, how secure is it? All these data breaches we hear about show our privacy is regularly being breached by hackers, so the action suggested by the Home Secretary would only open us all up to further invasions of privacy.“

In 2012 the murderous Syrian government banned WhatsApp in order “to disrupt the rebel opposition’s cellular privacy”. In a dangerous place, privacy is paramount for many. It’s matter of life and death. “WhatsApp is very popular among Syrians, and particularly Syrian opposition activists,” says Tuma, a Syrian journalist. “Even Free Syrian Army soldiers are using the app.” The Syrian government wants to police communications because it fears the people. The UK government wants to police communications to protect the people. But protecting citizens from criminals soon slips into monitoring us all. A rogue State begins to look like the Free West.

May should wonder how she can champion free expression and free speech through observation and mistrust? With no private lives, no space to look at non-conformist things and express ideas, however mentally negligible and far-fetched, privacy become public spectacle. Afraid of standing out and attracting police attention, we ape each other’s movements, keeping in step with what the authorities deem acceptable and unthreatening.

You can still believe things but you dare not say them aloud. People become isolated, hidden behind a bland facade. Is that what not giving into the terrorists looks like?

Posted: 27th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Reviews, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Carl Sagan was right: a neuroscientist explains connectomes to children and experts

Bobby Kasthuri accepted Wired’s challenge to explain what a connectome is to five individuals. As you know, of course, a connectome is (it says here) ‘a comprehensive diagram of all the neural connections existing in the brain’.

Kasthuri’s mission was that ‘every person here can leave with understanding it at some level’. The people ‘here’ were: a 5-year-old, a 13-year-old, a college student, a neuroscience graduate student and a practising neuroscientist.

“We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology,” said Carl Sagan,“and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.”

Pay attention. Questions later:

 

As E. O. Wilson noted: ‘The heart of the scientific method is the reduction of perceived phenomena to fundamental, testable principles. The elegance, we can fairly say the beauty, of any particular scientific generalization is measured by its simplicity relative to the number of phenomena it can explain.’

The questions keep on coming.

Posted: 5th, March 2017 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Molecule mixture triggers hair growth and cures hearing loss

cochlear hair cells

 

Good news its that technology is on course to cure hearing loss caused by the dying off of cochlear hair cells. C&EN tells us that a healthy ear contains about 15,000 hair cells in the cochlea. As you age, they die:

Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary have discovered a mixture of molecules that can dramatically reverse hair cell loss in the cochleas of mice.

Why is it those elitist mice always get new technology first – what about us humans? And, of course, if you can regrew cochlea hair, look out for lots of ageing rockers and footballers tilting the tops of their heads towards you when you talk.

Posted: 1st, March 2017 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


Find household items lost inside your anus with the Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS)

Ever lose something up your nostrils, vagina, anus or other orifice? Something like a Donny Osmond poster, keepsake, drugs stash, lungfish, hacksaw, shovel, shot glass or eel?

Well, help is at hand. Beat the Boss, aka Xeku’s Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS), will give you a gel-free “hygienic cavity search”. Ostensibly targeted at prisoners smuggling contraband into choky, the BOSS will be a boon to sexual explorers and nudists who spend too long asking, ‘Has anyone seen the keys?”

 

Posted: 28th, February 2017 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


A Chinese clickfarmer at work on her apple iPhones

clickfarmer china iphone

 

If you’re too busy to tweet yourself, you can outsource the task and others to the woman above. She’s a clickfamer installing apps on a screen of Apple iphones. The more installs an app has the higher it ranks on Apple’s marketplace.

For a $11,000 one-off payment – plus  $65,000-a-week for upkeep – you too can ensure your crappy appy hits the Top 10 of free apps. You can hire a cheat / marketeer to game the system on China’s Taobao.

The original photo was tweeted on Weibo with the caption, “Hard-working App Store ranking manipulation employee.”

Apple tries to prevent PC-based iPhone emulation programs (bots) made for this purpose and bans apps that use them, so manual labor is the best way to ensure the closest simulation of actual users.

A search for “app store ranking manipulation” (刷榜 app store) on Taobao, China’s most popular C2C ecommerce site, reveals dozens upon dozens of vendors selling similar services. Their prices are listed as one yuan, but it’s more likely that the real negotiations take place through direct chat.

Can you hire out your iPhone for the day to do this? Asking for a friend.

Spotter: JWZ

Posted: 3rd, January 2017 | In: Online-PR, Technology, The Consumer | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


In age of distraction the SMS weighs heavier than the book

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?

Says Foer:

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?”

 

google making us 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?

 

Posted: 3rd, December 2016 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0