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.
JG Ballard predicts the dawn of social media in Vogue in 1977:
Spotter: Brendan O’Neill
SO. You got the tramp stamp, the Hebrew script, the lyrics and the Chinese symbol. Your tattoos are on trend. Well, they were. The latest thing is the animated tattoo. No need to wait for gravity to turn that proud dragon into a flaccid blue worm:
THE Guardian is ranting and railing about how appallingly BT is rolling out fast broadband around the countryside. There’s a useful economic point to be made about this:
Given that everyone agrees that getting Britain online is a public good, what do those giants at the Department for Culture do? Why, award juicy subsidies to private companies to bribe them to do the work.
ELAIN Sloane, of Wellington Post Office, Shropshire tells the court:
“When the gentleman came to the counter and said he wanted to do a special delivery I did notice the package had damp patches on it and the front of his jacket had damp patches on it too. I just happened to say to the gentleman is it raining outside and he said yes but it seemed strange to me because I could see from where I was sitting it didn’t look like it was raining. I asked him what was inside and he said iPads. I said how much is it worth but he wanted to make a phone call. I asked him for a return address but he couldn’t remember the postcode.
“We had a little look and you could see all ice in there. We were shocked. He had sent it as iPads and I couldn’t believe it was all this water and the box was disintegrating.”
IN reaction to the news that trolls are murdering children on the internet, a reader replies:
It’s definitely time for David Cameron to take a stand. Personally I think his proposals don’t go far enough. The current “Plebernet” must be switched off completely, for good. Let’s face it, with BT in charge of most of it, it doesn’t work properly anyway. We need to go back to solid, reliable dial-up and ASCII only services. There will be legislation against Flash, embedded objects and the IMG tag. This new text only Internet will require every individual to hold a licence, at a cost of £500 per annum, that can only be obtained after three years of University level study. Fixed it for you all.
The only people with broadband should be those in Government.
Inspection Board of the Prime Ministry recently completed on the mysterious deaths of some engineers working for a Turkish defense industry giant, ASELSAN, maintains that the young engineers may have been driven to commit suicide after being exposed to telepathic attacks aimed at destroying them psychologically.
Did telepathic attacks induce depression?
Neuropsychologist, Nevzat Tarhan, is cited in the report talking up the theory that brainwaves could have been transmitted to the men.
ASELSAN operates in the fields of the design, development, production, system integration, and after-sales services of Military Communications Systems, Radar Systems, Electronic Warfare Systems, Electro-Optic Systems, Navigation and Avionic Systems, Weapons Systems, Command Control Communication Computer Intelligence Reconnaissance and Surveillance Systems, Naval Systems, Unmanned Systems, and Traffic and Toll Collection Systems.
The mind reader is Gerwin Schalk, a 39-year-old biomedical scientist and a leading expert on brain-computer interfaces at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center at Albany Medical College. The Austrian-born Schalk, along with a handful of other researchers, is part of a $6.3 million U.S. Army project to establish the basic science required to build a thought helmet—a device that can detect and transmit the unspoken speech of soldiers, allowing them to communicate with one another silently…At Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, researchers have surgically implanted electrodes in the brains of monkeys and trained them to move robotic arms at MIT, hundreds of miles away, just by thinking. At Brown University, scientists are working on a similar implant they hope will allow paralyzed human subjects to control artificial limbs. And workers at Neural Signals Inc., outside Atlanta, have been able to extract vowels from the motor cortex of a paralyzed patient who lost the ability to talk by sinking electrodes into the area of his brain that controls his vocal cords.
Last year, the National Research Council and the Defense Intelligence Agency released a report suggesting that neuroscience might also be useful to “make the enemy obey our commands.”
Straightening abruptly, the slave clamped several electrodes upon his temples and motioned to Seaton and the others, speaking to Dorothy as he did so.
“He wants us to let him put those things on our heads,” she translated. “Shall we let him, Dick?”
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation. “I’ve got a real hunch that he’s our friend, and I’m not sure of Nalboon. He doesn’t act right.”
“I think so, too,” agreed the girl, and Crane added:
“I can’t say that I relish the idea, but since I know that you are a good poker player, Dick, I am willing to follow your hunch. How about you, DuQuesne?”
“Not I,” declared that worthy, emphatically. “Nobody wires me up to anything I can’t understand, and that machine is too deep for me.”
Margaret elected to follow Crane’s example, and, impressed by the need for haste evident in the slave’s bearing, the four walked up to the machine without further talk. The electrodes were clamped into place quickly and the slave pressed a lever. Instantly the four visitors felt that they had a complete understanding of the languages and customs of both Mardonale, the nation in which they now were, and of Kondal, to which nation the slaves belonged, the only two civilized nations upon Osnome. While the look of amazement at this method of receiving instruction was still upon their faces, the slave—or rather, as they now knew him, Dunark, the Kofedix or Crown Prince of the great nation of Kondal—began to disconnect the wires. He cut out the wires leading to the two girls and to Crane, and was reaching for Seaton’s, when there was a blinding flash, a crackling sound, the heavy smoke of burning metal and insulation, and both Dunark and Seaton fell to the floor.
Before Crane could reach them, however, they were upon their feet and the stranger said in his own tongue, now understood by every one but DuQuesne:
“This machine is a mechanical educator, a thing entirely new, in our world at least. Although I have been working on it for a long time, it is still in a very crude form. I did not like to use it in its present state of development, but it was necessary in order to warn you of what Nalboon is going to do to you, and to convince you that the best way of saving your lives would save our lives as well. The machine worked perfectly until something, I don’t know what, went wrong. Instead of stopping, as it should have done, at teaching your party to speak our languages, it short-circuited us two completely, so that every convolution in each of our brains has been imprinted upon the brain of the other. It was the sudden formation of all the new convolutions that rendered us unconscious. I can only apologize for the break-down, and assure you that my intentions were of the best.”
“You needn’t apologize,” returned Seaton. “That was a wonderful performance, and we’re both gainers, anyway, aren’t we? It has taken us all our lives to learn what little we know, and now we each have the benefit of two lifetimes, spent upon different worlds! I must admit, though, that I have a whole lot of knowledge that I don’t know how to use.”
“I am glad you take it that way,” returned the other warmly, “for I am infinitely the better off for the exchange. The knowledge I imparted was nothing, compared to that which I received.
TROLLING is big news. The latest story is that young people using the site Ask.fm are dying. This follows news that women are being subjected to vile abuse on Twitter. But only women to whom the mass media is sympathetic are featured as victims. And that is odd.
The Daily Mail delivers the case for the prosecution in bullet points.
Michele Catalano: The backpack, the pressure cooker, the cops and the evolution of WTF really happened
PROCRASTINATION is usually a bad habit but occasionally it pays off. Like last week, when the American blogger (and professional writer) Michele Catalano had something terrifying happen to her family: six agents from a “joint terrorism task force” came to her house and spent 45 minutes questioning and searching after she did a Google search for “pressure cookers” and her husband searched for “backpacks,” both on the same computer. Catalano said the agents claimed to do a hundred such anti-terror searches per week.
THERE is currently mass outrage at how people are acting on Twitter. How could these gormless oiks be so rude and crude as to scream obscenities at Mary Beard and that bird who won the banknote thing?
And there’s an answer to this, one that’s really not all that flattering about us as a people but true all the same.
You might guess, then, that the current furore over Twitter doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Before Twitter got rid of the ability to watch the public Twitter timeline, I’d often sit and gaze the world’s tweets in real time. It’s no wonder they disabled that function because it didn’t take long before you would see how truly bestial we are as a species. I don’t even mean that small percentage of people who are, for want of a better word, ‘bad’. I mean huge segments of our population who demonstrated how illiteracy and stupidity prevail. I began using Twitter believing it a novel way to confine language, encourage pithy expression. I grew to realise that it’s actually the perfect way of expressing our piggish grunts, our infantile nature, our utter slavery to branding, marketing, and celebrity. Reading Twitter’s public timeline was like being trapped inside the mind of one enormous planet-sized imbecile.
APPLE’S being complete bastards to Chinese workers. Well, so says a new report out today from China Labor Watch: Apple’s still being entirely bastardly towards the workers in China that make so much of their kits. After all that stuff over the suicides at Foxconn a couple of years back, this new report insists that everything is still terrible at the new company, Pegatron, that Apple is using.
The heinous crimes against worker rights include:
For example, at AVY there are 10 showerheads for about 120 workers.
CENSORSHIP disclaimer: To avoid setting off any overzealous Internet morality filters, or painfully jostling the sharp, pointy stick which (I am absolutely convinced) must be wedged up deep within David Cameron’s nether zone, this article will scrupulously avoid using certain words that rhyme with “hex” or “born” (replace the H and B with an S and P, respectively).
The goal is primarily to ensure this can be read by any Britons who might run afoul of the UK’s proposed anti-[p]born Internet filter which, naturally, is proposed in the name of The Children. Well, it is silly season, and with no Great White sharks have been spotted off the coast of Brighton, the Government wants us to look for and talk about minority-interest porn. Life is imitating Friends:
MIGHT it be that all internet rolls are not being all that serious when they make threats? You just need to tell their mum:
WITH a name that suggests a life on the move, Eric Buss has invented the Bubble Wrap Bike. Jealous, much?
THE Mail is reporting that Eric Schmidt, the multi-billionaire chairman of Google, has a penchant for shagging around a bit.
Yet today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that 58-year-old Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, does fiercely protect one thing: his own private life, which is as colourful and complex as the ever-changing ‘Google doodle’ which pops up each time the search engine is launched.
In the past few years, the unlikely sex symbol with thinning hair and pockmarked skin has embarked on a string of affairs with younger women, including a vivacious TV presenter who dubbed him ‘Dr Strangelove’, a leggy blonde public relations executive and a sexy Vietnamese concert pianist.
THIS is one of those newspaper pieces where you have to check that the people are still living on the same planet as the rest of us. They’re talking about whether Spotify is paying enough in royalties to the musicians who produce the work. Yet they manage to miss the most basic point about the whole subject:
Spotify is selling a lie, though. In this post-Napster world, the pressure is on for new independent artists to have their music sit alongside massive acts – but we’re not getting anything back. We are told that it’s good exposure, and will lead to increased album and ticket sales, but this simply isn’t the case.
DAVID Cameron wants to protect us from online porn. Citizens of the Bansturbation UK will have to tell their ISPs their ISPs if they want to see smut.
“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralize or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence,” Cameron said.
Oliver Wright reports:
Under his proposals, by the end of next year all households will have to “opt out” of automatic porn filters, which would come as standard with internet broadband and cover all devices in a house. Possession of the most extreme forms of adult pornography will become an offence, while online content will have the same restrictions as DVDs sold in sex shops. To tackle child abuse images, search engines have been told they will have to redact results from specific searches, while anyone accessing websites shut down by the police for containing such images will see a message warning them that what they were doing was illegal.
But what does it mean in practice? What about Mommy Porn – the porn that is acceptable to even anti-Page 3 campaigners like Harriet Harman?
Mr Cameron said he did not “believe” written pornography, such as erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, would be blocked under the plans. But he added: “It will depend on how the filters work.” … He then added: “I’m not saying we’ve thought of everything and there will be many problems down the line as we deal with this, but we’re trying to crunch through these problems and work out what you can do and can’t do.”
What about other words?
Government adviser John Carr demanded the web giant put child safety before profit and called for a “default” setting that would block access to all porn sites, many of which act as gateways to child pornography.
He said anyone who wanted to view online pornography should have to register for access – making it easier for authorities to track online paedophiles.
Mr Carr added: “Google’s moral leadership is essential. Others would have to follow.”
but is the porn-users register just for pados? Loz Blain notes:
The very fact that your web will effectively be censored unless you specifically ask your provider for access to porn raises all sorts of issues. For starters, the famous British gutter press will be delighted to reveal the names of famous people who have asked for the filter to be disabled. Somewhere, there will be a very useful list of people who are porn users, and one day it will leak.
And Google is an American company. David Nosowitz wonders:
This is absurdly, insultingly presumptuous. A prime minister is demanding a foreign corporation kowtow to his demands and implement a childishly naive proposal based on his own showy morality
As Immanuel Kant said:
“Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”
Has the ban worked elsewhere?
The Australian government’s effort to enact a similar ban has hit all kinds of snags, from coalition partners refusing to support it to several big ISPs refusing to play ball, even with something as universally deplorable as child porn. Things have gotten downright silly Down Under, with the banning efforts extending to erotica that features small-breasted women, which supposedly encourages pedophilia. The resulting joke, of course, is that Australians want their porn stars to have big boobs.
…the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), Jim Gamble, said Mr Cameron’s plan to tackle child abuse images by removing results from search engines like Google would be “laughed at” by paedophiles.
“There are 50,000 predators…downloading abusive images on peer-to-peer, not from Google,” he said. “Yet from CEOP intelligence only 192 were arrested last year. That’s simply not good enough.
“We’ve got to attack the root cause, invest with new money, real investment in child protection teams, victim support and policing on the ground. Let’s create a real deterrent. Not a pop-up that paedophiles will laugh at.”
Global Post has a lesson in how to beat the porn ban:
The best option to beat the porn ban and maintain streaming and download speeds, then, is to use a personal VPN client. Not only do they allow the user to choose how many server nodes their connection travels through before reaching the landing page, they also allow them to choose where that server node is located.
The downside is that most of these VPN services will charge a monthly subscription fee.
So. The ban means these VPN companies will get more clients?
Zoe Stavri sees another way:
Let us assume, though, that porn does have the potential to teach those who see it about how they should and should not behave when it comes to sex. Why, then, are we not directing all of our energies into flooding the internet with better porn, which teaches people about consent?
Better porn, then? The Atlantic Wire:
“If you look at countries that ban porn (and ones that don’t), you’ll notice that at best, there’s no clear relationship between banning porn and that country’s treatment of women and children. At worst, a ban on porn is perhaps harmful. For example, take a look at India, where the distribution of porn is illegal. That country has recently become notorious for an epidemic of brutal rapes, some of them against children. Meanwhile, in the United States the incidence of rape declined 85 percent over a period of 25 years while access to pornography has increased, The New York Times reported. The U.K. is probably closer to the U.S. in that stark in comparison, and is regularlyratedas one [of] the top countries in the world for women. That’s not to say that porn is good for gender relations, only that any relationship between banning porn and positive outcomes is unclear.”
DAVID Cameron wants us to be safe online. Safe from whom? Them. The Others. Him?
Time to get your technology sorted out. Kaspersky Lab has produced ’Protection Tests’ challenge you to see how safe you are from cyber crime.
Take the test:
WANT to see HD footage of plants and insects magnified thousands of times? That huge spider in the bath is far bigger than you ever thought. (Better with the volume down. The narrator is from the school of the bleedin’ obvious.)
The goodporn, like ‘mommy porn’, is fine. But, of course, the internet has already catered for porn users.
On Internet Explorer you can opt for ‘private’ browsing. What’s that you say, Bill Gates? It’s not all about porn?
OH, joy. They’re developing a pill in Florida to replace the gym:
The more encouraging of the new studies, which appears this week in Nature Medicine, expands on a major study published last year in Nature. In that study, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., reported that a compound they had created and injected into obese mice increased activation of a protein called REV-ERB, which is known to partially control animals’ circadian rhythms and internal biological clocks. The injected animals lost weight, even on a high-fat diet, and improved their cholesterol profiles.
Unexpectedly, the treated mice also began using more oxygen throughout the day and expending about 5 percent more energy than untreated mice, even though they were not moving about more than the other animals. In fact, in most cases, they were more physically lazy and inactive than they had been before the injections. The drug, it seemed, was providing them with a workout, minus the effort.
Richard Gunderman considers:
[W]e would recoup even more time than the two hours we actually spend on exercising. Think how many minutes we spend every week just talking ourselves into it, getting dressed for it, and driving to it. And what about all the after-exercise time – driving back home, showering, getting dressed again, and then sitting in the easy chair contemplating how tired and sore we feel or congratulating ourselves on what good care we take of ourselves.
Driving to the gym…
File that under first world problem, Richard.
WE all need someone to blame sometimes. As long as it isn’t ourselves. And one lawyer is suing Apple over his porn addiction, like he couldn’t stop watching bongo films all by himself.
Chris Sevier claims to have become addicted to adult sites after ‘accidentally’ typing ‘fuckbook’ rather than “facebook’ when using Safari.
The dirty bugger has now filed a complaint against the company at the Tennessee Supreme Court, blaming his addiction on the lack of a porn filter on the browser.
OR, in this case, platinum and other valuable metals:
One of the country’s biggest street cleaning firms has announced it is to “mine” the sweepings it collects from roads and pavements, in search of gold and other precious metals.
Veolia Environmental Services believes it can find at least £1 million worth of materials like platinum, palladium and rhodium from the muck swept up from Britain’s streets each year.
ACCORDING to 1980s pop culture stereotypes, anyone who likes computers is compensating for being a socially clueless nerd who cannot get laid. Kudos to pop culture for evolving beyond that, but why the hell are today’s gamer boys trying so hard to revive old stereotypes?
For over a week now, male gamers have been freaking out over news that a woman— 19-year Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green — has been named the new head of the Xbox division. Not that the company is any feminist utopia (or dystopia, depending on your preference); it’s the same Xbox which, just last month, got called out by Anita Sarkeesian for introducing its new line of games and “revealing to us exactly zero games featuring a female protagonist for the next generation”.
I ASSUME that we all actually know this by now, that you cannot keep things secret on the internet? At least, we should all have learnt it from the revelations by Edward Snowden I think, no? That the only truly secure computer is one that’s not connected to anything at all?
It would appear that the Russians have worked this out:
In the wake of the US surveillance scandal revealed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Russia is planning to adopt a foolproof means of avoiding global electronic snooping: by reverting to paper.
The Federal Guard Service (FSO), a powerful body tasked with protecting Russia’s highest-ranking officials, has recently put in an order for 20 Triumph Adler typewriters, the Izvestiya newspaper reported.