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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.

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


An incredible photo of a single atom visible to the naked eye wins science prize

single atom photo

Wonder no more what an atom looks like. David Nadlinger, a physicist at Oxford University, has taken a photo of an atom suspended in an electric field. The incredible thing is that this atom is visible to the naked eye. Well, we can the light emitted from it.

The image, “Single Atom in an Ion Trap”, won Nadlinger top prize in UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) science photo and imaging contest.

If we zoom in, you can see the atom – it’s the small dot in the centre of the photo.

 

 

The EPSRC reports:

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

“The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality,” says Nadlinger. “A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”

Spotter: PetaPixel

Posted: 16th, February 2018 | In: News, Strange But True, Technology | Comment


Woman takes first breath after double lung transplant (video)

Doctors often misdiagnose conditions. Jennifer Jones had been told over and over that her suffering was down to allergies and asthma. But, as ABC 6 News reports, after Jennifer gave birth, medical realised she had had Cystic Fibrosis for years. Something had to be done.

“Last year in October she went in and it was getting so bad they put her on oxygen full time,” said Jennifer’s fiancé, Rob Ronnenberg.Jennifer was put on a transplant list for new lungs in June, which is when things really got bad. In mid-October Jennifer’s lung function was a little over 10%.

But good news was headed their way.

“The nurse comes in the room and says hey you’re going to get a phone call and then the phone rang and we’re like okay, that’s never happened so what’s going on? Well, all of a sudden she goes are you for real, are you serious? Is this really happening? And that was it that was the call,” Rob said.

Jennifer was given a double lung transplant. Now watch as he takes her first breath:

 

Spotter: Twisted Sifter

Posted: 14th, February 2018 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment (1)


Why car insurance is so expensive for the unemployed

The Times has news on car insurance, a tax that can be prohibitively expensive. Well, yes, of course it is – that’s one of the points of it, no, to link risk to wealth? James Daley asks:

The industry’s defence will always be that their prices are based purely on the data. While it may be true that customers who describe themselves as unemployed have more car accidents than people who describe themselves as homemakers, is it really fair to differentiate between those groups?

Yes.

Posted: 6th, February 2018 | In: Broadsheets, News, Technology | Comment


Parents arrested for their children’s ‘citizen porn’

Is it right that the wrongs of the child are visited on the parent? The police think it is. If you pay for your child’s phone – getting a contract when under 18 is impossible so many parents do – the cops reckon you’re responsible for how that phone’s used. If it’s been used for sexting, say, then police can raid the family home, seize computers and phones, and nick mum and dad for being perverts and paedos.

Distributing indecent images of a child is a crime. There will be times when the victim is real and abuse is all too clear. But should your teenage son showing his mates a snapshot of his girlfriend’s naked breasts – the photo she chose to send him – involve the police and indelible criminal records for all involved, including her? Isn’t that an hysterical overreaction to an act of hormone-fed stupidity? Anyone who thinks they can control a nude or racy selfie once its been published on the web is a fool and should be aware that humiliation looms. But being young and stupid isn’t a crime, at least it shouldn’t be.

And maybe the kids sext because the adults do? Can we talk about why people sext? Columnists on bottom-shelf newspapers champion “citizen porn“; naked photos of the great and good stored on ‘clouds’ are leaked; academics like Jenna Wortham decided to explore “the way that our phones … foster intimate interactions that feel so personal and deep, despite being relayed through a machine.” As Andrew Sullivan noted: “Humans are sexual beings, and given a new obsessive-compulsive toy to play with, the Internet, their first instinct was to see how they could use it to get off.”

But the good news is that wherever parents are failing, the trusty cops are on hand to take over. Says Detective Superintendent Susie Harper, head of Kent’s public protection safeguarding unit:

“If a child’s mobile phone contract is in his or her parent’s name, then the parent can be liable for what the phone is used for, and any indecent material that is saved or sent from it. That could mean police turning up at the family home with a search warrant, property being seized, potential arrests and innocent people being suspected of serious offences.”

All parents are suspects. Careful where you leave those car keys, mum, because if junior nicks them and goes joyriding, it’s your fault. Lock ’em away. Lock all your valuables away, too, plus any pharmaceuticals, knives and balaclavas. If the fruit of your loins commits a crime using something your bought, on your head be it. It’s not his fault. It’s yours.

Says Harper:

“I’m not raising awareness to scaremonger.”

But:

“I also think it’s important for parents to be aware about the ways their children might be vulnerable to these things and what they can do about it.”

What can they do about it, then, other than buying their own children a phone with their own money? Well, the cops want “all parents and carers to speak to their children about the possible consequences of taking and sharing nude images of themselves or other young people”. Not a bad idea. But it’s not a police matter.

The message is clear: if you’ve got dirty photos on your phone – maybe a nude selfie you sent a loving boyfriend or girlfriend – your parents’ livelihoods and liberty are imperilled. If there’s something nasty in your inbox, don’t tell anyone, lest your parents be branded criminals. And above all know this: sex is first and foremost a potentially criminal act beloved by degenerates; sex has nothing to do with intimacy, self-awareness, desire and love; the youth invented voyeurism; and you should trust no-one except the State.

Spotter Telegraph

 

Posted: 31st, January 2018 | In: News, Technology | Comment


I was angry and miserable before Facebook

 

Like you, I was angry, unreasonable and irritated by everything before Facebook. But some people think Facebook has affected them badly and it is responsible for them feeling bad. All those photos of other people’s children running in circles, drawing with crayons and doing other amazing things, and adults telling us about their gym trips and how much they love someone they live with is causing us to be deeply depressed.

In the “secret history of Facebook depression”, Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie notes:

In everyday life, we tend to have different sides of ourselves that come out in different contexts. For example, the way you are at work is probably different from the way you might be at a bar or at a church or temple.

Sociologist Erving Goffman used concepts of theatre to explain these different aspects of our identities, for example, front stage and back stage.

But on Facebook, all these stages or contexts were mashed together. The result was what internet researchers called context collapse. People were even getting fired when one aspect of their lives was discovered by another (i.e. their boss!).

In 2008, I found myself speaking with the big boss himself, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I was in the second year of my Ph.D. research on Facebook at Curtin University. And I had questions.

Why did Facebook make everyone be the same for all of their contacts? Was Facebook going to add features that would make managing this easier?

To my surprise, Zuckerberg told me that he had designed the site to be that way on purpose. And, he added, it was “lying” to behave differently in different social situations.

Up until this point, I had assumed Facebook’s socially awkward design was unintentional. It was simply the result of computer nerds designing for the rest of humanity, without realising it was not how people actually want to interact.

The realisation that Facebook’s context collapse was intentional not only changed the whole direction of my research but provides the key to understanding why Facebook may not be so great for your mental health.

Via, Boing Boing, which headlines the story: “Social scientists have warned Zuck all along that the Facebook theory of interaction would make people angry and miserable.” You left out “more” before miserable.

Posted: 26th, January 2018 | In: Technology | Comment


How to drive out of a tight parking space

To Brazil, where a police drive will not show us how to leave a tight parking space – and make a fast getaway:

Posted: 14th, January 2018 | In: Technology | Comment


Peter Thiel bids to spike Gawker for good

Having almost buried Gawker media, Paypal tycoon Peter Thiel, is making moves to buy Gawker.con, the media company’s eponymous gossip and news site that’s been inactive for over a year. Why does he want it? The New York Times thinks it’s “to finish an independent journalism outfit that angered him in 2007 when it reported, without his permission, that he is gay, a fact widely known at the time in Silicon Valley.” Will he get it? “There are going to be multiple factors to consider, which will not be solely economic,” says Will Holden, the administrator of Gawker’s bankruptcy plan. Things like keeping the site alive, the archive online and it’s tone of irreverence intact?

In which case it’s worth looking at how Gawker came unstuck. Gawker went under in 2016. The law agreed with Hulk Hogan that his privacy had been invaded when Gawker published a grainy sex tape of the former wrestler giving it the Full Nelson. A Florida jury awarded damages of $140m to Hogan after a two-week trial. And, as the NYT says:

It also emerged that Mr. Thiel had spent about $10 million in secretly backing the lawsuit, a move that many Gawker employees interpreted as an attempt at revenge. Mr. Thiel told The New York Times: “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence. I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Are the super-rich the best judges of what’s in the public interest?

Business Insider has more on the offering:

Gawker, which has been inactive for more than a year, is conducting an auction of its remaining assets, including its domain names and nearly 200,000 archived articles. Most of its assets, including its sister pages Deadspin, a sports site, and Jezebel, a feminist blog, were bought in 2016 for $135 million by media company Univision Holdings Inc.

Thiel has not said why he wants Gawker, though the potential acquisition would let him take down stories regarding his personal life that are still available on the website, and remove the scope for further litigation between him and Gawker…

Some former Gawker staffers have tried to buy the site. On Kickstarter, they appealed for funds:

Gawker isn’t gone, it’s up for auction. The person who drove the site into bankruptcy wants to buy it.
We’re a group of former Gawker Media employees across editorial, tech, and business, and we want to put in our own bid to buy it back. We believe the site can thrive in an entirely membership funded model…

If we don’t raise enough money to buy the site, we will preserve the archive and launch a new publication under a different name. We’re bringing this back whether we have the Gawker URL or not. So if you miss Gawker like we do and feel like supporting our mission, become a member, tell your friends, share this project, and send us your tips. We have work to do.

The bid failed. Reports are the appeal raised $90,000, which though not too shabby is the kind of cash a billionaire has down the back of his manicurist’s sofa.

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


Data shocker: Westminster workers less likely to watch porn than the rest of us

In 2010, Online MBA produced a porn infographic. It claimed to know that 70% of men visited porn sites in a given month. Dan Savage, a Seattle-based sex columnist, had a word on the demographics of porn watchers. “All men look at porn, ” he stated. “The handful of men who claim they don’t look at porn are liars or castrates.”

Only men like to look?

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz claims women are fans of online porn, too:

Speaking to Vox in an interview about how Google data proves that most Americans lie about their sexual preferences, the researcher and author of “Everybody Lies” asserts… “Porn featuring violence against women is also extremely popular among women…It is far more popular among women than men. I hate saying that because misogynists seem to love this fact,” he added. “Fantasy life isn’t always politically correct.”

In 2014, the US Public Religion Research Institute, said 29 percent of Americans think watching porn is morally acceptable. That’s a lot of people feeling guilty about watching other people having sex.

Which brings us to news that the burghers of Westminster are not like the rest of us:

Staff working in Parliament tried to access online pornography once every nine minutes in the last couple of months, despite a crackdown on inappropriate sexual behaviour, new figures show.

More than 24,000 attempts were made to get onto adult websites from inside the Parliamentary estate – around 160 requests per day – although most were blocked.

Users on the Parliamentary network, including MPs, peers, staff and contractors, used their devices to try and connect to banned content almost 25,000 times in just four months.

Is that a lot?

At the end of January 2015, the headcount of the number of people employed by the House of Commons was 2,040

Add on 650 MPs, 800 Lords, their staff and media workers, and you can add another, say, 2000 people to the Westminster head count. Given the figures supplied for the popularity of porn, Westminster looks relatively clean.

Here’s the date from the MBA company:

 

porn statistics watching

 

Posted: 8th, January 2018 | In: News, Politicians, Technology | Comment