Technology | Anorak - Part 19

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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.

Don’t go faking your online reviews – it’s a criminal act


AT least don’t go faking your online reviews in the US. For this might surprise a few people in this thriving little business, but faking a review online is actually a criminal act.

A year-long investigation by New York prosecutors has found 19 local businesses guilty of faking reviews on sites such as Google and Yelp, a practice that has now earned them over $350,000 in fines and penalties.

As part of “Operation Clean Turf,” investigators from the office of the New York Attorney General posed as yogurt shop owners from Brooklyn, and asked leading search engine optimization (SEO) companies for help in improving their presence online.

There’s all sorts of things one can do to manipulate results on the internet. Pay people to link to your website for example, this used to work. It creates a link that makes Google think your site is more important and thus raises you in the search results. Unfortunately Google has cottoned on to this and if they find out you’ve been doing it then you sink back down to the bottom of the results.

The rise of the recommendation sites has led to this other stuff. If people are going to read reviews to tell them where to go and anyone can submit a review then obviously people are going to submit fake reviews. It might cost $10 or so to get a decent one written and placed (that is about the right cost for a good one, bad ones are much cheaper) and you only need to get one or two customers to make that sort of price work. But, as above, at least in the US, this is illegal.

Someone will no doubt come up with another way to game the system soon enough. But for the moment…

Posted: 24th, September 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment

Apple’s competition is really Apple

IT may have passed you by but the best economist you’ve never heard of, Ronald Coase, passed away last week. One of the reasons he was so highly regarded within the profession was that he brought out into the open things that no one had seen before: but which once they were out in the open became immediately obvious. And it’s this that leads to the observation that Apple’s biggest competitor is really Apple itself.

Had I had room, I would have quoted a question that my former University of Rochester colleague, Ron Schmidt, a master teacher, posed in about 1976 and that I got the wrong answer to. The question: “What is General Motors’s biggest competitor?” [Remember that this was before the Japanese producers were a large part of the market.] My (wrong) answer: “Ford.” Ron Schmidt’s answer: “The used car market.”

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Posted: 24th, September 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

Scientist attacked by the bull he cloned

cloned bull

DR Moreau is alive and well, it seems. Prof. Park Se-pill has been attacked by his cloned bull art Jeju National University in South Korea.

The man-contrived beast broke five of the scientists ribs and hurt his spine. An official says:

 “Park was video-recording a black cow, which he cloned from species indigenous to Jeju four years ago, and all of a sudden, it charged and attacked him for 15 minutes. The 800-kilogram black cow is very strong because its cell donor was the best available. Park could not escape easily because he wore a special suit and long boots. He is now being treated at the university hospital.”

The report adds:

In 2009, Park cloned the black cow from a frozen cell, which was taken from a deceased animal as part of cloning work to technically “revive” the dead cow through the newly born clone. The 54-year-old said that the cow is now in a barn and no special measure will be taken despite the incident. “We didn’t have the cow neutered because we have to check its virility. Hence, it often gets very restless,” Park said.

And we thought butchering them was cruel…

This cloning cannot be stopped. On an island not all that far away:

There was blood, I saw, in the sink,—brown, and some scarlet—and I smelt the peculiar smell of carbolic acid. Then through an open doorway beyond, in the dim light of the shadow, I saw something bound painfully upon a framework, scarred, red, and bandaged; and then blotting this out appeared the face of old Moreau, white and terrible. In a moment he had gripped me by the shoulder with a hand that was smeared red, had twisted me off my feet, and flung me headlong back into my own room. He lifted me as though I was a little child. I fell at full length upon the floor, and the door slammed and shut out the passionate intensity of his face. Then I heard the key turn in the lock, and Montgomery’s voice in expostulation.

“Ruin the work of a lifetime,” I heard Moreau say.

“He does not understand,” said Montgomery. and other things that were inaudible.

“I can’t spare the time yet,” said Moreau.

The rest I did not hear. I picked myself up and stood trembling, my mind a chaos of the most horrible misgivings. Could it be possible, I thought, that such a thing as the vivisection of men was carried on here? The question shot like lightning across a tumultuous sky; and suddenly the clouded horror of my mind condensed into a vivid realisation of my own danger.

Ends of days, readers. End of  days…

Posted: 24th, September 2013 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment

How the game of Good Cop – Bad Cop works in job interviews

THE police love playing good cop- bad cop. One does the talking; one takes notes. What effect does the silent presence have on the subject? Let’s see:

Over 100 hundred students and university staff were allocated to either tell the truth in answering detailed questions about a real job they really had, or they were asked to lie and answer questions about a fictional job. After having three days to prepare, the participants were invited to a psychology lab for questioning. A female interviewer with a neutral style asked the questions (e.g. “If you were training me to do your job for a day, what things would I need to know about it?”) while a second male interviewer took notes. Crucially, this male interviewer either struck a supportive demeanour (smiling and nodding his head), a neutral demeanour, or acted as if he had suspicions (frowning and shaking his head). The participants were incentivised with the promise of a £5 reward if they fooled the interviewers.

Here’s the headline result – the truth-telling participants gave more detailed answers than the liars, but only when the second interviewer provided a supportive presence. This runs entirely counter to the aggressive questioning styles so often portrayed in fiction. By creating a reassuring atmosphere, the second interviewer encouraged the honest interviewees to open up more, which made the the lack of detail given by liars stand out.

Another sign of deception was the amount of negative comments made by liars about their (fictional) boss. But again, this difference only appeared when the second note-taking interviewer acted supportive. [Researcher Samantha] Mann and her team said this was the first time a study had shown the beneficial lie-detecting effect of having a supportive second interviewer.

The second interview is acting as the witness…

Posted: 23rd, September 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

In 1980 the US Military use Atari games to train troops for battle

battlezoneCOREY Meads look at how the US military has been using video games to train its fighters. He writes:

The military’s interest in the kinds of video games popular today dates to 1980, when Atari released its groundbreaking Battlezone. Not only did Battlezone evoke a three-dimensional world, as opposed to the two-dimensional worlds of such previous arcade hits as Asteroids and Tempest, but players viewed the action from a first-person perspective, as if they themselves were tank gunners peering through their periscopes at the battlefield outside — in this case, a spare moonscape with mountains and an erupting volcano in the distance. This first-person element made Battlezone a direct ancestor of today’s enormously popular first-person shooters.

Soon after Battlezone took off, the army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) requested Atari’s help in building a modified version of the game that could be used as a training device for the then-new Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. General Donn Starry, the head of TRADOC at the time, had recognized early on that soldiers would be more responsive to electronic training methods than to print-and lecture-based ones.

You can play Battlezone here.

Of course Pac-Man was a game that followed US military fighting procedure, notably in World War 2 when little pills kept the troops sharp…

Other Atari games that have inspired the US in war:




Posted: 22nd, September 2013 | In: Flashback, Technology | Comment

Louis C.K. explains why his kids can’t have Smartphones

LOUIS C.K. explains why his kids can’t have Smartphones:

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.

And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It’s starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…

That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.

You are alone…


Posted: 21st, September 2013 | In: Celebrities, Technology | Comment

BBC News presenter can’t tell the difference between an iPad or a stack of paper

LIVE TV is a treacherous thing at the best of times, as a BBC News presenter fond out when he delivered a bulletin holding a pack of photocopier paper instead of an iPad.

Simon McCoy was doing his thing to camera, talking about ‘drunk tanks’ (not nearly as exciting as they sound) when he accidentally picked up a stack of A4 paper instead of his tablet.

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Posted: 18th, September 2013 | In: Technology, TV & Radio | Comment

Face of the day: iphone 5s fan Gad Harari sets up camp on the Regent Street iQ

FACE of the day: Gad Harari aged 17, from London, sits in his plastic greenhouse which is the only shelter for himself as he waits to buy the new iPhone in Regent Street central London, which goes on sale in the UK this coming Friday.

Gad, who sits at the head of the iQ, assembles his tent by pressing a single large button and installing an app.

Gad Harari aged 17, from London, sits in his plastic greenhouse which is the only shelter for himself as he waits to buy the new iPhone in Regent Street central London, which goes on sale in the UK this coming Friday.

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Posted: 18th, September 2013 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment

Full-kit wa*ker Jeremy Browne avoids Google cameras by wearing full veil in public

brown google jeremy

JEREMY Browne MP, minister for crime prevention at the Home Office, has been captured by Google Street View walking along a street in Paddington. He calls it “unnerving“.  The Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton Deane, is not emerging from a massage parlour nor  eating a kebab and smoking. He is suited, booted and holding his bright red ministerial box. He is the political equivalent of the Full Kit Wan**r, a title used to explain a grown man who is happy to be seen striding around in public wearing a full football kit; shirt, shorts, socks, even shinnies – the whole kit and caboodle. Professional footballers have been FKWs too, notably a former Spurs and Manchester United player who used to wear his full England tracksuit to walk around parts of urbanised Essex.

Says Browne of the bright red box:

“I think there is an issue about the intrusiveness of modern technology,” he said. “It is why the government is right to be alert to the public concern about excessive use of CCTV. We need to get the balance right with using technology to prevent crime and people not feeling that every time they enter a public space their movements will be potentially permanently recorded.”

“Campaigners are always most alert to the threats to individual liberties that can be caused by the state. But we also need to be guarded about how the evolution of technology means that private organisations can also intrude into individual privacy in a way that many people would find unsettling. Quite often the state is more regulated than private organisations.”

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Posted: 18th, September 2013 | In: Politicians, Reviews, Technology | Comment

Man mugged in Colindale for Grand Theft Auto V an hour after it was launched

AND so it begins:

A 23-year-old man was hit with a brick and stabbed before being robbed of the much awaited Grand Theft Auto V video game in Colindale, London at 01:20. The game was only launched at midnight.

The man also lost his watch and a mobile.

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Posted: 17th, September 2013 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment

Frog photobombs Nasa rocket launch (photos)

FROGS in spaaace….

frog nasa

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Posted: 13th, September 2013 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment

Security flaw in new iPhone 5s means your fingerprints are not your own

THE new Apple iPhone 5S turn your old – oh, so old – Apple 5 into a retro piece of vintage tat. The iPhone 5s contains a fingerprint scanner, meaning that Apple will soon have a huge store of your fingerprints. Look out for the Apple 6 which will access your DNA and the Apple 13 which will profile you and render you incapacitated with tube-tying electric shocks to your genitals should you be thought to be thinking about committing a crime.

The software is not safe, however, as this Reddit user proves.

Look out for your iPhone5s linking you to crime scenes:

iphone security fail

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Posted: 12th, September 2013 | In: Technology | Comment (1)

GTA5: Looks like it will be life ruiningly large

EVERYBODY who plays video games – and that’s rarely pasty loners picking crumbs from their cracks in their mum’s basements because things have changed significantly in the past two decades – is incredibly excited about the imminent Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 (or GTA5 or GTA V to everyone else).

Previously, GTA improved with increasingly decent soundtracks, improved gameplay and such. However, GTA5 is a different ballpark. It looks nicer, has an eye-watering amount of new things to do and, it will be social life cripplingly large! WHICH IS EXCELLENT NEWS!

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Posted: 12th, September 2013 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment

Facebook bans ‘juvenile boobies’ birds advert

FACEBOOK has banned an advert for Christmas Island’s Bird ‘n’ Nature Week. The call to see the imperilled “juvenile booby” birds breached the website’s decency guidelines.
juvenile boobies

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Posted: 7th, September 2013 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment

Adult American prisoners who has never seen the Internet before describe it

WHAT if you’re an adult American who has never seen the Internet before?

Justine Sharrock tells us that it is illegal in the United States for federal prisoners to go on the internet. So, longtime prisoners at San Quentin State Prison haven’t used the web. She asked some to describe the internet. One, Chrisfino Kenyatta Leal entered prison in 1994:

I envisioned the web to be like this infinite space filled with information about everything under the sun.

I was confused about how you got from one piece of info to the next and I was clueless in terms of the lingo used to describe it all…

The technical aspects of it make me go, Hmmmm? I realize everything is getting faster and moving toward mobile, so I often wonder about who’s doing all this stuff and where is it all taking place?

Tommy Winfrey entered prison in 1997

I’ve never seen the internet in person. I was locked up in 1997. CDs were a big deal. I knew the internet was called the information superhighway for a reason, but I had no idea how connected society really is through the internet.

I didn’t understand how big and new it is. It was a global name that has changed the world.

I could imagine the information that the internet provided when it came to research, and that is how it existed in my mind, just as a tool. If you had asked me what a URL was, I would have just looked at you.

I imagined an app was a button you pressed on your phone with no clear conceptualization of what it really did.

Prescient stuff…


Posted: 5th, September 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

LG tricks job applicants with a fake meteor apocalyse to promote new HD TV

THE MAKERS of the 84 inch Ultra HD TVLG came up with a wheeze to sell their product: show unsuspecting job applicants in Chile a meteor cashing into the planet:

When these unsuspecting individuals entered the office, they were nervous about a job interview, not about the end of the world. That is, until the end of the world happened right before their very eyes! The IPS screen, disguised as a window, was so high-def that people were — apparently — ready to run when they saw the meteor drop.

Whether or not the scene was staged, the tagline “Reality, or Ultra Reality?” gets the message across.


This might be scarier:

Spotters: Mundo LG ChileUPROXX and The Drum

Posted: 5th, September 2013 | In: Technology, The Consumer | Comment

Why Zuckerberg wants everyone to have the Internet as a ‘human right’

File photo dated 26/5/2011 of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to make internet access available around the globe by launching a new initiative to make getting online more affordable. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday August 21, 2013. Currently 2.7 billion people - just over a third of the world's population - have access to the web, but Mr Zuckerberg's goal is to make it possible for a further five billion. The Facebook chief executive is launching in partnership with other companies including Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia, which will develop joint projects and share knowledge to bring the world online. See PA story TECHNOLOGY Internet. Photo credit should read: Chris Ratcliffe/PA Wire

MARK Zuckerberg, the billionaire behind Facebook, has just announced that he’s joining forces with other tech firms in order to try and bring the internet to everyone. One the grounds that internet access for the 4 billion humans that don’t currently have it is akin to a human right:

Mark Zuckerberg’s altruistic finger is twitching just as usage of his free content ad network appears to have plateaued.

In a post on his personal Facebook account, Zuck asked: “Is connectivity a human right?”

An actual human right, no, that sounds a little too far. The right to free speech, to association, to a fair trial, yes, these are indeed human rights. But to an internet connection? No, I think not.

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Posted: 4th, September 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

Microsoft buys out Nokia’s handset business: market freezes

The Nokia brand name is displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it would pay $7.2 billion to acquire Nokia's line-up of smartphones and a portfolio of patents and services. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

SO. Microsoft has taken the plunge and bought out Nokia’s handset business. They didn’t pay that much for it, under £5 billion all in, which is a good insight into what a parlous state the business is in. This leaves Nokia still making all the kit and towers and radio equipment etc that the handsets use to connect to the network, but they’re leaving the handset business altogether.

For Microsoft the deal looks rather different. They’ve been finding it very hard to get handset makers to start using Windows Phone (surprisingly, a rather good little operating system) and their market share is sputtering. Nokia were the only people who had committed to it in a large way. But there were still problems in integrating the software and the hardware. Buying the manufacturing operation now means that Microsoft can design the OS for the hardware and the hardware for the OS: essentially, starting to do what Apple has been doing all along.

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Posted: 3rd, September 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

In 1979 the British Cycling Bureau delivered these ‘Bikes of the future’

IN October 1979, the British Cycling Bureau invited designers to create the “Bike of the future”.


bike of the future


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Posted: 2nd, September 2013 | In: Flashback, Technology | Comment

New ankle tag device lets stressed parents watch their children breathing and not breathing

baby monitor

PARENTS not yet able to chip their children can invest in Owlet  “an innovative vitals monitor, using pulse oximetry to monitor blood oxygen levels and heart rate of babies. Owlet is a small bootie that the baby wears while sleeping. It signals heartrate and respiration and you can check in on your baby via a mobile device”.

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Posted: 30th, August 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

In 1977 JG Ballard predicted the dawn of social media in Vogue in 1977

JG Ballard

JG Ballard predicts the dawn of social media in Vogue in 1977:

jg ballard

Spotter: Brendan O’Neill


Posted: 30th, August 2013 | In: Flashback, Technology | Comment

The animated tattoo is a thing of wonder

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:

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Posted: 24th, August 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

BT’s really screwing up this broadband, isn’t it?

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.

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Posted: 14th, August 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment (1)

Shropshire iPad scam ends pair in cold water

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.”

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Posted: 14th, August 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment