Technology | Anorak - Part 20

Technology Category

Independent news, views, opinions and reviews on the latest gadgets, games, science, technology and research from Apple and more. It’s about the technologies that change the way we live, work, love and behave.

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.

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Posted: 5th, August 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment

Revealed: The real cause of the great Twitter row, bomb threats and insults

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.

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Posted: 5th, August 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment

Apple’s still being complete bastards to the Chinese workers

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.

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Posted: 4th, August 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

Twitter troll apologises when someone threatens to tell his mum

MIGHT it be that all internet rolls are not being all that serious when they make threats? You just need to tell their mum:




Spotter: PopBitch


Posted: 29th, July 2013 | In: Strange But True, Technology | Comment

Mr Buss invents and rides the bubble wrap bike

bubble wrap bike


WITH a name that suggests a life on the move, Eric Buss has invented the Bubble Wrap Bike. Jealous, much?

Posted: 27th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment (1)

So what first attracted you to the multi-billionaire Eric Schmidt then?

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.

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Posted: 26th, July 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

Thom Yorke and Johnny Lynch entirely misunderstand Spotify and online music


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.

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Posted: 26th, July 2013 | In: Key Posts, Money, Music, Technology | Comments (3)

Take the Kaspersky Lab Protection Test to check your exposure to hackers

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:

Posted: 25th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

HD footage of plants and insects magnified thousands of times

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.)

Posted: 25th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

David Cameron voter caught private browsing for pearl necklaces on the internet (video)

porn safeDAVID Cameron wants porn on the internet blocked. Even searching for porn will be banned. Well, the bad porn will be.

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?

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Posted: 22nd, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

The pill that replaces going to the gym

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.

Posted: 19th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment (1)

Girl-hating gamer boys: Quit thinking with the Smaller of Your Two Heads


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”.

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Posted: 13th, July 2013 | In: Key Posts, Money, Technology, The Consumer | Comment (1)

Don’t use the Internet if you want to keep secrets – Russian spies revert to paper economy


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.

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Posted: 12th, July 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

In photos: Buttercup the backwards walking duck gets a 3D-printed prosthetic leg

buttercuip duck amputee

BUTTERCUP the duck only had one leg facing the right way. The left leg faced backwards.  Buttercup was going nowhere fast. But science could help.

At the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary, Buttercup’s leg was was amputated. The medics built him a 3D-printed prosthetic leg based on a mould on his sister’s left limb.

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Posted: 11th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

How to perfome a fecal microbiota transplant (that’s poo donation to you)

poo enema

WOULD you give a friend or loved one some of your bone marrows. What about a kidney? An eye? what about, erm, donating your poo? Marie Myung-Ok Lee did. In the New York Times, Lee, tells us how her turds and, more vitaly, the beneficial bacteria in them, saved her friend’s life.

How did she do the donating? At home.

We’ve distilled some of the highlights from Lee’s casebook. This is how she helped Gene get over his ulcerative colitis, a colon riddled with bleeding ulcers:

The procedure is called fecal microbiota transplant, or F.M.T.

Transplanting the stool from one person into the digestive tract of another seems, well, repulsive, but it also makes sense. The majority of the matter in stool — roughly 60 percent — is bacteria, dead and alive, but mostly alive. While bacteria can make us sick, they also constitute a large part of who we are; the hundreds of trillions of cells in an individual’s microbiome, as this collective is known, outnumber human cells 10 to 1. The bacteria serve many functions, including in metabolism, hormone regulation and the immune system.


Yellow soup:

In the 16th century, during the Ming dynasty, fermented fecal concoctions, euphemistically named “yellow soup,” were used for digestive problems. In the 17th century, Christian Franz Paullini, a German physician, compiled a stool recipe book for treating dysentery and other digestive ailments. 

Whose poo?

The donor question was a tricky one. The donor has to be healthy (and will be screened, via stool and blood, for transmissible diseases like H.I.V., as well as for pathogens and parasites); has to avoid any foods the patient might be allergic to; and has to be nearby, as freshness is an issue: the bacteria mix may begin to change once the stool leaves the body.

The process:

Gene’s marching orders were to procure a dedicated blender and sieve, enema tubing and syringe, and lots and lots of newspaper. F.M.T. basically consists of blending stool with saline, straining it, and reintroducing it into the colon via enema.

Gene got better.

What about others?

Some patients have resorted to Craigslist. There is the possibility of creating synthetic stool, but given that there are thousands of unknown species of bacteria in human stool, there’s no way to know if it would be effective. In an ideal future, a universal screening panel will be put in place so that healthy people can donate their microbiota, the way you can with blood.

Maybe they’ll pay for good poo?


Posted: 11th, July 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

Apple conspired to keep e-book prices artifically high as libraries die

BOOKS are not just objects to buy and trade. The BBC reports on a ruling that Apple “conspired with publishers to fix the price of electronic books”.

And those are the electronic books that thanks to convoluted copyright rules you are not permitted to pass on to friends, as you can with an actual paper book.

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Posted: 10th, July 2013 | In: Books, Money, Technology | Comment

Oliver Sacks: old age is a time of freedom and exploration

Oliver sacks death queen

A FRIEND in her mid-40s recently opined that she would like to live no longer than 74 years. After that, she said life is too miserable to endure.

Oliver Sacks says she’s mad:

Last night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself

Elements and birthdays have been intertwined for me since boyhood, when I learned about atomic numbers. At 11, I could say “I am sodium” (Element 11), and now at 79, I am gold. A few years ago, when I gave a friend a bottle of mercury for his 80th birthday — a special bottle that could neither leak nor break — he gave me a peculiar look, but later sent me a charming letter in which he joked, “I take a little every morning for my health.”…

I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever “completing a life” means. Some of my patients in their 90s or 100s say nunc dimittis — “I have had a full life, and now I am ready to go.” …

I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

Oliver Sacks is a professor of neurology at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine and the author, most recently, of “Hallucinations.”

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Posted: 9th, July 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment

Professor Green calls female journalist a ‘fat whore’ for invading his privacy – works for Chinese mobile phone company accused of spying

Professor GReen ZTE

WHEN The People’s Katie Hind wrote about Professor Green, the singer was upset.

He tweeted:

She practically printed my address – she’s a fat pig faced c**t of a no news whore.”

It’s an invasion of privacy, then, by a woman who sells herself to her paymaster? This makes her in Green’s eyes a “whore”, a “c**t” and a “fat pig”. He adds:

I had my life and privacy put at risk by this woman and people have the cheek to defend her? what did i ever do to her? these scum bag showbiz journalists need a f**king wake up call.

He then advised:

Hind, The People’s Showbiz Editor and gossip columnist – “She brings you the latest celebrity news from the A listers” – may care to note the Professor’s relationship with a company called ZTE:

Professor Green has partnered with ZTE Corporation to promote the UK launch of the ZTE Grand X dual-core smartphone… This follows a previous partnership between ZTE and the musician in 2011.

Says the Prof:

“ZTE is a great, innovative brand that is really shaking things up with their new mobile phones. With gigs and shows all the time in different countries, I am constantly on the move, so anything that enables people to watch videos, listen to music and play games on their phone gets my vote!” 

What do we know about ZTE? Reuters reports:

ZTE said in March 2012 that it would curtail business in Iran following a report by Reuters that it sold Iran’s largest telecoms firm a powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring telephone and Internet communications. The company is now facing a U.S. criminal investigation over the issue.

The BBC reported:

The European Union is investigating whether China illegally subsidised several of its telecommunications companies – including ZTE – to enable them to grow quickly and overtake the likes of Nokia and Alcatel.

At a recent meeting to discuss the matter, Beijing warned that if Brussels pressed ahead with its investigation, there would be severe retaliation against other western industries such as motoring and agriculture.

The Financial Times quoted a source familiar with the events as saying: “Put it this way: it’s not like they went for a beer after and watched football.”

The Smoking Gun alleged:

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation targeting a leading Chinese telecommunications firm that allegedly conspired to illegally ship hardware and software purchased from U.S. tech firms to Iran’s government-controlled telecom company, a violation of several federal laws and a trade embargo imposed on the outlaw Islamic nation, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The federal probe, launched earlier this year, has also uncovered evidence that officials with the Chinese company, ZTE Corporation (ZTE), are “engaged in an ongoing attempt to corruptly obstruct and impede” a Department of Commerce inquiry into the tainted $130 million Iranian transaction, according to a confidential FBI affidavit.

Officials with ZTE allegedly began plotting to cover up details of the Iranian deal after Reuters reported on the transaction in late-March. The news agency revealed that the telecom equipment sold to Iran was a “powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile, and Internet communications.” Included in the material sent to Iran were products manufactured by U.S. firms like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco Systems, Dell, and Symantec.

Concerned that they could no longer “hide anything” in the wake of the Reuters report, ZTE lawyers discussed shredding documents, altering records, and lying to U.S. government officials, according to an insider’s account provided to FBI agents by a Texas lawyer who last year began serving as general counsel of ZTE’s wholly owned U.S. subsidiary. ZTE, the world’s fourth largest telecom equipment manufacturer, is publicly traded, though its controlling shareholder is a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

Time magazine asked:

Are Chinese Telecoms Firms Really Spying on Americans?

What says the privacy-loving, anti-whoring Professor?

PS – ZTE deny spying.

Spotter: Popbitch

Posted: 4th, July 2013 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, Technology | Comments (3)

Robert Samuelson’s Internet repeal

Robert Samuelson TO quote the philosopher Mick Jagger, “What a drag it is getting old.” Or watching others do the same; the voyage from virility to senility hurts to behold.

Consider the Washington Post, long considered a VIP (Very Important Paper), one of America’s most prestigious. And WaPo veteran Robert Samuelson is a Very Important Pundit who became an online laughingstock this week after publishing a Very Serious Column suggesting life would be safer and better if only humanity would abandon this newfangled dad-blasted “Internet” thingy.

“If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it. I grant its astonishing capabilities: the instant access to vast amounts of information, the pleasures of YouTube and iTunes, the convenience of GPS and much more.”

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Posted: 4th, July 2013 | In: Key Posts, Technology | Comment (1)

Do we have to start saving our own pee to produce phosphorus for farming?

SOME scientists are working on the idea that we do you know. Fortunately, they’ve really not grasped an important part about the world that we live in:

American families may soon be using waterless toilets and recycling their urine, according to new research.

Chemical engineers at the University of Florida have been looking at ways to extract phosphorus – a life-sustaining element – from urine, before it enters the sewage system and becomes diluted.

Since estimates suggest that phosphorous – which occurs as phosphate rocks and is mined for crop fertilizer – could be exhausted in the next 50 to 100 years, urine recycling may be the key to conserving the non-renewable resource in the future.

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Posted: 1st, July 2013 | In: Money, Technology | Comment

Google’s Tameside Hospital web search page censors an image of the Grim Reaper

blogging, censorship, google, tameside hospital, grim reaper

A SEARCH for Manchester’s Tameside General Hospital on Google delivers a picture of The Grim Reaper lurking outside the building.

The image was created for the website Tameside Citizen, a blog about the area which has focused on the hospital’s death rates. The accompanying story tells readers:

Tameside is one of five hospitals to be subject to a probe in light of today’s Francis Report – which found that there were hundreds of avoidable deaths at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust between 2005-9.

Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director at the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) will launch an immediate investigation into Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – as well as Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust – immediately.

The hospitals were chosen because they had the worst mortality rates according to the so-called Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) for two successive years to 2012. 

This ends with a link the a full story at the Manchester Evening News. All fair and proper, then. It’s a worthwhile story:

Between October 2011 and September 2012, 18 per cent more patients at Tameside died than would be expected at a similar hospital, according to statistics.

But no. The MEN says the image rose to the top on Google’s  for searches for the hospital. It does not name the blog that published it. It offers no link to it. It reports:

Google has now stepped in to take down the image – which was revealed to anyone typing the name of the hospital into the search engine – after being alerted by the M.E.N

A Google spokeswoman admitted the automatically-generated image had been ‘inappropriate’ and confirmed it had now been removed from its image database.

Why admitted? Is it a crime?  And who decides what is and what is not appropriate? The  Google worker, whose name is not given, says to the MEN:

“In this particular case, we have now updated the panel with a more appropriate image. All of our panels include a link so you can tell us when we may have an inaccuracy in our information.”

So. The natural search on Google – all those keywords and links – is a fix.

Tameside Citizen follows up:

M.E.N. attempt to censor Tameside Citizen.

The Image “THEY” want to ban!

The Manchester Evening News has claimed that they have succeeded in having the above image removed by Google after it was used by “a BlogSpot”.

“A Blog Spot”. Don’t they mean TAMESIDE CITIZEN, the blog that brought you the news that “The Advertiser” had meetings with local politicians with a view to “Suppressing sensationalist reporting” The same Advertiser which is owned by the Manchester Evening News!

Yet again it is the small independent Blog which shows the big business newspaper the meaning of the phrase “Free Press”

What’s so bad about the image? A fee commentators write back:

* The hoody pictured near the hospital does not look well.

* I have an interest in this issue. My father died in Tameside Hospital last year. My mother died six months ago in Willow wood hospice, 4 days after transfer from Tameside Hospital. The patients were clearly not getting the best treatment they deserved. The staff were giving the best they could. The big problem I could see was that there were not enough nursing staff. Even the best most dedicated nurse can not be at two bedsides at the same time.

* My own mother died in TH and there was one nurse running the ward. She told me she also served the patients meals as well.

Not exactly a death cult, is it? But because Google and the MEN don’t like the image or the messenger, they want to make it harder for readers to find the story. Local news is vital. It’s where the big stories start. You’d think the MEN and Google, which takes you content for free, would know that…

Spotter: Karen

Posted: 28th, June 2013 | In: Reviews, Technology | Comment

How the Lara Croft video game made me gay – the proof in photos


WHAT if Lara Croft has been a man? What if the creators of the 1996 video game Tomb Raider had made Lara Croft a man?

What would it have changed?

In 2008, the judge at Maidstone Crown Court looked at Ryan Chinnery in the dock and noted the “worrying mirror of conduct” between the accused and his enjoyment of Grand Theft Auto and other video games. Chinnery had sexually assaulted four female strangers. But no links between his game playing and cimes were ever investigated, let alone proven. Chinnery is a dangerous man imprisoned for eight years who, like many young men, played video games. Unlike most other young men, he  went out and attacked women.

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Posted: 27th, June 2013 | In: Technology | Comment

Incredible image of a baby born but still inside the amniotic sac

SOME images are just incredible. Thanks to a Greek doctor and his camera, we get to see this memorable image taken dyring a caesarian section. Oddly, the amniotic sac remained intact as the birth progressed. The baby is no longer in the womb but continues to take oxygen and sustenance from the placenta.

caesarian section wow


The baby is doing well.

Posted: 24th, June 2013 | In: Key Posts, Reviews, Technology | Comment

Amazing moment as toddler hears for the first time

SHALL we all have a lovely moment? How about a really great video of a young boy called Grayson Clamp, and the exact moment he heard his father’s voice for the first time?

Grayson Clamp is three years old and until now, he’s never been able to hear.

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