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.
The Ugandan government is on the look out for homosexuals. Helping it to detect “homos and porn actors, especially those misusing applications like Whatsapp with sex acts” is a gadget imported from South Korea – that’s the country exporting porno fridges.
The machine was ordered last year. It’s just been delivered, reportedly. But who ordered it? And does it work?
In 2016, Uganda’s Red Pepper newspaper spoke with Father Simon Lokodo, the country’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity. Red Pepper is the Ugandan tabloid that in 2014 named the country’s “200 top homosexuals”, a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill toughening penalties for gays: a fine of UGX 10 million ($3000) or up to 10 years in jail, or both.
The paper has an enthusiastic interest in gay sex.
The story began with a photo of the gay-hunting politician underscored with the caption, “Homos Want To Rape Me – Fr. Lokodo.” Readers were told:
The amiable man of God, who quit priesthood after being appointed minister in 2011, told Red Pepper in an exclusive interview that ever since he waged a war on homosexuality, shameless homos have decided to fight back by insulting him with gay sex advances. Lokodo’s most recent brush with the bum-drillers happened last week when — together with police — he stormed and foiled a gay pride parade that was being planned at Kabalagala in Kampala city.
Thoughts soon turn to the gay-detecting machine. Lokodo explained his “war” on homosexual love:
“We are going to attack and attack. I have fresh tactics. One of them is a censor gadget or machine. We are going to procure this machine and it will detect homos and porn actors especially those misusing applications like WhatsApp with sex acts. The South Koreans are programming it. And very soon we will ship it into the country and all the evil will be busted.
How the machine works, we don’t know. Perhaps the machine works a bit like the mysterious E-meter, the Scientology device, which, according to that group “does nothing. It is an electronic instrument that measures mental state and change of state in individuals and assists the precision and speed of auditing.” But does nothing.
TechZim has a theory about the G-meter.
The machine will detect pornographic pictures, videos or graphics taken or saved on phones, computers or cameras…. How does the pornography detection machine work though? This machine is not the first attempt at detecting porn on devices. There are several products already available, the Paraben Porn Detection Stick being an example. The Stick uses advanced image analysing algorithms to identify facial features, flesh tones and body parts that are potentially pornographic among other things.
The Stick actually works to a certain extent. It errs on the side of over-zealousness as it flags normal photos as pornographic more frequently than the opposite. The Stick however only scans for images and not videos which are harder to scan. Uganda’s machine does both, which it should at $88,000 because the Paraben Porn Detection Stick costs around $129.
Worryingly, the machine can also tap Virtual private networks (VPNS).
An interesting tidbit about the machine’s technology is that it can trace traffic from VPNs and proxy networks such as Tor. With such leads, they can they block the nodes routing traffic from the VPNs in question.
This means that we are unlikely to see a repeat of what happened during the social media blackout that was instituted in February during election time, when VPN clients were downloaded 1.5 million times to bypass restrictions.
Here’s the anti-porn committee being sworn in:
Apple shares are soaring. The iPhone remains the best and most desirable phone on the market. And with success comes money.
Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, has collected $89.6m as part of a 10-year deal that he signed as an incentive to keep the iPhone maker at the forefront of the technology industry after he took over the reins in 2011 from company co-founder Steve Jobs.
The stock package awarded to Cook in 2011 was originally valued at $376m, but is now worth much more because Apple shares have increased by six-fold since he signed the deal.
Apple Insider has more:
If Apple’s performance fell in the middle third of the S&P 500, Cook’s RSU award would have been reduced by half. Cook would have collected nothing if Apple stock finished in the bottom-third.
Apple and Cook are bound.
The principal–agent problem, in political science and economics, (also known as agency dilemma or the agency problem) occurs when one person or entity (the “agent”) is able to make decisions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the “principal”. This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.
Meanwhile, over at the Guardian, which repeats the story of Cook’s earnings from a newswire feed without mention of the penalties Cook faced for missing targets:
The Guardian has confirmed losses of £69m for the last financial year but said it was making significant progress in its membership scheme, with more than 50,000 people paying to sign up.
At least the newspaper now is trying to produce a viable business, asking readers to donate (no, not to pay, as the Times does):
The new editor of The Guardian is to be paid tens of thousands less than her male predecessor, according to figures published by the newspaper group.
Katharine Viner received a salary of £340,000 for 2014-15, putting her basic earnings well behind the £395,000 handed to Alan Rusbridger, whom she replaced last month as editor-in-chief of the paper.
Taking into account Mr Rusbridger’s other payouts from the group, where he was editor for two decades, the former newspaper boss took home £492,000 over the past year, £152,000 more than his successor.
And for his last seasons in charge:
The revelation of the pay gap came as Guardian News and Media, the publisher of The Guardian and The Observer, reported an underlying loss of £19.1 million for its latest financial year, a slight improvement on the £19.4 million it lost the previous year.
Performance-related pay can be perilous.
Good news is that Medium is thinking about – swoons! – paying writers who post on its website a fair rate. And to help them work out how much to pay are the readers, who will click on a pair of hands at the foot of each article and watch them clap. The more claps a story gets, the money cents the writer with earn. Yeah, Medium was to give writers the clap.
The Verge reports:
A couple weeks ago, Medium replaced its “recommend” feature — a little heart button at the end of each article — with a “clap” button that you can click as many times as you want (much like how Periscope lets you send broadcasters an infinite number of hearts). The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article.
Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber’s fee between the different articles they’ve read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It’s not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button.
Maybe writers should also be penalised for writing bad things with other hand gestures, like the bird, the tosser and a pointed finger that says ‘You’re fired’?
Twitter can be nasty place, full of angry prudes, prigs, bigots and berks. And then you’ve got the nastier types. The Fawcett Society says Twitter is “failing women” threatened online. The Fawcett Society is, as it says it is, the “UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights”. Created in 1866 to campaign for women’s suffrage – from championing equality the group now wants special rules to protect women (facepalm) – the charity is now looking at free speech and law in partnership with a group called Reclaim the Internet. Which is? Well, it’s mission statement begins: “The internet must be a forum for freedom of speech. But…”
If there’s a ‘but’ there’s no free speech, is there. Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who set up the organisation that seeks to control what can and cannot be said, might not be able to see the irony of her position, but anyone who values free speech should.
This comes after last week’s news that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has vowed to “treat online crime as seriously as offline offences”. The CPS will “prosecute complaints of hate crime online with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”.
The Telegraph has more:
The two groups identified 14 cases of threats and abuse against women including the MPs Luciana Berger, Diane Abbott and the late Jo Cox, as well as the campaigner Gina Miller, and reported them to Twitter earlier this month.
Tweets reported by the two groups also included threats of rape as well as images and video of apparently non-consensual sexual acts alongside abusive comments aimed at groups of women including migrants and Muslims.
On Monday night five of the 14 accounts remained active with the tweets in question still on the site, while Twitter had taken up to nine days to suspend the other accounts reported to it…
The offending tweets included a vile slur on the late MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a constituent in 2016, and racist and misogynistic abuse directed at the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. Other tweets included a description of raping migrants as “ethnic cleansing”.
Can you sue someone for saying something nasty about a dead person? Seems pretty incredible. Especially given that the prop is that online threats carry the same weight as threats carried out in the real world, where real sticks and stones can break your bones.
It all creates more questions. What’s abusive? Who gets to decide when words are illegal? Is it up to the police and then the CPS to decide? The law is sure to be very busy looking into every tweet someone found beyond the pale and reported? Are there enough resources? And do you want to live in a nation of narks getting off on setting the full weight of law on a fool who made a moronic, challenging or rude comment online?
Might be best to debate all this and more face to face, say in the pub, where notes are not taken and used in evidence against you. Problem is that since our protectors brought in the smoking ban and pubs started to become gastro-led family creches or flats, that option’s not all that attractive. Pub’s are out. Graffiti’s illegal and any conversation could take years. And no-one reads the papers, so letters to the editor are useless. So shouting at pigeons in the precinct it is, then. How’s that for progress?
Most old tat is great. Talia Rappa and Skyler Ashworth got some terrific gear at a Florida thrift store’s fire sale: for $1.20 they bought five NASA flight suits.
According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts’ names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts, PhD, Robert A. Parker, PhD, and Charles D. Walker, a payload specialist, flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.
You can buy one of these fantastic artefacts when the finders auction them at the American Space Museum auction on November 4.
Spotter: Click on Orlando
Everything is not rosy at Google. An internal memo written by Google engineer James Damore accusing the internet behemoth of operating as an “ideological echo chamber” is riding high on the news cycle. Google, opined Damore, is a place where the company’s approach to diversity is taboo. Google “dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the ‘victims’,” he wrote. And for saying that he was – get this- sacked.
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes,” says Damore. He says “differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50 per cent representation of women in tech and leadership”. He adds that ‘”discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business”.
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, read that and decreed that Damore had amplified “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”. Google’s workforce is 69% male. A mere 2% of Google staff are African American.
Damore’s views were not debated. He was fired. He lost his livelihood for being a disruptor, something Google, which owns YouTube, is proud of saying of itself. You must stick to the orthodoxy or perish. Free expression is out at Google. But Pichai maintains, “we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves.” That’s not free speech you can hear – that’s the soft wind of everyone nodding in agreement.
Damore touched a nerve. Google fired him to advertise its own sound morals. Never mind that women are underrepresented and one in 50 workers at any paygrade is African American, just read the press releases and know that Google upholds diversity and equality and will punish anyone expressing ‘the wrong’ views. On Google’s diversity page, Pichai is quoted saying, “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” Oh, the irony.
Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president for diversity, integrity and governance, tells us in response to Damore: “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”
She fails to tells us why, though. Damore did not understand the point of Google’s diversity programs. Does it improve results? Can its success be measured? Google defines itself as ‘diverse’ – Damore was sacked for breaking its “code of conduct”.
Picahi adds that female Googlers “are hurting and feel judged based on their gender”. Lucky for them that the blokes in charge are there to rally to the defence of these ultra-sensitive, simpering women who tremble and cower in the face of a man with a memo.
Is Facebook a friend to quality journalism? As well as publishing Anorak, I publish Flashbak. It’s Facebook page is up to 280,000 followers. But very few of the people who choose to follow the Page get to see it. Facebook limits the reach of anything I and others post there.
To reach every reader who wants to see our stories in their newsfeed, we’d have to pay Facebook a few hundred dollars per post. Post 5 stories a day and we’d be giving Facebook around £1,000. Add that up over a week; a month; a year. We can’t afford it. But that’s the deal. So we play along in the hope that readers will seek us out and find us though Facebook and other means – such as a weekly newsletter pulled together by the excellent Rob Baker.
But Facebook is making it even harder. Facebook is to penalise “reposted” content. They want us to post “new, original, content”. Posting links to stories on Flashbak.com we’ve taken a long time to research and resource, for instance, will be seen by even fewer readers. But slap up a livestream video of one of us walking about an art gallery, say, and lots more people will see it.
Come on, Facebook, we want to work with you but you’re making it harder and harder for small and mid-sized publishers to make the deal work .
Sing “I see a little silhouetto of a man” into your iPhone and Siri will sing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody:
Anyone visiting the website of Norway’s NRK website is asked to take a quiz if they want to comment on a story. The idea is to ensure that everyone about to comment understands the story, which is, of course, factually accurate and not in the least bit biased.
Readers are faced with three questions. Get them all right and you can post a comment. Get just one wrong, and you are banned.
“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment,” journalist Ståle Grut tells Nieman Lab. “If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.”
“If you spend 15 seconds on it, those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting,” said Marius Arnesen, editor of NKRbeta.
While many outlets have gotten rid of comments and outsourced reader conversations to platforms such as Facebook, others like NRKbeta are working to improve on-site conversations.
Last week, Google parent company Alphabet announced that it was working with The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and Wikipedia to test a new tool called Perspective that uses machine learning to identify “toxic” comments, which it defines as “rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comment that is likely to make you leave a discussion.”
Machine learning v human speech and interaction. Only one winner there. Can we agree to just let the bots and SEO wonks take over the Internet and the rest of us go down the pub?
If you’re going to better yourself by ignoring straight white males because they are lesser beings – less compassionate; less knowing; less human – it might be an idea not to use the tools these Untermensch invented to amplify your superiority over them:
Yep, you read that on the Internet. You know who invented that?
A cobble is steel snagged on a roller during manufacturing. The cobble blocks the flow and causes the freshly milled steel o rear up.
All hail the Photonic Fence, mosquito killing laser beam. Why slaver your skin in unctions of suntan oil and mosquito spray when you can just sit inside a metal cage and zap the bloodsucking swine. Says the company of its Photonic Fence curently being tested on a US Department of Agriculture site in Florida, where the Asian citrus psyllid menace hold sway:
One potential use of the Photonic Fence is to create a virtual fence that detects insects as they cross its plane. When an invading insect is detected, our software is able to estimate the insect’s size and measure its wing beat frequency. Using this method, not only can the system distinguish between mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, but it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female. This is important to know because only female mosquitos bite humans. Once the software establishes that the insect is a valid target, it tracks the mosquito in flight, runs a safety check to ensure no innocent bystanders are in view, and then activates a laser to zap the mosquito. The Photonic Fence could be set along the perimeter of clinics or other strategic areas to control mosquitoes without endangering humans or other animals.
Build walls not bridges! Cal me, Donald Trump, I have ideas…
The New Yorker has created this neat video of showing how New York City has changed from 1930s until today.
Rhode Island schools operating ‘1-1’ programs are spying on students. Under the terms of the program adopted by 22 of the state’s 33 school districts, students each get a laptop supplied by a third party. The issue is that everything students do on those laptops gets seen by the State.
Even if you use the machine at home, the State is watching you.
If you can afford your own laptop, no problem. What you do at school can be monitored but at home you have a right to privacy. But if you’re poorer, a child in a family that can’t afford laptops, you are watched day and night.
Something that was intended to open up young minds and increase freedom and free thought is being used to control and limit. The people behind these schemes have a pretty low opinion of the students they teach, treating them as suspects.
How that webcam, kiddo?
The ACLU adds:
It also discovered that a majority of those districts allow school officials or administrators to remotely access the device — while a student is at home, without their knowledge, and without any suspicion of misconduct. We know from an outrageous Pennsylvania case, in which school administrators were found to have activated webcams to spy on students in their homes.
CBS reported on that appalling abuse of trust in Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District. The school had captured over 50,000 screenshots o! students using their computers:
Holly Robbins, Blake’s mother, told CBS News, “I don’t feel this school has the right to put cameras inside the kids’ home, inside their bedrooms and spy on them.”
The Robbins family claims they learned of the breach after the assistant principal showed Blake pictures of himself and confronted him for engaging in “improper behavior in his home.”
Blake said, “She thought I was selling drugs, which is completely false.”
That’s when Holly and her husband, Michael Robbins, filed a federal lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District, claiming officials had “spied” on their son.
School officials admitted they’d captured thousands of webcam photographs and screen shots from student laptops in a misguided effort to locate missing computers.
The school district agreed a $610,000 settlement. Blake received $175,000 in a trust and $25,000 up front. The lawyers got a huge slice of it, naturally.
If you sperm start swimming towards the front door and then onto Massachusetts, this is why? Ani Liu reveals her plan:
Reflecting on the cultural and scientific discourses that shape notions of the female body, and in an expression of female empowerment, I seek to challenge this status quo by engineering a system by which I, a woman, can control something inherently and symbolical male: spermatozoa (sperm). Through the use of a brain-computer interface, I control the movement of sperm along an XY axis with the agency of my thoughts.
While at first glance the idea of controlling sperm might be absurd, it is my hope that it causes the viewer to reflect on the very real absurdities of control happening to the bodies of women. Genital mutilation, forced sterilization, sexual abuse, rape, and contraceptive regulation currently occur as forms of control projected onto female bodies. In creating a subversive counter-narrative to these practices of control, this work presents a hope for reimagining and shifting our notions of gender.
In the “What your friends…” box on the first version of Twitter, we see the name of Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. He got in early – one of the first 400 to sign up.
Politicians all want to censor the web. CapX writes:
It took us many centuries, a lot of effort and much expended blood and gore to get to this place where we are free – at liberty and ruled by the law, not the whims of people nor the rage of the mob. That we have those who would snatch them from us worries me far less than what our rulers will do to us and our liberty in the name of protecting us from those bearded nutters.
Just wait until the next generation of politicians arrive in Westminster from our elite universities. Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings tells us: “The more prestigious universities, those ranked highest in popular league tables, are nearly always the most censorious; the few green-ranking institutions are generally less highly esteemed.”
Joanna Williams adds:
The link between academic success and a fondness for censorship is more than just a mindset. It is precisely because they are the academic achievers that students at elite universities demand freedom from speech…They’ve learned that language constructs reality, and that ‘words that wound’ can inflict ‘spirit murder’ on those who, according to their gender, ethnicity or sexual identity, are assumed to be forever powerless. The students who excel in elite universities today have come to embody the vulnerability they see in others.
They don’t trust us. They moralise about our choices, thoughts and movements. They pick technical arguments about what should be banned and permitted over debating the root cause of the problem that leads people to become Islamist killers. In the minds of these superior prudes and knowing gatekeepers, the mere act of looking becomes a gateway to crime.
As Alexey Kovalev writes: “Russia takes the worst excesses of capitalism to the extreme, so here’s a vending machine in a mall for buying Likes for your Instagram pics.”
How sad is that:
Something about butterflies and things getting bigger:
No, me neither. But I like the video
After London Bridge, the news is that there will be crackdown on the internet. Freedom of speech must be curtailed. Encryption must be done away with.
Author Douglas Adams go it. In 1999 he wrote:
“I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet’. They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea’, though each of these was new and controversial in their day.”
Be like Bond with this red eject button to excite your car’s bland and pretty useless cigarette lighter.
Spotter: Pee-wee Herman
To the Liverpool One Shopping Centre, England, where hackers have issued a directive: ‘we suggest you improve your security – sincerely – your friendly neighbourhood hackers – #JFt96’.
Check out this brilliant flyer from Suffolk UKIP candidate Aidan Powlesland. He calls for a fleet of inter-steller vehicles to mine Saturn’s astroid belt for platinum and water. Why? For “the chance to begin anew”.
Spotter: Johnny Paige