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 Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating an anonymous tip-off that the London Metropolitan Police’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit asked Indian police to hire hackers to break into the private communications of hundreds of British people, including journalists, Greenpeace and Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones.
PCC deputy chairman Sarah Green appeals:
“This will be a complex investigation given the potential involvement of foreign participants.
“We would like to hear from the officer who brought these allegations to light or any other officers or police staff who may be able to provide information of use to the IPCC investigation.”
The Met Police said: “The IPCC made the Metropolitan Police Service aware of anonymous allegations concerning the access of personal data and requested the matter referred to them by the MPS. This has been done.
“The MPS is aware that the IPCC is carrying out an independent investigation.”
Computers can be wrong. Yes, we know what the system says but it is wrong. This bit of computer knowing resulted in human beings fined £100 per carload:
Parking cameras went live at the Ashford Retail Park in Kent in April, with signs telling drivers the new maximum stay is three hours.
But motorists got caught in gridlock on Easter Monday, and were trapped in the car park for hours when they struggled to join traffic on adjoining roads.
Says one customer parked in neutral:
Mr Donald continued: “On Monday we received a penalty charge notice from Highview Parking who enforce the three hour time limit on parking at this site.
“They must have had a flood of Penalty Charge Notices from this day.
“What troubles me is that there’s no quality control. It was utter madness. It’s just a money making exercise.
“I find it rather disappointing that these companies apply no common sense or quality control to their issuing of parking fines to innocent motorists who have over stayed due to no fault of their own.”
They apply computer sense.
Spotter: Daily Mail
When the web first boomed, the dream was to become a dotcom millionaire for running you own website. Now you can rich by working for someopne who built a website that went huge. The trick is to work for one that operates on a global scale and is based in the US. In “Tech titans pay $20bn in bonuses” The Times’ Danny Fortsun writes:
Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google’s parent Alphabet doled out a combined $20bn (£15.4bn) in share payouts last year, on top of the techies’ salaries, according to an analysis of stock market filings…
The $20bn bonanza equates to $29,850 for each of the quintet’s 670,000 employees. Last year Britain’s bankers and insurance workers took home £13.9bn in bonuses, an average of £13,400 per employee.
Well, quite. As Tim notes: “Global industry pays more in bonuses across the world than the one country sector of a global business.” If you’re tax efficient, the share price will rise leaving more money to dish out amongst friends and employees back at HQ.
What we don’t know is that bonuses the Big Five’s UK-based workforce took home when compared to their colleagues in the USA, say, or Luxembourg?
Over at Realbotix boffins are “dedicated to integrating cutting edge emerging technologies with silicone doll artistry to provide a bridge between technology and humankind on emotional, mental, and physical levels.” They’re making love dolls. “When interacting with these dolls, we want users to ask themselves, ‘What is she thinking?'”
This is the love doll’s head (yours for $10,000):
She can listen, so don’t mention the terrifying teeth, the terrifying eyes, the terrifying nose or the terrifying colour. Just wonder ‘What is she thinking?’
One man has turned his car into a mobile toilet. With the power of hosing, need and creativity, he’s created a car you can piss in without soiling the seats.
Behold the Jeep Catheter:
If that’s Number 1, is this Number 2?
The French election are riding high on the news cycle. The field has narrowed into a straight fight between Front National’s Marine Le Pen and independent Emmanuel Macron. Round 2 will be defined not what the French are for but what they are against. Do you want a samey rosy-fingered dawn (Marcon) or a honey-soaked past dipped in aspic (Le Pen)?
But this post is about the system. In Round 1, French voters were given 11 pieces of paper – 1 for each candidate. In the booth they choose 1 and put it in envelope. The rest are, presumably, thrown away. More paper is printed than used. There is no electronic voting and very few voting machines.
— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) April 23, 2017
Michæl Saunby tweets: “Avoids the need for pencils, which some (kippers) have a phobia of.”
Indeed, at the EU referendum some voters smelled a rat:
@Rox_Tans tweeted: “When you vote take a pen with you! They just tried making me do mine in pencil yeah ok so you can rub it out? Don’t think so bruv.”
Echoing this sentiment, @Kez_777 wrote: “Please make sure you take a BLACK PEN with you to vote as pencil votes can be tampered with (I wouldnt put anything past Cameron) #VoteLeave”
So is the French system better?
When everything is on the Internet, it might be wise to sleep with one eye open and beneath a tinfoil blanket. People living in Dallas didn’t get much sleep when a hacker triggered the city’s 156 emergency sirens – used to hail sever weather – to wail all at once 60 times from 11.42 pm until 1.17am.
You might want to unplug that toaster. When Andrew McGill linked his toaster to the web, hackers plugged in. In a day, 300 hackers had attempted to control his toaster. “I switched on the server at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday, fully expecting to wait days—or weeks—to see a hack attempt,” says McGill. “Wrong! The first one came at 1:53 p.m.”
If it’s on the web, it can be hacked.
The reaction to Khalid Massod’s murderous attack in London was clear: we will not let the heinous actions of one man threaten our hard won freedoms. Theresa May assured us that “Any attempt to defeat those values [liberty, democracy, freedom of speech, the spirit of freedom, the rule of law and human rights] through violence and terror is doomed to failure.”
And then came news that two minutes before he attacked, Masood received an encrypted message via WhatsApp. Would knowing the contents of that message have helped the police stop Masood’s “depraved” and “sick” crime? The police weren’t watching him, so maybe not.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, like May, her eavesdropping predecessor in the Home Office who introduced the invasive Investigatory Powers Act, is no fan of privacy. Rudd says encryption represents a threat to national security. She wants apps like WattsAp to aid government investigations by letting them in to look around.
And so from not giving into terrorists by refusing to play the terrorists at their own game, the State soon begins to chip away at our liberties.
The Liberal Democrat’s home affairs spokesman, former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police and onetime London mayoral hopeful Brian Paddick says allowing the authorities to view encrypted messages would be “neither a proportionate nor an effective response” to the Westminster attack. “These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society,” he says. “By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would be playing into their hands.”
The Sun uses its editorial to argue that Rudd is right. “Home Secretary Amber Rudd is right to read them [WhatsApp, Apple and Google] the riot act and tell them the terrorists should have no place to hide,” the paper thunders. “Because that’s just what WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – lets them do. By encrypting messages, it stops the police being able to track terror plots.They can’t even investigate in the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity.”
But “if you build a back door, it’s there for everybody to access,” says Tony Anscombe in the same paper. “And if you store that data you collect, even in encrypted form, how secure is it? All these data breaches we hear about show our privacy is regularly being breached by hackers, so the action suggested by the Home Secretary would only open us all up to further invasions of privacy.“
In 2012 the murderous Syrian government banned WhatsApp in order “to disrupt the rebel opposition’s cellular privacy”. In a dangerous place, privacy is paramount for many. It’s matter of life and death. “WhatsApp is very popular among Syrians, and particularly Syrian opposition activists,” says Tuma, a Syrian journalist. “Even Free Syrian Army soldiers are using the app.” The Syrian government wants to police communications because it fears the people. The UK government wants to police communications to protect the people. But protecting citizens from criminals soon slips into monitoring us all. A rogue State begins to look like the Free West.
May should wonder how she can champion free expression and free speech through observation and mistrust? With no private lives, no space to look at non-conformist things and express ideas, however mentally negligible and far-fetched, privacy become public spectacle. Afraid of standing out and attracting police attention, we ape each other’s movements, keeping in step with what the authorities deem acceptable and unthreatening.
You can still believe things but you dare not say them aloud. People become isolated, hidden behind a bland facade. Is that what not giving into the terrorists looks like?
Bobby Kasthuri accepted Wired’s challenge to explain what a connectome is to five individuals. As you know, of course, a connectome is (it says here) ‘a comprehensive diagram of all the neural connections existing in the brain’.
Kasthuri’s mission was that ‘every person here can leave with understanding it at some level’. The people ‘here’ were: a 5-year-old, a 13-year-old, a college student, a neuroscience graduate student and a practising neuroscientist.
“We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology,” said Carl Sagan,“and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.”
Pay attention. Questions later:
As E. O. Wilson noted: ‘The heart of the scientific method is the reduction of perceived phenomena to fundamental, testable principles. The elegance, we can fairly say the beauty, of any particular scientific generalization is measured by its simplicity relative to the number of phenomena it can explain.’
The questions keep on coming.
Good news its that technology is on course to cure hearing loss caused by the dying off of cochlear hair cells. C&EN tells us that a healthy ear contains about 15,000 hair cells in the cochlea. As you age, they die:
Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary have discovered a mixture of molecules that can dramatically reverse hair cell loss in the cochleas of mice.
Why is it those elitist mice always get new technology first – what about us humans? And, of course, if you can regrew cochlea hair, look out for lots of ageing rockers and footballers tilting the tops of their heads towards you when you talk.
Well, help is at hand. Beat the Boss, aka Xeku’s Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS), will give you a gel-free “hygienic cavity search”. Ostensibly targeted at prisoners smuggling contraband into choky, the BOSS will be a boon to sexual explorers and nudists who spend too long asking, ‘Has anyone seen the keys?”
If you’re too busy to tweet yourself, you can outsource the task and others to the woman above. She’s a clickfamer installing apps on a screen of Apple iphones. The more installs an app has the higher it ranks on Apple’s marketplace.
For a $11,000 one-off payment – plus $65,000-a-week for upkeep – you too can ensure your crappy appy hits the Top 10 of free apps. You can hire a cheat / marketeer to game the system on China’s Taobao.
The original photo was tweeted on Weibo with the caption, “Hard-working App Store ranking manipulation employee.”
Apple tries to prevent PC-based iPhone emulation programs (bots) made for this purpose and bans apps that use them, so manual labor is the best way to ensure the closest simulation of actual users.
A search for “app store ranking manipulation” (刷榜 app store) on Taobao, China’s most popular C2C ecommerce site, reveals dozens upon dozens of vendors selling similar services. Their prices are listed as one yuan, but it’s more likely that the real negotiations take place through direct chat.
Can you hire out your iPhone for the day to do this? Asking for a friend.
Are you scared and unarmed by mass communication? Jonathan Safran Foer is worried by his “always on” digital environment. He says “technology is diminishing us”. Foer says inattentiveness is morally wrong. ‘Simone Weil wrote that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’,” says Foer. “By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.”
As with all adult fears it’s not long before children are mentioned: “Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention – even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less.”
Paying attention in the modern age is so very hard, argues Foer. Our attentiveness is linked to the value we put on things. Our phones, the argument goes, have reduced human interaction to the point of meaningless. The technology has determined us.
He laments: ‘Each step “forward” has made it easier – just a little – to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”
But isn’t technology used to seek attention? Look at how many tweets are narcissistic, directed to show off the writer’s virtue on the back of whatever outrage can be found in the dust. The message is not about you; it’s about me.
We’ve been here before, of course.
Was Conrad Gessner right to warn about the “confusing and harmful” presence of too much information? He wrote that about the printing press in 1565.
A 1883 article in a New York medical journal said reading and schooling would “exhaust the children’s brains and nervous systems with complex and multiple studies, and ruin their bodies by protracted imprisonment”. Is education bad?
Before both of them Socrates bewailed writing: “This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”
Why can’t those pesky kids just be happy with learning from their elders?
Have you found yourself checking email at dinner, or skipping from book to screen, unable to focus? The closer the world gets to our fingertips, the more we stand to lose
Isn’t the real worry that education has been diminished to such an extent that we put stock in bite-sized data hits and exclaiming what we are not? If people don’t read weighty texts it’s not because of their tactile and reassuringly expensive gadgets – “…the phones in our pockets nowadays are always built in dialogue with marketers who have carefully noted how colour and curve, brightness and texture, heft and size make us feel,” he writes. It’s because they put less stock in reading a good book.
“I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts,” he writes in words seemingly taken from a Victorian melodrama.
In 2005, CNN warned us that email was hurting the IQ “more than pot”. The July/August 2008 edition of The Atlantic asked: “Is Google making is Stoopid?”
The argument is always the same: humans are victims of technology.
Maybe it’s not about the internet, books, radios, TV, comic books, smart phones or whatever new technology the older generation sees as a threat. Maybe it’s just about education and the erosion of once weighty cultural authority that promised a path to the awe of understanding? Or maybe it’s just that the older we get the more resistant we are to new things that when distilled all rehash a timeless and basic human need: to communicate?
Drones can hack your lightbulbs. It’s true. It sounds mad to say it, granted. But it’s true. PC World reports on a cyber attack on your so-called smart bulbs:
Researchers were able to take control of some Philips Hue lights using a drone. Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code.
The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away.
If they can blink for help, presumably they can also be turned off and on in, say, an attack by an enemy? The war-time command to “Put that light out” would be null and void if the enemy was controlling the things.
“There is no other method of reprogramming these [infected] devices without full disassemble (which is not feasible). Any old stock would also need to be recalled, as any devices with vulnerable firmware can be infected as soon as power is applied,” according to the researchers.
Apparently, the Israeli and Canadian researchers have informed Philips of the design flaw and it’s been “patched”.
Isn’t technology marvellous.
If you use Apple computers you are an “Apple fan”, says the Daily Mail. You’re also a mug because the Apple stuff you buy in the UK is pricier than the same stuff you can buy in the US, the paper notes.
The Mail thunders: “That’s not how you convert from dollars to pounds, Apple! British fans outraged as new range of Mac laptops costs far more here than in America.”
Fans, of course, never mind paying a surcharge to support their touring idols. But Alexander Robertson has a spotted the outrage and is keen to report on it.
Apple fans in the UK are once again being hit in the pocket after the tech giant announced prices for its new laptop. The company’s latest range of notebooks were announced on Thursday, with the cheapest option coming in at £1,449 in Britain and $1,499 in the US.
That’s the kind of exchange rate only Brexit and the bureau de change on Times Square can recreate.
The pricing means customers in the UK will pay £218 more than their American counterparts after converting the two currencies.
What a rip off! The Mail sense the “fury”. And then readers get this:
The majority of American buyers will pay slightly closer to the UK price due to many states putting a sales tax on top of the price. In New York for example, where the sales tax is 8.875 per cent, customers would only be saving £50 compared to their British counterparts.
As Tim Worstall says, “US prices are quoted exclusive of sales tax, UK prices are quoted inclusive of VAT.”
Robertson fails to mention that. Apple does. Take this quote for one of its products:
2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
8GB 1866MHz memory
256GB PCIe-based SSD1
Intel Iris Graphics 540
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Includes VAT of approx. £242.00.*
You can claim the 20% VAT back if you are VAT registered. So, yeah, the Apple stuff might be cheaper over here than it is in the USA!
How big is space? The 2MASS Redshift Survey is trying to find out. After 10 years toil,we can see the universe rendered as a 3D map. It features – get this- 43,000 galaxies within 380 million light-years from Earth.
It is awe-inspiring.
When Ashley was blind, her nearest and dearest described colours to her like this:
Yellow. I didn’t touch anything for this, they just told me that whenever you laugh so hard you can’t stop, that that happiness is what yellow looks like.
Green. I held soft leaves and wet grass. They told me green felt like life. To this day it is still very much my favorite color.
Like millions of you, I’m not buying the New iPhone 7 because: a) they told me the iPhone 6s was the greatest phone ever and could not be beaten, and I beliveed them – still do!; b) the new cameras are so clear they force you see your own life as it really is; c) something about tax and stuff.
In the Guardian, you can read one man’s reasons for opting out:
….because they had pulled the Double Irish, the European commission has ruled, Apple deprived the EU of $14.5bn over the last 10 years. The EU ordered Apple to pay the taxes with interest at the end of August, a decision whose logic the company refutes.
No. The EU does not set tax rates.
This is hardly surprising: Apple is a massive multinational, and behaves like one despite its sanitized image. It has a long track record of looking the other way on suppliers’ human rights abuses, documented by the New York Times and other outlets. And it pays a tax rate lower than that of 99.99% of the human beings reading this story right now – and they clearly work harder at that profit margin and squeezing their supply chain now than they do on their actual technology. And in the last few years it is beginning to show.
d) They’re expensive.
On July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 blasted into space. In this video the blast off is stretched from 30 seconds of action to over eight minutes of viewing time.
“The Saturn V vehicle produced a holocaust of flames,” says NASA.
Lock up your sons and daughters – the sex bots are coming. The Mail warns:
Teenagers may lose their virginity to sex robots in the future, a leading expert predicted yesterday. Professor Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics at Sheffield University, warned that android sex dolls may have damaging consequences for society.
He said that just as the rise of internet porn took the Government by surprise, a similarly seismic robot revolution is on the way – with far-reaching consequences.
Seismic stuff. did the earth move for you?
“It’s not a problem having sex with a machine. But what if it’s your first time, your first relationship? What do you think of the opposite sex then? What do you think a man or a woman is?… It will get in the way of real life, stopping people forming relationships with normal people.”
How do you fend off carjackers? On YouTube, we find an answer:
When this foot switch is pressed, two things happen. One, a 14-thousand volt spark would appear here in this nozzle, and then you have these four jets here shooting out gas. Liquid gas from the gas bottle in the boot. Liquid gas, as soon as it exits over the spark here, will ignite and a ball of flame will shoot out of both side of the vehicle. Incapacitating the hijackers immediately.”
Amazingly perhaps, the system’s legal in South Africa – provided the driver is acting in self defence as depicted in this mock-up.
Do you trust machines? Would you buy a driverless car? To Tobermory, Ontario, Canada, where a 23-year-old woman who followed her car’s SatNav instructions ended up in a harbour.
Ontario Provincial Police say the driver “took a wrong turn into Little Tub Harbour… weather conditions and the driver being new to the area, a fully submerged vehicle was the result,” police said. The woman escaped by sliding from the car’s window and swimming 30 metres to the shore in 4°C water.
YouTuber **Sally71** has created the “DON’T TOUCH!!! BOX – a variant of “The Most Useless Box Machine”.
This is a new chart of cosmic exploration from Pop Chart Lab. It “traces the trajectories of every orbiter, lander, rover, flyby, and impactor to ever slip the surly bonds of Earth’s orbit and successfully complete its mission — a truly astronomical array of over 100 exploratory instruments in all.”
Big news in the Daily Mail that Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is “gunning down rivals” by playing Call of Duty on his PlayStation.
Those rivals had best watch out. The Daily Mail told us Call of Duty turns you into a murderer – maybe:
He shoots! He shoot! He keeps on shooting until the game is over and his wife call him down for dinner…