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Tech News

Google and Orange building cable between US and France
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

The 6,600km undersea cable will open in 2020 and is one of seven Google is building over the next two years

Telecoms firm Orange has teamed up with Google to work on a private undersea cable connecting the Atlantic coasts of France and the United States.

Measuring 6,600km in length, the undersea cable will be named Dunant after Henry Dunant, the first Nobel peace prize winner and founder of the Red Cross. When it comes online in 2020, it will provide Orange alone with a capacity of “more than 30 terabits per second, per [fibre] pair” – enough, the company says, “to transfer a 1GB movie file in 30 microseconds”. Neither Orange nor Google released information about the total capacity of the cable, nor how they would allocate it between them.

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Blockchain isn't about democracy and decentralisation – it's about greed | Nouriel Roubini
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin result in the concentration of wealth, not greater equality

With the value of bitcoin having fallen by about 70% since its peak late last year, the mother of all bubbles has now gone bust. More generally, cryptocurrencies have entered a not-so-cryptic apocalypse. The value of leading coins such as Ether, EOS, Litecoin and XRP have all fallen by over 80%, thousands of other digital currencies have plummeted by 90%-99%, and the rest have been exposed as outright frauds. No one should be surprised by this: four out of five initial coin offerings (ICOs) were scams to begin with.

Faced with the public spectacle of a market bloodbath, boosters have fled to the last refuge of the crypto scoundrel: a defence of “blockchain,” the distributed-ledger software underpinning all cryptocurrencies. Blockchain has been heralded as a potential panacea for everything from poverty and famine to cancer. In fact, it is the most overhyped – and least useful – technology in human history.

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What next for photography in the age of Instagram?
Posted on Sunday October 14, 2018

In our image-propelled social media era, some photographers fear for the future of the art, while others are galvanised by it. As technology increasingly shapes how we see and share the world, how is photography changing in response?

In 2012, I wrote an essay about the shifting nature of photography in an era of unprecedented image overload. Back then, Facebook users alone were uploading 300m photographs a day, while the number of images posted on Flickr and Instagram had exceeded the 11bn mark. I quoted the American artist and writer Chris Wiley, whose 2011 article, “Depth of focus”, in Frieze magazine, had expressed the anxiety of many practitioners about “a world thoroughly mediatised by and glutted with the photographic image and its digital doppelganger”.

Wiley’s conclusion was pessimistic: “As a result, the possibility of making a photograph that can stake a claim to originality or affect has been radically called into question. Ironically, the moment of greatest photographic plentitude has pushed photography to the point of exhaustion.”

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The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world
Posted on Sunday October 14, 2018

We check our phones every 12 minutes, often just after waking up. Always-on behaviour is harmful to long-term mental health, and we need to learn to the hit the pause button

It is difficult to imagine life before our personal and professional worlds were so dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and the other devices that make us accessible and, crucially, so easily distractible and interruptible every second of the day. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

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Facebook says 14m accounts had personal data stolen in recent breach
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Hackers were able to access name, birthdate and other data in nearly half of the 30 million accounts that were affected

Facebook has revealed 30m accounts were affected in a data breach last month. The company said hackers were able to access personal information for nearly half of those accounts.

That information included name, relationship status, religion, birthdate, workplaces, search activity, and recent location check-ins. The company had initially said 50m accounts were affected.

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Brompton electric folding bike: 'This is all about easy city living'
Posted on Sunday October 14, 2018

It’s no surprise there is a buzz about the new electric Brompton

Price £2,595
Gears 2 or 6 speed
Range up to 50 miles
Weight 13.7kg, plus battery 2.9kg

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Bloodhound 1,000mph car hits skids as project enters administration
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

Appeal for £25m investment to rescue British team’s plan to break land speed record

Plans to build a British jet-powered car to speed at more than 1,000mph through the desert have hit quicksand, after the company behind the Bloodhound project entered administration.

The dream of an ultra-fast car to break the land speed record led to the creation of Bloodhound Programme Ltd in 2007, with the idea of also engaging schools and students in engineering.

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Google to shut down Google+ after failing to disclose user data leak
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Company didn’t disclose leak for months to avoid a public relations headache and potential regulatory enforcement

This March, as Facebook was coming under global scrutiny over the harvesting of personal data for Cambridge Analytica, Google discovered a skeleton in its own closet: a bug in the API for Google+ had been allowing third-party app developers to access the data not just of users who had granted permission, but of their friends.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost exactly the scenario that got Mark Zuckerberg dragged in front of the US Congress. The parallel was not lost on Google, and the company chose not to disclose the data leak, the Wall Street Journal revealed Monday, in order to avoid the public relations headache and potential regulatory enforcement.

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Elon Musk says 'Teslaquila' is 'coming soon' as Tesla files trademark
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Billionaire tweets ‘visual approximation’ of bottle as company applies to use the name for tequila branded after the electric cars

Elon Musk is hitting the bottle – well, probably. Tesla has trademarked “Teslaquila”, a tequila branded after his electric car company.

The product started as an April Fool’s joke when Musk claimed Tesla was going bankrupt and that he had been found “passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by ‘Teslaquilla’ bottles, the tracks of dried tears still visible on his cheeks”.

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Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Mitchell Baker says firms should hire philosophy and psychology graduates to tackle misinformation

Technology companies need to diversify their hiring practices to include more people from backgrounds in philosophy and psychology if they want to tackle the problem of misinformation online, the head of one of the biggest internet charities has warned.

Mitchell Baker, head of the Mozilla Foundation, has warned that hiring employees who mainly come from Stem – science, technology, engineering and maths – will produce a new generation of technologists with the same blindspots as those who are currently in charge, a move that will “come back to bite us”.

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Apple iPhone XS review: two steps forward, one step back
Posted on Thursday October 04, 2018

The iPhone XS hasn’t broken mould like the iPhone X, and it has weaker battery life, but its camera, design and performance are class-leading

The iPhone XS isn’t the only all-screen iPhone on the block this year, but with its balance of large screen and small body, is it still the iPhone to buy?

To say that the iPhone XS looks exactly the same as the iPhone X is somewhat of an understatement. Apart from a pair of new antenna lines and asymmetric holes in the bottom, the phone is an identical metal and glass sandwich. Unless you buy the new gold colour.

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Do decentralised web programs use as much energy as cloud-based services?
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

Martin is interested in using a DWeb alternative to Google Docs, but worries about the energy use associated with blockchain

I recently read a piece about decentralisation. As I am looking for an alternative to Google, Microsoft and the other big names, Graphite stood out. However, it uses blockchain, and one thing that I do not find encouraging is the amount of energy it consumes.

So my question is: from an energy point of view, is there much difference between cloud and blockchain?

The main aim of the decentralised web (DWeb) is to remove the power of centralised “gatekeepers” such as Facebook and Google, who hoover up the world’s data and monetise it by selling advertising. It reminds me of the original concept of the web, where every computer would be both a client and a server, sharing information on a more or less equal basis.

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Should I replace my old PC or upgrade it with an SSD?
Posted on Thursday October 04, 2018

Iain has an unusably slow desktop. Will a £300 upgrade revive it, or should he put the money towards a new machine?

I have a Dell an all-in-one desktop PC from 2012. It has become painfully slow. It takes so long to boot up and run Google Chrome, Microsoft Office and Apple iTunes that it’s almost useless. (It also does photo and video storage, accounts and school work.)

A local computer business will upgrade the hard drive to an SSD, and clone it so I don’t have to reinstall everything, for about £300. According to them, this should give it an extra year or two of life. I like the style of this machine, and discarding it would be a waste if it still worked fine. However, the poor performance is critical and I am worried the hard drive will die and I’ll lose everything.

Your worry filled me with dread. Hard drives are increasingly likely to fail after five years of use. Every PC should be backed up, and you should have multiple copies of irreplaceable data. If you don’t, please buy a USB external hard drive as soon as possible and back up both your PC and your data – photos, music, documents, accounts etc.

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Should I buy a PC with Intel Optane drive acceleration?
Posted on Thursday September 27, 2018

Ruth wants to replace her old desktop PC and is trying to decide between one with an SSD and one with an Optane accelerator

I’m looking to replace my eight-year-old desktop PC. Other things being equal, should I go for an AMD processor with a 128GB SSD or an Intel PC with 8GB of memory, a 1TB HDD and Optane? A comparison of processor performance shows very little difference, and the two options have very similar prices.

I typically run a browser with multiple tabs, Acrobat Reader with large pdf files, one or more of the Microsoft Office suite, plus the proprietary software for my business. I don’t do high-end graphics processing or gaming, but would your advice be different if I did? Ruth

The difference between the two PCs boils down to how much storage you need and the performance of the Optane accelerator in the Intel-based machine.

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Is a tablet or 2-in-1 laptop with a stylus useful for a student?
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

Matt’s daughter already has a laptop for university, but will a lighter device with a smartpen be better for taking notes?

My daughter will be starting university and already has a more-than-adequate laptop for essay writing and Netflix. But rather than carry it to and from lectures all the time, we wondered if it would be worth investing in a tablet or smaller 2-in-1 laptop with a stylus for note taking. Or do you think it would be better to stick with a small screen laptop? Matt

There are two issues here that go well beyond product choice, and can only be decided by you and your daughter. The first is whether a change in circumstances – going to university – requires the adoption of a new technology, whether it be a tablet or stylus or both. I’m assuming that your daughter doesn’t use either of these, or you would already know the answer.

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Big tech's double trouble: political heat from Trump and the left may signal reckoning ahead
Posted on Sunday September 02, 2018

Trump’s timing of attacks on Google, Facebook and Twitter could not have been better, as the three come under scrutiny in hearings

Trump and Russia may have dominated the political discourse all summer, but last week the attention turned again to America’s internet technology giants. They had enjoyed a few months out of the spotlight following grueling congressional hearings in Washington late last year, after evidence emerged of Russia’s use of social media fake accounts to try to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential election.

But that respite ended last week after a tweet from Donald Trump that electrified the news agenda from Silicon Valley to the capital when, seemingly out of the blue – he posted a bizarre tweet. “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” he tweeted. Trump went on to allege that Google was censoring right-wing voices and privileging voices from the left.

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Does the banning of Alex Jones signal a new era of big tech responsibility?
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

With the removal of the conspiracy theorist’s material from key platforms, firms have changed their tune on ‘free speech’ – but some see the move as more about money than morality

At this very moment, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is almost certainly sitting in front of a camera, shouting that he has been silenced. If you are so inclined, you can easily watch and listen along, either by going to his website, downloading his iPhone and Android apps, or following him on Twitter.

Related: Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify ban Infowars' Alex Jones

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From Virgin to Tesla: why companies go cool on public ownership
Posted on Thursday August 09, 2018

There are many reasons why entrepreneurs get frustrated by the demands of the markets

Elon Musk’s announcement that he was considering taking Tesla off the stock market should not have been a total surprise.

Related: Tesla shares soar after Elon Musk floats plan to take company private

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A withering verdict: MPs report on Zuckerberg, Russia and Cambridge Analytica
Posted on Saturday July 28, 2018

Select committee criticises Facebook response and urges tighter internet regulation

The DCMS select committee’s far-reaching interim report on its 18-month investigation into fake news and the use of data and “dark ads” in elections offers a wide-ranging, informed and sustained critique that carries with it the full weight of parliament. The verdict is withering: Facebook failed. It “obfuscated”, refused to investigate how its platform was abused by the Russian government until forced by pressure from Senate committees and, in the most damning section, it aided and abetted the incitement of racial hatred in Burma, noting that even the company’s chief technical officer, Mike Schroepfer, called this “awful”.

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From the Cookie Monster cat to ballistic missiles: when text and email alerts go wrong
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

The US embassy in Australia spammed recipients with a picture of a cat this week – but that’s nothing compared with other recent message fails

The US embassy in Canberra, Australia, sent out an email invitation this week to untold numbers of recipients, in Latin, with a picture of a cat holding biscuits in a turquoise Cookie Monster onesie. It was, of course, an error, though not one I can see any reasonable person being truly irked by. It also wasn’t the first of its kind. In 2014, the retailer Fab followed up its own subscriber-destined email of nothing but a cat with another, featuring two cats, explaining that it had been “purrrly a mistake”, and attaching an apologetic 10% discount code.

Messaging systems the world over seem to be having a bad year of it, spanning the full spectrum of societal anxiety, from A-level results to intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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Virgin Media faces 'power issue'
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

A fault with Virgin Media has left many customers in London without internet access and TV.

Snapchat adds selfie filters for cats
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

Snapchat's augmented-reality selfie filters now work on cats.

UK seeks to secure smart home gadgets
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

Makers of small, smart home gadgets will be encouraged to do more to protect them against hack attacks

Bloodhound supersonic car hits financial roadblock
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

The UK-led supersonic car project goes into administration. There are just weeks to save the venture.

Social media moderators: Blur your eyes
Posted on Sunday October 14, 2018

Why one content moderator couldn't shake hands for three years after she left her job.

Wales' 5G advisory group criticised for being all men
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

The appointment of eight men to the expert panel for Wales faced a backlash on Twitter.

Is it the end of the supermarket checkout till?
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

M&S is the latest shop to test a "scan and go" app, meaning shoppers don't need to use a till.

Facebook shuts down 'spammy' politics pages
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Political sites with millions of followers have been purged in a Facebook crackdown on spam.

US weapons systems can be 'easily hacked'
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

A government report has found mission critical cyber-flaws in the US's cutting-edge weapon systems.

Apple hires engineers from UK company Dialog
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

The deal represents one of Apple's biggest takeovers in headcount terms.

 


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