Meta wants EU users to apply for permission to opt out of data collection

Ars Technica reports:

Meta announced that starting next Wednesday, some Facebook and Instagram users in the European Union will for the first time be able to opt out of sharing first-party data used to serve highly personalized ads, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move marks a big change from Meta’s current business model, where every video and piece of content clicked on its platforms provides a data point for its online advertisers.

People “familiar with the matter” told the Journal that Facebook and Instagram users will soon be able to access a form that can be submitted to Meta to object to sweeping data collection. If those requests are approved, those users will only allow Meta to target ads based on broader categories of data collection, like age range or general location.

This immediately feels like something that shouldn’t be legal. Why on earth do I have to convince Facebook to respect my privacy? I should not have to provide any justification to them whatsoever – if I want them to respect my privacy, they should just damn do so, no questions asked.

It seems I’m not alone:

Other privacy activists have criticized Meta’s plan to provide an objection form to end sweeping data collection. Fight for the Future Director Evan Greer told Ars that Meta’s plan provides “privacy in name only” because users who might opt out if given a “yes/no” option may be less likely to fill out the objection form that requires them to justify their decision.

“No one should have to provide a justification for why they don’t want to be surveilled and manipulated,” Greer told Ars.


My quest to re-create Street Fighter’s long-lost pneumatic controls

During my search, it became evident how uncommon the SF1 deluxe cabinet really was (pneumatic version or otherwise). There was also a paucity of knowledge about the machine—and especially about its pneumatic controls. Pictures and parts were scarce, and a video of a working pneumatic machine didn’t even exist on the Internet. It seemed that there was still so much unknown about the original arcade game that launched my favorite game series. In a way, the challenge of gathering this information was motivating—why not try to make a working pneumatic machine and share what I have discovered? In any case, my kids would love it.

And so began this undertaking.

I had no idea that the original Street Fighter had these pneumatic controls, but it does seem to be a brilliant idea – until you start thinking about it a bit more and realise the amount of beating these buttons would take.

Can we hide the orange dot without disabling SIP?

A bit of background.

When macOS Monterey was announced, Apple added an orange dot indicator that appears on top of everything whenever the microphone is in use.

Kidding, it was quite a nice privacy addition actually. We could finally see in realtime when an app used the microphone, and what app that is.

But this wasn’t something that everyone wanted.

And so begins a detailed article about to hide the orange dot indicator. Can it be done without disabling System Integrity Protection?

A brief history of APFS in honour of its fifth birthday

This article is a year old, but I came across it and want to highlight it anyway.

On 27 March 2017, Apple made one of its biggest corporate gambles. When it rolled out iOS 10.3 that day, the installer silently converted the storage in each iPhone and iPad to the first release of Apple’s new file system, APFS. Had a significant percentage of conversions gone wrong, Apple would have had a disaster on its hands, particularly as it didn’t admit to doing this until WWDC just over two months later, when it announced that APFS was coming to macOS 10.13 High Sierra that September.

The conversion of god knows how many iPhones and iPads to APFS, entirely silently, is one of those moments where Apple really flexed its engineering muscle. Since file systems are a bit of an archaic topic these days, I find that Apple really isn’t getting the recognition it deserves for this silent migration to APFS.

Understanding immutable Linux OS: benefits, architecture, and challenges

For years, the traditional Linux operating system has been a top pick for its flexibility and ability to be customized. But as great as it is, there are use cases in which stricter security rules and higher reliability standards are needed. That’s where immutable Linux operating systems come in – offering a more secure and reliable option, especially in settings where security is paramount.

In this post, we’ll be addressing some common questions to help you understand the principles behind immutable operating systems. We’ll also be exploring the various solutions available and the challenges faced in this field. So, get ready to dive in!

I’m quite interested in this concept, as I feel it might be something the desktop Linux world is slowly moving towards. There’s considerable advantages, but also the risk of making the whole system far less flexible than desktop Linux is today.

Windows needs to stop showing tabloid news

Did you know that pigs eat humans “far more often than people expect?” If not, surely you must have heard the important, breaking news that a priest “died” in 2016, went to Hell briefly and returned to inform the rest of us that demons like to play Rhianna’s Umbrella song over and over again. If you aren’t aware of these important news stories then maybe you haven’t been spending enough time using Windows’ search box and widgets section, which at least for me, are filled to the brim with tabloid trash headlines.

The stories come courtesy of Microsoft’s MSN content network, which syndicates content from hundreds of web publishers: some reputable, some less so. Full disclosure: Our parent company, Future Plc, has a syndication agreement with MSN and many of its sites, including Tom’s Hardware, occasionally have articles appear on the network. What’s problematic here, though, is not that MSN syndicates content but that it often pushes the equivalent of the Weekly World News table of contents right into the Windows operating system where it can be hard to avoid.

Actions have consequences. If you choose to use Windows, you choose to get fed garbage all over your operating system in the form of ads and tabloid news.

Fallout 4 mod uses voice AI to add sensible reactions, more RPG-like choices

Modders can change many things inside their favorite games, but dialogue from professionally voiced characters hasn’t been one of those things—at least until recently. AI voice generation could open up new modding avenues for some games, as it has already done with one Fallout 4 mod package.


They’re not just new labels on existing dialogue, either. RED, created by NexusMods user ProfMajowski (and first seen by us at PCGamesN), says it used ElevenLabs voice AI to generate its more in-character lines. The results can sometimes “sound a little ’emotionless,'” the creator writes, but “otherwise they basically sound like the real thing.” Nothing your character can newly say now will change the game’s mechanics or reactions, but it should sound a bit more in character.

I’m not down on “artificial intelligence” as a matter of principle – quite the opposite. This story right here is a great example of how AI can be used in productive, interesting ways that truly make something possible that either wasn’t possible before, or was simply entirely unrealistic.

Spoken dialog is hard to record for a whole slew of reasons, from cost to finding enough quality voice actors to the time it takes, and it’s usually only the biggest studios that have the ability to add it to their games. Even then it’s often a struggle, from bad voice acting overall to large role-playing games where e.g. the main quest is beautifully voiced, but side quests are either entirely unvoiced or clearly rushed by some cheap interns.

Thanks to technology like this, even small indie studios or mere mod developers can add something meaningful to their work that up until recently simply wasn’t realistic. It will make games meaningfully better – especially once technology improves a bit more and developers become proficient with it – without the need for hype.

The Internet Archive has lost its first fight to scan and lend e-books like a library

A federal judge has ruled against the Internet Archive in Hachette v. Internet Archive, a lawsuit brought against it by four book publishers, deciding that the website does not have the right to scan books and lend them out like a library.

Judge John G. Koeltl decided that the Internet Archive had done nothing more than create “derivative works,” and so would have needed authorization from the books’ copyright holders — the publishers — before lending them out through its National Emergency Library program.

As much as we all want the Internet Archive to be right – and morally, they are – copyright law, as outdated, dumb, and counterproductive as it is, was pretty clear in this case. Sadly.

Framework unveils major upgrades to their 13″ laptop, and new 16″ model

Today, we’re introducing a major set of upgrades to the Framework Laptop spanning two new models – the Framework Laptop 13 (13th Gen Intel® Core™) and the Framework Laptop 13 (AMD Ryzen™ 7040 Series). We’ve not only scaled up performance and enabled an AMD-powered version for the first time, but we’ve also delivered refinements to the day-to-day user experience with a higher capacity battery, matte display, louder speakers, and more ridgid hinges.

And Framework kept their promise: these new mainboards can be ordered separately and fit into the existing Framework 13″ laptop.

The company also showed off their next product – a 16″ laptop that not only comes with an upgradeable GPU, but also a completely configurable input deck, so you can configure the keyboard and trackpad area in any configuration you like.

I’m so happy Framework is doing well, as it shows that glued shut, non-repeairable, and non-upgradeable laptops are not some sort of universal inevitable truth.

Google’s answer to ChatGPT, Google Bard, is out

Google Bard is out—sort of. Google says you can now join the waitlist to try the company’s generative AI chatbot at the newly launched site. The company is going with “Bard” and not the “Google Assistant” chatbot branding it was previously using. Other than a sign-up link and an FAQ, there isn’t much there right now.

Google’s blog post calls Bard “an early experiment,” and the project is covered in warning labels. The Bard site has a bright blue “Experiment” label right on the logo, and the blog post warns, “Large language models will not always get it right. Feedback from a wide range of experts and users will help Bard improve.” A disclaimer below the demo input box warns, “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views.”

Google’s Android keyboard and spell checker still can’t get “it’s” vs. “its” right 80% of the time, so I’m not holding my breath.

Hyundai commits to real buttons and dials for safety reasons

Car companies have been increasingly using digital screens and soft-touch buttons in modern cars to save costs while looking ‘hi-tech’ – but Hyundai has committed to fight this trend for as long as possible.

Speaking at the launch of the new-generation Hyundai Kona, Sang Yup Lee, Head of Hyundai Design, said the new model deliberately uses physical buttons and dials for many of the controls, specifically air-conditioning and the sound system. Lee said this is because the move to digital screens is often more dangerous, as it often requires multiple steps and means drivers have to take their eyes off the road to see where they need to press.

Slowly but surely, it seems car makers are starting to see the light. A clean, button-less dashboard means nothing once it’s folded around your crushed skull because you couldn’t find the seat heating button without taking your eyes off the road and wrapped yourself around a tree in the process.

Just another reason to get an Ioniq 5 if we had the funds.

A wunderBAR story

In fact, the broken bar barely even exists anymore. In the days of DOS, the character used for the pipe symbol (on the DOS command line) or for logical OR (in C/C++, for example) used ASCII code 7Ch (124 decimal), which was rendered as a broken vertical bar by the fonts used at least by the IBM MDA, CGA, EGA, and VGA cards. But nowadays that is no longer the case. The same ASCII codepoint is rendered as a solid vertical bar in Windows 10 or Linux, and also shown as a solid vertical bar on contemporary keyboards. What happened?

Who doesn’t love some great character and ASCII archeology?

Microsoft just laid off one of its responsible AI teams

Microsoft laid off its entire ethics and society team within the artificial intelligence organization as part of recent layoffs that affected 10,000 employees across the company, Platformer has learned. 

The move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure its AI principles are closely tied to product design at a time when the company is leading the charge to make AI tools available to the mainstream, current and former employees said.

Oh so that’s totally not worrying at all or anything.

OpenAI announces GPT-4

We’ve created GPT-4, the latest milestone in OpenAI’s effort in scaling up deep learning. GPT-4 is a large multimodal model (accepting image and text inputs, emitting text outputs) that, while less capable than humans in many real-world scenarios, exhibits human-level performance on various professional and academic benchmarks. For example, it passes a simulated bar exam with a score around the top 10% of test takers; in contrast, GPT-3.5’s score was around the bottom 10%. We’ve spent 6 months iteratively aligning GPT-4 using lessons from our adversarial testing program as well as ChatGPT, resulting in our best-ever results (though far from perfect) on factuality, steerability, and refusing to go outside of guardrails.

“Artificial intelligence” companies are iterating quickly now. I’m definitely looking forward to the new memes based on GPT-4.

Docker is deleting open source organisations – what you need to know

Coming up with a title that explains the full story here was difficult, so I’m going to try to explain quickly.

Yesterday, Docker sent an email to all Docker Hub users explaining that anyone who has created an “organisation” will have their account deleted including all images, if they do not upgrade to a paid team plan. The email contained a link to a tersely written PDF (since, silently edited) which was missing many important details which caused significant anxiety and additional work for open source maintainers.

What a shitshow. We really have to start worrying about the future of Github, too, since I find it highly unlikely Microsoft isn’t planning similar moves in the future. If you’re hosting code at Github, I’d suggest looking at alternatives sooner rather than later, so you don’t end up like the people affected by something like this.

Apple, Foxconn convince Indian state to loosen labor laws

Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn were among the companies behind a landmark liberalization of labor laws in the Indian state of Karnataka last month, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Their successful lobbying for new legislation means two-shift production can take place in India, akin to the two companies’ practices in China, their primary manufacturing base. The law gives the southern state one of the most flexible working regimes in India as the country aims to become an alternative manufacturing base to China.

We do the right thing, even when it’s not easy.”

Customizing the startup chime on a 1999 G3 iMac

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember back in 2012 when I changed the startup sound on my Power Mac G3 (Blue and White). That was a fun introduction to the Forth programming language. I had to reverse-engineer just enough of Apple’s firmware update script to understand what was going on.

Recently, Aidan Halpin, a reader of this site, asked me if I could do the same kind of startup sound customization on his iMac. This particular iMac is officially known as the “iMac (Slot Loading)” and has a model identifier of PowerMac2,1. As you can guess from the name, it has a slot-loading CD-ROM drive unlike the original iMac that had a laptop-style tray-loading drive. By the way, Aidan’s iMac is special because it has a PowerPC G4 processor soldered onto the logic board instead of the original G3.

He sent me Apple’s last firmware update for this model: iMac Firmware Update 4.1.9. I went to work looking at the update contents to see if I could figure out how to modify the chime the same way I did with my Power Mac G3. I thought it would be fun to take everyone along for a ride and show exactly what was involved in changing the sound. And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without also sharing the code for the utility I created to inject the new chime into the firmware update file.

This is an insane amount of work for something that doesn’t really matter in the end. I love it.