In the News Archive

China bans iPhone use for government officials at work

China ordered officials at central government agencies not to use Apple’s iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office, people familiar with the matter said. In recent weeks, staff were given the instructions by their superiors in workplace chat groups or meetings, the people said. The directive is the latest step in Beijing’s campaign to cut reliance on foreign technology and enhance cybersecurity, and comes amid a campaign to limit flows of sensitive information outside of China’s borders. The move by Beijing could have a chilling effect for foreign brands in China, including Apple. Apple dominates the high-end smartphone market in the country and counts China as one of its biggest markets, relying on it for about 19% of its overall revenue. iPhones are, for all intents and purposes, a Chinese product. It seems odd they are afraid of a device that’s entirely built by Chinese people in Chinese factories owned by Chinese companies run by the Chinese government. An iPhone is about as American as a MAGA hat with a Made in China label, so why ban its use by Chinese government officials? The answer is obvious: because the west is banning the use of Huawei and other devices – even though those are made by the same Chinese people in the same Chinese factories owned by the same Chinese companies run by the same Chinese government as iPhones are. This is a tug of war between two superpowers, and western companies heavily reliant on China, such as Apple, is going to be facing some serious consequences.

Gizmodo fires Spanish staff amid switch to AI translator

From Ars Technica: As both a translator and a tech writer, this article touches upon a lot of aspects of my professional life. As a translator with a master’s degree in translation and over 13 years of experience, I can confidently say these AI-translated articles won’t be anywhere near the quality of a professional translation, let alone that of original content written in Spanish. Computers are actually not that great at language, and every time I play around with machine translation tools – they tend to be integrated into the various translation software suites I use – it’s barely passable as coherent text. There are things you can do to increase the success rate of machine translation. It’s crucial to write the source text in a very formulaic manner, using short sentences with basic sentence structure any primary schooler can easily follow. Avoid complicated clauses, literary devices, sayings and wordplay, and words that can carry multiple meanings. To further increase the success rate, make sure your writers reuse the same formulaic sentences in different articles, so the machine translation software can learn from earlier corrections. By the time you instilled all this and more into your writing staff, not only will they quit because writing in such a way is not engaging at all, it will also tank your SEO – something the kind of people who would fire translators to rely exclusively on machine translation would care about – into the ground. It wouldn’t feel natural, and nobody will enjoy reading it but computers. …it’s going to end up as AIs writing for other AIs.

The Mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge

This pedestrian bridge crosses I-494 just west of the Minneapolis Airport. It connects Bloomington to Richfield. I drive under it often and I wondered: why is it there? It’s not in an area that is particularly walkable, and it doesn’t connect any establishments that obviously need to be connected. So why was it built? There’s no possible way to tie this to OSNews, but it’s such a fun and well-written story it’s worth breaking character for. I’m not even making a smug comment about being Dutch and being used to the world’s best infrastructure and… Damnit. I failed.

Microsoft Edge accidentally flags Chrome setup as ‘harmful’ on Windows 11

Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 and Windows 11 has again flagged ChromeSetup.exe – the installation file for Google’s famous Chrome browser – as potentially harmful. Microsoft Edge’s built-in security feature suggests users delete ChromeSetup.exe and try Edge via multiple pop-up messages. Windows Latest understands Microsoft Edge 116 has incorrectly flagged ChromeSetup.exe as potentially harmful. This appears to be a mistake, and only some users see it. In our tests, we observed the error in one out of five Microsoft Edge 116 stable installations. A “mistake”. I’m sure it was.

Watermarks coming to AI content as Big Tech vows to prevent fraud, deception

Seven companies—including OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Meta, Amazon, Anthropic, and Inflection—have committed to developing tech to clearly watermark AI-generated content. That will help make it safer to share AI-generated text, video, audio, and images without misleading others about the authenticity of that content, the Biden administration hopes. It’s currently unclear how the watermark will work, but it will likely be embedded in the content so that users can trace its origins to the AI tools used to generate it. And how easy will it be for bad actors to just remove the watermark? If we live in a world where these tools can create new content out of stealing everybody else’s content, what’s stopping anyone from developing a tool to remove these watermarks? This feels more like lip service than a real solution.

Follow my (mobile) hardware Pixelfed account

I recently started a Pixelfed account dedicated to all the various pieces of (mobile) hardware I own. It’s still quite new, but the intention is to post photos of my Palm/PocketPC/etc. device collection a few times a week, with a short info blurb. The account will post no other content, so you won’t see photos of my food, sunsets, beaches, or other irrelevant nonsense. In case you aren’t aware – Pixelfed is the Fediverse equivalent of Instagram, in the same way Mastodon is the Fediverse equivalent of Twitter. You can follow my Pixelfed account either through Pixelfed itself, through Mastodon, or through many other Fediverse-capable applications and services. Of course, you can also just bookmark it.

HP has found an exciting new way to DRM your printer

The Verge: First introduced in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, HP Plus was built around FOMO right from the start. You get just seven days to claim your free ink, starting the moment you plug a new printer into the wall. Act now, and it’ll also extend your warranty a full year, give you an “Advanced HP Smart app,” and plant trees on your behalf. Because why wouldn’t you want to save the forest? Here’s one reason, as detailed in a new complaint by the International Imaging Technology Council (IITC) that might turn into a false advertising fight: HP Plus comes with a firmware update that utterly removes your printer’s ability to accept third-party ink. You have to buy “genuine” HP ink as long as you use the printer. I mean, complaining about printer makers is basically like shooting fish in a barrel, but somehow they always manage to find rockier bottom.

The glorious return of a humble car geature: buttons are coming back

You don’t see a lot of good news about road safety in the United States. Unlike in most peer countries, American roadway deaths surged during the pandemic and have barely receded since. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities recently hit their highest levels in 40 years, but U.S. transportation officials continue to ignore key contributing factors. In a February interview with Fast Company, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that “further research” is needed before addressing the obvious risks that oversized SUVs and trucks pose to those not inside of them. Happily, there is one area where we are making at least marginal progress: A growing number of automakers are backpedaling away from the huge, complex touchscreens that have infested dashboard design over the past 15 years. Buttons and knobs are coming back. Good. Now all we need is for all these popular YouTube car reviewers to stop drooling over these dangerous touch screens and we can get back a sense of normalcy in our cars.

Your phone was built with child labor

The consumer-facing tech and EV companies all proclaim there’s no artisanally mined cobalt or child cobalt in their supply chains. So don’t fret, consumer. Don’t fret, shareholder. If that’s true, where’s all the cobalt going? Last year, almost 75 percent of global cobalt production was from Congo. It’s impossible for these companies to say they don’t have Congolese cobalt. And if it’s impossible to say they don’t have Congolese cobalt, it’s impossible to say they don’t have cobalt that’s not been tainted by child labor, forced labor, environmental destruction, public health catastrophes from mining pollution. Full stop. Rarely in history has the practice of preying on the weak been so severe, generated such profit, and touched the lives of so many. Every level of the chain is preying on some of the poorest and most heavily exploited people in the world. The world pays a hefty price for our way of life. And yes, I modified the title slightly.

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?

ChatGPT is nothing like a human

Tech-makers assuming their reality accurately represents the world create many different kinds of problems. The training data for ChatGPT is believed to include most or all of Wikipedia, pages linked from Reddit, a billion words grabbed off the internet. (It can’t include, say, e-book copies of everything in the Stanford library, as books are protected by copyright law.) The humans who wrote all those words online overrepresent white people. They overrepresent men. They overrepresent wealth. What’s more, we all know what’s out there on the internet: vast swamps of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, neo-Nazism. Tech companies do put some effort into cleaning up their models, often by filtering out chunks of speech that include any of the 400 or so words on “Our List of Dirty, Naughty, Obscene, and Otherwise Bad Words,” a list that was originally compiled by Shutterstock developers and uploaded to GitHub to automate the concern, “What wouldn’t we want to suggest that people look at?” OpenAI also contracted out what’s known as ghost labor: gig workers, including some in Kenya (a former British Empire state, where people speak Empire English) who make $2 an hour to read and tag the worst stuff imaginable — pedophilia, bestiality, you name it — so it can be weeded out. The filtering leads to its own issues. If you remove content with words about sex, you lose content of in-groups talking with one another about those things. These things are not AI. Repeat after me: these things are not AI. All they do is statistically predict the best next sequence of words based on a corpus of texts. That’s it. I’m not worried about these things leading to SkyNet – I’m much more worried about smart people falling for the hype.

89 operating systems

I occasionally do talks about curl. In these talks I often include a few slides that say something about curl’s coverage and presence on different platforms. Mostly to boast of course, but also to help explain to the audience how curl has manged to reach its ten billion installations. Curl is literally everywhere – even on another planet.

How clever mechanics keep 50-year-old BART trains running: Windows 98, eBay, and scraps

When BART first carried passengers, the country was sending astronauts to the moon. The Apollo-era trains were symbols of a generation barreling toward a space-age future complete with carpeted floors and a seat promised to every passenger. That was 1972, when BART was state of the art. But half a century later, as the agency celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, many of those same silver-and-blue trains are still chugging through the Bay Area. And keeping them running — even in the country’s technology capital — requires a special breed of ingenuity. BART mechanics rely on Frankensteined laptops operating with Windows 98, train yard scraps and vintage microchips to keep Bay Area commuters on the rails. These stories are a dime a dozen, and serve to illustrate there’s a lot more outdated tech out there in our daily lives than we think. On the flipside, that’s some decent job security for the engineers and maintenance crew involved.

Physical buttons outperform touchscreens in new cars, test finds

Physical buttons are increasingly rare in modern cars. Most manufacturers are switching to touchscreens – which perform far worse in a test carried out by Vi Bilägare. The driver in the worst-performing car needs four times longer to perform simple tasks than in the best-performing car. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Anyone with more than only a modicum of experience in human-machine interaction will tell you touchscreens are a terrible idea in cars. It’s high time safety regulators start, well, regulating the use of touchscreens in cars.

AMD passes Intel in market cap

AMD surpassed rival Intel’s market cap on Friday. AMD stock rose over 3% for the day, giving the chipmaker a market capitalization of $153 billion. Intel fell nearly 9%, a day after disastrous earnings that missed expectations for profit and showed declining revenue. Intel’s market cap was $148 billion at the end of trading on Friday. The shift is mostly symbolic, but it signifies a much more competitive market for PC and server chips, where the two companies compete directly. I don’t report on financials anymore (unless it’s something truly unique), but this one I wanted to highlight simply because it highlights just how well AMD is doing. Only a few short years ago, this would’ve been unimaginable. Meaningless, sure, but a sign of the times nonetheless.

Google Play will allow alternate billing systems in Europe with reduced service fee

Following regulation in South Korea last year and a somewhat more voluntary “User Choice Billing” in March, Google announced today that it would soon allow nongaming Android apps to offer users in Europe (European Economic Area) an alternative to Google Play’s billing system. This is in response to the Digital Markets Act, with Google saying it’s “committed to meeting these new requirements while ensuring that we can continue to keep people safe on our platforms and invest in Android and Play for the benefit of the entire ecosystem.” It’s almost like regulation works. We’ll have to wait and see if these changes are enough.