In the News Archive
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.
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?
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.
Here are some of the major cuts in the tech industry so far. All numbers are approximations based on filings, public statements and media reports. Many of the listed companies have experienced – and are experiencing – insane growth and financial success.
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.
OSNews now has an official Mastodon account. It’s a bot account that mirrors our main RSS feed, so it’s a great way to keep up with our stories if you’re using Mastodon. This official Mastodon account joins my own personal Mastodon account and that of our web master and developer, Adam.
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 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 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.
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.
Even thought it was clear this message was the lead-in to a swindle of some kind, I had to pause and admire the craft that went into its composition. Like everyone else, I get scam text come-ons pretty frequently, and they’re always poorly pitched and low-energy. In contrast, this text opened up a rich world, animated by detail and alive with mystery. I didn’t care about packages missing their intended destinations, or Bitcoin investing advice, or whatever scammers usually texted me about, but I was interested in Tony: How many charity galas did he go to, anyway? And why hadn’t he seen his/my unknown interlocutor in such a long time? Before I reported the number to WhatsApp, I took a screenshot of the message to better remember it. There’s something to be written about here, Mark texted. What is the deal with these texts? Why do they sound like that? Who is sending them? I rarely get spam messages, and I’ve never seen messages like these before. There is some real craft going on here, even if the goal is malicious. I have to admire the thought that goes into these.
The Register reports: Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers. That “go-shop” provision: However, the merger agreement has a “go-shop” provision under which VMware may seek alternative offers from other interested parties and potentially enter negotiations with them during the next 40 days. VMware has a backup, maybe? Broadcom is a weird one to buy VMware, but it makes some sort of sense. Broadcom make chips which are widely used, specifically networking equipment, and baking VMware support into their chips is probably the value proposition, or vice versa. Let’s see what happens. I would think another company (Microsoft, IBM, or Cisco?) would be interested in VMware enough to top the $61 billion Broadcom has on the table.
SoftBank Group Corp has shelved its blockbuster sale of Arm Ltd to U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp valued at up to $80 billion citing regulatory hurdles and will instead seek to list the company. Britain’s Arm, which named a new CEO on Tuesday, said it would go public before March 2023 and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son indicated that would be in the United States, most likely the Nasdaq. As everyone already expected.
Someone or multiple people are blasting “antiwork” manifestos to receipt printers at businesses around the world, according to people who claim to have seen the printed manifesto, dozens of posts on Reddit, and a cybersecurity company that is analyzing network traffic to insecure printers. An intersection between technology and social issues – and an inventive and effectively harmless one, too. Especially the United States, but a lot of other countries too, desperately needs a lot more strong unions, and if this plays even a small role in getting there, it’s worth it.
Apple today filed a lawsuit against NSO Group and its parent company to hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users. The complaint provides new information on how NSO Group infected victims’ devices with its Pegasus spyware. To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices. I wonder if this means Apple will sue itself next, because what the NSO Group does is not that different from what Apple itself does in, for instance, China. Apple has given the Chinese government full access to the iCloud data of all Chinese Apple users, so much so that even Apple itself cannot enter the date centres where Chinese iCloud data is stored. If Apple is suing the NSO Group for the “surveillance and targeting of Apple users”, why isn’t Apple saying anything about how it is aiding China to do the exact same thing? Don’t get me wrong – the NSO Group is terrible and if they get sued out of existence that’s a major win, but the blatant hypocrisy here is so obvious I almost feel like Apple is doing this just to see how far its supporters are willing to go to defend them. It’s easy to stick to your morals in countries with fair and open judicial systems. It’s how you act in those that don’t that show who you really are.
On the CPU side, doubling up on the performance cores is an evident way to increase performance – the competition also does so with some of their designs. How Apple does it differently, is that it not only scaled the CPU cores, but everything surrounding them. It’s not just 4 additional performance cores, it’s a whole new performance cluster with its own L2. On the memory side, Apple has scaled its memory subsystem to never before seen dimensions, and this allows the M1 Pro & Max to achieve performance figures that simply weren’t even considered possible in a laptop chip. The chips here aren’t only able to outclass any competitor laptop design, but also competes against the best desktop systems out there, you’d have to bring out server-class hardware to get ahead of the M1 Max – it’s just generally absurd. On the GPU side of things, Apple’s gains are also straightforward. The M1 Pro is essentially 2x the M1, and the M1 Max is 4x the M1 in terms of performance. Games are still in a very weird place for macOS and the ecosystem, maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, maybe gaming is still something of a niche that will take a long time to see make use of the performance the new chips are able to provide in terms of GPU. What’s clearer, is that the new GPU does allow immense leaps in performance for content creation and productivity workloads which rely on GPU acceleration. These are excellent processors and GPUs, especially when taking their power consumption into account. Sure, a lot of it is optimised only for Apple’s approved frameworks and applications, but if you’re deep into the Apple ecosystem, these are simply no-brainer machines for any creator.
More than a century after the artists of the Vienna Secession declared “to every age its art; to art its freedom”, the Austrian capital has found a new site for artistic expression free from censorship: the adults-only platform OnlyFans. Vienna’s tourism board has started an account on OnlyFans – the only social network that permits depictions of nudity – in protest against platforms’ ongoing censorship of its art museums and galleries. Censoring nude paintings from some of the greatest painters in human history is peak pearl-clutching.
Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81. His daughter, Belinda, said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer, bringing it to British high-street stores at relatively affordable prices. One of the greatest.
Google can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to Chrome OS 91. First we saw many users reporting their devices using an egregious amount of CPU after upgrading to 91.0.4472.147. While Google pulled the update shortly thereafter and rolled everyone back to 91.0.4472.114, that managed to lock out Linux apps. Now we’re seeing the arrival of 91.0.4772.165, and this update introduces an awful bug that’s breaking Chromebooks left and right. So what happened? Thanks to the work of an eagle-eyed user on Reddit, we now know that a single typo appears responsible for locking so many users out of their Chromebooks. By looking at the diff in this file, we can see that Google forgot to add a second “&” to the conditional statement, preventing Chrome OS from decrypting your login information (required to log you in). This kind of sloppiness is what you get in an industry where there really aren’t any consequences to speak of for screwing things up. It’s not like software development is a real industry with strict product safety laws or anything.
Every old video game console dies eventually. Moving parts seize-up, circuit boards fail, cables wear out. If a user needs a replacement connector, chip, ribbon, gear, shell—or any of the thousands of other parts that, in time, can break, melt, discolor, delaminate, or explode—they’re usually out of luck, unless they have a spare system to scavenge. But there is an exception to this depressing law of nature. In San Jose, on a side street next to a highway off-ramp, inside an unmarked warehouse building, is part of the world’s largest remaining collection of factory-original replacement Atari parts — a veritable fountain of youth for aging equipment from the dawn of the home computing and video gaming era. This is the home of Best Electronics, a mail-order business that has been selling Atari goods continuously for almost four decades. But if you’d like to share in Best’s bounty, as many die-hard Atari fans desperately do, there’s a very important piece of advice you need to keep in mind: whatever you do, don’t piss off Bradley. I love this story. There’s a lot you can say about having one person dictate nebulous terms like this, but we’re not talking a primary, secondary, or even tertiary life need here. It’s his way, or the high way, and I like that, in a romantic, old-timey kind of way. His website is glorious, the outdated catalog that is entirely outdated unless you combine it with decades of online updates – it’s almost mythical, a modern fairy tale.