Articles about computers in English

The digital spring clean

There are, as always, two kinds of people in the world: those who are wondering what to do with all their free time, and those who are wondering what happened to it. The split seems to be closely correlated with the number of children who live with you.

If you are in the former group, you, like me, may have exhausted a significant quantity of procrastination cleaning. I have vacuumed under the sofa, changed the filter on my cooker hood, and even started painting the kitchen.

So why not introduce a digital component to the great tidy-up? Your laptop’s downloads folder might not literally collect dust, but whether physical or digital, the longer you leave things to fester, the harder they become to eventually deal with. Link

New ‘gentle’ video games are absorbing, beautiful and silly

Outside my window the streets are quiet, the world is weird, the future uncertain. Conspiracy theorists are bombarding my social media feed, and everyone is an armchair expert on the pandemic. But for now I am okay, because I am a moose. The game called Everything has been out for a while now. Occasionally I click on a thought bubble and the counterculture philosopher Alan Watts tells me something; sometimes I cease to be a moose and choose to be a solar system or a single-cell organism instead. I move around this game of infinite possibility, not doing much, occasionally communicating with other things with barks or tinkles. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but in recent weeks Everything – and its sister game, Mountain (equally pointless, if not more so) – have been, well, everything to me. Absorbing, still, deep, silly, beautiful, with a chorus of odd but satisfying sounds – both have calmed me and made me forget the lunacy and drama of life online and in lockdown. Link

How to de-Google your life

How many Google services do you use? From sending work emails and storing family pictures, to searching for something online and listening to the music – all done with Google’s help. With more than 100 web-based and mobile products, Google found a perfect way to track your every single step. But you think that just because these apps are free and convenient, you shouldn’t give them up, right? Not when you’ll realize what Google does with your data. Link

Inside The Tiny Country Where Robots Grow The Food

It seems most of his fellow Dutch dairy farmers agree. The milking robot ― first invented by Dutch engineers in the early 1990s ― already outsells traditional milking parlors where cows are taken to be milked in the country. 

And they are just one of a wave of machines now taking over mundane farming tasks in the Netherlands, including harvesting, and fruit and vegetable picking, with almost $1 billion spent on innovation last year by the sector. 

This innovation drive, including increasing use of automation on farms like Dijkstra’s, has helped propel a country with a land mass smaller than the state of West Virginia to become the world’s second-biggest food exporter after the U.S., with agri-food exports worth more than $100 billion. Link

Margaret Hamilton

Huge amounts of aeronautical and hardware engineering effort went into the Apollo program from its birth in 1961 to its completion in 1972, as NASA and its partners designed the Saturn V rocket to get astronauts out of Earth’s orbit, the command/service modules that orbited the moon, and the lunar modules that actually landed on the moon. But Apollo was also a major software project. Astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer, which was placed in both the command module and the lunar module, for navigation assistance and to control the spacecraft, and someone needed to program it. Link

An exclusive look at an original iPhone prototype

Apple had developed the iPhone in secret over those two and a half years, and for many inside the company, the device had only been known by the codenames “M68” and “Purple 2.” Apple was focused on surprising everyone with the iPhone, and that meant that many of the engineers working on the original handset didn’t even know what it would eventually look like.

To achieve that level of secrecy, Apple created special prototype development boards that contained nearly all of the iPhone’s parts, spread out across a large circuit board. The Verge has obtained exclusive access to the original iPhone M68 prototype board from 2006 / 2007, thanks to Red M Sixty, a source that asked to remain anonymous. It’s the first time this board has been pictured publicly, and it provides a rare historical look at an important part of computing history, showing how Apple developed the original iPhone. Link

Jony Ive, Apple designer behind iPhone and iMac

Jony Ive, the chief architect of groundbreaking and distinctive designs from the iMac to the iPhone, announced on Thursday that he is leaving Apple after nearly 30 years.

Ive’s departure, which was announced in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, is sure to set off shock waves in the tech and design worlds, but the 52-year-old Briton will remain involved with Apple. He plans to launch a new creative company called LoveFrom – and said Apple will be his first client.

“While I will not be an employee, I will still be very involved – I hope for many, many years to come,” Ive told the FT. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.”

“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated,” chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement. “Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built.”

Cook further paid tribute to Ive in an interview with the FT, highlighting his role in rescuing the company from its early-90s doldrums: “The work on the original iMac was sort of the point at which people began to pay attention to Apple again on something other than how badly economically the company was doing.

“We get to continue with the same team that we’ve had for a long time and have the pleasure of continuing to work with Jony,” he added. “I can’t imagine a better result.” Link

What does Google know about me?

A lot. Here’s a story I wouldn’t believe if it didn’t happen to me. Google knew I was going to break up with my girlfriend a month before I did.

About 5 years ago I was dating a girl. Well, being 35 years old I should call her a woman. And we weren’t just dating, we lived together along with her 5 year old son from a previous marriage. I was happy (I thought). I was looking to settle down and she checked all the boxes. Pretty, open minded, came from an unbroken family, and wasn’t constantly trying to change me. It had been a year and I was ready to make it official. I asked her father for permission. I had saved for a down payment on a ring, so a Christmas proposal was eminent.

Then one day all of Google’s ads for wedding rings were replaced with ads for Ashley Madison, porn, and dating sites. I was beyond weirded out as I hadn’t searched for anything like that. Maybe it was something in my conversations with friends I reasoned. Google somehow knew I wasn’t happy and inside I was ready to get out. Other than constant accusations me of being unfaithful we got along OK, but just OK. She wasn’t an intellectual. The only books she owned were Peanuts comics. She thought about my exes 10x more than I ever did, comparing her looks with each of them. Link

Don’t look now

Ekman has developed a method to identify minute facial expressions and map them on to corresponding emotions. This method was used to train “behavior detection officers” to scan faces for signs of deception.

But when the program was rolled out in 2007, it was beset with problems. Officers were referring passengers for interrogation more or less at random, and the small number of arrests that came about were on charges unrelated to terrorism. Even more concerning was the fact that the program was allegedly used to justify racial profiling.

Ekman tried to distance himself from Spot, claiming his method was being misapplied. But others suggested that the program’s failure was due to an outdated scientific theory that underpinned Ekman’s method; namely, that emotions can be deduced objectively through analysis of the face.

In recent years, technology companies have started using Ekman’s method to train algorithms to detect emotion from facial expressions. Some developers claim that automatic emotion detection systems will not only be better than humans at discovering true emotions by analyzing the face, but that these algorithms will become attuned to our innermost feelings, vastly improving interaction with our devices.

But many experts studying the science of emotion are concerned that these algorithms will fail once again, making high-stakes decisions about our lives based on faulty science. Link

Google’s Earth: how the tech giant is helping the state spy on us

Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Tinder, Apple, Lyft, Foursquare, Airbnb, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Angry Birds – if you zoom out and look at the bigger picture, you can see that, taken together, these companies have turned our computers and phones into bugs that are plugged in to a vast corporate-owned surveillance net-work. Where we go, what we do, what we talk about, who we talk to, and who we see – everything is recorded and, at some point, leveraged for value. Google, Apple and Facebook know when a woman visits an abortion clinic, even if she tells no one else: the GPS coordinates on the phone don’t lie. One-night stands and extramarital affairs are a cinch to figure out: two smartphones that never met before suddenly cross paths in a bar and then make their way to an apartment across town, stay together overnight, and part in the morning.

They know us intimately, even the things that we hide from those closest to us. In our modern internet ecosystem, this kind of private surveillance is the norm. It is as unnoticed and unremarkable as the air we breathe. But even in this advanced, data-hungry environment, in terms of sheer scope and ubiquity, Google reigns supreme. Link

Word processor pioneer Evelyn Berezin dies aged 93

The woman who created and sold what many recognise as the world’s first word processor has died aged 93. Evelyn Berezin called the device the Data Secretary when, in 1971, her company Redactron launched the product. She grew Redactron from nine employees to close to 500 and was named one of the US’s top leaders by BusinessWeek magazine in the year she sold it, 1976. She had earlier built one of the original computerised airline reservation systems. The innovation – which matched customers and available seats – was tested by United Airlines in 1962. According to the Computer History Museum, it had a one-second response time and worked for 11 years without any central system failuresThe technology vied with the rival Sabre system, developed by American Airlines, for being the first of its kind. Link

Alternatives To Google Products

Let’s face it: Google makes it easy to use their applications and services.

First, they’re free. Second, they’re available wherever you are through almost any internet-connected device. Third, well: we’re back to the free thing again.

But why are Google’s products and services free? How can they afford to maintain all of those servers and pay all of those thousands of employees by giving away their products? To be honest, Google doesn’t give away their products – or, at least, their most important product: … You!

Google’s entire business model is based on their users’ willingness to allow the online search company to watch their every online move. Google apps and services monitor how you use them, where you go online and more.

Google uses the information they glean to build a user profile, which is then used for various purposes, not the least of which is targeted advertising.

Even if you’re not logged into your Google account, they can still track your travels around the web via:

  • Google AdSense. They’re responsible for many of those banner ads you see generously included on most websites you visit.
  • Google Analytics. This aids website owners in determining which content their visitors access the most, how long they spend reading it and other site usage information. The information also helps track the performance of Google AdSense campaigns.

In addition to using the information they collect from you to sell advertising, the company has also been known to share the data they collect with government agencies.

Can you say PRISM, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Bill Hess Link to article

China’s social credit

China’s social credit system, a big-data system for monitoring and shaping business and citizens’ behaviour, is reaching beyond China’s borders to impact foreign companies, according to new research.

The system, which has been compared to an Orwellian tool of mass surveillance, is an ambitious work in progress: a series of big data and AI-enabled processes that effectively grant subjects a social credit score based on their social, political and economic behaviour.

People with low scores can be banned or blacklisted from accessing services including flights and train travel; while those with high scores can access privileges. The Chinese government aims to have all 1.35 billion of its citizens subject to the system by 2020. Link

Scroll to Top