Facebook Automates 'Fake News' Flag for Fact Checking

Facebook has been taking steps to make sure that new reports spreading on its social network are accurate — without intervening in a biased way. The company has been working closely with fact-checkers like Snopes and Politifact, experimenting earlier this year with tagging stories as “disputed by snopes.com,” for example. The effort hasn’t always worked, with the Guardian newspaper reporting that sometimes an authority figure telling people not to read certain stories has caused them to spread faster.

Panic's Source Code Stolen

Panic, the makers of well-respected Mac apps like Coda and Firewatch, have recently been part of a malware attack caused by an infected version of Handbrake. The attack caused one of the Panic founder's personal computer to be compromised, giving the attackers access to valuable source code from their apps.

Quote from their blog post addressing the attack:

Someone has a bunch of our source code. But does it really matter?

There are essentially three “worst case” scenarios we considered with our source being out there in somebody’s hands:

They build free, cracked version of our apps.
Guess what — those already exist. You can already pirate our software if you want to pirate our software — but please don’t — so this doesn’t really change anything in that regard. Also, whatever “free” version of our apps that would come from this person are virtually guaranteed to be infected with malware.

They create malware-infected builds of our apps.
This seems likely. Given the person’s entire MO was to infect a well-used Mac app with malware, it seems inevitable. But we will find them, and working directly with Apple, shut them down. To minimize your risk, never download a copy of one our apps from a source that is not us or the Mac App Store. We are going to be hyper-vigilant about the authenticity of downloads on our servers.
A competitor obtains this source to attempt to use it to their advantage in some way.

The many Mac developers we’ve met over the years are fine, upstanding people. I can’t imagine any of them being this unethical, or even being willing to take the risk of us finding fingerprints of our code in theirs. And let’s not forget that — you guessed it — there’s a good chance any stolen source could have malware slipped into it.

Also, one important thought gave us some comfort:
With every day that passes, that stolen source code is more and more out-of-date.

Even One Autonomous Car Could Alleviate Our Traffic Issues

MIT Technology Review, on the topic of having even a small amount of autonomous cars introduced into our streets:

The team’s results show that by having an autonomous vehicle control its speed intelligently when a phantom jam starts to propagate, it’s possible to reduce the amount of braking performed further back down the line. The numbers are impressive: the presence of just one autonomous car reduces the standard deviation in speed of all the cars in the jam by around 50 percent, and the number of sharp hits to the brakes is cut from around nine per vehicle for every kilometer traveled to at most 2.5—and sometimes practically zero.
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It’s interesting that these improvements can occur even with a single vehicle in a flow of 20 other cars. And it’s also worth noting that the level of autonomy required to have this effect isn’t the kind that Waymo, Uber, and others are seeking to build—it’s more akin to the adaptive cruise control already featured in many higher-end cars. So while we might have to wait a little longer for all of autonomy’s effects to be felt, its ability to reduce traffic congestion could be here rather sooner than we anticipated.

Inside Apple Park

Wired has done an extensive article showing us a sneak peek of the new Apple campus in Cupertino. From its origin with Steve Jobs pitching it to Cupertino City Council, to the partnership with Foster and Partners that developed one of the most impressive pieces of (green) architectural marvels in the world. 

Yes, they even designed custom boxes for the Caffé Macs pizzas.

Photo credit: Wired

Photo credit: Wired

'WannaCry' Ransomware Brings Down the NHS

The malware spread quickly on Friday leaving hospitals and GPs unable to access patient data, with many doctors resorting to using pen and paper.

Their computers were locked by a ransomware program which demanded a payment to access blocked files.

Hospitals across the UK were cancelling operations and ambulances had been diverted from hospitals in some areas.

Very worrying that governments cheap out on their systems infrastructure, a lot of the NHS systems run Windows XP, which was released 16 years ago! 

Even though its not limited to government (I've seen Windows XP machines in supermarkets, cash machines, banks and post offices), this is a good lesson that by not having up-to-date systems that get frequently updated, lives can be lost, not even to mention the privacy and monetary repercussions. 

The worst of all is that this malware was developed by the NSA and stolen by hackers. Remember the when the FBI requested Apple to create a custom version of iOS to get into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone? This is exactly why Apple fought against it. 

Citymapper is Testing Its Own Smartbus

Citymapper is one of the best apps to download if you live in a big city with a complex public transport system. Originally developed for London, it has expanded to several cities around the world. Through this, they have learned how people behave and how most transit networks in the world haven't adapted to the 21st century.

By developing their own "smartbus" Citymapper is looking to partner with transit networks around the world to develop a new, smarter take on bus transportation. The bus features USB charging, and a custom software that estimates more accurate arrival times and routes, as well as aiding the (human) drivers through their journey.

Best of all, they are making their platform open to everyone so that they can get to the future quicker.

 

Mexico: Earth's Festival of Life

I might be biased here, but I strongly recommend BBC Two's new documentary series on Mexico, a fresh take on a country that has been bombarded with negative news and reputation in the last few years thanks to its issues with drug cartels, corruption, violence, and more recently Trump. 

The show focuses on its natural beauty as well as its rich culture.

I find the name of the show to be spot on.

The Telegraph:

When I sat down to write the script, I asked my partner for the first things that came into his mind when thinking of Mexico. He said, ‘Cartels, cacti, tacos, moustaches.’ That’s probably a reliable baseline for how much people know of the country. And yet it’s one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

EU Roaming Charges to Come to an End in June

European Commission:

The end of roaming charges in June 2017. When travelling in the EU, mobile phone users will pay the same price as at home, with no extra charges.

Strong net neutrality rules protecting the right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination.

Apart from the great news of roaming charges finally going away (two years after the original announcement), the extra bit about net neutrality is very welcome and relevant. Let's see how long both of these last in the UK in the post-Brexit era, as the UK government has already put in motion its intention to ban end-to-end encryption services such as Whatsapp and iMessage as well as removing valuable net neutrality protections. 

Microsoft Introduces Surface Laptop

Microsoft is taking really interesting bets in terms of their hardware. They are making huge advancements on their designs, and really pushing the market for traditional PCs as well as 2-in-1 tablet/PCs. While other big PC manufacturers are focusing on the very low ($200) and high ($2000) ends of the market, Microsoft is looking at the gaps and innovating by integrating their hardware and software. Satya Nadella was definitely a great choice to replace Balmer as CEO. 

One thing I'm not a fan of is the limitation on some of the models of this laptop to be "Windows Store" only. If one thing Microsoft struggles with on their platforms is commitment from third party developers that are too invested in iOS and Android and don't really see the need to serve the Windows market. But if we've learned something in the tech world is that it evolves quickly and the market shifts unexpectedly. 

Also, if you look at other PC or Mac options available, this is a bit overpriced, especially at the base model configurations. 

The Verge:

Operating system aside, I love the design of this Surface Laptop. I rarely get impressed by Windows laptops, unless they do something truly unique. Microsoft hasn’t done anything unique here to change the idea of a laptop, but it’s clear the company has focused on what actually matters. The keyboard and trackpad feel great, the display looks crisp, and it’s all packaged into a design that looks and feels beautiful. I’m excited to review the Surface Laptop, and if Microsoft’s battery life claims are accurate then this could be the Windows laptop I’ve been waiting for.

Pitchfork's Gorillaz 'Humanz' Album Review

Pitchfork:

As usual, the guest list on Humanz promises untold riches—Vince Staples, Danny Brown, Kelela, Pusha T, Mavis Staples, D.R.A.M., and Jehnny Beth from Savages—on which the music doesn’t deliver. No matter the rotating cast, Gorillaz tracks come in a few basic colors and flavors: A stew of fat drums, gloomy synth patches, crooned and muttered hooks from Albarn in the background. With this reliable frame, every guest ends up smeared with Gorillaz makeup and bearing a whiff of Suicide Squad-style corporate menace.

I hate to agree with Jayson Greene on this one. I was hoping Gorillaz had released the weaker songs in advance and the album would impress, but after given it a good 4 or 5 listens in the past week, I couldn't tell you any memorable songs. 

In spite of that, I'm still excited for their European tour this November/December. I saw Gorillaz back in their Plastic Beach World Tour and it was one of the best gigs I've ever witnessed (and I've seen quite a few). 

Elon Musk's Ideas for Future Tunnel Transportation Systems

The Verge: 

Musk said that there’s “no real limit” to the depth of his proposed tunnels. “The deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall, so you can alleviate any arbitrary level of open congestion with a 3D tunnel network.” This, Musk said, is how to get around the most popular rebuttal so far: that underground tunnels will simply spread the congestion to a new place without completely solving the problem of traffic. Musk thinks it will be possible to create “any arbitrary number of tunnels, any number of levels” in order to reduce congestion on the surface.

Another example of Musk thinking out of the box. This man is insane (in a good way). I love how he's talking about this crazy tunnel transportation system he wants to build and then goes and calls it The Boring Company.

Maniac. 

The Verge: Trump's 100 Days Visual Review

One of my favourite Verge articles in a long time, the amount of things that happens behind the scenes (literally) for Trump's media coverage is insane. I found this bit really interesting:

After that piece was published, I heard from sources familiar with the performance of the Shure SM57 microphone that Trump’s 20-inch flexible gooseneck, which brings the mic to within two inches of his mouth, increases audio gain by 21dB. Every 10db of gain makes the sound-thru-mic twice as loud.
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That means Trump’s voice is four times louder from the source than any prior POTUS, dramatically widening the president’s vocal range. His purrs and asides now project easily to the back of the house.
Image: The Verge

Image: The Verge

If you're an AV nerd like me, I strongly recommend this piece. 

TED's origin

Ken Robinson:

Back then it was a very unusual conference—more like a club. There was also a kind of mystique around the speakers. Most conferences, people tend to be checking their watches for the next coffee break. At TED, people were desperately keen to get into the next session. They were jockeying for the best seats.

Ken Robinson's TED Talk on education is my all time favourite inspirational video.

Juicero's $400 Juicer is Pretty Much Juice-less

The ultimate #techfailoftheweek goes to Juicero, after Bloomberg recently discovered that the very flashy device is basically useless, as the juice packs can be easily squeezed by hand, without the need of splashing out $400 on an internet connected juice machine. 

Bloomberg:

But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device.

Netflix Switches to Thumbs Up/Down

New York Times:

And even when people are given star-rating options, the responses, as research has shown, tend to cluster in the one-star and five-star endpoints — serving as a de facto thumbs up or down. (This was one reason YouTube also ditched its stars in favor of thumbs.) The thumb, as anyone who has seen “Gladiator” knows, is certainly a powerful, clear signal — though, interestingly, there is some scholarly argument that thumbs up signaled the end for a vanquished gladiator. Roman audiences knew what they liked.

From a design point of view, I applaud Netflix in the way it has simplified the rating system, thumbs up and down makes way more sense for films, music, tv shows. I still think that their recommendation system is pretty wonky. After I've rated most of Marvel's films thumbs down, it thinks that I have a "90% match" with Age of Ultron, and a 65% match with Fight Club, one of my all time favourite films. 

Also, while I love Netflix original content, is has become very difficult to find non-Netflix productions in my recommendations, I find myself having to manually browse the Categories section.