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Technology | The Guardian



Latest Technology news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:20:01 GMT2017-08-22T09:20:01Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



UK considers internet ombudsman to deal with abuse complaints

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 05:00:13 GMT2017-08-22T05:00:13Z

Other measures being explored include levy on social media companies to help meet costs of online policing

Ministers in the UK are considering creating an internet ombudsman to deal with complaints about hate crimes and are pressing ahead with proposals for a levy on social media companies to help pay for the policing of online offences.

The ideas are being examined by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) before the release of an autumn green paper, which may be more radical than expected.

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Oreo: Google announces release of the next version of Android 8

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 23:46:44 GMT2017-08-21T23:46:44Z

New software promises to extend battery life, improve notifications and speed up smartphones as Google pushes out updates to Pixel and Nexus devices

Google’s next version of Android is called Oreo and is coming to smartphones and tablets in the near future.

Google announced that it has pushed the final version of Android 8 Oreo out to the Android Open Source Project, the underlying software that the Android loaded on smartphones and other devices is built on. Google’s Pixel and Nexus handsets will also soon see the update, with beta programme participants receiving it first.

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Twitter failing to act on graphic images and abusive messages, says MP

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 23:01:05 GMT2017-08-21T23:01:05Z

Yvette Cooper and Fawcett Society boss Sam Smethers write to firm for explanation of methodology and timescales for removing online abuse

Twitter is failing to take down graphic images of suspected rape and abuse that violate its own community standards, the chair of parliament’s home affairs select committee has said.

The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who founded the Reclaim the Internet campaign on online abuse, has written to Twitter asking it to explain its methodology and timescales for removing graphic pictures and sexually explicit messages.

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Game of Thrones: HBO hackers threaten leak of season finale

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:34:21 GMT2017-08-21T11:34:21Z

Attackers dump HBO social media account passwords on the internet following hacks and leaks of unaired TV shows and confidential data

The hackers who compromised HBO’s network systems in July have threatened to leak the final two episodes of Game of Thrones.

The “Mr Smith group” of hackers told tech site Mashable that it has access to “many HBO platforms” and that HBO should be “ready” for the leak of episode six, which aired on Sunday, and episode seven of its biggest hit immediately ahead of the show’s finale at the end of the week.

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Uber in talks with NSW government to fill Sydney's public transport gaps

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 01:09:06 GMT2017-08-21T01:09:06Z

Ride-sharing app under consideration for partnership offering service between homes and public transport hubs in areas with limited infrastructure

Uber is in talks with the New South Wales government to subsidise trips for Sydneysiders between their homes and public transport hubs.

An Uber spokesman said the plans for a partnership to “fill the gaps” in areas with limited public transport were “probably the most positive signs we’ve seen across Australia”.

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Two-year-olds should learn to code, says computing pioneer

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 22:23:14 GMT2017-08-20T22:23:14Z

Early start would encourage women to become programmers and reduce gender stereotyping, argues Stephanie Shirley

Children as young as two should be introduced to the basics of coding, according to one of Britain’s most eminent computing pioneers.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, whose company was one of the first to sell software in the 1960s, said that engaging very young children – in particular girls – could ignite a passion for puzzles and problem-solving long before the “male geek” stereotype took hold.

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Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 14:01:44 GMT2017-08-20T14:01:44Z

Open letter signed by Tesla chief and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman urges UN to block use of lethal autonomous weapons to prevent third age of war

Some of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence pioneers are calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots.

Tesla’s Elon Musk and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman are leading a group of 116 specialists from across 26 countries who are calling for the ban on autonomous weapons.

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Silicon Roundabout gets Brexit jitters

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 23:05:27 GMT2017-08-19T23:05:27Z

London’s buoyant tech hub faces a struggle to keep attracting talent and money as the EU ‘turns off tap’ for funding

It was earlier this summer when Justin Grierson noticed that the number of “hackathons” seemed to be trailing off around “Silicon Roundabout”, the east London area touted as Britain’s answer to the Californian valley that is home to technology giants Google and Facebook.

“Last year there used to be at least two every weekend and now there might be about two a month,” said the freelance programmer who is a regular at the sprint-like design events for coders and others, which often bring him into contact with others in the sector.

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Experts sound alarm over news websites' fake news twins

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:17:21 GMT2017-08-18T15:17:21Z

Kremlin supporters suspected to be behind fraudulent articles designed to look like they came from Le Soir and the Guardian

Fake articles made to look like they have been published by legitimate news websites have emerged as a new avenue for propaganda on the internet, with experts concerned about the increasing sophistication of the latest attempts to spread disinformation.

Kremlin supporters are suspected to be behind a collection of fraudulent articles published this year that were mocked up to appear as if they were from al-Jazeera, the Atlantic, Belgian newspaper Le Soir, and the Guardian.

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Women say they quit Google because of racial discrimination: 'I was invisible'

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 10:00:20 GMT2017-08-18T10:00:20Z

As Google reels from the fallout over a controversial diversity memo, multiple women say they faced regular discrimination and ultimately left

Qichen Zhang couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The technical specialist was in the middle of the office at Google when a white male colleague began joking with her about her hiring.

“He said, ‘It must’ve been really easy for you to get your job because you’re an Asian woman and people assume you’re good at math,’” Zhang recalled in a recent interview. “It was absolutely stunning. I remember me just emotionally shutting down.”

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Games reviews roundup: Behold the Kickmen; Aporia – Beyond the Valley; Aven Colony

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:00:04 GMT2017-08-21T06:00:04Z

A hilarious sport simulation parodies football culture, while enigmatic puzzles and city building turn players into strangers in a strange land

Mac, PC, Size Five Games; cert: NA

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Chatterbox: Monday

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:00:04 GMT2017-08-21T06:00:04Z

The place to talk about games and other things that matter

It’s Monday.

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Jaguar XE review: ‘this executive saloon does the business’

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 05:00:34 GMT2017-08-20T05:00:34Z

With its ‘Coventry face’ it’s every inch a Jag, straining at the leash to take on the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4

Price: from £26,995
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
MPG: up to 67.3
CO2: 109g/km

I wonder what they talk about around the Callum family table. Older brother Ian, now 63, is the head of design at Jaguar, while Moray, four years his junior, is vice president of design at Ford. Maybe they play Top Trumps, with their own car designs. Ian’s stunning F-Type would just edge Moray’s new Mustang. Between them, the two brothers from Dumfries have given car lovers some rare beauties over the years.

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Game of Thrones secrets revealed as HBO Twitter accounts hacked

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:36:41 GMT2017-08-17T11:36:41Z

After initial hack and ransom request, TV network suffers separate breach of social media accounts amid embarrassing leaks of unaired shows

Several HBO Twitter accounts were hacked and taken over by the notorious OurMine hacking group, posting #HBOHacked messages and warnings about security.

OurMine took control of the main HBO Twitter account on Wednesday, as well as those for TV shows including Game of Thrones and Girls, posting its usual statement:

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Daily Stormer jumps to dark web while Reddit and Facebook ban hate groups

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 09:55:44 GMT2017-08-16T09:55:44Z

Action by technology companies and hacking group Anonymous removes neo-Nazi site from open web, while social media steps up anti-hate actions

American neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer has moved on to the so-called dark web in an attempt to stay operational, following cyber-attacks by hacker group Anonymous and the cancellation of the site’s original domain name.

GoDaddy – the internet domain registrar and web hosting service – and Google cancelled the Daily Stormer’s domain name registration on Sunday, saying they prohibit clients from using their sites to incite violence. The Daily Stormer helped organise the violent neo-Nazi gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday at which a civil rights activist died.

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Scottish parliament hit by cyber-attack similar to Westminster assault

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 18:07:31 GMT2017-08-15T18:07:31Z

MSPs and Holyrood staff warned hackers trying to access numerous email accounts in ongoing ‘brute force cyber-attack’

Hackers have mounted a “brute force” cyber-attack on the Scottish parliament’s computer systems, weeks after a similar attack on email accounts at Westminster.

MSPs and Holyrood staff were warned on Tuesday that hackers were attempting to access numerous email accounts by systematically and repeatedly trying to crack their passwords.

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Message showing apparent hack appears on Neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:51:11 GMT2017-08-14T13:51:11Z

Twitter account linked to the Anonymous network of hackers says apparent hack might be a stunt initiated by neo-Nazi site

A message purportedly posted by hackers has appeared on the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, saying the site has been taken over in response to an article criticising a woman who died during violence at far-right rally in Virginia over the weekend.

The post on the website’s homepage said the international hacking network Anonymous had taken control of the site, which was founded and is edited by Andrew Anglin, who endorsed Donald Trump for president.

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HBO: hackers leak unaired Curb Your Enthusiasm and Insecure episodes

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 09:22:16 GMT2017-08-14T09:22:16Z

HBO says it doesn’t want to feed hacker’s desire for publicity, but experts say network may eventually give in after Ballers, Barry and The Deuce also leaked

Hackers have leaked a trove of unaired episodes of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Insecure, Ballers, Barry and The Deuce, as they continue to in their efforts to extort the US television network.

The leaks over the weekend did not include any further episodes of Game of Thrones, but did include the latest episode of Insecure, which was due to be broadcast on Sunday evening, and several episodes of the highly anticipated new series of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is due to return in October.

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New law could criminalise uncovering personal data abuses, advocate warns

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 06:00:35 GMT2017-08-14T06:00:35Z

Data protection bill would cripple researchers uncovering abuses of personal data while doing nothing to stop the spread of poorly anonymised data

A new law proposed to protect the privacy of British internet users could end up criminalising the only people working to uncover abuses of personal data, a leading privacy researcher has warned.

The new data protection bill will contain a clause making it a criminal offence to “intentionally or recklessly re-identify individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data”. The maximum penalty under the new law would be an unlimited fine.

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Rise of the robocar: are connected cars safer, or a target for hackers?

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:00:12 GMT2017-08-13T11:00:12Z

It’s predicted that 200m connected cars will be on the roads by 2020, but there’s a risk that more technology will lead to more hacking

A threshold was quietly crossed in the first quarter of 2016. For the first time, mobile carriers reported activating more connected cars than phones.

At a vehicle tech demonstration in Manhattan this month, a group of reporters stood around a custom-made, tablet-screened display console as Darrin Shewchuk, a spokesman for Harman International, explained the impending technological revolution.

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Hacking a computer using DNA is now a reality, researchers claim

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:35:21 GMT2017-08-11T12:35:21Z

Sci-fi becomes reality as University of Washington lab uses strands of DNA to hack into a computer, but experts say there’s no cause for concern

Researchers from the University of Washington say they have successfully hacked into a computer using custom strands of DNA for the first time.

Akin to something from the pages of science fiction, the researchers used the life-encoding molecule to attack and take over a computer, using strands of DNA to transmit a computer virus from the biological to the digital realm.

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HBO offered hackers $250,000 'bug bounty', leaked email claims

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 09:29:18 GMT2017-08-11T09:29:18Z

Apparently ‘surprised’ by release of documents, TV network attempts to push back ransom deadline with promise of payment

HBO reportedly offered $250,000 (£193,000) to the group that hacked its servers under the guise of a “bug bounty”, according to a screenshot of the conversation released by the attackers and seen by the Guardian.

A senior vice president of the company made the offer on 27 July, phrasing the payment as a reward for discovering weaknesses in HBO’s network rather than acceding to ransom demands.

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Vanishing app: Snapchat struggles as Facebook bites back

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:40:22 GMT2017-08-11T17:40:22Z

Losses are steep and user growth is anaemic leaving investors fearful the latest ‘new Facebook’ has run out of steam

Is Snapchat – the social media app famous for its disappearing messages – in danger of doing a vanishing act of its own? It’s a question some are asking after investors turned on the company again this week following a second set of poor results which have turned a once-hot tech company into a stock market casualty.

The losses alone were steep. Snapchat’s parent, Snap Inc, lost $443m over the last three months, compared with $116m in the same period a year ago. Young tech companies are expected to burn through cash at a prodigious rate as they chase customers, but the main worry for shareholders was anaemic user growth, missed revenue targets and the threat from Facebook and Google – both of which have copied some of Snapchat’s key features. Imitation may well be the most sincere form of flattery, but in this case it could also be the most deadly.

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Why bitcoin and its digital cousins are under increasing scrutiny

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 15:54:14 GMT2017-07-31T15:54:14Z

Cryptocurrencies are still more investments than way to pay, but their mainstream acceptability continues to grow, proper regulation will follow

Cryptocurrencies are under the microscope as never before. Financial regulators in the US are concerned about the emergence of bitcoin and its digital cousins as speculative investments and have hinted that much tougher regulation is in the pipeline.

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates the New York financial markets, issued an alert, saying it was “cautioning market participants that offers and sales of digital assets by ‘virtual’ organisations are subject to the requirements of the federal securities laws”.

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Why is Google spending record sums on lobbying Washington?

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 11:00:18 GMT2017-07-30T11:00:18Z

With a real threat of antitrust and privacy regulation on the horizon, Google is on track to become this year’s top corporate lobbying spender in the US

Figures released last week show that Google spent a record amount of almost $6m lobbying in Washington DC in the past three months, putting the Silicon Valley behemoth on track to be the top corporate lobbying spender in the US. Last year it ranked No 2, behind Comcast.

Given the increased antitrust scrutiny that is coming from the Democrats’ new “Better Deal” policy platform, Donald Trump’s random tweets attacking Google’s fellow tech giant Amazon for its connection to the Washington Post, and his adviser Steve Bannon’s recent comments that Google and Facebook should be regulated as utilities, it is likely Google will only increase its lobbying expenditure in the next few months.

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Foxconn's $10bn move to the US is not a reason to celebrate

Sat, 29 Jul 2017 11:00:49 GMT2017-07-29T11:00:49Z

The company doesn’t have a great track record of keeping its job-creation promises, for one. Then there’s the issue of worker conditions in China

The announcement by the Taiwanese giant Foxconn that it will build an LCD-manufacturing facility in Wisconsin worth an estimated $10bn was met with considerable fanfare.

But the state has a troubled history in matters of economic development, and the company, a supplier to Apple, Google, Amazon and other tech giants, has a lackluster record when it comes to fulfilling its promises. The news should raise red flags.

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Can Bozoma Saint John repair Uber's troubled image?

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 12:00:21 GMT2017-07-28T12:00:21Z

Uber’s new chief brand officer joins with a stellar résumé, but it could prove difficult to fix the ride-sharing firm’s image without changing the culture first

Bozoma Saint John stole the show at Apple’s annual developer conference in 2016, injecting some cool into a sea of dad-dancing during her presentation on the company’s music-streaming service.

Last month she joined Uber as the company’s first chief brand officer, with a remit to “change the perception of the brand”. The company is in desperate need of an image overhaul after months of allegations of toxic work culture, sexual harassment and a series of high-profile executive departures, including that of the bad-boy chief executive Travis Kalanick.

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What will the car of 2040 be like?

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:10:38 GMT2017-07-26T16:10:38Z

Following the announcement petrol and diesel engine cars will be banned from sale in 2040, the car of the future is up for grabs

What will the car look like by the time the petrol and diesel combustion engine is banned from sale? Will we still be driving, or will we be living in a utopia filled with gleaming white pods silently whizzing about the streets ferrying people to and fro?

The car of the future is still in flux. While many agree that it will be autonomous, will hopefully be accident-free, probably battery powered and will likely be radically different on the inside, if still familiar on the outside, there are broadly two routes down which the car can wind to 2040.

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Genius or hubris? Why turning down Facebook may be Snapchat's big mistake

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 11:00:05 GMT2017-07-15T11:00:05Z

Turning down a $3bn offer made Snapchat famous for its bold vision. But now Facebook is catching up, leading some to predict a ‘long and painful death’

For years Snapchat was seen as David to Facebook’s Goliath, but it looks as though the underdog has lost its swagger.

Shares in the messaging app’s parent company Snap fell sharply this week after one of the investment banks that helped to take the company public downgraded its stock.

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Australia's plan to force tech giants to give up encrypted messages may not add up

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 05:02:02 GMT2017-07-14T05:02:02Z

Malcolm Turnbull says the ‘law of Australia’ will prevail over the ‘laws of mathematics’ in new legislation on encryption. But he is on shaky ground

The Australian government is proposing legislation, similar to that introduced in the UK, that will compel technology companies to provide access to users’ messages, regardless of whether they have been encrypted.

The attorney general, George Brandis, said on Friday: “What we are proposing to do, if we can’t get the voluntary cooperation we are seeking, is to extend the existing law that says to individuals, citizens and to companies that in certain circumstances you have an obligation to assist law enforcement if it is in within your power to do so.”

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Ajit Pai: the man who could destroy the open internet

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:42:11 GMT2017-07-12T11:42:11Z

The FCC chairman leading net neutrality rollback is a former Verizon employee and whose views on regulation echo those of broadband companies

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has a reputation as a nice guy who remembers co-workers’ birthdays and their children’s names.

After he was targeted by trolls on Twitter, he took it in good humor, participating in a video where he read and responded to “mean tweets”.

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Why the net neutrality protest matters

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 19:46:28 GMT2017-07-11T19:46:28Z

Companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon will band together for a day of action against a threat to the open internet. So what’s the big deal?

About 200 internet companies and activist groups are coming together this week to mobilize their users into opposing US government plans to scrap net neutrality protections.

The internet-wide day of action, scheduled for Wednesday 12 July, will see companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Vimeo, Spotify, Reddit and Pornhub notify their users that net neutrality – a founding principle of the open internet – is under attack. The Trump administration is trying to overturn Obama-era regulation that protected net neutrality, and there is less than a week left for people to object.

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Bad break? KitKat maker accused of copying Atari Breakout game in ad

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:25:18 GMT2017-08-18T14:25:18Z

Games company launches lawsuit accusing Nestlé of ‘plain and blatant’ breach of its copyright in UK advert

Nestlé has been accused of copying Atari’s classic 1970s video game Breakout for a KitKat marketing campaign.

In a complaint filed on Thursday in a federal court in San Francisco, Atari said Nestlé knowingly exploited the Breakout name, look and feel through social media and a video, hoping to leverage “the special place it holds among nostalgic baby boomers, Generation X, and even today’s millennial and post-millennial gamers”.

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Sonic Mania review: a frenetic remix of a much-loved Mega Drive classic

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 09:13:41 GMT2017-08-18T09:13:41Z

It has taken a fan game to bring Sonic back to where he belongs – a two-dimensional platformer full of thrills, spills and 90s gaming nostalgia

Poor Sonic Team. After Sonic the Hedgehog and its Mega Drive sequels captured the imaginations of school kids around the world in 1991, the development studio behind the character hasn’t quite been able to find the magic formula that made the original game such a hit. After years of ill-thought out additions - werehogs, treasure hunts, royal love interests, even the third-dimension was arguably a stretch too far - it has taken an officially endorsed fan-game to recapture the essence of what made Sonic the only real challenge to Mario’s platforming crown all those years ago.

If the 90s had never ended, Sonic Mania is the follow-up we would have had instead of making do playing Big the Cat fishing mini-games in Sonic Adventure. All those horrid secondary characters we’ve grown to hate over the years are nowhere to be seen, save for a couple of cameos that only hardcore Sonic fans will even recognise such as the cast of Sonic Championship. The player guides Sonic, Tails and Knuckles across two-dimensional rollercoaster levels (sorry, “zones”) made in the style of the Mega Drive originals and full of loops, springs and spike traps. It’s exhilarating.

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy review – who needs Nathan Drake?

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:38:38 GMT2017-08-17T08:38:38Z

As Nadine and Chloe take over the franchise, the Lost Legacy offers up all the thrills, spills and puzzles we’ve come to expect and is better for passing the Bechdel test

You can tell that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy started as more of an expansion than a standalone game. Rather than spanning the globe like previous Uncharted games, it all takes place in one part of India. And you get to play as a woman, who are so often relegated to DLC in these big franchises such as BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea or smaller spin-off games such as Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Even in Naughty Dog’s own The Last of Us: Left Behind, we only got to play as Ellie after we’d met her through the eyes of generic video game man Joel.

But The Lost Legacy expanded during development, and although Uncharted 4 season pass holders won’t have to pay for it, it’s now a full-length by-the-numbers Uncharted game led by two women – the Indian-Australian Chloe Frazer and the black South African Nadine Ross.

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No Man's Sky: can an update save this beautiful, frustrating game?

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:49:35 GMT2017-08-14T11:49:35Z

Atlas Rises introduces a big new story and tons of fresh details – but is it enough to encourage people back into this procedurally generated world?

Almost a year to the day since its controversial release, No Man’s Sky is still frequently awe inspiring. There’s beauty in its hyper-saturated sunsets and navy-hued space-scapes; there’s fascination in the occasionally hilarious procedurally generated creatures, or the rush of fear as a radioactive solar storm ravages a planet’s dusty surface. There’s still a thrill in diving below the top layer of cloud to find out what kind of biome lies beneath – even if a world’s surface can often look completely different to how it appeared from the dark blueness of space.

“What is No Man’s Sky?” was the question that circled, endlessly, around developer Hello Games while it worked on the game. Come its release in August 2016, it seemed that head honcho Sean Murray and his team didn’t really know the answer themselves. Part survival game, part ambient exploration, part mindless wandering simulator, part clearly unfinished experiment, it felt like a fabulous concept that had run away into something unattainably ambitious. The new Atlas Rises update is the closest the studio has come to really answering the big defining question about what its game does.

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Games reviews roundup: Hey! Pikmin; Nintendo 2DS XL; Nioh: Defiant Honour

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-08-13T06:00:06Z

Nintendo gives Mario’s distant cousin another stab at success, and unveils the best 2DS yet, while it’s another round of samurai savagery on the PlayStation 4

3DS, Nintendo, cert: 3

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Learning morality through gaming

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 04:59:04 GMT2017-08-13T04:59:04Z

If you’re looking for answers to life’s big philosophical questions, try playing a video game, says Jordan Erica Webber

In his 2014 book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald wrote that a contributing factor to Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified information from the NSA was his consumption of video games: “The moral narrative at the heart of video games was part of his pre-adolescence and formed part of his moral understanding of the world and one’s obligation as an individual.”

Whether or not you agree with Snowden’s actions, the idea that playing video games could affect a person’s ethical position or even encourage any kind of philosophical thought is probably surprising. Yet we’re used to the notion that a person’s thinking could be influenced by the characters and conundrums in books, film and television; why not games? In fact, games have one big advantage that makes them especially useful for exploring philosophical ideas: they’re interactive.

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eSports are real sports. It’s time for the Olympic video games | Tauriq Moosa

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 15:06:45 GMT2017-08-11T15:06:45Z

The IOC is against it, but competitive video gaming draws huge young audiences and deserves the same platform as other Olympic events

The image of an Olympian is associated with physical prowess, a sculpted body chipped into perfection by years of careful maintenance and preparation. We expect these people to perform great feats of physicality better than the rest of us. That is why so many are scornful of the notion that competitive video gaming, or eSports as it’s come to be known, should stand alongside other Olympic sports. But this requires rethinking.

Related: eSports could be medal event at 2024 Olympics, Paris bid team says

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Google cancels staff meeting after Gamergate-style attack on employees

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 02:06:31 GMT2017-08-11T02:06:31Z

Firing of James Damore, engineer behind controversial diversity memo, sparks ire from ‘alt-right’ reminiscent of 2014 Gamergate harassment campaign

Google cancelled a company-wide meeting on Thursday after several of its employees became targets of a Gamergate-style campaign of harassment by internet trolls angered by the firing of an engineer who had written a controversial memo about diversity.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email. But following the leak of proposed discussion questions, he said “Googlers”, a term used internally to describe employees, were being personally named on websites.

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eSports could be medal event at 2024 Olympics, Paris bid team says

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 18:45:10 GMT2017-08-09T18:45:10Z

  • Paris bid committee co-president to meet with IOC about competitive gaming
  • In April, it was announced eSports will be medal sport at 2022 Asian Games

eSports could be added to the Olympic programme as an official medal sport in 2024.

Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris bid committee, has confirmed that he will speak with the International Olympic Committee and eSports representatives about the full-fledged inclusion of competitive video gaming when the Games come to France in seven years’ time.

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Ambrosia: the startup harvesting the blood of the young

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 16:21:53 GMT2017-08-21T16:21:53Z

The notion has been parodied on TV, but a real company is offering transfusions of teenager’s plasma to reinvigorate older people. At $8,000, it’s a bit of a bloodsucker

What we now call “intergenerational fairness” has suffered a lot lately, and it’s not about to be improved by the news that the Baby Boomers are sucking the blood of the young. Although, in fairness, they are only after the plasma.

In Monterey, California, a new startup has emerged, offering transfusions of human plasma: 1.5 litres a time, pumped in across two days, harvested uniquely from young adults.

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End of the checkout line: the looming crisis for American cashiers

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 09:00:35 GMT2017-08-16T09:00:35Z

Donald Trump is fixated on a vision of masculine, blue-collar employment. But the retail sector has long had a far greater impact on American employment – and checkout-line technology is putting it at risk

The day before a fully automated grocery store opened its doors in 1939, the inventor Clarence Saunders took out a full page advertisement in the Memphis Press-Scimitar warning “old duds” with “cobwebby brains” to keep away. The Keedoozle, with its glass cases of merchandise and high-tech system of circuitry and conveyer belts, was cutting edge for the era and only those “of spirit, of understanding” should dare enter.

Inside the gleaming Tennessee store, shoppers inserted a key into a slot below their chosen items, producing a ticker tape list that, when fed into a machine, sent the goods traveling down a conveyer belt and into the hands of the customer. “People could just get what they want – boom, it comes out – and move on,” recalled Jim Riot, 75, who visited the store as a child. “It felt like it was The Jetsons.”

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Tech companies turn on Daily Stormer and the 'alt-right' after Charlottesville

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 21:30:55 GMT2017-08-14T21:30:55Z

The internet has long been a gathering place for white supremacists. But in the wake of the Virginia attack, some are reconsidering their willingness to host hate

For more than four years, The Daily Stormer has used the internet to dish up a daily menu of hate-fueled, neo-Nazi, white supremacist red meat to its readers. On Sunday, a handful of the companies involved in making that possible decided that enough was enough.

Go Daddy, a popular internet domain registrar and web hosting service, announced that it would no longer serve as the domain name service provider for Dailystormer.com, saying that, in light of the violent events in Charlottesville, the site had “crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence”.

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James Damore, Google, and the YouTube radicalization of angry white men

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 10:00:11 GMT2017-08-13T10:00:11Z

Damore became an ‘alt-right’ hero after Google fired him over his views on women. Did Google-owned YouTube play a role in reinforcing those ideas?

For the YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, the Google manifesto was personal and painful. After reading the news of engineer James Damore’s 10-page memo criticizing diversity initiatives, her daughter asked: “Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?”

Wojcicki recounted the conversation this week in a widely cited essay on sexism in tech in which she denounced the arguments advanced by Damore as “tragic”. Her reflection did not, however, address the role that her own company’s video platform may have played in spreading the questionable scientific claim that women are biologically less suited to tech.

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What that Google memo didn't tell you about pay inequality in America

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:00:56 GMT2017-08-11T10:00:56Z

The wage gap is more than simply one very memorable statistic – it’s a measure of inequality that shrinks and expands according to age, industry and race

A Google employee’s tirade against diversity efforts included a claim that the gender wage gap is a myth, in spite of mountains of data proving otherwise.

But the wage gap is more than simply one very memorable statistic – that a woman in the US earns $0.80 for each $1 a man earns. It is a measure of inequality that shrinks and expands based on variables including age, geography, industry, occupation and race.

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Battle for power at Uber as investor sues ex-CEO Travis Kalanick alleging fraud

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 23:34:40 GMT2017-08-10T23:34:40Z

Benchmark Capital accuses Travis Kalanick of fraud to ‘increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends’ as former CEO calls the case ‘riddles with lies’

Travis Kalanick is being sued by one of Uber’s largest investors, Benchmark Capital, which accuses the former chief executive of engaging in fraud in order to “increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends”.

The Benchmark complaint exposes an ugly battle for power at the top of the nearly $70bn startup, which has been buffeted from crisis to crisis all year and is still searching for a replacement for Kalanick.

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Computing needs to welcome women back into the industry | Letters

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:04:30 GMT2017-08-10T18:04:30Z

Female programmers made up half the industry’s workforce in the beginning, says Peter Kay; while Dr Jill Miller says increasing diversity is about levelling the playing field. Plus Robert Lawrence and Susan Hutchinson on data and the state

I have to agree with Angela Saini (In Silicon Valley, misogyny thrives on shoddy science, 8 August). When I went to university in 1964 to study mathematics, half of the other students studying maths were female. When I started work as a programmer in 1967 half of the other programmers were female. As Saini says, it was not until the advent of personal computers (and computer games) in the late 70s and 80s that this all changed and female programmers became a small minority. There was no inherent difference in skill and aptitude between the men and the women.

The Google “manifesto” is clearly ill-informed and written by someone without knowledge of the early days of computing. Sadly, we are now suffering from a serious shortage of skilled programmers because half the population with the appropriate skills have been put off entering the industry, maybe by the sexist attitudes of those with these false views.
Peter Kayes
Reading, Berkshire

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How the tech industry wrote women out of history

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:50:22 GMT2017-08-10T08:50:22Z

From the second world war to the 1960s, women were a critical part of the computing sector. Would tech culture today be less sexist if they hadn’t been sidelined?

Susie the computer: sophisticated but cheap. Susie and her computer friend Sadie appeared in 1960s adverts to promote a now defunct UK computer company, accompanied by a young, attractive, nameless woman. Feminised adverts like these were a common ploy in Britain at the time, when male managers, uninitiated in the complexities of this new technology, viewed the machines as intimidating and opaque.

“Computers were expensive and using women to advertise them gave the appearance to managers that jobs involving computers are easy and can be done with a cheap labour force,” explains technology historian Marie Hicks. They might have been on a typist’s salary, but women like the one who appears alongside Susie and Sadie were not typists – they were skilled computer programmers, minus the prestige or pay the modern equivalent might command.

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Secrets of Silicon Valley review – are we sleepwalking towards a technological apocalypse?

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 05:00:01 GMT2017-08-07T05:00:01Z

Are the idealists ‘good guys’ who are challenging the old order or are they really tax-minimising corporations that threaten our future?

Antonio García Martínez has seen the future and it is terrifying. Which is why he is going to set up home (“this is the drone room right here”) on a small island north of Seattle and live out the ravages of post-America, self-sufficiently, with a composting toilet and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. He is nervy and fast-talking, like a survivor who has seen unimaginably horrific things. And he has – he was once a product manager at Facebook. There is going to be a “violent revolt”, he says. The tech overlords, he mentions in passing, are all building their own survivalist camps. The rest of us, the “normals”, are sleepwalking towards the apocalypse, posting Instagram pictures from our most recent Airbnb stay from the back of a self-driving Uber. The first of two episodes of Secrets of Silicon Valley (BBC2, Sunday) was a sobering look at how tech is going to change society quickly and dramatically.

The Industrial Revolution was nothing compared to what is coming, says one tech genius, Jeremy Howard, whose artificial intelligence (AI) software will probably replace doctors any day. He arrives on screen on a one-wheeled skateboard – why have four wheels if you can have one? It seems a neat symbol of how redundant most of us will become.

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The Emoji Movie review – the end of human civilisation as we know it

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 07:00:35 GMT2017-08-06T07:00:35Z

Smartphones take centre-stage is this hideously dumbed-down offering

This is what happens when a film studio decides not to bother with making films good enough to prise the audience from their smartphones and just embraces the fact that mobile devices are part of the movie-viewing experience for a swath of the younger audience. And it’s horrible. A bleak, witless, creative wasteland of a movie that plays out like Pixar’s Inside Out dumbed down for morons. I don’t think I’m overstating things here when I say that The Emoji Movie feels like a harbinger for the end of human civilisation as we know it. A strident palette of candy-coloured empty calories and poop jokes and a cynical message about accepting yourself had me searching for an emoji showing a dispirited film critic hanging from a noose fashioned from a phone-charger cable.

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The week in radio: Reply All; High Rise

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 06:00:33 GMT2017-08-06T06:00:33Z

An intrepid but accident-prone podcast presenter chases his cold-caller all the way to Delhi, and tower-block dwellers wax lyrical

Reply All podcast: Gimlet Media
High Rise (R4) | iPlayer

Reply All is a podcast about the internet that I’ve reviewed before. It’s an upbeat show that aims to engage everyone, even the most un-techie, and it succeeds, mostly because of the enormous charm of its presenters, Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, whose rapport and general silliness make every show fizz. I especially recommend the most recent couple of episodes, Long Distance and Long Distance II. Not only are they laugh-out-loud funny, they’re also utterly compelling and a great example of how good journalism is often just a question of not giving up.

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The Emoji Movie review – zestless, pointless boilerplate animation

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 05:00:34 GMT2017-08-04T05:00:34Z

While the Angry Birds movie balanced dumbed-down world with a smart script, this personification of smartphone symbols is just ‘meh’

One thing no one needed this summer was a very rubbish version of Inside Out, that animated gem about the personified emotions inside the surreal landscape of a young girl’s mind. Here, instead of a mind, a smartphone, and instead of emotions, emojis: all the wacky little symbols that originated in Japan, not that you’d know that from this film.

The Emoji Movie could in theory have been witty and sophisticated, like The Lego Movie – or even the Angry Birds movie – juxtaposing its apparently dumbed-down world with a smart script. But no. This is just a boilerplate animation, zestless, pointless. The idea is that the “Meh” emoji wants to express something more complicated, in effect to be something other than its assigned identity, and here I am prepared to concede that The Emoji Movie does in its way confront an existential problem that Inside Out arguably never solved.

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Sleep gadgets: our writers put them to the test

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 06:00:18 GMT2017-07-28T06:00:18Z

From sunlight lamps to white noise devices, we roadtest popular gadgets to see if they can improve our sleep

Research has shown that sleep deprivation can impact our productivity at work, and even curtail our earning power. With so many of us failing to have a good night’s sleep, can technology help? In recent years, all sorts of gadgets and apps promising to enhance our sleep have exploded on to the market. But do they really work? From sunlight lamps to white noise machines, our writers put some of the most popular sleep gadgets to the test.

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The Emoji Movie review – a big thumbs down

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 01:00:12 GMT2017-07-28T01:00:12Z

This corporate clickbait exercise pretends to be a film for kids, but is actually trying to cross-sell apps to a tween audience

Children should not be allowed to watch The Emoji Movie. Their impressionable brains simply aren’t set up to sift through the thick haze of corporate subterfuge clouding every scene of this sponsored-content post masquerading as a feature film. Adults know enough to snort derisively when, say, an anthropomorphic high-five drops a reference to popular smartphone game Just Dance Now (available for purchase in the App Store, kids!), but young children especially are more innocent and more vulnerable.

The Emoji Movie is a force of insidious evil, a film that feels as if it was dashed off by an uninspired advertising executive. The best commercials have a way of making you forget you’re being pitched at, but director Tony Leondis leaves all the notes received from his brand partners in full view. The core conceit apes Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, where a spirited misfit hops between self-contained worlds styled in a single recognisable way. Instead of holidays, however, our hero here jumps from app to app, and the ulterior motive of pumping up download numbers drains every last drop of joy from Leondis’s efforts to enchant.

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What are the best MacBook Pro alternatives?

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 06:00:33 GMT2017-07-26T06:00:33Z

Want a premium and powerful yet small and light laptop that isn’t an Apple product? Here are the best 13in alternatives

It used to be that if you wanted a premium, powerful but relatively small and light laptop, there weren’t many good options apart from Apple’s MacBook Pro. These days that certainly isn’t the case with loads of excellent options from the world of Windows 10 PCs.

With Apple’s new 13in MacBook Pro not being everyone’s cup of tea, here are some of the best 13in alternatives, all with high-resolution screens, seventh generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chips and power enough to do almost anything, perhaps even a little gaming.

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SubPack S2 review: portable mega-club experience, without the hearing loss

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 06:00:10 GMT2017-07-21T06:00:10Z

The vibrating back plate adds a physical dimension to music, games and VR in your home or office, but without the neighbour-ruining racket

Hearing music is one thing, but to really become enveloped by it, you need to feel the music too. Until recently that meant standing in front of an enormous speaker that pounded your body and ears with sound, the kind that makes your chest reverberate and your ears bleed. But what if you wanted that super-club experience at home? Meet the Subpac, a sub-like device you strap to your back to give you that body-rumbling feeling without deafening yourself or annoying your neighbours.

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The City Is Ours review – will vertical forests and smart street lights really save the planet?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 23:00:07 GMT2017-07-13T23:00:07Z

Museum of London
By 2050, some 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. How will we cope? This maddeningly random show weighs up some inspired solutions

Can something as messy and complex as the issues surrounding mass global urbanisation be squeezed into a popular exhibition? It is a challenge Ricky Burdett attempted in his 2006 Venice architecture biennale, and ended up bamboozling many visitors with a dense slew of diagrams and statistics, which felt like a geography textbook stuck on the wall. It is something tech giant Siemens have also tried, in their Crystal visitor centre in east London’s Royal Docks, but the result has the inevitable whiff of a corporate showcase.

Now the Museum of London – that most awkward of urban institutions, marooned on a roundabout in the financial Square Mile – is the latest to tackle the fact that 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. Sadly The City Is Ours hasn’t made much progress on how to make the topic meaningful or engaging. The content is mostly inherited from a show that began at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris (with an extra section on London at the end), and it’s like a pick’n’mix of school curriculum themes, lacking any sense of direction.

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Radical Technologies by Adam Greenfield review – luxury communism, anyone?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 06:30:01 GMT2017-07-13T06:30:01Z

A tremendously intelligent and stylish book on the ‘colonisation of everyday life by information processing’ calls for resistance to rule by the tech elite

It seems like only a few years ago that we began making wry jokes about the doofus minority of people who walked down the street while texting or otherwise manipulating their phone, bumping into lamp-posts and so forth. Now that has become the predominant mode of locomotion in the city, to the frustration of those of us who like to get anywhere fast and in a straight line. Pedestrian accidents are on the rise, and some urban authorities are even thinking of installing smart kerbside sensors that alert the phone-obsessed who are about to step into oncoming traffic. New technologies, as Adam Greenfield’s tremendously intelligent and stylish book repeatedly emphasises, can change social habits in unforeseen and often counterproductive ways.

The technological fixes to such technology-induced problems rarely succeed as predicted either. It was, after all, to address the issue of people staring at handheld screens all day that Google marketed its augmented-reality spectacles, Google Glass. It rapidly turned out, however, that most people didn’t much like being surveilled and video-recorded by folk wearing hipster tech specs. Early adopters became known as “Glassholes”; the gizmo was banned in cool US bars, and it was eventually abandoned.

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The rebirth of Google Glass shows the merit of failure | John Naughton

Sun, 23 Jul 2017 06:00:00 GMT2017-07-23T06:00:00Z

The much-mocked wearable computer, refashioned as an aid for factory workers, is the latest success born of a commercial flop

Remember Google Glass? It was the name coined for spectacles developed by Google’s (now Alphabet’s) X division (the company’s intellectual sandpit in which engineers develop way-out ideas). Looking at first sight like a cheap pair of non-prescription reading glasses, Glass functioned as a kind of miniature head-up display (a transparent screen that allows users to read data without having to change their viewpoint). Over part of the right-hand lens was a small rectangular block of glass which functioned as a miniature computer monitor. Inside the right-hand support (the part that goes over your ear) Google had packed memory, a processor, a camera, speaker and microphone, Bluetooth and wifi antennas, an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a battery. So when you put on your spectacles you were, in fact, donning a tiny wearable computer.

Glass was first announced in 2012 and made available (for $1,500) to select early adopters (dubbed “Glass explorers”) in 2013. It went on sale to the general public in May 2014. In technical terms, it was an amazing piece of miniaturisation. Driven by voice commands, it had quite impressive functionality. You could tell it to take a photograph, for example, or record a video of what you were looking at. Similarly, you could call up a Google search about something you were looking at and have the results displayed in surprisingly readable form on the tiny screen – which appeared to be suspended some distance ahead of you in space. In that sense, Glass looked like the realisation of a dream that early tech visionaries like Douglas Engelbart had – of technology that could usefully augment human capabilities with computing power.

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Telit Communications chief fired after fraud allegations

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:58:25 GMT2017-08-14T16:58:25Z

Telecoms company dismisses Oozi Cats after investigators found an Uzi Katz was named as fugitive defendant in US in 1990s

The chief executive of a London telecoms company has been fired after it alleged that he had been lying about his true identity for at least 17 years and was on the run from US police.

Oozi Cats, 56, was dismissed on Monday by Aim-listed Telit Communications after the company’s private investigators found that he was in fact Uzi Katz, named by Boston’s district court as a “fugitive defendant” wanted in connection with an alleged 1990s property scam.

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Ask Jack: How can I use airport and hotel wifi safely?

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 09:40:53 GMT2017-08-17T09:40:53Z

Steve wants to know why public hotspots are not secure. Happily, there are ways to make your connection safer

Why are all the free wifi services offered by hotels and airports etc unsecured? I scan networks with AVG and then use TunnelBear’s VPN (virtual private network) whenever I want to use them for anything other than checking weather or news. Steve

There’s often a trade-off between security, convenience and cost. This doesn’t just apply to wireless hotspots but to houses, cars and other things.

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Meet Eva, the workplace robot that won’t necessarily steal your job

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:04:29 GMT2017-08-15T08:04:29Z

London startup Automata Technologies is hoping to democratise robotics by installing the technology in workplaces. Is it really nothing to worry about?

The technology industry likes to talk about how automation is set to change the world. Chatbots present a new way of interacting with software, self-driving cars promise to reshape our cities, and the increasing capability of AI to handle ever more complex and “human” tasks could reshape our economy. But amid all the futurism, one thing gets lost: actual robots.

London startup Automata Technologies is one of those hoping to reverse the trend. The company makes a tabletop robotic arm, which it hopes will democratise access to automation for every industry by costing a fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars a typical industrial robot costs today – under £5,000 up front, or under £500 a month for a “robotics as a service” package. One thing that’s no different from the world of software bots is that this robot has a woman’s name: Eva.

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The robot that staves off loneliness for chronically ill children

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 09:30:10 GMT2017-08-13T09:30:10Z

A Norwegian startup company has created an automaton that helps children with long-term sickness be part of normal life again

As a rule of thumb, the best ideas are the simplest. That’s easy to forget in an age of rapid technological innovation, when the tendency is to be led by capability rather than need.

For as Karen Dolva, co-founder of the Norwegian startup No Isolation, says: “There are a lot of engineers who don’t want to make something useful – they want to make something cool.”

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Are smartphones really making our children sad?

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 06:30:06 GMT2017-08-13T06:30:06Z

US psychologist Jean Twenge, who has claimed that social media is having a malign affect on the young, answers critics who accuse her of crying wolf

Last week, the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, launched a campaign to help parents regulate internet and smartphone use at home. She suggested that the overconsumption of social media was a problem akin to that of junk-food diets. “None of us, as parents, would want our children to eat junk food all the time – double cheeseburger, chips, every day, every meal,” she said. “For those same reasons, we shouldn’t want our children to do the same with their online time.”

Related: Irresistible: Why We Can’t Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching – review

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Why a computer could help you get a fair trial | John Naughton

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-08-13T06:00:06Z

Recent research suggests that AI could make a valuable contribution to the judicial process

In 1963, an American attorney named Reed Lawlor published a prescient article in the journal of the American Bar Association. “In a few years,” he wrote, “lawyers will rely more and more on computers to perform many tasks for them. They will not rely on computers simply to do their bookkeeping, filing or other clerical tasks. They will also use them in their research and in the analysis and prediction of judicial decisions. In the latter tasks, they will make use of modern logic and the mathematical theory of probability, at least indirectly.”

Related: Rise of the racist robots – how AI is learning all our worst impulses

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