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Preview: Technology news, comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk

Technology | The Guardian



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



Published: Sat, 22 Jul 2017 05:07:15 GMT2017-07-22T05:07:15Z

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



Drones will have to be registered in UK safety clampdown

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 05:01:29 GMT2017-07-22T05:01:29Z

Owners will need to show they understand safety and privacy laws as government acts after dozens of near-misses with aircraft

Drones will have to be registered and users forced to take a safety awareness test under new regulations announced by the UK government.

Dozens of near-misses with aircraft around airports have stoked fears over the safety of drone use.

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Facebook was where Pakistan could debate religion. Now it's a tool to punish 'blasphemers'

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 00:40:22 GMT2017-07-22T00:40:22Z

Laws that criminalize insulting Islam have led to a death sentence for posts, as activists worry Facebook’s commitment to Pakistanis’ ‘voice’ is mostly lip service

Taimoor Raza, a 30-year-old Shia Muslim from a “poor but literate” family, was sentenced to death in June by an anti-terrorist court in Pakistan. His crime? Allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad on Facebook.

It occurred during an online debate with a man who turned out to be an undercover counter-terrorism agent. His death sentence, the first to result from a social media posting, is an extreme example of the Pakistani government’s escalating battle to enforce its blasphemy laws, which criminalize insulting Islam.

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Galaxy Note 8: Samsung's follow-up to exploding Note 7 to be unveiled on 23 August

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:44:38 GMT2017-07-21T10:44:38Z

Latest Samsung stylus-equipped Note phablet comes after disastrous Note 7 battery issues that led to two recalls and cost the company billions of pounds

Samsung is to unveil the follow-up to its exploding Galaxy Note 7, expected to be called the Galaxy Note 8, on 23 August.

The South Korean electronics firm posted to Twitter a “save the date” for the unveiling of the Note 8 at one of the company’s “Unpacked” events, complete with a gif showing a representation of the new design.

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Global network of 'hunters' aim to take down terrorists on the internet

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:00:15 GMT2017-07-21T10:00:15Z

Group of volunteers obsessively tracks and reports Isis’s most prominent recruiters and propagandists, and tries to block the spread of their propaganda

Colonel Kurtz used to spend hours playing social games like Farmville. Now he hunts terrorists on the internet.

Related: Counter-terrorism was never meant to be Silicon Valley's job. Is that why it's failing?

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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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NSW Airbnb hosts may have to compensate neighbours for unruly guests

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 00:45:44 GMT2017-07-21T00:45:44Z

Under plan being considered by government, flat owners would be forced to pay extra strata fees, and limits placed on number of days a property can be let out

Residents who let out their spare rooms to rowdy guests through sites such as Airbnb could be forced to pay compensation to their neighbours under a plan being considered by the New South Wales government.

Apartment owners would also be forced to pay extra strata funds, and there would be limits on the number of days a property can be let out without a development application.

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Elon Musk: I got 'government approval' for New York-DC Hyperloop. Officials: no he didn't

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 20:07:08 GMT2017-07-20T20:07:08Z

Several city, state and federal spokespeople concur that Tesla CEO has not received permission to build high-speed tunnel from NYC to Washington DC

Elon Musk does not have government approval to build a Hyperloop tunnel from New York City to Washington DC.

The Tesla executive took to Twitter this morning to tantalize his legion of fans and the tech press with the “news” that he had “just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins … City center to city center in each case, with up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators in each city.”

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Dark web marketplaces AlphaBay and Hansa shut down

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 15:31:36 GMT2017-07-20T15:31:36Z

Two of the biggest Tor-based destinations for guns, drugs and other illicit goods shut down as US decries dark web as ‘no place to hide’

AlphaBay and Hansa – two of the largest “dark web” marketplaces for illegal and illicit items such as drugs and guns – have been shut down, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

Police in the US and Europe, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, partnered to shutter the sites accused of allowing thousands of vendors to sell illegal drugs, of which Europol said there were 250,000 listings on AlphaBay alone, with 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.

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Citymapper announces 'hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle' (a bus)

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:29:28 GMT2017-07-20T14:29:28Z

London transport app company given six-month licence to launch bus route between Aldgate East and Highbury and Islington stations on weekend nights

London-based transport app Citymapper has announced its next product: “a social hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle”. Using “geo-matching technology” to route vehicles in a way which optimises boarding while minimising waiting times, the firm hopes to enable efficient ETAs for passengers with varied demographics.

Helpfully, the firm has also provided a translation out of its Silicon Valley-speak: it’s launching a bus. Bus route CM2 will run between Aldgate East and Highbury and Islington stations, every 12 minutes, on Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm to 5.30am.

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Google to radically change homepage for first time since 1996

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:37:36 GMT2017-07-20T12:37:36Z

Search company to integrate its app-based feed of news, events, sports and interest-based topics into Google.com page in the near future

Google’s famously simple homepage with its logo and single search box on a white background is set to undergo a radical change for the first time since its launch in 1996, with the addition of Google’s interest and news-based feed.

The feed of personalised information, which has been a mainstay of Google’s mobile apps for Android and iOS since 2012 along with a home-screen page on Google’s Nexus and Pixel smartphones and tablets, will become part of the main web experience in the near future, the Guardian understands.

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Chatterbox: Friday

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 07:00:45 GMT2017-07-21T07:00:45Z

The place to talk about games and other things that matter

It’s Friday!

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One artist's deep dive into the online 'manosphere' – tech podcast

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

Angela Washko tells us how she immersed herself in men’s rights communities and made a dating simulator about pickup artists

Angela Washko is a games developer, writer and teacher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Her work on online society has given her a unique and evolving angle on the nexus of men’s rights activists, anti-feminists and “seduction coaching” communities online, and here she shares the experiences that led to her latest work: The Game – The Game, a dating simulator game starring notable pickup artists.

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The Guardian view on the future of crime: it will be online | Editorial

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 16:19:11 GMT2017-07-19T16:19:11Z

The dangers of machine intelligence will grow as it spreads. We need to prepare now

When software gets smarter, the first effect is to empower the already powerful. The fantastic powers available now to Google and Facebook, which are now in practice the publishers of most of what appears on the public internet, is one example. More sinister is the power of nation states to spy on us, to manipulate their own citizens, and to disrupt the workings of their enemies. But these advantages cannot last. Soon they have to be reinforced by law, and ultimately force, as the techniques behind them spread and hardware grows cheaper and more plentiful.

The speed of technological progress, and the ease with which ideas can now spread, mean that few techniques can long remain the preserve of large firms or entities. Every advance in power and convenience available to the ordinary consumer will soon be available to criminals too. Illegal commerce, whether in drugs, forged documents, stolen credit cards or emails, is nearly as slick and well organised as the legal sort. So are the criminal world’s labour exchanges: hiring someone to hack a website, or to boost your Twitter account with fake followers, is easily done. So is renting a botnet of suborned devices to knock an enemy’s website off the net. Last year large chunks of the consumer internet in the US were knocked out for hours, apparently by an assault launched from subverted home security cameras.

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State hackers 'probably compromised' energy sector, says leaked GCHQ memo

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 13:20:44 GMT2017-07-18T13:20:44Z

UK’s National Cybersecurity Centre warned of connections ‘from multiple UK IP addresses to state-sponsored threats’, according to reports

The UK energy sector is likely to have been targeted and probably compromised by nation-state hackers, according to a memo from Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre.

The NCSC, a subsidiary of GCHQ, warned that it had spotted connections “from multiple UK IP addresses to infrastructure associated with advanced state-sponsored hostile threat actors, who are known to target the energy and manufacturing sectors,” according to Motherboard, which obtained a copy of the document.

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Hospitals to receive £21m to increase cybersecurity at major trauma centres

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 17:59:45 GMT2017-07-12T17:59:45Z

Jeremy Hunt pledges funding for 27 hospitals across England after the WannaCry ransomware attack disabled NHS IT systems

Hospitals responsible for treating patients from major incidents including terrorist attacks will receive £21m to beef up their cybersecurity in the wake of the WannaCry assault on NHS IT systems.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has pledged the extra money to try to stop future malware attacks disrupting operations and appointments in key medical centres.

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Local radio station keeps getting hijacked by song about masturbation

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 09:36:55 GMT2017-07-11T09:36:55Z

Ofcom hunting pirate who persistently overrides frequency of Mansfield 103.2 to play The Winker’s Song by Ivor Biggun

The communications regulator is hunting a radio pirate who has repeatedly hijacked the airwaves of a local station with a deliberately offensive song about masturbation.

The Winker’s Song, a 1970s ditty by an artist going by the name Ivor Biggun, has been illegally forced on to the output of Mansfield 103.2 at least eight times in the last month.

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'NotPetya' malware attacks could warrant retaliation, says Nato affiliated-researcher

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 12:34:43 GMT2017-07-03T12:34:43Z

If malware outbreak was state sponsored it could count as violation of sovereignty and open possibility of countermeasures, says Tomáš Minárik

The NotPetya malware that wiped computers at organisations including Maersk, Merck and the Ukrainian government in June “could count as a violation of sovereignty”, according to a legal researcher at a Nato-affiliated cybersecurity organisation.

If the malware outbreak was state-sponsored, the researcher says, it could open the possiblity of “countermeasures”. Those could come through retaliatory cyber--attacks, or more conventional means such as sanctions, but they must fall short of a military use of force.

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Parliament cyber-attack hits fewer than 90 email accounts

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 16:02:30 GMT2017-06-25T16:02:30Z

Spokesman says number affected is less than many feared but that investigation is under way into potential data loss

Fewer than 90 email accounts belonging to peers and MPs are believed to have been hacked by an orchestrated cyber-attack, a parliamentary spokesman said on Sunday.

The Houses of Parliament were targeted by hackers on Friday in an attack that sought to gain access to accounts protected by weak passwords.

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Russian hackers 'traded stolen passwords of British MPs and public servants'

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:17:51 GMT2017-06-23T00:17:51Z

Credentials of officials – including MPs, diplomats and senior police officers – reportedly sold on Russian websites after 2012 attack on LinkedIn

Passwords belonging to British politicians, diplomats and senior police officers have been traded by Russian hackers, it has been reported.

Security credentials said to have belonged to tens of thousands of government officials, including 1,000 British MPs and parliamentary staff, 7,000 police employees and more than 1,000 Foreign Office staff, were in the troves sold or swapped on Russian-speaking hacking sites.

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WannaCry ransomware attack 'linked to North Korea'

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:24:45 GMT2017-06-16T13:24:45Z

UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has linked recent attacks to the North Korean-affiliated hacking team Lazarus Group, according to reports

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reportedly attributed the WannaCry malware, which affected the NHS and other organisations worldwide in May, to the North Korean-affiliated hacking team Lazarus Group.

The NCSC, which is the public face of the British defence against cyber-attacks and works closely with the UK surveillance agency GCHQ, said it would neither confirm or deny the reports. But a separate source confirmed the NCSC had led the international investigation into the WannaCry bug and completed its assessment within the last few weeks.

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University College London hit by ransomware attack

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:44:29 GMT2017-06-15T13:44:29Z

Hospitals with relationship to university suspend email servers in precautionary measure against phishing scam

University College London has been hit by a “major” ransomware attack which brought down its shared drives and student management system.

The attack has also led to a number of hospital trusts suspending their email servers as a precautionary measure, in an attempt to prevent the repetition of last month’s damaging WannaCry epidemic.

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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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Inside the darknet: where Australians buy and sell illegal goods

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 02:53:50 GMT2017-07-04T02:53:50Z

A vendor was offering Medicare details of any Australian. Could this be real, or was it just a scam? The only way to know was to request some data
• The Medicare machine: patient details of ‘any Australian’ for sale on darknet

“Our goal is to become known as the most consistent, reliable supplier of cocaine in the Aussie DNM scene,” the online listing reads. “It has been requested from a number of customers that we offer a more affordable option of cocaine so we have decided to bring out VALUE QUALITY cocaine.”

This listing is one of thousands on the darknet; a hidden corner of the internet that is beyond the reach of many users.

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Google's fine is big news but the company faces a far bigger threat

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 15:19:54 GMT2017-06-29T15:19:54Z

The Canadian supreme court ruled that Google can be forced to pull results worldwide, not just the Canadian version of its search engine

Google has come face to face with two of its greatest nightmares this week. The first garnered enormous attention worldwide, and will be an expensive period regardless of how it shakes out; but the second flew below the radar, despite the fact that it could eventually be far more damaging to the company’s operating model.

Hitting the headlines was the European Union’s record €2.4bn fine of Google for anticompetitive practices relating to its shopping service. At the heart of the issue is the fact that the company treats its shopping search engine – Google Shopping – differently from those of competitors, placing it at the top of searches for products by default, and relegating similar services like price comparison site Kelkoo far down the results.

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Uber's scandals, blunders and PR disasters: the full list

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 23:14:33 GMT2017-06-27T23:14:33Z

The company has had a seemingly never-ending string of missteps, from its controversial CEO to questionable tactics and sexual harassment claims

Uber has been rocked by a steady stream of scandals and negative publicity in recent years, including revelations of questionable spy programs, a high-stakes technology lawsuit, claims of sexual harassment and discrimination and embarrassing leaks about executive conduct.

The PR disasters culminated in CEO Travis Kalanick resigning and promises of bold reform that largely ignored the ride-hailing company’s strained relationship with drivers.

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Theresa May wants tech companies to censor terrorists, but will they play ball?

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:30:53 GMT2017-06-13T11:30:53Z

The embattled prime minister is meeting French president Emmanuel Macron to renew her campaign against Facebook et al – but will it be worth the trip?

The British prime minster Theresa May is expected to renew her long-running campaign against technology companies by announcing international sanctions for those that fail to take sufficient action against terrorist propaganda, in a joint statement with French president Emmanuel Macron.

The two leaders, meeting in Paris on Tuesday, will discuss creating a legal requirement for technology companies to aid in the fight against terrorism online and reportedly face fines for failing to comply, in the wake of a series of attacks in the UK and France over the past year.

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George Brandis's salvo in cryptowars could blow a hole in architecture of the internet

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 04:31:00 GMT2017-06-12T04:31:00Z

Attorney general isn’t just proposing a backdoor into encrypted communications – it’s a giant sinkhole your backdoor fell into

In 1993 the US president Bill Clinton’s administration introduced the “Clipper chip” into America’s digital and consumer electronics. It was one of the earliest attempts to enforce a backdoor into digital products, and the first in what is known as the cryptowars, when the US government fought to control and regulate strong encryption.

The Clipper chip was a catastrophic failure. It’s a failure the attorney general, George Brandis, may find instructive, as he places Australia on the frontline of a new cryptowar.

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Who is to blame for exposing the NHS to cyber-attacks?

Mon, 15 May 2017 13:43:01 GMT2017-05-15T13:43:01Z

Could the government or intelligence agencies have done more to protect the health service from cybercriminals?

Three days after the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, a string of questions have emerged. Could the US and UK intelligence agencies – the NSA and GCHQ – have done more to prevent the attack? And, in the UK, must the NHS share some of the blame for allowing itself to be so vulnerable?

The chain of events starts with the NSA. It discovered the weakness that made the ransomware so prolific , which was then stolen by a hacking group known as Shadow Brokers, thought to be linked to the Russian government.

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Game changers: how the increasing cultural significance of video games is reflected in our coverage

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:00:15 GMT2017-07-21T10:00:15Z

The Guardian has been covering video games for more than 20 years. Over that time the games, their creators and their players have matured and diversified — and so has our approach to criticism and analysis

The comedian Dara Ó Briain has a funny routine about video games. He talks about how no other form of entertainment purposefully withholds content until it considers that you deserve to see it. There are no books that test you at the end of the chapter to ensure you have appreciated all the themes correctly; films don’t end if you fail to spot a visual gag. But this is how most games work. If you’re no good, it’s all over.

Which makes reviewing a game a very different experience to reviewing a movie or a book. Peter Bradshaw doesn’t need physical dexterity or pinpoint hand-eye coordination in order to see the ending of Transformers: The Last Knight, but if a critic wants to write about the closing moments of, say, Rise of the Tomb Raider, you have to earn that opportunity – and it may take 30 hours to get there. This is only one way in which writing about video games for a living is pretty weird.

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Do we need Red Dead Redemption 2 when the first provided gaming's best moment?

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:56:06 GMT2017-07-19T10:56:06Z

Red Dead Redemption contains one of the greatest sequences in the history of interactive entertainment. How can we expect the sequel repeat the trick?

I’m starting to worry about Red Dead Redemption 2. Not because I’ll have two young kids by the time it’s released, which means I’ll still be stuck on the bit where they teach you how to herd cows until about 2019, although that is obviously an issue.

No, I’m worried about Red Dead Redemption 2 because it’s bound to be a disappointment. Sure, the worlds are likely to be bigger. Sure, the faces are likely to be more expressive, sure there is probably going to be an amazing online mode where we all get to live together in a wild west town, like a video game version of WestWorld (which is itself a comment on video game worlds, but let’s not go there right now). However, ask yourself this: how on earth can you improve on a game that contains one of the greatest moments in the history of interactive entertainment?

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Ally McLean: Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist is charming, devastating and relatable

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 00:24:08 GMT2017-07-19T00:24:08Z

In Beauty and the Books, we chat to those who love both books and beauty products. Here, game developer Ally McLean reveals her fondness for green-tea scrub and Douglas Adams

She’s the creator of Eve Beauregard, her cosplay alter ego with more than 300,000 Facebook followers and the basis for the character of Yennefer of Vengerberg character in Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Ally McLean is also the project lead at independent gaming studio Robot House and is launching a mentor program with the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association(IGEA) for women who want to work in the gaming industry. Here, she discusses the delights of indulgent skincare and why a copy of Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please is always nearby.

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Why diversity matters in the modern video games industry

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 10:57:18 GMT2017-07-18T10:57:18Z

Playstation, Xbox and the rest have a vital role in helping under-represented people form a sense of themselves. But is the industry doing enough?

When Katie Stone Perez’s daughter first tried to ride a two-wheel bicycle, the little girl took her Super Mario plush toy and put him in the basket on the front of the handle bars. Intrigued, Katie asked why it was important that Nintendo’s iconic plumber accompanied her on the ride. “Because he taught me to never give up,” her daughter said.

Perez knows a thing or two about the power of video games as a reflective, empowering and emotional influence in the lives of players. While working as the senior program manager for Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, which seeks to support independent development on the console, she worked closely with Kenny Roy, creator of forthcoming puzzle platformer I, Hope. Aimed at children affected by cancer, it’s the story of a girl who must help defend her island home against a mysterious sickness. Perez also supported the launch of We Love Chicago, a narrative game about multiracial communities living in the city’s urban areas, and right now, she’s helping out at the Xbox-sponsored Girls Make Games, a three-week summer camp dedicated to teaching young women how to code and create video games. “Diversity within the games industry is incredibly important to me,” she says. “I think we need to back away from this focus on one type of consumer or one type of developer - some of my favourite gaming experiences come from really diverse creators.”

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Games reviews roundup: Nex Machina; Tour de France 2017; Micro Machines: World Series

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 06:00:43 GMT2017-07-17T06:00:43Z

An old-school shooter offers demanding delights, a cycling game is a bit flat, while a retro racer can’t recapture the magic

PC, PS4, Housemarque, cert: 12
★★★★

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Sports Direct buys 26% stake in Game Digital

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 08:03:24 GMT2017-07-13T08:03:24Z

Mike Ashley swoops on video games retailer after profit warning forced by shortage of Nintendo Switch consoles

The founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, has added a near 26% stake in the struggling video games retailer Game Digital to his string of high street investments.

Game Digital said Sports Direct, controlled by the billionaire, had acquired 44m shares, amounting to a 25.75% stake. Game released a profit warning last month due to a supply shortage of Nintendo’s Switch console and a weaker lineup of new games.

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30 years of Final Fantasy: a cult of devotion, and the music still soars

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 21:00:35 GMT2017-07-12T21:00:35Z

International Convention Centre, Sydney
The Distant World philharmonic orchestra is celebrating three decades of the classic game with a rousing and nostalgic world tour

Circa 1987, a small Japanese software company called Square decided to make one last video game. On the verge of bankruptcy, it believed its time was almost up so named it with that in mind: Final Fantasy.

Fast-forward 30 years and the board at what is now Square-Enix likely erupts into laughter when recalling the story over Friday drinks. Final Fantasy has become the company’s longest-running and most revered creation, a series so beloved that even its music has transcended the game as a standalone force of nostalgia.

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Big in Albania … countries that gave film flops a second life

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:34:58 GMT2017-07-12T09:34:58Z

The superheroes saved by Mexico, the video-game spinoff that became China’s 12th biggest movie ever, and the British comedian worshipped by a secretive communist nation. We remember the films somebody else loved

The Rock’s Baywatch reboot may be drowning, not waving, in multiplexes around the globe, but there is one territory where cinemagoers apparently can’t get enough of it: Germany. Put it down to the enduring cultural impact of David Hasselhoff, but the country of Angela Merkel is almost single-handedly saving Baywatch from box-office infamy. It’s not the first time a movie has struck an unexpected chord somewhere far from home, as these examples demonstrate.

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Facebook village? Social media giant to build 'social housing'

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 06:51:16 GMT2017-07-10T06:51:16Z

The tech giant aims to build 1,500 apartments at Menlo Park after being criticised for helping to deepen the Silicon Valley housing crisis

Facebook is to build its own “village” of 1,500 homes for workers struggling to pay soaring rents as the housing crisis in Silicon Valley deepens.

Related: 'We will be torn apart': the battle to save Silicon Valley's oldest trailer park

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Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley: have we reached a tipping point?

Sun, 09 Jul 2017 10:00:21 GMT2017-07-09T10:00:21Z

In an industry where money rules and male investors are treated like demigods, more and more women are speaking up. But will it work?

The entrepreneur Sarah Nadav was talking to a potential investor at drinks at a major tech conference, when he leaned over and stuck his tongue into her mouth.

“I was like, what the hell? I’m a fucking CEO! What are you doing?”

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Tech has become another way for men to oppress women | Lizzie O’Shea

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 05:00:03 GMT2017-07-07T05:00:03Z

We act as if technology were neutral but it’s not. The challenge now is to highlight and remove the gender bias

• Lizzie O’Shea is a human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer

‘Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive, despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit,” wrote former Facebook product manager Antonio García Martínez in 2016. “They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence. But the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they’d become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel.” This is from his insider account of Silicon Valley, Chaos Monkeys. The book was a bestseller. The New York Times called it “an irresistible and indispensable 360-degree guide to the new technology establishment”. Anyone who is surprised by the recent revelations of sexism spreading like wildfire through the technology industry has not been paying attention.

Related: Sex robots: innovation driven by male masturbatory fantasy is no revolution | Suzanne Moore

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She took on Tesla for discrimination. Now others are speaking up. 'It's too big to deny'

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 09:00:10 GMT2017-07-05T09:00:10Z

A female engineer who came forward with claims of harassment says she was fired in retaliation. But now other women have voiced similar concerns

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “be bold for change” in the fight for a “more gender inclusive world” – but some at Tesla had a different plan for the day.

It was an opportunity for women to discover essential oils. A “health and wellness group” at the electric car company invited female staff members to an 8 March “lunch ‘n learn” about oils and how they can help improve people’s “health and happiness”, according to emails seen by the Guardian, which reveal that the proposed event was quickly met with vocal criticism. It was particularly offensive to some given that a week earlier, AJ Vandermeyden, a female engineer, had publicly accused Elon Musk’s company of sexual harassment and discrimination.

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Billionaires dream of immortality. The rest of us worry about healthcare | Jill Abramson

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 05:00:05 GMT2017-07-05T05:00:05Z

Trump’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare leaves Baby Boomers approaching retirement with nervous jitters

Last week, as the Senate was still trying to deny healthcare to 22 million fellow Americans, a friend asked me whether I would choose to live forever if I could. We were discussing Silicon Valley billionaires and their investments in new biotechnologies that they hope will enable them to do what no human has ever done: cheat death. The technology includes some dubious treatments, such as being pumped with the blood of much younger people.

Both of us agreed we do not wish for immortality, though we are both extremely happy with our lives and healthy. Wanting to live forever is fundamentally selfish. It’s obvious why immortality appeals to billionaires such as Peter Thiel. It obviously wouldn’t to the millions in the US who won’t have health insurance if the Republicans pull out the vote on their bill.

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Top Silicon Valley investor resigns as allegation of sexual assault emerges

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 02:04:26 GMT2017-07-04T02:04:26Z

Hours after investor Dave McClure resigned over inappropriate behavior, another female entrepreneur came forward with her story

A prominent Silicon Valley investor has resigned following allegations of sexual harassment, and just hours before a fresh allegation surfaced, this time of sexual assault.

On Monday, Dave McClure resigned as general partner of 500 Startups, the seed investment group he co-founded in 2010, after several women accused him of inappropriate behavior. He had already stepped down as chief executive of the investment group following the allegations and published a blog post apologizing for being “inappropriate”.

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Mammoth task: billionaire Peter Thiel funded effort to resurrect woolly beast

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 18:58:59 GMT2017-06-30T18:58:59Z

The Silicon Valley titan, who has openly challenged death as an inevitability, invested $100,000 in a project to bring the extinct mammoth back to life

PayPal billionaire and Gawker war-wager Peter Thiel has invested $100,000 in a research effort to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

Thiel, who believes that viewing death as inevitable is a sign of “complacency of the western world”, gave the money to Harvard University genomics professor George Church, whose laboratory is attempting to revive the extinct pachyderm.

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Low-income workers who live in RVs are being 'chased out' of Silicon Valley streets

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:00:20 GMT2017-06-29T10:00:20Z

In the ‘highest income region of the universe’, people trying to make ends meet face a ban on vehicles from parking in the same spot for longer than 72 hours

In a Silicon Valley town where the median home value is $2.5m, next to a university with a $22.5bn endowment, not far from a shopping mall with Burberry and Cartier outlets, they present an eye-popping sight: dozens of run-down RVs and trailers parked in a line along a main road.

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Counter-terrorism was never meant to be Silicon Valley's job. Is that why it's failing?

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 09:00:19 GMT2017-06-29T09:00:19Z

Extremist content is spreading online and law enforcement can’t keep up. The result is a private workforce that’s secretive, inaccurate and unaccountable

Counter-terrorism is being slowly privatized and carried out by low-paid workers at technology companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Although these companies hire expert advisers and former government agents to tackle extremist propaganda and recruitment enabled by their platforms, much of the grunt work is carried out by contractors earning $15 an hour or, in YouTube’s case, volunteers.

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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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Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil review – trouble with algorithms

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 09:00:10 GMT2017-07-05T09:00:10Z

This powerful study, subtitled How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, exposes the bias in predictive modelling

As a child, mathematics was Cathy O’Neil’s passion: “math provided a neat refuge from the messiness of the real world”. After a stint in academia she began working for a hedge fund (“the smuggest of the players on Wall Street”) just before the 2008 crash. That’s when she recognised the danger posed by mathematical models or, as she neatly terms them in this fascinating book, Weapons of Math Destruction. Her main point is that predictive models are never neutral but reflect the goals and ideology of those who create them. They also tend to load the dice against poor people, reinforcing inequality in society. From calculating university rankings or credit ratings and processing job applications, to deciding what advertising you see online or what stories appear in your Facebook news feed, algorithms play an increasingly important role in our lives. Even the police use big data to help them predict where crimes may occur. The problem, as O’Neil so eloquently demonstrates, is that these algorithms are often incapable of reflecting the real world: “mathematical models should be our tools, not our masters”.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy is published by Penguin. To order a copy for £8.49 (RRP £9.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

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Huawei MateBook X review: fanless and full-blooded MacBook Pro rival

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 05:00:05 GMT2017-07-05T05:00:05Z

Huawei has achieved something quite special with its new laptop that is one of the lightest around without sacrificing power


Huawei’s new MateBook X laptop looks like a minimalist Apple MacBook on the outside, but brings full-power laptop specifications in a fanless design to create a beautiful, capable machine.

Huawei’s second Windows PC continues the trend of bringing smartphone-inspired design to the computer market. The MateBook X is a super-thin, light and powerful PC encased in aluminium. It’s a very attractive design that looks and feels like a premium product, bringing Huawei’s PC efforts right up with the best of the competition, including Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro.

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Dawn of the Driverless Car review – ironically, a human presenter might have been better

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 05:00:10 GMT2017-06-30T05:00:10Z

This excellent documentary covers every angle – so why did my mind wander? Plus: people and their bits in Naked Attraction

I have a child who has expressed an interest in becoming a bus driver. I’m not going to encourage it. Not because I have anything against driving buses as a profession (though I’m not crazy about his chosen route, the 226 between Golders Green and Ealing Broadway – would one that passes through central London not be more glamorous, as well as being more double-decker?) No, my problem with it is that by the time he reaches bus-driving age, it probably won’t be a profession any more. He’s only three you see. It’s an issue that arises in Horizon: Dawn of the Driverless Car (BBC2) – the impact autonomous vehicles are going to have on employment. The future may be safer, and greener, but there will also be fewer jobs. Bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery drivers – all the drivers. Think of poor Jeremy Clarkson, what’s he going to do? Actually, don’t think of Jeremy Clarkson. And driverless cars obviously can’t come soon enough for Richard Hammond, the one who keeps crashing.

They – that lot – get a nod, incidentally. A company called FiveAI “aims to turn this reasonably priced electric car into the star of the driverless world,” says Sara Pascoe, narrating. AI refers to artificial intelligence, of course, five to the top level of driverless autonomy, whereby the vehicle can drive anywhere without any kind of human intervention. That’s where FiveAI, and everyone else (Google, Apple, Tesla, Ford, Volvo etc) are trying to get to.

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The One Device by Brian Merchant review – the secret history and moral cost of the iPhone

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 06:30:16 GMT2017-06-29T06:30:16Z

Full of surprising details, this study delves into what society-transforming technology really signifies. Steve Jobs comes out badly

In most areas of my life I behave well enough, but put a smartphone in my hand and I become your typical glazed-eyed imbecile, poking, swiping and typing in a sweaty frenzy. For better or worse, smartphones tap into something base in us. Most adults use their phones in the way that babies treat their pacifiers. Break one, and we turn into those australopithecines at the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey, smashing our fists into the dirt in frustrated rage; take them away, and we become Gollum without his ring.

Related: The iPhone only exists because Steve Jobs 'hated this guy at Microsoft'

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8 Minutes review – dancers and scientists make a stunning cosmic voyage

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:41:57 GMT2017-06-28T13:41:57Z

Sadler’s Wells, London
Alexander Whitley’s poetic and playful creation captures the alien unknowableness of the universe, as well as its visual magic

Eight minutes is the time it takes for the sun’s light to reach the Earth: it’s also the title of Alexander Whitley’s new work, which is inspired by solar physics and aspires to conjure, through dance, the immensity of the forces that shape our universe.

Everything about the background to this piece, including Whitley’s close collaboration with a team of space scientists, might lead you to fear a project encumbered by facts and a duty to explicate. But the unsettling beauty of the work’s opening few minutes, with seven dancers moving in darkly flickering formation against a cosmic backdrop, makes it clear that Whitley has been liberated by the vastness of his subject, and has discovered a new level of poetic freedom and playfulness.

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Microsoft Surface Pro review: very nearly almost the future of Windows PCs

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-06-28T06:00:12Z

Though held back by the lack of USB-C and barely acceptable battery life, the expensive Surface Pro is the finest example of the tablet-laptop hybrid

Microsoft’s vision of the future of a Windows 10 PC comes in the form of the new Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro – Microsoft dropped its numbering scheme – follows on from last year’s Surface Pro 4, which was an excellent computer plagued by heat and battery life issues. So with longer battery life and laptop-level power is the new version ready for prime time?

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Amazon Fire HD 8 review: easily the best tablet you can buy for £80

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 06:00:23 GMT2017-06-27T06:00:23Z

The Fire HD 8 has always played second fiddle to its smaller sibling, but with twice the storage, better screen and speakers, that’s no longer the case

Amazon’s bigger, 8in HD version of its rock-bottom tablet, the Fire HD 8, has always played second fiddle to the £50 Fire 7, but not any more.

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If dogs could talk, they’d tell us some home truths | John Bradshaw

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 09:57:46 GMT2017-07-21T09:57:46Z

Technology means we could soon be able to ‘translate’ barks. We really need better ways to understand their needs

• John Bradshaw is an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol’s vet school and author

On 1 April 2010, Google announced a breakthrough for the animal kingdom: an Android App that would allow an impressive range of species, from guinea pig to tortoise, to speak in English. The date was, naturally, significant. Presumably the advertised “animal linguistic database”, against which the “neurobiological acoustics” of the animal’s utterances would be compared, never existed. The “tortoise” file would have been pretty limited, in any case.

Related: 25 ways you know your dog loves you (and that they’re better than cats) | Bella Mackie

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Anyone home? Meet the couple revolutionising the humble doorbell

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-07-18T06:00:12Z

John Nussey and wife, Avril O’Neill, were inspired to create smart doorbell Ding after working on prototypes for other entrepreneurs

There are few things more infuriating than arriving home to a “Sorry we missed you”card after waiting hours for a delivery. A report last year from IMRG estimated that failed deliveries are costing retailers up to £780m, not to mention the frustration and inconvenience for customers who happen to be in the shower or out when the doorbell rings.

It’s a problem that the co-founder of Ding, John Nussey, was inspired to do something about. He and his wife, Avril O’Neill, have run their own business for 10 years, making product prototypes for other entrepreneurs, and began to develop their own list of ideas: “Simple, everyday things that had been forgotten about,” Nussey says. The doorbell was at the top of that list. The idea was to “make products that don’t forget the job they’re supposed to do [but] that use technology to be better”.

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How list-making apps could save your relationship

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 06:00:13 GMT2017-07-20T06:00:13Z

Managing tasks used to burden one partner more than the other, but apps such as Trello and Wunderlist are helping share the admin of daily life

It’s the middle of the workday when a mobile notification pops up on my phone: “Luke created ‘Rocking chairs’ in ‘Inbox’,” it reads. It’s from the Trello app, which means it’s not urgent and it doesn’t really disturb my work – I know if my partner wanted my immediate attention he’d text. For us, a Trello note is a placeholder for something to talk about later.

My partner, Luke Abrams, and I use the list-making app as our common digital memory. It is where everything we need to do, buy, talk about, or remember, goes. And it updates on both our computers and phones in real time. That afternoon I add a few more notes myself – cat food, printer paper – to a list aptly called ‘Shopping’.

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How Guardian readers arrange the icons on their smartphones

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:27:06 GMT2017-07-17T11:27:06Z

Last week Alex Hern advised how to arrange apps on your home screen. But not everybody agreed – and here are their alternatives

On Friday, I shared what I believe to be the correct way to sort the icons on your smartphone: a slow-and-steady system for shifting them up and down the screen, and across multiple pages, each time you tap on one to open it. Eventually, you end up with a rough frequency sort, adjusted for whether or not you open a particular app more from notifications or widgets than from tapping it on the home screen.

People disagreed with my method. This is fine. They are wrong. But in the interests of fairness, here are some of the best alternative suggestions from readers.

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'Education is the solution': the Gloucestershire high school enforcing a digital detox

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 05:00:41 GMT2017-07-17T05:00:41Z

Pupils at Stroud high school were outraged by strict new rules prohibiting the use of digital devices, but the results were remarkable

Fourteen-year-old friends Hannah Cox and Libby Shirnia admitted they were a little taken aback when their school announced stringent new rules on mobile phones, smart watches and Fitbit activity monitors.

“Everyone’s reaction was: ‘This is so annoying.’” said Libby. “But then we chatted about it and thought it might be a good thing. It’s the worst thing when you’re having a conversation and someone is doing that [Libby mimes tapping and sliding on a smart screen].

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How can we stop algorithms telling lies?

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 08:59:17 GMT2017-07-16T08:59:17Z

Algorithms can dictate whether you get a mortgage or how much you pay for insurance. But sometimes they’re wrong – and sometimes they are designed to deceive

Lots of algorithms go bad unintentionally. Some of them, however, are made to be criminal. Algorithms are formal rules, usually written in computer code, that make predictions on future events based on historical patterns. To train an algorithm you need to provide historical data as well as a definition of success.

We’ve seen finance get taken over by algorithms in the past few decades. Trading algorithms use historical data to predict movements in the market. Success for that algorithm is a predictable market move, and the algorithm is vigilant for patterns that have historically happened just before that move. Financial risk models also use historical market changes to predict cataclysmic events in a more global sense, so not for an individual stock but rather for an entire market. The risk model for mortgage-backed securities was famously bad – intentionally so – and the trust in those models can be blamed for much of the scale and subsequent damage wrought by the 2008 financial crisis.

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Life hack: how to best arrange your iPhone apps, one icon at a time

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 09:34:03 GMT2017-07-14T09:34:03Z

After years of fiddling, I finally cracked it. This is how you should organise your home screen – and it’s advice that could be handy for Android users too

In the 10 years since the iPhone launched, I’ve never really settled on a way to arrange my home screen that I actually like. Folders seem clunky but no folders leaves me with too many things multiple swipes away. Organising by what I use most leaves me with the rarely but rapidly needed apps buried, while organising by speed of access leaves me tapping through multiple times a day.

And then there’s aesthetics. Some apps simply don’t deserve to be on my first home screen no matter how much I use them. Mostly games. Game designers can’t make an attractive icon for the life of them, it seems.

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Are Spotify's 'fake artists' any good?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:02:34 GMT2017-07-13T15:02:34Z

The streaming giant has been accused of commissioning generic instrumental music to go on its hugely popular playlists – and save it millions in royalties. We take a listen

It is 10pm on Tuesday, and I have just become the 1,106,079th Spotify user this month to listen to an artist called Charles Bolt. The track I’m playing, Far and Beyond, is a gentle piano instrumental, not unlike the music Yann Tiersen composed for the soundtrack of whimsical French movie Amélie. This, I confess, is proving something of a problem. I have been listening to gentle piano instrumentals not unlike the music Yann Tiersen composed for the soundtrack of Amélie all day, and I suspect I reached the limits of my tolerance for it some hours back. This music long ago ceased to make me feel chilled or peaceful or any of the adjectives used in the titles of the Spotify playlists that contain it. Now I suspect it has turned me faintly hysterical. I can’t stop laughing at it. A playlist prosaically titled Piano in the Background has made me snigger.

There’s something ineffably hilarious about the thudding inevitability of what comes out of my headphones. The mysteriously named Novo Talos and the Hellenic-sounding Milos Stavos both make gentle piano instrumentals not unlike the music Yann Tiersen composed for the soundtrack of Amélie. So does Wilma Harrods. And so does an artist called Mayhem, which part of me really hopes is the legendary Norwegian black metal band, famed for their horrifying backstory of church-burning, suicide and murder. I quite like the idea of their members taking a break from performing songs called things such as Chainsaw Gutsfuck in order to make gentle piano instrumentals not unlike the music from the soundtrack of Amélie.

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Should I upgrade my Windows Vista PC or buy a new one?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:09:54 GMT2017-07-13T09:09:54Z

Many readers are still using Vista despite it no longer receiving security patches, but it should still possible for them to upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 10

My Windows Vista PC works perfectly well, and I have Kaspersky Internet Security. I have been told that I will need a new PC as I could get viruses now that Microsoft no longer supports Vista. A new PC to replace the one I have would cost about £1,200 and it seems a shame when I have no problems with it, but I am concerned that it could be hacked. ksallatt

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When does following my ex online become stalking?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 08:00:03 GMT2017-07-13T08:00:03Z

From celebrities to exes, we’ve always obsessed over people that intrigue us. Social media just makes that easier – but there’s still a line you can cross

I follow my ex-boyfriend across four different platforms and know the name of his new girlfriend’s sister. Is this stalking?

You ask a version of the two primary questions pertaining to behavior online: am I being gross? Or, more commonly, is someone being gross to me? The answer in both cases is usually yes, since the internet, if it has done anything, has liberated our grossest instincts, and I salute your attempt to police yours.

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