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Technology | The Guardian

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

Published: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 01:18:34 GMT2017-11-21T01:18:34Z

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

Uber plans to buy 24,000 autonomous Volvo SUVs in self-driving push

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:54:51 GMT2017-11-20T15:54:51Z

‘It only becomes a commercial business when you can remove the vehicle operator from the equation,’ says ride-hailing firm battling Lyft and Waymo

Uber is planning to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, the company has announced, moving from its current model of ride-sharing using freelance drivers to owning a fleet of autonomous cars.

Following the three-year self-driving partnership with Volvo, the non-binding framework could give Uber a boost in its ambitions to perfect self-driving systems to replace human drivers, following setbacks and lawsuits over trade secrets and talent.

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OnePlus 5T review: premium full-screen experience at half cost of iPhone X

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:00:31 GMT2017-11-20T14:00:31Z

OnePlus has done it again, producing a smartphone with almost its rivals’ high-end features, including 36-hour battery life, at an affordable price

The OnePlus 5T propels the Chinese company into the brave new era of full-screen smartphones, with a new 6in minimal bezel display squeezed into the body of a 5.5in device.

The 5T is OnePlus’s fourth phone in two years. Unlike the OnePlus 3 to 3T upgrade in 2016, the internal components for the 5T have mostly stayed the same as those of the OnePlus 5, with the screen and camera the biggest differences.

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Games reviews roundup: Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon; Farming Simulator; Oxenfree

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:00:23 GMT2017-11-20T07:00:23Z

There’s more worth discovering on the Alola islands, not to mention in soothing hard toil and a subversive teen adventure

3DS, The Pokémon Company, cert: 7

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Independent bookshops play a vital role in our communities – don't let Amazon destroy that

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:00:06 GMT2017-11-19T17:00:06Z

Local bookshops are agents of culture not just commerce. They bring a sense of belonging to our suburbs and a passion for community Amazon can’t

What makes the place you live in your neighbourhood your home?

I’ve lived in inner-north Melbourne for most of my life. It’s home to a thriving arts scene: grass-roots theatre companies like La Mama, independent publishers like Scribe Publications and Black Inc., cultural institutions like Melbourne Museum.

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How Brexity is your vacuum cleaner?

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 15:00:03 GMT2017-11-19T15:00:03Z

Staunch leaver James Dyson has said Britain should walk away from talks with the EU. Here’s where other dust busters stand on the issue

As well as vacuum cleaners, Dyson is famous for gadgets that blow hot air, from fans to hairdryers. These days, that list also includes the company’s billionaire founder James Dyson, who regularly blasts unsuspecting Britons with his gung-ho view on Brexit.

Most recently, the outspoken British inventor argued we should walk away from talks with the EU. Walk away and “they will come to us”, argues Dyson.

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Disruption games: why are libertarians lining up with autocrats to undermine democracy?

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:00:54 GMT2017-11-19T07:00:54Z

In the era of digital politics, an odd alliance has sprung up: anti-state campaigners and Moscow-backed nationalists are combining to disrupt liberal institutions

At a time when strange alliances are disrupting previously stable democracies, the Catalan independence referendum was a perfect reflection of a weird age. Along with the flag-waving and calls for “freedom” from Madrid, the furore that followed the vote unleashed some of the darker elements that have haunted recent turbulent episodes in Europe and America: fake news, Russian mischief and, marching oddly in step, libertarian activism.

From his residence of more than five years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange tweeted 80 times in support of Catalan secession, and his views were amplified by the state-run Russian news agency, Sputnik, making him the most quoted English-language voice on Twitter, according to independent research and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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The 40 best gadgets of 2017

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:30:53 GMT2017-11-19T06:30:53Z

From smart-speakers and virtual bikes to robot vacuums and indestructible cables, here is the year’s most covetable technology

You can assemble one of three robots with this Lego-like kit, each fully mobile and equipped with an infra-red sensor to help it detect and interact with its environment. Best of all, it can then be programmed using the child-friendly block-programming app, opening limitless opportunities.

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‘Amazon’s Alexa is now part of the family – I just hope she doesn’t replace me’

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:15:53 GMT2017-11-19T06:15:53Z

In 2017 voice recognition has gone mainstream, with the Echo, Google Home and other smart speakers all competing for space in your life

The most futuristic thing I have ever bought used to be a Sonos music player. I’d have people over just to show it off. “Name a song,” I’d say. “Go on, any version of any song by any act that ever lived. I dare you.” So they would, and I’d pull out my phone and – hey presto – seconds later, that song would boom out across my living room like magic. No ungainly wires. No battery-draining Bluetooth connection. When friends moved house, I’d see their stupid boxes of old CDs and laugh. “You antiquated morons,” I’d gloat. “When I move house, I’ll be able to fit every song ever recorded into a shoebox. I live in the distant future and you are a bone-throwing ape, and it’s all thanks to my Sonos.”

I hate my Sonos player now.

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The 20 best apps to improve your smartphone

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:04:45 GMT2017-11-19T00:04:45Z

Whether you want an alarm that syncs with your body clock or a to-do list you can speak to, these are the apps you’ll need to make your smartphone smarter

The latest generation of smartphones comes with a panoply of apps to get you started, from email and photography to navigation, weather and video-calling services. But every one of those default apps has at least one alternative on the app stores, and there are often dozens more that can represent a big upgrade.

Here are 20 examples that will improve your smartphone’s stock features, and in some cases provide the functionality that is puzzlingly missing from apps in 2017’s starter packs. A number of them also have smartwatch extensions, providing an upgrade on your Apple Watch or Android Wear timepiece’s features too.

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Xbox One X review: a perfect pitch to a demanding demographic

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:03:45 GMT2017-11-19T00:03:45Z

The Xbox One X is sleek and significant upgrade that should edge Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro down the wishlist

Its creators claim it is one of the most powerful gaming consoles on Earth, now the newly launched Xbox One X from Microsoft is after a new accolade - to beat its rival Sony to dominate Christmas wishlists and the hearts of video game players.

Microsoft’s new console, a substantial upgrade to the original Xbox One released in 2013, comes almost exactly a year after Sony delivered a similar performance boost with its PlayStation 4 Pro.

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VW Golf GTI: ‘Freakish attention to detail’ | Martin Love

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:00:53 GMT2017-11-19T06:00:53Z

It was already the world’s best hatchback. Now VW has gone and made the Golf GTI even better

Price: £28,345
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
MPG: 44.1
CO2: 148g/km

Each time you select reverse in the latest VW Golf you hear a slight creak from the back of the car. I spent a day trying to figure out what it could be. Finally I asked my youngest daughter to lie on the road and tell me what she saw as I reversed towards her. I was going to stop well before making contact, obvs, but my wife didn’t see it like that. No, not at all. And my explanation of “journalistic thoroughness” didn’t calm her down. Anyway, just before the car reached our daughter’s prone body, she piped up and I hit the brakes. It turns out the creak comes from the badge. It tilts upwards to allow a self-cleaning reversing camera to poke out. Keeping the lens free of road grime means the view transmitted to the driver’s flatscreen is as sharp, clear and crisp as the telly in your front room.

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Labor drops call for inquiry into hacking of Christopher Pyne's Twitter account

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:00:10 GMT2017-11-17T00:00:10Z

‘I spoke to Bill Shorten last night and we are satisfied … he has taken action to deal with it,’ Anthony Albanese says

Labor has changed its tune on an inquiry into the hacking of the defence industry minister’s personal Twitter account, with the Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese declaring the issue is now over.

On Thursday the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, supported “some investigation” into the hacking of Christopher Pyne’s Twitter account, but this position was contradicted on Friday morning byAlbanese.

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Russian hackers targeted UK media and telecoms firms, confirms spy chief

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:23:38 GMT2017-11-15T11:23:38Z

Head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre says Russia is ‘seeking to undermine the international system’

Russian hackers attacked British media, telecoms and energy companies over the last year, the head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has confirmed for the first time.

Ciaran Martin, the founding chief executive of the NCSC, declined to provide any further details of the attacks.

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Data firm that worked for Trump asked WikiLeaks to share hacked emails

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:08:54 GMT2017-11-10T23:08:54Z

Cambridge Analytica executive confirms firm asked Assange to share hacked emails related to Clinton – reportedly around time it started working for Trump

The chief executive of Cambridge Analytica has confirmed that the UK data research firm contacted Julian Assange to ask WikiLeaks to share hacked emails related to Hillary Clinton at about the time it started working for the Trump campaign in summer 2016.

Related: Julian Assange: I urged Trump Jr to publish Russia emails via WikiLeaks

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'$300m in cryptocurrency' accidentally lost forever due to bug

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:29:58 GMT2017-11-08T11:29:58Z

User mistakenly takes control of hundreds of wallets containing cryptocurrency Ether, destroying them in a panic while trying to give them back

More than $300m of cryptocurrency has been lost after a series of bugs in a popular digital wallet service led one curious developer to accidentally take control of and then lock up the funds, according to reports.

Unlike most cryptocurrency hacks, however, the money wasn’t deliberately taken: it was effectively destroyed by accident. The lost money was in the form of Ether, the tradable currency that fuels the Ethereum distributed app platform, and was kept in digital multi-signature wallets built by a developer called Parity. These wallets require more than one user to enter their key before funds can be transferred.

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Russian hacking went far beyond US election, digital hitlist reveals

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 13:49:47 GMT2017-11-02T13:49:47Z

  • Hackers targeted Ukrainian officers, US defense contractors and many others
  • News comes as US weighs charges against Russian government officials

The hackers who upended the US presidential election had ambitions well beyond Hillary Clinton’s campaign, targeting the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition figures, US defense contractors and thousands of others of interest to the Kremlin, according to a previously unpublished digital hitlist obtained by the Associated Press.

Related: Cyber cold war is just getting started, claims Hillary Clinton

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Julian Assange confirms Cambridge Analytica sought WikiLeaks' help

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 02:46:05 GMT2017-10-26T02:46:05Z

Report says Trump campaign’s data-mining contractor was trying to get hold of Hillary Clinton’s missing emails

A data-mining firm that worked for Donald Trump’s election campaign made an approach to WikiLeaks, founder Julian Assange said on Wednesday.

The statement followed a report in the Daily Beast that Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix made contact with Assange about the possible release of 33,000 of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

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Bad Rabbit: Game of Thrones-referencing ransomware hits Europe

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 10:06:46 GMT2017-10-25T10:06:46Z

NotPetya-style malware infects Kiev’s metro system, Odessa airport and Russian media, demanding bitcoin for decryption key

A major ransomware attack is hitting computers in Russia and Ukraine, bearing similarities to the NotPetya outbreak that caused billions of pounds of damage in June.

The self-titled “Bad Rabbit” malware encrypts data on infected machines before demanding a payment of 0.05 bitcoin (£250) for the decryption key. The ransom demand is phrased similarly to that of June’s outbreak, and researchers at Russian security firm Kaspersky say that the malware uses “methods similar to those used” during the NotPetya attack.

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North Korea’s deadliest weapon? Its hackers | John Naughton

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 06:00:44 GMT2017-10-22T06:00:44Z

As Sony Pictures and the New York Federal Reserve will attest, the regime has become extremely skilled, and successful, at cyber attacks

Rule No 1 in international relations: do not assume that your adversary is nuts. Rule No 2: do not underestimate his capacity to inflict serious damage on you. We in the west are currently making both mistakes with regard to North Korea. Our reasons for doing so are, at one level, understandable. In economic terms, the country is a basket case. According to the CIA’s world factbook, its per-capita GDP is $1,800 or less, compared with nearly $40,000 for the UK and $53,000 for the US. Its industrial infrastructure is clapped out and nearly beyond repair; the country suffers from chronic food, energy and electricity shortages and many of its people are malnourished. International sanctions are squeezing it almost to asphyxiation. And, to cap it all, it’s led by a guy whose hairdo is almost as preposterous as Donald Trump’s.

And yet this impoverished basket case has apparently been able to develop nuclear weapons, plus the rocketry needed to deliver them to Los Angeles and its environs. Given the retaliatory capacity of the US, this is widely taken as proof that Kim Jong-un must be out of what might loosely be called his mind. Which is where rule No1 comes in. Kim’s priority is to avoid regime change. He knows that if you have nukes, then no one – not even Trump – is going to try any funny business, especially when it’s clear that a seriously aggressive move by the US would mean the death of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans. The North Korean leader’s rationale for developing nuclear weapons that are ready for deployment is identical to Britain’s rationale for renewing Trident: deterrence.

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The Guardian view on internet security: complexity is vulnerable | Editorial

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 18:39:37 GMT2017-10-19T18:39:37Z

A huge weakness in wifi security erodes online privacy. But the real challenge is designing with human shortcomings in mind

This week’s security scandal is the discovery that every household with wifi in this country has a network that isn’t really private. For 13 years a weakness has lurked in the supposedly secure way in which wireless networks carry our information. Although the WPA2 security scheme was supposed to be mathematically proven to be uncrackable, it turns out that the mechanism by which it can compensate for weak signals can be compromised, and when that happens it might as well be unencrypted. Practically every router, every laptop and every mobile phone in the world is now potentially exposed. As the Belgian researcher who discovered the vulnerability points out, this could be abused to steal information such as credit card numbers, emails and photos.

It is not a catastrophic flaw: the attacker has to be within range of the wifi they are attacking. Most email and chat guarded by end-to-end encryption is still protected from eavesdroppers. But the flaw affects a huge number of devices, many of which will never be updated to address it. Since both ends of a wifi connection need to be brought up to date to be fixed, it is no longer safe to assume that any wifi connection is entirely private.

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Falling for the joke: the risk of using Twitter as a news source

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 16:00:03 GMT2017-11-15T16:00:03Z

The BBC was left red-faced after quoting a parody account in its Zimbabwe coverage, exposing the danger of journalists relying on social media

The trouble that the BBC got itself into on Wednesday morning, when both online and on air it referred to tweets from a parody Zanu PF account, illustrate the complexities of using social media as a reporting resource. This can be especially true in fast-moving news situations, where news organisations may have few reporters directly on the ground.

While many parody accounts on social media are used simply for humour, they can frequently be utilised for deliberate mischief.

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How Malcolm Turnbull, GetUp and Adani are using Facebook ads to push their agenda

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 17:00:44 GMT2017-10-24T17:00:44Z

The nature of Facebook ads makes it difficult to see when political ads go out, which groups are campaigning for which cause and fact-check what they’re saying

If you’re over 25, live in Australia and have a family then you might have seen Malcolm Turnbull pop up in your Facebook feed last week, with a video spruiking the new energy policy.

This video and text post was “sponsored” – that is, someone from the prime minister’s office paid to promote the post as an advertisement.

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Google Pixel Buds: is Babel fish dream of in-ear translation now a reality?

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 11:40:09 GMT2017-10-05T11:40:09Z

AI-powered translation piped through wireless earbuds is another big step towards the removal of the language barrier

Alongside the new Pixel 2 smartphones Google unveiled on Wednesday night, the company also launched a set of Bluetooth earbuds called the Pixel Buds with one standout feature: instant translation between 40 different languages using a Pixel smartphone.

In a live demo on stage, the Pixel Buds were shown translating short phrases back and forth between English and Swedish using Google Translate running on a Pixel 2 smartphone.

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Pixel 2: what does Google need to do if it wants to beat Apple's iPhone?

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 11:21:16 GMT2017-10-03T11:21:16Z

Company could become big player in smartphone-making with acquisition of part of HTC and forthcoming Pixel 2 launch – but it’s still got a long way to go

With the Pixel 2 smartphones expected to launch on Wednesday, Google buying up a chunk of smartphone manufacturer HTC and claiming to be “betting big on hardware”, what does the Android-maker really need to do to beat Apple?

Google has dabbled with hardware since the first Android smartphone, the T-Mobile G1 in 2008, following up with the Nexus series of smartphones and tablets that were used as showcases for the latest iterations of Android and then last year’s Pixel. But the search company has never been a big hardware player.

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Uber clashes with regulators in cities around the world

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 16:37:46 GMT2017-09-29T16:37:46Z

From Europe to north America, the ride-hailing company has run into trouble with authorities over falling foul of rules

Claiming to be a communications platform rather than a taxi service, Uber has expanded by ignoring existing rules. This has prompted protests against the ride-hailing company by drivers, run-ins with national authorities, and new laws designed to curb its activities. The decision by Transport for London to strip Uber of its licence last week was the latest in a long line of clashes between the US firm and the establishment.

In some cities around the world where it operates, Uber is on a collision course with regulators, while in others it remains firmly outlawed. In several places, however, the $70bn (£52bn) firm is actively negotiating its return – or already back up and running.

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Dyson: industry experts cast doubt on electric car project

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 10:02:39 GMT2017-09-29T10:02:39Z

Insiders say building an EV from scratch by 2020 is a huge ask in industry saddled with vast engineering, manufacturing and regulatory hurdles

Dyson became the latest manufacturer to hop aboard the battery-powered bandwagon this week, revealing a £2.5bn investment plan to produce an electric vehicle by 2020.

In doing so, British inventor Sir James Dyson and his vacuum cleaner-making firm, raised eyebrows across the auto industry. Dyson is attempting to crash the party at a time when traditional carmakers are embroiled in an electric vehicle (EV) arms race.

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What does Google want with HTC's smartphone business?

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:31:08 GMT2017-09-21T14:31:08Z

Google is acquiring a $1bn chunk of HTC’s smartphone arm, including 2,000 employees and access to intellectual property, as it bets big on hardware

Google has announced it’s acquiring a $1.1bn chunk of HTC’s smartphone business, and with it providing the once leading Taiwanese phone brand a much needed lifeline. But what does Google want with part of a smartphone business?

Google isn’t buying the whole of HTC, just a relatively large part of the Taipei-based company’s smartphone business and not its Vive virtual reality headset business. Google gains half of HTC’s research and development team – about 2,000 people – and a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property, allowing it to take advantage of some of HTC’s advances in smartphone technology.

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What's the cheapest way of buying an iPhone 8?

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 12:04:32 GMT2017-09-15T12:04:32Z

Don’t be suckered in: navigating the multitude offers reveals buying an iPhone 8 outright and signing up to a cheap sim-only deal is the most cost-effective option

The iPhone 8 is available to pre-order from today, but don’t be distracted by flashy offers with low upfront costs and a high monthly fee: the cheapest way to get one is still simply buying it outright from Apple or another retailer, and taking out a low cost sim-only contract.

The 64GB iPhone 8, the cheapest of the newly launched phones, costs £699 when bought directly from Apple or from a third-party electronics store such as Currys or John Lewis. Combined with a low-cost contract or pay-as-you-go sim, such as the £5 plan offered by O2’s corporate sibling Giffgaff, the cost of owning the phone for two years is £819 – lower than any competing deal of the major retailers we reviewed.

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iPhone X: even an embarrassing launch glitch can't knock Apple off the top

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 10:07:48 GMT2017-09-13T10:07:48Z

Despite leaks and a hiccup during a demo of its new Face ID unlocking feature, analysts say this year’s launch puts Apple in an ‘extraordinarily strong’ position

This year’s iPhone launch event hit a rocky patch when Apple executive Craig Federighi went to demonstrate the iPhone X’s facial recognition technology, Face ID, which replaces the fingerprint scanner as a security mechanism.

Related: iPhone X: new Apple smartphone dumps home button for all-screen design

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Apple: expect a radical iPhone redesign for its 10th anniversary

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:42:06 GMT2017-09-01T11:42:06Z

On 12 September Tim Cook’s company will hold its first event at the new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California. Here’s what they will (probably) talk about

Apple will hold a press event on 12 September to unveil its much anticipated new iPhones, which are expected to introduce a whole new design and set the tone for the next few years.

Unlike previous years, much is known about at least one of the new iPhones thanks to a large software leak from Apple that revealed several of its key details. But new smartphones are not the only new thing Apple is expected to announce, with the event taking place in the just-built Apple Park and its Steve Jobs Theatre.

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'I see things differently': James Damore on his autism and the Google memo

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:00:05 GMT2017-11-17T06:00:05Z

He was fired from Google for arguing that men may be more suited to working in tech than women. Now James Damore opens up about his regrets – and how autism may have shaped his experience of the world

James Damore conforms to the stereotype. He’s happy to admit he fits the mould of an awkward computer nerd and the moment we meet in a Silicon Valley coffee shop, he knocks a display stand of metal flasks that fall clattering to the floor. The commotion draws curious glances at the 6ft 3in software engineer, but Damore is used to strangers identifying him; he’s the guy who was fired by Google this summer after he argued that men are more psychologically suited to working in technology than women.

No one recognises the woman standing beside him. She is Damore’s girlfriend: a feminist and a data scientist who works in tech.

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Silicon Valley thinks it invented roommates. They call it 'co-living' | Arwa Mahdawi

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:16:55 GMT2017-11-16T13:16:55Z

The modus operandi for many tech entrepreneurs lacking ideas appears to be: just find an existing service, privatize it, and claim to have ‘reinvented it’

Have you heard of this cool new trend called co-living? It’s a bit like co-working, except instead of sharing an office with a bunch of randoms you share a home with a bunch of randoms. Oh, you might be thinking, is it like ye olde concept of “roommates”? Why, yes. Yes it is.

As a viral tweet pointed out earlier this week, “co-living”, which has inspired a spate of trend-pieces in recent months, is actually “called *roommates* … you invented ***roommates***.” The tweet got over 100,000 likes and almost 30,000 retweets, so one could say that it struck a chord.

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Homeless evictions near future site of Zuckerberg-funded school spark protest

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 02:11:05 GMT2017-11-16T02:11:05Z

Foundation launched by Facebook founder and his wife says it had nothing to do with evictions near planned private school for low-income students

Residents of a Silicon Valley city protested on Wednesday as officials evicted homeless families and others living in RVs from their parking spots over public health concerns.

The location of the showdown was suggestive: next to the future site of a private school for low-income students that receives funding from a philanthropic initiative by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

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Coders of the world, unite: can Silicon Valley workers curb the power of Big Tech? – podcast

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:30:00 GMT2017-11-13T12:30:00Z

For decades, tech companies promised to make the world better. As that dream falls apart, disillusioned insiders are trying to take back control

Read the text version here

Subscribe via Audioboom, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Acast & Sticher and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

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The sexist dinosaurs aren't only on the prowl in old media

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 13:00:03 GMT2017-11-12T13:00:03Z

Jurassic-era values of sexism and homophobia also blight the brave new world of Silicon Valley web giants

Last week, Caitlyn Jenner and a robot called Sophia talked about what it means to be human and a woman. Yet, while the 60,000-strong audience they addressed at a tech-friendly Web Summit in Lisbon appeared cutting edge, their industry is in danger of inheriting elements of the old industries they consider part of a dinosaur age.

Sexism and homophobia in Hollywood, the media and politics has been exposed by recent scandals. Yet these issues blight the far younger tech industry.

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How Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy | Roger McNamee

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 09:00:21 GMT2017-11-11T09:00:21Z

The sad truth is that Facebook and Google have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. And this has come at a cost to our health

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook’s original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week’s hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

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Al Franken condemns big tech for failure 'to prevent spread of propaganda'

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:13:24 GMT2017-11-08T21:13:24Z

Senator calls for greater scrutiny of companies such as Facebook and Amazon, warning of companies’ control over ‘so many aspects of our lives’

Senator Al Franken renewed his calls for increased scrutiny of the role of major tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon on Wednesday, charging that they had “failed to take commonsense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech”.

Speaking to the Open Markets Institute in Washington, the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian said: “It is incumbent upon us to ask the broader questions. How did big tech come to control so many aspects of our lives? How is it using our personal information to strengthen its reach and its bottom line? Are these companies engaging in anticompetitive behavior that restricts the free flow of information and commerce?”

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We must not let Big Tech threaten our security, freedoms and democracy | Al Franken

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 19:20:44 GMT2017-11-08T19:20:44Z

The dominance of these companies requires that the government consider their role in the integrity of our democracy, writes Senator Al Franken

As lawmakers grapple with the revelations regarding Russia’s manipulation of social media during the 2016 election, many are shocked to learn the outsized role that the major tech companies play in so many aspects of our lives. Not only do they guide what we see, read, and buy on a regular basis, but their dominance – specifically in the market of information – now requires that we consider their role in the integrity of our democracy.

Last week’s hearings demonstrated that these companies may not be up to the challenge that they’ve created for themselves. In some instances, it seems that they’ve failed to take commonsense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech.

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Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 09:00:40 GMT2017-11-08T09:00:40Z

Wall Street has long been the industry people love to hate. But as big tech’s reputation plummets, suddenly a job at Facebook doesn’t seem so cool

When Danny Greg first moved to San Francisco to work at Github in 2012, he used to get high-fives in the street from strangers when he wore his company hoodie.

These days, unless he’s at an investor event, he’s cautious about wearing branded clothing that might indicate he’s a techie. He’s worried about the message it sends.

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Amazon wants goodies and tax breaks to move its HQ to your city. Say no thanks | Noam Maggor

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 10:00:21 GMT2017-11-03T10:00:21Z

Urban leaders must reject the race to the bottom that these scrambles to please corporations generate – as 19th-century mayors did during the rise of capitalism

Amazon’s plan to build a second headquarters away from Seattle has triggered a bidding war among North American cities. A reported 238 cities, big and small, submitted inducement packages to the tech giant, each jostling to entice the company to their own metropolis.

The scramble to please Amazon marks the return of a very old dilemma that American cities faced with the rise of capitalism in the 19th century: roll out the red carpet to investors, with tax breaks and other subsidies, or lose development funds to more pliant competitors.

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The week in radio and podcasts: Haunted; The Inspection Chamber; A Culture of Encounter

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:00:54 GMT2017-11-19T07:00:54Z

A podcast has deep thoughts on the paranormal, while the BBC’s foray into interactive storytelling does a little too much asking

Haunted | iTunes
The Inspection Chamber | BBC/Amazon Alexa
A Culture of Encounter (BBC Radio 4) | iPlayer

“Do ghosts exist? If not, why do we see them?” Haunted is a four-week-old podcast that has the personality and self-assurance of a show that’s been running for years. Presented by Danny Robins, it takes an in-depth look at ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. Unlike most of us, it doesn’t take one of the two opposite stances – essentially “bah, humbug” or “pass me the Ouija board” – but instead examines each real-life tale on its non-life merits, wondering why the people in it are seeing something that, according to all logic, simply isn’t there.

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Microsoft’s latest Xbox raises the game

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:03:16 GMT2017-11-18T00:03:16Z

The impressive Xbox One X hopes to beat Sony in the battle for Christmas sales

Its creators claim it is one of the most powerful gaming consoles on Earth. Now the newly launched Xbox One X from Microsoft is after a new accolade – to beat its rival Sony to dominate Christmas wishlists and the hearts of video game players.

Microsoft’s console, a substantial upgrade of the original Xbox One released in 2013, arrives almost exactly one year after Sony delivered a similar performance boost with its PlayStation 4 Pro.

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Apple 13in MacBook Pro (2017) review: battery life to get through a working day

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-11-15T07:00:01Z

With its build quality, excellent keyboard and improved longevity, this is one of the nicest computers you can buy – but it will cost you

Apple’s 13in MacBook Pro for 2017 now has battery life that matches the power of the hardware and the beauty of the design, even if it is still very expensive.

When the new, redesigned MacBook Pro was launched last year it came with relatively old chips – Intel’s sixth generation Core i5 or i7 processor and integrated graphics. While performance was arguably up to par with similar machines with the newer, improved seventh generation Core i5 and i7, one thing the 13in MacBook Pro fell short on was battery life.

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Games reviews roundup: Final Fantasy IX; Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:49 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:49Z

A classic Playstation RPG gets an update, while one of the PS4’s best combat role-playing titles gets a meaty expansion

PS4, Square Enix, cert: 12

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iPhone X review: Apple finally knocks it out of the park

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:00:12 GMT2017-11-10T07:00:12Z

The company’s most important smartphone in years does not disappoint, with Face ID and an all-screen design that spells the end of the home button

The iPhone X is Apple’s most important – and most expensive – new smartphone in four years, bringing with it a significant change to the design, dumping the home button to usher in a full-screen experience. Thankfully, Apple nailed it.

After four years of the company recycling the design of the iPhone 6, the iPhone X is a breath of fresh air. The beautiful OLED screen takes up pretty much the whole front of the device. It’s one of the best displays I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, and while it’s not quite as bezel free at the sides as Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 devices, it’s a giant leap forward for Apple.

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Amazon Echo second-generation review: smaller, cheaper and better

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 07:00:07 GMT2017-11-09T07:00:07Z

The new version of the Alexa-ready gadget sounds great, looks good and improves on the original, meaning nobody can touch its quality for the price

The new Amazon Echo is cheaper, smaller and has a less imposing stature, but is it still the best smart speaker going?

Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa has improved greatly since the Echo’s introduction to the UK at the end of last year, altered behind the scenes without users needing to do anything thanks the virtue of being a cloud-powered product. It has gained new skills, routines and other smart home control abilities. Its voice recognition and understanding has improved, and it is now a little more conversational, remembering certain topics that you’re talking about the way a human would.

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Call of Duty: WWII review – familiar, fun but not without flaws

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:43:35 GMT2017-11-06T10:43:35Z

Activision’s blockbuster shooter goes back to its roots, and offers a solid if unsurprising experience, but the three elements within feel like wildly different games

Call of Duty is one of the biggest games franchises in the world and, on some levels, the funniest. The way that CoD: WWII was marketed suggests an interactive Saving Private Ryan. The reality is that my Axis coach shouts “zey haff ze ball” in multiplayer NFL-like Gridiron, as an opposition carrier runs towards our goal, before a period-appropriate hail of fire brings them down. “Gut, now drive forwardz!”

If that gave you tonal whiplash, try playing the thing. CoD: WWII is three games in one. A single-player campaign that shows a unit of US soldiers winning the war; online competitive multiplayer with a dozen modes; and then Nazi Zombies. Call of Duty is a series with annual releases, with multiple development studios working on staggered schedules. As a result, it has crystallised into a certain structure. CoD: WWII covers all the bases that players expect.

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When man meets metal: rise of the transhumans

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 08:00:22 GMT2017-10-29T08:00:22Z

At the borderline of technology and biology, ‘bodyhacking’ pioneers are defying nature to redesign their own bodies. Is this really the future?

Earlier this year I went to an event in Austin, Texas, billed as a sneak preview of the evolution of our species. The #Bdyhax Conference, which took place in a downtown exhibition complex, promised a front-row insight into the coming “singularity” – that nirvana foretold by science fiction in which biology and technology would fuse and revolutionise human capability and experience.

The headline acts of the conference were mostly bodyhackers – DIY experimenters who, in their basements and garages, seek to enhance their own flesh and blood with biometric implants and cognitive enablers. These brave pioneers were extending their senses, overcoming physical limitation, Dan-Daring themselves and the rest of us into the future.

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Is drive-by sex toy hacking a wake-up call for Britain’s internet security? | Chi Onwurah

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 09:38:02 GMT2017-10-06T09:38:02Z

I’ve repeatedly asked the government to ensure households won’t be vulnerable to internet-of-things safety breaches. Will vibrators finally attract its attention?

Hacking tends to bring to mind compromised bank accounts or infiltrated government security systems, not anything as salacious as a dildo. But yesterday, the scientist Ben Goldacre alerted me to the practice of “screwdriving” – short-distance sex-toy hacking.

It might sound far-fetched, but the bluetooth low energy (BLE) networking protocol that “smart” sex toys often use can be compromised relatively easily, as demonstrated by security consultant Alex Lomas, who wandered the streets of Berlin taking control of Lovense Hush buttplugs.

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Which tablet should I buy with a £350 budget?

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:20:41 GMT2017-11-16T11:20:41Z

Dave and his partner need a new 10in tablet now that their old Samsung Tab 2 10.1 is slow. What is the best Android option – or should they try an iPad?

We want a new tablet to replace our old Samsung Tab 2 10.1, which has become very slow when we are browsing the shopping sites that my other half uses. We want a 10in screen and good enough performance that it will last several years.

We both have Moto G4 smartphones, and going away from Android seems to me to make life more complex. We’re not likely to pay for iPhones with a decent screen size at any point in the future. But she is being persuaded by friends that Apple is wonderful and an iPad will work for longer than an Android tablet.

I prefer to buy technology from real shops as you can get better after sales service, but are we likely to get any bargains on Black Friday? Dave

I generally recommend people stick with what they know. That makes the best use of their hard-earned experience and “motor memory”. It also makes sense to buy an Android tablet to go with your Android phones. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from buying something different if there are clear benefits.

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How algorithms are pushing the tech giants into the danger zone

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 18:00:38 GMT2017-11-18T18:00:38Z

The algorithms Facebook and other tech companies use to boost engagement – and increase profits – have led to spectacular failures of sensitivity and worse. How can we fight back?

Earlier this month, Facebook announced a new pilot programme in Australia aimed at stopping “revenge porn” – the non-consensual sharing of nude or otherwise explicit photos – on its platform. Their answer? Just send Facebook your nudes.

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Siri is my agony aunt – but is telling big tech my innermost feelings a bad idea?

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:00:21 GMT2017-11-16T07:00:21Z

People are increasingly using virtual assistants as their closest confidantes and Apple, Google and Amazon are responding. But are we telling them too much?

It’s three in the morning and my room is bathed in the glow of my phone. Like one in three people, I check my smartphone when I wake up in the middle of the night. I can’t sleep and so wander from one social-media app to another, my thumbs scrolling through what feels like miles of emptiness. “Siri, what is the meaning of life?” I ask without thinking. “I have stopped asking myself this kind of question,” she answers. I ask again, because I like it better when she says “nothing Nietzsche wouldn’t teach you”.

I am not the only one turning to Siri for life advice. Apple is currently recruiting a Siri engineer with a background in psychology to help make its virtual assistant better at answering these sorts of questions.

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Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: 'The system is failing'

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 01:23:23 GMT2017-11-16T01:23:23Z

The inventor of the world wide web remains an optimist but sees a ‘nasty wind’ blowing amid concerns over advertising, net neutrality and fake news

Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s optimism about the future of the web is starting to wane in the face of a “nasty storm” of issues including the rollback of net neutrality protections, the proliferation of fake news, propaganda and the web’s increasing polarisation.

The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee’s vision for an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators.

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