Facebook and Instagram Allow Users to See “Likes” Or Not.

In a surprising move both Instagram and Facebook will be giving all users the ability to hide the number of “likes” or “reactions” a post gets from the public. This will change a keystone of the platforms as “likes” are seen as social currency on social media, a measure of status and influence.

Facebook has been experimenting with the idea since 2019 and the company sees it as a way to make Facebook and Instagram less stressful or anxiety-inducing to use.

Every user can choose whether people can see the number of likes on their own posts and also whether to see how many people liked other users’ posts, according to a blog post by Facebook.

The social media giant has been working to reverse mounting disapproval about the fact that social media platforms can be harmful to the mental health of its users and society at large. However, users have to choose the option, it will not be a default, so it remains unclear how many users will take this step or how much the platforms will really change because of the new option.

Twitter Ditches Biased Image Cropping AI

Twitter has pretty much abandoned an image-cropping AI after discovering that automated system was biased. Users had complained it had a preference toward showing pictures of white people in previews of tweets.

A blog post from Rumman Chowdhury, software engineering director at Twitter, stated that Twitter concluded the AI was biased after testing it for both gender and race biases. The post and research essay attached detailed that the cropping system when tested on random images demonstrated a preference for white people over black people and men over women.

Chowdhury stated that their conclusion is some tasks are best left to people and are not a good task for AI.

The research conclusions come months after the company said it would investigate the issue with its AI image cropping program.

Twitter, in March, started testing a new method to show a full image, rather than auto cropped previews, on mobile devices when a user tweeted a single image. The program would auto-crop the preview image people saw before clicking the preview for the full image. However, the program was prone to errors.

Now they rely on saliency which requires knowing what area of the image the eye is drawn to first.

 

20 Years After the First Apple Store, Google to Open Their First “Google Store”

It is just about 20 years since Apple opened its first retail store. Google is now giving it a go as well.

The company announced that it will be opening its first physical retail store. It’ll be called simply, Google Store. It’ll open this summer in New York City. Located in the Chelsea neighborhood under its offices there. This is the same location that employs many of the 11,000 NYC Google employees.

Pixlebooks, Nest products, Fitbit products and Pixel phones will be on sale in the new retail store.

Just like Apple’s “Geniuses” concept, Google will have “experts” available to help customers troubleshoot device issues, fixe cracked screens or help with installations. A blog post by Google called this “an important next step in our hardware journey.”

Google stated that customers will want to experience their hardware before they purchase it. What it looks like, feels like and sounds like.

Google calls its hardware a “multi-billion dollar business” and has previously opened pop-up shops to premiere new products or for workshops.

Microsoft to End Support for Infamous Web Browser Internet Explorer

To say, without hyperbole, that Microsoft Internet Explorer is Microsoft’s most unpopular (see also: reviled, despised, etc.) product is no understatement. You’ve probably heard the joke that the only time a computer user employs Internet Explorer is to download another browser.

Well, the time has finally come, and Internet Explorer is going the way of the Dodo (but will be much less missed).

Microsoft announced it will end support of Internet Explorer 11 on 15 June 2022. In August 2020 Microsoft eschewed IE from working with Teams. And 365 Apps, Office included, will no longer work with IE by the middle of summer 2021.

While it was once one of the most used browsers, its use has been on a heavy downward spiral for twenty years. 2010 it fell below the 50% threshold for usage and now sits at a measly 5% (according to browser usage tracker NetMarketShare). Meanwhile Google Chrome sits above the rest at 69%.

It its obituary Microsoft admitted that IE is too slow, not secure enough and simply incompatible with many common, modern web tasks.

 

Samsung Announces New Galaxy Laptops

Samsung announced that it is bringing the power of its flagship Galaxy smartphones to its notebook line with four “mobile-first” PCs that bring the power of a laptop with the features of Galaxy smartphones.

The Galaxy Book, Galaxy Book Pro, Galaxy Book Pro 360 and Galaxy Book Odyssey will run on Windows 10 and an Intel chip.

The new laptops will be featherweight and razor thin. The Pro and Pro 360 come in at a very slim 11.2 millimeters and 11.9 millimeters. Both will be available in 13 or 15 inch displays with 1920 x 1080 resolution. They will also feature intelligent color that adjusts the screen based on what app or task the user is performing.

The Galaxy Book 360, as one might imagine, can be transformed into a tablet via a hinge. The Galaxy Book, a 15.6 inch laptop, can be flattened to 180 degrees if desired. The Odyssey, touts Nvida powered graphics and is aimed at gamers.

All of the line feature longer lasting batteries, new S Pen, noise cancelling microphones and deeper integration with the user’s smartphone.

 

 

 

New “e-skin” Will Transmit Real-Time Health Data Over the Cloud

Doctors and scientists are probably just a few years from tracking information about your health and body through an electronic skin (or other such small device) worn on the body.

A super-thin, featherweight “e-skin” is being developed by researchers in Japan. It can be worn for about a week without replacing and is applied using a simple water spray.

University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya, from the Graduate School of Engineering, is the lead on the project. Takao’s invention has yet to be tested in clinical trials, but partners have been selected and they are in the midst of creating a manufacturing process.

The material is called polyvinyl alcohol is very flexible. It includes a layer of gold, which is transmits electricity very easily. The e-skin is a basically a wearable sensor that can detect vital signs like heartbeat or other electrical signals from muscle movement.

This data is then transmitted to a near-by device—smart phone, laptop, tablet—and then the information is sent to a cloud where it can be accessed remotely by medical staff and doctors.

Constant, remote monitoring of individual health data could change the face of medicine as it is only now possible with expensive equipment at home or through a hospital stay.

New Digital Gadget

Google Lens seems to be a item to have. It is available through other Google apps, such as Google Assistant, Google Photos, some camera apps, Android devices, in Google Photos on iOS and in the Google app on iOS. The apps it is on will show it as four rounded corners with a dot in the middle. So let’s see exactly what it does.

Say you are out taking a walk and see a plant you and you don’t know what it is. If you take a picture of it, it will find it and bring up web results so you can see it. Same with animals. On iOS, if I open the Google app, click on the lens icon in the search bar, I can see it has accessed my camera (I had given previous permissions) and some dots appear. If I click on one of the dots, it will find the item I have clicked on.

If you hover over text that is in another language, you can touch the Google Translate button and it will translate to English for you.

Slow Down Data Mining

Google services on Android or iPhones can store your location data, even when you try to prevent it through your device settings.

Google Maps can make a timeline of your movements, for example. It works so well that last year a warrant was served by police in North Carolina to Google to find devices near a murder scene. You can turn off your location history so the places you go will not be stored.

If you are logged into Google, go to https://www.google.com/maps/timeline?pb to see your timeline or whether it is even on. You can turn the tracking of your history on or off here: https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols/location?hl=en&gl=US

This may not keep Google from tracking your movements through nearby towers but it is something more you can do to make it a little more difficult for them.

New App Could Calculate Your Grocery Trip’s Carbon Footprint

Many consumers these days are concerned about what the environmental impact of the products they buy are. While many “green” products provide this kind of information via a website or the product packaging, most of what the average consumer buys can be quite the mystery when it comes to the products carbon footprint.

A Dublin-based startup name Evocoo could soon make it very easy for consumers to figure out what the environmental impact of their grocery bill is. As about 1/3rd of third-world carbon waste comes from the production and distribution of food.

The app will literally use their grocery receipt, in fact.

Users will simply photograph their grocery receipt with the Evocco app. The app then uses the printed text and machine learning (AI) to calculate the carbon footprint of that grocery bill by combining and calculating data like the store location and the weight, type and origin of a food product and comparing this against a database.

Ideally users would be left with a more accurate idea of how they eat affects the world.

 

 

 

Google Adds Expanded Feature: Indoor Live View

Google has announced a new feature called Indoor Live View. The feature uses your phones camera and overlays relevant graphics and icons on top of what the phone’s camera sees. This would help the user find a particular store in a mall or perhaps a bathroom in a train station.

Google stated that the feature is more interactive than the existing Google Maps’ existing indoor maps and is the evolution of the city-street navigation feather that launched two years ago. It is currently available on both iOS and Android. For now it use is limited to some malls in Newark, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Long Island and Seattle. In the coming months Tokyo and Zurich will be added to the list.

This is just one of a bunch of features Google has added to Maps in the last few years which has long ago moved beyond just giving drivers turn-by-turn directions.

 

 

 

 

Laptop Buying Guide for Graduating Seniors

Many graduating seniors will be receiving laptops as graduation gifts before going off to college. Here are some “myths” about laptops and some other items to consider before selecting the best laptop in your price range.

Myth: More RAM will always speed up your PC.

Facts: It doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t always help. For basic usage (Microsoft Office, web browsing, streaming, social media and email) 8 to 16 gigs of RAM will likely be plenty. Special applications for graphic design, video or audio editing may require more.

Myth: A CPU with more cores is always faster.

Facts: Each “core” in a multicore processor allows the computer to better allocate its processing power to multiple applications or processes running at once. If one is only running one program at a time more “cores” won’t increase the power or speed of the computer. For basic usage, a faster CPU with less cores is probably preferable.

Myth: You always want the fastest CPU and graphics card you can afford.

Facts: Fast CPUs and power graphics cards will run hotter and run down a laptop battery faster. For many students, longer battery life will probably be more important than having the fastest computer. Unless the student is a gamer or using specialty software that requires more resources like a graphics card or a powerful CPU, buying a laptop with the most powerful components may be a waste of money that could be spent on an extended warranty or other necessities.

Mac (Apple) vs. PC (Windows)

The average student probably doesn’t need an expensive Mac Book Pro or other Mac laptop. Those going into graphic design, audio or video fields may want to invest in one however. Consumers should also know that much of the popular software in these fields now runs on PC (Windows) and there are many fine high-end PCs that compete with Mac laptops for power and speed. Students with special computing needs should consult with an advisor in their program before buying a computer.

Tablets/iPads

These days a table or hybrid is a real option that many students may prefer for portability and cost. Google tools like Google Docs as well as Microsoft 365 both run on iOS, Android and Windows tablets and hybrids. These tablets will also run all your student’s social media and streaming apps. Bluetooth keyboards and keyboard cases are available to make the devices easier to use for schoolwork.

 

 

Secure Passwords and Your Online Accounts

We’ve talked about passwords before and yet it is such an important thing because of all the security breaches we see. Some people say they don’t have anything that important protected behind a password, so it doesn’t matter. Or they say they need to use the same password for everything.

This is an unsafe practice and a dangerous attitude to have about passwords and your personal data.

Think about all your accounts where you have purchased items, or your banking or credit card accounts. Do you really want to use the same password for everything? Once they breach one account, say your email, they can look through that to find what other accounts you are subscribed to and have a field day. This is even how identities are stolen.

Using the service LastPass is one of the best ways to secure your accounts. Once you download LastPass, set it up with a hard to hack easy to remember password. An unusual set of simple words and an attached string of numbers that is also easy to remember is a good place to start. You can then import all the passwords saved to your browsers. Once you have LastPass you can also run a kind of audit check for recommendations on which passwords to change – it will show you duplicates or not so secure passwords you already have.

SpaceX Starlink ISP Promises 300 Megabits per Second

CEO of Space X Elon Musk teased tech heads with a tweet about Starklink—which is a global broadband service created by a network of satellites. Supposedly it will double customers’ internet connection speed to about 300 megabits per second. Additionally, Musk said that latency will drop to about an astonishing 20 milliseconds later this year (that is the time it takes to send data from one point to another).

The tweet seems to be in response to a particular Starlink customer who capture and posted speed tests of their Starlink connection at between 77 and 130 megabits per second.

In another tweet Elon Musk stated that Starlink will reach customers throughout “most of Earth” by the end of 2021. And that SpaceX is working on total global coverage by the end of 2022, after this the goal will be “densifying coverage.”

Preorders for the Starlink subscription service became available earlier this month at a cost of $99 per month.

 

iPhone Supposedly Working on MagSafe Battery Booster for iPhone 12

Remember the good old days when your phone was running out of juice and you could easily snap off the back cover, pull out the battery and swap in a new one?

Many of us remember owning more than one cell phone battery and when the first ran low we would just connect a fresh one and go on about our day.

For most phone users those days are gone. Now we rely and external batteries and rapid chargers. However, Apple is supposedly developing something better. The rumor is they are working on a battery booster that would attach magnetically to charge iPhones sans-wire and while you are using it.

iPhone developers have been, for the last year, working on a battery pack that would attach to new iPhone 12s with MagSafe technology. Apple has already employed MagSafe to connect their phones to wireless charging pads, among other accessories.

According to sources, Apple had planned to release the product last October when the iPhone 12 was released, however they were still working out software bugs.

 

 

 

Users Can Now Pay for Parking or Train Tickets Through Google Maps App

While Google Maps as already vastly simplified travel now it is allowing users even more ease by letting them pay for parking or public transit straight from the app.

Now, Google Maps accounts can be linked with Google Pay wallets so that users can make transportation related payments with out exiting the app. Since users are bypassing traditional payment methods like parking meters or ticket machines people can save time. Also, many will appreciate a touchless transaction during the pandemic.

These new features are just part of a set of recent updates to Google Maps which is more and more becoming a place to do more than just get directions. Recently, verified businesses can message customers inside the app. In September the app also added a feature that measures the prevalence of Covid-19 in a particular area.

Google partnered with Passport and ParkMobile to give Google Maps users access to parking meters through the app. When people navigate to a location they will be prompted to pay for parking directly in the app.

Microsoft Edge Dev Updates

In an update to Microsoft Edge Dev, version 90, will not allow users to set their own keyboard shortcuts. Specifically, the ability is limited to the DevTools menu of the browser. Also, the context menus for PDFs and some stability issues have been fixed.

Microsoft Edge, following Google Chrome, is now based on Chromium and the functionality of the developer tools are very similar.

The newest MS Edge Dev build is no becoming available on the Dev channel and within the DevTools menu. Here users will be able to customize the browser’s keyboard shortcuts. To reach this area of the browser’s options user will have to navigate to open DevTools and then find “settings” in the top left of the window.

The feature is expected to matriculate to a stable version of Microsoft Edge soon, although all Edge users are encouraged to try out the new feature by downloading the latest Microsoft Edge Dev build.

YouTube Claims They’ve Paid Content Creators $30 Billion in Ad Revenue

The online streaming video company YouTube announced that they have paid artists, musicians, creators and media companies more than $30 billion in the just the last three years.

In the letter they sent, YouTube pointed to the Oxford Economics analysis which stated that the video hosting service and put some $16 billion dollars in to the U.S. GDP in 2019 and that YouTube supported the jobs numbering at about 345,000.

The company, owned by Google, stated that they still have some improvements to make when making sure their newest guidelines and policies are understood, especially when it came to “strikes” that would affect advertising dollars for users.

Because of the scale of the video hosting service many creators are not able to keep up easily with new policies. Recently, users have been given “strikes” because old videos don’t adhere to new policies.

YouTube said that it takes this issue serious and wants to help creators navigate their policies as the company itself navigates the political waters of different nations around the world and their laws.

 

Apple Cautions Pacemaker and Defibrillators About iPhone 12 Use

Apple announced recently that all iPhone 12 phones, any model, should be kept away from persons with pacemakers or defibrillators. This was posted as a support document on the Apple website.

Apple explained that its iPhones and MagSafe accessories have radios and magnets inside the technology that create electromagnetic fields that could possible interfere with different medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators.

The company was quoted as saying, “Though all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models.” They added, “Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact.”

Apple is suggesting that users keep iPhones and their MagSafe devices at six inches away from implanted devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators during normal, daily use. They said that 12 inches of distance was recommended when wirelessly charging.

Users should confer with their doctors about their medical devices and those devices specific guidelines.

Google Maps Will Soon Start Displaying Covid-19 Information

To help increase awareness of the virus Google Maps will soon display information about Covid-19 including vaccination locations and notifications intended to help users avoid exposure to the virus.

The new feature will be rolled out in coming weeks beginning with four states Louisiana, Arizona, Texas and Mississippi.

Google has reported that searches like “vaccines near me” have come in at an increase of five times since the beginning of the year. Google is bringing this new feature to maps by giving users “locally relevant answers.”

Designated search result modules will display information in addition to regular search returns which will both include details about whether appointments are required, if the vaccine is available only to particular demographics and other things like if there is a drive-thru option.

Google stated that it is working with “authoritative sources to gather relevant information, sources like local governments or retail pharmacies. More counties and states will be added to Google maps in coming months.

 

Airbag Infused, Rip Resistant Jeans for Motorcyclists Coming Soon?

Riding on just two wheels without any kind of protective shell, motorcycles are far more dangerous than driving a passenger vehicle. In the US one riding a motorcycle is 28 times more likely to die in an accident.

Believe it or not innovations in airbags for motorcyclists are coming.

16 years ago and in collaboration with Harley-Davidson Sweden Moses Shahrivar designed a pair of motorcycle jeans that included a protective leather lining. Now Shahrivar is advancing things further—his company Airbag Inside Sweden AB has come out with a prototype pair of anti-rip jeans that have airbags inside the legs!

The riding connects the jeans to their bike and if they fall from their motorbike the airbags will be triggered. Then they will fill with compressed air which will take part of the impact away from the lower body.

Shahrivar says that the air bags can be deflated, re assembled and filled with more compressed air.

New FAA Regulations Bring Drone Delivery for Amazon, UPS et. al. One Step Closer to Reality

Many large companies like UPS, Amazon and perhaps less well-known Alphabet (Google’s parent company) hope to deliver many of their goods by drone. With new adjustment to government regulation that dream is coming closer to reality.

The Federal Aviation Administration completed a new set rules governing small, remote drones. These new regulations could make way for increased commercial uses of drones. This includes delivery.

Some of these changes included allowing small, commercial drones to fly short distances over people and at night with out a special waiver. These same classifications of drones will also be permitted to fly over moving vehicles under some limited conditions.

Another change is that drone operators must have their remote pilot certificates on their person for display in the case they were challenged by authorities. The rules apply to drone operators who use their drones for work or business under FAA Part 107 regulation.

 

The FAA says some 1.7 million drones and 203,000 drone pilots have been registered under their department.

 

 

 

KFC Makes Good on Gaming Console Tease

Kentucky Fried Chicken, known lately as much for the Colonel’s Secret Recipe as for their off-the-wall marketing, has seemingly made good on some previous marketing that suggested they may create a special edition video game console.

The fast-food chain will now be offering a Intel-based gaming console that has a special “chicken chamber” to keep your snacks warm.

The “KFConsole” is part of a duo that includes computer hardware manufacturer Cooler Master. “The Bargain Bucket-shaped machine features the world’s first built in chicken chamber, which is kitted out to keep its contents hot, ready for consumption during intense gaming sessions,” said KFC.

Your chicken or other hot snacks will be kept warm by means of a cooling system—the chicken chamber will use the redirected heat of the computer components to keep your snacks at a yummy temperature.

The specs include an Intel Nuc 9 Extreme Comptue Element and for storage two two Seagate® BarraCuda® 1TB SSD drives. The console will handle virtual reality games and should offer smooth imagery at 240 frames per second and 4k compatibility. All of this according to Cooler Master.

The console can handle virtual reality games and offers smooth gameplay thanks to 240 frames per second frame rate and 4K display compatibility, according to details published by Cooler Master.

 

In-line with their new marketing tact, KFC also made the statement that, “If Sony or Microsoft want any tips on how to engineer a chicken chamber for their efforts next time, they’d be welcome to get in touch.”

 

Sony Pulls Cyberpunk 2077 From PlayStation Digital Store, Offers Refunds

The most anticipated multi-platform game in 2020, Cyberpunk 2077, has been pulled by Sony from its PlayStation store and is offering refunds to customers.

In a tweet by Sony Interactive Entertainment they explained, “strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, and we will begin to offer full refund for all gamers who have purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store and want a refund.

Cyberpunk 2077 turned out to be incredibly and unplayable for some PlayStation users.  Created by Polish developer CD Projekt Red, has been widely criticized with many users reporting both bugs and crashes, especially on older gaming consoles. CD Projekt Red has also offered refunds.

The companies decided to continue sales of physical copies of the game and made it clear anyone who decides to keep the game will continue to receive support software updates.

The game had already experienced delays as it was meant to be released in April. Gamers can explore the vast Night City as one of three character classes.

Four New Google Maps Features

Google Maps has rolled out some new features on its app that are focus on community engagement. This is all intended as part of Maps evolution from how-get-there app to a question-and-answer engine for businesses and customers.

Firs they’ve added a live feed that will so users recent reviews, photos and posts added to maps by people they follow and Goolge selected “experts.” Kind of like Yelp, but all inside Maps.

Messaging for Maps is the next new feature which will allow customers and businesses to contact each other directly inside of maps instead of relying on second-party messaging or a phone call.

Maps will now provide performance insights for businesses. While limited in scope, the feature will measure what kinds of interactions the business is getting inside the Maps app with customers and provide that data to the business.

As a final update users can now add their own street view images from their phones.

The app version of Google Maps was released in 2005.

Top 10 Most Used Bad Passwords 2020

If nothing else is certain about human beings, we don’t like change and find comfort in habit. Having said that, you may still be shocked to learn that according to new research many people are still using easily-hackable passwords like “12345”.

According to research on the 200 worst passwords “123456” is most commonly used in 2020. With well over 2 million people choosing it. Even with lots of reminders from cybersecurity experts it was found that when comparing terrible passwords from 2020 to those in 2019 there is very little difference.

A company named NordPass looked at a database with over 275 million passwords to find a list of top ten worst passwords used in 2020. Two new ones made the list this year “picture1” and “senha” (meaning password in Portuguese).

2020’s list is as follows:

  1. 123456
  2. 123456789
  3. picture1
  4. password
  5. 12345678
  6. 111111
  7. 123123
  8. 12345
  9. 1234567890
  10. senha