China Increases Restrictions on Online Gaming for Minors

Recently China has banned gamers under 18 years of age from playing online games during the weekdays and is limiting them to just three hours of game play on weekends. This is a considerable increase on the country’s huge gaming industry.

The specifics state that minors will be allowed only an hour of online gaming time between 8 pm and 9 pm on Friday, weekends and public holidays according to statement released by Chinese media watch dog, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA). It was posted by state news agency Xinhua.

Previously in 2019 the agency had set relatively lighter limits on online gaming for minors to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends for minors. Authorities have stated in both cases the restrictions are intended to protect children from becoming video game addicts.

The NPPA stated that the rules were being put in place “at the beginning of the new [school] semester, putting specific requirements for preventing the addiction to online games, and protecting the healthy growth of minors.”

 

Twitter Announces New Protective Feature

Twitter is increasing efforts to provide user-side tools for those users who are experiencing harassment to help themselves.

The social media platform announced that it will be testing a new feature called “Safety Mode.” This new feature is intended to protect users from being overwhelmed by harmful tweets or unwanted replies or mentions. The feature will block, temporarily, accounts from interacting with users to whom the harasser has sent harmful speech and repeated or uninvited replies and mentions.

Over the years Twitter has often bored criticism for the recurrent use of hateful or abusive content submitted to its platform by users. There are even rare and unfortunate cases where the harmful content has extended to the real world, most often when the target of the content is a marginalized group.

Twitter hasn’t spoken of any major protective features since 2017 when it released, among other features, its “safe search” function along with the user’s ability to block potentially abusive or “low-quality” tweets to appear in their conversations.

 

The Famous Analog Computer Toy

While most may not think of the Rubik cube as a computer, the famous toy is a very basic analog computer.

The Rubik’s Cube has been around since the 70s. Invented by a Hungarian professor named Erno Rubik, his first prototype was made in 1974. When he had built his first cube, it took him a month to solve it. He got his patent in 1975 for his “Magic Cube”. In 1979, it was presented to toy fairs in various countries.

Tom Kremer, a toy specialist with a passion, convinced the Ideal Toy Company to pick this up as a product. The first thing they did was change the name from Magic Cube to Rubik’s Cube and launched it in 1980. By 1981 it was a world-wide craze. Through the years it has been reworked and made even faster. In 2017 they released the Rubik’s Speedcube.

The First Programmable, General Purpose Computer

ENIAC or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. It was Turing-complete and able to solve “a large class of numerical problems” through reprogramming.

Although ENIAC was designed and primarily used to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory (which later became a part of the Army Research Laboratory), its first program was a study of the feasibility of the thermonuclear weapon.

ENIAC was completed in 1945 and first put to work for practical purposes on December 10, 1945.

ENIAC was formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania on February 15, 1946, and was heralded as a “Giant Brain” by the press. It had a speed on the order of one thousand times faster than that of electro-mechanical machines; this computational power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists alike. The combination of speed and programmability allowed for thousands more calculations for problems, as ENIAC calculated a trajectory in 30 seconds that took a human 20 hours (allowing one ENIAC to displace 2,400 humans).

The completed machine was announced to the public the evening of February 14, 1946, and formally dedicated the next day at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000 (approximately equivalent to $7,283,000 in 2020). It was formally accepted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in July 1946. ENIAC was shut down on November 9, 1946, for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland in 1947. There, on July 29, 1947, it was turned on and was in continuous operation until 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955.

Facebook Doubles Down on Creating “Instagram Kids” Amid Criticisms

Despite concerns and criticisms from lawmakers and others, Facebook restated its intention to create a special Instagram platform just for children under 13 but also announced new updates to take care of concerns about the safety of young users on its social media platforms.

In one blog post Facebook claims it is developing the new platform to reduce the chances of children under 13 lying about their age to use the current Instagram platform. The new Instagram for kids, Facebook says, will allow parents and guardians to heavily manage their children’s use of the new platform.

Facebook wrote that kids this age are already online and using social media platforms and there simply isn’t yet a foolproof way to stop them. According to an internal memo obtained by BuzzFeed Instagram identified youth work as a priority.

Earlier this year 44 attorneys general signed a letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) to scrap the Instagram for kids project. They cited concerns over privacy and mental health. Child safety groups and Congress expressed similar concerns just weeks before this letter.

Facebook and Instagram have made a lot of promises about safety with their new platform and reiterated steps they’ve taken to help protect young users on their existing platforms.

uSky Testing Autonomous Public Transportation

Around the world traffic congestion is a problem for cities. Some tech-based solutions have included electric scooter systems or AI powered traffic lights. Another company thinks their solution to build a network of autonomous, high speed pods that would ride around a city suspended from a steel track might be a solution.

Belarus company uSky Transport has opened a 400-meter test line in Sharjah, located near Dubai.

Outside the electric power pods look are a promised-future glossy white. Inside they look more like a first-class airplane experience. This includes mood lighting, music, and windows. There are two padded armchairs and two folding seats, each pod being rated to carry four people.

uSky claims a fully executed whole city network could support 10k passengers an hour. The pods have a top speed of 93 miles an hour. However, due to safety concerns the test pods are not using their top speed.

uSky says it has a goal to free up roads and ground space that could be used for greenery, walkways and public spaces like parks.

 

Facial Recognition Coming to Unemployment Agencies

Facial recognition is a new but controversial technology that is beginning to be employed everywhere from law enforcement, security and as a way to lock/unlock personal smartphones.

27 states’ unemployment agencies have currently entered into contracts with facial recognition company ID.me, according to the company. 25 of these states are already using it. The company also claims they are talking to these agencies in 7 other states. They are already working with federal agencies like the IRS, Social Security Administration, and the Department of Veteran Affairs to verify the identities of their staff and or clients.

ID.me’s swift integration into state unemployment agencies is just the latest step towards a future where facial recognition will be used widely for identification.

ID.me uses facial verification style racial recognition that compares a photo ID with a video selfie the user takes on their phone when ID.me’s software prompts them. It is very similar to using facial recognition to lock and unlock a personal smartphone with your face. This is slightly different than what law enforcement would use where they would take one photo of person and the software would compare it to a database of known faces.

 

 

 

Experts Express Concerns With Increasing Internet Outages

Recently a widespread disruption of internet services took down range of major corporate websites. Some of those companies included Delta Air Lines, FedEx, HSBC and McDonald’s.

The disruptions came along with reported disruptions from internet infrastructure services provides Akamai and Oracle.

This is a third major internet interruption in just two months and the second Akamai has been involved in. In early June many large websites like a UK government site, the New York Times and Target went down with dozens of others. The outage lasted for about fifty minutes because of failed content delivery network, Fastly.

10 days later everything form banks, airlines, stock exchanges and trading platforms because of bugs at Akamai in a system meant to protect from attacks.

Major app and website outages happen occasionally, but typically don’t last long. While ISPs and other local and global services use backups and redundancies, however, experts are wary that the internet’s reliance what is a fairly small number of core infrastructure providers could put the internet at serious risk for bigger outages.

 

 

John McAfee of McAfee Antivirus Dead at 75

John McAfee, infamous antivirus software creator, has died at 75 after several recent run-ins with United States law.

McAfee was found dead in his Barcelona prison cell. The cause of death, according to the Superior Court of Catalonia, is under investigation.

According to Catalonia prison system spokespersons both guards and prison medical personnel performed the proper medical procedures to attempt to save McAfee’s life. This same statement said that “everything indicates” McAfee could have died by suicide.

His death comes on the heals of a ruling from Spain’s National Court in Madrid that McAfee could be extradited to the United States to face charges there. That decision could have been appealed by the same court and a larger panel of judges.

While McAfee did have a cell mate in prison that person was not present at the time of his death and that they were out of the cell doing normal activities at the prison. Officials said no special monitoring of the cell or McAfee

Windows 11 New Features: Teams Integration, Keyboard-less, Gaming and Microsoft Store

The popular productivity and live streaming app Microsoft Teams will now be integrated directly into the UI, getting its own icon on the taskbar. The app allows chat, calls, video calls with anyone anywhere in the world on platforms including, Windows, iOS, Android and others.

For those using their Windows device as a tablet, Windows 11 will be very familiar to users with few visual changes when the device is in tablet mode. Users will still be able to snap to navigate between various open apps. And if one rotates the screen the apps will get vertically staked for easy navigation.

A new feature to Windows 11 will be a floating keyboard and voice typing that uses auto punctuation and can follow voice commands like “delete that word.”

For gamers Windows 11 is offering “Auto HDR” which automatically improves the color and lighting of game visuals. This technology was first developed for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles. In Windows 11 Xbox Game Pass will now be built in and give subscribers access to a library of hundreds of PC games.

The Microsoft Store has been redesigned to be faster. Users will also have a larger selection of apps including Android apps from the Amazon App Store allow users to load thousands of Android apps on their PC.

While rebuilding the Microsoft Store, Microsoft fire a metaphorically shot at Apple’s iOS store which takes a cut of each app purchase. Microsoft Store does not.

However, to date, the Microsoft Store has not been largely popular. Most apps are still downloaded and installed from .exe files.

Windows 11 New Features: User Interface

One of the biggest updates to Windows 11 will be the Start menu and Start button which will be placed front and centered on the task bar. The menu opens to pinned apps, “recommended” recent documents and a search bar. Live tiles are gone.

What Microsoft called “snap layouts” will give the user different window layout options. This will allow users to automatically arrange up to four open windows on their screen without manually moving and resizing them.

A new feature called “Snap Groups” will save a collection of apps a user was using and their layout. This allow users to quickly shift gears between different arrangements which are focused on different tasks. If using a docking station or switching between monitors at work and at home the snaps will reload as soon as a monitor is plugged back into the computer.

Another task oriented preset feature is saved desktops with personalized wallpapers. You could have one each for say school, home, work and gaming.

The entire system will get a graphic update with founded corners on windows and icons and a return to some Vista-like translucent layers for certain windows.

Windows widgets will bring personalized, AI-powered feed of information from weather, traffic, news and more. However, it won’t be all that different from Cortana and the Interests app on Windows 10.

Google and Amazon Face More Investigations Over Fake Product Reviews

UK regulators are investigating Amazon and Google for possibly breaking consumer protection laws for not handling fake product reviews properly.

This is just one probe in a line of investigations piling up against both the tech giants. Around the world officials have been examining claims of anti-competitive behavior. These investigations could lead to large fines and more pressure on companies like Facebook and Apple to change how they do business.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority stated that its inquiry could force Amazon and Google to change they way they deal with fake reviews or result in court action.

The CMA is worried that millions of online shoppers are being misled by fake product reviews and spending money based on those recommendations. They stated it isn’t fair business practice that some companies can fake five star reviews while lawful citizens lose out.

An investigation by UK consumer group Which? found a large industry of businesses making money by manipulating reviews on Amazon Marketplace. One company was selling single reviews for $18 or bulk packages that cost over $800 for 50 reviews.

Google and Amazon stated the would cooperate with the CMA.

Facebook Testing New AI That Will Detect Arguments in Facebook Groups

If you frequent Facebook or other online platforms you know conversations can get out of hand quickly. Facebook is hoping to use an AI program to keep things calm. The social media platform is testing a machine learning program that would detect fights in Facebook’s Groups and report it to the group admins so they can intervene.

Facebook will be rolling out a number of new tools to help the 70 million users who run and moderate groups on the social media platform. Facebook has 2.85 billion monthly users, 1.8 billion participate in groups each month and there are tens of millions of active groups on the platform.

Along with these other tools, AI will decide when to send out a “conflict alert” to those admins and moderators who maintain groups on the platform. When the AI finds a conversation to be “unhealthy” or “contentious” the AI will send out a message and the human administrators of the group can decide from there what to do.

Social media platforms have increasingly relied on AI to filter what users see and to help remove hate speech from their platforms. However, AI has not always treated users fairly when left to its own devices. So, Facebook is hoping this new combination an AI watch dog and allowing the human administrators of the group to make final decisions will be a more fair way to handle things.

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.