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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

Why is Valve Billionaire Gabe Newell Sending a Titanium Gnome Into Space?

Gabe Newell, Valve gaming company president and billionaire. He will be thanking New Zealand for its hospitality during the pandemic in a strange way—by sending a 3D-printed gnome into space. Yep, like one of those little guys from your grandmother’s flower bed.

Valve makes and publishes video games as well as the PC gaming store Steam. While the company is in Bellevue, Washington. Newell went to the Weta Workshop in New Zealand and got stuck in the country during the pandemic. The titanium gnome was designed by Weta of Avatar, Mulan and Lord of the Rings Fame.

The gnome will be given a lift into space via a Rocket Lab rocket.

Newell is dedicated to donating a dollar for every viewer that watches the live stream of the launch or the recording within the first 24 hours of the launch. The dollars will be given to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, NZ.

The 6-inch gnome, based on the item “Gnome Chompski” from one of Valve’s famously successful game franchises “Half-Life,” will be released from the rocket 31 miles into space and will burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere.

 

Amazon In Court Over Prime Video Service Policy

Amazon recently claimed, due to a pending lawsuit, that Prime Video users do not actually own any media they purchase through the Prime streaming service.

The tech superstar is claiming that Prime Video users are not paying to own the media but rather are buying what they call an “on-demand viewing over an indefinite period of time.”

Amanda Caudel, from Fairfield California, brought the case against Amazon for “unfair competition and false advertising” in April. Caudel alleges that the company is secretly reserving a right to discontinue a user’s access to the video content they’ve purchased at any time. Further more that they have done this to customers on more than one occasion.

Additionally, Caudel claims the company has defrauded and misled customers by charging almost three times as much to own content as to rent it. On average Amazon charges $14.99 to own a movie and about $5,99 to rent the same media.

Amazon clais their policy is stated clearly in the streaming service’s terms of use.

Allstate Insurance Drop-Tests New iPhone 12s

Insurance company Allstate tested the new iPhone 112 ceramic shield screen and found that it is the strongest they’ve tested but it is not invincible.

Allstate tested the new iPhone’s breaking point through a series of drop tests that includes a massive six-foot drop onto concrete. Apple had claimed the new ceramic shield is 4 times stronger than previous technologies. The new phones were dropped on the screen, sides and back.

When it came to glass damage the iPhone 12 Pro did far worse than the iPhone 12. Allstate found dropping the Pro on its back its screen would shatter, this was not the case with the iPhone 12 which suffered little damage. For face down drops the 12 Pro cracked its screen while the iPhone 12 only received small cracks.

Neither model seemed to suffer any functional damage despite screen damage. Both faired much better than an iPhone 11 model.

 

 

 

Amazon to Add 100,000 Holiday Jobs Amid Possible Online Holiday Shopping Frenzy

Preparing for the coming shopping frenzy of the holidays, Amazing is hiring one hundred thousand seasonal workers. Jobs vary across skill levels and type, full-time and part-time.

Amazon has had to make similar moves earlier in the year like in March when they added 175,000 temp jobs to help with demand caused by the pandemic. Amazon had claimed they would keep 70% of those hires. Last year they hired twice as many, 200,000, temp workers for the holidays.

Some experts believe that holiday, online shopping will increase anywhere from 25-35% this year over last year.

But even Amazon’s massive in-house delivery service could struggle to handle additional online shopping demands this season. Many experts believe that if people don’t order early even Amazon won’t be able to promise to deliver holiday items on time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Prime Day Announced Oct. 13th to Oct. 14th

Amidst weeks of silence from Amazon and frenzied speculation among supplicants Amazon has officially announced that their Prime Day will take place from October 13th-14th.

The shopping event exclusive to Amazon normally takes place in July but was postponed due to the pandemic. During the event Amazon has promised 1 million deals across the globe all from top brands.

In a statement Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said “In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,”

He continued “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes – and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”

As always, many Amazon branded products will be on sale include a bunch of their newest devices. Some of the highly anticipated deals are:

  • Two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
  • Fire TV Recast for $129.99
  • Four months of Amazon Music for $0.99
  • Toshiba 32-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $119.99
  • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99

The company is also offering customers a $10 coupon to spend with select small businesses who sell through Amazon. This is intended to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

 

Paramedics Navigate Trick Terrain Using Jet Packs

In the UK paramedics are testing a jet suit for use in the popular, but difficult and hilly landscape of the Lake District.

The 1050 horsepower jet suit allowed one paramedic to make a flight that took just 90 seconds. The hike would have been 25 minutes due to the terrain.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) is testing the suit along side its maker Gravity Industries.

The area is popular with hikers, but the ground is treacherous and filled with dangers terrain features. GNAAS believes they could get to injured hikers much more quickly with the jet pack. It would not only help lessen the suffering of some patients but be the difference between life and death.

The heritage area is protected by UNSESCO and contains some of the UKs highest peaks. The data shows there are dozens of patients a month, but the terrain makes them difficult to reach quickly.

While neither GNAAS or Gravity Industries was sure the jet pack would be an appropriate solution the test flights have left both parties certain the jet packed paramedics are the wave of the future in difficult terrain.

New Reality Show Promises Trip Into Space as Grand Prize

An in-the-works reality show says it will gift the winner of its competition what they are calling the best prize on Earth: a 10-day stay on the International Space Station.

The show is called “Space Hero” and its winning competitor could hit the ISS as soon as 2023, this according to the production company behind the series.

The production company, also named Space Hero, claimed in a press release that anyone from any background can win the chance to become the first “globally-elected space explorer.”

The production company says they are currently searching for global brand and primary distribution partners. They say the application process for contestants will start in the first half of the new year and broadcasting should begin in 2022.

Space Hero says their price is worth approximately $65 million.

 

38 Year Old “Microsoft Flight Simulator” Gets New Update

After almost a decade and a half Microsoft is releasing a new version of its video game title “Flight Simulator. It includes new features like traffic, live weather and a incredible world map.

The game lets players become a pilot and fly anywhere in the world, checking out cool sights during the journey.

For those who don’t know the game is very much a real-life simulation—players start by selecting a flight route, taking off, flying and landing all while balancing speed and momentum as a real pilot would have to. While players can skip or fast forward parts of the game, the journey and sight seeing is part of the purpose.

“Microsoft Flight Simulator—or “Flight Sim” as die hard fans call it—is 38 years old and predates both Windows and Word. Over the years it has found a very loyal fan base.

The update starts $59.99 but players can purchase new planes and new airports. It will be available for Xbox and Windows. The update also includes live weather which spices up the journey as pilots have to navigate different kinds of weather. And when Microsoft says live, they mean “LIVE.” A recent storm that passed by the US’s East Coast was visible in the game.