Author: Nick Farrell

Assange betrayed by Trump

It rather looks like Julian Assange’s attempts to get Donald Trump elected has backfired on him completely.

Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has decided that Assange is a criminal and he wants him arrested and to stand trial in the US.

The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn’t alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning. Several newspapers, including The New York Times, did too.

Apparently that changed when Assange helped Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity.

Pompeo said WikiLeaks: “Directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

US intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.

Assange backed the wrong horse in the elections, and if he thought he was going to get a clear statement from Trump that he would be free thanks to his help he is mistaken.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference yesterday that Assange’s arrest was a “priority”.

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

What this means is that even if Assange waits another five years for the statute of limitations to expire on his Swedish sex case, he is going to face extradition to the US.  It also means that all his claiming that the Swedish case was a smokescreen to get him back was complete fantasy.

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, argued that US prosecution of Assange sets a dangerous precedent.

“Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public. Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organisations.”

Musk wants electronic telepathy in four years

Tesla boss Elon Musk claims his latest company Neuralink is working to link the human brain with a machine interface by creating micron-sized devices.

Neuralink is aiming to bring to the market a product that helps with certain severe brain injuries due to strokes, cancer lesion etc, in about four years,.

Musk said that communicating a concept is engaging in consensual telepathy. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant “neural laces” in their brains to keep up.

“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”

He said that the technology could take about eight to 10 years to become usable by people with no disability, which would depend heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well the devices work on people with disabilities, Musk was quoted as saying.

Canada cements in net neutrality

While US president Donald (prince of Orange) Trump is giving Big Telco the internet, things are going the opposite way in Canada.

A new ruling by Canada’s telecommunications watchdog has stated that internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person’s data cap.

The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers.

Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC said that rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices.

“That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”

The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec.

Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron’s internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form — nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.

Apple forces suppliers to shred gear

Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report reveals some rather nasty tricks that the company does to kill off the life span of its products.

While the Tame Apple Press has been singing praises of Apple’s environmental record based on the report it is choosing to ignore some very important environmental misses.

While Apple said that its aim is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate, that is mostly a moonshot plan and not as important as Jobs’ Mob actually doing something itself.

The most important is Apple’s current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could to salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap and reuse them.

Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused — instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.

After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale.

While this is great for Jobs’ Mob, it means that users are forced to buy new gear, which places a strain on the environment.

Oak Ridge boffins work out how to dry their clothes

Boffins at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are worried what they will use to dry their clothes when their mothers can’t manage anymore.

A team has come up with a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker which is five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers.

It does not matter if you have not done any washing for a couple of months because the drier can do a large load of clothes in about half the time.

Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations.

Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines.

The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibres off of clothing.

Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colours will fade.

According to the US Department of Energy, the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years.

But now it has recently been “developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum — setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances”.

Tesla settles autopilot lawsuit

Tesla has settled the lawsuit against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for stealing proprietary information about the Autopilot programme and recruiting fellow Tesla engineers to work with him at Aurora Innovation.

The lawsuit was settled with Tesla withdrawing its allegations without damages and Aurora agreeing to make itself available for an audit by a third party to make sure it doen’t have proprietary information from Tesla’s Autopilot program.

Aurora also agreed to cover the cost of the audit for up to $100,000. The startup claims that it had already ordered its own audit, which found no material Tesla confidential information.

As for the allegations of poaching employees, Aurora has agreed not to reach out to Tesla employees for a year and to release the names of former Tesla employees who have joined the startup already.

It seems rather odd that Tesla appears to be backing down having made such a bit noise against the outfit. It does appear as if the whole legal project went off half cocked from the outset.  The tech press did a quite shufty at all the Aurora employees on LinkedIn and it is  clear that Tesla has nothing to moan about.

A handful of Autopilot engineers joined Aurora while almost a dozen former Uber engineers working on self-driving have joined the startup, including Drew Bagnell, a Carnegie Mellon University who was part of Uber’s autonomous driving leadership until last December.

 

Inspector Ballmer investigates government spending

The shy and retired former executive Steve “there’s a kind of hush” Ballmer is apparently not interested in quietly retiring.

Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers, teaches at Stanford and USC and now has created a new start-up called USAFacts.

The start-ups aim is to improve political discourse by making government financial data easier to access.

A small “army” of economists, professors and other professionals will be looking into and publishing data structured similarly to the 10-K filings companies issue each year — expenses, revenues and key metrics pulled from dozens of government data sources and compiled into a single massive collection of tables.

The nonpartisan site will trace $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution.

Défence spending, for example, is categorised under the header “provide for the common defence,” while education spending is under “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity”. Spending allocation and revenue sources are each mapped out in blue and pink graphics, with detailed breakdowns along federal, state and local lines. Users can also search for specific datasets, such as airport revenue or crime rates, and the site includes a report of “risk factors” that could inhibit economic growth.

Apparently the idea came from a conversation with his missus Connie who was trying to get him interested in some of her philanthropic efforts.

He thought that since he seemed to be paying rather a lot in tax it should be the government who is providing all the aid and health care to the great unwashed.

She pointed out that it does not work like that because there are things government does not get to do in the US and he was missing out on knowing this.

Ballmer is not one to take that sort of comment lying down, or standing up, particularly there is a chair close to hand, so he sought to figure out what the government really does with the money.

He might not like the results. A big chunk of US tax money appears to go on defence and the rest goes to propping up American corporations.

His database will give more detail and answer questions like how many coppers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates
Revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect. The percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it.

Ballmer calls it “the equivalent of a 10-K for government,” referring to the kind of annual filing that companies make.

“You know, when I really wanted to understand in depth what a company was doing, Amazon or Apple, I’d get their 10-K and read it. It’s wonky, it’s this, it’s that, but it’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”

How Turkish trolls tried to kill movie

Turkish genocide film ‘The Promise’ was nearly killed off by a Turkish news board determined to wipe the coverage of the genocide from history.

The Promise was a historical romance set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac and was expected to be controversial.

Descendants of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire shortly after the onset of World War I have long pressed for the episode to be recognised as genocide. The Turkish government has long insisted that the deaths were not a premeditated extermination.

But the film looks set to be sunk by a one star campaign, despite great reviews. More than 100,000 Turks registered on IMDb that the film was rubbish, even though the film had only been shown to 900 people in Toronto.

The online campaign against The Promise appears to have originated on sites like Incisozluk, a Turkish version of 4chan, where there were calls for users to “downvote” the film’s ratings on IMDb and YouTube.

Similar campaigns have been run against Star Wars spinoff Rogue One to indie Holocaust-denier drama Denial to Justin Simien’s upcoming Netflix series Dear White People.

In 2016, the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters became a magnet for a downvoting campaign from 4chan and Reddit users. They organized to give hundreds of thousands of “thumbs down” to the film’s YouTube marketing materials. In the end, Ghostbusters lost an estimated $70 million.

On IMDb, The Promise now has an average of 4.2 stars thanks to more than 35,000 10-star ratings that have been left by supporters of the film to counter the more than 60,000 one-star ratings. (There are fewer than 1,400 ratings between two and nine stars.)

Vacuum outfits suck on Roomba law suit

IRobot, the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, is suing its rivals for nicking its patented tech.

iRobot filed lawsuits in federal court in Boston against Hoover, Black & Decker, Bobsweep and Bissell Homecare. IRobot said they infringe on several of its patents covering the idea of an autonomous floor-cleaning robot.

“iRobot will not stand by while others offer products that infringe on our intellectual property,” the company said in a statement.

IRobot launched Roomba in 2002 but has faced increased competition from other appliance makers.

Residential robotic vacuums sucked up $1.5 billion in global revenues in 2016, an amount expected to reach $2.5 billion by the end of 2021. The overall market for household vacuums was $12 billion in 2015.

 

Google opens up Android in Russia

Google will open up Android  to Russian rival search engines as part of a deal to settle a two year dispute with Russian competition authorities.

The deal sets a new precedent for the tech giant, which faces multiple complaints worldwide that it is abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on manufacturers of Android-based devices in order to protect its share of the online search market.

Russia’s competition watchdog, FAS, ruled in 2015 that Google was breaking the law by requiring the pre-installation of applications, including its own search tool, on mobile devices using Android, following a complaint by Russia’s Yandex.

Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android-based devices in Russia and will not restrict the pre-installation of rival search engines and other applications, as part of a deal with FAS, the regulator said on Monday.

It will also develop a tool allowing users to choose a default search engine on their Android devices.

“Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs,” FAS said.

Google confirmed the deal, saying it met the interests of all parties. It also said it had reached a commercial agreement with Yandex that “provides new opportunities for Yandex to promote its search service within Chrome”.

The deal is for a term of six years and nine months and  Google will  have to pay $7.85 million in fines.