You can forget HAL 9000

You can forget HAL 9000

It has been over five years and it was time for a new PC. It took a while to pull together, required an eclectic set of carefully chosen components, and I paid someone to put it together for me, having done that myself too many times in the past.

I started with an Asus TUF Z390M-PRO gaming (Wi-Fi) motherboard, not because I'm that into gaming but because it has Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi, USB-C and USB 3.1 ports. Add 64GB of DDR4 2666MHz memory, because you can never have too much memory. At first I thought I'd use the on-board graphics but finally added an Asus nVidia PH-GTX1060-3GB PCIe card, which is middle-of-the-range and has 2 HDMI out ports in addition to DVI and 2 DisplayPorts that will drive my two monitors and the TV if I need to. Then I put in an Intel Core i5-8400 2.8Ghz s1151 Coffee Lake 8th-generation processor.

Why not an i7, you ask? After some research I found that the difference between the top-end i5 and a similar i7 was price, and very little extra power for what I would be using it for. Next, I added an on-board Intel 760P Series M.2 80mm 512GB SSD card that fits into a special slot and is a lot faster than a regular SSD. To ensure it all runs smoothly I added the Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000W power supply and one of their latest cases that has headers for USB-C on the front panel and built-in wireless charging for the phone. Total noise signature is 30DB, hence the name. Windows 10 Pro and a bunch of hard drives will round it all out. It is also fast.

There are now enough studies claiming that something I have been warning about for a while is now backed by science and proven beyond significant doubt: the potential harm that social media (SM) can do to young people, to both their mental and physical health. The first warnings came from the American Academy of Pediatrics back in 2011, and it turns out that girls are more vulnerable than boys. There is a strong correlation between mental health in girls aged 13-18 using SM and symptoms of mental illness. Conversely, there appear to be no health benefits for SM users.

Adolescents spend most of their SM time on smartphones and most of the smartphone time is spent on SM, as I've often observed in my two nieces. In the US, Apple is responsible for more than half of the SM consumption, but the numbers are similar in proportion for Android users. The negative effects include cyberbullying, negative comparisons of self-image to idealised examples, less face-to-face communication, nothing but thumbs receiving physical exercise, and others like sexting.

There are many papers but few newspaper articles on the subject, with the lack of interest from big media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), for example, has since softened its statement on SM and brought it more in line with the Big Tech interests, despite the overwhelming research produced since their earlier statements. The MSM been largely quiet with the research and communication on the subject apparently suppressed by Big Tech, especially Facebook and Google. It will take a while longer, but just as the effects of tobacco were minimised in the past, the dangers will eventually come out into the mainstream.

It will be of no surprise to some that Twitter has announced it could permanently ban people who use the wrong gender when describing a transgender person. They recently permanently banned a prominent conservative without explanation, in an apparent contradiction of their rules of service. Twitter is rapidly becoming a platform only for the politically correct.

The US and Australia are both wary of Huawei products, including smartphones, because there are suspicious that the Chinese devices are being used to acquire all kinds of information. The irony here is that Huawei smartphones have made it to the top three due to Google, a US company, giving away Android for free. This of course hasn't stopped China from creatively acquiring other people's technology and repurposing it for their own uses.

The International Space Station, or at least the first module in its construction, recently turned 20. The Russian Functional Cargo Block (FGB) was built with some funding provided by the US. The US Unity module arrived a month later. That first module is expected to last until around 2028, and its replacement will present an interesting challenge.

In the UK, at least, tablets and e-book readers have flatlined in sales as people are now primarily focused on their smartphones. Only one in 20 households there have VR and at least a third still use regular radio rather than the DAB or digital version. I predicted some time back that tablets had run their course as phone sizes increased. The use of AM radio shows how modern technology is not always adopted as quickly as expected.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at

James Hein

IT professional

An IT professional of over 30 years’ standing. He has a column in Bangkok Post tech pages and has been writing without skipping a beat every week all these years.

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