As I was walking to work thinking about this week's column, I did a quick self-inventory. I was listening to On Liberty by John Stuart Mill through my noise cancelling headphones. The audio was being sent by Bluetooth from my Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone that I was also using to play a location-based game, Ingress. This was being fed my position by satellite and receiving information from the internet via my phone's data connection. Occasionally I would pull down the notification tab to see what was on for the day and who had tried to contact me via a number of social-media services.
Think about this for a few moments. The collection of technology I was using so casually would have almost been considered magic 50 years ago or so. The combination was working seamlessly together allowing me to carry out multiple tasks at the same time.
My reference to On Liberty feeds nicely into today's story on social-media platforms. John Stuart Mill would be appalled by the continuing trend of social-media giants to suppress freedom of expression and speech. The latest in this saga is a suggestion to introduce a social score system akin to that of China. If your score is too low then you can't use their services. More and more, the Googles of the world are moving away from providing an open platform and toward a publisher-based service, whereby they decide what can and cannot be posted and seen by others. It might not be that much of a problem except that Google currently provides and thus controls a huge 92% of all online searches. This means that Google gets to decide what is disinformation, including most views from the conservative side of politics. For this to continue would deny the basic originating premise of the World Wide Web: being a platform to freely exchange ideas of all kinds, not just those deemed acceptable by a tiny minority that controls the world's social media and information.
Another trend is to use algorithms that favour what are called "authoritative" voices, often large media outlets. The supposition is that services with more subscribers are somehow more trustworthy than those with fewer. In America, where there is a liberal news bias, all the top results will point to such sources, with any other arguments hidden much lower down.
YouTube is playing a similar game. It has increased the number of times they insert ads, but based on my viewing patterns they insert more into the more conservative commentary than any other kind of videos I watch. I've also started to notice more and more ads appearing in even short videos and I recorded six in a 30-minute show, not counting the pre-ads.
If you're still a Google supporter, then consider the plight of Canadian Android developer Mathieu Mea. He builds public-transport apps used on over 120,000 devices and by 17,000 people per day. On Aug 23, he suddenly received four "Violation Of Deceptive Behavior Policy" notifications. He has four apps. Twelve hours later his account was terminated and his apps removed. At the time of writing, he has not received any details or reasons for this. He tried contacting Google; no luck. He tried to suggest he would fix anything he was told to; again, no luck. Google also cut his income from AdMob. This is the worst case of the big bully doing what they like to a small developer. There may even be valid reasons, but Google isn't telling.
The next big phone release from Huawei, due on Sept 19, will be an interesting one. Their new operating system is not yet ready for prime time and they are not able to include Google Apps with their Android. They could point people to the installation .APKs but that could expose people to viruses. The Mate 30 Pro will come with a quad camera system, a 6.71 Amoled display and probably 8GB of RAM with at least 256GB internal memory. The display is expected to have a fast 90Hz refresh rate, giving it smoother scrolling and game-playing. If it comes with the Kirin 990 7nm chip, then the phone will also have 4K/60fps video recording and 5G support. Two 40MP cameras are rumoured, for normal and wide-angle shots. They are also expected to have a very fast wireless charger in the new model.
In this week's cool technology there is now a RISC-V base chip made almost entirely of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Made from 10,000,000 CNTs, the RV16XNano was released recently, containing 14,702 CMOS carbon-nanotube field-effect transistors (CNTFETs), in 3,762 digital logic blocks that operate as a 16-bit microcontroller-grade CPU. It came of course from MIT, working with Analog Devices, a semiconductor-manufacturing company. CNTs require less energy and operate faster than a traditional silicon FET. The next step is a commercial version.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.