Digital world backslides into autocratisation

Digital world backslides into autocratisation

- I love new technology and I often pick up the latest gadgets from sites like Kickstarter. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are one step closer to using humans as batteries.

Not quite like the technology depicted in The Matrix, but still based on tapping into the thermoelectric energy generated by the body. In this case the energy will be used to power wearable devices, without the need for an additional battery. The target is to generate one volt per square centimetre of skin that can power fitness devices and other items. As usual with these stories, the technology represents potential and probably a decade away, by which time the robots will probably have taken over.

- Facebook is flexing its digital muscles once again by banning all news content from Australia after the government there indicated it would be charging Facebook to link to news providers. The growing arrogance of the major social media providers and others like Microsoft, Apple and Sony shows just how much they believe they own their customers. What the company says goes. There is no discussion. A couple of days after writing the above Facebook decided to negotiate with the Australian government. My guess is that they are starting to lose a lot of customers over their new draconian policies. So why does Facebook think that they can control or even own their customers? For some, Facebook is their internet, I know people who spend all their social media time on that platform. It is a bit like Apple which forces users to go through its App Store. They, and others, act like gatekeepers and people become trapped in some of these highly controlled and patrolled environments.

- The programming language Python recently turned 30. It's still a popular choice for many, mostly due to its vast array of libraries like NumPy that adds support for large, multi-dimensional arrays and matrices, along with a large collection of high-level mathematical functions to operate on these arrays. Python code is easy to read and uses indentation instead of other approaches like the curly braces used in C. It is not as fast as say compiled C but it is easy to debug and has predictable memory usage. It's faced some criticisms in recent releases, eg how Unicode was implemented, package handling and memory issues in the latest versions. With all of that, it still remains a very popular product, especially with the artificial intelligence and data analytics groups.

- I have been using the Brave browser for a while now and only just realised that it has a built in Tor mode for browsing the dark-web and .onion sites. A bug was recently patched where dark web surfing was spilling over unencrypted into the open network DNS servers, allowing those with the right tools to track the kinds of services being used. The bug hunter xiaoyinl collected a bounty after finding this and a fix was released soon after. The cause was a new ad-blocking feature that was not using the right pathways.

- How expensive will phones get? The new Huawei Mate X2 foldable phone is almost US$2,800 (85,000 baht) in the lowest memory configuration. It uses the same approach as the Samsung Galaxy Fold, with an outside display and a larger protected inner foldable display. The internal display folds out to an 8-inch screen with a 2480 by 2200 pixel resolution. The external screen is 6.45 inches with a 2700 by 1160 pixel resolution. Both are OLED with 90Hz refresh rates. Thickness has been reduced with a new Falcon Wing hinge that unlike others, has no gap. The CPU is based on the HiSilicon Kirin 9000 platform and the unit has 8GB of RAM with a 4,500mAh battery.

- There are four rear cameras -- a 50MP wide as the standard lens, a 16MP ultra-wide, a 12MP telephoto with 3x zoom and an 8MP 10x zoom camera. The selfie is a 16MP with nothing on the inside screen that would seem to be a major omission. There are still no Google apps but the code base is Android 10 with a Huawei user interface. Battery life will be an interesting question. By the time you read this the device will have launched in China but there are no international release dates as yet. The 512GB model will release at $2,940 and the 256 at $2,780, both being at the top end of expensive.

- This issue's hack is brought to you by NurseryCam, a daycare camera product that was hacked recently. This potentially affected 40-day care centres in the UK that at the time of writing have had the camera services suspended. Names, addresses, usernames and passwords were all dumped online for 12,000 user accounts.

- For the end of this week, if you haven't seen the footage of the Perseverance Mars rover touching down on the surface of Mars then go to the Nasa website for the video. This is an impressive feat by humans to put another device on the surface of Mars. I'm eager to see how well the drone, called Ingenuity, does in the thin Martian atmosphere.

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

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