Not enough time to follow all the news from the world of technology? Then read our subjective analysis of all the events this week. Here I will share with you my personal opinion about the most interesting and important events in the world of technology. Sometimes you scroll through the news feed, and often you don’t really want to reread everything in a row. The main goal is to briefly and easily share my impressions and thoughts about the event. This is my personal opinion, you may or may not agree with it. I will be glad read to your comments and ratings. Who stood out this time? Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo. So let’s get started.
Apple apps will soon have ads
Are you tired of ubiquitous advertising? I have no good news for you – according to the latest data, more advertising formats will appear, even where there were none before. In Apple applications.
Just like in the App Store, they will be labeled accordingly and will appear in search results. So, when you search for a nature podcast, the first result you’ll get is one whose creators have paid to advertise. Searching for objects in Maps or books in the reading program will work similarly. The overwhelming adverising is coming. I’m sure I’ll have to write instructions on how to disable ads in Podcasts and Books soon.
Such a move will certainly not earn any respect for Apple. Sometimes it seems that the greed of Tim Cook’s team knows no bounds, as well as self-confidence. Even the justification is pretty strange, though anyone would doubt it: ‘Like our other ad offerings, these new ad placements are built on the same foundation — they’ll only feature content from app-approved App Store product pages and meet the same strict privacy standards.’ However, the combination with advertising should not surprise anyone, since Apple has been insisting for years that revenue from services will be even more important for them in a few years than before. And as you can see in every financial report, they consistently implement this plan. Let’s see how users of Apple products will react to this.
A fire in Google’s servers, and the search engine went crazy
Monday evening. The end of a painful start to the week, but really the day. Apartment. Computer. Expired emails to send. Since you are already sitting at your PC, you decided to check the Internet for the problem that has been bothering you all weekend. You enter your query in the most popular search engine in the world, confirm it with loud Enter slap and… you see this.
Again and again you try to find something in the Google search engine and every time you get the same result – Error 500. Changing the browser does not help. Just in case, you restart the computer, but the problem returns like a boomerang. You start to feel a little weird. Uncomfortable. This is the first time that the omniscient Google knows nothing. This is when you feel cut off from the global knowledge base.
What really happened? A dangerous fire broke out at the Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the entire network went crazy. As a result, three people with severe burns were hospitalized. The accident made an impact not only on the community of the small town, but also on the whole world. From the US to Bulgaria, many Internet users may have sensed that something unusual had happened. The omniscient search engine lost its wisdom, YouTube lost its video collection, and many sites suddenly disappeared from the Web. Although relatively brief, the failurecompletely changed the face of the global Internet in a moment.
In Ukraine, many of us were asleep when the Google search engine refused to cooperate. The fire broke out on Monday, at midnight Kyiv time, and the highest frequency of failures occurred between four and five in the morning. However, on a global scale, the problem affected millions of users, who generated tens of thousands of crash reports on the Downdetector portal. Google search engine, YouTube, Google Maps – everything worked in a limited mode or did not work at all.
Soon after that, it became clear that the problem goes much deeper. The indexing of sites in Google has started to go crazy. Big sites with a long history suddenly disappeared from the search results, as if they never existed. Other, sometimes random, portals began to jump into their place. Chaos ensued, and people who asked the world’s most popular browser what was really going on were often met with a very succinct answer: ‘Error 500.’
How did a fire in one data center cause chaos around the world? Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of a network of interconnected centers that take control when something extraordinary starts happening in a specific unit? I want to ask Google developers all these questions.
Excess is a way to deal with such unplanned events, but sometimes this concept is not applied because of the cost. This is always a very individual decision of a given company. Let’s also remember that the Google Search service is free, and when we read the terms of this service, we understand that Google is not responsible for literally anything.
We do not know anything about the scale of the consequences of such a failure in macroeconomic terms. It could be that the crash affected a very narrow group of users. I don’t think the problem is serious enough to be important on a macro scale. However, the opposite may be true for particularly affected services.
However, there are some nuances that may alarm us. Google is turning into a giant corporation without any control. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. However, problems can arise more and more often, as a result of declining professionalism, gigantic turnover in the IT industry, budget cuts and rising costs of maintaining operations, especially during periods of global inflation, wage crises and reduced availability of semiconductors.
Perhaps the ‘Error 500’ answer, generated by the most popular browser in the world, will be displayed to us more and more often. After all, the Internet is already too big to work properly.
Read also: Google Pixel 6 review: back to the top?
The woman spoke at her own funeral in the form of a virtual copy
The death of a loved one always takes away the opportunity to talk, and often it also means taking some secrets with them to the grave. But nowadays this issue can be resolved.
A little background. In June of this year, Great Britain said goodbye to 87-year-old Marina Helen Smith, activist and founder of the Holocaust Memorial Fund. The pain in the hearts of both her relatives and those who cooperate with her foundation is all the greater because they lost not only Marina, but also the memories she took with her to the grave. In order to ease the pain of loss for her relatives, Marina Smith decided to take an unusual step. Nowadays, the recording of farewell films is becoming more and more popular, but it has one fundamental disadvantage: it does not allow interaction with relatives and friends, leaving them with various questions and unresolved issues. The activist solved this problem and created an ideal ‘copy’ of herself with the help of artificial intelligence, which actively spoke and answered questions posed by those present during the funeral ceremony.
How is that possible? The replica of Marina Helen Smith is a video hologram powered by artificial intelligence developed by StoryFile. StoryFile is a platform that allows users to generate intelligent video bots. Unlike ordinary chatbots, StoryFile – – learns from the data provided by the user. To accurately reproduce a person, StoryFile uses recordings from twenty synchronized cameras. Such a large number of cameras allows for accurate reflection of a person’s appearance, facial expressions, behavior and voice.
Marina Helen Smith prepared the training kit for StoryFile at the initiative of her son Stephen Smith, who is the co-founder of the company. In January of this year, Marina spent several hours writing down answers to various questions that artificial intelligence needs to reproduce a person. The woman answered questions related to her life, childhood, politics or a vision of how the future will develop.
As Stephen later explained in his statement to the Telegraph, Marina’s ‘appearance’ at the funeral shocked everyone present. Not only because of the fact of an unusual farewell, but also because during the conversation with relatives and friends, she told many facts from her life that few people knew about.
That is, artificial intelligence brings a person back to life. That’s how those who were present at this farewell ceremony reacted. It’s all thanks to StoryFile, a company founded in 2017 with the goal of preserving the stories of Holocaust survivors and other historically important people. However, over time, the American company began to gain more and more customers among people who are inevitably approaching the end of their days and, like Marina, want to talk to their loved ones after death.
StoryFile is not the only example of artificial intelligence that literally ‘brings the dead to life.’ The use of AI allowed the creators of the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which was released in 2019, to use the image of Carrie Fisher to recreate her as Leia Organa. The fact is that the actress died in 2016, and the script of the space saga was not yet ready at that time.
But there is also a recent example of such reincarnation. Val Kilmer lost his voice 8 years ago as a result of laryngeal cancer treatment, but that didn’t stop him from singing in this year’s Top Gun remake. Val Kilmer’s digital voice was created by Sonantic, a company that generates speech using artificial intelligence. Although in this case only the voice of the actor was revived, this achievement is impressive, as without the help of artificial intelligence, the actor would be deprived of all speaking roles.
Thus, AI is gradually changing our lives and, perhaps, very soon we will communicate with the help of holograms.
What does Janet Jackson have to do with broken hard drives on Windows XP computers?
Sometimes conversations with veterans of the industry of modern technologies bring back interesting stories about the past. Did you know that years ago, a single song could ruin a computer’s hard drive? And here we are not talking about some virus, but… pure physics.
Some laptops released during the current Microsoft Windows XP operating system were vulnerable to an extremely unusual threat – an attack using music. A few years ago, a computer manufacturer discovered that playing a music video called ‘Rhythm Nation’ could destroy its hardware. It turned out that there are similar problems with competitors’ equipment. What’s more: it’s not the file itself, because even if this Janet Jackson track was playing somewhere nearby, it also caused the equipment to stop working. The solution to this puzzle turned out to be purely physical: Jackson’s song contained sounds at the drive’s resonance frequency, playing back which could physically disable it due to a sharp increase in the amplitude of vibrations of the HDD disk rotating inside the case.
What is the probability that listening to this song on a computer will lead to these effects? It is unknown, but the manufacturer had to roll up his sleeves and somehow deal with this problem. And he did it using a clever bypass.
Raymond Chen, a senior software engineer at Microsoft, recalled that the laptop maker got around the problem by adding a special software filter that detected and removed harmful frequencies during audio playback.
‘And I’m sure they put a digital version of a “Do not remove” sticker on that audio filter. (Though I’m worried that in the many years since the workaround was added, nobody remembers why it’s there. Hopefully, their laptops are not still carrying this audio filter to protect against damage to a model of hard drive they are no longer using,’ the developer added, recalling a years-old story.
Changes in technology make sure that there are no such problems anymore, but new ones appear. However, it’s a shame that when telling this story, Chen didn’t go into details – for example, to name the company that had to deal with these problems, after all, we are talking about computers of the Windows XP era. And for many lovers of such curiosities, this would be an additional highlight and… who knows, maybe collectors of curiosities would start hunting for this batch of equipment to take a closer look at the unusual hardware problem of hard drives.
Not only the record with the story itself is extremely interesting, but also interesting comments in which we read that Janet Jackson was able to beat even the servers. However, in a completely different way, and here it was primarily about her popularity: ‘Janet Jackson had the power to crash web servers. At the turn of the century, I was part of the team that managed her website. The amount of traffic that Janet Jackson, Eminem and a few other Interscope artists created, was awesome. Any artist can generate gigabytes of IIS logs for each server on a busy day.’ In other words, sometimes even the servers couldn’t handle the flow of people wanting to download a popular artist’s favorite tune.
Read also: How to turn off SuperFetch in Windows 10/11?
Graphene as a ‘philosopher’s stone’: turning trash into gold
It turns out that graphene can be a kind of scientific philosopher’s stone. It allows obtaining gold from substances containing only traces of this element.
Throughout history, alchemists believed in the existence of a philosopher’s stone that could transform cheap substances into precious gold. Now scientists from the University of Manchester, Tsinghua University in China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have shown that graphene allows gold to be extracted from waste containing only trace amounts (up to billionths of a percent).
This new, seemingly magical application of graphene works quite simply: add graphene to a solution containing traces of gold, and within minutes, pure gold will appear on graphene sheets without any other chemicals or extra energy. After that, you can extract your pure gold by simply burning the graphene.
A study published in Nature Communications shows that 1 g of graphene can be enough to extract almost 2 g of gold. Since graphene costs less than $0.1=10 cents per gram, it can be very profitable because the price of gold is around $70 per gram.
Gold is used in many industries, such as consumer electronics (mobile phones, laptops, etc.), and when the products eventually end up in landfills, only a fraction of the waste is recycled. The graphene-based process, with its high extraction capacity and high selectivity, can recover almost 100% of gold from e-waste. Thus, a new solution for the sustainable development of gold resources and e-waste recycling was proposed.
“Our findings not only hold promise for making this part of the economy more sustainable, but they also highlight how atomically thin materials can differ from their parents, well-known materials. Graphite, for example, is worthless for gold mining, while graphene almost becomes a philosopher’s stone,” said Dr. Yang Su of Tsinghua University, who led the study.
And Professor Hui Min Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences added: ‘As the search for revolutionary applications of graphene continues, our discovery that this material can be used to recycle gold from e-waste has excited the research community and given new drive to the development of the graphene industry.’
Thus graphene, already familiar to us, turned out to be such an amazing material with great potential.
Loud scandal with Nintendo – discrimination and harassment in the background!
For the average fan of virtual entertainment, Nintendo is primarily associated with classic consoles, video games and franchises. So, the overall image of the Japanese company in the gaming community is extremely positive. However, everything points to the fact that soon this may change dramatically!
From time to time, every large corporation faces smaller or larger crises. Troubles can be of different origins – from financial problems to an image component. Trouble seems to be hitting one of the most famous video game companies on the market right now. Of course, we are talking about Nintendo, which has been accused of gender discrimination in recent days.
The scandal surrounding the Japanese company gained publicity mainly thanks to a report created by Kotaku. The text of this report is based on conversations with numerous women who work at Nintendo’s American division. In interviews with the portal’s journalists most of them complain about the unfriendly working atmosphere, which sometimes even turned into harassment.
One of Kotaku’s interviewees was a woman named Hannah. The game tester began her story by describing the “weird culture” that prevails among Nintendo employees. Once a woman informed her superiors about the bad behavior of one of her colleagues. According to Hannah, a Reddit group chat posted a message about the best Pokemon for sex. In addition, the topic of sexual attraction to Paimon (an NPC from the game Genshin Impact) appeared in the conversations.
After reporting this behavior to her colleagues, Hannah was allegedly asked to be “less honest.” The woman’s accusations against Nintendo don’t end there. It is worth noting that the former employee of the Japanese company represents the LGBT community, which, in her opinion, was regularly mocked by colleagues and the management of the American branch of Nintendo. In addition, Hanna stated about gender injustice in pay. Yes, men doing the same amount of work earned three dollars an hour more than she did.
The worst thing for Nintendo in this situation seems to be the fact that other former employees have also come forward with similar allegations. Conversations with other women mainly concerned Melvin Forrest, one of the heads of the American branch of the company. The man regularly made harsh comments about the women’s appearance and threatened them that if they reported him, they would be fired from their jobs.
The charges also relate to the impossibility of promotion. According to former employees, promotions usually went only to those men who remained close to their superiors. One of the reasons for this is the low percentage of women working at Nintendo. According to a report by Kotaku, the company’s US division employs only 37% women full-time. In the case of global Japanese activity, the percentage of female game testers drops to 10%.
— Kotaku (@Kotaku) August 16, 2022
Unfortunately, Nintendo has yet to respond to the text published by Kotaku. Finally, it’s worth noting that employees who feel aggrieved have decided not only to speak to Kotaku, but also to take legal action. Some of them sent a letter to the National Labor Relations Board accusing Nintendo of America of the above problems. Looking at previous similar cases between large corporations working in the virtual entertainment industry and employees, it can be assumed that the trial (if it comes to it) against Nintendo will drag on for many months. We will definitely keep you informed about the development of the situation and the final verdict.
Last week was so interesting and full of events in the world of technology. Of course, I did not cover all events, but you can view these and other news on our website.