Friday round-up: A week in tech

HSBCIn earth-shattering news, BT has managed to sustain its ongoing record as most hopeless internet provider for the fifth quarter in a row.

Ofcom’s latest figures show that the firm received 28 complaints per 100,000 customers for Q2 (April to June 2017), making it the most dismal of the UK’s big six broadband suppliers.

It’s pay-for-view TV service also came out worse than rival providers, gathering 13 complaints per 100,000 users in Q2 – meaning it has come out on top of the pitiful list in all of Ofcom’s reports since summer 2015.

A BT spokesman said: ‘We apologise to customers we’ve let down. We care about service and we’ve invested heavily to make improvements, including hiring 2,200 extra people, which is helping us answer calls more quickly than ever before.’

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Google decided to pull YouTube from Amazon’s Echo device this week, apparently much to Amazon’s surprise.

The search engine giant seems to be annoyed with Amazon’s attitude, saying in a statement that it had ‘been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon’.

Responding to the move, Amazon said: ‘Google made a change today around 3 pm. YouTube used to be available to our shared customers on Echo Show. As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.’

Troubled Echo users will now only be able to access YouTube on the other 700 devices they own.

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A popular high street bank is developing an app that will let people know when they’re spending too much money.

Contradicting the way the modern banking business model works – get poorer people into debt quickly then live off their interest-soaked repayments forever – HSBC says its new platform will ‘nudge’ users when they grow close to emptying their accounts.

Less charitable banks will be disappointed, as they’ve been roped into this too. The app will allow customers to add accounts they hold with rival banks, with alerts flying through when the tank starts to run dry.

If this thing works out, I can’t see the team who developed it getting a Christmas bonus.

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Good news, meat fans: 200 UK abattoirs are going to be digitally networked with the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) offices.

Cloud provider Exponential-e will roll out fibre and ADSL connections to the slaughterhouses, which will help the FSA’s inspectors file their reports when they drop in for a look around.

The FSA’s head of IT, Phillippa Tasselli, said: ‘It’s vital for us that we’re able to provide a secure communications platform to our team of inspectors who are on the coal face of food standards. A slow, jittery connection that is constantly dropping does not enable a good user experience; it’s just a time-consuming frustration.’

Daisy, a cow working with an abattoir in the south west, added: ‘I’m delighted. Knowing that the latest technology is being utilised to monitor me and my colleagues as we’re shot in the head and then sliced up into pieces is very reassuring. I’m truly thrilled.’

Friday round-up: A week in tech

Kids get social media rights guide

Instagram

A guide to help children understand their digital rights has been published.

Concerned that young people don’t understand what they’re agreeing to when they join social media platforms, the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has worked with a privacy law firm to condense various polices into more digestible formats.

Ms Longfield has claimed that Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook and so on have ‘not done enough’ to make their policies comprehendible to their younger users.

However, Instagram has already said that the simplified text concerning its rules has some ‘inaccuracies’.

Anybody who’s had a glimpse at a tech firm’s terms and conditions hymn sheet will know that adults could probably do with a slimmed-down version of the facts, too.

Ms Longfield, who has slammed Instagram’s 17 pages of T&Cs, said: ‘Children have absolutely no idea that they are giving away the right to privacy or the ownership of their data or the material they post online.’

Instagram isn’t having of that, saying in a statement: ‘It is wrong to suggest we share young people’s personal information, contact details or content of direct messages with advertisers without their permission. Nor do we share details of who people are messaging with.’ Hmm, really?

It’s a nice idea, and probably a very good one, but I can’t imagine many, if any, kids caring about reading their T&Cs in whatever format. They just want to muck about, don’t they? I did. Still do, come to think of it.

Kids get social media rights guide

Ex-Google engineer is building a god

Wooden robot

A man who Google used to let work for them has announced plans to build an artificial intelligence god, for people to worship.

Engineer Antony Levandowski established and registered his new religion, Way of the Future, back in 2015, and now wants to construct a sort of computer-robot-god thing to rule over us all.

Levandowski used to work on things like driverless cars at Google, which explains why he formed self-driving lorry firm Otto after he left. That company was soon bought by Uber – who sacked the would-be deity-creating engineer after allegations that he pinched some of Google’s ideas for his robot trucks.

Here’s a whole Guardian article on the odd situation written by a proper journalist.

Are you disappointed with your current god or gods? Are you looking for a new system of revealed truth to guide you? Perhaps one headed-up by a pseudo-conscious morass of algorithms and wires? Please let us know.

 

Ex-Google engineer is building a god

Squabbles put aside as Russia and US agree on moon base

MoonAfter months of simmering, unnerving manoeuvres, America and its armed-to-the-teeth counterpart, Russia, have done something pleasant together – even if it might be a mere gesture.

Taking part in the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Australia, the two former foes/then sort of friends/then sort of foes again signed a joint statement outlining their intentions to construct a moon base together.

The document doesn’t commit either country to actually building the thing, but talks of a ‘common vision’, which is nice. NASA and Roscosmos (which is Russian for ‘NASA’) will now in theory team up and identify ‘common exploration objectives’.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said: ‘While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar [between the earth and the moon] space as the next step for advancing human space exploration. Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.’

Meanwhile, Roscosmos’ head, Igor Komarov, said that other countries, such as Brazil and China, were also welcome to join in and help build the lunar station, too, if they liked. Bring money and a spanner.

Now, watch as they build it and a million ‘experts’ call it ‘the faked moon base’.

Squabbles put aside as Russia and US agree on moon base

Amazon’s new Alexa range promises greater powers

Microphone

World-dominance enterprise Amazon has brazenly announced the next stage in its plot to control every aspect of our lives.

The tax-shy company has revealed a new range of Alexa devices that have been created to go in every room of the house – with the long-term plan being that not a single word you utter escapes Amazon’s ears (or eyes. The new models are fitted with cameras, too, for the full 2001 experience).

The firm’s senior vice president, David Limp, said: ‘Voice control in the home will become ubiquitous. Kids today will grow up never knowing a day they couldn’t talk to their houses.’ Or buy a product that didn’t come from Amazon, he could have added but didn’t.

Echo devices already feature alarm clocks, voice calls, timers and weather reports. One of the latest products, the Echo Spot, is a bedside gadget that not only functions as a videophone, but can also do Jetson-style things such as turning the kettle on and opening the curtains (I assume you need to buy a load of other stuff to do these things; it’s not magic, is it?).

Mr Limp said: ‘Setting up your smart home is still just too hard. It can take up to 15 steps to do something as simple as set up a lightbulb.’ He’s right there. I’ve tried setting up ‘smart lightbulbs’: I sure there’s a joke in it, but I can’t think what.

The Echo Show model, which went on sale yesterday and has a 7″ screen, can be linked to your doorbell, baby monitors and the locks to your house.

Anyhow, mi casa es Amazon’s casa.

And just a few years ago, we were all concerned about Tesco taking over everything. Are they even still open?

Amazon’s new Alexa range promises greater powers

Not very good: UK’s fibre-to-the-premises coverage

Fibre

While we might be good at…I’ll think of something, the UK is rubbish at fibre-to-the-premises coverage (FTTP), a report has revealed.

IHS Markit’s study found that the country is the third worst in Europe for FTTP, with only Greece and Belgium performing even more bleakly.

Only 1.8% of the UK was getting FTTP coverage as of June last year, while the current average broadband speed across the country is 16Mbps – which is plenty as far as I’m concerned, I only go online to check the weather.

IHS Markit’s principal analyst, Alzbeta Fellenbaum, said: ‘This reflects the preference of operators in these countries to prioritise their deployment strategies on upgrading existing VDSL networks, rather than investing in the typically more expensive FTTP technology.’

Big communications firm Openreach has said it would like to invest £6 billion creating 10 million FTTP connections by 2025 – but they did used to be part of BT so let’s just wait and see, shall we?

Not very good: UK’s fibre-to-the-premises coverage

Twitter. North Korea. Donald Trump. Armageddon. Etc.

Twitter Korea_blog.png

President Donald Trump has done some more things today: 1. sent a tweet which appears to foretell the destruction of North Korea; and 2. embroiled Twitter in a terms and conditions row. Good work.

The president tweeted: ‘Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!’

Now, Twitter (apparently) forbids threats of violence, but it seems if the threat is violent enough, such as the complete obliteration of a nation state, then it’s ok.

As the tweet was in breach of its terms, concerned Twitter users asked the social media network why the characteristically berserk message hadn’t been removed.

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong, replied Twitter: this outrageously mammoth threat is ‘newsworthy’ and thus gets a pass, we’ve just decided.

The North Koreans have said the tweet is a declaration of war, which is odd because I didn’t think they had Twitter.

Let’s have a look at the precise wording of Twitter’s conditions: ‘Users may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.’ Hmm.

I’ve said it before and I promise I won’t say it again, but we never, I repeat never ever had any of these problems with Ceefax.

Twitter. North Korea. Donald Trump. Armageddon. Etc.