Friday roundup: A week in tech

By Max Salsbury

Fun phone firms Apple and Samsung have managed to bag themselves some big time fines for purposefully slowing their devices down.

Italian law types have hit the massive corporations for indulging in ‘planned obsolescence’ – the practice of using software updates to effectively sedate electric telephones into a state of infuriating sloth-ness, and thusly spurring aggrieved users to spend large on new handsets.

Anyway, Apple have earned themselves a €10 million fine, while Samsung have netted a more agreeable penalty of €5m.

According to the Italian authorities, the tech scoundrels offered and encouraged users to download OS upgrades without making it clear that their phones would struggle to cope with the overload of newness. Fancy that!

Samsung is ‘disappointed’ (aren’t we all!) and has proclaimed its innocence, claiming that it didn’t ‘issue any software update that reduced the Galaxy Note 4’s performance…in contrast, Samsung has always released software updates enabling our customers to have the best experience possible’.

Apple, meanwhile, hasn’t made any comments, as far as I can tell.

And it’s not over, for Apple at any rate. French prosecutors are currently going after the company for the same wretched sneakiness, with a judgement expected soon. Watch this space, if you can get the site on your phone.

***
Brazil looks like it’s soon to become the next formerly reasonably reasonable country to elect a psychotic idiot for its boss – and the grotesque event could at least in part be down to WhatsApp.

According to this BBC investigation, 120 million Brazilians use the messaging service as a sort of alternative to the social media that us lucky westerners use to help send us mad/keep us miserable – and it’s their phone numbers which are being scraped by dodgy software before they’re sent propaganda messages and added to manipulative groups.

With the enormously unpleasant Jair Bolsonaro on course to win this Sunday’s election, WhatsApp owner Facebook has claimed that it’s banned hundreds of thousands of accounts it believes are connected to a shady marketing group that is in thrall of the fascist favourite.

And guess what: all this data scraping violates Facebook’s big and continually ignored rulebook. Furthermore, it might even amount to an electoral crime, so these conspirators better watch out – remember the punishment Cambridge Analytica received? Oh, hang on.

Read the whole BBC report. One, because it’s very good/terrifying, and, two, because I don’t think I’ve done a great job of explaining what’s going on.

Another day, another headlong dive into global division and hatred. Thanks, big tech!

***

Digital versatile disc players: they conjure up such average memories of not very long ago. But, if John Lewis be a harbinger of extinction, the things could be on the way out for good.

The store has announced that it won’t be putting anymore of the devices on the shelves after its present stocks are depleted – which is fair enough as sales have dropped 40%.

With modern day folk giving up entire weekends to watch 57 episodes of the latest US drama set in a prison/drugs cartel/hospital/bathroom showroom on binge-watch outfits like Netflix and Amazon, the friendly old get-up-and-swap-a-disc-every-two-hours-or-so DVD player will soon join the VCR, Ceefax and liberal democracy in the dustbin of history.

To be fair, you’ve been able to pick up DVD players for about £20 in supermarkets for ages – though, on the whole, they seem pretty easy to break, like by turning them on.

But laser-read media fans needn’t fully despair: Blu-ray’s doing all right, so there’s still a small window of opportunity to burn a calorie or two while you get up and change discs.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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