Friday roundup: A week in tech

By Max Salsbury

Airbnb has come over all principled and decided to stop listing Israeli settlement homes in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Though the decision has delighted the Palestinians, the Israelis are incensed and have threatened legal action (seems a little strong but certainly preferable to an airstrike, which might not be far behind).

Explaining itself, the internet-based ruiner of traditional hotel models said: ‘US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories.

‘At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.’

That’s nice. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has backed the move, claiming that it was ‘crucial for Airbnb to follow the position of international law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied east Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes’.

However, outraged Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin seethed, quite amusingly, that the move was ‘the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts’. I like that – ‘the most wretched of wretched’.

Anyway, something called the Yesha Council has joined the ‘not impressed with Airbnb’ side of the argument, complaining that the decision is the result of ‘either anti-Semitism or capitulation to terrorism, or both’. Ha, right!

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Palestinian tourist board didn’t really comment: ‘I’d like to say “Come and visit Palestine” but sadly it doesn’t exist and everything’s been blown to bits and nicked anyway.’

***

A site that specialises in indulging the whims of those titillated by anthropomorphised and sexualised animals has been hacked. Is nothing sacred?

The attack happened back in August which is why we’re only hearing about it now, naturally, and saw members’ email addresses, names and so on accessed and subsequently posted on a hacking forum.

Role-playing game ‘High Tail Hall’ offers screen-watchers the chance to customise ‘sexy furry characters’ and…I dunno…muck about, I suppose. However, the innocent-sounding if very singular activity drew the attention of hackers who apparently tried to spoil everything.

Owner HTH Studios have acknowledged the breach (nice of them) and said that they are now ‘using a much more advanced and stable security system’. Hmm, not sure if I was a fan of human-animal hybrid cartoony steaminess I’d be too soothed by that.

The hack is part of a wave of recent attacks on adult sites. Eight porn outlets were struck in October, including one enterprise charmingly titled ‘Wife Lovers’ which resulted in the exposure of over 1.2 million email addresses.

Seriously, porn fans: it might be time to return to the top shelf in the corner shop, where all you really risked was the internal ridicule of the store assistant as you made the shame-faced purchase.

***

Let’s end with something really depressing (I’ll start finding pleasanter stories as we approach Christmas).

The Americans have built themselves the world’s second most powerful computer – which they are going to use to simulate mass nuclear weapon launches and detonations. Isn’t that nice?

As actually using nuclear bombs on cities etc to test their efficacy is somewhat impracticable, ‘Sierra’ will run lots of scenarios to, I imagine, find out how the US might possibly ‘win’ a full global thermonuclear war.

The thing has 190,000 processing cores, which sounds like it might be enough to work out the best Brexit deal, and will be disconnected from external networks when its work begins, less nosey parties (such as the Russians or Google, for example) come poking round.

Basically, the US has a stupendous stockpile of nuclear bombs, missiles, shells, shoes perhaps, and needs a stupendous amount of computing power to work out what on Earth is should do with it all.

Now, how’s that supercomputer that’s going to work out how to feed everybody and make us kind towards one another coming along?

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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