31 May 2023

The Verge: “My week with Dyson’s absurd wearable air purifier”

Oh, this is the Dyson Zone. I tried not to feel self-conscious. When you wear a mask that reminds people of a Batman villain, people are going to be curious.

Oh my gawd, he said. You mean like the vacuum Dyson Dyson?

Yeah, it’s a wearable air purifier. And noise-canceling headphones. It’s a 2-in-1 sorta thing. I explained the basics of how it worked. Air flows into the ear cups, which hide electrostatic filters. That gets funneled into the visor, which then blows clean air into your face. I whipped out my phone to show him the app. His eyes widened when I told him it can also monitor the air quality and noise levels around you — in real time, too.

Holy shit, the owner said. We livin’ in da future.

Victoria Song

The headlines about the upcoming launch of Dyson Zone over past months have briefly caught my attention mostly for the novelty of its dystopian vibe. The more I learn about it now, the more absurd it looks: I assumed the air purifying component was added to the headphones as protection against COVID, but it was actually conceived years before the pandemic, with air pollution in mind. While its sensors track nitrogen dioxide concentrations, the filters cannot remove these noxious gases from the air supplied to its wearer. And while these filters may catch some inbound aerosols carrying COVID or other airborne pathogens, it does absolutely nothing to scrub exhaled air; quite the contrary, it may facilitate the spread as its fans drive air from the wearer’s nose and mouth outwards – similar to hand dryers. Running the air filtration also quickly drains the battery, so people won’t be able to rely on this – flawed – feature for extended periods of time…

23 May 2023

The Verge: “Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition approved by EU regulators”

The European Commission has identified remedies to allow for the deal to go ahead through 10-year licensing deals that Microsoft has offered to competitors. These include a free license to consumers in EU countries that would allow them to stream via any cloud game streaming services of their choice all current and future Activision Blizzard PC and console games that they have a license for. Cloud providers will also be offered a free license to stream these games in EU markets.

While Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick welcomed the EU approval and says the company intends to meaningfully expand our investment and workforce throughout the EU, the CMA defended its own position.

The UK, US and European competition authorities are unanimous that this merger would harm competition in cloud gaming, says the CMA in a statement. Microsoft’s proposals, accepted by the European Commission today, would allow Microsoft to set the terms and conditions for this market for the next 10 years. They would replace a free, open and competitive market with one subject to ongoing regulation of the games Microsoft sells, the platforms to which it sells them, and the conditions of sale. This is one of the reasons the CMA’s independent panel group rejected Microsoft’s proposals and prevented this deal. While we recognize and respect that the European Commission is entitled to take a different view, the CMA stands by its decision.

Tom Warren

I haven’t followed this story particularly closely, but this split decision with an approval from the European Commission and a rejection by the UK’s CMA reflects the challenges of regulating mergers and acquisitions when the companies have gone global, but the regulators are still confined to a single country or region. It will be interesting to see how things proceed if, after appeals and the pending trial in the US, the deal will remain only partly approved, with some regulators giving the go-ahead, while others opposing it. The US decision will probably weigh in most heavily, as both companies are based there, but there are precedents where a smaller country has prevented a deal, like Facebook being ordered by the UK competition authority to sell the Giphy website last year.

19 May 2023

CNBC: “Elon Musk: Work from home ‘morally wrong’ when some have to show up”

I think that the whole notion of work from home is a bit like the fake Marie Antoinette quote, Let them eat cake, Musk said. It’s not just a productivity thing, Musk said. I think it’s morally wrong.

Musk referred to tech workers as the laptop classes living in la-la-land, telling Faber it was hypocritical to work from home while expecting service workers to continue to show up in person.

Rohan Goswami

How detached from reality can you be to call remote work ‘morally wrong’ while holding who-even-knows how many job titles simultaneously and bouncing between them in your private jet!? As the owner of an automobile company, Musk has a commercial interest for people to commute more as it drives up demand for cars, including his own. If there’s a Marie Antoinette in this scenario, that’s most certainly Elon Musk himself.

07 May 2023

The New York Times: “Why New York’s Giant Trash Bag Piles may be an Endangered Species”

New York City is a bit of a global pariah when it comes to trash. On garbage days in Manhattan, towers of fetid trash bags line the streets, with food and liquids oozing on to sidewalks. Sanitation workers carry out the Sisyphean task of carting away 24 million pounds of trash and recycling every day.

Other cities have successfully reined in their garbage. Amsterdam uses underground storage and electric boats. Singapore and other cities use a pneumatic pressure chute system. Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Paris rely on shared and individual trash containers, providing the most useful examples of what is possible in New York, city officials said.

In a highly anticipated new report being released on Wednesday, city sanitation officials estimate that it would be possible to move trash to containers on 89 percent of the city’s residential streets. To do so, however, will require removing 150,000 parking spots, and up to 25 percent of parking spots on some blocks.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons

I was genuinely taken aback to learn how (poorly) garbage is handled in New York City. Every metropolis has its fair share of issues and garbage can easily pile in densely populated areas, but in New York this is the rule rather than an exception… Obligatory comment: only in America would people value their cars and parking spots more than having cleaner streets.

05 May 2023

Google Online Security Blog: “So long passwords, thanks for all the phish”

When you add a passkey to your Google Account, we will start asking for it when you sign in or perform sensitive actions on your account. The passkey itself is stored on your local computer or mobile device, which will ask for your screen lock biometrics or PIN to confirm it’s really you. Biometric data is never shared with Google or any other third party – the screen lock only unlocks the passkey locally.

Unlike passwords, passkeys can only exist on your devices. They cannot be written down or accidentally given to a bad actor. When you use a passkey to sign in to your Google Account, it proves to Google that you have access to your device and are able to unlock it. Together, this means that passkeys protect you against phishing and any accidental mishandling that passwords are prone to, such as being reused or exposed in a data breach. This is stronger protection than most 2SV (2FA/MFA) methods offer today, which is why we allow you to skip not only the password but also 2SV when you use a passkey. In fact, passkeys are strong enough that they can stand in for security keys for users enrolled in our Advanced Protection Program.

Arnar Birgisson & Diana K Smetters

I’m no expert in security, but being able to log in seamlessly, without a password, a password manager, or 2FA, sounds like a genuinely useful feature. Microsoft has something similar through the Authenticator app, where you can sign in with only your email address and a confirmation in the app.

01 May 2023

The Verge: “Microsoft Edge is leaking the sites you visit to Bing”

Searching for references to this URL give very few results, no documentation on this feature at all, said hackermchackface, the Reddit user who first discovered the issue. While Reddit users weren’t able to uncover why Microsoft Edge is sending the URLs you visit to its Bing API site, we asked Rafael Rivera, a software engineer and one of the developers behind EarTrumpet, to investigate, and he discovered it’s part of a poorly implemented new feature in Edge.

Microsoft Edge now has a creator follow feature that is enabled by default, says Rivera in a conversation with The Verge. It appears the intent was to notify Bing when you’re on certain pages, such as YouTube, The Verge, and Reddit. But it doesn’t appear to be working correctly, instead sending nearly every domain you visit to Bing.

Until Microsoft completes its investigation and presumably patches this problem, we’d highly recommend turning off the “follow creators” feature in Microsoft Edge. Chances are you never knew it existed and will never use it, so it’s not a function you’re likely to miss. To do so, navigate to Settings, choose the Privacy, Search and Services tab, and scroll down to Services. Toggle off the switch beside Show suggestions to follow creators in Microsoft Edge, and you should be fine.

Tom Warren

Well, this is what happens when you build too many features into a browser without enough testing – or frankly a solid reason for the feature to exist in the first place.