Section 230 #1450

Tonight I break down Section 230 of the CDA which I am sure half the planet is going crazy over today as they have no clue what it is, how it has let the Internet grow, and why Twitter may have really screwed up regardless of what you think of the president. Sadly there is wide support on both sides of the aisle to rein in 203 abuse. You simply cannot have it both ways. Plus I discuss how I almost electrocuted myself last weekend.

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Continue reading Section 230 #1450

In Praise of Qi Wireless Charging

My first experience of wireless phone charging was over ten years ago in 2009 with the Palm Pre and its Touchstone charger, which doubled up as a desk stand, tilting the phone at just the right angle. After the annoyances of multiple charger connectors, the simplicity of wireless charging was a revelation, even though Palm’s implementation had a few quirks. Wireless charging and the Touchstones were a feature of the Palm line-up right up until HP threw it all in the bin in 2011.

Joining Google’s Nexus series, my next phone with wireless charging was the Nexus 4 in 2013, which really was a beautiful device with an amazing glass back that shimmered in the light…it was lovely. On the Nexus 4, the wireless charging conformed to the Qi standard which was already looking to be the frontrunner in the wireless charging wars. To keep the Nexus 4 charged, I bought a Zens wireless charger and was sent a Mugenizer N11 wireless charging battery pack to review. The old reviews are still up on GNC for your enjoyment. Both chargers supported the Qi standard by Wireless Power Consortium. Apparently Qi is pronounced “chee” and comes from the Chinese word that translates as “air” and figuratively as “material energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow” (Wikipedia).

Sadly, after three affordable Nexus devices, Google went all up market with the Nexus 5 and I jumped ship to OnePlus who had this strange invite-only sales strategy for their new One smartphone, but, hey, it worked.

I’ve been a OnePlus owner ever since then, but I’ve had to wait over five years for OnePlus to build wireless charging into the new 8 Pro. Being OnePlus, the 8 Pro has its own fast charging standard, but it still supports the underlying Qi standard. As a result, and somewhat amazingly, the Qi chargers from 2013 for the Nexus 4 still work.. Yes, their power output of 5 W is significantly less than the 30 W the OnePlus can take, but if I’m dropping the 8 Pro on the Zens pad for an overnight charge it doesn’t really matter.

Too often technology becomes obsolete in a few years so it’s encouraging to see that wireless chargers from six or seven years ago still work, and all credit should go to the Wireless Power Consortium and the Qi standard.

HBO Max Won’t Work on Roku or Amazon

HBO Max, HBO’s new streaming service, has debuted. You can start your free seven-day trial right through the HBO Max website if you are a new HBO customer. Once the free trial ends, the service costs $14.99 a month.

Those who currently subscribe to HBO may already have access to HBO Max. You can check to see if your provider is among the ones listed on the HBO Max website. If so, your HBO NOW app should automatically update (if you have automatic updates turned on).

One thing to keep in mind is that those whose streaming service of choice is either Amazon or Roku are out of luck. Neither of them are supported by HBO Max.

Why not? According to CNET, HBO’s parent company, AT&T, has not yet reached an agreement with Roku or Amazon. Those who have the HBO Go or HBO Now app on their Roku or Fire TV will have a problem if their HBO subscription was upgraded to HBO Max. These customers won’t be able to watch HBO Max on there.

That said, there are a wide variety of supported devices that can get HBO Max:

  • Android phones and tablets (with Android OS 5+)
  • Android TV (OS 5+)
  • Apple TV (4th gen and later)
  • Chromebooks
  • Chromecast
  • iPhone, iPad and iPad touch (with iOS 12.2+)
  • PC and Mac computers
  • PlayStation 4
  • Samsung TV (2016+)
  • Xbox One

Facebook Executives Dismissed Efforts to Make the Site Less Divisive

The Wall Street Journal has a very detailed article that examines why Facebook is such a toxic place to visit. Several efforts were made internally to make Facebook less divisive, but executives shut down or weakened those efforts.

Facebook had kicked off an internal effort to understand how its platform shaped user behavior and how the company might address potential harms. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg had in public and private expressed concern about “sensationalism and polarization.”

But in the end, Facebook’s interest was fleeting. Mr. Zuckerberg and other senior executives largely shelved the basic research, according to previously unreported internal document and people familiar with the effort, and weakened or blocked efforts to apply its conclusions to Facebook products.

Years ago, I quit using Facebook because it was making me irritated and unhappy. My relatives, most of whom do not share the same political views that I do, suddenly all seemed to feel the need to post angry and hurtful political posts. It was right around the 2016 U.S. presidential election between Barack Obama (Democrat) and Mitt Romney (Republican). Based on the information in The Wall Street Journal article, it appears that divisiveness was seen by Facebook as a “feature”, not a “bug”.

A 2018 presentation pointed out that Facebook’s algorithms “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness”. The presenter warned that if left unchecked, Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & time on the platform.” It appears that observation was ignored.

A Common Ground team proposed that conversations in groups, that had been derailed by hot-button issues, could be salvaged if a moderator moved that argument to a temporary subgroup. Another option was to tweak recommendation algorithms to suggest a wider range of Facebook groups than people would ordinarily encounter. Those ideas were not implemented.

An idea called “Sparing Sharing” would have reduced the spread of content disproportionately favored by “hyperactive users”. Its effects would be heaviest on content favored by users on the far-right and far-left. It would have given middle-of-the-road users more influence. It was dismissed because executives insisted the change would harm Girl Scouts who were trying to sell cookies.

Twitter Added Fact-Check to Trump’s Tweets for the First Time

Twitter has done something that I never thought they would actually do. They corrected the misinformation in two of President Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, this is the first time Twitter has labeled Trump’s tweets with a fact-check.

CNN, which does not require a subscription in order to read things posted on their website, wrote the following:

On Tuesday, Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message that the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

The two tweets posted by President Trump that contained misinformation about mail-in ballots have been marked by Twitter with blue text underneath each tweet. The blue text starts with an exclamation point inside a circle. It says: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”. Clicking on that link leads to a fact-checked curation of information that debunks the misinformation that was posted by the President.

Personally, I think Twitter made the right decision on adding the fact-check link to those two tweets. Doing so follows Twitter’s policy regarding “rule breaking tweets of public officials”. The policy states that when a tweet has a notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter. The tweets will no longer appear in: Safe search, Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, Live event pages, Recommended Tweet push notifications, Notifications tab, or Explore.

If nothing else, Twitter’s decision to post a fact-check label on two of President Trump’s tweets sets a precedent. Twitter can do this again, if need be.

Life In and After Lockdown

Although many of us still remain in lockdown, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a number of countries now easing the restrictions. Painful as it has been for many, it’s also been positive in several respects. I spend more time with my children, there’s no hour long commute and I’ve been taking walks every day. Well, nearly every day…

And it looks like I’m not alone. LG Electronics commissioned research in UK to mark the launch of its latest portable and lightweight laptop range, LG gram, and found that

  • Just over a half of those questioned plan to continue with new habits like listening to podcasts, online fitness classes and regular walking once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Two-fifths feel these new habits are better for their wellbeing.
  • More than one in four have found it easier to relax and keep a better routine.

Video calls have become a way of life and the main way to keep in touch with friends and family. In addition to calling for a chat, 25% have celebrated a birthday, 20% have taken part in a pub quiz and 7% have been to a stag or hen do. Frankly, I’d be asking for a do-over when things are more normal…

The study showed that the average person was spending nearly three hours per week on video calls, with half the nation (48%) expecting to continue with video calls after the lock down is finished. I guess what this shows was how much people felt that video calls were either unnecessary or difficult to do, but once people saw how easy the calls were and got past the initial awkwardness, it’s become ordinary. Thanks Zoom.

The poll of 2,000 conducted by OnePoll showed how integral technology is to our lives with laptops (54%), TV (57%) and mobile phones (64%) playing a key role for work and entertainment during the lockdown, allowing us to continue watching our favourite TV shows (51%), follow at-home workouts (19%), and learn a new skill or language (16%). If you include becoming a home school teacher as “learning a new skill”, then it’s three out of three for me.

When it comes to working-from-home this is where I think we will see lasting change. After experiencing working-from-home many will not want to return to long commutes in crowded trains or long traffic jams with the commensurate savings in fares or fuel. A quarter of the people (25%) questioned agreed that they planned on working from home more often after offices reopen. When asked what their ideal space to work from would be in the future, home was the most popular answer (30%) followed by a fixed office (23%) and then outside space (9%).

Hanju Kim, IT Product Director, LG UK said: “It’s both encouraging and uplifting to see some of the positive things coming out of this challenging period. The fact that many people are forming productive and healthy new habits is testament to the nation’s ability to adjust. The nation is working from home and has an appetite to continue working flexibly even after offices reopen. A big part of this can be attributed to technology keeping us connected.

And so to the product launch….the 2020 range of LG gram laptops is available in the UK now coming in 14” (from £1,199.99), 15” (from £1,299.99) and 17” (from £1,449.99) sizes, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core processor with Iris Plus graphics and up to 24GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory. With the 14” model weighing under 1 kg and the 15” & 17” models allowing up to 17 hours of battery life, the 2020 range sets a new standard for portable computing. Available from all good UK retailers – Amazon, PC World, Argos and Costco.

Fortnite Teams Up With OnePlus 8

Battle Royale remains a tremendously popular segment of mobile gaming but these fast-paced action games need speedy systems to make them shine. Consequently, it’s no great surprise that OnePlus has partnered with Epic Games to create a new mobile experience for owners of the OnePlus 8 series of phones when it comes to playing Fortnite.

With the rollout currently underway, OnePlus 8 series devices are the first smartphones able to run Fortnite on the Unreal Engine at 90 fps, which is the fastest frame rate ever available for Fortnite on a smartphone and faster than some consoles can manage.

OnePlus and Epic Games have created one of the best Fortnite experiences ever on a smartphone. The OnePlus 8 Series delivers a smooth, high framerate Fortnite gameplay experience – that even current generation console game systems can’t match,” said Pete Lau, Founder & CEO of OnePlus. “OnePlus creates the best devices for mobile gaming through our industry leading display, speedy performance, and overall user experience designed with power-users in mind.

And this isn’t just about making the app “run a bit faster”. It took months of development to bring 90 fps to the OnePlus 8 phones even with the Snapdragon 865 and FluidDisplay. To make life easier for users, Fortnite will be made available through OnePlus’ “Game Space” application for a one-touch easy installation of the Epic Games app.

The rollout is starting in India with world-wide availability soon.

Owners of previous generation OnePlus 7 and 7T series phones will still be able to play Fortnite but sadly only at 60 fps. My personal experience is that even at 60 fps, the OnePlus phones play these games pretty well.