Category Archives: Software

Privacy: Why you should stop using Google Chrome browser

I use Firefox (mostly) or Brave. I use Google Chrome only to check GMail (no longer my primary email) occasionally to avoid logging in to Google services while online with the other browsers. I have done everything I can to minimize use of Google services.

As well as collecting your data, Chrome also gives Google a huge amount of control over how the web works

Source: It’s time to ditch Chrome | WIRED UK

Every time Google was caught making a privacy mistake, their errors were on the side of scooping up way too much. Google’s street view cars, driving all roads in the world, were scooping up all Wi-Fi traffic including unencrypted transmissions. When caught, Google said it was due to a software error. Which is unbelievable as it meant they were collecting terabytes of excess data and pretended no one had noticed this.

Google, contrary to their original stated purposes, is evil.

Google forces you to reveal age

I logged into Google today and they forced me to provide a date of birth. They then prompted to confirm my age.

They claim they need this to comply with the law.

They also say it is used for their dossier for “ad purposes”. Supposedly the use of this for ad purposes can be turned off.

Presumably one can also lie and give a fake date – although I assume that at some future date they will prompt you to enter your age again to confirm account access. Thus, you’d need to keep a log of what date you provide to Google.

Unfortunately, we cannot trust Google with any personal information.

Bill Gates’ reputation hit hard by revelations

In a divorce filing, Melinda said their relationship was “irretrievably broken”. The question now is whether Bill’s reputation is, too.

Source: Bill Gates’s carefully curated dad-geek image unravels – TechCentral

Disclosure – I worked for Microsoft in product development in the 1990s. I have generally admired Gates – and could share stories from inside that showed he was often more in touch with real people than would be expected. However, recent disclosures and accusations about his personal behavior have been unsettling. Also, his hypocrisy on climate changes issues is obvious.

You can tow advertising banners in MS Flight Simulator with the Cessna 152

there’s now a freeware mod for MSFS that ads a banner tow to the Cessna 152. That’s right, you can now fly your own banners wherever and however you want. We can already think of a bunch of cool ideas (YouTubers will certainly love this!), and for sure people will start to come up with a wide variety of use cases for it.

Source: You can now tow advertising banners in Flight Simulator with your Cessna 152 – MSFS Addons

Twitter’s Photo Crop Algorithm Favors White Women

Twitter’s automatic cropping feature was supposed to automatically crop photos around the people in view.

Turns out that it overwhelmingly favors white women over everyone else.

When researchers fed a picture of a Black man and a white woman into the system, the algorithm chose to display the white woman 64 percent of the time and the Black man only 36 percent of the time, the largest gap for any demographic groups included in the analysis. For images of a white woman and a white man, the algorithm displayed the woman 62 percent of the time. For images of a white woman and a Black woman, the algorithm displayed the white woman 57 percent of the time.

Source: Twitter’s Photo Crop Algorithm Favors White Faces and Women | WIRED

AI-based systems do this a lot with photos. Meanwhile, billionaire owned social media applies the same AI-based techniques to text to find “misinformation”. Undoubtedly, those methods are also biased but we  pretend otherwise.

AI-based systems are primarily based on pattern matching and machine learning. They train the pattern matching network by feeding it large amounts of data (photos or text, for example) and use the system to identify patterns. However, the “clues” that drive the pattern match may not be correct. For example, one photo processing system identified animals, sort of, in pictures. But the pattern matching was that pictures of wolves had a snow background – and most animals having a snow background became classified as wolves. In other words, the salient characteristics were incorrect, but that is how basic machine learning works.

Security: “Scheme Flooding Allows User Tracking Across Browsers”

A flaw that allows browsers to enumerate applications on a machine threatens cross-browser anonymity in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari and even Tor.

A security researcher has discovered a vulnerability that allows websites to track users across a number of different desktop browsers — including Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Tor — posing a threat to cross-browser anonymity.Called “scheme flooding,” the flaw “allows websites to identify users reliably across different desktop browsers and link their identities together,” Konstantin Darutkin, a researcher and developer at FingerprintJS, said in a blog post published Thursday. FingerprintJS is the publisher of a well-known browser-fingerprinting API.

Source: Scheme Flooding Allows User Tracking Across Browsers | Threatpost

Ugly: “Bill Gates Was Investigated by Microsoft Directors for Relationship: DJ – Bloomberg”

Disappointed in BillG for what this is starting to look like:

Microsoft Corp.’s directors started a probe into Bill Gates’s alleged involvement with a female employee that was deemed inappropriate and decided that the co-founder had to step down from the board last year, Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Source: Bill Gates Was Investigated by Microsoft Directors for Relationship: DJ – Bloomberg

Disclosure: I worked for Microsoft in the 1990s, met BillG on several occasions, and carpooled to work with someone whose manager was Melinda French.

Stop Calling Everything AI, Machine-Learning Pioneer Says – IEEE Spectrum

This is true – with a reminder that even as a brain injured idiot, I am a retired computer engineer and computer scientist:

Artificial-intelligence systems are nowhere near advanced enough to replace humans in many tasks involving reasoning, real-world knowledge, and social interaction. They are showing human-level competence in low-level pattern recognition skills, but at the cognitive level they are merely imitating human intelligence, not engaging deeply and creatively, says Michael I. Jordan, a leading researcher in AI and machine learning.

Source: Stop Calling Everything AI, Machine-Learning Pioneer Says – IEEE Spectrum

Much of our “AI” mimics some human behaviors while much more is sheer computational horsepower enabling us to create models with complex weighted input mappings which we refer to as “machine learning”. This is all good but its not the AI that many people think of when they hear the term.

And this is actually quite cool:

He says he believes that developments in machine learning reflect the emergence of a new field of engineering. He draws parallels to the emergence of chemical engineering in the early 1900s from foundations in chemistry and fluid mechanics, noting that machine learning builds on decades of progress in computer science, statistics, and control theory. Moreover, he says, it is the first engineering field that is humancentric, focused on the interface between people and technology.

U.S. Supreme Court rules: Oracle loses its Java copyright case against Google

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the majority opinion in the case, agreed that Google’s use of the code was protected under fair use, noting that Google took “only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.”

“To the extent that Google used parts of the Sun Java API to create a new platform that could be readily used by programmers, its use was consistent with that creative ‘progress’ that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself,” Breyer added.

Source: Supreme Court rules in Google’s favor in copyright dispute with Oracle over Android software