Anyone who has ever visited England’s Lake District in the height of summer will know from bitter experience how the roads can become clogged with cars as travelers from around the world explore one of the country’s most beautiful national parks.
The operator of the park recently tested an electric-powered driverless pod as part of a pilot program to gain public feedback on how it feels to use the technology. The aim is to explore the possibility of integrating the autonomous pods in the local transportation system to help cut pollution and ease congestion on the park’s busy roads.
Developed by Westfield Technology Group, the diminutive vehicle uses sensors and cameras to detect road conditions and obstacles as it transports up to four people along designated routes.
It’s hoped the pods could be useful for last-mile journeys inside the park, for example, from the station to the hotel, or from the hotel to the top of a valley to start a hike.
“We’re constantly looking at new ways to balance the needs and enjoyment of people as they visit and move around the Lake District, whilst being mindful of the impact on the environment,” Richard Leafe, chief executive at the Lake District National Park, said in a release.
Leafe added: “Driverless pods are a really interesting concept and while this is not necessarily something that will be seen on the Lake District streets soon, it’s vital we explore a range of solutions for sustainable travel. We’re excited to see the pods in action this week and to hear from the public on whether they would use this type of transport in the Lake District.”
Julian Turner, boss of Westfield Technology Group, said his firm was using the Lake District project to identify “possible routes for the pod and talking to the local community about how we could meet their transport needs.” He added that the collaborative effort “will allow us to create a sustainable and accessible transport mode for journeys in the future.”
The feasibility study will run until June with the results helping the park to decide if this type of transport would suit the Lake District and be a good fit for those who live and visit there.
Similarly designed pods are already transporting passengers around Heathrow Airport, and have also been tested in parts of London, but it seems this is the first time the vehicle has been taken onto roads in the countryside.
MPs’ frustrations grow as new evidence in America reopens the issue of Kremlin influence
Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, was the second executive Facebook offered up to answer questions from parliament’s select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
He took his place in the hot seat in the wake of the first attendee, Simon Milner, Facebook’s (now ex-) head of policy for Europe, who answered a series of questions about Cambridge Analytica’s non-use of Facebook data that came back to haunt the company in the furore that followed the Observer and New York Times revelations from Christopher Wylie.
Schroepfer is Facebook’s nerd-in-chief. He was the tech guy sent to answer a series of questions from MPs about how his platform had facilitated what appeared to be a wholesale assault on Britain’s democracy, and though there was much he couldn’t answer, when he was asked about spending by Russian entities directed at British voters before the referendum, he spoke confidently: “We did look several times at the connections between the IRA [the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency] … and the EU referendum and we found $1 of spend. We found almost nothing.”
But new evidence released by the United States Congress suggests adverts were targeted at UK Facebook users, and paid for in roubles, in the months preceding the short 10-week period “regulated” by the Electoral Commission but when the long campaigns were already under way.
Damian Collins, the chair of the DCMS committee, said: “We asked them to look for evidence of Russian influence and they came back and told us something we now know appears misleading. And we’re still waiting for answers to 40 questions that Mike Schroepfer was unable to answer, including if they have any record of any dark ads.
“It could be that these adverts are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just so hard getting any sort of information out of them, and then not knowing if that information is complete.”
Preliminary research undertaken by Twitter user Brexitshambles suggests anti-immigrant adverts were targeted at Facebook users in the UK and the US.
One – headlined “You’re not the only one to despise immigration”, which cost 4,884 roubles (£58) and received 4,055 views – was placed in January 2016. Another, which accused immigrants of stealing jobs, cost 5,514 roubles and received 14,396 impressions. Organic reach can mean such adverts are seen by a wider audience.
Facebook says that it only looked for adverts shown during the officially regulated campaign period. A spokesperson said: “The release of the set of IRA adverts confirms the position we shared with the Electoral Commission and DCMS committee. We did not find evidence of any significant, coordinated activity by the IRA operatives directed towards the Brexit referendum.
“This is supported by the release of this data set which shows a significant amount of activity by the IRA with only a handful of their ads listing the UK as a possible audience.”
Collins said that the committee was becoming increasingly frustrated by Facebook’s reluctance to answer questions and by founder Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing refusal to come to the UK to testify.
Milner told the committee in February that Cambridge Analytica had no Facebook data and could not have got data from Facebook.
The news reinforces MPs’ frustrations with a system that last week many of them were describing as “broken”. On Friday, 15 months after the first Observer article that triggered the Electoral Commission’s investigation into Leave.EU was published, it found the campaign – funded by Arron Banks and endorsed by Nigel Farage – guilty of multiple breaches of electoral law and referred the “responsible person” – its chief executive, Liz Bilney – to the police.
Banks described the commission’s report as a “politically motivated attack on Brexit”.
Leading academics and MPs called the delay in referring the matter to the police “catastrophic”, with others saying British democracy had failed. Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow digital minister, described the current situation as “akin to the situation with rotten boroughs” in the 19th century. “It’s at that level. What we’re seeing is a wholesale failure of the entire system. We have 20th-century bodies fighting a 21st-century challenge to our democracy. It’s totally lamentable.”
The big picture here is it’s possible for an individual or group with lots of money to change the course of history
Damian Tambini, LSE
Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, said it was unacceptable that the Electoral Commission had still not referred the evidence about Vote Leave from Christopher Wylie and Shahmir Sanni – published in the Observer and submitted to the Electoral Commission – to the police. He said: “What they seem to have done, and are continuing to do, is to kick this into the long grass. There seems to be political pressure to kick this down the road until Britain has exited the EU.”
He accused the commission of ignoring what he considered key evidence, including about Cambridge Analytica. The commission had found Leave.EU guilty of not declaring work done by its referendum strategist, Goddard Gunster, but said it had found no evidence of work done by Cambridge Analytica.
“The whole thing stinks,” Kinnock said. “I wrote to the commission with evidence that the value of work carried out by Cambridge Analytica was around £800,000. The glib way it dismissed the multiple pieces of evidence about the company was extraordinary. I just think it is absolutely not fit for purpose.”
Gavin Millar QC, a leading expert in electoral law at Matrix Chambers, said: “Our entire democratic system is vulnerable and wide open to attack. If we allow this kind of money into campaigning on national basis – and the referendum was the paradigm for this – you have to have an organisation with teeth to police it.”
Damian Tambini, director of research in the department of media and communications at the London School of Economics, described the whole system as broken and said there was not a single investigatory body that seemed capable of uncovering the truth. “The DCMS Select Committee has found itself in this extraordinary position of, in effect, leading this investigation because it at least has the power to compel witnesses and evidence – something the Electoral Commission can’t do. It’s the classic British solution of muddling through.
“The big picture here is it’s possible for an individual or group with lots of money and some expertise to change the course of history and buy an election outcome. And with our regulatory system, we’ll never know if it’s happened.”
• This article was amended on 13 May 2018 to clarify that a remark from Damian Tambini referred to the DCMS Select Committee.
Company also to hire 6,000 new staff in cyber security and customer service
BT is planning to cut jobs by 13,000 over the next three years - more than had been rumoured only last week - as it looks to cut annual running costs by £1.5 billion. It will also sell-up its London headquarters on Newgate Street in the City and relocate to a cheaper location.
The announcement today coincided with the unveiling of the company's annual results for the year to the end of March, which revealed revenue down by one per cent for the year, but by three per cent for the final quarter.
At the same time, though, the company said it would hire about 6,000 front-line engineers, customer service and cyber security specialists.
BT said the job losses would come mainly from back office and middle management roles, with around two-thirds of the job cuts set to fall on the company's 80,000-strong UK workforce, with the remainder coming from the 18,000 staff it employs internationally.
"Decisions like this are not easy, we recognise that it is going to affect a lot of people but ultimately we need to do these things to ensure that we remain a competitive business going forward and that we can benchmark our performance against peer companies," said BT CEO Gavin Patterson.
He added that it was the "right thing for the business" and would help take BT "into its next chapter".
The company is also planning to move out of its London headquarters in St Paul's, where the company has been based since 1874. The company will continue to maintain a "smaller presence" in London at a yet to be decided location.
It is also committed to closing the yawning £11.3 billion deficit in the corporate pension fund, with payments of £2.1 billion over the three years to 31 March 2020, together with a £2 billion contribution that will be funded by a bond issue.
In response to the cull, Philippa Childs, the general secretary of the Prospect union, said: "The scale of these jobs cuts is higher than had been previously speculated on and come as a devastating blow to managers and professionals represented by Prospect.
"Many of the roles that BT is proposing to cut are highly skilled professionals and the loss of that expertise could impact BT's research and innovation capability."
Notifications driving you crazy in Windows 10? Here's how to manage them better
Notifications are the heart and soul of the Action Center in Windows 10, but receiving a barrage of notifications isn’t always welcome. That’s especially true if you have multiple apps pushing out notifications every time anything happens. The good news is you can easily turn notifications on and off in Windows 10 Settings, so long as you’ve already received a notification from it.
Here’s a quick rundown on how disable notifications for any installed app, as well as how to control the types of notifications you see.
Turn off notifications
Step 1: To add, disable, or enable notifications, begin by clicking the Action Center icon located on the right-hand side of the Windows taskbar.
Step 2: Then, click the All Settings button with the gear icon
Step 3: Select Systemin the top-left corner of the window.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Step 4: In “System,” click “Notifications & Actions” from the left-hand menu. This will take you to a screen providing access to all of the settings related to notifications and the Action Center.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Step 5: Look for the Notifications subhead, where you will see a number of toggles for various types of notifications. The following is a list of the settings you can toggle on this screen:
Get notifications from apps and other senders.
Show notifications on the lock screen.
Show alarms, reminders, and incoming VoIP calls on the lock screen.
Hide notifications when duplicating my screen.
Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.
Turn them off as you need! If you don’t want any, just make sure they are all toggled off. Again, you’ll need to install the particular app you want to view notifications for if it’s not already built into your system, and you can receive a notification first before an app will show up in the list.
Bonus tip: How to dismiss notifications
Notifications are a phenomenal tool for keeping up with the hustle and bustle of our digital lives. However, an excess of notifications — especially ones you’ve previously seen — can clutter the Action Center and prevent you from seeing important notifications as they arrive.
To dismiss individual notifications, click the Action Center icon located on the right-hand side of the Windows taskbar and mouse over the notification that you’d like to dismiss. Then, click the “X” button directly to the right of the notification. You can also swipe a notification to the right to dismiss it quickly with either touch or by clicking and dragging with the mouse.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
You can dismiss all of the notifications for a given app by clicking on the “X” button to the right of the app group listing. You can also click “Clear all” to close every notification for all apps.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Note: Microsoft continues to integrate Windows 10 across all devices connected to the same Microsoft account. In the spirit of being better connected, Windows 10 notifications will dismiss on other Windows devices when you dismiss them in the Action Center on your desktop.
In-depth: How to customize notifications for each app
In Windows 10, you can choose to view or hear a combination of banner notifications — which consist of a pop-up in the lower-right corner of your display — and sounds. You can also configure various apps to only show notifications within the Action Center, with no other indication on arrival. A number of notification options are available for each app that supports them.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
To access these settings, open the Notifications section of Settings, as before. Scroll down and click the name of the particular app you want to adjust the notifications for, to access a more advanced notification menu. Then, simply toggle on and off whichever preferences you choose, whether you want to receive banner notifications, sounds, or neither. Here are the settings you can configure for most app’s notifications:
Turn notifications on or off.
Turn notification banners — the boxes that show up for each notification and then disappear — on or off.
Determine whether to keep notifications private on the lock screen.
Turn notifications on or off in the Action Center.
Determine whether a sound plays for that app’s notifications.
Indicate how many notifications are visible in the Action Center before the drop-down “show more” menu appears, either one, three, five, 10, or 20 notifications.
Determine the priority of notifications, allowing an app’s notifications to show up on top of other less important app notifications.
We work with lots of different organisations; from retail outlets to sprawling office blocks.
Oh, and schools – we look after LOTS of schools.
And I was visiting one of them earlier this week, during the heatwave.
IT support doesn’t exactly lend itself to hot weather – getting under desks and hauling cables around can be hard enough work in itself, without having to contend with 20+ degree heat.
But there was a significant saving grace on my latest visit – a lot of the work I needed to do could be done within the server room.
And guess what? The server room has air conditioning!
So whilst the teachers, support staff and kids were sweating buckets, I was – literally – chilling in the server room.
Once I’d emerged and the job was complete, it was clear that I hadn’t been in the clammy, sweaty environment that everyone else had, and it got me thinking: maybe there’s a side business selling time in the server room.
What would you pay for 15 minutes?! I bet I would have had some takers over the weekend.
In all seriousness, keeping your equipment cool is key to keeping it working, so if you’re not sure how to do that in the heat, hit reply and I’ll give you a few pointers.
P.S. Lets hope the heatwave isn’t the only summer we’re getting this year!
Imagine a version of the kind of duct tape dispenser you can buy from your local home Home Depot or white-out tape used for correcting a writing error — only instead of rolling out pieces of tape or white-out material it can produce a sheet of skin tissue to cover a wound. That may sound a couple of phasers away from being a Star Trek gadget, but it’s a very real piece of research coming out of the University of Toronto. Engineers there have developed a 3D skin printer that can apparently, “[form] tissue in situ, depositing and setting in place, within two minutes or less.”
According to its creators, the device could serve as a future alternative to regular skin grafts. However, instead of first requiring that a patient has healthy skin removed to be grafted elsewhere, this device can roll out a new layer of “bio ink”-based, 3D-printed skin tissue onto the areas that are required.
Unlike existing bulky bioprinters, this device is portable and weighs just over 2 pounds. Wounds could be patched up in the space of just a few minutes, and the gadget requires very little training to use. While it has yet to be tested out on humans, it has already been shown to function when patching up both rats’ and pigs’ wounds.
“In collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke from the Ross-Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital, we for now focus on burn injuries,” Axel Guenther, an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, told Digital Trends. “The handheld instrument may ultimately allow engineered skin tissues to be prepared that are wound and patient specific.”
At present, Guenther said that the team responsible for the device is busy conducting wound-healing experiments to benchmark their approach against established alternatives. Going forward, he said that the researchers are interested in commercializing the technology, and are working to develop it to this stage.
Our lives seem to depend more on our phones and less on our computers every day, and that has left Microsoft in a bit of an awkward position for the past few years. Without a hand to play in the phone business, the company has had to just go on pretending its users don’t also own devices like iPads, Android phones, and MacBook Pros.
But at its opening keynote at Microsoft Build on Tuesday, the company was ready to move forward with a new vision for how it could stay relevant in the mobile world. The strategy isn’t a new phone — it’s just an acknowledgement that people who use Windows PCs also rely on other devices throughout the day. The good news? When a company like Microsoft decides to play nice with others, it always turns out to be a good thing for us.
A NEW KIND OF MICROSOFT
“In a single day, you’re using multiple devices, you’re at multiple locations working with multiple people, and interacting using multiple senses,” said CEO Satya Nadella at the opening keynote at Build. “That’s the world we already live in. We need an operating system, we need a platform, that abstracts the hardware at that level — that creates an app model at that level. Single devices remain important, and will remain important. But this meta-orchestration is what we need to do. We need to up-level even our concept of what an operating system is. That’s what Microsoft 365 does.”
Microsoft is officially playing ball with Amazon.
Microsoft 365 is the company’s new integrated, cloud service that transforms its conventional services and applications into platforms that are ready for any device, regardless of which company happens to make it. It’s a strategy that lays in stark contrast to the Microsoft of old, which fought hard to protect its prized services within the bounds of Windows devices.
“The applications themselves are going to be multi-device,” said Nadella. “In fact, at this conference, you’re going to see how we’re taking the Windows shell and using essentially the same set of APIs in Microsoft Graph to extend the shell.”
That means Windows and its application catalog available on every device possible. One of the strongest demonstrations of this was Nadella’s vision of digital assistants. With the proliferation of Amazon’s Alexa assistant across every device imaginable, including Windows PCs, Microsoft is officially playing ball with Amazon. Nadella even went to the extent of bringing an Amazon executive out on stage to demonstrate how Alexa and Cortana (clumsily) work hand-in-hand.
“We want to make it possible for our customers to be able to get the most out of their digital assistants, not to be bound by some single walled garden.”
The idea of partnering competing digital assistants might seem silly at first, but it’s a great example of Microsoft swallowing its pride and being willing to work with competitive companies for the benefit of all of us.
“It puts people at the center versus devices at the center.”
Devices that don’t talk to each other (or even acknowledge that others exist) are a problem that a lot people deal with every day. They work all day on a Windows PC, but it’s a completely disconnected experience from the rest of their digital lives, which include iPhones, Echo Dots, and Google Calendars. Very few of us want to (or even can) live in the idyllic ecosystems these companies often design products for, though very few of these companies are willing to drop its guard for the sake of people’s overall experience.
“It puts people at the center versus devices at the center,” Nadella claimed.
Compared to the failed attempts of Windows 8 or Windows Mobile, Microsoft 365 is definitely a safer bet for Microsoft. The good part is that this time, it could actually help solve a problem rather than exacerbate it.
Facebook has helped introduce thousands of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) extremists to one another, via its 'suggested friends' feature, it can be revealed.
The social media giant - which is already under fire for failing to remove terrorist material from its platform - is now accused of actively connecting jihadists around the world, allowing them to develop fresh terror networks and even recruit new members to their cause.
Researchers, who analysed the Facebook activities of a thousand Isil supporters in 96 countries, discovered users with radical Islamist sympathies were routinely introduced to one another through the popular 'suggested friends' feature.
Using sophisticated algorithms, Facebook is designed to connect people who share common interests.
The site automatically collects a vast amount of personal information about its users, which is then used to target advertisements and also direct people towards others on the network they might wish to connect with.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has used social media for propaganda purposes
The extent to which the ‘suggested friend’ feature is helping Isil members on Facebook is highlighted in a new study, the findings of which will be published later this month in an extensive report by the Counter Extremism Project a non profit that has called on tech companies to do more to remove known extremist and terrorist material online.
Gregory Waters, one of the authors of the report, described how he was bombarded by suggestions for pro-Isil friends, after making contact with one active extremist on the site.
Even more concerning was the response his fellow researcher, Robert Postings, got when he clicked on several non-extremist news pages about an Islamist uprising in the Philippines.
Within hours he had been inundated with friend suggestions for dozens of extremists based in that region.
Mr Postings said: "Facebook, in their desire to connect as many people as possible have inadvertently created a system which helps connect extremists and terrorists.”
In one example uncovered by the researchers, an Indonesian Isil supporter sent a friend request to a non-Muslim user in New York in March 2017.
During the initial exchange the American user explained that he was not religious , but had an interest in Islam.
Over the following weeks and months the Indonesian user began sending increasingly radical messages and links including pro-Isil propaganda, all of which were liked by his target.
Mr Postings said: “Over a period of six months the [US based user] went from having no clear religion to becoming a radicalised Muslim supporting Isil.”
The study also examined the extent to which Facebook was failing to tackle terrorist material on its site.
Of the 1,000 Isil supporting profiles examined by researchers, less than half of the accounts had been suspended by Facebook six months later.
Mr Posting said: "Removing profiles that disseminate IS propaganda, calls for attacks and otherwise support the group is important...the fact that the majority of pro-IS profiles in this database have gone unremoved by Facebook is exceptionally concerning."
Even when terrorist material was identified and the offending posts removed, the user was often allowed to remain on the site.
In one case a British terror suspect had his Facebook account reinstated nine times after complaining, despite being accused of having posted sick Isil propaganda videos.
Mr Waters said: "This project has laid bare Facebook's inability or unwillingness to efficiently address extremist content on their site.
"The failure to effectively police its platform has allowed Facebook to become a place where extensive IS supporting networks exist, propaganda is disseminated people are radicalised and new supporters are recruited."
Mr Postings added: “Even when profiles or content is removed, it is not always done fast enough, allowing Isil content to be to be widely share and viewed before getting removed.”
Mr Waters said: “The fact that Facebook's own recommended friends algorithm is directly facilitating the spread of this terrorist group on its site is beyond unacceptable."
Simon Hart, a Conservative MP who sits on Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, said: "The idea that Facebook is inadvertently providing an introduction service for terrorists is quite extraordinary. It is another terrifying example of the unintended consequences of this sort of technology.
"If you design a system for one thing and it becomes another it is hard to police.
"Nobody will have set out to provide a network for terrorists to connect, but the important thing is how Facebook responds now this matter has been raised with them."
A spokesman for Facebook said: "There is no place for terrorists on Facebook. We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism.
"Our approach is working – 99 per cent of ISIS and Al Qaeda-related content we remove is found by our automated systems. But there is no easy technical fix to fight online extremism.
"We have and will continue to invest millions of pounds in both people and technology to identify and remove terrorist content."
The removal of the videos follows a BBC investigation published earlier last week that reported the existence of more than 250 YouTube channels containing paid promotions for EduBirdie. Among the channels promoting the service were influencers like Adam Saleh and the gamer JMX, both of whom have millions of subscribers.
EduBirdie, which describes itself as "the professional essay writing service for students who can't even," charges students a fee starting at $18 per page for each assignment. Sam Gyimah, the Universities Minister for England, told the BBC that the site is "clearly wrong because it is enabling and normalizing cheating potentially on an industrial scale."
Multiple YouTubers said their videos were sponsored by EduBirdie, meaning they were paid to promote a service that encourages academic cheating. As the BBC points out, it isn't illegal to promote academic cheating, but if the student is found out, it can incur penalties and academic discipline.
The paid promotions for EduBirdie violate YouTube's Academic Aid policy, which states that "Advertising is not permitted for academic aids." The site's Academic Aid policy includes academic paper-writing services "providing customized/prewritten theses [and] dissertations."