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Archivos mensuales:febrero 2020

Private Internet Access VPN (for macOS)

Private Internet Access graces macOS with a snazzy client, robust service, and smattering of advanced features that make it good value.
Source: PC MAG

ADATA XPG Battlecruiser

With a near-perfect design and feature set, ADATA’s heavy-on-the-glass XPG Battlecruiser is an excellent ATX midtower case from a new player in the chassis game.
Source: PC MAG

36 Best Presidents' Day Sales (2020): Mattresses, Kitchenware, Tech

We found the best tech bargains for the long holiday weekend from Apple, Amazon, Fitbit, and more.
Source: Wired

A Car ‘Splatometer’ Study Finds Huge Insect Die-Off

Measuring how many bugs fly into car windshields might sound silly. But to scientists predicting an “insect apocalypse,” the numbers are deadly serious. 
Source: Wired

Fortnite Chapter 2 season 2 ARG asks what is the Agency – CNET

A new season is coming, and it’s about time.
Source: CNET

Facebook pushes EU for dilute and fuzzy internet content rules

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in Europe this week — attending a security conference in Germany over the weekend where he spoke about the kind of regulation he’d like applied to his platform ahead of a slate of planned meetings with digital heavyweights at the European Commission.

“I do think that there should be regulation on harmful content,” said Zuckerberg during a Q&A session at the Munich Security Conference, per Reuters, making a pitch for bespoke regulation.

He went on to suggest “there’s a question about which framework you use”, telling delegates: “Right now there are two frameworks that I think people have for existing industries — there’s like newspapers and existing media, and then there’s the telco-type model, which is ‘the data just flows through you’, but you’re not going to hold a telco responsible if someone says something harmful on a phone line.”

“I actually think where we should be is somewhere in between,” he added, making his plea for Internet platforms to be a special case.

At the conference he also said Facebook now employs 35,000 people to review content on its platform and implement security measures — including suspending around 1 million fake accounts per day, a stat he professed himself “proud” of.

The Facebook chief is due to meet with key commissioners covering the digital sphere this week, including competition chief and digital EVP Margrethe Vestager, internal market commissioner Thierry Breton and Věra Jourová, who is leading policymaking around online disinformation.

The timing of his trip is clearly linked to digital policymaking in Brussels — with the Commission due to set out its thinking around the regulation of artificial intelligence this week. (A leaked draft last month suggested policymaker are eyeing risk-based rules to wrap around AI.)

More widely, the Commission is wrestling with how to respond to a range of problematic online content — from terrorism to disinformation and election interference — which also puts Facebook’s 2BN+ social media empire squarely in regulators’ sights.

Another policymaking plan — a forthcoming Digital Service Act (DSA) — is slated to upgrade liability rules around Internet platforms.

The detail of the DSA has yet to be publicly laid out but any move to rethink platform liabilities could present a disruptive risk for a content distributing giant such as Facebook.

Going into meetings with key commissioners Zuckerberg made his preference for being considered a ‘special’ case clear — saying he wants his platform to be regulated not like the media businesses which his empire has financially disrupted; nor like a dumbpipe telco.

On the latter it’s clear — even to Facebook — that the days of Zuckerberg being able to trot out his erstwhile mantra that ‘we’re just a technology platform’, and wash his hands of tricky content stuff, are long gone.

Russia’s 2016 foray into digital campaigning in the US elections and sundry content horrors/scandals before and since have put paid to that — from nation-state backed fake news campaigns to livestreamed suicides and mass murder.

Facebook has been forced to increase its investment in content moderation. Meanwhile it announced a News section launch last year — saying it would hand pick publishers content to show in a dedicated tab.

The ‘we’re just a platform’ line hasn’t been working for years. And EU policymakers are preparing to do something about that.

With regulation looming Facebook is now directing its lobbying energies onto trying to shape a policymaking debate — calling for what it dubs “the ‘right’ regulation”.

Here the Facebook chief looks to be applying a similar playbook as the Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai — who recently tripped to Brussels to push for AI rules so dilute they’d act as a tech enabler.

In a blog post published today Facebook pulls its latest policy lever: Putting out a white paper which poses a series of questions intended to frame the debate at a key moment of public discussion around digital policymaking.

Top of this list is a push to foreground focus on free speech, with Facebook questioning “how can content regulation best achieve the goal of reducing harmful speech while preserving free expression?” — before suggesting more of the same: (Free, to its business) user-generated policing of its platform.

Another suggestion it sets out which aligns with existing Facebook moves to steer regulation in a direction it’s comfortable with is for an appeals channel to be created for users to appeal content removal or non-removal. Which of course entirely aligns with a content decision review body Facebook is in the process of setting up — but which is not in fact independent of Facebook.

Facebook is also lobbying in the white paper to be able to throw platform levers to meet a threshold of ‘acceptable vileness’ — i.e. it wants a proportion of law-violating content to be sanctioned by regulators — with the tech giant suggesting: “Companies could be incentivized to meet specific targets such as keeping the prevalence of violating content below some agreed threshold.”

It’s also pushing for the fuzziest and most dilute definition of “harmful content” possible. On this Facebook argues that existing (national) speech laws — such as, presumably, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (aka the NetzDG law) which already covers online hate speech in that market — should not apply to Internet content platforms, as it claims moderating this type of content is “fundamentally different”.

“Governments should create rules to address this complexity — that recognize user preferences and the variation among internet services, can be enforced at scale, and allow for flexibility across language, trends and context,” it writes — lobbying for maximum possible leeway to be baked into the coming rules.

“The development of regulatory solutions should involve not just lawmakers, private companies and civil society, but also those who use online platforms,” Facebook’s VP of content policy, Monika Bickert, also writes in the blog.

“If designed well, new frameworks for regulating harmful content can contribute to the internet’s continued success by articulating clear ways for government, companies, and civil society to share responsibilities and work together. Designed poorly, these efforts risk unintended consequences that might make people less safe online, stifle expression and slow innovation,” she adds, ticking off more of the tech giant’s usual talking points at the point policymakers start discussing putting hard limits on its ad business.

Source: TechCrunch

SpaceX successfully launches 60 more Starlink satellites but misses booster landing

SpaceX has launched a batch of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit, marking its fifth overall launch of a group of 60 of the small spacecraft and its third this year alone. This launch brings the total constellation to 300 satellites for Starlink on orbit, extending SpaceX’s lead as the largest commercial satellite operator in the world.

The Starlink project sees SpaceX deploying a constellation of small, low Earth orbit satellites that will work with one another in concert to deliver high-speed, low-cost broadband internet connectivity to users. The current goal is to launch enough satellites to begin providing service to customers in the U.S. and Canada later this year, followed by eventual rollout of service globally pending further expansion of the constellation.

SpaceX did something a little different with this Starlink mission, deploying them from the launch vehicle much earlier in the mission, after just one burn of the rocket’s second stage, into an elliptical orbit from which they’ll use their own thrusters to climb to their target orbit around Earth. It’s a trickier maneuver to accomplish, but also saves SpaceX time, fuel and money in terms of launch costs.

Today’s launch not only furthered SpaceX’s Starlink work, but also included some crucial steps in the company’s ongoing efforts to develop and improve its launch system reusability. The Falcon 9 booster used on today’s launch was flown previously three times in 2019, for instance, and represents the fastest turnaround of a re-used booster yet for SpaceX, with just 62 days between its last flight and today.

SpaceX also attempted to land the booster once again during this launch — what would’ve been its 50th successful landing of a booster to date — but it missed the intended landing. The rocket first-stage returned to Earth and fired its landing engine burst as planned, but a live video feed from the drone ship landing pad operated by SpaceX appeared to show exhaust plumes, suggesting it came down in the ocean wide of its mark instead of landing on the pad as planned. SpaceX last missed with a landing in June when the centre core of its Falcon Heavy vehicle failed to nail the landing, but has otherwise mostly been able to land its boosters in recent years. The booster did apparently have a soft landing on the water, and is intact with the potential for recovery, according to SpaceX.

This launch also continued a trend SpaceX has had recently of trying to recover both halves of the fairing, a protective shell that encloses the payload of satellites aboard the rocket as they fly through Earth’s atmosphere on their way to space. The company will attempt to catch both sides of that shell, using two ships in the Atlantic Ocean with giant nets strung across struts extending from their hull, as they parachute back. We’ll update this post with the results of that recovery attempt when we get the news.

We won’t have to wait long for another Starlink launch, as SpaceX is set to send more of its satellites up to orbit sometime next month, according to its current plans.

Source: TechCrunch

Meet the Sulfur Miners Risking Their Lives Inside a Volcano

Mt. Ijen, on the island of Java, is one of the most dangerous workplaces on Earth.
Source: Wired

Smart speaker sales reached new record of 146.9M in 2019, up 70% from 2018

Global smart speaker sales hit a record high last year with shipments of 146.9 million units, up 70% over 2018, according to a recent report on the state of the smart speaker market from Strategy Analytics. Though Amazon still leads in the U.S. by a wide margin, its portion of the worldwide market is now declining as Chinese vendors gain traction.

However, Amazon’s Echo brand continues to lead smart speaker sales worldwide with a 26.2% share in 2019. But that’s a drop from Amazon’s 33.7% share in 2018. Amazon’s decline wasn’t Google’s gain, either, in terms of market share. Instead, second-place Google dropped from 25.9% in 2018 to 20.3% last year.

That said, Amazon and Google in 2019 retained their leadership in both North America and Europe, where they accounted for more than three-quarters of all smart speaker sales.

Meanwhile, Chinese vendors Baidu, Alibaba and Xiaomi all increased their respective shares in 2019. And Apple remained in sixth place with only a 4.7% share.

The figures were somewhat better when looking at Q4 2019 alone, thanks to the holiday shopping season where vendors slashed prices on entry-level smart speakers to encourage purchases and ran other holiday sales. In the quarter, Amazon led with 15.8 million units shipped, followed by Google with 13.9 million, then Chinese brand Baidu with 5.9 million in third.

Sales of smart speakers in Q4 totaled 55.7 million units, the highest ever to date. This was driven by the strong holiday sales in both the U.S. and Europe in the quarter. In addition, Google’s smart speaker business improved followed a combination of new product introductions, improved component supply, and strong promotional activity, the analyst firm said.

“Consumer appetite for smart speakers remained undimmed during the all-important Q4 period as newly launched devices with improved feature sets and audio performance helped drive record quarterly shipments,” said David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. “Consumers across the world were once again enticed by scarcely believable deals from leading brands such as Google, Amazon, Baidu, and Alibaba, while Google, in particular, stepped up its giveaway promotional activity in partnership with brands such as YouTube and Spotify.”

Despite the impacts to supply and demand currently being caused by coronavirus (Covid-19), Strategy Analytics believes 2020 will be another record year for smart speakers.

The full report is available here.

Source: TechCrunch

Equity Monday: Oyo’s losses, global growth concerns, and four early-stage rounds

Good morning friends, and welcome back to TechCrunch’s Equity Monday, a short-form audio hit to kickstart your week. Regular Equity episodes still drop Friday morning, so if you’ve listened to the show over the years don’t worry — we’re not changing the main show.

Here’s last week’s episode with Danny Crichton and Bessemer’s Elliott Robinson which I really enjoyed. And, we just posted the video from that taping, in case you wanted to see what a podcast looks like IRL. Spoiler: It’s mostly a bunch of microphones and cables and nerds.

Turning to the news, global growth concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak are starting to come true, with Singapore changing its own forecasts. Singapore now expects either slower growth, or negative expansion in 2020. That’s bad news. And, Japan’s economy was on the ropes even before the virus really slowed things down. Expect more of this to keep happening.

Also this weekend there was yet another tech-media dustup. If you missed it, you didn’t miss much.

The week ahead looks pretty tame. No major earnings reports or IPOs are on our horizon, though Dropbox, Wix and Zscaler will report. If you are a SaaS person, that’s for you.

We then talked about Dovetail, Copper, Seez, and Bosta — bringing the morning venture update together with a theme, a first I think for Equity Monday.

All that and we wrapped with Oyo’s most recently disclosed financial performance. Surprise, it contained a lot of growth and quickly expanding losses.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Source: TechCrunch