Posts tagged ‘technology’

Helvetica in metal, 1985


This was the back of Mum’s 1985 tax assessment slip from the IRD. Helvetica, in metal. The bold looks a bit narrow: a condensed cut, or just a compromised version because of the machinery used?
   Not often seen, since by this time phototypesetting was the norm, though one reason Car magazine was a good read was its use of metal typesetting until very late in the game. I know there are many reasons the more modern forms of typesetting are superior, least of all fidelity to the designed forms, but there’s a literal depth to this that makes me nostalgic.

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Posted in design, New Zealand, typography, Wellington | No Comments »

February 2021 gallery


Finally, let’s begin the February 2021 gallery!

   All galleries can be seen through the ‘Gallery’ link in the header, or click here (especially if you’re on a mobile device). I append to this entry through the month.

Katharina Mazepa for Guess, more information here.
   Financial Times clipping from Twitter.
   Year of the Ox wallpaper from Meizu.
   American English cartoon via Twitter.
   Doctor Who–Life on Mars cartoon, from Pinterest.
   Dr Ashley Bloomfield briefing with closed captioning, found on Twitter.
   South African version of the Opel Commodore C: more at Autocade.
   Chrysler–Simca 1307 and 1308 illustrations: more on the car at Autocade.

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Posted in cars, China, Gallery, humour, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, TV, UK, Wellington | No Comments »

From my desk, 1986


Before this gets recycled, I thought I’d scan it as a memento: a 1986 printout off our Riteman dot matrix printer (which I still have, with spare cartridges), hooked up to a Commodore 64. I forget the printer interface. The image isn’t mine: I only imagine that 14-year-old me was claiming copyright over the layout and text. To me this was all amazing. Dad bought a box of the line-flow paper from the computer store, I believe, a place called Einstein, run by a really nice guy called Raju Badiani (who also sold the computer system). Anything seemed possible, and by the summer of 1986–7 I was hacking the bits and bytes and creating my own bitmap fonts on the 64, trying to make it all look like Eurostile. Nothing as sophisticated as Emigre. The 5¼-inch floppies are still around somewhere!

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Posted in New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »

January 2021 gallery


Let’s kick off January’s images right here!

   Click here for all months (or hit ‘Gallery’ at the top of the screen, if you’re on the desktop), here for December, and here for November. This post explains why I wound up doing the gallery here.
   I append to this entry through the month.

Changan Uni-T, more at Autocade.
   Cartoon from Textile Cartoons on NewTumbl.
   Twenty seventeen newspaper clipping with Donald Trump from The Herald.
   BMW image from Kolbenkopp on Twitter (more at this post).
   Bestune B70 Mk III, more at Autocade.
   Bridal gown by Luna Novias, and featured in Lucire.
   Citroën AX-330 advertisement from 1970 sourced from here.
   Chilean Peugeot 404 advertisement sourced from here.
   Ford US full line from 1972 from Consumer Guide.
   Xpeng P7, more at Autocade.
   More on the Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo in Autocade.
   Clarins model from the Lucire archives.
   Ford Cortina Mk III by Hyundai advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Posted in cars, China, Gallery, humour, New Zealand, politics, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »

Old-school Brexit


I was led by this Tweet to have a peek at the Draft EU–UK Trade Cooperation Agreement and can confirm that on p. 931 (not p. 921), under ‘Protocols and Standards to be used for encryption mechanism: s/MIME and related packages’, there is this:

The text:

The underlying certificate used by the s/MIME mechanism has to be in compliance with X.509 standard. In order to ensure common standards and procedures with other Prüm applications, the processing rules for s/MIME encryption operations or to be applied under various Commercial Product of the Shelves (COTS) environments, are as follows:

– the sequence of the operations is: first encryption and then signing,
– the encryption algorithm AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256 bit key length and RSA with 1024 bit key length shall be applied for symmetric and asymmetric encryption respectively,
– the hash algorithm SHA-1 shall be applied.

s/MIME functionality is built into the vast majority of modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x and inter-operates among all major email software packages.

   Two things have always puzzled me about the UK’s approach to getting some sort of a deal with the EU.
   There are two Davids, Davis and Frost, no relation to the TV producer and TV host. As far as I can tell, despite knowing that the transition period would end on January 1, 2021, failed to do anything toward advancing a deal with the EU, so that the British people know there are new rules, but not what they are. The British taxpayer would be right to question just what their pounds have been doing.
   If I may use an analogy: there’s an exam and the set date was given but no one has done any swotting. Messrs Davis and Frost haven’t even done the coursework and sat in the lectures and tutorials blankly.
   The person who has done the least is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the British prime minister, who stumbled in to the exam room at the last minute without knowing the subject.
   But never mind, sneaked into the room with his clobber is an earlier graduate’s paper! Surely he can plagiarize some of the answers out of that should the same questions arise!
   I don’t know much about SHA-1 hash algorithms but the original Tweeter informs us that this had been ‘deprecated in 2011’ as insecure. However, I can cast my mind back to when ‘Netscape Communicator 4.x’ was my browser of choice, and that was 1998–2001. (I stuck with Netscape 4·7 for a long time, as 6 was too buggy, and in 2001 a friend gave me a copy of Internet Explorer 5, which I then used in Windows. This pre-dates this blog, hence Netscape is not even a tag here.)
   This is a comedy–tragedy from the land of Shakespeare, and I wonder if it means that the British government is expecting things to get so bad that they will have to wind up using computer software from 20 years ago.
   Or they just couldn’t be arsed over the last four years (yes, count ’em!) to do any real work, and hoped that no one would read the 1,259 pp. to find the mistakes.
   To conclude, another bad analogy: it’s not really oven-ready despite all this time baking. However, it appears the ingredients aren’t as fresh as we were led to believe. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

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Posted in politics, technology, UK | No Comments »

Facebook leaves up over 95 per cent of hate speech; ‘embarrassing to work here,’ says ex-staffer


Buzzfeed’s article, on departing Facebook staff who write ‘badge posts’, wasn’t a surprise; what was a greater surprise was just how long it took for such news to surface.
   Badge posts are traditional farewell notes at Facebook, and not everyone has had rosy things to say. One wrote, ‘With so many internal forces propping up the production of hateful and violent content, the task of stopping hate and violence on Facebook starts to feel even more sisyphean than it already is … It also makes it embarrassing to work here’ (original emphasis).
   Buzzfeed noted, ‘More stunning, they estimated using the company’s own figures that, even with artificial intelligence and third-party moderators, the company was “deleting less than 5% of all of the hate speech posted to Facebook,”’ a claim that Facebook disputes, despite its points having already been addressed in the badge post:

   The rest is worth reading here.
   Meanwhile, this Twitter thread from Cory Doctorow, sums up a lot of my feelings and has supporting links, and it is where I found the above. Highlights:

   I realize US conservatives feel they are hard done by with Facebook, but I know plenty of liberals who feel the same, and who’ve had posts censored. Even if Silicon Valley leans left, Facebook’s management doesn’t, so I’d go so far as to say right-wing views get more airtime there than left-wing (actually, also right-wing by anyone else’s standards) ones. On Facebook itself, during the few times I visit, I actually see very few conservatives who have complained of having their posts deleted or censored.
   That isn’t a reason to shut it down or to break it up, but misinformation, regardless of whom it supports is. Inciting genocide is. Allowing posts to remain that influence someone to commit murder is. Facebook has proved over 15 years-plus that it has no desire to do the right thing, in which case it may well be time for others to step in to do it for them.

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The most likely explanation: Google doesn’t like academic reports that harm its interests


TechCrunch/Creative Commons 2·0

I summarized this article to my friends as: ‘How can we trust Big Tech? Google didn’t like hearing the truth from an intelligent woman, so they forced her out.’ And my friend Cathy pointed out it’s a woman of colour.
   And if you take the basic position that Google lies, just as I take the basic position that Facebook lies, then you’d rightly take Google’s Jeff Dean’s explanation with a grain of salt. The MIT Technology Review noted that it doesn’t hold water based on practice.
   The ousted woman, Dr Timnit Gebru, was the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team—you can already spot the oxymoron as there is no place at Google, a company exercising monopoly powers and paying little tax, for ethics.
   Dean claimed Gebru resigned voluntarily, which is being disputed by both current and former Google employees. The Review notes:

Online, many other leaders in the field of AI ethics are arguing that the company pushed her out because of the inconvenient truths that she was uncovering about a core line of its research—and perhaps its bottom line. More than 1,400 Google staff and 1,900 other supporters have also signed a letter of protest.

   Dr Emily Bender of the University of Washington said in Ars Technica, ‘From the outside, it looks like someone at Google decided this was harmful to their interests.
   ‘Academic freedom is very important—there are risks when [research] is taking place in places that [don’t] have that academic freedom.’
   It wouldn’t be the first time Google attempted to silence a critic, then claimed it did nothing of the sort.
   And if it doesn’t like being warned about the dangers of AI, then what sort of horror awaits us from Google in that space? It’s not hard to foresee AI bots operating online being harmful or generating misinformation, with nothing to hold them back. Again from the Review:

In 2017, Facebook mistranslated a Palestinian man’s post, which said “good morning” in Arabic, as “attack them” in Hebrew, leading to his arrest.

   We are letting these companies get away with being accessories to crimes and, in Facebook’s case, to genocide (over which it withheld evidence).

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Facebook prefers bots


If I was on Facebook for personal stuff, I’m certain I could repeat those days where I found over 200 bots per day, but these days I’m only reporting the ones that hit groups or client pages.
   However, I’d say over 90 per cent of the applicants to one of the groups are bots or at least accounts running automated scripts to get into groups to hide their other activity, or to bombard those groups with spam. Facebook has improved its ratio of getting rid of them, but it still leaves roughly half untouched. In other words, if you are running Facebook bots, you’ll have a one in two chance that Facebook’s own people will give you a pass because they can’t tell what bot activity looks like. Little has changed since 2014.

Two Facebook accounts using the same software, it seems, getting caught on a group page. Both were reported, only one was taken down, despite them using the same techniques.

   I thought I’d also grab some screenshots on how automated activity is actually preferred on Facebook, too. I’ve mentioned this here before but here’s an illustrated example from Lucire’s page.
   First up, an automated addition that has come via IFTTT, which picks up the Tweets (also automated) and turns them into Facebook posts. This looks pretty good, and there’s even a preview image taken from the page.

   Let’s say I want to tag the company involved and remove the signature line. Facebook now lets me do this without starting a new line for the tagged business, so that’s an improvement on where we were half a year ago, where it was impossible using the new look.

   So far so good—at least till I hit ‘save’ and the preview image vanishes.

   I usually get the logo only when I feed in a post from scratch directly on to Facebook (assuming Facebook doesn’t corrupt the link and turn it into a 404). In other words, automated, or bot, activity gives you a better result than doing things directly on the site.
   I realize I could add some lines into the code to force the Facebook scraper to seek out the biggest image, but then we’re going into territory beyond that of the average user, and frankly I’m not skilled enough to do it in PHP. And why doesn’t Facebook require that of the bot when it picked up the page to begin with?
   That’s enough for today—I only wanted to illustrate that earlier example as I didn’t do it properly earlier in the year, and give a fresh bot warning. They’re still out there, and I’m betting most pages and groups have inflated numbers where non-humans are messing up their reach—and that’s just fine for Facebook knowing that people will have to pay to get around it.

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Payoneer frustrates and sends you round in circles


I can safely say that I wouldn’t choose Payoneer as a payment service. As I told in their forums today as a last resort, after already spending hours (in the plural!) on this.

This has been deeply frustrating and here I am telling the story for the fifth time, since Payoneer stores none of my requests in the support centre.
   Today I received an email saying a payment was coming from a company that I work with. The problem: the bank account on file is out of date.
   There is no way I can make any changes.
   You may think that I can go to the settings on my account and do the edits there, but this particular account is not recorded there. So how can I remove or correct an account that is not even shown on the Payoneer website?
   No matter which option you select from, you’ll get an automated response that is completely useless and irrelevant.
   The emails read, ‘If this response does not resolve your issue, visiting our Support Center is the fastest way to find a resolution,’ which is a complete and utter lie, since you cannot file a single support request. After you’ve typed out your story for the umpteenth time, support never receives a thing. You just get another automated email with useless information. When you look under ‘My requests’, you find that Payoneer never recorded what you wrote. This must be the quietest support centre in the world.
   When clicking on the link when the website’s advice is useless, you get a 404 that reads, ‘This site has been disabled for the time being.’
   They keep sending me to pages that I have already seen and can do nothing with. This has been the worst payment website I have ever had to deal with, as they keep sending you round in circles and nothing ever gets resolved. It’s out of sheer desperation I’m on a public forum in the hope someone knows how to do this.

   I’m not kidding about their website. Here are some fun pages it’s led me to in order to resolve my query.

   I’d like our money, please.

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Two big reasons not to use Gmail


I was absolutely shocked to learn this is how Gmail works.

   As you’ll read in the thread, this has been confirmed by other Gmail users.
   That should rule out ever using Gmail for secure communications. Not that you should be using a service like that for anything important, but the fact is Gmail has become ubiquitous, and I believe a lot of people don’t know any better.
   Just imagine being able to receive some emails meant for your rival by signing up to an address that varies from it by a full stop or period.
   Secondly, we’ve noticed a large amount of spam where we can trace (via Spamcop) the origins back to Gmail. Oftentimes they have Gmail reply addresses, as in the case of 419 scams (where they may use another ISP or email service with a “sacrificial” address to send them). Why would you risk being among that lot?
   Add this to the massive list of shortcomings already detailed here and elsewhere and you have a totally unreliable platform that doesn’t really give a toss. They didn’t care when they removed my friend’s blog in 2009 and then obstructed any attempt to get it back, until a product manager became involved. They didn’t care when their website blacklisting service libelled clean sites in 2013, telling people not to visit them or link to them. And they don’t care now.
   There really is no reason to use Gmail. You’ll risk your emails going to someone else with a similar address, and you’ll be among the company of unethical actors. I can truly say that if Gmail weren’t this ubiquitous, and used by so many friends, I’d just set up a rule on our server and block the lot.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 3 Comments »