Information Technology


Notre Dame and the culture it inspired – from Matisse to the Muppets

The Guardian

As Notre Dame Cathedral's majestic spire tumbled into the inferno on Monday night, live newsreaders around the world decried the tragic loss of this 12th-century marvel. The great timber roof – nicknamed "the forest" for the thousands of trees used in its beams – was gone, the rose windows feared melted, the heart of Paris destroyed forever. What few realised in the heat of the shocking footage was that much of what was ablaze was a 19th-century fantasy. Like most buildings of this age, Notre Dame is the sum of centuries of restorations and reinventions, a muddled patchwork of myth and speculation. Standing as a sturdy hulk on the banks of the Seine, the great stone pile has never been the most elegant or commanding of the ancient cathedrals, but it became the most famous. Begun in 1163, it was larger than any gothic church before it, employing some of the first flying buttresses to allow taller, thinner walls and larger expanses of glazing – including the spectacular rose windows that projected great cosmic wheels of colour into the luminous interior. "Where would [one] find … such magnificence and perfection, so high, so large, so strong, clothed round about with such a multiple variety of ornaments?"


Assassin's Creed creators pledge €500,000 to Notre Dame

The Guardian

Video game creators at Ubisoft Montréal – the development studio that rebuilt 18th-century Paris in its 2014 historical action game Assassin's Creed Unity – have joined the global outpouring of grief in the wake of Monday's devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Ubisoft will be donating €500,000 to help with restoration efforts, and is also making Assassin's Creed Unity available free on PC for the next week, "giving everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre Dame the best way we know how", said a studio spokesperson. "We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture." Caroline Miousse, a level artist on the game, spent 14 months working almost exclusively on the cathedral, inside and out. It is furnished and decorated as it would have been in 1790, down to the paintings hanging on the walls.


'Disastrous' lack of diversity in AI industry perpetuates bias, study finds

The Guardian

Lack of diversity in the artificial intelligence field has reached "a moment of reckoning", according to new findings published by a New York University research center. A "diversity disaster" has contributed to flawed systems that perpetuate gender and racial biases found the survey, published by the AI Now Institute, of more than 150 studies and reports. The AI field, which is overwhelmingly white and male, is at risk of replicating or perpetuating historical biases and power imbalances, the report said. Examples cited include image recognition services making offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots adopting hate speech, and Amazon technology failing to recognize users with darker skin colors. The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself, the report said.


Would life be happier without Google? I spent a week finding out

The Guardian

Halfway through my week without Google, my wife mentions that she would like to go out to see a film that evening, and I agree to deal with the logistics. In what I initially think is an inspired move, I drop by the local cinema on the way home and scribble down all the film times in my notebook. Then my wife insists on going to a different cinema. "Can I do this by phone?" "Is 118 still a thing?" Turns out it is, and an expensive one: £2.50 a call, plus 75p a minute, plus a 55p access charge from my mobile provider. But more than a million people a year still use the service, and it even offers a text facility that answers questions – although you're essentially just asking someone to Google something for you and text you back, for £3.50 a go. Before I started this experiment, when I tried to imagine what it would be like to take a break from Google, what I was really trying to remember was how my life worked all those years before it started.


The problem with AI? Study says it's too white and male, calls for more women, minorities

USATODAY

The ACLU and other groups urged Amazon to halt selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement departments. Lending tools charge higher interest rates to Hispanics and African Americans. Job hunting tools favor men. Negative emotions are more likely to be assigned to black men's faces than white men. Computer vision systems for self-driving cars have a harder time spotting pedestrians with darker skin tones.


Everything that works with Apple HomeKit

USATODAY

With tons of useful accessories designed to pair with Apple HomeKit, it's easier than ever to put together a smart home. The HomeKit smart home system is unique because all of the hardware accessories that function with the system are made by third parties, but HomeKit allows you to control them seamlessly. HomeKit is Apple's smart home interface that communicates with all compatible gadgets and appliances in one app ("Home"). HomeKit-compatible devices are easy to set up--a quick scan of a QR code--and can respond to "Hey Siri" commands. Smart home companies have been a bit slow to embrace the HomeKit platform, but it's becoming more likely as the industry changes that your new smart bulb, switch, plug, etc. will play well with Apple's software, and therefore Siri.


How to use Google Assistant on your iPhone with Siri

USATODAY

Apple is notorious for not playing nice with other platforms. They have traditionally made access to even the most in-demand services like Google Assistant impossible to iPhone users even though it's widely accepted that "Hey Google" is superior to Siri. Now, thanks to Apple's Shortcuts, the frustration of not having voice access to Google on your iPhone is a thing of the past. Shortcuts is an app on iOS that allows users to basically program their own Siri commands. The list of Shortcuts-compatible apps is growing with time, and while the possibilities are endless if you're willing to tinker with the app, there are lots of great shortcuts to choose from in the app's gallery and across the web.


Ubisoft pledges monetary, tech assistance for Notre Dame Cathedral restoration

USATODAY

Drone footage captured Notre Dame cathedral's beauty just five months before Monday's fire. Video game publisher Ubisoft, which recreated the Notre Dame Cathedral in its 2014 game "Assassin's Creed Unity," is willing to help in restoration efforts. The company announced Wednesday it is making a contribution of 500,000 Euros (about $565,000) to the rebuilding of the cathedral. And the Paris-headquartered game maker said Wednesday it will make its virtual rendition of the cathedral available to those involved in the rebuilding of the church. Ubisoft is also making "Assassin's Creed Unity" available free to players on PC for the next week.


The Best Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switches of 2019

USATODAY

There are lots of options when it comes to smart lighting, but if you want to do it right, you've got to go with a smart dimmer switch. Even the best smart bulbs become dumb with the accidental flick of a light switch, but these dimmers always stay powered since they have a direct power line. After all of our testing, it's clear that Lutron's Caséta Wireless system (available at Amazon for $99.95) is the best dimmer around. While dimmers, and even smart dimmers, have existed for decades, these new models are taking off thanks to smart assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Home, which allow for voice control and remote usage from cell phones and tablets. Even though pretty much all dimmers work the same, there can be big differences in the quality of their app-connected smarts.


Here's why Qualcomm's stock price popped 23%

USATODAY

Shares of Qualcomm soared 23% Tuesday – and remained up Wednesday – in the wake of a late-afternoon filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, wherein the company announced that it reached a "multi-year" "global patent license agreement" and "chipset supply agreement" with Apple that settles the companies' yearslong intellectual property litigation and appears likely to work out to the benefit of both parties. In said filing with the SEC, Qualcomm states that as of April 1, 2019, it has directly licensed its relevant patents to Apple for at least the next six years, with the option to extend the agreement for an additional two years. Moreover, Qualcomm will supply chipsets to Apple for use in the latter's devices for several years at least. In exchange, Apple will make a one-time payment of an unspecified amount to Qualcomm, and pay continuing royalties to boot – also in an amount unspecified. Robotic advances: Mush! Watch a team of Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robot dogs pull a truck down the street Finally, "all worldwide litigation" between the two combatants "will be dismissed and withdrawn," including lawsuits against Apple's contract manufacturers.