YouTube has recently been taking action regarding the disemmination of disinformation via its video-sharing platform and this has affected its distribution across other parts of the Social Web according to results published from a recent study.
The Engadget article shows how the report from the study analyses what happened when certain YouTube policies came in to play and their effect on disinformation regarding the 2020 US Presidential Election and its results. All dates referenced to in this article are local to North America.
On December 9, YouTube enacted a policy to remove videos that claim existence of widespread errors and fraud that led to the change in direction for the US Presidential Election’s results. This yielded a siignificant drop in shares of this kind of disinformation via Twitter.
.. especially on the likes of Facebook and Twitter
Similarly, after the January 6 Capitol Hill Insurrection, YouTube handed out “strikes” against online-content channels on its platform for sharing misinformation about the election results. That means that the channel cannot upload new content for a period of time or, if it has accrued three strikes in 90 days, it is removed from YouTube. It is very similar to the penalty points or demerit points that is part of most jurisdictions’ traffic-law systems.
This policy also yielded a similarly sharp drop in sharing of such content across the Twitter platform. A similar pattern was also noticed during Inauguration Day when President Joe Biden was sworn in to office.
This same report observes similar metrics across the Facebook platforms using the analytics tools that Facebook provides like CrowdTangle.
Why is this so?
YouTube is seen as the “go-to” online platform for hosting and viewing user-generated video content. This is due to it being free of charge for hosting or casual viewing of such content, while just about all mobile and set-top / connected-TV platforms either have platform-native apps or inherent support for this platform.
As well, it is relatively easy to share YouTube-hosted video content on other online platforms thanks to logic that simplifies this process for the common social-media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Similarly if a video is posted to YouTube in a public context, Google makes it easier to have it appear on its well-known search engine where its brand ends up as a generic trademark for searching for online information using a search engine.
If Google is maintaining robust content control on the YouTube platform, there is a reduced quantity of shareable fake news and disinformation there. As well, most people who use YouTube for video content are more likely to use the Facebook Group’s platforms or Twitter for social-media purposes.
As well, most bloggers and small-time Website operators are likely to share or embed video resources that are hosted on YouTube or Vimeo if they want to cite a video resource. These kind of links also expose the content on the Google, Bing and other search engines due to them identifying the number of sites linking to an online resource and “bumping” them up higher in the search results.
What to be aware of
An issue to be aware of in the context of fake news and disinformation is the rise of alternative platforms. These would include alternative video-hosting platforms like BitChute or PeerTube; alternative social networks like Parler or Gab; or “communications-first” platforms like Signal and Telegram with their “virtual-contact” / “broadcast-channel” functionality.
Then users who follow this kind of disinformation will see the popular social media and video sharing platforms in the same light as established media outlets. Here, they will be condescending of such platforms such as referring them to as “television”. This is more due to this medium being able to allow established broadcasters to easily maintain particular content standards.
What has been shown here is that if at least one popularly-used content platform demonstrates robust content management against disinformation, it has a ripple effect across the rest of the Social Web.
A trend that has appeared over the last few years regarding video games is the concept of cloud gaming.
This is where the bulk of the computer processing that takes place for video games based on this system takes place on online or cloud servers. The device that the player ends up using simply interprets and passes on the control input from the player and “paints” the gameplay images on its embedded or attached display.
This is different from game servers that simply co-ordinate a multiplayer online or LAN game and keep score for that game. In that situation, the players are using powerful devices which have primarily have the games software on them.
Play on not-so-powerful hardware
.. not just as a way to bring sophisticated games to set-top devices like the Apple TV
Cloud gaming allows a video game to be written for powerful computing environments yet be playable on older hardware. This includes being playable on set-top boxes or mobile devices that aren’t necessarily engineered for full-on gaming.
For example, an older-generation games console could be used to play a current-generation game. Or a set-top box like the Apple TV could be used to play a sophisticated video game.
It is infact the common reasoning behind cloud gaming thanks to mobile and set-top platforms not being considered powerful enough for full-on gaming.
Immediate game discovery
Another concept that is being put forward even with powerful games consoles or gaming-rig PCs is the idea of “immediate discovery”.
Normally a video-game player would have to wait for all of the software associated with a game they want to try out to be downloaded and installed on their computer or games console before they start playing. The time associated with this downloading may cause the game player’s curiosity to wane when they are checking out that game they have shown interest in.
In this kind of situation. if the player has shown strong interest in that game, they could simply instigate the download process to have it on their console or gaming-rig computer. Then it means that the game takes advantage of the powerful hardware in the gaming device.
There can be the ability to immediately provide the updated experiences while the necessary software code to run them is downloaded to the games console or computer. Then that downloaded software code could be used to provide improved game performance for the updated experiences.
Conserving of storage resources on your equipment
Another advantage for cloud gaming would be to allow gamers to conserve the available storage space on their equipment for the games they want to really play.
If you are always bringing in new games, you can end up running out of storage space on your computer or games console especially if the game is very sophisticated. It can be of concern especially for lower-end equipment that doesn’t have much in the way of storage or where the latest and greatest storage technology is being used which costs more per kilobyte than prior technology.
As well, you avoid the need to shift game data off to USB hard drives or other secondary storage just to make way for the latest games you want to play. As well, if you are investing more time and money in particular games, you can conserve the storage space on the console or computer for all the downloadable content or extra levels that are available for the games you are playing.
Where could cloud gaming go further?
I see cloud gaming go further in allowing for increased sophistication in video-game design and development.
Firstly I would see games dependent on “territories” or “worlds” being able to have larger active-play fields which the player currently plays in or a massively-large useable plat field. It can also include adding extra detail within a play field.
Then it could allow the ability for a game developer to try different concepts on a significant player base before implementing the concept as something that can be executed locally on the gaming hardware. To the same extent, it could allow games to be offered on a trial or freemium basis with cloud-only operation for free accounts then allow users to buy the game before they download it locally to the console or computer.
Then there is the ability to consider the idea of edge computing within the cloud-gaming concept. That is where more powerful computing equipment local to the game player can be used to increase game performance while working with an online gaming cloud.
Cloud gaming can be seem more than just a way to bring high-capability games to lower-capability devices. It can be about providing an immediate experience for titles that players show interest in, amongst other things.
IEC C13/C14 AC power connector commonly used with desktop computers or guitar amplifiers, IEC C17/C8 “figure 8” power connector used commonly in portable radios, IEC C5/C6 “cloverleaf” connector commonly used with laptop power supplies
These standards have benefited appliance designers, manufacturers and users through the life-cycle of the equipment concerned. It has mad it easier to design something that will work worldwide and simply package the appropriate cord that has a nation’s particular AC plug on one end and the appliance’s IEC-standard equipment-side plug on the other with that appliance.
This idea has been helped along by equipment designs that use multi-voltage power-supply approaches like switch-mode power supplies or user-switchable input voltages. Here, the equipment manufacturer would be encouraged to make devices that they can sell or the end-user can take anywhere in the world.
For example, a portable radio that receives the standard 540-1600 kHz medium-wave AM band and the 88-108 MHz FM band and equipped with a switchable AC input voltage and IEC-compliant AC power inlet would have world-wide utility value. That is because nearly all countries have their broadcast stations on these bands and the set could be used from AC power anywhere around the world.
Then if the user loses the AC cord for that appliance or that cord is damaged, they can cost-effectively replace that cord with a similar one. People who travel or migrate to to other countries also benefit because they replace the appliance’s AC cord with one that has the same IEC-standard equipment-side connection on one end and their destination’s AC plug on the other. There is also that likelihood of one coming across a spare AC cord with an IEC-standard equipment-side connection in their home or workplace and it continues to earn its keep.
IEC figure-8 power socket on camera battery charger
It has opened up ideas for AC cords that suit a particular user’s needs. There even have been the C15/C16 notched three-pin AC cords that are coiled like a traditional telephone cord and are offered as a safe approach to keeping kettles and their cords away from the edge of the bench to avoid the risk of accidental hot-water scalding.
Or some AC cords that are sold through computer retailers have two C13/C14 plugs on one end and the national AC plug on the other, typically in order to power a desktop computer and a monitor from the one power outlet. This came in to play as computer hardware designers did away with IEC C13/C14 power outlet sockets on their desktop computers that were typically used to connect display monitors to power.
But the problem I do see is that a lot of USB chargers and similar power supplies are being offered as “wall-wart” devices that plug in to the wall rather than a small power brick with an IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connector. To the same extent, some multiport USB “charging bars” use a captive AC cable with the nation’s AC plug on them for their AC connection rather than an equipment-side IEC-compliant AC socket.
This can be an annoyance in some ways for some people. For example, these “wall-wart” devices, once plugged in to a power outlet including a power board, can take up too much space on the power outlet. Then if a user decides to go overseas, they have to purchase a travel adaptor which can become too large and the setup can become very unwieldy.
Having USB chargers and similar power supplies use IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connections like what is commonly done with laptop chargers can be a real boon.
IEC cloverleaf-style power socket on laptop power supply
One could purchase an AC cord from a local electronics or computer store, or in some cases, a local supermarket for their device that has the appropriate equipment-side plug on one end and the national AC plug on other end. These cables are often sold for pennies’ worth so it is not a case of worrying about how much these will cost.
For example the C7/C8 “figure 8” cable is sold as a replacement AC cable for portable radios, the C5/C6 “cloverleaf” cable sold as a replacement cable for laptops or the larger C13/C14 three-pin cable sold as a computer, office-equipment or musical-equipment power cable.
It doesn’t hurt to ask the place you are staying at whether they have a spare AC cord with the right equipment-side connection type for your device. This may be due to someone leaving behind the AC cord for their equipment or an appliance associated with that cord had failed but the cord is still serviceable.
The hotel you are staying at could easily have one of these cables as a spare if you have lost your laptop’s AC power cable.
Here, you are not worrying about if you have the travel adaptor with you or whether you are “tying it up” with a particular appliance. Rather you can use any power outlet within where you are staying to power your equipment using that cord.
This is infact more of value for those of us who are staying in holiday-rental houses or apartments including serviced apartments; or who are staying at relatives’ or friends’ homes on our travels. Here, you are able to take your laptop or charger in to the kitchen, living room or other common spaces more easily without worry about where the travel adaptor is.
It also comes in to its own where your travels are primarily within geographic areas that use the same AC plug type. Here, you can rationalise down the number of AC plug types you need to cater towards when you pack accessory cables for your electronics.
Migration and long-term travel
Migrants and long-term travellers will also benefit very well because it is easier to move equipment between countries. Here, they reduce the number of travel adaptors they need to buy for all of their equipment. But they buy the AC cords compatible with their destination country’s mains sockets for their equipment when they arrive and settle down.
Migrants may even be able to leave behind their appliance’s AC cord that they used in their country of origin and pick up an AC cord in their destination country if their journey is primarily a one-way affair. That may help with cutting down on accessories that they need to worry about when they pack.
Choice of cables
You may find that the AC cable that came with your equipment may not be right for your needs.
This is more so with a charger you are using for your laptop, tablet or smartphone and it may be found that having a longer mains-voltage AC cable run like this means you aren’t losing low-voltage DC current at your device. In this case, an electronics store or online retailer may offer a longer AC cable, like this 1.8m C5 “cloverleaf” laptop power cable or the 3m C7 “figure-8” portable-radio power cable from CableChick, with the appropriate equipment side connection.
Similarly, you may find that you can purchase an AC cord of a particular colour or is designed in a particular way. For example, you may find that you want to have the cable blend in with or stand out against the interior design of the room you are using your equipment in. Or, as I have mentioned before, you may find a particular IEC-compliant AC cable that suits your situation like the aforementioned C13/C14 Y-cable that can power a desktop computer and a monitor from the same outlet.
Also be aware that some online sources do offer adaptors that have a C13/C14 power socket on one end and a C5/C6 plug or C7/C8 plug on the other end. This is typically used with a power cord that has a C13/C14 equipment-side connection to power equipment that uses the “cloverleaf” or “figure-8” AC connections, something commonly done with advanced computer setups where some low-profile equipment is being used.
A charger or power supply that uses IEC-standard AC-input connections does allow for increased device and AC-cable utility along with adaptability to different usage scenarios.
It will be easier to make sure that the cable or charger for that laptop or other device dependent on the new USB-C PowerDelivery Extended Power Range specification is up to scratch before you buy. This specification puts up 240 watts of power to the endpoint device and is fit for powering gaming or creator laptops and mobile workstations but could also be used to power 4K UHD monitors for example.
Here, the USB Implementers Forum have released a new packaging logo that identifies that the cable or charger is compliant with this standard extension. It is in addition to a similar logo that is used to show that a cable is fit to transfer data at 40Gbps.
This may make it easier for us to identify whether the cable or charger we want to buy is fit for purpose with that USB-C-powered gaming laptop. But questions are being raised about the existing stock of cables existing in various wholesale and retail inventories that are technically compliant but don’t have the logo.
As well, there are questions about whether a cable that can technically move 40Gbps of data has to be also compatibility with the Extended Power Range update to the USB PD standard. This can also lead to us being concerned about whether that cable can either work as a high-bandwidth data cable or as a high-power charging / power cable especially for those applications where data bandwidth and power capacity do matter.
For example it could be about an uplink cable that is to connect a powered USB4 dock that supports the new USB-C Power Delivery specification extension to that gaming laptop or powerful NUC-type desktop computer. Or to look for latest-spec cables that answer both of these new needs rather than opting for cheaper cables that only answer one of the requirements.
At least these logos appearing on those USB-C cable blister-packs or on online product descriptions for USB-C cables can help us to be sure that these cables are fit-for-purpose for the latest USB4 or USB PowerDelivery Extended Power Range specifications.
Amazon had announced amongst a raft of gadgets for the smart home, a 15” electronic picture frame that works as part of the Alexa voice-assistant ecosystem.
This device, called the Echo Show 15, has a 15” Full HD screen with a picture-frame-style bezzel. Here it has the ability to show photos or other images from image collections but can show scheduling and other information widgets that are part of various Alexa Skills.
Like the refreshed Echo Show smart-display product range that were part of this product announcement, this device uses edge computing with local processing to assure end users of their privacy as well as provide increased responsiveness with the Alexa voice assistant. But the silicon that is within the Amazon Echo 15 is also optimised for computer vision as well as voice recognition.
A built-in Webcam and microphone allows the Echo Show 15 picture frame to become a group videophone for the videoconferencing ecosystems that the Amazon Echo / Alexa ecosystem support. As well the Webcam supports Face ID for instant personalisation so when particular users who are enrolled with this frame look at it, they get a personalised information view. But the Webcam and mic can be shut off with a slide switch and there is even a camera shutter to assure better user privacy.
Fits in with the kitchen as an electronic information screen
The Amazon Echo Show 15 is also expected to work with entertainment and information services that are part of the Alexa ecosystem. Here it could be about connection to online news and entertainment services that are available in your country. If you want better sound than what the integrated speakers offer, you can pair it with Bluetooth speakers or a Bluetooth audio adaptor connected to a sound system.
It is also intended to work with the Alexa smart-home ecosystem including working with compatible videosurveillance cameras. This could mean that you could see who is at the door on your Alexa Echo Show 15 screen for example.
It can be wall-mounted or be free-standing with an optional kickstand or even be mounted under the kitchen cupboards using an optional mounting kit. Here, you can have this display in a horizontal landscape orientation or in a vertical portrait orientation so it fits in with your home décor.
Personally, I see this Amazon Echo 15 as part of Amazon’s effort to extend the Alexa ecosystem to display devices that have a screen size of greater than 10” and to have such devices work as part of the ambient computing vision that they have. It could even be a chance for Google or Apple to eye up the idea of having smart displays larger than 10” on the Google Assistant (Home) or Apple Siri (Homepod) platforms.
As part of Microsoft’s Windows 11 software revamp, Microsoft is offering a revamped Skype consumer videoconferencing platform. This has been around for a long time as an all-round videoconferencing platform but its position has been usurped especially by Zoom.
But this has raised questions about where Skype should fit in as a videoconferencing platform. This is more so as most of us are primarily using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facetime or videocalling functionalities that are part of social-media or instant-messaging platforms for social videoconferences. Some computer journalists even say that Skype wouldn’t be missed if it disappeared from the videoconferencing marketplace.
What you need to remember about Skype is that, like the instant-messaging or social-media platforms, it was designed with a “consumer first” approach but acquired business features.
This is although there is continued investment in Skype as a consumer videoconferencing platform
But there are some issues that need to be examined if Skype was “scratched out” of the scene altogether. This is primarily more to do with establishing a videoconference if you know who your participants are.
Here, Zoom and Teams need to allow users to create an easily-manageable “phone book” or “contact list” and start 1:1 videocalls from this list. As well, “virtual contacts” or “group contacts” that represent many users of the platform could be used as another way to represent a multiparty videoconference.
This approach could allow whoever is organising the videoconference to only invite or admit contacts that are members of the “virtual contact” list to that video meeting. This avoids the use of meeting-room numbers or meeting-room hyperlinks that when made public available make the meeting vulnerable to “Zoombombing”. As well, it can exist as a bulletin-board-type text-based chat while there isn’t a videoconference in progress.
As well, Zoom doesn’t really allow for “invisible” monitor-only participation which can be desirable in some social and business situations like interviews. Nor does it have the ability to optimise its screen real estate for different situations like portrait-oriented video for example.
In its favour, Zoom is courting a significant number of consumer set-top and smart-display platforms to support appliance-style videophone functionality. This has come about due to its popularity during the COVID-19 coronavirus plague as a way to keep in touch “over the wire”. Skype had a similar moment like this with smart-TV and set-top use cases but it didn’t catch on due to the requirement to purchase expensive Webcams from the smart-TV or set-top-device manufacturers.
But if there are attempts to effectively scratch out Skype as a videoconferencing platform, what needs to happen is for someone to step up to the plate and create or evolve such a platform that works equally well for consumer, small-business and enterprise use cases.
Microsoft launched at this week’s Surface hardware product launch a new Bluetooth mouse that is made from recycled plastics.
Here, the mouse, known as the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse, is made from the various items of plastic litter that are found in the bottom of oceans and waterways. This achievement has been brought on thanks to the involvement of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation who is a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco.
Some could see this as an attempt by Big Oil to greenwash but they are moving towards investing in plastic technologies due to reduced demand for oil as a transport fuel thanks to the takeup of electric vehicles. But this effort here is about using a significant amount of recycled plastic to build housings for consumer electronics and allied devices where the look does matter.
The Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse connects to the host device via Bluetooth and even implements Bluetooth 5.0 LE technology for this connection. This means that it does away with you having to deal with a USB receiver dongle that you could easily lose.
As an input device, this mouse is technically similar to other Microsoft mice released over the last few years and this includes the availability of buttons that can be defined by the end-user. For power, it can run one a single AA Duracell with a promised run-time of 12 months.
Microsoft is expecting to launch this mouse to the US market on October 5 and for it to cost USD$24.99. But it is a way not just of providing environmental credentials in a product’s design but also about Bluetooth operation.
As part of the ongoing effort to tackle the COVID-19 coronavirus plague, many a jurisdiction is setting up COVID-19 testing facilities around their cities and towns. These are to identify who has and hasn’t caught this virus so proper measures can be taken.
In most situations the tests being done are PCR-based tests that require a mucus sample to be taken from the patient’s nose and throat for analysis, with the results coming through by at the most 24 hours. An increasing number of these facilities are of the “drive-through” kind where the patients drive up to the facilities and the nurses take the swabs from the patients while they sit in their cars.
But staff at one such “pop-up” facility in Melbourne noticed that most of the patients coming through that site had a dog with them in their car. Typically patients did this due to the pet being a security blanket or simply to take the dog out in the car with them. As well the staff, who were working long days in full PPE clothing, found that the presence of these furry companions in the patients’ cars as something to lift their spirits.
One of the staff noticed this and asked patients if they can take photos of their canine companions then, when the patient agreed, they took the photos. These ended up on a special Instagram account which was effectively a “photo reel” of these dog and other animal pictures.
This has started to come popular with more staff at other drive-through COVID testing clinics contributing these images to the account’s photo roll especially as pop-up testing clinics relocated around the city. Even other drive-through testing sites around Australia and the rest of the world were contributing the pictures of their patients’ furry companions to this reel. Of course, being started in Australia, the “SwabDogsOfInsta” account features a few kelpies and Australian Cattle Dogs (Blue Heelers) as part of the montage.
The “SwabDogsOfInsta” ended up as a popular Instagram account to follow around the world with significant media coverage about it. People would leave various lovely comments about these dogs with some referencing the animal in the photo being similar to one they had at some point in their life journey. As well, these pictures come in to their own to cheer everyone up during these difficult times.
If Instagram had the ability to work with any screen-saver, electronic picture frame or similar image-display setup and have the ability to show particular accounts’ images, this could be the kind of account that would work well with such a setup.
But simply, it’s a good account to add to your Instagram “follow” collection if you are wanting something that takes your mind off difficult times.
Microsoft is the first major company with an Internet presence that is implementing a password-free option for signing in to their Microsoft Account. This is the main sign-up for most of Microsoft’s enterprise-facing and consumer-facing services.
Most of us are likely to run a Microsoft account if you are using Windows 10, the Hotmail / Outlook webmail service, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype or XBox at least. You may also find that Microsoft may bind LinkedIn on to this authentication platform soon or allow this to work with online services that use Microsoft accounts as an optional credential pool for single sign-on.
But what does this password-free setup mean for us? This setup has it that the Microsoft servers don’t retain or use your password to verify you as a legitimate user. Rather the verification takes place at the client device such as you using a fingerprint reader or entering a PIN on the device to log in. Or you use another device like a smartphone with an authentication app or a hardware token like a USB or NFC security key to authenticate with the online service when you log in. Here, these approaches release a machine-to-machine session token to allow you to log in for that session.
In some ways, it is similar to single-sign-on or “social-sign-on” where you authenticate with another credential pool like Facebook, Google or Microsoft when you use some online services.
Microsoft will facilitate this with their Hello-based device-level authentication infrastructure in Windows 10, a FIDO2-compliant hardware security key, a smartphone running the Microsoft Authenticator mobile-platform app or a one-time verification code sent via SMS or email.
This is something you can set up on the Security page in your account.microsoft.com dashboard for your Microsoft account. But you may have to create app passwords for some client software and setups that doesn’t work well with authentication approaches other than passwords. It may be an approach for password-free setups where consumer electronics and IoT devices are concerned until this kind of onboarding and login are able to work with most of these devices.
But for a major software vendor or online-services provider to provide the option to go “password-free” and rely on device-based credentials as an authentication approach is a bold step. As well, Microsoft are in a good position here due to them making sure that the authentication tools are available on a wide range of platforms.
Who know who else will head down the password-free authentication approach for their consumer-facing online services?
It will soon be feasible to control your XBox Series S and X games consoles using your TV’s remote control or have “one-touch” access to your games session.
This feature is currently in pre-release testing and is to be part of an upcoming major feature update for the XBox games consoles’ operating systems, It is to be dependent on your TV supporting HDMI-CEC functionality under its various names like Simplink, Anynet+, Viera Link or Bravia Sync. This is something that respected TVs should be equipped with in order to simplify the user experience when you have multiple video peripherals.
You could even use the TV remote control to watch Netflix on your XBox Series X or S console.
There is already some HDMI-CEC functionality going on with these consoles where the TV will switch on and switch to the input you have connected the XBox to when you switch on your console. But this is about extra functionality with both the TV’s remote control and the XBox game controllers.
Firstly, it will be about using the TV remote controller’s D-pad to navigate the XBox’s menus or any menu to do with content-streaming apps on that console. It may also be about using the transport buttons (play, pause, etc) to start and stop video content you are watching on the XBox. This will come in to its own for those of us who use these consoles for watching Netflix or similar video-streaming services using the XBox S or X.
But it will also mean that the “XBox” (stylised green X) button on the game controllers will also be a way to switch the TV and audio equipment on and over to the XBox console ready for some gaming. Here, it may be advantageous where you just leave the XBox on so it can download game updates or newly-purchased games as necessary but either turn the TV off or “switch away” to another source like broadcast TV or another media player between games. That leads to purely a “one-touch” experience when it comes to wanting to get going with your favourite XBox games.
What I see of this is you being able to use the appropriate control device for the activity you want to use the XBox S or X console for. That means to lounge back in the armchair with your TV remote if you want to watch Netflix or to use the game controller if you want to play that game.
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