Categories
Covid 19

We have 10 years to cut transport emissions in half — here’s how

This article was written by Max Gruenig, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G and Co-founder, POCACITO on The Urban Mobility Daily, the content site of the Urban Mobility Company, a Paris-based company which is moving the business of mobility forward through physical and virtual events and services. Join their community of 10K+ global mobility professionals by signing up for theUrban Mobility Weekly newsletter. Read the original articlehere and follow them onLinkedin andTwitter.

If we mean business with our pledge to keep global temperature increase below dangerous levels, then we have no time to lose to take action. Despite good intentions, global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and are far from peaking. At current levels, we – as in humans – emit over 50 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases, based on 2019 data. Yes, 2020 was different thanks to a global health crisis and greenhouse gas emissions plunged by a record 2 billion tonnes. Yet, this has been followed by a strong rebound, eliminating any emissions cuts and overshooting the old levels.

In high-income countries, emissions from the electricity sector are going down, thanks to higher shares of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, a trend that persists since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Transport emissions are, however, not steady – even in high-income countries. Their relative importance is growing, representing about a fifth of global emissions. One of the reasons for the slow speed of emissions reductions in transport and mobility is the lack of readily available and cost-competitive alternatives to polluting combustion engines, both in individual passenger cars and in heavy-duty vehicles. To put it in perspective, about 75% of transport emissions are from road transport and within this, passenger cars dominate by far with a total of 45% of transport-related emissions. So, if we have to pick where to begin, we can cover the largest share of emissions in transport if we cut passenger vehicle emissions.

A sense of urgency

We have less than 10 years left to cut these emissions in half, and less than 30 years to go to net zero emissions.

Of course, we can appeal to reason and morale and ask people to switch from cars to bicycles, walking and public transport. We can also hope that people might purchase electric vehicles or reduce mobility demand. Unfortunately, passenger vehicles have a total road lifetime of about 11 years, in lower income countries even longer. Even if we would only sell electric cars from tomorrow on, it would still take until the mid 2030s to switch the fleet over to electric only. Waiting for the market is simply too slow for what we need to achieve.

Pleading with the public to stop driving gasoline and diesel cars voluntarily will only have a marginal impact since there are too many factors working against the idea: cars offer a high level of physical ease, being air conditioned and low-effort, while all alternatives expose the user significantly to the elements and exert some level of physical strain or even discomfort.

Getting creative

Maybe we need a different approach. If we look at the climate crisis as a public health crisis, then it might be helpful to look at how we dealt with past health crises to draw some lessons for how to overcome our addiction to oil.

World smoking rates went from 27% in 2000 to 20% in 2016, continuing a long term trend. What contributed to the success of anti-smoking policies and campaigns? The key factors reducing cigarette consumption are: price increases via taxes, ban on advertising, bans on indoor smoking and increasingly bans on outdoor smoking, all flanked by support to people quitting tobacco use. If we transpose these lessons to our oil-addiction, then we should take these measures:

  1. Increase fuel taxes step-wise annually;
  2. Ban advertising for combustion-engine vehicles; (add: ban of motor sports)
  3. Impose escalating bans for combustion engine vehicles, starting with the urban core, expanding to entire cities and leading eventually to an outright ban;
  4. Support people getting rid of their combustion engine car, providing direct financial support for scrapping the gasoline or diesel car without replacing it, improving bicycle and walking infrastructure and offering better and affordable public transportation.

Should we support electric vehicle adoption? Yes and no. Yes, since they are better than combustion engine vehicles, but also no, since the return on your investment is lower than in other measures and the payback time is too long to let us still succeed with our ambitious goal of keeping global temperature increase below dangerous levels.

The climate crisis is not a trivial threat, it is a serious risk for the stability of our societies and the continuation of our norms, values and the rule of law. It is not too late. And just as with smoking, any day is the best day to quit.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

Then you need the weekly SHIFT newsletter in your life. Click here to sign up.

Categories
Covid 19

15TB of Degoo Premium cloud storage space is on sale now at thousands off, just $129.99 for life

TLDR: This offer for a Degoo Premium Mega Backup Plan includes 15TB of cloud storage for life at the rock bottom Memorial Day Sale price of only $129.99.

With so many companies now vying for your cloud storage dollar, it helps to just break down the numbers and see who’s really offering you the best deal for your money. And if you’re like most of us in this video-heavy, data-intensive age of rapidly growing file sizes, you should probably lean in the direction of having too much cloud space rather than not enough.

If you go with Google Drive, you can get a business-centric 30TB of cloud storage at a cost of about $300 a month. As for Microsoft OneDrive, a family-sized 6TB plan will set you back a much more modest $99.99 per year. Or you could split the difference with a small brand like iDrive and get 10TB for about $75 a year.

When you take numbers like those into account, an offer like a lifetime hold on a generous 15TB of cloud real estate with a Degoo Premium Mega Backup Plan for the current Memorial Day Sale price of just $129.99 starts to look like a pretty serious steal.

Rather than focusing on business needs, Degoo has been a mostly consumer-focused service since launching a decade ago, with an emphasis on easy image storage. Of course, with 15TB of cloud space, you can save a lot more than pictures to the cloud, leaving your laptop and mobile devices free of stored files and other clutter that can slow down their operations. 

In fact, just for perspective, that 15TB of space could hold almost 7,500 hours of HD quality video or about 4 million digital images, which is probably more than any of us could dream of taking in a lifetime.

While enjoying high speed transfer rates, Degoo users can back up all their data under ultra-secure 256-bit AES encryption. That end-to-end protection also remains if a file is shared with family, friends or co-workers, even if they aren’t Degoo customers.

With that much space, Degoo will not only let you backup the entire contents of virtually all of your devices, it will also keep them eternally updated with automatic file change detection that spots any the most minor adjustments to a file and resaves it to the cloud. That way, users are always confident they’ve got the most up-to-date version of everything they touch.

A lifetime offer on 15TB of Degoo Premium Mega Backup Plan space would usually cost over $4,300, but when you couple up the regular TNW Deal price discount with the special Memorial Day Sale savings as well, the entire deal ends up costing only $129.99 if you complete your purchase before June 2.

Prices are subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

Bacteria are better alien hunters than you — sorry, squishy human

Are we alone in the universe? The famous Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) programme has been trying to answer this question since 1959. American astronomer Carl Sagan, and many others, believed that other human-like civilisations must exist, and that we could communicate with them. But sceptics are not convinced, arguing the lack of evidence for such civilisations suggests they are exceedingly rare.

But if other human-like civilisations are unlikely to exist, could there exist other forms of life – perhaps better suited than us to spread in the cosmos? And would it be possible for such lifeforms to communicate with each other (non-human Seti)?

Our new study, published in Biosystems, suggests it would. Microbes, such as bacteria, may be rulers of the cosmic life – and they are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for. Indeed, we show how microbes could mimic the Seti programme without human interference.

To understand microbes, we need to challenge our anthropocentric prejudices. While many of us see microbes as single-cell organisms that cause diseases, the reality is different. Microbes are loosely organised multi-cellular entities. Bacteria, for example, live as member societies of several billion – colonies capable of “thinking” and decision-making.

A typical bacterial colony is a cybernetic entity – a “superbrain” that solves environmental problems. More importantly, all bacterial colonies on Earth are interconnected into a global bacterial supersystem dubbed the bacteriosphere. This “world-wide-web” of genetic information has been regulating the flow of organic elements on Earth over the past three billion years, in a manner that will forever remain beyond human capacities. For example, they cycle important nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and sulphur.

Even today, bacteria are the most dominant living beings on Earth. Take bacteria out of the biosphere, and life will gradually collapse. Bacteria may therefore be far more suited for cosmic travel and communication than us. A recent study found that terrestrial bacteria can survive in space for at least three years, possibly more. Add to this the fact that bacteria can exist in a dormant state for millions of years, and it’s clear that microbes are very resilient.

Indeed, various versions of the panspermia hypothesis – which states that microbial life exists and travels throughout the universe – support this notion. Recent mathematical models have backed this by showing that microbial travel may be possible not only in our solar system, but throughout the galaxy.

Microbial Seti

How could the microbial Seti work? We believe that the bacteriosphere could potentially replicate all steps known from human Seti. Step one in human Seti is the capacity to read cosmic-scale information. For example, using radio telescopes we can analyse distant habitable planets. Step number two is to develop technologies and knowledge to assess whether habitable planets contain life. Step three is to advertise our presence on Earth to intelligent extraterrestrials and attempt to make a contact with them if they respond to initial signals.

Our version of microbial Seti is shown in the picture below. Microbes have a limited capacity to read the cosmic-scale information. For example, cyanobacteria can read the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum coming from the Sun in the form of visible light (step one). This biological phenomenon is called phototropism and happens, for example, when a plant turn towards or away from the Sun or other light source.

microbial seti.

Step two was crucial to the development of life on Earth. Cyanobacteria developed a bio-technology in the form of photosynthesis (which turns water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into oxygen and nutrients). This transformed the dead planet into a living one, or the bacteriosphere, over a long evolutionary period. Microbial life then got more complex, creating plants and animals in the past 600 million years. Yet bacteria remain the most dominant life form on the planet. Photosynthesis, as a form of bacterial technology, has always fuelled life on Earth.

Step three is all about attraction and communication between microbes with similar chemistries. Extraterrestrial microbes should be able to seamlessly integrate into the Earth’s bacteriosphere if they share carbon-based chemistry and metabolism, including DNA, proteins and other biomolecules. The opposite process is also possible. Microbes from Earth could travel into space on asteroids and seed life elsewhere in the cosmos. Alternatively, humans, as future cosmic travellers, could act as microbial vectors by virtue of the human microbiome.

To appreciate microbial Seti we need to understand the concept of intelligence in the evolutionary sense. This will enable us to evaluate better the bacterial intelligence, and its capacities in the context of human and microbial Seti. Some biologists argue that human intelligence is just a fragment in a wide spectrum of natural intelligence that includes microbes and plants.

We also need to reevaluate technological signatures as signs of intelligent civilisations. Technologically advanced civilisations, according to the physicist Freeman Dyson, must have huge energy demands. These demands may be achieved by building cosmic megastructures, dubbed Dyson spheres, around their planets that can capture the energy from their host star. Searching for such spheres by looking at whether light from stars is blocked could therefore be a way of finding them.

But, if human-like civilisations are indeed rare, there is no point in searching for such structures. Instead, it may be more appropriate to search for biosignatures as signs of microbial life on habitable planets.

The way forward in the search for extraterrestrial life may be to look for gases in atmosheres of planets that signify life, such as oxygen methane or phosphine, which are all produced by microbes. The finding of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere was a promising lead but it now looks doubtful, as a new study suggest the signal could have been sulfur dioxide rather than phosphine. Yet we have no choice but to keep trying. Luckily, the James Webb Space Telescope should be able to scan the atmosphere of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun when it launches later this year.The Conversation

This article by Predrag Slijepcevic, Senior Lecturer in Biology, Brunel University London and Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, Honorary Professor, University of Buckingham is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Categories
Covid 19

This mathematical brain model may pave the way for more human-like AI

Last week, Google Research held an online workshop on the conceptual understanding of deep learning. The workshop, which featured presentations by award-winning computer scientists and neuroscientists, discussed how new findings in deep learning and neuroscience can help create better artificial intelligence systems.

While all the presentations and discussions were worth watching (and I might revisit them again in the coming weeks), one, in particular, stood out for me: A talk on word representations in the brain by Christos Papadimitriou, professor of computer science at the University of Columbia.

In his presentation, Papadimitriou, a recipient of the Gödel Prize and Knuth Prize, discussed how our growing understanding of information-processing mechanisms in the brain might help create algorithms that are more robust in understanding and engaging in conversations. Papadimitriou presented a simple and efficient model that explains how different areas of the brain inter-communicate to solve cognitive problems.

“What is happening now is perhaps one of the world’s greatest wonders,” Papadimitriou said, referring to how he was communicating with the audience. The brain translates structured knowledge into airwaves that are transferred across different mediums and reach the ears of the listener, where they are again processed and transformed into structured knowledge by the brain.

“There’s little doubt that all of this happens with spikes, neurons, and synapses. But how? This is a huge question,” Papadimitriou said. “I believe that we are going to have a much better idea of the details of how this happens over the next decade.”

Assemblies of neurons in the brain

The cognitive and neuroscience communities are trying to make sense of how neural activity in the brain translates to language, mathematics, logic, reasoning, planning, and other functions. If scientists succeed at formulating the workings of the brain in terms of mathematical models, then they will open a new door to creating artificial intelligence systems that can emulate the human mind.

A lot of studies focus on activities at the level of single neurons. Until a few decades ago, scientists thought that single neurons corresponded to single thoughts. The most popular example is the “grandmother cell” theory, which claims there’s a single neuron in the brain that spikes every time you see your grandmother. More recent discoveries have refuted this claim and have proven that large groups of neurons are associated with each concept, and there might be overlaps between neurons that link to different concepts.

These groups of brain cells are called “assemblies,” which Papadimitriou describes as “a highly connected, stable set of neurons which represent something: a word, an idea, an object, etc.”

Award-winning neuroscientist György Buzsáki describes assemblies as “the alphabet of the brain.”

A mathematical model of the brain

To better understand the role of assemblies, Papadimitriou proposes a mathematical model of the brain called “interacting recurrent nets.” Under this model, the brain is divided into a finite number of areas, each of which contains several million neurons. There is recursion within each area, which means the neurons interact with each other. And each of these areas has connections to several other areas. These inter-area connections can be excited or inhibited.

This model provides randomness, plasticity, and inhibition. Randomness means the neurons in each brain area are randomly connected. Also, different areas have random connections between them. Plasticity enables the connections between the neurons and areas to adjust through experience and training. And inhibition means that at any moment, a limited number of neurons are excited.

Papadimitriou describes this as a very simple mathematical model that is based on “the three main forces of life.”

Along with a group of scientists from different academic institutions, Papadimitriou detailed this model in a paper published last year in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Assemblies were the key component of the model and enabled what the scientists called “assembly calculus,” a set of operations that can enable the processing, storing, and retrieval of information.

“The operations are not just pulled out of thin air. I believe these operations are real,” Papadimitriou said. “We can prove mathematically and validate by simulations that these operations correspond to true behaviors… these operations correspond to behaviors that have been observed [in the brain].”

Papadimitriou and his colleagues hypothesize that assemblies and assembly calculus are the correct model that explain cognitive functions of the brain such as reasoning, planning, and language.

“Much of cognition could fit that,” Papadimitriou said in his talk at the Google deep learning conference.

Natural language processing with assembly calculus

To test their model of the mind, Papadimitriou and his colleagues tried implementing a natural language processing system that uses assembly calculus to parse English sentences. In effect, they were trying to create an artificial intelligence system that simulates areas of the brain that house the assemblies that correspond to lexicon and language understanding.

“What happens is that if a sequence of words excites these assemblies in lex, this engine is going to produce a parse of the sentence,” Papadimitriou said.

The system works exclusively through simulated neuron spikes (as the brain does), and these spikes are caused by assembly calculus operations. The assemblies correspond to areas in the medial temporal lobe, Wernicke’s area, and Broca’s area, three parts of the brain that are highly engaged in language processing. The model receives a sequence of words and produces a syntax tree. And their experiments show that in terms of speed and frequency of neuron spikes, their model’s activity corresponds very closely to what happens in the brain.

The AI model is still very rudimentary and is missing many important parts of language, Papadimitriou acknowledges. The researchers are working on plans to fill the linguistic gaps that exist. But they believe that all these pieces can be added with assembly calculus, a hypothesis that will need to pass the test of time.

brain areas language processing

“Can this be the neural basis of language? Are we all born with such a thing in [the left hemisphere of our brain],” Papadimitriou asked. There are still many questions about how language works in the human mind and how it relates to other cognitive functions. But Papadimitriou believes that the assembly model brings us closer to understanding these functions and answering the remaining questions.

Language parsing is just one way to test the assembly calculus theory. Papadimitriou and his collaborators are working on other applications, including learning and planning in the way that children do at a very young age.

“The hypothesis is that the assembly calculus—or something like it—fills the bill for access logic,” Papadimitriou said. “In other words, it is a useful abstraction of the way our brain does computation.”

This article was originally published by Ben Dickson on TechTalks, a publication that examines trends in technology, how they affect the way we live and do business, and the problems they solve. But we also discuss the evil side of technology, the darker implications of new tech, and what we need to look out for. You can read the original article here.

Categories
Covid 19

With Scrivener 3 for Mac, writers can keep their projects focused and organized their way

TLDR: Scrivener 3 for Mac is a long-form writing tool that offers writers all the tools for researching, organizing, writing, and editing work in a workflow tailored to each user.

Microsoft Word is a heritage program for a reason. For 95 percent of all types of writing projects, its streamlined functionality, ease of use, and complete availability make it an absolute no-brainer of a writing tool for almost everyone.

But oh, that last 5 percent. The irony of Word is that if you’re a serious professional writer, a scribe of books, manuscripts, scholarly works, and more, then Word becomes…well, a little too basic for what you need. You need an app that can handle notations and edits easily, one that can help organize thoughts and research (even outside of Word), one that can format and reformat in seconds and generally craft a writing workflow that adapts to the idiosyncrasies of each writer.

Scrivener 3 for Mac ($29.99, 38 percent off, from TNW Deals) is that tool for Mac users, a wide-ranging collection of features for conceiving, building, and ultimately writing long-form pieces your way.

Each writer takes their own unique approach to their work. Whether you’re a research-first-write-second proponent or you come from the start-writing-now-and-I’ll-sort-it-all-out-later school, this PCMag Editors Choice pick and long-time no. 1 writing app contours the process to your needs.

Scrivener projects start with a binder, a side-collection of files that can include notes, research, even images and video, all the materials around your topic. With Scrivener, writers can group content into various color-coded subfolders so all your important information stays organized and accessible easily.

With Scrivener’s Corkboard, writers can outline and structure a piece with cards to help visualize the entirety of the work, moving scenes or tracking characters so nothing falls through the cracks. Bookmarks open research documents side-by-side with your writing window, so you aren’t toggling back and forth between panes.

Writers can import all sorts of files, including Word and OpenOffice documents; or with Outliner, creators work from an umbrella overview arranging drafts, or reviewing a synopsis of the work.

All that customization potential is why writers like New York Times best-seller Karen Traviss call Scrivener 3 “what working writers need,” while comics writer Ryan Sohmer credited it with  “changed my entire workflow for the better.”

Regularly $49, Scrivener 3 for Mac is available now at almost 40 percent off, down to just $29.99 — but only for a limited time. The deal closes at the end of May, so jump in and grab it now before the price changes.

Prices are subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

Inside Helsinki’s big plans to have the best urban mobility by 2035

This article was written by Olivier Bonfils, Senior Business Advisor at Helsinki Business Hub on The Urban Mobility Daily, the content site of the Urban Mobility Company, a Paris-based company which is moving the business of mobility forward through physical and virtual events and services. Join their community of 10K+ global mobility professionals by signing up for theUrban Mobility Weekly newsletter. Read the original articlehere and follow them onLinkedin andTwitter.

The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

Helsinki Business Hub is a business development agency dedicated to attracting foreign direct investment, particularly those companies who can contribute to the circular economy. In 2016 Finland became the first country to create a roadmap to a circular economy, and in 2020 Helsinki released its own Roadmap for a Circular and Sharing Economy. One of the key policy tools of Helsinki’s circular economy is ‘green mobility investment’, i.e. investments that encourage a modal shift towards active mobility and public transportation.

A culture of collaboration

Finland aims to transform itself into a circular economy by 2035 and achieve carbon neutrality in that same year. As per the Paris Agreement, Finland is committed to a fossil-free transport sector, halving emissions by 2030 and eliminating them altogether by 2045. I know that when it comes to carbon, countries are making a lot of promises, some of which are going to be hard to keep. But as a Frenchman who relocated to Finland a couple decades back, I can attest that Finns are serious about doing what they say they’re going to do. Not only that, but there’s a culture of collaboration here and a good understanding between the private and public sectors. Finland also happens to be a pioneer in mobility as a service (MaaS).

Who started MaaS?

The origins of MaaS go back to the late 90s, when Gothenburg trialled a monthly subscription service for transport. But this was discontinued for various reasons and it was some years before the idea moved centre stage in the mobility debate. From around 2012 Sampo Hietanen (then CEO of Intelligent Transport Systems Finland) and Sonja Heikkila – a Masters student at Aalto University –with support from Finland’s transport ministry, did a lot of work in popularising the concept. Hietanen later founded MaaS Global – launching the Whim app in 2017 which became the first fully functional commercial MaaS application. As Ramboll notes “there is arguably no place in the world where the concept of MaaS is more developed than in Helsinki.” Today “Whim users in Helsinki make 73% of their trips on public transport compared with 48% for non-users, while 42% of all Whim user’s city-bike trips are combined with public transportation.”

A commitment to openness and open data

I think what makes Helsinki such a good place to start a business is that there’s a good understanding here about the boundary between private and public sectors. The public sector sets fair rules and applies them evenly to all players, regardless of how big or small they are, or whether they’re local or foreign. Again, something to do with the ‘do what you say; say what you do’ Finnish mindset. Our main public transport operator HSL opened its ticketing API to other MaaS operators. Indeed, Helsinki has one of the most open MaaS systems in the world, with everyone competing on equal footing, all for the benefit of providing a better service to residents.

Helsinki Region Infoshare gives everyone access to hundreds of applications, datasets and APIs free of charge. As part of the circular economy drive we’re really interested in creating a smart ecosystem that supports business and reduces carbon and waste. We want startups to quickly plug into existing networks; which we’ve been recognized for. In its Global Startup Ecosystem Report, Startup Genome ranked Greater Helsinki 4th in the ‘Emerging Ecosystem’ category. The report notes Finland’s publication of a National AI Strategy in 2017 (an EU first) and a free AI education program attracting 90 000 students.

AVs and batteries  

Greater Helsinki has just over 1.5 million residents; a decent enough consumer scale but nothing like London or Paris. If we’re at a slight disadvantage in attracting B2C mobility startups, we’re making up for it with an effort to attract B2B startups, particularly in AVs and batteries. Finland is building an ecosystem for the autonomous vehicle business. PAVEF (Platform for Autonomous Vehicles Ecosystem Finland) is dedicated to boosting innovation and ultimately establishing AV business operations in Finland that exceed a billion Euro by 2029. Local company Unikie has been awarded funds to begin setting up the ecosystem.

Batteries is another exciting area of potential innovation. Finland recycles 49.2% of its electronic waste (the EU average is 34.8%). Batteries Finland is dedicated to helping the country meet its goal to become a leading force in battery recycling. Interestingly, Finland has all the key minerals used in lithium-ion batteries. However – as part of our dedication to the circular economy – we’d rather keep those beneath the ground than mine them. The European Commission has requested that Finland take responsibility for the development of battery recycling in Europe. BATCircle (the circular ecosystem for battery metals consortium) is strengthening ties between private companies and research organizations and developing new business ideas to make the battery economy circular.

Sharing, transparency and resource savings

The fear is that a big MaaS player could come in and monopolise markets and that perhaps policymakers need to defend against this. Our approach is somewhat different. We want to keep the MaaS system open to as many players as possible and encourage open data and open APIs. As a mobility user you should be able to see a certain minimum of information from every mobility operator in the city. We have a clear goal to make MaaS available to as many players as possible and not necessarily to protect a local incumbent. That said, this is a high-trust society that does not like to make too many things compulsory. And I think this all adds to making Helsinki a good place to pioneer the new values of urban mobility, which are about sharing, transparency and resource savings.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

Then you need the weekly SHIFT newsletter in your life. Click here to sign up.

Categories
Covid 19

These wireless Treblab Z2 headphones deliver premium sound for under $75

TLDR: From premium sound, top flight noise cancelling, and solid ergonomics, the Treblab Z2s are a quality headphone option for those not looking to break the bank on their audio needs.

You’ll never hear us say anything derogatory about elite headphone brands like Sennheiser or Bose or HiFiMan. For the most part, their headphones belong on the Mount Olympus of quality audio equipment. But seriously…are you really going to spend $3,000 or more on a pair of headphones?

Unless you’re Elon Musk or Bill Gates, probably not. But the truth is, for every high end brand crafting headphones selling for four figures, there are plenty of amazing manufacturers also producing brilliant headphones at a fraction of that price. Like Treblab.

Right now, you can not only pick up a fantastic set of cans like the Treblab Z2 Bluetooth 5.0 Noise-Cancelling Headphones, you can get them with an extra TNW Deals Memorial Day Sale discount, dropping their price all the way down to just $71.97.

There’s a reason the wireless Z2s were named an Amazon’s Choice pick, with their sterling sound quality high on that list. These headphones are powered by top-grade, high-performance neodymium-backed 40mm drivers, delivering the high-end listening experience true audiophiles chase. Meanwhile, the aptX codec transfers audio from the source with the lowest decompression and highest possible delivery for CD-quality reproduction. 

In service to that sound, the Z2s are also rocking some premium features, like the active T-Quiet noise cancelling technology that processes external noise and returns “anti-noise” for the highest quality noise reduction.

You’ve got to wear headphones for a while to drink in their power, so the Z2s make that easy with ultra-soft, swivel ear-cups that embrace your ears without applying pressure. While that’s great for quiet listening sessions at home, it’s even more important when these headphones are out in the world. So unlike lesser models, the Z2’s premium materials and IPX4 water-resistance rating allow them to withstand both intense sweating during workouts or running through raindrops out in the elements.  

With multipoint connection abilities, the Z2s can also connect via Bluetooth to two devices at once and they’ve got a 35-hour battery life that will keep the music playing for hours and hours.

Retailing for $259, the Treblab Z2 Bluetooth 5.0 Noise-Cancelling Headphones are also enjoying an extended TNW Deals Memorial Day Sale price, knocking them down to just $71.97 if you make your purchase by June 2.

Prices are subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

Why is ‘Other’ in my iPhone storage taking up so much space and how do I clear it?

If you’re an iPhone user, check your storage now by selecting Settings, then General, and then iPhone Storage.

You’ll probably see a lot of recognizable categories eating up your storage — apps, photos, and so on. But there is one, often rather large category, that may raise concerns: “Other”.

It’s shaded light grey and often represents a significant proportion of the overall storage available.

iPhone Storage Summary
There is one, often rather large category, that often raises concerns: ‘other’.
Author provided

What is ‘Other’?

For more detail, scroll down and tap the “Other” category (right at the end). It doesn’t say much — just that it includes caches, logs and other resources in use by the system. Not very illuminating.

iPhone Other Storage
Not very illuminating.

Logs are records of actions undertaken on, or by, our phones. A phone may, for example, log that it connected to a WiFi network, established a Bluetooth connection with a device, backed up some data or opened a web page. In most cases, the log files are simple records that do not occupy much space — often only a few megabytes.

Caches, however, can be a much greater problem for clogging up your “Other” storage.

When we stream media such as movies and music on an iPhone, the phone will download as much of the content as possible. One of the main reasons for this is to minimise the dreaded spinning wheel you see when content is buffering.

Buffering media screenshot
Nobody wants to see the buffering wheel spin.

All this content (referred to as a “cache”) needs to be stored somewhere and it rapidly fills up your device.

This cached content extends to a wide range of applications including your web browser (such as Safari, Chrome or Firefox) and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Why is it taking up so much space?

While cached data may not seem to need much space, it is surprising how large streamed media content can be – not to mention the image-rich social media apps we love so much.

Facebook app storage
Here, you can see Facebook is consuming 2.17GB.

Looking through the list of apps and their storage allocations will quickly show how storage is being consumed. In this screenshot above, for example, you can see Facebook is consuming 2.17 gigabytes.

However, if we look on the App store, it says the Facebook app only requires 255.4 megabytes. So somehow the app is occupying an additional 1.9GB. Where is this extra 1.9GB coming from? It’s likely caches of images, videos and other content your phone had to store in it’s own memory storage so you could scroll through Facebook without encountering the dreaded “buffering” spinning wheel.

Facebook app storage requirement
The Facebook app only requires 255.4MB.

How do I clear ‘Other’ or get rid of it?

The most effective solution is also the most radical. To truly minimize “Other” storage, you would need to backup your phone, reset it and, finally, restore your phone from the backup.

This process will remove most of the “Other” storage being used on your iPhone, but takes a bit of time and effort.

How can I stop it getting so large in the future?

Unfortunately, cached files will be recreated with most common iPhone usage. But there are some things you can do to reduce storage consumption.

If you’re not keen to reset, try exploring the apps using up cache space on your iPhone.

Social media apps are a good starting point as they often cache lots of images and videos. While most don’t provide an option to delete their cached data, removing and reinstalling the app will remove all cache files.

Another likely culprit is your web browser (typically Safari on most iPhones).

From the Settings menu, scroll down to Safari and select “Clear History and Website Data”. This will remove most cached data associated with your web browser.

If you’re using another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, repeat the steps with that browser in Settings.

Safari options
From the Settings menu, scroll down to Safari and select ‘Clear History and Website Data’

Great. Any other iPhone storage tips and tricks?

If you want to keep going, consider removing old SMS and iMessages.

Standard written text messages occupy minimal storage, but photos and videos shared between family and friends can consume significant storage over time.

Under Settings, scroll down to Messages, then to the Message History option. The default is to keep messages “forever”. Changing this to a shorter duration can reduce space requirements considerably.

Messages history options
The default is to keep messages ‘forever’. Changing this to a shorter duration can reduce space requirements considerably.

A final option is to consider offloading apps. Modern iPhones let you remove infrequently used apps. While this will not necessarily reduce your use of cache storage, it can free up valuable space.

Offloading apps
A final option is to consider offloading apps.

There is no simple solution to managing iPhone storage usage. Minimizing photos and videos will help, but there is a lot of space allocated to apps and their cached data.

But with careful tending, we can try to keep on top of unexpected storage usage without having to wipe our devicesThe Conversation.

This article by Paul Haskell-Dowland, Associate Dean (Computing and Security), Edith Cowan University and Patryk Szewczyk, Senior lecturer, Edith Cowan University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

Categories
Covid 19

It’s time to make stringent cybersecurity for infrastructure companies mandatory

On May 7, a pipeline system carrying almost half the fuel used on the east coast of the United States was crippled by a major cyber attack. The five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in widespread fuel shortages and panic-buying as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida declared a state of emergency.

The attack highlights how vulnerable critical infrastructure such as fuel pipelines are in an era of growing cyber security threats. In Australia, we believe the time has come to make it compulsory for critical infrastructure companies to implement serious cybersecurity measures.

Collateral damage

The risk of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure is not new. In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, research demonstrated the need to address global security risks as we analysed issues of vulnerability and critical infrastructure protection. We also proposed systems to ensure security in critical supply chain infrastructure such as seaports and practices including container shipping management.

The rise of “ransomware” attacks, in which attackers seize important data from an organization’s systems and demand a ransom for its return, has heightened the risk. These attacks may have unintended consequences.

Evidence suggests the Colonial shutdown was the result of such an attack, targeting its data. It appears the company shut down the pipeline network and some other operations to prevent the malicious software from spreading. This resulted in a cascade of unintended society-wide effects and collateral damage.

Indeed, the attackers may have been surprised by the extent of the damage they caused, and now appear to have shut down their own operations.

We have seen how critical supply chain infrastructure can be severely disrupted as collateral damage. We must consider how severe the fallout might be from a direct attack.

The events in the US also raise another important question: how vulnerable is our critical supply chain infrastructure in Australia?

Critical infrastructure is an attractive target

Australian society is dependent on many international and domestic supply chains. These are underpinned by critical supply chain infrastructure that is often managed by advanced and interlinked information and communication systems. This makes them attractive targets for cyber attackers.

Cyber risk frameworks are often derived from traditional risk management approaches, addressing issues of a potential cyber attack asroutineconventionalrisk. These risk management approaches weigh up the costs of preventing a cyber attack against the costs and probability of a breach.

In some industries, this assessment will factor in the cost of a lost customer base who may never return. However, providers of critical services such as transportation, medical care, electricity, water, and food see little risk of losing customers.

After the Colonial incident, customers trooped back to petrol stations as soon as they could and went on buying fuel. Thus, critical industries may perceive less cost from a breach than companies in other industries because their customers will return.

Time for compliance

Australia’s national efforts in cyber security are coordinated by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) under the auspices of the Australian Signals Directorate. The ACSC works with public and private sector organisations to share information about threats and guidance on best practices for security.

ACSC documents such as the Essential Eight provide guidance for organisations on baseline security measures. These are supplemented by more comprehensive resources including the Australian Government Information Security Manual.

However, our research has shown the best practices are not universally followed, even by the Australian government’s own websites.

Lack of knowledge is not the problem. Security best practices are generally well understood and documented by the ACSC. The ACSC also provides specific guidance for critical sectors and industries, such as a security framework developed for the energy sector.

The challenge here is that these are guidelines only. Companies can choose whether to follow them or not.

What Australia needs is a cyber security compliance program. This would mean making it compulsory for companies that manage critical infrastructure such as ports or pipelines to follow some kind of rules.

A first step might be to demand these companies comply with the existing guidelines, and require certification of a baseline of cyber security.

Lessons from the United States

The US government responded to the Colonial cyber attack with an executive order to improve cyber security and federal government networks. The order proposes a raft of measures to modernize standards and improve information sharing and reporting requirements. These are valuable measures, many of which are already within the scope of the existing duties of Australia’s ACSC.

Another measure in the US order is the establishment of an independent Cyber Safety Review Board. Australia could likewise establish a partnership between government and industry to oversee cyber security. A similar body already regulates aviation: the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Such an organisation would provide robust analysis and reporting of cyber incidents. It would also share information with information technology managers, software and hardware developers, public administrators, crisis managers, and others.

Cyber security threats create high levels of uncertainty for the public and private sector. Attacks that disrupt critical supply chain infrastructure have widespread impacts on society and trade.

A cyber security compliance program may be financially costly, but would be a worthwhile investment given the societal impact of a successful cyber attack.The Conversation

This article by Richard Oloruntoba, Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management & Supply Chain Management Lead, Curtin University and Nik Thompson, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Curtin University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Categories
Covid 19

For just $75, the Nordic Hygge AirChill is the personal air conditioner everybody needs this summer

TLDR: The Nordic Hygge AirChill Evaporative Cooler is a personal desktop-sized air conditioner that saves money with both lower energy costs and its special Memorial Day Sale price.

With summer temperatures already starting to ratchet up across the U.S., residents everywhere are bracing for those sky-high summer utility bills and already trying to take steps to keep those costs in check this year.

With homeowners and renters in states like Arizona facing energy bills of over $470 to cool their homes this summer, everyone needs to consider ways of staying cool that don’t involve firing up that central cooling system.

Instead of cooling every inch of your home, consider ways to cool the area you’re in with the help of something like the hyper-efficient Nordic Hygge AirChill Personal Evaporative Cooler. With the current TNW Deals’ Memorial Day Sale price discount, it’s available now for just $75.97, a savings of almost 25 percent off the regular price.

At first glance, it’s probably easy to overlook the AirChill’s real power. The minimalist Scandanavian design of this 7-inch square unit is a modest cover for this evaporative cooler with some pretty serious room-cooling chops. In fact, it’s twice as powerful as its closest comparable competitor models. 

Powered by a high-speed, 9-blade fan, the unit sucks in dry air, moves it through an internal moistened evaporative pad, then sends that heavily cooled water back into the room to throw a blanket of chilled air across wherever you are. Wildly portable and sized to fit comfortably on a desktop or table, you can bathe your entire area in cooler temperatures, even while everything else around you swelters.

While it naturally cools and humidifies your air, the AirChill also effectively purifies your air at the same time, helping to eliminate all those harmful airborne particulates and knocking out musty or foul odors in your area.

Plus, the AirChill also comes with a 7-colored array of LED lights to set just the right tone in your space as a cool backlight. And it doesn’t hurt that the unit is also practically silent, notching sound levels below 35dB to help ensure you can stay cool and get some sleep at the same time. The AirChill is USB rechargeable and runs up to 4 hours on a single charge.

Regularly priced at $99, you can enjoy a summer discount on the Nordic Hygge Air Chill Personal Evaporative Cooler as part of the TNW Deals’ Memorial Day Sale. That lowers the final price on this powerful cooler down to only $75.97 if you order during Memorial Day week before June 2.

Prices are subject to change.