Tech Beat by Namecheap – 18 November 2022
After Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter, many avid users began looking for a new home. Computer-literate users have rallied around Mastodon, a rival social media microblogging site built on open web protocols. While escaping perils such as spam bots, misinformation, corporate greed, and Twitter trolls is a good reason for trying new social networks, is Mastodon really the best answer for everyone? This week’s lead story looks into the possibilities.
In other news
- Apple apps track users despite privacy settings. Despite Apple’s claims of prioritizing privacy, new research has found that the company tracks user data even when the user has chosen to disable sharing their device’s analytics. According to Gizmodo, security researchers and app developers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry made the discovery after studying the data collected by several iPhone apps. They found that the amount of data collected remained the same whether the device analytics setting was switched on or off. This is not in keeping with industry standards. Mysk and Bakry previously ran similar tests in Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge and found that neither application sent data when the analytics settings were turned off. Following the publication of these findings, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple in a California federal court, accusing the tech giant of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act.
- Bitcoin thief stashed $1bn in popcorn tin. US law enforcement has charged James Zhong with wire fraud after the 32-year-old stole 50,000 Bitcoins from the dark web site Silk Road in 2012. The Register reports that Zhong stole the cryptocurrency by abusing a design flaw in the site. Tricking Silk Road’s withdrawal-processing system, he created nine accounts and triggered over 140 transactions in quick succession. Law enforcement finally tracked him down last year and found his stash stored on a single-board computer inside a popcorn tin wrapped in blankets, which was inside an underground floor safe within a bathroom closet. Zhong pleaded guilty to the charges and could face up to 20 years in prison.
- FTX filed for bankruptcy as CEO resigned. One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges has found itself on shaky ground. TechCrunch reports that FTX has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, with 130 affiliate companies, such as FTX US and Alameda Research, following suit. Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried also stepped down and was replaced by John J. Ray III, known for leading energy company Enron through bankruptcy proceedings in the early 2000s. Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, briefly considered acquiring FTX, but soon backed out after reviewing its structure and books, stating that the company’s issues were beyond Binance’s ability to help.
- US firm reports 23% fall in ransomware attacks. The mid-year 2022 Cyber Threat Report from US company SonicWall shows a 23% drop in the number of ransomware attempts, according to the Financial Times. This is partly attributed to the number of firms willing to pay the ransoms, but also because victims are finding other ways of recovering their data. Ransomware gangs usually ask for payment in cryptocurrency, but due to the recent crypto crash this may be a less favorable option. Another possible factor is that Russian-based hackers could be focussing on cyber attacks related to the war in Ukraine. Governments in the US and the UK advise ransomware victims against paying ransoms, as there is no guarantee of having their data returned.
- French parking lots required to install solar panels. Parking facilities in France with more than 80 spaces will need to be covered by solar panels to meet a new law, according to Engadget. The law comes into effect from July next year, with parking lots with 80–400 spaces having 5 years to fulfill the requirement, but those with more spaces will have only 3 years. France had been falling behind other EU nations in the development of renewables, but the government says the plan could generate up to 11 gigawatts of energy, equal to 10 nuclear reactors.
- Surgical masks could be used to strengthen concrete. A study from Washington State University has found that discarded medical masks could be used to make concrete mix stronger, according to MIC.com. The study found that putting old surgical masks in the mix made concrete 47% stronger and more resistant to cracking. This is due to the microfibers abundant in the masks, which are not just important for filtering out viruses but also beneficial to the quality of building materials. Disposable masks have been identified as a common source of pollution in recent years, while the production of concrete is a carbon-intensive process. This new finding looks to be a win-win as soon as the right processes can be found to get more masks in more concrete.
Tip of the week: Picking the best Mastodon server
As of today, curious newbies have hundreds of different Mastodon servers to choose from. No matter which server you choose, you still have access to the rest of the network, but it’s important to take this choice seriously, as the account you set up will be forever associated with your initial pick. While you can always delete your account and start again later, time on social media is an investment.
You can likely find a server that matches up with your hobbies or line of work. But when your interests are more general, and you want to see what it’s all about, here are three of the best Mastodon servers to try:
- Vivaldi Social. Vivaldi Social is an open discussion hub founded by the creators of the Vivaldi web browser. Here you’ll find primarily techy discussions, but the community is very active, so your feed will be packed immediately.
- Newsie. This server is the best place for news-lovers, journalists, and anyone who uses social media to stay up to date on the 24-hour news cycle. It’s operated by Fourth Estate, whose mission is to “contribute to a healthy society by fostering, supporting, and incubating a sustainable and vibrant free press.”
- Nerdculture. A bilingual server in English and German, Nerdculture’s motto is “Be excellent to each other.” Here you’ll find a broad section of content, from photographs to humor to lots of people talking about leaving Twitter.
Have you tried Mastodon yet? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.