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News, Tech Roundup

Tech Beat by Namecheap – 24 March 2023

With the growth of connected home devices and health trackers in recent years, more and more people have opted to share ultra-personal data with tech companies. Some experts refer to this act as “luxury surveillance.” Find out what it is and why it should concern you.

In other news

  • Leading book publishers want to destroy the Internet Archive. In June 2020, the publishers Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House filed a copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive. The case concerns the archive’s online library and its practice of creating digital copies without a license and making them available to online readers. The Register reports that the plaintiffs have requested a summary judgment from a New York court. Meanwhile, the Internet Archive has filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that its Controlled Digital Lending initiative is akin to lending a book to a friend. In that analogy, one physical copy of the book has been purchased, and in the case of the Internet Archive, they only allow one digital copy to be borrowed at a time. 
  • New satellite to track dangerous chemicals. A new space instrument, Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring Pollution (TEMPO), seeks to solve North America’s air pollution problem. According to Inverse, TEMPO will carry out hourly measurements over North America, allowing scientists to study emissions as they occur throughout the day in various locations, from small regions to big cities. Built in collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA, TEMPO can track three pollution gasses: nitrogen dioxide, which can cause asthma; ozone, which can harm crops and cause smog; and formaldehyde, which can cause cancer.
  • Crabby batteries. Scientists are exploring the potential of chitosan, a derivative of chitin found in crustacean exoskeletons, as a source for novel medicine and biotechnology, according to New Atlas. Going even further, researchers have discovered that turning shell waste into hard carbon may be an effective anode for sodium-based rechargeable batteries, a sustainable alternative to current lithium technology. By heating shells to high temperatures and adding them to a solution of tin sulfide or iron sulfide, the team created a viable sodium-ion anode that could enhance conductivity and transport sodium ions.
  • AI-generated art can be copyrighted in the US — but with a catch. The US Copyright Office has clarified that works generated by AI are not copyrightable in and of themselves, but if a human can prove that they put in a significant amount of creative effort into the final product, that makes them eligible for copyright. However, as the Register reports, digital art, poems, and books created using AI tools will not be protected by copyright if they were created by humans using only a text description or prompt.
  • Culinary 3-D printing — coming to a cafe near you? The future of culinary arts is undergoing a transformation with the introduction of 3D printing. As reported in the Guardian, this tech offers limitless possibilities to chefs, allowing them to create intricate and complex dishes that would be impossible with traditional methods. Although it may not appeal to home chefs just yet, 3-D food printing may offer more options for space travel and cafeterias alike.
  • When is a photo not a photo? Samsung’s latest smartphone camera technology, Space Zoom, has sparked controversy after a user on Reddit proved that the phone was adding details that didn’t exist in the original subject. The Verge described how after snapping a photo of an intentionally blurry moon, the Redditor shared the resulting detailed photo, demonstrating the manipulation done inside the phone. The Space Zoom feature allows users to capture high-quality images of distant objects, but the controversy has raised questions about the limits of computational photography and the ethical implications of using advanced technology to achieve results that may not be authentic.

Tip of the week: how to access all the ebooks you could ever want 

There are lots of ways to read ebooks online. If you really care about a topic enough to seek out a full-length book on the subject, we’d suggest buying it whenever possible so the authors can get compensated, pay their bills, and live to write another book you might want to read someday. However, we understand that not everyone can do so. 

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to access books and ebooks legally online. Here are some of the best options:

  • Amazon and Barnes & Noble. These popular online retailers offer a vast collection of low-cost and free ebooks, including bestsellers, classics, and self-published works. You can read many Amazon books on your Kindle device or using the Kindle app on your phone or tablet, whereas Barnes & Noble’s ebooks can be read on their Nook reader. 
  • eBooks.com. This online store is a leading retailer of ebooks, with a vast range of titles from academic, popular, and professional publishers. Unlike other sites, you can actually download .epub files to your device that are yours to keep, and open with any app you like. 
  • Better World Books. This online bookseller offers new and used books, many of which were “rescued” from libraries that no longer needed them. What sets Better World Books apart is its commitment to literacy and sustainability. For every book sold, the company donates a book to someone in need through its Book for Book program. Better World Books also partners with libraries and literacy non-profits to support global literacy initiatives. 
  • Project Gutenberg. If you are still committed to getting books for free, Project Gutenberg is the place to do it legally. The project — also run by the Internet Archive — aims to make books and other cultural works freely available to the public, without any copyright restrictions. The ebooks are available in multiple formats, including EPUB, Kindle, HTML, and plain text, and can be downloaded or read online. The project relies on volunteers to digitize and proofread older books, and anyone can contribute to the effort.
  • Libby: If you’re in the US and have a local library card, you may have access to Libby (also known as Overdrive, which bought Libby), a vast online library. Check out current ebooks on everything from fantasy to historical fiction to biographies — as well as audiobooks — all for free once you connect your library card to the app. Much like a traditional library, Libby holds a finite number of titles, so you may have to wait for popular books. But Libby isn’t restricted just to the US — to see what services Libby offers in your country, they offer an interactive map
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