Archive for April 12, 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

NHS COVID-19 App Rejected on Privacy Grounds

Leo Kelion (via MacRumors, Hacker News):

An update to England and Wales’s contact tracing app has been blocked for breaking the terms of an agreement made with Apple and Google.

The plan had been to ask users to upload logs of venue check-ins - carried out via poster barcode scans - if they tested positive for the virus. This could be used to warn others.

[…]

Under the terms that all health authorities signed up to in order to use Apple and Google’s privacy-centric contact-tracing tech, they had to agree not to collect any location data via the software.

Florian Mueller:

With UK shops, restaurants and pubs reopening today thanks to a relaxation of COVID prevention rules, it was actually a very smart idea for the NHS COVID-19 app to ask users to scan QR codes when entering such places, thereby enabling the system to inform people if they had been in a virus hotspot at a critical moment.

In the Western world, contact tracing has failed to make a noteworthy positive impact. In parts of Asia, however, those apps made a huge contribution because people were not even allowed to enter restaurants unless the contact-tracing apps on their smartphones greenlighted them (meaning they had not recently been near an infected person for a certain period). It made a whole lot of sense for the UK to adopt what worked in Asia.

[…]

About a year ago, Nature reported on contact tracing apps and mentioned that an earlier version of the NHS app was tested, “[b]ut because this app eschews Apple and Google’s protocol, it will not be able to run in the background on iPhones.” An expert called this “a nail in the coffin.” Obviously, contact tracing is of little use if you actually have to have the contact tracing app running in the foreground all the time.

How should Apple and Google weigh potential health benefits vs. privacy? And what about people who want to contribute their data but aren’t allowed to?

Previously:

Logitech Harmony Remote Discontinued

Logitech:

While Harmony remotes are and continue to be available through various retailers, moving forward Logitech will no longer manufacture Harmony remotes.

We expect no impact to our customers by this announcement. We plan to support our Harmony community and new Harmony customers, which includes access to our software and apps to set up and manage your remotes. We also plan to continue to update the platform and add devices to our Harmony database. Customer and warranty support will continue to be offered.

Jason Snell:

This is real shame. I love my Logitech Harmony remote, and have bought them for my family in the past as well. This isn’t to say that the Harmony was awesome, just that it was better than any other option I’d tried.

But this demise has probably been a long time coming: a lot of people have fewer devices hooked up to their TVs now, many bundled remotes can control multiples devices, and technologies like HDMI-CEC have helped eliminate some needs for universal remotes.

Nick Heer:

For one, there are many other companies that maintain databases of IR remote control codes, not just Logitech, so those codes are not disappearing off the face of the planet just because Harmony is going away. Some of those databases are also open to the public, like this one on GitHub. There are also some other universal options that, like those from Logitech, have those codes in a database and do not require individual programming — Logitech’s Harmony line seems to be the default pick among buyers’ guides, but Joanna Stern’s choice was the Ray Super Remote and TechHive likes a Caavo model. Most importantly, the universal control problem is slowly fading as HDMI CEC becomes more widely used and different remotes can be used with different equipment.

Previously:

Microsoft Acquires Nuance

Microsoft (via Hacker News):

Microsoft will acquire Nuance for $56.00 per share, implying a 23% premium to the closing price of Nuance on Friday, April 9, in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7 billion, inclusive of Nuance’s net debt. Nuance is a trusted cloud and AI software leader representing decades of accumulated healthcare and enterprise AI experience. Mark Benjamin will remain CEO of Nuance, reporting to Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Cloud & AI at Microsoft.

Microsoft has accelerated its efforts to provide industry-specific cloud offerings to support customers and partners as they respond to disruption and new opportunities. These efforts include the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, introduced in 2020, which aims to address the comprehensive needs of the rapidly transforming and growing healthcare industry.

Previously:

Talon Beta

Talon:

Talon aims to bring programming, realtime video gaming, command line, and full desktop computer proficiency to people who have limited or no use of their hands, and vastly improve productivity and wow-factor of anyone who can use a computer.

Voice Control: talk to your computer
Noise Control: click with a back-beat
Eye Tracking: mouse where you look
Python Scripts: customize everything

Via Nicholas Riley:

Talon now has great accuracy to go with its speed, robustness and cross-platform support (Mac/Win/Linux). It is also quietly a great Mac automation tool, including keyboard triggers, a version of appscript and accessibility hooks (example).

High Performance Numeric Programming With Swift

Jeremy Howard (via Frank Illenberger):

I’ve managed to create a couple of libraries that can achieve the same speed as carefully optimized vectorized C code, whilst being concise and easy to use. […] I will include examples mainly from my BaseMath library, which provides generic math functions for Float and Double, and optimized versions for various collections of them.

[…]

One of the really cool things about Swift is that wrappers like the above have no run-time overhead. As you see, I’ve marked them with the inlinable attribute, which tells LLVM that it’s OK to replace calls to this function with the actual function body. This kind of zero-overhead abstraction is one of the most important features of C++; it’s really amazing to see it in such a concise and expressive language as Swift.

[…]

Normally, because Swift has to handle the complexities of COW, it can’t fully optimize a loop like this. But by using a pointer instead, we skip those checks, and Swift can run the code at full speed. Note that due to copy-on-write it’s possible for the array to move if you assign to it, and it can also move if you do things such as resize it; therefore, you should only grab the pointer at the time you need it.

[…]

I think this is quite remarkable; we’ve been able to create a simple API which is just as fast as the pointer code, but to the class user that complexity is entirely hidden away.

[…]

I also find Swift’s performance is harder to reason about and optimize than C.

Previously:

Update (2021-04-15): Tanner Bennett:

TIL @inlineable is no longer a private attribute