In the city, we’re constantly saturated with the radio waves from ten or twenty different routers, cell towers, and other wireless infrastructure. But in rural communities there might only be one internet connection for a whole village. LibreRouter is a hardware and software project that looks to let those communities build their own modern, robust mesh networks to make the most of their limited connectivity.
The intended use case is in situations where, say, a satellite or wired connection terminates at one point, the center of an area, but the people who need to use it live nearby — but well outside the hundred feet or so you can expect a wi-fi signal to travel. Often in such a case it’s also prohibitively expensive to run more wires or install cellular infrastructure.
So instead of having people come to the signal, you bring the signal to them with a mesh network: a collection of interconnected wireless routers that pass signals to and from anyone who can reach one of them.
This approach has its own problems: routers can be expensive and difficult to maintain or repair, and the network itself isn’t trivial to set up and troubleshoot either. Off the shelf routers and software aren’t the best options — so a team of concerned hackers have put together their own: LibreRouter, and LibreMesh, the software that runs on it.
It’s not some groundbreaking device or fancy software — just purpose built for use by communities like the ones they’ve tested with in rural Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Canada.
The goal, as LibreRouter’s Nicolás Pace explained to APNIC, is to make mesh networks affordable, robust, scalable, and simple to operate; they’re not all the way there, but they do have a working prototype and full software stack based on OpenWRT, a well-known and trusted wireless utility.
They’ve designed the router itself to be modern and powerful, but easy to repair with normal tools and off-the-shelf parts; the software won’t quite be one-click simple, but it should automate many of the harder parts of configuring a mesh. The range on them is in the kilometers rather than meters, so these can really connect quite a large area.
It’s all open source, of course, and the team is always looking for contributors. There’s enough interest, Pace said, that they might ship as many as 2,500 of the devices over the next couple years once the design is finalized.
Big Sur was a landmark release of macOS, in ways both technical and symbolic. It introduced a major new redesign, it was the first version of macOS to run on Apple’s own in-house processors in addition to Intel’s, and it was the first version of macOS in nearly 20 years to change the version number. Coming off that, this year’s release was bound to feel a little small.
Welcome to Monterey, macOS version 12.0.
Monterey feels of a piece with maintenance-mode macOS updates like El Capitan or Sierra or High Sierra—change the default wallpaper, and in day-to-day use you can easily forget that you’ve upgraded from Big Sur at all. It’s not that there aren’t any new features here—it’s just that improving any operating system as mature as macOS involves a lot of tinkering around the edges.
But there are plenty of things to talk about in even the most minor of macOS releases, and Monterey is no different. The update refines the Big Sur design and rethinks automation and what’s possible via local wireless communication between devices. It also makes a long list of minor additions that won’t be exciting for everyone but will be interesting for some subset of Mac users.
The market for Chromebooks is generally growing this year despite recent pandemic-related slowdowns, and it looks like more PC vendors are interested in releasing Chrome OS devices. The next in line may be LG.
On October 18, a filing was listed with the Bluetooth SIG, the special interest group that awards Bluetooth certifications, for an “LG Chromebook.” The listing, spotted by Chrome Unboxed, doesn’t give us much further information. The device’s model number is “11TC50Q,” and the machine should have some version of Bluetooth 5.
Without any official word from LG, we can’t be sure that the product exists. But since the company went through the effort of getting Bluetooth certification from Bluetooth SIG, an LG-branded Chromebook is far from a pipe dream. Plus, it would make sense for LG to release a Chromebook.
LG has its hands in many pots, from kitchen appliances to high-end TVs, audio solutions, and even solar panels. LG’s current PC lineup is centered on its Gram series of ultralight laptops. Since Chromebooks employ low-power parts, heat can be more manageable, allowing for thin and fanless designs. This also makes them a good option for travel.
As noted by Chrome Unboxed, LG made a Chrome OS-based all-in-one PC, aka a Chromebase, in 2014 but couldn’t compete with Windows and macOS rivals.
If LG does release a Chromebook, it will be interesting to see if it gets LG’s Gram branding. Currently, all of LG’s Gram laptops are thin-and-lights with Intel chips. The brand also makes a couple of AMD Ryzen-powered clamshells with LG Ultra PC branding. An LG Gram Chromebook would imply Intel chips.
Alternatively, LG could end the idea of its Gram laptops needing to be part of the Intel Evo certification program for ultrabooks and let the Chromebook stand on the names of LG and Chromebook alone—or even launch a new brand just for Chrome OS devices. LG’s AMD PCs start at an MSRP of $800, while the cheapest Gram-branded PC starts at $1,000.
An LG Chromebook would bring Google’s OS pretty close to ubiquity among all major US PC brands, though Razer, MSI, and Microsoft don’t sell Chromebooks.
Facebook’s senior executives interfered to allow US politicians and celebrities to post whatever they wanted on its social network despite pleas from employees to stop, leaked internal documents suggest.
Employees claim in the documents that while Facebook has long insisted that it is politically neutral, it allowed rightwing figures to break rules designed to curb misinformation and harmful content, after being stung by accusations of bias from conservatives.
In September 2020, just ahead of the US presidential election, the author of an internal memo wrote that “director-level employees” had “written internally that they would prefer to formally exclude political considerations from the decision-making process.”
The author called for the company’s leadership to create a “firewall” around its content moderation teams to stop this from happening and to make sure Facebook did not keep up or take down posts because of external political and media pressure.
In another internal note, dated December 2020, an employee claimed that Facebook’s public policy team blocked decisions to take down posts “when they see that they could harm powerful political actors.”
“In multiple cases the final judgment about whether a prominent post violates a certain written policy are made by senior executives, sometimes Mark Zuckerberg,” the author added, referring to Facebook’s chief executive. Parts of the note were previously reported by BuzzFeed.
In a further example from 2019, Zuckerberg was alleged to have been personally involved in a decision to allow a video that made the false claim that abortion is “never medically necessary.”
The post, which had been taken down by a moderator, was reinstated following complaints by Republican politicians, the document said.
The documents, part of a wider cache dubbed the Facebook Papers, were disclosed to US regulators and provided to Congress in redacted form by the legal counsel of whistleblower Frances Haugen. A consortium of news organisations, including the Financial Times, has obtained the redacted versions received by Congress.
Facebook declined to respond to queries about the outcome of any discussions about separating its content team from the policy and communications teams.
Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, said: “At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie. The truth is we’ve invested $13bn and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.”
Staff told to aim for ‘“unimpeachable neutrality”
A former Facebook executive told the FT that Zuckerberg had long told staff to aim for what he called “unimpeachable neutrality.”
This was important particularly around US political groups, employees were told, because the company did not want to be accused of breaking campaign rules by giving a donation in kind.
But three other former employees said they had observed how Facebook applied its own rules in an inconsistent and haphazard way, with special treatment for celebrities.
One former integrity team employee said: “For the people running Facebook, it seems like they care much more about not appearing biased than actually not being biased. Often their efforts at the former make the latter worse.”