DIGIT Tech News Roundup – 15th March 2019

DIGIT Tech News Roundup

This edition of DIGIT’s weekly news roundup features social media disruption, science centre funding and disability-friendly games. 

DIGIT’s Top Trending Stories

Millions of Users Unable to Access Facebook Apps

Facebook suffered its most severe outage since 2008 earlier this week with millions of users unable to access its family of associated apps.

Facebook’s main platform, along with Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram were all affected by the outage, which the company has put down to a “server configuration change.”

Earlier speculation that the outage was caused by a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack was denied by Facebook.

In a statement, the social media giant said the issue has since been fixed and all of its products and services are accessible again.

“Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We’ve now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience,” the company said on Twitter.

Want to find out more? Read the original article here.

Scottish Science Centres Receive Funding Boost

Science Minister, Richard Lochhead, announced a significant funding boost for science centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen earlier this week.

During a visit to the Glasgow Science Centre during British Science Week, Lochhead revealed the details of the £2.63 million cash injection, which takes the total amount given to science centres over the past four years to £10 million.

The grant for 2019-20 aims to improve accessibility in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects; with a particular focus on children and young people in rural and disadvantaged areas.

As well as operational grants for the four centres, the fund will include a schools and transport subsidy, which will support pupils in rural and disadvantaged areas to access the centres.

A community subsidy will also aim to support community engagement and attract a more diverse range of visitors.

“Our science centres help make science, technology, engineering and maths accessible to a wide public audience of all ages and from all backgrounds,” Lochhead said.

“More than 690,000 visitors passed through the doors of Scotland’s four science centres in the calendar year 2018 alone, and this funding for 2019-20 will provide more opportunities for people from all over Scotland to get involved in science over the coming year.”

Want to find out more? Read the original article here.

Abertay Univerisity Project to Create Disability-Friendly Video Game

Students from Abertay University have announced a collaboration with Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) that will see the development of a disability-friendly video game for children and young people.

Eight third-year students will design a game based on the Paralympic sport, Boccia, which is similar to bowls. The game will include a series of easy-to-use control methods to ensure it is accessible to all people, regardless of physical ability.

Speaking on the project announcement, team lead James Hunter said: “You tend to think of gaming as an activity that anyone can enjoy, but as we’ve discovered that’s not the case.

“For example, many modern video games include quick-time events where you need to press a button quickly. Some disabilities limit your reaction time, meaning that game immediately becomes inaccessible.”

The Abertay team said that in the future, the game could be opened up to an even larger audience through the introduction of eye gaze technology.

Eye gaze is a way in which users can control digital devices by tracking the movement of their eyes, as opposed to using their hands with a conventional mouse or controller.

Want to find out more? Read the original article here.

In Case You Missed It…

Record-Breaking pi Value Was No Piece of Cake.

Earlier this week a team from Google broke the Guinness World Record for the most accurate value of pi.

Emma Haruka Iwao, along with two colleagues, used cloud computing to calculate for a staggering 31,415,926,535,897 digits of pi – nine trillion digits more than the previous record.

As part of the gargantuan effort to beat this previous record, Iwao ran a pi-benchmark application known as y-cruncher for more than 120 days on 25 Google Cloud virtual machines.

This process, according to the team, was fraught with risk. To achieve such a large number, the time and resources required increase at a higher rate than the number itself, Google said.

Speaking on the project, Iwao said the biggest challenge encountered was that the project needed “a lot of storage and memory to calculate” and required 170 terabytes to be completed

For context, this is the equivelant to all the indexed and searchable parts of the internet in 2002.

Want to find out more? Read the original story here.

Prisoners in England to be Taught to Code

The UK Government said it will fund a scheme to teach prisoner to code in an attempt to prepare them for the world of work.

The project is part of a £1.2 million scheme to boost digital skills among people from disadvantaged backgrounds and will see courses led by volunteers and industry experts.

Prisoners will work on real-world projects with external organisations as part of the scheme and will learn basic coding skills before progressing to more advanced levels.

Two prisons have been awarded funding to lead the scheme so far, with £100,000 being awarded to Humber and Holme House in County Durham and an unemployment hub in Sheffield.

The coding project draws on previous successful schemes in the United States. The Last Mile project, launched by San Quentin prison in California helped more than 500 prisoners gain employment after their release.

Most significantly, of these 500 ex-prisoners, none were found to have reoffended following their release.

Want to find out more? Read the original article here.

Apple Faces EU Investigation Following Spotify Complaint

The European Union’s competition watchdog is expected to investigate Apple following claims that it was “stifling” Spotify’s ability to compete.

The popular music streaming service submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission over accusations that the tech giant “deliberately disadvantages” other app developers.

On Thursday this week, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told German publication Tagesspiegel that her office would investigate the complaint.

Following a similar case against Google in 2017, Vestager said she would examine potential parallels between the two cases.

Google was fined a record €2.4 billion (£2.2 billion) for unfair business practices in its case.

Want to find out more? Read the original article here.

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