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Bad Buzz Batters Google Into Brandishing Better Buzz

Google Revises Its Social Network Buzz After Privacy Complaints

2 min read
Bad Buzz Batters Google Into Brandishing Better Buzz

Google beat two hasty retreats, regrouped and apologized to Gmail users in the wake of massive criticism over its privacy rules or lack thereof when it introduced its Buzz social media network service last week.

Google's Buzz, as the New York Timesnoted last week, "comes with a built-in circle of friends, a group that is automatically selected by Google based on the people that a user communicates with most frequently in Gmail and on Google’s chat service."

That feature infuriated many Gmail users who pointed out that they often used Gmail to communicate with their bosses and others who they didn't really want (and who they didn't believe wanted to be either) included as a Buzz "friend." Other Gmail users complained that they didn't want to have a Buzz account at all, and were not happy to hear that they were being included by default. Still other Gmail users worried that who they were corresponding with might be inadvertently disclosed.

So Google made some changes to Buzz last Thursday and again over the weekend after Thursday's changes didn't quell the uproar.

What apparently has calmed things down is Google's decision over the weekend to only "suggest" a circle of friends, rather than automatically setting one up, says a New York Times story yesterday. Google is also saying that it will be setting up a tab in the Gmail page to hide Buzz from Gmail users completely if they want.

The Times says, "The page gives users the option to disable Buzz, deleting their posts and removing their Google profile, which in many cases listed publicly their circle of contacts in Buzz. The new feature could address concerns that disabling Buzz and removing a public profile was a multistep process that confused many users and that some described as a game of whack-a-mole."

Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, was quoted in the Times as apologizing for the problems:"We're very sorry for the concern we've caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback... We'll continue to do so."

The Times story notes also that Google claims that tens of millions of its 176 million Gmail users have tried out Buzz, so Google's expectation is that this contretemps will blow over.

I do hope that in the meantime Google will remember that just because software allows you to do something clever doesn't automatically mean you should.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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