TL;DR: This week, Google introduced Firebase Genkit to run AI-powered apps locally, including the Gemma model. Insights into handling AI "hallucinations" reveal strategies to improve model accuracy. Cybersecurity alert: Wyndham Hotels' check-in systems were compromised by spyware. iTerm2's new AI-powered terminal feature sparks mixed reactions. In entertainment, "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" dives into the character's backstory. Apple is set to launch a new Beats Pill speaker and the iPhone 16 Pro Max with significant camera upgrades. Microsoft announces Copilot+ PCs with advanced AI capabilities, and SQL celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Artificial Intelligence

Hallucinating AI: The Secret to Taming Language Models’ Wild Imaginations (~4 min.) : Large Language Models (LLMs) can exhibit “hallucination,” where they generate incorrect or nonsensical information, often due to their ability to draw from millions of data sets and make probabilistic guesses. There are two main types of hallucinations: intrinsic, where the model contradicts original text or external knowledge bases, and extrinsic, where it introduces brand-new, unverifiable information. While hallucination is a natural byproduct of LLMs’ creative abilities, it can be mitigated through techniques like fine-tuning, incorporating user feedback, and adjusting model parameters to balance creativity and accuracy. Additionally, training the model on specific domain data or using “memory tuning” approaches can help reduce hallucinations in factual domains.

Run Google’s AI-Powered Apps Locally with Firebase Genkit: Unleash the Power of Gemma! (~1 min.) : Google has introduced Firebase Genkit, an open-source framework that enables developers to build, deploy, and monitor AI-powered apps. At Google I/O 2024, the company announced that Genkit features Ollama support for running Google’s Gemma model on local machines, making it accessible on MacOS, Windows, Linux, and Docker containers. To get started with Genkit, developers can install the framework using npm and initialize a new Node.js project, which will then run on localhost:4000.


Spyware Slip-Up: Wyndham Hotels’ Check-In Systems Exposed to Public View (~6 min.) : A consumer-grade spyware app called pcTattletale has been found running on the check-in systems of at least three Wyndham hotels in the US, exposing sensitive guest information to anyone with internet access. The app, marketed as a tool for monitoring employees or tracking cheating spouses, captures screenshots of hotel booking systems and can be used to track devices without users’ knowledge or consent. A security researcher discovered the vulnerability and attempted to warn pcTattletale, but the company has not responded. The incident highlights concerns about stalkerware apps and their potential misuse.


AI-Powered Terminal: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? (~5 min.) : iTerm2, a popular terminal emulator for macOS, has recently updated to include AI-powered natural language command generation. The feature allows users to enter prompts and generates commands, but requires an OpenAI API key. While the feature is optional, some users are expressing frustration with its inclusion, citing concerns about the opacity of AI systems and feelings of being “shoved down their throats” without user agency. Others have chosen to switch away from iTerm2 in favor of alternative terminal emulators without AI integrations.


Racing Back: A Prequel to Mad Max’s Fury (~6 min.) : The Mad Max franchise has been revitalized with the release of “Furiosa: A Mad Mad Saga”, a prequel to the hit film “Mad Max: Fury Road”. The new movie explores the backstory of Imperator Furiosa, one of the most iconic characters in the series. Directed by George Miller, “Furiosa” delves into Furiosa’s early years and her struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. While the film is more artfully realized than its predecessor, it has been criticized for treating Furiosa as a supporting character rather than the main protagonist. The article concludes that while “Furiosa” is an enjoyable addition to the Mad Max franchise, it ultimately feels like a smaller-scale film compared to “Fury Road”.


Unleash Your Inner Paper Enthusiast: Live Paper, Sol:OS & More - A Game-Changing Tablet Experience! (~2 min.) : The Founders Edition offers a unique tablet experience with a “Live Paper” display that provides smooth scrolling and interactions, mimicking the feel of reading paper. The device is designed for comfortable outdoor use with a daylight-readable screen and flicker-free backlight, making it perfect for reading or writing in natural light settings. The Sol:OS operating system ensures a distraction-free experience, while also integrating with cloud services to provide access to all your content in one place.

Microsoft Unveils Revolutionary Copilot+ PCs (~16 min.) : Microsoft unveiled a new category of AI-powered Windows PCs called Copilot+ PCs. These devices feature cutting-edge silicon with over 40 trillion operations per second, all-day battery life, and advanced AI models for enhanced productivity. Key features include Recall for easy data retrieval, Cocreator for real-time AI image generation, and Live Captions for translating audio from over 40 languages. Starting at $999, these devices from brands like Surface, Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung will be available from June 18 this year.

iPhone 16 Pro Max’s Camera Gets a Big Boost: Rumored 48-Megapixel Sensor and More! (~5 min.) : The next-generation iPhone 16 Pro Max is rumored to feature a bigger main camera sensor, using an advanced custom Sony IMX903 sensor, while both iPhone 16 Pro models will have a 48-megapixel Ultra Wide camera for the first time. This upgrade should enable better low-light photography and allow for shooting 48-megapixel ProRAW photos in Ultra Wide mode. The rumor is corroborated by Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu’s forecast, which suggests that both iPhone 16 Pro models will feature a 48-megapixel Ultra Wide camera.

Beats Pill Reboot: New Speaker Spotted with Celebs, FCC Filing Hints June Launch (~4 min.) : Apple is expected to launch a new version of its Beats Pill speaker in June, possibly around the same time as the Solo Buds earphones. The new Beats Pill speaker has been spotted with celebrities such as LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Kim Kardashian, and features a pill-shaped design, lanyard, and colors including gold, red, and black. The device is expected to have USB-C charging, improved Bluetooth, and other upgrades.

Everything Else

A Theoretical “Case Against Education” (~12 min.) : Bryan Caplan argues that the primary benefit of education is signaling rather than skill acquisition. He suggests that most educational qualifications serve to demonstrate traits like intelligence and conformity to employers, leading to credential inflation. Caplan proposes reducing public education funding and promoting vocational training instead, questioning the long-term retention of facts and skills taught in schools. He also explores the impact of cultural osmosis on knowledge retention, contrasting it with formal education’s effectiveness.

SQL Just Got a Whole Lot Cooler: SQL is Now 50! (~1 min.) : The article announces that SQL, a programming language used for managing relational databases, has reached its 50th birthday. First developed in 1974 by Donald Chamberlin and Raymond Boyce at IBM, SQL has become a fundamental tool for data manipulation and analysis. Its widespread adoption has led to numerous extensions and enhancements, making it an essential skill for any professional working with data.

Thank you for joining me in this week’s exploration of the tech universe. Amidst the endless stream of information, I strive to bring you news that is not only relevant but also thought-provoking. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome. Don’t forget to spread the word about the Friday Tech Focus Newsletter and stay tuned for more curated insights next week!