Gadget Lab: Weekly Tech News from WIRED

WIRED

WIRED’s Gadget Lab podcast breaks down which gadgets, apps, and services you need to know about, and which ones you can move to the virtual trash bin. Learn how today’s tech shapes our lives—plus get your hosts’ personal recommendations at the end of each episode.

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The Non-Techie's Guide to Nvidia
Today
The Non-Techie's Guide to Nvidia
Unless you were really into desktop PC gaming a decade ago, you probably didn't give Nvidia much thought until recently. The company makes graphics cards, among other tech, and has earned great success thanks to the strength of the gaming industry. But it's been nothing compared to the explosive growth Nvidia has enjoyed over the past year. That's because Nvidia's tech is well-suited to power the machines that run large language models, the basis for the generative AI systems that have swept across the tech industry. Now Nvidia is an absolute behemoth, with a skyrocketing stock value and a tight grip on the most impactful—and controversial—tech of this era.This week on Gadget Lab, we welcome WIRED’s Will Knight, who writes about AI, as our guest. Together, we boot up our Nvidia® GeForce RTX™ 4080 SUPER graphics cards to render an ultra high-def conversation about the company powering the AI boom.Show Notes:Read Lauren’s interview with Nvidia cofounder and CEO, Jensen Huang. Read Will’s story about the need for more chips in AI computing circles, and his story about the US government’s export restrictions on chip technology. Read all of our Nvidia coverage.Recommendations:Will recommends WhisperKit from Argmax for machine transcription. Mike recommends getting your garden going now; it’s almost spring. Lauren recommends Say Nothing, a book by Patrick Radden Keefe.Will Knight can be found on social media @willknight Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Tech Workers Are Stressed Out
1w ago
Tech Workers Are Stressed Out
tech companies seemed immune to large-scale layoffs, and as their profits skyrocketed, those cushy jobs became highly sought-after. But economic headwinds, and the looming influence of AI, are leading to some tumultuous changes in the tech industry.In just the first seven weeks of this year, Amazon, Google, Discord, Duolingo, Cisco, Instacart, and dozens of others all made deep staffing cuts. It all adds up to tens of thousands of jobs lost across the industry, and the cuts aren't slowing down. It doesn't help that interviewing for tech jobs is getting harder too, with employers asking for more and more work or rigorous testing before making a hire. This week, WIRED senior writer Paresh Dave joins us to talk about whether the layoffs will cool off, and why right now is a daunting time to be looking for a tech job.Show Notes:Read Paresh’s story about how Google has been cutting down on its acquisitions lately. Read Amanda Hoover on recent tech industry layoffs, and her story about the TikTok layoff videos folks have been posting. Read Lauren’s story about how tech job interviews are getting even more demanding. And of course, follow all of WIRED’s coverage of how AI and how it affects people’s livelihoods.Recommendations:Paresh recommends making an effort to connect and collaborate with your disabled colleagues. Lauren recommends the documentary The Eternal Memory. Mike recommends listening to Ty Segall’s new album Three Bells and watching his live show.Paresh Dave can be found on social media @peard33. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
The Weird World of an AI Clickbait King
15-02-2024
The Weird World of an AI Clickbait King
Domain names have value, even when the websites that were once hosted there are shut down or abandoned. Prospectors will often swoop in and snatch up an unused domain, then erect a new website filled with clickbait articles. If the domain name used to rank highly in search results, the new clickbait articles will also rank highly, guaranteeing the prospector a steady stream of visitors searching the web for common phrases. These zombie sites are all over the web; you’ve probably landed on them many times yourself. But this shady market is poised to grow exponentially thanks to the proliferation of generative AI tools. Text generators like ChatGPT make it easier for prospectors to crank out clickbait articles at greater speed, feeding an already raging river of pablum.This week, Kate Knibbs tells us about her WIRED story on one of these entrepreneurs in the world of AI-generated clickbait hosted on squatted domains.Show Notes:Read Kate’s story about Nebojša Vujinović Vujo and his clickbait empire. Also read Kate’s original investigation into what happened to The Hairpin, a popular blog for womens’ writing that went defunct and was then reborn as a content mill.Recommendations:Kate recommends the novella Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler. Brian recommends the novel The Bee Sting by Paul Murray. Lauren recommends giving up fancy, creamy coffee drinks for Lent. Mike recommends the social media platform BlueSky, which is now open to everyone.Kate Knibbs can be found on social media @Knibbs. Brian Barrett is @brbarrett. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Several People Are Talking
08-02-2024
Several People Are Talking
At its core, Slack is a chat app. Every day, millions of people use it to communicate, share files, and gossip with coworkers or friend groups in one organized place. That style of free-flowing interaction—which Slack didn’t invent, but made mainstream—has changed the way we talk to each other online for better and for worse. It’s brought us closer together and enabled global collaboration, but it’s also allowed conversations to follow us anywhere … like when you get a notification at 10 pm that your boss has sent you a DM.This week, MIT Technology Review editor in chief Mat Honan joins the show to chronicle the history of Slack as the software suit turns 10 years old. We dig into how it helped our work lives bleed into our personal time, and how the company is faring under the auspices of Salesforce and against its competitors.Show Notes:Read Mat’s 2014 story about Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and his boring startup. Here’s Lauren’s story about the Slack soft return and other office hacks you might want to use. Listen to the episode of WIRED’s Have A Nice Future podcast with former Slack CEO Lidiane Jones.Recommendations:Mat recommends Airtags and the ChatGPT sticker bot. Mike recommends the Raw Impressions podcast with Lou and Adelle Barlow. Lauren recommends using the soft return in Slack. Mat Honan can be found on social media @mat. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Apple’s Uncanny Valley Pro
01-02-2024
Apple’s Uncanny Valley Pro
Apple's first ever mixed reality headset, the Vision Pro, arrives tomorrow. Apple has a knack for revitalizing and legitimizing a product category—something that the face computer market really needs right now. But there are some hangups that could limit its initial success: the Vision Pro's exorbitant $3,499 price tag, the tethered battery pack, and the mere handful of apps available on the device at launch. These issues point to this headset being more of a development kit than a fully realized product for now. It's a beautiful machine, but its true potential may not be realized for some time.This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu joins us to chat about the Apple Vision Pro and whether it's going to be the device that finally kicks off the face computer revolution. We also talk about the ways Apple is trying to make the headset disappear as part of the experience, both in the virtual space and in the physical realm.Show Notes:Read Julian’s hands-on experience with the Apple Vision Pro. Read Lauren’s story about the Apple Vision Pro’s battery pack. Read Boone Ashworth on the current situation with apps and developers. Recommendations:Julian recommends Thumbtack, a platform to connect homeowners with service vendors. Lauren recommends butter lettuce. Mike recommends the Scottish police show Shetland.Julian Chokkattu can be found on social media @JulianChokkattu. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
I Know What You Did With That Bitcoin
25-01-2024
I Know What You Did With That Bitcoin
If you’ve committed any internet crimes lately, you probably shouldn’t have paid for them with Bitcoin. While many crypto-evangelists have long thought of digital currency as a means of buying legal and illicit goods on the web with total anonymity, the fact is that nearly all cryptocurrency transactions leave a digital trail behind them that can point to your true identity. No matter how hard you try to hide, a dedicated sleuth with the right resources can find you.This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior cybersecurity writer and author of the book Tracers in the Dark digs into all the ways investigators, government agents, and hackers can track down criminals online by “following the money” exchanged in cryptocurrency transactions.This show originally aired on February 9, 2023.Show NotesAndy’s book is Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency. You can read two excerpts from the book on WIRED.com: the six-part AlphaBay saga and the feature about the takedown of a website for sharing child sex abuse materials.RecommendationsAndy recommends the deliberately frustrating game Getting Over It. Lauren recommends Andy’s WIRED story about the animal activists whose spy cams revealed the grim realities of pork slaughterhouses. Mike recommends the book Art Is Life by the art critic Jerry Saltz.Andy can be found on social media @a_greenberg. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Abortion Pill Orders Are Soaring
04-01-2024
Abortion Pill Orders Are Soaring
In 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that protected abortion rights in the United States. Since then, many states have rolled back abortion services or made them outright illegal. That includes some states restricting access to abortion pills like mifepristone. Now, at the start of an election year in the US and a year that will bring more legal challenges to abortion rights, a new study shows that women are stockpiling abortion pills in record numbers—even if they aren’t currently pregnant.This week, we welcome WIRED senior writer Kate Knibbs onto the show to talk about abortion medication, the trend of “advance provision” requests for mifepristone, and the coming legal fight over continued access to telehealth and in-person abortion services.Show Notes:Read Kate’s story about how women in the US are stockpiling abortion pills. Read our primer on menstrual regulation medications. Learn more about the upcoming US Supreme Court case that could change some Americans’ access to the pills.Recommendations:Kate recommends the film American Fiction. Mike recommends the movie Godland. Lauren recommends embracing the theory of Dunbar’s number and focusing on your closest relationships.Kate Knibbs can be found on social media @Knibbs. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Oops, All Recommendations!
21-12-2023
Oops, All Recommendations!
It’s been a year, that’s for sure. Every week on Gadget Lab, we end the show by bringing you our recommendations for all of our favorite tech, books, TV shows, and life hacks. Now, at the end of the year, we’re going all-in on that idea with an entire episode dedicated to those recommendations. We talk about all the things that helped us get through 2023 and have us looking forward to 2024.This week on Gadget Lab, we make the mistake of letting our producer Boone Ashworth grab a mic again. He joins Lauren and Michael to talk about the best gadgets, lifestyle changes, shows, and culinary curiosities of 2023.Show Notes:Our talk with Casey Johnston from May of 2023 can be found in episode number 598. Read more about ActivityPub and the coming federated social media landscape. Here’s our review of the new Valve Steam Deck OLED. See our list of our favorite electric kettles.Recommendations:Boone recommends running a half marathon or two, the new OLED Steam Deck, and Ableton Live software for making music (or at least pretending you understand how to). Lauren recommends lifting weights for fitness, an Oxo electric kettle, and the 2021 movie The Worst Person in the World. Mike recommends getting to know ActivityPub, watching the show Scavenger’s Reign on Max, and eating lots of chili crisp.Boone Ashworth can be found on social media @booneashworth. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth. Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Taylor Swift’s Pro-Russia Doppelganger
14-12-2023
Taylor Swift’s Pro-Russia Doppelganger
Does your favorite movie star or pop singer really love the Kremlin? Though the ads in your Facebook feed may lead you to believe such a thing, it’s just not true. In recent months, a major disinformation campaign has run rampant on Meta and X (aka Facebook and Twitter). The campaign uses fake ads that show existing photos of extremely famous celebrities—Beyoncé, Oprah, Justin Bieber, Shakira, Cristiano Ronaldo—which have been doctored to include fake quotes that back Russia and criticize Ukraine. The campaign, which is still in progress, was perpetrated by a pre-Kremlin group known as Doppelganger. Information shared exclusively with WIRED has also linked this disinformation campaign to Russia’s GRU military spy agency. On this week’s show, we talk with WIRED contributor David Gilbert, who reports on digital disinformation. David says Doppelganger has been acting in plain sight for over a year, buying targeted ads and using networks of bots and fake Facebook pages to get its pro-Russia propaganda in front of millions of people. Show Notes:Read David’s story about Doppelganger’s campaign. Read all of David’s recent coverage. Also read our coverage of other online propaganda campaigns.Recommendations:David recommends the movie Saltburn. Mike recommends buying Italian blood orange soda instead of sparkling cider for your next holiday part. Lauren recommends supporting a union!David Gilbert can be found wrangling all kinds of disinformation on social media @daithaigilbert. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Blue Bubbles Versus Green Bubbles
07-12-2023
Blue Bubbles Versus Green Bubbles
When an Android user sends a text message to an iPhone user, their chat bubble shows up in iOS shaded green rather than iMessage's default blue. This color coding signals to the iPhone user that the incoming text is arriving from outside the Apple ecosystem. But the divide goes beyond simple aesthetics. Photos and videos shared between the two mobile platforms don’t come through at full resolution. Neither do rich interactions like read receipts, typing indicators, and tapbacks. Group chats between the platforms are a total mess, filled with dropped messages and hurt feelings. A new app aims to bridge that blue-green bubble gap and make texting more seamless—and more secure with full encryption. It even turns Android texts blue! It’s what we’ve always wanted … right?This week on Gadget Lab, we talk about Beeper Mini, the app trying to make our text conversations easier. WIRED features editor Jason Kehe joins us to campaign against the trend of interoperability on our phones. As Jason sees it, these friction-free communication mechanisms are causing us to slip into bad habits, become more isolated, and feel less inclined to put down our phones and have a real experience.Show Notes:Read Lauren’s story about the new Beeper app and the teenage coder who helped make it work. Read more of Jason’s various other controversial opinions.Recommendations:Jason recommends piracy, and also a few works about pirates like the show Our Flag Means Death and the book Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly. Lauren recommends the new BlackBerry movie. Mike recommends pizzelle Italian cookies. Buy ‘em or make ‘em.Jason Kehe can be found on social media @jkehe. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Journalists in Studio Getting Coffee
30-11-2023
Journalists in Studio Getting Coffee
Coffee keeps the world turning. Or, at least, it makes it easier to pry your eyelids open and maintain some semblance of normalcy every day. There have been many research studies, technological innovations, and passionate arguments dedicated to brewing a better cup of coffee. A recent wave of impressively designed coffee gadgets aims to dial it in even further. But too often, those flashy and high-tech solutions don’t make a mug of coffee that’s any more satisfying than the familiar methods that have been around for years—or centuries, even.This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED contributor, cookbook author, and smart-kitchen expert Joe Ray joins us to chat about coffee: the optimal way to brew it, the best tech to use, and whether it's OK to shame people who use disposable K-cups. (Yes, it is.)Show Notes:Read Joe’s buying guide to find the best AeroPress coffee brewer, and check out his roundup of best cookbooks of 2023 (so far). Read all of Joe’s food and kitchen coverage for WIRED.Recommendations:Joe recommends Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home by Jessica Easto and Company: The Radically Casual Art of Cooking for Others by Amy Thielen. Lauren recommends giving honey as a gift and keeping a box cutter around the house. Mike recommends Mission Vegan: Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone by Danny Bowien and JJ Goode.Joe Ray can be found on social media @joe_diner. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Geoffrey Hinton: ‘It’s Far Too Late’ to Stop Artificial Intelligence
23-11-2023
Geoffrey Hinton: ‘It’s Far Too Late’ to Stop Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has made headlines all year long, but the turn of events this week was extraordinary. OpenAI was thrown into chaos with the firing and eventual rehiring of CEO Sam Altman. There was a shakeup in the company’s board of directors and fierce debates about how much influence ethics should have on the company’s direction. That uncertainty of how to philosophically approach artificial intelligence will keep casting a shadow over the tech industry even after the dust settles around the OpenAI drama. Researchers, proponents of ethical AI, and corporate customers of these new generative AI tools will continue to ask how these technologies are going to shape our future, and what influence they will have over our lives.This week, we're bringing you an episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast in which New Yorker writer Joshua Rothman talks to Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called godfather of AI, about how rapidly AI has advanced and how it may alter the future of humanity.Show Notes:This episode originally aired on November 21, 2023. You can find a full transcript here. Listen to the New Yorker Radio Hour wherever you get your podcasts. Read Joshua Rothman’s profile of Geoffrey Hinton in The New Yorker.Tom Simonite can be found on social media @tsimonite. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Gadget Lab is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
How Three Teens Broke the Internet
16-11-2023
How Three Teens Broke the Internet
In October 2016, a malware tool named Mirai took down some of the biggest sites and services on the web, including Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, PayPal, and Slack. The blackout affected most of the East Coast of the United States, and the size and scope of the outage alarmed the cybersecurity researchers and law enforcement agencies tasked with thwarting such attacks. The code that caused this meltdown was created by three individuals, all in their teens or early 20s. The trio had built a tool that took control of internet-connected smart home devices and used them—like a massive zombie army—to knock the internet’s most vital servers offline. Now, years later, Mirai’s three creators have told their story.This week, we talk to WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg about Mirai’s creation, how the code did its damage, and how the three hackers were eventually caught. Show Notes:Read Andy’s epic feature story titled “The Mirai Confessions: Three Young Hackers Who Built a Web-Killing Monster Finally Tell Their Story.” The story also graces the cover of the next issue of WIRED magazine.Recommendations:Andy recommends the book Your Face Belongs to Us by Kashmir Hill. Mike recommends getting a wreath for Christmas instead of chopping down a tree. Lauren recommends Okinawan sweet potato haupia pie bars.Andy Greenberg can be found on X as @a_greenberg and @agreenberg elsewhere. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Oh, the Humaneity
09-11-2023
Oh, the Humaneity
Phones are convenient, powerful devices, but they sure do gobble up a lot of our attention. How much of your day do you spend just holding your phone, staring at the screen? Humane, a company started by a pair of ex-Apple employees, wants to squash the tyranny of the touchscreen. The company has developed a tiny device that magnetically pins to your clothing, where it can replicate a phone’s core functions like answering calls, sending messages, and translating speech. It uses voice controls, touch controls, and a camera to sense the wearer’s intentions, and it crafts answers using machine intelligence and displays them on your outstretched hand using a tiny projector. It's a weird and audacious device that Humane hopes will free its customers from having to carry their phones everywhere.This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior writer Paresh Dave joins us to talk about his hands-off experience with the Humane Ai pin and the future phone alternatives.Show Notes:Read Paresh’s story about his experience with the Humane Ai pin.Recommendations:Paresh recommends Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. Lauren recommends the biography of Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Mike recommends the new reissue of the Buddha Machine music box from FM3.Paresh Dave can be found on social media @peard33. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
23andMe and You
26-10-2023
23andMe and You
Genetic testing companies like 23andMe and Ancestry offer a pretty enticing prospect. Just mail off a little bit of your spit in a tube and the company's lab can reveal the details of your ethnic background and trace the many branches of your family tree. The popularity of such tests means these genomics and biotechnology companies hold a whole lot of very personal data about their customers, and hackers tend to see their databases as targets ripe for the picking. Earlier this month, the private data of millions of 23andMe customers was stolen and put up for sale on hacker forums. Most troublingly, the data gathered targeted specific ethnic groups, including Ashkenazi Jews and people of Chinese descent.This week on Gadget Lab, we talk with WIRED senior writer Lily Hay Newman about the 23andMe hack, what it means for the people who were directly affected, and whether it's a good idea to give companies access to your genetic material and history in the first place.Show Notes:Read more from Lily about the 23andMe hack and some updates on how it has gotten even worse. Follow all of WIRED’s cybersecurity coverage.Recommendations:Lily recommends Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea, specifically the flavor Malty Biscuit Brew. Lauren recommends Pasta e Ceci. Mike recommends the episode of the New York Times podcast Popcast titled, “Do We Need Album Reviews Anymore?”Lily Hay Newman can be found on social media @lilyhnewman. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
Misinformation Is Soaring Online. Don’t Fall for It
19-10-2023
Misinformation Is Soaring Online. Don’t Fall for It
Misinformation lives everywhere. False accounts of events, doctored photos, and purposely misleading news stories are quickly shared and passed around on social media, usually by well-meaning people who don’t know they’re sharing incorrect information. It's a big problem in the best of times, but the stakes become much higher during a heated crisis like the current Israel-Hamas war. As the violence in and around Gaza has continued to escalate, people are turning to places like X (aka Twitter) for the latest news on the conflict. But they've been met with a flood of bad info—old videos, fake photos, and inaccurate reports—that researchers say is unprecedented.This week on Gadget Lab, we talk with WIRED reporter David Gilbert about how misinformation and disinformation spreads across social media, and how recent changes made by X before the Israel-Hamas war have made the problem even worse. We also talk about how the proliferation of generative artificial intelligence tools is making fake photos and videos look more believable. Show Notes:Read David and Vittoria Elliot’s WIRED story about how disinformation is getting worse on X. Read David on the role misinformation played in coverage of the recent Gaza hospital explosion. Also read David’s story about how posts by X owner Elon Musk are seemingly making the platform’s misinformation problems worse.Recommendations:David recommends the book A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney. Mike recommends Bono’s memoir Surrender. Lauren would like you to send her workout playlists. (She prefers Spotify.)David Gilbert can be found on social media @daithaigilbert. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.