An unassuming walkie-talkie app has become this summer’s unsung hero.Push-to-talk program Zello rose to prominence during Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts, and continues to serve as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida.A modernized two-way radio, the application relies on a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to link crowds across the world. When Harvey hit Houston, volunteers leaned on Zello to coordinate search and rescue missions.Many folks in the path of Irma appear to be following that lead.“We have seen a large number of people signing up for Zello in preparation for Hurricane Irma,” founder and CTO Alexey Gavrilov wrote in a recent blog post.Since last Monday, more than six million new users have registered for the free service, according to BuzzFeed—pushing Zello to the top of the iTunes App Store charts.With great power comes great responsibility, and the Austin-based company has been scrambling to maintain capacity, help with customer support, and provide useful information. Powerful Hurricane Irma Strips Caribbean Islands of ColorTesla Extends Vehicle Range to Drivers in Hurricane Irma’s Path Stay on target We added 18 new servers this week. #prepare #irma— Zello Inc (@Zello) September 9, 2017Gavrilov on Wednesday posted tips Zello communications during and after a disaster, suggesting people use text messaging or PTT apps and avoid making phone calls “unless you have an emergency.”“Use Zello channels to coordinate group efforts of getting supplies, gas, preparing [your] house for the wind and rain,” the blog said. “Find and connect to the local search and rescue channels on Zello, or, if there [are] none, make your own.”Despite its meteoric growth in just about a week, the cross-platform social network boasts an App Store rating of only 2.5 stars.But that hasn’t stopped millions from tuning in and turning out to help those in need.Users are reminded, however, that mobile apps can only go so far.“While Zello has been helpful in Harvey relief efforts, it is not a hurricane rescue tool,” Gavrilov said, adding that the service “is only as useful as the people who use it, and as reliable as the data network available.”Zello isn’t the only standout hurricane helper: Cheap-petrol-finder app GasBuddy is in full swing, adding new features that highlight diesel availability and help motorists uncover abnormally high pump prices.“Extreme gasoline pricing in times of distress is illegal,” the company blog said. “We want to ensure that drivers who are impacted by the hurricane do not pay more than they have to.”Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.
Stay on target Podcasts Are TV Shows Now With ‘Limetown’ Trailer7 Icebreakers for Facebook’s New Dating Service Peter Sunde gave a rousingly cynical speech at tech festival Brain Bar Budapest. He repeated his claim that the internet began life as a nearly-perfect and free place. Since then, centralization has corrupted the anonymity and diversity of the web, he claims. That’s moved power into the hands of the gatekeepers who, in this case, are media companies, ISPs, and tech giants. And the worst of it, he says, is that it’s permanently broken, with no hope of going back.“Everything has gone wrong. That’s the thing; it’s not about what will happen in the future it’s about what’s going on right now,” Sunde told The Next Web. “We’ve centralized all of our data to a guy called Mark Zuckerberg, who’s basically the biggest dictator in the world as he wasn’t elected by anyone.”Sunde believes that the fact that a select few entities have such tremendous troves of data on each of us, means that they have powerful means of control — both subtle and not — that we can’t take back. Every major tech company of the past decade has been gobbled up by one of just five major corporations: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.That creates a dangerous precedent. It’d be one thing if there were thirty different companies that had 1/30th of a picture of you, but our centralization has meant that each of them has almost everything. That might not be that bad now, as it’s largely used for targeted advertising, but it’s only a matter of time, Sunde says until it’s leveraged for a more sinister end.“We’re super happy about self-driving cars, but who owns the self-driving cars? Who owns the information about where they can and can’t go?” he asked. “I don’t want to ride in a self-driving car that can’t drive me to a certain place because someone has bought or sold an illegal copy of something there.”Companies are, by default, amoral entities. They have no morals. That’s not a problem, that’s just how they work. They seek profit to the exclusion of all, and that’s fine to a point, Sunde says, but as time goes on they’ll need to grow and to grow they’ll need more money. So they will wrench every dollar and press every advantage they can to consume your life and make you wholly dependent upon them.“We lost this fight a long time ago,” Sunde told The Next Web. “The only way we can do any difference is by limiting the powers of these companies — by governments stepping in — but unfortunately the EU or the US don’t seem to have any interest in doing this.”Sunde adds that a good chunk of the blame is to be laid on capitalist systems. ” I would say we, as the people, kind of lost the internet back to the capitalist society… We had this small opening of a decentralized internet, but we lost it by being naive.”The only thing left to do is fight tooth and nail to limit the danger. Sunde claims that we need stronger protections and force decentralization. The EU could, Sunde suggests, force Facebook to give ownership of all data to the users or be denied the rights to operate in the EU. The problem, he says, is that everyone’s addicted to big data — and they’d be furious with their governments for forcing that kind of stalemate.“Big data and Big Tobacco are really similar in that sense,” Sunde said. “Before, we didn’t realize how dangerous tobacco actually was, but now we know it gives you cancer. We didn’t know that big data could be thing, but now we know it is. We’ve been smoking all our lives on big data’s products, and now we can’t quit.”Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.