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FTP Is Almost 50 Years Old—and It’s Ready to Retire

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A version of this post originally appeared on Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.

Here’s a small piece of news you may have missed while you were trying to rebuild your entire life to fit inside your tiny apartment at the beginning of the COVID crisis: Because of the way that the virus shook up just about everything, Google skipped the release of Chrome version 82.

Who cares, you think? Well, users of FTP, or the File Transfer Protocol.

During the pandemic, Google delayed its plan to kill FTP, and now that things have settled to some degree, Google recently announced that it is going back for the kill with Chrome version 86, which deprecates the support once again, and will kill it for good in Chrome 88.

(Mozilla announced similar plans for Firefox, citing security reasons and the age of the underlying code.)

It is one of the oldest protocols the mainstream internet supports—it turns 50 next year—but those mainstream applications are about to leave it behind.

Let’s ponder the history of FTP, the networking protocol that has held on longer than pretty much any other.

The year that Abhay Bhushan, a masters student at MIT who was born in India, first developed the File Transfer Protocol. Coming two years after telnet, FTP was one of the first examples of a working application suite built for what was then known as ARPANET, predating email, Usenet, and even the TCP/IP stack. Like telnet, FTP still has a few uses, but has lost prominence on the modern internet largely because of security concerns, with encrypted alternatives taking its place—in the case of FTP, SFTP, a file transfer protocol that operates over the Secure Shell protocol (SSH), the protocol that has largely replaced telnet.

FTP is so old it predates email—and at the beginning, actually played the role of an email client

Of the many application-level programs built for the early ARPANET, it perhaps isn’t surprising that FTP is the one that stood above them all to find a path to the modern day.

The reason for that comes down to its basic functionality. It’s essentially a utility that facilitates data transfer between hosts, but the secret to its success is that it flattened the ground to a degree between these hosts. As Bhushan describes In his requests for comment paper, the biggest challenge of using telnet at the time was that every host was a little different.

“Differences in terminal characteristics are handled by host system programs, in accordance with standard protocols,” he explained, citing both telnet and the remote job entry protocol of the era. “You, however, have to know the different conventions of remote systems, in order to use them.”

image2.jpg

A teletype terminal from the ARPANET era. Image: fastlizard4/Flickr

The FTP protocol he came up with tried to get around the challenges of directly plugging into the server by using an approach he called “indirect usage,” which allowed for the transfer or execution of programs remotely. Bhushan’s “first cut” at a protocol, still in use in a descendant form decades later, used the directory structure to suss out the differences between individual systems.

In a passage from the RFC, Bhushan wrote:

I tried to present a user-level protocol that will permit users and using programs to make indirect use of remote host computers. The protocol facilitates not only file system operations but also program execution in remote hosts. This is achieved by defining requests which are handled by cooperating processes. The transaction sequence orientation provides greater assurance and would facilitate error control. The notion of data types is introduced to facilitate the interpretation, reconfiguration and storage of simple and limited forms of data at individual host sites. The protocol is readily extendible.

In an interview with the podcast Mapping the Journey, Bhushan noted that he came to develop the protocol because of a perceived need for applications for the budding ARPANET system, including the need for email and FTP. These early applications became the fundamental building blocks of the modern internet and have been greatly improved on in the decades since.

Due to the limited capabilities of computing at the time, Bhushan noted that early on, email-style functionality was actually a part of FTP, allowing for messages and files to be distributed through the protocol in a more lightweight format—and for four years, FTP was technically email of sorts.

“So we said, ‘Why don’t you put two commands into FTP called mail and mail file?’ So mail is like normal text messages, mail file is mailing attachments, what you have today,” he said in the interview.

Of course, Bhushan was not the only person to put his fingerprints on this fundamental early protocol, eventually moving outside of academia with a role at Xerox. The protocol he created continued to grow without him, receiving a series of updates in RFCs throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including an implementation that allowed it to support the TCP/IP specification around 1980.

While there have been some modest updates since to keep with the times and add support for newer technologies, the version of the protocol we use today came about in 1985, when Jon Postel and Joyce K. Reynolds developed RFC 959, an update of the prior protocols that is the basis for current FTP software. (Postel and Reynolds, among others, also worked on the domain-name system around this time.) While described in the document as “intended to correct some minor documentation errors, to improve the explanation of some protocol features, and to add some new optional commands,” it nonetheless is the version that stuck.

Given its age, FTP has many inherent weaknesses, many of which manifest themselves to this day. For example, transferring a file folder with a lot of tiny files is intensely inefficient with FTP, which does much better with large files as it limits the number of individual connections that are needed.

In many ways, because FTP was so early in the history of the internet, it came to define the shape of the many protocols that came after. A good way to think about it is to compare it to something that frequently improves by leaps and bounds over a few decades—say, basketball sneakers. Certainly, Converse All-Stars are good shoes and work well in the right setting even today, but for heavy-duty basketball players, something from Nike, potentially with the Air Jordan brand attached, is far more likely to find success.

The File Transfer Protocol is the Converse All-Star of the internet. It was file transfer before file transfer was cool, and it still carries some of that vibe.

“Nobody was making any money off the internet. If anything, it was a huge sink. We were fighting the good fight. We knew there was potential. But anybody who tells you they knew what would happen, they’re lying. Because I was there.”

— Alan Emtage, the creator of Archie, considered the internet’s first search engine, discussing with the Internet Hall of Fame why his invention, which allowed users to search anonymous FTP servers for files, didn’t end up making him rich. Long story short, the internet was noncommercial at the time, and Emtage, a graduate student and technical support staffer at Montreal‘s McGill University, was leveraging the school’s network to run Archie—without their permission. “But it was a great way of doing it,” he told the site. “As the old saying goes, it’s much easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” (Of note: Like Bhushan, Emtage is an immigrant; he was born and raised in Barbados and came to Canada as an honors student.)

image5.jpg

Why FTP may be the last link to a certain kind of past that’s still online

As I wrote a few years ago, if you grab an old book about the internet and try to pull up some of the old links, the best chances you have of actually getting a hold of the software featured is through a large corporate FTP site, as these kinds of sites tend not to go offline very often.

Major technology companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Mozilla, Intel, and Logitech, used these sites for decades to distribute documentation and drivers to end users. And for the most part, these sites are still online, and have content that has just sat there for years.

In many cases, the ways that these sites are most useful are when you need access to something really old, like a driver or documentation. (When I was trying to get my Connectix QuickCam working, I know it came in handy.)

image4.png

An example of what FTP looks like in a web browser in the modern day, using ftp.logitech.com as an example.

In some ways, this setting can be less nerve-racking than trying to navigate a website, because the interface is consistent and works properly. (Many web interfaces can be pretty nightmarish to dig through when all you want is a driver.) But that cuts both ways—the simplicity also means that FTP often doesn’t handle modern standards quite so well, and can be far more pokey than modern file-transfer methods.

As I wrote in for Motherboard last year, these FTP sites (while being archived in different places) are growing increasingly hard to reach, as companies move away from this model or make the decision to take the old sites offline.

As I explained in the piece, which features an interview from Jason Scott of the Internet Archive, the archive is taking steps to protect these vintage public FTP sites, which at this point could go down at any time.

Scott noted at the time that the long-term existence of these FTP sites was really more of an exception than the rule.

“It was just this weird experience that FTP sites, especially, could have an inertia of 15 to 20 years now, where they could be running all this time, untouched,” he said.

With one of the primary use cases of FTP sites hitting the history books once and for all, it may only be a matter of time before they’re gone for good. I recommend, before that happens, diving into one sometime and just seeing the weird stuff that’s there. We don’t live in a world where you can just look at entire file folders of public companies like this anymore, and it’s a fascinating experience even at this late juncture.

“A technology that was ahead of its usage curve, FTP is now attracting a critical mass of business users who are finding transfer by email grossly inefficient or impractical when dealing with large documents.”

— A passage from a 1997 story in Network World that makes the case that FTP, despite its creakiness, it was still a good choice for many telecommuters and corporate internet users. While written by a ringer—Roger Greene was the president of Ipswitch, a major FTP program developer of the era—his points were nonetheless fitting for the time. It was a great way to transmit large files across networks and store them on a server somewhere. The problem is that FTP, while it improved over time, would be eventually outclassed by far more sophisticated replacements, both protocols (BitTorrent, SFTP, rsync, git, even modern variants of HTTP) and cloud computing solutions such as Dropbox or Amazon Web Services.

Back in the day, I once ran an FTP server. It was mostly to share music during my college days, when people who went to college were obsessed with sharing music. We had extremely fast connections, and as a result, it was the perfect speed to run an FTP server.

It was a great way to share a certain musical taste with the world, but the university system eventually got wise to the file-sharing and started capping bandwidth, so that was that … or so I thought. See, I worked in the dorms during the summer, and it turned out that after people left school, the cap was no longer a problem, and I was able to restart the FTP server once again for a couple of months.

image3.jpg

Panic’s Transmit, a modern example of an FTP client. Many modern clients support a wide variety of protocols beyond the tried-and-true of FTP.

Eventually, I moved out and the FTP server went down for good—and more efficient replacements emerged anyway, like BitTorrent, and more legal ones, like Spotify and Tidal. (Do I have regrets about running this server now? Sure. But at the time, I felt like I was sticking it to the man somehow. Which, let’s be honest, I wasn’t.)

Just as file-sharing has largely evolved away from those heady times more than 15 years ago, so too have we evolved from the FTP servers of yore. We have largely learned more effective, more secure techniques for remote file management in the years since. In 2004, it was widely considered best practice to manage a web server using FTP. Today, with tools like Git making efficient version control possible, it’s seen as risky and inefficient.

Now, even as major browsers get rid of FTP support in the coming months, it’s not like we’re totally going to be adrift of options. Specialized software will, of course, remain available. But more importantly, we’ve replaced the vintage FTP protocol for the right reasons.

Unlike in cases like IRC (where the protocol lost popular momentum to commercial tools) and Gopher (where a sudden shift to a commercial model stopped its growth dead in its tracks), FTP is getting retired from web browsers because its age underlines its lack of security infrastructure.

Some of its more prominent use cases, like publicly accessible anonymous FTP servers, have essentially fallen out of vogue. But its primary use case has ultimately been replaced with more secure, more modern versions of the same thing, such as SFTP.

And I’m sure some person in some suitably technical job somewhere is going to claim that FTP will never die because there will always be a specialized use case for it somewhere. Sure, whatever. But for the vast majority of people, when Chrome disconnects FTP from the browser, they likely won’t find a reason to reconnect.

If FTP’s departure from the web browser speeds up its final demise, so be it. But for 50 years, in one shape or another, it has served us well.

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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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