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Best podcasts of the week: Embarrassing tales of misadventure from Jack Whitehall and friends | Podcasts




Picks of the week

Where There’s a Will There’s a Wake
Widely available, episodes weekly
The gates of celebrity podcasting heaven have opened to unleash Kathy Burke (below) and her “decomposing dead end”, asking stars including Diane Morgan and Jamali Maddix about their own deaths. Funerals and hauntings also feature. First up is Dawn French, with her demands for a see-through hearse, plans to leave her money to useless causes and afterlife as a passive-aggressive poltergeist. Dark comedy at its finest. Hannah Verdier

Crush Hour: A Musical
Audible, all episodes out now

Hardened musical haters turn away now: this podcast set on London’s trains, buses and Ubers contains characters who have a habit of bursting into song at any moment. For those willing to embrace it, a solid cast including Ellie Goulding, Omari Douglas and Douglas Booth are looking for love as they commute in short, sweet, Christmassy tales. HV

Kathy Burke, host of a new dark comedic podcast asking celebs what they want to happen to them when they die.
Kathy Burke, host of a new dark comedic podcast asking celebs what they want to happen to them when they die. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Jack Whitehall’s Safe Space
Audible, episodes weekly
For his first podcast, the comedian takes his love of sharing embarrassing stories on-stage, and encourages guests to do the same. The enjoyably awkward chat sees the likes of Jameela Jamil talking about her “torn arsehole”, Judd Apatow on his wife’s shellfish poisoning and Emily Atack cringing about her acne-marked teen back – AKA “backne”. Alexi Duggins

The Interruption
Widely available,
from 28 Nov
On 26 November 1977, TV viewers in the south of England had their broadcast interrupted by a voice claiming to be an alien. It spent six minutes telling humans to live in peace or leave the galaxy, and has never been explained. This compelling podcast delves into the details, and tries to find the culprit – who, sadly, seems unlikely to be an intergalactic being. AD

Widely available, episodes weekly

From Crooked Media and Duolingo, Ahmed Ali Akbar is the lively host of this fun and inquisitive series about the intersection of language and culture. What’s in a name? What impact do different accents have? Using his own experiences and speaking with experts, Akbar takes a nerdy dive in to find answers. Hollie Richardson

There’s a podcast for that

Despicable Me’s Minions are among the wealth of topics covered in the Family Road Trip Trivia Podcast.
Despicable Me’s Minions are among the wealth of topics covered in the Family Road Trip Trivia Podcast. Photograph: Illumination Entertainment/AP

This week, Stuart Heritage picks five of the best quiz podcasts to play along with at home, from a kid-friendly road trip quiz to an “audio escape room” show.

Usually, podcasts are a passive experience: you go about your business while the hosts waffle in your ear. You can appreciate the companionship, and nothing is expected of you. But that doesn’t have to be the case; a handful actively require you to play along. The daddy of all of these is James Carter’s PodQuiz, a weekly 15-minute trivia contest. A bare-bones podcast, this is simply a series of fun questions and answers (recent categories include rats, fictional spacecraft and butter) with no fat to be trimmed whatsoever. It is the trivia podcast by which other trivia podcasts should be judged.

Trivia With Budds
But what if your trivia itch can’t be scratched by a mere one podcast a week? In that case, there is Trivia With Budds, in which host Ryan Budds flings 10 questions a day at you in less than 10 minutes. Each episode – there are more than 8,000 of them at this point – has a theme (recent examples: dog-related words, beer in movies, slang terms from Parks and Recreation), and Budds zips through them with minimal fuss. He also has a Patreon account, where subscribers can submit their own topics for him to tackle.

Doug Loves Movies
Maybe you are not the sort of person who enjoys pub quizzes purely for the simple exchange of knowledge. Maybe you just like the ambience of a pub quiz. A very entertaining middle ground can be had with Doug Loves Movies, a film quiz hosted by comedian Doug Benson. Many episodes are recorded live in front of an audience, and they boast a range of comics and actors as contestants. So, it’s less of a quiz and more of a rangy, shaggy gameshow. It includes a longstanding round where guests have to guess a movie based solely on reviews written by the former Entertainment Tonight movie critic Leonard Maltin.

Family Road Trip Trivia Podcast
Of course, quizzing podcasts aren’t just there to help you demonstrate your intellect. No, they are also there to keep your children quiet. As such, Family Road Trip Trivia Podcast performs a valuable public service. Designed to be played in the car, this podcast – devised by three kids and hosted by their mum, Brittany Gibbons – could be deployed in lieu of screen time, or just to stop your kids asking you when dinner will be ready three times a minute. Episodes cover themes such as Roblox, Despicable Me and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Escape This Podcast
Anyone looking for something more elaborate than questions and answers should try Escape This Podcast. Hosted by Bill Sunderland and Dani Siller, it describes itself as “a mix of escape room puzzles and table-top roleplaying”. In short, it’s an audio escape room game that guests (Neil Patrick Harris recently featured) have to try to solve. Better yet, each room is subsequently made available online, so listeners can play it through as well. Figuring out this podcast, especially now that it is so well established, takes time. But once you have acclimatised, it’s well worth the effort.

Why not try …

  • A right-wing radio host (played by Tracy Letts) is stalked by a terrifying evil in Quiet Part Loud, exec produced by Jordan Peele.

  • Comforting literary love-ins with friends Amanda and Ziporah in Stacked.

  • Real-life tales of audacious gangland action in 90s Hong Kong – and the resultant geopolitical strife – in Bad Money: Big Spender.

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Graphcore launches C600 card for China amid financial woes • The Register




British AI chip designer Graphcore has wrapped its two-year-old, second-generation Intelligence Processing Unit for China and Singapore amid recently reported financial woes.

The Bristol, UK-based startup announced on Tuesday that its Colossus Mk2 GC200 IPU will be available in the new C600 PCIe card, making the processor compatible with servers beyond the company’s pre-integrated M2000 IPU system.

The company said pre-orders are now open for the C600 card in China and Singapore, and it will be available through approved hardware partners in Graphcore-qualified systems. It didn’t say whether the card will expand to other markets.

The C600 card was designed “in response to customer demand in markets where datacenter configurations, including rack size and power delivery, vary widely,” said Chen Jin, Graphcore’s vice president and head of China engineer, in a blog post.

“This highly versatile form-factor enables Graphcore customers to tailor their system setup, including host server / chassis, to their exact requirements,” Jin added.

It’s not clear if Graphcore had to tune the C600 card to abide with the recent US export restrictions for advanced chips to China. While Graphcore is a British company, the export bans have extended to semiconductor companies far beyond American borders because the restrictions cover US manufacturing and design tools used to make most of the world’s advanced chips.

The US restrictions have prompted Graphcore’s much larger rivals to switch gears, with AMD halting sales of its MI250 GPU to China and Nvidia slowing down its A100 GPU to continue sales in the country. Biren Technology and Alibaba in China have also reportedly had to step down processing speeds for new GPUs.

Tech specs suggest it’s good enough

Graphcore’s C600 card is designed for AI inference workloads at low-precision number formats, capable of hitting up to 280 teraflops of 16-bit floating point (FP16) compute and delivering as much as 560 teraflops of 8-bit floating point (FP8) math.  

The FP8 support is new for Graphcore, as it is for the rest of the industry. Intel, Arm, and Nvidia published the specification for FP8 in September. The goal of FP8 is to create a lower precision format for neural network training and inference that optimizes memory usage and improves efficiency while providing a similar level of accuracy to 16-bit precisions.

The C600 is a PCIe Gen 4, dual-slot card with a thermal design power of 185 watts. Up to eight of the cards can fit into a single server chassis, and they communicate directly using Graphcore’s IPU-Link high-bandwidth interconnect cables. The C600’s IPU-Link bandwidth is 256GB/s [PDF].

The Mk2 IPU inside the C600 card has the same 1,472 IPU cores and 900MB of in-processor memory when the second-generation IPU was first announced in 2020.

The C600 release comes not long after multiple reports have painted a gloomy picture for Graphcore. In September, the startup said it was planning job cuts due to an “extremely challenging” macroeconomic situation. The next month, The Times reported that investors had slashed Graphcore’s valuation by $1 billion in the face of financial woes, including a terminated deal with Microsoft. ®

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200 Irish businesses are getting the chance to test-drive electric vehicles




The Government is looking to boost the electrification of commercial fleets as part of plans to have nearly 1m EVs on Irish roads by 2030.

As part of plans to drive down emissions in Ireland, a new initiative will let businesses test out electric vehicles for free.

Fully electric cars and vans will be loaned to 200 Irish business free of charge for three months under the Government’s Commercial Fleet Trial.

The aim is to encourage businesses to make the switch to an electric vehicle and contribute to the targets of the Climate Action Plan.

Ireland is aiming to reach a 51pc reduction in emissions by 2030, setting the country on a path to net-zero emissions no later than 2050. One element of this plan is to have 945,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by the end of this decade.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, TD, said an “important component” in achieving this target is the electrification of commercial fleets.

“Businesses up and down the country are already telling us that they are keen to make the switch to more sustainable practices, but they also need to know that the switches they want to make are going to be good for their bottom line,” he added.

“The findings from this trial will give us real-world feedback and provide us with the evidence to encourage even more businesses to switch to electric.”

The trial will involve 50 fully electric vehicles – 30 passenger cars and 20 vans – while giving businesses the option to install an EV charger.

By the end of this month, 14 businesses across Dublin, Sligo, Limerick, Louth, Wexford, Cork, Waterford and Galway will have received cars to test out.

The trial will be coordinated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Zero Emissions Vehicles Ireland – a new office of the Department of Transport that is tasked with supporting the switch to electric vehicles.

While the number of electric cars in Ireland is on the rise, there have been concerns about meeting the ambitious 2030 EV goal.

Ryan said this week that the Government is “on track” to deliver the 945,000 EVs target, and that it will launch a new €100m strategy next month to boost the number of charging stations installed around the country.

A study last year found that Ireland lags behind other European nations when it comes to EV charging infrastructure, which could hamper the roll-out of these vehicles.

However, the Government has been making moves to change this. It recently announced a new suite of grants and initiatives to boost Ireland’s transition to electric vehicles, and a €15m all-island investment to set up 90 rapid EV charging points across Ireland.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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Changes to online safety bill tread line between safety and appearing ‘woke’ | Internet safety




The online safety bill is returning to parliament under the aegis of its fourth prime minister and seventh secretary of state since it was first proposed as an online harms white paper under Theresa May.

Each of those has been determined to leave their fingerprints on the legislation, which has swollen to encompass everything from age verification on pornography to criminalisation of posting falsehoods online, and Rishi Sunak and the digital and culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, are no different.

Some of the changes to the bill, which was unceremoniously pulled from the agenda in early summer as the government cleared parliamentary time to launch its own confidence motion backing Boris Johnson, are simple additions. After the law commission recommended updating legislation covering nonconsensual intimate images, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport folded the changes into the bumper bill, announcing plans to criminalise “downblousing” and the creation of pornographic “deepfakes” without the subject’s consent.

But others reflect the contentious nature of the legislation, which faces a balancing act between the government’s desire to make the UK “the safest place to be online”, and its fear of appearing overly censorious or, worse still, “woke”.

On Tuesday, Donelan triumphantly announced that the latest version of the online safety bill would be dropping efforts to regulate content deemed “legal but harmful”. Earlier drafts of the bill had hit upon a canny way to please both sides of the debate: rather than requiring social media companies to remove certain types of content outright, the bill simply requires them to declare a position on that material in their terms of service, and then enforce that position. Theoretically, a social media company could explicitly declare itself content with allowing harmful content on its platform, and receive no penalties for doing so.

But free speech groups, in and out of parliament, worried that the requirement would have a chilling effect, and social networks backed them up: few deliberately want to have harmful content on their platforms, but faced with a legal requirement to take action on it or face penalties, they could end up being forced to over-correct. For topics such as suicide or self-harm, aggressive over-moderation can cause real world harm just like lax policies can.

The push against those regulations reached its height during the Tory leadership contest, when the online safety bill was caricatured by its opponents, such as trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, as legislating for hurt feelings. And so upon its reintroduction, the “legal but harmful” provisions were stripped out, at least for content aimed at adults. And then the government went further: in an effort to burnish its free speech credentials, it added in new legal requirements forcing not over-moderation but under-moderation.

“Companies will not be able to remove or restrict legal content, or suspend or ban a user, unless the circumstances for doing this are clearly set out in their terms of service or are against the law,” DCMS announced. The rules, described as a “consumer friendly ‘triple shield’”, could prevent companies from acting rapidly to ensure the health of their platform, and leave them facing a legal risk if they take down content that they, and other users, would rather see removed.

Some of the changes to the bill are deep and technical. But others seem to be simple headline-chasing. The government has dropped the offence of “harmful communications” from the bill, after it became a lightning-rod for criticism with Badenoch and others arguing that it was “legislating for hurt feelings”.

But in order to remove the harmful communications offence, the government has also cancelled plans to strike off the two offences it was due to replace: parts of the Malicious Communications Act and the Communications Act 2003 which are far broader than the ban on harmful communications was to be. The harmful communications offence required a message cause “serious distress”; the Malicious Communications Act requires only “distress”, while the Communications Act 2003 is even softer, banning messages sent “for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety”. Those offences will now remain on the books indefinitely.

But becoming part of the psychodrama of the Conservative party is the only way legislative scrutiny can occur in this parliament. The rest of this monster bill, stretching over hundreds of pages and redefining the landscape of internet regulation for a generation, has barely been discussed in public at all. Proposals ranging from an attack on end to end encryption to the christening of a first-of-its-kind internet regulator in the shape of Ofcom are being treated as technocratic tweaks, but if they were given the time they deserved, it would be likely the legislative process would outlast a fifth prime minister as well.

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