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03 Sep 15:22

Elon Musk says there's 'no such thing' as a business

by Kelly Dickerson

tesla elon musk

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk seems to have his hands in every industry these days. You could argue he's one of the savviest businessmen around.

But when Musk sat down with Wait But Why's Tim Urban, he said something really surprising:

"I don't know what a business is," Musk told Urban. "All a company is is a bunch of people together to create a product or service. There's no such thing as a business, just pursuit of a goal — a group of people pursuing a goal."

This statement actually makes a lot of sense when you learn more about the inner workings of his companies. He runs a lot of businesses, but not in a conventional way.

For example, he started his rocket company SpaceX by first learning all he could about rockets, and then rounding up the most brilliant rocket engineers he could find.

He also didn't (and still doesn't) hire employees based on their degrees. Musk is more interested in qualities like raw talent, ability to work well with a team, and deep passion for the SpaceX mission.

If everyone at SpaceX fits that description, then it sounds exactly like a group of smart people working toward a shared goal — not necessarily how we typically define a business.

Another key element is that SpaceX builds almost every part of each rocket it produces. That's highly unusual for the aerospace industry, according to Urban. Most companies will specialize in building a few rocket pieces and then buy the rest from other companies.

Since SpaceX builds almost every part it needs, it can remain that same autonomous group of people working toward a collective goal that Musk described. You can also argue it promotes more teamwork: SpaceX engineers sit right next to the SpaceX designers and manufacturers. Different teams sharing the same space is not typical of other companies.

Another characteristic that separates Musk's businesses from others is how much control he has over them.

"Some bosses are called micromanagers — at Musk's companies, his level of involvement earned him the term 'nanomanager,'" Urban writes.

That's because Musk has made himself an expert in a lot of areas. For example, when something goes wrong during a SpaceX rocket launch, it's often Musk himself that will brief the public on exactly what went wrong, down to the nitty-gritty engineering details.

So maybe Musk doesn't know what a business is, but he's figured out a very effective way of running them.

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28 Aug 00:07

Iran premieres big-budget epic film 'Muhammad'

by Ali Noorani

Iranians stand in front of a cinema featuring

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's most expensive movie, "Muhammad", which chronicles the childhood of the Muslim prophet, opened nationwide on Thursday, winning praise from early audiences.

Directed by Majid Majidi, the 171-minute, visually stunning film cost around $40 million (36 million euros), partly funded by the state, and took more than seven years to complete.

Majidi says the aim of his work, the first part of a trilogy, is to reclaim the rightful image of Islam, which he said extremists have distorted.

"Unfortunately at this time the impression of Islam is of a radical, fanatical and violent religion, which is not what it's about," he said in Montreal, where "Muhammad" had its international premiere, hours after screening back home.

"The barbaric acts of terrorism conducted by terrorist groups under the guise of Islam are not related to Islam," he said, alluding to beheadings and destruction of cultural treasures by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

"Islam is a religion of peace, friendship and love, and I tried to show this in the film."

"Muhammad," which captures Saudi Arabia more than 1,400 years ago, offers much more than stereotypical trains of Arabs on camels riding across yellow sand dunes.

It takes cinemagoers from the miraculous birth of the future prophet up to his teenage years, and is packed with miracles. The crew of "Muhammad" is indicative of the film's ambition.

It includes three-time Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. And the score was devised by India's Allah Rakha Rahman, a double Academy Award winner for the Danny Boyle-directed blockbuster "Slumdog Millionaire."

In one scene, an army of tribesmen mounted on elephants charges the holy city of Mecca to heart-pounding music, only to be destroyed by a flock of crows hurling stones.

In another, intensely emotional scene, the boy heals his nanny with a touch of his hand.

"It was very moving for us," said Mahsa Rasoulzadeh, 40, accompanied by her mother and teenage daughter at Kourosh Cinema in west Tehran.

 

- Strong demand in Tehran -

 

The theatre was around two-thirds full at an 11:00 am showing on Thursday, the first day of the Iranian weekend, but afternoon sessions were sold out in advance and two more had to be added for after midnight to meet demand.

Abolfazl Fatehi, 21, who came to watch the film in a family group of seven, said he loved it.

"I think this film can be a starting point of research for those who don't know Islam," he said.

Mehdi Azar, a 25-year-old worker at the cinema, said "it's a long movie and that might seem a turn-off at first, but it's attractive enough to draw an audience. It was very attractive visually."

The film is the second major production on the prophet.

The first, "Muhammad, Messenger of God", was made in 1976 by Syrian-American filmmaker Moustapha Akkad.

It was a huge success with Shiite Iranians.

Forty years on, with its cost around 20 times higher than any other Iran-produced film, Majidi's effort has raised high expectations. 

Despite broad early enthusiasm some felt the movie had not lived up to the hype.

"I had heard so much about it... but, to be honest, my expectations were much higher than what I saw," said Komeil Arjmandi, 23, who is studying film direction.

"I wanted the film to rise higher than Mr Akkad's movie."

Yet, officials don't want the film to be compared with others. 

In order to "preserve the dignity" of the prophet, "Muhammad" was excluded from competition in Iran's major Fajr festival in February and was instead showcased in a separate showing.

While Iran has denounced cartoons of the prophet like those published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Shiites are generally more relaxed than Sunnis about depiction of religious figures.

Many showings of "Muhammad" in Shiite-majority Iran have already sold out, but the film has triggered controversy in the Sunni world.

No announcement has yet been made on when the two other parts of the "Muhammad" trilogy, covering the rest of his life, will be produced.

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27 Aug 17:36

Iranian Phishing

by Bruce Schneier

CitizenLab is reporting on Iranian hacking attempts against activists, which include a real-time man-in-the-middle attack against Google's two-factor authentication.

This report describes an elaborate phishing campaign against targets in Iran's diaspora, and at least one Western activist. The ongoing attacks attempt to circumvent the extra protections conferred by two-factor authentication in Gmail, and rely heavily on phone-call based phishing and "real time" login attempts by the attackers. Most of the attacks begin with a phone call from a UK phone number, with attackers speaking in either English or Farsi.

The attacks point to extensive knowledge of the targets' activities, and share infrastructure and tactics with campaigns previously linked to Iranian threat actors. We have documented a growing number of these attacks, and have received reports that we cannot confirm of targets and victims of highly similar attacks, including in Iran. The report includes extra detail to help potential targets recognize similar attacks. The report closes with some security suggestions, highlighting the importance of two-factor authentication.

The report quotes my previous writing on the vulnerabilities of two-factor authentication:

As researchers have observed for at least a decade, a range of attacks are available against 2FA. Bruce Schneier anticipated in 2005, for example, that attackers would develop real time attacks using both man-in-the-middle attacks, and attacks against devices. The"real time" phishing against 2FA that Schneier anticipated were reported at least 9 years ago.

Today, researchers regularly point out the rise of "real-time" 2FA phishing, much of it in the context of online fraud. A 2013 academic article provides a systematic overview of several of these vectors. These attacks can take the form of theft of 2FA credentials from devices (e.g. "Man in the Browser" attacks), or by using 2FA login pages. Some of the malware-based campaigns that target 2FA have been tracked for several years, are highly involved, and involve convincing targets to install separate Android apps to capture one-time passwords. Another category of these attacks works by exploiting phone number changes, SIM card registrations, and badly protected voicemail

Boing Boing article. Hacker News thread.

26 Aug 16:28

Lessons learned from cracking 4,000 Ashley Madison passwords

by Dan Goodin

When hackers released password data for more than 36 million Ashley Madison accounts last week, big-league cracking expert Jeremi Gosney didn't bother running them through one of his massive computer clusters built for the sole purpose of password cracking. The reason: the passwords were protected by bcrypt, a cryptographic hashing algorithm so strong Gosney estimated it would take years using a highly specialized computer cluster just to check the dump for the top 10,000 most commonly used passwords.

So fellow security expert Dean Pierce stepped in to fill the vacuum, and his experience confirms Gosney's assessment. The long-and-short of his project is that after five days of nonstop automated guessing using a moderately fast server specifically designed to carry out compute-intensive cryptographic operations, he deciphered just 4,000 of the underlying plaintext passwords. Not surprisingly, the passwords Pierce extracted from just the first 6 million entries in the Ashley Madison table look as weak as those from just about any data breach. Here are the top 20 passwords cracked in the highly limited experiment and number of users who chose each one:

password Number of users
123456 202
password 105
12345 99
qwerty 32
12345678 31
ashley 28
baseball 27
abc123 27
696969 23
111111 21
football 20
fuckyou 20
madison 20
asshole 19
superman 19
fuckme 19
hockey 19
123456789 19
hunter 19
harley 18

Most of the lessons gleaned from Pierce's exercise involve the secure storage of passwords at rest. We'll get to that in a moment. But first, a few observations about the top 20 passwords uncovered. First, they come from the beginning six million hashes stored in the Ashley Madison database. Depending on how the list was organized, that may mean they belong to the earliest six million accounts created during the site's 14 years in operation. Passwords from the last million entries—which might have been created in the last few years—could be stronger.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

19 Aug 14:27

Everything you say and do is public: five rules for living with the internet

by Chris Plante

Yesterday hackers made good on a threat, publishing the data belonging to over 30 million accounts from adultery dating website Ashley Madison. The impact this breach could have on millions of marriages — not just of celebrities and politicians but people typically out of the public spotlight — could be historical. While the implications of a data breach like this have been analyzed in the past, the lessons have been largely ignored.

Take this moment to consider the five laws of your life online. Like laws of the state, whether or not you choose to learn these laws is irrelevant, as you will be tried by them regardless.

Continue reading…

18 Aug 12:37

Doom community mourns longtime, award-winning modder Ty Halderman

by Owen S. Good

The Doom community is mourning a well known and well liked modder who died at the end of July following a short battle with brain cancer. He was 69.

Ty Halderman was a member of the modding team that delivered 1996's TNT: Evilution (pictured), a major 32-level mod that ultimately got a formal publishing arrangement with id Software and was released in an expansion called Final Doom. Several of its levels later appeared in the PlayStation version of Final Doom. The launch of Final Doom was very controversial in the Doom community at the time, much in the same way paid mods generated controversy for Steam earlier this year.

Halderman also was credited as a main programmer for 1998's Boom, a very influential source port of Doom. Halderman...

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14 Aug 02:28

A Dutch newspaper used the N-word in the headline for a review about three recent books on race relations

by Bryan Logan

racist newspaper

The Dutch newspaper, "NRC Handelsblad" recently posted a review of three recent books about race relations in the US with a controversial headline that is now getting well-deserved backlash.

The headline of the review read, "Nigger, are you crazy?"

The review, as noted by The Washington Post, was published July 31.

It's an assessment of books written by several outspoken authors — including noted educator and journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes for The Atlantic, and novelist Paul Beatty.

Here's what the spread looked like:

This is how the highbrow Dutch newspaper @NRC designed and headlined its review last week of @tanehisicoates's book. pic.twitter.com/HLFpo70b9X

— siddhartha mitter (@siddhmi) August 6, 2015

Nearly as bad, the paper's editorial team chose to use "blackface" cartoons to illustrate piece.

Here is the full, foul design of Dutch paper @NRC's "black in America" package featuring review of @tanehisicoates: pic.twitter.com/jrvAaAEVxk

— siddhartha mitter (@siddhmi) August 6, 2015

Guus Valk, the NRC Handelsblad Washington correspondent who wrote the review, says he wasn't involved with choosing the headline, nor the layout or illustrations. Valk was cited by The Post, saying he's "sorry to learn that people had been offended."

The review triggered a dizzying response from many corners of social media, which prompted the newspaper to take the images offline, according to The Post. NRC editor, Michel Krielaars is quoted here, saying the paper did not want to "offend non-Dutch speakers who only read Twitter."

In an email to The Post, Krielaars explained why NRC Handelsblad framed the review the way it did. Krielaars says:

"The tone of the article is pessimistic, and the illustrations, as well as the headline, were meant to reflect that. There's is no racist remark to be read in the review, because that is not our cup of tea."

Krielaars explains that the headline was a fictional quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and pulled from one of the books being reviewed, titled "The Sellout."

You can read Krielaar's full explanation for the piece that appeared in The Post below:

The article by our Washington correspondent Guus Valk in the weekly Book Supplement of NRC Handelsblad was a review of three books about race relations in the United States: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me,  Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Mat Johnson’s Loving Day. It dealt with the persistence of racism and the continuing inequality in the US. The tone of the article is pessimistic, and the illustrations, as well as the headline, were meant to reflect that. There is no racist remark to be read in the review, because that is not our cup of tea.

The headline is a [fictional] quote made by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [in The Sellout]. Mr. Valk describes this sequence in his review because it says a lot about the race discussion in the US.

The drawings are a literal illustrations of ‘stereotype’ and ‘white’ aggression, the above mentioned books are dealing with. They are ugly, unkind, and offensive – and they are meant to be, because they cover the content of the reviewed books. Of course, they were not intended to offend. Actually, it is rather stupid to think so.

When choosing the headline, we aimed at the intended audience of the piece: Dutch readers of the book section (black, white, but: Dutch readers). Because ‘N—’ is an English word, the offensive value in Dutch is not as direct as it is in English, comparable with the effect of less racially sensitive swear words. We realized the word is offensive, but in the headline it was meant to focus on the pessimistic message of Paul Beatty’s book when he gave the line to his fictional Clarence Thomas. Considering the fuss in your country it would have been better if we had put the headline between quotation marks.

No, we didn’t assume it would offend Dutch readers (black or white), otherwise we wouldn’t have chosen it. Also we didn’t think about possible reactions by non-Dutch readers, because the article is in Dutch and it does not aim at non-Dutch readers. The fact that, through the web, this article travels across the world we consider a good thing. But we don’t think it’s fair if the title travels by itself, without the context of the language in which the article was written. Having said that, we may have underestimated the possible impact on the image of a newspaper spread with these illustrations and this headline. We do regret this.

Yes, it was a conscious decision to depict the situation with the use of stereotypical blackface portraits. Like I said: the illustrations are offensive, because the racial situation in the US, as described in the reviewed books, is offensive. Note that ‘whiteness’ in these illustrations is depicted as someone with a gun. I wouldn’t call it irony: it’s cynicism. And it was meant to be cynical.

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17 Aug 20:59

Windows 10 is the end of cloud-free computing

by Russell Brandom

Welcome to the second annual Verge Hack Week. We're totally blowing up our site: we've given our reporters and editors the entire week to play with new tools and experiment with new storytelling ideas, while members of our amazing product team have gathered in New York to help build all sorts of interesting new things. Learn more.

In the weeks after its release, Windows 10 users have noticed something strange — it's always phoning home. Last week, an Ars Technica investigation found Windows computers sending data back to Microsoft servers even after services like Cortana and OneDrive had been disabled, in one case even sending back a message as soon as users hit the Start button.

It's a telling change for Microsoft — the last...

Continue reading…

11 Aug 17:38

Amnesty approves policy to decriminalize sex trade

by Danica Kirka

FILE - In this Friday, May 16, 2014 file photo, a discarded bra lies on the ground outside an informal bar that allegedly employed sex workers after a government raid on the illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Amnesty International approved a controversial policy Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 to endorse the de-criminalization of the sex trade, rejecting complaints by women’s rights groups who say it is tantamount to advocating the legalization of pimping and brothel owning. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

LONDON (AP) — Amnesty International approved a controversial policy Tuesday to endorse the de-criminalization of the sex trade, rejecting complaints from some women's rights groups who say it is tantamount to advocating the legalization of pimping and brothel owning.

At its decision-making forum in Dublin, the human rights watchdog approved the resolution to recommend "full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work." It argues its research suggests decriminalization is the best way to defend sex workers' human rights.

"We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world."

Amnesty's decision is important because it will use its heft to lobby governments around the world to accept its point of view.

Advance word of the Amnesty policy sparked opposition from some women's groups who argued that the human rights organization has made a serious mistake. The groups, such as the U.S.-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, have argued that while it agrees with Amnesty that those who are prostituted should not be criminalized, full de-criminalization would make pimps "businesspeople" who could sell the vulnerable with impunity.

"It really is a slap in the face to survivors and to women's rights groups around the world," said Taina Bien-Aime, the executive director of the coalition, adding that disappointment does not adequately describe her feelings.

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06 Aug 16:22

The touching way Jon Stewart handled 9/11 on 'The Daily Show' in 2001

by Jethro Nededog

daily show jon stewart 911 monologue

As we anticipate what will inevitably be an epic goodbye from "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart on Thursday, Business Insider is looking back at the host's greatest moments.

Way atop our list was Jon Stewart's touching monologue upon his return to the show after 9/11.

Visibly shaken by the tragic events, the lives lost, the damage done, and the fear the terrorists created, Stewart returned nine days after 9/11.

"They said to get back to work," Stewart said. "And there were no jobs for a man in the fetal position, under his desk crying, which I gladly would've taken. So, I come back here."

Stewart broke down several times throughout the monologue.

Jon Stewart emotional GIF

Holding back tears, Stewart explained that he and everyone at the show believed that what they do "is a privilege." He would go on to express how thankful he was that we live in a country that allows them to do what they do: satire and the freedom to criticize.

"The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center," he said. "Now, it's gone. And, they attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce. And, it is gone. But, do you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from south Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that."

Re-watch Stewart's emotional monologue below:

 

SEE ALSO: Director of 'Going Clear' calls out Jon Stewart for not bringing up Scientology during Tom Cruise interview

MORE: 8 moments that made 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart' one of the most important shows on TV

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NOW WATCH: Things you may not know about Jon Stewart and how he got to 'The Daily Show'










02 Aug 21:03

Apple's signature software is uncharacteristically bad for the world's most valuable company

by Robinson Meyer

Apple-Cook-Tim-iTunes-Festival

iTunes is the glue of Apple’s software universe: It connects the company’s phones and tablets, desktops and laptops, and online media store and streaming service.

It is also, in the inimitable judgement of the indie iOS developer Marco Arment, “a toxic hellstew.”

I agree: It’s why I wrote about how poorly iTunes performs for classical music listeners and, really, for anyone with a large music library.

But it’s worth spending time on iTunes’s specific design problems, which surpass those raised by managing a music library or listening to a specific genre. Toxic hellstew it may be, a new version of iTunes points at what kinds of technology are allowed to come out of Apple.

Apple is the most valuable company in the world and an organization hailed for its good design. Why does iTunes fail at what it sets out to do?

Arment blames its failures on Apple’s decision to cram too many different features into one piece of software.

He believes the company should have discontinued iTunes, its media management service, and rolled out a new Apple Music app. (Arment doesn’t say whether this new app would also play MP3s.)

iTunes’s user interface follows from this poor strategy, too. Its “design is horrible […] not because it has bad designers, but because they’ve been given an impossible task: cramming way too much functionality into a single app while also making it look ‘clean,’” writes Arment.

Does this kind of failure—call it institutional cruft—appear in iTunes? I think absolutely. Let’s look at the app.

Look specifically at the horizontal navigation bar, which sits below the scrolling song title and the main window content. Because iTunes inserts a forward and back button to the far left in Apple Music and the iTunes Store, menu options in the bar will sometimes change location after you click them.

itunes nav bar

So if you’re in your own iTunes Library, then click on “For You,” you’ll find the entire navigation bar has shifted under your mouse: Your mouse is now hovering over “Playlists,” as the software has inserted forward and back buttons on the far left.

From a user-interface perspective, this doesn’t make any sense. Users expect that menu items in a navigation bar won’t change their location after they click on them. When you click on a bookmark in your browser’s navigation bar, all the bookmarks don’t suddenly shift around.

This messiness is as institutionally crufty as they come.

With Apple Music, iTunes’s designers had to find a way to navigate a web-y, browser-like environment in the main content area, and that requires back and forward buttons.

In a music library, though, the content area also needed to scroll through a stable list of MP3s. The designers couldn’t move the forward and backward bar any higher, into the playback area, because the logic of that area is that it’s all music control—and, besides, there’s already a forward-arrow and backward-arrow in there, on the left, which control tracks.

Jimmy Iovine Apple Music 2015 WWDC

iTunes had to serve two different purposes, so the forward and back buttons had to go in the navigation bar.

Keep looking at that bar, though, and I think a different kind of user-interface failure emerges: the kind that results from poor decisions. In other words, I wonder if iTunes’s failures can’t just be entirely blamed on Apple’s crufty, legacy obligations, but on a deeper inattentiveness in the company.

Focusing on that bar, here’s what sticks out to me: iTunes can’t decide how to address the user. The user’s MP3 library sits behind the menu title “My Music.” But Apple Music’s recommendation interface is accessed by clicking on “For You.”

Is the user “my” or “your”? Is iTunes an extension of the user or is it in conversation with them? Designers have thought about these issues before; Yahoo’s own interface guide suggests:

Labeling stuff with ‘My’ imitates the point of view of the user. It is as if the user has printed out labels and stuck them to various objects: My Lunch, My Desk, My Red Stapler. Except the user hasn't done this; you (the site) did it for them.

Labeling stuff with ‘Your’ instead reinforces the conversational dialogue. It is how another human being might address you when talking about your stuff. Even with MySpace, people say things like ‘I saw what you put on your MySpace.’

I’ve also seen financial apps use “your,” because a bank saying “my money” is a little weird. That $200 in my savings account isn’t yours, dude.

Which is all to say that this is a solved problem.

People have considered this, set precedents, and shipped software, yet here comes iTunes, from the most design-friendly company in the world, disregarding them.

And this isn’t the only odd microcopy choice: Apple Music, the company’s entire streaming archive of recorded music, is located at the menu item labeled “New.”

the atlantic new

That’s partly where Apple promotes new releases in an iTunes Music Store-like interface, but it’s also where searching for a record in Apple Music will send you.

Nearly everything in Apple Music—from a Thelonious Monk record from 1963 to a CHVRCHES single released last week—is conceptually located in “New.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. “For You” could be titled “Recommendations,” resolving the discrepancy.

It’s possible that these mistakes originated in institutional politics: Maybe Jimmy Iovine insisted, required, would get up right now and walk away from this stupid white plastic table if the recommendation system was called anything other than “For You.” (Apple did not respond to my interview requests.)

But I doubt it. It strikes me as an inferior design decision, arising from inattention.

It’s a minor problem, sure, and there are more pressing ones in the software.

I have seen Apple Music streams drop mid-play; other users have lost music with iTunes Match. But as Apple is never far from telling us, music is something about which they’re “profoundly passionate,” “a force that’s driven and inspired us from day one.”

The point of Apple’s design ethos is that making things a little better than they have to be, for the average user, is a form of respect. I hope that as Apple becomes less of a media-tech company and more of a jewelry maker, its leaders remember that.

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31 Jul 15:23

Here are 2 fonts that make your emails readable — and 2 you should never use

by Shana Lebowitz

staring at computer screenIn an ideal world, your email recipients would be moved more by the substance of your message than its aesthetic value.

But according to a recent article in Bloomberg, designers think certain fonts make a better impression in professional communications.

Here are two fonts they recommend using:

  • Georgia: Each letter written in this font has an additional stroke at the end. So it’s generally easier to read the individual characters.
  • Verdana: The shape of the letters in this font is more open than in fonts like Arial. There’s additional space between letters, and the spacing is more even.

Here are two fonts they suggest not using:

  • Helvetica: The letters are too close together, a type designer told Bloomberg. That makes it hard to read.
  • Arial: Font designers say it has “ambiguous” letter shapes (as in, the letters “b” and “d” are the same shape in reverse) that make it hard to read multiple words in a row.

 

email fonts

Arial and Helvetica are default fonts in many popular email clients, including Gmail and Apple Mail, but most font designers change the settings.

Meanwhile, one designer that spoke to Bloomberg advocates that organizations change their default font settings in order to make it easier for employees to read email.

SEE ALSO: 14 email etiquette rules every professional should know

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27 Jul 19:42

The music you like says a lot about how your brain processes information

by Lydia Ramsey

girl listening to music headphonesConfession: I've recently started getting into country music — a genre of music that used to make me want to change the radio station as fast as possible.

But as uncharacteristic as it is for me to delve into that genre, it makes sense for the way I react to the world around me, according to a recent study published in PLOS ONE.

In the study, researchers found that the types of music you like are linked to the way you process information.

The study was based off the idea that there are two ways people respond to their surroundings:

The first way is called empathizing, where someone is socially apt and can easily interact with those around them. The second way, called systemizing, describes a less sociable way of interaction where the individual interacts with others based on a pre-set notion of how they think they should act.

For example, when asked by a friend if their new hair cut looks good, a systemizer would tell the truth without considering their friend's feelings while an empathyzer would fudge the truth and saw what they thought would make their friend feel good. This type of systemizing is more common in men than women, according to a 2005 study.

In fact, this hypothetical haircut situation is one of the pyschological questions that psychologists from the University of Cambridge asked about 4,000 study subjets, who were recruited through a Facebook app.

First, the participants took a survey that asked psychological questions to determine whether they empathize, systemize, or had a balance of the two. To figure that out, participants answered questions like "I always get emotional while watching movies" with strongly disagree, disagree, agree, or strongly agree.

To rule out predispositions to certain types of music, they asked the participants to evaluate 50 songs from 26 genres and subgenres.

They found that empathic people tended to like mellow, unpretentious or contemporary tunes such as Norah Jones' "Come away with me" or Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah." This kind of music included country and folk songs, which is most likely where my recent obsession with country music factors in.  

The songs could express negative emotions or be a trendy techno song — the empathizers were into it. But, ask the empathizers to listen to punk or heavy metal, and their reactions weren't as favorable.

Systemizing people, on the other hand, tended to like high-energy music that conveyed positive emotions. Songs with a fair amount of complexity, like a complicated piece of classical music. People whose answers didn't have a clear distinction between systemizer or empathizer tended to have a mix of both music tastes.

Here's a graph of what kind of music empathizers (Type E), systemizers (Type S) or balanced (Type B) liked. The more positive the score, the more that group of people liked that particular musical characteristic. The more negative the score, the more people of certain groups disliked that musical characteristic.

journal.pone.0131151.g001.PNG

The mean age of the people involved in the study were around their mid-twenties, but some participants were as old as 61. The researchers controlled for gender and age. Even with gender and age playing a role, the connection between empathizer/sympathizer type and taste in music was still strong.

Knowing what types of music people like based on how they process information could be important information for companies like Spotify and Apple Music. "By knowing an individual's thinking style, such services might in future be able to fine tune their music recommendations to an individual," lead researcher David Greenberg said in a news release.

Interested in seeing if your thinking style matches your taste in music? Here's a quiz that can help you determine whether you empathize, systemize, or do a little of both.

READ NEXT: Science says these 2 personality traits predict whether you'll be a successful leader

CHECK OUT: Scientists discovered the personality trait that creative geniuses often share

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15 Jul 13:29

An Iranian blogger who spent 6 years in prison has a dire warning about the future of the web (AAPL)

by Rob Price

Hossein Derakhshan

An Iranian blogger has described what it was like being introduced to the internet for the first time after spending six years in prison and why we should be worried about the changes that have occurred in the last decade. 

Nicknamed the "blogfather" for his work in advocating for the blog format, Derakhshan was one of Iran's most high-profile bloggers, and lived in Canada for eight years prior to his return to Iran in 2008 and subsequent arrest and sentencing. "I opened my laptop and posted to my new blog. This, though, was the first time in six years. And it nearly broke my heart," he writes in a piece for Matter.

Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 19 years in prison in November 2008 for "conspiring with hostile governments, spreading propaganda against the Islamic system, spreading propaganda in favour of counter-revolutionary groups, blasphemy, and creating and managing obscene websites," according to the BBC. He was finally released in November 2014, and quickly found that the internet was very different than before he was put behind bars. 

"Six years is a long time to be in jail, but it's an entire era online," he said, noting the "seismic shift in how people consume media."

Derakhshan's blog had an audience of 20,000 people each day in 2008, but even he points out how sparse the social media landscape was at that time: "There were no real apps, certainly not how we think of them today. There was no Instagram, no SnapChat, no Viber, no WhatsApp. Instead, there was the web, and on the web, there were blogs: the best place to find alternative thoughts, news and analysis," Derakhshan writes. 

After his release, Derakhshan discovered that social networks were now king. As a result, the internet was profoundly more "linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking," much like television, he says.

Hyperlinks have become devalued, as Facebook and its rivals try to encourage users to spend more time on its site. We're currently seeing the clearest indication of this trend yet, with Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant now natively hosting news articles on its platform so its users never have to venture to the outside web.

This nominally provides a smoother experience for users, but Derakhshan fears this is to the detriment of what the web was originally designed as, and what it could be. The reliance on algorithmic "streams" to provide relevant information to users "doesn’t just make vast chunks of the Internet biased against quality — it also means a deep betrayal to the diversity that the world wide web had originally envisioned."

He goes on: "The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking."

This reliance on social media is a constant concern for those in the media, who risk effectively surrendering their means of distribution to the opaque algorithms of private tech companies. Facebook in particular is responsible for upwards of 50% of traffic for many media companies. 

However, Derakhshan's concerns relate more to the experience of the web for the users themselves. The malaise he identifies is similar to what is known as the "filter bubble" the phenomenon where Google, Facebook, etc.'s algorithms identify what a user (apparently) likes and uses that to guide what content it shows them — thereby hiding vast swathes of content deemed uninteresting, placing the user in a "bubble." 

Read Hossein Derakhshan's full article here »

Join the conversation about this story »

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13 Jul 14:41

Facebook's chief security officer follows Steve Jobs' lead and calls for an end to Adobe Flash

by Cale Guthrie Weissman

Kill Adobe Flash guns

In 2010, Steve Jobs famously wrote a pages-long manifesto about why he would not allow Adobe Flash to work on Apple mobile devices.

"We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods, and iPads by adding Flash," the Apple CEO firmly stated.

Five years later, further clues backing up Jobs' security warning continue to persist. Now, Facebook’s new chief security officer, Alex Stamos, has stated publicly that he wants to see Adobe end Flash once and for all. 

On Twitter this weekend Stamos — formally of Yahoo, now at Facebook — tweeted the following: 

It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day.

— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) July 12, 2015

Stamos' call for the end of Flash likely has to do with a great deal of new Flash-related revelations. Following the highly-publicized Hacking Team hack, which saw a major surveillance company’s files completely leaked online, a slew of new vulnerabilities have been disclosed relating to Adobe’s Flash player. 

Adobe has patched these issues, but still more vulnerabilities continue to arise. In fact, as soon as Adobe announced it had patched a few issues, more were disclosed — at least 20 were discovered in the last week alone.

Adobe has been actively working to fix these issues, but Flash seems to be extremely targeted by hackers and it’s likely to not stop. It has been going on for years.

Security blogger Graham Cluley agrees with Stamos. He writes, "The truth is that the company would probably gain a lot more respect from the internet community if it worked towards this ultimate fix for the Flash problem, rather than clinging on to the belief that it might be able to one day make Flash secure."

People in this camp believe the answer to be for Adobe to kill off the player, but with ample warning. This is because not only do most major browers support the player, but many smaller companies' entire web programs rely on Flash.

But once a 'kill-off date' is announced, everyone can transition toward more secure and open options like HTML5. Facebook, for instance, uses both Flash and HTML5, depending on browser preferences.

Of course, if such a end-of-life date for Adobe Flash were to be announced, it would certainly cause a lot of tumult. Smaller companies and organizations without the resources of Facebook-like behemoths would have to totally rethink their web design.

But perhaps a clean break with a fair amount of warning is the only way to make for a safer internet. At least that’s what people like Stamos think.

SEE ALSO: One company thinks Hacking Team's massive breach may bring about some good

SEE ALSO: The insane ways your phone and computer can be hacked — even if they're not connected to the internet

Join the conversation about this story »

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24 Jun 09:44

The one crucial reason Apple Music and Spotify can never replace your music collection

by Rob Price

Vinyl record shop

There is a fundamental problem with music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music.

It's not that streaming music often fails to properly value artists' work — although there have been grumblings about the amounts paid out by Spotify to rights-holders for years.

And it's not the overall cost of a lifetime of a streaming service, although Apple founder Steve Jobs hated streaming services for exactly this reason. In one of his famous keynote speeches, he once railed against the idea of "renting" music, arguing that you end up paying for your favourites songs thousands of times over.

It's not even the limited selection of music on there, although even the best and most comprehensive streaming service is unable to acquire the rights to everything you might want to listen to.

Permanence is everything.

Let's imagine for a second, that Spotify goes on living for another 30 years. That's a pretty long time for any company to stick around — especially in an industry as volatile and prone to disruption as the intersection of music and technology.

Barring any unfortunate accidents, that would make me 53 when the company finally closes its doors in 2045. And then what happens? My entire music collection, painstakingly built over three decades of careful listening — gone forever.

daniel ek spotify 1Music is not like a film, or a book, that you consume perhaps half a dozen times at most. It makes up the backdrop to your life. Whether it's the early teenage freedom that accompanied The Killers' "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine," or the "Indecision" by Sampha soundtracking a period of listless post-graduation melancholy — music is linked to almost every major moment of my existence. And just listening can take me back at any moment.

When you're "renting" your music, the problem isn't that you're paying for your favourite music thousands of times over. It's that you have no control over it. You could lose it at any time, through no fault of your own. In 20 years, CEO Tim Cook's successor at Apple could decide the company needs to tighten its belt, and wipe out 100 million people's libraries overnight. That uncertainty undermines music's most powerful quality — that it's a concrete link to the past.

Of course, the alternative — owning your music — has its own problems. It's expensive, and takes up significant amounts of storage space. Music streaming also offers powerful convenience — so much so that I'll admit that I will sometimes use Spotify when I'm out and about.

And, with owned music, there's always the risk that you lose the hard drive your collection is stored on — and with it your years of careful work. Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal et al don't have this problem (though the risks can be mitigated through careful backing up).

So, yes, ownership of music isn't perfect. But ultimately, when I'm old and looking back upon my life, I'll want my music collection more than ever. And the custodianship of that is not a responsibility I'm willing to grant Apple — or anyone else.

Join the conversation about this story »

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18 Jun 18:46

5 surprising lessons a psychologist learned from interviewing killers for 20 years

by Chris Weller

mentally disturbed

James Garbarino has made a living crawling into people's psyches.

Which is to say, he interviews criminals before appearing as a witness to give expert testimony in their trials.

Earlier this year, the Loyola University psychologist published a book tying these experiences together, entitled "Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My Twenty Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases." 

We spoke to Garbarino to get a better sense of the side of killers that most people never see.

Here are the lessons:

1. Murderers rarely fit the mold of "monsters."

In sitting down with stone-cold killers, Garbarino says he's learned that underneath the many layers of violent and sociopathic tendencies is usually a person who simply needs help.

"If you can sit across from them as another human being, their humanity can be striking," he said.

On one occasion, he interviewed a man who by anyone else's definition would have been terrifying, but revealed to Garbarino that he cries himself to sleep most nights. 

Oftentimes, Garbarino says these moments get him seeing the world from the murderers' point of view, understanding their thought processes and sensing the moral dilemmas they've faced on the path leading up to the crime.

Which leads into the next fallacy...

2. There's no such thing as a "senseless killing."

Each crime has its own logic, Garbarino says. Even if the outside world can't see it.

That doesn't absolve criminals of the horrible things they do, he concedes. But it should help illuminate an important back story lurking in the criminals' psychology. Maybe he can understand where things went wrong.

Garbarino offers the example of a gang initiation. Upon entering the gang, many inductees prove their worth by killing a random victim. They're told to give the victim a choice between getting stabbed to death or getting shot. 

"That is so far from a choice that any of us would have to make," Garbarino says. 

Ultimately, that distance makes it harder for people to understand how high the stakes really are. Kids typically join gangs for protection, but the barriers to entry are so grisly and gruesome that the general public only sees the effect.

By then, any cause — however justified to the criminal — is irrelevant.

3. Murderers are profoundly damaged.

It isn't evil that drives people to kill. Instead, killers are driven by devastating histories of trauma, Garbarino says. 

In each interview he conducts, Garbarino asks the criminal a set of 10 questions designed to learn about abuse, domestic violence, and other perils of childhood. Formally, the diagnostic test is known as the Adverse Childhood Experience scale.

Most of the general population will score a 0 or  1 — the healthiest scores you can get.

"When I ask these questions of guys in these murder cases, it's rare that you get anybody less than eight," Garbarino says. "And it's very common to get nine or ten."

Garbarino likens the experience to shark attacks. No one would fault a 25-year-old who can't walk because he got his leg torn off by a great white when he was five and never received physical therapy or a prosthesis, he says. Many murderers go through the same debilitating hardships.

"For a lot of these guys, it's as if they've had psychological shark attacks. It takes a big hunk out of you," he says. "And I think it has to be taken into account in understanding why the violence happens and what to do for and about the guys who do it."

4. The worst criminals can be the most capable of change.

Garbarino says the magnitude of the crime doesn't always predict how responsive a murderer will be to rehabilitation. Especially for adolescents, it isn't farfetched to describe several violent years as a "high-stakes phase." 

"I don't mean to trivialize the crime, but there is a sense in which it's phase-like or stage-specific," he says. 

In the book, Garbarino recounts the story of a teenager who plotted a Columbine-like school massacre. Prosecutors wanted to try him as an adult, which would have tacked on decades to his sentence for numerous counts of pre-meditated murder. But Garbarino successfully pushed for him to be tried as a juvenile.

As a result, the teen went back to high school after only a couple years, joined the army, rose through the ranks, got married, and had a family.

"He got through that crazy phase," Garbarino says, "and instead of [the state] spending millions of dollars to incarcerate him, he became an upstanding citizen. And that is possible more times than people realize."

5. Evaluations are incredibly draining.

"It takes a toll on the professionals who enter into these lives, to sit with so much suffering and so much trauma," Garbarino says.

He says he finds himself turning to his spiritual life to help cope. Without it, he fears he'd succumb to "vicarious traumatization" and basically absorb pieces of the tragedies that he hears about.

"I didn't set out to do this," he says, pointing to his initial international work with underprivileged children. "In fact, after the first five years I had to take a break for a year because it was just too much, and I re-approached it later on."

SEE ALSO: 11 Ex-Criminals Who Completely Turned Their Lives Around

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11 Jun 04:00

Your phone knows how many steps you take per day, shouldn't your doctor?

The rise of health apps has made it possible to chart your steps, heartbeat, and sleep patterns, but the availability of this constant stream of information has yet to reach patient electronic health records. In a commentary published on June 11 in Cell Systems, Harvard researchers argue that these mobile devices could rapidly reshape the practice of medicine. The first steps though will be creating standards that can enforce cross-platform communications.
29 May 13:58

The biggest drug dealer on the internet has been sentenced to 10 years in prison

by James Cook

SuperTrips Silk Road dealer

Cornelis Jan Slomp, the Dutch man who became the biggest seller of illegal drugs on deep web marketplace The Silk Road, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday, the Chicago Sun Times reports. 

Slomp sold MDMA, ecstasy, cocaine, Benzodiazepine, amphetamine, LSD, and marijuana in vast quantities on The Silk Road, working from his home in Holland and using the account name "SuperTrips."

What made Slomp such a big target wasn't the range of drugs that he sold (lots of deep web sellers offer a variety of items), but the sheer amount that he was able to sell. The Chicago Sun Times reports that Slomp boasted on his seller profile on The Silk Road that he had "big stockpiles of product, you literally cannot empty me out."

Vocativ called Slomp "the Pablo Escobar of Silk Road" due to his high level of sales. It says that he received 385,000 bitcoin for his drugs, worth around $170 million (£111 million). That's higher than any other seller on The Silk Road.

In 2013, Slomp was arrested after a arriving Miami, ready to get into his rented Lamborghini. Court documents show that investigators discovered his fingerprints on DVD cases used to ship drugs in 2012, and had managed to track him down.

The man behind SuperTrips pled guilty to selling drugs in 2014, and accepted a plea agreement for a more lenient sentence than the maximum of 40 years that he could have faced, the Chicago Tribune reported. He told US prosecutors that he was prepared to testify against alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, but ultimately was not called as a witness.

The Chicago Sun Times reports that Slomp told US District Judge Matthew Kennelly on Thursday that he felt “ashamed and embarrassed" of his crimes, and received a 10-year sentence. He went on to tell the judge that "I don’t think any of this could have happened without the anonymity of the Internet." It was recommended that Slomp serve his time in a Dutch prison.

Join the conversation about this story »

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29 May 12:02

Al Qaeda's strategy in Syria is working

by Armin Rosen

Jolani nusraAbu Muhammad al-Jolani, the head of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, granted an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera Arabic this week, sitting in an ornate chair with his back to the camera and a hood covering most of his face.

The group he leads, Jabhat al Nusra, is perhaps the most powerful and effective fighting force in the Syrian opposition and is currently playing a decisive role in the rebel movement's gains in northern Syria.

As former Israel Defense Forces intelligence officer and Terrogence analyst Waleed Rikab explained to Business Insider, Nusra has a strategy of gradually co-opting more secular or nationalist Syrian rebel groups, both by making itself an indispensable battlefield ally and by exhibiting a willingness to cooperate with non-jihadist or non-Islamist opponents of the Assad regime.

The Jolani interview shows just how much that strategy has paid off — for both Nusra and the broader Al Qaeda network.

In the interview, Jolani took a conciliatory approach to Syria's minorities, vowing not to actively persecute the country's Christian and Druze populations. On the Alawites, the minority religious sect to which Syrian president Bashar al Assad and many of his top lieutenants belong, Jolani said that he didn't consider Alawites to be his "brothers," but claimed that he had no current desire to carry out genocidal reprisal attacks.

He eschewed Takfirism, or the radical Islamist idea that all individuals who do not adhere to strict, fundamental Islam should be killed, even if they consider themselves to be practicing, observant Muslims. He said explicitly that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had prohibited Nusra from using Syria as a base to plan and execute attacks against western targets, meaning the group has been ordered to focus its efforts solely around the Syria conflict.

Al Qaeda Nusra Front

In the interview, Jolani tries to make Nusra seem like a reasonable alternative to Assad, but without backing down from its Al Qaeda affiliation or permanently repudiating more extreme aspects of jihadist ideology. The interview shows that Nusra — and, by extension, al Qaeda — has a plan to edge into the mainstream of the Syria conflict and thus into any post-Assad political dispensation.

It's evidence that Al Qaeda has a sophisticated long-game — and it's playing it effectively.

"Jolani is communicating to the audience and to his own supporters that Nusra is a revolutionary force inside of Syria that's fighting for the Syrian people and that isn't directly concerned with the West, except to express its condemnation that the west has effectively chosen the wrong side in the Syria war," Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, explained to Business Insider.

According to Cafarella, Nusra has "undertaken an effort to create an image of greater tolerance" as part of Jolani's larger effort to "consolidate Nusra's position a the forefront of emerging rebel governance, particularly in northern Syria."

Nusra isn't moderate in any sense: The group would like to establish an emirate in Syria that could eventually become part of a larger, Al Qaeda-ruled caliphate. And it wants to use that emirate — which would be ruled along fundamentalist Islamic grounds — as a jumping-off point for attacks on both neighboring secular governments and the West.

Nusra's has stayed attuned to local concerns and delayed the implementation of its more radical and alienating policies. In doing so, the group has co-opted the Syrian civil war into Al Qaeda's global program.

"Nusra believes very much in the acquisition of local support as a precondition for the emergence of the Islamic emirate," says Cafarella. Compared to ISIS, which has already declared a caliphate, Nusra is "patient and willing to scale its behavior in order to avoid alienating the population."

Syria Control Map 22 MAY 15One of the interview's more ominous glimpses into the dangers of this long-term strategy related to the flag placed prominently on a table between Jolani and his interviewer. According to Cafarella, the miniature banner included Al Qaeda's name, and described Nusra as "the Al Qaeda franchise in Al Shams [the Levant], Jabhat al Nusra."

At at time when Nusra is at its strongest, and has positioned itself as one of the Syria conflict's most important actors, the group could gain a degree of international acceptance, and open the way for more pragmatic cooperation with the international community, if it ditched or otherwise toned down its Al Qaeda affiliation.

Instead, its top leader is flaunting his Al Qaeda connections in a high-profile television interview.

The Syria conflict is one of the main drivers of Al Qaeda's resurgence, and the war is enhancing the prestige of a terrorist network that President Barack Obama once said had been "defeated." Its leaders in both Syria and Pakistan understand that the next phase of Syria's destructive, 4-year-long conflict will likely play out to their advantage.

SEE ALSO: The FIFA arrests show how far Qatar has fallen

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21 Jun 13:01

Artist Makes Everyday Objects Completely Unusable

by Tomas

Switzerland-born Italian artist Giuseppe Colarusso has a strange fetish for making everyday objects totally unusable. Each of the objects in Colarusso’s pictures are strange, and more than being useless, they would even cause you problems if applied in everyday life: from Egyptian hieroglyphs on a keyboard to a square rolling-pin, or an ordinary hammer with an electrical plug to a table tennis racket with a whole in the middle.

It sometimes takes time to understand what you’re seeing and what’s the catch, and that way every pictures becomes a bit of a puzzle to solve.

“With these images I try to smile and think,” says Colarusso. Looks like his imagination is way out of the box!

Website: giuseppecolarusso.it (via ufunk)

..Or Extremely Useful Like This All-in-one Spray Can

Or These Coffee Cans

Artist Makes Everyday Objects Completely Unusable originally appeared on Bored Panda on June 21, 2013.

  1. oversized-objects-romulo-celdran-thumb45 Oversized Everyday Household Objects
  2. things-with-faces-thumb45 26 Faces in Everyday Objects
  3. food-art-sarah-illenberger-thumb45 Creative Food Art by Sarah Illenberger
  4. anamorphic-portrait-bernard-pras-thumb45 Massive Optical Illusion Made of Recycled Objects
23 May 03:05

Photo



18 May 20:43

A computer student LOVES using Windows 10 on a new 2015 MacBook (MSFT)

by Julie Bort
Maxim Bange

Nice piece :-)

Alex King

Alex King, a computer science student at Pacific Northwest bought the 2015 12-inch MacBook about a month ago.

He likes to play Windows PC games so he promptly loaded Windows 8.1 on it using a feature called Bootcamp, which lets a Mac switch back and forth between Windows and OS X.

A few days ago, he thought, what the heck? He'd try the as yet-unfinished preview version of Windows 10, and surprise!

He found the user interface in Windows 10 often worked faster and smoother on the Mac than OS X.

He writes:

Here's the real kicker: it's fast. It's smooth. It renders at 60FPS unless you have a lot going on. It's unequivocally better than performance on OS X, further leading me to believe that Apple really needs to overhaul how animations are done.

... So maybe it's ironic that in some regards, the new MacBook runs Windows 10 (a prerelease version, at that) better than it runs OS X. But it's a testament to two things: Apple's fantastic MacBook hardware, which is forward-thinking yet surprisingly agile; and Microsoft's excellent Windows software ...

To be fair, King did have to do some doctoring before he got Windows 10 to work perfectly on the Mac.

For instance, he had to install some special trackpad software (he recommends Trackpad++) and re-run the installation of drivers (a step that Microsoft recommended he skip during the initial installation). He documented the process in detail on his blog.

And, also to be fair, he found that the unfinished Windows 10 software did have some bugs:

Windows 10 is still very much beta software, and sometimes it has slowdowns that don’t seem otherwise characteristic of its performance.

But all told, he was so delighted with how well Windows 10 worked on the new Mac, he heartily recommends it:

I'm excited to keep Windows 10 installed on this machine, both now as a preview, and later once the final version is installed. Even hardened OS X diehards owe it to themselves to give it a try.

Join the conversation about this story »

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14 May 18:49

edwardspoonhands: treblesketch-abscond: Wait no stop One time...





















edwardspoonhands:

treblesketch-abscond:

Wait no stop

One time I forgot what mirrors were called so, instead, said “Face Window.”

Raw toast gets me every time.

14 May 15:11

Things in space don’t behave like you expect (bi-stable...



Things in space don’t behave like you expect (bi-stable intermediate moments of inertia).

27 Apr 19:51

Why this man is teaching people how to write malware for Macs

by Natasha Bertrand and Michael B Kelley

unnamed

Patrick Wardles says that he "drinks the Apple juice."

At the same time, the director of research at Synack, Inc. recently gave a presentation at the elite Infiltrate hacking conference in Miami Beach detailing "exactly how to practically create elegant, bad@ss OS X malware."

So why would a professional hacker who says he loves Apple want to design damaging code that could corrupt some of his most beloved products?

"OS X malware is already an unfortunate reality," Wardle told Business Insider. "By revealing methods that adversaries are likely already using — and illustrating how these techniques can trivially bypass Apple and 3rd-party security products — we can hopefully encourage open dialogue and ideally improve the situation to become more secure."

When asked why Apple has not done more to address these security issues itself, Wardle replied that Apple may simply be resting on its laurels since Apple products are more secure by default and the company is not losing any money yet.

"One well-known anti-virus vendor I spoke to recently said that while the Windows version of their anti-virus product has built-in problem-solving capabilities, their OS X version does not yet," Wardle said. "They were quick to point out that this is because current OS X malware is not as advanced as Windows malware, so they didn’t really see the need."

Wardle believes this ad-hoc approach to detecting Apple malware is misguided, however, as there are likely advanced OS X security holes out there that just haven't been found yet.

"My hope is to show how easy it is to create more advanced OS X malware to prod us along toward better security," Wardle said. He did just that at the recent RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.

.@patrickwardle wrote his own malware to see if a variety of anti-malware could detect it — they all #failed #RSAC pic.twitter.com/yrUKiSg7YE

— Dan Reshef (@dreshef) April 23, 2015

Less safe than most think

Many people love their Apple products because they believe they are immune to the kinds of viruses that have long plagued Windows. To a certain extent, that is true — there haven't been any major OS X worms (while Windows has been hit with several). But Wardle argues that's not entirely accurate.

unnamed 1"Just because you have a Mac computer doesn’t mean you are any more secure than your Windows counterparts," he said.

"You should still always strive to adhere to standard security practices — i.e., keep your computer updated and don’t download or run software from untrusted sources."

Wardle claims that Apple's past attempts to fix its various security holes were not advanced enough.

On his way home from Infiltrate, Wardle realized he could bypass Apple's fix for a vulnerability known as "rootpipe" and get the highest levels of privileges even on a fully patched OS X computer.

"Yes they patched rootpipe, but I was able to side-step their patch," he explained. "Similarly, I was able to bypass Gatekeeper [an anti-malware feature of the OS X operating system] and build a downloadable image that contained unsigned code which would allow the unsigned code to run, even though Gatekeeper is designed to prevent this."

Wardle reports security issues to Apple every time he encounters one, and he believes they are actively working to remedy the situation and patch the flaws.

'I don't want the Chinese to hack me'

Beyond problems that require a fix from Apple, Wardle discusses another issue: "Legitimate functionality of the OS can be abused by a local attacker/malware to be more stealthy/elegant/effective."

Detailing that issue is important so that governments and companies are aware of more sophisticated attackers.

"This [Wardle's] type of exploit research is vital to advancing the science of both offense and defense," security expert Dave Aitel, CEO of Immunity, Inc., told Business Insider at Infiltrate.

"Most of the time companies only become aware of serious or complex vulnerabilities through the research community, while at the same it’s likely that nation-states have already detected these same vulnerabilities — China, Russia, US and other big countries have large offensive research teams and capabilities."

For Wardle, it comes down to: "I don't want the Chinese to hack me."

chinese hackers china cyberProtecting again hacker using legitimate code is tricky because "it’s not really Apple’s fault when legitimate things get abused" and "‘fixing’ them would likely break a lot of legitimate code," Wardle said.

"Once an attacker has gotten access on your computer or installed malware, you’ve gotta assume its game over," Wardle said. "If attacker’s were a little more stealthy and abused legitimate features of the OS more, their malware would be harder to detect."

Consequently, the best thing Apple could do is make some broader security improvements that would make it harder to abuse OS features.

"For example, the OS could say, ‘if you’re an Apple signed process, I'm not going to allow you to load any unsigned dynamic libraries," Wardle said, referring to the digital 'libraries' that hold files for apps on Macs.

Wardle says he is striving to be a part of the solution while also pointing out the problems. At RSA, he released some free security tools of his own.

"These are simply the tools I run on my personal Mac to help keep it secure, and I figured I should share," Wardle said. "People seem to be responding positively so far — we're almost at 10,000 cumulative downloads."

Check out Wardle's Infiltrate presentation >

Join the conversation about this story »

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23 Apr 09:13

Microsoft is bringing Solitaire back to Windows 10

by Tom Warren

Despite admitting games like Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts "have a devoted following," Microsoft chose to remove them from Windows 8. While overhauled and modern versions were available in the Windows Store, there’s nothing quite as nostalgic as navigating to Start > Programs> Accessories > Games, and finding the classic Windows games. Microsoft is now bringing back Solitaire as a built-in game on Windows 10. It’s the same modern version from Windows 8, but you no longer have to search around the Windows Store to find it and play.

It’s a similar decision to the return of the Start Menu, bringing back features Windows users are familiar with. Only Solitaire is back as a built-in app so far, and that may even change by the time...

Continue reading…

10 Apr 14:08

Three models made a must-watch video that's blowing up on Facebook with over 200 million views and counting

by Taylor Lorenz

Australian comedy group SketchShe's "Bohemian Carsody" video raked in over 20 million views on YouTube, and now the trio of models slash stand up comics have returned with a new hit. 

Their latest video, "Mime Through Time," features the three girls decked up in period-style outfits as they sing songs from throughout the past 75 years. 

Sketchshe
They belt out tunes by everyone from Britney Spears to the Beatles, and even strip down naked for their final act.
 
SketchsheThe video has already proved a smash hit. It currently has over 19 million views on YouTube and hundreds of millions more on Facebook.
 

SketchsheIt's an impressive feat considering the three women only joined forces in December. Shae-Lee Shackleford,28, Lana Kington, 25, Madison Lloyd,27, are all members of the same modeling agency and became fast friends.

SketchSheThey decided to get together and film the hilarious videos in Shackleford's father's driveway and had no idea the enormous attention they would receive. 

'The fact that we've had people writing to us from around the world... I don't think there's been a country or continent that hasn't reached out and written to us to say they loved it," Shackleford tells the Daily Mail.

SketchsheHowever, despite international attention and a Los Angeles press tour, their filming methods are still very DIY. "The first time we had a bra in the car so we taped the iPhone to it and propped it up that way, but this time we upgraded to a block of wood, but it's still very dodgy," Shackleford says.

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12 Apr 01:42

This 2-year-old disc jockey is becoming a phenomenon in South Africa

by Amanda Macias and Associated Press

dj aj toddler south africa

At first it seems like a fluke — a 2-year-old playing with the knobs and buttons of a sophisticated music system. Yet, the pint size boy is in control of the beat of the bass-heavy house music. He is South Africa's youngest disc jockey, DJ AJ.

At a shopping mall appearance, a crowd gathers around the young boy as he bops his head to the beat, his large headphones slipping off. Adults whip out their cellphones to capture the moment while children just stare.

dj aj toddler south africaOratilwe Hlongwane is still learning to put together words but the toddler is already able to select and play music from a laptop and has become a viral phenomenon on South Africa's social media.

His mother, Refiloe Marumo, credits his father's decision to buy an iPad for his then unborn son.

Glen Hlongwane planned to download educational apps to speed up his child's education.

Hlongwane, a gymnastics coach and aspiring DJ, also downloaded a disc jockeying app for himself.

At about a year old, DJ AJ learned how to manipulate the gadget. Not satisfied with number recognition games, he began to fiddle with his father's DJ app.

"Whatever he was doing with the mixer, turning the knobs, the timing of him doing what he was doing was like so good and he knew where the effect button was and he was fading in and fading out," his father told CCTV Africa.

The parents were blown away when their son, still in diapers, repeated what he had learned on the app on actual DJ equipment, playing with sound effects and bouncing between songs. A cellphone video of him playing went viral and now DJ AJ has nearly 25,000 Facebook fans.

south african toddler djHis newfound fame has brought special appearances and sponsorship deals many older DJs dream of.

But celebrity has also brought some criticism as some accused his parents of abuse and profiting from their child's precocious ability.

"I'm not going to exploit my kid," said his father. DJ AJ's parents will not allow him to play in clubs or at parties.

dj south africaHlongwane and Marumo are adamant that they will not force their son to be a DJ when he grows up, but say they believe his affinity for electronic equipment will probably decide his future.

Hongwane said: "I can see a future Bill Gates here."

Here is a video of DJ AJ:

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07 Apr 12:56

Microsoft Lumia 640 arriveert in de eerste Nederlandse winkels

by info@gsmhelpdesk.nl (Tim Wijkman)
De begin maart tijdens het Mobile World Congress gepresenteerde Microsoft Lumia 640 is vandaag gearriveerd in de eerste Nederlandse winkels. De smartphone biedt een ongekend goede prijs / functionaliteitverhouding.