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03 Dec 12:01

David Pogue on the Internet of Things

Why hasn’t the Internet of Things become a thing?

Trust me—the name isn’t helping. What does “the Internet of Things” even mean? Our household objects do not have their own internet. There’s no little Twitter for thermostats, or Facebook for waffle irons.

Oh, there’s an infinitude of networkable “smart” products available—lights, thermostats, coffee makers, security cameras, door locks, sprinklers, robot vacuums, smoke detectors, microwaves, pool cleaners, baby monitors, bike locks, shower heads, crockpots, coffee mugs, soccer balls and basketballs, bathroom scales, bikes, and rolling luggage. All of it networked, all of it connected to apps on your phone.

Name a household object, and I’ll show you someone who’s stuck sensors into it.

There is not, however, a corresponding rush of people buying this smart stuff.

Consumer IoT

Sure, some early-adopter techies have installed smart thermostats and light bulbs. The Nest thermostat, for example, programs itself by observing what time you come and go, and the Honeywell Lyric uses your phone’s GPS to know when you’re approaching the house, and get it heated or cooled in advance. You can also adjust your home’s temperature and lighting from a phone app.

But mass adoption of IoT? Nope, not yet. I can count the number of people I know who own, say, an internet-connected mattress on zero fingers.

The industry’s rush to Thing-ize every ever-loving household object, no matter how silly, isn’t helping much with the category’s reputation. The following are actual products:

The IoT doggie-treat dispenser, fork, toothbrush, TP holder, and tampon.

Upon discovering that a remote control came with our new TV in 1979, my mom said, as I recall: “Why does anyone need this? Is it so hard to walk six feet to change the channel?”

That seems to be the public’s response to IoT devices: “Why do I need this thing?”

And also: “Am I really going to open an app to turn my lights on?”

And also: “What about security? The more entry points I offer to hackers on the internet, the easier I am to hack!”

You may recall that last month’s massive internet outage—of Twitter (TWTR), Reddit, Netflix (NFLX), Airbnb, and Spotify—was made possible by a weakness in IoT webcams made by a Chinese company called Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology.

Industrial IoT

But here’s the thing: Most people (and most reporters) who use the term “Internet of Things” are talking about consumer products. And sure enough: IoT adoption in consumer products isn’t what you’d call white hot.

There is, however, a second IoT universe where these technologies make a lot more sense: Industrial and commercial uses.

A typical corporate building is made up of systems: security systems, fire/smoke/water-alarm systems, heating/cooling systems, lighting systems. If they can be made to communicate intelligently, both with each other and with building managers, they can provide a huge boost in convenience, savings, safety, and environmental payoff.

At this very moment, gas companies are installing sensors on remote pumping stations in Alaska, so that their engineers can monitor the machinery’s health with an app instead of driving out there for inspection. Tire companies are embedding sensors into their tires, and sharing the collected data to trucking companies to save fuel and money. Sensors in municipal water utilities can predict when machines will fail, so they can be fixed before disaster strikes. Predictive maintenance, it’s called.

Michelin is embedding sensors into its tires for trucking measurements.

Some people call this realm IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. In business, it’s not about not getting up off the couch to flip a light switch. It’s about efficiency, data, interconnectedness of systems—and big, big money. According to Accenture, corporations will be spending $500 billion a year on these technologies by 2020.

Usually, new technologies seep into the corporate world through the back door, when employees bring their personal technologies and devices into the workplace (see: smartphones, social media). But in the case of the Internet of Things, it looks like industry will lead the way.

You may not be completely sure why anyone needs to build sensors into, write an app for, and generate data from a waffle iron.

But in the commercial world, when the “things” in question are big, expensive, dangerous, and mission-critical pieces of equipment, the “why” of sensors, data, and apps is screamingly clear.

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in the Comments below. On the Web, he’s On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s Here’s how to get his columns by email

03 Dec 17:20


03 Dec 17:45

Diminished substitutes

by russell davies

There's much to dislike in this Safran Foer emission about the distractions of technology. All of it really. It's the usual novels versus screens stuff. This struck me particularly:

"But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to make the effort to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation – you can say what you need to say without a response; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up. Shooting off an email is easier still, because one can further hide behind the absence of vocal inflection, and of course there’s no chance of accidentally catching someone. With texting, the expectation for articulateness is further reduced, and another shell is offered to hide in. Each step “forward” has made it easier – just a little – to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity."

I notice he chose to write that in a national newspaper and didn't seek me out to tell me directly. Just, I suppose, because it was easier to do that, to just type it and send it to a newspaper, rather than to do the emotional work of seeking out every single Guardian reader and telling them in person. He's not even called me up and told me. I've been in all day, I've checked all my messages. Nothing. It's disappointing.

03 Dec 15:55

One Simple Algorithm Could Explain Human Intelligence

One Simple Algorithm Could Explain Human Intelligence:

Could consciousness be as simple as n=2ⁱ-1?

“Many people have long speculated that there has to be a basic design principle from which intelligence originates and the brain evolves, like how the double helix of DNA and genetic codes are universal for every organism,” says lead researcher Joe Tsien from Augusta University in Georgia.

“We present evidence that the brain may operate on an amazingly simple mathematical logic.”

Last year, Tsien published a paper describing his “Theory of Connectivity”, in which he put forward the idea that groups of neurons, called neural cliques, come together in pre-wired ways to process thought and knowledge.

Essentially, it’s a framework for arranging the brain’s billions of neurons.

Tsien says these cliques then assemble to form functional connectivity motifs (FCMs), which could represent all the potential variations in human thought.

The harder we need to think, the hypothesis goes, the more cliques are required to make up that FCM.

For his latest study, Tsien put his Theory of Connectivity and FCMs to the test, using electrodes implanted at specific points in the brains of mice and hamsters to monitor neuron activity.

Sure enough, his team was able to predict the neural cliques that formed in response to certain scenarios, such as the arrival of food or the presence of a threat. Depending on the scenario, the animals’ neurons arranged themselves in very predictable groups.

In one test, four different foods were placed in front of a group of mice, and the researchers watched as the neurons grouped together instantly. They were even able to identify different clique formations depending on what combinations of foods were presented.

“For it to be a universal principle, it needs to be operating in many neural circuits, so we selected seven different brain regions and, surprisingly, we indeed saw this principle operating in all these regions,” explains Tsien.

These cliques appeared almost immediately as the food appeared, which suggests that they’re somehow ‘pre-wired’ during brain development.

At the centre of Tsien’s hypothesis is the formula n=2ⁱ-1, where 'n’ is the number of connected neural cliques, '2’ indicates whether the neurons are receiving an input or not, 'i’ is the information being received, and ’-1’ is accounting for multiple possibilities.

Tsien says this formula is enough to predict FCM grouping.

“This equation gives you a way to wire the brain cells in such a way to turn seemingly infinite possibilities into organised knowledge,” he said.

Sounds like neural networks, at some level.

03 Dec 15:58


03 Dec 16:01

"December has come, the last month of an awful year, and I am sure I am not alone in saying good..."

“December has come, the last month of an awful year, and I am sure I am not alone in saying good riddance to 2016. It’s been the worst of years, one of those periodic reminders that the raging beast in humankind always lurks.”

- Roger Cohen, Do Not Go Gentle
03 Dec 16:08

"The other day I sent the following email to two friends who were particularly adamant and outspoken..."

“The other day I sent the following email to two friends who were particularly adamant and outspoken in their support of the now president-elect:

Please understand that I am not mad at you because Clinton lost. I am totally unconcerned that you and I have different ‘politics.’ And I don’t think less of you because you voted one way and I another.

No, I think less of you because you watched an adult mock a disabled person while addressing a crowd and still supported him. I think less of you because you saw a candidate spout clear racism day after day and still backed him. I think less of you because you heard him advocate for war crimes and still thought he should be given the reins of government. I think less of you because you watched him equate a woman’s worth to where she landed on a scale of 1 to 10 and still got on board. I think less of you because you stood by silently while he labeled Mexicans as criminals and Muslims as terrorists.

It wasn’t your politics I found repulsive. No, it was your willingness to support someone who spouts racism, sexism, and cruelty almost every time he opens his mouth. You sided with a bully when it should have mattered most, and that is something I will never be able to forget.

So in response to your post-election expression of hope, no, you and I won’t be 'coming together to move forward.’ Obviously, the president-elect disgusts me; but it is the fact that he doesn’t disgust you that will stick with me long after the election.

- Phil Shailer - Sun Sentinel
03 Dec 17:15

Jonathan Chait on the failure of the ‘Center’

Jonathan Chait makes the case that David Brooks and other moderates that form the ‘Center’ failed the country by not accepting Barack Obama as the near-ideal centrist they were nominally looking for, and through that enormous, aggravated, and unimaginably stupid error of judgment, they allowed the extremists to hoodwink America and blow a huge hole in our country’s future [all emphasis mine]:

Jonathan Chait, David Brooks and the Intellectual Collapse of the Center 

Of all the failures that have led to the historical disaster of the Trump presidency, perhaps the least-remarked-upon is the abdication of responsibility of the American center. Those of us with moderate inclinations need an effective center as a brake against extremism. When one party veers too far from the center, the center joins the opposing party, until the extreme one can be coaxed back into the mainstream. David Brooks calls for a rejuvenation of the center under the Trump presidency. But Brooks himself is the perfect encapsulation of why the center has proven so hapless, allowing itself to enable extremism rather than prevent it.

The premise of Brooks’s column is that there needs to be space “between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.” This is a terrible way to conceptualize the political map. First, it distorts the ideas of the two sides, equating a small-d democrat like Sanders (who merely proposes more regulation, taxes, and spending) with Trump, who — as Brooks concedes — is authoritarian. And second, it distorts their power. Sanders remains a left-wing outlier among his party, while Trump is the dominant force within his.

But even if you accept this very strange notion of the political alignment in Trump’s Washington, it raises a question Brooks is not prepared to answer. If his objection on the left lies with the “Sanders socialism,” then isn’t there an appealing centrist lying to the right of that? A moderate who favors market-oriented solutions that bring together business and labor, who welcomes empiricism, and is willing to compromise? A politician who has led the Democratic Party for the last eight years and, in fact, is still the sitting president of the United States right now?

One might think so. But Brooks spent the last eight years defining the center as something Obama was not. It didn’t matter that Obama supported a health-care plan first devised by Mitt Romney, or a cap-and-trade plan endorsed by John McCain. Brooks nestled himself into the territory between Obama and the angry, no-compromise Republicans who were shutting down government and boycotting all negotiations with the president. If Obama endorsed the policies Brooks preferred, he would simply pretend that Obama had not proposed them. Indeed, one of the most common genres of David Brooks column was a sad lament that neither party would endorse policies that in fact Obama had explicitly and publicly called for.

If Obama offered a deal to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody was willing to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements. If Obama favored education reform, an infrastructure bank, and more high-skill immigration, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody favored those things. When Obama supported market-oriented health-care reform, Brooks opposed it as an extravagant government takeover. Then later he wrote a sad column about how “we’d have had a very different debate if we knew the law was going to be a discrete government effort to subsidize health care for more poor people” rather than “an extravagant government grab to take over the nation’s health-care system.”

The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand. The well-documented reality that the parties were undergoing asymmetric polarization was one they refused to accept, because their jobs was to be bipartisan, and it is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon not understanding it.

The centrists could have played a role in braking the growing extremism of the Republican Party. It would have meant telling the country that there was now one moderate, governing party and one extremist faction, and parking themselves with the moderate party until such time as the dynamic changed. They could not do it. If there’s not much of a center left to stop Trump from trampling democratic norms, it is because the centrists abdicated their responsibility and destroyed themselves.

Their unwillingness to accept Obama is staggering. Was it because he’s black? Or did just being a nominal Democrat disqualify him? At any rate, they threw him under the bus, and we all have to pay the price, and it will be costly.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

- W B Yeats, The Second Coming

03 Dec 18:43

experimenting with alternative social networks

by D'Arcy Norman

Having done the delete-social-media-account dance again, I’m without Twitter and Facebook. And still feeling really really good about that. But, I miss being part of an extended community of interesting people who share ideas quasi-synchronously. A social network, as it were.

So. I’ve been looking at some of the alternatives. I don’t think any of them are “there” yet, but they each provide an opportunity to explore different aspects of community and software design. When looking at these alternatives, I’m trying to learn about how the design of software affects what people actually do with it. I’m also aware that much of the difference, when compared with twitter or facebook, is due to novelty and freshness – there are no trolls there (yet), and everyone who is exploring the platforms is doing so because they care and are interested and interesting. So, not apples-to-apples. But, still, there is much to learn by actually using these things. That’s the only way I know of to really learn what these things mean.


A wonderful microblogging platform, built by Ben Werdmüller and Erin Richey. It’s kind of like a twitter-on-steroids, or a simplified blogging platform. It works well, and is really geared to either single-author sites or central community sites. I threw a copy on my Reclaim Hosting server, to see how that might work. There are a handful of people kicking the tires there. Come play, if you want to, and if you’re not a troll or spambot.

It can also handle federation – if you run your own Known site, you can set that site up to cross-publish to a Known community site. But it’s one-directional – you may need to go to the community site to see responses. Federating posts seems to throw an error message on the “sending” site, but the posts appear to get through regardless. So, partially federated. Partially distributed. But, because people need to [remember|want] to come back to the central site, it’s often tumbleweeds… But, when comment threads take off, they seem deeper than twitter threads.

Known has been going for awhile now, starting as IDNO. I’ve been running a site, as well as a few others – most notably Grant Potter, who has jumped right into using Known as a write-once-publish-elsewhere tool.


Thanks to an initial suggestion by Scott Leslie – This one feels the most twitter-like1. Lots of edu-folks are there already, so it might have some legs… It already feels like less of a tumbleweed-collector, with more people playing with it and posting more often. There are some new things with the UI design – longer posts (500 characters!) – and this seems to be changing what the posts/toots are. Longer @response chains. Posts that are sometimes like tiny blog posts – and so fewer tweetstorms of 20-part posts as seen on twitter.

GNU Social

Open source, LAMP software. Easy to install. Not ready for prime time. Fully federated. Fully distributed. The UI is… unpolished. The code sometimes throws PHP errors, but seems to work anyway.

I haven’t used this one yet – it’s a cleaned-up implementation of GNU Social.


Every time I let myself fall into the “hey! let’s play with some of the options for ___” thing, I give my head a shake. Who has time for this? I sure don’t. Why not just wait until the dust settles and then start poking at what’s left? Because it’s important to explore this stuff before things start to ossify. Waiting for the dust to settle is the easy route, but it also abdicates any sense of responsibility to help shape or refine the tools we will all end up using. And these tools are clearly now a major part of discourse and communication in general, meaning I’m just not comfortable leaving it to silicon valley to define things for me.

Grassi Lakes Trail Hike - 18

I think it’s important that we all have the ability to easily install and manage our own tools if they are to be important to us, and that the safest and most reliable way to do that is with a fully distributed and federated model that lets everyone choose how their tools will behave and who will have access to them, their content, and data about themselves.

I plan to poke around with these, and likely others, over the next few months. I have no idea what (if anything) will come of that.

  1. although the branch(?) of GNU Social is pretty close, too, but I haven’t played with it much yet
03 Dec 21:11

"Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself."

“Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.”

- John Gruber (via bijan)
03 Dec 17:10

Paradise Lost: My Mac2Win journey

by xjgi4k
Yes, I’m ‘doing it’. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. If I’m going to rant on twitter about the inadequacies of the new MacBook Pro, I should back it up with action. After 30 years(😱) of using Macs (and even working for Apple for 8 years) I’m moving to Windows. My colleagues consider […]
04 Dec 03:41

Great bike lights

by jwz
mkalus shared this story from jwz.

I've been using these bike lights for a bit over a year and I highly recommend them -- primarily because they are really not kidding about the anti-theft guarantee! Since I live in San Francisco, where we can't have nice things, they've now sent me three replacement lights for free, so that has definitely been money well spent.

Fortified Bicycle Aviator & Afterburner

These lightweight aluminum lights lock to your handlebars and seat post with custom security bolts, and are guaranteed to last forever - If they're ever stolen, broken or water damaged, Fortified will replace 'em! Swap batteries on the go with removable, rechargeable USB batteries. 150 lumens in the front perfectly illuminates city streets, while 30 lumens in the rear keeps drivers alert. If you're looking to fully illuminate the darkest suburban paths and urban alleyways, try the Boost version with 300 lumens in the front and 60 lumens in the rear to keep drivers at a distance.

They're relatively difficult to steal... The screws are pentalobe with a post: obscure but not unheard of. After the first theft, I "fixed" that by filling up the screw head with superglue. The most recent crackhead managed to steal half of the light, which isn't really going to work out so well for them.

They're bright and the batteries last a pretty long time. My only real complaint is that they turn on with a single tap, so often passing strangers using the same bike rack as me manage to turn them on accidentally, and I regularly come out to discover a dead battery.

04 Dec 03:44

PlanetBoxes. A Lunchbox Review (for Adults)

by Katherine
mkalus shared this story from thenutritionwonk.

Disclaimer: The author received the PlanetBox "Launch" and accessories in exchange for an honest review of the product.  That being said, read ahead!
In this post, I'll chat about: What is a PlanetBox? What are the pros and cons of using the PlanetBox as an adult? What are some lunch ideas for PlanetBoxes?
Ok, what is a PlanetBox?
If you don't have kids, you might not know about this "bento-style" lunchbox that's tearing up Instagram. I only heard about it because my cousin who has children in grade school raved about them. But once I learned about it, I knew I wanted one.  As a nutrition wonk, the idea of an easy lunch box that came with portion controlled compartments and encouraged variety was potentially genius.
I initially bought myself the style I thought was the "cutest" (the Rover - with its 5 mini compartments appealed to me most).
The "Rover" (pictured above) came with two little stainless steel containers (the "Big Dipper" and "Little Dipper") which both have rubber seals, so you can keep yogurt, salad dressings, or veggie dip in them. I also opted to buy the colorful little "Pods" so I could add more variety to my lunch.
As you can see in the photo - I often keep lunches simple. The nice thing about the PlanetBox is that the compartments encourage variety, but you don't have to be a gourmet chef at all. In fact, my lunches are usually more "assembled" than cooked.  The lunch above featured plain greek yogurt, some granola, pomegranate arils, colorful grape tomatoes, trail mix, and peanut butter (to eat with the apple I would have for an afternoon snack). The gummies are vitamins.
After using the PlanetBox Rover several times, I contacted PlanetBox and I was able to try out the "Launch," the more adult-appetite sized lunch box. In addition, I received taller "pod" containers, as well as a "Satellite Dish," which is their version of a glass tupperware that could be reheated in the microwave.  It has gotten a lot of use as well.
Here is the "Launch" PlanetBox with some food in the glass "Satellite Dish" that can be heated in the microwave. This lunch has grape tomatoes, a roasted red pepper, fontina, and portobello panini, and a quinoa, kale, and chickpea salad with toasted pine nuts.
Pros and Cons (of having a lunchbox as an adult)
We all know that packing healthy lunches for work is great! And many moms and dads feel comfortable sending their kids to school with lunchboxes. But is it weird to show up at work with a compartmentalized lunchbox? And how convenient is it, really? Here were the pros and cons I experienced.
1.Insanely easy to clean.
Every part of these lunchboxes can go in the dishwasher. Pop them in and they're done with the dishes from dinner.
2.Helps encourage healthy eating.
When I have to grab lunch at work or school, 9 times out of 10, I'll grab a sandwich and nothing else. Or worse, I'll grab a snack that isn't healthy. The variety you can pack in the PlanetBox lets you throw in a bunch of baby carrots, or some grapes along with your sandwich.  If I see an empty compartment, I start rummaging through the fridge to see if I have some extra veggies to add.
3.Super compact size. No bulk.
There are a lot of cute "adult" lunch bags. I'm thinking of those neoprene ones with handles. they stay very cool, but can take up a lot of space. Plus, you have to put your ziploc baggies or tupperware in them, which is a lot of moving pieces.
PlanetBoxes are very slim and all your food is conveniently in one location.  I opted to get the PlanetBox insulated "sleeves" rather than the colorful lunch bags and this further added to the sleek look. One of my coworkers remarked that my lunchbox looks a lot like a tablet.  The sleeves come in black and have a shoulder strap, but don't scream "THIS IS MY LUNCH" the way other lunchboxes can. Also, they can slide neatly into tight spaces in a work fridge!
4.Fun to use!
Speaks for itself- it's fun to pack and eat from these lunchboxes! I find I like to be creative with how to pack lunches and find interesting ways to use all the compartments!
5.Encourages slower eating.
Especially with the PlanetBox "Rover" - the many compartments that allow for small amounts of different foods really makes me take my time eating.  Rather than scarfing down a fast sandwich or piece of pizza, my lunch has multiple pieces and I think this helps me feel fuller and more satisfied after I eat.
No need for pre-packaged snacks, ziploc baggies, or tin foil!  Everything can fit in the one container.  It makes packing lunches feel at least a little more eco-friendly.
The Cons:
1.You need an ice pack if there is no fridge at your work.
The sleeves don't insulate particularly well, so you'll need to slip an ice pack in the bag. PlanetBox sells their own branded ice packs that fit into the sleeves or lunch bags, but you could also throw in a slim ice pack from anywhere.
2.Yes, it could be a little awkward.
As a nutrition-y-person, I have no problem talking about lunchboxes forever! But be prepared to answer some questions about your lunchbox that folds out like a laptop full of snacks. People will just walk up to you to chat about it.
One coworker took a picture of the lunchbox to buy for his daughter, but others gave a little side eye. Let's face it, adults aren't used to seeing one another unlatch old school lunch tins! If you want to eat your lunch in peace or feel self conscious with flashy lunch accoutrement, this may not be the lunch pail for you.
3.No hot lunches (Sort of).
Planetboxes obviously can't be heated in the microwave, so you need to get used to cold lunches. If you do get the larger box, the "Launch," you can opt to buy the microwavable, liquid-tight "Satellite Dish."
However, this dish does not fit a ton of food, so don't expect to reheat a full serving of last night's leftovers.
This could be a major downside for someone who uses dinner leftovers for lunches frequently.
4.Huge appetites need not apply.
Yes, you can get a ton of food in these things, but it takes a little finagling. I am perfectly happy with the amount I can pack in either size "Rover" or "Launch," but if you have a partner or family member who is a marathoner, these just might not pack enough food.
These lunchboxes areidealfor someone who wants to eat without overeating, but maybe not for someone with high calorie needs.
5.Awkward sizes for sandwiches.
Neither the "Rover" nor "Launch" have compartments that are quite the right size for a normal-sized sandwich. On one hand, this is good because it prevents you from getting into a sandwich rut and encourages you to be more creative. But sometimes you just want a sandwich. In fact, I usually pack some form of sandwich in every one of my lunches and I wind up chopping them into squares just to fit them in.
Note the *creativity* I had to use to smash this normal-sized turkey provolone sandwich into my partner's lunchbox! If you're a sandwich-every-day person, this might be frustrating!  They don't all look like this though, see below for other ways I've fit the standard sandwich into the PlanetBox.
Some Lunch Ideas!
I've spent some time playing with both PlanetBoxes and here are some lunches I've come up with. Most of them are really easy to assemble and they'll be tasty for adults or kids!
Kid at Heart Lunches
Clockwise from TL:
Healthy comfort food -this lunch had a lunchable feel. Sliced celery and radish with hummus dip. Tiny PB sandwich. Greek yogurt with frozen berries and All Bran Buds cereal for crunch. Chocolate!
Turkey Cheese Sammie- Note the *creativity* I used to get this sandwich in the lunchbox! I found that Pepperidge Farm very thin sliced bread fits well. In addition to a turkey and cheese sandwich I've got fresh spinach and tomato with a vinaigrette and blueberries.
BRAT Diet -I wasn't feeling so hot and so I fell back on a (NOT evidence based) old favorite for sour stomaches, the BRAT diet. Homemade granola and apple sauce with rice cakes cut to fit. *Lifehack* Carrot chips are awesome!
Banana PB Sandwich -You're missing out if you haven't had one of these since childhood. I decorated this one with some yellow raisins. Plus pomegranate arils and fresh chopped salad with vinegar and oil.
Easy AF (as Friday) Salads
The trick to all of these? Pre-made salad mixes make the base for all of them.  The top row has an Asian style salad with a sweeter dressing. The bottom row has salads heavy on seeds with creamy dressings. These are the easiest way to have fancy salads that are as easy to make as opening the bag!
Top Row:Asian style salad, banana peanut butter sandwich, quinoa with craisins and parsley.
Bottom Row:Salad with dressing, wheat wraps with turkey, veggies, and mustard, clementines, banana bread. The lunch on the right also has carrot and radish slices.
I Cooked (a Little)
These ones were a little more cooking intensive, but still very easy and delicious!
Two Lunches!In the left lunch, the "Satellite Dish" has pulled chicken and rice with sliced grape tomatoes and sriracha. This can be heated up later. It also has a PB and Banana sandwich (so good, seriously), a chopped green salad and fruit salad made from apples, pomegranate, and yellow raisins with lemon juice. The right lunch has the same chopped and fruit salad, but also has pasta with parsley, feta cheese, grape tomatoes and olive oil as well as greek yogurt with All Bran Buds for crunch.
Grilled Portobello Sandwich:I grilled portobello on the stove griddle, added roasted red pepper, fontina cheese and whole grain bread and made mini paninis. The "Satellite Dish" is quinoa cooked and combined with sautéed chopped kale and chickpeas. Toasted pine nuts were added after. Also grape tomatoes!
Hopefully, this gave you some ideas for healthy lunches and helped you decide whether a PlanetBox could be good for you or a friend!
For more lunch ideas, follow @nutritionwonk on Instagram.
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02 Dec 20:00

Things about re:Invent

The AWSpalooza took me to Vegas for four nights, with thirty thousand or so other cloud-heads. Herewith notes and sparkly Vegas pictures.


The numbers tell the story: from 12K to 19K to 32K, and I don’t see any reason it’ll slow down. While the organization and logistics were formidable, obviously the work of seasoned pros, we’re getting close to the limit of what those venues can bear. I’m pretty relaxed about life, but had a couple of little claustrophobia flashes, when the crowds overfilled those huge hallways.

Fountain, Achromat rendition

I took along the Achromat lens because
it’s good at sparkly things and Vegas has lots of those.

There are upsides: I ate like a horse and drank like a fish, but I bet I lost weight from the miles and miles (not a figure of speech) of walking from hotel to venue to venue. 24 hours away from the show, my feet are starting to feel less like undercooked hamburger.


There are two big tribes: First, the cloud natives, tiny to huge, who’ve never really thought of any other way to do computing. Then the much larger tribe just getting their toes in the water and figuring out what they’re going to have to change to get the public cloud’s upsides in cost and security and availability and durability.

The second group is bigger. I was talking to a guy from a British bank that sent fifty people for a crash course in the future. But he told me there was still a strong No-Cloud-Here faction, some in corner offices. “I can out-wait them” he said, “but in the meantime we have to get ready.”

Evil flower horse

Evil flower horse.


I like to start the customer meetings (each day had many) with a question: “What’s not working? Tell us about your pain points.” And they laugh but then the ice is broken and you get a good talk going right away about the things that matter.

So we sat down with this one big insurance company (you’d recognize the name) and I asked the question; they looked surprised and started talking about the problems with monolithic legacy Java and lingering RPG and DB2 in corners of the business. I’d mixed up my briefing docs and hadn’t realized they were just starting the cloud migration, didn’t really have much in production yet. So I was embarrassed and apologized, but they said “No, this good, let’s keep going.” And actually it was, we learned things that they were going to have to watch out for and also some low-hanging fruit they can win with in the short term.


When I was at Google, we couldn’t keep any — by the time IO rolled around every year, the press and bloggers knew pretty well what we were going to release. I’m not sure it did any damage, but it was irritating as hell.

Trump tower

Dark towers are so 20th-century.

AWS is a tight ship, relatively; we managed to surprise the audience with a couple of things, this year and every year. I totally don’t know why; if you listen to the AWS announcements, it’s obvious that customers have been looking at the new products, so the number of people who know is not small.

The Launch

I helped launch the new AWS Step Functions product. My role was small — flipping a couple of GitHub repos public, pushing a Ruby gem, publishing a spec — but enough to get me into the Launch War Room in a hidden corner of the conference.

Getting all the service pieces live on the net in sync with their keynote debut is not unlike a ten-player eight-dimensional chess match; I’ve never seen anything like it. I guess I have to be careful of giving away secrets here; suffice it to say, it was pretty groovy.


I gave a session to an audience of a thousand and change; my first public appearance as an Amazonian, on my second anniversary here. It wasn’t as much fun as I had berating audiences about privacy in the time between Google and Amazon, but I do like speechifying.

re:Invent is speaker-friendly. At Java One, your talk was ripped out of your hands and edited by “professionals” who didn’t understand the difference between 1010 and 1,010. At Google IO, you got to keep your own talk, but you had to rehearse with, and get it approved by, Developer Relations people (like me) who ruthlessly stamped out bullet lists.

For re:Invent, they had professional editors, who were smart and helpful about style and branding correctness, but otherwise got out of the way. If there’s a re:Invent in your future, I strongly recommend getting a talk accepted; the Speaker Work Room is a haven of quiet conversation, free food, and strong Internet.

Next year?

If I still have this job, it’ll be hard to not go. I think people who are building into the cloud — even if, like me, they don’t like Vegas and don’t like crowds — should too.

04 Dec 01:31

SACEM Provides Details on Recent Torrent Site Raids in France

by Andy
mkalus shared this story from TorrentFreak.

Two weeks ago and seemingly out of the blue, popular private music tracker went offline. French military police targeted some of the site’s infrastructure at hosting provider OVH and the site responded by deleting itself.

The news came as a huge disappointment to the site’s users and the wider torrent community as a whole, but French police weren’t done yet.

In a follow-up action, French Gendarmerie targeted Zone-Telechargement (Download Zone), the country’s largest pirate site and 11th most-visited website in the region overall. That site went down too, closely followed by affiliated DDL site, DL-Protect.

Behind all of these actions is SACEM, the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music. This industry group has a mandate to collect and distribute royalties while protecting the copyrights of its members. And according to its general secretary, they’re only just getting started.

In an interview with French news site Le Monde, David El Sayegh said that SACEM and the police hadn’t “just woken up” to pirate sites operating in France. The actions against both and Zone-Telechargement were the result of a “long process and meticulous work.”

The SACEM chief said the investigation into the two million direct download link Zone-Telechargement began two years ago in partnership with another local anti-piracy outfit. It turned up a lot of useful information.

“We filed a complaint in 2014, joined by ALPA (French Association for the Fight against Piracy). This process was to identify accounts, assets, servers and advertising agencies. It’s always quite a complex and sophisticated system, they are large investigations,” he said.

“There were many advertisements on the site, often pornographic. [Zone-Telechargement] generated at least 1.5 million euros in sales per year, with offshore accounts located in Malta, Cyprus and Belize.”

David El Sayegh said that rightsholders were looking at damages of more than
75 million euros but the operators of the site were no longer resident in France. That didn’t stop their arrests, however. Seven people were arrested on Monday in France and Andorra, with police there calling the action ‘Operation Gervais‘.

“The two administrators, arrested by international mandates, had left France to settle in Andorra. Large seizures of assets were carried out: luxury cars, real estate, and savings accounts,” he said.

The Gendarmerie confirmed the seizure of 450,000 euros and two cars and said that the men, both aged 24, were “repeat offenders.” Authorities in Andorra confirmed that 250,000 euros across several accounts had been frozen.

“We are looking at a case of counterfeiting for profit, on a large scale,” El Sayegh continued. “These people do not pay taxes, they do not pay the rightful rightsholders, they do not respect anything. They have developed a very organized and sophisticated mechanism to voluntarily operate outside the law.”

With the site targeted in France and its operators arrested in Andorra, the operation spread further afield. SACEM says that servers were also seized in Germany and as far away as Iceland, a country often associated with high levels of privacy.

Of course, the recent shutdowns were very unpopular with users, but El Sayegh said that the law is on SACEM’s side.

“These are counterfeit business activities, these are people who have grown rich on the backs of creators. They make millions without paying one euro to creators. They are thugs who should not have the compassion of one person, and who will answer for their acts before justice.”

But while harshly criticizing site operators, El Sayegh tone was a little more moderate when speaking of their users. He asked them to consider how creators are to earn a living in the face of piracy but suggested that they’re only chasing the bigger fish.

“The challenge is mainly to stop those who trade works. But the objective above all is to attack the evil at its source, and the administrators of the pirate sites,” he said.

Other unnamed targets are also in SACEM’s sights. However, it seems unlikely that many sites will continue their stay in France following the events of the past couple of weeks.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

18 Nov 03:59

Worried about surveillance under Trump?

by Alex

What do activists, journalists and plain old-fashioned citizens need to know about online privacy in the Trump era? I wanted to ask the smartest people I could find for their advice — and you can read the results in my latest piece for The Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode.

It’s crucial to start thinking in these terms, for reasons I map out in the story:

“Eight years of George W. Bush followed by eight years of Obama have allowed Trump to inherit a powerful surveillance state,” says Eva Galperin, global policy analyst for the digital advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “He is likely to turn that surveillance on American citizens, especially people of color, Muslims, and his political enemies.”

Read the whole story here.

01 Dec 02:01

Specs leak for Nokia’s rumored D1C Android smartphone, report indicates two sizes

by Rose Behar

Nokia’s allegedly forthcoming D1C Android smartphone will come in two display size variants — 5-inch and 5.5-inch —  according to “reliable sources and protos” cited by Nokia Power User. The publication also published detailed specs for the two models, which are expected to run Android Nougat out of the box.

Besides the display size, the two variants will differ in RAM amounts and camera packages, reports NPU. Where the smaller (and less expensive) device stocks 2GB of RAM, the larger has 3GB. In terms of camera setup, the 5-inch device has a 13-megapixel rear shooter, while the 5.5-inch handset has a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera.

Otherwise, the smartphones appear to be identical, with a 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 processor, 1080p display, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and, surprisingly, 16GB of internal storage.

In addition to the specs, images and renders of the D1C devices have emerged via various Chinese media outlets.

nokia d1c render

In August, Nokia stated that three or four Nokia-branded Android devices (both smartphones and tablets) would be unveiled in the fourth quarter of 2016 — though the announcements have likely been pushed to the Mobile World Congress in February, 2017. The company also confirmed that those devices will be HMD-designed and Foxconn-produced.

The Nokia brand has gone through a period of transition recently, with Foxconn’s FIH Mobile and HMD purchasing the Nokia feature phone division from Microsoft in May 2016. That same month, an HMD executive told ZDNet that the company has been granted an exclusive ten-year license to build Nokia-branded mobile products and that it planned to start building those products for Android in late 2016.

Related: New video shows Nokia’s cancelled ‘Moonraker’ smartwatch in action

01 Dec 03:18

Fitbit reportedly set to acquire Pebble for a ‘small amount’

by Ian Hardy

Fitbit is reportedly set to acquire Pebble for an undisclosed amount of money, according to a new report stemming from The Information.

The deal is near completion but its terms have not been finalized, though rumours indicate the transaction is “thought to be for a small amount” of money. Fitbit is likely seeking additional market share in the wearable space and is also interested in Pebble’s intellectual property. The report indicates that the Pebble brand will eventually be phased out once the papers are officially signed.

Pebble laid off 25 percent of its total staff in March and it’s been rumoured for months that the company is experiencing financial difficulties. Fitbit and Pebble have declined to comment on The Information’s report.

The company’s first product, the original Pebble smartwatch, was backed by 68,929 people for a total pledge amount of $10,266,845 USD on Kickstarter in 2012. The company has since released a number of other wearable products, including the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Round. The Pebble 2 was released in September 2016 and retails for $179 CAD and features a built-in heart rate monitor, signalling the wearable manufacturer’s shift towards fitness-focused devices.

The Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core, which were funded along side the Pebble 2 on Kickstarter, have yet to be released. Both devices were originally set to drop in November exclusively to Kickstarter backers and then other retailers in early 2017.

Eric Migicovsky, Pebble’s Vancouver-born founder, graduated from the University of Waterloo systems design engineering program. Migicovsky first founded Allerta, which created a watch for BlackBerry devices. He then went on to start Pebble and raised over $26 million in funding from various investors, including Charles River Ventures.

Update 12/01/16: According to a report stemming from TechCrunch, Pebble declined an offer by Citizen in 2015 for $740 million and Intel in 2015 for $70 million. The report notes that Fitbit is paying between $34 and $40 million USD for Pebble. Pebble’s official Twitter account also tweeted “¯_(ツ)_/¯” earlier today, though the Tweet was eventually deleted.

Related: Pebble Time Round review: The notification master

01 Dec 12:28

Samsung, Apple, Wind and Shaw take top slots in Yahoo Canada’s 2016 Year in Review

by Ian Hardy

The year 2016 is almost at its end and 2017 will usher in a new era of possibilities.

According to Yahoo’s 2016 year in review, “Donald Trump” sites at the top of search terms, but from a tech perspective, the $1.4 billion USD deal between Wind Mobile and Shaw was one of the biggest business searches in Canada. Recently, Shaw ditched the Wind Mobile brand and announced that Freedom Mobile is the new name of the wireless carrier.

Samsung’s exploding battery issues with the Galaxy Note 7 also makes the list. Approximately 39,000 Note 7 devices were sold or distributed in Health Canada issued a mandatory recall. Samsung did make good on the error by either refunding the cost or replacing the device with a Galaxy S7. Topping the category of Top obsessions/crazes is the iPhone.

Source Yahoo
01 Dec 13:51

Android powers over 60 percent of AR smart glasses

by Patrick O'Rourke

Android is the dominate platform when it comes to augmented reality smart glasses, with over 60 percent of the wearables opting to utilize Google’s operating system, according to the Definitive Guide to Augmented Reality Smart Glasses.

Other interesting stats in the study include that 60 percent of smart glasses are aimed at the enterprise market rather than average consumers. The median price for AR smart glasses sits at a relatively pricey $1,000.

Also, a surprising 50 percent of the 40 AR devices the guide looks at opt for a standard spectacles form factor, with the rest using a single lens monocular design. And finally, the average field-of-view for every device is 33 degrees, compared to the standard human range of sight at 180 degrees.

 Find the full infographic focused on AR smart glasses below.


Disclosure: Super Ventures Tom Emrich produces the ‘Wearable Weekly‘ for BetaKit and MobileSyrup.

01 Dec 19:07

Take a look inside Microsoft’s innovative Surface Dial accessory

by Igor Bonifacic

In the follow-up to its teardown of Microsoft’s Surface Studio, iFixit has taken apart the Surface Dial. The puck-like accessory was announced alongside Surface Studio during Microsoft’s Fall 2016 event.


When placed on top of Surface Studio’s screen, Dial allows users to contextually adjust app settings. In Photoshop, for instance, the Dial can be used to access the program’s colour wheel.

When not sitting on top of one of Microsoft’s Surface computers (the company plans to update the Surface Pro 3, Pro 4 and Book to make them compatible with Surface Dial), Dial can also adjust global system settings like sound volume.


Preamble aside, the Surface Dial scored lower on iFixit’s repairability scale than the computer it’s meant to accompany. While it uses standard AAA batteries for power, all of its other components are difficult to access; in fact, gaining access to some of Dial’s most vital components requires drilling a hole.

The Surface Dial, as well as the Surface Studio, are expected to come to Canada sometime next year.

Image credit: iFixit

01 Dec 23:41

Nokia launches phones section on website, confirms new Android devices coming in 2017

by Rose Behar

Rumours and speculation about the continuation of Nokia’s mobile brand have been swirling ever since the once-great company announced in May 2016 that it would return to creating mobile devices through an exclusive ten-year licensing agreement with HMD Global

Now the brand has offered a more specific details on its upcoming comeback, with the launch of a phones section on its official website that states the company will be back in the game with new smartphones in 2017. It also features a space where interested consumers can sign up to receive updates on the forthcoming Android-powered Nokia smartphones.

While these won’t be the first Nokia-branded devices to run Android — the 2014 Nokia X ran an Android-Windows hybrid OS and its N1 tablet also ran Android — the smartphones will likely be much closer to stock than ever before, and represent a significant step forward in the brand’s history.

Recently, specs and images of one of the company’s Android smartphones  emerged, revealing a Snapdragon 430 processor, two size variants and, potentially, a meager 16GB of internal storage.

In May 2016, Microsoft sold Nokia’s feature phone division and branding assets to Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile and HMD. In the same month, HMD announced it was granted an exclusive ten-year license to produce phones under the Nokia brand.

Related: Specs leak for Nokia’s rumoured D1C Android smartphone, report indicates two sizes

02 Dec 01:55

Ok Google command features now supported by Android Auto

by Jessica Vomiero

Reports indicate that “Ok Google” commands have arrived for Android Auto.

While it’s taken almost two years for the company to integrate the feature, Android Auto users now have full control over their car’s infotainment system using only their voices.

To use the feature, users must update to the latest version of the Android Auto app and the Google app. At that point, the “While Driving” setting should work with Google Maps and Android Auto. The toggle is found under the Ok Google detection menu.

“Ok Google” is a voice detection service on your smartphone that performs several tasks, from opening up apps and setting timers to making calendar appointments and responding to emails and messages.

If your Google or Android Auto apps haven’t updated yet, you can download the software from APK through the following links:

Download Android Auto App

Download Google App

Related: Android Auto 2.0 review: Google bridges the infotainment gap

02 Dec 17:53

Google acknowledges the Pixel’s camera freezing issue, says it’s working on a fix

by Igor Bonifacic

Google says it’s aware of a strange issue experienced by Pixel users in which their camera apps lock up and produce glitchy photos.

In a statement issued to MobileSyrup, a Google spokesperson said, “The Pixel team is aware of the reports and actively working on a solution to the issue. We’ll update you as soon as we have more information.”


The issue, first reported by Pixel User Community member Mike Fox on October 27th, causes some Pixel and Pixel XL devices to malfunction when users go to take a photo. In some situations, the camera app will lock up and show purple and pink lines. While Google has yet to confirm what’s causing the bug, there seems to be some relation to poor cellular connectivity.

Since Fox first posted about the bug, the thread he started has been flooded with countless other users retelling their encounters with the same problem. A number of Pixels owners got a replacement from Google, only for their replacement phone to start locking up again.

We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops.

Related: Some Google Pixels are locking up when users launch the camera app

02 Dec 18:39

Twitter acquires startup Yes, and makes its CEO their head of product

by Jessica Vomiero

Just a few months after reportedly making its own plea for a buyout, Twitter has announced it has acquired Yes Inc.

Yes is an app maker started by Keith Coleman in 2014 with the goal of connecting users through apps. Prior to that, Coleman was a director of product management at Google.

One of its products includes Frenzy, a social app that simplifies the process of make plans with friends, with a goal of helping its users plan events in seconds while generating critical mass and conversation.


Other apps includes the photo and video filtering app WYD, the playdate coordinator Let’s Play and an app that lets users see who’s free at the moment, Heyo.

With Twitter’s primary focus being on real-time interactions that take place between parties anywhere in the world, it’s easy to speculate about the social media company’s interest in Yes. With its recent emphasis on facilitating cross-border conversations about specific events and themes through products like Moments, the relationship is clear.

In addition to acquiring the company, Twitter also brought Coleman on as the vice president of product. It’s not clear whether Yes’ employees will be joining Twitter also.

The specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but all Yes apps will be shut down in a few weeks time. Therefore, it’s likely that former members of Yes will be brought up to Twitter’s product team.

It’s important to note that just months ago, Twitter announced that it would be accepting bids for its own acquisition, and while many names were thrown around, ultimately nothing transpired.

Related: Twitter reportedly in talks with Salesforce regarding potential sale

01 Dec 18:30

Queer Femme Fatales Redefine Traditional Portraiture | City of the Seekers

by Tanja M. Laden for The Creators Project

This article contains adult content.

kirkhuff_hippolyte_COTS.jpgHippolyte, 2016 (Oil on canvas, 61"x49")

In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.

The internet age is a weird era for realistic portraiture. With the advent of sophisticated digital tools, and a resulting glitched-out, GIF-inspired aesthetic, traditional portrait painting feels old-fashioned. But one artist has figured out a way to revisit history's ubiquitous category of artistic composition with a cast of formidably impressive women, redefining the female archetype in the process.

For figurative realist painter Amanda Jebrón Kirkhuff, the human form is the only subject that can sustain her attention long enough to actually see a piece to completion, a process that can take several months. Her large-scale portraits depict unlikely female subjects, such as Andrea Yates, who killed her five children in a fit of postpartum psychosis, or Lorena Bobbitt, who famously sliced off her cheating husband's penis while he was sleeping. Contemporary tabloid-news narratives like these are balanced by Kirkuhuff’s innovative interpretations of figures from classical mythology, such as Cupid and Hippolyte, whose allegories are re-contextualized through the use of contemporary iconography.

kirkhuff_jody_lynn_bowman_COTS.jpgJody Lynn Bowman, 2015 (Oil on canvas, 46"x71")

Kirkhuff grinds her own paint and gesso, creating her own media from raw ingredients. But her classical technique doesn't mean she's not conceptual. "My use of traditional materials, scale, and representational technique is a critique of the historical erasure and marginalization of women and queer people in the canon of portraiture and visual art," she tells The Creators Project.

While Kirkhuff's more serious subject matter is often life-sized, she's also fond of making smaller ink drawings and zines. Because she's not confined by a conscious commitment when creating the smaller works, they have comparatively more levity and humor than her large-scale paintings.

kirkhuff_jody_lynn_bowman_2_COTS.jpgJody Lynn Bowman #2, 2013 (Graphite on paper, 33"x50")

Originally from Seattle, Kirkhuff earned a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and she resided in the Bay Area for ten years before relocating to LA. "There are opportunities here, and there is a culture in LA of respect for art and artists," she says. "If I am grading on an American curve, people take interest in and consume art here in a way that is actually very unique and supportive. There is also space in LA. It still feels very Western; it is a big city, but it has wide open spaces. This is valuable on a practical level, because artists can find places to work, but it's also valuable on a psychic level. I believe one’s ability to conceptualize is influenced by how much physical space they have to do it in. In LA, artists have access to more room to think and work."

kirkhuff_lesbian_in_a_gay_bar_COTS.jpgLesbian In A Gay Bar, 2016 (Oil on canvas, 57"x43")

Kirkhuff is still negotiating LA's capacity to imbue one's creative philosophy with a personal approach to spirituality. "I am in a continuous negotiation to reconcile my own nihilist tendencies with the drive to create lasting objects," she explains. "Though I appropriate spiritual imagery and some of the traditions of religious paintings in my work, I personally do not express much spirituality. The gay bar is my church. [It's] my place of worship and community congregation. Prop me up beside the jukebox when I die."

For Kirkhuff, the goal of her work is simple. "I make paintings to document women and queer people’s stories," she says. "My art-making is done in resistance to a history that has scrubbed itself clean of the record of women artists. Having a historical record, influences, and heroes that mirror yourself is a vital social resource. This is why representation is so important. If I can contribute to that through my work, then it will have a larger function. But mostly, I just keep making art to get chicks.”

kirkhuff_cupid_COTS.jpgCupid, 2013 (Oil on canvas, 53"x37")

kirkhuff_limpwristed_for_life_COTS.jpgLimpwristed For Life (The Guitar Player), 2016 (Oil on canvas, 60"x45")

kirkhuff_andrea_yates_COTS.jpgAndrea Yates (La Llorona), 2011 (Oil on canvas, 39"x36")

kirkhuff_lorena_bobitt_COTS.jpgLorena Bobbitt, 2009 (Oil on panel, 20"x24")

kirkhuff_hippolyte_2_COTS.jpgHippolyte #2, 2016 (Ink wash, 23”x 31”)

kirkhuff_waitress_COTS.jpgWaitress, 2011 (Oil on canvas, 49"x58")

Amanda Kirkhuff: Militant Friction is on view at LAST Projects in Hollywood through December 4. Her show at MuzeuMM in Los Angeles opens December 16. Visit the artist's website here


[NSFW] The Colombian Artist Letting Power 'Take a Female Form' | City of the Seekers

Channeling JT LeRoy | City of the Seekers

Sisterhood and Spirituality Come Alive in Oil Paintings | City of the Seekers

02 Dec 17:53

Instapaper Liked: On an Island Named for Ice, the Poets Are Just Getting Warmed Up

Poetician (2016), by Birgitta Jónsdóttir | DOWNLOAD Design and Illustration by Helga Dögg Iceland , it seems, is full of hidden poets. When they’re not at their
30 Nov 21:50

China Wants To Assign Every Citizen A Credit Score For Their Lives

by Laura Northrup
mkalus shared this story from Consumerist.

Imagine if the authorities compiled a score based on your everyday actions, which followed you around and affected your ability to do everything from get your kid into college to booking a stay in a fancy hotel. While this sounds like a particular plot line from the most recent season of the Netflix series Black Mirror, it’s actually a new way that the Chinese government has devised to exert control over its citizens.

In this real-world application, a few local governments are trying out the idea of social credit scores. The Wall Street Journal spoke to a woman who got a $6 fine for using her son’s transit pass, but was warned that the infraction could affect her social credit score, affecting other areas of her life. It could even affect her son by limiting what schools he can get into in the future.

This is a system being tested locally in some cities now, and the Communist Party wants to deploy it nationwide by the end of the decade. Sure, the Party keeps files on every citizen, but the score is a way to make antisocial behavior affect them instantly and in more areas of their lives.

Spreading misinformation online (“misinformation” here being what the government considers to be false)? Jaywalking? Getting pregnant with an unauthorized additional kid? Neglecting your elderly parents? All of these are offenses that would become part of your “social credit” score, which the government uses to decide their worthiness for a variety of services.

Normal credit score infractions like paying a loan back late count too, of course, but compiling things like pedestrian crimes, birth control failures, and online activities is new and a bit frightening.

Human rights activists in China and around the world find this just a little bit terrifying. If you don’t, ponder one of the program’s slogans: according to the WSJ, planning documents repeat that the scores would “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

(via Technology Review)

30 Nov 14:45

Watch the Story Behind the Photo That Launched the Largest Relief Effort Since WWII

by A Photo Editor

Mass tragedies, as photojournalist James Nachtwey says, happen to individuals. His focus on the individual victims of Somalia’s famine led to the saving of 1.5 million lives.

See more of Time’s 100 Most Influential Images of All Time


Visit our sponsor Photo Folio, providing websites to professional photographers for over 9 years. Featuring the only customizable template in the world.


30 Nov 14:37

How Google Is Challenging AWS

by Ben Thompson

Big companies are often criticized for having “missed” the future — from the comfortable perch of a present where said future has come to pass, of course — but while the future is still the future incumbents are first more often than not. Probably the best example is Microsoft: the company didn’t “miss mobile” — Windows Mobile came out in 2000 — but rather was handicapped by its allegiance to its license-based modular business model and inability to envision a world where its core product (Windows) was a planet orbiting mobile’s sun; everything about Windows Mobile’s design presumed the exact opposite.

One could make the same argument about Google and the enterprise; both G Suite (née Google Apps for Your Domain) and Google Docs launched a decade ago and enjoyed modest success, particularly in smaller businesses and education; unsurprisingly, both markets share broadly similar characteristics to Google’s core consumer user base — limited configurability and a low price were good things. Traction was harder to come by in larger enterprises, though, and in fact over the last few years Office 365 has well out-paced G Suite, not only growing faster but winning back customers.

Still, for all the success Microsoft has had with Office 365, the real giant of cloud computing — which is to say the future of enterprise computing — is, as is so often the case, a company no one saw coming: the same year Google decided to take on Microsoft Amazon launched Amazon Web Services. What makes AWS so compelling is the way that it reflects Amazon itself: it is built for scale and with clearly-defined and hardened interfaces. Customers — first Amazon but also companies around the world — access “primitives” that can be mixed-and-matched to build a more efficient, scalable, and secure back-end than nearly any company could build on its own.

AWS’ Primitives

Earlier this year in The Amazon Tax I explained how Amazon’s AWS strategy sprang from the same approach that made the company successful in the first place:

The company is organized with multiple relatively independent teams, each with their own P&L, accountabilities, and distributed decision-making. [The Everything Store author Brad] Stone explained an early Bezos initiative (emphasis mine):

The entire company, he said, would restructure itself around what he called “two-pizza teams.” Employees would be organized into autonomous groups of fewer than ten people — small enough that, when working late, the team members could be fed with two pizza pies. These teams would be independently set loose on Amazon’s biggest problems…Bezos was applying a kind of chaos theory to management, acknowledging the complexity of his organization by breaking it down to its most basic parts in the hopes that surprising results might emerge.

Stone later writes that two-pizza teams didn’t ultimately make sense everywhere, but as he noted in a follow-up article the company remains very flat with responsibility widely distributed. And there, in those “most basic parts”, are the primitives that lend themselves to both scale and experimentation. Remember the quote above describing how Bezos and team arrived at the idea for AWS:

If Amazon wanted to stimulate creativity among its developers, it shouldn’t try to guess what kind of services they might want; such guesses would be based on patterns of the past. Instead, it should be creating primitives — the building blocks of computing — and then getting out of the way.

Steven Sinofsky is fond of noting that organizations tend to ship their org chart, and while I began by suggesting Amazon was duplicating the AWS model, it turns out that the AWS model was in many respects a representation of Amazon itself (just as the iPhone in many respects reflects Apple’s unitary organization): create a bunch of primitives, get out of the way, and take a nice skim off the top.

AWS’ offering has certainly expanded far beyond infrastructure like (virtualized) processors, hard drives, and databases, both in terms of further abstraction (e.g. Lambda “serverless” computing) and up the stack into platform and software services, but the foundation of its success continues to be Amazon’s pure platform approach: they provide the pieces for enterprises to build just about anything they want.

Google is a Product Company

Google, meanwhile, has never really been a platform company; in fact, while Google is often cast as Apple’s opposite — the latter is called a product company, and the former a services one — that only makes sense if you presume that only hardware can be a product. A more expansive definition of “product” — a fully realized solution presented to end users — would show the two companies are in fact quite similar.

Make no mistake: the differences between cloud services and hardware are profound (which I explored at length in Apple’s Organizational Crossroads), but so are the differences between being a product company and being a platform one. The ideal product, whether it be a smartphone or a search box, achieves simplicity and a great user experience through tremendous effort in design and engineering that, ideally, is never seen by the end user. Indeed, this is why integrated products win in consumer markets, and make no mistake, Google’s consumer-focused services have traditionally been as integrated on the back-end as iPhones are.

Note, though, that this is the exact opposite of the model employed by not just Amazon but also Microsoft, the pre-eminent platform company of the IT era: instead of integrating pieces to deliver a product AWS went in the opposite direction, breaking down all of the pieces that go into building back-end services into fully modular parts; Microsoft did the same with its Win32 API. Yes, this meant that Windows was by design a worse platform in terms of the end user experience than, say, Mac OS, but it was far more powerful and extensible, an approach that paid off with millions of line of business apps that even today keep Windows at the center of business. AWS has done the exact same thing for back-end services, and the flexibility and modularity of AWS is the chief reason why it crushed Google’s initial cloud offering, Google App Engine, which launched back in 2008. Using App Engine entailed accepting a lot of decisions that Google made on your behalf; AWS let you build exactly what you needed.

Google’s Platform Antidote

The Windows example is instructive when it comes to thinking about how Google has since changed its approach: the massive ecosystem built around Microsoft’s extensive API ended up being the ultimate lock-in. Most obviously the apps built for Windows were not easily ported to other operating systems, but just as important was the huge network of partners and value-added resellers that made Windows the only viable choice for enterprise. Amazon is hard at work building the exact same sort of ecosystem.

And yet, it has never been more viable to not use Windows, first for consumers but also for enterprise, and the reason is the web: here was a new runtime that sat on top of Windows but did not depend on it,1 and on the consumer side Google was the biggest winner. Indeed, the rise of the browser explains AWS as well: any new business application is built for the web (including apps that run on web-based APIs) and it is accessible on any device.

It turns out that over the last couple of years Google has undertaken a sort of browser approach to enterprise computing . In 2014 Google announced Kubernetes, an open-source container cluster manager based on Google’s internal Borg service that abstracts Google’s massive infrastructure such that any Google service can instantly access all of the computing power they need without worrying about the details. The central precept is containers, which I wrote about in 2014: engineers build on a standard interface that retains (nearly) full flexibility without needing to know anything about the underlying hardware or operating system (in this it’s an evolutionary step beyond virtual machines).

Where Kubernetes differs from Borg is that it is fully portable: it runs on AWS, it runs on Azure, it runs on the Google Cloud Platform, it runs on on-premise infrastructure, you can even run it in your house. More relevantly to this article, it is the perfect antidote to AWS’ ten year head-start in infrastructure-as-a-service: while Google has made great strides in its own infrastructure offerings, the potential impact of Kubernetes specifically and container-based development broadly is to make irrelevant which infrastructure provider you use. No wonder it is one of the fastest growing open-source projects of all time: there is no lock-in.

But how does that help Google? After all, even if Kubernetes becomes the standard for enterprise clouds Amazon’s broader ecosystem lock-in is still present (and the company has its own container strategy that further locks customers into AWS); Google needs a differentiator.

Costs Versus Experience

Here again the desktop is instructive: the open nature of the web running on platform-agnostic browsers did not make Google successful per se; rather, the openness of the web created the conditions for the best technology to win. And not only did Google have the best search engine, but the reason it was the best — its reliance on links instead of simply page content — meant that as the web got bigger Google, unlike its competitors, got better.

I think this is an idea that can be abstracted to be broadly applicable; indeed, it’s a core piece of Aggregation Theory: as distribution (or switching) costs decrease, the importance of the user experience increases. To put it another way, when you can access any service, whether that be news or car-sharing or hotels or video or search etc., the one that is the best will not only win initially but will see its advantages compound.

This is Google’s bet when it comes to the enterprise cloud: open-sourcing Kubernetes was Google’s attempt to effectively build a browser on top of cloud infrastructure and thus decrease switching costs; the company’s equivalent of Google Search will be machine learning.

Machine Learning and Data

It seems certain that machine learning will be increasingly dominated by cloud services: both are about processing scale and massive amounts of data, and only a select few behemoths will have the financial capability to not only build out the infrastructure required but also have the wherewithal to employ the best machine learning engineers in the world. That, by extension, means that for most enterprises the differentiation arising from machine learning will derive first and foremost from whether or not their data is in the cloud (there will be on-premise solutions, but I expect them to fall more and more behind over time), but secondly from which cloud provider they choose.

That raises the stakes for cloud providers themselves; superior machine learning offerings can not only be a differentiator but a sustainable one: being better will attract more customers and thus more data, and data is the fuel by which machine learning improvement comes about. And it is because of data that Google is AWS’ biggest threat in the cloud.

I described how Google’s enterprise business was limited by its consumer focus above, but the big advantage that Google has is that it has been working with massive amounts of data for nearly two decades, and developing powerful machine learning algorithms for the last several years. Still, it’s the data that matters most-of-all, and the best evidence that is the case came last year when Google open-sourced TensorFlow, a blueprint for machine learning: as I noted in TensorFlow and Monetizing Intellectual Property Google’s willingness to share its approach was an implicit admission that its superior data and processing infrastructure was a sustainable advantage.

We’re just now starting to see that advantage applied to Google’s cloud offering. Just before Thanksgiving Google made a series of product announcements that clearly leveraged its data advantage:

  • The Cloud Natural Language API, which uses machine learning to analyze text, graduated to general availability
  • A premium edition of the Cloud Translation API, which uses machine learning to massively improve accuracy in translating eight languages (above-and-beyond the standard edition that supports over 100 languages)
  • A big price reduction for the Cloud Vision API, which uses machine learning to analyze images
  • A new Cloud Jobs API that uses machine learning to match potential employees with jobs

These four join the Cloud Prediction API that uses machine learning to, well, make predictions. It, along with the first three APIs above, is clearly derived from various Google consumer products; the Jobs API likely builds on an internal Google tool, as well as Google’s wealth of data from all over the web. In each case Google has spent years honing its algorithms so that by the time they are applied to a corporate data set the results are very likely superior, or at least far down the training funnel. I expect this advantage to persist and be meaningful.

Still, Google will have to do more, which is why the other big announcement was the creation of the Google Cloud Machine Learning group headed by Fei-Fei Li and Jia Li: this group will be charged with building new machine learning APIs specifically for business; to put it another way, they are tasked with productizing Google’s machine learning capabilities.

That, in a roundabout way, gets to the genius of Google’s strategy: the company was outpaced by Amazon in the first wave of cloud computing because success rested on being the best platform; by open-sourcing Kubernetes in an attempt to shift the industry to vendor-agnostic containers, Google is trying to move the plane of competition to products. After all, it’s often easier to change the rules of competition than to change your fundamental nature as a company.

To be sure, Google’s success is not assured: the company still has to grapple with a new business model — sales versus ads — and build up the sort of organization that is necessary for not just sales but also enterprise support. Both are areas where Amazon has a head start, along with a vastly larger partner ecosystem and a larger feature set generally.

And, of course, AWS has its own machine learning API, along with IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft is likely to prove particularly formidable in this regard: not only has the company engaged in years of research, but the company also has experience productizing technology for business specifically; Google’s longstanding consumer focus may at times be a handicap. And as popular as Kubernetes may be broadly, it’s concerning that Google is not yet eating its own dog food.

Still, Google will be a formidable competitor: its strategy is sound and, perhaps more importantly, the urgency to find a new line of business is far more pressing today than it was in 2006. Most importantly, the shift to cloud computing is still in its beginning stages, and while Amazon seems to be living the furthest in the future, the future has not happened yet; it will be fascinating to watch Google’s attempt to change the rules under which said future will operate.

  1. ActiveX notwithstanding