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25 Nov 23:32

Thunderbird 38.4.0 Released

by El Guru

Mozilla has released the next update on the Thunderbird 38.x branch with Thunderbird 38.4.0 on November 25th. A cached version of the release notes shows a release date of November 23rd and currently the page is bringing up a Mozilla 404 page. For those user who have Lightning installed, the add-on should auto-update to version 4.0.4 when Thunderbird is updated. Updates in this release include:

  • Fixed issue where messages moves of multiple messages from a maildir folder to an mbox folder failed.
  • Various security fixes

Depending on their update settings may be prompted to update in the next 24-48 hours or can get the update from within Thunderbird via Help > About Thunderbird and following the prompts. Users can also download and manually install the newest verison of Thunderbird via the site. The next planned update for the Thunderbird 38.x branch is Thunderbird 38.5.0 on/around December 15, 2015.

26 Nov 06:59

Raspberry Pi Zero: the $5 computer

by Eben Upton

Of all the things we do at Raspberry Pi, driving down the cost of computer hardware remains one of the most important. Even in the developed world, a programmable computer is a luxury item for a lot of people, and every extra dollar that we ask someone to spend decreases the chance that they’ll choose to get involved.

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The original Raspberry Pi Model B and its successors put a programmable computer within reach of anyone with $20-35 to spend. Since 2012, millions of people have used a Raspberry Pi to get their first experience of programming, but we still meet people for whom cost remains a barrier to entry. At the start of this year, we began work on an even cheaper Raspberry Pi to help these people take the plunge.

Four fathers!?!??

Four fathers!?!??

Today, I’m pleased to be able to announce the immediate availability of Raspberry Pi Zero, made in Wales and priced at just $5. Zero is a full-fledged member of the Raspberry Pi family, featuring:

  • A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
    • 1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
  • 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
  • A micro-SD card slot
  • A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
    • Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
  • An unpopulated composite video header
  • Our smallest ever form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

Raspberry Pi Zero runs Raspbian and all your favourite applications, including Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. It is available today in the UK from our friends at The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at your local branch of Micro Center. We’ve built several tens of thousands of units so far, and are building more, but we expect demand to outstrip supply for the next little while.

One more thing: because the only thing better than a $5 computer is a free computer, we are giving away a free Raspberry Pi Zero on the front of each copy of the December issue of The MagPi, which arrives in UK stores today. Russell, Rob and the team have been killing themselves putting this together, and we’re very pleased with how it’s turned out. The issue is jam-packed with everything you need to know about Zero, including a heap of project ideas, and an interview with Mike Stimson, who designed the board.

MagPi #40 in all its glory

MagPi #40 in all its glory

If you’re looking for cables to go with your free Zero, head over to the newly revamped Swag Store, where we’re offering a bundle comprising a mini-HDMI and a micro-USB adapter for just £4, or alternatively subscribe and we’ll send you them for free.


Happy hacking!​

The post Raspberry Pi Zero: the $5 computer appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

26 Nov 00:00

The Maker Movement is about Making Meaning


Jay Silver, Medium, Nov 26, 2015

Mostly I think that the 'maker movement' is about publicity for  Make magazine, but let's go with this. Jay Silver writes "The maker movement is not about the stuff we can make, it’ s about the meaning we can make." I'm in agreement with the idea that new technologies enable "a direct superdemocracy of creation without permission." I'll even accept that "the strength of multiple representations of truth is celebrated as being even  more true." But I don't think that you "make" meaning, no more than you "make" truth or "make" relevance. To say we "make meaning" is to confuse an act of creation with an act of perception. The former is expressive, directed outward, while the latter is receptive, directed inward. Related: Seymour Papert and Idit Harel in Situating Constructionism.

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26 Nov 11:48

Filtered for air and light and war and stories


I was complaining out loud the other day about the distracting man I was sitting next to, hammering his keyboard, typing like a donkey falling downstairs. But then it occurred to me, I always blame external factors for ruining my focus when really I lack it for internal reasons. If I genuinely had focus, nothing could disturb me.

Eric piped up with this poem by Charles Bukowski, air and light and time and space.

if you're going to create ... you're going to create with part of your mind and your body blown away



Muji's mission statement:

MUJI's goal is to give customers a rational satisfaction, expressed not with, "This is what I really want" but with "This will do." "This is what I really want" expresses both faint egoism and discord, while "This will do" expresses conciliatory reasoning.


Machines generating stories about images.

He was a shirtless man in the back of his mind, and I let out a curse as he leaned over to kiss me on the shoulder. (Looking at an image of two sumo wrestlers grappling.)

Uses a technique with the astounding beautiful name of skip-thought vectors, a machine which is able to reconstruct the surrounding sentences of a passage in a book.

See also: A video of the same stories-from-images trick being performed from a live webcam feed: a man is eating a hot dog in a crowd.


From this explanation of Soviet Deep Battle theory, an insight into military science:

War is no longer a series of short and sharp engagements but rather a flowing affair, with larger, strategically oriented battles ('operations') that often encompass several smaller, shorter battles-within-battles (tactical engagements).

Which leads to approaches:

Deep Battle, or Deep Operations in particular first begins to develop as a theory in the 1920s. Like most developing theories of Mobile Operations at this time, it had one, over-arching goal: Get the battlescape moving, and keep it moving



I've been skiing like once and my main metaphorical takeaway was that it's easier to course correct when you're in motion. Try to turn when you're going forwards slowly, you'll tumble. There's a lesson there for company strategy, and I find myself reaching for this metaphor again and again. But now it turns out that military science understands movement, ability to adjust to circumstances, and flow, in a far richer way than me and my experience on the side of a mountain in Canada.

We tell stories to ourselves about what we experience, then we use those stories to approach the world. What stories we choose matters.

War has a vocabulary and a philosophy all of its own, and the fact I don't know anything about it tells me I'm missing out on something valuable -- as unpleasant as the subject matter is.

See also: Frieze magazine on the Israeli Defence Forces (from 2006) who, it turns out, are heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy:

Most important was the distinction [Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus] have pointed out between the concepts of "smooth" and "striated" space ... In the IDF we now often use the term "to smooth out space" when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. ... Palestinian areas could indeed be thought of as "striated" in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, roads blocks and so on. When I asked him if moving through walls was part of it, he explained that, 'In Nablus the IDF understood urban fighting as a spatial problem. ... Travelling through walls is a simple mechanical solution that connects theory and practice.'

A startling article.

26 Nov 09:22

Raspberry Pi Zero: the $5 computer

by Rui Carmo
Click on the image to zoom in

Well, well. This was unexpected. Would rather spend extra to have Wi-Fi on board, though.

25 Nov 09:02

The rise and fall of BlackBerry

by Roland Banks

BlackBerry Logo

A topic close to the heart of many of our readers, the much loved Canadian handset company has experienced some turbulent times in the past few years. There’s no denying that they have made some excellent phones, but they are in the middle of a turnaround at the moment (event T-Mobile US’ John Legere recently said “they’re on the up”) in a bid to regain market share, as well as focus on areas such as security software and device management.

In today’s article, James Rosewell, Founder and CEO of 51Degrees offers his opinion and some facts about the rise and fall (and rise again?) of Blackberry.

Until a few years ago, it was rare for businessmen and women to venture far from their trusty BlackBerry devices. In late 2007, BlackBerry took the mobile market by storm with the launch of its 8800 series, which became one of the first widely used connected, ‘smart’ devices. It may have been a far cry from the smartphone as we know it now but the 8800 series generated more than 10 million sales around the world which helped Blackberry hit its highest estimated worth of £49 billion.

However, success was short lived. BlackBerry is on the verge of extinction in the handset business having been pushed out of the running by iPhone and Android devices. BlackBerry failed to maintain its forward thinking innovation, whilst the likes of Apple and Google paved the way for a new type of smartphone.

According to TIME Magazine, “Blackberry failed to anticipate that costumers – not business customers – would drive the smartphone revolution.”

James Rosewell, CEO and Founder, 51Degrees

James Rosewell, CEO and Founder, 51Degrees

BlackBerry’s new Priv device is equipped with the latest Android software, generous battery for added reliability, the favoured BlackBerry security and renowned pop out keyboard. Could this be BlackBerry’s chance to regain face in the industry?

51Degrees pulled data on BlackBerry’s percentage of web usage in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Asia and measured the top three most widely used devices in each country.

In iPhone-centric UK and Asia, BlackBerry web usage struggles to register 1%. Regardless of the Priv device on the horizon, BlackBerry has a long way to go to entice the average consumer.

However, 51Degrees’ data tells a different story in South Africa. According to a survey carried out earlier this year by Vodacom, BlackBerry phones (8520, 9320, 9300) dominate the top rankings with 23% of the smartphone market. The same applies to Nigeria, where BlackBerry boasts 40% of the market.


51Degrees’ data suggests that the Z10 is the most popular device with the Q10 and 9900 coming in second and third. So what is BlackBerry’s appeal to the developing world?

Previous research carried out by 51Degrees found that over the last 12 months, data from the ten most populous countries in Africa has shown a significant growth in smartphone usage, from less than 25% to almost 40% of all web browsing. Despite the often cited benefits of web browsing on feature phone on the African continent, the data demonstrates that feature phone browsing is negligible (less than 5%).


However, the rate of smartphone upgrade is still a lot slower than other countries – which may explain why BlackBerry devices that are up to three years old are still extremely popular in the continent. Secondly, BlackBerry devices are considered a status symbol in Africa – a strong, corporate, white collar brand that people aspire to own.

It cannot be disputed that the company has, at times, been the most popular device manufacturer in the world. With the launch of the Priv, is this its chance to reignite faithful BlackBerry advocates? Only time will tell…

Mobile Industry Review would like to thank James Rosewell, Founder and CEO of 51Degrees for the analysis and opinion provided for this post.

24 Nov 08:55

Recommended on Medium: A Database for Trigger Warnings

In reading Holly Wood’s argument that Netflix ought to offer trigger warnings on “Jessica Jones”, I’m reminded of a quote from a recent…

Continue reading on Medium »

25 Nov 12:58

We Need More Empathy. We Need More Stories.

by britneysummitgil

via Reuters

TW: xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism, violence

One of my favorite uses of the internet and social media is spreading stories. Not just fiction stories, though those are great, but real stories about real people living interesting and complex lives. They can humanize the dehumanized, spread a bit of positivity in a time when things often seem hopeless, and bring attention to important social issues. Time and again we’ve been appalled at stories of police violence against black Americans, and personal stories can humanize the victims and draw increasing public attention to the systematic violence perpetrated against vulnerable and oppressed populations across the board. The popular “Humans of New York” project brings us stories about people from retirees visiting Rockefeller Plaza, to homeless veterans, to immigrants in a strange city dealing with countless hardships. HNY has recently started including stories from Syrian refugees as well. These stories make the lives of strangers intelligible to us. They help to close the gap between us. And they, at least some of the time for some of the people, help us to empathize.

In the wake of the November 13th Paris bombings, the political conversation in both Europe and the US has turned more forcefully to questions of immigrants, refugees, and borders. This rhetoric is magnified in the US thanks to election season, and candidates are racing each other to see who is the toughest on terrorism (read: who hates Muslim people the most). The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would make it even more outrageously difficult for Syrian refugees to enter the US. Noted turdface Donald Trump is making up ridiculous bullshit to stir up as much anti-Muslim racism as possible. Hate crimes are dropping for every category except Muslims. The Paris attacks are being used to support policy agendas like barring refugees and banning encryption, despite the fact that neither played a role in the attack. Racist memes are being shared by uncles everywhere. Dark times.

A lot of criticism surfaced in the wake of massive news coverage of the Paris bombing, particularly writers noting the stark difference between coverage of attacks in the western world and those in the Middle East and North Africa. David Graham attributes the discrepancy to “the empathy gap” resulting from the lack of familiarity Europeans and Americans have with non-Western peoples relative to their connection with a place like Paris. Maybe we’ve visited France, or have seen it in movies, or consider it a place of high culture in ways that we (incorrectly) don’t associate with places like Lebanon or Mali. As Zeynep Tufecki asks in her recent essay on the politics of technology and empathy:

“These questions go to the heart of the many divides in the world, between rich and poor; haves and have nots; those who count and those who do not. Who is included in the hierarchy of empathy? Who is not?”

Either way, the bottom line is that we don’t care as much. It raises a chicken-and-egg question—do we care less due to insufficient media coverage, or does the media cover it less because we don’t care?

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky theorized this phenomenon in Manufacturing Consent (1988), arguing that news coverage of wars and natural disasters varies depending on alliances among nation states—US allies are painted as “good guys,” non-allies or combatants as “bad guys,” and third world nations as “naturally violent,” regardless of the details of the events. You’ve probably heard similar arguments—the Middle East has always been violent, “those people” in “that area” have fought each other for centuries. This despite the fact that much of the current instability in the Middle East is a result of western intervention dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent carving up of the region into arbitrary nation states, not to mention decades of US intervention in state governments.

So, stories. We need them. If Westerners don’t care about the stability of the Middle East or the refugee crisis, we need to close the empathy gap and make the peoples of other regions of the world more familiar, more relatable. John Knefel and Adi Cohen have documented how Instagram photos “offer a personal window into the refugee crisis that is often difficult to comprehend in its enormity.” In their November 20th episode of Radio Dispatch, John and Molly Knefel note how refugees face problems we may not even think of, like the need for baby carriers as families trek across an entire continent. These problems are compounded by the fact that refugees must travel through regions where they don’t speak the language and are often greeted with hostility.

What if we all replied to Uncle Jerry’s racist meme with the story of Muhammed, who was forced to leave his family behind, finally getting a job in a hotel where he worked 12 hours a day for $400 a month? Or Fatima, whose daughter Sozdar died on the journey after being denied hospital treatment in Turkey? Or Mouaz and Shadi who perished trying to swim the English Channel to escape from the refugee slums of Calais?

Much of what we see about the Syrian refugee crisis are cold, indescript reports that don’t do much to humanize victims of war. And who knows if your uncle will change his mind in the face of these more personal stories—such calls for empathy are often met with the response that sure, it’s sad, but we have to protect Americans first. And you might counter with the fact that our chances of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically small and that we’ll spend ourselves into oblivion trying to reduce those odds by the smallest fraction. You’re more likely to die being struck by lightning than in a terrorist attack, and more likely to be murdered by a white supremacist than a jihadist (tw: autoplay). But, as someone who has seen racists come around—at least a little bit—after successful conversations on social media, I think it’s worth a shot.

There a million and a half reasons to flex our empathy muscle when it comes to the refugee crisis. Refugees are fleeing the very forces we’re fighting against. Closing our borders bolsters the Daesh claim that the West doesn’t care about Muslims, that we are openly hostile to them, and that they are fighting a holy war. Our lack of empathy allows politicians to get away with perpetuating Nazi-like rhetoric. We risk creating a whole new generation of people who hate the West. In the face of these hurdles and their dire consequences, sharing a personal story of a refugee may seem grossly insufficient. But keep in mind, it wasn’t until the extent of mass murder during the Holocaust was widely known that the US changed its policy on Jewish refugees. If the news won’t cover these stories—if they continue to be utterly incapable of putting a human face on such a massive human crisis—the least we can do is try.

Britney is on Twitter.

25 Nov 13:20

The Worst App

by Federico Viticci

An odd App Store story by Allen Pike:

One of the various things I do at Steamclock is provide support for our apps. Our music apps don’t require much support, and much of the email we get is positive, so tending to support is generally pleasant.

Or at least it was pleasant, until recently. On September 30 I received a very concerning support email.

I don't know what the solution to these App Store problems is, but it doesn't seem right to me that developers have to spend time dealing with them over the course of several weeks.

25 Nov 15:19

iPad Pro in the Classroom

by Federico Viticci

Karan Varindani has a great story about the role of the iPad Pro in his college studies, and how he's been consolidating his textbooks, notes, and more into a portable, digital workflow:

I saved writing about my experience doing Linear Algebra homework for last because it is, by far, my favorite anecdote about the iPad Pro. I usually have the assignment sheet open on my Mac in front of me, the textbook open on my iPad to my left, and sheets of A4 paper scattered everywhere else on my desk. I first go through the assignment, making lots of mistakes along the way, then rewrite everything again neatly on the second run. Next, I scan the 10–15 pages to my Mac, merge them into a single PDF document, and upload them to the course server. The entire process takes about 3–4 hours depending on the number of questions assigned and leaves me with a pulsing wrist every time. Last week, I did the entire assignment on the iPad Pro. I had both Notability and PDF Expert open in Split View; the former was a blank canvas where I wrote down my answers and the latter had both the assignment and textbook open in tabs. I was able to erase mistakes as I made them and I didn’t have to scan anything afterwards, both of which saved me a tremendous amount of time. I uploaded the document in Safari using iCloud Drive when I was done.

Almost immediately after I got the confirmation email, I decided that I wasn’t going to be returning the iPad Pro.

A good primer for those who argue that the iPad is only being used by tech bloggers – with a fair assessment of the Pro's portability trade-offs.

25 Nov 15:36

When News Is In the News . . .

by Ken Ohrn

. . . . and the news is bad.

I’ve written before about media concentration and the problems that ensue. When so many people rely on “the news” for guidance as to what’s important, and how to make sense of it all, it is troubling when the messages are narrow and controlled as they are here in Canada.

We are lucky to live in an age when a vast diversity of opinion and information is out there. Still, what’s in the news matters, because not everyone has access, time and resources to do the necessary searching, or to wade through source documents. This is one role of quality journalism — but it seems we are losing that focus from lots of our newspaper outlets, which include the Sun and Province here in Vancouver.

And we’re all poorer for it.


“I think ownership matters and that through a series of rather bizarre events… we’ve ended up in the situation where the control of this chain is in the hands of people who not only don’t know much about newspapers and don’t have any evident expertise or concern for the future of newspapers, but are also strangers to Canada and uninterested, as far as I can tell, in public discourse up here,” observes Ken Whyte, the National Post’s founding editor.

“And I think it’s an unfortunate situation when such a large share of the newsgathering capacity in Canada is subject to that kind of ownership regime.”

25 Nov 14:50

Like to Continue, a fictionbot

I wrote a poem on Twitter. It's 36 tweets long, and happens entirely in your notifications panel.

Or maybe what I made is a fictionbot. You say "hi" to it and it tells you a story. You get sent each line only when you like the last. The story is about liking, and continuing.

So it's called @liketocontinue and you should just introduce yourself to start. Then watch out for what it tweets at you, and like to continue.

If it gets too much attention it'll break, that's part of the fun.

Whys and hows

You can tell I'm interested in chatbots and - with my business hat on - I'm especially excited about digital coworker bots, being pioneered by the likes of Howdy which helps you run meetings (see screenshots). All the energy is around Slack which is bot-friendly group messaging for work... a great product and a great marketing strategy: They've figured out how to make virality work in enterprise by having a frictionless on-ramp below the expense threshold and treating the team as the viral atomic unit.

And back in the day, I used to make chatbots that you used individually on AIM. For instance, googlematic let you search Google -- and that got me a bunch of nice attention, and in a bunch of trouble too.

But I'm into Twitter. Twitter is something between these and something different too. Twitter is a place where people talk to each other and groups. It's not quite personal, and it's not focused on work... it's public. I'm curious about what you can do with bots in public space. I'm in love with @mothgenerator and its gorgeous computer-generated moths. But more than that, there's something for me about interactions that happen over time, and interactions that can start with one person and widen up to more people, sometimes deliberately and sometimes accidentally because they're visible. It seems like there's a lot of creative potential there. Stories! Text adventures! Collaborative poems!

So much potential.

Which is why I'm taking my own advice and exploring the potential with art. Well I say art. Amateur poetry really.

I wanted to explore the feeling of a like and in particular waiting for a response, especially because Twitter just shifted from faves to likes. So that's what I wrote. Made. Wrote.

Technically, I have a basic Python 3 app that I use to get started on any new project. It has everything I want already set up... sign in via Twitter, a database capable of storing emoji, nice web templates, email error logging, solid deployment to my webserver, and an asynchronous loop to run background tasks like listening for tweet activity. Custom for how I tend to work. It's taken me a while to get happy with this (my coding is rusty) but it's neat that I can get something written and live in an hour instead of a week.

And I've learnt a ton about the tech things like Twitter limits and what you can and cannot see via the API (such as: you can see @-mentions from users you don't follow, but you won't get notified of their likes on your tweets). And lots of details about how to make a system where it won't break in-progress stories when I edit the words.

But mainly I've been seeing how reading (and having to like!) tweets feels, versus lines on paper, and how that changes what I write. So I've spent most of my time on the words not the code, which is just as it should be.

I want to keep digging with fictionbots. Like I said above, there's so much potential. If you'd like to collaborate, I'd be up for chatting... it would be great to work on a little project with someone who can actually write!

Anyway, nice to have shipped something, no matter how simple, or rather, snuck it out the door. Or rather rather - because it's a poem - published. I hope you like it.

25 Nov 14:11

What to tell an editor

by Josh Bernoff

You’ve completed a draft and you’d like a review. This is your chance to tell the editor clearly what you need. Or, you could start with excuses. It’s your choice. When you turn over a draft for editing, there’s always stuff that you worry is weak or wrong. Resist the urge to hide your weaknesses. This is … Continue reading What to tell an editor →

The post What to tell an editor appeared first on without bullshit.

25 Nov 17:25

Ruby SVM text classifier

by Mark Watson, author and consultant

There are several useful Ruby gems/libraries for using Support Vector Machines (SVM) and another to convert text into SVM style feature vectors. I recently packaged up what I needed with a Ruby script to fold the data for testing, etc.

Here is the github repository.

It took me a short while to get everything working together so hopefully this will save you several minutes of extra effort if you want to use SVM for text classification.

25 Nov 16:50

It Started with a Tweet

by Eugene Wallingford

Bret Victor's much-heralded What Can a Technologist Do About Climate Change? begins:

This started with a tweet. I'm embarrassed how often that happens.

Why be embarrassed? I am occasionally embarrassed when I tweet snarky and mildly regrettable things, but only because they are snarky and regrettable. However, having a thought, writing it down, and thinking some more is a perfectly honorable way to start writing an essay. Writing something down on Twitter has the advantage of sharing the idea with one's followers, which creates the possibility of getting feedback on the idea from smart, thoughtful people.

Sharing idle thoughts with the world can add value to them. They aren't always so idle.

25 Nov 17:27

The Nibbler 4-Bit CPU Project - Flashing The ROMs

by mobilesociety

Tl866a-flash-hardwareThere we go, soldering the Nibbler circuit board is almost complete. One thing I've never done before, however, is to flash ROM chips, which is required for the two Microcode ROMs and the program ROM. In other words, that part is black magic tor me. But even black magic can be tackled given the right equipment.

In my case I bought a TL866A Flash programmer which seems to flash pretty much every Flash and EPROM on the planet. Having ordered it at a store in Germany it cost me around 90 euros. Yes, I know, it can be had for much less via eBay straight out of Hong Kong, but I wanted to have it quick and hassle free. I expected some major hardware Vodoo before the microcode and programs would end up in the ROM chips but the whole process was surprisingly hassle free. Selecting the IC type, selecting the ".bin" binary file to be flashed which just has to be the same size or smaller than what the Flash or ROM chip can handle and then pressing the "Program" button and the job was done in 10 seconds per IC. The software also lets one read the IC to verify afterward if program has actually ended up on it.

Flash-programmer-screenshotEverything looks good now, my 3 ICs are programmed so I'm ready to go. The two images on the left show the TL866A Flash programmer connected to the PC and a screenshot of the software. Obviously I immediately got comments from friends pointing out that I've strayed from my "Linux-only" on the desktop at home approach. Agreed, a small "OS sin" on my part but since it was my first time I didn't want to start using the hardware via Windows in a virtual machine. Now that I know how things work, I'm pretty confident that that would work as well, so the "OS sin" would at least be jailed in a virtual machine :-)

25 Nov 17:30

Google and Disney collaborate to create Star Wars virtual reality experiences

by Patrick O'Rourke

The Star Wars-based Google branding onslaught continues today,  but at least this time the two companies have combined forces to create content that’s a little more interesting.

Google and Disney announced today that they have plans to release “serialized virtual reality experiences” set in the Star Wars universe, designed specifically for Google’s low-cost virtual reality headset, Google Cardboard. While nothing has been confirmed, the VR videos will likely consist of behind the scenes VR tours of The Force Awakens sets and short videos promoting the Force Awakens.

The project was reportedly filmed by Lucasfilm’s, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound’s Immersive Entertainment Laboratory (ILMxLAB), and is set to be directly connected to Star Wars The Force Awakens. The content will also only be accessible through Google’s Android and iOS Star Wars app when it is released on December 2nd.

Earlier this week, Google launched Star Wars branded overlays for a variety of its apps, including Gmail, Google Calendars and even Google Maps.

The Force Awakens is set to released on December 18th, 2015.

SourceThe Verge
25 Nov 18:11

The Negative Priming Problem

by Richard Millington

Be careful not to negatively prime your communications to members (forgive the irony).

Negative priming occurs when we expose the audience to a negative stimuli prior to or during a communication.

It occurs when we say don’t panic instead of keep calm.

It occurs when we are tired, lazy, and not careful enough in selecting the words we use to convey a message.

There are times when you want people to feel bad. When a negative emotion is useful and valid. Those times are not when you’re making a major announcement.

The words and phrases you use, with their varied array of denotations, connotations, and associations will influence your audience’s reaction.

When I used this example (below) in our workshop recently, one participant asked; “This wasn’t really published right?” I’m afraid it was…as were too many others like it.


Do you imagine the audience of this post will respond positively or negatively to this announcement? The problem isn’t the content, it’s the craftsmanship.

What does “content policy update” make you think of? Close your eyes if it helps.

Imagine someone telling you there’s a content policy update. I bet you’re not feeling excited to receive the rest of the message.

Look at phrases like “consolidated the various rules and policies we have accumulated over the years”. What kind of person typically speaks like that? I’m going to guess it reminds you of someone you didn’t like much.

Consider “thank you for your feedback”. Does that sound like someone who really appreciated your feedback? What if the author instead wrote “Some of your ideas blew us away. You highlighted things we would never have considered. I especially liked Joe Smith’s idea about ensuring the list of banned words reflects other cultures”

Further down you see negative priming such as “not changing dramatically” immediately before announcing a dramatic change. Putting a not before two powerful words doesn’t negate the words. Using the words puts the idea into their heads. If things aren’t changing, say they’re staying almost the same (or, frankly, not write anything at all)

You can probably scroll through the rest of the announcement (noticeably the repeated use of the word ‘Quarantine’ with a capital ‘Q’ and see a dozen further examples of negative priming. There’s even a subtle insult to the readers at the end.

Positively Priming

A better approach is to begin with how this helps the community. Put that at the top and begin with positive associations.

In this case the core message is: ‘We’re going to spend more time helping the majority of you and less getting distracted by Reddit’s enemies’.

Now explain positively how you’re going to do that.

Here’s a simple tip. Write out what you’re going to say, then spend an extra few minutes to turn any unwanted negatives into positives.

25 Nov 18:56

The camera with 16 different cameras is now available to pre-order in Canada

by Igor Bonifacic

The Light L16 camera, one of the more unusual products to be unveiled this year, is now available to pre-order in Canada.

Featuring 16 different camera modules — five 35mm ones, five 70mm ones and six 150mm ones — the L16 is capable of capturing the same image at several different apertures and focal lengths, allowing the user to decide on things like depth of field and zoom when they’re back home editing their pictures. The L16 is also capable of stitching together the images it takes into a single 52-megapixel photograph. The essential promise here is to deliver DSLR-level images without the need for multiple (and sometimes bulky) lenses, though obtaining one of these will set you back quite a bit.

Light L16 image sample

A sample of an image taken with the L16

Anyone that preorders the device between now and the end of the month will be able to get it a special early bird price of $1899 CAD (tax included). Pre-ordering between it between December 1st and January 4th. Otherwise, the product will be regularly priced at $2399 CAD.

The L16 is expected to ship sometime next summer.

25 Nov 17:25

Ruby SVM text classifier

by (Mark Watson, author and consultant)

There are several useful Ruby gems/libraries for using Support Vector Machines (SVM) and another to convert text into SVM style feature vectors. I recently packaged up what I needed with a Ruby script to fold the data for testing, etc.

Here is the github repository.

It took me a short while to get everything working together so hopefully this will save you several minutes of extra effort if you want to use SVM for text classification.

25 Nov 18:30

Fast image classifications in real-time

by Nathan Yau

NeuralTalk2 uses neural networks to caption images quickly. To demonstrate, the video below shows a webcam feed that continuously updates with new image captions based on what the computer sees. It's not perfect of course, but the performance is impressive.

Tags: classification, images, neural networks

24 Nov 21:35

Twitter Favorites: [skeskali] *sings* Why are Drupal docs so awful...

Cecily Walker @skeskali
*sings* Why are Drupal docs so awful...
25 Nov 00:39

Recommended on Medium: #SlackDown: A lesson in brand interaction.

Yesterday, users of Slack experienced an end of days scenario. It. Stopped. Working.

Continue reading on Medium »

25 Nov 19:54

Let Hoder talk to you for a bit...

Did you read Hoder's piece about saving the web?

He was in jail in Iran for six years, while the flow of the web was taken over by social media. That gave him a unique perspective on what was lost.

If you haven't read it, and you love the web, please clear 15 good minutes and sit down with a cup of coffee or whatever you like to drink and listen to him and think. 

And yes, it is ironic that he put the piece on Medium, where they are hoping to do a bit more of the same unpleasantness to the web. But at least they support real hyperlinks unlike Twitter and Facebook.

25 Nov 22:08

Here’s what the Samsung Galaxy S7 should have

by Igor Bonifacic

Visit the Android Subreddit these days and you’ll inevitably find a post or two linking to a story that purports to have leaked info on the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Most leaks turn out to be wrong. But that didn’t stop us from thinking about how the next version of Samsung’s flagship, likely being announced at Mobile World Congress in February, can improve upon the Galaxy S6.

Feel free to post your personal S7 wish list in the comments section below.


The return of expandable storage

Despite the low-cost availability of cloud storage, expandable storage is still a desirable feature for a lot of people. In fact, you only have to look back to the announcement of the S6 to how negatively some individuals reacted to Samsung’s decision to ditch expandable storage.

For that reason, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope the S7 includes expandable storage. It’s also looking like there’s a good possibility the phone will include a microSD slot.

When the S6 launched, the phone’s use of Samsung then new solid-state storage standard, Universal Flash Storage 2.0, was pegged as one of the reasons the South Korean company opted not to include expandable storage on the S6. The standard provides a significant uptick in SSD performance, but has difficulty interfacing with the type of memory controllers found in microSD cards. Samsung is reportedly working on addressing this specific issue, helping pave the way for expandable storage to make its return to Samsung’s flagship lineup with the S7.

Likewise, it’s safe to say the S7 will be one of the first Samsung phones to come pre-installed with Marshmallow, a fact that further helps the phone’s chances of including a SD card slot. Although Google just released two phones that do not feature microSD card slots, the company did a lot of work to make Android more friendly to expandable storage with Marshmallow. With the new version of Android, apps and games that are installed on an SD card perform much better than they did on previous versions of the operating system.

Photo 2015-11-25, 5 06 09 PM

A removable battery

A lot of people will probably list a removable battery as one of the features they most want to see make a return to Samsung’s mainline flagship smartphone. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is in the cards.

From an industrial design standpoint, Samsung wants its flagship smartphones to be put on the same level as the iPhone. And in the eyes a lot of people, the S6 was Android’s answer to the iPhone. In part, Samsung was able to achieve this feat by taking several cues from Apple’s smartphone — it ditched the S5’s removable battery, for example — so I don’t think the company would be willing to go back after the success of the S6.

Moreover, with most OEMs moving to unibody designs, we’re also seeing the industry as a whole move away from the one popular design paradigm.

Still, a man can dream.


An even better camera

Here’s an easy one: I hope the S7 features an even better camera than its predecessor. Thankfully, this is one of the areas Samsung is almost certain to follow through. In a recent investor call, company executives talked about the new Britecell sensor it’s planning to integrate into its upcoming phones. Samsung claims the new sensor features improved performance in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

Given the fact that Samsung is likely keen on creating a phone that reclaims the smartphone photography crown for it, there’s a good chance the company has other photography-related improvements in store for consumers.


A phone that runs stock Android

Alright, this one is really reaching for it, but it would be great if Samsung ditched TouchWiz, Samsung’s Android skin. I don’t see it happening, and there’s been nothing to suggest the company has a plan to abandon its Android skin, but a Samsung phone running an unaltered version of Google’s mobile operating system would be a thing of beauty.

25 Nov 22:00

Self-Driving Cars: A Coming Congestion Disaster?

by Jarrett at


We're starting to see professional reports echoing long-standing concerns about how driverless cars will affect our cities. This new one from KPMG, in particular, is getting a lot of press.  It's actually a focus group study about the transport desires of different generations, but it confirms the thought experiments that many of us have already been laying out for a while.  

Much depends on whether these cars are owned or spontaneously hired like taxis, Uber, and Lyft.  A taxi model is definitely better in its congestion impacts, but that doesn't mean it will happen.  The ownership model is closer to the status quo, and the status quo always has enormous power.  Driverless taxis will not always be available on demand, especially in suburban and rural areas, so a legitimate fear of being stranded will make people in those areas prefer the security of having a car just for them. And of course, that's just the effect of rational concerns about relying on taxis.  Less rational desires for car ownership, as an expression of identity or symbol of liberty, will also not vanish overnight.

This leads to a nightmare scenario that University of Washington's Mark Hollenbeck laid out in our recent Seattle Times panel.  Paraphrasing Mark:  A suburban father rides his driverless car to work, maybe dropping his daughter off at school.  But rather than park the car downtown, he simply tells it to drive back home to his house in the suburbs.  During the day, it runs some other errands for his family.  At 3 pm, it goes to the school to bring his daughter home or chauffeur her to after-school activities.  Then it's time for it to drive back into the city to pick up Dad from work.  But then, on a lark, Dad decides to go shopping at a downtown department store after work, so he tells his car to just circle the block for an hour while he shops, before finally hailing it to go home.

This is really easy and obvious behavior for a driverless car owner.  It reduces the number of cars someone needs to own, and reduces pressure on inner city parking, but would cause an explosive growth in vehicle trips, and thus in congestion (not to mention emissions and other impacts).  Just the commute behavior doubles car volumes, because the car now makes a two-way trip for each direction of the commute, instead of just one.  And if everyone shopping downtown has a car circling the block waiting for them, well, that level of congestion will far exceed what's generated by cars circling for parking today.  It could pretty well shut down the city.

This is the good old problem of induced demand, which is what happens when you make a resource available at an artificially low price -- as we do with most urban roads today.  If you don't pay the true cost of something in money, you will pay it in time, and that's what congestion is.  (It's also why in the old Soviet Union, people spent hours waiting to buy bread: Soviet price controls made the price too low to compensate the suppliers, so there wasn't enough bread, so everyone waited in line.  Congestion -- waiting in line to use an underpriced road -- works the same way.)  

Pricing of some kind will be the solution, but we tend to do this only when things get really bad.  Notice how bad congestion has to be today before solutions like toll lanes and transit lanes are finally accepted as necessary.  

As always, the very worst scenario won't happen, but some really bad ones still can.  If the economic functioning of downtown is too badly impaired by driverless cars circling the block waiting for their owners, the government will intervene to save the economy, as it always does, probably with some kind of downtown street pricing on the London or Singapore model.  But this only happens when congestion threatens the economy.  That's a high bar,  Long before that point, congestion will be bad enough to be ruining people's lives, wrecking the urban environment, strangling public transit, worsening climate change, and so on.  

As always, the scary thing about congestion is how bad people (and therefore governments) allow it to get before they start making different choices to avoid it.  The level of congestion we (justifiably) complain about is much lower than the level that we choose to tolerate, and this is the real reason for pessimism about how bad congestion could potentially get, if driverless car ownership -- like cars today -- are so massively underpriced even in the context of high urban demand.

25 Nov 23:05

Podcast: Outliners vs MS Word

A bunch of people were discussing outliners vs MS Word on Facebook the other day, and I was just working on one of my apps, in my outliner of course, and I wanted to offer a real user-point-of-view of why it's so much better to edit structures in an outliner than in a word processor.

Not talking about quick memos, but projects you're going to work on for months or years. Where the quality of the organization and note-taking determines how far you can go, re complexity.

It's one of the reasons I am able to build such complex software structures, but the end result turns out to be something people can use.

So I recorded an 11-minute podcast on the subject of outliners. I talk mostly about how I use an outliner to write and manage code that I work on over many years. 

PS: This was a Facebook post earlier today.

25 Nov 23:52

reviewinhaiku: Spotlight One of those films that reminds you...



One of those films that reminds you of the importance of journalism. Real journalism, not most of the bullshit that passes for journalism in our click-bait/link-bait/share-bait society these days. As a result, it manages to make journalism aspirational, as opposed to how most view it now, which is almost the opposite. 

On one hand, I worry that we’ll never get back to such an era. That the story in Spotlight may be one of the last of its kind. Certainly it will be in printed newspapers. On the other, I recognize that this type of journalism really only had a small window in which it was truly something to behold any way. It was a window when the business model worked (and the film hits on the tension towards the end of this era), we’ll see if it ever does again.

24 Nov 22:27

Immigration mega-fraud: The rich Chinese immigrants to Canada who don’t really want to live there

by ian_young

The case of Xun “Sunny” Wang, a Vancouver-area consultant jailed for masterminding the biggest immigration fraud in Canadian history, is startling in scope.

25 Nov 00:49

TV, mobile and the living room

by Benedict Evans

"I also want to share some additional thoughts on Xbox and its importance to Microsoft. As a large company, I think it's critical to define the core, but it's important to make smart choices on other businesses in which we can have fundamental impact and success."

(Translation - Xbox is no longer core to Microsoft) - Satya Nadella

The tech industry has wanted to get to the TV for decades. For a long time it was widely assumed that PCs were only a transitional device and the normal consumer computing experience and ‘interactive media’ experience would happen on the TV, with a ‘ten foot’ user interface, powered by the ‘information superhighway’. TV would become ‘interactive TV, and that would be a big part of how ‘computing’ came to normal people. 

Of course, the tech industry had made its way to the TV, in closed, single-purpose devices: games consoles on one hand and CATV set-top-boxes on the other. Tech tried to use these as bridgeheads: games consoles went online, partly because they should as games devices, but also as a step towards a larger vision, and Microsoft also tried the other route, buying WebTV. 

But none of this worked. None of the attempts to prise set-top-boxes away from the cable companies or add any interactivity beyond a better EPG went anywhere much. Xbox and Playstation going online became important for games, but not much more. Attempts to move the actual PC into the living room (Windows Media Centre, Apple’s Front Row) are probably best forgotten. (I could also mention smart TVs, but really, why bother?) So you could argue about whether Microsoft or Sony did better in the console wars, but it doesn’t really matter for that broader vision (and of course more and more gaming will shift to mobile). 

Today, we have another wave of products trying to get there - the Chromecast and the (new) Apple TV, which are really iterations of a previous wave of products (Vudu, Roku, Boxee) that never quite went mass-market either. (There's a complex discussion here about content availability, most of which is very specific to the USA.) But what interests me is that both of these are really about turning the TV into dumb glass - a peripheral for the smartphone. The Chromecast doesn’t even have an on-screen UI. They’re both about the smartphone market: they're about selling phones (they're too cheap and low-margin to make much money of themselves and most of the content money will go to the content industry), and they come from phones.

That is, even if Apple or Google finally 'win', and get their device connected to every TV in the developed world, it's something of a sideshow. The TV isn't the end point for consumer technology anymore, in either sense of the term. The consumer computing revolution went and happened anyway, without ever touching the TV. First the web, not ‘interactive media’ on the ‘information superhighway’, drove the PC into every home in the developed world, and now smartphones take a truly personal computer into every pocket on earth. And it turns out that smartphones and tablets are the way computing gets into the living room, and the way that the tech industry gets hold of video content, whatever that will mean. (This, in case it isn't clear, is why Satya Nadella said that the Xbox is no longer core to Microsoft's strategy.) There was a wonderful quote from CBS this autumn that they’re less worried about PVR ad-skipping ‘because people are too busy with their smartphones to bother skipping ads anymore’. You can see the shift pretty clearly in this chart from the UK: short form is all about smartphones and tablets, and so, increasingly, is long-form as well. 

Why would you watch a film on a phone? This is why. 

There are two things that I wonder in all of this. 

  1. First, how much of the linear schedule actually goes away, as content restrictions and UI friction finally falls away? Does everything except live events and especially sport fall off and everything else goes to on-demand, or does the passive, lean-back, ‘just show me something’ remain a large part of the large-screen experience? To the extent that viewing does move, this changes the distribution of watching across different types of content
  2. Second, how much, really, do we need a large screen, and how much does it remain something that’s just there, and turning on sometimes, but used less and less, with the thing we hold in our hand actually a better watching experience? And for what kinds of content?

These are obviously linked - if we watch lots of big-budget event drama then we’ll use the big screen more and probably also use the linear schedule more. This is a little reminiscent of Hollywood’s embrace of spectacle in response to TV. So the stronger the linear schedule, the stronger live events, and the stronger big shows are, the more the big screen matters (even if just as dumb glass). The more TV changes, the more it moves device. And then, do you put that event drama you’re sort-of-watching onto the big screen so that you can do more important stuff on your phone, and look up the wikipedia page to tell you what happened when you weren’t paying attention? Maybe it's the small screen that really gets the attention either way. 

Finally, this is a case study of open and closed approaches. Games consoles' closed ecosystem delivered huge innovation in games, but not in much else. The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway. The more abstracted, simplified and closed UX model of smartphones and especially iOS helps to take them to a much broader audience than the PC could reach, and the relative safety of installing an app due to that 'closed' aspect enables billions of installs and a new route to market for video. It's not that open or closed win, but that you need the right kind of open in the right place.