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19 Jan 22:35

50 States of Art: A Letter from the Editor

by Marina Garcia-Vasquez for The Creators Project

When we think of Americana—things associated with the culture and history of the US—we think of open landscapes, industrial materials, and domestic crafts that conjure a sense of nostalgia. We're out of touch with artists in the Heartland, Bible Belt, Four Corners, Dakotas, and even the Pacific Northwest, but certain they are present, turning sorrows and desires into glorious manifestations of identity, truth, and liberty.

Today The Creators Project embarks on something new: an editorial journey to learn about creativity across the United States. 50 States of Art is a yearlong editorial investigation into the art, artists, and art organizations that make up the complex cultural landscape of the USA in 2017. 

To better appreciate our country at large, we'll seek to understand the localized and unique considerations artists are making throughout the country to maintain their practices, foster communities, and uphold their vocations in pursuit of a better sense of self. We want to support artists working in different mediums, ecstatic styles, and emergent genres. Each month we will focus on creative communities within five states as a litmus test to understand local demographics, politics, and cultural dynamics from an artist’s frame. It is our hope that we can celebrate other Ghost Ships, herald other Pulse nightclubs, spark new creative movements, empower new hashtags.

We want to hear from you if you shoot films with your iPhone; see sculptures in shovels; choreograph dances for Instagram; carve objects by hand; manipulate your body as a canvas; acknowledge your gender as a platform; see new worlds in code; find possibility out of trash; use the lens as a mirror; consider data a medium; write memes as poetry; formulate campaigns out of GIFs. That is to say, we're looking for artists who understand the world more succinctly when it is translated into the visual and sensory realms; who refer to art, rather than politics, to learn about humanity and the state of the world.

As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet, “Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsay able than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.”

If any of this resonates with you, tag your work with #50StatesofArt on Instagram and email We will be hunting for new American artists to cover and share on our site throughout the year. We are seeking, in earnest, to forge a path of connection.

This month we are highlighting other 50 State Art projects and starting the year with Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Utah, and Florida. You can check back here for updates.  



Editor-in-Chief, The Creators Project

19 Jan 22:34

The Best Cell Phone Plans

by Rob Pegoraro
A close-up and partial view of a smartphone.

Now that two-year contracts are a thing of the past, you have a lot more freedom to get the cell phone plan that actually works best for your needs. This guide can help you figure out which network offers the best coverage where you need it and pick a plan on that network that meets your needs at the lowest total cost. We crunched numbers, pored over price plans and their fine print, quizzed experts, and wrestled with complex pricing schemes to make the process as painless as possible.

18 Jan 23:33

Tesla expands its massive Gigafactory in Nevada to produce Model 3 motors

by Rose Behar

Tesla is adding production for Model 3 electric motors and gearbox components to its Nevada-based Gigafactory, expanding the production by 550 new jobs and an extra $350 million USD in investment.

Tesla’s Gigafactory began production on lithium-ion batteries earlier this month and currently employs 1,000 full-time workers and 2,000 construction workers.

The factory is approximately one-third complete with 4.9 million square feet of operational space. When the project is complete, it is expected to reach over 10 million square feet of operational space, spanning, as The Verge notes, the size of 107 NFL football fields.

In creating the factory, Tesla agreed to create 6,500 jobs in the state, receiving an incentive package that totalled $1.3 billion USD in value return.

The company hopes to boost its production to 500,000 cars per year by 2018, and the Gigafactory is a necessary step in those plans.

In November 2016, the company released a blog post announcing its acquisition of automated manufacturing company Grohmann Engineering that put emphasis on the importance of developing its factory.

“As the machine that builds the machine, our factories are so important that we believe they will ultimately deserve an order of magnitude more attention in engineering than what they produce,” says the post.

“At very high production volumes, the factory becomes more of a product than the product itself.”

Source: The Verge

18 Jan 20:39

chromeless jens's map of property tax values in city of vancouver january 2017 Screenshot 2017-01-17 21.58.10 added as a favorite.

by ctmagnus
ctmagnus added this as a favorite.

chromeless jens's map of property tax values in city of vancouver january 2017 Screenshot 2017-01-17 21.58.10

18 Jan 20:37

Some Things We Might Buy in 2017: A Goofball’s Guide to the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show

by WC Staff

Twice a year, the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City turns into a winter (or summer) wonderland of rugged shoes, packs, outerwear, and other outdoor gear. This is the Outdoor Retailer trade show, the world’s biggest outdoor retail show, where all the major American gear brands (and hundreds of newcomers and up-and-comers) gather to show off their wares for the near future. We sent the Wirecutter outdoors team to cover the 2017 Winter Market. We’ll be reviewing tons of the new items over the coming months, but to start, here are a few that we’re lusting after for real-world, personal use.

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The OR show is the CES of the outdoors. Companies debut groundbreaking technologies, explain their take on solutions to gear problems everyone has, and demonstrate the lighter/faster/comfier/cheaper/eco-friendlier upgrades to their old models. Startups launch their really great ideas. Industry leaders reflect on trends—such as Made in the USA products—and on the future of outdoor sports and recreation. It’s what counts for long-term market growth planning in an industry built on having fun. In the past, companies tackled themes like how to get more kids outside and how to increase diversity outdoors. This year’s show turned political when two influential industry executives called for the show, which generates an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending, to move to a state where the local politicians’ views on public lands and recreational access align better with those of many companies in the industry. The executives’ argument is that public lands are essential to providing their customers a place to use their products.

The items we feature here are as diverse as what was at the show (and as diverse as our interests), including backyard fun and games, lifestyle apparel and activewear, techy toys you can take outdoors, performance and camp food and beverage, and the technical sports gear you might expect. A lot of the stuff at the OR show could be passed over for being gimmicky, impractical, or barely changed from year to year. The following are the items we’d actually make a place for on our next trip, in a crowded gear closet, or at camp or in a cabin.

A new take on snowshoes that could really work

Crescent Moon Eva All-Foam Snowshoes, $160, expected release in fall 2017

outdoor retailer tradeshow crescent moon eva

Photo: Crescent Moon

It’s not often that a major piece of gear undergoes such an extreme makeover that it could change the industry and the sport. The Crescent Moon Eva All-Foam Snowshoes could do just that. Unlike traditional designs, which consist of myriad straps, buckles, and hinges, this model features a much more user-friendly unibody design that looks and feels more like a shoe than an intimidating piece of technical snow equipment. Putting on the snowshoe is simple: A Velcro hook-and-loop adjustable binding system makes it more like getting into a pair of kids’ sneakers. This approachable design should make people who have never been snowshoeing want to try it out.

The Eva All-Foam Snowshoes are made of two layers of dual-density EVA foam—the same type that you’ll find on most lightweight running shoes. Since foam is lighter than most metals, and the design uses it for everything but the binding, the Eva pair is designed for better front-to-back weight distribution than competing models. Foam also has two unexpected advantages over metal in snowshoes: It insulates your feet from the cold and spares your ears the ubiquitous snowshoe squeak. A third component, a traction plate made of a nylon-like material, bites into icy slopes with lugs reminiscent of snow tires. Furthermore, the Eva’s lack of moving parts should also make it more durable in the long run, since most snowshoes fail when their hinges, straps, or joints snap (hopefully not bringing your ankle along with them).

What struck me the most about the Eva All-Foam Snowshoes were the emotions that winter enthusiasts expressed about them—namely, rabid obsession. Just in the three days of the OR show, the Eva pair won multiple awards, including Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Show, Digital Trends’s Best of Show, Backpack Gear Test’s Creative Award, Gear Junkie’s Gear of the Show, and The Manual’s Gear of the Show. We have to test the snowshoes when they are released in fall 2017 to make sure the foam doesn’t sacrifice durability for lightness, but if the Eva All-Foams offer any improvement over what is currently out there, bring on the industry revolution.

—Elizabeth Thomas

For passing the time at the campsite or your living room

Outside Inside games for camp and cabin, available now, $10 and up

outdoor retailer tradeshow exercise machine ping pong

Outside Inside game designer Dave Smrtka is not demonstrating an exercise machine. This is a go-anywhere ping pong setup. Photo: Dan Koeppel

In an industry where nearly everyone has a great job—or at least one that allows you to get out and play, a lot—Dave Smrtka’s gig is as good as we’ve seen: He designs all of the items for GSI’s Outside Inside games line. (GSI is one of the biggest outdoor companies you’ve never heard of; it makes tons of basecamp essentials, like tableware and cooking gear.) Smrtka, who began his career making eclectic cribbage sets, including one shaped like a rainbow trout, describes what he does simply: “I design outdoor versions of indoor games, and indoor versions of outdoor games.” So if you’ve ever dreamed of playing horseshoes in your living room, Smrtka’s got a won’t-shatter-your-flatscreen foam version. Ping pong under the trees? Outside Inside’s set includes paddles and an expandable net that clamps to a picnic table. There’s some very cool innovation behind all these games, too: The company’s new-for-2017 Backpacker Bocce set, for example, uses balls made of a decelerating rubber, so they won’t roll too far away when you’re in the heat of competition. And if those games don’t appeal, Smrtka’s line includes more than 30 additional choices.

—Dan Koeppel

The backyard and forest double-decker instant treehouse

Tentsile T-Mini Double Hammock and Flite+ Tree Tent, available now, $150 to $350

outdoor retailer tradeshow three-point treehouses outdoor retailer tradeshow outdoor retailer tradeshow t-mini double hammock

Basically, this design offers a hybrid of a tent and a hammock in a triangle shape, securing at three points (yeah, you pretty much need a trio of trees—a possible drawback) so that it doesn’t swing back and forth the way a traditional hammock might. Though Tentsile has been around for about five years, its products have been fairly pricey, some over $1,000. In 2017, you can get in on the fun for a lot less money: The T-Mini Double Hammock is $150, and the covered Flite+ Tree Tent is $350. That gives you the sweet setup—a double-decker arrangement—for under $500.

—Dan Koeppel

The thinking person’s coffee creamer?

Know Brainer Thinker’s Instant coffee and creamer, available April 2017, $2 for 1 ounce

outdoor retailer tradeshow know brainer

Coffee that helps you think? How did they think of this product before it existed? Photo: Know Brainer

Endurance athletes have been some of the loudest lovers of instant coffee—and of ketogenic diets. Available in 2017, Know Brainer Thinker’s Instant marries those two trends in one product. Thinker’s Instant is the premeasured and preblended single-serving sibling of the much-written-about Bulletproof Coffee. Each 1-ounce packet contains concentrated coffee, shelf-stable medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil from coconuts, and grass-fed ghee (clarified butter). Drinkers simply massage the packet, dump it into 8 ounces of hot water, and stir. On-the-go outdoor adventurers, travelers, and commuters will have the benefit of super morning joe without extra tools or a messy cleanup.

Launched in 2016, Know Brainer claims its ketogenic-friendly creamer alternative fuels brain and body without leaving cravings. So far, no hard data backs up the benefits of adding Know Brainer creamer to java. The company’s new product, Thinker’s Instant, won’t require mixing, though, as it blends the Know Brainer “creamer” and the coffee in the same packet. Thinker’s Instant will be available in original and French vanilla flavors, both with MCT and organic grass-fed butter. For those allergic to casein or lactose, a mocha flavor will be available in a casein- and lactose-free version.

How excited you might be about Know Brainer or its upcoming Thinker’s Instant depends on your enthusiasm for the ketogenic diet and Bulletproof Coffee in general—and there’s plenty of reason to doubt its proponents’ lofty claims. But regardless of the validity of the science behind the ketogenic diet—or whether this is just a fad—what’s important is that Know Brainer is delicious. It won the Anaheim Coffee Festival’s 2016 People’s Choice Award. And at $2 per packet, you can afford to try it for yourself.

—Elizabeth Thomas

A fashionable, warm, technically sound women’s coat

Cotopaxi Women’s Kusa Parka, available now, $200 (past season colors on sale for $100)

outdoor retailer trade show cotopaxi jacket

Insulation is a big deal in the outdoor world right now. As brands aim for sustainability and transparency in their supply chains, they’re throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick: At the OR show, we saw bison fill, llama fill, alpaca fill, traditional down, DWR-treated down, and duck feathers—and that list doesn’t even include the synthetic fibers that are also gaining traction. Basically, however, it all keeps you warm, and it all has varying degrees of sustainability.

But among the sea of similar-performing options, the Cotopaxi Women’s Kusa Parka stood out to us not only for its llama-fur-blend insulation but also for being one of the few insulation pieces that look like they’re styled for the real world. Big, puffy coats are an outerwear staple these days, but you can’t layer them under anything. This piece is thin, tailored, and without a hood, so I can use it to turn my existing coats into a layering system, exactly the way I would if I were going hiking. That means any spring coat I have can now be a winter coat, and any rain jacket I own can now have a liner. While my 850-fill down technical jacket has performance-oriented features that make it indispensable on a snowy mountain—such as a big hood and articulated arms—those same features make it much too bulky to fit under street wear.

The color palette is also worth mentioning. When it comes to color, little-known boutique brand Cotopaxi is currently the best player in the game, and that’s a huge deal. Year after year, major brands attempt to “figure out” what color to make clothing for people who find that the traditional male aesthetic doesn’t work. Usually they come up with purple. Although purple is good, that’s still a tiny box. For anyone who struggles with projecting their identity in a way that isn’t so narrowly stereotyped, this is a company to check out.

—Eve O’Neill
18 Jan 20:36

Ulysses Moments 2016

by Rebekka
mkalus shared this story from Ulysses Blog.


Albeit 2016 was not exactly everybody’s darling of years, it has been a very special and successful year for Ulysses and for us — maybe even the most exciting year in our company’s history. That’s why we would like to pause for a moment, look back at the most important things that happened, and share them with you.

Ulysses for iPhone Release (Finally!)

After releasing Ulysses’ first iOS version for iPad in March 2015, it took us yet another year to finish optimization for iPhone. For our company, this release was a milestone, because our vision of Ulysses always included the ability to write anything and anywhere, no matter which (Apple) device is at hand. The release led to great media exposure (with some real biggies such as The Next Web, lifehacker, and TechCrunch) and to tons of new users.

The Ulysses family, finally complete
The Ulysses family, finally complete

Exceptionally Noisy and Incredibly Crowded

That’s us and friends in our office in Leipzig, celebrating the of the iPhone app and Ulysses third anniversary.

Exceptionally noisy and incredibly crowded: Soulmen & friends in the office, celebrating the release of the iPhone app and Ulysses’ 3rd anniversary.

The Apple Design Award

Supposedly any passionate developer of apps for Apple platforms dreams of getting it: The Apple Design Award. For us, the dream came true: On June 13, 2016, a Soulmen delegation consisting of Max, Götz and Friedrich received the Apple Design Award at Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. As a consequence, our otherwise serene office life was turned upside down for a couple of weeks, by congratulators, interview requests, even a camera team. The local media of Leipzig, our German hometown, were especially excited: “Diese Leipziger sind Apples beste Jungs”, meaning “These Leipzigers are Apple’s best boys”, read the title of the widely spread tabloid Bild.

Ulysses Publishes to WordPress

With our 2.6 release, we finally delivered on a promise we made a looong time ago. For anyone who owns a WordPress blog or uses WordPress as a content management system for his/her self-hosted blog, Ulysses now makes the process of publishing much more convenient. Bloggers can publish their posts with just a few clicks or taps; no more exporting as HTML or Markdown, no cumbersome pasting to the WordPress backend.

Write a Novel in a Month

2016 was our third term as a sponsor of NaNoWriMo, the challenge where hundreds of thousands of authors from all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words in a month — a novel. Among other things, the popular romance author Lauren Layne published a video on this occasion, where she introduced her process of setting up a book in Ulysses . And with your help we set up a handy list of things one can do if you get stuck during writing (or, in common parlance, if you suffer from writer’s block).

Best of 2016

In December we released Ulysses 2.7, and although the release may seem less spectacular than the previous two, it will serve as a solid basis for our future work. Shortly before the new version became publicly available, we received news that made our year complete: Ulysses, or rather Ulysses for iPad and iPhone, was included in the Best of App Store 2016 list!

New Team Members

Not only did Ulysses gain new features during the course of the year — also, the team behind it gained new members. Martin, who studied media informatics and was freelancing, joined to strengthen our development team. Philip took over the design department and now cares for Ulysses’ visual appearance.

Outlook on 2017

One big change has already taken place in the beginning of the year: Our company’s name is no longer The Soulmen GbR, but Ulysses GmbH & Co. KG. On the one hand, the new legal form better suits the needs of our continuously growing company. On the other hand, we don’t have to confuse you with two different names anymore: From now on, we’re not only the makers of Ulysses, but we are Ulysses, the company.

We’re of course also having plans for great new features, but you must understand that we can’t reveal any details at the moment. It is notoriously hard to put a realistic estimate on the effort required by a new feature, and we have been wide off the mark more than once in the past. Development takes time, and haste makes waste. That’s why we’re so reluctant with timelines and ETAs. Still, you can be assured that we have been listening to you and taken your wishes and requests seriously, and will do so in the future.

Here’s to a happy and productive 2017!

Apple Design Award

18 Jan 20:36

Recommended on Medium: Threaded messaging comes to Slack



Keep conversations organized and easy to follow with Threads

When you’re working with your team in Slack, discussions can move quickly and cover a lot of ground. They evolve — and branch off — as people share insights, ask questions, and introduce new topics (or resurface old ones), which may not involve everyone in a channel. Now with Threads, a new way to connect related messages, it’s easier to follow and manage the variety of conversations happening in Slack.

How Threads work

Starting a new thread

Say someone posts a message in Slack that you want to follow up on, but the deeper conversation doesn’t apply to everyone. Now, you can kick off a detailed discussion on that particular topic by hovering over the message and clicking Start a thread. The right sidebar in Slack will open, and you can add your reply.

Participating in ongoing threads

Messages with threaded replies will show thumbnails of discussion participants right in the channel, as well as the number of replies posted. Click through to view the threaded conversation in the right sidebar. You can chime in, add reactions, or simply select to follow along from there.

Looping people into conversations

Unlike a regular message posted in channel, replies to a thread won’t automatically mark the channel as unread or notify you, unless you’re directly mentioned. (The All Threads view in your sidebar will be highlighted, however, so you know there are new messages in one of your threads — see more on this below.) This way, you and a subset of your team can riff on ideas, triage problems, or clarify feedback in a focused space. Although they’re tucked away, threaded conversations are archived and searchable so anyone can access the information and context they need without joining every discussion.

Need to make sure a specific person sees your reply? Simply @-mention them as you normally would and they’ll be notified about the thread.

Posting replies from a thread in the channel

When decisions are made or a message in a thread is worth sharing back with the wider channel, you can post your reply alongside the original message in the channel. This will highlight the channel in the left sidebar and let members know that there’s a new message. Anyone can click on the update to open the thread and read through the discussion if they like.

Managing your threaded conversations

Since threads can happen in any channel, you might find yourself participating in more than one at a time. To help you keep track, all of your threads live in the new All Threads view, where you can read and reply to these conversations. Whenever someone replies to a message you wrote or responds to a thread you’re in, this view (located at the top of your channel list) will light up and appear bold.

When to use threads

Threads are particularly useful when you want to contain discussions around specific topics in one place. This includes asking (and answering) detailed questions, and posting updates to earlier messages. Some examples of the ways we’ve been using Threads across functions at Slack include:

  • When a press article or public announcement is posted in the #pr channel, any discussion takes place in a thread under that post.
  • When bugs are reported in our various #triage channels, team members use a threaded discussion to dig into the problem, and then report the fix back into the channel.
  • When an upcoming product launch is shared with the sales team in the #sales-announcements channel, people use a thread to ask and answer related questions and link to resources.

For more on how we designed Threads, head over to our Engineering blog. To learn how to develop your app with the Threads API, visit our Platform blog.

Threads are rolling out over the next few days and will be available on the latest versions of our desktop and mobile apps. Give them a try and send us a note or Tweet to let us know what you think. Learn more about Threads in our Help Center.

Threaded messaging comes to Slack was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

18 Jan 20:36

No More 'Beall's List'


Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, Jan 20, 2017

Beall's List, a collection of what the author called "predatory" journals, was suddenly  removed from the internet this week. The story broke on Twitter Sunday night and on  Debunking Denialism Monday. The site contained "thousands of journals and publishers that Beall alleged exploit open-access publishing for their own profit -- for example by spamming researchers with invitations to publish their findings or present at conferences, then pocketing publication or registration fees while providing little or no quality review." The emerging consensus is that the list was removed due to legal threats, but I have seen no formal confirmation of this. Beall was previously threatened  in 2013 and 2016. The list still exists on the Internet Archive; check here. You can also use, "a cross-industry initiative led by representatives from ALPSP, DOAJ, INASP, ISSN, LIBER, OASPA, STM, UKSG, and individual publishers," to verify publications. More coverage:  Science Magazine, Ottawa Citizen.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Jan 20:35

Arbutus Greenway Consultation

by Ken Ohrn

The Arbutus Greenway is a 9-km long corridor, stretching across the city, with the opportunity to develop something magical out of a disused railway right-of-way. The next step is upon us, and another chance for us all to get involved.


What should I be when I grow up?

The background is that the City of Vancouver wants to create a high-quality public space for walking, cycling and wheeling, with a streetcar line in the longer-term plan. Previous planning material is HERE (14-page PDF), including several reference designs from other places like Atlanta, Minneapolis and Chicago (with costs).

For those new to the idea, here’s a definition:  Transportation greenways are linear public corridors  for pedestrians and cyclists that connect parks, nature reserves, cultural features, historic sites, neighbourhoods  and retail areas.

You’ll get lots of chances to see what’s up, and to put your thoughts on the table.  Free hot chocolate, too.

Online survey HERE until Feb 15.

Open Houses

Pop-up Hot Chocolate Kiosk

  • Feb 1,  8:00am – 10:00am
    at Arbutus Street and Broadway Street by the Arbutus Greenway and eastbound B-line stop
  • Feb 1, 11:30am – 1:00pm
    at West 41st Avenue and West Boulevard

18 Jan 18:23

This is your AirPod control

by Volker Weber

IMG 8997

AirPods don't have any physical controls. You can double tap them for calling up Siri. Or you can set this double tap to Play/Pause. One way or the other it looks kind of silly to tap on your ear. But how do you control the volume or skip a track? Simple: use your Apple Watch. The Now Playing glance lets you control the iPhone. And with that your AirPods.

Most of the time, you don't need these controls, because the AirPods are pretty smart. They know when they are in your ear. Take one out, when the flight attendant asks you what you like to drink and the music stops. Put it back in and the music continues. How do they sound? Pretty similar to the wired earbuds, with a bit more heft. Outbound noise cancellation during phone calls works very well, inboud there is none. And since they don't seal your ears, they are pretty useless when you need to isolate yourself from crying babies or office noise. During a flight, you have to crank them up all the way, which isn't good for your ears.


The AirPods will not fall out of your ears and I tried them in ears of all sizes. But you may drop them when you take them out of the case. They are safe inside the case and your ear, but not anywhere inbetween. I suggest you use a very strict protocol of moving them swiftly between those two places. The case is a wonderful example of Apple engineering. Everything snaps in place, the AirPods and the lid are held with very gentle magnets. Your iPhone will tell you how much juice there is in the AirPods and the case. They charge faster than they run down the battery. 15 minutes charging equals 3 hours of playing music.

This is a great product. Editor-refuses-to-give-it-back award.

18 Jan 18:22

9 years of blogging have totally been worth it

by Kristina Chodorow

Worth of Web is kind of a neat site:

Oh well. It’s been worth it to me.

18 Jan 06:22

Rest in Peace, Rob Cole

by Jeffrey Friedl
A Pretty Picture a kusaridoi at the Eigenji Temple (永源寺), in Shiga Japan -- Eigenji Temple (永源寺) -- Higashiomi, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
A Pretty Picture
a kusaridoi at the Eigenji Temple (永源寺), in Shiga Japan

Rob Cole used to be one of the more prolific engineers creating plugins for Adobe Lightroom, until two years ago when he seemed to have fallen off the face of the Internet. His web site vanished, taking with it his valuable trove of solutions for photographers, and at the same time, his active participation in online forums stopped.

For the past two years no one in this facet of his life knew what had happened, but I've finally learned today that Rob passed away unexpectedly in January 2015.

This situation brings to mind “On the Permanence of One’s Online (and Offline) Presence” from seven years ago, but in this case the online presence disappeared at the same time he did. Judging by the various messages from his users that I've received since Rob disappeared, I know his work had helped a lot of people. For what it's worth, I've reached out to his family to see whether they'd like to find a way to make it available again, if they even have access to it.

Anyway, since his disappearance was so unsettling, I'm posting this to provide some closure to those that knew him online. Rest in peace, Rob, and condolences to your family.

18 Jan 05:40

Stop What You're Doing and Read the Comic Advocating for Chelsea Manning

by DJ Pangburn for The Creators Project

All images courtesy the artists

On Tuesday, President Obama largely commuted Chelsea Manning's remaining prison sentence, effectively freeing the whistleblower. In the waning days of the Obama administration, a last chance for clemency before a more hostile administration takes over, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Manning, along with illustrator Shoili Kanungo, released a graphic short story called Suppressed Images, documenting Dewey-Hagborg and Manning’s collaboration on the 2015 artwork Radical Love, a pair of 3D printed portraits, created with Manning's DNA.

Radical Love was commissioned by Paper magazine, who enlisted Dewey-Hagborg to create artwork for an interview the magazine was conducting with Manning. Since photographing the whistleblower is impossible while she is imprisoned, Dewey-Hagborg employed DNA phenotyping, a process by which an artist puts clues about a person’s genetic traits together to create a composite representation. Manning collected her own hair clippings and cheek swab and mailed the DNA samples to Dewey-Hagborg, who created the composites. Because much of DNA phenotyping is based on guesswork or stereotyping based on ancestry and sex, Dewey-Hagborg chose two of the most compelling possible faces, one gender neutral and one feminine, with Manning’s input.

Suppressed Images takes readers behind the scenes of the Radical Love creative process, laying out some details of Manning’s incarceration and communicating Manning’s interest in working with Dewey-Hagborg to reclaim some of the visibility stripped from her while behind bars.

It was Kanungo who contacted Dewey-Hagborg about the collaboration that would become Suppressed Images. “[Kanunugo] saw my artist talk online that I gave as an artist-in-residence at Thoughtworks, who she works for in India,” Dewey-Hagborg tells The Creators Project. “She asked if she could help somehow and I started thinking about a graphic short story.”

“Time was short (this was less than a month ago) and we wanted to get something out before Obama left office,” she adds. “I wrote a first draft based on my letters and communication with Chelsea over the past two years and mailed it to her. She recited her edits over the phone to her support liaison who emailed them to me.”

Dewey-Hagborg then forwarded the edited comic script—which featured Manning’s very own words—to Kanungo, who began illustrating. The artists credits Thoughtworks with being incredibly supportive during the artistic process. And Dewey-Hagborg says that Manning is as hopeful, upbeat, and optimistic as she has always known her to be.

“[She is] such an inspiration,” says Dewey-Hagborg. “I am extremely hopeful after the news of Chelsea making Obama’s ‘shortlist.’ I think Obama will do the humane thing and commute her sentence to time served.”

To read Suppressed Images in its entirety, click here. You can call the White House at (202) 456-1111 to voice your support for Chelsea Manning's release.


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18 Jan 05:40

Toronto-based Nanoleaf’s modular Aurora lights will trip you out

by Patrick O'Rourke

I’m a huge fan of smart home products, particularly lights, and especially when they’re a little quirky.

For example, every smart light bulb in my home is a colourful Philips Hue light bulb, controlled by an Amazon Echo I managed to get my hands on courtesy of a friend that lives in the U.S. (here’s hoping the Echo finally comes to Canada soon).

So when Toronto-based Nanoleaf, one of the industry’s premiere smart bulb manufacturers, reached out to MobileSyrup asking if we were interested in checking out its recently release Aurora modular lighting system, I jumped at the opportunity. Unlike traditional smart home light bulb products, Aurora places an emphasis on fun and customization, allowing users to create different lighting setups and designs.

Overall, Aurora offers a unique experience that’s a little on the pricey side, though it does suffer from other drawbacks as well.

Light up your life with colour

With Nano Leaf’s Aurora, you’re able to connect each lighting panel via small linker modules, allowing you to create various shapes with the lights. For example, you can make a triangle, or opt to create a more traditional straight light design, or even something that’s zigzagged and a little more crazy looking.

The lights are simple to disconnect and pop out from one another with ease, though it’s important to note that if the 3M mounting strips used to attach the lights to the wall (they come included with Aurora) aren’t sticking adequately, the lights will fall to the ground. However, if you intend to set the lights in a specific design and leave them in that layout, this won’t be an issue, though that ruins half the fun. If you want to them around, however, Nanoleaf’s decision to opt for stick 3M wall mounts quickly becomes a problem because after a trying out a few layouts, it’s hard to get the lights to continue sticking to the wall.

In total Aurora comes with nine panels, though more can be purchased in sets of three at an additional $69 cost. On the Android and iOS app side of Aurora, you’re able to select individual colour hues for each design, as well as create highly customizable moving patterns.

Whatever setup you’ve selected for the lights is also automatically recognized by the app, making customization a simple process that only requires a few swipes of your finger. Painting Aurora’s various lights multiple colours, and watching those hues appear on the screen, is fascinating, especially the first few times you create your own pattern.

From within the app, users can change colour flows, brightness speed and a variety of other settings. All in, I was actually surprised at how customizable Aurora’s lighting setup is.

If there’s an aspect of the lights you’d like to alter or shift, whether that’s consistent light, or a pattern, there’s likely a way to change it to match the specific design you’ve envisioned.

HomeKit but no Amazon Echo

Setting up Auora with HomeKit is a simple process if your smart home products are controlled within Apple’s ecosystem, which some would argue is the top universal language on the market. Just snap a photo of the HomeKit code located on the back of Aurora’s box and the lights will automatically be added to your HomeKit set up. If you aren’t a user of Apple’s smart home system, however — for example I use Amazon Echo’s to control my smart home –you’ll unfortunately be left out of the universal ecosystem fun.

At one point Nanoleaf had a countdown on their website related to Echo integration, though that timer seems to be gone and Alexa functionality still hasn’t been added to any of the company’s products.

The absent Aurora-Echo compatibility made using the modular lights more difficult for me since I’m used to speaking to Alexa in order to turn on my lights. While taking out my phone and launching Nanoleaf’s Android or iOS App store isn’t difficult, I found myself not playing with the lights as much as I might have if they were integrated directly with the Echo that controls my home.

Of course if you’re a HomeKit user, you can create voice commands for the Nanoleaf via Apple’s smart home app. Still, considering other home products — Philips Hue and Ecobee’s smarthome thermostat line for example — work with the Amazon Echo, this is a disappointing move on Nanoleaf’s part.

What is Aurora good for?

Once the initial novelty wear’s off (I actually spent two hours playing around with Aurora at one point), beyond impressing friends or turning on a crazy pattern when you’re having a party, it’s difficult to find a practical purpose for Nanoleaf’s Aurora. Similar to Philips’ coloured Hue light bulbs, I typically found myself opting for a standard white light when using Aurora, rather than bright colours and complicated patterns. My apartment is dimly lit and doesn’t have pot lighting, so additional lights helped illuminate my living room considerably.

Another downside is the fact that it’s difficult to hide Aurora’s cord. For example, we’re considering using Aurora as a backdrop for some of the video work we do here at MobileSyrup, but the lights’ unsightly cord will always be present. Given the lights’ unique use case, having the option for Aurora to run off batteries would be a welcome feature.

That said, Aurora is a fascinating screen saver for your wall, though its $219 price tag is expensive, even in the pricey smart home space.

18 Jan 05:39

The Canadian government is considering implementing a Netflix sales tax

by Jessica Vomiero

The legislative loophole which allows international streaming services to avoid charging Canadian customers a sales tax may soon be closed.

What’s being dubbed the “Netflix Tax” is currently being considered by the Trudeau government, which would require services like Netflix and Amazon Prime to charge Canadians a sales tax.

While locally-based streaming services like CraveTV and the late Shomi are required to accommodate for these fees, international services are not currently required to do so.

Talk of a so-called ‘Netflix Tax” has been circulating for some time now, though Ottawa has confirmed that the government is considering forcing these groups to tax Canadians.

These discussions were last reported in October of 2016, when the Liberal government committed to refrain from implementing such measures.

At this time, MobileSyrup reported that allegations were made claiming that Canadian telcos are at a disadvantage when producing their own services because they’re required to pay GST taxes on their services while Netflix and other international services do not.

Because they do not have a physical presence in Canada, Netflix and Amazon Prime are not subject to sales taxes.

To try and level the playing field, the CRTC also loosened the regulations on streaming services based in Canada, removing their requirement to contribute to the Canadian content fund, which international services are also not beholden to.

Source: 680News

18 Jan 05:36

The 15% Solution

by Ken Ohrn

262-grayhouseDoes the 15% tax on foreign home buyers in Metro Vancouver look like it will work?

Not according to one real estate specialist: Tina Mak of the Vancouver Chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America.  The short article is well worth a read for some nuanced description of the Chinese real estate investor.

Excerpt from

However, Vancouver is what in the real estate trade we call a “Super Prime City.” Others in this category include Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Paris, Monaco, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.  These cities attract high-net-worth people who want to establish a residence. They also are places where they have confidence that their investment is safe and secure. Why else do they continue to flock to these locations? There are several key reasons: the brand of the city; its reputation for safety and rule of law; world-class services and easy access to amenities; quality of life and lifestyle; and, finally, the prospect of capital appreciation.

So, do I believe a 15 per cent tax will stop Asians, and particularly Chinese, from investing in Metro Vancouver? Absolutely not.

18 Jan 05:35

Roku’s new app revamps remote, content discovery process

by Rose Behar

Roku has started rolling out its overhauled TV app today, revealing a new design, content discovery section and digital remote control.

The navigation buttons on the new app have moved to the bottom of the app, reading from left to right: Channels, What’s On, Remote, Photos+ and Settings. The home screen now features a list of channels that have been installed by the user and a button at the top of the app that allows users to toggle directly over to the channel store.

Once a channel is chosen, the app then transitions into a remote, which now resembles its physical counterpart more closely, is easier to use with one hand and features a new channels button at the top that will quickly transport users back to the familiar tiled list.

The new section for content discovery, ‘What’s On,’ provides users with a feed of curated lists and suggestions much like Netflix. It essentially replaces ‘My Feed,’ a tracker for users’ favourite shows and movies, which is now pushed to the bottom of the ‘What’s On’ screen.

Additionally, Photos+ lets users share music, photos or videos from their mobile libraries to Roku, as well as create customized content.

Roku version 4.0.0 is available for free on Google Play and the App Store.

Via: Tech Crunch

18 Jan 05:35

Siemens delivers first vehicle of new Muni Metro fleet

by News
mkalus shared this story from Global Rail News.

The first new Muni Metro light rail vehicle from Siemens has arrived in San Francisco.

Siemens is building 215 new vehicles for the system – its largest-ever light rail order in the US.

The first vehicle has now been delivered to the Muni Metro East facility. It will undergo testing before entering service at the end of the summer.

The high-floor vehicles consist of two cars but can operate as multiple units.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) placed an order with Siemens for 175 vehicles in September 2014. The contract included an option for up to 85 additional units. In June 2015, SFMTA ordered another 40 vehicles.

Siemens and SFMTA estimate that the new vehicles will be capable of running 10 times longer between faults than the current fleet and will consume 40 per cent less energy.



18 Jan 05:35

Monitor without risk of remote cyber attacks – Unidirectional security for railways

by News
mkalus shared this story from Global Rail News.

– Advertisement Feature – 

Most major industrial nations are investing heavily in rail. The Canadian Government announced its new infrastructure plan in March 2016, allocating $C 3.4 billion ($US 2.6bn) in federal funding over the next three years to “upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada”.

In South Africa the state-owned ports and rail company, Transnet, is well into its Market Development Strategy, a seven-year R 300bn ($33.82bn) investment scheme with a clear strategy to “rejuvenate the country’s ports, rail and pipelines infrastructure”.

In Australia, trains carrying iron ore from mine to port can be over a mile long. Expecting its ‘freight task’ to double over the next 20 years, the Australian Government is targeting investment in rail infrastructure to meet this demand.

The UK is investing billions of pounds in HS2, a new high-speed rail line linking London with Birmingham and Manchester. Germany, France and Spain, among others, have also invested in high-speed rail networks. Suffice to say, rail is big business and it’s going to get bigger. It’s the mention of automation and remote control devices, essential elements of a modern efficient system that raises eyebrows in cyber security circles.

Chronology of railway cyber attacks

Cyber attacks on rail systems are no longer a hypothetical threat. In August 2015, Japan Railways Hokkaido was attacked using a remote access Trojan (RAT) to gain access to the rail company’s network in an apparent attempt to steal information on transport security in advance of the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line. In this kind of attack, called spear-phishing, the attacker identifies a number of people who are likely to have the access credentials he or she needs to infiltrate the network, then sends them a fake email (in this case purporting to come from a customer). Specialised malware is activated when an employee opens the email’s attachment; in this case, however, the subsequent attempt to steal files was apparently unsuccessful.

Connectivity concerns

Some people believe that railway control and signaling systems are impenetrable because they are too complicated for anybody to attack. They probably haven’t heard that in 2008, police in Lodz, Poland, suspected a teenage boy of modifying an infra-red TV remote control and using it to operate signaling equipment, turning the city’s tram system into his own personal train set, after an incident in which four vehicles were derailed and 12 people injured.

Trains have systems that control the engine itself and a network supporting Wi-Fi and other passenger services. “People like to see where the train is, and see an estimated time of arrival,” said Andrew Ginter, vice president of Industrial Security at Waterfall Security Solutions. “It’s OK to see selected information from the control system in the passenger area, but we do not want passengers to have the ability to mess with the control system. We want nothing coming back from the passenger to affect the train.” It’s also important for the control centre to keep in touch with maintenance workers on the tracks, without fear of network security breaches.

“We are concerned about connections between control centre and the outside world,” he continued. “Because every connection permits data to flow in and out and consequently permits attacks. Look, but don’t touch. Looking at data is not dangerous. Control is what we want to secure. A unidirectional gateway allows people to watch without touching.”

Ginter has been quoted before saying that all software can be hacked, but he makes no apology for saying it again. “This is absolutely fundamental to the security of critical operational systems and everyone involved in protecting them from malicious attacks needs to understand this as a first principle of protection,” he said. “No-one writes perfect software. There are always weaknesses and vulnerabilities.”

Guidelines and regulations

There is a growing realisation in organisations that regulate critical industries that software systems do not deliver the security they need. The American Public Transportation Association has already indicated that the IT approach to cyber security cannot offer an effective solution. The APTA points out that “In today’s interconnected environment, it is conceivable and possible for someone acting remotely to access and modify a control system”.

The truth is that nobody can write software that someone else can’t hack, and that message is getting through to the authorities. In the UK, where four cyber attacks were recorded on the rail network in 2015/16, the industry is preparing itself to tackle cyber security as it embraces digital rail technology.

The inaugural Rail Cyber Security Summit was held in London in March this year and the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) subsequently released Rail Cyber Security – Guidance to Industry, which states clearly that signalling networks should be protected with unidirectional gateways and there should be a clear separation between enterprise and operational networks. The DfT is also engaged in an RSSB-led development of a cyber security strategy for the rail industry.

In France, the Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information (ANSSI) is responsible for the country’s digital security strategy. ANSSI classifies networks into three groups. Group 1 includes networks that are not vital to society and are, to put it bluntly, expendable. They use a washing machine manufacturer as an example. If someone hacks into the control system and disables a production line, it’s a bad day for the manufacturer but France will not fall. Customers can buy a machine from somewhere else.

Class 2 networks include sites important to society, like a power plant, a water purification system or a chemical plant, while class 3 is reserved for those where, if the network is compromised, there’s a serious risk that people could die. The example they use is railway switching systems.

While the IT approach is perfectly adequate for class 1 networks, with class 2 networks ANSSI discourages remote access and encourages the use of unidirectional gateways rather than firewalls. On class 3 networks, including railway switching systems, they forbid the use of firewalls to connect any class 3 network to a lower class network. They specifically use the word ‘forbid’, and they forbid remote access too. The only connection that’s allowed between a class 3 network and a lower class network is a unidirectional gateway. Firewalls can be used inside a class 3 network, to separate one part of the network from another for instance, but at the ‘trust boundary’, ANSSI forbids firewalls.

“This is where the industry’s going,” says Ginter. “Increasingly, guidance and regulations are talking about unidirectional gateways. And there are safety critical systems not only in control rooms but actually on the trains, on the moving equipment itself. We need to make sure that nobody can control our assets without authorisation or without physically being there in the control room,” he added. “Control is the issue. This is why people are deploying unidirectional gateways so they can monitor without losing control.”

The only way is out

The Unidirectional Security Gateway is the hallmark of Waterfall Security Solutions, a cyber security specialist that produces hardware-enforced security products to protect industrial control system networks. The Unidirectional Security Gateway is the hardware part of the solution. This is, literally, a physical gateway that allows data to flow out of an industrial control system, but allows nothing back in. In other words, the unit at the network perimeter has a transmitter, but not a receiver. The only way is out. “We claim 100 per cent protection against attacks from external networks,” said Ginter. “While there is no technology that can prevent absolutely all attacks, these silent, online, network-based attacks are the workhorse of cyber sabotage, and are the specific risk that comes with increased network connectivity. Our gateways eliminate that specific threat vector entirely.”

There are perfectly good reasons for networks to be interconnected. The Internet is everywhere. Everyone has a cell phone, so people will naturally want to use the ubiquitous medium we call the Internet to conduct important communications, especially in a system as physically widespread as a rail network that spans an entire continent. “The problem is that if you connect control systems out through firewalls, or even multiple layers of firewalls, those protections let messages out and always allow certain attacks back in,” said Ginter. “This is why the guidance and regulations are starting to talk about unidirectional gateways.

“We represent an evolutionary alternative to firewall technology,” he concluded. “Firewalls are network routers with filtering capabilities. They forward network traffic from one network to another. They try to determine if a message is allowed or not, and if they think it’s allowed they let it through. When they fail to recognise a bad message that gets through, too. Nothing gets past a unidirectional gateway.”

Written by Martin Ashcroft

If you’d like to receive a free copy of the book “SCADA Security: What’s Broken and How to Fix It” by Andrew Ginter, VP Industrial Security at Waterfall, click here.

This feature has been paid for by Waterfall Security Solutions

18 Jan 05:35

I assume the President-elect will want use my username for his official Tumblr account after Friday....

mkalus shared this story from Head Like an Orange.

I assume the President-elect will want use my username for his official Tumblr account after Friday. Any suggestions for a new name for me?

18 Jan 05:35

Evernote’s new iOS app puts speed and ease of use first

by Igor Bonifacic

Evernote today launched the latest iOS release of its popular note-taking app.

Now at version 8.0, the app features a new interface design that emphasizes speed and simplicity. The company reportedly “rebuilt” the app “from the ground up,” according to an Engadget interview with Evernote chief product officer Erik Wrobel.

Taking a page from the company’s own web client, the new app ditches the predominately green design of its most recent iteration for more of a traditional white look.

The most notable user experience change is that it’s now a lot faster to start jotting down text notes. Simply tapping the plus icon located at the bottom centre of the app’s main screen will quickly take users directly into a new text note. Holding down that same button allows one’s to create an audio, photo or reminder note. Flanking the centre plus button are icons that lead to the app’s notes, search, shortcuts and account functionality.

One new feature is a more robust formatting tool that allows users to change the colour of text.

The update comes after the company released — and then quickly stepped back from — a new privacy policy that would have allowed Evernote employees to read almost any note posted to the service. In his interview with Engadget, Evernote Chief Product Officer Erik Wrobel said the company will engage with users earlier to gauge whether a proposed change goes too far. He also indicated the company plans to consult with privacy and security experts in the future, though didn’t offer specifics on that aspect of the company’s future plans.

Evernote has yet to say when the updated interface will come to other devices. Users with both a personal and professional account now have an easier time of switching between the two.

Download the app from the source link below.

Source: iTunes App Store Via: Engadget

18 Jan 05:35

Former pro biker uses Siri to dial 911 after bursting a blood vessel

by Jessica Vomiero

Former pro biker Andrew Cho used Siri to dial 911 after bursting a blood vessel in his C3 and C4 vertebrae.

Over $69,000 has been raised for Cho as of Friday night at 5PM, after friends launched a crowdfunding campaign to help him “adjust to his new reality,” CTV news Vancouver reports. By Sunday morning, the total had reached $82,000.

Cho began feeling dizziness and numbness while out to dinner with his friends on January 6th, but collapsed face down after returning to his apartment early to rest.

Cho was paralyzed from the neck, down, but has regained some mobility on his right side. Friends believe that where Cho fell may have saved his live. His iPhone fell just 10 inches away from his body, making it possible for Cho to instruct Siri to dial 911.

The specifics behind the ruptured blood vessel are unknown to doctors at the moment, but regardless, Cho is in the process of relearning many basic movements

The family states that they’re “overwhelmed” with the outpouring of love and support they’ve received.

Source: CTV News

18 Jan 05:34

st-misanthropez: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop...

18 Jan 05:34

Running X11 apps in an rkt container

rkt is a container runtime I've been using on a few projects recently. I was creating a container for Mozart which uses emacs as an IDE. This requires running an X11 application within the container and have it displayed on the host display.

To get this working I needed to mount my hosts X11 unix domain socket inside the container and provide an Xauthority file that gave the container the rights to connect to the host X server.

The following shell commands use acbuild to create a container that runs xclock as an example of the process:

acbuild begin docker://ubuntu:16.04
acbuild set-name
acbuild run -- apt install --no-install-recommends --yes x11-apps
acbuild run -- rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*
acbuild environment add DISPLAY unix$DISPLAY
acbuild environment add XAUTHORITY /root/.Xauthority
acbuild mount add x11socket /tmp/.X11-unix
acbuild mount add x11auth /root/.Xauthority
acbuild set-exec xclock
acbuild write --overwrite xclock.aci
acbuild end

It uses an Ubuntu Linux image from the Docker hub as a base and installs x11-apps. To reduce disk space it removes cached package files afterwards. A DISPLAY environment variable is set to point to use the same DISPLAY as the host. The XAUTHORITY enviroment variable is set to point to a file in the home directory of the root user in the container.

The mount subcommands expose the x11socket and x11auth endpoints to point to where the X11 unix domain socket and the Xauthority file are expected to be. These will be provided by the rkt invocation to mount host resources in those locations.

The final part of the script sets the executable to be xclock and writes the aci file.

On the host side we need to create an Xauthority file that provides the container access to our X11 server. This file needs to be set so that any hostname can connect to the X11 server as the hostname for the container can change between invocations. To do this the authentication family in the file needs to be set to FamilyWild. I got the steps to do this from this stack overflow post:

xauth nlist :0 | sed -e 's/^..../ffff/' | xauth -f myauthority nmerge -

This will retrieve the Xauthority information for display :0 and modify the first four bytes to be ffff. This sets the authority family to FamilyWild. A new file called myauthority is created with this data. This file will be mapped to the x11auth mount point in the container.

The container can be executed with rkt:

rkt run --insecure-options=image xclock.aci \
        --volume x11socket,kind=host,source=/tmp/.X11-unix \
        --volume x11auth,kind=host,source=./myauthority

The --volume command line arguments map the mount points we defined in the acbuild commands to locations on the host. The running xclock application should now appear on the host X11 display.

18 Jan 05:34

Forderungen an Obama nach Begnadigung für Snowden und Manning (Update: Manning kommt frei)

by Constanze
mkalus shared this story from

barack obama

Foto: CC BY-NC 2.0 | SS&SS.

Bürgerrechtler hatten im September eine Initiative gestartet, um die Begnadigung von Edward Snowden zu erreichen. Nun übergaben sie US-Präsident Barack Obama die Unterschriften von mehr als einer Million Menschen, die einen Straferlass befürworten. Snowden soll in den Vereinigten Staaten wegen Verletzung des Espionage Acts angeklagt werden.

Die ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) hatte gemeinsam mit Amnesty International und Human Rights Watch zur Unterstützung aufgefordert. Nun konnten die Organisationen gemeinsam in einem Brief an Obama vermelden:

We are hereby delivering signatures from 1,101,252 people across the world who ask that you use your presidential authority to pardon Edward Snowden.

(Hiermit überbringen wir die Unterschriften von 1.101.252 Menschen von überall auf der Welt, die um die präsidiale Befugnis zur Begnadigung Edward Snowdens ersuchen.)

Amnesty International hat parallel auch eine Unterstützungskampagne ins Leben gerufen, die den Geflüchteten in Hongkong helfen soll, die Snowden bei seiner Flucht Beistand geleistet hatten.

Begnadigung für Chelsea Manning?

Chelsea Manning soll unterdessen auf einer sogenannten „short list“ stehen, die Menschen umfasst, die zur Begnadigung in Frage kommen, wie NBC News meldete. Manning sitzt eine 35-jährige Freiheitsstrafe für die Preisgabe von Regierungsgeheimnissen im Zusammenhang mit der Veröffentlichung von Diplomaten-Depeschen des US-amerikanischen Außenministeriums ab.

Soeben (Dienstagabend) wird auf allen Kanälen gemeldet, dass Chelsea Manning im Mai auf Geheiß von US-Präsident Obama entlassen wird. Auch in den deutschen Medien, wie hier in der FAZ, wird die gute Nachricht bereits weiterverbreitet, dass sie an 17. Mai eine freie Frau sein wird. :}

Unterstütze unsere Recherchen und Berichterstattung für Grundrechte und ein freies Internet durch eine Spende.

18 Jan 05:34

Amnesty-Bericht: Viele EU-Länder unterscheiden sich kaum noch von Überwachungsstaaten

by Markus Reuter
mkalus shared this story from

Viele europäische Länder befinden sich in einem Zustand der sicherheitspolitischen Aufrüstung. (Symbolbild). Foto: CC0 1.0 | Harri Kuakkanen.

Amnesty International hat die Auswirkungen von Anti-Terrorgesetzen auf die Grund- und Freiheitsrechte in 14 EU-Staaten analysiert. John Dalhuisen, Direktor für die Region Europa bei Amnesty International, kommt zu folgendem Fazit:

„Einzeln beleuchtet sind viele Antiterrormaßnahmen besorgniserregend. Betrachtet man sie zusammen, ergibt sich ein verstörendes Bild. Für unsere Gesellschaften lange selbstverständliche Rechte werden nun unkontrolliert massiv eingeschränkt“.

Der 70-seitige Bericht mit dem Titel „Dangerously disproportionate: The ever-expanding national security state in Europe“ betrachtet aus der Vogelperspektive in acht Kapiteln verschiedene Schwerpunkte wie Nostandsgesetze, Überwachung, Meinungsfreiheit oder Bewegungsfreiheit.

Schwellen für Notstandsgesetze gesenkt

In vielen Staaten seien die Schwellen drastisch gesenkt worden, um Not- und Ausnahmezustände zu erklären, in denen Sicherheitsbehörden weitgehende Einschränkungen der Grund- und Menschenrechte ohne ausreichende richterliche Kontrolle erlaubt werden, heißt es in der deutschen Zusammenfassung des Berichtes.

So könnten in Ungarn nach Ausrufen des Notstands nicht nur Versammlungs- und Bewegungsfreiheit stark eingeschränkt werden: Geltende Gesetze können einfach ausgesetzt und neue im Eilverfahren erlassen werden.

In Frankreich sei der Ausnahmezustand inzwischen fünf Mal verlängert worden, wodurch eine Reihe einschränkender Maßnahmen zum Standard wird, darunter Durchsuchungen ohne gerichtliche Genehmigung und das Verbot von Demonstrationen. So wurden die Notstandsgesetze auch als Begründung genutzt, um im Vorfeld der UN-Klimakonferenz Umweltschützer unter Hausarrest zu setzen.

Erweiterung von anlassloser Massenüberwachung

Viele EU-Länder unterschieden sich kaum noch von „Überwachungsstaaten“, indem sie Sicherheitsbehörden und Geheimdiensten weitreichende Befugnisse zur anlasslosen Massenüberwachung ohne die notwendige rechtsstaatliche richterliche Kontrolle einräumen, heißt es im Bericht.

So seien beispielsweise in Großbritannien, Frankreich, Deutschland, Polen, Ungarn, Österreich, Belgien und den Niederlanden Befugnisse zur Massenüberwachung erteilt beziehungsweise erweitert worden, die das anlasslose Abgreifen und den Zugang zu den Daten von Millionen von Menschen erlauben.

Polens neues Antiterrorgesetz räume den Behörden unverhältnismäßig weitreichende Machtbefugnisse ein, darunter diskriminierendes Vorgehen gegen ausländische Staatsangehörige. Es erlaubt die verdeckte Überwachung von ausländischen Staatsangehörigen über einen Zeitraum von drei Monaten, ohne dass eine gerichtliche Kontrolle erfolgt – einschließlich des Abhörens von Gesprächen, der Kontrolle elektronischer Kommunikation und der Überwachung der Telekommunikationsnetze.

In Großbritannien habe der Investigatory Powers Act verheerende Auswirkungen für die Privatsphäre und andere Menschenrechte im Land. An Deutschland kritisiert der Bericht vor allem das neue BND-Gesetz. Hier habe die Bundesregierung keine der Warnungen des UN-Sonderberichterstatters berücksichtigt.

Einschränkung von Versammlungsrecht und Bewegungsfreiheit

Zur Gefahrenabwehr schränkten Behörden zunehmend Rechte wie Bewegungsfreiheit, Versammlungsfreiheit oder Privatsphäre ein. In vielen Fällen werden Menschen mit Ausgangssperren oder Reiseverboten belegt oder müssen eine elektronische Fußfessel tragen. Die Anwendung solcher Kontrollmaßnahmen müsse stets verhältnismäßig und tatsächlich notwendig sein, sie dürfe erst nach einer richterlichen Prüfung und Anordnung erfolgen, fordert Amnesty International.

Besonders stark von diskriminierenden Maßnahmen betroffen seien Menschen muslimischen Glaubens und ausländische Staatsangehörige beziehungsweise Personen, die für solche gehalten werden. Diskriminierendes Handeln seitens der Staatsgewalt scheine vor dem Hintergrund der nationalen Sicherheit zunehmend als „akzeptabel“ angesehen zu werden.

Unterstütze unsere Recherchen und Berichterstattung für Grundrechte und ein freies Internet durch eine Spende.

18 Jan 05:33

Google Reportedly Bringing Android One to The U.S.

by Evan Selleck
Android One is Google’s effort at launching relatively inexpensive smartphones, which still have the full support of Google itself, as far as software updates are concerned. Continue reading →
18 Jan 05:33

Are We Not Reclaim?

by Reverend

I’ve been back in the US for the last week working on the Reclaim offices, and it’s been a lot of fun. The last two days the whole crew has been working together in the new diggs, and the vision of the office, co-working space, maker space, and 1980s video rental store is coming together nicely.

Tim and I did some work installing ceiling tiles, hooking up recessed lighting, painting paneling, and laying carpet tiles in a small back office while the major construction work continues in the main area. Considering we’re two web hosting sysadmins, it went pretty well and relatively fast. In fact, the room is almost done. I’ll save the before and after images for later this week when all the furniture is in and the final ceiling tiles are done. But in the meantime I wanted to share a quick action photo. 

The above shot was taken after painting, and the suit was a necessity given I didn’t have any throwaway painting clothes. It was also an homage to the Reclaim Hosting migration page art (which is an homage to Repo Man):

I also started calling the suit I was wearing a Devo Suit to pay respect to the awesome style sense to America’s greatest New Wave band from Akron, Ohio. I even put a Reclaim Hosting sticker on my heart in order to seize the marketing opportunity. After Tweeting the image, it came back to me as the best album cover I have seen in a very, very long time! Paul Bond is no joke, and he was even attentive enough to incorporate Booji Boy, a character created by the band and the name of their early independent label.

I never tire of the remix engine that is my Twitter community. Solid gold!

18 Jan 05:33

Führerscheine werden ungültig

by Udo Vetter
mkalus shared this story from law blog.

Ziemlich genau in einem Jahr kann es für die Fahrer von Klein-Lkw eine böse Überraschung geben. Ihr Führerschein ist dann möglicherweise nicht mehr gültig. Die Geltung der Fahrerlaubnisklassen C1 und C1E ist nachträglich auf fünf Jahre befristet worden. Und zwar rückwirkend ab dem 19. Januar 2013. Das bedeutet, nächstes Jahr im Januar werden die ersten Führerscheine ungültig, wenn sich die Inhaber nicht rechtzeitig um eine Verlängerung bemühen.

Grund für die nachträgliche Befristung ist nach Angaben der Bundesregierung ein Vertragsverletzungsverfahren, das die EU-Kommission gegen die Bundesrepublik eingeleitet hat. Um dem Verfahren den Wind aus den Segeln zu nehmen, ist die nachträgliche Befristung nun in Kraft getreten.

Betroffen sind zunächst alle Fahrerlaubnisse der Klassen C1 und C1E, die ab den 19. Januar 2013 erteilt wurden. Diese Fahrerlaubnisse gelten nur noch fünf Jahre ab Erteilung. Sie können verlängert werden. Hierfür müssen die Antragsteller aber eine Gesundheitsprüfung ablegen. Dabei wird unter anderem das Sehvermögen neu getestet.

Tückisch ist die Neuregelung vor allem für Inhaber von relativ neuen Fahrerlaubnissen (ausgestellt ab dem 19. Januar 2013), bei denen im Führerschein noch eine Befristung auf das 50. Lebensjahr eingetragen ist. Diese Befristung ist ab sofort nicht mehr gültig. Das bedeutet: Wer die Fahrerlaubnis länger als fünf Jahre hat und jünger als 50 Jahre alt ist, kann sich bei einer Kontrolle nicht darauf berufen, dass sein Führerschein ausweislich des Eintrags im Feld „Befristung“ bis zum 50. Lebensjahr gilt.

Vielmehr ruft das Verkehrsministerium Baden-Württemberg die Betroffenen konkret dazu auf, ihre Führerscheine umschreiben und an die neue Rechtslage anpassen zu lassen. Wer am Steuer erwischt werde, riskiere ein Strafverfahren.

Für ältere Fahrerlaubnisse ändert sich dagegen nichts. Ist die Fahrerlaubnis zwischen dem 1. Januar 1999 und dem 18. Januar 2013 erteilt worden, bleibt es bei der Befristung bis zur Vollendung des 50. Lebensjahres. Danach muss dann ebenfalls eine Gesundheitsprüfung abgelegt werden, aber das war bisher auch schon so.

Ebenfalls nicht betroffen sind Fahrerlaubnisse der alten Klasse 3 (erteilt vor dem 31. Dezember 1998). Für diese Fahrer gilt Bestandsschutz. Sie dürfen mit der Klasse C1 und C1E auch über das 50. Lebensjahr hinaus Klein-Lkw fahren, ohne eine Gesundheitsprüfung machen zu müssen.

Zu allem Überfluss ändert sich auch noch der Geltungsbereich „neuer“ Fahrerlaubnisse der Klassen C1, C1E, C und CE. Ab einem Gesamtgewicht von 3.500 kg dürfen keine Personen mehr befördert werden. Wer dies machen möchte, braucht künftig die Fahrerlaubnis Klasse D1 oder D1E. Aber auch hier gibt es wieder eine Ausnahme. Die Änderung gilt nicht für Wohnmobile, gepanzerte Limousinen und die Fahrzeuge von Polizei und Rettungskräften.

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18 Jan 05:33

So, You’re Starting a Design Studio?

by Eric Karjaluoto

The other day, the owner of a new design studio asked me for some advice, on Officehours. During our session, I shared some thoughts on what has worked—and hasn’t—over the past 17 years, at smashLAB. I later realized that others might also find this information useful. So, I’ve summarized the guts of our talk, in this blog post.

Here are my tips for what to consider when starting your new design company. Admittedly, others will hold different perspectives, but these are the best recommendations I can muster:

Figure out what you want to be

Agencies and studios seem alike, but are in fact vastly different. Before you start either, ask yourself how you’d like to spend your day. An agency will require you to focus on sales and management. If you’d rather do hands-on design, a studio might be a better fit for you. Alternately, you might want to develop your own products. Each of of these is a fine pursuit. However, it’s important to pick the one that suits your personality—or you might regret your choice.

Drum up some cash flow

Start by finding some steady work. One of the easiest ways to do this, is to offer to be someone’s off-site designer—I explain how to do so here. This is a low-pressure approach that’s easy to sell. In fact, if you’re leaving a regular job, you can offer this working arrangement to them, as a way to ease the transition. Once you have a little money coming in, you’ll breathe easier and your studio will feel more stable.

Keep your overhead low

The easiest way to reduce economic pressure isn’t to earn more—it’s to spend less. Don’t rent an office; it’s costly and unnecessary. Work from home to save yourself the lease payments, commuting, furnishings, and other expenses. Even more important: Avoid hiring people until absolutely necessary. Payroll will bankrupt you faster than you realize. Instead, find good people to partner with, and work together. This is more fun, easier to administer, and affords you a lot of flexibility.

Buy good tools (once)

You don’t need many objects when you start a design business. That said, you’ll require a few essentials (i.e., a chair, computer, and desk). Some things, like the desk, you can do on the cheap. I recommend spending a little more on the other items, though. A basic Aeron chair is nice on long work days, and holds its value surprisingly well. Similarly, a good laptop allows you to work from anywhere. You don’t need the top of the line for these sorts of items, but I doubt you’ll regret buying sturdy tools.

Work in your business—not on it

A design studio isn’t an assembly line business. As such, the approaches used in building one or the other aren’t necessarily transferable. Early on in our business, someone told me to, “work on our business—not in it.” This amounted to creating systems, so we could hand work off to others. Following that advice led us to do a lot of things prematurely. Systems are great. As a small design shop, though, you should mostly concentrate on securing even cash flow and doing good work—not imagining how to turn your studio into a franchise.

Worry not about your website

Designers tend to overvalue their websites—and obsess over their shortcomings. Most clients, though, don’t know the difference—or even care. A single page website with a bit of information about your studio, and some (preferably notable) client logos will often suffice.

Bypass all the self-promotion

The act of promotion might seem useful, but can easily overtake your efforts. This is a common trap that pits your ego against you. Write if you like to write, and speak at conferences if you want to meet some nice people—but don’t confuse either as a means of keeping your studio healthy. Awards afford an even lower yield—and are costly in both prep time and entry fees. I suggest avoiding these altogether. There’s a better way to find new work.

Go for lunch

This is the single best piece of business advice I can share with you: meet with people. Lunch is a great way to keep in touch, strengthen friendships, and sometimes be in the right place at the right time. At our studio, we stumbled into more (and often substantial) new work, just by sitting down with past/prospective clients over a burger and fries.

Obsess over results for your clients—not your portfolio

Every time you split your focus, you make your job harder. Early on at smashLAB I wanted us to: Produce good design; Make our clients happy; Be financially sound; Push the medium in innovative ways; And, win design awards. While all of those can happen, these desires can overlap and create conflicts. For that reason, I urge you to focus on making your clients happy. If you do that one thing, you’ll be OK—and some of those other things might happen as well.

Have a side project

Making clients happy sometimes means making design changes that will leave you dissatisfied with what you produced. In worst case scenarios, you can’t even show this work, because it’s so clumsy. Such discomfort is lessened by having something of your own to work on—that affords you complete autonomy. Whether it’s an app, resource, or whatever, pick a side project that you alone own. Then set aside time during which you can work on this.

Be easy to hire

I have a friend who’s smart and well qualified, but he can’t find steady work. My hunch is that no one hires him because he makes the process unnecessarily difficult. He complains about their HR software. He questions whether their interest is legitimate. He gets frustrated when the process carries on. Don’t fall into this trap. Make it easy for clients to try you out, see how you work, and get comfortable. If you’re not sure how to do this, I urge you to read this article.

Enjoy the ride

I rush a lot. In turn, I miss out on some good times. Lately, I’m finding ways to take my time—and have a bit more fun. Running a design studio is involving, but it needn’t be stressful or approached like a race. Instead, structure your business so it helps you live the life you want.

Admittedly, this is an incomplete list. As such, I might return to it and add other notes as they come to mind. In the meanwhile, if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them. Book me on Officehours, and I’ll lend a hand.