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26 Jul 00:00

Higher Education: Access Denied

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Graham Brown-Martin, Medium, Jul 29, 2015


This is a small thing, but illustrative: the correct expression is "struck a chord", not "struck a cord". Why does that even matter? The former shows that you understand what the words mean, while the latter shows that you are parroting by rote. And this - not "a vested interest in maintaining an intellectual hegemony" - is what the three or four years of an undergraduate education is intended to produce. These minor differences in expression and presentation (citing people by their first name, use of generalizations like, "no interest in transformation", out-of-place employment of cliché s like "wax lyrical") are very obvious to a person with a formal education and invisible to a person without one. The result is the difference between learning on one's own, and learning through immersion in a knowing community, the difference between remembering what words mean and being able to speak a language. I have nothing but sympathy for Graham Brown-Martin, but it's hard, especially if it wasn't part of your early life, and you can't learn to speak a language by reading books. This - and not just a bunch of stuff to remember - is what needs to be produced by online learning.

[Link] [Comment]
26 Jul 15:03

A Couple of Passages on Disintermediation

by Eugene Wallingford

"Disintermediation" is just a fancy word for getting other people out of the space between the people who create things and the people who read or listen to those things.

1. In What If Authors Were Paid Every Time Someone Turned a Page?, Peter Wayner writes:

One latter-day Medici posted a review of my (short) book on Amazon complaining that even 99 cents was too expensive for what was just a "blog post". I've often wondered if he was writing that comment in a Starbucks, sipping a $6 cup of coffee that took two minutes to prepare.

Even in the flatter world of ebooks, Amazon has the power to shape the interactions of creators and consumers and to influence strongly who makes money and what kind of books we read.

2. Late last year, Steve Albini spoke on the surprisingly sturdy state of the music industry:

So there's no reason to insist that other obsolete bureaux and offices of the lapsed era be brought along into the new one. The music industry has shrunk. In shrinking it has rung out the middle, leaving the bands and the audiences to work out their relationship from the ends. I see this as both healthy and exciting. If we've learned anything over the past 30 years it's that left to its own devices bands and their audiences can get along fine: the bands can figure out how to get their music out in front of an audience and the audience will figure out how to reward them.

Most of the authors and bands who aren't making a lot of money these days weren't making a lot of money -- or any money at all -- in the old days, either. They had few effective ways to distribute their writings or their music.

Yes, there are still people in between bands and their fans, and writers and their readers, but Albini reminds us how much things have improved for creators and audiences alike. I especially like his takedown of the common lament, "We need to figure out how to make this work for everyone." That sentence has always struck me as the reactionary sentiment of middlemen who no longer control the space between creators and audiences and thus no longer get their cut of the transaction.

I still think often about what this means for universities. We need to figure out how to make this internet thing work for everyone...

26 Jul 17:06

Review: Hudway projects your phone’s screen to your car windshield

by Ted Kritsonis

If there’s one way to avoid texting while driving, it may be by laying your smartphone face up on the dashboard and getting navigation instructions from the screen’s reflection.

This is the premise behind Hudway, an app designed to help drivers stay on course in conditions like rain, fog, heavy snow or total darkness. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350 people die every single day worldwide due to low visibility conditions while driving. It’s not clear how many of those hail from Russia, where the app’s developers reside, but poor visibility isn’t hard to imagine in that country’s expanse and climate.

Canada has similar conditions, making Hudway an interesting option that is less a standard navigation map, and more a unique tool that keeps eyes on the road and hands off the phone.

Setup

Mapping apps have come a long way in a short time, with crowdsourcing, live traffic data and deeper integration all helping them evolve into more than just a series of lines on a flat map. Hudway is a heads-up display (HUD) based on mapped route, similar to how some newer vehicles have HUDs that project both the speedometer and basic navigation instructions in the driver’s field of view on the windshield.

Hudway takes that premise in a low-tech, practical form, and applies it in a way that can be universal to any car or truck. The app has a free tier and a paid one. The difference between them is there are no ads, and a customized road view highlights dangerous turns, including a voice assistant that alerts you to a dangerous curve ahead.

To sign up is $3.49 for one year or $9.99 for life.

Mapping data can be manually pointed to use Apple Maps, Google Maps or Open Street Map, though it defaults to either of the first two on the list, depending on iOS or Android. A data connection isn’t always required to make use of them on Hudway. I did need one to build a route, but not to follow it. Hudway can also store routes for later use, which can be especially useful for the countryside at night, where spotty connections can affect a map’s performance.

Once a route is confirmed, the app alters into its HUD state with a drawer of settings to adjust, like inverting the screen or turning off voice assistant, for instance. It’s not the prettiest of UIs, but it gets the job done.

Hudway screens_1

Performance

The simplicity of the HUD is entirely by design. It’s not meant to be busy or cluttered with miscellaneous information, like points of interest or traffic information, because its main purpose is to navigate through tougher conditions. Chances are, drivers would be more focused on simply getting to a destination without a calamitous scenario, not looking at where the nearest Chinese restaurant is.

I first tried this with an iPhone 6 Plus, laying it down on my car dash, reflecting the HUD within my field of view on the windshield. Despite a shadow effect that initially looked off-putting, I settled in nicely and found the reflection to blend in well without distracting me from driving. Naturally, the darker the environment I drove in, the better the reflection, though screen brightness can play a role here, too.

By adjusting the brightness within Hudway, I could choose a level that worked for any given situation. A heavy rainfall with dark overcast required a brighter screen then, say, a jaunt through a dark road heading north of Toronto. Changing it on the fly isn’t advisable unless a passenger is doing it, but in most cases, you won’t need to unless you’re just starting out or you happen to be in two low-visibility situations on the same route.

With the Pro features enabled, tough curves or turns are coloured red and the voice assistant indicates that they’re coming up well in advance, including the distance. It’s unclear to me if it interprets a tight turn on a road where it would otherwise not be dangerous under normal conditions. Hudway doesn’t appear to know what the weather conditions are at that moment, so it only highlights the turns that are potential hazards, no matter what’s happening outside.

The impractical element in Hudway is the smartphone itself. Without a proper mount to hold it onto the dash, the device is prone to sliding around, affecting the orientation of the HUD. It seems the developers have recognized this very obvious issue and are apparently working on a new product called Hudway Glass. With a mount and tinted reflective glass that flips up, the Glass could be used at all times of the day, even in bright sunshine.

Announced earlier this year, the device is available for pre-order for $49 US and will ship globally, so we can only assume that also includes Canada.

Wrap up

The Glass makes a lot of sense as the natural evolution of what Hudway is trying to do here. The idea is sound, and I liked that it forced me to keep my hands off my phone while on the road, but I also felt compelled to plug it in to charge. Using CarPlay with the iPhone also demanded that I have it plugged in. This led to a cable snaking over the steering console and onto the dash — neither practical nor aesthetic.

The lack of a constant data connection and simplistic interface does help take less battery life, except screen brightness can be a drainer in its own right. Even so, Hudway isn’t necessarily designed to be an everyday navigation app (one could argue that the winter changes that), but rather a specialty navigation app that helps drivers focus in conditions that require greater attention.

Systems similar to this cost a lot of money at the dealership for new vehicles, and Hudway does stand out as a handy alternative — at least when the phone isn’t slipping and sliding.

26 Jul 18:48

Phones In An Imagination-Starved World

by randall

In my "Why Smart Phones Aren't" series (1), I had expressed my hope that I would actually see a phone that is truly smart in my lifetime.

I challenged people to re-think what a phone should be and recommended that as a prime directive a phone should be "Respectful to its owner first."

Seems that I and Joe Liau are not the only two voices in the forest here. Bunnie Huang has weighed in with an excellent video along a similar theme.

Though the video is not about Ubuntu Phone (2), it should be. The Ubuntu Phone has begun to change the world, but we still have a ways to go. Perhaps spreading the idea that current market-leading phones are a "waste of life" will help.

Let's continue to disrupt an industry that has needed a good shake for at least a decade. Spreading this information helps.

---

(1): http://randall.executiv.es/missing-the-point

(2): http://www.ubuntu.com/phone

26 Jul 20:32

Automatic switching between viewfinder/LCD screen on Sony RX100m3 not working? Try this.

by Tom

I recently had a problem with my Sony RX100 mk3: it wouldn’t automatically swap between displaying in the viewfinder and on the LCD.

If turned on with the viewfinder extended, the viewfinder alone would work; if turned on with the viewfinder shut, the LCD would work. But if the viewfinder was on, raising and lowering it to my eye wouldn’t swap between the two. I spent a while faffing with this, convinced it was broken, and failing to find anything on the internet to discuss this.

Anyhow, then I found this video which explains the problem, and takes a full two minutes to get to the point. So I’m re-iterating that point, in writing, for everybody using a search engine!

Long story short: if you’d guessed that the sensor that detects when it to your eye is playing up, possibly, because of dirt, you’re entirely right. What you might not have worked out is where that sensor is.

It’s here:

Sony eye sensor

It’s not in the viewfinder; it’s to the right of it, on the lip above the LCD. Mine didn’t look dirty, but I wiped it down a few times and sure enough, everything worked fine again. Problem solved, and one of the most useful features of this little camera worked properly again.

24 Jul 15:28

“You don’t get automobiles unless you first have bikes.”

by pricetags
The New York Times reports on a Smithsonian exhibition:

The Bicycle and the Ride to Modern America

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The end-of-the-century bicycle craze also greased the gears of industrial genius, as manufacturers here and abroad scrambled to devise new ways to speed up and standardize production, to lighten the bicycle frame without compromising its strength, and to make the ride cushier through the addition of a radical new invention, the pneumatic tire.

The full-bore bicycle fever was brief, and by the early 20th century it had given way to fascination with the automobile. Yet, as a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History makes clear, the impact of the bicycle on the nation’s industrial, cultural, emotional and even moral landscape has been deep and long lasting. …

Bicycles also gave birth to our national highway system, as cyclists outside major cities grew weary of rutted mud paths and began lobbying for the construction of paved roads. The car connection goes further still: Many of the bicycle repair shops that sprang up to service the wheeling masses were later converted to automobile filling stations, and a number of pioneers in the auto industry, including Henry Ford and Charles Duryea, started out as bicycle mechanics. So, too, did the Wright brothers. …

“The pre-story is so important,” said Eric S. Hintz, a historian with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “You don’t get automobiles unless you first have bikes.” …

“Myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world,” wrote Frances Willard, a founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As women took to the activity, they quickly realized that long skirts were a tangling hazard and that corsets compromised their aerobic capacity. Some began wearing split skirts or bloomers and loosened tops, while others shortened their hems.

Bicycles allowed young men and women to tool around the countryside unsupervised, and relationships between the sexes grew more casual and spontaneous. With a bicycle at her disposal, a young woman could also venture forth in search of work.

Small wonder that Susan B. Anthony said of cycling, “I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.”

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Bike history


24 Jul 15:50

The Daily Durning: “What’s the Matter with San Francisco”

by pricetags
SPUR president Gabriel Metcalf stirs the pot on CityLab: “The city’s devastating affordability crisis has an unlikely villain—its famed progressive politics.”
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The quirky, counter-cultural San Francisco so many of us fell in love with is almost gone now, destroyed by high housing costs. We’ve lost not only the politics, but all kinds of cultural experimentation that just doesn’t thrive in places that are expensive.

… progressive San Francisco had a fatal, Shakespearean flaw that would prove to be its undoing: It decided early on to be against new buildings. It decided that new development, with the exception of publicly subsidized affordable housing, was not welcome. …

When more people want to live in a city, it drives up the cost of housing—unless a commensurate amount of places to live are added. By the early 1990s it was clear that San Francisco had a fateful choice to make: Reverse course on its development attitudes, or watch America’s rekindled desire for city life overwhelm the openness and diversity that had made the city so special.

sfWhen San Francisco should have been building at least 5,000 new housing units a year to deal with the growing demand to live here, it instead averaged only about 1,500 a year over the course of several decades. In a world where we have the ability to control the supply of housing locally, but people still have the freedom to move where they want, all of this has played out in predictable ways. …

Over time, many of Silicon Valley’s workers have come to call San Francisco home. Moreover, in contrast to New York, San Francisco does not have a massive network of regional public transit connecting hundreds of different high-density, walkable communities to the city. In fact, neighborhoods that foster urban life and convenience are tremendously scarce in the Bay Area. All of this means the pressure on San Francisco has proven to be even greater than other cities in the country. …

Instead of forming a pro-growth coalition with business and labor, most of the San Francisco Left made an enduring alliance with home-owning NIMBYs. It became one of the peculiar features of San Francisco that exclusionary housing politics got labeled “progressive.” …

As the city got more and more expensive, progressive housing policy shifted gradually to a sad, rearguard movement to protect the people already here from being displaced. No longer would San Francisco even try to remain open as a refuge for immigrants and radicals from around the world. The San Francisco Left could never come to terms with its central contradiction of being against the creation of more “places” that would give new people the chance to live in the city. Once San Francisco was no longer open to freaks and dissidents, immigrants and refugees, because it was deemed to be “full,” it could no longer fulfill its progressive values, could no longer do anything for the people who weren’t already here.

Let me say very clearly here that making it possible to add large amounts of housing supply in San Francisco would never have been enough by itself. A comprehensive agenda for affordability requires additional investments in subsidies for affordable housing. …  A regional solution, in which all cities do their part to accommodate regional population growth, would be far more effective than trying to solve our affordability problems inside the boundaries of a handful of cities. …

I still have a lot of sympathy for many of their aims. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse anti-growth politics in San Francisco of being just a screen for homeowner interests. (Although I have certainly had neighborhood activists proudly tell me they oppose development in order to maintain the high values of their homes). I think the progressive anti-growth sentiment is earnest; it’s people honestly trying to protect their city from unwanted change. It just happens to have backfired.

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Complete article here, with lots of comments.

24 Jul 16:05

Listen to Brad Feld and Don't Fake the Language!

by Halley Suitt Tucker
Brad Feld's recent post on Feld Thoughts about "Don't Fake the Language" is so true.  In any business, slinging the slang around always makes you sound silly.  Some of the smartest people I've met (including Brad) can explain things in very simple language.  They don't need to go all buzzwordy on you as he notes in his post.
Today, there are hundreds of words that people throw around in the context of their startups. Many, like traction, are completely meaningless. If you need a dose of some of the language, just watch a few episodes of Silicon Valley.
I’ve noticed something recently. For founders outside Silicon Valley, and even plenty within Silicon Valley, the language seems forced. Fake. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Words are used incorrectly. They are strung together in meaningless sentences. They are used to obscure reality or try to avoid the meat of a question. 

24 Jul 16:37

Op-ed: Why the referendum defeat was a good thing

by pricetags
As Gabriel Metcalf notes in the post below, “San Francisco does not have a massive network of regional public transit connecting hundreds of different high-density, walkable communities to the city.”  So those who can afford it cluster in San Francisco.

Does the decisive No vote in the referendum mean the end of our regional vision – one that aimed to provide a rapid-transit network joining regional town centres so that it would be possible to live in dense, walkable communities throughout Metro while having fast access to other centres across the region, especially for jobs?

Elizabeth Murphy in a Sun op-ed argues that the defeat of the referendum was a good thing because it meant the rejection of that regional vision.

Opinion: Transit plebiscite vote was a rejection of TransLink’s plan

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The 62 per cent No vote result in the transit plebiscite was not simply a rejection of the sales tax or a renunciation of TransLink; it was, more important, a rejection of the plan generally. …

The plan was also rejected in Vancouver. Although it had the biggest ticket item, the Broadway subway, putting most of the resources into only one corridor, with the huge tower development that would follow, is a mistaken direction that needs to be reconsidered.

Rather than a few mega-project corridors, we need to look at the transit network as a whole. If the transit resources were more broadly distributed using more affordable technology, benefits would be achieved throughout the region. …

Improving service on all arterial routes would achieve much broader benefits at a significantly lower cost. The most cost-effective electric technology is the trolley bus. Most of the infrastructure exists already in the city. It could be expanded and improved as a clean, quiet transit system. Some areas would also support streetcars since the city was originally designed for streetcars.

Perhaps it is time to ensure there is enough electric transit capacity to support what we already have zoned rather than planning for more development than is sustainable.

Full op-ed here.

So, no more upzoning, no more density – certainly no more towers in Vancouver.  No more rapid-transit lines, especially along Broadway – just more trolleys.  And for the region, the old interurban lines – upscaled versions of the trolleybus along abandoned rights-of-way.

Prediction: Vancouver becomes a disconnected island of super-affluence, the population pressures are shifted to the suburbs, along with the traffic congestion and overcrowding on the transit system.  Jobs continue to cluster in downtown, along Broadway and at UBC, without sufficient transportation capacity to serve them.  There is no regional consensus, or funding.   Nor a willingness of west-side neighbourhoods to rezone, not even for the Jericho lands.

And so long as there has to be a plebiscite for any new transit funding in the region, no change in the status quo.


23 Jul 07:00

Tech Talks - A Peek Into iOS Engineering at Square

by Shuvo Chatterjee / @shuvster

During the week of WWDC, we hosted a tech talk to share some of the things we’re doing at Square in iOS engineering. We enjoyed getting to chat with so many of you. For those who weren’t able to attend (or would like to relive the tech talks), we recorded the event and uploaded the videos to YouTube.

We have a playlist of all the talks. We’ve also broken out the individual talks:

The History of Square (Jack Dorsey)
Introduction and Welcome (Shuvo Chatterjee)
Scaling Square Register (Kyle Van Essen)
CocoaPods at Square (Brian Partridge)
Preventing Massive View Controllers (Alan Fineberg)
iOS Build & Test Infrastructure (Michael Tauraso)
Dependency Injection in iOS (Eric Firestone)
Custom Morph Transitions (Shawn Welch)
Q&A

We’re excited to share these videos with you, and as always, we welcome your feedback. Find us at @SquareEng.

24 Jul 17:22

Local news

by russell davies

UPDATE: They fixed it and apologise. Thanks Alex.

@undermanager Apologies, must have missed you asking about credit. Bit late but done now: http://t.co/ShzMeJwGDj. Sorry again.

— Alex Hibbert-MEN (@alexghibbert) July 25, 2015

-----------------------------------------------

The other week Alex Hibbert of the Manchester Evening News asked me this:

@undermanager Hi Russell, is it possible that I use some pics you took of Abergeldie Cafe for a story for @MENnewsdesk, with credit? Thanks

— Alex Hibbert-MEN (@alexghibbert) July 16, 2015

Fair enough. I thought, why not? A credit is always nice. And you hear so many stories about media owners just using pictures without credit or anything, it's nice when they ask.

It's not like many other people are looking at my old EBCB posts

@alexghibbert Sure. Thanks for asking.

— russell davies (@undermanager) July 16, 2015

A few days later I remembered this and looked at the story they wrote.

No credit that I can see.

I asked about that (and I even gave them another link):

So what happened to the credit? Am I missing it somewhere?@alexghibbert @MENnewsdesk http://t.co/xyndWogYA4

— russell davies (@undermanager) July 19, 2015

No response. Nothing.

It's not a massive deal, obviously. But you know, disappointing.

24 Jul 14:16

New Parkdale Bicycle Shop

by dandy

Jangchue (George) Dorjee; Owner of Parkdale Bicycle Shop. Photos by Tammy Thorne.

Cyclists of Parkdale Village get ready to be tuned up!

Story by Evan Morrison

Parkdale Bicycle Shop is now open and ready to meet the needs of west-end cyclists.

George Dorjee opened the doors to Parkdale Bicycle Shop early February 2015 to combine his love of cycling with his desire to be his own boss.

“I’ve always wanted to open up a store.” George says the final push was the threat of yet another wintertime round of lay-offs, so he thought he’d give it a go and employ himself full-time.

Parkdale Bicycle Shop is located at 10 Macdonell Ave., just north of Queen Street West and just a bit west of Lansdowne. The store itself is a small: What you see is what you get, but is still ready to cater to every cyclist’s needs. From tune-ups, to new bike parts to full bike builds and new bikes, Parkdale Bike Shop can do it. George says he thinks his shop “is probably the smallest bike shop I’ve ever been to in Toronto.” George himself has been professionally fixing bikes for about six years, but says he’s been doing tune-ups and repairs on his own bike for the last 15 years. He is also one of many Torontonians who believes that bicycling infrastructure is in need of some vast improvement in this town.

“It’s like beating a dead horse,” he said. “A lot of the bike lanes in Toronto are disjointed  especially downtown.”

George says he thinks there should be bike lanes along Queen Street as well as more parking spots for cyclists. Parkdale Bike Shop is the latest installment in a line of a few new bike shop and rental locations in the Parkdale area that are contributing to a growing cycling community in the ‘dale. (Bike Pirates recently moved to Parkdale and MOJO on Queen West West reopened when the previous owner’s son decided to keep his father’s legacy going.)

Parkdalians now have the bike shops, they’ve certainly got the cyclists, now all they need are the bike lanes.

Parkdale Bicycle Shop at 10 Macdonell Ave. is open weekdays and  Saturdays 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sundays  10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is closed Tuesdays.

Contact: 416 537 – 1359

Related on the dandyBLOG: 

The Making of the Mennonite Mechanic Story

dandyhorse July Newsletter 

Art Spin Bicycle Art Tour July 23

 

 

24 Jul 16:33

Quick followup re GMail problem

On Wednesday I wrote about a problem I've been seeing with GMail, or so I thought. Messages that I knew I must be getting were not showing up in any of my mailboxes in GMail. But when I searched for them, they would show up.

I heard from other people who had seen the same behavior.

And I heard from two people from Google who work on GMail, who asked all the right questions. And gave me really detailed instructions on how to help them debug this.

What they turned up is that the message I gave them the ID of had been classified as spam by Apple software running on one of my machines. I thought this couldn't be, I never use the Apple mail client. I only access my email from the web interface.

But then I realized that's not true. I've given Apple all the info it needs to log onto my mail account from all of my iOS devices. Yet the Google people say the connection came from a Mac. They see it in their logs (which is amazing given how much email they must process).

Anyway, I accept what they say and wanted to pass it on. Our email systems are more complex than we realize. They were certainly more complex than I was thinking.

At this point the problem isn't solved, but I'm not sure what to look at next. Thinking about it.

But wait, there's more!

I got a fairly detailed howto from one of the Google guys, Brad Town.

He says: If you haven't given any Macs access to your Gmail account, then I think one of the following is true:

  1. You've given access to a Mac but didn't realize that it'd also access Gmail. (For example, if you linked Gmail's Calendar or Contacts in OS X, it may also enable Gmail access.)

  2. Our identification of the issue (OS and client version, etc.) is wrong.

  3. Someone else is accessing your account.

And then goes on to recommend, in great (useful!) detail how to proceed.

The best advice he offered is to assume #3 is true, and proceed from there. I don't actually think it's true, but it seems to have had good results.

What I did

I went through Google's suggested security process. They showed me a list of machines that had been either accessing my account, or had tried to, but were deemed not secure enough by Google, and denied. I had seen reports of the denials before. They usually happen when I'm watching Jeopardy, or Law & Order, my two prime goof-off shows. The requests come from my IP address, so I don't think it's a hacker trying to get in, it's got to be one of my menagerie of computers.

I changed my password

Then I sucked in my breath, and

  1. Changed my password.

  2. Deleted all the access to services and machines that weren't from Google. That meant telling LinkedIn they couldn't check my contacts (why had I ever given them permission to do that, weird) and shutting off my two iPads and my iPhone. Apple was no longer a possible source of the missing messages.

One quick result is that things quieted down around here. When a mail message would come in, each of my devices would take turns singing, including my Apple Watch which informed me haptically and audibly of the new message. It's nice that this change got them to STFU. And I still have an Android device for portable access to my Google accounts.

Then I sat down at the desktop machine, a big screen iMac, and don't you know, there's a notice in the upper right corner from Apple about my password, here have a look.

Well well well, that's a smoking gun. The Mac OS wants to know why it can't read my email. And I thought no way any of my Macs were getting access to my mail. Clearly they had access, and they want it back.

Now I'm going to click on the Continue button and see where it takes me.

To System Preferences, Internet Accounts, Google.

I have no recollection of ever telling my Mac about this account, nor did I have or any reason to. I don't use their desktop apps for these functions. I'm strictly a web guy. My guess is that when I set up my iPhone to access the account, it shared the information with my Mac without telling me. And further, the Mac has a spam filter (this is just a theory) and this is where the mail deletions were happening.

Caught in the act

I actually saw an email get deleted this afternoon. It was an offer to let me test a product. The message showed up in the Notifications on both my iPhone and Android phone. When I picked up one of them, I literally saw the notification disappear. When I went to the mail app on the Android phone, the message was not there. Nor was it in the GMail web interface.

I searched for it in GMail, as I did with the earlier lost message, and it was there.

This happened before I changed my password. Hasn't happened since.

BTW, this message was borderline spam. GMail didn't think it was. I often get messages like this, and I don't complain. I like to know what free hardware I can have. I almost never ask for a test unit though.

Visions of the TSR wars

This whole thing is freaking me out. I thought my Mac was sacred space, not touched by all the control freakery of the iPhone. But I shouldn't have been so naive. Apple has been pushing their cloud services on the Mac for a long time, and I think I relented last time I set up a Mac, or maybe the defaults were different, or the messages better phrased to make me go ahead and try it. They were never very clear about what these services do. I bet this is one of the things they did.

Could it possibly be that Apple doesn't like the fact that I use GMail? Could this be marketing? A feature, not a bug? How did I get sucked into this! I'm a web mail user, very deliberately. I wanted to stay out of this mess.

You're almost certainly too young to remember the TSR Wars of 1986 and 1987. I was a participant. Our competitor would see that we had installed interrupt handlers to catch our magic key, and they would de-install them, basically killing our app. So we had to learn to watch for this, and put ourselves back. This mail situation feels a bit like that. We absolutely need to control email. It shouldn't be up for grabs. This is not user generated content. And by the way -- I pay for my Mac hardware. This is not a case where if you don't pay for it you are the product. I pay.

PS: I tried looking up TSR Wars on Google. They're convinced I meant Star Wars.

PPS: TSR is an acronym for Terminate and Stay Resident.

PPPS: A Hacker News thread on this post.

24 Jul 16:42

MyWord Editor gets more beautiful

Remember MyWord Editor, the silo-free text editing program in JavaScript?

Last time I wrote about it, it was only 1/2 Medium. It could store stuff using your Twitter identity, and publish beautiful documents, but the editor was just plain old HTML forms. Not very beautiful to anyone but its creator.

Then in May I tripped over a project on GitHub, called medium-editor, that promised to take care of the beauty part of it. I just had to figure out how to replace the plain Jane editor with the nice one. It took a couple of approaches to figure it out, and now it's working. Couldn't be happier.

We're much closer now to having a fully open source silo-free way to publish single-page documents to the web in a way that's reasonably future-safe.

It's quite a stack

  1. The editor is a JavaScript app running in the browser. Open source, MIT license.

  2. It talks to a nodeStorage server, which implements storage and identity.

  3. Which in turn talks to Twitter API to handle identity.

  4. Storage is on Amazon S3.

  5. The API is documented in source, hopefully soon a wiki.

Welcome

The medium-editor guys are great. And they've got quite a nice bit of uptake. They were very helpful when I had questions, even though they didn't know what I was working on.

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24 Jul 18:07

Copenhagen 5: A Cosy Place on the Rainbow Square

by pricetags
We’ve reached the west end of Strøget, arriving at the Rådhuspladsen – the City Hall Square (map here).  One of the great gathering and protest places for Copenhagen – the hole, by contrast, in Vancouver’s fabric.
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City Hall Map
 Click to enlarge.
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To our left, City Hall itself – started in 1892, finished in 1905,  designed in what the Dane’s call their National Romantic Style (which says something about what the Dane’s consider romantic).  To its right, the more wonderful Palace Hotel from 1910, northern art nouveau, with its complementary tower.
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To the right, behind hoardings, the construction of another station for the Metro Circle Line.  Straight ahead, behind the Dragon Fountain, the glass facade of the massive DI building – home to Denmark’s industrial leaders.
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Behind it, the entrance to Tivoli Gardens.  But it’s late afternoon.  Time for a beer.
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And fortunately, there’s a nice place nearby at the southeast end of the plaza.  Only this corner has its own name: Regnbuepladsen – or Rainbow Square, renamed by City Council in February 2014 in celebration of equal rights.
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Oscar Bar Cafe, appropriately, is one of the most popular gay hangouts in the city (straights welcome) – spilling on to the plaza with chairs, tables, and blankets if you need them.  Cosy, just as the Danes like it.  And inside, no smoking.  (It is one of the curiosities of Denmark, at least from a Vancouverite’s point of view, that they even allow smoking in bars of a certain size – and a surprising number of Danes seem to light up everywhere.  This is one area where the welfare state seems reluctant to regulate.)
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No railings or ropes separate the drinkers from the vulnerable – just a few planters.  Yet civilization survives.  The problem for Vancouver, separate from over-regulation, is the lack of such spaces on which to spill.  Our tight grid and narrow sidewalks preclude such informality, save for some separated patios in unique places like Yaletown.
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But an opportunity has arisen.  Council has just approved the closure of a block at Bute south of Davie for the creation of Jim Deva Plaza – and design is underway.  Looks like an opportunity to become a little more Copenhagenish.
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24 Jul 15:47

Special Edition – Q2 15 Results – AMZN / GOOG / MSFT / AAPL / YHOO

by windsorr

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Amazon and Google star while Yahoo! fails to understudy.

Amazon – Profits can be us

  • Amazon reported results that surprised the market as the company has finally started showing some profits.
  • Q2 15A revenues / EPS was $23.2bn / $0.19 which was significantly ahead of consensus at $22.4bn / LOSS $0.14.
  • The real driver was North America which posted 5.1% EBIT margins in Q2 15A compared to 3.9% in Q1 15A.
  • The overseas business also played a part as EBIT margins improved to LOSS 0.3% in Q2 15A from LOSS 1.0% in Q1 15A.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) also contributed well with 81% growth to $1.82bn in revenues upon which Amazon earned $391m or 21.4% EBIT margins.
  • Active accounts also grew to 285m while Amazon Prime continued to see good growth where RFM estimates that Amazon is closing in on 35m users.
  • However, much of this good work looks like it will be undone in Q3 15E where Amazon expects revenues / EBIT to be $23.3bn – $25.5bn ($24.4bn midpoint) / LOSS $480m – $70m (LOSS $205m midpoint) compared to consensus at $23.8bn / LOSS $229m.
  • Although the forecasts are in line with consensus prior to the beat of Q2 15A, Amazon has given the market confidence that it can make profits when it wants to.
  • However, this still requires for the investments (instead of profits) that Amazon is making to bear fruit and here I remain concerned.
  • Its ecosystem strategy is still haphazard at best and I see no change to the series of expensive experiments upon which Amazon is engaged.
  • Consequently, while Amazon may be able to show profits when it needs to, I can’t see value in Amazon until it decides to do so on a sustainable basis.
  • The stock continues to price in profitability that is way ahead of forecasts which combined with its muddy strategy outside of retail, leads me to prefer other players.

 Google Q2 15A – The trouble with arriving

  • Good results and a promised focus on revenue growth and profitability has pushed Google’s shares close to RFM’s valuation.
  • Q2 15A revenues / EPS were $14.4bn / $6.99 compared to consensus at $14.3bn / $6.73 and RFM at $14.7bn / $7.31.
  • Advertising revenues from YouTube and mobile continued to underpin steady revenue growth but the real story was OPEX.
  • General and Administrative expenses have been very high as a percentage of sales for some time and this quarter saw both an improvement and the promise of greater discipline.
  • GNA fell to 8% of sales down from 9% of sales in Q115A and Q214A but this still remains far above the 5% that I consider to be reasonable.
  • The main issue is that there has been considerable uncertainty whether the new CFO, Ruth Porat, would be both willing and able to reign in what is widely seen as excessive OPEX spending.
  • Commentary on the conference call, as well as some tangible results in Q2 15A, has given the market hope that Porat will be able to normalise spending.
  • This could boost EBIT by around $3bn a year lifting margins by more than 300bp should GNA move into line with the industry at 5% of sales.
  • This has been an overhang on Google’s valuation for some time and hope that this will be addressed is what has driven the shares.
  • Google at $644 is now slightly above RFM’s current valuation of $626 per share meaning that Microsoft is now by far the one with the most upside.

Microsoft Q4 15A – Ducks on parade

  • Microsoft reported a reasonable quarter that was marred by the $7.5bn write-down of the Devices and Services business acquired from Nokia in 2013.
  • This represents substantially all of the acquired assets meaning that they are now considered to be almost worthless.
  • Excluding this, Q4 15 revenues / EPS was $22.2bn / $0.62 compared to consensus at $22.0bn / $0.58 and RFM at $22.4bn / $0.60.
  • The underlying trend of weakness in perpetual licensing businesses being offset by growth in cloud, Dynamics, Office365 and corporate unfolded as expected.
  • Guidance for fiscal Q1 16E was disappointing as a combination of the strong US$, heavy cutbacks in the phone division and a longer than expected wait before Windows 10 has an impact, hurt forecasts.
  • Q1 16E revenue is expected to be around $21bn which is below both consensus at $22bn and RFM at $23bn.
  • However, OPEX improvements will be felt very quickly as OPEX for FY16E is now expected to be $32.1bn-$32.4bn reflecting the restructuring benefits coming from the phone business.
  • Microsoft now has its ducks in a row and this coming fiscal year is going to be all about executing on the strategy and making sure that Windows 10 is successful.
  • Microsoft is aiming to drive Windows revenues back to growth with Windows 10 but I will be happy if it just remains flat.
  • Keeping legacy revenues flat with growth coming from cloud and Office 365 is enough for there to be upside in the valuation of the shares.
  • If Microsoft can return Windows to growth and make a success of its ecosystem, this would be the icing on the cake.
  • Microsoft remains my top choice in the ecosystem as Google’s recent rally leaves less on the table for investors.

Apple Q3 15A – Next cycle please.

  • Apple reported results in line with expectations but there were signs that the pent-up demand for the iPhone 6 is beginning to wane.
  • It is this cycle that has driven hype and expectations for Apple and I expect things to normalise from here.
  • Q3 15A revenues / EPS were $49.6bn / $1.85 compared to consensus at $49.3bn / $1.81.
  • 47.5m iPhone shipped compared to consensus at 48.8m while iPad sold 10.9m units which was in line with expectations of 10.9m units.
  • 4.8m Macintosh computers sold just below consensus of 5.0m units but Apple is the only computer maker that saw YoY growth this quarter.
  • I do not believe that the iPhone miss is a big issue as the company deliberately reduced inventory by 0.6m units to make way for the iPhone 6s that I expect to launch in September.
  • Apple declined to give hard numbers for either the Apple Watch or Apple Music but I estimate that around 2m Apple Watches sold during the quarter.
  • Furthermore it looks as if Apple Watch is most appealing to Asian users as WeChat and LINE are two of the three 3rd party apps. seeing the most usage on the device.
  • With shipments even lower than the 3m I had previously forecast (see here), my view that wearables remain a problem looking for a solution is further strengthened.
  • Until Apple can come up with a must have reason to buy the Apple Watch, its unit shipments are likely to continue to be disappointing.
  • Guidance for fiscal Q4 15E was somewhat light with midpoint revenues / implied EBIT forecast at $50bn / $13.2bn compared to consensus at $51bn / $13.7bn respectively.
  • Apple was at pains to point out that 73% of its iPhone users had not made the upgrade to iPhone 6 as a sign of further growth, but I think that these upgrades will merely underpin volumes at current levels rather than drive revenue growth.
  • Consequently, I think that the real growth from the iPhone 6 has already been seen, meaning that revenue from other devices or segments is needed to drive growth from here.
  • On this basis, I think that Apple shares are not unfairly valued but while I think they offer a fair return to the investor for the risk assumed, it is not exceptional.

Yahoo! Q2 15A – Where is the money?

  • Yahoo! reported another disappointing set of results as execution remains an enormous drag on both fixed and mobile revenues.
  • Top line revenues grew 15% but once this was adjusted for Traffic Acquisition Costs (TAC) growth was flat YoY.
  • This means that the revenue growth that Yahoo! has booked is being paid away to third parties implying that Yahoo!’s value add to these new revenues is zero.
  • Q2 15A revenues (ex-TAC) / net income were $1.04bn / $152.5m compared to consensus at $1.03bn / $178m.
  • Although the number of display ads sold increased by 9% and the price of those ads increased by 10%, none of this accrued to Yahoo! as it was all paid away through TAC.
  • This is due to the new deals that Yahoo! has struck with Mozilla, Oracle and others but only time will tell whether this will translate into any meaningful value for the Yahoo! shareholder.
  • Although Yahoo! is investing in growth, none of this is going to come through in terms of financial benefits in Q3 15E.
  • Guidance was soft with revenues (ex-TAC) / adj. EBITDA forecasted at $1.00bn – $1.04bn / $200m – $240m.
  • This compares unfavourably to consensus which was looking for $1.08bn / $281m.
  • Furthermore, I continue to believe that Yahoo! is squandering a huge proportion of the opportunity that it has in mobile.
  • Yahoo! claimed to have 600m monthly active users on mobile which in Q2 15A translated into $252m in revenues (ex-TAC).
  • Yahoo! has excellent coverage of Digital Life (73%) meaning that its addressable market is not dissimilar to that of Google.
  • With 63% coverage of Digital Life, RFM estimates that Google generated $2.63bn in revenues from 749m users of Android devices.
  • If I assume that Yahoo! had executed on its assets as well as Google then Yahoo! should have generated something like $2.5bn in revenues from mobile in Q2 15A.
  • In a nutshell Yahoo!’s poor execution in mobile has meant that it has missed out on 90% of the monetisation opportunity from mobile devices.
  • I think that this is because its users on mobile use it for very simple things like checking email and news and do not engage with Yahoo! as an ecosystem.
  • Until Yahoo! makes its mobile assets engaging, consistent and integrated, users are unlikely to engage meaning that its revenue opportunity will be taken by competitors.
  • The result will be a company that underperforms its peers and a stock price that is driven solely by legacy investments.
24 Jul 16:23

Using OAuth2 for Gmail in Thunderbird

by El Guru

When Mozilla released Thunderbird 38 (38.0.1) on June 11th one of the new features was being able to use GMail within Thunderbird without having to go into your GMail account and enable the ‘less secure authentication’.  Problem is, how to enable this feature in Thunderbird is poorly documented. After some searching, I found the answer in an unlikely place…the comments on the article from The Mozilla Thunderbird Blog announcing Thunderbird 38:

In an existing GMail account, you can switch the “Authentication Method” from “Normal Password” to “Oauth2″ (in both the IMAP and SMTP setup separately). Connection security should be SSL/TLS. If by “application-specific passwords method” you mean Google’s enabling of traditional IMAP passwords using their “less secure authentication” option, yes you can do away with that on an account using OAuth2 authentication.

From within Thunderbird go to Tools > Account Settings. Select the account you want to work with and go to Server Settings. For Authentication method click the dropdown arrow and select OAuth2. You will also need to repeat this process for outgoing (SMTP).

TBird OAuth2 Incoming

While in the Account Settings windows, on the left side select Outgoing Server (SMTP) then find and select your Google Mail SMTP account and click Edit… In the Security and Authentication section for Authentication method click the dropdown arrow and select OAuth2. Click OK and OK again to exit the Account Settings window.

TBird OAuth2 Outgoing

 

Note: The software I use for screen capture only does the active window and cuts-off anything outside of that. After Kerberos / GSSAPI is NTLM then OAuth2.

I have not tried to test this as all my GMail accounts are so old I didn’t need to enable the “less secure authentication” option.

24 Jul 16:35

Using Maildir Mailbox Feature in Thunderbird

by El Guru

Also introduced in Thunderbird 38 (38.0.1) was the ability to use Maildir mailbox format. Like OAuth2, this too has not been very well documented. I have no idea what this does or why you would want to use it. Further, I have not tried it, especially after I found this information on the Mozilla Wiki with the warning about enabling said feature:

Though, we aren’t sure of the side-effects of using maildir as the default store on a profile that was created on Berkeley mailbox(mbox) format; so we suggest you to create a fresh profile to work with maildir so as to avoid any dataloss that might occur.

To enable this go into Thunderbird > Tools > Options > Advanced Tab then click the Config Editor… button at the lower right. If you get the ‘This may void your warranty warning”, click the “I’ll be careful, I promise” button to continue. In the search box enter mail.serverDefaultStoreContractID the search will return one result which has a default value of @mozilla.org/msgstore/berkeleystore;1. Double-click the preference and for value enter @mozilla.org/msgstore/maildirstore;1  then click OK. Close the about:config window, click OK on the Options window and restart Thunderbird.

24 Jul 16:48

Thunderbird and Windows 10 Default Mail App

by El Guru

I reported last week that Windows 10 has changed the way you setup your Default Apps. The biggest change is this has to be done within Windows System Settings, not from within the application. If you attempt to have the application to tell Windows it wants to be the default application you will get this annoying and unhelpful message:

For Firefox, Mozilla has implemented a change coming with Firefox 40 that will open the Default Apps setting in Windows 10 when the user tries to make Firefox the default browser within Firefox. This is needed because it appears when a user upgrades to Windows 10 their defaults are reset (in the case of browser it is defaulted to Microsoft’s Edge Browser) to factory settings. It is unknown at this time if anyone on the Thunderbird development team is working on this functionality. Also it is important to know that while Thunderbird is based off of Firefox ESR (currently Mozilla 38 ESR) branch and there are no plans to introduce this into Firefox ESR until Firefox 45 ESR (March 2016), if this functionality is created for Thunderbird it would be included in the upcoming incremental release (38.2.0, 38.3.0, etc.).

24 Jul 19:59

Starting with the 2016 Accord, Honda cars will feature Android Auto and CarPlay support

by Ian Hardy

Honda’s upcoming cars will feature support for both Apple’s Car Play and Google’s Android Auto platforms, the car manufacturer announced today.

Set to become available this August, the first of the company’s vehicles that will see the two systems integrated into it will be the 2016 Accord. Dubbed the “most high-tech Accord ever,” the car will also feature Honda Sensing, the company’s assisted-driving technology.

Honda says the Accord’s 7-inch display will be an “intuitive and easy-to-use capacitive touchscreen that lets users swipe, tap and pinch—just like on a tablet or smartphone—to control the vehicle’s audio system, display settings and other advanced features.”

20150723-honda-accord-2016

Both CarPlay and Android Auto are vehicle information platforms that enable users to perform various functions, including navigating a music library, accessing maps and displaying messages, with a built-in touchscreen dashboard.

Related: Hands-on with CarPlay and Android Auto

Source Re/code
24 Jul 00:00

LinkedIn quietly removes tool to export contacts

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Bobby Owsinski, VentureBeat, Jul 27, 2015


You may think you own your own identity, but LinkedIn has very quietly underlined the fact that no, you don't. "LinkedIn has removed the option to export your contacts. Instead, the company is asking users to request an archive of their data, but that process can take up to 72 hours to complete." This is again a warning to be sure not to depend on LinkedIn - or any of the social network platforms - for anything critical. This includes customers of lynda.com, which was  recently acquired by LinkedIn.

[Link] [Comment]
24 Jul 19:07

Sentences of the Day

by Eugene Wallingford

Three sentences stood out from the pages of my morning reading. The first two form an interesting dual around power and responsibility.

The Power to Name Things

Among the many privileges of the center, for example, is the power to name things, one of the greatest powers of all.

Costica Bradatan writes this in Change Comes From the Margins, a piece on social change. We programmers know quite well the power of good names, and thus the privilege we have in being able to create them and the responsibility we have to do that well.

The Avoidance of Power as Irresponsibility

Everyone's sure that speech acts and cultural work have power but no one wants to use power in a sustained way to create and make, because to have power persistently, in even a small measure, is to surrender the ability to shine a virtuous light on one's own perfected exclusion from power.

This sentence comes from the heart of Timothy Burke's All Grasshoppers, No Ants, his piece on one of the conditions he thinks ails our society as a whole. Burke's essay is almost an elaboration of Teddy Roosevelt's well-known dismissal of critics, but with an insightful expression of how and why rootless critics damage society as a whole.

Our Impotence in the Face of Depression

Our theories about mental health are often little better than Phlogiston and Ether for the mind.

Quinn Norton gives us this sentence in Descent, a personally-revealing piece about her ongoing struggle with depression. Like many of you, I have watched friends and loved ones fight this battle, which demonstrates all too readily the huge personal costs of civilization's being in such an early stage of understanding this disease, its causes, and its effective treatment.

24 Jul 18:10

The Unfortunate Business of Lying To Members Every Day

by Richard Millington

Last year we worked with a community manager in the most dire of situations.

Her product was bad, they couldn’t fix it, and the community of customers was furious. They complained in the customer community. The company decided to stop participating there, essentially banning the community manager from her own community.

You’re going to be doing this work for a while. Your reputation is going to rise and fall with your successes and failures. I know community managers still riding a wave of goodwill after developing a successful community from years ago.

Here’s the problem.

You will never, ever, be a successful community manager if your product is bad.

You won’t ever be happy or content in your job. You won’t be respected by your audience. The best you can hope for member sympathy and a nice pay check. But sympathy won’t boost your reputation and a nice pay check won’t help you sleep at night.

You need more than that and we need more from you.

If your product is bad you’ll be forced to lie to your community. You’ll be forced to fake enthusiasm for something you don’t believe in. You’ll have to go to bed and wake up every morning knowing that’s what your job entails.

Knowledge of the product and passion for the sector matters, for sure. Far more important is your own passion for the product and company. If you think the product is awful, your customers do too. If you think your company treats people unethically, your customers will soon know that too. Worst yet, they’ll associate you with them. You don’t get to create a separation by being nice to people online.

Your time and energy are two of the most precious things you will ever give. Don’t give them to companies you don’t believe in. Work for less if you need to and help companies thrive. You’re far more likely to succeed and you’ll be amped every day to help make your community better.

24 Jul 12:00

The First Fujifilm Lenses You Should Buy

by Amadou Diallo
Composite

After dozens of hours of research on nearly 30 lenses, we’ve found the perfect set of starter lenses for Fujifilm’s X-mount. Regardless of whether you’ve just bought your first Fuji camera or if you’re just investigating what’s out there to see if you want to shoot Fujifilm in the first place, these half-dozen lenses can meet almost any need.

25 Jul 04:37

New TransLink CEO salary is lowest in Canada

by Daryl Dela Cruz

The next CEO of TransLink will earn an annual salary of almost $320,000, plus a generous benefits and bonus package.

(CBC: TransLink CEO job posting lists massive salary)

The new salary offer for TransLink’s next CEO is out and as expected, members of the public are complaining non-stop about a number that is being described by media as “massive” and “fat” as it is north of $300,000.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post suggesting TransLink’s executive pay should be looked at in a different way, a post that was so well-received that it engaged the entire region and sent the page-view counts on this blog skyrocketing. When transportation professionals with the Victoria Transport Policy Institute quoted this blog post in a major study of theirs, I knew I had hit something right on the nail.

Now that the new CEO salary figures are out and everyone is once again relentlessly complaining, I decided to run the numbers again to see where TransLink is now against Canada’s major cities. The base salary is now in line with that of Toronto’s TTC and Montreal’s STM, but not when a bonus of up to 30% is considered:

“Greater Ottawa” in this chart counts both OC Transpo and Gatineau-Hull’s STO

But, when you consider all of the transit agencies servicing a metro area, the executive payment in this region is comparatively minuscule:

The “all” in the above chart represents all transit authorities servicing a given area. As an example, in addition to Toronto being serviced by the TTC, Mississauga is managed by Mi-Way; York Region is managed by York Regional Transit; GO Transit operates regional commuter rail and a TransLink-like regional authority called “MetroLinx” is required to tie them all together. Each of these operators has their own executives and CEOs.

Our region has 1 transit operator with 1 CEO; others have many different operators and multiple CEOs. It’s a concept that’s so simple and easy to understand, and it is absolutely crucial that we familiarize ourselves with it.

When TransLink’s context of a single, region-wide transportation authority is considered against what the region-wide setup is in Canada’s other metropolitan areas, Metro Vancouver actually has the lowest per-capita CEO salary of any major city in Canada. Even if our CEO receives a full 30% bonus.

We now pay about 17.5 cents per capita if the CEO earns a 30% bonus; whereas the people of greater Toronto pay between 1 and 12.5 more cents more for their executives (depending on what you would include as greater Toronto’s transit operators), and the people of greater Montreal each pay between 6 and 12.5 cents more.

We will also be paying our new CEO less for every revenue hour of transit service they manage, even if the CEO receives a full 30% bonus:

Top in-charge earnings per revenue hour of transit service 2015 NEW

I compiled the data for all to review here (LINK to this spreadsheet):

Outlook

Nickels for everybody! Yaaayy!

Nickels for everybody! Yaaayy!

The revised, lowered CEO salary will put a maximum of 5 cents back into people’s pockets and would not even pay for buying a single bus. Despite the relatively minimal benefits to Metro Vancouver’s citizens, attracting a new CEO will be a more difficult task with a lower offer, and TransLink should be commended considerably if and when they are able to do so.

The response a TransLink spokesperson offered in Jeff Nagel’s recent report for the Surrey Leader pretty much sums up why TransLink can’t be considered a “transit operator” in the usual vein:

“It needs to be a competitive salary,” Moore said, adding the challenge with comparing TransLink to other transit authorities is there is nothing similar in North America.

“The No side in the plebiscite wanted to compare the CEO of TransLink to one of nine CEOs in Seattle or one of eight CEOs in Toronto,” Moore said, referring to areas where multiple separate agencies do the work of TransLink. “Nobody else has an integrated rail-bus-road infrastructure.”

Pay offer for the next TransLink CEO under fire – Jeff Nagel, Surrey Leader

But, I don’t think most people are ready to understand this – it’s probably easier to think that our transit operator is a transit operator like any other, regardless of the serious differences in the way we are organized. It’s clear that much of the “NO” vote in the recent referendum was motivated by an unfavourable view of executive salaries, which were not being looked at in a proper context.

If anything, this should have an effect on how the provincial government interprets the “NO” vote altogether. At this point, the only way that the misinformation around executive salaries in this region can be offset is for someone to take leadership and recognize the serious flaws in how people have been informed on this matter.

SEE ALSO: Referendum Myths – TransLink and Executive Salary

Author’s note: This post was updated on July 27, 2015 to account for newly released numbers and other issues pointed out with the original post.

25 Jul 06:13

Critical kit: Samsung Gear VR

by Roland Banks

Samsung Gear VR

The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) device was one of the biggest success stories of Kickstarter in recent years. The Rift isn’t yet available for consumers of course, but other companies have entered the arena with a variety of hi-tech viewers, notably Samsung’s Gear VR which is the first consumer-ready VR product that you can actually buy today. For anyone who is interested in new tech, gadgets, or just wants to experience virtual reality, the Gear VR is arguably a critical piece of kit.

The Gear VR has been designed with Oculus, and uses the same basic technology. However the difference is that the headset uses a Samsung Galaxy Note (or a Galaxy S6 / Edge) instead of its display.

Samsung pretty much beat everyone else to market with the Gear VR, and was the first company to use a mobile device. The headset is fairly inexpensive – the UK price is a little over £120, but of course there’s the added expense of a £500 smartphone in order to use it. And even though the headset might not make virtual reality more easy to use, it has certainly made it more accessible to regular consumers.

Gear VR design and interaction

The device itself resembles a cross between the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. The unit has a plastic casing, with an elastic strap on the back that fits snugly on the wearer’s head.

Samsung Gear VR

To control the Gear VR, there is a touch pad and a back button located on the side, but it’s also possible to use a special Android controller. Using the touchpad is simple enough to control menus and interact with the various games, but a controller really is essential to get the most out of it.

Samsung’s screen technology and prowess with the Note 4 (a 2,560 x 1,400 pixel OLED display) provides a rich and detailed image, coupled with a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, making a fairly powerful system for running all kinds of virtual reality games and apps.

The phone’s is used to great effect – two halves of the screen are used that appear as a 3D image when viewing the display through the lenses. It’s amazing stuff but of course there are still some limitations – resolution and lag is good but it’s important to remember that all this is running off a smartphone that wasn’t designed for virtual reality. So right now, even though virtual reality as offered by the Gear VR is an impressive and extremely immersive experience, it’s still not really quite there yet – future devices like the Rift will no doubt improve upon the inherent design limitations and offer more powerful hardware.

Games

Most people seem to agree that at least as far as consumers are concerned, games and apps are one of its most promising areas. Samsung already offers a decent selection of games and other ‘experiences’, and the choices on offer are growing steadily.

While viewing the Gear VR user interface, there is a Home menu, a Library of existing titles and the store. Recent apps appear on the home screen, and all previous downloads appear in the Library. Moving around between the menus is also fairly intuitive – just move your head and just press on the touchpad. It works so well that you don’t actually need to remove the Note while using the device (as you’d expect).

Samsung Gear VR

There are already some great games available for the Gear VR – some are free, and many require the controller (which is an optional add-on) to play effectively.

Most of the titles to date are fairly small, limited experiences; the kind of games that you’d play once in a while to demonstrate just how cool virtual reality is, but there aren’t really many that you would play time and time again. With a much wider selection of games and other apps in future, that’s sure to improve as time goes on.

Today of course, virtual reality has had something of a renaissance with plethora of new products on the horizon – the aforementioned Oculus Rift, as well as headsets from the likes of HTC and Sony. As virtual reality products improve and become more mainstream, the challenges will be to develop compelling apps and software titles that do more than just look good. The user interface and novel methods of interaction will be key, but the way things are progressing it’s just a matter of time before VR does finally come of age.

Mobile Industry Review recently spoke with Professor Roy Kalawsky, Director of the Advanced VR Research Centre at Loughborough University, and is one of the foremost experts in virtual reality.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on VR developments. Whilst the press seem to think a new revolution is taking place many of us were working with similar if not better systems 25 plus years ago. However, the big difference today is the cost – the cost has fallen dramatically now making the technology accessible to the hobbyist. Also, some of the peripheral technology has come on a long way such as tracking systems – e.g. Microsoft Kinect, Leap Motion and many others. Again the cost has fallen beyond what we could have predicted. The resolution of the display devices has really improved but has some way to go in terms of integration the optics to provide a truely immersive experience. The biggest and most impressive development has been in the area of graphics engines – the performance today far exceeds what we used to have to spend over a £1m for a mere fraction of the price. I really think VR is being reborn with massive potential for the future.

Our very own Ewan will be taking part in a special virtual reality-themed 361 degrees podcast in the near future, so look out for more great discussion and debate from the team coming soon.

25 Jul 08:41

Jupyter Notebooks in Azure ML Studio

by Rui Carmo
Click on the image to zoom in

This is awesome – a hosted service for Jupyter/iPython notebooks, backed by a major player instead of the usual niche/boutique offerings? Sign me up!


25 Jul 14:13

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride into and out of San Francisco

by dandy

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride into and out of San Francisco

Story and photos by Alix Aylen

I rode into San Francisco for the first time on August 6, 2012, having left Vancouver on July 4th. The west coast is a very popular route for touring cyclists, with campgrounds, towns, grocery stores and Warmshowers hosts clustered at regular and convenient intervals along Highway One and the 101. Toronto cannot really be compared to San Francisco directly when it comes to landscape and bike infrastructure.

San Francisco is much more densely populated as a 7×7 mile square peninsula, jetting out into the Pacific Ocean, with a much more moderate climate (although, hilariously enough, some do find it too cold to ride all year round). Toronto, on the other hand, sprawls north, east and west from the lake with highways bordering the city. Entering and exiting San Francisco is a much more immediate experience. You cross the Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito (the city to the north), and boom, you’re in San Francisco. There’s very little of the awkward, non-human friendly, exurban and industrial zones dominated by overpasses and 8-lane highways that pose as the main challenge when leaving TO. Many of those were destroyed by the two major earthquakes in the Bay area in 1906 and 1989, and then never rebuilt. The interstate and main highways of the region, rather than bordering the city and acting as a barrier to non-motorists, are concentrated in the southeast corner of the city and in Oakland, the east bay.

The cycling infrastructure of TO and SF is somewhat tricky to compare as SF has its own set of challenges. Cycling culture and attitudes towards cyclists travelling on the highway, however, can be compared with somewhat predictable results.

Entering SF via Highway One

The first time I entered the city I decided to take highway one all the way to the Golden Gate bridge. I was having a bit of a moment after riding from Vancouver, and wanted to complete the trip on the “One” and “101”. It was a long, hilly and meandering ride to the bridge along Highway One. I could see a faint image of the Sutro tower about four hours before I was actually within the city limits. The landscape was beautiful, and more challenging physically than it was in terms of cycling accessibility. It’s not the route outlined in any of the “Cycling the West Coast” guidebooks, and there’s no dedicated bike lane for much of it, but there are still plenty of cyclists on the road or a decently sized shoulder to hop on at any given time. Cyclists are not a rarity here.

Highway One is often more of a tourist’s highway than a commuter’s due to its scenic, meandering nature, so there seemed to be less of a feeling of entitlement from drivers than you would find on a highway frequented by daily commuters (or at least that’s how I perceived it). It can be a bit frightening at times when making your way around a curvy switchback running along a mountainous section of the coast, however “Share the road” signs are present along the route, reminding motorists and cyclists alike to be aware of their surroundings. At one point, as I grew impatient riding up a steep switchback, a car drove past me, with all three passengers giving me a big smile and thumbs up. About 30 minutes later, the same car passed me again, this time throwing flowers out the window and encouraging me to “keep it up!”. It was a moment oozing with “California”. I tell you this story not as a “California is a dream, and a cycling paradise with no room for improvement” story, rather as a “highways need not inherently be hostile war zones for cyclists and motorists” story.

I was prepared to continue along the highway all the way to the bridge, when a gas station attendant flagged me down once I reached Marin City. Not just a passive wave as I rode by, but he ran out to the road to give me directions to the beginning of the bike lane and path that would take me all the way to the GG bridge. The defensive cycling Torontonian that I am, I was prepared to defend my right to be on the shoulder of the highway and at first didn’t understand that he wasn’t telling me to get off the highway, rather suggesting that I take the route designed specifically for cyclists. So, I took that advice. This route guided me through Marin City and Sausalito, along the water, and parallel to the 101. All the scenery minus the traffic and noise.

Entering via Sir Francis Drake Blvd

This is the route that you are told to take into the city as a cyclist by all of the guidebooks that I ignored the first time around. It passes through several towns of about 12,000 people (Lagunitas, Fairfax, San Anselmo), most of which are connected by bike lanes and bike paths, or are at least towns frequented by cyclists from the area. The route is used by long distance cyclists completing the “Alaska to Tierra del Fuego” trip as well as roadies and cyclists from San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley on weekend camping trips. The campground Samuel P. Taylor is only 50 km from downtown San Francisco and is equipped with several “hiker/biker” campsites that are popular along the west coast ($5-$15/person!). It’s a fully equipped cycling route, with all of the amenities that you might need, whether on a day, or year long trip (cheap campsites, bike shops, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, access to public transit, permaculture schools…whatever!).

This route is way less hilly than the highway One route, with more towns and less time ocean-side. What it lacks in epic scenery (which is not much, as it’s still California), it makes up for in its relative efficiency as a more direct, less mountainous route to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bike paths are intuitively connected for the most part, meaning that you don’t need to stop to look at a map very often when passing through for the first time. There are gaps in the dedicated bike lanes, but you’re never without a sufficient shoulder to ride on.

The main headache about entering and exiting San Francisco through both of these routes, is the constant flow of tourists back and forth across the bridge. Cyclists and pedestrians are both allowed to cross the bridge, but must share the sidewalk. This creates a ridiculous bottleneck at times, with some relief in the centre of the bridge, which sees only about a third of the bridge’s pedestrian traffic (it is indeed a long bridge to cross by foot). The west side of the bridge is sometimes open to cyclists exclusively, however that is only between 3:30 pm-9 pm on weekdays, and 9 am-5 pm on weekends. Entering and exiting San Francisco is SO enjoyable in fact that Sausalito is looking to place a cap on the number of rental bikes entering the city. There’s a bit of a congestion problem maybe, but it’s a good one to have, Sausalito.

Exiting the city southwards

When entering or exiting San Francisco through the southwest corner, there is no dramatic Golden Gate Bridge equivalent to take, rather a meandering route through the suburbs. You can take the famed “Wiggle” from the Bay side of the city to the Pacific side neighbourhood, the “Sunset”, and just work your way south out of the city on primarily residential streets. You don’t even need to start thinking about hopping on the highway or working your way around a terrifying thick marigold line on Google maps until you’re about 20 km out of the city. My partner, Bobby and I were guided by our San Francisco bike guru, Rez, to an alternate route that would skip the most intimidating transitional section of Highway One referred to as “Devil’s Slide” (for the frequent occurrence of landslides on this section of the highway). But what used to be considered one of the few sections of Highway One to avoid by cyclists, is now being marketed as a destination in itself as part of the California Coastal Trail project.

My experiences entering and exiting San Francisco were great. I’m sure that there are cyclists out there that have had less great experiences. But the one thing that I took away was how nice it was to feel comfortable and accepted as a legitimate vehicle in areas that are often off limits to cyclists . It was a relief to feel, not like a “CYCLIST”, but like someone just trying to get somewhere with a vehicle that just happens to be a bicycle.

The new issue of dandyhorse is here! Pick up a free copy at UrbaneSweet Pete’s, Bikes on Wheels and Hoopdriver. You can buy it online here and at these independent book shops.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride from Kleinburg

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride to Albion Hills

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride from Pearson

SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Western Waterfront Route

25 Jul 21:23

"I once worked with a designer who bought frames with photos of strangers at thrift stores. She..."

“I once worked with a designer who bought frames with photos of strangers at thrift stores. She stashed the photos in a box under her desk. When she started a project, she flipped through them until she found people she felt matched the users we were designing for. She kept those frames on her desk for the project’s duration to remind her that she wasn’t designing for herself. She was designing for them.”

-

Mike Monteiro, “Why you need design”. (https://medium.com/@monteiro/why-you-need-design-77dce41e0e0c)

A little weird and very clever. - nervouslightning

25 Jul 21:36

"CMU Leads Google Expedition To Create Technology for “Internet of Things”"

"CMU Leads Google Expedition To Create Technology for “Internet of Things”":

imadeit-davidjanes:


Carnegie Mellon researchers will work with colleagues at Cornell, Stanford, Illinois and Google to create GIoTTO, a new platform to support IoT applications. Initial plans for GIoTTO include sensors that are inexpensive and easy to deploy, new middleware to facilitate app development and manage privacy and security, and new tools that enable end users to develop their own IoT experiences.

“We funded the Open Web of Things expedition to encourage universities to explore various aspects of system design that could help enable the Internet of Things,” said Maggie Johnson, director of university relations for Google.  “From the many excellent proposals received, we’ve chosen Carnegie Mellon to lead because of their vision for a living laboratory, validating system design through daily use. Cornell, Illinois and Stanford were selected to join based on their unique approaches for tackling critical challenges related to privacy & security, systems & protocols and HCI.