Shared posts

03 Feb 19:24

a new article by Alise Tifentale and Lev Manovich: "Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self"

by Lev Manovich

Alise Tifentale and Lev Manovich, Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self

Publication information:
"#SELFIE–Imag(in)ing the Self in Digital Media," edited by Jens Ruchatz, Sabine Wirth, and Julia Eckel. Marburg, 2016 (forthcoming).


Many discussions of photography and other types of visual culture including user-generated content often rely on professional — amateur distinction. In this article we introduce a different pair of concepts: competitive — non-competitive. We believe that analyzing photography history and its present such as Instagram’s visual universe using these new concepts allows us to notice phenomena and patterns that traditional professional—amateur distinction hides.

The analysis of presentation of self in online digital photography is a case in point. We can now see that the selfie genre is complemented by an “anti-selfie” genre that presents the self in a different way. The two genres correspond to different understanding and uses of Instagram by non-competitive and competitive photographers.

Information about the illustration above:
Examples of Instagram “anti-selfies.” Authors, first row: @vita_century, @vita_century, @deroy_night. Second row: @lavimeer, @merciless_mart, @sex_on_water. Third row: @recklesstonight. Author’ age ranges from 14 to early 20s. (as explicitly indicated in their profile or can be estimated from photos in their galleries). The authors live in Russia or Ukraine. The photos were shared during Summer and Fall 2015.

03 Feb 18:41

Recommended on Medium: Thinking about Twitter

I like Twitter a lot. I’ve been using it nearly a decade now. It’s an indispensable part of my professional and personal social life…

Continue reading on Medium »

04 Feb 00:12

Make an awesome photo collage with the new Photolab website!

by London Drugs

Do you remember how you used to have to put collages on the wall? How you’d have to shop around for a frame with the precut matte—the perfect precut matte? And then if you couldn’t find one that would fit your prints, you’d have to choose new prints that would fit the precut matte? Of course, that’s if you want to the prints to be underneath the matte. If you wanted to place the in your prints on top, then you’d have to very carefully glue them, making sure each and every print was glued on perfectly straight…

Well, those nightmarish days are over! Thanks to the Photolab’s new, incredibly user-friendly website and in-store kiosks, making collages has never been simpler or more fun — or more customizable. To show you what I mean (and since I’m a total fan-boy of the new site because its simplicity makes it so easy to do demonstrations), here is a demonstration of how to make a collage from home using the website:


Start by going to the new & improved, totally revamped Photolab website. Choose the PRINTS category to select Posters & Collages.



So yeah, in the new site, wall décor has its very own dedicated page – about time! And there’s Posters & Collages, just waiting for you to order.



Then, select Landscape, Portrait or Square. Simple, right?



Choose your size: 4×6 all the way up to true poster size, 24×36.



Choose your size: 4×6 all the way up to true poster size, 24×36.



Upload your photos to your online Photolab album (unless you’ve done so already of course).



Auto Fill: this wasn’t an option on the old Photolab Home Edition Software but it can really save time if you’ve got your Photolab albums already sorted. Of course, you can still place them in the template one-by-one yourself if you wish using the Manually Place Photos option.



Another helpful feature: the new site lets you save your project online. In the cloud. Hard drives are so 2010.



Personally, I chose the portrait orientation. I could then choose from over 40 different layout templates.



Not only are there dozens of layout templates to choose from, but each frame in the template is individually customizable as well. You can adjust the frame sizes and borders as well as move the image around within the frame. You can layer photos, adjust transparency, add text and much more.



When it comes to choosing your background there is literally an entire spectrum of colours at your disposal.



And to help you choose your background, just hit the little ‘Review’ icon four arrows in the top right corner to view your collage as would appear on a wall.



Once you’re done, just add it to your cart and send it to the Photolab—just like you’ve always done with your prints.


One of the coolest things? You can go back and change themes at just about any point in the process. Not that I would change it to the boy theme. But I could….

The generally awesome thing about collages is that they’re suitable for just about any occasion or application. And thanks to amazing online apps like the new Photolab site and in-store kiosks, they’ve never been easier to create or more customizable. You’ve got the photos. Now you’ve got the technology. So what are you waiting for?

Grant Proulx

04 Feb 06:20

TransLink launches next-gen 96 B-Line buses

by daka_x
04 Feb 14:07

“How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark

by Josh Bernoff

You should write shorter. You should read Roy Peter Clark‘s book “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” to learn how. The biggest problem with how people write now is that they are out of touch with how people read now. People read online, and the average article gets 20 seconds of attention. … Continue reading “How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark →

The post “How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark appeared first on without bullshit.

04 Feb 16:18

I ask how they were treated

by rands

I’ve been fretting about the role of lead of leaders. I have a good rubric for understanding and evaluating front line leaders, but lead of leaders is a very different gig that requires a different set of leadership muscles. Briefly and incompletely, they need to be better at:

  • Delegating work
  • Influencing
  • Decomposing vision into strategy
  • Executing that strategy
  • Building of new leaders

This article documents interview questions of CEOs – some useful material here.


04 Feb 17:59

Recommended on Medium: The Less You Know ★

When building Slack apps (or any apps that integrate with other systems), I hope it’s obvious that you should ask for the weakest possible…

Continue reading on Medium »

04 Feb 20:21

The Best Android Phones

by Ryan Whitwam

It’s 2016, which means that new phones are just around the corner. Samsung, LG, and HTC will probably announce their respective new models in late February, so if you don’t need a new phone for a few months, wait to see what the upcoming phones will offer. If you do need one right away, the Samsung Galaxy S6 remains the best Android phone for most people. It looks and feels fantastic, its 16-megapixel camera and high-res screen are the best on any normal-size Android phone, and the handset is packed with useful features. If you want something bigger, Google’s Nexus 6P is the best Android phablet: Its 5.7-inch screen and 12.3-megapixel camera rival those of the S6, but its unmodified Android software and rear-facing fingerprint reader are even better. And if you’re on a budget, the third-generation Motorola Moto G is the cheapest decent phone you can get, with an attractive, water-resistant design and a clean version of the Android OS.

04 Feb 13:13

ODROID-C2 64-bit dev board coming soon for $40

by Rui Carmo
Click on the image to zoom in

If these still used USB for power, they’d be perfect for refreshing my little cluster. But to have ARM64 so readily obtainable is great for those of us who’ve been following the platform.

04 Feb 22:08

Pigs with algorithms

by Oliver Keyes

(trigger warning: involves the hypothetical death of someone at the hands of the police)

There's an interesting Marshall Project writeup called Policing the Future on the use of predictive software by police units. To give you a TL;DR: police departments are interested in using predictive software to make a better and more-justified assessment of where they should keep their eyes out, what the hotspots to patrol are, so on and so forth.

The software itself looks really cool: it takes a lot of things into consideration (including the cycle of the moon, which might sound silly but there is quite a bit of interesting work done on whether human behaviour is lunar-influenced). And the article touches on the obvious negatives of this: algorithmic racism is a definite thing, and a tremendously serious one, if you're working based on past crimes data.

One thing it doesn't factor in, though, which worries me a lot, is the out this data gives the police when something does go seriously wrong; another police-committed murder, say.

We already know that prosecutors are biased towards the police. We already know jurors tend to be as well. The system is rigged against an indictment, and then further rigged against conviction. And one side-effect of a more algorithmic approach is that an additional excuse is provided for police behaviour.

As a hypothetical example (and here I'm going to put a ):

Suppose a police officer is dispatched to one of these high-crime-probability areas, sees something they interpret as suspicious, draws, sees something they interpret as a thread, and fires. They come up for trial, and the defence has an additional excuse for the officer's behaviour: "the model made him do it!".

I mean sure the model didn't pull the trigger. But hey, the model is really really accurate, and it said this was a risky area to be in, and it made him tense and nervous and wary and he felt in fear of his life. Because the model said he should. And hey, it's science right? We trust science. So he trusted this and got adrenalined up and someone died.

This isn't to say that excuse is anything but horseshit (although I'd love to see a study on what happens to judgment when a trusted electronic source says "be wary"). But it doesn't have to be. It just has to be believed.

Two things are true; people tend not to understand how models work, and people tend to bias in favour of the fuzz. Combining models and the fuzz could, indeed, help reduce crime or increase detection and arrests. But it could also provide an excuse to quite literally get away with murder. And it's not like the police need more of those given how good they are at it already.

04 Feb 00:00

Searching for the Algorithms Underlying Life


John Pavlas, Quanta Magazine, Feb 07, 2016

I've also come to think there's probably one algorithm underlying perception, evolution, thought and consciousness. Here's how it's represented here: "Valiant’ s self-stated goal is to find 'mathematical definitions of learning and evolution which can address all ways in which information can get into systems.' If successful, the resulting 'theory of everything' — a phrase Valiant himself uses, only half-jokingly — would literally fuse life science and computer science together." Or, at least, one family of algorithms (or, whatever comes after algorithms).

[Link] [Comment]
05 Feb 01:39

Using Classic Mechanical Keyboards on Modern iPads

by Federico Viticci

Kevin MacLeod, following up on one of the geekiest photos I've seen on Twitter in a while:

You found a mechanical keyboard. An old Apple keyboard, or Dell, IBM, Focus, Acer, Cherry - doesn't matter. It has good mechanical switches, and you want to use it with your iPad.

The good thing is, once you connect your keyboard to the iPad, iOS is fully capable of using it - the keys all work, you don't need to install any drivers, jailbreak anything, or take any special steps. The tricky part is actually connecting these keyboards to your iPad.

I've never tried a mechanical keyboard myself (I probably should, given that I write at my desk quite a bit?), but I know this is going to be a fun weekend project for many.

04 Feb 12:37

Why is Verizon letting rural broadband decay?

by Ethan

Let me start with an apology: reading other people’s tech support horror stories is less fun than hearing them describe their medical problems or recount their dreams. No one wants to hear them. While this starts as a tech support rant, I promise that it’s a much broader rant, about the state of infrastructure in rural America, the nature of corporate monopoly and the consequences of America’s naive faith in under-regulated markets. And if that sounds as painful as hearing me describe my knee pain, this would be a fine time to click the back button.

I live in a small town in western Massachusetts, and my only option for wired internet access is Verizon’s DSL service. I’ve been a customer for almost a decade and it’s decent much of the time, capable of streaming lores video from Netflix if no one else in the house is using the internet. About two weeks ago, it decayed sharply in quality, and I discovered that my connection was dropping 30-50% of packets. Once my six year old could no longer stream LEGO Ninjago, we’d reached panic time, and I called tech support.

After a few rounds of the usual “Have you tried rebooting the router?”, I got escalated to a team of very high level techies, the Presidential Appeals team, who politely and sympathetically told me the bad news: the problem was Verizon’s, not mine, and they weren’t going to fix it. Verizon had “oversold” the remote office that serviced my corner of town, and I and 208 customers were having the same problem. We were using way more bandwidth than Verizon’s network was providing to that office, saturating the T3 line that served the office, which meant all 209 of us were blocking each others’ packets and degrading each others’ service.

The math is pretty simple: Verizon’s DSL nominally offers up to 3Mbit/sec worth of bandwidth. A T3 provides 45 Mbit/sec of bandwidth, which means the line could accomodate 15 families using bandwidth at the highest possible level, or 30 simultaneous users at Netflix’s recommended broadband speed of 1.5 Mbit/sec. When these DSL networks were built, most people weren’t streaming video for hours at a time – now, we are. And the network simply can’t handle it.

“You guys need an OC3 minimum, and we should give that office an OC12 or OC24 if we were engineering for the future,” my new friend in tech support told me. “But there are no engineering orders to upgrade that line.” He went on to encourage me to complain to Verizon’s management through whatever channels I could. “We know we’re providing you with badly degraded service, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

That made me a little angry. While I’d gotten Verizon to refund my bill for my unusable service, 208 of my neighbors were paying full freight for service Verizon knew was crappy. And while the problem was solvable – install more bandwidth – Verizon had evidently decided that maintaining their infrastructure to support this load wasn’t a priority. So I sent some letters – to my State Senator, to the MassDCT (our telecoms regulator), to the Better Business Bureau, to the regional manager for external relations at Verizon. (All the government officials got back to me within 12 hours, though I never did hear from Verizon’s external relations executives.)

Things got weirder the next day. Another member of the Presidential Appeals team called me, this time for the billing department, and gently, apologetically laid out Verizon’s offer to me. They would be willing to cut my bill and have me as a fractional DSL consumer, with a projected download speed of 1Mbit/sec… or they would terminate my contract. Unfortunately, Verizon could no longer offer me DSL service.

Our local library. And town hall. And dog pound. And most reliable internet service provider.

I’d love to tell you that I told Verizon to pound sand, but as I mentioned, they have a monopoly. I could use an AT&T mobile hotspot, but the bandwidth costs get extreme pretty quickly. I could go back to satellite internet, but I still have nightmares of debugging it ten years ago, using a voltmeter to read line levels while on the phone with Hughes. And at this point, I was parking in the library of the Lanesboro, MA public library to use their lovely open wifi network, which offered a symmetric 5mbit connection, and only had the disadvantage of being four miles drive from my house. I agreed to have Verizon downgrade my service and became a fractional DSL customer.

At a moment when President Obama is promoting rural broadband, Verizon is deciding not to maintain their rural networks and let them degrade. While Republican governor Charlie Baker is investing state money in plans to provide broadband to businesses and homes in my community, Verizon has decided it is profitable to underserve their customers and invite them to quit if they don’t like the situation.

President Obama told an audience in rural Oklahoma that “The Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. You cannot connect with today’s economy without access to the Internet.” Unfortunately, that necessity is not yet one Verizon is required to provide to rural residents. Despite the FCC’s reclassification of broadband internet service as a utility, Verizon is not legally required to offer broadband service to me or my neighbors and can choose to terminate my service, as the representative of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable patiently explained to me. “It’s not like local phone service, which they’re required to provide you with,” she explained.

So why is Verizon turning down my money? Why aren’t they building a network capable of supporting streaming video, Skype, Google Hangout and all the pleasures of modern, wired life? Well, it’s because they’re thinking of the future.

Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications have proposed a merger that would create a massive new cable company. My state senator’s office tells me that the new company has announced plans to offer cable internet service in my town, which would be great… in a few years, if the merger gets approved, and after they build out a network in our huge, sparsely populated town. Verizon knows that their DSL service can’t compete with cable internet, and they’re strategically underinvesting in our community. From a business perspective, it’s a smart thing for them to do – after all, where else am I going to go? How long can I idle my car in the library parking lot before the neighbors complain?

Americans, especially conservatives, like to celebrate the miracle of free market capitalism, the ways in which competition makes businesses more creative, nimble and efficient. But that’s a fairy tale, a story free marketeers tell their children to lull them to sleep. Building out a telecommunications network is extremely expensive, and the last thing companies want to do is find themselves in vigorous competition with another company that’s built out its own expensive network. So cable and telecommunications companies have come to a gentlemen’s agreement that’s good for their bottom lines and terrible for consumers – they politely stay out of each other’s territories, ensuring that connectivity is a monopoly in most markets and a duopoly in a few. Sure, that would be collusion, and the US government has the power to break up certain monopolies… but telecoms have great lobbying teams who’ve convinced legislators and regulators that 4G wireless service, which charges per bit, is a perfectly competitive alternative to unmetered wired broadband service. (Susan Crawford’s Captive Audience makes this argument far better than I ever could.)

It doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s not in most of the world. Most governments realize that the heavy investment in infrastructure leads incumbents to try and protect monopolies, so they require operators to open their networks to competitors at cost. The result is competition, which leads to lower prices and better service. But it’s a carefully regulated market that gets you this competition, not an ideologically pure free one.

So why do Americans put up with internet that’s slower and more expensive than in Europe? Because we buy the lie that government regulation will raise prices and stifle (nonexistent) competition. Because we don’t know how embarrassingly bad American infrastructure is compared to most developed nations, unless we spend a lot of our time travelling. Because we feel politically powerless to change this situation, less able to influence our legislators than megacorporations are.

I think there’s another reason. For most people in the US, telecommunications is getting better. Slowly, expensively it’s getting better – people are cutting cord and cable and moving voice telephony and video viewing onto internet networks as they get access to faster and more reliable bandwidth. But that’s not what’s happening in Western Massachusetts, or in much of rural America. It’s getting worse for us, and right now, it’s very hard to see how it’s going to get better any time soon.

After a half-day outage Tuesday, my connectivity improved when I tested it early Wednesday morning. Perhaps throttling my connection will give me fewer dropped packets and my kid can watch streamed cartoons, pixelated, at 5fps. But now I know what Verizon has planned for me – service that gets worse and worse until I finally give up. Another reason for businesses to move to big cities, ignoring our beautiful landscape and quality of life because they can’t work without connectivity. More reasons for people who grow up in towns to leave the area to seek economic opportunity. More people in cities and suburbs with higher rents and longer commutes and more empty houses in the country.

For perfectly legal business reasons, Verizon has made a business decision that will slowly kill my town. And I’m helping by paying them.

Susan Crawford’s proposed solution to the cable/telephony duopoly is robust municipal broadband projects, as we’ve seen in cities like Santa Monica, CA and Chattanooga, TN. I agree that this is a great idea, and I’d sign up immediately if such service was available in my town. For now, Mass Broadband Institute, our state funded entity focused on rural broadband, has focused first on connectivity to libraries, schools and town buildings… which helps explain the great wifi on offer in the library’s parking lot. They’ve made less progress on home broadband, and lately, there’s been sparring between MBI and WiredWest, a cooperative that wants to build fiber networks in our small towns to solve the last mile problem. Susan is right, as she so often is, but it may be a very long time before the solution she proposes is available for me and my neighbors.

Good friend, and former Berkshire dweller Prof. Chad Orzel offers a quibble with my analysis:

I think Chad is right when he notes that this complicates the politics – I think many of my neighbors are just grateful to have broadband that doesn’t come from flaky satellite connections. But it’s not quite the fact pattern. Basically, we’ve gone from no wired broadband to shitty broadband to unusably shitty broadband – at 40% packet loss, there’s really nothing you can do using streaming services, Skype or interactive web services – everything times out. For a couple years there, DSL + heavy compression made Netflix a reality. As more of my neighbors have gotten on the bandwagon, it’s just not an option these days, and I’m renewing my Netflix bits by DVD via mail service.

05 Feb 12:38

Dr Who theme on a Pi Zero

by Liz Upton

I am an unabashed synthesiser nerd. I grew up in the 1980s on a rich diet of Gary Numan, the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, and had my own Roland Juno 60 (approximately fourth hand and very battered) in my bedroom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I learned about sine waves.

Phil Atkin, who you’ve read about before in these parts, has spent the last few years building some incredibly sophisticated synthesiser software for his Raspberry Pis. Recently, he has been working on a Pi Zero. I hate to get all Buzzfeed on you, but you won’t believe that a $5 computer can do this one weird thing. Click play, and pass out in AMAZEMENT.

Phil says:

Over 52 years ago, I heard the Doctor Who theme for the first time at my grandmother’s house in Sheffield, at the Stones brewery in Burton Road, Sheffield, the first ever episode. I was only 4 years old, the sounds terrified me, the whole family sat transfixed at the noises, which had been created some months previously by the awesome Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. No synthesizers, just wobulating oscillators, tapes and a shedload of patience, diligence and dazzling creativity.

That was 1963.

Now it’s 2016 (bloody hell, last time I looked it was 1978) – can you believe you can do all that AND MORE for £4.99 today? One Raspberry Pi Zero (£4), one 99p USB audio interface, and the difficult bit – a huge bunch of very specialized, hardcore, time-consuming software development.

This track has 8 Virtual Analog monosynths, one wavetable synth (polysynth but with polyphony set to 1 as I am somewhat lax with the noteOff messages throughout!) and a single sample replay synth for the Tardis takeoff effect.

The VAsynths are :
Channel 1 : kick/tom – noise, bandpass filtered slightly resonant, and an EG to shape the amplitude
Channel 2 : snare (same setting as 1 but up the scale)
Channel 3 : the old faithful ‘Martyn Ware Glitterclap’ – these 3 are not exactly canonical but I wanted to add in a blast of “Human League do Gary Glitter / Doctorin the Tardis” for the outro. This is a burst of noise modulated by a square wave LFO, shaped by an EG to become a decaying train of noise pulses, bandpass filtered and quite resonant to emphasise the clappiness
Channels 4/5 : a pair of Radiophonic Wobulators, sin waves which warm up (some Phase Distortion, some morphing to slightly square) under a slow ramping EG, which also ramps up the LFO amplitude that is FM and AMing them. These have a bend range of +- 24 semitones for the giant 2 octave swoops
Channel 6 : the diddly dum bass riff. This is really velocity sensitive, both in amplitude and in brightness. OSCB gets louder under velocity, and both OSCs sharpen up under hard bashing – the ‘fine pitch’ modulation output is hooked into a fast EG. So really hard hits sound like plucked strings, sharpening immediately under tension then going true very quickly
Channel 7 : a bass ‘slurp’ for the grace notes – a slightly less bright version of the riff, and with a larger reverb send amount to distance it
Channel 8 : a noise generator with a keyfollowed bandpass filter, with some resonance to be played manually (hence hamfisted noises throughout). Heavily feedback delay adds SFX swishy whooshy things to the mix – really spacey, dude!
Channel 9 : a wavetable synth for the ‘melodica’ melodic notes
Channel 10 : EXTERMINATE! Samples, for the heck of it

Plus there are 4 delays with low pass filters and independent LR settings for delay, levels and feedback levels, plus a stereoizing reverb engine.

Can you believe it – 10 whole synths, all of them awesome, 8 of them virtual analog, on £4.99 of computer hardware. Less than 5 quid!!! 2016 is an insane place to be.

Thanks for the awesome arrangement Delia. And thanks to the Timelords for “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, spotting the unholy glory that is the mashup of Delia Derbyshire and early 70s glitterpop. So glorious a mashup that Hell’s Bells, I just HAD to slap the tempo up from 140 to 143 BPM as the drums kick in. I go WHOO HOO every time that happens, and I don’t often get actually excited by something I’ve created.

p.s. major thanks to the team at without whom my tone deaf / ‘cannot do intervals’ brain would have struggled to make sense of this – this would have taken a month rather than 2 days!!

Phil is looking for commercial support for the work he’s doing – you can drop him a line here if you think you can help.

The post Dr Who theme on a Pi Zero appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

05 Feb 13:00

Wind Mobile adds gold to the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Nexus 6P

by Ian Hardy

That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!

Wind Mobile has added a new colour option to two of it flagship smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Huawei-made Nexus 6P. Wind is the first carrier in Canada to offer the gold Nexus 6P, but the hue will be coming to more carriers soon.

As for prices, the Nexus 6P in gold starts at $149 on the WindTab Boost and is priced at $749.99 with no term. The Galaxy S6, which was released April 2015 and is soon to be outshined by the Galaxy S7, is now $99 on the WindTab, topping out at $699 outright.

Source Wind Mobile
05 Feb 10:00

Canvas 3: Photo Management

by Fraser Speirs

This week on Canvas, Federico Viticci and I go in-depth on the modern methods of photo management on iOS.

It is my contention that iCloud Photo Library is something that most - if not all - iOS users should be using now. Few additions to iOS have enhanced my daily experience as this service.

Since I transitioned my huge Aperture library to Photos, things have been improving. Having over 30,000 photos in the system has been a challenge but the back-end syncing engine has held up perfectly. In earlier versions of iOS 8, that number of photos would tend to make the system photo picker slow down. That has (almost) been eliminated in iOS 9, although third party apps that implement their own version of the photo picker still struggle.

It's not all perfect though. In the show we discuss some of the apps that still use older photo APIs and how to tell that they are.

It really is time for all developers to build iCloud Photo Library testing into their QA plans.

Canvas Episode 3

05 Feb 12:22

M-Payments are Dead

by Helen Keegan
This week's Telemedia newsletter popped into my inbox this morning and the headline article about m-payments really struck a chord with me. Much as I've been a fan of mobile technology for the last 16 years, I have rarely used mobile payments - as in charging something to my network operator. I use PayPal on my mobile, I've paid using credit cards and I've charged things to my Amazon and my Google Play accounts. Aside from very rare instances of premium SMS (for voting or a charity donation), I can't think of an instance where I've ever thought 'oh it would be so much easier to pay via my network operator'.

Paul Skeldon goes into it in more depth here.
05 Feb 01:48

Twitter Favorites: [jimpick] Vancouver is just not laid out correctly for affordability. The only solution is densification. But I'm a NIMBY too. Too many condos.

Jim Pick @jimpick
Vancouver is just not laid out correctly for affordability. The only solution is densification. But I'm a NIMBY too. Too many condos.
05 Feb 00:00

Extending a little thought experiment


David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, Feb 08, 2016

At what point does something personal - like writing a nice note to congratulate someone - become something impersonal - like writing a script that automatically selects and congratulates people. David Wiley poses this question in a  thought experiment and David T. Jones carries the discussion a bit further. What if it isn't a congratulatory note, but something that sends a note asking people who have stalled whether they need any help? And, ultimately, "What about the apparently holy grail of many to automate the teacher out of the learning experience? Are we fearful that technology will replace teachers? Can technology replace teachers?" Image: PC Mag.

[Link] [Comment]
05 Feb 00:00

Vancouver’s Just10 launches privacy oriented, ad free social network


Terry Dawes, CanTech Letter, Feb 08, 2016

I'm thinking 'no' but I still want to send this along, because the service might succeed after all. "Vancouver-based Just10 has unveiled a new social network that promises to be ad free, to never track your movements for selling to third-party marketers, and to emphasize privacy through end-to-end encryption." The catch? You only get to have 10 friends.

[Link] [Comment]
05 Feb 17:10

Pandora Avenue Protected Lanes – Victoria’s First

by Dan Ross

While in Victoria last week I checked out progress on the city’s first on-road protected cycle lanes on Pandora Street. After public consultation last year, stakeholders approved this two-way, $2-million concept on the north side of the road from Cook Street in the west to Store Street/Johnston Street Bridge in the west – about 1.2 kilometres.



2015 approved concept


After a public RFP process last year, the city commissioned Boulevard Transportation to deliver final designs, which are due this spring (Full disclosure: my transportation design team bid on this project and scored second. I’m 100 percent over it. Doing fine.).

The city ran a successful pilot project for this concept last year to test the idea out, both for operational logistics and public engagement. I’m a big fan of pilot projects; and am generally impressed with how the city got its ducks in a row, communicated its impact analyses, and delivered this initiative along a major arterial roadway with a loss of 75 on-street parking spaces. Commercial Drive cycle lane opponents take note: the world did not end and nobody was driven into penury.



2015 pilot project – temporary lanes


At present, Boulevard and the city are working through the details; including what type of physical separation will exist. Two options are:





Raised concrete curbs


So what progress has been made? Designs are nearly complete. Construction is to start this summer. Ultimately, this stretch east of Blanshard Street will look something like this:
Pandora 1a

facing west toward Quadra Street


And this:

Pandora 2

Facing east toward Blanshard Street


Council’s ‘sort of last-minute’ instructions that the cycle lane be “fully protected through intersections” is throwing a little kink in the designs and cost, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome. As seen in downtown Vancouver, this means: 1) installing cycle signal heads and 2) replacing and redesigning all signal phases and signal heads to hold right and left turns when cyclists have the green.

It’s only money.

05 Feb 00:00

Why kids — now more than ever — need to learn philosophy. Yes, philosophy.


Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, Feb 08, 2016

If you read this more closely (like a philosopher would) you can see that what Valerie Strauss really means here is that kids should be taught how to reason more effectively. "The teacher’ s job is to guide and inform student inquiries, helping them pay attention to the quality of their reasoning, and making sure they realize they’ re meeting on terms of equality and mutual respect." This is a far larger endeavour than it sounds, as effective reasoning isn't simply a matter of memorizing some logical forms and fallacies. And while it is laudable to encourage kids to become better citizens, it's not clear exactly what that means - should they question assumptions, as Strauss suggests, or simply accept some things as fact, as many leaders suggest? And what is a better  citizen anyways?

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05 Feb 17:02

How the Republicans Win

Democrats nominate Sanders, and Republicans nominate Rubio or Cruz.

Then there’s this TV ad:

Blank screen. Voice says: “Socialism was tried…”

Fade-in: hammer and sickle.

Voice: “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics failed…”

Black-and-white video plus audio of Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Black-and-white video of a statue of Lenin being pulled down.

Color photo of Rubio (or Cruz) with family. Voice: “Marco Rubio’s parents fled socialist Cuba to come to the land of the free, where anyone’s child can become President… The United States of America.”

Shooting fish in a barrel sounds difficult compared to beating Bernie Sanders.

05 Feb 18:14

Item from Ian and James – The Urbanarium Highrise Debate

by pricetags

Ian Robertson and James Bligh both attended the second of the Urbanarium debates – “Be it resolved that we should build fewer towers” – and combined forces to write this analysis:


Towers win – but do we?


It was a very close race the whole time, with the vote splitting 51 to 49 percent in favour of building fewer towers and ending at 52 to 48 percent in favour of building more towers. (With a number of ‘extra’ votes at the end.  Some people didn’t seem to do their Oxfordian duty and vote twice. For shame on all your houses!)

The affirmative side accepted that towers will be built, and even should be built, but that there are other things that should be built also – the ‘Missing Middle’ referred to in Brent Toderian’s debate in the Urbanarium Density debate.

The negative side based their argument on the economics of towers, and that with ‘silly’ land prices, towers are the only viable option. Further, since some midrise is built with vinyl siding, so all will be – so it’s best avoided altogether. Surprisingly absent from the debate was the correlation of building typology to land speculation, or of any mention of the poor/refugees/disabled.

An interesting point was raised by an audience member, who asked whether or not some of the collateral damage involved with building towers (gentrification, shadows, social exclusivity, etc.) could be solved by design. If our towers are “gated communities that prevent social diversity”, can we alter the way they work to make them more inclusive?


Poor Doors and Mixed Communities

Is there a way to avoid the ‘Poor Door’ which is increasingly inherent to condo towers (Main and 2nd being one, with segregated facilities and entrances)?  The argument that they aren’t gated communities falls flat when 20 percent of the tower’s residents cannot access the amenities and community features of the tower. As has been argued by some on this blog, there is not a clean and easy way for renters to pay amenity fees; therefore they would be free riders on a building’s amenities. Is it possible to address this split, to figure out how to allow the rental side to ‘pay’ for the amenity (given that they do pay rent), or get over the fact that they don’t, and enjoy the ‘good’ of having a mixed community override the ‘fairness’ of only having those who pay accessing facilities.

The ‘Poor Door’ is but one example. Ignoring code constraints for a moment, what if some walls of each condo were glazed in such a way as to give you the opportunity to interact with your neighbour(s), if you so chose? What if each floor of market condo required at least one unit of rental, live-work, low-income and/or public housing? Would this breed social solidarity?


Green Space

What if each floor needed direct access to common and/or green space? Are there new forms of tower that might save us? This question can be levied against low-rise as well (as there are certainly anti-social short buildings too).



However, typically low-rise designs have been more likely to experiment with their formulae, and, especially in North America, highrises have not. (Ken Yeang’s towers, some from Norman Foster, the green tower by Stefano Boeri (Habitat, left above), and Ole Scheeren’s recent Singapore ‘landscraper’ (Interlace, above) are all good examples of different thinking).




The ‘pro-tower’ side further based its argument in the current ‘normal’ by which a developer buys/assembles land, has to rezone, pays CACs, builds a tower, and sells it to whomever can/wants to buy. The stated benefit of this is that the ‘extra’ paid for high-level units allows the creation of much cheaper units below, unlike midrise where all units are almost the same cost vertically (so neither premium nor cheap). This presumes that the developer chooses to price some units ‘affordably’, but as there is no requirement specifically to do so (except for the percentage of ‘affordable’ housing they are sometimes required to build) there is no guarantee that this will manifest. Is legislation then the answer?

Whistler-2If these savings don’t manifest, much of the pro-tower’s argument goes out the window. Assuming these savings are valid, however, this pro-tower argument is persuasive long as this ‘normal’ is the only model available. If models from elsewhere are followed, the condo cost is either not tied to the land cost, or less so – if one uses a bit more imagination and uncouples these things (whether through co-op, land trust, building on city/crown land, the way Whistler built its own housing, right)) then this justification goes away. The model of Vienna (city-as-developer) is a good one here. It will also be interesting to see what comes from the 20 sites the city has made available to the Federal Government’s $$$ to build affordable housing.

Alt Erlaa_1976_3172DU_HarryGlueckArchitect

Alterlaa, 1976 , the largest Viennese social housing development, with over 3,000


Overall, while there might be many good aspects to a well-designed tower, there can also be many negative effects, which are potentially harder to remedy in a tower (green space, social space, health issues occurring on high floors, shadows, solar PV or thermal retrofit, and mechanical systems).

Even with all of the substantial convincing done otherwise, it remains hard not to agree with the ‘Build Fewer Towers’ side. Regardless, the current binary condition does few people much service (save developers, and those collecting CAC’s), and a diversity of housing forms would better accommodate a diverse population with diverse needs.

Based on our ‘normal’ current conditions and trajectory, more towers remain a fait accompli. We ought to be more creative and make that fate a choice, and not the only port in a storm. More towers, sure, but more creativity and choice also.

Oh, and the ‘missing middle’

05 Feb 18:22

“We’ve lost control of our own stories online”

by Scott Rosenberg

Facebook on this day
What Facebook’s On This Day shows about the fragility of our online lives — Leigh Alexander in the Guardian:

In many senses, we’ve lost control of our own stories online – the ongoing “right to be forgotten” discussions that began in the European Court of Justice in 2014 act as a partial concession to that point.

Instead of a shoebox of pictures and a diary, your child will grow up depending on interconnected platforms and services. Her entire history, from the first ultrasound picture you share to your network to the day she has a headache to the day she makes a snack, and on like that, will be documented – and could belong to service providers. Unless we can regain control of our narratives online, unless we can discover a way to value our social content, thisflickering constellation of forgettable “moments” and social media “memories”, is the main way our histories will be kept.

05 Feb 18:35

Slowing Down the Queen

by pricetags

By way of transportation consultant Clive Rock:


Road markingd


White lines on roads could become a thing of the past in an attempt to slow drivers down because blank roads cause uncertainty and motorists slow down as a result.  In a complete switch from received wisdom on congestion and road crashes, research suggests doing so, can cut the average speed on a road by 13 per cent.

So plans for a “shared space” pilot scheme are being drawn in Norfolk which could see lines removed on narrower roads near the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, according to The Timesnewspaper.

Similar trials have already taken place in Wiltshire and Derby and central markings – a feature of British roads for almost 100 years – have not been replaced on three roads in South London. A 2014 trial by Transport for London found that “removing central white lines resulted in a reduction in vehicle speeds,” they said on their website.

05 Feb 18:38

Creator of BBM out at BlackBerry as company sheds more talent

by Daniel Bader

The creator of BBM, and one of BlackBerry’s longest-tenured employees, is no longer at the company.

Gary Klassen, who joined then-Research In Motion in 2000 as a software engineer for the upcoming BlackBerry 950 communicator, has left the company after almost 16 years. Klassen’s wife, who posted on Facebook, says that her husband has “walked out of BlackBerry for the last time.”

“Gary you’ve been a wonderful example of integrity, faithfulness, and patience working there but I’m glad you’re out,” she said in a public post.

After spending five years in RIM’s general software division, Klassen went on to create the team that would integrate a number of messaging services into the legacy BlackBerry operating system. His most significant achievement came in 2005 when he launched BlackBerry Messenger, a service still used today by nearly 200 million people around the world.

According to a post released on BlackBerry’s internal blog, BBM was initially used for internal purposes, and was known as QuickMessenger. The product was envisioned as a way for BlackBerry users, all of whom had unique PIN codes, to chat with one another in a secure, data-driven environment. “BBM was the first form of text communication that was instant, cross-carrier, and mobile, in a time when people were still attached to their PCs,” said Klassen in an interview in mid-2015.

BlackBerry Messenger was released for iOS and Android in October 2013, and in the company’s latest earnings results said it is used by over 190 million people. BBM has since expanded to the enterprise with BBM Protected, though the short-lived collaboration tool, BBM Meetings, was shut down last month.

A year ago, Klassen was promoted to Director of Software Architecture and Innovation, moving home to Waterloo after spending nearly two years in Malmo, Sweden with the remnants of design company The Astonishing Tribe, which RIM purchased in 2010.

At the time of publishing, neither Klassen nor a BlackBerry representative has responded to requests for comment.

Related: BlackBerry reportedly cuts 35% of Waterloo workforce, including significant BlackBerry 10 & Devices staff

05 Feb 18:40

City of Surrey is neglecting safe crosswalks

by daka_x
04 Feb 17:41

Apple Music for Android now lets you save music to an SD card

by Rob Attrell

One of the most significant differences between Android and iOS devices is that Apple has total control over its iOS platform. When building an iOS app, developers never have to worry about dealing with content from an SD card, because no iOS device has an SD slot (third-party SD card adapters are only designed to transfer pictures).

Apple Music is the first legitimate cross-platform mobile initiative by Apple, and building an Android app is different from making one for iOS.

This week, Apple Music’s Android app received an update that will likely never make its way to the music streaming platform’s iOS iteration; Support for saving music to an SD card. If iOS users want to keep a section of their music library offline, they’re limited to the storage size of their device. Android users, provided their phone has an SD slot, are now only limited by the size of SD card they have.

Since the Google Play Store displays download counts, unlike the iOS App Store, we know Apple Music for Android has reached a million downloads, so it’s no surprise the company is taking steps to improve the experience on Google’s operating system.

The latest update also adds the Beats 1 schedule to Apple Music’s app, so you can find out ahead of time, which shows will be airing on the radio station, and when.

04 Feb 21:37

Some iOS Instagram users are seeing multiple account support

by Rob Attrell

Instagram is one of the most popular photo sharing apps out there today, and many businesses use the app for promoting sales, products, and services. However, most people who use the app in this way are likely to also have a personal Instagram account in addition to one for business purposes.

One long running missing Instagram feature is the ability to remain logged into multiple accounts at the same time, something that currently isn’t supported. Back in November, Instagram briefly rolled out support in its Android app, but the account-switching feature was hidden and quickly disappeared for all but a few lucky users.

This week, users of Instagram’s iOS app are seeing this feature pop up as well, giving a small group of people the ability to move between accounts without having to sign out when switching accounts. This may just be another small scale test, but it also could be an indication that Instagram multi-account support could soon receive a widespread release.