Shared posts

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
01-android-top-phones-group-630

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

files/images/Leslie_Valiant.jpg


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 dwtheme.com 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 20:48

http://blog.madsencycles.com/cargo/2016/02/we-went-to-master-frame-builder-jared-madsen-of-madsen-cycles-in-salt-lake-city-ut-who-retrofitted-his-stock-cargo-bike-with.html

by jared madsen

"We went to master frame builder Jared Madsen of Madsen Cycles in Salt Lake City, UT who retrofitted his stock cargo bike with a steel cage to support the rear-mounted desk."

-Momentum Mag

https://momentummag.com/that-bike-show-the-pedal-powered-talk-show-hits-the-bike-path/

Spokes
05 Feb 00:00

Extending a little thought experiment

files/images/thought-experiments-that-will-melt-your-brain-a-little.jpg


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

files/images/Just10.jpg


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 00:00

On Old School Social Bookmarking

files/images/2058127104_6849f102eb_z.jpg


Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Feb 08, 2016


Interesting look back at what we used to call 'social bookmarking' - that's where you record the URLs of interesting links and then 'tag' them with meaningful (to you) words and phrases. These bookmarks could be shared, or searched by tag, which made an excellent discovery tool. As Alan Levine notes, it seems to have become less popular. "It’ s one of those brilliant ideas that still make tons of sense yet never really caught on beyond the people who can get compulsive about tagging," he writes. Maybe. But I think what's missing is on the 'read' end - there's no really good way to read what people have found. We depend on things like Twitter and Facebook, and these really deaden the experience.

[Link] [Comment]
05 Feb 19:22

Loopback Is a Winner!

by Paul Kafasis

Loopback IconJust under a month ago, we unveiled our newest application, Loopback. It provides a cable-free way to route audio all around your Mac, between applications and audio devices. Following Loopback’s release a few weeks ago, we’ve been thrilled to receive a great deal of positive feedback about it.

Loopback has been covered in-depth by sites like MacNN and Lifehacker. We’ve also heard from individual users with comments like one proclaiming Loopback an “instant buy” and another which stated that it “fixed their entire workflow”. Best of all are the glowing reviews, such as a fantastic 4.5 mice rating from Macworld and a 9 out of 10 score from MyMac.

Multiple outlets have correctly noted that Loopback isn’t for everyone. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber said, “This is the sort of app few people need, but for those who need it, it’s a godsend”. If you’re someone who’s looking for the power of a high-end studio mixing board, without the high-end price tag, Loopback is for you. It’s a tremendously powerful tool for podcasters, screencasters, audio techs, and more. If Loopback sounds interesting, click to learn more and download the free trial. We think you’ll be glad you did!

06 Feb 01:48

Artforum about "Data Drift" exhibition (curated by Lev Manovich, Rasa Smite, Raitis Smiths) - article by Martha Buskirk

by Lev Manovich

article about Data Drift in Artforum p1
(high resolution version of page 1)

article about Data Drift in Artforum p2
(high resolution version of page 2)



Data Drift is an exhibition curated by Lev MANOVICH, Rasa SMITE and Raitis SMITS at kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, October 10 – November 22, 2015.

Artforum (February 2016) just published a very nice article about the exhibition written by Marta Burskirk, Professor of Art History and Criticism at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Since Artforum's content is not available online, and a single print issue costs $10 (in U.S.), we offer the scan of the article above. Addition of URLs, underlining and correction for On Broadway details are ours. Click on the images to see them in high resolution on Flickr and read the text.


Introduction to Data Drift written by Manovich:

DATA DRIFT exhibition showcases works by some of the most influential data designers of our time, as well as by artists who use data as their artistic medium. How can we use the data medium to represent our complex societies, going beyond "most popular," and "most liked"? How can we organize the data drifts that structure our lives to reveal meaning and beauty? How to use big data to "make strange," so we can see past and present as unfamiliar and new?

If painting was the art of the classical era, and photograph that of the modern era, data visualization is the medium of our own time. Rather than looking at the outside worldwide and picturing it in interesting ways like modernist artists (Instagram filters already do this well), data designers and artists are capturing and reflecting on the new data realities of our societies.


Full list of projects and artists shown in Data Drift:

COMPUTERS WATCHING MOVIES (Benjamin Grosser, 2013)

ON BROADWAY (Daniel Goddemeyer , Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, Lev Manovich, 2014)

CINEMETRICS (Frederic Brodbeck, 2011)

CULTUREGRAPHY (Kim Albrecht, Boris Müller, Marian Dörk, 2014)

THE RUN (Kristaps Epners, 2015)

THE EXCEPTIONAL AND THE EVERYDAY: 144 HOURS IN KYIV (Lev Manovich, Mehrdad Yazdani, Alise Tifentale, Jay Chow, 2014)

CHARTING CULTURE (Maximilian Schich, Mauro Martino, 2014)

STADTBILDER (Moritz Stefaner, 2013)

U.S. GUN KILLINGS: THE STOLEN YEARS (Periscopic, 2013)

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND (Pitch Interactive, 2013)

BAND 9 (Semiconductor, 2015)

SMART CITIZEN (Smart Citizen Team, 2012-present)

A SENSE OF PLACE (SPIN Unit, 2014-)

TALK TO ME (Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits, Martins Ratniks, 2011–2015)





05 Feb 20:52

When life gives you lemons, make science

by Oliver Keyes

Ever since my writeup on leaving R, my blog has been getting a lot more traffic than usual. Usually this would be fine except it's also resulting in many more comments, and the topic means that a lot of those comments are blathering about whiny SJW babies. Or death threats. 28 of those at the last count.

But, sure, it's the social justice people who are oversensitive and fly off the handle.

My immediate response to the storm of attention was to just apply the kitten setting - and after I got bored of that, the puppy, quokka, rail and guinea pig settings.

Then I remembered that my day job is as a HCI researcher who knows kind of a lot about analysing web data and every commenter had given me the website they came from, the IP address they used, and a comment I could easily hand-code for shittiness.

Accordingly I present my newest feature:

In which Oliver Keyes Sciences the Shit Out of the Arseholes on his Blog

Defining "arseholes"

This isn't a formal study so my definition of arsehole can be basically whatever I want it to be. I settled for any comment which exhibited one of the following traits:

  1. Accused me of lying about everything that had happened to get some benefit that apparently comes alongside threats, harassment and weird emails. Nobody has explained to me what this benefit is but I eagerly await my cheque in the mail from the nefarious SJW cabal apparently causing me to make things up;
  2. Contained threats, goading-towards-suicides, or generally obscene and targeted harassment;
  3. Used terms like "SJW" or "pissbaby" or "whinging" or really anything else that indicated the author had, at best, a tenuous grasp on how the world works;
  4. Was premised on the idea that I was "oversensitive" or "overreacting" which is pretty rich coming from people whose idea of acceptability includes insulting people they've never met on somebody else's website.

So I took this definition and hand-coded the comments and grabbed the data. We ended up with 107 users, of whom a mere 40 weren't arseholes, producing 183 comments in total. Then I worked out their referring site and geolocated their IP address, et voila.

Looking at referers

Every time you make a web request (with some exceptions we won't get into here) browsers send along to the new page or server the place you're coming from. If you click from here to this Wikipedia link, the Wikipedia request logs will show you came from my website.

Similarly, if you come from another site to my website, most of the time I can work out where that other site is. So I took the referers for people leaving comments. Then I turned them into human-readable text, stripped out those referers with fewer than 5 distinct users, and the results look a little something like:

A chart of the probability of commenters being unpleasant, depending on which site they came from

Unsurprisingly, Vox Day's readers are arseholes. Not just some of them, but all of them: every one of them who managed to painfully peck at their keyboard and hit save was a pillock of the highest calibre, contributing absolutely nothing of value to to the conversation.

I was surprised by how low the proportion of arseholes was for Twitter and Facebook. Knowing, as I do, a lot of the sharing that went on, I suspect it's because it was largely done by people who sort of get the whole "not being totally ignorant of anyone who doesn't look like you" thing and, correspondingly, read by networks of people who like those people.

Reddit isn't entirely awful, but honestly when the nicest thing you can say about a site is "the users are not as bad as people who hang on to a racist misogynistic creep's every word"...you're not doing that well.

Wikipediocracy, amusingly, has been discussing this, because sure I don't edit much and this is nothing to do with my job or Wikipedia at all but you can't spell "obsessive creeps" without "obsessive". Their users actually made it into the dataset, but there were too few of them to include in the graph.

Wikipedians will be unsurprised to learn that 100% of Wikipediocracy-sourced commentators were utter shits of only the highest quality. While the population was too small to make it into the dataset, I suspect that this is one tiny sample that is actually generalisable.

If we look at comments instead of the people making them:

A chart of the probability of comments being unpleasant, depending on which site the commenters came from

Twitter comments were shockingly likely to be useful, for which I think we can blame Gavin Simpson (bless you Gavin). Facebook jumped up a bit because apparently scumbags are just more enthusiastic than non-scumbags and so post more. Everyone else looks pretty much the same.

Looking at geography

As well as referers we have IP addresses - and by extension unless people are using proxies we have where they live. To avoid being too creepy (and too specific for useful analysis) I'm just looking at countries:

A chart of the probability of commenters being unpleasant, depending on which country they came from

Most commenters were either super-distributed or super-clustered, so only three countries qualified to get on - all of them, shock horror, primarily English-speaking.

In a continuation of the "water remains wet" theme we started with "wow, Vox Day's readers really are horrible", it turns out Canadians are actually nicer than Americans. It's alright, America, you're nicer than Brits - albeit not by much.

Things look much the same if we look at comments:

A chart of the probability of comments being unpleasant, depending on which country the commenter came from

You know the phrase "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch"? Sorry, Sweden. You have A Shithead, and he's a really prolific one.

Once again, Canadians are super-nice and everyone else sucks, although there's a much bigger difference here. Again, I blame Gavin.

Wrapping up

In summary, we've shown:

  • Vox Day readers are uniformly shitheads;
  • Reddit readers are only mostly shitheads;
  • There are, in fact, some mean Canadians;
  • If you're going to harass people for science bear in mind that they may science your harassment.

Happy browsing to all. And remember, kids: nobody likes total strangers offering their very important opinion about how you are totally wrong. So, please: don't be that stranger.

05 Feb 20:00

Low-light Phone cam

Regular readers will know that I have a thing about low-light photography. My new photo-toy is the Nexus 5X and I’ve the urge to push it further into the dark than it really wants to go.

Southbound approach to the Cambie Bridge

Yes, the wide-angle is bending the building a bit; but it’s getting help from the architect. #Bike2WorkPix. 1/35sec at ISO 725.

I remember, all those years ago, when the original Nikon D3 came out, the first digital camera that could see just as well as you in the dark. They more or less all can, these days.

East False Creek

That’s a little corner of the mighty Pacific.
#Bike2WorkPix, 1/19 sec at ISO 1318.

So, while I still like the shades and textures of dusk and winter, there’s less challenge to it, with a real camera.

West Georgia Street

Vancouver downtown, no HDR! 1/25sec, ISO 452.

Ah, but the Nexus; it can’t go even as far as ISO1600 and it’s not among the select few handsets with optical image stabilization. The lens is said to be F2, which isn’t terrible. So it’s about striving for a steady hand or, better, finding something to brace against or, best, good luck

Community Heating

It’s both a community thermal project and an art piece. #Bike2WorkPix 1/25sec at ISO 970.

But at the end of the day — which is when low-light pix happen — it’s really mostly about finding things that deserve pointing the phone at.

Night train flip phone

The long slow night train from Seattle to Vancouver; this dude had an old-school flip-phone but it supported an active social life, via SMS I imagine. I love this picture. 1/25sec, ISO 1058.

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.

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TwoWayConcept

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.

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vka-pop-up-0517-jpg

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:

PlantersSeparation

Planters

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PermanentConcreteSeparation

Raised concrete curbs

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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

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And this:

Pandora 2

Facing east toward Blanshard Street

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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.

files/images/1865053221430148541.jpg


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?

[Link] [Comment]
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?

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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

Boeri
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).

The_Interlace_by_OMA_Ole_Scheeren_03_photo_Iwan_Baan

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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).

 

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Affordability

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
dwellings

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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:

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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.