Wednesday, 18 January

07:00 EST

Opening Pry Tool Repair Kit [Cool Tools]

If you can’t open it you don’t own it. I like to own my stuff, so I rely on tools to help me open those not-easy-to-open things. The last one I opened was an “instant on” food thermometer, because its internal probe contacts needed cleaning.

The kit comes with a stainless steel blade and steel pry bar, tweezers and five nylon “spudgers.” I usually start with cracking a seam open on the thing that I’m repairing with the steel pry bar, but switch to a plastic spudger once there is room for it.

The tools come in a neat roll.

-- Kent Barnes

Professional Opening Pry Tool Repair Kit with Non-Abrasive Nylon Spudgers and Anti-Static Tweezers, 8 Piece Set ($10)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Can Trump's Pick For Attorney General Serve Independently From The White House? [News : NPR]

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump

There's supposed to be a firewall between the Justice Department and the Oval Office, but Sessions' vigorous support of Donald Trump's campaign raises doubts about how independent he could be.

(Image credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage)

EPA Critic To Get Sharp Questions On Industry Ties As He Vies To Run Agency [News : NPR]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meets Jan. 6 with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate Scott Pruitt, right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Pruitt

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has sparked controversy for his denial of climate science and his ties to fossil-fuel interests. Here's what to expect in Wednesday's confirmation hearing.

(Image credit: Zach Gibson/AP)

Microsoft is bringing Cortana to the Android lock screen [The Verge - All Posts]

Microsoft recently overhauled the user interface of Cortana on Android, but the company has more plans for the digital assistant. The software maker is currently testing out a new way to access Cortana from the Android lock screen, with just a swipe. It’s a new feature that’s clearly designed to replace Google’s own quick access, and to convince Android users to switch to Cortana.

MSPoweruser reports that Cortana on the lock screen doesn’t replace existing lock screens, so you can still use a custom one or the default experience that ships with your Android device. Cortana is activated simply by swiping left or right on the floating logo. Microsoft is currently testing this new feature, and any Android users can opt-in to trial the new...

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Microsoft to add ebook store to Windows 10 [The Verge - All Posts]

Microsoft is reportedly planning to bring ebooks to the Windows Store. MSPoweruser reports that the new ebooks store will be integrated into the regular Windows Store alongside apps, games, music, TV shows, and movies. It appears Windows 10 users will be able to purchase books from a wide range of authors and publishers, and read them within Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft recently added EPUB support to Windows 10 as part of the Creators Update preview, and Microsoft Edge users will be able to bookmark books to create collections. Microsoft is expected to launch its ebook store as part of the Creators Update in April. The software maker is also planning to sell Windows themes in the store, as part of some additional customization and UI...

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Surprise: Google is still tinkering with Google+ [The Verge - All Posts]

Sometimes you’re so deeply invested in a project that even when it’s just not working you can’t stop fiddling, telling yourself: “If I just change this one thing maybe it’ll all be fine.” So seems to be the situation with Google and Google+, the company’s also-ran social network.

This week, the search giant announce a handful of changes for the service, including hiding “low-quality” comments by default, adding a zoom functionality for photos on the web, and bringing back its events feature — letting users create events and invite others. (Not mentioned in this recent update: the addition of machine learning to reduce image size for users, which was announced last week.)

Google is still trying to make Google+ work,...

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06:00 EST

Low-Cost Android One Phones Coming To The US, Says Report [Slashdot]

The Android One platform is a program designed by Google to provide budget-friendly Android smartphones to developing markets. The phones are attractive because they contain no bloatware, competing services, and a lack of software and security updates -- the stuff that most low-end smartphones contain. According to a report from The Information, the program is about to make its way to the U.S. market. The Verge reports: Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven't heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal. Android One may not have been the rousing worldwide success Google was hoping for, but it's still an important initiative for the company. Especially at the low end, there's a lot of incentive for manufacturers to pile on extra software in a bid to make those devices more profitable -- but that could cut against Google's efforts to make its own services more pervasive and popular. If Google really does put some real effort behind Android One, it could make its plans for Android a little clearer. Google itself has taken a stand that it wants to make its own hardware at the high-end of the smartphone market with the Pixel, and if The Information's report is accurate, it wants to ensure that its services are not cut out from the low end.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

05:00 EST

Remembering the SOPA blackout, five years later [Boing Boing]

Five years ago, we won an unprecedented victory: spurred on by blackouts of more than 50,000 sites, more than 8 million Americans called Congress to object to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a brutal internet censorship bill that would have been a stake through the heart of the open net. SOPA, which had been tipped to sail through Congress without any fuss, died an unprecedented death. It set a precedent. (more…)

5 Things To Listen For At The Hearing With Trump's HHS Nominee [News : NPR]

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has said that the Affordable Care Act interferes with physicians

Rep. Tom Price goes before a Senate panel for the first time since being picked to head Health and Human Services. Expect sharp questions about Medicare reform, drug prices and his stock portfolio.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

An 'Old Friend Of China' Prepares To Bridge Differences At A Fraught Time [News : NPR]

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad greets Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in April 2013. The two first met in 1985, during a visit by Xi to Iowa.

Donald Trump chose Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to Beijing because of old ties with President Xi Jinping and Iowa's history of trade with China. Branstad will have a tough job.

(Image credit: Andy Wong/AP)

In Battle Over Band Name, Supreme Court Considers Free Speech And Trademarks [News : NPR]

Joe Jiang (left) and Simon Tam of The Slants are in a legal battle at the Supreme Court over their band

The Patent and Trademark Office denied registration to an Asian-American rock band named The Slants; the musicians say they want to re-appropriate the term. The case hits the high court on Wednesday.

(Image credit: Ariel Zambelich/NPR)

Julian Assange remains silent on extradition promise [The Verge - All Posts]

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange welcomed President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning on Thursday, but it is not clear whether he will agree to extradition to the US, as WikiLeaks previously said.

"Ms. Manning is a hero, whose bravery should be applauded," Assange said in the statement released Tuesday. "Journalists, publishers, and their sources serve the public interest and promote democracy by distributing authentic information on key matters such as human rights abuses and illegal acts by government officials. They should not be prosecuted."

In a tweet published last week, WikiLeaks said: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ...

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Tesla will also make Model 3 motors at its Nevada Gigafactory [The Verge - All Posts]

The production of lithium-ion battery cells began at Tesla’s massive Nevada Gigafactory earlier this month, but in the future, the factory will make more than just batteries. As announced by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval last night, and reported by Fortune and the Reno Gazette-Journal, Tesla is adding production for electric motors and gearbox components for its mass-market Model 3 sedan to the factory.

This expanded production will lead to 550 new jobs at the factory and an extra $350 million in investment, said Sandoval during his State of the State speech. He thanked Tesla for “doubling down” on its commitment in Nevada, and said the company had already provided economic growth in the area.

Tesla currently employs 1,000 full-time...

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04:00 EST

Obviously fake "paid protester" site sets right wing media aflutter [Boing Boing]

Demand Protest, a service that bills itself as providing "deliver[ing the appearance of rage] at scale while keeping your reputation intact" purportedly pays protesters $2500/month plus $50/hour for left-wing protesters to take to the streets, and claims to have run 48 campaigns, despite having only registered its domain last month (it also displays a copyright notice that spans 2015-2017). (more…)

Political leaks disrupt Ecuadoran election [Boing Boing]

Opponents of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa -- himself a prolific and shrewd social media campaigner -- have had their social media accounts hacked and used to dump embarrassing transcripts purporting to show their party in disarray and romantic scandals in their personal lives. (more…)

SF in SF: see Kim Stanley Robinson & Cecelia Holland live in San Francisco this Saturday [Boing Boing]

The next installment in the extraordinary lecture/reading series features Hugo-winning environmentalist author Kim Stanley Robinson and prolific historical novelist Cecelia Holland: $10 donation at the door, no one turned away for lack of funds. (Images: AllyUnion, CC-BY-SA; Other Change of Hobbit)

What happens when your political photo goes viral in 2017 [Boing Boing]

Sean Bonner's posted his share of viral images over the years, but the most recent time was a little different: he tweeted a picture of an anti-Trump political sticker he spotted in Tokyo, created by street artist 281_Anti nuke. (more…)

03:00 EST

"Nothing in life is truly free" -Billionaire heiress Betsy Devos, explaining to Bernie Sanders why your kids won't get free college tuition [Boing Boing]

Convicted election fraudster and public education opponent Betsy Devos made her billions through hard work -- really, you can't overstate the effort required to emerge from the loins of someone who married a rich guy, nor the work of later marrying someone else who emerged from the loins someone who married a rich guy. (more…)

Historic accord reached in bum-washing bidet toilet UI conventions [Boing Boing]

Japan's leading bidet toilet manufacturers (including Toto, Panasonic, and Toshiba) have come together through their industry association, the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, to agree upon a common set of UI conventions for the meanings of the icons on the buttons on the bidets' control panels, thus ending an era in which you might think you were getting "wash and dry" but actually ended up with "layer-cut and dye-job." (more…)

NASA Is Making New Robots That Can Control Themselves [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: NASA wants humans and robots to work together as teams. To ensure that, the space agency's autonomous robotics group is currently developing new technology to improve how humans explore the solar system, and how robots can help. When NASA began working with remotely operated robots several years ago, Fong said the scientists needed a piece of software that would allow them to look at terrain and sensor data coming from autonomous robots. That led to the creation of VERVE, a "3D robot user interface," which allows scientists to see and grasp the three-dimensional world of remotely operated robots. VERVE has been used with NASA's K10 planetary rovers (a prototype mobile robot that can travel bumpy terrain), with its K-Rex planetary rovers (robot to determine soil moisture), with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station (ISS), and with the new robot Astrobee (a robot that can fly around the ISS). In 2013, NASA carried out a series of tests with astronauts on the ISS, during which astronauts who were flying 200 miles above Earth remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in California. Because of time delay, astronauts can't just "joystick a robot," said Maria Bualat, deputy lead of intelligent robotics group at the NASA Ames Research Center. "You need a robot that can operate on its own, complete tasks on its own," she said. "On the other hand, you still want the human in the loop, because the human brings a lot of experience and very powerful cognitive ability that can deal with issues that the autonomy's not quite ready to handle." That's why, according to NASA, human capabilities and robotic capabilities comprise a powerful combination.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

CIA puts almost 12 million declassified files online for the first time [The Verge - All Posts]

The CIA has put almost 12 million pages of its records online, allowing anyone with an internet connection to browse 50 years worth of declassified intelligence reports, briefings, and other once-secret documents. Included in the database are US discussions about assassinating Fidel Castro, details of Nazi war crimes, reports of UFO sightings, and a study into human telepathy dubbed "Project Star Gate."

Then-president Bill Clinton ordered the CIA to declassify secret documents that were more than 25 years old and of "historical value" in 1995, but the Agency didn't make the archives searchable until 2000. Even then, the documents — which cover a period from the 1940s to the 1990s — were only accessible from four computers at the US...

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Technological Solutionism, Existential Entitlement, and Insights from Star Trek DS9 [Cyborgology]

With the 50th anniversary of the original series and impending debut of Star Trek: Discovery later this year, it seems like an ideal time to look back at how this franchise—which is so near and dear me and many of my fellow Cyborgologists—has imagined technology.

Those who grew up in the era of the recent J.J Abrams “reboot” series of action films, could be forgiven for thinking of the Star Trek universe is little more than a thin narrative strand binding together adrenaline hits in yet another forgettable instantiation of the timeless male fantasy of blowing shit up in space. But, in its prime, Star Trek’s cerebral nature and its relentless interrogation of moral and social values set it apart from other successful 20th Century space dramas like Star Wars or the original Battlestar Galactica series.

The original Star Trek series was notably progressive in employing women writers (primarily D.C. Fontana) and having a racially diverse cast, and it famously featured television’s first interracial kiss (which, speaking to the cerebral nature of the show, took place on a planet whose inhabitants where trying to enact the ideas of Plato’s Republic). Later series would push the envelope on media representation by featuring Black (DS9) and women (Voyager) captains. This opened the way to more explicit reflections of race and gender politics by the show’s characters.

 Most significant, though, is the way that politics were baked into the setting of the Star Trek universe from the beginning. Creator Gene Roddenberry imagined that, with the elimination of material scarcity (and money along with it), 24th Century Earth would become a paradise. Having everything, humans would collectively turn away from the goal of accumulating wealth and toward the mutually intertwined goals of interplanetary exploration and self-realization. Roddenberry’s imagined future was a product of its time (i.e., the 1960s). The original series aired during the period of peak influence for Frankfurt School and other Freudo-Marxian theorists who were arguing that human potential could finally be realized now that techno-social innovations were on the cusp of providing whole of society sufficient resources to meet their basic biological needs. Once new technologies—and the unparalleled levels of productivity they promised to enable—made us all healthy and comfortable, we could turn our attention to higher order desires, such as the pursuit of knowledge and the search for meaning. This is the deep meaning of the series’ recurring introductory monologue:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Of course, it is naïve to imagine that, even in the absence of material scarcity, humans could put aside social and cultural difference (without any group being oppressed) and unite to explore the galaxy—even given the classic sci-fi trope that, once aliens appear on Earth (in this case, friendly Vulcans), differences between humans will seem small by comparison. However, this naiveté was only ever superficial—a way of disarming knee-jerk political reactions and evading prejudices by transposing human social dynamics onto our interactions with aliens. This was a particularly effective vehicle for social commentary during the periods that the original series (1966-69) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94) ran, when television was still dominated by just a few risk-adverse networks.

Star Trek’s emphasis on exploration and discovery points not to a future of moral clarity and social harmony, but rather to one where our virtues are constantly tested—where personal contradictions and social conflicts perpetually emerge. This is what I understand David Banks to mean when he writes about utopianism in Star Trek:

Utopias… don’t just let us display the final result of a certain kind of politics, they let us interrogate the very foundations of our politics. They let us bring ideas to their logical and illogical conclusions and, in so doing, gives us a crucible in which to crush them up, mix them, and come up with brand new ideas. Utopic story telling should not be blind to anything: it should meet race, class, gender, and any other social structure head on and complicate it beyond comprehension. What comes out the other side should be a little unnerving, exciting, and dangerous. Exactly what the future should be.

I accept and agree with Banks’ perspective on the potential for radical utopias as imagined futures that facilitate our questioning of the present. And, his understanding certainly fits with Karl Mannheim’s classic definition that “a state of mind is utopian when it is incongruous with the state of reality in which it occurs” and “which, when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time.” But what Banks dismisses as failing to live up to the ideal of (radical) utopic storytelling, is still, I suggest, a form of utopianism; it is just a more naïve and insidious form of utopianism that imagines that there to be scientific solutions for social and moral problems. As such, these problems can be ignored as temporary setbacks, which will inevitably be resolved by the progressive arc of history and technological advancement.

Arguably, the first two Star Trek series, tended more toward this sort of naïve utopianism. Both series are deeply and fundamentally optimistic in their orientation toward technology. Despite the future’s inherent dangers, most problems are imagined to be resolvable with persistence and inventiveness. This unwavering faith in human ingenuity was Roddenberry’s trademark, and, as Banks notes, it is also a “box” that Star Trek’s writers only escaped from after his death.

In many episodes (from the first two series in particular), technical solutions act as a deus ex machina, eliminating any need for compromise or meaningful sacrifices on the part of the crew. These instances a parodied in the Voltaire song “USS Make Shit Up” whose chorus goes:

Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish
That’s the way we do things lad, we’re making shit up as w wish
The Klingons and the Romulans pose no threat to us
‘Cause if we find we’re in a bind we just make some shit up.

Technological deus ex machina may have worked as a in individual episodes as a useful mechanism, allowing writers to introduce scenarios that pose interesting questions without needing to answer those questions or connect all the dots relating them back to contemporary moral and social issues; however, it also created a broader meta-narrative of technological solutionism throughout the series. In other words, this narrative pattern encourages naïve utopian expectations that moral and social issues will be resolved by technological innovation, rather than moral or social insights and decision-making.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the first of the post-Roddenberry series. What makes it unique (and, in my estimation, the most creative and theoretically interesting show in the franchise’s history) is deliberate departure from the technological and moral solutionism of its predecessors. DS9 imagined a world were failure was a real possibility and success often came at a price.

Technology in DS9 is often hostile. Unlike the Starship Enterprise which is portrayed as the pinnacle of human inventiveness, Deep Space Nine is a war trophy won from the Cardassians and was previously used to enslave members of the crew and their kin. Rather than a symbol of hope, it is a symbol of oppression—or was. Nothing in DS9 is so one-sided. Despite being uncomfortable, alien, and dangerous, the space station also becomes home; it also becomes the last bastion of hope in humanity’s struggle to preserve its freedom.

Most significant, DS9 does not take an intrinsically optimistic or pessimistic stance toward technology, nor does it adopt the facile view that technology is neutral or value free. Instead, DS9 approaches technology with profound ambivalence, understanding that our relationship to technology is always a matter of human (or alien) values. Innovation is not always bad, but more innovation is not always better.

The episode, “Armageddon Game” is an excellent example of how this ambivalent relationship to technology plays out. The crew agrees to help two alien races cement a peace deal by figuring how to destroy the advanced biological weapons that both alien species had developed during their long war. On the surface, a degree of ambivalence is apparent in this narrative: Technological innovation has produced these terrible weapons, but it is also the solution for getting rid of them. Despite this superficial ambivalence, however, the narrative, without further development, would resolve into a “yay, science” moment, where, though technological innovation did create some problems (i.e., genocide), we can rest comfortably in knowing that such problems are nothing that can’t be solved with a little more innovation.

Instead of following this kind of pat techno-solutionist narrative, the episode takes a darker, more sophisticated turn: Once the weapons are destroyed, the two alien governments jointly undertake a plot to assassinate all the scientists involved with the project (including an attempt on a pair of the show’s protagonists, who barely manage to escape). The aliens believe that any technical knowledge of the weapons is too dangerous to exist and that peace depends on undoing the technological (weapons) development that has previously occurred. In other words, the aliens believe that the solution to the problem posed by the existence of these weapons is to simultaneously advance and turn back technological development. By presenting the aliens as having such an ambivalent relationship with technology—as neither single-mindedly embracing technological solutionism or skepticism—the episode pivots toward a much deeper conversation about values: What is the worth of an individual life and how much risk should a society tolerate for the sake of one person? These are not questions that the crew–or anyone–can answer (or render irrelevant) through innovation. Technology cannot save us from ourselves.

This echoes the observations of early-20th Century sociologist Max Weber, who argued that, despite the modernist impulse to put faith in reason, science and technology can never enable us to escape the need for moral judgements. Virtues are matters of faith, a different order of knowledge than empirical data or objective reasoning. These virtues—whether received are chosen—cannot be proven but only accepted or denied. Most importantly to a show about aliens—who, inevitably, are proxies for competing aspects of our own humanity—meaning is only realized in light of what we choose not to do or be. He explains (“Objectivity in Social,” 1904):

The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself. It must recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us.

Both Weber and DS9 (throughout its many episodes) demonstrate what might be described as an existentialist orientation: To affirm ourselves—both in our individuality and our humanity—we must make moral choices—choices of consequence that affirm one way of being at the expense of foreclosing other possible ways of being. The illusion of naïve techno-utopianism—whether pedaled by Silicon Valley or the earlier incarnations of the Star Trek franchise—is that technology offers an escape from morality; that we can innovate our way out of having to make choices or sacrifices that affirm our values; that technology will allow us to transcend the need for morality so that we can, somehow, live a life that is amoral without being immoral.

A second DS9 episode (my personal favorite) shatters the illusion that this sort of naïve, amoral utopia is possible, even in the imagined Star Trek universe. The episode “In the Pale Moonlight,” begins with news that humans and their allies are losing a war for their freedom against a vast interstellar empire known as the Dominion. Captain Sisko believes humanity’s only hope is to draw the Romulans (who have long been enemies) into war on their side. He recruits an exiled former spy named Garak to aid him in a plot to forge a recording that ostensibly proves that the Dominion is planning a sneak attack on the Romulans. When Sisko asks Garak to aid him in carrying out this plot, Garak responds, “It may be a very messy, very bloody business. Are you prepared for that?” The captain pulls strings to have an expert forger named Grathon Tolar released from jail so that he can assist them. He also pays bribes and deals in contraband in order to obtain the necessary technology. Once complete, Sisko arranges a secret meeting with a Romulan senator who, despite all Sisko’s efforts and moral compromises, scrutinizes the message and determines that it is, in fact, a forgery. Persistence and inventiveness have not paid off for Sisko, and these efforts only convince us that it was unrealistic to ever believe a technical solution was possible.

What makes the episode most interesting is that it turns out not to be a simplistic morality tale about crime and punishment; instead, it creates a scenario of moral ambivalence in addition to technological ambivalence. After the forgery is discovered, the ambassador is furious and leaves the station. Shortly thereafter, his ship explodes, apparently sabotaged by the Dominion. The Romulans recover the rod from the ship’s wreckage, which they fail to carefully examine because they already blame the Dominion for the assassination. It convinces them to join the war on the side of the humans. The episode ends with a revelation that Garak had in fact planted the bomb and planned to assassinate the ambassador all along, because he believed the stakes were too high to place faith in the forgery (i.e., the technical fix). He also murdered Grathon Tolar, the forger. The real revelation, however, is that Sisko picked Garak to help him because, in the back of his mind, he knew Garak would do anything necessary to ensure they succeeded in drawing the Romulans into the war. Garak calls Sisko out, saying:

That’s why you came to me, isn’t it, captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren’t capable of doing. Well it worked. And you’ll get what you want: A war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And, if your conscious is bothering you, you should sooth it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a bargain.

Sisko then closes the episode reflecting to himself:

I lied, I cheated, I bribed a man to cover the crimes of other men, I am an accessory to murder. The most damning thing of all: I think I can live with it. And, if I had to do it all over again, I would… a guilty conscious is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant, so I will learn to live with it

At this pivotal moment in the story arc of the entire series, technology cannot save humanity, but lies and murder can. If technological solutionism is the naïve belief that humans can invent their way out of moral and social problem, existential entitlement is a parallel belief that all moral conflicts can be solved without sacrifice or compromise. Of course, Sisko would have preferred another option—an easy technological or moral fix–but such solutions are not guaranteed in radical utopias such as DS9 are certainly not guaranteed in reality.

Tuesday, 17 January

23:00 EST

I rolled these hand-forged metal dice hundreds of times. How fair are they? [Boing Boing]

Rough metal dice, fresh off the forge! Dice so heavy and clunky and sharp you can ruin tables and kill cheats without brandishing a dagger. But is this ren-faire fun fair play? I decided to put them to the test and see how random they were. I'm not great at math, so I'll just show my method and results and you can do the judging. (more…)

AI Can Predict When Patients Will Die From Heart Failure 'With 80% Accuracy' [Slashdot]

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Scientists say they have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that is capable of predicting when patients with a serious heart disorder will die with an 80% accuracy rate. Researchers from the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) believe the software will allow doctors to better treat patients with pulmonary hypertension by determining how aggressive their treatment needs to be. The researchers' program assessed the outlook of 250 patients based on blood test results and MRI scans of their hearts. It then used the data to create a virtual 3D heart of each patient which, combined with the health records of "hundreds" of previous patients, allowed it to learn which characteristics indicated fatal heart failure within five years. The LMS scientists claim that the software was able to accurately predict patients who would still be alive after a year around 80% of the time. The computer was able to analyze patients "in seconds," promising to dramatically reduce the time it takes doctors to identify the most at-risk individuals and ensure they "give the right treatment to the right patients, at the right time." Dr Declan O'Regan, one the lead researchers from LMS, said: "This is the first time computers have interpreted heart scans to accurately predict how long patients will live. It could transform the way doctors treat heart patients. The researchers now hope to field-test the technology in hospitals in London in order to verify the data obtained from their trials, which have been published in the medical journal Radiology.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Japanese toilet industry agrees to standardize complex bidet controls [The Verge - All Posts]

The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, a consortium of companies producing plumbing products including Toto, Panasonic, and Toshiba, has agreed to unify the iconography used on the often baffling control panels for Japanese toilets. The decision was made in response to foreign tourists who say they’re often unable to understand the controls, which operate features often not found on Western toilets such as bidets and warm air drying.

The toilet manufacturers plan to implement the eight new pictogram on models released from this year onward, with a view to the system becoming an international standard. The icons in the image above mean (from left to right) raise the lid, raise the seat, large flush, small flush, rear spray,...

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22:00 EST

The Mounted Everything Workspace [Lifehacker]

Lainz’s setup is unique in a few ways, one of which that he has a pair of speakers mounted to monitor arms just above his displays. Really offers that whole surround sound feel. Beyond that though, the setup has a few more neat surprises in store. Here are some more photos.


Google Maps Starts Showing Parking Availability For Some Users [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in August, Cody found strings in his teardown of Google Maps v9.34 beta that hinted at an upcoming display of parking difficulty. The option may have crept up for some users since then, but now we have our first glance into how the feature will work since it has started showing up for more users on Maps v9.44 beta. Parking availability will be shown as a small rounded P icon next to your route duration estimate when you search for driving directions, followed by more descriptive text. As Cody's teardown showed, there are three levels to look for: Limited, Medium, and Easy. Limited parking will get the P icon to turn red. Once you start driving toward your destination, you can expand the directions to get a more descriptive explanation of the parking situation. Our tipster tells us that according to his tests, parking availability shows up for public destinations like malls and airports and various attractions. The option doesn't seem to be live for everyone on Maps v9.44 beta (APK Mirror link), so you may need to be patient to see it on your phone.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Obama Pardons Famous Hotelier And Baseball Star [News : NPR]

Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants pictured in April 1966 near the height of his 21 year career. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1995 and was pardoned by President Obama.

Among those receiving the president's clemency are a man who reigned over top nightclubs, and another who scorched fastballs. Both had run afoul of tax laws.

(Image credit: AP)

21:00 EST

The 2018 Mustang will have driver assist tech, 10-speed transmission option [Ars Technica]


On Tuesday, Ford announced its 2018 Mustang, a refresh from the previous generation that debuted in 2015. Although Ford couldn’t share important details like fuel economy and price, the Mustang refresh seems like a thoughtful one. It has driver assist technology, a more aerodynamic design, and performance upgrades for both the 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, as well as its 5.0L V8 engine on the GT.

Ars spoke to Corey Holter, Ford’s Marketing Manager for Car and Cross Vehicle Marketing, about the updates to the car. He emphasized that the EcoBoost has been successful in bringing new customers into Ford’s mix, especially millennials, people of color, and women.

Before we saw the car, a spokesperson for Ford told us that the redesign of the interior and exterior of the 2018 Mustang would attract new female buyers, which admittedly put us on our guard. As a tech publication, we're all-too-familiar with the old “pink washing” gambit used so often by phone companies—that markets a product to women by slashing its specs and pandering to a perceived “female” aesthetic.

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Gabe Newell describes older Half-Life games as “things I regret“ [Ars Technica]

Gabe Newell and J.J. Abrams onstage at the DICE Summit in 2013. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Valve Software chief Gabe Newell logged into Reddit on Tuesday to answer questions in an "ask me anything" thread. As expected, waves of fans shouted "HALF-LIFE 3?!" as if that blurt were a question.

Unsurprisingly, Newell didn't offer hard answers about any closure to Valve's beloved FPS series. He and his coworkers have dodged such questions for years now—but he did offer a mix of pessimism and optimism regarding the Half-Life universe in general.

Early in the AMA, when he was asked what his favorite single-player Valve game was, Newell answered that it was Portal 2. A joke response from an apparent Half-Life fan prompted this Newell follow-up:

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Feds sue Qualcomm for anti-competitive patent licensing [Ars Technica]

The US Federal Trade Commission has charged Qualcomm with violating the FTC Act. The feds say that Qualcomm's patent-licensing policies amount to unfair competition.

The FTC's redacted complaint (PDF), filed today, says that Qualcomm maintains a "no license, no chips" policy that forces cell phone to pay high royalties to Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is a major supplier of baseband processors, and it also licenses patents that it says are essential to widely adopted cellular standards. According to the FTC complaint, Qualcomm won't sell baseband processors unless a customer takes a license to Qualcomm's standard-essential patents, on Qualcomm's terms. And Qualcomm has refused to license its standard-essential patents to competitors, which the FTC says violates Qualcomm's commitment to license on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" or FRAND basis. Agreeing to FRAND licensing terms is required by the standard-setting organizations to which Qualcomm belongs.

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US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing [Slashdot]

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Trump Pick To Head Interior Department Says Climate Change Is Not A Hoax [News : NPR]

Interior Secretary-nominee Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., tells a Senate committee that if he is confirmed, he

Rep. Ryan Zinke testified that humans influence climate, although there is a debate over how much. He promised to emulate Teddy Roosevelt in managing public lands.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Low-cost Android One phones reportedly coming to the US [The Verge - All Posts]

Google’s Android One platform was originally designed to provide low-cost Android devices to developing markets without the stuff that usually comes with low-cost Android devices: bloatware, competing services, and a crippling lack of software and security updates. Now, according to a report from The Information, the program is about to make it’s way to the US market to help solve those problems.

Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven’t heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and...

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Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is leaving Crackle for Netflix [The Verge - All Posts]

Jerry Seinfeld is taking his interview web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, to Netflix, according to Variety. That means Seinfeld is leaving behind Sony’s Crackle streaming service after nearly five years and nine seasons.

The move is yet another big get for Netflix, which has been courting high-profile comedians like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, and Jim Gaffigan to its platform with lucrative contract deals and an ever-growing audience. As part of his deal with Netflix, Seinfeld will also deliver two exclusive stand-up specials for the service and participate in developing scripted content down the line.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is...

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20:00 EST

Woodstock 40th Anniversary Limited Edition 3-disc Blu-ray for $5 [Boing Boing]

You can be as happy as the people in this photo if you buy the Woodstock 40th Anniversary Limited Edition 3-disc Blu-ray. It's on sale for $5 on Amazon. It has 11 never-before-seen songs.

Gut Fish the Japanese Way With a Pair of Chopsticks [Lifehacker]

If you need to gut your fresh catch of the day, all you need is a pair of chopsticks. Warning: you will literally see a fish’s guts get yanked out of its mouth.



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