Sunday, 16 December

05:00 EST

Global Gardens/Reversible USB/Good Eggs [Cool Tools]

Global gardens of culture
There are legions of TV shows using food as an excuse to travel, more focusing on history and architecture travel, but only one that I know about features gardens of the world. The host Monty Don, who is an institution in England, travels the world and in a deeply personal and sympathetic manner, uses gardens as his lens into cultures. His Netflix streaming series Italian Gardens and French Gardens are eye-opening and totally refreshing. His previous series Around the World in 80 Gardens is likewise mind-expanding. You won’t look at gardens the same. — KK

No-Look USB
These reversible micro USB cables are a miracle. Both the USB male and the micro plug can be plugged into a port without worrying which side is up. A 3 pack is $9. — MF

Favorite Bay Area food delivery service
There are plenty of grocery delivery services to choose from, but if you live in the Bay Area, I recommend Good Eggs. I’m never disappointed with the fruits and vegetables like I have been with Whole Foods in the past, or when ordering from Instacart. But mostly, I love discovering new local offerings, like delicious handmade pasta from Oakland or beautiful dried kitchen bouquets from Sonoma. Good Eggs deliveries always feels like a gift to myself. New customers can get $25 off their first order with promo code WELCOME25. — CD

Global Entry guide
As I previously recommended, Global Entry membership is a great bargain if you fly a lot. Not just homecoming international travel but for TSA-Precheck domestically. With it I rarely wait in line in US airports. Here is a very complete, free, third-party, comprehensive guide to evaluating its perks (some premium credit cards will pay for it), and navigating its bureaucratic hurdles (the best airports to get an interview), the kind of info you won’t find on the government webpage. — KK

YouTube shortcut tips
These YouTube keyboard shortcuts are handy, especially when watching how-to videos. For example pressing the 1 key will make the video start playing at the 10% point, pressing 2 takes you to the 20% point, and so on. The space bar pauses the video, and then you can press the period key to advance one frame at a time. — MF

Find out more about yourself in 5 minutes
This Personal Values Assessment takes only 5 minutes to complete and it peers right into your soul. I felt naked after reading the report of what matters to me the most and essentially, what drives me. I don’t know much about where it originates from but it seems to be used as a tool for leadership and career training. Personally, I think it’s far too personal to share with just anyone. With that said, I did ask my closest friends to take the test and send me their results. It helped me understand them so much better. — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

04:00 EST

Study Reveals The Most Googled 'Should I' Questions In Each State [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes BGR: One of the more interesting 2018 retrospectives we've seen focuses on which Google searches were the most popular across each state. Specifically, AT&T tapped into data from Google Trends and came up with a rather amusing look at the most popular "should I..." questions on a state by state basis. "Should I vote" was the most-popular question in seven states, which isn't surprising, given the exciting races in many areas. Indiana and Michigan, on the other hand, are more concerned with the other four-letter v-word: vape. Other interesting results: The most popular question in Washington was "Should I delete Facebook?" The most popular question in California was "Should I move out?" The most popular question in Texas was "Should I apologize?" The most popular question in both Nevada and New Hampshire was "Should I buy bitcoin?" Although the article warns that "If you're asking Google what you should or shouldn't do, you probably already know the answer."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

01:00 EST

Is The World Shifting To 'Ambient Computing'? [Slashdot]

In the future, "A massive convergence of technologies will enable us to use computers and the internet without really using them," argues Computerworld. At the dawn of the personal computing revolution, people "operated" a computer. They sat down and did computing -- often programming. Later, with the application explosion, operators became "users." People used computers for purposes other than programming or operating a computer -- like balancing their checkbooks or playing video games. All computing uses so far have required a cognitive shift from doing something in the real world to operating or using a computer. Ambient computing changes all that, because it involves using a computer without consciously or deliberately or explicitly "using" a computer.... It's just there, guiding and nudging you along as you accomplish things in life. Ambient computing devices will operate invisibly in the background. They'll identify, monitor and listen to us and respond to our perceived needs and habits. So a good working definition of ambient computing is "computing that happens in the background without the active participation of the user...." In 20 years, the idea of picking up a device or sitting down at a computer to actively use it will seem quaintly antiquated. All computing will be ambient -- all around us all the time, whispering in our ear, augmenting the real world through our prescription eyeglasses and car windshields, perceiving our emotions and desires and taking action in the background to help us reach our business goals and live a better life. Between now and then we'll all ride together on a very interesting journey from computers we actively use to computing resources increasingly acting in the background for us. Though the article identifies smart speakers are the first ambient computing devices most people will encounter, it's argues that that's just the beginning of a much larger change. "We're also going to be flooded and overwhelmed by the 'ambient computing' hype as, I predict, it will become one of the most overused and abused marketing buzzwords ever."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Saturday, 15 December

22:00 EST

How Microsoft Embraced Python [Slashdot]

Steve Dower, a Python developer at Microsoft, describes how the language become popular internally: In 2010, our few Pythonistas were flying under the radar, in case somebody noticed that they could reassign a few developers to their own project. The team was small, leftover from a previous job, but was chipping away at a company culture that suffered from "not invented here" syndrome: Python was a language that belonged to other people, and so Microsoft was not interested. Over the last eight years, the change has been dramatic. Many Microsoft products now include Python support, and some of the newest only support Python. Some of our critical tools are written in Python, and we are actively investing in the language and community.... In 2018, we are out and proud about Python, supporting it in our developer tools such as Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, hosting it in Azure Notebooks, and using it to build end-user experiences like the Azure CLI. We employ five core CPython developers and many other contributors, are strong supporters of open-source data science through NumFOCUS and PyData, and regularly sponsor, host, and attend Python events around the world. "We often felt like a small startup within a very large company" Downer writes, in a post for the Medium community "Microsoft Open Source Stories."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nations Agree On Rules To Put Paris Climate Agreement Into Action [News : NPR]

Michal Kurtyka, the Polish official who led U.N. climate change negotiations in Katowice, Poland. On Dec. 15., nearly 200 countries agreed to a set of rules that will implement the landmark Paris agreement.

Nations agreed on rules to track the promises they made to reduce emissions, but did not set new emissions reduction goals necessary to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

(Image credit: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Philippines Duterte Praises 'Generous' Americans For Returning Church Bells [News : NPR]

Residents take photos and try to touch one of the three Balangiga church bells after a ceremony returning them to the church in the town of Balangiga in the Philippines on Dec. 15, 2018.

The bells return to Balangiga after 117 years in U.S. custody.

(Image credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

20:00 EST

People Are Harassing Waymo's Self-Driving Vehicles [Slashdot]

Waymo's testing dozens of self-driving mini-vans near Phoenix. Now the Arizona Republic asks why the vehicles are getting so much hate, citing "a slashed tire, a pointed gun, bullies on the road..." "Police have responded to dozens of calls regarding people threatening and harassing Waymo vans." That was clear August 19, when police were called because a 37-year-old man who police described as "heavily intoxicated" was standing in front of a Waymo and not allowing the van to proceed. "He stated he was sick and tired of the Waymo vehicles driving in his neighborhood, and apparently thought the best idea to resolve this was to stand in front of one of these vehicles," Officer Richard Rimbach wrote in a report. Phil Simon, an information systems lecturer at Arizona State University and author of several books on technology, said angst from residents is probably less about how the Waymo vans drive and more about people frustrated with what Waymo represents. "This stuff is happening fast and a lot of people are concerned that technology is going to run them out of a job," Simon said. Simon said it is hard for middle-class people to celebrate technological breakthroughs like self-driving cars if they have seen their own wages stagnate or even decline in recent years. "There are always winners and losers, and these are probably people who are afraid and this is a way for them to fight back in some small, futile way," Simon said. "Something tells me these are not college professors or vice presidents who are doing well." Police used video footage from Waymo to identify the license plate of a Jeep that kept driving head-on toward Waymo's test car -- six different times, one in which the driver then slammed on the brakes, jumped out of their car, and demanded that Waymo get out of their neighborhood. Another local resident told the newspaper that "Everybody hates Waymo drivers. They are dangerous." On four separate occasions, people have thrown rocks. A 69-year-old man was even arrested for pointing a revolver at the test driver in a passing Waymo car. He later told police he was trying to scare Waymo's driver, and "stated that he despises and hates those cars." He was charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct. The man's wife told reporters he'd been diagnosed with dementia, but the Arizona Republic calls it "one of at least 21 interactions documented by local police during the past two years where people have harassed the autonomous vehicles and their human test drivers," adding "There may be many undocumented instances where people threatened Waymo drivers..." "The self-driving vans use radar, lidar and cameras to navigate, so they capture footage of all interactions that usually is clear enough to identify people and read license plates," the paper adds. (Waymo later cites its "ongoing work" with communities "including Arizona law enforcement and first responders.") When one local news crew followed Waymo vehicles for 170 miles to critique their driving, a Waymo driver eventually pulled into a police station "because the driver was concerned we might've been harassing them. After they learned we were with the media, they let us go on our way."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

19:00 EST

CNN Contributor Urges: Stop Calling Facebook a Tech Company [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes a CNN opinion piece by Stanford business school lecturer David Dodson: "Senator, we run ads." That's what Mark Zuckerberg told Senator Orrin Hatch earlier this year during his congressional testimony when asked to describe Facebook's business model. The 84-year-old senator was later mocked on social media for not understanding modern technology. But I'd argue that the wily senior senator understood Facebook's business quite well. Hatch was simply getting Mark Zuckerberg to say it out loud. Sometimes it takes an old guy to call out a youngster.... For media companies that run ads, especially ones that use public networks, we tell them that they can't lie or mislead, that it's not okay to advertise cigarettes to children or push prescription drugs without including the risks. We have laws governing deceptive advertisements and Truth in Advertising laws. Companies that run ads can't say a car gets 40 miles per gallon unless it's true. They can't say a movie won an Academy Award unless it did. If you say the wool comes from New Zealand, it must.... When nearly half of Americans get their news from Facebook, its newsfeed should be subjected to the same standards of fairness, decency and accuracy as newspapers, television and other media outlets.... Calling Facebook a tech company is how we got into so much trouble. It's also why, when Zuckerberg answered Hatch, the 34-year-old billionaire smiled in a way that was interpreted by many as smug. As if the senator was too antiquated to grasp the complexities of Facebook's revenue model. I see it differently. The company founder was offering a grin of acknowledgment. The jig was up. Facebook places ads just like most media companies do and should be held to the same overall standards.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

18:00 EST

Do Alternative Software Licenses Represent Open Source's 'Midlife Crisis'? [Slashdot]

"it is clear to me that open source -- now several decades old and fully adult -- is going through its own midlife crisis," writes Joyent CTO Bryan Cantrill. [O]pen source business models are really tough, selling software-as-a-service is one of the most natural of them, the cloud service providers are really good at it -- and their commercial appetites seem boundless. And, like a new cherry red two-seater sports car next to a minivan in a suburban driveway, some open source companies are dealing with this crisis exceptionally poorly: they are trying to restrict the way that their open source software can be used. These companies want it both ways: they want the advantages of open source -- the community, the positivity, the energy, the adoption, the downloads -- but they also want to enjoy the fruits of proprietary software companies in software lock-in and its concomitant monopolistic rents. If this were entirely transparent (that is, if some bits were merely being made explicitly proprietary), it would be fine: we could accept these companies as essentially proprietary software companies, albeit with an open source loss-leader. But instead, these companies are trying to license their way into this self-contradictory world: continuing to claim to be entirely open source, but perverting the license under which portions of that source are available. Most gallingly, they are doing this by hijacking open source nomenclature. Of these, the laughably named commons clause is the worst offender (it is plainly designed to be confused with the purely virtuous creative commons), but others...are little better... "[T]heir business model isn't their community's problem, and they should please stop trying to make it one," Cantrill writes, adding letter that "As we collectively internalize that open source is not a business model on its own, we will likely see fewer VC-funded open source companies (though I'm honestly not sure that that's a bad thing)..." He also points out that "Even though the VC that led the last round wants to puke into a trashcan whenever they hear it, business models like 'support', 'services' and 'training' are entirely viable!" Jay Kreps, Co-founder of @confluentinc, has posted a rebuttal on Medium. "How do you describe a license that lets you run, modify, fork, and redistribute the code and do virtually anything other than offer a competing SaaS offering of the product? I think Bryan's sentiment may be that it should be called the Evil Proprietary Corruption of Open Source License or something like that, but, well, we disagree."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17:00 EST

Study Suggests Too Much Collaboration Actually Hurts Productivity [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes Inc: Our attention in the workplace is a precious resource that often falls victim to tools like email, Slack, and so on, which bring a nonstop supply of things to read, things to respond to, things to file, things to loop others in on, things to follow up on, and in general, things to do. This "always on" dynamic has roots in a desire for increased workplace collaboration and productivity, but as is so often the case, it turns out there is a balance to be struck for optimal results. New research shows that groups who collaborate less often may be better at problem solving.... In a study titled "How Intermittent Breaks in Interaction Improve Collective Intelligence", the authors use a standardized problem-solving test to measure the contrast between time spent in collaboration mode against the quality and quantity of problem solving results. The group with no interaction predictably had the highest options for solutions, but those solutions were of lower overall quality. The group with high interaction had higher quality solutions, but less variety and a lower likelihood to find the optimal solution. The intermittent collaboration groups found the desirable middle ground to balance out the pros/cons of the no interaction and high interaction groups, leading them to become the most successful problem solvers. The article warns of a "collaboration drain", suggesting managers pay closer attention to when collaboration is (and isn't) necessary. "Once upon a time in the land of business, people primarily communicated through conversations, meetings, and internally circulated printed memos. In the absence of email, Internet, cell phones, and CRMs there was a repeating cadence of connection, then disconnection, even while in the office." "In this case, 'disconnected' really amounts to uninterrupted -- and able to focus."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

16:00 EST

Ask Slashdot: Is There An Open Source Tool Measuring The Sharpness of Streaming Video? [Slashdot]

dryriver asks: Is there an open source video analysis tool available that can take a folder full of video captures (e.g. news, sports, movies, music videos, TV shows), analyze the video frames in those captures, and put a hard number on how optically sharp, on average, the digital video provided by any given digital TV or streaming service is? If such a tool exists, it could be of great use in shaming paid video content delivery services that promise proper "1080 HD" or "4K UHD" quality content, but deliver video that is actually Youtube quality or worse. With such a tool, people could channel-hop across their digital TV service's various offerings for an hour or so, capture the video stream to harddisk, and then have an "average optical sharpness score" for that service calculated that can be shared with others and published online, possibly shaming the content provider -- satellite TV providers in particular -- into upping their bitrate if the score turns out to be atrociously low for that service.... People in many countries -- particularly developing countries -- cough up hard cash to sign up for various satellite TV, digital TV, streaming video and similar services, only to then find that the bitrate, compression quality and optical sharpness of the video content delivered isn't too great at all. At a time when 4K UHD content is available in some countries, many satellite TV and streaming video services in many different countries do not even deliver properly sharp and well-defined 1080 HD video to their customers, even though the content quality advertised before signing up is very much "crystal clear 1080 HD High-Definition". What's the solution? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. And is there an open source tool measuring the sharpness of streaming video?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

RIP, legendary cypherpunk Tim May [Boing Boing]

Tim May was one of the founders of the cypherpunk movement, whose seminal Crypto Anarchist Manifesto is still startling relevant today, a quarter century after it was written.

May's work was critical to the fight to legalize civilian access to strong cryptography, and to resist the Clinton administration's doomed and absurd attempt to ban working cryptography (this campaign is still alive and well, and gaining ground in Australia).

May was featured in Steven Levey's Wired cover story Crypto Rebels, which was the issue I picked up a couple of weeks before dropping out of university to work in the tech industry (these are not unrelated facts).

May has died of natural causes, at the age of 67. The famous cryptographer Lucky Green has written quite a remembrance of May that gives a very good sense of the man and his life.

On our way home [Pharyngula]

We’re in the midst of our trek from Denver to Morris, Minnesota, and we are sad. We had a lovely week with our two month old granddaughter, here in the arms of her grandmother.

Maybe she’s not so disappointed at our departure.

Kidding! She was a good little girl the entire time we were there, and we thought about smuggling her home with us. Here’s a nicer picture of Iliana sitting at the restaurant table like a serious adult.

Now we just have to figure out how to find the time to go back again.

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