Monday, 14 October

18:00 EDT

Researchers find just two plague strains wiped out 30%-60% of Europe [Ars Technica]

Remains of human plague victims in a mass grave in Toulouse, France, dating back to the Black Death period.

Enlarge / Remains of human plague victims in a mass grave in Toulouse, France, dating back to the Black Death period. (credit: Archeodunum SAS, Gourvennec Michaël)

The Black Death ravaged medieval Western Europe, wiping out roughly one-third of the population. Now researchers have traced the genetic history of the bacterium believed to be behind the plague in a recent paper published in Nature Communications. They found that one strain seemed to be the ancestor of all the strains that came after it, indicating that the pandemic spread from a single entry point into Europe from the East—specifically, a Russian town called Laishevo.

Technically, we're talking about the second plague pandemic. The first, known as the Justinian Plague, broke out about 541 CE and quickly spread across Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. (The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I, for whom the pandemic is named, actually survived the disease.) There continued to be outbreaks of the plague over the next 300 years, although the disease gradually became less virulent and died out. Or so it seemed.

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death burst onto the scene, with the first historically documented outbreak occurring in 1346 in the Lower Volga and Black Sea regions. That was just the beginning of the second pandemic. During the 1630s, fresh outbreaks of plague killed half the populations of affected cities. Another bout of the plague significantly culled the population of France during an outbreak between 1647 and 1649, followed by an epidemic in London in the summer of 1665. The latter was so virulent that, by October, one in 10 Londoners had succumbed to the disease—over 60,000 people. Similar numbers perished in an outbreak in Holland in the 1660s. The pandemic had run its course by the early 19th century, but a third plague pandemic hit China and India in the 1890s; there are still occasional outbreaks today.

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Thousands of DOS games have been added to the Internet Archive [Ars Technica]

Promotional image for video game Wizardry.

Enlarge / Just one of the games added to the archive recently. (credit: Sir-Tech)

The Internet Archive has been updated with more than 2,500 DOS games, marking the most significant addition of games to the archive since 2015.

New additions include forgotten classics like Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark SavantPrincess Maker 2, and Microsoft Adventure, a rebranding of Colossal Caves Adventure. They also include a whole lot of weird, early experiments and dead ends that should be fascinating to explore for historians, technologists, game designers, and players alike.

The blog post announcing the additions includes some disclaimers: not all games will run as speedily as one might like, not all games have manuals available (though some do), and frankly, not all games from these bygone areas are enjoyable by modern standards.

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Uber lays off another 350 workers amid ongoing losses [Ars Technica]

A man in an open-collared shirt during a presentation.

Enlarge / Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. (credit: George Grinsted)

Uber is laying off another 350 workers, the company announced on Monday. Uber Eats and Uber's self-driving car team are among the divisions hit by job losses. TechCrunch obtained a copy of an email CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to Uber workers. It describes the layoffs as "difficult but necessary changes."

This is Uber's third round of layoffs for 2019. The company laid off 400 workers in its marketing department in July and 435 engineering and product workers in September. Some workers have also been asked to relocate.

Uber announced in August that it racked up record losses of $5 billion in the second quarter of 2019. It's important to note that the bulk of that figure represents one-time charges connected to Uber's May stock offering. Excluding those charges, Uber's ongoing burn rate has been around $1 billion in recent quarters. Third-quarter financial results are due out next month.

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Veteran astronauts endorse NASA’s program for a return to the Moon [Ars Technica]

A rocket sits on a launch pad at dawn.

Enlarge / In May, the test version of Orion attached to the Launch Abort System for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test arrives at Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (credit: NASA)

On Monday during a conference held in Houston, several veteran astronauts endorsed NASA's plan to return to the Moon. However, they also characterized the goal of landing humans there by 2024 as aspirational rather than realistic.

"It's quite aggressive," said four-time astronaut Michael López-Alegría of the Artemis Program's five-year timeline. López-Alegría, who is president of the Association of Space Explorers, made his comments during the organization's annual meeting.

He added that it was not a bad thing to have an aggressive plan. Rather, it was good for NASA and its international partners to have a clear goal to work toward. "I think that in any complex program like that, somebody needs to draw a line in the sand," he said. "It may be aspirational, but without something like that, it's really difficult to get people pulling in the same direction."

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Building China's Comac C919 Airplane Involved a Lot of Hacking, Report Says [Slashdot]

A report published today shines a light on one of China's most ambitious hacking operations known to date, one that involved Ministry of State Security officers, the country's underground hacking scene, legitimate security researchers, and insiders at companies all over the world. From a report: The aim of this hacking operation was to acquire intellectual property to narrow China's technological gap in the aviation industry, and especially to help Comac, a Chinese state-owned aerospace manufacturer, build its own airliner, the C919 airplane, to compete with industry rivals like Airbus and Boeing. A Crowdstrike report published today shows how this coordinated multi-year hacking campaign systematically went after the foreign companies that supplied components for the C919 airplane. The end goal, Crowdstrike claims, was to acquire the needed intellectual property to manufacture all of the C919's components inside China. Crowdstrike claims that the Ministry of State Security (MSS) tasked the Jiangsu Bureau (MSS JSSD) to carry out these attacks. The Jiangsu Bureau, in turn, tasked two lead officers to coordinate these efforts. One was in charge of the actual hacking team, while the second was tasked with recruiting insiders working at aviation and aerospace companies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

VIDEO: 'Evil Dead' Ash Williams chainsaw arm Halloween costume [Boing Boing]

All hail the queen of Halloween. You gotta watch the video, the chainsaw arm makes a scary sound and everything.

Seriously impressive Ash Williams and 'The Evil Dead' cosplay going on here.

“Made myself a chainsaw arm for my halloween costume. It makes chainsaw noises and everything.”

IMGURian @shepardcommander07.

Real chainsaw hand action!

Ash Williams costume, part 2

Groovy

[IMGUR Gallery one, two, and three.]

YourFacePillow [Cool Tools]

I purchased this pillow ($70) because I wanted a solution to the creases under my eyes. I didn’t understand why they were forming until I noticed that they happened because I slept on my side, which squashed my face against the pillow overnight. However, I don’t like sleeping on my back because my head moves around while I sleep and I wake up with a headache and sore neck. I looked around for a pillow that would prevent that from happening and came across the YourFacePillow. I could tell right away that it was a unique looking pillow. If you look at the pictures you can see how it works. It cushions your head with the U-shaped slot. There’s more than enough room to comfortably move your head to avoid stiffness problems. The softer sides of the slot prevent you from rolling your head over on your side.

I’ve been surprised – and impressed – by how well the pillow works. I’ve been using it for just a few weeks and have noticed a massive difference in the appearance of my eyes. There are no longer any deep creases. I also no longer get the typical neck kinks that I would before.

It offers just the right amount of firmness and I love how the the two side bolsters cradle my head. I also noticed that there’s no chemical memory foam smell at all, which is always nice. The gentle pressure-relieving memory foam is super comfortable. It’s neither too soft or too firm. I get just enough support from it. I no longer wake up with a stiff or sore neck.

The memory foam breathes pretty well too and I didn’t feel hot while sleeping. I replaced the included pillowcase with my personal silk pillowcase and and it fit well. However, you can purchase a separate silk cover in addition to the pillow from Amazon.

I’d have to recommend that people who have neck pain go with the large pillow instead of the standard size one. They have similar overall dimensions, but the main difference between the two is that the larger pillow is thicker compared to the small one, giving you improved neck support. I definitely recommend this pillow to anyone who needs better support while sleeping and wants to get rid of wrinkles and sleep lines.

-- Hannah Edmonds

YourFacePillow ($70)

Available from Amazon

Cut out everything that’s not surprising [Derek Sivers]

This is my advice to anyone writing something for the public — especially a talk on stage.

People listen to a talk, or read an article, because they want to learn something new.

They want a little “oh wow” moment. “I never thought of it that way before.”

People only really learn when they’re surprised. If they’re not surprised, then what you told them just fits in with what they already know. No minds were changed. No new perspective. Just more information.

So my main advice to anyone preparing to give a talk on stage is to cut out everything from your talk that’s not surprising. (Nobody has ever complained that a talk was too short.)

Use this rule in all your public writing. If you already found something surprising in what you’re presenting, then remove everything else. If you haven’t found something surprising about it yet, keep looking until you do.

Overturned Cargo Ship In Georgia Stuck On Side, Leaking Fuel [News : NPR]

A Moran tugboat nears the stern of the vessel Golden Ray as it lays on its side in Jekyll Island, Ga. The ship capsized last month and is still there on its side, leaking an unknown amount of fuel and oil.

A 400-person, 70-vessel recovery effort is working to minimize the potential environmental damage from a capsized cargo ship off the Georgia coast.

(Image credit: Stephen B. Morton/AP)

Trump Is Trying Hard To Thwart Obamacare. How's That Going? [News : NPR]

President Trump talked to seniors about health care in central Florida in early October. "We eliminated Obamacare

Though polls show Affordable Care Act protections remain popular in the U.S., President Trump still threatens to drastically change the law if he can't repeal it. Here are five changes he's made.

(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

High School Vape Culture Can Be Almost As Hard To Shake As Addiction, Teens Say [News : NPR]

U.S. teens

One in 4 high school seniors say they have vaped in the past month. And for heavy users, scary headlines about serious illness and death are no match for nicotine addiction and peer pressure.

(Image credit: Tony Dejak/AP)

Ecuador Reaches Fuel Subsidy Deal To End Violent Protests [News : NPR]

A protester shakes hands with a security officer in Quito, Ecuador, on Sunday as they celebrate the government

The President of Ecuador has reversed his decision to repeal a decades-old fuel subsidy after gas prices spiked and widespread protests raged for nearly two weeks.

(Image credit: Dolores Ochoa/AP)

Apple’s Tencent privacy controversy is more complicated than it looks [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Late last week, privacy advocates warned that Apple was sending iOS user data to Chinese company Tencent, an alarming development for anyone who had taken the company’s privacy promises at face value. A note in iOS 13 mentioned that its Safari browser uses Tencent’s Safe Browsing system to help fight malicious webpages — but Tencent may log IP addresses in the process. While this has been true for months or even years, the news casts a harsh light on Apple’s recent struggles with surveillance and censorship in China — and the larger problems with privacy on the web.

Apple’s problems are based on a mostly uncontroversial iOS feature: Safari’s “Fraudulent Website Warning” option. The Fraudulent Website Warning, as its name may suggest,...

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Fortnite made hundreds of thousands of people watch nothing on Twitch [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Fortnite’s black hole hasn’t gone anywhere, and it feels like everyone’s getting weird with it. Twitch itself is even getting in on the oddity: the company’s channel is showing the black hole, and it’s featuring randomly chosen Fortnite streams from around the platform to highlight. The largest Fortnite streamers are having fun, too — many of them have turned watching the hole into an event.

Last night, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins tweeted that for enough likes he’d hint at what’s next (he whispered “tacos”); Turner “Tfue” Tenney tweeted that he thinks the game will be back up in a day. Earlier today, I tuned into Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar’s stream, where he was streaming himself reacting to his first games of Fortnite; it drew more than...

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Instagram’s algorithm believes I might enjoy these teeth [The Verge - All Posts]

At any given time, my Instagram Explore page offers me a mix of tattoo posts, fashion, memes, and the occasional micro-influencer. It’s trained to serve my interests based on data like posts I’ve liked, saved, or what friends have liked. Each swipe is a lottery spin: will this load show me some nice pants I might like to buy, or an ex?

But for the last two weeks, Instagram has come up with a clever new method of torture. May I introduce to you, The Teeth? These Teeth? These?? Teeth??

They are the stadium seating of dental. They are the shining semi-circle sarlacc pit that shreds your soul for being the person who removes their shoes on airplanes. I fear them, but also I want to touch them.

Not impressed? Maybe you’d be...

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Democrats are striking back against Facebook’s ads policies [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Over the weekend, Facebook ended up doing exactly what it didn’t want to do: openly feud with a presidential candidate on Twitter.

The fight began after President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign flooded Facebook with ads spreading misinformation about Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and the Ukraine scandal that has dominated the news cycle over the past few weeks. Now, Democrats are firing back directly at the platforms and their rules, rather than simply running counter ads.

The controversy came to a breaking point on Saturday when Elizabeth Warren challenged Facebook’s political advertising policies, exposing the platform’s unwillingness to remove false or misleading ads from politicians. Warren’s ad falsely said that Facebook and its...

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This band is selling custom T-shirts based on your Spotify habits [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Sony Music

British band Bring Me the Horizon has launched a new merch line with a twist: a dedicated website that serves up personalized T-shirts to people based on their Spotify listening data.

The site, called “amo in colour” is a reference to the band’s most recent album, amo, which was released earlier this year. When you visit the website, you’re prompted to connect with your Spotify credentials and then pick your six favorite tracks from amo. It then takes your list and any of your previous listening habits with Bring Me the Horizon on Spotify and uses music intelligence platform The Echo Nest to analyze loudness and energy. If you don’t have a Spotify account, you can still connect with email and manually input song choices to generate a...

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Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming preview is now live [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

Microsoft is officially launching its Project xCloud preview today for Xbox users in the US, UK, and Korea. The software giant has started inviting people to participate in the beta, with game streaming limited to Gears 5, Halo 5: Guardians, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves during the initial preview phase.

“Public preview is a critical phase in our multi-year ambition to deliver game streaming globally at the scale and quality of experience that the gaming community deserves and expects,” says Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s cloud gaming chief. “It’s time to put Project xCloud to the test in a broader capacity, with a range of gamers, devices, network environments and real-world use-case scenarios.”

T...

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YouTube Decade makes me yearn for the simpler days of ‘Surprised Kitty’ [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: rozzzafly (YouTube)

Allow me to bring a little nostalgia and cuteness to your Monday. Ten years ago today, an all-time classic video was posted to YouTube: “Surprised Kitty,” featuring an adorable little kitten looking surprised when its mom plays peekaboo. Look at this little snug bug!

What reminded me to mention this? A cool website called YouTube Decade, made by Bennett Feely, which shows you the videos that have gotten the most views since the day they were uploaded 10 years ago today.

I’ve been checking into YouTube Decade regularly for the past couple months. Some that have taken me down memory lane: Mario Party 2: Luigi wins by doing absolutely nothing” (still cracks me up), the Annoying Orange (still cringey), and Beyoncé’s “Halo” music video (OMG...

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Harley-Davidson stops electric motorcycle production due to charging problem [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

Harley-Davidson has temporarily stopped making and shipping its first electric motorcycle, LiveWire, due to a problem with the bike’s charging equipment, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The company told the Journal that LiveWire bikes are still safe to ride, but it’s asking the first few customers to only charge the $30,000 electric motorcycle at dealerships, indicating that there may be a problem with plugging them into lower-voltage outlets, such as the ones found in their homes. LiveWire motorcycles only just started shipping in September.

The LiveWire was first introduced as a concept motorcycle back in 2014. The project then disappeared from the spotlight for a few years before Harley-Davidson reintroduced the...

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17:00 EDT

Mini Gravitational-Wave Detector Could Probe Dark Matter [Slashdot]

A miniature gravitational wave detector under development would measure higher-frequency waves than LIGO. From a report: Within one second of the big bang, the first newborn black holes may have announced their formation with gravitational waves that stretched and squeezed the fabric of existence as they rippled outward into the expanding universe. Now researchers at Northwestern University have begun planning a tabletop-size sensor that could detect these primordial howls for the first time. The gigantic $1-billion Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) first measured the spacetime ripples known as gravitational waves in 2016; these phenomena came from the collision and merging of distant supermassive black holes. Since then, massive detectors have also recorded gravitational waves from merging neutron stars. Northwestern's proposed mini detector, which received an influx of funding in July, could measure higher-frequency waves from objects that have never been measured before -- such as black holes in the earliest universe. Current gravitational-wave detectors such as U.S.-based LIGO and Europe's Virgo use a sprawling system of mirrors and laser "arms" that stretch for kilometers to measure tiny changes in distance caused by passing gravitational waves. Northwestern's Levitated Sensor Detector would use lasers to suspend a glass bead inside a vacuum chamber, creating an extremely force-sensitive sensor with arms just a meter long. It would listen for echoes from the formation of primordial black holes and the activity of theoretical particles called axions, both of which are candidates for mysterious dark matter -- hidden materials that may constitute much of the universe's mass and are invisible except for their gravitational presence.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Would You Give Up Google For $17,000 a Year? The Federal Reserve Wants To Know [Slashdot]

The Federal Reserve wants to know what the internet is worth to you. The answer could help the central bank solve one of the most puzzling paradoxes of the modern economy: The current expansion is the longest in history, yet productivity gains are weak and GDP growth, while steady, is far from stellar. From a report: In a speech last week, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell raised the possibility that the problem is with the data itself. GDP measures the value of products and services that are bought and sold. But many of the greatest technological innovations of the internet age are free. Search engines, e-mail, GPS, even Facebook -- the official economic statistics are not designed to capture the benefits they generate for businesses and consumers. "Good decisions require good data, but the data in hand are seldom as good as we would like," Powell said. Instead, Powell cited recent work by MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson, one of the leading academics on the intersection of technology and the economy. In a paper with Avinash Collis of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Felix Eggers of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the authors conducted massive surveys to estimate the monetary value that users place on the tools of modern life. The results? The median user would need about $48 to give up Facebook for one month. The median price of giving up video streaming services like YouTube for a year is $1,173. To stop using search engines, consumers would need a median $17,530, making it the most valuable digital service. The authors also conducted more limited surveys with students in Europe on other popular platforms. One month of Snapchat was valued at about 2.17 euros. LinkedIn was just 1.52 euros. But giving up WhatsApp? That would require a whopping 536 euros. Twitter, however, was valued at zero euros.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Use this promo code to get this electric lighter for cheap [Boing Boing]

I bought this USB rechargeable lighter in May and will never go back to using matches or a butane lighter. I've used it to light many charcoal barbecues, candles, and stove burners and have not had to recharge it yet (the manufacturer says it works 1,000 times before it needs recharging). It usually costs $12.97 on Amazon but if you use promo code BFM3MDJY you can get it for about half that price.

16:00 EDT

Microsoft wants to use AI to bleep out bad words in Xbox Live party chat [Ars Technica]

"I'm so happy that I didn't hear whatever curse word you just screamed at me during our friendly game of <em>Uno</em> on Xbox Live!"

Enlarge / "I'm so happy that I didn't hear whatever curse word you just screamed at me during our friendly game of Uno on Xbox Live!" (credit: Future Publishing / Getty Images)

Today, Microsoft announced that it's rolling out filters that will let Xbox Live players automatically limit the text-based messages they receive to four maturity tiers: "Friendly, Medium, Mature, and Unfiltered." That's a long-overdue feature for a major communication platform that's well over a decade old now, but not really anything new in terms of online content moderation writ large.

What's more interesting is a "looking ahead" promise Microsoft made at the end of the announcement (emphasis added):

Ultimately our vision is to supplement our existing efforts and leverage our company efforts in AI and machine learning technology to provide filtration across all types of content on Xbox Live, delivering control to each and every individual player. Your feedback is more important than ever as we continue to evolve this experience and make Xbox a safe, welcome and inclusive place to game.

That's all a bit vague, but The Verge reports on the real thrust of that passage: an effort by the company to "tackle the challenge of voice chat toxicity on Xbox Live." That means leveraging Microsoft's existing efforts in speech-to-text machine-learning algorithms to automatically filter out swear words that might come up in an Xbox Live party chat.

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A Code Glitch May Have Caused Errors In More Than 100 Published Studies [Slashdot]

Scientists have uncovered a glitch in a piece of code that could have yielded incorrect results in over 100 published studies that cited the original paper. From a report: The glitch caused results of a common chemistry computation to vary depending on the operating system used, causing discrepancies among Mac, Windows, and Linux systems. The researchers published the revelation and a debugged version of the script, which amounts to roughly 1,000 lines of code, last week in the journal Organic Letters. "This simple glitch in the original script calls into question the conclusions of a significant number of papers on a wide range of topics in a way that cannot be easily resolved from published information because the operating system is rarely mentioned," the new paper reads. "Authors who used these scripts should certainly double-check their results and any relevant conclusions using the modified scripts in the [supplementary information]." Yuheng Luo, a graduate student at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, discovered the glitch this summer when he was verifying the results of research conducted by chemistry professor Philip Williams on cyanobacteria. The aim of the project was to "try to find compounds that are effective against cancer," Williams said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Kickstarting a deluxe "Dracula" edition in a suitcase full of "primary source materials" from the novel [Boing Boing]

Josh O'Neill writes, "We're doing a box set edition of Dracula in which we reconstitute the novel into the primary source documents from which it's drawn: Mina's diary, Lucy's letters, Dailygraph newspaper clippings, even an actual phonograph record from Dr. Seward. It comes in a suitcase. Or a wooden casket or stone crypt, depending on the edition."

Josh is from Beehive Books, who've produced some of the loveliest limited editions we've featured over the past three years, and they've got an excellent track record when it comes to delivering on these crowdfunded editions.

Dracula itself is a remarkable text, a combination of epistolary novel and assemblage of clippings and other fragments, still modern-seeming after all these years (which is fitting, given the extent to which it is at root a parable about the power of modernity -- lights, telegraphs, science -- to defeat superstition).

$25 gets you a PDF, $100 gets you the record with its jacket and accompanying textual material as well as a map, $350 gets you a suitcase with all the materials, $800 gets you a limited version with bonus materials, $2000 gets you the "Entombed Edition" with a letter from Dacre Stoker (Bram's grand-nephew), handmade items, and a special case ("a stone vault").

It's all scheduled to ship in Oct 2021.

Beehive ends its pitch by supporting the unionization drive by Kickstarter workers, noting that the workers have not called for a boycott while they seek recognition for their union.

We will produce twenty-six premium editions, each lettered A-Z and signed and personally inscribed to you or an individual of your choosing by Dacre Stoker. The contents will be presented in an engraved stone vault. Includes all contents of the ARCHIVE and IMMORTAL editions, plus a number of to-be-determined unique, hand-made items inserted into each ENTOMBED Edition, including:

* pressed flowers slipped into Mina's journal

* skeleton keys to Carfax Abbey

* the double-disc gatefold record set (see THE PHONOGRAPH below)

* a vessel of actual Transylvanian soil

* partially burnt documents

* unique handwritten (not printed) documents

* actual communion wafers

* ...and more.

DRACULA: The Evidence [Beehive Books/Kickstarter]

How to get through these trying times [Boing Boing]

The legendary Mavis Staples.

This service makes a digital voice that sounds like you from a small audio sample [Boing Boing]

Descript's Lyrebird is a premium service that "allows you to replace recorded words and phrases with synthesized speech that's tonally blended with the surrounding audio." The interactive samples on the website are amazing -- I can't tell the difference between the original voices and the synthetic voices. This could be useful for podcast editing, but also for deepfakes.

Save 89% on up to 5 TB of storage with this secure cloud service [Boing Boing]

Need data storage? Join the club. It may still seem like the wild west out there, and for many companies, it's a tough choice between security and accessibility. Luckily, there's a platform that gives you a lot of both: Polar Backup Cloud Storage.

Whether you're a busy private citizen or managing valuable company data, Polar has all the bases covered. On the front end, it offers a smooth interface with plenty of sorting options and instant previews for all your files.

Behind the scenes, there's AWS technology at work to deliver consistent storage with deduplication and block uploads. 256-Bit AES encryption keeps every file safe on local, external or network drives, and you can access them from PC, Mac or laptop.

Polar Backup Cloud Storage is fully compliant with the EU's GDPR rules, and lifetime subscriptions are available now in a variety of packages: 1 TB storage for 89% off2 TB storage for 89% off, and 5 TB storage for 89% off.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Mosquito [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, marking the anniversary of the beginning of European immigration to the U.S. (Who will be brave enough to suggest a further renaming of Columbus Day to “Destruction of Native Society via Immigration Day”?)

I’m in the middle of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, which blames smallpox, measles, and other diseases than can be transmitted from person to person for the majority of Native American deaths as a consequence of this immigration.

I recently finished The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator. This book, by contrast, says that it was mosquito-borne diseases, notably malaria and yellow fever, that were responsible for most of the killing. North America had mosquitoes prior to European migration, but was free of malaria, yellow fever, and a variety of other diseases spread by mosquitoes:

The deadly yellow fever virus disembarked in the Americas with African slaves and an imported Aedes breed of mosquito that easily survived the journey on the slave ships, reproducing in the plentiful barrels and pools of water. European slave traders and their human cargo provided ample opportunity for a continuous cycle of viral infection during the voyage until fresh blood could be claimed upon arrival at a foreign port. The Aedes mosquito quickly found its niche and a suitable home in the cheerful climate of its new world and thrived both in its superiority to domestic species and in its role as a deliverer of suffering and death.

Readers: What do you think? Most of what I have read suggests that malaria and yellow fever were at their deadliest in the coastal South. Yet Native American populations were largely destroyed throughout the continent.

Related:

Are American interests harmed when the Syrian government governs Syria? [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

My Facebook feed is now 99 percent hysteria regarding the U.S. policy shift in Syria. Trump has decided to scale back involvement in the Syrian civil war, now in its 8th year. My friends who identify as Democrats are demanding continued U.S. military action (none has demanded a 600-ship Navy yet, but I remain hopeful!). Note that none of these folks are actually in the military or young enough to join, so they take no personal risk by advocating that others fight.

From a recent New York Times article:

The Syrian government had been almost entirely absent from the northeast since it withdrew or was chased out by armed rebels. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that worked with the United States to fight the Islamic State, soon became the region’s overarching political force.

If Syrian government forces can reach the Turkish border to the north and the Iraqi border to the east, it would be a major breakthrough in Mr. Assad’s quest to re-establish his control over the whole country.

In other words, while complaining that some Russians may have purchased a Facebook ad falsely asserting that Hillary Clinton was an elderly tax-and-spend Democrat, we have been supporting a group trying to carve off part of another country and run it for themselves.

(I recognize that Bashar al-Assad may have shortcomings as a leader, but he has a challenging task and it is unclear that the Syrian government is worse than a bunch of other governments worldwide. If it is legitimate for us to help an armed rebellion against Assad, shouldn’t we also be helping armed rebellions all around the world?)

Readers: Plainly it would be better if Syrians were more like the Costa Ricans and the Syrian government were more like the Costa Rican government. But, given that Syrians are not like the Costa Ricans, does it make sense to be continuously outraged that the Syrian government is not like the Costa Rican government? What are we buying with the money and American lives spent over the last eight years in Syria?

Is it enough to say “Because terrorism”? Why is it obvious that some government other than Assad’s would do a better job of discouraging Muslims in Syria from waging jihad? None of the September 11 jihadis were from Syria and, in fact, all came from countries whose governments we have supported.

Link [tinywords]

Tlingit dance — the memory of the memory of a friend

Google’s Nest Mini looks basically identical to original Home Mini in new leak [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: WinFuture

Google is expected to announce a follow-up to 2017’s Google Home Mini at tomorrow’s hardware event. In keeping with the decision to brand its smart home products under Nest, the new speaker will be called the Google Nest Mini, and photos of the device have now been published by WinFuture.

The Nest Mini looks identical to the Home Mini when on a table. The only signs that it’s a new product are on the bottom, where you can now see a wall mount hole and a different power connector than the Micro USB port from the first model.

Image: WinFuture

And Google has now color-matched the bottom of the speaker closer to the fabric on top. As for those colors, promotional images confirm Google will be bringing...

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