Category: Podcast

Episode 68 – Should Automakers Use Android Auto + Apple CarPlay Only?

Intro

Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, a dalliance designed to disturb your dutiful day with a delightful distraction. Go to CitizensOfTech.com to distinguish the dudes deftly dominating the discourse today.

Eric, what details do we dangle before our devotees in this delivery?

Today on the show we have In-Car Edu-navi-tainment, The USA’s conspicuous lack of space travel, Microsoft Murdering Another of Ethan’s Beloved Apps, Credit cards with your fingerprints stored inside, Uber are a bunch of jerks, CIL and TIL!

Apple CarPlay & Android Auto As An Alternative To Proprietary Head Units

https://electrek.co/2017/04/17/is-chevy-dropping-native-navigation-in-favor-of-carplayandroid-auto-on-the-bolt-ev-a-misstep-or-forward-thinking/

  • My personal CarPlay experience.
    • Had the system for several months.
    • Been through several upgrades.
    • The good.
      • When it works, it’s great.
    • The bad.
      • When it doesn’t work, the main value prop – not interacting with your phone while driving your car – is negated.
    • Audio apps do not consistently work, period.
      • NPR One is a crapshoot. Sometimes, it never gets to a place where you can see the audio stream choices and select something.
      • Spotify is completely unpredictable. It will launch on the phone, but not play in the car. It will think it’s streaming to a remote Spotify system (I have a Gramofon in my office) even though I’m down the road and there’s no wifi, etc. The solution is to use Spotify on the phone itself to get it to play through the car–and then it’s fine.
      • Overcast seems to work okay for the most part.
    • Apple Maps is the best in-car nav I’ve ever used.
      • Usually, I launch it with Siri. “Route me to X destination,” and it happens.
      • Night mode was finally fixed in 10.3, so that the screen is suitably darkened at night.
      • Real-time traffic and re-routing available. It feels like the future.
      • If you fall out of tower range, you start seeing unpopulated grid tiles. You need data. No offline option with Apple Maps that I know of, and Google Maps isn’t an option (yet?).
    • With unlimited data, using live streaming apps, like SomaFM, become a reality. No fear of overusing your data allowance.
    • I like the interface. The iOS 10.3 update to CarPlay added icons in the upper left that allow for fast switching between audio and NAV – a small thing, but very useful.
    • Siri mostly works. Overall, best voice recognition I’ve had, although it’s still wonky at times.
    • I don’t make calls with it, not that I can’t, just not part of my normal comms flow.
    • Text messaging works great, and I use this often.
    • Apps you can use are still strictly limited. For instance, I can’t use Slack messaging via CarPlay, and don’t expect I’ll ever be able to.
  • Should car manufacturers switch to CarPlay and Android Auto and dump their proprietary head unit NAV interfaces?
    • I would.
  • Does it make sense to start moving to the phone as an option for ALL auto system interfaces?
    • This is actually plausible. Plug the car into the phone, and use an app on the phone to control HVAC, etc.
    • Also a viable bridge to the data available via OBD-II. Why not?
    • Use the app on the phone to maintain a database of what’s going on with the car, and use the cloud + big data munging to predict service intervals, diagnose mechanical problems, anticipate failures.
    • Imagine a repair ecosystem where you have a CEL on, or other known malady, and having local garages sending you bids on the work. Or being on a trip, and finding repair shops that can handle the situation for you.
      • Of course…there is presumably some desire for manufacturers to keep repairs within the dealer garages, so perhaps some resistance to this idea?
      • Although, as I understand it, service departments operate as their own business entities. It’s not like the dealer, the service department, and the manufacturer are one big company. They aren’t.
      • So…maybe?

The US Hasn’t Put An Astronaut In Space Since July 21, 2011

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/nasa-set-an-ignominious-record-last-week-but-dont-blame-the-space-agency/

  • “This gap has now surpassed the previous longest US spaceflight gap—2,089 days—which occurred between the end of the Apollo program and the first space shuttle mission.”
  • The US puts astronauts in space via Russia’s program to get them to the ISS.
  • This is due largely to underfunding of NASA by US Congress during the Bush and Obama administrations.
  • The big idea is for commercial space flight, though. Been the plan right along. And that’s coming, but just taking a while. SpaceX and Boeing should be able to send humans into space in early 2019. Sierra Nevada Corp and Blue Origin are other possible players.
  • Once the commercial solution is in play, the expectation is that NASA will never be grounded again.

Microsoft Killing Wunderlist for To-Do

https://9to5mac.com/2017/04/19/microsoft-to-do-iphone-wunderlist/

https://blogs.office.com/2017/04/19/introducing-microsoft-to-do-now-available-in-preview/

  • Ethan is sad and scared.
  • Without gushing too much, Wunderlist has been amazing.
    • Fantastic cross-platform support.
      • iOS support for both iPad and iPhone (iPhone apps running on iPad are awful).
      • Landscape mode on iPad.
      • macOS support.
    • Instantaneous replication of events.
    • Integration with Slack.
  • To-Do is in preview now. TL;DR. It’s not complete yet. Definitely not feature parity with Wunderlist.
    • Wants your Microsoft account.
    • Import available from Wunderlist and Todoist.
    • Clean look, somewhat reminiscent of Wunderlist.
    • No grouping of lists into folder.
    • No subtasks. Subtasks and notes all imported as notes.
    • Attachments are lost in the import completely.
    • You do get recurring events.
    • No assigned tasks to other people.
    • New “My Day” feature. You can add manually whatever you want.
    • New setting of themes per list.
    • Software license terms don’t fit on the iOS screen without manually dragging the oversized document around.
    • No API that came up in Google. Not listed as an integration option in IFTTT. There is with Wunderlist.

Credit Cards With Fingerprint Readers

https://9to5mac.com/2017/04/20/mastercard-fingerprint-reader/

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204587

  • Mastercard proposal.
  • No battery power required, no thicker than regular cards.
  • Power drawn from terminal, and the terminal doesn’t have to be anything new.
  • But…not as sexy as Apple Pay. You have to go to a bank to get your fingerprint read and programmed into the chip on the card.
  • Yes, the fingerprint data is encrypted, but you have to give that data over to the bank to begin with. Not with Apple Pay.
  • TouchID’s mathematical representation of your fingerprint is stored in the Secure Enclave, on the phone, not in iCloud or anywhere else.
  • So, will fingerprint reading cards become more popular than Apple Pay? Doesn’t seem likely.
  • Is there enough of a market gap where people don’t have TouchID capable phones and outlets that don’t support Apple Pay PLUS people who really want fingerprint authentication for purchases that this tech is going to take off?

Privacy Watch

Uber and iOS Fingerprinting

https://9to5mac.com/2017/04/23/tim-cook-reportedly-threatened-to-remove-uber-from-the-app-store-in-ceo-meeting/

  • Uber was, at some point in the past, fingerprinting iOS devices as a way to track users.
  • This is against Apple app store policies, so Uber went out of their way to make sure Apple didn’t discover the code.
  • They geofenced Cupertino Apple HQ. (!)
  • The point here is to be aware of what apps can do to track you and your behavior. On iOS, you can disable location services for apps that don’t need it, or set location data to only be available when the app is running.

Content I Like

Oddly Satisfying Subreddit

http://reddit.com/r/oddlysatisfying

  • Aimed at OCD people.
  • Indeed, much of what I find there IS oddly satisfying.

Today I Learned

IMAX projectors are bright, really, really bright.

http://explorethecanyon.com/imax-theater/imax-experience/

Light from the 15,000-watt lamp in an IMAX® projector is so bright that if it were on the moon we could see it from earth with the naked eye.

If a large log were held in front of the light beam from the projector, it would spontaneously combust.

Programming recursion.

A programming function that calls itself to iterate through a problem or computation. I ran into it where a recursive function was used to generate a set of objects that matched a hierarchical model. Each object would match a leaf node in the hierarchical model. I don’t claim to completely get recursion as yet, but I’m fascinated by the concept.

Outro

Episode 67 – Garmin Goes After A Patent Troll

Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, show 67. We’re of the nerdy sort. Essentially, we’re IT geeks who plaintively pontificate on perturbations about our passions requiring power. That’s right – tech! Because tech devices need electricity. See what we did there?

Eric, what have we got today?

Solar power, a new EV from Honda, Patent trolls, How Many FPS can the human eye actually see?, Haiku, Nintendo, Content I Like, and Today I Learned.

Solar power hits economies of scale.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/whats-next-for-solar-energy/

  • “In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW and still barely register on the global energy markets.”
  • But we’ve done way better than that. The revised forecast is for 400GW by 2020, and even that might be too conservative.
  • The issue about growth is now a money problem. Investment money has got us to this point, but it will take more to ramp up manufacturing volume and to do more research into new solar tech.
  • IF more money comes in, that could result in more efficient and more durable (longer lasting) panels made at a higher volume, which would drive down the cost per megawatt hour of solar overall.
  • So, at the moment, we’re at a spot where solar is still pricey and spiky. Batteries would help with that, though…but again, pricey. However, “by 2030, projections of battery tech and costs, combined with their projections for solar power, would leave solar + batteries competitive with current coal prices.”
  • Grid-aware infrastructure could also help stabilize demand and reduce spikes, making renewables with battery storage a more reasonable supply option as time goes on. For instance, “being able to set your washing machine to start its run once electricity prices drop below a set point, to over-cooling or heating buildings overnight, allowing them to use less power the next day.”

Honda’s Half-Hearted Hybrid Hopes

https://electrek.co/2017/04/12/honda-all-electric-plug-in-electric-version-clarity/

  • Honda is finally joining the Plug-in Hybrid scene
  • “The Honda Clarity is aimed at accelerating the deployment of advanced electrified powertrain technology and bringing electrified vehicles further into the mainstream. The Clarity series also heralds the advancement of our Honda Electrification Initiative, representing our investment in the full spectrum of electric-vehicle technologies.”
  • Range, range, range
    • 1.5 Litre 4 cylinder range extender engine
    • Total range of 330Mi / 530km
    • That’s just not enough for a $35,000 car, is it?
    • The Honda Clarity is a PHEV with 42 miles (~67 km) of EV range
    • The all EV version is good for around 80mi / 130km
  • Oddly enough the PHEV version of it sounded similar enough in specs to my Volt that I did some digging, and sure enough, GM and Honda recently entered a business arrangement to work together to, according to insideevs.com, “expand the companies’ collaborative efforts beyond fuel cell vehicles to include plug-in hybrids/EREVs.” http://insideevs.com/breaking-general-motors-honda-partner-develop-future-plug-hybrids/
  • 105 MPGe – which is slightly behind the Volt, but it is a larger car.

Patent trolling as a business model runs into the Garmin legal machine.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/04/garmin-sued-in-east-texas-over-patents-on-an-internet-drink-mixer-seeks-legal-fees/

  • Leigh Rothschild has a patent holding company called Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI).
  • At least some of his patents are non-specific. Essentially, he creates a patent out of an idea and generic diagram. Nothing specific enough to merit patent treatment.
  • RCDI initiated a lawsuit against Garmin, citing his “customized mixed beverages” patent.
  • Early settlement offer of $75K. Keep it out of court by paying a fee that’s small to Garmin, big to RCDI if enough people would go for it.
  • Garmin didn’t go for it, instead pointing out that his generic patent is in violation of Section 101 of US Patent Law, which means you have to be specific.
  • Drop the lawsuit, or Garmin would file a motion that the patent be invalidated.
  • Garmin isn’t done. They are going after RCDI for legal fees, and questioning company residency, as there is some confusion about where the company, patents, business owner, and legal address are, a mix of Florida and Texas addresses. A technicality, but legally enforceable one.
  • “One of the two patents asserted against Garmin was featured in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” series, in which EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer noted that the patent amounted to nothing more than an “Internet drink mixer.” In its lawsuit against Garmin, RCDI says that Garmin activity trackers like the Vivoactive device infringe its claims on a “personalized consumer product.” RCDI has used the same patent to sue Toshiba (PDF), seeking a royalty over the remote operation of cameras. It also sued Sharp (PDF) for sending scanned documents to a mobile device.”
  • This guy is a clown that should be stopped. Making money from bogus patents stifles innovation. I hope Garmin has some success here.

And now, a nerd haiku.

Vlad The Tech Support

http://nerdhaiku.tumblr.com/post/901512942/vlad-the-tech-support

  • Working the nightshift
    No calls, no sun, no people.
    Vampire tech support.

Content I Like

Zelda on Nintendo Switch

  • Is the game all that? The one that is going to drive sales of the Switch?Eric, proud Switch owner, tells all.
  • Related. How stupid is Nintendo for cancelling the NES Classic in North America?

Content I Hope To Like

MST3K Reboot On Netflix

https://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2017/04/the-new-mst3k-isnt-the-same-show-but-its-same-enough/

  • Kickstarter raised millions.
  • Netflix picked it up.
  • Big names tied to it. Patton Oswalt, Felicia Day. Wil Wheaton shows up.
  • Not 100% the same if you’re used to the old format, but pretty close.
  • I don’t get Netflix, but I’m thinking about getting it for a month so I can binge.

Today I Learned

The setup–high refresh rate TVs and the “soap opera” effect. Now to the question. How many frames per second can the human eye actually perceive?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_rate

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/227633/how-many-frames-can-human-eye-see

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-highest-frame-rate-fps-that-can-be-recognized-by-human-perception

10 to 12 images per second look like individual images. Higher than this looks like motion. But the human eye is analog. It doesn’t perceive in FPS. The question is really, ”At what point does is the human eye no longer able to see a difference in increased frame rate?” And anecdotally, that answer is somewhere between 60 and 120 FPS.

Lake Nyos disaster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos_disaster

“The Lake Nyos disaster occurred on 21 August 1986, when a limnic eruption at Lake Nyos, in northwestern Cameroon, produced a large cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2), which descended onto nearby villages, killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock.

The eruption triggered the sudden release of about 100,000–300,000 tons[1] (some sources state as much as 1.6 million tons) of CO2. This gas cloud rose at nearly 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) andspilled over the northern lip of the lake. It then rushed down two valleys, branching off to the north, displacing all the air and suffocating people and livestock within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the lake.[4]

A degassing system has since been installed at the lake, with the aim of reducing the concentration of CO2 in deep waters and therefore the risk of further eruptions.

It is not known what triggered the catastrophic outgassing. Most geologists suspect a landslide, but some believe that a small volcanic eruption may have occurred on the bed of the lake. A third possibility is that cool rainwater falling on one side of the lake triggered the overturn. Others still believe there was a small earthquake, but as witnesses did not report feeling any tremors on the morning of the disaster, this hypothesis is unlikely. Whatever the cause, the event resulted in the supersaturated deep water rapidly mixing with the upper layers of the lake, where the reduced pressure allowed the stored CO2 to effervesce out of solution.[citation needed]

It is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres (0.29 cu mi) of gas was released.[6] The normally blue waters of the lake turned a deep red after the outgassing, due to iron-rich water from the deep rising to the surface and being oxidised by the air. The level of the lake dropped by about a meter and trees near the lake were knocked down.”

Scientists Running For Office – Episode 66

Citizens of Tech episode 66 proves that, like Schrodinger’s cat, we can be both here and gone at the same time. Now that Eric and I have found compatible calendar space, we have cleverly cornered in canny cohesion the craftiest conversation starters we could connect with.

So Sutphen, slap down the stories we’re subjecting our citizens to today…

I was into typing before it was cool!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1950503124/penna-retro-bluetooth-keyboard-starting-as-low-as

  • Retro styled bluetooth keyboard for your phone / tablet / other bluetooth type-y-tappy device.
  • Form over function? Probably, to some extent.
  • However you control the hipster-factor with configurations and options
  • Cherry switches
  • Diamond keycap – 3 years of R&D to enhance typing accuracy and comfort despite typing angle / technique.
  • Chrome keycaps – Full retro – mode. Look really cool. Probably terrible to type on if you’re doing more than light wordsmithery.
  • Macro Bar
    • Flip it up and start pecking at the keys
    • Return to “normal” position when you’re done recording
    • Tap it down to execute order 66… I mean, execute the macro you just recorded.
  • Bluetooth 4.2 – enabling low power mode – 6 months of idle time on 2 AA batteries
  • Pair with up to 5 devices
  • Windows / Android / Mac / iOS / Linux (pretty much anything that supports bluetooth
    • Switchable key layout for Win / iOS
    • Switchable key layout for US, UK, FR, DE
  • Hipster pouch (additional purchase)

GPS isn’t accurate enough for self-driving cars. NEED MOAR HD MAPZ.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/03/the-most-detailed-maps-of-the-world-will-be-for-cars-not-humans/

  • GPS accuracy is a math problem. You need more numbers for the most accurate calculation. Terrain can get in the way, reducing GPS accuracy. Think hills, valleys, cityscapes.
  • And even then…
  • Autonomous vehicles deserve better.
  • “Fully aware of this need, car makers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford have been voting with their wallets. They’re investing in companies like Here and Civil Maps that are building the platforms and gathering the data required. The end result will be a high-definition 3D map of our road networks—and everything within a few meters of them—that’s constantly updated by vehicles as they drive along.”
  • Better maps starts with 96 megapixel camera arrays, plus a 32-beam LIDAR array to provide a 3D scan of the road .
  • Aiming for 2020 use.
  • 2 way information. Data comes from the scans, but cars have cameras and sensors that will be used to update the database in real-time. Machine learning (so called) to make sense of it all and apply it back to the maps.
  • nVidia GPUs will be powering the ML algorithms.

Fight the sySTEM

https://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2017/04/the-campaign-to-put-science-and-tech-leaders-in-public-office-starts-now/

  • The article leads off talking about Tracy Van Houten, a Systems Engineer at NASA JPL
  • She’s been with NASA for 13 years and has worked on the Mars Curiosity Rover among other amazing projects.
  • She’s looking at walking away from her dream job to try to push anti-intellectualism out of Washington
  • She’s looking at running for 34th Congressional District of California, but she’s one of over 20 considering a run for it, so the campaign will be tough.
  • That’s really where the article heads, because it talks about how Tracy is not alone, there has been an upswing in the number of highly educated, STEM employed folks looking at getting into the political world; and how they have no idea how to run a campaign.
  • Enter http://www.314action.org – the 314 is a reference to… 3.14 – The short version of Pi.
    • “We are members of the STEM Community, grassroots supporters, and political activists committed to bring innovation to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, aggressively advocate for real solutions to climate change and elect more STEM-trained candidates to public office.”
    • Under The Scope: Our mission is to put members of Congress who are anti-science under the scope. By scrutinizing their actions and voting record that go against the facts and data, we will bring attention to practices and policies that are decidedly anti-science. It is no longer the time to sit idly by as partisan motives are promoted in direct opposition to leading scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, clean energy and evolution. 314 Action is committed to holding these members accountable for their actions and their votes.
    • They’re offering support and training for STEM folks in running a campaign for local and national offices.

Privacy Watch

Your Internet data can’t be bundled up and sold.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170329/13234837037/no-you-cant-buy-congresss-internet-data-anyone-elses.shtml

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170327/09244537008/just-use-vpn-isnt-real-solution-to-gops-decision-to-kill-broadband-privacy-protections.shtml

  • Popular notion lately that ISP’s can sell off your Internet usage to anyone that wants it. Not how that works.
  • There are many ways to track browsing behavior. For example, cookies.
  • But it is somewhat difficult to tie that behavior to a specific individual, especially for an ISP.
    • NAT, CG-NAT (less prevalent over time with IPv6, especially mobile/LTE networks)
    • As you move from place to place, you’re hiding behind a different IP.
    • Limited ability to store data.
    • Encryption.
  • We’re not saying impossible. But we are saying that there is no database in your ISP’s data center when they can say, “Susan Smith surfed these sites for this long and clicked on these things. And then she logged in at her bank. And then…”
  • So what’s really going on?
    • “When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.
    • At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.
    • That’s it.”
  • I will totally VPN all the things.
    • ORLY? That will not help. Just moves your piece to a different part of the board.
    • Obfuscate you personally a little more? Not with cookies.
    • Just means your browsing happens on someone else’s network that can do the same sort of tracking your local ISP was doing.
    • Only now, your performance is slower.
    • And maybe your VPN provider, where your traffic is de-encrypted, isn’t trustworth.
  • Use Ghostery that can help with some of the tracking, if you’re that paranoid.
    • Note that some sites just won’t work if you do. So if they are important sites to you, you might need to “trust” them in Ghostery.

Content I Like

Ghost In The Shell (2017 live action movie)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_in_the_Shell_(2017_film)

  • Been years since I saw the anime. Remember largely as this big impression it left on my brain with the word “awesome.”
  • The movie was good. It was not awesome.
  • The complex issues of robot sentience and related morality concerns were mostly not addressed.
  • The cyberpunk/online aspect was desperately underplayed.
  • The visuals were utterly stunning.
  • It was not endless, mind-numbing action.
  • It was not too long.
  • Surprisingly PG-13.

Into The Mind

https://www.redbull.tv/film/AP-1QVF73ZVH1W11/into-the-mind

  • “Sherpas Cinema creates a brain-melting, genre-blurring film that combines next-level skiing and riding with a story about the constant struggle between risk and reward. With this stunning cinematography, freeriding has never looked better.”

Today I Learned

TIL that there is a scientific measurement for the ‘risk of death’ of any action: the micromort. If an activity is rated as one micromort, you would have a one in a million chance of dying while doing it. Running a marathon is ~7 micromorts, sky diving 10, and climbing Mount Everest 40,000!

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/whats-most-likely-to-kill-you-the-more-micromorts-the-more-chance-of-dying-20170221-guic3l.html

According to Wikipedia, “Vantablack is a substance made of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays and is the blackest artificial substance known, absorbing up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vantablack

Episode 65 – Robots Wearing Your Skin

The Citizens of Tech explore growing human tissue over analog metal skeletons, solid state batteries, AMD’s Ryzen CPU, the Nokia 3310 retro phone, YouTube TV, PBS’s City In The Sky series, along with Privacy Watch and Today I Learned.

citizensoftech@gmail.com
@citizensoftech
/r/citizensoftech

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Privacy On Deathwatch – Episode 63

On this the 63rd episode of Citizens of Tech, the citizens have spoken. They have upvoted by the light of the tent, Enhance! Enhance! Enhance!, Tesla’s new power distribution buddy, mesh backhaul, and then we’ve thrown in some content we like, today we learned, plus a brand new deathwatch!

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Brain-Computer Interfaces For The Locked-In – Episode 62

Today we’ve got Tesla getting push-back from legislators, unlocking brains, the most reliable hard drives, the Chevy Bolt reviewed, a Hackintosh Dell-enstein, and of course Content I Like and Today I Learned.

Intro

Welcome to Citizens of Tech, episode 62. Things you should know about the number 62.

  • It’s not prime, but it is a semi-prime. A semi-prime is the product of 2 prime numbers, and in this case, 62 is the product of prime 2 and prime 31. Since 62 is not a perfect square, it is also a discrete semi-prime.
  • 62 happens to be the atomic number of Samarium, discovered in 1879.
  • 62 is the direct-dial prefix for international calls to Indonesia.
  • And, oddly enough, it seems Sigmund Freud had a fear of the number 62.

And what are you getting in this, the 62nd episode of Citizens of Tech? Oh, our usual nerdery. But hey, if you don’t like what we talk about, you can go to the /r/citizensoftech subreddit, and upvote or downvote the stories there. We use your input to help us decide what to talk about as we feed the content we’re thinking about into the sub each week.

I am Ethan Banks @ecbanks, and Eric Sutphen is, as always, here as well. You can give him a tweet-hug @zutfen.

Eric, what’s on our semi-prime show today?

Today we’ve got Tesla getting pushback from legislators, unlocking brains, the most reliable hard drives, the Chevy Bolt reviewed, a Hackintosh Dell-enstein, and of course Content I Like and Today I Learned.

Let’s dive in with Tesla getting pushback from lawmakers.

Tesla’s Direct Sales Model Getting Pushback

https://electrek.co/2017/01/31/indiana-bill-kill-teslas-business-model/

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1095337_where-can-tesla-legally-sell-cars-directly-to-you-state-by-state-map (link is a little old, data might not be 100%)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMWmYJOa-BM (thanks /u/Mocedon!)

  • Number one upvoted story on Reddit this week.
  • Buying through a dealership is a law in many states. You can’t buy directly from the manufacturer.
  • This impacts Tesla, who’d like to sell to you directly.
  • I went up to tesla.com, and verified. You can spec a car, and pay for it right there if you want.
  • “State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, has filed the House Bill 1592 that bans manufacturers of “all-electric vehicles” from selling directly to consumers.”
  • The whole idea originally was to prevent franchises from having to compete with automakers, who in theory could sell at a cheaper cost by cutting out the middleman.
  • Tesla is fighting this battle in other states as well.

Unlocking the Locked-In Brain

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/31/computer-lets-fully-paralyzed-patients-speak-for-first-time.html

  • What is “Lock-In”? The obvious example is Dr. Stephen Hawking, who suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
    • ALS is a degenerative which causes the deterioration of the neurons used for voluntary movement.
    • Dr. Hawking has a means of communicating with the outside world using eye-tracking software and a specialized computer mounted to his wheelchair.
  • Then there’s “Complete Lock-In” which, to me, sounded like one of the most terrifying things I can imagine
  • No speech, no moving appendages, no eye movement, no… anything.
  • The reality is that there are people in this world who have perfectly normal, functioning brains that simply can’t move or communicate in any way shape, or form. While we have no metrics to quantify it, it can be presumed that some of these people are wrongly assumed to be in a vegetative state and are removed from life sustaining services and allowed to pass.
  • Enter the scientists!
  • More specifically, enter the BCI… a BCI is a brain-computer-interface and is generally embedded into the brain of the recipient.
  • Non-invasive BCIs have been developed before, but usually these use EEG technology which has proven ineffective in “locked in” individuals.
  • A team in Geneva, Switzerland developed a non-invasive BCI
  • The new system tracks blood flow changes in the brain using Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS)
  • This  allowed them to test with 4 patients over a period of weeks in 20-46 sessions.
  • They would ask open and closed questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” responses.
  • They set a baseline for blood oxygen levels for “Yes” and “No” and were able to correlate the results to a reasonable degree of accuracy.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, the patients all seemed generally content with their lives – they made sure to ask them many times over the weeks and the response was largely the same each time.
  • Closed questions: “Is your husband’s name Joachim?” seem to be communicated correctly about 70% of the time.
  • Niels Birbaumer, the lead author said, “We were initially surprised at the positive responses when we questioned the four completely locked-in participants about their quality of life. All four had accepted artificial ventilation in order to sustain their life when breathing became impossible so, in a sense, they had already chosen to live. What we observed was, as long as they received satisfactory care at home, they found their quality of life acceptable. It is for this reason, if we could make this technique widely clinically available, it would have a huge impact on the day-to-day life of people with complete locked-in syndrome.”
  • The article goes on to posit that maybe the contented nature of their existence is due to an almost zen-like meditative state of mindfulness. In fact the EEG and fNIRS scans of people during meditation and a locked-in state display many similarities.
  • At the end of the day this has many applications for improving the quality of life for many locked-in individuals and in some cases, may help identify lucid, cognitive patients which will ultimately save their lives.
  • As BCIs advance, there may come a day in the not so distant future where locked-in people may no longer be locked in at all.

The Quest For The Most Reliable HDD Has 2 Winners

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/01/8tb-hgst-disks-show-top-reliability-racking-up-45-years-without-failure/

  • This was our number three upvoted story on Reddit this week.
  • Whenever I am assembling a new system and considering a hard drive, I look at failure rates in the comments.
  • At least, I try to get a vibe for just how many people are pissed because their drive was DOA or fried after a few weeks.
  • Some drives seem to have a higher-than-average failure rate, and that’s a part of the buying decision, along with price, capacity, and performance.
  • Backblaze is a service that backs up your data in the cloud, only their cloud is made up actual hardware. Disk drive and stuff. And they keep tabs on how well the disk they buy performs, and publish their data in reliability reports.
  • “The standout finding: three 45-disk pods using 4TB Toshiba disks, and one 45-disk pod using 8TB HGST disks, went a full year without a single spindle failing.”
  • Sort of…hmm. There wasn’t a very high count of these disks in use, so would have been nice to see a larger sample set before getting too excited. I think the HGST model with 7K drives and a 0.40% fail rate is a more interesting statistic.

Electrek Reviews The Chevy Bolt

https://electrek.co/2017/01/27/the-electrek-review-2017-chevy-bolt-ev-is-the-first-plug-in-for-everyone/

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1107127_gm-ramps-up-2017-chevy-bolt-ev-electric-car-production-how-many-can-it-build

  • This was our second most upvoted story on Reddit this week.
  • What is the Bolt? It’s an EV.
  • Four door hatchback form factor. Reads “Chevy” to me – similar body style to other Chevies I see on the road.
  • 200+ horsepower. 268 foot pounds of torque. 0.60 in ~6.5 seconds. Notable in that it’s NOT trying to set a speed trap record, but it’s still darn quick. All that electric motor torque. Quick 50-70 highway passing.
  • They say the interior is “huge” due in part to the battery packaging.
  • 238 mile range.
  • Front wheel drive.
  • High seating position, since you’re sitting on top of the 60kW battery.
  • 10.2” display with CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • One foot driving – regen.
    • Eric is not a fan of one foot driving, generally… special situations, like bumper to bumper traffic.
  • “I think everyone was a bit surprised when Chevy announced its EPA rating of 238 miles from its 60kWh battery pack. That is a lot of range for a $30K car (after incentives) and it will serve 99.x% of daily drives incredibly well. By the time we were done with our day of driving around San Francisco, we still had 100 miles left on the battery, even with the hills and acceleration tests.”
  • Comes with Level 1 charger – gets you 50 miles of range a night. But the inverter can handle 7.7kW (240V X 32A), which would get you full range every night. But you need the AeroVironment charger, which is a little more each month on your lease.
  • Probably not a road trip car. Charging infrastructure doesn’t seem to be there yet.
  • Will you be able to get one? Hard to say. Production isn’t likely to equal demand. Estimates are for 30-35K production for the 2017 model year.

Current Mac Laptop Pricing Got You Down? How About A Dell Hackintosh?

https://9to5mac.com/2017/01/31/github-hackintosh-dell-xps-13/

https://github.com/syscl/XPS9350-macOS

  • I am an Apple fan. It’s sort of embarrassing, really. I like the hardware, but I’m getting pretty sick of paying the Apple tax, maybe the biggest reason I didn’t order the new ho-hum MacBook Pros that came out a while ago.
  • I did run into a friend running Windows 10 on a Dell XPS 13. Gorgeous little machine. Well spec’ed for less than $1K. Not a powerhouse, but for portability, decent battery life, okay screen, it was a nice little on-the-go machine.
  • But Windows. UGH. I am spoiled by macOS. I am really dialed into it. But that Apple hardware price. UGH.
  • Possible solution? There’s a Github project that’s just about got macOS running on a Dell XPS13, aka the 9350 model. Not 100% perfect. Project is still being worked on. But pretty close.
  • That would mate my favorite desktop OS with a decent laptop chassis that’s more affordable than Apple hardware.
  • OTOH, you KNOW it’s gonna be a challenge to keep this thing running over time.
  • Not 100% clear which flavor of macOS is supported, or whether iMessage or FaceTime are working, as they don’t always do so well on Hackintoshes.
  • C’mon Apple. Legalize it. I mean…make macOS something that runs a little easier on more generic hardware. Or is that a bad idea? Part of the Windows experience is endless driver updates and crap breaking over time.

Content I Like

TED Radio Hour Series on Screentime

http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/?showDate=2017-01-27

  • Impact of screens on us, our kids, etc.
  • Interesting science and studies.
  • Haven’t even finished part 1 yet, but it’s good, thought-provoking stuff.

Today I Learned

A strand of spider silk long enough to circle the Earth would weigh less than 500 grams

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_silk#Density

Rhombicosidodecahedron

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhombicosidodecahedron

“In geometry, the rhombicosidodecahedron, or small rhombicosidodecahedron, is an Archimedean solid, one of thirteen convex isogonal nonprismatic solids constructed of two or more types of regular polygon faces.

It has 20 regular triangular faces, 30 square faces, 12 regular pentagonal faces, 60 vertices and 120 edges.

The name rhombicosidodecahedron refers to the fact that the 30 square faces lie in the same planes as the 30 faces of the rhombic triacontahedron which is dual to the icosidodecahedron.”

Outro

Until next week, you can stalk us and support us. Please do both!

Lake Michigan’s Underwater Stonehenge – Episode 61

Intro

Today on the show: Star Trek Discovery, a HUD for your (current) car, ASUS starting a Pi fight, star dust on your roof, REM is good for your brain, Deathwatch, Content I Like, and Today I Learned!

https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/5p2gln/astronomers_have_discovered_that_a_star_thought/dcockn7/

Update on CBS’s Star Trek Discovery

https://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2017/01/star-trek-discovery-gets-stuck-in-spacedock-for-at-least-a-little-longer/

  • The show is delayed until further notice. Not canceled, but no ship date. Originally, was supposed to be now — January 2017. Then it went to May 2017. Now maybe Decembruary two-thousand-and-never.
  • Also, in case you missed it the first time around, the show is going to be limited to CBS All-Access, the $6 a month streaming service, which means they aren’t married to a launch date. They can release whenevs.
  • We’ll see if this happens. They are still casting people, so that’s promising. At the same time, there’s been staff turnover.
  • Seems, overall, troubled and doomed to obscurity even if it runs. Unless they release it all at once so that I can binge on it for $6.

Your car wants a HUD!

https://www.navdy.com

  • HUDs are a more common feature on premium vehicles, but it’s hardly commonplace yet.
  • Navdy is a HUD that projects compatible information from your phone onto your windshield
  • Gesture controls
  • Audio controls
  • A click-wheel that mounts to your steering wheel
  • Offline map data for “dead zones”
  • $749 or $31/mo through their site.
  • Not for everyone, but a killer device for some folks.

Asus tinkers with a piece of the Pi.

http://hexus.net/ce/news/gadgets/101686-asus-tinker-board-designed-trump-raspberry-pi-3/

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/01/asus-tinker-board-price-specs-release-date/

http://cpc.farnell.com/asus/90mb0qy1-m0eay0/tinker-board-2gb-1-8ghz-4k-gb/dp/SC14363

  • Asus 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board
  • The specs.
    • Quad core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A17 CPU
    • 2GB Dual channel LPDDR3 memory
    • Gigabit LAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • 40-pin Internal header with 28 GPIO pins
    • Contact points for PWM and S/PDIF signals
    • 1x 3.5mm Audio jack connection
    • CSI port for camera connection
    • DSI port supporting HD resolution
    • 1x HDMI 2.0 port to support 4K resolution
    • Micro SD port supports UHS-I
    • Supports Debian OS with KODI
    • Power supply: 5V/ 2A Micro USB (not included)
  • Asus is creating its own OS for the Tinker Board, based on Debian.
  • Available soon. Retailer CPC, a Farnell company in the UK, claims to have 59 in stock as of this writing.

Stardust turns out to be more than a song lyric.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/no-urban-legend-our-rooftops-are-collecting-stardust/

  • Long thought that amateur astronomers that dust on their rooftops could contain extraterrestrial dust. That is, some of the dust fell from the stars.
  • Most scientists didn’t take this seriously over the decades, but Project Stardust decided to.
  • Jon Larsen, a Norwegian musician and artist, convinced many residents in Oslo to collect the debris from their roof gutters so that it could be sifted through.
  • He got 300 kilograms of material, including one oddball sample from Paris.
  • They sifted the debris by shape and with magnets.
  • The result was about 500 tiny, round micrometeorites just a few hundred micrometers across. They picked 48 for closer analysis, and all of them turned out to be winners.
  • The micrometeorites are made of the seven elements found in chondrites, the sort of junk you find floating in between planets.
    • They also have olivine, which forms during atmospheric entry and subsequent heating.
    • The lack sodium which usually boils away during the heat of atmospheric descent.
  • Probably, this happens all over the earth…but not at a high density. Says Ars, “every square meter of the Earth gets hit about twice a year.”
  • You could sift through your roof debris as well, but realize that Project Stardust sorted through about a kilogram of stuff to find a micrometeorite about 300 micrometers in size.
  • You should be able to see such a small object. A human hair is roughly in the 100 micrometer range — it varies widely according to the wisdom of the Internet. The human eye can see down to something between roughly 6 and 29 micrometers, also according to the wisdom of the Internet.

REM is maintenance mode for your brain’s neural connections

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/rem-sleep-lets-the-brain-cut-and-strengthen-new-connections/

  • We’ve known for years that REM is critical for memory
  • Until now we haven’t really known why
  • First a little anatomy lesson: the anatomy of a neuron
    • Dendrites are the chemical receptors of a neuron
    • Dendritic spines are small outgrowths from the dendrites that cause stronger signal reception between neurons and cause links between neurons to be more solid.
    • This is critical for the forming and solidification of new and existing neural networks, respectively.
  • Dendritic spines are not permanent – they can be grown and “pruned” as the brain forms new connections, which is done while learning and forming memories.
  • Researchers trained mice on a treadmill style task
  • Then deprived some of the mice of REM sleep and studied the differences.
  • The dendritic spines formed on the neurons of those with proper REM sleep were found to be larger and stronger than those without REM sleep, indicating neural connections which were stronger.
  • In layman’s terms the brain performs pruning of less valuable dendritic spines and reinforces the more valuable dendritic spines during REM sleep.
  • This sheds light on why REM sleep is so critical to childhood development and learning in adults
  • A friend of mine once called sleep “brain defragging” …. It turns out he wasn’t that far off.
  • This is really interesting to me because I’ve often noted that when starting a new job, hobby, or sport where there’s a firehose of information for a sustained period of time, I feel exhausted until that firehose effect starts to scale back. I sleep more than usual, etc.

Deathwatch

Update on Deathwatch favorite – TIDAL!

https://9to5mac.com/2017/01/23/sprint-acquires-33-stake-in-tidal-music-streaming-service/

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7662653/sprint-jay-z-tidal-33-percent-stake-purchase

  • Deal was for $200M.
  • Not exclusive. As in, you won’t have to be a Sprint customer to get access to Tidal, at least not that it seems.
  • But does seem like access to Tidal in some way will be a special thing for Sprint users, although in what way is not clear, either. Not free, from what it appears so far.
  • Sort of like NFL for Verizon subscribers?
  • Maybe we should put Sprint on deathwatch if this is what they think is a wise investment. Because ain’t nobody switching to Sprint to get special access to Tidal.

Content I Like

Futurism’s “This Week In Science”

https://futurism.com/thisweekinscience/

  • Weekly image with top headlines from the science world
  • Generally actual science headlines, not conjecture. Generally.

001 Trolling The Movie

https://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2017/01/001-trolling-is-possibly-the-craziest-movie-ever-made-about-the-internet/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLOBDqCiZK8

  • Looks like it’s gonna be interesting in May 2017 when it comes out.

Today I Learned

TIL That there is a Stonehenge like structure at the bottom of Lake Michigan with a possible Petroglyph of a Mastodon on one of the boulders.

http://www.zmescience.com/science/archaeology/stonehenge-under-lake-michigan-3125445/

Stealing Fingerprints From Photos – Episode 60

Today on the show: a block-chain social network, China driving down the price of solar power, Nintendo’s Switch issues,  EV owners avoiding taxes, Faraday Future’s FF91 sticker shock, giving away bio-data with a simple photo, measuring infinity with Verizon math, Content We Like and Today I Learned!

Steem. Blockchain cryptocurrency earnings for social media curators & contributors.

https://steem.io/

https://steem.io/SteemWhitePaper.pdf

    • Rewarding people who contribute or curate with cryptocurrency.
    • System has careful governance in place to make sure the currency is stable. Explained in their whitepaper as a balance between Steem Power, which you can eventually convert into Steem Dollars, and the Steem Dollars themselves.
    • Your ability to reward other with Steem is limited. Once you’ve upvoted, it takes a bit of time before you can upvote again.
    • Would be hard to game the system. Lots of checks and balances.
    • From what I can tell, the system is insular.
      • I don’t see a way I could have readers of my blog reward me with Steem, at least not directly.
      • You’d have to be on steemit.com.
    • But…who wants this? What’s the point?
      • The big ideas are noble ones.
      • Principle 1. If you contribute to a platform, you should get something back.
      • Principle 2. All forms of capital are equal. Time has similar value to money, for example.
      • Principle 3. Products are produced for the community. (Reinforcing my point about Steem being insular.)
    • “The Steem community provides the following services to its members:
      • 1. A source of curated news and commentary.
      • 2. A means to get high quality answers to personalized questions.
      • 3. A stable cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar.
      • 4. Free payments.
      • 5. Jobs providing above services to other members.”
  • Will this go anywhere? Lots of issues with Steem…
    • The rewards aren’t valuable enough to put up with the lack of audience.
    • The competition for attention is brutal.
    • Monetization schemes with similar or better real-dollar rewards already exist in the form of ad revenue. Yeah, ads suck especially when done badly. But it’s a proven system that rewards creators for their content in direct relation to their quality. The better the content, the greater the audience. And audience numbers, to a degree, correlate to ad revenue. Thus, creators are already incentivized to make strong content.
    • Being rewarded in a new cryptocurrency seems like an intangible rewards, bordering on getting coupons.
    • Might it work? Yes. Are the ideas noble? I think so. Will Steem gather any steam? I don’t see it.

Chinese driving down the price of solar.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-energy-renewables-idUSKBN14P06P

  • $360 Billion (with a “B”) in renewable energy
  • By 2020… that’s 3 years away
  • Estimates 3 Million new jobs to be created
  • Wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power (nuclear isn’t exactly “renewable”)
  • They’re scrapping 80-odd planned or in-progress Coal power plants
  • China is the #1 carbon emitting country, releasing roughly 2x the carbon of the United States
  • However, China became the world’s top solar generator in 2016
  • The cost of solar installation has dropped 40% since 2010

Is the Nintendo Switch purely a portable?

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/01/nintendo-switchs-identity-crisis-could-echo-microsofts-kinect-disaster/

  • The Nintendo Switch is an impressive portable gaming system
    • 6.2” (15.75 cm) screen
    • 1280×720 resolution
    • Nvidia Tegra SOC
    • 32GB Internal storage
    • Expandable with SDXC
    • Two speakers (and a headphone jack, because they lack courage)
    • 6+ hours of battery life (depending on what you’re doing, the new Zelda tops out around 3 Hours)
    • It charges via a USB-C port – so you could even bring a portable power bank with you to charge it.
  • This article posits that its biggest “feature” the ability to “Switch” from handheld to home console is its largest detraction point.
  • I am actually inclined to agree. I don’t think it’s necessarily a fatal flaw, but the logic works.
  • The Switch is only slightly more powerful than the failed and cancelled Wii U, but as a mobile device that’s actually just fine. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a beautiful looking game.
  • When you dock the Switch to play on your TV it actually gets slightly more powerful, because there is more power available and it does some sort of “turbo mode” apparently, slightly overclocking the SOC.
  • The biggest use case for this is to play games wherever, whenever. I love this idea, and rarely take the time to sit down in front of a TV to play video games.
  • The switch does not compete in power with a PS4 or Xbox One (let alone the new Pro and S models, respectively)
  • Why does it need to have a dedicated docking system to add complexity and cost to the package?
  • $299 is the launch price and some quick tallying on the part of the Ars author estimates that the launch price could have been lowered to $229 or $249 – making it more price competitive with Sony and Microsoft’s consoles.
  • With that said, this is a “hardcore” system. Just not the way “hardcore gaming” usually is used… this system is, at least at this point, targeted at hardcore Nintendo fans. Zelda and Mario and Splatoon and Xenoblade fans.
  • I really, really want one. I could take or leave a PS4 or Xbox One, (though there are some games coming out for the PS4 that may change that). This is right in my wheelhouse: the right genres of games, the right game franchises, portability, it really hits a sweet spot for me.
  • I gotta say, $299 is pretty steep for it though. $199 or even $249 certainly would be a lot more palatable.

EV fees vs. lost gas taxes

https://electrek.co/2017/01/17/yearly-ev-fees-to-replace-lost-gas-tax-revenue-are-less-reasonable-than-they-seem-indiana-the-latest-to-scapegoat-evs/

  • The freeloading EV argument. Hey, they use the road, but aren’t paying much (any?) in gas taxes.
  • Solution? An EV fee to balance it out.
  • But are these fees fair? Article argues no, not even close. Their arguments are…
    • Little EVs don’t trash the road like large gas-burning semis do.
    • Fossil fuels are damaging the world more than road damage done by EVs.
    • Not many EVs on the road, so the fees don’t amount to much.
    • EVs fees tend to cost more than taxes enacted on a gas vehicle.
  • These arguments seem mostly specious to us.

Faraday Future FF91 price comes in…

https://electrek.co/2017/01/13/faraday-future-ff91-electric-vehicle-cost-300000-ceo-jia-yueting/

  • Discussed in a recent episode (Episode 58) estimated “At least $100k”
  • Eric: I admit I was wrong.
  • I was waaaaaaay low!
  • “Under $300k” according to the CEO.
  • Estimates from $100-200k abounded, but it looks like it’ll be significantly more.
  • So now there’s an EV for the folks who just can’t be seen in a $100k Tesla.
  • The FF91 is a step in the right direction while simultaneously a big step in the wrong direction.

Giving away your biodata in hi-res pictures.

https://phys.org/news/2017-01-japan-fingerprint-theft-peace.html

  • Japan’s National Institute of Infomatics is warning people about the peace sign coupled with digital photography.
  • “The NII researchers were able to copy fingerprints based on photos taken by a digital camera three metres (nine feet) away from the subject.”
  • To prevent fingerprint theft, there’s an NII-developed coating containing titanium oxide that can be worn to prevent theft via photo, while still allowing your fingerprints to function normally for traditional means of identification. But it won’t be ready for a couple of years.

Verizon joins in on the unlimited data threats, too. Not just AT&T.

https://9to5mac.com/2017/01/11/verizon-unlimited-plan-200gb-disconnection/

  • Grandfathered Unlimited data users without a contract
  • Specifically users on Month to month plans for which a comparable plan no longer exists
  • If you are one of these users and consume over 200GB, Verizon will terminate your service.
  • Done. Gone. No more bits to your handset.

Content I Like

The Grand Tour

http://www.amazon.com/TheGrandTour‎

  • First few episodes were…? Not confidence inspiring.
  • Last few have been great. Actual LOLs.

Today I Learned

Rolling coal is the practice of modifying your diesel engine so that it emits lots of sooty exhaust. You might roll coal in front of a Prius. Probably an illegal modification.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_coal

TIL the term “genuine leather” isn’t reassuring you that the item is made of real leather, it as an actual distinct grade of leather and is the second lowest quality of leather there is.

https://www.heddels.com/2014/06/overview-guide-leather-grades/

  • Full Grain
  • Top Grain
  • Suede
  • Genuine
  • Bonded

Booze Makes You Think You’re Starving – Episode 59

AT&T changing the rules for unlimited data plan holders.

http://9to5mac.com/2017/01/10/att-unlimited-data-price-increase

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/01/att-imposes-another-5-rate-hike-on-grandfathered-unlimited-data-plans/

  • In March 2017, the old AT&T data plan is going up another $5 to $40 a month.
  • In February 2016, it had gone up from $30 to $35.
  • It’s unlimited data, but not in the sense you think of it. It’s unlimited and unthrottled until you use 22GB. Then it’s throttled if you’re connected to a congested tower.
  • I suspect most towers are somewhat congested, at least at certain times of the day, particularly in metro areas with a high density of users.
  • Then again, 22GB is sort of a lot if you’re on wifi most of the time.
  • BUT IT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING.
  • Oh, and by the way…rumor is that net neutrality is going away as FCC staffing changes under the Trump administration.

Filling tooth cavities without fillings.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38524566

  • Research team at King’s College in London have found that they can initiate teeth self-healing small cavities
  • They did this using biodegradable sponges soaked in a drug called Tideglusib, which is beginning to be used in Alzheimer’s patients and Autism spectrum patients.
  • The sponges were placed inside the cavity and then covered with a dental sealant.
  • “They discovered… heightened the activity of stem cells in the dental pulp so they could repair 0.13mm holes in the teeth of mice.”
  • As the sponge broke down it was replaced by dentine, healing the tooth.
  • They’re moving on to research on repairing larger cavities.
  • How soon to market?
    • Says project lead Prof Paul Sharpe, “I don’t think it’s massively long term, it’s quite low-hanging fruit in regenerative medicine and hopeful in a three-to-five year period this would be commercially available.”

This is your brain on booze.

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38562048

http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/risky-drinking

http://www.hbo.com/custom-assets/social/facebook/Risky%20Drinking%20Discussion%20Guide.pdf

  • Mice were given the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine.
  • That level of alcohol caused AGRP neurons to fire. They do this when the body is experiencing starvation. (I think my AGRP neurons might be broken. Apparently, I’m starving all the time.)
  • This is presumed to explain why some people get hungry after having a drink.
  • Alcohol does other things to your brain as well. (Risky Drinking documentary statistics.)
    • 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. is a binge drinker.

    • Binge drinking accounts for more than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S.

       

    • Less than 20% of people with an alcohol use disorder receive treatment.

       

    • About 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder will relapse within the first year of sobriety.

       

    • Although more men than women have alcohol use disorder, the gap is quickly narrowing.

       

    • Blackouts are episodes of amnesia that disrupt the ability to form new memories while intoxicated.

    • One in six women will develop an alcohol related health problem including cancer, heart disease and liver damage.

    • Chronic alcohol use can cause an overall reduction in brain function and size.

       

    • Nearly one third of adults in the U.S. engage in problem drinking at some point in their lives. 

    • The majority of people who receive treatment for an alcohol use disorder will recover.

Signal others. Secretly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_(software)

  • Signal is an Android and iOS app for secure communications
  • Voice, Video, SMS & MMS
  • Free (apart from data network charges)
  • All communications are end to end encrypted. (Stored on the devices, not Signal’s servers)
  • Built in mechanisms to ensure no man-in-the-middle attacks are happening
    • For calls, Signal displays two words on the screen. If the words match on both ends of the call, the call is secure.
    • For messages, users can compare key fingerprints (or scan QR codes) out-of-band.]
    • The app employs a trust on first use mechanism in order to notify the user if a correspondent’s key changes.
    • For messages, Signal users can compare key fingerprints (or scan QR codes) out-of-band.
    • The app employs a trust on first use mechanism in order to notify the user if a correspondent’s key changes.
    • Scheduled message removal – deletes messages from both sending and receiving devices at a scheduled time
    • Encrypted local message store
    • Android users can choose to make it their default SMS application, which I’ve done. It’s lightweight, fast, and has some great UX tweaks over the stock messaging app on my Samsung S7
  • Servers – this has to be facilitated by servers at some point, right?
    • In addition to routing Signal’s messages and calls, the servers also facilitate the discovery of contacts who are also registered Signal users and the automatic exchange of users’ public keys.
    • Signal’s privacy policy states that these identifiers are only kept on the servers as long as necessary in order to place each call or transmit each message.
    • Because it’s end to end encrypted though, they can report that communication was initiated between end points, but nothing about the content of said communications.
  • Code Auditing and you

Forcing Mac gaming to not suck.

http://9to5mac.com/2017/01/09/hands-on-nvidias-geforce-now-streaming-finally-brings-great-gaming-to-mac-video

  • GeForce NOW – Their game streaming service, currently supports Shield set top boxes and tablets.
  • They’ve just announced PC & Mac streaming at CES, which should launch in March of this year (2017)
  • GeForce NOW streaming quality automatically adjusts to the speed of your broadband connection.
  • 10 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 20 Megabits per second – Recommended for 720p 60 FPS quality
  • 50 Megabits per second – Recommended for 1080p 60 FPS quality
  • < 60ms ping time to one of six NVIDIA datacenters world-wide
  • Pricing: When gamers register for GeForce NOW, they can play for free for 8 hours on a GeForce GTX 1060 PC or 4 hours on a GeForce GTX 1080 PC. For an additional $25, gamers can play for 20 hours on a GTX 1060 PC or 10 hours on a GTX 1080 PC. Early access to the new GeForce NOW service is scheduled for March in the continental United States, with full commercial service slated for the spring.

Deathwatch

Yahoo!

http://www.wsj.com/articles/after-sale-marissa-mayer-to-leave-yahoo-board-yahoo-to-change-name-to-altaba-1484002787

http://arstechnica.com/business/2017/01/yahoo-board-drops-to-five-mayer-is-out-name-changed-to-altaba/

  • Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.8 billion, with a B.
  • It’s not the entire portfolio of company assets. Alibaba is not part of the sale, for example.
  • What is bought is going to be turned into an investment company called Altaba.
  • Marissa Mayer’s future is in doubt. It doesn’t look like she’ll be involved in Altaba financial portfolio management. And it doesn’t look like she’s going to Verizon, either. Worst case, they fire her, and she ends up with $55 million. With an M.

Content I Like

Songfacts Music Blog

http://www.songfacts.com/blog/

  • Songwriter Interviews – Go behind the music with some of the world’s best songwriters
  • Song Writing – Musical musings from journalists, authors and members of the Songfacts community
  • Fact or Fiction – Sorting Myth from Reality in the Musical Realm
  • They’re Playing My Song – Bruce Pollock asks artists about the one song they wrote or sang that most influenced their career.
  • Music Quiz – Lyric Quizzes and Next Generation Music Trivia
  • Songfacts Pages – Songfacts pages explaining who we are, what we do, and our policies.

Today I Learned

Africa is bifurcating.

http://www.bbc.com/news/10415877

http://mgafrica.com/article/2015-03-31-bye-bye-east-africa-the-african-plate-is-splitting-in-two

  • There is a rift down the east side of the African continent that is, over the next few million years, going to fill in with ocean.
  • The eastern rift is termed the Somali plate.
  • “In north-eastern Africa’s Afar Triangle, which cuts across Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, hundreds of crevices are reported as splitting the desert floor and the ground has slumped by as much as 100m.”