Sunday, December 15, 2013

Once upon a time, the US was able to accomplish great things. Honest! Now we've outsourced all of our innovation, creativity, and vision. Go China, colonize the universe!
China deploys 'highly efficient' rover onto Moon's surface
… Experts both in and outside of China have described the successful soft-landing as a significant step towards placing a Chinese astronaut on the Moon. Some expect China to do that by 2020.
Speaking on the eve of the landing, Professor Ken Pounds, a professor of space physics at the University of Leicester, told The Telegraph: "What the Chinese are now showing more than any other nation – the Russians, the Indians even and certainly the Americans – is the determination to actually get on with space exploration and they are making quite rapid progress.

There was a reason for their decision. Perhaps a good tactical option, but a very poor strategy.
Twitter backtracks on ‘block’ change after #restoretheblock campaign
The short-lived change meant that blocked users could still view and interact with tweets from the person who blocked them and could no longer see that they had been blocked.
Twitter said this was designed to protect victims of harassment who feared that blocking a user would lead to retaliation.
But after a wave of online protest, Twitter re-instated its previous policy, whereby blocked users are notified, and are prevented from following and interacting with their blocker.

Should “Your DNA isn't on file” be a crime? If not, where is the threshold?
Dave Tartre reports:
Opponents of California’s mandatory DNA collection statute told an en banc panel of the 9th Circuit that the law violates the constitutional rights of people who are arrested but never charged.
The 9th Circuit, which has reviewed the law twice already, was prompted to take a third look by a US Supreme Court ruling in June that upheld the constitutionality of a similar law passed by Maryland voters.
Read more on Courthouse News.

Is it really privacy concerns or the realization that finding 100,000 violations in one 8 hour shift exceeds the ability of the entire department to write tickets? Sure looks like the volume is so great they simply ignore the “alarms.” Are these more toys purchased with DHS grants or did someone sell Boston on this idea?
Shawn Musgrave reports:
The Boston Police Department has indefinitely suspended its use of high-tech scanners that automatically check whether drivers have outstanding parking tickets, lapsed insurance or other violations after a Globe investigation raised serious privacy concerns.
The police inadvertently released to the Globe the license plate numbers of more than 68,000 vehicles that had tripped alarms on automated license plate readers over a six-month period. Many of the vehicles were scanned dozens of times in that period alone.
Read more on Boston Globe (sub. req.)
[From the article:
The accidental release triggered immediate doubts about whether the police could reliably protect the sensitive data. It also raised questions about whether police were following up on the scans, since numerous vehicles repeatedly triggered alarms for the same offenses. One motorcycle that had been reported stolen triggered scanner alerts 59 times over six months, while another plate with lapsed insurance was scanned a total of 97 times in the same span.
… More than 60 law enforcement agencies across Massachusetts use automated license plate recognition technology, including every police department in the Boston area. The scanners use high-speed cameras to compare plates against police databases, including vehicles associated with outstanding warrants, lapsed registration, expired insurance, or unpaid parking tickets.
The readers also record the date, time, and GPS location of each vehicle, even in heavy traffic. The technology thus offers a wealth of information for surveillance as well as investigations: with enough scans over time, police can trace a particular vehicle’s path and discern driving habits.
… “If you go too far in collecting information just because you can, it undermines people’s confidence in government,” said Hecht. “That ultimately makes law enforcement’s job much more difficult.”

Good news for my App writing Ethical Hackers. Also, this should catch the eye of politicians, although the money may need to be greater to offset the loss of all that PAC money.
Greg Avery reports:
Most smartphone users value their privacy enough to pay extra to have software applications keep their personal information private, a new study shows. In fact, some are willing to pay as much as $5 to prevent apps from sharing their location.
[From the article:
A study by two University of Colorado Boulder economists, Scott Savage and Donald Waldman, found the average user would pay varying amounts for different kinds of privacy: $4.05 to conceal contact lists, $2.28 to keep their browser history private, $2.12 to eliminate advertising on apps, $1.19 to conceal personal locations, $1.75 to conceal the phone’s ID number and $3.58 to conceal the contents of text messages.
… The CU researchers say the Value of Online Privacy study (download here) is the first to quantify the value consumers place on different kinds of digital privacy.

Any roadblock, no matter how trivial, rather than admit they should have thought of it first. (It's not to late, broadcast TV guys.)
Aereo to major TV broadcasters: A Supreme Court decision doesn’t scare us
… Aereo is a rather ingenious little startup, but not necessarily because of its innovative technology. Aereo’s service streams and records the freely available over-the-air local television content from major broadcasters like ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, CW, and other local stations, delivering it to users via desktop computers, set-top boxes, and mobile devices. It does this legally (so far at least) by using tiny antennas (one per subscriber) to pick up those broadcast signals and stream them to subscribers. The service is only available to people who live within range of the TV station signals are being broadcasted, which means Aereo isn’t doing anything that its subscribers couldn’t feasibly do on their own.
… Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that broadcasters are pushing through with this particular case, considering how unsuccessful they’ve been in convincing the courts that Aereo is in the wrong. I say this also because major broadcasters have a heck of a lot more to lose if the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case and reaffirms those earlier rulings. For instance, those that are currently paying licensing fees for those freely broadcasted stations might decide to adopt Aereo’s strategy, which is likely less expensive for cable TV providers in the long term.

Once more Mr. Gore, tell us how the earth is warming. It may amuse us during the coming ICE AGE!
Cairo snow: Egyptian capital sees snowfall for the first time in 112 YEARS
… The Egyptian capital has seen snowfall for the first time in 112 years.
As reported by Buzzfeed, Egyptians who had witnessed snow for the first time in their lives were left amazed - with the Arabic word for snow trending on Twitter.
... Incredible pictures showing the normally sultry city were also posted. One of the more bizarre images showed a camel sitting down in the snow.

Perhaps this could be a “Capstone” project for one of our CS grads? Interesting that Microsoft did the scanning. May reflect Bill Gate's interest in 'antique documents.'
British Library releases over 1 million images using Flickr Commons
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 14, 2013
British Library Digital scholarship blog: ”We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of. Which brings me to the point of this release. We are looking for new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations’. The images were plucked from the pages as part of the ‘Mechanical Curator’, a creation of the British Library Labs project. Each image is individually addressible, online, and Flickr provies an API to access it and the image’s associated description. We may know which book, volume and page an image was drawn from, but we know nothing about a given image. Consider the image below. The title of the work may suggest the thematic subject matter of any illustrations in the book, but it doesn’t suggest how colourful and arresting these images are..
Next steps - We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence. The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release. There are very few datasets of this nature free for any use and by putting it online we hope to stimulate and support research concerning printed illustrations, maps and other material not currently studied. Given that the images are derived from just 65,000 volumes and that the library holds many millions of items.

I've told many students that their “excuses” would make a great movie. Now I can give them a tool to make that a reality!
– is a minimal, distraction-free environment for the most important part of screenwriting – the writing part. Slugline automatically formats your writing to precise industry standards. It’s everything you need to create a submission-quality screenplay, and nothing you don’t. With Slugline, you do everything with text, from changing the format of a paragraph, to adding a new section in your integrated outline.

An Infographic to make me feel even older.
Learning Alphabets The Obsolete Way
Not only can children learn the alphabet with this handy chart, but they’ll also pick up a bit of history! Isn’t it awesome?

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