Monthly Archives: July 2016

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The VCR Is Officially Dead, But We’ll Never Forget It This month, the world’s last manufacturer of VCRs will manufacture its last VCR. Sure, you won’t notice that they’re gone. But it’s a good time to remember what they meant when they were here.VCRs and, more specifically, the VHS format they supported may have spent two decades at the top of the format food chain, but they didn’t start that way. When VHS came to our shores in the late ’70s, it was already a year behind Betamax, which did pretty much the exact same thing. The VCR is one of the few technologies that passed the highest bar we can possibly set: It made the previously impossible commonplace. Well, maybe not exact; Betamax was better. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It offered higher-resolution playback, and Sony’s gilded brand behind it. Between that and a strong lead, Betamax should have […]

11 Police Robots Patrolling Around the World Law enforcement across the globe use semi-autonomous technology to do what humans find too dangerous, boring, or just can’t. This week, the Cleveland Police had a few nonlethal ones on hand at the Republican National Convention. But even those can be outfitted to kill, as we saw in Dallas earlier this month when police strapped a bomb to an explosive-detonation robot, and boom: a non-lethal robot became a killer. If that thought scares you, you’re not alone. Human rights activists worry these robots lack social awareness crucial to decision-making. “For example, during mass protests in Egypt in January 2011 the army refused to fire on protesters, an action that required innate human compassion and respect for the rule of law,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim of Amnesty International in a statement last year arguing that the UN should ban killer robots. More than a thousand […]

The KickassTorrents Case Could Be Huge It was a legal iTunes purchase that helped the feds nab Artem Vaulin, the alleged proprietor of KickassTorrents (KAT), the world’s biggest purveyor of illegal torrent files. The irony is almost too much to bear pointing out. But according to one lawyer familiar with the ins and outs of copyright infringement, the case could have sweeping repercussions on how torrents are regulated.First a refresher, if all this talk of torrents sounds so 2006 to you: BitTorrenting is a way to share large files over peer-to-peer networks, and it’s frequently used for pirating movies and television shows and music. But it’s been in steady decline in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of viable paid streaming options like Netflix and Amazon Video. A recent report from Sandvine pegs BitTorrent as comprising less than five percent of total daily traffic in North America. It’s […]

The Peter Principle: Why Thiel’s GOP convention speech will be about him and not about Silicon Valley. The eccentric investor is not like anyone else in tech. The many faces of Peter Thiel Okay, I will just say what pretty much everyone in tech thinks, even if they never seem to be able to say it out loud: Peter Thiel is a very odd character, even by Silicon Valley standards. And let me be clear that Silicon Valley is full of the eccentric, the quirky, the kooky, the peculiar, the freakishly geeky and geekishly freaky. And that’s just the senior staff at Google. But Thiel is a cut above even that, carving out a persona over the last two decades that has marched to a very different drummer from pretty much everyone else and one not in tune with anyone in power here now. So, tonight when he speaks at […]

Now You Can Hide Your Smart Home on the Darknet   The privacy software Tor has aided everything from drug dealing marketplaces to whistleblowing websites in evading surveillance on the darknet. Now that same software can be applied to a far more personal form of security: keeping hackers out of your toaster. You can still get to your baby monitor via an app or the web, but a potential hacker won’t even be able to find it. On Wednesday, the privacy-focused non-profit Guardian Project, a partner of the Tor Project that maintains and develops the Tor anonymity network, announced a new technique it’s developed to apply Tor’s layers of encryption and network stealth to protecting so-called “Internet of things” or “smart home” devices. That growing class of gadgets, ranging from refrigerators to lightbulbs to security cameras, are connected to the Internet to make possible new forms of remote management and […]

The Funkiest Site on the Planet What’s Your Funkability Are you funny. Do you have some funk, or is your square cool. Do you play, sing, rap, act…. Whatever your cool is even if your cool anit cool it’s cool to us and we want everybody to bring their A game. This is the place to share that whatever it is at… The Funkiest Place on the Planet. “OOOH you smell Dat” Come on post it -bring it. Ya Digg!! Also, watch out for “The Ultimate Get Away Contest”. Coming on Nov. 1. 2016. Make sure you subscribe before Oct. 31, 2016. That way you can get in for One i said…I said One Dollar. After the 31 of Oct. you can enter the contest for Three I said…I said Three Dollars. Quite a bargain for even the third place prize. Come On, What you waitin for. Get In and […]

Neuroscientists Still Don’t Know Why Music Sounds Good Your taste in music is weird. Maybe you just can’t stop listening to that power ballad, or you’ve wondered about your bewildering weakness for yodeling. And maybe, just maybe, nobody understands your all-consuming obsession with Steely Dan, the greatest band of all time.But even with all these differences, neuroscientists have noticed there’s something pretty much everyone agrees on, musically: Some chords sound good—they’re consonant—and other notes grate when they’re played at the same time. Unraveling why that is could explain something basic about how humans perceive the world. Maybe people are just wired that way. Or maybe, as a paper argues today in Nature, it’s a product of human culture.Yes, this is a nature versus nurture debate. And it’s been raging for centuries, if not millennia. Scientists trace it back to Pythagoras, who theorized about musical intervals in the first place. Over […]

    I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This, But I Miss My CDs A few weeks ago, I bought a new CD.Weird, right? It certainly wasn’t something I’d planned on doing: For one thing, when you consider the steadily eroding sales of compact discs (which are so bad, New York City can barely keep its record stores alive), the fact that I was even able to find one of those stabby-cornered, shink-wrapped eco-terrors was kind of a surprise. But there I was, stuck on a road trip with an ancient stereo system, in dire need of a Drake break (his songs had started from the bottom of the FM dial and continued, non-stop, all the way up). And so I dropped $12 for Tribulation’s The Children of the Night, an excellent Swedish black metal album—think Riverbottom Nightmare Band, if its members had spent a year opening for Queens of the […]

The Weird Business Behind a Trendy “Anti-Aging” Pill Elysium A renowned MIT aging scientist as cofounder. Not one, not two, but six Nobel prize laureates as scientific advisors. Oh, and a product that could just maybe help you stay feeling young. It’s no wonder the dietary supplement company Elysium has attracted attention in an industry not exactly known for scientific rigor. And while Elysium is careful to tout “cellular health” rather than explicit claims about anti-aging—the company’s image is all about scientific rigor—headlines have been quicker to make the leap.One of the main ingredients in Elysium’s supplement, Basis, is a chemical called nicotinamide riboside. It has, in fact, shown promise making mice healthier. No research has shown it to be effective in humans—a fact that Elysium’s cofounders will readily admit. But they’re also out to prove that NR isn’t just snake oil. “We’ve stressed with this company that it is […]

The White House Is on a Mission to Shrink US Prisons With Data It’s an oft-repeated statistic: The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but it’s home to almost 25 percent of the world’s prison population.The Obama administration believes better data within the criminal justice system could correct that imbalance. Which is why today, the White House announced its new Data-Driven Justice Initiative, through which 67 cities and states will work with each other, as well as with leading tech companies like Amazon and Palantir, to find new ways to use data to shrink the size of their local prison populations. “What we’ve seen as we’ve engaged with state and local leaders across the country is that there are people who simply do not need to be in our jails,” Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President, said on a call with journalists […]