technology

‘Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.’ –Descartes

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Everybody knows that real blurry photos can’t be made sharp after the fact. But that’s exactly the premise of the new Illum camera from a startup called Lytro.

Instead of snapping a solitary image, the Illum captures a whole moment—known as the light field—so you can change focus and shift perspective after you’ve taken the shot.

Just by clicking around a screen, the viewer can focus on a birthday cake candle, the person blowing it out, or partygoers in the background.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

art { Gerhard Richter, Frau Niepenberg, 1965 }

‘All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.’ —Von Neumann

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Few human possessions are so universally owned as mobile phones. There are almost as many mobile phones as there are humans on the planet. More people worldwide own mobile phones than have access to working toilets. These devices not only help individuals share information with each other, they are increasingly being used to help individuals gather information about themselves. Smartphones — mobile phones with built in applications and internet access — have rapidly become one of the world’s most sophisticated self-tracking tools. Self-trackers and those engaged in the “quantified self” movement are using smartphones to collect large volumes of data about their health, their environment, and the interaction between the two. Continuous tracking is now obtainable for personal health indicators including physical activity, brain activity, mood dynamics, numerous physiologic metrics and demographic data. Similarly, smartphones are empowering individuals to measure and map, at a relatively low cost, environmental data on air quality, water quality, temperature, humidity, noise levels, and more.

Mobile phones can provide another source of information to their owners: sample data on their personal microbiome. The personal microbiome, here defined as the collection of microbes associated with an individual’s personal effects (i.e., possessions regularly worn or carried on one’s person), likely varies uniquely from person to person. Research has shown there can be significant interpersonal variation in human microbiota, including for those microbes found on the skin. We hypothesize that this variation can be detected not just in the human microbiome, but also on the phone microbiome.

{ Meadow/Altrichter/Green | Continue reading }

Million ways to cry

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{ CYNK, a ”social networking” startup that has no assets, no revenue, no members, and one employee, is worth $4.75 billion }

art { Paul Klee }

Time to put the O back in Cuntry

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Haberman wanted grocery stores to embrace the 12-digit Universal Product Code—better known as the barcode—to create a standardized system for tracking inventory and speeding checkout. He took his fellow execs to a nice dinner. Then, as was the fashion at the time, they went to see Deep Throat. […]

Without the barcode, FedEx couldn’t guarantee overnight delivery. […] Nearly all babies born today in U.S. hospitals get barcode bracelets as soon as they’re swaddled.

{ Wired | Continue reading }

art { Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1968 }

‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.’ –Anton Chekhov

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I no longer look at somebody’s CV to determine if we will interview them or not,” declares Teri Morse, who oversees the recruitment of 30,000 people each year at Xerox Services. Instead, her team analyses personal data to determine the fate of job candidates.

She is not alone. “Big data” and complex algorithms are increasingly taking decisions out of the hands of individual interviewers – a trend that has far-reaching consequences for job seekers and recruiters alike. […]

Employees who are members of one or two social networks were found to stay in their job for longer than those who belonged to four or more social networks (Xerox recruitment drives at gaming conventions were subsequently cancelled). Some findings, however, were much more fundamental: prior work experience in a similar role was not found to be a predictor of success.

“It actually opens up doors for people who would never have gotten to interview based on their CV,” says Ms Morse.

{ FT | Continue reading }

related { Big Data hopes to liberate us from the work of self-construction—and justify mass surveillance in the process }

It was Me, L Boogs and Yan Yan, YG, Lucky ride down Rosecrans

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Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. […]

Military drones have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. […]

Several military drones have simply disappeared while at cruising altitudes, never to be seen again. […]

The documents describe a multitude of costly mistakes by remote-control pilots. A $3.8 million Predator carrying a Hellfire missile cratered near Kandahar in January 2010 because the pilot did not realize she had been flying the aircraft upside-down.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini in your face

Yo, the app, has been hacked

As one that had been studied in his death

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It is an object of the present invention to provide a practical and affordable device to disperse cremated remains in a special and honorary manner. […]

At an appointed time, the remains are loaded into one or more mortar launchers mounted on the back of a mobile unit, be it a vehicle or other mobile device, and propelled into the sky. When an appropriate altitude is reached, the explosive device is activated and explodes, causing the ashen remains to disintegrate and cover an expansive area with the ash. The loved ones may feel that the spirit of the departed lingers in that area, allowing surviving family and friends to enjoy the comfort of having a part of the loved one physically and figuratively all around them.

{ Wallace N. Brown via Improbable }

‘It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge.’ —Nietzsche

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New study finds Internet not responsible for dying newspapers

Gentzkow notes that the first fallacy is that online advertising revenues are naturally lower than print revenues, so traditional media must adopt a less profitable business model that cannot support paying real reporters. The second is that the web has made the advertising market more competitive, which has driven down rates and, in turn, revenues. The third misconception is that the Internet is responsible for the demise of the newspaper industry.

{ Chicago Booth | Continue reading }

‘Or, si l’habit ne fait pas le moine, l’habitation fait l’habitant.’ —Alexandre Dumas, fils

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In shopping malls, for instance, a firm called Euclid Analytics collects, in its own words, “the presence of the device, its signal strength, its manufacturer (Apple, Samsung, etc.), and a unique identifier known as its Media Access Control (MAC) address.” In London last year, one start-up installed a dozen recycling bins that sniffed MAC addresses from passers-by, effectively tracking people through the area via their phones. Such companies go to great lengths to explain that such information in not personally identifiable—except that repeated studies have shown that this data can indeed be used to infer a great deal about your life.

At the core of such tracking is the MAC address, a unique identification number tied to each device. Devices looking for a Wi-Fi network send out their MAC address to identify themselves. Wireless routers receive the signals—and addresses—even if a connection is never made. Companies like Euclid or its peer Turnstyle Solutions use the data to track footfall in stores, how people move about in shops, how long they linger in certain sections, and how often they return. Store-owners use the information to target shoppers with offers (paywall) or to move high-value items to highly-trafficked parts of the shop, among other things. […]

Apple’s solution, as discovered by a Swiss programmer, is for iOS 8, the new operating system for iPhones which will be out later this year, to generate a random MAC addresses while scanning for networks. That means that companies and agencies that collect such information will not necessarily know when the same device (i.e., person) visits a store twice, or that the same device pops up in stores across the country or the world, suggesting a much-travelled owner.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

related { With the launch of a health app and data-sharing platform, Apple is betting that tracking your vital signs via smartphone is about to become a booming industry }

1 less problem without ya

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Though industrially important, 3D printing has turned out to be nowhere near as disruptive as once imagined, and certainly nothing like the PC. […]

The one 3D-printing method to make it successfully into the home so far is “fused deposition modelling” (FDM). In this, the object of desire is constructed, layer by layer, by melting a plastic filament and coiling it into the shape required. As ingenious as FDM is, the “maker movement” is still waiting for its equivalent of the Commodore 64, a capable and affordable machine that helped pitchfork the hobbyist computer movement into widespread consumer acceptance.



Another type of 3D printing, stereolithography, may yet challenge FDM for personal use. Stereolithography deposits thin layers of polymer which are then cured by laser or ultraviolet light. The technique was patented by Charles Hull in 1986, several years before Scott Crump patented FDM. These two inventors went on to found the two leading firms in the business today, 3D Systems and Stratasys. 3D Systems is bent on reducing the cost of stereolithography, so it, too, can appeal to the masses. […]

At least three things prevent personal 3D printing from going mainstream. The first is that the printing process takes hours or even days to complete. If the desired object is a standard part, it is invariably quicker and cheaper to buy the equivalent injection moulding off the shelf.



The second problem is poor quality. The printing materials, mostly polymers such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or polylactic acid, lack the mechanical strength needed for making parts sturdy enough to do a useful job. ABS has good impact resistance but it does not bear loads particularly well. PLA’s virtue is that it degrades naturally into lactic acid, a harmless substance. This makes it useful for printing things like hearing aids, teeth braces and medical implants.

Neither plastic, though, is suitable for fabricating replacement parts for a lawnmower, a child’s bicycle or a vintage car, in which mechanical strength and rigidity are crucial. In all likelihood, things made for handy tasks around the home will need to be reasonably strong, and also require more precise dimensions than today’s desktop 3D printers can manage.

Thus, the third problem—namely, the abysmal resolution of products made by popular 3D printers. Tolerances of at least two or three thousandths of an inch (a tenth of a millimetre or so), not tenths of an inch, are the minimum required for home-made parts that are to be interchangeable, or have a fit and finish necessary to work reliably with one another. Personal 3D printers will remain playthings until they can achieve such standards.



One answer is to print with metals, or even carbon composites or ceramics, instead of plastics. Many 3D printers used in industry do precisely that. Industrial metal printers, for instance, use a process known as selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a powerful laser is fired into a bed of powdered metal to sinter particles together, layer upon layer, into the required outline, until the object is built up. A newer version of SLS, which uses an electron beam in a vacuum chamber, allows the sintering to be done at much lower temperatures.



Unfortunately, SLS printers cost anything up to $125,000. It is going to take quite a while before the cost of printing metals (two orders of magnitude more expensive than printing plastics) becomes cheap enough for home use.

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

‘Funeral by funeral, theory advances.’ –Paul Samuelson

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Over the past year, I’ve spent a great deal of time trolling a variety of underground stores that sell “dumps” — street slang for stolen credit card data that buyers can use to counterfeit new cards and go shopping in big-box stores for high-dollar merchandise that can be resold quickly for cash. By way of explaining this bizarro world, this post takes the reader on a tour of a rather exclusive and professional dumps shop that caters to professional thieves, high-volume buyers and organized crime gangs. […]

Like many other dumps shops, McDumpals recently began requiring potential new customers to pay a deposit (~$100) via Bitcoin before being allowed to view the goods for sale. Also typical of most card shops, this store’s home page features the latest news about new batches of stolen cards that have just been added, as well as price reductions on older batches of cards that are less reliable as instruments of fraud. […]

People often ask if I worry about shopping online. These days, I worry more about shopping in main street stores. McDumpals is just one dumps shop, and it adds many new bases each week. There are dozens of card shops just like this one in the underground (some more exclusive than others), all selling bases [batches of cards] from unique, compromised merchants.

{ Krebs on Security | Continue reading }