Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Janet Yellen Shows Foolishness of GOP Monetary Policy at Hearing

Danny Vinik explains in The New Republic Janet Yellen Shows Foolishness of GOP Monetary Policy at Hearing. "At a House Financial Services Committee hearing last Thursday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and a Republican Congressman had a testy exchange that shows just how uninformed and dangerous GOP monetary policy can be."

The secret of Minecraft

I've never played or quite understood Minecraft. Robin Sloan explains The secret of Minecraft and now I have more of a clue. I think he takes it a bit too far, but secret lore is definitely an appealing thing.

Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system

The Verge reports Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system. This sounds like something an engineer would want, but my Apple ecosystem experience tells me that apps on different platforms (touch screen vs mouse, little screen big screen) are more different than you'd expect. I want a small text editor for notes on my phone, not Word. It important to share the data and some of the code but not the user interface (which is a lot of the code). We'll see how it works for Microsoft.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today was one of Obamacare’s craziest days ever. What now?

The Washington Post's WonkBlog says Today was one of Obamacare’s craziest days ever. What now? "The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 this morning that the Affordable Care Act doesn't authorize the federal government to provide subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans to buy insurance in the 36 states where the federal government set up exchanges to sell health-care coverage. Just two hours later, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar case unanimously found just the opposite — that the IRS correctly interpreted the text of the ACA when it issued a rule allowing all public exchanges, regardless of who set them up, to provide insurance subsides."

And also, Here’s what Obamacare’s authors said they actually meant.

Update: Nina Totenberg explains, Obama's Health Care Law Has A Confusing Day In Court. "So, with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals taking one view, and the 4th Circuit taking a contrary view, what happens now? The Obama administration plans to ask the full 11-judge D.C. court to review the case in that circuit. At the same time, the anti-Obamacare forces who lost in the 4th Circuit plan to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court."

100 Best Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made

Time Out Film lists 100 best sci-fi movies ever made. "Leading sci-fi experts, filmmakers, science fiction writers, film critics and scientists pick the best sci-fi movies ever made." (an easier to see list is here.

I've seen all but the following eight. I disagree with the ranking of many of the films.

  1. Red (1994)
  2. 2010 (1984)
  3. The Damned (1963)
  4. Things to Come (1936)
  5. World on a Wire (1973)
  6. The American Astronaut (2001)
  7. Quatermass and the Pit (1968)
  8. Stalker (1979)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Laurent Durieux Movie Posters

Laurent Durieux has some great tribute movie posters including this one for Hitchcock's Rear Window.

REAR WONDOW

Creating Chord Intelligence

SuperMegaUltraGroovy is company that makes Capo software for Mac and iOS to help musicians learn new songs.

"We just shipped Capo touch and Capo 3.1 last week—on the same day!—and a large part of the time on this project was spent building Chord Intelligence. I feel that the name is fitting; Chord Intelligence is trained from a collection of music and applies its knowledge to what it hears in an audio recording. You read that correctly: Capo’s new chord detection engine is trained, and it does indeed learn."

Chord Intelligence is a fairly technical article describing the challenges of creating this software. Nice read.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Photos of the Week: 7/12-7/18

In Focus' Photos of the Week: 7/12-7/18 are stunning.

"This has been a very eventful week. This edition features images from Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, as well as other events large and small around the world. From Germany's victory in the World Cup, to Manhattanhenge, the Supermoon, Bastille Day, and much more. [40 photos]"

List of airliner shootdown incidents

Wikipedia of course has a List of airliner shootdown incidents.

Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa

ISP Level 3's blog Beyond Bandwidth explains Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa.

"His explanation for Netflix’s on-screen congestion messages contains a nice little diagram. The diagram shows a lovely uncongested Verizon network, conveniently color-coded in green. It shows a network that has lots of unused capacity at the most busy time of the day. Think about that for a moment: Lots of unused capacity. So point number one is that Verizon has freely admitted that is has the ability to deliver lots of Netflix streams to broadband customers requesting them, at no extra cost. But, for some reason, Verizon has decided that it prefers not to deliver these streams, even though its subscribers have paid it to do so."

I have to say, I haven't seen many problems using Netflix over my FiOS connection.

7 predicted Obamacare disasters that never happened

Sarah Kliff at Vox writes 7 predicted Obamacare disasters that never happened

"These days, Obamacare seems to be working reasonably well. More Americans have health insurance now than did a year ago.  People who bought Obamacare say they're generally pretty happy with their health insurance plans and that they can mostly get a doctor appointment within two weeks. Looking back at expectations set  last fall and this spring shows how terribly pundits and politicians expected Obamacare to go — and how much of the predicted disaster never actually happened."

Anyone admit they were wrong?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Get HBO With Minimal Cable by Ordering From Your ISP's "Secret" Menu

Get HBO With Minimal Cable by Ordering From Your ISP's "Secret" Menu "HBO shows are hugely popular. Cable, less so. It's been a dream to get HBO without a cable subscription for a long time. While that reality still isn't fully realized, you can still get HBO GO with almost no bundled TV packages. If you know what to ask for, that is."

I would think the fact that these plans are "secret" violates some regulation?

With transplanted arms and Army grit, a quadruple amputee soldiers on

The Washington Post tells this amazing story, With transplanted arms and Army grit, a quadruple amputee soldiers on.

"It has been 18 months since Marrocco, 27, of Staten Island, underwent a rare double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had lost both legs and parts of both arms to a makeshift bomb in Iraq on Easter 2009. At the time of his injury, he was the first service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive the loss of four limbs. He then became the first service member to receive a double arm transplant and still is one of only seven people in the United States who have successfully undergone the procedure."

Want to Listen to Spy Broadcasts? Here’s How

The War is Boring Blog on Medium wrote Want to Listen to Spy Broadcasts? Here’s How

These are the numbers stations—a radio station on shortwave that broadcasts some sort of repetitive noise followed by strings of numbers. Amateur tech geeks first identified the stations after World War II. No one is sure what their purpose is.

That hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating. The most popular theory is that the broadcasts are used to transmit coded messages to spies and the military. Shortwave is easy to broadcast globally, hard to trace and free of commercial traffic.

Spies or military personnel tune into the frequency at an appointed time and use a one-time pad to decrypt the message. The spy then destroys the pad and goes about their mission. Anyone else listening hears a random string of numbers with no context.

Listening to numbers stations was once the hobby of a small margin of the population. Only those with shortwave radios and patience to tune them reaped the benefits of the strange broadcasts.

Now—thanks to the Internet—anyone can listen."

Earth's Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected

Scientific American reports Earth's Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected "The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA's Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia."

"Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner."

"Still, there is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. During past polarity flips there were no mass extinctions or evidence of radiation damage. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.

Earth's magnetic field acts like a giant invisible bubble that shields the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun in the form of solar winds. The field exists because Earth has a giant ball of iron at its core surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core's temperature and Earth's rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines."

45 Years Ago We Landed Men on the Moon

My earliest memory is watching the moon landing. We watched in my sister's room, as she had the newest (B&W) TV in the house. As of today I have 45 years of memories as In Focus shows 45 Years Ago We Landed Men on the Moon

"Tomorrow will mark the 45th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of Apollo 11, the NASA mission that first landed human beings on the Moon. Years of effort, dangerous experiments, and bold missions led up to the Moon landing, an event watched on live television by millions around the world. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin 'Buzz' E. Aldrin left the Earth on a Wednesday, landed on the Moon on that Sunday, spent a bit more than two hours walking on its surface, deploying experiments and collecting samples, then splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean the following Thursday, after 8 days off-planet. Collected here are 45 images of that historic mission, a 'giant leap for mankind,' 45 years ago. [45 photos]"

Lots of a famous pictures you know, and many I didn't.

Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This Could Be Apple’s Biggest Innovation Since the iPhone

Time writes about the future of digital wallets, This Could Be Apple’s Biggest Innovation Since the iPhone.

That “it” refers to virtual wallets – smartphone apps meant to replace the need for credit cards and cash. Virtual wallets have been a drop-dead obvious idea since at least 2011, when Google launched its much heralded Google Wallet for Android, i.e. “tomorrow’s billfold.” Three years – and nearly half a billion dollars in investment later – the Google Wallet has been largely ignored by consumers. Meanwhile, competitors like Square and its Square Wallet app have also officially thrown in the towel.

Rather than play along with Google Wallet, many carriers have blocked access [to the secure chip that stores credit card info on the phones] and started competing offerings themselves (like Isis, the virtual wallet from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon). The result: fragmentation of the nascent wallet market and huge headaches for Google. “With Google Wallet, we had one point of failure,” explained Jonathan Wall, the project’s founding engineer, “the carriers [used] the necessity of hardware to really block the product.”

Indeed, Apple seems to have all its ducks in a row for a headlong plunge into the virtual wallet space: hundreds of millions of users’ credit card numbers on file; a device people carry with them at all times to hold these numbers; and even a fingerprint system to authenticate transactions (ensuring that stolen iPhones, for instance, can’t be used for payments). “Apple is absolutely the sleeping giant in the payments world,” explains Forrester Research’s Denee Carrington. “They have the capability; they just haven’t tied it all together.”

iBeacon is the other piece that Apple is rolling out. See Apple Patent Reveals Secure iWallet System with iBeacon and Apple's first iBeacon hardware revealed in FCC application. Rather than say Apple "just [hasn't] tied it all together" I'd say the other companies haven't tied it all together and Apple is doing so slowly and deliberately.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hulk vs. James Bond: Staring into the Id of a Boner Incarnate

I enjoy reading Film Critic Hulk articles, though they are too long and the ALL CAPS is very annoying to read. He's starting a series of posts on the James Bond films. It's 73,000 words long. Dive in if you will.

HULK VS. JAMES BOND: STARING INTO THE ID OF A BONER INCARNATE

THE END RESULT OF THAT DECISION IS THE FOLLOWING BOOK-LENGTH SERIES OF COLUMNS, WHICH COMPRISE ABOUT 25 INTER-DEPENDENT ESSAYS / EVALUATIONS AND 72,866 WORDS IN TOTAL. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HULK MERELY OFFERS THESE FIGURES AS A WARNING (OR PERHAPS THREAT). OR PERHAPS THIS IS JUST HULK'S WAY OF SAYING, 'HEY HULK WROTE YOU A BOOK FOR FREE!' (WE'LL GET TO THE MEANING OF THAT LATER). BUT REALLY HULK JUST WANTS YOU TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO. THIS SILLY OPUS STARTS WITH AN INTRODUCTION ABOUT WHY THE CHARACTER SEEMS TO HAVE RESONATED WITH THE PUBLIC FOR SO LONG, THEN THE COLUMN MOVES ON TO HULK'S TAKE ON THE 23 CANONICAL MOVIES BY EON PRODUCTIONS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. RATHER THAN SPILL OUT ONE PER DAY, WE WILL BE RELEASING THEM IN BATCHES FOR MORE DEXTERITY. ON DAY 1 WE WILL TACKLE THE CONNERY ERA. DAY 2 IS 'THE AWKWARD TRANSITION' YEARS. DAY 3 WILL BE THE 80'S. AND DAY FOUR IS FROM THE 90'S ONWARD.

Nine things everyone should know how to do with a spreadsheet

Macworld has a nice article, Nine things everyone should know how to do with a spreadsheet. I learned a few things, like #8. They show examples for MS Excel, iWork Numbers and Google Sheets.

5 contains a mistake. Numbers does indeed allow you to name ranges. In particular it does it automatically for whole columns or rows based on the header name. Also, one of the things I really like about Numbers is that each sheet is just a canvas and you put tables and charts (and potentially other objects) on it. This makes much more sense to me than embedding a chart in a table as Excel does. It also means that Tables can have names that formulas can reference. (I did learn that Excel allows you to name ranges).

Gaza, in numbers

This chart in The Economist shows Gaza, in numbers

NewImage

Friday, July 11, 2014

Recently revived ISEE-3 probe can’t fire engines, can’t change orbit

Ars reports Recently revived ISEE-3 probe can’t fire engines, can’t change orbit "Not every space story can have a Hollywood ending, and unfortunately it’s looking like the situation with the newly resurrected ISEE-3 space probe is going to have a bittersweet conclusion. The International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 satellite has been dormant since 1998, but a crowdfunded group of 'citizen scientists' were given permission by NASA to assume control of the spacecraft and see about bringing it into a closer orbit. The group, called the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, has been posting periodic updates on its blog, but the latest news isn’t good at all—ISEE-3’s thrusters aren’t operating as expected."

Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time

Cinefix presents the Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time "Skilled editing is as effective in the creation of a good film as a writer, director, or performer. Though often overlooked, editing brings shots together to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. These ten movies are a fantastic illustration of just how important editing can be. "

All ten are great. Their number one pick would be lower on my list.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rocket Launch, East Coast, Sat 1:14pm

ISS Commercial Resupply Services Mission (Orb-2) "The launch of Antares for the Orb-2 Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 1:14 p.m. EDT. Rollout of the Antares rocket to its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport occurred early this morning."

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In ‘sexting’ case Manassas City police want to photograph teen in sexually explicit manner, lawyers say

The Washington Post reported this Kafkaesque story yesterday, In ‘sexting’ case Manassas City police want to photograph teen in sexually explicit manner "A Manassas City teenager accused of ‘sexting’ a video to his girlfriend is now facing a search warrant in which Manassas City police and Prince William County prosecutors want to take a photo of his erect penis, possibly forcing the teen to become erect by taking him to a hospital and giving him an injection, the teen’s lawyers said. A Prince William County judge allowed the 17-year-old to leave the area without the warrant being served or the pictures being taken — yet.

The teen is facing two felony charges, for possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography, which could lead not only to incarceration until he’s 21, but inclusion on the state sex offender data base for, possibly, the rest of his life. David Culver of NBC Washington first reported the story and interviewed the teen’s guardian, his aunt, who was shocked at the lengths Prince William authorities were willing to go to make a sexting case in juvenile court."

There have been some updates, but as near as I can tell (I had to look up the phrase "nolle prosequi" which was misspelled) it's just been statements and noise and nothing substantive.

Update: Police drop plans to photograph teen’s erection in sexting case