January 24, 2015

Slack is the new chat

Kiki Schirr, writing about Slack for Tech Cocktail:

But there are also myriad secret Slacks. Like the now-passé secret groups of Facebook, these are kept relatively quiet; many members don’t even appreciate acknowledgement they exist, let alone mention of being a member. One of my secret groups is for movers and shakers in the startup world, another I’m prohibited from talking about entirely.

The chat is making a comeback, at least with techies. Personally, I think I’ll keep using Slack for work-related things primarily.

January 21, 2015

People are still using stupid passwords

People are still relying on stupid passwords, with 12345 and password topping the SplashData list once again. Recode:

Two new passwords in the top 10 are “696969” and “batman.” Evidently those looking for an easy-to-remember password were feeling less affectionate in 2014, as “iloveyou” fell off the list.

If you can’t manage unique and proper passwords for your various logins, just get a password manager that you can trust. I use 1Password, and to a lesser extent, the iCloud keychain.

January 19, 2015

The rise of the paperback

Andrew Liptak, writing about the rise of the paperback, for Kirkus:

Technological innovations helped as well. Silverman explains that “in the new century, the opportunity for mass-market paperback books emerged again as a result of the introduction of the high-speed roll-fed printing press.” This allowed publishers to print books far more cheaply than ever before, and combined with their distribution methods, Pocket Books was a success. Davis recounted that the publisher’s new books “practically sold themselves. Aided by an enthusiastic reception in newspapers and magazines across the country, de Graff and company did not have to go to the mountain because the mountain was coming to them.” The major publisher’s perception that their products were only valued by the wealthy was a self-fulfilling idea: The masses didn’t buy hardcover books, while the wealthy did. However, hardcovers were expensive and out of reach for most Americans, especially at the end of the Great Depression, and thus only available to those with money. Pulp magazines, a refuge for science-fiction stories, which were bought in larger quantities by the poor and middle classes in America, were largely thought to be of lesser quality, in terms of the physical book, but also that of the content. Now, with an outlet for cheap books, the American public came out in droves to purchase them.

You might say we’re seeing something similar today, with ebooks.

January 16, 2015

Wired is no longer a pirate ship

From Wired’s editor-in-chief Scott Dadlich’s memo, regarding the new, and overly stylish, offices:

It’s an embarrassment: coffee stains on walls (and countertops and desks), overflowing compost bins, abandoned drafts of stories and layouts (full of highly confidential content), day-old, half-eaten food, and, yes, I’m going to say it, action figures. Please. WIRED is no longer a pirate ship. It’s the home of world-changing journalism. It’s the West Coast home of Condé Nast. And it’s increasingly a place where we, and our New York colleagues and owners, host artists, founders, CEOs, and advertisers.

This sounds horrible, and like a magazine being led even further into the gray mass. The whole piece is published on The Awl, where you can be appropriately stunned, or silently applaud, in which direction the creative juices are supposed to be flowing at Wired when they’ve moved in.

January 15, 2015

Elon Musk supports AI safety research with $10 million donation

Elon Musk, of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX fame, is concerned about artificial intelligence. $10 million concerned actually. Vox reports:

“AI safety is important,” Musk said in the announcement. “So I’m today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”

The money will fund grants to research possible pitfalls of AI and examine ways to build safeguards into AI software. The money will also fund “meetings and outreach programs aimed at bringing together academic AI researchers, industry AI developers and other key constituents to continue exploring how to maximize the societal benefits of AI.”

In other news, Musk is also considering building a Hyperloop test track in Texas. Does that guy ever sleep?

The next laptop isn’t a laptop

Matt Gemmell makes a solid case for the current slew of laptops, and how far we’ve come already, that we really don’t need much more than this. His laptop of choice is the 11“ Macbook Air, which I used to have (now I use the 13” retina Macbook Pro). With that in mind, this makes perfect sense (sparked by the 12" Air rumors, no doubt):

It’s tough to see what the next step will be, though. My wish list has been exhausted. Every checkbox is checked.

It is, really. The battery life’s there, and the computing power’s been there for years. The keyboard and trackpad are both great, as is – honestly – the value for money. The one thing that’s left to do is to slap a retina screen on the Macbook Air and it’s the perfect computer. Sure, it can be thinner and lighter, and there’s bound to be a ton of things we haven’t thought about, but then what?

Read more →

January 14, 2015

The creator of the selfie stick

Speaking of selfies, The Guardian thinks they’ve found the creator of the original selfie stick, Wayne Fromm.

Now 60, Fromm stands a good chance of being remembered as “the man who invented the selfie stick”, not least because he’s the man saying that he did so. However, as he admits, people had stuck cameras on poles for years before him. Which raises the question, is a selfie stick really something you can invent? “In hindsight, it’s a simple idea,” Fromm admits. “But if you look at anything – a shoe horn, shoelaces – there’s nothing that wasn’t created by somebody … If it were not for my work over the 10 years, today’s selfie stick would not exist.”

No word on wether he’s psychotic, although it’d be hard to fault him if that’s the case. After all, he’s not making any money from all those cheap plastic things that sells today, despite being (possibly) entitled to some of the revenue.

Selfie psychos

Gizmodo’s reading academic papers:

A study surveying the social media habits of 800 men confirmed with science what we’ve always known in our hearts—if you constantly take a bunch of selfies and post them online, you might have some mild psychological issues.

January 13, 2015

Windows 7 is no longer supported (sort of)

Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. Well, almost, because you’ll still get security updates, just nothing else. In the words of Vox, of all places:

After 2020, Windows 7 users are expected to be totally on their own. Microsoft won’t provide support even if you want to pay for it. And if hackers find a vulnerability in the software, Microsoft won’t necessarily fix it.

That’s quite a commitment. Microsoft are nice that way, so give thanks by not swearing too much the next time your computer reboots on you for no reason other than it thinks that you really need to install the latest Windows update…