Retro Patents: poster vintage di brevetti moderni

Posters di brevetti – c’è il mouse del primo Mac, l’iPhone e il Kindle fra cui scegliere. Bellissimi:

Discover limited edition vintage patent prints that helped shape the technology, design and gaming industries. From IBM’s vacuum tube computers to Nintendo’s first cartridge based gaming consoles.

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Tecniche di deep learning per capire quando il tuo capo si sta avvicinando alla scrivania

Un diabolico side project di Hironsan:

I feel awkward when my boss is creeping behind. Of course, I can switch the screen in a hurry, but such behavior is suspicious, and sometimes I don’t notice him. So, in order to switch the screen without being suspected, I create a system that automatically recognizes that he is approaching to me and hides the screen.

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Il problema di Android con le emoji

La maggioranza dell’utenza Android non vede le emoji introdotte con Unicode 9, nonostante Google sia stata molto rapida nell’inserirle dentro l’ultima versione di Android. Al posto delle nuove emoji, vedono rettangoli vuoti. Jeremy Burge di Emojipedia spiega perché:

New emojis are bundled with system updates for iOS and Android, as emoji fonts and relevant Unicode support is provided at an OS level.

This system should work well, but the weak link is relying on manufacturers to provide updates in a timely manner.

Aggiornamenti che non arrivano mai, al punto da spingere WhatsApp ad utilizzare le emoji di Apple su qualsiasi piattaforma:

Snapchat, Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram and Slack all use emoji-replacement images on Android; in a trend started by Twitter with Twemoji which was released when the most popular browser on Windows (Chrome) didn’t include emoji support.

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Pesci nello smartphone

Retroscena di Ara, lo smartphone modulare e scomponibile nato come meme da un video caricato su YouTube, implementato da Motorola/Google, poi abbandonato senza conclusione poco dopo la nascita di Alphabet:

“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create.

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Consigli per una tipografia migliore

The Design Team:

After reading extensively on typography, and seeing what works (IRL), I developed the following list of guidelines that have consistently helped me with typographic design. Hopefully, you can apply these tips to start improving the your own typographic design process — without turning you into a snob.

  1. Start by choosing a typeface for your body text.
  2. Avoid using more than two typefaces.
  3. Balance line spacing and font size.
  4. Keep your line length around 45–90 characters.
  5. Use a modular scale.
  6. Pay special attention to proper punctuation.

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Alexa: il sistema operativo di Amazon

Echo e Alexa sono due prodotti diversi: Echo è un device che sfrutta l’assistente di Amazon, Alexa è l’assistente in questione. Il recente CES ha visto una miriade di altri device che si integrano e sfruttano Alexa, alcuni in diretta competizione con Echo.

Amazon non ha bisogno di guadagnare un centesimo direttamente da Alexa, ma indirettamente guadagna con ciascun acquisto effettuato tramite Alexa. Alexa è più aperto di HomeKit – ciò va a discapito della sicurezza, ma aiuta nel creare un ecosistema interessante e vivace, nel velocizzare l’adozione.

Secondo Ben Thompson, il piano di Amazon è di trasformare Alexa nel sistema operativo della casa:

All kinds of hardware manufacturers are lining up to build Alexa-enabled devices, and will inevitably compete with each other to improve quality and lower prices.

Even more devices and appliances are plugging into Alexa’s easy-to-use and flexible framework, creating the conditions for a moat: appliances are a lot more expensive than software, and much longer lasting, which means everyone who buys something that works with Alexa is much less likely to switch

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Chiamami Adele

Wipawe Sirikolkarn ha analizzato i messaggi che si è scambiato per quattro anni durante una relazione a distanza – il risultato sono delle visualizzazioni molto minimaliste che raccontano la nascita (e la fine) di una relazione.

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Peter Thiel si spiega

Lunga intervista del New York Times a Peter Thiel, uno dei primi investitori di Facebook, fondatore prima di PayPal (assieme a Elon Musk), poi di Palantir, che sostiene che i monopoli siano una bella cosa, che pochi mesi fa ha donato un milione e mezzo di dollari a Trump, che durante l’estate ha portato Gawker in tribunale – riuscendo a farlo chiudere per bancarotta – per un articolo che non gli è piaciuto su un suo fatto personale.

Una persona abbastanza orribile, insomma, ma da conoscere:

“Maybe I do always have this background program running where I’m trying to think of, ‘O.K., what’s the opposite of what you’re saying?’ and then I’ll try that,” he says. “It works surprisingly often.” He has even wondered if his most famous investment, Facebook, contributes to herd mentality.

When I remark that President Obama had eight years without any ethical shadiness, Mr. Thiel flips it, noting: “But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”

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Un dock per Apple Watch che imita il Mac Classic

Voglio. Preso.

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Gli occhi di Facebook

Provate a ispezionare una delle immagini del vostro news feed del Facebook: molto probabilmente avrà un tag alt, automaticamente popolato con attributi che la descrivono – sole, montagna, natura, etc. a seconda di quale che sia il soggetto. Questi attributi non sono inseriti dagli utenti, ma automaticamente da Facebook, che analizza ciascuna immagine caricata e prova a comprenderne il contenuto.

Un’estensione per Chrome vi dà un’idea della quantità di informazioni che Facebook può ricavare con questa tecnica, permettendovi ti testarne le capacità su qualsiasi immagine.

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La città degli iPhone

Il New York Times esplora l’entità delle operazioni di Apple in Cina – e il coinvolgimento del governo cinese per aiutare Foxconn, con sovvenzioni e infrastruttura, a mettere in piedi la più grande fabbrica di iPhone al mondo:

It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”

The local government has proved instrumental, doling out more than $1.5 billion to Foxconn to build large sections of the factory and nearby employee housing. It paved roads and built power plants.

It helps cover continuing energy and transportation costs for the operation. It recruits workers for the assembly line. It pays bonuses to the factory for meeting export targets.

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Il trucco di Signal per aggirare la censura

Signal, applicazione per inviare messaggi ed effettuare chiamate criptate, sta venendo bloccata in Egitto e negli Emirati Arabi.

Il team dell’app ha trovato una via per aggirare il blocco, e far sì che i messaggi vengano inviati e ricevuti lo stesso:

Signal’s new anti-censorship feature uses a trick called “domain fronting,” Marlinspike explains. A country like Egypt, with only a few small internet service providers tightly controlled by the government, can block any direct request to a service on its blacklist. But clever services can circumvent that censorship by hiding their traffic inside of encrypted connections to a major internet service, like the content delivery networks (CDNs) that host content closer to users to speed up their online experience — or in Signal’s case, Google’s App Engine platform, designed to host apps on Google’s servers.

“Now when people in Egypt or the United Arab Emirates send a Signal message, it’ll look identical to something like a Google search,” Marlinspike says. “The idea is that using Signal will look like using Google; if you want to block Signal you’ll have to block Google.”

The trick works because Google’s App Engine allows developers to redirect traffic from Google.com to their own domain. Google’s use of TLS encryption means that contents of the traffic, including that redirect request, are hidden, and the internet service provider can see only that someone has connected to Google.com. That essentially turns Google into a proxy for Signal, bouncing its traffic and fooling the censors.

(Via Bruce Schneier)

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Snopes

Il profilo del New York Times su Snopes – uno di quei siti di fact-checking che Facebook usa per verificare l’autenticità di quelle storie sospette di essere false:

Their first group of posts, back in 1995, tackled questions about Disneyland, such as whether there really was a secret restaurant at the park. (There was.) It was a time when the nascent web was seen as a force that would deliver enlightenment and truth to all.

Starting about two years ago, Snopes made an effort to professionalize itself. It added a dozen staff members just in time to become the go-to debunking site for an election full of venom. The number of unique users jumped 42 percent over 2015, peaking at nearly 2.5 million the day after the election.

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Robot, intelligenza artificiale e disoccupazione

Eliezer Yudkowsky risponde su LessWrong ad alcune domande riguardo all’automatizzazione e alla disoccupazione, due cose che (dice lui, riporto io, semplificando molto: leggetelo per intero) potrebbero essere correlate in un futuro (molto) distante – quando e se avremo un AI superintelligente –, ma che per il momento non sono causa ed effetto:

A: 

Many people would hire personal cooks or maids if we could afford them, which is the sort of new service that ought to come into existence if other jobs were eliminated – the reason maids became less common is that they were offered better jobs, not because demand for that form of human labor stopped existing. Or to be less extreme, there are lots of businesses who’d take nearly-free employees at various occupations, if those employees could be hired literally at minimum wage and legal liability wasn’t an issue. Right now we haven’t run out of want or use for human labor, so how could “The End of Demand” be producing unemployment right now? The fundamental fact that’s driven employment over the course of previous human history is that it is a very strange state of affairs for somebody sitting around doing nothing, to have nothing better to do. We do not literally have nothing better for unemployed workers to do. Our civilization is not that advanced.

[…]

Q. But AI will inevitably become a problem later?

A. Not necessarily.  We only get the Hansonian scenario if AI is broadly, steadily going past IQ 70, 80, 90, etc., making an increasingly large portion of the population fully obsolete in the sense that there is literally no job anywhere on Earth for them to do instead of nothing, because for every task they could do there is an AI algorithm or robot which does it more cheaply. That scenario isn’t the only possibility.

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La Electronic Frontier Foundation ha comprato una pagina su Wired per invitare le aziende tecnologiche a prepararsi a Trump

Se volete farvi un regalo geek per Natale, sottoscrivete una donazione mensile alla EFF. Io l’ho fatto giusto un anno fa, di $10 mensili: vi spediscono pure una bellissima maglietta, per ringraziarvi.

(via Boing Boing)

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AirPods e Siri

A Ben Bajarin le nuove AirPods di Apple sono piaciute molto; non solo come cuffiette con cui ascoltare la musica, ma soprattutto come metodo d’interazione con Siri:

It is remarkable how much better Apple’s Siri experience is with AirPods. In part because the microphones are much closer to your mouth and, therefore, Siri can more clearly hear and understand you. I’m not sure how many people realize how many Siri failures have to do the distance you are from your iPhone or iPad, as well as ambient background noise and the device’s ability to clearly hear you. Thanks to the beam forming mics and some bone conduction technology, Siri with the AirPods is about as accurate a Siri experience I’ve had. In fact, in the five days I’ve been using the AirPods extensively, I have yet to have Siri not understand my request.

Going further, the noise canceling built into the AirPods is impressive as well. I’ve intentionally created noisy environments to test the AirPods and Siri to see how it handles loud situations. Perhaps the most intense was when I turned my home theater system to nearly its peak volume, blasted Metallica and activated Siri. Remarkably, it caught every word and processed my request.

Come nota Ben, Siri suppone tuttora che l’utente si trovi vicino o abbia a disposizione uno schermo – dato che a molte richieste risponde di dare uno sguardo all’iPhone.

Sarà interessante osservare gli sviluppi futuri di Siri, che dovrebbe somigliare di più ad Alexa e Google Home: due sistemi privi di alcuna interfaccia grafica, che prevedono che l’utente non venga distratto da schermi. Mentre Siri su un Mac o un iPhone è infatti un’aggiunta interessante, su AirPods è l’unico sistema d’interazione.

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Per due anni, un malware nascosto nei pixel di banner pubblicitari ha collezionato dati personali

Cory Doctorow, su Boing Boing:

To do this, they made tiny alterations to the transparency values of the individual pixels of the accompanying banner ads, which were in the PNG format, which allows for pixel-level gradations in transparency. The javascript sent by the attackers would run through the pixels in the banners, looking for ones with the telltale alterations, then it would turn that tweaked transparency value into a character. By stringing all these characters together, the javascript would assemble a new program, which it would then execute on the target’s computer.

La pubblicità va bloccata non perché è brutta a vedersi, ma perché è l’unico modo di navigare il web che non comprometta la propria sicurezza e privacy.

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I piani di IFTTT per un internet più armonico

IFTTT, una specie di scotch digitale che collega servizi web diversi fra loro, ha recentemente cambiato direzione. Invece di tentare di monetizzare i suoi utenti – strategia che fino ad oggi non ha funzionato – proverà a farsi pagare dai servizi web stessi. Per questa ragione qualsiasi azienda può da adesso applicare per entrare a far parte dell’ecosistema di IFTTT, e così integrarsi, facilmente e senza dover sviluppare nulla da zero, con centinaia di servizi web.

Linden Tibbets, il CEO e fondatore dell’azienda, dice di voler diventare “il PayPal dell’accesso”, un soggetto “che facilita uno scambio fra un servizio e un altro”:

In its early years, IFTTT didn’t have any direct relationships with the services it was mashing together. Instead, IFTTT tapped into those services’ existing developer tools, which were available to anyone.

“No one at Flickr or Twitter or The Weather Channel had any knowledge of who I was or what IFTTT was doing,” Tibbets says. “We were just somebody using their API.” […]

The IFTTT Partners program launched in early November after months of private testing. For $199 per month, companies can list themselves in IFTTT’s service directory, and embed recipes—now called “Applets”—directly into their own apps and website.

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Il supermercato di Amazon, senza casse

Entri scannerizzando l’iPhone, prendi quello che ti serve, e te ne vai senza passare da una cassa, con le cose già pagate.

Come? Con tante telecamere:

Amazon Go works by using computer vision and sensors to detect what items you’re taking out of the store. You start by scanning an app as you enter the Amazon Go shop. You do your normal shopping, and the sensors throughout the store identify the items in your cart and charge them to your account when you walk out the door. It’ll feel like shoplifting, except you’re actually being watched by more cameras than you can imagine.

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