Gamification of Open Science

Overall, it really does look like the badges help, not just with increasing sharing rates but with making sure that shared data is helpful to the research community. Of all the 2,478 articles used in the study, those without badges were very weak about sharing: “Just six of 37 articles from journals without badges and two of 10 articles from [Psychological Science] before badges that reported available data had accessible, correct, usable data,” write the authors. By contrast, of the articles with badges, “actual sharing was very similar to reported sharing.”

Source: Simple badge incentive could help eliminate bad science | Ars Technica

This is both amazing and inspiring. Just putting badges on papers if they have open data dramatically increases the papers including open data. It's not perfect, but it is clearly an incentive system that helps a lot.

Only in Japan: Manmade Meteor Shower

After previous missteps, Tokyo needs their hosting of the Olympics to not only go smoothly, but to wow visitors in order to regain some face. If Japan-based research company Star-ALE has their way, they'll be the ones to provide the opening ceremony show-stopper that will get things off to a fantastical start—by way of a manmade meteor shower lighting up the night sky.

Source: Fireworks of the Future? Startup Looks to Launch Manmade Meteor Shower for Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony - Core77

It's about $8M in pellets, which for Olympic style fireworks isn't crazy, plus launch costs. But the idea that a manmade meteor shower might actually be part of big events in the future is pretty crazy.

How you are being tracked online

Source: Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis

A very solid paper on how you are being tracked online. I had known about Font fingerprinting before (as the list of fonts you have installed is actually pretty unique), but using audio filter fingerprinting, or web rtc to get a list of ip addresses you can reach, is pretty novel. And a bit scary.

Which is all another good reason to install Ad Blocking software today. uBlock is my current favorite.

A record player in a car, what could go wrong

What’s the connection between the Beatles’ George Harrison, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and Chrysler cars? The Highway Hi-Fi: a vinyl record player that just happened to be the world’s first in-car music system. It appeared 60 years ago this spring, in 1956, and should have been a smash hit. It was innovatory, a major talking point, arrived as the car market was booming as never before, and it came with much press hype. It also had the backing of a leading motor manufacturer. What could possibly go wrong?

Source: Forgotten audio formats: The Highway Hi-Fi | Ars Technica

It's a fascinating story, made even more so because basically proprietary formats and copyright tangles killed it so quickly.

Apple vs. the FBI

I'm becoming increasingly frustrated about the reporting around Apple vs. the FBI, which is largely this narrative:

FBI: "You have to fly"

Apple: "Flying is something we've never done before, and doesn't really seem reasonable"

FBI: "No, we asked you to jump 70 times before, we can see that you can jump. So all you have to do is not land."

Apple: "Flying and jumping are fundamentally different things."

Politicians: "Isn't there a compromise, couldn't you just hover for a few minutes?"

The FBI wants a custom version of iOS developed and deployed onto this phone which removes the 10 pin retry limit,  removes the delay between pins, and allowa the pins to be sent over an electronic interface directly (not via the touch screen). This would allow the FBI to brute force password crack the phone (all Hollywood style). They have said that it's ok for this version of iOS to be linked to this specific device.

The problem: there doesn't exist any version of iOS out there that will do this. It doesn't exist for a reason, because iOS was designed and engineered with security in mind. Building a version of iOS such a thing existing anywhere exposes users, given the data breaches that exist that let things get out into the real world. How do you really bind it to a single device? How do you ensure that if extracted that couldn't be tweaked to work on other devices? These are pretty hard engineering and security challenges, especially considering all the side channels that exist. The 10 pin limit was that protection point before, and as can be seen, a reasonably secure one.

It's also frustrating that the reporting of the anti FBI side is just privacy, because it's not. What about the safety of diplomats abroad, or undercover law enforcement. Better security makes us all safer.

Disclaimer: I am in general not an Apple fan. I hate their stance on interoperability and standards (which is basically to never play well with others). However they are making a stand here that's critically important as technology becomes more and more of an extension of ourselves.

Home Assistant

People often ask me about my vision for Home Assistant. Before I can describe where I want to go with Home Assistant, I should first talk about how home automation would look in my ideal world. This will be the aim of this post. I’m not going to focus on protocols, networks or specific hubs. That’s all implementation details. Instead, this post will focus on what is most important: the interaction between the users and their home.

Source: Perfect Home Automation - Home Assistant

After my MHVLUG talk on IoT and Home Automation, I stumbled upon Home Assistant. It's an exciting project, and the maintainer has a great view of what home automation should look like.

I agree with all of this. The best user interface is no interface, things are just correct when you need them to be. The cloud should be very optional, and a cloud outage shouldn't cripple your home (like the recent Nest issue). Graceful fallback is important.

I've had fun contributing to the project so far, and look forward to making this the primary interface to my house over the next couple of months.

The Design Benefits of Sunken Conversation Pits - Core77

In addition to the tripping hazard, this one features a roaring fire waiting at the bottom, as well as a heavy piece of metal suspended directly overhead. I'm not saying there will definitely be an accident, but if there is, you will definitely post it on Vine.

Source: The Design Benefits of Sunken Conversation Pits - Core77

One of my favorite articles on design this year was this incredibly snarky look at conversation pits: a really bizarre fad in upscale homes from the 50s through the 70s.

Exploding-whale day: the 45th anniversary

Today, reportedly, is the 45th anniversary of the famous exploding whale. The event was documented in this KATU television report, in 1970: The announcer summarized, firsthand, the fallout: "However, everyone on the scene was covered with small particle of dead whale." Now, people have built an entire business, or at least a web site, on…

Source: Exploding-whale day: the 45th anniversary

The Exploding whale video was the first video I ever watched on the internet, some 20 years ago. It perfectly captures many elements of what the internet is. A thing that's educational, bizarre, a bit gross, and a cultural flash point all at once.

The Story of Hōkūleʻa

Embedded in the story of Hōkūle’a and the culture that created her is the story of a 2000-year-old relationship with special islands and the sea. It is a story that was almost lost, and was close to extinction. But ultimately it is a story of survival, rediscovery, and the restoration of pri…

Source: The Story of Hōkūleʻa

This I learned from an episode of the Commonwealth Club: there is a boat, sailing around the world, without instruments (no sextants / clocks). They are using traditional Polynesian navigation which is about wave patterns, cloud patterns, and animals at sea.

 

Continuum

I just finished Continuum, and it had one of the more satisfying series endings that I've seen in a while. Spoilers will be saved for a bit later. Seasons 1 - 3 are up on Netflix now, and Season 4 (which recently ended) will probably make it's way there later this year.

Continuum is about a set of time travelers that come back from 2077 to change the future. From the beginning it sets up an interesting set of axes. Our protagonist is part of a militant protection services body, chasing a set of terrorists called Liber8. Except those terrorists are what you'd recognize as people standing up for civil liberties and basic freedoms.

The first season is brilliant, and while it dips and weaves a little in season 2, season 3 and 4 pulled it back together for a solid ride.

Minor spoilers beyond this point, you've been warned.

In thinking back through the series, ever season folds over a new timeline on the ones before it. We end with a time travel event that causes a new twist in an interesting way. Apparently the creators originally had between 7 to 10 seasons worth of layers they were thinking about. The rather abrupt introduction of the time traveler at the end of season 3 and early in 4 definitely feels a little rushed, and something they would have held onto for another year or so if the end was not in sight.

But, at least they got season 4 to wrap it up. And while it felt like we were marching a bit faster, it didn't feel forced. Pacing was one of the things that Continuum was always quite good at. Time wasn't just the plot, it was also a key part of the art of this show.

If you are looking for good new Sci Fi, definitely give this one a shot. It stays quite true to itself to the end, and stays firmly on it's rails the whole time.

 

Various rambling thoughts from my personal corner of the internet