How much is your ISP ripping you off? New Netflix speed test tool can answer that.

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Streaming video service Netflix today launched Fast.com, which shows you your internet connections in megabits per second. You can use it on your mobile or over your home broadband connection, and it doesn't require a Netflix account.

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Magical ring turns your arm into a track pad

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Carnegie Mellon University researchers developed a system that turns your arm into a trackpad. Video demo above. From their scientific paper:

It consists of a ring, which emits a continuous high frequency AC signal, and a sensing wristband with multiple electrodes. Due to the phase delay inherent in a high-frequency AC signal propagating through the body, a phase difference can be observed between pairs of electrodes. SkinTrack measures these phase differences to compute a 2D finger touch coordinate.

SkinTrack: Using the Body as an Electrical Waveguide for Continuous Finger Tracking on the Skin (PDF via Wired)

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UPDATED RIP Ray Tomlinson, email inventor and at-sign popularizer

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UPDATE This is a couple months old -- I read "Mar 5" as "May 5." My apologies.

Ray Tomlinson created the first networked email system in 1971 while working on his MIT doctorate and collaborating on the early ARPAnet at BBN; he used @ -- the at symbol -- to separate the username from the machinename because "it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program." Read the rest

A 15-year-old's new Apple museum

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Alex Jason, 15, used his lawnmowing money to acquire what Cult of Mac says "is becoming one of the most significant private collections of Apple devices in the United States." Jason converted his family's basement into a museum, called the Apple Orchard, and in a couple years he plans to move it into a former library that he and his father plan to convert into the Maine Technology Museum. From Cult of Mac:

His collection includes every big Apple computer model except a rare Lisa 1. He has early portable computers, prototypes of Powerbooks, a green-plastic prototype of a Color Classic and Japanese models of early Macs. The orchard also includes Apple’s failures while Jobs was in exile as well as a computer from the company he started after, NeXT.

Alex showed off his Apple 1 (only around 170 sold and about 60 have surfaced), its keyboard adapted to a briefcase, which provided protection and may explain why all the original chips still work. The original owner, according to a story passed onto Alex, supposedly went to an IBM conference with his briefcase, opened it up and began typing. When curious conference-goers asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m typing on my personal computer.”

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This high-flying, jet-powered hoverboard is real

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On Saturday, Franky Zapata took his prototype Flyboard Air hoverboard for a rather impressive flight, three miles on the French coast. It's based on Zapata's previous water-powered hoverboard.

When the first short flight video went up last month, The Verge interviewed Zapata:

So there’s three parts to this, right? The board, a fuel tank, and a remote?

Franky Zapata: Yes, the thing I have on my back is like a Camelbak but it’s full of kerosene. Jet A1 (fuel). The thing I have on my back is like a Camelbak but it’s full of kerosene....

We've been working on it for four years. We tried to figure it out that by using the original Flyboard and just pushing air inside the hose. After that, we took two years to create the great turboreactors, and to create the algorithms to stabilize the Flyboard....

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Photo compares portable Mac from 25 years ago to one today

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On the left: a Colby Walkmac, "the first battery-operated Macintosh computer and first portable Mac with a LCD display."

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Fantastic radio show about virtual reality, c. 1992

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Media artist Michael Naimark writes:

In 1990, right as the first VR wave was swelling, Stewart Brand and Grateful Dead manager Jon Mcintyre concocted a scheme to produce an invitation-only 24-hour VR event modeled after the Electric Cool-Aid Acid test. They convinced Colossal Pictures, the largest soundstage in San Francisco, to host it. Dozens of demos and scores of talks were presented, by far the largest and most prominent VR event of its kind. I directed the video production. In total, 66 hours of video, both from a pro crew and a “basket full of prosumer cameras”, was shot.

Shortly after the event, David (Lawrence), Jim (McKee), and Earwax received an NEA grant to make a radio show. The funding enabled all of the video to be logged and transcribed. From it they made several versions, organized in short 1-4 minute themed sections. Their style was very “pre RadioLab”. From the New American Radio website:

Virtual Paradise—The Reality Tape (1992-93)

Earwax Productions with David Lawrence. An exciting production created in the spirit of the technology it focuses on. Virtual Paradise examines the ideas, issues, and attitudes that currently surround virtual reality. As this technology evolves, it brings with it the potential for redefining our most basic assumptions about media, experience, and reality. Virtual Paradise features many voices recorded at Cyberthon, a 24-hour virtual reality event presented by Whole Earth Institute in 1990. It also includes interviews with such visionaries as science-fiction author William Gibson, VR architect Jaron Lanier, artificial reality pioneer Myron Krueger, and Timothy Leary—all intercut with music and sound effects and shaped into a highly entertaining and insightful "virtual" tape composition.

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The magical future of virtual reality

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In Wired, BB pal Kevin Kelly wrote a definitive feature about the current (and future?) state of virtual reality, technology that many of us first tried in the late 1980s but took nearly thirty years to be ready for prime time.

I first put my head into virtual reality in 1989. Before even the web existed, I visited an office in Northern California whose walls were covered with neoprene surfing suits embroidered with wires, large gloves festooned with electronic components, and rows of modified swimming goggles. My host, Jaron Lanier, sporting shoulder-length blond dreadlocks, handed me a black glove and placed a set of homemade goggles secured by a web of straps onto my head. The next moment I was in an entirely different place. It was an airy, cartoony block world, not unlike the Minecraft universe. There was another avatar sharing this small world (the size of a large room) with me—Lanier.

We explored this magical artificial landscape together, which Lanier had created just hours before. Our gloved hands could pick up and move virtual objects. It was Lanier who named this new experience “virtual reality.” It felt unbelievably real. In that short visit I knew I had seen the future. The following year I organized the first public hands-on exhibit (called Cyberthon), which premiered two dozen experimental VR systems from the US military, universities, and Silicon Valley. For 24 hours in 1990, anyone who bought a ticket could try virtual reality. The quality of the VR experience at that time was primitive but still pretty good.

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See this bionic dog from 1959

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In 1959, physicians at New York's Maimonides Hospital implanted this dog with a radio receiver in its chest, part of an "auxiliary heart" system that would support a failing ticker. From the March 9, 1959 issue of LIFE:

The booster heart, developed by Drs. Adrian Kantrowitz and William McKinnon (of New York's Maimonides Hospital) is made by lifting up half of the diaphragm muscle and wrap it around the aorta, the body's main artery. Inside the chest a small radio receiver, part of an electronic system that detects and transmits the actual heart's beat, picks up the heart's rhythm and sends it by electric signals down a nerve to the diaphragm flap, making it squeeze the aorta rhythmically. This action, like a heartbeat, pumps the blood.

Kantrowitz, a pioneer in heart transplants, died in 2008.

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Associated Press Style: No more capitalizing internet and web

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On Saturday, the Associated Press announced that in the 2016 edition of their widely-used AP Stylebook guide to English grammar and usage, the words "internet" and "web" will no longer be capitalized.

"The changes reflect a growing trend toward lowercasing both words, which have become generic terms," AP Standards Editor Thomas Kent told Poynter.

Please note that Boing Boing will continue to capitalize Information Superhighway. Read the rest

How likely is a future without paper?

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Today we travel to a fully digital world, a world where paper is a thing of the past.

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In this episode we talk about how likely it is that we might get rid of paper (not very) and what might happen to our reading habits, memories, and environment if we do.

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See this drone that draws

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The MIT Media Lab's "Flying Pantograph" is a pen-wielding tele-robot controlled by a drawing interface. From MIT's Fluid Interfaces research group:

A drone becomes an “expression agent” - modified to carry a pen and be controlled by human motions, then carries out the actual process of drawing on a vertical wall. Not only mechanically extending a human artist, the drone plays a crucial part of the expression as its own motion dynamics and software intelligence add new visual language to the art. This agency forms a strong link between a human artist and the canvas, however, in the same time, is a deliberate programmatic disconnect that offers space for exploiting machine aesthetics as a core expression medium.

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Screw optimism, we need hope instead

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I wrote an essay called "Fuck Optimism" for a print project from F-Secure, about how we'll make the Internet a 21st century electronic nervous system that serves humanity and stop it from being a tool to oppress, surveil and displace humans. Read the rest

Watch this team of tiny micro-robots pull a car

Stanford engineers demonstrated how six tiny microTug robots -- with gripping, adhesive feet inspired by geckos -- can work together to pull a 4,000 pound car on polished concrete, albeit very very slowly.

The researchers from Stanford's Biomimetics & Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory published their work on the microTug bots in the current issue of the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

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Extensive list of space opera cliches

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Charlie Stross is on a tear: he's catalogued 22 screens' worth of space opera cliches, grouped by themes: Planetary civilizations, space and cosmology, biology, economics, politics, culture, technology - space travel, technology - pew! pew! pew!, aliens... His readers have added 300 comments' worth of omissions. Read the rest

From cancer to body odor, the future uses of the microbiome

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Today we travel to a future where your microbiome becomes a key part of your identity. From health to your child’s kindergarten, here are all the ways knowing about your microbiome might impact your life.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon

In this episode we talk about the possibilities and limitations of the microbiome — the trillions of bacterial cells that live in and on your body. There’s a lot of money going towards microbiome research right now, and a whole lot of claims about what the microbiome can do. We break down what we actually know, and where we’re probably going.

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Timothy Leary on youth culture and Japan (c. 1990)

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In the early 1990s, BB pal Joi Ito (now director of the MIT Media Lab) hosted bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary on a trip to Japan. At the time, Tim was energized by the intersection of youth culture and digital technology to empower the individual. Above, video that Joi and friends shot of Tim in fine form. Man, I miss him, and those cyberdelic days. Bonus shout-out at 8:25 to Anarchic Adjustment, Nick Philip's surreal and inspiring clothing line that evolved into today's Imaginary Foundation!

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