"dan hon"

Trying to land on some runways causes the Boeing 737's control screens to go black

The Boeing 737 Next Generation has a gnarly bug: on instrument approach to seven specific runways, the six cockpit display units used to guide the pilots to their landing go suddenly black and they remain black until the pilots choose a different runway to land on. Read the rest

McKinsey bills the US government $3m a year for anodyne advice from 23-year-old college grads

McKinsey made more than $20m helping ICE design its gulags, advising them to skimp on medical care, food and supervision in a cost-savings measure. But if Uncle Sugar really wants to save some money, it should fire McKinsey, which is by far the most expensive consultancy with a US government contract. Read the rest

Sand thieves believed to be behind epidemic of Chinese GPS jamming

Ship's captains and outside monitoring firms have reported waves of GPS jamming around Shanghai's ports, on a scale and of a severity never seen before: the jamming causes ships' locations to be incorrectly displayed and to jump around; the observations were confirmed via an anonymized (sic) data-set from a short-hire bike firm, whose bikes are also mysteriously appearing and disappearing at locations all through the region. The spoofing has created a massive local shipping hazard and has led to spectacular shipwrecks. Read the rest

Hiding images in highlighted text

Self-described "creative coder" Neal Agarwal has come up with a method for hiding images in text that only appear when you highlight the words; I'm guessing he's using some kind of character-by-character "highlight" attribute in CSS/HTML5, but I'm not really certain. It's a super fun example of steganography, though, and would be really fun for some kinds of online puzzles, or spoiler reveals in posts, etc. Read the rest

Surveillance camera hallucinates face in the snow, won't shut up about it

A beauty from last February: Kyle McDonald tweeted redacted social media screenshots from a surveillance camera owner that emitted a steady stream of alerts because it saw a face in the garden -- a face that was just a random assortment of grime and snow that only vaguely resembled a face, but still triggered the facial recognition algorithm. In the end, the only way to shut up the camera was to stomp around in the snow until the "face" was erased. Read the rest

Towards a "nerdocratic oath"

The tech ethics movement has progressed to the point where various practitioners are trying to come up with a kind of oath of service, not unlike the fiduciary principle, or possibly the Hippocratic Oath that doctors and other medical professionals take. Read the rest

The real meaning of plantation tours: American Downton Abbey vs American Horror Story

There's a viral review of a southern plantation tour making the rounds in which a white person complains that the tour was "extremely disappointing" because of the "lecture on how the white people treated slaves" from a tour guide who was "radical about slave treatment." Read the rest

Realistic Starfleet meetings

Dan Hon (previously at BB) noticed that Star Trek's meetings and conferences always involve military officers, usually occur with ample time for preparation, yet invariably has them just talking to one another. If there are any graphics involved, they are simple, concise and expressive.

This is of course nothing whatsoever like any military on earth or off it. So Hon decided to photoshop what such meetings would actually entail: PowerPoint, and lots of it. Read the rest

UK cops are secretly harvesting all data from the phones and cloud accounts of suspects, victims and witnesses and insecurely storing it forever

Privacy International's blockbuster Digital Stop and Search report details how British police forces have quietly procured phone-searching tools (including mobile "kiosks" that let them probe devices in the field), often from companies with a track-record of abetting some of the world's worst human rights abusers, and they use these in secret to capture all the data they can from phones taken from suspects, victims and witnesses. Read the rest

A mysterious bot makes thousands of Youtube videos from random (?) blog posts

Tom Scocca discovered that a blog post he'd written had been turned into a weird video in which the text of the post was superimposed "meme style" on a set of five rotating static graphics, set to music ("wordless vocals and a sort of jazzy guitar and beat"). Read the rest

Unsealed court documents reveal that Facebook knew kids were being tricked into spending thousands of dollars on their parents' credit cards

In 2012, Facebook settled a class-action suit with parents who claimed that their kids were being tricked into spending real money on game items, thinking they were spending virtual in-game currency; the parents said that Facebook had structured its system to allow kids to use their parents' credit cards without the parents' intervention, unlike competitors like Google and Apple, who required password re-entries when a card was re-charged for in-game purchases. Read the rest

How a civic hacker used open data to halve tickets at Chicago's most confusing parking spot

Matt Chapman used the Freedom of Information Act to get the City of Chicago's very mess parking ticket data; after enormous and heroic data normalization, Chapman was able to pinpoint one of the city's most confusing parking spots, between 1100-1166 N State St, which cycled between duty as a taxi-stand and a parking spot with a confusingly placed and semi-busted parking meter. Read the rest

"Meaningless rituals" boost self-control

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (paywalled, no Sci-Hub mirror) describes a fascinating experimental outcome in which subjects were asked to enact "meaningless rituals" ("knocking the table with their knuckles, closing their eyes and counting, among other things") before being confronted with a self-control challenge (eating two carrots, then deciding between a third carrot and a chocolate truffle). Read the rest

What it's like to be personally responsible for automating away someone's high-paid, high-skill job

When Erin Winick was a sophomore, she got a summer internship at a company where her manager offered her the opportunity to use her passion for 3D printing to streamline the company's mold-making process; but when she started consulting with "Gary," a 34-year veteran of the company who was responsible for the complex molding process, she realized that she was about to put him out of a job. Read the rest

"Friendly" apps are good at maximizing engagement, but their context-blindness is a cesspit of algorithmic cruelty

Designers use metrics and a/b splitting experiments to maximize engagement with their products, seeking out the phrases that trigger emotional responses in users -- like a smart scale that congratulates you on losing weight -- but these systems are context-blind, so they are unable to distinguish between people who might be traumatized by their messages (say, a woman who's just miscarried late in her pregnancy, being congratulated on her "weight loss"). Read the rest

A viral "angriest librarian" explains why America needs libraries now more than ever

When New Yorker columnist/blowhard Andre Walker "Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the public ones and put the books in schools", librarians all over the net gave him what for, and one of the best responses came from self-described "Angriest Librarian" Alex Halpern, a student librarian in Portland, OR, whose tweetstorm went viral. Read the rest

Hackers can force airbags to deploy

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures number 2017-14937: in unspecified post-2014 passenger car models, the explosive charge that deploys the airbag is controlled by an instruction that is secured by one of only 256 keypairs, and there is no rate-limit on authentication attempts over the CAN bus. It gets better! "In addition, at least one manufacturer's interpretation of the ISO 26021 standard is that it must be possible to calculate the key directly (i.e., the other 255 key pairs must not be used)." Read the rest

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