• Prototype iPod is something to behold

    Panic's Cabel Sasser revealed an amazing artifact in their possession: a prototype iPod.

    It has always been my deepest dream to smoothly unzip a backpack on a flight, theatrically pull out this incredible beast, plug in some headphones, and use it as my actual "portable" music player. Imagine the looks. … If you ask me, it's always interesting to see where things came from before they got there. And it's also quite rare, in Apple's case. So, happy birthday, iPod. Thanks for everything.

    It must be seen to be believed, an item of obvious testbed utility yet such brutal ugliness it paints a striking picture of how clearly Apple separates design concerns at the development stage. There's much debate online about the extent to which this is a functional matter, to keep teams focused on their part, or one tied to Apple's legendarily tight security, to stop teams knowing about others' parts.

  • Dune screenwriter works in 30-year-old MS-DOS app, obeying dictat of Butlerian Jihad

    Eric Roth, co-writer of the screenplay for blockbuster hit Dune (and how odd it is to write "blockbuster hit Dune"), works using a 30-year-old screenwriting app that runs under MS-DOS, an operating system last updated 21 years ago. He types using a magnificent IBM Model M keyboard of even greater vintage. The app, Movie Master, is long-discontinued but retains some cachet among those who appreciate well-made, focused software.

    "Why do you test for humans?" Paul asked the Bene Gesserit crone.
    "To set you free."
    "Free?"
    "Once men turned their thinking over to Windowing Systems in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with Windowing Systems to enslave them."
    " 'Thou shalt not make a GUI in the likeness of a desktop environment,' " Paul quoted.
    She nodded. "We have two chief survivors of those ancient schools: the Bene Gesserit and the Hackers Guild. The Guild, so we think, emphasizes almost pure mathematics. Bene Gesserit performs another function."
    "Politics," he said.
    "Kull wahad!" the old woman said. She sent a hard glance at Jessica

  • Teacher jailed for 12 years after secretly filming kids

    A Wisconsin teacher was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempting to produce child pornography, reports NBC News. David Krutchen, 39, hid cameras in air fresheners on a field trip. He was discovered when when a girl attempted to spray one of the fresheners only for the contraption to fall open. More suspicious air fresheners were seen in photos taken by the teens. Krutchen claims his voyeurism was not about getting footage of the youngsters naked, but admitted that was the outcome.

    In an eight-page handwritten letter filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court, Kruchten wrote that he started spying on family "to deal with stress and fulfill a need for adrenaline" and to find out what they said about him when he wasn't around, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. That led to planting hidden cameras to capture pets, family, friends, babysitters and even his parents and grandparents, before he began spying on his students, Kruchten wrote in the letter to U.S. District Judge James Peterson.

    Not mentioned in the sentencing coverage: claims that the school district made investigating what he did more difficult than it should have been.

    A Madison teacher charged with trying to create child pornography was allowed to travel home from an out-of-state trip with students who found hidden cameras in their hotel bathrooms and the victims' parents haven't been told why. Madison School District officials won't say whether they knew about the discovery of the cameras before David Kruchten, the accused teacher, and the students boarded a bus to travel back to Madison from Minneapolis for a Dec. 6-8 business club trip.

  • The most vaccinated place in America is Puerto Rico

    The Caribbean U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has outpaced wealthy New England states to become the most vaccinated place in America: 73% of its 3.3 million residents are fully protected.

    The island has the highest rate of total vaccine doses administered, with 154,563 per 100,000 people. It had administered 4.9 million doses as of Friday, according to the CDC. On the mainland, Vermont leads with 70.8% of the population fully vaccinated, followed by Connecticut at 70.2% and Maine at 70%, according to the CDC, which added that just over 57% of the total US population was fully vaccinated as of Friday.Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter that Puerto Rico's "fabulous" vaccination efforts have "gotten way too little attention."

  • Project to recreate entirety of planet Earth in Minecraft

    Build the Earth is a project with a simple yet rather grandiose aim: to recreate all of planet Earth in Minecraft.

    Our mission is to fully recreate the entire Earth in Minecraft at a 1:1 scale. One block in Minecraft equates to roughly one meter in the real world, meaning that this project will fully recreate the size of our planet. Anyone is able to join us and contribute to the largest and most expansive build project to ever have been attempted in Minecraft. Every language, nationality, and regional difference is accepted and regarded as our greatest attribute as we continue our journey to unite all of Humanity's greatest achievements into a single Minecraft world.

    Recent additions include Peles Castle in Romania and Kansas City, Missouri.

    It brings to mind Borges' On Exactitude in Science:

  • Man used $57k of Covid relief loan to buy one Pokemon card

    It's an investment, your honor! The Macon Telegraph:

    A man in Georgia used more than two-thirds of his COVID-19 relief loan to pay for a Pokemon card, according to federal prosecutors. Vinath Oudomsine was charged by criminal information on Tuesday with one count of wire fraud after the government said he lied about how many employees he had and the revenue his business generated in an application for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, during the pandemic.

  • How feasible are Dune's ornithopters?

    An ornithopter is an aircraft that flies by moving its wings: flapping like a bird's or vibrating like an insect's. They're scientifically plausible and some striking implementations at small scales exist, but ones large enough to transport people (while demonstrated) run into extremely difficult problems of materials science and power efficiency. How feasible are the fast, manoeverable, heavy-loaded ones depicted in Dune?

    From an engineering standpoint, we find two major limitations on achieving human flight modeled after birds. These are the ability to translate energy into thrust using these flapping wings and then the structural limitations. The purpose of the flapping wing on a bird, insect, or ornithopter is to create thrust. The body, after being thrusted forward, can sustain flight by simple aerodynamic manipulation through wing shape, the way it has been done for decades. The flapping motion moves air, imparting momentum on the body creating this thrusting force. This means that we would have to design wings that could flap at speeds that would be able to sustain the thrust force to keep the aircraft airborne while being structurally sound and as light as possible, a task easier said than done. Then comes the issue of hovering

    A related problem: how to you make a giant flappy aircraft not look ridiculous? David Lynch and John Harrison at SyFy, you'll recall, simply opted not to even try putting true ornithopters in the 1984 and 2000 productions, instead giving the aircraft baroque avian or insect stylings. Denis Villeneuve, with a $170m budget and the benefit of better computer graphics, went for the insect vibtratey type and pulled it off very well.

  • Code Vault: there's an archival film copy of Github 250 meters underground in Svalbard, down the road from the seeds

    The GitHub Arctic Code Vault is where the world's largest code repository stashes a copy of itself, deep underground, on hardcopy media set to last 250 years—and probably far longer. Every repo active in December 2020 or graced by more than a handful of stars was included.

    The snapshot consists of the HEAD of the default branch of each repository, minus any binaries larger than 100KB in size. (Repos with 250+ stars retained their binaries.) Each was packaged as a single TAR file.

    For greater data density and integrity, most data was stored QR-encoded, and compressed. A human-readable index and guide found on every reel explains how to recover the data.The 02/02/2020 snapshot, consisting of 21TB of data, was archived to 186 reels of film by our archive partners Piql and then transported to the Arctic Code Vault, where it resides today.

    8.8m-pixel QR codes on silver halide film stashed in a decommissioned coal mine in Svalbard, right down the road from the seed vault: a perfect vacation! Here's everything you need to know:

    How the cold storage will last 1,000 years

    Svalbard has been regulated by the international Svalbard Treaty as a demilitarized zone. Home to the world's northernmost town, it is one of the most remote and geopolitically stable human habitations on Earth.
    The AWA is a joint initiative between Norwegian state-owned mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK) and very-long-term digital preservation provider Piql AS. AWA is devoted to archival storage in perpetuity. The film reels will be stored in a steel-walled container inside a sealed chamber within a decommissioned coal mine on the remote archipelago of Svalbard. The AWA already preserves historical and cultural data from Italy, Brazil, Norway, the Vatican, and many others.

  • "Kid-size" Covid vaccine doses effective, says Pfizer

    Pfizer claims its Covid vaccine is 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, the AP reports, citing results of a study that could lead to jabs as soon as november.

    Full-strength Pfizer shots already are authorized for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem rising infections from the extra-contagious delta variant and help keep kids in school. More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers already have signed up to get the shots into little arms. The Biden administration has purchased enough kid-size doses — in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from adult vaccine — for the nation's roughly 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds. If the vaccine is cleared, millions of doses will be promptly shipped around the country, along with kid-size needles.

    In-house studies are something you only hear about when they're good news for the drug, but in this case it's no surprise and there is, you might say, an unusual level of scrutiny.

  • Prosecutors assigned to Matt Gaetz case

    Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman suspected of statutory rape over his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl, now has two more things to worry about: the prosecutors assigned to his case by the Department of Justice.

    The Washington-based prosecutors, one with expertise in child exploitation crimes and the other a top official in the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, have been on the Florida-based case since at least July. In recent months, they joined a team in Florida that's been looking into whether Gaetz violated federal law by providing goods or payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex, sources confirmed to ABC News. The news of the new prosecutors was first reported by The New York Times. Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

    Legal experts say this isn't in the class of suggestive legal happenings that news media tend to overhype. It's evidence of serious work going into building a criminal case against Gaetz.

  • VTOL electronic vehicle flies one and is yours for $92k

    Jetson One is an electrical VTOL flying vehicle you can actually buy—well, pre-order—that shows not only that it can be done but that it can be done with style and flair. The catch is battery life—about 20m flight time per charge for a 187lb rider.

    A complete vehicle is 92 000 USD and is delivered to you as a partially (50%) assembled kit for home completion. It contains everything you need, from the aluminium space frame to motor controllers, propellers and motors. You will also receive detailed build instructions.

    If you want to have your own Jetson ONE, please contact us for purchase. 22 000 USD deposit to reserve a build slot. We plan to have twelve build slots for autumn 2022, with production starting during the summer of 2022.

  • Clap along to a 7/4 beat

    The tricky yet elegant 7/4 time signature (previously at BB) is here demonstrated by Nate Smith. Just when the audience thinks they've got the hang of it, he hits them with triplet subdivisions. Here's a how-to guide to hitting a 7/4 groove. As a historical aside, this was the specific idée fixe —"gratuitous use of syncopation" and "orgies of drums" — guaranteed to set off Nazis angry about Black and Jewish music in the 1930s.

  • Throw out your onions

    Fresh whole onions are causing a Salmonella outbreak in 37 states, the CDC reports, and you should "throw away any unlabeled onions at home." No-one has died, but 129 people were hospitalized and hundreds more report falling ill. The warning applies to red, white, and yellow onions imported from Mexico by ProSource and distributed to many retailers throughout the U.S.: if you can't positively confirm your onions are not from ProSource and not from Mexico, trash 'em.

    Do not buy or eat any whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.

    Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.

    These onions may have stickers or packaging indicating the brand (ProSource Inc.) and the country (Mexico) where they were grown.

    If you can't tell where the onions are from, don't buy or eat them.

    Wash surfaces and containers these onions may have touched using hot soapy water or a dishwasher.

  • Potato on a lathe

    In this footage, a potato is turned on a lathe. It looks lovely, but not much is left when the work is done, so the operator improvises a technique that allows him to devour the potato in realtime. I remain convinced that sandpaper is the most efficient method of removing potato skin.

    <Werner Herzog> I would like to see the potato chess set now, please. </Werner Herzog>

    Here's another potato on another lathe:

  • Celebrate today's opening of Dune in the U.S. (and the reported greenlighting of Dune part 2) by marveling at the Danish word for "Dune"

    Denis Villeneuve's Dune opens today after drawing in about $130m in Europe and at select theaters in the U.S.—an impressive haul for movie yet to go into general release in the U.S., Britain and China. But it'll need to more than double that to be considered a success, given the $170m production budget and the cost of two marketing campaigns incurred by a yearlong pandemic delay. (It'll also be on HBO Max at 6 p.m this evening, then on demand from tomorrow).

    The new movie covers half the book: a recent interview with a studio executive heavily implied that part 2 has been greenlit on the strength of Dune's international numbers and HBO Max signups, and "reliable insiders" confirmed it to Giant Freakin Robot.

    To celebrate the arrival of this long-awaited film, here are some Danish people relating the novel's unfortunate title in their language.

  • Pig kidney successfully transplanted to human body

    Surgeons in New York successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human subject, reports The Economist. The kidney, experimentally attached for three days ito a brain-dead patient, marks substantial advances in the science of xenotransplantation.

    In 2014, a firm called Synthetic Genomics in La Jolla, California, began work on a unique and radical project. The idea was to make a raft of genetic changes to pigs so that their organs would be more suitable for transplantation into humans without rejection. The purpose was to address the growing shortage of organs for transplantation. Synthetic Genomics partnered with another biotech firm, United Therapeutics Corporation, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. United Therapeutics reckons that in America alone, 1m people each year have end-stage organ disease and may need a heart, kidney, or lung transplant.

    The Economist, bastion of measured, serious unbylined news journalism, tagged the story "Offaly good".

  • Twitter locks down DPRK News, famous parody account mocking North Korea's furious yet florid news agency (Updated)

    North Korea's press office is famously bellicose, hurling bizarre insults and denunciations at the hermit kingdom's adversaries. My own parody of it, the North Korea Press Release Generator, had its time in the sun of Mount Paektu. But far better is @DPRK_News, a Twitter account regularly commenting on topical events in a totalitarian stiff talk so perfectly imitative that it has fooled countless celebrities, politicians and journalists into thinking it was real—no matter how absurd or deranged the comical subject matter.

    The authors—mostly @PresidentDawg and @NinjaDerrick, recently joined by @BelarusMiniInfo—have even fooled The New York Times.

    Sadly, Twitter has just locked the account, citing its rules against impersonation.

    "I'm sorry to say effective immediately @DPRK_News is defunct," wrote @PresidentDawg, an attorney named Patrick. "I founded the account in 2009. Twitter decided today that it violates their rules. I'm not going to label a parody a parody. That moots the point. It gives away the joke. The DPRK never complained. One of you did."

    The lock means that the account is still readable, but its authors cannot update it until they agree to add the disclaimer.

    UPDATE: DPRK_News is back, without having to add a joke-ruining disclaimer. This is an excellent shift in policy by Twitter, acknowledging (I hope) that its rules against impersonation need not be as strictly applied to organizations as it is to people.

  • Facebook Marketplace now packed with scammers

    Facebook's other problems notwithstanding, its "Marketplace" section—its Craigslist-like classified listings—is now a billion-user benehmoth full of scammers. A Propublica investigation found that fraud is rife under the superficial gloss of security that Facebook appears to provide.

    Facebook says it protects users through a mix of automated systems and human reviews. But a ProPublica investigation based on internal corporate documents, interviews and law enforcement records reveals how those safeguards fail to protect buyers and sellers from scam listings, fake accounts and violent crime. … The social media giant's shortcomings in overseeing the service have made it easier for fraudsters to perpetrate a litany of scams. Internal Marketplace documents, law enforcement bulletins from multiple countries and media reports describe frauds involving lottery numbers, puppies, apartment rentals, PlayStation 5 and Xbox gaming consoles, work visas, sports betting, loans, outdoor pools, Bitcoin, auto insurance, event tickets, vaccine cards, male enhancement products, miracle beauty creams, vehicle sales, furniture, tools, shipping containers, Brazilian rainforest land and even egg farms, among other enterprises. Scammers target both buyers and sellers, resulting in financial losses, hacked Facebook accounts and stolen personal information.

    My hot take: Facebook Marketplace built a reputation for safety by making local cash-in-hand transactions (i.e. the Craigslist UX) more trustworthy than the incumbent, then substituted that with mail order transactions (i.e. the Ebay UX) which are less trustworthy than the incumbent. And the Facebook Marketplace now forecfully pushes users to do distance/mail transactions instead of local ones. It always reverts to it in searches.

    The co-author of the Propublica report, Craig Silverman, remarked today that he's now getting phone calls from Facebook Marketplace victims because his name comes up when you search for it. Facebook, of course, does not offer phone support.

    I was going to say it was another example of moderation-at-scale failing, too, but they're barely bothering at all beyond cutting fat checks to consultants: a billion users moderated by 400 "low-paid" contractors working for Irish consulting firm Accenture.

    Speaking of Craigslist, the stories about Facebook being "safer" were just last year. But the table seems to be turning: with CL you at least know you're in the Wild West. The chart below, though, should be measured against Facebook's larger userbase.