Reverse-engineering Whatsapp, to let us talk to our friends without Facebook's oversight

The lifecycle of technology is fundamentally parasitic: successful technologies are ones that colonize their predecessors, devour them, and burst out of their limiting skins to and grow into new, more ambitious tools -- until they, too, are colonized by a more-evolved successor. Read the rest

Governing a decentralized internet without votes

When we think of democracy, we generally think of voting: the people are polled, the people decide. But voting is zero-sum: it has winners and losers. There are other models of governance that can make claim to democratic legitimacy that produce wins for everyone. Read the rest

Machine learning projects for kids

Dale Lane's Machine Learning for Kids project uses extensions to the popular Scratch programming environment to teach the basics of machine learning to children. Read the rest

A proposal to stop 3D printers from making guns is a perfect parable of everything wrong with information security

Many people worry that 3D printers will usher in an epidemic of untraceable "ghost guns," particularly guns that might evade some notional future gun control regime that emerges out of the current movement to put sensible, minimal curbs on guns, particularly anti-personnel guns. Read the rest

Google launches "plus codes": open geocodes for locations that don't have street addresses

In much of the world, addresses are difficult to convey because they refer to locations on unnamed streets, in unnumbered buildings, in unincorporated townships, sometimes in disputed national boundaries (I have often corresponded with people in rural Costa Rica whose addresses were "So-and-so, Road Without Name, 300m west of the bus stop, village, nearest town, region"). Read the rest

The new VLC: Chromecast support, network browsing, 4K playback and adaptive streaming

VLC 3.0 is out and the world's greatest video-playback app includes many long-awaited features, including stable Chromecast support, native support for browsing LAN drives to find your videos, and adaptive streaming to improve playback. Read the rest

After industry adopts open video standards, MPEG founder says the end is nigh

Leonardo Chiariglione is founder and chairman of the International Standards Organization's Motion Picture Expert Group (MPEG), whose standards have dominated video playback since the earliest days; MPEG's primary rival is the Alliance for Open Media, an ascendant open standards body that requires that members promise not to enforce patents that overlap with its standards, meaning that anyone can play back AOM video without paying rent to MPEG members. Read the rest

TWANG! A one-dimensional dungeon-crawler that uses a springy doorstop as a controller

Robin Baumgarten's Line Wobbler is an incredibly clever dungeon crawler game based on a single, one-dimensional line of lights, traditionally implemented as large-scale, high-priced public art installations. Read the rest

Comprehensive, open tutorial on using data analysis in social science research

Benjamin Mako Hill (previously) collaborated with colleagues involved in critical technology studies to write a textbook chapter analyzing the use of computational methods in social science and providing advice for social scientists who want to delve into data-based social science. Read the rest

F-Droid: A free, open, privacy-oriented Android app store that corrects Android's "original sin"

After uncovering a ferocious horde of hidden spyware in official Android apps the Yale Privacy Lab and Exodus have pitched in with F-Droid's app store that only allows apps that include their source-code and whose licenses require anyone who modifies them to also include the source. Read the rest

Flybrix: "rebuildable, crash-friendly drones" made from Lego

Flybrix kits allow you to turn a variety of Lego builds into little copter-drones that you can fly with an app or a Bluetooth joystick. Read the rest

At long last, open video formats are triumphing

Apple was the last major holdout on proprietary video codecs, the only major industry player that hadn't signed onto the Alliance for Open Media, home of the AV1 video format, a successor to On2's groundbreaking open formats of the early web years, which led to the company's acquisition by Google in 2010. Read the rest

The Quantum Game: like Laser Maze, but built on real principles of quantum mechanics

Laser Maze is a super-fun electronic board game that challenges players to arrange angled mirrors to route a laser beam from an emitter to a sensor, avoiding obstacles; in The Quantum Game, you undertake the same fundamental task, but with a virtual laser that only emits one photon, and virtual beam-splitters, absorbtive polarizers, quarter-wave plates, polarizing beam splitters, Faraday rotators, and other exotic apparatus. Read the rest

Mirai's creators plead guilty, reveal that they created a DDoS superweapon to get a competitive edge in the Minecraft server industry

Last year, the Mirai botnet harnessed a legion of badly secured internet of things devices and turned them into a denial of service superweapon that brought down critical pieces of internet infrastructure (and even a country), and now its creators have entered guilty pleas to a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act federal case, and explained that they created the whole thing to knock down Minecraft servers that competed with their nascent Minecraft hosting business. Read the rest

How a maker with Type I diabetes led an open source project to create a free-as-in-code artificial pancreas

Dana Lewis kickstarted the Open Artificial Pancreas System (previously) by trying to solve her own problems with monitoring her glucose levels, calculating insulin doses, and administering them around the clock -- an onerous task that her life depended on, which disrupted her sleep and challenged her to make reliable calculations regarding dangerous substances while her blood-sugar levels were troughing or spiking. Read the rest

The MNT Reform: a modular, open source hardware, blob-free laptop inspired by classic PCs

Lukas F. Hartmann grew up on PCs like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga 500, and while he appreciates the power and portability of modern laptops, he missed the character and invitation of experiment in these classic PCs. Read the rest

Canadian spy agency releases its top anti-malware tool as free software.

The Canadian Communications Security Establishment -- the most secretive of Canada's spy agencies -- has released the sourcecode for Assemblyline, a "Swiss Army Knife for malware analysis" that rolls up several malware analysis tools into a single unit, which can scan files for known malware and also assign a score to files indicating the likeliness that the file has a previously unseen form of malware. Read the rest

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