After random surveillance images started to show up on users' devices, Google blocked Xiaomi from running Assistant or Google Home

Last week, a redditor posted that "When I load the Xiaomi camera in my Google home hub I get stills from other people's homes!!" The post included video of the user's tablet showing stills of strangers in their homes, including some of strangers asleep in their bedrooms. Read the rest

Kentucky's former GOP governor pardoned a bunch of rapists and murderers on his way out of office, including a child rapist

Former Republican Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin pardoned 28 prisoners on his way out of office, including Micah Schoettle, convicted of repeatedly raping a nine year old girl over a two year period, often while her sister was present. Bevin told a conservative talk-show host that he believed Schoettle had been falsely accused and convicted, citing his understanding that child rape survivor's hymen was intact (a peer-reviewed study of girls who survive rape found that only 2.1% of them had visible damage to their hymens; Bevin told an interviewer "This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically"). Read the rest

William Gibson profiled in The New Yorker

In the December 9, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman profiles one of the most influential authors in recent decades, William Gibson.

Gibson doesn’t have a name for his method; he knows only that it isn’t about prediction. It proceeds, instead, from a deep engagement with the present. When Gibson was starting to write, in the late nineteen-seventies, he watched kids playing games in video arcades and noticed how they ducked and twisted, as though they were on the other side of the screen. The Sony Walkman had just been introduced, so he bought one; he lived in Vancouver, and when he explored the city at night, listening to Joy Division, he felt as though the music were being transmitted directly into his brain, where it could merge with his perceptions of skyscrapers and slums. His wife, Deborah, was a graduate student in linguistics who taught E.S.L. He listened to her young Japanese students talk about Vancouver as though it were a backwater; Tokyo must really be something, he thought. He remembered a weeping ambulance driver in a bar, saying, “She flatlined.” On a legal pad, Gibson tried inventing words to describe the space behind the screen; he crossed out “infospace” and “dataspace” before coming up with “cyberspace.” He didn’t know what it might be, but it sounded cool, like something a person might explore even though it was dangerous.

(Image: William Gibson by Frédéric Poirot , CC-BY) Read the rest

"Softbody Tetris": what if tetronimoes were made of jello?

C4D4U's SOFTBODY TETRIS V16 is (as the name implies), the latest in a series of "softbody" simulations of Tetris, in which the tetronimoes are rubbery, jelly-like solids that glisten as they wobble into place. It's an incredibly soothing thing to watch (C4D4U calls them "ASMR for my eyes") and part of a wider genre of softbody sims. JWZ argues that this "becomes intolerable" upon the "realization that completed rows don't liquify" but if that's your thing, you need SOFTBODY TETRIS V9. Read the rest

Taxpayers spent $10b for Trump's wall (so far); smugglers are cutting it with $100 saws and $10 blades

Cutting through the vertical bollards in Trump's "virtually impenetrable" wall takes mere minutes, using a $100 reciprocating saw and "extreme metal cutting" blades that sell for $10-15; once cut, the length of the bollards provides leverage to wall-cutters so they can be easily bent to allow a person to pass through them, and afterwards, the bollards can be replaced and cemented with easy-to-cut putty that border patrol officers often mistake for official repair welds (these welds are only slightly harder to cut through than the putty). Read the rest

Beautiful boxed set of two Octavia Butler novels

Seven Stories press just released this gorgeous boxed set of Octavia E. Butler's Parable novels. It's available today and would make a great gift for any reader.

This boxed set pairs the bestselling Nebula-prize nominee, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which together tell the near-future odyssey of Lauren Olamina, a "hyper-empathic" young woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. In Sower, set in California in 2024, small walled communities protect from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of "Paints," people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. It is into this landscape that Lauren begins her journey, traveling on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. The book has an introduction by feminist, journalist, activist, and author Gloria Steinem.

Parable of the Talents celebrates the classic Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, separation and community, to astonishing effect, in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina's daughter –– from whom she has been separated for most of the girl's life –– with selections from Lauren's journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet.

Read the rest

This website generates a new RPG dungeon every time you refresh the page

One Page Dungeon is a website that procedurally generates a new role-playing dungeon every time you press Enter (or refresh the page).

[via Clive Thompson] Read the rest

Le Creuset announces a line of high-end Star Wars cookwear

French company Le Creuset has announced a line of its signature enameled cast-iron cookwear themed after the Star Wars franchise; it's expensive even by Le Creuset standards, and a few of the pieces are uninspired messes, but the Han Solo in Carbonite roaster ($450), the R2-D2 Mini Cocotte ($30) and the Porg Pie Bird ($25) are positively brilliant. I'm also fond of the Tattoine Dutch oven, but that one isn't even priced and the company is offering an "opportunity to purchase." (via Geekologie) Read the rest

9th circuit: scraping publicly-accessible websites is fine

A company scraped information from public profiles on LinkedIn and LinkedIn sued it under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. LinkedIn lost, and now it loses again. Moreover, the court's opinion takes aim at the company's efforts to stop people from accessing information its users post publicly.

The panel affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction forbidding the professional networking website LinkedIn Corp. from denying plaintiff hiQ, a data analytics company, access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles. Using automated bots, hiQ scrapes information that LinkedIn users have included on public LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn sent hiQ a cause-and-desist letter, demanding that hiQ stop accessing and copying data from LinkedIn’s server. HiQ filed suit, seeking injunctive relief based on California law and a declaratory judgment that LinkedIn could not lawfully invoke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, California Penal Code § 502(c), or the common law of trespass against it.

Note that this wasn't a copyright infringement claim, as is easy to assume; LinkedIn wasn't claiming ownership of the material being scraped. So the moral of the story is not "finders keepers" but "if you don't want something to be publicly published, don't let your users publish it publicly on your website". Other ways of putting it may be "If you don't want people to hear what your customers are saying, don't be a pub." Or maybe "If you're the sleazest, spammiest, data-suckingest social network on the planet, get in the sea." Read the rest

Uber and Lyft gouge their drivers

I hear endless stories of grief from the friends I have who try to make ends meet working for these services.

Jalopnik's Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon share the terrible economics:

But Dave, who was granted anonymity out of fear of being deactivated by the ride-hail giant for speaking to the press, had no real choice but to wait. The passenger had requested the stop through the app, so refusing to make it would have been contentious both with the customer and with Uber. The exact number varies by city, but drivers must maintain a high rating in order to work on their platform. And there’s widespread belief among drivers that the Uber algorithm punishes drivers for cancelling trips.

Ultimately, the rider paid $65 for the half-hour trip, according to a receipt viewed by Jalopnik. But Dave made only $15 (the fares have been rounded to anonymize the transaction).

Uber kept the rest, meaning the multibillion-dollar corporation kept more than 75 percent of the fare, more than triple the average so-called “take-rate” it claims in financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Had he known in advance how much he would have been paid for the ride relative to what the rider paid, Dave said he never would have accepted the fare.

“This is robbery,” Dave told Jalopnik over email. “This business is out of control.”

Read the rest

Teenager uses fridge to tweet after her mother takes her phone away

A teenage girl lost her phone privileges so she used her 3DS to go online. Her mother found out and confiscated it. The girl resumed tweeting on her Wii U. After her mother took that away, the girl started tweeting from the LG smart refrigerator in the kitchen. The girl said her mother has made plans to remove it.

[via New York Magazine]

Image: Twitter Read the rest

GE is totally messing with customers who need help resetting a lightbulb

Holy cow! This How-To video sounds like a parody but is just GE being GE, I guess.

Who the fuck needs to reset a lightbulb?

How many GE engineers does it take to reset a lightbulb?

Reset a lightbulb.

(Thank you, BCC) Read the rest

Mishaps during landing on early aircraft carriers

I just laugh and laugh. The calm announcer could only be improved with the addition of Yakety Sax. Read the rest

Florida Governor says the FBI told him how the Russians hacked Florida voting machines, but swore him to secrecy

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says that after the Mueller Report was published, the FBI came to him to explain its conclusion that at least two Florida county's voting machines were hacked by Russians during the 2016 election, but that they swore him to secrecy so he can't reveal which counties and which machines were hacked. Read the rest

Insistent not-a-racist GOP Rep. Mark Meadows displays his racism

North Carolina's Rep. Mark Meadows was aghast that Rep. Rashida Tlaib found his parading HUD official Lynne Patton, a black woman, before congress as prop, to be racist. He insisted he is not a racist.

There is plenty of video of displaying Meadows smugly spreading racist "birther" theories about President Obama.

TPM:

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) was very indignant Thursday when Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) accused him of using HUD official Lynne Patton, a black woman, as a prop to counter Michael Cohen’s accusations of racism.

He retorted loudly, saying that her implication was racist and citing black people in his life.

Unfortunately for the self-righteous congressman, videos have surfaced since the fracas that show him espousing the thoroughly debunked “birther” theory about President Barack Obama.

Read the rest

Yikes is over.

Seeing a slight resurgence online this week, perhaps due to issues related to the government shutdown, is the viral term "Yikes!" I humbly propose that this shopworn exclamation be replaced for the duration of 2019 with "Blimey!" This perfectly British alternative honors the derailed madness of Brexit and even comes with an optional intensifier — Cor Blimey! — though Americans would be advised to use it sparingly. Read the rest

Lin-Manuel Miranda rescues New York's beloved, century-old Drama Book Shop

For more than 100 years, New York City's Tony-award-winning Drama Book Shop has been a stalwart of the city's thronging theater community; but like so many independent bookstores, it has struggled (it recently announced that it would have to leave its Times Square location on January 20 due to rent hikes). Read the rest

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