AwayFind gives you the peace of mind to ignore your inbox without fear of missing an important email

I've found that having big stretches of time where I don't frequently check my email boosts my ability to accomplish things. A service called AwayFind gives me the peace of mind to ignore my inbox.

In a nutshell, AwayFind lets you add selected email addresses to a Priority Inbox. When someone on your list sends you an email, a notification appears on your phone. That way, you don't need to check your email inbox every few minutes. I've added my family members, my book editor, my coworkers at MAKE and Boing Boing, and a few other people to my Priority Inbox list.

Does this sound like Apple's new VIP feature? Yes, AwayFind and Apple's VIP share some of the same functionality. However, AwayFind goes beyond Apple's VIP feature, making it much more useful. Jared Goralnick, the founder of AwayFind, wrote a blog post that describes the features in AwayFind that VIP doesn't have. For instance, AwayFind determines the 25 people that you reply to the fastest and makes it easy to add them to your Priority Inbox (this list is regenerated every month). It also notifies you when someone you've scheduled a meeting with sends you an email before your meeting, even if they aren't in your Priority Inbox. These examples just scratch the surface. Check out a list of the other differences between VIP and AwayFind here.

You can try AwayFind for free for 30 days. After that you can subscribe to a personal plan for $4.99 a month, which includes 100 alerts a month, or a pro account for $14.99 Read the rest

Ihnatko on "Why BBEdit rules"

Andy Ihnatko, on "the real reason for BBEdit’s endurance"—"It has the one crucial characteristic shared by every truly great creative work: It has a purpose beyond the way it articulates its immediate function." (Macworld) Read the rest

Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches

Worth noting, especially if you read my piece last Friday about problems with America's electric infrastructure: Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches includes the problems with General Electric Energy's XA/21 monitoring software that helped make the 2003 East Coast Blackout happen. (Via Kyle McDonald) Read the rest

EU: software licenses may be sold by consumers

The European Union's Court of Justice ruled today that software licenses may be resold.

By its judgment delivered today, the Court explains that the principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website. Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right.

The case concerned Oracle, which sued UsedSoft, a German company which bought and resold "used" software licenses which provided access to software downloads. Read the rest

It's shopped, this new app will be able to tell by the pixels

At Poynter, Craig Silverman writes about FourAndSix, a new photo forensics tool now in beta. The idea is to create tools that "sniff out digitally altered images." Two of the people behind it: Kevin Connor, former VP of product management for Adobe Photoshop, and digital image forensics expert Dr. Hany Farid. (via Erin Siegal) Read the rest

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is "weird, brilliant, daring"

Mat Honan takes a tour of Windows 8, which was released yesterday in preview form for consumers: "Weird can be brilliant. Weird can be daring. Windows 8 is all of those things." Read the rest

VLC hits 2.0

After many years of work, Video LAN Client (VLC), the all-powerful free/open video-player, has hit 2.0, with an amazing roster of new features. The new version is called "Twoflower," and it cuts through DRM like butter, disregards patents and plays and converts pretty much any video you throw at it.

With faster decoding on multi-core, GPU, and mobile hardware and the ability to open more formats, notably professional, HD and 10bits codecs, 2.0 is a major upgrade for VLC.

Twoflower has a new rendering pipeline for video, with higher quality subtitles, and new video filters to enhance your videos.

It supports many new devices and BluRay Discs (experimental).

Completely reworked Mac and Web interfaces and improvements in the other interfaces make VLC easier than ever to use.

Twoflower fixes several hundreds of bugs, in more than 7000 commits from 160 volunteers.

VLC reaches 2.0 Read the rest

Mountain Lion

OS X is to go onto a yearly release schedule, a la iOS, starting with this summer's Mountain Lion. Highlights include deeper iCloud integration and document storage; renamed core applications; the removal of interface inconsistencies and oddities; and an antimalware app-certification system of the sort likely to generate debate. [Daring Fireball] Read the rest

Decent EPUB Reader for Macs

TidBITS introduces Bookle, an EPUB reader for OS X, developed by Peter Lewis and Adam C. Engst: "Rather than write an editorial about how Apple was slighting Mac users, I drafted a spec for a straightforward EPUB reader for the Mac. That, of course, was the easy part." Read the rest

CIA threat-tracking technology is fascinating, creepy

Palantir is security software that helps CIA analysts take innocuous events (man comes to U.S. on temporary visa, man takes flight training classes, man buys one-way ticket from Boston to California) and put them into a context where potential threats can become more apparent (the one man is actually several, and they're all on the same flight).

The technology is based on a system developed by PayPal, and it's interesting because it's one of the few examples of counter-terrorism work that is actually proactive. Instead of adding increasingly elaborate airport security rules that are merely responses to the most recently exposed plot, a program like Palantir has the potential to spot plots in the making with less hassle to the general public. That could make it a good thing. On the other hand, Palantir comes with plenty of its own privacy and civil rights concerns. This Bloomberg BusinessWeek story is pretty "rah rah rah" in tone, ironically cheering on all the things that make Palantir seem rather creepy to me. But it is a great example of why countering terrorism is really just one long string of incredibly difficult choices. What matters more, who makes that call, and how do we balance a reasonable desire for safety with a reasonable desire to not be creeped the hell out by our own government?

In October, a foreign national named Mike Fikri purchased a one-way plane ticket from Cairo to Miami, where he rented a condo. Over the previous few weeks, he’d made a number of large withdrawals from a Russian bank account and placed repeated calls to a few people in Syria.

Read the rest

The Infinite Adventure Machine

David Benqué's Infinite Adventure Machine creates random folk-tales, and is itself an adventure in what he describes as an unsolved computer science problem: automatic story generation.

Tales and myths; the core narratives of human culture, have been transmitted for generations through various technologies and media. What new forms might they take through digital formats and Artificial Intelligence?

Based on the work of Vladimir Propp, who reduced the structure of russian folk-tales to 31 basic functions, TIAM aims to question the limitations and implications of attempts at programming language and narrative.

Because the program is unable to deliver a finished story, rather only a crude synopsis and illustrations, users have to improvise, filling the gaps with their imagination and making up for the technology's shortcomings.

Wikipedia's article on Propp has a lengthy description of his typology of narrative structures.

I've always been fascinated by the subtle movement these devices make, whereby a description of universal narrative elements is turned into a prescription for writing new stories. Every few years there seems to be another bestseller book, for example, telling you how to succeed in Hollywood with Joseph Campbell. Campbell seems mostly good for turning every hero into Jesus but with Vedic mysticism.

But I love these random generators all the same (and make my own). The bite-size mind-meld between culture and software they embody has a strange magic to it.

The Infinite Adventure Machine [Glitch Fiction via Creative Applications] Read the rest

Firefox 6 released

Firefox 6 is available to download, the third major version release in six months. Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs offers an explanation: "The world of the Internet is moving at a faster pace than ever, so we realized we had to start innovating faster". Everyone knows, of course, that it's marketing catchup: Safari is at version 5, IE at version 9 and Google Chrome at version whatever. Some people are really upset by the new numbers game. Read the rest