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Posts by Robert Quigley

Follow Apple’s WWDC 2011 Announcement Live

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference is upon us, and while the event lasts until the end of this week, Apple has mercifully spared us the anticipation by kicking WWDC 2011 off with a keynote about which a lot of people are pretty excited. Though the word on the street is that there almost certainly will not be an iPhone 5/iPhone 4GS reveal today, we do know that Apple will be talking about iOS5, Mac OS X Lion (this is, after all, a developers' conference, and developers need to know about the operating systems they're working with), and, most intriguingly for many, iCloud. Everything is speculative at this point, but the great hope for iCloud, as elucidated by John Gruber, is that it won't be the new MobileMe, but rather the new iTunes: That is, that with iCloud, the previous model of PC-as-central-media-hub for Apple users will shift to "should shift to the cloud. iTunes, the desktop app, currently syncs the following things with iOS devices: audio, movies and TV shows, iBooks e-books, App Store apps, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, and any sort of files shared between iOS apps. All of these things would be better served syncing over-the-air via the so-called cloud." Will it live up to that? Well, it's silly at this point to write more speculative blog posts about it; just tune into the keynote at 1pm ET/10am PT to find out. As for that: As of posting, Apple has not yet made a live video stream available for the event, and it's very possible that it won't at all. But that doesn't mean that you can't follow WWDC 2011 as it happens:

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Sarah Palin Fans Accused of Editing Wikipedia to Right Her Wrongs About Paul Revere’s Ride

This past week, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to explain Paul Revere's historic midnight ride in a manner that many history buffs took issue with. Specifically, speaking to an audience at a church visited by Revere, Palin described Revere thusly: "He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free." While it sounds from Palin's account as though Revere was warning the British, according to the New York Times, "In fact, on the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode out from Boston to warn the American patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching from Boston to Lexington to arrest them." Palin has since claimed that she "know[s] her American history," knows the details of Revere's ride, and is the victim of a "gotcha" media. But several political bloggers report that Palin supporters have taken a rather more creative approach to defending her from criticism: Going straight to the Wikipedia article on Paul Revere and editing it to make history sound more in line with Palin's recollection of events.

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“I Don’t Wanna Be a Crappy Housewife”; Or, Norway Gets Its Own Rebecca Black [Video]

Blogs blogging about things just because they're "going viral" is always a little echo chambery, but in the case of Norwegian artist Tonje Langeteig, it is totally justified. Her song "I Don't Wanna Be a Crappy Housewife" has exploded on YouTube over the course of the past week, with over 1,500 "dislikes" versus 133 "likes" as of posting, drawing comparisons to stateside phenomenon Rebecca Black. The real question is: Which song has the better rap solo? (via BuzzFeed)

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Pixar Artist Explains Why Pixar Has Made So Few Feature Films

I'm not going to bother to do it right here and now, but I'm sure someone could write a compelling essay about how Pixar, Valve, and Apple have all created success and considerable goodwill by bringing similar approaches on animation, gaming, and consumer tech, respectively: Rather than chasing trends or spamming the market with new products every 3 months, they focus and execute with laserlike precision. In a recent Quora thread, Pixar camera artist Craig L. Good provides an inkling as to how this process works when he explains to a questioner why Pixar "makes so few feature films":

The way we make movies is just really, really hard. It takes years just to get the story right. Animation is a very labor-intensive process. It takes a large crew a long time just to produce the film. There's a limit to how many people and, more importantly, how many production crews can effectively be managed and still retain the quality. There's a very limited number of directors capable of conceiving, writing, and directing one of these productions. So I think the answer is that we're both time and resource limited, and that there's a limit to how many resources can even practically be applied. Nine women cannot make a baby in a month. In other words: Dude, we're pedaling as fast as we can
See also: Wired's revealing 2010 article on Pixar's creative process. (via Quora.)

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Geek Meditation [Comic]

At first Joy of Tech's rendition of geek meditiation is just funny, then you realize that this may actually be the best way to explain meditation to notoriously empirical-minded people. (JoT via Digital Inspiration)

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Watch the Copenhagen Suborbitals Launch Live

Earlier this week, we wrote about Copenhagen Suborbitals, the group with an open-source, private approach to space travel; today, at 10am 10:15am ET, if all goes according to plan, they're launching an unmanned space craft. Two livestreams of the launch below:

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Three-Foot-Long Sandcrawler Built with 10,000 Lego Pieces [Video]

Lego enthusiast Marshal Banana built a faithful model of the Sandcrawler from Star Wars using 10,000 Lego bricks, taking 9 months for building and planning. It's motorized, can be operated by remote, and has the following radio-controled functions: Driving in forward and reverse, stearing, a main ramp that goes up and down, a crane that can move up and down, in and out, and a conveyor band that operates in forward and reverse modes. Of course there's a fully furnished interior. (Marshal Banana via Brothers Brick)

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MI6 Hacks Al-Qaeda Website, Replaces Bomb Recipe with Cupcake Recipe

Covert intelligence services aren't particularly well-known for their sense of humor, but UK-based agency MI6 reportedly flashed a bit of the old British wit in a counterterrorism effort aimed at an Al-Qaeda web magazine. MI6 agents replaced a section on how to make a deadly sugar-based pipe bomb with a set of Ellen DeGeneres cupcake recipes.

The code, which had been inserted into the original magazine by the British intelligence hackers, was actually a web page of recipes for “The Best Cupcakes in America” published by the Ellen DeGeneres chat show. Written by Dulcy Israel and produced by Main Street Cupcakes in Hudson, Ohio, it said “the little cupcake is big again” adding: “Self-contained and satisfying, it summons memories of childhood even as it's updated for today’s sweet-toothed hipsters.” It included a recipe for the Mojito Cupcake – “made of white rum cake and draped in vanilla buttercream”- and the Rocky Road Cupcake – “warning: sugar rush ahead!”
Though this particular MI6 hack was humorous, the intelligence communities on both sides of the pond take seriously this particular Al-Qaeda web magazine, which is published by the influential radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki: A former CIA analyst told the Telegraph that it was "clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the US or UK who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber." (Telegraph via Fark. title pic via Wikipedia.)

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Geekolinks: 6/2

Groupon Files for IPO: Huge Revenue Growth, Still No Profit

In a development that's sure to add further froth to the "is this a tech bubble" debate, e-couponing business Groupon has filed for an IPO, setting out to raise as much as $750 million in an offering which could value the company as a whole at $20 billion or more. Groupon's growth to this point has been remarkable. In 2009, it had revenues of $30.47 million; in 2010, it had revenues of $713.4 million; and in the first quarter of 2011, it has already had revenues of $644.7 million, almost as much as it made over the course of all of last year. As of 1Q 2011, Groupon has 56,781 merchants, as compared to 212 in 2Q 2009. Yet the company has yet to make a profit. Spend a billion dollars to buy $700 million and your revenues may look impressive, but your profits, well, not so much at all; in fact, Groupon essentially did this and then some in 2010, showing losses of $389.6 million. In the first quarter of this year, it has lost $102.7 million. Groupon's true believers are counting on the company's extremely aggressive sales and marketing bearing more fruit than they eat up in the future, and if it succeeds in its ambition of becoming the go-to e-commerce site for consumers who are hungry or bored, then it will have quite a Buffettesque moat. But as Michael Arrington recently pointed out, the 2000 bubble and subsequent burst were typified by "Everything [being] valued at a multiple of revenue. It didn’t really matter how unprofitable you were." On the flip side, it took years to turn its first profit, and it's a pillar of the industry now. It's too early to say which path Groupon will follow, but this time around, a lot of people will certainly be monitoring its progress. (WSJ via Hacker News, TBI)

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USDA Ditches Food Pyramid for a Food Plate

After close to 20 years as an official government recommendation, the USDA has replaced the much-criticized Food Pyramid with MyPlate, a simpler visual guide to nutrition consisting of a plate divided into four portions plus an extra circle for dairy. While one wonders if the powerful U.S. dairy lobby shoehorned that last one in, as distinct from "protein," this new design comes closer to parity with conventional dieting wisdom, allocating half of the plate to fruits and vegetables, a little more than a quarter to grains, and a little less than a quarter to proteins. Among other issues, the Food Pyramid was criticized for overemphasizing grains, contributing to America's collective carbohydrate overload and obesity rate without making distinctions between whole grains and less healthy processed grains. In a press conference today, First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been active in anti-obesity efforts, praised MyPlate's new visual scheme as easier to follow in real life: "Parents don't have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving," she said. ( via NPR)

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YouTube Now Supports Creative Commons Licensing, Remixing

Beginning at noon ET today, YouTube will roll out a new Creative Commons designation within the YouTube Video Editor which will allow video uploaders to license their work under the CC-By-3.0 license or to browse through a library of "over 10,000 Creative Commons videos," including some uploaded by C-SPAN,, Voice of America, and Al-Jazeera. Especially neat is the set of possibilities this will open up for video remixers. Video uploaders who designate their work as Creative Commons allow other YouTube users to easily share and remix it, with proper credit, and would-be remixers will have access to an ever-expanding library of stuff to work with. This doesn't mean that those ever-present pirated Naruto and Family Guy clips on YouTube will suddenly belong to Creative Commons, however: According to Mashable, YouTube hopes that the addition of CC licensing will "help YouTubers get even more creative with their content — in a manner that protects the rights of all content creators," and "anyone who tries to circumvent that rule [that users can only mark their own work as CC] will be subject to YouTube’s copyright protection services." (via Boing Boing, Mashable)

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Alkali Metals Dropped in Water [Video]

In this brief, worthwhile video, a delightful British narrator guides the viewer through the alkali metals, first as they react with air, and then, beginning at the 1-minute mark, as they react with water. Wait for cesium, it's worth it. "You can see that things gradually become more terrifying as we go down the group." (via /r/videos)

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Tennessee Passes Law Criminalizing Netflix Password-Sharing

Tennessee lawmakers have passed a law, since signed by the state's governor, which would make it a crime to use a friend's password to login to Netflix, MOG, or a similar web-based media consumption service, even with that friend's permission. Why Tennessee? Because Nashville is the capital not only of the state, but of the country music industry, which, like the broader music industry, is worried about revenue loss from illegal file-sharing. While the law isn't specifically aimed at the practice of friendly password-sharing -- lawmakers say its target is 'hackers and thieves who sell passwords in bulk' -- they acknowledge that it would apply to Netflix password-pooling. And the penalties aren't nothing: "Stealing $500 or less of entertainment would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500." The likelihood of small-scale detection may be another matter, however:

Bill Ramsey, a Nashville lawyer who practices both entertainment law and criminal defense, said that he doubts the law would be used to ban people in the same household from sharing subscriptions, and that small-scale violations involving a few people would, in any case, be difficult to detect. But "when you start going north of 10 people, a prosecutor might look and say, `Hey, you knew it was stealing,'" Ramsey said.
(via AP)

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Google Accuses China of Hacking Gmail Accounts

In the midst of a blog post blandly titled "Ensuring your information is safe online," Google lobs a bombshell of an accusation against the Chinese government: It says that it unearthed a Gmail account hijacking campaign, "which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affect[ing] what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists." Google's backing for its accusations come in part from a thorough February 2011 blog post from researcher Mila Parkour of Contagio, which details several "spear phishing" methods by which hackers attempted to get the passwords and personal information from their targets. In the image above, for example, a fake Gmail login page is used to attempt to scoop up user passwords. Google:

The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.) Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities.
The Chinese government denies any connection with hacking attacks: "Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives," an official said in a statement. (via WSJ, PaidContent, Google. title pic via Contagio.)

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Bagger Has Skills [Video]

In the short video above, a bagger named Rajni at a famous Indian silk market shows how it's done. (via BoYT)

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The $100k Personal Jetpack [Video]

Elevators are so banal these days. The new way to get up to your corner office (or penthouse) is a personal jetpack. The enterprising folks over at the Martin Aircraft Company — whose only product seems to be the Martin Jetpack, actually — are busy putting the finishing touches on a device that could safely boost someone up to the top of a skyscraper or much higher. Never thought we could one day predict Darwin Award winners ahead of time.

>>>Video at Mogulite.

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Geekolinks: 6/1

WikiPreview: Make Wikipedia Even More Addictive by Previewing Links

Wikipedia syndrome, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is "the act of going to a site with the intention of looking up one piece of information, and instead finding yourself on one or more articles that have nothing to do with what you had originally come for. Stems from Wikipedia linking to articles within articles." (If that's bad, I don't even want to know the symptoms of TVTropes syndrome.) Restlessly fluttering between pages may be an inevitable consequence of wiki power-using, but there's a neat Google Chrome plug-in that alleviates it somewhat. Rather than having to click through every link in a Wikipedia article, WikiPreview lets users evaluate the clickability of a given link by pulling up a preview of the next page. The plug-in is handy, but it isn't perfect: For one thing, it shows information for parent articles rather than subsections, even if the link goes to a subsection; for another, it sometimes has issues displaying link previews from further down the page. Chrome users can install WikiPreview here; true obsessives may want to try Wikipedia's navigation popup tool, which does require users to create a Wikipedia account before setup. (WikiPreview via Lifehacker)

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Police: Would-Be Cheaters Filmed Test as It Happened, Got Answers by Quizzing Students on “Practice” Test

Canadian police have accused two men of attempting to use an almost Ender's Game-like scheme to cheat their way into a plum medical school admission. Per police reports, while one of the men was taking the MCAT placement test for medical school, he was secretly using "a pinhole camera and wireless technology to transmit images of the questions on a computer screen back to his co-conspirator." Then, that co-conspirator, who was pretending to test other students for jobs as MCAT tutors, showed them the test questions, asking them how they would hypothetically solve them. Little did they know that their 'hypothetical' answers were being transmitted by phone back to the man who was actually taking the test. Eventually, they figured it all out:

However, the would-be tutors became suspicious because of the poor quality of the images of the test questions, and the fact that they were allowed to discuss the question together before giving [accused co-conspirator Josiah Miguel] Ruben their answers. When Ruben left the room to transmit some of the answers, the would-be tutors checked online and determined the MCAT exam was being held that day in locations around the world. They also found evidence on the computer's hard drives that the owner had been looking into pin-hole cameras and wireless networks. So the three students called campus security and began submitting wrong answers to the scammers while they waited for the officers to arrive and arrest Ruben.
The two students allegedly behind the scheme have been charged with theft, unauthorized use of a computer, using a device to obtain unauthorized service and theft of data. (CBC via Boing Boing)

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