Rotary Phones and the Birth of a Network

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I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the movie title  “Dial M for Murder” becomes mysterious to most of the population. After all, who has seen a dial phone lately? Sure, there are a few retro phones, but they aren’t in widespread use. It may not be murder, but it turns out that the dial telephone has its roots in death — or at least the business of death. But to understand why that’s true, you need to go back to the early days of the telephone.

Did you ever make a tin can phone with …read more

How to shoot great video with your smartphone

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We all shoot video with our smartphones, but most of us aren’t trying to make the next great Oscar-winning film. We’re just trying to capture moments that are important to us, or footage that we think will resonate with others.

There are a lot of little things you can do to make sure the video you shoot with your smartphone is something worth watching — whether those moments are funny, touching, stupid, or downright shocking. So here’s a starter guide to help make sure you’re shooting the best video your smartphone allows.

Clean the lens

It sounds silly and simple, but this is always a great place to start. It’s the equivalent of remembering to take the lens cap off of a camera. It’s something so obvious that it’s often easy to forget….

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Another biopic about J.R.R. Tolkien will focus on his formative years before WWI

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Ever since Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies blew up at the box office, there’s been a desire to replicate that success by adapting more from Tolkien, including his own life story. Deadline reports that Finnish director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland) has signed on to direct Tolkien, which will focus on the titular author “as he finds friendship, love, and artistic inspiration among a fellow group of outcasts at school prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.”

Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road) is the frontrunner to portray the iconic fantasy author, who was born in South Africa and fought in the First World War prior to writing the fantasy novels that he’s become famous for.

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Windows 10’s latest preview links an Android phone to a PC

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Microsoft first revealed its plans to bring Android and iPhone phones closer to Windows 10 earlier this year, and now the company is letting public testers play with the new features. In a new Windows 10 preview (build 16251) released today, Android users will be able to test a new “Microsoft Apps” application that links a phone to a PC. Microsoft hasn’t revealed when iPhone users will be able to test similar functionality, so it’s Android only for now.

The link will enable new cross-device features, including the ability to share a link from a mobile directly to a Windows 10 PC. It’s the first of many features Microsoft is planning to closely align Android and iOS to Windows 10, and in the future the company will also allow apps to…

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Nintendo can’t make Switch consoles fast enough

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Nintendo just announced the latest sales figures for the Switch in its Q1 earnings, and the 2 million units sold are both impressive for the company and a measure of how successful the Switch has become. It’s even more significant given that the company is still rebounding from the commercial and critical failure of the Wii U, which only sold about 13.5 million units over its entire lifespan.

The biggest takeaway from the Switch’s Q1 performance: the number could have been even higher, if only Nintendo could manage to keep the Switch in stock. Months after the Switch’s release in March, it’s still virtually impossible to actually walk into a store and buy one.

And while sales…

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The first Apple-compatible cochlear implant sound processor was announced today

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Apple and hearing assistance company Cochlear have teamed up to launch the first iPhone-compatible cochlear implant sound processor. The processor will accompany an implant. (The processor isn’t what’s implanted inside the body; it’s what you see outside and what gathers audio to then send to the implant.)

Lots of Apple-compatible hearing products already exist. Apple lists them all on its “Made for iPhone hearing aids” page. These devices directly pair with an iOS device (running iOS 7 or later) over Bluetooth to receive audio, and users can control their hearing aids from their phone’s accessibility settings. Most have compatible apps, like Cochlear, but they aren’t necessary for using the device. Cochlear’s app features a “Find My…

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Google launches its own AI Studio to foster machine intelligence startups

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 Another week, another new Google initiative targeting AI startups. We started the month with the announcement of Gradient Ventures, Google’s on-balance sheet AI investment vehicle. Two days later we watched the finalists of Google Cloud’s machine learning competition pitch to a panel of top AI investors. And today, Google’s Launchpad is announcing a new hands-on Studio program. Read More

Transparent padlock and lockpicking tools

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I bought this for my daughter for her birthday and we both it. It’s a $10 transparent padlock that lets you see the inner workings as you poke them with lockpicking tools. Amazon stopped selling low-priced lock-picks but they are dirt-cheap on eBay. Buy one for yourself, and another for your favorite juvenile hacker.

How to eat a crunchy shell taco without having it explode on you

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Crunchy shell tacos are delicious, but also challenging. They have a hair-trigger tendency to blow up when you bite them, causing the filling to spill out. Patrick Allan of Lifehacker has discovered the best way to improve your odds of having a happy taco experience.

Take your first bite at the end of the taco. I recommend the classic “taco neck” method. Then follow up with the next two smaller bites labeled above, making your way toward the center. Now, spin it around and repeat the process on the other side. Eventually you’ll be left with two big bites in the center, and the shell should still be intact. Enjoy those last few moments of tasty taco bliss. Alternatively, if you take really big bites, you can replace 2 and 3 with just “2,” replace 4 with “3,” replace 5 and 6 with “4,” and replace 7 and 8 with just “5.”

We make tacos about once a week. One of our best purchases was a set of stainless steel taco holders.

New book about psychedelics and weird human experiences

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David Luke, a University of Greenwich psychology lecturer and researcher of high weirdness, has a new book out with the compelling title of Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience. Based on the blurb, it sounds like an absolute trip:

A psychonautic scientific trip to the weirdest outposts of the psychedelic terrain, inhaling anything and everything relevant from psychology, psychiatry, parapsychology, anthropology, neuroscience, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, biochemistry, religious studies, cultural history, shamanism and the occult along the way.

Staring the strange straight in the third eye this eclectic collection of otherworldly entheogenic research delivers a comprehensive and yet ragtaglledy scientific exploration of synaesthesia, extra-dimensional percepts, inter-species communication, eco-consciousness, mediumship, possession, entity encounters, near-death and out-of-body experiences, psi, alien abduction experiences and lycanthropy. Essentially, its everything you ever wanted to know about weird psychedelic experiences, but were too afraid to ask…

Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience(via Daily Grail)

The Stranger Things and Ready Player One trailers are the best and worst of nostalgia-driven marketing

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At the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, audiences got their first look at two highly anticipated geek-culture properties. Stranger Things, Netflix’s ode to Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, got a second season trailer exploring the show’s expanding mythos, set to the iconic sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” And Spielberg himself took to Comic-Con’s Hall H stage to reveal a teaser for Ready Player One, his adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling pop-culture treasure-hunt adventure.

At first glance, they were perfect pieces of marketing for the Comic-Con crowds, both relying on the nostalgic pull that serves as the foundation for so much modern fandom. Stranger Things’ imagery of kids wearing Ghostbusters costumes, set to Vincent Price’s…

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Xiaomi’s new smart speaker costs $130 less than an Amazon Echo

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Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi launched two new gadgets today: the Mi 5X smartphone, and a new smart speaker called the Mi AI Speaker. While the smartphone is somewhat interesting, if only because it features a dual-camera system, the speaker is certainly the more intriguing announcement.

The device includes a six-microphone array and is designed to be the hub for all of Xiaomi’s smart home products, which the company says includes 60 million connected devices, like rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, fans, and lamps. The speaker will launch in China in August through a beta program. Only 1,000 people will test it at first, and their use will let Xiaomi further refine the voice controls. The speaker will work like…

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Packet expands its global infrastructure with 11 new edge locations

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 Packet is quickly making a name for itself thanks to its unopinionated bare metal cloud. Today, the company is expanding its product portfolio with the launch of its new Edge Compute service in 15 data center locations around the world. Eleven of these locations are new and complement Packet’s existing offerings in New York, Sunnyvale, Amsterdam and Tokyo. The idea behind these new… Read More

John McCain is the “perfect American lie” says Drew Magary

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When Drew Magary was much younger he gave John McCain’s Presidential campaign $5. He regrets it. McCain “has always been a big talker,” write Magary in GQ, “but when it comes to the actual meat-and-potatoes voting process, he falls in line.”

Snip:

Everyone should realize that John McCain is the perfect American lie, a man who professes to be noble and fair and just while being none of those things. He served his country honorably in combat, but in no other fashion. And he serves out his time in the Senate, and here on planet Earth, as a pathetic enabler. Never the lion; always the sheep. For seventeen years, gullible people have been waiting for him to make his face turn, to make some grand defiant move for the sake of God and country. But that was always just clever branding on his part, and today should serve as a cold slap in the face to anyone who still thought he might have that kind of political courage left in him. He’s a fucking disgrace.

Image: Jim Greenhill

Friday Hack Chat: Crowd Supply

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Crowdfunding is a mixed bag, at best. On one hand, you have fantastically successful products like Pebble, Oculus, and the Kano personal computer that managed to take in money, turn out a product, and become a successful company. (If even just for a while, the Pebble was great.) On the other hand, you have obvious scams like a color-picking pen that are run by a literal Nigerian scammer.

Crowd Supply is different. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, to get on Crowd Supply you’ll need a working prototype. Where other platforms can measure their success by how many campaigns were successfully funded, …read more

How close are we to building the virtual Big Market from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?

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In Luc Besson’s science-fiction fantasy Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, one of the major action sequences takes place in a space called the Big Market. It’s a sort of hyperdimensional mall where tourists show up in busses to strap on VR gear and wander around in a desert, while virtually experiencing a promised 1 million shops. Valerian’s Big Market has some technology that we aren’t likely to achieve anytime soon. It isn’t just virtual reality: the stores exist in a different dimension, and shoppers can access their purchases instantly by yanking them through a dimensional portal at the checkout stand. But apart from instant delivery, most of the market could be adapted to real-world virtual reality technology, and in that…

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Verge Editor’s Choice: Peak Design Everyday Backpack

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If you want to call it peak hipster, I won’t argue with that. I won’t argue and I won’t care. The Peak Design Everyday Backpack expresses an opinion that not everyone will agree with, but that’s why I like it so much. This backpack’s designers believe in a sort of stylish modularity that sacrifices maximum space efficiency for the sake of better access to your stuff and, in all honesty, sharper looks.

Is it vain that my top choice of backpack is motivated in part by the way it makes me look? Yes. And it’s also real. As with the majority of other everyday gadgets and items, we’re long past the stage of merely utilitarian concerns when picking bags. Aesthetics absolutely do matter with our choice of gear carrier, and it so happens that I…

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Whoa, check out the bezels on this jellyfish tank

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Jellyfish are majestic creatures. When displayed with some colorful backlights, the animal’s translucent body and natural bioluminescence can be a visual delight, and they make for popular exhibits at various museums around the world. The folks at Cubic Aquarium know how cool jellyfish can look in your home, so they created a tank with built-in, color-changing LED lights to bring the best out of your new aquatic pets.

It’s also worth noting that, in particular, the Pulse 160 tank looks just like an iPhone laid sideways. Check out those near-invisible bezels!

The tank holds 46 gallons of water and can keep up to 15 large jellies, so you can pretend they’re floating app icons swirling around your screen.

Also worth noting:…

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Marvel editor hopes upcoming Thrawn comic book series is just the beginning

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Last year, one of the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s biggest fan-favorite characters, Grand Admiral Thrawn, was given new life. He appeared in the third season of Star Wars Rebels and was featured in his own novel. Last week at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Comics announced that the character would be the focus of a new comic miniseries.

The comic will adapt Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, which detailed the origins of the character, tracking how he rose through the ranks of the Imperial Navy. The comic will also include some additional material. This new series will be written by Jody Houser, who adapted Rogue One for Marvel, and illustrated by Luke Ross, who’s worked on comics such as Spider-Man and Captain America. The series will be released…

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Microsoft’s new Azure Container Instances make using containers fast and easy

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 Barely a day passes without some news about containers and that speaks to how quickly this technology is being adopted by developers and the platforms and startups that serve them. Today it’s Microsoft’s turn to launch a new container service for its Azure cloud computing platform: Azure Container Instances (ACI). The company also today announced that it is joining the Cloud… Read More

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