Dismissed by critics, Dutch painter Han van Meegeren set out to avenge himself by creating “the ultimate forgery”

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When critics dismissed his paintings, Dutch artist Han van Meegeren decided to seek his revenge on the art world: He devoted himself to forgery and spent six years fabricating a Vermeer masterpiece. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll recount the career of a master forger and the surprising mistake that eventually brought him down.

We’ll also drop in on D.B. Cooper and puzzle over an eyeless fruit burglar.

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Skills certification coming for Node.js developers

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The IT industry has long used professional certifications to verify proficiency in technologies from companies like Microsoft and Novell. Now, Node.js developers can have their skills certified with a program set up by the Node.js Foundation.

With the Node.js Certified Developer program, the Foundation is attempting to establish a baseline competency certification for the popular server-side JavaScript platform. Developers and other interested people will be able take a 32-question online exam starting in the second quarter of this year, said Tracy Hinds, education community manager for the Foundation.

Given the growth in Node usage, many companies and individual developers have been asking for such a certification to help them gauge competency. “There are a lot of people wanting to verify their knowledge of Node,” Hinds said. The test would certify an applicant as an early intermediate Node developer, which means that “they’re not going to know everything, but they can hit the ground running,” according to Hinds.

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?Google creates ‘crisis fund’ following US immigration ban

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Tech giant Google has created a US$2 million crisis fund in response to US president Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Google staff are also being invited to top up the fund, with the money going towards the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We chose these organisations for their incredible efforts in providing legal assistance and support services for immigrants, as well as their efforts on resettlement and general assistance for refugees globally,” a Google spokesperson said.

The announcement follows requests by Google CEO, Sundar Pichai last week for staff travelling overseas to come back to the US. More than 100 staff are affected by President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

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Awesome Prank or Circuit-Breaker Tester?

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Many tools can be used either for good or for evil — it just depends on the person flipping the switch. (And their current level of mischievousness.) We’re giving [Callan] the benefit of the doubt here and assuming that he built his remote-controlled Residual Current Device (RDC) tripper for the purpose of testing the safety of the wiring in his own home. On the other hand, he does mention using it to shut off all the power in his house during an “unrelated countdown at a party”. See? Good and evil.

An RCD (or GFCI in the States) is a …read more

We played a real-life Zelda adventure and Ganondorf won

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild finally launches on March 3rd, but a second Zelda adventure will be traveling across North America this year. With Hyrule hype at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that Nintendo has licensed a bunch of Zelda content to Scrap, a company that runs “Escape the Room” events in California. Defenders of the Triforce is coming to US and Canadian cities through the summer, though the $50–$60 tickets have already sold out in a few locations. We attended a press preview of its San Francisco event last night, solving puzzles in felt green caps and running around a basement ballroom festooned with Zelda-themed decorations.

We did not solve all the puzzles in time (though other teams did). We fought the forces…

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Comcast launches beta for using your Roku like a cable box

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Starting today, Comcast is letting its customers use a Roku as a secondary cable box. If you’ve got a Roku streaming device “released in the last couple years” — or a Roku TV — you can download the Xfinity TV app beta from the Roku store and give the experience a test run before it widely launches later this year.

Eventually the plan is to let customers replace their cable box (but not a cable subscription, obviously) with a Roku if they so choose. But during the beta phase you’ll need at least one Comcast cable box in your home somewhere. Comcast says this is “due to technical limitations.”

Beta participants will get full live and on-demand programming, and the beta app can also play back your cloud DVR recordings. What it can’t do…

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Everything coming to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now in February

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Okay, so I know these are times when people want to hear positive news — uplifting news — that can make us all feel better about the weeks and months to come. I also realize that reminding everyone that Michael Bolton has a tongue-in-cheek Valentine’s Day special coming to Netflix next month is probably not going to do that. But hey, facts are facts: Michael Bolton has a tongue-in-cheek Valentine’s Day special coming to Netflix next month.

Thankfully, it’s not the only new thing that the streaming service will have to offer in February. Drew Barrymore will be going full cannibal in her new series Santa Clarita Diet on February 3rd. One week later, Ricky Gervais will resurrect the character of David Brent, star of the original UK-based…

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Chrome on iOS is now open source

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Google’s Chromium project lets developers poke around, test, and modify Google’s open-source browser code. But up until today, Chrome for iOS’s code wasn’t included in the open-source repository. Now, however, the company is making it public. The code wasn’t kept with the rest of the Chromium Project because of how complicated it is to actually get Chrome to run on a mobile Apple device.

All iOS browsers have to be built on top of WebKit, so in order to include Chrome for iOS in Chromium, Google needed to support WebKit in addition to Blink, Chrome’s own rendering engine for other platforms. But over the past several years, the Chrome team changed its code in order to upstream it into Chromium. This change and inclusion in the…

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Tact brings intelligent sales assistant to new Slack enterprise edition

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Business people standing in conference room shaking hands Tact, the AI-driven sales tool that uses software smarts to simplify sales tasks, today announced integration with the newly announced Slack enterprise product, Slack Enterprise Grid. Tact, which currently has a mobile app and Amazon Echo integration (along with in-car integration in private Beta), sees messaging tools like Slack as a logical extension of the platform. It can help automate… Read More

Dial-a-Grue: play Zork with nothing but an old phone

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The first iteration of Dial-a-Grue, in 2011, was to kit out an old rotary dial phone with an embedded computer and text-to-speech engine so that you could play Zork with nothing but the handset. The new, 2.0 version of the project, is “to port Zork I (via a z-code interpreter) to an embedded platform, and enclose that and an old modem inside a telephone, so that the game can be played from a teletype, TDD, or old computer with an acoustically coupled modem.” (via JWZ)

ENIAC: The Way We Were

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When I first got interested in computers, it was all but impossible for an individual to own a computer outright. Even a “small” machine cost a fortune not to mention requiring specialized power, cooling, and maintenance. Then there started to be some rumblings of home computers (like the Mark 8 we recently saw a replica of) and the Altair 8800 burst on the scene. By today’s standards, these are hardly computers. Even an 8-bit Arduino can outperform these old machines.

As much disparity as there is between an Altair 8800 and a modern personal computer, looking even further back is …read more

Slack is expanding its team chat app to work with the largest companies

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Team communication service Slack today announced a new product designed to help its software scale to organizations with tens of thousands of employees. It’s called Slack Enterprise Grid, and it’s essentially a rethinking of the core app. It takes new features, critical design changes, and other alterations that make Slack easier to use and more efficient for corporations that are large and sprawling.

For those familiar with Slack, this new product doesn’t change much about how you use the app to communicate with your co-workers, get work done, and go about your day. For those in administrative roles, however, Slack Enterprise Grid is supposed to tackle how large companies are organized and how a myriad number of smaller teams are able…

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Snapchat now lets you link to websites using custom Snapcodes

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Hot on the heels of its redesign from last week, Snapchat is back with another update to its app, adding the ability to make custom Snapcodes for websites. Like the original Snapcodes, which add a user on Snapchat when viewed in the app, the new Snapcodes will prompt users to open a website when people snap the image.

It’s a subtle but powerful move on Snapchat’s part that will no doubt help further attract brands to use the popular ephemeral sharing network. Or, in other words, get ready to start seeing a whole lot more Snapcodes in advertisements in the near future.

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Google open-sources Chrome for iOS

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chrome Google today announced that the code for Chrome for iOS is now part of its Chromium open source project. On iOS, Chrome has to use Apple’s WebKit rendering engine instead of Google’s own Blink engine. Because of this, Google didn’t add the Chrome for iOS code to the Chromium code base before. Supporting both rendering engines in the same code base, after all, adds quite a bit… Read More

Chevrolet ends production of the Spark EV now that the Bolt EV is out

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Chevy Spark EVs Chevrolet is putting its electrified bets on the Bolt EV, as the company announced today that it’s ending production of the Spark EV, the compact car with a relatively meager 82 miles of electric range. The decision to end production of the car likely has a lot to do with the Bolt EV’s much more attractive options, which include 238 miles of EPA rated range. The price delta… Read More

Watch a Marie Antoinette automaton play the dulcimer

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In 1784, cabinetmaker David Roentgen (1743-1807) made this astonishing automaton of Marie Antoinette playing a dulcimer as a gift for King Louis XVI to give to his queen. This fantastic contraption is in the collection of the Musée des arts et métiers de Paris. From Atlas Obscura:

When wound up, the music box mechanism moves the figure’s head and arms, making them dance across the strings and chime out a ping-y tune. The player has a repertoire of eight songs…

It’s said that the beautiful lace dress was made from fabric of one of Marie Antoinette’s dresses, and that mannequin even has some of her real hair.

Awesome wildlife photos shot indoors on a tabletop

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Egyptian photographer Amr Elshamy takes beautiful wildlife photos inside on a tabletop. From PetaPixel:

The project started a couple of months ago when Elshamy got in touch with a Chinese company called MOJO FUN, which makes highly detailed animal figures.

To create underwater shots, Elshamy filled a tank with water and added blue coloring to create a tint. To add specks of dust to the shots, he dropped tissues into the water and moved it around. He also uses a black background, fishing line to hold the animals, and a single flash head with a snoot with a blue gel.

To create scenes of the snowy arctic, Elshamy uses a white background, 2 flashes heads (a softbox above and one for the background), and cheap snow that you can find at gift shops.

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