Verizon launches free service for identifying and blocking spam calls

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Verizon is taking new steps to combat the unrelenting nuisance of spam calls. Well, maybe not new, but you won’t have to pay extra money to tell when the robots are calling anymore. The leading US carrier has rolled out its free call filter service to both Android and iOS customers. When activated, Verizon says the filter will let customers “get alerts when a call is likely spam, report unsolicited numbers, and automatically block robocalls based on their preferred level of risk.”

The company notes that “certain features will vary based on the type of phone that a customer has.” But everyone gets the core protection, as this comparison between the Galaxy S10E and iPhone XS Max shows:

Unfortunately, Call Filter Free is…

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Leaked Oppo Reno pictures show off the weirdest notch-killing slider yet

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In the quest to purge the dreaded camera notch from smartphones, we’ve seen lots of strange ideas, but Oppo’s latest attempt in its leaked Reno smartphone might be one of the strangest yet: a wedge-shaped pop-up front-facing camera that gives the odd impression that the phone is raising a vaguely disapproving eyebrow at you, via Slashleaks.

The Reno does look a little bizarre, but I kind of like the idea: sort of a compromise between Oppo’s early sliding efforts on the bulky Oppo Find X and the smaller, but far more fragile-looking rectangular sliding camera on the Vivo V15 Pro. Slashleaks also has posted a video showing off the slider in action, which seems to bolster the idea that the Reno leaks are real. Plus it looks like the pop-up…

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Baking with an ignored sourdough starter

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Unlike all the breadcore pals I have baking loaves with hand-ground sorghum and Bolivian yeast strains kept at 75% hydration, I left my sourdough starter on the kitchen counter for a week and didn’t bother feeding it.

After another midafternoon phone call from a friend who newly discovered baking as a relaxing and delicious artform asking for recommendations on baking something crisp-but-gooey, I looked at the live starter I keep on my counter. I transplanted it from the sleeping mass of junk a week or so back, baked a few great loaves of bread, and then kinda forgot about it. I had other stuff on my mind. The phone conversation led me to desire bread.

Intending to put up a loaf later in the afternoon, I fed the room temperature but dormant starter. Fixed I mixed all the hooch into the starter. I then discarded a cup of starter and added 1/2 cup each of warm water and flour. Then I stirred, covered and gave it 4 hours.

I used the starter to prepare my go-to no-knead loaf of bread, flour and whole wheat. Said dough was permit to rise overnight. Pretty much everything looked like dough normally does on a first rise. I then folded the blob! The dough was pretty wet, I left it to proof in its basket.

I had a hard time deciding when it was ready for the oven. After 90 minutes I could see some large bubbles had formed in the dough, and a poke-with-index-finger test was getting what I thought were correct springing back results, but something looked off. Read the rest

LG’s G8 ThinQ arrives in the US on April 11th

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LG’s latest flagship, the G8 ThinQ, will be released in the US beginning on April 11th. We originally previewed the G8 back at Mobile World Congress, but release info and pricing was unavailable at the time.

The phone will be available at all major US carriers, as well as authorized retailers and a few regional carriers. The list includes: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Best Buy, B&H, US Cellular, and Xfinity Mobile.

Preorders start on March 29th at some of those retailers, but the specifics vary depending on where you want to buy the phone. The LG G8 ThinQ’s unlocked retail price is $819.99, with select retailers offering a promotional $150 discount “for a limited time at launch.” As for carrier pricing, Verizon and Sprint will both…

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Group discounts let you bring the whole team to Disrupt SF 2019

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Why resort to rock, paper, scissors to see which members of your early-stage startup or investment firm get to attend Disrupt SF 2019? Group discounts make it possible to bring the whole team, and that means more inspiration, connection and opportunity for your company. TechCrunch offers group discounts for every pass level, so don’t miss […]

This robot is very skilled at tossing bananas

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TossingBot is a robot that teaches itself how to pick up and toss objects with great accuracy. Eventually, the robot — designed by researchers from Google, Princeton, Columbia, and MIT — could lead to more efficient pick-and-place (grab-and-toss?) robots for factory automation, debris clearing at disaster sites, or perhaps package delivery. Right now though, the TossingBot is quite good at throwing bananas into bins. From IEEE Spectrum:

Part of what makes TossingBot so useful is that the tossing technique significantly decreases the time that the robot spends on the “place” part of a pick-and-place task. Rather than spending time putting an object down, objects are instead (as the researchers put it) “immediately passed to Newton,” and the toss also means that the robot’s effective reach is significantly longer than its physical workspace….

The interesting bit of TossingBot itself is a deep neural network that starts with a depth image of objects in a bin, and goes all the way through from successful grasp to parameters for the throw itself. Since the throwing of an object (especially an unbalanced object) depends heavily on how it’s being held, grasping and throwing are learned at the same time. By measuring whether a grasp is successful by whether a throw is successful, TossingBot learns to favor grasps that result in accurate throws. As you can see from the video, the learning process itself is fairly clever, and the robot can be mostly just left alone to figure things out for itself, managing 10,000 grasp and throw attempts in 14 hours of training time.

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Conservative commentator: trans people will replace humanity with ‘New Species’ that’s ‘Human and Part Machine’

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No-one can make you sound quite as great as your enemies can. Here’s Dr. Paul Nathanson, responding to conservative host Laura Ingraham’s suggestion trans people are merely destroying traditional families:

“I think that the trans people have taken it one step further because by abandoning gender altogether, not simply re-writing it, they’re basically trying to use social engineering to create a new species. Which is what, in fact, the transhumanists have been doing for the past half century. Using medical and other technologies to develop a new species.

“So the goal is really quite radical. We’re not talking about people who want to simply do a bit of reform here and there, add a new category. They want, they must, in fact, destroy whatever is in order to replace it with what they think should be. We’re talking about revolution, not reform.”


Ingraham asks: “And the new species will be looking like what? Will be part human part animal? I mean, will be human mostly…”

Nathanson said, “I think human and part machine,” to which Ingraham replies “part machine, hmm.”

Conservatives often see with a suprising clarity and openness before their political instincts kick in. Here they’re noodling on 1985 or so in feminist posthumanism. If the enemy has long moved on, this still has the hauntological result of snapping everyone back to a long-ago moment that seems suddenly fresh again (yet weirdly rustic to those who were there). I’ve never met a trans-exclusionary feminist who has read Haraway, but now everyone will have to at least take a stab at it. Read the rest

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are everything but the basics

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As someone who is either wearing or carrying headphones around almost all day, I was excited to try Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. The $129.99 wireless earbuds were my shiny gleam of hope for headphones that would let me cut cords and forget about some of the tech I’m carrying around. I’ve tried AirPods, but I didn’t like all the ambient noise; and although the Jabra Elite 65t have good audio quality, they don’t stay in my ears.

But once I started living the cord-cutting future with the Buds, I realized the importance of the fundamentals. For me, a pair of headphones has three seemingly simple jobs: play music, take calls, and be comfortable. Anything else is luxury. And although I want that luxury in my life, I won’t sacrifice the necessities…

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Sue Burke on her next sci-fi novel Interference, colonization, and first contact

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One of my favorite novels from last year was Sue Burke’s debut, Semiosis, which dealt with a fundamental issue when it comes to meeting aliens for the first time: how do you recognize intelligence, and once you do, how do you coexist with extraterrestrial life that is widely different from us? Later this year, Burke will publish a sequel to Semiosis, Interference, which builds on those questions.

In Semiosis, an expedition from Earth crash-lands on a distant world called Pax. The crash strips the survivors of most of the tools that would have allowed them to easily survive on the world, and they have to start from scratch, figuring out how to deal with native plant life that seems aggressive and uncannily intelligent. Jumping from…

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Seattle! Come see me TONIGHT at the Central Library with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Anaheim for Wondercon!

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We had a fantastic time on Tuesday at the Ft Vancouver Library Revolutionary Reads event for Radicalized, my latest sf book. Tonight, I’ll be in Seattle, appearing at the the Central Library at 7PM. From there, I finish the tour with a weekend at Wondercon in Anaheim. See you there (tell your friends)! (Image: Fort Vancouver Library)

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Footage of American freestyle canoeing master Marc Ornstein

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Relaxing, and ever so slightly peculiar, is this footage of an American Freestyle Canoeing master at work.

American Freestyle canoeing is the art of paddling a canoe on flat water with perfect control of its movements. The canoe is usually leaned over to the side to help the boat turn sharply and efficiently and paddle strokes are taken on either side of the canoe depending on the individual move. Balance, paddle placement and turn initiation are a few keys to this control. Since the movements seem dance-like, some practice this art timed to music, which is the ultimate in control.

A redditor on Ornstein’s unique abilities:

His backstroke tilted side-turn is probably the best you’ll ever see. Not to mention he pretty much invented the inverted wind-slide. He was the first one to ever do it in the late 90s. I know some people are going to laugh, but it really is the most dangerous trick in the sport. People have sustained serious arm injuries and muscle tears attempting it. Sven Englewood almost drowned trying to perform it in the 2009 World Championships.

Anyway, guys like Ornstein are the reason Freestyle Canoeing has grown with such popularity in the last couple decades.

Shhh. Whatever you’re about to say: Shhhhhhhh.

Also fits the sartorial-semiotic slot that the British and Chinese plug snooker into. Read the rest

Teen girl’s DIY glitter-shooting unicorn horn prosthetic arm in museum exhibit

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Jordan Reeves, 13, was born with a left arm that doesn’t extend past her elbow. Last year, Jordan dreamt up a curious prosthetic arm that resembles a unicorn horn and shoots glitter out of its tip. Then, working with her prosthetist and technical designers at Autodesk, she designed and built the magical contraption.

“I wanted show people that our differences don’t necessarily hold us back, in fact, they can give us more opportunity,” Reeves told WGN9.

After receiving numerous awards for her ingenuity and founding a nonprofit, Born Just Right, Reeves was invited to display her prosthetic at the Chicago Musuem of Science and Industry’s Wired to Wear exhibit.

“I love that I can show people that our differences aren’t a bad thing… just look at how much fun it can be” Reeves said.

More on Jordan Reeves in Fast Company: “The Girl Behind The Sparkle-Shooting Prosthetic Arm Is Just Getting Started

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How to move your data to a new Android phone or iPhone

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As the smartphone market gets saturated, phone makers are ramping up their efforts to lure away each other’s customers. But when you come home from the store (or sign for that package), you’ll have to move your life from your old device to the new one. It’s not hard, if you pay attention. Here’s how.

We’ll be presenting four possible flows: Android to Android, Android to iPhone, iPhone to Android, and iPhone to iPhone. But because there’s really no such thing as pure Android, it’s possible that your Android smartphone maker — especially if it’s one of the bigger ones like Samsung, OnePlus, or Google — will have some proprietary means of moving your data.

Before we begin, the usual warnings apply. In all cases, be connected to (or know…

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