How to get started with Zoom

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#1777, stock, slack, zoom

While many companies are already using the videoconferencing app Zoom for business meetings, interviews, and other purposes, individuals who are facing long days without contact with friends and family are moving to Zoom for face-to-face and group get-togethers.

This is a quick guide for those who haven’t tried Zoom yet, featuring tips on how to get started using its free version. One thing to keep in mind: while one-to-one video calls can go as long as you want, any group calls on Zoom are limited to 40 minutes. If you want to have longer talks without interruption, you can either pay for Zoom’s Pro plan ($14.99 a month), or try an alternative videoconferencing app. (Note: there have been reports that the 40 minutes is sometimes…

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Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse

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I greatly enjoyed Max Barry’s 2013 novel Lexicon (Cory loved it, too — here’s his review). Barry has a new novel that came out today from Putnam, called Providence, which I started reading. It’s a space thriller about a four person crew on an AI controlled spaceship programmed to seek and destroy “salamanders” – creatures that kill by spitting mini-black holes. It’s terrific so far (I’m 70% finished).

I’m happy that Max wrote this op-ed for Boing Boing, titled “How Science Fiction Prepares Us For the Apocalypse.” — Mark

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes.

Popular fiction regularly mirrors the times in which it’s published. Two hundred years ago, society readers were thrilled by dangerous flirtations in Jane Austen novels; a century ago, people living in newly urbanized cities devoured mysteries and detective stories; and the 1930s gave rise to the Golden Age of science fiction, with stories that asked where technology might take us. Read the rest

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

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We’ve covered Theodore Gray on Boing Boing a lot, and for good reason — he’s amazing. His Mad Science book was filled with spectacularly fun science experiments, he built a Periodic Table table with little compartments to hold samples of elements, and now he has a new coffee table photo book called The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.

Each element is treated to a gorgeous two page spread, with photos and a fascinating short history.

Did you know:

… if you keep your household smoke detector around for a couple of thousand years, most of the americium will have decayed into neptunium (wait another 30 million years or so and it will become thallium, which the CIA can use to make Castro’s beard fall out, if he’s still alive)

… if you touch tellurium you will smell like rotten garlic for a few weeks?

… arsenic is commonly added to chicken feed (to promote their growth)?

… a chunk of gallium will melt in your hand (you can buy a sample here)?

… a speck of scandium (“the first of the elements you’ve never heard of”) added to aluminum creates a very strong alloy (like the kind used in the Louisville Slugger that was involved in a lawsuit)?

Books that reveal how truly weird our world is are always welcome in my home. This one’s a gem. Read the rest

Apple acquires popular weather app Dark Sky and will shut down the Android version

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Image: Dark Sky

Apple has acquired popular weather app Dark Sky and will be shutting down the Dark Sky Android and Wear OS apps in July, Dark Sky announced in a blog post today.

“Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy,” Dark Sky co-founder Adam Grossman writes in the post. “There is no better place to accomplish these goals than at Apple. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach far more people, with far more impact, than we ever could alone.”

There aren’t any changes coming to Dark Sky for iOS “at this time,” and you can still buy it on the App Store right now for $3.99. But you won’t be able to…

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Astonishingly weird video of AI-generated facial expressions mapped to music

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AI artist Mario Klingemann used Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), one of the primary techniques to create deepfake videos, to make this incredible, unsettling, and wonderful video that facial expressions to music. (Song: “Triggernometry” by Kraftamt, 2014). Check out another deepweirdfake from this series below.

(Thanks, Jeff Cross!) Read the rest

Pandemic sourdough: baking this loaf of bread made me so happy

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Read the first post in our series on making your own sourdough starter and bread.

The third loaf of bread with my new-to-the-pandemic sourdough starter was a pleasure to bake.

Putting this loaf of bread together for its bulk rise was done in a pleasant couple minutes pause while preparing dinner for my parents. I have been pretty aggressively on my One Meal A Day diet and enjoying 20-24 hour fasts during the pandemic and thus tend to prepare dinner for the family most nights.

I decided to bake an all King Arthur bread flour loaf of bread this time, but I continued to go with 2 cup sized loaves instead of 4. The starter is behaving like it is on something like a 4-6 hour cycle, so I fed it around 1:30 pm and mixed up the dough around 6:30 pm.

I time it like this so that a) the yeast should be in a place where there are many fresh, new and hungry cells banging about the starter and b) the 12-ish hour bulk rise I give my bread will not need me to wake up earlier than usual. If the dough looks like it needs more time, I give it more time. 18+ hours were not unusual in my old home. I would forget to change the thermostat and at night my kitchen would get too cold. Here I put the rising dough on the closed lid of an indoor bbq, with a potholder as insulation.

The dough was sticky and needed a bit of flour to let me work it. Read the rest

Building 15 fun projects and games is truly Python training, the fun way

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Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out that Python code is baked into virtually every movie, TV show or another piece of content you watch on the platform.

That’s just one example of the pervasiveness of this versatile, powerful, user-friendly language. Right now, you can both learn Python AND create some cool projects and games with the training in the Python 3 Complete Bootcamp Master Course ($10.99, over 90 percent off).

With access to over 370 lectures and more than 30 hours of content, this course demystifies Python at its most practical level by helping you build 15 different projects and games while you learn.

The course teaches basic Python operations through the creation of some simple games, like a dice roll simulator, a hangman game or simple tic-tac-toe. But as students start working through more advanced Python concepts like machine learning and data analysis, the project ratchets up as well.

Before long, you’re building a matchmaker app, a Tamagotchi-style screen pet and even exploring methods for starting your own databases.

By the time you’re creating your own big data analysis project using more than 60 million data points, you’ll have internalized enough Python knowledge to use Python like a pro or even get hired as a Python expert. Read the rest

5 tips for finding and keeping top developer talent

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Whenever talk of the technology skills gap comes up, software developers are likely to be part of the discussion. In fact, people who are experienced at creating and maintaining high-quality business applications are among those most in demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, which is the principal federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, said employment of software developers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2018 to 2028. That’s a much faster rate than the average for all occupations the bureau tracks.

Employment of application developers is projected to grow 26 percent, BLS says, and employment of systems developers is expected to increase by 10 percent. The main reason for the growth in both application developers and systems developers is a large increase in the demand for computer software, according to the report.

To read this article in full, please click here

Cassandra and DataStax: Reunited, and it feels so good

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Apache Cassandra is one of the world’s most popular databases… but for years was plagued by a somewhat fractured community. DataStax, long a driving force within the Cassandra world, at one time seemed to abdicate its leadership role, apparently leaving the project in disarray.

Except that it didn’t. Didn’t leave, that is, and the project wasn’t in disarray. Not really.

Even as DataStax pulled back a bit in response to criticism from the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), companies that depend on Cassandra like Apple and Netflix stepped up to take on more leadership within the Cassandra community. Today, as we near the Cassandra 4.0 release, there’s an argument to be made that the Cassandra code and community are in better shape than they ever have been, with DataStax once again filling an important role for Cassandra.

To read this article in full, please click here

TypeScript 3.9 slashes compile times for packages

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TypeScript 3.9, the next version of the popular typed superset of JavaScript from Microsoft, has arrived as a beta release, with fixes to address extremely poor editing and compilation speeds associated with some packages.

The TypeScript team had observed these performance issues with packages such as material-ui and styled-components. A series of six pull requests, covering operations such as using objects instead of closures for type mappers and optimizing of deferred type references, have resulted in significant reductions of compile times — roughly 40 percent in the case of material-ui, for example.

To read this article in full, please click here

Samsung’s AKG quietly launches noise-cancelling Galaxy Buds Plus rival

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Image: Samsung

AKG, one of Samsung’s many audio brands, has quietly announced its first pair of true wireless earbuds, the AKG N400, via a product page posted on Samsung’s South Korean website. According to TizenHelp, which spotted the page, the earbuds feature noise cancellation, and can run for five hours on a single charge (or six if you turn off ANC). They’re available in black, white, and blue, and also support wireless charging.

It’s an interesting time to launch a new pair of earbuds, especially since Samsung has only just released its own $150 Galaxy Buds Plus true wireless headphones, which it advertises as having sound that’s been tuned by AKG. However, there are a number of differences between the two pairs.

Image; Samsung

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Popular livestreaming software Streamlabs OBS is launching on Mac today

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Streaming is bigger than ever now that staying inside is a requirement; you’ve probably noticed friends start posting links to their newly created Twitch and YouTube channels, and maybe thought to yourself hm, looks fun. If you’re a Mac user and you happen to be interested in livestreaming, I have some good news for you: Streamlabs OBS is launching today (in beta) on macOS.

Streamlabs OBS is the beautifully-designed, closed-source brother of OBS — which stands for Open Broadcaster Software — that was acquired by Logitech for a cool $89 million last September. The free-to-use software is basically a portal to streaming on any service that allows it; it has beautiful overlays and themes that you can use to beautify and customize your…

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Grubhub’s $10 off promo forces restaurants to front the discount costs

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Grub Hub advertisement seen displayed on a smart phone. Grub

Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Grubhub announced last week that, between the hours of 5 to 9 PM, customers could order takeout or delivery through its platform and receive $10 off orders of $30 or more. It sounds like a good deal, until you realize that while Grubhub is promoting the offer on behalf on restaurants, it’s also contractually forcing those business owners to eat the cost of that discount for every eligible order. (Disclosure: my parents are restaurant owners that list their business on Grubhub / Seamless.)

Under Grubhub’s Supper for Support program terms and conditions, the fine print says that while restaurants must opt into the program, they also have to agree to fund the $10 discounts — or roughly 30 percent off the cost of one order if the customer…

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Microsoft’s new scrolling News Bar app brings your PC back to the ‘90s

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Rafael Rivera (Twitter)

Microsoft has created a scrolling news bar app for Windows 10. It sits above the Windows taskbar and provides scrolling 24/7 news from more than 4,500 publications alongside customizable stock information. It’s very similar to scrolling news apps we used to see in the ‘90s for Windows PCs, and it was developed by Microsoft’s internal News team (formerly MSN News).

Microsoft is releasing the News Bar app as a beta for Windows 10 user this week. The settings panel has a fair amount of customization. You can position the bar at the top, bottom, left, or right-hand side of a screen and pick between images or text for news items. It also supports multiple monitors, and can be minimized if it’s distracting. You can’t customize the news,…

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Master & Dynamic truly wireless headphones and Peak Design backpacks are discounted today

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Some days yield more deals than others, and today is one of those days. Starting things off are the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus truly wireless headphones, which are seeing their first big discount at Best Buy. Normally $300, they’re $240. In my review, I enjoyed their noise cancellation effect and fantastic sound performance, and they have a unique look. I considered the high price as one of their biggest weaknesses, especially since the AirPods Pro accomplish similar results for $50 less. But now that price is less of a factor (yet, these are still fairly pricey), they might be worth checking out.

Peak Design’s 20-liter Everyday Backpack might not be the most useful thing to buy during a pandemic, given that most of us are…

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How to send private messages and make calls in Slack

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Illustration by Alex Castro / Th

Slack is a popular workplace instant-messaging tool. But that doesn’t mean it only has to be for work. You can use Slack for whatever you’d like — keeping up with friends, sharing recipes, organizing activities, and so on. Although Slack is largely intended for group collaboration, it also has tools if you just want to chat one-on-one with people.

There are a couple of different ways you can do that:

  • If you’ve recently sent a personal message to someone, you’ll find their name in the sidebar to the left under “Direct messages.” Type your message in the box at the bottom and press enter / return to send.
  • If the name is not in the sidebar, click the + next to “Direct messages.” Type in the name of the person you want to send a message to….

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