SAMBA versus SMB: Adversarial interoperability is judo for network effects

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Before there was Big Tech, there was “adversarial interoperability“: when someone decides to compete with a dominant company by creating a product or service that “interoperates” (works with) its offerings.

In tech, “network effects” can be a powerful force to maintain market dominance: if everyone is using Facebook, then your Facebook replacement doesn’t just have to be better than Facebook, it has to be so much better than Facebook that it’s worth using, even though all the people you want to talk to are still on Facebook. That’s a tall order.

Adversarial interoperability is judo for network effects, using incumbents’ dominance against them. To see how that works, let’s look at a historical example of adversarial interoperability role in helping to unseat a monopolist’s dominance.

The first skirmishes of the PC wars were fought with incompatible file formats and even data-storage formats: Apple users couldn’t open files made by Microsoft users, and vice-versa. Even when file formats were (more or less) harmonized, there was still the problems of storage media: the SCSI drive you plugged into your Mac needed a special add-on and flaky driver software to work on your Windows machine; the ZIP cartridge you formatted for your PC wouldn’t play nice with Macs.

But as office networking spread, the battle moved to a new front: networking compatibility. AppleTalk, Apple’s proprietary protocol for connecting up Macs and networked devices like printers, pretty much Just Worked, providing you were using a Mac. If you were using a Windows PC, you had to install special, buggy, unreliable software. Read the rest

DoNotPay’s latest service will auto-cancel your free trials before the billing period starts

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DoNotPay (previously) is a collection of consumer-advocacy tools automated the process of fighting traffic tickets, help homeless people claim benefits, sue Equifax for leaking all your financial data, navigating the airlines’ deliberately confusing process for getting refunds on plane tickets whose prices drop after you buy them, and filing small-claims suits against crooked corporations.

The service was created by Joshua Browder, a British hacker who moved to the USA to pursue a Stanford computer science degree and who funds operations with a mix of venture capital and cash donations.

His latest feature is the “Free Trial Card” — a virtual credit card that you use to anonymously sign up for services’ free trials, using any name and email. When the trial period ends, any attempts to charge the card fail, freeing you from going through the onerous process of cancelling (newspaper paywalls are among the worst for this: the Wall Street Journal lets you create a trial account in seconds with your browser at any time of night or day, but requires you to wait three business days and call a toll number during business hours to cancel the trial, and when you do, you’re met with a high-pressure sales-pitch from the person who processes the cancellation).

If you want to continue to use the service after the free trial, fear not: the app automatically emails you when your free trial is about to expire so you can put down a real card to pay for ongoing access. Read the rest

Great deal on the Kano Raspberry Pi computer kit

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I have a Kano computer and they are a lot of fun, and actually can be used as an everyday computer, if you aren’t looking for blazing speed. It comes with a wireless keyboard/trackpad, a Raspberry Pi 3 (with Wifi and Bluetooth built-in), speaker and amp, a microSD card with Kano’s custom Linux OS, a case, and all the cables you need. The only thing it needs is an HDMI monitor. It comes with a lot of excellent custom software, including apps that teach you how to program in Python. Amazon is selling it for , which is less than you’ll pay if you buy the components individually. Read the rest

When you use FaceApp, you give a Russian company “perpetual, irrevocable” rights to your photos

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FaceApp is a wildly popular smartphone app that alters people’s faces with various filters. Its most popular filter is one that ages the person in the photo. It turns out when you upload your photos to FaceApp, the Russian company that made the app gets a perpetual license to your photos. In other words, your photo could end up on a billboard or online advertisement for any imaginable product or service and you can’t do anything about it.

From Fox 29:

Small business lawyer Elizabeth Potts Weinstein tweeted out the “User Content” section of FaceApp’s terms, saying “if you use #FaceApp you are giving them a license to use your photos, your name, your username and your likeness for any purpose including commercial purposes (like on a billboard or internet ad).”

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate… distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content,” the FaceApp terms read.

(Image: Adam J. Manley, CC-BY,
modified (cropping)
) Read the rest

Five cool mechanisms made from simple materials

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The Q makes whimsical mechanisms mainly from wood and cardboard, using basic hand tools. In this video, he shows how he made a “fully working gearbox made out of cardboard, Rock ’em Sock ’em board game, a skateboard from newspapers, incredible miniature railway with train track changes, and, last but not least, a semi-auto coin sorting machine from plywood!”

<em>Image: YouTube/The Q</em> Read the rest

‘Station Eleven’ is a haunting tale of the apocalypse

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I was attracted to Station Eleven by the short description,it smacked of Commedia dell’arte: a post-apocalyptic tale of new-troubadours desperate to keep music and performance alive in a time of death. I was captivated, however, by the author’s format in story telling.

Emily St. John Mandel starts this book off like almost any other book about the apocalypse. People are doing things so high-up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to demonstrate how far or bad they are about to fall. The book opens in a theater, where stuff happens. Shortly thereafter humanity loses its shit.

Years after the collapse, we meet the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and a troupe of Shakespearian actors who merged and travel the north-central former United States and Canada, entertaining folks. Star Trek gave a member of the Symphony the quotation “Because survival is insufficient.” and it has become their guiding light. Life on the road is very hard, but it is their life.

The book temporally jumps all over the place, telling the life story of a famous Hollywood actor who died the night before the world fell apart, and following some key players in his life through their experience of the new world order. The jumps are connected, but disjointed. The story is touching, occasionally heart-rending, and utterly meaningless to the destiny of the folks who survive the actor. The interactions with him helped make them who they are, they may inform some decision-making, and perhaps even scarred one or two for life, but they mostly serve to show how everyone’s concerns about everything beyond survival are either immaterial or amazingly important. Read the rest

#Vanlife: Camping California’s coast — Morro Strand

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This is the first in a series of reviews of Federal, State and County provided campsites along California’s amazing coastline.

I started my summer of #vanlife at the Californa State Park campsite of Morro Strand. It was pretty depressing to sit there, but you can leave and see wonderful things.

Morro Strand is a cement parking lot next to the beach along California’s beautiful central coast. You can see Morro Rock, and easily drive to San Simeon, Cambria, Los Oso or Montaña de Oro. Hearst Castle is also close by.

The campsite has solid support by rangers, the camp host is very nice. There is no shade at most of the campsite. State-provided wifi is sufficient and will allow you to run a VPN. The site is so nestled into a residential area along the coast that it appears pizza and other forms of local food delivery are available to campers.

There is drinking water available and there are restrooms, however no showers! If you’d like to shower however, you are allowed to take your camping pass and drive to Morro Bay State Park and use theirs. The showers at the Morro Bay Campground have long been amongst the best in the Californa system.

Morro Bay was so crowded in late June, however, it looked like a refugee camp.

Morro Strand was mostly RV campers, and mostly groups of 2-3 campers who situated next to one another and were throwing multi-day beach parties. The camphost and rangers kept things well under control and things were always family friend, clean and relatively quiet. Read the rest

Taika Waititi’s directing Thor 4!

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Thor: Ragnarok was, by one million miles (or parsecs, if you will) one of the most delightful surprises in a decade of superhero flicks. Much of the film’s charm was arguably due to the joy that Taika Waititi brings to every project he’s associated with. Good news everybody: he’s coming back for Thor 4!

From Gizmodo:

Thor will be back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Taika Waititi will once again be steering the ship.

The Hollywood Reporter says that the Thor: Ragnarok director has signed on to direct a fourth Thor movie. He’ll also write, according to EW. This happened after some issues arose with what was expected to be his next film, Akira, which is now going to be delayed.

Yeah, the rear end of the good news is that Waititi’s on-again-off-again push to make a live-action version of Akira is going to have to wait a little while longer. That sucks but hey: more Korg, more Hemsworth, more Waititi! I suppose it stands to reason that they’d let him take a crack at the sequel. the film, which had a budget of $180 million, made $853,977,126 in theaters, worldwide

io9 has to say the delay could might be caused by the timing of Thor: Ragnarok (ironic) and issues with Akira‘s script. What’ll happen to Waititi’s Akira remains to be seen. However, I’d love to see it made. I might not be a huge Akira fan, but I’d be moderately enthused to see it made, because WAITITI! Read the rest

Spend a “bunderful” night in the Wienermobile through Airbnb

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Hot dog! First, Hearst Castle made it possible for everyday folks to swim in their pools (as a fundraiser). Now, Oscar Mayer has turned one of their Wienermobiles into a rentable RV of sorts. AlexanDog + Jake N’ Bacon, two Chicago area Hotdoggers (that’s what the drivers of these iconic hot dogs on wheels are called), have listed their one-bedroom Wienermobile on Airbnb.
And, starting on July 24, you can rent the darn thing for $136/night:

Housed inside an authentic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, this cozy space for two is located in Chicagoland. Complete with a bed for dreaming of wienies, sitting area for discussing at length whether a hot dog is a sandwich (spoiler alert – it is!) and other amenities like adjacent outdoor spaces for the bathroom and a hot dog picnic zone, this hot dog paradise is the ideal respite for two music lovers in town for the festival weekend… or just those who relish a good story.

Amenities include a mini fridge stocked with Oscar Mayer hot dogs and all the Chicago-style hot dog essentials, an Oscar Mayer roller grill to take home, an outdoor space for comfortable hot dog eating and a custom Wienermobile art piece by local artist Laura Kiro. And to help you celebrate your love of hot dogs during your visit, each guest also will receive a welcome kit, complete with all the hot dog-inspired accessories you could want after a music-filled, festival day.

It sleeps two non-smoking adults (on a sofa bed) and breakfast is included. Read the rest

Over those AirPods? Here are 10 pairs of earbuds that bring the noise

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They might be the shiny new thing, but AirPods aren’t for everybody. Maybe you’re looking for a new sound or you understandably lost those tiny buds during a brisk run. If so, here’s 10 headphones and earbuds that break out of the Apple mode with a return to quality and wearability.

Klipsch R5 Bluetooth Neckband In-Ear Headphones

The Bluetooth 4.2 aptX audio is top-notch, but these earbuds are all about the comfort with four different types of ear tips, including the super-secure Comply Comfort Ts-100s. Pick up the Klipsch R5 Bluetooth Neckband In-Ear Headphones for $66.95, a full 43% off the list price.

TRNDlabs Ventura Wireless Headphones

The 40 mm drivers on these headphones deliver a big sound, and you’ll be able to blaze through multiple playlists with up to 10 hours of battery life. Grab a set of TRNDlabs Ventura Wireless Headphones for $34.99, down 64% from the original price.

360 5.1 Virtual Surround Sound Earbuds

With infrasonic frequencies in the back cavity, these headphones replicate the seat-rattling feel of a subwoofer in a tiny package. Perfect for gaming, these 360 5.1 Virtual Surround Sound Earbuds are $72, more than half off the MSRP.

Culture Audio V1 Noise-Cancellation Bluetooth Headphones

The AptX and AAC low latency tech in the V1s filter out surrounding noise for a fully immersive experience. But if you absolutely must get back to the real world, a built-in sensor automatically pauses the music when you remove the headphones. The Culture Audio V1 Noise-Cancellation Bluetooth Headphones are now $135, more than 30% off the original cost of $200. Read the rest

Scan of a 1921 book about insectsP

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Public Domain Review calls our attention to the gorgeously illustrated 1921 Fabre’s Book of Insects.

Like Jacques Cousteau in the twentieth century, Fabre’s greatest accomplishment was perhaps to have brought out the beauty and drama in the lives of creatures that had hitherto been regarded with horror, if regarded at all. He turned his attention not just to bees, whose praises have of course been sung since the classical era, but to wasps, weevils, ants, glow-worms, caterpillars, and cicadas. He also sometimes wrote about wild flora and fauna, and in one rare chapter about his cats — all in prose characterized, a little like Cousteau’s, by a well-informed wonder at the natural world, appealing to both children and adults:

Few insects enjoy more fame than the Glow-worm, the curious little animal who celebrates the joy of life by lighting a lantern at its tail-end. We all know it, at least by name, even if we have not seen it roaming through the grass, like a spark fallen from the full moon. The Greeks of old called it the Bright-tailed, and modern science gives it the name Lampyris.

Read the rest

If you are planning on buying a Nintendo Switch, wait until next month for the new model

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Here’s a tip if you’re thinking of getting a Nintendo Switch — skip the current model (HAC-001) and wait for the HAC-001(-01), which offers significantly improved battery life.

From Ars Technica:

Switch model HAC-001-01 will last approximately 4.5 to 9 hours on a single charge, depending on the game being played, according to Nintendo. That’s a 38 to 80 percent increase from the 2.5 to 6.5 hours of the original model HAC-001. For The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo promises an increase from approximately three hours of single-charge play on the old model to approximately 5.5 hours on the new model. For comparison, the Switch Lite will get three to seven hours on a single charge, and it can last four hours on Breath of the Wild, according to Nintendo.

Read the rest

This AI turns your headshot into a portrait painted by a master

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AI Portraits does an amazing job of creating original portraits based on photos of faces. The generative network was trained with 45,000 portrait images.

“Not only colors, but shapes, the lines of the face are completely redesigned by the model. In the above example, the model decides upon a Renaissance style, highlighting the elegance of the aquiline nose, the smoothness of the forehead.”

Notice how the AI didn’t show Isabella Rossellini’s teeth. I tried it with a photo where I’m smiling and got the same result:

According to the folks who made AI Portraits, “Portrait masters rarely paint smiling people because smiles and laughter were commonly associated with a more comic aspect of genre painting, and because the display of such an overt expression as smiling can seem to distort the face of the sitter. This inability of artificial intelligence to reproduce our smiles is teaching us something about the history of art.” Read the rest

The children’s fantasy series currently dominating my family is…

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Pretty much everyone of reading age, from grandparents to 11-year-olds, are reading Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

I think a 13-year-old niece discovered these books and suggested them to my sister. My sister knew I needed a book to co-read with my kid this summer because if I do not discuss books with her chapter-by-chapter she forgets everything she just read. When I told my mother about it she already had it on hold at the library. I am certain my 15-year-old niece read the entire series in about 1 day (eight books) just so she may tell us all the problems with the plot, characters and covers.


Another branch of the family is likely to start on this once my awesome 8-year-old nephew finishes reading the most recent Star Wars: Thrawn books.

Shannon Messenger’s universe is absorbing. My daughter and I were immediately drawn into this reality where elves, goblins, and all sorts of fantasy creature are real. Evidently, ages ago, humans acted like real turds and all the magical folks decided to retreat to their own ‘impossible’ to find cities. Either waiting for a day when humans could be trusted or just sitting around waiting because humans never will be trustworthy, elves seem to spend all their time convincing themselves their dystopian society is a utopia. Unwilling to engage outside their slowly rotting culture, packed with class issues and bitterness, the elves fail to notice BIG TROUBLE is brewing with the humans. Read the rest

The Corridor Crew give The Scorpion King a facelift

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I loved The Mummy back in the day… although it hasn’t held up very well.

If I were home and dying of the flu in bed, I wouldn’t use the last of my strength to get up and change the channel if The Mummy Returns came on, right up to the point where the Scorpion King appears. That’s some fugly VFX work. The folks from Corridor Crew agree. On one of their days off, they decided to do something about it.

Image via YouTube Read the rest

Canada-shaped coin issued by Royal Canadian Mint

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Illustrator Alisha Giroux was drawing the map of Canada “for fun,” when she noticed that its shape aligned with the shape with animals.

CBC News:

She turned Quebec into a snowy owl taking flight, and Ontario into a loon with its wings folded. British Columbia, meanwhile, became a spirit bear.

Giroux decided to design a two-colour version of her map for Canada’s 150th anniversary and posted it online. About a year ago, she received a call from the mint, with an offer to have her design featured on a coin…

The coin also includes Giroux’s initials just below a chickadee representing New Brunswick, something she said “hasn’t quite sunk in.”

The Royal Canadian Mint is now offering this 3 oz. pure silver Canada-shaped coin for $340. It’s guaranteed to never fit in a vending machine.

That’s Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the reverse side of the coin.

(Nag on the Lake) Read the rest

This top-rated password manager helps keeps your logins secure

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When it comes to passwords, there’s no such thing as paranoia. You want them secure and complex, and you definitely don’t want to repeat them on all your accounts. The trouble is, the internet seems to keep growing. And so do those accounts.

Just one lockout from an important email or banking site is enough to make anybody want to throw up their hands and just go back to using their kid’s name and birthday for everything. And that’s exactly what hackers are hoping. While we’re equally leery of a lot of password management software, the Keeper Password Manager is emerging as a super-secure service that also happens to be easy to use.

They’re also passing the smell test with sites like PC Mag (who gave them a five-star rating), not to mention the hundreds of thousands of users on the App Store and Google Play who gave them high marks. Doubtless, part of the reason has to do with the way it streamlines the process of your logins. Keeper can randomly generate rock-solid passwords for any site, then auto-fill them on any form. It can do the same with your credit card and address info, making online checkouts a breeze.

And if all that sounds like a lot of personal info to put in one place, we should mention the real strength of this service: Security. All that data gets digitally encrypted and locked down, accessible with two-factor authentication in your choice of methods: TOTP, Face ID, fingerprint, or U2F security key, just to name a few. Read the rest

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