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Tag Archives: programming

Tech Will Save Us offers STEM toys you’ll actually use

I hate STEM toys. I have three kids and ultimately every “educational” toy they’ve used – from LittleBits to Nintendo Labo – has ended up in a corner somewhere, ignored for more exciting fare. This happens for a few reasons but the primary one is that the toys require too much attention and have no lasting play value. Given this fact, I thought our species (or at least my kids) would be doomed to Idoicracy-style techno illiteracy. Luckily, a set of toys from the optimistically-named organization Tech Will Save Us , has changed my mind. TWSU toys are nice in that they are at once rugged toys that withstand constant play and electronic devices that can be programmed by a clever eight year old. For example, the $60 Creative Coder is basically a LilyPad device with a USB interface and a block-based programming language that lets you program it. The TWSU website features a number of little programs you can upload to the board including a Pokemon sensor that starts out red and white until you shake the board, activating the sensor and causing the lights to blink. My son loved it and he slept in it, strapping the wearable to his wrist like an Apple Watch. Programming the Creative Coder is very simple. It uses a Scratch -like interface to set colors and activate timers and in a few minutes I was able to make a Ghost Detector that “hunted” for ghosts and then blinked when it found one. I based the idea on an old toy I had in the 1980s called IAN that beeped when it got close to “invisible aliens.” I still remember the excitement I felt walking around in my Grandma’s basement looking for monsters. I think he felt the same excitement. The other toys – including a simple game machine that uses an Arduino and a 9×9 LED display – were similarly interesting

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Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)

There’s no shortage of interesting electronics kits out there to occupy an idle Sunday, but with this one you get a phone out of the bargain. The MakerPhone is a kit looking for funds on Kickstarter that lets you assemble a working mobile phone from a number of boards and pieces, and the end result looks about as wild as you’d expect. For about a hundred bucks, you get a mainboard, casing, LCD, wireless module, processor, and all the other pieces you need to make a basic smartphone. You’re not going to be browsing Instagram on this thing, but you can make calls, send texts, and play Snake. Remember when that was enough? This is purpose-built hardware, of course — you won’t be putting it together cap by cap — but it’s not exactly plug and play, either. You’ll need a soldering iron, snippers, and some Python chops. (Not delicious python meat — Python the programming language.) The MakerPhone microcontroller is Arduino-compatible, so you can tweak and extend it, too. But the creators (who previously shipped a similarly DIY handheld gaming machine) say you don’t need any experience to do this. It takes you through the absolute basics and there are pledge tiers that get you all the tools you’ll need, too. I love the chunky UI, too.

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CBS brings its ad-supported streaming service to Amazon Channels

CBS in the beginning of the year brought its streaming service for cord cutters, CBS All Access, to Amazon’s a la carte TV service, Prime Video Channels . At the time, however, only the higher-priced, $9.99 per month commercial-free subscription was offered to Prime members. At the time, CBS said its $5.99 per month ad-supported tier would arrive in the months ahead. It’s now making good on that promise with the launch of the Limited Commercials plan option on Amazon’s Channels. The expanded availability of the more affordable version of the streaming service could help to boost its numbers, given Amazon’s reported impact on delivering over-the-top subscribers through the Amazon Channels platform. A report from Digiday citing TV network sources even claimed that Amazon can account for anywhere from 25 to 45 percent of a company’s direct-to-consumer subscribers. (An earlier report that Amazon Channels could deliver as many as 55 percent of subscriptions has been disputed by a couple of networks, however. They said it’s a top driver, but that figure was too high.) Regardless, Amazon Channels is one of the only ways to really pick and choose your streaming subscriptions, as most other services are focused on “skinny bundles” where a small number of channels is wrapped up for around $40 per month. CBS today says there are over 2.5 million CBS All Access subscribers, but declined to break out how many of those have come from Amazon. However, around the time of the original announcement in January, the company had also reported having 2 million All Access subscribers. Some portion of that subscriber base likely did come from Amazon, but maybe not as many as would have signed up had the lower-cost subscription been available at launch. CBS recently said it believes it will have 4 million All Access subscribers by next year, and 8 million by 2022. Many of those are drawn in by its flagship program, “Star Trek: Discovery,” whose new season won’t kick off until 2019

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Netflix tests video promos in between episodes, much to viewers’ dislike

Netflix is testing video promos that play in between episodes of shows a viewer is streaming, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. The promos are full-screen videos, personalized to the user, featuring content Netflix would have otherwise suggested elsewhere in its user interface – like on a row of recommendations, for example. The promos also displace the preview information for the next episode being binged, like the title, description, and thumbnail that previously appeared on the right side of the screen. The test was first spotted by Cord Cutters News , following  a Reddit thread filled with complaints . A number of Twitter users are  angrily tweeting about the change, too. (See below examples.) We understand the introduction of promos in between the episodes is not a feature Netflix is rolling out to its subscribers at this time. Instead, it’s one of the hundreds of tests Netflix runs every year, many of which are focused on how to better promote Netflix’s original programming to its customers. This test is currently live for a small percentage of Netflix’s global audience. And unlike some prior tests, the promos may feature any content in Netflix’s catalog – not just its original programming. There is some misinformation about the way the test works out there because of what may be user error on the part of the original Reddit user, or an undocumented bug. Image credit: Reddit user WhyAllTheTrains  via this post The original Reddit post said these new video promos are “unskippable,” noting there’s a Continue button with a countdown timer on it that looks similar to the one you’d see on a YouTube ad. But we understand that the test in question does   allow users to push that Continue button at any time to move forward to the next episode. The promos, in other words, are interruptive, but they are not unskippable. Needless to say, consumer reaction to these promos – which consumers perceive as advertisements – has been fairly critical so far. Netflix is a paid subscription service, not an ad-supported one like Hulu with Limited Commercials.

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Marketers are finding ways to reach children as young as 6 through YouTube influencers, apps, and Snapchat filters, raising concerns of undue…

Abha Bhattarai / Washington Post : Marketers are finding ways to reach children as young as 6 through YouTube influencers, apps, and Snapchat filters, raising concerns of undue influence   —  Nine-year-old Isabella Colello shops for just about everything online.  —  She scrolls through the Amazon app on her phone at least once a day.

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Inside Kim Nilsson’s and other WizSec cofounders’ quest to find Mt. Gox’s hackers, which traced stolen bitcoins to BTC-E and its alleged admin…

Wall Street Journal : Inside Kim Nilsson's and other WizSec cofounders' quest to find Mt. Gox's hackers, which traced stolen bitcoins to BTC-E and its alleged admin Alexander Vinnik   —  Rampant thefts are taking the shine off cryptocurrencies.  After the Mt. Gox debacle, Kim Nilsson decided to fight back.

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A look at Spruce Pine, NC, the obscure Appalachian source of the world’s purest natural quartz used in manufacturing silicon for computer chips (Vince…

Vince Beiser / Wired : A look at Spruce Pine, NC, the obscure Appalachian source of the world's purest natural quartz used in manufacturing silicon for computer chips   —  FRESH FROM CHURCH on a cool, overcast Sunday morning in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Alex Glover slides onto the plastic bench of a McDonald's booth.

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Internet platforms are places of public conversations where society negotiates norms of acceptable behavior; Infowars bans show the process is…

Jeff Jarvis / The Atlantic : Internet platforms are places of public conversations where society negotiates norms of acceptable behavior; Infowars bans show the process is starting to work   —  This post was updated on Friday, August 10 at 7:53 p.m. to reflect the author's role as the founder of a Facebook-funded project.

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Inside Twitter’s Friday meeting where Jack Dorsey and executives discussed Infowars, what "dehumanizing speech" means, and a possible…

New York Times : Inside Twitter's Friday meeting where Jack Dorsey and executives discussed Infowars, what “dehumanizing speech” means, and a possible drafting of new policies   —  SAN FRANCISCO — With his arms folded, Jack Dorsey paced back and forth in a conference room at Twitter's headquarters on Friday afternoon.

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Twitter says it found 7 tweets by Infowars or Alex Jones that broke rules but accounts won’t be suspended; 2 of the now-deleted tweets were made after…

Oliver Darcy / CNNMoney : Twitter says it found 7 tweets by Infowars or Alex Jones that broke rules but accounts won't be suspended; 2 of the now-deleted tweets were made after Dec. 2017   —  Twitter said Friday that the accounts belonging to far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his fringe media organization InfoWars would …

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Sources speculate on Twitter’s reasons for tolerance of Alex Jones including political naiveté, not wanting to appear partisan, and waiting to…

Will Oremus / Slate : Sources speculate on Twitter's reasons for tolerance of Alex Jones including political naiveté, not wanting to appear partisan, and waiting to ban on own terms   —  Jack Dorsey is, by his own admission, “left-leaning.”  So it might seem perplexing that the Twitter CEO has spent …

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Kryptowire research: apps and firmware tweaks that Asus, LG, Essential, and ZTE add to Android phones sold in US come with serious vulnerabilities…

Brian Barrett / Wired : Kryptowire research: apps and firmware tweaks that Asus, LG, Essential, and ZTE add to Android phones sold in US come with serious vulnerabilities   —  SECURITY MELTDOWNS ON your smartphone are often self-inflicted: You clicked the wrong link, or installed the wrong app.

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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile video startup NewTV closes on $1 billion

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new mobile video startup NewTV, now headed by CEO  Meg Whitman , has closed on a billion in new funding in round led by Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the company has confirmed. WndrCo, Katzenberg’s tech and media holding company, officially  announced the round’s close on Tuesday, following last month’s report from CNN which had first leaked the news of the billion-dollar investment. CNN’s report had attributed the funding to investors like Disney, 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros, Entertainment One and other media companies, noting they had put in a combined $200 million. The company has now confirmed the investor lineup includes Hollywood studios 21st Century Fox, Disney, Entertainment One, ITV, Lionsgate, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom, and Warner Media. On the technology side, it say Alibaba is invested. In addition, the round was led by strategic partners The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Liberty Global, and VC firm Madrone Capital. “More so than ever, people want easy access to the highest quality entertainment that fits perfectly into their busy, on-the-go lifestyles,” said Meg Whitman, CEO of NewTV, in a statement. “With NewTV, we’ll give consumers a user-friendly platform, built for mobile, that delivers the best stories, created by the world’s top talent, allowing users to make the most of every moment of their day.” NewTV had not shared much detail about its ambitions ahead of this fundraise, beyond its bigger goal of reinventing TV for the mobile era. Specifically, it’s interested in taking the sort of quality programming you’d find on a service like Netflix, broken up into smaller, bite-sized videos of 10 minutes or less – designed specifically for mobile viewing. In an interview with Variety , the company has now disclosed that NewTV will launch later in 2019 with a premium lineup of original, short-form series where each episode is 10 minutes long. The service will include both an ad-supported tier and an commercial-free plan, similar to Hulu. Its original content will include both scripted and unscripted shows, like sitcoms, dramas, reality shows, and documentaries, but not live TV like you’d find on Sling TV or YouTube TV, for example. NewTV will partner with producers to license their programming, but it won’t own or produce shows itself. Katzenberg also positioned NewTV – which the company says is only the “working title” for now – as something that’s not a direct competitor with Netflix, Hulu, or HBO, but is rather “a different use case.” As he told Variety, the difference isn’t just the length of the content, but that the NewTV platform itself will be built from scratch for the mobile viewing experience. In terms of distribution, NewTV will look to telco partnerships.

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TV Time debuts an analytics platform for the streaming era

TV Time , the consumer app that helps bingers keep track of where they are with favorite shows and socialize with fellow viewers, is today expanding its business with the launch of an analytics platform called  TVLytics.  The new service will allow creators and distributors to tap into real-time data from across more than 60,000 TV shows. It will also offer other anonymized data collected from viewers, including things like on which platforms viewers watched, their favorite characters, bingeing behavior, viewers’ locations, anticipation from fans for new episodes, social engagement and more. The data is pulled from the app’s community of around a million daily users  from more than 200 countries who check in with the app some 45 million times per month. To date, TV Time has tracked more than 10 billion TV episodes, and has seen 210 million reactions. TV Time began its life as a source for TV show GIFs known as WhipClip , but later pivoted to a social TV community after acquiring TVShow Time in December 2016. This proved to be a smart move on its part, as the company has grown to 12 million registered users (and growing). The app’s core functionality is focused on offering TV viewers a place where they can follow shows and mark off the ones they’ve watched — something that’s especially helpful in the streaming era where people are often hopping from one binge-watching session to another, then back again, or are watching multiple series at once and need to remember where they left off. In addition to being a utility for tracking shows, the app offers a community section for each episode where fans can post photos, videos, GIFs and memes, as well as like and comment on the content others share. Viewers can even leave video reactions about each episode, in a format similar to the “Stories” found on apps like Instagram or Snapchat. TV Time also interjects questions of its own — asking about your reaction (good, funny, wow, sad, etc.), favorite character, device watched on and more. And it inserts its own polls in the middle of the fan discussion page, which ask about pivotal moments from the episode and what people thought. With the launch of analytics, TV Time aims to make use of all this data by offering it to clients in the TV industry who are looking for more comprehensive viewership data for planning purposes. Of course, TV Time’s data is not a Nielsen equivalent — it’s user-generated and self-reported. That means it’s not going to be able to tell content creators, networks, distributors and other clients how many people are watching a show exactly

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