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Interesting snippets from around the globe

Facebook turns 12

12 years ago on 4 February 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, and since then the site has grown at a nearly unbelievable pace. Now, with about 1.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook makes an average of $US3.73 in revenue per user worldwide. By market capitalisation, each of those users is worth more than $US200 in value.

And as the company continues to grow, it seems engagement or ‘stickiness’ is growing too. The number and percentage of daily active users (DAUs) is going up.

According to an analysis by CNBC, users spend an aggregate of 10.5 billion minutes per day on the social media platform which equates to about $US3.5 trillion (~$NZ6 trillion) in squandered productivity, by their estimate.

Facebook also claims that the average two users are now just 3.57 degrees of separation away from each other, down from 3.74 degrees away in 2011.

(Mar ‘16)


Computer Science a graduation requirement in Chicago

Following a unanimous vote by the Chicago Public School Board of Education, computer science will become a graduation requirement for all high school students in what is the U.S.’s third largest school district.

Starting with next school year’s class of freshmen (who will graduate in 2020), students in Chicago Public Schools will be required to complete curriculum around computer science before graduating.

Currently, computer science is only offered in 25% of schools across the U.S. In Chicago, 107 schools have implemented CS curriculum, 41 of which are high schools.

Nationwide, President Obama currently has a $US4 billion proposal on the table to bring computer science education to all publicly funded schools across the nation. 

(Mar ‘16)


Airbnb’s most popular rental ever

This rental is so popular that even the owner’s children have to make a reservation.

For $US110 ($NZ160) a night, you and two friends can cram yourselves into a tiny geodesic dome loft surrounded by redwoods in the Monterey Bay area of California. Known as the “mushroom dome”, the compact dwelling features such amenities as an upstairs bedroom with a double bed, a futon, a small kitchen, and a composting toilet.

The cabin was first conceived by the owners as a DIY space for a newly homeless friend. Later it became one of the first Airbnb rentals outside of New York or San Francisco.

If you want to stay, you’d better get on to it and make a reservation, like, now. The waitlist is several months long, with only three vacant nights last year.

(Mar ‘16)


A website that simulates dyslexia

Most people are familiar with dyslexia – the learning disability that affects the way the brain processes written (or sometimes spoken) words. But, unless you have the condition, it is hard to imagine what dyslexia is really like.

In an attempt to bridge this gap, a website has been created which simulates how dyslexia can impact reading for some people.

Since dyslexia can manifest itself in a variety of ways, this website only attempts to demonstrate letters “jumping around”. Some readers see words or letters that appear incomplete, backwards or upside-down, others may have trouble differentiating certain letters.

It is worth having a look at the first link below to better understand the difficulties that dyslexia sufferers have.

(Mar ‘16)


Searching for a part?

We’ve all had a crisis at home or with a car where you only needed one weird, tiny screw to fix the problem. You bring the part to a store and stand in line only to discover the part isn’t in stock. So they order it in, and the part that arrives maybe a week later is the wrong one. Then the whole process starts over again.

Logically then, there’s a new start-up to help move the parts-finding world into the 21st century with a visual search tool for finding replacement parts. It’s called PartPic.

Using its very own image-recognition software, PartPic works with suppliers to not only digitise their catalogues, but make all the parts inside searchable to customers using smartphones. With the system, instead of trying to find a match in a phonebook-thick parts catalogue, you just take a couple of pictures of the part with your smartphone and run a search. PartPic’s software will match your photo with the supplier’s photo to find the part you need.

While the software is still in beta, PartPic claims its algorithms are currently correct about 80% of the time with the first match.

(Mar ‘16)


A 20 billion pixel photo of NYC


The Big Apple is a big city and feels even bigger through the lens of Jeffrey Martin’s full-frame 50MP camera. This magnificent 360-degree panoramic photo of New York he created was assembled from multiple handheld shots. The final image measures a staggering 203,200 by 101,600 pixels in size, or just over 20 gigapixels.

If you live in New York, there’s probably a good chance you can see your house or apartment when zooming in on the interactive version of this photo at the website 360cities.

You could also just print it, but as Jeffrey points out, at a standard resolution of 300 dpi the single photo would end up being 17.5m wide by 8.5m tall.

(Mar ‘16)


The Princeton Bitcoin Book

The Princeton Bitcoin Book by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller and Steven Goldfeder is a free download and, at over 300 pages, is intended for people "looking to truly understand how Bitcoin works at a technical level and have a basic familiarity with computer science and programming.”

Princeton University Press will be publishing the official, peer-reviewed, polished, paper version of this book in a few months.

If you’re an instructor or lecturer looking to use the book in your classes, the authors welcome you to contact them (second link) saying they’d be happy to share additional teaching materials with you.

(Mar ‘16)

Back to top


Pay a stranger to end your relationship.

The prices, it should be said, appear to be reasonable.

For $US10, you can buy a text sent to your significant other informing him or her of the cessation of your affection. For the same amount, you can buy an email version of that note.

For slightly more – $US20 – you can buy, if you are feeling traditional about it, an actual snail mail letter announcing the breakup. But, if you want it customised, that will cost you a little more - $US30 for a letter that features names, explanations, and other details that will help to drive home the facts that 1) this is over, and 2) this is not a joke.

These breakup offerings are offered by the new service in the U.S. called The Breakup Shop.

The items for sale on the site, however, include not just writing-based notices. If you’re feeling like your text and/or email and/or letter might leave room for misunderstanding or confusion on the part of the recipient, you can even hire a breakup phone call, placed at the time of your choosing. (It’ll cost you $US29, with prices increasing for rushed orders.)

Whatever happened to human decency?

(Nov’ 15)


Hire a hacker

Hacker's List, a website that offers to connect customers and "professional" hackers for hire, would have you believe that just about everyone, at one point or another, needs to hack into something. And it wants to help.

The website — which shows listings as far back as November 2014, when it launched — includes more than 400 posts from users seeking hackers. There are around 70 hacker profiles displayed on the site.

"Hiring a hacker shouldn't be a difficult process, we believe that finding a trustworthy professional hacker for hire should be a worry free and painless experience," according to the website.

Hacking is no longer considered a task only reserved for high-stakes situations, like international espionage or for large enterprises like the infamous Sony Pictures hacking. Many of the “projects” are more mundane.

If someone suspects a spouse is cheating, a user could post an anonymous listing on Hacker's List, name a price and the right person could gain access to a significant other's social media accounts.

There are listings for a variety of activities from breaking into iPhones to tampering with academic marks.

Once a user posts a job, hackers will respond with ideas for how to accomplish the task. After that, the person doing the hiring picks a hacker, based on price and availability. When pricing is agreed upon, the first payment is made. (Hacker's List claims it holds all payments in escrow until the project is complete.)

Hacker’s List even has a Facebook page which has (when I looked) 1,702 “Likes”.

Is this even legal?

(Nov’ 15)


NASA’s Apollo missions on Flickr

Over the past few months, NASA has been releasing a mountain of images of Pluto and if you thought those were captivating, wait until you see what else has been released onto the Web.

Earlier this month, “Project Apollo Archive” was launched on Flickr with more than 8,400 high-res images from NASA’s missions to the moon.

While the photos start at Apollo 7, they include hundreds of photos from the from historic, first landing of Apollo 11 up to and including the last mission, Apollo 17 in 1972.

In 2004, the Johnson Space Center began re-scanning the original Apollo Hasselblad camera film magazines and the uncompressed, high-resolution TIFF versions of these new scans were loaded on DVD. The images were then adjusted for colour and brightness and reduced in size to about 1,000 dpi for these high-res versions.

The results are breath-taking… and you can download the images if you are in need of new wallpaper.

(Nov’ 15)


iOS app will pick you a Bentley

Bentley has released an iOS app, the Bentley Inspirator, to help you choose the perfect, ridiculously expensive automobile. When you are spoiled for choice, sometimes making decisions can be a little difficult.

So, if you are in the market for a Bentley Bentayga (the only model in the app), the Inspirator could be of enormous assistance to get the car that’s right for you.

According to the Bentley website, the app hijacks your iPhone or iPad’s camera and:
Using our emotional recognition technology, The Inspirator analyses subtle, muscular micro-shifts and correlates them with complex emotional and cognitive states. This allows us to see what resonates with you, and curate a Bentley that’s as individual as you are.

Now that I have had the perfect car curated, all I need to do is find the cash to buy it.

By the way, the app is free.

(Nov’ 15)


Alphabet’s $US5.099bn share buyback

Alphabet, Google’s holding company, has announced a whopping $US5.1 billion share buyback. It’s the first time in the company’s 11-year history as a publicly traded company that money has been returned to shareholders.

In fact, the board of directors has authorised the company to “repurchase up to $5,099,019,513.59 of its Company’s Class C capital stock” according to the press release. Why the odd number?

It so happens that this is the square-root of 26 which not-so-coincidentally is the number of letters in the alphabet.

How very Google.

(Nov’ 15)


A dating app for bacon lovers

Oscar Mayer, an American processed meat company, has released a bacon-themed Tinder-style dating app, so people can bond over their love of fried pig.

Most people seem to really like bacon and since Internet dating is also popular, some genius has decided to merge the two into the bacon-themed dating app.

Because the main issue with Tinder is obviously the lack of food chat, the company has released an iOS app called Sizzl. Now, people who struggle to make conversation can exchange a few words about their love of bacon.

Instead of swiping left or right like on Tinder, you press and hold on the screen with the pic of your heart’s desire. The Sizzl-meter will then rise higher the longer you press down. If two people “sizzle” each other at a similar level, they’ll be matched.

Then presumably, their common love of sizzling fat will cause them to fall madly in love and live happily ever after.

The app is only available for iPhone.

(Nov’ 15)



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