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    May 17, 2016
    Google Brings You The World’s Best Art

    When I went to Paris in high school, we went to the Louvre.  I say went to, not went inside.  Taking a look at the line to get in, which meant a wait of several hours, and I decided that my time would be better spent elsewhere.  So I believe, if memory serves, that I walked around the city, found a place to have lunch, and took in the actual feel of Paris, rather than waiting in line to walk past the Mona Lisa and not take any pictures of it.  I don’t regret it, because my terrible little 1998 point-and-shoot camera wouldn’t do anything to capture the majesty of a beautiful classic painting, but Google can pick up that mantle and run with it.

    Google is using a gigapixel camera called Art Cam to scan and upload paintings.  These aren’t just high resolution pictures; these are pictures so high resolution that you can see individual brush strokes, the pinpoint dots of pointilism paintings, and the very ridges where paint was applied heavier or lighter.   This robotic camera does all of that automatically, making life a lot easier for art snobs and allowing people to view art’s biggest hits from the privacy of their web browser.

    You can find the 1200 paintings at Google Cultural Institute.

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    May 4, 2016
    Pay Someone To Call Customer Service For You

    There’s nothing worse than having to call customer service.  Every time I have to call, I sit on the phone for an hour, minimum.  That’s if I’m lucky.  Now, if I’m somewhere where I can’t do anything else, then that’s not a huge deal, but I always have stuff that I should be doing otherwise.  I’m definitely not the only person who feels that way.  Indeed, there’s even a service where people will call customer service for you.  GetHuman promises to call customer service on your behalf for a small fee.

    “These customer service procedures have become these long obstacle courses for us,” said GetHuman CEO Christian Allen, GetHuman.  “We avoid them, we procrastinate, and in some cases we don’t do them at all.”

    The service has already helped 10,000 people since it launched, and there are now five full-time workers who do nothing but call customer service for people as a full-time job.  GetHuman charges $5 to $25 per call, and I assume that most of the calls are $25 simply because it usually takes a lot of time to get to a human, no matter what you try to do.  There are other services sprouting up to do the same thing, too; of course, most companies would rather you contact them directly, rather than go through a third party.

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    May 3, 2016
    50% Of Teens Are Hooked On Smartphones

    Good luck getting anyone these days to put down their phone.  If you think adults have it bad, you should see just how bad the teenagers of the smartphone generation have it.  According to a recent survey, 50% of teens say they’re addicted to their smartphones.

    As if that’s not bad enough, here are some other numbers.  Some 59% of parents are worried that their kids will be addicted to smartphones.  When it comes to responding to texts, 72% of all teens feel like they have to respond immediately.  Unsurprisingly, 80% of teens check their phones hourly and 85% of parents say that their teens are distracted by their phones.  I’d imagine that number is only worse than everyone thinks, at least depending on who you survey and how they’re feeling that particular day.

    “The poll paints a changed portrait of family life in 2016” says James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.  “A significant minority of families seems to be truly struggling to integrate mobile technology in a healthy way.  And many concerning behaviors and outcomes are associated with mobile use.  The generational gap revealed in the different behaviors of teens and their parents raises the question of whether we may be too quick to label as ‘addiction’ something that is actually a normal adaptation to rapidly and constantly evolving social norms.”

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    April 20, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: Snapchat Bob Marley Is A Bad Idea

    snapchat-bob-marley

    Image and amazing story via Wired.

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    April 14, 2016
    AMC Considers Allowing Texting In Theaters

    Everyone loves texting, but nobody likes it in the movie theater.  The screens are too bright, people don’t mute their phones, and it’s just a whole lot of annoying.  It’s also happening on a regular basis, and it seems like some movie theater chains are tired of fighting the good fight and are increasingly becoming willing to give up and give in.  The world’s largest movie theater chain might be throwing in the towel.  AMC is considering allowing texting in movie theaters.

    “When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life,” said AMC Ceo Adam Aron in an interview with Variety. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.”

    Rather than allowing people to text on their phones, let’s make it worth their while not to text.  There are already reward programs, like Cinemark Cinemode, that reward people for not using their phones.  Maybe that’s the right step to take, rather than just shrugging and throwing all movie etiquette out the window.

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    March 31, 2016
    FCC Offers Subsidies For Internet Service

    The Internet isn’t an option these days.  You need Internet for pretty much everything, from paying bills to applying for jobs, but if you’re one of the 40 million Americans on Medicare, food stamps, or other federal assistance, sometimes paying for online access comes at the cost of food.  Some 13 million of these Americans on assistance don’t have Internet access.  Fortunately, the FCC is going to make things a little easier.  The FCC is going to offer Americans on assistance an Internet subsidy.

    The subsidy won’t pay for everything.  It’s only $9.25 a month.  However, that can help add data access to an existing phone line, or help make paying the Internet access bill a little bit easier for the working poor.  When you’re stretching every dollar, an extra $9.25 can be really helpful.  The service, called Lifeline, is an expansion of a Reagan-era subsidy program that already helps with the cost of home phones.

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    March 16, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: Space Paddy’s Day

    ireland-iss

    Via Wikipedia

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    March 15, 2016
    Amazon’s Selfie Pay

    selfie

    Passwords can be hacked.  Number codes are even easier to hack.  Fingerprint scanners can be bypassed.  There’s no truly safe way to make online shopping completely free from risk, but Amazon is trying.  After all, they’re the largest retailer in the online world, so it makes sense that they’ll ant to be at the head of the class when it comes to payment processing safety, and that just might mean duckfacing in public.  Amazon has applied for a patent that allows users to pay with a selfie as identification.

    Here’s why Amazon says their selfie payment system will be safe:  “While many conventional approaches rely on password entry for user authentication, these passwords can be stolen or discovered by other persons who can impersonate the user for any variety of tasks. Further, the entry of these passwords on portable devices is not user friendly in many cases, as the small touchscreen or keyboard elements can be difficult to accurately select using a relatively large human finger, and can require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations.”

    As if that wasn’t safe enough, Amazon has an extra layer of protection: a randomly generated verification process that keeps users safe by making them do some action, like tilting their head or winking their left eye.  It also has a thermal imaging scanner, which makes it even harder to fake with a picture the kind of heat contour that comes off a real human face.

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    February 24, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: No Thanks

    facebook-memories

    Via Reddit

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    February 17, 2016
    Wordless Wednesday: James Bond’s Electric Car

    electric-aston-martin

    Via USA Today

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