Monday, June 29, 2015

Markets Brace for ‘Leap Second’   


Bob Ivry and Yuji Nakamura writing for Bloomberg:

Since 1967, when clocks went atomic, human timekeeping has been independent of the earth’s rotation. The problem is, the planet is slowing down and clocks are not. So every few years, to get everything back in sync, scientists add a second. They’ve done it 25 times since 1972. The last time was 2012, but that was on a weekend. June 30 will be the first leap second during trading hours since markets went electronic.

Anyone that’s had to deal with the nuances of dates or times knows just how complicated horology and chronometry are. Take for example the algorithm for determining leap years – there’s more to it than just adding an extra day to the calendar every four years. With intricacies like daylight savings, leap seconds, and time zones, it’s surprising that we don’t run into serious issues more often. What will you be doing with your extra second on June 30?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

London’s Cereal Cafe   


Anucyia Victor writing for the Daily Mail Online:

With 120 cereals, 20 types of toppings and 12 varieties of milk, self-confessed cereal obsessives Alan and Gary Keery have taken their love of the breakfast staple to new heights with UK’s first cereal cafe. […]

Cereals are sourced from America, South Africa, France, Australia, South Korea as well as the UK and will be served alongside 13 varieties of milk as well as 20 types of topping.

Forget fish and chips – this is at the top of my list the next time I’m in London.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adobe Updates Lightroom   



Adobe today announced a major update to its Creative Cloud Photography plan with the release of an all-new Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC that delivers lightning-fast performance and new tools to edit, enhance, organize and showcase beautiful photos. With Lightroom CC and the legendary magic of Photoshop CC, Adobe Creative Cloud Photography empowers photographers to transform photos into amazing shots. Creative Cloud Photography also includes unique sophisticated mobile capabilities: automatically syncing photos with Lightroom CC on the desktop, Lightroom on mobile devices lets users access and edit their entire catalog of photos on iPad, iPhone as well as Android smartphones and tablets.


New features in this release include:

  • HDR Merge –- Create natural-looking or surreal images from extremely high-contrast scenes by easily combining multiple shots taken with different exposure settings into a single raw high dynamic range image.
  • Panorama Merge — Capture super wide fields of view and amazing detail by stitching together multiple images to create stunning raw panorama shots.
  • Performance Improvement & GPU Enhancements — Perfect photos up to 10 times faster than ever.
  • Facial Recognition — Quickly find and categorize images of family and friends.

With the death of Aperture and the disappointing lack of pro features in its ‘Photos for OS X’ successor, I’ve decided to make the switch to Adobe Lightroom. Moving an existing library of 28,000 digital photographs – 2,500 of which had adjustments applied – is a tedious and frustrating process, but I’m hopeful that it will be a worthwhile annoyance. In the little time I’ve spent with Lightroom it feels superior to Aperture in every possible way and the new features announced this past week will only help to improve the experience.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Brewing Problem   


James Hamblin, writing for The Atlantic:

In 2010, journalist and caffeine aficionado Murray Carpenter visited the Keurig facilities in Waterbury, Vermont, reporting for The New York Times that the K-Cup idea posed environmental concerns, as the pods were not recyclable or biodegradable. It was that same year that the Keurig model seemed to take off, doubling in sales. In a 2011 local-boys-make-it-big story in the Boston Globe magazine, Eric Anderson, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University, likewise noted that the coffee machines could invite significant backlash because they “generate a ton of plastic waste.”

At the time of Carpenter’s visit, Keurig was on pace to sell three million K-Cups. So to say that growth has been good since then is understatement; last year they topped 9 billion. But today the cups are still not recyclable or biodegradable.

Unfortunately, convenience and waste tend to be positively correlated. Disposable diapers, plastic water bottles, and increasingly single-serving beverages.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The ugly afterlife of crowdfunding projects that never ship and never end   


Casey Johnston writing for Ars Technica:

The public life-cycle of a Kickstarter rarely ends in tragedy. Often, if a Kickstarter manages to get covered by the media before its funding round end, or even starts, it can meet its goal within days, and superfluous funds continue to roll in over the next few weeks. By the time its crowdfunding stage closes, the creators, backers, and media alike are excited and proud to have ushered this new project so quickly to a place of prosperity, eager for it to continue to grow.

Plenty of projects manage to deliver the goods, even if the timeline slides a bit. That was the case with Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter game Broken Age. If creators miss deadlines, backers typically continue to receive updates via e-mail and the Kickstarter page. But sometimes the end of funding is the beginning of a slide into radio silence, which ultimately turns into few or no backer orders fulfilled, and no satisfactory explanation for why the project didn’t pan out according to the orderly delivery schedule the creators promised.

Fix the Home and End keys on Mac OS X   


Matthew Holt:

If you use a keyboard that’s not designed specifically for Macs, you probably are familiar with the annoying mapping of the Home and End keys: they scroll to the beginning or end of an entire document, with no regard to the cursor’s location.

Fortunately it’s an easy fix.

After purchasing a new Mac, this was one of the first tweaks I made.

A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge   


Steven Levy, republishing a piece he originally wrote for the November 1984 issue of Harper’s:

The problem with ledger sheets was that if one monthly expense went up or down, everything – everything – had to be recalculated. It was a tedious task, and few people who earned their MBAs at Harvard expected to work with spreadsheets very much. Making spreadsheets, however necessary, was a dull chore best left to accountants, junior analysts, or secretaries. As for sophisticated “modeling” tasks – which, among other things, enable executives to project costs for their companies – these tasks could be done only on big mainframe computers by the data-processing people who worked for the companies Harvard MBAs managed.

Bricklin knew all this, but he also knew that spreadsheets were needed for the exercise; he wanted an easier way to do them. It occurred to him: why not create the spreadsheets on a microcomputer?

I can’t think of another invention that has done more for office worker productivity in the last half-century. With a few key presses, I can accomplish in a matter of minutes what would take an entire department weeks to accomplish in the late 1970s. And yet, it’s quite amazing how little the ‘electronic spreadsheet’ has changed over the years, with the main interface – a simple grid of rows and columns – essentially unchanged.

(Via Planet Money)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide   


Sean Fine, reporting for The Globe and Mail:

Canadian adults in grievous, unending pain have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The unanimous ruling, by establishing that the “sanctity of life” also includes the “passage into death,” extends constitutional rights into a new realm. The courts have used the 1982 Charter of Rights to establish gay marriage and to strike down a federal abortion law. The new ruling will change the way some Canadians are permitted to die.

I could express my reasons for supporting doctor-assisted suicide, but I think the opening paragraph of Court’s ruling says it best:

It is a crime in Canada to assist another person in ending her own life. As a result, people who are grievously and irremediably ill cannot seek a physician’s assistance in dying and may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering. A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.

First look: Photos for OS X   


Christopher Breen, writing for Macworld:

Last June, Apple announced that it would stop development of its Aperture and iPhoto apps and offer a single photo app in their place—Photos for OS X. Today, developers are getting their first glimpse of Photos, as it’s bundled with the beta version of OS X 10.10.3.

Providing many of the features found in its mobile sibling, the Yosemite-only Photos for OS X offers an interface less cluttered than iPhoto, improved navigation, simpler yet more powerful editing tools, the ability to sync all your images to iCloud (though it doesn’t require you to), and new options for creating books, cards, slideshows, calendars, and prints. I’ve had the opportunity to take an early look at Photos, and this is what I’ve found.

There are several early reviews of Photos for OS X but I found this one the most detailed and informative. Sounds like Photos will be a decent upgrade for those migrating from iPhoto but will certainly be a step down for Aperture users. It isn’t nearly as bad as I feared, nor is it anywhere near what I hoped for. Ideally some additional features – geotagging, star ratings, and stacks to name a few – will find their way into the app before it officially launches. I’d also like to hear that extensions – third-party add-ons available for the iOS version of Photos – will also be available on the Mac.