11 extinct (or going) sounds

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Aw, why’d you trash that? You could gut it and install a computer in there more powerful than all of Bletchley Park (bonus if you make the rotary the numpad). (img by inoneear)

Who knew that some noises could eventually become as extinct as the passenger pigeon? Depending on your age, you or your kids or grandchildren may have only heard some of the following sounds in old movies, if at all.

One of the sounds that is on the chopping block is the coffee percolator. As someone who actually enjoys the beverage and is willing to source quality brew in and out of the home that’s sort of a good riddance.

Of course, some of the diminishing tech here is probably a sign of hard things to come. My mom typed 110 words per minute on a manual typewriter. Gave her Hulk hands like you wouldn’t believe. One time she slapped a dog in half.

Hear ‘em all: 11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard.

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The RIAA claims LimeWire owes them more money than in all existence

Not Sure If Art Or Copyright Infringement The RIAA claims LimeWire owes them more money than in all existence

Think about this the next time you steal a single or literally nuke Western Europe (img by ROFL Photo)

It’s hard to put a price on the damages of online piracy. There’s a lot of reasons for this. Many pirates are not customers, period. They would never pay for the content they copy, and as such can not account for loss. The greatest pirates in the world are simply digital librarians, who pirate content for idealistic purposes.

And let us not forget that piracy has marketable benefits. Pirates generate buzz and demand for content, they are a kind of free advertising.

In fact, many people are arguing that piracy isn’t a serious issue at all, and point to the rapid growth of independent content creators as a strong indication that major content producers are failing because of other, non-piracy-related issues.

That being said, the RIAA wants LimeWire to pay them money they would have gotten a cut of if not for those piratey kids. The money they say they’re owed: greater than all the money. Everywhere. In all the countries put together.

The music industry wants LimeWire to pay up to $75 trillion in damages after losing a copyright infringement claim. That’s right… $75 trillion. Manhattan federal Judge Kimba Wood has labeled this request “absurd.”

To put that number into perspective, the U.S. GDP is around 14 trillion–less than one fifth of what the music industry is requesting. Heck, the GDP of the entire world is between 59 and 62 trillion. That’s right, the music industry wants LimeWire to pay more money than exists in the entire world.

So think about that the next time you download some pirated content because the officially-supported website’s player uses some proprietary bullshit that skips entire sections and only works in one browser and doesn’t work at all on your Mac or other non-Microsoft computer because of the encrypted streaming that you had to download that God-awful app to watch it that starts up automatically every time you turn on your computer and no-shit ties up 12 percent of your memory just sitting there running in the background doing nothing.

Because if you do that, then you are seriously harming the music industry, to a tune where you could literally nuke Western Europe and still leave the global economy in better shape than before you committed that terrible atrocity.

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Use a USB accelerometer to analyze your shooting technique

Over at Hack-a-Day they’re showing off a gun-mounted accelerometer that logs the movement of the firearm as you handle it. This data can be used to monitor and analyze your shooting technique so you can work out any flaws.

And here are some headlines:

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You have no internet. Now what?

3219763299 cb72d79d68 450x337 You have no internet. Now what?

"I wonder if I'll meet the right girl online..."

Experiment time:

If you remember what life was like before the internet was available and easily accessible all the time, just think back for a little while and remember how you used to do stuff.

If you don’t remember, take 15 minutes (bonus points if your 15 minutes are computer and cell phone free) and think about how the lack of internet would affect your day to day life. Imagine the series of tubes got sliced and you still had to do your job.

Or just go read Notes from the Internet Apocalypse (you can even read it online!), which has hilariously imaginative meatspace equivalents to Youtube and Reddit and sums up the internet in a paragraph:

There is a whole world out there! All sorts of facts and accomplishments. Science and art. All at my fingertips and I’ve seen it all — for as long as you’ll let me. But do you know what I spend most of my days knee-deep in? Porn and social media updates. Celebrity gossip. Teenage girls lip-syncing into their hairbrushes on YouTube.

If you’re like me, you spend tons of time looking at “interesting” stuff online. Videos of dogs playing with kangaroos, endless TV tropes wikibinges, reading up on your favorite technologies or watching political slugfests in blogget-time. You could replace that stuff with books or movies or television or games pretty easily.

But what about all the howto manuals, news about amazing scientific discoveries, and announcements about events in your neighborhood? How would you find people who are also interested in climbing on buildings or building climbing robots?

How would you find information, people, and news without the net? Consider an internet fast – try to stay offline for a significant period of time (like a week). Leave your smartphone at home and explore a new neighborhood with only a paper map and a notebook. You don’t need Google Glasses to augment reality… you can just use a set of rules, some friends, and your imagination.

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Why Eric can’t code

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"Hello, World, why don't you play with me anymore?" (img by Bill Bradford)

I was about 8 years old at the dawn of affordable personal computing. My father bought an Apple IIc, and I spent days in the basement staring at a little black and white television we’d hooked up to it, trying to emulate Zork in BASIC because the machine didn’t do much on its own.

In college, I played Darkwind and coded a little LPC for a friend’s MUD. After college, I dicked around with Linux a lot thanks to information on the World Wide Web (remember when we called it that?). I got a freeshell account and wrote my own web pages (eventually with CSS!) and used Unix scripting tools to automate tasks at work and save hours.

Now I spend more time on computers than I ever did before, but the way I do it is completely different. Most of my work is simple office stuff. Email, web, documents, and work-specific stuff. This is me, doing what I do at work:

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This is how all the greatest apps get coded. (img by Justin Walcker)

Every few months, I’ll read an article like Why Johnny can’t code by David Brin and tell myself, “I should (re)learn to code.” I get some books and slog through a couple of online lessons. I get fascinated with the idea of some arcane computer language and research it and get more books. Then I end up staring at a REPL or interpreter or text file, ready to bash through a lesson on arrays or recursive functions or monads… and I promptly stop giving a fuck. Not because it’s hard, but because I just don’t care. It’s more fun to read about design patterns. I had the same problem with math in school.

Until tonight, reading a blog post about why Codeacademy sucks and the whole thread of replies and alternatives, I wasn’t clear on why I haven’t been able to to care long enough to learn to program or learn any math beyond basic algebra. My problem isn’t a lack of curiosity or intellectual equipment, it’s something else.

Now is the information age. I have a supercomputer in my pocket, and I’ve got access to loads of data beamed out all over the fucking place. People are making autonomous flying robots, distributed currency systems, anonymizing services, and peer to peer networks.

In this amazing time, I thought it would be easy to find a problem I want to solve and therefore have the impetus to learn to program. But I was wrong. There are lots of interesting problems out there, but there are also lots of cool solutions. If I want to keep an eye on the news for something specific, I take a minute to set up a Google Alert, not spend hours writing, testing, and debugging a script that crawls news sites for the term, formats the information, and beams it to my communication thingy of choice.

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"A" stands for "A shitload of money." (img by Rob Boudon)

Shit’s just easy now, and complacency is the mother of app store and marketing profits.

Codeacademy isn’t going to fix that. Nor is Learn Python the Hard Way. And punditry won’t help at all. I need to either artificially limit my own access to readily available premade solutions and/or find a project that has no solutions and is compelling enough to work on. The latter seems better, but I’ve got to unlearn some complacency and start dreaming of things for myself instead of letting Google dream them for me.

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You are an infrastructure addict

423828944 34c4b47741 450x337 You are an infrastructure addict

This is not a truck. (img by Angus Fraser)

Motherboard reminds us that the internet isn’t all a nebulous thing that serves us misinformation about fetuses in soft drinks. It’s an actual physical series of tubes, an international network owned and operated by corporate conglomerates you’ve never even heard of.

Just try and imagine the sheer physicality of these transit networks, which handle essentially all your international cyber activity in the form of tiny pulses of light. When we talk about controlling – or taking back – the Internet, in a lot of ways we’re talking about what we should do with a massive, massive series of corporate-owned pipes that collectively bear the load of about 99 percent of all international telephone and Internet traffic.

Take the Eastern Seaboard alone, where fiber-optic bundles of over 20 Transatlantic circuits make landfall in nondescript, secured buildings. These touchpoints cluster around the Tri-State area and Miami, linking the U.S. to Europe, Africa, and Central and South America with over 185,000 kilometers of cable. Once incoming data wash ashore, these nodes forward information onto regional nerve centers like 60 Hudson Street in New York City or Chicago’s sprawling, unseen data complex, and beyond.

The physical internet, though growing in complexity and taking on more wireless capability, still has international choke points: undersea cables. Just last month, someone pwned Africa by cutting some cables. And that’s (probably) just malicious private entities. Imagine a government threw their Navy into the mix, or somehow compelled the corporations that own the monster undersea cables to turn things off for a time.

Some people are thinking “let’s make it hard for cable cutters and The Powers That May Be.. let’s build a series of space-tubes, like, in space.”

We’ll see which way things go. But it’s good to look beyond our cell phones and laptop screens and grocery stores and light switches to remember that there is a shitload of infrastructure we depend on but don’t think about. I don’t mean this in a “human cost” or even environmental sort of way, either. Unbelievably huge amounts of stuff got moved halfway across the globe, then across miles of roads, wires, assembly lines, etc. just so you can sit in your house sipping coffee and snacking while reading this post on your gadget.

It’s mindboggling, especially if you start wondering what would happen if something just stopped. What can you do about it? I’d prioritize learning useful skills over stockpiling food and ammo and hate. Which skills? Good question. I’ll get back to you on that.

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