In Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price rides her bicycle to connect with residents →

July 21, 2014 |

Good for her:

The mayor regularly swoops into the city’s disparate neighborhoods on her bike to conduct “rolling town-hall meetings,” taking City Hall to the people. Residents bike up next to her to discuss a variety of issues and grievances, like zoning, potholes and trash pickup.

This really ought to be a common practice for Mayors all over the world. It’s also a pretty smart strategy to engage with residents: I have found it is very difficult to be angry when riding a bicycle.

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Marco Arment launches Overcast →

July 16, 2014 |

It’s been a long road, but 1.0 is finally done. I’m proud of what I’m shipping today. Thank you to everyone who has helped me and Overcast along the way. If you’re interested, [here’s Overcast 1.0.](

Huge congratulations to Marco. Overcast is an instant buy, for so many reasons. If you appreciate good quality and attention to detail, give it a try.

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Google partners with Novartis to make glucose-tracking contact lens a reality →

July 15, 2014 |

Google and Novartis have this morning announced an agreement to collaborate on the development of the smart contact lens that was unveiled by Google X in January. Using non-invasive sensors, the lens promises to analyze tear fluid in the eye to provide constant measurements of a person’s blood glucose levels. Those can then be sent wirelessly to a mobile device and help diabetics manage their disease more easily.

Fantastic news, though it’s still way too early to tell what will come of it (if anything). There are many technical hurdles to overcome in the development of such a device, chief among which is the inherent physiological delay that results from measuring glucose levels in tear fluid instead of blood: what you’re measuring in your eye is actually what happened a good 15-20 minutes ago in your bloodstream. If this sensor is intended as a credible diabetes management tool, they need to do better than that. Which, of course, is easier said than done.

The Holy Grail of diabetes management is the Artificial Pancreas, which is an autonomous system capable of monitoring a person’s blood glucose levels and automatically making decisions in order to ensure they stay within acceptable margins, thus replacing the physiological endocrine functionality of a healthy pancreas. Such a system is theoretically formed, very roughly, by three separate components: a continuous glucose sensor, an insulin/glucagon pump and a predictive algorithm. When all three of them work together, that is, when we achieve a closed-loop, we may describe the system as an artificial pancreas.

The artificial pancreas has indeed been dubbed “a technological cure for diabetes”,1 and it represents an engineer’s dream: a combination of technology and knowledge that genuinely changes lives for the better. Not surprisingly, there are many researchers all over the world, including ourselves, hard at work trying to close the loop, which is proving to be quite a challenge.

At the Bioengineering and Telemedicine Group in Technical University of Madrid, we’ve been working on a closed-loop, predictive algorithm for blood glucose control for the past few years.2 Having a reliable and accurate continuous glucose sensor feeding the algorithm is critical to produce clinically useful results, so we’re intimately aware of the challenges that exist in this space. In our experience, the biggest issues with the current crop of continuous glucose sensors are their poor accuracy (about 15%, at best) and their need for frequent calibration (up to 6 times a day). Besides, these sensors measure glucose concentration in interstitial tissue, which suffers from similar delays as tear fluid.

These limitations clearly handicap our algorithm’s ability to predict future glucose values with sufficient anticipation: any corrective action, like insulin infusion or carbohydrate consumption, takes at least 20 minutes to produce measurable results, so the algorithm needs to be able to make predictions at least that far in advance in order to prevent a hypoglycemic episode before it actually occurs. For reference, our current target for the algorithm is to make accurate predictions 30 minutes into the future.

Unfortunately, nobody has yet been able to produce a continuous glucose sensor capable of measuring actual blood glucose concentration, which would be free of such delays. Moreover, Google’s device seems designed for a different purpose: by choosing to measure glucose levels in tear fluid they are effectively embracing this limitation and giving up on creating a more ambitious, truly game-changing sensor.

It’s a pity, but there’s a silver lining: the fact that a big corporation like Google is becoming interested in this field is encouraging, and I hope it inspires others to pick up where Google left off. As a bioengineer, tech-enthusiast and diabetic person myself, I’m really excited about the future.

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Obama administration says the world’s servers are ours →

July 15, 2014 |

In essence, President Barack Obama’s administration claims that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas. It’s a position Microsoft and companies like Apple say is wrong, arguing that the enforcement of US law stops at the border.

The US government’s total lack of respect for their citizens’ privacy knows no borders. Shameful.

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Microsoft Is The Very Antithesis Of Strategy →

July 15, 2014 |

Excellent article by John Kirk on the strategic mistakes Microsoft keeps making in its repeated attempts to recover the dominant position they held during the 90’s. Very appropriate in light of Satya Nadella’s recent public email about the future of the company:

Microsoft could learn much from Sun Tzu. Over the past fifteen to twenty years, Microsoft has engaged in the very worst kind of generalship. Microsoft has allowed their competitors to join forces and successfully scheme against them. Microsoft has responded to the successes of their competitors by forswearing their strongest weapons, abandoning their strongest defensive positions and rushing to attack their competitors wherever they may be, even if those battlefields were located where Microsoft was at its weakest and their competitors were are at their strongest. When these attacks inevitably failed, Microsoft resorted to wars of attrition. Yet in these wars of attrition, it was Microsoft, not their opponents, who suffered most, taking disproportionally greater losses than they inflicted.

Via Jean-Louis Gassée, who utterly destroys Nadella’s purposefully vague and cryptic words.

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Shawn Blanc on Working From Home and Running a Business →

July 10, 2014 |

Below I want to share with you the things I do to try and keep myself healthy. In 20 years from now I hope to be doing even better creative work than I am today. But that means in the mean time I need to stay physically healthy, creatively energized, all while continuing to run a profitable business. The good news is: it’s totally doable.

Indispensable read if you work from home or if you’re considering it. Don’t skip a word.

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Novak Djokovic triumphs in five-set thriller | Wimbledon →

July 07, 2014 |

To describe this final as riveting is to sell it a long way short. We knew beforehand that it would be intense. But there must be some official IBM match statistic somewhere to prove that the near-15,000 spectators on the Centre Court and goodness knows how many millions at home were entirely shorn of all fingernails at the conclusion, such was the nervous chewing of digits inspired by the extraordinary exploits on court.

I told you it was going to be a good one.

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Wimbledon 2014: Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic →

July 06, 2014 |

Today is the most special day of the year in men’s tennis calendar: the day of the Wimbledon final. Roger Federer will try to win a unprecedented 8th Wimbledon title against Novak Djokovic, the 2011 champion:

Of course, we need look back only 12 months to find a player who did not blow the opposition away in every match throughout the Fortnight, but then came spectacularly good in the final to win in straight sets. Djokovic was on the wrong end of the result that day, and funnily enough will be intent upon reversing the story this time around. He may well succeed. But Federer will grab this latest chance – we have surely learned by now not to describe it as his last – with both hands. The 2014 final is an absolutely intriguing prospect.

For all intents and purposes, Novak Djokovic should be the favorite to win today. But you should count Federer out only at your own risk.

Federer is well past his prime and yet, there’s still something special about his game; a certain kind of magic no one can match. The grass of Centre Court is where he’s been most successful, a place where he seems able to turn back the clock to his awe-inspiring days. It is truly a joy to watch.

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Happy anniversary, Curiosity →

July 01, 2014 |

It’s been exactly 687 Earth-days (one Martian year) since Curiosity landed on Mars:

One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic “yes,” came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.

Even in an era of such technological prowess, I still can’t believe we’ve managed to place a selfie-taking, remote-controlled robot on the surface of Mars. These are truly interesting times to be alive, as we’re starting to venture beyond the confines of our cozy little blue home.

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Withings Activité: Dumb is the new Smart →

June 25, 2014 |

Interesting new smartwatch from Withings. To me, its main appeal is that it looks nothing like a typical smartwatch. Instead, it looks like a traditional, high-quality analog watch, and it does have a certain classic vibe to it. I wouldn’t mind wearing one.

It’s still too early to say whether the Activité will succeed where others have failed, though. For one thing, what kind of product is this? Who does it appeal to? Feature-wise, it is essentially a fitness tracker disguised as a watch, basically a nice-looking Fitbit. But as a fitness tracker it doesn’t make sense: at $390, it’s almost four times as expensive as most other fitness-tracking gadgets, all of which offer a similar set of features.

However, at the same time, $390 is still considerably less than the cost of a typical high-end watch and people have no problem paying for those, so it’s possible it could work. But it clearly makes more sense to think of this as a watch with some extra features, instead of a fitness tracker that looks like a watch.

The question is, then: is there a significant overlap between both demographics? Or, to put it another way, are people who buy nice watches interested in tracking their fitness? The success of the Activité will probably hinge on the answer to that question.

Via The Loop.

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