AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Musk, Hawking, Wozniak call for ban on autonomous weapons and military AI →

July 28, 2015 |

Sebastian Anthony, writing for Ars Technica:

A very large number of scientific and technological luminaries have signed an open letter calling for the world’s governments to ban the development of “offensive autonomous weapons” to prevent a “military AI arms race.”

The letter, which will be presented at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Buenos Aires tomorrow, is signed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky, the Woz, and dozens of other AI and robotics researchers.

When so many super-smart people agree on something, we probably should listen.

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July 25, 2015

I keep experimenting with the format of these Morning Coffee pieces in an attempt to make them more interesting and easier to read, and also more manageable for me to produce. In the past I’ve usually started them off with a bird’s eye view of some of the most newsworthy items of the week, followed by the linked pieces and a more personal afterword.

This week I’m trying a different approach. Since it was always a bit confusing to me which items should be included in the introductory section — is it based on political relevancy? Is it just a general purpose recap? — I’m doing away with that section entirely and getting right into the meat of it from the get go. I’m also expanding the afterword section and making it more significant. My hope is that this will be less confusing and also a bit more consistent across different weeks.

Of course, your feedback on Morning Coffee is very much encouraged and appreciated, so if you have any comments or suggestions, be sure to send them my way. Thanks!

Issue #7: Web pages that suck, how children see models, electric cars, devastating earthquakes and, of course, your weekly dosage of Donald Trump

Things have a way of calming down on the Internet during July and August, but that’s not to say there weren’t any quality pieces being shared all over the place.

In fact, since there wasn’t an issue of Morning Coffee last week — more on why later — this issue comes even more packed with interesting pieces of writing than usual. Whatever your interests, I’m pretty sure there’s something in this week’s roundup that will pique your curiosity.

Let’s get to it.

Storage for photographers (part 2) | Paul Stamatiou →

Every article in Stammy’s website is an instant bookmark. There’s always so much information, so many interesting tips and tricks for the technically inclined in his pieces that I often go back to them weeks and months later to re-read them. And every time I do so I find something new, something I hadn’t noticed on my previous readings.

This time around, he goes in painstaking detail over his new NAS setup, which he uses for local storage of his pictures, backups and other media-related uses. If you’re running short on storage space for your media collection — and who isn’t these days — this article could be a life saver.

Who’s actually buying iPods these days? | Matt Birchler →

This piece has been doing the rounds on the Internet for the past few days, so you may have seen it elsewhere. I found several things on this article to be very surprising, like the fact that the iPod nano is most popular among older people.

A former engineer says Intel has a ‘meritocracy’ problem | Selena Larson →

Great piece over at the Daily Dot:

“Intel is absolutely not a meritocracy and it is misguided at best to blame workers for the systemic problems the company has been facing for a long time,” this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Daily Dot via email.

During a period of several years, this engineer and fellow colleagues were denied promotions, received low-grade stock grants, and had managers admit that zero-percent “raises” were not at all related to performance, often instead due to Intel’s directional changes and planning.

Ouch. Considering Intel has been in trouble this week for their own admission that they can no longer keep up with their famous “tick-tock” release cycle, this article is all the more damning.

The mobile web sucks | Nilay Patel →

Incredibly tone-deaf article by Nilay Patel over at The Verge. Their own website is a sorry mess as far as mobile performance is concerned due to the myriad of privacy-invading, ad-targeting scripts that are running on every page of the site. Trying to blame browser vendors for not being able to keep up with such irresponsible use of resources is naive at best, and downright misleading at worst.

For more commentary on this topic, check out these two excellent pieces:

The Force Touch trackpad | Fraser Speirs →

Fraser Speirs has a really positive take on Apple’s new Force Touch trackpad. I still haven’t tried one in person, but I like what I’m reading so far.

A watch, water and workouts | Craig Hockenberry →

Impressively detailed piece on how water affects electronics in general, and the Apple Watch in particular, by Craig Hockenberry. Lots of interesting tidbits in this one.

How much do electric cars actually pollute? | Jonathan M. Gitlin →

More than we thought, apparently.

The earthquake that will devastate Seattle | Kathryn Schulz →

Absolutely terrifying piece on the earthquake that in all likelihood will destroy everything west of Interstate 5 in the Pacific Northwest a lot sooner than we think:

In the Pacific Northwest, the area of impact will cover some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people. When the next full-margin rupture happens, that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million. “This is one time that I’m hoping all the science is wrong, and it won’t happen for another thousand years,” Murphy says.

The best country in the world for food | Ben Groundwater →

It’s Spain, of course, in case you were wondering.

When You Give a Tree an Email Address | Adrienne Lafrance →

I love these stories:

Officials assigned the trees ID numbers and email addresses in 2013 as part of a program designed to make it easier for citizens to report problems like dangerous branches. The “unintended but positive consequence,” as the chair of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio, Councillor Arron Wood, put it to me in an email, was that people did more than just report issues. They also wrote directly to the trees, which have received thousands of messages—everything from banal greetings and questions about current events to love letters and existential dilemmas.

So great.

The best Micro 4/3 lenses (in my opinion) | Josh Ginter →

Solid list by Josh Ginter on the best possible glass you can buy today for your Micro Four Thirds camera, regardless of the cost. I pretty much agree with every choice on his list, and there’s no doubt these are all excellent pieces of glass.

If anything, I’d add the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro for those of you who need that sort of feature in a lens. The MFT system is notably short on good macro lenses: there’s only this Olympus and the Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8. The Leica has optical stabilization built in, but the Olympus is sharper and has a more usable focal length for a macro lens, so that would be the better choice in my opinion.

Other than that, if you’re on the lookout for your next lens for the MFT system, be sure to check out Josh’s excellent roundup.

What children think of models in fashion campaigns | Messy Nessy →

Children are experts in giving 100%-honest, no-bullshit opinions on anything. When they say female models look like they’re sick and male models look like superheroes, you know the entire fashion industry has a big problem.

Lisbon | Sam Burton →

Gorgeous travel photography. This piece had me wanting to purchase a Leica film camera and that awesome Voigtlander lens in no time.

Via Josh Ginter.

Tennis’s top women balance body image with ambition | Ben Rothenberg →

This article is probably one of the most blatant examples of ignorant, incendiary journalism I remember in a long time. The whole pretense is that many female top players are not playing to their full potential because they feel the physique they’d need to attain in order to be successful would not be deemed feminine enough. What the article implies, though, is that Serena Williams is special because she doesn’t care about that and is happy to be as muscular as it takes to win.

That’s a gigantic load of BS. It really is. For one, there’s no correlation between muscles and career success in tennis. Yes, Serena Williams is muscular and yes, she’s the most successful athlete of her generation, but that doesn’t mean being muscular is a requisite for being successful on a tennis court. Just take a look at Roger Federer, the most successful male player of all time, and you’ll see that muscle size and tennis prowess don’t necessarily go together.

You can certainly see it in the women’s game, too. Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova are two of the two most successful female players of all time, and they were both strong but slim in their prime, certainly much closer to Federer than to Serena in terms of physical blueprint. Justine Henin, one of the most talented players of her generation, was remarkably slender as well.

The fact that Serena has been able to translate her physical gifts into a super successful career doesn’t mean hers is the only viable approach today, and trying to imply otherwise does a huge disservice to the sport as a whole.

Dear Mr. Trump: I’m Worth $10 Billion, Too | Timothy L. O’Brien →

Hilarious piece by Timothy L. O’Brien for Bloomberg View. Next time you read that a media mogul or a successful entrepreneur is worth X billion dollars, keep this in mind.

The Kaweco Liliput Fountain Pen | Mike Bates →

I loved this piece by Mike Bates for Tools & Toys. I’ve always had a soft spot for fountain pens, and Mike’s beautiful photography and clear, precise writing in this piece made me incredibly curious to try the Kaweco Liliput.

Afterword

It’s now been two weeks since the last issue of Morning Coffee. Last week I took a much-needed short vacation and visited the island of Menorca with my girlfriend and two of our closest friends. I had never visited Menorca before, but was soon mesmerized by its beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes and amazing sunsets.

Cala Mitjana, one of the most beautiful beaches in the island of Menorca. This panorama was made by stitching together 12 pictures taken with my Olympus E-M10 and the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens. You can see the high-resolution version here.

One of the absolute highlights of our trip was spending an afternoon on a sailboat, diving in one of the many natural coves and watching the sunset while we had a few drinks and snacks. It was pretty much a perfect way to finish a fantastic day.

It’s been an amazing vacation but, naturally, we also had our hiccups during the trip. On our second to last day, we had planned to walk to one of the island’s most secluded coves, Cala Escorxada.

In normal conditions the walk to Cala Escorxada should take about 75 minutes, and you’re advised to bring plenty of food and water to replenish your strength along the way, and also to plan carefully for the return trip. Unfortunately, we missed an intersection at some point and ended up taking an unexpected 5.2-mile, 3.5-hour cross-country detour under the mid-day sun with temperatures soaring past 40ºC. Not a very pleasant experience.

Una foto publicada por Miriam M Cabrera Carpio (@nenemiriam) el

In the end we somehow managed to power through the pain and got our reward in the form of a truly spectacular beach. But there was still the small matter of the return trip.

Luckily, we befriended a couple on the beach who were kind enough to give us a ride back on their boat, so at least we managed to avoid walking all the way back again. Considering we were short on food and water — not to mention exhausted — due to the longer than expected trip, I’m not entirely sure we would have managed to walk back safely on our own, to be honest. Anyway, all’s end that ends well, I suppose.

Lesson learned: Always check the map. Obsessively and compulsively so, if you must. Also: whatever the amount of beer you think you could possibly drink on the trip, bring more.

Looking ahead to what comes next, I’ve been working on two pieces on film photography that I hope to be able to finish and share with you soon.

One of them is a review of my Canon EOS 3 film camera, which I’ve been using now for over six months. I’m super happy with this camera and the pictures I’ve been able to get with it, and I can’t recommend it enough. Unfortunately it’s not being made anymore, so if you want one you’ll have to get a used one on eBay or even Amazon. For what it’s worth, I got mine on eBay and have had zero issues with it so far.

The other piece is an overview of my color film processing workflow, from scanning all the way to the final editing touches. This is a work in progress, mainly because I’m still fine-tuning the inversion process, but I have a feeling I’m getting closer to figuring it out. Stay tuned for more.

We are now reaching the end of this issue, I’m afraid. But first, I have a confession to make: I’m writing these words on Friday evening, so technically I’m cheating a little bit. You’ll have to forgive me for that. The reason for that is that tomorrow morning we’re taking an early train to Mérida, where the first son of one of my best friends is being baptized on Sunday. I’m so happy for him and I still can’t believe he’s already a dad. Life goes on and time keeps accelerating, it seems, so we better make the most of it while we can.

Other than that, Mérida is a gorgeous city and I definitely plan on enjoying this quick trip and making some time to visit its many wonderful historic sites, like the incredible Roman theater. It’s not every day you get to visit a 2,000-year-old theater that’s still being actively used.

Roman theater, Mérida. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

That’s it for this week’s Morning Coffee. After the much-needed rest and mental recharge, I’m very much looking forward to things returning to normal starting next week, and exploring the many exciting ideas I have in mind for the coming weeks.

Until then, have a fantastic weekend, and thank you for reading.

I must say, I could get used to this whole yacht thing.

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Matt Gemmell’s membership so far →

July 24, 2015 |

Matt Gemmell shares an interesting update on how his membership program is working so far:

In a nutshell, I’m hugely pleased with how it’s turned out. I was so thrilled at the response, and it’s energising for me each week to remember that I have a group of people who enjoy my work enough to not just keep coming back to read my words, but to actually support the creation of new articles and books.

You can’t put a price on that sort of encouragement and validation. On my worst days, I can always log in and look at the membership roster, and get a boost from it.

These updates are incredibly important and useful for those who, like me, hope to follow in Matt’s footsteps one day. Reading real stories from real people who have faced — and keep facing — your same fears and struggles is one of the best ways to stay motivated in your work.

The Internet usually shows a deeply skewed version of reality, where success stories are amplified several orders of magnitude, while failure stories are soon erased or, worse, never even shared to begin with. I’m incredibly happy for Matt and I’m glad to see he’s doing fine, but there’s no doubt in my mind he still would have written this piece even if the story had had a not-so-happy ending.

That’s what separates Matt from the vast majority of writers on the Web today: he’s not overly concerned with keeping up the pretense of perfection, because he respects his readers too much to not be 100% honest with them.

Matt is a rare breed of author, and I couldn’t be more proud to support his work. I’ve been a member since day one, and will continue being so for as long as he’ll keep the membership program alive. If you appreciate honesty and respect — not to mention first-class writing — I strongly encourage you to do the same.

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Flickr reintroduces Pro membership, including a 20% discount on 1-year Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions →

July 23, 2015 |

Flickr reintroduced their Pro membership today, with a special offer that includes a 20% discount during the first year of new Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions:

Save 20% on Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan in the first year

Get the photography tools you need to make the moment yours: Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. Edit, enhance, and transform your photos on any device, anywhere.

To purchase Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and learn about any changes to the expiration date visit: https://creative.adobe.com/promo/FlickrCCPP?sdid=KSYZU&flickrid=ejebureulm.

This is a great offer, but it’s only valid for new Creative Cloud subscriptions, not existing ones. There’s also a shipping discount on photo books and wall art as part of the new Pro membership deal:

As a Pro member, you’ll receive free standard shipping in the US and 50% off international standard shipping. Minimum purchase of $25 required.

I’ve been a Flickr Pro member since 2010, back when the original Pro membership was available. The great thing about this is that long-standing Pro memberships like mine were automatically upgraded to the new features, but maintain their original pricing of $24.95/year, instead of the new pricing of $5.99/month or $49.99/year. This was a classy move from Yahoo.

The reason I maintained my Pro membership even when Flickr switched pricing tiers and gave everyone a free TB of storage is that I really enjoy the service and I’m happy to pay for it to remove ads from my timeline. Now that I got all the features of the new Pro membership at the same price I’ve always paid, I’m definitely not complaining for not being able to benefit from the Creative Cloud special offer.

Flickr keeps fighting to stay relevant in the age of Facebook and Instagram and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it.

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Jim Dalrymple on Apple Music →

July 22, 2015 |

Jim Dalrymple shares the reasons that moved him to deactivate Apple Music on all of his devices. It’s a frustrating story and, if these issues become widespread enough, he may not be the only one to do it. But there’s more:

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Apple Music gave me one more kick in the head. Over the weekend, I turned off Apple Music and it took large chunks of my purchased music with it. Sadly, many of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to. Looking at my old iTunes Match library, before Apple Music, I’m missing about 4,700 songs. At this point, I just don’t care anymore, I just want Apple Music off my devices.

I trusted my data to Apple and they failed. I also failed by not backing up my library before installing Apple Music. I will not make either of those mistakes again.

This is a disaster. Deleting actual files from a user’s device is such a sensitive task that it should never happen by accident.

My experience with Apple Music has been similarly underwhelming, especially the part about adding songs and playlists to my music library. It’s just a deeply unintuitive process and I don’t know how much longer I will put up with it.

So far I haven’t experienced any data loss, but I did make a full backup of my iTunes library before activating Apple Music, just in case. It was surprising to realize I just didn’t trust Apple to get this right on their first attempt. That’s telling.

Apple continues to enjoy a stellar reputation for services and devices that mostly “just work”, but screw-ups like this one certainly don’t help.

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Craig Hockenberry on the Mac App Store →

July 22, 2015 |

Craig Hockenberry:

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Apple is doing something it rarely does: a half-assed job.

As developers, we completely understand how much work it is to announce these kinds of initiatives and get them working on multiple platforms. It’s not easy and takes a lot of resources. But it’s clear that these precious resources are not being allocated.

He makes a compelling argument that Apple’s continued neglect of the Mac App Store is hurting developers, users, and ultimately Apple itself.

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Which 50mm lens shot this? →

July 21, 2015 |

Matthew Gore has an interesting experiment going on over at Light & Matter. He set up a quiz with several images that were taken with one of three lenses: the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, or the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. The point of the quiz is to realize that the difference in image quality between these lenses may not be as significant as the price difference between them seems to suggest.

I took the quiz and got 7 out of 14 correct answers for a 50% score, with the average score being 45.24% so far among all people that have taken the quiz. But while I did slightly better than the average, I still felt like I was guessing my way through the quiz more often than not. Other than the easily recognizable bokeh balls of the Sigma Art lens, all images looked pretty much the same to me.

Taking this quiz was a great experience and at the end of the day, I consider Matthew’s point to be more than proved: if the differences between those three lenses are so small than I cannot reliably tell them apart, spending several hundred to a thousand dollars more for one of the fancier lenses seems hardly justifiable.

I wonder what the results would be like if someone were to make a similar quiz comparing, for example, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Micro Four Thirds lens with the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 and the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. Like with the Canon 50mm lenses, the price difference between these MFT lenses amounts to over a thousand dollars, and my gut tells me most people wouldn’t be able to reliably tell them apart.

Food for thought, indeed.

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How to make a Hattori Hanzō katana →

July 21, 2015 |

Have you ever wondered how traditional Japanese katanas were made centuries ago? YouTube show Man at Arms shows you every step of the incredibly complex process by forging a replica of a Hattori Hanzō katana from the movie Kill Bill.

If you’re still feeling curious after watching the 18-minute video, you can also check out how they made a replica of Sephiroth’s Masamune sword from Final Fantasy VII, or Squall’s Gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII. So awesome.

Via Kottke.

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