07/19/2011 09:36 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2011

Nerd News Roundup: Useful Stuff You Probably Missed

Most people are too busy using their technology to think about how they could use it better. Let me help you with that.

Nerd News Roundup is culled from tech and science blogs, with special attention given to items related to trends in media, politics, and journalism. It is designed for writers who do not have the time or inclination to search for this stuff on their own.

Interesting Enough to Read the Headline

(…but probably not the rest)

  • China Looking to Buy a Chunk of Facebook: This Week in Online Tyranny (rww)

  • T-Mobile Amps Their “4G” Network To 42Mbps in 56 New Regions, Still Has No 42Mbps-Compatible Phones (techcrunch)

  • 1 in 10 Pets Have a Social Networking Profile [STUDY] (mashable)

  • 10 Animals With More Social Media Fans Than Major Media Outlets (mashable)

  • Dear Netflix, Thanks For The Customers! Signed, Redbox (techcrunch)

  • daily uniques down ~60% since sale to AOL. (google via hacker news)

  • Potato genome sequenced (physorg)

  • Police adopting iPhone-based facial-recognition device (tuaw)

  • Google Maps Terrorizes Jersey Woman by Designating Her House a State Park (gizmodo)
  • Scientists discover first gonorrhea strain resistant to all available antibiotics (medicalxpress)
  • You Might Find This Useful:

    (Guides, tools, and news that may or may not apply to you)


    • Mac OS X Lion: This Is Not the Future We Were Hoping For (lifehacker)

  • TUAW’s Daily Mac App: Disk Inventory X (tuaw)

  • Slingshot Makes Taking Screenshots and Sharing Them One Key-Command Away (lifehacker)

  • Airfoil 4.5 allows streaming from your iOS device to your Mac and more (tuaw)

  • TUAW’s Daily Mac App: AppTrap (tuaw)

  • ReadNow Brings Instapaper & Read-It-Later To A Sleek Mac Interface [Mac 10.6+] (muo)
  • Meteorologist Puts Incredibly Detailed Weather in Your Mac's Menu Bar (lifehacker)
  • #iPhone

    Fight Information Overload With Trimit on iPhone

    This 99 cent app can take copied text or URLs (like links I’ve favorited on Twitter, for example) and apply an algorithm that shortens bodies of text thousands of characters long down to one thousand, five hundred or 140 characters automatically. How well does it work? It works well enough for me to appreciate it. Check out the demo video below. (rww)

    • Turn Your iPhone into a Radiation Detector (gizmodo)

  • The Best Camera App for iPhone (lifehacker)

  • iPhone Bottle Opener is the Holy Grail for lovers of beer and tech (dvice)

  • Add an Instant-Record Button to Your Home Screen and Never Miss the Money Shot (lifehacker)

  • Stitch Your Own Designs Onto This iPhone Case (gizmodo)
  • REVIEW: iPhone App Now Works With Dragon NaturallySpeaking (mashable)
  • #iPad

    • 5 Free Collaborative Whiteboard Apps For the iPad (rww)

  • StumbleUpon Redesigns & Launches Its iPad App (muo)

  • Make Your iPad A True Writing Tool With These Notebook Apps (muo)

  • 5 Must Download New Free iPad Games (muo)
  • TUAW’s Daily iPad App: PDF Converter (tuaw)
  • #Android

    • Evernote for Android Adds Rich Text, New Widget, and Tablet Support (lifehacker)


    • 3 Tips To Make A Firefox Active Tab Stand Out From The Others (muo)

    Interesting Enough to Look at, Briefly



    Cryptex flash drive uses combination lock sleeve, brings a whole new meaning to hardware encryption (gizmodo)


    Lightning over Puyehue-Cordon Caulle (boingboing)


    iDJ Live gives your iPad two turntables, microphone not included (engadget)


    Dock Connector-USB Hub Hybrid Mitigates the MacBook's Biggest Shortcoming (gizmodo)

    Interesting Enough to Read in Passing

    (Maybe worth clicking through?)

    If a Monkey Steals Your Camera, Who Owns the Photos?

    You see, the monkeys took the images using a camera owned by photographer David J Slater. They stole the camera which Slater later retrieved. Hundreds of monkey photos were then processed by Slater and a select few were distributed by Caters News.

    So who in this chain owns the rights to these photos?

    Good news, college kids: video games and weed help memory

    The Groningen Mental Enhancement Department in the Netherlands recently conducted a one-year study to see how gaming and cannabis can affect the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. All the test subjects played increasingly challenging games each day, but half the group was also administered smoke. Would you believe that the marijuana test group scored 43 percent better memory retention than the control group?

    People buy more junk food when using plastic

    ”The pain of paying in cash can curb impulsive urges to purchase unhealthy food products,” Thomas writes with his co-authors in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. “Credit card payments, in contrast, are relatively painless and weaken impulse control.”

    UrtheCast to show live HD video of Earth from space

    A set of cameras are going to be mounted on the International Space Station, and pointed back towards earth to show both still shots and videos of the planet Earth. The goal of the project is to create an Internet-based video streaming platform that will show the footage taken in near real time high definition video.

    One Month of Military Spending During Peacetime Is More Than NASA's Entire Annual Budget

    The entire half-century budget of NASA equals the current two year budget of the US military.

    So tweeteth Neil deGrasse Tyson. (gizmodo)

    Rise in risk inequality helps explain polarized US voters

    So someone who has a high income today might be expected to be a Republican, based just on that income. But if he or she also fears losing that job and income, they might also support Democratic policies. That individual would be cross-pressured, Rehm said.

    The problem is that the number of these cross-pressured Americans has dropped precipitously, according to Rehm’s research.

    Army Uses Radar to Spot Suicide Bombers From 100 Yards

    Two video cameras automatically detect and track individuals walking anywhere near the system, within the range of a soccer field. Low-level radar beams are aimed at them and then reflected back to a computer, which analyzes the signals in a series of algorithms.

    “We call it our ‘secret sauce,’” says Rick Thornton, the director of business development at SAIC. That sauce is apparently so potent it can spot signs of bombs or weapons hidden under someone’s clothing.

    How sad: 1/3 of all iPhone owners think they already have 4G

    There are no iPhones on the market with 4G speeds. Apple has a smartphone called the iPhone 4. That is not a 4G device. It is a 3G one. Yet, somehow, 1/3 of all iPhone owners have gotten all the terminology mixed up and think their iPhone 4 is a 4G device. Well played Apple!

    Pivotal study in Africa finds that HIV medications prevent HIV infection

    an international study has demonstrated that individuals at high risk for HIV infection who took a daily tablet containing an HIV medication - either the antiretroviral medication tenofovir or tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine - experienced significantly fewer HIV infections than those who received a placebo pill. These findings are clear evidence that this new HIV prevention strategy, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP), substantially reduces HIV infection risk.

    CIA used a fake vaccination campaign in hunt for Bin Laden

    This is bad. Very bad, from a public health perspective. The New York Times story linked above doesn’t really get into the implications the CIA’s (failed) venture will have for real vaccination campaigns, but Maryn McKenna does a great job of explaining the issues at her Wired blog:

    It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm.

    Philly papers offer Android tablets with paid apps

    The city’s two major newspapers announced Monday that they will give free Android tablet computers to paid digital subscribers as part of a new venture designed to shore up readership and revenue nearly a year after the publications emerged from bankruptcy.

    Print newspapers actually trying something new. Worth keeping an eye on this. (physorg)

    The Foxification of news

    With the professionalisation of journalism in the early 20th century came a more detached style of reporting. In effect, a deal was struck between advertisers, publishers and journalists, says New York University's Jay Rosen. Journalists agreed not to alienate anyone so that advertisers could aim their messages at everyone. That way the publishers got a broader market and the journalists got steady jobs but gave up their voices.

    In Defense of Sleazy Journalism

    Reporting is basically a variant of rudeness. Done right, it amounts to being indiscreet, airing dirty laundry, telling on someone, calling them out, embarrassing them, usually after lying to them to gain their confidence. As Janet Malcolm famously put it, “every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”

    Shut up, Gawker. We know how you feel about sleazy journalism. (gawker)

    Smokers not very receptive to shocking images

    A team of researchers led by the University of Bonn found clear changes in how emotions are processed in smokers. After an abstinence period of 12 hours, the brain's fear center was mostly out of commission in addicts. The researchers assume that a campaign using images of smokers' lungs as deterrents on cigarette packs - as both the US and EU are currently planning - will hardly have an effect on this group.

    I’ll go ahead and put “new cigarette packaging” next to “abstinence-only” and “just say ‘no’” on the list of Predictably Ineffective Wastes of Taxpayer Money. (medicalxpress)

    The F-Shaped Reading Pattern

    According to their eye-tracking study, reader’s eyes follow an F-shaped pattern concentrating more on certain areas on your webpage and thereby turning a blind eye towards the remaining space. “Eye tracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by vertical stripe.” summarizes Jakob.

    (e-junkie via hacker news)

    DOJ: We Can Force You To Decrypt That Laptop

    The US Department of Justice is pushing for the defendant to be forced to decrypt her hard drive, claiming that if they cannot force such decryptions, law enforcement will be unable to gather important evidence. The defendant’s lawyer and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have made the claim that forcing such a decryption would be a violation of the defendant’s fifth amendment right not to self-incriminate. The prosecutor in the case has insisted that the defendant would not be forced to disclose her passphrase, but only to enter the passphrase into a computer to decrypt the drive.

    What if you use a "password manager" service to keep track of that stuff and don’t actually know your password? Serious question. (slashdot via hacker news)

    Interesting Enough to Read Later, Maybe


    Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization

    We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it's been stripped of its subversion and originality.

    (adbusters via hacker news)

    Why I am a Bad Correspondent

    Writers who do not make themselves totally available to everyone, all the time, are frequently tagged with the “recluse” label. While I do not consider myself a recluse, I have found it necessary to place some limits on my direct interactions with individual readers. These limits most often come into play when people send me letters or e-mail, and also when I am invited to speak publicly. This document is a sort of form letter explaining why I am the way I am.

    (neal stephenson via hacker news)

    Last dinosaur before mass extinction discovered

    Since the impact hypothesis for the demise of the dinosaurs was first proposed more than 30 years ago, many scientists have come to believe the meteor caused the mass extinction and wiped out the dinosaurs, but a sticking point has been an apparent lack of fossils buried within the 10 feet of rock below the K-T boundary. The seeming anomaly has come to be known as the “three-meter gap.”

    Economist Debates: Jay Rosen & Nicholas Carr on the news industry

    There is no question that the internet is transforming the news industry, just as it has reshaped so many other industries. And, as in those other cases, the internet’s impact has both positive and negative aspects. Does this, on balance, strengthen or weaken the news system? This question is not merely of academic interest, or self-interest on the part of journalists. Through an accident of history, the news industry is a largely commercial venture that provides important public goods: serving communities, facilitating public debate and holding those in power to account. This debate will hinge, I suspect, on the effectiveness and sustainability of the new models of accountability journalism that the internet makes possible.

    (economist via Stuart Whatley)

    The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News

    First, you set a goal to cover 100 percent of... well, of something. In trying to reach the goal you immediately run into problems. To solve those problems you often have to improvise or innovate. And that's the payoff, even if you don't meet your goal.

    (pressthink via hacker news)

    Why We Need the New News Environment to be Chaotic

    This argument between Journalism as Philanthropy and Journalism as Capitalism (to borrow Jarvis's phrase) seems like a dilemma, in the literal sense of the word--a forced choice between two alternative premises. It isn't really, though, because there is also the grandmotherly option: Both groups could be right. It's possible that for-profit revenue is shrinking irreversibly and that non-profit funding sources won't make up for the shortfall. The least we can say about this possibility is that it can't be discounted on current evidence.

    (Clay Shirky via hacker news)

    Let's call rewriters "rewriters", not "aggregators". Also: why Techmeme is wonderful.

    Something bothered me about Simon Dumenco's piece about Huffington Post yesterday. […]
    What irked me was the reminder that "aggregator" is a rather broad-brush term that paints systematic news-rewriters like the Huffington Post (who bury links) as cousins to snippet-quoting sites like Techmeme and Mediagazer (which link prominently).

    Yeah, just news-rewriters over here at HuffPost. Never any original reporting. Not even from our army of professional (paid) reporters. Our chair in the White House Press Briefing Room? We just wanted it because it’s comfy. (techmeme’s Gabe Rivera via techcrunch)

    Please send useful and interesting links to shannon at huffingtonpost dot com, or tweet @bradjshannon.