Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

Silicon Valley Socialists Want Workers to Have More Power

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A group of Silicon valley socialists want to take power from billionaires and give it to workers and local communities. At a protest on July 9, about 40 people chanted things like “Caging children is a crime. Salesforce, f*ck your bottom line!”

That Monday, they were protesting a Salesforce contract to supply services to human resources operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the sister division within the Department of Homeland Security to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–the unit infamous for detaining children of asylum seekers.

Funny Cops Posting Online? Yabba Dabba Don't

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Writing for Vice, Alex Norcia argues that cops shouldn’t be allowed to be funny online. Alex uses the example of an incident where a lost pug was found by local police, and they posted a “pugshot” onto social media.

Yes, everyone appreciates a solid laugh. And sarcasm, irony, and good cheer are generally great things. This is especially true of life online, which can be especially toxic. But the fuzz should not have this luxury. The fuzz should not be funny on social media, because the fuzz are not (and, again, should not be) funny people. Particularly in the face of Black Lives Matter and when the public’s distrust in the institution is so deservedly high. It is a serious job, and these are serious times.

I may be wrong but isn’t the word “fuzz” supposed to be derogatory? I’ll take humor over insults any day.

These Artificial Gills Could One Day Help Divers

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Jun Kamei, graduate of the Royal College of Art, designed artificial gills using 3D printing. They consist of a gill and a respiratory mask, and it lets people breathe underwater. Mr. Kamei has built a working prototype, and it successfully extracts oxygen from water, and releases carbon dioxide back out. Right now it doesn’t product enough oxygen for a human though. His idea was that artificial gills would be essential in the future when the ocean rises due to climate change.

By 2100, a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees celsius is predicted to happen, causing a sea-level rise affecting between 500 million and three billion people, and submerging the megacities situated in the coastal areas.

This Chat App Combines Multiple Chat Services Into One

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There’s an app called One Chat for Mac and iPad that combines multiple chat services into one. The chat app supports WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Google Hangouts, Twitter, and more. It auto-locks when you’re away, and you can use a password or Touch ID to lock it. You can schedule messages to send to friends, generate “Auto Smart GIFs), customize notifications, and a whole lot more. It also supports file transfer, so you can send and receive photos, videos, DOC, TXT, PDFs, with drag-and-drop support. It costs US$17.99, and you can buy multiple copies in case you have a business.

Phone Calls Are Dead. Is Voice Chat the Future?

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Not many people like to make and take phone calls nowadays. But David Pierce writes that sending text messages removes the humanity from communication. Is voice chat the future instead?

In the swing from calls to texts, we lost the warmth and humanity that made the phone work in the first place. I’m not pining for the days of the loudly spinning rotary phone, though. Better ways to actually talk to people already exist. A few companies are building tools that improve upon what didn’t work about phone calls, making them less disruptive and more productive.

At the same time, a new type of chat is sitting right under our noses. It’s called voice messaging, and it deserves a place alongside text and video as core parts of how we chat in the digital age.

A Cashless Society is a Discriminatory Society

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Tim Cook wants to see a cashless society, but Gene Marks writes that it’s an inherently discriminatory system. Not accepting cash excludes service to people (usually poor people) who may be unable to get a credit or debit card. But a new bill would make it illegal for restaurants to refuse paper money.

However, one city in the US is resisting that trend: Washington DC. In the nation’s capital cash is still king, and a new bill introduced this week wants to keep it that way. The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 would make it illegal for restaurants and retailers not to accept cash or charge a different price to customers depending on the type of payment they use.

The U.S. Government Plants Spy Phones on People

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In certain situations, the U.S. government plants spy phones on people. In one case, the DEA sold encrypted BlackBerry phones to a suspected cocaine smuggler.

“If the government is distributing, effectively, bugging devices, without sufficient court oversight and authorization, I think that could really have a chilling effect on free expression, if people feel like they have to assume the risk that any phone they’re handed could have been bugged in a way that would violate their rights,” says Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah St. Vincent.


Major Media Outlets Think Climate Change Isn't Important

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In recent disturbing (but not entirely surprising), it turns out that major media outlets don’t mention climate change. Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed this summer’s heat wave. But only CBS mentioned climate change as a contributing factor.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that human-induced climate change is exacerbating both the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Heat domes like the one that caused this recent heat wave are becoming more intense and more common, scientists have found. UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, who has studied extreme weather patterns in California, said recent heat in California was unusual.

Can an Algorithm do Land Surveying?

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If an algorithm draws lines on a map, is that the same thing as land surveying? A Mississippi court is trying to answer this very question, thanks to a startup called Vizaline.

Since 2014, Vizaline, a startup based in Madison, Mississippi, has provided this very specific service to local banks: drawing polygons on satellite photos. Why would banks want this? Many banks lend money to facilitate real-estate acquisition, and, in this way, the bank can gain a better sense of precisely where this land is in relation to other property.

But Mississippi’s Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Surveyors says that it should be the state entity solely responsible for land surveying.

Talsam is Smart Jewelry that Connects You With Loved Ones

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Talsam is smart jewelry that offers you an intimate way to connect with a loved one. The New York City based team has produced a stylish charm that is designed to enhance your most precious relationships by combining high design with cutting edge technology. Talsam connects to a smartphone using Bluetooth. When its wearer receives a message or animated emoji sent using the Talsam app, the charm lights up like a shooting star to let them know. The wearer can also send an SOS alert that includes their location to an emergency contact by pressing a button on the charm for a few seconds. Talsam is smart jewelry made with fashion in mind. The team spent months carefully constructing every aspect of the charm, to ensure that the end product offers maximum wearability and style. Each of the six charms in the collection is a unique blend of plated stainless steel and semi-precious stone and boasts six Swarovski crystals arranged in the pattern of the Lyra Constellation, a group of stars associated with love and music.

Talsam is Smart Jewelry that Connects You With Loved Ones