Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

Want to Name the European Rover That Will Go to Mars in 2020?

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A European rover called ExoMars will travel to the red planet in 2020. Astronaut Tim Peake wants everyone to enter a name on a website designed for the purpose. Be warned though: There will be no Spacey McSpaceFace. Also, you have to be a European citizen to vote, as I found out when I tried to submit my name suggestion (Destiny).

Tim says thinking about the rover’s mission might be the source for a great name. “I often get asked, ‘is there life out there beyond Earth?’. It’s a very fundamental question, and it’s one that this rover is going to try to answer,” he told BBC News.

Dr David Parker, the director of human spaceflight and robotics at the European Space Agency, agreed: “The Americans called their Mars rovers Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. We’ve tended in the past to name our missions after famous scientists.

New Kids Chair Looks Like a Torture Device

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I saw this while scrolling through my news this morning and I had to comment. A new kids chair designed by Kingston School of Art Masahiko Ito is meant to improve concentration and posture. But it’s a saddle-shaped chair that legitimately looks like a torture device called the cavaletto squarciapalle, a.k.a. the wooden horse. It’s also used in BDSM but we won’t go there.

“I noticed that we naturally want to fidget and to move around in our chairs, for instance when we concentrate on our teacher, we tend to sit in a more alert position towards the front of our chair in a kind of riding position, while when we reflect, we tend to recline,” he said.

It's Time to Let us Set Default Apps on iOS

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Original iPhone

Dan Moren writes that it’s about time that Apple let us set default apps on iOS. From the very beginning, the default apps have been Apple’s own. Although you can install third-party apps, you can’t set them as the default. This means that if you want to use Chrome, tapping on a link will still open it in Safari.

Developers who compete directly with Apple’s built-in apps (like Mail, Safari, and Calendar) have always had an uphill battle ahead of them. How do you take on an app that’s installed on every single iPhone for free? Especially when your app will always be a second-class citizen. Allowing users to choose their own default apps won’t fix all of those problems, but it will go a ways toward making these apps viable for even more people.

A Swarm of Drones Just Created a Hive Mind

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A collective of 30 drones demonstrated collective intelligence. The drones weren’t programmed to have a certain flight path. They self-organized into a hive mind and flew in sync, without smashing into each other.

As the newly-formed flock migrates, its members’ luminous underbellies all change to the same color: green. They’ve decided to head east. The drones at the front approach a barrier, and their tummies turn teal as they veer south. Soon, the trailing members’ lights change in suit.

In contrast, each of these 30 drones is tracking its own position, its own velocity, and simultaneously sharing that information with other members of the flock. There is no leader among them; they decide together where to go—a decision they make on the literal, honest-to-goodness fly.

Green…Borg green??

Doppler Music Player Updated With New Features

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Doppler, an app I reviewed a while back, just got a big update today. It’s a music player app that lets you play music offline, import MP3s, FLAC files, and more. Version 1.2 dropped today, and it brings features like:

Added support for importing music from Safari
Added support for scrobbling to Last.fm
Added support for sending now playing updates to Last.fm when connected to Wi-Fi
Added support for saving Last.fm scrobbles while listening offline
Added support for editing album information
Added support for editing album artwork
Added support for searching and downloading album artwork
Added support for setting album artwork from Photo library and clipboard
Added indicator for changed metadata fields
Added confirmation alert before deleting albums and songs

Doppler music player is available on the App Store for US$3.99.

Doppler Music Player Updated With New Features

Glass is Old Tech, But its Future is High Tech

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Glass is a technology that is over 3,000 years old. It’s something that we use daily in our phones, computers, and home. Corning is a company that has made glass products for years, and says that it’s the defining material of our time. Welcome to The Glass Age.

“Yes, this is the glass age,” declares one video produced by Corning. “But it’s only just begun. Its potential is barely tapped.”

And what’s next in this glass age? Touch screens, everywhere: your walls, your car, the mirror in the dressing room at the mall. Windows that can be programmed to let in exactly the amount of light that you want. And more fiber optic cables, which are actually made up of extremely thin strands of glass.

iOS App Discount: Reigns Her Majesty Down to $1.99

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Reigns Her Majesty game is now on sale for US$1.99, when it’s usually US$2.99. The game is the revolutionary follow-up to the smash swipe ‘em up hit Reigns. A cultural renaissance has bestowed the world with a new era of knowledge and enlightenment but greed and jealousy still conspire against the benevolent queen. Outwit and outlast those that would seek to depose you and your husband by swiping left or right, making just (or unjust) decisions on all manner of royal matters. Maintain the balance between the kingdom’s most powerful factions, use mystical items from your inventory, and navigate the increasingly complex politics and personal relationships of your dynasty.

iOS App Discount: Reigns Her Majesty Down to $1.99

Online Retail Hackers Account for 90% of Login Attempts

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Online retail hackers account for 90% of all login attempts. According to a report by cybersecurity firm Shape Security, hackers use special software with stolen data to login multiple times, called credential stuffing.

These attacks are successful as often as 3% of the time, and the costs quickly add up for businesses, Shape says. This type of fraud costs the e-commerce sector about $6 billion a year, while the consumer banking industry loses out on about $1.7 billion annually. The hotel and airline businesses are also major targets—the theft of loyalty points is a thing—costing a combined $700 million every year.

A Baby's First Memory is Likely False

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recent study in the Psychological Science journal asked 6,641 residents in the U.K. to describe in writing their first memory, and the age they were in that memory. Around 40% of people found out that that memory is probably false.

It might seem dismissive to assume that these memories are false, but memory researchers have good reason to conclude that people aren’t truly remembering being a baby. Research on infantile amnesia, the official term for the phenomenon in which we forget things that happened to us as babies and young children, has shown that it’s close to impossible to retain declarative memories at that young age.

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.