#205516 [Published articles]

<oktommy> pop culture is getting more and mroe popular

#304473 [Published articles]

< gordonjcp> oh deary me, someone has emailed me asking for advice on running a MUD under ax25d
< gordonjcp> yeah
< gordonjcp> 'cos individually, MUDs and packet radio aren't geeky enough by themselves
Comment: #scotlug

#300619 [Published articles]

<sandm> if there are any tools to analyze memory leaks etc?
<_habnabit> valgrind.
<delimax> valgrind
<Chris> valgrind!!
<sandm> thanx all for answers....
<Chris> you're welcome, it helps to get different answers from different points of view.

Getting better at painting gaming miniatures [Published articles]

Many of us who play fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying and tabletop miniature games struggle with our ability to paint minis so that they look halfway decent on the table. Getting me to paint my minis is like getting 8-year-old me to eat his broccoli. I'm something of a perfectionist and I look at a lot of pro painted miniatures, in gaming magazines and online. My miniatures never look as good as what I see, so it's an effort for me to even bother. But also being a perfectionist, I wouldn't think of "gaming in the nude" (playing with unpainted miniatures). And so I press ahead, and try to do at least a little painting every night.

My pal, James Floyd Kelly, who I wrote about previously when he launched his new dungeon crafting channel, Game Terrain Engineering, was in a similar boat of not being happy with his painting chops. So, he decided to buy the Reaper Miniatures Learn To Paint Bones Kit and record a series of videos of him painting the three minis that come in the kit. It's really encouraging to watch the series and to see how much his painting improves over the three videos and three miniatures. Bolstered by that improvement, Jim plans on now getting the next kit in the series, the Layer Up Bones Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit and to paint (and hopefully document) those three miniatures.

https://youtu.be/vX4--iJvz5w https://youtu.be/WYaQCb1noVQ https://youtu.be/WCAGMYY3TRY

Also: Here's a list of beginner painting tips that I ran into recently. These are all of the same tips that I share with people. I would also add great lighting. I just broke down and finally got one of those swing-arm magnifying florescent lights and it makes me feel like I've been painting in the dark up until now. Jimmi recommends a wet palette and I couldn't agree more, now that I finally have one of those. Thinning your paints and building up paint in layers makes a huge difference in achieving great results. A wet palette helps keep the paints properly thin for you. Here's the wet palette that I got, based on a friend's recommendation. I love it.

Kickstarter Campaign Launched To Save NASA's Mission Control [Published articles]

Long-time Slashdot reader yzf750 shares sad news about the facility where NASA conducted the Apollo moon landing in 1969: Mission Control at Johnson Space Center is a wreck and this Kickstarter project is trying to save it. The nearby city of Webster, Texas has promised to match Kickstarter funding up to $400,000. The goal is to raise $250,000 to add to the $3.5 million already budgeted by the city of Webster to restore Mission Control. Contributors on Kickstarter can receive rewards including models of the Apollo 11 command module, lunch with Apollo flight controllers, VIP tours, or a free download of the documentary Mission Control: the Unsung Heroes of Apollo. The Kickstarter campaign was launched by Space Center Houston, which is also contributing $5 million to preserve what's been called a "cathedral of engineering." In December the Houston Chronicle noted that though Mission Control is listed in America's National Register of Historic Places, "plans to restore it have been discussed for more than 20 years. But its restoration and preservation remain in limbo, with no set date for work to begin."

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How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers [Published articles]

The Neil story (with additional footnote) [Published articles]

(I wrote this on Tumblr. It's since been picked up and quoted all over the place, and I'm being asked a lot if it's actually something I said, and if it's true. It is, and it is. Here's the original.)

duckswearhats asked: Hi, I read that you've dealt with with impostor syndrome in the past, and I'm really struggling with that right now. I'm in a good place and my friends are going through a lot, and I'm struggling to justify my success to myself when such amazing people are unhappy. I was wondering if you have any tips to feel less like this and maybe be kinder to myself, but without hurting anyone around me. It's a big ask, I know, but any help would make my life a lot less stressful 

The best help I can offer is to point you to Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence. She talks about Imposter Syndrome (and interviews me in it) and offers helpful insight.

The second best help might be in the form of an anecdote. Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things.  And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name*. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

 (There’s a wonderful photograph of the Three Neils even if one of us was a Neal at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2012/08/neil-armstrong.html)


*(I remember being amused and flattered that he knew who I was, not because he'd read anything by me, but because the Google algorithm of the time had me down as Neil #1. If you just typed Neil, it would take you to neilgaiman.com. Many people, including me, felt that if there was a Neil #1, it was most definitely him.)

The One Book That Made Me Believe In Aliens (Not In The Way You Think) [Published articles]

There was a time, not that long ago, when if you told people you were a science fiction fan they would ask you—no doubt thinking of The X-Files—whether you really believed in aliens. My usual response was to reply, putting a gentle emphasis on the second word, that it’s called science fiction for a reason. But the fact is that I did, and do, believe in aliens … but not in that way.

Of course I do believe that there are intelligent alien species out there in the universe somewhere (though the Fermi Paradox is troubling, and the more I learn about the peculiar twists and turns that the evolution of life on this planet has taken to get to this point the more I wonder if we might, indeed, be alone in the universe), but I don’t believe that they have visited Earth, at least not in noticeable numbers or in recent history. But I do believe in aliens as people—as complex beings with knowable, if not immediately comprehensible, motives, who can be as good and bad as we can, and not just monsters who want to eat us or steal our water or our breeding stock. And I can date this belief to a specific book.

I was twelve or thirteen when my older cousin Bill came from California to live with us for a summer. At one point during his stay he had a box of old paperbacks to get rid of, and he offered me my choice before taking them to the used book store. One of the books I snagged that day was Hospital Station by James White. It was the cover that grabbed me, I think: a realistic painting of a space hospital—a clear ripoff of Discovery from 2001, but adorned with red crosses. The concept of a hospital in space promised drama, excitement, and tension, and the book did not disappoint. But better than that, it changed my mind and my life in some important ways.

Up until that time I had generally encountered aliens only as villains, or even monsters—the Metaluna Mutants from This Island Earth, the hideous creatures from Invasion of the Saucer-Men, the Martians from War of the Worlds, The Blob. True, there was Spock, but he scarcely seemed alien, and besides there was only one of him. Even in prose fiction (I had recently read Ringworld) the aliens were more nuanced, but still fundamentally adversarial to humanity; alien species tended to appear as stand-ins for either thematic concepts or for other nations or races of humans. But in Hospital Station, for the first time, I found aliens who were truly alien—strange and very different—but nonetheless allies, co-workers, and friends.

Hospital Station is a collection of five stories showing the construction and evolution of the eponymous station—Sector Twelve General Hospital—in a universe with so many intelligent species that a standard four-letter code has been developed to quickly categorize their physiology, behavior, and environmental needs. To accommodate those widely varying environmental needs, the station is divided into many sections, each with atmosphere, gravity, and temperature suitable for its usual occupants. A universal translator ameliorates the problems of communication between species, but—and this is critical—it is not perfect, nor can it immediately comprehend the languages of new aliens; it must be brought up to speed when a new species is encountered. Also, eliminating the language problem doesn’t prevent miscommunications and cultural conflicts.

But despite the conflicts that do exist between species in this universe, the primary problems that face the characters in Hospital Station are those that face any doctors in any hospital on Earth: healing the sick, solving medical mysteries, and preventing the spread of disease. The conflicts are interpersonal, the villains are diseases or physical processes, and the tension is generally provided by a race to heal or cure in time rather than a need to destroy or prevent destruction. It’s not that there is no war in this universe, but the army—the interspecies Monitor Corps—is barely seen in this volume and exists primarily to prevent war rather than to wage it. It is a fundamentally optimistic universe in which the main characters, of widely diverse species with different needs, personalities, and priorities, are primarily cooperating to solve problems rather than competing against one another.

This was the first time I had encountered this type of aliens and I devoured the book with gusto. Even better, I discovered it was the first in a series, which continued until 1999. I soon learned that many other such fictional universes existed—including, to some extent, later incarnations of Star Trek—and eventually I began writing about them myself. The Martians and Venusians in my Arabella Ashby books are intended to be people who, though their bodies, language, and culture may be different from ours, are worth getting to know.

The stories in Hospital Station were written between 1957 and 1960, and they may seem rather quaint by today’s standards (the portrayal of women is particularly eyeroll-worthy). But it served to introduce to me a concept which we now summarize as “diversity”—the importance of representing and accommodating different kinds of people, with different points of view, who can by their very differences improve everyone’s lives by bringing their unique perspectives to bear on our common problems. Unlike the purely villainous aliens of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing, these aliens are complex beings, and even when we disagree we can work together to find common cause. And though this view of diversity can sometimes seem facile and overly optimistic, I think it’s better to hope for the best than to live in fear of the worst.

The Sector General novels—of which Hospital Station is the first—are available in omnibus editions from Tor Books.

David D. Levine is the author of the novel Arabella of Mars , its sequel Arabella and the Battle of Venus, and over fifty science fiction and fantasy stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. Stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Tor.com, numerous Year’s Best anthologies, and his award-winning collection Space Magic.​​

Disney showed us the inner workings of its Avatar robot and it’s just incredible [Published articles]

 Back at the end of May, Disney opened an Avatar-themed area within its Animal Kingdom park. Given that it’s only been open for a few weeks, most folks still haven’t been inside — but if you do go, do yourself a favor and take the time to check out the Na’vi River Journey ride. At our TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics event in Boston this afternoon, we got a look at… Read More

Atari Is Back In the Hardware Business, Unveils Ataribox [Published articles]

Reader MojoKid writes: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais confirmed the company was working on a brand new console back in June this year at E3, but today the company has officially unveiled the product. The new Ataribox console draws on some of the classic styling of the original Atari 2600 console but with a modernized flare, though still sporting that tasty wood grain front panel. Atari is also looking to make the Ataribox a bit more user-friendly and expandable than its Nintendo rivals through the addition of an SD card slot and four USB ports (in addition the requisite HDMI port). The new console will be based on PC component technologies but will be available with a number of classic games to let you bask in the early days of console gaming. However, Atari will also be bringing what is being billed as "current content" to the console as well. So, we can expect to see brand new licensed games for the Ataribox, although it's hard to say, given just its size to go on, what sort of horsepower is lurking under the Ataribox's hood. "We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, pricing, timing," said Atari in a statement sent via email. "We're not teasing you intentionally; we want to get this right, so we've opted to share things step by step as we bring this to life, and to listen closely to the Atari community feedback as we do so."

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Japan's floating space drone offers a window into the ISS [Published articles]

Int-Ball is undergoing initial verification

As it stands, crew aboard the Japanese module Kibo on the International Space Station spend around 10 percent of their time capturing photos and video. But they may soon find themselves with a little more spare time, thanks to a cute autonomous drone that has arrived to lighten the load.

.. Continue Reading Japan's floating space drone offers a window into the ISS

Category: Space

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Police body cams will soon use AI to find missing people [Published articles]

Motorola is adding machine learning to its surveillance equipment used by law enforcement personnel. Cops in Chicago's Waukegan police department are already suiting up with the company's Si500 body cams. But those same cameras could soon pack AI tha...

‘17776’ proves digital stories can go beyond mere text [Published articles]

I’ve been notably pessimistic about the future of or need for multimedia in an ebook setting, or even of the efficacy of telling stories in multimedia. However, thanks to a new serial story from SB Nation‘s Jon Bois, I might have to eat some of those words.

The SB Nation sports blog recently finished posting 17776: What Football Will Look Like in the Future. Despite the presence of “football” in the subtitle, this serial story actually has a lot more to say about the human condition than about the present-day version of the sport—and even people who aren’t terribly interested in modern-day football might find this story interesting.

The narrative is experimental in a number of ways. It is mostly presented in the form of text discussions between its three main characters, as well as a number of ancillary characters we look in on from time to time for a chapter or two. The different characters’ dialogue is usually denoted by differing colors rather than explicit name tags, so it can be a little confusing until you understand more clearly what you’re looking at.

The text is illustrated with maps, charts, “found” clippings from old archives, and GIF animations. (Sometimes the presentation of the text is itself part of the story, as in the case of one chapter that is read down the first column, up the second, then down the third column again.) There are also YouTube videos interspersed, in which you get to see the characters’ dialogue unfold in realtime, as if they were typing it in a live chat as you were watching.

It seems a bit gimmicky, but the story told through all this is strangely compelling. To say too much about it would be to spoil it, but the first chapter introduces us to the three central characters—three old human space probes who have, over the 15,000+ years since they were launched, developed consciousnesses and human personalities. Thanks to new quantum transmission technologies, they are able to communicate with each other and people back on Earth in real-time, as well as spectate and comment on what’s happening on the home world they’re now billions of miles away from. Over the course of the story, two of the probes explain what’s going on to the third probe who has just been awakened itself, thus also serving the purpose of filling the reader in on current events.


Those current events largely resolve around forms of a game referred to as “football,” though it bears about as much resemblance to present-day football as present-day football bears to Roman gladiatorial arena combat. And things just get stranger from there, as it turns out that the people playing football in the year 17776 are largely the same ones who were around in the early 21st century. Sometime in 2026, people stopped getting pregnant, growing older, or dying—which makes the story a study of how the onset of unexpected immortality and population stagnation affects human society 15,000 years later.

Some elements of the narrative are a little hard to swallow—the way space probes can wake up with oddly human personalities and outlooks, or the way Earth of 15,000 years in the future still has the same buildings, landmarks, and mostly the same technology as Earth of the present-day (with just a few minor changes, such as the reshaping of the coastline due to global warming sinking all or parts of Florida, New York, Texas, Louisiana, and various other coastal states).

The story does try to explain some of these oddities, and indeed those explanations are part of an interesting look at how human nature is affected when people can no longer get old or die, or even physically risk themselves (thanks to a new nanotech safety system that was implemented after a few thousand years). It’s certainly the best possible way they could have explained keeping stuff close enough to the same that they could still use what appears to be modified footage from the present-day Google Earth in telling the story. These things still feel a little contrived, but the rest of the story is good enough that I find them forgiveable on the whole.

And even leaving aside those quibbles, the story is oddly compelling. Some have even suggested it may be “a glimpse into the future of reading on the Internet.” I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do find it an intriguing story, made up of equal parts of optimism and pessimism (like much of the best post-Singularity fiction). Of course, there’s no guarantee that just adding multimedia would make any story this good; in large part its quality is due to the writing talents of Jon Bois and the other staff who collaborated with him to put it together.

At the moment, the only way to read 17776 is via a web browser, through the pages where it’s hosted on SB Nation. But I suspect that it could readily be presented in an ePub document format with embedded animation and videos—if the ePub format and reader software for it were mature enough to support displaying it the way it’s displayed on the site. I’ve always heard that sort of thing was supposed to be ePub’s goal, but I’m not sure how close that goal is to fruition yet.

One important difference between 17776 and the “Crave Multimedia” storytelling startup whose story I linked in the first paragraph is that, unlike Crave, SB Nation isn’t charging for this. You don’t have to pay to experience it; you can just go read it and see if you like it. I’m all for that. And if 17776 causes others to be awakened to just how to use multimedia content in the service of telling a story, and it leads to other such stories coming about, I’m all for that too.

The scrolling, unlabeled conversational format may be a little off-putting to new readers at first. But those who stick with it will discover an interesting and thought-provoking story which will leave them with plenty to think about well after it’s over.

If you found this post worth reading and want to kick in a buck or two to the author, click here.

Facebook's AI Keeps Inventing Languages That Humans Can't Understand [Published articles]

"Researchers at Facebook realized their bots were chattering in a new language," writes Fast Company's Co.Design. "Then they stopped it." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Facebook -- as well as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple -- said they were more interested in AI's that could talk to humans. But when two of Facebook's AI bots negotiated with each other "There was no reward to sticking to English language," says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). Co.Design writes that the AI software simply, "learned, and evolved," adding that the creation of new languages is a phenomenon Facebook "has observed again, and again, and again". And this, of course, is problematic. "Should we allow AI to evolve its dialects for specific tasks that involve speaking to other AIs? To essentially gossip out of our earshot? Maybe; it offers us the possibility of a more interoperable world, a more perfect place where iPhones talk to refrigerators that talk to your car without a second thought. The tradeoff is that we, as humanity, would have no clue what those machines were actually saying to one another." One of the researchers believes that that's definitely going in the wrong direction. "We already don't generally understand how complex AIs think because we can't really see inside their thought process. Adding AI-to-AI conversations to this scenario would only make that problem worse."

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Free Speech vs Billionaires: Netflix Streams A New Documentary About The Gawker Verdict [Published articles]

Speaking of Netflix, last month they began streaming "Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press" -- a new documentary by Brian Knappenberger about the Gawker verdict. An anonymous reader shares this description from Business Insider: Knappenberger -- who previously made the movies "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz," on internet activist Aaron Swartz, and "We Are Legion," about the hacker group Anonymous -- got in touch with Nick Denton and Gawker editor-in-chief (who also posted the Hogan sex tape video) A.J. Daulerio to be in the film as well as Hogan's lawyer David R. Houston... Knappenberger said he also tried to get Peter Thiel to be in the movie, but Thiel declined Knappenberger's numerous requests. And the movie shows how other people with money and influence can and do silence the media. Knappenberger also showcases what happened to the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the end of 2015. The paper's staff was suddenly told that the paper had been sold, though they were never told who the new publisher was. A group of reporters found that the son-in-law of Las Vegas casino titan Sheldon Adelson was a major player in the purchase of the paper. According to the movie, Adelson had a vendetta with the paper's columnist John L. Smith, who wrote unflattering things about him in a 2005 book. Smith was even ordered after the paper was bought that he was never to write about Adelson in any of his pieces. For Knappenberger, there's no other way to look at it: The suppression of the media by billionaires is happening. Knappenberger said if any legal documents arrive from the billionaires discussed in his movie, "We're ready for it." But he added that the bigger issue is getting people to understand that the loss of the free press is "the most important thing facing our country." Or, as a former Gawker editor says in the film, "If you're not pissing off a billionaire, what's the point?"

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Close up of the Great Red Spot [Published articles]

Close up of the Great Red Spot Close up of the Great Red Spot

ELI5: If I break my finger or cut it or smash it, it can heal, but if I cut it off it won't grow back. Why? All of those tissues can grow back individually, so why can't they grow back together? [Published articles]

100 artists allowed to paint entire school for weeks before renovations [Published articles]

Jonk Photography captured the remarkable work of dozens of street artists given weeks to create whatever they want inside a school that's about to be renovated. (more…)

Bash-Snippets: A collection of small bash scripts for heavy terminal users [Published articles]

DevOps Lessons from Formula 1 – Part 2 [Published articles]

In part 1 of this series we talked about the DevOps lessons about teamwork and goals we could learn from the evolution of pit crew performance from the 1950’ to the modern-day courtesy of an amazing video on YouTube, with some inside information from a former Formula 1 pit crew member.

There are a number of other DevOps lessons we can learn from that video however!

First, Technology matters, and having the right tools (and automation) can offer incredible performance benefits. I think this is most clearly illustrated by the 1950’s engineer whacking away at the front right wheel nut with a large hammer for what seems like an eternity, compared to the high-speed pneumatic “gun” used by the modern pit crew.

Secondly, Processes and Procedures matter – the modern pit crew has a clear, optimised process and checklist of who is going to do what, in what order, to achieve their desired outcome. You can see this clearly in how the 3 team mates in a wheel changing team are “stacked” next to each other, ready to go as the car stops in the pits – “1 to gun the wheel off, 1 to pull it off, 1 to put it on and the first guy guns it back on”

Thirdly, Trust matters. In former F1 “IT Guy” Pete’s words:

“Oh, and the 2 worst jobs of all – The front jack man, who stands there with the trolley as the F1 car drives at them at 60mph hoping they’ll stop in time, and the lollipop man (who was our travel manager) who decides when it’s safe to release the car into the pitlane”.

The front jack man is literally putting his life on the line for the team – he must trust the driver (and the car) to stop in time. Likewise, the driver is putting his life on in the hands of the “lollipop man” that the pitlane is clear enough to allow him to re-join the race without someone shunting him into the pit wall at 200 MPH.

Fourthly, the old adage “Train hard, fight easy” is as true in F1 as it is in combat (and DevOps). In Pete’s words, again:

“You’re there from about 7 days before a race. Each day we would do “pit stop practice”. Everyone has a role, but pretty much everyone had practiced and actually done every role.”.

In DevOps we call this “Game Day” – rehearsing failure and disaster scenarios as realistically as possible (ideally by inject real faults into the system!) and making sure that we have the people, processes and technology to cope.

Lastly, and by no means least, we come to one of the questions asked from the audience at our recent event on “Building an Awesome DevOps Culture”:

“But the modern crew has 20+ people compared to the 4 in the 1950’s crew. Isn’t that going to be a lot more expensive?”

Yes, it is going to be more expensive… but not as expensive as losing.

This mindset goes to the heart of the problem with much of IT management over the past 20 years – that “controlling cost” is the most important thing to consider in every decision.

Similarly, the F1 team could make “controlling cost” the number 1 priority, still have a 4-man pit crew and still take 67 secs for every pit stop.

And they would lose every race, lose their sponsors and eventually go out of business.

A highly trained 20 person pit crew is the “cost of doing business” in modern F1. You can’t compete without the right people, processes and technology, working together in a multi-disciplinary team striving to achieve a common goal.

And this is as true in Formula 1 as it is in the modern business world, where new entrants are using new business models, new technologies and new IT operating models (i.e. DevOps) to disrupt your business.

Sure, cost control is important, which is why we look to DevOps automation and cloud hosting to give us speed and flexibility at a great price, but the most important thing always has to be “The Goal”, whatever that goal is for you, your team, your organization and your customers.

– Steve Thair (@TheOpsMgr).

The post DevOps Lessons from Formula 1 – Part 2 appeared first on DevOpsGuys.

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts [Published articles]

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.

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Australia To Compel Technology Firms To Provide Access To Encrypted Missives [Published articles]

Australia on Friday proposed new laws to compel companies such as U.S. social media giant Facebook and device manufacturer Apple to provide security agencies access to encrypted messages. From a report: The measures will be the first in an expected wave of global legislation as pressure mounts on technology companies to provide such access after several terror suspects used encrypted applications ahead of attacks. Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014 and authorities have said they have thwarted several plots, although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said law enforcement needed more help. "We need to ensure the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. "The reality is, however, that these encrypted messaging applications and voice applications are being used obviously by all of us, but they're also being used by people who seek to do us harm."

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Getting Started with Event Sourcing in Postgres [Published articles]

System creates lip-synced video from audio clips [Published articles]

The system has been trained on hours of Barack Obama speeches

It's already possible to create a digital copy of someone's voice, enabling users to create an audio file of them saying things that they never actually said. Listeners still might not be fooled, though, as there wouldn't be footage of the person speaking those words. Well … University of Washington researchers have now created a system that converts audio clips into lip-synced videos of the speaker.

.. Continue Reading System creates lip-synced video from audio clips

Category: Science

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This scorecard shows which tech companies protect user data from the government (and which don’t) [Published articles]

 The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s newest “Who Has Your Back?” report details what exactly tech giants are doing — or not — to protect their users from potentially invasive government data requests. The annual report includes a solid who’s who of tech’s most established players. Some of the winners and losers are who you’d expect, though… Read More

The Wirecutter's Best Amazon Prime Day Deals [Published articles]

The Wirecutter's Best Amazon Prime Day Deals This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate co...

Two-up detail of the moon, centered on lunar crater Copernicus, showing before and after image stacking, taken on July 4 [Published articles]

AI paint color names improving, sort of [Published articles]

The AI paint name generator (previously) has refined its preferences. Though still very bad at naming paint colors, there seems to be (to my mind) an emerging personality, one that has beliefs and, perhaps, opinions about its creators.

Pictured at the top of this post, for reference, is the human-named classic Opaque Couché.

Latest experiments reveal AI is still terrible at naming paint colors [Ars Technica]

Microsoft Will Sell Office, Windows as a Bundle [Published articles]

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft announced plans on Monday to start offering Windows 10 and Office together in a single subscription service. Microsoft 365, as the service is known, will also include security and management tools and come in two flavors: one for large enterprises and the other for small-to-medium businesses. The company didn't say how much it will charge for either version of the service.

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Umbrella-sharing Startup Loses Nearly All of Its 300,000 Umbrellas In a Matter of Weeks [Published articles]

With bike-sharing companies like Mobike becoming incredibly successful in Chinese cities, a few startups have decided to mimic the concept with shareable umbrellas. The only problem: most of the umbrellas have gone missing, reports local media. From a report: Only a few weeks after starting up operations in 11 cities across China, Sharing E Umbrella announced that it had lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas. The Shenzhen-based company was launched with a 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) investment. The concept was similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success. Customers use an app on their smartphone to pay a 19 yuan deposit fee for an umbrella, which costs just 50 jiao for every half hour of use.

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Miniature free food pantries based on Little Free Library concept [Published articles]

People's Pantry Cincy in Cincinnati, Ohio commissioned artists to convert old newspaper boxes into miniature food pantries for neighborhood residents to donate or take food items.

“As a dietitian, I’ve always believed that no one should go hungry,” project designer Lisa Andrews said. “We have an abundance of food, yet so many people are suffering from food insecurity, especially in Cincinnati.”

From the Cincinnati Business Courier:

The organization is requesting non-perishable food items and toiletries that donors place in any of the boxes. Project goals are to reduce hunger, increase access to food and toiletries and encourage communities to “nourish their neighborhood.”

"Neighborhood mini-food pantries take bite out of hunger in Cincinnati" (Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

Show HN: Seashells – Pipe output from CLI apps to the web in real time [Published articles]

The EFF's 'Let's Encrypt' Plans Wildcard Certificates For Subdomains [Published articles]

Long-time Slashdot reader jawtheshark shares an announcement from the EFF's free, automated, and open TLS certificate authority at LetsEncrypt.org: Let's Encrypt will begin issuing [free] wildcard certificates in January of 2018... A wildcard certificate can secure any number of subdomains of a base domain (e.g. *.example.com). This allows administrators to use a single certificate and key pair for a domain and all of its subdomains, which can make HTTPS deployment significantly easier. 58% of web traffic is now encrypted, Let's Encrypt reports, crediting in part the 47 million domains they've secured since December of 2015. "Our hope is that offering wildcards will help to accelerate the Web's progress towards 100% HTTPS," explains their web page, noting that they're announcing the wild card certificates now in conjunction with a request for donations to support their work.

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Here’s how to get a refund if you registered your drone with the FAA [Published articles]

 If you’ve been following the drone registration saga in the United States, you may remember that in May a Federal Appeals Court struck down the FAA’s drone registration requirement. The registration requirement, which mandated hobbyists pay $5 and submit their personal information into an FAA database and attach a registration number to their drone, was relatively mild. However… Read More

Why People from Manchester Are Mancunians, Not Manchesterians [Published articles]

New Sharpened Images From Hubble Telescope Contradict Post-Big Bang Theories [Published articles]

An anonymous reader quotes NASA: By applying a new computational analysis to a galaxy magnified by a gravitational lens, astronomers have obtained images 10 times sharper than what Hubble could achieve on its own. The results show an edge-on disk galaxy studded with brilliant patches of newly formed stars... The galaxy in question is so far away that we see it as it appeared 11 billion years ago, only 2.7 billion years after the big bang... The resulting reconstructed image revealed two dozen clumps of newborn stars, each spanning about 200 to 300 light-years. This contradicted theories suggesting that star-forming regions in the distant, early universe were much larger, 3,000 light-years or more in size. "There are star-forming knots as far down in size as we can see," said doctoral student Traci Johnson of the University of Michigan, lead author of two of the three papers describing the research.

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New Research Estimates Value of Removing DRM Locks [Published articles]

Note: We’ve been in touch with a group of economists at the University of Glasgow who are investigating the market value on interoperability.  Just in time for “Day Against DRM,” here are some of their initial conclusions.

My co-authors and I at the University of Glasgow are investigating how restrictions on interoperability imposed by Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems might impact the market for goods. We are doing this as part of a larger project to better understand the economics of DRM and to figure out what changes would likely occur if the laws were reformed. Our recent working paper is titled ‘How much do consumers value interoperability: Evidence from the price of DVD players’. [Open Access here]

We use price data scraped from Amazon.com on all consumer DVD players listed since 2010 to analyse whether there is an increase in willingness-to-pay for players that have features related to interoperability. These features of interest include things like the lack of region controls, the ability to play legacy disc formats, and the ability to play new open file formats like Xvid. At first, DVD players might seem like an antiquated technology for such a study, but the product has many advantages: locked and unlocked players coexist side by side in the market and there are hundreds of competing devices on sale with similar capabilities, facilitating statistical analysis.

Why might consumers benefit from interoperability?

Our study is designed to begin to investigate some propositions about why consumers might value interoperability when choosing to purchase devices or content. There are numerous reasons why that might be the case. For example, people might value backwards interoperability between a device and other devices or content they already own. In a famous economics paper, Farrell & Saloner (1986) suggest that there are barriers to adoption of a new standard caused by network effects related to the number of people using the old standard. For example, maybe one’s friends and family use one system and moving to a new system would leave an early adopter out on a limb. Or, maybe a consumer has invested a lot of money in content that is compatible with the old standard but incompatible with the new one. DRM might amplify those effects and result in ‘excess inertia’: that is, an overall loss to society caused by slower than optimal uptake of a new standard.

On the other hand, consumers might not (only) make a purchase decision informed by goods that they or their friends already own. They may be more concerned with what we call forwards interoperability: the capability of a device to interface with future, unknown devices or content. Imagine for example a company pledging not to restrict their format to future innovators, enabling unintended new benefits to consumers as third-party companies supply complementary goods and content. This might interest consumers worried about ‘future-proofing’ their investment, ensuring that new content is likely to be created for their device.

Main findings

Overall we find that interoperability has a significant positive effect on the price that consumers are willing to pay for DVD players. The average price that they are willing to pay increases by $19 USD for players with any interoperability features present. The average price increases by $30 USD for players with the specific ability to play content in open file formats like Xvid. This feature has the strongest impact on price in our study. The lack of region locks also has a moderately significant effect on price. Backwards compatibility with legacy formats live VCD had no significant impact on price in any of our models, likely because VCD is a very legacy format, indeed, having been popular in the late 1990s. Backwards compatibility might have a bigger impact for products that are released at closer time intervals.

Next steps for research

We plan to expand this study, both in terms of global coverage as well as product categories. One of the things we’d like to check is whether the region of the consumer is an important factor in how they value interoperability.

Ultimately, we intend to examine these dynamics across as many product categories as possible, where DRM-locked options coexist in the market alongside unlocked or hackable options. Some possible candidate products include network routers, handheld GPS devices, and even ‘smart’ lightbulbs. As more and more devices come with embedded firmware, the ability of manufacturers to lock out consumers with DRM – or make them interoperable – will have a greater impact on society beyond media devices.

2017 Linux Laptop Users Survey Results [Published articles]

TV Networks Hide Bad Ratings With Typos, Report Says [Published articles]

A report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal details how networks are taking advantage of that fact to disguise airings that underperform with viewers. From a report: It's described as a common practice in the world of TV ratings, where programs with higher ratings can charge advertisers more to run commercials. When an episode performs poorly with viewers, the networks often intentionally misspell the show title in their report to Nielsen, according to the Journal. This fools the system into separating that airing out as a different show and keeping it from affecting the correctly-spelled show's average overall rating. The report says the practice was initially used sparingly -- for instance, when a broadcast would go up against a major sporting event.

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Levar Burton is reading to you again on his new podcast [Published articles]

In a world where everyone has a podcast (or two -- you've subscribed to ours, right?), this new one is interesting. Levar Burton is joining the game with a new weekly storytelling podcast that should take millennials right back to their Reading Rainb...

How to defend your websites with ZIP bombs [Published articles]

Mesmerizing sculpture emits smoke-filled bubbles [Published articles]

Smoke-filled bubbles fall like fruits from an otherworldly tree in this beautiful installation titled New Spring. (more…)

Google Photos 3.0 Released, Bringing Smarter Sharing, Suggestions and Shared Libraries [Published articles]

Google is rolling out Google Photos 3.0, which features an AI-powered Suggested Sharing feature along with Shared Libraries, "both of which are designed to make the Google Photos app a more social experience, rather than just a personal collection of photo memories," reports TechCrunch. From the report: With the addition of Suggested Sharing, Google Photos will now prompt you to share photos you took by pushing an alert to your smartphone. The feature will identify people in the photos using facial recognition technology and machine learning, which helps it understand who you typically share photos with, among other things. It also looks at the photos you've taken at a particular location, before organizing them in a ready-to-share album by selecting the best shots (e.g., removing blurry or dark photos). You can edit the album if you choose, then share with the people the app suggests, remove suggestions, or add others. Even if your friends or family doesn't use Google Photos, you can share by sending them a link via text or email. A second feature called Shared Libraries is designed more for use with families or significant others. This lets you either share your entire photo collection with someone else, or you can configure it to share only selected photos -- for example, photos of your children.

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There Is a Point At Which It Will Make Economical Sense To Defect From the Electrical Grid [Published articles]

Michael J. Coren reports via Quartz: More than 1 million U.S. homes have solar systems installed on their rooftops. Batteries are set to join many of them, giving homeowners the ability to not only generate but also store their electricity on-site. And once that happens, customers can drastically reduce their reliance on the grid. It's great news for those receiving utility bills. It's possible armageddon for utilities. A new study by the consulting firm McKinsey modeled two scenarios: one in which homeowners leave the electrical grid entirely, and one in which they obtain most of their power through solar and battery storage but keep a backup connection to the grid. Given the current costs of generating and storing power at home, even residents of sunny Arizona would not have much economic incentive to leave the electric-power system completely -- full grid-defection, as McKinsey refers to it -- until around 2028. But partial defection, where some homeowners generate and store 80% to 90% of their electricity on site and use the grid only as a backup, makes economic sense as early as 2020. [A]s daily needs for many are supplied instead by solar and batteries, McKinsey predicts the electrical grid will be repurposed as an enormous, sophisticated backup. Utilities would step up and supply power during the few days or weeks per year when distributed systems run out of juice.

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System76 Unveils Its Own Ubuntu-Based Linux Distribution Called 'Pop!_OS' [Published articles]

BrianFagioli writes: Not content with simply following Canonical and embracing vanilla GNOME, System76 has decided to take its future into its own hands. Today, the company releases the first alpha of an all-new Linux-based operating system called "Pop!_OS," which will eventually be the only OS pre-loaded on its computers. While it will still be based on Ubuntu and GNOME, System76 is tweaking it with its own style and included drivers. In other words, the company is better controlling the user experience, and that is smart. "The Pop!_OS community is in its infancy. This is a fantastic time to engage with and help develop the processes and practices that will govern the future development of the operating system and its community. The team is currently opening up planning for the development roadmap, code of conduct, discussion forums, and the processes surrounding code contribution. Progress made on Pop!_OS has established an inviting, modern, and minimalist look and has improved the first-use experience including streamlining installation and user setup. Work on the first release, scheduled for October 19th, centers on appearance, stability, and overall tightness of the user experience followed by adding new features and greater customization ability," says System76. You can check out the project on GitHub here and download the alpha ISO here. For more information, the company has set up a subreddi.

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Whitehat Security DevOps Checklist [Published articles]


The post Whitehat Security DevOps Checklist appeared first on DevOps.com.

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android [Published articles]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS): Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app. Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues. Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

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The Best And Worst ISP's According To Consumer Reports [Published articles]

In the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the nonprofit organization ranked internet service providers based off customer satisfaction. According to the report, many consumers still don't like their broadband and television provider, and don't believe they receive a decent value for the high price they pay for service. DSLReports summarizes the findings: The report [...] names Chattanooga municipal broadband provider EPB as the most-liked ISP in the nation. EPB was followed by Google Fiber, Armstrong Cable, Consolidated Cable and RCN as the top-ranked ISPs in the nation. Google Fiber "was the clear winner for internet service," notes the report, "with the only high score for value." Google Fiber also received high marks for customer support and service. But large, incumbent ISPs continue to be aggressively disliked due to high prices and poor customer service, according to the report. Despite endless annual promises that customer service is the company's priority, Comcast ranked number 27 out of the 32 providers measured. The company's survey results were weighed down by low consumer marks for value, channel selection, technical support, customer service and free video on demand offerings. The least-liked ISPs in the nation, according to the report, are: Charter (Spectrum), Cable ONE, Atlantic broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom. Not coincidentally, the two largest ISPs in that list just got done with massive mergers or acquisitions that resulted in higher prices and worse service than consumers saw previously.

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'Older Fathers Have Geekier Sons' [Published articles]

An anonymous reader shares a BBC article: Men who delay starting a family are more likely to have "geekier" sons, a study suggests. They were brighter, more focused and less bothered about fitting in -- according to the "Geek Index" devised by King's College London. The mother's age had no impact, and daughters seemed to be immune. One scientist said a trend for delayed parenthood might mean we were heading towards a "society of geniuses" able to solve the world's problems. The findings are rare good news in the science of delayed fatherhood. Repeated studies have shown that older sperm is more prone to genetic errors and children are more likely to develop autism and schizophrenia.

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Awesome 1914 postcards try to predict the Moscow of 2259 [Published articles]

European MEPs want to ban states from backdooring encryption [Published articles]

 The European parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has put forward a proposal that would amend the EU’s charter of fundamental rights to extend privacy rights to the digital realm and prevent governments of EU Member States from backdooring end-to-end encrypted services. Read More

Cats May Have Been Domesticated Twice [Published articles]

sciencehabit writes: Cats may have been domesticated twice, once in Turkey around 10,000 years ago, and again in Egypt, thousands of years later. That's the conclusion of a new genetic analysis of more than 200 ancient cats, including DNA extracted from Egyptian mummies. The scientists found evidence for an exodus of cats into the wider world from both ancient Turkey and ancient Egypt, but that these two waves of cats sported different genetic signatures. Whether or not the ancient Egyptians independently domesticated cats, their massive breeding programs appear to have further tamed the feline, turning cats from territorial and antisocial creatures into the lovable furballs we know today.

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The Big Bad Fox: hilarious tale of predators, parenting, and poultry [Published articles]

An illustration of the cores of the planets of our Solar System. [1536 × 2048] [Published articles]

Kids control the story in Netflix’s new interactive shows [Published articles]

After months of rumors and speculation, Netflix is officially taking the wraps off of its new interactive shows for kids. The company is calling its new type of programming "branching narratives," since viewers can control certain aspects of the stor...

Wonderschool gets $2M to help solve America’s childcare quandary [Published articles]

 In the U.S., childcare presents a nerve-wracking quagmire for parents. It’s expensive—almost a fifth of American families spend more than a quarter of their income on childcare—but that doesn’t mean it’s a lucrative business. In fact, many caregivers make so little that they can’t afford childcare for their own kids and drop out of the workforce.… Read More

Playing with ZFS encryption on Linux [Published articles]

Cable Lobby Tries To Stop State Investigations Into Slow Broadband [Published articles]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions. The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. Another cable lobby group, the American Cable Association (ACA), asked the FCC to approve the petition in a filing on Friday. An FCC ruling in favor of the petition wouldn't completely prevent states from filing lawsuits, but such a ruling would make it far more difficult for the states to protect consumers from false speed claims.

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Nathan Fillion just posted this on Facebook [Published articles]

Researchers train drones to use Wi-Fi to look through walls [Published articles]

 A new system by University of California, Santa Barbara researchers Yasamin Mostofi and Chitra R. Karanam uses two drones, a massive Wi-Fi antenna, and a little interpolation to literally see through solid walls. The system is two-fold. The one drone blasts Wi-Fi through the structure and another picks up the signal. Then, working in tandem, the two drones fly around the solid structure until… Read More

Jaguar thinks the Gorillaz app is a good way to find engineers [Published articles]

Jaguar Land Rover has teamed up with an unlikely partner to recruit its next wave of engineers -- the animated band Gorillaz. The auto company will be using the band's mixed reality app to challenge aspiring team members, fast-tracking the best perfo...

Why Stackshare is quietly becoming a secret weapon for developers and Silicon Valley CTOs [Published articles]

 On Stackshare, Airbnb lists over 50 services in its “stack,” Slack lists 24, and Spotify lists more than 31; these stacks are collections of different pieces of software that each company is using to run their operations, and range from infrastructure tools to communications tools to container tools to email services. Why are companies beginning to share the specific mix of… Read More

An impressive collection of circuit diagrams for Arduino electronics [Published articles]

"Oh my god, this is beautiful!," "What IS this?; this is SO cool!" It's not often you get such reactions (especially from non-techies) for a nerdy computer hardware and electronics book filled with esoteric-looking diagrams. But that's what happened when Alberto Piganti sent me a prototype copy of his ABC: Basic Connections book and I left it out on my dining room table. Alberto sent the copy because he's currently crowdfunding the book on Kickstarter (now with only 14 hours left to go!).


Anyone who knows Alberto's work on his website PighiXXX knows that he creates gorgeous, free to download, and easy-to-understand circuit diagrams, pinouts, and other electronic schematics for the Arduino user community. His work is laudable for being exceptionally clean and clear, easy for non-techies to understand, and rendered in the most human-readable ways possible. And it's all just too dang purdy!

His ABC: Basic Connections book is a small 2-ring binder collecting (and adding to) the best and most useful schematics from the site. The idea is that the schematics are printed on sturdy pages that you can remove from the binder to use on your workbench (and updates will be available). He describes the impetus for the project:

Back in 2013 I began designing my own and making them available for free on my website pighixxx.com. I have created so far more than 300 high quality circuit diagrams and pinouts that are used by more than 500,000 makers worldwide. The feedback from the community has been amazing and it has encouraged me to create more and more content. The only problem is that they're not very convenient to use on your computer screen where the programming environment should be the main open window. Also, printing the diagrams can only add more clutter to your desk.

The book is a collection of neat, easy-to-read circuit diagrams and pinouts that will show you how to properly connect almost anything to your Arduino, ARM mbed or ESP8266 compatible boards. ABC: Basic Connections is great for both beginners and professionals and it can be used as a resource for teaching electronics.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Every person who frequently used Arduino-controlled electronics in projects, regardless of your skill level, should check this book out. It has circuit diagrams for nearly every major hardware connection you might want to make to an Arduino and it also includes pinouts, a reference section for color-coded components (e.g. resistors), and a very well-described crash course in electronic components. Alberto crowdfunded (and delivered) a similar book in 2013. This book contains twice as much content as that edition. For the Kickstarter campaign, he's selling the book for US$25. After that, it will retail for around $39.