Technology

Smartphones are almost everywhere

Sunday, 18 November, 2018

It’s estimated that 40 percent of the world’s population now has a smartphone. For three billion people, writes Alan Taylor in The Atlantic, “these versatile handheld devices have become indispensable tools, providing connections to loved ones, entertainment, business applications, shopping opportunities, windows into the greater world of social media, news, history, education, and more.”

Here, Nigerian refugee Aicha Younoussa poses with a smartphone in front of her tent in a refugee camp in southern Chad.

In Chad

Here, attendees take photos of President Donald Trump as he attends the 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit in the East Room of the White House.

President Trump in the White House

Here, three women take selfies in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan.

Piazza del Duomo


Let the unboxing begin

Thursday, 15 November, 2018

ThinkPad


So, farewell, then, ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

It was, when it appeared in 2012, a real alternative to the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon had a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive instead of a hard drive, 4 gigabytes of memory, an Intel Core i5-3317U processor and a 14-inch (360 mm) screen with a resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. The keyboard was backlit and spill-resistant and the whole package was as tough as old boots. Indeed, the Rainy Day X1 once popped out of a poorly-zipped rucksack and hit the frozen pavement with a heart-stopping whack. But it booted up subsequently as if it had merely fallen upon a quilt of eiderdown.

Now, reams and streams of words later, the replacement keyboard, minus U, O, B and N, is beginning to look like Bobby Clarke’s smile, and the engine cannot produce the kind of power needed to keep a dozen Chrome tabs open, Spotify playing, WordPress running and a host of other applications purring. The time has come to replace our loyal and reliable five-year old ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Farewell, then.

ThinkPad X1


Bill Gates recalls Paul Allen

Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died on Monday at the age of 65 of complications from a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bill Gates remembers his schoolmate, friend and business partner in a blog post titled “What I loved about Paul Allen.” Snippet:

Paul foresaw that computers would change the world. Even in high school, before any of us knew what a personal computer was, he was predicting that computer chips would get super-powerful and would eventually give rise to a whole new industry. That insight of his was the cornerstone of everything we did together.

In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area — he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.

Paul Allen made our world a better place and during his lifetime and he gave more than $2 billion towards the advancement of science, technology, education, wildlife conservation and the arts. RIP.

Bill Gates and  Paul Allen


Elephant in the mushroom

Friday, 21 September, 2018

The French creative agency Les Creatonautes has spent a lot of time and energy this year producing a series of digital collages that combine animals and edibles. The project is a statement that our world is constantly evolving, but the changes are often invisible and, in the near future, they might be disturbing. How will we react when CRISPR and organisms and technologies and societies interact?

Elephant-mushroom

Les Creatonautes started the project on 1 January and have been publishing these “transformations” ever day since. Check out their Instagram.


The future revealed at PRIMER EU

Monday, 20 August, 2018

“The Futures Are Made. But How, Where And By Whom?” That’s the working title of PRIMER EU, a “conference dedicated to… bringing together the leading minds in futures design thinking and doing.” It takes place in Helsinki on 10 and 11 September and going by the list of speakers and their topics, the future is here but it’s not evenly distributed.

Appropriately, the morning keynote, titled ” All Future Everything”, will be delivered by a futurist, Monika Bielskyte, and she’ll be followed by Nicolas Nova and Fabien Girardin, the European half of the Near Future Laboratory. They’ll talk about “Design Fiction in the Fake News Era.” Topical, that.

Next up is Johanna Schmeer, an artist and designer from Berlin. Her talk has a prize-winning title: “Xenodesignerly ways of knowing.” Another designer, Noteh Krauss, from San Francisco, will be talking about “Future Making: Politics and Aesthetics in Kazakhstan.” It’s all about the “histories, politics, design fictions, and mythologies” of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s futuristic capital, Astana. By the way, he’s been president of Kazakhstan since the office was created in 1990 and he intends to keep it that way.

Simone Rebaudengo is a designer based in Shanghai and he’s going to talk about YEAST, a future food laboratory that “imagines products and companies that will improve living through food and technology.” And then it’ll be time for supper, but before the knives and forks come out, Scott Smith of Changeist will round off the talking with a public discussion about “trust in futures practices.” Futurism increasingly affects strategic innovation and policymaking and it’s good to debate it’s validity. Is it reliable. Or is it charlatanism?

It’s a cliché to quote William Gibson in these situations, but here goes: “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”


Let there be Light

Tuesday, 24 July, 2018

Last week, Light.co, which makes a computational photography camera, raised $121 million from SoftBank and Leica. “The new funding will allow Light to expand the reach of its imaging platform beyond consumer photography and into security, robotic, automotive, aerial and industrial imaging applications,” says the press release, and then comes the really interesting sentence: “Later this year, the first mobile phone incorporating Light’s technology will be available to consumers around the world. It will shatter the expectations of mobile photography.”

The venerable Leica camera was introduced to the world at the 1925 Leipzig Spring Fair and the brand became synonymous with first-class photography, but the company can see which way the wind is blowing. Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Leica Supervisory Board, says: “With the rapid development of the computational photography, partnering with the innovators at Light ensures Leica to extend its tradition of excellence into the computational photography era.”

Light

While we wait for “the first mobile phone incorporating Light’s technology”, which “will shatter the expectations of mobile photography,” the Light L16 Camera can be yours for a mere €2,050. It allows users to captures a scene at multiple focal lengths and then uses “sophisticated algorithms to combine 10+ images into a single, high-resolution photo.”


The binary technology universe: USA & China

Monday, 9 July, 2018

Here’s an infographic from Visual Capitalist, which “creates and curates enriched visual content focused on emerging trends in business and investing”, that’s doing the rounds.

Binary tech

And who are those Top 20 tech companies? From top, with Apple valued at $915 billion, to bottom, with Meituan-Dianping valued at $30 billion, here’s the list:

Apple (USA), Amazon (USA), Alphabet (USA), Microsoft (USA), Facebook (USA), Alibaba (China), Tencent (China), Netflix (USA), Ant Financial (China), Salesforce (USA), Booking Holdings (USA), Paypal (USA), Baidu (China), Uber (USA), JD.com (China), Didi Chuxing (China), Xiaomi (China), eBay (USA), Airbnb (USA) and Meituan-Dianping (China).

Note: The German software company, SAP, is valued at $140 billion and targeting $270 billion so its absence from the list is puzzling. Why is Salesforce in 10th position and not SAP? Let’s see what Visual Capitalist has to say.


The Unintended Consequences of the GDPR

Thursday, 17 May, 2018

The blogger Yeats, as opposed to the poet Yeats, might say that the “rough beast” of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), “its hour come round at last,” slouches towards us to be born on 25 May. For Rainy Day, which runs on WordPress 4.9.5, this will have implications. Our hosting service, WP Engine, had this to say earlier today:

“With WordPress 4.9.6 coming this week, we will be seeing a few new features built around GDPR compliance. This release is different in that it is introducing new features in a Maintenance/Security update, and that it applies only to websites already running WordPress 4.9 and higher. While this is atypical of a release, it is important to include these new features because they provide an essential toolkit for handling GDPR compliance. We have weighed the risk in introducing these new features and since they are not manipulating or impacting existing WordPress features, we feel that this release is not only safe but also important in enabling you to make your site GDPR compliant.”

The Law of Unintended Consequences lays out three outcomes: Unexpected Benefit, Unexpected Drawback or Perverse Result. Which one the will the GDPR deliver? Well, the reality is that the EU can only enforce the GDPR against entities that do business in the EU. Any website hosted outside the EU doesn’t have to comply with the GDPR and the EU cannot compel China, say, to accept its notion of privacy. Companies that want to keep tracking users will either ban EU customers and visitors, or move outside the EU and do business elesewhere.

And, if a company’s servers are in the US and if it doesn’t have any EU assets, it can keep tracking EU visitors. Brussels can’t do anything about this because US courts are not going to uphold EU law against US citizens who have not broken US law. In other words, because the web is worldwide, one consequence of the GDPR will be the creation of a false sense of privacy.


Musk’s Cyborg Dragon and Kanye’s dragon energy

Thursday, 26 April, 2018 0 Comments

These are not easy days for Elon Musk. Consider: A Tesla Model S recall was followed by allegations by the Center for Investigative Reporting about workplace injuries at the company’s factory in Fremont. On top of that, there’s the dizzying cash burn because of the billions invested in preparation for the production of the Model 3. But Elon Musk is no ordinary businessman and crises that would sink any other entrepreneur seem to act as incentives for even more stimulating ideas. The latest? A cyborg dragon.

Elon Musk tweets

Say what you will about Elon Musk, the man knows how to tweet and he knows his dragons. After all, the “Dragon” is a reusable spacecraft developed by Musk’s SpaceX. On the other hand, this may go deeper. Kanye West loves cruising around in his Tesla and now he’s praising President Trump, saying “We are both dragon energy.” It’s hard to keep up with it all the dragons these days.


On being a remote

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 0 Comments

“I’m used to working at home and now I find being at the main office a lot more distracting than working from home.” — Julia Evans

Julia Evans is a software developer. She lives in Montreal and works of the payment processing platform Stripe, on infrastructure. Her blog, she says, is about “being delighted about programming” but it’s not all Python headers, Ruby profilers and bash scripting. Back in February, she wrote about her experiences of working remotely, something she’s done for four years now. It’s a very useful post for those in the so-called “gig economy” and it addresses a lot of the questions posed by people contemplating replacing the commute with the home office.

A ton of people asked me questions about what I think of as sort of basic job health — how do you make sure your coworkers don’t ignore you / leave you out of discussions, how do you communicate, etc.

My current theory about this is — as long as I work on a team with a lot of other remotes, everything will be fine. Working as the only remote on a team of people who are all in person seems like hard mode — I have never done it and I’m not that interested in trying that.

Note: “I can’t imagine working remotely without good videoconferencing technology.”