Spacewar - Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums
> 7 December 1972
An account of the first computer game tournament.
> The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight phenomenon known as Spacewar.
> Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers’ valuable computer time. Something basic is going on.
Plus the beginnings of Xerox PARC.
> “You get just a few more agates in that group and you’ll have all the marbles.”
> The chief marble collector is - well, well - Bob Taylor. When he left the newly restricted ARPA he spent a year at Utah decompressing from the Pentagon and then went to Xerox and there continued his practice of finding and rewarding good men for doing pretty much whatever they considered important work. Freedom to explore in the company of talent is an irresistible lure. In two years Xerox had twenty of the best men around working. Toward what? Well, whatever.
A followup from 2016: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/stewart-brand-recalls-first-spacewar-video-game-tournament-187669/
The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News
> The site’s now characteristic tone of performative erudition—hyperrational, dispassionate, contrarian, authoritative—often masks a deeper recklessness. Ill-advised citations proliferate; thought experiments abound; humane arguments are dismissed as emotional or irrational. Logic, applied narrowly, is used to justify broad moral positions. The most admired arguments are made with data, but the origins, veracity, and malleability of those data tend to be ancillary concerns. The message-board intellectualism that might once have impressed V.C. observers like Graham has developed into an intellectual style all its own. Hacker News readers who visit the site to learn how engineers and entrepreneurs talk, and what they talk about, can find themselves immersed in conversations that resemble the output of duelling Markov bots trained on libertarian economics blogs, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and the work of Yuval Noah Harari.
This is a pretty fun read I think, even for people who don’t like HN. Or perhaps especially so. Some great, and dismal, quotes. Even ngate makes an appearance.
Yelp is Screwing Over Restaurants By Quietly Replacing Their Phone Numbers
> The phone numbers add tracking before connecting to a restaurant so that Grubhub can bill for a marketing fee.
> “There’s a button where you could hit play and so I was like, what is this?” he said. “I hit play, and the first call was me on the phone, which freaked me out because I didn’t know I was being recorded.” The call was a customer who had his restaurant confused with another restaurant. It took four minutes to figure this out before the customer hung up without placing an order. “I got charged almost $8 for that phone call.”
BART slows rollout of new trains as it contends with more repairs than expected
> One example is the “D” cars, which have a cab where the operator sits. The agency expects them to run 6,000 hours before hitting any kind of equipment failure that causes a delay of five minutes or more. They’re hovering at 1,000 hours.
Adblocking: How About Nah?
> The rise and rise of ad-blockers (and ad-blocker-blocker-blockers) is without parallel: 26% of Internet users are now blocking ads, and the figure is rising. It’s been called the biggest boycott in human history.
> Adversarial interoperability occurs when someone figures out how to plug a new product or service into an existing product or service, against the wishes of the company behind that existing product or service.
Plus a history of ads on the web.
Investigating sources of PII used in Facebook’s targeted advertising
> We develop a novel technique that uses Facebook’s advertiser interface to check whether a given piece of PII can be used to target some Facebook user, and use this technique to study how Facebook’s advertising service obtains users’ PII. We investigate a range of potential sources of PII, finding that phone numbers and email addresses added as profile attributes, those provided for security purposes such as two-factor authentication, those provided to the Facebook Messenger app for the purpose of messaging, and those included in friends’ uploaded contact databases are all used by Facebook to allow advertisers to target users. These findings hold despite all the relevant privacy controls on our test accounts being set to their most private settings.
Would You Pay $30 a Month to Check Your Email?
> “We have insane levels of virality that haven’t been seen since Dropbox or Slack,” Mr. Vohra added.
And it gets worse after that.
Expedia: from software bug to customer service nightmare, a modern Odyssey
> Instead of keeping an account and my data private, Expedia created a fake account. Instead of deleting the fake account, Expedia deleted both accounts. Instead of reactivating the account I had to create a new account. Instead of adding points to the new account, Expedia deleted the new account again. After 30+ interactions over two months with the massively incompetent support, I lost about 10,000 points, my status, but received $75 and 3000 points (about $100 total) in compensation. Go Expdia!
Why Google+ Failed
> Google Plus didn’t fail because Facebook is invulnerable. It failed because of deep flaws that were embedded in it from the start. And learning from those flaws is the first step to building something better.
How did WeWork’s Adam Neumann turn office space with “community” into a $47 billion company? Not by sharing.
> I asked Neumann what his superpower is. “Change,” he said. “I think it’s the best superpower to have.” He then asked if I had seen the TV show Heroes. “There was one [character] that was very strong,” he said. “He had the ability to have all superpowers.” Neumann neglected to mention that this was the show’s villain: a serial killer who murdered people to get their powers.
Lyrics Site Accuses Google of Lifting Its Content
> Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.
> When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”
The case of the Photoshopped female CEOs
> This week, I dedicated approximately three hours to an investigation that seemed, at varying times, important, obscure, symbolic and deeply, deeply petty. The task at hand: determining whether two women who were photographed at a tech summit in Italy were, in fact, at this tech summit in Italy.
Wall Street Isn’t Buying What Silicon Valley Is Selling
> Amazon is often pointed to as a model of how companies that lose money early on can then turn a profit. But its losses were modest by today’s standards. Its combined net losses over its first nine years totaled $3 billion, or roughly $4.5 billion adjusted for inflation, before it turned profitable in its 10th. Uber, 10 years old, lost $3.7 billion in the 12 months through March.
Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy (Senate hearing)
> As someone who earns his living through data collection, I am acutely aware of the power the tools we are building give us over our fellow citizens’ private lives, and the danger they pose to our liberty. I am grateful to Chairman Crapo, ranking member Brown, and the committee for the opportunity to testify on this vital matter.
Google Thought My Phone Number Was Facebook’s and It Ruined My Life
> As it turns out, if you Googled “Facebook phone number” on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a “card” that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook’s phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think.
The company behind the $16,000 AI-powered laundry-folding robot has filed for bankruptcy
> Backed by companies like Panasonic and Daiwa House, Laundroid had ambitious dreams to be the ultimate wardrobe organizer for the entire household. It had multiple cameras and robotic arms to scan a load of laundry, and used Wi-Fi to connect to a server that would analyze the clothing using AI to figure out the best way to fold it. A companion app was supposed to be able to track every piece of clothing that went through Laundroid, and categorize the clothes by household member. One load of laundry would take a couple hours to be folded, as each T-shirt took about five to ten minutes.
> That’s how it was supposed to work in theory, anyway — when I tested it out at CES 2018 with my own T-shirt, the machine ate it up and Laundroid engineers had to work for about 15 minutes to pry it out. The explanation was that its cameras couldn’t recognize my black shirt, only the brightly colored demo shirts they’d prepared on hand.
Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police
> The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information.
How I discovered an easter egg in Android's security and didn't land a job at Google
> The same thing (except without the happy ending) happened to me. Hidden messages where there definitely couldn’t be any, reversing Java code and its native libraries, a secret VM, a Google interview — all of that is below.
> In the end I got an app that emulated the entire DroidGuard process: makes a request to the anti-abuse service, downloads the .apk, unpacks it, parses the native library, extracts the required constants, picks out the mapping of VM commands and interprets the byte code. I compiled it all and sent it off to Google.
> The answer didn’t take long. An email from a member of the DroidGuard team simply read: “Why are you even doing this?”
Told U.S. security at risk, Chinese firm seeks to sell Grindr dating app
> Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd is seeking to sell Grindr LLC, the popular gay dating app it has owned since 2016, after a U.S. government national security panel raised concerns about its ownership, according to people familiar with the matter.