CON.CA - RSS Feed http://con.ca/ today's interesting en-us CON.CA (C) Hotel Wifi Test #Travel http://con.ca/view/news/10552 http://con.ca/view/news/10552 Hotel Wifi Test

In this day and age of being constantly connected, nothing is more disappointing than finding out that the hotel you're staying in has poor quality WiFi. The goal of Hotel WiFi Test is to let you discover which hotels provide the best quality service for all your Internet needs.

When some of us book hotel rooms, our first thoughts aren’t about whether they have in-room coffee service, or if housekeeping will let have a few extra tiny bottles of shampoo. Instead, our eyes immediately scan for "Free WiFi" somewhere on the booking website. The promise of free WiFi is a big draw in today’s age of constant connectivity. Nothing could be more disheartening than turning on your laptop, only to realize that the hotel’s WiFi is so slow it will take four hours to view the thirty-minute video. You’ve begun to wonder if there’s anyone out there who cares whether hotels not only deliver the WiFi they advertise, but whether they deliver really-good WiFi.

We’ve heard your cry for fast and reliable hotel WiFi and decided to motivate hotels to step up their game. We believe we can get hotels worldwide to reevaluate their WiFi service, and make improvements that will provide guests with the quality service they expect from the moment they make their reservation.

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"We form a sense of whether a stranger is trustworthy in less than one tenth of a second." #Science http://con.ca/view/news/10550 http://con.ca/view/news/10550 On Research Digest, the psychology of first impressions in a digested form. Did you know that men with shaved heads are seen as more dominant or that faster speakers are judged to be more competent?

Women with more tattoos are assumed to be more promiscuous
Researchers at the University of Liverpool presented undergrads with line drawings of women that varied in the number of visible tattoos. "Results showed that tattooed women were rated as less physically attractive, more sexually promiscuous and heavier drinkers than untattooed women, with more negative ratings with increasing number of tattoos." A more recent study found that men were more likely to approach a woman lying on a beach when she bore a tattoo on her back, and to do so more quickly. Men also estimated they would have more chance of dating or having sex with a woman when she had a tattoo on her back.

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Ray, Robot Parking Valet Automatically Finds Parking at German Airport #Robots http://con.ca/view/news/10551 http://con.ca/view/news/10551

The Washington Post looks at Ray, a robot located at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, which is capable of picking up a car left in a transfer station and park it on behalf of the driver. The goal of the project is to get "business travelers in and out of an airport as quickly and easily as possible."

The electric-powered Rays travel at speeds up to 6 mph. Each Ray drives autonomously, guided by laser navigation and mapping software. The Ray knows its exact location thanks to its lasers that bounce off reflectors positioned throughout the garage.

The company behind the technology, Serva Transport Systems, integrates flight and baggage claim data from the airport into its software, so that a Ray will know to have your car waiting at the garage exit by the time you arrive. If your flight is delayed, it will be aware and wait to deliver your car. And it asks if you’ll be checking a bag, so it knows whether to wait to pull your car until after baggage has been delivered to those on your flight.

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Short Documentary on Teddy Gray's Sweet Factory #Food http://con.ca/view/news/10546 http://con.ca/view/news/10546

Filmed and directed by Martin Parr, this short but sweet documentary looks at Teddy Gray’s sweet factory in Dudley in the West Midlands, a family owned business that still makes their candies by hand. If Willy Wonka was real, this would be his factory.

Magnum photographer, Martin Parr returns to using a film camera in this wonderfully engaging documentary about Teddy Gray’s sweet factory in Dudley in the West Midlands.

Established in 1826, Teddy Gray’s has always been a family owned and run business. Five generations have worked and contributed towards the business of keeping the traditional, hand-made methods of sweet making alive.

The film is part of the Black Country Stories body of work commissioned by Multistory to document life in the Black Country by capturing and celebrating the unique mix of communities living in the area and of existing traditional Black Country life.

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Bluetooth Enabled Smart Shoes #Clothes http://con.ca/view/news/10548 http://con.ca/view/news/10548

With the idea that you will "leave your house without your watch or wristband, but you will never leave your house without your shoes," Indian startup Ducere Technologies Pvt. has come up with the smart shoe. The wearable technology, which can sync with the Google maps smartphone app, will "vibrate to tell users when and where to turn to reach their destination."

Just tell your phone where you want to go and then you can leave it in your pocket because the buzzing in your left or right shoe will lead the way.

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How to Survive Air Travel #Travel http://con.ca/view/news/10547 http://con.ca/view/news/10547 Amusing and a really pleasurable read by Craig Mod on how to survive air travel. His advice: arrive way early and take things slowly, with stride. Remember: you are like the Dalai Lama.

Arrive so early that a friend will text you, What R U sixty years old? No, you’re not sixty, you’re much older, because the wisdom of the early arrival seems to have eluded even most sixty-year-old travelers.

Authorities recommend arriving two hours before international flights. I say four. Get there four hours before your flight. You are a hundred and fifty years old. Your friends laugh at you. Have patience.

Arrive early and move through the airport like the Dalai Lama. You are in no rush. All obstacles are taken in stride, patiently, with a smile. Approach the nearly empty check-in counter. Walk up and say, I’m a bit early but I’m here to check in to … Marvel at their surprise and then their generosity. Suddenly you are always able to get an exit row or bulkhead seat. Suddenly, sure, they can slip you into Business. Suddenly tickets that are supposedly unchangeable, cannot be modified, are, after a few calls, some frowns, upbeat goodbyes, specially modifiable for you. This is what happens when there is no one behind you in line to check in.

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Paletton: Find a Good Colour Scheme #Art http://con.ca/view/news/10545 http://con.ca/view/news/10545 Paletton: Find a Good Colour Scheme

Paletton is a nifty colour scheme picker that lets you pick tasteful colour palettes that work well with each other. From the Color Scheme Designer Blog, explaining proper colour coexistence:

When designing web pages, computer applications, or house interiors, we need to find good color scheme — a set of colors producing the best impression. For every tint there are colors which it can coexist with, and which it can’t. Some combinations are uncomfortable, or disturbing, while others are more pleasant.

Experienced designers choose colors intuitively, many people can smell what colors go together well and what don’t. However, finding the good combination of colors may be sometimes long and gruelling work. The color theory makes the work easier. This tool will find set of colors you can start with, and it may facilitate your looking for the optimal color palette.

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Google and the NSA Always Had a Working Relationship #Privacy http://con.ca/view/news/10549 http://con.ca/view/news/10549 According to Jason Leopold of AlJazeera, emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that "a year before Snowden became a household name," National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt had a "far cozier working relationship [...] than was implied by Silicon Valley brass after last year’s revelations about NSA spying."

[...] by enlisting the NSA to shore up their defenses, those companies may have made themselves more vulnerable to the agency’s efforts to breach them for surveillance purposes.

“I think the public should be concerned about whether the NSA was really making its best efforts, as the emails claim, to help secure enterprise BIOS and mobile devices and not holding the best vulnerabilities close to their chest,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s digital civil liberties team.

He doesn’t doubt that the NSA was trying to secure enterprise BIOS, but he suggested that the agency, for its own purposes, was “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”

The NSA “has no business helping Google secure its facilities from the Chinese and at the same time hacking in through the back doors and tapping the fiber connections between Google base centers,” Cardozo said. “The fact that it’s the same agency doing both of those things is in obvious contradiction and ridiculous.” He recommended dividing offensive and defensive functions between two agencies.

Two weeks after the “60 Minutes” broadcast, the German magazine Der Spiegel, citing documents obtained by Snowden, reported that the NSA inserted back doors into BIOS, doing exactly what Plunkett accused a nation-state of doing during her interview.

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How the U.S. State Department Fights Terrorism on Twitter #War http://con.ca/view/news/10543 http://con.ca/view/news/10543 On Politico, a view of how the U.S. State Department has been taking on social media to "out-tweet" the terrorists. While the idea is good -- it "contest the space" that had "previously been conceded to the enemy" -- the tweets are delivered with a tone reminiscing of "Reagan-era 'Just Say No' commercials – only this time it is terrorism, not drugs, they’re trying to scare everyone away from."

In practice, this means that the center, with its $5 million budget, verbally jousts with jihadists on social media all day long. Not a bad idea, according to experts like McCants. The problem is that it appears to be losing—at least when it comes to showing the quick thinking and verbal dexterity that so characterizes the big winners in the social-media universe. In an arena in which people are largely inured to the frequent intrusions of advertising, the center is conducting itself like it’s the only propaganda operation in town.

The way the program works is fairly simple: The State Department’s analysts follow online chatter about the latest ISIL victory or news of a recent al-Shabaab massacre in Kenya, and then they try to insert themselves into the conversation. The idea is less to sway committed terrorists than to persuade fence-sitters not to join up or provide material support.

But State’s messages usually arrive with all the grace of someone’s dad showing up at a college party. The posts tend to be blunt, adversarial, and plagued by poor Photoshop work. Typically, “Think Again Turn Away,” as the CSCC’s English-language Twitter account calls itself, delivers hectoring messages written in the schoolmarmish tone of Reagan-era “Just Say No” commercials – only this time it is terrorism, not drugs, they’re trying to scare everyone away from.

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Sense: Track Your Sleep #Products http://con.ca/view/news/10542 http://con.ca/view/news/10542 Sense: Track Your Sleep

Simply called Sense, this little spherical device keeps track of your sleep behaviour, the environment you sleep in and when best to wake you up. The device is currently seeking financial support on Kickstarter. Here is how the device tries to wake you up more gracefully:

We all have a natural sleep cycle, but a normal alarm will wake you up regardless of when's best for you. Sense's Smart Alarm knows the right time to wake you up, so you will feel alert and refreshed.

Here's how that works. Your Sleep Pill tells Sense when you begin to naturally stir, a signal that you're ready to wake up. If you've set your alarm for close to that time, the Smart Alarm will go off, waking you up at the perfect time for your sleep rhythm.

If you want to be up by 9:30, but you're already half awake at 9:15, then your alarm should go off then, not wait for you to fall deeper into sleep and force you awake later feeling terrible.

Hidden at the top of Sense is a powerful speaker that Sense uses to play the alarm sounds that'll wake you up.

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How the U.S. Government Labels Individuals as Terrorists #Politics http://con.ca/view/news/10544 http://con.ca/view/news/10544 On The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux look at the secret process that "requires neither 'concrete facts' nor 'irrefutable evidence' to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist." Reportedly, the system allows for "individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations" regardless of whether they have any actual connection to them.

“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”

The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome—or impossible—to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals.

In 2012 Tim Healy, the former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, described to CBS News how watchlists are used by police officers. “So if you are speeding, you get pulled over, they’ll query that name,” he said. “And if they are encountering a known or suspected terrorist, it will pop up and say call the Terrorist Screening Center…. So now the officer on the street knows he may be dealing with a known or suspected terrorist.” Of course, the problem is that the “known or suspected terrorist” might just be an ordinary citizen who should not be treated as a menace to public safety.

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"The first 'truly feasible' contraption to reduce ocean plastic is already in use" #Environment http://con.ca/view/news/10541 http://con.ca/view/news/10541

Quartz reports on a weird solar and water-powered gizmo sitting in Baltimore’s Inner Harbour that is able to collect garbage floating down the river. The wheel, which even has a Twitter account, is able to collect 23 metric tonnes of garbage each day that "would otherwise have flowed through the Chesapeake Bay en route to the Atlantic Ocean."

Between May 16 and June 16, the wheel intercepted about 50 tons (46 tonnes) of trash that had drifted down to the harbor from city streets and would otherwise have flowed through the Chesapeake Bay en route to the Atlantic Ocean.

“Major cites with tightly controlled tributaries are the perfect candidates for this technology,” says Thaler. The water wheel can capture debris from an entire watershed and prevent them from flowing into the ocean if it’s placed correctly, as it has been in Baltimore.

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No Man's Sky: an Infinite Procedurally Generated Universe #Games http://con.ca/view/news/10540 http://con.ca/view/news/10540

The MIT Technology Review looks at No Man's Sky, a science fiction game that allows players to travel from planet to planet, discovering flora and fauna entirely generated by computer algorithms. From the article, it sounds as if not even the developers of the game know what you might discover. Amazingly, each star in the sky is an actual sun, with a solar system, that can be visited.

When players discover a new planet, climb that planet’s tallest peak, or identify a new species of plant or animal, they are able to upload the discovery to the game’s servers, their name forever associated with the location, like a digital Christopher Columbus or Neil Armstrong. “Players will even be able to mark the planet as toxic or radioactive, or indicate what kind of life is there and then that then appears on everyone’s map,” says Murray.

Experimentation has been a watchword throughout the game’s production. Originally the game was entirely randomly generated. “Only around 1 percent of the time would it create something that looked natural, interesting, and pleasing to the eye; the rest of the time it was a mess and, in some cases where the sky, the water, and the terrain were all the same color, unplayable,” Murray says. So the team began to create simple rules, such as the distance from a sun at which it is likely that there will be moisture,” he explains. “From that we decide there will be rivers, lakes, erosion, and weather, all of which is dependent on what the liquid is made from. The color of the water in the atmosphere will derive from what the liquid is; we model the refractions to give you a modeled atmosphere.”

Similarly, the quality of light will depend on whether the solar system has a yellow sun or, for example, a red giant or red dwarf. “These are simple rules, but combined they produce something that seems natural, recognizable to our eyes. We have come from a place where everything was random and messy to something which is procedural and emergent, but still pleasingly chaotic in the mathematical sense. Things happen with cause and effect, but they are unpredictable for us.”

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Game of Thrones Season 4 Special Effects #Video http://con.ca/view/news/10534 http://con.ca/view/news/10534

Mackevision shows the original shot and the digital rendering of all the components to create the final scenes seen in season 4 of Game of Thrones. It's interesting to discover how some scenes which looked real and weren't worth a second glance, were actually the result of some very serious digital manipulation.

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Earth's Magnetic Poles are Getting Ready to Flip #Science http://con.ca/view/news/10537 http://con.ca/view/news/10537 According to Scientific American, data collected by the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm shows that the Earth's magnetic field, which shields the planet from dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun, has been weakening. Scientists theorise that this may be a result of the poles getting ready to switch, meaning that a traditional compass would start pointing South rather than North.

Floberghagen hopes that more data from Swarm will shed light on why the field is weakening faster now.

Still, there is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. During past polarity flips there were no mass extinctions or evidence of radiation damage. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.

Earth's magnetic field acts like a giant invisible bubble that shields the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun in the form of solar winds. The field exists because Earth has a giant ball of iron at its core surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core's temperature and Earth's rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines.

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