Making sense of a technologically mediated life...

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China Wants Its Own Operating System By October

China plans to develop a desktop operating system to compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft.

PSA: Stop re-using passwords

The CEO OF LastPass explains why re-using passwords is a really bad idea:

"Reusing a password is like reusing the same key for every lock and having that key be something that you give out to everyone you meet," Siegrist said to Business Insider. "And it can also be instantly copied and used remotely."

My personal recommendation is 1Password, but the most important thing is to get a password manager you’ll actually use.

Arctic ice melt linked to jet stream changes, extreme weather events

A paper published in PNAS titled “Quasi-resonant circulation regimes and hemispheric synchronization of extreme weather in boreal summer” conceals some significant findings under it’s mouthful title: It links Arctic ice melt to changes in the jet streams, which in turn result in stagnating weather patterns which have contributed to some of the recent extreme weather events in the Northern hemisphere:

We argue that recent rapid warming in the Arctic and associated changes in the zonal mean zonal wind have created favorable conditions for double jet formation in the extratropics, which promotes the development of resonant flow regimes.

Uber moves from Service to Platform

Uber, best known for it’s on-demand car service, has created an API and partner program to allow other sites to let their customers schedule transportation thru Uber, as well as an affiliate program to create a business incentive to use the service.

This is a good example of what Marshall Van Alstyne discussed at The Open Group’s Boston conference:

I think of “platform” as a combination of two things. One, a set of standards or components that folks can take up and use for production of goods and services. The second thing is the rules of play, or the governance model – who has the ability to participate, how do you resolve conflict, and how do you divide up the royalty streams, or who gets what? You can think of it as the two components of the platform—the open standard together with the governance model.

(Disclosure: I work for The Open Group.)

Apple Maps Grabs More Traffic Than Google Maps on Major British Network

A common complaint heard from overseas Apple fans is that Apple Maps apparently works just fine here in the States, but it’s far less accurate for destinations within the borders of other countries. But that’s apparently not the case in Britain. via Pocket

Climate change will leave wine lovers drunker and poorer

Good overview of the impact of climate change on winemaking, including why California wines get you drunk faster

The Internet of Things is the New Media

A tip of the hat to @artbourbon for pointing out the article “Principles for Open Innovation and Open Leadingship" by Peter Vander Auwera, which led to a TED Talk by Joi Ito with his "Nine Principles of the Media Lab”. Something in this presentation struck me:

Media is plural for Medium, Medium is something in which you can express yourself. The Medium was hardware, screens, robots, etc. Now the medium is society, ecosystem, journalism,… Our work looks more like social science.

Great changes in society often go hand in hand with advances in communications, which in turn are tied to improvements in scale or portability of media. Think the printing press, television or even the development of paint in tubes which allowed impressionist painters to get out of the studios to paint water lilies and wheat fields.

Wheat Field with Cypress, Vincent van Gogh, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

We are seeing a similar advance in the next generation of the Internet. Traditionally, humans interact with computer systems and networks through visual media, like screens of varying sizes and printed material. However, this is changing: Sensors and actuators are shrinking in size and price, and there has been an explosion of devices, new services and applications that network these together into larger systems to increase their value through Metcalfe’s law. We interact with the actions of these sensors not just with our eyes, but other senses as well - a simple example is the feeling of warmth as your house adjusts its temperature as you arrive home.

These devices, and the platforms that orchestrate their interactions, are the media in which the next generation of the internet will be painted. We call it the Internet of Things today, or maybe the Interenet of Everything - but in long run, it will become just be the Internet. The expression of connectivity through sensors and devices will soon become as commonplace as social media are today.

Image "Wheat Field with Cypresses", Vincent van Gogh, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

GWU researcher produces fertilizer stock from water, air and solar power

A George Washington University researcher has demonstrated a lab-scale method of producing ammonia for fertilizer using only water, air, and electricity, eliminating the need for natural gas. Even better, it can use solar power:

Licht’s method claims to use only two-thirds of the energy of the Haber-Bosch process. Along with the elimination of the need to produce hydrogen from natural gas, the overall carbon emissions are reduced quite significantly. The whole process also takes place at milder conditions (Haber-Bosch needs 450°C and 200-times atmospheric pressure). These are not all that make Licht’s method attractive. Some of the energy involved can be supplied by another technology Licht has developed called solar thermal electrochemical production, or STEP. STEP is able to use most of the spectrum of incoming solar energy, making it relatively efficient.

(via Ars Technica)

IBM’s unveils processor that mimics human brain synapses

IBM’s new processor, which has a non-Von Neumann architecture, consumes significantly less power, and is vastly better suited to processing images, sound, and other sensory data.”

IBM is clearly following a longer vision for its machine learning work - this chip would form an obvious next step from using Watson for imagery analysis in evidende-based medicine.

(via MIT Technology Review)

Global agriculture and carbon trade-offs

PNAS paper proposes a method for managing land use to increase crop production while minimizing carbon impact. The paper focuses on agriculture for food production, but the method could equally apply to biofuel crops.

Feeding a growing and increasingly affluent world will require expanded agricultural production, which may require converting grasslands and forests into cropland. Such conversions can reduce carbon storage, habitat provision, and other ecosystem services, presenting difficult societal trade-offs. In this paper, we use spatially explicit data on agricultural productivity and carbon storage in a global analysis to find where agricultural extensification should occur to meet growing demand while minimizing carbon emissions from land use change. Selective extensification saves ∼6 billion metric tons of carbon compared with a business-as-usual approach, with a value of approximately $1 trillion (2012 US dollars) using recent estimates of the social cost of carbon.