31 December 2017

Brandon Sanderson – Calamity

in Bucharest, Romania
Brandon Sanderson - Calamity

În ciuda eforturilor lor, ultima misiune a Reckonerilor s‑a încheiat cât de poate de prost: deși Profesorul a reușit să devieze deflagrația lui Obliteration și să salveze orașul Babilar de la anihilare, efortul imens i‑a consumat ultimele resurse cu care se împotrivea instinctelor agresive de Epic. Odată puterile dezlănțuite, fostul lider, luându‑și numele de Limelight, s‑a întors împotriva organizației pe care o crease, omorând toate celulele de rezistență care nu se adăpostiseră suficient de repede din calea lui. Alături de Megan, David a strâns laolaltă ultimii membrii supraviețuitori ai echipei din Newcago, în speranța, oricât de mică, de a‑l readuce pe fostul lor mentor pe calea cea bună. Dar pentru asta au nevoie de arme și dotări noi, ceea ce îi pune în fața unei alte provocări dificile: să pătrundă în fortăreața impenetrabilă a lui Knighthawk, furnizorul lor de tehnologie exotică.

She let go, and we entered the kitchen to discuss the fate of the world over popcorn.

După cele două romane precedente, Calamity continuă în formula consacrată, ridicând miza la un nivel superior. Îl urmărim în continuare pe David, acum conducătorul echipei în absența membrilor veterani, printr‑un șir variat de aventuri, de la misiuni de infiltrare sub acoperire la lupte masive. Fundalul se schimbă de asemenea, odată ce echipa dă de urma lui Limelight în fosta Atlanta, acum un oraș de sare care călătorește încet de‑a lungul continentului american mânat de puterile fantastice ale Epicilor. O idee interesantă, deși nu neapărat originală pentru cititorii veterani de science‑fiction; din câte știu primul autor care a folosit imaginea asta a fost Christopher Priest în Lumea Inversă, cu versiuni remarcabile în Absolution Gap și Luna: New Moon.

29 December 2017

The New York Times: “Your Uber Car Creates Congestion. Should You Pay a Fee to Ride?”

About 103,000 for-hire vehicles operate in the city, more than double the roughly 47,000 in 2013, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Of those, 68,000 are affiliated with ride-hailing app companies, including 65,000 with Uber alone, though they may also provide rides for others. In contrast, yellow taxis are capped by city law at just under 13,600.

Now a new report finds that ride-hailing cars are often driving on the city’s busiest streets with no passengers — in effect, creating congestion without any benefits. The report by Bruce Schaller, a former city transportation official, found that more than a third of ride-hailing cars and yellow taxis are empty at any given time during weekdays in Manhattan’s main business district.

Winnie Hu

More evidence that ride-sharing is inefficient and increases congestion instead of easing it – and the same argument can be made about autonomous cars. The solution to slow traffic will never be ‘more cars on the roads’, but instead better public transport infrastructure.

26 December 2017

Instagram Blog: “Introducing Stories Highlights and Stories Archive”

Moving forward, your stories will automatically save to your archive when they expire. This makes it easy for you to revisit your favorite moments later on or bring them back to life in a highlight.

To access the stories in your archive, tap the Archive icon on your profile. From there, you can easily switch between your Posts Archive and your new Stories Archive. In your Stories Archive, your stories will appear in a grid with the most recent stories at the bottom. The first story from each day will show a date indicator to help you navigate your archive as you scroll.

Tap on any story in your archive to watch it. From there, you can add it to your story, share it as a post or add it to a highlight on your profile.

Instagram Blog

Wasn’t the original selling point of Stories to be a private and ephemeral way of sharing? I guess now that the Instagram variant managed to stall Snapchat’s growth, Facebook found a way to keep them around and mine them for data and advertising.

20 December 2017

Geekbench: “iPhone Performance and Battery Age”

First, it appears the problem is widespread, and will only get worse as phones (and their batteries) continue to age. See, for example, the difference between the distribution of iPhone 6s scores between 10.2.1 and 11.2.0.

Second, the problem is due, in part, to a change in iOS. The difference between 10.2.0 and 10.2.1 is too abrupt to be just a function of battery condition. I believe (as do others) that Apple introduced a change to limit performance when battery condition decreases past a certain point.

If the performance drop is due to the “sudden shutdown” fix, users will experience reduced performance without notification. Users expect either full performance, or reduced performance with a notification that their phone is in low-power mode. This fix creates a third, unexpected state. While this state is created to mask a deficiency in battery power, users may believe that the slow down is due to CPU performance, instead of battery performance, which is triggering an Apple introduced CPU slow-down. This fix will also cause users to think, “my phone is slow so I should replace it” not, “my phone is slow so I should replace its battery”. This will likely feed into the “planned obsolescence” narrative.

John Poole

I’ve experienced the ‘sudden shutdown’ a couple of times in the last months on my iPhone 6, but I doubt the issue was fixed with a software update as Apple claims; I’ve had more shutdowns after updating than before. I’ve also noticed overall performance is getting worse for some time now, even while staying on iOS 10; apps would take full seconds to refresh and the screen sometimes fails to respond to touch as if the device is busy with some particularly complicated task. As for the fact that the two issues are linked and the second is supposed to be a ‘fix’ for the first… what can I say? Just goes to show that Apple’s software quality is declining and, at the same time, the company is willing to do just about anything to trick people into upgrading their iPhones.

05 December 2017

The Next Web: “Instagram tests letting you follow hashtags instead of people”

Can’t get enough #content on Instagram? Is following individual people just not enough to fill the social media void in your heart? Fret no more, for Instagram appears to be testing the ability to allow you to follow hashtags instead of humans, as spotted by @Social_pip.

In all seriousness, it could be a handy feature. Say you want a regular influx of cute cat photos, but can’t be bothered to search for them or follow their owners. Maybe you want your daily dose of #fitspo to come from new sources. Or perhaps you just want to follow a niche topic, and don’t know who to follow – so why not just follow the topic itself?

Napier Lopez

Somehow one of my Instagram accounts was included in the test last week, so I can only assume this experiment is getting closer to being released. It’s an interesting concept, but its usefulness is limited by a couple of factors. First there’s the noise it would add to users’ feeds. In my case the impact is low for now, I would say one post from hashtags every 5 to 10 posts from users I follow; then again I started following one single hashtag. Instagram’s algorithms will definitely be involved in selecting relevant images to display in the feed, but do we really want to cede even more control to opaque, proprietary algorithms?!