Online Radio, Instagram, Google Now, More: Sunday Buzz, November 29th, 2015


I’m always surprised (and happy!) when I find something interesting in Fortune, Forbes, or The Atlantic. Not that they’re bad publications, but they’re not exactly online information-focused. Remember back in the day? That was founded and run by Michael Robertson. Now, over a decade later, he’s got another music startup called OnRadio. “The service, introduced this week, indexes all the music playing on more than 100,000 online radio stations and allows users to search across that database and listen to any song. It also lets them share those songs through a variety of chat applications such as Snapchat and Twitter, using a unique URL.”


Looks like Instagram is rolling out multi-account support. Yay! “The photo-sharing app Instagram has quietly begun rolling out multi-account support for the average user. While this will be most helpful to those that have accounts for their artwork, accounts for their personal matters, and accounts for their cats, you’ll see the benefit for work-use users as well. This update will be appearing in version 7.12.0 of the app, popping up for Beta testers first. Of course you could also just head over to the APK download if you do so choose.”


From UberGizmo: How to use Google Now. “Google Now is a fully-featured digital personal assistant by Google. It can help in many of different ways, such as setting reminders, manage commute, help with shopping, answer common questions, and much more… However, all these features first require a setup, and a basic knowledge of the commands.”

A new Chrome extension allows you to replace Facebook’s “Trending Topics” with the RSS feed of your choice. “The extension will automatically have replaced what’s trending on Facebook with headlines from the New York Times. If you scroll down (you may have to zoom out in Chrome first), you can change the source to the BBC, The Guardian, NPR, The Onion, and Washington Post.”

How-To Geek: How to Take Photos and Record Videos With Your Computer’s Webcam Apparently Windows 10 has built-in tools for this now. There are also tips for Mac OS X, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Chrome OS.

Robin Good tipped me off about a tool that lets you turn screen activity into an animated GIF. “LICEcap is a downloadable free software for Mac & PC which can capture an area of your screen and save it directly to an animated .GIF or .LCF file.” No version for Linux, alas…

Speaking of images: earlier this year I mentioned Google’s Deep Dream, which applied AI to images to make them, well, trippy. Now there’s a Twitter bot which will “dream” your photo in the style of a great artist. “Deep Forger is a Twitter account which will generate a version of any picture fed to it in the style of any other picture.”


Google’s got a new patent for its self-driving car. “Earlier this week Google received a patent that lays out some of its ideas for how driverless cars might communicate with the pedestrians around them, allowing the vehicles to broadcast their intentions without being overly aggressive. For example a flashing stop sign on the side door would let humans know when not to cross the street in front of the car. A sign on the front bumper could flash when it was safe to pass in front of the car. And a robotic hand could give the kind of signals to fellow motorists they often look for from other humans.” I suspect the signal I immediately imagined from the robot hand is not the one they intended….

Facebook has announced four months of paid parental leave for all employees. “The policy, which provides four months of paid time off, will be provided to all new parents regardless of gender or location, starting Jan. 1. Employees may take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child, Lori Matloff Goler, the company’s head of human resources, said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.”

Android Community takes a look at the new face of Google+.

From Business Pundit: Google’s Top Execs Are Always Visible But Almost Never Approachable. “If you work at Google headquarters or you just happen to be visiting, there is a very good chance you will bump into Larry Page, Sergey Brin, or Google CEO Sundar Pichai. There is also a very good chance that without a meeting at their Mountain View campus, you will not have the chance to meet them face-to-face for an open dialogue.” Good afternoon, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

Short Saturday Buzz, November 28th, 2015


The National Library of New Zealand has uploaded another 3500 photos to the Flickr Commons. For you programming nerds there’s a lot of background on how Reuben Schrader used Python to get this done.


Hey! Is Google Glass going to become Google Monocle? “The device appears to rest on one side of the face, tucking over one ear with the display perched just above the eye. Images are included with documentation for the new patent, titled ‘Wearable Device with Input and Output Structures.'” Mr. Peanut is a dangerous cyborg assassin in the USA Network thriller LEGUME DOWN EASY.

The “Charlie Hebdo” Twitter account has been banned throughout Russia. “A municipal court in Chechnya has banned the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s Twitter account. The court’s ruling is dated November 23, 2015. In accordance with Russian federal law, the ban is effective nationwide.” This is actually kind of confusing because the account is apparently being banned for offensive material released in November. But the official Hebdo account hasn’t tweeted since January, so….

It’s not often I will link to a press release just to heap praise on it but wow, did The Arizona Department of Transportation do a beautiful job communicating the dangers of drunk driving. The AZDOT put up a sign on the highway and then handled the social media part so gracefully. It starts with peas and guacamole…


Oh look, another Lenovo security problem. “Last week, the company released version 5.07.0019 of Lenovo System Update, a tool that helps users keep their computers’ drivers and BIOS up to date and which was previously called ThinkVantage System Update. The new version fixes two local privilege escalation vulnerabilities discovered by researchers from security firm IOActive.”

Google has released a report about the links it’s removed under Right to Be Forgotten ruling. “On the whole, Google says it has evaluated 1,235,473 URLs for removal after receiving 348,508 separate requests. Of those, it has removed 441,032 URLs. Google chose not to remove 608,169 URLs; the other 186,272 are pending review or require additional information from the user.” Good afternoon, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

Venom, WordPress, Google, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, November 27th, 2015


Now available: a therapeutic venom database. “VenomKB, short for Venom Knowledge Base, summarizes the results of 5,117 studies in the medical literature describing the use of venom toxins as painkillers and as treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart failure. Drawn from an automated analysis of the literature, VenomKB documents nearly 42,723 effects on the body.”


WordPress 4.4 now has a release candidate.

Google has provided some additional details on the new Google+ Local pages. “Mamta [B] said the following features are no longer supported for Local pages; reviews, categories, directions, stars, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, opentable/apps integration. That is a lot to remove, but Google+ is now about collections.” This is so irritating. Google business pages were 1000x easier to manage when they weren’t part of Google+, so now they’re more difficult to manage and less useful.

Fimfiction has updated its downloadable archive, which currently has over 124,000 stories. It’s available as a 3.7 GB Torrent. FimFiction is a site devoted to fan fiction about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.


Oh, ew. Apparently Google donated a great deal of money to an academic center, and that same center happened to write a bunch of pro-Google academia. “From the beginning of the FTC investigation through the end of 2013, Google gave George Mason University’s Law and Economics Center (LEC) $762,000 in donations, confirmed by cancelled checks obtained in a public records request. In exchange, the LEC issued numerous studies supporting Google’s position that they committed no legal violations, and hosted conferences on the same issues where Google representatives suggested speakers and invitees.”


Use VPNs? Think your real IP address is secure? Maybe think twice. “The problem, uncovered by VPN provider Perfect Privacy (PP), is a simple port forwarding trick. If an attacker uses the same VPN as the victim the true IP-address can be exposed by forwarding traffic on a specific port.” Looks like there’s a pretty easy fix, though.

Ruh-roh. Dell apparently has yet another security issue. “Dell’s newest vulnerability, much like the previous one, involves the company installing a self-signed security certificate (a digital credential that authenticates websites) alongside a private key (which sort of serves as a password) on its customers’ computers. The combination, when met with a little reverse engineering, allows any technically savvy attacker to snoop on users’ encrypted Internet traffic, or to steal their sensitive information.”

Interesting: a recent attempt to spear-phish US government employees was first detected by… Facebook? “The first warning of the attacks came from Facebook, which alerted some of the affected users that their accounts had been compromised by a state-sponsored attack, The New York Times reports. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard hackers used the access to identify the victims’ contacts and build ‘spear-phishing’ attacks that gave them access to targeted individuals’ e-mail accounts. The attack ‘was very carefully designed and showed the degree to which they understood which of our staff was working on Iran issues now that the nuclear deal is done,’ an unnamed senior US official told the Times.”


Theoretically Google did some research and came up for the most “searched-for” Thanksgiving recipe for each state (Leaving out obvious stuff like turkey and looking for recipes unique to each state.) I say “theoretically” because North Carolina’s is “pig-pickin’ cake,” which just seems out there. My guess for NC would have been something like Japanese fruit pie (which I had for dessert last night, and it was so rich I couldn’t finish one piece!) You can read more about Japanese fruit pie here. Good afternoon, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

Detroit, Whales, Retractions, More: Friday Buzz, November 27th, 2015


The US city of Detroit, in Michigan, is launching a directory of local/neighborhood businesses. “The city says the publication is a celebration of Detroit small businesses and the entrepreneurs who run them. The first edition includes more than 170 businesses and profiles on about 70.”

New-to-Me: Did you know there was a database of whale tails? And it’s getting an upgrade “[Davis] Yeo has focused primarily on marine biology and oceanography while at COA. On top of taking classes in the area, he also works at Allied Whale, the college’s marine mammal laboratory. Last winter, Yeo completed an internship at the Virginia Aquarium where he helped identify and catalog humpback whales wintering off the coast of Virginia Beach. It was here that Davis gained the knowledge and experience needed to continue with field research and analysis. For his senior project, Yeo is combining his passion for science and marine life with his experiences in the field for an extensive endeavor that he hopes will yield positive benefits for Allied Whale.”

In development: a database of retractions. “As our readers know, one of the goals of our work at Retraction Watch is to create a free, comprehensive database of retractions. … Today, we’re excited to announce that our parent organization, The Center For Scientific Integrity (CSI), has partnered with The Center For Open Science (COS) to create that database on the Open Science Framework (OSF).” please note these are retractions for scientific research, not journalism.


From Medium: A plea for improved Twitter notifications. Poor Chad. His mom just wants to be able to read his tweets without jumping through hoops.

The YouTube Kids App is getting more criticism — this time for junk food ads. “The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy say that they’ve found hundreds of commercials and promotional videos of junk food products on the app from the likes of Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Hershey. In a complaint filed today, the groups are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate YouTube Kids.”

Google is saying that the next Penguin update will be big. “As many of you know, we are expecting a Google Penguin update by the end of this year and that update is expected to be the real time version. But when we asked Gary about that at SMX Israel, he said that was the plan but he wouldn’t confirm a 100% if it would be this release.”

More Google: it looks like Google is testing text messaging for holiday deals. “The company is currently trialing its own SMS-based alerting service, this time focused on helping holiday shoppers find the best deals. The service was spotted in the wild earlier today by the unofficial Google-watching blog, Google Operating System, which saw the option to ‘subscribe’ to Black Friday phone deals pop up on their mobile phone after a related search query.”


Oh dear. Are people using The Internet Archive to pirate games? “Fooling around on i noticed they don’t enforce any kind of control whatsoever. So people started uploading games, i found hundreds of them, too many to count.”

Apparently Dell has been selling computers with an unhappy prize inside. “Dell is back-pedaling today after it was revealed that the PC giant has been shipping a number of its laptops with a preinstalled, self-signed root certificate authority called eDellRoot. The impact of this is that users could be left at risk from attackers, potentially enabling information theft.” Lenovo did something very similar, didn’t it?

A hacker has developed a $10 device that can easily spoof American Express credit card numbers. “Brainiac hacker Samy Kamkar has developed a US$10 gadget that can predict and store hundreds of American Express credit cards and use them for wireless transactions, even at non-wireless payment terminals. The mind-blowing feat is the result of Kamkar cracking how the card issuer picks replacement numbers, and in dissecting the functionality of magnetic stripe data.”

Right after introducing two-factor, Amazon made some users reset their passwords. “A number of readers told ZDNet they received an email from Amazon saying the company has reset their account password. The message was also sent to their account message center on, and, confirming the message is genuine.”

I am now officially scared to give my credit card to a hotel. Hilton has finally acknowledged that it was the victim of seventeen weeks of hacking. “Two months after KrebsOnSecurity first reported that multiple banks suspected a credit card breach at Hilton Hotel properties across the country, Hilton has acknowledged an intrusion involving malicious software found on some point-of-sale systems.” Good morning, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!

Music, Drugs, Phone Numbers, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, November 26th, 2015


My friend Julie Anixter put up an article about a new music tool called LoopLabs. It looks like a lot of fun. “Designed for this new generation of creators, Looplabs’ intuitive interface automatically snaps more than 25,000 freely available royalty-free sounds into the same tempo and musical key, removing the complexities of musical theory and allowing anyone with internet access to easily create music for their YouTube, Instagram or Vine videos, drop in their next DJ set, remix artists, write songs and record vocals or simply have fun with their friends.”

I was going through my RSS feeds and I found a reference to a database that catalogs incidents of adverse reactions caused by combinations of drugs. The article did not note the location of the database, so I e-mailed Dr. Nicholas Tatonetti and asked him about it. He kindly responded, and the database is available here. Actually there are two databases. “The Offsides database is a resource of 438,801 off-label — those effects not listed on the FDA’s official drug label — side effects for 1332 drugs and 10,097 adverse events. The average drug label lists 69 ‘on-label’ adverse events…. The Twosides databases is a resource of polypharmacy side effects for pairs of drugs. This database contains 868,221 significant associations between 59,220 pairs of drugs and 1301 adverse events.”


Interesting. Burner, of all things, is now connected to IFTTT. (Burner, if you didn’t know about it, is an app that lets you generate and use temporary phone numbers.) “For instance, a development team for a smart home gadget may use Burner’s Web hook to let you turn on lights via text. The information is only outbound, though; your connected bulbs won’t be able to tell you what color they’re currently lighting up.”

Vine wants you to swipe left. “We’ve got a new way to discover Vines in our iPhone app: you can now swipe left on any post to see more Vines.”

Facebook’s is now available all over India. “, Facebook’s initiative to provide free Internet services in developing countries, is now available to all Indians through the Free Basics app on Reliance Communication’s network. The project is meant to give people in emerging economies easy access to the Internet, but has been hit by a slew of criticism.”


Good stuff from Joyce Valenza: teaching (and writing) with Wikipedia. “The Wikimedia Foundation, which serves as a bridge between academia and Wikipedia, offers Wikiedu, a variety of tools for promoting new literacies while for using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. While designed for the university to help fill learning gaps in underrepresented areas, there is much here to support upper level high school learning across the curriculum.”

From How-to Geek: How to Save an Offline Copy of a Web Page on an iPhone or Android Smartphone.

Star Wars fan? Worried the movie is going to be ruined by online spoilers? There’s an extension for that. “What the extension basically does is quickly scan the page that’s loading in Chrome to locate any mentions to Star Wars, be it the name of the franchise itself or terms related to the movies, and if does discover that it immediately shields the user from it.” I wonder if it would shield this page?


Google said that a recent push of its search offerings to the top of mobile search result is just a bug. Uh-huh. “Over the weekend, executives from public Internet companies Yelp and TripAdvisor noted a disturbing trend: Google searches on smartphones for their businesses had suddenly buried their results beneath Google’s own. It looked like a flagrant reversal of Google’s stated position on search, and a move to edge out rivals. Nope, it’s a bug, claims Google.” I’m not a huge Yelp fan, but really?

From Search Engine Land: 3 Google Patents You Should Know About in 2016. “Now, while there may not be any way to become fully future-proof against Google changes (after all, they perform 500–600 minor changes a year, on top of their big updates), there are ways you can stay ahead of the game. One of those ways is to understand the patents that Google is applying for and how they might impact search in the future.”

More industrial/medical use of Google Glass — This time at Volkswagen. “The Glass hardware is running custom software by German company Ubimax, which specializes in wearables for industrial use. According to the firm, VW’s particular implementation – which is also using Vuzix M100 headsets – runs Ubimax xPick, though it also offers maintenance and inspection platforms, quality assurance systems, two-way remote expert assistance, and software for medics.” Insert joke about Glass, Volkswagen, and diesel fraud here. Good afternoon, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!