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!

Racism, Cornish Life, Infocom, More: Thursday Buzz, November 26th, 2015


Virginia Commonwealth University has launched a new digital mapping project showing the spread of the Ku Klux Klan across the United States. (and for those of you who thought the KKK was only a southern thing… no.) “The project, ‘Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, 1915-1940,’ is an animated, online map that illustrates the rise of the second Klan, which was founded in Atlanta in 1915 and spread rapidly across the country to total more than 2,000 local units, known as Klaverns.”

Now available: a digital archive of Cornish life. “The collection of more than 30,000 items, some dating back to 1850, have been donated by professional and amateur photographers.” Now, I thought “Cornish” just meant “resident of Cornwall,” in the UK. But apparently it is a distinct ethnic identity with its own language. I learn so much doing ResearchBuzz!

Jason Scott, who I have mentioned before and on whom I have a nerdcrush, has begun a digital archive of the papers of Steve Meretzky. If you don’t know Steve Meretzky let me say: game designer. Then let me say: Infocom, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (and many other titles.) Ok? “Today, I’m dropping the first set of what I hope will be the vast majority of the stuff I scanned during that production year, onto the Internet Archive. The collection is called The Infocom Cabinet, and right now it has every design notebook/binder that Steve Meretzky kept during the period of what most people consider ‘Classic’ Infocom.”

TWEAKS & UPDATES has gotten a big makeover. “What’s changed under the hood will likely be interesting only to developers — what it equates to for the average blogger is a refined experience on the web, and an all new desktop application.” The open-sourcing is nice. It would also be nice if we could have access to a few more plugins (vetted, of course.)


The Smithsonian wants to crowdsource some Rock N’ Roll. “Smithsonian Books and Smithsonian Media will launch Dec. 1. They are asking the public to go through their attics, basements, boxes, drawers, digital cameras, photo albums, cell phones, cloud, photo-upload sites and computer hard drives for pictures that show the greatest moments in the history of rock ’n’ roll.”

Search tech nerds! TIME has a huge article on the challenges facing Google search.

More Google: it is painting the town of Austin red. No, that’s not right. It’s letting the town of Austin paint its self-driving cars. “Google’s fun little project called ‘Paint The Town’ for its self-driving cars is a great way to connect with communities. It takes trust to allow vehicles that drive themselves for the most part, and Austin seems to be trusting Google quite a bit.”

More More Google: it and Duke Power are teaming up for a solar energy project (PRESS RELEASE). “A 61-megawatt solar project will be constructed in Rutherford County in Duke Energy Carolinas’ service territory. Under a power purchase agreement with the Rutherford Farms, LLC, solar project, Duke Energy will secure power to meet new energy demand from Google’s expanded data center.”


So you know that “most used words” quiz that’s been going around Facebook? It’s a terrible idea. I hope you haven’t taken it. “The ‘quiz,’ created by a company called, has risen to over 16 million shares in a matter of days. It’s been written about in the Independent, Cosmopolitan, and EliteDaily. Sounds fun, right? Wrong. That’s over 16 million people who agreed to give up almost every private detail about themselves to a company they likely know nothing about.”

You’ve heard me mention “bug bounty” programs in ResearchBuzz posts. Ever wonder how many there are? The short answer: a ton. “The ‘list of bug bounty” impact over 426+ international security programs world wide. Commercial programs like bug bounty or reward systems but also regular security acknowledgments. The table list provides 5 item categories. The first list shows the last 10 entries and the second list shows the full list of bug bounty programs Feel free to send us new updates and contribute to the public bug bounty-, security acknowledgment- or reward- programs list.”


Researchers are working on a way for disabled people to control Google Glass. “The silent speech system makes use of a magnetic tongue-control system similar to that previously used by paralysed patients to control wheelchairs, as well as ear pieces that use infrared light to map how the shape of the ear canal changes when a person utters a particular word, as each word in the English vocabulary manipulates the ear canal in a different way.”

I love reading the MIT Technology Review! Check this out: using data-mining to track the evolution of smiling.. “By mining a vast database of high-school yearbook photos, a machine-vision algorithm reveals the change in hairstyles, clothing, and even smiles over the last century.” 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!

Money, Medicare, Google Apps, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, November 25th, 2015


The American Numismatic Association has created a digital archive of its flagship publication, The Numismatist.. (The American Numismatic Association is devoted to the study of money and related items.) “The American Numismatic Association is excited to announce its digital archives of all 127 volumes of its flagship publication, The Numismatist. Beginning December 1, ANA members can access every issue of the magazine, from 1888 to the present.” A standard membership looks like it’s about $28 a year.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has launched a new site designed to provide easier access to Medicare enrollment statistics. “The CMS Program Statistics website replaces the former Medicare and Medicaid Statistical Supplement, which was published annually in electronic form from 2001-2013. The website will include over 100 detailed, easy-to- access data tables on national health care, Medicare populations, utilization, and expenditures, as well as counts for Medicare-certified institutional and non-institutional providers. Today, we have released the first two sections, which include information on national health expenditures, life expectancy, population projections, and Medicare enrollment and providers, and we will continue to release other sections on a rolling-basis.”


Google Apps for Work users! Guests invited to Google Hangouts are no longer be required to have a Google Account. “Here’s how it works: guests without a Google account who have been provided with the video call link by the organizer will be asked to provide their name and then request to join the call.”

Bing has just filled its maps with traffic cameras. “We are proud to announce that you can now view more than 35,000 traffic cameras across 11 countries in Bing Maps.”

Snapchat has has launched a new tool called Story Explorer and I keep wanting to call it Story the Explorer. Don’t judge me. “Today Snapchat has launched a new tool within Live Stories called Story Explorer, which gives users the ability to look at all of the snaps of a single, special moment. The idea is to let you see similar snaps from a single moment within a Live Story instead of seeing a string of different, unrelated moments tied to a larger theme.”

Google Compare is now giving quotes for mortgage rates. (I was wondering about all those press releases I saw: “So and So teams up with Google Compare!”) “Google Compare web service now offers quotes for home mortgage rates in California, free of charge. The launch turns Google into an official mortgage loan broker, giving consumers a way to connect with companies that can provide home mortgages.”

More Google: It is apparently pulling reviews from Google+ business listings and all the changes going on to Google+ are giving me whiplash. “Reviews will no longer be shown on Google+ Pages in the new Google+ design. Reviews are still accessible on Google Search and Maps which have always been the primary way that users find business reviews.”


Good one from Hongkiat: the top 10 sites to ask all your programming questions. Quora and Stack Overflow are great; don’t know much about the others.


Twitter has banned blood drives in its offices until gay people are allowed to donate. “The San Francisco-based company made the decision after one of its U.S. employees, a gay man, was turned away from donating blood at the company’s headquarters, a spokeswoman said on Monday.”

Fortune: Melissa Mayer has lost the narrative. “For the last decade, Yahoo has gone through five CEOs and been battered by the press, investors, and activist investors. Each new turnaround attempt has been met with even louder derision. Regardless of its potential, Mayer’s latest turnaround narrative has not stuck.” 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!