Pills, Ransomware, Names, More: Saturday Morning Buzz, April 18, 2015


Now available: an online database of World War II soldiers from Russia and the honors/recognitions they received. “During the nearly four years in which the Soviet Union participated in World War II, soldiers of the Red Army were awarded over 38 million various orders and medals. Unfortunately, in many cases the award never reached the person who earned the honor. Now the families of veterans – and in some cases the veterans themselves – can check online see if there are any awards that belong to them….There are more than 8,200 names listed in the database….”

The NYC Media Lab has announced a new tool for instant data visualizations: Lenses. “Unlike existing easy-to-use data visualization platforms, Lenses is open-source and extensible, meaning that additional features can be added by its users, and the potential of the tool grows as more people use it. Each data visualization created in Lenses preserves the steps taken to create it, enabling new users to learn how to make sophisticated graphs by seeing how more advanced users have produced visualizations. Lenses encourages transparency and visual literacy, helping people investigate civic data.” The tool is not scheduled to be available until 2016, but testers are being sought now.

I’m not sure I would describe this new resource for genetic data as a “WordPress for genetic data,” but it’s interesting. It seems more like a workbench: “Arvados is a content management system for large bulky genomic data sets. Just as blogging platforms like WordPress let journalists and writers upload their data — text, videos, images — and work with them, so Arvados lets researchers and clinicians import genetic data files. Within the system, they can run a variety of analyses or share the data itself.”

Reddit’s getting an e-mail newsletter. “The new email newsletter will go out to users every Sunday and will be curated by staffers to help surface stories that might otherwise get lost in one of the thousands of communities, which are called subreddits. The social news site announced the launch on Tuesday.”

Need a little help with your homework? This new smartphone app lets you just take a picture. “To use the app, students simply snap a picture of their homework or question with their iPhone’s camera and hit send, optionally typing in additional information that will help their tutor answer the question. They also assign the question to a topic, which aids in matching their request with the right tutor. In around 15 minutes, on average, a tutor will respond with the answer and explanation.” Note this is not a free service.


Kaspersky has released a decryption tool that unlocks some ransomware.

Useful if you have a name nobody can pronounce, like me: Facebook wants to help people pronounce your name correctly.

Interesting! A smartphone app that both identifies pills and tells you what they are.


Medium has launched blocking.

Bing has revamped its image search. “Now when you are searching images and have clicked a picture, you can scroll or swipe up to get useful and interesting information to help you learn more, redirect your search, or get help connecting the dots to get your task done — whether that’s buying something that caught your eye, learning more about a historical figure, or finding out where in nature you can see that stunning landscape.”


Twitter says it suspended 10,000 ISIS-linked accounts in one day.

Interesting: the FTC has created an office dedicated to algorithmic transparency.

Oh ugh, there are some serious concerns about the USPTO patent examiners. “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has almost no way to know if patent examiners are doing their jobs well, the agency’s watchdog concludes in a report that raises concerns about the quality of thousands of patents issued each year. The sharply critical report issued Monday by the inspector general for the Commerce Department, the patent office’s parent agency, found overall deficiencies with quality assurance that put at risk the federal government’s role in protecting new ideas through the issuance of patents and trademarks.”


Using Twitter to tackle cardiovascular disease.

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