Volkswagen, Chinese Medicine, Girl Scouts, More: Saturday Buzz, October 17th, 2015


Volkswagen has created a database of cars where owners can check to see if their cars are impacted by the emissions scandal. The database is searchable by VIN. “The software causes vehicles to emit nitrogen oxide — which can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma — at rates of up to 40 times U.S. standards. But in regulatory tests, the software makes the vehicles appear compliant.”

Now available: an online database of information on social policy and global development. “The newly launched Agenda for International Development (A-id), an Italian think tank that focuses on international development, compiled a free online database featuring thousands of documents relating to social policy and global development, particularly for low-income nations….In addition to this database, A-id also offers freely accessible policy briefs and research relating to four areas of inquiry: gender, education, environment and public health. Fumagalli explained that A-id plans to begin this research within the next two months.”

Now available: a database of herbs used in Chinese medicine. “The series of online databases under the Chinese Medicine Digital Project is a Hong Kong first and allows free access to a bilingual website that documents more than 420 herbs commonly used in Chinese medicine. Images, general properties and macroscopic structures of each type of drug recorded by the Chinese medicine school and its university library are just a click away.”

New-to-Me: A huge online collection of Girl Scout catalogs from 1917 to 2015. “There were some years in which a new catalog was not issued; other years have more than one edition. Not only can you follow the different styles, but the prices and the type of items offered. At one time, you could order a pattern and make your own uniform. Newer catalogs have dolls.”

Now available: a Web site showing 3D images of four shipwreck sites in Lake Michigan. “Data for the website’s four virtual 3-D shipwrecks were gathered using detailed sonar scans to create images of the vessels’ underwater wreckage.”


Facebook now lets you edit your “memories”. “Simply go to your ‘On This Day’ page and then click on “preferences.” Then you can enter a date or person to have content filtered out the next time that date or person is about to be shoved into your unsuspecting face.” I feel two ways about this. I have friends on Facebook who have passed. Seeing their comments on an “On this Day” post is a little jolt of sadness, but I don’t want to forget them. It feels disrespectful to just edit them out.

More Facebook: it is testing some video features. “Facebook is where you watch videos you weren’t looking for. And now it’s looking to supercharge discovery through friends via a slew of new feature tests including a dedicated Video feed with separate channels for clips shared by friends, Pages you Like, Trending videos on Facebook, clips you’ve Saved, or videos you’ve already watched.”


The Atlantic has an excellent story on how unstable the information on the Web really is. I can think of two recent stories of alt-weeklies or small papers which are in danger and have no kind of plan for saving their online archives. (And nothing’s in the Internet Archive because they were blocking them with robots.txt for ages). “The promise of the web is that Alexandria’s library might be resurrected for the modern world. But today’s great library is being destroyed even as it is being built. Until you lose something big on the Internet, something truly valuable, this paradox can be difficult to understand.”

MarketingLand has a good overview of the state of ad blocking. “A recent report found that about 16 percent of users in the U.S. block ads. Globally, there are nearly 200 million people stopping ads, 181 million of whom are on the desktop. Almost $22 billion in global ad revenues has been blocked so far this year, representing about 14 percent of all global ad budgets, with the U.S.’s final figure for 2015 expected to be about $10.7 billion. Next year, the U.S. figure is projected to double.”

Snapchat is going to shut down Snap Channel. “Launched in January, Snap Channel had marked Snapchat’s foray into self-generated original content. The fast-growing social network made a statement about its ambitions in the arena with the May hire of former Fox SVP Comedy Wiley as programming head. A team of about 15 people was assembled with the goal to develop and produce content for Snap Channel on the Discovery platform, primarily shortform narrative/musical series — some of them experimental.”


Adobe has very quickly kicked out a patch for the latest Flash flaw. I’m still leaving mine deactivated. It’s not like this is been the only flaw in Flash ever. “The patch covers all versions of Flash, including the standalone player for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as plugins for Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer. Mozilla Firefox users may feel a bit miffed at getting left out, particularly as the browser has shown Adobe more love than most.”

Eww! Apparently Siri is vulnerable to silent hacking if a pair of headphones with a microphone is plugged in “Their clever hack uses those headphones’ cord as an antenna, exploiting its wire to convert surreptitious electromagnetic waves into electrical signals that appear to the phone’s operating system to be audio coming from the user’s microphone. Without speaking a word, a hacker could use that radio attack to tell Siri or Google Now to make calls and send texts, dial the hacker’s number to turn the phone into an eavesdropping device, send the phone’s browser to a malware site, or send spam and phishing messages via email, Facebook, or Twitter.” Good morning, Internet…

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