Railroads, Chicago, Wearables, More: Wednesday Buzz, January 20, 2016


Cornell University has gotten a grant to put a lot of railroad materials online. “Spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, the Kheel Center’s collections document the rise and fall of railroads, as well as the emergent and declining power of the unions that kept the railroads running and the American economy growing. The collections include the records of companies, unions and associations; rulebooks and payrolls; reports and photographs from commissions; and transcripts of oral histories with major industry figures.”

The city of Chicago has opened a new portal for displaying open data about the city. “…the City has introduced OpenGrid, a new website and app that allows the public to easily navigate, use, and consume open date [sic]. OpenGrid lets users tailor and filter searches based on their location, like looking for new buildings in their neighborhood or spotting nearby road closures. The platform also makes it easier for residents to identify and filter data that’s relevant to them, like being able to see which city services are delivered directly to their block.”

There’s a new operating system for wearables. “Aside from watchOS, Tizen, and Android Wear, a new platform is ready to rock the smartwatch game. The AsteroidOS is a new open source operating system that you can use on any smartwatch, at least, any Android Wear based wearable device. We’re guessing this is like CyanogenMod (CM) for the smartwatch industry.”


YouTube is expanding its partnership with Sundance. “For the last few years, YouTube and the Sundance Film Festival have teamed up to bring panels, workshops, and initiatives focused on emerging content creators to the annual Park City, Utah-based and film-oriented event. And for 2016, the two brands will expand their collaboration to include five Festival-wide initiatives to support up-and-coming storytellers.”

Very early social media site Friends Reunited is going to close. “Steve Pankhurst, one of the creators of the site, launched it to the public in 2000, where it quickly grew to have more than 10 million active members. The company then sold to broadcaster ITV for £175 million (~$250 million) in 2005.”


Handy from Betanews: 3 Screen Recorder Extensions for Chrome.


Ad blockers everywhere, so advertising is working that ninja stealth. Jezebel has an article which is equally fascinating and (kind of) horrifying: Here’s How Much Celebrities Make in the Instagram Product Placement Machine. “Celebrity endorsements are nothing new, but the explosion of social media has shifted the practice into new territory. As I’ve discussed here before, advertisements posted as selfies on Instagram or Twitter usually contain no clear indication that the celebrity or personality in question has been paid to promote the product—despite the fact that, in many cases, they’re legally required to disclose exactly that.”

Fun story from The New York Times: Hack the Dinos. “The museum’s paleontologists brainstormed for months about digital tools that they wished existed. Automating skull analysis was one item on the wish list. Others included modernizing the venerable field notebook to the age of smartphones and converting cladograms — the family trees that show the evolutionary relationships among species — to digital formats.”

Pakistan has lifted its ban on YouTube after getting a custom version. “Pakistan said on Monday it had removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to demand removal of material it considers offensive.”


Oracle released a record 248 patches on Tuesday. Strangely enough, it took me roughly 248 seconds to convincingly fake a shocked look over the fact that Oracle is still issuing Java patches. “Oracle admins will be busy: The company issued 248 patches on Tuesday, its largest-ever release, according to one security vendor…. Most of those vulnerabilities related to Java SE, Oracles’s platform for running Java applications on servers and desktops.”

What is apparently a big dump of US voter records has shown up on the dark Web. “The datasets appear to include voters’ full names, dates of birth, the date they registered to vote, addresses, local school districts, and several other pieces of information. The dumps also include voting records from previous elections and political affiliations. The two largest files are 1.2 GB and 1 GB, respectively, and each contain at least a million entries. The folder containing the files is called ‘US_Voter_DB,’ though Motherboard could not independently verify the contents’ legitimacy.”


Apparently people trust Google for news more than they trust actual news outlets. Where do people think Google gets its news? Flying elves? “One reason for the disparity could be the way news outlets package stories for specific platforms. Headlines that have been optimized for search engines are usually short and fact-based (hence the trust), while headlines shared on other platforms—social media in particular—can be more open to interpretation. Facebook is now the top traffic referrer to publishers, ahead of Google.” People hate clickbait. STOP THE PRESSES. Good morning, Internet…

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