Solar Eclipse, Illinois Voters, Google Docs, More: Tuesday Buzz, March 8, 2016

(Hey! There’s a total solar eclipse today! And it’s gonna be webcast! “The online Slooh Community Observatory will host a live webcast between 6 and 9 p.m. EST (2300 and 2600 GMT) to watch the eclipse from Indonesia and “several other locations” along the eclipse path, which can be joined at; the period of totality (total eclipse) will take place between 8:38 and 8:42 p.m. The webcast will also visible at, courtesy of Slooh.”


A new service provides information on candidates to Illinois voters. “The new Voter’s Edge Illinois website hosts candidate profiles, ballot measure summaries and even information on who is funding the campaigns….To use the site, voters enter their address to find their polling place and to get a full list of who is running for federal, state and local offices. Voters also can fill out and print a sample ballot to bring to the polls.”


Google Docs has some new templates. “We launched a collection of templates in Docs, Sheets and Slides in September to give your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations the extra polish they deserve. Today, we’re adding to that collection with new templates designed by five experts in their fields. All templates are available on the web and on Android and iOS.” The new templates include a lesson plan, book report, and business budget.

Now available on Google Street View: The Iditarod. “Due to unseasonably warm weather conditions over Anchorage and the Alaska Range, the route of the 2015 race was switched to begin in Fairbanks, Alaska. At the traditional “ceremonial start” (held in Anchorage), a special sled #80 driven by Dean Osmar, the 1984 Iditarod Champion, towed a second sled with a Googler wearing the trekker. The slushy conditions led to an 11-mile adventure complete with frozen puddles, cheering spectators, crashes, pink flamingos and a man-sized penguin. Sometimes our mission to map the whole world is harder than it looks!”

Fair’s fair: Facebook added the ability to use Facebook Messenger to call an Uber, now you can call a Lyft as well. “Lyft, locked in intense competition with its larger, better financed ride-hail rival Uber, announced Monday that Facebook Messenger users can now do what they’ve been able to do with Uber since December: hail a Lyft car from within the Messenger app. Lyft is also expanding its API program, in which developers can use Lyft’s application program interface to embed a button in their apps to hail a Lyft car. Today’s announcement is a sign that API integration is quickly becoming yet another space for these two ride-hail giants to compete with each other.”

Google has announced new initiatives to support women on YouTube. “…we’re announcing two new programs to continue championing female voices on YouTube. The first is a new, year-long partnership with the United Nations that appoints top YouTube female creators as the very first Change Ambassadors for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Action campaign. The second is a global production program across the YouTube Spaces that puts women both in front of and behind the camera.”


NCAA tourney fan? Bing’s got your back. “Together with the NCAA, Bing is creating the NCAA® March Madness® bracket experience. Bing Predicts’ intelligent machine learning technology will analyze social and search signals, NCAA statistical data to help fans build a smarter bracket. The Bing bracket provides intelligent match-up predictions, analysis and additional features that can help newcomers and diehard hoops fans alike make sense of the over nine quintillion possible outcomes for all 67 tournament games.” As always, I’m rooting for the Chicago Cubs.


Um, okay. Apparently Google is going to have a giant claw machine at SXSW. “Google is well known for attending events and having quite outlandish stands; their Mobile World Congress stands used to reign supreme with an Android themed slide, but they pulled their MWC stand of late. The outlandish stands are back though, with the Google Store intending to have a giant bubble-booth/Claw Machine at pop-culture and entertainment event South-by-Southwest (SXSW) which starts later this week.” Protip for Google: If you want to do a carnival game, maybe do one that isn’t widely considered to be a scam.

I mentioned last week the Indian institute of Science was putting together a digital library which includes theses. Unfortunately a thesis digital library at the University of Madras is not having the same success. “An ambitious project to upload all Ph.D theses of research scholars of the University of Madras has failed to take off due to lack of policy push from the authorities concerned. The database of theses would not only provide research scholars an easy access to reference materials but also prevent plagiarism.”


Were all you Apple fans feeling left out because Macs didn’t have ransomware? here ya go. “Palo Alto Networks claims to have discovered the first known instance of OS X-oriented ransomware in the wild, “KeRanger.” If you install software infected with the code (in this case, a version of the BitTorrent client Transmission), it’ll encrypt your files after three days and demand that you pay a digital currency ransom to regain control.”


Which US presidential candidate has deleted the most tweets so far? It’s not Donald Trump; it’s Bernie Sanders. Apparently he is not all about the RT: “Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders tops the list, with 58 deletions from January to March 4. In many of those cases, though, he just deleted retweets of others’ social media posts.”

Helen Lewis at the Financial Times reflects on almost nine years at Twitter and what its problems might be. A long but thoughtful consideration on what Twitter is, what it isn’t, and what it might be. “From the start, Twitter has inspired polarised reactions. For many of its 320m monthly users, it is utterly addictive. For others, it is a baffling land of trolls, narcissists and shameless self-promoters. ‘I’d rather have root canal treatment for the rest of my life than join Twitter,’ the actress Emma Thompson once told Vanity Fair. ‘I can’t bear the thought of being connected all the time.’ The comedian Stewart Lee was even harsher, calling it ‘a government surveillance operation run by gullible volunteers, a Stasi for the Angry Birds generation’.” Wow. Good morning, Internet…

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