NYC Water, 1916 Easter Rising, Photo Editing, More: Friday Buzz, March 25, 2016


Since the horrible discoveries in Flint Michigan, there’s a lot of concern about lead in water all around the country. New York City has created a Web site showing the lead levels in the water of NYC public schools. “On Wednesday, the Department of Education launched a searchable database of schools that have been tested since 2002, when the agency first made testing a priority. The search function allows users to look up schools by name and see whether a test has been performed, whether elevated lead levels were found, and what action was taken to address the issue. Where lead contamination was found, the results list the date of the test, and some date back as far as 2004.”

The courts-martial papers of the 1916 Easter Rising are now available online. “Thousands of documents relating to the revolutionary perio, including all those related to the courts-martial of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, have been released online for the first time. Online geneology website has digitised 2,600 records and 60,000 images which will be made available online free of charge into perpetuity from March 22nd.”


Google is making its Nik Collection photo editing software free. “It’s a big deal – Nik Software has been around for about two decades, and its film-like filters and other editing tools are some of the most popular among professional photographers, along with VSCO or Alien Skin’s Exposure.” Looks like the software is Windows and Mac only.

More Google: it has opened access to its speech recognition API. “The Google Cloud Speech API, which will cover over 80 languages and will work with any application in real-time streaming or batch mode, will offer full set of APIs for applications to ‘see, hear and translate,’ Google says. It is based on the same neural network tech that powers Google’s voice search in the Google app and voice typing in Google’s Keyboard. There are some other interesting features, such as working in noisy environments and in real-time.”

The National Recording Registry has added a new set of entries. “Two cuts at Kurt Weill’s ‘Mack the Knife’—by Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin—will join Billy Joel’s single ‘Piano Man,’ Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive,’ the Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go,’ a recording of the fourth quarter of Wilt Chamberlain’s historic 100-point game and a poignant capture of Mahler’s ninth symphony among the recordings recently selected for induction into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao today named 25 new sound recordings to the registry that have been recognized for their cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s aural legacy.” And that excerpt didn’t even mention Metallica…


More good stuff from Vice: music metadata and user metadata. “Music libraries transitioning to online services is a perfectly natural evolution. Similar changes have already happened to movies with Netflix, and even to messaging before that through webmail services like Gmail. But with audio files, the shift to the cloud has already undermined a huge trove of data that had previously existed offline, embedded in the files. It’s no longer just about attributes of the songs: The word ‘metadata’ requires the presence of another entity to which the data at hand refers, and increasingly, it now points toward the listener instead of toward whatever they’re listening to. Maybe this was inevitable, since the songs themselves don’t have any autonomous purchasing power.”

Google has a 360-degree tour of its new data center up on YouTube. Warning: Sandeep is WAY too enthusiastic at 6:30 in the morning (sorry, Sandeep, haven’t had my tea yet…)

Meanwhile, Google is also getting seriously (or more seriously, I suppose) into the cloud. “Google has unveiled ambitious expansion plans for its global cloud footprint with the construction of 12 data centres and the opening of 11 new cloud regions worldwide. Google is today the third largest cloud provider in the world behind AWS and Microsoft Azure, according to Morgan Stainley.”


General USBs have never been that great securitywise, but this is just scary. “Security researchers have discovered a new data-stealing Trojan that makes special use of USB devices in order to spread itself and does not leave any trace of activity on the compromised systems. Dubbed USB Thief ( or Win32/PSW.Stealer.NAI), the malware has the capability of stealthy attacking against air-gapped or isolated computers, warns ESET security firm.” “Air-gapped” are computers which are neither connected to the Internet nor connected to computers which are connected to the Internet.

At the end of this weekend, UK record label BPI will have sent Google over 200 million (MILLION!) takedown requests. “The rights-holder rep is understandably getting tired of sending such notices, and calling for a more permanent solution – primarily that when an offending link has been removed following a takedown request, it stays removed permanently.” There are many well documented silly takedown requests, like Sony issuing YouTube takedown requests in cases of what is unmistakably fair use, so I’m wondering what percentage of this these requests are legit and how many are off-base. Love to see that request set analyzed…


Young people using social media often might be at greater risk of depression. “The more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings could guide clinical and public health interventions to tackle depression, forecast to become the leading cause of disability in high-income countries by 2030. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is published online and scheduled for the April 1 issue of the journal Depression and Anxiety.”

Chinese search engine Baidu is busy developing its own AI, including one to predict crowds. “Researchers at the Chinese search engine giant claim to have found a pattern that correlates positively by studying the number of map queries and the number of users in an area. They then devised a way to crunch the numbers in real time and trigger warnings one to three hours ahead of time if unusually large crowds are expected to gather based on their data. This occurs when the number of queries for a specific location crosses a set threshold.” Good morning, Internet…

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