Typewriters, IFTTT, Solar Energy, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, November 4, 2016


New-to-me: a database of typewriters. Lots of typewriters. And apparently repair manuals/information. Gigantic! From the about page: “The ‘Database’ is probably the biggest source of typewriter serial numbers on the Internet today. As far as I know, it’s even the most complete collection of serial numbers ever. But when you see the number of given brand names, it’s still only a beginning. This Database is also a collection of typewriter photo galleries from the collections of enthusiasts all over the world. These galleries are linked to manufacturers and not only serve as a valuable additional resource for research about various machines, but also are fun to page through and see what collectors have in their collections.”


IFTTT is moving from recipes to applets. Thankfully these applets have nothing to do with Java. “According to the company, Applets will allow developers to integrate IFTTT functionality into their products. This, in theory, should make it easier for developers to connect their apps, websites, and Internet of Things (IoT) products to a broad collection of services.”

Project Sunroof has gotten some upgrades. Now it offers information on communities as well as single houses. “Today we’re excited to be taking Project Sunroof a step further by launching a new data explorer tool to enable solar estimates for entire communities, in addition to individual homes, by leveraging 3D rooftop geometry from Google Earth to estimate the solar potential for millions of rooftops in America. The tool helps communities, cities and municipalities easily visualize how many rooftops are suitable to install solar, how much power they could collectively generate, as well as how much carbon could be displaced by deploying rooftop solar at scale. Sunroof’s solar potential reports can also be easily shared amongst community members, researchers and policymakers directly from the the tool itself. Anyone can use this tool for free, by simply entering in a state, county, city, or zip code to receive a custom analysis.”

Yes, the Vine app is being killed off. But don’t worry about the people who started Vine – they’ve got something else going on. “Live-streaming video is a crowded marketplace, with products from the likes of Twitter and Facebook already killing off one early pioneer, Meerkat. But the co-founders of Vine seem undeterred by this (and the recent death of the app they sold to Twitter), and have launched Hype: a video app that turns live-streaming into show-and-tell.”


Hey! How 25-year-old Prodigy screenshots got rescued. “When I decided to write about the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign and how it was waged, in part, on online services such as CompuServe and Prodigy, I had a basic problem: I wasn’t sure if I could show what I was talking about. The services I was referencing are long gone, and screenshots that depict them are not exactly plentiful. But in a remarkable bit of good fortune, I happened to tell tech historian and Fast Company contributor Benj Edwards about my conundrum.”

Looks like Turkey is blocking some social media. “Internet users in Turkey were Friday experiencing severe difficulties accessing social media after the country was plunged into new turbulence by the detention of its main pro-Kurdish leaders, correspondents and a watchdog said. The messaging service WhatsApp was not working while users were also reporting severe problems accessing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites, AFP correspondents and Internet users said.”

I have learned a new vocabulary word Snapchat Trap. “It’s Saturday night. Your friends have dragged you to a party when all you wanted was to Netflix Gilmore Girls in your bed. Like a three-year-old, you declare, ‘Fine, I’ll go, but I won’t have fun.’ And you mean it.”


2016 is so weird. The FBI is launching an internal investigation into its own Twitter account. “The FBI has launched an internal investigation into one of its own Twitter accounts. The account at issue, @FBIRecordsVault, had been dormant for more than a year. Then on October 30 at 4 a.m., the account released a flood of documents, including one describing Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump as a ‘philanthropist.'”


Sunlight Foundation: Connecting freedom of information to open data: How to build a better “Over the past year, we’ve explored different ways that FOIA could work better without more legislative action in Congress. Here’s a specific breakdown how to use the reformed law to fix FOIA, from how the remade statute can be leveraged to drive positive change to an affirmative vision for a new”

Bruce Schneier in the Washington Post: Your WiFi-connected thermostat can take down the whole Internet. We need new regulations. “The technical reason these devices are insecure is complicated, but there is a market failure at work. The Internet of Things is bringing computerization and connectivity to many tens of millions of devices worldwide. These devices will affect every aspect of our lives, because they’re things like cars, home appliances, thermostats, lightbulbs, fitness trackers, medical devices, smart streetlights and sidewalk squares. Many of these devices are low-cost, designed and built offshore, then rebranded and resold. The teams building these devices don’t have the security expertise we’ve come to expect from the major computer and smartphone manufacturers, simply because the market won’t stand for the additional costs that would require. These devices don’t get security updates like our more expensive computers, and many don’t even have a way to be patched. And, unlike our computers and phones, they stay around for years and decades.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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