Zorin, Google Maps, Instagram, More: Monday Buzz, November 20, 2016

Okay, should be back on track. Apologies.


Linux distro Zorin has reached version 12. While I personally use Linux Mint or Ubuntu, Zorin is my go-to distro when I’m repurposing old Windows machines. It feels a lot like Windows XP and is pretty easy for non-Linux people to wrap their heads around. I recommend it. (This is not an ad, Zorin doesn’t know me, I just dig the distro, etc etc)

Don’t like crowds? Me either. Google wants to help. “Think of it like Waze, but for pedestrians. Waze, a Google-owned crowd-sourced traffic app, warns users when there’s traffic on certain roads or things to watch out for such as a crashed car or speed radars. But instead of saving you from traffic jams, Google’s live-crowd feature helps you dodge packed places, like the swarm that’ll surround your mall on Black Friday.”

You can now livestream from Instagram, if you don’t want to livestream from Facebook, I guess? Oh, I get it. It’s more Snapchat love. “The videos are available to view temporarily during the broadcast and can’t be saved to your phone. The new messaging section of the app resembles features on Snapchat, including the ability to send private photos and videos that disappear after viewing.”

South China Morning Post: Google plans to remove the ‘In the news’ section from its desktop search following ‘fake news’ criticism. “Following criticism over fake news on its platform, Google plans to remove its ‘In the news’ section from the top of desktop search results in a matter of weeks, according to a source familiar with the matter. It will be replaced by a carousel of ‘Top stories’ similar to what now exists on mobile. This move had been planned for quite some time, the source said.” Apparently the “In the News” part did not pull entirely from the actual News search engine, which would explain some of the search results I’ve gotten.


Paul P. tipped me to a blog post about Pic4Carto. “Pic4Carto is an easy and simple way to find open sourced photographs of any location in the world. Simply click on the Pic4Carto interactive map and you can find photographs of that location from Flickr, Mapillary and Wikimedia.”

Useful-for-a-given-value: Google’s made an AI-powered drum machine. “Infinite Drum Machine – following on from the brilliantly fun Quick, Draw! – is a computer-organised database of everyday sounds grouped together by a computer, with no information given to it on what each noise could be.” Bottles, people, animals, books, mechanical processes, etc –


Slate: Google’s 21st-Century Empire. “Within 25 years of the invention of the World Wide Web, a handful of private (mostly Silicon Valley) companies have become dominant. Some—Microsoft, Amazon, Apple—have achieved market power through a familiar route: selling products or services for money. Others, like Google and Facebook, have a different kind of power, one that we’re only beginning to understand. They have conquered the world through what Shoshana Zuboff, a professor at Harvard Business School, calls surveillance capitalism, a big data world in which we’re the products.”

Facebook is planning a huge stock buyback. “Facebook’s board of directors on Friday authorized spending as much as $6 billion to buy back shares in the leading social network.
The stock repurchase program would go into effect at the start of next year, potentially allowing Facebook to take advantage of a price dip triggered early this month by word that revenue growth will slow because the company has hit a limit on how many ads it can pack onto pages.”


The BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) will start scanning social media in an effort to find stock manipulation. “The BSE has introduced a data analytics-based, artificial intelligence mechanism that tracks the performance of listed companies in relation to news about those companies on digital and social media platforms, like Twitter.” (And yes, this is the same BSE that teamed up with Twitter last September to provide live stock updates.)

Privacy alert from Quartz: The most important personal identity number you have may be stored on an app you’ve never heard of. “‘Caller ID’ apps—like China’s WhatsCall, Sweden’s Truecaller, and Israel’s—promise to identify spam sales calls from telemarketers, insurance companies, and the like. But according to a Nov. 21 report from Hong Kong’s FactWire, those three apps have also created searchable databases of some 3 billion phone numbers and associated identities. By looking up a number in these databases—which include mobile numbers for Google co-founder Larry Page and Hong Kong’s much-loathed chief executive, CY Leung—anyone who has downloaded these apps can discover who that number belongs to.”


Ars Technica: It’s time to get rid of the Facebook “news feed,” because it’s not news. “…proving whether fake news influenced the election more than the usual political propaganda is impossible. What’s certain is that fake news on Facebook is a symptom of a larger problem: the company is trying to play contradictory roles as both trustworthy news publisher and fun social media platform for personal sharing. The problem is that it cannot be both—at least not without making some changes.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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