Bank Fees, Congressional Spending, Historical Re-Enactments, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, March 1, 2017


A new Web site promises to help users uncover hidden bank fees. “Bank Fee Finder is an important tool that helps Americans improve their financial well-being. Most people drastically underestimate how much they pay in bank fees, including ATM, overdrafts, late fees, and any other bank fees. In a study conducted by Common Cents, most people reported paying $5 per month, on average, in ATM, overdraft, and monthly service fees. Yet, a 2016 study conducted by TransferWise revealed that American households spend about $25 a month, or $290 a year in bank fees on average. Unexpected bank fees are especially relevant given another Common Cents study that found 36% of households have less than $500 in savings (including retirement savings).” I like the idea but you have to supply your online banking information, and I ain’t doing that. It would be nice if you could get some fee information without immediately going to that level of trust.

A Web site launched in early February tracks the spending that congresspeople are voting for. “This powerful tool has been on our workbench here at the Coalition for nearly the past two years. And every day has been worth it to build a robust methodology and framework that will now easily capture every single spending vote and display it online, in real time, for everyone to see.” Really well designed, easy to use.

I had no idea there was a stock media site just for historic re-enactment footage and images. “With the new website, Producers and researchers are able to browse categories and request on-line digital screeners of the time-coded re-enactment rushes, and immediately ingest the footage for editing. From intimate historical character vignettes to epic large scale battles, all of the historical collections are shot with expert cinematic composition and lighting. Some of these battles include more than 15,000 authentic re-enactors, cannons and hundreds of cavalry.”


Spencer Matonis has been doing an unbelievable job keeping me up to date on his university labs project, and today he sent me an article I can share with you, from TUN: UConn Student Makes a Splash in the Startup World. “The University of Connecticut is home to Spencer Matonis, a sophomore who recently took a dive into the startup world, making quite a splash. His venture, titled Coalesce, is a dot com startup that aims to help scientific minds connect with each other by way of lab and research-related topics. ‘Join a network of laboratories modernizing research,’ the homepage invites visitors. As Matonis puts it, ‘At the core of the network that we’re building is this research lab database where students can explore the profiles and websites of hundreds of labs.’ Social networking sites are by no means unique, but this site is truly the first of its kind, exploring a topic that may sometimes be overlooked in popular culture.” Considering the funding ResearchGate got recently, I think Mr. Matonis is on to something, and I wish him the best.

TechCrunch: Google quietly launches Meet, an enterprise-friendly version of Hangouts. “Google has quietly launched a new video conferencing application called Meet by Google Hangouts, which is designed for HD video meetings. The web and mobile application appears to be the latest addition to Google’s lineup of business products known as G Suite, though product page on the G Suite website listed in the app’s description page on the App Store is not yet live.”

More TechCrunch, more Google, and holy cow: YouTube unveils YouTube TV, its live TV streaming service. “Distinct from YouTube Red, the new service, YouTube TV, which has been in the works for years at Google’s internet video behemoth, has quietly been inking contracts with media companies to distribute their content on its TV service.” This is really, really big.

ComputerWorld: Facebook releases ‘Prophet’ — its free forecasting tools — for Python and R . “Facebook has open-sourced its Prophet forecasting tool, designed ‘to make it easier for experts and non-experts to make high-quality forecasts,’ according to a blog post by Sean J. Taylor and Ben Letham in the company’s research team.”


WIRED: The Amazon S3 Outage Is What Happens When One Site Hosts Too Much of the Internet . “Although it’s not true that the internet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack, the fact that there’s no central authority in charge of the network makes it, in theory, resilient to attacks on a single company or computer. But as the Amazon outage and the attack on Dyn prove, the internet is actually pretty brittle.”


Google has apparently patented a camera hat. “Budding paparazzi rejoice. A new patent filed Tuesday by Google reveals what could become the newest tool for grabbing candid shots of the Kardashian clan — although that particular use case isn’t mentioned in the document.” I can see this being useful for work.


MIT Technology Review: AI is the New Black. “For decades, developing a computer that could think has been the Holy Grail of technology. And while we have made tremendous progress in our ability to process vast amount of data, the ‘thinking’ part has remained mostly elusive. We are still stuck between two diametrically opposed visions of AI – on one side, it’s the smart but deeply dystopian world of HAL (‘2001: A Space Odyssey’) and on the other, it’s a simpler world of devices like Alexa or Siri playing songs or ordering items for us.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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