Sri Lanka Village, Ebola Epidemic, Google Docs, More: Wednesday Buzz, July 25, 2018


Cornell University: Online collection captures Sri Lankan village life. “‘Depicting the Sri Lankan Vernacular’ comprises more than 500 images and originates from the research of Bonnie MacDougall ’62, M.A. ’65, Ph.D. ’73, professor emerita in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. MacDougall’s work in Mimure, in the Knuckles mountains of Sri Lanka, spanned more than 50 years and her entire academic career.”

eHealthNews: Sierra Leone Launches Ebola Database . “The SLED is based on information recorded during the Ebola epidemic by thousands of Sierra Leonean surveillance officers, burial team members, laboratory technicians and data managers. The data in the SLED is from more than 500,000 alerts, burial and other patient records, creating the most complete collection of data from the 2014 – 2016 Ebola epidemic.” Based on this article and the other ones I was able to find, I don’t think this will be fully open. I think it will be available for researchers via the CDC.


Neowin: Google Docs gets an AI-based grammar checker with Early Adopter Program . “Google Docs has now received an AI-based grammar checker to help get rid of silly grammatical mistakes users make when writing textual content. This AI-based grammar checking functionality will work alongside the already existing spell check that Google Docs already has. The new feature uses machine learning algorithms to suggest grammatical corrections as you type. It is now available to those who apply for the company’s Early Adopter Program for G Suite.”

Washington Post: Twitter users over age 13 who signed up when they were underage are still blocked. “People who signed up for Twitter when they were underage say they are still blocked from using the platform, according to a report, even though many of those users are now older than age 13. A month after Twitter addressed the issue from its support account, users say they remain locked out.”


MakeUseOf: 5 Text, Voice, and Video Call Apps You Can Use Without Registration. “Technology is at its best when it gets out of the way and lets you do what you want. When you want to talk to someone, you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops downloading an app or signing up for a service. These fantastic apps are what you need. Usually, your office is likely to use a service like Skype or GoToMeetings, but those fail to work sometimes. And with the number of data and privacy leaks happening these days, it’s probably better if you use a service without ever giving them your email or password.”


TechCrunch: Trill Project aims to be a safe community for people to express their true selves . “Trill Project, founded by three high school girls, recently launched out of private beta to help people safely express themselves online. For those unfamiliar with the word ‘trill,’ it’s a combination of “true” and “real.” An investor described it to me as a positive Yik Yak .”

Phys .org: Private messaging apps increasingly used for public business. “One app promotes itself as a way to discuss sensitive negotiations and human resources problems without leaving a digital record. Another boasts that disappearing messages “keep your message history tidy.” And a popular email service recently launched a “confidential mode” allowing the content of messages to disappear after a set time. The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws.”

The Atlantic: Microfilm Lasts Half a Millennium. “I recently acquired a decommissioned microfilm reader. My university bought the reader for $16,000 in 1998, but its value has depreciated to $0 in their official bookkeeping records. Machines like it played a central role in both research and secret-agent tasks of the last century. But this one had become an embarrassment.”


CNET: Bluetooth pairing has a security hole. Get ready for updates. “When you pair a couple of Bluetooth devices, like your phone and computer, they exchange encryption keys. But it turns out the Bluetooth specification didn’t require that both of them completely validate those keys. Well, it does now.”

EurekAlert: Purdue researchers receive $6 million to improve security for IoT devices . “A research team at Purdue University has received a grant for $6 million from the Office of Naval Research, a division of the U.S. Department of the Navy, to improve security of electronic devices in physical environments or industrial control systems.”


Nieman Lab: On a big story like the Helsinki Trump/Putin summit, Google News’ algorithm isn’t up to the task. “Imagine that you came back home after a busy day of work and wanted to catch up on the news about the Trump/Putin summit. This is, in fact, exactly what I did Monday. I knew some interesting stuff had happened, but I wanted to dive deeper — to see multiple stories and get different perspectives. Google News seemed like a good place to start.”

Engadget: Iris scanner AI can tell the difference between the living and the dead. “It’s possible to use a dead person’s fingerprints to unlock a device, but could you get away with exploiting the dead using an iris scanner? Not if a team of Polish researchers have their way. They’ve developed a machine learning algorithm that can distinguish between the irises of dead and living people with 99 percent accuracy. The scientists trained their AI on a database of iris scans from various times after death (yes, that data exists) as well as samples of hundreds of living irises, and then pitted the system against eyes that hadn’t been included in the training process.” Good morning, Internet…

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