Science Graphic of the Week: Inside a Lizard’s Regenerating Tail

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:43pm
Researchers created visual and DNA analysis of how anoles regenerate their tails.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Dramatic Shifts In Manufacturing Costs Are Driving Companies To US, Mexico

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:14pm
hackingbear writes: According to a new Cost-Competitiveness Index, the nations often perceived as having low manufacturing costs — such as China, Brazil, Russia, and the Czech Republic — are no longer much cheaper than the U.S. In some cases, they are estimated to be even more expensive. Chinese manufacturing wages have nearly quintupled since 2004, while Mexican wages have risen by less than 50 percent in U.S. dollar terms, contrary to our long-standing misconception that their labors were being slaved. In the same period, the U.S. wage is essentially flat, whereas Mexican wages have risen only 67%. Not all countries are taking full advantage of their low-cost advantages, however. The report found that global competiveness in manufacturing is undermined in nations such as India and Indonesia by several factors, including logistics, the overall ease of doing business, and inflexible labor markets.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Why FitStar Decided Its Workout Algorithm Needed To Shape Up

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:07pm

ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series in which ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.

If Dave Grijalva were a drug dealer, I'd say he's getting high on his own supply.

In fact, Grijalva is the CTO and cofounder of FitStar, a San Francisco-based fitness-app developer. Take one look at this tall, buff, bearded dude, and it's pretty clear he's partaking in the merchandise—the do-anywhere bodyweight workouts generated by FitStar Personal Trainer

In the past year, I've watched Grijalva go from your stereotypical doughy programmer—he used to develop video games—to a rangy code jock who switches it up from weights to yoga to rock climbing. Even then, he's got enough energy to jam out more software when he gets home from a long day at the office.

He's been racking up those hours putting FitStar's code through its own makeover. Over the past six months, FitStar's seven-person engineering team has been upgrading the algorithm that selects exercises and strings them together. On Thursday, it's rolling out the new code to all of its users.

Grijalva sat down recently with ReadWrite to share the process FitStar went through to upgrade its app.

Leveling Up A Fitness AppScott White, FitStar's senior platform engineer (left), discusses a code change with CTO Dave Grijalva and VP of Operations Kristine Coco at FitStar's headquarters.

If you've watched a P90X video, FitStar's personal-training app will look broadly familiar. But instead of a standard course that's the same for everyone, FitStar adapts each workout for you. It uses some deft digital footwork to stitch exercise clips together, so for every move, you'll see a trainer on the screen performing the exercise with you, for exactly the same time you're doing it.

That's a feat of engineering in and of itself. But the real magic comes when FitStar picks your workout routine. Essentially, its software ranks you, based on an initial fitness assessment and your subsequent ratings of the toughness of FitStar workouts, and then matches you with a move of the appropriate fitness level.

ReadWrite editor Owen Thomas's FitStar badges.

You get a little hint of this in the app's interface: As you make progress, you get a badge showing your level in chest, core, legs, back, and other body parts. Behind the scenes, you're getting matched up against moves on something FitStar calls The Grid.

FitStar's training app has gotten more than a million downloads so far, and users like me have generated millions of data points. For every exercise, we tell FitStar if it's "too easy," "just right," or "brutal." Add to that other information users enter, like weight, or data FitStar's ingesting from partner apps like MyFitnessPal. It all gets fed back into The Grid.

Grijalva's team launched FitStar in June 2013 with the first version of The Grid. But they always wanted to improve it, particularly to add more workout variety. And now that FitStar's planning to expand to new categories—a yoga app is coming in the fall—they realized the current algorithm wouldn't cut it.

FitStar CTO Dave Grijalva, head of curriculum John Rafferty, and engineer Scott White discuss FitStar's algorithms.I Was Told There Wouldn't Be Math

FitStar's challenge is getting workouts to that Goldilocks level—not too hard, not too easy. The Grid is meant to match "assignments," FitStar's term for a specific length or number of repetitions of an exercise, to a user. Human beings vary, so it's not going to get it exactly right every time. But the better a job it does, the better FitStar users feel about their workouts.

The mathematical challenge here is getting the points on a curve to match the ideal shape as tightly as possible.

The sharper curve shows how FitStar has improved its algorithm to better match moves to users.

At FitStar's headquarters in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, "you'll see whiteboards that look like college math classrooms," Grijalva says.

Grijalva's colleagues pair the math with good old-fashioned testing. The team doesn't just let algorithms dictate The Grid: They tweak the math based on a gut feel for when someone should, say, progress to Level 7 in Core after rocking some Superman Planks.

"It's not uncommon to look into a meeting room and see someone doing some yoga pose or some pushups for some curriculum that we're doing," Grijalva says.

Workout Wednesdays at FitStar HQ.

FitStar employees also work out together once a week in Workout Wednesdays, either testing the app or trying out new areas of fitness the company is thinking about, like yoga.

I gave FitStar's new and improved algorithm a whirl the other week. FitStar started me off with burpees—that combination pushup-and-jump move bodyweight exercisers love to hate. I cranked through a half-hour of planks, single-leg wall squats, and other tough moves. My heart-rate monitor told me I kept up an average of 127 beats per minute, with plenty of heart-racing spikes. I rated the moves "just right" down the board. It was a good workout.

My experience was typical of other testers, Grijalva told me. While the company wouldn't share exact figures, it rolled out the new algorithm to 1 in 5 FitStar users a few weeks ago, and saw a "significant" lift in the ratings they gave workouts on a five-star scale, he said.

On the App Store, too, FitStar has been buffing up its image—its current version has a 4.9 rating, up from 4.7 across all versions.

FitStar's Next Assignment

I found it fascinating to match my real-world experience with FitStar against Grijalva's insights on how his team built the app. Since I started using it last year, I've seen subtle improvements in the quality of the workouts. That's the result of progressive tweaks Grijalva's team made to The Grid along the way, as well as the data I've been feeding the app just by working out with it—on its existing algorithm.

With its new algorithm, I think FitStar has even more potential. Like a well-trained athlete, it's gotten stronger and more flexible.

After yoga, the company is planning to expand into other areas of fitness. FitStar has already filmed weightlifting workouts with barbells and dumbbells—it's just waiting for the code.

I'd also like to see it make more use of the data I generate outside its app. For example, why should I have to tell FitStar whether an exercise was challenging, when it can just look at my pulse and oxygen levels? Beginners, too, might benefit by feeding in months of step-tracking information, to give FitStar a baseline picture of their fitness. Affordable, easy-to-use, mass-market wearables that can capture those signals off our bodies are coming, at which point it will just be a matter of hooking them up.

Strap me into The Grid. I'm ready. 

FitStar CTO Dave Grijalva may or may not be personally adjusting the difficulty level on ReadWrite editor-in-chief Owen Thomas's next workout here.

Photos courtesy of FitStar

Categories: Technology

Interviews: Andrew "bunnie" Huang Answers Your Questions

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:32am
A while ago you had a chance to ask Andrew "bunnie" Huang about hardware, hacking and his open source hardware laptop Novena. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Couchsurfing Hacked, Sends Airbnb Prank Spam

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:50am
Slashdot regular (and volunteer) Bennett Haselton writes with a report that an anonymous prankster hacked the website and sent spam to about 1 million members, snarkily advertising their commercial arch-rival Airbnb as "the new Couchsurfing." (Read on below for more on the breach.) As of now, the spam's been caught, but not the spammer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

The 2014 Hugo Awards

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:09am
Dave Knott writes: WorldCon 2014 wrapped up in London this last weekend and this year's Hugo Award winners were announced. Notable award winners include: Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Best Novelette: "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal Best Novella: "Equoid" by Charles Stross Best Short Story: "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu Best Graphic Story: "Time" by Randall Munroe Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere" written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter The results of this year's awards were awaited with some some trepidation in the SF community, due to well-documented attempts by some controversial authors to game the voting system. These tactics appear to have been largely unsuccessful, as this is the fourth major award for the Leckie novel, which had already won the 2013 BSFA, 2013 Nebula and 2014 Clarke awards.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Finally, an App That Makes Online Video as Watchable as Regular TV

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:08am
I have a confession: I don’t know how to use YouTube. Not that I don’t know how to upload a video, or watch one, or even embed one in a blog post. I don’t know how to use YouTube to find anything I’d actually want to watch. No doubt, it’s a sign of creeping middle […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 9:27am
Several readers sent word of research into the cost of internet content without ads. They looked at the amount of money spent on internet advertising last year in the U.K., and compared it to the number of U.K. internet users. On average, each user would have to pay about £140 ($230) to make up for the lost revenue of an ad-free internet. In a survey, 98% of consumers said they wouldn't be willing to pay that much for the ability to browse without advertisements. However, while most consumers regard ads as a necessary trade-off to keep the internet free, they will go to great lengths to avoid advertising they do not wish to see. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent said they skip online video ads 'as quickly as possible' – a figure that rises to 75 per cent for 16-24 year olds. Over a quarter of all respondents said they mute their sound and one in five scroll away from the video. 16 per cent use ad blocking software and 16 per cent open a new browser window or tab.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Guess Who’s Bringing Gigabit Broadband To Google’s Backyard?

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 9:01am

It’s rather ironic that, apart from a small Stanford neighborhood, Google’s own home region can't take advantage of the company’s super high-speed Google Fiber Internet access. No matter. AT&T is stepping in to fill the gap.

See also: The Genius Of Google Fiber

The carrier announced Wednesday that it would bring its U-verse GigaPower gigabit broadband service to the Silicon Valley area. Google's home base of Mountain View, Calif., won't benefit from this, though. Instead, AT&T picked Cupertino, home to Google's chief rival these days—Apple. 

Cupertino Gets More Fiber In Its Broadband Diet

Apple's hometown will become the first city in California to get GigaPower coverage, some time in the coming months. Its local government couldn't be more pleased. 

“The deployment of ultra-high-speed broadband service will further support innovation in our community, spur our local businesses, and result in even greater economic development in our city,” gushed Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong. 

AT&T, meanwhile, lands a high-profile deployment in a city full of technology innovators. The company suggests that it may not be done courting the Silicon Valley area yet, so Mountain View could still be in the running. 

Currently, the broadband provider only serves GigaPower to three Texas cities—Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin—but it has plans to cover select cities in a total of six states: California, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Kansas. That's just the beginning. AT&T wants to move aggressively, spreading its fiber gigabit broadband network nationwide in 100 cities and municipalities around the country. 

According to a company spokesperson, AT&T hasn't announced pricing for Cupertino yet, but residents in Austin, where GigaPower debuted, pay the same rate as Google Fiber subscribers, starting at $70 per month (for up to 1 Gbps bandwidth). 

Uh Oh—Google's Becoming An ISP

The momentum behind fiber-optic gigabit Internet connectivity goes back to 2012, when Google Fiber first launched in Kansas City, Kan. Once the public got a load of incredibly fast broadband, of course everyone wanted it. But few could get it. Google, faced with the huge, complicated challenge of building out a fiber network, cherry picks locations and availability. 

In Kansas City, people had to pre-register, and the Google would only roll it out in certain neighborhoods once a critical mass of users was reached. Now they have some of the fastest broadband in the country. Even better, people in certain areas who can't afford the $70 monthly fee can get free standard Internet access

At this point, Google Fiber serves Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, in addition to its original Kansas City test site. Earlier this year, Google announced that its cherry-picking days may be behind it—the company's looking at expanding to up to 34 more cities, which would basically turn the tech giant into a genuine ISP. No wonder AT&T's moving fast.

Arguably, this is exactly the kind of competition Google hoped to spur when it launched its fiber project in the first place. At the time, no major carriers seemed to be in any hurry at all to provide affordable gigabit speeds to residential customers. That's changing, although still not rapidly.

So if you're in Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville and San Antonio, you may soon see an embarrassment of gigabit riches. Enjoy it. The rest of us will follow along to see how you're doing—as best we can anyway over our sluggish standard broadband. We'll even try not to be jealous. Much. 

Lead photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Categories: Technology

Calif. Court Rules Businesses Must Reimburse Cell Phone Bills

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 8:45am
New submitter dszd0g writes The Court of Appeal of the State of California has ruled in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service that California businesses must reimburse employees who BYOD for work. "We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them. Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills." Forbes recommends businesses that require cell phone use for employees either provide cell phones to employees or establish forms for reimbursement, and that businesses that do not require cell phones establish a formal policy.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Professor Steve Ballmer Will Teach At Two Universities This Year

Slashdot - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 8:04am
redletterdave (2493036) writes "When Steve Ballmer announced he was stepping down from Microsoft's board of directors, he cited a fall schedule that would "be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season." It turns out Ballmer will teach an MBA class at Stanford's Graduate School of Business in the fall, and a class at USC's Marshall School of Business in the spring. Helen Chang, assistant director of communications at Stanford's Business School, told Business Insider that Ballmer will be working with faculty member Susan Athey for a strategic management course called "TRAMGT588: Leading organizations." As for the spring semester, Ballmer will head to Los Angeles — closer to where his Clippers will be playing — and teach a course at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. We reached out to the Marshall School, which declined to offer more details about Ballmer's class.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Flipboard's Mike McCue On The Future Of Media: The Complete Interview

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 7:00am

On August 13, I sat down with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue to talk about the future of media at our latest ReadWriteMix event. I didn't expect us to dive right into media's past. McCue told me he drew inspiration from figures like Clay Felker, the founder of New York magazine, who, McCue recalled, called the publications "tribal organizing documents."

McCue and I are both veterans of the early Web. In the '90s, he worked at Netscape, the browser maker which served as a printing press for so many early Web publishers, while I worked as a webmaster and online reporter for some of the first publications to go online.

In trying to create something new and original, the Web rejected some conventions of older mediums like print. With Flipboard, McCue sought to bring some of the sensibilities of magazines back to digital media, first on the iPad, then on mobile phones, and now—coming full circle—to the Web.

He's also returned Flipboard to the democratizing mission Netscape had, by opening it up to smaller publishers and individuals, letting them not just create magazines for it, but also make money doing so.

Here's a video of our full conversation, and highlights of the talk.

Where McCue finds inspiration:

Why McCue chose to build Flipboard for the iPad first:

Why McCue doesn't worry about "Flipboard killers":

Why Flipboard started paying smaller publishers a cut of ads:

How Flipboard handles censorship:

What it takes to create and sell beautiful digital ads:

All proceeds from August's ReadWriteMix went to support Girls Who Code, whose programs work to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

Photo by Kara Brodgesell for ReadWrite; videos by Jackson West for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

How Hackers Could Mess With 911 Systems and Put You at Risk

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
The female caller was frantic. Why, she asked 911 dispatchers, hadn’t paramedics arrived to her home? She’d already called once to say her husband was writhing on the floor in pain. “Hurry up!,” she’d pleaded, as she gave the operator her address. And then she hung up and waited for help to arrive, but it […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

The WWI Battleships That Saved (And Doomed) the British Empire

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
World War I was shaped by the new vehicles developed during the four years of conflict. A century after the start of the war, we’re looking back at the most remarkable vehicles—the planes, cars, tanks, ships, and zeppelins—it helped bring about. Aviation and the automobile were in their infancy when World War I started in […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Man Builds Working Hard Drive Inside Minecraft

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
Cody Littley’s new hard drive can only hold a single kilobyte of data—about one millionth of what you can cram onto those finger-nail-sized microSD cards—and it can’t exactly slide into the back of your smartphone. But it’s still an impressive creation. Littley built it himself, inside the virtual world of Minecraft. It’s one of those […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

6 Fantasy Steampunk Contraptions Made Only From Cardboard

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
Daniel Agdag works with a limited arsenal of tools: a surgical scalpel, some cardboard, every so often a circular cutter and lots of glue. But from that humble toolkit, he makes sculptures that are mind-bendingly complex. For the past 10 years, the Melbourne, Australia artist has been building intricate cardboard sculptures in the form of […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

A Clever App That Lets You Make Music With Shapes

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
So you can’t read music. Or carry a tune. No big deal.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:48am
The U.S. Government wants to hire more people like Mikey Dickerson. He’s the former Google engineer the White House recently tapped to lead the new U.S. Digital Service. Dickerson has impeccable credentials. He comes from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. He flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous website. […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

This Ingenious Clothes Hanger Is a Godsend for Tiny Closets

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:47am
Ivan Zhang makes stupid products smarter.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Mesmerizing GIFs Use Light and Motion to Visualize Sounds

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 6:32am
Visual artists long have been inspired by music and sound—and vice versa. Themes and concepts from one often infuse the other; well known examples include Kandinsky’s Composition 8, inspired by a performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin, or Rachmaninoff’s 13 preludes, inspired by Böcklin’s_Die_Heimkehr. For Turkish artist Erdal Inci, a fascination with the physics of sound—how vibrations […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology