In the market for drugs? You might want to think outside the box for this one. Continue reading Decoding Blockchain
Video games as forms of entertainment are believed to be tailored more toward white males. Continue reading Gaming in Color
Imagine having the ability to visit any place in the world that you wanted. Not only that, but imagine being able to get there in a matter of seconds. No hassle of having to book a flight and then sitting through a grueling plane ride across the world. What if, on your next lunch break, you were able to enjoy your meal while gazing at a view of the Taj Mahal in the distance? It might seem far fetched, but virtual reality could get you there. Continue reading Ready or Not, Virtual Reality is Here
On August 5, twenty-year-old Dominique McLean, also known as SonicFox, won the first ever Dragon Ball FighterZ championship at the Evolution Championship Series 2018. The long-running fighting video game tournament, known as EVO, is also the most notable competition of the genre. Players from all around the world come to Las Vegas to compete. Continue reading The Rise of Competitive Gaming
Glimpses of the Future
Last March, inside a warehouse on Pier 28 in San Francisco, a rift in space-time shattered the very fabric of reality, challenged every law of modern science, and catapulted the future of the world in strange new directions. Sort of.
It was Worlds Fair Nano, a biannual expo in which the focus is on emerging technology and not-so-far-fetched visions of the future. It was about fifty percent product demos, forty percent forward-thinking talks led by influential innovators, and ten percent food trucks. Inside the packed warehouse there were drone races, virtual reality, motor-unicycles, liquid meals, bionic enhancements, and augmented art displays. Continue reading Downloading the Future
Photo via Arbeck of WikiMedia Commons
Data and the insight it provides is power. Simply look at the rash of privacy breaches that struck the NSA, Target, iCloud, Samsung and the United States Postal Service to see what most organizations consider private. Data is growing exponentially, and now more than ever online users need to understand what happens to their data in order to avoid, as Dropbox CEO Drew Houston infamously put it, a “trade off between privacy and convenience.”
The Digital Universe is doubling in size every two years. By 2020 the amount of data will have increased from 4.4 trillion gigabytes in 2013, to 44 trillion gigabytes according to a 2014 study done by the International Data Corporation. In more human terms, today the average household creates enough data to fill 65 32gb iPhones per year. In 2020 this will increase to 318 iPhones, according to EMC – a corporation that offers data storage and analysis.
“The amount of data created in the past two years is more than the amount of data we’ve ever had… So there is a huge amount of data and a need for a way to sort through them,” says Hui Yang, an assistant professor in the Computer Science department at SF State.
The bulk of this data is metadata, or information generated when you use technology. It is everyday data collected from consumers’ activities and can contain information such as locations, IP addresses, web searches and other browser histories. By law, most metadata can be stored indefinitely and, through data mining – a field in computer science that analyzes the patterns and connections among data – can be used to classify anything from relationships between genes and diseases, to which internet users are more likely to buy a company’s product. Using this information for commercial purposes is where data mining gets a bad rep.
Although a currently relevant pop culture term, for decades “data mining” has played an intangible role in the growth and comprehension of the digital universe. It helps find patterns among vast amounts of data that human eyes cannot discover. And while data mining analyzes everything from medical data to business data to human rights, it is one of the tools used by data brokers – companies that collect, maintain, and sell data on millions of consumers generally without the consumer’s permission or knowledge.
The negative stigma that now surrounds any and all kinds of large data collection is a more recent development that is more apparent than the data being acquired, and can largely be attributed to the business built around selling people’s metadata.
According to last year’s report from the International Data Corporation, a market research and analysis firm, “In 2013, two-thirds of the digital universe bits were created or captured by consumers and workers, yet enterprises had liability or responsibility for 85% of the digital universe.”
Data brokers are among these enterprises.
Much of the personal information analyzed through data mining and collected by data brokers is demographic and transaction information about the user, the device, and the activities occurring in between. But credit card information, census data, and more public records are also included.
“This information makes clear that consumers going about their daily activities – from making purchases online and at brick-and-mortar stores, to using social media, to answering surveys to obtain coupons or prizes, to filing for a professional license – should expect that they are generating data that may well end up in the hands of data brokers… without their permission to construct detailed profiles on them reflecting judgments about their characteristics and predicted behaviors,” reads a 2014 Senate committee report.
Generally, analyzed metadata only aims to deduct codes and statistics like IP addresses, but when tracked across multiple platforms, the paper trail can become pretty direct.
Even then the Senate report goes on to say that, “Some privacy and information experts have expressed concerns that re-identification techniques may be used with such data, and questioned whether data that identifies specific computers and devices can truly be considered anonymous.”
Anonymous from who? When the Senate asked data brokers who buys their gathered information, companies across all platforms were named.
“12 of the top 15 credit card issuers; seven of the top 10 retail banks; eight of the top 10 telecom/media companies… three of the top 10 pharmaceutical manufacturers; five of the top 10 life/health insurance providers; nine of the top 10 property and casualty insurers,” reads the 2014 Senate report.
Some of the most known offenders: Yahoo, Twitter, Youtube, Google or DoubleClick, and AOL. But what’s surprising is the type of companies who buy and sell consumers metadata.
Just recently, the Associated Press reported the Affordable Care Act website, where Americans can sign up to receive health care, was sending users’ information to a number of third party companies.
So it seems that no matter how personal, some information is not private information, at least not to these companies. The lack of transparency about the amount and type of information gathered and analyzed is ultimately unknown to most users which makes opting out of having your data collected almost impossible.
But fear not, online user security is becoming more of an immediate concern. In February, President Obama announced new rules requiring intelligence analysts, like the NSA, to delete private information they may accidentally collect about Americans. The President also spoke at The White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University on February 13, discussing legislation intended to strengthen cybersecurity, an issue that he likened to “the wild wild west” according to the New York Times.
Since 2009 and continuing into 2014, the Unites States Federal Trade Commission has recommended that Congress develop legislation that allows consumers to view the information data brokers hold about them. One of the few online consumer rights laws is California’s “Shine the Light” law, which requires companies doing business with Californians to allow customers to opt out of information sharing, or disclose how personal information will be shared.
Hence obscure and needlessly long privacy terms and agreements being more relevant than ever.
“Data mining is relatively new and it’s affecting everyone but it does not have many laws. It’s like a free market,” Yang says. ”People definitely feel like they are being watched, but if you look at privacy and then what people post, (privacy) needs a lot of work.”
To some extent, the fear about data mining can be attributed to a general lack of knowledge and regulation, fueled by headlines about the NSA. On the other hand, users are actively creating and allowing the collection and analysis of their information.
Last quarter Facebook reported an average of 890 million active daily users. A 2012 survey done by Pew Research Center shows that, “More than half of social networking site users (58 percent) say their main profile is set to private.” That still leaves the data of 42 percent of social media users unprotected.
Data is constantly being created, but in the current age it has also come to mean more to not only users but to the companies who consume the data. Data has become a panopticon, a platform on which we create our own images and through which others see our constant updates.
Ultimately, it is up to the user to manage what information they put online. Data mining and other computer sciences can be used by consumers as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
When data is pooled about locations and transactions, business with the companies who analyze this data can be much more personalized. Take Google Now as an example. If you input information such as the location of your home or work, your favorite sports teams, your most frequently made food or grocery orders, or even your airplane tickets and Google Now will provide “relative suggestions” on routes to work, restaurants and events in your area, provide updates on your favorite team, and remind you of when your flight is and when you should leave to arrive on time.
In this setting, what can be considered private information can be sacrificed for convenient personalization.
On the other hand, organizations like Stop Data Mining provide “opt out lists” with links to the opt out pages of companies that collect data. Or for a simpler solution, almost all major browsers contain a “Do Not Track” preference. There are other options to remove or manually manage “cookies” that collect metadata, alternative browsers like DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t collect or share personal information, and of course privacy settings on social media.
As the amount of data continues to grow exponentially, there will be a need for more ways to organize and sort it. What’s data mining’s future?
“More of it. More people from more backgrounds becoming data scientists. More tools for data scientists. More schools teaching data science. More products built on data understanding. Oh, and robots.” says Todd Holloway, a data analyst at Trulia and an organizer of the San Francisco Data Mining Group that teaches how to effectively use data mining to say, for example, win at fantasy football.
Whichever way you bend, know the power of the data you put out and the transparency that it carries.
Amazon launched a professional handyman business called Amazon Home Services last Monday.
It works through a simple three-step process on their website. You can start by browsing a multitude of services ranging from iPhone repair, car stereo installation, music lessons, and even goat grazing. You then add that service to your cart and pick a time that’s best for the person to come and feed your goats.
The pricing will be known upfront, similar to purchasing a product through their website, except that you will only pay for the service once it’s completed.
The services are provided by professionals in their respective fields and are selected via an invite-only condition by Amazon. So don’t expect to see your cousin who fixes old iPhones on Craigslist to be listed.
This news places Amazon among similar business-referral services such as Yelp or Angie’s List, according to Cnet. Amazon will also offer re-do’s or refunds in cases where the customer’s aren’t satisfied, and the service will provide reviews from verified customers to help shoppers choose, according to TechCrunch.
Boston-based handyman service TaskRabbit announced Monday that they will be integrating with Amazon Home Services in San Francisco as well as other areas in the following weeks.
Finally you can hire someone knowledgable enough to safely mount that flat-screen TV on your ceiling.
College is great. You meet new friends, get away from home, and live new life experiences but along with all that also comes the enormous debt you pile on semester after semester when you actually attended college. Some of us are lucky, we have great paying jobs which makes it easier to afford colleges and some of us even get scholarships to pay for the tuition, but not everyone is that lucky and needs assistance to pay for college and everything that goes with it.
That’s where Speshh comes in. Speshh is a crowdfunding app that helps college students raise money, all through an app. With Speshh, college students can ask their friends and family but if their goal is not met or looks a little low, Speshh gets involves by asking their business partners to help donate to your cause.
“We found that one of the main reasons that campaigns fail are due to not being shared enough with potential donators,” says Sibel Suleyman, Co-Founder of Speshh. “Speshh could call on business partners who may be able to fund the rest of the campaign with CSR money that is dedicated to this type of activity.”
What makes Speshh different from other crowd-funding sites, like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, is it is completely app based, making it easier for college students to use and access. Speshh is a lot like Kickstarter though, having an “all or nothing” funding behind is. This means that if you don’t reach your goal, then you get none of the money you raised which could be a turn off for students since Indiegogo lets you keep whatever you raise.
Speshh also has a percentage it keeps, like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, but at the beginning of your campaign, Speshh lets you know what the percentage is and works it into the money you need donated so there is no loss for you.
Currently this app is only available to college students, meaning you need an edu email address to register for the app and to begin campaigning.
Speshh is set to release in June 2015 but is currently testing out the app and allowing people to register early.
Instagram is at it again, slowly trying to become the best photo app ever and destroying the competition while they’re at it. Today Instagram released a new app called Layout which makes it easier for you to create a photo collage but includes much more than that.
Layout also allows you to mirror images, lets you choose up to 9 images to create a collage, and allows you easily resize the image of your choice. You can flip and reverse your photos with a push of a button or use a slider to make one picture smaller, while the other gets bigger.
To make your life even easier, when choosing your photos Layout puts them into ten different collage options, so no need to go around and push buttons to see what collage you like, Layout has already done that for you.
This isn’t the first time that Instagram had tried to take the photo game over either, their first side app that they released, Hyperlapse, did pretty well in the beginning but now it’s just kind of there.
Personally, I think Layout is genus. Not only is it super easy to use, like so easy my Grandma can use it, the creative options they give you are fun to play with and create custom made images of your own. I am a big fan of the mirror image feature and the cropping with just a swipe of a figure, because I am phone challenged and always mess up cropping. What I also like, and I tested my theory, is an image that is too big for Instagram, fits with ease using Layout. That means no more InstaFit Free and those annoying ads that go with them, with Layout it makes it easy for Instagram users can see your hair and the shirt you are wearing.
The reviews from the App Store are also pretty positive, Instagram users are happy with the app and how easy and simple it is to use. Negative comments include not being able to save to your phone and not being able use a photo you’ve taken with the Instagram app, but all minor issues that Instagram is sure to fix.
Now if Instagram can create an app that allows more space on my phone, that would be great.
Photos by David Henry
A gun is fired once the trigger is pulled, causing the hammer to hit the firing pin, which strikes the primer that ignites the smokeless powder, thus twisting the bullet down the barrel’s rifled interior, and onto its intended target. But in this instance, the gun, an AR-15, could not complete that sequence, without first being completed itself.
The AR-15, with its separable upper and lower receivers, has become the most popular buildable firearm nationwide, given its price and accessories aftermarket. Only recently, the AR-series lower receivers have been available in incomplete form for the user to complete. The less-than-legal nomenclature of “80 percent” has arrived to describe them, requiring machine-work to finish the gun to 100 percent functionality.
These incomplete firearm receivers, with more than hand tools, adept machining, and adequate funds, can be turned into guns legally without ever stepping foot into a gun store. The Gun Control Act of 1968 clearly states that “an unlicensed individual may make a ‘firearm,’ for his personal use, but not for sale or distribution.”
Carl, of Kerley’s Hunting and Outfitting in Cupertino, California, has been selling the registered, pre-made AR-15’s for more than a decade.
“We don’t sell ’80 percents’ here, but we have been selling fewer AR’s,” Carl said. “I know that we also have been selling a lot of upper receivers… That tells me a fair amount of people are building their own now.”
The upper receiver is combined with the lower, either pre-made at a factory or made by an individual, to make a working gun.
It is important to note that “80 percent” guns are not required to have a serial number, registration, or identifying marks unless for sale or transfer. Sale or transfer must happen under the supervision of a federal firearms license holder: basically gun stores.
Even though they start life as nothing more than fancy paperweights, guns that are made by private individuals must adhere to federal and state laws regarding the legal features of guns once they are operational: This is not a loophole for fully automatic guns. Moreover, if an individual is not eligible for firearm ownership to begin with, milling an incomplete receiver to complete status is still a felony, according to the Gun Control Act.
Even still, final word on what is and is not a firearm comes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. On two separate occasions, once in 2012 and again in late 2013, the ATF wrote memorandums legally qualifying features that constitute completion; all “80 percent” receivers now follow this framework in order to avoid being sold as guns.
In short, the lower receiver must not have the capability of dropping the firing pin on the primer of the bullet, thus ejecting the round. It can, however, have provisions for a grip and buttock, fully-formed magazine well and assembly lugs, and minute aspects like a bolt release lever.
When gun purchases skyrocketed under the specter of President Obama’s 2012 gun control push, which followed the Newtown Connecticut shooting, AR-15’s sold out in days, according to the Office of the Attorney General. Major retailers like Cabela’s, MidwayUSA, and Walmart, had no inventory and no estimates for replenishment.
All told, the ATF estimated that nearly 1.1 million guns were sold in the U.S. for the year 2012 — the most ever in a single year. This statistic was the basis for the National Rifle Association calling President Obama “the best gun salesman in history.”
With demand outstripping supply, new non-gun makers sprang up to sell incomplete AR-series lower receivers to meet demand. These sellers were able to pop up quickly because they were not selling firearms; therefore sellers did not need to apply for an expensive and onerous federal firearms license.
Ares Armor, 80Percent Arms, and the now-famous Defense Distributed, are companies that hold major market share in the buildable firearms industry. These companies, and others, have been so successful that they have moved on from offering just AR-15 components, to offering kits to build AK-47’s and model 1911 pistols: supremely popular guns.
What once fired the basic .223/5.56 caliber cartridge, the buildable AR-15’s can be tailored to the users shooting needs: A bullet as small as a .22lr, designed for plinking soda cans at the range, or something as massive as the .50 BMG, which is designed for extremely long range shooting, can be chambered.
The .50 BMG caliber is presently illegal in California after the passage of the 2004 .50 Caliber BMG Regulation Act. California is the only state to enact such restrictions, citing the bullet’s threat to the “health, safety, and security of all residents,” which is the language of the regulation act.
These various caliber options allow AR owners to quickly change their upper receiver, while keeping their original lower receiver to fire a different caliber based on what ammunition is available.
The culmination of all this is the gun owners, who seem to face stigma due to the actions of a psychotic few, want anonymity, choice, and convenience.
Greg Phaxton is a gun collector and shooting enthusiast who has recently turned an “80 percent” lower into a shooting, precise gun.
“I really think the ’80 percent’ receiver has changed how we view guns and regulations forever,” said Phaxton. “I first bought one ’80 percent’ receiver, did a rough job finishing it, and it shot just like my Bushmaster.”
Bushmaster, located in Windham, Maine, has been a long-time producer of the AR-15.
“Nearly every caliber I can afford to shoot, I can make an AR for now,” Phaxton said. “It still is expensive though.”
Factory-made AR-15’s can sell for as low as $799 to as high as $5,000; The average “80 percent” is $120, but depending on the quality of material, design aspects, and caliber, the price fluctuates.
Nevertheless, the tooling to complete a receiver can be hugely expensive. Factors of speed, repetition, precision, and automation, all play a role in deciding what tools to buy.
A $72 Ryobi router with $50 worth of end-mills could complete the job, but ensuring tight tolerances would be hard. On the other hand, a $60,000 5-axis CNC machine could complete the job to within one thousandths of an inch by hitting the “enter” key on a keyboard.
Even still, once tooling has been acquired, further spending is still required; but the buildable firearms trend is not about cost cutting. It is done in a sort of protest, a pushback against gun-owner generalization, or simply to stay off the grid.
“I just want to be left alone,” Phaxton said. “I’ve broken no laws.”
Platforms: PS4, Playstation Vita
Release Date: March 3, 2015
The first OlliOlli was the perfect arcadey skating game. Plain and simple.
Nailing kickflips and crooked grinds was a sublime way to pass the time before bed or while pooping. A long list of increasingly difficult challenges and huge array of tricks allowed this game to have replay value, but in small chunks to fit the platform it was made for, being the Playstation Vita.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is the follow-up coming only a year and change later, sporting a slick new look and promising a multitude of added features. Piling on bullet-point worthy features may sound like a boastful press release, but they each improve a game with an already incredible foundation.
The pure art of OlliOlli 2 is how it forces the player to step their game up. There are no upgrades. There are no skill points. The more you play, the better you will eventually get at extending combos and destroying your old high scores. Timing, patience, and skill are encouraged with progression, and so is that rewarding fuzzy feeling of mastering something that once stood as a challenge. In a world where experience bars dominate each release, it’s refreshing to see an experience bar that is a bit more intrinsic.
Points are important though, because they make up the whole crux of the game. Achieving lengthy combos is possible through linking tricks together and finding ways to add to the almighty point multiplier. In the first OlliOlli, this was only possible through chaining grinds in between tricks. Once you stuck the landing, your combo ended, which limited how you could rack up millions of points.
OlliOlli 2 adds some new basic tricks, but manuals, reverts, and grind switching all open up combo-extending possibilities and subsequently provides a wealth of new strategies. Manuals and reverts (which can be linked) yield ways to add to the multiplier on the ground, which gives more choice and opens up the level design. Worlds no longer have to have endless grind rails because these new moves give more ways to link combos together that don’t require a grindable surface.
Grind switching, which allows the player to switch grind mid-rail, is a smaller addition, but a great one nonetheless because it widens the set of available skills and is another way to increase the multiplier. Including manuals, reverts, and grind switching may seem small, however they add an exponential amount of depth because each new skill becomes yet another tool to master.
The depth will showcase to players willing to put in the time to see it, which is an easy given considering the amount of content OlliOlli 2 has. In addition to the score-heavy Daily Grinds and Spots, there are five worlds with five normal levels and five hard levels apiece. Once all challenges are completed, RAD mode is unlocked, which is a super hard mode for the Tony Hawk-iest of Tony Hawks. On paper, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but knocking out challenges one by one takes multiple runs through levels that already have splitting paths. The variability of the gameplay and the dozens upon dozens of challenges gives OlliOlli 2 plenty of replay value for those willing to seek it.
I say “seek it” because most levels need to be unlocked through achieving certain hard tasks. OlliOlli 2 is a difficult game, yet never frustrating. Sure, some levels require clairvoyance and path memorization, though the extremely quick restart timer alleviates any possible aggravation. You don’t even have time to get mad because you’ll already be rolling on your next run.
No matter the trial or world, OlliOlli 2’s funky fresh visuals pack heat. Simplicity carries the visual style since it is only made up of a few colors, however the brightness pairs well with game’s inventive fantastical worlds. I didn’t expect to be skating through a zombie roller-coaster or a Pacific Rim-esque graveyard, yet I was delighted that these unique world ideas allow for some clever visual change-ups from the usual Earthy locales. The soundtrack is also a highlight, featuring smooth tunes that feel right at home in a skateboarding game. It’s a kind of soundtrack that you can sit back and, say, write a review to.
OlliOlli 2 is just about as good as it can be. Striking that balance between keeping what works, streamlining what is there, and adding new content is tricky, but developer Roll7 did exactly what needed to be done to ensure OlliOlli 2 was the definitive OlliOlli experience. The tiny additions like ramps and a new graphical style deserve props but reverts and manuals drastically better the game by adding an abundance of new strategies. OlliOlli 2’s best features are being simple, deep, and replay-able, which make it a fantastic arcade-y skateboarding game, and the ultimate portable experience. Tony Hawk should be jealous.
+Girthy amount of content
+Intuitive trick system is easy to immediately grasp but has layers of depth for differing skillsets
+Pretty, minimalistic visual style and catchy soundtrack
-Some levels require some memorization
Photo by Maria Bruun-Schmidt / Xpress Magazine
Film your exercise with a flying go pro!
A drone has just left the ground.
It’s rising with steady speed while singing like a gigantic bumblebee that also has characteristics of a drone.
In San Francisco, Dolores Park is turned into a spin-off of Big Brother, where the drone follows all the activity in the park from above; athletic women attempting to hula hoop, the dog owners in the corner, the line for the bathroom, and the couples kissing in the grass.
One man is monitoring it all. He is controlling the drone with a remote controller, although it looks a lot like he is playing a PlayStation.
Antoine Level is a passionate entrepreneur from France, who is making a demo of he and his French colleagues’ newly developed flying camera, HEXO+, a camera that follows and films you autonomously. When you attach a GoPro camera to the drone and set your framing in the HEXO+ app, you are ready to film from the sky.
“A lot of people use it for sports – running, skiing, skateboarding – you name it. In that way you can record you active moments – whether it is to capture the moment or to see how you can e.g. improve your running style. It is giving new perspectives to a go-pro camera,” said Level, who is the CEO of HEXO+.
The company was founded in August 2013. Last summer, HEXO+ was completely funded in one hour during their Kickstarter campaign, and in one month the HEXO+ raised $1,306,920 from 2236 people, according to the tech-blog ProVideo Coalition.
The final product will be available in May 2015.
“There are possibilities for us here in US because of the great context between the product we develop and the American market,” said Level.
Meanwhile changes can, and will, always be made. The HEXO+ developers would like to improve the flying GoPro in the future.
“We would like to adjust the size of the drone so it gets smaller – and easier to work with on outdoor adventures,” said Medhi Mugnier, the digital project manager of HEXO+.
Level bends down to activate the GoPro camera on the drone in front of his feet. He gets up again, pulls his phone out, enlarges the image on the screen, then hands me the phone.
Suddenly the deep sound from the drone increases. It’s right behind me. I start to run. The drone follows my every step. It can fly with a speed of up to 42 mph. I make a spontaneously turn – and another one – the drone follows while I’m running in circles around Dolores Park. Turns out, it is not following me, but the GPS on the iPhone that’s in my hands.
I’ve only just completed the circle around the park before the drone is yelling: “Low on battery.” I stopped at my starting point, yet the drone continued – with a steady pace – right into a big tree nearby.
“That was not planned,” said Level. He then ran toward the drone, which was hanging in a tree. Nearly 15 minutes pass before Level, and a group of others, manage to shake the drone out of the branches.
“That happens, I guess we have to charge it next time we fly with it,” said Level.
To find more visit the HEXO+ webpage.