8.11.2016

The best apps to download before watching the Perseid meteor shower tonight

meteor shower The Perseid meteor shower, which comes around every year at this time, will peak tonight and early tomorrow. This year’s event is particularly special because astronomers are predicting an outburst of shooting stars at twice the normal rate. The best time to watch the show is between midnight tonight and dawn Friday morning. Before finding a good place to lay down and look up, there are… Read More


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8.09.2016

Internet Archive posted 10,000 browser-playable Amiga titles – go, play

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 3.48.06 PM Seriously, go. Enjoy yourself. It’s Monday. We’ll still be here when you get back. It’s bound to be a long week. The world is coming apart at the seams. Your boss won’t notice if you play a round or two of Bubble Bobble from the comfort of your own browser (Firefox seems to work best on my end). We can’t vouch for the quality of all of the Amiga titles that… Read More


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7.22.2016

Appeals Court Says DOJ Can Keep Its Evidence-Production Guidelines To Itself

Judge Alex Kozinski pointed out the obvious in a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court decision:

There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.

Brady evidence -- possibly exonerating evidence that prosecutors are required to turn over to the defense -- is far too frequently withheld and/or buried. The punishments for violating this requirement are almost nonexistent. The prosecution hates to see wins become losses. And the government in general -- despite declaring fair trials to be the right of its citizens -- hates to play on a level field.

A federal judge withdrew from a forensic evidence committee because the government told him it wasn't his job to point out the severely-flawed pre-trial forensic evidence discovery procedures deployed by prosecutors. Judge Rakoff called the government out in his resignation letter.

The notion that pre-trial discovery of information pertaining to forensic expert witnesses is beyond the scope of the Commission seems to me clearly contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the Commission’s Charter… A primary way in which forensic science interacts with the courtroom is through discovery, for if an adversary does not know in advance sufficient information about the forensic expert and the methodological and evidentiary bases for that expert’s opinions, the testimony of the expert is nothing more than trial by ambush.

"Trial by ambush" will continue unabated. Prosecutors will shrug off the minimal punishments for withholding evidence. The DOJ will continue to argue that it's allowed to erect as many roadblocks as it wishes in front of defendants.

The DC Appeals Court has allowed the DOJ to retain another aspect of its "trial by ambush" strategy, as reported by Mario Machado of Fault Lines.

The D.C. Court of Appeals declared that the federal government will not have to disclose the contents of a guide that determines when its prosecutors should disclose evidence to the accused. The Department of Justice’s “Blue Book” stays in-house, at least for the time being.

The "Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book" was crafted after DOJ prosecutors were blasted by a judge for their actions in the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens.

In nearly 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct I have seen in this case.

Brady material was withheld from the defense, something that would have never been discovered without an FBI whistleblower stepping forward. The new guidelines were supposed to make things better. Very little seems to have changed since its introduction. And no one on the defense side of the fight has any idea what prosecutors are required to do under these guidelines.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) tried asking the government for a copy. This was denied. So, it filed a FOIA request for the "blue book." This, too, was denied, with the government claiming its internal guidelines for ensuring a fair fight were not subject to FOIA requests. From the DC Appeals Court decision [PDF].

The Department refused to disclose the Blue Book, invoking the Freedom of Information Act’s Exemption 5, which exempts from disclosure certain agency records that would be privileged from discovery in a lawsuit with the agency. The Department maintained that the Blue Book fell within the attorney work-product privilege, and therefore Exemption 5, because it was prepared by (and for) attorneys in anticipation of litigation.

This claim is laughable. Of course it's for litigation. But it's not for any specific litigation. It's for use in all DOJ prosecutions, which makes it more aligned with general information, rather than a narrow slice of "attorney work-product." The NACDL pointed this out.

The NACDL argued that the Blue Book fell outside the work-product privilege because it had a non-adversarial function, to wit: the training and education of the DOJ’s vaunted prosecutors. It also argued that its disclosure was fair game because it was not drafted with a specific litigation in mind, but ultimately the Court sided with the federales, who fought tooth and nail to keep the book under wraps.

One part of the judicial system has seen the contents of the "blue book" (other than DOJ prosecutors): the district court. An in camera presentation to both the lower court and the appeals court has allowed both to reach the decision they have. But will it result in the courts holding the DOJ to their own super-secret standards? Of course not.

Judges are presented with evidence obtained through discovery. They have no idea whether all of it is present or if the DOJ followed its own instructions for handing over Brady material to the defense. The judges' viewing of this internal document will not result in greater accountability.

Handing these guidelines over to defense lawyers, however, would give them more avenues to challenge withheld evidence and other perceived violations in disclosure. The government doesn't like this idea and claims that a more level playing field would severely hamper its prosecutions. One is inclined to agree with the DOJ's claim about hampered prosecutions, although not for the reasons it states.

DOJ thus argues that disclosing the Blue Book would “essentially provide a road map to the strategies federal prosecutors employ in criminal cases.” Id. It contends that disclosure would afford anyone who wanted to read the Blue Book (including opposing counsel) “unprecedented insight into the thought processes of federal prosecutors.” Disclosure thus would “undermine the criminal trial process by revealing the internal legal decision-making, strategies, procedures, and opinions critical to the Department’s handling of federal prosecutions.” In addition, it would “severely hamper the adversarial process[,] as DOJ attorneys would no longer feel free to memorialize critical thoughts on litigation strategies for fear that the information might be disclosed to their adversaries to the detriment [of] the government’s current and future litigating positions.”

In other words, the fight might be slightly fairer, and the government won't be having any of that. The DC Circuit is now completely complicit in the government's "trial by ambush" plans.



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6.04.2016

Snapchat Secretly Acquires Seene, A Startup That Lets Mobile Users Make 3D Selfies


An anonymous reader writes:

TechCrunch has learned of a secret acquisition by Snapchat of a computer vision startup company called Seene. TechCrunch reports: "Seene lets you capture 3D models from your phone with a simple smartphone camera. Snapchat could use Seene's format for a brand new category of selfie lenses, a new 3D photo format, and potentially for future virtual reality projects. Seene scans and reconstructs full 3D geometry on your phone. Unlike Project Tango or Microsoft's Kinect, Seene doesn't need special infrared sensors and multiple cameras. Similarly, Seene doesn't need a cloud backend to process 3D scans and recreate 3D objects -- everything happens on the phone. For instance, you can scan your face in a few seconds and create a 3D selfie. It would make a lot of sense to use Seene's technology to improve Snapchat's selfie lenses -- including for advertising purposes. (Snapchat debuted sponsored lenses in fall last year, and charges a pretty penny to advertisers wanting to get their brand on people's faces.) Also last year, Snapchat acquired Looksery to power its selfie lenses. Combining Looksery's technology with Seene's technology would allow Snapchat to create more complex lenses with a real sense of depth. Think ads that people want to touch."

While on the subject of lenses, U.S. inventors claim their flat lens made of paint whitener on a sliver of glass could

revolutionize optics

.



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Soothe Yourself This Weekend Watching Bob Ross Paint, Thanks to Netflix

Truly a great week for fans of soothing streaming TV options. Not only will Julie Andrews be doing a show about the performing arts with puppets, but Netflix has also added Beauty is Everywhere, one of the shows by beloved, gentle-voiced, slightly nap-inducing painting teacher Bob Ross.

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5.03.2016

Death by GPS

Why do we follow digital maps into dodgy places?

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Giphy launches a keyboard for iOS called Giphy Keys

giphykeys With all of Giphy’s integrations with chat platforms, it was only a matter of time before the betaworks-backed GIF platform launched its own keyboard. World, welcome Giphy Keys into the mix. The Giphy Keys third-party keyboard launches on iOS today, and lets users send GIFs from any app they want. Even Snapchat. Here’s how it works: Once you’ve downloaded the Giphy Keys app… Read More


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TSA lines grow to 3 hours, snake outside the terminals, with no end in sight

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The TSA gambled on millions of wealthy Americans opting out of its pornoscanner-and-shoe-removal process and signing up for its Precheck policy, which allows travellers to pay for the "privilege" of walking through a metal-detector with their shoes on, while their laptops stay in their bags. (more…)



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How to be an IRL Snapchat filter, starring Diane von Furstenberg

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When in doubt, use a filter.

At least, that's what Diane von Furstenberg appeared to do at Monday's Met Gala in New York City.

For the biggest night of fashion, the 69-year-old fashion designer appeared to wear a complete ensemble that looked exactly like a Snapchat filter. 

In a metallic gown, celebrating the night's techy theme, Manus x Machina, she sported colorful butterflies as accessories in her curly mane. 

"What do butterflies mean to technology, you will ask," she wrote on her blog. "Well, nature is still a pretty amazing technology, I will answer! I showed the astonished salesperson my old photo and she cleverly figured out how to apply the butterflies without touching them. We both know that by the end of the night, they will have been pulverized!" Read more...

More about Snapchat, Lifestyle, Fashion, Met Gala, and Diane Von Furstenberg

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