In development: an online museum documenting Gulags. It’ll open next spring. “The system of concentration and labour camps was developed in the Soviet Union from 1919 and it was the most extensive under the rule of Joseph Stalin. The word Gulag began to be used in 1930. It is abbreviation of the Russian name of the Central Camp Administration, which was a special section of the Soviet secret police and the interior ministry. A big part of the prisoners were innocent people punished for political reasons. According to estimates, 15 to 18 million people became Gulag prisoners and at least 1.5 million of them did not survive their stay in the camps.”
From my pal Esther Schindler: The Best Online Survey Tools of 2015. I know it starts with a table; scroll down for article goodness.
From the South China Morning Post: China must unblock Google Scholar and keep the internet open for its researchers . “It is no secret that Beijing and Google are not the best of friends, which is why it has a diminished presence in China. Of course, it is not the only victim of the Great Firewall. Wikipedia, YouTube and a host of other Western media sites are also blocked. However, Google Scholar is a benign site. The vast majority of links it generates are to scientific articles, such as medical studies. It appears to generate little if any revenue, so blocking it does not hurt Google’s bottom line. The most it appears to do for Google is create goodwill towards its brand.” Thanks to Aaron Tay for the heads-up.
Now available: a database of DNA sequences in GMOs. “The JRC has published a new database, JRC GMO-Amplicons, which contains more than 240,000 DNA sequences appearing in genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It will help to verify the presence of GMOs in food, feed and environment.”
VentureBeat: Five open-source alternatives to Slack.
Google has received a patent for removing biological tissue with a laser for the purposes of good, one assumes. Don’t be evil, or at least put the laser down first. “The patent was published yesterday. Google first applied for it in May 2014, long before establishing the umbrella company Alphabet, which includes the standalone life sciences company that was spun out of the Google X laboratory.”
TheNextWeb has a writeup on an interest app called WordsEye. Basically you describe the scene you want to create and it’s created. “The technology behind it works by speech tagging and analyzing the context of the words used. Statistical parsing is used to bring the sentences into a format the computer understands and uses to create the 3D image.” I wanted to play around with it a bit but it’s in closed beta; I’m waiting on an invite. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you know I post my weird dreams occasionally; now I have an illustration tool!
Remember MP3.com back in the day? That was founded and run by Michael Robertson. Now, over a decade later, he’s got another music startup called OnRadio. “The service, introduced this week, indexes all the music playing on more than 100,000 online radio stations and allows users to search across that database and listen to any song. It also lets them share those songs through a variety of chat applications such as Snapchat and Twitter, using a unique URL.”
How-To Geek: How to Take Photos and Record Videos With Your Computer’s Webcam Apparently Windows 10 has built-in tools for this now. There are also tips for Mac OS X, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Chrome OS.
From Business Pundit: Google’s Top Execs Are Always Visible But Almost Never Approachable. “If you work at Google headquarters or you just happen to be visiting, there is a very good chance you will bump into Larry Page, Sergey Brin, or Google CEO Sundar Pichai. There is also a very good chance that without a meeting at their Mountain View campus, you will not have the chance to meet them face-to-face for an open dialogue.”
A new Chrome extension allows you to replace Facebook’s “Trending Topics” with the RSS feed of your choice. “The extension will automatically have replaced what’s trending on Facebook with headlines from the New York Times. If you scroll down (you may have to zoom out in Chrome first), you can change the source to the BBC, The Guardian, NPR, The Onion, and Washington Post.”
From UberGizmo: How to use Google Now. “Google Now is a fully-featured digital personal assistant by Google. It can help in many of different ways, such as setting reminders, manage commute, help with shopping, answer common questions, and much more… However, all these features first require a setup, and a basic knowledge of the commands.”
Looks like Instagram is rolling out multi-account support. Yay! “The photo-sharing app Instagram has quietly begun rolling out multi-account support for the average user. While this will be most helpful to those that have accounts for their artwork, accounts for their personal matters, and accounts for their cats, you’ll see the benefit for work-use users as well. This update will be appearing in version 7.12.0 of the app, popping up for Beta testers first. Of course you could also just head over to the APK download if you do so choose.”
Facebook has announced four months of paid parental leave for all employees. “The policy, which provides four months of paid time off, will be provided to all new parents regardless of gender or location, starting Jan. 1. Employees may take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child, Lori Matloff Goler, the company’s head of human resources, said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.”
Speaking of images: earlier this year I mentioned Google’s Deep Dream, which applied AI to images to make them, well, trippy. Now there’s a Twitter bot which will “dream” your photo in the style of a great artist. “Deep Forger is a Twitter account which will generate a version of any picture fed to it in the style of any other picture.” I sent it a picture of my feet and it’s in an 81-hour queue. Let’s see how it turns out.