This Week in the Mercury

(Somewhat) True Tales of Terror!


(Somewhat) True Tales of Terror!

An Anthology of (Maybe Kinda True?) Horror Stories

One Day at a Time


One Day at a Time

The Week in Review


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quantifying Films with Heartbeats

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM

I'm a big fan of Warren Ellis' MORNING, COMPUTER blog and ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter; mentioned in a recent installment of the latter was byHeart, a proposed app for the Apple Watch.


On the surface—and assuming it (A) comes into being, and (B) catches on—byHeart appears to another way to quantify, rate, and share/brag about one's experiences rather than just experiencing them. I was thinking about this kind of thing when hiking on Sunday, when I realized I felt weirdly obligated to take a picture of a waterfall and put it on Instagram, crossposting to my increasingly moribund Twitter and Facebook pages as I did so. It's a weird feeling, to feel like something doesn't really "count" unless it's documented or ranked or shared somehow, but that's how that impulse felt. As much as I value seeing what certain other people are up to (and, to be fair, as much as I sometimes value documenting what I'm up to), I've been trying to ease back on it lately to see what, if any, difference it makes. I've been experimenting with a distraction-free iPhone, and so far, I generally like doing so, even though I still get a weird, almost unconscious desire to point my attention at Twitter whenever I have a down moment. Something like byHeart—where you're cataloguing and ranking your responses to things without even being aware that you're doing so—seems to go in directly the opposite direction.

Ellis added this note:

Here's a fun idea. Remember Facebook's experiment in emotional contagion? Deliberately setting some people's Facebook timelines to show only sad things, to see what it did to them? Imagine an emotional-contagion experiment where they could access your heartrate off your smartwatch too.

I think about what it would be like to watch a movie with byHeart running on my wrist—looking down to gauge if its findings matched my feelings in realtime, and/or looking at the app as the credits roll and considering if the data conforms to my emotions about the film—and I feel a pang of technodread. I'm hardly a Luddite when it comes to computers or medicine or books or movies (or food, for that matter), but things like byHeart are weird, unexpected reminders that the manner in which we experience media might be unrecognizably different in 20, 30, 40 years. I'm both curious and skeptical about what it'll be like.

Related, kind of:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Spammer Trick: Implanting False Memories

Posted by Alex Falcone on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Every once in a while it's good to skim through your spam folder to see if you're missing anything important and to learn what new techniques spammers have developed. It was during one of these routine checks that I discovered my favorite spam tactic I've ever seen. It's the Eternal Sunshine trick, where the email starts by telling me that I already did something that I have no memory of. For example:

I got your voicemail yesterday about the stokc tip you want, sorry I couldnt pick up the phone

First, admire the use of "stokc" to try to evade capture by Gmail. If I thought this email was genuine I'd have to believe that this guy isn't great at spelling but is a genius at picking stokcs. Come on. He's a stokc broker. That's the one word he definitely needs to know.

But also admire the memory trick. He starts by telling me I left a voicemail with him even though I don't remember it. I wasn't convinced, but he went on.

sorry I couldnt pick up the phone I was on with the wife you know how she is.

Oh right! I have no memory of calling you, but yeah. I know how "the wife" is. That does sound like me.

you know how she is. But please next time don't call the house line, I would prefer if you come in to my office instead. In person is always better. Anyway your timing is impeccable you are very lucky. There's this insane little company…

I'm really starting to dislike the person I forgot I was. I'm my broker at home, which is rude, to ask for something illegal, and I'm doing it while he's on the phone with his wife (who isn't home, you know how she is). I'm a monster!

Frighteningly, he isn't my only friend I've forgotten about recently.

Hello brother! how are you? I remembered that you asked me where I buy my medication with 60% discount? there's a lot of drugs, including for us, mens :-)

I can't even remember the people I've asked about buying medication with a 60% discount. My life is out of control! Thank you so much for reminding me, Bro Spammer!

And thank god there are finally some drugs for us mens, right? Before, all drugs have just been for those womens but now we're finally equal! What's next? Sports that are just for mens??

hey, sweet boy ;) remember me from snapchat? :*
Whats up? Where have you been? Come on my profile, i am online now!
lets have sexy time, like before :*

I'm been having sexy time too? I am Tyler Durden!

Now if you excuse me, I've got a profile to go come on.

I've got hundreds more like this. It's like spammer best practices now. They must be at conferences drinking hotel coffee and listening to talks like "Massive Memory Loss and Gullibility in the American Mens". Now that is a smart conference. I only wish I could buy stokc in these people.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Geeking Out on Early Apple Prototypes

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

  • Photo: Jonathan Zufi

PORTLANDER JIM ABELES is the proud owner of "the world's largest collection of Apple prototypes"—many of which will be on display for Design Week in an exhibit appropriately called Apple Prototype Collection: An Exhibit of Unreleased Apple Products. While the name might come off as a bit clinical, for those who grew up on Apple products, it's an entertaining trip down memory lane, as well as a very interesting peek at "what might have been." The former owner of a small Mac-based software company here in Portland, Abeles has been collecting the prototypes since 2002, and has built a collection 200 pieces strong. He was nice enough to geek out with us on the subject.

MERCURY: Is your collection really "the world's largest" collection of Apple prototypes?

JIM ABELES: It's the largest I know of. There's one guy in Japan and another in Russia who are rumored to have epic Apple collections, including rare prototypes. I've made contact with the guy in Japan, but he wasn't very communicative. And the Russian guy is pretty secretive. That all sounds way more intriguing than the reality of three nerds competing with each other to collect as many Apple rarities as possible.

What got you interested in collecting Apple prototypes?

When I started collecting, it was kind of a nostalgia thing. The first computer I used regularly was a Macintosh Plus. And the first one I owned was an SE—which was a college graduation gift from my parents. Over the years, I regretted selling it. Well, one of the guys I worked with knew I was looking for an old SE and one day he walked into the office with one and handed it to me. He told me it was for sale for one dollar at a Macintosh swap meet. The best part was how he proudly told me he waited until the end of the night and the seller accepted his offer of 50 cents.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

What the Hell Is Ello? And Why Is Everyone Suddenly Talking About It?

Posted by Kathleen Richards on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Although its invite-only, its fairly easy to sign up for Ello.
  • Although it's invite-only, it's fairly easy to sign up for Ello.

In the last few days my Facebook feed (and I’m assuming yours, too) has been clogged with posts about Ello, a new social networking site that’s aiming to be the anti-Facebook (its tagline is "simple, beautiful, & ad-free"). Initially, my instinct was to ignore it. (Do we really need another social media site to replace Friendster Myspace Facebook?) And then I gave in to peer pressure.

Like Facebook and Gmail in its early days, you need to be invited to Ello by someone who’s already joined. I contacted one of my friends via Facebook (d’oh) and asked for an invite. The whole process from maybe-I-should-join-this to now-I’ve-got-another-goddamn-social-media-account took about 20 seconds. At least it gets an A+ for ease in signing up.

More after the jump...

Continue reading »


Friday, September 19, 2014

First iPhone 6 Customer Drops iPhone 6... on Live TV

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 10:59 AM

But you know... in his defense...

Okay, there's no defense.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CNN Tech Expert Thinks 4chan is Someone's Name; Admits to Nude Selfies

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Bret Larson, CNN's "Tech Analyst"—which I suppose doesn't necessarily mean he's an "expert"... he's just analyzing (or looking at and thinking about) tech things—did his best to explain to viewers about the recent nude photo leaking scandal, but apparently thinks that 4chan is an actual person. Also, did Bret just admit to taking nude pics of himself?? OH, CNN! You're funny!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Which I Review the Mini Jambox Bluetooth Speaker I Got for Free

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM


The Mini Jambox from Jawbone—An Affluent American Lifestyle Gadget Review™

I've been skeptical of bluetooth speakers—not for any audiophile reasons, but just because I couldn't ever think of a situation where I'd need one. I spent a bunch of time and effort wiring my home for sound, including the back deck, and I can control what's playing via wifi, whether it's a dusty record on the turntable or a brand-new album streaming from Spotify on my phone. It's a pretty slick setup, and it's exactly what I wanted in terms of what I could afford, cobbled together from older speakers and components and a pretty versatile amplifier. But when a rep from AT&T emailed me and asked if he could send me a Mini Jambox for review, how could I say no?

The Mini Jambox is the newer version of the Jambox, a portable, reasonably powerful bluetooth speaker that made a splash when it debuted a few years ago. The Mini is smaller, of course, but from what I can tell, not much of the power has been sacrificed. Having not been a bluetooth-speaker user prior to scoring the Mini, I can't really compare it to its bigger brother—or to other bluetooth speakers in general—but I can say that, as a skeptic, I was quickly swayed into the advantages of portable speakers in general, and the Mini Jambox in particular.

First of all, it's stupid-easy to use. You basically turn the speaker on, switch on bluetooth on your phone or iPad, and they find each other. This makes it easy for your friends to connect with it, too, so they can easily play you something special they've got loaded on their phone. When you turn it on, the Mini Jambox makes this incredibly satisfying electronic "whhhhhhWOOSHHHPKFFFF" sound that's loud enough to make the speaker rumble in your hand. It's kinda sick.

Continue reading »

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hotel Fines Guests $500 for Every Negative Review Posted Online—You'll Never Guess What Happened Next

Posted by Paul Constant on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Jordan Crook at Ars Technica reported on this no-negative-review policy from Union Street Guest House, a hotel in New York:

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

Of course now the Union Street Guest House Yelp page is home to a ton of negative reviews from people who had never previously even heard of the USGH. Because if there's one thing the internet loves, it's dispensing street justice, so long as the "street justice" only requires filling out an online form with a brief, smug rant expressing outrage. Mission accomplished, internet. You can take a fifteen minute break until Shia LaBeouf says something stupid around noon.

Friday, August 1, 2014

ReaganBook Is Dead

Posted by Paul Constant on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 9:44 AM

On Tuesday, I told you about ReaganBook, the new social network for conservatives. ReaganBook's biggest selling point was that it could be a home for conservatives who have been flagged for hate speech after posting anti-gay tirades on Facebook. "They kick people off for having an unpopular belief like being in favor of [straight] marriage," founder Janet Porter said when she introduced ReaganBook.

By Tuesday night, ReaganBook was full of internet pranksters starting accounts for Manuel Noriega and Barack Obama and God and Adolf Hitler and the devil. They were posting .gifs of all kinds of porn—gay porn mostly, but because this is the internet also scat porn. The few people complaining about "liberal trolls" were mocked endlessly by sarcastic right-wing parodies using ALL CAPS and obvious misspellings. It was the sort of beautiful, ugly madness you find when the internet comes across a shiny white wall with "Do Not Graffiti" signs posted all around it.

I wish I'd taken screen grabs of the whole site, because now ReaganBook is offline. Going to the site only brings up this message:

Thank you to all those who participated in the pre-release of Your participation is helping us build a more secure site. Thank you! Please be patient while we make the necessary changes to keep the site free from obscenity, pornography, and those intent on the destruction of life, liberty, and the family. We will be opening the doors again soon with additional protections in place. As Reagan taught us, trust, but verify.

This from the site that started as a protest of another site's speech rules? So much for free speech! You know, I can remember when ReaganBook used to mean something.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One Laptop Per Child Is Not a Solution for Education Woes

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 9:59 AM

For years now, politicians as diverse as Newt Gingrich and Angus King have proposed giving laptops to every single public school student. At WNYC, Jill Barshay reports on a free laptop program at Hoboken Junior Senior High School. Spoiler alert: Five years later, the program is ending.

By the time Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer, arrived in Hoboken’s school system in 2011, every seventh, eighth and ninth grader had a laptop. Each year, a new crop of seventh graders were outfitted.

Crocamo’s small tech staff was quickly overwhelmed with repairs.

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

There are way more accounts of the carnage inflicted by these kids on the laptops at WNYC. Like any story involving education, there's a possibility that some moron could interpret this experience as a sign that no children anywhere should have access to technology. That's not the point of this story. The point is that children are children—hell, people are people—and that you can't predict and prepare for the worst thing that will happen. But if the kids were given technology under adult supervision, to use only at school, there would likely be fewer laptop-wrecking shenanigans. The best solution to our problems with education is not more technology—it's a combination of technology and enthusiastic, compassionate human interaction.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Joined ReaganBook, a Facebook for Bigots

Posted by Paul Constant on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Get a load of these white-hairs laughing at Facebook marching in a Pride parade at the ReaganBook announcement:

ReaganBook is "a Facebook for patriots," but it really ought to be called "a Facebook for bigots," since one of the main selling points for ReaganBook is that it will allow you to spread hate speech. (They refer to their lax policy on hate speech as "tearing down walls of tyranny, or censorship.") Right now, ReaganBook is a laggy mess of a site, but I'm sure that it will one day eclipse Facebook in popularity, the same way Conservapedia has become a much more popular destination site than Wikipedia ever was or ever will be. Or maybe it'll just be a way to cash in on some internet advertising for a while before ReaganBook's core audience dies off.

In any case, I joined ReaganBook to see what was up. You can friend me at The e-mail I received from ReaganBook when I joined reads as follows, in its entirety:

Hello Paul Constant,
Thanks for joining our community!
Kind Regards,
Site Name [sic]

And right now, ReaganBook seems to be made up almost entirely of people trolling ReaganBook.


Welcome to the internet, conservatives!

(Via Right Wing Watch.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Facebook COO Apologizes for Experimenting on Users Poorly Communicating the Existence of User Experiments

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg issued a deft non-apology for Facebook's user experiments:

COO Sheryl Sandberg called the experiment "poorly timed" and went on to apologize, reports The Wall Street Journal. "This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated," said Sandberg. "And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."

Somehow, I don't think that's going to do anything to calm the people who are very upset about the experiments.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Masturbation Device/Motion-Sickness Inducer Hits the Market

Posted by Dan Savage on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Kinda NSFW:

I'm hoping this is a hoax. Says hot tipper Matt Hickey...

I've never been of either the "masturbate to your significant other" or "use a Fleshlight" type, but I can't help but wonder if the lady in the video knows what he is doing. Does he need consent? Should he inform her? Is there an opposite dildo case for her to use? What happens of you put them together? You should give bonus points to anyone using one of these in HUMP!

Yes: bonus points to anyone who anyone who works one of these things into their HUMP! video—details on making and submitting a video for HUMP! here—but my main problem with this device, if it exists and someone were to use it as intended, is... um... motion sickness? Vertigo? And won't your friend on the other end of that Skype session wonder why you're suddenly moving up and down?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are Newsletters the New Blogs?

Posted by Paul Constant on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Everyone knows that blogs are dead. (Uh, except for this blog, obviously.) And I've been noticing a lot of newsletters popping up lately. I've subscribed to a couple newsletters in the last few months—I enjoy Warren Ellis's newsletter, Orbital Operations, which includes a little bit of self-promotion but also contains a lot of interesting thinking about the writing of comic books. And Lena Dunham on Twitter introduced me to The Skimm, which is a very short daily briefing-style e-mail that covers a handful of major news stories a day, explaining the context and origins of the day's news in easy-to-understand language.

Over at Medium, which is also becoming more and more of a destination for interesting writing lately, Joanne McNeil explains why newsletters have become a thing lately:

Rebecca Greenfield, writing for Fast Company, traces the return of the internet newsletter to the death of Google Reader. A representative from [newsletter hosting service] TinyLetter told her that there was an uptick in users just as Google pulled the plug last year. Some of us switched to other RSS readers, nevertheless a number of bloggers saw their community and traffic take a hit, and posted less as a result. (By the way, Aaron Straup Cope has a tool to read TinyLetters with RSS). Sara Watson told me TinyLetter is one of the sponsors for “99% invisible,” a podcast with an audience of a number of bloggers and former bloggers. There’s another reason why people are turning to newsletters to publish content now: it is a not-quite public and not-quite private way to share information.

McNeil's piece also includes links to a bunch of interesting-sounding newsletters, many of which I've signed up for. Newsletters are something I look forward to, a more intimate way to learn about the news, one perspective at a time. This isn't an either-or proposition—no matter what the headlines say, blogs aren't going to go extinct, because some stories are best suited for a blog format—but I'm glad to see this very different style of writing make a comeback.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

After the Standing Desk: A Look at the Next Big Office Trend...

Posted by Anna Minard on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

"A new trend in offices across the country: More and more people are switching to fetal position desks so that hey can curl up in a ball while they work!"


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon Announced the Fire Phone Today: What Do You Think?

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 1:59 PM

  • Courtesy: BGR

Here's the announcement: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed off the Fire Phone, the first smartphone produced by Amazon. Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica writes:

The phone has a 4.7-inch IPS display with 590 nits maximum brightness and an "HD" resolution, which usually means 720p. This isn't the biggest or highest-resolution phone there is, but Amazon says it has been "optimized for one-handed use." The phone has a rubberized frame, a glass back, anodized aluminum buttons, and Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the display from scratches and other uses a quad-core 2.2GHz SoC with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM, which probably means we're looking at a Snapdragon 800 or 801 chip. It's also got a 13MP camera with a f/2.0 five element lens and optical image stabilization...

The phone also has a feature called "Firefly" that, Shazam-like, can recognize a song at the press of a button. But Firefly can also recognize video, artwork, bar codes, and other cues, which The Verge explains on their live-blog as...

...the fastest "Hey I see that thing I want to buy that thing" machine ever made by human hands. Push a button, buy the thing I'm looking at. It's kind of stunning if you think about it. And terrifying.

Lastly, the phone has a 3D-like interface that allows you to scroll by tilting the phone. You can also see more information on maps and in photographs by moving the phone around, too. It's available exclusively on AT&T and it'll cost $199.99 with a two-year contract. So...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Today The Daily Show Eviscerates: Google Glass Wearers

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM

People! It is NOT COOL to make fun of people wearing Google Glass! However, when The Daily Show's Jason Jones meticulously eviscerates a group of "glassholes," the feeling I get is... oh, what is it... ah. Wonder and a strange sense of relief. (If you have stock in Google Glass you may want to unload it. Like NOW.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sherman Alexie and Colbert on Amazon vs. Hachette: "You Root for the Authors."

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 12:14 PM

The battle between Amazon and Hachette heated up even more yesterday, when two great things happened: Paul Constant published a strong piece in our sister paper The Stranger, "It's Time to Turn Your Back on Amazon," that not only summed up the Amazon/Hachette fight but laid out, in pretty fucking stark terms, "why the online giant's fight with a publisher signals the end of guilt-free Amazon purchases." Read the whole thing, but the short version: Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention over the past few weeks now finds it all but impossible to overlook how sketchy Amazon is.

Then, last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert (who's published by Hachette, natch) switched gears, going from making promotional videos for Amazon to declaring himself "not just mad at Amazon" but "mad prime." Then he brought out Sherman Alexie, and the two of them encouraged Colbert viewers to buy Edan Lepucki's new (Hachette) novel California—not from Amazon, but from Powell's. And to let everybody know about it. Then this happened.

I'll be the first to admit that—like most people I know—I'm in pretty deep with Amazon by now, as far as media consumption goes: When I read ebooks, I read them on a Kindle; when I read digital comics, it's via the Amazon-owned Comixology; I keep track of what I'm reading and have read via the Amazon-owned Goodreads; I've been watching Louie and Cosmos on Amazon Instant Video; when I buy Blu-rays, I do so through Amazon. For me at least, one of the things that's made it hard to break away from Amazon is the seamlessness of its various delivery systems—and the fact that the alternatives to Amazon (Apple for video, Kobo or Apple for ebooks) aren't exactly the kind of upstanding companies I want to throw my money at, either. (Read Alison's post about Powell's relationship with Kobo here.)

Thanks to Amazon's dominance, there aren't a lot of comparable, easy, and feel-good alternatives out there for many of the digital services a lot of us have become accustomed to*. But if the past few days have shown anything, it's that we need to start finding some.

*They're called "bookstores," Erik. —Eds
That's why I said "digital," Alison. —Eds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Want Google to Forget About You? Move to Europe

Posted by Eli Sanders on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Over there, being able to disappear from a search engine (eventually) is now a right:

Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches, a ruling that rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet.

A search engine like Google should allow online users to be “forgotten” after a certain time by erasing links to web pages unless there are “particular reasons” not to, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said.

Like a Supreme Court Decision, decisions of the Court of Justice can't be appealed. In the New York Times story linked above, a Harvard professor calls this ruling "a bad solution to a very real problem, which is that everything is now on our permanent records." But, he and others have not yet consulted the high court of Blogtown.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

XOXO Founder Andy Baio is Bringing Back

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM

If you've heard Andy Baio's name, it's likely because he's a co-founder of Portland's high-profile art-and-tech festival XOXO. But Baio's incredibly well-regarded in the tech world—he was CTO at Kickstarter, and he founded the community-curated events site back in 2003.

Baio sold Upcoming to Yahoo in 2005; Yahoo didn't do much with it, and the site was eventually shuttered. But now, after buying back the domain from Yahoo, he's bringing it back: This morning he launched a Kickstarter to fund the rebuilding of Upcoming as a social, user-curated events site, plus a permanent event archive.

He explains:

Like many of the people that used it, I miss Upcoming. Nothing's come to replace it in the years since, and I have the same problems that motivated me to build it a decade ago—I'm missing interesting events in my city and struggling to discover interesting events when I travel. I don't know what my friends are going to, and I lose track of the events I hear about on a regular basis.

I want to bring back Upcoming, rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available at the time I started it.

And he promises not to sell it again.

The Kickstarter funded almost instantaneously—it hit its $30,000 goal in 90 minutes, which means we can indeed expect to see the return of I probably shouldn't even be blogging about this. In his Kickstarter pitch, Baio writes:

Entirely curated by the community, Upcoming surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies.

Yes, that's right: With this new project, Baio is trying to drive the final nail into the coffin of my obsolescence as an alt-weekly arts and culture editor. Quit trying to kill print, The Internet! Haven't you done enough?!

Just kidding. (Kind of.) I know Baio socially, and he strikes me as someone who is interested in the right sort of problems. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gary Busey Gets WEIRD for Amazon Fire TV

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Yesterday I informed you about the new Amazon Fire TV streaming box, which may not be the answer to all your television woes, but is a definite improvement over similar devices such Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast... AND doubles as a KARAOKE MACHINE!!! (I really need to let go of that.) Anyway, who better to introduce such a product to the world than Gary Busey? I'll give you a minute to think of a list of better candidates... you'll probably come up with about a hundred. In the meantime, here's a predictably WEIRD Fire TV commercial starring the predictably WEIRD Gary Busey.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Quick Tour of Amazon's New "Fire TV"

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Gizmodo has a pretty thorough article today on the new Amazon Fire TV streaming box—which retails for $100 and might finally replace your love for getting neck cricks while watching TV on your laptop. It apparently fixes all the problems with Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku—terrible search systems, slow gaming, etc—and presents it all in a very easy to use format that includes Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, Crackle... but sorry, no HBO GO. It also features "voice search" (which might actually work), gaming apps from EA, Disney, and more (played with either the remote or a more classic style controller you can get for 40 bones extra), and... DOUBLES AS A KARAOKE MACHINE??? I am so in!! (Maybe I'm not... but I'll think about it!) Much more info here, but check out Gizmodo's quick video tour of the system.

Hands On: Amazon FireTV from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Robots Write the News Now—and I Couldn't Be Happier

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 10:44 AM

The LA Times is one of the media organizatins leading the pack when it comes to making their own employees superfluous—because now they're using robots to write their breaking news stories. From the BBC:

The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake on Monday - thanks to a robot writer.

Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs.

Mr Schwencke told Slate magazine that it took around three minutes for the story to appear online.

"Robo-journalism" is increasingly being used in newsrooms worldwide.

According to the story, the algorithm pulls the stats needed for the story from "trusted sources" (this time the US Geological Survey), plugs them into some pre-written text, and VOILA! They're first off the blocks with breaking news.

Does this make me nervous? HELL TO THE NO! Right after lunch I'm gonna walk down to the mall, and buy me one of these "robo-porters" (probably at the T-Mobile store?), stick it in my seat, and take the rest of my life OFF. Sayonara, suckers! (Hat tips to Blogtown consulting detective Graham.)

P.S. I'm happy to set up some "robo-commenters," too—then we could vacation together!

Friday, March 14, 2014

How Warner Bros. Screwed Over Veronica Mars' Backers

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 5:07 PM

VERONICA MARS Is Veronicas dog Backup in the movie? BACKUP BETTER BE IN THE MOVIE
  • VERONICA MARS Is Veronica's dog Backup in the movie? SO HELP ME GOD BACKUP BETTER BE IN THE MOVIE

How did Warner Bros. screw over the people who made the Veronica Mars movie happen? One word: Ultraviolet.

I was one of those people who giddily donated to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter on its first day, and despite the issues I've had with the campaign (from the decidedly minor, like the increasingly self-satisfied backer updates, to the decidedly less minor, like Warner Bros.' precedent-setting manner of exploiting crowdfunding to gauge fans' interest and save themselves millions of dollars), I'm still looking forward to seeing the movie in a theater this weekend.

Why am I paying it to see it in a theater instead of watching it for free at home, since one of my Kickstarter rewards was a digital version of the film? Oh, right: Because it turns out one of my rewards wasn't a digital version of the film that anyone could actually use. Instead of giving backers a downloadable file, or a code to download the film via iTunes or Amazon, or an easy streaming option, Veronica Mars was released to the people who made it happen using Ultraviolet, a studio-backed streaming system that's a huge pain in the ass and never, ever works.

Never heard of Ultraviolet? That's because nobody fucking uses it, because it fucking sucks. But studios are terrified of piracy, so they make constrictive things like Ultraviolet; not coincidentally, Ultraviolet is so constrictive that anyone with half a brain realizes, roughly five seconds into trying to use the thing, that it's both easier and faster to either (A) buy whatever they're trying to watch on iTunes or Amazon, or, more likely, (B) pirate whatever it is they're trying to watch.

Case in point: You can already watch a pirated version of Veronica Mars, as noted by Jason Bailey on Flavorwire. Bailey's piece—"Veronica Mars Digital Download Is a Clusterfuck for Kickstarter Backers"—is a must-read for anyone interested in how major studios are trying (and failing) to deal with the sort of digital accessibility that people who are comfortable with the internet—e.g., Kickstarter backers—have become accustomed to.

Or, as Bailey points out, maybe giving backers the film via Ultraviolet was part of a plan to make even more money off the fans:

When the time comes, we’ll probably end up punting the Ultraviolet option and just buying the damn thing on iTunes. And not to sound all conspiracy theory-minded, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s a not-unattractive side effect to Ultraviolet being so goddamn terrible; it allows the studios to make giving something away as difficult as possible, and some people aren’t going to go to the trouble. (Via.)

If that is the case, well... hey, it worked on me! I'll be seeing Veronica Marspaying to see Veronica Mars, a movie which, technically, I already paid for—at the Living Room Theaters tomorrow night. On the upside, at least it's supposed to be good.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Google Fiber

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

GOOGLE FIBER PIctured above: Google Fiber! Or Johnny Mnemonic. Your call.
  • GOOGLE FIBER Pictured above: You! Using Google Fiber! Or maybe it's Johnny Mnemonic. Your call.

Portland might get Google Fiber, which would be a pretty big deal—but amidst all the talk of blisteringly fast internet speeds, there are a lot of questions. How much would it cost? What would Google get out of it? Why is Portland on the short list? Will everyone be able to use Google Fiber, or could this jump in the city's technological infrastructure end up leaving some people behind?

The answers to all of those questions—and more—can be found in the feature Denis and I wrote this week. If you use the internet and live in Portland, you should read it.

Most Popular I, Anonymous Best of the Merc

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC

115 SW Ash St. Suite 600
Portland, OR 97204

Contact Info | Privacy Policy | Production Guidelines | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy