The Indy

Wednesday, October 28
Your daily fill of grayscale news

Compulsive YouTube use results in lower academic motivation

For many people, youtube is a nearly unlimited source of free knowledge on any topic, but for those with an ‘entertainment motivation’, it can also be an addiction. The study concluded that the participants with an ‘informational motivation’ for using youtube were less likely to use youtube compulsively. There’s presumably a grey area between entertainment and information motivation though – if the videos you’re watching have titles that start with “top 10”, you should be asking yourself what your viewing motivation really is. You might set out to learn about a particular topic, but 20 minutes later auto-play has taken you down a useless infotainment rabbit hole that’s only tangentially related to the topic you started out on.

Man with autism is arrested for allegedly scamming AWS

Amazon Web Services spends a lot of time enticing companies to move their data to the cloud – but transferring petabytes of data isn’t always a straightforward task. AWS has implemented a service called Snowball to make it easier. Essentially, Amazon ships you some Snowball appliances, you put your data on them, and send the appliance back to AWS. The idea is by no means new (see sneakernets), but the scale at which AWS has implemented it is still impressive.

But what happens when someone simply doesn’t return one of these devices? An Australian man was arrested for doing just that – he’s been accused of stealing 31 of the devices that he ordered over a year ago.

Is firefox lying to users about viruses in downloads?

Firefox ships with an interesting feature: they automatically flag downloads for viruses and malware. Sounds awesome. Unfortunately, this message isn’t always accurate. Apparently, sometimes this message is an outright lie. Firefox isn’t necessarily scanning the files for viruses, they’re often just using databases that list domains suspected of hosting malware. This would actually be a really useful warning if it was communicated to the end user accurately.

Cryptocurrency is driving innovation in the financial sector

The financial industry is often at odds with cryptocurrencies. It’s a situation reminiscent of the digital music revolution, where the music industry was forced to drastically improve their distribution model in order to stay relevant. Today, it’s the digital currency revolution that’s pressuring the financial industry to reevaluate its business models, especially with respect to business-to-consumer services.

Many speculate that the business of cross-border transactions could be disrupted by the emergence of cryptocurrencies. The bulk of these cross border transactions come from the global migrant worker community, a demographic that’s often been marginalized in the past. Traditionally, sending money back home across a border has been an expensive and inconvenient process – it seems like a perfect fit for cryptocurrencies. The financial industry has taken notice of this and has responded with new products and services.

Asbestos still isn’t fully banned in the US

There’s a blanket ban on the use of asbestos throughout the European Union – same goes for Australia, Japan, and a lot of other developed nations. Conspicuously absent from the list is the United States. This goes against a lot of people’s assumptions – ask someone about asbestos and one of the things they’re likely to mention is that it’s outlawed. Why isn’t asbestos fully banned in the United States in 2018?

Over 80k Uber drivers receiving checks from FTC settlement

The FTC has begun mailing out checks to 88,799 uber drivers – Uber agreed to the settlement back in 2017 and the drivers are finally getting their cut – an average of $299.96 per driver. In its marketing materials, Uber touted a median income of over $90,000 for New York uberX drivers – a number which the FTC claimed was a gross misrepresentation – in reality the number was closer to $61,000.

FTC cracks down on ‘free trial’ internet scammers

The US District Court of Southern California has issued a temporary restraining order on a San Diego internet marketing company, at the request of the FTC. The company is accused of offering bogus free trials for e-cigarettes and various herbal remedies. Customers were charged for their ‘free trial’ and then they were enrolled in expensive subscriptions that were hard to cancel.

Can developers use photos without permission? A federal court ruling may surprise you.

If you’ve ever hired a web developer to create a website, you might have sent them some of your favorite photos from google images to use for a slideshow or a background. This is a common request. Experienced developers might politely tell you that you need to use licensed photography on your website, and that appropriating photos without permission is tantamount to stealing.

But maybe it’s not so straightforward. A Virginia federal court recently ruled that using photography without permission (in one case at least) was fair use. How can this be?

Wiretap orders increased in 2017

The US Judiciary just released their statistics on wiretaps in 2017. The rise in targeted surveillance conducted under the order of a warrant may actually indicate that federal agencies are shifting their investigative tactics to focus on specific leads rather than casting a wide net.


Civil war in Yemen: any hope of ending it in 2020?

There’s mounting international pressure to end the civil war in Yemen that has been going on for over two years. Ironically, the attempt to suppress critics of the war (namely the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi) has opened the floodgates of criticism from mainstream media, which had seemingly grown tired of covering Yemen until this point.


State Department Condemns Escalation of Violence in Nicaragua

The US State Department has issued a statement of condemnation regarding the growing violence against journalists, students and protesters in Nicaragua. The announcement also made note of new U.S. Visa restrictions on officials who have aided the regime in committing the numerous alleged human rights violations.


The cognitive bias that hurts creativity

“Think outside the box” – you’ve probably heard it so many times that it’s lost all meaning. It’s not a difficult concept: it involves approaching problems with non-conventional solutions and lateral thinking. Most English speaking adults could give you a definition along those lines (which probably explains why it’s often co-opted as a marketing slogan). “Thinking outside the box” is the cliché solution to a less well-known problem: a cognitive bias called Functional fixedness.


A British Ecological Society study used archived TV footage to show the impact of climate change

Scientists have traditionally relied on historical weather data and glacial core samples to demonstrate climate change, and on longitudinal studies to understand its impact. The British Ecological Society just released a study that took a radically different approach

Politics, World

EU copyright proposal could marginalize European publishers

Article 11 is more than just proposed legislation – it’s already passed preliminary votes in the EU and is only a few steps way from being finalized. How will it impact US-based businesses?


Municipalities pose a greater threat to privacy than the NSA

People protest the NSA, but they don’t always realize there’s an even bigger privacy threat at the local level. There’s over 19,000 “Incorporated Places” in the United States, each one of them potentially violating privacy of US citizens through the use of cell site simulators and other invasive tech.


Micro Air Vehicles could be huge (figuratively)

A lot of people are exploring larger and larger quadcopters and UAVs – delivery vehicles and even human transport. There’s no lack of competition. As Feynman once said “there’s plenty of room at the bottom” – he was speaking about nanotechnology, but the sentiment could also ring true in the world of UAVs.


Slow Reading: the antithesis of speed reading

You’ve probably never heard of slow reading, but it could probably enrich your life.