Stamen Watercolour Maps — I saw a preview of this a week or two ago and was in awe. It is truly the most beautiful thing I’ve seen a computer do. It’s not just a clever hack, it’s art. Genius. And they’re CC-licensed.
Screens Up Close — gorgeous microscope pictures of screens, showing how great the iPad’s retina display is.
Numbers API — CUTE! Visit it, even if you’re not a math head, it’s fun.
mbox — more technical information than you ever thought you’d need, to be saved for the time when you have to parse mailbox files. It’s a nightmare. (via Hacker News)
Maui (Google Code) — Maui automatically identifies main topics in text documents. Depending on the task, topics are tags, keywords, keyphrases, vocabulary terms, descriptors, index terms or titles of Wikipedia articles. GPLv3.
Things Turbo Pascal is Smaller Than — next time you’re bragging about your efficient code, spare a thought for the Pascal IDE and compiler that lived in 39,731 bytes. This list of more bloated things is hilarious.
The China Startup Report (Slideshare) — interesting to see the low salary comes with expectation of bonuses but little interest in equity (as there are few exits other than IPO, for reasons the presentation goes into).
Shape Method — fun HTML5 challenge that will also expand your appreciation of fonts.
Open Source All The Things! — SparkFun looking aggressively for things to “open source” from their business. I have a lot of time for companies that contribute to the commons above and beyond their legally-mandated minimum, particularly those who aren’t just dumping their unwanted junk there. Google does this well, Facebook is learning. Good on ya, SparkFun.
Why Amazon Can’t Make a Kindle in the USA (Forbes) — the progressive hollowing of manufacturing, driven by short-term gains, leading to long-term losses of industries and the corresponding areas to innovate. This is part of a series, and it’s well worth reading the whole series. (via Pinboard)
MyChinese360 — virtual foreign language instruction in Mandarin, including “virtual visits” to Chinese landmarks. The ability to get native speakers virtually into the classroom makes the Internet a huge asset for rural schools. (via Lucy Gray)
China Wants to Buy Facebook (Forbes) — Beijing approached a fund that buys stock from former Facebook employees to see if it could assemble a stake large enough “to matter.” This has implications for Facebook entering China. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly “wary about the compromises Facebook would have to make to do business there.” If she loses her argument with Zuckerberg and Facebook enters China, the company will eventually be subject to demands to censor its sites, those both inside and outside China. That’s apparently why the Chinese want to own a big stake in Facebook. They are, in short, looking for control in the long run. No other explanation is consistent with the Party’s other media and “educational” initiatives. Again the world’s most desirable emerging market is fraught for those who would enter it.
Cisco Helping China Build Surveillance (WSJ, subscription probably needed) — Western companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are poised to help build an ambitious new surveillance project in China—a citywide network of as many as 500,000 cameras that officials say will prevent crime but that human-rights advocates warn could target political dissent. Check out the mealy-mouthed weasel from HP: “We take them at their word as to the usage.” He added, “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for. Our job is to respond to the bid that they’ve made.” (a) buyers don’t bid, vendors bid; (b) you’re a piss-poor vendor if you don’t understand what the client hopes to achieve; (c) really, maintaining plausible denial is the best way to preserve your brand’s integrity? Hewlett and Packard are turning in their graves, the heat given off from which could be detected by sensors, routed through Cisco boxes and displayed on HP terminals.
US Claims .net and .com In Their Jurisdiction — The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) wants to take down web sites that use the .com and .net top level domains (TLD) regardless of whether their servers are based in the US. Not only do DNS interventions like this not stop the copying, they’re the thin end of the political wedge into yet another piece of critical Internet infrastructure. Who woke up this morning and thought, “I want a copyright rentacop to decide which websites I can see”? The generative power of the Internet is eroded with every misguided meddling such as this.
SVK Launches — BERG London finally launch their excellent comic. “Comic?” you ask. Noted science future awesome Warren Ellis wrote it, and it features some clever augmented reality hardware. I have one, and I am happy. You can be too, for only ten pounds plus shipping.
Chinese Political Prisoners Gold-Farming (Guardian) — “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” Liu told the Guardian. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off.”
Correlate — Google Correlate finds search patterns which correspond with real-world trends. You upload your time series or geographic data, they find search terms that correlate. Very cool!
McKinsey Internet Matters Report (PDF, free registration required) — Internet responsible for 3.4% of GDP in the countries they studied, 21% of GDP growth in last 5 years in mature countries, 2.6 jobs created for every one lost, and 75% of the Internet’s impact arises from traditional industries. Lots more like this in here. The United States captures more than 30 percent of global internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income.
US Home Prices as Opera (Flowing Data) — reminded me of Douglas Adams’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” which has software that turns your company’s performance numbers into music. The yearly accounts of most British companies emerged sounding like the Dead March from “Saul”, but in Japan they went for it like a pack of rats. It produced lots of cheery company anthems that started well, but if you were going to criticise you’d probably say that they tended to get a bit loud and squeaky at the end.
Chinese Internet Cafes (Bryce Roberts) — a good quick read. My note: people valued the same things in Internet cafes that they value in public libraries, and the uses are very similar. They pose a similar threat to the already-successful, which is why public libraries are threatened in many Western countries.
SIFT — the Scale Invariant Feature Transform library, built on OpenCV, is a method to detect distinctive, invariant image feature points, which easily can be matched between images to perform tasks such as object detection and recognition, or to compute geometrical transformations between images. The licensing seems dodgy–MIT code but lots of “this isn’t a license to use the patent!” warnings in the LICENSE file. (via Joshua Schachter)
The Secret Life of Libraries (Guardian) — I like the idea of the most-stolen-books revealing something about a region; it’s an aspect of data revealing truth. For a while, Terry Pratchett was the most-shoplifted author in England but newspapers rarely carried articles about him or mentioned his books (because they were genre fiction not “real” literature). (via Brian Flaherty)
Sweble — MediaWiki parser library. Until today, Wikitext had been poorly defined. There was no grammar, no defined processing rules, and no defined output like a DOM tree based on a well defined document object model. This is to say, the content of Wikipedia is stored in a format that is not an open standard. The format is defined by 5000 lines of php code (the parse function of MediaWiki). That code may be open source, but it is incomprehensible to most. That’s why there are 30+ failed attempts at writing alternative parsers. (via Dirk Riehle)
Barnes and Noble Nook Color Gets Android Upgrade (Wired) — was an e-reader, but now Barnes and Noble are offering an upgrade to turn it into a fully-fledged Android tablet. The only thing you won’t be able to do is download apps from the Google marketplace. The Nook retails for $250. (via Glyn Moody)
Anime Site Treats Piracy as Market Failure (Ars Technica) — “In almost all cases, piracy is not an issue of legality,” says Kun Gao, CEO of the anime streaming site Crunchyroll. It’s often a market issue—and Crunchyroll turns a profit by offering anime lovers what they want: legal access to anime shows right after new episodes have aired in Japan. […] Kun claims that piracy drops “60 to 70 percent” for shows carried by Crunchyroll. (via Glyn Moody)
Project Cascade — New York Times project analyzing tweets, retweets, bit.ly uses, and other events in the online lifecycle of stories. Built using Processing and MongoDB. (via Flowing Data)
Survey Indicates e-book Boom in China (Xinhua) — estimates of 613M ebooks read, 23% on mobile phones. Contains the sobering the acceptable price to download an e-book from the Internet is 1.33 yuan (0.2 U.S. dollars), and nearly 54 percent of digital readers say they would pay an average of 3.45 yuan to download e-books. (via Tim O’Reilly)