Choose the public wi-fi networks that you access with care

Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

I often work from cafes and other public places, but am usually reluctant to tap into the free-for-all public wi-fi networks that are on offer, unless I’m forced to for some reason, preferring to use my private mobile broadband account.

After reading Maurits Martijn’s account of the ease with which some of these networks can be compromised, as it were, you might want to think twice about your use of public wi-fi networks:

We see more and more visitors log on to our fictitious network. The siren song of the little black device appears to be irresistible. Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom could now completely ruin the lives of the people connected: He can retrieve their passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts. Later today, he will show me how. I have given him permission to hack me in order to demonstrate what he is capable of, though it could be done to anyone with a smartphone in search of a network, or a laptop connecting to a WiFi network.

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And you don’t send me text messages like you used to…

Friday, 24 October, 2014

It’s been six years since data scientist Alice Zhao first met her now husband, and to mark the occasion she has published an analysis of their text messages to each other over that time… needless to say there have been changes to both their style of texting, and the words they use now, as opposed to earlier on:

While we were dating, we started thinking about each other around 3pm in the afternoon and we’d send each other text messages until 3am in the morning. As a married couple, our texting schedule has pretty much flipped. We text all through the workday and never at night.

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I robot exist only to serve and hand write letters for you

Thursday, 2 October, 2014

If you’re someone who feels electronic and text communications are a little impersonal, but still don’t want to actually hand write notes or letters, or like me, have terrible handwriting, you could consider asking the Handwrytten Robot to handle such correspondence.

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Tracing the origins of storytelling back to… ancient campfires

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Sitting around campfires in the evenings, after a day of hunting, collecting, or farming, allowed our ancient ancestors the opportunity to talk about matters that were not quite so vital to day-to-day survival, and this is when storytelling began to emerge and develop.

A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/’hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics.

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A sign language that defies our understanding of their development

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, or ABSL, is a form of sign language that has emerged in recent years among the deaf inhabitants of a village in a region of Israel’s Negev Desert. What is particularly fascinating to linguists here however is the structure of the language, which differs somewhat from many others:

ABSL provides fodder for researchers who reject the idea that there’s a genetic basis for the similarities found across languages. Instead, they argue, languages share certain properties because they all have to solve similar problems of communication under similar pressures, pressures that reflect the limits of human abilities to learn, remember, produce, and perceive information. The challenge, then, is to explain why ABSL is an outlier – if duality of patterning is the optimal solution to the problem of creating a large but manageable collection of words, why hasn’t ABSL made use of it?

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On texting in the movies, not at the movies

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

The characters of films communicating with each other via text messaging is one of the more recent challenges to confront filmmakers… specifically, what is the best way present this interaction to audiences?

It is a subject that San Francisco based film aficionado Tony Zhou explores in his short documentary, A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.

I don’t see all that many stage productions, but now I’m wondering what happens with texting in live performances and the like.

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OMG, we don’t curse in public like we used to

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

I’ve tended to regard the phrase “Oh My God” as more an expression of shock or surprise than as an expletive, but apparently as a cuss-term it is more popular – among women anyway – than a certain word that starts with the sixth letter of the alphabet. Men however still favour that word over any other profanity.

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Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated

Friday, 22 August, 2014

Despite talk – over what, the last ten years now – of its impending demise, email is still very much with us. A system of written communication that trumps email may come along one day, but what other electronic messaging system about at the moment otherwise ticks all of the boxes that email does?

Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices. Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled “web we lost.” It’s an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.

If you ask me, much of the talk of email’s so-called end of days is simply an excuse to continue talking about email.

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If you go to Japan be sure to send someone a telegram

Friday, 22 August, 2014

How to describe telegrams when there may be people here reading, who have no idea what they are? A text message that can only be sent in print format, perhaps? In earlier days much of the world’s communication was carried out by way of telegrams, but not any more obviously.

Unless you are in Japan, that is, where the mode is still in use, for a variety of reasons:

Japan is one of the last countries in the world where telegrams are still widely used. A combination of traditional manners, market liberalization and innovation has kept alive this age-old form of messaging, first commercialized in the mid-19th century by Samuel Morse and others.

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Mobile phone tower says you were there, so you were there

Thursday, 3 July, 2014

I’d be concerned if prosecutors were securing convictions against alleged wrong-doers based solely on mobile phone tower data, backing their ascertain that a person on trial was at a certain place at a certain time, but that appears to be the case.

If I make a cell call from Kenmore Square, in my home town of Boston, you might think that I’m connecting to a cell site a few hundred feet away. But, if I’m standing near Fenway Park during a Red Sox game, with thousands of fans making calls and sending texts, that tower may have reached its capacity. Hypothetically, the system might send me to the next site, which might also be at capacity or down for maintenance, or to the next site, or the next. The switching center may look for all sorts of factors, most of which are proprietary to the company’s software. The only thing that you can say with confidence is that I have connected to a cell site somewhere within a radius of roughly twenty miles.

I think anyone who peruses their phone bills will realise they were no where near some of the places they supposedly made some calls from.

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