12 December 2018

Vulture: “The Netflix Binge Factory”

Mysterious though it may seem, Netflix operates by a simple logic, long understood by such tech behemoths as Facebook and Amazon: Growth begets more growth begets more growth. When Netflix adds more content, it lures new subscribers and gets existing ones to watch more hours of Netflix. As they spend more time watching, the company can collect more data on their viewing habits, allowing it to refine its bets about future programming. “More shows, more watching; more watching, more subs; more subs, more revenue; more revenue, more content,” explains Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. So far, it’s worked spectacularly well: Netflix has gone from around 33 million global subscribers before House of Cards premiered to over 125 million today. Wall Street analysts have predicted Netflix could flirt with 200 million subscribers by the end of 2020; by 2028, one Morgan Stanley analyst has said, 300 million is possible. “The thing that keeps me up at night is scale,” says Sarandos. “It’s a mind-boggling amount of programming that’s being produced here. How do we keep scaling it?”

One answer is cultural. “I’m building a team that’s oriented as saying ‘Yes’ in a town that’s built to say ‘No’,” Sarandos says. That’s not just New Age–speak. It’s practical. To stimulate volume, Sarandos and Holland have put in place an extraordinarily decentralized development and production pipeline, one that allows Netflix to operate like ten or 15 semi-independent entertainment companies — whose output all happens to be distributed by a single service.

Josef Adalian

Fascinating inside look at Netflix, from their culture to the metrics used internally to decide whether a particular show is successful or not.

20 November 2018

The New York Times: “Sundar Pichai of Google: ‘Technology doesn’t solve Humanity’s Problems’”

How do you approach this in China, where Google is considering returning to the market with a search engine?

One of the things that’s not well understood, I think, is that we operate in many countries where there is censorship. When we follow “right to be forgotten” laws, we are censoring search results because we’re complying with the law. I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer. It’s not even clear to me that search in China is the product we need to do today.

David Gelles

A very disingenuous comparison: the EU ‘right to be forgotten’ gives power to individuals to remove certain pieces of online content (not even remove actually, just request to be removed), whereas Chinese censorship operates top-down, giving an authoritarian government power over the information its citizens can access online. If you can’t tell the difference between these two, maybe you should not be in charge of a corporation with immense global power.

18 November 2018

Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time

in Bucharest, Romania
Children of Time eBook by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Grație progresului științific, rasa umană începuse să facă primii pași timizi spre stele. La inițiativa doctorului Avrana Kern, misiunea Brin a fost trimisă către o planetă compatibilă, cu scopul de a aduce ecosistemul acesteia la standarde umane. Planul prevedea în plus introducerea unei specii de primate care să fie ridicată la stadiul inteligenței de un virus special conceput, astfel încât la sosirea navelor cu coloniști, aceste maimuțe elevate să le devină servitori supuși.

The proper line, that of accepted scientific humility, was, ‘on the shoulders of giants’, but she had not got where she was by bowing the knee to past generations. Midgets, lots and lots of midgets, she thought, and then – she could barely keep back the appalling giggle – on the shoulders of monkeys.

Dar nici un progres nu este lipsit de opoziție; pe Pământ, gruparea extremistă Non Ultra Natura, care se opune categoric și de multe ori violent experimentelor genetice de acest gen, capătă din ce în ce mai multă influență. Un agent al lor, infiltrat în echipajul navei Brin, reușește să saboteze lansarea primatelor către planetă, distrugând inclusiv nava. Singura supraviețuitoare este dr. Kern, care se refugiase înainte de explozie pe satelitul de unde însuși sabotorul ar fi trebuit să monitorizeze progresul proiectului de‑a lungul mileniilor. În același timp, o transmisie alarmantă sosește de la distanță de ani-lumină, de pe Pământ: atacurile NUN au atins apogeul, degenerând într‑un război la scară planetară, iar un virus software agresiv s‑a infiltrat în sistemele avanposturilor umane, distrugându‑le componentele electronice. Văzându‑se brusc izolată, în timp ce civilizația umană se prăbușea, dr. Kern nu vede altă soluție decât să intre în hibernare, în așteptarea unui semnal dinspre planeta pe care proiectul ei de bioinginerie va lua un curs neașteptat.

15 November 2018

CNET: “Flickr imposes 1,000-photo limit, drops 1TB storage for free accounts”

SmugMug, trying to strengthen its Flickr site as a community for photo enthusiasts, will limit free members to 1,000 photos and scrap the old policy of a terabyte of storage in an attempt to move toward subscriptions.


If you’re a free member, Flickr will work the same through Jan. 8, at which point you won’t be able to upload any new photos or videos if you already are past the 1,000 limit. You’ll have until Feb. 5 to upgrade to a pro subscription or download your Flickr photos. After that, Flickr will start deleting older photos and videos, leaving the 1,000 most recently uploaded shots.

Stephen Shankland

Since Flickr was acquired by SmugMug back in April, I’ve been vary about the future of the photo service I used for the past decade, to the point that I stopped uploading new photos there. After a six-months long silence, it turns out my concerns were valid: their plan for the future is to completely nerf free accounts, expecting that people will move to their (now more expensive) paid plan. Prior to the announcement, I had already canceled my Pro subscription, and as things stand how I will never renew it. I plan to close my account instead and migrate my photo portfolio elsewhere, most likely to Google Photos.

03 November 2018

‘Altered Carbon’ (Netflix, season 1)

in Bucharest, Romania
Altered Carbon TV series

How would you feel to wake up from a hundred-year-old absence, on a different planet, in a new, foreign body? Most people would be hopelessly confused, even sick for hours and days, as their mind adjusts to the new environment. Most people except Takeshi Kovach that is – his Envoy training allows him to reorient himself almost instantly, to quickly assess new situations and take control of available resources for his own interests. After the last Envoys have been hunted down and killed on Harlan’s World more than two centuries ago, Kovach finds himself back on Earth, having been revived from his detention/suspension by Laurens Bancroft, a billionaire ‘Meth’ who needs an exceptional detective to solve an exceptional murder: his own.

Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The vision that said we would be angels. Instead, we became hungry for things that reality could no longer offer. The lines blurred.

From the dawn of time, one of humanity’s most sought, yet most unreachable, ideals was to defeat death, to be able to live forever… and in the Altered Carbon future this becomes routine. Using ‘stacks’, a technology inspired by the mysterious precursor artefacts of the Elders, minds can be backed up in real-time like computer drives and introduced into new bodies (or ‘sleeves’) upon the death of the previous one.

21 October 2018

Ian McDonald – Luna: Wolf Moon

in Bucharest, Romania
Ian McDonald - Luna, Wolf Moon

Încleștarea violentă dintre doi Dragoni ai Lunii, Corta Hélio și Mackenzie Metals, s‑a soldat cu zdrobirea definitivă a Corta și preluarea operațiunilor lor de către învingători. Dar în climatul politic complicat, problemele de‑abia încep. Deși victorioși, un atentat asupra Crucible îl elimină pe capul decrepit al clanului Mackenzie, scoțând la iveală rivalitatea internă dintre cei doi frați moștenitori. Clanul Sun, cei care instigaseră de la început rivalitatea Corta-Mackenzie, se pregătesc pe ascuns să profite de acest război civil. Din nefericire pentru Dragoni, Pământul, o sabie rotundă a lui Damocles supraveghind nemișcat cerul Lunii, nu privește cu ochi buni turbulențele care‑i amenință aprovizionarea cu energie ieftină. O intervenție în forță din partea Consiliului Lunar ar putea limita serios libertatea de acțiune a magnaților locali. Iar undeva pe ascuns, aproape uitați în vâltoarea evenimentelor, ultimii supraviețuitori ai familiei Corta își ițesc propriile planuri de a reveni în cercurile puterii – și de răzbunare.

The day the sun goes out is the day the rules break. The rule that has protected us for fifty years; the day the terrestrial states realise they have more to gain by acting together than stalking each other with knives. This is my family’s fear, Darius; the call in the night. When it comes, everything we have built, everything we have achieved, will be taken from us because we have nowhere to run.

În numeroase cazuri e relativ greu să apreciezi corect cartea din mijlocul unei trilogii; unele par povești de umplutură înaintea deznodământului fulminant (ca Vidul Temporal al lui Peter Hamilton și călătoria în Infern a lui Bobby Dollar), altele sunt paradoxal mai bune decât restul, pentru că autorul își permite să exploreze personajele în adâncime (Firefight). Cazul de față e deosebit pentru că mi‑e greu să găsesc o deosebire calitativă față de primul roman. Regăsim același ritm alert, acțiune fulminantă, intrigi, trădări, scene spectaculoase și surprinzătoare, dar și momente de reflecție, aproape poetice. Dacă aveți impresia că prăbușirea tânărului Robson Corta de la o altitudine de un kilometru într‑un habitat lunar, care are loc în primele capitole, e ceva impresionant, n‑ați văzut încă nimic – așa cum constată însuși Robson nu mult mai târziu.

09 October 2018

Windows Central: “Lenovo’s folding Yoga Book C930 features the first E Ink keyboard”

The real magic, though, is the lower 10.8-inch full HD E Ink display that also doubles as a keyboard or notepad. That keyboard can change between keyboard layouts on the fly to accommodate different regions and languages.

To address the virtual-ness, Lenovo has the buttons slightly shift when typing to simulate movement. When combined with haptic feedback (vibration) and audio cues (both of which are configurable), typing on the Yoga Book is much better than the previous Halo Keyboard. While it is not nearly as good as a “real” typing experience, it is getting closer.

Another neat feature is the trackpad. The virtual one appears when you tap the dot below the spacebar, giving you a decently large target for moving the cursor. To save space, however, that trackpad goes away when you start to type and turns back into a spacebar.

Daniel Rubino

That’s a very interesting innovation, one I hope to see in more portable devices in the future. Having a ‘virtual’ keyboard that can adapt to different languages is very useful to people working in multi-lingual environments. While you can currently change keyboard layouts in Windows, this (obviously) cannot update the actual keys in front of you, so you still need to remember where each key goes in the secondary layouts. It’s especially difficult with special characters, as each language has its own ideas where various symbols should go, and which are important enough to be featured on hardware keys. An e-ink keyboard would make this so much easier!