28 March 2017

Twitter app for Windows 10 experiments with tabs

Speaking of (good) Windows apps, Twitter is another example of Windows app done well: fast and responsive, with a clean design and a full feature set. And… something more! A couple of weeks back I noticed it added new features, namely tabs and a tiny extra menu. It’s probably a tentative step to more power-user features in the Windows app, but for now it’s still very much an experiment available to some random users (apparently, me included). Every time you create a new tab with the + button, it starts with ‘Home’, your default timeline, but that’s about it: you can’t save or restore the current tab configuration, you can’t navigate quicker to obscure sections of Twitter – like your likes or lists – that’s still manual work. Also, you can’t create more than four tabs at this time. But it’s nice that you can reference information from other tabs when you’re replying to someone, for example, or that you don’t have to lose your place in the timeline if you want to check notifications: just open a new tab and check notifications there.

Twitter app for Windows 10 adds tabs

27 March 2017

Searching for a podcast client on Windows 10? Try Grover Podcast

Grover Podcast logo

After introducing the touch-first Metro design language, Windows has long struggled with the low number of apps built specifically for the platform. With the introduction of Windows 10, things have started improving somewhat. At least the major social networks are well covered, from Twitter to Facebook, Messenger and Instagram – and let’s not forget that Instagram hasn’t launched a proper iPad client yet! But what about niche use cases like listening to podcasts? Sometime last year I started searching for a podcast client to use on my tablet. Fortunately, I didn't have to search for long until I found the best solution yet: Grover Podcast.

The app has all the basic features you would expect in a podcast player: subscribing to podcasts (manually from RSS feeds or by searching the large selection of the iTunes store), streaming episodes, options to automatically download new episodes and removed played files, notifications for new episodes, and importing/exporting subscription lists as OPML files. The design is pretty great as well, respecting the Windows 10 guidelines, making the app similar in look and feel to the system music player Groove Music – the name Grover actually originates from this music player. And, like it, Grover is integrated with system audio playback, meaning you can use the standard keyboard shortcuts and the lock-screen widget to play/resume. The only major feature missing from the regular app is syncing subscriptions and played status between devices – though I understand it’s available in the Pro version, which also includes a Windows mobile app. I can live without syncing for the time being, since I do most of my listening on the iPhone anyway.

26 March 2017

Peter Watts – Collateral

in Bucharest, Romania
Upgraded – Neil Clarke

După ce o misiune de recunoaștere de rutină ce se soldează cu o tragedie, caporalul Nandita Becker se așteaptă la represalii în interiorul forțelor armate. În schimb, spre surprinderea ei, superiorii ei se arată extrem de indulgenți, căci situația e destul de complicată: o înregistrare a momentelor în care armele autonome ale lui Becker măcelăresc șase studenți nevinovați a ajuns cumva în mâinile presei și opinia publică trebuie potolită pentru a păstra suportul pentru misiunile de pacificare. Așa că Becker este politicos și ferm instruită să participe la un interviu cu Amal Sabrie, o ziaristă faimoasă și critic fervent al acțiunilor militare, pentru a încerca să spele imaginea proastă și să atragă simpatia către propria dramă, un soldat ale cărui arme iau singure decizii de viață și de moarte în intervale atât de scurte că mintea umană nu poate ține pasul.

Amal Sabrie stood at her approach. “You look—” she began.

like shit. Becker hadn’t slept in three days. It shouldn’t have shown; cyborgs don’t get tired.

“I mean”, Sabrie continued smoothly, “I thought the augments would be more conspicuous.”

Great wings, spreading from her shoulders and laying down the wrath of God. Corporal Nandita Becker, Angel of Death.

“They usually are. They come off.”

21 March 2017

The New York Times: “The Great A.I. Awakening”

AI Awakening cover

It is important to note, however, that the fact that neural networks are probabilistic in nature means that they’re not suitable for all tasks. It’s no great tragedy if they mislabel 1 percent of cats as dogs, or send you to the wrong movie on occasion, but in something like a self-driving car we all want greater assurances. This isn’t the only caveat. Supervised learning is a trial-and-error process based on labeled data. The machines might be doing the learning, but there remains a strong human element in the initial categorization of the inputs. If your data had a picture of a man and a woman in suits that someone had labeled “woman with her boss”, that relationship would be encoded into all future pattern recognition. Labeled data is thus fallible the way that human labelers are fallible. If a machine was asked to identify creditworthy candidates for loans, it might use data like felony convictions, but if felony convictions were unfair in the first place — if they were based on, say, discriminatory drug laws — then the loan recommendations would perforce also be fallible.

A neural network, however, was a black box. It divined patterns, but the patterns it identified didn’t always make intuitive sense to a human observer. The same network that hit on our concept of cat also became enthusiastic about a pattern that looked like some sort of furniture-animal compound, like a cross between an ottoman and a goat.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus

Great story – though a bit too long – about Google’s efforts to integrate machine learning into translation. Lately I have used Google Translate more than usual and the quality of the results does show, but improvements are apparent mostly on longer sentences. When translating single words, on the contrary, I regularly find situations where Translate wouldn’t recognize words that, when queried through Google Search, had clear definitions. Evidently Translate could still use some work if Google Search still does a better job at identifying words.

28 February 2017

The Keyword: “Gboard for iPhone gets an upgrade”

In May 2016, you first met Gboard, our app that let you search and send information, GIFs, emoji and more, right from your keyboard. In July, Gboard went global. And today we’re upgrading your Gboard experience on iPhone by adding access to 15 additional languages, Google Doodles, new emoji, and—by popular demand—voice typing.

Alan Ni

When Gboard first launched, I tried it for a couple of hours but quickly abandoned it. There didn’t seem to be any advantage in using it over the system keyboard without predictive typing in Romanian – and switching between multiple keyboards can get annoying quickly. Would it be different this time around, after having my native language as an option?

Time: “Person of the Year Runner Up: Recep Tayyip Erdogan”

Instead of providing a model for democracy, Turkey’s leader represents a throwback: an elected autocrat, tolerated by the West for maintaining a certain stability within and without, overseeing a procedural democracy with a pliant press and a dominant political party that serves only his wishes. His housing reflects his indispensability. The presidential mansion completed in 2014 that Erdogan calls home has more than 1,000 rooms, including one with a lab dedicated to detecting poison in the President’s food. The décor, heavy on red carpets, marble and chandeliers, suggests a return to Ottoman glory.

This was the year he mended fences with Russia after downing one of its warplanes, and with Israel after six years of strife, even as the chance that Turkey will ever actually join the E.U. became ever more remote. But Erdogan’s foreign policy was branded “neo-Ottoman” even before he justified sending troops to Iraq and Syria by questioning the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which set the borders of the state that followed the empire. We cannot act in the year 2016 with the psychology of 1923, he said on Oct. 18. Adding, We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country, he urged that young Turks be taught that Mosul was once theirs. In another speech, he cast a growing regional conflict not in terms of nations but of sects. What you call ‘Baghdad’ is an administrator of an army composed of Shiʻites, he said.

“Peace at home, peace abroad” was the slogan Turkish schoolchildren learned from Ataturk. Under Erdogan, the country may end up with neither.

Jared Malsin

Worrying attitude – if not entirely surprising. With this rhetoric against the established borders, Erdogan is reshaping himself into a second Putin, the last thing the Middle East needs. These are the kinds of words that start wars…

27 February 2017

Twitter Personality Insights, powered by IBM Watson

If you’re on Facebook, it’s nigh impossible to not have encountered some sort of personality test at least once. I do them sometimes more for fun, because I doubt any personality can be described only after answering a couple of questions. With the rise of AI and big data though, similar profiles can now access much larger databases built from online activities and a couple of days ago I discovered one based on your Twitter activity. It’s powered by Watson, IBM’s version of artificial intelligence technology that has recently made headlines for its accuracy in recognizing cancer, as well as for making music and movie trailers.