Map of Connectedness reveals world’s most remote places

via DVICE Atom Feed by Charlie White on 10/26/09

Map of Connectedness reveals world's most remote places

Physical distance used to dictate how remote a place was, but no longer. Now that there are airlines reaching around the globe, bullet trains, Autobahn-like superhighways and go-fast boats, the remoteness of the location is measured by how good the transportation is between here and there. In the map above, the darker a location is, the harder it is to get there.

Created by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Italy and the World Bank, the map started out as a model based on how long it would take to travel from each point to a city with a population of 50,000.

Just be happy you’re not in Tibet, the most remote place in the world — you’ll travel three weeks to get to a city of any decent size, including 20 days on foot. And we thought the Midwest was in the boondocks.

New Scientist, via Fast Company

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How to Read Popular Magazines on your Desktop for Free

via Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 5/26/08

free online magazines

This is a very simple & non-geeky trick to help you read the latest issue of popular magazines like PC Magazine, MIT Technology Review, Popular Mechanics, MacWorld, Lonely Planet, Reader’s Digest, etc without paying any subscription charges.

You will also get to read adult magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. Best of all, these digital magazines are exact replicas of print and served as high-resolution images that you can also download on to the computer for offline reading.

How to Read Online Magazines for Free

safari-magazines Step 1: If you are on a Windows PC, go to apple.com and download the Safari browser. Mac users already have Safari on their system.

Step 2: Once you install Safari, go to Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced and check the option that says “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”

Step 3: Open the “Develop” option in the browser menu bar and choose Mobile Safari 1.1.3 – iPhone as the User Agent.

iphone-user-agent

Step 4: You’re all set. Open zinio.com/iphone inside Safari browser and start reading your favorite magazines for free. Use the navigation arrows at the top to turn pages.

For people in countries like India who are already subscribed to Zinio Digital Magazines, this hack is still useful because you get access to certain magazines which are otherwise not available for subscription via Zinio (e.g., Penthouse and Playboy).

Geeks may write a AutoHotKey script or create a “scrolling capture” profile in SnagIt that will auto-flip magazine pages and save all the images locally. Thanks Scott. And here’s a related trick on how to read Wall Street for free.

Even Gigantic Celestial Bodies Prefer Firefox to IE

via Gizmodo by Adam Frucci on 4/11/08

Apparently there are nerds in space, too. This was spotted in variable star V838 Monocerotis of the constellation Monoceros and, holy moley, it looks like the Firefox logo! Whatever. I’ll be impressed when we see a celestial body that looks like an iPod.

[EE Times via CrunchGear via New Launches]

Microsoft Joins Forces With Top Social Networking Sites

via geeksugar — Geek is chic. by geeksugar on 3/31/08

Microsoft may have missed the mark on their Parental Street Cred Videos, but we’ll let it slide this time since they’ve just launched some great new services that are sure to make our lives a bit easier. Thanks to On 10, I’ve just learned that Microsoft has partnered with LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5 so users can easily import their Windows Live contacts into these sites. Utilizing Microsoft’s Windows Live Contacts API, you can now go to sites like Bebo or Facebook and see all your friends — kinda like what Adium and Pidgin did for chat, except with social networking sites.

Not only that, but Microsoft has just introduced a new website called Invite2messenger where people can invite their friends from these “partner social networks” to join their Windows Live Messenger contact list.

OK Microsoft, I take back everything I said about your street cred videos!

Latest Google Earth has flight sim Easter Egg

Google Earth Flight Simulator
When we told you about the new Google Sky feature in the latest version of Google Earth, what we didn’t know is that this version actually contains an Easter Egg, of sorts. It turns out that if you press Ctrl-Alt-A on a PC, or Command-Option-A on a Mac (making sure that the focus is not in a text field), you’ll enable a flight simulator. It’s not particularly well hidden, and once you’ve successfully flown one of the planes it actually shows up as an option on the Tools menu in Google Earth, but still it’s a pretty cool feature.

In fact, it’s one of those “why didn’t we think of it?” types of features. It seems obvious to use Google’s satellite imagery and on-the-fly (sorry for the pun) map loading technology in the context of a flight sim.

So, what is the experience like? Better than you might expect. You get the choice of flying either an F16 jet or an SR22 prop plane, with the obvious speed difference. The controls are pretty delicate and difficult to master, particularly on a keyboard. It appears that Google Earth actually supports joystick input for the flight sim mode, although we haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Most of the world’s biggest airports are represented in the list of starting spots, but you can also choose to start at the current position you were viewing in Google Earth before invoking the flight sim mode.

Before taking to the sky, it is worth reading through the Flight Simulator Keyboard Controls, but if all you want to do is get off the ground, press Page Up repeatedly then press the Down Arrow key a few time as the plane’s velocity increases. This will effectively pull back on the plane’s joystick and vault you into the air. Good luck!


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Google Docs redesign looks great

The new intervace is very usable, and addresses many of the issues people were asking about. Let’s talk about each of the improvements individually.

First, you will notice the interface. There isn’t just one thing about it that I particularly like — it’s all pretty good. It’s speedy, AJAXy and makes me want to use it. You can even drag and drop things into folders — I’m sure some Gmail users are hoping the same thing comes to their inbox soon too.

newdoclist.png

Next, the whole folder structure is brand new. Strangely enough, Google abandoned the “tag” and completely replaced them with folders. Earlier today a friend of mine called me up to ask how to make folders in Google Docs — I’m betting there were a lot of people in that same boat and that’s why it was changed.

newdoclist-big1.png

And last, but not least, the search box now tells you what you are searching for before you finish typing. It has a similar behavior to Google Suggest and the Google Toolbar.

Overall, a great job by the Google Docs team on this one — the only thing missing now is offline functionality and maybe a new look for Writely and Google Spreadsheets to match the new docs list.

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Judge rules COPA unconstitutional

Congress’ efforts to muzzle pornography on the Web were dealt another serious setback on Thursday, when a federal judge ruled a 1998 law was unconstitutional and violated Americans’ First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed in Philadelphia permanently barred prosecutors from enforcing the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, saying it was overly broad and would “undoubtably chill a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech for adults.” The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Even though politicians enacted COPA nearly a decade ago as part of an early wave of Internet censorship efforts, the courts have kept it on ice and it has never actually been enforced. The law makes it a crime for commercial Web sites to make “harmful to minors” material publicly available, with violators fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to six months.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said on Thursday: “We’re still reviewing the court’s opinion and we’ve made no determination what the government’s next step will be.” The Bush administration has the option of appealing its loss to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because of an odd legal legal twist, COPA has been bouncing around the legal system without a final resolution. The law already has been reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court once–which agreed with a temporary ban on enforcement–but the justices said they wanted more information about the current state of filtering technology and stopped short of a definitive ruling on its constitutionality.

Reed’s 84-page opinion (PDF) appears to be intended to provide ample grounds for the Supreme Court to strike down the law for good. The opinion includes a detailed review of the filtering technology’s state of the art and concludes the programs are “fairly easy to install” and are “more effective than ever before.”

The almost-forgotten law found its way into the headlines last year after Justice Department attorneys preparing to defend COPA in Reed’s Pennsylvania courtroom sent subpoenas to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL asking for millions of search records. Only Google fought the subpoena in court, and it managed to persuade a California judge to limit what information prosecutors would receive.

The Justice Department gave excerpts of the search engines’ databases (and, in some cases, anonymized search terms) to its expert, a Berkeley statistics professor named Philip Stark.

In response, Stark and a colleague prepared a report that said 1.1 percent of the Web sites cataloged by Google and MSN are sexually explicit. They also found that, in response to Web pages returned in response to the most popular search terms, AOL’s filter performed the best and blocked 98.7 percent of sexually explicit Web pages. Some filters, however, blocked less than 90 percent of such pages.

In his ruling on Thursday, Reed cited the testimony of one of the ACLU’s witnesses, Carnegie Mellon University professor Lorrie Faith Cranor, who found that filters generally block 95 percent of sexually explicit material. He also said that two congressionally-mandated studies “have confirmed that content filters can be effective at preventing minors from accessing harmful materials online” and are therefore more effective than criminal penalties.

First Amendment precedent makes this a crucial point: Anti-porn laws can only be upheld as constitutional if they’re the least restrictive and most effective way to shield minors from salacious material. Otherwise, they’re viewed as unconstitutional.

What if the Bush administration wins?

If the courts eventually uphold COPA as constitutional, a wide variety of Web publishers–from news to sex education to adult pornography–would have to revamp their sites or face criminal prosecution.

“Teaser” images on U.S. porn sites would likely vanish, since COPA says Webmasters who employ measures such as credit card verification or require an “adult access code” can’t be prosecuted because such mechanisms would typically keep out minors. Other sites would simply move overseas, where U.S. law doesn’t apply.

But COPA’s use of the term “harmful to minors” is broad enough to sweep in more mainstream publishers as well. The term is defined as material that lacks “scientific, literary, artistic or political value” for minors and that is offensive to local “community standards.”

That’s why plaintiffs in the COPA case include the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Salon.com, ObGyn.net, Philadelphia Gay News and the Internet Content Coalition. CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, was a member of the now-defunct Internet Content Coalition.

Reed acknowledged that Congress “apparently intended” COPA to apply to commercial photographers. But he ruled that the actual wording of the law is broad enough that mainstream publishers could “fear prosecution.”

When Congress was debating the law a decade ago, anti-pornography groups identified it as a key political priority and lent strong support to conservative Republicans such as Ohio’s Michael Oxley, COPA’s co-author, who is no longer a member of the House of Representatives.

The American Family Association once called COPA “Congress’ latest attempt to protect innocent children from the devastating effects on Internet pornography.” The Family Research Council filed a legal brief calling the Internet the “most intrusive, pervasive medium of communication ever created,” which can offer a “particularly dangerous method of transmitting” pornography.

COPA represents Congress’ second attempt to restrict sexually explicit material on the Internet. The Supreme Court in 1997 rejected the Communications Decency Act, which targeted “indecent” or “patently offensive” material, as unconstitutional.