Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Technology Lesson: Bitcoin

Bitcoin is "an experimental, decentralized digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world." (Old People may recognize Bitcoin from The Good Wife.) It is taking the world by storm, but because I care about Old People, I'll cut the the most important part: Think carefully before using it.

In short, you convert your actual money into a digital currency, and can then transfer it using your smartphone or computer to transfer the funds. Bitcoin does not use a bank and depends on a peer-to-peer network. 

From a Washington Post article last month:
The coin in question now has a global circulation worth more than $1.4 billion on paper. Yet almost no one, it seems, knows the true identity of its creator. In the United States, this mysterious money has become the darling of antigovernment libertarians and computer wizards prospecting in the virtual mines of cyberspace. In Europe, meanwhile, it has found its niche as the coinage of anarchic youth.
And, from Lifehacker:
You can obtain Bitcoin's either by trading other money, goods, or services with people who have them or through mining. The mining process involves running software that performs complex mathematical equations for which you're rewarded a very small portion of a Bitcoin. When you actually have some of the currency, you can then use it to purchase anything that accepts it.
The anonymous transfer of money can be good for privacy, but authorities are worried about its use for money laundering and the buying and selling of illegal items. ("The FBI, for example, says that 'the way it creates, operates and distributes bitcoins makes it distinctively susceptible to illicit money transfers.'")

Finally, the last word from a different Washington Post article:
But Bitcoin still makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Regulators and law enforcement officials by and large view Bitcoin as a dangerous tool for money laundering. Others refer to Bitcoin as an underground banking system or the currency of those who seek to engage in more controversial activities — such as financing the development of 3D-printed guns. And Bitcoin may not be as safe as its supporters would like to think, no matter how strong the encryption, given the Bitcoin heists and hacks of the past 18 months.

Additional Resources:
The rise of the bitcoin: Virtual gold or cyber-bubble?, The Washington Post
Trojan Turns Your PC Into Bitcoin Mining Slave, Wired
Bitcoin And The End Of Money, TechCrunch What Is Bitcoin and What Can I Do With It?, Lifehacker Man Wants To Be The First To Sell A House For Bitcoins Because Real Money Is So 2008, Consumerist
What Is A Bitcoin?, Washington Post
Why reports of Bitcoin’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Culture Lesson: Hadouken

Hadouken is one of the latest memes-slash-photography crazes. You can see a sample above. The word is a Japenese neologism that roughly translates to "surge fist." The pose is from the game Street Fighter, a popular title in the 1980s.

In Japan, hadouken is called "makankosappo." (In translation it means "demonic piercing light murder gun.") Though the makankosappo is derived from a pose from Dragon Ball-Z. In the US, both moves, and other videogame derived stunts, are called hadouken.

Since I feel like I'm not being clear (and I love that this was started by girls!) I'll let Mashable explain, too:
The meme's spark was kindled in Japan when schoolgirls started posting pictures of themselves throwing balls of lightning at each other, Street Fighter-style. And that's all there is to it. Imgur user grimlockt then kindly pointed it out to the rest of us so we could all beneofit from a new photo trend. 
Seems safer than planking!

Additional Resources:
Makankosappo, Wikipedia
Hadouken, Flickr blog
Hadouken Meme Strikes Internet Like Lighting, Mashable

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Technology Lesson: Good Reads

Goodreads is a website that lets users catalog the books they are reading, want to read, and have read. Users can rank books, submit reviews, and get recommendations. It was recently purchased by Amazon.

Goodreads launched in early 2007. And in 2001, per Wikipedia:
In 2011, Goodreads acquired Discovereads, a book recommendation engine that employs "machine learning algorithms to analyze which books people might like, based on books they've liked in the past and books that people with similar tastes have liked."[10][11] After a user has rated twenty books on its five star scale, the site will begin making recommendations.
Users can interact with their friends. The site or app will search through your address book and social media sites to find friends on Goodreads, allowing you to see what your friends are reading, rating, and reviewing. (Is it not an anomaly, but it's more fun for a dork like me.)

Goodreads is also available as an app. It can be used through most devices and Facebook.

Some other similar services are LibraryThing and Shelfari. I have Goodreads on my iPod and enjoy it, so at minimum, I have a tool to collect ISBNs and titles I want to put on hold when I'm on the go. (The Brooklyn Public library did finally release an app this year.) I haven't used LibraryThing or Shelfari, if anyone wants to chime in, I'm all ears (and eyes)!

Additional Resources:
Goodreads Amazon To Buy Goodreads, And Owns Part Or All Of Its Competitors, Too, Consumerist

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's That Facebook Flag?

Hello tech savvy Old People! I'm writing this post a full week ahead of schedule. Though I usually write several weeks in advance, I do not often cover current events. (Not like I used to!) So be patient with my sense of tense, please!

You may have seen this logo on Facebook in the last week and wondered what it was:

This is a red and pink flag meant to show support of last week's Supreme Court hearings about same-sex marriage and possible DOMA and Prop 8 repeal. (The cases are Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.) The flag is a red and pink version of the Human Rights Campaign's logo, which is blue with a yellow equal sign:

The Equality Flag was designed by Stone/Yamashita in 1995.

Naturally, the Internet went forth and modified (with the HRC's Facebook's permission, even if the HRC was itself a little wary), providing some variation in a sea of red and pink on Facebook. Mine for example, is a version of the Black Flag logo. The original logo is on the right:

Of course, I think I am clever by using this, since the seminal 1980s hardcore band's 1977 Raymond Pettibone-designed logo is meant to evoke a waving black flag. I know Old People are rolling their eyes with the knowledge that a black flag means anarchy. Sometimes some kind, web-savvy adults are 19-years-old forever. 

Additional Resources:
Human Rights Campaign on Facebook
About Our Logo, Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign had no idea this was going to happen, Ad Week
The Gay Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why the HRC Flag and Other Social Justice Memes Matter, Policymic