28 Sep 2016
by Admin
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Snapchat Fans, Rejoice: Ballot Selfies Are Totally Constitutional In New Hampshire

An appeals court on Wednesday ruled that a New Hampshire ban on snapping a selfie while casting a ballot violates the free speech rights of voters.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit invalidated the ban, noting that it “affects voters who are engaged in core political speech, an area highly protected by the First Amendment.”

“New Hampshire may not impose such a broad restriction on speech by banning ballot selfies in order to combat an unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch in her ruling.

“We repeat the old adage: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’” she added.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire challenged the ban in federal court on behalf of three Republican voters who were being investigated for the offending conduct during the state’s primary in 2014. One of them, unhappy with his party’s choices for the U.S. Senate, had taken a selfie after writing in his dead dog’s name.

The state defended the measure, arguing that it existed “to prevent new technology from facilitating future vote buying and voter coercion.”

A lower court last year didn’t buy that justification and struck down the prohibition, noting that New Hampshire had offered no evidence that either of those evils had happened since the late 1800s. The appeals court on Wednesday didn’t buy it, either.

“New Hampshire admits that no such vote-selling market has in fact emerged. And to the extent that the State hypothesizes this will make intimidation of some voters more likely, that is no reason to infringe on the rights of all voters,” Lynch wrote.

The ruling represents a victory of sorts for Snapchat maker Snap Inc., which filed a brief in the case and was hoping the state ban wouldn’t survive constitutional scrutiny. The company got several shoutouts in the ruling.

“Amicus Snapchat stresses that younger voters participate in the political process and make their voices heard through the use of ballot selfies,” the court observed in one footnote, which also pointed to research on how voters often flock to social media to publicize how and for whom they vote.

In a statement, the social media giant praised the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for free speech in the digital age,” said Chris Handman, Snapchat’s general counsel. “We’re thrilled the court recognized that ballot selfies are an important way for Americans ― especially younger Americans ― to participate in the political process.”

Some legal experts have warned that ballot selfies could bring down the republic, but Wednesday’s ruling should help assuage some of those fears.

As for everyone else outside of New Hampshire, check with local election authorities before you Instagram your vote in November.

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27 Sep 2016
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Elon Musk Isn’t Kidding About Putting You On Mars

Come hell or high water, Elon Musk is set on sending humans to Mars. And on Tuesday, the billionaire business magnate and tech entrepreneur revealed to the world exactly how he plans to set up a colony on the red planet using Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.

Humans have two fundamental paths, Musk told people gathered at the 67th International Astronautic Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico: “stay on Earth forever” or “become a space-bearing civilization and a multi-planet species.” 

Adopting the latter possibility and colonizing Mars “is the right way to go,” he said. 

To get there, SpaceX plans to build a massive “Interplanetary Transport System,” which the company unveiled in a gripping video posted online prior to Musk’s presentation. The company’s engineering models were used to develop the simulated video. 

“It’s not just, ‘Well, this is what it might look like,’” Musk said. “This is what we plan to try to make it look like.” 

There’s currently no amount of money that can get you to Mars ― and SpaceX estimates the trip would cost around $10 billion per person using traditional methods. That “steep price” doesn’t allow for creating a self-sustaining civilization, Musk said.

SpaceX’s goal is to make the trip affordable, so that the per-person cost of moving to Mars is roughly the price of a median house in the U.S., or about $200,000.

“Not everyone would want to go,” he said. “In fact, a relatively small number of people from Earth would want to go, but enough would want to go and could afford the trip that it would happen.” 

Improving the cost by some 5 million percent, Musk said, sounds “virtually impossible.” But he’s convinced there are ways to do it.

Making spaceships fully reusable will be key, he said in the presentation. It will also be important to pick the right propellant, be able to refill spaceships in orbit and build a propellant production plant on Mars. 

SpaceX plans to build giant vehicles that are capable of carrying about 100 people ― perhaps many more in the future ― plus luggage and other cargo. It would take about 10,000 trips to build a self-sustainable Martian colony of 1 million people, Musk said. 

SpaceX would eventually grow its fleet to about 1,000 ships, Musk added, estimating it would take between 40 and 100 years from the first flight to achieve a civilization. He is aiming to have the first civilian trip to Mars take place in 2025. 

His main motivation for accumulating assets, he said, is making the biggest contribution possible toward becoming interplanetary. 

“It would be an incredible adventure,” he said. “I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I could possibly imagine. And life needs to be more than just solving problems every day, you need to wake up and be excited about the future. Be inspired and want to live.”

He plans for the ships to be spacious, with such amenities as games, movies and a restaurant, and for there to be plenty of exciting experiences in the Mars colony. 

“It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you’d have gravity which is about 37 percent that of Earth, so you’d be able to lift heavy things and bound around and have a lot of fun,” Musk said. 

Robert Zubrin, founder and president of the Mars Society and a longtime advocate of Mars exploration, told The Huffington Post in an email that Musk presented a number of interesting and useful ideas. Zubrin said he doesn’t believe they’re practical in their current form, but added that “with a little modification, they could be made practical and very powerful.”

Ultimately, Zubrin believes Musk will prove successful. 

“I think he will be able to put humans on Mars because he wants to do it,” Zubrin said. “Right now NASA can’t do it because they don’t want to. So Elon seeks solutions for problems, instead of seeking to use problems as rationalizations for endless delay.”

In December, SpaceX made history with an epic vertical landing of a Falcon 9 on land, just 6 miles from where it took off at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a moment Musk called “revolutionary“ and a “critical step along the way to being able to establish a city on Mars.” In March, the company completed the incredibly challenging task of landing the 14-story rocket booster on a drone ship at sea. Four previous at-sea landings had ended in flames.  

The company’s most recent and dramatic failure occurred Sept. 1, when a Falcon 9 burst into flames on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Musk called it “the most difficult and complex failure” the company has had in its 14-year history. 

Watch Elon Musk’s full speech at the International Astronautical Congress below. 

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26 Sep 2016
by Admin
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This Guy Is Wearing Every Piece Of Garbage He Generates For A Month

This guy’s outfit is totally trash-y!  

Environmental activist Rob Greenfield is collecting every single piece of garbage he generates in a month ― from his morning coffee cup to his grocery bag ― and wearing it.  

By walking down the street donning huge bags of trash, Greenfield’s goal is to get people to open their eyes to how much waste a person generates in daily life and how it harms the environment.

“My main focus is trying to educate and inspire people to make less trash,” Greenfield told The Huffington Post. “Some people have zero idea. For them, once they toss something, it’s totally out of sight, out of mind. They don’t get the serious environmental problems it causes.”

On Monday, Greenfield, pictured below, was on day eight of the 30-day journey.

The average American generated around 4.4 pounds of trash per day in 2013, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While some of the trash gets recycled or composted, most of it goes to landfills, where it decomposes, releasing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Greenfield, who is a contributor to Outspeak ― which has a publishing partnership with the Huffington Post ― is hoping to make more people aware of the problem of everyday waste, and ideally get some to change their ways.

“It’s not about going zero waste tomorrow,” Greenfield said. “It might just be that tomorrow you decide not to use plastic cups anymore, and carry your own reusable cup. That could be around 300 fewer cups tossed in a year… If all of us do small things, it adds up to a bigger change.” 

Greenfield is partnering with filmmakers from Living On One film studio to document his project, called Trash Me. They will be posting videos of his progress on Facebook and YouTube through mid-October.

Greenfield wasn’t always this environmentally conscious. Five years ago, aged 25, he was a self-described “typical” guy working in advertising sales.

“I lived in a three-bedroom apartment, had a nice car that I shined every Sunday. I was very materialistic,” Greenfield said. “Then I started reading up on these issues, watching Netflix documentaries. I started making little changes ― and here I am.”

Now Greenfield is a full-time environmental activist, living an almost zero-waste life. His previous projects have included going a year without showering to save water, and only having 111 possessions to live more sustainably.

“To exist for me costs about a couple hundred dollars a month,” Greenfield said. “For food, I often get it from grocery store dumpsters, which raises awareness about food waste. And for shelter, I’m mostly traveling for projects, so I stay with whichever project I’m helping out with.”

This month’s project will mark a departure from Greenfield’s usual waste-free lifestyle, as he will have to consume and toss garbage as a typical person would.

On the upside, the trash he’ll generate won’t go to a landfill, as he plans on keeping his garbage-filled suit for future public speaking appearances.

My goal in life is to do things that get people to think about how their actions affect the world,” Greenfield said. “I would love people to transform their lives, to live out the things they believe in and are sharing on Facebook ― and not just share it, but actually do it.” 

To learn more about the project, check out Greenfield’s website.

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25 Sep 2016
by Admin
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The Welcome Return of Black Wall Street

The post-Reconstruction South ushered in Jim Crow laws, systemically designed to condemn the black community to second-class citizenship. To counter this reality, several black communities across the country developed areas known as “Black Wall Street.”

These were financial nerve centers of economic development spurred by black entrepreneurs who sought to meet the needs of their community that would otherwise be denied because of segregation.

Arguably, the most successful of the Black Wall Streets was located in Durham. The four block hub on Parrish Street served the black community there for nearly a century.
National leaders including W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington visited Durham on several occasions, seeing it as a model of successful black entrepreneurship that should be replicated in other areas. By the 1960s, much of what Black Wall Street symbolized was but a glorious memory of yesteryear.

But today, a group of young entrepreneurs — Jesica Averhart, Talib Graves-Manns, Dee McDougal and Tobias Rose — have formed a partnership in Durham, building on the Black Wall Street legacy to offer a groundbreaking 21st century version.

With a goal of increasing the number of entrepreneurs of color, specifically in the world of technology, this 21st century version of Black Wall Street celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship within diverse, multicultural communities. Next month, they will host their second annual Black Wall Street Homecoming conference in Durham.

“When you think about what made Black Wall Street so special at the turn of the century, it was problem solving,” Averhart told me, adding, “You had a black community 30 years removed from slavery, trying to figure out how to survive in a country that wasn’t accepting them.”

And the problem that today’s Black Wall Street is attempting to solve is a gargantuan one.

Technology, on the idea front, along with professional sports, may represent the ultimate meritocracies, where one is measured largely by one’s talents and abilities. But when one examines it from the perspective of who receives funding, meritocracy quickly takes a backseat to the more traditional ways decisions are made in America.

“The beauty of technology is that it knows no color. However, the need for Black Wall Street and organizations like ours today is that the ‘club’ still exists,” McDougal told me. “Access to capital and connection is what we really want to provide to entrepreneurs of color,” she said.

McDougal’s analysis is supported by a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that stated that in 2015, venture capitalists deployed $58.8 billion into various stages of technology ventures. Less than one percent went into black-owned businesses.

Even more staggering is to consider the difficulty for anyone seeking funding. According to McDougal, “Venture capitalists tell us they receive between 1,000 and 2,000 proposals annually. Of that group they actually review 200, and of that 200 they may make 5-10 investments.”

But the funding disparity that Black Wall Street seeks to address is not a resurrection of the challenges that their antecedents faced. It is human nature in this case to fund the businesses with which one is familiar. Too often, businesses of color never get an opportunity to pitch venture capitalists, let alone reach the seed round of funding.

If the groups making the funding decisions are comprised primarily of white men, it stands to reason that without an intentional effort, businesses led by people of color and women will be left out.

I also suspect if those demographics were reversed and it were black men who dominated the venture capitalists decisions, they would be more prone to invest in businesses headed by black men.

The only way to grow scalable businesses, securing the proper funding, is having access to the right connections. This is the primary gap that Black Wall Street seeks to close.
While the reasons behind this phenomenon are obviously not as pernicious as, say, Jim Crow segregation, the existing narrative remains problematic.

But many of those in a position to finance these ventures also see it in their self-interest as a problem worth addressing. This is not some quota to satisfy a particular group, but a willingness to expand the pool of possibilities in order to invest in someone with an idea that can potentially change the current landscape.

Google Fiber, the Magic Johnson Foundation, Square 1 Bank and American Underground are among the organizations underwriting the upcoming conference that will put entrepreneurs at every stage with venture capitalists and others.

The conference will take place Oct. 12-14 at various venues in Downtown Durham. For more information, go to

The Rev. Byron Williams is a writer and the host of the NPR-affiliated “The Public Morality”

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24 Sep 2016
by Admin
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Snapchat Is Making Sunglasses With A Built-In Camera

If you weren’t addicted enough to Snapchat already, there will soon be a new way to record and share your most memorable moments.

Snapchat announced on Saturday, a brand new piece of hardware called Spectacles ― sunglasses with a built-in camera to record Snaps.

“Imagine one of your favorite memories,” the announcement on the company’s website reads. “What if you could go back and see that memory the way you experienced it? That’s why we built Spectacles.”

The company also changed its name to Snap Inc., a move which CEO Evan Spiegel said reflects the company’s future. “Now that we are developing other products, like Spectacles, we need a name that goes beyond just one product,” he wrote in a blog post. Snap Inc. is described on its website as “a camera company.

The tiny wireless camera built into the sunglasses will be capable of recording “a day’s worth of Snaps on a single charge,” according to the Spectacles announcement. Recording is as simple as tapping a button near the hinge and, since Spectacles will be wirelessly linked to your smartphone, the Snaps are then automatically added to your Memories.

Since Snapchat has always been limited to smartphone cameras, the new hardware opens up a whole new world. Plus, users will be able to have their hands free, which will lend a more personal, first-person perspective to Snaps. 

Though the website says the Spectacles will be available “soon,” it might be a while before you can get your hands on a pair. “We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” Spiegel told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”

The Spectacles will cost $129.99 and will be available in three colors ― black, teal, and coral.

And even if you’re not a Snapchat aficionado, you have to admit that these things look pretty cool.

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23 Sep 2016
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The 20 Funniest Tweets From Women This Week

The ladies of Twitter never fail to brighten our days with their brilliant ― but succinct ― wisdom. Each week, HuffPost Women rounds up hilarious 140-character musings. For this week’s great tweets from women, scroll through the list below. Then visit our Funniest Tweets From Women page for our past collections.     

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22 Sep 2016
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Interning At A Start-Up — Part 2

Last week I introduced myself and provided some general advice. This week in my presentation to C.S. students is the core question – what’s it like to work at a start-up.

So what is it like? It is one of the most exhilarating challenging difficult frustrating and ultimately rewarding jobs you will ever have. If you like it, you’ll find yourself unable to go work anywhere else. If you don’t like the environment, then it’ll be painfully awful.

One historian titled the onset of the industrial revolution in Europe with a single word – Acceleration. Tremendous advancement comes not from a single discovery, but in a rapid acceleration in learning and applying that knowledge. We’re in one of those periods.


And in times of rapid change comes a lot of opportunity. Change can make you uncomfortable or it can get you excited. Either way, you can take advantage of it. And that fundamentally is what a start-up is. A means to take advantage of change.

The first thing to realize is you will fail – a lot. The number and size of the mistakes I’ve made in my jobs is awful. You will too. And the more you push, the bigger and more mistakes you will make.

And when you make those mistakes, everyone will see them. There’s no hiding them. The best thing to do when it happens is own up to it and figure out the best way to fix it. And keep in mind one important thing, a large part of success is making fewer mistakes than others. Your competitors are all making big mistakes too. Usually much bigger ones.

A hedgehog knows one thing very well. A fox knows many things. At a start-up you need to be a fox. My success at Windward is in large part my programming skills. But at times my marketing skills have been key. My sales ability, which is poor, has been essential. It’s useful to be very good at your core job. But it’s critical that you’re competent at a wide number of other jobs.

It will take everything you’ve got. One of our interns was given his first task the second day. By the end of the day he knew he couldn’t do it and went home almost in tears ready to give up. But that night he decided that he was not going to let this beat him. He came back in and over the next 2 weeks figured it out. And became, by my count, one of 3 people in the world who understood a totally undocumented API.

Working at a start-up is like going on Outward Bound. It won’t push you to your limits, it will push you beyond them as you discover your actual limits are far beyond what you think they are.

What to do in School

So you’re in school and you want to go be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Good – that’s the kind of goal that drives you to success.

Step 1 is you need to intern at start-ups while you’re in school. During the school year if you can. During the summer you must. An internship is job experience for you. It’s a detailed interview process for the company.

Interning one summer at a large company like Facebook, Microsoft, etc. is also good experience. But the rest at start-ups. (One of the interns at Windward spent this past summer at Google – and he kept getting jobs completed in about 1/2 the time they expected. That’s the prep you get at a top start-up.)

You’ll learn a lot, you’ll meet new friends, and you’ll have an incredible sense of accomplishment. On the flip side, without internship experience, how will start-ups be able to evaluate if they want to hire you? That’s their #1 measure.

Next create your own software products. Small games on Android are fine. Or a website for a club you’re in. Part of this is to show where your interests lie and part is to show you love programming. If at all possible do some that require serious multi-threaded programming as you learn a lot doing that.

Third is participating in hackathons. These are really useful as they show that you can work in a collaborative environment with your teammates. And, if the projects in the hackathons differ enough, it shows a wide variety of products you created. Finally, and this is oh so important in the start-up world, you’ve shipped products! That’s gigantic.

And finally comes the GPA. Your parents like a high GPA. Big corporations like a high GPA. But in the start-up world, while some do look at this, most have learned that it has almost no correlation with success and ignore it. At Windward we don’t ask it of applicants.

Next week – What Matters

first published on LinkedIn

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22 Sep 2016
by Admin
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Email Hacking, And You And I

You and I aren’t likely to be the victim of an “email hack job” (my phrase). Yes, the KGB hasn’t existed (we are told) since the 1990’s. But assuming it’s the KGB that’s doing the dirty deed to our public figures, as is the conventional wisdom, you and I simply aren’t important enough to them.

If we’re going to be hacked – if that’s really the word for it – our emails will be intercepted by jilted loved ones, with whom in better days we may have shared our passwords, or our employers who told us on Day One of our employment that the company’s email system belonged to them and we waived any privacy, period. So much so that a New York court, when addressing a lawsuit against a hospital by a famous surgeon, actually held that when the doctor emailed his own lawyer in confidential, privileged, emails about strategy in his suit against the hospital, his emails weren’t protected because they were sent from work. One can question why the surgeon used his work account . . . but that’s not the topic of this article.

The lesson to be derived from the leaked (by who?) disclosure of Colin Powell’s emails presents a far greater issue for all of us. For they showed that one of the most revered figures of our time, although no longer in government service, was not only vulnerable to the hacking, but that in his private communications he was as gossipy as the rest of us – taking shots at both Clinton and Trump in the manner of a virtual, one-man, focus group – Trump as a “national disgrace” and Clinton as one with “unbridled ambition” and “not transformational.” Not to mention her husband’s continuing – how shall I put it? It’s ironic, indeed, given that it’s Hillary that is under the gun for having used a non-secure account to conduct business while she was Secretary of State.

When you look at the things Powell said in email, it kind of says something: that human beings are human beings – even those of Powell’s stature. But it also shows us that it is remarkably easy for mischief to be perpetrated when we are indiscreet. Email and texting are so prevalent today that we are (for better or worse) able to learn in haec verba what others actually think or thought, with no holds barred. Even if they intended those communications to be private.

So The New York Times last Friday, in a front page story titled “Concern Over Colin Powell’s Hacked Emails Becomes a Fear of Being Next,” tells us how public figures are dealing with the fear of being hacked. The interviews, naturally, were with “big shots” – politicians, news anchors and others legitimately fearful of being next in the line of fire.

But what about the rest of us? OK, our emails (probably) won’t end up on the front page of The Times. And since we are not going to change human nature, it is likely useless to suggest that we become more discreet and measured about what we say about friends and colleagues, and non-friends and non-colleagues. Let’s face it, people have been saying rotten things about others since the dawn of time. It’s beyond my pay grade – and would be extremely hypocritical – for me, in particular, to encourage the next guy to be “a better person.” (I imagine my friends laughing).

So let’s look at hacking, given the people we are. I have often advocated (but have not always followed) a rule of waiting 6 hours (or whatever) before hitting “send.” And maybe that works for some – that by waiting, the angst, anger or snide comment will have faded, and simply hitting “delete” will do the job. But maybe the better answer is to simply change our mindset altogether – to go retro, as it were. Maybe the answer is to simply return to a time when if we had something rotten to say, we actually (and not virtually) “said” it. Yes, our phone bills might be a little higher; but maybe by the time the person called answers the phone or calls back, the “need” to say it will have disappeared. Or maybe, saying “it” to a real person, rather than having it exist forever in cyberspace with no way to gauge a reaction, will temper our comments or our tone. All of this toward a personal decision to use emails or texts when there is a real need for it and not as a substitute for personal conversation. Yes, a real need for it!

And maybe, yes, the Snowdens of the world don’t deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor. But maybe they do deserve our thanks for holding a mirror up to us, and our willingness to engage in gossipy, and perhaps self-destructive, behavior.

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01 Jun 2014
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Quickblox revises pricing

Another BaaS (Backend-as-a-service) company has revised its pricing structure. I’m talking about Quickblox this time. This is good news for developers, and most of the viable BaaS products on the market have a very capable “free tier” – honestly, I can’t see much need for the indie developer to waste their time developing the backend for their mobile app. The free tiers offered by companies such as Parse and Quickblox will be more than adequate for most mobile apps. In fact, should you need to move into a paid tier, this is probably a nice problem to have because it means your app is doing quite well!

Quickblox recently revised their pricing. Both the free tier and the first paid tier make the service quite accessible. The free tier is quite capable, allowing your app to have around 20,000 monthly user and supporting 20 chat requests per second. That’s pretty decent. The first paid tier comes in at $49 per month, half the price of Parse’s first paid tier, and gives you 35,000 monthly users and ups the chat requests to 35 per second. Certainly, Quickblox is offering a competitive pricing plan.

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