We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
Dan Goodin contrasts the new reality where password cracking speeds formerly only possible via supercomputers can be achieved with the help of a $500 GPU with the fact that most users still use painfully simple passwords to protect their most important data.
Ars technica: Dan Goodin - Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger
At any given time, Redman is likely to be running thousands of cryptographically hashed passwords though a PC containing four of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 graphics cards. It's an "older machine," he conceded, but it still gives him the ability to cycle through as many as 6.2 billion combinations every second. He typically uses a dictionary file containing about 26 million words, combined with programming rules that greatly extend its effectiveness by adding numbers, punctuation, and other characters to each list entry.
Reyhan Harmanci talks to employees at some of the web's biggest sites and social networks dedicated to keeping the web clean of child pornography, beheadings, and the worst of the internet.
BuzzFeed: Reyhan Harmanci - How Child Porn And The Other Awfulest Things Ever Get Scrubbed From The Internet
This is not to say that every individual in this line of work has had a bad experience: the ability to handle such a mentally demanding job differs from person to person. And tech companies say that they do offer special benefits to employees who view disturbing content for a living. Facebook has a "safety team" that is tasked with reviewing the most sensitive material, and according to a spokesman, they offer "in-house training, and also, counseling for our employees." A Google spokeswoman told me that the one-year contracts (which can frustrate those looking to stay on for longer) were designed to ensure that no one held the most brutal jobs indefinitely. Also, Google brings in independent counselors to talk to teams about secondary trauma — the kind of trauma that comes from seeing abused people and not being able to help.
Cam Simpson traces the tin used in modern phones, tablets, and TVs to the dangerous tin-mining pits of Indonesia's Bangka Island, the source of a third of the world's global supply.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Cam Simpson - The Deadly Tin Inside Your Smartphone
Rosnan worked among thousands of Indonesians who wield pickaxes and buckets each day on Bangka Island, extracting the tin that becomes the solder that binds components in the world’s tablet computers, smartphones, and other electronics. Police figures show Bangka miners died in accidents similar to Rosnan’s at an average of almost one a week last year, more than double the rate from 2010. There is good reason to believe it’s getting worse. At the end of July, five Bangka miners were killed beneath another mudslide.
Rahel Aima considers the "hyperkineticism of the web," the Slow Web Movement, and the future of reading.
Rhizome: Rahel Aima - The Web That Can't Wait
Here, again, was that same urgency transposed from page to screen. Do you know the feeling? That sharp, almost adrenal jolt when you open just one more tab and all the favicons disappear to give you a segmented line of characters? You can’t increase your screen resolution much more, but keep the pages open, just on the off chance that you might actually read them. Perhaps you quickly scan in order to close a tab, yet find yourself clicking on "History" just moments later, just in case you missed something. Perhaps you feel guilty about not giving each piece the undivided attention you once lavished upon your books, but often, just knowing the dust jacket-like gist seems to be enough.
On personal libraries
While moving across the country, Joseph Esposito reflects on trimming down his family's personal library and the ebook's appeal.
the scholarly kitchen: Joseph Esposito - E-books and the Personal Library
Reducing the size of my personal library made me aware that I had probably bought my last new print book. There may be exceptions to this, as when I purchase a gift for someone, but otherwise my new books will be e-books. Used books are a different matter, though, as the pleasure of browsing is something I will not give up until the last bookstore closes. I will continue to read print because I already own so many unread print books, but the e-book revolution is well on its way in this household. Oddly, it is easier to contemplate a world of e-books than a house without stuffed bookshelves.
On occasion of the digital launch of Art Space Tokyo, Craig Mod describes the difficulties (and advantages) of designing a book across multiple platforms.
Craig Mod: Craig Mod - Platforming Books
And so, in the last two years a simple, strong truth has emerged: The future of books is built upon networked platforms, not islands. More than any surface advancement — interface, navigational, typographic, or similar — platforms define how we read going forward. Platforms shape systems — those of production, consumption, distribution — and all critical changes happening in digital books and publishing happen within systems. Post-artifact books and publishing is not just about text on screens.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.