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The best tech writing of the week, November 25

The best tech writing of the week, November 25

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Your Sunday Reading

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long reads

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.

On skeuomorphism

Clearing up confusion and misconceptions about "skeuomorphism," Realmac's Christopher Downer explores the term and its use in interface design.

Realmac blog: Christopher Downer - Skeuomorphism and the User Interface

On the surface it’s clad in a tanned Corinthian leather texture, with stitched on tab and tool bars giving it the appearance of… nothing. As aesthetically unique as it looks, Find My Friends is based on something completely fictional, unlike similarly designed Calendar and Contacts.On the Great Firewall

Foreign Policy's Eveline Chao sheds some light on exactly how China's internet is censored.

Foreign Policy: Eveline Chao - Five Myths about the Chinese Internet

Sina Weibo users can post anything they like, and often sensitive posts will even appear in their personal feed, but the post is blocked from search results. In other words, a user might have no idea their post has been "disappeared" and their friends and other users can’t see the post in their feeds. After a term has been unblocked, it quietly reappears in users’ feeds and search results.On the Honeywell Kitchen Computer

Daniela writes about the history behind Honeywell's space age-era Kitchen Computer, a very primitive $10,000 minicomputer that could suggest recipes.

Wired: Daniela Hernandez - Before the iPad, There Was the Honeywell Kitchen Computer

If the lady of the house wanted to build her family’s dinner around broccoli, she’d have to code in the green veggie as 0001101000. The kitchen computer would then suggest foods to pair with broccoli from its database by "speaking" its recommendations as a series of flashing lights. Think of a primitive version of KITT, without the sexy voice.On Nakamatsu

In the December issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Frank Lidz profiles inventor Sir Dr. NakaMats, who has over 3,000 patents to his name. His preferred inspiration process? Starving the brain of oxygen while diving deep underwater.

Smithsonian Magazine: Frank Lidz - Dr. Nakamats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name

Dr. NakaMats keeps his intellect free by following a strict daily routine. Every night in his NakaPenthouse, he retires to the Calm Room, which is actually a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold. "The gold blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to imagination," he says. The Calm Room was built without nails because "nails reflect thinking."
After sitting calmly on the toilet for a spell, surrounded by running water, he moves to the Dynamic Room—actually, an elevator—in which Beethoven serenades him.On windowing

And finally, while we were researching the history behind Windows 1.0 this week, we stumbled across this 1984 editorial in the New York Times.

The New York Times: Erik Sandberg-Diment - Value of windowing is questioned

In the somewhat pretentious pep talk of the software industry, windowing was to emulate the familiar, comforting desktop, a cluttered one at that. But it is extremely difficult to use efficiently a system that displays bits and pieces of documents in windows next to and above and below each other, like so many papers spread out in overlapping piles on a desk with just their edges sticking out here and there to identify them. So little was visible of each document, so few identifying lines, that the user often simply forgot what was hidden underneath. 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.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

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Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


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Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


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The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


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Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
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Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


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Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


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If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


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Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.