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File-sharing in the great outdoors

A "Dead Drop" in New York City

Inspired by geocaching and a desire to get technology out into the physical world, media artist Aram Bartholl has spawned a new Internet phenomenon. “Dead drops” are USB sticks cemented into walls of public buildings, with their locations plotted online at deaddrops.com, the site which invites you to “un-cloud your files in cement”. Together the drops form “an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space”.

The idea is that anyone can upload or download files by plugging their laptop into the wall. The project has sparked a great deal of controversy with some describing the drops as “electronic glory holes”, but as Bartholl says “It’s very much about the thrill and the idea of what could be on there.”

Read an interview with Aram Bartholl at .net.

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Real-time game stats, together with Twitter updates and other sports scores, are overlayed on the device running MetaMirror. (Credit: Notion)

More and more pop-outs, banners and information scrollers are starting to appear on our television sets, particularly during news and sports coverage. And many of us really don’t like that clutter on the screen – though the information is useful. A new concept software interface, MetaMirror, offers a solution – the use of an iPad or tablet to show the same view as your TV, but with all the statistics, scores and replays overlaid on top of it.

It will be interesting as iPads and tablets become more mainstream to see if we see this idea take off.

Read more at CNET.

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A new survey shows that teens in the Ontario average seven hours a day of “screen time”.

The study grouped together time spent watching TV and Internet use as “sedentary behaviour” and suggests a link to a decline in physical and mental health among the students.

What’s interesting here is the implicit suggestion that a person’s entire use of a computer could be considered as a bad thing. Grouping all computer time together with watching TV as “screen time” is, I think, somewhat irresponsible and fails to recognize the diverse roles computers play in our lives.

It’s true that computers can be used for consuming content (YouTube videos or internet TV channels for example) as well as for solitary activities like playing games. These things should perhaps be moderated as you might TV use.

But computers can be used for so many other things now – researching homework assignments, communicating with friends, collaborating with other students, planning trips or shopping. So to group all these activities together as if they are all self-indulgent activities that could be completely avoided is unrealistic at best.

The reality is that computers are now so integrated into our daily lives, and even more so with the younger generation, that to consider taking “screens” out of the equation wholly is simply not possible.

A more interesting piece of research would separate solitary entertainment activities from productive or communication activities, and also look at the differences between students doing such activities offline or online.

It’s also worth considering what the researchers might have found if they’d looked at adults. Most of the office-bound population has seven hours of sedentary time a day – it’s called doing their work at their desk! In this context, the researchers findings are nothing special.

Read more of the study at CBC News.

In other news, researchers find that people use computers a lot…

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Highest definition picture ever taken of Cape Town; 9 gigapixels, 25Gb storageNext week the FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa. We’ve written previously about virtual tourism, the idea that you can explore a place before you go ever physically go there.

Unfortunately Google Street View hasn’t been to Cape Town yet, but map layer specialists Virtual Africa have produced a series of “hyper-definition” images which allow you to zoom from a vista of the whole city right down to the level where you can see construction workers building the Green Point Stadium (this first image was taken last year).

This image pushes the limits of current photographic and processing technology, clocking in at 9 gigapixels and 25 Gigabytes of storage. The source image apparently takes an hour to load! Click the image to zoom and explore Cape Town from the comfort of your own home. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a hidden Wally/Waldo.

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Peter Serafinowicz: Shooting himself by pirating his own movies?

Once, we only bought movies on VHS or DVD, and books in bookstores. But with the digitization of all entertainment media, there are many reasons why this doesn’t make sense any more – portability, cost, transport. Actor and director Peter Serafinowicz finds himself in conflict as both a content producer and consumer as to what is the right thing to do:

With bandwidth and storage increasing exponentially, getting cheaper, and consumers becoming more tech-savvy, its becoming easier every day to grab free copies of books, movies and albums. This is why Internet users are thrilled. Including me. This is why people in the entertainment industry are terrified. Including me.

It’s clear that the media industry and the law have not caught up with the way people want to access and own their content, and the way technology can be used. Read Peter’s detailed discussion of the moral rights and wrongs of piracy on Gizmodo:
Why I Steal Movies… Even Ones I’m In

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Video

This short (20 minute) film, “Play”, by David Kaplan and Eric Zimmerman, explores a world where the lines between augmented reality, virtual worlds and computer games have become so blurred that people begin to lose track of reality. Drawing on themes explored by films like The Matrix, Surrogates and Total Recall, this film is fascinating, thought-provoking and just a little disturbing.

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Internet devices

Canadians spend more time online than watching TV, according to new research. Not surprising, since most of the content we encounter is born online. Blogs, e-mails, tweets and YouTube videos wouldn’t exist without the Internet. You need a connection. And since it’s largely just computers and phones that have Internet connectivity, this often means digesting this digital content on devices that weren’t designed for consumption. Read more »

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