What If Old Gadgets Had the Same Screen As the Next iPad?

Like the iPhone 4s, the next iPad is going to have a screen so sharp that it doesn’t seem like it’s made up of discrete dots. But of course it is. They’re just densely packed: 3,145,728 of them clustered together at 264 pixels-per-inch, to be exact.

Which got me thinking: How big would the new iPad be, physically, if it were using the same screen technology as the gadgets people already own, like a laptop or a TV?

So I ran the numbers. The current iPad, for example, has a 9.7-inch, 1024 × 768 screen, which works out to a pixel density of about 131 PPI. In order to match the new iPad’s total number of pixels, the iPad 2 would need a 19-inch screen at its current pixel density. In other words: it would be huge.

Here are a few more, just for fun:

Special thanks to BuzzFeed visual designer Amy Sly. buzzfeed.com

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/how-to-think-about-the-next-ipads-retina-screen

Horse_Ebooks: The Dril Question

Horse_ebooks, the most visible outgrowth of Weird Twitter, was today revealed as a long-running art project by a BuzzFeed employee (though not on the editorial side) and his friend, Thomas Bender.

Many had suspected that the account was no longer a bot; few, and none at BuzzFeed, knew it was run by Jacob Bakkila. In any case, its popularity had been steadily rising for nearly three years.

The reveal was a surprise, but in retrospect made some degree of sense. Bakkila used to go by @agentlebrees on Twitter before deleting his account. He left Twitter before coming to work at BuzzFeed, for fear, he said at the time, of alienating potential employers. Some time after joining BuzzFeed he helped us with an oral history of Weird Twitter, where he participated in character — @agentlebrees was an early, and influential, account among Weird Twitter people. Few knew who was really behind it, but few cared. It was a character.

More interesting, in retrospect, was that he connected us with the second most visible, and by far the best loved, Weird Twitter account.

Jacob claimed to know Dril, which was strange, because nobody knows Dril. He offered to connect us, and said Dril was interested in participating in the oral history and gave me a throwaway email address. He responded, and it was funny.

Jacob also told us a little about Dril, saying he was a graphic designer, or something like that, and that he lived in the tri-state area. He said he had hired him to do some work on a “project” he had been working on, but stopped short of giving us any identifying information. Suggestions that we give this “graphic designer” work were rebuffed. The secrecy was never explained but never really questioned; Dril is an art project and the creator didn’t want to come forward, at least not all the way. It made enough sense.

He also pointed us to a video series created by Dril, with unspecified others, documenting Trey Parker and Tré Cool’s battle to rename April either Treypril or Trépril, and one policeman’s mission to stop them at any cost. It’s, well. It’s something:

Today, we’re left with an obvious question: Is Jacob Dril? Maybe. It would make some sense. He wasn’t able to talk this morning, as he was in the middle of his big reveal, answering phones with Bender and New Yorker writer Susan Orlean (!!!), reading off tweets from a sheet of paper. At the event, he was occupied. We tried to call; the line was busy.

Perhaps a better question: Was Jacob in on Dril? Almost certainly. (Dril was a presence, alongside ABG, for years on SomethingAwful’s FYAD board. It would have been a lot of work for one person.)

In that case, Dril is not a just character created by a reclusive genius or a mysterious weirdo or a shut-in. He’s not just a good joke taken far. He’s an identity created and maintained with clear motive, by, or at least with the knowledge, of a BuzzFeed advertising employee. An art project, a viral stunt. Part character, part troll. But mostly troll.

For a while, Favstar.fm retained a copy of the old @AGentleBrees tweets. This morning, the Favstar page was gone, but the @AGentleBrees account appeared to come back, although it’s unclear if it’s actually him (Jacob was busy answering phones as part of the art installation today, but it could have been someone acting on his behalf).

A few tweets that were copies of the “best of” original Twitter appeared earlier this morning, but were then deleted.

Currently, there is only this tweet:

Dril’s latest tweet was at a BuzzFeed editorial employee:

So for now, the closest thing we have to closure is this line, given to us by Jacob for our oral history:

Data-sickness sweeps the land and twitter obliterates all mysteries. All information is present.

Indeed. Nobody likes to be fooled, but man. Pretty sick troll. Nice.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/horse-ebooks-the-dril-question

The (Fairly) Legal Way To Watch Streaming Video From Anywhere In The World

The British documentary 56 Up, is airing exclusively on U.K. television right now. Part of the acclaimed and popular decades-long Up series, which has revisited the same 14 people every seven years, it’s an important and unique documentary. But there’s no date set for when or if it will air on TV in the U.S.

ITV, the U.K. television network and the studio behind 56 Up, is streaming the film on their website. But the moment the page loaded my excitement was crushed when I was met with a pop-up that read: “Sorry. This video is only available to be viewed within the United Kingdom.” So it’s not available online on this side of the Atlantic, either.

Seemingly, the only way to watch it is illegally. Which is ridiculous, as I’ve argued before.

Then I received an email that changed everything. A reader of my piece for The Atlantic, and a diehard fan of the series, told me that there is a way: a VPN (virtual private network), which essentially disguises where your IP address is located, so you could be in one country but it appears that you are located somewhere else — like the U.K. (VPNs typically have received press for their use by dissidents and journalists in authoritarian states like China so they can have unrestricted use of the web.) There are multiple types of VPNs and the details about how they work get pretty technical. But in a nutshell, as Pete Davis, a VPN expert from tech giant Cisco explained to me, “normally the end user’s IP address is located in whatever immediate area he is in, but with a VPN you use a piece of software on your computer to establish a connection with a server at some other location.”

But before I pulled the trigger on using a VPN to watch the series from across the ocean, I had to know: Is it legal? After contacting numerous attorneys who specialize in Internet and intellectual property law, the short(ish) answer is “basically yes, but it’s complicated.”

To be philosophical about it, who or where are you, really, when you’re online? Are you the physical person sitting in your chair? Or is it fair to say that you are who or where your computer or connection says you are? By using a VPN — one in the UK for instance — to access the internet and do your thing, “for all intents and purposes you are watching the show from the U.K.,” explained Bret Fausett, a lawyer based in Marina del Rey, California, with extensive ties to ICAAN (the organization that oversees the use of Internet domains). Among the attorneys I spoke with, Fausett was also the most blunt in answering whether this is legal. He flat out says, “It’s not a crime.”

If anyone is going to be held liable for deception by connection to watch TV, it’s probably not the user. “The VPN may be subject to legal action,” Joshua Mooney, a Philadelphia lawyer who handles intellectual property matters in cyberspace, noted. “But holding a consumer — specifically a US consumer — liable is different.” To nail a user for infringement, a company would have to meet a very specific checklist.

Interestingly, Mooney believes that the technology involved may play a role in the legality of using the VPN for watching content. Watching streaming content, he said, may have different implications than downloading content. “If the content somehow is being converted from one format to another, it’s possible you technically are copying it [during the conversion process].” Which means you’d be breaking the law. But if you’re watching a straight, unconvereted stream at home, then you’re probably okay.

The main reason that content gets geo-locked, the lawyers theorized, is over copyright and licensing issues that haven’t been dealt with by the provider. Largely due to old, outdated distribution modes, the world gets divvied up into different territories with different rights holders for each region. Content providers, the lawyers said, fearful of running afoul of rightsholders in one region or another, take the easy route and simply “lock” their content to the limited area they know they’ve secured rights for. “Providers don’t want to be held accountable if they broadcast a U.K. show in the U.S. without getting appropriate licenses first,” Mooney suggested.

Beyond technical and licensing issues, another issue affecting legality is whether or not the content is free. “If a provider is charging for it in the U.S., but it’s free in U.K.,” and you’re watching it for free in the U.S. using a VPN, then you could run into some issues, Fausett said. He noted, though, that in gray areas of the law like this there’s always a counterargument to be made. “If the content is not available in the US,” he mused, “and is available in the U.K. for free,” such as the case with 56 Up, “then I think that’s a hard case to prove wrongdoing, because you didn’t steal anything.”

Another hypothetical: You’re in France, and you’re using a VPN to watch a Netlfix movie streamed from the U.S. that’s also available for purchase via French websites. In this scenario, “It’s not clear whether this is legal.” Fauset said. “It could be legal because you are accessing the content from the US.” The reality is, the law in this area is so open to interpretation that no one really knows for sure.

I gave Fauset a last scenario: What if you’re in the US and you use a VPN to purchase content that’s only being sold in U.K.? “As long as you are buying it, then there’s no problem,” he explained. “It’s no different than having a friend in the U.K. going to a store and buying it for you.”

Erik Syverson, a Los Angeles-based attorney who has “made Internet law the cornerstone” of his practice, puts the onus on the content provider. “It’s a language problem,” he said. “If I’m ITV, and if I want to restrict this technology, then I need to come up with specific language on my site saying, ‘Don’t use a VPN.’” He adds, “The interesting question isn’t whether something is illegal or not. Legality has little to no influence on human, and particularly entrepreneurial, behavior. You would be paralyzed; there would be no innovation if everything done was legal.” After all, he noted, “YouTube was a business founded upon knowing it had copyright infringements.”

I’m not blindly in the “information wants to be free” camp. ITV should charge for this content. Films cost money to produce, and I’d happily give money to support the series so it can continue. What I am arguing, ultimately, is instead of clinging to outdated legal constructs, providers would do well to make their content available immediately everywhere and charge for it. As Syverson said, “I’m not a studio head, but the old methodology of rolling out content region by region doesn’t make sense. These types of restrictions are a bad idea because people will always find a way to get it.”

If you’re curious to check out “56 Up” and don’t want to wait, you can hop a plane across the Atlantic tomorrow. Or you can use My Expat Network, the VPN used by the fan who emailed me. (At 5 £ a month, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a seat on a Virgin 747.) Their servers are located in the U.K., and, if you use them, by extension, so are you. There are a bunch of other good VPNs, too, like StrongVPN.

P.S. While attorneys were used as sources for this article, they are not your attorneys, and this piece does not constitute legal advice.

David Zweig is writer, lecturer, musician. He writes mostly about the intersection of technology, media, & psychology. You should follow him on Twitter, or Facebook, if that’s your jam.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/davidzweig/the-fairly-legal-way-to-watch-streaming-video-fr

The 16 Types Of Confessions You Find On Whisper

Imagine an app that’s basically Post Secret, but with more teens and a messaging feature. That’s Whisper. The app works by automatically supplying a background image for your confession, which makes your gross revelation seem like a tasteful Tumblr-friend “Just Girly Things” image macro.

At its core, the app is an anonymous confession-sharing service. But it also includes the ability to search for people near you, as well as a messaging feature, which means there’s a healthy flow of thirsty locals trying to hook up. Open up the “local” section and you’ll find a fair amount of Craigslist-style sex requests.

Anyway: so many teen thoughts! Teen problems! They’re delightful! All they want is a boyfriend or girlfriend to cuddle. They hate their parents. They are obsessed with the concept of virginity. They also sometimes hook up with their teachers.

Here are the best types of confessions you’ll find on Whisper:

1. The supremely fucked-up confessions:

2. The shocking confessions:

3. The very gross revelations:

4. This weird obsession with staying in and making out with a significant other:

Go on a date, teens!

5. The thirst:

6. The microWTF

7. The macroWTF:

8. The anti-gay revelations:

9. The gay confessions:

10. The ruefully depressing confessions:

11. The cheesy romantic Whispers (this was one of the most popular last week):

12. The sad virgin teen ones:

13. The disturbing and illegal ones:

14. And lastly, the surprising amount of teacher–student sex confessions:

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/the-kinds-of-confessions-on-whisper

2012: The Year The Desktop App Died

“Which email program should I get? Which browser? Which messaging app? What about a music player? I hate iTunes.”

These questions used to be interesting, and I used to enjoy answering them. Finding and customizing desktop clients, be they feature-rich MP3 players like Winamp or Foobar or only-the-nerds-know gems like Trillian or Miranda for instant messages, or Infranview for images, FoxIt reader for PDFs and even little utilities like Caffeine, an app for keeping your Mac from going to sleep, was a full-on pastime.

To be a tech enthusiast used to be to know about these things — to have and share a set of software tools that made your computer work better than everyone else’s. It was like being part of a club, and the benefits were real. You knew things that others didn’t.

But last week, when a friend asked for an alternative to Apple’s Mail app, I had a hard time answering. This should have been an easy question, and as recently as last year it was. But Sparrow, the app I would have recommended, is no longer in serious development (its makers were acqui-hired by Google). Thunderbird, the mail client from the guys who make Firefox, has been put out to pasture. Outlook is part of Microsoft’s bloated and increasingly irrelevant office suite.

There are a few other apps in the line of succession for Sparrow’s crown, but I found it hard — as did a few other tech-savvy friends — to explain why most people would really be better off for switching. Mail.app — the once-unthinkable default option. The best advice I could give was to use Gmail’s web interface.

2012 has been a rough year for desktop clients. The promise of mobile, a brand-new multibillion-dollar app industry where consumers actually pay for apps and new millionaires are minted on a regular basis, has drawn scores of developers away from the hairy, disorganized world of traditional desktop apps and software licensing. The Mac App Store and the Windows Store (in Windows 8) are burgeoning not with a vibrant selection of alternatives to core OS apps but with small utilities, games, and single-purpose apps. They’re stocked like mobile app stores, not collections of traditional desktop apps.

Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter have been beckoning their users back to web interfaces or mobile apps, and we have obliged. That mobile apps and web apps are the future has been taken as conventional wisdom since 2009 if not earlier; only now, however, is this shift wreaking the havoc it promised.

Chrome, an app so closely tied to the cloud that it crashed for users last time there was a Gmail outage, is well on its way to becoming the most popular browser, largely because it’s good at making itself invisible. Firefox, the browser that became popular mostly just by adding tab support before the once-dominant (and insecure) Internet Explorer and allowing for power-user extensions, is on the wane for the first time in its history. Internet Explorer is finally decent enough that its users don’t realize they’re using it.

In fact, there is no strong case for or against any of the major browsers anymore. They all serve the same web apps ably, securely, and without getting in the way. Power users, to the extent that they still exist, use Chrome or even Apple’s barebones Safari.

Where once we had foobar2000, Sonique, Winamp, MediaMonkey, and musikCube, we now have little reason to leave iTunes, unless it’s for a thinly skinned web interface for a service like Spotify or Rdio, or a pure web service like Pandora. These apps are dying along with the concept of a locally stored media collection.

Where once we looked to Office, OpenOffice, AbiWord, and Lotus Symphony, now we type in Google Docs, a posting field on a website, or maybe TextEdit or Writeroom. A power-user app for document editing almost feels like a contradiction.

Gaim, the hugely popular IM app that became Pidgin (and shares code with Adium) derosia.com

Trillian, Miranda, Pidgin, Digsby, and Adium, all still available and beloved by users, have given way to web-based Facebook and Gmail chat, or baked-in chat apps like iMessage. Development, even on the best ones, like Adium, has slowed to a crawl.

Email, which users and pundits have been begging for companies to “disrupt” for years, got a brief glimmer of hope in the form of Sparrow in 2011. The company did everything right, straddling the old-school app ecosystem and the Mac App Store and turning out a great product. In retrospect, Google’s acquisition of the company and subsequent dead-ending of the product almost seems like they were rubbing it in. We won. Deal with it. See you on Gmail. (Or in our new Gmail app, which wasn’t even developed by the Sparrow team!)

Even gaming fits the trend. PC-first games are rare and decreasingly notable. (A more common sight? Major, console-first games that are so buggy on PC that they’re almost unplayable.) Steam, Valve’s centralized game distribution platform that was violently rejected by hardcore gamers when it was introduced nearly 10 years ago, now appears to be PC gaming’s only path forward. It’s more like the Xbox Marketplace or the App Store than it is the PC pre-millennium gaming market it grew from.

Outlook in Windows 8

The death of the desktop app will be complete when the next generation of desktop operating systems becomes standard. The latest version of Mac OS has made it abundantly clear that OS X and iOS are destined to become a unified product. The apps in Windows RT, the tablet version of Windows 8 that also serves as a tidy preview of what all of Windows will look like soon, leave little room for alternative core apps (and in the case of the browser, no room at all).

Kids raised on Windows 9 and (i)OS 11 won’t be telling their parents to switch to Firefox or Opera, or trading FPS mods and Winamp skins. The concept of a desktop app might not even make sense to them.

For some consolation, know-it-all utility fiends should look to the mobile app stores. It may be a bubble — I suspect it is, and that Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook will be exerting more control over how people access content, not less — but it’s there that people are actively trying to out-do the incumbents, churning out alternative browsers, email apps, messaging tools, maps, cameras and even calendars. There are dozens of alternative calling apps in the App Store alone.

But it’s not the same. The user experiences of iPhone power users and regular users are far more similar that the experiences of software-obsessed Windows XP users and their less-savvy friends.

These particular kinds of power users may be also be lost to history, along with the apps they loved.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/2012-the-year-the-desktop-app-died

“Veronica Mars” Is Already The Biggest Film In Kickstarter History

1. Up until today, Kickstarter’s most successful film project was season two of ‘Video Game High School,’ which took a month to reach $808,341:

2. After just over four hours, the ‘Veronica Mars’ project has already passed that:

3. It’s also going to hit a million dollars faster than *any* project before. Ouya took over eight hours:

4. ‘Veronica Mars’ is already the fastest-growing Kickstarter in history. With a month to go, it could easily become the largest, too:

View this embed ›

5. Update: The Kickstarter met its goal well within 24 hours. And it’s still going strong.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/veronica-mars-is-already-the-biggest-film-in-kickstarter-his

Pi In The Sky

Via Heidi Peterson.

Crave a relief from the iPhone 5 coverage? Look up.

In conjunction with the start of the ZERO1 Biennial, a San Jose-based art and technology project, artist Ishky has launched (quite literally) Pi in the Sky, an art project that has been months and a Kickstarter in the making. If you looked up around noon today, you saw the fruit of his labors: the numbers of pi, written in the air. It had a span of around 100 miles and is being billed as the world’s “largest ephemeral installation.”

How did he do it? From his website:

At 10,000 feet altitude working with our technical partner Airsign, a team of five synchronized aircraft equipped with dot-matrix technology will skywrite the first 1,000 numbers of pi’s infinite sequence in a 100-plus-mile loop around the San Francisco Bay Area. Each number will measure over a quarter-mile in height. A sixth Airsign plane will fly above the writing team, documenting the entire process.

But that’s not all. There is a second layer — a string of pi will be broadcast from a satellite and Ishky is working on an app that will track the string of numbers as it wraps around the Earth. Conceptually, I’m a little confused about the “why” of this project, but the images of pi against the blue atmosphere are cool, as is the ability to track the images against a map. Check it out.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/reyhan/pi-in-the-sky

Search Isn’t Google’s Killer Product Anymore — It’s Maps

This morning Google announced its acquisition of Waze, a popular crowdsourced driving app, in a deal rumored to be worth $1.3 billion. This delivers a serious blow to the already floundering Apple Maps, and it put Google in an almost insurmountable lead in its new most important category.

While Google says it will leave Waze as a standalone app, it will also most assuredly integrate the company’s wealth of data into its Maps product, adding real-time GPS information and traffic updates from its 47 million users (though other estimates put that number closer to 12 or 13 million active users) to beef up Google’s already rich trove of geographic and location information.

It’s a large investment from Google, but a sound and deliberate one. As search, Google’s core product, has ceded more and more ground to social networks, Google has devoted enormous resources to becoming the undisputed mapping king, gobbling up all the geo-locational information it can muster. The company’s data-collection effort has many fronts, from compiling census data, live traffic feeds, and scores of satellite images. It has logged over 5 million miles in its own fleet of camera-equipped cars, capturing not just street-level imagery but fresh metadata too.

This data may just end up being the most valuable asset Google has. Maps are poised to help the company play an integral role in the internet of the future — a future that seems not to care much about basic web search. The company’s most forward-looking products, like Google Now and its self-driving car, all draw heavily from — and simultaneously can help collect — location data. As smartphones become increasingly sophisticated, and as wearable computing enters the market, reliance on intelligent, geo-aware personal assistants and living, breathing maps will only grow.

It’s also easy to imagine how owning the de facto location database could help Google reinvent search with an emphasis on local, pushing out competitors like Facebook, which are forced to overlay their data on less complete mapping services such as Bing.

For Apple and Facebook, which were both rumored as potential buyers, acquiring Waze would have been a step toward leveling the playing field — a crucial set of data to help catch up with Google, which has been investing heavily in Maps for a decade. Instead, it’s a punishing blow — especially for Apple, which, still reeling from last year’s Apple Maps disaster, announced only small tweaks to its apps and promised vague improvements to its underlying data sets at WWDC yesterday — and a possible sign that the company knows the gap is too wide to close.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/search-isnt-googles-killer-product-anymore-its-maps