Sir Clive Sinclair, 1940-2021

It’s an incredibly sad day for the British computing industry.

We’re always going to be very grateful to Sir Clive for being one of the founding fathers of the UK home computing boom that helped so many of us at Raspberry Pi get hooked on programming as kids.

He was someone from whom the business behind Raspberry Pi has drawn great inspiration. He’ll be very sadly missed.

sir clive sinclair

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Sir Clive Sinclair, 1940-2021

Miwo Japanese Cursive Recognition App

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Tarin Clanuwat, a research scientist for the Google Brain Tokyo team, has been developing a mobile phone application to recognize cursive classical Japanese (kuzushiji) as modern Japanese text.

Although the technology for computers to read printed and handwritten characters (OCR) has been used since the 1960s, kuzushiji has a lack of clear character breaks and is often intricately laid out around pictures, making it much more difficult to read.

Consequently, only about 0.01% of the Japanese population can read kuzushiji fluently.

Miwo, an AI cursive script recognition app developed by Clanuwat and her team, uses deep learning and datasets to translate Japanese cursive into modern Japanese text, making classical Japanese texts more accessible.

Miwo utilizes the ROIS-DS Center for Open Data in the Humanities’ (CODH) KuroNet kuzushiji recognition system, trained on the kuzushiji dataset created by the National Institute of Japanese Literature.

Users can either upload photos from their mobile phone camera roll or use their camera in the app and the translated cursive text will be overlaid on the original photo.

Specific characters can be highlighted and selected, opening a menu which shows other similar-looking characters, and users can also access a dataset of the selected character as it appears in different classical texts.

The app has some accessibility features, such as text size and colored boxes to separate the cursive characters, making them more discernible from each other.

The user can edit and annotate any of the translated text as they see fit, as well as copy the text and conveniently paste it into another application.

The translated photos can also be saved in the app for easy reference or if the user wishes to continue editing the translation.

Bungaku Report suggests that miwo in its current state can read about 80% of well-organized texts from the Edo period, and around 60% of handwritten manuscripts.

Miwo is free of charge and has surpassed 16,000 downloads as of September 6.

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Source: Akihabara News – Miwo Japanese Cursive Recognition App

Study confirms superior sound of a Stradivari is due to the varnish

Violin against a red background.

Enlarge / A 1729 Stradivari known as the “Solomon, Ex-Lambert” on display at Christie’s in New York in March 2007. (credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Along with Andrea Amati and Andrea Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari dominated the so-called Golden Age of Violins (roughly 1660 to 1750), and the instruments they crafted remain the gold standard today in terms of acoustic quality. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has long favored a Stradivarius instrument, as does violinist Joshua Bell. But scientists have been arguing for years about precisely why these instruments have such superior sound. A recent paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie confirms a theory dating back to 2006: the secret lies in the chemicals used to soak the wood, most notably borax, zinc, copper, alum, and lime water.

I’ve written extensively about this topic in the past. The (perceived) unique sound can’t just be due to the instrument’s geometry, although Stradivari’s geometrical approach did give us the violin’s signature shape. One hypothesis is that Stradivari may have used Alpine spruce that grew during a period of uncommonly cold weather, which caused the annual growth rings to be closer together, making the wood abnormally dense. Another prevailing theory has to do with the varnish: namely, that Stradivari used an ingenious cocktail of honey, egg whites, and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees—or perhaps salts or other chemicals.

Then again, the difference may be all in our heads. A player’s instrument preference is highly subjective, and there’s some evidence of so-called “psychoacoustics” at play: that is, we’ve become so awed by the name Stradivarius that it influences how we evaluate or respond to the sound of one of Stradivari’s instruments.

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Source: Ars Technica – Study confirms superior sound of a Stradivari is due to the varnish

SoftBank Startup Hub in Aichi

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — SoftBank signed an agreement with Aichi Prefecture to be the representative company for the prefecture’s startup hub: Station Ai.

The automotive industry, which is the leading industry in the prefecture, continues to develop in response to Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) and Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Station Ai’s purpose is to maintain and strengthen local industry through startup innovations.

The project will be led by Station Ai Corporation, established by SoftBank on September 1. Hirotaka Sahashi, the president and CEO of Station Ai, has previously been involved in internal entrepreneurship programs and supported various businesses at SoftBank’s subsidiary for new businesses, SB InnoVenture.

SoftBank will utilize 5G, IoT, and AI in tandem with their know-how in startup support and networks with domestic and overseas companies to develop Station Ai as a core base for innovation, not only in Japan but also globally.

The facility will include offices for startups, offices for partner companies, including overseas startup support organizations and universities, a tech lab for prototype production and evaluation, and more.

Aichi Prefecture is part of the Central Japan Startup Ecosystem Consortium approved by the Cabinet Office in July 2020, an association including the Chubu Economic Federation, Nagoya University, Nagoya City, and Hamamatsu City.

Station Ai is an initiative of the Aichi Startup Strategy, serving as the core for the project.

The design and construction period is slated to be from October 2021 to September 2024, and Station Ai is projected to operate from October 2024 to September 2034.

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Source: Akihabara News – SoftBank Startup Hub in Aichi

Billionaire Sacklers’ immunity threatened as DOJ moves to block opioid deal

Protestors hold up a banner while surrounded by empty prescription bottles.

Enlarge / PURDUE PHARMA, STAMFORD, Conn. – 2019/09/12: Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a protest outside Purdue Pharma headquarters over the recent, controversial opioid settlement. (credit: Getty | Erik McGregor)

The Department of Justice is fighting to strip the billionaire Sackler family of the sweeping legal immunity granted as part of a controversial $4.5 billion opioid settlement.

The department filed a motion late Wednesday to block the implementation of the settlement until appeals can be heard in a higher court. Attorneys for the department argued that some aspects of the deal could go into effect quickly, complicating the appeal, according to NPR. Along with the DOJ, Connecticut, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Washington state are also preparing to fight the settlement.

The Justice Department also requested an expedited hearing within the next two weeks.

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Source: Ars Technica – Billionaire Sacklers’ immunity threatened as DOJ moves to block opioid deal

Apple sunsets the 256GB iPhone SE

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Source: Ars Technica – Apple sunsets the 256GB iPhone SE

Nintendo’s “thing after the Switch”: How an overheard convo sent me reeling

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Source: Ars Technica – Nintendo’s “thing after the Switch”: How an overheard convo sent me reeling

Battlefield 2042 joins recent game-delay frenzy, moves to November

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Source: Ars Technica – Battlefield 2042 joins recent game-delay frenzy, moves to November

Man once called world’s “largest facilitator of child porn” sentenced to 27 years

Eric Eoin Marques led away from the High Court in Dublin in August 2013 after US authorities formally requested his extradition.

Enlarge / Eric Eoin Marques led away from the High Court in Dublin in August 2013 after US authorities formally requested his extradition. (credit: Getty Images | Niall Carson | PA Images )

A man who operated a dark web service that hosted millions of child-sexual-abuse images was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for conspiracy to advertise child pornography, the US Department of Justice announced today. Eric Eoin Marques, a 36-year-old dual national of the US and Ireland, was also sentenced to “a lifetime of supervised release” after his prison time is over.

Marques will get credit for time served from July 2013 to the present, a sentencing document says. He was also ordered to forfeit over $154,000.

During a 2013 bail hearing in Dublin, FBI Special Agent Brooke Donahue “agreed that he had described Marques as ‘the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet’ and added ‘that remains true to this day,'” according to an Irish Examiner article in September 2013. An Irish court record provides a slightly different wording of Donahue’s quote, describing Marques as “the largest facilitator of child pornography websites on the planet.” Today’s DOJ announcement said that “Marques was one of the largest facilitators of child pornography in the world.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Man once called world’s “largest facilitator of child porn” sentenced to 27 years

Office 2021 will be available for non-Microsoft 365 subscribers on October 5

Office 2021 will be available for non-Microsoft 365 subscribers on October 5

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

New versions of Microsoft Office aren’t as big a deal as they used to be, thanks to the continuously updated (and continuously paid for) versions of the apps that come with a Microsoft 365 subscription. But for everyone else, there’s still Office 2021, an upgrade to Office 2019 that’s coming to both Windows and macOS on October 5, Microsoft announced today. Office 2021 will add the same features as the Office Long-Term Servicing Channel (or LTSC, catchy) release, which is available today.

Compared to Office 2019, the last “perpetual” version of Office, the new version includes Dark Mode support, support for version 1.3 of the OpenDocument format, new Excel functions and formulas, improved slide show recording for PowerPoint, and various user-interface tweaks and enhancements. Microsoft lists most of the new features here.

Microsoft plans to offer five years of “Mainstream Support” for Office 2021, without any extended support beyond that. The end date for Office 2021 support is in October of 2016, just a year after support ends for the Windows versions of Office 2016 and Office 2019.

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Source: Ars Technica – Office 2021 will be available for non-Microsoft 365 subscribers on October 5

Lost Judgment impressions: 15 wild hours in Yokohama

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Source: Ars Technica – Lost Judgment impressions: 15 wild hours in Yokohama

Hospital staff must swear off Tylenol, Tums to get religious vaccine exemption

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Source: Ars Technica – Hospital staff must swear off Tylenol, Tums to get religious vaccine exemption

Alphabet’s laser-Internet system has sent 700TB of data with 99.9% uptime

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is still experimenting with hooking up remote towns to the Internet via frickin’ laser beams. Today, Alphabet’s moonshot “X Lab” shared an update on Project Taara, its experimental point-to-point optical communication system, often described as “fiber optics without the fiber.” The company built a working installation in Africa and has been blasting a 20Gbps link about 5 km across the Congo River to a town of millions of people, lowering the cost of Internet access for them.

The Taara laser beam is bridging the gap between Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are on opposite sides of the Congo River. Brazzaville has decent Internet, but because nobody wanted to run a fiber line through the world’s deepest and second-fastest river, Kinshasa uses a fiber line that runs 400 km around the river, and the Internet is five times more expensive there. Alphabet’s 20Gbps commercial link has been up and running for 20 days now, and the company says it has served nearly 700TB of data in that time, with 99.9 percent uptime.

Taara was born out of the “Loon” Internet balloon project launched in 2017. Originally, Google was building flying cell towers to beam down the Internet from the sky (over RF), but for balloon-to-balloon backhaul, the company was planning communications via laser beam. Space X just started doing something similar by equipping its Starlink satellites with space lasers for optical intra-satellite communication. One benefit of Sky- and space-based laser communication is that not much can interfere with a point-to-point optical beam. Ground-based lasers have more interference to consider, since they have to deal with nearly everything: rain, fog, birds, and once, according to Alphabet’s blog post, “a curious monkey.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Alphabet’s laser-Internet system has sent 700TB of data with 99.9% uptime

Locast’s free TV service ordered to shut down permanently after copyright loss

An old television with an antenna displaying static.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Cavan Images)

Locast was ordered to shut down its online TV service forever in a permanent injunction issued yesterday by a federal judge. The order came two weeks after the judge gave major broadcast networks a big victory in their copyright case against Locast, a nonprofit organization that provided online access to broadcast TV stations.

Locast will have to win on appeal in order to stream broadcast channels again. Locast already suspended operations after the September 1 ruling that said it does not qualify for a copyright-law exemption available to nonprofits, so the permanent injunction doesn’t change the status quo.

US District Judge Louis Stanton cited a December 2019 agreement between Locast and the networks that limited the scope of the litigation and said a permanent injunction should be entered if the court determines that Locast does not qualify for the copyright-law exemption. The deal did not prohibit Locast “from applying for a stay of the permanent injunction pending appeal, nor to bar the broadcasters from opposing any such stay,” the agreement said.

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Source: Ars Technica – Locast’s free TV service ordered to shut down permanently after copyright loss

Near-death of anti-vaccine cardinal is an “irony of life,” says Pope Francis

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Source: Ars Technica – Near-death of anti-vaccine cardinal is an “irony of life,” says Pope Francis

Self-sustaining solar house on wheels wants to soak up the Sun

The Stella Vita hits the road.

Enlarge / The Stella Vita hits the road. (credit: Solar Team Eindhoven)

The creators of a new “self-sustaining house on wheels” are hoping their strange-looking project will help spark interest in solar vehicles. The vehicle, called the Stella Vita, was made by Eindhoven University of Technology students.

Solar Team Eindhoven’s 22 members previously created a smaller solar-powered family car called the Stella Lux. According to Tijn Ter Horst, a member of the team and a mechanical engineering student at the university, the Stella Lux was energy-positive. “She could power other electric vehicles because she had so much energy left,” Ter Horst told Ars.

After producing the Stella Lux, the team began brainstorming future projects and came up with the idea of a home-like vehicle powered entirely by the Sun. In March, the students started constructing a tear-shaped solar mobile home, and they recently completed the project.

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Source: Ars Technica – Self-sustaining solar house on wheels wants to soak up the Sun

Cherry-picking data was routine practice at Theranos, former lab worker says

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Source: Ars Technica – Cherry-picking data was routine practice at Theranos, former lab worker says

NASA awards five contracts for lunar landers to follow SpaceX demonstration

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Source: Ars Technica – NASA awards five contracts for lunar landers to follow SpaceX demonstration

Lucid gets its official EPA range ratings, and they’re astounding

A Lucid Air prototype parked in front of some palm trees

Enlarge / The Lucid Air may look the same as the early prototype we saw in 2017, but a lot has changed. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

When it comes to bench-racing battery-electric vehicles, all is well and good when comparing standing-start acceleration times. But the only number anyone really cares about is how far a vehicle can go on a single charge. Rightly or wrongly, US car buyers have decided that the long charging times for a BEV (relative to refueling with liquid hydrocarbons) must be offset with enormous range. And when it comes to a long-legged BEV, there’s a new king of the hill.

On Thursday, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued its official range rating for the Lucid Air. The Air was probably going to do well here—Lucid-commissioned independent testing determined that a combination of a very low drag coefficient and a hefty 113 kWh battery pack would deliver over 517 miles (832 km) of range. But the EPA says Lucid has done even more than that: the Air Dream Edition has been rated at 520 miles (837 km) on a single charge.

“Crucially, this landmark has been achieved by Lucid’s world-leading in-house EV technology, not by simply installing an oversize battery pack,” said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid Group. “Our race-proven 900V battery and BMS technology, our miniaturized drive units, coupled with our Wunderbox technology endow Lucid Air with ultra-high efficiency, enabling it to travel more miles from less battery energy.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Lucid gets its official EPA range ratings, and they’re astounding

Who remembers E.T. for the Atari 2600?

In the latest issue of Wireframe magazine, video game pioneer Howard Scott Warshaw reflects on the calamitous E.T. for the Atari 2600. Could it serve as a useful metaphor for real life?

When Julius Caesar ran into Brutus on the Ides of March so many years ago, it changed his life dramatically. I would say the same thing about my life when I ran into the E.T. project, though in my case, the change wasn’t quite so abrupt… or pointed. People say that my E.T. game was ahead of its time, so much so that it didn’t work for many players in its time. Fair enough. But E.T. is more than that. On many levels, that game has served as a metaphor for life, at least for my life. Let me explain, and perhaps it will sound familiar in yours as well.

ET for Atari

There was an aura of promise and anticipation on the advent of the E.T. project – much like the prospect of graduating from college and entering the working world as a computer programming professional. This was super-exciting to me. Once I began the challenge of delivering this game, however, the bloom left the rose (no matter how many times I healed it). Similarly, on my entry into the working world, my excitement was quashed by the unsatisfying nature and demands of typical corporate computing tasks. This is analogous to the experience of E.T. players, having just unwrapped the game. They pop the cartridge in, fire it up, and venture forward with innocent exuberance… only to be crushed by a confusing and unforgiving game world. Perhaps the E.T. game was some sort of unconscious impulse on my part. Was I recreating the disappointment of my first foray into corporate life? Highly unlikely, but the therapist in me just had to ask.

In the E.T. game, I spend a lot of time wandering around and falling into pits. Sometimes I find treasure in those pits. Sometimes I’m just stuck in a pit and I need to dig my way out. That costs energy I could have used on more productive endeavours. There’s also a power-up in the game you can use to find out if there is something worth diving in for. Sadly, there’s no such power-up in life. Figuring out the difference between the treasure and the waste has always been one of my biggest questions, and it’s rarely obvious to me.

ET for Atari

One of the treasures you find in the game is the flower. The act of healing it brings benefits and occasional delightful surprises. I was at the bottom of a ‘pit’ in my life when I found the path to becoming a psychotherapist (another act of healing). It helped me climb out and take some big steps toward winning the bigger game.

E.T. is all about the pits, at least it seems so for many who talk about it. And they do so with such derision. Many times I’ve heard the phrase, “E.T. isn’t about the pits. It is the pits!” But are pits really so bad? After all, there are situations in which being stuck in a pit can be an advantage – OK, perhaps not so much in the game. But in life, I find it’s unwise to judge where I am until I see where it takes me. There have been times where major disappointments ended up saving me from a far worse fate had I been granted my original desire. And in more concrete terms, during a hurricane or tornado, there are far worse outcomes than stumbling into a pit. Sometimes when I trip and fall, I wind up dodging a bullet.

ET for Atari

Yes, in the game you can wind up wandering aimlessly around, feeling hopeless and without direction (somehow, they didn’t put that on the box). But ultimately, if you persevere (and read the directions), you can create a reasonably satisfying win. After finishing development of the game, there was a long period of waiting before any feedback arrived. Then it came with a vengeance. Of course, that only lasted for decades. My life after Atari seemed a bit of a wasteland for a long time too. Rays of sunlight broke through on occasion, but mostly cloudy skies persisted. Things didn’t improve until I broke free from the world in which I was stuck in order to launch the improbable life I truly wanted.

ET for Atari

But it’s not like there were no lingering issues from my E.T. experience. It turns out that ever since the E.T. project, I have a much greater propensity to procrastinate, regularly shorting myself of dev time. I didn’t used to do that before E.T., but I’ve done it quite a bit since. I delay launching a genuine effort, then rush into things and try to do them too quickly. This results in a flurry of motion that doesn’t quite realise the potential of the original concept. More flailing and more failing. It doesn’t mean my idea was poor; it means it was unrefined and didn’t receive sufficient nourishment. On reflection, I see there are both challenges and opportunities at every turn. Pits and treasures. Which of those I emphasise as I move forward is how I construct the life I’m going to have, and I’m doing that all the time.

ET for Atari

Pits and treasures, this is much of life. My E.T. game has mostly pits. Truth be known, people like to call them ‘pits’, but I’ve always thought of them as wells: a place to hide, to take repose and to weather out life’s storms. For me, that has been the value of having so many wells. I hope it works for you as well. Try it on. It just might fit like Caesar’s toga. And if it doesn’t, you can say what Brutus said on that fateful day: “At least I took a stab at it.”

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 55

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 54, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

wireframe 54 cover

And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 54 for free in PDF format.

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