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A Guide to Salt, the World’s Most Popular Food

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Everything you need to know about the vast and varied world of edible salt, including the differences between all the types of salt you'll see on the market. Read More
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78 days ago
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Sidebar: Alt-Wheels Is Not Micromobility

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I’ve been mean to Horace Dediu and his crew. Dediu coined “micromobility.” I called his lot “grifters” at least twice.

No one is twisting my arm to get me to say this: I apologize. Sincerely.

I was viewing things through my own lens. Which is Alt-Wheels.

And when I saw the micromobility people mentioning eScooters, I thought it natural for them to also encompass Alt-Wheels. And I got a bit heated when I saw they were not.

Basically, they have a different focus than mine. It’s larger.

Here is a chart from them that shows the upper weight boundary for what they classify as “micromobility.”

Their upper limit is a weight of 500 kilograms. That’s about 1,100 pounds!

That weight category would allow this to be classified as “micromobility”:

A car! Because it weighs “only 900 pounds” — or about 408 kilograms.

That is not what I see as “micro.” But Horace and his team do.

So it’s clear there’s very little overlap between our interests. Which means I will stop being mean to them for ignoring things they seem to consider “weightless.” And I apologize again.

But this is an opportunity for me to further clarify what I don’t mean and do mean by Alt-Wheels.

First, I’m kicking bicycles and eBikes out of the category. It has to be done. They have their advocacy groups. They’re long-established. There are also people out there who are far more interested in bikes — and eBikes — than I ever will be. They are set. Governments hear them. People also know what a bicycle is and most have ridden one.

Second, I have to show what is not Alt-Wheels:

Anything car-like, even if it’s being marketed as a “bike.” (Talk about stretching the category!)

This also isn’t Alt-Wheels:

Although called an eBike, it can be used throttle-only, which really makes it a type of lightweight sit-down scooter, ala Vespa.

These are the things I classify as Alt-Wheels:

Electric skateboards (eSk8):

Stand-up electric scooters (eScooters):

Electric unicycles (EUC):

The Onewheel:

Their common denominators:

– Made for a single rider
– Smaller than bicycles
– Easily affordable

Being portable has some caveats:

A high-end eSkateboard can hit 50 pounds.
The Boosted Rev eScooter is 46 pounds.
A high-end EUC can hit 60 pounds.

However, even with those extreme weights, they can all be trolleyed or wheeled.

And those are the upper limits of weight (such weight is due to batteries, not materials). That’s far, far below the upper limit of weight for micromobility!

The lowest weight limits for eSkateboards is about 10 pounds (but you really wouldn’t want to ride it); for eScooters about 15 pounds (again, not something you’d want); and for EUCs about 20 pounds (which is good for some people).

Maybe I should have called all this “Nano-Wheels.” Or — but this would be spiteful — “Alt-Mobility.”

But I’m sticking with Alt-Wheels.

Despite all the advocacy for bikes, I will repeat this: Not everyone can pedal and not everyone wants to pedal. And despite eBike sales booming in Europe, that’s not to say the same thing will happen here. eBikes are expensive, they’re heavy, and they’re large. Bike theft is rampant and until the issue of pervasive secure storage (“parking”) is addressed, their sales will be limited by the “What do I do with it when I arrive?” question.

And while that’s a question with Alt-Wheels too, at least when it comes to smaller and lighter eSkateboards, EUCs, and the Onewheel, their small size and portability generally means they don’t have to be left outside as magnets for thieves and vandals. They can be kept with you.

Plus, I’m correct in my advocacy. I saw in 1981 that we’d all be online. And here we are.

It will be generally the same way with Alt-Wheels. Their popularity is due to expand greatly. They are not for everyone — but they will be for millions. It won’t be unusual to see people riding them. They’re already being used for commuting.

This is the fringe of transportation. This is where the action really is.

Steve Jobs: Look At The Fringe

Good luck with micromobility, Horace and his team. My stand is here. At the fringe.

Previously here:

Alt-Wheels Sidebar: The China Factor
Alt-Wheels Notes category

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79 days ago
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How High Heat Can Impact Mental Health

Jeanetta Churchill stands outside of her Baltimore row house. She says she has to keep her air running constantly in the summer in order to manage her bipolar disorder.

A new NPR probe found low-income areas in dozens of major U.S. cities are more likely to be hotter than wealthier ones, and people with severe mental illness are impacted by that increase in heat.

(Image credit: Nora Eckert/NPR)

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89 days ago
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Award-winning computer science papers jeffhuang.com/best_paper_awa…


Award-winning computer science papers jeffhuang.com/best_paper_awa…

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101 days ago
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The GDPR Is A Wide Open Vulnerability For Identity Fraud And Scams


We've spent the last year and a half or so pointing out that, while it may have been well-intentioned, there are all sorts of consequences -- whether intended or not -- to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), including giving more power to the giant internet companies (when many argued the GDPR was necessary to curb their power), censorship of media, and a way for the rich and famous to harass people. But, of course, some might argue that those are worthy trade-offs if it did a better job protecting people's privacy.

About that... Last year, we pointed out that one consequence of the GDPR was that, in making it easy to "download" your data, it could open up serious privacy consequences for anyone who has their accounts hacked. In that story, we talked about someone having their Spotify account hacked, and having all the data downloaded -- a situation that might not be that impactful. However, last week, at Black Hat, James Pavur, a PhD student at Oxford, explained how he exploited the GDPR to access a ton of private info about his fiancee.

In a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas James Pavur, a PhD student at Oxford University who usually specialises in satellite hacking, explained how he was able to game the GDPR system to get all kinds of useful information on his fiancée, including credit card and social security numbers, passwords, and even her mother's maiden name.

"Privacy laws, like any other infosecurity control, have exploitable vulnerabilities," he said. "If we'd look at these vulnerabilities before the law was enacted, we could pick up on them."

In other words, in giving more "protection" over data, the EU has also opened up a new vulnerability. Here's how it worked:

Over the space of two months Pavur sent out 150 GDPR requests in his fiancée's name, asking for all and any data on her. In all, 72 per cent of companies replied back, and 83 companies said that they had information on her.

Interestingly, five per cent of responses, mainly from large US companies, said that they weren’t liable to GDPR rules. They may be in for a rude shock if they have a meaningful presence in the EU and come before the courts.

Of the responses, 24 per cent simply accepted an email address and phone number as proof of identity and sent over any files they had on his fiancée. A further 16 per cent requested easily forged ID information and 3 per cent took the rather extreme step of simply deleting her accounts.

That last one is kind of fascinating. What companies delete the accounts of people making a GDPR request? At least some of the companies required login info, but Pavur noted that in one case, he told the company he'd forgotten the login... and they gave him the data anyway.

"An organisation she had never heard of, and never interacted with, had some of the most sensitive data about her," he said. "GDPR provided a pretext for anyone in the world to collect that information."

This could be fixed, and one could argue that companies handing out this info without real proof of ID are, themselves, in violation of the GDPR. But, given that the GDPR is so strict -- you have a very short time frame to return the info or face massive fines), the incentive structure is designed to ignore those formalities and just fork over the information -- even if it's right into the hands of a scammer.

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A Guy Used The Snapchat Gender Filter To Catch A Predator. Here's What It Says About Asian Fetishization.

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Ethan, a 20-year-old college student, posed as a 16-year-old girl named Esther using Snapchat’s popular new “gender swap ” filter, and caught Robert Davies, 40, in trying to solicit "Esther" for a hookup, according to NBC Bay Area. Davies, a San Mateo, CA, police officer, was arrested for contacting a minor to commit a felony, per the San Jose Police Department. But because Ethan/Esther is Asian, there is another layer to the story — one that shows how frequently Asian women are exploited and fetishized.

Asian people have long been infantilized and told that we appear more youthful than we are, which plays a role in the stereotyping of Asian women as submissive and exotic. (Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Asian women rank high in desirability on dating sites.) These stereotypes can lead to harm: Asian fetishization has long fueled a flow of Westerners into Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia and Thailand for the purpose of sex tourism, in which child trafficking and sexual abuse are rampant. And, there has been a long history of sexual colonization of women in East Asian countries at U.S. military camps by deployed G.I.s.

Ethan, who prefers to go by his first name in fear of retaliation, took advantage of these stereotypes by using his own youthful appearance and the ultra-feminization of the Snapchat filter in order to expose someone who might fetishize these features. “I believe he messaged me, ‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ and I decided to take advantage of it,” Ethan told NBC Bay Area, explaining that he first created a Tinder profile for Esther, through which Davies began messaging her.

Esther and Davies moved their conversation over to the app Kik, where Esther told him she is 16 (Ethan knew that the dating app does not allow underage users), and asked the cop if he was okay with it. Davies said yes, despite the fact that the age of consent in California is 18. Then, their conversation grew more explicit. After messaging back and forth for about 12 hours on Kik and Snapchat, Ethan collected the evidence and sent it to Crime Stoppers on May 11, according to a police statement.

This isn't the first time internet vigilantes have used the likeness of an Asian girl to "catch a predator." A predecessor to Ethan’s small sting operation, “Sweetie,” a virtual 10-year-old Filipina girl, was used to trap over 1,000 alleged pedophiles internationally in 2013. Terre des Hommes, an international children’s rights charity organization, created the computer model and carried out the international sting operation. During the span of 10 weeks, it obtained the IP addresses and information of 1,000 suspected pedophiles from 65 countries, all of whom connected online with the artificial girl, including 254 Americans.

While Ethan only exposed one man, he used a similar strategy of digital technology and the image of a young girl to entrap predators. For his part, he said he was motivated to create the online profile because he has a female friend who is a survivor of child molestation. “I was just looking to get someone, he just happened to be a cop,” he said. What he ended up doing was much larger than "getting someone": He used the fetishization of Asian women and girls as a way to take down the fetishizer.

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