Blog posts

  • Pay by selfie

    Amazon have filed a patent for a means of using facial recognition to validate the users' identity:

    With facial recognition, technology measures and records various points on a human face. The user just takes a selfie on their mobile device in order to authenticate access to any channel. This technology is already being adopted by financial institutions, as well as other verticals becoming increasingly concerned about the validity of users logging on to their sites.

    So what's to prevent fraudsters from using a photo from social media? The proposed Amazon system will ask users to do something specific, such as blink or wink, actions "that cannot be replicated with a two-dimensional image," the patent says.

    The idea seems to be that forcing the user to do something in response to a real-time prompt will prove that they're not just being fed a still image grabbed by a fraudster. I wonder how elaborate those actions will end up being? It's one thing to ask the user to blink or wink, but what if the user is wearing spectacles or sunglasses? 1 Perhaps they'll expand the range of actions they ask the user to do and it'll end up like a game of Simon Says: 'Amazon Says Stick Your Tongue Out', or 'Amazon Says Touch The Tip Of Your Nose' or suchlike.

    Then the high street banks adopt the same technology and we have people at ATMs, playing Simon Says on the high street. At which point the fun really starts when people who've been for a night out and have run out of cash before their evening is over find themselves trying to play Simon Says to the standard their friendly bank's ATM expects whilst inebriated. Perhaps we'd better just hope that everyone adopts a Apple-style TouchID system instead. 2

    [Via notes.husk.org.]

    1. Yes, I realise that the simple answer is to require the user to remove their glasses before they validate their ID. Work with me here…

    2. I write this as someone who has been using a new iPad mini 4 with TouchID enabled for the last week and is astonished at how quick and reliable it's been so far. At this early stage in the relationship with my new toy, I keep thinking that I'll have to hold my finger down and being pleasantly surprised at how rapidly the iPad unlocks itself. 3

    3. Also noteworthy so far is how much nicer using Safari is when your device has enough system RAM that it isn't forced to reload tabs if you've so much as looked away from Safari for more than 30 seconds like my original model iPad mini was.

  • Nope. Nope, Nope, NOPE!

    I so wish I hadn't read this. Nightmare fuel, for sure:

    from Preparing the Ghost, by Matthew Gavin Frank.

    Squid corpses, even when cooked, retain their sexual reflexes and have been known to inseminate our mouths. After eating calamari…a South Korean woman reported experiencing "severe pain" and a "pricking foreign-body sensation" in her mouth. From her tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, her doctor escised "twelve small, white, spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms." These were spermatophores, whicih possess seriously tenacious ejaculatory apparati, and a cementlike body, which allows for their attachment to materials like the tongue, inner cheeks, gums…

    [Via LinkMachineGo!]

  • Chatterboxes

    Jason Fried has posted an excellent essay warning about how disruptive group chat can be to a company that hopes to get any useful work done:

    As a company, we’ve been around group/business chat longer than just about any other company in business today. In addition to hearing from our customers for years, our own daily experiences over ten years of extensive group chatting have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. All together, we’ve messaged nearly 10,000,000 lines to one another at 37signals/Basecamp since 2006.

    What we’ve learned is that group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense. What makes a lot less sense is chat as the primary, default method of communication inside an organization. A slice, yes. The whole pie, no. All sorts of eventual bad happens when a company begins thinking one-line-at-a-time most of the time.

    One of the biggest pluses of email over the phone as a communications medium was always that email exchanges were asynchronous (in theory), freeing us from the need to respond at a time of our correspondent's choosing and leaving us to devote time to responding when it was practical for us to do so. 1 It's a shame to see corporate trends pushing us back to the era of being slaves to our phones (or rather, of the apps running on our phones.)

    1. But to be fair, M.G. Siegler also has a fair point when he argues that sometimes clearing the email replies you can polish off quickly is the best solution. The trick is to find a happy medium that works for you and your correspondents. If you're allowed the freedom to do so.

  • Old Order

    A unique take on Blue Monday.

    New Order's Blue Monday was released on 7 March 1983, and its cutting-edge electronic groove changed pop music forever. But what would it have sounded like if it had been made 50 years earlier? In a special film, using only instruments available in the 1930s - from the theremin and musical saw to the harmonium and prepared piano - the mysterious Orkestra Obsolete present this classic track as you've never heard it before.

    I admire the idea of this, but more because it's clever of them to do it at all than because it comes within a mile of the original.

  • He's a Geordie. Not!

    If, like me, you're a Geordie then you may want to exercise caution before activating the Play icon on the following clip from a recent episode of Castle. I found it genuinely painful to listen to the first time I tried and had to come back to it after several hours of recovery time. 1

    1. Which is another way of saying, I tried to listed to it this morning just before leaving for work, recoiled in horror, and only got another chance an hour or so once I was back at home. But then, I can't be sure that my brain could have stood a second exposure to that clip any sooner than this.

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