Twitter’s First Hashtag Was Posted 8 Years Ago

HashtagHave you ever wondered why people started using hashtags on Twitter? Today, it’s not unheard of for a group of people, who are all tweeting about the same event, to use three or more hashtags to describe it. We may have reached #hashtag #overload.

Eight years ago, that wasn’t so. The very first person to suggest that people who are all tweeting about the same thing use a # (pound) was Chris Messina. His very influential tweet was posted on August 23, 2007.

Who is Chris Messina? His bio says: “I invented the hashtag, advocated for many open source and open web projects, and co-founded BarCamp and coworking communities. I previously worked at Google in developer relations as a UX designer.”

It’s pretty amazing to see how far his suggestion to use what was then refereed to as a pound symbol has gone. Why did he choose the pound symbol, instead of some other one?

In another of his tweets, Chris Messina notes that Twitter (the company, not the users) resisted using hashtags in the beginning. He points out that hashtags were not intended to be Twitter-only. Today, we see them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Aérotrain

aerotr1Last week I was on  holiday in France. Driving down from Paris to Orléans on the D2020, I noticed a long raised structure to the east running for several kilometres. It was a few hundred metres from the road so all I could see was a raised platform or aquaduct on stilts. I initially assumed that it was related to the energy industry because the structure passed near a nuclear power station. I thought nothing more about it for a few days and then used Google Maps and Street View to find out that this was an actually the industrial remnants of a high speed transportation experiment called Aérotrain from the 60s and 70s which achieved speeds of over 400 km/h (about 250 mph).

I80_HV_1Generically known as a hovertrain, the Aérotrain used a cushion of air to reduce the rolling resistance of the vehicle, in a similar way to maglevs. Aero engines were used from propulsion, initially with propellors, then turbojets and finally turbofans. A prototype using a linear induction motor was also tested.

The futuristic vehicle on the left is the I-80 HV and is shown on the track that I passed between Ruan and Saran. Able to carry 80 passengers, the I-80 HV established the world speed record for overland air cushion vehicles on 5 March 1974 with an average speed of 418 km/h (259 mph) and a top speed of 430 km/h (267 mph).

This was the brainchild of French engineer Jean Bertin who initially proposed the concept and demonstrated a scale prototype in 1963. Subsequently there were four prototypes built for France and one for the USA which ran on a test track in Pueblo, Colorado.

It’s totally fascinating and there are some comprehensive information resources online including the Association of Friends of Jean Bertin (in French) and Aerotrain.fr (French and English). There are some videos on-line too which show how amazingly futuristic the Aérotrain must have seemed in the 60s. The one below is nearly 20 minutes long. There’s a couple of videos on YouTube too – search for aerotrain.

For a quick 3 minute fix, French pop group Exsonvaldes released a music track with a video about the Aérotrain. There’s brief sequence of the I-80 HV keeping pace with a light aircraft.

State support for the Aérotrain ceased in 1974 and France pushed forward with the TGV for high speed rail transportation. The key benefit of the TGV was that the trains could run on standard rail tracks in urban areas before switching to dedicated high-speed lines in the countryside. Aérotrain needed a completely new infrastructure and the last flight of Aérotrain took place on 29 December 1977.

For comparison, here’s a BBC top five fastest trains. There’s some learning here for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop system.

GNC #1055 Tech Takes a Hit

With the market going nuts Tech Takes a Hit and billions of valuation wiped out in a mater of hours. Crazy times but maybe as an Ohana we can all score some stocks while the price is a bit lower. Of course I cover all the tech news and information,

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Cortana arrives on the Android platform

Cortana-image-3-576x1024Apple has Siri, Google has, well…Ok Google — a less clever name, but it works well enough. Then there’s Microsoft, which has Cortana. It began life on Windows Phone, but then it spread to the new Windows 10. Now it spreads further, expanding on Google territory with a beta version for Android phones and tablets.

So which service do you want to use? I installed Cortana on an LG G4 and it worked flawlessly, though it requires a bit of setup. It will ask a series of questions, though they are easy to answer.

Microsoft claims “The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone. With the app, you can manage your hectic lifestyle by setting and getting reminders, searching the web on-the-go, tracking important information such as flight details as well as starting and completing tasks across all of your devices”.

This open beta also improves on the closed one that previously existed. You can now set Cortana as your destination when you press the Home button.

“You will also see a few differences between what Cortana can do today in her “native” environment (Windows) and in the app on Android. For example toggling settings, opening apps or invoking Cortana hands-free by saying “Hey Cortana” are only available on Windows for now. As with all betas, we are continually improving the experience and will incorporate feedback along the way”, Microsoft claims.

You can grab the app here. It’s not compatible with all devices, though, so pay attention.

Star Wars: Rogue One to Digitally Revive Deceased Actor

TarkinThe next official full-length Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is scheduled to hit theaters in December. Leading up to that release, the Disney/Lucasfilm hype machine has been running at full speed. One facet of this promotional juggernaut is a film called Star Wars: Rogue One, the first part of an ongoing Anthology Series that will compliment major Star Wars releases in the future. Rogue One tells the story of brave Rebellion fighters who capture the secret plans for the first Death Star, ultimately leading to the destruction of that space station in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Given how close Rogue One and Episode IV are in the Star Wars timeline, it would be necessary for some characters to cross over. But there’s a logistical problem here because Episode IV was released almost forty years ago, in 1977. Of course, some characters could be recast with contemporary actors who look/sound enough like their Episode IV counterparts. But in one case, the producers of Rogue One are doing something else.

Even the most casual of Star Wars fans will remember the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, portrayed stoically by famed British actor Peter Cushing in Episode IV. Tarkin was the commander of the first Death Star and one of Darth Vader’s most trusted allies. He was only seen on screen a handful of times, but the character has endured as a fan favorite. (In fact, a recent Star Wars novel is dedicated to the telling of Tarkin’s backstory.) Peter Cushing died in 1994 at the age of 81. There’s no way he can reprise the role of Grand Moff Tarkin. But Cushing’s likeness will appear in Rogue One thanks to modern CGI techniques.

It has been said that this type of special effect is like “bringing dead actors back to life,” and it is somewhat eerie to consider. If Cushing can be replicated thru CGI now, then in theory, any person whose ever appeared on film could be resurrected in the same way. In the case of Tarkin, the character is arguably more integral to the Star Wars franchise than the actor who originally portrayed him. The mind begins to reel at the possibilities within future Star Wars films alone. Why not make a new movie based around Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, but instead of using the actors that portrayed those characters as they appear today, using CGI-rendered versions of the actors as they looked forty years ago? I guess the fan reaction to computer-generated Peter Cushing will be a good gauge for how far Star Wars producers can stretch this idea in the future. But it seems likely that this is the first step in that direction.

MLB Manager Chided for wearing Apple Watch

MLB logoThe use of “assistive devices” is nothing new to Major League Baseball. For decades, pitchers have snuck things like sandpaper or razor blades onto the field to alter the way baseballs reacted to different kinds of pitches. Major League officials have cracked down on these shenanigans over the years, and for the most part, they’re a thing of the past. But the drive to cheat the system will never die. And it’s in this spirit that Major League Baseball banned players and coaches from using smartphones in dugouts during games. But smart technology is moving beyond phones and into wearables, creating a new potential for team members to access data that might give them an unfair advantage during games.

This led to a reported questioning of Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, who’s been wearing an Apple Watch in the dugout during games. MLB officials wanted to make sure Yost wasn’t using the electronic device to somehow gather information on opposing teams during games. But in the end, it was determined that Yost wasn’t actively pairing his Apple Watch with an iPhone, meaning the watch was pretty much just… a watch. Aside from being able to tell time, Yost could also get basic weather information thru the unpaired device. That’s it.

Overall, this incident was really just a friendly reminder to Yost (and all other MLB players and coaches) that they can use wearables like the Apple Watch during games. They just can’t let those devices communicate with the rest of the connected world. Professional baseball sure has come a long way from the spit ball and the corked bat!

Public Outcry Over New Spotify Terms of Service

Spotify logoSpotify, the Sweden-based media streaming service, received some negative press earlier this week because of some recent changes to its terms of service. Initially, it looked like the company was getting a bit too grabby with users’ personal information. The ToS was updated by adding this language:

With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files. Local law may require that you seek the consent of your contacts to provide their personal information to Spotify, which may use that information for the purposes specified in this Privacy Policy.

The new terms were first brought to the general public thru a Twitter post by former Minecraft developer Notch. This led to a response from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. From there, Spotify went into damage control mode, starting with a blog post that’s supposed to clarify the situation.

And while these new terms do look a bit overreaching, the key part to remember is that Spotify won’t be doing anything with your information without your consent. Still, the company could’ve done a better job of clarifying exactly what it’s planning to do with your photos, contacts, and other information.

Considering so much recent news in the tech world has revolved around hacks, leaks, and privacy breaches, all companies doing business online need to be super transparent about these kinds of things going forward if they want to maintain (and grow) their customer bases.

GNC #1054 No Web Privacy

I cover all the latest tech news including the big news yesterday on data release on the AM hack. I talk deeper on web privacy and the web being non-existent today. I also cover my trip to NYC.

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Android Wear smatwatches get new interactive faces

Android LogoOn the heels of today’s Pebble Time update, Google will not be outdone. The search giant is continuing to try and improve on its Android Wear line of smartwatches. LG, Motorola and others have leaped into this market and Apple is there now as well.

One of the big things is watchfaces. They can be handy, especially when they show current temperature and conditions as Pebble does.

Now Google is rolling out a new line of them, bringing all sorts of features to your wrist. “Today, we’re launching interactive watch faces, making it easier (and more fun) to stay connected, right from your wrist. Now, with just a tap, your watch face can change its design, reveal more information, or even launch a specific app”.

The new updates are coming now. Google states “Today’s updates are rolling out to all Android Wear watches in the coming weeks. So pick your favorite watch face, or pair up with your favorite person, and start wearing what you want”.

So which smartwatch, if any, will you choose? I’m personally using Pebble, but considering a possible change to either upgrade, or switch altogether.

Major Apple TV Revamp Could Be Coming

Apple LogoApple’s set-top box, the Apple TV, has always been a bit of a curiosity. The so-called “hobby” device has been around for years. Originally, the Apple TV was envisioned as a home theater hub, shipping with built-in apps for media streaming as well as an internal hard drive for local file storage. But Apple stripped the device down in later iterations, removing the hard drive and slimming the Apple TV down to the familiar hockey-puck shape we see today. Speculation has run rampant over the last year that the Apple TV would see a major update, and it looks like Apple will be delivering the refreshed device next month.

Highlights of the new Apple TV:

  • It’ll run iOS 9 on an iOS Core
  • Siri Support
  • App Store
  • New remote control

The items on this list that are most interesting are the switch from the current Apple TV OS to iOS and the inclusion of the App Store. Independent media producers have been clambering for a long time for Apple to truly open up the Apple TV to third-party developers. Current Apple TVs host a limited number of apps, all of which are curated by Apple. The new Apple TV will truly be open to anyone who wants to get onto the platform. And now that the device will rely on iOS hardware and software to operate, it’ll be even easier for developers to bring things like games to the Apple TV.

While these are great developments, it looks like the new Apple TV won’t be shipping with quite everything consumers have been hoping for. One of the biggest rumors that’s been swirling around the Apple TV is Apple’s supposed Internet TV service that would truly unbundle cable TV once and for all. Apple is allegedly still negotiating with content providers for this new TV service. Regardless, the new Apple TV looks like an exciting revamp of a product line that looked like it had almost been abandoned not too long ago.