How ‘ghost work’ in Silicon Valley pressures the workforce, with Mary Gray

The phrase “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” was originally meant sarcastically.

It’s not actually physically possible to do — especially while wearing Allbirds and having just fallen off a Bird scooter in downtown San Francisco, but I should get to my point.

This week, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services Office, repeatedly referred to the notion of bootstraps in announcing shifts in immigration policy, even going so far as to change the words to Emma Lazarus’s famous poem “The New Colossus:” no longer “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” but “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge.”

We’ve come to expect “alternative facts” from this administration, but who could have foreseen alternative poems?

Still, the concept of ‘bootstrapping’ is far from limited to the rhetorical territory of the welfare state and social safety net. It’s also a favorite term of art in Silicon Valley tech and venture capital circles: see for example this excellent (and scary) recent piece by my editor Danny Crichton, in which young VC firms attempt to overcome a lack of the startup capital that is essential to their business model by creating, as perhaps an even more essential feature of their model, impossible working conditions for most everyone involved. Often with predictably disastrous results.

It is in this context of unrealistic expectations about people’s labor, that I want to introduce my most recent interviewee in this series of in-depth conversations about ethics and technology.

Mary L. Gray is a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research. One of the world’s leading experts in the emerging field of ethics in AI, Mary is also an anthropologist who maintains a faculty position at Indiana University. With her co-author Siddharth Suri (a computer scientist), Gray coined the term “ghost work,” as in the title of their extraordinarily important 2019 book, Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass. 

a mathiowetz crop 2 768x960

Image via Mary L. Gray / Ghostwork / Adrianne Mathiowetz Photography

Ghost Work is a name for a rising new category of employment that involves people scheduling, managing, shipping, billing, etc. “through some combination of an application programming interface, APIs, the internet and maybe a sprinkle of artificial intelligence,” Gray told me earlier this summer. But what really distinguishes ghost work (and makes Mary’s scholarship around it so important) is the way it is presented and sold to the end consumer as artificial intelligence and the magic of computation.

In other words, just as we have long enjoyed telling ourselves that it’s possible to hoist ourselves up in life without help from anyone else (I like to think anyone who talks seriously about “bootstrapping” should be legally required to rephrase as “raising oneself from infancy”), we now attempt to convince ourselves and others that it’s possible, at scale, to get computers and robots to do work that only humans can actually do.

Ghost Work’s purpose, as I understand it, is to elevate the value of what the computers are doing (a minority of the work) and make us forget, as much as possible, about the actual messy human beings contributing to the services we use. Well, except for the founders, and maybe the occasional COO.

Facebook now has far more employees than Harvard has students, but many of us still talk about it as if it were little more than Mark Zuckerberg, Cheryl Sandberg, and a bunch of circuit boards.

But if working people are supposed to be ghosts, then when they speak up or otherwise make themselves visible, they are “haunting” us. And maybe it can be haunting to be reminded that you didn’t “bootstrap” yourself to billions or even to hundreds of thousands of dollars of net worth.

Sure, you worked hard. Sure, your circumstances may well have stunk. Most people’s do.

But none of us rise without help, without cooperation, without goodwill, both from those who look and think like us and those who do not. Not to mention dumb luck, even if only our incredible good fortune of being born with a relatively healthy mind and body, in a position to learn and grow, here on this planet, fourteen billion years or so after the Big Bang.

I’ll now turn to the conversation I recently had with Gray, which turned out to be surprisingly more hopeful than perhaps this introduction has made it seem.

Greg Epstein: One of the most central and least understood features of ghost work is the way it revolves around people constantly making themselves available to do it.

Mary Gray: Yes, [What Siddarth Suri and I call ghost work] values having a supply of people available, literally on demand. Their contributions are collective contributions.

It’s not one person you’re hiring to take you to the airport every day, or to confirm the identity of the driver, or to clean that data set. Unless we’re valuing that availability of a person, to participate in the moment of need, it can quickly slip into ghost work conditions.

Democrats plead with Pai to delay T-Mobile-Sprint vote

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would be charging ahead with a vote to formally approve the T-Mobile-Sprint merger; but Democratic senators are calling on the agency to reopen the issue for public comment before taking that vote.

Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) penned a letter along with others like Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asking the FCC to receive feedback from citizens and advocates on the $26 billion telecom merger one last time before approving it, citing concerns that the deal will only entrench telecom monopolies.

“We have major antitrust concerns regarding the impact of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger on consumers, competition, and the public interest,” the senators wrote. “We remain concerned about the lack of transparency in the FCC’s merger review process and the lack of certainty on whether this merger will protect competition and consumers.”

There have been a number of public commenting cycles that considered the merger already, but these all occurred before the Justice Department worked out a deal with T-Mobile-Sprint to hand off some of its assets, like Boost Mobile, to Dish Network. With these handoffs, Dish would supposedly be able to build out a fourth major wireless carrier to replace the loss of Sprint. Critics, like Klobuchar, are afraid that this may not be the case, and in approving the deal, both the DOJ and FCC would stifle competition instead.

“This transaction has been pending in front of the Commission for more than a year, and there have been multiple public comment cycles,” an FCC spokesperson told The Verge. “Moreover, the commitments offered by T-Mobile and Sprint to the Commission have been public since May, and many parties have submitted comments about them.”

“The time has come for Commissioners to vote and for this proceeding to be brought to a close,” the spokesperson continued.

In May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that he would vote to the approve the merger after the carriers made promises to the agency that, if approved, they would work to more quickly deploy 5G across the country and in rural areas. The two other Republican commissioners, Brendan Carr and Mike O’Rielly, also said they would vote to approve, basically ensuring that the merger would receive the go-ahead to close.

On Thursday, the chair of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) also wrote to Pai asking for the agency to take more time to review the deal.

“As I have noted before, the proposed transaction is presumptively illegal under decades of black letter law and the Justice Department’s merger enforcement guidelines,” Cicilline wrote.

Outside of these calls from Congress, the T-Mobile-Sprint deal also faces a multi-state lawsuit led by New York AG Letitia James and California AG Xavier Becerra. When the Justice Department said it would approve the deal last month, a few states dropped the lawsuit, including Nebraska and Kansas. But over the past few weeks, others have hopped on in support like Texas and Oregon. The trial is set to begin on December 9th.

How to use the Live Radio in iOS 13

Apple is bringing live radio to iOS. With the right commands, you will be able to listen to local live radio stations from where you live (and all other kinds of stations, but many people will enjoy the local aspect). This feature arrives with iOS 13, but Apple has already started rolling it out in some places for iOS 12. Let’s go over exactly how to access these live stations.

Step 1: Download iOS 13

how to use the live radio in ios 13 apple music app

To get the full capabilities of the live radio feature, you need iOS 13. Apple is expected to release this update in fall 2019. Of course, if you don’t want to wait until then, you can always download the iOS 13 beta through Apple’s beta program.

All the usual beta caveats apply here: It can be dangerous for your data, smooth operation is not guaranteed, and not all features will work or work properly. You can expect lots of crashes, app incompatibility issues, and the general presence of bugs. However, playing live radio stations seems to be functioning in the beta program, and it’s unlikely to endanger your phone if you want to try it out.

If you want to stick with iOS 12, that’s fine — you can still give these steps a try to see if any of your local stations work. It’s not exactly likely, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Note that this will also work for your HomePod and there’s no need to wait for a future update, so if you have a HomePod you can try this at your leisure.

Step 2: Tell Siri to play a station

how to use the live radio in ios 13 iphone station

The easiest way to access live radio is to simply ask Siri about it. Because there are a number of different radio commands that Siri can respond to, like creating radio stations from a favorite song or playlist, it’s important to be specific so Siri knows what live station you are talking about.

So, make sure your Siri is on and listening if necessary, then say, “Siri, play [name of radio station] radio station.” Siri will then use several online partners that Apple is working with to find this radio station — including TuneIn,, and iHeartRadio. If you want to be extra sure that the radio station you like will work, you can go to one of these services and search for it.

For example, let’s say you live in San Francisco and you feel like listening to some tunes. Specifically, you want to hear some hits from the 80s, so you would say, “Siri, play 98.1 The Breeze radio station.” And Siri should say something like, “Playing The Breeze, provided by TuneIn.” Just remember to include the phrase “radio station” which tells Siri that you are looking for a live station. If the station has a name, try to include it instead of just using the station number. If Siri gets confused, try using just the station name or number instead of both.

Now, your iOS device isn’t actually tapping into the airwaves to play the station. Services like TuneIn create streaming versions of radio stations that can be played over the internet. That also means that playing these stations will eat up your data if you have a data cap, so keep that in mind.

Step 3: Return to past stations if necessary

how to use the live radio in ios 13 apple music recently played

You’ve successfully asked Siri to play a number of your favorite local radio stations, and so far it’s working well. But now you can’t remember if a particular radio station worked, or maybe you found a great station but forgot what it was called after using Siri to find it. Don’t worry, there’s an easy way to return to past stations.

Apple currently plays live radio via the Music App. Open up your Music App, and go to the Recently Played section (not to be confused with Recently Added). The radio stations that you’ve listened to in the past should show up there: Instead of album art, you should see the name of the radio station and a logo, if Apple is able to find one. This allows you to quickly return to a previous station that you may have forgotten about.

Keep in mind that this is all account-specific, so you will want to stay on the same account to have the Music App remember the stations that you’ve played before.

Editors’ Recommendations

Laptops and tablets on sale: iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface, and more

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.
Tablets, 2-in-1 computers, and more on sale.
Tablets, 2-in-1 computers, and more on sale.

Image: mashable photo composite

No matter what side of the fence you land on — Apple die-hard or completely loyal to Windows-only tech — there’s always going to be something on sale for you, so let’s focus less on the “which is better” debate, and more on how much money you can save on a laptop or tablet of your choice. 

This weekend, there’s a bunch of great personal devices on sale — from regular laptops, to 2-in-1 computers, to fancy tablets. Some of our favorites this time around are a big discount on the iPad Pro, and a nice deal on the Microsoft Surface Pro, among others.

Take a peek at all the great laptop and tablet deals we found for this weekend:

Laptops $499 and below:

Laptops $500 to $999:

Laptops $1,000 and up:

Tablets on sale:

Looking for more deals, the latest news on cool products, and other ways to upgrade your life? Sign up for the Mashable Deals newsletter here.

Flaw let hackers spy on—and even alter—data sent via Bluetooth

Say it with me: Bluetooth is not your friend. 

It turns out that the frustratingly buggy way to pair speakers, printers, and numerous other third-party devices with your smartphone or computer can’t keep a secret. Security researchers this week announced a major vulnerability in the Bluetooth specification that allows hackers to not only listen in on the data being sent between two devices, but clandestinely alter it as well. 

“[An] attacker is able to the listen in on, or change the content of, nearby Bluetooth communication, even between devices that have previously been successfully paired,” the researchers explain.    

Dubbed the KNOB attack, the vulnerability affected every single standard-compliant Bluetooth device tested by a group consisting of security researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, University of Oxford, and CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security. And yes, that means chips made by Broadcom, Qualcomm, Apple, Intel, and Chicony were all vulnerable. 

Importantly, this doesn’t mean that anyone, anywhere, with malicious intent can listen in on your AirPod-enabled phone conversations or alter your AirDrop data transfer. For starters, this vulnerability does not apply to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices like AirPods. Instead, it covers Bluetooth BR/EDR. Also, the attacker would have to be physically near you in order to pull this off — a fact that provides some consolation until you think about all the times you use Bluetooth while in public places.

There is some more good news. The researchers who discovered this vulnerability also responsibly disclosed it to manufacturers. And hey, some of those manufacturers even did something about it. 

Apple, for example, issued a patch in late July for iOS, macOS, and watchOS. Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Blackberry also all issued various patches. 

That’s the good news. The bad? Well, you need to have actually installed the patches for the fix to take effect. 

So go ahead and make sure your phone, computer, and any other Bluetooth-enabled device is up to date. And maybe, just maybe, going forward think twice about sending sensitive data over Bluetooth. Find a friend that can keep a secret. 

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f85470%252fa5d2abe8 2500 49f1 b018 2be409f7c7cc.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=pscxiudemc mp8rvtjgtlbyublu=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Lumineye helps first responders identify people through walls

Any first responder knows that situational awareness is key. In domestic violence disputes, hostage rescue or human trafficking situations, first responders often need help determining where humans are behind closed doors.

That’s why Megan Lacy, Corbin Hennen and Rob Kleffner developed Lumineye, a 3D-printed radar device that uses signal analysis software to differentiate moving and breathing humans from other objects, through walls.

Lumineye uses pulse radar technology that works like echolocation (how bats and dolphins communicate). It sends signals and listens for how long it takes for a pulse to bounce back. The software analyzes these pulses to determine the approximate size, range and movement characteristics of a signal.

On the software side, Lumineye’s app will tell a user how far away a person is when they’re moving and breathing. It’s one dimensional, so it doesn’t tell the user whether the subject is to the right or left. But the device can detect humans out to 50 feet in open air; that range decreases depending upon the materials placed in between, like drywall, brick or concrete.

One scenario the team gave to describe the advantages of using Lumineye was the instance of hostage rescue. In this type of situation, it’s crucial for first responders to know how many people are in a room and how far away they are from one another. That’s where the use of multiple devices and triangulation from something like Lumineye could change a responding team’s tactical rescue approach.

[embedded content]

Machines that currently exist to make these kind of detections are heavy and cumbersome. The team behind Lumineye was inspired to manufacture a more portable option that won’t weigh down teams during longer emergency response situations that can sometimes last for up to 12 hours or overnight. The prototype combines the detection hardware with an ordinary smartphone. It’s about 10 x 5 inches and weighs 1.5 pounds.

Lumineye wants to grow out its functionality to become more of a ubiquitous device. The team of four is planning to continue manufacturing the device, selling it directly to customers.

Lumineye Device BreathingMode

Lumineye’s device can detect humans through walls using radio frequencies

Lumineye has just started its pilot programs, and recently spent a Saturday at a FEMA event testing out the the device’s ability to detect people covered in rubble piles. The company was born out of the Boise, Idaho cohort of Stanford’s Hacking4Defense program, a course meant to connect Silicon Valley innovations with the U.S. Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. The Idaho-based startup is graduating from Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 class.

Lumineye TeamPicture 1

Megan Lacy, Corbin Hennen and Rob Kleffner

Best TV deals this weekend: Vizio, LG, Sceptre, and more

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.
The Vizio P-Series Quantum is one of the best 4K TVs you can get right now — get one for $400 off.
The Vizio P-Series Quantum is one of the best 4K TVs you can get right now — get one for $400 off.

Image: vizio/pexels/mashable photo composite

Waiting until Black Friday to a buy a TV has become the thing to do, but we’re proposing that you should have that HDR quality in your home for all of fall.

Forget Hallmark Christmas movies — September and October are the best months on television for fans of horror or classic slasher movies, and those dark scenes are the spookiest when you can actually see who’s lurking in the shadows.

The argument for fall sports in 4K is obvious: Sports fans shouldn’t have to spend the first months of the season unable to decipher where the ball is or what the score says.

Luckily, there are always some hidden gem TV deals scattered across the internet well before holiday sales: Get a 49-inch LG 4K TV for $377 (that’s bougie dorm life, if we’ve ever heard it), a 65-inch Vizio P-Series Quantum TV for $999.99, or a 75-inch Sony 4K TV for less than $1,500 plus a free $400 Dell gift card.

Here are our favorite TV deals this week:

Check out these deals, too:

40 inches and up

50 inches and up

60 inches and up

70 inches and up

80 inches and up

Looking for more deals, the latest news on cool products, and other ways to upgrade your life? Sign up for the Mashable Deals newsletter here.  

Slack co-founder Cal Henderson and Spark Capital’s Megan Quinn are coming to Disrupt SF

If there was one company at the top of everyone’s mind this year, it was Slack.

The now-ubiquitous workplace messaging tool began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in June after taking an unusual route to the public markets known as a direct listing. Slack bypassed the typical IPO process in favor of putting its current stock on to the NYSE without doing an additional raise or bringing on underwriter banking partners.

Slack co-founder and chief technology officer Cal Henderson and Slack investor and Spark Capital general partner Megan Quinn will join us on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF to give a behind the scenes look at Slack’s banner year, the company’s origin story and what convinced Quinn to participate in the business’s funding round years ago.

Early in his career, Henderson was the technical director of Special Web Projects at Emap, a UK media company. Later, he became the head of engineering for Flickr, the photo-sharing tool co-founded by Slack chief Steward Butterfield. In April 2009, he was reported to be starting a new stealth social gaming company with Butterfield, a project that would ultimately become Slack.

Quinn, for her part, added Slack to the Spark Capital portfolio in 2015, participating in the company’s $160 million Series E at a valuation of $2.8 billion. No small startup at the time, Slack already had 750,000 daily users and backing from Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Social Capital, GV and Kleiner Perkins.

Quinn is a seasoned investor, known for striking deals with Coinbase, Glossier, Rover and Wealthfront, among others. She first entered the venture capital scene in 2012 as an investment partner at Kleiner Perkins, where she invested in early to mid-stage consumer tech startups. Quinn joined Spark Capital in 2015 to make growth-stage investments in companies across the board.

Before trying her hand at VC, she spent seven years in product management and strategic partnership development at Google and one year as the head of product at payments company Square.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Tickets are available here.

Slackel Linux Works Well Inside Its Openbox

Slackel Linux Works Well Inside Its Openbox

The latest release of Slackel Linux renews and improves the mashup of Slackware and Salix built around an Openbox pseudo desktop environment.

Slackel 7.2 hit the download servers on July 20, eight months after the release of Slackel 7.1 Openbox edition. Slackel also is available in two much older versions running the KDE and Fluxbox environments. All releases are available in 64-bit and 32-bit builds.

Slackel, based in Greece, is a Linux distro a step away from the typical mainstream Debian-based Linux OS line. Based on Slackware and Salix, the distro is fully compatible with both Slackware and Salix software repositories.

That combination gives Slackel Linux a better range of software. Slackware-based distros typically have far smaller software repositories than do Debian-based distros and others. Think in terms of a few thousand packages compared to 35,000.

Slackel 7.2 Openbox desktop

The Slackel 7.2 release has an energized Openbox desktop display that provides a simple yet functional user interface.

– click image to enlarge –

Finding Linux packages that will run in Slackel is less of a challenge, but you will still experience slimmer pickings.

Bigger, Better Build

The two-base combo comes with useful advantages for Slackel users. One is the inclusion of Slackware system tools.

Another is the built-in access to all the Salix Linux system tools known for their efficiency in making system administration easy and straightforward. For instance, the Salix codecs installer application quickly and easily installs patent-encumbered codecs.

A third user benefit comes directly from a key improvement to this latest Slackel Linux release. Linux kernel 4.19.59 powers the distro. It also has the latest updates from Slackware’s current software tree.

Previous releases came with two downloadable ISO files. One was the live session version. The other was the installation disc. This latest release combines the two. The new ISO image is an isohybrid that can be used as installation media.

Installation tools are another big improvement. Slackware and Salix installations — as well as previous Slackel Linux text-based installers — have made the process less than user-friendly. Four tools improve installation routines.

  1. Instonusb is a GUI tool to install Slackel 32-bit and 64-bit live ISO images to a USB stick. It also can create an encrypted persistent file for live session use.
  2. Multibootusb is a GUI tool to create a live USB image including 32-bit and 64-bit live editions of Slackel and Salix, and to choose the one to boot into a live environment at boot time.
  3. SLI is a complete GUI installer.
  4. Live ISO image creates persistent file encryption after installation on USB devices.

Taking Up the Slack

Slackel Linux has a lot to offer. It has a long line of prominence with growth from two influencers. Slackware and Salix are two well-oiled Linux families from which Slackel Linux evolved.

Slackware Linux is a throwback to the early days of the Linux OS. It is among the oldest actively maintained Linux distros. It dates back to 1992. By comparison, well-known and well-used distros such as Ubuntu, Fedora and Linux Mint were introduced in the mid-2000s.

Despite Slackware’s longevity, is has not joined more modern Linux offspring in terms of user-friendliness. The Slackware project started as a way to install a Linux system that already included some core packages like the kernel and an X window system.

Slackware Take 2

Slackware may have lost its relevance to anyone but diehard Slackware fans. Over the years, Slackware has updated but not improved much.

Unlike Slackel Linux, Slackware still is not easy to set up and use. Slackel Linux attempts to fix that weakness by being more user-friendly as a better Slackware model.

Similarly, Salix Linux is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Slackware. It is simple, fast and easy to use, with stability being a primary goal.

Slackel Linux gets much of its design philosophy from Salix Linux. Salix also is fully backward-compatible with Slackware. That adds reach to Slackel Linux’s access to software.

Openbox Odyssey

Openbox is the only available graphical user interface, or GUI, in the current release. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a good choice.

What is Openbox? It is a stacking window manager for the X Window System. It is very configurable, allowing it to function as a nearly full desktop environment.

Window managers control the appearance and functionality of windows within an operating system. For instance, they provide basic desktop functions for displaying windows and screen displays. They control actions such as opening, closing, moving, decorating, and other such window management operations.

Slackel's Openbox cascading systems menu

A key feature with the Openbox design is the ability to see a cascading systems menu anywhere on the desktop with a right-click. The standard main menu is always available by clicking on the “O” button on the far left of the bottom panel.

– click image to enlarge –

When a full-fledged desktop such as Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, MATE or GNOME is integrated into the operating system, a window manager takes care of the core functions to provide a graphical interface for navigating the screen display. The desktop shell adds more advanced features to enhance the GUI’s functionality, such as providing animations.

Window managers such as Fluxbox, JWN, Enlightenment and Openbox often are used in conjunction with a full desktop environment, but window managers can serve as a pseudo standalone desktop as well. For instance, Openbox often is paired with GNOME and KDE to enhance those desktop environments.

Serves Slackel

Openbox is a halfway measure between Slackel Linux having a minimal or a full-blown desktop environment. Openbox has a powerful set of options and is easy to use.

Its characteristic visual box style is built around a minimalist appearance. Still, its setting controls and other design options allow a variety of display appearances to suit any taste.

Do not let Slackel’s reliance on Openbox over other so-called more modern desktops diminish your view of GUI appeal. It is the window manager used by the LXDE desktop environment.

Especially when a distro developer wants a lightweight distro that works with lower-powered hardware such as legacy computers, Openbox can be a simple and ideal operating system component. It gives you control to change almost every part of how you interact with your desktop without making you do everything.

Slackel's Openbox Configuration Manager panel

Slackel’s Openbox Configuration Manager panel offers a full range of settings to let you design your own look and feel.

– click image to enlarge –

Openbox Look and Feel

The Openbox desktop design requires almost no learning curve. It is point-and-click simple. Both its appearance and its operation are old school. That is a good thing.

The standard panel bar sits at the bottom of the screen. The left side of the panel has a very easy-to-use, uncluttered menu. A few icons sit on the left.

The expected notifications are on the right end of the panel. Toward right center is a preconfigured workspace switcher with four virtual workspaces ready to use.

The panel bar is devoid of any extra features such as applets. Openbox is very simple and has some user tweaks built in, but power users will be less enchanted with its almost one-size-fits-all design.

Superior Software

I was less impressed with earlier Slackel Linux releases that used the KDE and Fluxbox options. Fluxbox is somewhat similar to Openbox in terms of its menu, but the range of functionality with Fluxbox is more minimal than I prefer. The KDE version was spoiled by having too many K-family software packages for my liking.

The Openbox edition takes a big step up by including the LibreOffice suite version 6.2x. LibreOffice is far superior to Amiword, which came in earlier releases.

A nice touch is the Gslapt Package Manager for access to Slackware, Salix and Slackel package repositories. Another of Slackel’s strong points is the systems tool collection from Salix Linux.

Bottom Line

The current Slackel Linux release can be a good choice for new users. It is easy to stumble through the installation steps, but this distro has some benefits.

Slackel is a reliable operating system that is easy to use. If you like to learn how Linux works, Slackel gets you closer to understanding the pure Linux environment without resorting to the terminal window and the command line.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software. Email Jack.

The best anime of 2019: an ongoing list

Hundreds of new anime series come out every year, so it can be difficult to pick out which ones are actually worth watching. With each new anime season, The Verge tries to point fans to interesting new shows via seasonal previews. But it can be hard to judge a series by its cover — or at least by the first few episodes. Some of the best shows each year don’t always make it into those previews. To highlight all of the shows that stood out after a complete watch, we’ve assembled this list of the best new anime of 2019 so far. While it won’t be entirely comprehensive — it only includes series we’ve watched and finished — everything on the list is something we can unequivocally recommend.

Shows on this list are based on the series / season of that series ending in 2019. So shows that started in 2018 (ie: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) but didn’t end until 2019 appear on this list, not our 2018 list. If you feel like something is missing, please recommend it in the comments.

Mob Psycho 100 II

The second season of Mob Psycho feels as though there wasn’t a three-year break after the first season. The show continues to be an amazing animation showcase, and watching it often feels like the animators at Bones, the studio that animated both seasons, are showing off and having a lot of fun with what they get to draw. But what makes both seasons great is the sense of humor and heart on display.

This new season goes to some darker places than the first season. It’s less focused on testing the incredible psychic powers of middle-schooler Mob and more focused on testing his empathy and maturity as he grows up and becomes a person rather than an ultra-powerful psychic force of nature. Even with the darker tone and themes, a wonderful sense of absurdity and humor still grounds the whole series and keeps it from losing its relatability.

Streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation


Some anime series start off with such strange conceits that they either completely put the audience off or become utterly captivating to understand. Sarazanmai is that sort of show. It follows three middle school boys who get turned into mythical creatures called kappas. They’ll only become human again if they steal a fictional desire-organ from inside the butt of a spirit monster that’s magically stealing items from the city to serve an evil empire of otters.

The real crux of the show, which is hidden beneath all the strange kappa and otter mythological imagery, is personal and human. It’s about exploring the ways we connect with those around us and what those connections mean. It’s a great follow-up for fans who watched Neon Genesis Evangelion when it hit Netflix and are looking for something conceptually similar. But despite how weird it can get with all the kappa butt stuff, anyone could enjoy this show. It’ll likely be talked about for years to come, not just for the writing, but for the animation as well.

Streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

Run with the Wind

Early on, Run with the Wind feels like it’s writing a check it has no chance of being able to cash. It seems unlikely we’ll get any significant character development for the 10 different main characters, and their transition from not even amateur runners to one of the top college-marathon teams in Japan seems like it would be fantastical at worst and dubious at best.

Yet, over the course of its 23 episodes, the series presents a convincing story by being less about the sport than about these college students figuring out their lives in the present and future. The running acts as a constant that forces them all to interact, confronting issues in their lives while coming together as a group. This all climaxes in the show’s final episodes: as they run their section of a competitive two-day relay, they reflect on everything that’s happened. The ending only works because of how much the audience knows and cares about the characters, having seen so much of what they’ve gone through.

Streaming on Crunchyroll and Hi-Dive

The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland’s anime adaption is incredibly faithful, but it’s also a fascinating interpretation of the source material about the oldest kids at a secluded orphanage learning that they are actually being raised as food for demons. The manga is fundamentally more of a thriller, while the anime takes on a more horror-like quality. It’s not because they changed anything in the text of the work; it’s because of the way series director Mamoru Kanbe visually approached it. Conversations as the kids secretly plan or try to work out what new information they have, are shot in an almost voyeuristic fashion, like the camera is spying on them from around a dark corner. The style adds to the creeping dread of these scenes in a way that isn’t found in the manga.

Even with all that, Emma, who is effectively the lead protagonist, is a breath of fresh air. She exudes a caring and optimism that serve as the driving force for keeping the characters moving forward, while affecting the way they think about approaching problems. She’s never presented as too naïve or not smart enough to understand her dire situation, though, which keeps the show from getting too dark or despairing to enjoy.

Streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hi-Dive, and Hulu

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime initially looks like it’s going to be a wish-fulfillment power fantasy. It’s about a middle-aged Tokyo man who dies while protecting his co-worker from being stabbed. But before completely dying, he awakens in a fantasy world as a low-level slime monster in a cave. Thanks to some strange abilities given to him as part of his transference to this fantasy world, he’s able to absorb items and creatures, allowing him to use and combine their abilities. After befriending a powerful dragon and receiving its blessing, he sets out to learn more about the new world he’s a part of.

The subsequent story could just be about him using his cool new powers in a fantasy world to get everything he ever wanted. Instead, the show is full of empathy. Rimuru is incredibly overpowered, but they understand that while they are possibly indestructible, others aren’t. So they end up using that power like a well-meaning middle manager, knowing how to delegate, and when and how to correctly protect and support others. This all adds a charm to the show, as the drama and story becomes less about Rimuru and more about those around them.

Streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Kaguya-sama: Love is War has the intensity and mind games of Death Note, except it’s a bizarre rom-com about two people who like each other and are trying to get the other one to admit it first. Kaguya is vice president of the student council at a prestigious private school and heiress of a rich and powerful family. Student council president Miyuki is from a less auspicious family but is one of the most popular students at school.

The concept is an interesting twist on a high school rom-com, but that alone isn’t enough to put it on this list. The show’s animation adds so much to the tension and emotional stakes of each scene, with incredibly stylized shots and exceptionally well-animated moments. These shots often elevate the absurdity of the dramatic confrontations, which are comedically great when you remember how trivially stupid the stakes are here, with both characters scheming to get the other person to ask them out. This isn’t a will they / won’t they show. It seems obvious that they’ll eventually come together. It’s just about watching the bizarre antics as these two would-be lovers stumble over their pride.

Streaming on Crunchyroll Funimation and Hulu

My Roommate Is a Cat

From the previews, My Roommate Is a Cat gives every indication that it’s going to be a cute show about a guy who adopts a cat. Instead, it’s a humorous, heartfelt show about social anxiety, trauma, and depression. It doesn’t just explore this through the secluded author Subaru, who’s dealing with the sudden death of his parents; it explores the same things with Haru the cat, who has her own issues from trying to take care of her siblings when they were abandoned.

The series shows almost everything from both Subaru and Haru’s perspectives, which helps contextualize Haru’s reactions to what Sabaru sees her do. Mainly, it shows how the growing connection between the two helps them find a better balance in their lives where their issues aren’t a constant impediment. It’s not a flashy show with amazing animation, but it tells a poignant story about mental health with the right amount of humor.

Streaming on Crunchyroll

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind

Where to start in talking about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? It’s such an odd combination of action, body horror, fashion, and meta-referential musician references. For fans who’ve watched the series since part 1, it might all seem pretty normal now. But coming into this latest series fresh could be jarring. Still, this season, the fifth part of the series, works as a standalone piece since it’s narratively separate from the previous chapters. Golden Wind turns the show into a story about internal strife in an Italian mafia full of people with ridiculous psychic abilities.

The series is ostensibly built on putting its characters in incredibly melodramatic and increasingly ridiculous situations. For instance, the main crew gets stuck on a train with someone who is trying to kill them with his ability to make people age quickly in enclosed spaces. So they hide in a living room created by a psychic turtle inside its shell. Golden Wind makes the characters so appealing that wondering how they’ll get out of these situations matters more than the completely incomprehensible nature of their problems.

Golden Wind manages to really distill this aspect of the series by offering up a small crew of people the viewers really want to root for. They’re gangsters, but their camaraderie and backstories, which reveal how they came to be so close, make them engaging. So does the constant danger they experience, especially since they usually don’t make it out unscathed. The audience’s constant concern for their safety feels justified. It isn’t just manipulative melodrama without consequences.

Streaming on Crunchyroll and Viz

Stay tuned for ongoing updates throughout 2019.