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WikiLeaks doesn’t want you to say Julian Assange lives in a cupboard ‘under the stairs’

Please, don't.
Please, don’t.

Image: Anadolu Agency / getty

For the love of god, please stop saying that Julian Assange lives in a cupboard under the stairs. WikiLeaks is warning you. 

The self-described “media organization and associated library” is fed up, and is not going to take it anymore. In a Jan. 6 “confidential” email sent to members of the press, WikiLeaks railed against “falsehoods” spread by “media competitors, click-bait sites, [and] political party loyalists” regarding the organization and its publisher, Julian Assange. And so, to set the record straight, the non-profit provided a list of 140 statements that you in no way should say about WikiLeaks or Assange. 

Naturally, the list leaked. And oh boy, it’s a doozy. Journalist Emma Best published the full WikiLeaks email on her blog, and the so-called “defamatory falsehoods” contained therein are quite a thing to behold.

Take, for example, this very normal statement: “It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange lives, or has ever lived, in a basement, cupboard or under the stairs.”

But before we dive too deeply into what you definitely shouldn’t say about WikiLeaks or Assange, it’s worth noting that after the email was published by Best, Best reports that WikiLeaks went ahead and publicly released an edited version — with some of the more absurd statements removed — perhaps in response to the widespread scorn the initial compendium of banned statements elicited. 

Like, for example, jokes comparing Assange to Harry Potter. 

Or the incredulous response to WikiLeaks’ claim that it is “false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange stinks.”

Some other gems from the version of the WikiLeaks email published by Best:

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange does not use cutlery or does not wash his hands.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever walked into embassy meeting rooms in his underwear.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Ecuador asked Julian Assange to improve his hygiene.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever played soccer or used a skateboard during week days or office hours at the embassy.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever published, uttered or tried to promote a “conspiracy theory”.

Notably, echoing Best, Reuters reported on Jan. 6 that the initial email contained “140 different ‘false and defamatory’ statements” — providing support for Best’s claim that the version later released by WikiLeaks (which does not contain 140 statements) was edited. 

So, whatever you do, do not say that Julian Assange is an underwear-sporting stink boy that eats with his hands and rides his skateboard to his cupboard home while uttering conspiracy theories. 

Just don’t do it. It would be false and defamatory. WikiLeaks has warned you. 

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Snoozers are losers: Everything you need to know about the button we love to hate

When your alarm went off this morning, did you leap cheerfully out of bed like some kind of psychopath… or did you do the predictable thing and hit that snooze button? 

Love it or hate it — or even love to hate it — the snooze button is as much a part of our modern morning routine as breakfast radio shows and scoffing cereal.

But what’s the story behind this quirk of modern life? And by tapping that fateful nine-more-minutes-of-sleep option, are we really cheating the system — or just ourselves? 

A brief history of the alarm clock

Image: Anuj Biyani/Flickr 

Before we consider the concept of snoozing, we have to look at the bigger picture. That’s right, it’s time to do a deep dive into the history of the alarm clock. 

Way back in the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato had a water-based alarm clock that would rouse him and his students for dawn lectures. 

Skip forward a few hundred years to around 725, when Buddhist monk and polymath Yi Xing created another water-based contraption with gongs that went off at certain times. 

Mechanical clocks as we’d recognize them today emerged around the 14th century. Monks get most of the credit for creating them, in order to stick to prayer schedules. 

From then on, clock towers in town squares would chime in the mornings to wake people nearby. If you weren’t close enough to hear, you might employ a knocker-upper to bang on your bedroom windows. With the advent of the industrial revolution, some factories would sound a morning whistle to wake workers. 

Leap all the way to the 1780s, when American Levi Hutchins is said to be the first man to make a personal alarm clock. It could only be set to 4 a.m. (the time Hutchins considered proper to wake). Despite being a clockmaker by trade, he never commercialized the concept. 

The first U.S. patent for an alarm clock that could be set to the owner’s required time was registered in 1876 by Seth E. Thomas, who went on to manufacture such devices through the Seth Thomas Clock Company. 

When was the snooze button invented?

Image: Telechron

In the mid-1950s, arguably a time of huge technical advances and massive growth in the household appliance market, the first bedside alarm clock with a snooze button was released. 

Marketed as “the world’s most humane alarm clock,” General Electric-Telechron introduced the “Snooz-Alarm” model as a “new kind of alarm” that “wakes you, lets you snooze, wakes you again!”

Rivals Westclox swiftly followed with a “Drowse” button, offering a 5- or 10-minute respite from your alarm, a standard it continued for many years after. 

However, it was the “snooze” description and nine-minute duration that won, eventually becoming the industry standard still recognized today.

Few manufacturers have since tried to mess with the format, although the popular Sony range of Dream Machine alarm clocks boasted a large snooze button labelled as a “Dream Bar” for many years.  

Why was snooze set to nine minutes?

Image: GollyGforce/flickr

The main theory behind why the snooze period was set to nine minutes is a technical one. The snooze function had to be worked in around the existing gearing of a small alarm clock, and keeping the time period in single digits is said to have presented a more logical technical solution. 

The secondary reason, which may be due more to user experience, is that nine minutes is a satisfactory time for a brief rest. If you get past the 10-minute mark, your body may start to fall into a deep sleep, making waking up again more unpleasant. 

But why is it still nine minutes?

In a completely programmable digital era, the fact that snooze is set to a default (and in many cases, an unchangeable default) nine minutes is what is described as a “nostalgic artificial standard.” 

In other words, it’s either an homage to how things have traditionally been done, or an if-it-ain’t-broke-then-don’t-try-to-fix-it type scenario.  

Apple’s iOS platform and Amazon’s Alexa both default to the nine-minute norm. The more fragmented Android market offers five-minute, 10-minute, and user-defined periods. 

Of course, now we don’t hit a physical button on an actual clock. We tap a touchscreen, or simply tell our devices to “snooze.” 

Snooze button stats 

A recent survey of nearly 20,000 people by Withings found that around 50% admitted to hitting the snooze button at least once in the morning, with a sleepy 15% putting off their alarm three times or more.

Withings found the under-30 age group are the guiltiest for multiple snoozes. A similar British YouGov survey supports this data, suggesting 58% of under-35s use snooze at least once when their alarm goes off. 

Is hitting snooze good for you? 

There are two major reasons, according to science, that snoozers are losers. 

Professor Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and director of the University of California’s Centre for Human Sleep Science, states that “when we are artificially wrenched from sleep by an alarm clock, a burst of activity from the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system causes a spike in blood pressure and a shock acceleration in heart rate.”

Repeating this wrenching process by pressing snooze frequently puts your cardiovascular system through such a shock again and again, causing what Walker says is “multiplicative abuse to your heart and nervous system.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, then snoozing can also adversely affect you on a hormonal level by increasing your body’s level of cortisol, a hormone that is released when you’re stressed. 

Sleep expert Neil Robinson explains that “by dozing off for those extra minutes, we’re preparing our bodies for another sleep cycle, which is then quickly interrupted — causing us to feel fatigued for the rest of the day that lies ahead.”

A bonus reason to not be tempted to press snooze is for the sake of your relationship. A Sleep Junkie survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that the more people’s partners hit the snooze button, the lower they rated their relationship satisfaction. 

Sooo, what’s the alternative? 

Image: Phillips

So, we now know we should steer clear of the snooze option, but what are the alternatives? 

One increasingly popular option is to ditch an audio-based alarm clock in favor of a light therapy solution. These “sunrise alarm clocks” or “wake-up lights” gradually illuminate in a way that simulates the sun rising, promising a more gradual and natural wake-up process. 

Lumie, MOSCHE, and Phillips are just three manufacturers that offer products along these lines. Depending on the model, some also give you a sunset option for a bedtime chill-out session, the ability to wake to different sounds, and options to change the amount of time the light gradually brightens. 

More recently, wearables are a viable alternative to a traditional alarm solution. Smartwatches will not only gather useful data about your night’s rest, they’ll also wake you gently in the morning. 

Apple Watch owners can take advantage of the device’s haptics by setting the alarm to vibrate for a more sedate way to wake, and manufacturers like Withings and Fitbit offer smartwatches with vibrating alarms to wake you silently. 

Finally, if you can’t afford to splash out on a new alarm clock or a smartwatch, you could opt for audio that wakes you in a more civilized manner than the traditional blaring alarm. Birdsong, gentle music, or even a song from your own music collection could be considered a better alternative, especially if the sound increases gradually.  

TL;DR: Step away from that snooze button, people… 

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The Very Slow Movie Player shows films at a fraction of normal speed

There’s surely a movie you love enough that you wish you could put it on your walls.

The Very Slow Movie Player (VSMP) is a device that plays films at 24 frames an hour, rather than the usual 24 frames a second. 

In a Medium post, designer Bryan Boyer explained that he put the project together to “celebrate slowness.” The device consists of an ePaper display, hooked up to a Raspberry Pi computer with custom software, and housed in a 3D-printed case. 

Every 2.5 minutes, one frame from the film stored on the computer’s memory card is extracted, converted to black-and-white, then displayed on the screen.

[embedded content]

It means a regular film, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, would take 8,220 hours (or nearly a year) to complete), rather than its usual running time of 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Boyer explains that slowing things down helps one show more appreciation. After all, you’d have so much time to inspect the details from each frame from a film.

“Films are vain creatures that typically demand a dark room, full attention, and eager eyeballs ready to accept light beamed from the screen or projector to your visual cortex. VSMP inverts all of that,” he writes.

“It is impossible to ‘watch’ in a traditional way because it’s too slow. In a staring contest with VSMP you will always lose. It can be noticed, glanced-at, or even inspected, but not watched.”

It’s certainly a neat twist on the digital photo frame, although there appears to be no plans to make this device a reality.

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GDPR transformed the internet in 2018, and it’s not done yet

Time seems to work differently when you spend your days online. The memes, moments, and scandals that feel like ages ago are often really only months, weeks, or even days in the past — and what was once unthinkable quickly transforms into how it’s always been. 

The General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR, only went into effect on May 25 of 2018, but by now the regulation has reached so far into the everyday life of the internet that it’s becoming harder to imagine a time before. Things online are changing as a result of GDPR, even if you have to  to remind yourself of that fact, and as we move toward closing out 2018 it’s important to take a moment to explore just what those changes are — and the battle that’s still to come. 

For starters, it’s worth noting what GDPR even is. 

According to the European Commission, GDPR is “one set of data protection rules for all companies operating in the EU, wherever they are based.” The end result of this, we are told, is that “people have more control over their personal data,” and “businesses benefit from a level playing field.”

Sounds good, right? For the average internet user, that very much appears to be so. For example, GDPR dictates that companies must notify their users of data breaches that could affect said users. With huge breaches seemingly happening all the time, this requirement is vital when it comes to  ensuring that people are aware of just how much of their personal data is out in the wild. 

And, perhaps just as importantly, which companies are incapable of keeping user data safe.

Of course, that’s not all that GPDR mandates, and breach notifications are not the only result of the new regulations. Notably, GDPR introduces some much-needed teeth to the internet equation. Companies can be fined hefty sums for failing to comply with the new rules, specifically “up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover.”

But all that’s been happening behind the scenes. The casual internet user, on the other hand, has likely come across GDPR in one specific form: the popup notification. You’ve surely seen it before, perhaps in the form of a dialog box interrupting your browsing to ask you to agree to the data collection that your site of choice engages in.  

“Consent is one of the legal grounds for processing data (together with contract, legitimate interest, legal obligations, etc.),” the European Commission notes in a warning to site operators and companies. “If you rely on it, consent should be given by a clear affirmative action.”

Click or go home.

Click or go home.

Image: Malte Mueller / getty

That action, of course, manifests itself as you clicking through to accept the terms and conditions stipulated by the GDPR-mandated popup. If you’re someone that regularly clears his or her cookies, then you’ll likely need to do it each and every time you visit the site in question. This, as yet another addition to the long list of ads and popups that require navigating through before you can access a webpage, is a pain.  

And if you don’t agree to hand over your data, but still want to access the site? 

Well, that’s where things get interesting. Electronic Frontier Foundation international director Danny O’Brien told Mashable over email that the popups themselves have become the latest battleground in GDPR compliance. 

“Importantly, for anyone still batting away those ‘I agree’ pop-ups, many of these [GDPR complaint] cases revolve around complaints that consent has to be ‘freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous’ — and that if you *disagree* with data collection that isn’t necessary for the service you’re getting, you should still be able to get that service, even if you decline,” he explained. “The regulators warned that this wasn’t legal under the GDPR.”

In other words, as they often currently manifest, the GDPR popups themselves may be in violation of GDPR. Fun stuff. 

So, are any of these efforts actually working as intended? Has all the time and money that’s gone into making the web GDPR compliant over the course of 2018 made a positive difference for the privacy and security of the common user? According to O’Brien, it’s still too early to tell — though we’ll likely know soon.

“The GDPR upped [regulators’] powers, and in many EU countries, [regulators] also upped their staff levels,” O’Brien explained. “But it takes a while for a really juicy complaint to make its way through the system, and we’ve yet to see the results of even the first complaints made under the GDPR.”

As that begins to happen over the course of 2019, and the financial and legal risks of noncompliance become tangible for companies around the world, we’re likely to see even more changes online as a result of GDPR. In other words, we’re just getting started on this regulation journey.

But hey, it’ll be over before you even notice. 

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