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All the places you’ve shopped at that have been hacked

Image: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Hackers are winning. This summer, they infiltrated HBO and stole unreleased material. Last month, they breached Equifax — the consumer credit reporting agency — and gathered information on over 140 million Americans. But hackers also raid places that seem a bit closer to home: the places we buy burgers, drink beer, and shop for refrigerators. 

Below, Mashable compiled a timeline of the various establishments that have been hacked in the last five years, beginning with Target and ending with Sonic. It’s likely that this list will only expand. After all, there’s growing evidence the United States’ own National Security Agency (NSA) was hacked by Russians. If the NSA can’t keep hackers at bay, how can Sonic Drive-In?

Image: mashable

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Instrumments 01 might be the best way to measure anything on the fly

How things measure up is pretty important to us. We don’t just look at objects, we automatically scale them in our minds, guessing about width, height, and how they might fit in our world.

We make these assumptions because few of us carry rulers in our back pockets (where would we put our phones?), and you better be a Property Brother if you’re in the habit of carrying a tape measures on your belt.

If only there was a subtler way to have the power of dimensioning in your pocket.

That’s the simple idea behind the Instrumments 01, a pen-sized, laser-powered measurement stick.

The $149 version, which I tested, also doubles as a retractable pen (there’s a pen-free $99 version), so there’s even more reason to always have 01 with you.

The key to Instrumment 01's measuring ease is the rolling ring on the end of the device.

The key to Instrumment 01’s measuring ease is the rolling ring on the end of the device.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Battery-powered, the mostly aluminum 01 uses a laser, a rolling ring, and a companion app to let you measure on any surface. To use it, you pair it via Bluetooth with your iOS or Android phone, open the app, place your finger on the end for three seconds to activate the pen, and then, holding it in one hand, roll the back end along any surface to measure it. On the app, the numbers go up as the pen edge rolls along the surface. The laser shoots a precise red beam out of the 01’s back end. You use it to align with the start and finish edge of whatever you’re measuring.

If you want to measure the height and width of, say, a painting, you can capture and save both those measurements in one file. For a box, you can add height, as well. You can title these measurements — “This is a box!” — add notes, and store them in the cloud.

Getting started

Let’s begin with a few things I didn’t like about 01. First, the packaging didn’t adequately warn me about the laser, so when I powered up the pen by holding my finger on the back end for a few seconds and then removed my digit, I found myself staring directly into the red beam. I can’t imagine this is beneficial to my corneas.

The measuring stick even hides a pen. The tip can also be swapped out for an iPad stylus tip or lead pencil.

The measuring stick even hides a pen. The tip can also be swapped out for an iPad stylus tip or lead pencil.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Second, the app wouldn’t let me finish setup without signing up with Instrumments. I get that they have a cloud-based measurement data storage service — but there’s an offline option, so I don’t have to sign up with them.

Measure this

As I mentioned above, measuring something is simply a matter of lining up the red laser line with the starting edge of the measurement subject (making sure that the double “XX” on the pen’s back is facing you), and then slowly dragging the pen to the right as the measure wheel smoothly spins on the back end. (That ring acts like a tiny contractor’s measurement wheel). To add another dimension, I simply tapped on the top of the pen and the app would switch to, say, height. You can, of course, switch the app’s measurement from standard to metric and in increments of inches, feet, yards, and even miles. (I have no idea how anyone would measure a mile with this thing).

The app tracks the rolling ring, giving you precise, digital, shareable measurements.

The app tracks the rolling ring, giving you precise, digital, shareable measurements.

Image: instrumments, Inc.

In this setting, you can see a virtual, 3D depiction of the 01 pen.

In this setting, you can see a virtual, 3D depiction of the 01 pen.

Image: instrumments, inc.

I was careful to move slowly because the faster I rolled, the more the pen roller would slide off a straight line, especially if I didn’t have a hard edge to rest against.

If I rolled past the end of my object, something I did a lot, I could carefully roll backwards, using the laser to line up with the correct edge, while the app simultaneously rolled back the measurement number.

There’s even an Apple Watch app that let me keep track of the measurement number on my wrist.

Instrumments 01 can also measure 3D objects like boxes, and capture curves. When you switch the app to 3D mode, it will recommend you attach the training wheels to the pen. This triangular-shaped attachment slides onto the pen and adds two small rubber wheels backed by two gnarled metal wheels that line up with the roller ring. To measure with the training wheels on, you have to roll them along the surface while they spin the 01’s roll ring. The rougher metal wheels help keep you from slipping around on your measurement surface.

These training wheels help you measure uneven surfaces.

These training wheels help you measure uneven surfaces.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

I had a little trouble properly positioning the training wheels. Even when I did figure it out, rolling the pen over 3D objects felt awkward. Plus, the 3D representations that appeared on-screen were useless. Often, it was a jagged line that looked nothing like the box I was trying to measure. One thing I did like is that, in the app, I could turn on a virtual representation of the 01 and watch it move in tandem with the real device (apparently, there’s an accelerometer in it, too).

The laser helps you line up with the edge of whatever you're measuring.

The laser helps you line up with the edge of whatever you’re measuring.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

You can also, according to Instrumments, use 01 to grid out measurements by having the laser blink when, for example, you’ve rolled a foot away from your start point. This could come in handy for hanging photos or finding studs (which are usually 16-inches part) in your walls. Sadly, I couldn’t figure out how that works, and information about the feature is not included in the very basic printed manual (which comes with a free Moleskin-style notebook).

The Instrumments 01 is only a little thicker and heavier than your standard pen.

The Instrumments 01 is only a little thicker and heavier than your standard pen.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

As for accuracy of the measurements, I would say that depends on the steadiness of your hand and if you can properly align the laser. When I did so, the measurements were perfect. When I got a little sloppy, the measurements became estimates, at best.

Overall, I like the Instrumments 01. Would I pay $149 (or $99) for the convenience of a pen-sized, laser-guided tape measure in my pocket? Probably not, but I could see a carpenter or home decorator using it.

Instrumments 01

The Good

Pen-sized Simple, smart app Ingenious measurement ring

The Bad

It forces you to sign up with their service. 3D measurement is disappointing.

The Bottom Line

Intrumments 01 is a great, pocket-sized measurement system for DIYers, carpenters and home decorators.

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TapMedia Twitter account goes rogue as former employee calls out CEO for sexism

Hell hath no fury like a former social media manager scorned.

TapMedia learned that the hard way after a former social media manager took the reigns to the company’s Twitter account and blasted the company’s CEO, John Meyer, for being sexist.

In the replies to that tweet, the person who took over the account clarified that she’s a woman, and adds more on why she believes Meyer’s tweet, which poked fun at a woman’s eyebrows, was sexist. 

In addition to calling Meyer sexist, the tweeter at hand also sent out a barrage of tweets, revealing details about her time at TapMedia, including how much money she reportedly made.

As the tweets continued, the profile and background images on the account were changed, a rose emoji was added to the name of the account, and a tweet was pinned to the top of the profile that read: “Entrepreneurs are false idols end exploitation & oppression of the working class.”

As for the identity of the hacker, the bio on the TapMedia account linked to a separate Twitter account for someone named Imogen. Mashable has also reached out to them for comment.

In a statement to Mashable, TapMedia CEO John Meyer explained that “Imogen” was Imogen Olsen, a former employee at his current company, Fresco.

“It’s very disappointing to see Imogen Olsen hack a previously inactive Twitter account for my previous app company, TapMedia (where I was the sole employee). It’s even more sad to see such a strong case of cyberbullying from someone who talks frequently on social media about her own mental health issues.”

Meyer added that his father recently died by suicide, and lived with severe mental health issues. As someone who experienced that loss, he said he believes cyberbullying should be frowned upon for its toll on mental health.

“I wish her all the best and hope that she could instead engage in a much more mature, professional, and respectful dialogue with me about the things that cause her anger or frustration,” he said. 

As of this writing, the banner photo on the TapMedia twitter account still displays the url for the website of the Democratic Socialists of America, and the tweets are still posted to the account.

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This girls robotics team from Afghanistan was denied visas for a U.S. competition

A robotics competition team of Afghan girls won’t be able to watch their creation compete in person.

They were recently denied one-week visas to the United States to come to Washington, D.C., for the First Global Challenge, a new robotics competition that focuses on providing clean water.

The team twice traveled the roughly 500-mile distance to the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, for visa interviews, but officials denied them.

“I wanted this to happen badly, I really did,” said First Global President Joe Sestak, a former member of Congress. “These girls are courageous.”

Instead, they’ll watch via Skype as their robot competes against creations from over 100 other nations. 

Event organizers plan to play a short video of the team at Constitution Hall to honor their effort. 

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Team Afghanistan was put together under the umbrella of The Digital Citizen Fund, an organization co-founded by Roya Mahboob, an Afghan entrepreneur and Time 100 alum, who reportedly said the girls spent the whole day crying after they found out they wouldn’t get to go to the United States.  

“We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great,” Team Afghanistan wrote on its competition page. “We want to be that child and pursue our dreams to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

“We want to make a difference …”

Sestak said he believes the team got a “fair shot” at getting visas, but he’s not sure why they were denied, and the State Department hasn’t responded to a Mashable request for comment. The Syrian refugee team and a team from Sudan were granted visas. 

The six Afghan girls already had trouble participating in the competition because the materials they needed to build their robot were held up at the airport. 

First Global sent kits full of building materials to each participating team, but Team Afghanistan only got their stuff three weeks ago because officials feared it might wind up in the hands of extremists. Everyone else has been working with their materials since the beginning of March

Still, Sestak and the event organizers are trying to do what they can to make sure the girls are a part of the competition. 

“Everybody will see them on the screen at Constitution Hall, watching their robot, their team, here in America walk up the ramp to represent Afghanistan,” he said. 

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This facial recognition technology could help stop online child trafficking

Migrants ride a bus along the border of Hungary and Serbia.
Migrants ride a bus along the border of Hungary and Serbia.

Image: Ray Tang/REX/Shutterstock

Emily Kennedy spent her undergrad years reading child sex-trafficking ads. 

She wanted to understand their ticks: Why was this ad formatted that way? Why did the same ads often have different phone numbers? Kennedy knew that this kind of analysis could unravel at least a portion of sex-trafficking business. And after she graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University, she built a system to do just that. 

Traffic Jam, which was developed by Kennedy’s company, Marinus Analytics, has for years detected patterns in sex-trafficking ads and used them to help police find trafficked children and arrest traffickers. The system took a big step up on Tuesday, though.

That’s when the company announced FaceSearch, which allows the police to match a photo of a child’s face to sex-trafficking ads on the internet. The initial photo can come from Facebook or other social media, from a “missing child” ad, or anywhere else. FaceSearch can then scan online photos and “quickly determine whether this potential victim has been advertised online for commercial sex,” according to a company release online.

“Anything they can upload from their computer can be searched,” Kennedy said. 

The technology is now available to any law enforcement agency that wants it. Marinus uploaded FaceSearch into the Traffic Jam, so their law enforcement clients who use Traffic Jam — which includes agencies in California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and more — already have access.

Facial recognition technology and law enforcement are becoming increasingly linked with each passing week. Around 25% of police departments in the United States have access to facial recognition technology. Customs and Border Patrol is using it at select U.S. airports to determine whether your face might one day serve as your boarding pass. And police in Berlin are using it at train stations to “recognize and report detected users or persons from whom a danger could arise or emerge.” This increase in the use of facial recognition has led to a growing body of privacy concerns, but even researchers who have raised those worries see FaceSearch as something different.

“We definitely can’t control the way every single user uses our software, but I’m not too worried about misuse, because it’s so focused,” Kennedy said. 

Other companies, she said, provide law enforcement agencies with much broader access to facial recognition technology, and those companies will have to confront the ethical questions therein.

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