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Turn Touch: A Smart, Flexible Remote Control

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Samuel Clay, the founder of NewsBlur, is seeking funding on Kickstarter for an interesting new project: Turn Touch.

Turn Touch is a four button remote control carved out of solid wood. Get instant control of your devices and your home. With only four buttons, your Turn Touch connects you to apps, lights, speakers, and more.

While most smart devices found in the home today are designed to be controlled via a smartphone or a voice-controlled device like Amazon Echo, Turn Touch is a more tactile option. It's designed to look less like a standard remote control and more like a piece of decor in the home.

Turn Touch was made to be compact and attractive.

Turn Touch was made to be compact and attractive.

The power of Turn Touch is found in its versatility. Though it only has four buttons, it is fully customizable using the Turn Touch app for iOS or macOS. The app allows you to program your remote to work with different devices, such as Hue Lights, Sonos speakers, or a Nest thermostat. You can also integrate Turn Touch with various apps on iOS or macOS, such as Apple Music or Spotify. Additionally, there are built-in Turn Touch apps to do things like set a timer or alarm clock. The Kickstarter page shows a list of integrations that are currently promised, and states that more are in the works. Lastly, Turn Touch can also be configured to trigger a URL on the web, opening up its possible benefits immensely.

The iOS app for Turn Touch.

The iOS app for Turn Touch.

The ability to activate several different integrations wouldn't be as useful if only one action could be assigned to each of the Turn Touch buttons. Fortunately, the device's interface provides clever ways to make the most of its four buttons. Actions can be assigned to activate through either a single tap of a button or a double tap, making eight actions available at once. And holding a button down for half a second will switch the app you're interacting with, meaning a new set of actions will be activated.

Turn Touch is available in three different styles.

Turn Touch is available in three different styles.

The Kickstarter campaign for Turn Touch ends on March 9th, and units are projected to ship this November. If you'd like to make a pledge, there are varying backer levels depending on the style of Turn Touch you'd like.


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samuel
48 days ago
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This is what I like to see!
The Haight in San Francisco
jontanggaard
47 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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Introducing Turn Touch, a beautiful wooden remote for lights, devices, apps, and NewsBlur

1 Comment and 8 Shares

Turn Touch is a solid wood remote… and it’s about to change the way you use NewsBlur.

Change how?

Here’s how. Turn Touch connects to apps and devices in your home. Think Hue lights and Sonos speakers. Your Mac, your phone, etc.

It also connects to NewsBlur.

This is big. It means you can wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and cycle through news from across the room. Or, hook your Mac up to a display (maybe your living room TV) and skip through photo blogs, headlines, and the day’s best writing.

It’s kind of like getting a new set of speakers. Where before, you’d be chained to your computer with headphones; now, you can listen to music from anywhere you’d like. With Turn Touch, you can leave your computer and read the news no matter what you’re doing— laundry, the dishes, or enjoying a lazy Sunday on your couch.

Get one. Or all three.

Turn Touch is on Kickstarter. Back the project to get your very own. Or—and this is my sincere recommendation—get the complete set, save some money, and give one away to a friend.

I’ve been working on Turn Touch for years and I hope it shows.

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samuel
49 days ago
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This is the big one. Please back Turn Touch and help support NewsBlur!
The Haight in San Francisco
duerig
49 days ago
Already backed. Congrats on your launch!
genseng
49 days ago
I guess I'll be that guy; is there Android support? Not mentioned in the campaign so I assume no.
duerig
49 days ago
It is a bluetooth device so in principle is device-agnostic. I don't know how it will work in practice, though. I'm going to be trying to get it running with a Raspberry Pi.
chrisrosa
49 days ago
i'm not sure how much I'll use it, but I'll back Newsblur just the same.
samuel
49 days ago
In terms of support for non-Apple devices, not yet but it is planned. Android will be a stretch goal. I wish I could have launched out of the gate with it, but I just cannot afford to unless I hit certain numbers. But keep spreading the word about Turn Touch and if it gets popular then Android will be the first platform I expand to.
genseng
49 days ago
Thanks Samuel, I was hoping you might respond with something along those lines.
spiffytech
48 days ago
What's the developer story? How easily can I connect a button to a webhook?
samuel
48 days ago
Easy, there's a Custom URL app that can hit websites on single taps and double taps.
spiffytech
48 days ago
Glad to hear it! Maybe mention that on the page. It's the biggest thing I'm interested in, but the Kickstarter page doesn't include "developer", "webhook", or "Custom URL".
samuel
48 days ago
It does now. Thanks!
digdoug
48 days ago
Backed. And I'll echo others here. I'm not sure how I'll use it, but you've more than earned my trust over the last few years. I'm happy to back it based on that alone. The fact that it might be super cool is just a bonus!
jontanggaard
48 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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Preview NewsBlur's upcoming hardware device, Turn Touch

4 Comments and 11 Shares

I have something very exciting to share with you today. I’ve been working on a secret project called Turn Touch and I’m just about ready to show it to you. Signup on turntouch.com to find out.

It’s a new kind of device and it’s machined out of solid wood. I built it to last, much like my other projects (for instance the news reader you’re likely reading this in). Turn Touch is built for NewsBlur, among many other things.

Turn Touch will be launching on Kickstarter next week and I want to ask for your help. When I launch my campaign I’m going to need people like you to share it with people who look to you for recomendations on what’s good. You already use NewsBlur, so you’re already known for having good taste.

Now, you probably want to know what Turn Touch is and actually looks like, yeah? Then signup on turntouch.com.

You’ll get to preview the Kickstarter campaign and offer me any feedback you have. You’ll get to see Turn Touch and find out what it offers you.

I’ve been working on this as a side project for that past few years. And by signing up you’ll have the first access to it.

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samuel
54 days ago
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It's a remote for NewsBlur (among other things).
The Haight in San Francisco
Splike
54 days ago
Can't wait to find out what this wooden thing actually does! Maybe it's like the Pokémon Go plus device. It will blink when good stories are nearby!
christophersw
54 days ago
I'm hoping for a magic "good news" button that filters everything not fit for /r/aww out of my feeds. :-) ... also it should make popcorn...
theprawn
53 days ago
I love this! I wish you success, but I cannot, however, support Kickstarter as a company. Hope this goes to market!
llucax
53 days ago
I hate this "sign-up to see what is it". I hope somebody posts an image or something on a public web that doesn't require sign-up or login
samuel
53 days ago
It's launching Tuesday. If you don't care to signup you can wait until then. I need people to signup so that I can send out an email on the day of the launch and have a nice start to the campaign.
sirshannon
52 days ago
Email newsletters and announcements are cool but I think the audience here on NewsBlur tends to skew towards RSS ;)
jontanggaard
54 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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2 public comments
torrentprime
53 days ago
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I'd back that kickstarter if it could somehow make Trump go away
San Jose, CA
samuel
53 days ago
If only.
tingham
54 days ago
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Signed up months ago, no emails. Weird.
Cary, NC
samuel
54 days ago
You should have received at least three emails by now. I suggest signing up again, it will automatically email you the "Sneak peak" email.
GreenChange
53 days ago
I've also put my Gmail address in, and not received anything.

Facebook Versus the Media

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Facebook found itself in the middle of another media controversy last week. Here’s the New York Times:

The image is iconic: A naked, 9-year-old girl fleeing napalm bombs during the Vietnam War, tears streaming down her face. The picture from 1972, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography, has since been used countless times to illustrate the horrors of modern warfare.

But for Facebook, the image of the girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, was one that violated its standards about nudity on the social network. So after a Norwegian author posted images about the terror of war with the photo to Facebook, the company removed it.

The move triggered a backlash over how Facebook was censoring images. When a Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten, cried foul over the takedown of the picture, thousands of people globally responded on Friday with an act of virtual civil disobedience by posting the image of Ms. Phuc on their Facebook pages and, in some cases, daring the company to act. Hours after the pushback, Facebook reinstated the photo across its site.

This, like many of Facebook’s recent run-ins with the media, has been like watching an old couple fight: they are nominally talking about the same episode, but in reality both are so wrapped up in their own issues and grievances that they are talking past each other.

Facebook Owns Facebook.com

Start with the media. Aftenposten Editor-in-chief Espen Egil Hansen wrote an open-letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that was, well, pretty amazing, and I’m not sure that’s a compliment:

Facebook has become a world-leading platform for spreading information, for debate and for social contact between persons. You have gained this position because you deserve it. But, dear Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. Even for a major player like Aftenposten, Facebook is hard to avoid. In fact we don’t really wish to avoid you, because you are offering us a great channel for distributing our content. We want to reach out with our journalism.

However, even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility. This is what you and your subordinates are doing in this case.

Actually, no, that is not what is happening at all. Aftenposten is not Facebook, and Facebook is not “Norway’s largest newspaper”. Accordingly, Facebook — and certainly not Mark Zuckerberg — did not take the photo down from Aftenposten.no. They did not block the print edition. They did not edit dear Espen. Rather, Facebook removed a post on Facebook.com, which Aftenposten does not own, and which Hansen admits in his own open letter is something freely offered to the newspaper, one that they take because it is “a great channel for distributing our content.”

Let me foreshadow what I will say later: Facebook screwed this up. But that doesn’t change the fact that Facebook.com is a private site, and while Aftenposten is more than happy to leverage Facebook for its own benefit that by no means suggests Aftenposten has a single iota of ownership over its page or anyone else’s.

The Freedom of the Internet

Unfortunately, Hansen’s letter gets worse:

The media have a responsibility to consider publication in every single case. This may be a heavy responsibility. Each editor must weigh the pros and cons. This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California…

The least Facebook should do in order to be in harmony with its time is introduce geographically differentiated guidelines and rules for publication. Furthermore, Facebook should distinguish between editors and other Facebook-users. Editors cannot live with you, Mark, as a master editor.

I’ll be honest, this made me mad. Hansen oh-so-blithely presumes that he, simply by virtue of his job title, is entitled to special privileges on Facebook. But why, precisely, should that be the case? The entire premise of Facebook, indeed, the underpinning of the company’s success, is that it is a platform that can be used by every single person on earth. There are no gatekeepers, and certainly no outside editors. Demanding special treatment from Facebook because one controls a printing press is not only nonsensical it is downright antithetical to not just the premise of Facebook but the radical liberty afforded by the Internet. Hansen can write his open letter on aftenposten.no and I can say he’s being ridiculous on stratechery.com and there is not a damn thing anyone, including Mark Zuckerberg, can do about it.1

Make no mistake, I recognize the threats Facebook poses to discourse and politics; I’ve written about it explicitly. There are very real concerns that people are not being exposed to news that makes them uncomfortable, and Hansen is right that the photo in question is an example of exactly why making people feel uncomfortable is so important.

But it should also not be forgotten that the prison of engagement-driving news that people are locking themselves in is one of their own making: no one is forced to rely on Facebook for news, just as Aftenposten isn’t required to post its news on Facebook. And on the flipside, the freedom and reach afforded by the Internet remain so significant that the editor-in-chief of a newspaper I had never previously read can force the CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world accede to his demands by rousing worldwide outrage.

These two realities are inescapably intertwined, and as a writer who almost certainly would have never been given an inch of space in Aftenposten, I’ll stick with the Internet.

Facebook is Not a Media Company

One more rant, while I’m on a roll: journalists everywhere are using this episode to again make the case that Facebook is a media company. This piece by Peter Kafka was written before this photo controversy but is an excellent case-in-point (and, sigh, it is another open letter):

Dear Mark, We get it. We understand why you don’t want to call Facebook a media company. Your investors don’t want to invest in a media company, they want to invest in a technology company. Your best-and-brightest engineers? They don’t want to work at a media company. And we’re not even going to mention Trending Topicgate here, because that would be rude.

But here’s the deal. When you gather people’s attention, and sell that attention to advertisers, guess what? You’re a media company. And you’re really good at it. Really, really good. Billions of dollars a quarter good.

Let’s be clear: Facebook could call themselves a selfie-stick company and their valuation wouldn’t change an iota. As Kafka notes later in the article Facebook gets all their content for free, which is a pretty big deal.

Indeed, I think one of the (many) reasons the media is so flummoxed with Facebook is that the company has stolen their business model and hugely improved on it. Remember, the entire reason why the media was so successful was because they made massive fixed cost investments in things like printing presses, delivery trucks, wireless spectrum, etc. that gave them monopolies or at worst oligopolies on local attention and thus advertising. The only flaw in the ointment was that actual content had to be created continuously, and that’s expensive.

Facebook, like all Internet companies, takes the leverage of fixed costs to an exponentially greater level and marries that with free content creation that is far more interesting to far more people than old media ever was, which naturally attracts advertisers. To put it in academic terms, the Internet has allowed Facebook to expand the efficient frontier of attention gathering and monetization, ruining most media companies’ business model.

In other words, had Kafka insisted that Facebook is an advertising company, just like media companies, I would nod in agreement; that, though, ruins his point. In short, as long as Facebook doesn’t create content I think it’s a pretty big stretch to say they are a media company; it simply muddies the debate unnecessarily, and this dispute with Aftenposten is a perfect example of why being clear about the differences between a platform and a media company is important.

The Facebook-Media Disconnect

The disconnect in this debate reminds me of this picture:

12719113_10102665120179591_3471165635858509622_o-1200x799

Ignore the fact that Facebook owns a VR company; the point is this: Facebook is, for better or worse, running a product that is predicated on showing people exactly what they want to see, all the way down to the individual. And while there is absolutely editorial bias in any algorithm, the challenge is indeed a technical one being worked out at a scale few can fully comprehend.

That Norwegian editor-in-chief, meanwhile, is still living in a world in which he and other self-appointed gatekeepers controlled the projector for the front of the room, and the facts of this particular case aside, it is awfully hard to avoid the conclusion that he and the rest of the media feel entitled to individuals’ headsets.

Facebook’s Mistake

Still, the facts of this case do matter: first off, quite obviously this photo should have never been censored, even if the initial flagging was understandable. What is really concerning, though, was the way Facebook refused to back down, not only continuing to censor the photo but actually barring the journalist who originally posted it from the platform for three days. Yes, this was some random Facebook staffer in Hamburg, but that’s the exact problem! No one at Facebook’s headquarters seems to care about this stuff unless it turns into a crisis, which means said crisis are only going to continue with potentially unwanted effects.

The truth is that Facebook may not be a media company, but users do read a lot of news there; by extension, the company may not have a monopoly in news distribution, but the impact of so many self-selecting Facebook as their primary news source has significant effects on society. And, as I’ve noted repeatedly, society and its representatives may very well strike back; this sort of stupidity via apathy will only hasten the reckoning.2

  1. It should be noted that this is exactly why the Peter Thiel-Gawker episode was so concerning.
  2. And, I’d add, this is exactly why I think Facebook should have distanced themselves from Peter Thiel
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jontanggaard
196 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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A tour of the Svalbard Seed Vault

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Tucked away in a mountain located on the Svalbard archipelago in Norway, also home to The Northmost Town on Earth, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Vault is home to more than 860,000 plant seed samples deposited by dozens of different countries from around the world (even North Korea) and is closed to access about 350 days per year. But the folks from Veritasium were able to finagle a tour of the facility during one of its rare open days.

This facility was built to last about 200 years and withstand earthquakes and explosions. It was placed on the side of a mountain so even if all the ice on Earth melts, it will still be above sea level.

Other fun facts about the Vault: the temperature in the storage rooms are kept at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit to hinder seed growth/deterioration, the permafrost in which the Vault is built will maintain the low storage temp in case of electrical failure, GMO seeds are forbidden due to Norwegian law, and the first withdrawal was made last year by Syria because of the civil war.

Tags: Norway   video
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jontanggaard
296 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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Use PayPal? Read this.

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Brian Krebs, the name behind Krebs on Security, on his PayPal account getting hacked on Christmas Eve:

On Christmas Eve morning, I received an email from PayPal stating that an email address had been added to my account. I immediately logged into my account from a pristine computer, changed the password, switched my email address back to to the primary contact address, and deleted the rogue email account.

I then called PayPal and asked how the perpetrator had gotten in, and was there anything else they could do to prevent this from happening again? The customer service person at PayPal said the attacker had simply logged in with my username and password, and that I had done everything I could in response to the attack. The representative assured me they would monitor the account for suspicious activity, and that I should rest easy.

Twenty minutes later I was outside exercising in the unseasonably warm weather when I stopped briefly to check email again: Sure enough, the very same rogue email address had been added back to my account. But by the time I got back home to a computer, my email address had been removed and my password had been changed. So much for PayPal’s supposed “monitoring;” the company couldn’t even spot the same fraudulent email address when it was added a second time.

And:

I asked the PayPal supervisor why the company couldn’t simply verify my identity by sending a text message to my phone, or a special signal to a PayPal mobile app? After all, PayPal has had the same mobile number of mine on file for years (the attacker also deleted that number from my profile as well). The supervisor explained that the company didn’t have any mobile authentication technologies, and that in order to regain access to the funds in my account I had to send the company a photocopied or scanned copy of my driver’s license.

Nevermind that it was PayPal’s lack of any modern authentication methods that led to this mess. Also, let’s forget for the moment that there are a half-dozen services online that let customers create fake but realistic looking scans of all types of documents, including utility bills, passports, driver’s licenses, bank statements, etc. This is the ultimate and most sophisticated customer authentication system that PayPal has: Send us a copy of your driver’s license.

The way I read this, your PayPal account is eminently hackable, PayPal does not offer the kind of two factor authentication that allows you to require a text to your device, or the ability to limit transactions to specific blessed devices.

If you use PayPal, read the whole post. Know your risks.

[H/T John Kordyback]

UPDATE: For folks who point out PayPal’s ability to send you a text with a one-time password, Krebs replies in this comment:

I had two-step authentication (PayPal security key fob) enabled, and the attacker got past that. I don’t know if PayPal simply didn’t require it when the password was reset, but the point is that two-factor is kind of useless when someone can just call in and reset your password verbally by answering a couple of out-of-wallet questions.

The vulnerability here is one of social engineering. Seems to me, PayPal needs to make a policy change.

∞ Read this on The Loop

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jontanggaard
449 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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